Category Archives: cozy mystery

Book Review: Goodbye Ms. Chips – Perfect Cozy British Mystery

Goodbye Ms. ChipsMs Chips
by Dorothy Cannell

Goodbye Ms. Chips, an Ellie Haskell mystery, begins with Ellie going back to school. Not grad school or a university, but the boarding school she attended as a girl. She has mixed emotions about returning. Her schooling was marred by witnessing something she should not have. The event weighs heavy on her mind even though she is an accomplished woman with a loving husband and children.

The reason the headmistress called for Ellie is that there has been a robbery and she needs Ellie’s keen observation skills and her proven ability to solve mysteries to help. The object in question is a missing trophy, the Loverly Cup. The Cup is traditionally passed to the championship lacrosse team each year and has been held by St. Roberta’s Boarding School for ages. Unfortunately they did not win this year and must pass the missing trophy to the new winning school during the dedication of the new gymnasium. It must be found before the event.

Ellie may have had misgivings about going back to a school she had mixed emotions about, but her dear friend Dorcas Critchley is now teaching there and Ellie feels compelled to help. Little did she know there is more afoot than the missing Loverly Cup. Deception abounds with double crossing students and arrogant acquaintances from Ellie’s past throwing monkey wrenches in her investigation at every turn. When an accident occurs, Ellie is suspicious of foul play, but can she prove it?

This is the 12th book in the Ellie Haskell Mystery Series. Ellie is an interior designer who is married to a professional chef and cookbook author. Her partner in solving crime is her housekeeper, Mrs. Malloy who arrives late to this investigation due to family visiting. Cannell’s description of Mrs. Malloy is priceless and instantly gives the reader a mental picture that will pop up when she enters a scene.

There is nothing better than a tightly written cozy mystery with engaging characters and a solid plot. There were so many characters with secrets, I did not figure out the culprit until the last pages. Cannell writes a perfect British cozy with delightful characters, twists, turns and a liberal sprinkling of humor. This is the first one I’ve read in this series and it reads perfectly as a stand-alone novel.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Random House Books that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under Book Review, books, cozy mystery, Mystery, Random House, Random House Publishing - Alibi

Book Review: Death at a Fixer-Upper – Real Estate to Die For!

Death at a Fixer UpperDeath at a Fixer-Upper
by Sarah T. Hobart

The ink is barely dry on Sam Turner’s new real estate agent license as she heads out to view a vintage home for sale. Unfortunately she has to tour the once grand home with Biddie McCracken, a crabby colleague at Home Sweet Home Realty. The tour is dampened by the state of the once opulent home. It would be a toss-up between renovation and complete demolition and starting over – but that is up to the future buyer.

The century old estate has the lines of the grand dame she used to be, along with secrets held quietly within for many generations. Unfortunately, these secrets may be worth killing for. In fact, they have already.

After the bizarre walk through with Biddie, Sam can’t believe her good fortune. She has three offers within a matter of days for a home that has only been marginally cared for over the last several years by a faithful housekeeper and her young daughter.

Sam is excited at the prospect of selling the old place. Being a single mother in a small town hasn’t been easy. Raising her now teenage son has been a loving challenge but Sam has no regrets. Now that she is doing better financially, she is excited and scared to be purchasing a home of their own now. This sale will really help. Unfortunately for her, buyers start turning up dead.

Determined to make this sale, Sam does a bit of investigating on her own. But soon she finds out the cutthroat real estate market doesn’t hold a candle to real killers. Hopefully she can still get out of this sale alive.

Hobart writes a perfect cozy mystery. It is a fun, fast-paced, interesting book with enough twists and turns to keep mystery lovers turning the pages to see what happens to Sam next. There were enough suspects to keep me guessing until the final chapter, which I absolutely love.

Kudos to Hobart for the great descriptive text in Death at a Fixer-Upper. It flowed naturally, but put you right in that old crumbling estate, the “vintage-… read ancient” VW camper she drives or any other setting in the book.

All of the main characters are well rounded and I felt like I knew them. Sam would be someone I’d go to lunch with, or maybe just stop for some chocolate and caffeine – I totally get where she is coming from.  I’ve worked with snarky people like some of the competing realtors. Sam’s friends, son and family are all cut from the same cloth as people I actually know. This made the book come alive for me.

