Tag Archives: 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: Interesting Whodunit

Surreal Absurdity

By Jim Lively

Jamie Simon attempted to kill Charles Pierce with an overdose of stolen ketamine. The whole affair disconcerted Pierce, but he wanted to put it behind him, so he never reported her to the police. Unfortunately, Ms. Simon decided to confess to police. Thus, the investigation and trial began, pulling Pierce into court and into the news. Unfortunately, this ultimately changed his life – and not in a good way.

Having retired from practicing law, Charles now spent his days painting. He was surprisingly good, so when he rented a space to paint from an art gallery, he quickly became a part of the art scene. Again, bad luck follows him. Random attacks on the gallery seem to be targeting him and as if that isn’t bad enough, he is implicated in a murder.

He quickly realizes he is in grave danger, and so begins his quest to find out just who is behind the attacks. But the police don’t believe him, in fact, they suspect he is the one who is on a murderous spree. Hopefully he can convince them otherwise and they will apprehend the real killer before it is too late.

For me there was too much dialog, not enough descriptions in this book. At times there were pages of dialog, just back and forth without setting information to give me a full picture of who, what, where and when. I am not saying the dialog was bad. For me, I needed something to see, hear or smell along the conversation. I enjoyed the information imparted regarding the wine tastings, the art and the gallery, I just needed more to get deeper into this novel. On the plus side, it is a super-fast read because of the pages of dialog.

This fast-paced mystery was interesting. The clues were all there and yet I didn’t realize who the killer was until the last pages. I liked this book but did not love it. The end especially disappointed me. It seemed as though there was more information readers needed to know. It ended abruptly, seemingly the end of a chapter, not a book. Perhaps there will be another novel in this series of two, but it leaves the readers hanging in the meantime.

This is the first book I have read by this author. Like his main character, Mr. Lively was a lawyer and is now a contemporary visual artist as well as a filmmaker. His second novel won the 2016 Merrimack Media Outstanding Writer Award. Surreal Absurdity is a sequel to Aberrant Behavior, which I have not read.

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.

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: Quiet Screams to the Quiet Healer – Fascinating Debut Novel

Quiet Screams to the Quiet Healer

By Nilanjana Haldar

This is the story of Sanjana, told from her point of view. She grows from a frightened school girl listening to her father abuse her mother to a confident young woman. Now a doctor, she becomes part of a secret society formed to heal and help others being abused, as well as those with mental health problems, bolstering them by sharing her strength and experiences.

Her journey begins like many others living with daily abuse, but brings a bright ray of hope that life can and will change if you take steps to do so. She discovers there is forgiveness in cleansing, which changes her life as well as many others.

Her life intertwines with a mysterious man that seems to be available to help whenever she is in need, but disappears from her life as soon as she is safe. Other connections and some mystical events by seemingly ordinary people will intrigue the reader until the very last pages when all is explained.

The novel is set in India and it has a different cadence than most books written in English. But that being said, it is not difficult to read, nor is it confusing. I liken it to speaking to someone who knows English perfectly as a second language and often adds bits of their native tongue into the dialog. I have a dear friend from Pakistan whose voice I heard in my head when some of the characters spoke. I was thoroughly engaged with the plot and characters from start to finish.

Ms. Haldar is a doctor and motivational speaker as well as an author and poet. This is her debut book. The pain both physically and mentally was gripping and unnervingly real for the characters and reader. The underlying story of strength, courage and transformation of the characters to strong, healthy individuals is heartwarming and uplifting. This novel  contains graphic incidences of abuse.

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