Book Reviews: No Substitute for Mimes by Carolyn J. Rose and Mental State by M. Todd Henderson @CarolynJRose @DownAndOutBooks

No Substitute for Mimes
Subbing Isn’t for Sissies #12
Carolyn J. Rose
Carolyn J. Rose, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-7342412-0-4
Trade Paperback

Set in the fictional town of Reckless River, Washington, residents are by turns, bemused, irked, and barely tolerant as their quiet town is besieged by a group of mimes.

Suddenly, they seem to be everywhere. And they are stealing things; small things, useless trinkets. But then, the stolen items reappear. Residents become increasingly bewildered and irritated, but that fails to suppress the turbulent life of substitute teacher, Barbara Reed. Her principal seems bent on handing her the most problematic assignments at the local school where she is a long-time fixture.

Reed’s life is crowded with a large number  of idiosyncratic individuals from a couple of cops, a wealthy retiree, some relatives and a host of friends. And there is a dog with few manners.

The novel is awash with incidents frequently involving several of Reed’s friends, especially local crime news reporter, Stan. People who like this kind of story in which the mystery or crime often takes a back seat to various social activities, will likely be enthralled.

The book is well-written, moves through town at a measured pace and arrives at a surprise ending that engages most of the town.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Mental State
M. Todd Henderson
Down and Out Books, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-948235-33-4
Trade Paperback

Royce Anderson, rogue FBI agent is on a personal crusade. He’s trying to nail the man who killed his brother Alex, a prominent professor of law at a prestigious law school in Chicago. Local police have tentatively ruled Alex’s death as a suicide. Royce is unbelieving, unimpressed, sure his brother would never have done such a thing.

But if Alex’s death wasn’t suicide, what was it? With almost no additional help, except that he sometimes receives along his troubled, occasionally stumbling way, the narrative wanders across the Eastern Seaboard. Indeed, because part of the story involves prior activities by the law professor, there are some undeveloped international elements as well.

The story follows a conflicted and disturbed agent, Royce Anderson, as he uses all his considerable skills and experience to confront and best some very evil and very well-connected people. There are some serious problems, not the least of which are interesting elements of the story which are undeveloped and some major jumps in points of view which may unnerve readers. The occasional political asides add little to what could have been a serious gripping thriller.

Nevertheless, readers with patience will be drawn to Royce’s side as he struggles to avenge his brother and save an innocent man, although at the price of several other lives hugely disrupted.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: A Death at the Yoga Cafe by Michelle Kelly

A Death at the Yoga Café
Keeley Carpenter #2
Michelle Kelly
Minotaur Books, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-06738-8
Hardcover

Michelle Kelly’s book has all the elements a reader expects in a cozy mystery. Keeley Carpenter, the main character, has returned to her hometown after years away in the big city, and opens a vegetarian café and yoga studio in the building that used to house her father’s butcher shop. Her mother, who shows up for a visit a week before she is expected, is a perfectionist and constantly criticizes Keeley.  Keeley’s boyfriend Ben, is a good-looking detective on the local police force.

Keeley witnesses an argument between the town’s mayor and his newest girlfriend, who is a business rival of Keeley’s and who was the “mean girl” in high school. Unfortunately, this mystery also includes some of the cozy mystery clichés. The girlfriend begs Keeley to investigate the death, instead of hiring a lawyer. Why would someone facing arrest for a murder beg for help from a yoga teacher that she bullied in school? And why would the yoga teacher confront the killer alone, without telling the police her suspicions.

The book contains recipes and instructions on how to do select yoga poses. While the premise of the book shows promise, it fails to deliver on a satisfying conclusion to the mystery.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, March 2020.

Book Review: Coconut Layer Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke @JoanneFluke @KensingtonBooks

Coconut Layer Cake Murder
A Hannah Swensen Mystery #25
Joanne Fluke
Kensington Books, March 2020
ISBN 978-1-4967-1889-1
Hardcover

The population of Eden Lake, Minnesota, is probably the most cookie-eating population in the country. It’s because baker and amateur sleuth Hannah Swensen, owner of The Cookie Jar, gives everyone she comes in contact with cookies.  Butterscotch and Pretzel Cookies, Confetti Blizzard Whippersnapper cookies, Strawberry and Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies—you name it. In the latest book of this long running series, Hannah and her mother travel to California to help a friend pack for a cross country move and to fit in a little sightseeing.

A panicked phone call from her younger sister brings Hannah back to Minnesota. Sister Michelle’s boyfriend, Lonnie, a deputy, is the top suspect in the murder of a friend, Darcy. Darcy had been at a bar and had been drinking too much, and Lonnie drove her home. When he was in her house, making sure she got in safely, he passed out and when he awoke next morning, she was dead. Hannah investigates, with plates of Snowflake and Ice Cookies in hand, interviewing witnesses and suspects.

Readers who like recipes with their mysteries, and who haven’t discovered the delights of Eden Lake, will be pleased to discover this series. With twenty-five books now in the series, there are a lot of mysteries to be solved, and many recipes to be tried. Recipes have detailed instructions, so even the most inexperienced cook will not be intimidated.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, March 2020.

