by Cynthia Chow
This week we have reviews of 3 more fun mysteries for your fall reading tbr-All that Glitters Isn’t Gold: A Whit and Whiskers Mystery by Gabby Allan, Death of a Clam Digger: A Hayley Powell Food & Cocktails Mystery by Lee Hollis, and Steeped in Malice: A Tea by the Sea Mystery by Vicki Delany. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win copies of all 3 the books, with links to purchase them at the end of each review–you may not see the links if you have ad blocker on.
All that Glitters Isn’t Gold: A Whit and Whiskers Mystery by Gabby Allan
Review by Cynthia Chow
Whitney Dagner wasn’t enthusiastic about attending the funeral for Therese Milner, who had become a recluse before Whit was even born. But Whit’s grandmother (never call her that, by the way) Goldy insisted that they attend, as she had once been close to the family and even dated one of the sons. Whit’s grandfather, Pops, is adamant about not attending, and she begins to suspect why after seeing the very affectionate reunion between Goldy and Darren Milner. At least Whit doesn’t miss out on seeing the literal car crash of a funeral, with the completely delusional Elsie Jacobs driving through the tent and knocking over the coffin. Believing that only the matriarch of the family kept them apart for 50 years, Elsie has arrived to resume the arranged engagement between herself and Darren until Goldy swept him away.
That’s the story told on Santa Catalina Island, but in truth Darren’s affections leaned in an entirely different direction. He has returned with his current boyfriend Jericho, and they plan to debut a documentary that they filmed about the island at the local theater. Just before the premiere, Jericho’s body is found, and it definitely does not look like an accident. Police station commander Captain Ray Pablano arrives and immediately warns Whit (again) not to get involved, and for once she is happy to comply. At least that’s until Goldy demands that they investigate and protect Darren, whom she adores as much as she did decades ago. Whit doesn’t share the same blindness towards his possible motives, and it’s a rather uncomfortable investigation as she dodges Captain Pablano’s admonishments and Goldy’s unwavering loyalties. Things only become more complicated when a theft is committed and Jericho’s identity comes into question, making this a far more complicated adventure than Whit expected.
This third in the series is a romp as Goldy takes command of the case and forcefully guides Whit into directions that lead anywhere away from her old friend. Pops is more than a little cranky to have Darren back in their lives, and his attitude matches that of Whit’s grumpy Whiskers. At least Whit has her bestie, police secretary Maribel Hernandez, as a friendly source, though her ambitions to move further in her career could be jeopardized if she continues to defy Captain Pablano’s directives. These delightful characters banter back and forth while Whit inserts herself into places she has no business going, delving into generations of Santa Catalina Island locals. Goldy raised Whit after she was essentially abandoned by her own parents, so it’s easy to understand how Whit is completely unable to resist her grandmother’s wishes. It also explains Whit’s complicated relationship with her boyfriend Felix Ramirez, a police scuba diver. Red herrings and multiple motives ensure a surprising and unexpected ending, but one that is sure to please dedicated mystery fans. This is a fun and very funny entry by the author, who also writes under the name Misty Simon and can always be relied upon for snappy dialogue and spunky lead characters.
Death of a Clam Digger: A Hayley Powell Food & Cocktails Mystery by Lee Hollis
Review by Cynthia Chow
Bar Harbor has its own Montague and Capulet rivalry ensuing between the seafood companies owned by Mona Barnes and Lonnie Leighton. Mona and Vera Leighton have detested each other since childhood, and that hatred continues as they physically brawl over clamming territories. Mona’s bestie Hayley Powell is doing her best to calm the waters, but that’s going to be impossible when Mona’s son Dougie announces that not only is he dating Olive Leighton, but that he intends to propose to her in Hayley’s restaurant. A nightmare of timing and an inexperienced waitress results in both families being present for the star-crossed proposal, with Lonnie being dragged out spewing threats. Shots fired at Dougie later that night indicate that the war is just heating up, but it’s Lonnie’s body that is later found face down in the clam flats.
