Book Review: Killer Party by Lynn Cahoon

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Title: Killer Party
Series: A Tourist Trap Mystery #9
Author: Lynn Cahoon
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Cozy

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks
Google Play // Amazon // Indiebound

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Killer Party
A Tourist Trap Mystery #9
Lynn Cahoon
Lyrical Underground/Kensington, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-60183-636-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

For a gang of old college buddies, the quaint resort town of South Cove, California, is the perfect spot for a no-holds-barred bachelor party. But for Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books and More—this stag party is going to be murder . . .

After a few months of living with her boyfriend Greg, Jill is still getting used to sharing such close quarters, but she’s got no hesitation about joining him for a weekend at South Cove’s most luxurious resort. While Greg and his college pals celebrate their buddy’s upcoming wedding, Jill intends to pamper herself in style. But when the groom is found floating facedown in the pool, Jill must find the killer fast, or she might not have a boyfriend to come home to any more . . .

When I posted a long-overdue review of the third book in this series, If the Shoe Kills, I promised myself to go back to the beginning and catch up but, as so often happens with best-laid plans, it didn’t happen. I still have Guidebook to Murder waiting for me. Sigh…

So, does it matter that I had only read #3 before starting this, the 9th book? Not in the least. It helps that I don’t generally care about reading mysteries in order but this series has the extra added attraction of a protagonist who owns a bookshop and she’s got more than half a brain. It was easy to slide right into this new adventure and adventure it was as Jill jumped right into sleuthing. This time, boyfriend Greg can’t do his usual police chief detecting thing since he has to be considered a suspect in the murder of his best friend.

Sleuthing, in true Jill style, means enlisting the help of family and friends around town and I really enjoyed seeing these familiar folks plus a few who’ve come to  South Cove since the last time I “visited”. There’s even a brand new shopkeeper who’s causing a bit of mystery of his own and suspicions about who he might really be.

Lynn Cahoon has the enviable ability to keep a long-running series fresh but, as I can attest, she manages to make individual books provide just enough backstory to make the reader comfortable without being infodumps. As for the mystery taking place in Killer Party, this is a whodunit in the best sense, with plenty of red herrings keeping me guessing all the way. Fair warning, though—we’re left with a bit of a cliffhanger that won’t be resolved till the next book is out so write faster, please Ms. Cahoon!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Lynn Cahoon is an Idaho expat. She grew up living the small town life she now loves to write about. Currently, she’s living with her husband and two fur babies in a small historic town on the banks of the Mississippi river where her imagination tends to wander. Guidebook to Murder, Book 1 of the Tourist Trap series, won the 2015 Reader’s Crown award for Mystery Fiction.

Photo Credit Angela Brewer Armstrong at Todd Studios

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Giveaway

For a chance to win a print copy of
Killer Party, enter the drawing here.

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Book Review: Echoes of Terror by Maris Soule

Echoes of Terror
Maris Soule
Five Star, March 2017
ISBN: 978-1-4328-3281-0
Hardcover

Skagway, Alaska, is a small northern community with a small police force. In spite of the tour ships that visit, bringing many short-time visitors, and an active tourist industry, major crimes are not part of their usual operation. The Chief of Police is recovering in the hospital from a procedure. A senior officer with a day off is not responding to radio calls and an oddly emotional woman stands at the intake desk announcing abrasively that her step-daughter, also just off a cruise liner, is missing. The lone woman law officer on the force, Katherine Ward, is assigned to take care of the woman.

It turns out the girl is the daughter of an extremely wealthy businessman, now in China. The case quickly becomes a kidnapping for ransom and then yet another young girl goes missing. Katherine Ward, an experienced police officer, is beset by conflicting pressures and the odd feeling that there are parallels here to an earlier case, one directly involving Ward. Readers will quickly realize that this is far more complicated than it seems, and with Officer Ward leading the way, we’re drawn into a brutal murder thriller.

The characters are well-delineated and the plot moves forcefully through the book to its conclusion. Along the way there are several surprises which add dimension and heft to the story line. Echoes of Terror is a worthwhile, interesting novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, June 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: If the Shoe Kills by Lynn Cahoon

if-the-shoe-killsIf the Shoe Kills
A Tourist Trap Mystery #3
Lynn Cahoon
Kensington Books, November 2014
ISBN 978-1-60183-306-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

The tourist town of South Cove, California, is a lovely place to spend the holidays. But this year, shop owner Jill Gardner discovers there’s no place like home for homicide. . .

