Meet Isabel Puddles

Meet Isabel Puddles by M.V. Byrne

I quite enjoyed this first Mitten State cozy mystery, set in a small town on the coast of Lake Michigan. Isabel Puddles, a widow and empty nester, makes ends meet by working in her cousin Freddie’s hardware store and also by selling pies, pickles, and knitted scarves. When she has time, Isabel and her dog, Jackpot, enjoy the view from her lakeside deck. Isabel, as a local rather than a tourist, gets a discount on her daily breakfasts at the café with her outspoken friend Frances. On rare occasions, Isabel helps out at the funeral home, styling hair and makeup, which leads to evidence that her friend Meg’s elderly father didn’t die from natural causes. Isabel investigates, with the help of her friends, who add comic relief, though I would have liked a little less reckless driving. A potential wind farm, a hidden beaver dam, and some unexpectedly rickety steps add to the mystery, while the pacing and suspense increase as Isabel gets closer to the killer or killers. Readalike mysteries include The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert, Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake by Sarah Graves, and A Crafter Knits a Clue by Holly Quinn. This was a pleasant read to start the new year.
Brenda

Ask Me No Questions

Ask Me No Questions by Shelley Noble

Philomena (Lady Dunbridge), her butler Preswick, and her new maid Lily have just stepped off the boat in New York City for a visit to Phil’s friend Bev Reynolds when shots rings out. Bev’s husband Reggie is found dead in his roadster, in the arms of his mistress Mimi. Phil is just out of mourning herself, but neither widow is grieving her spouse. Reggie’s true love was breeding and racing horses, and some of the most exciting scenes are at the stable and the Belmont racetrack. Detective Sergeant John Atkins is investigating Reggie’s death when another body is found, casting suspicion on Bev. Phil, Preswick the butler, and Lily investigate, as Phil takes the reader on a whirl through Manhattan society in 1907. Lively, entertaining, and sassy, with a strong sense of place, an enjoyable first mystery set in the Gilded Age. Tell Me No Lies and A Resolution at Midnight continue Phil’s adventures.

Brenda

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

Marrying right before World War I, Agatha Miller followers her mother’s advice to put her new husband Archibald Christie first. Unfortunately, other than surfing and playing golf, nothing Agatha does seems to make Archie happy. She even puts time with her daughter Rosalind at a lower priority, and leaves her behind to travel with Archie. Finally, Agatha thinks about what makes her happy: time with her daughter, mother, and sister Madge, and writing mysteries. It’s not so enjoyable reading about Agatha and Archie’s increasingly unhappy marriage. Then Agatha suddenly vanishes in December 1926, the same day she and Archie have a loud argument during breakfast. The story really takes off here, and the disappearance is related from Archie’s point of view, as the police become suspicious of his role in her disappearance. I wanted to know more about Agatha Christie’s life after reading this novel, which is based on the real disappearance of the author. It’s been 100 years since the first Hercule Poirot mystery was published; so it’s perfect timing for a novel about the creator of Poirot and Miss Marple. This mystery will be published in late December.
Brenda

Frightfully Good Mysteries

 Halloween Mysteries

The Crystal Cave Trilogy by Susan Wittig Albert

Howloween Murder by Laurien Berenson

15 Minutes of Flame by Christin Brecher

Murder in the Bayou Boneyard by Ellen Byron

Fudge Bites by Nancy Coco

Dressed to Kill by Kathleen Delaney

Death of a Wicked Witch and Haunted House Murder by Lee Hollis

Shatter the Night by Emily Littlejohn

Murder in the Corn Maze by G. A. McKevett

McPherson, Catriona. Scot & Soda by Catriona McPherson

Halloween Murder by Leslie Meier

Mrs. Morris and the Witch by Traci Wilton 

 

The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne

The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart

Lady Cecily Kay, a botanist, is in London in 1703, studying Sir Barnaby Mayne’s collection of botanical illustrations. The amazing collections filling the mansion are a source of fascination for many other collectors, and Lady Cecily joins them on a tour. She is surprised to meet Meacan, a childhood friend who is doing some illustrations for the eccentric Mayne. When Sir Barnaby is found dead in his study at the end of the tour, an unlikely suspect confesses, then flees. Lady Cecily and Meacan investigate, learning more about the society of obsessive collectors. The early 18th century London setting is fascinating, and the mystery is intricately plotted. Readalikes include The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. Historical fiction readers looking for an unusual setting will also be interested in this intriguing, absorbing read. I don’t see a connection to Hart’s other historical mysteries, beginning with Jade Dragon Mountain, but I enjoyed them as well.

