by Sandra Murphy
Here are four more fun mystery novels released this summer by Penguin! Corpse in the Crystal Ball by Kari Lee Townsend, Grace Among Thieves by Julie Hyzy, Hearse and Buggy by Laura Bradford, and Hot Button by Kylie Logan. Enjoy the reviews & enter to win all four–details at the end of this post. Check out another mystery review on KRL Lite-A review of Murder On The Half Shell By Lorna Barrett & enter for a chance to win that one too! Let KRL help supply your summer mystery reading fun.
Corpse in the Crystal Ball by Kari Lee Townsend
Sylvia (call me Sunny) Meadows is a fortune teller. She reads tea leaves, looks into a crystal ball, and knows not only the future, but the past. In this second in a series book (first is Tempest in the Tea Leaves), Sunny again works with Detective Mitch Stone. She’s got mixed feelings about Mitch, especially after she took a peek at his tea leaves and now to complicate things even more, Isabel, his former girlfriend has shown up. She wants to rekindle their romance. When Isabel turns up dead, Sunny is able to pinpoint where the body would be found, and things get dicey. It doesn’t help when Isabel’s equally gorgeous sister Selena pops into town, looking not only for Isabel but Mitch. Turns out, Mitch was involved with her too—to the point of proposing—will things between them pick up again?
Sunny’s mom and dad are overly protective of their daughter, doubtful of her talent to see the future and past, and determined to find out what’s going on in her life. They play dirty and send Granny Gert to stay with Sunny and report back. Granny’s rigid schedule for cleaning, washing and baking would drive anyone to drink but the cookies she bakes almost make up for the stress she causes. Now if Sunny can just live through Granny’s driving lessons. After all, the first one ended with the front end of Sunny’s VW bug in the pond with the swans. Gert should quit interrupting Sunny’s trances too—and stop trying to fix her up with the cute mailman.
Morty the cat is a prime player in the mystery. He was just there when Sunny bought the house, never seems to eat or drink, appears when needed and tolerates the colorful bow ties Granny makes him wear but nobody better laugh!
Abigail Brook is obsessed with Detective Stone and could be a prime suspect in killing Isabel. Selena’s grief seems genuine but is it? She resented Isabel for a number of reasons. And then there’s the matter of Isabel’s past. It seems she went to jail for embezzling a whole lot of money from her employer—money that was never found. Isabel’s cellmate also lands in town—and turns up dead. Of course, Mitch can’t investigate—he’s too close to all the players. The Mayor taps Sunny to work with Detective Fuller—in the first book she assists the police through her visions—but this time it’s real Q & A with the suspects.
The side characters are just as much fun as Sunny, the mystery gives enough clues so the reader can pick up on them without being so generous that the mystery is spoiled. My only disappointment was there was less fortune telling in this book than the first.
A satisfactory end leaves readers wanting more.
Grace Among Thieves by Julie Hyzy
In the third book about life at Marshfield Manor, Grace Wheaton faces her most dangerous situations yet. Marshfield Manor is Bennett Marshfield’s home, thought to be over 150 rooms in all—but with secret passageways and hidden rooms, who knows if that count is accurate?
Bennett’s comes from a long line of collectors. The mansion has been open to the public for some time, but Bennett has decided to promote tourism further by making a DVD that highlights some of the rooms and treasures.
Between the film crew, docents, tours, Bennett’s greedy stepdaughter Hillary, a found kitten, roommates, a sinking-fast love life and an assistant whose efficiency is only outweighed by her poor attitude, Grace has her hands full.
Grace receives word from another curator in California—thieves stole several small items and then during a fund raiser, caused a disturbance as a distraction and stole priceless items. Will Marshfield Manor’s slowly upgrading security be able to prevent the same thing happening there? Especially worrisome is Bennett’s casual treatment of a diamond and sapphire encrusted tiara.
This book gives a great look to the behind the scenes details involved in making the running of a business look effortless. Detectives Rodriguez and Flynn are back and better than ever, Ronny Tooney too and more helpful this time around. A murder, a shooting, the film crew, thefts—and a possible new love interest, keep Grace on the run.
