Cozy

Jump into June with Four Books, Four Genres

 

 

The books couldn’t be more different, but each is a great read in its own genre. Each has the potential to be fodder for a TV or big screen movie, with thoroughly interesting characters and visually descriptive writing.

 

Cozy Mystery

“Kernel of Truth” by Kristi Abbott, is the first in her Popcorn Shop Mystery series set in Grand Lake, Ohio. It’s an engaging murder mystery, complete with a personable poodle and a gourmet popcorn shop.

Rebecca Anderson hesitates when she hears screams coming from outside, having to choose between taking her sauce off the stove and investigating the screaming. Her conscience and her dog’s interest prevail and she discovers that the screams are from her friend’s chocolate shop next door. Her beloved friend, Coco, is dead and Rebecca’s life is about to change in unexpected ways.

 

While coping with the shock, Rebecca’s ex works to get her back, and Coco’s niece publicly denounces Rebecca with having ulterior motives. Accused of theft, her popcorn business in peril, and her reputation besmirched, Rebecca must solve the murder of her friend in order to regain the trust of the customers and the town. The characters are well-drawn in this nicely plotted beginning to the series. Recipes included.

 

Thriller

Nick Heller is back in “House on Fire,” the fourth entry featuring the former Special Ops soldier, now Boston P.I. An Army pal dies from a drug overdose and Heller is drawn into an investigation about the death. Who’s responsible? The easy answer is to blame the buddy himself, but Heller agrees to dig deeper.

 

In typical Finder fashion, “House on Fire” combines current events with a page-turning thriller. Undercover work reveals a surprising ally and loads of twists to surprise the reader. Family politics, personal tragedy, greed, government contracts, and billions at stake drive the story. Who can be trusted? Will Heller get out of this alive? Not everyone does. Prepare to be thoroughly entertained.

 

Legal Suspense

Functioning within the limitations of sporadic donations, the overworked guardians find the evidence to exonerate the wrongly incarcerated. The ‘Guardians’ in the title refers to Centurion Ministries, an organization that Grisham learned about some years ago while conducting research for another project. The work the Centurions did and still do, stuck with Grisham and this story is based on an actual case written about in the New York Times in 2018.

 

Grisham’s writing is compelling as fictional Cullen Post, a pastor and lawyer, doggedly pursues every lead to help those with one last hope. Post is not in it for the money, only justice for those less fortunate. The process followed to uncover new evidence in the various cold cases, with some witnesses long dead, and evidence lost or buried, is grueling and sometimes dangerous. A well-written, fascinating read, one of Grisham’s best.

 

Non-Fiction

“The Lost City of the Monkey God” by Douglas Preston, is non-fiction, but the events described are so wildly dangerous that it reads like page-turning fiction. The search for the ancient White City begins deep in a Honduran rainforest, probably untouched for hundreds of years.

 

Preston presents a fascinating look at the tremendously complicated planning that a legitimate investigation of a major archeological site requires. Helicopters, sophisticated technology, local government with access to permits and soldiers to guard the expedition, the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent even before the explorers put boots on the ground, the right people to pull it all together, all come into play.

 

The field of archeology appears to be highly competitive and the expedition itself was surprisingly controversial, but the group of which Preston was a part, was the first to document their expedition and findings and go through official channels. The book includes photos of the search, finding the astonishing cache of artifacts, and an insane snake story, but also discusses Preston’s serious brush with death. Preston and half of his (and subsequent) expedition people contracted a potentially lethal parasitic tropical disease, one that is hundreds of years old. The interviews and research in “The Lost City of the Monkey God” are thoroughly footnoted and documented, and also reference modern epidemics and pandemics. Excavation of this extraordinary site continues today.

 

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“Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake” by Sarah Graves

 

 

Sarah Graves, author of the popular Home Repair Is Homicide series, has a spinoff series out that begins with “Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake.” The Death by Chocolate Mysteries series features the main characters we know and love from Eastport, Maine, and gives them a chocolate shop.

 

The popular crime solving, best friend duo from Home Repair, Jacobia Tiptree and Ellie White, recently opened The Chocolate Moose. The bakers sell yummy chocolate taste treats to the delighted locals and are getting ready for the July 4th weekend, doing special orders of the forenamed cheesecake as well as their regular items. Jacobia (Jake) receives an early morning call that the shop door is standing open and arranges to have the fussy lock replaced. When she arrives at The Chocolate Moose to open for the day, the lights are out, causing her to trip over something in the dark. Which turns out to be a very dead health inspector bent over a worktable, his head leaning into a pot of chocolate. A health inspector she and Ellie have been battling with since setting up business.

