by Cynthia Chow & Sandra Murphy
This week we are once again playing catch-up, this time with mysteries involving food or pets in some way-A Cold Nose for Murder: A Chatty Corgi Mystery by Jennifer Hawkins, A Hint of Mischief: A Fairy Garden Mystery by Daryl Wood Gerber, Five Belles Too Many: A Sarah Blair Mystery by Debra H. Goldstein, Death of an Ice Cream Scooper: A Hayley Powell Mystery by Lee Hollis, and Gone But Not Furgotten: A Cat Café Mystery by Cate Conte. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 5 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.
A Cold Nose for Murder: A Chatty Corgi Mystery by Jennifer Hawkins
Review by Sandra Murphy
Liza and her husband Sam took over the Roundhead Pub when Sam’s father retired. In the basement, there’s an opening to an old tunnel, likely used for smuggling back in the day. A safety hazard for explorers and kids of all ages, it’s been blocked off for many years.
There’s more betting about what will be found in the tunnel than there was when Al Capone’s safe was opened on live television. No one had guessed it would be an expensive motorcycle and a long dead body.
Emma and her Corgi, Oliver, are among the crowd in the basement when the tunnel is opened. Oliver has a special talent. When he speaks, everyone hears typical barks and whines—except Emma. To her, Oliver speaks perfect English. Of course, there are miscommunications sometimes when Oliver doesn’t explain things well or doesn’t know the right word to use. So far, no one has discovered their secret.
Being a Corgi, Oliver is a curious little guy. While all the people are herded back to the pub and crime scene tape is across the tunnel, Oliver decides it would be helpful to sniff out clues. He was part of an investigation before and wants to be again.
In the basement he meets up with Pippa, the local reporter who uses him as an excuse to be there: “the dog went into the tunnel so I had to go after him.” Anything for a story.
And so starts the unraveling of a forty-year-old mystery of a stolen Black Lightning Limited Edition motorcycle with a sidecar and a missing but not missed man named Sonny.
Who knew Sonny’s bones would continue to cause as much trouble for townspeople as his life choices did forty years ago?
Emma and Oliver are an entertaining pair. With a stellar nose for clues, he has a mind that moves faster than his little legs can carry him. He holds a grudge against a coyote that invades his garden and has no fondness for cats. Emma is a thoughtful woman, an excellent baker, and good friend. When Sonny’s reappearance threatens to derail the lives of people she holds dear, she has to act.
This is the third book in the series. There’s no way around it, you have to love Oliver. After the first few pages, it seems perfectly natural that Oliver speaks English. I look forward to their next adventure and you will, too.
A Hint of Mischief: A Fairy Garden Mystery by Daryl Wood Gerber
Review by Sandra Murphy
Courtney Kelly talks to fairies. It’s her job, of course. She runs a fairy garden and tea shop business in Carmel. There are classes for making fairy gardens and all the items anyone would need to build their own or she can customize them as gifts. When she’s offered her biggest job yet, she says yes, but that doesn’t mean she’s confident she can pull it off. The words ‘money is no object’ spark creativity and fear in equal amounts. After all, this is no kiddie party. It’s for adults. Farrah Lawson, a famous actress who met the others as a sorority sister, is joining the birthday bash.
Although Farah shows perfect manners to her public, in private, she’s not so nice. During a spa outing, there are screams—she thinks the technician ruined the arch of her eyebrows. Meanwhile, the other women are tired of Farrah’s smart remarks. When Farrah is poisoned, there’s no lack of suspects. Is it a new enemy or an old friendship gone sour? Despite the tragedy, the party will go on.
Courtney has her hands full with a commission for a dozen large fairy gardens, more for a charity event, and there’s a thief running rampant through the area, something Carmel has never had. If that’s not enough, her ex shows up and wants to take Courtney to dinner, so she can meet his wife and kids. Oh, yay.
Thanks to her fairy, Fiona, Courtney finds clues others miss. If only she can put them together to find the solution before the friends leave town.
This is the third book in the series. Fiona is growing into her wings and is a delight. Courtney has convinced her doubting father that even though he doesn’t believe in fairies, others do and can see them. Her business is going well and it looks like she might have a love life. She’s someone you’d love to spend time with, making fairy gardens, and hoping to see a fairy for yourself.
