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Mischief, Murder, and Merlot–Hallow Wine Weekend
Mischief, Murder, and Merlot
by J.C. Eaton
I enjoyed returning to Two Witches Winery along with Norrie Ellington who is again taking care of the family winery while her sister and brother-in-law fly off to the Philippines in search of a rare insect. She is just in time to manage her part of Lake Seneca’s Hallow Wine Weekend at the same time media arrives to learn about the area’s outstanding Merlot produced this year.
There are shenanigans centered around the cauldron of her winery’s Hallow Wine welcoming display, but the other wineries have vandalism as well. It isn’t too bad until Norrie discovers a fourth person in her display. There were originally only three, and this addition can only be described as dead.
This mystery rates high in complexity as there are several people with possible motives for the murder, including the victim’s wife, mistress, and girlfriend. There are business associates that could be involved and a few of them disappear. Fortunately, Norrie has a great crew who keep the winery, tasting room, and café running as Norrie tries to track down the criminal. She also has a lot of friends who support and help her from neighbors Theo and Don to the gorgeous Stephanie who can distract men with a flip of her hair.
I enjoyed the book; the mystery was well plotted with humor sprinkled throughout. The thing that kept it from being a five star book for me was the number of times Norrie stepped over lines of legal and ethical conduct. As Norrie herself says, “The hamburger bounced around in my stomach the more I thought about what I was going to do. Words like illegal, felony, and incarceration came to mind and they were only a sampling.” A lot of cozy mysteries have the protagonist edging up to conduct that is dangerous and deserves rethinking. Norrie goes too far, and she involves others in activities that could cost them their livelihoods and reputations.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: Mystery, Cooking, Humor
Notes: 1. #8 in the Wine Trail Mysteries, but could work as a standalone as the authors are good at explaining the background and characters.
2. The “season” is Halloween and two of the characters are participants in paranormal activities, but the book is definitely not a paranormal book. All of the other characters roll their eyes at and disregard the actions and thoughts of those two characters.
Publication: August 30, 2022—Beyond the Page Publishing
“And you know what the worst part is?” “All the nutcases it will bring out?” “Nope. All the suspects. It’ll be like one big knotted ball of yarn that gets more tangled as soon as someone tries to unravel it.”
I dreamt Donovan’s wife, mistress, and girlfriend had taken over our cauldron, making Macbeth’s witches look like Disney princesses.
Fortified by a second pot of coffee, the six of us sketched out a surveillance plan that we thought would work. Funny, but on paper it was logical and feasible. In reality, it was neither.
Knit of the Living Dead–murder at the bonfire
Knit of the Living Dead
by Peggy Ehrhart
If you enjoy a cozy mystery with a lot of well-composed descriptions, likable characters, and clean language, you might enjoy the Knit & Nibble Mystery Series. In Knit of the Living Dead, Pamela, an editor for a fiber arts magazine, follows screams at a Halloween bonfire. She discovers a young woman who has found a dead body. With almost everyone in costume, it is difficult to tell who is in attendance, much less who the murderer is. It is possible that the deceased is not even the intended victim.
Pamela and her best friend and neighbor Bettina are joined in their sleuthing activities by Nell, an elderly member of their knitting club. They interview possible suspects under various guises, narrowing down the pool and often hoping the perpetrator is not someone nice that they have difficulty imagining as a killer. Both the murderer and the motivation are a surprise when revealed.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #6 in the Knit & Nibble Mystery Series, but would work as a standalone.
2. Includes directions for making a Trick-or-Treat tote for children and recipes for Pumpkin-Spice Crumb Cake and Candy Corn Halloween Cookies (which have a chocolate base).
Publication: August 25, 2020—Kensington Books
Despite the festive atmosphere and good cheer, the bonfire awoke feelings more appropriate to a pagan celebration marking nature’s mysterious powers. The flames illuminated rapt faces, dramatizing features and rendering the familiar unfamiliar.
The air was chilly but still, and the day was bright and cloudless. Lawns on Angler Road were still green, with fallen leaves like bright paint spatters here and there.
