And yes, the index has been updated. And the links will take you to my full review.
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
Manuscript for Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land (Murder, She Wrote #48) – 3
When Thomas Rudd approaches Jessica Fletcher after one of her signings and accuses Lane Barfield, their mutual publisher, of skimming money from their royalties, Jessica can hardly believe it. Within a couple of days, both of the men are dead. However, Jessica begins to suspect that the political thriller Lane asked her to read was to blame. Is she correct? If so, is she the next target?
I had a mixed reaction to this book. On the one hand, I got very caught up in the plot, and always had a hard time putting it down. There are twists and turns and plenty of danger, and I loved it. It would have worked better, however, if it weren’t a Murder, She Wrote book. It certainly doesn’t fit with the rest of the franchise in tone, with several events being several shades grayer than we got, at least on the TV show. (I’ve only read one other book, the previous one.) We see several of the regular side characters, but they and their relationship with Jessica was off. What I suspect was supposed to be funny came across as rather mean. These characters wouldn’t interact this way. There’s also the fact that one of the plots in the book gets dropped in favor of the other. Honestly, I think there are two good storylines here, and they should have gotten their own books. This is the second book that Jon Land has written in the franchise, and I’m wondering if his efforts to turn things darker are going to be a permanent thing or if he will adjust better to the light tone of this franchise.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
Murder on Lenox Hill by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #7) – 3
It’s a cold winter’s day when midwife Sarah Brandt is summoned to the Linton home. When she arrives, it is to discovered they are worried about their daughter Grace. While biologically almost a young woman, mentally she is still a child. And yet, her parents think she is pregnant. Sarah’s examination confirms their suspicions, but Grace never leaves them. How could this have happened to her? Who would take advantage of her like that? Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy has been summoned to see Sarah’s father. Mr. Decker wants Frank to work further on his investigation into the murder of Sarah’s husband, Tom. Decker insists that Tom was not that man that Sarah thought he was, and he is certain that this investigation will help Sarah learn the truth. Is Decker correct? Can Frank find the truth while sparing Sarah from any pain?
Yes, my discussion about a current murder is missing on purpose since the body isn’t found until late in the book. There is still plenty of plot to keep us engaged until that happens, but unfortunately it felt very predictable. I had most of this book figured out long before Sarah and Frank did. I’m often a step or two ahead of them, but not this far ahead. I do still recommend this book to series fans since there are some significant developments on series arcs in this book, and you’ll want to see what happens there. The subject matter is fairly sensitive, but it is handled delicately without going into too much detail. Don’t make this the first in the series you pick up, but if you are already a fan, you’ll want to know what happens to Sarah and Frank here.
The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen – 3
Emily Bryce is about to turn twenty-one, and she is ready to start doing something to help with the war effort. Her parents have kept her at home with her mom hoping to find someone from the aristocracy to marry her off to, but Emily is determined to find her own path. Then Emily meets Robbie, an Australian pilot recovering from an injury at a hospital in the area. Even though her parents forbid it, she keeps seeing him behind their back. She also soon joins up with the Women’s Land Army, helping to keep the farms in England running to provide food for everyone. Will her parents ever accept her choices?
I’ve been a fan of Rhys’s mysteries for years, so I decided to give this book a try. As I suspected going in, this is not a mystery, but more of a coming of age story set in the England of 100 years ago. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was the target audience since I had trouble getting into it. There is a lot happening, and that was part of the problem. The story takes place over a year, and to get the entire time frame and the all Emily goes through into the story, at times I think we were cheated out of watching Emily deal with everything happening. That resulted in some things we were told about and not shown. On the other hand, Emily is a wonderful main character, and I was definitely rooting for her to succeed. I did tear up a time or two. And I felt we got a clear picture of what life was like in 1918 England for those who didn’t fight during the war – something that is often overlooked when we think about the cost of a war.
A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman (Countess of Harleigh #1) – 3
It is 1899, and the Countess of Harleigh, born as Frances Wynn in America, has just completed her year of mourning after the death of her husband. Reggie’s death was no great loss since he spent more time with other men’s wives then he did with Frances. In fact, it was only through Frances’s quick thinking that his death didn’t cause a scandal. Fortunately, Frances has enough money of her own that she can move out of her in-law’s home and set herself and her daughter up in a small place in London with a minimal staff. Unfortunately, trouble follows Frances to her new life when a detective shows up asking about the night Reggie died. Why is this coming up a year after his death?
Frances can’t spend too much time dwelling on this, however, since her sister, Lily, is coming to London for her first season with Frances as her chaperone. Between the balls and other social functions, Frances hears of a string of robberies happening in the London upper class. What will happen when those thefts begin to hit close to home?
I’d heard lots of good things about this book, so I was looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, I had some serious issues with the plot. I can’t get into any more without giving away plot spoilers, so I’ll just say I found several things under done. I’m sure some of it is my expectations when it comes to a mystery plot, but I still think there were some flaws. However, I really enjoyed the cast of characters. They are all lots of fun, and I enjoyed spending time with them. The setting is great as well. Who doesn’t dream of living the life of the English upper crust? I enjoyed this enough to consider reading the sequel when it comes out despite my issues with the plot.
The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #10) – 4
The day has finally arrived – Flavia’s oldest sister is getting married. Considering how rocky her romantic life has been over the years, this is a bit surprising. The wedding is beautiful, but when the newlyweds go to cut the cake, they find a finger in the cake. How did it get there? Who did it belong to? Before Flavia can really dig into this case, she and Dogger get their first client for their new Arthur W. Dogger and Associates Discreet Investigations. A local woman has come in asking them to find some missing letters that would be damaging to her father if they got out. Only Dogger isn’t so certain that their client’s story is true. What is really going on?
