Category Archives: cozy mystery

Book Review: A Dark and Stormy Tea – Grab a Cuppa and This Fabulous Cozy Mystery

Tea Shop Mystery #23

By Laura Childs

Theodosia Browning owns the delightfully successful Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston. Her beloved city is steeped in history and she makes the most of it. Currently chilled by the unseasonably cold weather and what seems like constant rain, Theo takes a shortcut to her tea shop down a hidden path. Suddenly, a hooded figure looms ahead in the fog. She shouts, but no one is within hearing distance. The assailant is armed with a knife but quickly flees. Heart racing, Theodosia sees is a body laying in a puddle of water mixing with blood. To make matters worse, she knows the woman that was killed.

Quickly calling for the police and ambulance, Theodosia realizes she could have easily been brutally attacked or even worse in the darkened alley. Surrounded by flashing lights and fear, she asks the first responders to call her boyfriend, Officer Pete Riley. The first thing that comes to mind is the dangerous killer, Fogheel Jack whose reign of terror seemed to have stopped seven years ago. Could he be back terrorizing Charleston once again?

This fast-paced cozy mystery is delightfully full of red herrings that twist and turn in the stormy nights. Theodosia is told to keep out of the way of the investigation, but she has a vested interest in this case. The young woman that died was the daughter of one of her close friends. Theodosia cannot sit back drinking some of her delightful teas while a killer was on the loose. She is asking questions and poking her nose into secrets that may reveal the murderer. But will she be able to get out of alive?

There is only one thing I like better than a cozy mystery. That would be a cozy mystery with engaging characters, a solid plotline and a surprise killer revealed in the last chapters. A Dark and Stormy Tea meets and exceeds all of my expectations. After reading the last page, be sure to check out the recipes, Laura Child’s Tea Time Tips as well as resources all about tea. I did not know that a plethora of tea is grown right here in the United States.

I have read books by New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs, but none in the Tea Shop Mysteries Series. I can’t wait to read the previous 22 books in the series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the Author and Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2022 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder She Wrote: Killer on the Court – A Perfect Cozy Mystery

By Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran

Jessica Fletcher, famous author and amateur sleuth is back doing what she does best; solving crime and endearing herself to readers in the latest Murder, She Wrote whodunit. This adventure takes Jessica away from her beloved Cabot Cove. Her cherished nephew, Grady, his wife Donna and son Frank have invited Jessica to spend a few weeks with them on Rockaway Beach in New York. Donna’s boss, Jason Courtland, owns the beach house they will stay in, as well as many others. She was awarded the beach stay for her family for a job well done at his company.

Jessica arrives happy to see all of them and ready to relax. But a murder disrupts her visit. Jason Courtland is brutally murdered by an out-of-control tennis ball machine that is hurling balls at him long after he succumbs to the barrage of lethal blows. Sadly, his siblings are more concerned with who will take over the company instead of mourning loss of their brother. At first his death appeared be a horrible accident, but soon is ruled a homicide.

The local police have several suspects, including Jessica as she found the body along with her niece. Luckily, one of the policemen on the case previously worked with Jessica’s dear friend Mort Metzger. Together in Cabot Cove, Mort and Jessica have worked on more cases than she would like to remember. Once the local police established her petulance for solving murders, they begin consulting with her while working their leads. Neither the police nor Jessica will quit until the killer comes to justice.

The characters are interesting and fully developed. I especially enjoyed the interaction with Jessica and her ten-year-old great nephew Frank. Aside from Jessica, he is my favorite character. I love a youngster that is polite, loves to read, enjoys playing games both inside and outside and is taking art classes while he is at the beach.

I highly recommend this book to cozy mystery fans. Even if you have never seen an episode of Murder, She Wrote you will enjoy this book. I have read many of the books in this series. Each one is different, interesting and has plot twists before the killer is revealed. If you have watched Murder, She Wrote, Angela Lansbury’s voice will be present in your mind during all of the conversations Jessica has with the other characters. It is like listening to an old familiar friend. I absolutely love this book, the characters and the series.  

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2022 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Death by Beach Read

Death By Beach Read

by Eva Gates

A Lighthouse Library Mystery

Lucy loves being the librarian in the historic Bodie Island Lighthouse Library. So much so, she used to live in it. That was before she became engaged to Connor, the local mayor. They find a fabulous historic home on the beach that needs a bit – most likely a lot – of work to bring it back to the beautiful beach home it once was. Luckily, Connor and his father are doing most of the work, but living in a construction zone is difficult for the couple as well as Charles the cat. He is actually the library’s cat and was named appropriately for Charles Dickens. He travels with Lucy to and from the library each day.

While Connor was away for business, Lucy was awakened by what sounded like someone walking in their home. Charles was also aware that something or somebody had invaded their space. Lucy didn’t say anything to Charles, thinking she must have been hearing things outside. But soon, it became apparent that someone was trying to scare them – or more sinister – kill them.

Delving into the history of the home, they found interesting facts and folklore including rumors of a resident ghost. Could someone be looking for hidden treasure long forgotten? Could the incidents be personal attacks on Lucy and Connor? Legends and larceny may be teaming up creating a catalyst for disaster.

This is the 9th book in the Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates. It is the first one in the series I have read, but was not confused by reading it out of order. The characters are interesting and fully developed. Some I loved and some I loved to hate. Like all cozy mysteries, there is a happy ending. It is an interesting and easy read with likable main characters and a persnickety cat that has a realistic attitude. He lends a paw when needed. 

Eva Gates is one of the pen names of Vicki Delany. She resides in Canada and is an award-winning mystery novelist. I highly recommend Death by Beach Read and will be checking out the other books in her series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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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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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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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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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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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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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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