Category Archives: Cozy Mystery

The Gargoyle’s Secret (Stonehaven Mysteries, #1) by Linn Chapel

The Gargoyle’s Secret is a solid cozy mystery with a unique paranormal angle to it.

When her famed photojournalist father had to go into the hospital, Laurel Bachmann, a rising star who apprenticed at her father’s feet, steps in to fulfill his latest assignment to interview the renowned stonemason, Marc Chevalier, and photograph his historic estate, Stonehaven, a mystery-shrouded manor house perched on a rocky outcrop near Bar Harbour on the coast of Maine. She is informed immediately upon arrival that the piece she’s to do was encouraged by Marc’s mother, Serena, and he wants no part of it. But with her father’s imminent retirement on the line and his editor clamoring for a juicy human interest angle to the story, Laurel decides to tough it out with the secretive Mr. Chevalier, hoping to develop something suitable without indulging in rumors, gossip, or scandal, a practice she’s avoided her entire career. However, the manor and Marc’s family both have a mysterious past. Over 100 years ago, a visiting millionaire art collector had disappeared from Stonehaven, never to be seen again, and when Laurel stumbles across evidence that the man never left the island alive, her story and stay at the estate take a dark turn.

The Gargoyle’s Secret is the entertaining first book in a new paranormal, cozy mystery series, the Stonehaven Mysteries, by author Linn Chapel. The protagonist, Laurel Bachmann, is genuinely likable, smart, and a talented artist. She felt like a real person. Her foil, Marc Chevalier, is too handsome for Laurel’s own good. In addition, he’s mysterious and paranormally-talented besides being a successful stonemason with a burgeoning business restoring old and valuable pieces of sculpture and statuary. The mystery is pretty straightforward, a person unknown is digging around and searching for something at the manor, and with few people on the remote estate, suspects are limited. The reader can easily keep the players straight and try to figure out who the culprit is.

There is some confusion toward the end of Laurel’s stay as to continuity: in one chapter, we go from morning to afternoon, but then it’s morning still, and there’s seems to be one too many nights occurring in the timeline. I was also confused over what happened to the missing millionaire. I won’t say more because it would reveal too much for a potential reader. But overlooking these details, it was still a good, entertaining reading experience.

I recommend THE GARGOYLE’S SECRET to readers that enjoy a cozy mystery with a paranormal overlay. It is suitable for readers of all ages.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from BookSirens.

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Rhino Charge (Kenya Kanga Mystery, #3) by Victoria Tait

Mama Rose returns in an intriguing and complex tale of revenge and murder!

It’s 2016 in Nanyuki, Kenya, and Rose Hardie is preparing to attend the Rhino Charge, the annual charity off-road car race through the Maasai Mara preserve and one of the highlights of the Kenyan sporting calendar. Since its inception 27 years previously, “Mama” Rose and her husband, Craig, have been fixtures at the event, volunteering their time to help make the charity event run smoothly. But this year is different as Craig’s health has deteriorated beyond his ability to participate, and both know that he’ll never attend another Rhino Charge. Rose has asked her young friend, Chloe Collins, whose husband, Dan, is away for work, to come in Craig’s stead. This year’s race is especially exciting for the friends in Nanyuki. Their neighbor, young Thabiti Onyango, has been asked to join the prestigious Bandit Bush Hogs team as their mechanic.

But strange things begin to happen around the Bandit Bush Hogs camp right away; things go missing, equipment is tampered with, any one of which could disqualify the team from competing. A rival team, the Rhino Force, is suspected of being behind the sabotage, but there is no real evidence to bring forward. The Bandit Bush Hogs can overcome all obstacles and start the race along with all the other participants. However, when negotiating a particularly dangerous slope, the winch strap they are using snaps, sending the car end over end, injuring their driver, an unpleasant young man named Mayur Chauhan, who is also the team manager’s eldest son. Miraculously, Mayur escapes with only scrapes, bruises, and a broken arm, who is also the team manager’s eldest son. Miraculously, Mayur escapes the crash with just cuts, bruises, and a broken arm, but the team is out of the race. With Thabiti in the hot seat, blamed for causing the accident through incompetence or negligence, Mama Rose gathers together her Nanyuki friends to find the real saboteurs and prove Thabiti’s innocence.

