Posts Tagged ‘Karen K.’s Picks’

Murder, She Barked by Krista Davis

March 13, 2014

I have enjoyed Krista Davis’ Domestic Diva series for years . They are classic cozy mysteries and several have been nominated for Agatha awards. The constant but humorous rivalry between characters, Sophie and Natasha is delightful. Old Town Alexandria, Virginia provides the ideal small village feel of the traditional mystery. It is the proper venue for her character’s many adventures and murders. I was thrilled to recently discover Krista’s latest book, Murder, She Barked, the first in her new Paws and Claws series published by Berkley Prime Crime.

Holly Miller rushes out into a dark and stormy night without even a change of clothes, to answer a call to help her beloved grandmother, Oma. Holly leaves her boyfriend Ben in the clutches of his former girlfriend, nearly runs out of gas while driving through the foggy mountain roads of Virginia, and is adopted by a very dirty, mangy Jack Russell terrier. Can things get worse? You bet they can! Holly soon discovers that murder abounds in the picturesque mountain resort of Wagtail, Virginia.

Oma’s modest Sugar Maple Inn has changed dramatically since Holly visited as a child. Wagtail has been revitalized and become an upscale pet vacation destination. The town and its amenities are geared toward the comfort of pets and their owners. Despite its charming appearance, Wagtail is beset by murder, burglary and mayhem. Holly must get to the bottom of the trouble to help her Oma.

The elements of setting, characters, both human and animal, and of course the mystery, result in a very entertaining book that will appeal to all readers, even those who are not animal fanciers. I believe Krista is on her way to another Agatha nomination with Murder, She Barked. Her fans will not be disappointed and I hope new readers will enjoy discovering this delightful author.

If you like authors Carolyn Hart, Ellery Adams, Avery Aames, Lilian Jackson Braun and Donna Andrews you will undoubtedly enjoy any of Krista Davis’ books. Be sure to check out Murder, She Barked for a mini vacation of your own and no pet required.

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Lethal Treasure by Jane Cleland

November 15, 2013

I have been reading Jane Cleland’s Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery series since the first book, Consigned to Death, was published in 2006. I love how Cleland’s expertise in the field of antiques is revealed in all her books. Lethal Treasures focuses on the world of collectible vintage movie posters and classic jewelry. The business aspect of her books is always informative and interesting and her mysteries have never let me down. Where else can you learn about running an heirloom musical instrument auction while your protagonist searches for justice?
Prescott Antiques and Auction continues to grow. Keeping the tag sales and warehouse stocked with fresh inventory is an ongoing challenge. Josie has embraced bidding on abandoned storage lockers as a source of merchandise. In addition to fresh stock, there is always the added bonus that she just might find a real prize. This occurs when her latest unit contains a treasure trove of vintage jewelry and Depression era glassware.
Josie has struck up a new friendship with co-bidder Henri Dubois, a charming recent immigrant from France and his vivacious southern wife Leigh Anne. The newlyweds seem to have it all, a warm and loving relationship and a very successful high end interior design business. Their world is shattered when Josie discovers Henri’s body in her storage locker. Thus begins Josie’s investigation into Henri’s death.
Lethal Treasures can be read as a stand alone mystery even if you haven’t read the other books in the series. I have enjoyed the cast of characters and seeing Josie and her business grow. These changes have been integral to the series. Cleland has written a classic who-done-it and this book also falls into the same category as Gone Girl as a “why-done-it”. Cleland continues her track record as a first rate traditional mystery author whose books are filled with unexpected twists and engaging characters.
Jane Cleland is at the top of my list of favorite mystery authors.  If you like Blaize Clement, Barbara Allen or Emyl Jenkins mysteries you will be glad you found Jane Cleland.

Meet the Mystery Writers! Authors Jane Cleland, Donna Andrews, and Frankie Y. Bailey, are on tour visiting North Regional Library, Cameron Village Regional Library and West Regional Library. Mystery maven and local blogger Molly Weston will facilitate the panel discussion and audience Q&A.  Registration requested.

