by Cynthia Chow & Sandra Murphy
This week we are once again playing catch up with some more fun mysteries for your summer reading-The Proof is in the Poison: A Southern Homebrew Mystery by Diane Kelly, The Shadow of Memory: A Kate Hamilton Mystery by Connie Berry, Murder She Wrote, Killer on the Court by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran, and Murder with Darjeeling Tea: A Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery by Karen Rose Smith. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 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.
The Proof is in the Poison: A Southern Homebrew Mystery by Diane Kelly
Review by Cynthia Chow
Having legitimized her family’s moonshine operations through their Moonshine Shack in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Hattie Hayes is focusing on developing new flavors and ways to promote the business. Chattanooga Choo-Choo Model Train Convention seems like the perfect location to appeal to those nostalgic for their old-fashioned moonshine beverages, so Hattie and her Granddaddy are kicking off events with a Monday Moonshine Mixer. Some of the attendees could definitely use a relaxing swig of Granddaddy’s Ole-Timey Corn Liquor, as Bert Gebhardt is aggressively protective over his trains, Ronnie Wallingford is infuriated by Bert’s refusal to sell him a caboose, and accuses one of the model trains of not being accurately to scale. Contentions are simmering at an otherwise fun-filled event of toy collectors, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before Bert was the one to collapse during the convention. His death due to methanol poisoning quickly casts a shadow on Hattie and her moonshine, with Detective Candace “Ace” Pearce immediately confiscating their beverages for analysis.
Even though the Moonshine Shack’s potent concoctions are ultimately found to be innocent and untampered, Hattie can’t help but feel that the whispers of guilt threatens their business. So with encouragement from her besties Kiki and Kate Pardue, Hattie begins looking into the rivalries and competitiveness within this very expensive hobby. The obsessiveness of the toy train collectors made “train widows” out of their put-upon and overlooked wives, who had grown accustomed to spouses’ unending pursuit to perfect and complete their sets. Hunky mounted Police Officer Landers warns Hattie away from investigating without actually expecting her to listen, making him the perfect boyfriend who accepts her impulsively strong will.
This second in the series doesn’t feature viewpoints from non-human companions like the author’s House-Flipper, Mountain Lodge, or Paw-Enforcement mystery series, but it does have that fantastic humor and sparkling dialogue of her Tara Holloway novels. While The Moonshine Shack Murder revealed just how ignorant most are about moonshine, its legality, and its varieties, here readers teach readers everything they didn’t know they needed to know about Model Trains. Those with fond memories of playing with their grandparents’ (dangerously) metal and electronically powered train sets will revel in the fascinating details over styles, values, and elaborate recreations of real-life scenes. This fun and extremely compelling exploration of the world of model toy collectors is never overshadowed by Hattie’s investigation though, as she entertainingly and yet realistically follows clues and predictable suspects. While certain players are identified early on as the most probable suspects, contradicting alibis and evidence quickly complicate the solution. Warm emotional moments can be found not just within the friendships between Hattie and her BFFs, but with Hattie’s mission to surprise her Granddaddy with a souped-up scooter. Author Diane Kelly can always be relied upon for her scenes of fast banter and witty interactions as romance simmers away in the background. Model trains, moonshine, and an exciting chase scene all ensure for a very exciting and funny second entry in this unique mystery series.
The Shadow of Memory: A Kate Hamilton Mystery by Connie Berry
Review by Sandra Murphy
Kate Hamilton is engaged to Detective Inspector Tom Mallory. They have a few details to work out yet—where the wedding will be and when, if they’ll live in the US or the UK, if she’ll sell her antique business in Ohio or he’ll take a promotion, and most importantly, where Tom’s mother will live. She’s been against the match since their first date. Meanwhile, Kate lives with Vivian and her pug, Fergus. On their way home from a celebration, Kate spots a purple sock in the graveyard. It’s on a foot and the foot belongs to a dead man. Near the body is a note with Vivian’s name on it.
“The mystery of his death spans sixty years.”
Vivian knew the man but a much younger version. As teens at camp for a week, the pair, along with three friends, broke into an abandoned house where mysterious deaths took place. Fancying themselves detectives, they search for clues and write their theories for future investigators. Now members of their group are dying at an alarming rate.
