by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have reviews & giveaways of 4 more mysteries that would be perfect for your June Wedding reading as they deal with things every wedding needs-cocktails, flowers, and France (what better honeymoon destination could there be)-Death of a Cookbook Author: A Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery by Lee Hollis, Natural Thorn Killer: A Rose City Mystery by Kate Dyer-Seeley, Dressed for Death in Burgundy: A French Village Mystery by Susan C. Shea, and Flowers and Foul Play: A Magic Garden Mystery by Amanda Flower. 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.
Death of a Cookbook Author: A Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery by Lee Hollis
Review by Cynthia Chow
Apparently, Island Times newspaper food columnist Hayley Powell never heard of the warning to never meet your heroes. Even if she had, there’s no way she would have passed up a chance to meet her inspiration and idol, Flavor Network cooking and lifestyle expert Penelope Janice. In Bar Harbor for a book signing event, Penelope shocks Hayley by inviting her to be a replacement guest on a televised celebrity casserole competition filmed at Penelope’s Seal Harbor estate. Hayley’s initial starstruck elation takes a quick nosedive when she is carb-shamed healthy eating expert, makes an enemy of the household cook, and as a coping mechanism overindulges on her beloved mussels at a food-competition level.
Unfortunately, her impressive mussel-consuming ability leads to a bout of food poisoning, which is why no one believes that she overheard a plan to murder Penelope. When a body does indeed turn up, Hayley’s credibility would seem to be bolstered, especially after she is pushed off a boat, a fire breaks out, and the Fourth of July celebrations continue despite the rising body counts. Hayley hurtles herself into the investigation despite her Police Chief brother-in-law’s dismay, the complicating presence of an ex-boyfriend, and the unwanted arrival of irritating co-worker/competitor who arrives pretending to be her current boyfriend.
Interspersed between her hilarious adventures, Hayley’s Island Food & Spirits columns continue to be absolute delights. Hayley’s recent bouts with murder actually seem complacent compared to her accounts of drunken parade floats, decimated wedding cakes, and mysterious limo-delivered casseroles. Of the high-proof drinks and decadent dishes, my favorites would be the Amaretto Coffee and Easy Breezy French Toast Casserole. Not everyone may share Hayley’s love of casseroles, but it’s hard to argue with their ease and nostalgic value. Similarly reliable is this series, which never fails with clever dialogue, twisty plots, and laugh-inducing moments of absurdity. Hayley is the epitome of the plucky, resilient heroine, one who persists in her goals despite the complete lack of qualifications. The empty-nester has grown as a mother and reporter, and it looks as though her future will be even more unpredictable and full of joyful humor.
Natural Thorn Killer: A Rose City Mystery by Kate Dyer-Seeley
Review by Cynthia Chow
Britta Johnston used to find her moment of Zen when working amidst flowers, allowing her creative vision to flow through her as she created beautiful, customized arrangements. She sacrificed her passion for floral artistry in order to support her selfish husband, and when it is ironically a bouquet that exposes his philandering, Britta leaves him to return to her beloved home of Portland, Oregon. Riverplace Village is the location of Blomma, her Aunt Ellin’s unique flower and wine shop that continues to uphold the traditions carried over from Sweden. Britta barely has a chance to settle back into the fulfilling floral world before she encounters Frank Jaffe, a developer intent on buying the village and converting it into luxury condos. When the lecherous businessman is found murdered in Blomma’s adjacent cottage house, the pair of engraved shears in his chest place Ellin first on the suspect list.
At least it’s a rather long list, with most of the Riverplace shop owners having good reason for wanting Frank dead. His own nephew seems more than eager to take over the business, and a personal assistant is acting decidedly squirrelly. Britta may feel at a loss as to why she wasted much of her life on an unworthy spouse, but she is certain that she will do everything she can to prove her aunt’s innocence. In this age of #MeToo, the Jaffe men tiptoe over the line of appropriateness, with nephew Kirk taking up his creepy elder’s legacy through unwanted nicknames and the refusal to believe in rejection. If only the investigating Detective Pete Fletcher was as clear with his own intentions, as even if Britta was ready to date again she’s unable to decipher if Pete is flirting or interrogating.
