Tag Archives: cozy mystery

Book Review: Brew or Die – A Java Jive Mystery – Caffeinated Cozy Fun

Brew or Die – A Java Jive Mystery

By Caroline Fardig

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Juliet Langley is pumped! She has been an amateur sleuth for a while, but now she has worked hard and earned her private investigator license. Pete, her best friend and owner of Java Jive Coffee Shop, is happy for her, but has serious reservations. She has been known to take risks that scare Pete and put her in more hot water than she would like to admit. Besides, they are attracted to each other, but are afraid to jeopardize their friendship by becoming a couple so he is afraid of losing her.

Juliet assures Pete that working for her friend, Maya Huxley, the owner of a private investigation agency, will keep her safe. In fact, she will start out doing the boring part of investigations, like surveillance. The other thing that makes Pete apprehensive is that Julie is the part time manager at Java Jive while he works as an audio engineer for a studio in Nashville. How will she do both jobs without one or the other getting short changed?

The first case seems simple enough. Photographing a cheating husband’s clandestine meeting with his paramour should be a snap. Juliet watches, waits, takes the pictures to prove his infidelity and then abruptly gets mixed up in an attempted murder. Much to her dismay, her boyfriend, cold case Detective John Stafford comes to her rescue. Even worse, her ex-boyfriend Detective Ryder Hamilton finds out about the incident. They had a bad breakup and she has been avoiding him ever since. Now Juliet is back on his radar, and it is making her crazy.

Then Java Jive’s cook has a personal tragedy. His girlfriend is found dead of a suspected overdose, but he is convinced it is murder. Pete begs Juliet to help investigate the case even though the police have ruled it an accidental death, not murder. Juliet agrees, and reluctantly allows Pete to help her. This pulls both of them into a crazy situation full of models, parties and recreational drugs.

Meanwhile, Juliet is assigned to a new case, involving possible money laundering and theft. Again she crosses paths with Hamilton. She is angry and hurt but since it is beneficial to the case, she agrees to work with him as long as he keeps it strictly business. Things are getting tricky in her personal life and new profession. She is on the wrong side of a millionaire and is having trouble keeping her personal feelings out of her investigations. Is she in more danger than she can handle? Which one of the men in her life will help her and which ones will hurt her? The bodies are starting to stack up!

The characters in this series are well developed and interesting. The fact that they have troubles in their personal lives but carry on their jobs makes them easy to relate to and identify with. The relationships between Juliet and the men in her life are amusing and heartbreaking at the same time. She is always getting in too deep, but seems to be able to swim her way out of the situation. Her spunky attitude makes her the perfect star of this cozy mystery series.  I really enjoy reading about Juliet and the men in her life, as well as life in the coffee shop with a side of murder served up sprinkled with a side of romance.

Brew or Die is the fourth book in Carolyn Fardig’s Java Jive Mystery Series. Previously I read and enjoyed the second book in the series, Mug Shot. Both of them are solid cozy mysteries with all the elements cozy readers enjoy. I highly recommend this series as well as the others written by Ms. Fardig.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Measure of Murder – Cute Culinary Cozy

A Measure of Murder

By Leslie Karst

Sally Solari has more on her plate than the delicious meals she is serving at Gauguin, the restaurant she recently inherited. Her schedule is full with the management of Gauguin. She is also helping her father at Solari’s, the restaurant her family has owned for years. Sally is slowly trying to find a replacement for herself so she can focus more on Gauguin, but her father is resisting her efforts. He is sure no one can take his daughter’s place in their family’s Italian restaurant.

Even though Sally loves the restaurant business, she decides to carve out a bit of her precious free time to do something for herself. Deciding she will spend some of the precious few hours of her free time by joining a local chorus that needs members.

Like any social group, the choir has personality conflicts, but overall they are a great bunch of dedicated vocalists that enjoy each other and their craft. The director has found fame with the discovery of some sheet music by a famous composer making the pull to be a part of the choir more desirable. Unfortunately their first rehearsal ends in tragedy. One of the tenors falls to his death. His girlfriend seeks out Sally and asks her to investigate the accident because she is sure it was murder.

