by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
Here is another fun group of mysteries for your March reading-Dead Calm: A Mattie Winston Mystery By Annelise Ryan, Dipped to Death: Olive Grove Mystery by Kelly Lane, Lethal Licorice: An Amish Candy Shop Mystery by Amanda Flower, & Pawprints and Predicaments: Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery by Bethany Blake. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books, along with links you can use to purchase them.
Dead Calm: A Mattie Winston Mystery By Annelise Ryan
Review by Cynthia Chow
For someone whose existence has been an endless rollercoaster of drama and chaos, Mattie Winton’s life seems to have settled into an unaccustomed state of blissful happiness. She’s finally married to homicide detective Steve Hurley, they have a twenty-two-month-old son, and Hurley’s newfound teenaged daughter has settled in remarkably well as a reliable babysitter. Mattie’s job as the medical examiner’s death investigator even allows her to occasionally work with her husband, although their latest case reveals the darker side of marriage. Meredith Lansing and Craig Knowledge have been found dead in the Grizzly Motel, and while they are both married, it’s not to one another.
Despite a confession note, Mattie questions that the deaths are a murder-suicide, which places the surviving spouses high on the suspect lists. Professional motives soon rival insurance policies and jealousy though, especially when Mattie’s physician ex-husband gets thrown into the mix.
This series has always been fascinating when it delves into Mattie’s duties as the Sorenson, Wisconsin, mediocolegal death investigator, but it is never more hilarious than when depicting her interviews with applicants for the medical examiner’s office. As one might expect when the job entails dissecting corpses, those interested in the position are decidedly…unique. Mattie is a rarity herself, an extremely intelligent former ER nurse dedicated to the truth and unwavering in as she pursues it. It’s the rest of her life that always seems to have her unmoored, which includes a father who recently emerged from the Witness Protection Program, a hypochondriac mother with OCD, a gambling addiction, and Mattie’s own nearly absurd experiences with marriage.
Previous installments have always overflowed with dark humor, but this ninth in the series leans towards the lighter side and should have readers snorting with laughter. Mattie excels at cynicism, and giving birth in her forties hasn’t made her humor any less biting or her remarks less acerbic. A surprising discovery at the site of Mattie and Hurley’s new home results not just in delays, but unwanted attention from the media and fringe element. Yet no one unfamiliar with Mattie should expect any project to run smoothly, or be without its moments of absurdity. Events from a previous investigation continue to play out and tie into the current murder, revealing a realistic plot that will surprise readers with its complexity and nefariousness. These novels by Annelise Ryan are always on my favorites of the year, and while having her life’s plans unravel may exasperate Mattie, for readers they are endlessly entertaining and entirely unique.
Dipped to Death: Olive Grove Mystery by Kelly Lane
Review by Sandra Murphy
One thing you have to say about Southerners is that they adapt. That’s why Eva’s daddy decided to grow olives in Abundance, Georgia. Mostly what they grow are olives for oil. If there’s a way to make a dollar, Eva’s sister Daphne will think of it.
Eva’s got her hands full what with doing the PR for the olive grove and filling in for the twins who are supposed to be working at inn. The girls often don’t show up, so Eva’s stuck doing laundry, cleaning rooms, and running errands. Covering for the twins is how Eva missed meeting the new guests until dinnertime when she covered the twins’ shift as server.
There was Dex, Eva’s ex-boyfriend and his work cronies, the upper crust of Boston, all swearing they just happened to pick Abundance for a bird-watching vacation. Too bad none of them could tell a sparrow from an eagle—or care.
Although Dex hasn’t seen Eva in over fifteen years, he seems to think it’s his right to be able to reach out and grab whatever of her body parts he wants to. Eva disagrees—loudly and publicly. The next day Dex is found in the pond, dead and naked as can be. Who would be the most likely suspect? Eva tops the list.
She’d like to think sharing a few toe-curling kisses with Buck, the Sheriff, would give her a little extra credibility, but now that he’s seen around town with Debi, seems not. Eva’s the curious sort so asking a few questions couldn’t hurt. That was before the truck blew a tire and ended up in the ditch, the tree limb broke as she sat under it, she almost got caught snooping, and then there was that snake in her bed.
This is the third book in the series. Eva and her two sisters, Daphne who fancies herself lady of the house and Pep the leather-clad bartender, face the daily challenges of running the grove, the inn, and their personal lives in a small town where nothing is considered personal. Complications are never ending in Abundance, where nothing is what it seems.
Recipes are included—bourbon and ginger barbecued chicken, limey summer pasta salad, lime vinaigrette, roasted sweet, salty and spicy pecans, corn pudding, chocolate olive oil cake and mascarpone frosting.
Lethal Licorice: An Amish Candy Shop Mystery by Amanda Flower
Review by Sandra Murphy
For a small Amish town, Harvest, Ohio, has a lot going on. The town is host for the Amish Confectionary Competition when fifteen of the best candy makers vie for the title—and all the candy has to be made in the Amish way, using no electricity, no modern conveniences.
