This is not an April Fool's joke. I really am posting my reading summary for March today. And yes, this does mean we are already a quarter of the way into 2021.
And would you believe for the third month in a row that the index is updated? Yeah, I'm kind of surprised myself.
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great). Links take you to my full reviews.
Murder in Chelsea by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #15) – 5
Sarah Brandt is devastated to learn someone is trying to locate Catherine, the little girl she’s taken in. When Sarah goes to meet this woman, her story seems genuine, but it could mean that Catherine is in danger, so Sarah asks Frank Malloy to help her figure out what is truly going on. However, Frank goes to meet the woman who is asking after Catherine only to find her dead. Is Catherine in danger, too?
The mystery of Catherine’s past has been brewing for several books now, and I was thrilled to see it finally fully explored. While you could jump in here, you’ll enjoy it more if you are already familiar with the characters. That includes some humor coming from how the regular characters interact with each other – I am loving how these relationships are developing. The plot is compelling and drew me in. These books always transport me to the world of New York City in the 1890’s, and I love visiting. I did have to question the series’ timeline as I read this book since it suddenly seemed to be compressed, but maybe that’s just me. I’m also very happy with some of the events that happened in the main character’s lives in this book. The series gets better with each book, and I can’t wait to get to the next entry in the series.
No Way Home by Annette Dashofy (Zoe Chambers #5) – 4
A rare warm Sunday in November sends Zoe to the stable for a trail ride through her area of Pennsylvania. However, that trail ride ends early with the discovery of County Commissioner Dale Springfield’s body. It appears he fell off his horse in a tragic accident, but Zoe doesn’t think that explanation quite makes sense.
However, her hopes of being involved in the investigation get sidelined when her best friend, Rose, demands Zoe’s help. Rose’s son has disappeared in the New Mexico desert, and the police think he is a person of interest in a murder. So Zoe joins Rose in New Mexico. Can she help find Logan and figure out what really happened?
Since this series really has two main characters, Zoe and police chief Pete Adams, we are able to follow the progress on both cases even though Zoe is a thousand miles from home. However, that makes the beginning of the book slow since, just as one story is picking up the pace, we have to slow down for the other to be set up. My patience was rewarded with a satisfying resolution and several tense scenes. The divided focus keep some of the supporting players a bit thinner than they might otherwise be, although Zoe and Pete are still as sharp as ever. Since Zoe is a paramedic and deputy coroner, this series is a bit darker than my usual choices. As long as you expect a more traditional mystery when you pick it up, you’ll be fine. This is not the book to jump into the series with, but fans will certainly be glad they read it.
Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss – 5
This book contains four stories that Dr. Seuss had published in magazines early in his career but were never released in book form. One features Horton, while two others take us to Mulberry Street. The final, which is just two pages, features a very slick salesman.
I was leery of this book since it was released after Dr. Seuss’s death, but I found I enjoyed all four stories. By themselves, they are short, but together, they are quite fun. It certainly helps that these were polished and released by Dr. Seuss himself instead of cobbled together from abandoned notes after his death. The illustrations and rhyme are classic Seuss. Kids and their parents will be glad they gave this collection a chance.
Phantom Outlaw at Wolf Creek by Sigmund Brouwer (Accidental Detectives #15) – 5
Ricky Kidd is on a month long vacation with his friends Mike and Ralphy at Mike’s uncle and aunt’s ranch in Montana. When he arrives, he hears the legend of a bank robbery that happened decades ago and the phantom of the outlaw that still haunts the nearby canyon. Or is it a legend? Mike and his visiting cousin, Sarah, insist on investigating, and Ricky sees evidence with his own eyes that the legend might be true. Can Ricky uncover the truth of what is going on?
This is another wonderful book in a favorite middle grade mystery series. The characters are sharp and provide some wonderful laughs. Sometimes their antics slow down the mystery in the first half of the book, but parts of the plot are being worked in to the fun, and the second half pays off the questions wonderfully. The suspense at the end is great, and the way Ricky works everything out is perfect. These books were written for the Christian market, and they work Ricky’s faith in organically without ever once preaching. The books are a bit dated now since they were originally released in the 1990’s, but as long as you know that going in, you’ll be fine. It might take a bit to track down this mystery, but it is worth it.
