by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
We are catching up on some reviews for your beginning of the new year reading-A Crime of Poison: A Silver Six Crafting Mystery by Nancy Haddock, A Late Frost: An Orchard series by Sheila Connolly, Etched in Tears: A Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery by Cheryl Hollon, Stay Calm and Collie On: A Pet Palace Mystery by Lane Stone, and That Olde White Magick: An Abracadabra Mystery by Sharon Pape. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 5 books, along with links you can use to purchase them.
A Crime of Poison: A Silver Six Crafting Mystery by Nancy Haddock
Review by Sandra Murphy
A group of six seniors, known as the Silver Six, share a house and a business. They rent space to vendors, sell their own wares, and do small appliance repairs on site. For the past few years, they’ve also hosted a fall festival at their home. This year it’s in town, and all the townspeople are part of the fun.
Everybody’s psyched up for the tourist dollars as well as the goodies sold—jewelry, art, and more, but there are only two food venues so the restaurants can share the profits. The church is selling homemade baked goods, and there’s a hot dog vendor, Dex Hamlin. He’s about the most unpleasant man around and starts the day with an argument about what he can sell and where his cart will sit.
Things get worse when the Silver Six realize Hamlin’s assistant is Cornell Lewis. He used to be the manager at the Ozark Arms, a cheap set of apartment buildings. He was known for bullying the residents, not repairing anything, and snooping when people were at work. There’s no one in town who likes him, and they aren’t afraid to show it, even when he tries to make amends.
Nixy, niece of Sherry, the main force in the Six, does see some good in Lewis. And he’s a fan of snickerdoodles, so he can’t be all bad. He’s also kind to Nixy’s dog and cat.
The next day when walking the pets, Nixy sees a parked car that’s out of place. Upon closer inspection, she finds the body of Cornell Lewis with a plate of snickerdoodles beside him. If finding a body isn’t bad enough, the cookies are clearly labeled as made by members of the Silver Six.
While the list of suspects includes anybody who knew Lewis, means and opportunity cut the list short—with the Six at the top of the page. Nixy has to figure out what happened and who’s to blame before she’s visiting her favorite people behind bars.
This is the third book in the series. The Six are always up to something and willing to try new things. It’s all Nixy can do to keep up with them. It’s refreshing to see active, engaged seniors who thoroughly enjoy life and the problems that can lead to for someone younger. The mystery will keep readers guessing until the last pages. There’s also Nixy’s romance to follow. A bit of a surprise promises more capers to come.
At the back of the book, find an article about making soap and essential oil sprays, and recipes for snickerdoodles and banana ice box cake which includes a chocolate cookie crust and both white and chocolate mousse. Yum!
A Late Frost: An Orchard series by Sheila Connolly
Review by Sandra Murphy
Meg Corey is now Meg Corey Chapin, something she has to remind herself of every day. She’s still amazed that she and Seth are married. She’s owned an apple orchard for two years now and is getting the hang of that, too. Just back from their honeymoon, Seth and Meg are faced with free time. They have no idea what to do with it.
Luckily, a new couple moved to town, and Monica is full of energy and a desire to meet new people. She offers the idea of WnterFare, a get-together in February to celebrate food, get people out of their houses, and to have a little fun. Monica talks a lot, but she also follows through on getting everything and everyone organized.
The Fare brings Nicky from the restaurant as the main source of food, Meg with three varieties of apples, Ginny has organic apples, and others with fruit jams and jellies plus homemade goods. That night Monica gets sick enough to call for an ambulance with what looks like food poisoning. During the night, she gets worse and dies.
Meg and Seth have been involved in solving murders before. Mostly they provide information to the police, things that people would tell a neighbor but not a cop. This time, there’s no history to fall back on since Monica and her husband have only been in town for a short while. She didn’t have time to make close friends much less enemies. No one knows where they lived before or what their jobs were. Meg knows it’s a job for the police, but it’s a puzzle and more interesting than working on the accounts for the orchard or cleaning the attic.
When the police determine Monica was poisoned, there’s a link to Meg’s newest employee and to the organic orchard, making it more personal. Although the state policeman is no fan of Meg’s (or her of him), she does try to find out more about the people involved and possible motives, without putting herself in danger. It’s a hard mystery to solve with so little to go on.
Meg and Seth are a good match. They’re considerate of each other’s feelings as partners instead of one being in charge and issuing orders. Larry, a new employee, isn’t much on social skills but adds to the story. Information about apples, the care required, getting certified organic vs not using chemicals, irrigation, pickers, and pruning all are seamlessly woven into the mystery without detracting from it.
This is book eleven from the prolific Connolly. She also writes the Museum mystery series with Nell (seven books) and the County Cork books with Moira (four). Of the three, it would be hard to pick a favorite—a small town setting with an orchard, a small history museum in a big city, or a tiny hamlet in Ireland. Why choose? Read them all.
Etched in Tears: A Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery by Cheryl Hollon
Review by Sandra Murphy
Savannah Webb works with glass—fused, slumped, etched with sand or pastes, making all kinds of art. At her studio, students learn to do the same. Commissioned repairs and an order for charger plates for the hotel help pay the bills as well as enhance her reputation.
