mystery


The first book in the Bakery Detectives cozy mystery series.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Page count: 161 at GoodReads
Publisher: Fairfield Publishing

Rachael Robinson has a a bakery in Belldale. But business has been slow recently because across the street Bakermatic is selling their cakes and cupcakes a lot cheaper. They can afford to do that because it’s a big firm and they sell prepackaged cakes. Rachael takes part in the Belldale Street Fair but there, too, Bakermatic wins over pretty much all customers with their free samples. A food critic blogger, who doesn’t seem to like anyone’s food, tastes Rachael’s pie but later the critic is found dead, poisoned. Someone spreads a rumor that Rachael is responsible and her customers desert her. It’s up to Rachael and her best friend Pippa to find out the murderer.

This was a quick, fun read. The characters aren’t very deep but their fun to read about. Rachael hates Bakermatic and is convinced that they must have poisoned the critic. She’s the first person POV character. Pippa is almost the opposite of Rachael: Rachael needs to be a responsible bakery owner while Pippa has a hard time holding down a job even for a week. But they’re quite loyal to each other and both are fun to read about. They watch crime TV-shows. When the local police, meaning the handsome detective, says that Rachael is a prime suspect, Pippa and Rachael decide to investigate.

While this was a short book, it has lots of twists and turns and humor. A good introduction to the series.

This is the second new Hercule Poirot novel, not written by Christie.

Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2016
Format: print
Page count: 321
Finnish publisher: WSOY
Finnish translator: Terhi Vartia

I can’t really say if Hannah’s style is close to Christie; I read this in translation and I’ve read most Christie books in translation, too. However, Closed Casket has been written in first person, which is very different from Christie’s book. I think this is a deliberate style choice.

The narrator of the book is Inspector Edward Catchpool from Scotland Yard. Apparently, he was involved in the previous case, too, and talks about it a few times. He, Poirot, and a group of other eccentric people have gathered to the estate of Lady Playford, in Ireland. Catch pool and Poirot don’t know the lady and she refuses to tell them why she had invited them.

Gathered to her home are her two children and their eccentric spouses, a couple of lawyers and the lady’s secretary and his nurse. They’re all strange to some degree. Of course, one of them is murdered right in front of Poirot and Catchpool.

This was an enjoyable enough mystery and the characters were interesting. It’s not as good as Christie’s best, though.

The second book in the contemporary cozy mystery series Whispering Pines.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 244
Publisher: Brown Bag Books

Jayne O’Shea came to the small Whispering Pines village to repair her grandparents’ house for selling. She’s a former police detective from Madison who had to quit her job. She was looking for some peace and quiet in a tranquil village. Now, she’s exploring the resident circus. She and Tripp, who is just a friend, really, enjoy a great night at the circus. But the next morning, one of the performers is found dead. Whispering Pines doesn’t have a sheriff currently and so Jayne uses her skills to stop anyone from getting to the crime scene and to investigate it initially. But the county sheriff takes over and everyone near Jayne tells her not to investigate further. Of course, she has her hands full trying to clear the huge house with just herself and Tripp. She also wants to turn the house to a bed&breakfast place, but needs her parents’ permission to do that.

Meanwhile, the mysteries in the closely knit community continue.

This was another great read in the cozy mystery series. The combination of local Wiccan practices and the police procedural works well for me and is very interesting. Jayne’s best friend Morgan owns the local witch shop and is a practicing Wiccan. The villagers are very eclectic bunch. I also love Jayne’s dog Meeka which is a white Westie. Meeka used to be a narcotics dog but is now an emotional support dog. The carnies, as they call themselves, are quirky people. Many of them have physical disabilities so they’re even more misfits than the other Whispering Pines villagers.

We’re introduced to two new characters. Lupe is a reporter who want to do a series of feel-good pieces about the thriving tourist village and the circus. She’s, of course, very curious and wants to talk with everyone. The village also gets a new sheriff’s who is very young… and brings with him his mother as a deputy.

I found it a bit strange that both of Jayne’s closest friends, Morgan and Tripp, are against her investigating the murder now and in the previous book. However, most likely that was done to bring some more conflict in their relationships. I’m very curious to see what happens in the next book.

