Monday, May 21, 2018

Kaye Wilkinson Barley's Meanderings and Muses

When there's not enough time in the day to blog because I'm on review deadline for a journal, I like to share pieces from some of my friends. Kaye Wilkinson Barley is one of my best friends, my roommate for Bouchercons and travel companion to Paris. She has a fairly new feature on her site, Meanderings and Muses. It's called "From Inside My Book Fort". Kaye and guests read from favorite titles. I've read there a couple times. Kaye reads there, and some of her other friends have as well. We're reading from books we've enjoyed over the years. Today, I'm sending you to Kaye's website, if you have time.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Have You Heard? Murder Past Due by Miranda James

I want to make a couple comments before Sandie Herron's review. I'm back from New York City, and I'll eventually have a couple blog posts about the trip. Some of you might appreciate the photos of the exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters. It's a joint exhibit: "Heavenly Bodies and the Catholic Imagination". I have other photos as well, but a number from this exhibition. It takes a little while to download all the photos and write the pieces.

In the meantime, I'm always grateful that Sandie Herron contributes some reviews of audio books. I probably reviewed all of Miranda James' Cat in the Stacks mysteries, but that doesn't mean I addressed how the books work for those who like to listen to them. Sandie does that for us. Thank you, Sandie.


Murder Past Due

Series: Cat in the Stacks Mystery Book 1
Written by Miranda James
Narrated by Erin Bennett
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 46 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: February 25, 2014

I very much enjoyed Miranda James's (Dean James) first entry in the Cat in the Stacks series MURDER PAST DUE.  This was a relatively simple story that gained speed as it unfolded.  By the end, we had been treated to several twists and surprises that pointed to an unlikely conclusion.

Taking place in the college town of Athena, Mississippi, we are introduced to Charlie Harris, who is widowed and whose adult children are on their own.  Living in a large home, Charlie took in boarders who attended Athena College.  This semester just one boarder - Justin Wardlaw, son of school and college classmate Julia Wardlaw - lived with Charlie and his cat.  Diesel was a Maine Coon cat; therefore he was large among cat breeds.  In fact, Charlie almost always took Diesel wherever he went bound by a harness and leash.

Another classmate of Charlie and Julia, Godfrey Priest, had gone on to become a famous and popular author.  He returns to Athena for several reasons.  He is to do a signing of his new book just published.  He also wants to donate his "papers" to the college where Charlie was the head archivist.  A dinner was planned to thank Godfrey for his donation; however, he never made it. Several people stopped by to see Priest, with his final visitor being Charlie Harris, who found Godfrey dead in his hotel room.

First we discover that Charlie’s boarder Justin is Godfrey's son from an affair he and Julia had many years ago.  From there clues began popping up, or at least now that there was a murder to solve, they became more apparent.  If I shared them now, there would be no reason for you to enjoy this cozy mystery.

There were some things that strained believability.  Justin acted younger than 18, but then he's just been told that the only father he ever knew is not his father and then his biological father, Godfrey Priest, is killed, all in one day.  Charlie tries to help since he knew everyone, but his involvement was unnaturally formal and friendly at the same time.  On getting to know Charlie better, we discover that he is a southern gentleman which explains the importance of proper manners to him.  Julia was around a bit too often, hovering over Justin.  When the Will was read, Julia wanted to know how much was in the estate, in dollars, a rude question at the time.

While there might have been some flaws, I felt the clues to the murderer were well placed and plausible.  Their presentation was unpredictable yet believable.  When we learn more behind the motives, clues came together to support the final resolution, even though my jaw dropped once or twice on the way.  

A great first mystery in the Cat in the Stacks series.  I would enjoy seeing Charlie and Diesel in a certain sequel.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe

For a while, Mary Alice Monroe wrote one of her Beach House books every five years. I'll admit, it always took time for me to remember the family and the relationships. Fortunately for those of us who love to go back to the Isle of Palms, Beach House Reunion was published only one year after Beach House for Rent. Three years have passed, and it's time for the Rutledge women to once more return to the refuge of Primrose Cottage on the Isle of Palms.

Cara Rutledge inherited Primrose Cottage from her mother, the island's original turtle lady, Miss Lovie. She inherited neighbors, and the shelter of the cottage that has gone through hurricanes, love and death. Now, three years after her beloved husband's death, Cara has quit her job and returns, bringing one-year-old Hope, the daughter she adopted. But, Cara discovers it's hard to work at home and take care of a baby. Fortunately, her niece, Linnea, has learned it's hard to be a recent college graduate without a job and live with her parents. Her aunt's need for a nanny coincides perfectly with Linnea's need to escape the family home in Charlotte.

Summer on Isle of Palms is always a special time. It's turtle nesting season. Lovie's greatest gift to the women in the family, and the friends of the family, was her passion for the ocean and its creatures, especially the turtles. It's also the time that Cara and Linnea find the strength and support they need, men who share their love for the South Carolina Lowcountry and island life. Monroe entwines the story of the turtles and their life cycle with the story of the Rutledge women. While men in the family can be demanding, angry, and, sometimes abusive, the women find the source of their strength and life on the island.

While summer is the time to gather strength, September brings storms, both in nature and in the Rutledge family. Hurricane Irma will bring changes to everyone's life, violence that was foreshadowed in the book. It's going to take the beach and the strong Rutledge women to change the course of the family.

If you haven't read the previous four books in the series, I'd suggest you go back and meet Lovie and her daughter, Cara, for the first time in The Beach House. Don't worry if you can't, though. The other books will reintroduce you. But, be prepared. These are emotional stories of mothers and daughters, close friends, and the strong bonds formed by women who need and support each other. They're stories that are dependent on nature, ones that emphasize the importance of the connection to life with nature. And, I cried through the entire last two chapters of Beach House Reunion.

