End of August Mystery Catch Up!

Aug 29, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow

This week we have another fun group of mysteries-The Devil’s Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery by Carolyn Haines, A Royal Affair: A Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery by Allison Montclair, Night Shift: A Helping Hands Mystery by Annelise Ryan, Witch Hunt by Cate Conte, and Witches and Wedding Cake: A Magical Bakery Mystery by Bailey Cates. 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.

The Devil’s Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery by Carolyn Haines
Review by Sandra Murphy

Sarah Booth Delaney and her two best friends, Tinkie and Cece, have treated themselves to a spa weekend. A stay at a B&B, facials, massages, wonderful food, what could be a more relaxing weekend! Until the first body turns up of course. They’re in Lucedale, Mississippi, for Easter weekend, to celebrate Tinkie’s long-awaited pregnancy and to visit the miniaturized Holy Land display after sunrise services.

Rather than wait for an official tour of the gardens after the service, the trio decides to walk the route by themselves. That puts them in the right place at the right time to find the body of Perry Slay, sleaze-bag lawyer, known for tricking people out of their valuables and clogging the courts with nuisance lawsuits. No one will mourn his loss. In fact, potential suspects are happy to explain how much they hated him.

Eric is the town’s pharmacist, and he has a great reason to want Perry to suffer. Perry took advantage of Eric’s dying father. When Eric finds out Sarah Booth and Tinkie are private detectives, he hires them to prove he’s innocent. With too many suspects, they’ve got their work cut out for them. When a second body turns up, also implicating Eric, it’s starting to look like he’s been framed.

In the meantime, Cece meets a journalist who wants to hire her to be his partner. They spend their days following local stories and making plans. Tinkie and Sarah Booth? Well, they get shot at twice, find more motives, and less clarity.

This is book twenty-one in the popular series. Sarah Booth’s very own ghost, Jitty, is along for their weekend getaway, cryptic as ever. It seems as though the women are getting their heart’s desire—Tinkie a baby, Cece a new work challenge, and Sarah Booth, Coleman, the love of her life. If only things were so easy. Each will have to face daunting challenges along the way. With each book, they find strength they didn’t know they had. This one seems to be a bit edgier than usual which is a change for the better. The mystery has two subplots that keep the pace moving from beginning to end.

Look for book twenty-two, A Garland of Bones, coming this October, available for pre-order now.

A Royal Affair: A Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery by Allison Montclair
Review by Sandra Murphy

In 1946 London, Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge run the Right Sort Marriage Bureau. Men and women, interested in marriage but unable or unwilling to meet potential mates during their day to day routines, signup. Sparks and Gwen, make recommendations, often successful.

Now they’re commissioned by Lady Patience Matheson, Gwen’s cousin, to investigate on behalf of the Queen. The Princess is about to become engaged, but the potential groom, a Prince, must be vetted as suitable before that happens. Gwen and Sparks are given the barest facts to act upon and set out to find out the Prince’s background.

A blackmail note was delivered, threatening to reveal compromising letters that would destroy the couple’s happiness. Sparks and Gwen are motivated to do what they can for the Queen, to make a decent amount of money, and most importantly, to Gwen, be able to afford expanded office space that comes furnished with a partner’s desk.

When they are contacted by the blackmailer with details of where and when to meet, along with how much money to bring, they make their plan. Unfortunately, it all goes awry when the supposed blackmailer is killed moments before they arrive.

Even with Gwen’s ability to size up people and her knowledge of society manners and Sparks devious background with Special Forces during the war, it’s not easy for them to find their way through lies, misdirection, and betrayal to arrive at the truth.

This is the second in the series. Sparks and Gwen are an odd pairing, but they work well together. After Gwen’s husband was killed in the war, she had a bit of a breakdown, rendering her incompetent to manage her own life, in the eyes of the courts and her in-laws. They now control her money, her social life, and the fate of her son.

Sparks has to come to terms with living life as a civilian or going back to Special Forces and lingering trauma, what we would now call PTSD. Reading about all the branches of the royal families is a bit confusing at first but if you pay attention, the threat becomes clear. Moments of tension are nicely balanced with humor and mystery to bring about a satisfying read. I look forward to Sparks and Gwen’s next adventure.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. A Murder of Crows, edited by Sandra Murphy (a popular title so you need her name to search), has twenty-one cozy stories. Each features the collective name of an animal and a crime. The animals range from tarantulas, koalas, wolves, bears, jellyfish, toads, cats, dogs, alpaca, goats, penguins and more. No animals were harmed. The people weren’t so lucky. Available at the usual outlets, print or ebook.

