I finally got the Index updated again this month!!
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers by Heather Weidner (Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries #1) – 3
Jules Keene is running the trailer park she inherited from her parents, and she’s really making it shine with the vintage trailers she’s renovated and now rents out. She’s even gotten some long-term renters, including Ira Perkins. Ira is writing a book, and is very cranky, so Jules isn’t too happy with his presence in the park. Then two hikers find Ira’s dead body in the woods bordering the campground. Can Jules figure out what happened before it negatively impacts what she’s build?
I grew up camping, so the setting for this series definitely appealed to me. And that paid off. I would love to visit a place like Jules runs for a relaxing vacation. Unfortunately, the plot was weak. Part of that was my perception based on how much time was passing. However, I do feel like events were substituting for twists in the second half. Still, it did keep my interest the entire way through, and that was partially because of the characters. I loved Jules and the rest of the staff she’s got helping her run this campground. There was enough I enjoyed that I am glad I picked up this book, but I do wish the plot had been stronger.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Murder Lo Mein by Vivien Chien (Noodle Shop Mysteries #3) – 4
It’s time for the annual Cleveland’s Best Noodle contest, and, as the new manager for her family’s restaurant, Lana Lee is really feeling the pressure even if she’s not the one doing the actual cooking. The first day of the contest appears to be going well until the head judge reports a suspicious fortune in his cookie. When he dies a few hours later, Lana can’t help but poke around. Will she find out what happened?
The book does a good job of quickly setting up the suspects and getting the story moving. I did feel like the pacing lagged a bit as the suspects just gave Lana the run around, but she was frustrated by that as well, so I was in good company. I do wish the minor characters were given a bit more context when they popped up again, but that was a minor issue. I appreciated the character development we got here, although I did feel like some of it was cliched. Still, I do love Lana and enjoy seeing how her life is progressing. Overall, I did enjoy this book and look forward to visiting Lana again in the future.
The Reversal by Michael Connelly (Mickey Haller #3; Harry Bosch #16) – 5
Michael Haller is surprised when he is asked by the LA District Attorney to retry an old case. A man convicted of kidnapping and murdering a 12-year-old 24 years ago needs to be retried because of new DNA evidence. He gets Harry Bosch as his investigator, and the two try to track down old witnesses and make their case stronger than before. Will it be enough?
This book is engaging from the first chapter with some surprise twists along the way. Seeing these two characters interact even more is very entertaining. I never wanted to stop reading and couldn't wait to get back to the story. I first listened to the audio several years ago while reading only the Mickey Haller books, but now that I’m reading the Bosch books, I relistened to this one again. I picked up on things I hadn’t noticed the first time about Bosch, and I got caught up in the action and twists all over again.
Knot What You Think by Mary Marks (Quilting Mysteries #5) – 4
Martha Rose is looking forward to a typical Tuesday quilting session with her friends until Jazz, the latest member of the group, shows up. As Jazz describes his morning, everyone begins to worry about the friend he was trying to see earlier in the morning. When they go to investigate, they find the body of Dolleen Doyle on her kitchen floor. Dolleen is the second wife of a man currently in jail for running a Ponzi scheme. With the police looking at Jazz as their prime suspect, Martha begins to investigate. Can she find the real killer?
Those familiar with the series will know what to expect here, and they won’t be disappointed. The plot is complex with several twists before Martha pieces the clues together. I do wish we hadn’t had the scenes with the psychic, but that’s a minor complaint. I enjoy the characters since they are different for a cozy series, and I appreciate how their lives are evolving as the series progresses. The suspects are just as sharp and interesting. While the Los Angeles setting is unusual for a cozy, as a native, I enjoy it, and the book still feels cozy. There’s a nice dose of humor as well, and I can’t wait to see how what happens next to Martha after the way this book ended. If you are looking for a fun cozy series, this is definitely one to check out.
The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker (Revolutionary War Mysteries #1) – 5
It’s been six months since Rebecca Parcell lost her husband on a British prison ship, and the rumors in town that she is the one who turned him in to the British are only growing stronger. So when she gets an offer from General Washington, she is quick to listen. It seems that her husband was spying for whoever would pay him the most money, and Washington wants to know about his network, including the British spies he was going to identify. In order to help Washington, Rebecca travels to New York City with Daniel Alloway, a man she barely knows but who was on the ship with her late husband. Will they be able to find the network of spies in time to stop a plot?
This is definitely a shade darker than the cozies I typically read, but it is only just a shade darker. I was delighted to find a mystery set during the Revolutionary War, and the book does a great job of bringing that time period to life. The plot starts out well and only gets stronger as it goes. By the end, I was racing to find out what would happen next. I did find the romance between Rebecca and Daniel to be the weak point of the book, but that was minor. The characters, real and fictional, are strong, and using both Rebecca and Daniel to tell the story is a real asset. I’m glad I found this series, and I can’t wait to find out where the characters go next.
Cement Stilettos by Diane Vallere (Samantha Kidd #7) – 4
It’s been a week since Samantha Kidd said yes to marring Nick Taylor, and the two are enjoying their newly engaged status. They crash back down to earth, however, after Samantha finds a dead body in Nick’s showroom. The victim is Nick’s assistant. Samantha wants to help Nick, so she begins to investigate, but as she does so, she begins to learn some surprising things about her finace. Even if Samantha can solve the case, will their relationship survive?
