A Field Guide to Homicide (A Cat Latimer Mystery Book 6) by Lynn Cahoon – a #BookReview #cozymystery

A Field Guide to Homicide by Lynn CahoonBook Blurb:

Cat Latimer and her writer’s retreat group go on a hiking trip—but a murderer has been lurking off the beaten path . . .
 
Cat’s sweetheart, Seth, is going all out on an outing into the local mountains—for the benefit of the writing group Cat’s hosting at her Colorado B&B. But when they try to identify some plant and animal life, they find death instead. The body belongs to a man with a gold claim a few miles away. Instead of striking it rich, he’s been struck down.

To his surprise, Seth recognizes the victim from his military days—and up to now believed he’d already died during his last tour of duty. Now Cat has to solve this mystery before the killer takes a hike . . .

My Review:

Loved the concept of a writer’s retreat for authors, written by an author, about authors learning to be authors. Or readers who enjoy reading about it! It’s bound to be a cozy narrative in a beautiful locale in a small town setting.

Cat (Catherine) Latimer has the perfect location and large home remodeled as a B&B and found her niché, the writer’s retreats. (She is a successful writer, formerly teacher.) Full when she wants, quiet when she needs it to be. Covington College is located within walking distance and accommodates Cat’s guests in the library. She has an amazing best friend, Shauna, a buddy from California who moved back to Colorado to help with the B&B, cook amazing meals, and cleans the rooms. Cat has a boyfriend, Seth, a first love from high school and an uncle who is a police detective.

A Field Guide to Homicide by Lynn CahoonIn Book 6, Seth discovers that the body Cat finds with her group while hiking is a former Army buddy of his. There is only one problem: he was supposed to have been killed while they were still in Germany, and that was ten years ago. Seth had joined the Army thinking they’d wed when he returned. In the meantime, however, Cat marries Michael who was full of surprises. She receives the house after his untimely death.

As a character-driven cozy, the mystery trundles along while Cat discovers her new group is unique–two couples and one college student. The latter doesn’t exactly fit in and almost immediately the two couples click and proceed to produce activity separate from Cat’s usual agenda. There is the hike, but it ended with the discovery of the body. I don’t see her providing guidance in a lot of group discussions or learning moments and it’s handy she has Shauna who handles the bulk of the physical work. But Shauna has a problem of her own, providing a separate little (almost) sub-plot. Then there is the tension between her and Seth and my question, does she really love him or not? Given the little time they have to be together, she doesn’t exactly jump to take advantage of it.

There seemed a few plot holes; missing elements. (Was it because this is my first experience with the author and the series?) Seth didn’t want to introduce his Army buddies to Cat, which I found rather odd, so we don’t know much about them. Cat manages to get a name she can investigate and discovers the deceased had a local girlfriend that she was able to interview. She manages to glean a few tidbits and coordinates with her uncle.

We really don’t get development of the guests with the exception of the college kid and she did impart some wise writerly wisdom to him. (One of the couples takes snide verbal pot-shots at each other.) Uncle Pete plays a large part as does his sweetheart, an ex-cop who flies in to see him but is caught up in his absence with the murder investigation. There are red herrings that have you focusing first on one possible perp, then another, none quite making sense. The why is a biggee: how did he manage to leave Germany, come back to Colorado and be living off grid for so long? Ah, yes, but then we get little off-hand remarks that drop clues like crumbs leading back to the who. Did you pay attention?

I enjoyed the author’s writing style, but not the length of time that it took to lay all the elements to examine. There were quotables and old sayings, “We work in fact here, not maybes.” And “…make sure she knows that no is a complete sentence.” (Loved that one!) “A high tide floats all boats.”

The novel takes some time to get into, moving rather slowly for me and appeared to be one that suggests the reader might be better served to begin with Book 1 of the series. The conclusion wraps up loose ends and confirms the motive, which became obvious earlier, and has Seth taking the next step with Cat. (Perhaps that’s a step he should reconsider.) I received this digital download from the publisher and NetGalley and appreciated the opportunity to read and review and these are my own opinions.

Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth, Cozy Animal Mystery
Publisher: Kensington Books
ISBN: 149671685X
ASIN: B07R9SXCQ8
Print Length: 290 pages
Publication Date: Happy Publication Day! January 28, 2020

Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: A Field Guide to Homicide
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Lynn Cahoon - authorThe Author: Get a free story at http://www.lynncahoon.com.

Lynn Cahoon is the author of the NYT and USA Today best-selling Tourist Trap cozy mystery series. She also pens the Cat Latimer series available in mass market paperback. And, because she can’t help telling stories, she also writes the Farm to Fork series. Romance novels are published under the pen name, Lynn Collins. She lives in a small town like the ones she loves to write about with her husband and three fur kids. Sign up for her newsletter at http://www.lynncahoon.com

©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
 

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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

Dogs Don’t Lie: A Kallie Collins Cozy Mystery by Lisa Shay – a #BookReview

One book, two opinions. Do they agree or disagree? The CE and I weigh in on a new cozy mystery.

Dogs Don't Lie by Lisa ShayBook Blurb:

On call at Crater Emergency Animal Hospital, I, Doctor Kallie Collins, receive a curious request from the sheriff’s department. I’m to meet with a detective at a small ranch outside of town.
You see, there’s this dog with a bone he’s not willing to part with.
On scene, the dog tells me the bone is human. Actually, he shows me the location of the body, complete with a human skull, through an animal-communication technique I learned a couple years ago. Now I have to explain how this works to the detective, convincing him I’m not the murderer.
Who knew a simple farm visit would put me in the middle of a murder investigation? Well, I did kinda jump into this mess. I had to. I know what happened. The two four-legged witnesses to the murder told me.
And I’m the only one listening.

My Thoughts

Dogs Don't Lie by Lisa ShayIt didn’t take long before I realized I’d bumbled into YA fantasy turned cozy. And I must admit, the cover and the blurb got me.  While I might not be the target audience for this particular genre, I was intrigued by the unusual concept of Dr. Kallie Collins, veterinarian, being able to communicate with animals. In this case, most specifically a dog and cat. Notice I didn’t say talk, although certainly she did that. The communication took a different form. Kallie is young, unmarried, and recently out of vet school, but she’s making (air) waves right into notoriety.

The characters, beyond protagonist Kallie, are all very engaging and very well fleshed. She has two close friends, Gracie Parker and Samantha Griffin (Sam), who are quick (well, mostly, sorta) supportive of her swiftly escalating escapades. While once again, the author drops the name Nancy Drew, Kallie prefers being known as Kinsey Millhone (a reference to the fictional character created by Sue Grafton in her Alphabet series).

Kallie meets the probable love interest, Detective Ben Jacobson, when she is called out to investigate a dog that won’t relinquish her bone. She found it–it was hers! The problem was that it was a human bone and it doesn’t take long for Kallie to exhibit her dog whispering talents and create converts.

Kallie seems to be a great deal more adventurous than cautious and it doesn’t take long before she is deep into the mystery, part of which was also a new plot concept (to me anyway). Then come red herrings, lots of giggles, food (especially cupcakes and burgers), and her mother’s trying to match her up with a nice young man. (I must confess there are several eye-rolling passages.) A few edit misses and could have used an expanded explanation to account for the passage of time or change of scene.

But…you know what? It’s cute. And it works. The venue is the gorgeous Pacific Northwest (or as my motobuddy used to call it, the Great “Northwet”). The characters are engaging, the well-plotted concept unique, and the interaction with the animals investing and I’m quite sure anyone a monster fan of Star Wars would love it. (Her ringtone was The Imperial March, for heaven’s sake.) You will enjoy getting to know these solid characters and now is the time to get in on the first of what looks to be the first of a sweet new series. 4/5 stars

His Thoughts

A very astute veterinarian oversees an unlikely adventure with the help of two animal friends. Communicating telepathically with a dog and cat, Kallie Collins is thrust into an investigation of mysterious events including fraud against senior citizens.

This author writes an entertaining tale that kept me turning pages. At times I wondered why the heroine kept investigating when very real threats were made on her life. Twists and turns lead to the intriguing climax with a little potential romance brewing with an attractive sheriff’s deputy detective named Ben Jacobson.