While helping Vivian remember that summer, Kate and Ivor Tweedy are hired to verify a rare painting that could be worth millions. There’s also an engagement party for Kate and Tom where Tom’s mother doesn’t bother to hide her feelings.
This is book four in the series. Because the plot involves characters from both the ‘60s and the present, some now the adult children of the originals, there are a number of names to keep straight. The good news is, the story is so compelling, you’ll want to read it straight through. Kate and Tom are a good match, personally and professionally, as she is as involved in the case as much, if not more, than Tom. Vivian is the neighbor you’d love to have, and Fergus? Who can resist a pug? I enjoy a book where the characters know their business, don’t have messy love lives, and who are old enough to have adult children.
That plot? It has more twists than Chubby Checker, including one on the very last page. I always look forward to a visit with Kate and Tom. They’ll have a place on my Best of 2022 list for sure. Now to plan what I’ll wear for their wedding…
Murder She Wrote, Killer on the Court by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran
Review by Sandra Murphy
Nothing feels better than writing The End on your latest book, especially when it was uncooperative along the way. To reward herself, Jessica Fletcher’s off to visit her nephew Grady, his wife Donna, and their son Frank. Donna was gifted a stay at the beach for a job well done.
It’s not long before tensions rise within the host family. Donna’s boss wants her to keep secrets from his brother-in-law, the CEO. The boss’s sister spills family secrets. It’s ruining what could have been a fun and relaxing vacation.
The morning after Jessica arrives, Donna finds her boss’s body on the tennis court, pummeled by the TeachTennis automatic ball machine. At first glance, it appears to be a tragic accident. Jessica has her suspicions—where was the remote to start the machine? Why was it set on its fastest speed? And most importantly, why was the boss there so early in the morning. He didn’t even like tennis.
The police detective on the case is a friend of Mort’s, the Sheriff in Cabot Cove. Once he has Mort’s endorsement of Jessica, he’s willing to listen to her theories. There are quite a few suspects. Family members are vying for the CEO job, there’s a rumor someone was about to be fired, another person had a grudge, and then there’s the mysterious man who’s not what he seems to be.
This is book fifty-five in the long running series. Jessica, Seth, and Mort are their usual selves—she’s inquisitive, Seth’s protective, and Mort gives Jessica a ringing endorsement while telling her not to get involved. The beach in New York City is a nice change of setting. The suspects are varied, and just when you think you’ve figured out who did it, the investigation takes a turn.
Look for Jessica’s next adventure, Murder She Wrote, Death on the Emerald Isle, as Jessica travels to Ireland. Available for pre-order now, it launches on January 3, 2023.
Murder with Darjeeling Tea: A Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery by Karen Rose Smith
Review by Sandra Murphy
Daisy and Jonas are a couple now although neither one knows quite how to move on to a more serious stage of their romance. Daisy’s tea garden and her family keep her on the go. Jonas has his own store where he sells handcrafted furniture.
Jonas has a birthday coming up and Daisy wants to surprise him with the perfect gift and a party. He’s been volunteering at the local animal shelter and adopted a Golden Retriever. Daisy visits a local craftsman who makes lawn ornaments. There’s one that is a Golden Retriever, just the thing for Jonas.
The man’s name is Rumple and he’s an odd little fellow. He volunteers for the late shift at the animal shelter. The animals have company, he has his privacy. Until one morning, his body is found in one of the dog runs. It seems like the nice little man wasn’t so nice after all.
Daisy has information for the police but has to be careful Jonas doesn’t hear it came from her in order to keep her surprise a secret. She’s helped with investigations before, but now is so busy at the tea garden, at home, and with Jonas, there’s hardly a minute left in the day. Still, it would only be her civic duty to pass on whatever she hears.
It’s time for her daughter, Jazzi, to graduate and get ready for college. Her other daughter and son-in-law, along with their baby, are ready to move into a home of their own instead of living in an apartment over Daisy’s garage. It’s a lot for Daisy to deal with at one time.
This is book eight in the series. In addition to all the changes in Daisy’s life, her aunt’s love life is heating up. I’m looking forward to the next book to see how it all turns out. At the back of the book, find recipes for chicken chili, cheese biscuits, and mild peach salsa.
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 “july catchup” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 6, 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.
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