Wilfred had outdone himself. The beef was meltingly tender, savory, and meaty, infused with the flavors of carrots, mushrooms, and the subtly sweet onions—all melded together during the stew’s long, slow cooking.
Penned In–Idaho Halloween tale
by Lynn Cahoon
Penned In is a novella in Lynn Cahoon’s excellent Farm-to-Fork series which does not typically contain paranormal references. This novella has a paranormal twist to it, however. The story takes place on the night before Halloween at the old Idaho Penitentiary where the County Seat Restaurant’s staff goes for a team building exercise. The book contains a little history which is interesting. As a novella, neither the plot nor character development are extensive.
My enjoyment of the novella was probably colored by my dislike of both paranormal novels and team building exercises. As a diversion, it was satisfactory, but not something I would ever reread. If you are a fan of locked room mysteries, you would probably enjoy this little mystery!
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. Would work as a standalone.
2. Includes paranormal, but is not scary.
3. Locked room mystery.
4. Includes a recipe for chocolate chip muffins.
Publication: August 31, 2020—Kensington Books
“Anyone that mean, he has to be the killer. The other people are nice. Tad doesn’t have a nice bone in his body, as my grandmother would say.” Hope leaned back in her chair and folded her arms. No one was going to mess with her logic.
“They said I wasn’t smart enough to sell computers. Hell, I could sell ice to Eskimos.”
It was all just posturing for him. He didn’t want her but he wasn’t sure he wanted her to be happy with another guy.”
Haunted House Ghost–convoluted plot
Haunted House Ghost
by James J. Cudney
For readers who enjoy a complex mystery, I recommend Haunted House Ghost for a plot that is intricate and convoluted, but in the best possible way. Author James J. Cudney takes plot complexities to a whole new level with family relationships taking center stage as past and current marriages and paternity issues come to light when victim remains from cold murder cases are discovered.
Murder and intrigue play out in the setting of a haunted house that the main character Kellan is trying to restore as a home for his growing family. Weird sightings, threatening messages, and a locked basement set the stage for a ghostly mystery. Is a ghost actually haunting the house? Is Madam Zenya really a psychic medium? In true Agatha Christie style, the main players in the mystery are gathered to force the truth to emerge.
There are so many surprises in Haunted House Ghost that I watched in amazement as the mystery developed. Fortunately, the author helps with a recap of possible suspects and motives as Kellan meets with the sheriff (his girlfriend April) and the case detective (his best friend Connor) to convince them to try his clever idea to force the murderer into the open. The murderer’s identity is surprising and unpredictable as are the final pages that make the perfect setup for the next book in the series.
Notes: I am behind in my reading and reviewing but really wanted to be caught up with the Braxton Campus Mystery Series before the sixth book in the series, Frozen Stiff Drink, is published on March 18, 2020. Therefore, Haunted House Ghost (#5 ) snuck up to the top of my reading queue. All of the books in this series can be read as standalones as the author provides a lot of support in the form of a character list and an area map as well as explanations of character relationships in the context of the ongoing plot. My personal preference in reading this series, however, is to read the books in order as there are so many interesting characters and lots of developing relationships.
Publication: October 1, 2019—Next Chapter
“It’s sealed tighter than Scrooge’s wallet.”
Instinct suggested there were many threads to this conundrum, and if I pulled on a few random ones, I might unravel the whole knotted ball of yarn soon enough.
My skin prickled as if thousands of tiny insects crawled up and down my body. A drafty wind whistled through the stairwell as the steps creaked.
Death by Jack-O’-Lantern–vets helping vets
Death by Jack-O’-Lantern
by Alexis Morgan
Ostensibly a Halloween cozy mystery, Death by Jack-O’-Lantern by Alexis Morgan is so much more. In addition to a great mystery, there is a budding romance between Tripp Blackson and his landlady Abby McCree and lots of small town activity as Snowberry Creek in the Pacific Northwest pulls together to make their Halloween Festival a success. In the midst of a murder investigation, pumpkins carved to resemble townspeople crop up all over town, produced by an anonymous artist. There are lots of supportive new friends for Abby as she tries to settle into her new town, but there are also some puzzling characters. The overarching serious questions are important ones: How can we help returning veterans with PTSD? To what extent does a person go to help and protect his friend?
