by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have reviews & giveaways of some more fun June mysteries-Crime and Punctuation: Deadly Edits series by Kaitlyn Dunnett, Murder at the Mansion: Victorian Village Mystery by Sheila Connolly, The Spook in the Stacks: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates, and Till Death Do Us Tart: A Bakeshop Mystery by Ellie Alexander. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books, along with links you can use to purchase them.
Crime and Punctuation: Deadly Edits series by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Review by Sandra Murphy
Mikki Lincoln always thought she and her husband would enjoy retirement together, but it wasn’t to be. After his sudden death, she returns to her old home town to find the house where she grew up is for sale. It seems like a good place to start over.
Of course, the house needs a lot of work. Her bank account isn’t as healthy as she’d like so she starts her own editing business. She’s got an eye for detail and gets a few clients. The nice part is, she can work from home, all virtually—at least until a woman shows up at her door, manuscript in hand.
Tiffany Scott has written a novel, loosely based on mob killings from the 30s. The first chapters, while gruesome, do draw Mikki into the story, so she agrees to edit the book. Before she can get started, though, Tiffany is found dead under questionable circumstances. Are there clues to her death in the book itself?
After the third person drops by to ask if Tiffany left anything with Mikki besides the manuscript, Mikki decides the woman’s death was more than questionable and begins to search for clues. Although Mikki would like to know just what happened, it seems many others would rather leave the impression that Tiffany died accidentally or by suicide. Who would have thought that editing a book could be so dangerous?
This is the first book in a new series. Mikki is an older woman, a nice change from reading about thirty-somethings. She doesn’t take obvious risks but asks questions of people she knew from her childhood. Some of them are more welcoming than others. Who knew grudges could last for decades? The setting is in the Catskills which offers a variety in seasons for background to the storyline. And there’s a cat!
Dunnett also writes the Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries, eleven so far. Search the KRL archives for reviews of several of them. (There are Scottie dogs!)
Murder at the Mansion: Victorian Village Mystery by Sheila Connolly
Review by Sandra Murphy
Katherine Hamilton has a degree in hospitality service, aka making sure the clientele who visit a high-end boutique hotel in Baltimore are welcomed, treated well, and leave happy. With customer satisfaction and her performance reviews at an all-time high, her future looks bright. Until the hotel is sold to a chain, and they opt to bring in their own people.
Faced with a sudden layoff, Katherine’s not sure what she wants to do. On the other hand, a few days before the bad news was delivered, she’d had a visit from an old high school friend, Lisbeth. Asheford, Maryland was a place Katherine wanted to escape from, not return to. Still, when Lisbeth asks for Katherine’s help in saving the town, the challenge is too good to pass up. Like many small towns, Asheford suffers from a lack of a unique characteristic that would draw in tourists. There’s no big industry to provide jobs. Asheford’s slowly dying. A bad decision to buy an old mansion as an attraction has the town almost bankrupt.
Cordelia Walker, one of the mean girls back in school, was behind the purchase. Although the town council thought the Victorian house would draw tourists in the area to visit Civil War sites, Cordelia had plans to run it as her own personal B&B. Considering she already has a small B&B in town and it’s languishing, there’s no reason to think she could do better on a larger scale.
The house needs a lot of repair, but it’s structure is good. There’s an on-site caretaker, Josh, to keep curious teens, vandals, and thieves out of the house. Too bad murderers weren’t included on that list because Cordelia’s body is found, right on the doorstep, bashed over the head.
Cordelia had any number of people who didn’t like her, quite a few who hated her, and at least one who hated her enough to kill her. Since Katherine and Josh found the body, it makes sense they’d want to investigate a bit on their own.
Katherine is someone you’d like to meet and have as a friend. She’s led an interesting, if work-focused life, is creative and fun. Although Lisbeth is married with kids, she and Katherine still have a lot in common. Josh, well, there’s more to him than a mere caretaker. It’s always hard to go back and face the reasons for leaving in the first place, but Katherine is surprised to find she likes being back in Asheford.
This is the first in a new series for Connolly, a truly prolific writer. There are eleven Orchard mysteries, eight in the Museum series (look for Nell to make a cameo appearance as a friend of Katherine’s), six County Cork books, and five Relatively Dead mysteries. It was hard to pick a favorite before—meeting Katherine is going to make it even more difficult.
