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Showing posts by: Kerry Hammond click to see Kerry Hammond's profile
Thu
Mar 20 2014 11:40pm

Dyed and Gone, an Azalea March mystery by Beth YarnallDyed and Gone by Beth Yarnall is the mystery debut of Azalea March, California hairstylist and salon owner, who'll investigate the death of a hair world celebrity at a Las Vegas convention to clear her best friend's name (available March 25, 2014).

Normally the first book in a cozy series starts off in the main character’s hometown, and you slowly get introduced to supporting characters and the locale. Then, some local person gets bumped off and everyone is a suspect. Dyed and Gone decided to go a different route and ramp it up a notch, or twenty, and it really works.

Right from the start, Azalea and her two best friends (business partner Vivian and stylist Juan Carlos) are in Las Vegas, attending the North American Salon Trade Expo, which Juan Carlos calls “NAST-E.” Prior to the conference, Azalea, dealing badly with her love life, has hit rock bottom:

I’d been dangling at the end of a string of very poor romantic choices and losing my grip fast when Vivian had burst into my apartment the day before yesterday. She’d yanked the TV cable right out of the wall, ending my three-day, tear-inducing Hallmark channel marathon.

“Please tell me you haven’t bid on any more of those horrible flower dresses,” she’d said, hands on hips. This wasn’t the first time she’d rescued me from floral disaster.

My guilty gaze flew to the laptop on the coffee table in front of me propped up by a stack of bridal magazines, my finger hovering over the return key. “Ah, no?” Not yet, anyway.

“Azalea!” She rushed over to where I sat on the couch and looked at the screen. “Oh, for God’s sake. That’s the ugliest one yet.” She closed the computer, sat down next to me, and pulled my Buy Now hand into hers. “You can’t bury your feelings in sappy movies and vintage Laura Ashley dresses. You’re getting out of here. Now. Pack a bag.”

How did she always seem to know when I was at my lowest? This particular low had been courtesy of a too-hot-to-be-legal cop who’d done the old I’ll-call-you thing and then didn’t. The jerk.

Juan Carlos had skidded to a stop in the entryway. He’d leaned on the doorjamb, one hand over his heart, huffing and puffing as though he’d run a marathon instead of up my three front steps. “Please tell me we got here in time to stop Laura Ingalls Wilder from adding to her Little House on the Depressed Prairie collection.”

Of course, this is a murder mystery, so not all of the Las Vegas fun is hair extensions and dye jobs.

[Some dye and some die...]

Tue
Mar 4 2014 10:30am

Board Stiff, a Mattie Winston mystery by Annelise RyanBoard Stiff by Annelise Ryan is the 5th in the Mattie Winston Mystery series about a small-town coroner who'll investigate the death of a nursing home owner (available March 4, 2014).

Mattie Winston is a nurse-turned-coroner by profession, living in a small town in Wisconsin. Mattie is tough, never dainty, and sweet on Steve Hurley, a local homicide detective whose ex-wife, Kate, just moved back in with him. When Kate shows up on his doorstep, Hurley finds out that she’s not so much his ex-wife as his current wife (since she never signed the divorce papers) and she’s not so much alone, as she's traveling with the 15 year-old daughter that he never knew he had. Feeling bad, Hurley lets them stay with him, causing Mattie to enter a downward slide. Losing your boyfriend is one thing, but finding out he’s still married and has a daughter is more than most people can handle.

As the story opens, we find Mattie attending a mandatory therapy session, ordered by her boss, Izzy, at the coroner’s office. It’s a requirement to getting her old job back, which she desperately wants. She might as well work for the coroner if she’s not going to date Hurley. Since they broke up, the conflict of interest issue is a moot point. In addition, she’s been spending a little too much time at the casino, and kind of needs to stop.

[Troubles beget troubles...]

Mon
Jan 6 2014 9:15pm

Dealivering Death, a Riley Spartz mystery by Julie KramerDelivering Death by Julie Kramer is the 6th mystery featuring Minneapolis investigative reporter Riley Spartz (available January 7, 2014).