It's a book that's filled with ocean life, passion, and family love. Beach House Reunion offers shelter. If you read it, seeing island life as a refuge, you may end up in tears as well.

Mary Alice Monroe's website is

Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe. Gallery Books, 2018. ISBN 9781501193293, 384p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A 1920s Giveaway

This week's contest features two mysteries set in the 1920s, one in India, and one in England. I think you'll enjoy these books, if you win.

Abir Mukherjee's second mystery, A Necessary Evil, is set in India. And, let me assure you, you don't need to have read the first book, A Rising Man. I hadn't read the first when I reviewed this. Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant "Surrender-Not" Banerjee of the Calcutta Police Force investigate the assassination of a Maharajah's son. It's an intricately plotted, elaborate mystery, atmospheric and dramatic. Wyndham, the narrator, is honest about his flaws. He's a brooding, complex character. But, there's also a great deal of humor in this story.

Or, you can enter to win a series debut. Barbara Cleverly's Fall of Angels is the first Detective Inspector Redfyre Investigates mystery. Set in Cambridge in 1923, it introduces Detective Inspector John Redfyre, an educated veteran of the Great War. He's the perfect detective on the scene to investigate when a young woman, a trumpeter, suffers from a near fatal fall at a Christmas concert. This is a mystery of its time, with suffragettes and music and changes in society.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries.  Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win A Necessary Evil" or "Win Fall of Angels." Please include your name and mailing address. The contest will end Thursday, May 24 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What Are You Reading?

Oh, my gosh! I feel as if I let you all down. I thought I had already posted What Are You Reading? It's probably too late in the day, but feel free to jump right in. What are you reading or listening to?

I'm in New York City. Would you believe I left the book I'm reading on the table at home? Yes, I do have a couple others with me, which I haven't cracked, but I would have read that on the plane if I'd had it. Oh, well.

I'm sorry! I know you're all going to tell me that's okay, but I'm disappointed you couldn't drop in and share your reading this week.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On Our Way

My sister, Christie, and I are heading to New York City today. Well, Nashville to the airport, first, and then New York. It's my latest Broadway trip. I really wanted to see "Carousel". We have tickets to three other shows, and we hope to get to the Met and the Cloisters to see the "Heavenly Bodies" exhibit.

So, there will be no blog on Wednesday this week. Thursday is "What Are You Reading?" Friday, I'm launching a new giveaway. We'll be home on Friday, so you can expect pictures, probably on Sunday, unless I have time to do some writing for Saturday. We'll see.

Chat soon!

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Shameful Murder by Cora Harrison

Sometimes, you come across a book that makes you go back to the beginning of a series. Cora Harrison's Burren mysteries, set in 16th century Ireland, just never caught on with me. But, when I stumbled across her Reverend Mother mysteries, I was hooked. A Shameful Murder is the first in the series, set in the 1920s in Cork, Ireland. The books are historical mysteries, and some of the bit characters were actual people. Ireland's Civil War is over, but the Republican Party is not happy with the state of politics, and there's still gunshots and murder in the streets. But, it's Reverend Mother, caught up in the problems of Cork, that is the most intriguing character.

Reverend Mother Aquinas finds the body of a dead girl in the garden of St. Mary's of the Isle. At first, she assumes the girl was washed up there by the recent flooding, but she and one of her former students, Sergeant Patrick Cashman of the civic guards, both notice the bruises on the girl's neck. And, she isn't dressed as one of the ordinary people of Cork. Both Patrick and Reverend Mother recognize the young woman's dress as a ball gown, probably from the Merchants' Ball the night before. But, what is the daughter of a wealthy merchant doing dead in the convent garden?

That's a question another one of Reverend Mother's former students asks as well. When Eileen O'Donovan climbs over the wall, she's there it two roles. She's now a member of the Republican Party, checking to ensure no one blames them for the death. And, she's a journalist who writes anonymous pieces for the newspaper. Eileen is curious about the story behind the death.

Although a wealthy tea merchant claims the body as his daughter, Patrick has his doubts. The family may want this ruled a suicide, but Patrick, Reverend Mother, and the doctor who handled the body all testify about the bruise and their doubts. Now, Reverend Mother, a woman with her own past amongst the wealthy families, will have to nose around in places where Patrick might not be welcome.

A Shameful Murder is a compelling story that combines history with a mystery. Reverend Mother and her former students have connections throughout Cork, so they're able to move through the city and question different segments of the population. And, they're able to move through the city on rescue missions, when necessary.

As I said, it's Reverend Mother who intrigues me. She comes from a wealthy background, but chose to join the convent. She's now in a powerful position in Cork, and she's well-known there. In her seventies, she's well aware of her own faults, but she's envious of someone like Eileen, a young woman with possibilities that young women of Reverend Mother's day never had.

Come for the mystery. But, I'm guessing, if you like the series, it's Reverend Mother who will bring you back. She's a strong character living in a difficult time in history. If the next four books in this ongoing series are as riveting as this one, I've found a historical series that's gripping and engaging.

Cora Harrison's website is

A Shameful Murder by Cora Harrison. Severn House, 2015. ISBN 9780727885111 (hardcover), 248p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin is going to be the guest of honor at Poisoned Pen's September Mystery Conference. It's a two-day conference, and it's a celebration of Rankin's thirty years of publishing in the United States. Here's the link to information.

That also means it's time I picked up some of Rankin's Rebus mysteries. I'll admit, I won't get through many of them by September 2, but I'll have read a few and have the flavor of the series. Of course, I started with the first one, Knots and Crosses.

