Book Review: Beneath the Surface by Mike Martin @mike54martin @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Beneath the Surface
Series: Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, Book 3
Author: Mike Martin
Narrator: Francis G. Kearney
Publication Date: May 14, 2020

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Beneath the Surface
Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, Book 3
Mike Martin
Narrated by Francis G. Kearney
Mike Martin, May 2020
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Beneath the Surface is the third book in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series set in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada.

Sgt. Windflower is back, and as usual, he’s loving life on the East Coast. He may be a long way from his home in Northern Alberta, but he has been adopted by the locals as almost one of their own.

He has a good life, good work with the RCMP, and a good woman that he has grown closer to in his years on the southeast coast of Newfoundland.

But trouble is brewing just beneath the surface of this calm and charm-filled existence.

The Newfoundland Mounties have returned and I’m so glad they have! Mike Martin’s series featuring Sgt. Winston Windflower, who is part First Nation, specifically Cree, as you can tell by his last name, has become one of my favorites over the past few years and I’m always happy to welcome Windflower back along with his girlfriend, Sheila Hillier, close friend Herb Stoodly, and colleagues Corporal Eddie Tizzard and Betsy Molloy.

Sidenote: Are Canadians as enamored with the Mounties as so many Americans are?

The suspicious death of a rower, a university student in St. Johns, doesn’t actively involve Windflower in his temporary Marystown post but his interest is piqued because she grew up in Grand Bank, Eddie’s territory. Sheila knew and liked Amy Parsons, another reason for Windflower to want to look into the incident but, before he can, he’s surprised to find his Uncle Frank ensconced in his house, unannounced but clearly settled in, even wearing Windflower’s own longjohns. This is a problem in all sorts of ways but takes a backseat to what Windflower begins to learn about Amy’s murder, especially a possible connection to human trafficking.

It was nice, as always, to learn a little about life in Newfoundland and Winston’s Cree background and everything was enhanced by Mr. Kearney’s performance. His narration has been growing on me with each audiobook and I particularly enjoy his accents, which sound authentic to me. Once again, an appealing story with engaging narration, just what I like.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

Mike Martin was born in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a long-time freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand. He is the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People and has written a number of short stories that have published in various publications including Canadian Stories and Downhome magazine.

The Walker on the Cape was his first full fiction book and the premiere of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. Other books in the series include The Body on the T, Beneath the Surface, A Twist of Fortune and A Long Ways from Home, which was shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award as the best light mystery of the year. A Tangled Web was released in 2017 and the newest book in the series is Darkest Before the Dawn which won the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award as the best light mystery of the year.

Mike is currently Chair of the Board of Crime Writers of Canada, a national organization promoting Canadian crime and mystery writers.

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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About the Narrator

Following college and many years as a local entertainer and actor I eventually entered the business world and a career of building and selling multiple successful enterprises.

In 1985 I purchased an aviation business and while building a very successful business also earned multiple movie credits as a helicopter camera ship pilot – https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0443932/?ref_=nv_sr_1 – among other services, and flew the camera helicopter for London Weekend Television’s mini series “Piece of Cake” in 1988. I have an extensive aviation background from helicopters through turboprop and jet aircraft, and a deep knowledge of all things aviation.

I have always been an insatiable reader with a love of history – the ultimate story, and anything military – especially if it flies. My evolution into narration and the joy of storytelling is the culmination of many years of a life fully lived, and is reflected in a voice of experience.

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Book Review: A New Place, Another Murder by Christa Nardi @ChristaN7777 @SDSXXTours

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Title: A New Place, Another Murder
Series: A Sheridan Hendley Mystery #1
Author: Christa Nardi
Publication Date: June 22, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Cozy

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound

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A New Place, Another Murder
A Sheridan Hendley Mystery #1
Christa Nardi
CreateSpace, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-7218369-1-8
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for.

Pretty much settled into her new home in Appomattox with Brett and his daughter, Sheridan longs for something to keep her busy.  That is, until Maddie and her new friend are framed for theft and murder.  Not quite the distraction she had hoped for, but she’ll turn over every rock to prove their innocence.  In the process, she learns about the powerful Buchanan family and the history of the local community.  Will the truth come out before the person calling the shots takes Sheridan and Maddie out of the picture?

You never know what will draw you to a particular book or series; in my case with A New Place, Another Murder, it was the setting in Appomattox County because I’ve frequently driven through there on my way from Richmond to visit family in Roanoke. And, of course, there’s an awful lot of history there.