One of my favorite things about reading a new-to-me author is meeting new characters. It’s rare and, to use a cliché, magical, when a character draws me in immediately. When I started reading Delivering Death, I knew that Riley Spartz had appeared in five previous installments, and part of me wondered if I would be drawn in or if I would feel that I had missed too much. I am happy to report (no pun intended) that not only was I drawn in, I completely enjoyed riding along with her, living her crazy life, and laughing at her constant wit.

Riley Spartz is a hardworking investigative reporter for Channel 3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her news station is in constant battle just to be number 2 in viewer ratings. While her boss Bryce is concentrating on trying to wow viewers with a new and improved studio set, Riley is trying to figure out who mailed her an envelope full of human teeth. After consulting her dentist, she learns that the teeth are from a mature adult, and the scratch marks on the enamel indicates that they did not fall out on their own, but were yanked out with some sort of tool.

[Arrest Sir Lawrence Olivier! Remember Marathon Man...?]

Thu
Oct 10 2013 9:00pm

Buried Leads by LynDee WalkerBuried Leads  by LynDee Walker is the second Nichelle Clarke Headlines in High Heels Mystery about a Virginia journalist (available October 15, 2013).

Nichelle Clarke is a reporter for the Richmond Telegraph and her job is to cover the cops and court beat for the paper. She’s a fashion-conscious girl, who isn’t afraid to get dirty if it means getting information for a news story. When she hears on her police scanner that a dead body was found in the woods, she doesn’t even think to change out of her Manolos before heading over to the scene.

Dead people can have the worst timing.

After a ridiculously long day of deadlines, criminals, and cops who did not want to talk to me, I wanted a hot bath and my warm bed. Is that too much for a girl to ask? Apparently so, because there I was, traipsing around the woods looking for a half-eaten dead guy who got himself discovered at eleven o’clock. At night. The glamorous life of a journalist.

The humor in this book starts at the very beginning and moves right along through to the end. You might think that a series about high heels would be fluffy, but you’d be wrong. This book has a great mystery, a ton of humor (I know I’ve already said that, but it was worth repeating) and really wonderful characters. Nichelle might like her shoes, but she’s a smart career girl who works hard and tries to do the right thing by writing stories that matter.

[A brain, and heart, and great shoes, too?]

Tue
Oct 1 2013 11:00am

Killer Image, an Allison Campbell mystery, by Wendy TysonKiller Image by Wendy Tyson is the first novel in a new mystery series featuring Allison Campbell, an image consultant in Philadelphia (available October 1, 2013).

This is a brand new series with a unique protagonist. Allison Campbell is an image consultant who meets with clients to help them improve their images for various reasons. Some clients are divorcees who want a sort of self makeover post-divorce, others are people in high-profile jobs who want to work on portraying themselves in the best possible light. Alison has reworked her own image in the past (there’s backstory here) and is therefore extremely qualified to run her own business and help others.

When a pushy politician with White House ambitions and his pushover wife hire her to help their teenage, Goth-loving daughter, Allison has left her comfort zone. She has a rule that she won’t work with kids, but when she meets Maggie she feels compelled to help her, no matter how contrary—and let’s face it, troubled—the child seems to be.

Allison stepped inside. She looked around for a place to sit. A chair, painted black, sat next to a desk, painted black, but books and papers were stacked on its seat. The room looked surprisingly neat. It was smaller than Allison would have expected, but other than the stack of books, orderly. A black dresser sat against the wall between two windows. On its surface stood candles, a dozen or so bottles of various sizes, and an incense holder. A computer had been placed on the desk amid neat piles of books and papers and what looked like a strobe light, its silvery fish scales reflecting the narrow black curtains. Another stack of books tilted precariously next to the bed.

[But isn't All-Black the New Black?]

Mon
Sep 23 2013 9:30am

Christmas Carol Murder by Leslie Meier, the 20th Lucy Stone mysteryChristmas Carol Murder by Leslie Meier is the twentieth in the cozy mystery series featuring Lucy Stone of Tinker’s Cove, Maine (available September 24, 2013).

