by Sandra Murphy
This week we have yet another group of new fun mystery novels to share and to give away-six in total. We have reviews of A Fete Worse than Death by Claudia Bishop, Agony of the Leaves by Laura Childs, Assaulted Pretzel by Laura Bradford, Cat Trick by Sofie Kelly, Bowled Over by Victoria Hamilton, and Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly. These books include a lot of recipes, teas, cats, Amish and kitchen collectibles. Details on how to win a copy of all of these books at the end of this post.
A Fete Worse than Death by Claudia Bishop
Poor Quill, she has a problem saying no. That’s how and why she ends up on six different committees for the Finger Lakes Autumn Fete, as well as being the permanent secretary for the Chamber of Commerce. With her husband out of the country, available only by Skype, Quill and son Jack move back to the Inn at Hemlock Falls, the small inn she co-owns with her sister Meg.
Lucky for her, Jack’s not the clingy type of kid so she can sit through endless meetings while people argue about placement of the booths and who will judge the entries this year. When troublemaker Carol Ann accuses Adela, the Mayor’s wife–and organizer of the fete for over twenty years–of embezzling funds the whole idea of the fete begins to fall apart. Perhaps it’s time to bring in a professional just to get through the whole thing?
Enter Linda Connelly, event planner from Syracuse. She arrives with two helpers, one who looks like an aging hippie and one who is movie-star handsome. Within two days, Linda’s managed to offend most of the citizens of Hemlock Falls.
Meanwhile, Althea, a guest at the inn, volunteers to help–is her offer too good to be true? Jeeter is another month’s long guest. Who bonked him over the head after sending him the usual cryptic note? What threat could a ninety-eight year old man be who thinks he sees the Loch Ness monster’s New York cousin late at night?
A stolen, re-stolen and stolen again laptop, a mechanic impersonator, an inept State Police officer, marital problems between the Mayor and Adela, missing money and nobody is who they seem to be–it’s enough to make Quill pull her hair out or take to drink.
At least before everybody goes around the bend keeping it all straight, they managed to get the recipes for the winning entries and they’re at the back of the book. There are no fruit pie recipes though, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why.
Recipes include: Cambridge Gingerbread, Rebecca’s Fruit Crumble, Beer Rye Bread, Mary’s Peach Chutney, Whit’s Blueberry Chutney, Butter Taffy, Sauerkraut, Arlene Peterson’s Spaghetti Surprise, Tompkins County Cherry Jam, Pickled Carrots, Marge Schmidt’s Tomato Catsup, Citrus Vinaigrette, Harland Peterson’s Pork Butt, Miriam’s Luscious Lemon Meringue Pie, Claudia’s Ambrosia Cookies, Cider Fry Cakes, Double Fried Potatoes, Julie’s Amazing All-Occasion Cake with 7 Minute Icing.
Previous books in this series:
A Taste for Murder
A Dash of Death, A Pinch of Poison
Murder Well-Done, Death Dines Out
A Touch of the Grape
A Steak in Murder
Marinade For Murder
Fried by Jury
A Puree of Poison
Buried by Breakfast
A Dinner to Die For
Ground to a Halt
A Carol for a Corpse
Dread on Arrival
Agony of the Leaves by Laura Childs
If you’ve been keeping up with the Tea Shop series, then you know Parker Scully and Theodosia Browning were dating, although it wasn’t so much of a passion-filled romance as two really good friends spending time together. Oh, it looked good on the surface, but then she met Max. Wowza, the sparks flew and poor Parker, well he took it with good grace and wanted to remain friends.
The opening of the Neptune Aquarium in Charleston, South Carolina is a major event and the Indigo Tea Shop has been hired to provide special teas, scones, and sandwiches for the private party honoring dignitaries and big bucks donors. Everything should go smoothly, right? Not so much. A dead body can spoil the best of parties, especially for Theodosia who finds the body and knows the victim.
Theodosia knows it is murder. For once, Detective Tidwell is almost human, at least as long as he’s plied with tiny scones and teas of his own. Of course, Theodosia’s dog, Earl Grey is back to help and Max is there to lend support and add some zing to her overbooked, overworked days and nights. Delaine Dish is back too and she’s got a new boyfriend as well. She’s over the top in all categories, but she’s well-dressed while being right in the middle of everything.
There are a lot of twists and turns, red herrings and possible murder suspects, but Theodosia works her way through the distractions to a satisfying conclusion. In between her jaunts to interrogate suspects and follow clues, she serves up teas, lunches and pastries you’ll wish were sitting on the table next to you as you read.
Besides setting a good plot and characters, the book offers recipes, tea trivia, tips for serving afternoon teas, sources for fine teas and hints on what to see if you visit Charleston.
