And, with all the TV I've been watching, I did get the index updated this month.
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
Mercy River by Glen Erik Hamilton (Van Shaw #4) – 5
A middle of the night phone call sends Van Shaw to the small town of Mercy River, Oregon. The call had come from fellow former Army Ranger Leo Pak, and Leo has been arrested for a murder in the community. Van thinks Leo is innocent, but Leo won’t answer Van’s questions about what happened. Meanwhile, the town is the site of an event for current and former Ranger, so the population is swelling this weekend. Will that help or hurt Van’s efforts to clear his friend?
While this may sound like the set up for many of the books I normally read, it isn’t long before the plot branches off in some thrilling new directions. Those looking for a thriller will not be disappointed with the action scenes, yet the mystery is tied up perfectly. Since Van is out of town for much of this book, the series regulars are reduced to cameos, yet we still get some updates on them. The new characters are fully developed, and Van continues to be a complex main character. I appreciated how this book works in issues that vets face without slowing down the book by preaching. Like the earlier books in the series, this one does have flashbacks, but they don’t focus on any particular time in Van’s life while still helping us appreciate the events unfolding in Van’s life currently. This book has more language and violence than I typically read, but it fits for a thriller and never gets excessive. This was another compelling entry in the series. Anyone looking for a great thriller will be pleased this picked up this book.
Murder on Amsterdam Avenue by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #17) – 4
Frank Malloy has moved into the house that he and Sarah Brandt will share after they get married, but they have to wait until restoration is done on the house to actually get married, and the workers are taking their sweet time about it. Meanwhile, Sarah accompanies her mother on a condolence call to the home of the Oakes family. Charles suddenly got sick and died a few days later. The Oakes have been friends with Sarah’s family for years, and so, on the visit, Charles’s father asks if Frank will investigate the death. He thinks that something is not right about it. It isn’t long before Frank confirms that Charles was poisoned. But who would poison him?
While these are historical mysteries, history doesn’t always come into play in these books. Here it does in a couple of different ways, and I enjoyed both of them. Fans of the series will be delighted with how the character’s lives are progressing. The mystery was a little slower than most, or maybe it just felt like it to me because I guessed some parts of the plot early on. Even so, I enjoyed some of the twists along the way to the satisfying climax. We get plenty of the supporting characters here, and I am enjoying how they are developing. The characters’ lives are transitioning still in this book, and long-time fans will be happy with how that progresses. This isn’t the strongest in the series, but it will still please fans.
Pint of No Return by Dana Mentink (Shake Shop Mysteries #1) – 4
After finding out that her ex-husband was a thrice-married embezzler, Trinidad Jones moved to Upper Sprocket, Oregon. The reason? Her ex left her a storefront, and she is going to open a shake shop there. One afternoon, she finds a neighboring store owner dead in the back of his popcorn shop. The police start to look at Juliette, one of Trinidad’s fellow ex-wives, as the killer. Trinidad doesn’t think that Juliette committed the crime, but can she trust her instincts?
I found myself at once drawn into the book as I struggled to fully get lost in the world. There were small details that we didn’t get right away that kept me from fully getting emmeshed in the story. On the other hand, the characters were wonderful, and those relationships kept drawing me in. The pacing was a little off a couple of times, but it held my interest as I read, and it led to a great climax. The book does a good job of balancing tone. At times, it’s light, but other times it gets serious. The combination makes for a richer book. I appreciated the slight twist on the cozy mystery set up. The ice cream scenes made my drool, and I appreciate the recipe at the end of the book. I can’t wait to revisit these characters when the second in this series comes out.
Pony Up by Sandy Dengler (Valley of the Sun #10) – 3
This book opens at Joe Rodriguez’s wedding reception over in Ireland, but it isn’t too long before he and his young wife, Bridgid, are back in Phoenix and settling into wedded bliss. Well, they would be if it weren’t for Charlie Stegener. He is still trying to cause trouble for Joe in particular and the entire Phoenix police in general despite the fact that his wife has dropped out of the mayor’s race. Meanwhile, someone has followed Joe and Bridgid back from Ireland intent on ruining their lives. Can Joe stay one step ahead of both of these problems?
