Sadly, the index didn't get updated this month. With working this weekend, I ran out of time.
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
Stuff to Die for by Don Bruns (Stuff Series #1) - 4
20-something friends James and Skip are starting a moving company, but in their first load of stuff, they find a severed finger with their high school class ring on it. It took me a while to get into the book because there is more language and drinking than I normally like, but I was soon hooked by the characters and intriguing story. I originally read this book in 2010, but I reread it this month.
The Fragrance of Death by Leslie Karst (Sally Solari Mysteries #5) – 5
Thanks to a sinus infection, Sally Solari has lost her sense of smell. While that would be bad enough under normal circumstances since it interferes with cooking at her restaurant, she is really struggling to prepare her dish for the Santa Cruz Artichoke Cook-Off. However, that quickly becomes the least of the issues when the body of a fellow contestant, Neil Lerici, is found near the end of the day. Sally had been friends with Neil’s sister, Grace, in high school. As the two rekindle their friendship, she can’t help but poke around. But is her old friend guilty of murder?
It's been a few years since we last visited Sally, but I am pleased to say she is back in top form. It was great to catch up with her and her family and friends and see the next steps in some of her relationships. The suspects were strong, which lead to a mystery that was hard to figure out. It kept me engaged the entire time, and once Sally reached the solution, everything fell into place. Each book has focused on a different of the five senses, and I thought the sense of smell was done wonderfully here. Naturally, there are some recipes to enjoy after you’ve finished the book. Fans will be pleased to visit Sally again and will join me in waiting for the next in the series.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Murder of a Mail-Order Bride by Mimi Granger (Love is Murder #2) – 5Lizzie Hale, owner of the romance bookstore in Tinker’s Cover, Ohio, gets roped into helping make sure their first meeting and their wedding is perfectly romantic. But when Svetlana turns up dead in the middle of the reception, the question becomes, who would want to kill a new comer to town?
This is a strong second book. The plot kept me engaged the entire time. I did guess a couple of plot points early, but there were so many more I didn’t see coming, including the ending. The book is focused on the new characters central to this mystery, and they are all strong. We do have a small core cast of characters who are back, and they are fun. I also enjoy watching Lizzie’s romantic life, which is a great romantic comedy sub-plot. If you are looking for a slight twist on a cozy mystery set up, this is a series you will love.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Murder on the Iditarod Trail by Sue Henry (An Alaska Mystery #1) – 4
The Iditarod Race, the 1100 miles dog sled race between Anchorage and Nome, is a hard a grueling endurance event, but it has never been deadly for humans - until now. First, someone falls asleep on his sled and winds up crashing into a tree. State trooper Alex Jensen is brought in to figure out what happened, but before he can make a complete determination, another body turns up dead. He takes the offer of help from musher Jessie Arnold willingly. But will that be enough to keep anyone else from dying?
I read this book on my recent Alaskan cruise, and I think that helped me get into the story. I found all the facts about the race and the various setting fascinating. Outside a couple of characters, I had trouble keeping everyone straight, but I really did care for Jessie and Alex. I did find some of Alex’s behavior unrealistic, but I do get the dramatic tension it was creating. The race takes over from the mystery as the main driver of the plot at times, but I got caught up in the action and the climax was a page turner. Overall, I enjoyed this one, and book two came home from my trip with me as a souvenir. Hopefully, I can get to it soon.
A Dish to Die for by Lucy Burdette (A Key West Food Critic Mystery #12) – 3
Even when you live in paradise, you need a break. That’s why Hayley Snow is taking a few hours with her friend Eric and their dogs and heading to a beach on one of the nearby islands. However, the day takes a sad turn when Hayley’s dog finds a dead body half buried in the sand. The man was G.G. Garcia, a Key West developer who had a bad reputation. The local police think there is something suspicious about his death, and Hayley gets pulled into the investigation. Will she figure out what really happened?