 

Ellie may be the last person to see the nasty inspector alive, and not under the best circumstances. She’s the most likely person to be under suspicion, but how will she be cleared of wrongdoing? And, the practical matter question: Can a chocolate shop recover from a dead guy falling into its signature chocolate? “Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake” is a wonderful beginning to the new series, featuring a great mystery with clever misdirection, warm familiar friendships, relatives with complex issues, a missing son with a surprise of his own, a hurricane, and a Maine setting that is a character in itself to be reckoned with.

 

Amid the action and suspense of the central murder plot, Graves shows us that despite the challenges of work and mayhem, family always deserves care and attention. Jacobia’s loving husband has her back in ways she isn’t always aware; her father escapes from his hospital bed, arriving home in a taxi still in his paper slippers and gown; her step-mother is craggy, smart, and fiercely defends her loved ones; her son is making his way in the world despite a few worrisome years. There are touching scenes with her father that brought tears to my eyes. Graves’ marvelously written family hits all the right notes, and the mystery in “Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake” has plenty of surprises to keep the reader turning the pages.

 

Books #2 (“Death by Chocolate Malted Milkshake”) and #3 (“Death by Chocolate Frosted Doughnut”) are out now. Barnes and Noble, here I come.

 

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Irish Fiction & Mysteries – 2020 List

 

View from Blarney Castle

 

St. Patrick’s Day will be here soon! For those of you that focus your reading on holiday/cultural themed books, the list below features Irish writers, mysteries/suspense set in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day murders, or titles with Irish characters central to the plot. Some are modern classics, some are newbies, but all are entertaining reads. You’re sure to find a story in the updated list of 38 Irish Fiction & Mysteries–2020 List that you will want to read again and again. (Links included for bold titles)

 

Lisa Alber: “Path into Darkness
Maeve Binchy:  “Chestnut Street
S. Furlong-Bollinger: “Paddy Whacked
Declan Burke: “The Lost and the Blind
Steve Cavanagh: “Th1rt3en
Sheila Connolly: “Fatal Roots
Kathy Cranston: “Apple Seeds and Murderous Deeds
Sinead Crowley: “One Bad Turn
Kathi Daley: “Shamrock Shenanigans
Frank Delaney: “The Last Storyteller
Nelson Demille: “Cathedral
Patricia Falvey: “The Yellow House
Tana French: “Broken Harbor
Alexia Gordon: “Murder in G Major
Andrew Greeley: “The Bishop at the Lake
Jane Haddam: “A Great Day for the Deadly
Lyn Hamilton: “The Celtic Riddle
Lee Harris: “The St. Patrick’s Day Murder
Erin Hart: “The Book of Killowen
Jonathan Harrington: “A Great Day for Dying
Mary Anne Kelly: “Twillyweed
Amanda Lee: “The Long Stitch Good Night
Dan Mahoney: “Once in, Never Out
Caimh McDonnell: “A Man with One of Those Faces
Brian McGilloway: “Preserve the Dead/The Forgotten Ones
Adrian McKinty: “The Chain
Ralph M. McInerny: “The Green Revolution
Leslie Meier: “St. Patrick’s Day Murder
Stuart Neville: “So Say the Fallen
Carlene O’Connor: “Murder in an Irish Cottage
Sister Carol Anne O’Marie: “Death Takes Up a Collection”
Helen Page: “Equal of God”
Louise Phillips: “The Doll’s House
Janet Elaine Smith: “In St. Patrick’s Custody
Jo Spain: “Beneath the Surface
Patrick Taylor: “An Irish Country Family
Peter Tremayne: “Blood in Eden
Kathy Hogan Trochek: “Irish Eyes

 

 

 

If your favorite Irish Fiction & Mysteries titles are not on the list, let me know and I’ll add them! Happy choosing and reading!

 

 

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Valentine’s Day Mysteries and Fiction

 

Are you a fan of holiday themed reading? Published between 2016 and 2020, here is a list of twenty-three novels, novellas, and short stories centered around Valentine’s Day. Be prepared to swoon, or laugh, or be delighted by the selection. Click on the titles to discover more about the books and enjoy!

 

Jennifer S. Alderson  “Death by Baguette”

 

Carolyn Arnold  “Valentine’s Day is Murder”

 

Patti Benning  “Tall, Dark, and Deadly”

 

Franky A. Brown  “What Happened to Romance?”

