by Sandra Murphy
This week we have another fun group of mysteries for your summer reading-The Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery by Connie Berry, Murder at the Lakeside Library: A Lakeside Library Mystery by Holly Danvers, A Rogue’s Company: A Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery by Allison Montclair, and Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Moran. 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 Art of Betrayal: A Kate Hamilton Mystery by Connie Berry
Review by Sandra Murphy
Kate Hamilton is an antiques dealer from Ohio. How she managed to fall in love with Detective Inspector Tom Mallory in Suffolk was a surprise to the both of them. For Kate, springtime in Long Barstow, helping her friend Ivor at his antiques shop, and spending time with Tom, seemed the perfect holiday for the month of May.
And it was—right up until a woman Kate recently met was killed in a most public way. Tom’s boss is pushing hard for a quick solution, but every answer leads to more questions. To make matters worse, it appears the woman was initially attacked in Ivor’s shop, despite an alarm system and locked doors. A rare and valuable Chinese pot, on consignment, is missing and that makes Ivor responsible. Since he’s recovering from a hip replacement, it’s up to Kate to handle everything.
A recluse, supposedly wealthy but living like a nun, a missing person, an alibi’s contradicting timeline, and raging storms, all complicate an already confusing case.
On a personal level, Tom’s mother is back and wants Kate to come to dinner. Considering how they parted the last time, Kate is sure this meeting won’t be any better—and she’s right.
This is book three in the series. I’ve loved Kate’s story from the first, and it just gets better and better. The relationship between Kate and Tom is complicated by distance, her business in the States, his job in Suffolk, and as she says, if they have a common interest, why did it have to be murder?
There are twists and turn, surprises and secrets, and in answering all the questions, Berry manages to weave together a most satisfying ending.
Kate’s story is progressing and I’m looking forward to what comes next for her.
Listen to the first chapter of another book in this series, A Legacy of Murder, on Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast.
Murder at the Lakeside Library: A Lakeside Library Mystery by Holly Danvers
Review by Sandra Murphy
Rain Wilmot’s husband died in a motorcycle accident. Of course, she’s mourning him but is also angry after finding out he’d cheated on her. Feeling the need to get away where she has peace and quiet and can just think, she heads to the family cabin in Lofty Pines, Wisconsin. Her mother is out of the country on a volunteer mission and her father is in Japan on business. She’ll have plenty of peace and quiet.
Except, it doesn’t really turn out that way. Her friend, Julia, reminds Rain her mother ran a small public library in an outbuilding next to the cabin. There are books to unpack and catalogue, details to work out, and a schedule to make.
Unfortunately, one of the details is solving a murder. A dead man is found on the property with a book written by Rain’s grandfather next to him. She’s never seen him before and has no idea why he would be there.
It turns out, the man lives on the lake, too, and is not well-known or well-liked. Except by Holly’s mother, which causes gossip. Then a man fitting her father’s description is seen in town when he should be in Japan. Rain needs to find out just what is going on to avoid the police looking at her family as suspects.
Danvers writes description well, giving readers the peaceful feeling of sitting by the lake and listening to the cry of a loon. For my taste, there was too much backstory and description, especially at the beginning, and it slowed the story. The plot is a complicated one and sometimes repetitive information distracts from the action. Rain and Julia are likable characters, Marjorie, who helps in the library, and her cocker spaniel, Rex, are delightful. Look for the recipe for pesto chicken with pasta at the end of the book, great for a summer barbeque.
Danvers also writes the Handcrafted mysteries (3) using the pen name Holly Quinn. Look for book two, Long Overdue at the Lakeside Library in February 2022.
A Rogue’s Company: A Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery by Allison Montclair
Review by Sandra Murphy
The Right Sort Marriage Bureau is run by partners Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge. Sparks, a former spy, has never been married, and Gwen is a war widow. It’s 1946 and business is just starting to revive. The pair have been successful enough to expand into the office next door and to hire a receptionist.
When the receptionist tells them a client is waiting, and whispers, “He’s African!” it forces Sparks and Gwen to realize, all their clients have been White. Where will they find the right bride for their groom-to-be? Gwen tries to gently explain, it may take longer to find the right woman for him since their candidates are all of English descent. They’re further shocked when he replies, he has no problem with that.
Gwen had a breakdown when her husband was killed in the war. She was sent to a ‘rest home’ for therapy and to regain her sanity. In the meantime, her in-laws gained guardianship of her young son Ronnie. Her father-in-law put her money and company shares in a trust she can’t access. Most of the time, he’s in Africa looking after mining interests. Until he’s not. Word has come he’s on his way home.
Homecoming does not go according to plan. He’s barely in the house before he announces Ronnie will be sent to boarding school. Gwen has no say in the matter until her psychiatrist says she’s well. Since he and her father-in-law look upon her employment as a sign she’s unstable, Ronnie’s future is in danger.
Sparks has managed to find a man she can get along with. That’s as far as she’ll go talking about feelings, being unable to say the L word. He’s a mobster, but the mobs are organized enough to not cross the line into each other’s business.
When a body is found near her father-in-law’s club, Gwen has to wonder if it’s connected to the deals he’s made.
In the end, who will have the final say on her life and Ronnie’s?
This is book three in the series, all reviewed here. Gwen is a society woman, meant to look decorative and remain dumb. Sparks, a former spy, is more down to earth. Together, they are a force to be reckoned with. With this case, they must confront prejudices they didn’t realize they had. Montclair does it particularly well. Sparks and Gwen are two of my favorite characters. I look forward to their next adventure.
Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Moran
Review by Sandra Murphy
Jessica’s college friend, Delores, has just married her third husband, Willis Nickens. Her first two marriages were terrible mistakes that left her with major financial problems, but Delores claims Willis is perfect for her. Jessica was a guest speaker at a mystery writer’s conference and decided to extend her time away from Cabot Cove to visit Delores.
It seems Delores made a good choice this time—or has she? Their home is a mansion, there are people to care for the house and grounds, and Willis adores Delores. He’s not as nice to others and that concerns Jessica. Willis is a cutthroat businessman, an egotist, and the way he treats guests invited for dinner, it’s like watching a cat play with a mouse.
Jessica’s an early riser and likes to jog before the day gets too warm. As she runs past the koi pond, she finds Willis, face down in the water, long dead. As his heir, Delores is the most likely suspect. Jessica knows that’s not possible and sets out to help her friend.
Other suspects include Willis’ son-in-law, Clancy, a widower. Willis doted on his only grandchild but wasn’t so fond of Clancy. There’s also a couple in desperate need of a loan—Willis wouldn’t give a definite answer, putting their business in jeopardy. In fact, the way Willis acquired the mansion was pretty underhanded, leaving hard feelings with the previous owner, who is now living in a small cottage on her former property. Delores doesn’t know much about Willis’ businesses even though her signature appears on multiple documents. Jessica has her work cut out for her to solve the murder and prove Delores is innocent.
This is book fifty-three in the long running series. Jessica first had to convince local law enforcement that Willis’ death was murder, not an accident. Then she had to convince them Delores was innocent. With the help of her private detective friend, she’s able to find out more about Willis.
As always, Jessica ferrets out the truth. With plans to return for the relaxing vacation she’d originally planned, readers will wonder what she and Delores will be up to when they meet again.
Look for Jessica’s next case in Murder She Wrote: Debonair in Death, available for pre-order now, shipping on November 2, 2021.
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 7, 2021. 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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