Meet John Rebus. He's forty-one, and has been a police detective in Edinburgh for fifteen years. He's divorced, and his daughter, Samantha lives with his ex-wife. He's not close to his brother, Michael, who is a hypnotist as their father was. There's not much more we know about Rebus at this point, although he enlisted when he was eighteen, and his attempt to try for the Special Air Service didn't work out.

And, Rebus is receiving odd anonymous notes with pieces of knotted string. While he, along with most of the Edinburgh force, work on the case of missing young girls who later turn up dead, these notes are just an annoyance. It's Rebus' work that produces the first clue to the killer. And, it's Rebus' past that may produce the answer.

Rankin's first Rebus mystery introduces an intriguing character who has been popular since the first book came out in 1987. I know thousands of people before me have been caught by Rebus' name,  a name for a puzzle itself. Rebus is a hard-working, hard-drinking, and hard-living police officer who yearns for love and the family he lost. And, he may not be the best police officer, but he's an intelligent one. Rebus undoubtedly became popular because of his flaws and his persistence. If he was perfect, he wouldn't be as popular with readers.

Although I've never been to Edinburgh, Rankin allows the reader to prowl the streets of the city with his police detective. The Edinburgh that lives on these pages undoubtedly grows even more familiar with future books. It's satisfying to know I have twenty-two more books, twenty-three with the October release of In a House of Lies. I'm sure I'll have time before September to get through a few more of these mysteries that combine a police investigation with a character study.

Ian Rankin's website is

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin. St. Martin's. 1987. ISBN 0312956738 (paperback), 228p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Better Off Read by Nora Page

I'm always up for a new mystery featuring a librarian or library. Nora Page's Better Off Read involves a bookmobile and a seventy-five-year-old librarian, Cleo Watkins.

Catalpha Springs, Georgia's mayor, Jeb Day, isn't interested in repairing the library's roof after a tree damages it during a storm. He'd rather use the city's money to build a fishing pier and turn the the town into a sport fishing destination. So, Cleo and the library cat, Rhett Butler, take to the roads in the only remaining library, an aging school bus called "Words on Wheels". Cleo hopes to drum up community support for the library.

The longest standing member of the library board, Buford Krandall, might be able to help with support. Cleo's a little worried about Krandall who has been checking out all kinds of books about getting away with murder. His latest DIY project pours mud into Pancake Spring, affecting the Pancake Mill's business. It's Krandall as a victim rather than a killer that Cleo has to worry about. And, her best friend, Mary-Rose Garland, owner of the Pancake Mill, is the primary suspect when Cleo finds Buford Krandall dead.

"Cleo's skills in organization, research, and people-reading had proved useful for solving problems in the past." If the local good ol' boys, the police chief and the mayor, are going to pick on Mary-Rose as the killer, it's going to be up to Cleo to find the real murderer. And, Mary-Rose's arrest only ups the ante.

Unfortunately for my love of library mysteries, the first in this series is a little too cluttered. There's a large cast of quirky characters, and it's hard to keep them all straight. But, there's some wonderful sounding Southern food. If you're looking for bookmobile mysteries, maybe you should try Laurie Cass' Bookmobile Cat mysteries. If it's library mysteries, try Miranda James or Jenn McKinlay. For small-town, homespun library stories, Ashton Lee's Cherry Cola Book Club series might work. Page just needs to work on cutting down the cast of characters because Cleo herself is a strong-willed, sassy amateur sleuth.

Nora Page's website is

Better Off Read by Nora Page. Crooked Lane Books, 2018. ISBN 9781683316435 (hardcover), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Winners and No Contest this week

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. David C. of Granger, IN and Jeanne P. from Bristol, VA won the copies of Antique Blues. Date with Malice is going to Karen B. from Bloomington, MN and Charlotte W. from Covington, GA. They're going out today.

There's no contest this week, because I'll be out of town most of next week. Check back next Friday for the next giveaway.

Thank you!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

What Are You Reading?

It's Thursday! I'm going to be in an important meeting for part of the day, so I won't be around mid-day, but I'll start out with all of you, and catch up.

I'm not going to talk about what I'm reading today. Instead, I'm going to talk about awards. I'm always happy to see Louise Penny nominated. She writes my favorite mystery series. And, Lori Rader-Day's The Day I Died is up for an Anthony. But, don't you wonder sometimes, when you see the same books on all of the award nomination lists? What did we miss?

I end every year with my lists of favorites read. I always say these are just my favorites, not the "best of" list. And, Louise Penny and Lori Rader-Day's 2017 books were both on that list. But, so was Craig Johnson. He never writes the same book twice, yet has a cast of beloved characters. And, his language is beautiful. I loved D.M. Quincy's historical mystery, Murder in Mayfair, and historicals seldom win awards. Then there's Ellery Adams. The Agatha Awards honor traditional mysteries, but Adams seldom appears on the nominations lists.

I know. As a reader, I did get to vote for some of the awards. As in any awards, some books get overlooked while the same authors or books get picked in one year. Maybe they are the best books of the year. Maybe they're the ones that everyone read because they had the most buzz.

I have a proposal for you. You can either talk about the books you're reading and listening to, as we do every week. We do always want to know.  Or, you can tell us what crime novel or novels were overlooked this year that would go on your best of 2017 list. Either way, I'm curious!

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Anthony Award Nominations

I wanted to share this today because we might want to talk about some of the books for "What Are You Reading" on Thursday, if you've read any of them. Congratulations to all of the nominees!

The nominations for the 2018 Anthony Awards were announced today. The Anthonys, named for critic and author Anthony Boucher, will be presented at this year's Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in St. Petersburg, Florida. Attendees at last year's convention in Toronto, and those registered for this year's convention, nominated titles published in 2017.