The ending was satisfying but the village’s mysteries still continue.

The first book in the contemporary cozy mystery series Whispering Pines.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 284
Publisher: Brown Bag Books

This series is set in a very small and quirky town of Whispering Pines in Wisconsin.

Jayne O’Shea is twenty-six and a former homicide detective. She and her West Highland White Terrier Meeka have come to Whispering Pines because her grandmother passed away recently and she needs to make her Gran’s house ready because her parents want to sell it. However, she’s also looking for some peace and quiet after she quit the job she loved because of traumatic events and broke up with her fiance.

But when she arrives to her Gran’s huge house, it has been vandalized. Also, Meeka finds a dead body in the backyard. It’s the body of a young woman whom Jayne doesn’t know. She calls the local sheriff.

Jayne doesn’t want to get involved; she wants to relax and find a new direction for her life. But when the sheriff doesn’t seem at all interested in investigating the murder of the tourist, Jayne investigates with Meeka. The local people are a very strange set. Many of them loved Jayne’s Gran and are also welcoming to her, at least to her face. But many are also suspicious of outsiders because Whispering Pines is a very insular community. Many are practicing Wiccans who face ridicule and prejudices outside the town. Most are misfits who don’t fit any anywhere else.

Sheriff Brighton is slow to investigate an outsider’s death and his deputy Reed, who is also the sheriff’s nephew, is hostile to Jayne from the start. One man claims that he can see when death is approaching a person. Then there’s the local witch shoppe’s owner who seems to be the only person who really welcomes Jayne.

And then there’s Tripp, a young man who arrived to town a short while ago. He likes it there, but nobody wants to hire him. Jayne needs someone to clear out her Gran’s house and she enjoys his company, so she considers hiring him.

I enjoyed the writing style which is in the first person. Jayne makes short observations of every person she meets which was a good way to introduce them. The book has a large cast of characters but many of them felt distinct for me. I especially enjoyed the budding friendship between Jayne and Morgan, the witch shop owner.

Meeka is a former cadaver and drug dog but she has been trained to assist Jayne’s emotional problems. They go almost everywhere together. Jayne herself has a lot of problems. She feels that she can’t trust herself because of past decisions which turned out badly. Her mother is a business woman who disapproved of Jayne’s career and now is trying to control her.

The mystery is a twisty one. The ending was a bit abrupt and I couldn’t really buy the murderer’s motives. However, otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the quirky characters so I will continue with the series. While the murder is solved, the rest of the mysteries remain unresolved.

The first book in a fantasy series. It’s a murder mystery but can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2019
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 306

This was a fascinating read. It’s set in a fantasy world where magic is taught and not an inborn talent. The world has also technology although it’s somewhat tied to the magic. Using magic is called cyphering. Women rule societies and men are considered too emotional and weak-willed to serve the state, even though that attitude is waning, so the world has reverse sexism. The characters aren’t human. I got the sense that they’re cat-like creatures. (I freely admit this could come from my inordinant fondness for C. J. Cherryh’s hani.) Their faces are muzzles and they have fur but also skin. But they behave mostly in human ways and have very human motivations. Otherwise, of course, it would be hard for us readers to understand them.

Jhee is a middle-aged woman who has been working as a magistrate, a justicar for years. Now, she’s been called to the capital and she’s taking her family with her. Shep is her primary husband, a former soldier, and they’ve been happily married for a long time. Just before they left, Jhee married two others, but more out of sense of duty than any passion. Both new spouses are young and she’s constantly thinking that she’ll get them better spouses, more appropriate for the youngsters’ tempers and ambitions, when they get to the capital. Mirrei’s mother was Jhee’s old friend and Jhee has some sense of duty toward her. Mirrei is a healer but her own health is fragile because she’s suffering from a disease which is becoming increasingly common. Kanto is a handsome young man and he’s interested in fashion and the arts. He’s also a musician and artist. He feels that Jhee favors the other spouses over him. Jhee is somewhat uncomfortable with this new arrangement: she tries to make time to her new spouses and not show too much fondness for Shep.

