All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great). As always, the links take you to my full review.
Puzzling Ink by Becky Clark (Crossword Puzzle Mysteries #1) – 4
Quinn Carr has had to return home and take a job at the local diner. If only her passion, creating the crossword puzzles for her local paper, paid her more. One night as Quinn is closing down the diner, she finds the last patron slumped over dead in the corner booth. When the police determine he was murdered, they arrest Jake, the diner’s owner. Now Quinn has to keep the restaurant running while also figuring out a way to clear her boss. Can she do it?
This book sets the stage for a fun new mystery series. Quinn is a bit unusual in that she has recently been diagnosed with OCD, something we don’t usually see in the books I read. It was handled well. I also loved Quinn’s relationship with her parents. The mystery got sidelined at times with Quinn trying to run the diner. I was interested in both stories, but I do prefer strong mysteries in the books I read. There is a good mystery here, with plenty of suspects and motives. A few key pieces of information were introduced a bit abruptly, and one key element of the plot was never quite resolved, but the majority of our questions are answered, including the who and the why. Fans of crossword puzzles will enjoy the one that Quinn creates over the course of the book. Additionally, there are two fun sounding recipes at the end of the book.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Murder on Fifth Avenue by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #14) – 5
When a member of the Knickerbocker club dies one afternoon, everyone assumes it was a heart attack – until they move the body and discover that he had been bleeding. Midwife Sarah Brandt’s father, Felix Decker, is a member of the club, so he immediately calls Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy to investigate. The victim was Chilton Devries, the head of a wealthy family. However, Frank soon learns that Chilton was not a well-liked man. With Sarah using her status in society to gain access to the family, the two begin to gain a long list of suspects. But who actually killed the man?
It’s always a pleasure to return to Sarah and Frank’s world, and this book was no exception. I enjoyed the fact that, in addition to who and why, we were trying to figure out how. That added a nice twist of the book. I try to space out authors because I start to pick up on some of their plotting techniques, and that did enable me to figure out a couple of twists early, but I was still left puzzled by many things until I reached the end. I was hooked, staying up late two nights in a row to finish it. The characters are strong, and the series regulars provided some moments that made me laugh out loud as I read. I’m anxious to find out what happens next thanks to a tease at the end of the book. I may have been late to this series, but I’m so glad I started it.
Spy School Revolution by Stuart Gibbs (Spy School #8) – 5
When someone fires at the CIA building while Ben Ripley is in it, he assumes it was an attack on the CIA in general. It quickly becomes clear that Ben was the target, and the person who attacked the CIA is his friend Erica Hale. Despite the evidence, Ben doesn’t think that she has turned into a traitor. The CIA, however, wants her arrested no matter what. Is Ben right? If so, can he clear his friend?
The series has turned a bit of a corner with this book, but longtime fans will not be disappointed in the slightest. The book is still packed with plenty of action and a mystery that keeps throwing us surprises until we reach the climax. Meanwhile, I laughed multiple times as I was reading the book. I enjoy studying early American history, so I enjoyed the fact that the storyline delved into that period a bit. The characters are as strong as ever and grow some again here. The series is aimed at middle graders, but it is on my auto buy list – for me. If you are looking for a fun, action packed book for any reader in your life, this is the book to get.
Some Like it Haute by Diane Vallere (Samantha Kidd #4) – 5
Samantha Kidd has landed yet another temporary job in her home town of Ribbon, Pennsylvania. This time, she’s helping her ex-boyfriend’s maybe ex-girlfriend prepare a fashion show. Amanda is going to turn heads with this collection – assuming nothing goes wrong before then. Samantha thinks everything is going well, so she is surprised when she is fired the night before the big event. Then she is attacked on her way out to her car as she leaves. But when disaster strikes the show, Samantha begins to suspect that something larger is at work. Can she figure out what is going on?