Courtney shares recipes for apricot preserves tea cake with a warning that it’s a very sticky cake, brookies (brownie and cookie combo), chocolate crinkle cookies, fairy cookies, raspberry lemon scones, avocado toast with bacon, green salsa topping, cauliflower poppers, and ranch dressing. Gluten-free recipes for each included.
Five Belles Too Many: A Sarah Blair Mystery by Debra H. Goldstein
Review by Sandra Murphy
Reality shows are all the rage. Run around naked on an island, learn to dance or sing, out cook a competitor, do whatever it takes to win is the main theme. While the shows might be fun to watch, it’s not something Sarah Blair would ever try. What could be worse? Having your mom as a contestant and chaperoning her, that’s what.
Maybelle and her, um, ‘friend’ George Rogers were chosen to be on the Southern Belles reality show. Five couples are competing in a variety of challenges to see who will win a dream wedding and honeymoon. Sarah’s worried—what if they win?
Her mother is more practical and says, no matter the topic of a reality show, there are always likely contenders so the audience will pick sides and root for their choice, sure losers who can and will be eliminated early on, maybe a dark horse who shows surprising promise, and the older, lovable couple who will stay on until the middle when sadly, they’ll be sent packing.
The best part of the deal is meals are scheduled at Southwind, where Emily, Sarah’s twin, is one of the owner/chefs. The worst part is contestants and chaperones are to stay at Jane’s Place, Jane being an enemy of both Sarah and Emily. Mostly Sarah. Jane’s not happy about the deal and is never shy about her unhappiness.
When one of the show’s creators is found dead, Jane was kneeling by the body, her hands covered in blood. Ditto when a second murder occurs. To protect her mom and George, get Southwind the publicity it deserves, and as an act of unappreciated kindness, Sarah decides to investigate and save Jane from a life behind bars, as appealing as that sounds at times.
Will Sarah be able to find the killer before the final episode wraps? Just keep in mind, whatever you think you know, you’re wrong.
This is book five in the series. Sarah lives with her Siamese cat, Rah Rah, and Fluffy, her rescue dog. With her job in a law office, helping with the restaurant (not the cooking!), and spending time with Cliff, a local contractor, she hardly has a minute to spare. What will book six bring? Given hints dropped, it’s going to be interesting to find out.
Sarah’s someone you’d want for a friend but if you’re hungry, Emily’s the one to go to. At the back of the book, find recipes for breakfast biscuits, honey baked apples, and baked pears.
Death of an Ice Cream Scooper: A Hayley Powell Mystery by Lee Hollis
Review by Cynthia Chow
Hayley Powell is looking forward to the visit from her son Dustin, who moved to Los Angeles for college and then to work as an animator. Hayley is warned by her daughter that Dustin is bringing a surprise, and that it’s a big one. Gemma was completely underselling it, though, as the twenty-year-old arrives not just with his new girlfriend, but with a girlfriend who is obviously into her eighth month of pregnancy. After getting over the shock of realizing that she’s going to be a forty-something grandmother, Hayley quickly adjusts and gets on board with baby clothes shopping and preparation.
Catering to some of MacKenzie’s pregnancy hunger pangs takes them to Bar Harbor Ice Cream, where owner Lynette Partridge creates outstanding creations for customers and local restaurants. One of the latter happens to be Hayley’s new restaurant Hayley’s Kitchen, and their connection is one of the reasons Lynette asks her for help. Someone has sent Lynette photos implying that her professor husband may be having an affair with one of his students, and Lynette is too mortified to ask him if it’s true. As The Island Times “Island Food & Spirits” columnist, Hayley has garnered herself a reputation for solving mysteries when not reviewing and writing about food, and she’s unable to turn down Lynette’s desperate request. That investigation is cut short when the women find the body of Miranda Fox in Lynette’s ice cream truck, with the death of Lynette’s staffer possibly being linked either to Professor Jamie or another of the staff.
