End of May Mystery Catchup!

May 28, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Cynthia Chow

This week we have another fun group of mysteries for your tbr-Poppy and the Backstabbing Bachelor: A Desert Flowers Mystery by Lee Hollis, A Margin for Murder: A Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery by Lauren Elliott, ‘Til Death: A Witch City Mystery by Carol J. Perry. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 books and links to purchase them at the end of each review–you may not be able to see the Amazon links if you have ad blocker on.

Poppy and the Backstabbing Bachelor: A Desert Flowers Mystery by Lee Hollis
Review by Cynthia Chow

The ladies of the Desert Flowers Detective agency are high off of a win, having successfully gone undercover to capture a crime ring scamming Palms Springs seniors in a retirement community. A vengeful Tanya Cook whistles an ominous tune as she’s hauled away by the cops, but Poppy Harmon has other things on her mind. After her acting career dwindled and her husband left her bankrupt, Poppy was able to funnel her experience playing a secretary on an 80’s television PI show into her new occupation as a real-life professional private investigator. Working alongside her friends Iris Becker and Violet Hogan, their enlistment of aspiring actor Matt Cameron to be the face of the company for sexist, ageist clients ironically helped him attain an acting job on a big-budget Netflix movie with the Rock. Bringing them all down off of the high of their successes is when a friend borrowing Poppy’s car is run off of the road, and a very shady whistling stranger seems to be stalking her. As events escalate it seems like a good time for Poppy to get out of town, and literally play dead.

Following a trail of clues to her stalker leads the Desert Flowers to a Bachelorette-type reality competition show, where there is a convenient opening for an eligible bachelor. With Matt back in town and nursing a heart still wounded from his breakup with Poppy’s daughter, he becomes a handsome candidate to go undercover along with his “Aunt Bea” as his advice companion. Dodging a predatory producer while investigating the sketchy identities of the bachelors is something Poppy and the Flowers are becoming adept at handling, but it’s Matt who’s in danger of becoming too invested in winning his show. A barely NASA-graduate “astronaut” and a rodeo clown “rodeo star” are among the fluffed-up descriptors used to categorize the contestants for the Instagram Bachelorette, but with one of them being a possible killer the stakes are higher than just winning the coveted rose.

This fourth in the series is always at its best when depicting the seedier sides of the glamorous entertainment business. Poppy’s years on the top-rated Jack Colt, PI television show have given her a realistic, slightly jaded, perspective on the Hollywood life, but she still appreciates the lifestyle it gave her. Matt continues to be so refreshing in his appreciation of the Flowers Detective Agency ladies, with Detective Lamar Jordan being the one who tends to dismiss them while taking advantage, and credit, for their success. The twist of his wife’s own aspirations as a designer and her fanning on Poppy is priceless, especially when it comes to her wearing one of Lynn Jordan’s more avant-garde creations. The vast television writing experiences of one of the co-authors are always on full display in the behind-the-scenes moments of television shows and its creators, delivering moments of hilarity as well as deep insight. Readers looking for a genuinely thrilling mystery along with a scalpel-sharp satire of dating show competitions will be thrilled by this latest entry in the series featuring these amazing Golden Girls private detectives.

A Margin for Murder: A Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery by Lauren Elliott
Review by Cynthia Chow

Coming off of the disappointment of receiving earrings instead of an engagement ring for her Christmas presents, Addie Greyborne is funneling all of her energy towards purchasing new stock for her curio bookshop, Beyond the Page. Simon Emerson may have let her down with a lack of a proposal, but shopping for books and curiosities at a book sale never fails to deliver her joy. A pre-birthday celebratory expedition to nearby Pen Hollow is just what Addie needs, especially as it gives her the opportunity to attend the closing down auction for its local library. Despite it being a historical building, without funding for upgrades, the library is instead being closed down and demolished. As much as Addie and her assistant manager Paige Stringer drool at the sight of Stickley tables and French Beech sofas, it’s the tantalizing bookmobile that really has them seeing stars. In a deal that seems too good to be true, not only is the bookmobile that will allow Addie to take her bookstore to fairs and festivals affordable, it contains a collection of valuable first edition novels. Unfortunately, the ink has barely dried on the sale agreements before they’re given the news that Luella Higgins, mayor and head of the library committee, has just fatally crashed in the promised bookmobile.

A lazy sheriff wanting to close the case and keep his record cleared of unsolved murders circles is immediately on Addie and Paige, asserting that no one in his town is capable of murder. While they are ordered not to leave Pen Hollow, back-up support arrives in the awkward duo of Greyborn Harbor’s Police Chief Marc Turner and medical examiner Simon. While Addie and Marc both declare that they’ve moved past their relationship into the “friend zone,” it’s another ex-boyfriend who unsettles Addie’s romantic status. Tony Radcliff was the high school boyfriend who ghosted her sixteen years ago, and now he has reappeared as a bestselling thriller writer and the presumed heir to the bookmobile’s valuable book collection. While Addie’s bestie Serena spirals in full momzilla back home as she sits out the last weeks of pregnancy, the rest of their Greyborne Harbor friends follow up on Addie’s murder board list of garden club jealousy, resentful pharmacy owners, furious librarians, cheated heirs, illicit affairs, and spurned lovers.

