Book Review: Something Fishy by Lois Schmitt @schmittmystery @encirclepub @partnersincr1me

Something Fishy
A Kristy Farrell Mystery #2
Lois Schmitt
Encircle Publications, July 2019
ISBN 978-1-948338-79-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When attorney Samuel Wong goes missing, wildlife magazine reporter Kristy Farrell believes the disappearance is tied into her latest story concerning twenty acres of prime beachfront property that the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium hopes to purchase. Sam works for multi-millionaire land developer Lucien Moray who wants to buy the property for an upscale condominium. The waterfront community is divided on this issue like the Hatfields and McCoys with environmentalists siding with the aquarium and local business owners lining up behind Moray.

Meanwhile, a body is found in the bay. Kristy, aided by her veterinarian daughter, investigates and discovers deep secrets among the aquarium staff–secrets that point to one of them as a killer. Soon the aquarium is plagued with accidents, Kristy has a near death encounter with a nine foot bull shark, and a second murder occurs.

But ferreting out the murderer and discovering the story behind Sam’s disappearance aren’t Kristy’s only challenges. When her widowed septuagenarian mother announces her engagement, Kristy suspects her mom’s soon to be husband is not all he appears to be. As Kristy tries to find the truth before her mother ties the knot, she also races the clock to find the aquarium killer before this killer strikes again.

With all the attention in recent years on environmental issues, Something Fishy is topical as well as entertaining. It also happens to be a very good puzzler for mystery fans who love to do a little detecting along with the protagonist.

Aided and abetted by her daughter, veterinarian Abby, magazine reporter Kristy sets out to do two things, find the missing Sam and figure out who killed the fish keeper and why. Had Jack gotten too deeply involved in the contention between the aquarium and a developer over a piece of prime real estate? Before long, the duo come up with some intriguing leads but then another body turns up. In the meantime, Kristy is also highly suspicious of her mom’s new fiance who surely is too good to be true.

Enjoyable characters and a thoughtful plot made this a story I didn’t want to put down and I was actually kind of sorry when I came to the end. Other than occasional word or phrase choices that are a little odd, Something Fishy is well written and free of the flowery language so often found in cozy mysteries; in fact, I found myself enjoying the simple and comfortable flow of Ms. Schmitt’s prose. This book is my introduction to the author and I intend to go get the first one, Monkey Business, but I don’t know if she intends to write more in the series. I hope so!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2021.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Encircle Publications
Amazon // Indiebound

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An Excerpt from Something Fishy

CHAPTER ONE

 

“Something bad happened to Sam. I know it.”

Katie Chandler’s sea green eyes filled with tears. A sea lion trainer at the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium, Katie had been my daughter’s college roommate.

“Maybe Sam worked late and forgot to call,” I said.

Katie shook her head, her chestnut hair flying in the bay breeze. “No. He hasn’t answered my texts or phone calls. I stopped by his house twice too. No one’s home.”

Silence. I tried thinking of something helpful, or at least hopeful, to say.

“I called the police, Mrs. Farrell. The officer said being stood up for a dinner date isn’t enough for a missing persons case—that maybe it was Sam’s way of breaking up.”

I shifted my gaze to the whitecaps on the bay while Katie’s statement sank into my brain.  Perhaps the officer was right. I knew from my daughter Abby that the relationship between Katie Chandler and Samuel Wong had hit a rough patch.

The conflict: Katie, who served as executor of her late grandmother’s charitable trust, was donating six million dollars of this money to the aquarium’s expansion project, which included the acquisition of twenty acres of adjacent land. Sam worked as executive assistant to multi-millionaire developer Lucien Moray who wanted to buy the bay front property for luxury condominiums. What started off as friendly bantering between Katie and Sam had escalated into explosive arguments that had become increasingly personal.

But Katie and Sam weren’t the only ones embroiled in this controversy. The community at large had become like the Hatfields and McCoys. Environmentalists wanted the property to go to the aquarium where it would be used for breeding grounds for endangered species, an aquatic   animal rehabilitation center, and a research camp for marine scientists. Local business owners sided with Moray, hoping high end condo owners would bolster the area’s economy. I was writing an article on this for Animal Advocate Magazine. That’s why I was at the aquarium today.

