Category Archives: Cozy Mystery

Charred (Whipped and Sipped, #3) by G.P. Gottlieb

Charred: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery (Whipped and Sipped Mysteries)Charred: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery by G.P. Gottlieb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With a murder investigation edging close to home and all the balls Alene is juggling at once, CHARRED was an absolute page-turner.

It’s the spring of 2020 in Chicago, and the COVID-19 pandemic is in full swing. Alene Baron’s Whipped and Sipped Café is getting by on pickup and delivery orders and reduced work hours for all employees. Alene’s three children are finishing the school year online with her father, Cal, supervising their daily activities while his own caretaker, Blanca, is fighting the virus in the hospital. Everyone is feeling the stress and other consequences of that time.

A recent fire at a commercial, residential construction site belonging to her best friend and pastry chef, Ruthie, has Alene, her neighbor, Kasey, and Kasey’s artist boyfriend up at dawn and headed to the location. Kofi uses reclaimed and found materials in his art, and wooden pieces exposed to fire offer unusually creative opportunities. Alene drives them to the site in case Kofi finds a piece too big to carry home on foot and waits in the car while he sneaks in for a closer look. He’s not gone long before he’s back in the car, urging Alene to drive away. Kofi had uncovered a dead body among the rubble of the night’s fire!

Charred is the third book in author G.P. Gottlieb’s’ culinary-themed cozy mystery series, Whipped and Sipped. With a plethora of engaging characters, enticing vegan dishes and desserts, and its replay of that iconic spring of fear, protests, and confusion, this latest story was unputdownable and sent me back in time as I tried to determine who the killer was.

Alene is the owner of the successful restaurant and manages a large and varied staff of part-timers with a firm hand in a velvet glove. She must deal with so many personalities as she keeps everyone focused on their mutual goals. Ruthie is the yin to her yang, and together they are a great team.

Besides the murder victims found on Ruthie’s husband’s projects, Alene struggles with withholding knowledge of the first crime scene, via the early morning foray with Kofi and Kasey, from her beau, Detective Frank Shaw. She finds herself in quite a dilemma, having promised Kasey and Kofi to stay mum while knowing from her own experiences with her ex-husband, Neal, that keeping secrets is hazardous to building and maintaining a trusting, loving relationship.

Additionally, Alene’s Uncle Finn has contacted her father after an absence of over 22 years. Finn, a convicted bank robber, had spent his time in prison, returned home to his wife and child, and then mysteriously went missing. Alene’s father, Cal, his younger brother, is understandably conflicted over his actions and subsequent abandonment, so Finn has appealed to Alene to arrange their reconciliation.

With a murder investigation edging closer and closer to home and all the balls Alene is juggling at once, the story was an absolute page-turner. The author also includes several great recipes at the end of the book for some of the dishes mentioned in the story. I recommend CHARRED to cozy mystery readers who enjoy culinary-themed stories, a Chicago setting, or a trip back to the summer of 2020.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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Bakeries and Buffoonery (Magical Mystery Book Club, #4) by Elizabeth Pantley

Bakeries and Buffoonery (Magical Mystery Book Club, #4)Bakeries and Buffoonery by Elizabeth Pantley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With its fun storyline and engaging group of recurring characters, it’s time for book club!

A new week had come, and it was time for the next Magical Mystery Book Club meeting at the Snapdragon Inn. This week was slotted for the next book journey-adventure-pilgrimage, as the club members had eventually dubbed it—time to slip into the pages of a new book.

Since their last adventure, Professor Atticus Papadopoulos had spent considerable time in the mysterious library below the Snapdragon Inn, researching the origins of the book club. He had discovered a way for Mollie, the young saloon girl-ghost they’d helped in book three, to cross out of her book and join them at their Colorado home base.

As the club adjourned to the library today, Mollie and long-time member Frank, the talking Siamese cat, requested to join in selecting and presenting a cozy mystery for consideration for their book journey-adventure-pilgrimage, too. With Forrest’s assistance, Frank nominates The Great Cake Rivalry, a cozy mystery featuring a large, elaborately-decorated cake on its cover, which the club members unanimously choose. Reading the extensive Prologue, the group learns the story’s killer is narrating this particular book, and whoever it is, has plans to strike again soon!