As for the storyline, Ms. Nardi has crafted a good one with fully-fleshed characters and a puzzling mystery that was credible and not too easy to figure out. It’s also a story of a blended family and how nice things can be when the family members actually like and trust each other, something that doesn’t always happen when a new parent figure steps in.  When Maddie and Alex are targeted as the possible thieves and a man has been killed, Sheridan dives in out of necessity because Maddie’s dad, Brett, is on the state police force and has to stay out of it, being her dad.

The main characters come from a previous series that I haven’t read but that didn’t matter too much as it was easy to connect with them in their new surroundings even though I didn’t know the details of their backstories. Brett doesn’t discourage Sheridan’s sleuthing skills, which is a nice touch, and Sheridan does have some experience so her investigation comes naturally. While I found the pacing to be a bit too slow for my liking, I did enjoy this book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2020.

About the Author

Christa Nardi is an accomplished author of cozy mysteries. Christa’s background is in higher education and psychology, much as her protagonist, Sheridan Hendley in the Cold Creek mystery series. She has always loved mysteries – reading them, writing them, and solving them. Christa is a member of Sisters in Crime.

Connect with Christa:

Website // Facebook // Twitter //
Bookbub // Amazon // Goodreads

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Book Review: A Case for the Yarn Maker by Candace Havens @CandaceHavens @TulePublishing

 

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Title: A Case For the Yarn Maker
Series: The Ainsley McGregor Series, Book 2
Author: Candace Havens
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Publication Date: April 15, 2020
Genre: Cozy Mystery
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A Case for the Yarn Maker
The Ainsley McGregor Series #2
Candace Havens
Tule Publishing, April 2020
ISBN 978-1-951786-97-7
Trade Paperback
From the publisher—
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Spin a yarn…at your own risk.
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Everyone at Bless Your Art in Sweet River, Texas, is excited about the Yarn Goddess (yes, that’s her real name) coming to town. Ainsley McGregor has set up a special event at the local community center, but when old Mrs. Whedon doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the Goddess about using quality yarn, a fight breaks out. Who knew the octogenarian had ninja moves like that?
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It’s all fun and games until George Clooney, Ainsley’s Great Dane, finds Ms. Yarn’s dead body in a booth at Bless Your Art. Now the prime suspect is Mrs. Whedon, and while she’s not the easiest woman to get along with, there’s no way she’s the killer. At least, Ainsley doesn’t think so. As this yarn unravels, Ainsley and her quirky friends learn some interesting things about the case and the Goddess’s checkered past. But there’s a killer on the loose, and George may be the only thing protecting Ainsley from certain death.
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It’s common these days, if not required, to have an animal of some sort in a cozy series and said animal (or more) has varying levels of participation in solving whatever crime may have occurred. In other series, the animal is just a pleasant part of the storyline, a member of the family. The third kind is the animal who brings comic relief to the tale and I’m always interested to find out what kind of animal character I’m going to see in a series that’s new to me, like this one. Obviously, the animal isn’t the most important factor but, to me, it’s an appealing part of whatever is going on.
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Here we have George Clooney, a Great Dane whose self-appointed mission is to protect his mom, Ainsley, and he does a fine job of it. Sweet River, Texas, should be a completely peaceful little town, practically crime-free, but that’s not exactly the norm in Sweet River. Ainsley has already been involved in one murder investigation—much to the dismay of her brother, Greg, the local sheriff—and, now, here we go again. There’s no doubt that the elderly Mrs. Whedon had “words” with the victim but did she disagree with the woman deeply enough to kill her?
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Because Ainsley, a part-time professor, runs an artisan market, there are plenty of players in the story, any one of whom could be hiding something and, since she knows them all, Ainsley feels she simply must look into things. Call it snooping if you will but both Ainsley and George are pretty good at sniffing out clues and they’re not alone; many of the market vendors and townspeople pitch in here and there.
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A Case for the Yarn Maker is a fun tale and I enjoyed all the characters and their interactions. Yes, George Clooney steals the show more than once and he’s downright lovable but, then, what Great Dane isn’t? I’m going to have to get a copy of the first book to tide me over while I wait for the next one.
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Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2020.