Winners will be announced at the Anthony Awards ceremony on Saturday, September 8, 2018.

Nominees for the 2018 Anthony Awards are:

  • The Late Show by Michael Connelly
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
  • Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
  • Glass Houses by Louise Penny
  • The Force by Don Winslow
  • Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett
  • She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper
  • The Dry by Jane Harper
  • Ragged; or, The Loveliest Lies of All by Christopher Irvin
  • The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka
  • Uncorking a Lie by Nadine Nettmann
  • Bad Boy Boogie by Thomas Pluck
  • What We Reckon by Eryk Pruitt
  • The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day
  • Cast the First Stone by James W. Ziskin
  • Give Up the Dead (Jay Porter #3) by Joe Clifford
  • Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch #20) by Michael Connelly
  • Y is for Yesterday (Kinsey Millhone #25) by Sue Grafton
  • Glass Houses (Armand Gamache #13) by Louise Penny
  • Dangerous Ends (Pete Fernandez #3) by Alex Segura
  • The Trial of Madame Pelletier by Susanna Calkins from Malice Domestic 12: Mystery Most Historical
  • God’s Gonna Cut You Down by Jen Conley from Just to Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash
  • My Side of the Matter by Hilary Davidson from Killing Malmon
  • Whose Wine Is It Anyway by Barb Goffman from 50 Shades of Cabernet
  • The Night They Burned Miss Dixie’s Place by Debra Goldstein from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, May/June 2017
  • A Necessary Ingredient by Art Taylor from Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea
  • Just to Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash, Joe Clifford, editor
  • Killing Malmon, Dan & Kate Malmon, editors
  • Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea, Andrew McAleer & Paul D. Marks, editors
  • Passport to Murder, Bouchercon Anthology 2017, John McFetridge, editor
  • The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir, Gary Phillips, editor
  • From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon by Mattias Boström
  • The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards
  • Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
  • Chester B. Himes: A Biography by Lawrence P. Jackson
  • Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction by Jessica Lourey

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston

Caroline Preston, the author of The War Bride's Scrapbook, actually had an earlier book that was similar. While that book centered on World War II, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures, was about a young woman in the twenties. As in the later book, Preston used articles and clippings to tell Frankie's story.

Frances "Frankie" Pratt graduates from high school in 1920. She was valedictorian, and always wanted to be a writer. Her mother gives her a scrapbook as a graduation present, and Frankie digs up her late father's Corona typewriter. Although she was accepted at Vassar on a scholarship, Frankie knows she'll still have expenses, so decides to save to get a nursing license. But, while she's home, she's attracted to a returning vet, Captain James Pingree. Once her mother finds out about their escapades, she finds a way for Frankie to go to Vassar.

While the book covers Frankie's college years, it's the following years that are more fascinating. After graduation, Frankie heads to New York, hoping to land a job with a magazine. When a romantic friendship goes wrong, she heads to Paris. It's there she runs into James Pingree again. She's living the life she wanted, meeting authors and working at a magazine, until her mother's health calls her home. And, home is where Frankie finds success and a surprise.

Greenwich Village, Paris. Preston introduces both of them in clippings from the 1920s. It's a fun period for a scrapbook. I found it fun to see Shakespeare & Company, the book stalls along the Seine, Notre Dame. And, because Preston's godmother was Sylvia Beach, owner of Shakespeare & Company, she had a special connection to Paris at that time.

I would have been a little more impressed with The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt if I hadn't recently read The War Bride's Scrapbook. But, the timing was my fault, not that of the author.

Caroline Preston's website is

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston. ECCO (HarperCollins), 2011. ISBN 9780061966903 (hardcover), 240p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Beyond the Pale by Clare O'Donohue

Clare O'Donohue wrote Beyond the Pale just for me. Well, not really. We've never met, and we hadn't
corresponded before I read this book. But, she sent her two reluctant spies all over Ireland, most of the time to places I've been. It felt as if I was returning to Ireland with the first in the World of Spies mystery series.

Hollis and Finn Larsson are married tenured professors at a university in Michigan. While Finn is content to teach his classes, spend time with his students, and watch baseball games, after fifteen years of marriage, Hollis is bored. She's looking for a little excitement when she agrees to meet an old flame. She knew David Agnelli when they both trained to join the CIA. David worked for the CIA, and now Interpol. Hollis missed Finn, returned and married him. But, David has an offer. It's just that Finn has already turned down the CIA.

He only wants Finn to pretend to be an expert on a Brendan Behan manuscript, pick it up in Dublin, and, hopefully, save an undercover agent's life. For Hollis, it's a chance at excitement. Finn only talked of places because he read about them. Now, Hollis pushes him to go. One adventure. How dangerous can it be? Well, let's see. Their contact never shows. Someone tries to steal Hollis' bag, and she's forced to fight back. And, a gentleman they talk to in the theater is murdered in front of them. The couple is followed, accosted, and forced to continue their "adventure".

And, Hollis? "How could she ever have seen this as a little adventure, a way to re-spark her marriage and feel; if only for a moment, like a woman of mystery?"

There's magic in Beyond the Pale, though. As they run from Dublin to Galway, and end up in the ruins of a castle one night, Finn and Hollis encounter the magic and people of Ireland. The book that starts a little slow, becomes a rapid-paced adventure. The pair find themselves forced to work as a couple, depending only on each other. Think True Lies.

If Nick and Nora Charles became spies, they'd be Finn and Hollis Larsson. Beyond the Pale is for armchair travelers who appreciate some spice with their travels. It's going to be fun to explore Clare O'Donohue's new World of Spies series.