Associate Reviewer - C E WilliamsKallie’s strong female character with the help of two friends, brings the story along smartly. Of course, her mother is attempting to find a suitor for her unmarried daughter. A younger crowd will find this read very entertaining. C E Williams – 5/5 stars

I received this digital download from the publisher and NetGalley and shared with the CE who also greatly appreciated the opportunity to read and review. Totally recommended as a fast, fun romp in a cozy mystery.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Animal Mystery, Amateur Sleuth
Publisher: Indie

  • ISBN-10:1686589409
  • ISBN-13:978-1686589409

ASIN: B07XJTNPPC
      Print Length: 191 pages
Publication Date: September 30, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Dogs Don’t Lie

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Rosepoint Publishing:  4.5 Stars of Five Stars 4.5-stars

Lisa Shay - authorThe Author: Yes. Lisa Shay is my pen name.
But it’s still me. R E Sheahan. Since I write YA Science Fiction/Fantasy, it seemed a good choice to go with a pen name for the cozy mysteries.
I live on the coast in the Pacific Northwest.
I read. A lot. Pretty much any genre.
I love animals. A bonus since the cozy mysteries are about a veterinarian who can communicate with animals.
I’m crazy over anything Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, LOTR, Dr. Who, and, well all of them.
Yes. I’m a geek.

©2019 V Williams Blog author

Tracking Game – A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Book 5 by Margaret Mizushima – a #BookReview

One of my favorite series, the Timber Creek K-9 mysteries, is back with Tracking Game. While Mattie is interesting, it’s her relationship to Robo that’s the fascination behind these emotive narratives.

Tracking Game by Margaret MizushimaBook Blurb:

Two brutal murders, a menacing band of poachers, and a fearsome creature on the loose in the mountains plunge Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo into a sinister vortex.

An explosion outside a community dance sends Mattie Cobb and Cole Walker reeling into the night, where they discover a burning van and beside it the body of outfitter Nate Fletcher. But the explosion didn’t kill Nate–it was two gunshots to the heart.

The investigation leads them to the home of rancher Doyle Redman, whose daughter is Nate’s widow, and the object of one of their suspect’s affection. But before they can make an arrest, they receive an emergency call from a man who’s been shot in the mountains. Mattie and Robo rush to the scene, only to be confronted by the ominous growl of a wild predator.

As new players emerge on the scene, Mattie begins to understand the true danger that’s enveloping Timber Creek. They journey into the cold, misty mountains to track the animal–but discover something even more deadly in Tracking Game, the fifth installment in Margaret Mizushima’s Timber Creek K-9 mysteries.

My Review:

I do so enjoy these mysteries, set in Timber Creek Colorado, the venue beautifully described and compelling. More so, the human-canine relationship between Mattie and her highly trained and gorgeous, head-turning German shepherd Robo. Smart as a whip and intuitive, Robo and Mattie share a strong working and personal bond few professed dog lovers possess.

Tracking Game by Margaret MizushimaAlso greatly appreciated are the tidbits of doggie handler wisdom shared by Mizushima woven in her well-plotted narratives so that you glean as much appreciation for “man’s best friend” as the author obviously enjoys, including commands and (prey drive) triggers. Info such as the scent exuded by a fugitive in stress is often called “endocrine sweat,” easy for a dog to pick up.

In Book 5, the start of the book begins somewhat hesitantly, with protagonist Deputy Mattie Cobb and her love interest Cole Walker (a veterinarian) at a dance. There is a short rehash of their history, including Mattie’s damaged childhood leading to her intense fears with allowing herself to trust or love. Then the phone call that interrupts their evening and begins the page-turning mystery that once again weaves powerfully between her and her K-9 partner. Definitely where she feels most comfortable and confident. And it seems Cole brings baggage of his own to the match.

The intriguing storyline has Mattie and Robo involved in a homicide at the scene of a burning van. The area is populated by ranches and the man is the husband of the daughter of one of the old established area ranches. As Robo tracks down bits of clues and Mattie works with the department on the investigation, several suspects turn up. Unfortunately, one of these is later found–also murdered–and his body scavenged leading them to suspect there might be more than two legs in the woods with deadly intent.

