by Cynthia Chow & Sandra Murphy
This week we are once again playing catchup with a fun group of cozy mysteries involving crafts and food-Death by Arts and Crafts: An Abby McCree Mystery by Alexis Morgan, Muffin But the Truth: A Bakeshop Mystery by Ellie Alexander, Rum and Choke: A Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mystery by Sherry Harris, Knits, Knots, and Knives: A Craft Fair Knitters Mystery by Emmie Caldwell. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books and links to purchase them at the end of each review–you may not be able to see the Amazon links if you have ad blocker on.
Death by Arts and Crafts: An Abby McCree Mystery by Alexis Morgan
Review by Cynthia Chow
Perennially overtasked and overcommitted Abby McCree has not only been enlisted as the newest member of the Snowberry Creek city council, but she has been made their liaison to coordinate with the organizing committee of the first arts and crafts festival. In order to prevent any unexpected requests by the participants, Abby has been assigned the task of reaching out to the artists and visiting them beforehand at other events taking place in Washington. Since she will be staying at a hotel during the night she’s away, Abby has invited her friends Dayna Fisk and the very pregnant Bridey Kyser to join her and partake in a group spa day.
It’s at one of the neighboring town’s festivals that Abby meets Josiah Garth, a talented blacksmith whose iron yard stakes she’s unable to resist. As she learns from a later visit by Snowberry Creek Police Chief Gage Logan and Homicide Detective Ben Earle, though, Josiah was not long after impaled with one of those iron stakes while his niece and another woman go missing. After (again) warning Abby away from their official investigation, she finds herself unable to resist when Dayna is drawn into the circle of suspects.
Dayna had argued with festival artist Wendy Larabie over display space, and since the latter also disappeared during the murder, the events seem to be linked. Even though they are all now back home in Snowberry Creek, Abby and her friends are unable to resist conducting their own investigation as they track down artists and other festival participants. An eerily prophetic reading by the festival’s Madam G has Abby somewhat forced into planning a séance, but first she must ensure that she isn’t made into one of the ghosts being called up to provide information.
This sixth in the series lures in readers with a charming cast of characters who make up Abby’s circle of friends. While Abby worries at the high number of murder cases she’s been involved in since moving to Snowberry Creek, it’s undeniable that she has also played a critical role in solving them and bringing about justice. Her relationship with Special Forces veteran Tripp has settled into a vague state between friends and something more, but hopefully that will change as other couples settle down and update their own relationship statuses. The suspenseful build-up towards the villain’s ultimate reveal and confession will keep readers invested in the plot as much as they are in the daily lives of Abby and her friends, with her dog Zeke proving to be the real star of the show.
Muffin But the Truth: A Bakeshop Mystery by Ellie Alexander
Review by Cynthia Chow
Ashland, Oregon, has established itself as a tourist destination site for those looking to celebrate all things Shakespeare, but it also features the gorgeous Rogue Valley and rapid waters Rogue River. The latter are why Silicon Valley tech company Bamboo employees are arriving for a team-building weekend of yurt glamping and fully catered meals. As the owner of Torte bakeshop, Juliet Capshaw, her chef husband, and the rest of her staff have been challenged to design and prepare exquisite meals that must also be carried to and cooked at the campsite cookout.
As much as the divisive executive Bamboo employees obviously need some much needed team bonding, that’s going to be difficult due to CEO Josie Jones’s blatant bullying and over-the-top demands. Her inability to swim makes river rafting a questionable choice for someone for whom everyone at Bamboo seems to detest, especially when her tent is overrun by too many spiders for it to have been natural. So when Jules finds a body wearing Josie’s lifejacket floating in the water, it’s a shock to discover that it was not in fact the CEO but a far more liked executive. When police investigators, led by Jules’s stepfather the Professor, allow the river rafters to return back to Ashland until the investigation is complete, Jules feels obligated to take this opportunity to further look into the employee infighting that led to the possibly inadvertent death. Prodded on by her frequent accomplice Lance, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival director, Jules questions the Bamboo team and is led down a path that indicates that if Josie wasn’t the intended victim, she may be the most likely culprit.
