by Sandra Murphy
Each month we get more mystery novels from Penguin to review! We are happy to be able to share those with you each month and give you a chance to win your own copies. This week we have a collection of books of 7 books that were released in May and June that include psychics, weddings, dogs, cats, knitting, history, museums & more. We have this week The Sleeping Salesman Enquiry by Ann Purser, Murder on Fifth Avenue by Victoria Thompson, The Begonia Bribe by Alyse Carlson, Cast On, Kill Off By Maggie Sefton, Lethal Outlook by Victoria Laurie, Looming Murder by Carol Ann Martin, and Monument to the Dead by Sheila Connolly.
Details on how to enter to win all of these books at the end of this post. Use the links after each book to purchase your own copy, and a portion goes to help us be able to continue bringing you great articles.
The Sleeping Salesman Enquiry By Ann Purser
Review by Sandra Murphy
Ivy and Roy are getting married, long after either thought they’d ever find someone and fall in love. After all, they now live in a retirement home and are what is optimistically called, set in their ways. However, love is not to be denied but it sometimes can be delayed.
First Ivy has to agree to a date. Christmas looks good but comes and goes without any bridal activity. Finally, a May date is set and preparations begin. Roy feels family is important so he asks his nephew to act as best man, in spite of the fact that they only see each other for about half an hour, twice a year. Instead of congratulations, Roy gets more questions about Ivy—is she after his money, who will inherit, will he change his will?
Reading the banns happens for three weeks in a row to make sure no one has any objection to the upcoming wedding. It’s really a matter of tradition—until someone objects and says Roy promised to marry someone else. That’s a surprise—not just to Ivy, but to Roy!
Luckily, the pair has plenty to do. They are part of the Enquire Within detectives, along with Gus and Deidre. A man at the bus stop has confessed to Roy that he’s having a terrible problem with his wife. She wants a divorce but he believes in til death do us part. They also need to find the man who objected to the banns. And to top it all off, Roy’s nephew is found dead in the furniture store where he worked, seemingly asleep on one of the beds. Investigating and the bad weather should keep them all busy.
Deidre is seeing Gus—and the Viscount. Gus sees Deidre and Marion who cooks wonderful lunches and dinners for him. Deidre is more the take out type of woman. Deidre is rich; Marion more modestly situated. Mrs. Spurling, manager of the retirement home, thinks if they can all find romance, she can too. Her optimistic mood only lasts one day though. Mostly, she hovers and micromanages.
It always takes a while to get into a different time or location but this works well. I did have a bit of trouble with some of the phrasing. For instance, Roy uses his trundle to get around. What’s a trundle? I thought at first it was a wheelchair but then he was speeding along so thought an electric wheelchair. By the end, I figured it was more of a scooter wheelchair.
Ivy and Roy are a fun couple. Deidre and Gus are younger, more able to get around during an investigation and equally likable. Gus’ dog Whippy is a nice addition as is Ivy’s cat (he steals salmon from the kitchen.)
Previous books in the Ivy Beasley Mystery series are: The Hangman’s Row Enquiry, The Measby Murder Enquiry, The Wild Wood Enquiry.
The Lois Meade series includes: Murder on Monday, Terror on Tuesday, Weeping on Wednesday, Theft on Thursday, Fear on Friday, Secrets on Saturday, Sorrow on Sunday, Warning at One, Tragedy at Two, Threats at Three, Foul Play at Four, Found Guilty at Five.
Murder on Fifth Avenue by Victoria Thompson
review by Sandra Murphy
How embarrassing, a man has died while sitting in front of the fire at his club. Probably a heart attack, they think. At least until the undertaker comes for the body and notices blood. It’s not a lot of blood but enough to show the victim was stabbed with a very thin blade, something like a stiletto. Who would want a fine, upstanding member of the community dead?
Apparently a lot of people including his not-grieving wife who is more concerned about how she looks in black than the fact that he’s dead. Not the son who was ridiculed by his father. Not the daughter-in-law who had her own run-ins with him. His mistress and her maid? Probably not sad to see him gone but now worried about where they’ll live and how. It’s a time when women depend on men for everything.
Felix Decker wants to know the truth behind the death. He’s got enough influence to cover up whatever comes to light and he may, but he first needs to know. At least he’s sure of one thing—the stabbing didn’t take place in the club. There are no holes in the victim’s clothing so either there was time to change or he was stabbed while nude. That narrows things down—or not.
