March Mystery Catchup: Bookstores/Scotland/Bed & Breakfast/Cats

Mar 30, 2024 | 2024 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Cynthia Chow & Sandra Murphy

This week we are reviewing 4 more fun cozy mysteries–these involve bookstores, cats, Scotland, and a bed and breakfast–A Killer Romance: A Book Reads Mystery by Maggie Blackburn, Mrs. Morris and the Mermaid by Traci Wilton, Murder at a Scottish Castle by Traci Hall (Traci Hall and Traci Wilton are the same person), and Fur Love or Money by Sofie Ryan. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books and links to purchase them from Amazon at the end of each review.

A Killer Romance: A Book Reads Mystery by Maggie Blackburn
Review by Cynthia Chow

A Shakespearean scholar, Summer Merriweather had always been embarrassed by her mother’s romance bookstore located on St. Brigid Island, North Carolina. But inheriting Beach Reads Bookstore after Hildy Merriweather’s death unexpectedly led to Summer falling in love with both the island and the bookshop, eventually causing her to (mostly) retire early from her teaching job to take over the store full-time.

As much as Summer hates Valentine’s Day she knows that it’s a boon for the bookstore and local businesses, with one of the events being the first book signing she’s hosted since taking ownership. Lana Livingston is a bestselling NYT author, with her latest romance being an updated “happy” version of Romeo and Juliet. And as much as Summer detests turning a classic tragedy into a romance, she definitely did not wish for the author to experience her own premature death. The handsome visiting detective Liam Connor suspects that a member of the Mermaid Pie Book Club poisoned the famous author and when not attempting to flirt warns Summer away from being friends with the culprit. But Summer isn’t about to let Glads be railroaded into prison, especially after she discovers that Lana may have been involved in a narcotics-linked crime.

Summer herself is still attempting to find her bearings in her former childhood home, especially now that she has been reunited with the man she left at the altar decades ago. While Summer believes that she made the right decision in running away from Cash Singer and an early marriage, she also can’t justify hurting his feelings now that they are once again becoming friends. She’s mostly overcome her debilitating arachnophobia, but a fall and the resulting use of crutches has her depending on her friends now more than ever. Learning of her mother’s own heartbreak and discovering the new family of the father Summer never met has helped her to understand her mother’s love of the bookstore dedicated to idealized love.

The characters in this third of the series are the reason readers will want to return to this series, as they have evolved and become genuinely likable and sympathetic island residents. The author, who has also written an abundance of series under the name Mollie Cox Bryan, is skilled at crafting humor-filled, witty cozy mysteries with plots that always deliver satisfying endings.

You can click here to purchase the book from Amazon.

Mrs. Morris and the Mermaid by Traci Wilton
Review by Cynthia Chow

The town of Salem, Massachusetts is hosting their first-ever Mermaid Parade, and Charlene Morris is thrilled that her bed & breakfast is being filled with mermaid cosplayers and fanatics. Charlene never realized just how enthusiastic the mermaid community is, especially now that an iconic 25-year-old mermaid movie has been remade and built up a new generation of fans.

Hollywood remaking movies is nothing new, and while occasionally the successor surpasses the original, it is more likely that the result is either disappointment or those who only love the first version they saw. In this case, the two “Sirena” movies have created fanbases that bring to mind a Swifties vs. the Bee Hive battle, with even the lead actresses engaged in the fight. A Salem native, actress Trinity Powers disappeared from the entertainment business not long after her outstanding swimming performance, and the younger, Instagram-friendly, Alannah Gomez publicly calls out Trinity as a has-been and a nobody. So when Trinity is found dead in her hotel room before her appearance in the parade, the question is whether Alannah or one of her many followers decided to permanently end their rivalry.

Although his presence is less prevalent in this eighth of the series, Dr. Jack Swathmore continues to both assist and flirt with the B&B owner. That Jack is deceased and a ghost haunting both Charlene’s home and her life would seem to hinder their relationship though, especially since the very live Detective Sam Holden is interested in advancing a romance. Charlene has a big decision looming in her life, for while Sam presents a real opportunity to the widow, roadblocks exist not only with his possible move out of town but with her inability to hurt Jack’s feelings. Perhaps that’s why Charlene is so willing to once again delve into murder, this time focusing on the fascinating worlds of mermaid fandom and movie making.

Aspiring mermaids are willing to spend thousands of dollars for stunning tails, and there is a burgeoning business for those creating hair pieces and accessories. The president of Salem’s New Business organization brought in the Mermaid Parade to promote tourism as well as ocean preservation awareness, meaning that no one wants a murder casting a shadow over the event. It’s up to Charlene, Sam, and Jack’s ghostly cyber investigations to solve the murder and bring peace back to their town. Fans of the series will be eager to see how Charlene resolves her personal life as well, since the author has compellingly made Jack a tragic but still appealing romantic candidate. There’s so much fun to be had in this exploration of the mermaid fanbase, not to mention that of the movie remaking entertainment business. This is a series that has grown stronger as characters grow closer and evolve, while the plots continue to be as original as they are suspenseful.

You can click here to purchase the book from Amazon.

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).

