Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sweet Revenge, by Diane Mott Davidson

Goldy Bear Schulz is up to her ears in catering jobs before Christmas--that's the good news.  The bad news is that she, once again, stumbles on a body while she is setting up for a holiday breakfast for the staff of the library.   The deceased is a map collector and Goldy, er, I mean the Furman County Sheriff's Department--specifically, Goldy's husband--are not short of suspects.  An ex-wife, a fiancee, rival map collectors, parents of a couple teenage girls....well, it all adds to the holiday chaos.  If that wasn't enough, Goldy has seen a ghost from her past--or has she?

The latest in the Goldy series delivers a good cozy mystery once again, complete with catering crises, dozens of clues, red herrings, and a cast of characters that continues to raise readers' eyebrows or warm their hearts.    Libraries and librarians figure into the mix/mess and that's fun for librarians.  (I especially like Goldy's statement that she has learned not to argue with librarians, you just won't win. I think that's a compliment....)

If you like mysteries on the cozy side, but not silly, give this series a try.  They're intelligent without being overly complex, and the characters and relationships add warmth to the story of the puzzle and solution.  They have heart.  (And some good recipes!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bones to Ashes, by Kathy Reichs

Cold cases, current cases, forensics and anthropology, history, characters...this one has it all. Temperance Brennan is a forensic pathologist in Quebec and, called on to solve the really tough cases. In Bones and Ashes, the latest of the series, though, a current case connects with a cold case that connects with Tempe's past. The discovery of a young girl's skeleton in Acadia leads her to shocking truths, and drives an obsessive need to solve they mystery of her childhood best friend's disappearance more than 30 years ago. Through the twists and turns that Tempe and her colleagues take as they piece the clues and ties together, author Reichs keeps you turning pages--reading just one more, no, have to read one more.... If you enjoy Patricia Cornwell you'll like this series. And fans of the TV series 'Bones' take note! The series is based on the Temperance Brennan mysteries by Kathy Reichs; Bones to Ashes is the most recent addition to the series.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Decaffeinated Corpse, by Cleo Coyle

Trouble is brewing again for coffeehouse owner Clare Cosi. An old friend of Clare and her ex-husband (who is co-owner of the Village Blend) has developed a botanically decaffeinated strain of coffee. And the Village Blend has an exclusive on the introduction of the beans and coffee, a real coup. But the friend is mugged behind the coffeehouse and though they try to pass it off as nothing, Clare knows better. And when a body turns up, she's off and running again. With an ex-husband, a detective (and wannabe boyfriend), mother-in-law, old friends, and assorted barristas thrown into the brew, Clare has her hands full.

The Coffeehouse Mysteries always conain coffee lore and recipes, so if you're a coffee lover these are definitely the mysteries for you! Even if you're not (alas, I gave up coffee ten years ago) they're still fun, with engaging characters.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Death on the Lizard, by Robin Paige

The newest (and last) addition to the Victorian Mysteries by Robin Paige (husband and wife team of Susan Witting Albert and Bill Albert) find our heroine Kate and her husband involved with the politics and competition in the new world of wireless communication, particularly with Marconi and his wireless company's competitors. Accidental deaths among wireless operators and maintenance men turn out to not be accidental, after all.

I found this an interesting and entertaining glimpse into the competitive world of early telegraphy. In fact, one of the reasons I have enjoyed the 12 books in this series is their look at historical events and people. Though fiction, they do portray the times (and the tenor of the times) in an informative but entertaining way. Kate and her husband are likeable characters, and their "brushes" with historical figures, such as the Prince of Wales, Marconi and other people famous in Victorican times, lend an air of authenticity to the tales. (The authors do seem to do their research on the times and personalities.)

This is the last book in the series--or, as Susan Wittig Albert phrases it in her blog post about it, the series is being discontinued. However, if you like this series you can also read her series with Beatrix Potter as the sleuth (ss charming as you might think a Beatrix Potter mystery should be!) and her mystery series featuring China Bayles, a current-day Texas herb shop owner (and former criminal attorney). I'm sorry to see this series discontinued, but happy that I'll be able to continue reading the authors' other series.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

How to Murder a Millionaire, by Nancy Martin

Nora Blackbird and her two sisters have tumbled down the social ladder a rung or two--their parents, heavily in debt, have retreated to a tropical isle, leaving their three sisters with assets that aren't, well, without encumbrances. Nora, who has the house with a 2 million dollar tax bill, is forced to take a job, writing a society column for a Philadelphia newspaper. Her socialite upbringing puts her in perfect position to move around the social scene, among old friends and acquaintances--even if she does have to wear gowns that were fashionable quite some time ago. When an old friend who owned the paper is murdered during a party she is covering Nora is thrown into the fray, trying to ferret out the murderer, and uncovering secrets about her friends and family in the process. Oh, and did I mention the mob-connected boyfriend? (Who is quite charming, actually)

Nora is a sympathetic heroine--gutsy, but with some vulnerabilities, a woman thrown into a maelstrom and making the best of it. Her sisters are quirky, at best, and their escapades make for an enjoyable foray into the socialite world.

