by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
For your fall reading enjoyment we have 5 mystery novels for you to check out & you can enter for a chance to win all 5–a perfect gift for yourself or someone else! And it’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas! We have Death In Four Courses by Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib), Murder for Choir by Joelle Charbonneau, Peril in Paperback by Kate Carlisle, Pies and Prejudice by Ellery Adams, and Plotting at the PTA by Laura Alden. Details on how to enter to win at the end of this post and a link to Mysterious Galaxy where you can purchase these books and a portion of the sales will go to help support KRL so we can continue to give you great mystery content!
Death In Four Courses by Lucy Burdette
Review by Cynthia Chow
Hayley Snow has finally achieved her dream job of writing as a restaurant critic for the Key West magazine, Key Zest. However, the co-owner of the publication has good reason for personally detesting Hayley, so with her job on the line Hayley must continue to prove herself as an innovative food critic and journalist. A key step to this path is her attendance of the “Key West Loves Literature” seminar that will feature many prominent food writers and critics.
The added pressure has Hayley questioning the gift she gave to her mother that will allow her to accompany Hayley to the seminar while visiting from New Jersey. However, the ladies are initially delighted to meet many of the icons of food writing, right up until Hayley and her mother discover the body of a belligerent restaurant critic who had vowed to shake up the food writing world with total transparency and exposure of secrets. The one good thing the murder does bring is Detective Nate Bransford, whom she met at a previous murder yet never managed to actually follow through with a real first date. Their progress meets another stumbling block when Hayley’s close friend Eric suddenly becomes silent when questioned by the police and seems to be hiding a connection with the dead man.
While the novel focuses on food writers and reviews, authors of virtually any genre will find much to relate to and learn from as the novel explores the many aspects of the writing world. Publishers of cookbooks and restaurant reviews face the same dilemmas of all publishers as e-books, bloggers, twitter, and the social media have begun to dominate and affect the way information is disseminated. However, Burdette keeps the focus on the food as she describes delectable restaurant meals and the dinners prepared by Hayley’s family and friends. Burdette also explores the complicated relationships between mothers as daughters, as no one is more capable of loving without reservation and simultaneously having the power to demolish self-esteem like a mother. As much as Hayley’s mother loves her she as well has the ability to reduce Hayley to a petulant child within minutes.
The prolific author, who also writes under her name Roberta Isleib, continues to create highly entertaining and very well-written mysteries full of humor and extremely engaging and likable heroines. A psychologist herself, Isleib writes characters with some connection to psychology, this time being Hayley’s therapist best friend. Hayley and her mother themselves rely on tarot readers for advice, and Hayley rather ironically points out that generally most people trust them more than actual psychologists. While there are a plethora of food related mysteries out there, this second Key West Food Critic Mystery provides a unique Key West setting and highly original glimpse into the world of food criticism. Tasty, entertaining, and always compelling, this is a series that continues to show the promise seen in its debut, An Appetite for Murder.
Murder for Choir by Joelle Charbonneau
Review by Sandra Murphy
Paige Marshall is a struggling opera singer. With a great voice and pretty good acting skills, she should have job offers raining from the sky. So, where are they? She’s forced to take a job teaching voice and choreography to high school students to make ends meet. Of course, there are perks—maybe the deliciously sexy Devlyn who dresses in pastels and wears an ascot? Or the equally sexy but aggravating detective (just call me Mike)? Of course, to meet him, Paige first has to find a dead body, coshed in the head and strangled with a microphone cord. Could the murderer be Larry, the other teacher? After all, he had a history with Greg and a public disagreement. Or it might be Eric, senior classman and boyfriend of Chessie, the best and most difficult singer in the group—the victim, well old enough to be her father, had been seen making improper advances to her just before the murder. Then there’s the ex-wife who seems too friendly with Larry or maybe the football coach who is a mean drunk and collects secrets and uses them.
Living with Aunt Millie has its pluses and minuses—one of the biggest minuses is Killer, the standard poodle who guards the refrigerator. By night, he wants to share (hog) Paige’s bed but by day, he’s in charge of her food intake. Millie is the premier Mary Kay saleswoman and the scene where she holds a makeover party with lavish amounts of liquor provided is a great one. Aldo is another favorite of mine and Aunt Millie’s too. There’s some history there!
First in a series, this book will leave you wanting more, especially considering the romantic complications at the end.
Peril in Paperback by Kate Carlisle
Review by Sandra Murphy
Brooklyn Wainwright has been invited to Grace Crawford’s 50th birthday party. It’s a full house with Grace’s niece Suzie Stein, her significant other, Vinnie Patel, Grace’s brother Harrison and his wife Madge plus the lawyer and the folks who make up the gaming company Grace co-founded. Grace is a book-aholic. She’s also invited a book cataloguer in an effort to get the huge library under control and hopes Brooklyn will work with him on any books in need of repair.
