education pathways

Home » Cozy

Category Archives: Cozy

Five Belles Too Many–reality TV for a wedding

Five Belles Too Many

by Debra H. Goldstein

I’ll give kudos to Debra H. Goldstein, the author of Five Belles Too Many, for starting off this cozy mystery with an explosive scene. The cast of the Southern Belle Perfect Wedding Competition is staying at Jane’s Place, an inn and restaurant. As the book opens, Jane is clearly upset over what she feels is a rigged show. Our main character Sarah looks on with mixed feelings because Jane is her long-time nemesis. Sarah is involved in this reality show because her mother Maybelle and Mom’s boyfriend George have been selected as finalists. The competing belles are required to have “chaperones” who stay at the inn at night and participate in some of the events.

At first there are just ruffled feathers as the videotaping starts, but then murders begin and there is talk of gambling. Jane is accused of murder because she has threatened it and the crime occurred at her inn. The plot is complicated with the announcement of the method of murder awaiting toxicology results. Many members of the cast and crew dislike the victim. Meanwhile, as taping continues, the contestants have to put their best side forward even while competing with others to have the wedding and honeymoon of their dreams paid for by the producing network. Vendors are also competing to be chosen to supply the cakes, flowers, etc. for the winning couple.

Reviewing this book fairly was difficult for me because I truly dislike “reality TV,” mainly because there is little real about it. To me, the scenarios appear staged, and the outcomes pre-decided when there are competitions. The contests themselves are often absurd, and this was the case in Five Belles Too Many. I also don’t like gambling and don’t want to understand the intricacies of “pushes” and other gambling terms. So, a reality TV and/or gambling aficionado would probably enjoy this book more than I did.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #5 in the Sarah Blair Mystery Series, but is OK as a standalone. I have only read one other book in the series and I had no problem jumping in with the plot and characters.
2. Recipes are included, but I saw nothing outstanding or with a strong tie-in to the story.

Publication: June 28, 2022—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

As she slipped into the chair next to her mother, she heard Alan loudly observe, “That, my friends, is reality TV.”

Their unselfish pride at each other’s accomplishments was the big factor that made them such a great couple.

The sun was up, which Sarah took as a good sign because she firmly believed light triumphed darkness.

The Overlook Murder–police procedural with a view

The Overlook Murder

by Patrick Kelly

Bill O’Shea was a big-city police detective. He has retired and is settling into his new home in the mountain resort of Wintergreen. His condominium is near the condo of Cindy, his new girlfriend. In The Overlook Murder by Patrick Kelly, Bill is helping Cindy with her catering business. She has been hired to provide meals and refreshments for a small group event for a wealthy businessman, Damian Susskind, at his mountain retreat.

All goes well until some of the guests go on a hike, starting a spiral of deadly events. Was the fall off a cliff an accident, the result of a medical event, or a murder? Everyone at the house that day is a suspect including Bill. Bill, nevertheless, is asked to assist in the investigation that becomes a combination of medical forensics, intense interviews, old-fashioned searches, and astute reasoning.

The book is written in short chapters, and the author excels in providing hooks that draw the reader into the next chapter. It is a page turner. The author is also skillful in descriptive writing that makes you feel you are in the scene.

As Bill and the local officers dive into the investigation with interviews and research, we learn more about the backgrounds and personalities of the guests and of the investigators. By the end of the book you know details about Bill and Cindy and their ex-spouses. Cindy’s son Justin has a major career decision as does his new girlfriend Maggie. All of the guests have complicated relationships with the host and motivations for murder. A little humor is added with Bill’s efforts to befriend Mr. Chips, a groundhog.

I have not read the first book in the series. It was referred to a number of times in The Overlook Murder as many of the characters had met in The Mountain View Murder. I did not feel I missed anything in the current book. I’m looking forward to reading about the adventures Bill encounters in the next police procedural Murder in White.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Wintergreen Mystery Series, but can be read as a standalone.

Publication: June 4, 2022—Chaparral Press

Memorable Lines:

But if the prosecuting attorney couldn’t make a case, the true cause of death would remain a mystery, perhaps for all time. Which was part of the job. If you couldn’t deal with uncertainty, you shouldn’t become a homicide detective.

After a quick dinner, Bill strolled onto his balcony to watch the approaching storm. Wind rushed up the mountain and eerily moaned as it fought for entrance to closed windows and doors. Lightning flashed in the Rockfish Valley.

