by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
Enjoy another fun group of mysteries from Penguin authors for your June reading pleasure-A Premonition of Murder: A Dream Club Mystery by Mary Kennedy, Title Wave: A Booktown Mystery by Lorna Barrett, A Shattered Crime: A Stain-Glass Mystery by Jennifer McAndrews, Dead End Street: A Museum Mystery by Sheila Connolly, and Murder, Handcrafted: An Amish Quilt Shop Mystery by Isabella Alan. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copies of all 5, and a link to purchase them.
A Premonition of Murder: A Dream Club Mystery by Mary Kennedy
Review by Cynthia Chow
After moving to Savannah to help her sister save her vintage Oldies But Goodies candy store, Taylor Blake found herself falling in love both with the town and with its residents. So when the sisters were invited by reclusive heiress Abigail Marchand to a luncheon at her Beaux Reaves estate, Taylor wonders if they may be invited to join the exclusive Magnolia Society. Instead, Abigail has sought out Taylor and her Dream Club for help after dreaming of her imminent death. Although the sisters and their fellow Dream Club members meet and suggest different interpretations for such a dire dream, Abigail’s takes on literal meaning when she is found dead at the bottom of her stairs.
The police immediately rule the death as a homicide, and it is soon revealed that Abigail had been suspicious that many of her valuable paintings and antiques were being stolen out from under her. It was for that reason that Abigail had hired a graduate student to catalog her collection, even though it was out of character for her to have allowed an outsider into her home. Combined with the recent mysterious death of Abigail’s sister, the Dream Club have a surplus of clues and mysteries to sort out as they once again find themselves in the midst of a murder investigation.
In this third of the Dream Club Mystery series, author Mary Kennedy blends her clinical psychologist background into a skillfully plotted mystery novel. The sisters are witty and relatable, with logical left-brained Taylor perfectly balancing out the more emotional, right-brained Ali. Even the most acerbic of Dream Club members proves to be both funny and engaging, and a sprinkle of romance is added with Taylor’s interactions with former FBI agent and current PI Noah Chandler. The Savannah setting itself is as much a character as any of those within the Dream Club, as descriptions of the local cuisine, unique Southern mannerisms, and eccentric residents further enhance this charming novel. This author of the similarly entertaining Talk Radio Mystery series continues to be a reliable source for satisfying, fun, and genuinely surprisingly mystery novels.
Title Wave: A Booktown Mystery by Lorna Barrett
Review by Cynthia Chow
Tricia Miles should be in bliss. Not only is she luxuriating in the most expensive suite of the cruise ship ‘Celtic Lady,’ the mystery bookstore owner is on a mystery-themed cruise to Bermuda. Tricia’s first vacation in six years is courtesy of her sister Angelica, who suggested the Authors-at-Sea cruise to Stoneham, New Hampshire’s Chamber of Commerce. Unfortunately, having already ruined her one book signing at Tricia’s Haven’t Got a Clue bookstore due to egotistical and rude demands, bestselling mystery author EM Barstow is now doing her best to disrupt the cruise with her tantrums and disagreeable temper. Considering Tricia’s lamentable record with murder as the town jinx, it’s only a matter of time before the completely unlikable author meets with an unfortunate end. The big surprise is that it appears to arrive as a result of a suicide.
‘Appears’ is the operative word, and since death occurred at sea and the cruise line not eager to investigate, Tricia once again finds herself propelled into fulfilling justice just like mystery books she so adores. A beleaguered assistant/fan club president, a young callous editor, and many rival cozy mystery authors all number among those with motives and even more knowledge of how to do in the overrated thriller writer. Armchair tourists have the added benefit of experiencing life on a cruise ship, and meta-commentary on life as a mystery writer will have many wondering if this is perhaps a roman-a-clef and poke at certain not-to-be-named authors.
