by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have another fun group of mysteries for your spring reading-Dead Even: A Mattie Winston Mystery By Annelise Ryan, A Sinister Service: A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mystery By Alyssa Maxwell, Farm to Trouble: A Farm to Table Mystery By Amanda Flower, and Murder at Mabel’s Motel: A Granny Reid Mystery By G. A. McKevett. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 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.
Dead Even: A Mattie Winston Mystery By Annelise Ryan
Review by Cynthia Chow
Once an ER nurse with the mission to do everything she could to prevent death, Mattie Winston now chases death as Sorenson, Wisconsin’s death investigator. Working for the town medical examiner, Mattie helps police gather crime scene evidence off of the bodies who may not have met their ends naturally. It’s an unusual situation as her home and work lives often meet; her new husband Steve Hurley happens to be a homicide detective. They have both been called to the home of real estate agent mogul Montgomery Dixon, whose death would be notable enough even if he hadn’t been impaled by a pool cue. His less-than-mournful second wife Summer is more upset by having to change clothes and temporarily move out than she is about her husband’s corpse, and she has a lot of revisions to make to her initial alibi statements. Even more disturbing is the arrival of Montgomery’s identical twin brother Harrison, an attorney whose genetic makeup will make gathering DNA evidence a nightmare.
Family life continues to intrude on Mattie when they discover that Montgomery’s financial attorney and Summer’s defense attorney is Mattie’s brother-in-law Lucien Colter. A rabid lawyer whose questionable choice in clients always infuriates Hurley, Mattie tolerates him as a good father and husband to her sister. That’s fortunate as Lucien lands himself another client in the form of Montgomery’s son Sawyer, who was recently heard wishing his father dead in order to gain an early inheritance. As they soon learn, Sawyer had an impressive gambling addiction that landed him in debt. It’s an addiction that Mattie can relate to having and struggles to control, making it one of the reasons she continues to meet with a therapist. The other reasons for Mattie and Hurley regular marriage counseling sessions are Mattie’s questions over motherhood, ones that led to betrayal of trusts on both sides. When not juggling a toddler son who gives himself a haircut, interviewing housekeepers despite an extremely suspicious detective husband, and attempting to forge a relationship with her very estranged father, Mattie will impressively use her medical knowledge and cleverness to put together the clues to catch a ruthless killer. She’s definitely going to need the bullet-proof windows, steel reinforced, run-flat tires that her loving customized on her hearse to keep her safe. hearse to keep her and those she loves safe.
Mattie has changed and grown so much throughout these twelve books in the series, allowing readers to become just as invested in her life as in the murder investigations themselves. While the details of death investigations are undoubtedly fascinating and morbid, it’s seeing Mattie’s struggles to find happiness that has always been the real attraction. From her first appearance as an Operating Room nurse and cheated-upon wife, Mattie has become a mediocoloegal death investigator, married a (better) man, gained a step-daughter, and become a mother. She’s found a father she thought dead, formed a detente with her hypochondriac mother, and even set her up with the perfect man. The path to this stage in Mattie’s life has always been bumpy and full of danger, but it’s also been a joy for both her and readers. Every year this series tops my favorite reads of the year, and 2021 looks to be the same. Dark humor, relatable family drama, and the extraordinarily compelling investigation by a death investigator make this another must-read for everyone who loves mystery and intrigue.
A Sinister Service: A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mystery By Alyssa Maxwell
Review by Sandra Murphy
After the Great War, families tried to return to what was normal, an impossibility. Even small things can be a comfort after horrific events. Julia, Phoebe, Amelia, and Fox have packed up and temporarily moved to the house Julia expects to inherit from her husband’s estate. This, of course, involves two drivers, two lady’s maids, and numerous trunks of clothing and jewelry to bring along. All this, so an anniversary set of hand-painted china can be commissioned for their grandparents.
Much to their surprise, the house is occupied by three people: one who has the right to be there and two who wish they did. The estate’s in limbo until the birth of Julia’s child—a son will inherit the title and estate, a daughter, only money and not the bulk of it.
At the Crown Lily Potteries, a favorite of Queen Mary, the family’s given a tour while Julia chooses her favorites from a multitude of shapes and designs. When the others return, no decision can be made since they’ve each chosen a different pattern.
Returning the next day, they find themselves in the middle of chaos when a body is found, definitely a murder. Trent, a school friend of Fox, is a likely suspect. Phoebe and her lady’s maid, Eva, agree to make inquiries. After all, workers will talk to Eva and the company’s owners will speak to a Lady.
