Book Review: Murder at St. Margaret by Lynn Morrison @NomadMomDiary @mktgchair @AnAudiobookworm

 

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Author: Lynn Morrison
Narrator: Pearl Hewitt
Length: 8 hours 16 minutes
Series: Oxford Key Mysteries, Book 1
Released: Sep. 27, 2021
Publisher: Marketing Chair Press
Genre: Cozy Mystery

 

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“Grief can change us… rewire our brains and shift the way we look at the world…”

A dead chef. A ruined gala. And the ghosts didn’t see a thing.

As Oxford’s new Head of Ceremonies, Natalie Payne’s first task is to organize St Margaret’s autumn gala. However, her plans are dashed when she finds their famed chef dead in the kitchen.

And then a centuries-old cat informs Nat she has her own magical legacy…and responsibilities. A murder in the halls is a sure sign that something has gone wrong with Oxford’s magical protections.

Now Nat has to solve the murder, find a new chef for the gala, and figure out why Oxford’s magical defenses are down. With the help of Oxford’s magical Eternals and some new friends, Nat has a chance.

But can she do it before St Margaret loses its connection to the magic of Oxford?

If you like cozy mysteries where ghosts walk the halls, paintings come to life, creatures play, and magic seems within reach, the Oxford Key Mysteries are sure to delight.

Buy on Audible

Lynn Morrison lives in Oxford, England along with her husband, two daughters and two cats. Born and raised in Mississippi, her wanderlust attitude has led her to live in California, Italy, France, and the Netherlands, in addition to the UK. It’s no surprise then that she loves to travel, with a never-ending wish list of destinations to visit.

She is as passionate about reading as she is writing, and can almost always be found with a book in hand. You can find out more about her on her website LynnMorrisonWriter.com.

If you want to chat with her directly, join her Facebook group – Lynn Morrison’s Not a Book Club – where she happily talks about books, life and anything else that crosses her mind.

Website

Narrator Bio

Originally from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in Northeast England, audiobook narrator Pearl Hewitt currently lives with her husband and two children in Houston, Texas. Over the years she has worked as a customer service rep, a teaching assistant, and a teacher, but deep down there was always a performer wanting to get out. In 2007 her twelve-year-old son told her that he believed she was so good at reading stories out loud that she should do that as a job. That was her defining, eureka moment, and she’s never looked back. Pearl immersed herself in training and pursued a career in general voice acting but in 2012 she decided to focus her attention to narrating audiobooks in a wide range of genres. It was then that her professional career blossomed. She regularly works directly with indie authors but also narrates for a number of major publishers and has gained lots of recognition in the process including IAAIS awards, a Voice Arts Award nomination and Audiofile Magazine reviews. Pearl’s is comfortable narrating both fiction and non-fiction titles and has been very successful reading British Regency romance, cozy murder mysteries, fantasy/science fiction, children’s literature, the classics, history, biographies and more.