I love Christmas and I love murder mysteries, so this book really hit the spot. It had it all: a small town, murder of a mean old man, lots of suspects who hated said mean old man, suspicious behavior all around, fun characters, and of course, a holiday celebration.

Jake Marlowe is a nasty man. He and his partner Ben Scribner own a bank in the small town of Tinker’s Cove, Maine, where the recession has hit just as hard as the rest of the country. Many residents are struggling to pay their bills, and a few even have medical problems that are causing an extreme financial burden. Instead of working with his customers to try and come up with a repayment plan they can afford, Jake enjoys filing foreclosures to take back the properties.

One morning before work, Jake sits in his home surrounded by all of the things he can’t throw away, and looks forward to balancing his bank account.

[Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone...]

Thu
Sep 19 2013 1:00pm

The Edwin Drood Murders by Christopher LordThe Edwin Drood Murders by Christopher Lord is the second book in the Dickens Junction Mystery series featuring bookstore owner and Charles Dickens scholar Simon Alastair and his partner, journalist Zach Benjamin (available September 24).

I’m a fan of Charles Dickens, but really didn’t have much prior knowledge about The Mystery of Edwin Drood other than the fact that Dickens died before he finished the book.

In Christopher Lord’s novel, the International Society of Droodists are a group of scholars and fans of Dickens’ last work. They are meeting for a conference in Dickens Junction, and Simon Alastair is co-chair of the event. One of the big draws of the conference, other than being around like-minded Drood followers, is the unveiling of a document purported to be some of the missing notes written by Charles Dickens. These notes, called Number Plan Six, could reveal how Dickens planned to end the story and who he was going to name as murderer.

A brilliant morning shines on the old city. Its antiquities and ruins are surpassingly beautiful, with the lusty ivy gleaming in the sun, and the rich trees waving in the balmy air. Changes of glorious light from moving boughs, songs of birds, scents from gardens, woods, and fields—or rather, from the one great garden of the whole cultivated island in its yielding time—penetrate into the Cathedral, subdue its earthy odour, and preach the Resurrection and the Life. The cold stone tombs of centuries ago grow warm, and flecks of brightness dart into the sternest marble corners of the building, fluttering there like wings…

The service comes to an end, and the servitors disperse to breakfast. Mr. Datchery accosts his last new acquaintance out­side, when the Choir (as much in a hurry to get their bedgowns off, as they were but now to get them on) have scuffled away…

Mrs. Tope’s care has spread a very neat, clean breakfast ready for her lodger. Before sitting down to it, he opens his corner-cupboard door; takes his bit of chalk from its shelf; adds one thick line to the score, extending from the top of the cupboard-door to the bottom; and then falls to with an appetite.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Charles Dickens
June 8, 1870

[Very mysterious, indeed...]

Fri
Sep 13 2013 10:00am

Something Borrowed, Someone Dead by M.C. BeatonSomething Borrowed, Someone Dead by M.C. Beaton is the 24th book in the Agatha Raisin mystery series set in the village of Carsely in the English Cotswolds (available September 17, 2013).

There’s something about a new M.C. Beaton mystery that reminds me of opening a festively wrapped  Christmas gift.  Both bring a big smile to my face and a little twinge of excitement because I don’t yet know what’s inside. Beaton (whose real name is Marion McChesney) is a very prolific writer, who has several series written under several pen names, in both the mystery and romance genres. It’s no surprise to me that the Agatha Raisin books are one her longest running series. They contain great characters, a picturesque setting, and a murder or two in each installment.

In Something Borrowed, Someone Dead, Agatha Raisin is her usual cranky and insecure self. Business is slow due to the recession, and she finds herself without much to work on. She sees a newspaper article about a murder in the small village of Piddlebury, and the bored part of her wants to investigate, but the businesswoman in her realizes she can’t take on an unpaid case. Her business sense wins out and she puts the murder out of her mind.

[But that kind of self-control can't last, can it?]

Tue
Sep 10 2013 11:55pm

Designed to Death, a Faith Hunter Scrap This mystery by Christina FreeburnDesigned to Death by Christina Freeburn is the second cozy mystery in the funny Faith Hunter Scrap This series set in Eden, West Virginia (available September 10, 2013).

