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.

Book Review: Murder from Scratch by Leslie Karst

Murder from Scratch
A Sally Solari Mystery #4
Leslie Karst
Crooked Lane, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-68331-953-5
Hard Cover

Murder from Scratch is the fourth in Leslie Karst’s Sally Solari mystery series.  As many of you may know, Sally is a chef-owner of a high end popular restaurant Gauguin.  However, lately she has been having problems with her staff, including her cook.  Feeling like she just can’t deal with any more problems, Sally hears from her father that her cousin Evelyn’s mother has recently died and Evelyn, who is blind, needs a place to stay for a while.  By this Sally’s father means that Evelyn should stay with Sally.  Grudgingly, Sally agrees.  But, as it turns out, Sally and Evelyn are kindred spirits.  Evelyn is an excellent cook and teaches Sally’s chef a new recipe or two and she is fun to be around.  Also, to Sally’s surprise, Evelyn can navigate around very well and with minimal help using her white cane.  In fact, when they go to the house Evelyn shared with her mother to get some belongings Evelyn needs, she discovers some things are not in their usual places.  Like most blind people, Evelyn and her mother kept things in their home in the same place at all times so that Evelyn could find them.  Discovering that things had been moved was very disconcerting and supported Evelyn’s belief that her mother had not overdosed on her own but that someone murdered her.

Anxious to find out what really happened, Evelyn and Sally begin to investigate which has its difficult moments particularly since they are two women trying to get information from fellow chefs in a competitive and male-dominated field.  But, unwilling to give up, they push on putting themselves in danger from someone who is determined not to be discovered and willing to do anything to make sure Sally and Evelyn do not succeed.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, July 2019.