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Thursday, September 1, 2022

Review - Getaway with Murder

The author of Southern Homebrew, House Flipper, Paw Enforcement mysteries, and Tara Holloway novels brings us a new mystery series.  This series takes into the mountains to a rustic lodge where death checks in.

Author: Diane Kelly

Copyright: October 2021 (Berkley) 296 pgs

Series: 1st in Mountain Lodge Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery

Main Character: Misty Murphy, new owner of the Mountaintop Lodge

Setting: Modern day, Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb: "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."

My Thoughts:  Features Misty Murphy as a newly divorced and just turned fifty amateur sleuth, a hunky handyman named Rocky, a new age housekeeper, and a diner owner as her new best friend. The characters were all fun and relatable. A dog named Molasses and cat called Yeti are delightful additions. This debut novel has a basic whodunit plot with a lodge full of suspects that each have motive or opportunity. The setting is stellar and adds to the storyline. I was engaged and read through it every chance I had. As the first book, Misty guesses everyone at the lodge at one point, but she learns as she goes. I enjoyed this book with its mountain setting and the characters rounded out the story.  I will be back for more.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 

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Monday, August 22, 2022

Review - The Woman in the Library

 "[The Woman in the Library] is a mystery-within-a-mystery, with the clues in Freddie's story becoming more intriguing as Leo's advice becomes more sinister. The two story lines work together beautifully, amping up the suspense before reaching a surprising conclusion." ― Booklist

This is the mystery of the moment, getting a lot of attention and praise.  See what my thoughts are on the unique plot and writing.

Author: Sulari Gentill

Copyright: June 2022 (Poisoned Pen Press) 292 pgs

Series: Stand Alone Mystery

Sensuality: Off-page intimacy

Mystery Sub-genre: Suspenseful Mystery

Main Characters: Freddie and Hannah, authors

Setting: Modern day, Boston primarily

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb: "Ned Kelly award winning author Sulari Gentill sets this mystery-within-a-mystery in motion with a deceptively simple, Dear Hannah, What are you writing? pulling us into theornate reading room at the Boston Public Library.

In every person's story, there is something to hide...

The tranquility is shattered by a woman's terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who'd happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer."

My Thoughts:

The novel has an interesting approach: 1) A mystery writer, Hannah, in Australia is writing a novel set in Boston.  Hannah corresponds with Leo in Boston to get details of the city and locals correct.  We get a chapter of Hannah's murder mystery and the next chapter is Leo's email replies which start to take a strange turn.

2) Hannah's actual manuscript is based on Freddie, a female writer, who goes to the Boston Public Library seeking inspiration for her book.  After hearing a horrific scream from somewhere inside the library, Freddie and the three people she was sitting near strike up a conversation and eventually form an unlikely friendship.  A few hours later a woman is found murdered in the Library.  As their friendship solidifies, something is off among the foursome.  But Freddie is getting seriously involved with one of the group.

It seems like this approach would be confusing, but it actually flowed quiet well.  I was invested in Hannah's manuscript and got absorbed in that story, while the email critiques of the chapters were a slow burn and wouldn't have worked on their own. 

This was cleverly plotted with a different approach to the storyline. The manuscript mystery was engrossing while the Hannah and Leo storyline sneaks up on you.  This built tension while the Hannah's manuscript built suspicion as well.  The manuscript characters where well written and Freddie was easy to like.  I wasn't sure if I would like this story, but it hooked me and provided enough surprises in both storylines.  I don't know that I would heap as much praise as I see some pouring on it, but it is certainly a superb mystery that I highly recommend.  Some are labeling it "literary" but this is a solid mystery all the way around.

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 

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Monday, August 1, 2022

Review - Mrs. Morris and the Pot of Gold

 Salem, Massachusetts, B&B owner Charlene Morris will need the luck of the Irish—and the help of a ghost—to unveil a hooded killer 

First book in the series is Mrs. Morris and the Ghost (click here

Author: Traci Wilton

Copyright: Aug 2022 (Kensington Books) 306 pgs

Series: 6th in Salem B&B Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal cozy mystery, amateur Sleuth

Main Character: Charlene Morris, new B&B owner

Setting: Modern day, Salem, Massachusetts

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb: "Charlene has hired a van to ferry her B&B guests to an all-you-can-eat corned beef and cabbage dinner hosted by Salem’s Irish community at the Ancient Order of Hibernians club—but she should have booked a hearse. It’s never a good sign when the family black sheep drunkenly crashes a party by punching the guy dressed as a leprechaun. But things go from troublesome to fatal when Charlene stumbles upon a second brawl in an upper room—and this fight Connor Gallagher loses, his anonymous assailant rushing past Charlene, hidden by a hoodie.

