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-Down in Flames: A Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery by Cheryl Hollon, Guilty as Charred: A Cook-Off Mystery by Devon Delaney, Left Fur Dead: A Jules & Bun Mystery by J. M. Griffin, Seeing Red: A Red Herring Mystery by Dana Dratch, and Murder’s No Votive Confidence: A Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery by Christin Brecher. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 5 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.
Down in Flames: A Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery by Cheryl Hollon
Review by Sandra Murphy
At Webb’s Glass Shop, Savannah Webb has a new flame-working class, also called lampworking, or making beads out of molten glass. The beginners include the twins, one man with obvious experience, and others who haven’t a clue. It’s all Savannah can do to keep an eye on all of them, especially the eighty-year-old twins.
Amanda teaches a class and handles the office work. Her mother is now in hospice so Amanda spends every afternoon and evening with her. In addition, Savannah’s boyfriend Edward, owner of the pub next door, is perfecting his recipe for the Best Burger contest.
Edward depends heavily on Nicole, his restaurant manager. When she’s injured in a hit and run accident, everyone is devastated. Jacob, Savannah’s autistic employee, is the only one who saw the speeding car at close range, but he’s been traumatized and can’t remember it at all.
When it’s discovered that Nicole had a secret life after hours, it only adds to the confusion about the hit and run. Was it an accident or a deliberate attempt to hurt Nicole?
In addition to business, Savannah and Edward are living together and trying to plan their wedding. Since Edward is British, that means scheduling with English relatives too. One thing becomes clear—there are no guarantees in life. Take care of yourself and those you love first and the rest will fall into place.
This is book six in the popular series. Savannah and Edward’s relationship clearly shows how much they care for each other. Amanda is set to start a new phase of her life as her mother’s health deteriorates. After the hit and run, Jacob changes, too. Savannah is hiring so readers can expect to meet new characters in upcoming books. A hint of romance, a lot of mystery, behind the scenes looks at glass working, police procedure, and a peek into the kitchen of a busy restaurant—plus there’s a Weimaraner and a cat, what more could readers ask for?
At the back of the book is a cast of characters list, always handy when the setting takes place in several locations—the glass shop, studio, restaurant, police station, and back alleys. Also find a glossary of terms for flameworking glass and information on glassblowing instruction. There’s also an excerpt of Shattered at Sea, the previous book, where Savannah teaches a class onboard a cruise ship (reviewed here).
Guilty as Charred: A Cook-Off Mystery by Devon Delaney
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sherry Oliveri works more than one job. She helps in her dad’s rug store The Ruggery, is on the board for the community garden, and enters cooking contests that have a theme. She’s just returned from the America’s Good Taste Recipe contest where she won for her crab cakes. Next up is a bacon-themed cookoff.
While she’s been out of town, rumors have been floating around that Poppy Robinson who lends her land for the garden, is thinking of selling out to a developer instead. It’s not like she needs the money but her brother and sister might.
When Poppy is found dead in the garden, coshed with a shovel, no one knows what will happen next. Do her relatives inherit? Will the sell? Poppy wasn’t the most diplomatic person or even a warm and fuzzy type. There are a number of people who might have swung that shovel.
Sherry has been involved with unraveling crimes before. When Poppy’s sister, another garden volunteer, and others ask her to snoop, who is she to resist?.
In her spare time (like she has any), Sherry writes the town newsletter and got volunteered to organize a cookoff for the town’s Fourth of July celebration. The theme is grilled patties. Unfortunately, the neighboring town mysteriously has a similar cookoff scheduled for the same time. Somebody is passing along information that will hurt the town’s fund-raising efforts.
Sherry takes a lot of risks, even after receiving threats to her own life. She does tell Ray, the detective in charge about most of her ideas, although not always in a timely manner. Luckily, her friend Amber is there to try to keep an eye on her. The food contests allows for a change of venue for the mysteries, the characters are interesting people you’d like to meet, but Sherry has got to show better sense about running off on her own when no one knows where she is and must remember to have her charged cell phone with her.
This is the third book in the series. Readers can jump in anywhere but will want to read the first books too, if only for the recipes Sherry shares. In this book it’s Shrimp Nachos with Artichoke Hummus, Nutmeg State Cheddar Apple French Toast made with raisin bread and maple syrup, and Warm Ruby Roots Forbidden Rice Salad featuring beets, cranberries, black rice, goat cheese, pistachios and more.
Left Fur Dead: A Jules & Bun Mystery by J. M. Griffin
Review by Sandra Murphy
Jules Bridge rescues and rehabilitates rabbits, those who were mistreated or abused. It takes a while to regain their trust, but she’s a patient person. With the help of high school and college students and an about-to-be-a-veterinarian student/friend, she manages to make it work.
One of the bunnies lives in the house with her. Bun has a special talent—he can communicate telepathically. She was pretty surprised when it first happened, wondered if she was having some issues herself, but soon realized Bun could really talk. He’s eloquent and well-spoken for a rabbit.
Each morning, Bun and Jules go for a walk, Bun bundled up in a sling to make the walks easier and faster. When they find a dead body, things get a lot more complicated. Bun is more adventurous and thinks he and Jules should investigate the death. She disagrees, but when the rescue rabbits are endangered by a mysterious prowler and threats are made, she decides it’s time to listen to her bunny advisor.
This is the first in a new series. It caught me off guard to find Bun could talk and he speaks so well, but after a few pages, it seems natural. He alternates between bravery and caution, something Jules could learn as she does put herself into risky situations on a regular basis.