Katie continued, “No matter what happened between us, Sam would never stand me up. He’s my fiancé not someone I picked up a few hours ago at a bar. Besides, Sam came around to my point of view. He had it with Lucien Moray. He hadn’t told anyone but me yet, but he was quitting his job at the end of the year.”

“I’ve an interview later this morning with Moray,” I said. “I’ll check around and see what I can find out. Someone in Moray’s office may know Sam’s whereabouts.”

“What if no one does?”

“Let’s take it one step at a time.” I glanced at my watch, then pushed myself off the rock where I’d been sitting, a task that would have been easier if I were ten years younger and twenty pounds lighter. “Speaking of interviews, my appointment with your aquarium director is in five minutes, so I better head inside. I’ll call you tonight.”

Katie sighed. “Thanks. I should get back to my sea lions too. We’ve a show at eleven.” She rose and stretched her small wiry body. “After the show, I’ll stop at Sam’s house again.”

Katie, shoulders slumped, wandered off in the direction of the outdoor sea lion amphitheater. I stood for a moment, inhaling the salt air while watching a seagull dive into the bay and zoom back to the sky with a fish in its mouth. As the autumn wind sent a sudden chill down my spine, I wrapped my arms around my body, thinking back to when Katie and my Abby attended college. Abby often acted impulsively, out of emotion, but Katie had always been levelheaded, never someone to jump to conclusions. What if Sam is really in trouble? The thought nagged at me as I trekked up the sandy beach and stepped into the building that housed the indoor exhibits.

I made my way down a long corridor, surrounded by floor to ceiling glass tanks housing ocean life from around the world. I paused at the shark tank and marveled at the grace and beauty of these fearsome predators gliding silently through the water, causing hardly a ripple. I would be back here soon. In addition to my article on the land expansion, I was writing a story on ocean predators.

I veered down the administration wing. When I came to a door marked  DIRECTOR, I glanced again at my watch. Ten-thirty. Right on time. I knocked.

“Enter,” a booming voice responded. I pulled open the door and stepped inside.

Standing in front of me was a man who appeared to be in his mid-fifties. Noting his polished wingtips, sharply creased trousers, navy blazer, crisp white shirt, and perfectly knotted tie, I wished I’d dusted the sand off my shoes.

We stood face to face. Actually, it was more like face to chest. I was only five feet tall and this man towered over me by at least a foot and a half.

“Commander Conrad West,” he said, extending his arm. His handshake was firm and strong. “You must be Kristy Farrell, the reporter from Animal Advocate Magazine.”

Conrad West stood ramrod straight, probably a throw-back from his military training. A former naval commander—the youngest African American to be appointed a commander in the navy’s history—he had started his career as a medical corpsman. He had been director of the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium since his retirement from the navy last year.

He walked behind his desk and positioned himself in a large swivel chair.

“You may sit,” he said, pointing to a straight back chair facing him.

I slid into the chair, suppressing the urge to playfully salute.

He went straight to the point. “I understand you’re writing about the land acquisition. Have you seen our expansion plans?”

“Yes, and they are impressive. But how will the aquarium come up with the money to buy this land?” I asked, fumbling through my bag for my pad and pen. “You’re competing with the bottomless pockets of Lucien Moray.”

Commander West leaned forward, his hands clasped in front, as if praying that what he was about to say would come true. “The current property owner, Stuart Holland, is a business man who’s not about to forgo a profit. But he’s also an active conservationist and a lifelong resident of this area who would like to see the land used in an environmentally friendly manner. He’s kept it vacant until recent financial loses forced him to put it up for sale.”

The Commander leaned back. “There’ll be no bidding war. He set a price—ten million dollars. The land is worth more, but Stuart wants it to go to us, so he set a price he feels we can reach. If we can raise the money by next summer, the land is ours.”

“Ten million is a high goal.”

He nodded. “More than half of the funding will come from a trust set up by Alicia Wilcox Chandler. We also have one million in reserve that we accumulated during the past few years. Of course, we’re still three million short, but our new development officer is planning an aggressive fundraising campaign with—”

A loud knock on the door interrupted the conversation.

