Here Comes the Body (A Catering Hall Mystery) by Maria DiRico – a #BookReview – #Cozy

Book 1 of a Quirky New Series!

Book Blurb:

Here Comes the Body by Maria DiRicoAfter her philandering husband’s boat went down, newly single Mia Carina went back to Astoria, the bustling Queens neighborhood of her youth. Living with her nonna and her oversized cat, Doorstop, she’s got a whole new life—including some amateur sleuthing . . .
 
Mia is starting work at Belle View, her father’s catering hall, a popular spot for weddings, office parties, and more—despite the planes that occasionally roar overhead on their way to LaGuardia and rattle the crystal chandelier. Soon she’s planning a bachelor party for a less-than-gentlemanly groom. But it goes awry when the gigantic cake is wheeled in and a deadly surprise is revealed . . .

Since some of her family’s associates are on the shady side, the NYPD wastes no time in casting suspicion on Mia’s father. Now, Mia’s going to have to use all her street smarts to keep him out of Rikers Island . . .

My Review:

Here Comes the Body by Maria DiRicoI didn’t connect the author’s name right away with Ellen Byron who wrote one of my happy favs last year regarding the Cajun/Bayou mystery Fatal Cajun Festival, but I recognized the author photo. Now here is Book 1 of a new series with another magnetic setting and premise–her father, former mafioso, is trying to go legit with a catering business. She will function as his event planner/sales/manager. The Belle View Banquet Manor is in Astoria (Queens in NYC) near La Guardia Airport. Window-rattling planes coming in for a perfect landing and, thankfully, this building has good bones and in spite of the planes, the land a good location.

The protagonist Messina (Mia) Carina returned from Florida after her no-good husband disappeared in a boating accident leaving her a widow…maybe or maybe not (? She was eventually cleared of being a suspect in his disappearance). Now Mia is sharing a two-family structure in a Queens neighborhood with her grandmother. Nonna lives in one unit with Hero, her dog, while Mia shares her quarters upstairs with the Abyssinian cat she named Doorstop. DOORSTOP?! Knew I was going to love this one right there! A cat named Doorstop. Now that’s funny, y’all. And that is an indication of the subtle shades of humor sprinkled through this delightful romp into the catering business backed by a “GodFather.”

The support characters are wildly unique, full of personality, and utterly engaging. Genuinely Italian, the author develops Nonna beautifully, right down to “hi…are you hungry?” Being a daughter of a (ex?) mob boss has definitely given Mia a persona she’d been happy to discard, but now finding it necessary to reassess. She is close friends with the son of another in the “Family,” and is startled to realize she might have more than friendly feelings for him but then discovers Jamie apparently has a girlfriend. Her brother, Posi, is cooling his heels in the slammer.

While Mia is coordinating her first event, the body found in the cake that was supposed to have been a stripper at the bachelor party wasn’t the stripper but definitely wouldn’t be jumping out of anything anymore. Unfortunately, she’d seen this woman before and there is an apparent connection to her dad, who swears he’s out of the business. His reputation precedes him, however, and the police are quick to jump–in his direction.

Mia, for the most part, seems to have her head on straight. She’s intelligent and handles her clients with a “deal they can’t refuse.” She manages to satisfy even the most outrageous requests. I really liked the characters of Jamie, Nonna, and her dad and the inclusion of the Mafia connections–handled delicately and respectfully. The police in charge of the investigation is not the best and brightest of the force, an old device in cozies and one of my few complaints.

The well-plotted mystery sped up heading into the conclusion and included a rather hair-raising climax although I must admit the final reveal set my head spinning. Still, overall this is a most entertaining debut for this series and I’m keen to continue as I can see there are endless possibilities where these characters might go.

I was given this digital ARC download in exchange for an honest review and greatly appreciated the opportunity to read. This is going to be a fun, engaging series with a compelling setting that I’m looking forward to continuing. Recommended to those who enjoy a good cozy mystery and, by the way, do you know what Cookie Cup Shot Glasses are? There is an amazing recipe for this most unusual cookie/liquor/liqueur/milk dessert at the back of the book.

Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth Mysteries, Cozy Culinary Mysteries
Publisher: Kensington Books

  • ISBN-10:1496725344
  • ISBN-13:978-1496725349

ASIN: B07R8WYLSC
Print Length: 304 pages
Publication Date: To be released February 25, 2020
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Here Comes the Body
+Add to Goodreads 

Rosepoint Publishing: Four Point Five of Five Stars 4.5-stars

Maria DiRico - authorThe Author: Maria DiRico (the pen name of award-winning author Ellen Byron) was born in Queens, New York, and raised in Queens and Westchester County. She is first-generation Italian-American on her mother’s side. On her father’s side, her grandfather was a low-level Jewish mobster who disappeared in 1933 under mysterious circumstances.

While growing up in Queens, Maria/Ellen’s cousin’s uncles ran the Astoria Manor and Grand Bay Marina catering halls. MARDI GRAS MURDER, the fourth book in Ellen Byron’s bestselling Cajun Country Mystery series, won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel. The series has also won multiple Best Humorous Mystery Lefty awards from Left Coast Crime. Fun fact: she worked as cater-waiter for Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. Maria/Ellen loves to translate what she learned from Martha into recipes for her books.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Verse and Vengeance: A Magical Bookshop Mystery by Amanda Flower – a #BookReview

Wouldn’t you love to visit this most unusual bookshop!

Verse and Vengeance by Amanda FlowerBook Blurb:

With the help of Walt Whitman’s works, magical bookshop owner Violet Waverly puts her pedal to the metal to sleuth a bicycle-race murder that tests her mettle.

A bicycle race is not Charming Books proprietor Violet Waverly’s idea of a pleasant pastime. But police chief David Rainwater wheelie wants them to enter the Tour de Cascade as a couple, so she reluctantly consents.

The Tour de Cascade is the brainchild of Violet’s Grandma Daisy. The race is a fundraiser to build the Cascade Springs Underground Railroad Museum. But not everyone in this Niagara Region village supports the race. As if the bike race weren’t tiring enough, pesky private investigator Joel Redding is snooping around Charming Books. It takes all of Violet’s and Grandma Daisy’s ingenuity to keep Redding from discovering the shop’s magical essence–which communicates with Violet through books.

When Redding perishes in an accident during the race, David discovers that the brake line of the private eye’s bike was cut. Worse, Violet tops his list of suspects. As Emerson the tuxedo cat and resident crow Faulkner look on, Charming Books steers Violet to the works of Walt Whitman to solve the crime. But no other names ring a bell as culprits, and as David’s investigation picks up speed, Violet will have to get in gear to clear her name.

My Review:

Verse and Vengeance by Amanda FlowerProtagonist Violet Waverly is “Caretaker” of the magical birch tree located inside the Charming Books bookshop. Her grandmother, Daisy, also works in the bookshop when she is not fulfilling her duties as the new mayor of Cascade Springs. She has begun a project to provide an Underground Railroad Museum in the village hall. Also prominently featured are Faulkner the resident talking crow who lives in the branches of the tree and Emerson, the black and white tuxedo cat. The fourth in the series and my second, I’ve had no problem reading each entry as a standalone.

Grandma Daisy has urged both Violet and her boyfriend, police chief, David Rainwater, to ride in the Tour de Cascade, a major event meant to provide construction funds for her project, but before the ride is completed, Violet comes upon the fatal accident of private investigator Joel Redding. The shop’s magical “essence,” quietly deposits hints to her about the murder in the works by Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass.

Violet is still not completely confident of David and won’t divulge her secrets re the bookshop. There is one major perp which Violet steadfastly refuses to believe and works to get to the bottom of who and why. She is a no-nonsense, direct question type of amateur sleuth and there are twists and turns in this well-plotted mystery. The narrative proceeds at an even pace and the fictitious setting of the small tourist town near Niagara Falls is descriptive and inviting. Also, I enjoyed little bits of humor, i.e. “I swear the man could wax on about dryer lint.”

Birch tree However, poetry quotes from Whitman (not one of my favs) on a cell phone Kindle app are difficult to read and interrupt the flow. I’m still having difficulty imagining the interior with the tree (aka The Goddess Tree) and spiral staircase to a second-floor apartment. It’s a paranormal–must swallow some disbelief. There are elements that are not wholly explained in the surprising conclusion and as an ARC edit misses and a few detail contradictions.

