by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have 3 more March Penguin mysteries, and one we missed in December-A Wee Murder in My Shop by Fran Stewart, Murder Ties the Knot by Christy Fifield, The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer: A Paws & Claws Mystery by Krista Davis, and A First Date with Death: A Love or Money Mystery By Diana Orgain. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win all 4 books, and a link to purchase them.
A Wee Murder in My Shop By Fran Stewart
Review by Sandra Murphy
Poor Peggy Winn. She’s the owner of the Scot Shop in a town where most of the people dress in Scottish attire and yes, that means kilts on the men! Her shop does well, she’s got a boyfriend, a BFF who owns the restaurant next door, and she gets to travel to Scotland for merchandise for her store. What could be better?
Too bad her yoga instructor went into labor so her class ended early. When Peggy went by to surprise her boyfriend-almost-fiancée, the surprise was on her. Mason, who instantly became her ex-boyfriend-almost-fiancée was with Andrea, who instantly became her former-best-friend-since-fourth-grade. Good thing Andrea wasn’t the restaurant best friend–that would have been a loss!
Luckily, Peggy was set to leave for Scotland so she had a chance to recuperate out of sight of friends and family. As she explored the town of Pitlochry for new merchandise, she came across an old shop she’d never seen before. In it were all the tartans of the clans and one in particular she had to have. The whole experience was odd, especially when she couldn’t find the shop again.
Odd is an understatement as the tartan shawl came with its own ghost. His name is long and almost unpronounceable so Peggy calls him Dirk. Apparently, Dirk died in the 1500s. It’s a steep learning curve for him to understand anything modern. As Peggy tries to explain, she gets quite the reputation for talking to herself and explaining the obvious.
Peggy and Dirk arrive at her shop only to find a heavy bookcase overturned and the wall behind it damaged. Her favorite mannequin, Percy, looks to be trapped beneath the mess. She has to call in reinforcements to right the bookcase. Imagine her surprise to realize Percy wasn’t trapped, but Mason was squashed like a bug.
There are pluses and minuses to this. Minus–she has to deal with the police chief. Plus–the detective on the case is darn cute. Minus–Dirk wants to be involved and be her protector. Plus–did I mention, the detective is darn cute? Minus–her cousin is arrested for the murder!
This is the first in a new series. Stewart also writes the Biscuit McKee mysteries. Peggy is a lot of fun, Dirk is “studly” as well as ghostly, and the detective is just “studly.” The cousins are goofy guys but there when she needs them. She’d better watch out for Gilda, the shop employee. There’s something fishy going on there. The witty dialogue moves the story; Peggy’s mishaps invite the reader’s sympathy while her friendships warrant envy. If weather in the northeast is too severe to make you want to move there (remember the kilts on the men), then at least you’d want to go on a day trip. Just make sure you don’t run into Dirk literally, he has a dizzying effect on live humans.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it from start to finish without a break. It’s the kind where you want to know who did it but don’t want it to end. The solution isn’t too easy or too hard. It’s a satisfying read. I can’t wait to see what Peggy and Dirk get up to next!
Murder Ties the Knot, By Christy Fifield
review by Sandra Murphy
Winter in Keyhole Bay, Florida should be pretty calm. It’s time to concentrate on the summer tourists and the money they’ll spend. Glory runs Southern Treasures, a shop full of souvenir t-shirts, as well as local items like handmade quilts.
Calm is not the right word for this winter. Glory’s friends, Karen and Riley, used to be married. After about ten years apart, they’ve decided to give it another try. Their first wedding was a low-key affair. This time Karen’s mom is “helping,” which means Karen has gone Bridezilla.
Of course, it can’t just be one thing. Glory asked her supplier, Beth, to make a quilt as Karen’s wedding gift. When she arrives to pick it up, Beth’s cabin is locked tight and no one is around. Repeated calls to Beth go straight to voice mail. It could have something to do with the two dead bodies found on the property the next day.
The Sheriff is not overly fond of Glory, since she’s been involved in investigations before. She sure hates to ruin his day by saying she was at what turned out to be the crime scene—and she can’t say it in front of Karen without giving away the quilt surprise.
When she finally reaches Beth, Glory explains that the Sheriff needs to ask her some questions, but leaves it to the Sheriff to mention the dead guys. To everyone’s shock, Beth and her husband, Everett, are arrested for the murders. Glory needed a distraction from the wedding but this is a bit much.
Karen needs a distraction, too. Her mother and new stepfather (number three) are in town for a month. Karen needs a non-wedding project. She picks finding their friend, Sly’s, high school girlfriend—and it’s a cold trail to follow. Sly’s got to be about 70 years old, but he’s never gotten over his first love. Since Sly is black and she was white, there were few places they could meet, even to talk. Sly won’t give any details, so the hunt is on.
Personal things aside, Glory has been saving her money to buy out her idiot cousin, Peter. He has a 45% share in Southern Treasures. Glory does all the work; Peter dreams up unreasonable plans for improvement from a hundred miles away.
Miss Pansy has the bakery/coffee shop next door. She’s about 80 years old, and everyone expects her to be there until her lifeless body is found in the kitchen. That almost came true when she had a “heart event.” Her son talked her into retirement, but she’ll only sell to Glory, and that means a lot more money to come up with in a short amount of time.
To sum up: find lots of money, buy out Peter, buy the bakery, solve two murders so Beth can get out of jail, finish the quilt, get fitted for the maid of honor’s dress, find Sly’s old flame, help with a giftless bridal shower, get Karen and Riley married, prevent bloodshed between Karen and her mom, keep the secret about the honeymoon location, don’t make the Sheriff mad, and oh yeah, keep Bluebeard happy. Easy peasy.
