by Cynthia Chow
In honor of Earth Day all of our book reviews & giveaways in this issue are ebooks! In this post you will find 5 fun ones-Unholy Matrimony: a Lucille Mystery By Peg Cochran, Sketcher in the Rye: A Portrait of Crime Mystery By Sharon Pape, The Sleuth Sisters By Maggie Pill, Twisted By Laura K. Curtis and Grand Delusion by Matt Witten. Details at the end of this post on how to win ebook copies of all 5.
Unholy Matrimony: a Lucille Mystery By Peg Cochran
Review by Cynthia Chow
Lucille Mazzarella has a goal: get her nine-month pregnant daughter married in a Catholic Church before giving birth. It’s a simple goal, but there are a few snafus. Bernadette seems more interested in pancakes than her own ceremony, the prospective groom dons ascots, has a manicure and seems more interested in the waiters than his bride, and her future in-laws the Grabowskis are pretentiously high-faluting. The former Donna Delucca may have once been a former Providence residence like the rest of them, but the impending mother-of-the-groom has embraced her married wealth like only new money can.
The path to true love–or a shotgun wedding, anyway–rarely runs smoothly, and there will be more than a few bumps on Bernadette’s forced march down the aisle. Not only is Bernadette distinctly uninterested in either the nuptials or her groom Taylor Grabowski, but Lucille’s best friend Flo is in a snit due to the fact that Flo believes that her son serving in Afghanistan–the actual father of Bernadette’s child–should be marrying Bernadette. Events culminate in disaster when Lucille discovers Donna’s strangled body on the day of the ceremony and a recent argument has Lucille targeted as Suspect Number One.
Investigating detective Richie Sambucco may still incite hot flashes in Lucille when he’s around, but she is not about to sit idly until the murder is solved and a ring gets placed on Bernadette’s finger. To speed things up, Lucille enlists Flo’s help in investigating the groom’s family, even if this means doing a little covert breaking-and-entering. Considering Bernadette’s impending due date, Lucille’s husband having an unfortunate longer-than-four-hours pharmaceutical reaction, and a hilarious but embarrassing investigation in a gay bar, it’s not menopause that causing Lucille to break out in a sweat.
The author of the Gourmet-DeLite mystery series and the Sweet Nothing Vintage Lingerie series written under the name Meg London, Cochran writes with her trademark humor and vulnerable and likable characters. Lucille may be uneducated and naïve, but she is completely loyal to her family and to her beliefs. She doesn’t like change, she may miss a few obvious social clues, but Lucille has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Saints and is absolutely dedicated to protecting those she loves. Lucille refuses to give up, despite being saddled with inert free-loading cousins, and a Home Shopping Network – addicted mother. Lucille clings to her old-fashioned beliefs and comforting ways in the face of chaos, and she is balanced out by her friends and family who insist that there’s nothing wrong with a “baby daddy.”
Down-home humor, eccentric but genuinely likable characters and major wedding drama make this a fun sequel to the debut in the series, Confession is Murder.
Sketcher in the Rye: A Portrait of Crime Mystery By Sharon Pape
Review by Cynthia Chow
“Isn’t getting a cold mud bath, being dragged through a corn maze and finding a dead body on everybody’s list of most fun days ever?”
It probably wasn’t the best decision for former police detective and sketch artist Aurora “Rory” McCain to take along her mutt, Hobo, with her on a business consultation to Harper Farms on Long Island. The brief relief of guilt for his often being left at home probably wasn’t worth the mud bath caused by Hobo’s amorous charge towards a pig, but humiliation would be the least of their problems when Hobo also discovers a body in the Harper Farm’s corn maze.
When Rory’s uncle Mac died she inherited not just his Victorian home and his detective agency, but also his partner, the very late Marshal Zeke Drummon. That Zeke has been dead for over one hundred and thirty years hasn’t made him less vocal or opinionated. Though he is quite incorporeal, Zeke can appear entirely three-dimensional and alive even when on his newly developed jaunts out if the house. The two former law enforcement officers–one more former than the other–now operate the Drummond and McCain private investigations firm.
Unfortunately, the corn maze corpse was Matthew Dimitriev, Gil Harper’s CPA and one of the employees Gil had hired Rory to investigate. Harper Farm was under attack from industrial espionage and sabotage, and Gil fears that one of his employees, or worse, one of his family members, is responsible. As he adds on to his request that Rory also investigate the murder he makes it clear that he won’t hesitate to manipulate the police investigation in order to remain in control.
Rory may have discovered Zeke’s murderer and the reason behind his aura of guilt, but her addled but psychic elderly neighbor Eloise brings new tidings of Zeke’s secrets. After a year and a half together Zeke and Rory have become accustomed to one another to the point that they’re like a married couple; a situation that is rocked when a very suitable suitor vies for Rory’s attention and Zeke takes near-assaultive steps to halt him. Flashbacks to 1876 reveal a tragedy in Zeke’s life that links him to the present, a vulnerability that is definitely needed as his intrusions into Rory’s life often has one wondering why she hasn’t yet sought out an exorcist. Rory and Zeke’s struggle to maintain a workable relationship takes equal importance to Rory’s investigation of Harper Farm, and both complications are fascinating and fraught with familial tensions.
It does help to have read the previous three entries in this series to understand how the mythology has evolved, but it is not necessary. Zeke’s ability to exasperate Rory is matched only by his skills that aid her in investigations, making them a team that is continually evolving and improving. Well-written with witty dialogue, lots of humor, and complex characters, this is a unique paranormal mystery seen through the eyes of a talented sketch artist and investigator.