Apple Scones, Haley’s Butter Cake, Peach-Pecan Quick Bread, Maple-Pecan Butter, Caprese Tea Sandwiches (flatbreads), Gobbling Goodness Tea Sandwiches (turkey), Sweet Potato Butter, Parmesan Crisps, Charleston Pecan Brownie Bars, Brie and Fig Tea Sandwiches, and Honey Bee Scones.
This book is now available in paperback, the hardback was published in March 2012.
Previous books in the Tea Shop series are:
Death by Darjeeling
Shades of Earl Grey
The English Breakfast Murder
The Jasmine Moon Murder
Blood Orange Brewing
The Silver Needle Murder
The Teaberry Strangler
Scones & Bones
Assaulted Pretzel by Laura Bradford
Claire Weatherly found what she was looking for in Amish country. She lives with her aunt, helps run the B&B, has her own store to sell Amish handicrafts and two men are interested in her. She just might be interested back.
Jakob left the Amish community after being baptized and is now shunned by his family and culture. Benjamin was widowed shortly after his marriage and after ten years, is ready to have someone to share his life. It’s a shame that romance between an Amish man and English (non-Amish) woman won’t work.
The community is thrilled to welcome Rob Karble to town. He owns a toy company and is interested in hiring the Amish to be his suppliers for a new line of toys without technology. He thinks kids would like to use their imaginations again, instead of just their fingers to type and text. Everything’s going smoothly until a copy of a letter is circulated—it says Karble will make the toys in-house. Translation: Karble is taking the Amish designs, not paying for them, not hiring the Amish as suppliers.
It’s not much of a surprise when Karble’s body is found—the only surprise is that the Amish are a peaceful people so was Karble killed by an Amish pushed too far or an English? The ins and outs of the murder are complicated with a number of suspects. There’s the wife—she seems to be truly grieving but is she or is she just hiding in her room until she can inherit the company? The ambitious marketing person, who puts the right spin on how the company will go forward without its leadership? She seems to think putting herself in charge is the best idea. A number of Amish planned to work for the company and the loss of that opportunity is severe—without the jobs, the farms they have are not big enough to support the families. It means moving to a new community.
Claire not only works her way through the murder but also through her own feelings. After her divorce, she didn’t want to love again. Now it’s a possibility so Jakob and Benjamin are both a temptation. Both come with complications. Maybe it’s best just to focus on her store. And the murder. Things can’t ever be simple though, not even in Amish country.
Claire is emerging into her own person. The Amish use her as a liaison between the English and their community so she gets more than a peek into Amish life. The relationship between Claire and Ben adds another layer of interest as Ben offers a major change for them both.
Claire and Jakob have a unique situation. Neither fits where they are, but together they might find a place they both belong. It’s a matter of being on the outside and looking in and figuring out just who you really are at heart.
Claire’s a good character, a little wishy washy in the first book but understandably so. In this second book, she’s growing and making good decisions.The background about the Amish is really interesting since it’s not an information dump but part of the story. I did guess who the murderer was but had no idea about the motive – that whizzed right by me. I like this series and want to see more.
Hearse and Buggy is the first in the series. They can be read out of order but to follow Claire’s growth, read them in order. The books show a close up into a fascinating culture, not just horse and buggy vs. cars that is familiar but a look into the families themselves.
Cat Trick by Sofie Kelly
Mike Glazer, former resident of Mayville Heights, Minnesota, has come back to visit, and maybe to gloat. Mayville could use some tourist revenue and Mike is part owner of Legacy Tours. To make Mayville a destination city would be good for all concerned, right? Some folks are not so sure. Mike was known as a nice guy in the early years but his time away has changed him and not for the better. Businesses have set up a food tasting and art show so he can see what they have to offer, but Mike seems to have a contrary opinion on everything from the food choices to the fabric used for the tents.
Kathleen Paulson is the town’s librarian. Her cats, Hercules and Owen, have some special qualities—Owen can make himself invisible and Hercules can walk through solid things like doors and walls. Kathleen hasn’t mentioned these little talents to anyone else—they’d probably come after her with soft, soothing voices and a straight jacket.
Hercules has been chosen to pose for a portrait for the art show—it will be auctioned to raise money for the animal shelter. While getting out of the truck, he escapes his carrier and runs into one of the tents set up in the town square. Kathleen chases after and finds the ever-so-dead body of Mike. There are not going to be too many mourners this time.
Detective Mike Gordon, Kathleen’s not-quite-boyfriend-but-what? is in charge of the investigation, but since she and Hercules found the body, Kathleen feels she has a right to assist whenever possible.