Bakeries and Buffoonery is the fourth book in author Elizabeth Pantley’s delightful Magical Mystery Book Club series. The book club characters from the previous story return in this one, and it was like visiting with old friends. Each outing further develops the growing relationships among the group while continuing with its ensemble-style story delivery. It is another fun adventure for the book club members and greatly adds to our understanding of the club itself.

With Atticus joining the group and delving into the book club’s past, readers are treated to some of his findings during the day’s first club meeting. His presentation on his discoveries serves as an excellent explanation of how the library and club work. Paige also reminisces about her great-grandmother, GeeGee, finding her “forever book” and leaving the club to live out her life in another place and time. Her thoughts were bittersweet, and I knew we were preparing for another club member to do the same.

In this book, the group is looking to prevent a murder rather than finding a body and investigating. To stop the killer, they must dive into the town of Frosting’s past and its wildly successful obsession, a highly competitive annual cake-baking competition. If you’re a fan of cake-baking television shows, this book is for you! The group researches, develops potential suspects, and even enlists the cooperation of the local investigator (who isn’t what he seems) to eventually get their answers.

It was fun to learn that in her life outside of book club, my favorite character, motorcycle-riding Vee, works in a bakery. If you’ve read any of the previous books in the series, you’re aware of how big a part food plays in the club’s activities, making this quite a revelation. So, when our literary travelers touch down in the small town of Frosting on the eve of their big cake competition kickoff, she steps up to lead the group’s culinary efforts. Under these circumstances, Vee really shines. Zell and Frank, although still their wise-cracking selves, mellow out in this latest adventure, allowing for a more balanced focus on all the characters.

The Great Cake Rivalry proves to be another paranormal cozy mystery adventure for the book club but with a fun twist. While this allows the book’s characters to see and accept Frank as a talking cat, the club members are surprised that not all of Frosting’s residents can see or hear Mollie, the young ghost. I won’t reveal the reason behind this twist but suffice it to say, the book they’ve chosen introduces a cool change to the range of paranormal beings they’ve encountered thus far.

With its fun storyline and engaging group of recurring characters, I recommend BAKERIES AND BUFFOONERY to cozy mystery readers who enjoy a touch of the paranormal in their stories and to fans of the previous books in the series.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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Book Blog Tour: A Study in Chocolate (Bean to Bar Mysteries, #5) by Amber Royer

Bean to Bar Mysteries Book 5
Cozy Culinary Mystery / Women Sleuths / Romance 
Publisher: Golden Tip Press
Date of Publication: January 27, 2023
Number of Pages: 260 pages 
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Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop on Galveston’s historic Strand is expanding, as it has become a gathering spot for the community, despite having been the scene of multiple murders. Artists she met while doing a chocolate sculpture are now working out of the shop. So when Felicity is invited to tea by an eccentric art collector, she’s intrigued, especially when she gets asked to pose for a portrait done with chocolate on chocolate. Only, where there is a murder the next day at the same historic house where the tea was held, one of Felicity’s artist friends becomes the main suspect.
When the killer threatens that unless Felicity unravels the murder, one of her two love interests will be the next victim, she finds herself unwittingly at the center of a puzzle with a Sherlock Holmes-obsessed murderer who wants to be the next Moriarty – and wants to cast Felicity as Sherlock.
Felicity starts finding unexpected connections between her friends and acquaintances and must deal with the idea that someone who knows her is a murderer. At the same time, she has to keep her business running, despite construction dust and unruly customers – and an unexpected order for thousands of truffles.
Satchmo the retired police-dog-turned-therapy dog returns to help her sniff out a few clues, and the kidnapping of Ruffles, the quirky artist’s cat, helps lead Felicity into the puzzle. Can Felicity solve it in time to protect the people she cares about from becoming additional victims?


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4 stars!

Another clever chocolate-forward puzzler from the pen of Amber Royer!

A Study in Chocolate is another well-done addition to author Amber Royer’s virtually delicious Bean-to-Bar Mystery series. Picking up only a short time after the conclusion of the previous novel, Felicity Koerber’s renown as a sleuth may be outpacing her reputation for creating gourmet chocolate fantasies. Although understandably pleased that she’s been able to help bring killers to justice, her true focus remains on her culinary and, more recently, artistic culinary endeavors. That is, until Logan is threatened.

The book’s title serves as a teasing reference to the Sherlock Holmes puzzler, A Study in Scarlet, and learning the literary ties in each of the books in the series is something I look forward to as each new story drops. In this instance, Royer enhances her story with Holmes-like elements, making for a fun and entertaining mystery.