Death at a Fixer-Upper. is the third book in Sarah T. Hobart’s Home Sweet Home Mystery Series. It is the first one I’ve read and works perfectly as a stand-alone mystery.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Random House Books House Party that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Book Review: Karma’s a Killer – Cozy Mystery Full of Critters and Karma

 

Karma's a KillerKarma’s A Killer
By Tracy Weber
277 pages

Yoga teacher Kate Davidson has her plate full. She owns and teaches classes Serenity Yoga and even though she is successful, owning a business is not a walk in the park. That is why she wonders why she is standing in Seattle’s Green Lake Park getting ready to teach a “Doga” class, which is basically yoga for dogs. It is against her better judgement, but she is willing to look silly to help raise funds for Dogma a local no-kill animal shelter. And her boyfriend Michael organized the event so naturally Kate wants to help make the event fun and profitable.

Right away her Zen is challenged by a group that is protesting the idea of a shelter, especially one with animals other than dogs and cats. An altercation soon has the potential to turn dangerous when the protesters become reckless. During all the mayhem that ensues, someone dies.

Kate finds out the woman arrested is claiming to be her estranged mother, Dharma. She is conflicted over helping the woman that abandoned her, but Kate cannot let an innocent person go to prison for a murder she didn’t commit.

Once again, Kate knows better, but has to jump into an investigation to find the real killer. She enlists the help of Michael, who is a reluctant participant. She assures him all will be well, especially with her protective German Shepherd Bella on the job. But when someone messes with Bella, Kate throws caution out the window to find the perp before someone else is hurt.

This is a perfect cozy mystery. Kate is an entertaining amateur sleuth. She is funny, flawed and loveable. Her past isn’t really pretty, but she doesn’t dwell on it. Her relationship with Michael isn’t always a romp in the park, but true to life. Then there is her pogonophobia, which leads to humorous situations. I love the rest of the characters. A particular favorite of mine is Dale Evans, the goat farming lawyer. He is a hoot and even bakes Bella goat cheese treats.

Karma’s a Killer is the third book in the Downward Dog Mystery Series. I have not read any of the other books in the series, but was not confused or “lost” at any point. I highly suggest this book if you are a fan of cozies, animals and/or are into yoga.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman
DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.


 

 

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Filed under 5K races, Book Review, cozy mystery, Critters, dogs, Karma, Yoga

Book Review: Mug Shot – Fast, Fun Cozy Mystery

Mug ShotMug Shot (A Java Jive Mystery)
by Caroline Fardig

Juliet Langley is back in Caroline Fardig’s newest addition to her Java Jive Mystery Series.  Mug Shot opens with Juliet and her best friend and boss Pete Bennett at a funeral repast. Neither of them particularly wants to be there, but both are dating the grandchildren and heirs of the deceased socialite. Oddly enough, neither of these best friends approve of the snooty rich family members the other is dating.

Pete is seeing Cecilia, who has no use for Juliet. The feeling is mutual. Juliet admires Cecelia’s philanthropy, but not her condescending attitude. Stan, Cecilia’s brother, has been shunned by his family in the past, and seems like an unlikely partner for Juliet, but opposites seem to attract, so they are an item.

Before the friends can get away the snobby crowd at the funeral, there is an accident. Or did someone push the third sibling Abigail down the stairs? Luckily she has minor injuries. When the paramedics arrive, Juliet is on the floor helping her. The policeman accompanying the paramedics and happens to be Juliet’s sexy ex-boyfriend, Ryder.

Things go from bad to worse for the grieving family. Within days one of the heirs is murdered. Unfortunately for Pete, he was the last one seen with Cecilia before she was killed and he is arrested and charged with murder.

Juliet knows Pete did not murder his girlfriend and tries to convince the police otherwise. There are enough suspects to fill a table at a fancy fundraiser, and Juliet is determined to find the real killer and get Pete out of jail. She is warned by the lead detective and Ryder not to poke her nose into police business, but that has never stopped her before and it isn’t going to stop her now.

