by Sandra Murphy
We have some more great Penguin mysteries this week-Grace Cries Uncle by Julie Hyzy, Hooked on Ewe by Hannah Reed, Tying the Knot by Elizabeth Craig, and Wound Up in Murder by Betty Hechtman. Details on how to win copies of all 4 books at the end of this post, along with a link to purchase them.
Grace Cries Uncle by Julie Hyzy
Review by Sandra Murphy
Grace has a job she loves at Marshfield Manor. She’s the curator and manager for the showplace, involved in most decisions, including all special events. She and Bennett Marshfield believe they are related, and Bennett is determined to find out for sure. DNA testing is set up—double tests even: two labs, blood and cheek swabs—so no one can dispute the findings. That said, no matter what the tests reveal, he considers Grace to be his family.
A wrench is thrown in the works with the sudden and unwelcome arrival of Grace’s sister, Liza. The last time Grace saw Liza was when their mother died. Liza stayed long enough to grab her share of the inheritance (money; Grace got the house) and Grace’s fiancé, Eric. After her initial shock, Grace accepted that she’s grateful they’re both gone.
There are a number of odd happenings going on around Grace’s house. An FBI agent shows up, demanding to be let in so he can ask questions, but Grace has to put him off in order to be on time for the DNA tests. Then a woman knocks on the door and asks if she can rent a room and barely takes no for an answer. Since Grace doesn’t rent rooms, it makes for a really odd encounter. Both the woman and the FBI agent are intent on finding out who else lives with Grace.
When the agent turns up dead in the neighbor’s yard, it’s discovered he’s not an agent at all. However, the real FBI isn’t far behind.
Bennett is acting oddly too, keeping a special event from Grace and her assistant. Frances. There’s the annual convention that he always attends, held in town this year—but he’s not going. Something’s up for sure.
Hyzy gets better and better. In this book, the plots are layered and many—Bennett’s secrecy, the DNA tests (no spoilers here, you’ll have to read to find out), Liza’s many manipulations and lies, Eric’s downward spiral, the fake FBI guy’s real identity, the mysterious woman, the collectors at the convention and their backroom deals—are they all connected and, if so, how? What a mess for Grace to figure out, and just as things were going so well.
Grace is getting stronger as a character with each book. She’s even able to get along with Frances. Her roommates and cat get a little more time on the page, and that’s a big plus. Marshfield Manor is a place you could lose yourself for days, just looking at Bennett’s many collections. Since they’re on a rotating basis, this could take a while.
Fast-paced and full of behind-the-scenes information about how a former home turns into a public attraction with all the potential problems and quirks of visitors, Hyzy’s books never fail to delight as the mystery holds your attention from the first word to the last.
Hyzy also writes the White House Chef series—you’ll want to read those, too (there are eight). There are six of the Marshfield books. That should keep you busy while you wait for the next in the series—and you’ll want it, since this one ends with a bit of a cliffhanger.
Hooked on Ewe by Hannah Reed
Review by Sandra Murphy
As you may recall, Eden Elliott is in Scotland. Her friend Ami treated her to a round-trip ticket but the return date was six months from the arrival date—the longest a tourist can stay in Scotland. It’s been about three months and she can’t imagine going home any time soon.
Eden wrote a romance novel and edited it when she got to Scotland. After Ami gives her a rave review, she takes the plunge and emails the manuscript to her agent. Now to work on Book Two.
Of course, life gets in the way of writing more often than not. Eden got volunteered for a hospice fundraiser. She might have been more enthused if not for the overbearing Isla who feels she’s in charge of everything and bosses all the volunteers—nothing is ever done right to her way of thinking. Luckily, Eden is rescued by Inspector Jamieson.
Sean, his current civilian constable, is set to leave for real police training in a few weeks. The inspector has no desire to be assigned another, and he decides to do an end-run and asks Eden to become his new assistant. He enjoys her company (which is more than he can say about Sean), she has a good mind for a mystery… and she should be working a lot on her new book so won’t be in his way. With delusions of more, she agrees.