Grace’s house reflects both her love of books and of games. Holographic scenes change a room or hallway, leaving guests lost. Trap doors open to drop them onto huge puffy pillows in the basement. What else would you pick for entertainment but a séance?
Spooky noises are heard, the lights flicker—it’s all part of the atmosphere, right? Well, except for the dead woman at the table. She’s a game designer at Grace’s company but was she the intended victim or was it Grace?
The balcony railing outside Grace’s room gives way beneath the weight of the maid who is narrowly saved from a fall that would surely have killed her. Again, an accident or murder attempt?
Snow is falling at a furious rate, the police can’t arrive to question suspects, and guests are starting to look at each other with suspicion. It’s a modern day Agatha Christie with the guests cut off from the outside world, knowing a killer is among them.
Suzie and Vinnie, Brooklyn’s neighbors, are a welcome addition to the crazy gamers, their spouses and the cranky lawyer. In this book, we get to know them much better than their usual walk-on roles. And are they in for a surprise!
If a twist at the end of a book is a treat, then this book is a banquet. Almost every character has a secret to reveal and some have more than one.
This is the sixth book in the series, once again, not enough about book repair to satisfy my curiosity! Previous books include: Homicide in Hardcover, If Books Could Kill, The Lies That Bind, Murder Under Cover, One Book in the Grave.
Pies and Prejudice by Ellery Adams, A Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery
Review by Sandra Murphy
Ella Mae La Faye couldn’t wait to get out of Havenwood, Georgia. She thought she’d suffocate in the small town atmosphere. Luckily, she met Sloan Kitteridge, was instantly in love and made her escape to New York. Her love of baking took her to culinary school (didn’t finish); creating new pies, savory and sweet were her passion and she had Chewy, her dog.
Good thing she had them to fall back on. When the elevator doors opened to take her upstairs, she was met with the sight of her husband in a semi-naked tangle with redheaded twins from 516C. She did the only sensible thing. She threw a two-pound bag of flour, dumped a jumbo bottle of maple syrup and pelted them with a whole bag of pecan halves—and then she and Chewy went home to Havenwood.
At home, her mother and three aunts steer her into a new life. The carriage house has been redecorated just in time for her arrival. A quaint little shop in town would be perfect for a pie bakery. Things are looking up.
Until Loralyn Gaynor, her high school enemy, starts making trouble. That’s big time trouble as in taunting Ella Mae into making a threat that seems aimed at Loralyn’s fiancée who turns up dead just a few days later–bashed over the head with Ella Mae’s marble rolling pin.
The plot gets more complicated as Ella Mae tries to clear her name, find the real killer, open her pie store, keep up with the demand for her pies and deal with Sloan long distance. There’s something weird going on with her mother and the aunts too and what’s with the townsfolk suddenly getting a little too amorous? As in the shedding their clothes and making improper advances? Or the old gent with the limp who can do cartwheels in the street? It all happened after they’d been to the pie shop.
Nice characters and setting, good plot. Just when you think it’s over, there are a few more chapters to clear up the sub-plots. The magic involved in the story doesn’t intrude with the mystery and there’s a great visual at the end.
In the back there are recipes—Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie, Customer of the Week Lime Pie, Shoofly Pie (watch out, this is the one that got everybody in trouble), Pancetta and Gruyere Tart, the basic crust and egg wash used.
This is the first in a new series—watch for Peach Pies and Alibis coming soon from Berkley Prime Crime. Ellery Adams is also the author of the Books by the Bay mystery series.
Plotting at the PTA by Laura Alden
Review by Sandra Murphy
What was Beth Kennedy thinking when she ran for PTA secretary? She’s a single mom with two kids, a bookstore and a BFF who still gets her into trouble just like when they were kids. On top of that, she’s in charge of the Spring Senior Story Project where seniors from Sunny Rest Assisted Living pair with Tarver Elementary students to write a book. Add in Lois, her right hand person at the book store (where does she find those outfits and how does she carry them off?), the rich and handsome Evan (boyfriend who is on the verge of proposing), the ex-husband, weekly book deliveries and a PTA board member who wants her gone, it’s a full week, every week.
Beth is able to get away for a rest (Lois’ orders) but is upset to find one of her customers died while she was away. Amy was extremely allergic to bee stings yet she ventured out during the sunny afternoon without her usual protection of two cans of bug spray. Beth is the only one that thinks the bees were used as a murder weapon.
With that all on her mind, she gets pulled further into intrigue when one of the elderly residents of the assisted living home asks Beth to find out what really happened twenty years ago when Maude’s niece drowned. Was it an accident or murder? Now Beth is looking into both deaths and getting too close for comfort—hers!
Lots of details and subplots work together to make a great read with characters you’ll want to see more of.
This is the third in the series. Murder at the PTA and Foul Play at the PTA are the first two books. This book can stand alone but read them in order to see how Beth’s life progresses. Who knew the PTA could be so exciting?
To enter to win a copy of all 5 mystery novels, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “5”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 10, 2012. U.S. residents only.
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