 Now Detective Sam Holden has another homicide on his hands, with Charlene as the only eyewitness. Even if she can’t give the police sketch artist much to go on, Charlene is determined to ID the murderer, with the help of Dr. Jack Strathmore, the charming ghost who haunts her B&B. The answer lies in the motive, and to uncover that sleuth and spook will need to shine a light on Connor’s shady past—before the killer pulls another Irish goodbye . . ." 

Charlene, previously of Chicago, still misses her deceased husband but she has settled into her new life in historic Salem as a B&B owner. Jack Strathmore is the extremely handsome ghost who owned the family mansion and chose to stay with Charlene when he could have "gone to the light".  Their relationship is enough for both of them at the moment.  Will Johnson and Minnie, her small staff, are delightful as grounds maintenance and cook/housekeeper.  Avery is a teen who works part-time and has become like family to Charlene.  Detective Sam Holden is six foot and resembles the actor Sam Elliot, and is fond of Charlene but waiting for her grieving to end.  Silva is her plush white cat who is a sweet cat with little antics.  To complicate things further, Charlene's parents come for a surprise visit.  Charlene and her mother historically have a contentious relationship, so she isn't happy to see them.

The setting of Salem wasn't utilized particularly. Rather, the Irish annual celebration takes center stage in this outing.  The investigation takes place in and around caring for and entertaining her B&B guests.  The plot has some meaty aspects and the murderer isn't easy to detect.  There is plenty going on and keeps the readers interest.  The climax was nail biting and quite suspenseful.  

This is a perfect mix of tenacious heroine, flirty ghost, well developed murder mystery, and spot on writing.  This is a cozy goodness and the Jack makes a charming ghost for the ideal entertaining mystery.  I am now on a mission to read the ealier books I've missed.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

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Saturday, July 9, 2022

Review - Claws For Suspicion

I have reviewed this authors other works such as Her Veiled Magic series (click here)  and her Baba Yaga series (click here) that were great.  This is the third in her new cozy mystery series and I jumped at the chance to read and review the newest addition.

Prior books in the series:
1) Furbidden Fatality (click here
2) Doggone Deadly (click here)

Author: Deborah Blake

Copyright: May 2022 (Berkley) 285 pgs

Series: 3rd in Catskills Pet Rescue Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery, Pet themed mystery

Main Characters: Kari Stuart, owner of the Serenity Sanctuary

Setting: Contemporary, Lakeview New York

Obtained Through: Publisher (Netgalley) for honest review

Book Blurb: "Kari Stuart is finally starting to relax into her role as the new owner of the Serenity Sanctuary and is looking forward to the various fun autumn activities in the beautiful Catskills town of Lakeview, like the annual Oktoberfest celebration. It’s time for friends and quality bonding with handsome vet Angus McCoy. Until the unexpected arrival of her unpleasant ex-husband, Charlie Smith.

He comes bearing a shocking revelation—the paperwork on their divorce never went through, and they are still married. Worse yet, he thinks this entitles him to half of her lottery winnings—although he'll happily take partial ownership of the sanctuary instead. Kari isn’t sure if he’s telling the truth, or if it’s just another one of Charlie’s lies. 
But things go from bad to worse when an unexpected death makes Kari the main suspect in a murder investigation. Will she and Queenie be able to find the real killer and keep the home they’ve built at the sanctuary safe, or is their string of luck finally tapped out?" 

My Thoughts:
Kari Stuart is a kind hearted young woman who works hard to save a pet rescue and shelter. She is easy to relate to and cheer for, particularly against her money-grubbing ex.  Suzanne, Kari's loyal bestie, is a dog groomer and supportive friend with lavender colored hair who lends her time and talent to the shelter effort.  

