Category Archives: 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.

Leave a comment

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.

9 Comments

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

Book Review: Dating Death by Randy Rawls – We Get By on a Little Help from our Friends

Dating deathDating Death

By Randy Rawls

309 pages

Beth Bowman, private investigator takes on jobs to help out the Coral Lakes, Florida police department along with her other PI work. But when Chief Elston calls her with a strange request, she hesitates to help him. Worried that the job of guarding a crooked politician under the guise of being his new girlfriend will be more trouble than the pay is worth, she is reluctant to agree. After discussing the plan with her current boyfriend, Dr. David Rasmussen, she decides babysitting the obnoxious man will be worth it in the end because she will also help the Chief investigate the politician to see if they can get enough dirt on him to take him down and stop drug trafficking in their city.

Chief and Beth are attempting to gather information that they believe City Councilman Roger Adamson has that will take down a local drug lord and his operation. At the same time, Adamson may be the target of the bad guys as they try to keep him quiet.

Bowman is competent and beautiful, but this time she might have bitten off more than she can chew. Bullets fly and bodies drop, luckily Bowman isn’t one of them- yet. She needs to leave the job the Chief asked her to do and go into hiding as it becomes clear someone is now after her.

At first she is afraid. Even the most seasoned veterans of the force would be. Then she gets mad. Furious. And decides something has to be done to put a stop to the insanity. With the help of her friends, who happen to be homeless, she jumps from the frying pan into the fire because it is her only option. Will she lose her boyfriend, her friends and possibly her life?

Dating Death is a fast-paced mystery with as many twists and turns as Lombard Street. Rawls masterfully puts the heroine of his story in the thick of things, holding her feet to the flames as the story heats up. I held my breath more than once as I read as fast as I could to see if and how my favorite characters were going to get out of the jam they were in.

I loved the depth of the characters Rawls created. Bowman was multidimensional and interesting, sometimes making crazy choices that turned out bad just like every person has at one time or another. The bad guys were spine-chilling, a few of them made my skin crawl, especially Homer. Ironically later in the plot, I kind of liked the creep – again kudos to Rawls. The residents of the homeless shelter were unique and had enough backstory to make them interesting, but not too much to take away from the movement of the storylines.

This is the first book I’ve read by Randy Rawls, and the second one in his Beth Bowman Private Investigator series. It was easily read as a stand-alone novel. Rawls, a retired career Army officer (thank you for your service!) has written several other books. Most of them are mystery series, and one is a historical novel. I like the way he tells a story and plan to read more of his work soon.

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.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Book Review, books, Mystery, series

Book Review – Funeral Hotdish – A True Fiction Novel

 

funeral hotdishFuneral Hotdish

By Jana Bommersbach

240 page

Joya Bonner shook the dust off her boots from her hometown of Northville, North Dakota for a job writing job she loves in Phoenix. Life as a journalist is not the easiest, there are more writers than hot stories and everyone is looking for the big story that will bring them fame, fortune or best case scenario, both. Joya is no different from the rest of them, but she appears to be a bit luckier.

Happenstance puts her in the right place at the right time to see a mob boss that had turned federal witness at a coffee shop. At first she told herself the mobster wannabe couldn’t be the hitman that sent John Gotti to prison, but her instincts let her outside to copy down his license plate number. Her boyfriend, Rob is a cop and just might be interested in the man she saw.

While this is going on, something bad happens in Joya’s hometown. Tragedy strikes the little town in the most inconceivable way. The close knit community cannot shake off the demons of that fateful night leading some of the men to consider taking matters into their own hands if the authorities don’t find the person or persons responsible.

Joya returns home after finding a possible connection with the mob snitch and the life altering events. She finds more questions than answers but knows one thing for sure; life has changes and may never be the same again for her family or the town.

Funeral Hotdish is based upon actual events. Those facts are wrapped in a work of fiction, but it is interesting to read the Endnotes to see which parts of the story are based on real-life people, news articles and places. And of course the recipe for Funeral Hotdish – from St Phillip’s Church in Hankinson, North Dakota is included as well.

If you are not familiar with small town funerals, invariably there is a casserole type dish that is prepared by the ladies of the congregation, referred to as “Funeral Hotdish”. It is comfort food for people beyond comfort at a a time they need it most. If they don’t enjoy the actual food, they feel the love and caring that was put into the preparation.

I enjoyed the plot lines intertwining in a way that seemed unlikely at first, but ended up tied up tidily in the end. The situations and story were true to life in ways that we might not want to admit. Too many people were trying to take the law into their own hands; then didn’t know what to do when the situation became too hot to handle.

This is the first book I’ve read by Bommersbach. Her previous novels include true crime, a historical novel and a children’s book. To say she is diverse is an understatement. Funeral Hotdish is her first true fiction novel.

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.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, books, Mobsters, Mystery, True Crime

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.

1 Comment

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.

3 Comments

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

Book Review: The Skeleton Garden – Airplanes, bodies, gardening..Great Mystery!

The Skeleton GardenThe Skeleton Garden (Potting Shed Mystery #4) 
by Marty Wingate

Long lost brother and sister, Simon and Pru are reunited in adulthood. Pru was raised by their parents in the United States, while Simon was left behind in England to be raised by his mother’s relatives, Birdie and George Parke. He was told his parents died in a car accident. Even though he was brought up in a loving home, to find out his family left him behind had a devastating effect on him to say the least.

Pru  and her new husband Christopher move to Chelsea to spend a year house sitting and working on a proper English garden. The current gardener is actually her brother, and she is thrilled to share her love of gardening with him, but everything isn’t coming up roses. She and her husband settle in, she in the garden, Christopher working with the local police but there are skeletons in the garden, both figuratively and literally .

Things are not always sweetness and light between brother and sister, they are learning to get along as siblings and gardeners. Simon is thrilled to be chosen to show off the garden in an upcoming issue of a very prestigious gardening magazine, but Pru has a bad feeling about the whole idea. There is so much to do the pair wonder how it will be possible to get done. Then Christopher’s teenage nephew is sent to live with them because he got in a bit of trouble and his parents want him to be removed from the situation. Orlando isn’t too keen on working in the garden. As a matter of fact, Pru spends more time fixing the problems he creates by taking short cuts.

Things change for everyone when a plane from the war and a skeleton is found buried in the garden. Christopher is working the investigation to see if they can find the identity of the bones. Then one of the locals winds up dead in the garden, this crime casts suspicion on almost everyone in the village.

Pru can’t help herself – she has too many questions and not enough answers so she quietly talks to the people she has become close to hoping to help Christopher crack the case. But will this happen without more murders?

This is the fourth Potting Shed Mystery, but the first one I’ve read. It worked perfectly well as a standalone novel. I was not confused about the characters and their relationship to each other.

I love the cast of characters. They were interesting and well developed. Pru’s relationships with her husband, brother, friends and cook brought so much life to her character I felt like having a cup of tea with her telling her everything would be ok! Evelyn, the cook, has a hard shell, but inside she is a soft, caring woman who loves her husband Peachey. I want her to cook for me, the recipes she whipped up while the other characters moved in and out of her kitchen sounded delicious.

Wingate wrote a solid mystery with as many twists and turns as an English garden maze. I enjoyed every minute of this book and will seek out the previous books in this series.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under cooking, England, family, history, House Party, Mystery