Clare O'Donohue's website is

Beyond the Pale by Clare O'Donohue. Midnight Ink. 2018. ISBN 9780738756509 (paperback), 360p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Cake & Punishment by Maymee Bell

If you like Tonya Kappes' humor and Southern knowledge in her mysteries, you'll welcome her debut as Maymee Bell, author of Cake & Punishment. It's once again set in Kentucky, and features a quirky cast of strong Southern women. It's a delightful kickoff to the Southern Cake Baker series.

Sophia Cummings hasn't lived in Rumsford, Kentucky for ten years. She's a pastry chef in New York City, and even though she's back, she's telling everyone she just needed a break. Actually, she broke up with her cheating boyfriend, but she's planning to return to her job. Even so, when she runs into her distraught best friend from high school, she agrees to help Madison. She'll make the wedding cake, using the kitchen at the country club where the wedding is scheduled.

When Sophia and Madison arrive to check out the kitchen, Madison learns she has bigger problems than the cake. The chef is dead, murdered, and Sheriff Carter Kincaid has his eye on the general manager of the country club. No matter how hot Carter is, Sophia knows he's wrong. That chef was not killed by his own frying pan.

Yes, Cake & Punishment is another cozy mystery series with an amateur sleuth who returns home after breaking up with a cheating boyfriend. But Bell's cast of characters is believable and authentic. The character-driven mystery is filled with amusing, gossipy Southern women. Despite the formulaic launch of a cozy series, Cake & Punishment feels fresh. Readers who enjoy Jenn McKinlay's Cupcake Bakery mysteries may want to try out this one.

Maymee Bell's website is

Cake & Punishment by Maymee Bell. Crooked Lane Books, 2018. ISBN 9781683315711 (hardcover), 320p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

No Cure for the Dead by Christine Trent

Mysteries featuring historical figures turned amateur sleuths are as popular as ever. Now, Florence Nightingale is forced to investigate the death of a nurse in Christine Trent's historical mystery, No Cure for the Dead. Trent, who writes the Lady of Ashes series featuring a female undertaker at this same period of time, skillfully blends actual people with fictional characters.

With the support of her best friend and her father, and few others, Florence Nightingale becomes the superintendent of the Establishment for Gentlewomen During Temporary Illness in 1853. She's horrified at the conditions at the hospital, and appalled at the lack of knowledge and the bearings of the women who are nurses there. She has plans for reform and education, but all those plans have to go on the back burner when she finds one of those nurses hanging in the library. Although the police say it was a suicide, Florence doesn't accept that verdict. Knowing her job and all of her hopes for the future are contingent on finding the truth, Florence turns amateur sleuth.

Because she's only been in her position for a week, Nightingale has little knowledge of her staff. She starts questioning them, and uncovers secrets. Everyone has them, even some of the committee members who hired her. But, who has she endangered by her questions? When she's pushed down the stairs, a young errand boy has an "accident", and another death occurs, Florence knows someone is worried. But, will she have time to find a murderer before she loses her job?

Those who enjoy historical mysteries will find the background and rich details fascinating. Trent's Author's Notes reveal the facts about the actual figures in the book, including Florence Nightingale herself. And, there is a foreshadowing of the future, with talk of war with Russian and Nightingale's concern for the medical conditions on the battlefields. This story, told by Nightingale, presents the background of her life, how she arrived at her position as superintendent of the hospital. It's those details, and the sobering facts about the hospital conditions that provide a realistic background for the mystery.

No Cure for the Dead introduces an intelligent amateur sleuth, one perfectly capable of analyzing the people and facts in front of her.

Christine Trent's website is

No Cure for the Dead by Christine Trent. Crooked Lane Books, 2018. ISBN 9781683315445 (hardcover), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews

The cover of Mary Kay Andrews' latest novel, The High Tide Club, would lead you to expect another
one of her enjoyable beach reads with a tight group of female friends and light humor. Wrong, in all aspects. Oh, there's a tight-knit group of friends in 1941, but they drift apart. The contemporary group of descendants never really gel.

In October 1941, three young women and a fourteen-year-old friend bury a man on Talisa Island off the Georgia coast. The story of that week is told throughout the book, in alternate chapters. Almost eighty years later, Josephine Bettendorf Warrick, who owns most of the island, wants to find her surviving friends, or their descendants. She hires a struggling attorney, Brooke Trappnell, to search for the women. Josephine has her reasons for hiring Brooke, but the ninety-nine-year-old woman never reveals them.

Brooke's desperate for work. The single mother has hospital bills for her three-year-old who broke his arm when he was playing. Once Brooke realizes Josephine wants her to find her friends or their children or grandchildren, and wants Brooke to fight the state over Talisa Island, she knows she's over her head. She reaches out to her mentor, Gabe Wynant, for help.

Brooke, Gabe, and all of the women, including Brooke's mother, Marie, gather at Talisa Island so Josephine can reveal her secrets. She intends for the women to inherit the island, but before she can finish her story, or sign her will, Josephine dies. Now, it's up to Brooke and two other women to dig into the past to find the truth.

The High Tide Club is not light and fun. Instead, it's a long, drawn out story with multiple storylines. A couple of those storylines come together, the 1941 account of the burial and the women who form "The High Tide Club" leads to the current investigation into Josephine's life. There are mysteries of paternity and death that tie them together. But, the story of Brooke's relationship with the father of her son seems to be an add-on, and one that ends abruptly without development.

I felt as if the book could have been cut in half. If I hadn't been reading it for a review, I would have quit when there was no action in the first 200 pages. On the other hand, a friend who normally doesn't care for Andrews' humorous beach books, really enjoyed this one. We all have different tastes. If you read The High Tide Club, I'd love to know what you think.

