by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have another fun catch up group of mysteries-Something Read, Something Dead: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates, Murder, She Meowed: A Pawsitively Organic Mystery by Liz Mugavero, Mrs. Jeffries Delivers the Goods: Mrs. Jeffries series by Emily Brightwell, and Angels and Alibis: A Sister Lou Mystery by Olivia Matthews. 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.
Something Read, Something Dead: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates
Review by Cynthia Chow
For Lucy Richardson’s cousin Josie O’Malley, the words to embody her perfect wedding are “small and simple.” They are well on their way towards that goal just a month before the ceremony, with the reception to take place at the groom’s Outer Banks, North Carolina restaurant, the church booked for eighty guests, cupcakes ordered, and the wedding dress purchased. Even the reception is to be a low-key event held at Lucy’s Lighthouse Library, where she works and lives. Unfortunately, the unexpected early arrival of Josie’s imperious Grandma Gloria and her “Louisiana Mafia” send all of their plans into a state of upheaval, as she brings along not just her own plans but her brother’s granddaughter Mirabelle, who hopes to use the wedding to jumpstart her own event planning business. As much as Lucy attempts to preserve the original vision, Josie’s will quickly crumbles as she is bulldozed into an over-the-top extravaganza. The wedding isn’t alone in having its budget explode, as a seemingly minor crack in the Lighthouse Library may end up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs.
The bridal shower thrown at the Lighthouse Library looks to be the only surviving remnant of the original ceremony, but none of the plans included Mirabelle collapsing dead at the party’s end. No one would blame Josie for going Bridezilla on her flirtatious, attention-hungry relative, but Lucy knows that her beloved cousin was incapable of putting poison in gluten-free cupcakes. The investigating Detective Yarmouth isn’t as sure, and with a blogger reporting on the bridal meltdowns, Lucy is determined to see that Josie walks down the aisle towards her groom and not into a jail cell. Tracking down vengeful ex-girlfriends and disgruntled employees seems easy in comparison to figuring out a way to fundraise enough money to save her beloved Lighthouse Library.
The novels by the prolific author Eva Gates/Vicki Delany all showcase characters with whom readers quickly grow to love and would want to know as friends. There’s no better feeling here than when seeing Lucy stand up for Josie and preserve the initial “small and simple” design, and it’s genuinely delightful when they attempt to bait and switch Grandma Gloria. Lucy’s own relationship with mayor Connor McNeil hits a bit of a bump as the board of the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library decides on whether to invest in repairs or allow certain factions see its ultimate closure. The extravagance, fun, and stress of wedding planning proves to be an excellent setting for a murder, especially when it’s combined with these wry, likable, and always entertaining characters. The reality of supporting an aging building will have book-lovers appreciating libraries all the more, and readers will truly be rooting for Lucy and her unique Lighthouse Library.
Murder, She Meowed: A Pawsitively Organic Mystery by Liz Mugavero
Review by Cynthia Chow
If only everyone had listened to Kristan “Stan” Connor, they would never have gotten into so much trouble. Newly-engaged Stan was the one who adamantly opposed any form of bachelorette party, but her sister Caitlyn threw a fit at the thought of not being able to throw an over-the-top event filled with streamers and strippers. Now, they’ve got a dead exotic dancer stuffed in a fake wedding cake and Stan’s Pawsitively Organic pet patisserie bakery is closed off as a crime scene. When it’s discovered that the deceased stripper was her own farm produce deliveryman Perry Puck, even Stan’s future sister-in-law, Connecticut State Police Sergeant Jessie Pasquale, can’t keep Stan from investigating and meddling in the murder.
Discovering how the heir to a profitable upscale grocery chain became a party stripper is far preferable to dealing with her mother Patricia, whose vision for Stan’s wedding bears no resemblance to her own plan for an intimate ceremony held in fiancé Jake McSwigg’s family pub. The “gifts” of a wedding planner and a wedding gown are but the beginning of Patricia’s overwhelming and domineering involvement in Stan’s nuptials, and it’s going to take all the strength she has to resist the temptation to abandon all hope and elope. Fortunately, Jake, his sister Brenna, and Stan’s best friend Nikki will be around to lend support and the strength to stand against the force of her own female relatives, although they also tend to become accomplices in her detecting endeavors. While this more than exasperates Jessie, even she has to admit that Stan proves surprisingly effective in utilizing her pet-friendly treats to coax out confessions and information.
