by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Chow
This week we have a fun group of food and craft mysteries perfect for your holiday reading-the crafts may inspire you with gift ideas, and the holidays aren’t complete without great food-A Crafter Knits a Clue: A Handcrafted Mystery by Holly Quinn, How to Knit a Murder: Seaside Knitters Society Mystery by Sally Goldenbaum, Purls and Poison: Black Sheep Knit Mystery by Anne Canadeo, Forever Fudge! A Candy-Coated Mystery with Recipes by Nancy Coco, In Cold Chocolate: A Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery by Dorothy St. James, and The Walking Bread: A Bread Shop Mystery by Winnie Archer. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 6 books, along with links you can use to purchase them. Amazon links are not visible if you have ad blocker turned on for your browser.
A Crafter Knits a Clue: A Handcrafted Mystery by Holly Quinn
Review by Sandra Murphy
Samantha, aka Sammy, Kane went back to her hometown of Heartsford, Wisconsin, to attend her best friend Kate’s funeral. Sad as that was, it was even worse to find out Kate’s store, Community Craft, might close as well. As the name implies, crafters from the community sell their products there and would lose their livelihood.
Sammy can’t bear to let that happen so she decides to move back and run the store herself. Most everyone in town gets along well, but Ingrid, owner of the new yarn shop, is an exception. She’s not nice, complains all the time, and is willing to point out other’s flaws, even to make official complaints.
When Sammy finds Ingrid, stabbed in the throat with a knitting needle, it’s hardly surprising that there are multitudes of choices for the killer’s identity. Ingrid caused people to lose their jobs and worse.
Liam Nash is the detective on the case. Although he and Sammy don’t exactly know what to make of each other, it’s apparent there’s an attraction between them, especially since he doesn’t consider her a suspect. Sammy sees so many people each day, in the shop and in town, what could it hurt to ask a few questions, utilizing the original S.H.E.s (Sammy, Heidi and Ellie), a childhood detective agency, called into action again. Just to help Liam, of course.
This is the first in a new series. Sammy and Liam have nice chemistry which promises a developing relationship in future books. The shop will allow characters to come and go into the storylines easily. Sammy has a golden retriever who, of course, needs more time on the pages, as all dogs do. Each crafter has a specialty, adding more variety. I’m looking forward to the next installment already.
At the back of the book, find descriptions of yarns and their best uses, like soysilk yarn which is warm but wicks moisture. There are also patterns for The Easy Sock and Vanilla Pod Socks with eyelets.
How to Knit a Murder: Seaside Knitters Society Mystery by Sally Goldenbaum
Review by Sandra Murphy
Izzy Perry’s yarn shop is popular in and of itself, but it’s also the heart of the women who meet and eat there weekly. When a leak threatens to ruin books and a table, it’s a blessing that Rose Chopra shows up at the right time.
Rose came to town for a few days visit but is surprised when Izzy and her friends befriend her, offering a place to stay and a job she enjoys. Rose has always been handy around the house, able to fix that leaky pipe and take a job doing minor repairs for the local realtor. Sellers don’t want to be bothered with fixing things, buyers don’t want to see a to-do list in their future. It’s beneficial for all concerned for the realtor to handle such problems.
The biggest, fanciest, and some say spookiest, house in town is for sale. Spencer Paxton is determined to buy it in spite of his wife’s objections. The owner, an older man, recently passed away. Paxton’s father once tried to buy the house and lost out. Paxton won’t make that mistake, no matter the cost.
When Paxton’s body is found on the third floor, bashed in the head with a wrench, Rose is the natural culprit. The third floor was where she was working, her prints are on the wrench, and she’s a stranger in town. The knitters know Rose is innocent and set out to prove it.
Paxton’s wife is a suspect too, of course, and the man had many enemies. It will take an effort to clear Rose’s name and figure out who did the deed and how.
This is one of over a dozen books in the series. The mystery is a good one, but it’s the friendship between the women that makes readers come back for more. Every week they gather at the shop and again at one another’s homes, to relax, regroup, and gossip a bit. The pace of the Massachusetts town is slower, making it the perfect place to recharge creativity. Like Rose, after you’ve spent a bit of time there and met the women, you’re apt to want to stay.
Purls and Poison: Black Sheep Knit Mystery by Anne Canadeo
Review by Sandra Murphy
Suzanne Cavanaugh is a realtor and a darn good one at that. She’s willing to show houses to people who take a year to look without buying, knowing they’ll tell friends. She maintains relationships with former clients who might look to downsize or upgrade in the future. It’s time-consuming, but she loves it. There’s only one annoying part of the job and that’s Liza Devereaux. Liza’s a pain in the patoot, always getting a jab in here or there, a little too close to the boss, and not afraid to tattle.
When Liza steals one of Suzanne’s clients and a high priced listing, Suzanne sees red and there’s a screaming fight in the office. Desperately in need of some calm, Suzanne goes to her friends, the Black Sheep Knitting Club. Their voices of reason, mixed with sympathy and understanding are just what Suzanne needs to lower her blood pressure back to a reasonable level.
