by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we are once again trying to catch up on mysteries we haven’t had the chance to review yet-A Crafter Quilts a Crime: A Handcrafted Mystery by Holly Quinn, In Cold Chamomile: A Tea and a Read Mystery by Joy Avon, Matchmaking Can Be Murder: An Amish Matchmaking Mystery by Amanda Flower, and Sealed Off: A Maine Clambake Mystery by Barbara Ross. 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. If you have ad blocker on you won’t see the Amazon links at the end of each review.
A Crafter Quilts a Crime: A Handcrafted Mystery by Holly Quinn
Review by Sandra Murphy
Samantha (Sammy) Kane owns and operates Community Craft in Heartsford, Wisconsin. The store sells handcrafted items and holds classes for beginners and those looking to go to the next level. The bitter cold would keep most people at home, snug and warm, but it’s the day of the Fire and Ice event. The stores stay open until midnight, a giant bonfire keeps everyone toasty or close to it, and a good time is had by all.
Almost all. Sammy has come up with the idea of live mannequins in her display window. First up is her cousin, Heidi, dressed like an ice princess. She’s followed by Wanda, the yoga teacher, who poses seated with a quilt across her lap. No one can get Wanda to break her pose, but it’s not talent or concentration on her part. Heidi notices Wanda’s lips have turned blue and calls for an ambulance. It’s no use, Wanda is dead. Those who know Wanda are stunned that an athletic, young, vegan woman could have a heart attack, but the truth in, it was murder.
The spouse is always a person of interest, but Wanda’s husband, Marty, is nowhere to be found. Is it because he’s guilty or will his body turn up as well? Sammy, Heidi, and Sammy’s sister Ellie formed a detective agency as children, using their initials—SHE. Because Wanda died in her store, Sammy investigates with the help of her partners in crime solving.
When the police investigation hits closer to home, the women step up their efforts instead of backing off. Sammy is impulsive, apt to blurt out whatever’s on her mind, and to take risks she shouldn’t even consider, often without telling the others where she’s going. Wanda seemingly left a clue to what’s going on, but can the women figure out what it means before someone else dies?
This is book three in the series. Each of the women are facing a new challenge by the end of the book which will have readers wanting more. The town is one you’d love to visit, if you like snow and cold weather or like to quilt. At the back of the book find a quilt block pattern called Patched Flight, and recipes for a “Sammy’s Crustless Spinach Quiche (for a cold, snowy morning),” and “Ellie’s Meatball Soup (best for days when temp dip below zero.”
In Cold Chamomile: A Tea and a Read Mystery by Joy Avon
Review by Sandra Murphy
Callie Aspen and her Aunt Iphy run Book Tea, a vintage tearoom. Iphy specializes in fanciful, delicious pastries to go with the teas and coffees they serve. Both volunteer in the preservation of Haywood Hall, a spectacular mansion. It’s the site of the Valentine event, Fall in Love with Books. There’s an appraiser to value old first editions, a book swap, second hand books, a tour of the Haywood library, a book blind date area (book are wrapped so readers have no idea what they’re getting), Fall in Love with Plants in the conservatory, and in the outbuilding, Fall in Love with Dogs, featuring shelter pups in need of a forever home. The orchestra will play and accompany a baritone singer.
Mrs. Forrester, practically a professional volunteer, is “helping” Callie keep track of the details. Mostly, that sounds like complaining. As an older woman, she never hesitates to share her opinion. At one point, Callie sees Mrs. Forrester on a tear, angry as can be. Callie’s just glad she’s not the recipient of that anger.
Oddly, the baritone who shows up is not the man originally scheduled to perform. Iphy almost faints when she hears who the man is. She had a past relationship with him but won’t share any details.
When a dead body is found, obviously murdered, there are a number of possible suspects, but who knew where to find the victim in the huge house, just when a murder weapon was at hand, and could leave without being detected?
Meanwhile, everyone needs Callie’s help, but when she gives it, she’s accused of meddling. Ace, a deputy and Callie’s love interest, hates that Callie is involved with the murder, even though she was just on the scene. Iphy is angry Callie won’t get more involved with the murder investigation, question suspects, and prove Ace wrong. All in all, even though it’s Valentine’s Day, Callie’s not feeling the love.
This is the third book in the series. Callie and Iphy are people you’d want to know, but it might be hazardous to your health to hang out with them. The Haywood mansion would certainly be a place you’d want to visit. The mystery is a good one—not quite a locked room type but close. With major life changes coming for every character, readers will be anxious for book four to arrive. Although late to be read for Valentine’s Day, it’s an enjoyable read that will make readers appreciate, no dead bodies with their hearts, candy, and flowers.
Matchmaking Can Be Murder: An Amish Matchmaking Mystery by Amanda Flower
Review by Sandra Murphy
Matchmaking is Millie Fisher’s unique talent. She can tell which couple will make a good marriage and who won’t. It’s not all smiles, though. Her niece Edith is due to marry Jake in two weeks, and Millie is sure it’s a mistake. Edith’s a widow with three children, and it’s the Amish way to remarry so the children will have a father. Edith owns the local greenhouse and plant nursery which will transfer to her husband upon marriage. Jake has already taken an interest in the business.
