by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
We have another mystery catch up this week-these books are all from September and October and include our first Christmas mystery of the season-A Killer Carol: An Amish Mystery by Laura Bradford, Beyond a Reasonable Stout: A Sloan Krause series by Ellie Alexander, Read and Buried: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates, and All Hat’s on Deck: A Missy DuBois Mystery by Sandra Bretting. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books, along with links you can use to purchase them. If you have ad blocker on you won’t see the Amazon links at the end of each review.
A Killer Carol: An Amish Mystery by Laura Bradford
Review by Sandra Murphy
It’s Christmastime in Heavenly, Pennsylvania. This year, Claire has organized the shop owners to host One Heavenly Night, a celebration for both the Amish and English (non-Amish). She’s making herself a wreck, trying to micromanage every detail while realizing it’s impossible. There will be errors and they will be fixed but still she worries.
In addition to that, Jakob has been acting a bit off lately. There are phone calls he doesn’t explain, and he seems distracted. In her state of mind, she’s sure he’s just waiting for the holidays to be over before breaking up with her.
A group of carolers are going farm to farm. On arrival at Daniel and Mary’s, they find a window open in spite of the cold temperature. Food is spilled on the floor, and as one caroler discovers, both Daniel and Mary are dead. It’s assumed the elderly couple died as they lived—together. Closer inspection reveals that the cause is murder. Yet, what motive would there be?
There are more suspects than first thought. Newlyweds had visited that afternoon and are presumed to be the last people to see Daniel and Mary alive. A shunned son was seen nearby. There was a business rivalry as well. Claire is sure there’s more to the story than anyone knows.
As usual, the Amish are more willing to talk to her than to Jakob. He is shunned because he left the community after he was baptized. As a police detective, they are required to speak to him, but they never volunteer information. Claire is able to be the go-between.
This is book seven in the series. Despite Claire’s misgivings, readers will be rooting for the romance between Claire and Jakob to grow and thrive. There’s a real sense of community between the Amish and English, not always the case. Through Claire’s eyes, we see the Amish face the same worries as everyone else—money, family demands, the expectations of others.
Heavenly is just the place to visit to get into the holiday mood. My only disappointment is that Claire’s Aunt Diane doesn’t share the recipes for the delicious cookies she bakes.
Beyond a Reasonable Stout: A Sloan Krause series by Ellie Alexander
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sloan Krause is divorcing her husband, Mac. Divorcing his family is harder. They are the big beer brewer in Leavenworth, Washington, and made Sloan part owner. Since the separation, she’s working for Nitro, a small brewery that specializes in craft beers. She loves the work because she can combine her love for flavor experiments, cooking, and brewing. Garrett is the owner of Nitro, but he’s open to suggestions.
Post-Oktoberfest means there is time to do all the annoying repairs, paint jobs, and clean ups that accumulated while the tourists were oompahing from pub to pub. Since Garrett wants to renovate the upstairs rooms for guests, now’s the time to get started.
It’s also election time. A seat on the city council is on the ballot and a hotly contested race between the incumbent Kristopher Cooper, and challenger Valerie Hedy. Kristopher has had a change of heart about the future of the town. He wants to go dry—as in without liquor of any kind. Since the town’s tourism draw is its nickname of Beervaria, this would put almost every business out of business.
April Ablin appointed herself the town’s ambassador and rule maker. When Kristopher turns up dead in April’s real estate office, she’s the prime suspect. She begs Sloan, based on them being BFFs (news to Sloan), to help prove her innocence. Sloan’s managed to help before but April? Those outfits she wears and the fake German accent she uses are cause enough for arrest, but Sloan has to admit, April’s not the type to murder anyone.
In the midst of investigating, rumors abound with motive and suspects. Sloan soon finds out, the list is longer than imagined. As she rules out possibilities, she wonders if the case can be solved.
Sloan is beginning to look for answers about her past as a foster child. Now it seems like she’s getting close to finding out why—if she can find a way through all the misinformation she’s been told.
This is the third book in the series. Sloan is someone you’d want to know, especially if you showed up at mealtime. Of stopped by the pub for a pint and snacks. Although she doesn’t share recipes, as the story is told, Sloan gives enough details about what she’s cooking and what her personal touch is for the dish. Good cooks will have no trouble figuring it out. Not so good cooks will want to get better, so they can try the dishes too. Start with the pub’s popcorn. Make a big bowl. Don’t share.
The mystery is a good one. I changed my mind about suspects three times, murder weapon twice, and motive was a bit of a surprise. At the end, there is a huge snow storm with gusting winds that adds a lot of suspense. Remember to breathe through those pages. For a satisfying read, take a trip to Leavenworth for a pint and a pine-flavored shortbread cookie snack. Sloan says they turned out great.
