Tag Archives: cozy mystery

Review: Iced Over, by Heather Day Gilbert

Iced Over, Barks & Beans Cafe Mystery Series book 2, by Heather Day Gilbert

Iced Over, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2020)

An accident on an icy road leaves one armoured car driver dead and the other in a coma—and a surprising amount of people looking for money stolen from the scene.

Macy Hatfield, co-owner of Barks & Beans with her brother Bo, discovers the injured man is uncle to one of their employees at the café and brother to one of her friends from church. Macy’s protective streak kicks in, and her curiosity isn’t far behind.

This is a light-hearted series, with no graphic scenes or profanity. The characters attend church, but that’s the only overt faith content you’ll see.

Being light doesn’t mean fluffy, though. While on the one hand we have Waffles, the adorable-but-clueless shelter dog who can’t behave, on the other we have teenaged Ethan (the injured man’s nephew) on regular dialysis and needing a kidney transplant. And we have stolen cash in West Virginia, but also international criminals with a wider agenda.

I enjoy being able to read mystery and suspense without getting tense or worried. The Barks & Beans series fits that bill nicely, and I like the characters—both human and animal. For the cat-lovers among us, Bo has a delightful kitten named Stormy.

Dog-wise, we have Coal, Macy’s Great Dane, and the various shelter dogs delivered to the café each day in hopes of finding a café patron who’ll adopt them. The food and drinks that come out of this café make it a place I’d definitely like to visit, and I’d like to visit with the dogs too.

Favourite lines:

Sometimes, in the empty spaces, it was almost like my heart was beating too loudly, shouting for someone else to hear it. [Macy thinking about living alone in a large house, Kindle location353]

I was about to raise his interest in buzzing off from Barks & Beans for good. “I understand,” I said, offering that honeyed smile of the South that meant you had another thing coming. [Macy again (the whole book is in her point of view), Kindle location 779]

Heather Day Gilbert writes cozy mysteries, romantic suspense, and Viking historical fiction, both clean mainstream and Christian. Iced Over is book 2 in The Barks and Beans Café Mystery Series. Book 3, Fair Trade, releases fall 2020. For more about the author and her work, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by the author. My opinions are my own.]

Follow me on BookBub

Review: No Filter, by Heather Day Gilbert

No Filter,by Heather Day Gilbert  Barks & Beans Cafe Mystery Series, Book 1 | #cleanreads #cozymystery

No Filter, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2020)

Mystery readers will love the sister and brother duo—and Coal, the Great Dane—in Heather Day Gilbert’s new Barks & Beans Café Mystery Series.

Newly-single Macy Hatfield is lured home to the West Virginia town of Lewisburg when her brother Bo moves back to open his own business—The Barks & Beans Café. It’s a trendy, upscale coffee shop with a difference: there’s an attached space where patrons can get their pet fix by visiting with dogs from the local shelter.

Bo’s the coffee guy, and Macy’s the dog lover. Together, they run this business in what was their beloved Aunt Athaleen’s home. Bo is ex-military, which will come in handy when the mystery part of the story starts.

Apparently cafés like this do exist, and I think they sound fun (for dogs or for cats). The café staff are an eclectic and interesting group, as are the clientele, and the café treats sound tempting.

When Macy adopts a Great Dane after his owner’s murder, she’s drawn into the mystery surrounding the death.

No Filter is a clean cozy mystery and a fun read, and I’m fond of Coal, the Great Dane. Macy and Bo have a really strong sibling relationship. It’s good to see support instead of bickering. I like their banter and the way each has the other’s back. They need to, since otherwise they’re on their own. Each one carries wounds from previous relationships as well as the longer-standing trauma of their parents’ deaths many years earlier.

Favourite line (Macy talking to Bo):

I rolled my eyes. “I can take care of myself. Case in point, I was at the scene of a murder tonight and I didn’t get killed.” [Kindle location 1834]

No Filter is book 1 in the Barks & Beans Café Mystery Series. The novel is complete on its own, with some suspense and relationship threads that lead into later books. Readers who enjoy No Filter will want to order the sequel, Iced Over, releasing July 2020. For more about author Heather Day Gilbert and her other books (mysteries, suspense, and Viking historicals) visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher; opinions are my own.]

