Book Review: A Treacherous Tale (The Cambridge Bookshop Series #2) by Elizabeth Penney

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: August 23rd, 2022
Pages: 288, mass market
Source: NetGalley

Lately, Molly has been feeling that she might have fallen into a fairy tale: she’s reinvigorated the family bookshop Thomas Marlowe—Manuscripts and Folios, made friends in her new home of Cambridge, England, and is even developing a bit of a romance with the handsome Kieran—a bike shop owner with a somewhat intimidating family pedigree.

Having recently discovered The Strawberry Girls, a classic children’s tale, Molly is thrilled to learn the author, Iona York, lives nearby. But while visiting the famous author at her lovely cottage in nearby Hazelhurst, an old acquaintance of Iona’s tumbles off her roof to his death.

Then, when one of Iona’s daughters—an inspiration for the original Strawberry Girls—goes missing, Molly begins to worry this story might be more Brothers Grimm than happily-ever-after. Especially after Molly learns about the mysterious long-ago death of Iona’s husband and co-author of The Strawberry Girls…could past and present crimes be linked? Molly must put the clues together before someone turns this sweet tale sour.

Molly Kimball, recent transplant from Vermont to Cambridge, is busy with her bookshop and her aristocratic beau, but when her uncle is suspected of murder, she flies on her bicycle to solve her second case.

In A Treacherous Tale, Molly is organizing an event with local author Iona York, who is coming out with a new edition of her classic children’s book. She visits Iona, only to discover the body of a local antiques dealer, who has fallen off the roof of Iona’s house, where Molly’s uncle was repairing the thatch.

Molly is a likeable heroine and has a great support system in her friends and family. While she does occasionally jump to a wrong conclusion, she generally follows the evidence and the reader is given all the clues they need to solve the case along with her. The secondary characters are important to the narrative, and don’t just serve to enhance Molly.

Penney is a solid cozy writer, and I hope there are many more in this series. I like the Cambridge Bookshop series, but I admit I’m more partial to Penney’s Apron Shop series. Both are well worth reading.

Book Review: Knit or Dye Trying (A Riverbank Knitting Mystery #2) by Allie Pleiter

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: April 5th, 2022
Pages: 304, mass market paperback
Source: NetGalley

Business is booming for Libby Beckett and her fabulous Maryland shop, aptly named Y.A.R.N., but when a town festival brings a fatality with it, Libby gets all tangled up in murder.

As spring comes to Collinstown, the village launches a food festival to draw a new group of tourists. Libby, proud owner of Y.A.R.N., has planned a yarn event to provide an alternative option to a foodie weekend. Artisan fiber dyer Julie Wilson–known for her work with animal-friendly, plant-based knitting fibers such as bamboo and hemp as well as her brilliant use of color–will hopefully draw a crowd with a special dyeing workshop.

The festival begins, but it draws more than crowds. First a flock of sheep parades down the street, herded by farmers protesting Julie’s antiwool stance. Then Julie’s celebrity chef sister appears, and the siblings resume a long-standing rivalry. Despite all this, Julie’s workshop has sold out. Libby is thrilled, and they’re preparing for a full house. But the night before the event, Julie is found alone in the warehouse event space–dead. The witty “Watch Julie Wilson Dye” workshop title now has a terrible new meaning–and it’s up to Libby to catch a crafty killer.

A flock of protest sheep welcome Libby’s most recent celebrity guest, a well-known, and much-disliked yarn dyer, in Knit or Dye Trying, the second in Allie Pleiter’s knitting mystery series. Libby owns Y.A.R.N, and is having an event to go along with the local seafood festival. Julie Wilson is her expert guest, and Libby gives Julie access to a local warehouse so that Julie can create her special, highly sought-after, colors. Julie gets trapped in the warehouse, and is overcome by fumes. Libby feels responsible, and decides to investigate.

This second outing for Libby is every bit as enjoyable as the first. Although she hasn’t been back in town long, she’s folded herself seamlessly into the life of her town, even running for local office against her blowhard fellow business owner George. One of the strengths of the series is the relationships Libby has forged and the growth we’ve seen from the first book. Libby is likeable and is a very relatable character, as are her almost-boyfriend Gavin, Gavin’s daughter, and Libby’s mom. They feel like real people whom you’d like to know.

Libby is a great cozy heroine. She’s thoughtful, and doesn’t jump to conclusions. She looks at the people involved in the case, and makes logical deductions. Maybe it’s a knitting thing? I can knit a decent scarf, and I admire people who can work large, complex patterns. Libby is amazing at unravelling (pun intended) the knotty skeins of the crimes which have come her way.