Their ship hits a coral reef and is wrecked. Fortunately, there’s an abbey nearby and the crew and Jhee’s family are welcomed there.

The abbey’s previous abbess, Saheli, died just a few days before. Apparently, she translated straight to a spiritual plane. Jhee is more distressed when she finds out that three prospectives, young male attendants, have also died: one fell during an earthquake, one died from a disease, and one apparently killed himself. Even though Jhee’s the area’s justiciar, she hasn’t heard about the deaths before. With the ship needing repairs, she starts to investigate.

All the regular staff in the abbey are women and many of them think men are beneath them. Saheli was the one exception so her death is starting to look increasingly suspicious to Jhee. Jhee enjoys reading, but the abbey’s archivist takes an immediate dislike to her. The current abbess, Pyrmo, is apparently a drunkard and soon Jhee suspects her of murder, too. With the locals whispering about the ghostly Mist Abbess, she has her hands full both with the investigation and trying to balance her new, and more complicated, family life.

The abbey is full of strange characters and the more we learn about them, the less spiritual they seem. Lady Bathseba is a retired vizier. She still lives in luxury in the abbey. She’s quite snobbish but seems to know a lot about what’s going on. Then there’s a poetess who pretends to be drunk so that she can snoop around. The others snub her. The abbey’s doctor is also a drunk and the others no longer trust her but go to the herbalist to get medicines. The cast of characters is large and the book would’ve benefited from a list.
Jhee is the major POV character with a couple of chapters from another character’s POVs. It’s not particularly fast-paced but has a solid mystery.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the story. Jhee and her spouses are interesting characters and I also enjoyed most of the supporting cast. The world-building was mostly good, too, without info dumps. However, the magic wasn’t explained much and sometimes I wanted more descriptions of places and people. Jhee’s spouses all have public names and private names. Shep, for example is Dawn Wolf publicly. But none of the other people, male or female, have names that mean something. So I didn’t get the name system. Also, the book could have done with another round of editing. But these are small concerns.

I loved the different culture and I’m definitely reading the next book.

The second book in the Miss Fortune humorous mystery series.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 7 hours 20 minutes
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell

Fortune Redding is CIA assassin but because there’s now a price on her head, she’s been sent deep undercover to a small town called Sinful in Louisiana. She’s posing as a former beauty queen and a current librarian but she isn’t a reader and she’s never even seen a beauty pageant on TV. In the first book, she became fast friends with the Sinful Ladies Society: Gertie and Ida Belle who were undercover agents during Vietnam. Now, they’re retirees and also solve murders.

A former beauty queen and an aspiring actress Pansy Arceneaux returns to Sinful. She has lots of skeletons in her closet, because she seems to be in the habit of sleeping with other women’s boyfriends and husbands. She and Fortune get in a very public fight which ends with Fortune threatening to kill her. The next morning, Pansy is found dead and everyone in the small town are convinced that Fortune did it.

Well, everyone except Gertie and Ida Bell who want to help prove Fortune innocent. The handsome deputy sheriff Carter is under of lot of pressure to arrest Fortune even though there’s no actual proof that she did it.

This was a fun, fast-paced adventure with quirky characters and lots and lots of coincidences. Gertie and Ida are very funny. Fortune hasn’t actually done any homework about her supposed cover so I’m not sure how good a spy she actually is. She doesn’t read or watch TV so she’s pretty clueless about lots of ordinary life stuff. It’s not very realistic but it’s lots of fun.

The second book in the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time for the whole box set: 17 hours 35 minutes
Narrator: Pearl Hewitt

This story was part of a collection of three books: the prequel and books 1 and 2.

Gemma Rose started tearoom recently. Her best friend Cassie is an artist and a waitress in Gemma’s tearoom. Cassie has finally caught the eye of an art gallery owner, Jon. In fact, she’s now dating him. Cassie’s art is part of an art show where the other artists are well-known and the paintings are very expensive. However, Gemma thinks that Cassie’s art is very different than the others and she also doesn’t like Cassie’s new boyfriend and a bit jealous about the time Cassie’s spending with him.

