Book Review: Little Bookshop of Murder by Maggie Blackburn @molliecoxbryan @crookedlanebks

Little Bookshop of Murder
A Beach Reads Mystery #1
Maggie Blackburn
Crooked Lane, September 2020
ISBN 978-1-64385-438-0
Hardcover

As the story begins Summer Merriweather is on her way back to her hometown of  Brigid’s Island, NC from England where, during her summer break she was trying to write a paper for publication in the hope that she could save her job as a professor of Shakespearean literature at a Virginia college.  Her job is in jeopardy because she hasn’t published enough, and she fails too many students.  But the thing that really sealed her possible fate was an embarrassing video of her that went viral.  Summer is returning to her hometown because she learned of her mother’s death – the mother from whom she has been estranged for many years.

Upon her return Summer learns from her aunt Agatha, her mother’s sister, that the coroner ruled her mother’s death a heart attack which Summer refuses to believe because her mother, Hildy, was very healthy and never had heart problems.  Back on Brigid’s Island Summer is immediately surrounded by her mother’s friends who help out in the store, bring huge amounts of food, and with whom Hildy was in a book club for many years.  However, the police chief firmly believes that Summer’s mother did suffer a heart attack and, since he dislikes Summer for personal reasons, is not inclined to take her seriously and investigate.

So, with the help of her cousin Piper, Piper’s daughter Mia, and Summer’s aunt, Agatha, Summer begins investigating.  What she learns makes her even more suspicious that her mother’s death was not from natural causes:  her mother had no symptoms before the apparent heart attack, she had recently seen her doctor for a routine check-up, she went to her yoga class the morning of her death, then to work at the bookstore, and then, according to one of the other book club members who was working with her at the time, dropped to the floor and was dead.

Throughout her investigation there is a side story about Summer reading a book her mother was reading just prior to her death – a romance novel – just the kind of book Summer has always hated but to which she feels drawn.

I enjoyed this book, not because the mystery was tricky, and the outcome was difficult to figure out because neither is true but because I really liked the relationships in Summer’s family and with the women in the book club.  The book was supposed to come out in July 2020 (was delayed to September because of COVID) and I would have said it was a great beach read (a play on the bookstore’s name!) but it’s winter here in New England and we just got a foot of snow so maybe for some of you it’s beach weather but not here!

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, December 2020.

Waiting On Wednesday (148) @AuthorJenniferR @WmMorrowBooks

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that
spotlights upcoming releases that I’m really
looking forward to. Waiting On Wednesday
is the creation of Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

Our Darkest Night
Jennifer Robson
William Morrow, January 2021
Historical Fiction

From the publisher—

To survive the Holocaust, a young Jewish woman must pose as a Christian farmer’s wife in this unforgettable novel from USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Robson—a story of terror, hope, love, and sacrifice, inspired by true events, that vividly evokes the most perilous days of World War II.

It is the autumn of 1943, and life is becoming increasingly perilous for Italian Jews like the Mazin family. With Nazi Germany now occupying most of her beloved homeland, and the threat of imprisonment and deportation growing ever more certain, Antonina Mazin has but one hope to survive—to leave Venice and her beloved parents and hide in the countryside with a man she has only just met.

Nico Gerardi was studying for the priesthood until circumstances forced him to leave the seminary to run his family’s farm. A moral and just man, he could not stand by when the fascists and Nazis began taking innocent lives. Rather than risk a perilous escape across the mountains, Nina will pose as his new bride. And to keep her safe and protect secrets of his own, Nico and Nina must convince prying eyes they are happily married and in love.

But farm life is not easy for a cultured city girl who dreams of becoming a doctor like her father, and Nico’s provincial neighbors are wary of this soft and educated woman they do not know. Even worse, their distrust is shared by a local Nazi official with a vendetta against Nico. The more he learns of Nina, the more his suspicions grow—and with them his determination to exact revenge.

As Nina and Nico come to know each other, their feelings deepen, transforming their relationship into much more than a charade. Yet both fear that every passing day brings them closer to being torn apart . . .

