by Sandra Murphy
If you’re looking for something fun to do indoors while you avoid the summer heat–check out these four mystery book reviews & then enter to make them yours–details at the end of this post. We have All Sales Final by Laura Disilverio, Brownies and Broomsticks by Bailey Cates, Copycat Killing by Sofie Kelly, and Mrs. Jeffries Defends Her Own by Emily Brightwell–all published by Penguin.
All Sales Final by Laura Disilverio
EJ Ferris is a mall cop. Forget the movie; this is serious business. From customers who “borrow” little red wagons to tote out their purchases, to suspicious characters (oops, that’s EJ’s grandpa, a former spook aka retired CIA spy), to the dead body by the entry way, EJ is on her toes and her Segway, rolling to keep the peace.
The teenage boy, shot once, just had to be outside the arm of the mall where the security cameras quit working days ago. And what’s up with the security company—they don’t have a record of a call for repair?
Fernglen Galleria is host to a number of secrets. One is how EJ’s boss keeps his job. Woskowicz “wears a khaki-colored uniform decked with enough medals and insignia to make Noriega look under-accessorized.” When he doesn’t show up for work, isn’t at his house, and the gun that shot the teenager is found in his filing cabinet, his future looks dim. After all, he’s got enough enemies to fill the mall parking lot. Woskowicz’s women are looking for him too—for booty calls, alimony and in some cases, a hope they can get back together—that’s two ex-wives, one almost-ex, the anchorwoman he’s dating and the owner of one of the mall stores who claims they were engaged. How can such a repulsive man attract so many women?
EJ fills in as acting head of security and it might not be a bad substitute for real police work. That dream ended with the explosion of an IED in Afghanistan that wrecked both her knee and her dreams.
There are rumors of illegal gun sales in the mall and the teen did have a weapons supplier tattoo on his hand, but who’s selling and where? What’s up with the good looking cookie guy? He shows up in the middle of the night, just when he’s needed, and with the lamest excuses.
Fernglen isn’t without its humorous episodes too—and they don’t all involve EJ’s grandpa. The Easter Bunny shows up drunk for work, strips to his skivvies while still wearing the bunny head—but Grandpa fills in. Come to think of it, most of the humorous episodes do involve him!
EJ’s parents are another cause for disruption at the mall. All they have to do is show up. Her dad is famous in Hollywood circles. He’s decided the mall is too dangerous and that EJ will never get hired as a police officer again due to her injuries. He offers to set her up in her own detective agency. It’s a tempting offer after everything that’s been going on.
Good read, great side characters, and a nice setting in the mall—this is a book to enjoy during the hot summer months—maybe at the mall food court? Be sure to read the first in the series, Die Buying too.
Brownies and Broomsticks by Bailey Cates
After pastry school in Cincinnati, Katie Lightfoot’s bakery job as assistant manager seems to be long hours, no creativity, and low pay. And then there was Andrew. He’d proposed but a month before the wedding, called the whole thing off. Katie needed to change her life and her luck.
In Savannah, Aunt Lucy and Uncle Ben have decided to open a bakery as their retirement career. It’s a great opportunity for Katie—to bake, create recipes, be with family and most of all, be far away from Andrew.
Before the bakery is even open, they have their first catering job—catering hadn’t been in the plan but the Downtown Business Association needs a place for a lunch meeting. Mavis Templeton bulldozes past any objections and the meeting is on. Unfortunately, after the meeting, Mavis’ check doesn’t begin to cover the cost of the food, much less the amount agreed upon. Ben insists on full payment and threatens to go to the DBA president for the money.
Within minutes of stalking out of the store, Mavis is found dead in her car. Ben is the most likely suspect. Katie and Lucy, along with Lucy’s book club friends, set out to solve the murder and clear Ben’s name.
To investigate the murder, Lucy first has to break the news to Katie that she and her friends in the book club are really witches. Before Katie can absorb that news, the bombshell drops—Katie is also a witch! It’s a hard news to come to terms with at age twenty-eight but thinking back over her life, Katie can see it’s possible.
Katie has moments of doubt about her witchiness but is more accepting of it than most people would be. It’s a case of jumping in the deep end—Ben seems to be not just the best murder suspect, but the only one, in spite of the fact that Mavis was universally disliked and treated everyone she met badly.
Katie’s concoctions for the bakery will have a reader drooling on the pages. Luckily, there are recipes included: Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies and Cheddar-Sage Scones, two of the most popular items in the bakery.
This is the first in a new series and bodes well for more books to come. Katie, Lucy, Ben, Mungo the Magnificent (Katie’s foundling dog), the book club and even Savannah itself, are all characters to care and be curious about. While witchcraft plays a large role, it’s not overwhelming or intrusive to the storyline.
Read this while sipping iced coffee in your favorite shop—just be prepared to make a trip or two to the bakery section while you’re there!
Copycat Killing by Sofie Kelly
Anyone who’s lived with a cat will tell you they can make themselves invisible, anytime, anywhere. You can look and look and suddenly discover the cat sitting next to your feet. They can also end up in closets you don’t remember opening, on the wrong side of the bathroom or bedroom door and in general, just beam themselves to wherever they want to be.