The question of the Logan-Felicity-Arlo love triangle is ongoing. I enjoy the drawing out of Felicity making a choice, though, as I have waffled from Team Arlo to Team Logan and back again over the course of the series.

Besides the clever tie-ins, romantic tension, and solid mystery, the starring feature of the entire series continues to be the chocolate. I always learn something new and interesting about it and always seek out and devour every morsel I can find in the house while reading one of these books.

I recommend A STUDY IN CHOCOLATE to cozy mystery readers who enjoy culinary-themed stories and fans of the previous books in the series.

Amber Royer writes the Chocoverse comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series and the Bean to Bar Mysteries. She is also the author of Story Like a Journalist: A Workbook for Novelists, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach.
Amber and her husband live in the DFW Area, where you can often find them hiking or taking landscape/architecture/wildlife photographs. If you are very nice to Amber, she might make you cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes, of course! Amber blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate.


Signed copy of A Study in Chocolate +
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Cover Reveal & Pre-Order Book Blitz: Murder’s Legacy (A Tori Winters Mystery, #2) by Anita Dickason

Murder’s Legacy

A Tori Winters Mystery, Book 2

Anita Dickason


Mystery / Women Sleuths

Publisher: Mystic Circle

Coming February 16, 2023

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Secrets that defy time!

An inconceivable disaster brings Tori Winters’s plans for the historic house she inherited to a traumatic standstill. A section of the escape tunnel built by her great-grandfather, a notorious Dallas gangster, has collapsed. Within the rubble, there is a gruesome discovery. A skeleton with a bullet hole in the skull.

The shocking cave-in triggers an ominous scheme to condemn her property as accusations arise that the tunnel is dangerous.

Embattled, Tori soon discovers that more than the destruction of the house is on the line. It seems she can’t escape the
past. It keeps clawing its way into her life with deadly consequences.

Who hides in the shadows with a motive for murder?
And … is Tori the target?


Check out the book trailer!

Award-winning Author Anita Dickason is a twenty-two-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department. She served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics detective, advanced accident investigator, tactical officer, and first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team.

Anita writes about what she knows, cops and crime. Her police background provides an unending source of inspiration for her plots and characters. Many incidents and characters portrayed in her books are based on personal experience. For her, the characters are the fun part of writing as she never knows where they will take her. There is always something out of the ordinary in her stories.

In Anita’s debut novel, Sentinels of the Night, she created an elite FBI Unit, the Trackers. Since then, she has added three more Tracker crime thrillers, Going Gone!, A u 7 9, and Operation Navajo, which are not a series and can be read in any order, and Deadly Business, a crime thriller.

As a Texas author, many of Anita’s books are based in Texas, or there is a link to Texas. When she stepped outside of the Tracker novels and wrote, Not Dead and the Tori Winters Mysteries series, she set them in the small Texas communities of Meridian and Granbury, respectively.









Tori Winters Series tote bag + personalized coffee mug
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Meringue Snowflake Magic (Christmas Cookies) by Tena Stetler

Meringue Snowflake MagicMeringue Snowflake Magic by Tena Stetler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sweet and spicy holiday cookie-themed paranormal cozy mystery!

After being at the wrong place at the wrong time with her best friend, Syndi, Tindra Shebolt is whisked off into the federal Witness Protection Program with a new identity as Wynter Dahl. Unknown to all is that the small safe town chosen for her hiding spot, Raven’s Hollow, is home to a large population of magical beings: shifters, pixies, and more. This is not a problem for Wynter; it turns out. It seems she’s a witch!

Meringue Snowflake Magic is both a sweet and spicy story. Wynter has been ripped away from everyone she holds dear; her life depends on successfully vanishing and staying hidden. She has no idea what has happened to her best friend, Syndi, or her family, who are now also in danger because of what she witnessed.

Before she can even unpack or adjust to her new surroundings, she’s visited by the ladies of Raven’s Hollow bearing gifts of food, but as a group, they are a little overwhelming nonetheless. Even her first meeting with Deputy Braydon “Blaze” Nightwing is overshadowed by fear. She has no idea who she can trust yet.

The story becomes fun when her nerves get the best of her during their first date, and I wondered if they could give it another chance. But Blaze is a sweetie and sexy to boot, and love and lust eventually overcome all obstacles.

