by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have some more fun mysteries from Penguin authors for your winter reading list-Writing All Wrongs: A Books By The Bay Mystery by Ellery Adams, Crowned and Moldering: A Fixer-Upper Mystery by Kate Carlisle, A Likely Story by Jenn McKinlay, and Knot Guilty by Betty Hechtman. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 4 books, and a link you can use to purchase them.
Writing All Wrongs: A Books by The Bay Mystery By Ellery Adams
Review by Cynthia Chow
An abbreviated honeymoon on Palmetto Island wouldn’t seem to be the ideal choice for most newlyweds. For Olivia Limoges and Bayside Police Chief Sawyer Rawlings, though, it is the perfect getaway for this “mature” couple unused to so much togetherness. The capper to their vacation is that their fellow Bayside Book Writers writing group will join them for the Legends of Coastal Carolina Festival. Not only will the event spotlight lectures on local history and ghost lore, it also has the lure of Silas Black, whose hit television series revels in graphic depictions of the seedier side of the coast’s piratical history. Casting a shadow on the event is Black’s support of a shipwreck excavation and involvement in local development, as it has environmentalists and conservationists up in arms.
As the island soon becomes flooded with pirate reenactors, Olivia and Rawlings certainly don’t expect that it is the infuriated activists who will loot and pillage Black’s home in protest. Acts of vandalism linked to local legends eventually culminate with the ghostly murder of Black’s temperamental girlfriend, and Olivia worries that the local authorities may be too blinded by Black’s celebrity status to competently investigate. Her fears seem to play out with the arrest of history professor Emmett Billinger, whose research helped Olivia and the Bayside Book Writers in previous investigations. Despite an unfounded scandal that nearly destroyed his career, Olivia is unable to believe that the genial owner of two adorable greyhounds had reason to murder the woman or sabotage Black’s development plans.
While there are many locals with hostile feelings toward Black and his activities, it is his connection to Charles Wade that truly confounds Olivia. Only recently did Olivia discover that he is her biological father, and as a result her ability to trust him is extremely limited. Charles’s purchase of the Bayside bookstore that will be hosting the first book signing event of their writing group’s debut novel was his first step towards becoming closer to Olivia, but his refusal to disclose the secret that links him to Black is fracturing whatever bond they forged.
Once again prolific author Ellery Adams crafts a novel whose plots skillfully build toward an entirely unpredictable solution. What will have readers returning to this series are the amiable characters whose histories are continually developed through each new installment. The members of the Bayside Book Writers are as much friends as they are a critique group, and their efforts to help Olivia are a delight. Now with a loving husband joining her as a constant companion—along with her reliable standard Poodle companion Captain Havilland—Olivia is no longer the lonely rich girl and isolated owner of the Boot Top Bistro. This is a truly enjoyable mystery, and while featuring descriptions of good food and funny dialogue, it also focuses on a deeper theme that motivates so many of the characters. The novel is always entertaining and lighthearted, but it also never forgets the very real impact violence and tragedy leaves upon the survivors.
Crowned and Moldering: A Fixer-Upper Mystery by Kate Carlisle
Review by Cynthia Chow
Shannon Hammer loves nothing more than renovating dilapidated Victorian homes that she makes into gorgeous showpieces in her hometown of Lighthouse Cove, California. Shannon’s latest project is one dear to her heart, as her new tenant and friend MacKintyre Sullivan plans to turn the dilapidated Lighthouse Mansion into a showpiece worthy of its historical importance. Their plans are halted when Shannon makes the gruesome discovery of a corpse wedged into the house’s dumbwaiter, and its identity hits Shannon and her crew close to home. It seems that despite what everyone has believed for the past fifteen years, Lily Brogan never did manage to escape her abusive household.
As a sophomore in high school, Shannon admired the beautiful senior who was kind to her after her mother’s death. Sean Brogan never stopped searching for his sister, and seeing her employee at Hammer Construction devastated by the loss has Shannon even more invested in learning of Lily’s fate. All of Shannon’s inquiries seem lead back to their high school, many of whom continue to impact Shannon and Lighthouse Cove today. The incompetent guidance counselor continues to practice, Lily’s cheating boyfriend now seems intent on harassing Shannon out of business, and a past secret proves to be just as shocking now.
Ever since she returned home to take over her father’s construction business, Shannon has somehow managed to become enmeshed in murder investigations tied to her renovations. At least this time she isn’t the suspect, which is perhaps why the Thor-like police chief, Eric Jensen, is willing to consult with her regarding the events that occurred fifteen years ago. Shannon’s experiences from high school may prejudice her viewpoints on guilt, especially when it comes to the condescendingly sexist counselor and the continually menacing Cliff Hogarth.
Just as she made book preservation fascinating in her Bibliophile Mystery series, the author succeeds in making details about construction and historical renovations interesting. Even more entertaining is Shannon’s flirtation with the multi-millionaire, bestselling author, and former Navy SEAL Mac, even though Eric is handsome enough to rival California’s most eligible bachelor.
There is enough humor and witty dialogue between Shannon and her friends to counter the tragedy of Lily’s fate, and the author never shies away from exploring the extent of high-school traumas. Carlisle masterfully crafts Lighthouse Cove into a fully formed and realistic town where St. Patrick’s day festivals are planned, the unexpected arrival of an attractive blonde can have surprisingly pleasant results, and friendships last for decades. Readers will be thoroughly satisfied by this deftly plotted novel that builds stealthily to an extremely satisfying conclusion.