Cameron Village Regional Library Friday, November 15 at 2:30 p.m.
West Regional Library  Saturday, November 16 at10:30 a.m.
North Regional Library Monday, November 18 at 2:30 p.m.

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The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

November 12, 2013

otherwomanHank Phillippi Ryan is an award winning television investigative reporter. Hank Phillippi Ryan is an Agatha, Anthony and Macavity award winning mystery author. Whatever Hank Phillippi Ryan does, she does very well. Most recently this includes her first suspense thriller novel, The Other Woman. A first rate suspense thriller that is a finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Mary Higgins Clark Award.

Jane Ryland’s life is in disarray. She has refused to reveal her source in a high profile prostitution case, resulting in a million dollar judgment against her. Jane has been sent packing from her high profile job as a Boston TV investigative reporter and is now reduced to writing puff pieces for a newspaper. Needless to say, things aren’t working out well for Jane right now.

Trying to rebuild her professional life and overcome the stigma of being “Wrong Guy Ryland”, Jane is researching an article about the wife of Massachusetts Senate candidate Owen Lassiter. She notices the frequent appearance of a very attractive young woman at many campaign events. Is she the candidate’s other woman?

Worlds collide when Ryland begins to investigate the candidate’s possible affair and Detective Jake Brogan attempts to solve a series of murders terrorizing Boston. Is there a possible connection?

After reading The Other Woman you will certainly want more of Hank Phillippi Ryan’s books. Don’t overlook her traditional mystery series Prime Time, Face Time, Air Time and Drive Time featuring Charlotte McNally. You won’t be disappointed as these have earned Hank Phillippi Ryan many awards.

If you like Lisa Scottoline, Hallie Ephron and Mary Jane Clark then The Other Woman is for you.

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Paging the Dead by Brynn Bonner

June 19, 2013

Paging the DeadMysteries are my favorite genre and local authors have a special place in my heart. Brynn Bonner is an Agatha Award winning North Carolina mystery author whose newest book Paging the Dead is a treat for traditional mystery readers and amateur genealogists. Brynn deftly combines her own passion for both subjects in this first book of the Family History Mystery series.

Sophreena Angelica McClure, in the proper Southern tradition, is named for her two grandmothers.  With business partner Esme Sabatier, Sophie is the owner of a successful genealogy service which specializes in creating archival family scrapbooks.

Esme brings a very special talent to their business. She has the gift or curse, depending on the day, of hearing the dead speak.  As a medium, Esme contributes just the right touch of paranormal influence and a feisty attitude to this story. Pillar of the community, Dorothy Pritchett Porter, hires Esme and Sophie to research her family history. To Dorothy’s delight, the research uncovers a long lost heirloom ruby and diamond ring that will be a highlight of her family scrapbook. These scrapbooks will be the focal point of Morningside’s Founders Day celebration. As Sophie and Esme rush to complete the job, death intervenes.

Paging the Dead is more than just a crafty cozy mystery.  It is about relationships that span generations, transcend familial bonds and draw you into the world of genealogical research.

I hope you will enjoy Paging the Dead as much I did. I am eagerly awaiting the next adventure of Sophie and Esme.  If you enjoy Carolyn Hart’s Bailey Ruth series or Patricia Sprinkle’s Family Tree Mysteries Paging the Dead is for you.

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What the Cat Saw by Carolyn Hart

February 1, 2013

Carolyn Hart is at the top of my list of all time favorite authors. I know when I pick up one of her books I will not be disappointed. What the Cat Saw is quite different from Hart’s Death on Demand series, but possesses the elements that make her books so readable.

What the Cat Saw is set in Carolyn Hart’s beloved Oklahoma. This affection is reflected with “Sooner” trivia sprinkled throughout the book and is a fun aspect for those readers familiar with the great state of Oklahoma.

The story begins when Nela Farley answers her flaky sister Chloe’s call, asking her to substitute as a receptionist for her at the prestigious family Haklo Foundation. Nela hopes leaving Los Angeles will help her heal from the grief caused by the death of her fiancé. Adding to her unhappiness is the loss of her job as a reporter at a small daily California newspaper.

