Mystery Mayhem

steeped in evilThe Tea Shop Mysteries follow Theodesia Browning, the young and beautiful owner of a tea shop in Charleston who seems to have a knack for stumbling on dead bodies and getting embroiled in solving the mysteries of their deaths.  She is aided by the stodgy and proper Drayton (her tea master), the young and quirky Haley (her chef/baker), while running up against the gruff Detective Tidwell.

In Steeped in Evil, Theodesia leaves behind her normal beverage to attend a wine-tasting at the Knighthall Winery, but the party quickly comes to an end when a dead body is found in a wine barrel.  The dead body belongs to the son of the vineyard’s owner, Jordan Knight.  Dissatisfied with the police investigation, Jordan turns to Theodesia for her help.  With everyone lying, someone has to be hiding something, and Theodesia will inevitably solve the puzzle!

The setting is beautifully described, as is the food prepared each day for the tea shop, and both make me want to head to Charleston simply for tea.  I want to put on a fancy dress and a big hat, wander through the quaint shops in Charleston, and have some afternoon tea.

Title: Steeped in Evil
Author: Laura Childs
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 320
Publication: Berkley Hardcover, March 2014

blackberry pieThe Hannah Swensen Mysteries follow Hannah, the owner of The Cookie Jar, a cookie shop in Minnesota.  As she stumbles on dead bodies, and gets caught up in solving the mysteries, she is joined by a cast of supporting characters – her mother, sister, co-worker, and of course – the two men she can’t seem to choose between.

In Blackberry Pie Murder, Hannah actually causes the death when she happens to hit someone on the road during a storm.  Worried about whether she will be arrested, and trying to plan her mother’s wedding, Hannah dives into discovering the identity of the dead man and what he was doing there.

Unfortunately, this series is getting a little dull.  The recipes were the best part of the book.  Hannah’s indecision about Norman and Mike is tired, and the ending was not an ending or a cliffhanger – just a pause in the story.  Probably it’s supposed to inspire people to run out and buy the next book when it comes out, but I’m not sure it worked.

Title: Blackberry Pie Murder
Author: Joanne Fluke
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 368
Publication: Kensington, February 2014

killer physiqueThe Savannah Reid Mysteries follow plus-size California PI Savannah Reid, a former police officer and owner of Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency.  With assistance from a great supporting cast which includes her new husband Dirk, her employee Tammy, and her friends John and Ryan, along with her seemingly endless Southern family members.

In Killer Physique, newlyweds Savannah and Dirk attend a movie premier with John and Ryan.  When the leading man, and John & Ryan’s friend, is found dead in his hotel room the initial evidence points to death due to doping.  Unbelieving, Savannah and Dirk promise John & Ryan that they’ll get to the bottom of things.  Meanwhile, Savannah desperately tries to get ready for the first meeting with Dirk’s birth parents.

Another fun installment in this series, the mystery was engaging and it’s interesting to watch Dirk & Savannah trying to settle into their new married life.  I did miss Granny, maybe she’ll be around next time…

Title: Killer Physique
Author: G.A. McKevett
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 320
Publication: Kensington, March 2014

by its coverThe Commissario Guido Brunetti novels follow the Venetian Commissario as he delves into crimes in a city full of corruption.  With an idiotic and useless boss, an inventive and talented secretary, and several steadfast and talented officers, Brunetti always finds the answers, even when they are difficult to accept or understand.  More than a simple mystery, these novels are about human nature and the intricacies and contradictions that lie in all of us.

In By Its Cover, Brunetti is called to a private Venetian research library.  Someone has been stealing rare books and cutting illustrations out of valuable texts.  The suspect is an American researcher who disappeared shortly before the thefts were discovered.  But when a patron of the library who was a former priest and a theologian is found murdered, Brunetti must delve deeper to find the answers.

The Brunetti novels are among my favorite mystery series, and this one took place in a library, so I have little to complain about!  It did seem short on character interaction which I have loved in the previous books.  The interactions and discussions between Brunetti, his wife, his children, his in-laws, and his co-workers have always been central in contemplating, and struggling to understand, life, crime and human nature.  Hopefully they will be back in Brunetti’s next installment.

Title: By Its Cover
Author: Donna Leone
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 288
Publication: Atlantic Monthly Press, April 2014

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Uniform Justice

ImageWhile many books can take you on adventures in new places, give you new ideas to contemplate, and introduce you to new and complex characters, there is comfort in curling up to drop in on old friends.  I love a good mystery (OK, even some not-so-good ones) and a good mystery series is even better.  I will not bore everyone by carrying on about every book in a series, but I will occasionally highlight the one I’ve most recently read, hoping it will inspire someone else to check it out!

I just recently finished the 12th installment in Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series.  The series takes place in Venice and is one of the rare books where the location itself is a main character.  In Leon’s series it is easy to become absorbed in the descriptions of Venice, the canals, the architecture, the art, the fashion, the food (which all sounds fabulous even when I’m not sure what it is!).  Against this backdrop of beauty Leon writes about a corrupt city void of trust in the law, where things get done based on who you know and what you are willing to pay.  Commissario Guido Brunetti is a man of honor, struggling within this system, often walking a thin line between pursuing justice and using a corrupt system he abhors in order to do so.  Brunetti is surrounded by a cast of vivid characters including both trusted and devious co-workers, an inept boss, a sly and useful secretary, and a loyal, opinionated, out-spoken, and supportive wife.  It is against this backdrop that these mysteries become less about who-dun-it and more about why and what to do with the answers.   How can justice truly be served?  Can justice be found at all?

“Brunetti had no taste for this, not any longer.  ‘There’s no justice here, Dottore,’ he said, frightened to realize that he meant not only for this man and his family, but for this city, and this country, and their lives.”

The 22nd installment of the series will be release in March of this year, leaving me many more hours to spend curled up on the couch with Brunetti!

  Title: Uniform Justice   
   Author: Donna Leon
   Genre: Mystery
   Pages: 259
   Publication: Atlantic Monthly Press, August 2003