Why am I waiting so eagerly? Coincidentally or not, I’ve read quite a bit of World War II fiction during the past few years and, in particular, Holocaust fiction. This is my own small way of denying the deniers, those who would have us believe it didn’t happen and a look at truth in the face of a frightening rise in white supremacy and Neo-Nazism. A lot of bad things have happened during this time and evil-minded people have gained credence, something I really didn’t expect to see in my lifetime. Jennifer Robson is a very good writer and the synopsis of Our Darkest Night strikes me as a potentially compelling story. I’m expecting a terrific read.

Book Review: The Secret of Dunhaven Castle by Nellie H. Steele @SDSXXTours

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The Secret of Dunhaven Castle
Cate Kensie Mysteries Book 1
by Nellie H. Steele
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon
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The Secret of Dunhaven Castle
A Cate Kensie Mystery Book 1
Nellie H. Steele
A Novel Idea Publishing, November 2019
ISBN 978-1951582029
Trade Paperback
How in the world could she now own a castle?
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Shy, introverted Dr. Cate Kensie never imagined that she would inherit a beautiful, and oddly quirky, castle nestled in the picturesque Scottish Highlands. Truthfully, she was sure that she didn’t have any family left after her parents died in a car accident several years before, but then she had gotten the phone call, and her entire world had turned upside down.
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That was when she discovered that she had family in Scotland, and her distant family member, Gertrude MacKenzie, had passed away, leaving her Dunhaven Castle and a golden timepiece with the mysterious phone call: ALWAYS KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR TIME.
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Soon after she leaves the only life she’s ever known in the US with her four-legged best friend, the adorable Riley, she quickly finds that owning this castle is not the fairytale she expected. Mysterious events occur that leave Cate wondering if her new home is haunted or if she’s losing her mind.
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Will Cate be able to unravel the mysteries of Dunhaven Castle before it’s too late? Or will the secrets be too much for Cate to handle?
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Find out if Cate can uncover the secrets her new home holds in The Secret of Dunhaven Castle!
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What little girl doesn’t dream of inheriting a castle and becoming nobility…and, for many, that dream never entirely dies even when we recognize the extreme unlikelihood such a thing will ever happen. So, it’s not surprising that Cate finds her inheritance from an unknown countess is hard to believe but, considering her floundering professorial career and her lack of ties in this country, moving to Scotland definitely has a certain appeal.
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Ms. Steele borrows elements from other novels and puts them to good use, things such as the will’s requirement that she must live in the castle in order to inherit and the atmosphere that goes along with an ancient building. Cate is confronted by a number of secrets, not the least of which is why the family name changed at some point and how the branches of the family became estranged. Her background as a history professor is helpful but even that isn’t much use when it comes to figuring out the mysteries of a very unusual watch.
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With attractive characters and an interesting plot, this is a nice beginning to an appealing series and, while it didn’t tax my brain too much, I enjoyed the journey with Cate and the adorable Riley and will look forward to the next books.
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Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2020.
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Murder at Dunhaven Castle
Cate Kensie Mysteries Book 2
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If you could go back in time and clear your family’s name, would you?
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Dr. Cate Kensie, now known as Lady Catherine Kensie, the mistress of Dunhaven Castle, still can’t believe her life. Somehow, moved to Scotland, inherited a castle that’s more than meets the eye, and is the proud–and sometimes reluctant– owner of an amazing family heirloom. But there’s a secret Cate must protect about her new life, a secret that no one but Jack Reid, the estate manager, knows of.
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As Cate learns more about her new home, she discovers that in 1856 there was a murder at Dunhaven and non-other than her own ancestor, Randolph MacKenzie, was accused and convicted of the crime. However, the more she learns about the murder at Dunhaven, the more confusing things become. All of the evidence is there, but the answers still don’t add up.
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Will Cate have the courage to dive into a centuries-old murder to clear her family’s name? Or will she find out the hard way that sometimes it’s best to leave the past in the past where it can’t hurt you?
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Find out in the nail-biting second installment of the Cate Kensie Mysteries series, Murder at Dunhaven Castle!
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Holiday Heist at Dunhaven Castle
Cate Kensie Mysteries Book 3
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Cate knew she had seen those jewels before.
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As her eyes scanned the newspaper article from 1925, she is shocked to read about the theft of two priceless necklaces from her family’s home. When Cate recognizes one of the stolen necklaces from when she traveled back in time to the year 1856 to solve a murder mystery, Cate knows there’s only one thing left for her to do. Despite the hectic holiday season approaching, complete with two grand holiday events, Cate must travel to 1925 and unravel the mystery surrounding the jewelry theft.
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However, things take an unexpected turn when she arrives. As Cate discovers more unanswered questions, she starts to wonder if there’s a piece to the puzzle she has yet to uncover.
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While Cate and estate manager, Jack, try to unravel the puzzle in the past, another mystery brews in the present for Cate. Strange and eerie nightmares centered around a bookcase in Dunhaven Castle’s library disrupt Cate’s sleep, rattling her mind even during her waking hours. She wonders if these are connected to the jewelry theft or if something darker lurks in Dunhaven’s halls.
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Can Cate solve the mysterious theft of her family’s jewelry? Will the bookcase hold the secrets to the past? If it does, will Cate be able to decipher the clues on its shelves? Or is there something more sinister at work in Dunhaven Castle?
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Find out if Cate has what it takes to solve the newest mysteries at Dunhaven Castle in Holiday Heist at Dunhaven Castle, book three of the riveting cozy mystery series Cate Kensie Mysteries.
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About the Author