Deadly Appraisal, by Jane K. Cleland

Josie Prescott moved to New Hampshire, escaping a price-fixing scandal at the auction house where she worked in New York, and set up her own antiques appraisal business. She hasn't quite settled in but is building her business and putting down roots. Her business is a sponsor for the Portsmouth Women's Guild fundraiser, an antiques auction. Maisy, a guild member, winds up dead and police Detective Rowcliff isn't so sure that Maisy that was the intended victim. The poison might have been meant for Josie. Who would want Maisy dead? But then, who would want Josie dead?

Josie is a likeable character, multi-dimensional and interesting. Relationships with the other characters are an important part of the story--her working relationship with her employees, the professional--but trusted--relationship with her attorney, and her newly found friendship with her neighbor are woven into the mystery, along with details about antiques and the appraisal business. A good read.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dead Days of Summer, by Carolyn G. Hart

It doesn't look good for Max Darling. In this latest in the "Death on Demand" series, mystery bookstore owner Annies Laurence Darling's husband is the prime--only, really--suspect in the murder of a woman with whom it seems he must have been involved. But Max doesn't remember anything: not leaving the seedy bar with her, not getting blood all over his clothing, not abandoning his car. Annie and her friends, fierecely defending his innocence even as evidence against him mounts, set out to prove his innocence by finding the real killer. Was it the husband of the woman's employer? Or the fiance of her employer's daughter? Or the employer's neighbor? The brutality of the murder with a tire iron surely points to a man. Hart does a fine job of illustrating the loyalty of this tightly-bonded group of friends. The mood is a little more desperate than some of the series but still full of Hart.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Laced, by Carol HIggins Clark

Jack and Regan Reilly's jobs as NY policeman and PI won't leave them alone, even on their honeymoon in Ireland. John and Jane Doe have followed them, clearly to taunt them because this time they haven't stolen jewels at a charity event, but an antique lace tablecloth --from the very castle at which the Reillys thought they would be spending days of ease in wedded bliss. The usual roundup of madcap characters and unlikely events, combined with a ghost, a painting treasure hunt, original Claddagh rings, temporary tooth caps (with red smiley faces in them, no less!)....well, you get the idea. It all makes for great fun and an easy read--perfect for a rainy summer's day, or a sunny day on the beach, at the lake, or on the deck at home.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Witch Way to Murder by Shirley Damsgaard

Looking for an unusual, well-written mystery set in Iowa? Look no further than Witch Way to Murder by Iowa author, Shirley Damsgaard. Ophelia Jensen is a small town librarian with some special talents, and I don’t mean finding odd facts on the Internet. Ophelia has psychic abilities she wishes she didn’t have.

Ophelia’s Grandmother, Abby, encourages her stubborn granddaughter to face her past and reach out to people and her own talents, but this is tough for a woman who’s best friend was murdered four years ago. It doesn’t get any easier when a handsome stranger comes to town filled with questions, and the two of them trip over a dead body. That’s one too many for Ophelia, and she’s determined to figure out what’s going on.

This is a fast paced read with an engaging heroine who grabs you from page one. I enjoyed the humorous elements in the story and loved the way all the characters, even the secondary ones, were fully developed. I suspected who the villain was part way through the book, but the author kept me in suspense about whether I was right.