Of course, she didn’t plan on Isla getting murdered. In fact, Eden is the one to find the body, and Sean is no help at all. The murder took place in broad daylight at the fundraiser, so there should be a lot of witnesses—but it’s hard to pinpoint who was where and when. For motive, they don’t really need to look any further than Isla’s nasty personality to find suspects.
As Eden and the inspector take a closer look, more motives pop up. There are rumors that Isla had a woman fired from her job, treats her husband badly, and then there’s the problem of missing funds, not just for the hospice fundraiser but for all the fundraisers in the past few months.
Vicki, Eden’s first and best Scottish friend, started a Yarn of the Month club. Each month she’ll make up kits from her own yarns that she hand-dyes. Since the murder weapon was this month’s red yarn, all the kits have to be tracked down to find out who is missing that particular yarn—and who had access to it. With over thirty kits scattered about, Eden’s job will take longer than she’d hoped.
Vicki and Sean have evolved into a couple, whether they’re aware of it or not. Eden and Leith, the local fisherman and more—well, they have potential. She, of course, is very aware of the fast-expiring visa, while his focus is on his young daughter.
Eden’s character is becoming clearer to both the reader and herself. She’s weathered a divorce and the death of her mother, traveled abroad and lived in a country where she has to drive on the wrong side of the road (stick-shift no less), and struggle just to understand the accent, much less jargon like “don’t have a Scooby” (“I have no clue” is the translation). I see hope for her relationship with Leith as long as she can work out that pesky visa thing.
This is the second book in the series—Off Kilter was the first. Reed also writes the Queen Bee mysteries about a woman who has a store full of wonderful foods and a yard full of beehives. There are five in that series. It’s hard to decide which I like best—usually, it’s the one I just finished!
Tying the Knot by Elizabeth Craig
Review by Sandra Murphy
As you might remember, Beatrice is dating Wyatt, the minister. Dating might be an optimistic term for their relationship, since many of their outings revolve around church activities—and there are an awful lot of chaperones to keep an eye on them. Still, Meadow, Beatrice’s neighbor, has high hopes for the pair.
With an upcoming wedding, love is on Meadow’s mind more than ever—for Wyatt and Beatrice, for Piper (Beatrice’s daughter) and Ash (Meadow’s son). The actual bride and groom are Daniel, an attorney, and Harper, Wyatt’s sister. Daniel’s friend from childhood, Trevor, is pegged to be the best man.
Unfortunately, Trevor’s behavior of late is not of the best variety. He’s drunk more often than not, secretly had an affair that he’s now willing to broadcast to the entire town (though the woman involved is not as willing), is in a financial pit, and AWOL from work. That’s just as well, since he’s an anesthesiologist at the hospital.
Daniel is forced to un-invite Trevor as best man, which does get his attention. He says he’s going to straighten up, but his wife, Eleanor, is the I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it type. At the wedding reception, Trevor isn’t trailing his former girlfriend and is only drinking soda. He stays at his table with a few stalwart friends, including Daniel, stopping by to talk.
Toward the end of the reception, Beatrice notices that Trevor has fallen asleep. When she tries to wake him, it’s discovered that’s not possible—he’s dead. An autopsy reveals an overdose of sleeping pills. Was it suicide, murder, or an accidental overdose? Beatrice leans toward murder since Trevor didn’t even have a prescription for the pills.
Meadow insists that Daniel is practically Beatrice’s family and they have to help find the killer. Meadow’s husband, Ramsey, doesn’t mind Beatrice asking a few questions—but draws the line at any other involvement.
For a murder that happened in plain sight, there are more suspects than you’d imagine. Trevor’s former girlfriend was there—he was showing up where she worked or at Posy’s fabric store during a workshop for new quilters. There was a man who peeked into the tent several times trying to get Trevor’s attention—the same man Trevor had argued with a few days before. Daniel stopped by the table, as did Eleanor and a few others.
Meadow can be annoying but is a loyal friend. Boris, her huge dog, has no manners, but is too cute to be mad at for long. Noo-noo, Beatrice’s Corgi, is, as always, a sweetheart. As one of her volunteer activities at the church (a way to spend time with Daniel too), Beatrice visits the local retirement home. Since the rest of the visitors each have a specific skill (playing cards, the piano, chess etc), I’d like to see Beatrice train Noo-noo to visit there. It would be a great way to see more of Noo-noo, and who doesn’t want to see more of a Corgi?
