Book Review: A Deadly Eclair by Daryl Wood Gerber—and a Giveaway!

A Deadly Eclair
A French Bistro Mystery #1
Daryl Wood Gerber
Crooked Lane Books, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-68331-341-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It’s always been Mimi Rousseau’s dream to open her own bistro, but it seems beyond her grasp since she’s been chased back home to Nouvelle Vie in Napa Valley by her late husband’s tremendous debt. Until her best friend Jorianne James introduces her to entrepreneur Bryan Baker who invests in promising prospects. Now, working the bistro and inn until she’s able to pay it off and call it her own, Mimi is throwing the inn’s first wedding ever.

The wedding will be the talk of the town, as famous talk show host Angelica Edmonton, daughter of Bryan’s half-brother, Edison, has chosen the inn as her perfect venue. Anxious, Mimi is sure things are going to turn south, especially when Edison gets drunk and rowdy at the out-of-towners’ dinner, but by the evening, things begin to look up again. That is until six AM rolls around, and Bryan is found dead at the bistro with an éclair stuffed in his mouth. And the fingers point at Mimi, whose entire loan is forgiven in Bryan’s will.

An interesting thing occurred to me while I was reading this cozy—the main characters were not always very likeable, or relatable for that matter, but it didn’t really matter all that much. In fact, I’m usually bothered by a very large cast but not this time because Ms. Gerber makes them all so individualistic and memorable.

Most satisfying to me, the protagonist, Mimi Rousseau, has a very legitimate reason to do her own investigating because she’s been pegged as a prime suspect. That’s what happens when the death of a murder victim benefits one person in such a generous fashion. Mimi is a smart lady, not inclined towards putting herself in jeopardy (which I appreciate greatly) and a wedding party full of hostile relatives of both the bride and groom gives her a plethora of potential killers to check out. That’s the trouble, actually—too many possibilities send Mimi and the reader in so many directions that solving Bryan’s murder becomes something like wading through a bog but Mimi finally gets to the other side. As for me, I was kept guessing almost to the denouement, mainly because I kept changing my mind.

This author clearly has a sure hand with whodunnits. I haven’t read any of Ms. Gerber‘s earlier work and there’s a lot of it but, if A Deadly Eclair is any indication, I think I need to start reading.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of A Deadly Eclair by Daryl Wood
Gerber, leave
a comment below. One
winning name will
be drawn Friday
evening, November 24th. This drawing
is o
pen to residents of the US and Canada.

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Book Reviews: Bad to the Bone by Linda O. Johnston and SALT by Daniel Boyd

Bad to the Bone
A Barkery & Biscuits Mystery #3
Linda O. Johnston
Midnight Ink, May 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-4628-9
Trade Paperback

Everyone in Linda Johnston’s latest cozy mystery owns a dog, and they all want to feed their furry friends treats. That’s a good thing for Carrie Kennersly, a veterinary technician who owns Barkery & Biscuits, a bakery that sells healthy snacks for pets. The store is next to her people bakery, Icing on the Cake. A large pet food company, VimPets, wants to buy some of Carrie’s recipes to add to their line of products. Jack Loroco, the local sales representative for VimPets, has been trying to convince her that it would be a win/win situation for her.

Enter Wanda Addler, a VimPets employee who is trying to woo Carrie to deal with her. She’s attractive, brash, and not above manipulating people to get her way. Wanda has discovered that Jack is dating local city councilwoman Billi Matlock, and threatens his job security. When Wanda is found stabbed to  death in the parking lot behind the Knobcone Heights Resort, both Jack and Billi are suspects.

An  entertaining mystery set in a resort town in southern California. Two recipes are included—one for people and one for dogs.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, June 2017.

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SALT
The World After CARBON
Daniel Boyd & Predrag Ivanovic (Illustrator)
Caliber Comics, November 2016
ISBN 978-1-9423516-9-6
Trade Paperback

I open a new Daniel Boyd graphic novel feeling the same anticipation-tingle-of-excitement that I get pulling off the top of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  Diving into SALT: The World After CARBON was like my first taste of Boom Chocolatta! Cookie Core.  Immersed in fond familiarity, awaiting the unexpected ingredient, it was so easy to indulge and just enjoy.