Read and Buried: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates
Review by Cynthia Chow
When Bodie Island Lighthouse Librarian Lucy Richardson is called out of the office during her performance review, it’s with mixed emotions. While the assistant librarian can’t help but appreciate anything that delays the inevitable suggestions for improvement from her library director Bertie James, Lucy’s track record with murder makes the request ominous. For once though, construction workers have discovered not a body but a tin box buried deep in a hole at the basement of the lighthouse tower. Inside the box is a leather-bound diary from 1858, but what truly captivates their attention is a coded page and hand-drawn map of the Outer Banks. It doesn’t take long for rumors to spread hinting of pirate treasures, while it is the historical value of the book that has rival college professors descending upon the discovery. The new head of the historical society also displays a vested interest in the project of deciphering the code, although even more obvious is Jeremy Hughes’ reputation as a “Ladies’ Man.” While Lucy dodges his gropes and leers, others aren’t so dissuaded and instead fall prey to his promises of a future. So when Lucy discovers Jeremy Hughes’ body in the library director’s office, the question is whether he was murdered by another burglar or killed for more personal reasons.
While Lucy promises to stay uninvolved and instead focus on the upcoming Settlers’ Day Fair, no one really takes her too seriously. Detective Sam Watson not only allows the admitted nosy librarian to accompany him on several interviews, he encourages the group effort to decipher the complex code. Lucy’s bookclub selection of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth does much to encourage their quest, especially since the classic novel itself begins with a coded message leading the way to the adventure. Soon matters begin to get out of hand as their collection of historians, librarians, and researchers intrude on Lucy’s beloved Lighthouse Library with séances, break-ins, and threats of lawsuits. Their efforts come to a head during the Settlers’ Day Fair, in what should be the summer’s day of historical lectures, food and craft booths, and somewhat accurate costumes. The past meets the present ways that were not intended, and Lucy’s discoveries place her at the mercy of someone who couldn’t let the past lie dead.
Writing under the names Vicki Delany and Eva Gates, this extraordinarily talented author has crafted five mystery series, five standalone novels, and numerous novellas. Here she continues to build upon the cast of entertaining characters, many of whom may be unlikable but are undeniably intriguing. The romance between Lucy and Nags Head’s new mayor Connor McNeil progresses at a satisfying rate, although it would move faster were they not constantly interrupted by demanding volunteers and library board members. That’s what happens when one lives above a library, yet Lucy’s apartment in the Lighthouse Aerie is as enviable as it is cozy. While modern libraries are community spaces and not the shushing, quiet places of yore, the lighthouse provides Lucy with a comforting consistency. Charmingly cozy and a delight for puzzle-lovers, this novel also tackles academic pressure, contested wills, and shady construction developments. Charles the library cat delights in his role as guardian of the lighthouse, proving to be a reliable judge of character. Readers should look forward to this charming mystery that celebrates libraries, histories, and the joy of puzzle-solving.
All Hat’s on Deck: A Missy DuBois Mystery by Sandra Bretting
Review by Cynthia Chow
After causing a bit of a snafu that caused Ruby Oubre to ruin the ingredients for her voodoo hex potion, hat maker Missy DuBois promised a lagniappe to make up for the loss. That favor is called in by the Cajun woman to help with business advice for her eighteen-year-old grandson, Hollis. While Missy isn’t certain what she can teach a prospective alligator farm owner, the successful milliner is willing to instruct the young man on how to draw up a business plan and explain the concept of supply and demand. When Ruby is late to join their meeting, they make the horrific discovery of her body submerged behind her house. Hollis is unable to accept that his grandmother could accidentally drowned, and the cascade of inquiries about her property along the Atchafalaya River basin seem to back him up. Despite the predatory offers and demands from rogues ranging from the mayor to a riverboat captain, it is Hollis who falls squarely in the limelight as the Louisiana State Police Department’s most likely culprit.
In the two years since Missy created her Crowning Glory hat studio catering to brides and bridesmaids, she has built up a reputation for both creating and restoring the ultimate in custom bridal veils and head couture. A venal blogger is doing her best to upset Missy’s business, not only setting up shop nearby but attempting to overpromise and underprice to brides. In between investigating why Antonella Goode’s Good Hat-i-tude boutique is being welcomed by the city with seeming open arms and a parade, Missy must do her best to help Hollis prove his innocence while also protecting his inherited home. To top it all off, in a case of the shoemaker’s children having no shoes, Missy still hasn’t managed to set a date for her own wedding to ball gown designer Ambrose Jackson,
This series is never better than when showcasing the unique sights and sounds of the Southern Louisiana town of Bleu Bayou. Sugar-dusted beignets, Cajun dialects, and of course an alligator or two come alive in this colorful and lively mystery. Missy uses Southern manners to finagle her way into offices and coax out information, but it’s truly her kindness and affection for those she loves that make her such an effective and dedicated investigator. This is a town, after all, where high-tech spy-cams are outmatched by observant neighbors and protective friends. Readers will enjoy following Missy’s adventures as she solves a murder, wins over a client, and achieves her own Happily Ever After ending.
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 “lighthouse,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 23, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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