Nellie H. Steele lives in the South Hills of Pittsburgh with her family and her many fur-babies. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys teaching Statistics at a local university or watching her dogs and cats play in the yard.
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Nellie is the author of the Cate Kensie Mystery Series, a cozy mystery series following the adventures of Dr. Catherine Kensie, a history professor turned Scottish Countess, and her beloved dog, Riley, as they navigate their new lives in their quirky Scottish highlands castle, solving mysteries along the way! She is the creator of the Shadow Slayers series, a suspenseful series with a supernatural twist! Follow the Shadow Slayers through time as they fight to banish darkness from the world. Nellie also writes an adventure series, Maggie Edwards Adventures. Follow Maggie Edwards as she travels the world solving mysteries and finding unique treasures!
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Giveaway

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

$25 Amazon

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Book Review: The Body in Bodega Bay by Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden @UWiscPress

The Body in Bodega Bay
A Nora Barnes and Toby Sandler Mystery #2
Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden
Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press, September 2020
ISBN 978-0-299-29794-7

Trade paperback

When the body of a murdered man is found in a boat floating in Bodega Bay, married couple Nora Barnes and Toby Sandler are astonished to discover it is Charlie Halloran, Toby’s new partner in his art and antiques gallery. Charlie had been the most personable of men. Who would want to kill him? The answer, they soon discover, lies within the antique business, an auction Charlie had just attended, and his purchase of an old Russian icon—which has now disappeared.
Nora is an art history teacher at Sonoma College, and with Toby’s expertise in antiques, they are called upon to help the resident deputy, Dan Ellis, with the investigation. Clues mount up. People who may have had a connection to the missing icon are contacted and investigated, but the case moves slowly without the icon. When at last the icon is found, the chase intensifies.

There’s nothing I like more than a treasure hunt, and this one is particularly interesting. I love hidden recesses in old furniture. Buried treasure is a hoot. And most intriguing is the way that in an age when used items were not discarded (and thank goodness for that or we’d be lacking in humankind’s history) but reused. Old canvases were painted over. You’d guessed that, hadn’t you?

I love reading about the processes involved in reclamation projects. Specifically, in this case I loved the chase not only of a murderer, but the solving of an even older mystery. The Body in Bodega Bay is a fine way to spend a few hours.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

A Christmas We Won’t Forget


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Wherever you may be, with family or perhaps
not this year, may your Christmas bring you joy.

Book Review: Outsider by Linda Castillo @LindaCastillo11 @MinotaurBooks

Outsider
A Kate Burkholder Mystery #12
Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books, July 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-14289-4
Hard Cover

This is the 12th Kate Burkholder mystery novel and it’s another winner.

On a snowy winter’s night, Gina Colorosa, a police officer from Columbus, is on the run, pursued by some of her fellow officers.  Gina knew they’d be coming for her and she’d made plans, but she barely escapes with her life.  After several hours of driving she turns off the highway, and soon realizes she isn’t far from Painters Mill where her one time friend Kate Burkholder is Chief of Police.  But the storm intensifies making her quest to reach Kate impossible.  She loses control of her truck and lands in a ditch.

