by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have another mystery review catchup for your shelter in place reading-Dead on the Vine: A Finn Family Farm Mystery by Elle Brooke White, Dead in the Doorway: A House-Flipper Mystery by Diane Kelly, and This Magick Marmot: An Abracadabra Mystery by Sharon Pape. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 books, and links to purchase them. Each book comes from a different publisher so will be shipped separately and This Magick Marmot is an ebook giveaway.
Dead on the Vine: A Finn Family Farm Mystery by Elle Brooke White
Review by Sandra Murphy
What do you do when your job implodes and you’ve inherited your uncle’s produce farm that you only visited once as a child? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is to sell the property and then find a new job. However, things don’t always go according to plan as Charlotte Finn finds out.
There are other people relying on the farm for their own livelihood. Samuel “Farmer” Brown, caretakers Joe and Alice Wong, plus the farm hands are all nervous about Charlotte’s intentions. And then there are the animals—a little pink pig Charlotte names Horse because he eats like one and a ladybug with a distinctive yellow spot among the black dots, plus a horse, goats, and geese. Every day Charlotte finds more reasons to stay.
The biggest reason is the “don’t leave town” request after she finds a dead body. Horse leads the way and shows Charlotte the man who was stabbed through the throat with a pitchfork, a particularly gruesome death. With her friends, brother and sister Beau and Diane, Charlotte hopes to find ways to make the farm work and find out the identity of the dead man—and maybe who killed him. Could that hit closer to home than she ever could imagine?
Diane is a sous chef and totally in love with the fresh produce available at the farm. Beau is an event planner and can see the possibilities. Charlotte appreciates the help, but what happens after they return home? The thought of doing everything herself is overwhelming.
Another sticky problem is the books—although Samuel enters the amount of produce to sell, the final income doesn’t match the prices they should be getting. Is it a clerical error or is someone skimming off the profits? Alice seems to spend a lot of time in the cellar. Charlotte could swear someone’s been in the house. How many things can go wrong at once?
This is the first in a new series. While Horse is not a speaking pig, he is able to get his point across and the more Charlotte talks to him, the more he understands. It’s a nice twist to a familiar theme and not intrusive to the story. The mystery leads readers through twists and turns to a satisfying ending, although leaving us wanting more.
Dead in the Doorway: A House-Flipper Mystery by Diane Kelly
Review by Cynthia Chow
When not helping her uncle as a carpenter in his Whitaker Woodworking business or being a part-time property manager for Nashville’s Home & Hearth real estate, Whitney Whitaker is busy renovating homes for her and her cousin’s new house-flipping investment. A tip from her Home & Hearth bosses had them buying the recently available, if run-down and dilapidated, colonial home of the late Lilian Walsh in the town of Donelson. Outdated appliances and creaky steps are the least of the repairs needed, though, when Whitney discovers a body at the bottom of the stairs and Lilian Walsh’s grandson Dakota crashing upstairs. A cranky neighbor whom no one seemed to like, Nelda Dolan, appears to have fallen to death by accident with few – if any – mourning her death.
As Whitney and her cousin Buck attempt to continue their renovations and recoup their investment, they learn that the previous owner was a renowned baker with a much-envied prize-winning secret peach pie recipe. Whitney learns from the rest of the cul-de-sac residents that Nelda had accused Lilian of stealing more than just a pendant, and a hiding space within a step reveals that Nelda may have gotten into the way of someone wanting access to it. Detective Flynn is resigned to again have Whitney in the middle of his investigation, but chooses to take advantage of her ability to get close to the suspects and do a little free detective work for him. It goes both ways, of course, and Whitney doesn’t hesitate to be nosy and ensure that her properties are safe even as she installs security systems and cameras.
As in Diane Kelly’s Paw Enforcement series, the occasional chapter is narrated by our heroine’s four-legged companion. Instead of a K-9 police dog, though, here Whitney’s recently adopted feline Sawdust shares her wry observations as only a self-involved cat could. Whitney’s best friend and roommate Collete Chevalier serves up advice and delicious meals, even test-cooking some of Lilian’s recipes when not working at the Hermitage Hotel restaurant.
Whether or not Whitney’s cousin Buck has more than a friendly interest in Collete is still in question, but his mentorship over Dakota Walsh is inspiring. Whitney is always admirable as well, in her work ethic as a property manager and house-flipper and in her dedication to helping her family and friends. Her humorous outlook and practicality not only make her all the more relatable, they ensure that her adventures are entertaining and fun. Sawdust’s lackadaisical commentaries will delight animal lovers, as well, ensuring that there is something for all readers to enjoy in this charming and compelling character-driven series.
This Magick Marmot: An Abracadabra Mystery by Sharon Pape
Review by Cynthia Chow
High school reunions are always a mixed bag. Abracadabra magick shop owner Kailyn Wilde is very much looking forward to seeing the girls who made up their own little three musketeers friendship, but their ten-year high school reunion also reminds her of the tragedy that occurred on their prom night. Scott Desmond accidentally drowned after a night of drunken antics, and his girlfriend at the time never recovered. Now Ashley Rennet is begging Kailyn to look into the death and find out why the straight-arrow boy suddenly changed his behavior, and despite her best to resist manipulation Kailyn agrees to look for some answers. That becomes very complicated when Charlotte Green finds their third musketeer Genna Harlowe dead in the bathroom, most likely poisoned to death by someone at the Welcome Back Dinner.
The new detective Mary Gillespie is not enamored with Kailyn’s involvement in the investigation, and that’s before her “eccentric uncle” lands in their midst. Inexplicably having traveled through time and being trapped in this one, the legendary wizard Merlin complicates his great-great-great granddaughter’s life with his addiction to sweets and flagrant use of unreliable spells. It is his attempt to conjure up a familiar for himself that literally has an elephant in the room, not to mention a bevy of marmots running through the town of New Camel (formerly Camelot). A mix between a chunky squirrel and a whistling groundhog, the newly named Froliquet must be glamored in order to avoid wildlife violations and city ordinances. Leaving her Aunt Tilly to hopefully corral in the wizard’s antics, Kailyn attempts to track down and question those who attended the infamous lake party full of unreliable, intoxicated witnesses. When one of the reunion attendees is nearly run down, Kailyn almost blown up, and Scott’s ghost seen around town, she knows that she must escalate her magick practices in order to stop a killer before the revenge plans continue.
This is a captivating blend of paranormal and practical detective investigation, with Kailyn and her friends tracking down those from Scott’s life while using a sprinkling of spellwork encouragement. The clock is on for Kailyn to learn new talents before her thirtieth birthday and her skillset cemented in, which encourages her not only to teleport into the police station for a little espionage but to delve into time manipulation. The dangers of both are obvious, and the ghostly presences of her mother and grandmother offer only limited guidance. Kailyn is metaphorically haunted by the death of Scott, and now she wonders if perhaps it’s literal as well.
Merlin, his new familiar, and her own snobbish feline Sashkatu offer endless moments of absurd humor and complications, but the emotional connection Kailyn between her maternal family is never undercut. Her own future with new anchorman Travis is shadowed by her magickal abilities and her need to continue her family’s spellworking lineage, but their supportive relationship is admirable and unwavering. High school drama, spellwork, and magickal seekers, and Kailyn’s delightful family all make this a charming series that continues to be innovative in its plotting and character development. Readers will be reciting the spells and believing that magick can happen if only one believes.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 books (This Magick Marmot will be in ebook), simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “more mystery,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 16, 2020. 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 Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next 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.