Believe it or not, the index has been updated. (I'm shocked, too. How many months in a row is this?)
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
21st Birthday by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Women’s Murder Club #21) – 2
It all starts with a woman confronting Cindy Thomas in her office at the San Francisco Chronicle. The woman is certain that something bad has happened to her daughter and granddaughter, and her son-in-law is to blame. She wants Cindy to write stories about it and post about it on her blog, but Cindy quickly turns the woman over to her friend, San Francisco detective Lindsay Boxer, who pushes the police to start an investigation and make it a priority. Sadly, it isn’t long before a dead body turns up. Will Lindsay and the rest of the Women’s Murder Club figure out what is really happening?
Usually with this series, I complain about the characters having plotlines that rarely if ever intersect. Here, I was thrilled to see that the characters, including Claire and Yuki, are working together on one case, and they all get their moments to shine. While the characters are a bit thin, we did like them all and care enough to keep reading. The plot is compelling with twists that intrigue. However, the authors can’t land it. I get what we are supposed to think happened, but in the rush to wrap things up after the final twist, we don’t get a major plot point from earlier in the book explained. Meanwhile, the editing was sloppy, including students at a high school being in class on a Saturday, missing days, and Lindsay being in two places at once near the end of the book. This reads more like a first draft that needed an editor to help polish it up instead of a finished novel.
Evil for Evil by James R. Benn (Billy Boyle #4) – 3
Billy Boyle has been asked to find fifty stolen Browning Automatic Rifles. He’s less than thrilled, however, because it appears that the thieves are the IRA, and Billy and his family have always supported the IRA in their quest to unite Ireland. Still, if the IRA is planning to give the guns to the Germans, he knows he needs to find them. His investigation makes him question what he has always thought about the people of Ireland. But as the bodies pile up, can Billy find the guns before it is too late?
I’m really torn with this series. On the one hand, I enjoy the history we get as we delve into another aspect of World War II. It really makes the World War part come into focus. The mystery is good, with plenty of twists and action without being too over the top. Billy is a fantastic main character who matures a little here once again. We don’t see much of the supporting characters, but the new characters are strong and help pull us into the story. Unfortunately, I feel like the story and characters are drowning in too much detail. It might be me since these books take me longer to read than I am used to. But I can’t help but think a little editing would make me enjoy these books more because there are definitely parts I do enjoy.
The Art of Betrayal by Connie Berry (Kate Hamilton #3) – 5
Kate Hamilton is back in the village of Long Barston to help her friend with his antiques business while he recovers from surgery and spend more time with Detective Inspector Tom Mallory. One afternoon, a woman comes into the store with a valuable piece of Chinese pottery she wants to sell on consignment. But that night, she stumbles onto the stage of the village’s May Fair pageant and dies. Almost immediately, Tom gets a call about the antique shop, and he and Kate go there to find that the pottery is missing. Can Kate figure out what is going on?
It was a pleasure to be back with Kate and Tom in England. This is a fantastic mystery with plenty of twisty threads for Kate to follow before she resolves things. I had a part or two figured out, but most of it didn’t come together for me until Kate had figured it out. Then I couldn’t believe I had missed it. The characters are strong. Kate is a little older than a traditional protagonist, something that I enjoy. I quickly got reacquainted with the returning characters and enjoyed getting to know the suspects, who were strong enough to make me care about the outcome. This book will please Kate’s fans and should bring her some new ones.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Killing in a Koi Pond by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran (Murder, She Wrote #53) – 4
Jessica Fletcher is traveling down to South Carolina to visit a college friend. Delores has just married Willis, and she is over the moon. She is also blind to the way that Willis treats the majority of those around them, but Jessica observes the way others are reacting to his almost abusive behavior at dinner. When Jessica sets out for a run the next morning, she finds Willis dead in the Koi Pond. While Delores doesn’t want to believe that anyone could have killed Willis, the police being to treat Delores as a suspect. Can Jessica figure out what is really happening?
