End of Summer Mystery Reading

Aug 31, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow

Here is another fun group of mysteries for your end of summer reading-Let’s Fake a Deal: Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery by Sherry Harris, Killer in the Carriage House: Victorian Village Mystery by Sheila Connolly, Knot on Her Life: A Quilting Mystery by Mary Marks, and Needled to Death: A Helping Hands Mystery by Annelise Ryan. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books, along with links you can use to purchase them. If you have ad blocker on you won’t see the Amazon links at the end of each review.

Let’s Fake a Deal: Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery by Sherry Harris
Review by Sandra Murphy

Sarah Winston is the person to call when it’s time for a garage sale. She knows the difference between something you collected and a collectible, what has sentimental value and what is worth serious cash. She organizes everything into categories, sets prices, haggles, and makes you more money than you would on your own. She’s also ripe for the picking for a thief.

Sarah has a good sense of people due to living on military bases and traveling with her now ex-husband for years. Now on her own, she’s continued that path. However, anyone is susceptible these days, and she finds herself in a bind at one of her garage sales—if being in a bind means finding herself face down on the ground, patted down, handcuffed, hauled away in the back of a patrol car, and accused of receiving stolen goods. The “sellers” are nowhere to be found. mystery

Michelle is a friend of Sarah’s days on base. She’s up for a promotion, but someone has filed a complaint against her. Michelle can’t find out who filed the complaint or its contents. The only clues come from questions asked of witnesses called.

Michelle says one of the men she works with wants to cause her trouble. When the man turns up dead, sitting in her car no less, it’s easy to put Michelle at the top spot on the suspect list. Sarah’s had some success in ferreting out clues to help the police before so she’s willing to help—while trying to keep herself out of jail!

This is book seven in the popular series. Sarah’s not just getting used to living alone but enjoying it. Although she no longer lives on base, she is able to take part in activities there as long as she’s sponsored by friends. Transfers in and out allow for a variety of characters to appear to keep the story fresh.

This is a complex story, with double plots, a potential romance, and the reality anyone can be hacked. Harris shows readers the difficulties military families face—one book tackles PTSD, military dogs and their importance to their handlers—and this one, the pressure on military wives. Rank is as important for the wives to respect as it is for their husbands. Some wives use it; some abuse it.

Harris weaves military life and civilian life, Sarah’s past and present, seamlessly, never distracting from the story but adding depth to it. Readers will enjoy a glimpse into life on a military base. The garage sale aspect adds a lot of fun, especially with Kitty, the cat-obsessed client who works as an accountant but dresses like a crazy cat lady. Her cat Toulouse will end up with his own fans. This book is destined for my Best of 2019 list.

Killer in the Carriage House: Victorian Village Mystery by Sheila Connolly
Review by Sandra Murphy

Kate Hamilton worked for an upscale hotel until it was bought out and the new company brought in all their own people. A call from an old friend sent her back to her hometown in an effort to save it. Basically, the town was bankrupt. Its founder left the town an old manufacturing plant, a mansion, and enough money for its upkeep until it sold. The problem was, there’s not much of a market for mansions. After the bank president embezzled the funds, the mansion was in as much trouble as the town.

mysteryKate’s idea is to turn the town into a Victorian village. The bones are there, covered in aluminum siding and ceiling tiles. Stores are empty or easily converted. They’re not far from Civil War sites, another way to attract tourists without being another battlefield to see.

In the mansion’s attic are boxes and boxes of documents. One contained letters from Clara Barton, an historical find but not enough to save the town. Kate hopes the other boxes are equally helpful. Since it’s too warm to study the papers in the attic, they’ll be moved to the town library, temporarily closed. While Kate’s at the library, scoping out the space, a young man asks to come in to research. Kate refers him to city hall and thinks no more about it.

Until his body is found in the library the next morning by Kate and a research helper, Carroll. It looks like he broke into the library through a window, climbed over a bookcase, and it fell on him. Kate doubts that’s what happened. The police agree.

The young man wasn’t the only stranger in town and Kate is suspicious of more than one of them. Saving the town is one thing. Finding a way to do it and solving a murder at the same time makes it a real challenge

This is the second book in the series. Kate is settling in, ready to implement her ideas which often come faster than they are possible to do. Luckily, Josh, a historian/caretaker for the mansion and now boyfriend, is there to slow the pace. Connolly also writes the Museum mysteries where Carroll is a researcher. Having her as a crossover character for this series is a nice addition to the storyline. Carroll may be around for a while—there are a lot of boxes to go through.

Connolly is now the author of five series—Kate is part of the Victorian Village books. The Orchard mysteries (12), Museum books (8), County Cork series (7), and Relatively Dead books (6) make up the rest. Intrigued to learn more about them? Check the KRL archives for past reviews.

Knot on Her Life: A Quilting Mystery by Mary Marks
Review by Sandra Murphy

Martha Rose is a Jewish quilter, living with Crusher, a guy who looks like a member of a biker gang but is really ATF. She’s mother to Quinn who is expecting her own baby, and mother-in-law to Noah, a cop who Martha’s had run-ins with before. Now she has to play nice. She’s neighbor to Sonia, a former hippie who doesn’t believe the “former” part. Her elderly uncle is starting to show signs of being elderly, something she doesn’t want to face. Martha also has flare ups of fibromyalgia to cope with. If that wasn’t enough, four months ago, she found a half-sister she didn’t know she had. Giselle is rich, dresses well, runs her own company, and has no filter or boundaries about what she’ll say or do. It’s a burden.