Bill wrestled with where to take the conversation. Secrets were like hidden fruit in a tree. Sometimes if you shook the trunk, the juicy facts would fall out.

Cajun Kiss of Death–competing Cajun restaurants

Cajun Kiss of Death

by Ellen Byron

Pelican, Louisiana, is home to some Creole/Cajun good food and party loving locals including the Crozat family who own the Crozat Plantation B&B. Cajun Kiss of Death opens with daughter Maggie’s New Year’s Eve wedding to Detective Bo Durand. The pair are saying their vows along with two other couples. Even the family basset Gopher gets some spotlight as he strolls down the aisle.

Maggie helps out at the B&B and works as a restorer and curator at a museum across the Mississippi River at Doucet Plantation. Things get tricky when the connecting bridge sustains structural damage, a celebrity chef tries to expand his restaurant empire to Pelican driving local restaurants out of business, a murder occurs, and Maggie has a stalker. There are even more threads to complicate this cozy mystery. Some focus on the close knit group of family and friends. Others are related to the murder investigation and the many employees of the dead chef who are staying at the B&B. For Maggie and Bo, it gets personal.

This cozy mystery is a page turner with new complications throughout. I particularly liked the emphasis on Maggie and her art. In this book, she has a major breakthrough as an artist, and her attention to detail plays a critical role in solving the crime. When all seems nicely tied up, there is yet another major twist which is well plotted and well written by author Ellen Byron. The Louisiana setting is replete with Cajun ambiance from the food and festivities to language unique to the area.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. # 7 in the Cajun Country Mystery Series. Although this is the last book in the series, it could be read as a standalone.

  1. There is a helpful list of the people in this book.
  2. It ends with an Epilogue that summarizes the characters’ status 20 years later. It was a nice touch for the finale.
  3. There are recipes at the end of the book. One recipe that was mentioned often that you won’t find there is “Sugar High Pie.” It was featured in another book in the series, but you can find Byron’s recipe on YouTube.
  4. There are three animals in this book, but they really don’t have much of a role in the plot.

Publication: August 10, 2021—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

She closed her eyes and scrunched her face to keep from bursting into tears. Gopher, as if sensing his human’s pain, released a sympathetic basset howl.

Vi picked up the bottle of bourbon. “Lets drink to that.” She handed Maggie a tumbler. “It’s not even noon,” Maggie said. “Honey, it’s New Orleans. We should be on our second drink by now.”

Pelican didn’t need a 5G network for news to travel fast.

A Time to Swill–bar, beach, and mysteries

A Time to Swill

by Sherry Harris

Chloe wants to settle current issues in her life, not find herself wrapped up in even more. These complications, however, are just waiting for her when she packs up her Chicago apartment into her little red VW beetle and returns to Emerald Cove, Florida, to begin her new life in earnest. A former children’s librarian, she is now part owner and an employee of the Sea Glass Saloon. She inherited part of the business and a house from Boone, a close friend who died in Afghanistan. He also asked her to take care of Vivi, the owner of the bar, who turns out to not be the helpless grandmother she expected.

While Vivi and Chloe’s relationship is gradually thawing, Chloe is also working on getting to know the “heritage” business owners, a tight-knit group whose families owned the original businesses dating back to the fifties or earlier. Other important characters include the handsome, but mysterious former lawyer Rhett (aka Rip), Joaquin the bartender and Michael his husband, and Ann the local “fixer” with secretive connections.

When Chloe discovers a boat adrift, she tries to save what sounds like a crying baby. In the process she faces danger herself in a terrible fog, but also uncovers some kind of illegal operation. To what lengths will the criminals go to stop Chloe’s snooping? Chloe and Vivi are also in danger of losing the bar to the smarmy Steve who suddenly appears with a will purportedly left by Boone. If it is proven valid, Chloe will also lose her home.

A Time to Swill is definitely a page turner. It ends each chapter with a hook to make you want to keep reading. Even when I had to attend to something else, I found my mind drawn back to the plot, wondering what would happen next. Author Sherry Harris is also very good with setting descriptions and atmosphere. Some humor and a tad of romantic interest are thrown in as well. There are some surprises as well as some unfinished business to be continued later in this cozy mystery series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mystery Series. Although the first book sets up the background for the series well and is another good mystery, you could jump in with this second book as Sherry Harris does bring the reader up to date on the scenario.

