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! <i>Killin Pace</i>: Excerpt Killin Pace: Excerpt Douglas Schofield A high-octane, heart-pounding tale set in Everglades City, Florida, and Sicily, Italy. Review: <i>A Season to Lie</i> by Emily Littlejohn Review: A Season to Lie by Emily Littlejohn Amber Keller Read Amber Keller's review!
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Showing posts by: Rachel Kramer Bussel click to see Rachel Kramer Bussel's profile
Sep 29 2016 12:30pm

Review: Soulmates by Jessica Grose

Soulmates by Jessica Grose is a novel of marriage, meditation, and all the spaces in between—a delicious satire of our feel-good spiritual culture in which a scorned ex-wife tries to puzzle out the pieces of her husband’s mysterious death at a yoga retreat and their life together.

Jessica Grose’s second novel, Soulmates, is not your typical whodunit. Instead, she’s taken a wildly humorous, satirical look at New Age yoga and spiritual practices and woven them into a love story with a mystery at its core.

Dana Morrison hasn’t seen her ex-husband Ethan since he left her five years ago for the lithe, seductive Amaya Walters. She’s mostly over the split, spending her time devoted to making partner at her Manhattan law firm. But when she sees the couple on the cover of the New York Post, she’s in for a rude awakening. They aren’t on it for some brilliant new yoga move they’ve broadcast on their YouTube channel, but instead because of how their lives ended, complete with the headline:


[Read Rachel Kramer Bussel's review of Soulmates...]

Mar 3 2015 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Edge of Dreams by Rhys Bowen

The Edge of Dreams by Rhys Bowen is the 14th historical mystery in the Molly Murphy series, and this time a near-fatal train accident leaves the former detective sleuthing from the sidelines (available March 3, 2015).

It’s 1905, and Molly Sullivan (née Murphy) is no sooner back in her beloved New York City, preparing to move back into her apartment with husband, NYPD captain Daniel Sullivan and baby Liam (after the building caught fire in the last installment of Rhys Bowen’s series), when she finds herself in a subway accident. She and Liam escape, barely, but having to rest during her recovery is not the former detective’s preferred way of doing things.

So when Daniel tells her about a case he’s trying to solve, a series of seemingly unrelated murders of men and women from various walks of life, all being boastfully claimed by a man sending notes directly to Daniel, Molly is more than eager to help, especially with Daniel and his colleagues getting nowhere. She hates being cooped up, worries that he’s in danger, and wants to settle back into a regular routine, though a part of her misses her former profession, which she’d promised to formally give up at Daniel’s request.

[It's tough giving up on what you love...]

Feb 3 2015 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Fry Another Day by J.J. Cook

Fry Another Day by J.J. Cook is the 2nd culinary cozy mystery in the Biscuit Bowl Food Truck series (available February 3, 2015).

In Fry Another Day, the second installment the Biscuit Bowl food truck series by J.J. Cook, Zoe Chase takes her show on the road as part of the Sweet Magnolia Food Truck Race, a televised reality competition which could net her truck $50,000 and fame and glory. She’s in it to win it with her unique deep-fried biscuit bowls offering both sweet and savory options, until mayhem and murder creep into the culinary mix.

First, Zoe hears a commotion inside one of her fellow contestants’ food trucks, and with the cameras rolling, Zoe’s also the unlucky one to stumble upon the victim.

“We heard a bad sound inside.” I filled Alex in on why Miguel and I were there.

“What kind of sound, Zoe?” Alex wondered.

“I’m not sure.”

He conversed with the officers as they worked. “What are you hoping to uncover here? What do you think happened? Should our other drivers be worried?”           

The officers stared at him like he was crazy.

The cameras was taping everything when the officers finally managed to pry open the door to the Dog House. It splintered away from the side wall. Reggie wasn’t going to be able to use it again.

But it didn’t matter.

Reggie was on the floor with a refrigerator on his chest. It looked as though he might not need a door, or a food truck, ever again.

[The race must go on!]

Jan 30 2015 11:00am

Fresh Meat: A Root Awakening by Kate Collins

A Root Awakening by Kate CollinsA Root Awakening by Kate Collins is the 16th cozy in the Flower Shop Mystery Series featuring shop owner Abby Knight and her new husband Marco (available February 3, 2015).

