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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Review - Death Distilled

I reviewed the first in this series, Single Malt Murder (click here).  I was in the mood to read the next and finally got around to it in my TBR pile.  If you want an escape to Scotland at a whisky distillery, read on and see my thoughts.  

Author: Melinda Mullet

Copyright: Sept 2017 (Alibi-Random House) 240 pgs

Series: 2nd in Whisky Business Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild, some sprinkled language

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Abigail Logan, photojournalist who inherited Abbey Glen distillery

Setting: Modern day, Scottland

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

Cover blurb: "It’s been three months since Abi Logan last checked in on Abbey Glen, the celebrated whisky distillery she inherited. With her oversize wheaten terrier, Liam, by her side, Abi returns to the quaint Scottish village of Balfour. But her relaxing Highland homecoming takes a stressful turn when she unearths an unseemly bit of village history, welcomes a group of Japanese whisky enthusiasts, and becomes shepherdess to an unexpected flock of sheep—all within the first twenty-four hours. Still, nothing’s more stressful than murder. . . .

Local celebrity Rory Hendricks is the hotheaded, hard-rocking former frontman of the Rebels—and Abi’s girlhood crush. After meeting him in person, Abi can’t say no to anything he asks, like photographing his upcoming show . . . or figuring out who’s trying to kill him. Turns out someone’s been bumping off his old bandmates, with the drummer dead under mysterious circumstances and the keyboardist in a coma following a hit-and-run. Now a series of threatening messages leads Rory to think he’s next on the chopping block. And the band has a devil’s share of broken hearts and bitter disputes in their past, leaving Abi a huge batch of suspects to sift through—all before the killer takes another shot."

Abigail is a stubborn and gutsy character who is struggling with her photojournalist career versus the inherited distillary and her avoidance of dating versus her growing attraction to Grant MacEwan.  Abbey Glen manager Grant MacEwan is very reserved and a great romantic interest for Abi, although it won't be a smooth ride between these two.  Best friend Patrick Cooke  is one of those friends who always has a new job or project and gets everyone in his sphere involved.  Rory Hendricks, lead singer from rock group Rebels, claims his bad boy hard partying rocker reputation was primarily just publicity, but maybe not. Rory's adult daughter Summer has tremendous father issues and decides to seduce Grant.  Then there is the wheaten terrier Liam, a loyal and sweet friend for Abigail, probably the best relationship she has.

I love the Scottish setting of Balfour, the small nearest town, Grant MacEwan's castle-like home, and Rory's isolated house he is renting.  These each provide such a sense of place that I felt I had taken a little vacation to Scotland.  

The main plot of danger to Rory and/or his daughter Summer develops suspense and the subplots of Japanese whisky businessmen visiting the distillery, Abigail and Grant's wary attraction to each other, and Abi's adoption of a herd of sheep to save their lives, plus renovations to the pub in town uncovering local history and old mysteries kept me completely enthralled.  

The killer confrontation was blood pumping and unique.  I loved it, great job.  The wrap-up was also well done.  some threads tied up and others still in progress for the next book.  I can't wait to read the third in the series.

The story got me into a Scotland mood with its great sense of place.  I appreciate the complexities to Abigail and her life and how it isn't over the top or too drama filled.  The building towards a romance is spot on and deftly handled.  At first I wasn't enthusiastic to read it from cover blurb, but I was very quickly wrapped up in the story and couldn't put it down.  This was a great second book for the series and I am already eyeing the third.  

Rating: Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Review - Death and Daisies

Amanda Flower is the bestselling author of the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries, Living History Museum Mysteries, India Hayes Mysteries, Magical Bookshop Mysteries, and the new Magic Garden Mysteries.  I reviewed the first in this new series, Flowers and Foul Play (click here).  I finally got around to the second book in the series and here is my review.

Author: Amanda Flower

Copyright: Nov 2018 (Crooked Lane Books) 308 pgs

Series: 2nd in Magic Garden  Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery with magical touches

Main Characters: Fiona Knox, recently relocated to Scotland

Setting: Modern day, Duncreigan Scotland

Obtained Through: Library

From the cover:  "Fiona Knox thought she was pulling her life back together when she inherited her godfather’s cottage in Duncreigan, Scotland—complete with a magical walled garden. But the erstwhile Tennessee flower shop owner promptly found herself puddle boot-deep in danger when she found a dead body among the glimmering blossoms. One police investigation later (made a trifle less unpleasant by the presence of handsome Chief Inspector Neil Craig), and Fiona’s life is getting back on a steady, though bewitched, track. Her sister Isla has just moved in with her, and the grand opening of her new spellbound venture, the Climbing Rose Flower Shop in Aberdeenshire, is imminent. 