Website

Q&A with Author Lynn Morrison

  • Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
    • I wish! Murder at St Margaret was the first cozy mystery I wrote, and at the time, my only thought was about writing a story which would hold together. I could not have imagined how many copies of the book would sell, or even begin to dream of making an audiobook. It wasn’t until the fourth book in the series came out, and I started to see a steady income, that I began to think about making audio versions.
    • Now that I am farther along in my career, I do keep the idea of audio in the back of my mind as I write. I try to cut down on the dialogue tags and introduce more motion and movements instead. But, I think some of that comes along as part of your natural progression as you get better over time.
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • I didn’t start thinking about producing an audio version of Murder at St Margaret until a year after it was released. By then, I had good information on what other books my readers liked. I looked up those titles on Audible and checked which narrators the authors had chosen. Pearl Hewitt’s name came up again and again. She has an incredible ability to effortlessly switch character voices as she reads, and really brings the story to life in a way only audio can. It was no surprise that listeners love her. I contacted her out of the blue via her website, and lo and behold, she said yes!
  • How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
    • I put together character bios for each of the main characters, and prepared a 15 minute test script pulling out different excerpts from the book. I specifically chose scenes which were dialogue-heavy so I could hear how she would differentiate between the characters. There were a few smaller characters which I didn’t include in my advance preparation. After reading the book, Pearl came up with suggestions for how their voices should sound – and I have to say that she did a brilliant job of it. She recorded the 15 minute sample and I circulated it to a few fans for feedback. Pearl took on board all their comments and then took care of everything from there. I didn’t have to do anything else until the book was ready to approve in Audible.
  • Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
    • I pulled from both my own experiences of living in Oxford and being a professor’s wife, along with doing a ton of background research into the colleges themselves when writing this series. Oxford is such a unique city, and the university is full of quirks and traditions which are fascinating to outsiders. I wanted to bring my readers behind the closed doors of the colleges and let them see what life is really like. I haven’t seen any ghosts in Oxford, nor have any of the paintings come to life as I’ve walked past, but my imagination was more than happy to fill in the blanks when it came to dreaming up the magical elements.
  • How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
    • Writers talk a lot about the importance of refilling your creative well, and I fully agree with that sentiment. I read a LOT of books each year – 150 or more on average. I need to lose myself in someone else’s story to remember why I write.
    • I also spend a long time thinking about a book idea before I sit down to start a project. I flesh it out in my mind until I am super excited to see the story come to life. I am usually thinking one or two books ahead of whatever project I’m currently doing. This helps me keep up my writing pace – each finish line marks the start of something I’m excited to tackle.
    • One of the funnest parts of being a writer (and one of the weirdest) is seeing your characters take on a life of their own as you write the story. I am a plotter. I write a synopsis and outline before I put the first word onto paper. But no matter how much I prep, there is always a moment where a character will suddenly veer in a new and interesting direction. Wherever that happens, I can only sit back in amazement and see where they lead me. It keeps me guessing, even though I’m the writer.
  • Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    • I wrote this series in first person, present tense because I wanted the reader to feel like they are experiencing everything at the same time as my main character is doing so in the story. When put into an audio format, this gives the story a real sense of immediacy. I think it allows the listener to sink deeper into the tale, and feel as though they are sitting in on the conversations and making each discovery along with Natalie and her friends.
  • What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    • As an author, I want readers to enjoy my story in whatever format is most comfortable for them. That might be a paperback, or an ebook, or the audio version. Arguing over “which format is better” misses the point – the main focus should be on accessibility. The only person who gets a vote on the format is the reader.
    • On a personal note, my younger daughter is dyslexic, and for a long while she hated reading. She has, however, always loved listening to stories. Audiobooks were a natural fit for her.
  • How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
    • We ate cake! I started a tradition of either baking or buying a cake whenever I finish a book. It gives me something to look forward to when I am elbow deep in edits, and it also reminds my family there is a reward for putting up with my book deadline stress. As I start to get close to the end, we all discuss which cake we want to eat when it comes time to celebrate.
  • What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
    • Don’t stress over the quality of your first draft. I am a strong believer that anything can be fixed in edits – even if that means you have to do a major rewrite. Major rewrites aren’t that bad! The key thing is to get a first draft done so you can enjoy the satisfaction that comes from writing a book. It is an incredible accomplishment – and the warm feelings you get will support you through the editing process. I would also suggest that you start networking with other writers in your genre as soon as you can. Join author groups on Facebook or Discord, or post comments and replies to authors on other social media platforms. The writing community is filled with supportive people who are happy to cheer you on or lend a hand (or be a sympathetic ear). Writing can feel lonely at times, and knowing other writers can make a big difference on dark days.
  • What’s next for you?
    • I am hard at work on the next book! I jump from one project to another, and always have at least one book in progress. At the moment I’m working on two books – one is for the Oxford Key Mysteries and the other is for my Midlife in Raven series.

Review

I love a good mystery and then you throw in a magical cat AND a wyvern (who’s really the cat) AND a few ghosts AND a setting at Oxford…well. I ask you, how could I resist?? Needless to say, I didn’t, and I’m here to tell you this story is packed with charm and appealing characters and a good conundrum to be solved. Nat and her cohorts, Kate and Mathilde, find lots of clues leading to who killed the chef that are frequently red herrings and, of course, the bigger question is what is causing the magic to fail?

Well, actually, the biggest question might be how did Nat not know about her own connection to the magical world, not to mention where did this curmudgeonly cat called H (because he hates his name) come from? But I digress.

