by Sandra Murphy & Cynthia Chow
This week we have another fun group of mysteries for your tbr-A Matter of Hive and Death: An Oregon Honeycomb Mystery by Nancy Coco, Murder on an Irish Farm: An Irish Village Mystery by Carlene O’Connor, and Peril on the Page: An Open Book Mystery by Margaret Loudon. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 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.
A Matter of Hive and Death: An Oregon Honeycomb Mystery by Nancy Coco
Review by Cynthia Chow
Two years ago Wren Johnson returned to her late mother’s hometown of Oceanview, Oregon, and since then she has successfully built up her specialty boutique Let it Bee into a business of honey-based spa treatments, bakery treats, and home remedies. Wren has also become a budding beekeeper herself, learning the delicate craft of hive and beekeeping from bee wrangler Elias Bentwood. When Wren goes to a planned meet up with him she finds instead his unconscious body surrounded by swarming bees and vandalized hives. As shocking as the news that Elias was murdered by a blow to the head is, the news that this was but one of a series of hive vandalisms to have recently occurred, and while the Beekeeping Association members are furious, hive attacks rank pretty low on the list of priorities for the police.
Knowing the critical value of these endangered bees to the environment and economy of beekeepers, Wren sets out to discover how Elias’s death must be tied into the destruction of so many hives. Officer Jim Hampton, he of the lethally-blue eyes and stern demeanor, warns Wren from sticking her nose into his investigation but she’s not about to allow a friend’s death go unsolved. Especially not since she so recently solved a murder, and the police now seem focused on Elia’s best friend as his killer. When not attempting to discover who Elias or his bees may have angered into a lethal swarm, Wren contends with her Aunt Eloise’s attempts to costume them up for the town’s annual UFO festival. Parades, campy souvenirs, and legitimate scientists will be joining the conspiracy theorists for the event, some of whom believe that Bigfoot may have had a hand in stealing honey from hives. Aunt Eloise also finds time between designing alien outfits to lead missions for her Havana Brown rescue group, a shining representative of this being her own impressive feline Everett.
Delicious honey-centric recipes and remedies are sprinkled throughout this second of the series, as are fascinating lore concerning the value and care for the honeybees themselves. The author, who also writes under the names Nancy J. Parra and Nell Hampton, knows how to craft characters with whom readers will quickly grow attached, be it Wren’s Korean/German-American friend Porsche or the adorable cat-rescue advocate Aunt Eloise. The undeniably appealing but frustratingly by-the-book Officer Jim Hampton may find a rival in the arrival of Travis Hutton, another hunk who Wren’s heart in college but who hasn’t lost any of his man-bun-wearing ability to heat up her heart. Wren’s willingness to hurtle herself in the investigation while dodging more than one attempt on her life may exasperate Jim and those wanting her safe, but it also signals her devotion to the cause of bees, her home, and her family. This delightful romp of a mystery is a honeytrap for those looking for a witty cozy filled with fun facts, recipes, and hints of romance.
Murder on an Irish Farm: An Irish Village Mystery by Carlene O’Connor
Review by Sandra Murphy
Siobhan and Macdara are finally getting married. Of course, nothing can go smoothly, so when James, Siobhan’s older brother who is to walk her down the aisle, is late, she decides to go ahead with the ceremony. That plan works until James bursts into the church and announces he’s found a human skeleton at the dairy farm.
Well, that’s the first Siobhan’s heard about a dairy farm, much less a skeleton. With both of them being garda, the wedding is postponed, the reception started early for guests, and the not-yet-married couple change from dancing shoes to wellies and go to find the skeleton, dragging the wedding photographer along to take photos of the crime scene.
Of course, everyone knows, wear booties and gloves, watch where you step, and don’t disturb the scene. Except Gladys. When she heard there was a skeleton wearing a suit, she rushed right into the barn and identified him as Tommy, the man she thought left her at the altar, exactly fifty years ago to the day.
Even though two garda are left to secure the crime scene, it apparently didn’t occur to them to guard the back door to the barn. In the meantime, Alan, Gladys’ brother, managed to get inside and get himself murdered. It’s a mighty coincidence that his head wound is exactly like Tommy’s. And then, of course, Gladys had been in there because she wanted Tommy to see her in her wedding dress, or so she said. When she screamed, finding Alan dead and all, the whole rest of the family rushed in. Talk about a compromised crime scene!
Interviewing the suspects is a challenge, too, as they’re now of an age where they do remember the past better than what they had for breakfast or where they were yesterday. However, each has a favorite suspect and can’t seem to understand why the garda don’t go and arrest them right now.
Much to Siobhan’s surprise, the farm is now hers, well, theirs, as soon as the wedding happens. Macdara bought it as a surprise, not knowing it would pass surprise and move into shock instead.
This is book eight in the series. Siobhan has changed so much over the years, going from running the family’s bistro to becoming a successful garda, now training a new hire. Her family is growing up, and she still cherishes the time they spend together. Macdara still has his teasing ways but only has eyes for her. This is a series I always look forward to reading. For a taste of Ireland, a good mystery, and a dose of humor, you can’t go wrong with Siobhan and Macdara.
Peril on the Page: An Open Book Mystery by Margaret Loudon
Review by Sandra Murphy
Penelope Parrish is the American writer in residence for the British bookstore, The Open Book. In exchange for writing space, she helps customers find just the right book, stocks shelves, and makes herself useful. This year, she’s also teaching a class on Gothic literature at an elite girl’s school.
Another of her duties is to arrange for special events, like hosting Odile Fontaine, an art teacher at the same school, for an art class/book signing. Odile’s book, titled You Can Paint, has just come out and the painting class/book signing will be crowded. Figgy, who runs the tea shop, supplies the tasty treats, wine, and tea for the group.
During her talk, Odile becomes dizzy and has a headache but insists she’s fine to go on. Sadly, she is not. She collapses and is taken to the hospital where she’s pronounced dead. During the signing, she had wine to drink but poured it herself, and it was the same as everyone else had. She’d only taken a sip so her death must have been natural causes. Except it wasn’t.
Pen has been involved in solving two murders since she arrived in Britain. She was so hoping to avoid a third, even though her involvement with crime has led to her involvement with the handsome police detective, Brodie Maguire.
A valuable painting is missing from Odile’s apartment on campus. The underage girls have a secret source for liquor. Jewels were stolen from a home nearby. Several people have alibis, but they can’t be confirmed. All in all, the whole thing smells fishier than day old fish and chips.
The murder, theft, and potential scandal at school are all distractions that keep Pen from writing her second book. It’s a much better idea to help Brodie if she can. The book can wait, for a while at least.
I like Pen. She is surrounded by quirky people, is far from home, and loves her new friends, job, and life in Upper Chumley. She still hasn’t gotten the hang of driving on the wrong side of the road, but cabs will do until she can get a new car. This is book three in the series, and I look forward to more. A Fatal Footnote and Murder in the Margins were both reviewed here.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “april” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 7, 2022. 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.
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 Podcasts, and Spotify. A new episode went up this week.
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.