Tag Archives: cozy mystery

Book Review: The Perfect Bind – A Perfect Cozy Mystery

A Perfect Bind                      

by Dorothy St. James

Assistant librarian Trudell Becket is frustrated. Her beloved library in the tiny town of Cypress has changed – and not for the better. All. Of. The. Books. Are. Gone. They have all been replaced with electronics. Tablets, computers, e-readers and crazy enough, a café and yoga classes now fill the rooms instead of actual books. While there is a time and place for new technology, Tru feels the loss of books is blasphemy and has taken secret steps to keep readers in touch with a secret library. Housed in the basement beneath the library, a chosen few have access to real books and research materials. If Mrs. Farnsworth, the head librarian, finds out about the hidden library, surely Tru will lose the job that she loves.

Keeping it secret is vital, but someone has discovered the library. Tearing down shelves and ripping books and papers, an unknown vandal has been striking at night when the library is closed. It saddens and puzzles Tru. Who is getting in, why are they destroying books and most of all how are they gaining access? Tru loves mysteries – one of her mottos is “What Would Miss Marple Do?” so she begins poking around in places that might get her in trouble. Or possibly killed!

When a body is found behind the library, Tru’s old flame from high school starts poking around. Jace once was a detective in NY, but has returned to the Cypress police department. He flusters Tru in more ways than one. As her secret crush in high school, she has always held a torch for him. He has feelings for her, but she is afraid to take their friendship to a different level. With him on the case, it is more than difficult to keep the secret library under wraps. When the case heats up, Tru and her band of amateur detectives may have bit off more than they can chew, hopefully it will not get anyone killed.

A Perfect Bind is a delightful cozy mystery. The plot is very well written, and the killer was not who I expected. The red herrings were perfectly placed to throw readers off the trail. Quirky, small town characters perfectly accompany the plot, and are fun and interesting. The bit of humor is also a welcome element. If you have read any of my reviews, you’ll know without me saying I am a huge fan of cozies, and this one hits all the marks to make it very enjoyable.  

This is the first book I have read by Dorothy St. James, but Ms. St. James has written several cozies. A Perfect Bind is the second book in the Beloved Bookroom Series, the first is A Broken Spine. I plan to read it, as well as her other cozies in the near future.

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: Death of a Red-Hot Rancher – Intriging New Cozy Mystery

Brody Pierce is a sight to behold. Every female in the small town of Tinker’s Creek, Ohio takes notice of this tall piece of eye-candy when he comes to town. He made his fame and fortune in Hollywood as the hunky, rough and tumble actor in a truck commercial. This allowed him to purchase a ranch in Tinker’s Creek where he raises bison.

Lizzie Hale, the owner of the most successful romance bookstore in the Midwest, is not immune to Pierce’s rugged good looks, but tries to remain calm when he enters her store. All of her female customers, including her aunt, Charmaine, practically swooned at his feet. Yes, everyone loved and admired him – with the exception of at least one person. The one that killed him.

Unfortunately, Lizzie is the one that finds his body. She is obviously upset, but it is evident this is a murder and now she is in the thick of it. Quietly tallying up the clues she has observed, Lizzie begins to do a bit of sleuthing. Unfortunately, the clues start to point at one of the people in town she knows and cares for.

The setting of this small town and the bookstore Lizzie owns enhances the depth of characters and plot. It was quite enjoyable picturing the rooms in the bookstore as well as the bison ranch. The extra touch of Lizzie taking care of Brody’s orphan dog was heartwarming. Even though he left dog hair every place they traveled together. The requisite touch of romance is present in this cozy and I am looking forward to see how the characters develop in future books in this series.

This fast-paced cozy mystery is full of twists and turns. Usually, the killer is easy to spot, but there are so many people that had it out for Pierce, it was impossible to figure out who the killer was until the final chapters.

Mimi Granger aka Connie Laux is a new author to me as this is the first book of hers that I have read. She is an established mystery writer, and Death of a Red-Hot Rancher is the first book she has written as Mimi Granger, one of her many pen names. This is the first cozy mystery she has written, previously focused on romance novels. If you love cozies, you will love this book. I’m looking forward to more books in this 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: Till Daph Do Us Part – Perfect Cozy Mystery

As Daphne and John Jones make their way to a wedding that Daphne is going to officiate, she reflects on how much she loves her new job as an officiant for weddings and funerals, Her website has filled her calendar with future nuptials and new places to see as she and John travel in Bluebell, their caravan (a camper to us in the States).Daphne muses that weddings bring out the best and the worst of people.

