by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
So many mystery novels are coming out all the time it is impossible to keep up! So once again we find ourselves playing catch up with a wonderful group of new and fairly new mysteries-Murder in Galway: A Galway Ireland Mystery by Carlene O’Connor, A Dream of Death: An Antique Mystery by Connie Berry, Murder She Wrote, Murder in Red by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land, Thread on Arrival: A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery by Lea Wait, The Scent of Murder: A Jazz Ramsey series by Kylie Logan, and Antiques Ravin’: A Trash ‘n’ Treasures Mystery by Barbara Allan. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 6 books, along with links you can use to purchase them. If you have ad blocker on you won’t see the Amazon links at the end of each review.
Murder in Galway: A Galway Ireland Mystery by Carlene O’Connor
Review by Sandra Murphy
Tara is making her first visit to Galway, Ireland, at her mother’s dying request. Her mother wants her ashes scattered where she grew up—at the harbor where she loved to play as a child. Tara is also to find the uncle she never met. It’s a charming city, but the locals don’t trust strangers, especially Americans, who claim to be related. There’s a gypsy who warns Tara she’s surrounded by death. Is that a reference to the ashes she carries with her or something else?
After a few mishaps, one disastrous encounter with a unicycle-riding juggler, Tara finds her uncle’s house. The front door is open, and that’s because there’s a dead body in the entryway. Tara runs back to town, figures out how to call the Garda, and reports her uncle has been murdered.
After word has spread through town about Johnny’s death, the police discover the dead man is really Johnny’s wealthiest client for his architectural salvage. It seems Johnny promised to find a cast iron pig that belonged to a princess for his client. Now the client is dead, the pig, the money and Johnny are missing, and Tara’s in trouble with the town for misidentifying the body. In her defense, a body at her uncle’s house could reasonably be assumed to be her uncle.
In the meantime, there’s a business to run, an assistant to put to work, a tenant to either give the boot or accept her rudeness, and a murder to solve.
Tara makes a good friend and someone you’d love to visit. The salvage store would entertain for hours if not days. Of course, Irish men are exceptionally good looking, as Tara is finding out, so that’s a plus, too.
This is the first in a new series. O’Connor also writes the Irish Village mysteries (4), reviewed here. Tara’s life has a lot of humor, intentional or not. I hope Tara will decide to stay in Ireland. I look forward to what’s next for her. The Irish Village mysteries are a favorite of mine, but I think the Galway series may be edging past on its way to the top of the list.
Editor’s Note: This is a Barnes and Noble exclusive so no Amazon link to purchase it.
A Dream of Death: An Antique Mystery by Connie Berry
Review by Sandra Murphy
Kate fell in love with Bill, a Scotsman. Although they lived in the US, they did travel a few times to the Isle of Glenroth, Bill’s home. One trip was to meet his sister, Elenor, another to sign the papers allowing her to buy his share of the family home so she could turn it into a luxury B&B. It can’t be said that she welcomed Kate or that Kate liked her. Still, Elenor is close to her brother, so keeping the peace for a few days is a small price to pay.
After Bill’s sudden death, Elenor blames Kate and the two haven’t spoken—until the Tartan Ball. Kate receives a phone call from Elenor, typically dramatic and asking for Kate’s assistance. No details are given.
Of course, the weather is awful—snow falling and roads slick. Kate is used to it but does end up in a ditch when another car pulls out in front of hers. When she’s finally able to arrive at the B&B, Elenor doesn’t have time to talk, getting her hair done for the ball, you know. She drops a few cryptic clues and is off.
Elenor likes to make a grand entrance and surprise announcements. This time both seem to fall flat, so Elenor leaves in a snit. When a dead body is found the next morning, it doesn’t seem to make any sense. Add in the fact that valuable items from the B&B have been disappearing and then returning, all without explanation of how it’s happening, plus a few ghostly visits, and Kate’s got her hands full trying to figure it all out.
Kate is a woman who has more patience than most and most of us would have smacked Elenor long ago. She keeps her silence for Bill’s sake, even though he’s gone. Elenor is frustrating beyond anyone’s tolerance. An almost undecipherable code, a mysterious casket (like a jewelry box), the ghost, and everyone behaving in a suspicious manner, frustrates Kate into reckless behavior, even as she knows she shouldn’t do it. Fortunately, this is not a frequent occurrence.
Readers will take every step along with Kate as she sorts through clues and tries to decide who can be trusted and who just might be the killer. Descriptions of the island and the weather will have readers reaching for a sweater against the cold breezes blowing across the island.
The book is loaded with great lines of writing that don’t detract from the story but add to the pleasure of reading. I plan to take a second trip through the book and this time, mark the pages so I can find those gems quickly.
