Showing posts sorted by relevance for query mystery books. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query mystery books. Sort by date Show all posts

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Coffeehouse Mysteries - A Series Review

The Coffeehouse Mysteries - a cozy book series review
Buy the Coffeehouse Mysteries by clicking here!
If you love reading murder mysteries in coffee shops then Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse books are ideal for you. Well maybe not the one where the caramel chocolate latte is poisoned, but.....

I do like murder mysteries - both the easy to read cozy mysteries (which Cleo Coyle's ones are) and the grittier ones by the likes of Ruth Rendell or Kathy Reichs.

The Coffeehouse books are a little different in that they involve coffee - yes a whole series of books that unite both coffee and murder, want to know more?

Let's review the series of The Coffeehouse Mysteries, be warned this could become almost as addictive as your morning cup of Joe!

Clare Cosi is the Star of the Coffeehouse Mysteries

A Coffee Lover & Sleuth Too!

Clare Cosi is the heroine of these murder mysteries and she works as manager (soon to be partner) of The Village Blend a coffee shop that has been in Greenwich Village, New York for decades as it was started by her ex-mother-in-law, referred to simply as Madame!

As well as being the manager Clare seems to somehow have a connection to murder on a regular basis and then wants to solve the case - her ex-husband (and soon to be partner in The Village Blend) claims she has a Nancy Drew fixation ........and he might not be wrong.

Throughout the book Clare shares little tidbits about coffee - making it, the differences between beans, coffee folklore and more. To give you some background Clare moved away from New York with her daughter Joy when her marriage ended and only recently returned to New York for the first book in the series - On What Grounds. During the time she was away she worked as a food and coffee writer so has all of this knowledge which gets sprinkled through the books.

Clare has a good relationship with her ex, but the man she'd like in her life is a Police Detective called Mike Quinn which is pretty handy when you're after details of a case as well. Clare also has a good relationship with her ex-mother-in-law who is also a little nosy and loves to help Clare out when she's trying to solve a case.

Reviewing the Coffeehouse Mysteries
Image from Pixabay, adapted by Lou of Lou's Designs

Why I Like The Coffeehouse Mysteries Book Series

The murder mysteries always seem to have a connection to The Village Blend Coffeehouse which could give you pause before drinking there ....... unless you like puffer fish that is. For those of you who don't 'get' that sentance then you need to read book #3 - Latte Trouble!

What sets these books apart from other whodunnits is the coffee. As I mentioned before sprinkled throughout the books are little bits of coffee trivia which I found really interesting. The trivia didn't detract from the story line, but it did add another layer to the story which I enjoyed.

To further seal the coffee influence with these books you'll find recipes from the stories at the end of the book. If you're in a book club you could recreate a Caramel Chocolate Latte to drink while you discuss the ins and outs of Latte Trouble to really get in the mood.

Who is Cleo Coyle?

The Author of the Coffeehouse Mysteries

Cleo Coyle is actually two people, husband and wife writing team - Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini. They released the first book - On What Grounds - in September 2003 and now they even have their own website with recipes and a forum for fans - The Virtual Village Blend.

Cleo Coyle Books in Order

I'm linking to books here for you, but I should mention that I've been reading the kindle editions of these books and am thoroughly enjoying reading them that way.

On What Grounds (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 1) is the first of these books and it's where Clare Cosi returns to take over as the manager of The Village Blend.

I actually haven't read this book yet as I started off reading book 2, then book 3 and I haven't looked back! I will read it once I've finished the rest of the series though.


 Through the Grinder (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 2)
Through The Grinder is cool because you get to see inside the murderer's mind without it revealing who the person is.

In this book we also see Mike Quinn's jealous side as Clare gets herself a love interest who (rather predictably) turns out to be a main suspect in a rash of murders made to look like suicides and all customers of the Village Blend.


 Latte Trouble (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 3)
Latte Trouble is the third book in the coffeehouse mysteries and this time the murder hits even closer to home with the murder weapon being a poisoned latte poured by the lovable Tucker - can Clare's chief barista be a murderer?

This book could be the end for Clare as she's taken into the seedy underworld of the fashion industry and drugged, but wait I know I have more of these books so it'll turn out okay!


 Murder Most Frothy (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 4)
Murder Most Frothy doesn't actually take place in Greenwich, but at the Hamptons.

In Latte Trouble we were introduced to David Mintzer, celebrity restaurant owner, who was impressed by Clare's coffee knowledge.

In this the fourth book in the series, David has brought Clare, Joy and Madame to stay at his Hamptons' home to help train his staff up as baristas and of course this means that someone is going to be murdered while they're partying their way through a Hamptons' summer.


 Decaffeinated Corpse (A Coffeehouse Mystery Book 5)
Decaffeinated Corpse is the fifth book in this series and is the one I'm currently reading.

One of the interesting things I've found with this book is about how decaffeinated coffee is made because this book is all about a new coffee bean that is grown as a decaffeinated bean.

I was surprised by the first body that we 'meet' in this book (although it's the second murder in chronological order and the first wasn't a surprise to me), when the body fell onto the sidewalk I thought I knew who it was going to be and I was wrong which is always a good start to solving a whodunnit!


The following books are the rest of the series in order. I haven't read these yet, but will add a short description to them as I do.


  • French Pressed 
  • Espresso Shot 
  • Holiday Grind 
  • Roast Mortem 
  • Murder by Mocha 
  • A Brew to a Kill 
  • Holiday Buzz 
  • Billionaire Blend 
  • Once Upon a Grind 
  • Dead to the Last Drop 
  • Dead Cold Brew 
 Due to be released in April 2018 - Shot in the Dark

Do You Love Cozy Mysteries? We Do!