An even worse candidate for murderer is Chet Barnes, the son of one of Hayley’s best friends. Chet’s obvious crush on Miranda had him banned from hanging around the ice cream shop, and Hayley fears that his obsession may have turned deadly. Chet’s own mother has a bit of a drama going on as well, as the abrasive Mona announces that she has finally found a great new man. Hayley should have been wary when their other BFF Liddy Crawford also meets the love of her life, a doctor who is happy to let the self-centered, rather materialist Liddy go on about her herself and her wants. True love is hard to find, and as things tend to do around Hayley and her friends when things go wrong they go very, very, wrong. But always in hilarious, chaotic, and outrageous ways.
There is so much fun catching up with Hayley, her hubby Bruce, and, of course Liddy and Mona that readers won’t even notice that a third of the novel has flown by before the murder occurs. It is truly rewarding to hear from Gemma and meet up again with Dustin, who were first introduced to readers as eye-rolling teenagers continually humiliated by their mother. While they have matured, Hayley has not, leading to her often being caught in the most awkward of situations.
The Island Food & Spirits columns interspersed throughout the novel continue to be a delight, as the recollections provide deeper meanings to the current story without depriving fans of her comical memories of family and food. The recipes are as boozy as they are tasty, and that includes those for both ice cream maker and hand mixed frosty treats. Liddy’s unabashed greed in brokering a real estate deal for TV news hosts brings Hayley into the circle of their Influencer daughters, who draw in millions of followers and loads of paying sponsors despite barely being of adult age. These always entertaining mysteries by the sibling writing team Lee Hollis never fail to elicit laughs as they satirize the latest social trends in pop culture. As the countdown begins on the wedding for Hayley’s daughter, readers should look forward to yet another delightful entry in the chaos of Hayley’s food and family-filled life.
Gone But Not Furgotten: A Cat Café Mystery by Cate Conte
Review by Cynthia Chow
Along with her Grandpa Leo and business partner Ethan Birdsong, Maddie James is co-owner of JJ House of Purrs, a cat shelter and human café built from her grandfather’s renovated home on Massachusetts’ Daybreak Island. While it has become her happy place, Maddie’s path to bliss has been helped along by Cass Hendricks, a metaphysical bookstore owner and tai chi instructor. So Maddie is more than willing to help when Cass asks for her help concerning one of his clients, a woman he fears has something of a cat problem. That is very much an understatement, as when Maddie and Cass go to the home of Laurel McKenna they find it overrun with felines hidden in the basement. They also find Laurel’s body at the bottom of her stairs, with her neck broken from a possible accident. The likelihood of it being something far more suspicious increases as it emerges that Laurel had no shortage of enemies, as her cat hoarding had made her a nuisance to both neighbors and animal lovers. For as much as Laurel may have believed that she was helping to save the cats, the lack of adequate hygiene put everyone at risk.
Although her grandfather Leo Mancini was the former police chief for Daybreak Harbor, the law enforcement department of the less prosperous Fisherman’s Cove don’t look fondly upon his or Maddie’s interference. That’s too bad, as when a sketchy police officer seems intent on quickly arresting Cass, there’s no way that Maddie will sit on the sidelines. Juggling local politics is almost as difficult as re-housing the nearly seventy cats they find in Laurel’s home, with the felines’ ages and health needs all requiring individual assessments. Since Laurel is not around to explain her initial goals or attempts to help her cats, it’s difficult to justify the horrific sanitary conditions or lack of proper veterinary care.
This sixth in the series takes a hard, but still sympathetic, examination into the problems of animal hoarding. What begins as an act of compassion can quickly escalate to a mental health concern, with the animals becoming as endangered by their savior as by the initial abandonment. Balancing out the darker side of hoarding are glimpses into Maddie’s much more controlled and friendly cat shelter, of course, helmed by her own rescue cat JJ. The unexpected arrival of her younger sister has Maddie fearing the worst from her flighty sibling, but Sam proves to be an expected master of social media promotion and rescue fundraising.
An additional murder midway through the novel escalates the tension, with a solution at the end that comes unexpectedly but still in a satisfying manner. Maddie’s investigation always seems justifiable and practical, with Grandpa Leo giving her believable law enforcement authority as they eliminate alibis and motives. This is a fun novel with a unique New England island setting that depicts local politics and the struggles of safe cat rescuing. The genial residents and business owners of Daybreak Harbor further make this a very welcoming and compelling read.
To enter to win a copy of all 5 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “food & pets” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 3, 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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