Review: Tagged for Death

Tagged for Death
Tagged for Death by Sherry Harris
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐💫 Sarah Winston, 38, is devoid of a social life since divorcing her husband, CJ Hooker, former Air Force Base Security Forces squadron commander. Forced to retire for “misconduct” after having had an affair with a 19 year old airman, Tiffany Lopez. Sarah does, however, enjoy frequenting garage sales, and recently she’s snagged a great buy at one in particular, even managing to collect various free items for charity. Back at her small apartment, while sorting out the charitable items to be taken to the military base thrift shop, she finds a bloodstained shirt with her ex-husband’s initials on the monogrammed cuff, along with another piece of bloodied clothing, a maternity top, that belonged to his dismissed lover, Tiffany Lopez. Flabbergasted as to how either of the items wound up with her other collectibles, and in a panic, Sarah frantically tries to locate CJ. When he finally contacts her she shares what she found and he assures her he’ll figure out what’s going on. But when blood is found on Tiffany’s dorm room floor, and Sarah soon finds a skull and bones on the thrift store grounds where she volunteers, will she be able to prove that her ex-husband didn’t have a motive for murder?

I really enjoyed Tagged for death. The mystery of what happened to Tiffany Lopez unfolds gradually while we simultaneously gain a window into Sarah’s life as an ex-military wife, and how she is forced to redefine herself after losing much of her identity after moving off the military base. While Sarah has to learn to adapt to life as an ordinary civilian and divorcee, she’s savvy when it comes to using her wits to investigate the murder of her ex-husband’s lover. The struggle to rid herself of the love she still has deep down for her cheating husband, while endeavoring to make a little money to sustain herself by setting up garage sales for friends and acquaintances, endeared me to her character. She’s a fighter, determined to overcome adversity, and I admired that quality. Tagged for Death is not a whimsical cozy. It has a mature theme that held my attention as much as the mystery aspect. There are a few twists that I didn’t expect, and that makes me curious and eager to move on in the series, as these twists warrant further development. A great story. I am definitely interested to see how Sarah gets on with her life. Recommended.

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Review: Murder is No Accident

Murder is No Accident
Murder is No Accident by A.H. Gabhart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐💫 3.5 stars.
Young Maggie Green, 15, knows she has no business in Miss Fonda’s alluring Victorian mansion by herself. But she can’t resist. Even though the elderly Miss Fonda has invited her to come by whenever she wants, Maggie’s mother, who cleans the mansion with Maggie’s help, does not approve of her being there when they’re not working, especially since Miss Fonda is relegated to a gentle care facility now and the house sits empty. As young folks are sometimes prone to disobey their parents’ wishes, Maggie is inside the mansion in the tower room which is above the third floor, accessed by a trap door in the room beneath, making entries in her secret diary when she hears real estate agent, Geraldine Harper, entering the house. Careful not to be heard, Maggie stays still and quiet, hoping the well-known agent will leave shortly. But wait, there’s another set of footsteps heard in the house, and Geraldine hears them too. When she encounters the other intruder, a person she clearly knows, a conversation ensues and when Geraldine threatens to beckon the police, Maggie hears what sounds like someone tumbling down a flight of stairs. In fear, she waits a little while before leaving her hideaway and discovers the real estate agent dead at the bottom of the stairs. She calls 911 with Geraldine’s phone and sneaks away from the house unnoticed before the police arrive. Or did she get away unnoticed? In time Maggie becomes privy to not one murder, but two, and will she be able to keep herself out of harms way before the threats of a killer make her murder victim number three?

