Tag Archives: cozy mystery

Book Review: The Body in the Gravel – Sexy Cozy Mystery

The Body in the Gravel

A Jazzi Zanders Mystery

By Judi Lynn

Cousins Jazzi and Jerod, along with Jazzi’s fiancé Ansel are house flippers. They do most of the work themselves. They depend on others for things that are not in their wheelhouse, such as delivery of gravel and concrete as well as furnace replacement. Luckily they have a close friend, Thane that happens to be living with Jazzi’s sister Olivia, who is a whiz when it comes to heating and AC. But when Thane and Darby, the cranky old buzzard that delivers their gravel meet up at the reno house, Ansel and Jazzi discover a long lasting feud between the two men. They didn’t know that Thane’s best friend, Walker is Darby’s son. Walker and his mother fled from the abusive Darby two years ago without a trace. Thane thinks Darby killed them.

When Darby ends up dead in a load of gravel dumped at the house Ansel and Jazzi are working on, Thane is at the top of the list. But soon the list of suspects is broadened to the guys that worked for him, family members and all of his friends – who are more like enemies due to Darby’s volatile nature. When another person connected to Darby is found dead, and a presumed dead person is found alive the case becomes even more complicated.

Jazzie is determined to help Detective Gaff find the murderer. He is more than willing to have her input, as they have worked several cases together in the past. But she has more than a murderer to worry about. She and Ansel are getting married in a few weeks and she doesn’t even have her wedding dress yet!

I love cozy mysteries. Of course they are not War and Peace, but no one wants them to be. They are fun, fast reads with interesting elements. The house flipping factor is fun, especially if you are a fan of HGTV like I am. Another element that I love is the delicious foods Jazzi and Ansel cook and bake. They are a couple of foodies, sharing their love of food with us. As a bonus to the readers, a few of their recipes are included.

The other element that was a bit different from most cozy mysteries is the romance between Jazzi and Ansel. Most cozies have the on again/off again boyfriends that never seem to be resolved. The sexy but never explicit interactions between the main characters was not frustrating or irritating to me like the traditional cozy plot lines of never committing in the relationship. Kudos to Ms. Lynn for having her characters have a happily ever after – with a side of murder.

This is the third book in the Jazzi Zanders cozy mystery series and the first one I have read. It works well as a stand-alone novel. The only time I was confused was the first few chapters as there are several characters that are introduced from the previous novels. But I soon knew who everyone was and the role they played in the plot.

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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder from Scratch – Delicious Culinary Cozy

Murder from Scratch

By Leslie Karst

Restaurant owner, chef and part-time amateur sleuth Sally Solari is back and things are heating up both in and out of the kitchen. First of all, one of her cooks has an attitude. Brian has been on edge, and it is affecting his co-workers in a less than desirable way. Maybe he is worried about Sally going into joint ownership of Gauguin, the restaurant she inherited from her aunt, with Javier her head chef. And secondly, her father calls with an unusual request. Apparently a relative by marriage has been found dead by her twenty-year-old blind daughter Evelyn. Italian family ties are strong, even if you have not seen a relative in years, you still help them. So Sally’s dad brought Evelyn to his house because she has nowhere else to go. She is more than welcome, but her service dog has made Sally’s dad’s allergies kick into high gear. Of course Sally welcomes Evelyn and her dog into her home. She is looking forward to getting to know her better.

When Evelyn begins to tell Sally about her mother’s death ruled a suicide, the girls soon realize foul play is most likely what happened. Apparently Evelyn’s mom was a gifted chef and had recently struck out on her own, leaving a disgruntled boss behind.  Then there are the suspicious co-workers that might be hiding something. Before long the suspect list becomes longer than the specials menu at Gauguin and Sally is determined to prove her aunt’s death was not an accident or suicide, but a well-planned murder.

Detective Vargas warns Sally to stay away from her list of suspects, knowing it is futile. He just wants her out of harm’s way. When he asks her to call him by his first name, Sally wonders if he may want to have a more personal relationship. Speaking of personal relationships, her ex-boyfriend Max is apparently seeing someone. She has mixed feelings about the whole thing. They are just friends, right? Then why is she upset about him seeing another woman?