I was granted this ebook download by the publisher and NetGalley and greatly appreciated the opportunity to read for my unbiased review. I am looking forward to Book 5 and recommend to all who enjoy an easy, fast cozy read with a touch of paranormal and romance.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Animal Mysteries, Ghost Mysteries
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

  • ISBN-10:1643851519
  • ISBN-13:978-1643851518
  • ASIN: B07NTYQQM4

Print Length: 260 pages
Publication Date: To be released December 10, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Verse and Vengeance
 

+Add to Goodreads

Rosepoint Publishing:  Three-point Five of Five Stars 3.5-stars

Amanda Flower - authorThe Author: Amanda Flower, a USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Her debut mystery, Maid of Murder, was an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel and her children’s mysteries, Andi Unexpected and Andi Under Pressure, were an Agatha Award Nominees for Best Children’s/YA Novel. Andi Unstoppable won the Agatha Award for Best Children’s/YA Novel 2015. Amanda is a former librarian living in northeast Ohio. Visit her at http://www.amandaflower.com

©2019 V Williams V Williams

Birch Tree Attribution: The Goddess Tree

A Cold Trail (Tracy Crosswhite Book 7) by Robert Dugoni – a #BookReview

It’s an unusual Tracy Crosswhite mystery away from her Seattle station and home and into a whole new and dangerous setting.

A Cold Trail by Robert DugoniBook Blurb:

The last time homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite was in Cedar Grove, it was to see her sister’s killer put behind bars. Now she’s returned for a respite and the chance to put her life back in order for herself, her attorney husband, Dan, and their new daughter. But tragic memories soon prove impossible to escape.

Dan is drawn into representing a local merchant whose business is jeopardized by the town’s revitalization. And Tracy is urged by the local PD to put her own skills to work on a new case: the brutal murder of a police officer’s wife and local reporter who was investigating a cold-case slaying of a young woman. As Tracy’s and Dan’s cases crisscross, Tracy’s trail becomes dangerous. It’s stirring up her own haunted past and a decades-old conspiracy in Cedar Grove that has erupted in murder. Getting to the truth is all that matters. But what’s Tracy willing to risk as a killer gets closer to her and threatens everyone she loves?

My Review:

Boy was I excited to see another of the Tracy Crosswhite series coming out! I’ve read several of Dugoni’s books, including one not in the Crosswhite series and enjoyed each one. While Book 7 may be read as a standalone, you might wish to begin with Book 1 to really get how each of the main characters has evolved to this point.

A Cold Trail by Robert DugoniIn A Cold Trail, Tracy is a new mom with a two-month-old (Daniella) still on maternity leave from Seattle while her attorney husband, Dan, has arranged for their return to their hometown of Cedar Grove to the former home of his parents while they are renovating their home in Seattle. Dan has taken on a client fighting the sale of his downtown business and building. Most of the others sold for a nominal price with the promise they would be completely rehabbed and brought up current codes with new dynamic owners.

But Tracy is barely getting acquainted with the nanny Dan arranged for help with the baby before she is approached by the former police chief to look into the death of a journalist and a former attorney turned PI. The young woman (the journalist) was investigating the cold case of a woman who was murdered more than twenty years previous. Putting her homicide detective hat back on has both disturbed Dan and Tracy as well, questioning her safety while leaving an infant at home.

The well-plotted storyline quickly divides between that of her investigation in the cold cases and Dan’s legal maneuvers with regard to the revitalization of the downtown area and the handling of the properties. The legal complexities get interesting and educational while the cold cases Tracy is working on beginning to worry the antagonist.

The cast of support characters shift somewhat with them being in Cedar Grove and in their stead are more support characters with lots of personality, full fleshed (Vic). The Irish nanny is super until deemed at risk and whisked away for safer climes. The reader gets that old mother’s conundrum, staying home or working away from her child (especially an infant and in this case in a hazardous profession) while the men are free to carry on with their careers with no public ramifications.

I like that Tracy is still, at heart, a strong, independent, and intelligent woman and skillful at her job. She can handle most any situation. If Dan didn’t think he wanted her working out of the house away from his baby, why then hire the nanny, who got awfully convenient. The narrative begins to swing back and forth between her cases and his, trading off in a melding or juxtaposition of timeline. Clever! The book hooks you in and holds the reader in a riveting and complicated tale through the great reveal, one you might have guessed, but still surprised.

Tracy working an active investigation, however, and expressing (two bottles) of breast milk for the nanny to use while she was off just didn’t ring true for me. (You might wish to revisit the issue of breastfeeding, Robert.)

