New Mysteries From Hamilton, McKinlay & Cates

Nov 30, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy

Here are three more fun mysteries from Penguin-Freezer or I’ll Shoot by Victoria Hamilton, Read It and Weep by Jenn McKinlay, and Charms and Chocolate Chips: A Magical Bakery Mystery By Bailey Cates. You will find some great pets in these books as well–a Cairn Terrier, a Yorkie-Poo and a cat. Details on how to win a copy of all 3 at the end of this post.

Freezer or I’ll Shoot By Victoria Hamilton
Review by Sandra Murphy

Jaymie is still working about eight jobs–the vintage picnic basket rental business, breakfast prep for her friend Anna’s B&B, sales at the local thrift, rental/clean up and re-rent of her family’s cottage on the island and now a column and blog about, what else, vintage cooking. It will help her build a platform for the publication of her cookbook–the one that needs a major overhaul before it’s ready for the big time.

To add another potential job, the Cottage Shop is opening soon, selling shabby chic items for the home. Jaymie is on the lookout for items to sell there too and as if that’s not enough to deal with, the septic tank at the cottage is in desperate need of repair so the whole back yard is mud and trenches–and a dead body.

It’s Urb, the man everybody loves to hate. It seems like he goes out of his way to insult everyone he meets. The list of suspects is long and each has a good motive. Garnet and Ruby–Urb accused them of cheating in the sailboat race and called Ruby very unflattering names. Urb punched his business partner in the nose, abused his wife physically and his son verbally. He blocked a big job for the guys scheduled to dredge the marina to allow larger boats to dock. Did anybody like him? Seems not.

Sammy, in spite of losing his father, isn’t grieving too much because now he can go to college and study landscaping. As a special project, he designs Jaymie’s back yard transformation post-septic work.

On a personal level, her kinda-sorta-we’re-taking-it-slow boyfriend, Daniel, would like things to move faster. His mother and father are in town to visit and so are Jaymie’s folks. The two fathers get along well–they have golf in common but the mothers–well, that’s World War III in the making and they seem determined to drive their adult children crazy, especially Jaymie’s mom who cleans when she’s upset. She thinks the vintage kitchen collection should go. Jaymie thinks her mom should go.

Jaymie can’t help but wonder who killed Urb. After all, it’s her third body to find within three months, this one in her own back yard and mostly, she needs a distraction from the War of the Mothers.

Hoppy, her three-legged Yorkie-Poo is back and in fine form. He’s a little miffed at being stuck in the house during all the digging–after all, he could be a big help–but he makes up for it when he does get to be outside and is instrumental in solving the case.

Previous books in the series are A Deadly Grind, Bowled Over and in the Merry Muffin series, Bran New Death. I look forward to the next book—there are hints about her romantic situation I need to know about!

Read It and Weep By Jenn McKinlay

Review by Sandra Murphy

Lindsey Norris is head of the library in Briar Creek. Every Thursday afternoon, she hosts a “crafternoon” where the book club members work on a craft project (Lindsey’s making holiday cards) while discussing the book of the month. This month it’s Shakespeare, in honor of Violet’s production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Violet was a professional actress so she’s more comfortable on stage than the rest of the group and a lot more enthusiastic. Lindsey, with no acting talent, is an assistant to the costumers and in charge of making the donkey’s head for one of the characters. Sully, her ex-boyfriend, is also backstage, working on scenery. She’s still not sure why he dumped her. There was no warning but she decides staying out of his way works best for her–easier said than done since he keeps popping up and her friends encourage that.

Robby Vine, a professional actor friend of Violet’s, is in town to work with her once again. His role is that of Puck and its type casting all the way because Robby is as mischievous as the fictional Puck himself. His entourage includes wife Kitty and girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend depending on who you talk to) Lola. Further complications arise when Robby has eyes for Lindsey to the delight of some and the displeasure of Sully.

Rehearsals are going well although Dylan’s mom makes it clear she doesn’t want him to be in the play, around the evil influences of Violet and Robby, and endangering his delicate health. He wants to be near Heather, who was cast as a fairy. Dylan is also the understudy for the role of Puck.

During rehearsal, Robby is injured when a prop tree falls on his leg but the show must go on–and it does until Robby takes a fatal drink from his ever present bottle of coconut water. Although it would seem best to cancel the whole thing, the actors agree to put on the best show possible in Robby’s memory.

Lindsey knows she still loves Sully but then there’s the attraction she had for Robby–he kissed like nothing she’s ever felt before. The suspects are legion–Kitty, Lola, one of the characters who was sure Robby slept with his wife, and even Sully. Complications continue until it’s anybody’s guess as to who put poison in Robby’s drink.