The contributors here at Review This often review books for you and I've found that a lot of us really enjoy a cozy mystery or two, in fact one of our contributors, Bev Owens, has actually published a couple of her own cozy mysteries which are awesome. 

So, if you want a break from the fast pace of New York (where the Coffeehouse Mysteries are set) then why not take a trip to Beaver Falls with Beverly Owen's Up cycling mysteries.

Here are a few of the other cozy mysteries we've reviewed for you..


Cozy Mystery Series ReviewMystery Series Review: Cats, Cupcakes and Killers
Author Sylvia Selfman has done just that with her Izzy Greene series in Cats, Cupcakes and Killers. All seven mysteries are published together ...

Cozy Mysteries and women sleuthsReviewing Cozy Mysteries and Favorite Women Sleuths
Like cozy mysteries starring smart, female sleuths? ... My favorite genre is mystery and right now I'm particularly attracted to easy-to-read cozy mystery stories

Mrs fix it mystery seriesMrs Fix-it Mystery Series Reviewed
A very enjoyable series of mystery books with Mrs Fix It as the female sleuth. ... I was a little sad when I came to the last page of the 15th book.

Reviewing The Mystic Notch Cozy Mystery SeriesReviewing The Mystic Notch Cozy Mystery Series
I recently read the Mystic Notch Cozy Mystery Series by Leighan Dobbs and enjoyed it immensely. It was pretty easy to get attached to the ...

Chef at the Water's Edge by Kee Patterbee - A Mystery ReviewChef at the Water's Edge by Kee Patterbee - A Mystery Review
A celebrity chef is found dead in a lake. Was it an accident as the police reported? Or was it suicide or murder? Can you solve the mystery ...


We're not all a 'murderous bunch' and we review plenty of other books too, but at the moment I just can't get enough of the cozy mysteries that are out there and I'm sure that you'll love them too.

 If you're not into the more grisly murder mysteries then the cozy mysteries are for you. I once heard them described as the Mills and Boon of mystery books and that made me smile because they are light reading and in general they don't contain descriptive violence (although obviously there is murder involved). I think of them as 'genteel murder mysteries' similar to Agatha Christie's books, but without the nostalgic feel of a different era.

Grab a coffee and let me know what you think of this series of books and don't forget to check out some of the other cozy mysteries too.


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Reviewing The Mystic Notch Cozy Mystery Series

A Fun Series For Fans Of Mysteries, Cats and Ghosts

I am an avid reader and love to read mystery novels and if they come in a series then I am even happier. I recently read the Mystic Notch Cozy Mystery Series by Leighan Dobbs and enjoyed it immensely. It was pretty easy to get attached to the characters (human, feline and ghostly)! I think that is why I like reading series books, you become fond of the characters and want to follow them through their different stories, at least I do.


A Little About The Books In This Mystery Series

The main premise of the the 4 books that have been published, so far, in this series is that Willa Chance has moved back to her childhood home after having inherited her Grandmother's home and bookstore. The name of the bookstore is Last Chance Books. She also becomes the guardian of her Grandmother's cat, Pandora. Just before her Grandmother passed away, Willa was involved in an accident that permanently damaged her leg but there seems to be another complication. She now sees ghosts that, of course, no one else sees. 

Willa discovers this new ability shortly after she moves back home when she finds the librarian dead in the local library. The ghost of the now deceased librarian insists that her death was murder and Willa must help find the killer so that she can go on into the next realm. It makes some sense that the ghosts seek Willa's help because before her accident she was an investigative reporter specializing in crime. She has the skills to look for clues and suspicious behavior. Her snooping doesn't usually sit well with her sister, Augusta, who happens to be the County Sheriff. The interactions with sisters are so realistic it isn't even funny.

Mystic Notch has a lot of history with many of the inhabitants celebrating generations of ancestors from the area. This includes the cats of Mystic Notch. There are the felines who have humans to keep an eye on and there are the feral cats that are supported by some of the town's people. The cats whether tame or feral have a special mission and have had for hundreds of years. It is the responsibility of these very special cats to keep the humans safe and to maintain the balance of good and evil with an emphasis of good having the advantage. 

I found these books very entertaining! I loved the mysteries in each of the books that the humans were trying to solve. I also loved the interaction and conversations with the cats! Pandora is considered a young cat since she is only on her first life but she meets with cats who are much older. Pandora wants to do things in the new ways and in one of the books even searches the internet for information on some suspects. The older cats often want to assist the humans in the old ways and get a little aggravated with the younger cats with their new ideas. It is hysterical when the cats often refer to the humans as rather inept and inferior to their own species. These cats are pretty clever!

The rest of the series

The great thing about these books is that you can get them in printed form if you prefer holding a book in your hands as you read or you can read them in digital form. I have linked to the books available on Amazon for downloads to your reader but you can also use your Nook and download from Barnes & Noble, if you wish. 

These books are light reads and are usually around 200 pages or less. I am sure that Leighann Dobbs must share her life with at least one cat because she describes their actions so well. I've caught myself looking at my own cat a little differently after having been introduced to the cats of Mystic Notch, that is for sure. 

If you love a good mystery, love cats and don't mind a friendly ghost or two then you will love this series of books that take place in the fictional town of Mystic Notch. 



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Reviewing Second Chance Mysteries by Sofie Ryan

Looking for a good mystery?

Our regular readers know by now that I love to read, mysteries are one of my favorite genres and I am a cat person. Imagine my joy when I found another mystery series to read that has a cat involved in the plots! The series is called Second Chance Mysteries and they are really fun to read. 