Unfortunately, this wedding also brings a murder. Keen to find out what happened, Daphne begins to investigate on her own. She has observed the feud between the bride and groom’s families. Apparently, it has gone back several generations and doesn’t seem it will be forgotten anytime soon. How many people will end up dead before Daph (as she likes to be called) can climb back safely into Bluebell and drive off, leaving the feud and deaths behind her? Will she be on the killer’s list as well?

Till Daph Do Us Part is set in Australia. Author Phillipa Nefri Clark strives to give readers a true Aussie/British English experience. In my estimation she has done a smashingly good job of bringing readers into the caravan with Daphne and John Jones.

Like all cozy mysteries, Till Daph Do Us Part has an amateur gumshoe on the case. Dogging suspects and digging in the past, Daph wiggles her way into the investigation. The local police are kind and allow her to give them her thoughts and suggestions but warn her to stay away from potentially fatal situations. Of course, she carries on.

This is the first book in the Daphne Jones Mystery Series. The setting and characters are fun and interesting. It is brilliant that Ms. Clark has them traveling in the caravan so the murders take place in different towns and settings, allowing readers to come along on the adventure. This is the first book I have read by this author. She has written several other mysteries, suspense and romance novels. I am anxious to check them out as well.

If you like Murder She Wrote, you will love Till Daph Do Us Part. It is a fun cozy mystery, plotted perfectly and always interesting to have the main character born in my generation, proving retirees can do crazy things including solve murders. I can’t wait to check out her other books, including the next two books in this series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. You can find it here:

Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond – Iconic Cozy Mystery Series

By Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farey Moran

Jessica Fletcher is excited to visit her dear friend Dolores in South Carolina. What she didn’t bargain for is stumbling upon the body of Dolores’ new husband, Willis, dead in the Koi Pond. Sheriff Halvorson is quick to target Dolores as the killer, which Jessica isn’t having any part of. She begins to investigate, immediately discovering a long list of people that hated the victim. In order to clear her friend from suspicion, Jessica sets out to find the real killer.

Willis held many secrets, and used them to get what he wanted from his friends and business associates. Jessica and Dolores begin looking through his business and personal files, peeling back the layers to find a motive for his murder. Unfortunately, the list of suspects keeps growing, and the stakes of finding the killer are getting higher every day.

This cozy mystery series is as delightful as the popular television series of the same name. It is true to form for the cozy mystery genre. The murder is done “off stage” and found by Jessica Fletcher. She begins sleuthing when her friend is in trouble. There are several suspects, and the end is always tied up neatly.

It is fun to read as well as trying to figure out the identity of the killer and his or her motive before the reveal in the final chapters. If you are a fan of the television series, like me, you may just hear Angela Lansbury’s voice in your head when reading Jessica’s conversations.

Killing in a Koi Pond is not Shakespeare, nor are is intended to be. It is a perfect cozy, containing one of the most iconic amateur sleuths ever immortalized in print. The solid plot and engaging characters are satisfying and entertaining. I highly recommend it.

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: The Glitter End – Fast and Fun Cozy Mystery

The Glitter End by Vivian Conroy

Delta Douglas has an idea to bring more people into the stationery shop that she owns with her close friend Hazel. She has agreed to have Tilly Tay, a famous miniature artist, bring one of her works to the shop. It is a tiny world showcasing the small town’s gold rush history, featuring tiny replications of actual structures from the Old West days.

Unfortunately, Tilly is an eccentric character that quickly irritates the town folks. Shortly after arriving she is arrested for murder. Delta thinks Tilly is quirky, but doesn’t believe she is a killer. Ray Taylor, a man that Delta would love to be more than friends with, agrees with her. He is a retired football player with ties to law enforcement so they quietly begin to investigate the case running under the radar of the cops. Hopefully no one will get hurt if and when the killer catches on to their plan.

This cozy mystery is a fast and fun read. The setting is beautifully brought to life and the characters are interesting. Like most cozy mysteries there is a hint of romance, however difficult it is for the main characters to connect and share their feelings.

Ms. Conroy is a prolific cozy mystery writer, having written several series in addition to this series, the Stationery Shop Mysteries. This is the first book I have read by her and thoroughly enjoyed it. This is the second book in the series but reads well as a standalone cozy. I can’t wait to check out her other series.

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

Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Crime of the Ancient Marinara

By Stephanie Cole

American Nell Valenti is hired to develop a world-class cooking school requiring a move to Cortona, Italy. She is now living and working in a villa owned by renowned Chef Claudio Orlandini. His Cornell-educated son, Pete, as well as a cast of female family members also reside at the villa.

