by Cynthia Chow & Sandra Murphy
This week we are once again playing catch-up-A Dark and Stormy Tea: A Teashop Mystery by Laura Childs, Death a Sketch: A Paint & Shine Mystery by Cheryl Hollon, Murder Through the English Post: A Beryl and Edwina Mystery by Jessica Ellicott, and Coached Red-Handed: A Cat & Gilley Life Coach Mystery by Victoria Laurie. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 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 Dark and Stormy Tea: A Teashop Mystery by Laura Childs
Review by Sandra Murphy
Theodosia owns a tea shop, aided and abetted by Drayton, her tea master, and Haley, her chef in charge of all that’s edible. Between regular customers, special tea parties, catered events, her own line of lotions and potions, gift baskets, and wreaths decorated with mismatched tea cups, Theo doesn’t have a moment to spare during the workday. Evenings are for Earl Grey, her trusty dog, and Riley, her trusted boyfriend.
And because she’s late and Drayton’s waiting, and because it is raining cold sharp drops, and because she’s always rushed, Theo takes a shortcut through the Gateway Walk that runs past the cemetery, despite warnings for women alone to be careful after a recent murder. And because she’s Theo, she spots the killer as he puts his most recent victim on a gravestone. And recognizes her.
Although the easy answer is, serial killer, there are other suspects. Theo’s mysterious neighbor says he’s writing a book and looking for an exciting ending. A pushing the limit of legal real estate developer can’t be left off the list, nor the victim’s boyfriend, a possible arsonist, or even the reporter who wants to be the first with a scoop.
Theo can never resist asking questions and providing Detective Tidwell with answers to go with his tea and scones. Her boyfriend, Riley, a detective, is none too happy with her involvement, especially after she witnessed that scene in the cemetery. Will she be able to do it again or will the killer fool them all?
To top off a good mystery, characters who are familiar friends by this, the twenty-fourth book in the series, there are recipes—English tea biscuits, crab rolls with aioli, cioppino (bass, shrimp, scallops in a tomatoey chicken stock, banana cake, smoked salmon tea sandwiches with lemon butter, cranberry scones (maybe with lemon butter too?), cinnamon coffee cake, Drayton’s drunken chicken, carrot bread, blueberry scones, mango-tomato salsa on crostini, baked salmon with lemon sauce, English pea salad, and English toffee. Childs includes tea time tips for planning an afternoon tea of your own. Suggestions are for aa Farmer’s Market tea, Bridal Shower, Movie Trivia, Kids Tea Party, Mystery Tea, or a Passage to India. Find a list of tea resources for napkin folding and everything else tea plus a list of websites for tea retailers.
Look for book twenty-five, The Lemon Curd Killer, in March 2023 (excerpt at the back of this book), and the seventeenth scrapbooking mystery, Cadmium Red Dead, coming soon, no release date announced. There are also nine books in the Cackleberry Club series plus two thrillers written under the name Gerry Schmitt.
Death a Sketch: A Paint & Shine Mystery by Cheryl Hollon
Review by Sandra Murphy
Miranda Trent has a unique twist on her business. She lives in Appalachia and inherits her uncle’s house and moonshine business. It’s legal now so no high-speed chases in the middle of the night like shown in old movies. Shine is trendy. Miranda pairs the shine experience with the beautiful views at the nearby park. She takes groups for a hike, helps them paint or draw the scenery, then they return to her farmhouse for a country style meal.
This time she worries she’s bitten off more than she can manage—a corporate team building retreat. Of course, hearing team building, you’d think it means teaching employees to work together for the good of the company and their job satisfaction, but the exec in charge has more of a Survivor plan in mind. With him, everything is a competition. It only takes a minute to realize the odds are heavily weighted against the women in the group.
The employees are divided into two competing groups and word soon gets out the losing team will also lose their jobs. The exec also declares he can override Miranda’s decision about who won a challenge. When an employee is found dead, Miranda assumes the company will cancel the rest of the event. but no, the challenge must go on, even with bad feelings and sabotage. If Miranda didn’t have a deadline looming that the shine business has to show a profit in six months, she’d have told them all to take a hike—home.
This is book three in the series. Miranda has a good head for business, and an artist’s eye to see what’s important. There’s a nice surprise at the end. And she’s got a darn cute puppy! The mystery is good, the characters believable, and Miranda doesn’t take crazy risks, always a plus. It’s a series I enjoy and I’m looking forward to book four and more.
Recipes include moonshine cocktails the teams made for one of their challenges—honeysuckle fizz, lemon shine, RC shine. Food to go with homemade herb crackers, chicken noodle soup, three bean salad, chicken pot pie, candied sweet potatoes, and chocolate crème pie with whipped cream.