Night Shift: A Helping Hands Mystery by Annelise Ryan
Review by Cynthia Chow

Social worker Hildy Schneider is excited to be a part of the trial program where she works in conjunction with the Sorenson Police Department. Helping Hands has Hildy and her trained therapy dog Roscoe doing ride-alongs with police officers, offering counseling, referrals, and whatever other resources that are needed for those in mental distress. One of their first encounters has them meeting Danny Hildebrand, a frequent patient at the hospital where Hildy works at her full-time job. While Danny’s medication usually controls his schizophrenic episodes, he is now out-of-control and claiming to have seen ghosts and a murder by gunshot. Hildy would have attributed these to bouts of delusions if not for the later discovery of farmer Arthur Fletcher, whose body is found shot to death at his own kitchen. When Roscoe leads them to crops that will never appear in your local supermarket, the threat level escalates even as Danny becomes one of the main suspects.

Hildy’s own struggles help her to relate and be sympathetic to her patients, and they are also what led her to Helping Hands in the first place. Raised in foster homes after her mother was murdered, Hildy continues to investigate the unsolved case in the hopes of tracking down the killer. Detective Brenda Joiner warns Hildy the same unknown man who fathered her could also be the one responsible for the crime, but Hildy’s vague memories dispute this. Growing up in foster homes has led to an obsessive – and unconscious – need to steal food, and she finds resisting the impulses almost impossible. It’s an embarrassing compulsion that she attempts to hide, so a nice diversion comes in the form of Detective Bob Richmond. Richmond’s inexperience in dating etiquette is charming and entertaining, that doesn’t mean that still won’t warn Hildy away from conducting her own investigations. That’s going to be futile when her protectiveness over Danny kicks in, even when it looks as though federal crimes and a much bigger threat looms over them all.

Fans of the prolific author’s Mattie Winston mystery series will enjoy seeing a brief cameo by Detective Steve Hurley, but the real stars here are Hildy and Roscoe. The exploration of mental health issues and how it affects law enforcement is compelling, and ultimately integral to the plot. Hildy is a fascinating character, one who has overcome a trouble past to help others facing similar challenges. Hildy shares with Mattie an often dark sense of humor and dry wit that is prevalent in those who daily confront death and damaged humanity. The writing is always lively and fast-paced, and leaves readers wanting more installments of Hildy and her involvement in Helping Hands. The mystery in Hildy’s past will hopefully continue to play out as she solves present-day crimes, but any impending appearance by Hildy and Roscoe will be welcome.

Witch Hunt by Cate Conte
Review by Cynthia Chow

As the owner of The Full Moon crystal shop, Violet Mooney should have expected life to be anything but normal. Her Grandma Abigail’s death the previous month meant losing her last family connection, and Violet’s abilities as a sensitive empath have her even more aware that life is North Harbor was about to be very weird. A much-needed healing circle with the local yoga studio is threatened by the objections of town official Carla Fernandez, who proclaims that Violet’s business jeopardizes the Connecticut town’s real estate value. When Carla is found dead in the public courtyard, Violet ascends to the top of the suspect list as a result of their equally public confrontation.

Violet’s distress over being interrogated pales in comparison to her seemingly panic-driven teleportation out of the police station, where she is later is met by an even more astounding surprise. After an absence of nearly thirty years, Violet’s mother Fiona Ravenstar returns to claim her daughter and announces their status as prominent witches of the Magickal Council. Violet can barely wrap her head around the inexplicable arrivals of an unknown sister and their negligent mother, let alone the existence of another plane where magic and witchcraft flourish. Fiona’s disdainful attitude towards mundane “Lulus” – named after the Lululemon yoga-pants-wearing women of North Harbor – certainly doesn’t help Violet to accept this new status, especially when her mother only seems to delight in the chaos caused by the realtor’s death. “Encouraging” Violet’s neighbor and BFF to move out of her apartment, Fiona and Zoe Ravenstar move in next door to bring Violet back into the witchcraft fold and take her place among the most powerful women on the planet. Of course, Violet has to first ensure that neither she nor her friends land in prison, which has her following a path of environmental protests, construction projects, and marital complications.