I received this ARC digital download from the publisher through NetGalley and was thrilled for the opportunity to read and review. I really enjoy this series and greatly look forward to Book 8. Recommended for all mystery fans and I think you’ll also enjoy the courtroom tactics.

Book Details:

Genre: Police Procedurals, Women Sleuths, Murder
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
ISBN: 1542093228
ASIN: B07NXPN3B8
Print Length: 355 pages
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: A Cold Trail
+Add to Goodreads 

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five of Five Stars 4.5-stars

robert dugoniThe Author: Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite police detective series set in Seattle, which has sold more than 5 million books worldwide. He is also the author of The Charles Jenkins espionage series, and the David Sloane legal thriller series.

His stand-alone novels include The 7th Canon, Damage Control, and the literary novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell – Suspense Magazine’s 2018 Book of the Year, for which Dugoni’s narration won an AudioFile Earphones Award; as well as the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Several of his novels have been optioned for movies and television series.

Dugoni is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction and the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel set in the Pacific Northwest. He is also a two-time finalist for the International Thriller Award, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, the Silver Falchion Award for mystery, and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award.

Robert Dugoni’s books are sold in more than twenty-five countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages.

Visit his website at http://www.robertdugoni.com, and follow him on twitter @robertdugoni and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorRobertDugoni

©2019 V Williams V Williams

Mercy Road by Ann Howard Creel – a #BookReview World War I #HistoricalFiction

I love books based on true stories–most especially about brave and trail-blazing women in our history.

Mercy Road by Ann Howard CreelBook Blurb:

Inspired by the true story of the World War I American Women’s Hospital, Mercy Road is a novel about love, courage, and a female ambulance driver who risks everything.

In 1917, after Arlene Favier’s home burns to the ground, taking her father with it, she must find a way to support her mother and younger brother. If she doesn’t succeed, they will all be impoverished. Job opportunities are scarce, but then a daring possibility arises: the American Women’s Hospital needs ambulance drivers to join a trailblazing, all-female team of doctors and nurses bound for war-torn France.

On the front lines, Arlene and her fellow ambulance drivers work day and night to aid injured soldiers and civilians. In between dangerous ambulance runs, Arlene reunites with a childhood friend, Jimmy Tucker, now a soldier, who opens her heart like no one before. But she has also caught the attention of Felix Brohammer, a charismatic army captain who harbors a dark, treacherous secret.

To expose Brohammer means risking her family’s future and the promise of love. Arlene must make a choice: stay in the safety of silence or take the greatest chance of her life.

My Review:

Mercy Road by Ann Howard CreelThe beautiful opening paragraphs of this novel grabs your attention with the fleet-footed and magnificent Tornado, the Favier Farms prized breeding stallion. The small privately-owned ranch had a reputation built for race-winning Thoroughbreds and the French-born master of the manor a special knack for finding the best. Unfortunately, the fire that ensues levels the house he and his wife lovingly built and where Arlene and her brother Luc were raised. It is after the devastating fire that also kills her father that they discover the truth of the finances.

Desperate for employment to keep family and farm together, Arlene discovers an unusual opportunity for a woman in 1918. Owing to her father teaching her French and how to drive (GASP! In 1918?), Arlene will ship over to the last vestiges of the war in France to drive an ambulance for the American Women’s Hospital Services (an amazing story in itself).

American Women's Hospital Services
Two uniformed women with American Women’s Hospitals Services, ca 1919. (Courtesy of Drexel University, College of Medicine, Archives & Special Collections) as posted on the Women’s Voices for Change

What follows is a narrative into the war-torn country now covered with destruction and desolation, ashes and shell-pocked country roads. The group Arlene arrives with gradually begin the acclimation into the effort but it takes a huge toll on the women–warned but still not prepared for just how bad it would be.

Arlene is fairly well developed, although not all support characters are. She is quickly pursued by a US officer and rejects his advances according to rules, but he is having none of that. In the meantime, she discovers a childhood acquaintance likewise driving an ambulance, but he for the Army. A reigniting proceeds between herself and Jimmy and the ensuing romance pops back and forth into the storyline.

Written in first person through Arlene, the story is well-plotted and the pace even albeit slowed by the irrational interest of the narcissistic officer and the romance with Jimmy. I enjoyed the informational bits of the ambulance, the countryside, the people of France and her connection through her father, as well as the description of the many rescues. Also, the reader is reminded of the catastrophic flu that swept the globe as well as the rampant diseases brought about by such savage conditions. There was a rather obvious but surprising note regarding another of the crew and the climax came with sinking heart. Still, the author manages to weave a plausible concluding scenario with most loose threads neatly tied.

