murder

“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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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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“Picked Off” and “Bad Pick” by Linda Lovely

 

 

 

“Picked Off” and “Bad Pick” by Linda Lovely, continue the romp through the never-a-dull-moment world of Brie Hooker, her aunt Eva, two wannabe boyfriends, and bff Mollye. Brie is a talented vegan chef helping her staunchly carnivorous aunt Eva, at Udderly Kidding Dairy, the family goat farm. Neither Brie nor Eva will ever convince the other to switch food lifestyle choices, but they love and support each other in all other things.

 

Halloween is near in “Picked Off,” and Eva has agreed to hold a fundraiser – complete with a haunted barn and costumes – to support friend and candidate for governor, Carol Strong. But, instead of happy check-writing, the fundraiser ends in chaos with a bloody pitchfork assault on a celebrity football player. Who did it and why? The candidate’s enemies pepper the story with kidnapping and murder, but the multi-layered plot also delivers stalking fans, fantasy football leagues, millions at stake, betrayals, and scandals that keep everyone hopping. This page-turner is inventive, with twists and turns and a pace that never slows.

 

In a great touch of realism, Lovely makes a point of Eva and Brie each doing chores on this working goat farm in both “Picked Off” and “Bad Pick.” We see that no matter what or who is chasing down the culprits, there is a staff to be managed, the hours are long, and the animals are taken care of first.

 

Brie has inherited a house that she hopes to turn into her dream, a restaurant of her own. The plan in “Bad Pick”? Serve a tasting menu to restaurant critics to garner reviews and enthusiasm for her concept. Sounds like a good strategy, but there is a slight hitch: One of the critics dies after eating her food. What has happened? Who is to blame? Has someone sabotaged her plans or targeted the critic with blowback on Brie? Either way, the collateral damage is devastating.

 

In a parallel plot, Brie gets talked into holding goat yoga classes at Udderly Kidding. Goat yoga? You have to read the book to see how it works. I’d fall over laughing during the first five minutes of the first class, let alone be able to complete a downward dog position. But, locals in “Bad Pick” picket the goat farm when a misguided soul feels that playing with goats is a form of devil worship. Imagine what she thinks of an entire farm that specializes in everything goat?

 

Brie’s romantic life is mostly in her head, with fantasies that pop up on the page whenever she sees the two men in her life, a brewmeister and a veterinarian. “Picked Off” and “Bad Pick” each develop the relationships in unexpected, often hilarious ways – including a ‘no clothes off’ rule. Both are great matches for Brie. Big hint: I’m solidly in the vet’s camp. 🙂

 

Linda Lovely has written a thoroughly entertaining series, with plenty of warm, good hearted banter between the likable main characters, solid mysteries, and an expert blending of dramatic moments with comedy and cooking to lighten the tension along the way.

 

Here’s my review of the first book in the series, “Bones to Pick.” Read them in order: “Bones to Pick,” “Picked Off,” and “Bad Pick.” Guaranteed to make you chuckle while you puzzle over the whodunits.

 

 

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“Poisons Can Be Deadly” Book List

 

On occasion www.kerriansnotebook.com crosses into the Nightstand Book Reviews realm. Many of you have shown a great interest in the various poisons used as a method of dispatching the victim(s) on the Kerrian’s Notebook site, so I thought you might like to have a list of 30 books with poison as the primary cause of death here on NBR. The authors and their fans provided the titles. The books were written/published after 2015, so there are no classics in the list, just relatively new ones to add to your TBR pile. Any post-2015 titles missing? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Listed in alphabetical order by author, the list also includes links to the book 'buy' pages. Click on the titles to find out more.

 

Mary Angela  “An Act of Murder

Juliet Blackwell  “Toxic Trousseau

Laura Bradford  “The Silence of the Flans

Becky Clark “Fiction can be Murder

Brenda Donelan  “Murder to Go

 

Jan Edwards “In Her Defense

Amanda Flower  "Toxic Coffee"

Maggie Foster “The Arms of Death

Daryl Wood Gerber  “Wreath Between the Lines

Debra H. Goldstein  “One Taste Too Many

John Hazen “Zyklon

 

Katherine Bolger Hyde  “Arsenic with Austen” and “Cyanide with Christie

Maureen Klovers  “The Secret Poison Garden

Jim & Joyce Lavene  “Killing Weeds

Meg London  “Laced with Poison

 

Edith Maxwell  “Mulch Ado About Murder,” “Murder Most Fowl,” and “Farmed and Dangerous.”

