by Cynthia Chow & Sandra Murphy
This week we have reviews and giveaways of 3 Christmas mysteries, with several more to come in the next few weeks-Bones of Holly: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery by Carolyn Haines, A Dark and Snowy Night: A Seaside Knitters Society Mystery by Sally Goldenbaum, and Blackmail and Bibingka: A Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery by Mia P. Manansala. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 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.
Bones of Holly: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery by Carolyn Haines
By Sandra Murphy
Sarah Booth and Tinkie, with baby Maylin, are judges for the Christmas tree contest in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, this year. The contestants are extremely creative so they’re glad there are two more judges, Sandra and Janet, both writers and former friends. Now they’re either frenemies or enemies depending on the day. They’re not shy about causing screaming fights in public and accusing each other of plagiarism. While the topics may be the same, the genre is not, so why get to the hair pulling stage over it? One writes fiction and the other non-fiction. Still, after each public display of temper, sales for both authors go through the roof.
Sandra is hosting a gala complete with a book signing to launch her latest bestseller. During the party she and her assistant disappear. Is it another stunt to boost sales or has something happened? Either way, how did they get out of the house, and where did they go?
As the police circle closer to Janet as cause for the disappearance, she begs Sarah Booth and Tinkie to find the truth although she’s not very helpful in that regard. To make matters worse, now Sarah Booth and Tinkie have to judge all the holiday tree entrants on their own. As circumstances worsen, they call in recruits in the form of Millie and CeCe from back home. Before you know it, the gang’s all here and the hunt is on. What could go wrong? Well, Jitty, Sarah Booth’s own personal ‘hant’ (ghost) keeps popping up with her ever cryptic and unexplained messages from beyond.
This is book twenty-five in the series. Look for number twenty-six, Tell Tale Bones, available for pre-order now, shipping in May, 2023. It’ll be a good time!
A Dark and Snowy Night: A Seaside Knitters Society Mystery by Sally Goldenbaum
Review by Sandra Murphy
It’s that time of year, when thoughts go to holiday parties, good food, and knitting for gifts or warmth. How convenient the Sea Harbor Yarn Studio has all the supplies you’d need and people to help you get past the knit ones and purl twos.
Usually, there’s an open party for everyone in town. This year the mayor, Beatrice, wants to show off her new house, and it’s invitation only with a guest chef often seen on television food shows.
Not everyone looked forward to the party; those who weren’t invited didn’t mind not dressing up but felt left out of the festivities. Invited guests loved the food and drink but not the uncomfortable atmosphere. Fights in the kitchen, a takeover attempt by Chef Lidia of the town’s most popular restaurant, a Peeping Tom on the loose, and roads slick with snow, had people looking for excuses to leave early. Of course, murder really puts a damper on a party.
Chef Lidia is found in the yard, having been hit over the head with a full bottle of wine. There are plenty of people on the suspect list: Dirk who fought with her and left early, her husband, Ollie, a wannabe chef whose career was ruined before it started, the restaurateur who didn’t want to sell, and that’s just the beginning.
Nell, Izzy, Cass, and Birdie aren’t your typical amateur sleuths. They don’t interview people so much as just talk, don’t put themselves in dangerous situations, or decide they know better than the police. They do protect their own and for them, crime is a puzzle to be solved.
This is book five in the series. Birdie is the oldest of the group, followed by Nell, Cass, and Izzy. Each have their own strengths used in solving crimes. It’s a close-knit group, one readers will envy. Birdie brings the wine, Nell cooks, Izzy takes care of knitting supplies and a place to meet, and Cass, a non-cook and not-great knitter, brings bread to go with Nell’s meal.
There’s a pattern for a broken rib cowl, 46” around and 12” deep, designed by Kate Dailey, owner of Marblehead Knits. Visit Kate at www.marbleheadknits.com. Kristen Fredrickson shares a recipe for a Christmas morning souffle. Find more about her at www.kristeninlondon.com.
Goldenbaum also writes the Queen Bees Quilt Shop mysteries (three).
Blackmail and Bibingka: A Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery by Mia P. Manansala
Review by Cynthia Chow
For the first big venture of Lila Macapagal’s Brew-ha Café in Shady Palms, Illinois, she and her BFF business partners are planning Christmas menus for the town’s annual Winter Bash holiday celebration. Her family’s Tita Rosie’s Kitchen restaurant next door has taken off and become a sought-after tourist destination, so the pressure is on for Lila to succeed and make up for the recent events that have plunged her into criminal investigations. Along with the usual holiday drama is the return of her Black Sheep cousin Ronnie Flores, who has been absent from their lives for fifteen years but has come back to open arms from his indulgent mother. Lila can’t help but be suspicious of Ronnie and his track record of get-rich-quick schemes, especially when he shares the news that he plans to open a new Shady Palms Winery specializing in the coconut wine lambanog.
As Ronnie attempts to sway the family into catering for the new investors he hopes to impress, Lila is far more alarmed by the email blackmail threat that her Tita Rosie received. Its demands for $50,000 or Ronnie’s secrets will be revealed have Tita Rosie in tears but adamant that the police not be contacted. That’s going to be impossible when one of the investors is poisoned and police arrive, one of whom happens to be Tita Rose’s sorta-boyfriend Detective Park, the brother of Lila’s own boyfriend Jae. The drama between family members is heightened as the cousins battle through past wrongs and vie to be the most protective over their beloved grandmother. Wealthy investors, delicious Filipino treats, and pre-Christmas revelry compete for Lila’s attention as she attempts to balance her family’s needs with her instinct to protect them.
This third in the series, with a promised three more on the way, is a standout with its celebration of Lila’s family and their Filipino-American cuisine. Rice cake bibingka and the rice-pudding-like champorado are tantalizingly described with recipes included at the end, but it’s the memories and traditions tied to these treats that make them so important. Lila’s besties, Elena and Adeena, along with fellow businesswomen Yuki and Sana, are a vibrant and very fun group of modern women supporting one another in a world that is built against them. Lila has grown tremendously since her first appearance in Arsenic and Adobo, with her confidence and family bonds stronger than ever. The same family obligations that tend to get her into trouble are the ones that also help to get her out, as the love from her matriarchal family is unwavering and constant.
Even though Lila states that she is not as Christmas-crazy as the relatives who begin decorating in September, she has learned to love the town’s traditions that draw in even their growing Muslim and Jewish communities. Lila’s humor helps to propel her through the holidays and the increased pressure to help her rogue cousin, making this a lively and very entertaining read. The abundance of deliciously depicted treats like pinipig shortbread, pandan crinkles, and salabat snickerdoodles reveal how customs can blend together into a welcoming, multicultural celebration.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “holiday tbr” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 3, 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 goes up next week.
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