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

The Country Inn Mystery – Faith Martin 5* #Review @FaithMartin_Nov @JoffeBooks #MurderMystery #Crime #TheCotswolds

Jenny Starling is working at The Spindlewood Inn for the weekend. It’s hosting a Regency Extravaganza, involving historical costume, amateur dramatics and food. The leading actress of the amateur dramatic society and reputed man-eater Rachel Norman portrays a doomed noblewoman. But when she turns up actually drowned in the pond, there’s suddenly a murder to investigate.

There’s been plenty of trouble at the idyllic country inn. The performers weren’t a happy troupe, and Jenny discovers a simmering romantic tension. Who wanted Rachel dead and why? Jenny Starling is going to need all her wits to crack this complex case. This is the seventh 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.

JENNY STARLING In her late twenties, Jenny Starling is an impressive woman. Physically, she stands at 6ft 1inch and has shoulder-length black hair and blue eyes. Curvaceous and sexy, she’s a modern single woman, living the lifestyle that suits her – that of a travelling cook. Her famous (and now very rich) father, is a ‘celebrity’ cook, divorced from Jenny’s mother. Jenny drives a disreputable cherry-red van and is happy travelling the country catering events and cooking great food. She is on a one-woman crusade to bring back ‘real’ food. And definitely doesn’t like having to divert her attention from achieving the perfect Dundee cake or creating a new sauce recipe by having to solve a murder. She finds crime very distracting, especially when there is chocolate to temper or pike to poach. Nevertheless, she is very good at reading people, and with a quick and agile brain, becomes very good at unmasking killers. And her always-undaunted sense of humour goes a long way in keeping her sane when all around her people are dropping like flies.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Jenny is providing holiday relief for a friend at a Country Inn in the Cotswolds, the highlight of her visit is a Regency Extravaganza, where a select few from the local amateur dramatics society will be acting out a piece of local Regency scandal with a tragic end.

The clues for this one start early on, but are so well hidden that you don’t realise their significance until the end. There is slightly less emphasis on the cooking side of things, in this first time published Jenny Starling mystery. The focus is on the characters, mostly from Jenny’s point of view.

The characters are realistic and the tensions between individuals in the group of guests, and actors gradually revealed, but none seem relevant until an unfortunate incident occurs and someone dies. Is it suspicious or not? If it is, it appears to be a perfect crime, committed in plain sight of all.

The relationship between the investigating police officers and Jenny is less antagonist than usually the case, but her amateur sleuthing and astute observation skills make interesting reading.

An enjoyable book, with a well-described setting, enigmatic amateur detective and a twisty, absorbing plot.

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Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Sweet Tea and Secrets – Joy Avon @crookedlanebks #CozyMystery #Coastal #SmallTown #MurderMystery #ATeaAndReadMystery #2 – 3*#Review

Sleuth Callie Aspen wants to light up the Fourth of July tea party by solving a celebrity’s decades-old disappearance, but her digging results in more fireworks than she expects.

Last Christmas, Callie Aspen left her tour guide job and settled in Heart’s Harbor, Maine. Now, she helps out at Book Tea, her great aunt’s vintage tearoom, where each treat has a bookish clue. Though she’s excited to start her new life, Callie worries she may regret having burned her bridges behind her. Fortunately, she finds immediate distraction in the preparations for a spectacular Fourth of July tea party, which will recreate key moments from the town’s rich history.

Intrigued to learn that 1980s TV star Monica Walker was last seen in Heart’s Harbor before she vanished—allegedly to elope—Callie probes the townsfolk for information. She’s stunned when several locals share contradictory stories about the last day before Monica’s disappearance. Did she intend to leave her hit TV series? Was she being stalked by her ex? And why is the newspaper editor who investigated the story at the time so anxious about the cold case heating up?

When one of the talkative townspeople turns up dead, Callie aims to catch the killer. But it’s no picnic: Deputy Falk doesn’t want her meddling, and the locals suddenly know more about the past than they’d been at liberty to admit. If Callie and the Book Tea crew can’t crack the case, they’ll pay a very steep price in Joy Avon’s explosive second Book Tea Shop Mystery.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

Cozy mystery is the perfect escape. Quirky characters, quaint settings, a mystery to solve, this story has all these ingredients. Set in a small coastal town, on the Maine coast, it features Callie, who has just moved to the town, to her help her great aunt, run her vintage tea shop with a distinctive bookish theme, and a town that has a penchant for murder.

‘Sweet Tea and Secrets’, is the second book in the series, and although the mystery is solved within the pages of this story, reading the first book would be useful, for learning about the setting and characters. I struggled a little with the characters and the writing style, initially. Both grew on me as the story progressed, but the characters come across as two-dimensional, and less believable, spoiling my enjoyment of the story slightly.

Callie is wondering if moving to the small town is really for her, and if giving up the job she loves as an international tour guide is a wise move. Her Great- Aunt, aims to get her settled in, by finding her a place to make her own and getting Callie involved in the 4th July celebrations. She meets Quinn, another new visitor to the town, he is a little mysterious, but a willing partner in the celebrations, they stumble upon a cold case, of a missing person, and then the mystery really takes off. Romance is a feature of this story too, in keeping with the style, it is of the sweet variety, and on the slow burn.

There’s murder. Plenty of suspects and misinformation. I did manage to solve the mystery, but that is part of the fun. It is a little contrived in parts, but again this is part of the style, so not detrimental to the reader’s enjoyment.

In conclusion, it is full of quirky characters, with a decent mystery, I would like to see what happens next in the series.