The crimes make sense, too, and there are enough clues scattered along the way to keep the reader engaged without letting them guess the solution too soon.

It’s a wonderful series, filled with life and love. I hope there are many more to come.

Book Review: Hot and Sour Suspects (A Noodle Shop Mystery #8) by Vivien Chien

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy mystery
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 25th, 2022
Pages: 320, mass market paperback
Source: NetGalley

At the Ho-Lee Noodle House, murder is on the menu.

When Lana Lee’s best friend, Megan Riley, asks her to help host a speed dating contest at Ho-Lee Noodle House, she doesn’t see the harm in lending a hand. The night goes better than anticipated, and both Lana and Megan are beyond thrilled with the results. But before they can break out the champagne, Rina Su, fellow Asia Village shop owner and speed dating participant, calls to inform Lana that the date she’s just matched with has been murdered. Under suspicion of foul play, Rina enlists Lana’s help in finding out what really happened that night.

Without hesitation, Lana begins to dig into the man in question. To her dismay, she quickly finds that Rina’s date has a rather unsavory past. There’s a long line of slighted women, angry neighbors, and perturbed co-workers—all of whom seem to have a motive.

As Lana continues to spiral down the treacherous path of scorned lovers and mistreated acquaintances, she can’t help but dwell on how quickly an innocent evening filled with hope and positivity could turn so sour. When the media gets in on the case, Lana must rush to find the killer before more dates turn deadly.

Hot and Sour Suspects is our eighth trip to Ho-Lee Noodle House, and this time, speed dating is on the menu. But when one of the daters turns up dead, and Lana’s friend Rina is the prime suspect, Lana, her best friend Megan, and her dog Kikko, along with the sometimes helpful, sometimes not assistance of Kimmy, have to save the day.

This is a solid series. Lana is a great heroine, and her relationships with her family and friends are a big part of what makes the series work. The characters are all so relatable and believable that you wish you could visit Asia Village, where Lana’s restaurant is.

Lana’s sleuthing skills are getting better, and her police officer boyfriend Adam seems to be dealing with her investigations better, even though this one is on his patch.

Lana has to juggle running the restaurant, investigating the murder, and doing damage control for a close relative when rumors start flying around Asia Village. Is this the life Lana wanted at the start of the series? No, but she’s embraced her role and we’ve seen great character development with her and her friends. The cases are interesting, but I read the series more for the characters.

Food, friends, and family make this series great, and I hope there are many more adventures for Lana.

Book Review: Three Shots to the Wind (Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mystery #3) by Sherry Harris

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy mystery
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: March 29th, 2022
Pages: 304, mass market paperback
Source: NetGalley


Saloon owner Chloe Jackson appears to have a secret admirer. She’s pouring drinks at the Sea Glass Saloon in Emerald Cove when an airplane flies by above the beach with a banner reading I LOVE YOU CHLOE JACKSON. She immediately rules out Rip Barnett. They are in the early stages of dating and no one has said the L word. Then a bouquet of lilacs—her favorite flower—is delivered to the bar, followed by an expensive bottle of her favorite sparkling wine. It couldn’t be . . .

Sure enough, her ex-fiancé from Chicago has flown down to Florida for an accountants’ convention. But is he trying to mix business with pleasure and win her back? Unfortunately he’s not in a hotel conference room, he’s floating facedown in the lake next to her house, clutching a photo of Chloe. Who murders an accountant on a business trip—it just doesn’t add up. When Rip becomes the prime suspect, Chloe is determined to find the secret murderer. But if she isn’t careful, it may be closing time and lights out for her.

The Chloe Jackson series just keeps getting better. This time, Chloe’s ex-fiance turns up dead, and Chloe finds there was a lot she didn’t know about her seemingly mild-mannered ex.

Chloe has settled in nicely to her new life in Florida. She’s part owner of the Sea Glass Saloon, and is building strong relationships with the residents of Emerald Cove. She’s a great character, and her motivations and actions feel real. There’s also a good amount of humor.

This is a great cozy series and I hope there are many more cases for Chloe.

Book Review: Getaway With Murder (Mountain Lodge Mystery #1) by Diane Kelly

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 26th, 2021
Pages: 304, mass market paperback
Source: NetGalley

As if hitting the half-century mark wasn’t enough, Misty Murphy celebrated her landmark birthday by amicably ending her marriage and investing her settlement in a dilapidated mountain lodge at the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With the old inn teetering on both a bluff and bankruptcy, she must have lost her ever-loving mind.

