by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have another fun catch up group of mysteries-Murder on Trinity Place: A Gaslight Mystery by Victoria Thompson, The Loch Ness Papers: A Scottish Bookshop Mystery by Paige Shelton, Murder in Midtown: A Louise Faulk series by Liz Freeland, and Wed, Read & Dead: A Mystery Bookshop Mystery by V.M. Burns. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books, along with links you can use to purchase them. If you have ad blocker on you won’t see the Amazon links at the end of each review.
Murder on Trinity Place: A Gaslight Mystery by Victoria Thompson
Review by Sandra Murphy
It’s New Year’s Eve, and Sarah and Frank Malloy are partying like it’s 1899. A local church has a performance by bell ringers, so Gino, Frank’s detective agency partner, is anxious to drive their new motorcar to the event. It’s a nice change from the dreary dinner they’d had with a neighbor. It was a small affair, but one of the guests, Mr. Pritchard, managed to make a scene and storm out of the house, spoiling the evening.
Pritchard is having his own version of a Y2K meltdown, believing this is the beginning of the new century, not the year 1900. The Malloys spot him in the crowd at the church, trying to convince others he’s right. The news is not well-received from the drunken revelers.
When Pritchard is found dead behind the church, it’s assumed someone took offense and killed him. Frank is sure that’s not the case, but the corrupt police department decides to drop the case. Bribes, probably, but by whom?
Pritchard’s daughter hires Frank and Gino to find out who killed her father. When a second murder occurs, their skills are put to the test with twists, turns, red herrings, and clues to unravel.
Besides the murder, Sarah is playing Cupid for a friend and a new acquaintance. The potential relationship has to navigate the rules of society, uncertainty from both parties, and dare to fight the limitations of their situation. This added a fun aspect to the storyline that made the tale even more enjoyable.
One of the best elements of a historical mystery is the lack of modern conveniences. Class still matters, big households always have servants, women are dependent on the men in their lives who rule with a rigid sense of righteousness. To investigate, one must expect the police will do next to nothing, and rely on gossip to help solve the case. There’s no Google, cell phones, few automobiles, and the pace is slowed although tension and suspense remain high.
This is the twenty-second book in the series. New readers will have no trouble jumping right in, although once read, there might be a strong desire to start at the beginning to follow the romance and mystery of Frank and Sarah.
The Loch Ness Papers: A Scottish Bookshop Mystery by Paige Shelton
Review by Sandra Murphy
Delaney has been in Scotland long enough to find the most perfect job, a cottage she loves, friends, and now, a fiancé. Her job is researcher for The Crooked Spine bookstore, but it involves much more than that. The cottage belongs to the cabbie she met upon arrival. He and his wife have become friends as well as landlords. Her fiancé is a local pub owner, Tom.
When their minister dies before he can perform the wedding ceremony, Delaney must find another who is willing to have a semi-religious ceremony, held in the bookstore rather than the church. She’s able to find a willing officiant in Nisa. She also meets Norval, an elderly man who lives across from the church, who is obsessed with the Loch Ness monster. He says he’s seen Nessie many times over the years and believes Nessie “took” his dad. He is determined to find out for sure. His research papers fill his apartment.
Delaney also meets Norval’s nephew, Gavin. He’s not as friendly as Norval and warns her Norval may ask her for money, an odd comment. When Gavin’s body is found in his apartment stabbed in the back with a souvenir Loch Ness knife, Norval is a likely suspect.
With a wedding to plan, family arriving soon, a missing shop owner, an extremely valuable book, a flirty Texan, old romances, current grudges, a money-making scheme, and the discovery that her boss has a new girlfriend, Delaney’s life couldn’t get much more complicated—until Norval asks for help to clear his name, that is.
This is book four of the enjoyable series. Delaney has settled into life in Scotland with little problem (not always understanding the slang doesn’t count). She has no doubts about marrying Tom. This storyline lets readers get acquainted with her mom, dad, and brother who may end up visiting Scotland often after falling in love with it themselves. Readers can expect quite a few changes in Delaney’s life in upcoming books.
The story is rich with history about the Loch Ness monster. There are those who believe it’s all a hoax and those who swear they’ve seen Nessie themselves. Although many people expect the loch to be a mid-sized lake, it’s dark water, ominous in itself, with a steep drop-off just off the shoreline. For a glimpse into life in a small Scottish town, take a few hours to visit with Delaney and her friends. Like her family, you’ll fall in love with the country and its people. As far as the Loch Ness monster goes? I’m a believer.