Brenda

This Side of Murder

This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber

In this atmospheric and intricately plotted mystery, war widow Verity Kent attends an engagement party in 1919 that is anything but a celebration. Verity drives to the coast in her late husband Sidney’s roadster, and travels to Umbersea Island, where she finds that most of the guests are connected to Sidney’s army unit. When one of the men is found dead and bad weather strands the guests and a few employees on the island, the tension level cranks up to high. Everyone seems to have a secret, including Verity, who did intelligence work during the war that even Sidney didn’t know about. Many plot twists kept my interest, along with the fast pacing and a very clever mystery. This is the first Verity Kent mystery; the sequel is Treacherous is the Night.

Brenda

The Falcon Always Wings Twice

The Falcon Always Wings Twice by Donna Andrews

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audio version of the latest Meg Langslow cozy mystery. There is a large cast of quirky characters, the mystery is fast-paced, and the tone is light and often humorous. Meg is a blacksmith who doesn’t often have much time to practice her craft, especially as she and her husband Michael, a drama teacher, are raising twin boys. This book is set at a renaissance fair in northern Virginia, where Meg is one of two blacksmiths putting on demonstrations every weekend. Everything is going well with the fair, except for prankster actor Terence, who annoys almost everyone, and a visiting director who wants to get too involved with the fair. An early morning owling walk led by Meg’s grandfather ends with discovering a body in the woods, and Meg, once again, turns amateur sleuth. Bernadette Dunne narrates expressively and the well-detailed fair setting is especially appealing. Well Played by Jen De Luca, a romantic comedy set at a renaissance fair, sounds like a good readalike. I’m looking forward to The Gift of the Magpie, to be published next month.

Brenda

Death by Chocolate Frosted Doughnut

Death by Chocolate Frosted Doughnut by Sarah Graves

No worries; no one is harmed in this mystery by the doughnuts or other pastries sold at The Chocolate Moose in Eastport, Maine. There is a connection between Eastport’s Pirate Festival and a body found with a stuffed parrot on its shoulder in a downtown cellar. Bakers and amateur sleuths Jake and Ellie race to investigate, especially as Jake has been framed and is a murder suspect. Jake (short for Jacobia) has a number of close calls in this mystery, but also learns to drive a speed boat and enjoys time with all four generations of her expanding family. The coastal Maine setting is vividly drawn, the main characters are appealing, and the pacing is brisk; this is the perfect light mystery to read on Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19.

Brenda

 

Three Mysteries

A Divided Loyalty by Charles Todd, Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth, & Trouble in Nuala by Harriet Steel

Travel back in time with me to three mysteries set in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1921, Inspector Ian Rutledge travels to Avebury in Wiltshire, to investigate a death by a standing stone, part of the largest stone circle in England. Since then, many more of the stones have been uncovered, but even then it was apparently an uncanny place. Rutledge, having solved a similar crime in Shropshire, is asked to take over Chief Inspector Brian Leslie’s case. When some new evidence, painstakingly discovered, contradicts Leslie’s report, Rutledge has to decide where his loyalty lies. There are many twists and turns along the way, an atmospheric setting, and even a pursuit at night on horseback. One of the best in this long-running series.

In 1929, Charles Moray has come home to England to his inherited house, only to hear voices and see a light in the supposedly vacant house. His former fiancée Margaret, is mixed up in a gang of criminals, but is willing to help Charles save the life of a lovely but naïve young girl, Margot. This is the first mystery featuring Miss Maud Silver, retired governess turned sleuth, and the mystery was suspenseful and fast-paced. I found the book hard to put down, surprising me as this book was published in 1929. Perhaps a new mystery with a similar setting and plot would have more violence, but maybe not. Miss Silver was a contemporary of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, but is not as well known.
The first Inspector de Silva mystery is set in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, in the 1930s. Shanti de Silva is enjoying his work in the town of Nuala, driving his Morris car and picnicking with his wife, until a complaint is made against an English tea plantation owner, and then a body is found at the plantation. Shanti’s wife Jane, a former governess, befriends the plantation owner’s wife. A lovely setting, a cricket game, and some fine detecting add to the reader’s pleasure. Dark Clouds Over Nuala is the next book in the series.
I enjoyed all three mysteries, and plan to read more by these authors.
Brenda

 

A Royal Affair

A Royal Affair by Allison Montclair

I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful mystery, a sequel to The Right Sort of Man. Widowed Gwen Bainbridge and former intelligence operative Iris Sparks run The Right Sort Marriage Bureau, where their diverse talents make them successful matchmakers in post World War II London. When Gwen’s cousin asks for help in vetting a suitor for Princess Elizabeth, the adventures begin. Wonderfully witty dialogue, appealingly complex characters, and lots of action scenes put this mystery on my list of sure bets for summer reading. A July 28 publication date is planned.

Brenda