Luckily, handyman Rocky Crowder has a knack for rehabbing virtual ruins and for doing it on a dime, and to Misty’s delight, the lodge is fully booked on opening night, every room filled with flexible folks who’d slipped into spandex and ascended the peak for a yoga retreat with plans to namastay for a full week. Misty and her guests are feeling zen—at least until the yoga instructor is found dead.

With a killer on the loose and the lodge’s reputation hanging in the balance, Misty must put her detective-skills to the test. Only one thing is as clear as a sunny mountain morning—she must solve the crime before the lodge ends up, once again, on the brink.

Misty has, at 50, decided to divest herself of her husband and acquire a lodge in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This, despite her lack of experience or education in the hospitality industry, seems to be trending toward success until the leader of a yoga group is found dead on the property. Along with the predictable hunky handyman named Rocky, Misty investigates to clear the lodge and keep anyone else from ending up in corpse pose.

It was okay. Misty is likeable enough, but a lot of the story seemed improbable and just added either because it was expected or because it was necessary to force the plot. Misty gets divorced at midlife, check. She buys a lodge to reinvent her life, check. The lodge is by a diner that, despite being miles from other businesses, enjoys a good amount of business. That’s pretty convenient. The hunky handyman ends up moving into one of the spare rooms because his house is overcrowded. This gives them opportunities to flirt. Check.

The murderer is someone you won’t expect, and much like Misty’s reasons for ditching her husband, the murderer’s reasons don’t really make sense or seem strong enough to warrant their actions.

But I think the most unlikely thing for me was that, despite the fact that Misty had decades of memories of having visited the lodge with her family, she only was reminded of her husband once. Also, she seems to have divorced her kids, too. There’s no mention of her contacting either her ex or her two sons until the murder occurs, and then she just texts them. Maybe it’s just me, but that really didn’t seem realistic to me.

It’s not a bad book, it’s just not my cup of tea, and I don’t think I’ll be visiting the lodge again.

Book Review: Chapter and Curse (Cambridge Bookshop #1) by Elizabeth Penney

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: September 28th, 2021
Pages: 320, paperback
Source: NetGalley

In Chapter and Curse, Molly Kimball is used to cracking open books . . .but when a poetry reading ends in murder, she must use her skills to crack the case.

Librarian Molly Kimball and her mother, Nina, need a change. So when a letter arrives from Nina’s Aunt Violet in Cambridge, England requesting their help running the family bookshop, they jump at the chance.

Thomas Marlowe—Manuscripts and Folios, is one of the oldest bookshops in Cambridge, and—unfortunately—customers can tell. When Molly and Nina arrive, spring has come to Cambridge and the famed Cambridge Literary Festival is underway. Determined to bring much-needed revenue to the bookstore, Molly invites Aunt Violet’s college classmate and famed poet Persephone Brightwell to hold a poetry reading in the shop. But the event ends in disaster when a guest is found dead—with Molly’s great-aunt’s knitting needle used as the murder weapon. While trying to clear Violet and keep the struggling shop afloat, Molly sifts through secrets past and present, untangling a web of blackmail, deceit, and murder.

Chapter and Curse is the first book in the new Cambridge Bookshop cozy series by Elizabeth Penney, who also has several books out in her Apron Shop series.

Molly Kimball and her mother move to her mother’s home country of England to help Molly’s aunt with her bookshop. During a poetry reading at the bookshop, Molly discovers the body of one of her aunt’s friends. The police suspect her aunt, so Molly starts investigating. 

The characters are engaging and the writing is so good that I didn’t mind that I figured out the motive and the murderer before we got too far into the book. The characters are more than focus than the mystery, and that’s perfectly fine, as I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them and hope for more books in the series.

Book Review: A Hex for Danger (An Enchanted Bay Mystery #2) by Esme Addison

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy mystery
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: July 13th, 2021
Pages: 336, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

The annual Mermaid Festival is the setting for Esme Addison’s sunny-yet-sinister second Enchanted Bay mystery, perfect for fans of Heather Blake and Bailey Cates. 

The small town of Bellamy Bay has its share of skeletons in its closet, but it isn’t used to bodies turning up in the local history museum. After all, this coastal North Carolina town is much like any other…except, of course, for the mermaids.

