New Year’s Mystery Catchup!

Jan 4, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Food Fun, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy

A new year has begun and KRL is still playing catchup with its mystery reviews-here are a few more books that came out in 2019-Three Widows and a Corpse: A Food Blogger Mystery by Debra Sennefelder, Two Bites Too Many: Sarah Blair Mystery by Debra H. Goldstein, Hounds of the Basket Stitch: Black Sheep Knitting Mystery by Anne Canadeo, and Can’t Judge a Book by Its Murder: Main Street Book Club Mystery by Amy Lillard. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books, along with links you can use to purchase them. If you have ad blocker on you won’t see the Amazon links at the end of each review.

Three Widows and a Corpse: A Food Blogger Mystery by Debra Sennefelder
Review by Cynthia Chow

It took losing a cooking competition for chef Hope Early to finally find the career she needed. After feeling burnt out as a food editor for Meals in Minutes magazine, she quit to compete in a reality baking show. Despite not taking the top prize, it led her to becoming a food blogger and then a contributor to the Cooking Now website. While the commute is longer than the walk from her bedroom to her personal computer, this new venture will help to attract new blog followers. That doesn’t mean that Hope won’t have time for a fundraising event for the Jefferson, Connecticut, community center, especially having participated in the Annual Scavenger Hunt even after moving away. Unfortunately, Hope discovers something not on the scavenger list, namely the body of developer Lionel Whitcomb. As it happens, multiple women sharing the Whitcomb name had already been staying in the Merrifield Inn, with a third Mrs. Whitcomb not far behind. All three declare themselves to be past or present wives of the victim, meaning that the list of suspects in his murder has also tripled.

When one of the widows sobbingly begs Hope for help, the undeniable people-pleaser finds herself unable to resist the pleas to prove Elaine Whitcomb’s innocence. It will again place Hope at odds with the investigating detective, although it’s the interactions with the chief of police that are far more problematic. Having had her heart broken by her ex-husband, Hope is very tentatively sticking her toe into the dating pool with chief of police Ethan Cahill, as their one date proved that they definitely have potential to be more than just friends. While she never expected that the cool jock from high school would ever be interested in dating the former bookworm nerd, it’s the secretive nature of his job that is proving to be the obstacle in their path. Having managed to inadvertently “help” police with her investigations in the past, Hope is finding that Ethan’s warnings and refusal to share information to be signs that he doesn’t trust her. For once Hope’s uber-ambitious real estate agent sister isn’t offering her share of unsolicited of advice, as having recently lost in the election for mayor Claire wallowing in self-pity and holed up like a hermit. When Hope’s questioning leads to the death of a witness, vandalism of her home, and even an attack on her life, Hope knows that she’s already in the sights of a killer who is determined to silence her investigation.

This third in the series propels Hope into the case by making her need to be liked the motivation for her to continue to be in the midst of murder. While not blind to being manipulated, Hope can’t deny her nature that has her wanting to help and prevent someone from being unjustly prosecuted. The three widows – the matriarch, a hippy, and a trophy – are all delightful characters themselves who add to the cast of quirky, but relatable residents of Jefferson. Foodies will appreciate Hope’s efforts to self-medicate by baking, with recipes at the end adding to the luscious step-by-step descriptions of her dessert preparations woven throughout the novel. Her adorable dog Bigelow and the aptly named feline Princess provide chaos and charm to Hope’s household, while her sister, best friends, and neighbors lend humor and emotional support. Readers will be just as satisfied with the discovery of the murder as they will the revelation within Hope’s personal life, making the next tasty installment of the food blogger one to look forward to in the New Year.

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Two Bites Too Many: Sarah Blair Mystery by Debra H. Goldstein
Review by Sandra Murphy

Sarah Blair is a great cook, if great cooks combine pre-made, usually frozen, convenience foods and call it a meal. By contrast, her twin Emily is a chef. Emily’s boyfriend, Marcus, is a chef. It seems like everybody but Sarah can cook.

Emily and Marcus have plans to open a pub-style restaurant and in a second location, an upscale dining establishment. When the bank turns down their application for a loan, it raises red flags with Emily and Sarah’s mother, Maybelle. She had promised to guarantee the loan and has the funds to do so. What’s the problem?

Lance, president of the bank, seems just as puzzled and promises to take a look at the application. While Maybelle and Sarah are mid-conversation with him, the door bursts open and Cliff, a local builder, confronts Lance over his loan being called, in spite of on-time payments. Something’s fishy, but before anyone can figure out what, Lance is murdered, right at his desk.

He’d had so many people in and out of his office that day, a revolving door would have come in handy. The suspect pool seems large but the acting police chief settles on Maybelle as his best bet for the killer. Sarah’s sure her mom is innocent, and when the chief looks further, Sarah sets out to prove it.

There are undercurrents with the city council, puzzling bank transactions, back door deals, and influential families throwing their weight around while denying it. Thankfully, Sarah is much better at sifting through clues than sifting ingredients.
This is book two in the series. Sarah shares one recipe but befitting her cooking skills it basically says buy a big bag of frozen sweet potato puffs and add some spices. She also told how to make a wine spritzer (mix these ingredients and serve, no cooking) and The Catnip, the signature drink of the Catapaloosa, a fundraiser for the animal shelter (also combine, pour, drink).

Sarah now has the funds to do what she wants with her life—as soon as she figures out what that is. She’s enjoying time with her Siamese, Rah Rah, and spending weekends walking shelter dogs. That’s a social life, right? I really like how she is so involved with animal rescue and how she shows so many ways to help rescue animals that people can do in real life.

With a hint of romance on the horizon, look for possible sparks in book three as well as another body or two. Who knows? Sarah might even cook something besides boxed brownies. Nah, not really. But I bet she finds the killer.