Bluebeard is a parrot Glory’s Uncle Louis had. When Louis died, Glory (and Peter) inherited the store. Glory got Bluebeard. She also got Uncle Louis as a kind of ghost, channeling through Bluebeard. It works out well for both of them. Louis gets to be in the shop he loved, and Glory has some company. Of course, Louis gets a little cranky about no coffee (bad for parrots), but otherwise, he behaves himself, aside from making frequent remarks about Glory’s love life.
That’s another complication, but it’s a nice one. Her relationship with Jake, owner of the bookstore across the street, is moving along. It’s possible that Karen’s are not the only wedding bells that will be ringing, although Glory swears it’s a Las Vegas elopement for her when the time comes.
I like Glory and her friends. I’d be hanging out at the bookstore, the antique shop down the street, surely at Miss Pansy’s, and with Glory every chance I got. I’d also try to wrangle an invitation to join Glory and friends for their once-a-week dinners. Recipes include gumbo, boudin sausage balls, fried okra, and best of all, a choice of desserts: bread pudding with caramel sauce or Glory’s pecan pie. And when the scene on the last page of the book arrives, if you don’t have a tear in your eye, well then, that just isn’t right!
This is the fourth book in the series. I can’t wait for number five.
The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer: A Paws & Claws Mystery By Krista Davis
Review by Cynthia Chow
It’s Halloween—or Howloween, as the Wagtail, Virginia residents are calling it—and the ghost busters are in town. The town that’s made itself the destination of choice for pet owners is celebrating Halloween with a week of activities intended to attract visitors and their four-legged companions, including trick-or-treating, costume parades, canine corn mazes, hayrides, feline feather ability games, and a hotel gala. The crew for a proposed reality television show is also in town, and the Appalachian Apprehenders are booked for a stay in order to capture on film the numerous specters rumored to be residing in town. Holly Miller has just recently moved here permanently to run a pet-friendly inn with her grandmother, but Holly is already seeing the challenge at housing the ghost hunters along with a sure-to-be-for-good-television ghost debunker, Eva Chevalier and her feline Mrs. Mewer.
It’s Mallory Gooley who proves far more troublesome: she’s the girlfriend of one of the lead Apprehenders, and she is flirting with everyone to make her boyfriend jealous. When Holly is led by her rambunctious adopted dog Trixie to discover Mallory’s body, dressed as the local legendary ghost Becca Wraith and floating in the water near the Wagtail Springs Hotel, people are surprised—but definitely not mournful.
Considering how Wagtail relies on tourism to survive, most of the officials are intent on quickly declaring the death the result of Mallory’s own drunk escapades. Only police officer Dave Quinlan and Holly have their suspicions, so it’s up to them to discover if one of the apparition hunters, debunkers, or even townspeople had a hand in prematurely turning Mallory into a ghost.
This second in the Paws & Claws Mystery series continues to charm with an animal-centric town that caters to every fancy of their four-legged companions. Wagtail is an absolutely whimsical and charming setting, and while its residents are intent on profiting from the Howloween extravaganzas, romance is never too far from anyone’s mind. As couples of all ages pair up, even Holly—whose previous engagement began and ended with a text—discovers that her past is still complicating her future.
Davis, also the author of eight Domestic Diva mysteries, proves skillful at crafting characters that evolve constantly, and readers will be surprised at how their loyalties and sympathies will change as the novel progresses. The final reveal is similarly unexpected, and this perplexing plot adds to the charm of a novel that highlights likable characters and an eminently appealing animal-loving heroine.
A First Date with Death: A Love or Money Mystery By Diana Orgain
Review by Cynthia Chow
Six months ago, Georgia Thronton was a San Francisco police information officer about to walk down the aisle with the man of her dreams. Now here she was, attached to a bungee cord, poised to plunge off of the Golden Gate Bridge with a stranger for a reality television show.
After Georgia was left at the altar, then fired from her job, her best friend Becca—assistant producer for the television show Love or Money—has convinced Georgia to become the bachelorette for a dating-competition show with a $250,00 cash prize. The twist is that five of the vying bachelors are in it solely for the prize money, while the other five are looking for love and willing to split the cash with Georgia. It’s up to Georgia to determine who’s in it for love and who only wants the money.
Unfortunately, one of the contenders gets himself eliminated via a faulty bungee cord, and Georgia suspects that his death wasn’t an accident. Her suspicions are reinforced when he’s replaced by Paul Sanders, an undercover San Francisco detective—and Georgia’s ex-fiancé. Now Georgia has to endure individual and group dates under the eagle-eye of the producer, using her police skills to determine who may break her heart… or take her life.
Orgain opens the novel with the first date’s abrupt end, then introduces the cast as Georgia is forced to reenact her initial meetings for the show’s re-shoots. The fun comes in the behind-the-scenes look into how intrusive cameras and multiple takes suck all of the romance out of Georgia’s dates, not to mention the fake sets and wardrobe malfunctions.
This is a thoroughly original mystery with more than just a broken heart at stake, and it gets stronger and more compelling as it progresses. The humor is wry and accelerates as Georgia’s dates continue, and she is always appealing, smart, and admirable. Just like the reluctant protagonist, readers will fall in love with the concept of finding genuine romance on a television show. Georgia might be certain that she will find a murderer at the completion of Love or Money, but what she cannot predict is that she may even have a shot of finding true love.
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 “Spring,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 21, 2015. 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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