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Showing posts by: Doreen Sheridan click to see Doreen Sheridan's profile
Oct 18 2017 4:45pm

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 12:00pm

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 4:00pm

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 4:30pm

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 1:00pm

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 3:00pm

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...]

Sep 27 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Welcome to Lake Eden, Minnesota, where the temperatures are low, the community close-knit, and the cookies, well! The cookies—as baked by our heroine Hannah Swensen for her cafe—are to die for. Metaphorically at least, though Hannah’s discovery of the corpse of her milkman with one of her chocolate chip cookies clutched in his hand certainly makes her re-think that turn of phrase. Fortunately, her cookies had nothing to do with poor Ron LaSalle’s death, though there is certainly an increase in business when townsfolk hungry for gossip as much as for baked goods start showing up at The Cookie Jar to satisfy their curiosity (and cookie cravings!).

Hannah’s brother-in-law, Bill Todd, is an officer for the sheriff’s department angling for promotion to detective. He enlists her aid in keeping her eyes and ears open for information that people might divulge to her that they wouldn’t necessarily to an officer of the law. Hannah, however, doesn’t do things halfway, and she soon plunges into the investigation, pulling along her sister, Andrea, as well. Through it all, Hannah’s mother is obliviously trying to set Hannah up with every eligible bachelor in town, even as her daughters track down a ruthless killer.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Sep 22 2017 3:00pm

Review: Meddling and Murder by Ovidia Yu

Meddling and Murder by Ovidia Yu is the fourth book in the Aunty Lee Mysteries series.

We’re back with another excellent installment of the Aunty Lee Mysteries series, with one thing notably missing but an addition that I’m going to flatter myself into thinking is about me (cue the Carly Simon right here). In this fourth book of the Singapore-set series, Aunty Lee is quite cross at her Filipina maid, Nina, who refuses to let Aunty Lee encourage the romantic attentions of Inspector Salim, the police officer who’s been in love with Nina over the course of several books now. Nina knows how difficult it is for two people of such differing social statuses to have a successful relationship, much less marry, as Salim has proposed. She’s too much of a realist to encourage him, so she has decided to snub him altogether. This greatly annoys Aunty Lee, who believes in true love and working things out.

Ovidia Yu not only presents their differing viewpoints with honesty and sensitivity but also includes Salim’s own complicated thought processes as he struggles to reconcile his love for Nina with his love for his country:

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Meddling and Murder...]

Sep 20 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: A Disguise to Die For by Diane Vallere

I finally went back and read the first in this series, and oh man, I definitely missed out by not starting here first. The second and third books are each enjoyable standalone experiences, but I have to say that this first novel in the Costume Shop Mystery series really sets the stage for everything that follows—especially when it comes to the interior life of our heroine, Margo Tamblyn.

In A Disguise to Die For, Margo’s dad, Jerry, has just suffered a heart attack, so she’s taken time off from her job as a magician’s assistant in nearby Las Vegas to come tend to the family business. Disguise DeLimit is a store that has specialized in costumes for decades, stocking not only the relatively inexpensive items you can purchase from your average party store but also deluxe costumes that you can either rent or buy, which many do, even ordering from far away or in bulk for themed events.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Sep 20 2017 12:00pm

Review: Murderous Mistral by Cay Rademacher

Murderous Mistral by Cay Rademacher is the first book in the Roger Blanc Provence Mystery series.

Welcome to Provence, that picturesque area of France to where hard-nosed Capitaine Roger Blanc of the gendarmerie has just been transferred from Paris after nearly single-handedly exposing the corruption of a former trade minister. It might sound like a promotion (is Provence not the loveliest part of France, located in the warm south, after all?), but Blanc knows that he’s really being removed from investigating the powerful in the nation’s capital. On hearing the news, his wife decided it was time to come clean and admit that she had a lover in Paris whom she’d rather stay with than accept exile with Blanc. At least Blanc has a place to stay in Gadet, the nowhere town to which he’s been assigned; an uncle willed him a decrepit old olive oil mill years ago. Admittedly, it’s a dump.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Murderous Mistral...]

Sep 13 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Pudding Up with Murder by Julia Buckley

In this third and latest installment of the Undercover Dish mystery series, Lilah Drake’s business of making casseroles and similar dishes for others to pass off as their own is booming. When her boyfriend’s mother, Ellie Parker, asks her for both a rice pudding and an escort to the birthday party of a curmudgeonly neighbor, Lilah is happy to oblige on both counts.

The thrice-divorced Marcus Cantwell has gathered his family and friends to celebrate but seems more interested in hiding away from the festivities than in socializing. While he certainly lives up to his reputation when interacting with Lilah, his family is far more welcoming, and they have nothing but compliments for her—or rather Ellie’s—rice pudding. The scent even manages to lure out Marcus, who says nice things about it ... before falling face first into the rest of the dessert.