There were a few confusing things for me. Jules rescues of abused and neglected bunnies but also breeds bunnies herself. The people I know who are in rescue are not breeders. I found that confusing and not too much was mentioned about it, so I wasn’t sure why it was included. Jules has a nice house, the barn for the bunnies, and a shop that sells bunny-related items plus fur from the angoras for knitters. It seemed the shop was to support the rescue and pay the employees, but what does Jules do for money? It’s hard to think the shop would make enough for all those expenses. Also, the Sheriff is sometimes referred to by title, first name, or last name which gets confusing. Once we’re into the book, it’s just not necessary to use both first and last name when a character is mentioned.
That said, I enjoyed the book and will look forward to the next in the series. I do hope Jules learned to carry her cell phone and to call for help before rushing into an unknown situation.
Griffin also writes the Vinnie Esposito series, available at the usual outlets.
Seeing Red: A Red Herring Mystery by Dana Dratch
Review by Cindy Chow
Once a reporter and then disastrously, and briefly, a P.R. agent, new freelance writer Alex Vlodnachek is pressured by her brother and her best friend to drum up business by attending a cocktail party of movers and shakers at her neighbor’s Bed and Breakfast. Although Alex does meet a few intriguing guests and even some surprising old friends, it’s the following morning that a groggy Alex encounters her own unexpected visitor. Sitting in the middle of her kitchen is an absolutely adorable baby, one whom her roommate brother claims to have neither produced nor invited.
Deciding that someone had trusted the siblings to care for the newly named James Bond and unwilling to turn the obviously loved infant over to social services, Alex and Nick make rushed trips to a Mega Baby store for diapering and food supplies until they can find J.B.’s true parents. A puppy-chewed note left with the car seat gives Alex just enough information to lead her next door, where the Cotswolds Inn is experiencing its own share of nefarious activities. A supposedly unplugged basement freezer is being filled with a rotating cast of corpses, and Ian is doing his best to gloss over Alex’s fears with the policy of no-body-no-crime.
An unethical health inspector ensures that Nick is unable to use Alex’s kitchen for his budding bakery business, but since he already supplies the Inn’s many pastries Nick is able to use Ian’s professional kitchen for baking. It also means that Alex is determined to find out the truth of just what’s going on next door, although she is somewhat distracted with the actual paying job to fill in as the Washington Sentinel’s Aunt Margie advice columnist. It looks as though Alex is going to have a lot of up-close and personal mentorship from “Aunt Margie,” as the actual writer Marty Crunk has escaped from both the hospital and the questionable care of his niece to recover from knee surgery on Alex’s couch. At least this means that when her Baba and very offended mother land on their doorstep to provide baby assistance, Alex is able to justifiably send her very demanding mother next door to the Cotswolds Inn.
A surprise baby, missing butler, art forgery, and multitude of bodies all complicate Alex’s life while ensuring for an exhilarating romp of a mystery. The cozy mystery veers delightedly into thriller territory, with a plot appropriate enough for the character who inspired J.B.’s name. Characters from the previous entry in this series pop in just enough to have readers wanting more, and the future installment will not doubt further expand on the array of hilarious Washington D.C. residents. No one is whom he or she first appears to be, and Alex must use both her reporter and her new advice columnist skills to uncover the truth of everyone’s identities. Alex’s family members are as different as they are entertaining, especially when they battle over Alex’s future. Diverging plots tie together for a completely unexpected conclusion, along with a perfectly delivered perfect coup d’état. Laughter and thrills are at peak levels in this uniquely satisfying mystery.
Murder’s No Votive Confidence: A Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery by Christin Brecher
Review by Cynthia Chow
It’s not often that candles become the theme of a wedding, which is why Wick & Flame specialty candle store owner Stella Wright is so thrilled to be a part of Jessica Sterling’s nuptials. Stella has even created a unique “unity candle” showcasing Nantucket’s historical setting and incorporating a scent specifically designed for the couple. Stella quickly learns of dissent amidst the bridal family, though, all seeming to focus on the estranged uncle who has been blamed for causing his brother’s death. When Simon Sterling is found bludgeoned to death with Stella’s Unity Candle, the wedding inexplicably continues, even though other prospective brides are cancelling their own specialty candles in droves. In order to disprove her reputation as a jinx and prevent a much-liked local from being arrested, Stella and the reluctantly helpful Officer Andy Southerland begin questioning the dysfunctional Sterling family and opposites-must-attract groom Joe Handler. A handsome reporter in town for the annual sailing race adds a romantic element to Stella’s investigation, and his presence also serves to stir up Andy’s territorialism that is as professional as it is personal.
A candle maker would not appear to be the obvious choice for an amateur detective, but her childhood rivalry with Andy kickstarts her competitive gear and has Stella interrogating suspects and doing borderline breaking and entering. Perhaps Andy shouldn’t have given custody of Simon’s cat to Stella, which has her assuming the title of honorary police employee and giving her the entitlement to be on the case. While her detecting skills hilariously have her deducing that a container is filled with hair gel due to the label declaring it as hair gel, her knowledge of candles will prove instrumental to the case. A visiting megastar actress is thrilled to have the opportunity to get hands-on experience for her upcoming role as an investigator, while Stella’s best friend Emily Gardner, the event coordinator in charge of the Sterling wedding, is just as delighted to meet the celebrity.
These characters are the highlight of this debut series by a new author, and their genuine likability and wit should have readers eager to see them in their next adventure. The Nantucket setting is just as appealing with historical hotels, cobblestoned streets, and sailing competition with a rather unique name origin. An antique engagement ring, a Buoy Bandit street artist, and intriguing candle-making details (Stella’s “Candles 101” Workshop Notes) make this a delightful new entry to the cozy mystery genre.
To enter to win a copy of all 5 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “another catchup,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 27, 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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