Felix’s daughter, Sarah Brandt managed to learn nursing, and then midwifery. She married a doctor instead of being used as a pawn in a family merger like so many of her friends. When the doctor died, she stayed independent, a true rarity. She’s friends with Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy, another thing for Felix to try to ignore. To find out the truth, he has to ask for help and calls for Malloy who thinks this is a test of some sort but to what end?
Frank is pretty sure he’s the first and only Irish Catholic cop to ever enter the Knickerbocker Club. If the members have anything to say about it, he’ll probably be the last.
It’s decidedly different to read a mystery where the characters don’t use cell phones, Google, or tweet. The servants are almost more class conscious than the upper crust and look on Frank with suspicion, not unwarranted since the police at the time investigated cases, returned the stolen goods, collected the reward and split it with the thieves.
For a step back in time, when the times are on the verge of change, a good mystery and characters who are a mix of hated and loved, this book is nice change of pace from the usual cozy. I think you’ll be very satisfied with the ending—I was.
Other books in the Gaslight Mysteries include: Murder on Astor Place, Murder on St. Mark’s Place, Murder on Gramercy Park, Murder on Washington Square, Murder on Mulberry Bend, Murder on Marble Row, Murder on Lenox Hill, Murder in Little Italy, Murder in Chinatown, Murder on Bank Street, Murder on Waverly Place, Murder on Lexington Avenue, Murder on Sister’s Row, Murder on Fifth Avenue (in hardback), Murder in Chelsea.
The Begonia Bribe by Alyse Carlson
Review by Sandra Murphy
I always read the acknowledgements in the front of a book. Usually they are a thank you to people who helped with facts and suggestions. In this book, the author adds it’s a balancing act to write a second book. The reader who picked up book two first, needs to know the players without boring the readers who have already read book one. It is hard to do but it’s done well in this “first second book.”
Poor Cam, she’s in charge of PR for the Little Miss Begonia Pageant. The pageant is designed to highlight the floral scenery, bring tourists, boost the town’s income, and of course, crown one of the little tykes at the end.
Flowers can’t always be counted on to bloom on command so tissue flowers are woven into the greenery. The bandstand looks its best. A local floral vendor donates a variety of plants to replace past-their-prime plants already in the ground. Then a vandal who disapproves of “beauty” pageants strikes—water destroys the tissue flowers, spray paint ruins the backdrop of the bandstand and live flowers are trampled.
A dead body trumps all that damage. The security cameras help but not enough. Fingerprints are of no use. There’s vandalism among the contestants as well with one dress ruined and expensive make up spilled. Add in the pressure of finding the murderer before the pageant ends and out of towners go back home, and Cam has her hands full.
Annie is a photographer and Cam’s upstairs neighbor. Her boyfriend is Jake, the cop. Sometimes that comes in handy—sometimes, decidedly not. Rob is Cam’s boyfriend. He’s a reporter. That’s definitely handy but she’s often in trouble, when she tries to balance his need to know with her need to protect the event.
There are an awful lot of characters to keep straight in this book but with a pageant, publicity, personal relationships and family members, it would be hard to have a smaller cast. I’m not sure Cam will look forward to the next dead body but I will.
The previous book in the Garden Society Mystery series is The Azalea Assault.
Cast On, Kill Off By Maggie Sefton
Review by Sandra Murphy
The House of Lambspun knitters are all excited about Megan’s upcoming wedding. Megan’s the super-organized one and she has lists and lists to check and recheck. As every bride, she wants the perfect wedding. Her seamstress has the bridesmaid dresses well in hand–not the hideous, don’t-let-anyone-recognize-me kind, but jewel tones that reflect the personality of the bridesmaid. The wedding gown is perfection itself; Zoe is a whiz with needle and thread. Unfortunately, her personal life could use some alteration. Her husband is abusive and a drunk.
Zoe secretly entered her wedding dress design in a contest and won a trip to New York. Her husband didn’t take the news well. Then there’s a little problem with Leann, the seamstress Zoe worked for before starting her own business. Leann swears the wedding dress design is hers.