Sofie Ryan, the author, has written three books so far in the series that I am reviewing for you today. One of my favorite characters is Elvis, a black rescue cat that has been adopted by Sarah the owner of a shop called Second Chance. Actually, I should correct myself, Elvis clearly picked Sarah to come live with! The picture at the left could be Elvis but probably isn't, I found it at pixabay.com

The shop, Second Chance, is a combination thrift shop and antique store. Sarah finds castaway items and figures out a way to repurpose or give new life to the pieces and then sells them in her store. She is helped by Rose, Liz, and Charlotte who happen to be friends of her grandmother and have known Sarah since she was a little girl. Avery also helps in the shop and is the grand-daughter of Liz. I absolutely love the interaction between these three generations of women! Ryan, the author, has given each of them some pretty humorous lines throughout the books but she also shows how close women can be no matter their ages. 

The first book in the series is called The Whole Cat and Caboodle. You would not have to read it first but I recommend doing so because this first book gives a good background of each of the characters as the plot begins to form. You are reminded a little in the other books about a little of the history of the characters but the first one gives the best description of how these ladies know each other.

Each book finds someone in the small Maine town dead as one would expect with a mystery book. What is clever is the way that the characters of Sarah, Rose, Liz and Charlotte work together to solve the case. They are not part of the police force in the community but take it upon themselves to find out "who done it". In the case of the first book, they become involved because another friend, Maddie, has been arrested for the dirty deed. Now, the ladies know in their hearts that she could not have possibly harmed the deceased man and they do not feel that the local law enforcement is doing a good enough job in finding the real killer. Maddie, an avid gardener, will not even kill the insects that invade her garden so the women know that if she won't harm a bug, she certainly won't harm a human. The way the women look for clues and find out information is funny at times and really cleverly written. I do not want to spoil the story so I will just tell you that the ending surprised me. The killer was not someone that I suspected at all. It was refreshing to read a mystery that was not predictable.

I mentioned Elvis the cat earlier. Now, one can not really say that he helps the ladies solve the crime but his interactions with the humans are just a wonderful addition to each of the books. Elvis is one smart kitty cat and I love that Sarah talks to him and it seems that he not only understands her but tries to answer her back with specific meows. Ms. Ryan has definitely shared her life with at least one cat because she describes the antics of Elvis so very well. I love my cat but I have to admit that I would really love to have a cat like Elvis. Wait until you find out what his favorite television show is! Oh yes, this cat watches tv and when riding in the car with Sarah appears to be watching the traffic and gives Sarah a stern meow when she runs a yellow light. The stories in all three books could be told without Elvis the cat but the addition of him just makes the stories more endearing and enjoyable to read.

The other two books that have been published as of the date that I am writing this review are:


I have thoroughly enjoyed each of the three books by Sofie Ryan and look forward to her releasing new books in the future. If you love to read mystery novels and have a special love for cats, I just know that you will enjoy these books, too.



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Reviewing the Detective Jack Stratton Mystery Series

7 reasons I recommend the Detective Jack Stratton series by Christopher Greyson. A mystery-suspense-romance series review.

Before I came across the best-selling Jack Stratton mystery series, if you would have told me that a series exists that consists of killer plots, characters that I'd care about, murder and mystery, action and adventure, all while maintaining a moral high ground (i.e. a "clean" read), I'd say you must be dreaming. Of course I'd love that combination, but what writer could possibly pull it off?

Author Christopher Greyson did.

In fact, the author pulled off the combination in stellar fashion with the Detective Jack Stratton Mystery series. I've read all six of the current books and look forward to the seventh which is coming soon.

7 Reasons I Recommend the Jack Stratton Series by Christopher Greyson


If you're a reader but are not yet sure that the books will appeal to you, let me explain further why I believe they should be on your "must read" list. Here's my review including the top seven attributes that I appreciate about the Detective Jack Stratton mysteries and why I highly recommend this series to fans of mystery, suspense and, yes, even romance. (Looking for spoilers? You won't find them here.)

1. I care about the characters. I love series books and the key to holding my interest throughout any series is the characters. It took very few chapters of the first book for me to know that I'd be reading the entire series beginning to end. That early assessment definitely proved to be true and now I can hardly wait for the next installment to learn exactly what Jack and Alice have been up to and what comes next.

2. The story lines hold me captive and keep me reading into the night. Gotta love a book that's hard to put down.

3. The military and police connections. I can relate to both as law enforcement and military experience play a major role in my own family. Plus, Jack is around the age of my own sons, so my maternal instincts didn't take long to kick in, even in the first book.

4. Continuity through the series, yet each book stands alone. Read the books in any order that you wish, though if you prefer good chronological order start by reading the most recently published book (And Then She Was Gone) first. Referring to this book as a "prequel" would be accurate and though I read this one first, in some ways I wish I would have saved it for last. I'm currently considering re-reading it while I'm waiting for book seven in the series. (Who says you can't have it both ways?)

5. I like the action scenes. There is plenty of action throughout these books and the author does not spare the details. In fact, many of the fight scenes are described move by move. Frankly, I'm surprised that I liked the descriptive detail, but I did. It didn't bog me down as I read and it offered a clear perspective on the situations and scenes that followed.

6. The venues vary greatly by book. Although most of the stories center around Jack's hometown, you'll find action occurring in Aunt Haddie's foster home, in the dark recesses of a city park, in the bowels of a sophisticated college data and research center, among conflicting crime families crawling with assassins and hit men, in a wealthy jet-setter tycoon's amazing mansion, and even across the battlefields of Iraq.

7. The moral high ground. I prefer "clean" books that avoid profanity and sexual scenes that make me want to look away (or close the book forever). At first I wasn't sure that would be possible with this series, given the murder plots, the seriously-bad bad guys, and the police involvement and military flashback scenes. Let's face it, those topics in real life are usually accompanied by bad language and, in books and movies at least, scenes that involve descriptive sexual exploits. Not so in the Jack Stratton series and I thank the author for that and for the sweet romance that grows with the characters.