Just as disconcerting as Mona and her entire family now being suspects is a loose-lipped nurse’ disclosure that Lonnie had but a few months to live, making his murder seem a bit unnecessary. With her inexplicable amount of experience investigating murders, the restaurant owner and Island Times food columnist enlists her usual crew to delve into one more. Mona proves to be her usual brash self, while Liddy Crawford is a bit distracted with a potential new real estate client. That this newcomer happens to be Boston Commons CEO Tabitha Collins is disconcerting, not only because the accomplished executive offers to expand Hayley’s intentionally localized business, but more importantly happens to be the millionaire ex-girlfriend of Hayley’s husband, a girlfriend Bruce never previously mentioned. He seems baffled at Hayley’s justifiably alarmed reaction. Trying to solve a murder when everyone’s hormones seem charged and unbalanced is going to be a challenge for Hayley, especially when the latest infatuation is definitely going to result in someone wanting to commit another murder.
This 16th in the series sparkles with hilarious dialogue, mouth-watering descriptions of seafood delicacies, and the chaotic antics between the Bar Harbor locals. The siblings who write as Lee Hollis succeed in delicately balancing over-the-top shenanigans with moments of heart-warming and genuine emotions. Hayley’s Island Food & Drink columns are interspersed throughout the novel, providing recipes for tasty alcoholic treats and buttery clam-filled dishes. The stories that inspired these dishes are even more entertaining, usually ending with Hayley’s embarrassment or another laugh-out-loud domestic disaster. The introduction of the Leighton family allows new readers to easily dive into this long-running series, while fans will be rewarded with the usual amount of laughs and insight into island life. I always look forward to the latest mystery by Lee Hollis, who continually entertains with creative plots and hilarious adventures.
Steeped in Malice: A Tea by the Sea Mystery by Vicki Delany
Review by Cynthia Chow
Tea by the Sea tea shop owner Lily Roberts takes her afternoon teas seriously, which means when the usual mishaps and breakages result in a shortage of tea cups, she is quick to replenish her stock. A trip to the North Augusta Antique Fair isn’t too much of a sacrifice for the fine-china-loving pastry chef, and she’s delighted when she comes across a charming wicker box filled with a tea set featuring Beatrix Potter’s illustrations of Peter Rabbit. It seems that Lily isn’t the only one interested in the set, although Kimberly Smithfield is less charmed by the drawings than she is with what’s inside the box. Rudely demanding to buy the antiques back, she instead only removes an envelope hidden inside the box lining. Kimberly is soon followed by Rachel Morrison, a restaurant interior designer Lily knew from her previous life as a Manhattan pastry chef. It turns out that Rachel and Kimberly are half-sisters in a battle over their late mother’s estate, with her last will and testament apparently hidden inside the tea set. To make matters worse, Kimberly has married Wesley Schumann, Lily’s ex-boyfriend, whose last confrontation in a kitchen led to her quitting their restaurant and leaving Manhattan entirely.
It looks as the though the battle of the wills will be settled another way when Kimberly falls to her death, but in truth that only begins a war over what is now apparently three versions of a will containing a multi-million dollar estate. Weasel-like Wesley doesn’t waste time throwing Lily to the wolves by telling the police a bunch of lies, the result being that no matter how much she would have preferred to refrain from yet another murder investigation, it’s going to be impossible. With her irrepressible and very opinionated grandmother Rose leading their inquiry, and Lily’s bestie Bernie, who is always ready to mine anything that inspires her work-in-progress novel, the women attempt to sift through the many beneficiaries vying to inherit from the assortment of wills.
This fourth in the series has Lily confronting a number of very unlikable suspects, not to mention the police detective all-too-willing to see her as a murderous spurned ex. As relaxing as she finds it to create her pastry confections and mouth-watering tea sandwiches, Lily has her hands full avoiding an avaricious Wesley, who tests the patience of Simon McCracken, her normally calm and unflappable gardener boyfriend. The always adorable labradoodle Éclair accompanies her to add the required element of cuteness, while gluten-packed and gluten-free recipes are included to keep foodie fans entertained. This reliable Canadian author depicts the Outer Cape of Cape Cod as an enviable place to live and definitely one to visit, with its coastal charm outweighing its alarming murder rate. Cozy mystery fans will welcome this latest entry in the series featuring a heroine who has rebuilt her life and filled it with a passion for what she loves to create.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “fall tbr” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 23, 2023. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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