Mystery Reviews

Crowned and MolderingSome Cozies for spring reading: Kate Carlisle takes us to small-town California in her latest Fixer-up Mystery, CROWNED AND MOLDERING (Obsidian, 2015, $7.99). Shannon Hammer, the construction expert of Lighthouse Cove, is ready to tackle best-selling author Mac Sullivan’s project, restoing the old lighthouse that gives the town its name. After all the hassles with the local historian, both Shannon and Mac are more than eager to gut the place. But everything comes to a halt when the body of a young woman is found jammed into the dumb-waiter, and it looks like a town mystery is about to be solved. The body is identified as an old friend of Shannon’s who disappeared fifteen years before. Suspect in her murder include many of Shannon’s high school classmates, a charismatic teacher, and a school counselor whose position owes more to politics than to competency. Then there’s another murder, and Shannon knows she has to act quickly to prevent a terrible miscarriage of justice. Bits of construction lore are sandwiched between clues in this look at the nastier side of small-town life.

A Turn for the BadA small village in Ireland is the scene of A TURN FOR THE BAD, by Sheila Connolly (Berkley, 2016, $7.99). Maura Donovan is still finding her feet as the proprietor Sullivan’s Pub in Leap when a farmer announces that one of their own has gone missing. John Tully was a dairy farmer, not a fisherman, so why was he taken off the beach, leaving his young son alone? What has this to do with the body of an unknown man that washes up soon after? And who owns the grand boat that’s been lurking in the bay?

Smuggling has been a part of Irish life for centuries, but Tully had no connection with it… or so his brother says. Maura concocts a Plan that involves almost everyone in the village, from a pair of fishermen-turned-distillers to the local lord, and finds that the hardest part of being a pub-owner is waiting for other people to do things! Another Irish jaunt, with more to come.

Foreign EclairsMore foreign affairs back in the USA, in Julie Hyzy’s latest White House Chef mystery, FOREIGN ECLAIRS (Berkley, 2016,$7.99. White House chef Ollie Paras has had her share of adventures, but she doesn’t realize how serious her danger is until her purse is stolen on her way back home from work. Her new husband, Gav, knows more than she does about who is behind the mugging, but things get serious when an explosive device is found in a National Forest. Ollie is the target of a dangerous madman, one who will stop at nothing, including the assassination of the President of the United States, to complete his self-appointed revenge. There’s a shocker of an ending, and a possible new career for Ollie, in this nail-biter that includes many recipes fit for a king… or a president.

Designated DaughtersMargaret Maron reveals more of Judge Deborah Knott’s complicated family history in DESIGNATED DAUGHTERS (Grand Central,2015, $8.00). One of the matriarchs, Aunt Rachel, is dying, and Deborah is summoned to her bedside, to give comfort to the woman who holds the family’s secrets. Now that she is dying, Aunt Rachel is rambling, revealing far more than anyone wants to hear, especially the one who hastened the old woman’s death with a pillow over her face. A long-lost treasure trove, a long-ago affair, babies born too soon or too late, all have a part in the unraveling of this tangles tale of love and murder. In the end, a most unlikely killer with an even less likely motive is revealed, and Justice is properly served. Maron at her best.

 

Threads of EvidenceFrom Appalachia we go to Maine, in THREADS OF EVIDENCE, by Lea Wait (Kensington, 2015, $7.99). Harbor Haven is the home of Angie Curis and her group of needlepointers, all of whom are agog with the news that the old mansion, Auroroa, has been bought by a real-life movie star, Skye West. Angie is asked to appraise the old furniture in the house for possible renovation, and is especially intrigued by a set of needlepoint tapestries that may hold a clue to the murder of a young girl some forty-five years before. Then someone tries to poison Skye, and Angie finds herself tracking two murderers… one in the past, and one in the present. Recipes for Maine treats are included.

 

Reviews provided by Roberta Rogow for her column Roberta’s Ramblings in the April 2016 edition of The Book Breeze.

Mystery Reviews

Keeper of the CastleGhosts, literal and figurative, haunt the books I’ve been reading of late. KEEPER OF THE CASTLE, by Juliet Blackwell (Obsidian, 2014,$7.99) finds construction contractor and part-time ghostbuster Mel Turner working on the reconstruction of a Scottish castle in San Francisco. Problems arise when not one, but two ghostly manifestation send the workers scurrying. Then the body of a nosy city official turns up, and Mel’s construction crew comes under suspicion. Mixed stones from two different sites, a fierce Scottish nationalist, and an archeological expert with his own agenda, all play a part in this solid entry in the Haunted House Renovation Mysteries.

This old HomicideAnother construction site in California is the scene for THIS OLD HOMICIDE, by Kate Carlisle (Obsidian, 2015, $7.99). Shannon Hammer loves her small town, Lighthouse Cove, and its quirky inhabitants. The quirkiest is Jesse Hennessey, one of Shannon’s father’s old war buddies, whose tall tales of sunken treasure, have always been taken with several shakers of salt. Then Shannon finds Jesse dead, apparently of natural causes, but strange things are happening in the house next door.. Mysterious midnight visitors tear the place apart, looking for buried treasure. A woman turns up, claiming to be Jesse’s fiance. Is the story Jesse told about finding an old Spanish wreck true? And why is Shannon’s nemesis, Whitney, trying to take over the management of the annual Valentine’s Day festivities? It all comes together in a cosmic, comic confrontation, and Shannon solves not one, but two mysteries. A fun read.

Snow White Red-HandedMaia Chance’s SNOW WHITE RED-HANDED (Berkley, 2014, $7.99) shifts to Germany in 1867. Ophelia Flax is an actress out of work, who finagles herself into a job as  lady’s maid to  the wife of an American millionaire who has just taken over a German castle with a connection to a fairy-tale past. Was Snow White an actual princess? Someone seems to think so; there are tales of buried treasure, and a possible gold mine worked by very short people. Then her boss is found dead, poisoned by an apple! Ophelia must deal with German police, student secret societies, and faded aristocrats before she can uncover the secret of Snow White’s tomb  and face down a fiendish killer. There’s more to come in this series that crosses Historical with Occult mysteries.

Pagan SpringThe past is very much part of the present in G.M. Malliet’s PAGAN SPRING (Minotaur, 2014, $15.99), when Max Tudor, ex-MI5 and now Anglican priest in Nether Monkslip, finds himself in the middle of yet another murder. A newcomer to the village, actor Thaddeus Bottle, dies after attending a dinner party, where Max is one of the guests, and Max suspects poison of a particularly rare kind. There are plenty of suspects, starting with Mrs. Bottle, who has been the target of Thaddeus’s bile for years. But what does a pair of elaborate earrings have to do with the case? And why does the charming French hairdresser blanch at the sight of striped wallpaper? The truth is stranger than anything Max has known during his career as secret agent, and once again, old sins cast long shadows. The War is never over for some people, and the solution to the mystery is locked in emails sent to someone who can never read them. A jaunt into the English countryside, with dark overtones.

These reviews were provided by Roberta Rogow for her column Roberta’s Ramblings in the June 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

Mystery Reviews

A HIgh-End FinishA 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 All the President's Menuswrestles 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 Inspector Specterformer 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 The Questions of the mIssing Heada 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 BowTHE 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.