Dennis Lansing, an at-risk teen, apprenticed with Savannah’s father. Now he’s returned as a rising star in the art world, anxious to see Savannah again. When she was a high school freshman, he was her first crush.
Savannah and her boyfriend Edward attend the opening of Dennis’ exhibit at the Salvador Dali Museum but barely have time to say more than hello before he’s whisked away to speak to local politicians. Touring the exhibit, Savannah is stunned to see a mushy love note her fourteen-year old self wrote to Dennis etched into the glass. The next morning, Dennis’ body is found in the museum’s garden. It’s hard to say if Dennis died a natural death or if he was murdered.
Savannah assisted the police in the past, so when glass art is again at the center of the case, the police call on her. In between creating the hotel’s plates, a repair, an etching class, and deciphering a code her father created, Savannah and her friends look for clues.
The police call it murder after the coroner says the body was moved. Suspects include Dennis’ not so loving wife, an overly helpful security guard, the museum director who is not at all helpful, and someone from the past.
This is the fourth book in the series. Savannah’s business is growing as is her relationship with Edward. Amanda and Jacob are able to take on more responsibility at the shop, so Savannah can expand the business at a second location where glass artists rent space. As the students in her class learn how to etch glass, the reader does too without the information getting in the way of the story. Suzy, the Beagle, helps Jacob deal with his anxiety, so he becomes a fully participating character instead of being in the background. It’s always a good thing to see characters grow with each new book.
At the back of the book, there is a page about etching glass, a glossary of terms, and excerpts from the first two books in the series.
Stay Calm and Collie On: A Pet Palace Mystery by Lane Stone
Review by Sandra Murphy
A British accent brings to mind class, elegance, and the Queen. For Sue Patrick, a partnership with Lady Anthea Fitzwater just adds to the ambiance of her upscale doggy daycare and spa. Clients are thrilled at the chance to meet the Englishwoman at a fundraiser at the daycare.
Henry is in charge of delivering daycare dogs back to their homes for clients. When several people call to complain their pups aren’t home yet, Sue has to find out what happened. Accompanied by Anthea, the van is discovered at the ferry terminal, dogs barking inside. The police are on hand, complete with a bomb sniffing dog, just in case.
Henry’s body is in the back of the van. What a way to make a first impression on Anthea! She seems to take it all in stride and helps with the dogs while Sue talks to the police.
Rumors quickly spread—Henry was a dognapper, taking the pups to Canada to sell, and the daycare isn’t safe. With customers cancelling visits, Sue needs to reassure them the rumors are wrong. A little investigation couldn’t hurt, just to protect her reputation, right?
Henry was supposed to be a single man so Sue’s surprised to meet his fiancé. Worse, he inflated the importance of his job, had a lot more money coming in than he earned, and lied about most everything.
Little by little, Sue finds out Anthea’s life in England isn’t all scones and clotted cream either. Does this signal the end of their partnership? The timing couldn’t be worse, with the fundraiser scheduled and all the supplies paid for.
This is the first in a series that promises to be full of fun, laughter, and good stories. After all, there are dogs—something’s bound to go wrong. Change is in the air for Anthea and Sue which will leave readers hungry for more.
That Olde White Magick: An Abracadabra Mystery by Sharon Pape
Review by Cynthia Chow
Considering that Kailyn Wilde’s first town board meeting includes the legendary wizard Merlin whom she accidentally transported through space and time, one expects that nothing would go as planned. Yet not even her magickally powered family predicted that they would find the body of a board member, minutes before a critical zoning vote. The town of New Camel (a name that comes more from the mythical kingdom than a dromedary animal) was split over the rezoning that would allow for a hotel development, since the increase in business and residences would destroy its nostalgic atmosphere.
Kailyn would not normally welcome another murder investigation, but it’s a welcome distraction from her new relationship with reporter Travis Anderson. After having just revealed the history of the Wilde women’s magickal lineage, Travis hasn’t quite adjusted to the news that completely unravels his view of the world. With her mother’s, aunt’s, and grandmother’s depressing track record with men, Kailyn’s not optimistic.
Their Abracadabra magic store provides herbal remedies for customer’s physical and mental concerns, but it’s Kailyn’s spell enhancements that truly make them special. Her abilities are growing as she practices telekinesis and teleportation, the latter a work-in-progress with side-effects being bruises and involuntary naps. Kailyn will have to fit in her test trials as she and Travis investigate some shady vote manipulation, the financial shenanigans of the hotel investments, and the identity of a mysterious corpse.
This second of the series continues to develop enchanted characters who blend into the population of mundane New Camel residents. Kailyn has possibly the most unique family in mystery fiction, which includes six cats (only three of whom are actual familiars) and the ghosts of Kailyn’s mother and grandmother. It seems that being dead hasn’t made mother-daughter relationships any less complicated, with the two deceased Wilde women continuing their arguments beyond the grave. Merlin has tapped down his antics a bit as they manage to reign in many of his impulsive and powerful acts, but those that slip through are delightfully entertaining. The focus here falls upon Kailyn’s struggles to develop her skills, even as she fears that those very talents may inhibit her future romantic relationships. This is a welcome addition to the growing field of paranormal mysteries, as it builds upon its magickal mythology while delving into real-world intrigue.
To enter to win a copy of all 5 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “new year catchup,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 13, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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