by Cynthia Chow
This week we have another fun group of mysteries to take with you to the beach, or where ever you are doing your summer reading. They are all June releases-Death by Beach Read: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates, A Fatal Booking: A Booklover’s B&B Mystery by Victoria Gilbert, & The Diva Says Cheesecake: A Domestic Diva Mystery by Krista Davis. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 books and links to purchase them at the end of each review–you may not be able to see the Amazon links if you have ad blocker on.
Death by Beach Read: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates
Review by Cynthia Chow
As much as librarian Lucy Richardson adores living in the tiny apartment atop the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library, the decision to move in with her fiancé Connor McNeil makes the Lighthouse Aerie a little too cozy. So she and the mayor of Nags Head have invested in a fixer-upper on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, with Connor and his carpenter father making the most out of their budget. It’s fortunate that both McNeils enjoy the DIY construction, as buying the home while planning a wedding strains their finances. Lucy did get a great deal from the previous owner Ralph Harper, who has a few fond memories of his family home but hasn’t lived there for decades. It’s even worse for his sister Joanna, who, after a traumatic event, vowed to never return to the house even after more than forty years. Someone else sure has though, as Lucy discovers that through a secret entrance only a home invader has been sneaking in and leaving marks in the dust.
It takes a meeting of the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library Classic Novel Reading Club to bring out the reclusive Jo Harper, as she feels an attachment to their selection of The House of Seven Gables. While few members actually got through the entire Nathaniel Hawthorne book, Jo not only is quite knowledge about it, she has her own words of warning for Lucy. Jo has nothing good to say about the McNeil family and advises a befuddled Lucy to stay far away from Connor. The threat seems to be misdirected though, as when Lucy finds a body in her kitchen it turns out to be the black sheep brother of Jo and Ralph, the long-absent Jimmy Harper. While his being strangled to death with Lucy’s cat’s leash would seem to be a bit damning, it’s Ralph who becomes the prime suspect in the eyes of Detective Sam Watson. With gossip quickly spreading through the “Bankers” and locals congregating at the library for more news, Lucy uses her research and librarian skills to gather evidence and look into whether Jimmy’s past or present crimes led to his death. An act of arson, the return of a manipulative Library Board Member, a fake ex-wife, and the need to finish her wedding plans all have Lucy on a deadline to save her library, her home, and her Outer Banks family.
By this ninth in the series, characters are well-established and very familiar to longtime fans. Now that Louise Jane McKaughnan has finally achieved her goal of being the rightful (in her mind) inhabitant of the lighthouse apartment, she has become less of an irritating antagonist and more of an occasionally helpful advocate for the library and the town. Loyal readers will be rewarded with the protective, territorial presence of Charles the Library Cat, who makes every library visit a delight for regular patrons. That a real Bodie Island Lighthouse actually exists only makes the setting more alive and gothic, especially when Louise Jane and Jo whisper of family ghosts and hauntings. The characters have grown and evolved from their first introduction, demonstrating the author’s ability to make them very real and worthy of readers’ being invested in their future. This continues to be a unique series that delights with a library cat, imaginative library, and very engaging characters, propelling readers through to an unexpected, but very enjoyable conclusion.
A Fatal Booking: A Booklover’s B&B Mystery by Victoria Gilbert
Review by Cynthia Chow
The inheritance of her aunt’s Bed & Breakfast gave Charlotte Reed a much-needed opportunity to start over after the death of her husband. The former teacher is now running Chapters, a literary-themed B&B in Morehead, North Carolina, and her new last-minute guests are expecting a week of Hans Christian Andersen-themed events. It’s been eighteen years since Charlotte last saw Lora Kane, another former teacher who has become a jewelry artist and book illustrator. While five of the guests are staying at Chapters and looking forward to a Mad Hatter’s tea party and literary presentations, their book club member Stacy Wilkin is staying off site in a nearby town. It’s just as well, as the busybody seems intent on causing trouble while doing her best to meddle in everyone’s secrets. She’s feuding with the majority of the book club members as well, so it shouldn’t be too much of a shock when Charlotte finds Stacy’s body under an oak tree and holding a teacup.
