Even More April Penguin Mysteries

Apr 30, 2016 | 2016 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy

We end April with 3 more fun mysteries from Penguin authors–Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower, Murder She Wrote: Design for Murder by Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain and Renee Paley-Bain, and Needle and Dread: A Southern Sewing Circle Mystery by Elizabeth Lynn Casey. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of all 3, and a link to purchase them.

Crime and Poetry: A Magical Bookshop Mystery By Amanda Flower
Review by Sandra Murphy

Violet Waverly just got a phone call from Grandma, who sounded frail and said she doesn’t have much time left. Rushing from Chicago to Cascade Springs, New York, near Niagara Falls, Violet only stops for gas, food and potty breaks. She’s astonished to find her Grandma in the pink of health. It was all a hoax to get Violet to come back to town. After a scandal that happened her senior year when her best friend died, Violet had sworn she’d never go back. Grandma Daisy has other ideas.

Daisy owns a bookstore where she says the right book will pick you. There’s a tree growing up through the floor in the middle of the store, and she has a talking crow for a store mascot. book

The town is picturesque, filled with tourists who love carriage rides, the folklore associated with the spring water, and side visits to Niagara Falls. Things might be changing though as the water department wants to control the spring water. Grant, a former classmate, is behind the movement. It’s in direct opposition to his brother, the mayor. The mayor, by the way, was Violet’s high school boyfriend. He hung her out to dry during the scandal. All in all, she can’t wait to get back to Chicago.

Benedict is one of the carriage drivers, the most successful one in fact. He’s also Daisy’s boyfriend. When his body is found seated in his carriage parked in Daisy’s driveway, things aren’t looking good, especially since he was strangled with Daisy’s scarf. With Daisy the sole beneficiary of his will, she’s the number one suspect. Benedict’s daughter sure thinks so. She’s vocal, as in shouting at the top of her lungs loud, that Daisy is Benedict’s killer, and she did it for the money. Since the daughter only came around when she needed cash, that seems a little harsh!

Shane, the surly carriage driver, is acting pretty hinky himself. Carly runs the carriage business with help from her brother Trey. She’s ready to fire Shane but now, short-handed, has to keep him on as a driver.

Daisy believes if you listen, the books will talk to you and help you through any problem. Violet has a hard time believing it but tries to humor her. Daisy says the reason Violet had to return is that she’s the new Caretaker. The tree in the shop has to be watered twice a week and only with water from the spring. With the water department’s plan to take over the spring, the tree could be in jeopardy.

This is the first in a new series by the author of the Amish Quilt Shop mysteries, written as Isabella Alan. The side characters are fun and readers will want to know more about them as well as the town of Cascade Springs. The magical part of the story is subtle but adds flavor. Violet might as well give in and stay. After all, she’s adopted a cat and everyone knows, a bookstore needs a cat—-even one with a tree and a crow.

Look for Murder, Handcrafted, the next installment of the Amish Quilt shop series, coming in June, available for pre-order now.

Murder She Wrote: Design for Murder By Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain and Renee Paley-Bain
Review by Sandra Murphy

Fashion Week. We’ve all seen it on Project Runway and Sex in the City, but what’s it really like? Mystery writer Jessica Fletcher combines a trip to visit nephew Grady and his family with a chance to catch up with an old friend, mother to up and coming designer, Xandr Ebon. He used to be known as Sandy Black, but the new name and quirky spelling is bound to catch the couture buying public’s eye, just like his designs.

Chaos reigns backstage as models get their makeup applied, hair done, and dresses on. Jessica’s able to meet several of them and is astonished at how young they are. Rowena is only seventeen, but talks like she’s an expert on all things, even though this is not only her first runway show but her first modeling job. It’s clear she’s not liked by anyone and doesn’t care.book

Back in the audience, Jessica enjoys the show, but notices Rowena stumbled during her walk. At the end of the show, all the models parade the runway, followed by the designer. Rowena collapses, and it doesn’t look good. By the time the paramedics arrive, it’s too late. Rowena’s dead, but what would cause a seventeen year old to die without warning? Once the medical examiner rules out natural causes, Jessica’s natural curiosity takes over as she tries to figure out the puzzle.

It would be hard to say who might be Rowena’s enemies, but friends? She had none. She roomed with two other models, liked older men, and used her aunt’s influence to get what she wanted. In other words, she was a spoiled brat.

When a second model is found dead, the investigation ramps up. She was no newbie, but a model whose face you’d recognize in ads and on television. Can it be a coincidence? It seems unlikely that two models would die on the same day, but equally unlikely that they had anything else in common—-except a connection to Xandr. He was seen entering the apartment building just about the time she was killed. His mother’s panic gets Jessica further involved.

The detective assigned to the case takes quite a shine to Jessica, much to her discomfort. She doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. As a fairly new widower, he’s not too smooth about how to deal with women. While flattered, she’s just not interested. It does make things awkward.