Usually with a cozy, you know within the first chapter who the murder victim will be–the person everyone hates. In this case, Robby is so likeable, you don’t want to think it will be him. As I read on, I had an idea of motive and then a good idea of who did it–and must admit, felt pretty smug about figuring it all out before the end.

Was I right? Only partly! Any time a writer can surprise a reader, it’s a good thing. The surprise in this book is a dandy and caught me totally off guard. To say more would be a spoiler so all I’ll say is just be ready because whatever you think happened–you’re wrong.

In the back of the book, find the Briar Creek Library’s Guide to Crafternoons, the library’s reader’s guide for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (the next read), card making tips, Nancy’s recipe for Raspberry Petit Fours, and a preview of the next Library Lover’s mystery, On Borrowed Time, coming soon from Berkley Prime Crime.

Previous books in the series–best enjoyed if read in order although not mandatory, include:
Books Can Be Deceiving, Due or Die, and Book, Line and Sinker.

McKinlay also writes the Cupcake Bakery mysteries (Red Velvet Revenge, Going, Going Ganache) and the Hat Shop mystery Cloche and Dagger.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra’s short stories on UnTreed Reads including her new one Bananas Foster.

Charms and Chocolate Chips: A Magical Bakery Mystery By Bailey Cates
Review by Cynthia Chow

In the ten months since Katie Lightfoot moved to Savannah her life has changed dramatically. Katie now owns the Honeybee Bakery with her aunt Lucy and uncle Ben, she is in a relationship with fireman and all around good-guy Declan McCarthy, and, oh yes, she has learned that she is a hereditary hedgewitch and a lightwitch gifted in the art of plant and herbal magic. Aided by a “bookclub” of other practicing witches and spell-casters, Katie is hosting her first Imbolc celebration that honors the patron of midwives Brigit and feminine energy.

Although her aunt believes that Katie is attempting to distract herself and fears the darkness she may be attracting with magic, Katie has been filling all of her free time volunteering with Georgia Wild, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting local endangered species and their habitats. Before she can continue to sublimate her worries with good deeds though, Katie and fellow witch Wren Knowles discover the body of the G.W. founder and environmental attorney Autumn Boles posed in death and clutching the origami figure of an extinct species of a bat. This seems to point towards the Fagan Swamp project, designed to demolish and develop the family-owned swamplands into a golf course.

Although the police detective and dark witch hunter who declared that Katie has a duty to fight magic has moved on to another city, Detective Peter Quinn is all too familiar with Katie and the unusual deaths that seem to accompany her. Thankfully, Katie has the support of her adorable familiar Cairn terrier Mungo, her practicing witch aunt Lucy, as well as the entire bookclub coven. Even with her ability to read auras she will need all the help she can get when Wren’s grandmother begs Katie to solve the murder and ease Wren’s worries.

Always in the background is Steve Dawes, a reporter whose father is the leader of a group of Druids and, besides being a Druid himself, has a definite romantic interest in Katie. The death of Steve’s brother who was Declan’s firefighter partner also haunts the men and further complicates their relationships. When Katie learns that Heinrich Dawes is the CEO of the company intent on developing Fagan Swamp she knows that she avoid neither Steve nor black magic.

The third in the Magical Bakery Mystery is full of delicious recipes and descriptions of food, warm relationships and exchanges between Katie and her family, and a very interesting progression in her life and loves. Although her mother gave up being a witch in order to be normal and protect her daughter, only now with her coven does Katie feel accepted and able to begin repairing her relationship with her mother. The tone is kept light and the novel never becomes too fantastical despite the strong elements of bewitched baked goods and battle between the light and the dark. Readers will enjoy this charming and magical mystery as Katie struggles to become more confident with her powers and with the path her life seems to be taking.

To enter to win a copy of all 3 Penguin mysteries, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “mysteries,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 7, 2013. U.S. residents only.

Click on this link to purchase any of these books & a portion goes to help support KRL!

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

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).


  1. These books sounds so terrific. These are books I would love to read. Thanks for the chance at a win. Good authors = very good books.

  2. Thanks for a great review! I’m enjoying the Vintage Kitchen series and have read several of Jenn McKinlay’s books. All 3 are on my wishlist for snowy/cold MN days.

  3. Wow! These all sound like wonderful reads! Thanks for wonderful opportunity!

  4. I love new cozies!

  5. I would love to win all these books

  6. All 3 of these mysteries sound great! I’d love to win them.

  7. Sounds like some fun books.

  8. We have a winner
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher


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