Murder at a Scottish Castle by Traci Hall
By Sandra Murphy

Paislee, her son Brody, Grandpa, and Wallace the Scottish terrier are excited about the annual bagpiping competition at Ramsey Castle. It’s the Scottish version of the Battle of the Bands. Pipers practice year round in hopes of winning the coveted title.

The dowager countess opened a gift shop in the castle where tourists who’ve toured the castle and grounds can shop. It’s not cheap to maintain a castle. Part of the inventory will be Paislee’s knitted items, cashmere the favorite yarn used.

The favorites for this year are Robert Grant, the Earl of Lyon and the prior year’s winner, Jory Baxter, a relative newcomer. Bragging rights are important but there are also side bets taken by the townspeople—and the band members.

When it’s Jory’s turn to play his solo, mid-song, he can’t breathe and falls. Sadly, he dies at the hospital. There’s a lot of talk about possible cheating although no one knows how you can cheat with bagpipes. The death is declared a murder but the method and perpetrator remain a mystery.

Since she has been involved with murders before and currently has access to the castle, Paislee is drawn into the mystery, with the begrudging approval of the local detective. She’s got problems of her own when a leak in the plumbing causes the kitchen ceiling to collapse which makes her house unlivable for several months.

This is book five in the series. Paislee is a good friend, ready to help anyone in need, although she’s reluctant to accept help when she needs it. Brody is 12 and teetering between being a boy or a little old man—full of humor. Wallace, of course, makes sure he’s part of everything. Grandpa has lost much of his grouchy nature and is a big part of the story. There’s a lot of information about bagpiping but it’s interesting and doesn’t intrude on the story. Always a favorite, I look forward to seeing how Paislee’s love life proceeds, whether she’s ready or not.

Previous books are Murder in a Scottish Shire, Murder in a Scottish Garden, Murder at a Scottish Social, Murder at a Scottish Wedding, several reviewed in KRL. Writing as Traci Wilton (see our review of her latest Mrs. Morris book above), there are eight books with titles that all start with Mrs. Morris (and the Ghost, and the Witch, and the Ghost of Christmas Past, and the Sorceress, and the Vampire, and the Pot of Gold, and the Wolfman, and the Mermaid.)

You can click here to purchase the book from Amazon.

Fur Love or Money by Sofie Ryan
Review by Sandra Murphy

Sarah owns a repurpose store where she sells refurbished furniture, dinnerware, and musical instruments, or converts them to new uses. She also rents office space to the Angels, Rose, Charlotte, and Mr. P, who formed their own private detective firm as their retirement jobs.

A while back, Rose was rescued by Casey, a black Labrador owned by her friend Ashley. She still makes dog cookies for him as a reward and says she and Casey have a special bond. When Sarah drives Rose to Ashley’s house to deliver the cookies, Casey, while glad to see Rose, is restless. Taking advantage of an open door, he runs. Since he looks back to make sure the humans will follow, they do. He leads them past a group of short-term rental houses and runs for the nearby woods.

Once there, Sarah can hear the cries of a small animal. There’s a storm cellar on the property and a lost puppy has fallen in. Sarah’s able to rescue him but also finds a gruesome scene—a dead man, partially covered with a tarp and blanket. It’s unlikely he covered himself.

His identity is soon discovered. This isn’t the first time he died. Apparently, the first time was faked! The suspect list is nearly equal to the town’s population. Although the police are investigating, the Angels have a new case.

This is one of my favorite series. Sarah and her employee, now employee/boyfriend make a great couple. Rose, Mr. P, and Charlotte know everyone in town and all the scoops and scandals about them. Elvis, Sarah’s cat, is front and center, opinionated and sweet. I like that the ‘how to repurpose’ discussions are seamlessly woven into the story. It’s a good way to read, relax, and pick up tips for home improvement projects at the same time.

This is book 12 in the series, most reviewed in KRL. Under the pen name of Sofie Kelly, she also writes the Magical Cats mysteries (16), where Hercules and Owen each have an inexplicable talent. It would be an impossible decision to say which series is my favorite.

You can click here to purchase this book.

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 catchup” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 6, 2024. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. 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.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. She’s editor for Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Stories Inspired by the Songs of the ’60s, with twenty-two cozy stories. She also edited A Murder of Crows, twenty-one stories featuring animals and crime (no animals were harmed). She also writes for magazines, newsletters, and the occasional guest blog. Both anthologies are available at the usual outlets, print or ebook.

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.


  1. I love all these authors! Their books have helped me thru Covid & other crisis. Thank you for reviewing them.

  2. What a great bunch of books!

  3. Love Sofie’s series. Always great.
    The other’s would be new and
    look forward to trying them out.
    thanks. txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

  4. All four sound like great reads. Would really like to read all of them.

  5. All the books in this March Catchup article sound like they are wonderful cozies that I will enjoy reading!

  6. I love cozies with animals in them! They are so fun! Thank you for the chance!

  7. Great selection. I also love both the Sofie Ryan/Kelly series and I’ve read at least one book by the other authors.

  8. Thanks for the chance!

  9. Thanks for the chance!

  10. We have a winner!


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