Follow me on BookBub

Review: A Legacy of Murder, by Connie Berry

A Legacy of Murder, by Connie Berry

A Legacy of Murder, by Connie Berry (Crooked Lane Books, 2019)

My new favourite mystery series!

A Legacy of Murder is one of those books I don’t want to end: a clean and satisfying mystery, an engaging protagonist, quiet humour, complicated characters, charming English-village setting, evocative description, food, family dynamics, romance … and the promise of more books to come.

American antiques expert Kate Hamilton has an eye for details and patterns that helps her notice clues. She’s in Suffolk, England, to visit her daughter, Christina, who’s interning at historic Finchley Hall. When another intern is found dead, Kate has more than curiosity prompting her to look for suspects—she wants to protect her daughter from becoming the next victim.

Kate’s other reason to visit the area is to see Detective Inspector Tom Mallory, who she met in Scotland in the previous book. Who’s she kidding, though? What chance does a trans-Atlantic romance have when both parties love their jobs and are rooted in their communities? Not to mention having family members who disapprove.

As much as I enjoyed the story and the characters, it’s the descriptive language that encouraged me to linger on each page. I want to write like Connie Berry when I grow up.

Some samples:

The scent of beeswax polish mingled with the mustiness of old wood, the dust of the ages, and a hint of mildew—an antique dealer’s perfume. [page 15]

His hair, shaved at the sides, fell in a mop over his eyes. He looked like someone who might bring a manual typewriter to a coffee shop for the effect. [page 22]

In a time when current cozy mysteries often feel like light snacks, A Legacy of Murder is a full-course meal. Highly recommended!

A Legacy of Murder is Book 2 in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series. For more about Connie Berry and her work, including book discussion questions, visit connieberry.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Follow me on BookBub

Review: Hems & Homicide, by Elizabeth Penney

Hems & Homicide, The Apron Shop Series book 1, by Elizabeth Penney

Hems & Homicide, by Elizabeth Penney (St. Martin’s, 2020)

Iris Buckley and her recently-widowed grandmother, Anne, are a good team. Add Quincy, a marmalade cat who thinks he’s the real boss, and their Ruffles & Bows shop could be a hit. If the skeleton they find in the cellar of their building doesn’t stop their grand opening plans.

Welcome to Blueberry Cove, Maine: a quiet, tourist town where everyone knows everyone’s business. Or at least they thought they did—someone may be a secret murderer.

Iris is a skilled seamstress with a special interest in vintage linens and designs. (Be prepared, “vintage” can mean 1960’s!) I appreciate how it’s her grandmother, Anne, who’s the more knowledgeable about online security.

Iris has been back in town for a few months and has reconnected with good friends from school. Also back is her high school crush, Ian Stewart, who’ll be doing the renovations on the new shop.

Hems & Homicide is book 1 in the Apron Shop Series, and it’s a clean cozy mystery in a charming setting. I enjoyed the descriptions of the rural landscape outside of town. As you’d expect with a main character who’s skilled with fabrics, descriptions often focus on colours and textiles. And as Iris and Anne investigate the long-ago death, Iris gets a peek at Anne’s life as a young woman. 

This is a fun read, and a good start to a new series. Book 2, Thread and Dread, releases later in 2020. For more about Elizabeth Penney, visit elizabethpenneyauthor.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

Follow me on BookBub

Review: Belinda Blake and the Birds of a Feather, by Heather Day Gilbert

Belinda Blake and the Birds of a Feather, by Heather Day Gilbert (Lyrical Underground Books, 2020)

Homing pigeons are less dangerous than the wolves she had as a previous assignment, but Belinda Blake still finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation—this time in her hometown of Larches Corner in Upstate New York. And is there a connection between the present investigation and the previous death of a young college student?

Along with the mystery, Belinda is still trying to choose between her rich landlord Stone Carrington the fifth, and her childhood neighbour, rock-solid farmer Jonas Hawthorne.

Appealing characters, intriguing mysteries, and exotic pets. What’s not to like? I’ve enjoyed each book in the series, but this one gets my vote for most unexpected solution.