Her solution works well as her friends respond. On her way home, Suzanne decides she should apologize to Liza. As hard as that will be, it will help make sure Suzanne still has a job and it might make working conditions easier in the office. Liza’s car is still at the office, so Suzanne stops in.
Instead of the apology, Suzanne finds Liza’s body at her desk. The police are called and seem to find it suspicious that Suzanne had a fight with Liza and then Liza is dead. When it’s determined Liza was poisoned and the poison was in a diet drink that was in the office fridge, Suzanne is a major suspect.
Liza kept her personal life very private. Her ex or soon to be ex or current husband, no one knows what he his or what to call him, comes by the office, sure he inherits everything since they’re still married—he says. Liza’s mother has another story. She swears they’re divorced. Liza’s sister says it doesn’t matter, the Liza’s estate is protected. It’s a mess that will take all the Black Sheep to unravel as Suzanne realizes she might have misjudged Liza all along.
This is the second book in the Black Sheep and Company series. Search Canadeo’s name and find eight Black Sheep Knitting books from another publisher.
At the back of the book, find links to knitting patterns and a recipe for Suzanne’s Celebration Chocolate Cake with Celebration Coconut Frosting. Relax and enjoy!
Forever Fudge!: A Candy-Coated Mystery with Recipes by Nancy Coco
Review by Cynthia Chow
Normally, Labor Day marks the official end of the tourist season on Mackinac Island. It’s when visitors depart for the mainland and local businesses close for the long snowy winter. That may change when it’s announced that a television pilot is about to be filmed on the downtown streets, with stores vying for the opportunity to be featured in the opening credits. It’s an opportunity that Allie McMurphy is willing to pass up though, since the town Board is asking for $2000 just to be considered, and she already has that money earmarked for roof renovations.
Now that she’s taken over her family’s Historic McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop, being able to create a new wedding and event location is still far more appealing than Hollywood It Actor Dirk Benjamin. That’s not to say that the action star shadowing local police officer Rex Manning isn’t tempting, but Allie already has more than handle with two suitors competing for her affection. The aforementioned Rex is finally stating his attentions now that Allie’s romance with wealthy Trent Jessop stalled out due to his off-Island business obligations, but Trent still has no intention of giving up so easily. This may be why when Allie’s adorable bichon-poo Mal continues to prove his skills as a body-discoverer, Allie is almost eager to deflect and instead focus on investigating a murder.
This is a murder that seems targeted to draw Allie in, as not only was the corpse left in the middle of Allie and Mal’s normal walking route, a chess clue was left with her name written on it. Whatever the murderer may believe, Allie has very little skill at the game and so must rely on a more skilled employee and a Senior Chess Club for advice. When Allie appears to be making little headway in the investigation the killer escalates, leaving bloody pranks, increasingly hostile notes, and even a few body parts. Rex may have tolerated the presence of a dense, imaged-obsessed celebrity following his every move, but that was before Dirk asked Allie out for a photographic-friendly night out on the town. Now with everything she loves on the line and a menacing killer stalking her, Allie must juggle her increasingly confusing personal life with a lethal chess game that could cost her everything.
The entertainment business can always be relied upon for moments of absurdity and humor, and that is never more apparent than in this delightful chocolaty mystery. Still struggling to no longer be considered a temporary resident and “Fudgie,” Allie must contemplate whether she will continue to stay on Mackinac Island. It’s a choice that will affect her relationships with her two suitors, not to mention all of their family and friends. On a small island where locals know everyone from generations past, it’s not surprising that the murder investigation quickly focuses on outsiders, no matter how much the Hollywood visitors may be admired. While Allie focuses on her own suspects, a clever swerve should leave most readers caught off-guard by the unexpected but completely plausible twist. Pop culture observations, mouth-watering fudge recipes, and the always charming antics of Allie’s bichon-mix make this a fun romp and place it on the top of every cozy reading list. This sixth of the series continues to allow Allie to grow into her role running her hotel and fudge shop, and readers will be eager to follow her adventures both in romance and within the McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop.
Throughout the book, readers are treated to some delicious, easy-to-follow fudge recipes: Easy Butterscotch Fudge, Easy S’more Fudge Bars, Dark Chocolate Coconut Fudge, Lavender Chocolate Fudge, and Gingerbread Fudge.
In Cold Chocolate: A Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery by Dorothy St. James
Review by Cynthia Chow
Despite having lived in Camellia Beach, South Carolina, for only a few months, Charity Penn finally feels like she’s home. After unexpectedly inheriting the Chocolate Box specialty chocolate store, Penn has found a close group of friends of coworkers. Her wish to discover the identity of her birth mother has been less joyful than expected though, with Florence Maybank now denying their connection and the family accusing Penn of stealing their inheritance. A confrontation with her attorney’s ex-wife is just what Penn doesn’t need, especially when it results in her accidentally being shot during a beach baby turtle hatching. Jody admits to shooting Penn, but denies having also shot Cassidy Jones, Jody’s now very ex-boyfriend and whose body they just discovered in the sand.