But dark, ensorcelled clouds are gathering to douse Fiona’s newly sunny outlook. First, imperious parish minister Quaid MacCullen makes it undeniably clear that he would be happy to send Fiona back to Tennessee. Then, a horrific lightning storm, rife with terribly omen, threatens to tear apart the elderly cottage and sends Fi and Isla cowering under their beds. The storm passes, but then, Fi is called away from the Climbing Rose’s opening soiree when Kipling, the tiny village’s weak-kneed volunteer police chief, finds a dead body on the beach. 

The body proves difficult to identify, but Kipling is certain it’s that of the parish minister. Which makes Fiona, MacCullen’s new nemesis, a suspect. And what’s worse, Isla has seemed bewitched as of late…did she do something unspeakable to protect her sister? The last thing Fiona wanted to do was play detective again. But now, the rosy future she’d envisioned is going to seed, and if she and Craig can’t clear her name, her idyllic life will wilt away."

Fiona Knox is in the midst of opening her new flower shop when a murder takes place.  Not only does she need to ferret out the real killer who is among them, she discovers more about her relationship between her family and her godfather who left her the magic garden.  Isla, Fiona's sister, has suddenly moved in after her graduation and is a spoiled and pampered character.  Things don't go smoothly between the sisters either. Hamish, the rustic, unassuming, and down-to-earth caretaker of the property is a character I simply love.  Chief Inspector Neil Craig is the cop romantic interest.  And then there are the great animal characters including a mischievous blue-eyed fox that Fiona believes (somehow, someway) is her godfather Ian, a cat who adopted Fiona named Ivanhoe, and Hamish's companion red squirrel, Duncan, that are additional magical touches.

Duncreigan and the nearby town, Aberdeenshire, are charming and picturesque, adding atmospheric and delightful Scottish touches.  The ruins of an old stone church ruins that are to be preserved also lend some creepy additions to scenes.  Nicely done overall.  

The plot is all around who would kill the sanctimonious minister, because it was a minister after all.  The pacing had plenty to keep the story moving swiftly along.  The killer reveal was wonderfully suspenseful and couldn't have been better.  The wrap up answered final questions and was satisfying on all counts.  

Although it is traditionally published, there were a number of typos and out-of-place words.  Which goes to show it isn't just self-published works. That didn't effect the story for me any.  The magical touches are just enough to make the story delightful. This was a delightful second book in the series that is fast becoming one of my favorite cozies.  I can't wait for the next book

Rating: Excellent - Loved it, a fun read that had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Review - Murder on Trinity Place

My introduction to this series was the 17th book, Murder on Amsterdam Ave (click here).  Since then I have been slowly going back to the beginning and reading the early books.  We have been fortunate to also have several guest posts and an interview by the author. (guest post here, interview, and another guest post here).  Read on to find out more about the newest in this long running series.

Author: Victoria Thomspon

Copyright: April 2019 (Berkley) 332 pgs

Series: 22nd in Gaslight Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Characters: Sarah Malloy, formerly Sarah Brandt a midwife

Setting: 1900 (Victorian Era), New York City

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review (Netgalley)

From the book cover:  "The year of 1899 is drawing to a close. Frank and Sarah Malloy are getting ready to celebrate the New Year at Trinity Church when they notice Mr. Pritchard, a relative of their neighbor, behaving oddly and annoying the other revelers. Frank tries to convince Pritchard to return home with them, but the man refuses and Frank loses him in the crowd. The next morning Sarah and Frank are horrified to learn Pritchard was murdered sometime in the night, his body left on Trinity Place, the side street near the church.

The police aren't too interested in the murder, and the family are concerned that the circumstances of the death will reflect badly on Pritchard's reputation. To protect the family from scandal, Nelson asks Frank to investigate. Frank and Sarah delve into Pritchard's past and realize there may have been a deadly side to the dawning of the new century."

Sarah used to be more involved in the actual investigations, but has taken a bit more backseat role except for questioning the society ladies.  Maeve is her young nanny for their children who has become a part of the family.  Frank Malloy had newly inherited fortune and retired from the police force.  Frank has started his own investigation business as a gentleman of means now.  Gino, formerly worked with Frank Malloy on the police force but now works with him as a private investigator. Black Jack Robinson was introduced in Murder in the Bowery (Book 20) and is part of a subplot as well as providing inside information into the gambling syndicates.  He is a fantastic secondary character and I loved him so much I am getting book #20 right away to read his introduction.  Suspects range from members of the extremely dysfunctional society family to a rough gambling syndicate owner. The characters all have mixed good and bad in them making them layered and complex.