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A Case For the Winemaker
Ainsley McGregor Book 1
The closer she gets to the truth, the more she finds herself drowning in trouble.
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It’s an exciting time in Sweet River, Texas, and the whole town’s talking. Maybe, a little too much. Former English professor Ainsley McGregor has gambled everything on her new business: Bless Your Art, an artisan market where local artists sell their wares and teach classes.
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The bright, white space is filled to the brim with colorful art, yarn, jewelry, pet treats, antiques and even a few medieval weapons. Oh, and there are wine tastings. Everything’s better with wine. Ainsley is surprised by how well things are going–right up until the moment her Great Dane finds a dead body. With her friend accused of the murder, it’s up to Ainsley to find the real killer.
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As the suspect list grows longer, Ainsley has her work cut out for her. The task is made more difficult by the fact her brother, the sheriff, doesn’t seem to want her help. If she doesn’t wrap up the case soon, she might be the next wine, um, one to die.
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Bestselling author Candace Havens has published more than 25 books. Her novels have received nominations for the RITA’s, Holt Medallion, Write Touch Reader Awards and National Readers Choice Awards. She is a Barbara Wilson Award winner. She is the author of the biography Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy and a contributor to several anthologies. She is also one of the nation’s leading entertainment journalists and has interviewed countless celebrities from George Clooney to Chris Pratt. Candace also runs a free online writing workshop for more than 2000 writers, and teaches comprehensive writing classes. She does film reviews with Hawkeye in the Morning on 96.3 KSCS, and is a former President of the Television Critics Association.
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Book Review: Careless Whiskers by Miranda James @MirandaJames57 @BerkleyMystery

Careless Whiskers
A Cat in the Stacks Mystery #12
Miranda James
Berkley Prime Crime, January 2020
ISBN 978-0-451-49115-2
Hardcover

Librarian Charlie Harris is excited when his daughter Laurie reveals that she is starring in a local production of a new play, “Careless Whispers.” Frank Salisbury, Laura’s husband, is the director, and in order to stir up more interest in the play, professional actor Luke Lombardi will be Laura’s co-star. Laura and Luke worked together in the past and, despite his Tony nomination, Luke was an overbearing egotist. When he arrives, it’s with an entourage—a French couple. The man, Anton, is Luke’s valet and the woman, Madame, is Luke’s mistress.

The rehearsals are plagued with practical jokes directed at Luke. On opening night, when Luke is onstage and pours a drink from a bottle and immediately collapses, Laura becomes a suspect. She was to drink from the same bottle, but hesitated, and police suspect she might have known about the poison. Other members of the cast, the stage crew, the French couple, and the playwright are also under suspicion. Because Charlie’s life revolves around his two adult children, his grandkids, his job at Athena College, and his Maine Coon cats, Diesel and Ramses, he gets involved in the investigation, much to the consternation of local law enforcement.

The conclusion wraps up quickly, and offers up a character new to the story near the end as a possible red herring. The origin of the murder weapon also seems far fetched and unlikely, which is a small disappointment in an otherwise entertaining mystery. This is book twelve in the series, which combines libraries, a small southern town community, and cats, and has a male protagonist—rare in a cozy series.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, March 2020.

A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 6 @nancyjcohen @JSpencerFleming @MinotaurBooks @CharlesFinch @BevLongBooks @HarlequinBooks @SusanSpann @SeventhStBooks

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…

Easter Hair Hunt
A Bad Day Hair Mysteries #16
Nancy J. Cohen
Orange Grove Press, March 2020
ISBN 978-09997932-7-5
Trade Paperback

Marla Vail is visiting Tremayne Manor to do her hairstyling thing for Blinky Morris so she’ll be ready for the Easter egg hunt but, after the hunt when Marla is helping to look for unfound eggs, she finds something else, a dead body dressed as a bunny. When it’s discovered that Blinky is missing, the very pregnant Marla jumps right in to investigate,  as fans will expect. Her poor husband, homicide detective Dalton, is right by her side, knowing full well he can’t stop her.

Marla is a character that becomes more appealing with each adventure, largely because she’s an intelligent woman who takes things in stride and doesn’t continually do stupid things. Dalton is her equal and recognizes how good she is at sussing out the facts and following leads; he long ago gave up trying to keep her out of investigations and the pair make a good team. This time, they’re dealing with a plethora of clues and suspects and the twists and turns abound. I’ve followed this series from the beginning and I’m already anticipating the next book because Ms. Cohen never lets me down 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Hid from Our Eyes
A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery #9
Julia Spencer-Fleming
Minotaur Books, April 2020
ISBN 978-0-312-60685-5
Hardcover

It seems like years since the last Clare and Russ story because, well, it has been and when I first heard about this one, I was SO excited. I’m not the least bit surprised that Ms. Spencer-Fleming is still at the top of her game.

