Category Archives: Cozy Mystery Challenge 2010

Alice Kimberly’s The Ghost and The Dead Man’s Library

Like most of my books, I purchased and downloaded this book to my Sony eReader. The Ghost and the Dead Man’s Library is Book 3 in the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series by Alice Kimberly.

Book Description: Jack Shepard didn’t have much use for books when he was alive. Now that he’s dead, he has even less interest in the crate of dusty old tomes that arrive at the bookshop he’s been haunting. Penelope, on the other hand, is thrilled with the delivery. The rare old Poe library was willed to her shop by an elderly admirer of her aunt Sadie’s. The dead man’s library is so valuable that Pen is inundated with astronomical offers for every volume in the set. Everything appears rosy, until Pen begins to sell the books, one by one…and one by one each buyer dies. The police don’t believe Pen’s theory—that these deaths are linked to the rare book purchases. In fact, the police don’t believe these deaths are murders at all. Pen, of course, knows differently, which means it’s time to persuade her hard-boiled haunter to stop resting in peace, start cracking some clues, and make sure this twisted Poe freak kills…nevermore.

(An excerpt is also available on the author’s website)

I have been reading this series for the cozy mystery challenge. This particular installment was very interesting since I am a Poe fan. For one who has read Poe’s works, this book provided many references and illusions that caught my attention and my interest.

In a very Davinci Code-ish way, this series grabs the reader and pulls her along as we try to determine if the Poe code is real and what we will find. All of this, is of course, while solving a series of murders and trying to get Penelope off the hook for Grand Theft Larceny. It was a quick enjoyable read. And, I really liked the conversations Penelope and Jack had about their different uses of language and slang (something that was lacking in the first book and worried me a bit). This book proves the author has meshed those eras and their languages well.

Having said that, as a mom, I wished an incident with Penelope’s child had not been glossed over so much. In addition, at this point, I would like to see Penelope develop a love interest of some kind (other than Jack).  Also, Pen doesn’t seem to be as worried about being arrested as I would think someone would be. She never consults a lawyer and there is no mention really of the charges being dropped other than we know the police know she didn’t do it.

So, with those minor caveats, it was good. I will definitely read the next one. Happy Reading to you!


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The Ghost and the Dead Deb by Alice Kimberly

The Ghost and the Dead Deb is the second in the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series by Alice Kimberly. I read this book last week for the Cozy Mystery Challenge.

The author’s website has the following information about this book. Description: Don’t haunt the customers! This was the only rule bookshop owner had given her resident ghost, hard-boiled private eye Jack Shepard. But when the hot young author Angel Stark arrives at the store to promote her latest—a book of true crime—Jack can hardly contain himself. After all, crime is his specialty. Angel’s books is an unsolved mystery about a debutante found strangled to death. And it’s filled with juicy details that point a finger at a number of people in the deb’s high society circle. But when the author winds up dead too—in precisely the same way—Pen is fast on the case…which means Jack is too. After all, a ghost detective never rests in peace.

 Excerpt: “In my day, dames with money from well-heeled families hired me to help them duck scandal on the QT. The last thing they’d ever do was write a book about it and tart it up in front of a ham-handed audience for applause.”  The booming, masculine voice in my head was either the ghost of PI Jack Shepard or a delusion of my half-demented mind. Which was true? Take your pick. “It’s a different world than the ’40’s, Jack,” I silently replied. “I liked my world better,” Jack said. “The uptown crowd kept their trashy messes in the back alley, not on their bookshelf.”

 The Cozy Library site says that Alice Kimberly / Cleo Coyle is really wife and husband team Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini. The site continues, “Together and separately they’ve authored a number of bestselling books. As Alice Kimberly they co-author The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, including The Ghost and Mrs. McClure, The Ghost and the Dead Deb, and The Ghost and the Dead Man’s Library, with more titles under way. As Cleo Coyle they co-author The Coffeehouse Mysteries, including On What Grounds, Through the Grinder, Latte Trouble, and Murder Most Frothy, with more books in the works.” I haven’t read the Coffee House Mysteries, but since I am liking this series, I will probably add it to my list.

This particular book was fun to read. It was upbeat and fast. And, I didn’t figure out whodunit too early! I like that the main character continues to question her sanity for hearing Jack’s voice and that she doesn’t make it commonplace to hear ghosts (like in Ghost Whisperer). In this book, Pen also finds that Jack’s spirit is attached to a nickel and that if she takes that nickel with her, he can travel too. I hope the author(s) develop that line a bit more (like how did it happen, etc.). I did find it a bit disconcerting that Jack keeps flirting with Pen, and their / her erotic dream of intimacy with him was a little over the top. But, the book was enjoyable, and I also learned a new word that I cannot wait to use in conversation: debutramp. What a great descriptor! (Yeah, Yeah, I know what that says about me that I like this word.)

Happy Reading this week!

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Photo Finished by Laura Childs (finally!)