Nell has her work cut out for her. The Orlandini family is quirky and set in their ways. Trying to organize them is like herding turtles, one or more of them frequently wander off to do his or her own thing creating chaos instead of the organization Nell is striving to achieve.

The first class of students in the cooking school is a group of Americans that have arrived excited to learn the recipe for Chef Orlandini’s famous marinara. It is to be the highlight of the final day. Unfortunately, an unruly chef and the murder of one of the Americans waylays any plans that Nell made.

Unsatisfied with the suspect the police have in custody, Nell begins her own investigation with a man she thinks is a private detective – but is he really? Between the lies, secrets and a language barrier Nell is ready to throw in the towel – but can she ever forgive herself if someone gets away with murder?

Quirky characters fill the pages of this mystery. The chef is over the top Italian and his son is a sexy olive pressing hunk. The Orlandini women range from nuns to a talented sous chef. The Americans add an interesting mix along with the elements of surprise. Almost all of the book is set at the villa. I would have liked more adventures away from the villa, to give me more of the taste of Italy. Other than the problems in communication between characters speaking Italian and others speaking English, the setting could have been anywhere. I wanted descriptions of the town, really bringing the reader into the beautiful country of Italy.

Crime of the Ancient Marinara is the second book in this cozy mystery series. I did not read the first book and was a bit lost in the first few chapters as to the relationships between the characters. Overall, this was an enjoyable cozy mystery.

Author Stephanie Cole is also known as Shelley Costa. She has been nominated for both an Edgar and an Agatha Award as Shelley Costa. This is the first book I have read by Ms. Cole or Ms. Costa.

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 © 2021 Laura Hartman

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It Cannoli Be Murder – A Delicious Cozy Mystery

It Cannoli Be Murder

An Italian Chef Mystery

By Catherine Bruns

 

Tess is on the verge of something big – opening her very own Italian restaurant – a dream she has had forever. It is bittersweet because her husband died six months ago. He shared her life and her vision for the future, but Tess is slowly moving on from his loss.

Her cousin Gabby, who is more like a sister is there for her, supporting and encouraging the opening of Anything’s Pastable . When Gabby schedules an author event at her bookstore, Tess jumps in to help with the refreshments even though she is crazy busy with the final prep for her restaurant.

The author talk was a disaster. He is obnoxious and his assistant, Daphne, is an old high school nemesis of the cousins. When Tess finds her dead late that night in the bookstore, both Gabby and Tess are at the top of the list of suspects. They are not going to stand for being accused of murder, nor are they going to let the murder close the bookstore and forestall the opening of the restaurant. They begin investigating and soon find several people who wanted Daphne out of the picture. Unfortunately for the girls, someone will go to any lengths to keep the amateur sleuths from finding the true killer.

This is the first book I have read by Catherine Bruns. It is the second book in the Italian Chef Mystery Series. I was not confused or lost at anytime in the book, it works very well as a standalone novel. I’m a huge fan of cozy mysteries. It Cannoli Be Murder is a fun, interesting read with so many viable suspects I didn’t know who the murderer was until the last pages. I really enjoyed the plot and characters and highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a fun and interesting cozy mystery.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder on the Silver Screen – Perfect Marriage of a Cozy Mystery and Classic Movies

Murder on the Silver Screen

The Movie Palace Mystery Series Book #3

By Margaret Dumas

San Francisco Vintage theater owner Nora Paige has her dream job, but unfortunately murder keeps creeping in ruining her mojo. She loves her coworkers, accepting and embracing their quirks. Then there is the resident ghost, Trixie who was an usher back in the 1930’s. She can only be seen by Nora but others feel her presence.

Troubles are piling up for Nora. Her actor ex-husband wiped out her savings before leaving her for another woman. She knows he has it hidden, but finding it seems impossible so she is living pay check to small paycheck trying to get her life back in order. She is cooking up a plan to recover her losses with an acquaintance from her former life in Hollywood, but is doubtful it will work.

When a multimillionaire gamer creates a new game and has decided to debut it at the theater, Nora is thrilled with the publicity. That is until he is poisoned in front of the standing room only crowd on the stage of her theater. She has to find the killer because this could be the final blow for the theater and Nora because the killer is not done yet.

Murder on the Silver Screen is an interesting and fun cozy mystery with a solid plot. The ghost element is a great twist, mixing new technology with the old-world use of a séance to try and reach the ghost that everyone thinks might be there. Nora knows Trixie is there because she sees and talks to her all of the time.