Shelton also writes the Country Cooking School series (5), the Farmers Market books (6 plus a mini-mystery), and the Dangerous Type mysteries (3). I’ve read all four series and while it’s hard to choose, my favorites are Delaney’s tales and the Dangerous Type books.
Murder in Midtown: A Louise Faulk series by Liz Freeland
Review by Sandra Murphy
In 1913, New York City, Louise Faulk works in the office of McChesney and Van Hooten, book publishers. Last summer, she helped solve a murder. Now, she’s determined to take the police academy test and become one of the few policewomen on the force.
Rather than face ridicule if she should fail, she leaves a note at the office, saying she has a dentist’s appointment the next day. She’s shocked to find that in her absence, a fire destroyed the building — with one of the employees still inside.
Since her rare absence could be seen as suspicious, and because her boss is also considered a suspect, Louise’s aunt hires her to type manuscripts in the morning and investigate in the afternoon. The dead employee wasn’t popular with anyone, adding to the suspect list, and since he was the Van Hooten part of the partnership, it’s doubtful the company will be able to recover.
Frank Muldoon, police detective, knows Louise from last summer’s murder, and he has decidedly mixed feelings about her taking the police academy test. In spite of his warnings, she decides to go ahead with her own investigation. After all, she has the free time, and it could only help her potential new career. A fire, a death, a mobster, angry authors, fired employees—any one could be the killer.
This is the second book in the series with Murder in Greenwich Village telling of Louise’s first experience with death up close and personal and the potential danger to those who investigate. Louise is a sensible woman who doesn’t deliberately put herself in danger but who doesn’t back down when threatened either. She’s a good friend to her roommate Callie, a dancer in the theater. Between the two of them, there’s never a dull moment. A bit of romance rounds out the mystery. Clues are so cleverly mixed in with the story, I completely missed the most important one. For a trip back to a time when women wore ankle length skirts, hats, and society rules were more constraints than manners, “Murder in Midtown” will show the way.
Wed, Read & Dead: A Mystery Bookshop Mystery by V.M. Burns
Review by Cynthia Chow
In just three weeks, Samantha Washington’s mother will be walking down the aisle with her wealthy fiancé Harold Robertson. He is more than willing to give his bride the Christmas Eve wedding of her dreams, but the arrival of Harold’s snobby relatives threatens to bulldoze over Grace Hamilton’s plans. After sneering over their planned reception and ceremony locations, Harold’s sister-in-law Margaret hires exclusive wedding planner Lydia Lighthouse to take over the event. The pretentious Lydia disregards Grace’s wishes in favor of far more costlier options, but before she can rack up even more enormous fees, Lydia is murdered. Terrified that police will arrest Harold when they learn of his fury over being swindled on wedding deposits, Grace begs her daughter to intervene and investigate. Normally Detective Bradley “Stinky” Pitt would order Sam to stay out police business, but with wealthy big shots and political figures pressuring him to solve the case quickly the detective’s willing to accept all of the help he can get.
To escape from the stress of now having to solve a murder and finish planning her mother’s wedding, Sam retreats into her fictional world of 1930s England. Through writing cozy mysteries documenting the adventures of the Marsh family, Sam works out her personal conflicts and finds peace. Now more than ever does her art imitate life, as Sam has Lady Daphne’s snobbish wedding planner disrupting both the upstairs and downstairs of Wickfield Lodge before the ceremony that is to occur in two weeks. Just as Sam and The Sleuthing Seniors mystery book club follow a trail of infuriated clients and business associates with reasons for wanting to strangle and literally stab the wedding planner in the back, excerpts from Sam’s chapters depict Lady Elizabeth and her family tracking down the disreputable victim’s killer.
While this fourth of the series can be enjoyed any time of the year, its emotional sentiment is perfect for the holiday season. Two orphans appearing in Frank’s restaurant – a situation reflected in Sam’s novel as young siblings flee Hitler – have the childless writer opening up her heart in order to give her charges the best Christmas possible. The entire town of North Harbor, Michigan, comes together to create a last-minute wedding, and their generosity and good humor only highlights the pretentiousness of some of Harold’s family. The stress of weddings and Christmas can always be relied upon for humor and shenanigans, and when they are combined here, the results are thoroughly enjoyable. Readers are in for an entertaining and genuinely moving mystery full of good-natured banter and a compelling mystery-within-a-mystery. By delivering two strong stories wrapped into one novel, the author more than satisfies fans of cozies and British historical mystery series.
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 catchup,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 1, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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