A Likely Story by Jenn McKinlay
Review by Sandra Murphy
Lindsey Norris is the librarian at Briar Creek Public Library in Maine. While most librarians go from the stacks to the checkout desk, Lindsey’s job is a little more far-reaching. She’s on a water taxi, piloted by her ex-boyfriend, Sully (he’s trying out for current boyfriend status again), to visit the Rosen brothers on Star Island. The brothers are now elderly and have seldom left the island, although there are rumors that Stewart roams at night. Peter is in a wheelchair and confined to the house. That’s just as well since the island is booby-trapped with explosives, steps that will collapse and it’s not safe to open the doors either.
Stewart always meets Lindsey on the dock but this time, he’s not there. It’s too cold to wait long, so she and Sully make their way carefully to the house. No one answers the door so they finally venture in, avoiding mishaps along the way. At the kitchen table, they find Peter sitting in his wheelchair, shot in the chest. It’s apparent he’s been dead for some time. The question now is—where’s Stewart, and is he another victim or a killer?
Emma, chief of police, arrives to take charge. Unfortunately she’s not as careful as she should be, and one of the booby traps explodes, landing a table on her leg. A cast on her leg and mobility via wheelchair is not her idea of how to investigate. Sully and Lindsey try to help without getting in the way—especially in the way of the wheelchair. Emma continually crashes into doorways and furniture. People around her need to be agile enough to get out of the way.
The murder is not the only thing on Lindsey’s mind. She’s trying to work things out with Sully but there’s also Robbie Vine, a wannabe suitor who is married (in name only, or so he says). He’s a good friend, better flirt, and—Lindsey’s pretty sure—going to stay in the friend category. Sully isn’t so sure. Robbie’s positive he won’t.
There are board meetings to attend, friends to visit during Crafternoons (attended by crafters who meet at the library), and a pair of treasure hunters looking for the unusual and just weird stuff. They swear they had an appointment with Peter and have emails to prove it. Since there was no computer found in the Rosen house, maybe someone else used Peter’s name. Sully and Lindsey are cautious but still manage to get into a dangerous situation or two.
This is Book Six in the series. What to watch for next? Robbie has a bombshell surprise, and so does Mary, Sully’s sister. Don’t forget Beth’s storytimes and a new friend, craft tips, recipes, and good reading. Recipes include Irish soda bread and shepherd’s pie. There are instructions for making flowers from scrap paper and how to start a Crafternoon group. McKinlay also writes the Cupcake Bakery series (seven of them) and the Hat Shop mysteries (three so far). Adding the titles to all her books to your Christmas list wouldn’t be greedy, would it?
Knot Guilty by Betty Hechtman
Review by Sandra Murphy
The Southern California Knit Style Show has always been about knitting only. This year they’ve added crochet, much to the delight of Adele, the most rabid fan of the hook there ever was. She works at Shedd and Royal bookstore with Molly Pink. Molly’s officially the event planner, but Adele can’t miss an opportunity to elbow her way in on everything.
The knit show is a high-class affair with sterling-silver knitting needles embedded with diamonds as their logo and signature item to sell in their studio. Adele’s ideas of drawing customers to their booth don’t sit well with K.D, the organizer. She rules with an iron fist—forget the velvet glove. So far she’s embarrassed a woman in front of a group (twice), tried to put Adele in her place (didn’t work), and moved a long-time vendor’s booth to the back of the room where no one goes. K.D. also hints at an announcement but refuses to give any details.
The bookstore has a prime booth location, right in the front. It doesn’t hurt that Eduardo, former book cover model (think Fabio), is there to show people how to crochet Irish lace. Elise is there with her crocheting vampire kits (the Anthony movies, you know), and husband Logan shows up in full Anthony costume. Dinah and the other crocheters pitch in to help sell yarn and hooks, and to teach people how to make granny square pins. All in all, it’s a three-ring circus.
Adele’s fit to be tied when she finds out K.D. overruled her idea of a logo—a wooden crochet hook made from a plunger, spray painted gold with LED flashing lights on it—and says she’s going to talk to the woman.
When K.D.’s assistant, Delvin, comes to tell Molly that K.D. wants to see her, she’s sure it’s about Adele. Molly just hopes it doesn’t get them thrown out of the building. Unfortunately, when she and Delvin arrive at K.D.’s room, it’s to find K.D. dead in the bathtub. It seems someone tossed a hair dryer in with her. Now Adele is in the crosshairs with the police.
On a more personal front, Molly got what she wished for—a chance to live alone and make her own decisions. Too bad she’s figured out that it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Barry, the police detective she’d been dating, has stepped out of the picture. Mason, the lawyer, stopped calling. It’s time for a change—but is it too much to hope that it doesn’t include murder?
This is the ninth book in the series. Molly is growing and learning what she really wants out of life. Dinah, her BFF, is a good contrast for Molly. The others in the crochet group get a chance to shine at the knit show. Barry and Mason, well, it’s hard to say who’s better for Molly but she makes a decision she won’t regret—probably. Molly has more patience than anyone. Most people would have slapped some sense into Adele by now, or at least tried to.
There are a number of surprises in this book and a cliffhanger ending that leaves you wanting more, a lot more. I can’t wait for the next book to find out what happens next.
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 “more winter,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 5, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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