I’ve fallen in love with Key West thanks to this series, and I was happy to be back. Sadly, the mystery was very weak. Even the characters got frustrated by their lack of progress throughout the book. Plus, the victim was a little too evil, with a few things that felt thrown in just to make other characters feel virtuous. The book gets a little dark and edgy for a cozy as well. Finally, there’s a subplot that comes across as half-baked, the characters involved definitely deserved better. On the other hand, I really did enjoy the location and the series regulars. Nathan, Hayley’s husband, gets some good development thanks to a visit from his estranged father. If you are new to the series, this isn’t the book for you, but fans will enjoy catching up with the characters.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Murder on Trinity Place by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #22) – 5
In the final week of 1899, Sarah and Frank Malloy are invited to a dinner party given by their neighbors, the Ellsworths. They are warned that one of their fellow guests, Mr. Pritchard, is likely to ramble on about his dairy, but instead he starts talking about how everyone needs to welcome in the turn of the century coming in just a few days. On New Year’s Day, the man is found dead near Trinity Church where he was trying to convince the revealers the new century was starting. Frank is hired to find out what happened to Mr. Pritchard. Can he do it?
I’d felt the previous couple of books in the series had taken a dark turn, and I’m glad to say this one wasn’t nearly as dark. Sarah also got to play a prominent role in the main mystery as well as a fun sub-plot involving a character from a previous book and the clinic Sarah’s recently founded. I’m often about half a chapter ahead of the characters when it comes to solving the mystery, but this time, I was stumped until we reached the end. Once again, it’s fabulous to spend time with these characters, and the new characters are just as sharp. This is a strong entry that shows why the series is going strong after so many entries.
Gone but Not Furgotten by Cate Conte (Cat Café Mysteries #6) – 3
Summer is in full swing, and that means Maddie James is busy with her cat café thanks to the tourists on Daybreak Island. However, when her friend Cass informs her of a potential cat hoarding situation, Maddie readily agrees to help. Sadly, when they arrive, they find Laurel at the bottom of her stairs. It appears that her cats tripped her, but Maddie starts to notice a few things that don’t make any sense. Can she figure out what happened?
This book can almost be divided into two parts. Unfortunately, the first half is rather weak. While a few threads of the mystery are set up, the focus is on rescuing the cats. Meanwhile, some of the characters, including Maddie, over react to what they find. Yes, the situation was bad, but their reactions were over the top. However, the book gets stronger in the second half as the mystery becomes front and center. There are some good twists and a logical solution even if a few pieces set up early don’t seem to quite be paid off. Also, a bit of character development is rushed. I do see that I’m in the minority in my reaction to this book, so if you are a fan of the series, give it a chance. But if you haven’t started it yet, try some of the earlier books before jumping in to this one.
Salt Water Wounds by C. Michele Dorsey (Sabrina Salter #4) – 4
It’s been two months since Hurricane Irma devastated the island of St. John, and in that time, Sabrina Salter and her friends have been trying to figure out how they are going to rebuild. Sabrina’s grandmother has some contacts back in the Boston area that will be able to help them get supplies, and she has asked Sabrina to join her so they can begin to search for Sabrina’s mother, who abandoned her as a toddler. Meanwhile, two explosions on St. John leave behind a dead body and danger for the friends Sabrina is leaving behind. Will they figure out what happened in the past and what is happening in the present?
If you are new to the series, know that this book will mean much more if you read it in order. We are seeing developments in several storylines we’ve followed since the beginning. While the two stories do start and end together, in many ways, we are seeing two parallel plots in this book. Both were compelling for different reasons, and I had a hard time putting the book down, reading the last third when I really intended to be doing something else. Elements of the climax are rushed, although that is a minor thing. Sabrina gets some wonderful character development here, and it’s great to see the rest of the cast again. This is a step away from the cozies I typically read, so keep that in mind before you pick up the book. If you are a fan, you’ll be happy with Sabrina’s latest adventure.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
Stardust Trail by J. R. Sanders (Nate Ross #1) – 5
PI Nate Ross is a rarity in 1938 Hollywood – someone who lives in the LA area but isn’t that interested in the movie industry. Still, he’s willing to take on a case for one of the smaller studios. The writer of a picture they are hoping will propel them into a more respected part of the market has gone missing, and they need him for rewrites. As Nate begins investigating, he learns of other issues the film has been having, and soon he’s looking into the sabotage, too. Are the two things connected?