Three different but very similar cases over a period of many decades have involved three police chiefs but Russ, the current chief, was once accused of the second killing. As this third case ramps up, Russ is under enormous pressure to find the killer before suspicion focuses on him again. Are the three cases really connected in some way or could there be a copycat killer? Who were these young women and why were they targeted or is it possible one or more were, in fact, not murdered?

Russ’s wife, an Episcopal priest and mother of a new baby, has her own issues going on but of course she’s going to help Russ and she brings a lot of intelligence and creative thinking to this case, as she always does. The personal lives of Clare and Russ are given as much weight as the investigation, enough so that I felt like I was seeing old friends again but that didn’t take anything away from the mystery of these three deaths. Leads take them in all directions and I was forced—forced, I tell you!—to stay up late into the night to keep reading. An intriguing plot and great characters make for a story I can heartily recommend but readers new to the series will enjoy it more by starting with the first one.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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The Vanishing Man
A Charles Lenox Mystery #12
Charles Finch
Minotaur Books, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-31137-5
Trade Paperback

In this second prequel, Charles Lenox has recently become known as the young man who bested Scotland Yard in a perplexing case and he’s called upon by the Duke of Dorset to help with an art theft. It seems a second painting was left behind and the Duke is concerned the thieves will return and, if they do, it’s possible a family scandal will be revealed as well as an enormous secret involving a priceless artifact. It isn’t long before there are other crimes and Lenox must delve into long-kept secrets that threaten the family as well as himself.

Fortunately, Lenox has the assistance of his friend, Lady Jane, who once again proves herself to be an intelligent ally, and a coterie of secondary players who bring real depth to the story. This particular adventure drags a little here and there but it’s still an engaging puzzle, especially the question of why the more valuable painting really means so much to the Duke. Mr. Finch brings Victorian London and its people to life again and I really do think this is one of the very best series with the setting and time period.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Ten Days Gone
An A.L. McKittridge Novel #1
Beverly Long
MIRA, February 2020
ISBN 978-0-7783-0958-1
Mass Market Paperback

Hunting a serial killer is no doubt one of the most difficult things a police department may ever have to do but, this time, detectives Rena Morgan and A.L. McKittridge are also faced with the nearly impossible task of preventing a fifth murder once the likely victim has been identified. Tess Lyons already suffers psychological damage from previous events and is anything but ready to understand her present danger. Meanwhile, leads in the case are sketchy at best and the detectives are caught up in a cat and mouse game with few obvious answers until they find a petition signed by all four of the murdered women. Figuring out why the petition and the ten day intervals are important may be their best chance to stop this killer.

A.L. and Rena are a well-matched partnership, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and they complement each other in their search for a wily killer. The pacing is a little slow but Ten Days Gone shows promise and is the first in what I hope will be a long-running series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Ghost of the Bamboo Road
A Hiro Hattori Novel #7
A Shinobi Mystery
Susan Spann
Seventh Street Books, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-6338-8550-9
Trade Paperback

Even in 16th-century Japan, a list of agents, in this case the shinobi agents of Hiro Hattori’s own clan, can cause deadly problems if it falls into the wrong hands. Hiri needs to warn his clan that a rival warlord is in possession of the list so he travels to a small village where he believes a fellow agent to be on a mission. Accompanied by Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit he protects, along with their housekeeper, Ana, and Hiro’s cat, Gato, he sees that the agent is missing. Hiro and Father Mateo are then drawn in to the investigation of multiple murders that are believed to have been caused by a ghost in the eerily half-deserted village but the situation becomes even more pressing when Ana is accused of stealing from the inn’s proprietor. And where is the missing agent?

Ms. Spann never fails to entertain me and educate me as well since her stories are full of medieval Japanese history. I love the primary characters and their interactions with each other; for instance, Gato always manages to get in the thick of things but Father Mateo can only suffer around him, being highly allergic. The two men have grown to be quite fond of each other (not that they would say so) and the priest accepts the shinobi’s protection as gracefully as he can manage while Ana is irascible and, yet, attentive. The author has a way with words and conveys the times and the setting vividly, so much so that I can practically smell the tea served in the teahouse. My only regret after reading this entry is for the too-long wait for the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

Book Reviews: Death and the Viking’s Daughter by Loretta Ross and Ghosts of Guatemala by Collin Glavac

Death and the Viking’s Daughter
An Auction Block Mystery #4
Loretta Ross
Midnight Ink, February 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5237-2
Trade Paperback

Auctioneer Wren Morgan with her fellow workers is preparing for an auction of a strange night club that was constructed on the plans of a Cincinnati nightclub that was the scene of a disastrous fire. A small level of nervousness is apparent.