Murder in Greenwich Village by Liz Freeland (Louise Faulk #1) – 4
In the summer of 1913, Louise Faulk is enjoying her new life in New York City until one evening when she and her roommate, Callie, return to their apartment to find Callie’s cousin, Ethel, dead. Ethel had been staying with them for several weeks, but was from out of town and hardly knew anyone. The police focus on someone that Louise knows would never commit murder, so she starts to investigate. But who could have motive to kill Ethel?
The book starts off quickly, but I did feel the pacing was a bit uneven as the story unfolded. There was one thing that I wasn’t satisfied with at the end of the book as well, but only because I disagreed with Louise’s conclusion. Overall, the plot is interesting and held my interest all the way until we reached the logical climax. Louise is a wonderful main character, and I’m very interested to see where the series takes her next. The suspects are strong, and the rest of the cast is interesting. The book was a little darker than I was expecting, more a traditional than the cozies I normally read. As long as you know that going in, you’ll be fine. I will definitely be visiting Louise again. I’m anxious to find out what happens to her next.
On the Lamb by Tina Kashian (Kebab Kitchen Mysteries #4) – 4
Spring is in the air in Ocean Crest, New Jersey, and with it, changes. Lucy Berberian has gotten her own place, and it’s near the beach and her family’s Mediterranean restaurant, which she manages. The worst part is dealing with her landlady’s nephew, Gilbert, who is determined to get his aunt into a retirement home so he can get his hands on the valuable piece of land. A rare Saturday night to enjoy a bonfire on the beach ends when Lucy and her friends find Gilbert’s body in the sand. Lucy’s friend Melanie becomes the prime suspect, and she begs Lucy to figure out what is going on. Can she clear her friend?
It had been a while since I read the previous book in the series, but it wasn’t long before I was caught up with Lucy and the rest of the cast again. I was happy to see relationships and characters continuing to grow. The mystery is good, with several viable suspects and plenty of secrets for Lucy to uncover. The climax was logical and suspenseful. I did have some problems with logic in other places, like character’s ages. I can make it work, but it would have been nice having things like that actually spelled out for us. I would love to visit Ocean Crest if it were real. Even at the down time of Spring, when this book is set, it sounds like a fun town. We get another three delicious sounding recipes at the end of the book. If you’ve enjoyed the previous entries in the series, you’ll be happy you to catch up with Lucy and the gang again here.
Every Day Above Ground by Glen Erik Hamilton (Van Shaw #3) – 5
Former army ranger Van Shaw is in desperate need of money, so when one of his late grandfather’s former associates, Mickey, comes with a story of long forgotten gold, it is too much for Van to resist. Teaming up with Mickey, Van goes to the abandoned office where the gold is only to find they’ve walked into a trap. Mickey is captured by persons unknown and Van barely escapes. In order to get Mickey back, Van will have to figure out who laid the trap and what they want. Can he do it?
This is very different from my normal cozy reads, both in the inclusion of language and violence, but also because Van is really an anti-hero. This is the most he’s slipped into that role, however, and knowing him from the previous two books helped me still root for him. It really helps that I do like him and the other regular characters and I want to see them succeed. While a few of the events of the book are expected, there were still some twists I wasn’t expecting along the way, and I loved the creativity of some of the locations Van used over the course of the book in his attempts to defeat the villains and come out on top. This is a fun, fasted paced thriller that will keep you turning pages.
Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz (Orphan X #6) – 4
In the few weeks since Evan Smoak retired, he’s found that adjusting to normal life is more of a struggle than he anticipated, especially since he has nothing to fill his time. The phone calls from Veronica, the woman claiming to be his mother, aren’t helping. He finally decides to meet her, and she asks for his help protecting Andrew Duran from the people trying to kill him. Evan begins tracking down Andrew just to see what his situation is. Will he help Andrew? What might having Veronica in his life mean for him?