This series just keeps getting better and better. Building on relationships forged and plotlines begun in previous novels, opening Rhino Charge was like returning home to old friends. The author introduces new faces, but the recurring cast of characters’ continuing lives is the stable and very satisfying foundation on which this cozy mystery series sits. Besides the excitement of the mystery and the Rhino Charge event, there are many poignant moments, such as Craig not being able to accompany Rose to the Charge as they have for every previous race. The underlying awareness that there is not much time left for the couple is heart-rending.

Speaking of recurring characters, this particular novel brings Thabiti’s sister, Pearl, back into the limelight with her ongoing recovery from incidents in book 1. I loved that she is making a comeback to the storyline. Also, we get a more intimate look into Chloe’s life this time as she and Rose become more comfortable and known to each other. Another of my favorite recurring characters is Sam Mwamba. I appreciated that he and Rose shared a moment and a knowing look regarding the fact that murder seems to follow them around.

Kenya’s exotic and unusual setting remains fresh, interesting, and inviting. There is always so much to learn during the course of the mystery about the country, its people, and history. Rhino Charge features characters that have immigrated to Kenya from India joining a large population of others there that have retained their culture and Hindu faith. This entry was a true page-turner while relaxing and sipping on my own cup of Kericho Gold tea.

I recommend this book and the entire series to cozy mystery readers, particularly those who enjoy a more mature and human-nature-savvy sleuth like Mama Rose. The Kenyan setting may especially appeal to readers who liked The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.

Rhino Charge will be available February 5, 2021 for Amazon Kindle or epub readers at Rakuten Kobo.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author.

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Murder Off Broadway (A Pet Portraits Cozy Mystery, #12) by Sandi Scott

Murder Off Broadway is a lovely addition to the Kaye sisters’ story.

Sisters Georgie and Aleta Kaye are having a girls’ trip to the Big Apple. On their schedule are trips to all the best tourist attractions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art for Georgie, the artist, and plenty of stops for desserts to satisfy the ladies’ constant sweet tooth. But a special treat for the sisters is going to an off-Broadway play at the Heirloom Theatre, courtesy of director Brian Narkles, the cousin of one of Georgie’s clients back in Chicago.

Their trip to the Heirloom Theatre starts out fabulously; they are treated like celebrities with a pre-show reception of drinks and desserts with the cast members and a backstage tour with the director himself. But the evening ends abruptly when they discover the lead actress’s body with her throat slit. Georgie finds herself, once again, embroiled in a murder investigation. However, this time, instead of her ex-husband, Stan Toon, watching her back, Georgie teams up with one of New York’s finest, the handsome and interested, Detective Anthony Romeo.

This 12th foray into the Kaye sisters’ crime-solving is as delightful as the previous books. The change of scenery for the twins is fun, and the new love interest for Georgie fresh and exciting. As always, I love that these investigators, including Detective Romeo, though on the older side of mature, are still vital, active, and loving life.

I highly recommend this entire series to cozy mystery readers that enjoy a fast-paced, compact story and senior sleuths. Murder Off Broadway is a lovely addition to the Kaye sisters’ story.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author.

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Casket Cache (Spencer Funeral Home Niagara Cozy Mystery, #1) by Janice J. Richardson

When Jennifer Spencer’s beloved uncle, Bill, passes away, he bequeaths his funeral home business to her and her twin sister, Anne. Anne is a journalist, but Jennifer had taken after her uncle and earned her mortuary license and takes over the family business with Anne as a silent partner. The business is successful and steady, and soon after Jennifer takes over and moves into the apartment above, the funeral home is burglarized. When the police investigate, they find no one there, and nothing is missing. However, while the police are watching, Jennifer discovers a large amount of cash hidden in one of the caskets and suddenly finds herself under suspicion of some unknown criminal activity. While someone continues to get inside the funeral home, Jennifer juggles business and tries to discover where the money came from and who is breaking in to look for it.

