All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
The Floating Light Bulb by John Gaspard (Eli Marks #5) – 4
Magician Eli Marks and his uncle Harry are taking in a magic act at the Mall of America since the magician is a former student of Harry’s. The show is lackluster at best, but it gets worse when the magician misses a cue at the end of the show. It turns out that’s because the magician is dead, and soon Eli finds himself taking his place in an effort to help find the killer. Will he learn anything useful?
Part of this book finds Eli learning a new trick and interacting with his new co-workers, something that I felt overwhelmed the mystery at times. Things were still sprinkled in that helped lead us to the surprising and satisfying conclusion, however. And I loved seeing Eli interacting with his new co-workers, so I had fun the entire way through the book. The cast of characters is fantastic as always, including getting to see some regulars who were missing in the previous book.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
One Fete in the Grave by Vickie Fee (Liv and Di in Dixie #3) – 4
When the fireworks show ends, party planning Liv McKay thinks her day organizing her town’s Fourth of July festival is over. Unfortunately, someone finds the body of councilman Bubba Rowland. Despite being on the council, Bubba had his enemies, and one of them was Earl, her mother’s new fiance. Can Liv help her mother by clearing Earl’s name?
This book starts with a bang – of fireworks, but it isn’t too long before we find Bubba’s body. Unfortunately, the book does still have some pacing issues as Liv’s party planning business slows things down. I did find one sub-plot lots of fun, however. The mystery does have some good suspects and twists before we reach the logical climax. Liv’s family and friends, including best friend Di, are as charming as ever. The suspects work, although we don’t get to know them as well as we might in some mysteries. This is a fun cozy for a relaxing summer read or any time of the year.
A Souffle of Suspicion by Daryl Wood Gerber (French Bistro Mysteries #2) – 4
Things are hopping at Bistro and Maison Rousseau. Tourists have flocked to the Napa Valley for Crush Week and the first Sweet Treat festival is being hosted on the grounds of the hotel. Mimi is thrilled that both hotel and restaurant are booked solid for the week. Things take a deadly turn when Renee, the festival organizer and sister of Mimi’s head chef Camille, is found murdered in Camille’s kitchen. Who had a reason to murder the woman?
It was nice to return to the Napa Valley with Mimi as our host. The book starts out strongly. While I did feel the pace lagged a time or two, these were minor issues. The puzzle was very good with some clues coming into play late in the mystery that I had completely missed, yet they helped make the resolution completely believable. I did have trouble buying Mimi’s relationship with her friend and police chief Tyson, but the rest of the characters were great. The food left me drooling, so the recipes are the back are a welcome addition to this fun mystery.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park #1) – 4
There’s a mysterious project on an island off the coast of Coast Rica. When John Hammond, the owner, invites Drs. Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm to visit the island, they discover that Hammond has cloned dinosaurs and intends to open his park for tourists to enjoy. However, despite the high security measures that are in place, the visitors begin to see potential problems. When the problems become more than potential, will anyone survive?
It is hard to go into this book not knowing what is really happening thanks to the movies, and that puts the reader of today at a disadvantage since the book takes forever with the set up and big reveal. However, once the dinosaurs get free, this is a page turning book that is impossible to put down. While the character names are the same, they are different from how they are portrayed in the movie, and fans of the films will recognize scenes from the sequels that originated here. Naturally, there are more great scenes and tense moments than could be included in the movie, and the climax here is so much better. I could have done without some of the descriptions of the violence in the book, but they didn’t surprise me. Some lectures, while giving us something to think about, do slow things down again late in the book. Overall, this is still a very enjoyable read.
The Death of an Ambitious Woman by Barbara Ross (Chief Ruth Murphy Mysteries #1) – 5
The car crash that killed Tracey Kendall was looking suspicious from the start. She was driving way too fast and didn’t break at all for example. Then the mechanic who serviced her car vanishes, which definitely makes acting police chief Ruth Murphy suspect there is more going on than a simple accident. Unfortunately, this comes at the worst possible time with her permanent promotion to police chief about to go through. Can she navigate internal politics and still uncover the truth?
I was thrilled to finally make it back to Barbara Ross’s debut mystery. The mystery is strong, and the internal politics adds a nice layer to an already complex mystery. Ruth and her fellow police officers are strong characters, and I also felt the main suspects were well developed. Some of the supporting players got a little lost, but that is my only complaint about the book. This is a step away from the author’s normal cozy mysteries, with a few four letter words and a touch more description of the aftermath of violence. Still, most of her readers will do just fine with this soft-boiled or traditional tale. Anyone who enjoys a good mystery should pick up this book.
Encyclopedia Brown Carries On by Donald J. Sobol (Encyclopedia Brown #14) – 5
This book features ten more chances to match wits with Encyclopedia Brown. Up first, he’s trying to figure out how to move a giant mousetrap that a would be criminal left outside town hall when no one would buy it from him. The rest of the stories find Encyclopedia and his partner Sally helping his friends and neighbors. They encounter Bugs Meany a few times when Bugs tries to rig a drawing and again when he tries to set Sally and Encyclopedia up with the police. They also help a friend keep his business giving for golf balls to himself and save the Left-Handers Club from sabotage.
