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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Mystery Mayhem

Here’s a quick look what’s new in some of my favorite mystery series!

killerThe Alex Delaware novels follow psychologist Alex Delaware as he dives into criminal minds to assist L.A. police lieutenant Milo Sturgis.  In this latest installment, Killer, Alex is called on by the courts to provide a recommendation in a custody battle.  Connie Sykes is trying to take custody of her sister’s 16-month old baby but the wealthy physician turns cold and violent when she loses her case.  With bodies piling up, the baby and her mother missing, Alex and Milo are in a race to find the culprits and the missing child.

I always enjoy these novels, and this one was no exception.  Oddly, although I like Alex Delaware, he is one of the least interesting characters for me – must be my love of quirkiness!   Milo, a large, gay, gruff detective is endearing in spite of his brusqueness.  And the introduction of a former child patient of Alex’s, now leading a gang in Oakland, is touching and sweet and funny and sad.

Title: Killer
Author: Jonathan Kellerman
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 352
Publication: Ballantine Books, February 2014

accusedThe Rosato & Associates novels follow Bennie Rosato and her law offices, composed of all female attorneys, as they try to right wrongs.  In this latest installment, Accused, Mary Dinuzio has been made a partner in the firm and her first client is Allegra, a beekeeping 13-year old obsessed with reopening the six-year old case of her sister’s murder.  The killer confessed and is behind bars, but Allegra is convinced that he’s innocent.  Unfortunately, her family is wealthy and powerful, convinced that Allegra has emotional and mental issues, and does not want to see the case reopened.  With little support from the firm, Mary will have to go out on her own to ensure that justice has been served.

All of the characters in the firm are unique and interesting, with their own distinct personalities and strengths.  This novel in the series focuses mainly on Mary as she struggles with being a partner, changes in her romantic life, and her overbearing but endearing super stereotypical Italian family.  I like Mary, who has an inner strength she does not recognize, and her fantastically funny family, but I missed seeing more of the other members of the firm.  Still, it was a fun, fast read with enough twists and turns to keep things interesting.

Title: Accused
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 368
Publication: St. Martin’s Press, October 2013

death overdueThe Librarian Mysteries follow mid-Western librarian Karen Nash and her romantic interest, British B&B owner Caldwell.  Another fun cozy mystery series that has the added benefit of being about books!  In this latest installment, Death Overdue, the victim is Caldwell’s ex-girlfriend, Sally, killed by a toppling bookshelf after announcing her intent to take half of the proceeds from the sale of the B&B.  Since Karen and Caldwell are hoping to use that money to pursue their dream of opening their own bookshop, Caldwell quickly becomes the main suspect.  But with Sally’s Italian lover, her fed-up sister, and an out-of-town book scout hanging around, Karen knows it has to be someone other than the new love of her life.  This is a fun, quiet, cozy mystery series.  Not a ton of action, but a lot of talking and drinking tea and trying to figure out whodunit.  A great way to spend a wintry afternoon.

Title: Death Overdue
Author: Mary Lou Kirwin
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 256
Publication: Gallery Books, November 2013

due or dieThe Library Lover’s Mystery series follows Lindsey, the new director of the public library on the coast of Connecticut in Briar Creek, and of course, the murders that seem to pop-up on a regular basis there!

In the second book in the series, Due or Die, cranky Bill Sint is voted out as president of the Friends of the Library, being replaced by Carrie Rushton, a forward-thinking volunteer.  When she comes home from the election to find her husband shot dead in his recliner, she quickly becomes the main suspect.  And as a nor’easter paralyzes the town, Lindsey and her friends will have to figure out whodunit while the local police force focuses on digging out.

Like the previous book in this series, there are plenty of great characters including a mentally unstable woman who wants to see Bill Sint reinstated as president, Bill’s charming nephew who is pursuing Lindsey, the cranky librarian, the charter boat captain who seems to have a crush on Lindsey, and all of Lindsey’s friends and neighbors.  These characters and their interactions and relationships make this a thoroughly enjoyable series.  I also love all of the library scenes – the programming, the patrons, the politics – they all feel so familiar on some level!

Title: Due or Die
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 304
Publication: Berkley, March 2012