Murder Is No Accident is the first book I’ve read by A.H. Gabhart, and it was a pretty good mystery. What I liked most was the climactic ending. It was a different experience reading about a young teen discovering murder victims, as opposed to an adult. Some of the complexities that accompany mysteries featuring an adult protagonist is not present in this book, which was a little bit of a minus for me. The pacing started out slow but gradually picked up. It ebbed and flowed, with the ending reaching a crescendo. I think some of the parts in the beginning of the book made me feel as though it was written to appeal to an older demographic with the mention of dementia, strokes, accidents amongst the elderly, and the infirmities that are typically associated with aging. It was a little depressing, but thankfully those subjects didn’t prevail throughout the entire book. The sleepy town, Hidden Springs, where the murders took place, was comprised of quirky characters that tend to inhabit small, southern towns. A Deputy, Michael Keane, had a continual presence in the book, and the direction of his love life was somewhat of a secondary plot. I ultimately enjoyed how things turned out for him. The other characters made their appearances without much fanfare; sprinkled about here and there. Nothing particularly endearing about any of them besides Maggie and the boy who had a crush on her, Anthony. They were a sweet, innocent pair. Aside from them, there wasn’t a whole lot of character development that would make me long to read more about what happened to any of them in the future.

All in all, whereas the mystery aspect wasn’t bad, and the conclusion plausible, this was just an okay read for me. Others may really enjoy it. I just needed a little more excitement to keep me turning the pages, and that wasn’t the case for me.

Thank you Baker Publishing for an ARC of this book. In return I have provided an honest review.

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Review: When the Grits Hit the Fan

When the Grits Hit the Fan
When the Grits Hit the Fan by Maddie Day
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ It was nice to be back in touch with the folks of South Lick, Indiana. And let me just say that When the Grits Hit The Fan, the third instalment in the Country Store Mystery series, is one of the best cozies I’ve ever read to date! I mean, seriously, I couldn’t wait to pick up where I’d left off each and every time! I got not just a few, but ALL of the elements that I appreciate in a good mystery; suspense, a great setting, intriguing and quirky characters, a learning experience, a little bit of romance and a climactic, edge of your seat ending. There’s no fluff in this story. It’s a solid mystery with characters that are so distinctly original and amusing it’s hard to believe they’re fictitious. My favorites are the police officers, both men and women, who are investigating the crime. One in particular, Octavia Slade, has a no-nonsense quality that I never tired of. Lieutenant Buck Bird, the tall, lanky officer with the hearty appetite and thick Indiana accent was another favorite. And Danna, the teenaged restaurant assistant with the dreadlocks, piercings, and sassy personality snagged my complete attention each time she was mentioned. I liked the diverse backgrounds and ages, along with the appropriate dialects and jargon. It’s clear that the characters were well thought out and carefully constructed, and for that reason they are not easily forgotten.

And now, what it’s about….

Robbie Jordan, proprietor of country store and restaurant, Pans ‘N Pancakes, is grateful for the increased business she receives from hosting the Indiana University group of Sociology grad students and professors that meet there on a bimonthly basis. The conversation is typically peaceful, but during one Friday session graduate student and friend, Louise “Lou” Perlman, and Lou’s professor, Charles Stilton, are engaged in a quarrel. Lou has accused him of stealing the material from her research project and presenting it as his own. He smugly dismisses her accusation and regards her as inconsequential as compared to his superior rank. Furious, she removes herself from the table and storms off to the restroom to blow off steam. Charles Stilton doesn’t seem the least bit affected by the incident and resumes his conversation with the others. But before long he insults the chair of the department, Zenobia Brown, and shortly thereafter the group disbands for the evening. The next day while Robbie and Lou are snowshoeing, Robbie discovers Charles Stilton’s body through a hole in the frozen lake, and before long many of Robbie’s acquaintances, including her good friend Lou, are on the suspect list. Further investigation reveals that almost no one cared for the arrogant man, including his mistreated wife, their son, and his mother-in-law. So who’s the culprit? Robbie might not know who murdered Charles Stilton, but she’s sure it wasn’t her friend Lou, and she’s determined to use her sleuthing skills to have her friend exonerated.

The depth of the storyline surpassed my expectations. I never felt bored, and I was impressed with how the lead character subtly transitioned into amateur sleuth in a way that was believable. I didn’t have to suspend disbelief to accept the role she played in going about finding clues to solve the murder.

This is a cozy mystery series you won’t want to miss. Very, very highly recommended.