For more about Heather Day Gilbert and her books, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[I received a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.]

Review: Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, by Heather Day Gilbert

Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, by Heather Day Gilbert (Lyrical Press, 2019)

You might think that after pet-sitting a ball python, Belinda Blake can handle anything, but she’s not too sure about wolves. Yes, it’s a rehabilitation sanctuary, and yes, they seem friendly, but they’re still wild animals. With sharp teeth.

When someone is found dead and bloody in one of the wolf pens, common sense tells her to bail on her contract and take the consequences. But the wolf preserve is short-staffed and she doesn’t want to let the owner down.

Once she begins to suspect someone staged the “wolf attack” to shut down the preserve, she’s determined to stay.

I’m enjoying this series for the mysteries, but also for the characters. Belinda is a computer gamer and book-lover, transplanted from a rural environment into a wealthy neighbourhood. Jonas, one of her friends from home, looks promising as a love interest, although her landlord’s absent son caught her attention in book one. And Red, the chauffeur/bodyguard on the estate where she rents a carriage house, is an interesting background character.

For the literary and theme-inclined, there are some interesting correlations between Belinda’s story and the novel her long-distance book club is discussing. The Great Gatsby is not a book I know well, so I missed some of the effect.

Favourite lines:

“…it was beyond me how I would feed raw eat to wolves without looking like an oversized, tasty morsel myself.” [Kindle location 260]

And when one of the other characters laments the need to lean so much on others, Belinda observes:

“Sometimes leaning is the only way to stay upright.” [Kindle location 1566]

Definitely recommended for cozy mystery fans!

Heather Day Gilbert is an award-winning author of Viking historical fiction and contemporary suspense as well as the Belinda Blake, Exotic Pet Sitter cozy mystery series. Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing is book 2 in the series. For more about the author, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by NetGalley and Kensington Books. Opinions are my own.]

Follow me on BookBub

Review: True Confections, by Ruth Hartzler

Book cover: True Confections, An Amish Cupcake Cozy Mystery, by Ruth Hartzler

True Confections, by Ruth Hartzler (Clean Wholesome Books, 2019)

Unexpectedly divorced, 50-year-old Jane Delight moves into the apartment above her twin sister Rebecca’s cupcake store near Pennsylvania Amish territory. Rebecca commutes daily by horse and buggy, but Jane has long since left their Amish ways behind (she does, however, still have a personal faith).

When an unpleasant customer collapses in Rebecca’s store and dies, Jane decides to divert suspicion from herself and her sister by finding the murderer. Some of the comedy that ensues is a bit over-the-top, like when Jane literally falls into the handsome detective’s arms, but it’s a light-hearted mystery after all.

Jane’s quirky roommates are part of what makes this book fun: 80-somethings Matilda and Eleanor Birtwistle and their mischievous cat.

The narrative has a distant feel and I did find it a slow start, especially since Jane’s ex-husband’s dialogue doesn’t match his role as a successful lawyer. Once he was out of the picture, the story started to work for me.

Another aspect of the story I enjoyed was the Amish/non-Amish (English) dynamic, with the perceptions of outsiders and their awkwardness of knowing quite how to treat Rebecca as an Amish woman.

True Confections is the first novel in the Amish Cupcake Cozy Mystery series. Ruth Hartzler writes cozy mysteries, Christian romantic suspense, and Amish romance. For more about the author and her work, visit ruthhartzler.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Follow me on BookBub

Review: Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, by Heather Day Gilbert

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, an Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery by Heather Day Gilbert

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, by Heather Day Gilbert (Lyrical Underground Books, 2019)

Fun start to a new series. Belinda Blake rents a carriage house on the luxurious Carrington estate, but she’s a casual country girl at heart. Her relaxed clothing and gamer tee-shirts don’t exactly match the designer shoes on the corpse she finds in the garden.

The Carringtons’ son, Stone the fifth, persuades Belinda to help him investigate because the dead woman was his friend. But is the charming heir using Belinda to hide his guilt?

Between the mystery, the challenges of pet-sitting a large tropical snake, and Belinda’s sense of humour, the pages fly past. And although this is a light-toned cozy mystery, there are some thoughtful observations of human nature. Nothing’s simple, and not much is as it seems.

The book includes a sneak peek at the second installment in the series. Belinda’s next pet-sitting assignment? Wolves. I’ll be in line to read it when it releases.

Heather Day Gilbert is an award-winning author of Viking historical fiction and contemporary suspense as well as the Belinda Blake, Exotic Pet Sitter cozy mystery series. For more about the author, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.]

Follow me on BookBub

Review: Dying to Remember, by Karin Kaufman

Dying to Remember, A Smithwell Fairies Cozy Mystery by Karen KaufmanDying to Remember (Smithwell Fairies Cozy Mystery #1), by Karin Kaufman (2018)

Smithwell, Maine. An ordinary town in an ordinary New England state. On her 50th birthday, newly-widowed Kate Brewer is feeling her ordinariness and wishing there was something – just a little bit – more to life.

But when she encounters a fairy, she’s terrified. Fairies don’t exist outside of folklore. Is she losing her mind?

When a neighbour is killed, Kate and her best friend, Emily, are sure it’s linked to a previous murder in the town. Not trusting the police, they start investigating on their own. The fairy, Minette, insists on helping Kate while keeping her presence hidden from everyone else.

I enjoyed the mystery, the characters, and the descriptions of the people – including the fairy – and their small town. I also thought it was a neat touch that Minette sees herself as created by God (years ago) and sent by Him (now) to help Kate with this investigation. Kate, a church-goer, rejects the idea that God would send anyone – especially a fairy – to do anything in her life. I’m curious to see how Kate and Minette’s relationship will develop over the series, and if Emily will ever meet Minette.

Tea and chocolate aficionados will find other details to appreciate in the book. It’s a quick read, at 129 pages. Book 2, A Fatal Fall, is coming soon.

Karin Kaufman is the author of the Juniper Grove mystery series and the Anna Denning mysteries. Dying to Remember is book 1 in her new Smithwell Fairies Cozy Mystery series. I’m looking forward to reading more. For more about the author and her books, visit karinkaufman.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: The Curious Case of the Missing Figurehead, by Diane Noble

The Curious Case of the Missing Figurehead, by Diane NobleThe Curious Case of the Missing Figurehead, by Diane Noble (David C. Cook, 2014)

Elaine Littlefield, “El” to her friends, is a widow “of a certain age” who’s been known to combat stress by baking triple-chocolate cookies in the wee hours while wearing sock monkey pajamas and dancing to Mozart.

By day, she runs a catering company and solves mysteries. And spends as much time with her daughter and granddaughter as she can.

El has landed a huge catering job for the retirement party of local university professor Dr. Max Haverhill, but when the guest list triples two days before the event, and then Max wants to cancel the event for security reasons, it’s no wonder she’s trying to manage her stress level.

The party goes ahead, and as the back cover says, “countless guests fall ill, a two-hundred-year-old relic is stolen, and her best friend vanishes. All in the first hour.”

The Curious Case of the Missing Figurehead is a fast-paced, light-hearted mystery blended with romance: Max is a lifelong bachelor, but as he and El work together to solve the crime, they may also be falling in love.

Certain aspects of the story may be a bit over the top, but they suit the story and the characters and provide readers with an enjoyable experience.

El, Max, and the other key character, Hyacinth, are fun and courageous. El’s chapters are written in first person, with the others in third person. It wasn’t as confusing as it sounds, because whenever the point of view changed, there was a label on the new chapter telling whose eyes we were seeing through now.

The three are each Christians, and it’s interesting to see how each one’s faith helps sustain them in crisis moments. The faith aspect is subtle in the story, but there are discussion questions at the end of the book to encourage readers to think through different aspects of faith as it pertains to forgiveness, sacrifice, love, and friendship.

The Curious Case of the Missing Figurehead is listed as “A Professor and Mrs. Littlefield Mystery,” but I don’t see any more in the series. Pity. Author Diane Noble has also written historical and contemporary suspense and women’s fiction. For more about the author and her work, visit dianenoblebooks.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]