by Sandra Murphy
& Kathleen Costa
This week we have 3 more fun mysteries from Penguin and Kensington authors-Telling Tails: A Second Chance Cat Mystery by Sofie Ryan, Death on the Patagonian Express: Amy’s Travel Mystery by Hy Conrad, & A Pinch of Poison: A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mystery series by Alyssa Maxwell. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win copies of all 3 books, and links to purchase them.
Telling Tails: A Second Chance Cat Mystery by Sofie Ryan
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sarah Grayson owns Second Chance, a store that repurposes and refinishes throwaways into cool décor. You’d think her days would be paint-filled and fun, but she has help that sometimes goes beyond the call of duty.
Her help is made up of her grandmother’s friends. Gran is on a year-long honeymoon, but her friends make wonderful stand-ins. When Rose is determined to deliver a pair of silver candlesticks for a gift, she sneaks out to run the errand. A phone call later tells the tale—Rose was found two houses away from her destination, knocked out, with a friendly black Labrador standing over her. She swears she saw a man’s body being dragged across the kitchen floor, but there’s no sign of foul play.
Liz, Charlotte, Rose, and Mr. P have formed their own private detective agency, and Rose’s experience puts them on the case again. They have two theories: the man was murdered by his wife, or he faked his own death. Both seem unlikely to the police. When bodies start to turn up, it might just be enough to make the police take notice.
Sarah has her hands full, trying to corral the seniors. She discusses most of the case and any work problems with her cat, Elvis. He seems to understand what she’s saying and gives thoughtful meows in return. If nothing else, talking about the problem out loud often brings more questions or a few answers.
This is the fourth book in the Second Chance Cat Mystery series. Sarah is a woman you’d love to have as a friend, especially on jam night when friends meet at the local bar for salsa and chips, to taste-test new beers and listen to music. You’d find a number of items in Second Chance that you’d need for your own home. The seniors might be a little more than most people could handle—imagine half a dozen in-your-face people who each feel they have the right to know every detail of your life and to steer your love life in the right direction, all without being subtle. On the other hand, related by blood or not, they’re family.
Settle in and see if you can keep up with Rose and Mr. P, Liz, Charlotte, and the rest as you enjoy a good read about their latest case.
Death on the Patagonian Express: Amy’s Travel Mystery by Hy Conrad
Review by Sandra Murphy
Amy and her mother, Fanny, run a travel agency. Amy leads the tour and Fanny handles the office, and her very, umm, creative blog called Trippy Girl. It’s based loosely, very loosely, on Amy’s adventures during the tours. That usually includes a murder. Trippy Girl sounds a bit like Amy and a lot like a super hero.
Since Trippy Girl has quite the following, Amy and Fanny are invited to take a train tour with other travel writers as the train wanders through Patagonia. Amy’s not so gung-ho, but Fanny, who never gets to travel, is enthusiastic enough for the both of them. Of course, the tour owner, Jorge, adds his bit of charm to convince Amy the publicity will help them all.
The problem is Trippy Girl’s blog usually has a daring duo and a dead body or two. That’s something you can’t plan for. On the other hand, one of the passengers detrains during a break to ride a horse. The horse returns; she does not. Fanny swears she saw the woman’s body, but when she returns to the spot with reinforcements, there’s no sign of it.
Fanny is faced with being thought of as an old woman who doesn’t know what she saw or a publicity hound drumming up more readers for Trippy Girl with her wild story. It also puts anything else she’s written in question—was it real with embellishments or totally made up?
When Jorge’s investor is found dead—really dead—it brings more questions than answers. Fanny says the whole thing is hinky, but maybe she had a vision of the future. Since she’s been sipping a local drink since their arrival, a vision could be possible, although its accuracy would be questionable at best.
Other “accidents” occur which leads Amy to think Fanny might have been right in the first place. If so, the killer is especially clever and Amy’s time to solve the case is limited. A traveling cast of suspects and not speaking the language further complicate matters.