At about the same time, her fiancé Death (pronounced Deeth) Bogart is tasked by a museum director to look into an apparent theft of a painting, a painting worth more to the owners due to the subject than for its artistic merit.

While preparing the site for the coming auction, a resident collapses upon seeing a figure in the nearby woods who looks like his long-missing daughter. Meanwhile, Wren and Death (pronounced Deeth) are looking for a home to buy. They find one at the end of a roadway not far away where a man, name unknown, is buried beneath rosebushes in the yard.

Get the picture? This is not a complicated mystery, but it has several threads that are cleverly woven together in this carefully and very well-written novel. Eventually all these threads will come together, along with tension-filled meetings between Wren and Death’s parent groups.

The tranquil setting becomes well-used as a foil against the tension that builds up. Private investigator Death Bogart wends his careful way through a variety of interesting experiences all while worrying about presenting a positive image to his about-to-be in-laws. A fun and intriguing novel that I recommend especially for those readers who are not wedded to intense and brutal violence on the page.

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

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Ghosts of Guatemala
Collin Glavac
NIMA, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-9991631-6-7
Trade Paperback

Here is a terrific idea with some interesting characters in imperfectly realized circumstances. The novel begins with a bang, the attempted assassination of a Guatemalan drug czar. The scene is potent, rife with tension and murderous action. Unfortunately, although the assassination is successful, the assassin also dies in the attempt.

We then switch to scenes of dissention, corruption, loss of confidence and general incompetence in an important US government agency, the Central Intelligence Agency. Then commences a long and wandering dissertation about the life and development of a Seal, one John Carpenter. Sometime later in his career, he is mysteriously detached from the Navy to become an agent for the CIA, specializing in Latin America.

He is tasked with retaliation against the Guatemalan drug cartel, an assignment which takes the narrative deeply and in considerable detail inside that country. The narrative is wordy, resulting in an overlong novel which levels criticism against the U.S. government, the CIA specifically and the American public in general.

A good editor would have reduced the novel by at least a third and in the process elevated the action and tension. While some of the characters are unusual and more than passingly interesting, the novel’s potential is largely obscured in wordiness and a somewhat negative attitude.

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

Book Review: Miss Julia Knows a Thing or Two by Ann B. Ross—and a Giveaway! @VikingBooks

Miss Julia Knows a Thing or Two
Miss Julia Series #21
Ann B. Ross
Viking, April 2020
ISBN 978-0-525-56051-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Miss Julia has decided to turn over a new leaf. It’s time to stop meddling in other peoples’ lives, she thinks–but her hands are full before long! Her neighbor Mildred is sent into a tizzy when a grandchild she’s never met shows up on her doorstep. And Mildred’s husband keeps forgetting who she is, so she’s all on her own. Meanwhile, Etta Mae is worried about losing her job now that the Handy Home Helpers is up for sale. Luckily, Miss Julia has experience dealing with children dropped on doorsteps, and sweeps in to lend a hand. But there’s something missing in that child’s life, and Miss Julia knows exactly what it is.

Living in small towns such as Abbotsville, NC, tends to make people a little busybody-ish and Miss Julia has recognized in herself an inclination towards being overly critical and obdurate so she’s decided to make an effort to be more open to other ideas, more sensitive and less prideful, especially after what’s been going on with her friend and next door neighbor, Mildred Allen. Poor Mildred really has a lot on her plate right now.

Mildred is coping, not very well, with her husband, Horace’s, growing cognitive impairment while her son, Tony, has recently become estranged, following his transition to daughter, Tonya. Then, out of the blue, a previously unknown grandchild shows up practically on Mildred’s doorstep. What is the beleagured woman supposed to do? Well, quite naturally, she seeks out advice from her friend and it doesn’t take long for Miss Julia to realize that things are more than a little suspicious and her tendency towards snoopiness aka sleuthing rises to this new challenge.

While Mildred’s problems are absorbing much of Miss Julia’s time and effort, she’s also concerned about Etta Mae Wiggins who may be about to lose her Handy Home Helper job for dubious reasons. Miss Julia’s determined to ferret out some truths so her good intentions of becoming more conscious of how she can rub people the wrong way just might have to wait. On top of all this, the Christmas holidays and all that entails are fast approaching and demanding her attention.

The mystery elements are lightweight here but that’s not really what the Miss Julia stories are all about—enjoy this for the appealing characters and setting as well as the warm-hearted, enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Giveaway

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copy of Miss Julia Knows a Thing or Two,

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