The police have closed the case, but Sally agrees to switch her chef’s hat for a deerstalker a la Sherlock Holmes because she doesn’t think the evidence adds up to an accident. That means that one of the members of her choir could be a murderer. Let’s all hope Sally isn’t the next victim.

Karst writes a meaty cozy mystery. Her characters are strong, multi-faceted and interesting. Sally juggles her career and personal life just as most of us. She loves the restaurant business, her family and friends. It is refreshing to read a cozy mystery without the main character being a bit ditzy. Her father and grandmother enforce the family values she believes in as well as adding humor to the story.

The plot is interesting and solid. There are several suspects, all of them likely killers. As Sally quietly works the case in her spare time, the motives are varied and believable I was convinced I knew who the killer was until a new theory was introduced that was as likely as the previous one making me change my mind in an instant.

A Measure of Murder is the second Sally Solari Mystery by Leslie Karst. It is the first one I have read, but it worked well as a stand-alone novel. That being said, I enjoyed it so much I plan to read the first in this series, Dying for a Taste. It was really a sweet treat to get to the end of the book and see that some of the delicious recipes discussed in the novel were in the final pages. All of them look delectable. I can’t wait to try the Grilled Salmon with Papaya and Avocado Pico de Gallo.

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 © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: River City Dead – Cozy Mystery in a Cool Setting

River City Dead

By Nancy G. West

Aggie is excited but nervous. Her boyfriend Sam has booked a suite in a hotel right on San Antonio’s River Walk during Fiesta Week. This is the first time they are going to actually spend the weekend together. Aggie cares for Sam and wants to be with him, but this is the first time she’ll actually be spending a night with a man since her ex, whom she refers to as Lester the Louse.

Sam is nothing like Lester. He is a San Antonio police detective. The bad news is Aggie keeps sticking her nose in cases that Sam is working on. The good news is he is allowing her to help out a bit on investigations. Both of them were hoping to avoid any kind of crime during their getaway, but it has a way of finding them.

This time it is really too close to home to ignore. A dead body is found in the suite they were supposed to be staying in this weekend and the victim is someone Aggie knows. Sam wants her to leave so she is out of harm’s way. Aggie is determined to stay and help find the killer.

The problem is Aggie may be getting in too deep. She starts hanging out with some of the girls that are there to perform as a group during Fiesta Week. There are several of these groups staying at the hotel and Aggie is sure someone in or connected to them could be responsible for the dead girl in the suite she should be staying in.

Aggie soon finds herself at odds with Sam. Is her relationship going to end before it goes any further? Will the killer target another one of the girls in the group, or possibly Aggie to keep her from finding out the truth?

River City Dead is a great cozy mystery. It has all of the essential elements. Sam, the hot detective is the perfect love interest for guy shy Aggie. The fact that he lets her help solve crimes, albeit grudgingly, makes them a dynamic duo. I loved the setting. I’ve been to San Antonio’s River Walk, but never during Fiesta Week. The bits of history add a nice element to round out the story.

This is the fourth book in the Aggie Mundeen Mystery Series. It is the first one I’ve read, which worked fine as a standalone mystery. I learned bits and pieces of Aggie and Sam’s history. It was enough to know what was going on, but my curiosity wants a bit more info. That is encouraging me to read the other books in Ms. West’s series to get the scoop.

Copyright © 2017 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 Spring Cleaning Murders – #8 in Dorothy Cannell’s Cozy Series

The Spring Cleaning Murders

By Dorothy Cannell

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Ellie Haskell has discovered a book about cleaning, including recipes for DYI cleaning products  in her attic. It was written by one of her ancestors, and she is so excited about the find she decides to do a thorough spring cleaning. Now she is in a pickle. Ellie’s cleaning lady, Mrs. Malloy, quit because her newborn granddaughter needs a nanny. Mrs. Malloy hasn’t always been the most efficient employee, and now the situation has become awkward because Ellie’s cousin Vanessa married Mrs. Malloy’s son. Being related wasn’t the most comfortable situation, but Ellie really counted on the extra help around the house. The replacement cleaning lady is not exactly what Ellie was hoping for, especially after she turns up dead.