Did I mention I can hardly wait for book seven to be released? It's called Jack of Hearts. Watch for pre-order information or choose which book (Kindle or paperback edition) you want to read first from author Christopher Greyson's Amazon page.

If you've read books from the Detective Jack Stratton series, I'd love to read your impressions in a comment below.

~Susan
Read more of my reviews.


Reviewing the Detective Jack Stratton Mystery Series by Christopher Greyson
Thank you for sharing!





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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Two Mystery Series Set on the Las Vegas Strip: A Review

Las Vegas (Sin City) Is a Great Setting for Murder Mysteries


Anything can happen in Las Vegas and often does. The Midnight Louie Series by Carole Nelson Douglas has been one of my favorites for years. Just this week I discovered another mystery series set on the Las Vegas Strip - The Lucky O'Toole mysteries by Deborah Coonts.

Two Mystery Series Set on the Las Vegas Strip: A Review
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay


Why Las Vegas? Where else does one find such a diversity of characters in one place? Where are there so many themed hotels for the rich and famous within only four miles of each other? Where else is there so much temptation for people to act on their baser impulses? Greed abounds in the casinos, criminals come to look for easy victims, and thousands flock to the hotels every day to attend large conventions for organizations catering to groups ranging from booksellers and beekeepers to Elvis impersonators and swingers. The lights of the Las Vegas Strip attract all types.

Such throngs of people from so many backgrounds with such diverse motivations and objectives can lead to all kinds of problems. That's why the hotels and casinos need their public relations experts to keep the lid on anything that can produce bad publicity or legal problems. The PR people do everything from soothing the ruffled feathers of celebrities to dealing with naked men asleep in the stairwells. Occasionally they discover dead bodies as they go about their work.

Meet Temple Barr and Midnight Louie


Temple Barr, the protagonist of the Midnight Louie Series, and Lucky O'Toole, who stars in her own series, are almost complete opposites in looks and personality. Although each is a public relations expert working on the Las Vegas Strip, in most other ways they are completely different.

Temple is a short redhead and loves her spike heels. She is a public relations freelancer for hotels on the Strip. She lives in a condo at the Circle Ritz with Midnight Louie -- a large black tomcat who moved in with her. He comes and goes as he pleases through her bathroom window, and when Temple starts discovering bodies as she goes about her public relations work, Louie helps her finds the murderers. Carmen Molina, head of homicide for the Las Vegas Police, does not appreciate their help and seems to consider Temple a suspect much of the time. Yet there's also a soft side to Carmen as she seeks to raise her tween daughter.

As the series begins, Temple has two men in her life -- the Mysterious Max, a magician who is her current love interest and lives with her when he's around, and Matt Devine, a neighbor at the Circle Ritz, an ex-Catholic priest. They share a zany landlady who adds humor to the series. As the first book in the series, Cat in an Alphabet Soup opens, Max is missing. Throughout the series he appears and disappears. This allows Matt to begin to step into his place. Temple has a bit of trouble deciding which one to choose.

Temple and Midnight Louie obviously have a relationship that is mutually satisfying. On more than one occasion he saves her skin. He often gets his feline family to help him investigate. He also tells many parts of the stories, alternating with the narrator. He is all tomcat! He considers Temple his roommate -- not his owner. Cat lovers will especially love Midnight Louie. Learn more about this series in Why I Love the Midnight Louie Series.

Lucky O'Toole


Although I've read all the Midnight Louie books but the last five, I have just begin to read the Lucky O'Toole series, which is written in the first person. I started with Lucky Double: A Two-Book Lucky Bundle which includes the first two books in the Las Vegas Adventure Series: Wanna Get Lucky? and Lucky Stiff. As I write this, you can get this 718-page duo as a free download to introduce you to the series. The link below should reflect any change in this price. I have now finished four books in the series (two novellas were offered free as a download at the end of Lucky Stiff.)




Whereas Temple was easy to like and seemed somewhat vulnerable from the start, Lucky comes across as continually harried, brittle, and somewhat snarky. She seems to hold herself together with alcohol and caffeine. Although she has office help in the form of the already trained and efficient Miss Patterson and the newly hired young Brandy Alexander, she is constantly on the run, dealing with one crisis after another.

Whereas Temple is short and hardly ever goes anywhere without her spike heels, Lucky is six feet tall  and can barely walk in hers. She is not afraid to use her height to intimidate people who are causing problems and she can be one tough cookie!

Lucky reigns over the public relations department of the Babylon, a mega casino resort. She lives nearby in a multi story premier residence called the Presidio. Her friend Teddie, a female impersonator and musician, lives in the penthouse above her. He's in love with Lucky, but she doesn't seem to know it, is afraid to have a serious relationship, and doesn't want a casual one. Her roommate is a foul-mouthed macaw who constantly cusses at her. Lucky's language is not pristine either.

Lucky's mother Mona is the madam of an upper scale house of ill repute in the town of Pahrump, sixty miles down the road. Lucky is not sure who her father is. Mona gives the girls who come to her a safe place to ply their trade and helps those who want to leave prepare for different jobs in the world outside. She believes she is running a halfway house for ladies of the night.  Temple, on the other hand comes from a traditional family.

Although  both women live life at a frantic pace, Temple spends more time away from work than Lucky and has deeper relationships. In comparison, Lucky's relationships (except with Teddie) seem more superficial. It's fairly easy to get to know Temple, but Lucky keeps a lot inside. She is hard to get to know.

It seems Deborah Coonts is more interested in creating an exciting plot than in developing complex characters. I care more about Temple, Max, and Matt than I do about Lucky, Teddie, and the other characters in the Lucky series. It's possible I will care more as the series develops if each book continues to build on the ones before it.

