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From The Blog
January 18, 2018
Crime Fiction Hall of Fame: David Goodis
Brian Greene
January 16, 2018
Q&A with Christopher Reich, Author of The Take
Christopher Reich and John Valeri
January 12, 2018
Man Steals Tank, Crashes through Store Window, Steals Bottle of Wine
Adam Wagner
January 9, 2018
Q&A with C. J. Tudor, Author of The Chalk Man
C. J. Tudor and John Valeri
January 8, 2018
Q&A with Aimee Hix, Author of What Doesn’t Kill You
Aimee Hix and John Valeri
Showing posts by: Doreen Sheridan click to see Doreen Sheridan's profile
Jan 17 2018 4:00pm

Cooking the Books: Cherry Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke

When we last left our intrepid heroine, Hannah Swensen had just been proposed to by both her suitors: dentist Norman Rhodes and police detective Mike Kingston. Since then, seven days have passed during which Hannah has agonized over which of them to accept—or whether to accept anyone at all. The pressure is getting to everyone in their small town of Lake Eden, so when Hannah finally makes a decision, it comes as a relief to the whole town.

Her decision, of course, is that she's not ready to be married, and any resulting tempest in a teapot that this might have provoked is soon quelled by more exciting news: Hollywood is coming to Lake Eden! Hannah's youngest sister, Michelle, has successfully pitched the town as the perfect setting for an upcoming independent movie directed by the hotshot auteur Dean Lawrence.

Hannah is delighted to discover that her neighbors from college, Lynne and Ross, are part of the cast and crew, even if they’re no longer the couple they were back then. Ross, who's producing, is eager to cast as many locals as possible. This earns him the goodwill of nearly the entire town, who are naturally excited to be part of the movie. It comes as a horrific surprise then when Dean fires what's supposed to be an unloaded gun on-set while coaching an actor and blows his own brains out in front of dozens of onlookers.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Jan 10 2018 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Dial M for Mousse by Laura Bradford

Business is booming for Winnie Johnson, owner and baker of the Emergency Dessert Squad, a service that delivers wittily named, made-to-order desserts to the residents of Silver Lake, Ohio. And a good thing too, since Winnie needs something to take her mind off of her love-life woes.

Her professor boyfriend, Jay, has gone to Hollywood with his teenage daughter, Caroline, to facilitate a mother-child reunion after his ex walked out on their family nearly a dozen years ago. Caroline has always been hostile to Winnie, whom she views as an interloper, and she's only too happy to reunite with her now-movie-star mom. It’s pretty obvious that she harbors hopes of getting her parents back together and will do everything in her power to make that a reality. To make matters worse, Jay is terrible at communicating over the phone, leaving poor Winnie in a welter of loneliness and confusion.

Fortunately, she has her friends to support and distract her, as they come up with more cute names for a bunch of desserts to be delivered to a nearby artists’ retreat. For the first time, she has her assistant Renee come with her on a delivery, only to have them both stumble across a horrific tableau: the dead body of the retreat’s administrator surrounded by the gathered resident artists. When Winnie realizes that the artists were playing her and Renee—and that one of them must have been the murderer—she throws herself into finding out exactly whom.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Jan 8 2018 3:00pm

Review: A Reckoning in the Back Country by Terry Shames

A Reckoning in the Back Country by Terry Shames is the seventh book in the Samuel Craddock Mystery series, where acting Police Chief Samuel Craddock investigates the murder of a visiting physician, whose mangled body is found in the woods (available January 9, 2018).

Do you remember the book that got you to fall in love with a genre? I honestly don’t remember which exact Nancy Drew novel made me a mystery fan forever at the tender age of 8, but now that I’m older and better at cataloguing my reading, I can say with certainty that Terry Shames’s A Reckoning in the Back Country has opened my eyes fully to the charms of the small-town police chief mystery series.

I think a large part of why this—of all the books about small-town policing that I have read and enjoyed to date—has given me a newfound appreciation of the subgenre is how authentic it reads, in large part because it refuses to traffic in tropes. Our hero, Samuel Craddock, is an older, widowed white man in the small Texas town of Jarrett Creek. His female neighbors dote on him, though he’s officially dating an emotionally damaged recent divorcee. His office is small: just him and three deputies, one of whom is temporary. Par for the course, so far.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of A Reckoning in the Back Country...]