Millie wants to talk about the wedding and her misgivings, but Edith surprises her by bringing it up first and announcing she’s going to break the engagement. Edith’s first husband was a poor choice, and she doesn’t want to make another bad decision.
When Jake is found dead in Edith’s greenhouse and she’s standing over the body, she’s an obvious suspect. Jake had a reputation as a hard worker but also for having a quick temper, poor judgement, and no talent with plants or the nursery. He was also something of a player and had an English (non-Amish) girlfriend as well.
Millie is surprised to reconnect with her old friend Lois who couldn’t be more of Millie’s opposite if she tried. Lois is loud, flashy, colorful, lots of fun—and divorced four times. The physical contrast is extreme, but the friendship, even after a long separation, is solid. Lois dubs Millie the Amish Marple and declares they have to find Jake’s killer. How hard could that be?
Harvest, Ohio, is also the site of Swissmen Sweets, the Amish candy shop run by Clara, Charlotte, and Bailey. Regular readers will remember Assaulted Caramel, Lethal Licorice, Premeditated Peppermint, and Toxic Toffee (reviewed for KRL). The matchmaking series is a spinoff, using many of the same characters—Deputy Aiden, Juliet and her emotional support pygmy pig, Jethro, and Margaret who is determined to bring tourism to town without losing the Amish atmosphere.
Readers will look forward to more adventures with Millie, her two goats, Peter and Phillip, Lois, and hopefully recipes from the new restaurant in town. Love is in the air, much to Millie’s delight, and it may even come into her own life. Flower also writes the Magical Bookshop series, the Magic Garden books, the Appleseed Creek mysteries, the India Hayes books, the Living History Museum series, and writes for Hallmark.
Sealed Off: A Maine Clambake Mystery by Barbara Ross
Review by Cynthia Chow
If anyone knows family drama, it’s Julia Snowden. She’s seen her share of it after returning home two years ago to help run the Snowden Family Clambake business, and only recently have tensions lessened between her and her brother-in-law. It’s also why she was unable to turn down her boyfriend Chris Durand’s request to hire his brother, despite Terry Durand being an ex-con who just spent the last ten years in prison. They can definitely use all the help they can get, being short-staffed during the busy October month before shutting down for the Maine winter season.
Julia’s beginning to regret her good deed, though, as Terry is contributing to the hostile work environment with the romantic square between himself and three other employees. Having a divorced couple and the new girlfriend on the payroll was not ideal in the first place, and Terry’s overprotectiveness towards single mother Emmy Bailey was only making matters worse. When Julia finds Jason Caraway’s body buried in a clambake woodpile, it’s not surprising that the Maine detectives immediately circle Terry as their prime suspect, especially since he was last seen fighting with the deceased. Feeling responsible for bringing his brother back to Busman’s Harbor, Chris promises Terry that Julia will use her proven experience to find the truth, even if she is not entire certain of his innocence.
Distraction arrives in the welcome form of Julia’s own family, whose mother recently discovered not just unknown relatives but an unexpected inheritance. Jacqueline Snowden’s cousin Marguerite Morales and her granddaughter have arrived on the island in time for the renovation of the abandoned Windsholme mansion, with Marguerite being one of the few remaining who lived in it during its prime. What she never saw was the room once completely sealed off within the mansion, or the diary of the nanny from 1898. While Julia and her family are at first delighted by the gothic romance of the adventures detailed inside, each installment adds on layers of foreboding menace that has them fearing for the author’s fate. As the crimes of present-day Morrow Island become more insidious and tangled, Julia fears that her peaceful home will not survive the upcoming winter.
As tantalizing as the clambake and made-for-winter hearty meals (recipes included!) are the heart-warming and emotionally complex relationships between the Snowden family members and their friends. Chris has made the choice to not be tested for the gene that would indicate he had the incurable Huntington’s disease, preferring not to know for certain that he will suffer the devastating illness already affecting his mother. While Terry also refuses to take the test, being a possible father leads to far direr implications for both his child and the mother.
Interspersed throughout are chapters from the journal of a young woman dazzled by the enormous Morrow family and the Windsholme estate. These details of the Maine Island are drawn out vividly to engage the reader and make one feel in the middle of a cold harbor winter. Sensibly keeping detectives informed as she learns more about the victim and his less-than-pristine past, Julia proves to be a clever and practical amateur detective. This eighth in the series continues to surprise with its unexpected plot twists and steadfast characters who embrace their harsh winters, delicious seafood, and deadly cold seas. Be ready for Greek Style Lamb Chops Sous Vide, Halibut Pizzaiola, Slow Cooker Cioppino, Olga’s Brownies, and Ma’s Pot Roast.
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 mystery,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 14, 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.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next week!
You can use this link to purchase any of these books from indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, and KRL gets a portion of the sale:
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.
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I love Amanda Flower books but the others are new authors time me so would love to read these they all sound amazing and have great covers. Thanks for the chance.
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I would absolutely love to win all
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Thank you for the chance to win!
We have a winner!