Mary Kay Andrews' website is

The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews. St. Martin's Press, 2018. ISBN 9781250126061 (hardcover), 448p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Winners and Sharing the Blues

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Penny T. from Klamath Falls, OR will receive A Funeral in Mantova. An Aegean April goes to Lisa B. from Camino, CA. The books are going out in the mail today.

If you check out the covers of both of this week's books, they're blue. One even has "Blues" in the title. Jane K. Cleland's Antique Blues features amateur sleuth and antiques expert Josie Prescott. Josie's friend, Mo, asks her to appraise a newly purchased rare Japanese woodblock print, and Mo's dad asks her to appraise his vintage Martin guitar. Then Mo is murdered. As always in this series, Josie works with friends, and the police, to find the killer.

Julia Chapman's Date with Malice is a Samson and Delilah mystery set in the Yorkshire Dales. One of the seniors from the local retirement home makes an appointment at the Dales Detective Agency to tell Samson O'Brien that someone is trying to hill her. Samson doesn't believe her, until a death and several incidents at the home finally makes him think she's right. He teams up with his landlord, Delilah Metcalfe, to infiltrate that community, and the local one, to find a killer.

Which "blue" mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Because there won't be any contest the following week, I'm giving away 2 copies of each book this week. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win Antique Blues" or "Win Date with Malice." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, May 10 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

What Are You Reading?

It's Thursday! Time to talk about what we're reading. I'm reading all kinds of books, but I'm closest to finishing The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston. She's the author of The War Bride's Scrapbook. This one has "full-color vintage memorabilia" throughout the book. Frankie Pratt has just arrived in Paris in 1926. I'll finish the book sometime over the weekend.

What are you reading or listening to this week? Thursday is my favorite day of the week on my blog. I love to "talk" about what we're reading.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The Otter of Death by Betty Webb

Teddy Bentley is back in the U.S. after her adventures in The Puffin of Death. And, the zookeeper is as courageous and sharp as ever in Betty Webb's latest Gunn Zoo Mystery, The Otter of Death. (And, check out that cover. One of the cutest I've ever seen.)

It's time for the annual otter count in Gunn Landing Harbor, and, despite her busy schedule, Teddy is a volunteer. She's happy to see one of her favorite otters, Maureen, but intrigued by Maureen's new tool. She's found a cell phone. Once Teddy retrieves it, she discovers it's still filming. And, it's last screen shows the face of a murder victim, Stuart Booth. Teddy calls the sheriff's department, but if rumors are to be believed, there are all kinds of women who might have wanted the Marine Biology instructor dead.

But, Teddy's fiance, Sheriff Joe Rejas, has a suspect in mind. Lila Conyers was one of the first women to complain about Booth sexually harassing her, fourteen or fifteen years earlier. Teddy doesn't believe that Lila is a killer, though. While Joe prefers that Teddy stay away from his murder investigation, Teddy is convinced her fellow liveboarder (on a houseboat) isn't responsible for Booth's death. There are all kinds of suspects. Which one shoots Teddy?

Betty Webb doesn't write cozy zoo mysteries. While the cover of the book may be adorable, the book delves into issues such as sexual harassment and problems with the coastal environment. And, the light, amusing tone of the story is deceiving. There are educational, informative elements about the behavior of animals. Teddy, as narrator, discusses those elements in the course of her day-to-day job at the zoo.

The Gunn Zoo mysteries combine weighty issues with Teddy's personal life. There are funny scenes with Teddy's mother, a wealthy woman who climbs higher each time she marries. In The Otter of Death, Teddy is struggling with details about her upcoming marriage. Why would Joe expect her to sell her beloved houseboat, the Merilee? And, as much as she likes her future mother-in-law, Teddy thinks her behavior is suspicious.

While I always enjoy starting with the first in the series, readers could start with The Otter of Death. But, why would you want to miss the previous four adventures with other zoo animals?

Betty Webb's website is

The Otter of Death by Betty Webb. Poisoned Pen Press, 2018. ISBN 9781464209901 (hardcover), 276p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

June Treasures in My Closet

There are so many June releases at home, especially crime fiction ones, that this may be a little overwhelming. And, because I worked on Sunday, I didn't have as much time as usual to get this ready. Here goes, though.

Stephanie Butland's The Lost for Words Bookshop is the first of two books this month about bookshops. (That usually sells me right there - bookshops.) Loved Carlew prefers books to people, and even has the first lines of novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. Into her hiding place - the bookstore where she works - comes a poet, a lover, and three suspicious deliveries. Someone has found out about her mysterious past. Will Loved survive her own heartbreaking secrets? (Release date is June 19.)

Tracy Clark's debut, Broken Places, is one of the best books I've read this year. As a Chicago police officer, Cass Raines took a bullet when an incompetent colleague messed up a tense confrontation with an armed suspect. Two years later, she's a private investigator. When Father Ray, a priest who helped raise her, asks her to look into problems at the church, she agrees. But, he refuses protection, and the next day, he and a teenager are found murdered in the church. The lead detective calls it theft gone wrong, but Cass disagrees, and starts her own investigation. (Release date is May 29, but I'm including it in June because it was scheduled as a "June release".)

Sheila Connolly launches the Victorian Village Mystery series with the enjoyable Murder at the Mansion. Kate Hamilton is laid off when a Japanese conglomerate buys the boutique hotel where she works. So she has the time to help when her hometown, on the verge of bankruptcy, asks her for suggestions. The huge Victorian mansion that belongs to the town offers possibilities. Those possibilities will have to wait until a murder is solved. Kate and the mansion's caretaker found the body of a town councilperson, a woman who was disliked by most of the town, including Kate. (Release date is June 26.)