This is the fourth book in this series, but the third I have read. Somehow I missed the first one, but have added it to my reading list. There are references to the previous books, but reads fine as a stand-alone novel if you have not read the previous books.

If you read my reviews, you know by now I am a fan of cozy mysteries. I know they are not War and Peace, but no one ever intended them to be. Karst delivers an intriguing plot with lots of suspects, characters that come to life in the pages and a satisfying end to the story. It is all a reader can ask for and more. I learned many things in Murder from Scratch about how blind people navigate through their lives as well as what it is like to work in and run a restaurant. And as a bonus, there are recipes at the end of the book for some of the dishes discussed in the novel.

I highly recommend this series if you are a mystery lover, crazy for cozies or just love a good plot without the blood and gore. You will not be disappointed.

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. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Plotting for Murder – Book #1 in New Cozy Series

Plotting for Murder

By Tamra Baumann

Moving back to Sunset Cove was never part of Sawyer Davis’ plan. She is a chef, not a bookstore owner. Unfortunately, the death of her mother brought her back home, at least until she can figure out how to access the monies from her mom’s trust fund that are tightly held by her conniving uncle. The only thing her mother’s brother wants is the other half of the family’s money instead of  just the half he deserves. Her mom left some clues as to how Sawyer can use her inheritance to buy her own restaurant, but will she ever be happy in the small town she escaped from when her fiancé left her at the alter?

She is overwhelmed with the trust fund restrictions, the crumbling home she now lives in, running the bookstore that was her mother’s passion. Oh, and trying to figure out just where her life is going. Her mother has been lovingly meddling from the grave. She leaves a riddle for Sawyer to solve that promises funding for the restaurant she longs to open. Her mom has arranged for a puppy to be delivered, and to top it off, she has arranged for two men to become necessary in Sawyer’s life, one new and one from Sawyer’s past.

Gage, the lawyer in town assigned to help her is handsome, kind and doesn’t hide his attraction to Sawyer. To make matters worse, the sheriff is Dylan, the gorgeous guy who got cold feet and ran out on her. Sparks begin to fly but Sawyer does not have time for romance with either of them. Unfortunately, her life and livelihood depends upon working with these two men. And just when she thought life could not get more complicated, someone is murdered during book club at her store. Sawyer isn’t about to hide in a corner waiting for something to happen. She begins her own investigation much to Dylan’s chagrin. Lucky for her, there are plenty of locals that love to gossip, so she enlists her book club buddies to help catch the killer. Who can she trust? Will the killer strike again and will Sawyer be the target?

Plotting for Murder has all the essential elements of a great cozy. The setting is interesting, small town America is a treasure trove of small shops full of quirky characters and adorable men vying for her attention, Sawyer is surrounded by a rich cast. It is fun to meet them and see the connections they have to Sawyer’s past.  I am looking forward to seeing how they will grow and evolve during the series. One of my personal favorites is Cooper, the puppy. He is a gift from Sawyer’s mom from beyond the grave and hopefully will play a part in solving the mysteries to come.

This is the first in the Cozy Mystery Bookshop Series by award winning author Tamra Baumann. It is also the first book of Ms. Baumann’s I have read. It is no secret that I love cozy mysteries and to find a new series is like Christmas morning for this bibliophile. I’ll be watching for the next one in this series as well as checking out the other cozy series written by Ms. Baumann.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and Book Buzz in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: One Taste Too Many – New Culinary Cozy Series

One Taste Too Many

By Debra H. Goldstein

Sarah Blair’s ex-husband, Bill, is dead. The bigger issue is that her twin sister Emily has been arrested for his murder. The police think that she purposely fed him something that he was highly allergic to, then instead of attempting to save him like she claims, she watched him die. Sarah knows that is as far from the truth as it can get, so she is determined to find out if this was just a horrible accident or someone really did murder Bill and frame Emily.

But that isn’t her only problem. Sarah has custody of RahRah , the cat that her mother-in-law loved and Bill hated. Sarah and RahRah are two peas in a pod. RahRah is not a cat that loves many people, but he adores Sarah. The feelings are mutual and they are happy to have each other. That is until documents surface giving RahRah to Bills current girlfriend – who really doesn’t want him, but wants to collect the money specified in Bill’s will to care for the feline.