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a typical scrapbooker.  But if there is, Faith Hunter would not be who I would imagine. She used to be in the Army, and has a secret past (so secret that Book 2 in the series does not yet reveal the whole story). She moved back to West Virginia to start fresh and work for her two grandmothers at their scrapbooking store Scrap This.  Since she was raised by her two grandmothers, she feels safe and secure back at home with them.  Well, as safe as anyone can feel with a murderer running loose.

The murder that takes place revolves around the most recently appointed Life Artist Diva, an honor given by the scrapbooking magazine Making Legacies to the person who submits the winning crop (meaning photos, not produce) layout.  The Life Artist Diva of the moment is Belinda Watson, and Faith has planned a signing and crop class to honor Belinda and bring in business for the store. Belinda’s cousin, Darlene, shows up claiming the work submitted to win the contest was actually stolen from her, and a brawl ensues. Let’s just say, not all the glitter in this story made it out unharmed.

[Down with brutality against glitter!]

Sun
Aug 18 2013 4:00pm

Tell No LIes by Gregg HurwitzTell No Lies by Gregg Hurwitz is a thriller set in San Francisco about a therapist working with ex-cons who becomes involved with a hit list of murder victims (available August 20, 2013).

Gregg Hurwitz’s latest novel is, at first glance, a fast-paced thriller. But it’s also a suspense story that unravels slowly, giving readers just enough to keep them guessing until the final pages. These two seemingly opposite characteristics really work together, and Hurwitz creates a roller coaster ride of sorts, speeding up the action and then pulling back at just the right time.

Daniel Brasher is a therapist who works nights leading a support group for convicted felons trying to get back on track. He finds letters in his work mailbox, addressed to unknown recipients, providing a kind of hit list. The deadline is midnight, and the victims are told to admit what they’ve done or they will die. When Daniel alerts the police, they are too late to save the first victim. When the second is identified, Daniel is there when the murder takes place, but helpless to stop it.  What follows is a race to find out why the killer is targeting these people, who the next victim will be, and why Daniel is caught up in the middle.

The characters are well written and extremely realistic. Daniel comes from a rich family but chooses to follow his heart rather than continue in the family business.  His wife, Cristina, is of Mexican descent and has more causes than Daniel. She works as a community organizer trying to help tenants who are being evicted from their homes. Theresa Dooley is a female, African-American homicide detective, who gains respect from other detectives for her police skills and doesn’t let her minority status affect her work.

And then there’s Evelyn Brasher, Daniel’s mother. I have to admit that Eveyln was one of my favorite characters. I say that I am admitting it because she is a truly unlikeable person.

[What does therapist Daniel think about his mother....hmmm?]

Tue
Jul 23 2013 10:00am

The Highway by C.J. BoxThe Highway by C.J. Box is a dark thriller featuring Cody Hoyt, an alcoholic former police investigator who is pulled into hunting a serial killer on Montana's remote highways (available July 30, 2013).

I’m a big fan of C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett series and was very excited to read one of his standalone novels.  I would still consider it a standalone, although a few of the characters, including teen sisters Danielle and Gracie, that appear in this book also appeared in Back of Beyond, published just a couple of years ago. Specifically, Cody Hoyt, a police investigator in Montana. Since Box creates such memorable characters, I’m not surprised that Cody made another appearance.

In The Highway, Cody is struggling with his recent sobriety and has been kicked off the force for planting evidence, a crime of which he is clearly guilty. When he admits to planting the evidence, it sounds like a no brainer to the reader that Cody is a dirty cop. However, once Box outlines Cody’s reasoning and tells the story from his point of view, you may not be entirely sure that your original conclusions are correct. The author reminds you that things are sometimes gray rather than black and white.

[Do the ends justify the means?]

Mon
Jun 3 2013 9:30am

Stolen by Allison Brennan is the 6th book in the Lucy Kincaid series (available June 4, 2013).