Nick doesn’t typically get a lot of page time in the series, so I was happy to see that change here. I feel like we got to know him better, and I enjoyed watching both Samantha and their relationship grow as the book progressed. The mystery was strong with several great twists. I did feel like a few of the details didn’t quite work, but the ending was still completely logical. Even though Samantha is maturing, there is still plenty of humor as the case unfolds. Series fans will find much to enjoy here, and those new to the series will be glad they gave Samantha a chance.
On Thin Icing by Ellie Alexander (Bakeshop Mysteries #3) – 3
Jules Capshaw is thrilled to be catering the board retreat for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival at the Lake of the Woods center in the mountains above Ashland, Oregon. However, the weekend doesn’t go nearly as smoothly as Jules hopes. First, her estranged husband shows up, proving to be both a help and a distraction. Then the center’s bar tender is killed and stuffed in a freezer. Now, as a winter storm rages, Jules can’t help but wonder if she is catering to a killer.
Obviously, this is a classic mystery set up, but it failed to fully deliver for me. The mystery was too thin, and the book covers with too many cooking scenes. Still, Jules does piece things together, and the ending is logical. I also appreciated the time spent on Jules’s relationship with her husband since that’s been in the background in the first two books in the series. Obviously, we don’t get all the series regulars, but everyone at least gets a cameo, which makes me happy since I do like them. We get seven recipes at the end, and they range from dinner options to plenty of pastries and desserts. I hope the plot in the next in the series is stronger.
The Self-Working Trick (and Other Stories) by John Gaspard (Eli Marks #8) – 5
For the eighth book in the Eli Marks series, author John Gaspard decided to present a short story collection. While two have been previously released, the rest of the twelve stories here are new. Over the course of this collection, Eli must help his ex-wife and her new husband figure out what happened in a bizarre murder/suicide case. Eli finds himself being questioned by the police when someone who gave him a one-star review is found dead. Eli finds himself being sent in by the police to perform magic for a man who refuses to come out of his house. And Eli and his uncle Harry figure out what happened to a man shot in front of a crowd on Halloween night.
While a couple of the stories don’t feature a crime, they still give us a great chance to see Eli in action and let us get some insight into his character. The rest of the stories feature a crime, often with a perfect puzzle that only makes sense when Eli uses his knowledge of the principles of magic to solve it. If you want to be fooled by magic, you’ll be happy to know that these principles are discussed in such a way that the solution to the mystery makes sense, but the specifics of how a trick works aren’t ruined. I love that. Fans will love getting these small glimpses of what else Eli has been up to between the big cases we’ve already read about. If you are new to the character, you’ll find the information you need to follow these cases with nothing from the regular novels spoiled. Most importantly, these stories are fun, with a few laughs along the way as well. This is a completely enjoyable short story collection.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
A Quiet Undertaking by Penny Warner (Connor Westphal #4) – 4
Deaf reporter Connor Westphal is hot on the trail of another scandal in her small Gold Country town for her weekly newspaper. A storage locker full of human ashes has been found near the town of Flat Skunk, California. The ashes were supposed to be scattered at sea by Jasper Coyne, but before anyone can question Jasper, he is found dead near his houseboat. With the scandal impacting Connor’s friend, Del Rey, Connor has an extra motive to investigate. But with Del Rey hiding secrets of her own, will Connor ever figure out what really happened?
This was an inventive mystery that kept me guessing until the end. There were plenty of surprises on the way to the logical climax. Unfortunately, Connor did make some pretty stupid moves as she was investigating, which is a bummer since I like her overall. She leads a strong cast of fun characters. I love how her deafness is worked into the book and how it makes certain scenes even more suspenseful. There are more four letter words than usual in a cozy mystery, so know that going in. The book was first released over 20 years ago, so some of the technology is dated, but keep that in mind as you read it, and you’ll be fine. Overall, this was another fun, confusing mystery. I’m glad I’m finally reading this series.
Crimes and Covers by Amanda Flower (Magical Bookshop Mysteries #5) – 3
Bookshop owner Violet Waverly is thrilled to be marrying police chief David Rainwater in just a few days. She’s distracted, however, when a woman comes into Charming Books wanting to sell an autographed mint condition first edition of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Violet doesn’t feel comfortable with the transaction, so the woman leaves in a huff. A few days later, the woman’s body is found floating in the river. Violet can’t help but wonder what happened to the book. Is that the reason the mystery woman is dead?
I don’t tend to read supernatural tinged cozies, but I’ve made an exception for this. Honestly, what reader can resist a magical bookstore? Between that and Violet’s pets, there is plenty to charm fans once again here. Likewise, the characters are strong, and it is great to spend time with them again. Christmas gets a light touch in this book, but I enjoyed getting to indulge my love of Christmas just a bit longer. It’s the plot where this book really struggles. I was willing to forgive the slow start given everything else happening early in the book. Once it got going, I definitely got caught up in it even though I figured out the big brushstrokes early on. However, the climax left me with a couple of rather big questions that really should have been resolved. Fans of the series will enjoy it, but I do wish this visit had been stronger.