This book follows the previous book in the series very closely. In fact, some of the storylines I thought were wrapped up come back into play. The result feels more like a TV show than a novel, however, with the dueling plots. The characters are wonderful, and fans of the series will be excited to see what happens next to them. Well, mostly. There are a couple of scenes that were excessive, and I have to wonder what one character did to the author to get the treatment they got here. The ending, while wrapping up the plot, did seem a bit abrupt. I did enjoy the book because I like the characters and got caught up in the events, but I’ve enjoyed other books from this author more.
The Plot is Murder by V. M. Burns (Mystery Bookshop Mysteries #1) – 3
Samantha Washington is pursuing not one but two lifelong dreams. She’s opening a mystery bookstore in the town of North Harbor, Michigan. But just days before the store is supposed to open, she finds the dead body of Clayton Parker behind the store. Clayton sold her the building, but he almost sabotaged the sale. Meanwhile, she starts writing a mystery of her own set in England in 1938. Will she solve the murder? How will the real-life murder influence the fictional murder?
I’ve been intrigued by this series with the story inside the story idea for a while, and I’ve heard good things about it from many others. Sadly, it didn’t completely work for me. With two stories and two sets of characters to develop, I felt like both were a bit underdeveloped. The ending of the historical mystery was weak, and it featured some abrupt character growth. Meanwhile, the modern mystery featured lots of summaries that were told to us, keeping me outside. On the other hand, I loved both sets of characters, and I did feel the modern mystery came to a good resolution. I had no trouble keeping the different sets of characters straight once I realized how close both murder victims’ names were, and there was also an obvious break between the two stories each time we switched. I can understand why others love this series as much as they do, but I wish it had focused on one story and developed that one story better.
The Magic Square by John Gaspard (Eli Marks #7) – 5
Eli Marks and his uncle, Harry, are out of town at a magic convention. They’ll be spending a lot of time in the dealer’s room so they can sell Harry’s new two-volume book about his time as a magician, but they are hoping to catch a few of the panels, and the evening sessions. The entire convention is surprised when famed mentalist Gerhardt performs the first night. However, Harry’s friend Abe is less than happy since he’s had a running feud with Gerhardt for years. That feud is public knowledge, so when Abe returns to his hotel room that night to find Gerhardt’s body in the bathroom, the police consider him a strong suspect. Can Eli figure out what is really going on?
I always forget how much I enjoy these books until I am sitting down reading a new one. It was great to slip back into Eli’s world. Since we are out of town, I did miss some of the series regulars, but it did give us more time to get to know the new characters, who are quite strong. The story moves forward at a steady pace, with clues sprinkled into the talk of magic. I did finger the culprit a little early, but I wasn’t completely certain until we reached the suspenseful climax, and I was having such a good time I didn’t really care. While there is talk about magic, we don’t get any illusions spoiled here, but it might inspire you to try to learn a little on your own. If you are a fan of these books, you’ll be glad you picked up this volume. If you haven’t met Eli yet, you’ll be hooked faster than you can say “Abracadabra.”
The Clue of the Broken Locket by Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew #11) – 4
Nancy Drew and her friends are traveling to Misty Lake. It’s supposed to be an overnight stay, but they quickly extend it when they hear that an old tour boat that sank is now haunting the lake. Meanwhile, they meet a young woman who is searching for a family inheritance that was lost over 100 years ago. Will they solve these mysteries?
This is one I know I read years ago, and parts of it came back to me as a reread it. I quickly got caught up in the action and danger again. There is a lot going on here, and I knew it would all tie together. The biggest mystery to me was how. I’ll admit, I rolled my eyes a bit at all the coincidences involved, but I was having fun. Nancy and her friends get a bit of time to have some character development early on, but they are still pretty thin characters. Some of the elements in the book are dated since the version I read came out in the 1960’s. Still, I think kids of all ages will enjoy the action and mystery of this book.
Murder at the Fortune Teller’s Table by Janet Finsilver (Kelly Jackson #3) – 4
When Summer approaches Kelly and the Senior Sentinels asking them for a favor, they are only too willing to agree. Her request seems rather daunting, find two people she hasn’t seen in fifty years. Yet the group of crime solving enthusiasts are able to do so rather quickly. However, before Summer can follow up with the people who wanted found with her real request, she turns up dead. The police view it as a tragic accident, but Kelly thinks something else is going on. Can she figure out what is really happening?