Helping to run the family business, an herbal apothecary while keeping her supernatural secret hidden is no easy feat for water witch Aleksandra Daniels. But somehow she’s still found time to help her friend Celeste, who has her own Caribbean mermaid heritage plan the annual Mermaid Festival. As fun-seekers throng the beaches, Alex gets to know and is intrigued by renowned artist Neve Ryland, who’s in town to decorate the local park with a mermaid-themed mural. Celeste, however, is less enamored with the artist, as Neve has been spending entirely too much one-on-one time with her boyfriend Jasper, director of Bellamy Bay’s history museum. Then, a reception for Neve ends abruptly when the artist is found dead in his office.

The police investigation nets Celeste who asks Alex to find the true culprit. With the help of her magically-inclined aunt and cousins, Alex dives in to clear her friends name. But there was more to Neve Ryland than met the eye…and Alex fears she may be in way too deep. Will she catch the crook or be next on the hook?

A Hex for Danger is the second in the Enchanted Bay mystery series by Esme Addison. Alex is settling in with her cousins and aunt at their botanical shop, and is learning more about her mermaid heritage and powers.

The town is holding their annual Mermaid Festival, to celebrate their connection to the Mermaid of Warsaw. The artist who painted a mural for the event is found bludgeoned after a party, and Alex’s cousin Celeste is the prime suspect. As Alex investigates, she is put at odds with her police detective boyfriend Jack, and encounters other supernaturals who are not as benevolent as the mermaids.

The characters are good, and I’m enjoying the series, but I have a few minor quibbles with this one. They may get corrected during the editing process, but here they are:
1- In the first chapter, there’s a brief power outage and it states that people’s cell phones go dark. The blip is later attributed to a blip in the power grid. A blip in the power grid might take out a cell tower, but it wouldn’t cause cell phones to go dark, because they run on batteries. 
2- Personal pet peeve – Don’t write a book set in the South if you can’t spell “y’all.” Sushi Ya’ll is not correct, unless it’s meant as a parody/joke.
3- Alex is very judgmental of others’ behavior, but is perfectly willing to do deep mental scans to get facts to clear her cousin. She considers that the ends justify the means, especially if the people she’s mind-mining turn out to be not so nice people. There’s one instance where someone holds her at gunpoint.. She disarms the assailant, but then holds the assailant against their will and forces them to answer her questions. That’s not ethical behavior.

By the end of the book, it seemed like Alex realized that she was on some shaky ground, ethically, and might be making some improvements. I hope so, because I do enjoy the series, but Alex’s actions are hypocritical and high-handed.

Book Review: Death of an Irish Mummy (The Dublin Driver Mysteries #3) by Catie Murphy

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: June 29th, 2021
Pages: 288, paperback
Source: NetGalley

Squiring a self-proclaimed heiress around Dublin has got limo driver Megan Malone’s Irish up—until she finds the woman dead . . .

American-born Cherise Williams believes herself to be heir to an old Irish earldom, and she’s come to Dublin to claim her heritage. Under the circumstances, Megan’s boss Olga at Leprechaun Limos has no qualms about overcharging the brash Texas transplant for their services. Megan chauffeurs Cherise to the ancient St. Michan’s Church, where the woman intends to get a wee little DNA sample from the mummified earls—much to the horror of the priest.

But before she can desecrate the dead, Cherise Williams is murdered—just as her three daughters arrive to also claim their birthright. With rumors of famine-era treasure on the lands owned by the old Williams family and the promise of riches for the heirs, greed seems a likely motive. But when Olga surprisingly becomes the Garda’s prime suspect, Megan attempts to steer the investigation away from her boss and solve the murder with the help of the dashing Detective Bourke. With a killer who’s not wrapped too tight, she’ll need to proceed with caution—or she could go from driving a limo to riding in a hearse . . .

American Cherise Williams has come to Ireland to find her long-lost ancestors and prove that her family are heirs of the local earl. Driver Megan Malone drops Cherise back at her hotel after Cherise fails to persuade the local priest to give her a bone from one of the earls in the crypt at the church, and goes to pick up one of Cherise’s daughters from the airport. Upon returning, they find Cherise dead, and Megan is plunged into her third murder mystery.

Megan’s superstitious boss thinks Megan is cursed, fires her, and evicts her from her apartment. Megan must juggle getting her job and home back with the search for Cherise’s killer. 

This is a great series. The characters are all well-developed, and the plots are solid. The relationships between Megan and the other characters are strong and make them fun to spend time with, except for perhaps Megan’s boss. Although, in fairness, even the local garda are eying Megan a bit askance, as she’s come across no fewer than three murders in less than a year. 

