“Drizzled with Death” opens as Dani Greene temporarily escapes the holiday mania afflicting her family. She catches up on work in the sugarhouse at Greener Pastures maple syrup farm, annoyed at being ignored at the age of 26. She is the youngest in the family, and at less than five feet tall, she finds it hard to be taken seriously, despite her business savvy that has transformed a family hobby into a thriving business.
Sounds like the start to a pleasant read about a young woman making her way through life in the small town of Sugar Grove, New Hampshire. More like a side-splitting read. During her musing, Dani is startled by a mountain lion peering at her through the sugarhouse window. Gulp. She calls for help, but the Fish and Game Warden sent out to investigate, Graham Paterson, doesn’t believe her. The mountain lion is long gone, the Fish and Game guy is smirking and she loses all credibility when he spies the wine glass. Yup, wine always makes me see mountain lions. How about you? 😉
If being dismissed by the Game Warden isn’t enough to make Dani spit maple syrup, the next day at the Sap Bucket Brigade annual fundraiser pancake breakfast, a contestant pitches face first halfway into the seventh syrup-dripping stack of pancakes. Death by pancake? I’d be pitched over after the second stack, but that’s just me.
Graham Paterson reveals that a truckload of exotic animals has been released and are running all over the area – caused by a talkative parrot. You have to read “Drizzled with Death” to find out how the parrot is involved. There are some really funny scenes that involve chasing wacky animals with nets and LOTS more.
There is a great deal to recommend in “Drizzled with Death,” not the least of which is a very engaging Dani, and the relationships with the ex-boyfriend and the Game Warden. Dani uncovers some skullduggery that affects the area, and particularly Greener Pastures’ livelihood. She needs to uncover the culprit/motivation before the family name is ruined and before she winds up dead herself.
There are zany characters with hidden agendas, decidedly wacky animals, and a clever subplot that will keep you intrigued to the end. Crockett has a witty way of turning a phrase that reminds us how funny life can be – after we have survived the crazy, of course.
Happily, there are also recipes at the end, including a concoction called “Who’d a Thunk It.” It’s a sandwich created with an apple, bacon, waffles and maple syrup. Me, oh , my, doesn’t that sound like a delicious combo?
“Drizzled with Death” is the first book in the Sugar Grove series. There are two later books, and hopefully, more to come.
Please visit www.jessiecrockett.com for information about Jessie Crockett’s other books as well as her work with the Wicked Cozys.
Sarah Winston is back in “The Longest Yard Sale,” the second installment in Sherry Harris’ habit-forming Garage Sale Mysteries. In addition to conducting her usual private home tag sales, Sarah has taken on the enormous job of running a one-day, town-wide event. And almost everybody has a great time. Including the thief that steals a valuable painting from an art studio belonging to Sarah’s friend, Carol. Law enforcement is focused on putting out fires as well as the Yard Sale crowds, so they don’t have quite as much fun.
Art theft? Fires? Add in a murder, a mayor who is never where she’s supposed to be, embezzlement, possible forgery, a ‘framed’ body discovered the day after the theft occurs, and we have a great mystery that intrigues and satisfies. Why was the body found at Carol’s studio? Is the body connected to the theft or merely a wild coincidence? And, what’s really going on in that studio?
CJ, the Chief of Police and Sarah’s ex, warns Sarah to stay out of it, but she can’t help herself. She needs to collect information to save Carol from being prosecuted and her own reputation from being smeared. There are plenty of suspects to go around in “The Longest Yard Sale,” and Harris deftly deals with throwing suspicion in all the right places while the layered plot unfolds.
Although Sarah has divorced her former Air Force husband, she still has ties to the local Base and the thrift store there, and maybe even to said hubby, CJ. Just because she now has to be buzzed onto the Base to gain access to the thrift store (and a possible new crime) Sarah’s interest in getting to the bottom of the bargain bins and ferreting out suspicious scams never wanes.
Life in and after the Air Force is further explored in “The Longest Yard Sale,” and all is not as it should be. One of the subplots discusses a normal real-life pre-retirement activity: officers that use military connections to help set up post military life. In this case, people may have lost money in the process, but were they actually swindled? How? By whom?
