by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have some more Penguin mysteries for your May reading–Gone with the Witch: A Wishcraft Mystery by Heather Blake, Berry the Hatchet: A Cranberry Cove Mystery by Peg Cochran, Mrs. Malory and Death is a Word by Hazel Holt, and Hearse and Gardens: A Hamptons Home and Garden Mystery by Kathleen Bridge. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of all 4, and a link to purchase them.
Gone with the Witch: A Wishcraft Mystery by Heather Blake
Review by Cynthia Chow
It’s been a year since Darcy Merriweather moved to the Enchanted Village, and in that short time her world has been transformed. She has fully accepted her abilities as a Wishcrafter, granting the wishes of mortals, but it is her talent to solve magical crimes that has her in high demand.
Ivy Teasdale fears that someone is sabotaging her annual Pawsitively Enchanted Pet Extravaganza, the one non-magical festival held in the bewitching New England town. During the extremely pet-centric celebration, multitudes of pet events are held, including judged competitions that have the winners featured on a following calendar. Ivy hires Darcy to spy upon Natasha Norcliffe, whose illustrious feline Titania has twice won the cover shot and crown due to convenient accidents to her competitors.
Unexpectedly, it is Natasha who succumbs to cyanide poisoning at the event, alarming Ivy only in so much as it could impugn her festival’s reputation. Natasha was ruthless in her desire to see Titania succeed, but that is nothing compared to Natasha’s willingness to attract and cast off suitors according to her needs. It is that tendency that has Darcy butting heads with her frenemy Glinda Hansel, a former police officer turned private investigator hired to gather evidence on a straying husband. Further alarming Ivy and Darcy, but for very different reasons, are the disappearances of beloved pets from both the Extravaganza and Enchanted Village residences.
It can’t be emphasized enough just how much the Enchanted Village feels like a real town with a fully developed magical mythology. Along with Darcy, readers have slowly been introduced to the rules and practices of this witchy world, but even those discovering the series for the first time will have no trouble quickly becoming fully immersed. Darcy finally finds a resolution to the long-running mystery of the identity of the ruling Elder, and it proves to be as rewarding for the reader as for Darcy herself. She is at a crossroads in her life, building her dream home but uncertain how far to push her relationship with Police Chief Nick Sawyer.
The greatest achievement of this six-book series has been making these characters so beloved that their fates have become as important as the mysteries themselves. Darcy continues to be a charming and funny heroine, but it is her relationships with her family and fellow crafters that will have readers always eager for more.
Berry the Hatchet: A Cranberry Cove Mystery by Peg Cochran
Review by Sandra Murphy
Monica Albertson is in a heck of a mess this time. It’s the Winter Walk, so she’s baking cranberry filled goodies for a booth in town as well as for the shop at the farm her half-brother runs. Monica’s stepmom, Gina, has a new boyfriend. They haven’t been dating long, but Gina is sure they have a connection. Monica’s mom is making a surprise visit to town. Oops, Monica never told her that Gina is living there now. Since Gina stole Monica’s dad, this could make for a sticky situation.
Her mom, Nancy, says she has a new beau, too. They met when he was in Chicago for business, so she’s here to surprise him. The surprise backfires when Nancy and Gina find out, once again, they are both involved with the same man.
The man is Preston Crowley, mayor of Cranberry Cove. He and his niece are set to lead the parade for the Winter Walk in a horse-drawn sleigh. Luckily, it starts snowing just in time. The parade is set to pass by the stores at 4 p.m. When it arrives early and at a high rate of speed, no one knows just what to do. One of the shopkeepers manages to stop the horse, and that’s when Preston’s body is discovered with a knife in his throat.
This, of course, puts both Gina and Nancy at the top of the suspect list. Monica feels the need to clear their names, and her book club is willing to help. Greg owns the book store. It looks like romance between Greg and Monica is brewing as well.
Another suspect is Tabitha. She and the mayor were arguing about a Wiccan ritual she wanted to perform before the parade. Roger is a bartender Preston fired from the Cranberry Inn. He also spread rumors that Roger stole money from him. Roger was set to open his own restaurant, but mysteriously, the inspection for the final permit was delayed. He’s seeing red that he couldn’t open in time for all the tourists who arrived for the Winter Walk.
This is the second book in the Cranberry Cove series. There’s a lot of information about how cranberries are grown and how they can be used without getting in the way of the story. There are two recipes at the back of the book, too. Monica and her mother both cook, so along the way she explains how they make some of their tasty dishes.
