Tag Archives: cozy mystery

Book Review: Shake Down – 5th Book in an Entertaining Cozy Series

Shake Down

The Elliott Lisbon Mystery Series #5

By Kendel Lynn

Daphne is missing. She never arrived at her best friend and roommate Juliette’s wedding shower and she is the maid of honor. Everyone is worried that something bad has happened to Daphne, but she has previously disappeared for a few days when she wanted clear her head. As the hours turn to days, the worry machine ramps up.

Enter Elliott Lisbon, PI-in-training and the director of the Ballantyne Big House. In addition to the private quarters, the Ballantyne is known for the charitable events it hosts. Now Elliot – known to her friends as Elli, has a huge event to orchestrate, Juliette’s wedding the following day and a new case – she has to find the missing maid of honor.

There is an interesting twist in the case involving Juliette, Daphne and Tucker, the groom-to-be. They are former contestants on a reality show, Down the Isle. That is where the trio met and Juliette “won” when Tucker chose her from all of the eligible young ladies on the show to marry. What are the odds of a TV reality show creating a happily ever after for two people who didn’t know each other before filming starts? Some of the relationships may work out, but others could turn deadly.

Sea Pine Island, South Carolina is the perfect setting for this cozy mystery. The small island feel as well as the nod to the preservation of sea turtle nests added depth to this cozy mystery. The twists and turns in the case were neatly wrapped up by the end of the book, which I really like even when it is part of a series.

As the fifth one in The Elliott series, the plot was easily a read-alone mystery. I was confused in the first few chapters because I couldn’t figure out if Elliott was a man or a woman. And her best friend Sid also confused me gender wise until I came upon the pronouns identifying them both as female. I can only assume other avid readers get a picture in their heads of the characters which is not easily done if you don’t know if they are men or women.

I am a true fan of cozy mysteries and Shake Down ticks all the boxes. The characters, setting and plot are engaging and interesting. I didn’t see the twist at the very end, so kudos to Ms. Lynn for her plotting expertise; delivering an “aha!” moment for her readers. This is the first book in the series and the first book written by Ms. Lynn that I have read.

 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. https://www.edelweiss.plus/#sku=1635115876&g=4400&page=1

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Between a Rock and a Deadly Place – Debut Cozy Series a Must Read

Between a Rock and a Deadly Place

Cedar Fish Campground Series: Book One

By Zoey Chase

Thea Pagoni’s decision to leave her law practice and take over her grandparent’s campground surprised the locals and maybe even Thea herself. She needs a change after the ugly divorce from her husband. So, after the death of her beloved grandmother, the fond memories of Cedar Fish Campground from her childhood brought her back for that fresh start. What she didn’t count on was the poor condition of the campground, the lack of competent help and the murder that happened within days of her arrival.

The police don’t seem to care about finding the murderer. The locals are full of gossip about the dead woman, which leads to bad publicity for Cedar Fish Campground. Thea and Hennie, who seems to be a fixture at the campground, decide to do a bit of investigating on their own. Lucky for them, Nolan Cade. the newly hired handyman/security guard is a former cop as well as former military. The fact that he is drop dead gorgeous was not missed by either of the women.

The plot thickens when Thea receives a threat to stop sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong. She is close to finding the murderer, and is determined to find him or her. She has to do this in order to carry on her family’s legacy, but will she live to bring the campground to its former glory?

Between a Rock and a Deadly Place is a fast-paced cozy mystery with a cast of interesting characters. There are secrets in Thea’s past that haunt her, but she is doing her best to work through them. Hennie is a hoot – she has many surprising characteristics that amused me as I got to know her. Nolan, like Thea, has a history he is trying to get past. Don’t overlook his brilliant mind because beneath the good looks is a smart, caring man.

There is humor laced throughout the book. Small towns are often known for their quirkiness and Outer Branson is no exception. Ricky, the baby racoon, is adorably naughty adding to the comedic side of the solid story.

his is Zoey Chase’s first book. I assumed she was a seasoned cozy author with dozens of books  penned because Between a Rock and a Deadly Place is the perfect mix of mystery, romance, quirky characters and an interesting setting. I can’t wait for the next book in her series as well as many more to follow.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery (https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/between-a-rock-and-a-deadly-place-zoey-chase) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder, She Encountered – Fun and Informative Historical Cozy Mystery

12.25.19Murder, She Encountered

By Peg Cochran

Elizabeth Adams, is a woman before her time. She is a crime photographer at the Daily Trumpet in New York City and works closely with veteran crime reporter Ralph Kaminsky. Today no one would blink an eye at a woman photographer, but in 1939 that is virtually unheard of. She is a career woman when almost all women married and stayed home to raise children.