Bailey King isn’t Amish, but her grandmother, owner of Swissmen Sweets, is Amish and qualifies to compete with Bailey representing the shop. With her background as a chocolatier, Bailey hopes to win the fudge round at least. The other candies are peanut brittle, taffy, and licorice.
Although the Amish are not supposed to be proud or boast, competition is fierce among the contestants. Josephine Weaver, one of the country’s best candy makers, thinks Bailey should be disqualified because she’s not Amish. Josephine also thinks the licorice category should be eliminated since she’s allergic to anise. The judges disagree although they do allow Lindy, Josephine’s under-appreciated assistant, to create the candy for that round. Haddie wants to win, no matter what she has to do.
Judith is a friend of Bailey’s family. She has a pet pot bellied pig named Jethro who follows her everywhere. When he goes missing, everyone in town is worried about the little guy. Who wouldn’t love a polka-dotted little pig?
During the search for Jethro, Bailey checks inside the church only to discover a young Amish woman playing the organ. The sound is far from right. Checking to see what’s the matter, Josephine’s body is discovered inside the organ’s housing. Seen as an outsider, Bailey is a suspect, although hardly a serious one. The young woman might have had a motive, but there are others as well. Josephine was an overly critical woman who didn’t hesitate to voice her opinion. The problem is opportunity and means.
Bailey is beginning to find herself as a chocolatier in a small town rather than New York where she trained. She doesn’t quite fit in as English (non-Amish) since her grandmother still lives the Amish way—electricity only in the business, not in the apartments above, no driving a car, and wearing plain clothes. Bailey tends to stand out in jeans, suede boots and feathered earrings.
Her curiosity overrules her good sense at times as she leaves candy making to her assistant Emily while asking questions about Josephine. Still, everything manages to get done and on time. Aiden, the Sheriff’s deputy, is a potential love interest if Bailey can get past a disastrous relationship she had while in New York.
Sadly, only one recipe is at the back of the book in spite of the delicious sound of sour apple taffy, crunchy peanut brittle and chocolate peanut butter fudge. The included recipe is for black licorice. From the sound of it, you’ll never want the store-bought kind again.
Look for Premeditated Peppermint, the third in the series, due out in September and available for pre-order now. Assaulted Caramel, the first, was reviewed for KRL. Flower also writes the Magical Bookshop series, the Appleseed Creek books, Magical Garden mysteries, the Living History Museum series,
Pawprints and Predicaments: Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery by Bethany Blake
Review by Sandra Murphy
It’s time for the thirteenth annual Sylvan Creek Tail Waggin’ Winterfest in the Pocono Mountains. This year, a television crew is on hand to film the festivities. What should be a fun time is marred by the producer. Lauren’s need for perfection and her crabby personality are a pain in the neck.
Part of the town’s history includes a tale of a St. Bernard. Over the years it’s been embellished to say the dog shows up when someone is going to die. Once the filming started, sightings of the dog were more frequent, if not accurate or even real.
A new event is the Polar Bear Plunge into the lake. Daphne signed up for it although her Basset Hound, Socrates, thinks it’s clearly a bad idea. Of course, she thought her BFF, Moxie, had signed up too but not so. However, Lauren and her assistant will jump in as their cameraman captures the moment. In/out, how hard could that be?
The water is colder than Daphne could ever imagine. Poor planning had all the participants plunging at once which led to a lot of fumbling around. Daphne gets knocked off her feet. A St. Bernard comes flying into the water, and it’s not to rescue Daphne. Lauren went underwater but for her it’s too late. She’s dead.
It wasn’t the cold water that did her in. It’s assumed she hit her head on a rock, except there aren’t any rocks around. Since Lauren offended a number of people, there’s a long list of potential suspects when her death is declared murder.
In between pet sitting and refining recipes for her soon to open pet bakery, Daphne tries to figure out just who could have hated Lauren enough to really kill her. Usually, she can get bits of inside information from Detective Jonathan Black about a case but not this time. Jonathan’s ex-wife is part of the television show and was seen arguing with Lauren right before the plunge. When a second death occurs, things just get worse.
This is the third book in the series. Daphne is learning what she wants and planning her life accordingly. Dealing with a driven mother and a practical sister can be hard to do. Luckily, Daphne has Moxie to balance that drama. As always, Socrates the Basset, Artie the one-eared Chihuahua, and Tink the Evil Cat show that what’s most important is often four-legged and covered in fur. Or a nice hand-knit sweater in Artie’s case. It’s Socrates’ reactions and Daphne’s interpretation of what he’s thinking that makes this series different and so very enjoyable.
Recipes include cinnamon roll-overs, mutt loaf, tuna tidbits, and woffles (waffles). Artie recommends adding whipped cream on those.
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 “march catchup,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 10, 2018. 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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