I received an ARC of this book, and in exchange I have provided an honest review. In no way has the free book influenced my opinions of it.

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Review: A Dark and Stormy Murder

A Dark and Stormy Murder
A Dark and Stormy Murder by Julia Buckley
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐💫 Lena London’s life is about to change….in more ways than one.
When Lena brings her car to a halt in front of the large, ominous-looking mansion and home of her idol, novelist Camilla Graham, she still can’t believe her good fortune. Lena has devoured every one of Camilla Graham’s books since she was a young girl, and now she will have the privilege of living in her house as her personal assistant and ghost writer, thanks to her friend Allison who got her the interview that landed her the job. This apprenticeship is a dream come true for Lena, but as she gets started in her new role she finds that all is not well in the sleepy, blissful town of Blue Lake, IN. Nothing notable ever really happens in Blue Lake she’s been told, but in less than a day since Lena’s arrival a dead body is discovered on Camilla’s property, and she learns that their neighbor next door, Sam West, is suspected of killing his missing wife. And while walking Camilla’s feisty German Shepherds, Heathcliff and Rochester, in an attempt to acquaint herself with her new surroundings and neighbors, she meets several surly male residents and a few pleasant women in town who seem cordial and welcoming enough. But Lena’s on high alert. Can any of these townsfolk be responsible for the murder of Martin Jonas, waiter at the Wheat Grass restaurant? Did Sam West kill his wife who vanished a year ago without a trace?

This cozy started out well, and I liked the idea of an aspiring writer living with and working for her favorite novelist. Their interactions throughout the book were endearing, and it was nice to see how their relationship evolved from the time they met to the book’s end. Camilla’s dogs, Rochester and Heathcliff; and Lena’s cat, Lestrade, were a welcome addition to the story. Their antics were amusing and I never tired of reading about what they were up to. While the characters were interesting, I would like to have seen some of them more fully developed. There was so much more potential for fleshing them out. Perhaps we’ll learn more about them in book 2. What put me off a little with this book was the insta-love between Lena and one of the other characters, the double murder plot which at times made me wonder which one was taking center stage, the easy way I determined who the killer was, and the To Be Continued ending. All in all, I liked this cozy but I didn’t love it. I wanted to love it so much. It began on a high note but gradually started to lose steam for me when I was about 3/4 of the way in. Nevertheless it was a pretty good read. But hey, judging from the 4 and 5 star reviews it’s receiving you might think differently so I’d say give it a try. You may very well think it deserves more merit.

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Review: Threads of Evidence

Threads of Evidence
Threads of Evidence by Lea Wait
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Residents of Haven Harbor, Maine, are relieved to learn that “Aurora”, an old, neglected Victorian mansion and eyesore of the community, that has sat desolate for the past 25 years has been bought. Aurora has a macabre past. Jasmine Gardener, age 17, died on the property back in 1970. Jasmine’s parents were hosting a party at Aurora, their summer home, the day she died. The death was ruled an accidental drowning by police, but Jasmine’s mother, Millie Gardener, believed her daughter was murdered. Now, 45 years after the murder, famous actress, Skye West, who’s bought Aurora has commissioned Angie Curtis, Director of Mainely Needlepoint, to appraise the needlepoint pictures that were left inside the property. As Angie makes her way through the mansion and realizes that its condition inside is even worse than she imagined, she wonders why Skye West would be interested in restoring and living in a place that seems more suited for demolition than renovation. As the story moves forward we learn of Skye’s connection to Jasmine, which inadvertently answers Angie’s question. And as Angie investigates a 45 year old murder involving the then 17 year old, we see how many partygoers that night had a reason to want her dead.

Threads of Evidence is, in my opinion, a more intricately composed Murder mystery than book 1, Twisted Threads. There are more suspects, clues and variables to consider. Although Threads of Evidence can be read on its own, I benefited from reading the first book in the series because it introduced me to the many characters that made an appearance in book 2, enabling me to keep them all straight in my head. The actress, old Victorian mansion, colorful cast of characters, along with the protagonist’s sleuthing strategies, made Threads of Evidence enjoyable. And since I like to learn new things, it’s great that the author shares embroidery tidbits. I also learned about some poisonous plants which was interesting. Overall, another well constructed cozy mystery that I’d recommend.