Jan 3 2018 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: A Crime of Poison by Nancy Haddock

Lilyvale, Arkansas, is about to host its biggest Fall Folk Art Festival and Bake Sale yet, thanks to the organizing expertise of our heroine Leslee Stanton Nix (or Nixy, as she’s known to her friends) and her family, the Silver Six. The Silver Six is a group of retirees who live together in a farmhouse and run a crafts store that also showcases the goods of other local artisans. They’re as tight-knit a family as Nixy could possibly hope for, even though she’s only related to one of them by blood: her Aunt Sherry. Add to this her rescued pets, an inseparable dog and cat pair, and her police detective boyfriend, Eric, and Nixy is starting to feel really at home in her adopted small town.

But then, Cornell Lewis, former apartment manager from hell, rolls back into town. He claims he’s found religion and become a changed man, but his former tenants—including several of the Silver Six—are deeply skeptical. When he’s found dead in his car with a plate of snickerdoodles baked by some of Nixy’s family, suspicion immediately falls on their group. With Eric recusing himself from the investigation and hotshot new detective Charlene Vogelman looking to impress her boss, it looks like two of the Six will be headed to prison for a really long time—unless Nixy and the rest of them can solve the crime first!

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Dec 20 2017 4:00pm

Cooking the Books: Egg Drop Dead by Laura Childs

Everything is looking pretty great for the three co-owners of the Cackleberry Club, a cozy place that hosts a tearoom/cafe, knitting store, and bookstore all under one roof. Petra is happy dishing up delicious—and deceptively healthy—concoctions, while Toni charms the guests and Suzanne keeps an eye on everything else, including their relationships with suppliers. It’s this last that has Suzanne heading out to Mike Mullen’s dairy farm one October morning to pick up a cheese order. Alerted by unhappily lowing cows and nervous horses, Suzanne heads into the barn with caution only to stumble across Mike’s viciously slashed corpse.

Shaken, she immediately contacts the police. But concern for Mike’s wife, Claudia, causes her to ignore the police dispatcher’s urging for her to get away from the crime scene. Suzanne thinks she sees someone disappear into the woods before her nerve breaks at the thought of being out there alone with a killer.

Fortunately, the police arrive quickly, as does her fiancé, Dr. Sam Hazelet, who occasionally helps with coronary work in their small Midwestern town. Unfortunately for Suzanne, both he and the sheriff want her to stay out of investigating Mike’s death, but she feels she’s already too involved, a conviction that will find her facing serious danger as a killer uses the upcoming Halloween festivities to get murderously close to her.

[Recipes and pictures included below!]

Dec 13 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Honey-Baked Homicide by Gayle Leeson

The Down South Cafe Mystery series just goes from strength to strength with this third installment of the series! Our heroine Amy Flowers is doing well enough with her cafe that she’s thinking of hosting a sort of farmer’s market for local growers on a consignment basis, beginning with the local beekeeper, Stuart Landon, and his delicious honey.

Stuart is a mysterious figure in Winter Garden, Virginia, who showed up some two decades earlier to buy a secluded farm that he seems to use primarily to hide out from the rest of the townsfolk. Amy’s adorable Great-Aunt Bess is convinced he’s some sort of retired secret agent, but even she is shocked when he’s found with his throat slit, quite dead, in the parking lot of Amy’s cafe.

Stuart’s death unearths all sorts of secrets, and while Amy doesn’t set out to investigate his murder, she does find herself caught up in the aftermath when the truth of his origins is slowly revealed. His long-lost family shows up in town, as does an engineer for a gas company looking for deposits that could make several landowners wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. Amy soon finds herself in the crosshairs of a ruthless killer who won’t stop at only one murder.

[Recipe and pictures included!]

Dec 6 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: A Late Frost by Sheila Connolly

Welcome back to Granford, Massachusetts, where apple orchard owner Meg Corey—now Chapin after her marriage to Seth—is settling into the post-Christmas doldrums by trying to find a replacement for her orchard manager who has just accepted a prestigious internship in Australia. Her friend Christopher recommends one of the grad students he teaches at the college nearby, but Meg is initially put off by Larry’s dire lack of social skills. Despite her reservations, she decides to take him on and quickly finds herself growing protective of the young man.

Meanwhile, Seth is busy in his role of town selectman helping to organize the WinterFare, a small, day-long festival to encourage tourism. WinterFare is the brainchild of new transplant Monica Whitman, who is eager to use her abundant energy to help promote the town. Her death by food poisoning shortly after the close of the festivities shocks Granford deeply. Meg is happy to fully cooperate with the authorities who want to test the apples she had for sale at WinterFare. But when suspicion falls on Larry, her nascent maternal instincts come to the fore, and she finds herself investigating almost in spite of herself.

[Recipe and pictures included...]

