by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have reviews & giveaways of 4 more fun mysteries-Bad Neighbors: An Agnes and Effie Mystery by Maia Chance, Plain Confessions: An Amish Mystery by Emma Miller, Santa Fe Mourning: A Santa Fe Revival Mystery by Amanda Allen, and Til Death Do Us Party: A Live and Di in Dixie Mystery by Vickie Fee. 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.
Bad Neighbors: An Agnes and Effie Mystery by Maia Chance
Review by Sandra Murphy
Agnes and her Aunt Effie are getting bids to renovate the Stagecoach Inn. None of the prospective designers see the finished product like they do. Agnes thinks it might be easier to do themselves, except for, you know, not having any idea what they’re doing.
Only a couple of bedrooms are habitable so opening day is long off—until a tour bus breaks down, leaving people stranded at the local garage. It’s leaf peeping season so hotels, motels, and B&Bs are all booked. Effie is persuaded, not that it took much doing, to take in a few of the tourists.
When Agnes and Effie arrive at the garage to pick up their guests, police cars surround the place. It seems one of the tourists, curious, opened the door on a minivan and found a mechanic beaten to death with a wrench inside. Since Agnes thinks she might possibly be dating Otis, who is after all, a mechanic, she understandably panics until the victim is identified as Mikey, a new hire. Mikey is the kind of guy who peaked in high school and hasn’t done anything much since. While a good football player back in the day, he has no life skills and bounces from one job to another. It’s hard to imagine Mikey having enemies, but things just seem to happen when he’s around—and none of them good for other people.
To make sure Otis isn’t the only suspect, because he’s innocent, of course, Agnes and Effie agree to ask a few questions here and there. It’s pretty much impossible to do without involving the four senior tourists they inherited who are all too eager to join the hunt for the killer.
There’s mysterious cash, a cupcake baker who has her sights set on Otis, a frenemy of Mikey’s who has anger issues, rumors of a girlfriend for Mikey, and more to make the job that much harder.
Agnes ends up with the job of Leaf Peeping Liaison. She’s supposed to make sure the judge gets a favorable impression of the town so they can be featured as a leaf peeping destination and share in the tourist dollars. The judge spouts rules to be followed, hits on Agnes, and pops up in unexpected places. There’s a lot more going on as Agnes and Effie snoop, do a little B&E, and land themselves in one mess after another, all with good intentions.
This is the second book in the series. Bad Housekeeping was reviewed for KRL. Agnes is a character you’d like for a friend but just don’t go out late at night with her if she’s dressed all in black. It won’t end well. Effie is enthusiastic, acts without much thought and generally, lands on her feet. The mystery is a good one with twists and turns and an ending that’s unexpected but fitting. By the end of the book, they’ve decided who will renovate the Inn. Readers will look forward to seeing just how that works out!
Chance also writes the Discreet Retrieval Agency series (3—reviewed here) and the Fairy Tale mysteries (3).
Plain Confessions: An Amish Mystery by Emma Miller
Review by Sandra Murphy
Rachel Mast was raised Amish but lives as an Englisher. Since her decision was made before baptism, she’s not shunned by her family and friends. Still, she doesn’t quite fit in either world which comes in handy when the police need to question the Amish. Rachel is able to explain each side to the other.
Rachel is set to marry Evan, a highway patrolman. She backed off marrying him before but has no doubts this time. When Daniel, an Amish neighbor, is found shot in the woods during hunting season, it’s first thought to be an accident—maybe he fell or another hunter mistook him for a deer. Further examination reveals Daniel was murdered.
Alma, Daniel’s mother-in-law, asks Rachel to help because her son Moses confessed to killing Daniel. No one except the police believe he’s guilty. Why did he confess and who is he covering for?
Evan is concerned that Rachel’s search for other suspects means she’s distancing herself from their marriage again. She thinks it’s a good distraction from all the fuss about flowers, dress fittings, and menus for the reception. Suspects include a reclusive neighbor, other hunters, a man seemingly in love with the new widow, and maybe Moses after all. Daniel was a great guy in public but that couldn’t be said for the man he was with his family.