The plot of this book started from page one and never let up. Samantha is facing quite a few challenges over the course of the story, and they always kept me engaged. While I don’t know much about fashion, it was used as a backdrop to the mystery, and I never felt left out. Having said that, Samantha’s fashion knowledge does provide her with a couple of clues that help her solve the mystery. Samantha is the strongest character in the book. The rest are interesting and hold our attention, but Samantha is the one who really shines. She’s also the one who gets the most growth, and I enjoyed watching that happen. I’m now anxious to see what happens to Samantha next.
Final Fondue by Maya Corrigan (Five-Ingredient Mysteries #3) – 4
The town of Bayport, Maryland is holding a festival to celebrate their tri-centennial. Val Deniston is participating with a booth featuring food from her café, while her grandfather is hoping to win one of the contests with his chocolate fondue. And Val has talked Grandfather into renting out some rooms in the house they share to visitors in town for the weekend. These particular guests are there to start work on planning a wedding to take place in the area the next spring. When one of them turns up dead in the backyard, Val begins to question if the killer got their intended victim, or if someone else was the target. Can she figure out what happened?
This book has a solid mystery with great clues sprinkled throughout. Even so, I only began to piece it together about the time that Val started figuring it out. Val’s former life in New York City pops up in a big way in this book, and, while I enjoyed the way this cozy trope played out in this book, I did feel it slowed things down a little. The more I read this series, the more I’ve come to love the characters, especially Val’s grandfather, who is a lot of fun. The suspects are distinct and kept me guessing. At the back of the book are six recipes, including a couple of chocolate fondue recipes, all of which have five or fewer ingredients. This is another fun entry in a tasty series.
Design for Murder by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #2) – 3
Bookstore owner Annie Lawrence is thrilled when she is asked to plan a murder mystery for a neighboring town’s event. However, Annie soon finds herself embroiled in a bunch of local politics, hurt, and anger. When that boils over into a real murder, Annie is once again cast as a suspect. With her fiancé, Max, along for the ride, she sets about clearing her name. Can she figure out what happened?
Unfortunately, this was a disappointment after the fun series debut. We spend too long with Annie planning the fictional mystery with multiple ideas discarded before she settles on one. The book and author name dropping is especially tedious here, too. We are meeting suspects and learning motives, so when the body does finally drop, the book picks up. It was still a bit of a struggle to keep the suspects and the parts they played in the fictional murder straight. Even so, the suspects are strong, and both mysteries are wrapped up well. Annie and Max are wonderful main characters, and I definitely enjoyed spending time with them. I’m looking forward to more of their adventures even if this wasn’t quite as good as the first one.
The Enemy We Don’t Know by Liz Milliron (Homefront Mysteries #1) – 4
It’s November of 1942, and Betty Ahern is doing her part for the war effort from her hometown of Buffalo, New York. That’s why she is one of the many young women working at Bell Aircrafts to build the planes the Allies need. But when someone starts sabotaging the production line, Betty sees her chance to emulate her big screen idol, Sam Spade, and solve a mystery. A murder further complicates things. Can she figure out what is happening?
I love learning about World War II, so it was nice to read a historical mystery set at home during the time. Betty finds plenty of motives that would only work during this time period, which I appreciated. The pacing could have been a little better, but the book kept me engaged most of the time along the way to a great climax. Betty and the main characters were well-developed. I did feel like some of the supporting players, especially Betty’s family, could use more development, but hopefully we will see that happen as the series progresses. Betty was first introduced in a short story that I need to go back and read now. There are a few references to what happened there, but nothing spoilery. If you enjoy historical mysteries, be sure to check out this book.
Swift Edge by Laura DiSilverio (Charlie and Gigi #2) – 5
PI Charlette “Charlie” Swift has a new client. Dara Peterson needs Charlie to track down her ice skating partner, Dmitri Fane, before the Olympic trials start in just a few days. With her new business partner, Gigi Goldman, semi-helping, Charlie begins investigating. She quickly gets attacked and finds someone left for dead on the ice. What has happened to Dmitri?