Cassie invited Gemma to the show’s opening party. Gemma goes outside for a short while and hears a whispered conversation which seems to be about getting rid of someone. However, she doesn’t know who were talking. Back inside, a drunk young woman berates Jon but then she falls over, dead. It seems that she’s been poisoned. The woman turns out to be pretty disagreeable person, so there’s no shortage of suspects. Gemma even suspects Cassie’s new boyfriend.

Meanwhile, Gemma’s mother has discovered on-line buying and is getting all sort of strange items for Gemma even though she tries to say that she doesn’t want them. The story has also a romantic triangle because Gemma is seeing a handsome doctor, strictly as a friend, but the local CID detective is the one that gets her heart pounding.

This was a fun and light mystery. The cast is entertaining, even though the four old women don’t meddle as much as in the first book. The victim was a student at Oxford university, so Gemma has another excuse to go and snoop there. Muesli is the small cat in the cover and Gemma has just adopted her. She lives with her parents and they all must get used to the rather mischievous cat.

This was a very good sequel and an entertaining read.

The first book in the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time for the whole box set: 17 hours 35 minutes
Narrator: Pearl Hewitt

This story was part of a collection of three books: the prequel and books 1 and 2.

Gemma Rose has started her tearoom just a couple of weeks ago. She has a brilliant if somewhat eccentric chef and her best friend works as a waitress. Best of all, she has a lot of customers. But then a very rude, almost obnoxious American tourist walks in, snapping his fingers for service. Gemma grits her teeth and plays nice. But then the chef’s mischievous cat Muesli slips to the tearoom and Gemma must try to get her before the customers spot her. The rude American makes a crude pass at Cassie, Gemma’s best friend, and threatens to return the next day. Gemma thinks there is something very strange about him, beside his lack of manners. That evening, in the pub, the American picks a fight with a local man known for his hotheadedness. They’re both thrown out.

But the next morning, Gemma finds the American dead. He’s sitting in front of her tearoom, murdered with a scone. Not only are she and her friends prime suspects but after the local newspaper writes about the murder, nobody comes to her tearoom anymore. Worse, the detective on the case is Gemma’s old boyfriend Devlin and he’s determined to treat her like any other suspect.

This was mostly a light and fun read. Gemma’s mom is very prim and proper and she’s trying to fix Gemma up with a doctor. She also doesn’t think that running a business is a proper job.

Gemma is the first person POV character. She’s rather an immature and impulsive lead. She used to be a canny businesswoman for eight years but she seems to have none of those qualities now. All her savings were used on the tearoom and she doesn’t know how to cook herself. When the local newspaper starts writing about the murder and Cassie’s possible involvement, Gemma is close to bankruptcy because people are afraid to come to the tearoom. There’s a possible love triangle between Devlin and the doctor, which I really don’t care for.

However, the cast of characters are fun. The four old women are nosy and very entertaining when they try to help Gemma. I also enjoy Cassie who is an artist but must work part-time jobs until/unless her paintings start to sell. The narrator was great and I enjoyed the writing style a lot.

The prequel to the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time for the whole box set: 17 hours 35 minutes
Narrator: Pearl Hewitt

This story was part of a collection of three books: the prequel and books 1 and 2.

Gemma Rose is a former Oxford graduate and she also grew up in Oxford. However, after graduation she decided to take a high-paying job in Australia. But now, eight years later, she decided to quit her job and move back to Oxford. She wants to start a tearoom and is buying a run-down cafe to do it. She’s already talked to a local bank and been assured that she’ll get the loan.

On the plane back to Britain, she becomes fast friends with the woman sitting next to her, Jen Murray who is visiting Oxford and staying at a local hotel. After Jen has left, Gemma realizes Jen forgot her scarf. Gemma takes it intending to return it to her. Gemma is staying with her parents while she’s trying to get the tea room up and running.

