But we aren't here to talk about my vacation. We are here to talk about what I read in March.
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great). The links will take you to my full review.
Wild Irish Rose by Rhys Bowen and Clare Broyles (Molly Murphy #18) – 4
It’s February 1907, and Molly Murphy Sullivan’s life has settled into the busyness of everyday life for a wife and mother. However, she feels the desire to return to her old life as a detective when her husband, New York Police Captain Daniel Sullivan, comes home with tales of his latest case. Seems a young woman newly arrived from Ireland has been accused of murder on Ellis Island. Molly can’t help but make the connection to when she first arrived several years before. Can she find out what really happened?
It's been years since we last visited with Molly, and I have missed her. Within pages, it was like no time had passed. Unfortunately, some of the bad remained, like how Daniel can run hot and cold, especially when it comes to Molly’s investigation. I get that it is accurate for the time, but can he grow out of it, please? However, there are other times I loved his character. Molly is her usual strong self, and the supporting players are as fun as always. The pacing was a little uneven early on, but it got much stronger as it went along. The solution was perfectly logical and wonderfully page turning. I hope we haven’t heard the last of Molly.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss – 5
This is a simple book. There’s really no plot, but as we read, we find out about all the noises that Mr. Brown can imitate. Yes, he can imitate a cow, but there’s also a cork, rain, a train, and a butterfly. Yes, you read that right.
This has all the creativity, humor, and charm of a classic Dr. Seuss book. I loved it as a kid, and I found it just as fun reading it to kids when I was older. Since the sounds are part of the rhythm and rhymes of the book, they call out to be made as you read, so it is most fun if you really get into it. This is classified as an easy reader. Some of the sounds written out might not be familiar words, but it is a chance to challenge young readers in a context they will get. Add in Dr. Seuss’s illustrations, and you have a winner.
Caramel Pecan Roll Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #28) – 3
A fishing tournament has come to Lake Eden, which is great news for Lake Eden Inn since it is located on the shores of Eden Lake. Hannah Swensen is out at the inn filling in for their pastry chef, who is out for a family emergency. That’s how she first meets Sonny Bowman, the celebrity face of the contest. Sonny is as arrogant as he is handsome, but Hannah is still surprised when she finds his dead body. Can she figure out what happened?
If you haven’t picked up a book in this series before, don’t start here. Not only are there some spoilers about what has gone on in Hannah’s life recently, but the earlier books were stronger. Go back then to see why people got hooked on the books. For fans, they’ll find this book is a mixed bag. It’s definitely stronger than the last few in the series were, with a little less cooking and baking talk and more time spent on the mystery. I didn’t figure out who the killer was until the end, and there were some decent twists along the way. Since the action takes place at the Inn, we only get cameos from some of the usual characters, which is okay. The characters continue to be a bit thin, but fans will love spending time with them anyway. My biggest issue was the lack of editing. There were several times that a character contradicted something that had happened just a few pages before. It wasn’t related to the mystery; it was just lazy writing and editing. By my count, there are twenty new recipes to enjoy once you’ve finished the book, and they made my mouth water as always. If you’ve stuck with the series, you’ll be glad you picked up the latest entry.
A Nun in the Closet by Dorothy Gilman – 5
The nuns in the Abbey of St. Tabitha are shocked when they are left a house and estate in New York State, several hundred miles from where they live in cloister. However, they must decide what to do with it, so Sister John and Sister Hyacinthe are elected to head up there and get a feel for what they’ve been left. Within hours of arriving, they’ve discovered a suitcase full of cash in the well and a man bleeding out from a gunshot wound in an upstairs closet. What is happening on this property? Why was it left to the nuns?