In this sixteenth of the series, readers will find Jules happily settled back into her life in Ashland as she runs a successful bakeshop and winery. Working on a cruise ship allowed her to meet her husband Carlos, but it also eventually led to their separation through a series of events. Now that she and Carlos have mended their relationship, Jules has been able to fully accept her stepson into the family, especially with him following in his father’s footsteps. Torte always plays a central role in these novels, as it is where Jules finds her center while preparing an infinite number of cookies, muffins, and breads. The beloved employees have become part of her forged family, so it’s a bittersweet joy for Jules to see them spread their wings while further developing their barista and baking skills. Jules and Lance are far more successful in their respective creative endeavors than they are in their investigative ones, for while their information proves to be helpful, it is the Professor and Ashland police who ultimately track down the killer.
Final chapters wrapping up the mystery have the focus returning to Torte and Jules’s Uva Winery, with characters resolving their personal dilemmas and determining the next steps in their lives. Longtime fans will be rewarded with satisfying conclusions for all of their favorite Ashland residents and can hopefully look forward to more heartwarming moments in the future.
Rum and Choke: A Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mystery by Sherry Harris
Review by Sandra Murphy
Chloe Jackson works at the Sea Glass bar where she is part owner. Mostly she serves drinks but is learning to make them, too. Jacquin, the bartender and Vivi, her co-owner, have drafted Chloe to represent the bar in the Panhandle Barback Games, something she’s never even heard of before.
There are challenges, of course. Remember running with an egg in a spoon? Try running and hopping through tires while carrying three mugs of beer in each hand. Chloe has to make an original drink with surprise ingredients and roll a beer keg uphill in sand. Some of the bars want to win so badly, they’re bringing in ringers, people who are on the payroll for the required thirty days but don’t really work. One is a former Olympian, one a surfer, and another was the stunt woman for the Wonder Woman movie.
They visit the other bars to check out the competition, of course. Enrique is hot and knows it. Customers are falling all over him. Ditto with the Olympian and, of course, Wonder Woman’s double. Chloe’s glad she has a steady boyfriend because otherwise, she’d feel invisible.
When Ann, known as the local fixer, asks Chloe to come along to follow an old map and dive for potential treasure, Chloe says yes. After all, all Chloe has to do is sit in the boat and wait for Ann to surface. Ann’s done favors for Chloe. It’ll be fun. Except for being watched by someone with binoculars and Ann bringing up the dead body of one of the competitors instead of gold doubloons. With Ann under suspicion, mysterious break-ins, training for the Games, and tending bar, Chloe has her hands full. Will Chloe be able to help save her friend before it’s time to roll that keg uphill? It’s beginning to sound easier than finding the killer.
This is book three of the series. Chloe is someone you’d like as a friend. Hanging out at the bar with a view of the beach and Jacquin the bartender is added scenery to enjoy. The mysteries are good, lots of clues and red herrings, alternating with fun and laughter, and a bit of romance. The Sea Glass is just flat out a good time.
Harris has also written nine Garage Sale Mysteries. I loved every one of them, too.
Knits, Knots, and Knives: A Craft Fair Knitters Mystery by Emmie Caldwell
Review by Sandra Murphy
Lia is resuming life after becoming a widow. She runs the local craft fair on Saturdays, selling knitted goods she and her knitter friends make. Her daughter lives nearby and is the marketing director of the Weber Alpaca Farm. Nothing is so soft to knit as alpaca wool.
The Civil War reenactors are on hand to recreate a battle scene. Jack, who ran the organization for years, is a stickler for authentic details. Now, Arden and his son-in-law, Lucas, have barged in, and think the battles are more for entertainment rather than a chance to share history. There’s animosity between the three men, but it’s Lucas who tries to rub it in every chance he gets.
When the smoke clears, one of the ‘dead’ soldiers is really dead. In the confusion of the battle, who had the opportunity and a motive? The means were at hand in the form of a bayonet on the end of a rifle, supposedly being guarded inside a tent.
The police always look for a killer as someone close to the victim. In this case, there’s no clear path to follow.
A main suspect is a friend of Lia’s, so she’s asking a few questions in hopes of getting him out of the mess he’s in. Lia’s able to find a few clues to help although she is somewhat distracted by being asked out—but is it really a date? In the end, will Lia be able to find the killer before the killer finds her?
This is book three in the series. I like Lia. For the most part, she’s a sensible person, doesn’t put herself into dangerous situations, and is a good friend and neighbor. She has a great relationship with her daughter, too. Now there’s a hint of romance in the future—I look forward to seeing how that progresses. A lovely read, not an overemphasis on knitting, but a welcoming small town feel.
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 “crafts and food” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 21, 2023. 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.
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