Nov 29 2017 4:45pm

Cooking the Books: Not a Creature Was Purring by Krista Davis

With my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, sadly over, we can now turn to a Christmas theme guilt-free! Well, guilt-free except on the part of a murderer who is menacing Wagtail, Virginia, during what should be the most wonderful time of the year. Wagtail is famed as a town as friendly to pets as to people, and here in the fifth Paws & Claws Mystery, the death of a beloved patriarch embroils innkeeper Holly Miller in a lot more holiday hijinks than she’d planned for.

Holly had thought she’d spend this holiday season pining over her childhood sweetheart, Holmes Robinson, as he brings his new fiancée, Norma Jeanne, to town to meet his parents. But now she has to deal with Norma Jeanne’s fractious extended family, as they’ve all descended on her inn in various states of holiday cheer. When Norma Jeanne’s grandfather—who happens to own a very large pet clothing business that is currently rumored to be manufacturing allergen-tainted goods—is found stabbed to death, and Holly’s cantankerous Aunt Birdie becomes the main suspect, Holly throws herself into investigating as much to clear her aunt’s name as to forget her own romantic woes.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Nov 22 2017 5:00pm

Cooking the Books: Assault and Buttery by Kristi Abbott

Ugh, what is it with these crappy boyfriends? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Assault and Buttery, the third book in Kristi Abbott’s fun Popcorn Shop Mystery series, opens with our spunky heroine Rebecca Anderson being hauled into a jail cell for obstruction of justice. In the grand tradition of amateur sleuths everywhere, she’s perhaps crossed the line from investigating (in order to clear her own name, of course) to interfering with an official murder investigation—except that the reason she lands in jail is because she went to the victim’s wake, had too much to drink, and responsibly called her boyfriend Garrett to drive her home. Only, he took her straight to the sheriff instead.

Sheriff Dan, who is her brother-in-law in addition to allegedly being her best friend, promptly tosses her in jail for a very long weekend. With friends like these, who needs enemies? And don’t even get me started on how Garrett earlier insisted she stay to lunch at a restaurant where the owner straight up, non-stop insulted her while walking them from door to table. Unacceptable.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Nov 15 2017 4:20pm

Cooking the Books: Potions and Pastries by Bailey Cates

I so much enjoy being back in Savannah with Katie Lightfoot and her delightful friends and family. Okay, maybe not so much with her annoying fiancé Declan (#TeamSteve), but it’s so great for me as a cozy mystery fan to be back investigating deaths that look suspiciously linked to paranormal hijinks. Katie, you see, is a Light Witch, which means she’s called to cancel out evil (but not necessarily Dark) magic wherever she may find it. This all too often means bringing a paranormal murderer to justice.

In this case, Orla Black—an acquaintance and regular customer of the Honeybee Bakery that Katie co-owns with her aunt and uncle—has just died right outside the shop after suddenly walking into oncoming traffic. Katie receives a whole bunch of signals from the otherworld urging her to investigate; trouble is, she barely even knows where to start.

Detective Quinn, her sometimes contact in the police department, can’t see Orla’s death as being anything but a suicide or perhaps a singularly unfortunate accident. But Katie is convinced that something darker must be afoot. Her investigations lead her to Orla’s extended family, a tangle of Irish Traveler relations who introduce Katie to a new mystical tradition that could explain what happened to Orla—or could claim Katie as its very next victim.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Nov 8 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Peach Cobbler Murder by Joanne Fluke

I shouldn't speak ill of the (fictional) dead, but Shawna Lee Quinn is the worst. It's not that she's constantly flirting with Detective Mike Kingston, one of Hannah Swensen’s boyfriends—it takes two to tango, after all, and I've long been of the view that Hannah should dump Mike anyway. But when Shawna Lee’s sister Vanessa comes into an inheritance, Shawna Lee persuades her to use it to open a loss-leading bakery that seriously undercuts business at Hannah's cafe, the Cookie Jar.

It doesn't help that nearly all of Hannah's regular clientele have defected to Shawna Lee's bakery, ostensibly temporarily in order to check out the competition and report back to her. Hannah certainly doesn't need quite that many people to tell her that Shawna Lee's products, including the titular peach cobbler, are tasty but inferior.

[Recipes and pictures included below!]

Nov 1 2017 3:30pm

Cooking the Books: Sugar Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

I’ve stated elsewhere that I love a good manor house mystery, and Sugar Cookie Murder is Joanne Fluke’s very successful stab (heh) at one. Pretty much all of Lake Eden has been invited to a big holiday potluck to celebrate the upcoming release of a cookbook featuring the residents’ favorite recipes.