Chloe has arranged for Nela to stay at the apartment of the late Marion Grant, to care for Marion’s cat Jugs. Shortly after her arrival in Oklahoma, Nela has a feeling all is not as it appears in the sudden death of Marion Grant , head of the Haklo foundation.

Is Nela’s reporter intuition kicking in or does she have a sixth sense regarding this death? Is there a psychic connection between Nela and the cats?

If you like Lillian Jackson Braun, Carole Nelson DouglasMidnight Louie series or Carolyn Hart’s Bailey Ruth series (the latest is Ghost in Trouble) you will enjoy What the Cat Saw by Carolyn Hart.

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Lucia,Lucia by Adriana Trigiani

September 12, 2012

Adriana Trigiani’s novel Lucia,Lucia opens with Kit, a young and ambitious playwright, accepting an invitation from her elegant, elderly neighbor for a cup of tea. Kit expects a dull and boring afternoon with Lucia Sartori, what unfolds is the story of “the most beautiful woman in Greenwich Village”.

It’s 1952 and Lucia has her own dreams for the future. She is the very talented apprentice to a couture designer at the famous B. Altman’s department store. Walking into the store each day brings Lucia great joy.  She has an eye for beauty and is surrounded at work by beautiful clothing and objects. New York City presents Lucia with many possibilities for career, love, and excitement.

Lucia,Lucia is the classic story of young women of the time who had to choose between career opportunities and traditional family obligations. Unlike now, this was not an era when you could have it all.

Adriana Trigiani’s writing has so many strengths which I adore. Her marvelous descriptions allow the reader to genuinely feel the story unfold. The smells of spicy prosciutto, the tastes of tangy Chianti and sweet sesame cookies combine with the sensuous touch of the silky fabrics and luxurious furs of Lucia’s world.

Trigiani’s characters are complex, but very human and charming, resulting in the reader having great empathy for them. She brings tears to your eyes with tales of heartbreak and loss. Yet, you laugh and smile at the joys of a large, loud and loving Italian family.

I strongly recommend this book to readers who enjoy the Miss Julia series, the Big Stone Gap series or Julie and Romeo. Reading Lucia, Lucia guarantees a very pleasant afternoon, especially, if you include a cup of espresso and a slice of coconut cake.

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Roast Mortem by Cleo Coyle

June 22, 2012

Roast Mortem is one of my favorite books in Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mystery Series. This is not the usual frothy cozy which you might expect from the clever title and artsy cover. Coyle’s trademark prologue will have your heart pounding as you follow the arsonist down a dark, cold alley in Queens.

The bomb activated fire that destroys Caffe Lucia coffehouse and nearly kills Clare Cosi, her former mother-in-law and fellow barista, is the first in a streak of random fires. Clare is determined to find the connection between the arsons to prevent further death and damage.

Clare has a steamy romance with NYPD detective Mike Quinn which hits a rough patch with the entrance of his mirror image cousin and firefighter Michael Quinn. The conflict between the two men runs deeper than just professional jealousy.

Coyle is the master of clever patter between coffeehouse manager Clare and her quirky hip New York baristas. You’ll want to run out and open your own coffeehouse so you can pull the perfect espresso and bake up some hazelnut biscotti. By the way, you’ll find those recipes and hints in the back of the book.
This book will appeal to readers of cozy mysteries, romance, suspense and New York City aficionados. On What Grounds is the first in the series.

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Threadbare by Monica Ferris

March 23, 2012

Monica Ferris has been writing the Needlecraft Mystery series since 1999. The series protagonist, Betsy Devonshire, is the owner of Crewel World, a needlework shop located in Excelsior, Minnesota. Each title focuses on a different type of needlecraft including knitting, crocheting, cross stitch, tatting and needlepoint. Needlework aficionados will greatly enjoy this aspect of a well written mystery series.