Although I figured out the identity of the thieves before the end, there are enough plot twists and sub-plots to keep the book interesting right up to the last word. Very likeable characters (even Frances the dour assistant), good plotting, and a glimpse of the super-rich lifestyle Bennett leads, make me want to read more.
Grace Under Pressure
Hearse and Buggy by Laura Bradford
Claire Weatherly craved a simple lifestyle. Too bad she married Peter, a high-stress, high-maintenance kind of guy. Fleeing the big city lifestyle, she retreats to her Aunt Diane’s bed and breakfast in Amish country.
Claire discovers she likes the town and people of Heavenly, Pennsylvania so much that she wants to stay but needs a job of her own. What better than to open a shop to sell Amish handicrafts? She’s able to learn a lot from her shop assistant, Esther. For all the simplicity of their lives, the Amish have rules to live by and rarely deviate from them. It’s the deviations that cause chaos.
Next door to Claire’s shop is the bakery. Eli comes by several times a day, in spite of his work on the farm, just to check on his sister, Ruth—or maybe to grab a moment to talk to Esther? Ruth’s business starts having problems but is it vandalism or something worse? Milk bottles are broken, pie boxes stolen, and a letter posted on the door states that Ruth’s baked goods make people sick.
All those problems fade into the background when Walter Snow, former shop owner who cheated the Amish by selling high to tourists and paying low to Amish, is found strangled behind the shop and the bakery. Eli’s known for his un-Amish like fast temper and ill thought comments. Arnie is always around to gather information for his thesis on the Amish way of life. Walter’s wife accused Eli and his brother, Benjamin of murder. And then there are all the Amish families who were cheated.
Claire finds she’s attracted to Benjamin but he’s Amish and she’s English. If they became more than friends, he’d be shunned from the community. Then there’s the new police detective, a Heavenly native, Amish by birth, shunned for leaving Heavenly to become a law enforcement officer after he’d been baptized. It’s seen as turning his back on his family, community and faith—no one is allowed to speak to him. Claire is helpful in acting as liaison between her new Amish friends and the detective.
As Claire learns more about the Amish, she learns more about herself—her likes, dislikes, desire for her own home, the love she has for her aunt, the enjoyment she gets from crafting items for the shop and more importantly, how a once-burned heart might open to the idea of love again.
This book is first in a new series. The town of Heavenly and its people have a depth not always found in cozy mysteries. The murderer was unexpected, the relationships complex and it will leave you wanting more.
Hot Button by Kylie Logan
In the first book, Button Holed, Josie Giancola got plenty of publicity for her new button shop. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all about the buttons. The chance to chair the annual conference for the International Society of Antique and Vintage Button Collectors was supposed to be a chance to change all that. Convincing reclusive Thad Wyant, Western button expert and the owner of the only known authenticated Geronimo button, to be the guest speaker is an accomplishment that will be talked about for years.
Except—Thad isn’t at all what Josie expects a recluse or a Western button collector to be. He’s loud, he drinks too much and he’s high maintenance. Before long, he’s also dead.
Suspects abound after it’s discovered he’s made shady deals with more than one collector—and all for the Geronimo button—and stolen from a vendor whose handmade one-of-a-kind awl turns into the murder weapon. Meanwhile, details of the convention, details Josie knows she’s checked more than once, are falling through. The order for salads was cancelled, the make your own milkshake dessert too, microphones don’t work and buttons disappear.
Detective Nevin Riley is back as well as Josie’s ex-husband Kaz, who is being ever-so-helpful which usually means he’s working in his own interests. That proves to be the case once again. To top it off, Donovan Tucker, documentary film maker as he describes himself, is rumored to be on hand to film another expose’. If that’s not enough to worry about, Josie finds herself the target of a new suitor—Daryl who knows nothing about buttons but claims to be a collector and a mousy woman who is seen but disappears each time before Josie can question her.
Button trivia is nicely spread throughout the book and the mystery and sub-plots move well. The characters are likeable, even Kaz who always has a hidden agenda that involves other women or gambling.
Enjoy the two books now out and be ready for the next—Panic Button, coming soon from Berkley Prime Crime.
To enter to win a copy of all four Penguin mysteries, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “More Summer”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 11, 2012. U.S. residents only.