Until the caffeine kicked me into the adventure and the ferociously fast-paced action invaded my mind, capturing my focus.  Art erupts from the pages.  Adrenaline-inducing drama, cliff-dangling suspense and baseball are accounted for and in full force.  Corrupt politicians ignore the environmental impact of hydro-fracturing, causing conflict with the folks that want clean water; a right-here-right-now-relevance.  The Cookie Core is an unlikely combination of West Virginians that dismiss and destroy stereotypes by performing super-heroic actions, otherwise known as doing exactly what they’ve always done—sticking together to fight the good fight.  Nature Ned is a delightful addition, definitely a deeply desired, chocolate cookie crumb.  The River Rat reprise is the caramel that is not like the other things and shouldn’t belong, but inexplicably works perfectly.  And serves as a reminder of this author’s ornery streak.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Boyd’s recent release.  It pleased me tremendously and gave me plenty to think about, but…..without the ice-cream headache.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2017.

Book Review: Uncorking a Lie by Nadine Nettmann

Uncorking a Lie
A Sommelier Mystery #2
Nadine Nettmann
Midnight Ink, May 2017
ISBN: 978-0-7387-5062-0
Trade Paperback

After being introduced in Decanting A Murder,  Sommelier Katie Stillwell returns in Uncorking a Lie. Paul Rafferty is a regular customer at the restaurant where Katie works. When he is the highest bidder for a rare bottle of wine at an auction, he hosts a dinner for the uncorking at his home and invites Katie.  Katie is the only one there that is not part of an apparently tight knit group of friends, who are most curious about who she is and why she was included. Though she is a guest, she offers her expertise at uncorking the special bottle of wine. After the wine is served, she is immediately suspicious that the wine is not what the label says and in fact is neither old nor special. When she shares her doubts with Cooper, Paul’s assistant who is seated next to her, he decides to go to the wine cellar to retrieve the second bottle of wine Paul bought at the auction. When Cooper doesn’t return, Katie goes to get him only to find him unconscious at the bottom of the stairs. From there the mystery really kicks up. There are deaths and other attacks on people connected to the wine. Katie is clearly in danger. But why? What has she stumbled into?

I love the premise of this series. The author is a sommelier and her knowledge shines through. She is able to give readers a good bit of wine history and general information on how wine ages without it becoming preachy. The plot is well developed though I strongly suspected who the culprit was well before the case was solved.

The series is set in and around  the Bay area, from San Francisco to Sonoma. The author really puts the reader in that location including enough local details to make it come alive for readers.

The one thing that keeps it from rating higher for me is  that regardless of how smart Katie might be, she has a tendency to go rushing off into obviously dangerous situations. She seems to feel as though only she is capable of handling even the most dangerous people. This is known as the “too stupid to live” flaw of many mystery protagonists. For me, as much as I really liked this book, if the author doesn’t give Katie a bit more common sense, I won’t be reading any future books in the series.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, August 2017.

Book Review: Temptation Trials by B. Truly

Continue reading

Book Reviews: Body Parts by Jessica Kapp and Yom Killer by Ilene Schneider

Body Parts
Jessica Kapp
Diversion Books, August 2017
ISBN 978-1-63576-166-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Raised in an elite foster center off the California coast, sixteen-year-old Tabitha has been protected from the outside world. Her trainers at the center have told her she’ll need to be in top physical condition to be matched with a loving family. So she swims laps and shaves seconds off her mile time, dreaming of the day when she’ll meet her adoptive parents.

But when Tabitha’s told she’s been paired, instead of being taken to her new home, she wakes up immobile on a hospital bed. Moments before she’s sliced open, a group of renegade teenagers rescues her, and she learns the real reason she’s been kept in shape: PharmPerfect, a local pharmaceutical giant, is using her foster program as a replacement factory for their pill-addicted clients’ failing organs.

Determined to save the rest of her friends at the center, Tabitha joins forces with her rescuers, led by moody and mysterious Gavin Stiles. As they race to uncover the rest of PharmPerfect’s secrets, though, Tabitha finds herself with more questions than answers. Will trusting the enigmatic group of rebels lead her back to the slaughterhouse?