Martha’s doorbell rings while she’s in the middle of cutting and piecing a pink baby quilt for Quinn. There stands Poppy, Sonia’s foster child of just a week. Sonia won’t wake up, will Martha come? Of course she does, only to find Sonia in a diabetic coma. From there, things go awry fast. mystery

Poppy’s parents were ostracized by their parents for marrying each other. Poppy is an orphan and in danger from the person who killed her parents and unborn sister. The grandparents don’t want Poppy—or do they? Poppy hasn’t talked about the deaths yet so no one knows if she was a witness. The killer isn’t willing to take any chances. In all the chaos, what will happen to one little eight-year-old girl? Martha and her friends are determined to protect the child.

This is book seven in the series. I like Martha. It took a while, but she’s committed to Crusher. He proposes every few days and she will marry him, but there’s no rush. It’s refreshing to see romance in couples who are well over thirty. She’s generous and loyal, quick to anger but gets over it about as fast. Like most people, her family can drive her nuts. Giselle is forever putting her designer clad foot in her mouth and never understands what’s wrong. Noah is still annoying, but he’s the father of her grandchild-to-be, what are you going to do? Martha’s answer is—quilt, look forward to the grand-baby, and solve a couple of murders. Works for her.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. She writes about eco-friendly topics, pets and wildlife for magazines and reviews mysteries and thrillers for KRL. A collection of her short stories, published by Untreed Reads, From Hay to Eternity: Ten Tales of Crime and Deception can be found at all the usual outlets. Each one is a little weird and all have a twist you won’t see coming.

Needled to Death: A Helping Hands Mystery by Annelise Ryan
Review by Cynthia Chow

Social worker Hildy Schneider is adept at spotting the many forms in which people grieve and cope with loss. Mourning mother Sharon Cochran is seething with rage. Risking a new approach for her occasionally combative grief support group she leads, Hildy encourages Sharon to share an alternative to the police report and try to convince them that her son died not by accidental drug overdose, but was murdered. While Hildy is able to prevent the rest of the support group from embarking on the case as amateur detectives, she can’t help but follow her instincts and ask a few questions herself. Using police contacts she developed when previously consulted by death investigator Mattie Winston, Hildy seeks out Sorenson Detective Bob Richmond for access into the case.

mysteryAs it turns out, the police are interested in a “Helping Hands” pilot ride-along program for on-the-spot social workers, and Hildy jumps at the chance to demonstrate her skills and bump herself up on the list of applicants. Using a bit of DIY fingerprint duplicating to break into Toby’s laptop, Hildy not only shows off her ability to innovate, she discovers the University of Wisconsin’s fraternity connections that may have led to his death. Hildy’s determination to assist in the investigation leads to unexpected consequences, as not only does she become a reluctant workout partner for Bob’s crack-of-dawn gym sessions, she finds herself in the enviable and confusing position of juggling two suitors at once. It shouldn’t be surprising that the pressure and stress of so many changes trigger Hildy’s anxiety issues, making the care of her psychological health as much a priority as tracking down a possible killer.

This first installment of a new series excels at developing its starring character who only briefly appeared in the outstanding Mattie Winston mystery series. After the murder of her mother when Hildy was seven, she bounced through over a dozen foster homes that resulted in numerous psychological coping mechanisms. She’s slow to trust or make friends, and a childhood spent being deprived by foster families let to the unconscious pocketing food and treats.

Although the mystery of Toby’s death continues to play out in the background, much of this novel focuses on the fascinating psychological challenges faced by Hildy and so many others. Being able to relate so well to those with anxiety and socializing issues has inspired her to train her golden retriever Roscoe as a hospital therapy dog, who comforts patients feeling orphaned and alone. The empathetic examination of psychological issues is as refreshing as it is intriguing, and makes this a standout novel by a skilled writer. This vulnerable, underdog heroine struggling to prove herself and be likable is a delightful contrast to the dry wit and dark sense of humor featured in the Mattie Winston novels. What both series have in common is how fully invested readers become in the future of these engaging, fully realized characters.

To enter to win a copy of all 4 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “summer end,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 7, 2019. 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.

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 iTunes/Apple Podcasts and Google Play. A new episode went up this 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. Would love to win.

  3. Thank you for such a wonderful contest. ckmbeg (at) gmail (dot) com

  4. I’ve read some of these series and some are new to me. I’d love to win.

  5. Love to win.

  6. Would love to win this.

  7. Thanks for these captivating and lovely books which I would enjoy greatly. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  8. Love all the authors and thanks for the chance to win!

  9. Four great authors and books. Thanks for the great giveaway.

  10. I’d love to win this set! Annelise Ryan is one of my faves! Thanks for the chance! JL_Minter(at)hotmail(dot)com

  11. Wonderful set of books…I would love to read.
    Thank you…Marilyn ewatvess@yahoo.com

  12. This such a fantastic giveaway! Thanks for the opportunity! craig-kelley70@att(dot)net

  13. I would love to win these 4 books.
    A couple are new authors and a
    couple are authors I’ve been following.
    All sound like good reads.
    thanks for the chance.

  14. We have a winner!

  15. This is just a test


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