As a longtime fan, it was great to be back in Bishop’s Lacey with Flavia and the rest of the cast. In fact, I hadn’t realized just how much I’ve come to love these characters until I noticed how much I was smiling through the book. The exception is Flavia’s cousin Undine. I get what she represents, Flavia’s Flavia, but I find her super annoying, although there is hope for her character to grow here. The plot was a bit out there, but I still bought it. The pacing is uneven, especially for the wedding at the beginning, but it isn’t anything we haven’t seen in other books. Flavia is still Flavia, after all, so we get her thoughts on chemistry, poison, and life in general. I listen to their series on audio, and Jayne Entwistle’s narration continues to be outstanding. If you haven’t given them a listen, I highly recommend you try the series this way. But no matter how you read this one, fans will be sure to enjoy this latest visit.
Permanently Booked by Lisa Q. Mathews (Ladies Smythe and Westin #2) – 4
Summer Smythe and Dorothy Westin are taking some books to be donated to the Hibiscus Pointe library when they find the body of Lorella, the librarian, on the floor in the stacks. Summer is certain that the strange encounter they had on their way into the library is the best clue to the killer, but Dorothy thinks the book club that Lorella was trying to start in the retirement community might hold the clue. Can the duo work together again to solve the latest mystery?
I really enjoyed the first book in this series, and it was great to get to visit Dorothy and Summer again. They may be very different people, but they make a fantastic team. We get to see that as the book spends equal time in their third person points of view. This technique is perfectly used to allow them both to drive the mystery at various times. The plot is great with several viable suspects and keep us guessing until the end. I did think one or two minor things were left dangling, but it wasn’t a big deal since the important pieces of the puzzle were resolved. The characters range from fairly normal to wacky in a fun way, and I loved spending time with them. If you are looking for a light mystery, this is one to book to put on your reading schedule soon.
Drawn and Buttered by Shari Randall (Lobster Shack Mysteries #3) – 5
It’s a couple of days before Halloween, and things have slowed down some at the Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack. The summer tourist families are long gone, but some tourists are still in the area looking at the fall colors. However, there’s still plenty of excite going on, like the discovery of a giant lobster. Quickly dubbed Lobzilla by the community, he’s almost big enough to beat the world record. However, the morning after he’s found, he’s vanished.
If that were all Allie Larkin had on her mind, it would be one thing, but other odd things are happening in town, including a local witch who is doing everything possible to get Aunt Gully to join her coven. Then, on Halloween night, Lobzilla shows up again, only he’s next to a dead body. Can Allie figure out what is going on?
While the body doesn’t show up right away, we still have plenty of plot happening, including some sub-plots and time spent setting up suspects and motives. Everything continues to be blended together well after the murder takes place. The climax is creative and everything is explained by the time we turn the final page. I thought the sub-plot involving the witch might make the book darker than I would enjoy, but I thought it was handled perfectly. It gave the book a touch more Halloween atmosphere, but the characters treated it much like I would like to think I would. The characters have gotten sharper as the series has progressed, and that was true here again. The suspects are well drawn, Allie is a great lead, but my favorite continues to be Aunt Gully. Everything came together for a book I couldn’t put down and the strongest in the series to date.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Restaurant Weeks are Murder by Libby Klein (Poppy McAllister #3) – 4
Poppy McAllister is thrilled to be helping Tim during the Restaurant Week cooking competition as the third member of his team. While their relationship is complicated, she knows they can work well together. The weeks gets off to a shaky start when there is a problem with the hotel where the judges were going to stay, and Poppy volunteers the not quite open yet bed and breakfast she is working on with her aunt. Then, on the first day of the competition, someone sabotages the ingredients. As things spiral out of control, Tim and Poppy find themselves at the center of it all. Can Poppy figure out what is happening?
Fans of this series will be thrilled with the latest outing for Poppy and the rest of the crew. Yes, everyone is here and causing mayhem and laughs for us like normal. I did sympathize more with the victim of Figueroa’s antics since I allergic to cats as well, but I still found that subplot fun. As usual, Aunt Ginny and her friends steal the show. I do feel the pacing of the mystery could have been better, but this is something I’ve felt with all three books in the series. We definitely did get a good mystery that kept me guessing until the very end. There are seven Paleo friendly recipes at the back of the book to enjoy once you’ve finished the book.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
One Feta in the Grave by Tina Kashian (Kebab Kitchen #3) – 4
It’s mid-August in Ocean Crest, New Jersey, and Lucy Berberian is on the planning committee for this year’s beach festival. Unfortunately, Archie Kincaide is proving to be a pain during the week. He owns a shop on the boardwalk, and he and his neighbor have been feuding since Archie moved to town. He’s also been causing problems for Lucy’s friend Katie, not only at the festival but also at her job at city hall. Taking a break one afternoon, Lucy is walking on the beach when she discovers Archie’s body under the boardwalk. It’s clear he’s been shot, but who did it? With Katie among Detective Clemmons’s suspects, Lucy jumps in to figure out what really happened.
This is another fun mystery. While we have two obvious suspects before Lucy finds Archie’s body, we quickly get more, and I enjoyed how the plot unfolded. The climax was a lot of fun. I do wish the supporting cast of the series were better developed; I like them, but I feel like most are still not as developed as they could be. That isn’t true for Lucy or the suspects, who manage to keep us guessing. And I loved the location. I can easily picture myself enjoying an annual vacation in Ocean Crest, and the added fun of the beach festival made me long to go stick my feet in some warm sand myself. There are 3 delicious sounding recipes to be enjoyed once you’ve finished the book.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.