The other element of this cozy mystery is Nora’s alter ego, Sally Lee. She is a movie critic for vintage movies, writing and publishing reviews for the films shown at Nora’s theater. She gives the reader inside info to the actors, history of the film, facts about the screenwriters, set and costume descriptions and fabulous quotes. I was so enthralled with her “review” of Notorious starring Ingrid Bergman and Carey Grant, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, I immediately ordered it and loved it.

This is the third book in the Movie Palace Mystery Series. It is the first one I have read, and it reads well as a standalone novel. I highly recommend Murder on the Silver Screen to movie buffs and cozy mystery fans. It is a fast, fun read with a few surprises to keep readers guessing until the satisfying last chapters.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Dash Away All – Christmas in July Leads to Murder

Dash Away All

Merry and Bright Handcrafted Mystery Series Book #3

By Christina Freeburn

 Merry is as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. She has been hired to work on a movie that features Luna Carmichael, the grand dame of television Christmas movies. Supplying the set with handcrafted Christmas items is Merry’s dream come true – until people start dying.

Arriving in her Christmas themed RV and Ebenezer, a very vocal and opinionated guinea pig, Merry is ready to get crafting. Anxious to meet the woman she idolizes, she is surprised to find Luna demanding, self-centered and downright mean to some of those working for her. Keeping a low profile is the best defense, but Merry finds it difficult to keep her curiosity at bay. She is soon knee deep in a murder investigation to the chagrin of the local authorities. Sticking to the crafting she is hired to do and keeping away from the investigation is in her best interest. The amateur sleuth could become a target if she doesn’t stop snooping.

Anytime of the year it is fun to read a Christmas themed cozy mystery. Especially if it is set in July, which makes it interesting and opens up more possibilities than the usual holiday books offer. Ms. Freeburn expertly weaves the different types of crafts Merry creates with an intriguing plot. The whodunit unfolds perfectly in the pages, encouraging the reader to read one more chapter to see what happens next.

The characters are interesting and most of them appear to be hiding something. I enjoyed finding out things about the characters throughout the book. This helped me start putting the pieces of the puzzle together, but kept me wondering who the murderer was until the final pages.

Cozy mysteries are interesting, easy to read and are about everyday people you might know. Dash Away All ticks all of those boxes and more. This is the first book I have read by Ms. Freeburn, but it will not be the last. While it is the third book in The Merry and Bright Handcrafted Mystery Series, I was not confused or lost at any time. It works well as a standalone novel. Like me, you will probably seek out the previous two books, Not a Creature Was Stirring and Better Watch Out as well as her other series of six books; The Faith Hunter Scrap This Series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder of a Needled Knitter – Honeymoon and Homicide!

Murder of a Needled Knitter

By Denise Swanson

Newly married Skye Denison Boyd and Wally, her brand-new husband have set sail on a romantic honeymoon cruise. The two of them are happy little love birds until they realize that there are a group of knitters on the cruise with them. Knitting doesn’t bother either of them, but they didn’t realize that Skye’s overbearing mother May is part of the knitting group and her father Jed has joined her. When they also see Skye’s friend Trixie and her husband aboard ship, the newlyweds realize they are sailing into different seas than they imagined.

When an obnoxious knitting instructor is found dying by Skye and Trixie, they realize a murderer is also aboard the ship. The bad news is, May is the lead suspect. The good news is Wally is a member of the police force back home and this isn’t the first dead body Skye and Trixie have stumbled upon. The three of them team up with a little help from Skye’s parents and Trixie’s husband to find the real killer before they reach the end of the cruise so May can go home instead of being remanded to FBI custody.

I love cozies, and Swanson is a master of this genre. Murder of a Needled Knitter has all of the elements cozy readers love. Amateur sleuths, hot hubbies and boyfriends, just enough bloodshed, but not too much and a solid plot that wraps up splendidly in the end. Swanson’s books are fun to read and beautifully written. The descriptions of the food on the cruise ship made me hungry and phrases like, “Rumors were spread like suntan lotion at the pool—thickly and with little regard for the slippery consequences.” made me chuckle.

This is not the first book I have read in the Scumble River Mystery Series. Denise Swanson is one of my favorite cozy writers. Since I live close to where the series is set, it is fun to read about places the characters go that I have been to myself. But you certainly don’t have to live near Chicago to relate to this fabulous cozy series. I highly recommend any and all of Denise Swanson’s books to readers who love a well-written cozy with interestingly engaging characters.

Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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