Casket Cache is the first book in the Spencer Funeral Home Niagara Cozy Mystery series by Janice J. Richardson. Richardson, a veteran funeral director herself, gives us a fascinating look behind the scenes of the funeral industry as well as an engaging mystery to boot. I enjoyed the various characters, and Jennifer is especially personable and caring. In fact, the entire staff Jennifer inherits or recruits seem like very nice people, people you could really depend on during your time of need. The setting in the Niagara region of Canada is great, and I liked hearing about the area. With the undoubted opportunities for stories arising from the funeral business and the characters all beginning to settle in at Spencer’s, I look forward to many more books in the series.

I recommend CASKET CACHE to cozy mystery readers and readers that might like a peek inside the funeral business.

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Lost in Lavender (Bennett Sisters Mysteries, #13) by Lise McClendon

Elise, the youngest of the five Bennett sisters, has come to a crossroads in her life and books a 10-day farm stay in Provence to work, clear her mind, and develop a new plan. She hates being a lawyer, has quit her job at the law firm, broken up with her boyfriend, Scott, and once older sister, Merle, drops her off at the lavender farm, goes incommunicado with all her family and friends.

However, rather than finding a place to contemplate the future and regroup, she finds herself living and working with a group of students 20 or more years younger than herself and an unknown crisis simmering beneath the calm surface of life at the farm. With minimal French language skills at her disposal, she soon finds herself socially-isolated and feeling very much alone.

There are a couple of bright spots in the works, though. One other worker who appears to be about her age is an Englishman named Conor. Good looking and helpful, he is somewhat friendly and helps get a bat out of her room on her first night at the farm. He turns out to be related to the owners of the farm. Then, she encounters Ari, a local man that immediately shows his interest and admiration. But there seems to be some bad blood between Ari and Conor that causes Elise to be completely ostracized at the farm.

Deciding she’s had enough of the drama, Elise accepts Ari’s offer to spend the rest of her holiday at his home near Aix-en-Provence – no strings attached. In fact, there are so few strings attached that after getting settled in at his place and having dinner with each other the first night, Ari takes off telling Elise and his housekeeper that he’ll return soon. But days pass, and there is no further sign of the man until Conor shows up on the doorstep looking for Elise, and they discover his body in his car in the garage where he apparently has been the entire time.

Meanwhile, Merle Bennett, back home in Malcouziac in the Dordogne, is getting ready for company. Her niece, Willow, is expected soon, as is her son, Tristan: both on holiday before school starts up again in the states. She is also helping her boyfriend, Pascal, locate suitable living quarters near his new headquarters for the government’s wine fraud division in Bordeaux. She is thrilled when she comes across a nice townhouse in a lovely neighborhood that the elderly owner is willing to let at a price within their budget, and she and Pascal begin to settle in.

But when she returns to their home in Malcouziac to welcome Tristan and Willow, she is surprised to discover two additional guests: Elise’s ex-boyfriend, Scott, and his younger cousin, Teague. To add to the confusion, when Merle returns to the lavender farm on the appointed day to pick her sister up from her farm stay, Elise is nowhere to be found, and no one knows where she’s gone!

Lost in Lavender is the latest installment in the charming Bennett Sisters Mystery series by Lise McClendon. This story focuses on the youngest of the sisters and features the lovely countryside of Provence. However, with all the driving that Merle and Pascal do, readers get a glimpse of many other regions of France as well.

The story is a wonderful one of renewal and self-awareness as Elise struggles to break free of choices she made in the past and move on with a life she chooses for herself. And it is a struggle. There were a couple of times I wanted to shake her and tell her to snap out of it, shake out of her self-pity and let someone know where she was and how she was doing. Everyone but everyone was worried about the woman, and she knew it. However, she does finally come around and sets out on the road to love and a better future.

I recommend LOST IN LAVENDER to readers that have enjoyed this series in the past. However, it makes for an excellent standalone book for those that want a romance mystery/romance set in the lovely French countryside.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author.