There is a new guy in Sarah’s life, but is CJ still in the picture as well? She struggles with why she was so quick to believe the worst about him and so ready to divorce. Harris creates a believable mental tug-of-war for Sarah, with CJ and the new guy playing strong male roles, each unaware of the feelings that Sarah may have for the other. An interesting balancing act that adds another layer to the tale. Which guy will she choose? Will she wait too long to make that decision? Does she need to make any decision at all?
The great dynamic between Sarah and the men in her life, the nicely developed cast of characters, the twists in the engaging plot(s) in “The Longest Yard Sale,” all drive me to one conclusion: can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!
Harris’ debut novel, “Tagged for Death,” an Agatha Award nominee, is reviewed here.
Please visit www.sherryharrisauthor.com for more information about Sherry Harris and her work.
Julia Snowden is back in “Musseled Out,” the third installment of Barbara Ross’ great Maine Clambake Mystery series.
The Maine summer tourist season is winding down and it’s time for Julia to make a decision. Should she stay around until the next season to help the family with the Snowden Clambake business or go back to her venture capital job in New York City? Her boss will only hold her spot open for so long – just until the end of the week. She’s got five days to choose between two jobs and lifestyles that could not be more different.
Now that the family livelihood has been saved, about the only thing that really holds Julia to Busman’s Harbor is her boyfriend, Chris. But, is that relationship really just a summer fling? Can she count on him to hang around? Is his constant disappearing act over? In a half-hearted attempt to force herself into making a decision, she looks at places to live in town. She doesn’t like the apartments she’s seen, and her boyfriend’s cabin is a little rough (translation – gutted while being rehabbed) for her taste. Plus, she has to find work in the off-season. Is that a sign?
The thing is, as in any good series, there has to be motivation for the out-of-town main character to hang around. We don’t want Julia to go anywhere, so Ross has to give this smart, savvy gal in “Musseled Out” an authentic reason. How about the body of a potential competitor, David Thwing, tangled up in the lines of a lobster boat she sees drifting off her beach? Julia has helped the local police successfully before, so they trust her not to be involved in Thwing’s death, but there are plenty of people (including her brother-in-law) in her circle that could have done the deed.
What follows is a beautifully crafted plot, with surprising twists and turns, and impeccably placed events that foil the bad guys’ plans. There is even a page-turning rescue scene that left me stunned, with the life and death struggles reading like an actual Coast Guard response.
Ross has developed the core characters of the series even further in “Musseled Out,” giving Gus and Mrs. Gus a storyline of their own that affects Julia and Chris in a profound way. The book not only explores what happens when key personnel in a family business are sidelined, and the serious decisions that must be made, but also how bad decisions can wreck havoc on the lives of everyone involved.
The motivations for everything that happens are as current as the latest news cycle, but if that’s not enough, there are some serious cooks in this series. Techniques are shared as part of the storyline, and I plan to try the one for fried eggs. Recipes for main dishes and desserts are included at the end of the book. I made lobster mac & cheese from “Clammed Up,” (delicious) and I can’t wait to try the pumpkin whoopee pies from “Musseled Out.”
Read the review of “Clammed Up,” the first in the series, here.
For more information about Barbara Ross and her next book, “Fogged Inn,” please visit www.maineclambakemysteries.com
Laura Bradford’s “Suspendered Sentence” continues the story of Claire and Jakob in the fourth book of her bestselling Amish Mystery series. Claire Weatherly, big city escapee and now shopkeeper in the Amish community of Heavenly, Pennsylvania, lives in her aunt’s bed & breakfast, helps with the Inn’s upkeep and enjoys her simpler country life.
Claire’s heart is mending after a bad marriage, and she has come to value her time with Jakob Fisher, a shunned former member of the Amish, a Detective on the police force that oversees law enforcement for the entire town, including the Amish.
In “Suspendered Sentence,” an Amish barn burns to the ground and when the barn raising begins, a skeleton is found on the property. If that isn’t enough, the skeleton is found with a bracelet that had been given to a missing girl some 15 years before. Jakob must investigate, but being shunned, is not allowed to speak with the Amish directly about what has occurred. Claire continues her intermediary role in order to get to the truth. Their relationship has developed quietly through the series, as their attraction to each other warms, moving beyond their investigative bond.