As owner of Coffee, Books, and More, Jill Gardner looks forward to the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers. But when the mayor ropes her into being liasion for a new work program, ’tis the season to be wary. Local businesses are afraid the interns will be delinquents, punks, or worse. For Jill, nothing’s worse than Ted Hendricks–the jerk who runs the program. After a few run-ins, Jill’s ready to kill the guy. That, however, turns out to be unnecessary when she finds Ted in his car–dead as a doornail. Officer Greg assumes it’s a suicide. Jill thinks it’s murder. And if the holidays weren’t stressful enough, a spoiled blonde wants to sue the city for breaking her heel. Jill has to act fast to solve this mess–before the other shoe drops. . .

I’m ashamed to admit that I read this l-o-n-g ago and never got around to writing a review, not because I hated it or had a beef with the author but because, well, I just sort of kept pushing it down the to-review list until it kind of became an embarrassment. I decided to woman up and get it done, finally, and I discovered an interesting thing—I remember it, remember it quite well. Now, that may be SOP for many of you but, except for a handful of standouts that are implanted in my brain, I usually need some sort of prompt to remind me, whether it be the description on the book jacket or a mention of something in someone else’s review. None of that was needed this time.

What, exactly, does that mean? Well, it means I think this is a really enjoyable cozy, one with memorable characters—book and coffee shop owner Jill and her “boy toy”, Detective Greg King, the Martha Stewart-ish Aunt Jackie and the overbearing Mayor Baylor along with many others—and a town I wouldn’t mind living in. The charitable project that riles everyone up is a worthy one that could work in real life and the potential motivations for the inevitable murder actually make sense. Jill herself has some validity in sleuthing and, thank heavens, she doesn’t fall into the TSTL trap.

As for the mystery itself, I have to say this is pretty darned good, causing me to go in one direction and another until I figured it out but that wasn’t until near the end so, all in all, this is a cozy mystery I can happily recommend to anyone looking for a well-done puzzle. Since it took me so long to get around to reviewing this, there are more books out in the series; as it happens, I have #1 in the series so I think I’ll start from the beginning 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

Book Review: Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander

Meet Your BakerMeet Your Baker
A Bakeshop Mystery #1
Ellie Alexander
St. Martin’s Paperbacks, December 2014
ISBN 978-1-250-05423-4
Mass Market Paperback

Juliet “Jules” Capshaw left her hometown of Ashland, Oregon ten years ago, to learn how to be an expert pastry chef, and then to travel the world working on a cruise ship. She had no plans to return to Ashland except for visits to see her widowed mother, but when serious issues arise in Jules’s marriage, her plans change. Jules finds herself right back where she originally started – working at Torte, the family bakery business that her parents began decades before.

I know this book was good for a few reasons. The first is that, whether it’s fair or not, I usually steer clear of cosy mysteries with cute covers and a pun in the title. This book has made me question that policy, because it turned out to be a fine mystery  with unexpected twists and turns not only in the plot, but in character development. The second reason is that, although I am normally a tea drinker, I wanted to drink every coffee and latte and espresso shot that was described in the book. Similarly, the third reason is that I generally prefer savoury foods to sweet ones, but as I was reading Meet Your Baker,  I wanted to eat every raspberry danish, scone, oatmeal cookie, lime crescent cookie, and lime mint cupcake described in the story, as well as the delicious-sounding chicken pasta salad and turkey havarti sandwiches. Alexander is clearly a strong writer if she could win me over on all those points.

I have never been to Ashland, Oregon, and until I read Meet Your Baker, I hadn’t heard of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which provides much of the employment for the residents of Ashland. Most of the business for Torte comes from the tourists who visit to see the plays in the city’s three theatres, stop in at galleries, and shop in the distinctive stores. Ashland is also home to South Oregon University, and this also plays a part in the story, since a number of the characters are students with various part-time jobs around town.

The setting was probably my favourite part of the book. Although I haven’t visited Ashland, it sounds very similar to Stratford, Ontario, a Canadian city with a similar population that is also home to a Shakespeare Festival. I love going to Stratford, not only to see the great acting and the wonderful plays, but also because everywhere you go during the season, there are actors and people connected with the theatre – you can’t help but bump into intriguing characters and hearing dramatic discussions in every restaurant and cafe.