Her mother has invited four old women to tea. While Gemma doesn’t particularly want to meet them and reminiscent about her childhood, she put up with them. After meeting her oldest friend Cassie, Gemma goes to the hotel and returns to scarf to Jen. Jen invites her to stay for a while and drink with her. Gemma accepts and they talk at the hotel bar for awhile. Gemma doesn’t drink but Jen drinks a lot. In the end Gemma helps Jen up to her room.

The next morning, Gemma is surprised and saddened when she hears that someone has murdered Jen the previous night. She’s even more surprised and horrified to find out that she herself is the prime suspect. Of course, the bank refuses to give her the loan while she’s a suspect and another buyer wants to get the place.

This was a fun and light cozy mystery. It does a great job introducing us to Gemma and the people in her life. I especially liked Gemma’s relationship with her best friend Cassie. They support each other wonderfully. While Gemma didn’t care for the four old ladies, they helped her solve the mystery and were very funny. The mystery starts pretty late compared to the other books (I’m halfway through the second book) and it’s quite convoluted. But I liked the characters and the light writing style quite a lot.

The first book in the Stillhouse Lake mystery/thriller series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours 4 minutes
Narrator: Emily Sutton-Smith

Gina Royal was an ordinary housewife with a considerate, if cold, husband and two children. The day when a drunk driver hit their garage, changed everything. Melville Royal was a serial killer. He had tortured and murdered women in his garage. He had cut out their vocal cords, first, so Gina and the kids has no idea what he was doing. But the world at large doesn’t believe that. Gina was tried but acquitted. But many people still believe that she was Mel’s accomplish and they hound her and the kids.

To protect them, and herself, Gina has changed her name and moved many times during the four years after Mel was put to prison.

Now, she’s Gwen Proctor who will do anything to protect her kids. She’s learned how to shoot and has just passed her test for carrying a concealed weapon. She’s always on her guard, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. She also stays on top of what the lunatics are saying about her in the internet. The stalkers and trolls are still looking for her and want to kill both her and her kids. She has one ally, a mysterious man called Absalom who arranges for their new identities and helps them stay one step ahead of the men looking for revenge any way possible.

But Gwen’s children, who are this time called Atlanta and Connor, are tiered of moving around and living with restrictions. Atlanta is 14 and a rebellious goth girl, always getting in trouble in school. Connor has become closed off, introverted. Gwen has severely restricted their internet access which also makes them different from other kids.

They’ve stayed in the house on the shores of Stillhouse Lake long enough that they’ve finally getting comfortable. But then a body of a mutilated young woman is found in the lake. The MO is similar to what Mel did and Gwen is horrified. She tries to run but someone has told the authorities her real identity and suddenly she’s again a suspect. Even the few people she has started to trust view her now with suspicion.

I enjoyed this book a lot. Gwen is paranoid and always expecting trouble. She also has a lot of guilt because while she was innocent she also also so naive that she didn’t realize what Mel was up to right under her nose. She’s had to live with fear for four years and it has taken its toll: at first, even mistakes drive her into a defensive mode. But of course this is a thriller, so her precautions turn out to be more than necessary. Gwen and her kids felt like normal people who had been thrown into a terrible situation and are now trying to cope as best they can.

The first chapter is in third person but the rest of the book is in first person, which was an interesting choice and reflected on how much Gwen/Gina has changed. It’s written in present tense which heightens the tension.

However, Gwen’s internal monologue can feel repetitive. Sometimes I also wondered why USA doesn’t have a protection service for the families of a killer, because they can be victims, too. While the internet trolls’ writings are horrible, especially when they photo shop Gwen’s kids’ heads to pictures of murdered kids, I’m pretty sure few would actually do anything in real life. Of course, all it take is one deranged person to kill them all. Also, I sometimes wondered why nobody recognized Gwen. The kids had been growing up and their looks change, so I could buy that nobody recognized them but Gwen is an adult and she doesn’t think about disguising herself. I found the description of the murder victims gruesome. Luckily, in an audio book they went past quickly. Also, while the ending is mostly satisfying, there’s a twist which leads to a second book.

The story starts a bit slow, with Gwen and her kids doing everyday stuff. But there an ominous mood and tension which just builds and builds.

The reader was very good and I think she suited the book very well.

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