The Sleuth Sisters By Maggie Pill
Review by Cynthia Chow
No one can love you like a sister, and no one can drive you crazier than a sister, so it is both a blessing and a curse that Barbara Ann Evans has two younger sisters. Newly retired from her profession as an attorney and having moved back to her hometown of Allport, Michigan, Barb is spending the time she once used as an assistant district attorney orchestrating “Correction Events” and acting as the unofficial – and mostly ignored – grammar police for local merchants and media. It is the perfect time, in the opinion of her younger sister Faye Burner, for the two to form the private detective business she has always dreamed of and now desperately needs with her insurance job ending and her husband out of work on disability. Within a year they have licenses in hand and the Smart Detective Agency formed; all that is left are cases, which are few and far between.
When Meredith Brown steps into the home Barb has renovated into an office where both she and Faye’s family can live, it’s not certain whether or not Meredith will break their string of undesirable clients. Six years ago her brother Neil went missing, and Meredith would like for the sisters to find him. However, they would not be the only ones looking, as Neil Brown fled under suspicion that he had murdered his estranged wife, Carina, and her brother, Carson Wozniak. Meredith is certain that Neil is innocent, but with her own health in crisis she now needs for him to be found in order to care for the daughter he never met.
Meredith pulls both their heartstrings and their purse strings, so despite Barb’s reservations they take the case. However, while Faye has organizational skills and Barb the legal knowledge, it is baby sister Margaretta who, after her husband was killed in the line of duty, now has the social connections. Retta has always floated through life on her beauty getting her own way and with the belief that she is always right, so Barb abhors any involvement by “Faye’s sister.” They will need her if they are to get any information that might help find and/or clear Neil, as the wealthy Wozniak family has expanded Woz Industries into a clique that the older two sisters have no hope of infiltrating.
Through chapters that are alternately narrated by each sister readers are allowed further insight into their characters and their accompanying prejudices. Not only does this allow one to become more sympathetic towards each sister, but it also provides wry humor as the women all have very different interpretations of their actions. They can be infuriated by one another only because they love each other so much, and so it seems fitting that it is murder that will bring them closer together.
Throwing a man into the mix in the form of new chief of police Rory Neuencamp could have devolved into a clichéd plot device, but instead the author approaches this uniquely and rather engagingly. Loving a sister may be difficult, but watching the Sleuth Sisters spar and reunite proves to be a very pleasant treat.
Twisted By Laura K. Curtis
Review by Cynthia Chow
Lucy Sadler Caldwell may be the famous author of numerous true-crime books that allow her to bring as much attention to the victims as the perpetrators, but for seventeen years Lucy’s career – and her life – has been shadowed by the unsolved stabbing death of her mother. The town of Dobbs Hollow condemned Cecile Sadler as a fallen woman who deserved her fate, and the sins of the mother were placed on that of her daughter. However, while Lucy Sadler may have fled the tiny town of Texas with her brother when she was fifteen, she returns with a vengeance, determined to investigate the murder that the police largely ignored due to the connections with the most powerful men in town.
As an alcoholic rumored to sell her wares, Cecile was blamed for breakups, divorces, and even pregnancies when she was presented as an alternative to pressure otherwise less-than-willing young women. With the Sheriff and mayor linked to Cecile and more than one woman still feeling resentful, Lucy knows that she will face considerable obstacles in her pursuit. Fortunate for Lucy is that one of the first law enforcement officials she meets is Ethan Donovan, Dobbs Hollows’ new chief of police who feels an immediate attraction to the secretive beauty. The connection is definitely mutual, but Lucy has learned to keep her distance and to always be on her guard, something well-established by her armory of personal hand weapons.
While Lucy may have expected small affronts and obstacles – unreturned phone calls, spiteful remarks, the librarian unwilling to loan out documents and closing early – even she could not have predicted that her home would be vandalized, her car tires slashed, and that phone calls would threaten her life. When a series of young women resembling Cecile are murdered, Lucy and Evan can’t help but suspect a connection to her own mother’s death.
Considering the masterful building of tension and sense of peril that pervades throughout, there is a strong sense of wry humor in Lucy and Evan’s relationship. The two definitely have formed considerable barriers around themselves, and as adept investigators they are unable to refrain from poking into each other’s pasts. As the murders turn to being serials Lucy brings in her friend Jake Nolan, a former FBI profiler whose computer program proves to be instrumental in their investigation. Jake, along with police officer Tara Jean, are two allies who bring sardonic wit to the novel, and the author crafts them strong enough to become lead characters in her upcoming mystery. The claustrophobic atmosphere of a small town, where family names and family reputations are passed through generations, is aptly conveyed to readers along with a nerve-wrenching sense of menace balanced out by a naturally developed romance.
Grand Delusion by Matt Witten
Review by Lorie Lewis Ham
In the second book of Matt Witten’s fun mystery series featuring screenwriter Jake Burns, life is good for Jake after selling his screenplay and he is focusing on cleaning up his neighborhood to make it safe for his family.
His first battle is with his drug dealing neighbors who keep him up at night and make the neighborhood dangerous for his kids. But things get complicated when Jake has to go up against the building’s corrupt landlord, who also happens to be a bad cop–Pop Doyle, who has his hands in crime all over the city. When Pop is found dead after a confrontation with Jake, Jake quickly becomes prime suspect. After being released on bond, Jake tries to solve the murder and watches related homicides stack up, with crooked cops the only likely perps, and no one in town really seems willing to help him. Even his wife seems to question his innocence.
The thing that makes this book shine is Matt’s writing! The characters are quirky and fun, and the writing is witty and wonderful. I don’t remember ever laughing so much while reading a mystery as I have with both of Matt’s books I’ve read in this series so far. If you are looking for a really fun, quick read and you love mysteries–don’t miss Grand Delusion.
To enter to win ebook copies of all 5 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Earth Day,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 26, 2014. U.S. residents only.
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