by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have another great group of mysteries for your fall reading-Booked for Death: A Booklover’s B&B Mystery by Victoria Gilbert, The Falcon Always Wings Twice: A Meg Langslow Mystery by Donna Andrews, Killer Kung Pao: A Noodle Shop Mystery by Vivien Chien, Paw and Order: A Dog Club Mystery by V.M. Burns (giveaway for this one is ebook), and Little Bookshop of Murder: A Beach Reads Mystery by Maggie Blackburn. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 5 books (ebook copy of Paw and Order) 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.
Booked for Death: A Booklover’s B&B Mystery by Victoria Gilbert
Review by Cynthia Chow
Widow Charlotte Reed is starting her life over with a new adventure by opening Chapters, a book-themed bed-and-breakfast in Beaufort, North Carolina. For a week-long literary event honoring Golden Age mystery icon Josephine Tey, Charlotte thought it would be perfect to host a costume dinner party in honor of Tey’s renowned novel, The Daughter of Time. While locals are also invited to attend, the War of the Roses-themed event is specifically for the guests of Chapters and its tea services. The night is off to a rocky start when wealthy guest Lincoln Delamont not only invades Charlotte’s late great-aunt’s highly valued library collection, he makes barely veiled accusations over the source of Aunt Isabella Harrington’s wealth. Charlotte’s hope to brush his threats off is impossible when neighboring author Scott Kepler finds Lincoln Delamont dead, stabbed to death on B&B property. With the victim’s daughter declaring that Charlotte committed the crime, it’s not long before she’s forced into investigating and using her vast knowledge of the mystery genre to help her track down motives and follow-up on alibis. It’s a very long and regrettable list, including but not limited to her best friend, Lincoln’s daughter and his betrayed wife, and Chapter’s talented but temperamental chef.
Still in love with her beloved husband and mourning his death, Charlotte doesn’t display much patience when interrogating her suspects. She’s more than a little blunt when questioning and slightly judging her bookstore-owning friend Julie Rivera, who managed to get herself into an inappropriate online and nearly in-person inappropriate relationship. The most intriguing element to this first in a new mystery series is Ellen Montgomery, a well-traveled former location scout who is the executor of the Harrington estate and trust. One of the few who knew Isabella and her mysterious past, Ellen has a rather fascinating history of her own that promises to draw Charlotte into more adventures and escapades. Readers enamored of the works of Josephine Tey will have a heads up on solving this mystery, which eerily relates to the themes of the great writer’s works. A complex puzzle, cleverly written characters, and a very realistic and relatable heroine make this a compelling introduction to a book-centric cozy mystery series.
The Falcon Always Wings Twice: A Meg Langslow Mystery by Donna Andrews
Review by Cynthia Chow
Readers will be delighted to find blacksmith Meg Langslow once again in the midst of absurdity and a setting perfect for her unique family, not to mention her professional skills. The Riverton Renaissance Faire is being organized by Meg’s grandmother Cordelia, which means that the Biscuit Mountain Craft Center is awash with role-playing royalty and wannabe actors. Meg’s Caerphilly Professor and professional actor Michael is of course one of these players, and his “Game” rivalry and sword duels against George Sims are a highlight of the Ren Faire storylines. Less welcome are the bully tactics and acts of harassment by the egotistical Terrance Cox, who manages to offend nearly everyone under the guise of playing his part in the story.
Meg’s grandfather, Dr. Montgomery Blake, has unexpectedly arrived under the misconception that they were hosting a “Wren” fair, and the famous ornithologist, environmentalist, and zoologist is disappointed until he finds that a falcon at least is onsite to add to the Faire’s atmosphere. It’s an unfortunately coincidence that his forced pre-dawn owling expedition leads them to Terrance’s knifed-in-the-back body. As Meg’s forensic-loving father jumps into the investigation, the abundance of suspects makes it a no-brainer that police will need Meg’s help in solving the crime. Pretty much everyone had a motive in wanting the lecherous, obnoxious, and probably criminal man dead, and with a cast of actors and pretenders overflowing on site and at Camp Anachronism (where cellphones and the Internet flourish), sifting out the murderer will be a challenge.