While one character remarks that there are enough secrets and affairs simmering under Pen Hollow’s surface to make it the new Peyton Place, the same could be said of Addie and her life back in Greyborne Harbor. At some point all of them have been murder suspects, potential victims, and navigated “complicated” romantic lives. A passing remark near the end hints of further potential strife for Addie, especially when their New England town seems to be far smaller and connected than one would expect. It’s a relief when characters honestly communicate and express their true feelings, as so much of the confusion and mixed-messages are cleared up with a simple, sit-down conversation. Bibliophiles will enjoy Addie’s exuberant exploration of the classic novels that inspire both her and Tony, who have emotional connections to the books given to them by their loved ones. This eighth in the series sets up more possible plot lines while resolving the ones set up in its debut, making this a satisfying conclusion for a woman whose life has been touched by so much murder and heartbreak. The comforting presence of Addie’s Yorkipoo Pippi is an added bonus, especially when he further highlights the therapeutic benefit of animal companions.

‘Til Death: A Witch City Mystery by Carol J. Perry
Review by Cynthia Chow

Lee Barrett is about to take another huge step forward in her life as she leaves behind her identity as the former Maralee Kowalski, an orphan, widow, Salem TV reporter, and Late Night call-in TV psychic. Engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Detective Sergeant Pete Mondello, Lee is now the new WICH-TV program director planning to soon walk down the aisle and move into their new home. As Lee juggles wedding cake-making magicians and upscaling the image of their meteorologist “weathergirl,” investigative reporter Scott Palmer drops the news that Tabitha Trumbull Academy’s newest hire might be a convicted murderer. That the bestselling mystery author Professor Fenton Bishop has also booked a stay in her Aunt Ibby’s soon-to-be-bed-and-breakfast means that Lee is unable to deny the coincidence or her curiosity. For as much as Lee believes in the principle of a released prisoner having paid his dues to society and deserving the right to move on, the interest in the decades-old murder stirs up a lot of attention-grabbing news bites and rumors.

While Aunt Ibby and the Angels, a senior mash-up of the Golden Girls and Charlie’s Angels, track down the connection between their favorite mystery writer and the wife-shooting Michael Martell, Lee focuses on her wedding plans and honeymoon through Maine. The trip through New England will not only allow her producer to assign her the task of shooting promotional vacation-destination documentary footage, it will also allow Lee to visit her few remaining living relatives. The long-ago death of her parents continues to haunt Lee, especially since she saw a vision of their deaths in a reflection on her Mary-Jane shoes. That trauma blocked her prophetic abilities until recently, when she recovered her gifts as a scryer, able to see visions of the past, present, and future in reflective surfaces. A new gazing incident has Lee interested in visiting some of the few remaining relatives on Pirate’s Island, where tourists and treasure hunters continue to seek a legendary pirate’s treasure of lost gold.

This fascinating novel weaves in several mysteries as it builds towards the one that has haunted Lee for most of her life. The first half tackles the weighty, complicated issue of redemption and forgiveness. It’s one thing to say a released prisoner has the right to start life anew, it’s another to have the convicted murder living next door and teaching your children. Having something of a complicated relationship with what is considered socially acceptable herself, Lee’s sympathies lie with the man who made a terrible mistake under the influence.

Lee’s and Pete’s involvement in the mysteries of Pirate Island take the novel into a new, fascinating direction, delving into lost treasures, property rights, and possible scams. The relationship between Lee and Pete has never been more supportive or enviable, even if he is still not entirely comfortable with her prophetic gazings and accurate predictions. There are enough appearances by Aunt Ibby and their psychic cat O’Ryan to delight and charm long-time fans, making this twelfth in the series reliably engaging while still having the unique twist of a separate adventure. Readers will look forward to the next lucky 13 of the Witch City mystery series, which successfully blends Salem’s reputation for witchcraft with equally compelling glimpses into the world of television programs and productions.

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 “may tbr” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 4, 2022. 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 Podcasts, and Spotify. A new episode went up last week.


You can use this link to purchase any of these books from indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, and KRL gets a portion of the sale:
mysteriousgalaxylogo

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

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.

13 Comments

  1. Amazing choices. Thank you for the opportunity.

    Reply
  2. Some more great books! Count me in!

    Reply
  3. What great books!

    Reply
  4. Poppy and the Backstabbing Bachelor, A Margin for Murder and ‘Til Death all sounds like fun cozy mysteries with interesting settings and quirky characters! I would love to read them all.

    Reply
  5. Three great books to read this summer. Thanks for the chance.

    Reply
  6. Three great books to read this summer. Thanks for the chance.
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

    Reply
  7. These all sound so good. Thanks for the giveaway.

    Reply
  8. Great batch of books to read!

    Reply
  9. Great selection of books that I want to read.
    thanks. txxmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

    Reply
  10. Amazing books. Thank you for the opportunity.

    Reply
  11. These sound great! I’d love to read them all! Thanks ?

    Reply
  12. We have a winner!

    Reply

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