Publication: July 21, 2021—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

A thin line of moonlight shone on the Gulf. The air smelled of the wood of the porch, salt, and pine from the trees around the house. The water whooshed and subsided, as if to say, Don’t worry. All is well. If only it were.

I remembered a story our minister had told about words being like nails. You can pound a nail in the fence and you can take it out, but the hole is still there.

“I’ll never get used to people down here calling all pop Coke.” “And trust me, no one will understand when you call Coke pop.”

Fatal Family Ties–genealogy mystery

Fatal Family Ties

by S.C. Perkins

Lucy is a genealogist with her own business in Austin. She is tracked down at lunch by Camilla Braithwaite, one of her “three least-favorite former coworkers” at a job she held four years prior at Howland University Library in Houston. She wants Lucy to disprove an article written in Chronology magazine about her ancestor Charles Edward Braithwaite who is accused of being “a coward, a deserter, and a charlatan.”

This project turns out to be a complicated task because records from the Civil War, especially from the Confederate army, are scarce, incomplete, and often inaccurate. Lucy’s expertise is just what this job requires. It is complicated further by a mysterious triptych and the sudden death of Camilla’s Uncle Charlie who was like a grandfather to her. He and Camilla each own a panel from the art set and no one seems to know who inherited the third panel.

Fortunately, as things get dangerous, Lucy’s boyfriend, Special Agent Ben Turner of the FBI, has most of a week off. His concealed carry license, law enforcement connections, and special training help keep Lucy safe. Her associations with the art restoration world through her college friend Helen help Lucy solve the murder and the triptych mystery.

I liked all the positive characters and enjoyed watching Lucy solve this puzzling case. The “mean girls” were clearly not going to give anyone warm fuzzies, but the author did not portray them in black and white terms. There was room for growth and self-realization for two of them. Suspicion landed on various characters and the ending was a surprise. My favorite minor character was Lucy’s mom. I particularly enjoyed the way she interacted with an elderly neighbor known for her grumpiness.
Genealogy is a field that has always confused me with phrases like “second cousin twice removed on your mother’s side.” Fatal Family Ties is dependent on those relationships, but I could follow the reasoning. Lucy even explains that the term “great aunt” instead of “grandaunt” is, in fact, confusing as it does not follow the established language pattern. That made me feel better! You can learn about genealogy and its importance through this book, but it is never pedantic.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Ancestry Detective Series, but can be read as a standalone. There is not a lot of personal character backstory to catch up on. The current mystery is the focus.

Publication: July 20, 2021—St. Martin’s Press (Minotaur)

Memorable Lines:

I certainly understood Camilla’s stress, and I had immense sympathy, but I didn’t need the attitude. If I was going to be snapped at, I deserved carbs.

“Wonders will never cease,” Mom said, and I smiled at her. I always loved how she said it as a statement she was stubbornly sure of rather than posing it as the traditional sarcastically surprised question.

“Though one thing you don’t need to change, Lucy, is your willingness to give people second chances. Too few people are open like that these days. Don’t give it up, okay?”

Murder, She Edited–problematic inheritance

Murder, She Edited

by Kaitlyn Dunnett

Mikki Lincoln is a character I can immediately identify with. She has retired from teaching but is earning extra money as a freelance editor. She is good at identifying punctuation and grammar errors and feels a compulsion to correct them. When running out on an errand she trades her “lightweight sweatpants and somewhat ratty T-shirt for jeans and a clean T-shirt with no holes.” Sounds good to me!

The cozy mystery opens with Mikki receiving a letter from a law firm informing her that she has inherited land from an almost forgotten friend of her deceased mother. There is an odd stipulation that to receive the inheritance she must locate some diaries in the farmhouse, edit them, post them on the Internet, and produce an e-book with them—all in a short amount of time. Finding the diaries is a difficult and eventually dangerous task.

I like Mikki. In spite of beginning her marriage in a time when a woman could not get a mortgage or other credit in her own name, she is a strong, independent woman. She is very intelligent, and she approaches this challenge with the same tenacity as a dog with a bone. The puzzle of where the diaries are and who wrote them leads to a potential cold case of murder and the uncovering of secrets from the past and present. Someone was willing to kill to prevent their discovery. Mikki has several concerned friends who help and protect her, and she achieves the grudging respect of the law authorities.

