November Mystery Catchup: Books, Monsters, & Crafts. Oh My!

Nov 5, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Cynthia Chow & Sandra Murphy

This week we are once again playing catchup with a fun group of cozy mysteries involving books, monsters, and crafts-A Book Club to Die For: A Beloved Bookroom Mystery by Dorothy St. James, A Death in Door County: A Monster Hunter Mystery by Annelise Ryan, Bound By Murder: An Antique Bookshop Mystery by Laura Gail Black, and Seams Like Murder: A Sewing Studio Mystery by Dorothy Howell. 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 Book Club to Die For: A Beloved Bookroom Mystery by Dorothy St. James
Review by Sandra Murphy

The Cypress Arete Society is a book club of ten members only. It’s so exclusive, women have been on the waiting list for years. The only openings come up if someone dies. It’s run with an iron fist by the club’s president, Rebecca White, a former actress. Nothing is ever good enough for her unless it was her idea.

Tru is the local librarian, considered too low brow (she reads common fiction!) to be asked to join but she has been asked to be a guest speaker. The closer the event gets, the more nervous she is, and with reason. When she arrives with her friend Flossie, Rebecca is browbeating the hostess about her choices of food, the arrangement of the furniture, and anything else she can think of.

When loud crashes are heard from the kitchen just after Rebecca and the hostess go there to discuss the poor choice of menu items, Tru thinks trouble has boiled over but it’s worse than that. It’s murder.

When Tru’s friend is a suspect and her boyfriend, a cop, is benched, Tru uses her librarian skills to search out clues to find the murderer.

This is book three in the series. Tru and Flossie are likable characters and good friends. It’s nice to see a friendship between women of widely different ages. The twist of the library setting is this one has decided to modernize and go all digital. Computers are everywhere but not a book is to be seen. They were all destined for the landfill. However, Tru managed to save enough books to fill a room in the basement. Readers of the paper versions are sworn to secrecy.

And there’s a library cat!

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. She’s editor for Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Stories Inspired by the Songs of the ’60s, with twenty-two cozy stories. She also edited A Murder of Crows, twenty-one stories featuring animals and crime (no animals were harmed). She also writes for magazines, newsletters, and the occasional guest blog. Both anthologies are available at the usual outlets, print or ebook.

A Death in Door County: A Monster Hunter Mystery by Annelise Ryan
Review by Cynthia Chow

The Odds and Ends bookstore of Door County, Wisconsin, is not your average bookstore. While it does house books of special interest for Lake Michigan its local fishing, it also houses a skull collection, cow stomach hair balls, and an actual dummy. Owner Morgan Carter is a cryptozoologist specializing in the tracking of cryptids, those mythological creatures like Bigfoot and Yetis who have never actually been proven to exist. It is that particular specialty that has brought Police Chief Jon Flanders to her store, as he and town bigwigs have a mystery they need solving. The body of a man who had gone fishing for salmon at Death’s Door has been discovered with very odd markings resembling huge bite marks, and they need to know if it has anything to do with a possible Loch Ness Monster. That Morgan is a skeptic despite her passion only makes her inclusion more credible to the officials, as she is willing to rule out the fakes and scams while still hoping to find evidence of an actual living monster. Or dinosaur. Or really big eel.

Morgan has a rather suspicious view of law enforcement, which shouldn’t be surprising even if she wasn’t someone whose business centers around the mythological and creepy. Morgan blames herself for falling for and becoming engaged to a man whose identity was entirely fabricated and who completely disappeared after the murder of her parents. His deception was so well crafted that police suspected Morgan of killing her own parents and making up a fiancé in order to throw off the investigation, and it’s a shadow that continues to give her nightmares. Flanders’ respect for her thoroughness and unusually high-tech equipment has them getting along surprisingly well, with sparks of attraction igniting just as the investigation heats up. The discovery of another body bearing what seem to be bite marks resembling the first victim has Morgan and Flanders racing against the clock as the media circles and other hunters descend. Knowing all too well the dark side of humans and their ability to deceive, Morgan continues to investigate the lives of the dead men and what may have tied them together.

This first of a new series quickly introduces readers into the world of cryptid hunting and monster lore, creating a fascinating and very original setting for future investigations. The creator of the Mack’s Bar and the Mattie Winston medico-legal investigator series gives Morgan a sharp wit and dry sense humor, often showing a dark edge appropriate to her tragic history. The developing relationship between Flanders and Morgan is thoroughly enjoyable, especially considering that despite their differences they respect the other’s professionalism and intelligence. The plot progresses smoothly and builds tension as Morgan continues to put together the pieces of the puzzle, working up to a conclusion that is both logical and satisfying. This is the start of yet another entertaining series by one of my favorite authors, one whose background in the medical field adds a unique perspective along with the wisdom of one who has seen both the miracles of life and the tragedies of death.

Bound By Murder: An Antique Bookshop Mystery by Laura Gail Black
Review by Cynthia Chow

Love is in the air for the historic district of Hokes Folly, North Carolina, as the Hokes Bluff Inn ramps up its plans for destination weddings. Not only are wedding planners and guests looking for the perfect gifts and décor at Jenna Quinn’s Twice Upon a Time used and antique bookstore, her employees also seem to be swooning under the spell of amour. Jenna’s own boyfriend Detective Keith Logan has recently declared his love for her, and being able to share those same feelings is something that Jenna never thought possible. She had fled to Hokes Folly after a scandal that cost Jenna her job, her reputation, and her fiancé, and the injustice of being falsely accused has left her reluctant to trust. Just when she thought she was moving past the trauma, she’s forced to face it again when the newest bridezilla in town happens to be the fiancée of Blake Emerson, the man who abandoned Jenna when she was at her lowest. Missy Plott is the epitome of every Mean Girl in existence, snidely bringing her bridesmaids to Jenna’s bookstore for the purpose of dismissing the wares, implying that Jenna really did embezzle funds, and warning her away from Blake. All does not seem well between the soon-to-be-Emersons, and after a public fight between the engaged couple it doesn’t seem too surprising when the demanding, self-centered Missy goes missing.

What unfortunately isn’t surprising for Jenna and her recent body-discovering habit is that she is the one to stumble across Missy’s dead body. Keith immediately suspects Blake for the murder, warning Jenna to stay out of his investigation. Surprisingly, it is Blake’s mother who begs Jenna to intercede, insisting that she should know that her former fiancé could never have committed murder. Missy Mean Girl “M Squad” – Mandy, Molly, and Mickey – possibly setting a fire in Jenna’s store doesn’t make her any more enthusiastic about helping Blake, especially considering that he gave Jenna’s engagement ring to Missy. Keith is revealing his own rather unflattering green side, and Jenna worries that his jealousy might be influencing his professional judgment. An act of vandalism prevents Jenna from staying on the sidelines, even if it places her relationship and even her life in jeopardy.

This third in the series closes the circle on mysteries uncovered in the first, and it delivers the resolution that gives Jenna the answers she needed to move forward in her life. Blake is revealed to be the absolute “Worst,” and readers are always on edge that Jenna might weaken and allow herself to be sucked into his vortex. The relationship dramas are as tense and fascinating as the main mystery, and readers will enjoy the emotional roller coasters so many characters endure. Jenna’s investigation into spurned lovers, jealous rivals, and unrequited love make this a fun mix of romance and murder, with Jenna showing just how strong and confident she has grown. A very satisfying conclusion ensures for a rewarding read and that fans will be eager for the next.

Seams Like Murder: A Sewing Studio Mystery by Dorothy Howell
Review by Cynthia Chow

After a perfect storm of disasters that had Abbey Chandler losing her job, her boyfriend, and her apartment all at the same time, she has understandably retreated to Hideaway Grove, the town where she spent summers with her beloved Aunt Sarah. The owner of Sarah’s Sweets took in her niece while Abbey’s parents were off doing archaeological adventures, making Hideaway Grove the place where Abbey always felt most at home. So, as she metaphorically licks her wounds and decides on what to do next in her life, Abbey finds herself unexpectedly taking over a charitable venture of sewing and donating pillowcase dresses to girls in Africa. Abbey’s welcome into Hideaway Grove would be going more smoothly if the local sheriff didn’t connect her to a recent hit-and-run accident, one that occurred just as she arrived in town and was witnessed to have been done by a car the same color as Abbey’s.

While Earlene’s witness statement is taken in as possibly incriminating Abbey, no one seems to believe Earlene’s other belief that the hit-and-run intentional. Feeling sympathetic to Earlene as they both share the humiliation of unflattering gossip, Abbey takes it upon herself to not only prove that librarian Iris Duncan was murdered, but to find the killer as well. It’s a task not made easier by the looming presence of Deputy Zach McKenna, who is either stalking her because he believes she’s a murderer or is flirting with her because he finds her attractive. Confused about her own feelings and whether a job still remains for her back in Los Angeles, Abbey attempts to investigate the life of the very secretive librarian who was either adored or despised by other Hideaway Grove residents.

This debut series by the author of the extremely enjoyable and hilarious Hayley Randolph mysteries debarks into a far more cozy direction with this equally entertaining new book. While Zach’s innuendos and teasing at times could border into harassment territory considering that he is the investigating law enforcement officer, Abbey’s intrigue with him makes it reciprocal. The introduction of Sarah’s and Abbey’s neighbors opens up the possibility of more exploration of these fascinating characters in the future, none more so than Abbey’s childhood friend Jodi, whose engagement to her fiancé seems more like an arrangement of convenience than a true love match. Readers will be very invested in these young women’s lives and the possibilities that await them both romantically and professionally. The author’s involvement in Little Dresses for Africa helped to inspire this new series, placing a deeper and more emotional importance on this fun, sewing-centric new mystery.

To enter to win a copy of all 4 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “books” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 12, 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.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A new episode went up this week.

You can use this link to purchase any of these books from indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, and KRL gets a portion of the sale:
mysteriousgalaxylogo

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.

11 Comments

  1. These all sound so good. I love the covers. They are all going on my TBR list.

    Reply
  2. What a great bunch of books! Count me in!

    Reply
  3. Would love to win these. All are new series for me.
    Sounds like good reads. thanks
    txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

    Reply
    • This are all on my wishlist! I enjoy the other series by Dorothy St. James and Annelise Ryan/Allyson Abbott, and interested in checking out the other two for the first time.

      Reply
  4. All would be new series for me. Cover some of
    my faves – books and sewing. Sound like
    good reads. thanks. txmlhl(at)yahoo(dot)com

    Reply
  5. That’s a really nice collection of books. We’ll both be reading well into the cold weather. Thanks for the chance to win ’em. crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com

    Reply
  6. These all sound great. Would love to win them. One is set in my home state. Love to read books set in my state.

    Reply
  7. These sound great. Would love to read them. One is set in my home state-love to read books set in my home state.

    Reply
  8. I absolutely love everything Dorothy St. Jame writes and am looking forward to an introduction to the other authors reviewed here!

    Reply
  9. A Book Club to Die For by Dorothy St. James, A Death in Door County by Annelise Ryan, Bound By Murder by Laura Gail Black, and Seams Like Murder by Dorothy Howell all sound like delightful mysteries with interesting settings and fascinating characters. I would love to read them all!

    Reply
  10. We have a winner!

    Reply

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