Lucy Kincaid is in the middle of her FBI agent training course at Quantico when her boyfriend Sean Rogan quits his job working as a security investigator at his brother’s company. No longer speaking to his brother, Sean goes to New York to work with an old friend and business associate, Colton Thayer, telling Lucy very little about the project he’s involved in.

What Lucy doesn’t know is that Sean is working with the FBI on an investigation and has gone undercover. By helping the FBI, Sean hopes to clear himself and avoid prosecution for a crime he committed nearly ten years ago.

Sean is a computer whiz, to put it mildly. There’s no computer he can’t hack, no security system he can’t bypass. At a young age his idealism was his driving force and he wanted to be a kind of Robin Hood. He would see people do bad things and know that he could exact justice quicker than law enforcement.

Theft came in all shapes and sizes, from grand to small, from violent to peaceful. For Sean Rogan, the most satisfying robbery was stealing from someone who was a criminal, because the victim would never report the break-in. It was also the most dangerous.  

The safest theft, and almost as satisfying, was stealing information so the victim never knew they’d been targeted. This was the type of crime where Sean excelled and why his former mentor and friend Colton Thayer had for years wanted him to rejoin the group. It was why Sean had quit the family business. Now there was no turning back.

[Just when you think you know someone...]

Mon
May 6 2013 12:00pm

Foal Play by Kathryn O’Sullivan, a murder mystery with humorous overtones, won the Malice Domestic competition for Best First Traditional Mystery Novel (available May 7, 2013).

It’s summertime in Corolla, North Carolina, and Colleen McCabe is the fire chief of this small resort town. She inhabits a mostly man’s world in her profession, but has managed to win over her team with her professionalism and skill. She and her Border Collie Sparky try to keep things under control, even in the height of tourist season.

This idyllic town in the Outer Banks comes complete with a wild horse refuge that is home to a herd of Spanish mustangs. The refuge is meant to keep them safe from tourists and other dangers. This is definitely harder to do when the horses break through the fences to mix with the population.

[Everything’s beachy until the dead bodies start turning up...]

Sun
Mar 31 2013 10:00am

The Baker Street Translation by Michael Robertson is the third book in the Baker Street Letters mystery series featuring Reggie and Nigel Heath, barristers whose office address happens to be 221B Baker Street in London (available April 2, 2013).

I am a big fan of anything Sherlock Holmes, and there have been many different spin-offs related to the master detective. You even see modern day Sherlocks on television, giving the sleuth 21st century cases to solve. What I loved most about Michael Robertson’s version is that it’s kind of based in reality; the reality of fiction of course.

Reggie Heath and his brother Nigel are barristers who rent the office located at 221B Baker Street in London. As you can imagine, tourists are constantly flocking to the location to get a glimpse of the famous address. What fans are also doing is writing letters. These letters are actually addressed to Sherlock Holmes and arrive at Reggie’s office daily.

[You’ve got mail...]

Wed
Mar 27 2013 9:30am

Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey ArcherBest Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer is the third book in the Clifton Chronicles series (available April 30, 2013).

Most of the time when someone finds himself involved in a lawsuit, he wants to come out the winner. This is not true for Harry Clifton. As the book opens, Harry is waiting for a decision that will determine his future. In his case, losing the lawsuit would be the best thing that ever happened to him. If he wins, he will be named the heir to the Barrington name and fortune. But if he loses, he will be able to marry Emma Barrington, the love of his life and the mother of his son.

It’s no surprise when Harry’s best friend and Emma’s brother, Giles, comes out the winner in court. Everyone is thrilled with the results, and Harry and Emma finally tie the knot. What follows takes the reader through the beginning of post-World War II life in England, when women still can’t serve on the board of a company and air travel is starting to become a replacement for long journeys by sea. It’s as fun as Downton Abbey minus the drama in the lives of the servants downstairs.

[Upstairs minus the Downstairs but plus all the drama!]

Tue
Feb 12 2013 2:15pm

Airtight by David RosenfeltAirtight by David Rosenfelt is thriller of murder, family loyalty, and corruption (available February 12, 2013).

