by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have another fun group of Penguin mysteries, 3 book related and 1 about a resale store-All Sales Final: A Good Buy Girls Mystery By Josie Belle, Knot the Usual Suspects by Molly MacRae, Booked for Trouble: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates, and Law and Author: An Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery by Erika Chase. Details at the end of this post on how to win copies of all 4, and a link to purchase them.
All Sales Final: A Good Buy Girls Mystery By Josie Belle
Review by Cynthia Chow
They first met forty years ago, and fell in love twenty years later, but it’s not until now that Maggie Gerber and Police Chief Sam Collins are finally walking down the aisle. And one would think that the owner of a resale store and the leader of the Good Girls Buy Club would have no problem finalizing plans for her own wedding. Not true. Finding the perfect dress becomes the least of Maggie’s problems when her mother lands in St. Stanley, Virginia, with her own vision of Maggie’s perfect wedding.
The one thing that Maggie is certain of is the perfection of the Dixon house, the home she and Sam intend to buy as they unite their two households. There is the small matter of local rumors about it being haunted, and cat Marshal Dillon’s freaked-out reaction to the basement does nothing to discount them. Nor do the flickering lights, slamming doors, and the sound of footsteps. The discovery of an entire skeleton unexpectedly comforts Maggie, as she believes that once its fate is explained, the hauntings will cease.
Taking advantage of their historical society and the long memories of their eldest residents, Maggie and her friends begin to look into the mystery of the Dixon house and who made it his final resting place. Sam’s police contact will prove to be far more problematic than helpful, though not for the reason one would expect. A much bigger surprise is the one person who may be transforming from nemesis to Maggie’s biggest supporter.
Having previously explored the relationships between Maggie and her friends, the author now focuses on the one between Sam and Maggie. Maggie is no blushing bride, and with an adult daughter and a former loving marriage in her past, Maggie wonders if she is ready to once again risk another heart-breaking loss. Maggie’s indecisiveness does not go unnoticed, as her friends, sister, and mother all note that Maggie is the sole resident in St. Stanley without an opinion on the wedding plans. The incredibly prolific author of five mystery series under the names Lucy Lawrence and Josie Belle, Jenn McKinlay takes the time to delve into her characters while also making the past’s mystery an ever-expanding puzzle. Shopping and wedding tips are of course sprinkled throughout, and they enhance a very funny and delightful mystery.
Knot the Usual Suspects by Molly MacRae
Review by Sandra Murphy
Handmade Blue Plum celebrates all that’s handcrafted. Kath Rutledge, owner of the yarn shop, welcomes both tourists and locals with a yen for yarn. She’s got help: there’s Ardis, her second-in-command; Abby, the part-timer; Argyle, the store cat; and Geneva, the resident ghost.
The TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Fiber) group has a surprise in store for Blue Plum—yarn bombing! They plan to decorate stop signs, benches, light poles and more. One of Ardis’s long-ago students, Hugh McPhee, is back in town, and although the two talk their way through lunch, Hugh never says why he’s back or for how long.
As it turns out, not for long. During the night, a bagpiper is heard playing. The song stops, a backfire is heard and, the next morning, Hugh’s body is found, dressed in his kilt. No one knows why he played or whom he met. The police are closemouthed about how he died, too.
The TGIF group has investigated a murder or two themselves, so they search for clues while doing the final planning for the yarn bombing. Members will travel in teams, each has specific projects, and then each has a few surprises of their own.
The bombing mission runs smoothly (if you don’t count Thea in peep-toe high heels and the duck poop incident, Tammie wandering away, Ambrose and Hank off to find a bar, Wanda who forgot something, and Kath who found a dead body).
Kath’s boyfriend Joe is still around, much to her delight. His deputy brother, Clod (as Kath calls him) isn’t in charge of this investigation, as the chief has suspended him, reason unknown. Geneva is calmer—well, for a ghost, anyway. Ardis can now see her, although the two aren’t exactly getting along. For the yarn bombing, Geneva makes one of her rare excursions out of the shop.
Suspects in Hugh’s murder are a little skimpy. Who’d want him dead after all these years? Suspects for the second murder are more plentiful, since so many of the yarn bombers were AWOL for at least part of the time.
