by Sandra Murphy
We end this month with another fun group of mysteries from Penguin. We have food, cats, bookmobile, crafts, food, and more: Ill-Gotten Panes by Jennifer McAndrews, Silence of the Lambs Wool by Betty Hechtman, Tailing a Tabby by Laurie Cass, Grace Against the Clock By Julie Hyzy, and Some Enchanted Éclair by Bailey Cates. Details on how to win copies of all 5 books at the end of this post, and a link to purchase them where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Ill-Gotten Panes By Jennifer McAndrews
Review by Sandra Murphy
A lot of new series start with the main character moving to a small town and starting their own business. This one does too. Although the disaster-strikes, move-back-home and start-over plot has been used–what hasn’t?–it works well to give a character a fresh outlook on boyfriends, where home is, a new job and a chance to renew old friendships so the reader easily gets background without a complete rehash of events from childhood.
A banking scandal cost Georgia Kelly her job and the potential embarrassment, her fiancé. Georgia’s grandfather lives in Wenwood, New York. He runs a theater but he doesn’t need any help, thank you very much.
For a small town, there’s a lot going on. The old brickworks are being turned into a marina, if the project ever gets off the ground. The township added so many rules and regulations to the contract; it was hard enough to get started. Besides that, Andy, the local hardware store owner isn’t ordering the supplies needed so the whole thing’s about impossible. The townspeople have a fierce loyalty to the brickworks, right down to not replacing old crumbling steps with non-Wenwood brick. Each shop owner has a brick with the store’s name on it. Georgia just doesn’t get it.
When the owner turns up dead, it’s not that much of a surprise, as he wasn’t well liked. Who hated him enough to do him in? Of course, Tony, the handsome contractor is a prime suspect. His whole project was blocked. Georgia was in the store right before the murder too. Her grandfather, Pete, is under suspicion since he argued with the victim.
This isn’t just a who-dun-it but a look into small town life. The theater’s losing money but Georgia’s help isn’t welcome. Carrie from the antique shop and Diana, an old friend, are great sidekicks with stories of their own. Grandpa Pete is a character and a half. How he and Georgia will learn to live together, and with the kitten Georgia rescued, is going to be fun to watch.
Georgia’s passion is working with glass. Carrie has an old Tiffany style lamp with pieces missing. In exchange for snooping-assistance, Georgia agrees to fix the lamp free of charge. There are nice descriptive passages about how she chooses the glass, cuts it and restores the lampshade. I’m looking forward to the next book where I hope she’ll have a little more time to work on glass.
Silence of the Lambs Wool By Betty Hechtman
Review by Sandra Murphy
As you might remember from Yarn to Go, the first book in this series (reviewed for KRL), Casey Feldstein was a dessert chef who inherited her aunt’s yarn retreat business. Casey has serial interests which is a polite way of saying, she finds it hard to find one thing she loves, is good at and can make money doing. Instead, she dabbles. Her mother is sure the yarn retreats with dessert deliveries on the side, are just another dodge. She keeps dangling an all-expenses paid session at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris but so far, Casey’s stayed put.
That’s in spite of finding a dead body or two.
The latest retreat is called “Sheep to Shawl” and Casey’s hired Nicole to lead the fleece to fiber sessions. The sheep are scheduled to come to the retreat for shearing, Nicole will teach the knitters to spin their own yarn and then help them knit a shawl from it. Of course, the Vista del Mar Lodge manager, Kevin St. John, isn’t about to let the class run smoothly. First, he bans the sheep. He also nixes the dying portion of the event as “too messy.” He’s bound and determined that Casey be put out of business so he can run retreats of his own.
The Delacorte sisters actually own the lodge. It belonged to their brother and in his memory; they’ve kept the lodge rustic. Kevin’s newest idea is for the lodge to be unplugged, as in no TV, no Wi-Fi and no cell phone service. He’s installed pay phones–and the line to use them is always long.
Casey should have gone over the details of the classes with Nicole, especially since Nicole turns up dead before the classes are off the ground. Luckily, the knitters include several of the people who were at the first retreat and they pitch in to help.
Nicole wasn’t a bad person but she didn’t exactly fit in. She married the most eligible and handsome guy, opened a snooty business, and in general, got on people’s nerves. Sure, she didn’t have a lot of friends but did anyone hate her enough to kill her? Guess the answer is yes to that one.
One of the Delacorte sisters is now engaged to be married and that’s causing something of a stir. The groom-to-be and his daughter are looking at the lodge the same way a dog looks at a steak. What a coincidence, the daughter has experience in hotel management!
Wanda, a prickly sort of woman, talented at turning fleece into yarn, steps in to help after Nicole’s death. Since she had the materials all set to go and had for weeks, could she have killed to lead the class and keep her reputation? On the other hand, the spouse is always the first suspect. Nicole talked about moving back to a bigger city but her husband loves life in a small town. And then there’s the possibility that Nicole was blackmailing someone.
