by Sandra Murphy
We have 4 final August Penguin mysteries to review & giveaway-Shear Trouble by Elizabeth Craig, Taken In by Elizabeth Lynn Casey, Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran, and If Catfish Had Nine Lives by Paige Shelton. Details at the end of this post on how to win copies of all 4, and a link to purchase them where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Shear Trouble By Elizabeth Craig
Review by Sandra Murphy
It’s almost time for the quilt show and too many of the members of the Village Quilters are not nearly ready. In order for everyone to finish, Posy, owner of the fabric shop, has offered her back room to host a quilting bee type evening for the guild. Newer members who might need a little assistance will be able to ask for help while more experienced members finish their projects or start a new one.
Members of the rival guild are in the same quandary. Phyllis, one of their “stitchers” wants to defect. Her former fiancé, Jason, is now dating the overbearing Martha and Cut-Up meetings are just about intolerable. Once Martha hears about the quilt-a-thon, she asks to participate too, much to the dismay of the rest of the quilters, Phyllis in particular.
Phyllis assures everyone that she holds no grudge against Jason even though it’s rumored he left town with quite a bit of her money seven years ago. She wasn’t the only one. He managed to bilk a number of people and now has had the nerve to return and act like nothing ever happened. People don’t forget that quickly–or forgive.
On quilting day, Phyllis is upset that she can’t find her new shears. Not only were they expensive but she hadn’t even had a chance to use them yet. She’s probably just nervous and mislaid them after Jason showed up to check in with Martha. Everyone is expecting fireworks at that point.
However, things remain relatively calm until Beatrice finds the missing shears out in the front room of the store–stuck in Jason’s chest. Telling the group what’s happened will be hard enough but given Martha’s love of drama; it’s going to be even worse.
Suspects are plenty–the people Jason cheated years ago, the brother he left behind, Phyllis of course, and who knows what he’s been up to since he got back? For sure, one thing he did was to encourage Martha to end her support of her son’s art career. (Jason thinks she’s enabling Frank). Just because he’s never sold a piece doesn’t mean he’s not a real artist!
In fact, Frank looks like a great suspect until his body is found at the bottom of the steps at the church (again by Beatrice). Beatrice is always glad to help out but really, finding bodies is not what she had in mind. Was this an accident or murder? Frank didn’t even attend church so why was he there?
The over the top Meadow is back with her much more subdued policeman husband, Ramsay. He’d much rather read a book, one of those big, fat ones, than investigate a crime. Wyatt, the minister, is picking up the pace where interest in Beatrice is concerned. Dinners or even coffee dates are often cancelled or cut short when he gets requests for immediate spiritual aid but Beatrice isn’t going anywhere. Ash (Meadow’s son) and Piper (Beatrice’s daughter) had been moving closer to a Relationship (Relationship is much more than just dating) but something went wrong. They’ll get back together if Meadow has anything to say about it!
Georgia and Savannah (sisters) have seemingly come to a parting of the ways. They’ve been getting on each other’s nerves lately, what with one being a neatnik and one not so much. Will they be able to enjoy sharing a house again? Beatrice just might have the answer.
Readers will be glad to see Miss Sissy is still toddling along, hissing “Evil!” every chance she gets. A nap on the sofa in Posy’s shop and any food she can mooch, fixes her right up.
Boris, Meadow’s large and enthusiastic dog, and Noo-noo, Beatrice’s much better behaved Corgi get to show up a lot more often this time around. Boris has risen to genius level in Meadow’s opinion.
The murder isn’t an easy one to solve but there’s a satisfactory conclusion. The main characters are becoming more defined with each book. Side characters seem to demand equal time which adds to the story and side plots. This is the fourth in the series and each is more delightful than the last.
Previous books in the series are Quilt or Innocence, Knot What It Seams (reviewed for KRL), and Quilt Trip (also reviewed). In the back of the book are quilting tips and since the quilters can’t get together without food involved, recipes: Corny Corn Bread, Shrimp Pasta, Garlic Cheese Grits and Chicken Crescent Rolls. You’ll also find a sneak peek at the next book, due out in June 2015.
Taken In By Elizabeth Lynn Casey
Review by Sandra Murphy
Members of the Sweet Briar Ladies Society Sewing Circle have been invited to appear on a top-rated New York morning show to discuss their friendship and how it spans generations, from Tori, the youngest to Rose, the oldest. They’ll get posh hotel rooms and limo service, not to mention a chance to see the Big Apple.
For Dixie Dunn, it’s more than that. She signed up for an online dating service, much to the surprise of her friends. Even more shocking, she met someone. Dixie felt displaced ever since the library forced her to retire and hired Tori to fill the job. She’s tried a few things but nothing really caught her interest like the library did. Filling in for a staffer on maternity leave just made that point more obvious.
Behind Dixie’s back, members of the group have sent a few messages in Dixie’s name. They want her to sound more exciting. It seems to have worked because the man of Dixie’s dreams will meet them in New York. The others are worried that once he meets her and sees her wearing that old house dress, he’ll change his mind and head for the hills.
Unfortunately, they’ll never know because he takes a swan dive off the balcony at his hotel after spending time with Dixie. The police say he’s a gigolo and only out to take a woman’s money. That’s puzzling as Dixie doesn’t have the kind of money a gigolo would be interested in.
To make things worse, Leona, the fashion plate of the group and probably the wealthiest of them, met John years ago. She cannot figure out why a man like John would be interested in someone like Dixie, especially when Leona herself is in town.
The question becomes, was it an accident, suicide or murder?
The police think they have the answer to that and they arrest Dixie for John’s murder. The other members of the group can’t bear the thought of Dixie in jail, especially a big city jail, so they team together to find other victims of John’s charms which means other suspects with motives.
Tori and the rest of the women are out of their element in trying to solve this case. They’re used to small town ways and places where everyone knows everyone else. In NYC, nobody knows your name or cares.
The pressure is on. None of them can afford to stay at the hotel on their own dime and the studio, while interested in following the story, won’t stay on the hook forever. Walking is the fastest way to get around but is very wearing on Rose who refuses to stay behind.
The biggest pressure comes from the fact that Tori should be back in Sweet Briar, planning her wedding. However, they are aided and abetted by a new acquaintance, Charles, from the bookstore/coffee shop. He’s a delight in every scene and certainly lightens the mood from all the gloom of Dixie’s arrest.
This is the ninth book in the series. Authors can find it difficult to set the scene in a small town and then have a new murder or two for each book. The change of venue to NYC was a good plot twist as well as it shows the women still united in a cause in spite of a dim outlook.
At the end of the book, Dixie declares Charles to be one of them and he’s committed to come to Tori’s wedding. Readers can only hope Charles likes what he sees and wants more of small town life.
Let it Sew and Remnants of Murder, the two books that precede this one, were reviewed for KRL.
There is a pattern for Zipper Flower Pins and sewing tips; no recipes this time–the girls ate out!
Well Read, Then Dead By Terrie Farley Moran
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sassy Cabot and Bridget Mayfield own the combination bookstore and café called Read ‘Em and Eat in Fort Meyers Beach, Florida, in the barrier islands. They’ve got their regulars as well as the tourist crowd and business is moving right along. Until the murder, that is.
Miss Augusta Maddox is an outspoken, talk-to-anybody kind of person, rather loud but fun and charming as well. Her cousin Delia Batson, is just the opposite. She’s shy almost to the point of being invisible as she sits at the Emily Dickenson table to enjoy the food, books and conversations Augusta starts.
Usually in a cozy mystery, the victim is the most disliked person you meet on the page. It’s a shock to read that Delia has been murdered. That’s not a spoiler, readers can see that on the back cover of the book. The mystery becomes not only who did it, but a why? What on earth could Delia have done to warrant such a response?