Abby goes too far in her investigations, stirring up danger for herself and anger in Tripp and the local law enforcement officers as they fear for her safety. Zeke, her mastiff mix, plays a recurring role as her buddy and protector. Abby, an excellent manager and organizer, spends a lot of her time coordinating volunteers for several committees. She also loves to bake, especially for her friends, and to consume copious amounts of caffeinated coffee and sweet treats.
I enjoyed this top notch cozy mystery, and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series. Kudos to the author as this story’s ending was one I didn’t see coming!
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #2 in the Abby McCree Mystery Series. It would be OK to read as a standalone, but I think it would be more enjoyable if you read #1 in the series first.
Publication: August 27, 2019—Kensington Books
“Connie has a real talent for ‘volunteering’ people. I swear, you walk into city hall to ask a simple question about property taxes and somehow walk out in charge of a major town event. You’re even grateful for the chance to help out.”
Abby used artificial sweetener in her coffee to help compensate for the huge chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies she’d ordered. Yeah, it was a bit silly, but logic didn’t play a big part in her need for chocolate in times of stress.
She’d let Zeke outside for his usual morning patrol around the yard, but he hadn’t come trotting back in to inhale his breakfast…When she finally spotted him, her heart almost broke. He was sitting on Tripp’s front porch and staring at the door as if sheer determination would make his friend appear. How on earth was she supposed to explain to him that his buddy had been locked up in the people pound?
October Kiss–Love Amongst the Pumpkins
by Kristen Ethridge
Seriously, you can’t start a book made from a Hallmark movie without knowing how it is going to end. October Kiss has all the requisites: a smart, attractive twenty-nine year old woman who has commitment issues in work, relationships, and most other areas of her life. She becomes a temporary nanny for a handsome, workaholic widower with two kids. It’s no spoiler to predict a happy ending, but like a good motorcycle ride, reading this book is not about the destination, but the journey. Even though you know what the conclusion will bring, it is just so much fun watching the story of Poppy, Ryan, and the children, Zoe and Zack, play out.
Kristen Ethridge, the author, reveals the worst faults of the four main characters in the beginning of the book, but pretty soon their true and more positive characteristics shine. They are all likable, and you will be rooting for that inevitable successful ending. A quick read with a beautiful fall setting will convince even the most adamant naysayer of Halloween that fun and whimsy can still be found through the eyes of children.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Hallmark Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Notes: The movie October Kiss premiered in 2015.
Publication: August 2, 2019—Hallmark Publishing
These kids weren’t complicated. They just needed a little undivided attention and unconditional love.
The mere acknowledgement of the other woman tasted like black licorice on Poppy’s tongue as she spoke. Poppy hated black licorice.
The truth hurt like rug burn on her soul.
Designed for Haunting–is someone stalking a Kindergarten teacher?
Designed for Haunting
by Sybil Johnson
I just finished Designed for Haunting by Sybil Johnson, and the first thing that came to my mind was “Well, I enjoyed that!” It isn’t particularly humorous and doesn’t need to be. It isn’t paranormal despite its title. It is a good, basic cozy mystery with a plot that evolves nicely with twists and turns, interesting characters, and a background of Halloween and tole painting.
Like the author, main character Rory works in the tech industry but also loves tole painting. Her friend Zelena notifies her through an automated digital service that she is being stalked and is perhaps dead. Rory determines that Zelena is indeed missing. There are many complications from Halloween pranks to serious crimes. Zelena’s disappearance sets in motion a lot of amateur sleuthing by Rory and her friend Liz. Meanwhile, both ladies are participating with their painting chapter in hosting a local Halloween Holiday Boutique in support of a charity. All of the loose ends are tied up nicely at the end, but there are plenty of characters with unclear motivations along the way to keep you guessing. Enjoy!
I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #4 in the Aurora Anderson Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone
Publication: October 9, 2018—Henery Press
“Who was it?” “Some old lady.” As far as the teenager was concerned that could mean anyone from thirty to ninety.