A HIGH-END FINISH, by Kate Carlisle (Obsidian, 2014, $7.99) takes us to a small town in northern California, where Shannon Hammer is restoring one of the town’s many Victorian houses. A panic call lead to the discovery of a fresh corpse in her construction site. Worse yet, it’s the man whose aggressive moves she had to stop with a decisive kick to the shins the night before. Shannon’s tools keep popping up as the list of victims gets longer. It’s up the Shannon and her friends to uncover the small-town secrets and pin down a devious killer. Plenty of re-construction tips salted into this light-hearted look at the California life-style.
On the other side of the country, White House chef Olivia “Ollie” Paras is up to her toque in trouble. ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MENUS (Berkley, 2015, $7.99) has her dealing with a delegation of foreign chefs while the government wrestles with a general sequester. The president is playing host to a major dignitary from an ally with a repressive regime, even though the White House has a skeleton staff and almost all other entertaining has been curtailed until the budgetary difficulties are reconciled. Accidents may happen, and it’s possible that the pastry chef Marcel made a mistake in his medication, but when one of the visiting chefs is poisoned, Ollie knows it’s time to take action herself. It takes some help from a skittish translator and co-operation from the FBI agent assigned to the White House security, but once again, Ollie Paras comes through, foiling a nasty plot involving the president, the visitors, and a small dog. Recipes are included, for those who want to bring a touch of the White House to their own tables.
Farther up the East coast, in Harbor Haven, New Jersey, Alison Kerby runs a haunted Bed-and-breakfast. And take occasional clients as a licensed private detective. In INSPECTOR SPECTER, by E. J, Copperman (Berkley, 2014, $7.99), she’s hired by her chief nemesis, Detective Lieutenant Anita McElone, to find out why a revered mentor was killed. McElone is convinced that her former partner never committed suicide, but she’s been blocked from investigating the case, and thinks that Alison’s “special agents”, i.e., ghosts, can help by contacting the departed. Then McElone disappears, and Alison is on her own, more or less, with the help of both living and deceased assistants. Was the spectral inspector on the take, as a mob witness suggests? Or are there wheels within wheels in the Jersey underworld? When another ghost surfaces, things get really sticky! It’s a race to the finish, as Alison deals with not one, but two murders, and McElone is finally convinced that ghosts do exist on the Jersey shore. A fun read, for a cold night.
Still in New Jersey, E.J. Copperman gets some help from his Alter Ego, Jeff Cohen, In THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD (Midnight Ink, 2014, $14.99). Samuel Hoenig has set up a business unique to his talents and limitations as a man with Asperger’s Syndrome. He answers questions, based in an ex-pizza parlor in New Brunswick NJ. His latest question send him and his newly-hired assistant on a wild chase to find out who stole a preserved head from a facility that is supposed to preserve remains until science finds a way to bring them back to life. A murder on the scene of the Garden State Cryonics Institute leads to a night of wild action, kidnap threats, an other murder attempt, and a ransom demand. Money and passion are something that Samuel doesn’t quite understand, but he can deduce from facts, and he nails the killer. E.J. Copperman provides the humor, Jeff Cohen is the expert on Asperger’s, and together they forge a compelling tale of greed and its consequences. We may hear more from Samuel and Ms. Washburn, as they answer questions in the Garden State.
A small college town should be far from the mayhem of the major urban areas, but Leigh Perry’s adjunct college instructor and reluctant sleuth Georgia Thackeray manages to find plenty of action, with the help of her unusual assistant, Sid the Skeleton. In THE SKELETON TAKES A BOW (Berkley, 2014, $7.99), Sid insists he’s witnessed a murder, after he’s been left in a high school locker overnight by mistake. However, there’s no body, and no one seems to be missing. Of course, there was woman found dead of an accidental drug overdose, but that wasn’t at the high school, and had nothing to do with what Sid overheard… or did it? Georgia has enough on her plate, taking on SAT tutoring for the high school as well as her college classes, but she’s drawn into the mystery when the marks on the papers don’t seem to match the abilities of her students. Is there some kind of scam going on in this town? Or is this just the tip of a much bigger, nastier, and more profitable iceberg? Sid’s unique abilities help uncover the scandal and nail a murderer, in this supernatural cozy.
Reviews provided by Roberta Rogow for her column Roberta’s Ramblings in the May 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.