This is another mystery that will add to the length of my Best of 2019 list. Look for book two, A Legacy of Murder, available for pre-order now, coming in October, when Kate visits her college-age daughter in England.
Murder She Wrote, Murder in Red by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land
Review by Sandra Murphy
Mimi Van Dorn is less than a friend but more than a mere gin rummy partner for Jessica Fletcher. Mimi’s also vain enough one could assume she’s had a bit of cosmetic surgery, not that there are visible signs of it. She’s more into diet and health regimes. The Clifton Clinic is the latest and most innovative way to stay young. Dr. Seth Hazlet, Jessica’s long-time friend and physician, is losing a number of patients to the trendy clinic, and is none too happy about it.
When Mimi collapses at a library event, it’s a struggle between Seth and Charles Clifton as to who should treat her. Seth thinks the cause is an allergic reaction. Mimi’s in a coma at the hospital, stable but serious condition but expected to recover—until she dies. Jessica thinks it was murder.
To make matter worse, Mimi is not the first friend of Jessica’s who went to the clinic and later died. Is it because they stopped taking the medicines Seth prescribed or is it something the clinic is doing?
Jessica’s old friend, George, from Scotland Yard, shows up without warning. Shockingly, he’s now a patient at the clinic for a rare and usually fatal disease. Although Jessica and George don’t spend a lot of time together, they do have a deep affection for each other. Is George in danger as well? With his treatments scheduled to begin, there’s not much time to find the truth before the clinic can claim another victim.
Things should only be so simple as medical malpractice. This case just might be Jessica’s undoing.
This is book forty-nine in the long running series and the second book co-penned by Land who took over writing the series after the death of Donald Bain. Jessica veers to the edge of cozy status in that she is more willing to take risks now than before. She’s never been one to be afraid to confront a killer but always had Sheriff Mort as backup. Now she’s face to face and on her own which ramps up the tension and adds to the story. I think readers will embrace the shift, as she’s certainly up to the task after so much experience.
Land also writers the Caitlin Strong thrillers. Caitlin’s exploits make Jessica’s new derring-do look as mild as tapioca by comparison.
Readers can start the Murder She Wrote series at any point without confusion. It’s a compulsion many can’t resist, to go back and read them all.
Thread on Arrival: A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery by Lea Wait
Review by Sandra Murphy
Haven Harbor, Maine, is a fishing community. That means, most people have more than one job. They count on the tourists to spend enough during the summer to tide them over the winter, plus have part-time jobs, sometimes more than one, as well.
Ike is not quite homeless. The house he inherited was beyond repair, but he’s okay living in the garage. It has the basics. Ike’s money comes from his regular rounds, collecting cans and bottles for recycling. He has a regular route he does each day. Some days are residential only while other days are for bars and restaurants. Lately, he’s been seen with a young man who helps him.
When Ike is stabbed and dies, suspicion falls on the young man, Leo. After all, it’s easier to believe evil from a stranger than from a neighbor. Leo doesn’t help matters by lying to the police and having a sketchy background when he does tell the truth.
It’s hard to decide what motive there could have been. Ike only had about thirty dollars on him, but it is missing. What Ike had, was secrets. Sometimes he misinterpreted what he saw or heard. Other times, he was dead on—and that might be why he’s dead now.
Angie, her friend Sarah, and other members of Mainely Needlepointers, want to help find Ike’s killer. Dave, a high school teacher and needlepointer, is involved to the point of taking Leo in and guaranteeing Leo won’t leave town. Angie is a little worried about that. After all, no one knows Leo and the more they find out, the worse it looks for the guy. This is the eighth book in the series. The relationship between Patrick and Angie is a good one, the steadily growing, in depth, long lasting kind, not the kind that fizzles after a few months or a hardship or two.
Angie’s friendship with her Aussie friend, Sarah, is fun, too. In each book, readers find out more about the townspeople who needlepoint for Angie’s business in the off season. Patrick’s mother is an actress, and there’s a movie to be made—right in Haven Harbor. Readers will be anxious to see how that turns out!
Wait writes weather better than any other author I’ve read. She also makes Haven Harbor as real as can be, a character in itself.
She writes three series—the needlepoint books, the Shadows Antique books about antique prints, and as Cornelia Kidd, the Maine Murders. Justice and Mercy is a historical mystery for adults. She has written seven historical novels for ages eight and up. Pizza to Die For is a contemporary mystery for the young adult audience.
This summer, how about a trip to Maine? If only from your favorite reading spot.
