by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have another catch up group of fun mysteries this time with a book related or historical setting-Renewed for Murder: A Blue Ridge Library Mystery by Victoria Gilbert, Killer Words: A Mystery Bookshop Mystery by VM Burns, and City of Shadows: A Counterfeit Lady Novel by Victoria Thompson. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 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.
Renewed for Murder: A Blue Ridge Library Mystery by Victoria Gilbert
Review by Cynthia Chow
Only three years after starting her life over in Taylorsford, Virginia, Amy Webber has become the director of Taylorsford Public Library, reunited with her beloved Aunt Lydia, and even married famous dancer/choreographer Richard Muir. Together they have taken up the project of renovating the 1920s home he inherited next door, although it’s another blast from the past that threatens to disrupt their blissful lives. The Leeland High School chamber choir is hosting their 50th reunion during the August weekend art festival, and many of Lydia Talbot’s choirmates are back in town for the celebration. Her best friend Zelda Shoemaker is acting uncharacteristically secretive and quiet, which is why Lydia asks her niece to use some of her librarian reference interviewing skills to discreetly find out why. They were right to be concerned, as when rival Stonebridge chamber choir member Claudia Everhart is found shot to death in a gazebo, evidence quickly makes Zelda the primary suspect.
While Amy has trouble believing that anyone could be vengeful enough to kill over fifty-year-old rivalries, dark secrets and a rumored curse lead back to long ago tragedies that occurred after the choir competition. A peanut-related death, car accident, and allegations of impropriety all lead back to long-held resentments and romantic entanglements. Zelda may not be guilty of this murder, but she’s acting like someone who is hiding shameful secrets and carrying the weight of past crimes.
This sixth in the series welcomes readers back into the Blue Ridge Mountain region of Virginia, where Amy has uncovered secrets from her own past while finding so much comfort and love in her present. Her small library is a welcoming home for the community, where gossip is shared and friendships are forged. While Amy has confidence in her local law enforcement, her innate curiosity and librarian research skills have her determined to look into the secrets of the past and uncover the truth. Richard and her best friend, Mayor Sunny Fields, do what they can to keep their favorite murderer-target protected, and along with Lydia’s boyfriend Hugh Chen, they are a considerable force of knowledge with official connections. Library lovers will, of course, adore this series, and fans of these charming characters will enjoy spending time with this latest body-positive, creative arts-embracing mystery.
Killer Words: A Mystery Bookshop Mystery by VM Burns
Review by Cynthia Chow
Samantha Washington hates change. Heaven knows she’s experienced enough of it in the past few years, after losing a husband, buying her dream Market Street Mysteries Bookshop, gaining a new boyfriend, and then writing and winning a contract for her own historical mystery series. Now even more changes are barreling towards Sam as her beloved staff graduate and leave for college while her mother and stepfather move to Australia. Henry’s abundant trusts that he is setting up as departing gifts allows them all to pursue their dreams, but it’s definitely a bittersweet goodbye. Especially since their hometown of North Harbor, Michigan, is simmering with political intrigue as their local newspaper accuses their mayor of multiple acts of corruption and Sam spots the rival candidate at a casino dallying with a woman not his wife. It’s Detective Brad “Stinky” Pitt who takes umbrage at John Cloverton’s lack of fidelity, though, especially when it turns out that Mildred Cloverton used to be Stinky Pitt’s wife.
Having encountered – and solved – an alarming number of murders themselves, Sam and her Nana Jo for once learn of the death of John Cloverton in the newspaper. The public fight, not to mention Pitt’s service weapon being responsible for John Cloverton’s death, means that the detective is quickly arrested and in need of a competent attorney. So it’s very convenient that Sam’s sister Jenna Rutherford happens to be a very good one, and that Nana Jo’s Sleuthing Seniors book club are more than eager to take up a cause for justice. In times of stress Sam retreats into writing her historical mysteries as a coping mechanism and sort through clues, so this is the perfect time for her to continue the fictional adventures in 1939’s Wickfield Lodge, home of Lord William Marsh and his family. There tensions are high as the British debate over whether to enter into war with Germany while American Ambassador Joseph Kennedy strongly advocates against it. When the friend of Scotland Yard Detective Peter Covington falls dead from poison, the question quickly becomes if the victim was the actual target.
This seventh in the series once again achieves the trick of delivering two mysteries in one, and readers will find it impossible to choose which is the favorite. Sam’s life is hurtling forward and giving her a life of happiness she never could have predicted, which is why she is so unsettled by the number of changes that seem to be coalescing all at once. Her adorable toy poodles Oreo and Snickers are always around to provide emotional support, and she will rely on them as her bookstore family grows up and moves on. The author must share a love of research with her heroine, as the compelling and fascinating world of pre-WWII England comes alive with Lady Clara, her American friend “Kick” Kennedy, and assassination attempts that go wrong. Or possibly right. This mix of British WWII espionage and Nana Jo’s more down-home investigation led by very networked seniors succeeds in crossing genres satisfies a multitude of tastes. This is another fun installment of a bookstore-loving cozy mystery with a classical mystery twist.
City of Shadows: A Counterfeit Lady Novel by Victoria Thompson
Review by Sandra Murphy
Elizabeth Bates used to be a con woman. She’s given it up for love. Unless someone she knows is in trouble. Then, of course, one must do anything one can to help, of course.
Gideon knew what she was when he married her. She’s promised not to involve him and for the most part, keeps her promise. And when she can’t, well the less he knows the better. He never lies and she wouldn’t compromise that aspect of his character.
This time her best friend Anna is in trouble. Anna’s brother died in the flu epidemic several months ago, and their mother is grief stricken. She’s discovered a medium who performs seances. Anna says her mother’s frequent visits to hear messages from beyond will bankrupt them.
Elizabeth’s father and brother are both con men, but the unspoken rule is: a con man never cons another con man. Or woman as in this case. Elizabeth is on her own this time. What starts out to be a simple way to prove Madame no more receives messages from the dead than a lamp post, gets more elaborate each day. Gideon ends up doing his part. Though he won’t admit it, he’s beginning to enjoy a bit of excitement away from his law office.
Madame charges twenty dollars per séance with a six person limit. Although that’s good money for the times, she has bigger plans. While in a ‘trance’, Madame predicts the mourner will soon meet a man who will be able to help them make a fortune, if only they follow his advice. It’s the 1920-ish version of the Nigerian prince email scam. The more Elizabeth hears about the seances, the more she realizes she can’t just plan to discourage Anna’s mother from attending. She has to make sure the fake medium gives up the scam for good.
This is book five in the series. Elizabeth is a delightful character as she tries to fit in with society’s expectations but never can quite pull it off, through no fault of her own. She can’t be blamed for wanting to help others. She’s also encouraged by Gideon’s mother, Anna, and other friends who find a con great entertainment. It’s a series I always enjoy.
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 “bookshop” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 5, 2022. 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. BE AWARE THAT IT MAY TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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