Besides the bad men hunting Wynter, her family, and her friend, Syndi, there is a delightful subplot regarding the upcoming holiday cookie contest that everyone in Raven’s Hollow takes very seriously, especially Councilwoman Agnes Goody. Her various subterfuges to get a leg up on everyone else was fun. The descriptions of the event and the cookies are tantalizing, and a couple of the winning cookie recipes are included in the book.

I recommend MERINGUE SNOWFLAKE MAGIC to cozy mystery readers who enjoy a touch of the paranormal in their stories and holiday or culinary themes.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Goddess Fish Promotions Book Tours.

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The Pepper Peach Murder by Meg Benjamin

The Pepper Peach Murder (A Luscious Delights Mystery Book 1)The Pepper Peach Murder by Meg Benjamin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When the toxic head chef of a local restaurant meets his end, Roxy Constantine becomes suspect number one!

After a disastrous encounter with the head chef at the trendy Denver restaurant where she worked, new chef Roxanne “Roxy” Constantine fled home to her family’s farm in Shavano, Colorado. Over time and with the help of her Uncle Mike, she pulled herself up and started on an alternate career journey, creating a line of premium jams and preserves.

Although Luscious Delights was a big hit with locals and tourists alike, it was destined to remain a small home business unless Roxy took on some help. She was a one-woman operation, barely able to make enough product each week to stock her booth at Saturday’s farmers’ market. When news that a successful cooking show was coming to Shavano to feature the restaurants, farmers’ market, and other foodie enterprises, Roxy knew she could be on the brink of something bigger. With Uncle Mike’s encouragement, she began to look ahead and what it would take to expand.

However, the assault and subsequent cover-up had taken its toll on her heart, and Roxy wondered if she’d ever be whole again. The few dates she’d attempted since always fizzled out when she realized she wasn’t ready for a more intimate relationship, that is, at least until she met Nate Robicheaux. a chef at a family-owned restaurant in town.

Unfortunately, there was a constant reminder of what happened in Denver in the form of Brett Holmes, the head chef at the upscale High Country Restaurant. Brett had worked at the same restaurant and gleefully believed the head chef’s fabricated version of what had occurred after Roxy had departed. Despite her explicit refusals, he regularly pushed himself her way and hounded her to sleep with him.

One Saturday at the farmers market, Brett corralled Roxy at her booth to blackmail her into sex, threatening to tell the television producers the lies the head chef had spread after his foiled attempted rape, and get her bumped from consideration for the show. Not one to succumb to such tactics, Roxy’s refuses and their discussion became heated, and Brett grabbed Roxy. The argument and her protests attracted the attention of vendors and shoppers, and Nate jumped in to intervene, causing Brett to stumble to his knees in front of the crowd. A week later, when Brett’s body was discovered in High Country’s kitchen, Roxy became the new police chief’s main suspect in his murder!

The Pepper Peach Murder is an entertaining debut to Meg Benjamin’s new cozy mystery series, Luscious Delights. While having all the fun hallmarks of the cozy mystery genre front and center, the story also explores a darker theme: sexual assault/harassment.

The protagonist, Roxy Constantine, is a great character. She’s had her life disrupted, and her dreams smashed but is slowly coming back to life and taking a new direction with her career. What happened to her was horrible and unforgivable, but she refuses to let the assault and the betrayal which followed define the rest of her life.

Nate Robicheaux, Roxy’s delectable love interest, is healing as well but doing so in the kitchen of his family’s restaurant, now run by his brother, Bobby, and they don’t quite see eye to eye on their business. I was glad there was a glimmer of them coming together by the book’s end.

Susa is Roxy’s “ride or die” best friend and is a competent and capable partner in crime-solving rather than the comic relief sidekick, which I thought was terrific. And perhaps, there’s a little spark between Susa and the new police chief to fan in future books?

The plot builds when Roxy feels Chief Fowler isn’t looking hard enough at other possible suspects for Brett’s murder. There is little information forthcoming from that sector, so Roxy and Susa must create their own line of questioning based on who and what they know about the people in Shavano. I liked how Susa developed an online method for the two women to record and share with each other the results of their separate inquiries, and laughed over Susa’s later discussion of the proper way to fill it out! With Brett’s reputation as a jerk and a womanizer, there are quite a few avenues to pursue.

Since this is the first book in the series, many townspeople were introduced, and although many did not appear to have anything to do with the current murder, they were still easy to keep track of or follow as needed. When all was revealed, I thought the resolution made sense, and the case was wrapped up without going down a bunch of unnecessary rabbit holes. I am already looking forward to more of this series.

I enjoyed hearing about all the various jam flavors and enough of the jam-making process to know it was something I wouldn’t want to tackle myself. I’ll stick to trying out some of those amazing-sounding concoctions when I run across them at local farmers’ markets and craft shows. Pepper Peach is absolutely on my shopping list, too.

I highly recommend THE PEPPER PEACH MURDER to cozy mystery readers who enjoy culinary-themed stories.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Goddess Fish Promotions Book Tours.

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Vampires and Villains by Elizabeth Pantley

Vampires and Villains (Magical Mystery Book Club #2)Vampires and Villains by Elizabeth Pantley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s time for another meeting of the Magical Mystery Book Club!

After the first meeting of the Magical Mystery Book Club, the group was one member down. To remedy the problem, Judge Thornberry refers Maximilian Bettencourt III to fill the empty spot. Million, as he is known, is a former bookstore owner and came to the court’s attention for burning down his neighbor’s backyard garden shed. The group is somewhat leery of the newly proposed club member, what with their creative imaginations on overdrive. Yet, at the appointed time, the 82-year-old arsonist shows up on the doorstep of the Snapdragon Inn, potluck dish in hand, and they are all ready to go!

This time the group has the idea that it would be great to solve a mystery on a cruise ship, and after a search of the stacks in the magical basement library, a cozy with a Hawaiian setting is selected. Once on board the boat, when no one finds Frank the Siamese cat’s ability to talk alarming, they realize they have landed in a paranormal cozy mystery book. When a sad sack ship photographer is found dead in the casino with two small puncture wounds in his neck and drained of blood, the assignment is clear: the group is looking for a killer vampire!

Vampires and Villains is another fun and fanciful entry in the Magical Mystery Book Club series by Elizabeth Pantley. All but one of the group from the previous book have returned and are joined by the wonderfully quirky Maximilian “Million” Bettencourt III. He is the perfect addition to the club and something of a nemesis to the feisty Zell. I loved how the group returns after a month apart but has made great strides toward becoming a “family.” Forrest, in particular, is becoming a more solid member of the club and brings teenage energy and attitude, current pop cultural knowledge, and solid computer and social media skills to the table.

The story is set on board a luxury cruise ship and the Hawaiian Islands when the group participates in excursions, and I loved how the Snapdragon Inn magically tagged along. The descriptions of the ship, activities, and trips ashore are vivid and put me on location with the characters. And even with a murder on board, it also put me in the mood to book my own cruise!

The investigation was so entertaining that I read this book in one sitting. With nine (counting Frank!) sleuths on the job, the group can check out a lot of leads in a short amount of time, which is a good thing because there are beaucoup suspects.

Starting out, there are almost 5,000 passengers and crew on board. However, after learning the manner of death, that is whittled down to the number of vampires on the ship. The story has twists and turns in it and I didn’t suspect the individual revealed as the murderer at all. I liked that each character regularly gets moments to contribute to the interaction and case.

With a magical library theme, a fun group of recurring characters, including a snarky, talking cat, and vampires, I recommend VAMPIRES AND VILLAINS to cozy mystery readers who enjoy paranormal elements in their stories.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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Snuffed Out (A Magical Candle Shop Mystery, #1) by Valona Jones

Snuffed Out (Magic Candle Shop #1)Snuffed Out by Valona Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When a good friend is wrongly accused of murder, the Winslow sisters desperately search for the real killer.

Tabby Winslow and her twin sister, Sage, work hard to keep their family business, The Book and Candle Shop, afloat. While Tabby created the signature candles they sold, Sage did all the purchasing and bookkeeping. With their one employee, super salesman Gerard Smith, they were just managing. But when a disagreeable customer Gerard had a confrontation with only days earlier is found murdered, the police take an unhealthy interest in him as their prime suspect.

Snuffed Out is a fun and unique new cozy mystery by Valona Jones and kicks off her new series, the Magic Candle Shop Mysteries. The magical element is provided by the two sisters, who are “energetics” and have the ability to absorb and manipulate energy. One twin, Sage, is comfortable and confident in her skills. However, due to a traumatic event in her past, Tabby is not. She blocks her abilities and refuses to tap into her special gift, and this causes some tension between the two sisters.

The story is told from Tabby’s point of view. Her hesitancy to accept her energetic talents stems from an incident several years earlier, which almost resulted in her killing someone with her power. That incident is never fully explained; only bits and pieces are revealed as the current story unfolds. In fact, there are a couple of backstories hinted at but left unexplained, which had me feeling so strongly that I had missed a previous book that I quit reading to research whether that was true or not. Perhaps, these stories will come to light in future books.

Sage Winslow is a complicated character with hidden secrets or worries left untold at the end of the book. Early on, she’s very moody: one minute, a loving sister, and the next, an almost evil thing. She and their store clerk, Gerard, have a romantic history that continues to cause her some heartache.

The murder investigation was compelling, with many friends and acquaintances of the Winslow sisters involved. There is even a missing chihuahua to consider. I enjoyed the candle shop business, the descriptions of candlemaking, and the various other items the girls stocked in the store. The story also focuses on the subplots of the sisters’ budding romances, both with young men they have known since childhood. There are adult situations with discussions about their hookups, but it was still sweet watching Tabby navigate the change in her relationship with Quig from childhood friend to grown-up man and friend with benefits.

Central to this story is the lovely and historic Savannah setting. The Book and Candle Shop is in the heart of downtown’s historic district, a great draw for tourists. I like the mention of the various other businesses with their living spaces above that are neighbors to the Winslow’s shop.

With its unlikable murder victim and tense push-pull sibling relationship, I recommend SNUFFED OUT to cozy mystery readers who like candle or bookshop-related settings or stories set in the southern US, specifically Savannah, Georgia.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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Murder, She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran

Murder, She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle (Murder She Wrote Book 56)Murder, She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As cozy and comfortable as the previous series’ books, it still provides a fresh and exciting new story.

When Jessica Fletcher is asked by an author friend to stand in for her as the American Guest of Honor at the Belfast Book Festival, she is happy she can help out and starts planning her trip right away. So, when her next-door neighbor, Maeve O’Bannon, asks her to carry some sentimental family heirlooms with her and deliver them to cousins living in Northern Ireland, she says yes. Having a couple of extra days in the country will be nice to see the sights, relax, and meet new people.

The book festival is interesting and hectic, but Jessica’s inherited duties come off without a hitch, and she is soon traveling to Bushmills, the small village where Maeve’s extended family lives. Her cousins, sisters Jane and Beth Anne, and another cousin, Michael, all work in the family cosmetic business. Marine Magic has been in negotiations with a small French firm to merge, hoping that together they can optimize their reach into the international market for skin care. Representatives from Belle Visage have recently arrived in Bushmills tasked with facilitating and, hopefully, finalizing the merger, so the three cousins are under considerable pressure to broker an advantageous agreement.

At a welcome dinner party for Jessica and the two Frenchmen at Jane’s grand home, Jessica and one of the Belle Visage men are the unseen witnesses of the tail-end of a bitter argument between Michael and Beth Anne regarding the terms of the merger. But the party continues seamlessly, with the rest of the guests unaware of this scene. However, the following day while Jessica is riding a bicycle along the country lanes near the village, she comes upon a car parked awkwardly on the side of a road. As she passes by, she notices the driver of the vehicle is inside, slumped over the steering wheel, and thinking he may need assistance, she stops. When he is unresponsive to her greeting, she touches his shoulder, and he falls sideways across the seat. Jessica is shocked to see the man is Michael O’Bannon, and he is most certainly dead.

Murder, She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle is the 56th book in the long-running cozy mystery series based on the television show of the same name. This latest entry is as cozy and comfortable as all those before it, yet it still provides a fresh and exciting new story.

Jessica Fletcher is a kind and observant woman with an insatiable appetite for solving mysteries and serving up truth and justice. She builds a circle of new friends and acquaintances everywhere she goes who help her solve the crime. In this case, Maggie Nolan, the daughter of the owner of the hotel where Jessica is staying, is pulled into the matter. Maggie is also the fiancée of the son of one of Maeve’s cousins, so she has a vested interest, making her involvement irresistible. The local chief inspector assigned to the official case comes to see Jessica’s value to his investigation. I enjoyed their back and forth, each trying to draw important information from the other.

The murder victim has gotten involved with some shady characters while gambling, but he’s also angered members of his own family and legitimate business associates. So, there are a couple of scenarios for Jessica and Maggie to consider and more than a few possible suspects. It was compelling reading as they followed their leads into Michael’s background and business dealings.