A Renaissance Faire is the perfect setting for Meg and her many family members, as it allows for a surfeit of humor, chaos, and laugh-out-loud moments. Meg’s gift for creating lethal weapons complements her handsome husband’s learned-for-a-role fencing skills, giving them ample opportunities for real and fictional combats. Meg’s List That Tell Her To Breathe is once again wielded to help her track down the many suspects who were offended by Terrance and his antics, while her imperious mother organizes the volunteered into practical tasks and duties. Astoundingly the twenty-seventh of the series, characters continue to grow and entertain readers with their clever observations, witty banter, and placid reactions to disaster. This thoroughly enjoyable novel incorporates everything fans have grown to love about this series without resting on its laurels by continuing to surprise with twists and timely topics.
Killer Kung Pao: A Noodle Shop Mystery by Vivien Chien
Review by Cynthia Chow
No one is more surprised than Lana Lee herself to discover just how well suited she is to run her family’s Ho-Lee Noodle House Chinese restaurant in Cleveland’s Asia Village. That doesn’t mean that she still doesn’t embrace her little rebellions, though, with the most visible declaration of individuality being her ever-changing hair color. Lana has most recently decided that her next mother-exasperating shade should be a very non-traditional young-woman’s gray, a distinct change-up from her current pink. Lana’s hope for a relaxing experience at the Asian Accents hair salon is crushed by the arrival of two lifelong rivals arriving for appointments at the same time, especially since it just occurred after the women’s fender-bender in the Asia Village parking lot.
It’s just another lawsuit Millie Mao plans to file against Tea and Bakery owner June Yi, who recently accused Millie Mao of cheating at mahjong tournaments. So when a nail lamp falls into Millie’s spa chair foot bath and shocks the woman to death, the obvious suspect would of course have to be June. That is also simply too obvious and too dumb a mistake for the combative but wily June to have made, leading Lana to the conclusion that June must be innocent. The investigating police – which includes Lana’s boyfriend of six months Detective Adam Trudeau – disagree, and it’s not long before June’s twin sister Shirley begs Lana to get involved and help. Lana has managed to build herself a reputation as being nosy and willing to get involved in Asia Village business, although eternally optimistic Lana would prefer to consider it simply being a good neighbor and citizen. With her boyfriend and disapproving mother counseling her to leave it to the police and Lana’s enthusiastic roomie wondering why they are hesitating at all, it’s not long before Lana finds herself juggling restaurant duties, an upcoming Village sidewalk sale, and being a relationship consultant for her friends.
Bi-racial with a big “white guy” father and a conservative Taiwanese mother, Lana has grown comfortable in Asia Village and its traditional community. Gossip and meddling is an accepted part of life among the Mahjong Matrons, so Lana’s questions and search for information about the abrasive Millie Mao will not raise too many eyebrows. Long held secrets are still shared between the close-knit neighbors, and many are willing to act desperately to protect them. This sixth in the series can easily serve as an entry point for new readers, setting up further paths and plots that can be explored in the future. Lana’s very proper and ambitious attorney sister is dating one of the law firm’s partners, and Anna May’s secretiveness has all of Lana’s antennae twitching that something shady is going on. The highlights of this series are the Lee family’s boisterous and delicious family dinners, especially now since Lana’s Hokkien-speaking grandmother has moved to the Asia Village and builds relationships of her own. This Asian American community is a unique setting for this entertaining mystery series, and readers will enjoy the diverse culture, hilarious adventures, and lively dialogue instigated by a very engaging lead character.