This was also what I loved about the descriptions of Ashland. The mystery plot revolves around the theatre, and around the constant fund-raising and endless clashes between producing fabulous plays and ensuring the festival remains commercially viable. Because so many of those involved are actors, directors, and producers, they all have larger-than-life personalities – and often exceptional wardrobes, which makes for a fun read. The dependence of the town’s economy on tourism is clearly described here, and I liked Juliet’s practicality and strong work ethic as she tries to help her mother keep Torte on its feet, even during the slower months.

Although the mystery plot itself is maybe a bit convoluted, I thought this was offset by unexpected developments in the characters’ lives. The reason Juliet has decided to leave her job and her marriage was not what I anticipated when I began reading, and I liked being surprised. Although she is struggling with sadness and confusion as the book begins, Jules is not someone to lie around and wallow in her grief. Instead, she gets busy and bakes, and Alexander’s careful and detailed descriptions of Juliet’s cooking were fascinating to read.

To top it all off, this book also includes recipes. I’m not sure that I’ve ever made a recipe from a fictional book before, but Alexander certainly makes it seem like a tempting idea.

Reviewed by Andrea Thompson, February 2016.

Book Review: A Cold White Sun by Vicki Delany

A Cold White SunA Cold White Sun
A Constable Molly Smith Mystery #6
Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press, August 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0158-5
Hardcover

A fine, judicious blend of action, mystery, thoughtful introspection and exploration of human conditions and motivations marks this novel. The story is a part of the author’s continuing series about the development of a young constable in the police force of a small community, Trafalgar. The town is located in a prime tourist region of British Columbia. That’s a province of Canada. The mountains offer prime skiing, the streams fishing and the forests hunting of various animals. Tourism is big business but that brings troubles as well.

Moonlight Smith, born of a hippie activist American couple, a near-champion downhill skier, much to her mother’s initial consternation has settled for a career as a cop. She’s bright, good-looking and not entirely sure of her life direction. Delany has set this interesting character up with two bosses. She’s basically a patrol officer in the small department, but because the head of murder investigations, John Winters, recognizes her intelligence, Moonlight—Molly—Smith is frequently tasked to participate in his investigations.

This time the crime is murder. Out for her daily walk, high school English teacher Cathy Lindsay is slain. Subsequent investigation can find no plausible reason. Why was she a target? Was it a mistake?

As the investigation winds through Trafalgar, the author has an opportunity to briefly examine the relationships between her principal characters, their family members, and members of the constabulary. Some of the scenes are loving, some are rife with anger and tension. The pace is good and if the threads occasionally fray and lose a little direction, that’s inevitable. This novel has a lot of thoughtful observations and this reviewer felt enriched. I’d award 4.75 stars if that was possible.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 2014.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Scrafitto by Steve Scarborough

Scrafitto
Steve Scarborough
Dark Oak Mysteries, July 2011
ISBN 9781610090216
Trade Paperback

Welcome to sunny, idyllic Quepos, Costa Rica! The beach is full of tanned bodies, the Pacific Ocean beckons, the mountain scenery includes an active volcano. Just beware of scorpions, caiman, and…murder. In his debut mystery, Scarborough brings blood and violence to paradise. The burden to find the killer falls upon one man who just wants to leave his past behind, but when have you ever seen THAT happen?

Ex-homicide investigator Mitch Sharp is happy doing landscape and tourism photography. He has a few friends and a new love interest. But when someone starts attacking women, slashing bodies and spattering blood, Mitch is slowly drawn in to investigate. His obstacles: a lackadaisical police chief, a gung-ho hotel contractor worried about tourism, his own struggle with anger management, and, most important, no leads. Aided by a group of artist friends, Mitch starts gathering evidence. The attacks escalate to murder and his friends are, one one one, falling victim. Mitch must rely on his skills as a photographer and a former investigator to find the killer.

When an author knows the subject matter, in this particular story, photography/art, the book is that much more interesting. This has a little bit of everything. A foreign locale, scenery, a little romance, unique characters, plus, the all important murder mystery. The descriptions spark the imagination and the action brings you to the brink of tension. Scraffito is a fine first effort by a an author worth keeping your eye on.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, March 2012.
Author of Night Shadows and Beta.