I received this ARC from the publisher through NetGalley and greatly appreciated the opportunity to read and review. It’s gratifying that the contribution of women’s war efforts are beginning to come to light. And BTW, I absolutely love that cover! Recommended for any who enjoy historical fiction, WWI narratives, and positive achievements by women.

Book Details:

Genre: World War I Historical Fiction, Historical European Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

  • ISBN-10:1542041988
  • ISBN-13:978-1542041980
  • ASIN: B07PWF72XG

Print Length: 278 pages
Publication Date: Happy Publication Day, November 19, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Mercy Road+Add to Goodreads

Ann Howard Creel - authorThe Author: Ann Howard Creel was born to write. By the age of ten she was writing daily in a diary, and by the age of twelve she had written an entire novel on a typewriter her father was getting ready to throw away. She worked for many years as a Registered Nurse, but the urge to write never left her. So after work and tending to children’s needs, she began to write again. During that time, she could have been found helping with math homework, making spaghetti, and writing a very drafty chapter all in the same night.

After first writing for children, she turned her attention to Historical Fiction. Her first novel for adults, THE MAGIC OF ORDINARY DAYS, was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie on CBS. Her recent titles have been Kindle bestsellers and include WHILE YOU WERE MINE, THE WHISKEY SEA, THE UNCERTAIN SEASON, and her latest, THE RIVER WIDOW.

She now writes full-time. Ann’s main characters are always strong women facing high-stakes situations and having to make life-changing decisions. Her historical settings have ranged from Victorian-era Galveston to World War II in New York City. Her next novel, MERCY ROAD, to be published in 2019, takes readers to World War I France.

Besides writing, Ann loves old houses, new yoga routines, and all things cat. Contact her via her website http://www.annhowardcreel.com or oonnect on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorannhowardcreel or Instagram: @annhowardcreel.

©2019 V Williams V Williams

Meme’s Much? Book Beginnings and The Friday 56–HELLO Friday!

Today I am participating in two memes, the first called Book Beginnings who is hosted by Gillian at Rose City Readers. Every Friday you have the opportunity to share the first sentence of the book you are #currentlyreading. And as with The Friday 56, include the title of the book and the author’s name. You may wish to share your impression of the book to date as well. Also please share your post with Mister Linky on her blog site. See below for further details.

Book Beginnings on Fridays

“It was two in the morning on a late September Thursday when the Father waited in the dark parking lot of a former convenience store on Rosedale.”

Because there is a natural tie-in to The Friday 56, it common to combine the two.

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

The only rules are for participation in The Friday 56 is to grab a book, any book or the one you are #currentlyreading, turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader,  and find a sentence (or a few, but don’t spoil it!), post it, then add your post URL to the Linky on the host site Freda’s Voice – and there yah go! This week I am spotlighting:

The Friday 56

“…I aimed for the People of Peace compound. As usual, I stopped at the top of the hill and pulled out my binoculars to take a peek.”

Add to Goodreads

Goodreads Book Blurb:

One night, while on duty with her four-legged crime-fighting companion, Meg gets an urgent call from her boyfriend Seth, who works for the Fort Worth fire department. A baby girl has turned up at the station with only two clues to her identity: One is a peace-sign symbol stitched into her blanket. The other is a word, written in string: help.

Megan follows every loose thread and, along with Brigit, ends up on a twisted path that leads to the People of Peace compound, the site of a religious sect on the outskirts of the city. Its leader, Father Emmanuel, keeps his followers on a short leash—and his enemies even closer. Could this be the abandoned baby’s original home? And if so, why was she cast out? Now that Megan and Brigit are on the case, the secrets of this reclusive cult are bound to be dug up. . .

The Long Paw of the Law is the seventh installment in her drool-worthy Paw Enforcement series.

So what am I thinking?

Loving it so far! (How could you not? Just look at that cover!) Enjoying the author’s sense of humor and her jumps inside the head of her shepherd, Brigit. Megan is a very capable Fort Worth K-9 handler and on the road to becoming a detective. In the meantime, she has an amazing appreciation and understanding of her partner. This is a series I can follow with fervor.

©2018 V Williams V Williams