 

Susan Carroll “The Valentine’s Day Ball”

 

Cherry Christensen  “Secret Valentine”

 

Sylvia Damsell  “A Valentine Wish”

 

Steve Demaree “A Valentine Murder”

 

Liz Dodwell “Valentine’s Day: a Polly Parrett Pet-Sitter Cozy”

 

Jessica L. Elliott “Operation: Romance”

 

Tammy Falkner “A Valentine’s Day Miracle”

 

Deborah Garner  “A Flair for Truffles”

 

Patricia Gligor “Marnie Malone”

 

Holly Hepburn “Valentine’s Day at the Star and Sixpence”

 

Liwen Y. Ho “Romantically Ever After”

 

June McCrary Jacobs “Handmade Hearts”

 

Libby Klein  “Theater Nights Are Murder”

 

Jackie Lau  “A Big Surprise for Valentine’s Day”

 

Lia London “Love from A to Z”

 

Ava Mallory & nine more authors “Stirring Up Love & Mystery”

 

Leslie Meier  “Valentine Candy Murder”

 

Summer Prescott “A Blossom of Murder”

 

Amy M. Reade  “Be My Valencrime”

 

Happy Reading! 

 

 

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The Agatha Awards – 2019 Books

 

The winners of the Agatha Awards for 2019 Books (named for Agatha Christie) have been announced. The nominated books were first published in the United States by a living author between January 1 and December 31, 2019. Normally, the nominated titles would be voted upon by the attendees at the annual Malice Domestic conference for mystery and crime writers/fans in early May, 2020. But, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the conference was cancelled. The Malice Board  determined the voting protocol, with the winners announced on May 2, 2020.

The Agatha Awards recognize the “traditional mystery,” meaning that there is no graphic sex and no excessive violence in the writing. Thrillers or hard-boiled detectives cannot be found here, but instead, picture Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot at work.

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners! (indicated in red)  🙂

 

Best Contemporary Novel (6 titles this year)
“Fatal Cajun Festival” by Ellen Byron
The Long Call” by Ann Cleeves
“Fair Game” by Annette Dashofy
“The Missing Ones” by Edwin Hill
“A Better Man” by Louise Penny
“The Murder List” by Hank Philippi Ryan

Best First Mystery Novel
“A Dream of Death” by Connie Berry
One Night Gone” by Tara Laskowski
“Murder Once Removed” by S. C. Perkins
“When It’s Time for Leaving” by Ang Pompano
“Staging for Murder” by Grace Topping

Best Historical Mystery
“Love and Death Among the Cheetahs” by Rhys Bowen
“Murder Knocks Twice” by Susanna Calkins
“The Pearl Dagger” by L. A. Chandlar
Charity’s Burden” by Edith Maxwell
“The Naming Game” by Gabriel Valjan

Best Nonfiction
“Frederic Dannay, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and the Art of the Detective Short Story” by Laird R. Blackwell
“Blonde Rattlesnake: Burmah Adams, Tom White, and the 1933 Crime Spree that Terrified Los Angeles” by Julia Bricklin
“Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee” by Casey Cep
“The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women” by Mo Moulton
“The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper” by Hallie Rubenhold

Best Children/Young Adult
“Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers” by Shauna Holyoak
“Two Can Keep a Secret” by Karen MacManus
“The Last Crystal” by Frances Schoonmaker
“Top Marks for Murder (A Most Unladylike Mystery)”
by Robin Stevens
“Jada Sly, Artist and Spy” by Sherri Winston

Best Short Story (links are highlighted)
Grist for the Mill” by Kaye George in A Murder of Crows (Darkhouse Books)
Alex’s Choice” by Barb Goffman in Crime Travel (Wildside Press)
The Blue Ribbon” by Cynthia Kuhn in Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible (Wildside Press)
The Last Word” by Shawn Reilly Simmons, Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible (Wildside Press)
Better Days” by Art Taylor in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine


Happy Reading!

 

 

 

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Christmas Themed Mysteries – 2019

 

Christmas may be the most popular holiday topic for mysteries. When compiling this list, there were hundreds to choose from. Yes, hundreds. Do we, as readers, connect with the topic of murder at the holidays because our families and friends bring out the worst in us? Do the writers deliver a way for us to fantasize about doing in the dastardly boyfriend/cousin/landlord? Only you and your active imagination know for sure.  😉

 

If you are a fan of Christmas themed fiction, then this list of thirty-eight novels, novellas, and short stories is for you. The books were recommended by avid cozy booksellers, as well as NBR subscribers. Click on the titles to find out more about the books, then snuggle up with a great Christmas read.