The reporter and his photographer are on the way to the World’s Fair, where a robbery has just been committed. But when they arrive to get the details for a story, a dead body is found. Is this crime connected to the robbery or is it unrelated? Both Biz (as Kaminsky calls Elizabeth) and Kaminsky are on the trail. The story takes them in and around the World’s Fair as well as New York City.

While working the clues to the crimes at the World’s Fair, Kaminsky has a health scare. Unlike other women of the day, Elizabeth jumps right into the investigation, much to everyone else’s dismay. They might just be right when she puts herself in danger. Hopefully the reporter and his favorite photographer will live to write another story.

All of the details Cochran adds to this historical cozy mystery are fascinating. From the nickel and dime subway rides to the high heels Elizabeth wears to crime scenes, the reader is pulled into the past. The setting of this novel is brilliant. Bodies among the new inventions that we now consider relics of our past really pulls the reader into the past and the story. I love learning new facts about the World’s Fair that Cochran tucks in this perfect cozy mystery.

This is the third book in the Murder She Encountered Series. It is the first book I have read in the series, and I found it fun and interesting. I was not confused or lost by jumping in the middle of the series. It is also the first book I have read by the prolific cozy author, Peg Cochran. She is the author of several cozy mystery series. I am excited to read the others 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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Southern Harm – Murder Too Close to Home in this Cozy

Southern Harm

A Southern B & B Mystery

By Caroline Fardig

Finding the perfect Christmas gift for her boyfriend Tucker’s Aunt Lela perplexed Quinn. When Tucker come up with the idea of making an outdoor firepit for his aunt to enjoy during the colder days in Savanna, Quinn knew it would be perfect. They started right away, even though a hot spell was blanketing the area. The sweltering heat had them sweating in Lela’s back yard, but when human bones were dug up as the work began things really heated up.

Aunt Lela is promptly arrested after the bones are identified as her teenage neighbor that went missing years ago. Apparently, Lela thought her ex-husband had a fling with the young girl and went so far as torching her car to keep her away from him. That gave the police motive and opportunity for the arrest.

Tucker is devastated, but reluctantly agrees to let Quinn and her sister, Delilah do some amateur sleuthing to see if they can turn up any evidence that his aunt is not guilty. Even though he is uncomfortable with the situation, the girls convince him to let them dig into the dead girl’s past. This ruffles the feathers of more than one of Savannah’s elites, including his parents.

The further the investigation progresses, the closer it gets to home. Two more people are arrested in conjunction to the murder, making it more personal to the girls than before. They will not stop digging into the past, no matter how dangerous it is, until the truth is revealed.

This fast-paced cozy mystery is full of red herrings and plot twists. Each of the suspects have motive and opportunity. Like all cozies, the main characters only solve mysterious murders in their spare time. Quinn and Delilah are the owners of a B&B along with their grandfather. True to life, they have to make the guests breakfast and work the check-in desk, making them well rounded and interesting.

Fardig is a prolific writer and her expertise as a cozy mystery author shines in this series as well as the others she has written. I have read several books in her Java Jive series and thoroughly enjoyed them. Southern Harm is the second book in the series, but read well as a stand-alone cozy. I highly recommend this book as well as this author.

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: My Fair Latte – Fabulous First in a New Cozy Series

My Fair Latte (The Café Cinema Mystery Series #1)

By Vickie Fee

Halley Greer’s Great-Uncle Leon bequeathed the Star Movie Palace to her. Far past it’s prime, the theater is a faded princess that time has not been kind to. But there is something about the small town of Utopia Springs and the hopes of reviving the theater that makes Halley want to stay. She has dreams of playing old classic movies and serving wine and coffees in the lobby. She is a great barista and wants to use her talents to support herself doing something she loves.

After a rocky start, she begins making friends and connections in the tourist laden town. When someone vandalizes her newly renovated theater, she begins to wonder if her dreams will be dashed, but she perseveres.  Having high hopes for opening night, Halley was elated when locals and tourists filled the theater. Unfortunately, during the intermission, one of the patrons was found dead in his seat.

When the police department focuses on her as their main suspect, Halley and her new friends begin a bit of sleuthing. Will she become the next victim by getting too close to the truth?

Ms. Fee drew me into the story immediately. The characters are quirky, funny and realistic. I was amused by the hotel owner who pretends to be British. And who doesn’t like a cat with the name Eartha Kitty? Like all cozies, there is a bit of romance flirting at the edge of the mystery. There is also a great historical twist featuring the infamous outlaw Jesse James that is totally plausible.

