by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have another fun group of mysteries for your summer reading-Beyond a Reasonable Donut: A Deputy Donut Mystery by Ginger Bolton, Independent Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery by Carolyn Haines, and Punning with Scissors: A Crossword Puzzle Mystery by Becky Clark. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 books (an ebook copy of Punning with Scissors: A Crossword Puzzle Mystery by Becky Clark and print of the other 2) 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.
Beyond a Reasonable Donut: A Deputy Donut Mystery by Ginger Bolton
Review by Sandra Murphy
Emily Westhill, in partnership with her father-in-law, a retired police chief, owns Deputy Donut, where the best donuts, pastries, and coffee can be found. It’s time for the Faker’s Dozen Carnival in Fallingbrook, Wisconsin, in celebration of Friday the 13th, and they’re planning on a good time for all.
The crowd is expected to be huge—if Emily and her assistant, Nina, can get past the guardian of the gates to get to their booth. After two long trips from the Donut car to the booth, and moving their car, they’re ready to set sales records.
When Nina’s apartment is broken into and an injured woman found lying beneath one of Nina’s large paintings, now damaged by powdered sugar sprinkled on the wet paint, they don’t know what to think.
The woman dies before explaining who she is or what she was doing but it seems to Emily, that Nina could be in danger. When a near miss hit and run occurs, she’s sure of it. But, why?
Suspects and motives are in generous quantities but really, who would want to kill a coffee shop employee/artist? Emily is determined to find out.
With the fairgoers, tourists, and the upcoming wedding of two of Emily’s best friends, readers will have to keep a sharp eye to follow the clues to the proper conclusion.
This is book five in the series. Emily is the widow of a police officer killed in the line of duty. There’s a possible romance between her and her late husband’s friend and partner but neither has pushed past possible into reality yet. Dep, the store cat who rules the office, is always a delight. Emily is someone you’d want for a friend—and not just for the donuts. This is a series I always look forward to reading.
In the back of the book, there are recipes for Corny Fritters (their Faker’s Dozen specialty), Sherried Mushroom Soup, and Guacamole.
Independent Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery by Carolyn Haines
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sarah Booth Delaney and her business partner, Tinkie, are on the job despite Tinkie’s advanced pregnancy. Tinkie refuses to think there’s anything she can’t do but is forced to slow down more than she wants.
Alana is in town on a sabbatical while writing a book. That doesn’t mean she won’t have time to make a few speeches sure to enrage certain men who think they are the final word in the household, not partners with their wives. While Alana is giving a speech, Sarah Booth finds a sniper’s rifle aimed right at Alana. There are many suspects but a few stand out from the crowd. Too bad the most likely turns up dead.
Things aren’t looking good for Alana either who says women should defend themselves and no abusive man should be allowed to live. As the police look for the killer, they discover there’s a trail of dead bodies—one in every city where Alana worked, and they were all abusive to women.
This is book twenty-three in the popular series. Tinkie finally gets her wish to be a mother. Sarah Booth is having second thoughts after hearing Tinkie complain of fat feet and other baby woes. On the other hand, Coleman Peters is a mighty fine man and tempting as well. Expect more from their romance in the next book.
The mystery is a good one, keeping readers guessing until the end. As usual, the dogs and cat get in on the action and add to the chaos and humor—especially Roscoe who thrives on mischief. I hope to see a lot more of him in future books.
Punning with Scissors: A Crossword Puzzle Mystery by Becky Clark
Review by Cynthia Chow
After her dreams of becoming a police officer were shattered by a debilitating panic attack eighteen months ago, Quinn Carr settled down in her Colorado hometown waitressing in the Chestnut Station Diner. Quinn continues to create crossword puzzles for the Chestnut Station Chronicle as well, something she has enjoyed since high school, on the condition of remaining anonymous. After meeting one half of the adorably named couple Hugh Pugh and Creighton McLellan (think “hue and cry”), Quinn’s best friend Officer Rico Lopez delivers the horrifying news that Hugh was found holding tailoring shears while standing over Creighton’s body. Police Chief Chestnut wants a quick and easy closure to the case, and having seen his previous rush-to-judgement, Quinn is determined to prevent another injustice. When Hugh begs Quinn to take care of his Pomeranian-husky mix Virginia Woof, Quinn brings out a new binder to organize her growing to-do list that includes getting vet information, researching the correct amount of dog food to feed each day, and verifying alibis of those interested in wanting Creighton dead.
While Quinn’s parents and friends are alarmed to see Quinn falling back on the OCD behaviors that allow her to get through the day, she sees her extraordinarily detailed lists as skills that can help her in the investigation. Her coping mechanism of chanting “baba ganoush” does give her an outlet for her obsessive thoughts when she realizes that she is beginning to spiral, but any unexpected emergency can trigger her to spin out of control. That’s why Quinn so adores the orderliness and preciseness of crossword puzzles, which she uses to hopefully incept clues and sway the subconscious of the avid cruciverbalist Police Chief. A suspicious hitchhiker, surprise heirs, mysterious late-night visitor, and an abundance of hidden money all become motives and clues for the murder and for Quinn’s clever crossword puzzles.
This second in the series lives up to the originality and charm of the first, which introduced a vulnerable and unique heroine struggling with mental illness. The depiction of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is handled with great empathy, and it’s fascinating to follow Quinn’s thoughts as she becomes focused on a topic that soon leads to an aggressive obsession. The most fascinating aspect about this series has been Quinn’s relationship with these OCD tendencies, which burden her as much with guilt as they do with anxiety. Quinn is all too aware of how much worry and stress her pain has caused her parents, and she wants to be “cured” for them as much as for herself. Only reluctantly submitting to therapy, Quinn expects an instant solution that doesn’t make her uncomfortable or force her to change her behavior. When those expectations are quickly dashed, Quinn spirals between thinking that a spoken mantra is the cure, that her OCD behavior is beneficial, then that she is incurable and will never be well. It’s as heartbreaking for the reader as it is for Quinn to see how her parents and Rico are so supportive while also fearing a relapse.
Despite this weighty topic, the novel never becomes too dark and instead shines through with Quinn’s acerbic humor, intelligence, and goodwill. Her mother’s cooking experiments that focus more on health than taste are a delight, as are Quinn’s attempts to be a good foster dog-mom. Puzzle clues, quirky characters, and a compelling lead character make this a standout cozy mystery read.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 books (ebook of Punning with Scissors and print of the others), simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “june catchup” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 3, 2021. 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 goes up next week.
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