While I have loved the Mrs. Pollifax series for decades, I have never read any of Dorothy Gilman’s non-Mrs. Pollifax books. I’m glad I decided to fix that since this one was delightful. Yes, I had the broad strokes of the plot figured out early on, but I was missing a few pieces, and the twists along the way kept me highly entertained. The characters are good. They could be a little stronger overall, but they work to draw us into the story. Since the book came out in 1975, some of the references are dated, but that’s only worth noting in passing. I appreciated how one subject was handled without the book crossing into lecture mode. And the laughs were plentiful. I was smiling each time I picked up the book knowing that I was in for more fun. A lesser authors couldn’t have pulled this mix off, but Dorothy Gilman makes it look easy. I’m glad I finally picked it up.
The Decorator Who Knew Too Much by Diane Vallere (Madison Night #4) – 5
It’s been seven months since we last saw Madison, and she’s been enjoying her new relationship with Hudson James. When he suggestions they take a working vacation to Palm Springs to help his brother-in-law with a project he has going on there, she accepts. However, their first day there, Madison spots a dead body below the surface of the river that runs near the project site. By the time the police show up, the body is gone. The delays to the project and the suspicion that Madison just imagined what she said she saw begin to make the trip stressful. How can Madison prove she was right?
As I expected, I was caught up in Madison’s latest adventure once I opened the book. The stakes are soon personal, and I loved watching how everything unfolded. The climax was suspenseful and answered all of our questions. We do get some updates on someone back in Dallas, but the focus is, naturally, on Madison and Hudson for this book. The rest of the characters are just as sharp. The Doris Day movie that inspired this title was the only one I had watched before starting to read this series, and I enjoyed picking up on the Easter eggs from the film in this book. Not that you need to be familiar with the film to enjoy this story. If you are looking for a creative series that will keep you glued to the page, this is the series for you.
A Dismal Harvest by Daisy Bateman (Marketplace Mysteries #2) – 5
Claudia Simcoe’s marketplace is serving as the host for a library fundraiser when one of the volunteers makes a surprising discovery. There’s a hidden compartment in the wall, and someone has opened it in the middle of the event. Claudia quickly determines that it was Clark Gowan, a local lawyer. In fact, Gowan had been part of the deal when Claudia bought the marketplace. When she goes to confront him the next morning, she discovers his dead body. Did what he took from the compartment lead to his murder?
Having enjoyed the first in the series, I was looking forward to this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. Claudia is a very relatable main character, and she leads a cast of good suspects. I did find the tenants in the marketplace hard to keep straight, but they were background characters, so that was okay. The plot is strong with plenty of pieces to keep us guessing until Claudia puts it all together. I laughed and smiled my way through the book at Claudia’s observations about what was happening. I grew up near the part of Sonoma County, California, where the fictitious San Elmo is located, so I really enjoyed that as well. If you’ve missed this series, fix that today. If you enjoyed the first, you’ll enjoy this one, too.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
A Bird’s Eye View of Murder by Jacqueline Vick (Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic Mysteries #2) – 4
Frankie Chandler’s hardly recovered from the murder she got involved in the month before when her aunt comes for a visit. The aunt has scored some tickets to the taping of a live baking show, and Frankie joins her. That’s how Frankie stumbles on the dead body of the contestant winner. With the police looking at her aunt, her aunt hiding secrets, and animals starting to talk to Frankie again, can she figure out what is really going on?
Yes, this book falls into the paranormal cozy subgenre, which I tend to avoid. I appreciated how Frankie wrestles with her gift and what it means since those are the same things I struggle with myself. And it’s a minor part of the book anyway. In fact, this is more comedic, at least to me. I enjoyed laughing at the antics of the characters as the book progressed. The story started a bit slowly, but it grew stronger as it went along, and I was surprised by the ending. Do keep in mind that there is some violence to animals, but they are treated no worse than the human characters in the story. I really enjoyed the characters. I’m hoping I can get to the next in the series soon.
