June 2024 Mystery Catch-up!

Jun 29, 2024 | 2024 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy, Sarah Erwin

by Cynthia Chow, Sandra Murphy & Sarah Erwin

The last few months have been crazy so we have gotten even more behind than usual on our reviews–so this week we have another fun mystery catch up group-The Diva Goes Overboard: A Domestic Goddess Mystery by Krista Davis, Murder at the Spelling Bee: A Maya and Sandra Mystery by Lee Hollis, A Twinkle of Trouble by Daryl Wood Gerber, and Patchwork Quilt Murder by Leslie Meier. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books and links to purchase them from Amazon at the end of each review.

The Diva Goes Overboard: A Domestic Goddess Mystery by Krista Davis
Review by Cynthia Chow

While event planner Sophie Winston tends to take everything her frenemy Natasha Smith (although she prefers to only be known as “Natasha,” like Cher) says with a grain of salt, for once the diva’s proclamations that bad things come in threes may be coming true. Natasha’s mother getting married to the wealthy Orson Chatsworth should be a good thing, but the bride’s rush to march down the aisle has Natasha fearing the worst. That is how Sophie is talked into agreeing to help Natasha find a last-minute venue and even recommending Orson’s daughter’s new charcuterie board business as a caterer. Natasha’s dire proclamations begin when not only is Orson’s car set on fire, but he later is also poisoned to death during his own engagement party.

Sophie finds herself ensnared in the case when she is summoned by Orson’s lawyer and learns that Orson has cut his children out of his will and has instead shockingly chosen to leave his antique business to Sophie. No one is more surprised than Sophie to learn of this, but his surviving family members immediately accuse her of having had an inappropriate relationship with Orson and manipulating him into making her his heir. Sophie’s denials ring hollow, especially when the conditions of the will prevent her from admitting the truth.

Despite this being the 17th of the series, new readers can easily jump in and follow Sophie and her best friend Nina as they question suspects in their town of Old Alexandra, Virginia. Alternating entries from Sophie’s “The Domestic Goddess” advice blog and Natasha’s less down-to-earth advice column lead off every chapter, and in this book, they both focus on the variety of delicious-sounding food boards. Charcuterie boards, cookie boards, and fruit boards are but a sample of those described, and even more fun is how they play a role in the actual murder. Sophie’s inheritance of Orson’s antique store has her discovering a hidden room with an unsettling display of photographs, which has her wondering if perhaps he had some nefarious plan in mind. She also learns that Orson had his own reasons for leaving her his business in the first place, trusting her over his business partner, ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, and daughter.

Sophie’s ex-husband Mars continues to be pursued by his ex-girlfriend Natasha, who is slightly toned down but still intent on marketing herself as a Life Coach/Influencer/Stylist/Diva. She’s got the last down pat, but Sophie always serves as a counter to this, providing more practical advice for all of her readers. Sophie’s furry companions add an additional cozy fun element, adding to the food board delights that are currently having a trendy moment. This continues to be an extremely well-written mystery filled with likable characters and a plot that intriguingly follows heirs, hidden pasts, and long-ago crimes.

You can click here to purchase the book from Amazon.

Murder at the Spelling Bee: A Maya and Sandra Mystery by Lee Hollis
Review by Cynthia Chow

Who knew spelling bees could be so ruthless? Well, apparently the parents at South Portland Middle School do, as Eugenio and Lucia Fanelli are hiring private detectives Maya Kendrick and Sandra Wallage to investigate who is trying to keep their son Rocco out of the competition. It doesn’t take long for Maya and Sandra to see that it’s the parents of the contestants who are pressuring their 12-year-olds into a cutthroat mentality, and even the host of the spelling bee has her biased preferences. Ellie Duncan is also the high school teacher for Sandra’s son Ryan, and his father’s politics have Mrs. Duncan threatening to fail him. Her habit of playing favorites and punishing others for no legitimate reason has made her an enemy of many, which means that when Sandra finds the teacher’s body in the school closet there’s a surplus of suspects. That unfortunately happens to include Sandra, as Ellie had earlier accused Sandra of harassment simply because she attempted to defend her son.

While the earlier part of this mystery covers the contentious spelling bee, events quickly turn to Sandra and Maya’s investigation of the murder. The latter is a former police officer who resigned after her husband was convicted of police corruption, and now that he is out of prison he and Maya are adjusting to his being back in the family. Sandra herself is finally moving on after the divorce to her senator husband, and she is happily dating the much younger athletic director Lucas Cavill. Sandra and Maya soon find themselves questioning the children and teens whose parents are the cause of much of the unsportsmanlike competitiveness, not to mention the teachers whose personal lives are far more chaotic and immature than the students they teach.

This fourth is the series is another entertaining entry in the series that explores the turmoil existing within both middle and high schools. It shouldn’t be too surprising that the parents and teachers are often poor examples of good behavior, with their pettiness on school boards making schoolyard fights seem tame. Sandra’s and Maya’s relationships with their teen children are refreshingly pleasant and mature, with Sandra’s sons both supportive of her new romance.

This series is more grounded than the authors’ Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails mysteries, but they are just as cleverly plotted and filled with wry observations. The complications involved in healthy parenting and the politics of academia are deftly explored, and the way that they are interwoven into the investigation is a delight. This is another very fun entry in a series where the lead characters prove to be as skillful as detectives as they are mothers. The latter trait is but one aspect of these two extraordinary women, and seeing them grow professionally and personally is a genuinely rewarding experience.