Murder Through the English Post: A Beryl and Edwina Mystery by Jessica Ellicott
Review by Sandra Murphy
Beryl and Edwina met at school. Now here they are, years later, sharing a home. Simpkins, the gardener, has inherited money, making him richer than Beryl and Edwina put together. He’s moved into the house as well.
After the war ended, what used to be strict moral codes and knowing your place fell away. Men rich and poor fought together with a common enemy. Once home, class lines have blurred. Beryl is described as an American adventuress, a daredevil some might say. Edwina has always done the right thing, at least until she and Beryl met again. Now they have a private detective agency and Edwina has become, of all things, a magistrate.
One of the last cases of the day concerns two men fighting in the street. As Constable Doris Gibbs attempted to break up the fight, one punch found its way to her face. Edwina is appalled such a thing could happen. When the facts come out, it’s this—Michael received a letter advising him that Norman had spoken badly about him and what was said was a lie. Once the men realize the letter was a malicious lie, the case is dismissed.
However, the letters keep coming. A mother is accused of neglecting her child and causing its death, a married woman is accused of having a lover, and even Beryl receives a letter saying the writer knows why Simpkins moved into the house and where does he sleep there. Beryl laughed at her letter, but others take them much more seriously. Soon, it seems everyone in the village has received one and each looks at others to decipher who wrote them. When a villager is murdered, Beryl and Edwina have a new case. It’s all because of the letters.
This is book six in the series. I enjoy this series. Beryl is up for new experiences while Edwina has to build up her courage to venture outside the lines. Simpkins, formerly seen as a lazy gardener, now is an entrepreneur full of ideas. His latest involves Beryl and Edwina in a way that will make their faces known across the country. Whatever comes next, it’s bound to be an adventure and one I’ll enjoy reading about.
Coached Red-Handed: A Cat & Gilley Life Coach Mystery by Victoria Laurie
Review by Cynthia Chow
As a professional Life Coach and East Hampton divorcee, Cat Cooper knows just how devastating the end of a marriage can feel. So she’s prepared to do what she can to comfort her bestie Gilley Gillespie on the day he receives his own divorce papers in the mail from his husband. Seeing Gilley so distraught and dreading the day his ex comes to officially move out inspires Cat to offer Gilley a spur-of-the-moment trip to Paris, as what can be more distracting than French food and shopping?
Before they leave though, Cat just has to do a favor for Sunny Shepherd, the first friend Cat made in East Hampton and the sister of Cat’s boyfriend. One of Sunny’s friends has a mentor who needs life advice, and Cat just happens to have an afternoon opening. Gilley doesn’t even mind the interruption of his own personal drama when he discovers that the woman needing their help is Scarlet Rubi, a bestselling romance author who is both famous and absurdly rich. It’s that last quality that has garnered her an endless amount of stress in her life, as Scarlet is financially supporting three generations of her family. Cat advises that Scarlet should give her tangled web of a family tree the deeds to all of the homes they live in but she pays for, with the catch being that is the last cent she will ever give them. While none of Scarlet’s relatives take the news all that gracefully, they do all eventually sign off on the contracts that award them all free homes. It’s too bad that Scarlet won’t have the time to enjoy her family-free responsibilities though. The next day Detective Steven Shepherd gives Cat the news that Scarlet was executed by gunshot in her home.
For once neither she nor Gilley are suspects, but Scarlet’s will reveals that no one else is going to go unscathed. Scarlet’s ex-husband is to be the recipient of most of her wealth, but it comes with the caveat that he never marries her sister Siobhan, who at this moment happens to be wearing his engagement ring. A hefty life insurance policy that expired just hours after her death has the suspect list including Scarlet’s nearest and dearest, especially when another good portion of the romance writer’s estate goes to her live-in servants. The threat of the new District Attorney to keep them in town until an arrest is made jeopardizes their therapeutic vacation getaway to Paris, so Cat and Gilley are going to go full-stop on being investigators themselves if they want to save their trip to Paris. Delivering justice is just the bonus.
This second entry in what is essentially a spin-off from the author’s other two mysteries surprises by being as good as, if not better, than the originals. Gilley is a toned-down version of the scaredy-cat, Scooby-Doo-ish reluctant assistant we meet in the Ghost Hunter Mysteries, while Cat is far more competent and confident now that she’s moved away from her sister and the Psychic Eye Mysteries. Cat and Gilley are actually able to provide support to one another as they talk down the other’s drama-attracting tendencies, especially when they hit bumps in their respective romantic relationships. It’s Gilley who is able to point out that Cat has a habit of taking over and trying to fix things with money, as it often comes at the expense of her boyfriend’s dignity and self-respect. The dialogue is fast and barbed as Gilley and Cat navigate through the spurious members of Scarlet’s family, who even at their worst, are at times seen as vulnerable and wounded by Scarlet’s wealth. This is another very funny and fun novel that pokes at the rich elite while also tantalizing readers with the luxuries that can be accompanied by hidden costs.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “august catchup” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 10, 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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