Although I’ve been a fan of the TV show for years, I just started reading the books a couple of years ago. While I enjoyed those books, they felt a little off for the franchise. This book captures the feel of the show much better, especially Jessica on a trip episode (which were the majority). Jessica is her charming best here, and I enjoyed several other characters as well as appreciating the growth in Delores. I did feel that Delores’s step-granddaughter was a bit young for the age she was supposed to be and the suspects were thin. The plot was good, although the pacing was off. Still, it did provide some enjoyable red herrings before we reached a classic Murder, She Wrote climax. Fans of the series will feel right at home here.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
A Treasure to Die For by Terry Ambrose (Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mysteries #1) – 4
Rick Atwood has relocated to Seaside Cove with his ten-year-old daughter, Alex, to run the bed and breakfast he’s inherited from his grandfather. He’s still trying to get completely comfortable running the business when a group of treasure hunters book the place. They think they have a lead on a ship that sunk years before, but Rick notices the group always seems to be fighting. When one of them is found dead on the rocks near the B&B, Rick is asked to use his reporter skills to help the local police. But with everyone in the groups constantly lying, will Rick ever discover the truth?
The book took me a little while to get into. Alex plays a big part in the story, and some of the chapters are even from her point of view. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that or her character at the beginning, but she grew on me. I also had trouble keeping the suspects straight early on since sometimes they were mentioned by first name and other times last name. That, too, became less of an issue as the book progressed. I did like the series regulars, and there are hints at some secrets from the past that I’m curious to learn more about. The main mystery was strong with lots of lies for Rick to look past to find the truth. Being a bed and breakfast, we get a couple of delicious sounding breakfast bread recipes at the end. Hopefully, I can book a return visit to this bed and breakfast soon.
Murders and Metaphors by Amanda Flower (Magical Bookshop Mysteries #3) – 5
Charming Books is providing the books at a signing located at Morton Winery. The author is Belinda Perkins, a local who has become a respected sommelier. However, the evening ends in tragedy when Charming Books owner Violet Waverly finds Belinda’s body in the vineyard. Belinda was the estranged sister of Violet’s friend Lacey, and Lacey becomes the prime suspect. Can Violet figure out the messages that Charming Books is sending her to clear her friend?
It’s been years since I read the earlier books in the series, but I’m glad I reconnected with the characters. While I normally avoid paranormal themed cozies, I find this premise absolutely charming. The mystery is wonderful and kept me guessing right until the end. It’s filled with suspects who are perfect at keeping me confused. A few of the series regulars were fun but underdeveloped here, but that’s because they had little page time. The regulars we saw more of were great, and I especially appreciated the growth we saw in Violet. I hope to return to the next book in the series soon.
Nowhere to Go and All Day to Get There by Gar Anthony Haywood (Joe and Dottie Loudermilk) – 5
This is a collection of two short stories featuring retirees and full time RVers Joe and Dottie Loudermilk. In “A Mother Always Knows,” a quick trip into a convenience store results in the couple being on the scene of an armed robbery. “Better Dead Than Wed” find them getting involved in an abusive relationship during a late-night rest stop.
Both of these stories are fast reads – I finished the collection in about half an hour. But both stories are fun and held my interest the entire way through. I was caught off guard by some of the twists along the way. I laughed along the way, sometimes at Joe and Dottie’s reactions to each other and sometimes at the situations they found themselves in. The characters also appeared in two full length novels. Whether you already know them or are just meeting them here for the first time, you’ll enjoy these two quick road trips.
A Distant Grave by Sarah Stewart Taylor (Maggie D’arcy #2) – 5
Maggie D’arcy’ latest case as a homicide detective on Long Island involves a man on one of the beaches. He’s been shot and robbed, making identifying him the first priority. It is looking like a random homicide, which are always difficult to solve, when Maggie gets an ID. The man is an Irish national. Maggie begins to wonder why the victim was on Long Island in the middle of February. With a trip to Ireland already planned to visit her boyfriend, Conor, Maggie decides to do a little digging. Will she uncover a motive for murder across the Atlantic?