Lise McClendon

is back! on Tour October 20-November 2 with Lost in Lavender      

Lost In Lavender

(mystery/women’s fiction) Release date: October 15, 2020 at Thalia Press 254 pages
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SYNOPSIS

Facing a crossroads– both career and personal– the youngest of the five Bennett Sisters, Elise, does what she does best: she runs away to think. This time she runs to a farm in Provence that produces heaven-scented lavender for oils. The area is famous for the beautiful purple flower, the symbol of this southern region of France. Her sisters are stumped. Elise never seemed like the farming type, or even gardening, for that matter. But she’s signed up for a farm stay vacation, an idea she got from an unlikely source, the trophy wife of one of her law partners. When she arrives, courtesy her older sister Merle who drives her to the Luberon from the Dordogne, she discovers she is the only guest at the picturesque family farm who is not a college student. The rest are all doing a French language exchange program and are 20 years younger than Elise, leaving her feeling like an outsider and wondering about her life choices. Not only is her judgment in men and careers awful, but she can’t even plan a decent vacation. Meanwhile in the Dordogne, Merle’s niece, Willow, arrives for some R&R before she starts law school. But she brings a few surprises with her, a boyfriend plus Elise’s fiancé. Or is it ex-fiancé? It will take several sisters– and of course Pascal– to unravel the facts as all descend on southern France for July in the heat and lavender. Suspense, romance, intrigue, and humor as the summer heats up for the Bennett Sisters again. Another delicious adventure in international travel and cozy mystery as the Bennett Sisters fight their way to truth, justice, and a perhaps a summer fling, deep in Provence. A summer fling in France never hurt anyone, now did it?
Works fine as a stand-alone

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lost in Lavender LiseMcClendon
Lise McClendon is the author of thirteen books in the Bennett Sisters mystery series including A Bolt from the Blue, Blame it on Paris, and DEAD FLAT. She wrote two mystery series, the Alix Thorssen and Dorie Lennox mysteries set in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and World War II-era Kansas City (The Bluejay Shaman; One O’clock Jump). She also writes stand-alones as Rory Tate, including PLAN X, a thriller featuring a Bozeman, Montana policewoman. She edited the 2020 anthology, STOP THE WORLD: Snapshots from the Pandemic, bringing together 40 writers around the globe to discuss their experiences and emotions during this year, plus poetry and short fiction. Her short story, Forked Tongue, was included in the Anthony Award-winning anthology, The Obama Inheritance. As Thalia Filbert she wrote with four other well-seasoned crime writers the darkly comic culinary thriller, Beat Slay Love: One Chef’s Hunger for Delicious Revenge. Lise has served Mystery Writers of America in the past as a national board member and Montana representative. She lives in wilds of Montana near Yellowstone National Park.
Visit her website
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***
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***

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Tusk Justice (Kenya Kanga Mystery, #2) by Victoria Tait

Mama Rose returns!

When “Mama Rose” Hardie is asked by the manager of the exclusive Mount Kenya Resort and Spa to look into the outbreak of small thefts that have recently plagued the hotel, she accepts the challenge. Her husband, Craig, is due to attend a conservation conference there the coming Friday, and her new assignment includes deluxe accommodations at the resort. The conference is a big deal for the resort; it is a pre-event to the inaugural Giant’s Club Summit the resort is hosting. Four heads of state, including President Kenyatta from Kenya, are expected to attend to discuss a pan-African response to the upsurge in elephant poaching and illegal ivory harvesting.

One of the rising stars on the conservation scene, and with a new book launching at the conference, is the managing director of the local Gaia Conservancy, Davina Dijan. As she begins her first talk at the conference, the wrong presentation is mistakenly projected onto the screens for the audience, and she goes ballistic even though she’s the one that made the error. The correct program is shown, and her talk goes well, but she continues to be difficult and obnoxious to everyone around her. After spilling a drink at dinner and complaining that she’s tired, her husband escorts her up to their suite to turn in for the night.

Hours later, as Rose and Craig settle into their own beds, the resort manager bangs on their door. Davina Dijan has been found dead, and he needs Mama Rose to come help. But Davina is most definitely deceased, and very apparently murdered. As Police Commissioner Akida is out of town at an important meeting, he sends his best and brightest, Constable Judy Wachira, to investigate. They ask Mama Rose to stick around to lend her able support.

