Book Review: Deadly Dog Days by Jamie M. Blair

Deadly Dog Days
A Dog Days Mystery #1
Jamie M. Blair
Midnight Ink, November 2016
ISBN 978-0-7387-5018-7
Trade Paperback

Start with a soon to be forty woman who feels like a fish out of water. Meet Cameron Cripps-Hayman, currently living in Metamora, Indiana and wondering what happened to her life. She is currently estranged from her husband, Ben, grew up here and convinced her to move when he took the job as town sheriff. Between his arrogant and opinionated, (did I mention, she was also snooty and greedy as well), mother’s coldness and Ben’s working all sorts of hours, the marriage started to unravel and they have been separated for the past six months.

Cameron is feeding a flock of ducks while mulling over her lot, as well as the sad state of things in town when she realizes there’s a hand sticking out of the water on the opposite bank. She can tell by the slender fingers that the deceased is female and notices a red something wrapped around the corpse’s wrist. What Cameron will quickly learn is that the victim is Jenn Berg, a young woman who was not only starring in the play everyone hoped would bring tourists and begin the revitalization process, but who was pregnant and rumored to be dating Ben.

What follows includes Cameron becoming a suspect in the eyes of some community members, her assuming responsibility for Jenn’s four unruly dogs, her mother-in-law trying to steal everything of value from the home she gave Ben and Cameron, plus the added chaos created by the five volunteers Cameron is supervising. Their original mission was to sell tickets to the play through a phone bank in the church basement, but that goes south when the play is canceled and the phone bank is asked to leave because of Cameron’s supposedly being a suspect.

While there is a murder to be solved, it often takes a back seat to the antics of the phone bank folks who decide they all want to play detective. One is a kleptomaniac who spends more time knitting than calling, another is a drunk, yet another is doing community service for an unspecified assault, and the other two are nerdy high school kids. At other times, the drama between Cameron and Ben takes center stage. Then there are other townspeople who share the suspicion spotlight at various times, the bartender who was involved with the victim as well as her younger sister, a shopkeeper with dementia, an elderly philosopher who is constantly dowsing, an aspiring film maker and a wealthy eccentric who lives in a castle take center stage, plus the surly kennel owner who Jenn owed money to for a fifth dog. Add in a scheme to thwart the mother-in-law by painting the house in violation of a town ordinance, another dead body and a promising home-made dog treat business, not to mention the antics of Ben’s fifteen year old daughter Mia who knows how to play Ben against Cameron and you have a delightfully chaotic murder mystery. Cozy lovers will find this a delight.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, April 2019.

Book Review: Lowcountry Bonfire by Susan M. Boyer—and a Giveaway!

Lowcountry Bonfire
A Liz Talbot Mystery #6
Susan M. Boyer
Henery Press, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-63511-227-6
Trade Paperback
Also available in hardcover

From the publisher—

Private Investigators Liz Talbot and Nate Andrews have worked their share of domestic cases. So when Tammy Sue Lyerly hires them to find out what her husband is hiding, they expect to find something looney but harmless. After all, this is the guy who claims to have been a DEA agent, a champion bull rider, and a NASCAR driver. But when he turns up dead the morning after Liz and Nate deliver the incriminating photos, Tammy is the prime suspect.

Questioning the truth of Zeke Lyerly’s tall-tales, Liz and Nate race to uncover small town scandals, long buried secrets, and the victim’s tumultuous past to keep Tammy Sue out of jail and the case from going up in flames.

Zeke Lyerly was a teller of tall tales, many involving Army Ranger-style exploits, race cars, hot women, guns and the like and no one really believed them although they were certainly entertaining. His latest adventure wasn’t so captivating but was he really killed because of something so mundane as cheating on his wife? Tammy Sue can’t help but be Suspect Number One when Zeke is found in the trunk of his car, the very car she had set on fire with such vim and vigor, but Liz and Nate have serious doubts. Fortunately for all concerned, the police chief, who happens to be Liz’s brother, Blake, has to let them in on the investigation because of a contractual arrangement. Otherwise, they’d have to skulk around to clear their client.

As a group, the recurring characters in this series are among my favorites but none surpass the delightful Colleen who just happens to be a ghost and can be seen and heard by only Liz and Nate. Colleen has been a real help in solving cases because she can go places and see or hear things that Liz can’t and her snarky attitude always adds an element of humor. Unfortunately, Colleen is not around quite as much this time and our two private eyes have to work a little harder because of it.

The mystery of who killed Zeke and stuffed him in his own car is only the beginning of what could be quite a convoluted story but, in the end, all comes together. Liz and Nate, with more than a little help from friends and family, have to answer a lot of questions and connect the dots in their efforts to clear Tammy Sue (who, by the way, is a pistol). Secrets come to light and the ugly face of revenge surprises most of the residents of this tiny island. It just goes to show that living in a small community doesn’t necessarily mean that your neighbors know everything about you 😉

All in all, I enjoyed this sixth entry in the series every bit as much as the earlier books and my affection for these people hasn’t cooled at all. Ms. Boyer is just going to have to get the next one out PDQ!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

An Excerpt from Lowcountry Bonfire

The dead are not much given to hysteria. The morning Tammy Sue Lyerly piled her husband’s clothes into his Raven Black 1969 Mustang convertible and lit a match, my friend Colleen stayed oddly nonchalant. She’d been dead eighteen years and had seen a thing or two.

For her part, Tammy Sue was pitching an F5 hissy fit. She dug all ten fingers into her 1980s pile of long red hair, clutched her head, and bellowed, “Let it burn.”

Four Stella Maris volunteer firemen cast her worried looks but went about the business of hooking up the hose to the fire hydrant.

We stood in a loose huddle a safe distance from the burning car in the Lyerly driveway.

“I asked you what you were doing here,” said Blake.

My brother, Blake, was the Stella Maris Police Chief. My husband, Nate, and I were private investigators, and Blake purely hated it when we meddled in his business.

“I called her,” said Daddy. “I overheard at the flea market that your sister’d done some work for Tammy Sue recently. Thought maybe she’d want to know.” Daddy shrugged, looked innocent.

Mamma and Daddy lived across the street from the Lyerlys, so naturally Daddy was first on the scene. Mamma had come with him. She raised an eyebrow to let him know she had his number. It wasn’t yet eight o’clock. Daddy sipped coffee from a large insulated stainless steel travel mug, all nonchalant like.

“For cryin’ out loud, Dad. We don’t need the whole town out here this morning.” Blake gave his head a shake. He scanned the neighborhood we’d grown up in. Folks gathered in clumps under the shade of massive live oaks in bordering yards. They’d all come out to see the show. The audience was growing fast. It was early on a Tuesday in the middle of June. Some of those folks were missing work. Blake lifted his Red Sox cap, ran a hand through his hair, and resettled the cap.

Tammy Sue grabbed my arm with one hand and clutched her chest dramatically with the other. “Well, I want her here, and you don’t have a single thing to say about it. This is my property.”

“Yours and Zeke’s.” Blake kept his tone easy, casual. “Where did you say Zeke was again?”

“He’s with that cheap hussy, Crystal Chapman.” Tammy’s eyes glowed with crazy. She leaned forward and hurled the words at Blake. “And he’d better by God not come home unless he wants me to light his ass on fire too.”

************

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