by Sandra Murphy
As it gets warmer outside, what better way to avoid the heat than to stay inside and enjoy some more fun mysteries! This week we have one final April Penguin mystery, and a few more May Penguin mysteries. We have flower shops, food, therapy cats & more! Check out our reviews of Bloom and Doom, a Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery By Beverly Allen, The Pickled Pepper By Mary Ellen Hughes, Last Licks By Claire Donally, and Murder Gone A-Rye By Nancy J. Parra. Details on how to win copies of all 4 at the end of this post, also if you use the link below to purchase any of these from Amazon a portion goes to help support KRL.
Bloom and Doom, a Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery By Beverly Allen
Review by Sandra Murphy
Audrey Bloom and her cousin Liv, are co-owners of The Rose in Bloom floral shop specializing in bridal flowers. Audrey’s got quite a track record with her brides–none have ever gotten divorced. It could be because Audrey knows the secret language of flowers and uses it in her designs. That is, it worked until one particular bride came along. On the other hand, it’s not like the girl got divorced. Instead, she got arrested for the murder of the groom to be.
Jenny Whitney has managed to snag the most eligible bachelor in the town of Ramble, Virginia. She hired Audrey to make up the bouquets, but won’t be swayed from her choice of anemone, scabious and pussy willow–a mix that spells doom in Audrey’s book.
Before the wedding can take place, the groom is found dead in his car with flower petals scattered around the body. Jenny says she can’t remember a thing. Audrey has to protect her friend and her own reputation, so she investigates with the help of her friends including Nick the baker, who comes by daily for a small bouquet. Audrey likes him, but why are the good ones always taken? The middle of the night escapade with Nick and Audrey is a great scene, full of humor and suspense.
You’ll learn a lot about flowers, their meanings, how to deal with brides and worse–their mothers–all mixed with the murder mystery. The characters are a lot of fun and The Rose in Bloom is a place you’d like to drop by, just to smell the flowers, drink in all the color and maybe to catch a glimpse of Nick!
At the back of the book is an excerpt from the next in the series, For Whom the Bluebell Tolls, coming soon, but not soon enough for me.
The Pickled Pepper By Mary Ellen Hughes
Review by Sandra Murphy
After dating, romance and now an engagement, Piper Lamb’s intended has decided he needs to travel the world in order to “find” himself. Well, two can play at that game, so Piper quits her job and moves to Cloverdale to open her own store, called Piper’s Picklings, featuring pickles and preserves.
One way to get customers is to participate in town activities like the Cloverdale Fair. Piper has a big booth and the main attraction is a barrel of pickles just like the old general stores used to have. Everybody loves to pick their own pickle and crunch their way around the fair. The first day goes well; Piper heads back to the store to box up more supplies for the next day and to get some needed rest.
That was pretty much in vain as upon arrival the next day she finds the very dead body of Councilman Alan Rosemont in the pickle barrel! His bagpipes are next to the upended body and she can kiss goodbye the idea of any sales today, and of ever using the barrel again.
Of course, she feels bad that anyone died but Rosemont was particularly hard to like. It seemed as though he went out of his way to antagonize people like his neighbor. Rosemont liked to practice his bagpipes at all hours, but he was a not good player. He managed to anger a lot of business owners, his girlfriend, Nate (he’s Piper’s assistant’s boyfriend) and more. It’s a chore to figure out who wanted him dead bad enough to do the deed–and who would involve Piper and her pickles?
This is the first in a new series and I can’t wait to read more. There’s a nice love triangle between Piper’s fiancée, who seems to think their marriage is merely on hold and her new love interest in Cloverdale. Since she’s unable to decide, Piper thinks the best course might be to just enjoy the bounty.
I was disappointed that so many kinds of pickles were mentioned in the book but no recipe for them was in the back, not that I actually cook or anything. Still, pickling has basic rules and the internet can find actual recipes for the more adventurous. Recipes for Watermelon Rind Pickles and Sweet and Sour Zucchini Pickles are there. Piper says you can pickle most anything including tomatoes, peaches and squash. There’s also a list of pickling tips to help out.
Hughes also writes the Craft Corner mysteries including Wreath of Deception, String of Lies and
Paper-thin Alibi as well as the Maggie Olenski mysteries.
Last Licks By Claire Donally
By Sandra Murphy
Sunny Coolidge, her dad Mike and cat Shadow are back in another adventure, this time at a rehab/nursing home. Ollie, Sunny’s boss, was “rescuing” a deer that had been hit by a car (there are suspicions that it was his car and he was moving the evidence). In the midst of the rescue, the deer perked up, jumped up and ran off into the woods. Ollie was not so lucky. He got hit by the next car coming along and now has a broken leg.
After a bit of surgery to piece the bone together, Ollie is transferred to the rehab center, much to the relief of the hospital staff, as Ollie is not a cheerful, thoughtful man under any circumstances. Add in pain and everybody suffers. His roommate at the rehab is a charming old guy by the name of Gardener Scatterwell. He’s a longtime resident of the town but has traveled often and long. In fact, he was a band mate of Mike’s back in the day.
Sunny notices though that the women steer clear of Gardener. He’s a little too “handsy” and imagines himself as irresistible. The women are in a bad spot with jobs on the line and not much else to choose from, so they try to make the best of it and stay out of reach.