Hounds of the Basket Stitch: Black Sheep Knitting Mystery by Anne Canadeo
Review by Sandra Murphy

Maggie, Lucy, Phoebe, Dana, and Suzanne are the Black Sheep Knitters who meet weekly for a group session. Dana is godmother to Holly and Rose Piper, sisters who run a plant nursery. Due to an accident fifteen years ago, Rose has some lasting effects—memory loss and a tendency to be easily overwhelmed. Dana thinks a soothing activity like knitting would be beneficial.

Rose also rescues and trains dogs. At the moment, there are about a dozen adult dogs, Rose’s three therapy dogs, and a new mama with eight puppies. Instead of knitting at Maggie’s yarn shop as usual, the group agrees to go to the Piper’s home so Rose can be near the puppies if needed. Although spring is supposed to arrive soon, the weather is still iffy as a storm rolls through and chilly temperatures as the women arrive.

During the downpour, an old man knocks on the door and announces his car slid on the wet pavement and he’s damaged their fence. The women are leery, but Holly seems comfortable with the man fixing the fence and working at the nursery.

Days later, a fire breaks out in the greenhouse, and it’s ruled arson. Holly is overcome by smoke and is in a medically induced coma while her lungs recover. Rose was hurt but not as badly—except she has no memory of what happened. Holly was also struck on the back of her head.

Toby, the girls’ half brother shows up after a ten-year absence. He’s determined to put himself in charge of the nursery, Rose, and the trust fund before Holly recovers. With Toby in town, the mysterious stranger who’s vanished, and Rose as suspects, Dana and the rest of the knitters are determined to find out what really happened.

This is book three of the series. Charles is retired and living with Maggie who is getting used to the idea more easily than she expected. The women stayed at the house with Rose, leaving the men, as well as Suzanne, more in the background for this investigation. Maggie, a widow, started the store after her husband died. Now she’s learning to go beyond that dream. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for her.

Since Rose and Holly are new to knitting, Maggie taught them how to finger knit—no needles, just using their fingers. Links are at the back of the book for YouTube videos to see how it’s done. Since the women always manage to have a good meal during each knitting session, Maggie included her recipe for flatbread with various toppings and for grain-free peanut butter dog treats (do not use sugar-free peanut butter. Xylitol, the artificial substitute is highly toxic to dogs). One big disappointment—Phoebe did not share her recipe for Blackout Brownies and the secret ingredient she uses.

Can’t Judge a Book by Its Murder: Main Street Book Club Mystery by Amy Lillard
Review by Sandra Murphy

Just in time for her high school reunion, Arlo Stanley has arranged for her former classmate, Wally Harrison to do a major book signing. His debut novel, Missing Girl, was a runaway hit. Arlo can’t wait to see the crowds line up for an autographed copy.

Her business partner, Chloe, has history with Wally. They were high school sweethearts. She told him she was pregnant; the next day he left town. Their son is now nine years old, but Wally signed away parental rights before the boy was born. Now he wants to meet the child.

When Wally is found dead right in front of their store, suicide is suspected but an exam reveals it was murder. Since Chole is the last person to admit seeing Wally, she’s the prime suspect. Arlo can’t stand the thought of her best friend behind bars and decides to investigate. She should have expected to have the help of the Friday Night Book Club ladies—Helen, Arlo’s godmother, Fern, and Camille. Although they think they’re subtle, the ladies cause quite a stir asking questions around town.

To complicate matters further, Arlo’s old boyfriend, Sam, is back in town. He’s a private investigator now and rents the office space above her bookstore, making it very uncomfortable for Arlo. It seems on the night of the prom, Arlo went with Mads, who is now the police chief. She left with Sam. Awkward!

The suspect list is long—Wally made enemies while still in high school and now travels with his wife and assistant/mistress. Awkward! Although there’s plenty of suspicion to spread around, the evidence points to Chloe.

This is the first in a new series. Sugar Springs is a small town but not without excitement. Arlo’s bookstore and Chloe’s in-store coffee shop would make the perfect hangout. Faulkner, the chatty bird, adds to the atmosphere. You know the Book Club ladies will provide delicious snacks and will remind you, murder doesn’t have to stay hidden behind a book jacket. Sorry, no recipes, Chloe being in jail and all. The Book Club ladies were too busy investigating to share any of their recipes.

Lillard also writes contemporary romance books (13), historical romance (4), Amish romance (16), mysteries (4), and the Kappy King Amish mystery series, reviewed here.

To enter to win a copy of all 4 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “new year,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 11, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode went up this week!

You can use this link to purchase any of these books from indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, and KRL gets a portion of the sale:

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. She writes about eco-friendly topics, pets and wildlife for magazines and reviews mysteries and thrillers for KRL. A collection of her short stories, published by Untreed Reads, From Hay to Eternity: Ten Tales of Crime and Deception can be found at all the usual outlets. Each one is a little weird and all have a twist you won’t see coming.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. delightful and interesting feature and giveaway. Thanks.

  2. sure do love this page – thanks for all the great info and for your incredible generosity

  3. Another great collection! Count me in!

  4. What a great way to bring in the New Year!! I’ve added all of these books to my tbr wish list. Thanks for the reviews & chance to win these books!

  5. Oh, these sound so good. Thanks for the contest.

  6. Good last few books of 2019. Here’s to more great books in 2020!

  7. Four great reads from four great authors. Thanks for the chance.

  8. Thanks for the great post and giveaway.

  9. These books look so good I love cozy mysteries

  10. thank you so much for all of the book reviews.
    The library gets deluged each week with my
    requests for books I’ve seen on your page.
    Sorry to hear Bill Crider passed. Sheriff
    Dan Rhodes was a great guy. Love to
    get these new books. thanks

  11. We have a winner!


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