Book Review: Dizzy in Durango by D. R. Ransdell

Dizzy in DurangoDizzy in Durango
An Andy Veracruz Mystery #3
D. R. Ransdell
Oak Tree Press, December 2015
ISBN 978-1-61009-212-8
Trade Paperback

Trouble follows Andy Veracruz, and this time it’s at the airport in Durango, Mexico where the problems begin. Andy is there to visit his fellow Mariachi musician and sometimes lover, Rachel, who is there for a family celebration. But a sexy woman at the airport attracts his attention, leaves her purse with him, and disappears.

Inside the bag, Andy finds three thousand dollars. He involves his girlfriend in his search for the missing woman, and they run into danger. Stolen children, dead bodies, and psychotic killers from Durango to the Mexican border to Tucson, Arizona disrupt romantic intentions. Too, Andy’s dizzy spells produce concerns among his Mexican friends.

Meanwhile, Andy’s relationship with his girlfriend and his music career take unexpected twists and turns. The small-town setting of Durango, a symphony audition in Tucson, and the Arizona desert landscape add interest and appeal to the story.

Although references to previous episodes in the series disrupt the flow a few times, this cozy mystery is a page-turner with plenty of action. At the same time, it presents character studies and moral dilemmas that cause the reader to reflect on solutions long after the final scene.

Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, March 2016.
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections, Furtive Investigation and Nine LiFelines, the first three Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.

Book Review: Murder Half-Baked by Kathleen Delaney

Murder Half BakedMurder Half-Baked
Kathleen Delaney
Camel Press, May 2011
ISBN 978-1-60381-828-5
Trade Paperback

Real estate agent Ellen McKenzie is in the midst of preparations for her wedding to Dan Dunham, the local police chief, and has to contend with the horror of a wedding dress, ruffled hoopskirt and all, her mother has sent to this forty-something bride. The wedding is just a few weeks away, finding a caterer is proving to be the seemingly impossible dream and there’s a problem with the wedding cake, a big problem.  Thanks to Ellen’s and Dan’s moms, the guest list is growing past the point of no return and even the flowers aren’t going to be what Ellen wanted.

In the meantime, Grace House, a home for women who are in a difficult time in their lives and in need of some assistance, is bursting at the seams. Ellen has been asked to sell the current house and find a bigger one, not an easy task in the currently stressed real estate market.  Dr. Owen Sadler’s wife, Francis, left a legacy to Grace House and, if  Owen donates more as expected, the board of directors will have the funds needed to pay for a new location.

Unfortunately, Dr. Sadler won’t be making that donation. There is no shortage of people who don’t like the unpleasant man and one of them has apparently bashed his head in at the cemetery.  Not long after, Grace House burns to the ground and arson is suspected.  Dan and Ellen offer their home as a temporary haven for the residents of Grace House and that puts Ellen right in the middle of the investigation whether Dan likes it or not.

Murder Half-Baked would seem, on the surface, to be in the “cozy” subgenre but that label doesn’t quite do full justice to this story.  Much attention is paid to the grim facts of domestic violence and dark family secrets and the author blends those themes well with the usual cozy attributes. The result is appealing and a bit edgy. I must also commend the author, and perhaps her editor, for a job well done when it comes to writing style and the quality of the actual product—what a pleasure it is to read a good story with attention paid to such pesky details as grammar and spelling!

Delaney has given her fans a nice follow-up to And Murder for Dessert and I will look forward to the next in the series as well as the first in the new series she has making the rounds with her agent.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2011.

Book Review: Safe Beginnings by Christine Duncan

Safe Beginnings
Christine Duncan
Treble Heart Books
July 2002
ISBN 1931742855

Kaye Berreano is the counselor on duty at Beginnings, a battered women’s shelter, when the fire alarm goes off. Kaye hurries to get all the women and their children out of the building but Mary Ellen, a woman apparently disliked by nearly everyone, doesn’t make it. Early investigations reveal that the fire was deliberately set and Farrell, the police arson investigator, believes Kaye is withholding information.

Since some of the women need to be placed elsewhere, Kaye’s job security is in doubt, at a time when she is going through an ugly divorce and her financial situation is very shaky. The police don’t seem to be getting anywhere useful, even thinking the victim may have set the fire to cover her own suicide, and Kaye begins her own investigation. Unfortunately, since this is a battered women’s shelter, there are quite a few potential suspects among the abusive husbands and boyfriends. In addition, more than one of the women may have had a motive. She’s sure, though, that Mary Ellen did not kill herself. Digging into the lives of these abused women, Kaye finds some surprises and even more questions, about Mary Ellen’s death. Ultimately, she must come to terms with her own life and future.

Most of us, thankfully, will never know what it’s like to live with abuse and what that can do to the soul. Author Christine Duncan has cracked the door to this world just a little bit, with empathy and understanding, through a woman with problems of her own. Kaye’s desire to protect these women and children while encouraging them to break the cycle of pain makes her a woman I’ll look forward to meeting again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, 2002.
Review first published on in 2002.