I read the first book in this series years ago, and I kept meaning to go back and read this one. I’m so glad I did. This book is as much fun as I remember the first being. The plot is fast paced with plenty of action and a page turning climax. What Gigi doesn’t know about the PI business she makes up for in enthusiasm, and her antics add some great laughs. Yet none of the characters come across as caricatures; there is a depth to all of them. Mostly, we only see glimpses of that depth, but it is enough to make them seem real. The book skirts around the edges of the cozy genre with just a touch more violence and language than a traditional cozy, but as long as you expect that, you’ll be fine. I really did enjoy this book, and it won’t be as long before I go back to visit these characters again.
“Ghosts ‘N Graveyards” by Sue Ann Jaffarian (Ghost of Granny Apples #6.1) – 4
It’s Thanksgiving, and Emma and her new husband, Phil, are planning a quiet holiday with their friend Jeremiah and his friend Rose. Like Emma, Jeremiah is also a medium who has solved mysteries with Granny, the ghost of Emma’s great-great-great grandmother. That’s going to come in handy with Granny shows up. It seems that one of the ghosts in Julian’s Pioneer Cemetery is more upset than usual. It sounds like she thinks someone is about to die. Is she right? Can Emma and Jeremiah stop it from happening?
It’s been a couple of years since we got a new Granny Apples story, so it is wonderful to get to visit some of the characters again with this short story. The story is a bit simple, even for a short story, but it serves as a great excuse to spend time with these characters again. While we don’t see everyone in Emma’s orbit, I was glad to get the update on the characters who are here. All of them, living and dead, are wonderful. We even get a glimpse of what might be coming for another character this author writes about. This is a story for fans, and they will be happy. If you haven’t met the characters, don’t jump in here, but do start this fun paranormal series.
NOTE: I was sent a copy of this story.
Open for Murder by Mary Angela (Happy Camper Mysteries #1) – 4
Zo Jones is thrilled to have her best friend Beth Everett back in her life. The two were inseparable every summer when Beth would visit her aunt in Spirit Canyon, South Dakota. Beth has inherited the lodge her aunt owned, and, after renovating, she is ready to reopen just in time for summer tourists. However, the first night the lodge is opened, one of the guests is murdered. The victim was a local competitor, and the police begin to look at Beth as their prime suspect. Zo doesn’t believe her friend would do something like this, but can she find the proof?
Zo owns a souvenir shop, and between that and the setting, I had to give this series a try. I loved the setting. The book took a couple of chapters before it introduced us to the victim and suspects, but it picked up from there. I did find some of the motives weak early on, but they got stronger the further into the book we got. Likewise, it takes a bit for the characters to be developed. There is still room for the main characters to grow as the series progresses. We get a recipe for a delicious sounding S’more brownie at the end of the book. If you are open to a new series, this is one to check out.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Sign of Foul Play by Penny Warner (Connor Westphal #2) – 5
Two earthquakes in the middle of the night made it hard for Connor Westphal to sleep. However, she is going about her Monday morning when she gets a message from her friend Dan telling her there is a news story at the construction site he is working at. When Connor arrives to get the scoop for her weekly paper, she finds that someone has discovered the dead body of Cullen Delancy. The working theory is that he fell to his death when the earthquake struck, but what was he doing on the site in the middle of the night?
I’ve got to admit, I roll my eyes a bit when I see an earthquake pop up in a story set in California, but I quickly got over that here since it made for an interesting set up to the mystery. There are plenty of twists and surprises to keep us guessing. I did figure a couple of them out early, but I was still plenty surprised when Connor pieced it together at the end. Connor is deaf, which sets her apart from other series leads, and I love seeing how that plays out in the story. She’s a strong main character, and the rest of the cast is wonderful as well. The story edges just a bit toward the outskirts of cozies, but as long as you know that going in, you’ll be fine. The book came out in 1998, and it is really amazing how much technology has changed our lives in the past couple of decades. This is a great second in the series, and I’m looking forward to visiting Connor again soon.