Donna Blanchard McNicol  “Barely a Spark

Britni Patterson   “A Thousand Deadly Kisses

 

Alec Peche  “Murder at The Podium,” and “Crescent City Murder

Karen Pullen “Cold Feet” 

Nancy Cole Silverman  “Shadow of Doubt                                     

Fran Stewart  “Pink as a Peony

 

Joyce Tremel  “Tangled Up in Brew

Kathleen Valenti  "As Directed"

Nancy G. West  "River City Dead," and "The Plunge."

 

Have fun choosing several books from this wickedly entertaining list!  🙂

 

 

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“The Code” and “The Black Ace” by G.B. Joyce

 

“The Code” and “The Black Ace” written by award-winning Canadian sportswriter G. B. Joyce, are set in the world of professional hockey. Former pro hockey player, Brad Shade, worked as an investigator for four years post-hockey, but is now an assessor scout for a hockey team based in the States. He interviews junior league prospects and their families, watches them play, and analyzes why they would or would not fit into the franchise. Millions of dollars are at stake and kids that do well in junior hockey might not have what it takes mentally or physically to make a career of it.
 

 

During a scouting trip, Shade has trouble arranging a meet with one of the prospects. In the course of tracking him down, Shade uncovers some disturbing information, a major coverup seems likely, the prospect’s teammate goes missing, and people wind up dead. And Shade gets a chance to apply his P.I. investigative skills to his present scouting gig.

 

“The Code” shows the underbelly of the junior hockey leagues, highlighting the greed and money to be made. Sadly, in any big money sport with youth being fed into the majors, there are parents that chase the dream without regard for what the kids want. And as G.B. Joyce points out, unless there is a real hunger/enthusiasm for the game (not for the fame or money alone), it’s unlikely that even a talented player will have much staying power.

 

A Canadian TV show, “Private Eyes,” is currently being broadcast in the USA. The show is fun and when I discovered that it was based on Joyce’s books, I picked up “The Code,” and soon after, “The Black Ace.” The similarity between the books and the TV show end with the game of hockey and Shade’s stint as a P.I.  Even our hero’s name has been changed to Matt in the TV show. Both versions are good; Shade’s investigations are dogged in both, but on TV he's a full time P.I. and in “The Code” any investigation is tied to the game and his job as a scout.

 

I love the game of hockey in its purest form, so while there is a mystery to be solved in “The Code,” reading this as a sports book was a distinct pleasure. I saw several episodes of the show before picking up the books, and each brings something new to my understanding of both P.I. work and the game of hockey.
 

 

“The Black Ace” is the second book in this hockey/detective series.

Shade is now the official scouting director for the L.A. team, but still spends a lot of time on the road checking out prospects in the junior leagues. 
 

He learns that former teammate and roommate, Martin Mars, has died and that his death has been classified as a suicide. Shade and "Whisper" played together in a history making, five overtime game. On behalf of the franchise, he and a colleague, Chief, attend the funeral. When Shade and Chief pay their respects, the widow shares her doubts that her husband could have committed suicide and asks Shade to look into it. 
 

Shade can’t say no, but Chief has a bad feeling about the situation. Before long, they are beaten up, jailed, threatened, and no closer to the truth. The mystery is why anybody would care enough about their presence to harass them. Shade is not intimidated, won’t leave town because of his promise to the widow, and the threats blow back on the bad guys. He and Chief do some digging, uncover Mars’ shocking past, as well as a mega bucks deal that may be the reason Mars is dead.
 

Shade had attitude on the ice and his off-ice personality hasn't changed. His view of the world is a tad snarky, but he’s entitled. Shade’s manager blew his millions on a shady real estate deal and Shade’s ACL was shredded by an opponent he never liked. But that snarky veneer shows cracks when faced with a good person who needs help and when guilt for his own actions in the past come skating into the present.
 

As Joyce walks us through the process of choosing the next Wayne Gretzky or Martin Brodeur, we learn what kinds of deals need to be made to protect the players and/or the front office. Both books contain lots of tidbits about the life of a hockey player. Did you know that the players fly first class because the seats are bigger/wider? Most of the players have well developed thighs and shoulders and they simply can’t fit into the seats in economy. And here I thought they were just after the special drinks and snacks only available up front.
 