Deaths in a nursing home are not unusual, but to have a cat who predicts who might be next, is. Portia is a friendly therapy cat who lives at the facility with her brother Patrick. They were rescued by Rafe, the security guard and union rep for the staff. Ollie, Gardener and Mike have a few laughs when Portia comes to visit and hops onto Gardener’s bed, but the laughing stops when Gardener is taken ill during the night. An ambulance is called but he’s dead before they can even get him in it.
Deaths in the rehab unit are not as common as in the nursing home but still, Gardener had suffered a stroke and this appears to be another. Only Ollie thinks it’s something more sinister–like murder. He woke during the night and heard voices, mumbles really and the sound of Gardener drinking something. Not long after, Gardener was too weak to even push the call button for help.
Was it murder? The staffs at the facility, the sheriff and the doctors say no. Ollie says yes. Ollie has enough political clout to get the sheriff to agree to one officer, Sunny’s boyfriend Will, looking into the case with Sunny’s help, just to keep things legit. The catch? They have one week to make their case.
Suspects include the smarmy nephew who stands to inherit. He is a nasty character but then he has some reason to be. It seems he once caught his fiancée and Gardener in a compromising position which ended all thoughts of marriage. There’s also the mysterious music therapist who is around a lot more often than he’s scheduled to be. The physical therapist was there that night too and she was the target of some of Gardener’s more aggressive advances. Even Mike had a beef with him. Gardener made a move on Mike’s true love (Sunny’s mom) and got punched in the nose for it. The doctor is as cold and unfeeling as a body can be. Even Rafe might have a reason. How can Will and Sunny figure this out in seven short days? The main difficulty is, the suspects Sunny doesn’t like seem to have alibis and the suspects she does like, haven’t. She’s pretty sure, if they can solve this, she’s not going to like the ending.
Putting Ollie into rehab is a great way to expand the cast of characters, change the setting and add dimension to Ollie’s personality.
Donally lets the reader into Shadow’s mind too, which was a bit distracting at first but then became such a part of the story, it was no different than knowing what Sunny thought. One humorous and touching aspect to this is Shadow’s infatuation with Portia via the smells on Sunny’s clothes after a visit to Ollie. Apparently Portia feels the same way, so what’s in the future for those two? I look forward to the next book to find out.
Previous books in this series include Cat Nap and The Big Kitty (reviewed for KRL).
Murder Gone A-Rye By Nancy J. Parra
By Sandra Murphy
Toni Holmes, who you might remember from Gluten for Punishment, is in deep doo-doo again, all because of Grandma Ruth. Although she’s ninety years old and has trouble getting around, Ruth hasn’t slowed down nearly as much as the townspeople would like. When Lois Striker, all around harpy and pretty much an enemy of Ruth’s, turns up dead in the town square, suspects abound. Unfortunately, tire tracks that match Ruth’s scooter, the one with the all-terrain tires, lead right to the body.
Ruth thinks it’s pretty much a kick to be interrogated. In fact, it’s her idea to go to the police station. The police don’t get much in the way of facts or motive, but mostly get headaches from talking to Ruth. As a former (and she thinks, current) investigative journalist, Ruth has a lot to talk about. Most of it has nothing to do with the murder investigation.
Ruth’s sure an old secret is the motive. Lois was the right hand of the town’s founder, Homer Everett, a war hero who is commemorated in the town square (near the body’s location) with a large statue. Each Thanksgiving, the town hosts the Homer Everett parade and carnival rather than going all turkey like most places.
Toni is bound and determined to stay out of the whole thing. Just because she helped solve a murder a few months ago, doesn’t mean she’s a detective or more than just lucky. On the other hand, how many times can she bail out Grandma Ruth and her sidekick, the informally adopted Phyllis? Ruth and Phyllis could probably get away with a lot more if not for the noticeable scooter and Phyllis’ hippie VW van. In the end, Toni knows it’s just easier to go along and hope for the best than to try to corral the pair.
The side characters are a treat. There’s no holding Ruth back, and you’ve gotta love her boyfriend, Bill. Phyllis is an all too willing accomplice in every harebrained scheme. Toni’s friend Tasha and her autistic son, Kip, live in Toni’s big old Victorian too. The side stories of dealing with an elderly relative, an autistic child, a business that takes up most of your time and a couple of men who are interesting too, and add to rather than distract from, the main storyline.
A new and welcome addition to this series is Aubrey. Kip found the dirty puppy, stranded in a deep hole. Once cleaned up, he turned out to be an all-white dog, how nice. A Great Pyrenees, how huge! Aubrey manages to steal every scene he’s in, deservedly so.
Since Toni runs the only gluten-free bakery in town (maybe in the whole state, which after all is famous for growing wheat), the recipes in the back are all made with alternative ingredients but nothing too hard to find, like the Betty Crocker gluten-free cake mix. Recipes include: Yogurt Blueberry Coffee Cake, Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake, Fruit Dip, Peanut Butter Bars, and Coconut Lime Cheesecake with Mango Sauce, Berry Shortbread Bars, Lemon Cake and Chocolate Italian Cream Cake.
To enter to win a copy of all 4 mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Penguin,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 24, 2014. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
Click on this link to purchase any of these books & a portion goes to help support KRL!