The setting in Belfast and Bushmills in Northern Ireland offered Jessica several attractive sightseeing opportunities, which are worked into the story. Some are off the usual tourist itinerary, and I was given a new appreciation for the depth of Ireland’s history and the travel opportunities available. The location descriptions were amazing, and even simple country drives sounded beautiful, relaxing, and familiar. It was easy to visualize the action in these settings.

With comfortable recurring characters and its well-known amateur sleuth, I recommend MURDER, SHE WROTE: DEATH ON THE EMERALD ISLE to cozy mystery readers who are fans of the previous books or the television show as well as newcomers ready to sample the long-running series.I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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Dial M for Meow (Bookshop Kitties Mysteries, #1) by Ruth J. Hartman

Dial M for Meow (Bookshop Kitties Mysteries Book 1)Dial M for Meow by Ruth J. Hartman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Get ready for a new cozy mystery series that’s quirky and full of feline fun!

After the devastating breakup and realizing that her boyfriend had emptied her bank accounts and stolen her credit cards, children’s author and cat-mom Christy Bailey struggles to pay her bills and keep her head above water. She was relieved and delighted when her Aunt Betty suddenly called her to ask her to come live with her and help run her bookstore in the little Indiana town of Green Meadows. Christy immediately packs her possessions and her beloved cats, Pearl and Milton, and heads to Indiana and a fresh start.

But after the 9-hour drive, she arrives at the bookstore to find the store closed and her aunt not answering her phone. While considering her next move, Christy is surprised by her childhood friend, Janie, who also recently returned to town. Together the two women enter the bookstore and head upstairs to Aunt Betty’s apartment, where they discover the body of a local woman in the living room. Betty is quickly located, unconscious on the floor and with the dead woman’s blood on her hands. Summoning the police, the woman is identified as a local newspaper reporter, Nan Bittle, and after the crime scene is processed, her body is removed. Aunt Betty, of course, became suspect number one.

With the police steadily building their case against her aunt, Christy and Janie, with the assistance of the two curious cats, Pearl and Milton, started looking for the real killer.

Dial M for Meow is the debut novel in Ruth J. Hartman’s new cozy mystery series, the Bookshop Kitties Mysteries. With a loving cat-mom main character, a caring but needy sidekick-friend, two suspiciously smart felines, a puzzling homicide, and a more-than-the-usual drama-filled small town, get ready for a cozy mystery that’s fun and unique.

Christy Bailey, children’s author and devoted cat mom to the inspirations for the feline sleuths in her books, Pearl and Milton, seems like such a genuine young woman. She was completely taken in by her ex-boyfriend, and I felt so bad for her. I truly wanted her to succeed and save the day for her aunt from the very start. I felt like I was still getting to know Aunt Betty in this book, but so far, she’s a strong and caring woman who loves her niece. Janie Lambert has apparently had a rough past, and I feel there is much more to learn about her in the future. She constantly clings to Christy, and there’s got to be more to this behavior than we know.

The murder victim proves to have a number of individuals with a grudge against her, providing fodder for Christy’s snooping. A couple of warnings from the killer only urge her on with her questions, especially when reporting them to the local police only seems to draw increased scrutiny of Aunt Betty. I wondered how the police could possibly believe Aunt Betty might have knocked herself unconscious after committing the murder.

The story is well done, and the action certainly held my attention but one difference that made this cozy debut stand out from others was that the quaint little town of Green Meadows is populated by the nastiest bunch of people ever! The town sounds lovely with its collection of fun, cleverly-named shops, but each one seems to be owned, operated, or managed by a weirdo or an ill-tempered jerk who certainly doesn’t want any business. After Christy’s first experience at Petals and Stems, I couldn’t believe she even bought something there. The murder victim’s visitation or “calling,” though universally disliked, drew quite the crowd, but even her closest relatives couldn’t be bothered to receive visitors on her behalf. The attendees were most definitely there for the spectacle. Thankfully, some bright sparks, such as Dr. Yummy, provide a vestige of normality and, in his case, a possible love interest later down the line. I will definitely be waiting anxiously for the next book in this series, if not for the mystery or the hint of romance, for more of this collection of awful townspeople.

I highly recommend DIAL M FOR MEOW to cozy mystery readers who enjoy bright, young female sleuths, cats who act like cats, and incredibly quirky small towns.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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