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

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 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, 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.