All of this turmoil is set during a food festival. Emily is a fantastic chef and Sarah can’t boil water without instructions. As the girls start investigating, another dead body turns up. Emily is targeted as the killer again. Sarah doubles her efforts to clear her sister’s name, get back her beloved cat and find the real killer. She will go to any lengths to accomplish her goals even if she has to do something she fears more than the killer’s revenge – cooking!

­One Taste Too Many is the first book in the new Sarah Blair Mystery Series. The cast of characters are interesting and diverse. It is fun to peek behind the kitchen doors of the chefs in the story. Because Sarah works for a lawyer, we get to see how justice is served as well.

I love a book that gives me so many likely suspects I cannot figure out who the murderer is until the last chapters. This is a culinary cozy that mystery lovers will enjoy. Cooks of all levels will enjoy the recipes at the end of the book.

Ms. Goldstein is an award winner author. One Taste Too Many is the third mystery she has written. She also writes short works of fiction that have been published. I’m looking forward to the next book in the Sarah Blair series.

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. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder Over Mochas – Newest Java Jive Cozy Mystery

Murder Over Mochas

By Caroline Fardig

There is nothing worse than having your lying, cheating, thief of an ex-fiancé show up at your job, unless you are Juliet Langley. She clocked him right in front of her customers at Java Jive before he could finish his plea for her help. Never known for her subtlety, everyone in the coffee shop could tell she hated the man she just punched. After her boss settles her down, she agrees to meet up with Scott, the infamous ex, even though she was still understandably not happy to meet with the man that took all her money and caused her to lose her business. Not to mention he broke her heart.

Things go from bad to worse when they meet as Java Jive closed that evening. Juliet was still steaming, but her boss Pete who is her best friend is there to keep her in check. Scott arrives looking rather sick, but is determined to enlist Juliet’s help finding his missing wife. Something shady is going on here and Juliet wanted no part of it. But when Scott collapses and dies right in front of Pete and Juliet she has no choice but to investigate. Especially since a detective holding a grudge attempts to pin a murder charge on Pete and Juliet.

Against everyone’s better judgement, Juliet pairs up with her on again off again boyfriend police detective Ryder to find the real killer and kidnapper. As the case unfolds, bribery, illegal kickbacks and stolen drugs muddy it up. But soon the investigation turns from frustrating to dangerous as the real killer may be targeting Juliet to keep her from finding out his secrets.

Juliet is a great main character for a cozy series. She is smart, funny and has more man trouble than she wants or needs. She has a neighbor that is basically a friend with benefits and Ryder is now dating her girlfriend. Juliet really doesn’t want him anymore, but sometimes the memory of what they had for a while haunts her. Then there is Pete. Good hearted, adorably cute and there for her no matter how crazy her life gets. They both have feelings for each other, but she is afraid to commit to a relationship and ruin their great friendship.

Caroline Fardig knows how to keep a cozy mystery true to form. Her books are funny, entertaining and always have a twist in the plot to keep her readers guessing. It is no surprise she is a USA Today bestselling author. With an interesting list of past professions; including funeral parlor associate and church organist, she sounds as interesting as her characters. This is not the first book I’ve read by Farding, and will not be the last. I highly recommend this book and series for cozy mystery fans.

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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: New Cat Cozy Mystery

Fool’s Moon

By Diane A.S. Stuckart

Ophelia and her brother Brandon have been dumped unceremoniously in a cardboard box far from home. The two cats lived with an old woman who loved and took care of them. Then something bad happened to the old woman and her mean son put them in a box and took them to a place they have never been to before. The cats are not used to traffic, other animals and having to find their own food. Fortunately for them, they find new owners but were lost to each other.

Ruby is now Ophelia’s human. She is a Tarot card reader, and Ophelia seems to have a knack for helping her out with her readings. When the housekeeper from the old woman’s house comes to have her fortune told, Ophelia and Ruby think that the old woman’s death may not be an accident.