New York's early years are always fascinating to me and it is seamlessly interwoven throughout the story.  Autos were just becoming more mainstream and that is included in the story as Frank has purchased one and all the issues that come with it.  

The plot is interesting as you follow Sarah and Frank piecing together what an earnest, albeit sanctimonious, milk dairy business man like Mr. Pritchard could have done to get himself killed.  Subplots involve Maeve and Gino seeming to have a growing attachment and a disgraced society girl checks into Sarah's clinic for unwed mothers and Sarah has a plan for her future - if she has her way.

The climax is a race against time to save a life, always thrilling.  I particularly liked the car chase with a car that can go as fast as ten miles an hour and how that is considered so fast! The wrap up is heartwarming and perhaps my favorite part of the entire book.  

This seemed like a lighter mystery than some of the prior books in the series.  Which only means it is perfect if you don't want a heavy murder mystery.  The subplots have some to do with that.  I wish to see Sarah getting more involved again, even though she is married now.  A solid addition to a dependably entertaining series.  Never disappoints.

Rating: Excellent fun read- Loved it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this series, an author, on your watch list.

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Monday, May 6, 2019

Author Guest Post - Victoria Thompson

Our guest today is Victoria Thompson, author of the bestselling Gaslight Mystery Series and the Counterfeit Lady novels. Her latest Gaslight Mystery, Murder on Trinity Place, releases on April 30.

Victoria Thompson is the bestselling author of the Edgar ® and Agatha Award nominated Gaslight Mystery Series and the Sue Grafton Memorial Award nominated Counterfeit Lady Series. Her latest books are Murder on Trinity Place and City of Secrets, both from Berkley. She currently teaches in the Master’s Degree program for writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University. She lives in Illinois with her husband and a very spoiled little dog.

Party like it’s 1899!

The first book of the Gaslight Mystery series was set in 1896, and after 22 books, we were approaching the end of 1899, so I thought it would be fun to show the turn of that century. Remember all the hoopla surrounding the most recent “turn of the century” in 1999? Y2K had many of us in a panic with predictions that computers would somehow cease working when the date rolled over to the year 2000. Planes would fall from the sky. Elevators would plunge to the basement. Life as we know it would end. Then the date rolled over and nothing happened! Except for lots of parties and celebrations for the beginning of a new century.


What, I wondered, was going on in anticipation of 1899 becoming 1900? Surely, people were excited and perhaps a bit apprehensive about something in those days, even though they didn’t have any computers back then to malfunction.

So I researched it and guess what? In 1899, people had decided that the new century didn’t really start in 1900. They felt that 1900 was actually the last year of the Nineteenth Century! They did celebrate New Year’s Eve that year, but no differently then they had all the other 99 New Year’s Eves of that century. The big celebration for the beginning of the new century was held on New Year’s Eve 1900. What a disappointment! But…

Human Beings will always be contrary.

Human nature being what it is, not everyone agreed about this, and some people still thought 1900 was the first year of the Twentieth Century. Would those people try to convince everyone else they were right? Of course they would! And would they be annoying when then did so? Yes, indeed. Perhaps even so annoying someone would want to murder them! Which is how Murder on Trinity Place begins. A man who has been trying to convince people they are wrong about the start of the new century is found dead on New Year’s morning. Was someone so annoyed with his arguments that they murdered him? Or was something else going on?

Frank and Sarah are on the case.

Frank and Sarah Malloy are asked to solve the case by their very superstitious neighbor, Mrs. Ellsworth, because the victim is the father of her new daughter-in-law. (Can we all take a moment here to lament the fact that the English language has no easy way to describe your relationship to your child’s in-laws? “My daughter-in-law’s parents” is so unwieldy. But I digress.) Since Mrs. Ellsworth once saved Sarah’s very life, they cannot refuse, and they begin an investigation that leads them to some very surprising places.

Did you believe all the hype about Y2K? Did you stay up to make sure your computer would still function after midnight? Or did you think it was all a big hoax?

Murder on Trinity Place

The devil's in the details when a respected man is found murdered near historic Trinity Church, in the exciting new novel from the national bestselling Gaslight Mystery series...

