by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
We end September with 4 more fun mysteries from Penguin authors. The books feature crafts, the paranormal, and books-Marked Down for Murder by Josie Belle, Murder of a Needled Knitter by Denise Swanson, Nightmares Can Be Murder: A Dream Club Mystery by Mary Kennedy, and The Wolfe Widow: A Book Collector Mystery by Victoria Abbott. Details on how to win a copy of all 4 books at the end of this post along with a link to purchase the books where a portion goes to help support KRL!
Marked Down for Murder by Josie Belle
Review by Sandra Murphy
The Good Buy Girls are in full baby mode as they wait for Joanne and Michael’s baby to arrive. It seems the baby (no one knows if it will be a boy or a girl), has a sense of humor as there are a couple of false alarms along the way.
Maggie Gerber, owner of a resale store, My Sister’s Closet, is past the desire to have a baby of her own but sure is willing to hold Joanne’s if the kid ever makes an appearance. Maggie and Sam’s relationship is getting more serious. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, a daily rose and a one word message seem to spell out a serious question. It seems premature for Sam to propose but what else could the message be? And, equally important, is Sam on the same baby page as Maggie?
Summer owns a rival resale shop across the street. Whatever Maggie has, Summer wants and that includes Sam. When Summer and her mom, Blair, appear in My Sister’s Closet, Maggie’s stunned. Summer vowed never to cross the threshold—and Maggie wishes she’d kept that promise. Blair gives Maggie the eye and declares, “There’s no way Sam threw you over for this!” Things are on a rapid downhill slide after that, to say the least.
Bruce, Summer’s stepdad, seems to always trail behind his wife to smooth things over. Blair is certainly overbearing and over the top as she tries various antics to throw Sam and Summer together. Surely if Sam has the chance to spend time with Summer, he’ll come to his senses! It’s not going to happen but Blair is not one to give up.
The surprise is it’s not Blair who is killed—it’s Bruce. Blair, ever the drama queen, immediately thinks her life is in danger as well. Since Summer was the one found standing over Bruce with a bloody hammer in her hand, you’d think Blair could spare a thought for her own kid. Who would want to kill a mild-mannered man like Bruce? Or did he have secrets no one suspected?
This is the fourth in the series and love is in the air as all the Good Buy Girls have guys of their own. The camaraderie between them spans generations with Joanne as the youngest (at least until the baby is born). Sam is a great boyfriend for Maggie. There might even be a love interest for Summer, if only Blair will get out of her way.
At the back of the book, find the Good Buy Girls Tips for Baby Thrift.
Murder of a Needled Knitter by Denise Swanson
Review by Sandra Murphy
Skye and Wally are finally married. A honeymoon cruise sounded just perfect—warm weather, room service and privacy. Who could ask for more?
Well, once Skye spot a woman who looks remarkably like her mother, she could ask for a lot more. To top it off, BFF Trixie and her hubby are on the ship as well. While it will be nice to have another couple to bum around with on tours and it gives the guys a chance to bond, it’s less than ideal. At least Trixie can take a hint about private time. May, on the other hand, thinks mother-daughter togetherness is in order in spite of her desire for grandchildren—right now! Yes, she and Skye’s dad are on board for a knitter’s cruise even though Skye’s brother and sister-in-law are expecting their baby to arrive any day.
Things get complicated when Skye meets the woman in charge of the knitters. She’s consistently late, rude and pushy—and those are her good qualities. It’s no surprise when her body is found, by Skye of course, with a pair of knitting needles as the murder weapon. The needles are a common type so no clue there. Although a number of people, from ship’s personnel to ex-husbands, ex-lovers and maybe blackmail victims (basically the general public) would have liked to do her in, the main suspect is May. The victim made a blatant play for Skye’s dad, right in front of May and a number of witnesses. This earned her a tropical drink in the face. The spectacle was the talk of the ship.
Ship’s security is in charge but their powers at sea are limited. Usually, the FBI takes over the case on the ship’s return to home port. Unfortunately, many crimes don’t get solved as a result. With possible witnesses losing track of details once they get home, it’s about hopeless. The two couples decide to make sure May doesn’t end up in jail but the investigation isn’t without its own hazards. Skye and Trixie are both mugged, probably for the photos they took at the scene. What clue are they missing? Hard to say since they can’t find a PhotoMart on the islands.
This is the seventeenth tale of Scumble River inhabitants. The characters are growing and changing, maybe with the exception of May, who knows how everyone else should behave. She’s the kind of mom you’d like to smack a good one but if you did, you know you’d be grounded for life. The cruise is a nice change of pace and allows for a new venue for murder as well as a new set of suspects.
Swanson also writes the Devereaux Dime Store series, three books out so far, with the fourth, Dying for a Cupcake, due out in March 2015.