Ophelia’s unlikely new canine friend Zuki is willing to help her find her Brandon and help solve the mystery of who killed the kind old woman Ophelia and Brandon loved. This decision will put all of them in danger. Especially after someone else turns up dead.

This cozy mystery is told from the point of view (POV) of the animals. This includes Ophelia, Brandon, Zuki and other assorted stray dogs, birds, chickens and fish. It is not a children’s book, but almost reads like one. The content of murder and complexity of the plot to find out who the murderer is would not be for children.

I love animals. Books featuring them are among my favorites. I loved the cozy series The Cat Who by Lillan Jackson Braun. I knew what the cats were thinking but the POV was from the human characters.  For me, they work well as sidekicks, even when they save the day by biting or jumping on the bad guy I can go with it. But for me, having the point of view totally from the animal’s perspective did not work. It is different and some of you may really get into it.

Reading the Tarot cards and explaining them was interesting. Who doesn’t like a little bit of fortune telling in a novel? It is a great way to foretell disasters waiting to happen. I would have enjoyed more of that part of the story instead of animal conversations.

All in all, Fool’s Moon has a solid plot and fits the bill for a cozy mystery. Just because I wasn’t fond of the POV, it doesn’t mean you won’t love it. This is the first book in the new Tarot Cats Mystery Series by Diane A.S Stuckart, aka Ali Brandon. She is a New York Times bestselling author with her Black Cat Bookshop Series. I plan to read the first book in the Black Cat Bookshop series because I loved her style of writing, but could not get past the children’s literature nod of writing from the cat’s POV in the Tarot Cats Mystery.

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. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Glitter Bomb – Cute Crafty Cozy Mystery

9-25-18

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Carmela is crazy busy at Memory Mine, her scrapbooking and graphic design business. Everything is hopping with all of the Mardi Gras hoopla going on. But she is not all business; in fact, she and her bestie Ava are front and center for the Pluvius parade, known for fabulous floats created by “krewes” that have been together for years. This year’s overall theme is “Spirits of the Sea”.

As the crowd swells, beads are thrown and bands blare. Everyone is having a great time until one of the floats begins to wobble, then rumble, and then explodes spewing an eruption of glitter and krewe members into the crowd, one of whom is Carmela’s ex-husband Shamus. Carmela and Ava have a front row seat, and are first to get to the man most seriously injured. The EMTs arrive, but to no avail. Hughes Wilder is dead.

Was this a tragic accident or murder? Carmela’s sort of fiancé, Detective Edgar Babcock, arrives at the scene to investigate. Carmela’s mind is already churning with a list of likely suspects. Babcock warns her not to get involved, but both of them know it is futile. Carmela can’t resist poking around when someone gets blown up right before her eyes.

Ava is Carmela’s willing accomplice, accompanying Carmela to various social events to help her get the skinny on the suspect list they have compiled. They still don’t know who killed Wilder, but there seem to be plenty of people that hated him enough to kill him. The problem is the murderer is on to them. Things really start heating up when someone targets Carmela and Ava. Babcock insists they stop investigating before one of them gets hurt or worse. But will Carmela listen?

The characters are interesting and easy to like. They do things that anyone might do in New Orleans, with the exception of amateur sleuthing. Carmela, Babcock, Ava and Shamus are the perfect foundation to balance the various supporting characters.

This crafty cozy mystery is full of action, humor and fun in one of America’s most vibrant cities. New Orleans is the perfect backdrop for murder and merriment and this book has both. I stayed in the French Quarter for a fabulous week a few years ago and was delighted to read about the characters visiting familiar places. One of my favorites is Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, so I was delighted to read the chapter that featured this historic last resting place of many New Orleans residents.

Childs adds scrapbook tips and recipes at the end of the book. The tips are handy if you are new to scrap-booking and the recipes (based upon meals in the book) all look delicious.

New York Times Best-Selling author Laura Childs writes several cozy mystery series, including this Scrapbook Mystery Series. Glitter Bomb is the 15th book in the series. It is the first one I’ve read, and it worked perfectly as a stand-alone mystery. But I am adding the rest of the Scrapbook Mystery Series books to my wish list for Christmas.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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