Tag Archives: Cozy

Book Review: Spent Identity – Solid Mystery with a Side of Romance

3.25.20Spent Identity

By Marlene M. Bell

Annalisse Drury needs the fresh air and open places that her brownstone in Manhattan cannot provide. Luckily, she has the perfect outlet, the family farm she grew up on in Goshen. As a small child her parents died, so she came to live with her beloved Aunt Kate. Unfortunately, when she lived with them, Kate’s now dead husband and two obnoxious children reminded her constantly that she would never be a part of their family, no matter how much Kate cared and loved her.

When she arrives at the farm for the weekend, Annalisse realizes that something is bothering Kate. Annalisse finds a letter from Kate’s son stating he is selling the family farm out from under his mother. Heartbroken and furious, Annalisse vows to stop him. Unfortunately, when a dead body is found in the barn by the hired hand, they all must leave the farm per the sheriff until the investigation is complete. They head over to Annalisse’s boyfriend’s estate, which is fairly close to the farm. Kate disappears right after she and Annalisse arrive. Annalisse and Alec, her boyfriend, are soon on the hunt to find her missing aunt. Luckily, Alec is wealthy. He calls in a private investigator to assist in the search. Annalisse and Alec soon realize they are also in danger. Will they live to find Kate? Who is behind the killing and kidnapping? Are the two crimes related?

This fast-paced mystery combined with the slow burn of romance features a solid plot and interesting characters. Revenge is served up with a side of tension, twists and turns making readers fear for the outcome, all the while trying to figure out what would happen next. Ms. Bell serves up a surprising and satisfying ending that mystery lovers will adore.

Spent Identity is the second book in this series, but the first one I’ve read. In the first few chapters, the author summarizes the background needed to make sense of the relationships between the main characters. It works well as a stand-alone novel, I was not confused or lost. I recommend Spent Identity to everyone that loves mysteries, thrillers and a bit of romance.

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/spent-identity-marlene-bell) 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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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: 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 Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe – Delightful Historical Cozy Mystery

The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe

By Rose Donovan

Spending the holidays with the aunt that disowned her after her father’s death was definitely not on Fina’s list of things to do. But when the constable showed up at Oxford looking for her best friend Ruby, the girls need to get away from the college before one or both of them spend the holidays in jail even though neither of them has committed a crime.

Fina used to love her Aunt Millicent, known to most as Lady Shillington. But after Fina’s brother was wrongfully hanged for the murder of Fina’s father. Lady Shillington cut all ties with Fina and her mum after the trial, so it came as a surprise that she would invite Fina for the holidays.

Because Fina knows her brother was innocent, she and Ruby decide to find the real killer when visiting the village for the holiday. Unbeknownst to them, Lady Shillington has invited all of the people involved with the untimely deaths to celebrate the holidays at her home.

Fina, Ruby and their friend Pixley are locked in a snowbound mansion with the person or persons that are undoubtedly the murderer or murderers. Will someone else die before Christmas dinner is served? Fina and her friends must find the killer but who can they trust to help trap the guilty person or persons?

This historical cozy mystery set in the 1930s it is full of red herrings, twists and turns. Like all cozies, the murder is not graphic and the gumshoes are college students not police inspectors. But do not discount the detailed hunt for the killer using the only tools available to solve crime in the early 1900s, which pretty much amounts to good old brain power.

Reading Ms. Donovan’s book is reminiscent to one of my favorite authors, Dame Agatha Christie. Setting up the suspects in a snowbound house, asking them to meet in the drawing room and the cleverly satisfying conclusion was extremely satisfying. I can picture Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot nodding at Ms. Donovan saying “Well done!”

This is the sixth book in the Ruby Dove Mystery Series. It is the first one I have read. It works fine as a standalone novel, but there were some references to previous cases that escaped me. That is okay, because the reader in me will seek out the five previous books so that I can be privy to the inside jokes between Ruby and Fina as well as learn about their previous cases that were referenced in The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received an Advanced Review Copy (or ARC) on Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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