Mysteries For Your Spring TBR

Mar 26, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Cynthia Chow

This week we have another catch up group of fun mysteries-A Dash of Death: A Cocktails and Catering Mystery by Michelle Hillen Klump, Long Overdue at the Lakeside: Library A Lakeside Library Mystery by Holly Danvers, and A Fatal Glow: An Odessa Jones series by Valerie Wilson Wesley. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 books and links to purchase them at the end of each review–you may not be able to see the Amazon links if you have ad blocker on.

A Dash of Death: A Cocktails and Catering Mystery by Michelle Hillen Klump
Review by Cynthia Chow

Samantha Warren is not in a great headspace at the moment, which is why her friends had to force her to sign up as a last-minute replacement at the Highlands Historic Home Tour. Replacing a previously booked brewery, Samantha uses the opportunity to serve cocktails and sell her own crafted cherry-vanilla bitters. It’s not like she’s going to be using them herself, as until three weeks they were to be wedding favors for her own cancelled ceremony. One that should have been occurring the same very night as the Tour. Houston vendors normally compete for the opportunity to showcase their wares in the featured mansions, but for Samantha cocktails and bitters are more of a hobby than an actual business. She is enough of a specialist to notice that the garnish left in a glass was not hers but instead oleander, a poisonous flower and one she would never risk incorporating in a drink. But when contractor Mark Brantwell falls ill during the event and eventually dies, Samantha is immediately called in by the suspicious police for an interview/interrogation.

It’s too bad that the first attorney Samantha would normally contact also happens to be the one who basically dumped her at the altar. Instead, Samantha reaches out to her former fiancé’s boss David Dwyer, who rightfully warns her to stay quiet and uninvolved. That’s looking to be more and more impossible though, as the widow – and not the girlfriend who accompanied Mark Brantwell to the event – names Samantha and the Highlands Historic Commission in an eight million dollar wrongful death lawsuit. When a skittish university rescinds their offer and Samantha finds herself without an editing job, she feels compelled to prove her innocence and maybe even help the widow. Traumatized by the journalist investigation that freed an incarcerated woman who ultimately killed again, Samantha knows the danger of becoming too involved in a case. Nevertheless, the need to redeem herself and use her investigative reporter skills have her tracking down who wanted the contractor dead.

This is a promising start and a great jumping off point to introduce adventures of a very likable, interesting character. While the actual lore and method of creating bitters takes a backseat to Samantha’s investigations, by the end both she and readers will be prepared for future opportunities to delve into cocktail inventions. Even more fascinating than the details of mixology are Samantha’s struggles to overcome her previous well-intentioned, award-winning investigation. The exploration of that case will be a fascinating avenue to explore in the future, as will her relationships with the two attorneys. Samantha is a very relatable character, one who makes mistakes but also learns from them. An abundance of descriptions of Houston’s eclectic and diverse cuisines makes this a treat for food lovers, with the mystery being intriguing and complex enough to please crime fiction fans. This is a fun start of a series by an author whose credentials as a newspaper reporter are evident and highlighted in a unique way.

Long Overdue at the Lakeside: Library A Lakeside Library Mystery by Holly Danvers
Review by Cynthia Chow

Making a drastic life change before the age of thirty-three is daunting, but Rain Wilmot wasn’t given a choice after a motorcycle crash left her a devastated widow needing to flee from their Milwaukee condo. She’s slowly embracing her new life back in Lofty Pines, Wisconsin, taking over the small log cabin library once run by her mother. Now that the town is becoming a winter tourist destination due its winter sports appeal, Rain intends to operate the library year-round and not seasonally. The Lofty Pines ice-fishing tournament has become one of those growing attractions, with both residents and tourists competing for the prize of a Polaris Utility Task Vehicle. The competition over fish-flourishing ice holes is no joke, but no one expected that it would become deadly. When Wallace Benson is found stabbed to death with a fish-gutting knife, it doesn’t take long for the man’s wife to angrily accuse of murder the last man seen arguing with Wallace. That Nick Reynolds also happens to be the husband of Rain’s best friend Julia means neither women can accept the condemning judgement, nor are they willing to sit idly by while Nick remains in jail. Julia’s brother Jace, being a Lofty Pines police officer, is actually more of a hindrance than help in their efforts to prove Nick’s innocence, especially when Jace is sidelined off of the case.