By this tenth in the Booktown Mystery series, there is a lot of backstory, but the author quickly catches new readers up on the cast of players. Long-time fans will appreciate just how much the characters have grown, none more so than the formerly self-centered and vain Angelica. Now a step-grandmother who anonymously funded many local businesses, Angelica has proven to be one of the most supportive and engaging residents of book-themed Stoneham. This proves to be a crucial transformation, as Tricia has never needed her sister more. Mourning the recent loss of her ex-husband, Tricia’s lifelong habits are becoming a health concern and stem from a long-held family secret. Despite these very real and troubling topics, humorous scenes and witty dialogue ensure for an entertainingly light-hearted and fun tone. As Tricia says of herself and her sister, “Books are our lives.” Readers sharing this sentiment will revel in this latest novel that celebrates the genre and the tradition of cozy mystery novels.
A Shattered Crime: A Stain-Glass Mystery by Jennifer McAndrews
Review by Sandra Murphy
When Georgia’s life imploded, she retreated to Wenwood, New York, to stay with Grandy, her grandfather, until she got on her feet again. It turns out, she likes life in a small town. She and Grandy have their routines. He’s grown accustomed to her bulldog, Fifi, and even the newly rescued kitten, Friday. Jobs are scarce so Georgia does what most of the residents do—she cobbles together a living by working for Grandy in his movie theater a couple of nights a week, a few mornings at the law office, and doing what she loves by making sun catchers, fairy chime earrings and custom pieces from stained glass.
Her love life seems to be going well too although she’s afraid to examine it too closely. She’s seeing Tony, the contractor hired to rehab the old brick works. When the job is done, it’s likely he’ll be moving on to the next one and out of her life.
At the dedication of the new promenade, protestors make a scene. Georgia is able to escape their hot air and the cold outside temps by helping Rozelle with refreshments brought from the bakery. Things are going smoothly until the protest’s leader collapses.
Since he ate gluten-free Danish that no one else had, Rozelle is a suspect although motive is missing. She’s always been sweet on Grandy so Angie agrees to ask a few questions here and there, just to help out. That’s in addition to her three jobs, two pets, Grandy, and an impending visit from her mother and her new husband—don’t say stepfather!
Her mother thinks Georgia needs to move out and get a real job, maybe on the West Coast. Ben, the new husband, is full of advice for someone who has no idea what’s going on.
Diana, Georgia’s policewoman friend, is just the opposite. She’s not sharing information at all. Chris, the detective who asked Georgia out, is driving Diana nuts as she tries to become a detective, too.
Georgia gets roped into helping Terry, a retired private detective, look into things. Their foray into the nursing home is classic comedy, but they do find new clues.
As if there’s not enough going on, it’s time for Friday to be spayed. Georgia is surprised at her own reaction to the thought of Friday spending the night at the vet’s office. In the meantime, Rozelle has disappeared.
This is the third book in the Stain-Glass Mystery series. Georgia has settled into small town life, full of good friends, family (Grandy, not counting Ben!), a sweet boyfriend, and pets that keep things lively. There’s a nice amount of information about stained glass without distracting from the story, the mystery is a good one, and of course, Fifi and Friday steal every scene they’re in. Grandy is an active senior and Georgia a confident, competent woman, except for being a little gun-shy in the romance department. I look forward to reading more in this enjoyable series.
Dead End Street: A Museum Mystery by Sheila Connolly
Review by Sandra Murphy
Nell Pratt, president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society, is settling into her new home nicely. James, her FBI boyfriend, is easier to live with than expected. Her job is going smoothly as well. When two members of a local neighborhood restoration group ask for a meeting, she’s not sure how the society could help.
It seems the pair, Cerisse and Tyrone, want background on neighborhoods that used to be full of families and life but are now derelict. In doing their research, they discovered the society owns just such a property although Nell thought everything had been sold long ago. To make their point, they drive Nell to the site. It’s an old row house except the rest of the row has been torn down. The house is past saving, but if there were exhibits or a brochure that could show areas like it in their heyday, perhaps developers would be inspired to work with the city to root out the gangs and drug dealers and make the neighborhoods a place to live again.