If you add in the possible romance Casey has going with her neighbor Dane (except for the fact that some woman is staying at his house) and Casey’s ex-boyfriend who moved to town, things are just a little complicated.
Casey is standing up to her mother better, is calmer with the second murder, and is learning that she needs to rely on herself, not others. Kevin St. John has a nasty shock that he more than deserves so we’ll see if his attitude changes because of it. The people who signed up for the retreat are good characters I hope to see more of, especially the originals. The characters are developing well and the storyline holds tight–and the book ends with a cliffhanger question.
At the back of the book is a pattern for a Homespun Shawlette and another for when you haven’t sheared your own sheep and made your own yarn. Since Casey is also a baker, there’s a recipe for Ebony and Ivory Muffins and Moment’s Notice Butter Cookies.
Hechtman also writes the Crochet mysteries featuring Molly Pink. There’s an excerpt from Knot Guilty available now in hardcover, as a bonus.
Tailing a Tabby By Laurie Cass
Review by Sandra Murphy
Up in Chilson, Michigan, Minnie Hamilton and the cat who adopted her, Eddie, run the bookmobile. Just don’t tell the library’s director, Stephen. He would not approve. Really, he doesn’t approve of much, like the library patron he wants banned–by Minnie.
Minnie and her intern, Thessie, are a great hit with the people on their route, mostly because they bring Eddie. After all, he’s the real attraction. Even books can be secondary.
After dropping Thessie off, Eddie and Minnie are flagged down by a frantic woman whose husband has had a stroke. Immediate medical attention is needed so Minnie helps get the man into the bookmobile and they take off for the hospital. It turns out the man is the famous artist, Russell McCade. Minnie’s beginner boyfriend (they haven’t been dating all that long) is on duty at the hospital (he’s a doctor) and is able to help. The doctor looks promising as boyfriend material but I get the feeling he’s not a keeper.
Things are moving along well. Stephen didn’t find out that the bookmobile was used as an ambulance or catmobile and he hasn’t brought up the unwanted patron for a day or two. The bookmobile is popular and circulation shows just how much. The big problem is that in spite of still being hospitalized, McCade is found standing over a murder victim in her house and he doesn’t remember much about it.
The victim does turn out to be someone he knows and the police are thinking aha! a girlfriend. Not the case, says McCade. The mystery needs to be solved post haste because if rumors start to fly, the value of his paintings goes down. McCade is not worried for future sales but his past sales. He knows people bought his artwork as an investment as well as for enjoyment. He doesn’t want them to lose money on the deal.
Minnie agrees to ask a few questions here and there. After all, people talk to her while petting Eddie or finding a good book. The victim was a nice person, might have had a boyfriend but split up, and might have been seeing someone new–no one knows for sure. There’s a cooking show celebrity in the mix as well. It’s going to take all of Minnie’s brain power (and Eddie’s) to solve this case.
This is the second book in the series, Lending a Paw, was first. I didn’t read that one (yet) but had no trouble reading out of order. There are a number of characters to keep track of but they are manageable. Although there are other mysteries that involve libraries, the bookmobile gives Minnie the chance to roam the countryside and meet new people. She and Eddie make an excellent team. If she ever figures out that he understands more of what she’s saying than he lets on, watch out!
Grace Against the Clock By Julie Hyzy
Review by Sandra Murphy
The town clock used to be the main attraction, the place where tourists posed for photos and where people would meet. Now it lives in what’s become a seedy part of town and it’s fallen into disrepair. Joyce Swedburg, a lawyer as well as a mover and a shaker in town, along with her ex-husband, Dr. Leland Keay, are behind a rehab project for the clock, if they can get along well enough to get anything done. It’s seems Leland had an eye for the ladies and Joyce didn’t appreciate his friendly ways. Still, she got the house and a lot of money, while Leland got his freedom.
Grace Wheaton, curator and manager of the Marshfield Mansion, is in charge of making sure a fundraiser for the clock’s restoration runs smoothly. It’s being held in the lower level of the mansion, an area not usually used. As if there aren’t enough details to worry about, the constant squabbling between the exes is about to drive Grace around the bend.
In spite of the pair sniping at each other, the event does go smoothly until Leland can’t be found to introduce the speaker. After a short search and asking a few questions of Leland’s exceptionally young date, Leland stumbles from behind the curtain, looking drunk. By the time help can come, he’s dead and it was murder.
Joyce would of course, be a prime suspect if for no other reason than the spouse is always the first person the police investigate. There’s just one problem. She got sick and didn’t attend her own fundraiser. Not to worry, there are a lot of other suspects.
Leland was a heart surgeon, the doctor of last resort. There are disgruntled family members, angry that their loved one died in spite of Leland’s best efforts. There were unhappy husbands whose wives Leland seduced. The main problem is, most of them weren’t at the fundraiser either. David Cherk, the speaker of the night, was there and he’s just a little too fishy for Grace’s taste. Something’s up for sure but does it include murder?
