by Cynthia Chow
This week we have reviews & giveaways of some more fun mysteries that have been released this summer. We have fashion, food and libraries-A Passion for Haunted Fashion: A Haunted Vintage Mystery by Rose Pressey, Bear Witness to Murder: A Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mystery by Meg Macy, Cake and Punishment: A Southern Cake Baker Mystery by Maymee Bell, Murder Made to Order: An All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery by Lena Gregory, and Shelved Under Murder: A Blue Ridge Library Mystery by Victoria Gilbert. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 5 books, along with links you can use to purchase them.
A Passion for Haunted Fashion: A Haunted Vintage Mystery by Rose Pressey
Review by Cynthia Chow
The owner of the It’s Vintage Y’all boutique in Sugar Creek, Georgia, nothing gets Cookie Chanel’s heart racing more than the discovery of a 1940s Dior dress or an authentic hoop skirt. Well, encountering yet another ghost seeking to find peace probably comes close, and it’s been happening ever since Cookie found the spectre of Charlotte Meadows haunting the fashionista’s fashion collection. Charlotte hasn’t expressed any interest in moving along to the next plane of existence any time soon, but she is willing to help other ghosts find their way as long as it’s Cookie doing most of the legwork. Peggy Page is the latest ghost haunting Cookie’s life, and until she remembers anything before 1956 she seems content to hang around for the ride. And a bumpy one it will be, as within the same theater they find Peggy, they also discover Cookie’s best friend Heather Sweet, covered in blood, and standing over the body of her fellow amateur actor, Morris Palmer.
While Morris’s ghost fails to appear and identify his killer, Peggy and Charlotte are more than willing to hang around and provide dubious advice and encouragement. More helpful is the spirit of Cookie’s grandmother, now inhabiting the body of Wind Song, a Ouija board-reading and tarot card-manipulating cat who provides invaluable hints and clues. As Heather pessimistically spirals into depression as she awaits being arrested, Cookie and Company investigate the rest of the cast of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof while also attempting to discover how Peggy met her fate.
Mileage may vary on readers’ tolerance for the ghosts in Cookie’s life, as having their constant presence and unwanted criticism continually being voice would test the patience of most sane individuals. Cookie has become accustomed to Charlotte’s forthright opinions, though, and doesn’t even seem to mind the ghosts being third and fourth wheels on dates with her boyfriend, Detective Dylan Valentine. Alternately chapter headings provide hilarious “Fabulous Afterlife” advice from Charlotte and clever Vintage Shopping hints from Cookie. They perfectly capture the voice of both women, with Charlotte’s being characteristically blunt and acerbic while Cookie’s are far more helpful for fashion aficionados. Snarky humor, an engaging heroine, and an abundance of vintage fashion details are the highlights of the fun romp of a mystery.
Bear Witness to Murder: A Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mystery by Meg Macy
Review by Cynthia Chow
Oktobear Fest is off to a rocky start in this second of the undeniably cute Teddy Bear Mystery series. The manager of her family’s Silver Bear Shop and Factory, Sasha Silverman is kicking off the Oktobear Fest with the First Annual Cranbeary Tea Party, where young gentlemen and ladies dine on tiny pastries with handmade furry companions. Not so cute is the presence of Holly Parker, Sasha’s old high school nemesis who seems intent on continuing the rivalry by opening a competing toy and bookshop. Holly’s presence and patronizing attitude does less to disrupt the event than Flynn Hanson, Sasha’s legal-eagle ex-husband who arrives to serve a lawsuit on the mayor. Sasha was steadfast in moving past her life with the philandering Flynn, although her mother seems slow to receive the message in light of her inexplicable determination to bring him back into the family.