A new support character is introduced, wildlife manager, Glenna Dalton, who handles a Rhodesian ridgeback, trained for wildlife tracking purposes. There are some serious twists in the plot you would not have guessed, and the well-developed characters set off for the high mountains and their target(s). It’s a fast-pace to the satisfying conclusion.

I received this digital download from the publisher through NetGalley and greatly appreciated the opportunity to read and review. These can all be read as a standalone, they are independent stories. I’m looking forward to Mattie gaining greater independence from her past. I’ve read two others in the series, Burning Ridge and Hunting Hour and highly recommend them all.

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Detective Stories, Cozy Animal Mysteries
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

  • ISBN-10:1643851357
  • ISBN-13:978-1643851358

ASIN: B07NKR63LP
Publication Date: To be released November 12, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Tracking Game

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

Margaret Mizushima - authorThe Author: Margaret Mizushima is the author of the award-winning and internationally published Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. Active within the writing community, Margaret serves on the board for the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America and was elected the 2019-2020 Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She lives in Colorado on a small ranch with her veterinarian husband where they raised two daughters and a multitude of animals. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, on Instagram at margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.

©2019 V Williams V Williams

Rescued: An Andy Carpenter Mystery (Audio)Book 17 by David Rosenfelt – a #BookReview

Yahoo! Another Andy Carpenter audiobook by David Rosenfelt. Rescued is my third and I’ll shortly be looking for another. (Love that library…!)

Rescued by David Rosenfelt

Five Stars 5-stars

Book Blurb:

In Rescued, David Rosenfelt again delights listeners with the charm and wit they’ve come to expect. Even the most fervent fans of the sardonic Andy Carpenter and his team will be enthralled by this latest case, where the stakes have never been higher.  

Defense lawyer Andy Carpenter is reluctant to take on any more cases. He’d much rather spend his time working for his dog rescue organization, the Tara Foundation, than find himself back in a courtroom. However, when a truck carrying more than 70 dogs from the South to the rescue-friendly Northeast turns up with a murdered driver, Andy can’t help but get involved. 

Of course Andy is eager to help the dogs, many of whom come to the Tara Foundation while awaiting forever homes – it’s the man accused of murder who he has a problem defending. The accused just happens to be his wife Laurie’s ex-fiance; her tall, good looking, ex-Marine ex-fiance. Even though he acknowledges having argued with the victim, he swears that he is not a killer, and though he would rather not, Andy has to admit he believes he’s telling the truth. 

For Andy, even with dozens of successful cases behind him, this case that his wife insists he take may prove to be his most difficult.

My Review:

Rescued by David RosenfeltDefinitely another hit with Book 17. A defense attorney that would rather not do legal work anymore! New Jersey lawyer Andy Carpenter is married to former policewoman Laura and keeps a small office with an office manager. He also has an eclectic support group in his circle that includes Marcus. He created the Tara Foundation, a canine rescue where he’d much rather spend his time..

The Andy Carpenter series are full of self-deprecating humor, mystery and suspense, with an engaging group of characters. The mysteries are well-plotted and complex and each could standalone. In Book 17, there are a dizzying number of dogs to place, freed from a truck heading northeast whose driver was killed and the truck abandoned. Thing is, it appears to point to his wife’s ex-fiancé.

Andy is first person and is constantly doing mind aerobics, that self-talk as funny as the spirited dialogue. He also talks to his dogs (sometimes they answer) and the dialogue with his wife is always enlightening. He tackles the case bit by bit, adding each new clue and building a feasible but tightly spun yarn. As always, he tackles what might be a losing court case and the courtroom scenes become a steady intelligent climb to the unexpected reveal. In the meantime, there has been suspense, red herrings, and cast of characters you come to love.

