by Sandra Murphy
& Kathleen Costa
This week we have 3 fun mysteries by Kensington authors-A Toast to Murder: A Mack’s Bar Mystery by Allyson K. Abbott, If the Haunting Fits, Wear It: A Haunted Vintage Mystery by Rose Pressey, & Mulch Ado About Murder: A Local Foods Mystery by Edith Maxwell. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win copies of all 3 books, and links to purchase them.
A Toast to Murder: A Mack’s Bar Mystery by Allyson K. Abbott
Review by Cynthia Chow
It’s synesthesia versus sociopathy in this fifth mystery featuring Milwaukee bar owner Mackenzie “Mack” Dalton. Mack has the affliction, or perhaps the gift, of heightened senses that cross over into one another. Not only does this give her the ability to sense things most people miss, it also makes Mac a human lie detector. These talents, not to mention past cases that have publicly embarrassed the authorities, are why chief District Attorney Anthony Dixon and chief of police Mark Holland have come asking to hire Mack as an official consultant. Considering that Holland had suspended Detective Duncan Albright for enlisting Mack in his own cases, she’s not about to immediately jump at the chance, even though it would give her legitimacy, permission to date Duncan openly, and feed her need for excitement while proving her worth.
Coming out in public as being partnered with the police couldn’t come at a worse time, as someone has been stalking Mack, taunting her with puzzles, and committing murder when Mack fails. To work around the edict that Mack not involve the police, she has been working with undercover police officer Malachi “Mal” O’Reilly. While Mack pretended to break up with Duncan in order to give her an excuse to hang around Mal, he has been very open about his willingness to make their fake relationship real. As the snide riddles continue, Mack has to decide whether to let the rest of their amateur detecting Capone Club in on the truth, which would not only hurt feelings but could prove fatal since Mack fears that one of their members is the culprit. Frustrated and with her own anger management issues, Mack decides to end things once and for all by having a classic gathering-of-the-suspects on New Year’s Eve, during a private celebration in Mack’s Bar. Nothing will go as expected, a body will fall, and Mack will choose her destiny for both her professional and personal lives.
It seems that the previous novels of the Mack’s Bar Mystery series have all built up to the momentous occasion of Mack accepting her abilities, revealing them openly, and utilizing them to their fullest. Having spent time in a mental institution and believing that she was suffering from hallucinations, Mack now sees synesthesia as a unique superpower. Establishing her place as an effective investigator comes at the same time she also has to make a decision between Mal and Duncan, the latter of whom displays his full “guy-ness” by hiding truths any girlfriend would definitely want to know. As Mack and Mal follow clues placed by the arrogant murderer, compelling moments highlight Mack’s moral dilemmas. By balancing synesthesia-powered puzzle-solving with an investigation of their own detecting crew, the author keeps readers fully invested and absolutely riveted to the page. This is a compelling and entertaining novel featuring a heroine like no other, one who is as funny and smart as she is talented at sniffing down a killer.
If the Haunting Fits, Wear It: A Haunted Vintage Mystery by Rose Pressey
Review by Cynthia Chow
As the owner of Vintage Y’All clothing boutique in Sugar Creek, Georgia, Cookie is always on the lookout for designer vintage couture. It has her following garage sales, in this case an attic, hunting for a bargain find that the owner sees as rags. A bounty of stunning hats hidden away in a trunk proves delightful, but less so is the appearance of their irritated owner. Maureen Weber, may be deceased, but that doesn’t stop her demands not just for the return of her hats, but that Cookie find her murderer.
Ever since Cookie realized that she can see ghosts she has been “blessed” with the companionship of Charlotte Meadows, whose murder Cookie solved but whose spirit refuses to pass on over to the other side. Charlotte insists on remaining at Cookie’s side, providing unasked for advice on fashion, romance, and murder investigations. All will come into play when Cookie takes on a job for Danielle Elston, who has hired Cookie to be a stylist during Kentucky’s Derby Week. Cookie is delighted to be in the midst of the celebration of over-the-top millinery, but what is less appealing is her immediate discovery of the body of jockey Ramon Gooden. With his ghost joining Maureen and Charlotte in demanding Cookie’s detecting skills, she’s going to be busy questioning those within the racing world. Despite Ramon’s insistence that Cookie track down the culprit responsible for his overdose of tranquilization meds, Ramon is proving to be the least reliable source of information regarding his faithfulness to his wife, his attentions towards a trainer, and his relations with his coworkers.
With three ghosts constantly hanging around acting as a Greek chorus, one might wonder how Cookie keeps from going insane. Thankfully, none of the ghosts become too irritating or intrusive, and instead pop in and out to provide just the right amount of information and levity. While having ghostly guardians would seem to be considerable roadblocks to Cookie’s relationship with Detective Dylan Valentine, it is in fact they who encourage her to open up and tell the truth about her paranormal abilities. An investigation into Maureen’s death occurs mostly off page back in Sugar Creek, allowing for some brief entertaining appearances of its residents. The central mystery surrounding Ramon’s death has a limited number of players, yet the author juggles motives and suspects so deftly that readers will be left guessing up until the very end.
This series has some of the most charming and gorgeous covers in cozy fiction. This fifth Haunted Vintage Mystery is particularly adorable, cementing Wind Song’s importance in both the plot and as a fashionista. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, as Cookie has recently learned that Wind Song is currently being inhabited by the spirit of someone once close to Cookie, who even in the afterlife provides prescient clues through keyboards and Ouija boards. While pretend phone conversations help to cover Cookie’s conversations with her spiritual companions, she still occasionally stumbles; much to the delight of both readers and the ghosts themselves. This continues to be a charming and fun mystery series, one that blends together fashion, mystery, and the paranormal.
Mulch Ado About Murder: A Local Foods Mystery by Edith Maxwell
Review by Sandra Murphy
May is one of the busiest months on an organic farm, but it’s also the time Cam’s mom and dad decide to visit. Her mom is distant as usual, but her dad wants to help. Unfortunately, he can’t tell a weed from a plant. He does get along with chickens and that helps.
When Cam takes seedlings to the new hydroponic gardener in town, she’s astonished to see her mother in the picket line out front. It seems some people don’t consider hydroponics as organic—only food grown in soil counts with them. Cam crosses the line to deliver the plants and soon wishes she hadn’t. She discovers Nicole’s body, and it looks like murder.
Cam’s boyfriend is a police detective, and during a case she’s involved in, and there have been a few, not to mention her mother’s possible involvement, Pete can’t see or talk to Cam until the case is solved. That’s reason enough to want it done quickly, but when her mother is a suspect and told not to leave town, Cam has to kick her questions into high gear.
A second body ramps things up even more. Mom was once again on the scene. Luckily, in both cases, there are enough other suspects to keep Mom out of jail. It’s a good thing because Mom is hiding something and won’t tell anyone what it is. There are secrets by the bushel full, and they all come out before the killer is caught.
This is the fourth book in the Local Foods Mystery series. Cam is much more committed to raising organic produce, although she’s not as rabid about eating it herself as some of her customers are. Her romance with Pete is moving along nicely. He has a dog and that always helps! Uncle Albert and his lady friend, Marilyn, get to make a few appearances too, a sweet couple for sure. Since Cam can’t do all the farm work herself, volunteers come to help out, rounding out the cast of characters.
The farm is certainly a place you’d want to visit even if pulling weeds or gathering eggs isn’t your thing. Cam and her friends are welcoming. This summer, sit back and relax as they do all the work, while you sip a cold drink and read about it.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “fun books,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 29, 2017. 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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