If it's not bookshops, it's writers. The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) is a novel by Terri-Lynne DeFino. The Bar Harbor Home was established specifically for elderly writers needing a place to live in understated luxury, surrounded by congenial literary company. It's where literary giant Alfonse Caraducci ends up after forsaking life to pursue greatness. Now, he has writer's block. But, one of the staff members, a young woman whose face was destroyed in an accident, Cecibel, meets her favorite writer, and becomes Alfonse's muse. The Bar Harbor Home, "a place where the old are made young, the damaged are made whole, and anything is possible:. (Release date is June 12.)

A Study in Treason is Leonard Goldberg's second Daughter of Sherlock Holmes mystery. Dr. John Watson, Jr. tells the story of a locked room mystery involving Joanna, daughter of Sherlock Holmes, himself, and his father, Dr. John Watson, Sr. The executed original of a secret treaty between England and France, the French Treaty, has been stolen from a country estate, and Scotland Yard asks the trio to investigate. As the government gets impatient, Joanna devises a clever plan to trap the thief. (Release date is June 12.)

Matt Goldman brings back Minneapolis private detective Nils Shapiro in Broken Ice. When Shapiro is shot through the arm with an arrow, he knows he's getting closer to discovering what happened to a missing teenager, Linnea Engstrom. She could be anywhere, and someone doesn't want her to be found. As bodies start piling up, the clues lead Nils and his partner, Anders Ellegaard, north to a small town with secrets to hide. (Release date is June 12.)

Sarah J. Harris' The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder is the story of a thirteen-year-old boy with synesthesia - a condition that causes him to see colors when he hears sounds. Recently, Jasper has been haunted by a color he doesn't like or understand, the color of murder. He's convinced he's done something terrible to his new neighbor, Bee Larkham. As he revisits the events of the last few months, and struggles to untangle the knot of memories and colors, it seem there's someone out there determined to stop him. (Release date is June 12.)

Last Girl Gone is a debut mystery by J.G. Hetherton. It introduces investigative journalist Laura Chambers, back in her hometown after she was fired from the Boston Globe. When a young girl goes missing, and then another, she thinks she has the story she's been waiting for. After the girls' bodies are found, she's given a hint that she should research the past when the same kind of disappearances and murders haunted the community. (Release date is June 12.)

Annie Hogsett's sequel to the fun Too Lucky to Live, Murder to the Metal, brings back narrator Allie Harper and the man she loves, lottery winner Thomas Bennington III. The couple are hiding out in a rented mansion when they agree to help one of Allie's former co-worker's, a librarian who wants to know what happened to the man she loves. It's a search that threatens Allie and Tom's new life when they realize they'll always be a target because of Tom's money. (Release date is June 5.)

Death and a Pot of Chowder is a solid debut in a new series by Lea Wait, writing as Cornelia Kidd. Anna Winslow was quite satisfied with her quiet life on Maine's Quarry Island, where everyone knows their neighbors. But, she had no idea she has a half-sister. And, there are other secrets on the island. Even Anna's husband, Burt, is keeping secrets. That doesn't help when Burt's brother, Carl, is killed on his boat. Now, Anna teams up with her newly discovered sister, Izzie, to find a killer. (Release date is June 12.)

Geneva Chase is back in Thomas Kies' Darkness Lane. Geneva is a hard-drinking, hard-living reporter, trying to survive personal tragedy and career challenges as she raises a rebellious ward. On the crime beat, Geneva finds herself making dangerous choices relating to two seemingly unrelated crimes. A fifteen-year-old girl goes missing, along with her English teacher. And, an abused woman torched her sadistic husband. Twists and turns involve the possible sale of the newspaper, movie stars, diamond merchants, adultery, sex traffickers, and murder. And, Geneva realizes she's over her head. (Release date is June 5.)

The Bookshop of Yesterdays is Amy Meyerson's debut novel. Miranda Brooks grew up in the stacks of her eccentric Uncle Billy's bookstore, Prospero Books, solving the inventive scavenger hunts he created just for her. But, after Billy has a falling-out with Miranda's mother, she doesn't hear from him again until she's twenty-eight. Billy has died and left her Prospero Books, which is teetering on bankruptcy - and one final scavenger hunt. (Release date is June 12.)

I haven't read Oscar de Muriel's other books featuring "Nine-Nails" McGray and Inspector Ian Frey, but A Mask of Shadows caught my attention. Edinburgh, 1889. The Scottish Play is coming home, a new production of Macbeth with Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, and their assistant, Bram Stoker. But a grisly message is found smeared across the cobbles in blood, foretelling someone's demise. Frey believes it's a publicity stunt. McGray is betting the supernatural is at work. But, the duo must solve the mystery before the curtain rises. (Release date is June 5.)

Bryan Reardon's latest novel, The Real Michael Swann, is "part family drama, part tragic love story, and part disaster narrative". Julia Swann is on the phone with her husband, Michael, when the phone call goes dead. The the news rolls in. A bomb has gone off at Penn Station, where Michael was waiting for a train home. Julia is frantic about the man she loves. When someone finds a lyer she's posted, and tells her they may have seen her husband, Julia has more troubling questions. Did Michael survive the flyer? Why hasn't he contacted her? Was he the man she fell in love with? (Release date is June 12.)

Little Big Love marks Katy Regan's U.S. debut. Ten-year-old Zac Hutchinson collects facts, but no one will answer the question he wants most to know. Who is his father, and where did he go? When Zac's mother, Juliet, inadvertently admits that his dad is the only man she ever loved, Zac decides he's going to find him and deliver his mom the happily ever after she deserves. But, Liam Jones left for a reason. (Release date is June 12.)