The individual books in the Midnight Louie Series work together to build one grand plot that will not be resolved until the end. Yet each book can also stand alone even as it leaves you wondering at the end about what's next in the romantic triangle.

Although there are quirky characters in both books, the minor characters in the Lucky series seem more bizarre to me. Those who hold traditional moral values will be more comfortable with the Midnight Louie books than the Lucky series, although there are diverse sexual orientations and unmarried sexual partners in both. Lucky gets disgusted with some of these people when they create problems she has to solve,  but she seems to accept their lifestyles and antics with an "it takes all types" attitude. When she finds a naked man sleeping in a stairwell because he's had too much to drink, or half a couple in the wrong room, it just adds to another day's workload to get people back where they belong.

Two Mystery Series Set on the Las Vegas Strip: A Review
Photo is from Pixabay with my Edits

Plots and Settings


Though both of the series are set primarily on the Las Vegas Strip, Temple Barr gets away from the Strip more often than Lucky, who is fortunate if she can get away from the Babylon to eat, sleep, and get Mona out of  jams. Much of the action in the Midnight Louie series takes place at the Circle Ritz as Temple relates to the two men in her life and their eccentric landlady. The cats roam, too, as they attempt to keep Temple safe and help her solve murders. I enjoyed the many changes of setting Douglas utilizes -- some even outside the United States. The European settings shed light on Max's mysterious past fighting the IRA.

The Midnight Louie characters (with the exception of the villains) have a warmth that I don't see much in the Lucky series. The relationships are deeper and the conversations more personal. Temple's concern for people is more than casual. She really cares about the people she encounters -- even her antagonist Lieutenant Molina.

Lucky, on the other hand, has many acquaintances and colleagues, but very few real friends. Almost any attractive man sets her hormones raging but she doesn't follow through with one-night stands, at least not as far as I've read. Whereas Temple comes across as nurturing and friendly, Lucky seems edgy and defensive. After all, she was raised in a whore house until she was in her early teens, and that's hardly a supportive and wholesome environment.

Sex is also treated differently in the two series. In the Midnight Louie books, we know it happens, but we don't have many details. We don't see sex used for its own sake or for shock value.  It's always in the context of a committed relationship and only when it is integral to the plot.

Deborah Coonts, on the other hand, almost uses sex as a filler, and as many different kinds as she can work into the plot. The accounts of Lucky's amorous activities give readers just enough detail to stimulate their imaginations and then the readers' imaginations take it from there. There few details on the activity of the swingers and gay couples except to let you know it's happening. In the Lucky books it's hard to go six pages without reading about lustful thoughts, compromising situations, or sexual encounters. It seems almost everyone is obsessed with sex, jealousy, or revenge.

All the main characters in the Midnight Louie series have a life apart from work -- even Carmen the homicide detective. They are multifaceted. Although the murder mysteries capture reader interest, the plots are character driven. Readers will care as much about what happens to the characters as they do about how the mystery is solved.

The Lucky O'Toole mysteries are more plots decorated with the characters who are the tools for solving them. By the third and fourth books I was starting to see more of Lucky's personality and heart, but even then I didn't know her as well as I did Temple after the first book. Here are the beginnings of the plots in the books I've read in this series, to give you an idea.

Wanna Get Lucky opens with a woman falling from a helicopter into the lagoon in front of one of the hotels. In Lucky Stiff a tractor trailer full of honeybees overturns right in front of the Babylon. Not long after that someone feeds a young woman to the tiger shark in a tank at another resort. In Lucky in Love Lucky has to oversee four couples who are competing in a reality show to win a wedding extravaganza. For several days she has to keep them from killing each other until the final filming night when the winner is chosen. Lucky barely escapes being killed herself in Lucky Bang when she discovers a bomb in the restroom of a friend's restaurant.

My Recommendation


You may want to read Midnight Louie books if

  • You prefer complex characters to shallow ones
  • You want to follow the main characters through an entire series
  • What happens to the main characters is just as important to you as how the mystery is solved.
  • You enjoy complex plots with lots of action
  • You like to see books in a series build on each other.
  • You like to see a variety of settings in a book and in a series
  • You prefer to avoid offensive language and gory murder scenes
  • You like cats
  • You want some warm humor mixed with the mystery 
  • You have traditional moral values but don't expect all characters who share them to always live up to them
  • You want to read about characters you'd invite home for a family dinner



Lucky O'Toole books may appeal to you if
  • A fast action plot pace is more important than complex characters
  • You like to follow the same main characters through an entire series 
  • You like to see books in a series build on each other.
  • You like quirky characters
  • You're okay with lots of four-letter words and snarky comments
  • You like to see characters with a lot of sex appeal and who think about sex a lot, even though the sex scenes leave a lot to the imagination
  • You prefer not to see a lot of blood and gore in your mysteries
  • You are comfortable with cynical or sarcastic humor
  • You are comfortable with characters whose lifestyles are far from the norm such as swingers and those who like threesomes 

I prefer the Midnight Louie books because I love getting to know both the feline and human characters. Although the Lucky O'Toole books kept me entertained, the language and attitudes of many of the characters distracted and annoyed me. 

What do you like best about your favorite mystery writers? Are there particular kinds of characters that attract or repel you?  



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Reviewing The Anasazi Mysteries Series

Historical Fiction Series

Anasazi Settlement Ruin
Photo courtesy of  Charles M. Sauer
As a huge fan of historical fiction, I want to share a series of books that I recently discovered. The Anasazi Mystery Series consists of three very well written books that I highly recommend to anyone who loves this genre of literature. 