The Spook in the Stacks: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates
Review by Cynthia Chow
Assistant librarian Lucy Richardson knows the struggle libraries face to find funding, which explains why the admitted Halloween Grinch is decorating the beloved Bodie Island Lighthouse Library with fake cobwebs, tombstones, and creepy-crawlies. She’s even willing to dress in costume while at work, albeit as her literary idol Jane Austen. In addition to the week of patron-attracting lectures and exhibits, the Lighthouse Library is in contention to house a rare collection of Outer Banks historical documents owned by multi-millionaire Jay Ruddle. The New Yorker has returned home to North Carolina accompanied by his granddaughter and his personal assistant, but not everyone has fond memories of the ruthless businessman. As much as Lucy may not have appreciated volunteer Louise Jane McKaughnan’s overly-enthusiastic tales of the Lighthouse being haunted, her imaginative renditions are preferable to the real-life discovery of Jay Ruddle’s body strangled to death in the rare book room.
Pretentious book collector Theodore Kowalski may fake a British accent, but his infatuation with Jay Ruddle’s granddaughter is embarrassingly real. So when Julia Ruddle becomes a possible suspect as someone perhaps hoping for an early inheritance, Lucy finds herself pulled into the investigation when Theo fears that the love of his life is in danger from police, the real killer, or (just as threatening for Theo) the extremely handsome assistant. Securing Ruddle’s collection would help to ensure the future of the Lighthouse Library, so in order to protect the place where Lucy both works and lives – her enviable apartment is in the fought floor of the Lighthouse – Lucy and her friends investigate ruined businessmen, rival libraries, and the rest of Jay Ruddle’s estranged family.
This prolific author, who also writes under her name Vicki Delany, obviously knows libraries and the distinct mentality of the librarians within. The appreciation of the power of books makes it a delicious series for anyone who found solace and joy between the pages. The Bodie Lighthouse Library comes to life through its depiction as a community resource, which include exuberant story times, compelling exhibits, and bookclub gatherings celebrating the written word. Lucy is a refreshing young woman unafraid to advocate for the needs of her library, her town, and her readers. Far more challenging than standing up against bureaucrats is deciding whether she is ready to take the next step in her relationship with Connor McNeil, whose reelection run as mayor could place her in the position as the Significant Other of a politician. The strong relationships between these engaging characters, along with a dash of ghostly mystery, should continue to attract bibliophiles and anyone who found comfort and refuge within a library.
Till Death Do Us Tart: A Bakeshop Mystery by Ellie Alexander
Review by Cynthia Chow
All of Ashland, Oregon was in on the secret. It wasn’t easy hiding the truth from the head of law enforcement, but Jules Capshaw was determined that the Professor not know the plans that were in store for him. It’s not every day a Shakespeare-obsessed couple found love and married, so Jules was sparing no expense to ensure that her mother’s wedding was a perfect Midsummer Night’s Dream surprise. Using the cover that Jules’ new wine vineyard was hosting a grand reopening, she and all of Ashland were covertly baking and decorating for a costumed, Shakespearean wedding.
This being the eighth in a delightful cozy mystery series, one expects a murder to occur at some point. So what instead creates the heightened, edge-of-the-seat tension is whether or not Jules’s mother and the Professor will walk down the aisle before it happens. There’s enough drama and misdirection to keep this in doubt, especially when Jules’s friend Lance Rosseau, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s artistic director, returns from a mysterious absence acting out-of-character and being secretive. A mix-up with wine glasses does finally lead to the collapse of a mysterious young woman, with her last words to Jules seeming to indicate that the poison was meant, “For you.”
Jules soon learns that the reason for Lance’s previous departure has followed him back to Ashland, bringing along no small amount of family confrontations. And for once, Lance’s normal outrageous and theatrical assertions may be justified, as there seems to exist a very real threat to his existence. When not attempting to hide wedding plans from the future stepfather trained to observe details and detect lies, Jules has her hands full opening a winery with two partners she never expected. Richard Lord has been her nemesis ever since Jules returned to Ashland, and he has made it his mission to put her Torte bakery out of business. Almost as disconcerting is the renewed partnership – professionally, for now – with her estranged husband Carlos, who is confusing both her heart and her mind. It’s no wonder that with so much uncertainty in her life, Jules retreats to what makes sense and brings joy; baking in Torte’s kitchen.
Not since Diane Mott Davidson’s novels have the details of mixing butter, chocolate, and sugar been so gloriously and mouthwateringly depicted. There is true joy in Jules’s love for baking, and it is in her bakery where she finds the calm presence of mind to put together the clues and solve the crime. Lance is at his most likable here, made vulnerable by his predatory, money-obsessed relatives. Wedding scenes are always fun to observe, and never more so than here when the entire town becomes an accomplice in the secretive event. Seeing Jules mature is a true pleasure, especially when she begins to feel at home in Ashland’s unique Shakespearean community. Along with a completely unexpected conclusion, the author delivers humor, outstanding dialogue, and an abundance of food porn.
To enter to win copies 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 7, 2018. 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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