These stories really are short, averaging about five pages each, with the piece of information that Encyclopedia used to stop the crime from taking place on another page at the end. I never could solve these as a kid, but I managed to do pretty well as an adult rereading this book. And no, it’s not because I remembered what had happened. The stories are a bit dated but that shouldn’t be too big an issue for today’s kids. The characters are also thin because there really isn’t time for character development, but again, kids won’t care. I certainly didn’t as a kid.
Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien (Noodle Shop Mysteries #1) – 4
Lana Lee has landed back at her parents’ Chinese restaurant as a waitress in an effort to get her life back together. She thinks she’s hit rock bottom, but she’s wrong. Not too long after delivering Mr. Feng his usual order of dumplings, the man is found dead. Somehow, he got shellfish dumplings instead of the pork he ordered. With the police looking at everyone at the restaurant, Lana starts poking around to clear herself and the rest of the employees. But is one of them really guilty?
This was a very fun debut. The mystery is good, although the pacing does lag a bit in the middle. It does pick up again in the final third, giving us some great twists and turns before we reach the logical climax. The characters are mostly strong, which some room to grow as the series progresses. I did feel that Lana’s mother was the weakest characters, and I hope she is fleshed out more as the series progresses. I will definitely be back for seconds.
That Touch of Ink by Diane Vallere (Madison Night #2) – 5
When decorator Madison Night receives a five thousand dollar bill in the mail, she realizes this rare denomination is a message from her past. Sure enough, her ex-boyfriend Brad is soon back in her life trying to reconcile even after he lied to her to get her out of her life. But Madison has other things to worry about, like the dead body she stumbled upon. What has Brad gotten her involved in?
Warning: allow plenty of time when you pick up this book because you will not be able to put it down. The story is filled with twists and turns that will keep you engaged from start to finish. The plot is a bit more teen sleuth than usual cozy murder mystery, but that’s not an issue at all, and everything makes sense by the end. This is combined with fantastic characters, led by Madison who gets some real growth here. Fans of Doris Day will spot a couple of winks to the movie That Touch of Mink here, but if you haven’t seen the movie, you are still in for a delightful read.
Pirate Vishnu by Gigi Pandian (Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries #2) – 5
Jaya Jones has yet to live down the fame of her first treasure hunt when a man walks into her office with a second treasure map. This one appears to have the location of a treasure in San Francisco, but it’s the connection to Jaya’s family that peaks her interest. The map was drawn by her great-granduncle. A dead body only complicates Jaya’s quest. Can she stay alive long enough to learn what is going on?
I always enjoy finding a twist on the murder mystery theme, and this is a good one. The treasure hunt is as important as figuring out who the killer is, and between the two, the pages fly by. The twists get bigger the further into the book we get. I did think one stretched believability just a bit, but it was a minor deal. The characters are strong, and I’m curious where the complications in Jaya’s love life will go.
Death Over Easy by Maddie Day (Country Store Mysteries #5) – 5
Robbie Jordan, Pans ‘n Pancakes’ proprietor, has just opened the few rooms she’s been working on as a bed and breakfast, and it’s just in time for a visit from her father from Italy as well as the Bluegrass festival being held in the area. The biggest problem at the festival seems to be Pia Bianchi, a woman that annoys just about everyone who gets to know her. Then Pia’s body is found early one morning in a covered bridge in the area. With Robbie’s guests some of the police’s suspects, she finds herself in the thick of things again. Will she figure out what is going on?
This was a fun book in the series since it worked in several sub-plots that have been woven through the series – Robbie’s father and opening the bed and breakfast part of the business among others. These work themselves nicely into the mystery, providing a reason for Robbie to be involved and giving her access to gather clues. The suspects are great, and they provide us with some good twists before we reach the creative climax. The series has always featured some local (to southern Indiana) expressions to provide local color, but a couple of times, they started to annoy more than charm. Fortunately, those were rare moments that were over quickly. If you find yourself drooling over some of the food, you’ll be happy with the recipes at the end of the book.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Midnight Snacks are Murder by Libby Klein (Poppy McAlister #2) – 4
When someone starts breaking into houses in the neighborhood taking nick knacks and sweets, Poppy McAlister is shocked to discover that it is her aunt Ginny sleepwalking under the power of some new medication. However, when a murder takes place a couple of blocks away, the police zero in on Aunt Ginny as the culprit. The victim, unknown to both Poppy and Aunt Ginny, seems like he could have been a nice guy or a complete jerk. Which was true?
This book spent quite a bit of time setting up the premise, but once the murder took place, things really picked up. I enjoyed needing to learn what kind of guy the victim was since it added a nice twist to the mystery. The suspects were strong, and I could have seen any of them as the killer before we reached the climax. The love triangle is just heating up; I know which guy I am rooting for, but I could see myself happy with either of them at this point. I did find a couple of the characters annoying, especially Poppy’s mother-in-law. Aunt Ginny provides lots of laughs, and the gluten-free, paleo friendly recipes at the end sound delicious.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.