There is also a subplot about a steamy romance author who was a teaching colleague of Mikki’s. She wrote under an assumed name. A fan of this author wants to meet her and wants Mikki to make it happen. This addition to the story provides a little comic relief and distraction from the intensity of the main plot.

I liked Murder, She Edited from start to finish. A cozy with the main character in her early 70’s appeals to me, and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #4 in the Deadly Edits Series, but can easily be read as a standalone. I missed one of the books in the series, but it did not hamper my enjoyment of the others.

Publication: July 27, 2021—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

I bestowed what I call my “sweet but dithery little old lady smile” on him, the one I usually save for security officers at the airport and policemen who think I’m meddling where I shouldn’t.

I wondered what would happen if I didn’t correct all those silly errors. Would the Friends of the Library vote to replace me as editor? I doubted it. No one else wanted the job. Besides, I didn’t think I had it in me to spot a grammar, punctuation, or usage error and not fix it.

Ordinarily, I don’t like to badger people, but I was fed up with the runaround I’d been getting. I leveled my best former teacher’s glare at the young woman and waited for her to cave. She burst into tears.

A Fatal Booking–exciting book club retreat

A Fatal Booking

by Victoria Gilbert

Charlotte Reed, a former high school teacher, inherited her great-aunt Isabella’s B&B and is trying to make a success of it to honor Isabella. Isabella was a beautiful, flamboyant socialite and also a spy! Charlotte has a penchant for getting to the truth and has formed bonds with Ellen, her next door neighbor and Isabella’s former handler, joining her in several investigations surrounding local murders. She works in concert with Detective Amber Johnson of the Beaufort police force and with her new boyfriend Gavin who spends a lot of time off the grid. He is a spy and has many useful contacts.

In A Fatal Booking, Chapters B&B is hosting a book club headed by an artist and former colleague Lora Kane. When one of the guests is murdered, Charlotte is drawn into the investigation to protect her B&B’s reputation and to prevent further murders. No one liked the victim, and they all seem to have motivation to kill her. All but one had the means to obtain deadly cyanide.

The plot is further complicated by infighting among the guests. There was no harmony to be found in that group. Also, someone is rummaging around in the off-limits, locked attic, and several framed pictures are missing from the library. Not a trained professional, Charlotte’s detection skills are honed as she sorts through the possibilities. Her physical and mental capacities are tested in the latter part of the book in dangerous scenes that will have you holding your breath. The cozy concludes with a wrap-up party for Charlotte’s friends and employees who stood by her during the ordeal and helped with the investigation. They deserved to hear the details, and several have personal announcements of big upcoming changes in their lives.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Booklover’s B&B Mystery Series, but it is acceptable as a standalone. The author jumps right into the current plot, but background details are provided as needed.

Publication: June 7, 2022—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

Officer Warren, who looked to be all of twenty-five, offered me a smile that told me she felt the need to reassure a nervous older woman. “Thanks.” I knew better than to try to correct her assumption. To be honest, I frequently found it useful to be underestimated.

“You were eavesdropping.” Linnea’s blue eyes glittered like shards of lapis.

“I love dogs,” Caitlin said, patting his head. I’d already figured that out, since I’d learned that Shandy had a sixth sense about people. He seemed to be able to instantly tell if someone disliked dogs and would either snap at the air or bark furiously at such misguided individuals.

The Tuesday Night Survivors’ Club–a new bookshop

The Tuesday Night Survivors’ Club

by Lynn Cahoon

If anyone could write a cozy mystery about a book club formed to gather and support breast cancer survivors, it would be Lynn Cahoon. As survivors these women share a background that leaves some things unspoken, but understood. They are not choosing books about breast cancer, however. They select a mystery for their first read, but soon find themselves involved in a real-life murder mystery.

In The Tuesday Night Survivors’ Club, the founder of the club is Rarity who owns the new bookstore that sponsors the group. She has left her stressful, big city job for the slower pace of being her own boss in Sedona, AZ. Her best friend is Sam who owns a crystal shop and makes jewelry. There are two romantic interests: Drew, a detective, and Archer, a lawyer turned hiking guide.

The murder of one of the group members turns them all into amateur sleuths investigating potential suspects and ferreting out motivations. Not everyone is who they seem to be. Rarity also finds the original, limited membership concept for the club expanding as others pitch in to help with the investigation. I thought I had figured out the murderer from a clue mentioned early on, but I was wrong. The investigation turns dangerous and the ending is a surprise. I can’t wait for the next book in this new series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Survivors’ Book Club Mystery Series

Publication: June 14, 2022—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

Action was rewarded. Worrying never did anyone any favors.