Commander West scowled. “Enter.”

A plump woman with a bad case of acne barged into the room. She wore jeans and a light blue shirt with an aquarium patch on the upper left pocket identifying her as Madge.

“Commander,” she said, slightly out of breath. “We have a problem. The sea lion show is in ten minutes, and Katie just ran out.”

“What do you mean she ran out?”

The woman shrugged. “She took a call on her cell phone, then flew out of the amphitheater.

“Didn’t she say anything?” The scowl hadn’t left his face.

The woman paused, furrowing her eyebrows as if deep in thought. “Oh, yeah. But I don’t know if it had to do with why she left.”

“What did she say?” He appeared to be talking through gritted teeth.

“She said two fishermen found a body floating in the inlet.”

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About the Author

A mystery fan since she read her first Nancy Drew, Lois Schmitt combined a love of mysteries with a love of animals in her series featuring wildlife reporter Kristy Farrell. She is a member of several wildlife and humane organizations as well as Mystery Writers of America. Lois worked for many years as a freelance writer and is the author of Smart Spending, a consumer education book for young people. She previously worked as media spokesperson for a local consumer affairs agency and currently teaches at Nassau Community College on Long Island. Lois lives in Massapequa with her family which includes a 120 pound Bernese Mountain Dog. This dog bears a striking resemblance to Archie, a dog of many breeds who looks like a small bear, featured in her Kristy Farrell Mystery Series. Lois was 2nd runner up for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award for Something Fishy.

Catch Up With Our Author:

LoisSchmitt.com // Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime
Virtual Book Tours for Lois Schmitt. There will be TWO winners.
TWO (2) winners will each receive (1) Amazon.com Gift Card
of varying amounts. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2021
and ends on July 1, 2021. Void where prohibited.

Enter here.

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Book Review: Blood Family by Jacqueline Seewald @JacquelineSeewa @encirclepub

Blood Family
A Kim Reynolds Mystery #5
Jacqueline Seewald
Encircle Publications, May 2020
ISBN 978-1-64599-043-7
Trade Paperback

When people delve into their own pasts, they sometimes get much more than they bargained for and that’s definitely the case when librarian Kim Reynolds goes in search of her biological father. Just when she finds James Shaw, he passes away unexpectedly but this was no ordinary death. Not only that, Kim learns that her newly-discovered family has a litany of problems and now she’s been drawn into the middle of it all.

Claire, Kim’s very needy half-sister, is the one who pulls Kim into the mess and, to make matters worse, her wealthy biological father named her in his will, putting a target squarely on her back. That, and a strong element of family mystery over and above her father’s death, compel Kim to delve into whatever has been going on in this troubled, dysfunctional family. As an academic librarian, she’s no stranger to research and mental investigating but that might not be enough and it’s a good thing that her fiance, police lieutenant Mike Gardner, and his partner, Sergeant Bert St. Croix, are watching her back as well as doing their jobs. The three of them make an effective team.

Ms. Seewald has been known for her strong characterizations and tight plotlines and Blood Family is certainly no exception. Kim, Mike and Bert, as well as Bert’s SO, Fred, are very easy to like and each brings something different to their investigations while the plot itself is full of what seem to be minor hints here and there that, at the end, add up to a satisfying conclusion.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

Book Review: Rattlesnake Hill by Leslie Wheeler

Rattlesnake Hill
A Berkshire Hilltown Mystery #1
Leslie Wheeler
Encircle Publications, February 2018
ISBN 978-1-893035-81-2
Trade paperback

It’s autumn in the Berkshires, foliage-loving tourists have gone and hunting season is open. Kathryn Stinson arrives on a quest to discover the name of a girl in a photograph found in an old family album. The trail leads from California to the Berkshires. No one, including an elderly great-aunt, had apparently known who the girl was, but Kathryn is determined to find out. What she discovers is whole lot of dangerous secrets, including abuse, and even murder.

As a motivation to move Kathryn’s story to this place, the events seemed weak to me, and unfortunately, I didn’t find a single one of the characters sympathetic. Not even Kathryn. The story’s strong point is the atmospheric aura of the house Kathryn rented, and the woods and the hills surrounding it.