Tusk Justice is another exciting, multilayered mystery in the Kenya Kanga Mystery series featuring 60-something “Mama Rose” Hardie. This new story is as much a mystery as an exploration of family relationships in flux. Rose’s husband, Craig, is suffering the devastating effects of his having contracted polio when younger. Rose is struggling to maintain, as much as possible, his quality of life, the dynamics of their lifelong relationship, and their life together, as he slowly, inexorably deteriorates before her very eyes. Craig, for his part, tries to hide his pain and his fear for what is going to happen to Rose after he finally succumbs to his condition. These are circumstances of which many readers of the same age as the characters can relate.

The author weaves in other deep concerns impacting the Kenyan setting, such as the plight of Africa’s elephants, the population of which has drastically diminished because of poaching and the illegal ivory trade and widespread poverty due to the loss of traditional livelihood and farming. Even Rose and Craig struggle to make ends meet, depending on what she brings in as a paraprofessional veterinarian. But all is not grim; remedies are depicted as on the rise with tourism thriving and new government initiatives to promote conservation efforts and the health and welfare of the people.

I recommend TUSK JUSTICE to cozy mystery readers, especially those that enjoyed the previous entries in the Kenya Kanga Mystery series and those that like a mystery set in a new, exotic, still rural setting.

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Penned In (Farm-to-Fork Mystery, #4.5) – Lynn Cahoon

A solid tie-in Farm-to-Fork Mystery novella with a spooky Halloween vibe!

For their quarterly out-of-the-office team-building meeting, Angie Turner, boyfriend Ian MacNeal, and the chefs and staff of The County Seat are participating in a special Halloween all-night lock-in at the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise. Now a museum and event center with tour guides dressed up as guards, the old building is known to house a ghost or two of former inmates. On this night, in particular, the spirit of Lyda Southard, a female inmate whose baby was taken from her at its birth never to be seen again, is rumored to appear.

The group gets the grand tour, but as they settle into their assigned cells for the night, one of the “guards” is found dead at the entrance to the prison library. With the master door key and the only cellphone in the place missing, no one can summon help. Although the doors will automatically unlock at 6 a.m., Angie, Ian, Dom, and the rest of The County Seat staff are locked in with a murderer.

PENNED IN is a short and fun Halloween-themed novella featuring the recurring characters from author Lynn Cahoon’s Farm-to-Fork Mystery series. With each glimpse, we learn a little bit more about these familiar faces away from their work setting. The action is quick, and the mystery begins almost immediately with plenty of suspects to consider.

I recommend this to readers familiar with the series, but those that want a taste of what The County Seat’s cooking will like what Penned In offers.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from NetGalley.

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Night of the Living Well-Read (Bookish Adventures in Witch-Lit, #4) by Rachael Stapleton

The witchy book club from Bohemian Lake is off again on its next Gas Lamp Literary Tour, and they find themselves ensconced in a castle in the mountains of Romania. The book they’re reading? Bram Stoker’s Dracula, of course! The remaining members of the book club are all back with Nelle Story leading the troop and Sera Popescu, her assistant, providing the on-the-ground support as usual. This trip, however, Sera is not wholly on her own. Her relationship with hunky ghost whisperer, Daemon Wraith, has progressed nicely since the trip to Europe, and he is along as back up.

The castle and its owner, Vladimir Elder, are all the group could ask for as far as atmosphere and hospitality. Nelle’s niece, Gabriela (Rhiannon’s sister), who lives on-site, has made arrangements with the resident Sanguinarine nest (a group of humans who crave and consume blood) for the group to observe one of their initiation ceremonies. But when someone tries to kill Vlad, the head of the nest, during the service, Sera begins her search for answers.

Sadly, Night of the Living Well-Read is the final book in the Bohemian Lake spin-off series, Bookish Adventures in Witch-Lit, but it proved to be an exciting and spectacular send-off! There have been so many secrets kept and uncovered during this entire storyline, but I believe author Rachael Stapleton has tied up all the loose ends in grand style. If you’ve enjoyed this spin-off series or the Bohemian Lake series in general. This is a MUST-READ for all the reveals!

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving a free copy.

