by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
The end of the year is almost here and KRL is playing catch up on our mystery reviews! Here is another great group of mysteries for your tbr list-Molded 4 Murder: Sophie Kimball Mystery by J. C. Eaton, An Ale of Two Cities: Literary Pub Mystery by Sarah Fox, Murder at Icicle Lodge: Ferrara Family Mystery by J. D. Griffo, and Last Pen Standing: A Stationary Shop Mystery by Vivian Conroy. 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.
Molded 4 Murder: Sophie Kimball Mystery by J. C. Eaton
by Sandra Murphy
Phee is the bookkeeper for the Williams Investigations in Glendale, Arizona. Somehow, she keeps getting pulled into investigations. Mostly that “somehow” has a direct link to her mother. Phee, her boss Ned, and detective boyfriend Marshall, all relocated to Arizona from Minnesota. Now Phee is within dialing and driving distance of her mom, Harriet. That’s just asking for trouble.
On the way to Arizona, Phee met Gertie and Trudy who now reside at a posh residential resort hotel. They’ve asked for her to meet them about an urgent matter which turns out to be petty thefts—a ball of yarn, a small piece of pottery, two cans of tuna, a jar of olives, a fountain pen and paper clips, and a five dollar bill. Phee agrees to talk to the management without causing any bad feelings from the employees.
Ned and Marshall are working a murder case. And of all things, the dead man has a slip of paper in his hand—with Harriet’s name on it. She’s sure it’s a hit list and is in a panic, a state very familiar to her. Luckily, she has protection in the form of Streetman, a Chiweenie (Chihuahua/ Dachshund mix) who unfortunately, isn’t as brave as she thinks. In times of danger (or any kind of excitement), Streetman pees on himself. He is quite the character.
Keeping the residents of the resort and her mom calm is almost a full-time job. As always, their fears aren’t realistic but aren’t unfounded. Phee, with the help of Ned and Marshall, the FBI, Interpol, is finally able to add the pieces of the puzzle to come to one conclusion—they weren’t imagining it.
This is book five in the entertaining series. I envy Phee’s patience with her mother and friends who can take the smallest incident and turn it into a national emergency. Phee’s relationship with Marshall is moving along at a nice pace. Ned is the kind of boss everyone would want. The mystery is a dozen loose threads that all come together in a most satisfying way. This is a favorite series, one I always look forward to reading. Don’t miss out on Dressed Up 4 Murder, coming in March 2020, available for pre-order now.
Eaton also writes the Wine Trail Mysteries (four), and the Marcy Rayner series, one book so far. J. C. Eaton is a pen name for a husband and wife writing team (she started it!)
PS. Streetman would like a more prominent role in the mysteries. He is, after all, a main character!
An Ale of Two Cities: Literary Pub Mystery by Sarah Fox
Review by Sandra Murphy
Sadie Coleman has opened a literary (book themed) pub in Vermont. Popular with leaf peepers in the fall, the harsh winters can discourage tourism unless there’s a special event. The Winter Festival with an ice sculpting contest, amateur hockey tournament, snowshoe race, and parade are sure to satisfy more venturesome visitors. Of course, to warm up, they’ll stop by the pub, keeping Sadie’s income coming in.
Sadie has a new menu with cocktails like the Count Dracula, Evil Stepmother, and the Paradise Lox appetizer (recipes included). Business is brisk, but she is able to make time to sign up her employees for the hockey game, never mind that her friend Cornelia can skate, she just doesn’t know how to stop.
One of the ice sculptors is a former resident, now a famous chef who has won ice sculpting contests. Reporters and fans are anxious to speak to him. Too bad he wants to be the center of attention but not acknowledge his former friends and mentor.
When Sadie finds his body in an alley, her employee Mel is a suspect. Mel’s ice sculpting tools has gone missing during the dinner break. The ice pick in the chef’s chest is Mel’s. Mel was in the running to win the contest. The police lay out those facts to claim Mel killed him.
Sadie is sure they’re wrong and sets out to prove it. Work and the hockey game keep her out of trouble. Her suspect list includes his former girlfriend, a personal assistant, a rival sculptor, his mentor, his hated half-brother, and there are rumors that his restaurant was financed by the mob.
This is the second book in the series. Sadie is becoming part of the town as she settles in. She does tend to repeat information the police might not care to share. The main problem with narrowing the suspect list is, everybody lies—whether they need to or not.
Sarah’s relationship with Grayson, such as it is, shows signs of warming up even if she doesn’t realize it. She’s involved in her business and doesn’t run off and leave the employees so she can investigate (except during lulls). I do wish characters would remember to carry their cell phones and keep them charged. That ploy has been overused in mysteries. In a time when people are connected to their devices non-stop, characters should be too.
Fox also writes the Pancake House Mysteries (5) and the Music Lovers series (3). Find an excerpt of Crepe Expectations at the back of this book.