 

Susan Wittig Albert: “The Darling Dahlias & the Poinsettia Puzzle

 

Gretchen Archer:  “Double Deck the Halls

 

Carolyn Ridder Aspenson + 10 other authors: “The 12 Cozy Mystery Carols of Christmas

 

Donna Andrews: “Owl Be Home for Christmas”  

 

Mary Angela: “Very Merry Murder”

 

Joy Avon: “In Peppermint Peril”

 

Laurien Berenson: “Wagging through the Snow

 

Leslie Budewitz: “As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles”

 

Ellen Byron: “A Cajun Christmas Killing”

 

Lynn Cahoon: “Santa Puppy”

 

Vicki Delany: “Silent Night, Deadly Night

 

Leighann Dobbs: “Grievance in Gingerbread Alley

 

Barbara Early: “Murder on the Toy Town Express”

 

Morris Fenris: “Miracle of Christmas Boxed Set

 

Beatrice Fishback: “Winter Writerland
Amanda Flower: “Premeditated Peppermint

 

Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine, Leslie Meier: “Christmas Sweets

 

Jacqueline Frost: “Twelve Slays of Christmas

 

Daryl Wood Gerber: “Wreath between the Lines

 

Patrice Greenwood: “As Red as Any Blood

 

Carolyn Haines: “Gift of Bones

 

Victoria Hamilton: “Breaking the Mould”

 

Jo A Heistand: “A Recipe for Murder

 

Julie Hennrikus: “A Christmas Peril”

 

CeeCee James: “The Frosty Taste of Scandal

 

Miranda James: “Six Cats a Slayin”

 

Laura Levine: “Death of a Neighborhood Scrooge”

 

Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, Barbara Ross: “Yule Log Murder

 

Liz Mugavero: “Purring around the Christmas Tree

 

Nancy Naigle: “Christmas Joy

 

Gail Oust: “The Twelve Dice of Christmas”

 

James Patterson, Maxine Paetro: “The 19th Christmas

 

Anne Perry: “A Christmas Gathering

 

Summer Prescott: “Christmas Reunion Killer”

 

Karen Schaler: “Christmas Camp

 

Julie Seedorf:  “The Discombobulated Decipherers”

 

Jane Willan:  “The Hour of Death”

 

Sherryl Woods: “Christmas at White Pines

 

Happy Choosing! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book List: Jessica Estavao/Jessie Crockett/Jessica Ellicott

Jessica Estavao is a talented, bestselling, award-winning New England author with several entertaining mystery series to her credit. She is one of the “Wicked Authors,” a group of women writing wicked good mysteries mostly set in New England. Take a look at the list of her books below and see if you’ve read them all. (Click on the titles to learn more about the books)

 

Granite State Mysteries  (as Jessie Crockett)

Her debut mystery in the Granite State series, “Live Free or Die”, was the 2011 winner of the Daphne DuMaurier Award for Mainstream Mystery, an auspicious beginning to her career.

 

Sugar Grove Mysteries (as Jessie Crockett)

The series begins “Drizzled with Death,” one hilarious romp through championship pancake breakfasts, maple syrup, and animals on the loose. Who knew that falling dead head first into a stack of pancakes could be used as a crime scene setting?

 

Drizzled with Death” – review here  

 

Maple Mayhem

 

Sticky Situation

 

 

 

Change of Fortune Mysteries (as Jessica Estavao)

Jessie moved her next series back in time to 1890’s Orchard Beach, Maine, with a con artist and tarot card reader protagonist. Ruby tries to stay one step ahead of the law, while helping her straight arrow aunt keep her hotel. Great fun featuring an innovative female lead character.

 

Whispers Beyond the Veil” 

review here     

 

 

 

 

Whispers of Warning

 

 

 

 

Beryl and Edwina Mysteries (as Jessica Ellicott)

Jessie’s current series is set in post WW1 England and introduces the former Finishing School duo of Edwina, the conservative English character, to Beryl’s adventurous American persona. They reunite many years later in the quiet (or is it?) southern English village of Warmsley Parva when Edwina advertises for a boarder and Beryl crashes onto her property.

 

Beryl and Edwina, while culturally and personally quite different, are fond of each other even after years apart. They find that their distinctive talents help them wonderfully well in their new business venture, a ‘private inquiry agency’ that solves mysteries in the charming village, while earning them an income.

 

Ellicott has written a series that is both historically enlightening and entertaining, with the sometimes serious subject matter of the day woven into the story of the two women drawn together by economics as well as friendship. Beautifully researched, the books reveal societal views about women 100 years ago, and peek inside the quaint village shops that have survived despite the post-war challenges.

 

Edwina’s shrewd intellect and Beryl’s clever approach to the mysteries outwit lesser minds and create a few comical moments to save the day and befuddle the clueless. These two engaging, intelligent women will capture your hearts and minds as you enjoy these wonderful books.

 

 

 

 

 

Murder in an English Village” 

review here

 

 

Murder Flies the Coop

 

Murder Cuts the Mustard

 

 

 

 

 

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