I received this audiobook from my local library (thank you!)–they have a remarkable selection–and was thoroughly entertained and invested. Grover Gardner does an incredible job of interpreting the very entertaining narrative by David Rosenfelt. Totally recommended for anyone looking for an unpredictable but amusing hoot. It’s good to laugh! I’ve now been the recipient of Book 20, Dachshund Through the Snow (my review here), and loved it as well, converting to solid fan. Whether audio or digital, either way, you’re in for a real treat (no tricks) if you pick up one of this series.

Book Details

Narrator: Grover Gardner
Genre: Animal Fiction, Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Macmillan Audio

  • ASIN: B07ND4GKTJ
  • Listening Length: 6 hours and 57 minutes

Publication Date: July 17, 2018
Source: Local Library Audiobooks
Publisher: Minotaur Books (July 17, 2018)
Print Length:  257 pages
ASIN: B078RX215H
Genre: Traditional Detective Mystery
Title Link: Rescued

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David Rosenfelt - authorThe Author: (Amazon Author Page) David Rosenfelt, a native of Paterson, New Jersey, is a graduate of NYU. He was the former marketing president for Tri-Star Pictures before becoming a writer of novels and screenplays. “Open And Shut” was his first novel; “First Degree,” his second novel, was named a best book of 2003 by Publishers Weekly. He currently lives in Southern California with his wife and 35 dogs.

(Goodreads Author Page) I am a novelist with 27 dogs.

I have gotten to this dubious position with absolutely no planning, and at no stage in my life could I have predicted it. But here I am.

My childhood was relentlessly normal. The middle of three brothers, loving parents, a middle-class home in Paterson, New Jersey. We played sports, studied sporadically. laughed around the dinner table, and generally had a good time. By comparison, “Ozzie and Harriet’s” clan seemed bizarre.

I graduated NYU, then decided to go into the movie business. I was stunningly brilliant at a job interview with my uncle, who was President of United Artists, and was immediately hired. It set me off on a climb up the executive ladder, culminating in my becoming President of Marketing for Tri-Star Pictures. The movie landscape is filled with the movies I buried; for every “Rambo”, “The Natural” and “Rocky”, there are countless disasters.

I did manage to find the time to marry and have two children, both of whom are doing very well, and fortunately neither have inherited my eccentricities.

A number of years ago, I left the movie marketing business, to the sustained applause of hundreds of disgruntled producers and directors. I decided to try my hand at writing. I wrote and sold a bunch of feature films, none of which ever came close to being actually filmed, and then a bunch of TV movies, some of which actually made it to the small screen. It’s safe to say that their impact on the American cultural scene has been minimal.

About fourteen years ago, my wife and I started the Tara Foundation, named in honor of the greatest Golden Retriever the world has ever known. We rescued almost 4,000 dogs, many of them Goldens, and found them loving homes. Our own home quickly became a sanctuary for those dogs that we rescued that were too old or sickly to be wanted by others. They surround me as I write this. It’s total lunacy, but it works, and they are a happy, safe group.
http://us.macmillan.com/author/davidr…

The Narrator: Grover Gardner’s narration career spans twenty-five years and over 550 audiobook titles. AudioFile Magazine has called him one of the “Best Voices of the Century” and features him in their annual “Golden Voices” update. Publishers Weekly named him Audiobook Narrator of the Year for 2005. His recordings have garnered 18 “Golden Earphones” awards from AudioFile and an Audie Award from the Audio Publishers’ Association.
http://grovergardner.blogspot.com/

©2019 V Williams V Williams

Here Comes Santa Paws (A Melanie Travis Mystery Book 24) by Laurien Berenson – a #BookReview

Enjoying the Christmas Spirit with a light-hearted Christmas Season mystery.

Here Comes Santa Paws by Laurien Berenson

Book Blurb:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Connecticut, but Melanie Travis finds surviving this December may take a real Christmas miracle when a yuletide murderer comes to town . . .  

As Melanie attempts to deck the halls in a house overrun by pampered Poodles, her event planner friend, Claire, is busy playing Santa—beard and belly not included—for the wealthiest clientele on Connecticut’s Gold Coast. A personal shopper gig in the affluent town of New Canaan seems like business as usual. Except Claire’s stylish stint comes at a higher price than she bargains for when she stumbles over her newest customer’s dead body on the job. Named a prime suspect for murder, she begs for Melanie’s help, then vanishes like cookies and milk on Christmas Eve . . .