As more bodies turn up, Phoebe and Eva find themselves in dangerous situations. Will they be able to find the killer before the killer finds them?
This is book six in the series. Eva enjoys a more familiar position with the family than most servants in that she is able to speak her mind instead of being invisible. Phoebe is a strong character who knows what she wants from her life. Jester, the Staffordshire bull terrier, added a bit of fun to the story so readers will want to see more of him. For a look back in time, a bit of crime, and two women willing to defy conventions in order to solve murders, readers will find this series fits the bill.
Farm to Trouble: A Farm to Table Mystery By Amanda Flower
Review by Sandra Murphy
After her grandmother’s death, Shiloh Bellamy moved to California. Her boyfriend was killed in a car accident a year later. She couldn’t bear to go back to Cherry Glen, Michigan. Now her Dad has to use a walker and she’s come home to transform it into a farm to table organic business with the help of a loan from an investor.
Making the deal long distance probably wasn’t a good idea, but it was a now or never proposition which should have been a big red flag. She’s stunned to arrive at the farm and find the place rundown and no crops planted. Dad says Crawford is no investor, he’s a thief, promising results, but really taking over everything he touches. Her cousin Stacey was supposed to be helping Dad but has poured all her energy into renovating the theater in town.
Shiloh is supposed to meet Crawford at the farmer’s market to finalize the details of the deal—like when is the money going to be handed over. She and her pug, Huckleberry, walk the length of the market and don’t see him—until they spot his body behind the honey booth.
Minnie, who owns the honey booth, takes every opportunity to voice her opinion that Shiloh killed Crawford just to ruin her honey business. Never mind that Shiloh had only met the man once, briefly. And without the money, had no motive. No weapon. And no allies in town.
Suspicion falls on her Dad. With the business deal up in the air awaiting probate and a vote by the town council about annexing the farm, Shiloh is determined to find the real killer and clear the Bellamy name. Disliked as Crawford was, the suspect list has to be a long one.
This is the first in a new series. Huckleberry steals every scene and since he’s Shiloh’s constant companion, he has a lot of opportunities. Shiloh is prone to going into a panic but is determined to save her heritage.
Flower also writes the Magical Bookshop books, the Amish Candy Shop mysteries, the Amish Matchmaker series, the Piper and Porter mysteries from Hallmark Publishing, the Magic Garden books, the Appleseed Creek trilogy, the Living History Museum mysteries, and the India Hayes series. Many have been reviewed for KRL.
Murder at Mabel’s Motel: A Granny Reid Mystery By G. A. McKevett
Review by Sandra Murphy
Residents of McGill, Georgia, generally follow a ‘live and let live’ motto. Sure, gossip is like gold and often embellished from one telling to the next but the gist of the story is right. They’re pretty accepting of what most people would call oddballs or eccentrics. Take for instance, Dolly, the crazy cat lady who lives in a big old haunted house, with her paranoid phone calls to Sheriff Manny about things being moved around so she can’t find them.
Still, there’s behavior that passes oddball or eccentric. That’s hurting others and a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Three young men have embraced the swastika and the teachings that went with it. In the last few days, there’s been a cross burned on the lawn of a Black family, a mixed-race couple have been harassed, and a popular Latina was physically attacked. The three call themselves the Lone White Wolf Pack and dare anybody to prove they’re guilty.
Stella Reid has her hands full, what with raising up seven of her son’s children. He’s an absentee father. Their mother is in prison, mostly for how badly she treated the kids. With the help of friends and a strong faith, Stella’s getting by. One of those friends is Sheriff Manny and that friendship could be moving into relationship territory—if there was ever time to spare from the kids and his job. Still, she’s been able to give him some assistance from time to time when a puzzling case comes up.
When the leader of the Wolf Pack is found dead by unknown means and the Sheriff’s smart deputy is on his honeymoon, Stella’s on hand to help again. The obvious suspects are well-loved neighbors—who might have been pushed too far?
This is book three of the Granny Reid series, set in the 1980s. For readers of the Savannah Reid mysteries, Savannah appears in this book as a wiser than she should be thirteen year old. To see where it all started, enjoy a good mystery, and catch up on all the gossip, spend some time with Sheriff Manny and Stella in McGill. It looks like a lot of changes are coming.
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 “spring” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 17, 2021. 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.
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