by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have 3 more fun mysteries-one with cats, a food one, and a former TV star turned PI-Claw Enforcement: A Second Chance Cat Mystery by Sofie Ryan, Last Licks: A Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe Mystery by Cynthia Baxter, and Poppy Harmon and the Hung Jury: A Desert Flowers Mystery by Lee Hollis. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 books, along with links you can use to purchase them. If you have ad blocker on you won’t see the Amazon links at the end of each review.
Claw Enforcement: A Second Chance Cat Mystery by Sofie Ryan
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sarah Grayson runs a secondhand shop where she refinishes furniture, cleans glass, and makes the old look new again, but with attitude. With the help of Liz, Avery, Mac, Rose, Charlotte, and Mr. P., they keep the shop running. Of course, her employees have run amok and formed their own detective agency, an odd occupation for seniors, but they make it work. And then there’s Elvis, Sarah’s black cat, who goes to work at the shop every day. He’s anything but shy about what he wants and how to get it.
Everyone in town is talking about the lawsuit over a piece of beach. The owner, an elderly woman with the beginnings of dementia, isn’t exactly clear on who she sold the property to. Chris Healy wants to leave the beach pristine as a nature preserve. Joe Roswell wants to build high rises there. A local man, not even an engineer, assures Joe he can use soy fibers to make the foundation sturdy enough to resist an eroding ocean, but does he know what he’s talking about?
At an invitation-only fundraising event, a drunken Chris crashes the party and tries to start a fight with Joe. Moments later, Chris takes a sip of coffee, has a seizure, and is dead before his body hits the floor. Rose thinks it was murder. Although tempted to dismiss the idea, Sarah knows Rose has been right too many times in the past. Rose is soon proved right.
Chris had a reputation for getting enthused and then being distracted by the next project before the first was complete. He stuck with the nature preserve longer than anything before, so did he turn over a new leaf? Given his entitled attitude, the suspect list is long. Will they be able to strips away the excuses to get to the truth and catch a killer?
This is book seven in the series, a longtime favorite of mine. Sarah and Mac are dancing on the edge of a relationship. Her brother, Liam, is having a fake relationship with Jesse, a coverup in response to the overzealous encouragement from the in-store detectives. How fake is it?
Rose is especially clever. After being a teacher for many years, she has a way of asking questions or making statements that makes sure she gets to the truth. Think Betty White.
As always, Elvis steals every scene he’s in, and there are a lot of them. Cat lovers will nod in agreement at his every comment.
The characters, like the merchandise, are a mix of old and new, refurbished and cleaned up, for a second life. They are an encouraging example of what can be achieved, no matter what age you are.
Last Licks: A Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe Mystery by Cynthia Baxter
Review by Sandra Murphy
Kate McKay has a great job. She owns Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe in Wolfert’s Roost. Halloween is two weeks away, but the shop is decorated to the nines, new flavors of ice cream are on the menu, and business is good.
As Kate and her niece, Emily, are discussing even more flavor combinations, a woman comes in and asks to use the store as the location for a scene in a movie. The money offered is too good to pass up, plus there’s the publicity.
Unfortunately, in spite of the old saying, not all publicity is good for business. When the female lead collapses and dies after eating Kate’s ice cream, the shop is shut down. With time on her hands. Kate is determined to clear her name and restore the reputation of her ice creams.
Although there are several suspects—a rival actress, the boyfriend, rumors of a married man stalking her, a crazed fan—the problem is, who had access to the ice cream store? That list is limited to the cast and crew and store employees.
In her personal life, she lives with her niece and grandmother. Grams has a new love interest, a charming retiree. Kate is torn between two men: the handsome and athletic Brody and Jake, the boy she dated in high school. He’s a former lawyer, now running a dairy in town.
Kate takes risks she shouldn’t. I’m hoping she’ll be more cautious in the future. The ice cream shop is a great setting, Grams and Emily, are lively characters, plus there’s Digger, an enthusiastic terrier mix and Chloe, the cat who tries to keep him in line.
Kate shares recipes for baked Alaska and affogato, an ice cream and espresso version of a root beer float, served hot and melty. The flavor combinations are endless and fun to try. This is book three, with Murder with a Cherry on Top and Hot Fudge Murder, as the first two. Prepare to be hungry!
Poppy Harmon and the Hung Jury: A Desert Flowers Mystery by Lee Hollis
Review by Cynthia Chow
As a retired actress made famous from an 80s PI television show, Poppy Harmon should have felt right at home as in the midst of a celebrity court case. Instead, Poppy finds herself involuntarily elected as the jury foreman on the trial of Sinatra-esque crooner Tony Molina, who wielded his fame along with a frying pan to punish the chef of an East Village restaurant. While the evidence seems to be inarguable, Tony’s fans, along with a leering fellow juror, seem determined to allow the singer to go unpunished. After the mistrial, the lone holdout on the jury continues to declare his intent on making himself Poppy’s boy-toy, an impossibility even if she didn’t just happen to find him dead and floating in a pool.
This is almost enough to distract Poppy from a real case for the Palm Springs Desert Flowers Detective Agency, who still have to operate under Remington Steele-inspired model led by real actor Matt Cameron. It’s Poppy’s own acting background and Hollywood connections that get them hired when her former co-star on Jack Colt, PI hires them to find his missing daughter. It wouldn’t be the first time Rod Harper’s daughter Lara stormed off when she didn’t get her way, but the indulgent father still feels worried enough to ask for Poppy’s help.
Complicating matters is Rod’s determination to fulfill Poppy’s long-held crush on the silver fox, despite her also having complicated feelings for their former police consultant Sam Emerson. When Rod’s case is conveniently resolved Poppy becomes distracted by the unpaying case involving the dead juror, frustrating her very opinionated detecting partners. Through flattery and not a little coercing, Poppy soon has cranky former torch singer Iris Becker and retired principal Violet Hogan fully on board the off-books investigation, which leads to tolerating the attentions of a enamored young carpet cleaner, attending cocktail parties at a Rancho Mirage county club, and exploiting the hacker talents of Violet’s twelve-year-old grandson.
Above all else this is a hilarious mystery that delights in defying expectations and satirizing both the conventions of detective television shows and of mysteries themselves. The ladies of the Desert Flowers Detective Agency continue to be the standout attraction of the series, especially as details about their jaw-dropping past experiences are casually sprinkled throughout. More surprising has been the development of the relationship between Poppy and her daughter Heather, whom after a long absence (that’s one way of putting it politely) is having to readjust not just to starting her life over but in resuming a relationship with Matt. Heather’s struggle to fit in is empathetically depicted and adds so many layers to this extremely funny novel. Acceptance, forgiveness, and choosing the unexpected path are all topics skillfully woven into what is an undeniably exuberant and very humorous novel. Expect genuine heartwarming moments along with bursts of laughter as a conventional premise is twisted into a charming and very entertaining series.
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 “mystery fun,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 7, 2020. 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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