If you are new to these books, I don’t recommend you start here. Yes, the background you need is given as events unfold, but to fully appreciate the growth in Evan and his relationships with others, you need the full background the earlier books give you. As a fan, I loved those growth moments in this book. Unfortunately, they did come at the expense of the pacing. Normally, author Gregg Hurwitz is a master at keeping the thrills going while developing the characters for us. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great action scenes, and the book always held my interest. It’s just not quite on par with his others. The scenes spent giving us technical information didn’t help with the pacing. Having said that, it’s going to be a long wait until the next book comes out so I can find out what happens next. Being a thriller, this does have more language and violence than my normal selections, so be prepared before you pick it up. Fans will definitely enjoy this book, and if you haven’t started the series yet, I recommend you do so today.
Wild Horses by Sandy Dengler (Valley of the Sun #9) – 5
Joe Rodriguez is getting married! While his fiancée is busy planning the wedding over in Ireland, Joe is trying to clear up his cases as a Phoenix homicide officer before he flies over. Unfortunately, his cases aren’t cooperating. The department has been tasked to keep a federal witness safe, and it is clear that someone knows he is in town and is anxious to kill him. Not that this is the only case he is trying to wrap up. And a friend keeps dragging him away to help save a heard of wild horses from poachers. Will anything be resolved before he has to fly to Ireland?
I’ll admit that Joe’s wedding as a ticking clock was a bit unrealistic, but it did provide some great scenes, so I’m willing to overlook it. While there are several storylines, the focus was still mostly in Phoenix, so this book didn’t feel as scattered as some in the series have. I loved how the cases wove around each other and how they tied together thematically. The main characters are fun as always, and the suspects fit wonderfully into the story. I must be softening to Joe’s fiancée since I actually enjoyed the parts related to the wedding. The series originated in the 1990’s, and the author has kept that time frame for these new cases, which provides some interesting comparisons for the reader on how much life has changed. There’s one more in the series, and I hope to get to it soon.
Charlie Thorne and the Lost City by Stuart Gibbs (Charlie Thorne #2) – 4
It's been a few months since Charlotte “Charlie” Thorne has gone missing. While she was initially presumed dead, she took advantage of the confusion of the situation to slip away. She’s currently hiding out in the Galapagos Islands, which turns out to be very fortunate. One day, she is approached by Esmerelda, a researcher from the Darwin Institute who thinks she’s found a message left behind by Charles Darwin almost 200 years ago. Unfortunately, it’s in code, and Esmerelda needs Charlie to help her figure it out. Suddenly, Charlie finds herself on another wild ride that will take her deep into the heart of the Amazon pursued by people out to get the treasure first. But what did Darwin leave behind?
When I realized that Charles Darwin was going to be the featured scientist in this book, I was worried. As expected, there are some jabs taken at people like me, Christians who believe in microevolution (which Darwin clearly observed) but not the theory of macroevolution. I realize that will only be an issue for some readers. The rest will be thrilled with the action, danger, and twists that Charlie finds herself caught up in once again. I do struggle a bit with Charlie’s characters since she comes across as too perfect, but there are others in the book who are more realistic. I appreciated the rising tension we got while traveling through the Amazon as well as the humor that helped lighten the mood at times. There are some great seeds planted, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they pay off in future books. Fans of Stuart Gibbs will certainly enjoy this book.
Murder by Page One by Olivia Matthews (Peach Coast Library Mysteries #1) – 4
Marvey Harris has recently relocated to Peach Coast, Georgia, to take a job in the local library. Among her new friends is Jo Gomez. Jo owns the local bookstore, and this Saturday, Marvey is at the store to support Jo, who is hosting a book signing for the local authors group. When one of the authors fails to return from the storeroom, Jo and Marvey find her dead body on the floor. With the police looking at Jo, Marvey steps in to figure out what really happened. Can she find the killer?
This may be the first in the series, but I already feel right at home. Peach Coast sounds like a great town, and I love Marvey, Jo, and Spence, the third member of their trio. We never meet the victim alive, but I liked how well we got to know her as the story progressed. The rest of the cast could be a little better defined, but I’m sure that will come as the series progresses and they get more page time. The story starts quickly, but the pacing does slow a little in the middle. Still, the climax is logical and suspenseful. There’s a recipe for peach cobbler at the end. While not a culinary cozy, you’ll definitely be craving it by the time the book is over. I’m looking forward to returning to Peach Coast soon.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Word to the Wise by Jenn McKinlay (Library Lover’s Mystery #10) – 5
It all starts innocently enough. Lindsey Norris is more than happy to help out Aaron Grady when he walks into the library asking for help with his roses. But when he begins to show up with roses to offer to her as a thank you, she begins to grow concerned. Despite repeated confrontations, Aaron doesn’t take no for an answer and shows up in places he doesn’t belong. Until he turns up dead behind the library. Lindsey’s fiancé, Sully, quickly becomes the prime suspect. Lindsey knows that Sully wouldn’t have killed Aaron despite the growing evidence. So, what is really going on?
This book is definitely a cozy with a thriller edge to it. It worked for this fan, and kept me glued to the book until I reached the very end. I did have a problem with how a couple of minor characters reacted to Lindsey’s situation, mainly because I found it unbelievable given their position. Then again, maybe it’s just wishful thinking that they’d react like I would in that situation. I did feel things were slowing down a tad at one point, but then the plot kicked into high gear and didn’t slow down again. All the series characters are here and are just as charming as usual. The new characters fit in well. We have the usual assortment of extras at the end of the book. This may be a more serious book, but we get some humor, and the two were balanced perfectly. Once again, this is a book that fans will enjoy.
Death at the Salon by Louise R. Innes (Daisy Thorne #2) – 5
Daisy Thorne is closing up her hair salon in the small British village of Edgemead one Saturday when she finds the dead body of one of her clients in the alley behind the shop. Worse yet, Daisy’s scissors are sticking out of the victim’s back. Naturally, suspicion falls on her, so Daisy has to figure out what really happened so she can clear her name. The big question comes down to who had access to steal Daisy’s scissors. Can she figure out who did it?
I enjoyed the first book in this series, so I was looking forward to revisiting the characters. I’m happy to say I found this one just as engaging. Because the action focuses on the salon this time, we get to know her employees better, and I really enjoyed that. The rest of the cast is back, and the suspects are strong. I also appreciated the fact that it is obvious the characters’ lives were progressing between books, a fun change from most series I read. I’m not sure if it was just me, but I did feel like the pacing was a little slow early on, but once the plot really got going, there were more than enough twists and surprises to make up for that. The climax was wonderful and kept those twists coming. If you enjoy a cozy set in England, you need to check out this series.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Murder at Wedgefield Manor by Erica Ruth Neubauer (Jane Wunderly #2) – 5
Jane Wunderly and her aunt Millie are spending some time at Wedgefield Manor as the guest of Lord Hughes on their way home to America. Jane is enjoying the quiet after their trip to Egypt, but she’s especially enjoying learning to fly. However, things get complicated quickly when the estate’s mechanic, Simon, dies in a motorcar accident. It is quickly ruled a murder, and Millie asks Jane to investigate. It seems everyone she talks to is hiding a secret. But who is the killer?
I enjoyed the first visit to 1926 with Jane, so it was a pleasure to meet up with her again. Jane is a strong lead, and I was impressed with how many of the characters from the first book were logically included here. All the characters are fun with great growth. The many secrets kept the plot moving and did a perfect job of keeping me confused until we got near the end. I did feel that the characters had some modern attitudes to some situations that came up, but it was a minor issue for me. If you haven’t read the first book, some of the character’s backstories are spoiled here, so if you care about that, you’ll want to read the books in order. I enjoyed my second visit with Jane, and I’m curious to see where she will wind up next.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.