I bought this book when the author gave a talk at my local library a few months back. I’m glad I did. As always, I enjoyed the Hollywood setting, but I especially enjoyed the scenes that took Nate to the area I live. Granted, it has changed a lot since the time when the book was set. The story itself is strong with plenty of action to keep us engaged. I had a few things figured out, but I missed some other clues that Nate used to solve things. The characters are engaging, as well. This has the feel of a classic PI novel, so it has a bit more content than I would typically read. It also means that Nate’s sense of humor made me laugh as I was reading. Fortunately, I already have the sequel since I’m looking forward to visiting Nate again soon.
Death on the Set by Rose Kerr (Brenna Flynn Mysteries #1) – 4
After losing her husband and her job, Brenna is back in her hometown trying to rebuild her life. Thanks for a friend who works at a temp agency, she’s landed a job as a production assistant on a cooking competition show being filmed in town. On her first full day of work, she shows up early to find the dead body of one of the contestants on the set. Since Brenna is a suspect, she starts investigating. Can she figure out what really happened?
The book jumps into the main mystery pretty quickly, just giving a brief mention to Brenna’s backstory. Yes, it is expanded on later, but I appreciated that we didn’t get a data dump, which would have been tempting. Unfortunately, the pacing of the mystery was still off; we got more details about Brenna’s job than I really needed. Still, there is a good mystery here, and I appreciated how the climax played out. Also, I liked that Brenna was mostly quick to share with the police anything she learned. There were a couple of continuity issues early on, but those disappeared as the book progressed. Brenna was a charming main character, and she is surrounded by a cast I enjoyed spending time with. There’s definitely potential for this to turn into a fun series.
“V” is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #22) – 3
Kinsey Millhone is in the right place and the right time to foil a shoplifter. She is surprised to find that the shoplifter kills herself the next day. But the surprises keep coming when the dead woman’s fiancé hired Kinsey to prove that the woman didn’t kill herself. The fiancé doesn’t think she was a shoplifter either, so he and Kinsey have a contentious relationship from the very start. But can Kinsey figure out what really happened?
This book started out mostly well. There’s a subplot told in third person point of view chapters that really slowed the book down, but the chapters from Kinsey’s point of view were engaging. The further I got into the book, the harder time I had putting it down. Then we came to the climax, which turned out to be pretty weak, with one development I really didn’t like. It’s a shame because I enjoyed spending time with Kinsey and the rest of the regulars as always. This one is for series fans only.
Round Up the Usual Peacocks by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #31) – 5
Meg’s brother is getting married and their mother is working on turning it into the wedding of the century. However, Meg’s nephew, Kevin, comes to her with a request for help. Kevin and a friend have started a true crime podcast focusing on cold cases, and they think one of their episodes hit too close to home since someone has tried to kill Kevin’s friend. Meg begins investigating the most likely cases. But can she figure out what is going on before the wedding?
Longtime fans of this series know this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Meg at weddings involving peacocks. However, this isn’t a retread in any way. And, if you are new to the series, you can jump in here and enjoy the antics. With three cases for Meg to consider, there is plenty to keep her hopping. I was hooked the entire way, even though I suspected where the stories were going. For the record, I was right on some things and wrong on others. The climax was a little weaker than I would have liked, but it was a minor issue. We have the usual large cast of characters, and it was fantastic to spend time with them. There may not be a laugh on every page here, but there are some classic moments that made me laugh. This is a delightful book that will please Meg’s fans old and new.