by Sandra Murphy
& Kathleen Costa
This week we have a great group of 4 mysteries released this summer and published by Kensington, Penguin, & St. Martins-Booked 4 Murder: A Sophie Kimball Mystery by J.C. Eaton, Only Skein Deep: A Knitting Mystery by Maggie Sefton, Patterned After Death: A Southern Sewing Circle Mystery by Elizabeth Lynn Casey, & Sticks and Bones: Sarah Booth Delaney series by Carolyn Haines. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win copies of all 4 books, and links to purchase them.
Booked 4 Murder: A Sophie Kimball Mystery by J.C. Eaton
Review by Cynthia Chow
On the surface, Harriet Plunkett calling her daughter at her workplace in the Mankato Police Department to demand that she investigate a series of murders would seem to make sense. Sophie “Phee” Kimball is no detective though, and they don’t even live in the same state. Phee is actually a civil service employee in charge of police accounts and payroll, and Mankato, Minnesota, is far from Harriet’s retirement community in Sun City West, Arizona. That doesn’t stop Harriet, and she manages to guilt Phee into booking the next flight to investigate what is being called their bookclub “curse.” Harriet asserts that four members of their bookclub have dropped dead while reading their selection of “The Twelfth Arrondissement” and after receiving a menacing email shortly before their deaths.
Phee isn’t buying the theory of there being a curse, and instead follows the far more practical theory that the deaths were due to coincidences and natural deaths. The bookclub readers weren’t exactly spring chickens, but when one of Harriet’s neighbors is set up for a fatal accident, Phee has to believe that murderous intent was involved. Using the skills she honed as an accountant, Phee begins to track down clues for reasons behind each of the deaths and who may have been responsible. Intentional bee stings, two hospital deaths, and a fatal golf car accident seem to have nothing connecting them other than the mysterious bookclub book, which no one admits to recommending and whose author is itself a mystery. The retirement community has more than its share of scandals, jealousies, and greed, and with predatory relatives waiting for inheritances, there seems to be a surplus of those wishing to push their loved ones into a final retirement.
This is the start of an absolutely charming and fun new series that finds so much humor in the retirees living in Sun City West without being mean-spirited or mocking. Sure, no one even comes close to reaching the speed the limit, breakfasts start with dawn, and dinner is never held after 5 pm, but the shenanigans going on resemble college dorm life more than an old age home. Phee relies on Minnesota detective Nate Williams back home for information and advice when she needs it, but the idea for a classic gathering-of-the-suspects reveal is all her own. The conclusion definitely doesn’t go the way either she or the reader expect, to the former’s embarrassment and the latter’s delight. The characters are hilarious without being over-the-top, and the humor flows throughout due to the antics of Phee, Harriet, and Harriet’s Chihuahua-Weiner dog Streetman. The next installment looks to continue the hilarity in the sizzling hot setting, with the exasperation and affection between the mother-daughter team providing endless laughter and relatable entertainment.
Only Skein Deep: A Knitting Mystery by Maggie Sefton
Review by Sandra Murphy
Kelly and Steve are expecting, and it’s a boy! Neither can wait, but Kelly’s more than ready due to the heat and the extra weight. She’s managed to exercise and eat right, no beer, and all, but she’s reached the stage of wanting to sleep. Everyone tells her, do it now, when the baby comes, no more sleep for you or Steve.
The Lambspun is across the street from Kelly’s cottage. She lived there before moving into a new home with Steve. The cottage backs up to the local golf course. When the body of Giselle Callahan, the much younger wife of a local banker, is found on the course, it’s first assumed she died of natural causes. A slit throat doesn’t count as natural. Kelly’s been known to snoop around in murder investigations before, but now there’s the baby to think of. On the other hand, what could it hurt to ask a few questions while knitting? After all, the murder happened practically in her back yard.
Bankers always have enemies. There are personal issues to consider, too. Kelly is sure there are a number of suspects, but there are no witnesses which only adds to the worry of the women at the shop. Of course, the book centers around Kelly’s pregnancy as its first concern. Murder comes second. This series is as much about catching up with old friends as it is about solving a death. It’s nice to see how the friends support each other. The delight of Kelly and Steve about the baby is catching!
This is book fifteen in the Knitting Mystery series. The dating couples are married now, most of them anyway. Kelly’s CPA business has only a couple of clients, but they’re involved in a number of ventures and that keeps Kelly busy. Steve is building new houses and doing well. The usual side characters are all present plus new ones as people come and go through the knitting shop. Mimi and Burt are a delight as an older couple, obviously in love. Carl, Kelly’s dog, and his nemesis, the squirrel, still manage games of chase down the fence. In between, Carl loves to bark at golfers.