Journalist Ellie Stone is caught up in the world of horse racing in Saratoga in James W. Ziskin's A Stone's Throw. After a fire at a deserted stud farm, Ellie is allowed in to walk through the sight. She and an officer find the remains of two bodies. Ellie's the one who suggests the small body may be a jockey, a suggestion that kicks off her investigation. (Release date is June 5.)

I warned you. These are all June releases that I either didn't have time or space to review. Some may appeal to you, or to me. I just didn't have the time or space for all of them. Enjoy!

Bleeding Darkness by Brenda Chapman (June 12)
Bimini Twist by Linda Greenlaw (June 26)
Call Me American: A Memoir by Abdi Nor Iften (June 19)
Treeborne by Caleb Johnson (June 5)
Providence by Caroline Kepnes (June 19)
Murder at the Grand Raj Palace by Vaseem Khan (June 12)
The Lavender Ladies Detective Agency: Death in Sunset Grove by Minna Lindgren (June 1)
There There by Tommy Orange (June 5)
Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris (June 19)
When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri (June 19)
The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida (June 12)

Monday, April 30, 2018

See Also Proof by Larry D. Sweazy

Larry D. Sweazy's mysteries are gloomy and dark. He's a master at creating atmosphere. And, this time, in the latest Marjorie Trumaine mystery, See Also Proof, he has a North Dakota winter as background. It's perfect for a feeling of isolation and loneliness.

Marjorie Trumaine is feeling isolated and lonely. Despite the fact that her husband, Hank, was bedridden before his death in October, she misses the time and conversation and love they shared. A January winter is not easy, even though she has her job as a book indexer. And, right now, she has regular visits from the Ladies Aid group who bring food and check on her. Even so, she'd rather be alone with her border collie, Shep, and her memories.

As part of the community, though, Marjorie feels compelled to help when Tina Rinkerman, a mentally challenged girl, goes missing in a storm. She takes food to the family, but, eventually insists she be allowed to search. She accompanies the new sheriff Guy Reinhardt, and they're the ones who come across the body of the local manager of the Red Owl grocery. He's in his car, shot three times. Now, there's a new widow, and she's the mother of three, with a fourth on the way.

This is Reinhardt's first big test as sheriff. He has to juggle a murder investigation while looking for a missing girl. Marjorie is feeling useless, just asked to visit with the new widow. She knows her true strength is in organizing information, so she starts her own index of her knowledge of the cases. And, then she's asked to run an errand for the sheriff, one that will put her in danger, from man and the elements.

Larry D. Sweazy has a gift for creating a lead character, and dropping them into dangerous, dark situations. And, his use of language enhances the atmosphere and the characters. Marjorie knew the dead grocer. "I couldn't consider a world without Nils Jacobsen. I had known the man all my life...Now I knew Nils's story, beginning, middle, and end."

Marjorie Trumaine. She's much younger than you would guess from reading about her. She's only in her mid-thirties, but she knows she inherited her strengths from her parents; persistence, patience, backbone. Those are all traits needed to survive on the North Dakota prairie, as the wife, then caretaker, then widow, of a wheat farmer. Those are also the traits that provide the grit she needs to deal with the January prairie storms, and the attack by an unknown enemy who knows Marjorie may learn the truth.

Each of Sweazy's Marjorie Trumaine mysteries leads to the next, but you can still start with See Also Proof. The words and atmosphere and truth in this masterfully written mystery seep into your soul.

Larry D. Sweazy's website is

See Also Proof by Larry D. Sweazy. Seventh Street Books, 2018. ISBN 9781633882799 (paperback),  250p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Tasting Paris by Clotilde Dusoulier

Look at the cover of Clotilde Dusoulier's Tasting Paris. Those are profiteroles, cream puffs filled with
ice cream and covered with chocolate. I had them in Paris, and they are to die for. Some of the other ninety-nine dishes in Dusoulier's book are too. Her book is subtitled "100 Recipes to Eat Like a Local". It's a magic escape book, filled with photos of Paris, stories about the food and the city. It's a luscious book.

Yes, there are recipes in the book. But, Dusoulier tells readers or travelers what restaurants or bakeries first served various types of foods so those of us who go to Paris for the food can find it. And, she mentions a few places I've been to in Paris, including Angelina's. There's a photo of Cafe St. Regis, where we had drinks. And, she takes readers to different parts of the city, different greenmarkets, bars, bistros.

If you're looking for fresh food, "Every neighborhood in Paris centers on a bustling market street that offers a high concentration of specialist food shops: bakeries, butcher shops, fish stalls, cheese shops, charcuteries, wine shops, delis, pastry and chocolate shops, tea and spice shops..."

Gorgeous photos. One hundred recipes for those of you who cook. Stories of restaurants and bakeries for those of us who love to eat. I'm ready to go back to Paris thanks to Dusoulier's Tasting Paris.

Clotilde Dusoulier's website is You can sign up for her newsletter there, and you can sign up for a private walking tour if you're going to be in Paris!

Tasting Paris by Clotilde Dusoulier. Clarkson Potter, 2018. ISBN 9780451499141 (hardcover), 256p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I'll admit I bought this book to give as a gift, but read it first. (smile)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Agatha Award Winners

Congratulations to this year's Agatha Award winners. The nominees are voted on by the attendees at Malice Domestic. The awards were announced on Saturday night. Named after Agatha Christie, the winners represent traditional mysteries. These books were originally published in the U.S. in 2017.

The winners are:

Best Children's/YA - Sydney Mackenzie Knocks 'Em Dead by Cindy Callaghan

Best Short Story - "The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn" by Gigi Pandian

Best Nonfiction - From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon by Mattias Bostrom

Best First Novel - Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

Best Historical Novel - In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

Best Contemporary Novel - Glass Houses by Louse Penny