Fortunately, Maria Grimaldi is on the scene. The tall, elegant police officer—who is also partners with Lilah’s boyfriend, Jay—had stopped by to pick up her niece Lola, and after conferring with Lilah and Ellie, she quickly secures the area in case of foul play. And foul play there is—though it comes as a relief to Lilah that her rice pudding had no more role to play in Marcus’s demise than serving as an unfortunate landing pad.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Sep 12 2017 1:00pm

Review: Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed by John Keyse-Walker

Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed by John Keyse-Walker is the second book in the Teddy Creque Mysteries series.

Take a visual tour of Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed with GIFnotes!

As summer draws to a close here in the northern hemisphere, let those of us who thrive in warmer temperatures bask in the release of John Keyse-Walker’s second Teddy Creque Mystery. Set in the British Virgin Islands, the books take full advantage of the locale, reminding those of us not blessed to live in such beautiful environs what we’re missing out on:

It was only then that I noticed it was another glorious Virgin Islands afternoon, cottony clouds on the horizon, the diamond glint of sunshine spread on the cerulean waters of the Yacht Harbour, the musical ring of rigging against the spars. Police work has the unfortunate effect of making one ignore beauty, so intent is the search for the ugliness in life. I find it the most disappointing aspect of the job, apart from people shooting at you.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed...]

Sep 6 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Dressed to Confess by Diane Vallere

The latest Costume Shop Mystery has our heroine, the charming Margo Tamblyn, busy assisting her adoptive mother figure, Ebony Welles, with the organization of Proper City’s annual Sagebrush Festival. Ebony is the town’s premier event organizer, so she’s used to dealing with all sorts of parties, big or small. But even she has her hands full with this year’s celebration. The family-friendly Sagebrush Festival is one of the town’s biggest events, running for two weeks around Walpurgisnacht and attracting tourists from all over. This year’s theme is board games, and Proper City’s mayor, Wharton Young, is pushing Ebony hard to maximize revenue.

While this is a departure from the festival’s usual non-profit status, Ebony takes it in stride. However, the addition of the Domino Divas, a singing and dancing group of entertainers now well into their 60s, complicates things with their demands. Once notorious for their suspected involvement in a bank robbery that led to the theft of the founder of Proper City’s gold, the divas have regrouped but are having a hard time keeping it civil amongst themselves. Since Margo and her family costume shop, Disguise DeLimit, have been hired to dress the Domino Divas, Ebony has no problem foisting the management of the squabbling group onto the younger woman while she puts out fires elsewhere.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Sep 5 2017 3:00pm

Review: The Seagull by Ann Cleeves

The Seagull by Ann Cleeves is the eighth book in the Vera Stanhope series—a searing new novel about corruption deep in the heart of a community and fragile, fracturing family relationships (available September 5, 2017).

As a former theatre professional, I spent far too much time thinking of parallels between this book—Ann Cleeves’s 8th DI Vera Stanhope mystery—and the Chekhov play of the same name. Yes, almost all the violence happens off-stage—or at least outside of the continuous present-day narrative—and yes, there are tangles of interpersonal narratives loosely grouped together in fours. But the main things the two works of fiction have in common are the themes of guilt, obsessive love, and parenting at a remove, whether physical or emotional.

It's this last that plunges our heroine into trouble, as an elderly prisoner wants Vera to check in on his daughter Patty in exchange for information. Former Police Superintendent John Brace was close friends with Vera's father, Hector—the two of them comprising half of the Gang of Four that made light of local laws, culminating in the murder of a game warden. Vera was instrumental in John's arrest for the corruption that he considered a necessary part of the business of policing.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of The Seagull...]

Aug 30 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Muffin to Fear by Victoria Hamilton

The fifth book in the Merry Muffin Mystery series opens with our heroine, Merry Wynter, reveling in a luxurious New York City honeymoon with her new husband, Virgil. Their wedded bliss is cut short, however, when their return to Wynter Castle—the honest-to-goodness castle Merry owns upstate—lands them smack in the middle of a television crew setting up to film. Unbeknownst to Merry, her best friend, Pish, has invited the ghost-hunters from the television show Haunt Hunt to investigate several occurrences that have recently unsettled him. He'd thought that he could get the crew in and out while Merry was away, but things hadn't quite gone to plan.

Merry is quick to forgive her friend, but the crew themselves try her patience sorely. The most prominent members of the crew are paying for room and board at the castle over the course of the few days they'll be filming, and soon their interpersonal drama and bickering have everyone on edge. As if that isn't bad enough, the show’s psychics begin claiming that the souls of those recently murdered at the castle are trying to contact them. Merry is furious that they would sensationalize tragedies personal to herself and her friends, but things only get worse when members of the crew start dying themselves. Merry has to race to bring a killer to justice before anyone else gets hurt.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Aug 23 2017 4:00pm

Cooking the Books: Treble at the Jam Fest by Leslie Budewitz

Jewel Bay, Montana, is the Food Lovers’ Village that gives this cozy mystery series its name, but the small town is known for something in addition to its culinary expertise: its burgeoning music scene. While Jewel Bay still has a ways to go before becoming the Nashville of the North, it is home to several fine musicians and teachers, all of whom are set to be showcased at the upcoming annual Jazz Festival. Stars come from far and wide to perform at the festival, including Gerry Martin, the internationally renowned and award-winning jazz guitarist.