This is the fifth book in the series but the first I’ve read. Rachel is a likable character, respectful of Amish ways although she chose a different path. Her cousin is still deciding what her future holds—live as Rachel does or return to the community? Rachel runs a B&B which adds opportunity for new characters and storylines. Her relationship with Evan (and his mother!) hasn’t always been smooth. Readers will be anxious to see what comes next for the pair. For an enjoyable read that mixes the Amish technology-free life with Rachel’s choice, make a cup of tea and enjoy a good mystery with people you’d like to meet.
Santa Fe Mourning: A Santa Fe Revival Mystery by Amanda Allen
Review by Sandra Murphy
Madeline Vaughn-Alwin married her childhood sweetheart, only to face an early widowhood when he was killed in the Great War. Painting is a nice pastime for genteel women but should never be considered more than a hobby. Madeline disagrees. She travels to visit a friend in California, but when the train stops in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she feels she’s come home and stays.
The Anayas, a local Native American family, are hired to cook, clean, run errands, and be her friends and family as well. Disapproving letters arrive from Madeline’s mother, ordering her to return and find a suitable husband. Grieving for a time is acceptable but extended grief is looked upon as a weakness.
Madeline becomes quite fond of the family, a teenage boy and younger twin girls, as well as their mother. Their father—he’s an odd man, not given to conversation or explanation, coming and going as he pleases, with no explanations given. When his body is found, the police opt for the teenager as the killer. Madeline is sure he’s innocent but proving it is a problem. The more she learns about the dead man, the more suspects she has on her list.
On a personal level, she befriended a man on the train who is the new doctor in town. In spite of her grief over her husband’s death, she begins to see her life will go on. The owner of a local dining spot (speakeasy) also shows her attention. Luckily, she has her neighbor, Gunther, a writer, to help sort out her social life—and what to wear.
This is Madeline’s debut in what readers will hope to be a long running series. Madeline is a charming woman, finding her way through society while learning to live on her own, by her own rules. It will be interesting to see what is in store for her as times change after the war. Gunther is a lively and unexpected character. The doctor adds a hope of romance. Based on the ending, Madeline has more adventures to come.
Writing as Amanda Carmack, there are five Elizabethan mysteries as well.
Til Death Do Us Party: A Live and Di in Dixie Mystery by Vickie Fee
Review by Cynthia Chow
It should be a contradiction that the wedding of professional party planner Liv McKay’s mother would be a quickie ceremony in Las Vegas. Liv had mostly given up the stress-inducing events caused by bridezillas, though, and her Mama wanted this to be anything but a working celebration. So that is why Liv, her husband Larry Joe, their friends Di Souther and Sheriff Dave Davidson, and Larry Joe’s parents all leave Dixie for an Elvis-themed wedding in Sin City. Even cousin Little Junior will be officiating as an Elvis “tribute artist,” and while he has his own “Priscilla” in tow, Di is finding that “Stuck on You” applies with her ex, the “Devil in Disguise.”
After witnessing a tempestuous argument in the Blue Hawaii Chapel between Little Junior and yet another Elvis impersonator, Liv realizes that the there’s more than just egos and artistic differences at stake. She barely has time to give it more than a second thought, though, as Di seems to be intent on sabotaging her current relationship. There’s a bridal party to plan, and back home a fiftieth high school reunion being hosted by Liv4Fun seems doomed with an endless series of absurd calamities. When a sudden death threatens to put Little Junior in jail and casts a cloud over Mama and Earl’s wedding, even Larry Joe can’t deny Liv her need to intervene.
I so thoroughly enjoyed this mystery that I didn’t’ even realize that the murder doesn’t occur until far into the novel. The actual crime plays out in the background, as what readers are really there for is to spend time with Liv and her hilariously entertaining group of friends and family. Anyone who has been to Vegas will delight in seeing these Southerners become immersed in its excessive culture, all the while maintaining their practical, Dixie-honed common sense. The humor is never too over-the-top, and yet of course has fun with the overabundance of Elvises. The final reveal of the culprit is but a footnote in this hilarious and delightful novel, as it is the celebration of Mama’s nuptials that truly make this such an appealing read. Come for the laughs, stay for the pleasure of these charming characters.
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 “april catch up,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 5, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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