As 1899 draws to a close, Frank and Sarah Malloy are ready to celebrate the New Year--and century--at Trinity Church when they notice Mr. Pritchard, a neighbor’s relative, behaving oddly and annoying the other revelers. When Frank tries to intervene and convince Pritchard to return home with them, he refuses and Frank loses him in the crowd. The next morning Sarah and Frank are horrified to learn Pritchard was murdered sometime in the night, his body left on Trinity Place, mere steps from the incident. Frank and Sarah must search Pritchard's past for a link between the new crimes…and old sins.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Thank you Ms. Thompson for guest posting.  Y2K was a very real issue in my job at the time (Department of Defense) and we had many contingencies in place which actually were used.  It wasn't a hoax in our case.

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Review - Death of a New American

Today I review the second book in a new historical mystery series set in the Gilded Age.  Although I didn't read the first in the series, that didn't effect the immersive experience of this novel.  If you aren't typically a historical mystery fan, this novel just might change your mind.  The author joined us for a guest post (click here) as well discussing the Gilded Age.

Author: Mariah Fredericks

Copyright: April 2019 (Minotaur) 304 pgs

Series: 2nd in Jane Prescott Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy, Amateur Sleuth

Main Character: Jane Prescott, ladies’ maid Jane Prescott to the Benchley family

Setting: 1912 (The Gilded Age), Long Island New York

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review (NetGalley)

From the book cover: "In 1912, as New York reels from the news of the Titanic disaster, ladies’ maid Jane Prescott travels to Long Island with the Benchley family. Their daughter Louise is to marry William Tyler, at their uncle and aunt’s mansion; the Tylers are a glamorous, storied couple, their past filled with travel and adventure. Now, Charles Tyler is known for putting down New York’s notorious Italian mafia, the Black Hand, and his wife Alva has settled into domestic life.

As the city visitors adjust to the rhythms of the household, and plan Louise’s upcoming wedding, Jane quickly befriends the Tyler children’s nanny, Sofia―a young Italian-American woman. However, one unusually sultry spring night, Jane is woken by a scream from the nursery―and rushes in to find Sofia murdered, and the carefully locked window flung open.

The Tylers believe that this is an attempted kidnapping of their baby gone wrong; a warning from the criminal underworld to Charles Tyler. But Jane is asked to help with the investigation by her friend, journalist Michael Behan, who knows that she is uniquely placed to see what other tensions may simmer just below the surface in this wealthy, secretive household. Was Sofia’s murder fall-out from the social tensions rife in New York, or could it be a much more personal crime?"

Jane Prescott is one of those characters you fall in love with quickly and by the end want to spend more time with her.  She is brave, a mixture of worldly with a touch of innocence remaining, and navigates the class structure with intelligence and grace.  Her own backstory is fascinating.  Louise Benchley is the young lady Jane serves as a ladies' maid.  Louise, being married in part for her money, starts as awkward and a push over, but by the end she has come into her own and gains some steel - which I wanted to cheer over.  
Michael Behan, a journalist, is a mixed bag.  At times he seems unscrupulous to get a story, but at other times seems to want the truth. You might be tempted to think he would be a romantic interest for Jane, who often challenges him and his reporting, but that isn't likely.  Charles Tyler, uncle to the groom and guardian, is the police chief who is waging a war against the rising Italian mafia while also controversially embracing Italian immigrants and hiring several on his staff at work and home.  Charles' wife, Alva Tyler, had been a wild and free spirited society girl more at home on safari - until she had a children and settled down.  She is a character you like and yet wonder about simultaneously.  Sophia, the victim, was so well portrayed in her few scenes that you stand with Jane wanting to see justice done in her murder.

The rich and privileged Long Island mansion is the setting for most of the story with a few scenes in New York city.  All of which take the reader back in time to Little Italy of the city and the era's gilded glory with its tarnished realities.

Was Sofia letting a mafia hit-man or kidnapper in through an open window and got killed in the process?  Because that is the quick conclusion and the plot revolves around Jane seeing major problems with that scenario and searching for answers.  There are subplots of Charles Tyler and the Black Hand plus the nation recovering from the Titanic tragedy intermixed with the rampant prejudice against Italians and woman's suffrage.  All of which immerse the reader in the era.  Once I had read the first few chapters, I was hooked and I raced through the book.

The killer reveal was tearful and a shock as what happened dawns on you, with an added touch of flirtation with danger.  It will stay with me a long time and it was handled brilliantly for maximum effect. The finishing chapter was longer than most wrap-ups, but well worth it.

This book is a gem and I find myself wanting to go back and read the first, A Death of No Importance, in the series while I wait for the third to be published.  Even with the serious topics touched on in the book, there is a hilarious scene that sticks with me as much as the emotional killer reveal.  The writing style is smooth and flowing. I can't recommend this book highly enough!

Rating: Near Perfect - Couldn't put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend. 

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