While reviewing my account recently, I saw that the Sony eReader Bookstore had finally fixed Laura Child’s Photo Finished (depite not having notified me). So, I immediately downloaded it and put it in my Unread file. Last week, I got to read it, and I really enjoyed it. Readers of my blog might remember that I did not particularly like the first in this series, despite my high expectations since I love scrapbooking and Laura Childs is a best selling author. So, when this book wasn’t available and I had received my refund, I really put it out of my mind, not expecting much. It has simply been a book I picked up for the Cozy Mystery Challenge.

I tell you all this as a preface to, wait for it, I LOVED Photo Finished. I was very glad I eventually returned to it. And, I am very glad I read it.

Photo Finished  is the second in the Scrapbooking Mystery series. The author’s website describes the books as follows: What could be more fun than an all-night crop at Carmela’s scrapbooking shop?  As ideas on rubber stamping, hand-tinting photos, and decorating album covers are shared, scrapbookers also help themselves to hurricane rum drinks, jambalaya, and homemade praline pie.  Spirits run high and the soft New Orleans night buzzes with excitement.  But when Bartholomew Hayward, the shady antique dealer from next door, is found sprawled in the back alley with a scissors jammed in his neck, it looks like the work of a very crafty killer.

This book did not do what I really didn’t like in the first, which is focus more on New Orleans and Mardi Gras rather than scrapbooking. It did still focus a lot on food, and it includes several recipes in the back, but since I like food mysteries, that didn’t put me off as much as did in book one. Instead, this book really focused on the scrapbookers and the murder mystery. It was a super quick read with many funny moments. I will actively read the next one!

Happy Reading!

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The Ghost & Mrs. McClure by Alice Kimberly

The Ghost & Mrs. McClure by Alice Kimberly is the first in the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series.  I began this series as part of the Cozy Mystery Challenge sponsored by Kris Meyer at her Not Enough Books blog. I bought and downloaded the book from the Sony eReader Bookstore.

The product description reads: Penelope Thornton-McClure manages a Rhode Island bookshop rumored to be haunted. When a bestselling author drops dead signing books, the first clue of foul play comes from the store’s full-time ghost-a PI murdered on the very spot more than fifty years ago.

Is he a figment of Pen’s overactive imagination? Or is the likable, fedora-wearing specter the only hope Pen has to solve the crime?

At first, I was a bit leery of this book because it begins with a prologue filled with 1940-noir PI language, such as “Maybe he was hard, thought Jack. But baby, this was one hick town. No painted dolls or groghounds here. No nickel rats, cheap grifters, or diamond-dripping dames looking to have their husbands set up. Just clean air, families with kids, potluck socials, and farm-fresh moo juice.” I wasn’t sure I could stand reading that throughout the book. As poetic as it looks here, it takes more time to read than I was willing to put into a cozy mystery. However, the first chapter jumped to present day and more contemporary language. And while there was an occasional return to this type of speaking, it was confined to one character, and the protagonist even found his language a bit startling. Luckily, it didn’t stop me from trying the rest of the book, because I ended up really liking it.

This is the first story with Penelope Thornton-McClure who has decided to move to Quindicott, Rhode Island and buy  a share of her Aunt Sadie’s failing bookstore after her husband’s recent suicide. She sinks every penny she has into the bookstore in hopes of establishing a new life for herself and her son Spencer.

After expanding and remodeling and renaming the story, Pen sets up an author appearance and signing with best-selling Timothy Brennan, writer of the Detective Jack Shield series. Unfortunately, Brennan dies during the appearance at Buy the Book. Instead of killing the bookstore, the death puts the store on the map as they sell out of all of their Brennan books as fast as they arrive (with some of them being resold for up to $300 per book on eBay).

While Pen is trying to cope with the craziness of the business and her interfering in-laws, she begins to hear voices, well one voice really–that of the real life PI Jack Shepherd who was apparently also murdered at the bookstore, albeit 50 years ago.

This book revolves around Penelope coming to terms with a ghost in her bookstore (and in her head since she is apparently the only one who can hear him) and working with that ghost to solve the murder of Timothy Brennan. 

This cozy mystery is quick-paced and entertaining. I am looking forward to the next in the series.

Happy Reading!


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Inked Up

I read Terri Thayer’s Inked Up for the Cozy Mystery Challenge last week. It is the second of the Stamping Sisters Mysteries (book one blogged / reviewed).

The product description reads: Halloween is scarier than ever in Aldenville, Pennsylvania, when professional rubber stamper April Buchert discovers a dead body in a “haunted” corn maze. The police suspect the victim’s husband murdered her, but April knew the couple, and she and the Stamping Sisters are determined to find the real killer before he catches another in his murderous motif.

This book focuses a lot on Mitch who inspired by Jimmy Carter is constructing homes for impoverished families. The first family chosen is a Latino family (though second generation American), which sparks much anti-immigration hate and bigotry. Since Arizona’s anti-immigration law has been all of the news recently, this focus was very current event-ish. However, the book becomes very problematic in its portrayal of this theme because while April is constantly defending the rights of the Latino family to live in the area, the author portrays the Mexican-American community leader as a publicity-seeking liar out to help no one but himself. The contradiction of the messages there is confusing at best.

Subplots revolve around April’s coming divorce, her unexpected roommates, and the nuptials of her mother. Her relationship with the stamping sisters is explored a bit, but the class differences apparent within the group are still not really explored. I did find the mystery much harder to solve than I did in the first book, but the family dynamics were still way over the top.