MacRae writes another tightly knit yarn of murder and motive. The characters are people you’d not only love to meet, but want as friends. The yarn shop and its inhabitants, alive and dead, (sorry Geneva) create a great place to hang out. This is the fourth book in the series. You could start reading here but you won’t want to miss the first three.
Booked for Trouble: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates
Review by Cynthia Chow
Lucy Richardson has never been happier. Not only is she the new librarian for the charming Lighthouse Library in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, but she also lives upstairs in the perfectly petite apartment and has the privilege of overseeing a valuable Jane Austen collection. Lucy’s mother Suzanne has a different viewpoint on the situation, though, and she’s not very subtle about her agenda to take Lucy back to Boston and the ex-fiancé still waiting for her.
Socialite Suzanne Richardson has long since abandoned her working-class roots as Sue Wyatt, so perhaps that explains her initial rude reactions upon meeting her former best friend Karen Kivas. While Lucy admits that Karen has a self-pitying attitude about her status as a hotel maid, she is also a member of the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library Classic Novel Reading Club and a library supporter. It is at their book club meeting that Suzanne and Karen are able to apologize and mend their friendship. This more amiable reunion is shared only by Suzanne, Karen, and Lucy, so when Karen is murdered, only witnesses attesting to their first confrontation can be found.
Suzanne’s not about to let impending arrest interrupt her mission, and she masterfully (but politely) manipulates interruptions between Lucy two promising local suitors. Evidence appearing in Suzanne’s bag only reinforces Lucy’s belief that her mother is being framed, especially considering that Karen’s ex-husband seems to be doing more celebrating than mourning. Lucy refuses to give up her attempts to discover who (other than herself, of course) seems to have it in for her mother.
A library within a lighthouse is an irresistible concept, and the author includes all of the charm and love of books that can be found in every beloved library. Eva Gates, who also writes under her name Vicki Delany, also expands on patrons, requirements to protect collections, and the politics that can both benefit and inhibit libraries. What readers will be left with long after finishing this second in the series are the relationships between parents and their children. Often, it is not until we are adults ourselves do we realize that our fathers and mothers are actually real people, individuals with fears, hopes, and dreams completely unrelated to being a parent. Lucy continues to be a very genial, self-reliant, young woman whom readers will enjoy spending time with on her adventures in life and in her lighthouse library.
Law and Author: An Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery by Erika Chase
Review by Cynthia Chow
Be careful what you wish for. That’s what Teensy Coldicutt should have remembered when she announced her boredom at Alabama’s Ashton Corners Mystery and Cheese Straws Society book club meeting. While the friends have built themselves a surprisingly successful record solving mysteries, they would never have wished for their latest murder investigation to involve one of their own, retired police chief Bob Miller. The granddaughter he never met crashes their book club meeting after having a fight with her mother, and Darla Miller asserts that she believes that this is the perfect time for a get-to-know introduction. Lizzie Turner and her friends have their suspicions about the young woman’s intentions, and their fears seem to be validated when a body turns up—last seen alive having a confrontation with Darla.
While Bob Miller and his lady friend Molly Mathews go into grandparent-protective mode, the rest of the Ashton Corners Mystery and Cheese Straws Society take action as well. Not only do they investigate the shady past of the deceased, they also stealthily investigate Darla’s activities. While her relationship with her boyfriend is more than a little troubling, just as problematic are her lies and motivation for tracking down her kindhearted grandfather. This close group of friends protects one another through thick and thin, whether it involves Sally-Jo’s battle with her mother over a wedding dress, Lizzie’s challenges as a reading specialist, or a possibly homicidal granddaughter.
In this fifth of the series, author Erika Chase blends her charming cozy setting with very serious topics and menacing villains. Each of the members has their own personal plotline, and their warm and often very funny tales are woven seamlessly throughout the novel. Lizzie’s own relationship with the current Ashton Corners police chief is progressing swimmingly, although she hasn’t yet managed to utter those three important words she already feels. Quotes from mysteries by familiar authors preface every chapter, and a reading list at the end will further delight mystery fans. Every book club should be as welcoming and ingenious as the Ashton Corners Mystery and Cheese Straws Society!
To enter to win a copy of all 4 of these September Penguins, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “September Penguins,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 26, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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