by Sandra Murphy
To end 2015 with a bang, here are a few more mysteries from Penguin & Kensington authors-The Scottie Barked at Midnight by Kaitlyn Dunnett, Yarned and Dangerous by Sadie Hartwell, and Death on the High Lonesome by Frank Hayes. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of all 3 books & a link to purchase them.
The Scottie Barked at Midnight by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Review by Sandra Murphy
Liss MacCrimmon, owner of the Scottish Emporium in Moosetookalook, Maine, knows spring and a busier season isn’t too far away. For the moment, though, things are slow, snowy, and icy. On her way home, black ice is a constant worry and when something darts in front of the car, she automatically hits the brakes. While checking the car, she notices two little eyes watching her—it’s a Scottish terrier, obviously not a stray.
Her act of kindness in rescuing the dog leads to an unexpected treat for her. The Scottie is one of a pair owned by Deidre of Deidre and her Dancing Doggies, minor celebs on a reality talent show. Truth be told, the dogs have more talent than Deidre. Liss is able to return the pup and finds out Deidre thinks she was dognapped!
While most people think the Scottie merely escaped, there’s no explanation for how she got into the woods, miles away from the hotel. When Deidre dies suddenly the next day, it raises more alarms, at least with Liss.
Until a knee injury sidelined her, Liss was a professional Scottish dancer. Now Deidre’s daughter asks Liss to fill in so the dogs can finish the competition. Liss agrees and before she can get all the details, the daughter’s flown home. The routines aren’t that hard and the Scotties are cooperative, so it’s not too big a problem.
The other acts are a little weird—an insulting comedian, a magic act, an opera singer doing show tunes, for example—and most of them report some form of sabotage to their acts. Some are mild but it seems to be escalating. Liss doesn’t dare leave the dogs alone in case the pranks circle back to her.
The host seems to have a huge financial interest in the show’s success. The whole setup is weird. They advertise as a “live” show but there’s no audience, just canned laughter and applause added later. Viewer votes are supposed to weigh heavily but the winner each week is announced the same day as the performance—not after it’s aired. It seems the whole thing is rigged and Deidre’s Dancing Doggies are the shoo-in.
Nothing is what it seems, and neither are the people. To add to her worries, Liss’ aunt is in the hospital. She’s been pretty secretive lately and Liss needs to find out how serious it all is. Luckily, her husband is self-employed too and can come spend the night after things get really hinky.
And don’t worry: no dogs were harmed in the writing of this book!
This is the ninth in the series. I have a feeling the Scotties will be around for a long time to come and that will add a lot of spice since Terriers are known to be free-thinkers and self-motivated. It’s a truly enjoyable series and one I look forward to reading each time.
Yarned and Dangerous by Sadie Hartwell
Review by Sandra Murhpy
Josie Blair is underappreciated at her job. Her boss, Otto, seems more focused on having her be his girlfriend-of-the-month rather than his fashion designer. During an argument, she says she quits, and he says he fires her.
Her uncle Eb broke his leg and could use some help around the farm. He and his wife Cora hadn’t been married long when a car accident put him in a cast. Cora’s air bag didn’t deploy and she was killed. One of the jobs Eb assigns Josie is to inventory and sell the contents of Cora’s store, Miss Marple Knits.
There are two women who lust after owning the shop, many more who lust after the yarn and hope for deep discounts during a going-out-of-business sale. When Josie goes into the storeroom and accidentally knocks over a stack of boxes, she’s more than startled to see the dead body of Lillian lying on the shelf, her head propped up with cashmere yarn. She’s been strangled by a rope made from yarn from Cora’s shop. Cora kept a sales book telling what each person bought, but the book is not to be found.
Josie doesn’t plan on staying. She’s sure Otto will take her back, but her enthusiasm for designing is at a low point. Of course, gathering eggs, feeding the dog, learning that maple syrup comes from trees not just the store—all that takes up a lot of time anyway. She’s also able to reconnect with an old friend, Lorna, and meet Mitch, the next-door hunky neighbor, as well as avoid a guy she dated briefly during a visit long ago. Too bad she can’t avoid his overbearing mother and his current wife.
There’s what’s supposed to be an empty building across the street but Josie has seen members of the knitting club sneaking in and out. No one will admit to anything. More than once, someone has been in the yarn store during the night and moved things around. For a small town, there’s a lot going on.
Eb and Josie are great characters once she gets used to his cranky ways. Mitch presents a possible romance that could prove to be interesting. Otto—well, he’s a pain in the patoot who takes advantage of his employees. Jethro, Eb’s dog, comes across as a tough guy but can be bought for a dog cookie. Coco, Josie’s cat, isn’t ready to make friends with the hairy beast.
Although the town seems to be at death’s door, what with small businesses down the drain, Josie thinks there’s potential, but of course, she has a life elsewhere. Still…
Josie is able to make several life-altering decisions while in town. I can’t wait to see what happens to her next because this is a place you’d want to visit, for lunch at the general store (Lorna’s cooking) and for a chance to see all the beautiful yarns in the shop—not that I’m lusting for yarn, of course.
Death on the High Lonesome by Frank Hayes
Review by Sandra Murphy
Virgil Dalton is sheriff in Hayward. Most of the time, it’s pretty peaceful. His deputy, Jimmy, is on his way back from the last loop around the area for the night when something falls from the highway above and hits his car. His car plunges down an embankment and it’s only by luck he comes to and is able to call in. He has no explanation as to why there’s a woman with him.
The autopsy shows blunt force trauma killed the woman. It’s likely she was hit by a semi on the highway and thrown over the side—but before she was, she was running, delirious from lack of food and water. She has no ID, so the sheriff’s department is hard-pressed to find out what happened.
Charlie Thompson’s gone missing. His wife, Velma, called in to say he’d been up in the High Lonesome area (mountains) for several days. He should have been back by now. There’s no cell service up there and Charlie was alone, looking for stray cattle, he said. Rosita needs a change of scenery from the desk and Jimmy needs light work so she goes to see Velma. She finds Velma sitting on the porch, cup of tea next to her and she’s dead. Well, she’s got to be at least seventy-five so it’s possibly natural causes.
Charlie and Velma’s adult children are notified. That would be Calvin, Vernon and Marion. Charlie had always hoped the boys would take over the ranch, but neither showed any interest. Marion wanted to but in Charlie’s eyes, girls don’t run a big spread. Now there’s a lack of water to deal with, lower prices for the cattle but nothing to feed them if they’re kept, and Charlie’s getting older. Calvin and Vernon don’t seem too upset by their mother’s death, even when they find out it might have been murder. Marion can’t imagine why anyone would hurt Velma. All in all, it’s pretty much a mess and not a clue around.
To say much more would give away too much of the story. This is one you want to read for yourself and figure out as many of the clues as Virgil can discover. There’s a horseback search, not as exciting as a car chase but it has its own dangers to watch out for—and the wildlife is only one part of that. As backstory, the sheriff’s last case comes back to haunt him and to top it all off, he’s just found out he has a daughter, now grown. She’s in town and he’s not sure if she knows. If not, how can he tell her—or even should he?
This is the second in the series. It’s a complex storyline that will hold your attention and make you wish you didn’t have to work the next day. In the end, the sheriff figures it all out. In spite of the satisfying ending, you’ll want more. Like someone told the sheriff, “Things are not always what they seem.”
The first in the series is Death at the Black Bull.
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 “year end,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 2, 2016. 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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