It was a fun read, and I tore through Damsgaard’s second Ophelia and Abby mystery titled Charmed to Death in one sitting. Her third book in the series, The Trouble with Witches was released on August 29, 2006 and the fourth book in the series, Witch Hunt will be released on May 29, 2007.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Calamity Jayne by Kathleen Bacus

If you were hunting for a spare tire in your car trunk but discovered the dead body of a prominent local attorney instead, you’d run away screaming. Tressa Jayne Turner, known to family and friends as Calamity Jayne, has done just that, leaving behind an envelope full of cash. She reports the crime, but the only problem is that no one believes her story: not the police, not her family, and not her childhood nemesis “Ranger” Rick Townsend. Disaster has always followed Tressa Jayne the way cats follow catnip, so this seems like yet one more blonde moment in a life full of blonde jokes. The trouble is, she’s telling the truth. The murderer thinks she stole his money, and he demands she return it. Since the police won’t investigate the murder, Tressa Jayne does. In Calamity Jayne, Knoxville, Iowa resident, Kathleen Bacus delivers a hilarious mystery tale which is light, yet suspenseful. Readers will root for funny, sweet Tressa Jayne, hoping someone will finally take her seriously before it’s too late.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

My best friend told me that I had to read The Beekeeper's Apprentice. No, really, I had to read it. My future happiness depended upon it! Well, okay. I always trust her judgement, especially on mysteries, so I picked it up. And couldn't put it down. A caveat: the premise could strike you as a bit hokey--14 year old Mary Russell encounters 50-something, now retired Sherlock Holmes on the downs of Sussex and begins a lifelong detecting partnership--until you see how Ms. King's expert handling has created a premiere 'literary mystery' series.

Imagine Dorothy L. Sayers meets Conan Doyle. King's obvious love for Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey novels, as well as the mythical Holmes figure, is evident, but it doesn't keep her from writing an extraordinary, compelling, amusing and smart mystery all her own. Mary Russell's 'voice' is unique, strong, complex and amusing. Like Sayers' Harriet Vane, Russell is a whole person in her own right, matched with an equally complex and fascinating detecting partner, but King gives Russell more breadth and depth than Sayers ever gave Harriet.

The series is now at eight (8) novels, and it's worth reading them in order, as the relationship of the main characters grows and evolves. The actual mysteries are quite good, though some are better than others, but every story is literate, witty, and evocative of the early 20th-century world. They encounter famous and literary characters, but not in a contrived fashion, and familiar Holmes' characters--Mrs. Hudson, Dr. Watson and Mycroft Holmes in particular--are fleshed out and given new, three-dimensional life.

If you like your mysteries very smart, well-written, amusing and thought-provoking, you can't go wrong with Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Key Lime Pie Murder, by Joanne Fluke

It's happening again in Eden Lake, Minnesota, home of Hannah Swensen's "Cookie Jar" cookie and coffee shop. This time Hannah is a judge at the Tri-County Fair, and when one of her fellow judges, the local home economics teacher, is murdered, Hannah is--as usual--on the case! The eighth in this easy-going, easy-reading series is cozy fun as the reader follows Hannah and her two boyfriends, her business partner, and her family.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy

There are currently 4 books in this series, Monkeewrench, Live Bait, Dead Run, and Snow Blind. They are mostly set in Minneapolis, alternating somewhat between the Monkeewrench crew, who are incredibly talented computer geeks who have their own software company, and Detectives Rolseth and Magozzi of the Minneapolis Police Department. In all the books, particularly the first one, it takes a little while to get everything set up, so the reader is jumping back and forth. Don't get confused and hang in there, because they are great! For example, the first book begins at a church in Wisconsin. I kept turning to the jacket cover and thinking, hm...I thought this series was in Minneapolis! Once we meet a character, like in real life, they may turn up again. Dead Run, the third book, also uses this Wisconsin sheriff's department quite a lot.

One unique thing about this series to me, is that the books are all so different. Monkeewrench is about equally divided between the Monkeewrench crew, who have developed a game about catching a serial killer and have put the prototype on the Internet, Detectives Magozzi and Rolseth, who investigate when the first couple of murders are duplicated exactly, and the before-mentioned sheriff's department in Wisconsin. Live Bait is primarily set in the MPD, where the reader gets to be part of an investigation not only with Magozzi and Rolseth, but also other members of the department. Although, the Monkeewrench crew has developed some really cool new software to help in the police work! This software puts them on the road in Dead Run, when the female members of Monkeewrench, Grace and Annie are headed to Green Bay with Wisconsin deputy Sharon, and get lost, finding a deserted town where all is definitely not right, inspiring collaboration between the Minnesota and Wisconsin county sheriffs and the FBI, as well as Magozzi and Rolseth and the rest of Monkeewrench. Snow Blind begins with a snowman building contest, sponsored as a charity event by the MPD, which takes a sinister turn when the dead bodies of Minneapolis policemen turn up in a couple of snowmen.

I guess I would characterize this series as primarily a police procedural, although the personal lives of some of the characters are pretty fully developed. The characters are great and grow with each book, and the plots are unique and unpredictable. This series is written by a mother and daughter team, and I hope they keep writing for a long time!