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Better the Devil You Know (Avon Calling, #16) by Hayley Camille

With husband George only home for a short leave and his memories of the night in the basement of the orphanage slowly returning, Betty must decide whether or not to tell him the truth about herself and what really happened that night. But will the truth destroy her marriage? Then, she receives the word that The Tin Man, the shadowy figure behind The Boudoir Butcher, is looking for a new girl for his next assassination. She and her old friend, NYPD Sergeant Jacob Lawrence, head out to finally meet this deadly killer and take him down.

Everyone’s favorite Avon Lady, Mrs. Betty Jones, is back, and this episode draws together a couple of plots from the previous stories. Betty is caught between a rock and a hard place on several fronts, and this story is particularly gripping because of the various moral dilemmas coming to a head: what to tell George, what to do about daughter Nancy and her growing rebelliousness and desire to expand her burgeoning skills, and whether or not to play ball with Donald Pinzolo. The author maintains a firm grip on the continuity of this long-running series, and the sights and sounds of WWII New York still come on strong. Peppered throughout, as in previous episodes, are little tidbits of the culture and cant of the time that makes this series so vivid and unique.

I highly recommend this latest installment in the Avon Calling! series to those keeping pace with the story. To readers not familiar with the series, I recommend it in its entirety starting at the beginning. You won’t be sorry.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving a free copy.

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From Beer to Eternity (Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mystery, #1) by Sherry Harris

A smart children’s librarian solves this cozy mystery set in paradise!

Before Chloe Jackson’s best friend, Boone, deployed to Afghanistan, he had her promise him that should anything happen to him; she would take care of his grandmother, Vivi. He added the stipulation that she couldn’t tell his grandmother that this was his final wish. So when a sniper’s bullet took his life, Chloe took a leave of absence from her job as a children’s librarian in Chicago, loaded up a few things in her hand-me-down VW beetle, and headed to Emerald Cove, Florida, to keep her promise.

Chloe’s expectation of caring for a sweet, little, gray-haired lady quickly evaporated when she met the actual Vivi who turned out to be the vibrant, independent, feisty, 70-something-year-old, hell-on-heels owner of the Sea Glass Saloon right there on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico. Grandma Vivi certainly didn’t seem to need, and definitely didn’t want any help from Chloe, and in fact, appeared to dislike her on sight! But Chloe persevered and starts waitressing at the bar to help Vivi and her one employee, Joaquin, out, all the while sleeping in her car or aboard Boone’s tiny boat moored at the nearby marina and hunting for a needle in a haystack: an affordable rental at the height of tourist season.

Just as Chloe is getting this waitressing thing down, she discovers the body of one of their regular patrons out back by the dumpster with one of the bar knives stuck in his throat. And when suspicion falls immediately on Vivi and, seemingly, no one else, Chloe begins to question all the suspects that the police are overlooking. She knows she’s on to something when she’s almost run off a bridge one night, and then someone tries to set fire to Boone’s cottage where she ends up staying. But, even though she wants to pack up and return to Chicago, she believes a promise is a promise and becomes more determined than ever to clear Vivi’s name and find the real killer

From Beer to Eternity is the first book in the new series, Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon, by author Sherry Harris. While dealing with issues of grief and loss, it is still a fun and exciting start to the series. Chloe is so likable! She’s smart and kind and is quite a sympathetic character as she goes through quite a lot making good on her promise to her best friend (and that’s before she finds the dead body!) I enjoyed the ways she used her skills as a children’s librarian to gain her footing in the unfamiliar bar setting and her comparison of toddlers at the library and the bar patrons. I was ready to sign up for either a course in library science or bartending!

Because she was a total stranger to the community (like a reader is), her investigations really begin at ground zero, and I liked that. We were both discovering clues at the same pace. She had to ferret out all the hidden history in Emerald Cove herself. And speaking of Emerald Cove, I wanted to make a reservation for a vacation there; it sounds ideal.

All in all, the mystery was logical and plausible with bad guys we immediately knew were up to no good and secret villain lurking behind the scenes and a façade of gracious kindness and a smile for Chloe to uncover in the nick of time. I highly recommend this book to cozy mystery readers and those that like the beachy-bar setting in a paradise of a vacation spot, and those that enjoy a smart librarian as the protagonist.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving a free copy. #FromBeertoEternity #NetGalley

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