Revelries are disrupted when Sasha’s appropriately teddy-bear-resembling dog Rosie leads them to a body lying next to Holly’s MINI Cooper. Not only does Flynn become a suspect, but so do the mayor and numerous other Silver Bear residents. Sasha “bearly” has time to focus on the murder, as she’s too busy helping with the teddy bear factory tours, haunted maze, Oktobear Fest Teddy Bear Parade, and art sculpture competition. Sasha’s sister Maddie has her own polka bear to finish designing, while her artist boyfriend Kip’s perfectionism is testing all of their patience with his tweaks and alterations. Teddy bear thievery, vandalism, and murder will all challenge Sasha’s ability to juggle her duties as she dodges her mother’s match-making schemes, which seem all the more absurd as even more of Flynn’s transgressions emerge.
Living up to its sobriquet as “A Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mystery,” this novel celebrates the artistry and tradition of the long-adored toy. As the head of her family’s custom teddy bear store, Sasha also proves to be as likable as she is admirable. So it’s infuriating to see her pressured by her mother, dodge sleazy come-ons by her ex, and be harassed by the aggressively insolent Holly. Fortunately, Sasha has the loving support from her father, sister, and the woodworking artist charming his way into her life. Cozy lovers will appreciate the teddy bear-themed town events, while mystery lovers will be drawn into the nefarious activities ensuing throughout. It’s impossible not to fall in love with this series, or be charmed by Sasha and her quirky friends.
Cake and Punishment: A Southern Cake Baker Mystery by Maymee Bell
Review by Cynthia Chow
Sophia Cummings may consider herself to be southern girl at heart, but it still took her ten years to return back home to Rumford, Kentucky. Of course, the shine of Manhattan wore off after she discovered her chef boyfriend cheating on her with the maître d’, which is why Sophia left her prestigious job as the head pastry chef to shuffle home and lick her wounds. Sophia’s mother Bitsy is delighted to have her daughter home, and despite the number of times Sophia insists that it’s just for a few weeks, even she can’t stop herself from committing to baking the wedding cake for her high school BFF Charlotte Harrington. Sophia’s promise to create the perfect fairytale pastry is off to a shaky start when she arrives at the Rumford Country Club only to find their head chef Emile bludgeoned to death with a frying pan. Knowing that no chef would keep an unseasoned cast iron pan in his kitchen, Sophia suspects that the secret of delicious Southern cuisine is also a clue in the murder of the French-food chef.
As she whips up her special Red Velvet Crunchies (recipe included), Sophia rediscovers her passion and love for baking. Her heart may be bruised, but creating and enjoying baked goods always paves the way towards a mended soul. The one stumbling block is how everyone in Rumford believes that the general manager Evelyn Moss, the woman who helped to inspire Sophia’s love of baking, finally cracked after one too many arguments with the murdered chef. Keeping her vow to craft the perfect wedding cake for her bestie only gets more difficult when the one person Sophia never expected – or wanted – to see again arrives in town to become the country club’s replacement head chef.
This prolific author may be better known under the name Tonya Kappes, but she is still easily recognizable through her creation of likable characters and sparkling humor. The mystery is crafted so well that few will see the final reveal, but the real attraction for this debut series is the introduction of such a relatable new heroine. Sophia slowly gets her footing back through her love of baking, which in itself is grounded in the joy she sees when sharing her treats with others. Sophia may discover that leaving home is far more difficult that she ever could have imagined, especially with her subconscious sabotaging her through the additional birthday cakes and confections she agrees to make. A little nudge in the romance department may make her decision whether to go somewhat easier, but it is the love she finds when baking that may be the critical piece in finding her true home. This is the start of a heart-warming, mouth-watering, and Southern-loving new series.
Along with Sophia’s Red Velvet Crunchies, other recipes for mouthwatering treats are included: Surprise Puffs, Southern Skillet Apple Pie, Banana Pudding Cupcakes, Kentucky Butter Capcakes, and Kentucky Derby Pie.
Murder Made to Order: An All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery by Lena Gregory
Review by Cynthia Chow
In order to escape the bad memories of the financial crimes of her ex-husband, Gia Morelli fled New York City and moved to Boggy Creek, Florida, where she opened her dream of the All-Day Breakfast Café. Although she’s not completely sold on Florida’s seasonless, sunny winters, Gia is infuriated that the town council is suddenly threatening to enforce the zoning that places her restaurant in residential zoning. Leading the charge to have the café closed is Maybelle Sanford, a woman who barely managed to work at the All-Day for one day but has since made it her mission to make Gia’s life miserable. Gia is unfamiliar with the Council President, something quickly remedied when Marcia Steers demands on a private meeting with Gia, only to turn up dead on a wood trail before that can happen.
On the negative side of living in Florida are poisonous snakes, turtle-chomping alligators, logs with “eyes,” and active tornadoes. Definitely on the positive for Gia has been meeting Detective Hunter Quinn, but he is suspended and taken off the case as a result of his personal connection with the victim. Savannah Mills, Gia’s best friend and the one responsible for luring her to Boggy Creek, is more than willing to assist investigating in his place, especially when it turns out that the reason for Marcia’s death may be connected to that of Savannah’s mother’s twenty years ago. Gia does her best to follow the orders of Captain Hayes to stay out of his way, but that becomes impossible when her home is nearly burnt down and she feels the eyes of a stalker upon her.
This is one of those novels that sneaks up on readers and draws them into a complex, completely unpredictable mystery. Much of the novel explores Gia’s adjustment to living in muggy, boggy Florida, and this proves to be just as exciting and enjoyable as the murder. Who know that kayaking with alligators wasn’t entirely terrifying? Gia herself is an extremely likable, clever, and very rational woman, and her involvement in the crimes never feels forced or out of place. Gia’s growing Bernese Mountain puppy Thor delights with his adorableness, and he admirably serves and protects his owner. Descriptions of Gia blending together the tantalizing ingredients for pancakes are luxurious, and her contemplation over where she fits within the community so relatable. The depiction of characters facing their fears and the risk of being hurt, all in order to find true happiness, adds a deeper layer to this always entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable novel.
Shelved Under Murder: A Blue Ridge Library Mystery by Victoria Gilbert
Review by Cynthia Chow
Taylorsford, Virginia’s tourist season kicks into high gear very October, when leaf-peepers descend to admire the autumn foliage and the Heritage Festival celebrates history and local artists. In fact, one of their most famous artists is donating three of her paintings to the Friends of the Library sale, so Library Director Amy Webber volunteers to drive to Rachel LeBlanc’s gallery to pick them up. The timing proves to be unfortunate, though, as Amy has the bad luck to find the artist dead, stabbed to death with her own palette knife.
Although they identify the man seen fleeing the scene as the boyfriend of Rachel’s troubled daughter, an unexpected discovery within the art studio complicates the situation. Amy’s aunt is quick to believe that shady art dealer Kurt Kendrick must be involved, but Amy begins to have doubts as they learn of her uncle’s role in past events. Amy’s college degree in art gives her an entry point into the investigation, which quickly leads into the complicated and profitable worlds of art collections, fraud, and theft. That doesn’t mean that she won’t have time for a trip to New York City, where for the first time Amy sees her boyfriend Richard Muir excel in his element. Watching the brilliantly talented ballet dancer and choreographer perform brings out some of her deepest held insecurities, though, forcing her to decide just how committed a relationship they will have. She’s not alone in dealing with the reassessment of relationships, though, as Aunt Lydia must also decide whether her first love will be her last, or if she is finally ready to move on.
One of the many joys of this series is seeing the development of the relationship between Amy and Richard, especially as the more we learn about his character, the more we love. While they may face some stumbling blocks in the near future, readers will become fully invested in seeing their story progresses. This second in the series expands on characters introduced in the first novel, revealing unexpected facets to their personalities that make them very realistically complex and morally ambiguous. The author’s love and knowledge of the inner workings of libraries cannot be overlooked, emphasizing Amy’s dedication to her job and her love for her profession. The occasional complications that occur when dealing with the Friends of the Library comes into play as well, especially when it becomes personal between their president and Amy’s family. While book and library lovers will of course adore the setting, the enjoyable characters, exploration of the art world, and intricate plotting are what will truly attract mystery fans to this delightful series.
To enter to win copies of all 5 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “summer reading,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 18, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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