Wyatt is overworked but does want more time with Beatrice. Miss Sissy, the oldest quilter in the group, is (as always) single-minded in whatever she’s thinking about at the moment. On the other hand, she is often the most observant of them all.
Craig has delivered a mystery not unlike Beatrice’s new quilt project—a kaleidoscope of clues, red herrings and motives. One little twist and the outcome changes. It all depends on how you look at it.
Harper has graciously shared the recipe for the cucumber spread and warm mushroom spread served at the reception, along with the asparagus casserole. Wyatt’s not so fancy, so his recipe is for hot dog chili (à la Coney Island dog, not chili with hot dogs in it). There are also quilting tips.
This is Book Five in the series—start at the beginning and have a summer’s worth of fun reading ahead.
Wound Up in Murder by Betty Hechtman
Review by Sandra Murphy
It’s time for another yarn retreat from Casey Feldman. This time the theme is mystery bags. Each will contain various yarns, beads, charms and patterns for spontaneous projects. Of course, if she wanted spontaneous, she shouldn’t have hired Wanda to help. Crystal, the other teacher, needs no urging—look at her mismatched socks and earrings, her wildly patterned clothes. Wanda encourages structure. Crystal says go with the flow.
One slight glitch is that there’s another retreat going on at the same time. It’s the “It’s My Favorite Year” group. The year is 1963, when pillbox hats, long gloves, and pedal pusher pants (now known as capris) were in style. Kevin St. James, the manager of the rustic inn, has arranged for a pop singer, baseball player, and movie star from that year to appear at the event.
Of course nothing can go smoothly. Norman Rathman, head of the 1963 group, isn’t happy to see soon-to-be ex-wife, Diana show up. She’s determined to ruin the weekend, even if it costs her money.
Sammy, Casey’s ex, is performing magic tricks for the crowd when Diana heckles and ruins his show. She exposes the old long-string-of-colored-handkerchiefs trick and scatters the deck of cards Sammy uses next. Sammy grabs a pitcher of martinis and heads for the beach to recover.
Unfortunately, Diana ends up dead, strangled with the string of handkerchiefs. Even though the motive is weak, Lieutenant Borgnine feels Sammy’s alibi is weaker. Sammy is on the run, hiding out in Casey’s guest room and dodging the lieutenant at every turn.
Suspects are many since Diana had a wild past, was from the area, and wanted revenge however she could get it. Casey’s got to protect Sammy, figure out who did the deed and why, keep the knitters happy (as well as Crystal and Wanda), avoid Lieutenant Borgnine, bake desserts for coffee houses and restaurants in her spare time, fend off the she-doesn’t-know-what-to-do-with-them attentions from Dane the cop who lives down the street, and keep her cat, Jasper in fish.
Not long ago she also found paperwork that indicates there might be another heir to the Delacorte fortune. That puzzle is never far away from her mind, either.
Madeline Delacorte lived such a buttoned-up life, that now, in her seventies, she’s first experiencing the freedom to make her own decisions—much to the dismay of her sister Cora. Casey finds out more of Kevin St. James’ background that explains his proprietary air about the inn. Tag, Lucinda’s OCD-ravaged husband, is actually calming down a bit to the surprise of everyone, including himself. The romance between Dane and Casey has a lot of promise, even with Sammy still in the picture.
The characters are really coming to life in this third episode in Casey’s varied life. Yarn to Go and Silence of the Lamb’s Wool were the first two (both reviewed for KRL). Casey is sure she’s found her true home, the potential for a love life, and lots of good friends. Add in a little yarn, a lot of baking and what more could a girl ask for?
Look for patterns and recipes for cream cheese brownies and cinnamon nut muffins at the back of the book.
Hechtman also writes the Crochet mysteries, nine in all. Whether you can knit, crochet or bake, you’ll want to read them all.
To enter to win a copy of all 4 food Penguins, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “summer reading,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 25, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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