Determined to track down Claire, Melanie, and her nosy Aunt Peg dash into a dizzying investigation that leads to even more questions. Why was homicide victim Lila Moran, a secretive woman with an untraceable past, permitted to live on a well-known socialite-turned-recluse’s private estate, and is Claire keeping her own incriminating secrets under wraps? Now, with a grinchy New Canaan detective on their case and disturbing clues piling up like presents beneath the tree, the crime-solving duo must rein in a sinister Kris Kringle before they’re the next ones on someone’s deadly wish list . . .

My Review:

It’s looking like Christmas in New Canaan,  a haven for some of Connecticut’s wealthiest and lucky Claire is in the cat-bird seat having created a personal shopper clientele list. Claire is the wife of Melanie’s ex and they’ve managed to forge a friendship in spite (or maybe because) of their shared history. When Claire calls Melanie for help in a panic, Melanie doesn’t hesitate to run to her aid.

Here Comes Santa Paws by Laurien BerensonDelivering her client’s packages, Claire has stumbled on the body of Lila Moran in her client’s gatehouse on the property of a reclusive and wealthy socialite. It doesn’t take long before the police suspect Claire and Melanie, as well as her feisty Aunt Peg, are compelled to investigate the murder on their own. Melanie has a full house with a husband, two sons, five Standard Poodles and an irascible spotted rescue mutt.

It isn’t long before instigator Claire helps get Melanie in trouble with Detective Hronis and told to leave the detecting to the detectors. That isn’t going to happen with Aunt Peg either and together they begin the process of scenting out clues and interviewing. It’s an easy-going, well-plotted mystery and includes a number of well-developed characters as well as support characters.

Twists and red herrings are introduced, but each interview leads inexorably to the antagonist, whom you might have guessed. I suspected, but enjoyed the ride through the process with that light and fun writing style. While the dogs do not figure prominently, they do create asides and help break the tension with common doggy antics and support.

I started early in the series with a free offering from BookBub and then haven’t seen another until this one. Obviously, Melanie has evolved and the author’s biting sense of humor has bloomed and matured within her narratives. It’s easy to get involved with this protagonist and quickly run through the fun and fast book.

I was given this digital download by the publisher and NetGalley and sincerely appreciated the opportunity to read and review. Recommended for those who enjoy a light mystery with lovable canines and empathetic main characters.

Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth Mystery, Cozy Animal Mystery, Private Investigator Mystery
Publisher: Kensington Books

    • ISBN-10:1496718453
    • ISBN-13:978-1496718457
    • ASIN: B07MB475ZK

Print Length: 208 pages
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Here Comes Santa Paws
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Laurien Berenson - authorThe Author: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing something. I always wanted to tell stories and I’m incredibly grateful that now there are people who want to read them. I think of the Melanie Travis mystery series as the saga of a woman’s life–with complications. And dogs. And love. And lots of laughter. We should all be so lucky.

Laurien Berenson is an Agatha and Macavity Award nominee, winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, and a four-time winner of the Maxwell Award, presented by the Dog Writers Association of America. She and her husband live on a farm in Kentucky surrounded by dogs and horses. She can be reached at her website: http://www.laurienberenson.com

©2019 V Williams V Williams

Restaurant Weeks Are Murder by Libby Klein – a #BookReview

Restaurant Weeks Are Murder by Libby KleinTitle: Restaurant Weeks Are Murder by Libby Klein

Genre: Cozy Culinary Mystery, Amateur Sleuths, Cozy Animal Mysteries

Publisher: Kensington

  • ISBN-10:1496713079
  • ISBN-13:978-1496713070
  • ASIN: B07DBQBVYJ

 Print Length: 304 pages

Publication Date: February 26, 2019

Source: Publisher and NetGalley

Title Link: Restaurant Weeks Are Murder (A Poppy McAllister Mystery Book 3)

Book Blurb:

Cape May, New Jersey, is the site of a big culinary competition—and the knives are out . . .