Since it has been a while since I read the previous book in the series, it took me a bit to remember who all the characters are, but it wasn’t too long before I was back up to speed. The series regulars are a charming bunch, and this is especially true for the group of senior citizens that help Kelly figure out what is going on around town. The mystery is great with some creative scenes and strong characters that kept me guessing. Being from Northern California originally, I love the setting, and the talk of food made me drool as I read. I do think the internal timeline of the book is off, mainly because the characters seem younger than they’d have to be, but I didn’t even think about that until I’d finished the book. Overall, I enjoyed this book and am anxious to return to the series soon.
The Rocky Road to Ruin by Meri Allen (Ice Cream Shop Mysteries #1) – 4
Riley Rhodes has returned home to Penniman, Connecticut, for the funeral of her best friend’s mother. After the service, she sees that Caroline and her brother, Mike, are fighting over what to do with the property that the two of them were left, including Udderly Delicious, the ice cream shop where Riley worked as a teen. The next morning, Riley finds Mike dead. Knowing that Caroline will be a prime suspect, Riley tries to figure out what happened. Can she do it?
Riley has a fun background for an amateur sleuth – CIA librarian. And yet this is definitely still a cozy, and the warmth pulled me in right away. This book has a bit of a bittersweet vibe. We get the wonderful characters and setting we love in a cozy, but the beginning is appropriately somber. It really works well. The pacing was a little uneven in the middle, but the book had a strong beginning and ending that make up for it. I had a hard time putting the book down the closer I got to the climax. There is more than enough talk to ice cream to make you drool, and two recipes inspired by the more creative contributions are in the back of the book. Now’s the time to enjoy this debut. Me? I’ll be having a second helping of ice cream while I wait for the sequel.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
A Time to Swill by Sherry Harris (Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mysteries #2) – 5
Chloe Jackson has just returned from packing up her life in Chicago and saying her goodbyes to move full time to her new home in Florida. Her first morning back, she is running on the beach near her new home when she sees a ship that has beached itself. Hearing a cry on board, she climbs on board only to get swept out to sea. Before she is rescued, she’s found a skeleton that reopens a disappearance from twelve years ago. With some of her new friends under investigation, she is determined to find out what happened all those years ago and why it is coming to light now. What will she uncover?
The plot teaser just covers a few of the questions the book quickly gives us, and I had a very hard time putting the book down. In fact, I used a lazy Saturday to finish it faster than I originally planned. Meanwhile, there’s a strong sub-plot, not that we need any more reason to be addicted. Everything is resolved satisfactorily by the time we reach the end. Since Chloe doesn’t know her new friends super well yet, this book gives her, and us, a chance to learn more about them, and I love the character development. I might not normally pick up a book set in a bar, but I definitely enjoyed this one, especially the location – right on the beach. That setting may make this the ultimate beach read. Whether you pick up this book while on the beach or not, allow plenty of time to get lost in a great mystery when you pick up this book.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Much Ado About Nauticaling by Gabby Allan (Whit and Whiskers Mysteries #1) – 3
Whitney “Whit” Dagner and her brother Nick have relocated to Catalina Island. They visited their grandparents out there every summer, and now they are taking over their grandparents’ glass bottom boat business. Additionally, Whit is opening a souvenir shop in the harbor. She is enjoying her new life until she finds the body of Jules Tisdale, the recently named Person of the Year on Catalina. When the police decide that Nick is the killer, Whit jumps in to prove her brother’s innocence. Can she do it?
As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. I always love Southern California settings, although it’s been years since I visited Catalina. I certainly did enjoy the setting. Overall, the book was too frenetic, however. It was trying to be funny, but much of the humor didn’t work for me. I did laugh a few times, but overall, it was too much. This effected some of the characters, too, although I did enjoy others. Despite finding the body early on, the pace was uneven, getting better the further we got into the book. While I followed the killer and motive, the ending was rushed and left some questions about earlier twists in the book. I was hoping to love this debut, but it turned out to be average.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.