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Review: Twisted Threads

Twisted Threads by Lea Wait
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Twisted Threads is set in the lovely coastal town of Haven Harbor, Maine. The interspersed descriptions of the town, and its intriguing cast of characters, lent to my immense enjoyment of this book. I know I’ve loved a cozy when the story is told so well that it’s a great read on its own, even before the perpetrator is revealed. That was my experience with Twisted Threads. And now a little bit on what the book was about….

Angie “Angel” Curtis is returning to her childhood home in Haven Harbor, Maine, to bury her mother who has been found after having gone missing 19 years prior. Charlotte Curtis, Angie’s grandmother (affectionately known as “Gram”), hasn’t seen Angie much since she left Haven Harbor for Arizona about 10 years earlier, so she’s happy to welcome her back home. Angie is glad to be back in Maine with her grandmother and she notices that a couple of things have changed. Gram has become a business owner. She’s part of a group of needlepointers that call themselves Mainely Needlepoint. They are craftsmen who do beautiful work, but the business is failing now since their agent, Jacque Lattimore, hasn’t been paying them for jobs they’ve completed, and sadly he’s nowhere to be found. In fact, he owes them over $30,000! Since Angie works for a private investigator back in Arizona, she offers to do what she can to track him down. When all is said and done, Angie won’t be back in town to find out about her mother’s murder alone, but she, along with her grandmother and the other needlepointers, will be embroiled in yet another murder. Might there be a killer among them?

Wow, the final chapters of this cozy were intense, and I loved every minute of it!! I was drawn into this somewhat unconventional cozy mystery of a double murder plot. I really appreciated the passages related to needlepoint in the form of quotes, poems and interesting facts that headed up each chapter. I found those tidbits both interesting and fascinating, and I looked forward to them. The story definitely held my attention and the climactic ending was thrilling. I loved this cozy so much that I’ve already begun Threads of Evidence, book 2 in the series. Need I say more?

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Review: Guidebook to Murder

Guidebook to Murder
Guidebook to Murder by Lynn Cahoon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This was an audiobook. Guidebook to Murder was my first cozy mystery by Lynn Cahoon. I was immediately drawn in from the start and continued to be enthralled to the end. My imagination embraced the setting of a small California coastal town called South Cove. The primary character, Jill Gardner, owned and operated Coffee, Books and More; the only book store/coffee shop for miles around. Jill was a divorced attorney who visited the town of South Cove while on vacation and loved it so much that she decided to move there and open her store. Part of the town’s allure was the friendship she immediately forged with a kind old lady who initially welcomed her and made her feel right at home. Her name was Miss Emily, and Jill became like a daughter to her. Since Jill was devoid of a romantic relationship at the time, and Ms. Emily lived alone with few if any real friends, the two shared a special bond. But then the unthinkable happened. Ms. Emily was murdered and Jill was devastated. Who would do this? Ms. Emily was being continually pressured by the city council about infractions on her property, and shortly before she died the council was threatening to demolish her property if she didn’t repair the fence, fix the lawn, and take care of many other eye sores related to her parcel. Ms. Emily’s property was the lone obstacle to plans for a new development project, a commercial venture that could presumably net the town a considerable amount of money. Even the mayor was intent on dispossessing poor Ms. Emily. But would the developer or a city council member resort to murder? Jill wonders, but when her best friend Amy goes missing, and Ms. Emily’s unsightly house begins turning up very valuable hidden treasures and secrets, is there more to this Murder mystery than Jill realised?

Lynn Cahoon has been added to my FAVORITE COZY AUTHORS list. This mystery was beautifully paced, the characters were interesting and varied, and the details surrounding Miss Emily’s murder kept me guessing until the revealing at the end, which was both fulfilling and plausible. Thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it highly.

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