There’s nothing more entertaining than vicariously experiencing wedding planning, especially when it goes wrong. It’s hard not to feel sympathetic for Stan as she faces down her mother, yet the author skillfully balances out both sides by revealing Patricia’s misguided but well-intentioned efforts. Stan and Nikki’s surveillance into the questionable stripper business reveals unexpected results, yet a further swerve in the plot delivers a realistic yet surprising conclusion. Through it all Stan and Jake are comforted by their growing family of four-footed companions, whose number has increased through their involvement in murder. A Maine Coon, schnoodle, shepherd mix, and pit pull are a part of Stan’s family and enthusiastic test subjects for her baking experiments, with recipes included as a bonus treat for pet-spoiling readers (Strawberry Biscuits, Coconut-Carob Cookies, Peanut Butter and Bacon Homemade Dog Treats). This seventh in the series is as skillfully written and humorous as the first, and will have fans devoted to seeing a happy future for the pet-loving heroine. The plot and themes are always taken as seriously as the reverence for animals, balancing out this wonderfully fun and exuberant mystery series.
Mrs. Jeffries Delivers the Goods: Mrs. Jeffries series by Emily Brightwell
Review by Sandra Murphy
The Lighterman’s Ball remembers those who have lost their lives on barges, ships, and canals. Pierce and Son hosts the fancy dinner, this year with champagne and in a proper hall, an upgrade from the usual pint and pub.
The event is also a chance to introduce the new members of the board of directors. One is Stephen Bremmer, universally disliked, including by his wife. The annual toast is given, lights are turned off for two minutes to honor the dead, and then the meal resumes—or at least that was the schedule. An electric light sparked, the lights came on, and Bremmer choked and died, not the way anyone wanted the evening to go—except, well, the one who person planned it.
What could be a natural death is quickly ruled a poisoning by Dr. Bosworth, who is also a police surgeon, what would be called a medical examiner today. Also present is Wiggins, footman to Inspector Witherspoon who, with the highest solve record for homicides, is assigned the case.
Unbeknownst to Witherspoon, he’s had help in solving his many cases. Everyone, from his housekeeper to the maids, is fascinated and help find clues. The gentry won’t speak to the police. Servants always know what’s going on in the house and are willing to chat with others of their station. Mrs. Jeffries lets Inspector Witherspoon believe the solution was his alone.
Bremmer used his wife as a personal bank, blackmailed people as a form of income, and embarrassed others as entertainment. The suspect list would have been long but with the lights out for less than two minutes, who had time to slip him the poison without being noticed? This proves to be one of the more challenging cases Witherspoon and his secret helpers have encountered.
Mrs. Jeffries is comfortable sipping sherry with the Inspector, clever at passing along information, and talented at arranging the clues into the proper solution. Readers can only imagine what Mrs. Jeffries could accomplish if she had Google, a cell phone, and a car! The rest of her investigators are equally intriguing. Wiggins can wheedle bits and bobs from maids while Cook has her sources come to the kitchen for a cuppa and a chat.
This is the thirty-seventh book in the popular series. There are also six anthologies featuring Mrs. Jefferies. There’s no need to read them in order, although having read quite a few, I find myself wanting to go back to where it all began and binge read them all.
Angels and Alibis: A Sister Lou Mystery by Olivia Matthews
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sister Lou, her nephew Chris, and his girlfriend Shari are back in investigative mode. Shari’s a reporter and naturally curious. The Mayor herself has asked for Sister Lou’s help in solving a series of threats, a death, and political shenanigans. Although reluctant to get involved, Sister Lou agrees.
After asking for help, the Mayor is a most uncooperative victim. She’s been receiving odd and threatening notes but doesn’t want to call in the police. She refuses to have bodyguards. She does not want to look weak to her opponents.
Finally convinced, the Mayor agrees to have Diego, a newspaperman she knew years ago, drive her to and from work. She also concedes her home is not safe and stays at the mother house at the convent.
Between explaining Lent to Shari, getting ready for Easter, and solving the crime, Sister Lou has her hands full. Add Sister Mathilda’s unbound curiosity and penchant for gossip, and it’s hard to keep a secret. And secrets will always come out.
My only problem with the book is an excessive amount of description. Writers are told to add the five senses (taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell) to the page, but it’s not necessary to describe each person, their clothing, and their background or quirks in every scene. It distracted me from the mystery. I enjoy the series but don’t need to know the color of everyone’s shoes.
This is the third book in the series (#2, Peril and Prayer was reviewed here).
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 catch up,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 6, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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