I’d like to say the idea of raising children for organ harvesting is a shocking idea but it isn’t entirely when you think of those families that have a child to harvest the stem cells for an older child. The big difference is that those families mean no ill will towards that younger child, unlike the drug company in Body Parts. Just imagine the betrayal Tabitha feels when she learns the truth. For 10 years, she has believed that her foster home guardians have her best interest at heart and that all the hard work getting and keeping her mind and body in top shape will win her a place with a loving family.

The time is about 2030 (based on a reference to a tv show), not so far in the future. When Tabitha first learns the truth, she isn’t at all sure who she can trust but, clearly, it isn’t the adults who’ve been involved in her “care” all these years and she fears for the friends still at the Centre. The tension at this point is high but then it sort of slides into a muddle of romantic confusion that, to my way of thinking, is neither necessary nor logical, given the need to concentrate on saving the kids left behind. When Tabitha accepts the reality of what’s going on, she becomes driven to join in on missions to rescue others but she isn’t really qualified.

Overall, this story is a good one and, while I can’t say I formed any real attachment to Tabitha or any of the other characters, the premise did provoke a bit of thinking. The real discomfort, to me, comes from the knowledge that we in developed countries are becoming much too reliant on pills and potions to make everything better, to “preserve” ourselves, if you will. Perhaps we should pay attention to the possible dangers that might seem like pure fiction.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Yom Killer
A Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery Book 3
Ilene Schneider
Aakenbaaken & Kent, December 2016
ISBN 978-1-938436-19-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

No time is ever good for a family emergency, but for a rabbi the period just before Yom Kippur is especially difficult. Yet even though the Holy Day is approaching, Rabbi Aviva Cohen rushes off to Boston to be at the bedside of her mother, who was found unconscious in her apartment at an assisted living facility. The big question is: was it an accident or an attack? The search for the truth uncovers everything from old grudges to family secrets to fraud – and possibly murder.

When you, or someone close, reach a certain age, assisted living facilities loom large and, for the responsible family members, safety is a major topic of conversation and research. However, murder or even the perception of murder, is not usually in the list of things to look out for. Small wonder, then, that Rabbi Aviva’s suspicions are aroused and she heads right to Boston to see about her mother, accompanied by her ex-husband, Steve Goldfarb, who just happens to be acting chief of police in their New Jersey town. Of course, she doesn’t immediately suspect attempted murder. After all, senior citizens fall a lot so why should her sleuthing senses be alerted? When she does begin to look at things askance, her snooping—for that is what it is—seems at least moderately appropriate because this is her mother. Besides, rabbis (and other religious professionals) do have a way of encouraging people to talk, don’t they?

Aviva is an engaging character, one that brought a smile to my face quite often, and a lot of the others also appealed to me, especially Steve, who’s not as much of an ex as you might expect, and Aviva’s fabulous mom. Since the author is Rabbi Ilene Schneider, I think it’s safe to say Aviva’s background, beliefs, behavior, etc., are as accurate as it’s possible to be within the confines of fiction and I appreciate that because my knowledge of the Jewish faith is limited. I learned things about Judaic customs and certain religious periods to add to my small collection of facts and that added to my overall enjoyment of this lighthearted, intelligent mystery.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

Book Review: Killer Party by Lynn Cahoon

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Title: Killer Party
Series: A Tourist Trap Mystery #9
Author: Lynn Cahoon
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Cozy

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks
Google Play // Amazon // Indiebound

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Killer Party
A Tourist Trap Mystery #9
Lynn Cahoon
Lyrical Underground/Kensington, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-60183-636-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

For a gang of old college buddies, the quaint resort town of South Cove, California, is the perfect spot for a no-holds-barred bachelor party. But for Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books and More—this stag party is going to be murder . . .

After a few months of living with her boyfriend Greg, Jill is still getting used to sharing such close quarters, but she’s got no hesitation about joining him for a weekend at South Cove’s most luxurious resort. While Greg and his college pals celebrate their buddy’s upcoming wedding, Jill intends to pamper herself in style. But when the groom is found floating facedown in the pool, Jill must find the killer fast, or she might not have a boyfriend to come home to any more . . .

