by Cynthia Chow
Three more new mysteries from Penguin this week–this time we focus on books and food: Murder in the Mystery Suite: A Book Retreat Mystery by Ellery Adams, Extra Sensory Deception: A Raven’s Nest Bookstore Mystery by Allison Kingsley and Death by Devils Breath by Kylie Logan. Details on how to win copies of all 3 at the end of this post, along with a link to purchase them where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Murder in the Mystery Suite: A Book Retreat Mystery By Ellery Adams
Review by Cynthia Chow
When Jane Steward moved to Storyton, Virginia six years ago, it was as a pregnant widow to help Aunt Octavia and Uncle Aloysius run their resort, Storyton Hall. Now, Jane is the manager of the book-themed English-style resort and the mother of twin boys, Fitzgerald and Hemmingway. Inspired by a ride on a library ladder and her sons’ cosplaying, Jane organizes Mayhem and Murder Week, an event where guests can spend a week dressed as their favorite mystery book’s characters. There will be scavenger hunts, trivia contests, and mystery-inspired banquets
Before the event even begins there’s a mysterious death. Edwin Alcott, brother to Jane’s best friend, enters in a scene worthy of any gothic romance novel; on horseback in a galloping attempt to rescue the damsel on a runaway horse. In spite of his heroics, the woman dies. Readers of romances will also recognize Edwin’s embodiment of the traditional hero—abrupt, haughty, broody, oblivious to common courtesy but utterly handsome and debonair. That he also intends to open a gourmet sandwich cafe makes him an irresistible; a Mr. Rochester who can cook.
Felix Hampden, as detective Umberto Ferrari, wins the prize of a first edition book of letters written by his character’s creator but he certainly doesn’t win any friends in the process. Other guests are intent on buying the book from him. Aunt Octavia’s confession to a mix up and her request to recover the book spurs Jane into action. Uncle Aloysius and Aunt Olivia embody the characters of Jack Sprat and his wife. Octavia’s ill health has Jane willing do anything to protect the woman who truly inspires Storyton Hall.
In a tonal and thematic twist, Jane is given the unbelievable news that the Steward family members are stewards in name and in their calling—think along the lines of the movie, The Librarian. This means Jane must recover the book, learn her new position within the resort, and still manage to entertain the guests with parlor games and a costume ball. Additional deaths endanger the lives of all of the guests and could imperil the future of Storyton Hall.
In this very original debut mystery by an experienced author, touching moments of human emotions are explored as Aunt Octavia faces the fear that comes with physical therapy, a change of lifestyle, and loss of control. The unique twist allows the author to add an element of adventure and fantasy.
Storyton Hall is an amusement park of a resort with enviable secret rooms, hidden passageways, and thematic rooms. Every book lover would love to dawdle in the Jane Austen parlor, Ian Fleming Lounge, Madame Bovary Dining Room, and the Kipling Cafe. The future installment hints at an action-thriller level character, ensuring a continued blend of romance, mystery, and humor to create a suspenseful and compelling read.
Extra Sensory Deception: A Raven’s Nest Bookstore Mystery by Allison Kingsley
Review by Cynthia Chow
For the first time, Finn’s Harbor, Maine, is hosting a rodeo for the Memorial Day weekend. Normally, Raven’s Nest owner Clara Quinn would appreciate anything that brings tourists to the bookstore she owns with her cousin Stephanie. Not this time though, because the moment Clara sees a poster promoting the event, she has a vision of a rodeo clown meeting his traumatic demise. With the number of clowns scheduled to be at the event, this is one celebration that Clara would rather avoid.
Clara attempts to put her qualms behind her, especially after she meets her boyfriend Rick Sanders’ buddy, calf roper Wes Carlton. Clara’s inherited Quinn Sense may have been off the mark because a young woman is murdered at the rodeo. Wes is the prime suspect. Rick asks Clara to help him prove Wes’ innocence. Clara may have faced murderers in the past but is anything more frightening than a clown?
Although Clara is adjusting to the Quinn Sense which allows her to see visions of the future, she never fully trusted it. After all, it didn’t warn her off the relationship that broke her heart. Even more disconcerting, Clara has started to develop skills that include the ability to hear other people’s thoughts, sense if they’re lying, and mentally communicate with her dog Tatters. Her skills aren’t infallible and deciphering their clues can be as difficult.
In this fourth of the Raven’s Nest Bookstore Mystery series, Clara still struggles with her gifts while she begins to trust her loved ones with her secret. The paranormal elements are relatively low key as Clara pursues the more mundane detecting tasks of questioning the quirky personalities inhabiting the traveling rodeo. Those unique characters, and the likable cast who inhabit Finn’s Harbor, make this an entertaining and light-hearted mystery that retains a realistic atmosphere. Book lovers will appreciate the bookstore and literary-loving setting, paranormal fans will enjoy the hints of magic and mystery lovers will be perplexed by the plot that contains very human motivations for murder. Humor, witty dialogue, and charismatic characters populate both the charming little town and this intriguing series.
Death by Devils Breath By Kylie Logan
Review by Cynthia Chow
A booth in a Las Vegas fake rodeo town may not be the classiest venue for Maxie Pierce to sell her chili seasonings and supplies but she’s game to do anything to help support her missing father’s Texas Jack Pierce’s Ha-Cha Chili Palace. If the tacky setting irritates her pretentious half-sister Sylvia, well, that’s just a bonus. The cherry on top is that the half-siblings are assigned to work out of a fake bordello in a wing of Creosote Cal’s Casino and Hoedown Hotel.
Maxie revels in all things chili, so she was especially looking forward to the Devil’s Breath contest which features the hottest of hot chili recipes. The third string, C-list celebrity judges may not be impressive but it’s Dickie Dunkin who wins the prize for being the most obnoxious. After the tasteless provocateur comedian insults everyone, it’s not too shocking that he drops dead in the middle of judging. His inside “jokes” were malicious taunts guaranteed to put himself on someone’s murder list.
What’s Vegas without a wedding? The Reverend Linda Love plans to break a record by marrying the most couples in a Nevada Western-themed setting at one time. Not that that holds any appeal for Maxie, whose previous ex cleaned out her banking account when he wasn’t charging up her credit card. If only Maxie could get hot and mysterious Nick Falcone, head of security, out of her mind. When the former police officer isn’t saving her from her own investigative mistakes, he’s frustratingly appealing and sympathetic.
Sylvia’s self-centered and self-righteous attitude grates on Maxie’s nerves, but Maxie isn’t exactly innocent herself. She loves nothing more than goading and poking at the uptight Sylvia. Considering that Maxie’s mother stole both a job and the husband from Sylvia’s mother…well the pair redefine sibling rivalry. Their race to recover Jack Pierce’s secret prize-winning recipe looks tame compared to the hostility Maxie faces in the form of Bernadette Kromski, a past-her-prime stripper and another of Jack’s love interests.
I love Maxie. She has no problem retaliating against a brat’s silly string attack, admires a long playing con for the commitment involved, and enjoys being costumed as the dancing Chili Chick in stilettos, and fishnet stockings. Maxie is deeply flawed and heartbreakingly aware of it. Sharp humor covers the sadness of a young woman’s need to find her idealized father. The author balances the two tones skillfully. Witty dialogue, numerous suspects, and a strong development of characters highlight the strength of writing by an author with numerous series under her belt. Whether writing paranormal mysteries under the name Casey Daniels, or cozy mysteries as Kylie Logan, the author continues her record of entertaining readers with insightful characters and laughter.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “three,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 30, 2014. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
Click on this link to purchase any of these books & a portion goes to help support KRL!