For a look behind the scenes of high fashion, the cosmetics industry, modeling, plastic surgery, and high finance, with a little intrigue and murder thrown in, readers will enjoy a virtual trip to New York and the runway. Seeing Jessica, a widow, in a potential romance is an added bonus. This is book number forty-five in the Murder She Wrote series. Thanks to the television show of the same name, you don’t have to start with book one to follow Jessica’s forays into crime.

Needle and Dread: A Southern Sewing Circle Mystery by Elizabeth Lynn Casey
Review by Sandra Murphy

Look into the sky to see if little pink piggies are flying around. Leona and Rose, feuding members of the Sweet Briar Sewing Circle, are not only getting along, but have gone into business together. Rose is in her eighties and the new venture, Sewtastic, has added spring to her step. She loves helping customers find the right fabric and pattern. Leona, much more the diva, does not sew. She’s younger than Rose but not by nearly as much as she claims.

Victoria ‘Tori’ is the librarian in town. She’s newly married to Milo, a school teacher. She’s been caught up in murder investigations before but has sworn off getting involved now that she’s married. When Sewtastic has its first busload of people, well, five, show up for a weekend workshop, Rose is delighted. Miranda is the tour director, Travis the driver, Lucinda, Minnie, Samantha, Opal, and Gracelyn make up the group. book

The sewing circle women plus Charles, their friend from New York, are on hand to help out. Everyone is having a good time, except Opal. She finds fault with everyone and everything and ends with calling them all inept and demanding not only a refund for the workshop but all her expenses—-hotel, meals, gas to get to the bus—and more. Surprisingly, it’s mild-mannered Rose who goes head-to-head with the obnoxious woman. When everyone else is done with their projects and ready to go to the hotel after shopping in the store, Opal is still in the workroom.

Considering she’s got a sewing machine power cord wrapped tightly around her neck, she’s not going anywhere again.
Rose is devastated, sure this is the beginning and end of Sewtastic. Tori knows Rose needs the shop to keep that new spark in her eye. She and Margaret Louise, Charles and other members of the sewing circle agree to ask questions to find out more about the people on the tour. After all, who else could have done it? The problem is, everyone was in and out of the room, so it’s hard to pinpoint the times. Motive is tricky too until Tori researches them via their hometown newspaper online. Motives are plentiful then.

No one is allowed to leave town so the crafters have a few extra days to visit Sweet Briar. Milo suggests Tori invite them to join the sewing circle’s meeting in order to quiz them. It’s a brilliant idea, especially when Margaret Louise serves up her Truth Serum Brownies, guaranteed to make people spill their deepest secrets within a few minutes of eating them. (Recipe NOT included, probably because the brownies could be potentially dangerous in the hands of amateurs!)

Milo and Tori are a cute couple, obviously in love. Charles is a delight and has been adopted into the group. They’re all pressuring him to move to Sweet Briar. The characters are distinct, believable, and people you’d like to know. There’s even a hint for romance for Rose, something readers would love to see. This is book eleven in the Southern Sewing Circle series.

There are sewing tips and a pattern for a simple holiday dishcloth apron at the back of the book. In spite of Debbie’s goodies at the bakery and Margaret Louise’s treats, there are no recipes, such a shame. (That’s a hint.)

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 “even more,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 7, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

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Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble and a Kindle. You can find several of Sandra’s short stories at Untreed Reads including her newest, “Arthur,” included in the anthology titled, Flash and Bang, available now. Look for Denali, in the anthology Dogs and Dragons.


  1. These cozy mysteries sounds amazing! I am looking forward to reading them. Thank you for the chance to win.
    myrifraf (at) gmail (dot) com

  2. What a terrific selection. I especially love Jessica Fletcher!

  3. I really like all of these authors and their new releases. I would enjoy reading all three of these books. A great giveaway to end the month.

  4. One, Two, Three Strikes…you’re RICH! All three books offer a great reading journey – diverse from magical bookshops to sewing circles. I love it! Thanks, Sandra, for the heads up! Thanks, KRL, for the generous giveaway!

  5. I’ve always enjoyed reading the Murder She Wrote series & loved the t.v. show, Amanda Flower writes some awesome stories, but, my fave of them all is Elizabeth Lynn Casey’s Southern Sewing Circle series. I’ve read them all except for this newest release. Thank you for previewing these cozy mysteries today!

    • I almost forgot my email addy! sxygrndma48{at}yahoo{dot}com

  6. AH – Penguin does it again. I especially want to read Casey’s book.

  7. These cozy mysteries sound wonderful! Thank you for the chance to win copies of Needle and Dread, Murder She Wrote: Design for Murder, and Crime and Poetry.

  8. Please enter me. I love the Murder She Wrote books.

  9. Fantastic!! So hoping. All are on my TBR Thanks for the chance to get them sooner.

  10. Love Cozy Mysteries!! Can not wait to read these. Thank you for Mystery Newsletter!!

  11. Thanks for the giveaway. Sounds like 3 exciting reads.

  12. Old faves and something new! Thanks for the chance to win!

  13. Great selection, looking forward to reading them and hoping for a win! Thank you for the opportunity!

  14. All three books look amazing. Will be going on my must read list. Thanks for the chance to win.

  15. We have a winner!


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