Bradford skillfully weaves in details of Amish culture, with more about the Rumspringa tradition in “Suspendered Sentence.” During Rumspringa season, the sixteen year olds experience the world beyond the isolated community and afterwards are able make an informed choice about becoming baptized and living out their lives as Amish. Occasionally, teens do leave permanently after Rumspringa, but the ones that stay supposedly have no regrets or worries about what they might be missing by staying. So, when the murdered girl had originally disappeared during Rumspringa, nobody went looking for her. It was unexpected to have no goodbyes, but not unheard of.
In the course of the investigation, terrible and unexpected secrets are revealed, jealousy is uncovered, and bitterness erupts in destructive ways. The characters’ relationships are touching and difficult and quite real in this outwardly gentle community. We feel the pain, the anguish and finally horror as long hidden truths are laid bare and discussed.
Bradford’s effective use of Amish cultural values as a plot device, some of which might make little sense to an outsider, keeps us turning the pages in this well written mystery. The barn raising after the fire in “Suspendered Sentence,” is a fascinating look at how the community bands together when disaster strikes. We learn why Jakob is not allowed to speak with his own family members and along the way, Aunt Diane provides comforting advice and insight to Claire about the Amish.
Layers of complex stories involve both communities, with elections, family squabbles, new employees, the lives of the English and the Amish both clashing and blending, all leading to a surprising outcome.
“Suspendered Sentence” is a wonderful addition to the series.
Please visit www.laurabradford.com for more information about Bradford and the Amish Mystery series, as well as other books she writes under a pseudonym.
“The Skeleton Takes a Bow” is the second entry in Leigh Perry’s series featuring Georgia Thackery and her very own skeleton, Sid. Sid has been Georgia’s best friend since she was a little girl and as long as she’s known him, he’s been a skeleton. Adult, clackety, walking, talking, intelligent, able to separate head from body, and with a somewhat mysterious past. Yup, just the qualities you’d want a best friend to have.
Georgia’s daughter, Madison, is in the bare bones high school production of “Hamlet” and needs help with props. Sid, being the ham that he is, is more than happy to comply and step in as Yorick. Nobody outside the family knows that the ‘alive’ Sid exists, except for the occasional Halloween or Manga/anime outing, so Sid’s skull will be transported back and forth in a bowling bag. The plot thickens when Madison accidentally leaves him at school and while Sid is waiting in the auditorium to be picked up, he hears a murder being committed.
Problem is, there is no body and no evidence left at the scene – the very public school auditorium. Georgia believes Sid’s story, but what can she do? Sid can’t call the police and report the crime; Georgia can’t call it in from her home phone. How would she explain knowing about the murder?
So, you guessed it – they have to figure out who disposed of the body so that the police will have something to go on. What happens as “The Skeleton Takes a Bow” unfolds, places everyone in Georgia’s circle in jeopardy at one time or another while multiple suspects are revealed and ruled out. Sneaky professors, gossipy colleagues, slimy parents – nobody is left out of the “Whodunit?” possibilities. Another murder is discovered and the mixups and misunderstandings multiply.
Cool new characteristics of this original character, Sid-the-computer-skilled-skeleton, are introduced. With Madison’s help, he learns how to manipulate his bones more effectively with hilarious results for the plot. Sid still hides when outsiders show up at the house and is probably the biggest eavesdropper on the planet, but we love his protective interference.
As in “A Skeleton in the Family,” Perry explores the serious side of the life of an adjunct professor. In a cost-cutting move over the years, colleges have employed more adjuncts and it has become harder to move into tenured positions that provide benefits and living-wage salaries. Not knowing whether or not there will be a job the next semester, or whether the family has to move again, is a constant worry in the back of Georgia’s mind.
Not to give too much away, but another subplot addresses a very real problem facing colleges today and a scam that has been around for decades. Georgia stumbles upon the wrongdoing and doesn’t want an old friend to be implicated, but as the subplots overlap, life gets complicated for everyone.
Relationships within the family are developed in “The Skeleton Takes a Bow,” and as we get to know this very likable group of people, we can’t wait to see what they will do together next. Thoroughly entertaining read!
Read the review of “A Skeleton in the Family” here.
Please visit www.leighperryauthor.com for information about Ms. Perry, Sid and her future projects.