The volunteers at the shelter are wonderful recurring characters: Volunteer Sara Hanover is a retired ninth-grade English teacher who is somewhat a mother figure.  Bryn, a younger volunteer training to be a Vet-Tech, takes time to warm up to people.  Angus McCoy is a local veterinarian who volunteers his time to the shelter and is the potential love interest.

The story centers around a juicy mystery, relatable heroine you feel invested in, interesting supporting characters, a refreshing love interest I enjoy, and a delightful writing style.  The icing and cherry on top are all the heartwarming animals throughout the book.  This is cozy mystery gold.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Mystery Movie Review - Dark Winds

If you haven't been watching the new AMC adaptation of Tony Hillerman's multi-award-winning novels, you are missing out.  Although in 2002 there were three movie adaptations done for PBS (starring the incredible Wes Studi and Adam Beach) based on Hillerman's books, this AMC series has Robert Redford and George RR Martin, as well as the lead actor as executive producers and it shows.  It is already slated for season two in 2023. Watch on AMC+, VUDU, or AmazonPrime.

The series is based on the characters and books of Tony Hillerman that center around the Navajo Tribal police on the reservation in New Mexico.  Set in 1970s, it mixes police procedure with native culture and mysticism against the backdrop of a vast and beautiful but harsh landscape.  Thus far season one is essentially one book over several episodes which allows for more in-depth development of the story.  The FBI are pursuing bank robbers who escaped onto the reservation by helicopter while Lietenant Joe Leaphorn is investigating a double homicide, contending with his ongoing grief over his son's death, and a new city-fied officer assigned to him who he doesn't trust.  As the investigation deepens, the twists and mysticism complicate things.

I classify it as a Native American police procedural, but many classify this as more a psychological police thriller.

Rating: 100% Rotten Tomatoes / 88% Audience
Director: Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals) and Sanford Bookstaver
Filming locations: Santa Fe, EspaƱola, Tesuque Pueblo, Cochiti Pueblo, and the Navajo Nation.

  • Zahn McClarnon as Joe Leaphorn, 
  • Kiowa Gordon as Jim Chee, 
  • Jessica Matten as Bernadette Manuelito, 
  • Deanna Allison as Emma Leaphorn, 
  • Noah Emmerich as FBI Special Agent Whitover

"McClarnon delivers an intense, if not smoldering performance, that is wonderfully complemented by actors Kiowa Gordon and Jessica Matten. A beautifully done series. ‘Dark Winds’ is the best show on AMC since ‘The Walking Dead’” Vincent Schilling for Native Viewpoint

" 'Dark Winds' may seem similar to other detective shows but it’s more than that. With well-written and sharply defined characters, plus an invigorating and tightly wound story, it’ll be hard to wait a week for each episode to drop." Kristen Lopez for indieWire 

"As both a period piece and a cultural primer for an unabashedly Native American story told through a Native American lens, Dark Winds successfully gives audiences a different perspective and backdrop for a crime drama."  Tara Bennett for IGN Movies

"Dark Winds feels like it will deftly combine a standard murder mystery, tribal traditions and difficulties, and supernatural elements, tied together by a great performance by McClarnon." Joel Keller for Decider

The fact that this production has Native writers, Native crew, Native talent and Native directors and producers and still consult with Navajo (Dineh) persons for accurace I think gives the adaptation amazing authenticity and depth.  Zahn McClarnon (Fargo, WestWorld, Longmire) is stellar in his portrayal of Joe Leaphorn and he is a large part of the success of scenes grabbing me so deeply.  All the acting is well done.  The script is taut and draws you into the story and the people.  The setting is integral and becomes a character in itself.

The characters are introduced differently than the books, but Anne Hillerman (Tony's daughter who has continued the novels) has okayed the differences and assures that the characters themselves weren't changed significantly.  

The details of the 70s are ever present while the camerawork is deft and modern.  The mysticism and eerie touches are fantastic and true to the novels.  I highly recommend to police procedural fans, but especially to anyone who enjoys any Native American mystery novels or those that incorporate wilderness and sweeping vistas.  If you are a Hillerman fan, it is a "must-see."  I will have a hard time waiting until next year for season two.


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