Long-suffering detective Paul, who is dating Megan’s best friend, reluctantly assists Megan with her investigation, while trying, unsuccessfully, to keep her out of his.

Cherise’s other two daughters come to Ireland to handle the funeral arrangements, and they join Megan on the hunt for their mother’s killer. One of them is hiding a secret from the others that may cause them to doubt what they know about their family. Does someone in Ireland not want the Americans to inherit the earldom, or was the motive revenge or money? 

Book Review: Bodies and Bows (Apron Shop #3) by Elizabeth Penney

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 30th, 2021
Pages: 288, mass market paperback
Source: NetGalley

Bodies & Bows is the third in the charming cozy Iris Buckley mystery series set in an apron shop in Maine–Elizabeth Penney will have you on pins and needles

Iris Buckley is hoping for a bit of rest and relaxation now that the summertime rush is winding down in Blueberry Cove, Maine. Her apron shop Ruffles & Bows has been a huge success, her friendships are stronger than ever, and now she’s ready for all of the end of summer cookouts on the beach that she can handle.

But before Iris can even turn on the grill, Bella’s latest fling, former Olympian sailor and gorgeous bad boy Lance Pederson is killed in a hit and run while jogging at dawn–and all the evidence points to Bella herself.

Suddenly the month of August isn’t looking so restful, since now Iris has been roped into the Lighthouse Rehabilitation Committee, helping her friend Sophie plan a wedding, and–most importantly of all–tracking down a killer and clearing Bella’s good name before everything unravels. 

Lighthouse restoration, a long-lost love, and a bustling apron shop are keeping Iris and Grammie busy in Bodies and Bows, the third book in Elizabeth Penney’s series. Iris and her grandmother want to expand their business, but they’ll need help. 

Iris’s friend Bella also needs help, after her boyfriend is killed and she is arrested. Iris and her group of girlfriends hop on the case to free Bella while they also work on opening the old lighthouse as a tourist attraction. The daughter of the last lighthouse keeper lends some mementos, and Iris finds an old love letter. Can she reunite the pair?

I love the interaction between Iris and grandmother, and how Iris’s friends are all supportive of each other. The warmth of all the characters makes these books like chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. The plot is solid, even if the reader might figure out the murderer a bit sooner than they’d like.

A lot of cozies have niche shops that probably wouldn’t make it in the real world, but Iris and Grammie have a solid game plan, and they even need to take on help so they can increase their product lines and fulfill more custom orders. 

Highly recommended.

Book Review: Checking Out Crime (A Bookmobile Cat Mystery #9) by Laurie Cass

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: March 30th, 2021
Pages: 352, mass market paperback
Source: NetGalley

Librarian Minnie Hamilton and her clever cat Eddie solve a purr-fect murder, in the newest installment of the delightful Bookmobile Cat Mystery series.

Minnie and her rescue cat Eddie can often be found out and about in their bookmobile near Chilson, Michigan, delivering great reads to grateful patrons all over the county. But they always brake for trouble, and when Minnie sees a car speeding away down the road, and soon comes upon a dead bicyclist, she assumes she just missed seeing a hit-and-run.

Minnie is determined to discover who was behind the wheel, but it soon turns out that things are far more complicated than they seem and there’s more to this case than meets the eye. Luckily, this librarian is ready to read the killer his rights.

Hard to believe we’ve been on the bookmobile with librarian Minnie and Eddie nine times already. Checking Out Crime is the latest Bookmobile Cat mystery by Laurie Cass. This time out, they run into, almost literally, a member of the local biking club, who is dead in the road. Minnie starts to sleuth, and soon has a second biker’s death to investigate. She also has her hands full trying to get her future home in order so that she and her fiancé can get married before the snow flies. Since it’s October, and she’s in Michigan, time’s running out.

Eddie, as usual, helps her find clues, and steers her down the right (bike) path. Minnie also has a new sleuthing buddy, who I hope will be in future installments, as she’s a great addition to the series.

I’ll frankly admit that Minnie’s emotional outbursts in the last couple of books had begun to grate a bit. She’s still gets a bit feisty in this one, and excuses it by saying it’s “normal” behavior, but it was much toned down in this story.

The story itself was good, and I enjoy how Minnie interacts with her friends, family, and the community. She’s very much an integral part of the town of Chilson’s fabric, and is more of a liaison than a busybody.

The plot? Well, the motive for the murders was a bit far-fetched, and unsatisfying, but the characters balanced out the story and this was an enjoyable read.