by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have reviews & giveaways of 3 more mysteries from Kensington authors for your summer reading fun, with cats, dogs, antiques and food-Antiques Wanted: A Trash ‘n’ Treasures Mystery by Barbara Allan, The Uninvited Corpse: A Food Blogger Mystery by Debra Sennefelder, and The Bengal Identity: A Cat Groomer Mystery by Eileen Watkins. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 books, along with links you can use to purchase them.
Antiques Wanted: A Trash ‘n’ Treasures Mystery by Barbara Allan
Review by Cynthia Chow
Despite having no experience, a history of mental illness, and profoundly less qualified than her opponent, Vivian Borne has thrown her hat into the ring to become Serenity, Iowa’s county sheriff. Her daughter Brandy is certain that Vivian will never be elected, as when did such an obviously incapable candidate with no tax history, questionable emails, and shady foundation funding ever get elected to office? Part of Vivian’s optimistic campaign has been soliciting donations from the local Sunny Meadow Manor assisted living facility, where Harriet Douglas graciously donates a Tiffany Lamp as well a signed photo of old movie cowboy sidekick, Gabby Hayes. Harriet wants to keep the handout on the down-low since it is her nephew who is Vivian’s opponent, but that’s going to be difficult when Harriet’s oxygen tank explodes, killing her and sending Brandy hurtling into a wall.
For once Brandy and the chief of police Tony Cassato are in the “on” phase of their relationship, but it’s going to be tested now that Vivian is convinced that solving the murder (if it is an actual murder) is the key to propelling her into office. Of course, she already knows that nobody really believes a candidate’s promises, and she already has the perfect slogan: “Vivian Borne – born to be sheriff.” Every investigation still needs an inside source, and who better than Vivian herself? So with a bunion surgery keeping her off her feet, Vivian checks herself into Sunny Meadow in order to better interrogate the staff, investigate the alarmingly high death rate, all the while dodging the advances of an amorous suitor.
With the premise that has this entire series is written by Vivian and Brandy not the actual husband and wife team Barbara and Max Allan Collins, the novel delights in meta-commentaries through the Borne women’s narrations. A few recipes are tossed in to keep it within the cozy genre, although they do receive “notes” from their editor to tone down the name-brands and possibly curtail the ramblings on self-driving cars. Brandy may have to battle with her mother for control of the chapters, but both viewpoints always prove to be extraordinarily entertaining as they make hilarious commentary on society. Despite the moments of absurdity, the characters always shine with empathy and relatability. This series continues to be so much fun, mixing mayhem and murder with an abundance of laughter. The last chapter hints at even more adventures to come, meaning that next installment simply can’t come soon enough.
The Uninvited Corpse: A Food Blogger Mystery by Debra Sennefelder
Review by Cynthia Chow
Magazine editor to competition reality show loser to blogger. While it would seem to indicate the downswing of someone’s career, Hope Early is optimistic that things are finally looking up. Aided by promotional, if occasionally embarrassing, guest stints on the Morning Pete talk radio show, her Hope at Home lifestyle blog is becoming profitable as she gains more followers and sponsors. Hope loves nothing more than baking, organizing, and cleaning, so her obsessive housekeeping actually works for her benefit. And despite being known around her hometown of Jefferson, Connecticut, mostly as the runner-up winner for the Culinary Channel’s The Sweet Taste of Success, Hope is happy to be back and spending time with her sister Claire, reporter friend Drew Adams, and maybe-sorta dating the Chief of Police Ethan Cahill.
It’s real estate agent Claire who finagles an invitation to Audrey Bloom’s garden tour, with the hope of getting the Society to Protect Jefferson to ease their protests against Lionel Whitcomb’s new developments. Claire hopes to win Lionel away from her rival and nemesis Peaches McCoy, whose take-no-prisoners attitude stirs up more than her share of enemies. Unfortunately, when “Miz Pits” is found dead in Harrison Bloom’s study, it’s Claire who becomes the primary suspect in the eyes of personality-challenged investigating Detective Sam Reid.
Spurred on by Jane Merrifield, who forty years ago authored a popular mystery series, Hope aims her detail-oriented focus towards proving her sister’s innocence and even finding the real murder. After all, Hope was once the most talented amateur sleuth of her high school Mystery Book Club, so interrogating the attendees of the home garden tour should be a snap. Real life isn’t fiction, though, and Hope finds herself alienating her neighbors and even becoming the target of attacks by a ruthless killer.
This debut mystery series takes a refreshing approach by not having the answers easily laid out, with her discovering that people don’t always appreciate being accused of murder. As Hope learns, not everyone is eager to spill their secrets when asked. Even though this may be a small town, local politics and reputations are as important as in any bustling metropolis. Hope truly is an engaging and likable character, and it will be fascinating to know more about her past with the magazine and especially her exploits on a reality cooking competition show. There is more than enough intrigue to make this a promising launch for a new series full of household hints, romance, and humorous banter.
The Bengal Identity: A Cat Groomer Mystery by Eileen Watkins
Review by Sandra Murphy
When a young man brings in a cat for boarding, he doesn’t have the usual shot records, an address or much of anything. Cassie, the owner of Cassie’s Comfy Cats, agrees to board the cat despite her misgivings. The cat is quite the diva, demanding attention and exercise—loudly. When she gives the cat a bath, some of its brown coloring washes down the drain. Who would dye a cat? A few more baths give the clue—it’s a rare breed, a Bengal.
Efforts to find the young man are in vain until a dead body shows up. It’s the cat’s owner. A break-in at the shop, a mugging, and people who are just a little too inquisitive about the shop and the cat are enough to cause concern.
Cassie’s veterinarian boyfriend, Mark, has problems of his own at the office. The staff usually keeps the office running smoothly but now mistakes are made, office staff show up late for work, orders for medicine are ignored. Cassie has a theory, but Mark is sure she’s wrong.
At her own place of business, she needs some temporary help during sidewalk days. She’ll have a booth but is hesitant to leave her helper alone in the shop. Cassie’s mom offers to help which gives her mixed feelings. As it turns out, her mother doesn’t just dislike cats so much as she is terrified of them, putting Cassie back in need of help.
With everything that’s going on, Cassie still manages to find out more about the cat’s background and breed. Now if she can just help find the killer.
This is the second in the series-The Persian Always Meows Twice was the first and was reviewed at KRL. For an entertaining peek behind the curtains at a cats-only grooming and boarding shop, Cassie explains the care, feeding and enrichment cats need as well as giving a few hints on how to find a murderer.
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 “summer kensington,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 2, 2018. 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 & 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. Watch for our mystery podcast coming soon.
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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.