While the cats’ magical traits are a little woo-woo for me, it doesn’t intrude on the storyline and in fact seems completely natural. Owen’s obsession with Fred the Funky Chicken Catnip toy and Hercules’ apparent disgust at Owen’s catnip hangovers adds to the fun read. The characters continue to grow and work well together. The town of Mayville Heights is one you’d want to visit often, especially during the fall when the foliage is at its brightest.
I look forward to the next book to see if Kathleen stays in town after her contract with the library expires, what happens with Marcus and of course, to hear more about the Magical Cats.
Other books in this series are:
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat
Sleight of Paw
Copycat Killing (reviewed July 14)
Bowled Over by Victoria Hamilton
Jaymie Layton is a collector of vintage kitchenware and cookbooks. Her own cookbook has been submitted to a publisher while she is hard at work on volume two. She set up a little business that’s taken off—renting vintage picnic baskets with everything a tourist would need for a day’s outing, including wine and food from local businesses. In case she’s not busy enough, she’s also been tapped to help out at her neighbor’s B&B. A B&B that can’t offer the second B is in trouble and Anna’s pregnancy has definitely ruled out the look and smell of eggs first thing in the morning.
You’d think that would keep Jaymie busy enough to stay out of trouble. You’d be wrong.
Jaymie used her grandmother’s potato salad recipe (included at the back of the book) in a depression glass bowl as her contribution to the Fourth of July meal. During the fireworks, the bowl disappeared. When it turned up again, it was broken and next to a dead body. Suspects abound, including Jaymie as owner of the bowl and whose fingerprints are all over it.
The victim, and it’s no spoiler to say it’s Kathy, Jaymie’s former BFF from high school, made enemies all over town. She tried to get custody of her sister’s little boy. She told the boy that his grandfather didn’t want him. She tried to force her husband to open a branch office in another city and move there to run it. She argued with Jaymie at the picnic, had words with the town loser and a big fight with her husband, who said he went back to the office—an alibi no one believes.
With that many suspects running around and her good name at risk, Jaymie has to find out the truth. To do so, she has to go back to the original fight with Kathy—all the way back to high school. Kathy quit speaking to Jaymie and her only explanation was “You know what you did.” Jaymie never found out what that was.
The plot weaves all around town with one suspect after another eliminated. Who’s left to be the real murderer? Jaymie manages to get a little too close to being the next victim before she finds out.
The only problem with the plot is how obsessed Jaymie is to find out what happened in high school. It’s been seventeen years and Kathy holds a grudge like it happened yesterday; Jaymie keeps pushing to find out what was done and how to fix it. Information about the vintage kitchenware is scattered throughout the book without being intrusive to the storyline. Side characters are interesting and people you’d like to know, except for Kathy’s husband and you’ll see why when you read the book!
The previous book in the series is A Deadly Grind. Victoria Hamilton is the pen name for Donna Lea Simpson, national bestselling author and collector of vintage cookware and recipes herself.
Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly
Maura Donovan was brought up by her grandmother. Her dad died shortly after she was born and her mom decided motherhood was not her thing and took off. Gran worked hard, instilled good values and didn’t dwell on the past. Even though money was tight, Gran managed to help new Irish immigrants with a little food, conversation and a touch of home.
Before Gran died, she made Maura promise to travel to Ireland. With no ties left in Boston, Maura thought she’d spend a week wandering around the green countryside and then head back to find a new place to live, a new job and try to figure out what was next for her life.
In Ireland, she’s shocked to find that Gran kept in touch with old friends and that those old friends are welcoming, ready to look out for her and treat her as one of their own, although with an odd accent!
It’s big news in town when a body is pulled from the bog. Peat does strange things to a body—it can preserve it like new, leaving evidence intact— determination of when the person died by the style of the clothing. Maura had dropped into the pub across from her B&B, found the underage barmaid swamped and stepped in to help. Somehow, she’s got herself a job, a room, a car and friends. It’s all a little overwhelming, but it’s not like there’s any reason to rush back to Boston.
When a second body turns up, this one mugged and left on the street, Maura is more than a little concerned. After all, she’d talked to the man that first night in the pub.
While the coincidental factor is high, it’s not stretched beyond believable. After all, this is a small town where most everyone is related or at least knows someone you know. People gossip because there is little else to do. Things are all interconnected. The mysteries are good ones and at the end, all is explained. I do hope this is the beginning of a series—I think there’s something brewing between Maura and the policeman, at least on the officer’s part. And what’s up with Mick?
To enter to win a copy of all 6 of these Penguin mysteries, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Penguin 6”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 23, 2013. U.S. residents only.
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