This first in the series engagingly and deftly introduces both Violet and readers into a realm where magic exists and an entirely new field of knowledge exists to be explored. The debut novel sets itself up as a compelling introduction to a fun paranormal mystery series, especially as Violet accepts her new family and the reasons they were shielded from her life. Fiona is an uncontrollable force as a character, leaving chaos in her wake as she casts off both spells and the boring people in her daughter’s life. Violet will have to make some hard decisions about her relationships as she embraces her new role, which will be as fascinating for readers as it will be challenging for her. The author of numerous mysteries written under the name Liz Mugavero, Conte presents a blend of mystery, magic, and loads of humor that starts off on a high note and promises even more intrigue for the future.

Witches and Wedding Cake: A Magical Bakery Mystery by Bailey Cates
Review by Cynthia Chow

Life for Katie Lightfoot couldn’t be more magical. Not only has she embraced her family’s legacy as kitchen hedgewitches able to wield magic through the cooking use of herbs and plants, in less than a week she will be marrying firefighter Declan McCarthy. The heady three months of planning have built up to a ceremony taking place in their renovated carriage house backyard in Savannah. Katie shouldn’t have tempted the fates by declaring that the wedding plans were going perfectly, though, as when going to meet Declan’s family she sees her harbinger totem dragonflies massing outside. Indeed, having an argument with Declan’s sister Rori in their rental home is Tucker Abbott, Rori’s ex-husband and a man whose appeal is…unnatural. Katie immediately realizes that Tucker’s charisma is enhanced by a glamour, which has considerably enabled his con-artist fraud schemes. So despite it being Rori who discovers her ex’s body at the Spotlight Motel, there is a considerable list of candidates whom Katie would prefer to see higher up on the police chief’s suspect’s list.

Claiming that she saw finally through Tucker’s superficial attractiveness, Rori asserts that she only went to see him at the motel in order to return a seemingly valueless music box and bring closure to their relationship. Combined with the warning of the dragonflies, Rori’s appeal for help ensures that Katie will once again be investigating a murder linked to magical crimes. Investigating Detective Quinn reluctantly accepts her ability to provide witchy insight, but this time he warns her away from getting too close to the case that involves her fiancé’s family. Also cautioning her from getting to close to the McCarthys is Steve Dawes, the Savannah Morning News reporter and Katie’s own ex. As much as Katie would prefer to experiment with flavors for her five-tier wedding cupcake tower, she can’t help but enlist her spellbook club of fellow witches as they track down those whose lives and finances were ruined by Tucker’s irresistible schemes.

This continues to be a heart-warming mystery series, one that showcases how mundane investigations can be enhanced by magical influences. The witches wield a light hand with their practice, and it becomes readily apparent that Tucker’s illicit use of glamour yields dark results. Katie uses her own knowledge and talent for good, motivated to help those she loves best. After Declan’s spiritual guardian sacrificed himself to save Katie, she is determined to use lucid dreaming to track Connell down and hopefully bring him back to this plane. It’s fitting that crimes committed as a result of humans meddling in magic is solved by the same combination, although in a much more peaceful and harmonious process. Spellwork, tasty recipes, an adorable Cairn terrier familiar, and of course, the genial camaraderie of family and covens all combine to deliver the perfect happily ever after for Katie Lightfoot and her newfound family.

To enter to win a copy of all 5 mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “august,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 5, 2020. 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.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A new episode went last week.

You can use this link to purchase any of these books from indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, and KRL gets a portion of the sale:

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Another great collection of books! Count me in!

  2. Amazing writers, and all the books sound great!

  3. These look like such great reads.

  4. Love Annelise Ryan- happy to see she has a new series out

  5. Great giveaway! All awesome authors, would love to read all of them. Thanks for the chance.

  6. They look interesting and fun to read!

  7. Wow! What an awesome collection of books! Look like great reads! Love the covers too!

  8. Wow! So many great authors… what a perfect way to end the summer. 🙂
    kimheniadis at gmail dot com

  9. Would love to get these, count me in! tWarner419(at)aol(dot)com

  10. I’d love to win these five.
    Some are new series and
    a couple are old faves.

  11. I’d love to win this set! I’ve read Annelise Ryan and love her books! JL_Minter(at)hotmail(dot)com

  12. We have a winner!

  13. They look like so much fun.


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