Nightmares Can Be Murder: A Dream Club Mystery by Mary Kennedy
Review by Cynthia Chow
A freelance business consultant with an MBA from Wharton, Taylor Blake has come to Savannah, Georgia to help her sister fulfill her dream of owning a vintage candy shop. She has no plans to contribute to Allison’s Dream Club, a group of eccentrics who meet weekly to share and interpret their dreams. Taylor doesn’t believe in the paranormal, psychics, or tarot cards. After a childhood of night terrors, she no longer dreams. At all.
Oldies But Goodies is only the latest business venture for her unfocused younger sister. Taylor is intent on making Ali’s vision come true. With reverence for nostalgia and a complete disregard of health trends, Savannah should be the perfect location for a candy store that celebrates old-fashioned treats. Unfortunately, the death of Chico Hernandez, owner of the neighboring dance studio, threatens its success when it’s revealed that the lothario instructor had plans to buy out Ali’s building and put her out of business.
On the night of Chico’s death, he might as well as had a revolving door installed. It seems nearly everyone in town had a reason to visit him before he was poisoned, including most of the Dream Club members. Despite her doubts, Taylor finds herself meeting with the Dream Club as they use their dreams to decipher clues and possibly lead them to the murderer. Whether their dreams are accusations, red herrings, or a clever ruse is the question. On the positive side, Taylor has discovered two old friends have reason to come to Savannah, one an aspiring investigative reporter. The other is a former FBI agent turned private detective—also former boyfriend—whose shared workaholic tendencies prematurely ended the romance.
A clinical psychologist and author of a non-fiction book on dream interpretation, Mary Kennedy displays her knowledge in an entertaining way. Readers will wish they paid more attention to the previous night’s dreams. Also well-written is the relationship between Taylor and Ali, who as adults have learned to accept their differences despite being an A-type, organized, bottom-liner vs. a more creative, artistic, free spirit. What makes the sisters so likable is that they are aware of their own flaws.
The Savannah setting is a character in itself, as its polite veneer glosses over its many eccentric residents and their shady reputations. Because it is the South, food plays a role. The descriptions of both the local cuisine and Ali’s nostalgic treats will have readers’ mouths watering.
The author of the Talk Radio Mystery series continues to craft mysteries with sharp humor and witty dialogue. She succeeds in educating readers who will spend their days analyzing what the subconscious has been telling them at night.
The Wolfe Widow: A Book Collector Mystery by Victoria Abbott
Review by Cynthia Chow
Thanksgiving is a few weeks away. Jordan Bingham thought she had reason to be thankful. After an ex left her in debt, she was forced to move in with her disreputable uncles. Jordan finds a dream job as a book collector seeking out first edition classic mysteries for Vera Van Alst. While Jordan’s duties do entail being a kowtowing assistant/slave to the most hated woman in Harrison Falls, the job also comes with a free room and delectable meals prepared by the English-limited Signora Panetone. That comes to a screeching halt with the arrival of Muriel Delgado, a woman whose unprecedented visitation into the Van Alst home is followed by Jordan’s immediate dismissal and eviction.
Uncle Mick is thrilled to have Jordan back home but she is less than enthusiastic to be surrounded by her My Little Pony, Hello Kitty, and NSYNC collections. Best friends, Tiff and Lance, are AWOL, depriving her of much needed sympathy. Jordan is not completely alone. Her charming but impractical Uncle Kevin continues to live in the Van Alst home and is similarly alarmed at Muriel Delgado’s invasion. Aided by Kevin and his sexy-if-you-loved-the-80s cable installer friend, Cherie, Jordan makes it her mission to save Vera while rebuilding her own respectable life.
Now that she has gotten over her infatuation for Lord Peter Wimsey, Jordan has decided that if she can’t date Rex Stout’s Archie Goodwin, she can at least try to embody him. This does lead to some bouts of glibness and confidence not appreciated by Vera. The heiress has a resemblance to Wolfe, sharing a similar distaste for most of humanity, borderline agoraphobia, and a general sense of the world’s inferiority. Despite this, Jordan and her uncles manage to chip away at some of Vera’s brittleness. Their talent for rather shady activities has them uniquely equipped to charm their way into her life.
This third in the series crafted by the mother and daughter authors Mary Jane and Victoria Maffini continues to delight with its acerbic wit and appreciation of the classic mystery genre. Previous novels paid tribute to Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie, so it is time to dedicate a mystery to books by Rex Stout.
The books continue to delight with sharp humor, quick-witted characters, a tough but vulnerable heroine, and celebration of the classic mystery genre.
To enter to win a copy of all 4 mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “September 4,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 4, 2014. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
Click on this link to purchase any of these books & a portion goes to help support KRL!