After the first book, I’d wondered how Maggie would once again find herself in a case involving Long Island and Ireland, and the set up for this book was perfect. The plot unravels wonderfully, with Maggie following a logical trail of clues until she reaches the satisfying climax. The book does spoil the events of the first in the series, so be aware of that before you pick this one up. We need that information since some of the character growth in this book flows out of what happened in before. It was wonderful to catch up with Maggie and the other returning characters, and the new characters were just as strong. This book is definitely darker than the cozies I typically read, but it wasn’t overly dark for me, and I didn’t find the violence or language excessive. The writing is wonderful, bringing Maggie’s world to full atmospheric life without slowing down the story. The book is mostly written from Maggie’s first-person present tense point of view, but we do get occasional third-person past tense passages. It’s always easy to see them apart. I got so engrossed in the story that I finished the book faster than I expected to, and I loved every page of it. This is a strong second book, and I’m looking forward to visiting Maggie again soon.
S’more Murders by Maya Corrigan (Five-Ingredient Mysteries #5) – 4
Val Deniston has agreed to cater a dinner on a yacht meant to recreate the final dinner for the first-class passengers aboard the Titanic. The evening gets off to a rocky start, and Val begins to question how these particular guests were selected for the invitation. Then the host of the evening vanishes from the yacht. Was it murder? If so, will Val figure out what happened?
If, like me, you are wondering how S’mores got involved in this story, yes the title does make sense. Not that I’m complaining since that is such a wonderful pun. The mystery is strong, with plenty to keep us engaged. I feel like the ending was a little too twisty, and I think we have a question left opened, but that is minor. The big picture definitely comes together for us. The circle of returning characters is smaller, but that was good since it gave us time to focus on getting to know the suspects. We’ve got six more five-ingredient recipes at the end, including a savory take on a s’more. If you are a fan of this series, you’ll be happy with this visit with Val.
Framed and Frosted by Kim Davis (Cupcake Catering Mysteries #3) – 5
Emory Martinez is helping her sister cater an elaborate Fourth of July dinner. But the event is proving to be anything but pleasant thanks to the host, who is being obnoxious when he is not being a total jerk – and worse. The evening is supposed to end with the guests enjoying some of Emory’s cupcakes as the fireworks go off, but instead it ends when the host dies. The guests are happy to point suspicion at Sal, the other waiter working the event, but Emory is sure that Sal is innocent. Can she prove it?
I was happy to be able to catch up with Emory. For those reading the series, you’ll be glad to find out that the threads introduced in the early books are expanded on here. If you are new to the series, know that some events from earlier books are spoiled by necessity if you jump in here. We get to see some interesting developments in Emory’s life, and I enjoyed the growth that brought about for her and some other regulars. The mystery itself was strong and kept me engaged the entire time, although I did feel the climax was a bit abrupt. I love the Orange County, California, setting since it is different from so many of the cozies I read. We get ten new recipes at the end of the book, most of them inspired by the dinner that starts the book, although we do get three cupcake recipes. If you are looking for a fun cozy mystery, you’ll be glad you picked up this series.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
May Day by Jess Lourey (Mira James #1) – 2
Mira’s life in Minneapolis is falling apart, so when a chance comes up to be an assistant librarian and part time reporter in the small town of Battle Lake, Minnesota, she jumps at the chance. She’s not expecting her love life to be super active there, but then she meets Jeff, and it is love at first sight. At least it is for a week until she finds his dead body in the middle of the library one morning when she goes to open it. Worried that she is a jinx, Mira decides to figure out what happened. The fact that she can turn it into an article for the paper is an added bonus. Will she figure out what happened?
This series has been on my radar for years, so it was with anticipation that I picked up this book. I was very disappointed with it. While we start out with Mira finding the dead body, we then flashback to get background on the characters. The result was a slow start to the book. The mystery was decent, with enough to keep me engaged and an ending that surprised me. The characters were more types, built to create comedy instead of be real characters. And most of the jokes didn’t land, especially since they were more raunchy than funny. This definitely isn’t one of my typical cozies, and I found that content off-putting. It was almost forced into the book. I really did want to like this book, especially since I have a few others in the series already. But I will probably move on without reading them.