All in all, Ms. Morrison’s Murder at St. Margaret was a most satisfying blend of mystery and urban fantasy, enhanced in a delightful way by Ms. Hewitt’s audiobook narration. I really savored the latters intonations and pacing and I think these two ladies together present an awfully enchanting tale. Now, on to book #2, Burglary at Barnard.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2021.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Lynn Morrison. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

View the full tour schedule here!

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Book Review: Two Many Sleuths by M K Scott @morgankwyatt @SDSXXTours

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Title: Two Many Sleuths
Series: The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries Book 12
Author: M K Scott
Publication Date: October 1, 2021

Goodreads // Indiebound // Amazon

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Two Many Sleuths
The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries, Book 12
M K Scott
Sleeping Dragon Press, October 2021
ISBN 978-1944712747
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Can the Brits and Yanks team up to solve a murder?

What should have been an easy week for small town detective Mark Taber and his amateur sleuth and innkeeper wife, Donna Tolllhouse Taber goes awry when a local garden club member is shot. One of the inn guests, a Scotland Yard detective’s insistence on helping could actually make things worse. Can ruffled feathers be smoothed before the killer strikes again?

Plenty of red herrings and potential suspects, not to mention appealing characters including the visiting Howard and Elizabeth, plus a humorous tone, made Two Many Sleuths a fun introduction to this very cozy series. Innkeeper Donna, unlike her police detective husband, Mark, is sure her Scotland Yard detective guest is going to be a treasure trove of crime-solving tips but things don’t quite go that way when a local garden club member is murdered. Will the two real detectives solve the case or will their wives prove they have their own investigating skills?

In a review of another book by M K Scott, I mentioned that I thought the writing was a little stilted and I had the same reaction to Two Many Sleuths. Now, I’ve come to believe that’s just Scott’s style and it certainly didn’t keep me from enjoying the story.

I might also have encountered some difficulty because I haven’t read any of the eleven previous books in the series but the authors presented enough backstory to make me quite comfortable with the characters and setting. Also, readers who are not very familiar with “Brit-speak” will appreciate the included glossary of British lingo.

All said, this was a fun read and I think cozy fans will enjoy it.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2021.

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About the Author

M. K. Scott is the husband and wife writing team behind The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries. Morgan K Wyatt is the general wordsmith, while her husband, Scott, is the grammar hammer and physics specialist. He uses his engineering skills to explain how fast a body falls when pushed over a cliff and various other felonious activities. The Internet and experts in the field provide forensic information, while the recipes and B and B details require a more hands on approach. Morgan’s daughter, who manages a hotel, provides guest horror stories to fuel the plot lines. The couple’s dog, Chance, is the inspiration behind Jasper, Donna’s dog.

Website // Blog // Facebook // Twitter
Instagram // Bookbub // Amazon // Goodreads

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Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card

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Book Review: Séances Are for Suckers by Tamara Berry @Tamara_Morgan @KensingtonBooks

Séances are for Suckers
An Eleanor Wilde Mystery #1
Tamara Berry
Kensington Books, November 2018
ISBN 978-1496719621
Hardcover

Ellie Wilde doesn’t believe in ghosts. But as her alter ego, Madame Eleanor, she hunts ghosts for a living. Ellie is a triplet, she has a brother William, an elementary school teacher, and a sister Winnie, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident that killed their mother. The money Ellie makes pays for her sister’s nursing home care.

Ellie’s not a con artist. The ghosts she investigates usually turn out to be mice in the walls or resentful teenagers hiding objects from their new stepparents. Her clients are satisfied and the “ghosts” disappear.

When the rich and handsome Nicolas Hartford III flies her to his ancestral estate in England, he tells her that he does not believe in ghosts, or her ghost hunting skills. But his grandmother believes that a ghost named Xavier is haunting the place, and he wants Ellie to put on a show to convince his grandmother that the ghost is gone.

The food and accommodations at the estate are less than what Ellie expected, in fact, they are disappointing, but she is enjoying her adventure with the family and the folks in the village. But an actual dead body appears, and then disappears from Castle Hartford, and Ellie discovers there is a sinister plot unfolding.

A cozy mystery, with dashes of romance and paranormal, this will appeal to readers of Kyra Davis and Victoria Laurie.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, September 2021.

Book Review: Booking the Crook by Laurie Cass

Booking the Crook
A Bookmobile Cat Mystery #7
Laurie Cass
Berkley Prime Crime, July 2019
ISBN 978-0-440-00098-3
Mass  Market Paperback

Minnie Hamilton, along with her cat Eddie, works on the library’s bookmobile. There’s a new library director, and a new library board president, and they are asking questions about the library and not including Minnie in the meetings. Is her job being eliminated?

Chilson, Michigan, is a tourist town in the northwest part of the state, and the library is busy during the summer. Minnie discovers one of her customers dead in their driveway. Rowan, a married woman with two college age children, is discovered to have been poisoned. The victim, although well-liked, has crossed swords with the village board members about property development. Rowan’s daughter has broken up with her boyfriend—is he looking for revenge? Her husband has been distant lately—could he have wanted his wife dead?

An engaging cozy mystery in a pleasant setting, with a surprising twist at the end. Seventh in the Bookmobile Cat mystery series.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, September 2021.

Book Review: No Substitute for Matrimony by Carolyn J. Rose @CarolynJRose

No Substitute for Matrimony
Subbing Isn’t for Sissies #13
Carolyn J. Rose
Carolyn J. Rose, October 2020
ISBN 978-1-7342412-3-5
Trade Paperback

The author has written a score or more of what can be characterized as cozy mysteries. However, this novel is more of a deep dive into the subtle and not-so subtle characteristics of a lengthy cast of participants and their attitudes on life. They range from husband-to-be-Dave the detective to Barbara’s wealthy and intrusive friend, Mrs. B., to other faculty and staff at the school where Barbara substitute teaches.

Most of those who people the story are friendly, inquisitive, opinionated and talented. The narrative is well-done and the book is the kind that can fill several pleasant and warm afternoons. Yes, there’s a murder and Barbara’s husband-to-be is the detective charged with solving the puzzle. But that isn’t the most interesting element of the book.

The author has a penchant for giving readers access to her opinions about almost anything in sometimes calm, more often snarky terms. Her humor at times I found misplaced, but that’s a minor criticism. The writing is clean, the story proceeds at a reasonable pace and reaches its logical and satisfactory conclusion.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2021.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Sins of Edom, Red Sky.

Book Reviews: Pineapple Lies by Amy Vansant and Pineapple Mystery Box by Amy Vansant @AmyVansant @Rosemary_Benson

Pineapple Lies
A Pineapple Port Mystery #1
Amy Vansant
Amy Vansant, August 2015
Narrated by Rosemary Benson
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Growing up in one of Florida’s age-55-plus communities, Charlotte never expected life to be wild. Golf cart racing with her surrogate mothers Mariska and Darla was about as nutty as life got… until she found the hot pawnbroker’s mom buried in her backyard.

Talk about making a lousy first impression.

Armed with nothing but her wits, Pineapple Port’s questionable cast of characters and a growing crush, Charlotte is determined to solve the mystery of Declan’s mother’s murder.

Hey, at least this guy’s skeletons aren’t in his closet.

Sometimes it takes me what seems like forever to get around to reading a book I really wanted in the beginning. It isn’t usually because I lose interest, although that occasionally happens. Mostly it’s because I am constitutionally incapable of controlling my TBR hoard, a victim of my own book greed.

The result of this is that, once in a while, I’m completely blown away by a book I’ve put off for no good reason other than having too many books to read (!) and then I kick myself for missing out for way too long and that’s what happened with Pineapple Lies. It took me approximately 30 minutes of the audiobook to decide this was going to be a terrific read for three reasons:

1. I love the players and the premise of a youngish woman who lives in a retirement community in Florida being the sleuth. I live in Florida (but not in a retirement village) so I was already predisposed to like the setting and Ms. Vansant has created a bunch of characters who are a little stereotypical but in a very good way and who each bring something to the table, so to speak.

2. The mysteries are entertaining puzzles with the main one, the discovery of the local pawnbroker’s mom buried in Charlotte’s yard, keeping my little gray cells working while the side threads provide plenty of humor and distraction. The author’s pacing is especially good and not once was I the least bit let down as the plot progressed. There’s a budding romance, too, but it’s not obtrusive.

3. I’ve found an audiobook narrator to add to my list of favorites. Rosemary Benson is, in a word, amazing. Her ability to create individual voices is beyond that of most truly good narrators and I’ve listened to some I consider among the best. I’m very sure I would have fallen in book love with Pineapple Lies anyway but Ms. Benson brings it all to life.

So, big kudos to both author and narrator—this book is going on my list of best books read in 2021 and now we’ll see if the trend continues with the second book, Pineapple Mystery Box.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2021.

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Pineapple Mystery Box
A Pineapple Port Mystery #2
Amy Vansant
Amy Vansant, January 2018
Narrated by Rosemary Benson
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

When a giant inflatable Halloween witch goes missing in the Pineapple Port retirement community, Charlotte’s eager to nab the culprit. Before she can lift a fingerprint, someone threatens to kill a new neighbor who looks like an adorable Pomeranian but possesses a disturbing talent for revenge. Moments later, a stranger demands the return of a mysterious wooden box – or else. 

Charlotte’s boyfriend, Declan, isn’t having a great morning either. His calculating ex-girlfriend has returned to claim she’s the rightful owner of his pawn shop. She’s livid he’s found a new lady, too.

Eh. Things could be worse. At least Charlotte doesn’t know that a mojito-swilling killer who fed his grandmother to a cat is on his way to Pineapple Port!

Some series suffer from sophomore slump but this one most certainly does not. Charlotte has decided that her calling is to be a private investigator after her achievements in the previous story and her senior citizen community is more than willing to send cases her way, things like who stole Darla’s Halloween witch and who is moving outdoor decor from one yard to another.

When pawnbroker Declan’s former girlfriend threatens to make his life miserable and a peculiar box draws unhealthy attention, he thinks things are weird enough but they can’t explain his uncle Seamus’s bizarre behavior. Throw in a potentially homicidal newcomer and Charlotte suddenly has a full detecting plate.

Following up on the first book, Pineapple Mystery Box is just as clever and filled with humor and I appreciated narrator Rosemary Benson’s talents every bit as much. I highly recommend this and I’ll soon be starting the next audiobook, Pineapple Puzzles.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2021.

Book Review: Buried in a Book by Lucy Arlington

Buried in a Book
A Novel Idea Mystery #1
Lucy Arlington
Berkley Prime Crime, February 2012
ISBN 978-0-425-24619-1
Mass Market Paperback

Published in 2012, this is the first in a series featuring Lila Wilkins, a 45-year-old single parent of a teenaged son about to start college in the fall, who suddenly loses her job as a newspaper journalist due to downsizing.  Knowing she has to find a new job soon, Lila spots an ad for Novel Idea, Literary Agency that is looking for an intern – a job Lila sees as getting paid to read so she takes it following her interview with the agency president, Ms. Bentley Burlington-Duke.  Primarily Lila’s job is to read queries  from would-be authors to determine whether a query should be rejected or given to an agent to follow up – 100 queries each day, 2 or 3 book proposals, and a host of other tasks plus send a letter to each author whose query she rejects.  This leaves little time to read anything just for the pleasure of reading!

And, as if that wasn’t enough, did I mention that Lila’s mother, Althea, a palm and tarot card reader (and believer) calls to tell Lila that the cards show someone will die on her first day at the agency?  Later that morning a disheveled man who introduces himself as Marlette, walks into the agency bearing some flowers, hands them to Lila, and then runs out when he hears other staff arriving.  Meeting the literary agents for the first time, Lila agrees to go and get them coffee – but only this one time – and when she returns, she finds Marlette has also returned and is sitting on the couch in the reception area.  Trying to get him to leave per her boss’s orders, Lila realizes he is dead.  What a way to start a new job!  Later Lila finds out that Marlette has a needle puncture wound in his neck – pointing to the likelihood that he was murdered.

Much of the rest of the book concerns Lila dealing with her son, Trey, who is in the process of finding himself and what he wants to do with his life and Lila trying to find out who killed Marlette – and why – without getting herself killed which a message painted on her home seems to indicate is a possibility.  Along the way we meet the various people in Lila’s personal and work life, several of whom are possibly the murderer.  Is the solution a huge surprise?  No, but it also is not completely obvious.  I’d say it’s a good summer read.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, July 2021.