She is rescued by an Amish widower, Adam Lengacher, out for a sleigh ride with his three children. He takes her to his farm and contacts the Police Chief.  Kate arrives and is surprised to see Gina Colorosa, fellow police officer and once her best friend. They had attended the police academy together and after graduating had both been rookie cops in Columbus. They’d parted ways and hadn’t seen each other since.

Kate is more than a little wary at Gina’s unexpected appearance. While Gina explains that some fellow officers are taking bribes, and tampering with evidence, and it is this knowledge that  has put her in danger, Kate isn’t sure Gina is telling her everything.The blizzard rages on dumping more snow and Kate, her own vehicle now stuck in a snowdrift, has no choice but to accept Adam’s hospitality and stay at his farm.

Kate calls her lover and partner, State Agent Tomasetti, and explains what has happened and asks if he can somehow make discreet inquiries and find out whether Gina is telling the truth.

Meanwhile several police officers are indeed searching for Gina.  As they expand their search and ask questions of the locals in Painters Mill they are soon on Gina’s trail.

Kate has a dilemma. She and Gina had been through a lot together, supporting each other during those early days as police rookies. But their friendship had ended on a sour note.  While seeing Gina brings back some good memories, Kate is also aware that, if Gina is in danger, her presence at the Lengacher farm is putting Adam Lengacher and his children at risk.

Kate, with Tomasetti’s help, uncovers more information about the corruption involving the police in Columbus. The storm and snow add another dimension to the tension rising as Gina’s pursuers set in motion their plan to deal with her.

You’ll have to check out this novel if you want to find out just how it ends.  It’s worth the effort.  A great read!

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, August 2020.

Book Review: The Second Mother by Jenny Milchman—and a Giveaway! @jennymilchman @Sourcebooks

The Second Mother
Jenny Milchman
Sourcebooks Landmark, August 2020
ISBN 978-1-7282-2636-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Opportunity: Teacher needed in one-room schoolhouse on remote island in Maine. Find the freedom in a fresh start.

Julie Weathers isn’t sure if she’s running away or starting over, but moving to a remote island off the coast of Maine feels right for someone with reasons to flee her old life. The sun-washed, sea-stormed speck of land seems welcoming, the lobster plentiful, and the community close and tightly knit. She finds friends in her nearest neighbor and Callum, a man who appears to be using the island for the same thing as she: escape.

But as Julie takes on the challenge of teaching the island’s children, she comes to suspect that she may have traded one place shrouded in trouble for another, and she begins to wonder if the greatest danger on Mercy Island is its lost location far out to sea, or the people who live there.

I live on an island but, I guarantee, my island is nothing like the one that Julie moves to. Physically, there’s a world of difference between Maine and Florida climates so there’s that. Also, my island has the “island time” thing going on and I’m not sure that’s as strong in a non-tropical setting plus Mercy Island is decidedly more rustic and therein lies one of Jenny Milchman‘s strengths, the evocation of the danger that can come with a seemingly simple, homespun kind of atmosphere.

Julie is running from her grief-stricken past but learns all too quickly that this fairly remote island may present her with even more darkness and secrets that could very well bring her to her knees. One interesting facet of being on this island is that the isolation, the distance from the real world back on the mainland, actually creates a sense of claustrophobia because she can’t really escape or, at least, not easily.

Another thing that Ms. Milchman does extremely well lies in her main character. Like other women who have preceded her in Milchman novels, Julie has an inner toughness that comes out when she most needs it, proving to herself and, ultimately, others that she is no pushover, no shrinking violet. On the other side, the malefactors here are surprising and add much to the sense of growing tension. While The Second Mother isn’t my favorite of this author’s books and I do think it’s a good bit longer than it should be, I still found myself reading into the wee hours because I just couldn’t sleep without knowing what was going to happen 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2020.

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Giveaway 

To enter the drawing for a very gently
used advance reading copy of

The Second Mother by Jenny Milchman,
leave a comment below. The winning name will
be drawn on Thursday evening, December 24th.
Open to the US and Canada.