The series was written by Kathleen O'Neal Gear and her husband W. Michael Gear who are not only gifted with telling a great story but are also both archaeologists. Their knowledge of the science involved in  a "dig" adds remarkable depth to the story they unfold in each of the three books. 

In each of the three books, we go back and forth between a modern day team of archaeologists who have uncovered bodies of women that have been buried in a most nontraditional manner and the story of the Anasazi peoples who inhabited the area where the bodies were found. The "dig" is taking place in the late 1990's and early 2000's. When we are learning the events that led up to these women being buried we are in the time frame of around 1150 to 1200 AD. The time frame from the past is significant because it is the era that most historians and scientist place the sudden disappearance of the Anasazi peoples. 

You will want to start with the first book because the story builds and continues with books two and three. 

Who Were The Anasazi?

They are often referred to by many names. The word Anasazi is loosely based on a Navajo word which means ancient ones or ancient enemies. You might also know them as the cliff dwellers or the peoples who created the cliff dwellings found in the Four Corners area of the US. Modern historians refer to this group of peoples as the Ancestral Puebloans. 

There is much debate among the scholars as to when the culture first emerged but the general consensus is that it was around 1200 BC and they seem to have ceased to exist around 1200 AD. That is 2400 years, folks! What happened to them? Where did they go? 

I have been fascinated with this ancient group of American Indians for as long as I can remember so when I saw the series, I knew I just had to read it. 

The Series Is A Mixture of A Mystery, history and so much more!

What I love about this short series of books that could almost be called a trilogy is that there is a great mystery to solve. Why were these women buried in such a nontraditional manner? Were they tortured and if so; why? Who did this? 

The series goes beyond the mystery, though. The authors give us a background in how this culture lived and what the climate was like at the time. We learn about their religious beliefs, the warfare among the peoples in the area at the time and of a sickness that could be a huge part of their demise as a culture. It is a story about good versus evil, about love and loss and how people have not changed a whole lot over the centuries. 

There are questions raised in my own mind as I have read through these three books. As the story unfolds we see that there is often a struggle with the scientists. There are the scientific facts that come to light during any excavation of artifacts and skeletal remains but there is also the beliefs of the people involved from an emotional and spiritual level. How does one separate the two or better yet should they even try to keep them separate? Is it possible for the spirits of the past to reach out to us and help us understand what happened? A discussion for another day, but interesting in and of itself. 

I highly recommend this set of books: The Anasazi Mystery Series to the fan of historical fiction and those who love a great mystery. The books include: 




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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Reviewing the World of Mystery Books

One of those great things about having a website that reviews mystery books is publishers send you new mysteries for your review. Which means I get to read plenty of the new stuff before it's released. That's a nice advantage to having put in all the work to build the site and build its reputation.

Not an Overnight Success


Building a website and building its reputation are not an easy thing to do. I'm giving you fair warning up front. In fact, to create a website that draws the attention of some of the big publishers takes a labor of love and plenty of time.

In the web world, that "plenty of time" is referred to as aging. It means your site is not a fad, flash in the pan, or feeble attempt on your part. It means you are committed to making it work and keeping it going. The months and months of building up it's content may not see a single reward other than your joy of writing about your topic.

My love of reading mystery novels turned into a website. That was my own labor of love. Each new mystery I read turned into an article reviewing that novel. Like my love of Jana DeLeon and her Miss Fortune novels (www.mysterybookworldlive.com/mystery-book-of-the-month/jana-deleon-and-the-miss-fortune-mystery-series).

The Mystery of a Reputation of a Reviewer


It's not really a big mystery of how to build a reputation as a reviewer. In fact, it's simple. Be honest.

Sounding like the back jacket of a book cover won't garner any respect from readers. But, giving them the good, bad and the ugly is being honest. Oh, yes. There were plenty of novels where I just couldn't find any bad or ugly. But that was still honesty on my part.

I also had to be honest with those offering me free books to read. I have been asked to review books that really did not fit my genre. Certainly, it was nice to be asked. But I had to decline. I had to be true to the reputation I'd worked hard to build. And that reputation was with my readers, not with the book publishers!

Reaping the Rewards the Right Way


Those wonderful times when a publisher requests a review, and the mystery novel is right for my site,
I love doing that. It's exciting for me to discover new talent bursting on the mystery book scene. Most especially when I can enjoy the story, characters and setting, then look forward to more from that author.

Rory Flynn happens to be one of those. I was asked to review his first mystery novel, Third Rail. And am I glad I did. Take a gander at my review: Enter Eddy Harkness in Third Rail (www.mysterybookworldlive.com/mystery-genres/new-mystery-releases-enter-eddy-harkness-third-rail). You'll see why I'm anxious awaiting the next book in his series.

Yep, reviewing the world of mystery books has it's rewards, but it takes hard work and time to be able to get to this point. For me, it was all worth it.





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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Review of the Death On Demand Series by Carolyn Hart

The “Death on Demand” series acquired it's name from the Mystery Book Store [Death on Demand] owned and operated by the series' central character, Anne (Lawrence) Darling. The stories take place on a fictional South Carolina island (Broward's Rock) located off the coast of the mainland and reached only by ferry boat. 

I only recently discovered this mystery series and am currently reading my way through the entire series of 27 (to date) books.  I had seen Carolyn Hart's name in the library mystery section several times, but had never read any of her books until about 2 months ago. After reading the first book, I became 'hooked'. The characters are charming, the plots interesting, the reading 'light' with humor and good taste and downright fun throughout. 

Although there is usually a murder (or two), it is secondary to the stories of the characters who solve the mystery of the crime. By that I mean there are no heavy details (like blood & gore) to wade through about the actual murder. The descriptions center more on the characters, their backgrounds and the uniqueness of life lived on an island. 