Was the death an accident or was it murder? Ellie has a feeling it was foul play, and she sets out to prove it.  Unfortunately, there are lots of obstacles along the way. First of all her husband has been a bit distracted because some activists have targeted his restaurant. Her gardener/handyman is not feeling well, and she is concerned that his age is finally slowing him down. Her twins are in a half day play school, but afternoons can be a hectic with them home, no help in the house and quite possibly a murderer on the loose.

The Spring Cleaning Murders is a cute cozy mystery.  Ellie and her family have been the stars of this and twelve others in the series. It has all the elements of a perfect cozy. The quirky characters are endearing, the group of cleaning ladies is eclectic and interesting and the list of possible suspects includes almost everyone Ellie encounters.  Will she be able to find out who the killer is before anyone else dies?

I loved the characters in this book. It was fun to try and figure out “who done it” with Ellie and her sidekicks. The bits of cleaning tips at the beginning of each chapter were a throwback to the past and fun to read. The end was cute with an unexpected twist.

There are thirteen books in the Ellie Haskell Mystery Series. this book is #8.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Every Trick in the Rook (A Birds of a Feather Mystery)

every-trick-in-the-rookEvery Trick in the Rook

A Birds of a Feather Mystery

By Marty Wingate

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

Julia Lanchester is juggling work and her personal life just like many of us do. She is excited to get away from the tourist bureau for a weekend with her boyfriend Michael. Things have been busy for her, planning events in and around the Fotheringill estate, the most popular place to visit in the village.

She and Michael head out and disconnect from everything for a wonderful few days. They spot unusual birds and enjoy each other until the hotel notifies her of an urgent phone call

The news opens the cage on crazy – turning a relaxing weekend into an abrupt return to reality. Julia’s ex-husband has been found murdered. Even worse, he was on the Fotheringill property. Why has he returned to a place he didn’t like from the isolated island he retreated to when they divorced?

The local constable has questions for Michael and Julia, surely they are not suspects! They are questioned and released, but Julia is warned to keep her nose out of the investigation. She has good intentions, but just can’t seem to let the questions about her ex-husband’s arrival and murder go. Will this put her in the crosshairs of the killer?

Wingate spins a great cozy mystery. It has all the elements that keep loyal cozy readers interested and turning pages. This series is exceedingly interesting to nature and bird lovers. One of my favorite characters is avian – a super smart rook named Alfie. He flies in and out of the plot at the most interesting times. The little girl he lives with is also very interesting. Her name, Tennyson, is as complex and fascinating as the child. I hope both of them show up in later books.

This is the third book in The Birds of a Feather Mystery series. It works perfectly well as a stand-alone mystery as I have not read the previous two books in the series. I did read one of Wingate’s Potting Shed Mysteries and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you are a fan of cozy mysteries or mysteries in general, I highly recommend checking out one or both of Marty Wingate’s series. I am willing to bet you will come back for more.

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Book Review: A Fatal Twist – Yoga, Puppies, Babies and a Murder!

Karma's a Killer

Kate Davidson is a multi-tasking maven. She juggles owning and teaching classes at her yoga studio with her busy personal life. She has a beloved dog Bella, who isn’t really too fond of other dogs, some people, has separation anxiety and to top it off lacks an essential enzyme which makes mealtime dicey at best. Kate also has a live-in boyfriend, Michael who is pretty understanding considering Kate has stumbled upon more than one dead body. He is less happy about her urge to jump in and help solve the crime.

You might be thinking that you are as busy as Kate (minus the dead bodies of course) but she stepped up her game in this book. She is dealing with a young woman that she really doesn’t like, but has agreed to let her work at the studio to pay off a debt. Again, what could really go wrong?