The mystery is a good one since most of it is done armchair style—Kelly’s not able to get into dangerous situations and has to figure things out and pass along information through Burt, an ex-cop. Readers will like following along as the baby comes—and will be anxious to see what happens next. How will Kelly be able to solve crimes with Baby Jack along?
Patterned After Death A Southern Sewing Circle Mystery by Elizabeth Lynn Casey
Review by Sandra Murphy
Tori Sinclair came to town to be the new librarian. Who knew she’d fall in love with the people, the town, and Milo? Now married for six months, they’re as happy as can be. Like many newlyweds, Tori worries about money. Her car is making an awful noise, but can they afford to fix it?
One of Tori’s mainstays is the sewing circle. There’s some sniping among members, but when the chips are down, they support each other. Margaret Louise is a prime example. Her son Jake owns the local garage, so she urges Tori to take her car there. There’s no refusing Margaret Louise when she’d trying to help.
Jake’s just partnered with his old high school friend Noah, so he can expand the garage and make it state of the art. They’d been best friends until football got in the way as each tried to be the star of the team, egged on by their fans. Maybe being partners will let them be friends again. Or not.
Tori and Milo get the full tour of the garage although Jake’s enthusiasm is lower than expected. As they’re leaving, Tori notices the trunk of the car Jake was working on is ajar so she automatically tries to shut it. It doesn’t and when trying to find out why, Tori discovers Noah’s body, bashed-in-the-head dead.
Jake is the most likely suspect, of course, and it’s killing Margaret Louise. Jake and Melissa have eight kids, so the adults are not the only ones suffering. There’s even dissent among the sewing circle members.
In addition to that turmoil, Rose, the oldest of the group, is ailing. She wants to refuse help but knows she needs it. She takes no interest in the business she shares with Leona, the flamboyant half of the partnership. Tori views Rose as an adopted grandmother and is sick at heart that they might lose her.
In asking about Noah, Tori finds that old resentments last forever in a small town. Noah and Jake’s football fans are still divided, and that leads to a misunderstanding between Tori and Leona. Nothing with Leona is done in a small way. Through it all, Tori’s half sick. She fainted when she saw Noah’s body and got quite a bump when her head met the concrete floor. She insists she’s fine but dizzy spells and nausea say otherwise.
This is book twelve of the Southern Sewing Circle Mystery series. Charles, the bookseller they met a bit ago, is his usual over the top self. Tori and Milo are a loving couple and an example of how a marriage should be. The characters continue to develop with each book, leaving the reader with a sense of visiting friends rather than reading fiction. The story is full of twists and turns and surprises, right up to the last sentence.
Don’t miss the sewing tips at the back of the book.
Sticks and Bones: Sarah Booth Delaney series by Carolyn Haines
Review by Sandra Murphy
Everybody has an enemy from school. The person who taunted, teased, and embarrassed you beyond all endurance. Frangelica “Sister” McFee is Tinkie’s bad memory. Tinkie won’t say just what moved Sister from annoyance to enemy status, but Sister is happy to provide clues. Sister moved to New York and is now a bestselling writer. Her book is about to become a movie, and she’s back in town to impress her family and make sure all her old friends are properly jealous.
Sister had a brother who was called Son. For a long time, Son was the rising star, set to take over the business. Out of the blue, he began to use drugs and drink to excess. Then one day, Son and his mother were traveling during a huge storm when the car was swept off the road. His mother drowned and Son’s body was never found.
Dear old Dad has remarried to a much younger woman, now pregnant with another boy. Wife #2 thinks her child will replace the memory of Son, and he’ll inherit. Of course, Sister is in the way of that plan, a minor detail since she was never the favorite and can be discredited. A deadline for distribution of the inheritance adds extra pressure.
The movie’s director suspects there’s more to the story than was ever told. He hires Sarah Booth and Tinkie to find out the truth before he yells, “Action!” Since the accident took place five years ago, the case is cold. Not only that but the evidence has gone missing—all of it. Sarah Booth and Tinkie have their work cut out for them. And then a dead body shows up…
Sarah Booth has several potential suitors. It looks like one of them is making his move, and she’s in the mood to say yes. Her personal ghost, Jitty, should be thrilled. After all, she’s been pushing for Sarah Booth to continue the family line. Something’s up when Jitty isn’t doing the Happy Dance.
This is book seventeen in the Sarah Booth Delaney series. It’s possible to start with this one but readers would miss so much of the Southerness of the previous books. Jump in and then backtrack to the beginning. Sarah Booth and Tinkie are so much fun, you won’t want to miss a page.
To enter to win a copy of all 4 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “more catchup,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 5, 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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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.