Welcome to the sisterhood. The cost of joining was just living through a disease that tried to kill you. And you had to wear pink for the rest of your life. (A rule that Rarity ignored since she hated pink.)

“There have been times in my life when I questioned whether Edith and I were ‘meant to be.’ Whether or not she was my soul mate. But I always come back to the fact that our lives together are what we make of them. Don’t hold out for a fantasy when real life is more rewarding.”

Deadly Delights–too many characters

Deadly Delights

by Laura Jensen Walker

I expected a bookish mystery since Deadly Delights is part of the Bookish Baker Mystery Series. In all fairness, the main character Teddie is an author, but she is taking a break from writing. Her good friend owns a bookshop, and her boyfriend, currently via Skype, is a famous British suspense author. So, on the surface it is bookish, but the book is really more about baking, another of Teddie’s talents, as the focus is on a baking contest at which there is a murder.

One of my main problems with this cozy mystery is the large number of characters. I actually reread the first chapter and took notes on the characters and added more as the story progressed. The author did a good job in the first chapter of introducing characters that were in the first book in the series, but there were just too many for my taste. Most of them were important to the story; there were a number that were mentioned in passing, but the reader would not know that.

On a positive note, the plot was very complex with a lot going on. As you might expect, there were a lot of suspects, and the murderer and motivation were a surprise. As underlying stories, there were wild accusations, gossip, embezzlement, mother-daughter conflicts, and even a little romance.

A theme that appealed to me was that of characters reinventing themselves at critical times in their lives. I also liked the honesty in discussing Teddie’s battle with cancer and how it affected her decisions going forward. The friendship of The Three Musketeers (Teddie and her two best friends since third grade) and their support of each other was another positive theme.

In spite of laboring through the first part, I did enjoy the book. My memory is not bad, but perhaps it would be an easier read for those with better retention of details. The conclusion focuses on a relationship, and you will end the book with a smile.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #2 in the Bookish Baker Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone.
2. Includes 9 recipes, all related to items baked by characters in the book.

Publication: June 8, 2021—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

Perfect is overrated. My small kitchen is colorful and kitschy. Like me.

I’d noticed Colleen Murphy arrive and open up Colleen’s Twisted Yarns. Time to pay a visit to the knitting lady and see what kind of a twisted yarn she might spin.

…the writing is sublime in literary fiction. I marvel over the gorgeousness of the language the authors use and find myself highlighting entire sections…When I come upon a perfect sentence, I stop and revel in the beauty of the author’s words.

Reserved for Murder–mystery with a nod to spies

Reserved for Murder

by Victoria Gilbert

As mysteries go, this cozy, Reserved for Murder, has a plot with its share of suspicious characters and motivations for murder that bubble to the surface. In keeping with its bookish nature, Charlotte’s B&B is called Chapters as a tribute to Isabella, the great-aunt she inherited it from. Isabella collected rare books. Although not a spy like her aunt, Charlotte has a nose for sniffing out clues and it gets put to the test when one of her guests is murdered.

The book focuses on a whole week set up as part of a promotional event and also intended to be a short break for famous romance author Amanda Nobel. It includes accommodations for the three winners of a fan contest, a book signing, a tea party, and a cocktail party. Several locals play important roles including Charlotte’s very private neighbor Ellen who used to be Isabella’s handler. Ellen also has a charming but mysterious “cousin” Gavin staying with her.

I enjoyed this mystery. The murderer is revealed in a dramatic scene. Charlotte has a finale party after her her last guest leaves and explains the details to the locals exposing the secrets and putting everything in order. It was a nice wrap-up for the book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #2 in the Booklover’s B&B Mystery Series
2. I enjoyed this not-quite-spy, but all mystery, story. Background from the first book in the series would be helpful but is not essential.

Publication: June 8, 2021—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

“It is astonishing, isn’t it? Books, I mean. All the books by so many authors. You’d think all the ideas would be used up, but somehow they’re not.”

If there was anything likely to toughen someone up and teach them how to play a long game, dealing with a classroom full of high-energy, hormonal, sometimes oppositional, teenagers was definitely it.

While there are many well-written bestsellers, there are some that aren’t, and yet are still inexplicably popular. And you know, trends come and go. What’s popular one day can change the next.”

%d bloggers like this: