Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Crime, Murder Mystery

Murder in the Dining Room – 5* #Review – Betty Rowlands @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP

A grand old house soaks up the golden summer sun… but inside the dining room, something dreadful has happened.

Melissa couldn’t be happier that summer has arrived. She’s delighted to have her mother back by her side, and she is extending her beloved Hawthorn Cottage so her new family can live together.

Meanwhile, Melissa’s mother Sylvia is back in good health and enjoying a brief stay at a stately retirement home. She loves getting to know the residents, until first a dog and then his owner are both found dead in the dining room. Like mother, like daughter, Sylvia decides to do a little investigating of her own.

Convinced that the deaths are suspicious, Sylvia starts probing her fellow residents, trying to find out who might have wanted the dog and its owner dead. Could it be the once-married couple, or the glamorous actors or the harassed manager of the home?

When one of Sylvia’s friends falls ill in suspicious circumstances, Melissa realises her mother has rattled someone, but who? And what happens if the killer realises they’ve been rumbled? Will Sylvia find herself meeting a villain in the dining room? And can Melissa find the culprit before another life is taken?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

It seems that Melissa’ Craig’s talent for becoming embroiled in murder mystery may have been inherited from her mother Sylvia. Whilst convalescing in a retirement home, Sylvia is certain that the death of a beloved pet and then its owner is not from natural causes.

This is quirky murder mystery is set in a retirement community, Melissa’s mother like many there is a temporary resident but she soon makes her presence felt. The plot is fast-paced with many possible suspects and shows older people in a refreshingly positive light.

It is Sylvia, Melissa’s mother who is the main sleuth in this story, which gives it an added dimension. Melissa worries about her mother’s emotional state, can her revelations be trusted or are they the result of her recent surgery?

This is an enjoyable read with cameos from favourite characters and a rekindling of the mother and daughter relationship for Melissa and Sylvia. A lovely escapist read, which lets you test out your detective skills.

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Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Crime, Murder Mystery, Mystery

The Castle Mystery – 4* #Review -Faith Martin @JoffeBooks @FaithMartin_Nov

Jenny Starling has her dream job cooking for Lord and Lady Avonsleigh in a genuine castle. Then one of the castle’s treasures, a fabulously jewelled dagger, is used to murder one of the staff members. The victim is found stabbed through the heart in the conservatory. Lady Avonsleigh insists that Jenny help the police find the murderer. But how can Jenny solve this case when the murder was committed in front of several reliable witnesses, none of whom saw a thing? This is the fourth in a series of enjoyable murder mysteries with a great cast of characters and baffling crimes which will keep you in suspense to the final page.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Jenny Starling, travelling cook and reluctant sleuth, has found a job where she might like to stay. Life as a cook in a castle full of historic artefacts, for people who appreciate her skilled cookery, seems like a dream come true. Unfortunately, Jenny’s penchant for attracting murder means that someone dies in mysterious circumstances and Jenny finds her detective skills are needed once again.

This is a murder mystery reliant on detective skills, which Jenny has in abundance and the police detectives, less so. Set apart from the world of forensics and psychological profiling, this story will appeal to those who like a cozy mystery, concentrating on knowledge of people and what motivates them and a dazzling array of suspects, clues, red herrings in an atmospheric, vivid setting.

This is an enjoyable read, with an enigmatic main character reminiscent of Miss Marple with Mary Berry’s cookery skills.

This is the fourth in the Jenny Starling series but reads well as a standalone. A perfect escapist read.

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Crime, Murder Mystery

Murder at the Old House – 5* #Review-Betty Rowlands @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP

The trees are green and hedgerows are bursting with new life as spring arrives in the Cotswolds, but inside a house that Melissa Craig used to know well, something terrible has happened…

Melissa has just finished writing her latest mystery novel and is enjoying the arrival of spring. She’s decided to let her fictional detective retire at last, and perhaps put her own days of investigating behind her too. But the ink has barely dried on the page when Melissa receives shocking news: her estranged father has been found dead in the family home and her mother, Sylvia, is under suspicion of murder.

Melissa hasn’t seen her parents for nearly thirty years, but on hearing the dreadful news she rushes to her mother’s side. Melissa is sure that Sylvia could never commit a murder, but Sylvia does seem to be keeping secrets…

With no-one else to turn to, Sylvia begs Melissa to investigate the case. Melissa knows her father was a difficult man, but now she needs to work out who wanted him dead… A disgruntled employee, the controlling family lawyer or perhaps the woman with whom he was having an affair?

When another body is found, Melissa realises she’s dealing with a ruthless killer. As the police close in, trying to pin both deaths on her mother, Melissa must act fast. Can she find a way to unmask the true killer before she loses her mother for a second time, and possibly forever?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts …

The latest Melissa Craig mystery focuses on her personal life, but there is still a murder to solve, with numerous suspects, an unhelpful police detective and danger for the intrepid, crime writer and unwilling detective.

Melissa has finally finished her long-running detective series and decides it’s time for some relaxation, vowing to stop investigating murders in real life too. It’s time for a change in her personal life too with the departure of Ken Harris her longtime love interest but unsurprisingly, fate catapults her back to a former life with the unexpected death of her estranged father.

When she travels to her childhood home, she finds her mother a shell of the woman she remembers and the prime suspect for her father’s murder. Despite the way, they treated her when she was at her most vulnerable, she has to help, find the real killer.

Melissa faces her most dangerous and difficult investigation, without Ken’s calming presence. However, she is not alone, as someone who she has kept out of her personal life, offers her much needed support.

The characters are as expected, complex and authentic, the police detective is not only dismissive of Melissa’s investigative talent but in danger of missing the obvious because of his lack of experience and skill in detecting crime.

The plot twists are well thought out, the pacing fast, and the characters and setting perfect for this type of cozy mystery. The ending is cleverly crafted and ties up all the clues perfectly.

‘Murder at the Old House’ can be read as a standalone mystery, but this series is addictive, and every murder mystery lover deserves to read the whole series.

Posted in 7 Days of Books, Book Review

#7DaysofBooks #Read #Reviews #bookblogger #amreading @Jolliffe03 #JaneHuntWriter

What I’ve read and reviewed over the last seven days.

Click on the link on the image for the full review.

I received a copy of these books from the publishers via NetGalley in return for honest reviews.

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Posted in Blog Blitz, Blog Tour, Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Historical Crime Fiction, Murder Mystery, Mystery

A Testament to Murder – Vivian Conroy – #5*Review #BlogBlitz #Extract @canelo_co @VivWrites

A dying billionaire. Nine would-be heirs. But only one will take the prize…

 At the lush Villa Calypso on the French Riviera, a dying billionaire launches a devious plan: at midnight each day, he appoints a new heir to his vast fortune. If he dies within 24 hours, that person takes it all. If not, their chance is gone forever.

Yet these are no ordinary beneficiaries, these men who crossed him, women who deceived him, and distant relations intent on reclaiming the family fortune. All are determined to lend death a hand and outwit their rivals in pursuit of the prize.

As tensions mount with every passing second retired Scotland Yard investigator Jasper must stay two steps ahead of every player if he hopes to prevent the billionaire’s devious game from becoming a testament to murder…

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I looked forward to reading this story, as I love murder mystery and especially those written in a similar style to Agatha Christie’s stories. This book delivers in every way.

The plot is clever, fast-paced, full of twists and has numerous suspects, all with motive and opportunity to commit murder. The setting on the French Riveria is ultra glamorous and epitomises the era, the story is set in.

The detective, Jasper, is charismatic, yet mysterious. When you look back at the story you learn very little about him, other than he is excellent at his job. The ending is well-orchestrated and the cryptic thoughts from one of the characters in the final lines, makes you wonder about Jasper and his motivations.

The cast of characters are not particularly likeable, but this is a requirement of this type of mystery. The reader has to suspect everyone at some point in the story for it to be enjoyable, and complex to solve. The narrative and dialogue are easy to read and realistic. The story has wonderful imagery that allows the reader to play it out in their mind as if they are watching it in real life.

An entertaining, compulsive read, I look forward to Jasper’s next case.

Extract

Patty really didn’t understand why the mood had been so bleak after Uncle Malcolm’s grand revelation. Wasn’t it a marvellous idea that they all had a chance to become sole heir to his entire fortune?

Of course, it would have been better if he had just made her sole heir, to begin with, but if he wanted to do it this way, he was entitled to. Hugh was just a spoilsport to have no stomach for this game. He didn’t like risks and he certainly didn’t like the idea he could lose out to somebody else.

Patty listened to her husband’s heavy breathing as he lay, face down, beside her in the double bed. He had gulped down several glasses of whiskey and was now completely oblivious to the world. While she normally wouldn’t encourage his drinking, it was now very convenient to her that he wouldn’t notice a thing when she crawled out of bed.

Lightning put the room in a bright white glare for a second, then died down. Moments passed before thunder rolled in the distance. The storm hadn’t yet reached the villa. Despite the reassurances that there were higher points it could strike, Patty’s heartbeat fluttered and she rubbed gooseflesh off her arms. She pushed away the sheet and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. Feeling her way through the room, she picked up her dressing gown and slipped it on over her silk nightdress.

At the door she listened carefully, first to determine Hugh was still asleep, then whether there was anyone in the corridor outside the room. With the storm brewing, it was possible people couldn’t sleep and went out of their rooms to get some milk or a book to read, from Malcolm’s library.

Yes, needing a book to read would be the perfect excuse to hang around, and catch a glimpse of the signing of the will. It was happening in his study, he had said, and the study was adjacent to the library. Wouldn’t it be easy to make a small mistake and enter the wrong room?

In the corridor little lamps burned along the wall, shedding just enough light to be able to move around. Malcolm seemed to dislike the dark. Or perhaps it had been arranged for by the nurse who had to rush to Malcolm’s bedside at any hour? Anna Cane had struck Patty as a young lady who liked to make demands, just to see how far she could get with them.

Still, it was a good thing the nurse hadn’t left. The more suspects, the better.

Downstairs in the hallway, the grandfather clock struck twelve.

That’s my cue.

Patty tiptoed down the corridor, making sure to stay on the carpet so nothing thudded or creaked. Thunder rolled again sounding like a stack of cans collapsing. Her heart beat so fast she could barely breathe.

In front of the door leading into the study she halted. Malcolm was a man of his word, a man who liked punctuality. He’d be signing his document now.

She opened the door a crack and peeked in.

Behind a huge desk, Malcolm sat leaning over a sheet of paper. His trembling right hand held a pen, and he was just scribbling something. The name?

Patty’s stomach tightened at the idea it could be Patricia Bryce-Rutherford he was writing. It was quite a long name. But then Hugh Desmond Bryce-Rutherford was about as long. And Theodora Cummings wasn’t exactly short either. Anna Cane was, but Malcolm wouldn’t make the nurse his heir. Not on the first day anyway.

Maybe as he ran out of heirs to use.

After all, he had said everybody would only get one turn.

How unfair. To think that if he lived long enough, some unimportant person like that nurse or the butler would get it all.

He’d better not live that long then.

Malcolm looked up, and for a moment Patty could have sworn he looked straight at her. She didn’t make the mistake to move. She stood firmly, holding her hand on the knob so the door didn’t move either. She had stood just as firmly as she had made her wedding vows to Hugh. Knowing this was something she had to go through to reach something better. Something she deserved.

Malcolm shoved the document away from him, and Koning looked it over. He then gestured to the two other men present to sign it. The skeletal butler and the rugged, probably French, chauffeur.

Patty’s breath caught. Would they know the name that was filled in? Could she bribe them, entice them somehow to tell her what name the document held on that particular day?

They were but servants with meagre pay. They might be open to the promise of a rich reward. After all, once she had inherited the fortune, she could fulfil their every dream.

Patty suppressed a satisfied smile as she watched the men do their duty. Then Koning picked up the document and folded it in halves. He slipped it into an envelope and sealed it. He handed the envelope to Malcolm, who had pushed himself up behind the desk.

Careful, swaying, the old man walked to the side wall and pulled at a painting. It swung away to reveal the gleaming metal of a safe. Malcolm looked at the men to see if they were watching him. They were all keeping their eyes on the floor. Still, Malcolm covered the combination lock with the envelope as he turned it to the right combination to unlock it.

Careful bastard, Patty thought.

The door of the safe opened, and Malcolm placed the envelope in it and closed it again. He spun the combination lock.

“It has begun,” he said to the men, a strange satisfaction in his voice.

Author Bio

Armed with cheese and chocolate, Vivian Conroy sits down to create the aspirational settings, characters with secrets up their sleeves, and clever plots which took several of her mysteries to #1 bestseller in multiple categories on Amazon US and Canada. Away from the keyboard, Vivian likes to hike (especially in the Swiss mountains), hunt for the perfect cheesecake and experience the joy in every-day life, be it a fiery sunset, a gorgeous full moon or that errant butterfly descending on the windowsill.

Twitter: @VivWrites

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Murder at Benbury Brook – 5* #Review – Betty Rowlands @bookouture @Betty RowlandsFP

A babbling brook runs alongside a wooded glade, surrounded by autumn light and birdsong. But next to the stream a young woman lies dead, her once bright blonde hair now limp and lifeless…

Melissa Craig has settled into a new job in the charming Cotswolds village of Upper Benbury. She is teaching French to several of the local teenagers, which gives her a fascinating insight into the young people’s lives. Material for a new novel perhaps…

Her quiet life is interrupted when she sees her new neighbour running out of the woods in a blind panic. Melissa rushes to help him, but what she finds leaves her breathless: the body of a young woman is lying on the bank of the river.

When suspicion falls on Melissa’s neighbour, a man with a difficult past trying to make a new start, Melissa feels determined to prove his innocence. With the village in turmoil, and the police sure they’ve got their man, she must act quickly.

As she interviews the local residents, she realises there are several sinister characters lurking inside those charming Cotswold cottages… Could one of them have hurt Cissie? Was it the strange old man with a cottage near the river? Or the ailing ex-choirmaster with quite an eye for the ladies?

When Melissa Craig decides to get her teeth into a case, she doesn’t let go – nothing will stop her from solving this murder. Can she prove the innocence of her new friend? And will she unearth the culprit before another young life is taken?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review

My Thoughts…

It’s no secret that I love this series, but how can I not? The plots keep getting darker and more menacing, whilst still retaining the essentials of a cosy mystery.

Melissa is a complex protagonist, a crime writer, whose career and private life, often takes second place to her crime solving.

There are new characters to meet, for Melissa and because of the changes in her personal life, Melissa is even more driven to solve the crime that features in this story.

The picturesque Cotswold setting, realistic characters and an interesting twisty plot makes this story an atmospheric, interactive crime-solving mystery.

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Murder In Langley Woods- 5* Review -Betty Rowlands – @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP

A body is found near a picture-perfect Cotswolds village… but the upstanding local residents couldn’t possibly be involved, could they?

Murder is the very last thing on Melissa Craig’s mind when one of her neighbours pops in to complain loudly about a minor local robbery. She’s far too busy thinking about her next book…

But when the evening paper lands, there is a shocking headline. A young woman’s body has been found in the nearby woods, and it seems the local robbery may offer a crucial clue. Suddenly the whole village is talking about the murder, but none of Melissa’s neighbours has come forward to say they know who the victim is.

Convinced that the police have got the wrong end of the stick, Melissa can’t resist doing some more digging. When she finds a photograph of the dead girl at her former family home, she realises this is the clue she needs, if only she can find out who took the picture…

Melissa finds an exciting new lead and rushes to follow it. But might she be walking into a trap? Can she work out the truth before she puts herself in harm’s way?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

So lovely to be back in The Cotswolds with Melissa Craig and a cast of wonderful characters. The murders get darker and more menacing and even though this can be read as a standalone story. If like me you’re addicted to this cozy mystery series, you’ll enjoy the developments in Melissa’s life too.

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Crime, Murder Mystery, Mystery

4* Review – A Fatal Flaw – Faith Martin @HQStories @FaithMartin_Nov

1960, Oxford

As the city of Oxford prepares itself for the inaugural Miss Oxford Honey Beauty Pageant at The Old Swan Theatre, excitement is in the air.

But when one of the leading contestants is found dead, suspicion hangs over the competition.

Poisoned, the authorities assume her death was suicide. But after a malicious series of pranks and blackmail attempts are reported, WPC Loveday and Coroner Clement Ryder are called upon to solve the case.

In an atmosphere of fierce competition, the list of suspects is endless. Could what have started as harmless fun become a deadly race to win the prize?

With time running out, the duo need to spot the killer before tragedy strikes again…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A lovely example of an unusual pairing working in the world of crime detection. Loveday and Ryder bring youthful naivety and aged wisdom to solve a clever crime, against a background of sixties prejudice, chauvinism and social class divide.

Although this is the third book in the series, the other’s being ‘ A Fatal Obsession’ and ‘A Fatal Mistake’, this is the first book I have read. The setting is authentic but takes a little getting used to. The characters are interesting, but if you get the chance, read the other stories first, to get to know the character’s stories.

The story revolves around a suspicious death and a beauty contest, there are numerous suspects and secrets and the crime-detecting is subtle. The ending is realistic and leaves the reader with a cliffhanger and a moral dilemma for Loveday.

Worth reading if you like retro crime novels with a murder mystery theme.

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Murder at Larkfield Barn – Betty Rowlands – 5*Review @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP

Bright mornings and brisk walks… spring has arrived in the Cotswolds. But the atmosphere is positively wintery in Upper Benbury after a series of murders shake the close-knit community.

Since her move to the country, Melissa Craig has become firmly established in village life. So, when one of the older residents fails to show up for a drinks party, Melissa goes to check on her. What she finds chills her to the bone: her dear neighbour has been murdered, and the killer has painted a hideous smile onto her face…

Melissa soon realises that the death in her village bears the same trademark as a series of recent murders in the Cotswolds. When will The Smiler strike again?

With a dangerous killer on the loose, Melissa realises she needs to solve this case quickly. But as she starts to look closely at the people around her, she realises the killer may be closer to home than she could ever have imagined. What dark secrets are the villagers of Upper Benbury hiding? And can Melissa crack this deadly case before another life is taken?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

I read Book Seven in the series out of sequence by mistake, the perils of starting a book at four o’clock in the morning when you can’t sleep. The upside to this being I can vouch that it reads well as a standalone, but this series is so entertaining that you want to read all the books.

This story is darker and more personal to amateur sleuth, crime writer Melissa Craig. Discovering the body of a friend and neighbour has a believable, profound effect on Melissa, which means she is reticent to be at the forefront of the investigation. Aside from the murder mystery, this book marks a turning point for both Iris, her close friend and neighbour and Melissa.

The characters are numerous and varied and this is perhaps one of the most difficult mysteries to solve. It does have its lighthearted moments, but there is also an air of menace not present in earlier books coupled with an overriding sense of loss and poignancy.

Despite the change in ethos, this story is as enjoyable as previous books, just deeper and more personal for the main character. Left on an emotional cliffhanger, I eagerly await Book 8 ‘Murder in Langley Woods.’

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

 

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Murder in the Orchard -Betty Rowlands- 5* Review @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP

A beautiful house nestles in an orchard, where a blackbird sings at dawn each morning from a branch laden with rosy fruit… but underneath the trees, a body lies too still to be asleep.

Melissa Craig is struggling with her new novel, so when the invitation arrives to visit a nearby country house for some writing time, she decides a bit of peace and quiet is just what she needs. The house is everything she could have hoped for, even if the staff do seem rather unsettled…

She has barely unpacked when the owner of the house persuades Melissa to investigate some threatening notes he has received. But before she can do any digging, he is found murdered in his own orchard.

As she starts to probe further, Melissa realises that the dead man was universally disliked. Controlling, tight with money and nasty, he certainly made some enemies. But who could have hated him enough to resort to murder? His seemingly timid wife, the secretary with whom he previously had an affair or perhaps the gardener with an old secret?

With the police looking for an outsider, Melissa is sure the murderer is close at hand. But can she prove it? And can she unmask the killer before they strike again?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Another enjoyable instalment of the Melissa Craig Mysteries. I’ve read all of them so far and Melissa is an engaging sleuth and memorable character. There is a definite flavour of the early Nineties in this series, but it adds to the ambience and authenticity. 

Melissa is worried about her relationship with  Detective Chief Inspector Ken Harris, is she ready for the commitment he seeks? The chance to visit a writers’ retreat seems the perfect opportunity to take time out and decide what she wants.  Things, of course, do not go to plan and she finds her investigative skills are needed.

Conspiracy, lies, murder and secrets provide a difficult mystery for the intrepid crime writer to solve and bring her into close contact with the very person she was avoiding. The plot is particularly twisty, with several people having excellent motives for murdering the victim and it takes all her skill and strength of character to discover the truth.

An entertaining, retro story, for everyone who enjoys authentic English murder mystery.

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.