So, it’s not really a woo-woo story when librarian Kathleen Paulson’s cats Owen and Hercules manage those tricks—and help find a clue or two during the course of murder and intrigue.
The town is in danger of flooding—the artist’s coop building especially. The water is already halfway up the steps. Things get worse when the body of one of the artists is found floating. Is he the victim of a fall or a push?
Kathleen’s best friend, Maggie, is one of the suspects since she’s the last to have seen Jaeger and it’s well known that she didn’t like him. Who did? Hunky Detective Marcus Gordon is on the case, when he’s not helping Kathleen feed the local feral cat colony. During an early morning visit to the ferals, the excess rain has weakened the soil and Kathleen takes a tumble as the hillside comes down—and reveals a skeleton with a connection to another friend, Roma. She thought her Dad left town and family when she was a child but the skeleton is wearing his class ring.
This is the third book in this series (Curiosity Thrilled the Cat, Slight of Paw). The antics of the two cats aren’t over the top, the characters are likable, and the setting a place you’d like to visit. Maybe just not during rainy season. Humor is apparent even in the midst of murders—the opening scene is a favorite with Owen laughing at Hercules who is paralyzed by the black and white boots Maggie got him to protect his feet from wet grass and bad weather.
An all-around enjoyable read for cat lovers and mystery fans alike. The storylines of an old murder and a current death will hold your interest and leave you wanting more.
Mrs. Jeffries Defends Her Own by Emily Brightwell
Set in England in the 1920s, this period mystery brings to mind a different sort of story. No cell phones, no CSI, no fingerprint evidence, just questions, answers and alibis.
Inspector Gerald Witherspoon is Scotland Yard’s most successful closer but he’s not assigned to the murder of Ronald Dearman in his office at Sutcliffe Manufacturing. The publicity seeking Inspector Nigel Nivens is on the case, bumbling and compromising the crime scene. Luckily for Inspector Witherspoon and the victim’s family if not Inspector Nivens and the murderer, Nivens falls down the stairs at police headquarters, breaks a leg and sprains a wrist. Witherspoon must now solve a murder that only had a fifteen minute window of opportunity, as well as overcome Niven’s mistakes.
What Witherspoon and his superiors don’t realize is that Witherspoon’s household help, under the guidance of Mrs. Jefferies, housekeeper, are on the job too. Who better to know what happens in a home than the servants? In this hierarchy of class, servants aren’t free to speak about their employers to the police—but are not above a little gossip with other servants. Mrs. Jefferies late husband, David, was a policeman so she knows how to ask the right questions and form the right conclusions.
This particular case comes close to home to Mrs. Jefferies. The main suspect, heard threatening to kill Dearman just days before his death, is her sister-in-law whom she’s not seen for years. Fiona has a secret and would rather go jail than tell it. She’s not the only one with a secret—her husband has one, jointly they have one from the outside world, Dearman’s wife and her friend abound with secrets and it takes all of Mrs. Jefferies courage and wit to uncover the secrets, know which ones matter most and find the killer.
In a day and age where information is instant, it’s a mind change to read about messages sent by servants who wait for a reply. Inspector Witherspoon has not always been wealthy—that’s from an inheritance—so it’s to his benefit that he enjoys a glass of sherry and a chat about the day’s work at Scotland Yard with Mrs. Jefferies, a most unusual circumstance. Because of those chats, the Yard has the benefit of two sharp minds—his and Mrs. Jefferies.
An enjoyable read, warm and friendly characters, I’ll have to go back to start this series from the first book and see how it all began.
Previous Mrs. Jefferies books by Emily Brightwell:
The Inspector and Mrs. Jefferies
Mrs. Jefferies Dusts for Clues
The Ghost and Mrs. Jefferies
Mrs. Jefferies Takes Stock
Mrs. Jefferies on the Ball
Mrs. Jefferies on the Trail
Mrs. Jefferies Plays the Cook
Mrs. Jefferies and the Missing Alibi
Mrs. Jefferies Stands Corrected
Mrs. Jefferies Takes the Stage
Mrs. Jefferies Questions the Answer
Mrs. Jefferies Reveals Her Art
Mrs. Jefferies Takes the Cake
Mrs. Jefferies Rocks the Boat
Mrs. Jefferies Weeds the Plot
Mrs. Jefferies Pinches the Post
Mrs. Jefferies Pleads Her Case
Mrs. Jefferies Sweeps the Chimney
Mrs. Jefferies Stalks the Hunter
Mrs. Jefferies and the Silent Night
Mrs. Jefferies Appeals the Verdict
Mrs. Jefferies and the Best Laid Plans
Mrs. Jefferies and the Feast of St. Stephen
Mrs. Jefferies Holds the Trump
Mrs. Jefferies in the Nick of Time
Mrs. Jefferies and the Yuletide Weddings
Mrs. Jefferies Speaks Her Mind
Mrs. Jefferies Forges Ahead
Mrs. Jefferies and the Mistletoe Mix-up
Mrs. Jefferies Learns the Trade (anthology)
To enter to win a copy of all four Penguin mysteries, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Summer”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 21, 2012. U.S. residents only.