Book Review: Copper and Goldie by Rosemary and Larry Mild

Copper and Goldie
Rosemary & Larry Mild
Magic Island Literary Works, September 2019
ISBN 978-0-9905472-5-9
Trade Paperback

On the cover of the book it states – 13 Tails of Mystery and Suspense in Hawai’i.  In the first of the 13 short stories we meet Sam Nahoe, a Detective Sergeant  in the Homicide unit of the Honolulu Police Department, who with his partner have been called out to check on a man who his neighbour says hasn’t been answering his phone or her knocks on his door. The detectives break into the apartment and find the man is dead, shot in the back while sitting at his desk.

The Detectives call in the forensic team and then proceed to check the  apartment for clues.  The following day, armed with evidence, they return to the apartment building, but things go awry and in an attempt to save his partner from being shot, Sam takes the bullet.

After months of rehab Sam has to make a difficult decision which sets him on a new path.

Each story involves Sam, now a cab driver with a new partner, Goldie, a Golden Retriever.  He and Goldie drive around town in search of fares and find themselves dealing with a variety of people including robbers, kidnappers and vengeful wives.

Together Sam and Goldie are up to the challenge and the stories of their encounters with various criminals and how they deal with them is light-hearted fun and an easy read.  Perfect to pass the time on a plane, bus or train ride. And what could be better than taking a few cab rides around the beautiful island of O’ahu solving mysteries.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, January 2020.

Book Review: Bound for Murder by Victoria Gilbert @VGilbertauthor @crookedlanebks

Bound for Murder
A Blue Ridge Library Mystery #4
Victoria Gilbert
Crooked Lane Books, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-64385-243-0
Hardcover

Subtitled “A Blue Ridge Library Mystery,” Bound for Murder is the fourth in this series.  The amateur sleuth, Amy, is a librarian, and the director of the Taylorsford Public Library.  Her best friend and employee, Sunny, is running for mayor of their town.  When a skeleton is found on property owned by Sunny’s grandparents, Carol and P.J., it becomes the talk of the small town.  Bolstered by the fact that Carol and P.J. used their land for a hippie commune back in the 1960s, and a couple of hippies left the commune and were not seen again, the incumbent mayor insinuates that Sunny’s family had something to do with the death which, as it turns out, was a murder.  And, when the skeleton is identified as someone who lived in the commune, suspicion of Carol and P.J. intensifies.

Amy, who does not believe that Carol and P.J. could have been involved in a murder, becomes determined to investigate, despite her fiancé’s concern for her safety.  In this she has the backing of the local Chief Deputy – at least partially – who asked her to do some research into the commune and its time.  However, he did not ask her to do any live investigating!  But, when Carol and P.J. ask Amy to deliver a message to former members of the commune, it seems like a perfect opportunity to ask questions without further raising suspicions.  Would that it was so!  Shortly after completing her round of questioning, Amy starts getting threats and the message that she should back off.  Unsurprisingly, she doesn’t do so.

Bound for Murder is an engaging cozy mystery, perfect for a weekend read and, as such, I recommend it.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, February 2020.

Book Review: Late for Dinner by M.K. Scott @morgankwyatt @SDSXXTours

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Title: Late for Dinner
Series: The Way Over the Hill Gang, Book 1
Author: M.K. Scott
Publisher: Sleeping Dragon Press
Publication Date: July 9, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Cozy

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Late for Dinner
The Way Over the Hill Gang, Book 1
M.K. Scott
Sleeping Dragon Press, July 2018
ISBN 978-1944712334
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Marcy Collins proved her investigative skills in the field time and time again, but after an accident leaves her disabled, she’s forced into early retirement in a senior convalescent center. Although her mind and body may not be what they used to be, her steadfast determination to fight crime and advocate for victims continues.

When her well-meaning former partner is assigned with helping to keep her mind agile, he unknowingly inspires her to search for clues in a long-forgotten cold case. Before he knows what’s happening, Marcy assembles a team of sharp-eyed, witty, and often cantankerous senior sleuths to bring a criminal to justice and help her regain some of what she thought she’d lost for good.

Follow the former detective and her team of unconventional sleuths as they dig through the clues and wind their way down a treacherous path of deception, tomfoolery, and murder!

Senior sleuths always amuse me, most likely because I’m a senior myself and would like to think my brain would still be lively if I end up in an assisted living facility 😉 Solving crimes would be right up my alley and much more fun than playing bingo or doing arts and crafts. I mean, think about it—surely years of reading mysteries would pay off then, right?

Late for Dinner introduces a few elements to the senior sleuth concept that are a little different from what I’m accustomed to seeing. The leader of this small pack of investigators is not a senior herself; Marcy is in the assisted living home to hopefully recover from a crippling car accident and she was, in fact, a police detective, waiting to see if she can go back to desk duty or will be forced to retire. Also, the first case they look into has no connection to any of them so there’s no personal impetus to solve this cold case.

What the Way Over the Hill Gang does have is a yearning for something interesting to do and each member has expertise to offer, such as Lola’s sharp eye and ability to read people. Herman, Jake and Gus all served in the military in World War II and bring relevant experience and skills to the mix while Eunice, on the periphery and not officially part of the gang, is a world-class gossip and can ferret out almost anything that’s out of the norm. I liked all these people a lot, even when they were annoying as all get out.

Watching the gang work to prove that a woman had not committed suicide years ago was a lot of fun despite a couple of issues. The writing seemed a little stilted to me, to the point that I occasionally had to read a passage again to make sure I got it right. Also, I never could get a handle on when this is taking place—there are references to techniques and items that point to today but the three men would have to be in their 90’s and it seems unusual they would all be so active,. When all is said and done, though, I don’t really care so much and will certainly move on in the series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Apple Books
Amazon // Indiebound

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An Excerpt from Late for Dinner

Lola stared at her manicured fingers gripping the card deck with the same disgust she’d shown when she discovered the local television station had replaced her favorite crime program with a teen reality show.

Her elderly bridge partner, Herman, had a shock of silver hair that waved over his skull similar to a rooster’s comb. Any hair in a man’s later years was all gravy to the point most of the other male residents grumbled that Herman was a show-off.

He waved his hand in front of her face. “Still breathing? Good partners are hard to come by.”

“Don’t I know it.” She shuffled, ignoring the twinge of pain in her hand.

Marcy and Jake laughed at her comment, but Herman narrowed his eyes, probably taking it as an insult regarding his failure to get the last two trumps.

Lola dealt out a card, still out of sorts, but not quite able to put her finger on why and retorted, “Retirement stinks!”

Marcy, always a calmer member of the group, shot her an easy smile that hardly creased her face. Most folks would think she was younger than her forty plus years with her dark hair hardly touched by gray and her trim body. The only old thing about her was the wheelchair, which was temporary.

If Lola had had a clue that chasing criminals would have kept her looking young, she might have chosen that as a career as opposed to making use of her long legs and other notable assets as a Vegas showgirl. Still, it had been a good life. Her ability to sum up people in a few seconds allowed her to have more than her share of pleasant adventures and adoring admirers. That was behind her. She sighed and acknowledged Marcy with a nod, curious to hear what the woman might say.

“Hear ya. Most working folks would envy us. We’re all living in a premier assisted living community with plenty of activities. What else could you want?”

Lola pursed her lips and rolled her eyes upward as she tried to explain how she felt without insulting her companions. “Sure, we have shuffleboard, fit and sit exercise class, flower arranging, and Bible Bingo. Those are old people things. Even the food has morphed into tasteless mush.”

“About that.” Jake held his hand up. “Something is going on with the dietary director.” He glanced around making sure he had everyone’s attention and cupped his ear with his hand. “I hear things.”

A general murmur of agreement followed, with the exception of Gus yelling, “What?” He sat at a nearby table playing solitaire. Gus didn’t know how to play bridge and had no desire to learn.

Various eyes connected around the table, knowing the inevitable process of repeating what had been said in a much louder decibel would probably result. Gus’s early life of working with explosives damaged the man’s hearing. Even though he had hearing aids, he usually didn’t wear them, because he thought they made him look old.

Instead of yelling his former comment, Jake ran a hand over his shoe polish black hair before mouthing the words. Gus popped up both thumbs, signaling his understanding. At some point, he taught himself to lip read, but it only worked if he was directly looking at a person.

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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. Murder Mansion is the first book in The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries. Overall, it is a fun series to create and read. Drop Dead Handsome is the second book in the series. Killer Review should be out in October 2016.

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

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Book Review: A Killer Edition by Lorna Barrett @LornaBarrett @BerkleyMystery

A Killer Edition
A Booktown Mystery #13
Lorna Barrett
Berkley Prime Crime, August 2019
ISBN 978-1-984-80272-9
Hardcover

Readers living in good sized cities without any bookstore will be envious of the tourist town of Stoneham, known as Booktown. Here Tricia Miles runs a mystery bookstore, “Haven’t Got a Clue.” Her sister Angelica runs a cookbook store and café, and Joyce Widman’s bookstore, “Have a Heart” specializes in romances. In the thirteenth book in the Booktown series, New York Times bestselling author Barrett spins another satisfying mystery, with familiar  characters that would populate any small town.

Tricia has more time on her hands, now that her assistant Pixie takes on more of the duties at the store. A position has opened up on the board of the local animal rescue organization, and Tricia would like to volunteer. She’s also practicing her baking skills for the Great Booktown Bake-Off and her love life is stuck in a rut. Her sister Angelica recommends she pick up a couple of good romance books.

On her way to the romance bookstore, Tricia interrupts an argument between the store’s owner Joyce and her neighbor Vera Osborn. Tricia picks up some romances and agrees to stop by Joyce’s house later for some plants from her garden. When Tricia arrives at Joyce’s home, she discovers Vera’s body, run through with a pitchfork.

In addition to a good read, there are bonus cupcake recipes included in the book. This will give the reader something to bake while waiting for the next book in the series.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, December 2019.