Paw and Order: A Dog Club Mystery by V.M. Burns
Review by Cynthia Chow
Former Indianan Lilly Ann Echosby has fully embraced her new life in the heart of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her Southern Belle best friend Scarlett “Dixie” Jefferson has introduced Lilly to the rewarding world of dog shows and dog training, with the real treat being her adoption of the adorable toy poodle Aggie. Naming her furry companion after favorite mystery author is only one aspect of Lilly’s appreciation for the genre that has influenced her life, as the dog class led by Dixie have enmeshed them in more than one murder investigation. Their latest case occurs just after the Eastern Tennessee Poodle Rescue Association’s fundraiser, when uber-rich eccentric Archibald Lowry is found murdered during the event. Worried that her suggestion of the Chattanooga Museum as the site of the fundraiser could jeopardize her job, her fellow dog club members encourage Lilly to once again use her knowledge of mystery novels to help her solve a real case.
As the Poodle Rescue Association Fundraiser weekend continues, Lilly and Dixie have the chance to delve into the mysterious past of the reclusive billionaire. The source of his funds is as unknown as the man’s origins, although it’s not long before his Scottish relatives arrive to mourn; and perhaps get their share of the inheritance. When Archibald’s poodle Indulf is nearly kidnapped and then her own home broken into, Lilly begins to wonder just who the murderer sees as a threat. Fortunately for Lilly she has the unwavering support of handsome Tennessee Bureau of Investigations agent Dennis “Red” Olson, as well as her visiting attorney daughter Stephanie. When offers to buy poor Indulf — now renamed by Lilly as Rex after one of her other favorite authors — escalate, they must unravel the tangle of identities and past crimes that endanger Lilly and her family.
This fourth in the series continues to highlight Lilly’s growth and comfort in the new life she is building for herself in Chattanooga. The exploration of yet another facet of the dog world is always fascinating and a delight, and never judges the indulgences that humans give to their furry companions. Just as compelling is Stephanie’s confusion as she is torn between her career and her long-distance relationship with Indiana police officer Joe Harrison, who she believes is demanding that she choose between the two. Stephanie can’t help but compare her relationship to her parents’ and how theirs ended in divorce, or that Lilly gave up her life for her husband’s. Lilly’s advice is sympathetic and wise, and promises happiness for both their futures. Of course, the never-ending love for canines always center in the novel, and when combined with an intriguing plot and great dialogue it delivers a fun and lively read.
Little Bookshop of Murder: A Beach Reads Mystery by Maggie Blackburn
Review by Sandra Murphy
Summer Merriweather is a Shakespearian professor at a Virginia university. Students sign up for her course, thinking they can skate through to an easy “A.” Not so, she expects them to actually work for their grades. She gets bad student reviews. Her boss also doesn’t think she publishes often enough. Although she’s an expert on Shakespeare and a good teacher, her job is on the line. An uninterrupted summer in England researching her next paper should satisfy the dean.
When her mother, Hildy, dies unexpectedly, she’s inherited the house and her mother’s beloved bookstore. The sooner she can sell everything, the sooner she can get home. After all, what would a professor of classics want with a bookstore that specializes in romance novels? Going through her mother’s papers, she discovers a note that warns Hildy should sell the store or else.
The police say Hildy’s death was due to a heart attack, but considering the note, Summer isn’t sure. Since the police won’t investigate, Summer, her aunt, and members of the store’s book club research on their own. Doris, who was with Hildy when she died, won’t talk about it, saying it was too traumatic. Summer wants details in order to verify or rule out heart problems.
When the threats keep coming and the shop is vandalized, she knows she’s on the right track. Will she find the answers she needs before the killer finds her? If only the book club ladies hadn’t swooped in and cleaned the store’s office before Summer arrived.
In the meantime, there’s still her job to consider. Does she want to walk away from it or from the bookstore?
This is the first in a new series. Summer has a lot of decisions to make and at the end, a twist brings another surprise into her life. She’s learning the classics aren’t the only books worth reading and the value of friendship when times are tough. Readers will be anxious to see what happens next.
Writing as Mollie Cox Bryan, other series include the Cumberland Creek mysteries (7), the Cora Craft books (4), the Buttermilk Creek series (2), and The Jean Harlow Bombshell, the beginning of the Hollywood Biography mysteries.
To enter to win a copy of all 5 mysteries (an ebook version of Paw and Order), simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “fall,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 3, 2020. 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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