To further complicate matters, Grace and her assistant were at the only entrance to the room. Anyone who tried to sneak in would have been spotted instantly. Things are going from bad to worse.
Of course, a simple murder can’t be the only thing on Grace’s agenda. Hillary, step-daughter to Grace’s boss, is redecorating Grace’s house. So far, it’s the outside but that’s almost done and Hillary has great plans for the inside. Grace does love the results and has to admit Hillary has good taste and gets the most out of the workers.
In spite of their past differences, the home front is smooth sailing as long as Grace can get used to people in and out of the house every day.
One of the projects is to remove an unsightly workbench in the basement. To everyone’s surprise, the bench hid a secret passageway. It could be part of a slave’s Underground Railroad or maybe it was used by smugglers. To find out more, Grace visits the Wes at the historical society. There she’s surprised and pleased to find blueprints of the mansion too–not the original building but very old additions. If there’s a secret passage in her house, maybe the mansion has a few too.
On a personal level, Adam, rock band touring artist, is a promising love interest. He’s willing to use the L word with Grace but she’s hesitant to move ahead. Wes has also shown a bit of interest so she’s wavering a bit for that reason too.
Bootsie, Grace’s cat, is on hand to soothe frazzled nerves. Roommates Scott and Bruce are there to offer wine from their shop. Hillary, after being rather hateful in previous books, has calmed down and is likeable now that she has a project to do and has found she’s really good at it. There are bumps in the road for Grace and Adam. We can only hope Grace can get past whatever it is that holds her back from a real relationship. Frannie, well, Frannie is about the same–gossipy, bossy and still mysterious about her weekend trips.
In this, the fifth in the series, the characters are showing more of their personalities. Hyzy weaves history into the storyline without a seam showing and leaves us wanting to know what’s going to happen next?
Some Enchanted Éclair by Bailey Cates
Review by Sandra Murphy
Hollywood has come to Savannah in the form of a Revolutionary War movie script. Katie Lightfoot, magical baker, has an in on the set. Her boyfriend, Declan, and uncle, Ben, are security hired to keep rabid fans away from the stars.
Simon, the go-to guy who can solve any problem the stars or producer might have, makes a surprise visit to the bakery. He wants to hire Katie and Aunt Lucy to cater for the crew. She’ll be replacing a caterer who shows up late, brings greasy and unappetizing food and dares to call it Southern cooking. The first meal is a big success although the diva star of the movie, says she prefers the previous caterer. Considering she’s about a size four, Katie wonders how she could eat a heavy lunch of gloppy macaroni and cheese and still fit into her period costumes.
There’s a little awkwardness in that Katie’s kind-of-but-not-really old boyfriend is in the movie and he seems to be star struck—or at least as far as the female lead is concerned. Althea may not be the best actress in Hollywood but she has her role as Demanding Diva down pat.
Althea travels with her own psychic, Ursula Banford. She seems to be the real deal too. There’s Van Grayson, leading man, cameramen, go-fors, grips, prop people and more on hand.
Considering how good Simon is at fixing things, it’s a wonder he couldn’t fix things for himself but a knife in the back will do that. Katie’s one of the first on the scene after hearing Althea’s screams.
Detective Peter Quinn is in charge and Katie’s glad. She knows him from previous dead bodies they’ve shared. His calm manner, thoughtful questions, and skillful assemblage of clues will bring the murderer to justice—if he listens to the clues Katie picks up along the way.
Ursula is an intriguing character. She leads a séance to reach Simon in hopes he’ll just tell them who the killer is. Katie is sure there’s a reason Althea ruins the whole thing. Is she afraid Simon will name her as the killer or is she protecting someone else?
Mungo, Katie’s Cairn terrier familiar (all witches have them) is back and in fine form. As with all animal characters, he steals every scene he’s in. If Mungo didn’t stop for naps, readers would be too entertained by his antics to follow the clues. Mrs. Standish is around too and thanks to a very special éclair that Katie dreamed up, has a new relationship as the focus of her attention.
As always, there are secrets to reveal, identities to uncover, and motives that range from simple to he-must-have-done-it. One of the secrets is Declan’s—readers can look forward to finding out more in future books.
Katie is coming into her own as a witch. The paranormal aspect of the book doesn’t’ detract from the storyline, character development or plot so if you think this book’s not your usual flavor, not to worry—you’ll still enjoy the mystery. Be warned—it will work its spell on you and you’ll find yourself looking forward to more enchantment.
Previous books in the series are: Brownies and Broomsticks, Bewitched, Bothered and Biscotti, and Charms and Chocolate Chips.
Recipes are at the back of the book of course and include: Lemon Sour Cream Cake, Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies, Carrot and Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
To enter to win a copy of all 5 mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “July batch,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 2, 2014. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
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