While they are parked in front of the house, a car drives by, and shots are fired. Cerisse is killed and Tyrone is wounded. Nell managed to get out of the line of fire, just in time. Police think it was a random shooting, but Nell’s not so sure. The question is, who was the target and why? James tries to balance his worry and concern without being overprotective. Nell thinks she’s okay, but feelings sneak up on her now and again. To distract herself, she decides to investigate how the society can help reclaim the neighborhoods. Two sisters approach the society about donating their home if it can be preserved. Which is best to save? One mansion that’s in fairly good shape or a neighborhood that is barely salvageable? The society doesn’t have the funds, but surely should be more involved than just warehousing artifacts.
This is book seven in the Museum Mystery series. Nell and James are a delight as a couple who love each other but are not the usual twenty-somethings. Both have been so caught up in work, they are now discovering things they like to do together. Marty, a volunteer who knows everybody and where all the skeletons are buried, has a boyfriend of her own and this time readers get to see a bit more of him. Their romance should be as interesting to follow as James and Nell’s. The society’s decision to become more involved in the city’s present, rather than only the past, will offer more possibilities for the series as well.
Don’t look for recipes at the back of the book—Nell doesn’t cook! Connolly also writes the Orchard mysteries (eight books so far) and the County Cork series (four books) set in Ireland. Add all three series to your summer reading list.
Murder, Handcrafted: An Amish Quilt Shop Mystery by Isabella Alan
Review by Sandra Murphy
Angie Braddock’s parents are retired and have moved to Rolling Brook, at least for the warmer months. They bought a house, but her mom is a perfectionist so nothing would do, but the kitchen has to be gutted and redone. While her dad was a whiz as a businessman, as a handyman, he’s a disaster. While tearing out the kitchen cabinets, he hurt his back and broke the French doors to the patio. Angie has to leave her quilting shop in the hands of her Amish assistant, Mattie, and go to the rescue. She enlists the help of her childhood friend, Jonah and his helper, Eban.
Mom hires the pair to finish the job, but it means working with Griffin, the man Jonah says killed his cousin twenty years ago. The plan is to make an early start the next morning. Angie’s woken by a phone call from Jonah—Griffin is dead, electrocuted, right in her mom and dad’s back yard. Jonah is cooperative with Angie’s Sheriff boyfriend but won’t tell his alibi. No one believes the gentle Amish man would kill, but evidence to the contrary is scarce. Angie’s been involved with murders before, so now with Jonah a prime suspect, she has to find out the truth.
There are other folks who didn’t wish Griffin well. His brother, Blane, was ousted from their company, his girlfriend got tired of waiting for a proposal and issued an ultimatum, and there was another accident that resulted in a death.
As if that’s not enough to worry about, there’s been a sighting of Bigfoot. Several people swear they’ve seen a tall, hairy creature in the woods. Willow, who owns the tea shop, is a firm believer in Bigfoot, so she posts the sighting on a Bigfoot fan group. Unfortunately, she also gives the exact address for Angie’s parent’s home, so searchers can zero in on the creature. In an effort to fix things, usually by making them worse, Willow declares Bigfoot Day in Rolling Springs as searchers descend on the town to gain fame by finding Bigfoot.
This is book number five in the Amish Quilt Shop Mystery series. Mattie is a more confident assistant now and seems to have secrets of her own. Willow, well, there’s no changing her. Angie finds out secrets from her own childhood that impact today. As always, Oliver, Angie’s French bulldog, steals every scene, sometimes with the help of his kitten, Dodger. Readers will be glad to know Petunia, Jonah’s goat, is around to help too. Don’t forget Bigfoot!
Rolling Brook is certainly a place you’d want to visit. A stop at the Amish bakery is a must with the quilt shop next. The mercantile is under new ownership so look for changes there. A tour of the pie factory might just add a few pounds, from the aroma alone.
For a realistic setting, characters with wit, charm and depth, good friendships, and a peek into Amish life, this is a series you’ll enjoy and read more than once.
To enter to win a copy of all 5 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “june penguins,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 18, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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