Mug Shot is a perfect cozy mystery. Juliet is smart, sassy and doesn’t know when to keep her nose out of trouble. She is a singer/songwriter, a great cook and manages the coffee shop owned by her best friend Pete. She might even be a little in love with Pete and the feeling is obviously mutual.

Ryder on the other hand makes her furious. But she can’t really stay away from him. He is hot in the bedroom and sweet and caring with her when he isn’t making her crazy. They are like magnets with a love/hate relationship.

The solid mystery plot has twists and unexpected turns. I didn’t peg the killer until the very end, which I love. An interesting story with lots of plausible suspects makes for an exciting, intriguing story for mystery buffs. Mug Shot is a fast, fun read with quirky characters and a plucky plot.

This is the first book I’ve read by Fardig. Even though this is not the first of the series, I could easily read it as a stand-alone novel. If you are a fan of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum Mysteries, you will absolutely love this series. I thing Ryder and Ranger might be long, lost sexy brothers.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy free from House Party that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under Book Review, books, cozy mystery, Mystery, Penguin Random House

Book Review: When Bunnies Go Bad – Pru is Back Solving Murders

When bunnies go badWhen Bunnies Go Bad (A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir)

By Clea Simon

255 pages

 Pru Marlowe is back in Cea Simon’s latest adventure When Bunnies Go Bad. Living in a winter wonderland can take its toll on the locals. But when an overbearing tourist arrives with his hot girlfriend things go from cabin fever to murder faster than a skier down the mountain.

After an altercation in the town’s hotspot over his meal, Teddy berates the staff and his date. The couple leaves in a flurry to go back to the condo they are renting for their get-away. When Teddy winds up dead, it appears that he is not only obnoxious, but may be dabbling in business that was more dangerous than cheating on his wife.

Enter Pru’s boyfriend and local cop Jim Creighton. He is afraid a  local mobster may have something to do with the murder. As the case progresses, things become more dangerous and Creighton heedlessly warns Pru to stay out of police business. But of course she is knee deep in the case and not about to climb out now.

In her own defense, she had to help with the dead man’s dog because his girlfriend can’t handle the cute little spaniel with a stupid name. Pru is aching to help the little dog as well as talk to him to find out if he knows about the murder. It helps having the ability to hear what animals are saying when you are an amateur sleuth. Even if it gets you in trouble with your cop boyfriend.

Simon spins a great mystery full of humor to temper the murder. The twists and turns keep readers guessing until the final pages.

I love the characters she has created. The humans are great, Pru is funny, sharp witted and can be sarcastic and abrupt. Her moods and personality make her come alive on the pages. I feel the real stars of the book are the animals that interact with Pru. From the birds, squirrels and mice to the dogs, cats and the illegal pet bunny’ Simon creates fabulously entertaining dialog in Pru’s head that is shared with the reader. If you have ever wondered what your pets are thinking, you need to read this series. It will hopefully prevent anyone from naming a pet something that the animal cringes at each time he is called.

I highly suggest this fun cozy mystery series. When Bunnies Go Bad is the sixth book in the Pru Marlow Pet Noir series, but easily reads as a stand-alone novel if you want to read it first.

 

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under Book Review, books, cozy mystery, dogs, Mystery, wildlife

Book Review: The Puffin of Death a Gunn Zoo Mystery

The-Puffin-of-Death-Catalog-180x276The Puffin of Death

Betty Webb

Theodora (Teddy) Bentley is off on an unwanted adventure. Her demanding boss at Gunn Zoo ordered her to fly to Iceland to pick up some animals that the Reykjavik Zoo is sending to live in California. Teddy is less than excited about the trip, but at least she has the Zoo credit card to pay for everything.

Iceland is an entirely different world than California – volcanos, ice flows, glaciers and a population that all seem to be related. Teddy is determined to make the best of her time there, viewing puffins in their native habitat as well as bonding with the orphaned baby polar bear she is bringing home to live at Gunn Zoo.

Teddy is staying with Bryndis, the zoo keeper that will help transition Magnus (the baby bear) as well as a pair of puffins and a pair of Icelandic foxes that will round out the new Northern Climes exhibit at Gunn Zoo. Bryndis is also a member of a band, giving Teddy an opportunity to experience night life in Iceland after the zoo is closed in the evenings.