Zoe takes the big step and leaves her husband with the help of volunteers from the local women’s shelter. In spite of escorts to go with her to and from sewing classes, Zoe’s found dead in her car outside the church. Who had the motive? Well, several people. Who had the opportunity? The same folks. Who had the means? That gets a little trickier, as the gun that was used belonged to Leann.
In the midst of the murder investigation, wedding plans go forward. Steve and Kelly seem to be making their way back to each other after a breakup, both of them adjust to new jobs and a lot of knitting takes place as the Lambspun group discusses current events.
In the back of the book, find the directions to make the La Boheme Shawl. You’ll need to know how to both knit and purl, purl two together and do yarn-overs to make the 50” by 25” shawl. And since Jennifer and Pete are now catering, recipes include Stuffed Dates, Hot Cheddar Bean Dip and Bang! a recipe for a cheesy sunflower to serve with biscuits.
Previous books in this series include: Knit One, Kill Two, Needled to Death, A Deadly Yarn, A Killer Stitch, Dyer Consequences, Fleece Navidad, Dropped Dead Stitch, Skein of the Crime, Unraveled, Cast On, Kill Off (hardback), Close Knit Killer.
Lethal Outlook By Victoria Laurie
Review by Sandra Murhpy
In this tenth book of the Psychic Eye series, Abby’s overwhelmed with a move to new offices with BFF and business partner, Candice who is a PI, wedding plans (forty-five days and counting), building a new home and the move to said home. Added to that, is rebuilding her psychic-seeking clientele and a missing persons/murder case, all while trying to recover from injuries suffered in a plane crash. Most women would go hide under the bed. Abby just hides from her sister, Cat (wedding decisions) and handyman Dave, (house decisions). Cat is flying into Austin every two weeks, trying to pin Abby down on what kind of food, flowers, colors and a guest list. Dave is after her about granite, tile, cabinets and flooring.
Kendra Moreno has gone missing, leaving her one year-old son in the house alone, the front door and back doors open, her purse, cell and credit cards behind. After two weeks, no one’s seen her or the car. Abby can take one look at the photo and know the bad news–Kendra’s dead. Candice and Abby both want to work the case, but the problem is no one has asked them to. Between physical therapy appointments and psychic readings, Abby helps Candice investigate anyway.
The problem with the case is, there’s too much and too little. People have alibis but they’re flimsy, there are no enemies, the killer was invited into the house, there’s no sign of violence and no one heard anything–but the crime is one of rage and passion. It’s all very confusing to Abby, Candice and the police.
Meanwhile, Abby’s soon to be husband, Dutch and Candice’s boyfriend Brice, are investigating a bombing. Is it terrorism or a nut case with an agenda? Abby refuses to help on this case which causes Dutch and Brice to work enough hours for six men. She has a feeling that she would steer them in the wrong direction, so it’s best to stay out of it.
I did figure out the murderer before the end of the book, but it wasn’t obvious and it took me until fifty-ish pages from the end so it was no spoiler. I didn’t figure out the motive so there was still plenty of mystery.
The characters by this time are like old friends. I wish I could call Abby and get a phone reading. I’m glad to see they’re all still there, including Eggy, and now Tuttle has joined the pack (double dachshunds!). I wish somebody would give Cat a big dose of Valium and tone her down a bit–she over-manages, micromanages and flat out runs right over Abby in most things. On the other hand, Abby hates to make decisions and lets her. Pick out what you’ll wear for the wedding–Deadly Forecast will be on book shelves in July. The wedding is scheduled for Halloween Day so you know it will be a little…different with Cat in charge.
Previous books in this series: Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye, Better Read Than Dead, A Vision of Murder, Killer Insight, Crime Seen, Death Perception, Doom with a View, A Glimpse of Evil, Vision Impossible.
From the Ghost Hunter Mystery Series:
What’s a Ghoul to Do?, Demons Are a Ghoul’s Best Friend, Ghoul’s Just Haunt to Have Fun, Ghouls Gone Wild, Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghoul Interrupted, What a Ghoul Wants.
Looming Murder By Carol Ann Martin
Review by Sandra Murhpy
Don’t know a warp from a weft or a dobby loom from a heddle? It won’t matter when you read this weaving mystery. The characters will drag you with them and pique your interest along the way. Besides, there’s a really cute dog too!