Make a cup of hot chocolate, grab a few cookies or a plate of nachos, and settle down to visit wintery Vermont without having to bundle up in boots, gloves, hat, and puffy coat. No shoveling required.
Murder at Icicle Lodge: Ferrara Family Mystery by J. D. Griffo
Review by Sandra Murphy
Alberta Scaglione is a widow in her sixties. Rather than seeing her life as slowing down, she is beginning to live a life she loves after years of trying to please everyone else. Reunited with her granddaughter Jinx, the pair are apt to get into trouble with the best intentions. Aided and abetted by her sister Helen, a former nun, and Joyce, a sister-in-law in limbo (her husband moved to Florida without her), the four women are a force to be reckoned with.
Jinx is a journalist in the making. Now she’s been assigned to write about Pamela Gregory, a gold medal winning Olympic skater from some years ago. Pamela has agreed to make a special appearance at the grand opening of Icicle Lodge. Jinx has been comped two rooms for the event and who better to take along than her family? Along for the ride are Vinnie, police chief and friend, Sloan, Alberta’s beau, Father Sal, the priest who Helen squabbles with, and Freddy, Jinx’s boyfriend.
All is going pretty well until the diva skater shows up. She’s demanding, obnoxious, and doesn’t care who she’s yelling at. Stephanie, her assistant, catches a lot of the flack but no one is immune.
Pamela is scheduled to skate promptly at eight in the morning, but she’s found dead on the ice. No one really liked Pamela, but who hated her enough to kill her? It seems likely that the murderer is someone connected to the lodge as there are no other guests. What started as a few flurries, is now a major weather event. As the snow covers possible clues, will Alberta and her family be able to uncover a killer?
This is the third book in the series, so Alberta and her friends have experience in helping Vinnie solve cases, whether he appreciated it or not. The setting is beautiful, the snow seemingly endless and sure to bring a chill to readers. The relationships between the women and the men who love them are heart-warming. As Alberta says (usually in Italian), family is everything.
The plot, back story, subplots, descriptions, and Italian phrases make for a dense mystery. Red herrings and clues abound. Just remember, trust no one, don’t believe everything you’re told, and don’t go out alone. Especially in the snow.
At the back of the book, find recipes for Alberta’s Italian Wedding Soup, Jinx’s Tofu Cacciatore, Helen’s Sicilian Zabaglione (Zabaglione would make a wonderful holiday dessert.), and Mama Elena’s Risotto Balls.
Last Pen Standing: A Stationary Shop Mystery by Vivian Conroy
Review by Cynthia Chow
A gift from her grandmother has given Delta Douglas the ability to fulfill her dream of owning a stationary shop in Turndish, Montana. Delta quit her graphic designer job at an advertising agency in Wyoming to become the co-owner of WANTED, the stationary store housed out of a renovated sheriff’s office. Along with her old college roommate Hazel, Delta finds their first business venture together conducting a Glitter Galore workshop at the Lodge Hotel. That’s the same night as the hotel’s annual gold miner’s party, an event celebrated for the past one hundred years heralding their tourist-attracting link to gold mining. Led by the owner’s daughter Rosalyn Taylor, the sophisticated party finds the Taylor siblings vying for attention and power. Much to her concern, Hazel’s brother Finn has been dating Isabel Taylor, placing him uncomfortably in the midst of the family battle. When a drunken guest is later found stabbed to death behind the bar, Finn is offered up by the Taylor family as a viable option for the crime, with Rosalyn accusing him of having an affair with the victim.
Fearing that Finn will be railroaded by the powerful family right into prison, Hazel pleads for Delta’s help in proving his innocence. Delta herself had overheard an argument between the late Vera White and another woman, widening the array of suspects to other guests within the party. Assisting her in her investigations is wildlife photographer Jonas Nord, a former law enforcement officer with his own retired K-9 partner Spud. Together, the three wade through the Taylor family drama filled with resentments, mistaken betrayals, and power grabs. An apt detective duo, Delta and Jonas have their own family traumas that have estranged them from loved ones, making them all too aware of the delicate territory in which they are entering.
This debut series introduces readers to the very competent and likable Delta Douglas, who steadfastly pursues leads to help her friends while hopefully not alienating her from her new home. Delta’s stationary shop brings her to the Paper Posse, a crafting group who love a genealogical link to outlaws, glitter, and gossip. Their talent with the latter make them an effective tool in tracking down information regarding the victim’s family and the Taylors, whose reach within Turndish is vast and filled with rumors and murky history. The relationship between Delta, Jonas, and of course, Spud is the highlight of the novel, as their friendship slowly grows stronger the more time they spend delving into the case. Family secrets and shame are aplenty within the beautiful gold-mining town, and Delta will discover that the Fool’s Gold in WANTED may not be the only pretty veneer covering up an uglier truth.
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 “end of year,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 1, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. 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 Play, and Spotify. A new episode went up last week featuring a Christmas Mystery short story by Donna Andrews.
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