When a judge is found murdered in his garage, the New Jersey police department take action on a mission to find his killer. Luke Somers is lead on the investigation and the clues he follows bring him to Steven Gallagher, a drug user who was about to be sentenced by the deceased judge. When the police show up at Steven’s place, things go from bad to worse and Luke shoots Steven when he pulls a gun of his own.

The media is in a frenzy, congratulating Luke for catching the judge’s killer and making sure justice was served, albeit in the form a dead perpetrator. It’s the kind of media coverage and sensationalism we see in real life. But Luke isn’t happy about the attention.

[Who would be?]

Tue
Jan 22 2013 1:00pm

Arsenic and Old Puzzles by Parnell HallArsenic and Old Puzzles by Parnell Hall is the 14th book in the Puzzle Lady traditional mystery series (available January 22, 2013).

Everyone in town knows quirky, sarcastic Cora Felton as the famous Puzzle Lady. Her crossword puzzles, along with her photo, run in newspapers across the country. What most people don’t know, however, is that she doesn’t actually create the puzzles, nor could she solve one if someone held a gun to her head. However, due to Cora’s notoriety, she’s the first person the chief of police calls when he needs a Sudoku puzzle solved. The problem is, the puzzle was found on the body of a dead tourist at a local bed-and-breakfast run by the Guildford sisters.

[It’s puzzling, to be sure...]

Wed
Nov 28 2012 10:30am

Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog by Boris Akunin

When it comes to law and order in mysteries, the first thing I think of are police officers and private detectives. However, there are a number of professions that amateur sleuths claim as day jobs; from crafters to retirees to little old ladies in St. Mary Mead. 

One group of people who are out there solving crime after crime is not a group that you would normally associate with murderers. It’s the clergy. Who would have thought that these God-fearing men and women would be so adept at solving crimes and ferreting out the evildoers? Ok, so maybe the evildoer part isn’t a surprise.

Terrie Farley Moran already posted about some of my favorites—G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown; the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters; and Sister Fidelma, the brainchild of Peter Tremayne. But there are more! So many more!

What I love about mysteries involving clerical sleuths is that they run the gamut from historical to modern day. There is something for everyone. Do you like ancient Ireland? I’ve got a crime-solving nun for you. Do you like modern day, rural New York? I know an Episcopalian priest who can’t seem to steer clear of murder.

[Have faith in their crime solving skills]

Fri
Nov 9 2012 1:00pm

A Death in the Small Hours by Charles FinchA Death in the Small Hours by Charles Finch is the 6th historical mystery in the Charles Lenox series (available November 13, 2012).

Charles Lenox plans a trip to his uncle’s estate hoping for a few calm weeks in which to write an important speech. When he arrives in the quiet village of Plumbley, however, what greets him is a series of small crimes and acts of vandalism at the local shops: broken windows, minor thefts, threatening scrawls. Only when a far more serious crime is committed does he begin to understand the great stakes of those events, and the complex and sinister mind that is wreaking fear and suspicion in Plumbley.

Charles Lenox is a gentleman, complete with club membership, family pedigree, and London mansion. As the latest book in the series opens, Charles is a sitting member of Parliament, and is clearly struggling with the concept that his days are now filled with politics rather than detection. He misses the intrigue that goes along with scouring the streets of Victorian London looking for clues that will lead to the breakthrough in a case.

[Politics or murder...or both]

Thu
Nov 1 2012 10:30am

A cup of tea and a bookThere are few things I enjoy more than the changing of the seasons. When the leaves start to turn, I dream of roaring fires and snowflakes falling from the sky. I make sure my favorite blanket is within reach of my armchair and that the reading lamp is in working order. My fireplace may be gas, but I use my imagination to hear the crackling of the logs as I sit snuggly and warm, and reach for my book.
 
Whether or not snowfall is in your future, there is nothing like a cozy mystery to keep you warm and toasty. As much as I love to read all cozies, I have to admit that I do have my favorites. I find that a good series with memorable characters can make me feel like I’m visiting old friends each time I pick up a book.
 
To help fill the fall and winter months with great reading, I’ve put together a list of my top ten coziest cozies:

[Judges, the blanket and teacup, please!]