The small-town setting is perfect for a new cozy series. It is vintage but not old fashioned. There is entertainment for tourists and locals alike as well as eateries and shops. The nostalgic nod to the past with classic movies is interesting and fun. It reminded me of more than one classic film I would love to see again on the big screen.

Vicki Fee is the author of the A Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery Series. My Fair Latte is the first book in the Café Cinema Mystery Series and the first one I have read from this author. Her sharp wit, interesting story and fun characters are perfectly balanced and I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

 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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Drop Dead Lola – Fifth in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series

10.17.19Drop Dead Lola

By Melissa Bourbon

PI Delores (Lola) Cruz is juggling her personal and professional life with aplomb and a bit of craziness. She has just landed a job investigating a suicide that is very questionable. The mother of the deceased is positive her son did not take his own life. Lola and the rest of the PI agency she works for agree that something is mighty fishy. When the victim’s mother is found barely alive in a garage filled with carbon monoxide Lola is sure there is a murderer in their midst and she is determined to find him or her before someone else winds up dead.

Meanwhile, her cousin Leti is getting married and Lola is one of the bridesmaids. In addition to the tacky dress she has to wear, Lola is supposed to be helping with the bridal shower. Luckily, she can count on her close-knit family to pick up the slack so that she can pursue the case. But that same family can be a bit overwhelming. Especially her mother. It doesn’t help living in the apartment above her parents.  Personal space and privacy is virtually non-existent. The overnight visits by her boyfriend do not go unnoticed.

Drop Dead Lola is a fun romp with Lola, her extended family, friends and co-workers. Lola’s co-workers are interesting and have secrets of their own. One of them is her best friend and partner in solving crime even though she is the administrative assistant. Lola’s Hispanic family is large and loving and her boyfriend, Jack, is adorable. Like all cozy mystery series, their relationship appears to have been on and off.

Mixing murder and zany fun is the essence of a cozy mystery. Ms. Bourbon expertly intertwines a solid “who done it” plot with the craziness of the wedding and family interactions. I love reading a book that seamlessly adds in pole dancing and a boudoir photo shoot seamlessly amid a murder investigation.

This is the fifth book in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series, but the first one I have read. It was easy to read as a one-off novel; I did not feel confused at all. I am going to go back and read the other books in the series. If you are a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, you will love this series.

My only criticism is the many phrases in Spanish used in the dialog. I could figure some of them out but it really interrupted the reading flow for me. I was feeling “stuck” trying to figure out what exactly the characters had said. I would have loved to see the translation at the end of the page like a footnote or even a glossary at the end of the book. My mind kept going back trying to see what phrase/word it may have been, distracting me from the excellent plot.

 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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Fog Ladies – Getting Old Can be Murder

The Fog Ladies

By Susan McCormick

Sarah James is doing her medical residency at a San Francisco hospital. She is given an apartment in the same building as the group of women dubbed the Fog Ladies and grows fonder of them with every passing day. They are old and quirky, outspoken and most of them kind. But lately there have been accidents among the group. And a few deaths – are they just at the age where falls can be fatal or is someone methodically murdering these old ladies?

Getting old isn’t easy. The Fog Ladies expected sore joints, dimming vision and dicey digestion but none of them bargained for murder. Maybe it is just a coincidence that some of the gals are dying from accidents in their homes, but something just doesn’t add up. These San Francisco gals have lived in the same building for years, with the exception of Sarah the medical intern, and there have been more accidents than can be explained in the last few months.

As exhausted as Sarah is, she is determined to help her newfound friends. Will she be able to find out who is targeting them before another one dies? There are suspects in and around the building. Is she just imagining it or has someone been in her apartment also? What could they possibly have against her since she is new to the building?

The characters drive this cozy. Each of the building residents are unique, some are kind, others painfully honest no matter whose feelings are hurt. There is a biting little dog, a cat who likes cookies and ice cream and an infant mixed in with the cast of Fog Ladies. Each of them adds depth to the story as well as comedy at times. One of them becomes overly fond of Starbuck’s coffees – so much so she will do just about anything to get her daily fix.

The mystery of who is killing the Fog Ladies has many twists and turns. There are several likely suspects, and just when I thought I knew who the killer was there would be a new clue that blew my theory out of the water. To mix things up, there are a few men that live the building. Maybe Sarah has time for something other than work and hunting a murderer – unless one of them is trying to kill her. Overall, this is the perfect cozy mystery with characters that will travel well into the next book of the series as well as the beautiful setting of San Francisco.

This is the first book I have read by Susan McCormick. She has also written a children’s picture book entitled Granny Can’t Remember Me. It helps children cope with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. I am looking forward to the next adventures of the Fog Ladies.

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: 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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