Della Wright used to work as a business analyst until she did an analysis of her boss’ activities. It seems he was giving himself generous bonuses from the company till. Della confronted him, he confessed but asked for 24 hours to put things right and then turn himself in. It’s a bad idea to trust a thief. Luckily, he was caught trying to cross the border. Unluckily, a whistle blower is not rewarded for doing the right thing, but ostracized for ratting out the guilty party. It’s a good time to rethink one’s priorities and start a new career.
Della got the opportunity to swap her big city condo for her friend Matthew’s small town house for a few days. She liked it so much, she suggested they make the arrangement permanent–or until one of them changed their minds. After a month of paint and prep, she’s got the house looking great and set up for a weaving studio. A few people come for the first class, but before she has time to be excited, Matthew calls to say he’s moving back.
David, one of Matthew’s school friends, is a realtor and offers to help Della find a new spot for the store and/or to live. Matthew says no, they can share the house. Really? That could get awkward as both their mothers have been pushing them toward each other forever.
David shows Della the perfect space for the store and there are two apartments above. The first apartment is roomy and ideal. The second one comes with a dead body. It’s the developer who cheated a number of people out of their life savings before–oops, he found out the land was contaminated and unfit for luxury condos. Jeremy Fox, developer, con man, womanizer is gone but not mourned.
Of course, there are any number of suspects. It could be personal, a girlfriend or the husband of a girlfriend. It could also be business, someone who lost too much money and with no way to recover it, will settle for revenge instead. It could be both, since he was prone to cheating on the girlfriends as well as cheating them out of their money.
Della thinks David is innocent in spite of the circumstantial evidence that piles up around him. Police Chief Mike Davis is sure he’s guilty. Della decides a little snooping of her own might speed things up so she can get back to business as usual and figure out what’s what with Matthew.
This is the first in a series and features fun side characters, a friendly small town setting, a craft that’s interesting to read about–even if you don’t weave or want to–and a bit of romance brewing between a couple of the characters. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
The mystery itself was good too. Clues were dropped and will make readers suspicious but the ending was a surprise, just as it should be.
Monument to the Dead By Sheila Connolly
Review by Sandra Murhpy
Nell Pratt is the president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society, but it’s more responsibility than you’d think. Researchers comb the archives, sometimes liberating materials that are meant to stay in the archives. It’s hard to keep up with what is where or who has it.
A number of documents were recovered during an FBI raid and are now at the Society to be catalogued with the hope of some staying when it’s all said and done. Of course, the upkeep can be pretty expensive so fundraising is always a big part of any day–and that includes reading the obituaries to see if a patron has passed away.
Nell was sad to see Adeline Harrison’s name in that very column. She was a spry eightyish woman, in seemingly good health and was a former board member of the Society. Still, eightyish is a pretty good run overall–unless someone helped shorten the time.
James Morrison is an FBI agent who met Nell during a previous case and their relationship has moved past business only to quite satisfyingly personal. Nell’s surprised when James calls to ask about Adeline. It seems there was a similar case a few months ago and while it’s not enough for an official investigation, it was enough to watch.
As culturally aware seniors continue to die in a similar, almost undetectable manner, James and Nell investigate with the help of Shelley and Marty, also museum employees. Sifting through what might be clues takes a lot of time but if the motive can be found, then the FBI bosses might consider it a real case.
There’s a lot of information about the cost to preserve history and the cost if it’s lost, how the Society is run and paid for, and the cultural society in general without overwhelming the story. The relationships between the people who work at the Society ring true, but the best is the relationship between Nell and James, two people who thoroughly enjoy each other’s company day and night, and the author shows it without going into explicit detail. That’s hard to do but is very well done here.
I did have a suspect in mind about halfway through and then bounced back and forth between two for a while. That’s the best kind of book–the mystery intrigues, isn’t too hard or too easy and you like the characters enough to want to read more.
Previous books in the Museum Mysteries: Fundraising the Dead, Let’s Play Dead, Fire Engine
Dead A County Cork Mystery: Buried in a Bog (reviewed for KRL)
The Orchard Mysteries: One Bad Apple, Rotten to the Core, Red Delicious Death, A Killer Crop, Bitter Harvest, Sour Apples
Specials: Dead Letters, An Open Book
To enter to win a copy of all 7 Penguin mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Seven,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 6, 2013. U.S. residents only.
More mystery reviews, short stories, articles and giveaways can be found in this issue, and those and others can be found in our mystery section.