The characters are fully fleshed, the dialogue seems adequate. I wouldn’t say as the plot was full of surprises. Each one of the cast seemed capable of skulduggery.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 5

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

Peachy Flippin’ Keen
Southern Eclectic #3
Molly Harper
Pocket Star, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-7894-8
Ebook

Molly Harper has a ton of books but I had never “met” her until I came across the first book in this 4-book series and fell deeply, madly in love with Lake Sackett, Georgia, and the McCready clan, not to mention the folks in their town. These books are Southern fiction at it’s best and this novella is no exception. Nothing earthshattering happens here as it’s pretty much a set-up for the book coming out in June, Ain’t She a Peach (and I can hardly wait to start that one).

Frankie McCready has to be the cutest, most unusual county coroner and embalmer you ever did see but she fits right in with the family and the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop which is exactly what the name says. One day, there’s a new lawman in town, Sheriff Eric Linden, fresh from Atlanta, and he apparently never read the Southern charm book. Pranks are being perpetrated on the McCready premises but it’s questionable whether the sheriff will help solve the case or drive Frankie to murder (of him) first. Then again, they did have a previous encounter so keeping that secret is one thing they have in common, probably the only thing. Can you guess where this is headed?

These books can be read out of order because each one focuses on different members of the family but, for a real treat, read these in order.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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Death Promise
Jacqueline Seewald
Encircle Publications, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-893035-94-2
Trade Paperback

On the surface, this sequel is a thriller involving human trafficking and organized crime as well as maybe Russians and international intrigue but, for me, the core story is that of Daniel Reiner and the family dysfunction that suddenly mushrooms when he learns he has a much younger teenaged sister, daughter of the father who abandoned him as a child. Who is Beth and is she truly his half-sister? International consultant Michelle Hallam agrees to help Daniel look into the situation but what they learn in Las Vegas sends them into a tornado of more and more questions with frightening answers. This is a nice blend of suspense and romance with lots of action to keep the pages turning.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place
A Flavia de Luce Novel #9
Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-0-345539991
Hardcover
Random House Audio
Narrated by Jayne Entwistle
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

Great sadness and a near-cliffhanger enveloped our cheeky pre-teen detective at the end of the previous book and fans had to wait, with huge anticipation, for this newest book to find out what would become of the de Luce family and its faithful servants, Dogger and Mrs. Mullet. When Aunt Felicity becomes overbearing and a bit of a bully, Flavia decides to do away with herself but Fate intervenes when Dogger suggests an outing, a boat trip on a nearby river. Is anyone surprised when Flavia quite literally catches a corpse, setting her off on another investigation?

Rumor has it the next book, The Golden Tresses of the Dead (January 2019), will be the last we see of Flavia but, oh my goodness, I hope not and the surprise at the end of The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place gives me a little bit of hope for her future. Who knew, back in 2009 when the series began, that so many mystery readers would fall in love with this kid?

As always, narrator Jayne Entwistle kept me entranced and, at times, sitting in the car in my driveway or a parking lot so I could continue to listen. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: Jayne Entwistle brings Flavia to life and I highly, highly recommend the audiobooks and/or the print books (I do both so I won’t miss anything) but reading in order is a must.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn
A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Short Story
Gigi Pandian
Henery Press, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-63511-314-3
Ebook

“Jaya, for the love of all that’s good and holy, please remember that not everything is a murderous plot.”

With that, Jaya and Tamarind (the latter wearing stylish purple combat boots) are rescued from the Denver airport in a snowstorm by a pair of friendly guys and are soon ensconced at a Victorian hotel, the Tanglewood Inn. Did Jaya really see someone at the window of the turret room she’s been assigned? Kenny thinks the hotel is perfect but it puts Jaya more in mind of a spooky haunted house. Sure enough, the owner, Rosalyn, shares the tale of her hotel library’s “avenging ghost”.  A former guest, a Mr. Underhill, died there in the 1930’s and an Agatha Christie book had something to do with it in a classic locked room mystery.

And then they hear a scream in the night…

I’m already a devotee of Jaya’s historic treasure hunting adventures and this little story is a perfect interlude before the next novel. Besides, who could ask for more than a locked room mystery?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.