11 June 2019

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Crime

Death at Beacon Cottage – A Sukey Reynolds Mystery Book 3 – 4* #Review @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP #PublicationDay #CozyMystery #Crime #SOCO #SukeyReynolds

The sun breaks through the clouds to shine on a little cottage where a mossy path leads to the front door, but inside something terrible has happened…

Police photographer Sukey Reynolds is looking forward to a quiet weekend gardening at home when she gets a call that there has been a shocking break-in at a local manor house. Once she begins to gather evidence, Sukey realises that this is the latest in a spate of well-crafted burglaries in the Cotswolds. Someone is targeting expensive houses with valuable art collections…

Thankfully, the police soon have a suspect in custody. But, during questioning, he suddenly catches a glimpse of Sukey, turns deathly pale and calls out to her. Sukey is sure she has never met this man before… Is this a bizarre joke, or is there a stranger out there who is Sukey’s perfect double in every way?

Just as Sukey begins to suspect she’s being followed, the police are baffled by a spate of local murders. With the body count rising, and the police unsure of where to turn, is Sukey herself a clue in this strange case? Can she unmask the killer before she becomes the next victim?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

I missed out on the second book in the Sukey Reynolds series, but no matter, this third book reads well as a standalone and is an enjoyable read.

Sukey comes to the fore as the main protagonist in this story. Art thefts and murder spoil the idyllic Cotswold’s setting, and Sukey becomes an integral part of the mystery when a suspect thinks she is someone else. This leads Sukey and her family into the direct line of fire and makes this an exciting story.

Again cozy mystery and police procedural are fused together to produce an intriguing, well-characterised story, set in the late nineties. The retro setting adds to the story’s ambience.

Looking forward to more adventures in Book 4.

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

Death At Hazel House (Sukey Reynolds Mystery #1) Betty Rowlands @bookouture @FPBettyRowlands #MurderMystery #PublicationDay #FridayReads 4* #Review

Meet Sukey Reynolds: police photographer, proud mother… and amateur detective. Years ago, Sukey was hoping to become a detective but life took a different turn. Now she’s happy to be involved with the local police force, as long as she still gets to work the occasional murder case… When Sukey arrives to photograph the body of Lorraine Chant, the beautiful wife of a wealthy businessman, she’s baffled. At first, it looks like a botched burglary, as the huge family safe has been left wide open and empty. But why does Lorraine’s rich husband claim nothing was taken? And what is he not telling the police? Deciding to do a little investigating of her own, things take a darker turn for Sukey when she is brutally attacked by a masked figure. What do they think she knows? As Sukey finds herself in the firing line, can she expose the true killer before it’s too late? 

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

‘ Death at Hazel House’, the first of the Sukey Reynolds Mystery series, is a fusion of genres. Written originally in the late 1990s, like the Melissa Craig mysteries, this has a retro feel to it, most notably in its lack of political correctness.

I was expecting a cozy/murder mystery, and in part it is. There are multiple character points of view, murder, lots of suspects and misinformation. However, the language, tone and crimes are more aligned to police procedurals. So this story has wide appeal, for readers that want to try something different.

Suzy a scene of crimes officer (SOCO) becomes an unwilling amateur detective, although her role is not developed in this first book, she is likeable, intelligent and courageous, and I am looking forward to reading her next adventure.

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Murder in a Country Garden – 5* Review – Betty Rowlands @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP #MurderMystery #cozymystery #MelissaCraigMysteries #publicationday

A perfect country garden is full of flowers and gently buzzing bees… But the man lying dead beneath the trees can no longer see the beautiful scene.

Melissa Craig is thrilled that summer has arrived. She has decided to give up her career as an amateur sleuth and enjoy a quiet life in her beautiful cottage. The only digging in Melissa’s life now happens in her garden.

However, when a keen beekeeper is found dead, covered in multiple stings, her new resolve is tested. As she gets to know the family of the dead man, she realises he was no saint. Could someone have possibly wanted him dead? Could this be a very clever murder?

As Melissa starts to probe the victim’s friends and acquaintances, another member of the family is also stung to death. Who could have turned the bees against their keeper? And when will they strike again?

With the residents of Upper Benbury now fearful to open their windows to the summer air, and the police treating the deaths as accidental, Melissa must solve this case herself. To find the killer with the sharpest sting, she may have to delve deep into the hive…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

After reading book one in this series ‘Murder at Hawthorn Cottage’, I said in my review’ that the book is ‘The quintessential cozy mystery… the storyline is fast-paced and engaging… builds to an adrenaline fuelled ending, full of action and powerful imagery. An enjoyable, escapist read that I suspect may become my secret addiction.’.

Now, after reading book twelve ‘Murder In A Country Garden’ the end of the series, all these things are still true, and since I have read twelve books in under eight months the stories are addictive.

If you enjoy dastardly crimes, committed in beautiful country settings, with larger than life characters, who all have secrets, but are not all murderers this series is for you.

Melissa Craig is the perfect reluctant detective, with sound knowledge of crime, and how its perpetrators are motivated, from her career as a crime novelist. Melissa is perfectly placed to discover the truth behind the crimes she discovers.

The last book in the series can be read as a standalone, as the story is complete and the main protagonist and characters are well described. The plot is clever and full of twists and the family where the deaths have occurred very mysterious. For fans of the series, we get to enjoy the final instalments of developments in Melissa’s private life, which adds depth and authenticity to this likeable retro cozy murder mystery.

This is an enjoyable end to a lovely series.

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.

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.