While out enjoying the diverse island, Teddy accidentally stumbles upon a dead body. The puffin pecking at the corpse surely isn’t the murderer, but who would want to murder an American tourist?

Simon Parr, the corpse in question, is a member of a bird-watching group with millions of reasons people may want him dead. First of all, he is the all-time biggest lottery winner in history. He seems to have a snarky personality and most likely a lover or two that his wife may or may not know about.

Murders are rare in Iceland. But soon another bird-watcher from the group dies. Teddy doesn’t think it was an accident and finds herself in more hot water than she has bargained for. Even though she knows her fiancé Joe is too far away to help her and the local police have told her to keep her nose out of the murder investigations, she can’t help poking around, asking questions and irritating the remaining birders. Will she become the third victim?

I loved this book and Betty Webb’s writing style. It is a cozy mystery with lovable characters both human and animal. Teddy is flawed, makes bad choices when murderers are afoot and is easy to like. Her escapades are crazy, yet believable and that is what I find so endearing about her character.

Webb brings the flavor and people of Iceland to life for the reader without lecturing. She obviously did copious research to get the names, customs and environment correct. I also love the way she gives the reader an inside look at the animals and behind the scene info about zoos.

This is the fourth in her Gunn Zoo series. It was refreshing to have Teddy go to an exotic place to introduce new characters and keep the series fresh rather than have another murder within close proximity to her home. The Puffin of Death can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. There are a few references to the other books, but nothing that will be a spoiler if you read this one first – because I know you will want to read the rest of them as soon as you are finished.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

 

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Filed under Book Review, books, cozy mystery, Iceland, Mystery, NaBloNoMo

Book Review: Unleashed by Eileen Brady: Stellar Second Cozy Mystery

Unleashed (A Kate Turner D.V.M. Mystery) unleashed

by Eileen Brady

Poisoned Pen Press

225 pages

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Dr. Kate Turner is back. Doc Anderson is still on his world cruise, but that is ok with Kate. She has settled in nicely in cozy little Oak Falls. They need a competent vet while Doc was off on his adventure and she needs the tranquility of small town life in upstate New York.

Most of the people she comes in contact with have become fast friends or quirky acquaintances, but they all value her expertise as the person that takes loving, skilled care of their pets and farm animals. It isn’t the animals that are causing the problems in Oak Falls, it is humans.

Claire Birnham is found dead of an apparent suicide. She was a well-liked, talented artist with a bright future that gave no indication of distress or worry, certainly nothing that would sound an alarm with her friends and family.

Kate cannot believe her friend would kill herself. There were so many reasons for her to want to live. First and foremost, Claire’s love and devotion for her dog Toto. Named after the famous pooch in The Wizard of Oz, Toto is a dog with an attitude. He is a pussycat with Claire, but is intolerant of almost everyone else.

Lucky for Toto he was at the veterinary clinic at the time of his mistress’ demise. And lucky for Kate, her kennel helper Eugene is one of the few people Toto doesn’t try to eat.

Kate starts digging deeper into her friend’s death with the unwilling help of her friend and sometimes boyfriend, police officer Luke Gianetti. Her grandfather, a retired law enforcement officer, is much more willing to help. He even comes to town to do a bit of probing for Kate.

Unfortunately, Kate was right. Her friend Clair was murdered. There are more suspects entering the picture than Kate could have imagined. Line up an ex that is a Rock Singer, an awful alcoholic mother, a vindictive, overbearing gallery owner and someone very near and dear to Kate.

The clock is ticking while Kate immerses herself in the local art scene and investigation. Either one can get her killed. She has to keep looking for the real killer before an innocent person is convicted of the crime.

Eileen Brady has done it again. Wrap a mysterious death in a cloak of critters and quirky characters and you have the makings of a great cozy mystery. Brady writes dialog and descriptions that pulls the reader into the old beat up truck of Doc Anderson’s and takes you along for the oftentimes bumpy ride.

Some of the characters from her first novel Muzzled make a welcome appearance. Both animals and humans have distinctive attributes and voices, all mixing together making a perfect cast for Brady’s cozy mystery.  The witty prose with the underlying knowledge of a practicing veterinarian brings a depth to this novel that some cozies are missing. I can’t wait to read the next one.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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