Kate’s best friend Rene is expecting twins. So, Kate agrees to be her Doula (a non-medical person that gives moral support during and after the birth of her child, or in this case children). And the cherry on the top of Kate’s crazy triple scoop sundae of her life – Michael brings home a pair of adorable abandoned puppies. They wiggle their way into Michael and Kate’s hearts, but unfortunately also wiggle their way out of an escape proof crate and proceed to leave a path of destruction in their wake.

As if this wasn’t enough to wear out our favorite Yoga instructor, during the open house for the brand new birthing center where Rene will have her babies, a dead body shows up. Then someone Kate knows is arrested, but she knows her friend is innocent and sets out to prove it with an unlikely accomplice. Michael has warned her against sticking her nose in where it shouldn’t be, but Kate can’t help herself. Will this be the time she steps over the line?

Tracy Weber’s Downward Dog Mystery series is entertaining and fun. She also treats readers to a solid mystery. By the end of the book, before the crazy climax of finding out who the killer is there are no less than eight plausible suspects. And we aren’t talking way out, red herring, reader groaning connections. LOTS of people wanted to kill this guy and they all had good reason. But it was only one of them. It took until the very end to figure it out. The clues were laid out perfectly, as a mystery buff, it is satisfying to realize I could have figured it out, but didn’t.

Weber’s characters are people you would meet every day at work or in your social life. I didn’t necessarily want to spend time with some of them, but others seem like they’d be really fun to invite to a party. Each book adds more layers to the main characters, but you could honestly read these as stand-alone cozy mysteries. This is the fourth book in Weber’s series, so you may want to start at the beginning, but you really don’t have.

If I haven’t convinced you to give this series a try, I only have one more thing to say – babies and puppies. Both adorably cute, frustratingly funny if they aren’t yours. I highly recommend this fast paced cozy mystery.

Copyright © 2017 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: Death Steals a Holy Book – Fast Paced Cozy – Perfect Fall Book!

death-steals-a-holy-bookDeath Steals a Holy Book

By: Rosemary & Larry Mild

Dan and Rivka Sherman are back in Rosemary and Larry Mild’s latest cozy mystery. In their Annapolis, Maryland  bookstore, the Shermans are quite happy visiting with patrons, participating in a writer’s group and spending time with family and friends. Unfortunately, they often find themselves unwittingly involved in investigating murders. What is the couple supposed to do when the police don’t seem to be getting the job done and one of their friends could be mistakenly sent to prison?

Rivka finds an old book. A very, very old book. She feels it could be of major significance, so the couple has it appraised and find they are correct in assuming the it’s value is high. The Menorat ha-maor, The Candlestick of Light is not only worth a lot of money, it has great significance in history.

They take the book to Israel Finestein to have it restored. Unfortunately, he is brutally murdered and the book is missing. To make matters worse, a dear friend of theirs has been arrested for the murder they both knew she would never commit.

The clues wind in and out of the Jewish community, with more suspects than books in The Olde Victorian Bookstore the Sherman’s own. The police don’t seem to be paying attention to the facts, and are content with the original person accused. Hopefully  Dan and Rivka can unravel the mystery of the book that vanished as well as the identity dof the killer before it is too late.

I love this unlikely crime fighting duo. They are wily when on the hunt for clues, but sometimes Dan forgets to feed the bookstore cat. Rivka gets irritated with Dan but never for a minute doubts him or stops caring for him. They are the old couple that have been together through thick and thin and their loving relationship is obvious to the reader. The Mild’s have crafted these rich characters that develop more with each book. I liked them before and love them now like a couple of kooky next door neighbors.

This third book in the series is fast paced and extremely interesting. The Milds have many other books, collections of short stories and a few written by just one of this dynamic duo. I have only read one of the others in this series, but plan to pick up the one I haven’t read Death Goes Postal. My review of Death Takes a Mistress can be seen here https://writeknit.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/book-review-death-takes-a-mistress-delightfully-twisted-tale-of-intrigue/

The extra added bonus of this book is the background as to why it was written. Take time before diving into Death Steals a Holy Book to read the Preface. It is fascinating.

 

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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