Poppy McAllister is happy about opening a Jersey Shore B&B—but working in a professional kitchen has always been her real dream. Now it’s coming true, at least briefly, as she teams up with her former fiancée, Tim—and his condescending partner, Gigi—during the high-profile Restaurant Week challenge. Poppy’s specialty is pastries, despite her devotion to a Paleo diet. But if anyone can make glorious gluten-free goodies, it’s Poppy.

Things get heated quickly—especially when some ingredients get switched and Tim’s accused of sabotage. Relatively harmless pranks soon escalate into real hazards, including an exploding deep fryer. And now one of the judges has died after taking a bite of Poppy’s cannoli—making her the chef suspect . . .

Includes Seven Recipes from Poppy’s Kitchen!

My Review:

Restaurant Weeks Are Murder by Libby KleinMs. Klein has ramped up her cooking expertise in Book 3 of her Poppy McAllister series. Poppy and her Aunt Ginny are finishing up the touches on their Butterfly Wings Bed and Breakfast. Tim, Poppy’s one-time fiancé, has asked her to team with him and Gigi in the Restaurant Week Challenge where she will create her specialty desserts and pastries. The competition of seven days comprises three stages that include a “mystery basket” of ingredients and is judged by well-known celebrities, if possibly questionable, local judges and is to be recorded to show on Jersey area daytime TV.

One of the six teams is comprised of Gia, a steamy, mcDreamy Italian for whom Poppy has been supplying some of her pastries for him and his mother’s Italian restaurant. Teams include a head chef, a sous chef, and a pastry chef per each restaurant team. It’s obvious from the beginning that this is a serious competition, each vying for the prize of $10,000 as well as the notoriety, air time, and press. Unfortunately, few of the team members get along with each other and the judges are brutal. So, this being a cozy is not too difficult to guess who will be the victim.

Before the mics are on and the cameras are rolling, there is sabotage (changing labels of food ingredients), bickering, materials are disappearing, and a fight breaking out between two of the competing chefs. You can almost visualize Chef Ramsey delivering a scathing review to one of the dishes as the 10-year-old looks on teary-eyed.

The author’s wicked sense of humor sparks off the characters, including her Aunt Ginny who is up to her usual antics and her naughty kitty Figaro who figures out which judge housed in their B&B is allergic to felines and does his best to make sure she is sneezing and miserable. The dialogue ranges between snarky, hilarious, and believable in an honest conversational tone. The secondary characters work well with the main characters and protagonist providing that tension in a real kitchen competition atmosphere, scrambling to the pantry for their ingredients only to have another chef snatch it out from under them.

The characters have been developed in previous series entries and there is little further fleshing here, although with the plot focus on food could still work as a stand alone. It is a very well paced plot, albeit slow to deliver a victim as the focus is the restaurant challenge and all the outrageous events happening while trying to film each day’s segment concluding with judging scores. Red herrings, twists, and new discoveries every chapter lead to a conclusion you may have guessed, but it’s been fun.

I had two problems, and yes, it is acknowledged that her aunt is an active, saucy octogenarian, but she and her friends were referred to constantly as the “biddies and cronies.” (Ouch) And, the dreaded romantic triangle. (I’m so over it–can we move on now?). Also the judge, “Stormin’ Norman,” weatherman. (Perhaps Ms. Klein is unaware of the scandal that took place in the 80s out west and it did give me icky pause.)

I received this ebook download from the publisher and NetGalley and appreciated the opportunity to read and review. The author has a writing style I enjoy, characters that engage, and I’m looking forward to Book 4.

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five of Five Stars Four point Five of Five Stars

Libby Klein - authorThe Author: Libby Klein graduated Lower Cape May Regional High School sometime in the ’80s. Her classes revolved mostly around the culinary sciences and theater, with the occasional nap in Chemistry. She loves to drink coffee, bake gluten free goodies, and befriend random fluffy cats. She writes from her Northern Virginia office while trying to keep her cat Figaro off her keyboard. Most of her hobbies revolve around eating, and travel, and eating while traveling.

©2019 V Williams Blog author