Sassy and Bridget are in a position to hear a lot of gossip, ask a few questions and figure things out as they serve scones or sell books and Augusta knows it. She’s afraid no one will care about one little old lady getting killed so she asks them to help get to the bottom of the mystery.
Skully is a possible suspect but he’s hard to find. He’s been known to lurk around Delia’s house at odd hours. Delia’s cat, Bow, is missing too but was it a catnapping or did Bow escape during the murder? Did she witness the deed?
On the tourist side, there are wreckers in the area–wreckers meaning searchers for sunken treasure on wrecked ships just off the coast. They are much too aggressive though so what secret are they hiding?
If that’s not enough, somebody wants to buy Delia’s island and turn it into a high end resort. People have come up with that idea before and Delia has always just said no. This time, there’s a pushy real estate agent who finds that answer unacceptable.
In the café, Miguel has fallen and won’t be able to cook his delicious meals so it’s Aunt Ophie to the rescue. She’s a good cook (look for her Buttermilk Pie recipe at the back of the book) but she’s a messy one. There are pots and pans everywhere, arguments about Swiss cheese on a hamburger (the Swiss Family Robinson Cheeseburger calls for it, Ophie’s against it), and her over the top, overbearing, but sweet Southern charm infuriates as it enchants, depending on where she aims it.
The mystery is a good one with plenty of suspects, motives and opportunities to have done the murder. The characters are likeable and full of quirks, making the Read ‘Em and Eat a place readers wouldn’t just like to see but a second home where they can hang out with friends. Pull up a chair during the Potluck Book Club, have a glass of sweet tea and relax. It’s Florida, good books and good food.
If Catfish Had Nine Lives By Paige Shelton
Review by Sandra Murphy
Broken Rope, Missouri has quite a reputation. Pony Express riders roared into town to change horses faster than a pit stop at Daytona. There’s a cooking school, located right next to the cemetery, where else? Gram and Betts teach cooks from all over the country how to create Southern comfort food. The session has just ended and now it’s time for the town to host the first ever (at least for Broken Rope) cowboy poetry convention.
Broken Rope is a town set up to give tourist the feel of the Old West as storefronts and townspeople both dress the part. Behind the scenes, it’s regular life. Some days, it’s hard to keep the two separate.
Before the cowboys can recite much poetry, there’s a shooting in town and one of the actors is killed. Betts has helped investigate murders before but this is different since no one really knows the victim. On the other hand, Bett’s brother is a prime suspect. He was found wandering around, incoherent, no short-term memory and then there was the fact that he and the victim were both flirting with the same girl. Is that motive for murder?
Betts doesn’t want to wait to find out. After all, once the convention is over, the suspects will scatter back to their homes and be out of reach for questioning.
There’s one other aspect of Broken Rope that most people don’t know about. There are ghosts. Jerome is on hand whenever Betts is in danger. A Pony Express rider shows up periodically to deliver a piece of mail, many years after its intended due date. Once the mailbag is empty, what will happen to the rider? No one, including the rider, knows.
Betts has had a crush on Jerome for a while but no one realizes the futility of loving a ghost more than she does, especially now that she has a real live, in the flesh boyfriend. It’s not fair to him to keep mooning over Jerome, handsome and sweet as he is.
As always, Shelton weaves a good story with characters readers would want to meet and get to know in person (or in Jerome’s case, in ghostly vision if you’re one of the lucky few who can see him). I had an idea of two suspects but was kept guessing right up to the reveal.
At the back of the book is a brief history of the Pony Express, instructions for Dutch oven cooking over a fire, and recipes for peach cobbler, apple crisp, beef pot roast, cowboy stew, honey mustard pork chops and monkey bread (biscuits baked in a Dutch oven, with butter, cinnamon and sugar–no monkeys!)
Shelton is also the author of the Farmer’s Market mysteries (five books). Catfish is the fourth in the Country Cooking School series. Be warned: I’d bet the Monkey Bread is as addicting as the mysteries!
To enter to win a copy of all 4 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 6, 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!