When I posted a long-overdue review of the third book in this series, If the Shoe Kills, I promised myself to go back to the beginning and catch up but, as so often happens with best-laid plans, it didn’t happen. I still have Guidebook to Murder waiting for me. Sigh…

So, does it matter that I had only read #3 before starting this, the 9th book? Not in the least. It helps that I don’t generally care about reading mysteries in order but this series has the extra added attraction of a protagonist who owns a bookshop and she’s got more than half a brain. It was easy to slide right into this new adventure and adventure it was as Jill jumped right into sleuthing. This time, boyfriend Greg can’t do his usual police chief detecting thing since he has to be considered a suspect in the murder of his best friend.

Sleuthing, in true Jill style, means enlisting the help of family and friends around town and I really enjoyed seeing these familiar folks plus a few who’ve come to  South Cove since the last time I “visited”. There’s even a brand new shopkeeper who’s causing a bit of mystery of his own and suspicions about who he might really be.

Lynn Cahoon has the enviable ability to keep a long-running series fresh but, as I can attest, she manages to make individual books provide just enough backstory to make the reader comfortable without being infodumps. As for the mystery taking place in Killer Party, this is a whodunit in the best sense, with plenty of red herrings keeping me guessing all the way. Fair warning, though—we’re left with a bit of a cliffhanger that won’t be resolved till the next book is out so write faster, please Ms. Cahoon!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Lynn Cahoon is an Idaho expat. She grew up living the small town life she now loves to write about. Currently, she’s living with her husband and two fur babies in a small historic town on the banks of the Mississippi river where her imagination tends to wander. Guidebook to Murder, Book 1 of the Tourist Trap series, won the 2015 Reader’s Crown award for Mystery Fiction.

Photo Credit Angela Brewer Armstrong at Todd Studios

Website // Twitter // Facebook

 Amazon // Goodreads

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

For a chance to win a print copy of
Killer Party, enter the drawing here.

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Book Review: Blood Red, White and Blue by Kathleen Delaney

Blood Red, White and Blue
Mary McGill Canine Mystery #3
Kathleen Delaney
Severn House, July 2017
ISBN 978-0-7278-8689-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It’s the 4th July and the town celebrations have gone off without a hitch. Except for the body in the oak grove, shot in the back. The unfortunate victim was a visitor to the town. Mary McGill and her cocker spaniel Millie had seen him only that morning, staring in the window of Lowell’s Jewellery store, his German Shepherd, Ranger, at his side. Could the diamond and sapphire necklace which caught his attention have some connection with his untimely death? What brought him to Santa Louisa in the first place?

Having agreed to look after Ranger temporarily, Mary is unwillingly drawn into the murder investigation. She never dreamed that her enquiries would lead her into serious danger … and more murder.

Santa Louisa’s 4th of July celebrations are underway when Mary and Millie have a casual meeting with Ian Miller and his German Shepherd, Ranger, in front of the jewelry store. Everything is pleasant among humans and dogs and, certainly, Mary has no inkling that the next time she sees him, Mr. Miller will be dead. The only good thing about it is that the glorious fireworks show went off without a hitch but, of course, it’s probably those very fireworks that covered up the shot.

Mary and her “crew” are soon doing what they do so well, sniffing out clues and even being a fair amount of help to Mary’s nephew-in-law, Police Chief Dan Dunham. Dan is a police chief with sense, recognizing that there are some things civilians can do better than the police can while he’s also cognizant of the dangers inherent in murder investigations. Mary is the one who’s most likely to figure things out with the information that comes her way but she couldn’t do it without the help of her family and close friends.

Mary is such a delight, thoughtful and intelligent without being ridiculously nosy, and she never lets the routines of life get pushed aside by snooping. Instead, she does much of her thinking about a crime while having her morning coffee or taking Millie for a walk. This time, there are repercussions beyond the community because it turns out that Ian was with the California Bureau of Investigations and was in Santa Louisa following up on leads about a series of jewelry store robberies. His death naturally brings state investigators to town, some helpful, some not but, once Mary suddenly sees the truth, it’s Ranger who becomes so very important.

Spending a few hours with Mary McGill and her friends and family is always so nice and I have fun with these people while I appreciate the camaraderie and the feelings they all have for each other, canines as well as humans. Kathleen Delaney‘s series is one of my favorites and I really, really wish that I could have their next adventure right now 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.