While Penn would be more than happy to let Jody languish in jail, her son’s plea to Penn forces her into investigating and prove Jody’s innocence. With a deadline to have Jody freed before an annual mother-son school shopping trip, Penn and her friend Althea Bays begin tracking down the many reasons someone wanted Cassidy Jones dead. Looming in the background for Penn is the court appearance in which she will face down her alleged relatives, where a new DNA test will finally prove her truthfulness…or possibly shatter the new life she has created. Not even break-ins at the Chocolate Box, scoldings from the police, stolen candy turtles, or a shootout at her store are enough though to have Penn break her promise to a heart-broken Gavin.
This fourth in the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series succeeds in balancing the elements of a small, gossipy town with heart-wrenching moments of Penn’s emotional turmoil. Her past has taught her that to trust is to be hurt, which means that nothing is more terrifying than the risk of a new romantic relationship. It’s impossible not to feel for Penn when she is vilified by the Maybank family who openly accuse her of lying and being worthless. Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of this novel is how relatable and sympathetic Penn becomes, especially when she is attacked by those she so desperately wishes to please. Thankfully these moments are alleviated by the jubilant Althea and her eager assistance as they get into trouble tracking down those with shaky alibis. A visiting chef allows Penn to share her extensive knowledge of chocolate making and her rare Amar chocolates, and recipes at the end of the novel will have readers eager to grab a mixing bowl. Cozy readers will be more than satisfied with the light-hearted humor of the Camellia Beach residents, not to mention Penn’s adorably prickly Papillon Stella. The answers Penn finds by the end of this delightful novel create even more questions for her future, which looks to be promising whatever next step she chooses to make.
The Recipes Snipped from the Camellia Current, Camellia Beach’s Local Newspaper include Penn’s Moon Benne Wafer Cookies, Bubba’s Spicy Cocoa Pork Tenderloin, and Bertie’s Cheer-Me-Up Chocolate Chip Pancakes.
The Walking Bread: A Bread Shop Mystery by Winnie Archer
Review by Cynthia Chow
Ever since he was a teenager, Billy Culpepper competed in Santa Sofia’s Art Car Show and Ball. During the festive California event, automobiles are crafted into works of art based on individual themes, and Billy’s creations were always outstanding and unique. Still, every year he was always bested by rival Maxwell Litman, and it was Ivy Culpepper’s first outing as a budding detective that they discovered why. Max’s sway over the judges continued to make him a winner, though, which is why it is only now after their mother’s death that Billy is re-entering the competition. With a Through the Looking-Glass theme to honor their late mother, Billy and Ivy both believe that the win would be deserved and meaningful. Unfortunately, when the long rivalry ends with Max’s corpse being found too appropriately in his zombie-themed car, Billy naturally becomes the prime suspect.
Sheriff Lane comes out of usually inert state to assume command of the case, declaring that his reliable Deputy Sheriff Emmaline Davis is too biased based on her romantic relationship with Billy. A sidelined Emmaline begs her best friend Ivy to be the eyes and ears of the investigation, and Ivy is more than willing to be the Archie Goodwin to Em’s Nero Wolfe. With evidence staged to frame Billy and the sheriff unwilling to look further, Ivy enlists her own octogenarian investigating assistant Mrs. Branford to weed though the plethora of those wronged by the deceased. An investment scheme robbed his victims out of $120,000 each, and even though Max’s life coach/spiritual advisor/angel reader declares that he had changed, it’s more than likely that his past had come back to take revenge.
Professional photographer Ivy has found peace working within Yeast of Eden California bakery, where its owner Olaya Solis is Ivy’s guru, Yoda, surrogate grandmother, and role model. Olaya has shown Ivy that preparing the lovingly prepared, multi-cultural delicacies allows one to find one’s center while sharing memories and experiences. Perhaps that new calm is what allows Ivy to finally face down the person responsible for destroying Ivy’s high school romance with restaurateur Miguel Baptista, a relationship ended on mistruths and only recently resumed. Ivy proves to be far more forgiving than most, a trait that makes her all the more empathetic and admirable. Ivy’s investigation is pursued realistically as she uses her connections to question those once close to Max, and leads to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion. Ivy’s initial concern over her brother may rob her of her appetite, but the descriptions of Ivy’s breadwork and the delicious treats she is finally tempted into consuming are more than enough to have readers’ stomachs growling in envy. Seeing Ivy find comfort with her family and resolve her past is a wonderful treat as rewarding for fans as for Ivy herself. This is a series that continues to grow stronger as it expands its characters and continues to expand the world of Santa Sofia.
Fans will enjoy the bread recipes included: Chocolate Babka, Gluten-Free Chocolate Babka, and Chile Ancho Sopa de Chocolate.
To enter to win a copy of all 6 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “holiday reading,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 1, 2017. 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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