You can click here to purchase the book from Amazon.

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).

A Twinkle of Trouble by Daryl Wood Gerber
Review by Sandra Murphy

Fiona, the fairy who spends her days at the Open Your Imagination shop where customers make their own fairy gardens, was recalled by the Fairy Queen for further training. Now she’s back and eager to catch up on all the events at Carmel-by-the Sea. She’s also brought a surprise of her own.

Courtney, the shop’s owner, has rented a plot of land to grow the plants used in the fairy gardens. In addition, she’s made new gardening friends, teaches one-on-one classes, and has a booth at the Summer Blooms Festival.

The only drawback to the festivities is an “influencer” who writes bad reviews about nearly everyone. She claims to be friends with the people she writes about but with such a venomous tongue, it’s hard to believe. On the first day of the festival, her body is found just outside the festival grounds. There’s no lack of suspects but it does seem a stretch to want someone dead over bad online reviews.

Within days, a second death occurs, and they surely must be connected by their love of gardens. Courtney is the daughter of a retired cop and has inherited the Snoop Gene. Even when she’s warned off, she can’t seem to stop. The truth must come out. But will she find the killer before the killer finds her?

This is book five in the series. All have been reviewed for KRL. Courtney is a good friend to have. She and her employee Joss are good friends. Her relationship with Brady has moved to another level so expect more in the next book.

There’s enough detail given within the story for readers to understand the basics of making a fairy garden of their own. Since Courtney is dating Brady, who owns a restaurant, there are recipes included at the back of the book. They are: apple strudel muffins, banana blueberry scones, cacao nib brownies, lemon-raspberry delights, prosciutto and cheddar drop scones, and raisin-rosemary muffins—directions are given for both a regular recipe and for the gluten-free version. In addition, there’s a recipe for chocolate mousse pie, gingersnap brownies, and a Monte Cristo sandwich.

You can click here to purchase this book.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. She’s the editor for the upcoming Yeet Me in St Louis, an anthology with stories from twelve St. Louis writers. Her own short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Mystery Magazine, and anthologies such as The Perp Wore Pumpkin and I (Almost) Died in Your Arms. ‘Lucy’s Tree’, published in The Eyes of Texas, won a Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society. She lives in St. Louis with Ozzie the Westie Impersonator and his sidekick in crime, Louie the Cat.

Patchwork Quilt Murder by Leslie Meier
Review by Sarah Erwin

I’ve dipped in and out of Leslie Meier’s Lucy Stone Mysteries and always listen to them as audiobooks. I enjoy that readers can jump in anywhere in the series and follow along. Patchwork Quilt Murder is number 30 in the series and while readers can expect another solid mystery, it’s also important to note that some serious issues pertaining to mental health, climate change, and the loss of a family pet are all present. Each issue is handled in a heartfelt and thoughtful manner, but readers sensitive to those issues are encouraged to read about possible triggers in the mystery prior to reading.

Lucy Stone continues to work part-time as a reporter in Tinker’s Cove and is covering the grand opening of the new community center. Citizens have mixed feelings about the use of tax dollars on this resource, but mostly they are abuzz about the new director, Darleen Busby-Platt – especially when they discover she is the highest-paid city employee. Questions then come up surrounding Darleen’s qualifications, and as Lucy investigates, she also witnesses Darleen berating employee Tim Stillings. Tim is the son of Lucy’s friends Pam and Ted and has been struggling with mental health issues. Something just doesn’t sit right with Lucy.

And then events become even more serious when both Tim and Darleen go missing and hikers find dismembered human remains on a trail. Lucy digs deeper to find connections and ends up uncovering more lies than she knows what to do with.

I love the setting of Tinker’s Cove and the characters–reading an entry in this series is truly like visiting with old friends. It’s also fun to read how Lucy has changed along with the times–I remember reading an early entry in the series where Lucy was just learning about the internet! The writing is descriptive and I could feel the unseasonably high temperatures as I read.

I was fascinated as Lucy dug deeper into the life of Darleen Busby-Platt. Lucy is a wonderful character to follow – she’s a solid friend, an active community member and a fearless reporter. As Lucy investigated the clues surrounding the mystery of Darleen, she connected so many seemingly unrelated threads (including a thread about a historical and valuable quilt). I did not guess the ending and it is certainly an intense, almost epic ending! I stopped folding laundry to just stand and listen to the ending, not wanting to miss even one bit. Fans of the series will enjoy another visit to Tinker’s Cove.

You can click here to purchase this book.

To enter to win a copy 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 catchup” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 6, 2024. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. 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 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 Play, and Spotify.

Sarah Erwin started her career as a children’s librarian, later becoming a public library director and now she’s a stay at home mom. While her career might have changed, her love of reading has been a constant since 4th grade and she reads over 200 books a year. Read along with her on her blog Sarah Can’t Stop Reading or on Instagram. Sarah lives in St. Louis, MO with her two kids, her husband and a family dog and cat.

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.


  1. I just watched the spelling bee a couple of weeks ago.

  2. All our writers I love to read and
    enjoy their stories. Want these, please
    thanks. txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

  3. Four great books from four great authors. Would love to read all of them. Thanks for the chance.

  4. These all sound like such good fun reads! I love the covers too!

  5. All great series. Glad to see more from them.

  6. Awesome books by some very awesome authors!!

  7. Reading is fun

  8. I love all of these authors. Thank you for this chance!

  9. We have winner!


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