It doesn’t take long for Beaufort police to determine that it was death by poisoning although it was Charlotte’s neighbor Ellen Montgomery who first recognized the signs of cyanide. A former handler for government agents who had gone on a few missions herself, Ellen is more than capable of being the Sherlock to Charlotte’s Watson. It is Charlotte who first notices a break-in and small thefts in the B&B, and that a number of photographs have gone missing. So while her boyfriend Gavin Howard is off on another government intelligence assignment it’s up to Charlotte and her friends to investigate who among her guests may have had the means and motives for finally ending Stacy’s swindles. It was apparent from the start that most of the book club members had reasons to dislike the jewelry store owner, who may have taken advantage of both her customers and her suppliers.
This third in the series is a lovely slow burn of a novel that explores Charlotte’s regret over giving up her life as a teacher and moving away from the profession she loved. Much of the fun from the previous novels stemmed from the reveal of Ellen’s secret ops past, one that closely involved Charlotte’s Great-Aunt Isabella. Here Charlotte is a little more on her own as she uncovers clues through the Hans Christian Andersen book club discussions and questioning of her secretive guests. An angry boat captain, cheated jewelry designer, Ellen’s former Russian language classmate, and a vengeful mother all top the list of those with reasons for permanently banning Stacy from the book club. Action heats up for a suspenseful, life-endangering confrontation on the water that allows for a villain monologue and a romantic rescue. This fun mystery series continues to appeal to bibliophiles looking for book discussions, fantastic breakfast meals, and an appealing North Carolina coastal setting.
The Diva Says Cheesecake: A Domestic Diva Mystery by Krista Davis
Review by Cynthia Chow
On the other side of the Potomac from Washington, DC, Old Town Virginia is celebrating the 4th of July with Independence Day parties and Midsummer Night Festival events. Domestic Diva columnist and event planner Sophie Winston has been hired to coordinate a number of parties, including a Midsummer Night dessert party for the staff of Blackwell’s Tavern. Since the owner’s wife Bobbie Sue Bodoin is a baker known as the Cheesecake Queen, cheesecakes are off the menu for the lucky but cheesecake-inundated workers. It looks as though Tate Bodoin will be unable to enjoy the night’s treats. After going missing, Sophie has the horror of finding his body in the tavern’s basement. It doesn’t take long for Bobbie Sue and the police to declare his death a murder or for Sophie’s friend Bernie Frei to be declared a suspect.
A public argument and then bloody evidence seems to indicate that someone has Bernie in the frame for the death, so Sophie and her bestie Nina Reid Norwood begin investigating who could have wanted the tavern owner dead. Tate’s assistant manager seems a little overly distraught, and Marsha Bathurst was indeed the first to make accusations towards Bernie. Sophie’s boyfriend, Detective Wolf Fleishman, isn’t apologetic about his suspicion or questioning of Bernie, making their romance a little rocky even without the continual presence of her ex-husband. Things are actually going relatively well with Mars Winston now that he has finally separated himself from Natasha, Sophie’s lifelong nemesis and a competing lifestyle writer. At loose ends now that she’s living with her rediscovered new family, Natasha is seeking out yet another new business venture that she hopes will gain her fame and fortune. There’s a lot going on in this historic Virginian town, but not even anonymous letters hinting at illegal activities or a physical attack will keep Sophie from producing fabulous recipes or bring a murderer to justice.
This fifteenth in the series continues to remind readers why they have fallen in love with these likable, charming characters. Natasha is as outrageous and snobby as ever, but her brittle exterior hides an insecurity and actual good heart that she does her best to hide. The descriptions of step-by-step dessert and meal preparations are as enjoyable to read as they are relaxing for Sophie, who puts together all of the clues during these meditative times. Adorable pets are as plentiful as the recipes included at the end, making this series a requirement for any cozy reader’s bookshelves. The mention of “quiet” fireworks should resonate with any pet owner accustomed to their furry companions hiding out under furniture and traumatized by seasonal explosions. The humor and affection the characters have for one another feels so natural and built-in that readers will also feel right at home within this funny, satisfying, food-filled mystery.
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 “beach read” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 1, 2022. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT MAY TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A new episode went up this week.
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