Having been successful in previously solving a murder – not to mention proving Rain’s own innocence in the matter – she, Julia, and their friend Marge quickly launch their own unofficial investigation into the death. The natural introvert is going to have to push through her fears and hesitations in order to help her friends, especially when it means interrogating an aggressive widow and doing a little illicit breaking-and-entering. All the while, Rain must still continue to operate her cozy little library and oversee renovations on the adorable log cabin. The chimney installer also happens to be a very attractive Ryan Wright only makes Rain more nervous, despite the fact that he may indeed be a candidate for Mr. Right.

This second in the series is a charming return to a chilly town full of warm characters. This entry revels in the opportunity to explore and develop the characters of the Lofty Pines residents, especially as they visit the library for chili recipes, manuals, and romances. Rain is still the standout lead of this blossoming series, one who is being pushed past her boundaries by each investigation. That her late husband was the one extravert in the marriage who led their social lives makes Rain’s reluctance to socialize understandable, especially when she explains her FOGO as Fear Of Going Out alone. A prospective romantic triangle is introduced but has hints of becoming a straight line very soon, and readers will be anxiously awaiting the next appearance of the shy, but increasingly bold, log cabin librarian.

A Fatal Glow: An Odessa Jones series by Valerie Wilson Wesley
Review by Cynthia Chow

Although she has worked at Risko Realty ever since the death of her beloved husband, Odessa Jones’s true passion has always been to pursue her dream as a baker and caterer. She has doubts about accepting a catering opportunity from Casey Osborne. While he may be one of the richest men in Essex County, he is also a repellent human parading around his new trophy wife and speaking disdainfully of his starter first wife. Dessa’s new boss Tanya Risko “encourages” her to take on the client as a favor, and while Dessa doesn’t see one of her psychic glimmers around him, she definitely senses something off about him. Ignoring her instincts turns out to be a mistake, and when Casey Osborne falls ill and dies during their catered brunch, Dessa can’t help but worry that either she or her Aunt’s canned jellies could be responsible. It is her coworker Louella Jefferson’s baby-daddy and fiancé Red who is arrested for the murder though, having recently argued with Osborne after blaming him for stealing family land. Louella pleads with Dessa to help prove Red’s innocence, and affection for their daughter has Dessa reluctantly pulled into the investigation.

Not that Dessa wasn’t already a bit involved though, having – also against her instincts – been coerced into preparing a “surprise” dinner for Tanya’s boyfriend Tyler Chase. Not only was Dessa unable to sneak out and maintain the pretense that Tanya was the cook who prepared it, they all were surprised by Casey Osborne’s new young widow expecting her own night with Tyler. It’s not long before chocolate pudding and accusations are thrown all around, with Dessa left cleaning up the mess. Former police officer now turned chef Lennox Royal provides both helpful advice and supportive comfort, but as a widow herself Dessa is reluctant to open herself up to more. Instead, she will focus all of her visions of glimmers, inspirational quotes from her psychic Aunt Phoenix, and even gossip from the Aging Reading Club of retired librarians and teachers to help her solve a mystery involving vengeful spouses, greedy land thefts, and the collateral damage inflicted on the next generations.

This second in the series continues to develop Dessa into a very strong woman struggling to deal with loss and a life she never expected. Dessa is slowly recovering the dream and passion for baking she lost along with her husband, and she still feels betrayed by the glimmers that failed to warn her of his death. Dessa also has to contend with the memories stirred up when meeting old high school classmates, as it regresses her back to a state of insecurity and acknowledging the ever-present divisions of wealth. Descriptions of Dessa cooking in her kitchen as she finds peace will have readers drooling and maybe even attempting to try out the collards green quiche recipe included at the end. Clues flow together smoothly through to the end, with a resolution warming the heart Dessa and her loved ones mend those who have been wounded along the way. This is another welcome installment of a cozy mystery written by an outstanding literary award-winning literary author.

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 “spring” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 2, 2022. 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. BE AWARE THAT IT MAY TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.

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 Podcasts, and Spotify. A new episode went up this 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:
mysteriousgalaxylogo

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

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.

9 Comments

  1. Great selection. Thanks for the chance.

    Reply
  2. three new series for me. Always looking for
    more. All sound good. thanks
    txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

    Reply
  3. These are all on my wish list, thanks for a chance to win some great sounding books.

    Reply
  4. Thank you so much for featuring A Dash of Death!

    Reply
  5. Three new to me authors and series! Would love to read all three.
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

    Reply
  6. Two new to me and all are on my list!! They look great!

    Reply
  7. Another great bunch of books! Count me in!

    Reply

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