Hannah, as the person in charge of the cookbook, has her hands full supervising the evening and worrying not only about her heavily pregnant younger sister but also about her widowed mother’s growing relationship with a landed Englishman in town for an extended vacation. Add to that the prospect of a blizzard as well as high drama when Martin Dubinski brings his brand-new showgirl wife, Brandy, to the event—much to the dismay of his ex-wife, Shirley, and his mother, both of whom have been hoping for a reconciliation between him and Shirley.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Oct 26 2017 12:00pm

Review: Dying to Live by Michael Stanley

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley is the sixth crime novel to feature the humble and endearing Detective Kubu, set against the richly beautiful backdrop of Botswana.

I’m a big fan of the police procedural, and I have a special place in my reader’s heart for books in the genre that are set outside of the United States. It is utterly fascinating to read about all the ways in which cultures differ, particularly in the policing methods and protocols that make up such a large part of these novels.

Michael Stanley’s Detective Kubu series is one excellent example, showcasing the police force of Botswana. In this sixth book, the dead body of a Bushman has been found near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. It looks like he was the elderly victim of a scuffle gone wrong, but an autopsy reveals that despite his aged exterior and brittle bones, his internal organs are those of a much younger man.

Pathologist Ian MacGregor reports this puzzle to our hero, Assistant Superintendent David “Kubu” Bengu of the Criminal Investigation Department, as a matter of interest even though the death is outside Kubu’s jurisdiction. However, when the body is stolen from the Gaborone Morgue and connections start to emerge with the case of a recently missing local witch doctor, Kubu and his team are drawn in to investigate.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Dying to Live...]

Oct 25 2017 3:30pm

Cooking the Books: Fudge Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

Five books in, and I finally make the dish listed in the title! The titular fudge cupcakes also provide an interesting culinary mystery that Joanne Fluke handles beautifully, with intriguing clues that had me guessing right until the end as to what the mystery ingredient might be. I very much admired this mystery within a mystery.

Spoiler alert: the recipe quoted below does have the mystery ingredient listed, so feel free to skip over it if you’d rather go into reading the book without knowing the answer.

As to the main story, Hannah Swensen is helping her brother-in-law, Bill Todd, run for sheriff against the high-handed incumbent, Jim Grant. When she finds Sheriff Grant’s body in a dumpster with frosting from the fudge cupcakes she’d just made smeared down his shirt, she knows there’s no way she can stay out of investigating his death.

When Bill becomes the prime suspect and is suspended from the force, Hannah and her heavily pregnant sister, Andrea Todd, join forces to clear his name—even if it means running afoul of Hannah’s boyfriend, acting sheriff Mike Kingston. Good thing Hannah has her other boyfriend, Norman Rhodes, squarely in her corner! She’ll need all the help she can get, though, when her investigations lead her right into the hands of a criminal who has zero problems with racking up a body count.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Oct 18 2017 3:45pm

Cooking the Books: Lemon Meringue Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Okay, wow, this one is a little different from the previous books. For starters, our heroine Hannah Swensen is not the one to stumble across the body, a habit that her mother Delores despairs of in the context of attracting a marriage proposal (because, in a case of Mom-logic that I find insufferable but intensely realistic, Hannah is totally doing it on purpose).

Instead, it is Delores herself who finds the body in the basement of the house that dentist Norman Rhodes has just bought in order to tear down and build the dream house he and Hannah collaborated on in previous novels. But only for a contest, sadly. Come on, Hannah! Pick Norman!

Anyway, the body belongs to Rhonda Scharf, who’d just sold the house to Norman after inheriting it herself. Since lead detective Mike Kingston (the other of Hannah’s suitors) won’t release the crime scene back to Norman till progress is made on the case, Hannah has a lot of people urging her to investigate. In a departure from previous books, Mike takes her efforts in stride—though he’s quick to remind her that while she may be a talented amateur, she still has to defer to him as a professional.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Oct 17 2017 11:00am

Review: Deep Freeze by John Sandford

Deep Freeze by John Sandford is the 10th book in the Virgil Flowers series, where Virgil finds out that class reunions are a time for memories—good, bad, and deadly (available October 17, 2017).

The 10th Virgil Flowers mystery opens with our grief-stricken killer going over the death of banker Gina Hemming in his mind. It had been an accident, but he’d been too overcome with shame to do the right thing and call it in. Instead, he staged her death as a fall down her stairs. So when her body is ice-fished out of the local river a few days later, even he is flummoxed by the news.

Enter the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Virgil Flowers. He’s on vacation, but his boss, Jon Duncan, knows of Virgil’s history with the town of Trippton where Gina Hemming lived. He successfully bribes Virgil into investigating the death, which looks to be connected to Hemming’s upcoming 25th high school reunion. As Virgil starts asking around, he soon discovers that there are about 25 years of drama and bad blood that might very well have culminated in Gina’s death.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Deep Freeze...]