South Carolina Low Country


South Carolina Low Country (Source: Pixabay)

The main reason I love the setting is the author frequently mentions island residents going into Beaufort or Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA, all quite easily reached after taking the ferry from Broward's Rock to the mainland. After having spent years camping at Hunting Island State Park just past Beaufort, having visited Charleston several times and having lived in the Savannah, GA area for nearly 20 years, the author's descriptions of these places is so familiar and such fun to re-visit through the pages of the books. If you have never been to any of these places in the 'Low Country' (a geographic and cultural region along South Carolina's coast, including the Sea Islands) you will find the descriptions of the area delightful).  


Death on Demand



Book One in the "Death on Demand" Series
In Book 1, simply titled “Death on Demand”, Anne Lawrence has returned to the South Carolina island of Broward's Rock where she spent many summer vacations as a child to take over her uncle's mystery book store she inherits after his death. The plot begins with a weekly meeting of island mystery writers at her book store during which one of the writers (the most irritating one) is murdered. Anne becomes the primary police suspect, but she and her boyfriend, Max Darling, investigate and solve what appeared to be a classic 'locked-room' mystery. 

As the Death on Demand series continues, Anne Lawrence marries Max Darling and together they seem to become involved in one mystery after another, often solving them with the help of several friends who are regulars at both the bookstore and in their lives. One of them is Max's mother Laurel. Laurel is often joined by two other older ladies, Henny, a former WWII pilot and former teacher and Emma, a mystery book writer who also  lives on Broward's Rock Island. Max and Anne also become good friends with the island's Chief of Police, Billy Cameron, who is a regular character in the series, along with his wife, Mavis and other members of this small island police force. As I read my way through the series, the characters become as familiar as my own family. 


(Source: Pixabay)
By using a mystery bookstore for her background, Hart has given her characters the opportunity to talk freely about other mystery authors and books. If you are a mystery story fan (as I am) you will recognize many of the book titles and authors mentioned throughout the series. 

Cats play a regular role in the stories too, with a black cat named Agatha (after Agatha Christi, Anne's favorite mystery writer) who lives at the Death on Demand bookstore and a white cat named Dorothy L (primarily Max's cat) who lives at Max & Anne's home.



Carolyn Hart



Author Carolyn Hart
Carolyn Hart, a former newspaper reporter born in Oklahoma in 1936, has been writing books since she left journalism upon the birth of her first child. Early on, women writers were not much recognized for writing mysteries, but with the advent of authors such as Sue Grafton and Sara Parentsky, publishers began to recognize American female authors in the field of mystery.

Carolyn Hart also has written two other regular series, the Henrie O mysteries which features a 70-something retired newswoman, Henrie O'Dwyer Collins, as she travels the country and the world, solving crimes that seem to follow her as she travels, and the very humorous Bailey Ruth Raeburn Ghost series about the ghost of a woman killed at sea who returns to earth via the "Rescue Express" to help her fictional hometown of Adelaide, Oklahoma while trying not to violate the Precepts for Earthly Visitation and adjusting to her powers on earth. 

In 2015, Hart decided that keeping up with all her series and characters was becoming too much, and decided to end the Anne & Max Darling series to give her more time for her Bailey Ruth series.  Instead, as Hart wrote "Anne and Max looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t even think about it!”, so (thankfully) Anne and Max returned. 

Today Carolyn Hart, author of more than 60 novels and one non-fiction book about Oklahoma,  today resides in Oklahoma. She is a delightful author who specializes in traditional mysteries, also known as cozy* mysteries.


*Wikipedia defines 'cozy' also known as "cozies", as a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.  

I would definitely classify Broward's Rock Island, South Carolina as such a small intimate community and Death on Demand as a very delightful series. 



Source: Pixabay



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Book Review written by (c) Wednesday Elf (2019)




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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Raspberry Danish Murder Reviewed

A Culinary Cozy Mystery

Raspberry Danish Anyone?
Image courtesy of pixabay.com
I recently read Raspberry Danish Murder and wanted to review it for you today. This book happens to be number 22 in the Hannah Swenson Mystery series. Written by Joanne Fluke and published by Kensington Books this is a mystery that could almost pass as a cookbook.

I am a little confused by the title. Certainly, raspberry danish is mentioned early in the book and there is a recipe for the danish but beyond that it wasn't mentioned again and I don't see the relevance to the mystery or the murder. Just an observation on my part. Although, I guess after 21 other books in the series it might have gotten tough to come up with new titles.



A Short Synopsis of Raspberry Danish Murder

Hannah Swenson lives in the small Minnesota town of Lake Eden. She co-owns a cookie and coffee shop called The Cookie Jar. The story opens in November when people are getting ready for Thanksgiving and the Christmas season. We find out early in the book that Hannah is a newlywed but the problem is her new husband Ross has disappeared. Ross works or worked for a local television station and just left one day without his belongings or even his car. Hannah and her family keep hoping that he will return with a logical explanation any day now. In the meantime, Hannah has a cookie business to run and a whole lot of cookies to bake for the upcoming holiday season.

Hannah has some help in searching for her missing husband from the local law enforcement and her husband's assistant P.K. There is something about P.K. He is covering for his missing boss and trying to find clues as to where he can be but he has also taken over Ross's office and ends up driving his car when his has to go into the shop for repairs. No one seems to be able to discover where Ross has gone and then P.K. ends up dead after eating some candy that was sent to the office for Ross. Was the candy meant for the missing Ross or did someone plan to kill P.K?


My Review of this Cozy Mystery


I enjoyed the book, the mystery part. I mentioned earlier that it could almost pass as a cookbook. At first I enjoyed having recipes for cookies, pastries and savory dishes after the chapters they were mentioned in. After a while, I almost found it annoying. Don't get me wrong, the recipes sounded pretty good and the formatting of the pages was clever but goodness gracious they started to get in the way of finding out what was happening in the actual story. Personally, I feel that the recipes could have been included but perhaps a little note that states the recipe can be found at the back of the book instead of after every chapter. They would be easy to reference in a paperback but in an ebook they would be difficult to go back to after reading the book.