Cochran also writes the Gourmet De-Lite mystery series (three books there). For a fun read that will chill you to the bone with its description of the snowy Michigan weather, Berry the Hatchet fills the bill.
Mrs. Malory and Death is a Word: A Mrs. Malory Mystery by Hazel Holt
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sheila Malory’s friend, Eva, has moved back to Taviscombe following the death of her husband, Alan. He’d been an investigative reporter who traveled to the world’s most dangerous hot spots to cover the latest breaking news. It was ironic that he died of kidney failure six months after his retirement.
Eva is a cheerful sort. She fits right in, like she’d never left, volunteers, and her days are full. She meets Donald, a retired businessman who like her, enjoys theater, opera, and fine dining. Her cousin Rosemary, thinks it’s too soon after her husband’s death, but who’s to say when is the right time? Rosemary is a bit jealous—she’d planned Eva’s activities and hadn’t really considered Eva’s thoughts on the matter.
Sheila and Rosemary help Eva get things sorted out in the house. It’s a cottage really, not too much room to spare, so some things are kept in the garage. Alan’s files and papers are among them. His publisher wants Eva to go through them all to choose which articles would make a good book and to see if he left notes for things unwritten. Eva is hesitant because it will bring up too many memories. When a shorted wire in the garage starts a fire, it’s time to get the files into the house. Eva can’t imagine anyone would want them. Sheila’s not so sure.
There’s a bad stomach bug going around and both Eva and Sheila fall ill. Rosemary managed to miss the germs while out of town. She’s floored to find Eva’s body when she returns. It looks like Eva was so ill, she forgot to take her insulin. At least it looks that way.
It’s sad that Eva would die so soon after her husband and just when she was getting to know Donald. He’d been out of town, too, and was devastated about her death on his return. Eva’s son and his partner come to take care of things and decide to stay in the cottage. Things really start to get suspicious then when another death follows. No matter what anyone thought about Eva’s death, this one is murder.
This is the nineteenth book in the Mrs. Malory Mystery series. It’s a cozy mystery for sure, moving at a more relaxed pace than many since Sheila doesn’t make finding out what happened, if anything, her main goal in life. This gives readers time to enjoy the characters and life in the village. Have a cup of tea and enjoy!
Hearse and Gardens: A Hamptons Home and Garden Mystery by Kathleen Bridge
Review by Sandra Murphy
Meg Barrett decorates cottages in the Hamptons. She uses finds from flea markets, garages sales, junk stores, and sometimes antique shops. It keeps her mind off the fact that she might become homeless herself.
One of the older residents died and left her cottage to the church, who sold it to Meg. Just as she was to begin renovations, she was served a court order to cease and desist until ownership could be established. It seems the will had a clause about heirs, and one has turned up. Now the courts have to decide. In the meantime, her lease is running out.
To take her mind off those depressing things, Meg and her friend Elle are clearing out one of the six bungalows that belong to the estate of Harrison Falks. Back in the day, Andy Warhol and the like used to hang out at the estate. Years ago, Harrison’s son, a neighbor’s wife, and an original Warhol went missing, presumably all together, never to be seen or heard from again. When Meg discovers a hidden room in the bungalow, she and Elle are more than surprised to find it came with its own skeleton—-the missing son. So where is the woman he supposedly ran off with? And where’s the Warhol?
In the meantime, Celia, Harrison’s much younger wife, is trying to have him declared incompetent. His assistant seems to be in on the plot. There are secret rooms, hidden staircases, missing girls, the nefarious wife, the betraying assistant, and the loyal cook. Everyone has a secret.
There’s a nice amount of decorating talk between Elle and Meg, history of the Warhol paintings, and a feud between a “decorator” named Tara and Meg. Tara’s not above stealing clients or favorite shopping spots. Meg has a new guy interested in her, too. Now if she could only figure out how she can keep the cottage she fell in love with.
This is the second book in the enjoyable Hamptons Home and Garden Mystery series. Meg is a sensible person and a good friend and has an eye for what works and is affordable in the Hampton cottages. Meg’s acquired a cat or rather a cat has moved in and is willing to let Meg live there, too. At the back of the book are tips for repurposing vintage finds from both Meg and Elle. Meg’s dad has taken up cooking, so he’s shared the recipes for Cajun barbecue shrimp, roasted carrots, sweet potatoes and onions, and Meg’s instant pumpkin ice cream.
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 “May penguins,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 21, 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.
Click on this link to purchase any of these books. If you have ad blocker on you may not see this link: