Reviews

Ellen Byron’s “Cajun Kiss of Death,” and the Cajun Country Mystery Series

Ellen Byron, the Agatha Award winning author of the Cajun Country Mysteries, recently launched the thoroughly entertaining seventh book in the series, “Cajun Kiss of Death.” There’s never a dull moment in Maggie Crozat’s family, and a triple wedding at the beginning pulls out all the stops.

 

Great food has always been a part of the series, and as a result, favorite regional dishes frequently simmer on the stove at the Crozat Plantation B&B. Happily, Byron shares a few of the featured special recipes. I have my eye on the calas recipe in “Cajun Kiss of Death.” It’s a rice ball that has been deep fried and rolled in sugar or syrup. It promises to be a yummy breakfast treat or afternoon snack with coffee or tea.

 

In “Cajun Kiss of Death,” oysters are selling at rock bottom prices at a new restaurant, forcing established local eateries to struggle to stay afloat. Maggie’s mother, Ninette, discovers that a celebrity chef re-created her signature recipe to sell in his own place. Say what? Are the two actions related? Neither piece of underhandedness wins any friends and the chef winds up deader than a week old crayfish. Nin is one of the suspects he betrayed, but with rival restaurateurs, disgruntled ex-wives, sou chefs, and flamboyant cooks in the mix, there’s no shortage of people to investigate.

 

Each of the series books has featured a believable and often topical theme. “Mardi Gras Murder” gave a nod to the real life area’s resiliency after Katrina and other crushing storms leveled surrounding New Orleans neighborhoods. Pelican is no ordinary town, but a tight-knit community steeped in tradition, a solid theme often repeated. 

 

The series has engaged us with extensive local history through the well-developed plots and an eclectic cast from New Orleans culture. We have witnessed the grit needed to keep the family business going throughout hurricanes, cash flow challenges, less than honest outside influences, and even a pandemic. There is a special warmth and depth to the characters and we can’t help but recognize our own favorite relatives in Byron’s books.

 

Books in Order:
Click on the titles for the ‘buy’ links.

Plantation Shudders
Body on the Bayou
Cajun Christmas Killing

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the review for “Mardi Gras Murder” here.

Fatal Cajun Festival
Murder in the Bayou Boneyard
Cajun Kiss of Death

 

Wonderful series. Get them all.

Please visit www.ellenbyron.com for information about her other books in the series, as well as her new projects.

 

Book List: Author Linda Lovely

Linda Lovely is a terrific writer with a wonderful sense of humor in real life as well as on the page. Years ago, I was new to the Southern Writers realm and attended a meeting where Linda chatted about her books. She shared with the group that she had read several romantic suspense books and found them lacking in love lives for anybody north of 50 years old.

 

I’ll never forget her question to the group: “Why should the young have all the fun?” Lovely delivers stories that feature romantically active characters  in the second half of life. Women of a certain age can relate to the accomplished female protagonists that have already achieved quite a bit, but who can also solve the crimes placed in their way. While attracted to men who are their worthy equals, these are women who have also proven that they can exist rather nicely on their own.

 

Take a look at Linda Lovely’s engaging book list and click on the book titles for the ‘buy’ links:

 

Marley Clark Mysteries a retired military intelligence officer works security on a Carolina island, and proves that life after 50 can be an adventure.

Read “Dear Killer” review here.

 

 

 

 

No Wake Zone

 

Smart Women, Dumb Luck Romantic SuspenseThree women meet at Blue Ridge University, then find they can count on each other again many years later.

Dead Line

Dead Hunt

 

Standalone1938 historical suspense about a woman fighting for her life and that of her son, and then she is wrongly accused of murdering her husband.

Secrets Can Kill”                

 

The Brie Hooker Series stars a vegetarian cook who agrees to help out her goat-farm-owning, meat-loving Aunt. The murder and mayhem is sometimes intense, and the meat vs vegetable scenarios are hilarious. The men in the books vying for Brie’s heart aren’t bad either. Plus, who knew that ‘salami’ could be used as a swear word?

 

Read “Bones to Pick” review here 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read “Picked Off” and “Back Pick” reviews here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The HOA Mystery Series

“With Neighbors Like These” is the first of three planned books in Lovely’s new series. Retired Coast Guard Investigator, Kylee Kane, comes home to help her mother, and Kylee reconnects with hunky Ted Welch. His company manages a number of Home Owner’s Associations, including the one where Kylee’s mom (who knows everything and everyone) lives. A dispute between deer hunters and conservationists results in a death, mayhem occurs at another property, and Ted hires Kylee to check out any security issues. Events quickly escalate and together they solve multiple crimes, as the unfolding investigation leads them in directions they could not have anticipated.   


Multi-layered plots are always central to Linda Lovely’s novels. With her fully fleshed out central characters perfectly set up to navigate the twists and turns of the storylines, this entertaining mystery writer always delivers a thoroughly engrossing read. “With Neighbors Like These,” is a stellar, page-turning beginning to her brand new HOA Mystery Series. Launch date is set for July 13, 2021. Click on the link to pre-order.

 

Please visit https://www.lindalovely.com to learn more about Lovely and her upcoming events.

 

 

 

 

 

NBR March Reviews – Four Genres

AMISH MYSTERY

“A Killer Carol” by Laura Bradford

Bradford’s beautifully written Amish mystery series stars Claire Weatherly, an Englisher, and Jakob Fisher, a former member of the Amish community. Claire chose to come to Heavenly, Pennsylvania to live with her aunt, rebuild her life, and open a store filled with Amish crafts. Jakob is a police detective in the town, who chose police work over life with the Amish.

 

In “A Killer Carol,” the seventh in the series, two of Claire’s Amish friends are suspected of a double murder and Jakob seems to have the evidence to prove it. Nobody’s talking, and with Claire and Jakob on opposite sides of the investigation, the holiday season may have lost its glow. With several surprising ‘wow’ moments, and Bradford’s wonderful characters to share the storyline, “Killer Carol” is a gift, no matter what time of year you read it. 

 

MILITARY FICTION

“The Last Platoon” by Bing West

In order to increase his chances at advancement, a career-stalled Marine accepts a short assignment to Afghanistan. West presents a realistic ‘boots on the ground’ viewpoint, with dedicated Marines adjusting to the leadership change. Self-serving orders given by the base C.O. result in a badly handled campaign, despite our hero’s best efforts to do his job. We come to realize that (with few exceptions) chain-of-command decisions are inviolate in the armed services.


The friendly Afghans are unpredictable, the base is under-manned, and the C.O. seems unhinged. With deadly consequences, “The Last Platoon” brings all the players together during a devastating sandstorm. West was an Assistant Secretary of Defense as well as a combat Marine and brings a great deal of authenticity to “The Last Platoon.”

 

THRILLER

 

“Backlash” by Brad Thor is a pulse-pounding page-turner in the Scot Harvath series. Harvath is betrayed, people close to him are murdered, and he is captured from U.S. soil by Russians. He is tortured and put on a plane to be handed over to an enemy who wants him dead. But the plane crashes in a remote part of Russia during a massive snowstorm and several of his guards are killed. That’s in the first thirteen pages of stay-up-all-night reading.

 

What follows is a harrowing tale of Harvath’s journey to evade the Russians without his usual support system in place. He knows that his captors will stop at nothing to get him back, but he is out for revenge. He must dig deep to stay alive in the face of hunger, brutal conditions, and the few resources he can steal. The twists are many, the perils are real, and the action superbly written.

 

NONFICTION

 

“No Time Like the Future” by Michael J. Fox, is exceptional. I laughed and cried as the beloved actor, Michael J. Fox, recounted his daily life with Parkinson’s via experiences with his career, his cherished family, and dear friends. He fully acknowledges the sacrifices others have made on his behalf while revealing some of his own missteps and ‘negotiations’ with the disease. Ever optimistic, Fox inspires all of us with his attitude and marvelous sense of humor in the midst of astonishing challenges. Wow!

Hint, hint: book sales raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the leading Parkinson’s organization in the world.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

January Reviews – Four Genres

COZY

“Tilling the Truth” by Julia Henry

The feisty Garden Squad is back with a new set of projects, some aboveboard, some clandestine, and always chosen with the intent to spruce up the town and bring smiles to both residents and visitors. I opened “Tilling the Truth” to check a detail for the review, got caught up in the storyline again, and re-read the book because of its delightfully dedicated crew and their mission.

 

Small towns are a microcosm of society, with nice and not-so-nice residents living next door to one another. Everybody knows what you’re up to, or will find out as soon as the nosy neighbor texts her friends. Henry captures that perfectly with her charming mix of senior citizens and assorted helpful younger generation characters. The main characters are well-rounded, each with their own quirks and endearing qualities, and oh, my word, the unpleasant ones should be stripped of their gardening tools and run out of town in a wheelbarrow.

“Tilling the Truth” has a tightly layered plot, with our heroine, Lilly Jayne, dealing with the estate of a good friend, disgruntled beneficiaries, her best friend accused of murder, zoning laws, a bird sanctuary, and an impending lifestyle change for Lilly. Henry weaves it all together in a way that sounds just like a story you could tell to spellbound dinner guests if it happened in your own neighborhood.

 

THRILLER

“Dead Man Running” by Steve Hamilton

This is the ninth book in the top-notch Alex McKnight series. A serial killer has been arrested, but will talk to no one except retired police officer, Alex McKnight. Except that McKnight knows nothing about the man and has no idea why the killer thinks there is a connection between them.

 

What’s at stake is a missing woman that may still be alive. The FBI will do anything to save the woman and stop the murders, including hauling McKnight cross country to meet with the depraved Livermore. The story is told through McKnight’s point-of-view as well as the serial killer’s twisted mind. There are graphic discussions about the killer’s crimes, so if you’re looking for a light read, this is not for you. Instead, it will give some insight into an evil, manipulative thought process. There are surprises at every turn that keep McKnight pushing forward and the FBI in pursuit – each matching wits with Livermore. Chilling to the core, Hamilton has delivered another masterfully plotted page-turner in “Dead Man Running.”

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE

The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides

“Silent Patient” is an intense read, centered around a successful artist who shoots her husband in the face and never says a word after the deed, not to explain herself, not to save herself from prosecution. The criminal psychotherapist who tells the tale is obsessed by the case and works his way onto the staff at her psychiatric institute so that he can solve the mystery of her silence. Michaelides delivers shocking revelations, clever twists in the plot, and characters so well-drawn that they could be people we know. Don’t read “The Silent Patient” before bed, because you won’t get a wink of sleep as the pages fly by.

 

NONFICTION

“The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston

I wish “The Hot Zone” was a thriller, a work of fiction, but it is completely true. An ordinary guy in 1970s Africa dies several days after spending time off trekking through a jungle. He ends life  horribly in a Nairobi hospital, infecting and killing others splattered by his blood; his companion on the outing with him doesn’t get sick. Blood samples are sent to the CDC in Atlanta, GA for testing, confirming the Ebola virus as the cause of death, and then are locked away in their secure facility. A few years later, the deadly Ebola virus arrives in a suburb of Washington, D.C. via monkeys tagged for research. The monkeys already in residence at this top-secret building set in an unsuspecting neighborhood, quickly start dying.

 

This hair-raising tale written in the 1990s, describes the rigorous protocols to keep the military personnel safe, the race to dispose of the infected monkey bodies while keeping the public from learning the truth, and the high personal cost of working in the field of infectious diseases. Preston includes a telling look at how the military and the world perceived a dedicated woman’s role in both the military and her ability to work with a killer virus in the 1980s. A television series based on “The Hot Zone” aired in 2020 and scared me silly, but the thoroughly researched book even more so.

 

 

 

Book List: Author Sherry Harris

 

Sherry Harris writes the Agatha nominated, wonderful Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries and the brand new Chloe Jackson Sea Glass Saloon series.
 

Sarah Winston is a military spouse who must transition to being on her own. Her emotional struggles to make her own way as a newly single woman are realistic, and her scenes detailing military life ring true. Harris’ storylines peel back the layers of Winston’s battle with feelings about her ex in each book, while delivering great mysteries.

Have you read all the books in this marvelous series? Take a look at the book list below, listed in order, with links included.

 

 

“Tagged for Death”   read review here.

 

 

“The Longest Yard Sale”  read review here.  

 

All Murders Final

 

 

 

“A Good Day to Buy”   read review here.

 

I Know What You Bid Last Summer

 

 

The Gun Also Rises” read review here.

 

and…. “Let’s Fake A Deal”  read review here.
Sell Low, Sweet Harriet

Absence of Alice” is out now!

 

Good news for Mrs. Harris’ fans: the first book of her Chloe Jackson Sand Dollar Saloon mysteries, “From Beer to Eternity,” is out and it’s a hit. ‘Chloe Jackson’ was a Visiting Detective over at Kerrian’s Notebook recently and shared her experience about the murder with the Kerrians. Read ‘Murder at the Sea Glass Saloon’ here.

Sherry’s other writing includes:

A short story called “Country Song Gone Wrong” in the Deadly Southern Charm anthology from the Central VA chapter of Sisters in Crime. It’s a Sarah Winston story — She goes to Virginia.

 

The Sherry Harris Author Profile can be read here.

Please visit https://sherryharrisauthor.com to see what else Sherry is up to.  🙂
 

(Photos courtesy of Sherry Harris)

 

 

Mari Barnes’ “Best of Books for Children Under 12”

Mari Barnes is our first guest author on Nightstand Book Reviews! I ‘met’ her on Facebook because of our mutual love of mystery shows, but realized as I followed her posts that she also has a shared avid interest in developing literacy for young people and their families. She is a member of our NBR community and the perfect person to ask for her ‘Best of’ book list for children under 12. Welcome, Mari.  🙂

I’m Mari Barnes and I’m a big fan of children’s books. I share them with my own family and the children who participate in the literacy programs I facilitate. The following books are only SOME of the many great books I’ve enjoyed with children under the age of twelve. They range from silly to sweet to serious. If I didn’t list a favorite of yours, I hope you’ll find time to sample one or two…or all ten!

 

  1. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
    The perfect first chapter book for new readers. These two characters show us what friendship looks like in five adorable short stories.

 

  1. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willem
    This reader favorite is about a bus driver who has to leave so he asks the reader to not allow the pigeon to drive the bus. A great read-aloud book!

     

    8. The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket
    This book/CD is a clever and silly whodunnit about an orchestra. It’s fun for adults and kids won’t care that they’re learning about orchestras and classical music.

     

    7. I Can’t Said the Ant by Polly Cameron A story told in rhyme that is about what happens to the denizens of a kitchen when an ant tries to help a fallen teapot. 

     


    6. Little Red Gliding Hood by Tara Lazar

    There are laughs a plenty in this new spin on fairy tales. Little Red Riding Hood needs to find a partner to help her win a new pair of skates. But finding one isn’t easy.

  1. Sweet T and the North Wind by Cat Michaels
    Tara, or Sweet T as her grandmother calls her, finds out that there really is magic in the North Wind. This story is about the love of family told with charm and whimsy.

 

4. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
For older or more developed readers. Set in the Depression and told in Bud’s own unique voice, we follow his humorous, scary, sad and uplifting travels to find the man who just might be his father.

 

 

  1. I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty
    Frog would rather be ANYTHING else. Until he finds out that being a frog is the best thing he could ever be. A great lesson is hidden in lots of laughs. 

 

 

2. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
Kid scientist Ada has to use all of her science skills to find out why her house is filled with a terrible smell. But her experiments lead to even more trouble in the winning tale of imagination and determination.

 

 

1. Brimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin
A charming little fable about friendship and problem-solving, this is one of my all-time favorites. And it’s got a surprise twist. A terrific bedtime story.

Mari Lumpkin Barnes writes for children under the pen name of Mari Lumpkin and for adults as ML Barnes. Mari owns Flying Turtle Publishing and has spent many years working with experts in child development, creating and implementing children’s literacy programs. The latest is Adventures in Reading, literacy programming for Chicagoland and northwest Indiana families.

https://aireading.org    

https://www.flyingturtlepublishing.com/

 

Many thanks to Mari Barnes for her photos and for sharing the wonderful list!  🙂

Enjoy!

 

 

Book List: Julie Hennrikus

New England author, Julie Hennrikus, has been entertaining us with three quite different mystery series, written under three different names, for several years. In honor of her most recent book launch, “Digging Up the Remains,” a Halloween themed mystery, here’s a list of all her books. Enjoy!

 

Click on the book titles to learn more about the books.

 

The Clock Shop Mystery Series by Julianne Holmes, features expert clockmaker Ruth Clagan who inherits the clock shop, Cog & Sprocket, from her Grandfather. The bells toll for more than one body in this lovely town of Orchard, Massachusetts, and Ruth must get herself in gear to outsmart the killers. The first book in the trilogy received an Agatha nomination for Best First Mystery. If you like clocks and/or are fascinated by the history and how they work, you’ll love this series.

 

 

 

Read the review for Agatha nominated “Just Killing Timehere.

                 

Clock and Dagger

Chime and Punishment

 

The Theater Cop series by J.A. Hennrikus is actually the first series that Ms. Hennrikus worked on, but as happens with many writers, was not her first series published. She has been active in the arts field for a lot of her professional life and theater was a big part of that involvement. The drama of life in and around the stage are a focal point of this entertaining mystery series, featuring a diverse set of characters, and former cop, now theater manager, Edwina Sullivan.

 

 

Read my review of “A Christmas Perilhere.

 


With A Kiss I Die

 

The Garden Squad Mysteries, by Julia Henry, centers around a stealthy group of crime-solving, garden loving residents that fixes up neglected gardens and pathways. After dark. When nobody can see them or protest. Have digger, will weed. There are murders of course, but there are also great gardening tips, and (from the readers’ point of view) hilarious situations in which Henry places these midnight gardeners led by 65 year old Lilly Jayne. I wonder if I can hire them to take care of my neighbor’s scruffy looking sideyard….All kidding aside, the series is great.

Read my review of “Pruning the Deadhere.

Tilling the Truth

Her most recent book, “Digging up the Remains,” has a Halloween theme.

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

 

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