Review: <i>Murder in the Manuscript Room</i> by Con Lehane Review: Murder in the Manuscript Room by Con Lehane Michelle Carpenter Read Michelle Carpenter's review! <i>When the Lonesome Dog Barks</i>: Excerpt When the Lonesome Dog Barks: Excerpt Trey R. Barker The third book in the Jace Salome series. Audiobook Review: <i>Murder on the Orient Express</i>, Read by Kenneth Branagh Audiobook Review: Murder on the Orient Express, Read by Kenneth Branagh Danielle Prielipp Read Danielle Prielipp's review! Review: <i>Stealing Ghosts</i> by Lance Charnes Review: Stealing Ghosts by Lance Charnes David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review!
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Writing the Private Detective vs. the Police Detective
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Why the Time Is Ripe for the Farming Cozy
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Q&A with Jessica Keener, Author of Strangers in Budapest
Jessica Keener and John Valeri
Showing posts by: Doreen Sheridan click to see Doreen Sheridan's profile
Wed
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!]

Wed
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!]

Wed
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!]

Thu
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...]

Wed
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!]

Wed
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!]

Tue
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...]

Wed
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!]

Wed
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!]

Wed
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...]

Fri
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...]

Wed
Sep 27 2017 3:30pm

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!]

Fri
Sep 22 2017 2:00pm

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...]

Wed
Sep 20 2017 3:30pm

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!]

Wed
Sep 20 2017 11:00am

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...]

Wed
Sep 13 2017 3:30pm

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!]

Tue
Sep 12 2017 12:00pm

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...]

Wed
Sep 6 2017 3:30pm

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!]

Tue
Sep 5 2017 2:00pm

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...]

Wed
Aug 30 2017 3:30pm

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!]