The mystery, itself, was well written and intriguing. I loved the characters and the different events that transpired, the solution to the murder and the explanation about Ross. Although, the Ross situation needs a whole lot more words. My guess is it will be addressed in the next book. This book stands alone quite well but I think I might enjoy reading the earlier books for the backstories on many of the characters. 

All in all it is a very good mystery and I think you will enjoy it. You might not have a problem with all of those recipes. Frankly, I like to put a recipe or two in my own books but they are always at the back and hopefully non-intrusive. I also enjoy seeing recipes in books but I prefer them at the back and as a little bonus but I don't need tons of them. If I want a cookie cookbook, I'll buy one. When I buy a Cozy Mystery...well, I want a mystery. I got one and it was a good one, I just didn't appreciate all those extra pages of cooking tips. 



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Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Review of Author Lisa Unger

Lisa Unger, American Author
Lisa (Miscione) Unger is an American author of contemporary fiction. Her stories are in the crime thriller mystery and suspense category, which is my favorite genre to read.  

A couple months ago I 'discovered' Lisa Unger, an author new to me, and was so pleased by the first book I read that I have subsequently now read my way through almost all her books. Lisa writes fast-paced psychological mysteries with strong characters and I've found her books nearly impossible to put down.


Bio of Lisa Unger


Born Lisa Miscione in 1970, the author published her first four books under her maiden name.  She had spent a decade in the publishing business before meeting and marrying Jeff Unger, after which she began her writing career.

Since then, she has written twelve more books under the name Lisa Unger, has won numerous writing awards, and has become an international best-selling author. She lives in Florida with her husband and daughter. You can visit her at www.lisaunger.com.

Lisa's books might best be called 'psychological thrillers' as she combines her knowledge of the human psyche with an understanding of trauma and fear. The suspense builds throughout each story and the reader finds themselves wrapped up in the psychology of the characters so much that the lines are often blurred between the protagonist and the villain.


Brief Synosis of Books by Lisa Unger


Lisa Unger writes both 'continuing character' stories and 'stand-alone' books (each having different characters).



Lydia Strong

 

Lydia Strong Series



Lisa's first 4 books (written as Lisa Miscione between 2002 and 2005)  feature the same continuing character, Lydia Strong, who is a true-crime writer in New York City. They include:

  • Angel Fire
  • The Darkness Gathers
  • Twice
  • Smoke

Ridley Jones


Her next character, Ridley Jones, is featured in two books (2006 and 2007)  and shows us that the choices we make day-to-day and even year-to-year, can cause continuing ripples throughout our life.  Ridley is a freelance writer in New York City who begins to discover deep secrets about her family after her rescue of a child makes headlines. Beautiful Lies begins the story and Sliver of Truth continues and completes it.


The Hollows


Kindle Introduction to The Hollows

By far, my favorite group of books by Lisa Unger are about a cast of characters set in The Hollows, a fictional secluded town located 100 miles outside New York City. There is my favorite character, Jones Cooper, a former detective with the Hollows Police Department who is now a private investigator. Plus, Jones' wife, who is a psychologist and interacts with different characters throughout several books.  And Eloise Montgomery, who has had the ability to 'find' lost women ever since an automobile accident badly injured her and left her with a special ability. She appears later in another book which features her now grown granddaughter, Finley, whose psychic abilities far surpass hers. 

Various books in this series have different Hollows characters appearing as the central character in a story, with the others as minor characters. It's such a treat to see them appear. They feel like family has stopped by.  Each character has a supporting role around the central character.

I've already read the first four books Unger has written about The Hollows and hopefully they are just the beginning of a long series, because I find them fascinating and cannot wait to revisit the characters who populate this rather haunted old mining town in the Adirondack Mountains.  

The Kindle eBook (The Whispering Hollows) shown above is an introduction to The Hollows and includes 3 short stories featuring reluctant psychic Eloise Montgomery.  To date, Ungers 4 Hollows novels written between 2010 and 2016 include:


  • Fragile
  • Darkness My Old Friend
  • Crazy Love You
  • Ink and Bone


Non-Series Books by Lisa Unger


Ungers' non-series books (five to date) include a variety of characters, each featured by themselves in a stand-alone novel. Although, if you have read and followed her earlier books, you will see characters from The Hollows popping up here and there as minor characters.




The Red Hunter Debuted on April 25, 2017

 
The Red Hunterwhich debuted April 25, 2017, is an example of one of Lisa Unger's non-series books.


Prologue and Epiglogue


Many novels, particularly mystery and suspense stories, begin with a prologue. They then end with reaching a conclusion where the crime is solved and the villain is captured or the problem is unraveled and the story reaches a satisfactory ending.  But, have you ever reached the end of a book and thought "I wonder what happens to her in the future, or does he find what he's looking for". 

What I find most fascinating and interesting about Lisa Unger's books is she brings her stories to it's exciting ending, THEN she has another chapter that really wraps up all those things the reader might wonder about even after learning the ending of the story.   And even THAT is not the ending.  She still has an Epilogue! By the time the reader finishes each book, one has no more questions, except 'where's the next book - I can't stop reading'.


Caveat/Caution


Lisa Unger's books might not appeal to everyone.  If you don't care for stories about murders and traumas and fears both real and imagined, then these psychological thrillers are not for you. But if you like mystery and suspense, involvement with police and FBI and a main character you like very much, then you will become a fan of Lisa Unger's thrillers. I certainly have!


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