An Eternal Lei by Naomi Hirahara (Leilani Santiago Hawai’i Mysteries #2) – 5
It’s October 2020, and like most of the island of Kaua’i, Leilani Santiago has been forced to close down her family’s shave ice business. When she and her sisters save a woman from drowning one afternoon, Leilani is very curious since this woman is a stranger. Why was she on the island? With nothing else to do, Leilani starts to investigate. As she does, she begins to wonder if the woman was almost killed or just had an accident. What will she uncover?
I wasn’t sure I was ready to pick up a book set during the pandemic we’ve been dealing with the last couple of years, but I found I enjoyed this one. The pandemic is part of the backdrop, and it avoids many of the controversies we’ve had to deal with. We get several sub-plots, but I found they kept me engaged and didn’t distract from the main mystery. I was engrossed the entire time and couldn’t wait to see how everything was going to be resolved. The characters are strong, and seeing them react to the pandemic as well as the mystery really helped develop them. The characters speak in a form of Pidgin, but after the first few pages, I was used to it, and I had no trouble reading the story. This was a good virtual visit to Hawai’i.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Dead in the Water by S. C. Merritt (Bucket List Mysteries #1) – 4
Maisie Mitchell has sold her restaurant and retired to Florida. She’s living in a senior’s only community, and that’s where she’s met Donna “Dot” Pinetta, a retired homicide detective from Chicago. The two are opposites in many ways, but they quickly form a friendship. They are enjoying their lives, although they begin to notice an undercurrent of tension in their community, all centered around Mason Jacobs, the young, handsome recreation director. Things come to a head when they discover his body floating in the pool one morning. Dot jumps into detective mode, with Maisie tagging along behind her. Will the two of them figure out what happened?
This book sets up a promising new series with a sub plot involving Maisie and Dot getting an RV to travel. That premise is what drew me to the book. It’s is much shorter than the books I read, and I did notice the difference. Characters and descriptions were a bit thin, and the plot felt a bit rushed. A few more pages to allow everything to breath would have been nice. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book. I appreciated the set up we got before the murder, introducing suspects and motives. The climax was great as well. I like Maisie and Dot, and I’m definitely planning to join them for more trips.
Danger on the Atlantic by Erica Ruth Neubauer (Jane Wunderly Mysteries #3) – 4
Jane Wunderly is making her way back to America, but she isn’t crossing the Atlantic alone. She’s crossing with Redvers, and she’s been asked by his employers to help him track down a German spy on board. Then, Jane meets Vanessa, a socialite who claims that her new husband has vanished from the ship. Can she solve the two cases? Or will one distract from the other?
There is plenty going on here, which is why it surprises me to find the pacing is slightly off. It was a bit slow at the beginning and it felt rushed at the end. Overall, there was still a good mystery here with plenty of twists. I didn’t have everything worked out by the end. I loved the setting, and felt like I was traveling in style with Jane. Well, style for 1926. Jane and Redvers are the only returning characters, but I didn’t mind since I loved watching them interacting. The new characters are strong and helped pull me into the book. If you are looking for a charming historical mystery, this series is for you.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Three Shots to the Wind by Sherry Harris (Chloe Jackson Sea Glass Saloon Mysteries #3) – 5
Chloe thinks she is settling into her new life in Emerald Cove, Florida, when she starts to receive a series of mysterious gifts. While she knows they aren’t from her new boyfriend, she isn’t prepared to learn they are from her ex-fiance, Perry Franklin, who is in town for an accounting conference. Unfortunately, she learns this when she stumbles on his dead body at a crime scene. When they were together, Chloe thought Perry was boring. Had she misjudged him? What could have led to his murder?
I love how this book put a twist on the familiar cozy trope of the main character’s ex coming to town to try to win her back. Of course, Perry also wasn’t who Chloe thought he was, and exploring that gives us suspects and motives. I enjoyed following Chloe as she solved the case, and the climax wraps things up nicely. This story also gives Chloe a real chance for growth, which I enjoyed seeing. Additionally, a sub-plot gives some of the supporting characters a chance to grow as well. Sherry Harris is one of my favorite authors, and this book once again shows why.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.