The romance between Bloomers flower shop owner Abby Knight Salvare and her now husband, bar owner, and part-time private investigator Marco Salvare, has always been an integral part of this cozy series. Here, the happy couple are ready to settle down and buy a home together, but no sooner do they start looking than tragedy strikes. A painter, Sergio, who’d been working on the house they’re about to tour falls from his ladder. He’s hospitalized, and very quickly, whispers of foul play seem to haunt the scene. The whispers become louder when the married couple take on a new client: Sergio’s wife, the curvy, sexy Rosa, who’s convinced that her husband had no reason to fall on his own. Abby senses something amiss about the situation, but can’t help being just a teeny bit jealous of every time Marco looks at Rosa.

[Didn't this marriage just bloom?]

Jan 5 2015 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Snow Way Out by Christine Husom

Snow Way Out by Christine Husom is the debut cozy in the Snow Globe Shop Mystery Series set in a small Minnesota town (available January 6, 2015).

Like many cozies, Snow Way Out is set in a small town, in this case Brooks Landing, Minnesota, the hometown where Camryn “Cami” Brooks runs Curio Finds after leaving her political job in Washington D.C. amidst a scandal. Her store is housed under the same roof as her best friend Pinky’s Brew Ha-Ha coffee shop. Amongst the other knickknacks she sells are snow globes, so a snow globe making class seems like a perfect way to inspire their customers. This unique crafty touch gives the readers insite into both how to make their own snow globes as well as gets the drama started in the first chapter.

All goes relatively smoothly until Cami, who is more than familiar with her inventory, discovers a snow globe that simply doesn’t belong in her shelf:

When I returned to the retail area, I walked toward the front window to turn the security light on, but a snow globe sitting on a nearby shelf stopped me in my tracks. It was “snowing.” I blinked, knowing I was imagining things, and watched until the last of the flakes had settled on the ground. I had never seen that particular globe before and wondered where it had come from. It was made of similar, or the same type of, materials we had used in our class. How odd. A chill ran up my spine as I reached for the front door to be sure it was locked. It was. I was relieved because I honestly could not remember locking it, no matter how hard I thought about it.

[Better take a closer look at that snow globe...]

Dec 15 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Kill ’Em with Cayenne by Gail Oust

Kill 'Em with Cayenne by Gail Oust is the second cozy in the Spice Shop Mystery Series featuring Piper Prescott in the aftermath of the murder of a barbecue competition contestant (available December 16, 2014).

Kill ‘Em with Cayenne, the second in Gail Oust’s flavorful Spice Shop Mystery Series, finds the small town of Brandywine Creek, Georgia, gearing up for an upcoming barbecue festival. Piper Prescott is busy running Spice It Up! and looking forward to advising barbecue fans on how to best make their meal sizzle, while also juggling two potential love interests and a teenage daughter starting to explore her independence. Her delight comes to a halt when she finds one of the festival contestants, Becca Dapkins, dead in the street during a jog.

[Talk about getting getting the heart going...]

Dec 2 2014 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: Once Upon a Grind by Cleo Coyle

Once Upon a Grind by Cleo Coyle is the 14th book in the cozy Coffeehouse Mystery Series set in NYC where Fairy Tale Week takes a turn towards the grim (available December 2, 2014).

Over the course of Cleo Coyle’s always intriguing New York-set Coffeehouse Mystery Series, The Village Blend manager Clare Cosi’s mixups with murder have often involved her family members, from ex-husband and business partner Matteo Allegro, daughter Joy, her narcotics cop boyfriend Mike Quinn, her storied former mother-in-law and current boss Madame Dreyfus Allegro Dubois and the extended clan of her colorful and flamboyant staff. But in fairy-tale themed Once Upon a Grind, it’s her current boyfriend Mike Quinn’s family who leads her into the heart of danger, namely his two children and ex-wife Leila Quinn Reynolds.

[Will they live happily ever after?]

Nov 7 2014 11:30am

Fresh Meat: Hell on Wheels by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Hell on Wheels by Sue Ann Jaffarian is the 9th cozy mystery in the Odelia Grey series, and this time a game of quadriplegic rugby takes a turn towards murder (available November 8, 2014).

Plus size paralegal Odelia Grey has always been an unusual cozy heroine. Rather than a small town and a super close family, her adventures take place across Los Angeles, with her relatives only becoming closer in the later books, and instead of reveling in crime solving, she’s a reluctant corpse magnet with an often contentious but extremely close relationship with her boss, Mike Steele. Oh, and her husband, Greg Stevens, is a paraplegic in a wheelchair. It’s a series that delves into assorted underworlds, but where it isn’t always easy to pick out the good guys and bad guys, where a trained killer might secretly have a heart of gold, where the office is a daytime home and community center as much as a workplace, and where family is as much about chosen family as biology.

[Want to catch a game?]

Nov 3 2014 10:15am

Fresh Meat: A Dog Gone Murder by Elaine Viets

A Dog Gone Murder by Elaine Viets is the 10th cozy murder mystery in the Mystery Shopper series featuring amatuer sleuth Josie Marcus (available November 4, 2014).

Elaine Viets’ Mystery Shopper series is always a delightful mix of zany murder and family togetherness. In the latest entry, Josie Marcus, an animal lover with a dog and cat of her own, along with a veterinarian husband, is asked to check out doggy day care center and make sure they’re up to snuff. When she manages to stumble upon a man whose face she’s seen on her TV screen multiple times, the owner of Uncle Bob’s Doggy Day Camp, keeled over his salad in his office, it’s not just her work life that’s affected. When her mother's neighbor, Franklin Hyzy (who she suspects has more than a friendly interest in the elderly woman), becomes one of the prime suspects, the case gets personal.

What also makes this series fun is that even with murder in the air, Josie always takes her job seriously, no matter what potentially dodgy business she has to explore. She’s already found out that Bob’s dirty little secret was that he didn’t like dogs, but did like being on TV.

[But why would someone kill Bob?]

Jun 3 2014 9:00am

Fresh Meat: Engaged in Murder by Nancy J. Parra

Engaged in Murder by Nancy J. Parra is the debut of a cozy new Perfect Proposals Mystery Series featuring Pepper, an event planner and occasional murder solver (available June 3, 2014).

Engaged in Murder is the first in the new cozy Perfect Proposals series by Nancy J. Parra, who also writes the Baker’s Treat Mysteries. We meet event planner Pepper Pomeroy, who’s ready to do whatever it takes to make her sister Felicity’s proposal to her boyfriend Warren absolutely special—even solving a murder. Warren wants her to decorate a private plane, and while her mind is busy cooking up elaborate ideas leading up to the big I Do, others have far grittier things in mind. Pepper is a perky heroine, as far from hard-boiled as you can get, and her first encounter with a dead body, and its immediate aftermath, is full of equal parts humor and horror:

[There's no planning for murder...]

May 6 2014 9:30am

Fresh Meat: The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton

The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton, published 5th, is chronologically the 1st globetrotting adventure with forensic accountant and martial artist Ava Lee, beginning her career as she tracks a client's stolen money to Guyana (available May 6, 2014).

Ava Lee is a cultured, whipsmart Chinese-Canadian lesbian forensic accountant, who looks unassuming, but has the brains and the bak mei skills to take out anyone who gets in her way. She’s not a detective per se, but her work takes her all over the world tracking down large sums of money owed to her clients, digging deep into business and personal dealings, then making whoever’s tried to abscond with it pay. She’s afraid of almost no one, and is a world traveler par excellence. The main word I’d use to describe Ian Hamilton’s protagonist is badass.

In The Water Rat of Wanchai, after flawlessly impersonating a government official to confirm exactly where the money went, Ava heads to Guyana to track down a man who’s swindled her distraught client out of millions of dollars via padded seafood orders. While she’s able to trace the source of the fraud all the way back to its source, she is always very firm with her clients that she runs the business her way, and doesn’t appreciate their interference. About a quarter of the way through the book she tells her client, “’Andrew, I have located the money. I know where it is. Now I have to go and get it. That sounds easier than it might turn out to be, which is why I haven’t called you.’” Indeed, her work has only begun.

Once in Guyana, she is quickly able to both get a feel for her bleak surroundings, and make sure she’s known as someone not to mess with.

[She hates to be distracted from her work...]

May 4 2014 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: Death of a Mad Hatter by Jenn McKinlay

Death of a Mad Hatter by Jenn McKinlay is the second cozy installment in the Hat Shop Mystery Series about two women whose London store falls under investigation after poison from a murder is found on one of their hats (available May 6, 2014).

The second in prolific cozy author Jenn McKinlay’s London hat shop mystery series, Death of a Mad Hatter revolves around the latest customer of Mim’s Whims, owned by cousins Scarlett, an American who fled the States to get away from relationship drama that went viral, and her cousin Vivian, who’ve jointly inherited the shop from their grandmother. They’ve been commissioned by the wacky and not altogether happy Grimsby family to create custom designs for an Alice in Wonderland themed party. Despite the family’s oddness, the job itself sounds fun, and the hats themselves stand out, as co-owner Scarlett admires her cousin Vivian’s work once they’re on display:

I glanced across the crowd, trying to spot the brothers, I could see several of the hats Viv had made. Lily was the White Rabbit; Daphne, the Dormouse; and, true to her word, Viv had made Rose the Cheshire Cat. Their hats stood out among the others with whimsical details like a ticking clock on Lily’s and glittery black fronds fashioned to look like whiskers on Daphne’s and orange-and-yellow-striped feathers on Rose’s. Viv really had done an amazing job.

[This party's version of Alice in Wonderland has a different ending...]

Mar 3 2014 8:00pm

Fresh Meat: City of Darkness and Light by Rhys Bowen

City of Darkness and Light by Rhys Bowen, the thirteenth novel in the Molly Murphy historical series, follows the young mother to Paris in 1905, where she loses track of friends and stumbles onto a murder (available March 4, 2014).

Molly Sullivan, nee Molly Murphy, is a fighter. She’s had to be. She escaped from Ireland and is wanted by the law in New York City. She’s become a private detective, facing all manners of dangerous criminals. Now married to police Captain Daniel Sullivan and mother to baby Liam, she winds up traveling to Paris, but it’s not as glamorous as she’d expected. Firstly, she’s escaping the Cosa Nostra gang, who are presumably the culprits behind the house fire that killed her nanny and almost cost Molly her life. Secondly, when she arrives at the rented apartment of her friends Sid and Gus, she discovers them missing. Ever intrepid, Molly sets off to find them, navigating the unfamiliar city and language with her usual plucky courage.

Along the way, she lands in the midst of the burgeoning Parisian art scene. Bowen has great fun with inserting Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, Gertrude Stein and Mary Cassatt into the story. Molly’s usual stomping grounds of Greenwich Village are replaced by her wonder at the culture of Paris, though she has little time for sightseeing as while investigating the mystery of her missing friends, she stumbles ontothe murder of a renowned painter Reynold Bryce.

[Will Molly be able to see the whole picture...]

Feb 4 2014 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Green Living Can Be Deadly by Staci McLaughlin

Green Living Can Be Deadly by Staci McLaughlinGreen Living Can Be Deadly by Staci McLaughlin is the third book in the Blossom Valley eco-cozy mystery series (available February 4, 2014).

This installment finds Dana Lewis in charge of organizing a green living festival in order to help get her employer, O’Connell Organic Farm and Spa, on the radar of more eco-minded customers. Instead, she finds herself dealing with an old high school classmate, who’s delighted to belittle Dana at every turn, and the murder of another former classmate on the festival’s first day.

Wendy Hartford had been manning the booth for Invisible Prints, her company that seeks to help reverse its clients’ carbon footprints. Instead, she winds up dead in her festival booth, putting a negative spotlight on the special event. With several possible suspects, and more popping up as Dana learns more about Wendy’s business and family life, she makes it her mission to investigate, out of a desire to see justice done for Wendy and to help salvage the festival. Her reporter boyfriend, Jason, tries to discourage her, but she’s determined to figure out what’s going on herself.

[Let the sleuthing begin!]