Threadbare is a bit of a diversion for this cozy series. Monica Ferris thoughtfully tackles the uncomfortable social issue of homeless women. She handles it with compassion and avoids maudlin sentimentality while bringing to light some of the fundamental causes of homelessness. The homeless characters are presented realistically and sympathetically, at the same time pointing out the decisions and adversities that led to their very unfortunate situation.

The story begins in a snowy alley behind the Excelsior movie theater, when a teenager unexpectedly stumbles over the body of Carrie Carlson, a local vagrant and petty thief. The presence of an empty bottle of bourbon appears the obvious cause of her death. Surprisingly, Carrie’s death is ruled not to be an accident. Her cousin Margaret, and friend of Betsy, is accused of causing Carrie’s death. Hoping to clear Margaret of these allegations, Betsy’s investigation uncovers the deaths of several other homeless women. Is there a connection between their deaths? Who would want them dead and why?

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The Cat Sitter’s Pajamas by Blaize Clement

March 14, 2012

The Dixie Hemingway mystery series written by Blaize Clement is one of my favorites. You shouldn’t judge this series by its covers or titles. They are quite misleading causing the reader to expect  very light and fluffy cozy mysteries.

When I read Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, I discovered the first book in a very complex, skillfully written and at times heart wrenching mystery series. Her books are brimming with sensitively portrayed characters who deal courageously with trauma and adversity.  The Cat Sitter’s Pajamas is her most recent book in this series.

Living on the tropical barrier island of Siesta Key, located off the coast of Sarasota Florida, pet sitter Dixie Hemingway has a propensity for stumbling across bodies.  Entering the home of famous football star Cupcake Trillin, to care for his pampered cats, Dixie unexpectedly encounters a beautiful semi-dressed woman claiming to be Cupcake’s wife. There’s a problem with that assertion, Dixie knows Cupcake is vacationing in Italy with his wife Jancey.

When the police arrive to arrest the intruder, they discover the body of a woman. However, it’s not the body of the woman claiming to be Cupcake’s wife. So begins the tale of past secrets, deception and people not being who they seem or claim to be.

Cat Sitter’s Pajamas can be read as a stand-alone mystery. However, I strongly recommend you read the series in order. Doing so will help you better appreciate Clement’s characters’ development and the back story of the family relationships that have shaped Dixie. You’ll have more opportunities to feel the soft breezes of Florida, hear the gulls squawking as parakeets fly by and smell the salty air of Siesta Key.  Siesta Key is a character and place you will want to embrace and return to again and again.

Sadly, Blaize Clement passed away in July 2011.   Her eighth book is about half completed, with an extensive outline, according to her son John Clement.

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Juliet by Anne Fortier

February 3, 2012

Anne Fortier’s debut novel combines the diverse elements of history, romance, travel and dangerous adventure into one brilliantly told tale. Parallel narratives tell the story of a contemporary young woman and a tragic love story that occurs in medieval Italy.

After the untimely death of their parents in Italy, infant twins Julie and Janice Jacobs are reared in Virginia by their doting great Aunt Rose and her faithful and ever present man servant Umberto.  Though identical twins, Julie and Janice are opposites in temperament, personality and interests. Their relationship is cantankerous and marred by constant bickering.

Reunited at Aunt Rose’s funeral, their animosity increases when Julie discovers her inheritance is only a key to a safety deposit box in Siena Italy. Flighty, fashionable and promiscuous Janice has inherited all of Aunt Rose’s extensive estate.  Julie is left heartbroken and destitute by this turn of events.   Unbeknownst to Julie, that key leads her on an adventure which unveils the root of her family’s obsession with Romeo and Juliette.

The reader is transported to Siena, Italy during the 1300’s, where life is brimming with violence, superstition and family vendettas.  Julie’s quest for a lost treasure is entwined with this past, placing her in mortal danger.

Fortier engages her reader with alternating chapters that interweave the modern story of Julie and her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei.  Fortier’s writing vividly portrays both time periods of Italy, her well drawn characters come to life for the reader and the suspenseful plot keeps you turning pages.

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