This is the third book in the Amy’s Travel Mystery series. Amy is becoming more confident and rather than leading the tours because her deceased boyfriend loved them, she’s coming into her own and deciding more what she wants for herself. Marcus, her new boyfriend who is often in cahoots with Fanny on some wild scheme, is shown in a better light as Amy cares more for him. Fanny, always left behind, is front and center on this trip, much to Amy’s dismay.
The train trip through Patagonia is one readers would love to take, except for the portion of the trip on the mountain with its switchbacks—very scary. The midnight stop for a campfire is so beautifully described readers will feel they’ve been there themselves. The country itself becomes a character rather than background. As each character changes and grows, the books only get better and better.
A Pinch of Poison: A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mystery series by Alyssa Maxwell
Review by Kathleen Costa
The world has been at war, but on November 11, 1918, the armistice between the Allies and Germany ended the conflict. The residents of Foxwood Hall, upstairs and below, find it all bittersweet since many of their own have been scarred and others will never return. Lady Phoebe Renshaw is not immune since the war took her father, and with her mother having died years before that in childbirth, she and her three siblings are under the watchful eye of their grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Wroxly, she lovingly referred to as ”Grams.”
Lady Phoebe Renshaw is the second oldest and quite the modern lady, educated, and not easily pigeon-holed into society’s norms of marriage and aristocratic diversions. She and Eva, the lady’s maid for the three young Renshaw sisters, recognize their individual strengths supported by their position in society creating a unique partnership, and although a thorn in the side of local law enforcement, very successful in investigating why murder has joined them in Little Barlow.
With the end of The Great War barely five months passed and returning soldiers struggling to survive and find ways to support their families, Lady Phoebe Renshaw decides to arrange for a charity luncheon to support her Relief and Comfort for Veteran’s and their Families project. She convinces the headmistress of the Haverleigh School for Young Ladies to allow the young ladies to assist her by gathering personal and household items to give to local families in need. Lady Phoebe also thought it a nice idea for the girls to prepare and serve desserts to the guests in attendance, and with additional donations expected the event is sure to be quite the success—even though Mrs. Honeychurch, the school cook, would beg to differ with her kitchen in disarray from girls ill-equipped with kitchen skills and plagued with personality conflicts. However, the kitchen mess is the least of Lady Phoebe’s worries, when the headmistress flails to the floor, her face tinted blue, gasping for air…dead, but is it murder or just an unfortunate accident?
Henrietta Finch has been headmistress for Haverleigh for a year, but her philosophy to provide the young ladies in her care a more academic than social approach to their education may have rubbed some board members and parents the wrong way and some say she was not long to be in charge. Chief Inspector Perkins is still skeptical, but Constable Brannock believes once again employing Lady Phoebe’s and Eva’s expertise with interrogations very valuable to the investigation. As the pair works together they uncover differing feeling about Miss Finch and suspicious behaviors among students and staff. The persons of interest begin stacking up. But can the Constable reign them in when they go well beyond their initial mandate? Could they once again be in jeopardy?
It’s been a year, and I desperately needed a Downton Abbey fix. I found it in Alyssa Maxwell’s A Pinch of Poison, the second book in a Lady and Lady’s Maid Mystery series. More than an entertaining mystery, Alyssa has furnished a marvelous look into the aristocracy and life immediately after WWI with the Countess’s traditional views of a woman’s place, the eldest sister’s portrayal of entitlement, Eva’s loyalty and below stairs service, and Lady Phoebe’s ‘modern woman’ ideals. I was delighted in the contrast in the relationship between Lady Phoebe and Eva because, even though the boundaries were clear, their partnership was more of equals sharing responsibilities and respect for each other’s opinions. The dialogue is very realistic and often helps to illustrate the character very well; descriptions are detailed and helps to transport the reader to post-war Britain. I loved this book so much I immediately went to Murder Most Malicious, book one in the series set a few months earlier at the holidays. She also pens the Gilded Newport Mystery series which provides an entertaining mystery during the late nineteenth century American-style. Alyssa Maxwell has become a favorite author. She is entertaining, engaging, and offers just the right dose of Downton Abbey to keep me very satisfied.
A Pinch of Poison earns 5/5 Madeira Cakes With a Pot of Earl Grey!
To enter to win a copy of all 3 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “fun books,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 4, 2017. 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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