Book Review: Déjà Moo by Kirsten Weiss—and a Giveaway!

Déjà Moo: For Whom the Cowbells Toll
A Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery #3
Kirsten Weiss
Midnight Ink, March 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5036-1
Trade Paperback

There’s a Halloween-ish vibe to San Benedetto’s Christmas celebration. Perhaps it’s the 30-foot straw cow erected by the Ladies Aid Society, in honor of their Swedish sister-city. Or the fact that, most years, someone is going to turn that bovine-tribute into the ultimate bonfire.

This year’s event surpassed haunting and was actually horrible, even with Fran Kosloski herself standing guard. The sacred statue was still attacked and set ablaze. When the smoke cleared, a human casualty was discovered. A humorous prank gone horribly wrong, or a devious plan perfectly implemented?

Maddie Kosloski knows she isn’t actually to blame, although she is beginning to rethink her decision to dust off the cursed cowbells to display in her paranormal museum. The story of death following their delivery is spooky, but not so old. Plenty of people recall those events and talk around town tightens tensions and creates panic leaving Maddie and her mother no choice but to try to solve the maybe-murder themselves.

Ms. Weiss has crafted the quintessential cozy mystery. A relatively new sub-genre that I’ve heard about, but had a hard time envisioning. I can definitely dig the downplaying of s-e-x, and the absence of graphic violence is not annoying, but I didn’t grasp the groovy vibes of an unconventional crime-solver in a small community. I get it now.

As the title implies, Déjà Moo: For Whom the Cowbells Toll is not a stand-alone story. Although I started the Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery series with the third book, I didn’t feel lost or less invested. And I learned about the Icelandic Christmas Ogress. So, I am going to go back and read the first two. Just for fun.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2018.

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To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Déjà Moo, just leave a comment below.
Two winning names will be drawn on Sunday
night, December 23rd, for one Advance
Reading Copy and one trade paperback copy.
This
drawing is open to the US and Canada.

 

Book Review: A Deadly Eclair by Daryl Wood Gerber—and a Giveaway!

A Deadly Eclair
A French Bistro Mystery #1
Daryl Wood Gerber
Crooked Lane Books, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-68331-341-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It’s always been Mimi Rousseau’s dream to open her own bistro, but it seems beyond her grasp since she’s been chased back home to Nouvelle Vie in Napa Valley by her late husband’s tremendous debt. Until her best friend Jorianne James introduces her to entrepreneur Bryan Baker who invests in promising prospects. Now, working the bistro and inn until she’s able to pay it off and call it her own, Mimi is throwing the inn’s first wedding ever.

The wedding will be the talk of the town, as famous talk show host Angelica Edmonton, daughter of Bryan’s half-brother, Edison, has chosen the inn as her perfect venue. Anxious, Mimi is sure things are going to turn south, especially when Edison gets drunk and rowdy at the out-of-towners’ dinner, but by the evening, things begin to look up again. That is until six AM rolls around, and Bryan is found dead at the bistro with an éclair stuffed in his mouth. And the fingers point at Mimi, whose entire loan is forgiven in Bryan’s will.

An interesting thing occurred to me while I was reading this cozy—the main characters were not always very likeable, or relatable for that matter, but it didn’t really matter all that much. In fact, I’m usually bothered by a very large cast but not this time because Ms. Gerber makes them all so individualistic and memorable.

Most satisfying to me, the protagonist, Mimi Rousseau, has a very legitimate reason to do her own investigating because she’s been pegged as a prime suspect. That’s what happens when the death of a murder victim benefits one person in such a generous fashion. Mimi is a smart lady, not inclined towards putting herself in jeopardy (which I appreciate greatly) and a wedding party full of hostile relatives of both the bride and groom gives her a plethora of potential killers to check out. That’s the trouble, actually—too many possibilities send Mimi and the reader in so many directions that solving Bryan’s murder becomes something like wading through a bog but Mimi finally gets to the other side. As for me, I was kept guessing almost to the denouement, mainly because I kept changing my mind.

This author clearly has a sure hand with whodunnits. I haven’t read any of Ms. Gerber‘s earlier work and there’s a lot of it but, if A Deadly Eclair is any indication, I think I need to start reading.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of A Deadly Eclair by Daryl Wood
Gerber, leave
a comment below. One
winning name will
be drawn Friday
evening, November 24th. This drawing
is o
pen to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Review: The Winemaker Detective by Jeaan-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen

The Winemaker DetectiveThe Winemaker Detective
Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen
Le French Book, December 2015
ISBN:9781939474568
Trade Paperback
Omnibus with three novellas

One could review this volume in toto or as three separate stories about the same characters, master wine-maker Benjamin Cooker and his relatively untrained assistant, Virgile Lanssien. Untrained in the arcane arts of wine-making though Virgile may be, his powers of observation are unparalleled and his knowledge of winemaking increases as the book progresses. Together, the pair are an unbeatable team of amateur detectives. This omnibus of three stories is part of a series which is enjoying popularity in France, particularly among wine aficionados and those of elevated gastronomical tastes. The series includes a popular television programme.

Each story is set in an important region of French winemaking and involves usually complicated thievery, odd chicanery and of course, murder. The stories are dense, deliberate in their pace and action, and largely consist of detailed and intriguing observations of wine making, breakfasts and dinners and keenly observed travels.

These are the rare kind of genre novels one reads for the qualities of the writing, the content and not so much for action or complex plot lines. Exceptional quality, especially since the stories are translations, satisfying solutions, and much elegant descriptive writing devoted to character and the grape.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2016.
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 Reviews: The Third Eye by Andrew Seewald and Jacqueline Seewald and The Devil Laughed by Gerrie Ferris Finger

The Third EyeThe Third Eye
A Pine Barrens Mystery
Andrew Seewald and Jacqueline Seewald
Five Star, September 2013
ISBN 978-1-4328-2698-7
Hardcover

I read this book in two sittings, which should let you know that I enjoyed it a bunch.  I use to think this type of book wasn’t “what I read,” but now I’ve determined I read pretty much everything.  The concept, dialogue, and storytelling in The Third Eye are fun and fast paced. The main characters, “Jim,” “Raven,” and “Ariel” are well thought out and speak to the reader well.

“Jim” is thrust into a detective role as his discovery of two dead bodies leads the Sheriff to his home… his mother looks awfully suspicious for the murders.  Jim works with his brother, friend, and mother to figure out what really is happening in the small town.  I felt like the authors painted a vivid picture instead of just telling me the story.

The Third Eye was an excellent read and I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages and types.

Reviewed by Chris Swinney, July 2013.
Author of the upcoming Gray Ghost.

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The Devil LaughedThe Devil Laughed
A Moriah Dru / Richard Lake Mystery
Gerrie Ferris Finger
Five Star, September 2013
ISBN 978-1-4328-2697-0
Hardcover

The Devil Laughed was an interesting book.  Although I had difficulty keeping track of the point of view being used by the author at times, I was able to keep reading and learning more about the main characters “Lake” and “Moriah,” both with law enforcement ties.

“Moriah” makes a discovery which brings up an old cold case.  The two of them try to figure out what happened then and what funny business is occurring now.  There is quite a bit of dialogue, which helps keep the story going.  There’s also a hint of their relationship, which helps pull you into each character.

Overall, The Devil Laughed is worth a read.  I think it could be slightly shorter and edited a little tighter.  Nevertheless, I was able to see a developing plot that was interesting, but it wasn’t obvious.  The ending was well thought out and made sense, which is crucial.

Reviewed by Chris Swinney, June 2013.
Author of the upcoming Gray Ghost.