Our heroine, Erin Murphy, is less interested in the music than in the clientele it draws to her family store, the Merc (short for Glacier Mercantile). Once the town’s only general store, the Merc had to be refashioned after competition from modern supermarkets threatened to put it out of business. Erin’s business savvy along with her mother’s exquisite palate and cooking skills have turned the Merc into a showcase for local artisans, culinary or otherwise.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Aug 22 2017 3:00pm

Review: Orphan Agent Prima Pawn by Elizabeth Kiem

Orphan Agent Prima Pawn by Elizabeth Kiem is the third and final book in The Bolshoi Saga.

I’m not sure which obsession was greater with me when I was in my early teens: to be a ballerina or to have paranormal powers. If someone had offered me the ability for both, I would likely have cried for joy. Reading Elizabeth Kiem’s Orphan Agent Prima Pawn reminded me so much of those days but added even more intrigue than my younger, drama-loving self could have imagined. Plus, it’s set in the Soviet Union in 1958, a milieu very far removed from anywhere I’d ever been or dreamed of being.

The dictator Joseph Stalin has died, and his successor Nikita Khruschev has ushered in an era of more relaxed cultural and social mores. Sixteen-year-old Svetlana “Sveta” Kravshina has spent the last eight years growing up in an orphanage for the children of Enemies of the People. Her mother, the wife of a disgraced then-executed general, has just been released from the gulag and wants to see her again. Sveta is unsure of her own feelings, especially given the distance that has grown between them. They wrote to each other regularly at the beginning of their separation:

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Orphan Agent Prima Pawn...]

Aug 16 2017 4:00pm

Cooking the Books: French Fried by Kylie Logan

Laurel Inwood has a lot on her plate with the 130th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty giving the tourist-starved town of Hubbard, Ohio, a reason to throw a week-long celebration to try to draw in more. As the chef of her adoptive Aunt Sophie's Terminal at the Tracks restaurant—and, more importantly, as the mastermind behind the semi-regular ethnic cuisine initiative meant to elevate the eatery from greasy spoon to healthy and innovative dining—Laurel is cooking up a French menu to dovetail neatly with the festivities. Aunt Sophie isn't the hugest help, but her friend Raquel Arnaud—long-time French expatriate and now herb farmer with her own estate just out of town—is more than happy to contribute both recipes and ingredients.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Aug 15 2017 11:00am

Review: Cat Shining Bright by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Cat Shining Bright by Shirley Rousseau Murphy is the 20th book in the Joe Grey mystery series, where the stakes are higher and more personal than ever for feline investigator Joe Grey, as death comes to his beloved coastal California town (available August 15, 2017).

In the 20th book in the Joe Grey mystery series, Joe becomes a father! His beloved Dulcie has given birth to three darling kittens—soon named Striker, Buffin, and Courtney—bringing joy to both the cats and to their loving circle of humans. But a string of car break-ins and thefts soon has the residents of Molena Point in an uproar, as a sophisticated gang of car thieves descends upon the town with the onset of a hurricane-force storm.

Joe and his feline friends Kit and Pan are in the thick of it, assisting their humans in the investigation. Most of those humans are, after all, either part of or related to local law enforcement, and this isn’t the first time the cats have been involved. It is, however, a new experience for Dulcie to stay home with her first litter of kittens instead of out helping Joe; this passage is wistfully reminiscent of the feelings of human mothers of newborns:

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Cat Shining Bright...]

Aug 9 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Ghostal Living by Kathleen Bridge

The third installment of the Hamptons Home & Garden mystery series finds our heroine, interior designer Meg Barrett, finishing up the decoration of the Bibliophile Bed & Breakfast for the eccentric (and wealthy, naturally—this is the Hamptons, after all) book collector Franklin Hollingsworth. A hurricane has forced Meg to abandon the antique yacht she’s been staying in with her grumpy one-eyed cat, Jo; fortunately, the B&B’s manager, Brenna, has offered a suite for Meg and Jo to ride out the storm in. This affords Meg not only safe haven but extra time to arrange each book-themed suite to her liking before the inn’s grand opening.

But the B&B proves less safe for Randall McFee, the expert who’s just authenticated Franklin’s recent find of an unpublished F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscript. The aftermath of the hurricane finds him dead at the bottom of a cliff purportedly haunted by the ghost of a widow who had committed suicide there. At first, it looks as if Randall followed suit, but Meg starts to suspect that all is not as it seems when she discovers that rare books have begun to go missing from the B&B’s shelves. As she uncovers more criminal activity alongside secrets long thought buried, she begins to worry that a killer might be coming for her next.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]