More February Penguin Mystery Fun

Feb 21, 2015 | 2015 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow

This week we have some more February Penguin mysteries-An Early Wake by Sheila Connolly, By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates, The Drowning Spool & Darned if You Do by Monica Ferris. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win all 4 books, and a link to purchase them.

An Early Wake by Sheila Connolly
Review by Sandra Murphy

Maura Donovan lives in County Cork, Ireland, where she runs an inherited pub. She’s able to pay her bills, the pub’s bills, and the meager salaries Jimmie, Rose, and Mick get, but she’s not sure if she’s making money—or kidding herself. Pulling a pint is easy compared to bookkeeping.

Tim, a college student, shows up to inquire about music; apparently at one time, musicians would just arrive at the pub to jam and play. The next day, Niall shows up, followed by more musicians. Some of them haven’t seen each other for twenty years or more. The back room Maura hardly knew was there and the equipment she didn’t know was there are transformed into a concert space. Customers arrive from all over and are packed wall-to-wall for the music. book

The downside is there’s a dead body in the back room the next morning. She calls Sean, the local Gardaí—who’s sweet on her—to get it sorted out. The dead man could have interrupted a robbery attempt, been in search of a place to sleep … or the motive could have come out of his past.

As always, Ireland is as big a character as Maura, Mick, or Billy. Bridget, Maura’s neighbor, is fun to visit and she acts as a sounding board for Maura as she tries to fit in. Mick is still closed-mouthed and mysterious, Sean open and hopeful, Rose maturing into a fine lass. Jimmy will never change. And Billy? He has a few surprises up his sleeve yet. I loved this book and can’t wait for the next one!

Connolly writes the Orchard Mysteries and the Museum Mysteries; this is her third County Cork book.

By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates
Review by Cynthia Chow

Lucy Richardson has just jettisoned everything–a career as a librarian at Harvard University, an elevated social life among the Boston élite, and a relationship with a suitable man arranged since childhood–to pursue her dream of preserving and protecting classical books. Lucy achieves it when she becomes assistant librarian at the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library in Outer Banks, North Carolina, where she spent her summer vacations. Then Mr. Uppiton is murdered in the Lighthouse and it looks as though Lucy’s boss is going to be arrested for the crime. Stolen books, harassing attacks on the library, and a dark cloud of suspicion force Lucy into pursing the real mystery that threatens to end her dream just as she’s about to attain

The boy who gave Lucy her first kiss reappears as the Outer Banks mayor, and she balances that old crush with her attraction to an attractive police detective. Lucy is putting all of the knowledge she’s absorbed through her love of mystery novels to use as she helps with solving the case.

Eva Gates successfully conveys Lucy’s absolute adoration for everything about books. Not just the magic of the words that transport her to other worlds, but also the beauty of the covers, the feel of the pages, and even the smell of a revered tome. Gates, who writes police procedurals as Vicki Delany, eases into the cozy arena with a heroine who struggles to establish her own identity separate from the one expected of her.

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).

The Drowning Spool by Monica Ferris
Review by Sandra Murphy

Longtime readers will remember that needlecraft shop owner Betsy Devonshire goes to water aerobics several times a week. When the pool closes for renovations, she has to find a new place to exercise at the local senior complex.

A young woman’s nude body is found in the pool and it’s assumed the night clerk let her in to go skinny-dipping. Betsy, who’s been asked to teach a punch needle class at the senior center, is caught up in the investigation. Wilma, one of the residents, an Alzheimer’s patient, starts dropping hints that she knows some secrets and it’s not a surprise when she turns up dead as well. book

This book explores Betsy’s relationship with live-in boyfriend Connor in more depth than previous sixteen books in the series. She also has to do a little work on her relationship with Goddie who sometimes sides with Connor. Connor has to find his place in Betsy’s life since she’s made it clear he’s not to interfere in her needlework shop, not even a little bit. Jill and Lars are pregnant with their third child so Jill’s plan to be a private detective has been put on hold, which sidelines her from helping much on this investigation.

This is the paperback of last February’s hardcover release. Look for the newest book, Darned if You Do (see review next), out this month.

Darned if You Do by Monica Ferris
review by Sandra Murphy

Poor Tom Riordan! He was asleep when a sudden and violent thunderstorm dropped a tree through the roof and onto his bed. Tom has to be in rehab for a while and the house (a hoarder’s paradise) has to be made habitable. His cousin, Valentina, inherits the job of supervising friends and neighbors willing to help. As they work, there’s a lot of junk but a few valuable finds—some of which walk off before they can be put in a safe place.

There’s also an old mailbag, still full of undelivered mail. Tom had a habit of “finding” items before they were quite lost. But he and his house are both on the mend until he’s murdered at the rehab center. Valentina is a suspect, since she’s Tom’s last living relative. book

An old rifle goes missing while volunteers are eating lunch. When it turns up on a grave at the local cemetery, it only adds to the mystery and the list of suspects. Betsy gets a bit of a wakeup call after a disagreement with Connor. At long last, she realizes her words have an impact on other’s feelings and vows to think before she speaks and to listen to his ideas and opinions.

This is the eighteenth book in the series. Look for a pattern for crochet pattern for classic lace at the back of the book!

To enter to win a copy of all 4 Penguins, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “February More,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 28, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

Click on this link to purchase any of these books:

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra’s short stories on UnTreed Reads including her new one Bananas Foster. Sandy’s latest short story “The Tater Tot Caper” is one of eleven stories in The Killer Wore Cranberry: Fourths of Mayhem. The annual Thanksgiving anthology has eleven stories and this year, includes recipes. And it’s on sale! Available in all e-versions and in print.


  1. What a deal, who ever wins this set should be as happy as a kid at Christmas — they’re all by good authors and love the colorful, bright covers! My type of reading – thanks for offer!

  2. Thank you for the generous giveaway. These books sound great!

  3. Again, you have offered us some of the best writers around.

    These books sound wonderful and I would like to win.

  4. In the past I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Sheila Connolly and Monica Ferris. Throw in another and this would be a special, special treat!!!

  5. Love Sheila Connolly’s books. Am reading Razing the Dead right now, and it’s hard to put down.

  6. We have a winner
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher


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