Shade is a complex character, nicely layered with references to the impact life on the road has on his personal relationships. He’s upfront about the career ending injuries he and other players have sustained and knows full well that he was not a gifted player, just a very smart one with a genuine love of the game.

 

According to the online booksellers, “The Code” and “The Black Ace” are followed by “The Third Man In,” rounding out the Brad Shade series. It’s on my ’to buy’ list.

 

Please visit    https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/authors/14875/gare-joyce   to learn more about G.B. Joyce (Gare Joyce for non-fiction) and his books.

 

 

 

 

 

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“Defending Jacob” by William Landay

 

 

“Defending Jacob,” features Andrew Barber as an Assistant DA, with a 22 year stint as part of the District Attorney’s office. A few days after his son’s classmate is stabbed to death, Barber is barred from the case and given a leave of absence from work.
 

His son is accused of the terrible crime, but Barber knows in his bones that Jacob could not have done it. When a devastating secret is uncovered during the investigation into the boy’s death, we realize that Barber may be alone in that belief. Despite incredible pressure from everyone he knows, as well as additional evidence to the contrary, he never stops declaring his son’s innocence.
 

“Defending Jacob” explores family relationships as they evolve in the aftermath of horrific events. This absorbing psychological courtroom drama deftly captures the doubts and the pointing fingers as members of the community seek to find answers for this senseless stabbing/killing. What parenting lack created this apparently crazed teenager living amongst them? Or was it a flaw in the child himself? If ‘x’ can kill, how certain can we be that someone else might not be capable of the same act? “Defending Jacob” was published in 2012, but the story could be ripped from the headlines today.
 

Landay, a former DA himself, posits a few theories to explain the multi-faceted plot lines and has several characters explore the possibility of a murder gene – that murder can be committed because of a hereditary predisposition. Modern psychological profiling indicates that the level of violence in our backgrounds most likely informs our future actions, but is there an actual gene? And, in my opinion, most disturbing of all: Does law enforcement really pick a suspect and then go after evidence to support that theory, no matter how far a stretch from the truth?
 

The ending left me stunned, contemplating which character was, in the end, most damaged. I may never resolve that in my mind. This was a riveting read from start to finish and beyond.
 

“Defending Jacob” won the Strand Critics Award, and a movie based on the book may be released this year.  Please visit www.williamlanday.com for information about Landay’s other books.

 

*Note: contains sporadic swearing/coarse language.

 

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“One Murder More” by Kris Calvin

 

Book Cover - One Murder More

As Kris Calvin’s “One Murder More” opens, Sacramento lobbyist, Maren Kane, is having a really tough day. She's driving to a breakfast meeting at the governor’s office and sees a car go over the railing into the water-filled drainage ditch beyond. She and a Good Samaritan stranger are able to rescue two children from a rapidly submerging car, but the woman at the wheel, a famous investigative journalist, is dead on impact. After the accident, Maren continues on to work, and before going home, happens upon a bloodied colleague, Tamara Barnes, in the ladies’ room. And she is decidedly dead.
 

Two bodies in one 24-hour cycle? Wait. There are a few hours left to this day. Maren’s former intern, Sean Verston (and friend to Barnes) shows up at Maren’s doorstep at 2am to crash on her couch. When Sean is accused of Barnes’ murder, Maren doesn’t believe he could do it and can’t rest until she uncovers evidence that will clear him. It’s not easy to do, because Sean is hiding a secret he refuses to reveal, even to save himself.
 

Maren’s questions take her in surprising directions as the complex plot unfolds. The people involved and the connections between them could be ripped from the headlines. Who did what to whom, and most importantly, how did they get away with it for so long?
 

The people in “One Murder More” are well drawn, with intriguing, powerful men, and accomplished, multi-faceted women. Details about the California countryside and its restaurants, as well as the colorful outfits the characters wear, add to this entertaining read.
 

Kris Calvin’s political insider knowledge of how lobbying works in Sacramento is central to the effectiveness of “One Murder More.” She was an elected public official in California and was known for her work as an advocate for children. Maren Kane is an Ecobabe lobbyist working to pass legislation that would ban the complete use of cellphones while driving- not an easy or popular bill. The cell phone bill storyline is topical in real world discussions and in some States, highly controversial.
 

“One Murder More” won Silver Falchion awards for Best First Novel, and Best Political Thriller.

 

Please visit www.kriscalvin.com for more information about Ms. Calvin and her work.

 

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