The Scent of Murder: A Jazz Ramsey series by Kylie Logan
Review by Cynthia Chow
Jasmine Ramsay works as the administrative assistant for St. Catherine’s high school principal Sister Eileen Flannery, but what truly gives Jazz joy in life is volunteering as a cadaver dog trainer and handler. It’s during a training exercise in a vacant Cleveland Flats building that her newest human-remains-detection trainee Luther succeeds a little too well, finding not the tooth Jazz planted as bait, but the actual corpse of a young woman. Jazz is dismayed that the victim was a former student of St. Catherine, but what truly breaks her heart is being forced to again interact with Detective Nick Kolesov. Once happily in love, their relationship ended not due to any dramatic betrayal, but because of conflicting schedules and priorities that slowly forced them apart.
Jazz becomes drawn into looking how the victim Florie Allan, once a popular and talented photography student, lost her college scholarship and transformed into a Goth girl. As Jazz learns more about Florie, her family, and her broken friendships, it soon becomes apparent that the stigma of coming from the poor side of town may have made Florie desperate for money and willing to do almost anything to escape her former life. Jazz’s honesty helps her to coax out information from reluctant young adults, and she is aided by her hilarious art teaching best friend and the extremely savvy and wry Sister Eileen.
What is truly outstanding in this first of a series by the prolific, best-selling author is the development of a unique, extremely sympathetic heroine. Jazz mourns the loss of both her adored dog and her father, a heroic firefighter captain who died on the job rescuing a family. Jazz revisits the site of the fatal fire regularly, and clues sprinkled throughout may indicate that perhaps there was more to the incident than first thought. Nick has a lot of work to do to break down the emotional shields Jazz has built around herself, as they both know that however well they always seem to get along, nothing seems to have changed enough to fix what originally broke them apart.
Hopefully future installments will contain more details of Jazz’s training sessions with her cadaver dogs, as scenes of her working with the German Shepherd she babysits are fascinating. Jazz’s relationships with her supportive brothers are similarly entertaining, especially in light of how they are the firefighters she always wanted to be. Jazz gave up her dream to appease her mother, but Jazz has found a rewarding life training the dogs whom she finds much more comforting than humans. This smoothly paced novel slowly unravels the puzzles that are both Florie and Jazz, building the foundation for the start of a smart and compelling mystery series.
Antiques Ravin’: A Trash ‘n’ Treasures Mystery by Barbara Allan
Review by Cynthia Chow
Despite having no law enforcement experience and a tendency to go off her bi-polar medication, seventy-something Vivian Borne has somehow managed to get herself elected as the County Sheriff of Serenity, Iowa. A revoked driver’s license means that her daughter Brandy is an unpaid chauffer and de-facto deputy, something sure to be a roadblock in her off-currently-on relationship with Chief of Police Tony Cassato. The nearby tiny town of Antiqua has to rely on the Serenity County Sheriff’s Department for services, which has them calling in Brandy and her mother to investigate a series of break-ins that occurs during their Edgar Allan Poe Days celebration. One of the festivities includes a scavenger hunt of clues for a valuable Poe artifact, and the Antiqua City Council fears that someone is intent on stealing it. That the entire council consists of antique store owners who all stand to profit in the festival does make the whole situation ethically questionable, but that’s quickly overshadowed when Brandy and her Shih Tzu Sushi discover the body of a waitress entombed in a sarcophagus.
Through problematic law enforcement practices and complete disregard on contacting the proper authorities, Vivian drags Brandy along as they, rather effectively, question suspects and follow the Edgar Allan Poe-themed clues to a killer. She’s not the only one focused on all things Poe, as deaths continue to stack up in manner reminiscent of those in the macabre writer’s works. Tony’s arrival in Antiqua to assist the sheriff, namely, Brandy’s mother, provides both official and emotional support, something Brandy’s going to need as her mother aggressively works down her suspect list and unravels a web of scandal, larceny, and of course, murder.
While the plot move nimbly along and consistently surprises with swerves and red herrings, the real attraction here are the narrations of Vivian and Brandy. The Vivian presented here, perhaps due to her taking her meds, is far more practical and rational than earlier appearances, but that doesn’t mean that the chapters she narrates aren’t filled with hilarious tangents and pop culture observations. While Brandy and the “editor” do what they can to interrupt her tendency towards political incorrectness and campaign for Tab cola, readers will thoroughly revel in an unleashed Vivian who rarely contains her filter. The award-winning husband and wife writing team Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins continue to top themselves with these exuberant, skillfully plotted, and extraordinarily original mysteries featuring one of the most co-dependent detecting team ever.
To enter to win a copy of all 6 books, 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 6, 2019. 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.
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