It was a quick read, and I would certainly do the stamping activity at the end, but again, I’m just not sure what the political statement was about (or even was, honestly). But of course, if you read it, I wish you

Happy Reading!

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Stamped Out by Terri Thayer

For the Cozy Mystery Challenge (sponsored by Kris Meyer), I read Stamped Out by Terri Thayer. I found the books under the hobbies cozy theme on the ubercool Cozy Mystery Blog. I am an avid scrapbooker, so I thought the theme of stamping might interest me. I bought and downloaded the book from the Sony eReader Library. 


Back in Aldenville, Pennsylvania, with a failed marriage and a sabotaged career in her wake, April Buchert is ready for a fresh start. Working alongside her father on the restoration of the town’s famous Winchester mansion seems like the perfect project—until their efforts reveal a murderous motif…

If only *these* walls could talk…

A restoration expert who creates rubber-stamp patterns on walls, April is thrilled to help revive her hometown’s architectural gem. But during the demolition of an abandoned guesthouse behind the mansion, a human skull tumbles out of the rumble. All eyes are on April’s father, who originally oversaw the building’s construction years ago. As unexplained deaths pile up and a dangerously handsome carpenter becomes a pleasant distraction, can April chip away at the truth before another innocent victim is stamped out?

This is the first is a series that began in 2008 called the Stamping Sisters Mysteries. The second, Inked Up (2009), is on my list to read next, and I honestly don’t know if a third is coming out this year.

Most of this book revolved around April’s family rather than her stamping, but there was enough stamping to keep me interested in the theme, and it was a murder mystery which was very interesting in its own right.

Now, honestly, the family dynamics were so over the top that I couldn’t relate, so I didn’t always care about April’s angst over her family and what happened to them when she was a teenager. Her dad’s nickname for her, Apy, was kinda weird (who would want to be compared to a gorilla?). The relationship with her mother was healed a bit too quickly. And the Rock Star dating her mother . . . well, again rock star; what do I say?

There was no exploration of April status at the country club as the cook’s daughter. There was no tension with the different social classes. It was all a bit too easy.

I wasn’t sure why she was even married (though certainly headed for divorce) if a love interest was introduced almost right off the bat. She could have just been a divorced woman who returned to her birthplace. I am not sure we needed a husband since he never made an appearance. I guess, though, we have the possibility of him appearing in future installments.

I also knew whodunit long before the main character, which I hate.

So, I know it sounds like I didn’t like it, but it was okay. There was so much with her family to keep me from getting bored, and I wasn’t sure I knew who the bad guy was until the end (though I was right). It was also different. The character was a mess (which I like–I hate protagonists with too much self confidence). And the relationships were crazy. I also assumed that all of the stuff with her family and establishing relationships with the stamping sisters was background we would need for the next installments, like in X-Men movie, there isn’t as much action in the first of the trilogy because we need more story line to understand. Then, as the trilogy progresses, we get more action. So, I am hoping that is what is going on, but I don’t know yet. Will keep you posted!

Happy Reading!


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One Hex of a Wedding by Yasmine Galenorn

I read the last (book 5) of the Chintz ‘n China cozy mystery series by Yasmine Galenorn, One Hex of a Wedding, last weekend in a reading marathon while I was trying to avoid other commitments. 🙂 This finale to the series focuses, as the title might suggest, on everything that could and does go wrong leading up to Emerald and Joe’s wedding.

If you have read any of this series, you know that Emerald owns a tea and china shop, but most of the books focus on her relationships with her friends and family. This one is no different. The product description reads, “Wedding bells turn to sour notes for Emerald O’Brien. Her fiance is wounded by gunfire, her ex-husband becomes the prime suspect, and her maid of honor is being stalked. Now it’s up to Emerald to divine if the incidents are related. Includes a charm recipe.”

Emerald is off of work to plan and pull off her wedding to Joe, her younger fiance. During this short time period, Em’s ex-husband shows up and ruins her engagement party, the groom-to-be gets shot, her best friend is being stalked, her intended wedding gown is ruined, and she receives a hexed necklace to wear at her wedding. There is not much more that could go wrong.

Since I have mentioned these things in my earlier blogs about books in this series, I will point out that again there is no tarot in a book about a tarot reader, and there is little of the shop (the Chintz ‘n China from the series title). This book, actually, could be one in a coffee series as much time as Emerald spends stopping to get and or drinking some coffee combo drink or another. There was also a bit less sex / sexual innuendo this time around, but the “f” word was used very often, which may put off some readers of cozies. However, it was enjoyable to read about daughter Miranda’s first love and the family dynamics of Emerald’s birth family since we have seen so little of them previously. I missed Harlow’s baby and the neighbors who played prominent roles in previous books, though.

Nonetheless, Emerald weathers the storm, and solves the mystery (who is the stalker?), and gets married. The marriage is of course a fabulous way to end the series.

I enjoyed these characters, and I think I will miss them! To read another review of this series finale, visit Kate Austin (one of the witchychicks). Happy Reading.

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