Britta is a much different character than Meg Reed, the exuberant heroine of Kate Dyer-Seeley’s Pacific Northwest Mysteries. Britta’s misjudgment over her husband has her questioning all of her actions, and her lack of confidence has her tentative and distrustful of everyone’s motives. Everyone in Riverplace Village does as some point become a suspect, especially when even Britta’s own aunt hides secrets and refuses to talk about a stalker and trail of dead roses. The author is outstanding when highlighting Portland’s unique quirkiness, eclectic cuisines, anti-Californian attitude, and Britta’s Swedish heritage. Flower-lovers will find much to love and learn about in this debut series, including a secret formula of preserving “love juice” with the surprising ingredient of bleach. Britta’s vulnerability at the start of the novel is why she is so relatable and likable, but it is the more reassured one who emerges who ensures that readers will return for more.
Dressed for Death in Burgundy: A French Village Mystery by Susan C. Shea
Review by Sandra Murphy
Katherine Goff is living in France. It’s not quite as she’d dreamed it would be. Her husband, a country/western singer/songwriter is back in the States, recording songs for an album. Katherine is trying to keep herself busy enough to not miss him so much. Pippa, a neighbor, is a young Englishwoman, kind of scattered but meaning well.
When Katherine is asked to drive a van full of tourists to a nearby museum, Pippa hitches a ride along so she can pick up her car from the garage. That plan goes to pieces when a dead body is found inside the museum, dressed and posed like a mannequin. It’s seemingly a locked room murder.
Pippa fancies herself a mystery writer and thinks this is the perfect opportunity to learn about murder first-hand. Of course, it would help if she actually spoke French. Katherine is pressed into service to translate since she can understand the locals as long as they don’t talk too fast.
The body is the wife of the local butcher, but he has a good alibi. There don’t seem to be any other suspects, and even if there were, how did the murderer get inside, carrying a woman who had been killed elsewhere? The woman who runs the museum lives on the first floor and is meticulous about keeping the door locked at all times.
When Pippa turns up at what looks like the scene of another murder, the police are suspicious of her motives. A policewoman theorizes that Pippa was in love with the butcher and has killed the wife. To keep Pippa out of further trouble, Katherine agrees to help ask a few questions in hopes of finding a more suitable suspect.
Although Katherine is older than Pippa, as outsiders in the village, they become unlikely friends. Details of the French countryside and living in a cold climate on a limited budget are woven into the storyline without distracting from the mystery. Katherine is a likeable character and her relationship with husband Michael, an enviable one. Pippa is a walking disaster, but loveable for it. With her six cats and endless curiosity, Pippa’s someone you’d like to meet. Besides, there’s a potential for romance for her and that will be interesting to watch.
This is the second book in the series. Readers will look forward to more adventures if Michael goes on tour in the States and leaves Katherine and Pippa on their own again. Or will she tag along and get into more trouble closer to home?
Flowers and Foul Play: A Magic Garden Mystery by Amanda Flower
Review by Sandra Murphy
When your fiancé runs off with the cake decorator and your flower shop goes under after a chain florist opens nearby, what’s a girl to do? For Fiona Knox, it’s a trip to Scotland. Her godfather, Ian MacCallister, died and left her a cottage. It seems like a good place to regroup.
Upon arrival, she finds the fabulous gardens nearly dead and the body lying in the middle, certainly dead. It’s the lawyer she was supposed to meet to find out about her inheritance. Her passport is confiscated even though she’s not been in the country long enough to meet the lawyer, much less kill him. Suspicion quickly turns to Hamish MacGregor, Ian’s caretaker. Fiona knows he’s much too kind a man to be a killer, but even more, he would never have left the body in the garden.
A letter from Ian to Fiona to explain her inheritance has gone astray in the mail back in the States. In the meantime, she’s feeling her way through what’s to be her new life, if she decides to stay.
Among the locals, there are a number of people who would have liked to see the end of the lawyer. He had grand plans to change the town and not everyone was onboard with the idea. His law partner wasn’t even privy to all his plans.
The garden is a magical place as Fiona finds out. Hamish swears she’s the only one who can save it although she has no idea how or what he means. Through a fluke, she inherits the lawyer’s cat, Ivanhoe. Hamish has a pet squirrel. Imagine the scenes with the two of them!
This is the first Magical Garden mystery. The series promises to be a good one, not heavy on the magic to distract from the mystery. Hamish and his squirrel are interesting side characters, Fiona is someone you’d like to know and there’s a hint of romance with Chief Inspector Craig. Don’t forget the cat!
Flower also writes the Living History Museum books (3), Amish Candy Shop series (2), Magical Bookshop mysteries (2), Andi Boggs (3), Apple Seed Creek books, (4), and the India Hayes mysteries (2). Look in the KRL archives for reviews of several of these series.
To enter to win copies of all 4 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “june wedding,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 9, 2018. 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.
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 watch for our new mystery podcast coming June 5!
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