Oct 11 2017 3:00pm

Cooking the Books: Blueberry Muffin Murder by Joanne Fluke

So really, I’m at the point where I’m feeling like the Hannah Swensen mysteries are a bit like a grown-up version of the beloved Nancy Drew books. Our heroine is smart and charming, has a strong supporting cast, and the dialog sparkles with gentle humor. The mystery itself is solid and the romances sweet.

By the third novel in the Hannah Swensen series, one does feel that there’s a formula being followed, but it’s such a winning recipe that I, for one, certainly don’t mind. And did I mention that the mystery is solid? Every book I’ve read in this series so far has been a perfect example of the cozy genre.

In Blueberry Muffin Murder, the glamorous domestic diva and cooking show host, Connie Mac, has descended upon Lake Eden to grace their Winter Carnival—a festival dreamed up by Mayor Bascombe to drum up tourism in the doldrums of the late Minnesota winter. Hannah gets roped into giving the celebrity a tour of the carnival ahead of Connie’s unveiling of the official cake that she’s baked for the occasion—an experience that leads Hannah to believe that Connie is nothing like her public image of sweetness and light.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Oct 4 2017 3:30pm

Cooking the Books: Strawberry Shortcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

Wow, I continue to be impressed by Joanne Fluke. Most series have even a wee bit of sophomore slump with the second entry, but Strawberry Shortcake Murder not only extrapolates from the events in the first book to bring us a compelling murder mystery but loses none of the wit and verve of the debut.

In this novel, the Hartland Flour Co. has chosen Lake Eden to host what could be the first in an annual series of Dessert Bake-Offs. This is a big deal for the small town, as the competition brings in tourist dollars during the slowest months of winter. So everyone wants the competition to be a success, especially our heroine, Hannah Swensen, who’s been chosen as the head judge.

When dentist Norman Rhodes—the guy I think should be her boyfriend—calls to say that one of her judges will have to drop out due to a shattered tooth and the replacement turns out to be wife-beater Boyd Watson, Hannah is less than thrilled. Domestic assault aside, his critiques of the contestants are unnecessarily harsh, even to the occasionally tactless Hannah. It doesn’t matter that his sense of taste is completely on point.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Oct 4 2017 12:00pm

Review: Old Scores by Will Thomas

Old Scores by Will ThomasOld Scores by Will Thomas is the ninth book in the Barker & Llewelyn series.

The ninth Barker & Llewellyn mystery novel starts out quietly enough. Enquiry Agent Cyrus Barker receives a delegation from Japan at his private residence. The newcomers are curious to see the only authentic Japanese garden in 1890s England. Barker’s right-hand man (and our narrator), Thomas Llewellyn, is curious to see these foreigners but gains more than he bargained for when he correctly interprets Barker's carefully hidden surprise at the composition of their entourage as a hint at darker dealings afoot.

Later that evening, finding Barker unexpectedly absent, Llewellyn goes looking for him. Outside the building where the Japanese have temporarily set up their proto-embassy, he encounters a commotion and is swiftly arrested in conjunction with the murder of Ambassador Toda. Barker had been apprehended earlier as the prime suspect, as he'd been found staring up at the ambassador’s window with a gun in his hand immediately after the assassination. But with no apparent motive, the Special Branch has to let him go, especially after Barker's lawyer intervenes.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Old Scores...]

Sep 29 2017 2:00pm

Review: If You Knew My Sister by Michelle Adams

If You Knew My Sister by Michelle Adams is a debut novel of psychological suspense where a woman returns to her family's home to learn the truth and escape her sister's influence (available October 3, 2017).

Ever thought you had a toxic relationship with a family member? Sometimes I feel that no siblings could possibly be as dysfunctional as my own, but then I met the Harringford sisters of Michelle Adams’s debut novel.

Dr. Irini Harringford has clawed together a life for herself without much, if any, familial support. She’s studied to become an anesthesiologist and lives in a nice London flat with her Italian boyfriend, Antonio. He wants to get married and have kids, but Irini shies away from the idea. Given up at the age of three by her parents, she was raised by her father’s disapproving sister instead. The only explanation that she was ever given by her Aunt Jemima was that Irini’s mother, Cassandra, was too depressed to cope with having two daughters.

Irini has been haunted ever since by the question of why her parents chose to keep her older sister, Elle, but gave her away. This vulnerability is exacerbated by the hip dysplasia that was mostly corrected by childhood surgery, though she still carries the scars and a slight limp that earned her the cruel schoolyard nickname Peg Leg Irini.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of If You Knew My Sister...]