Category Archives: Cozy Mystery

Books by the Bay Series by Ellery Adams

Ellery Adams, who also publishes as J. B. Stanley and Jennifer Stanley, has published two books in the Books by the Bay series so far. I read the first last year, and honestly, I wasn’t sure about it. Nonetheless, I just picked up the second, and I liked it–really liked it.

A Killer Plot (2010)

Product Description: In the small coastal town of Oyster Bay, North Carolina, you’ll find plenty of characters, ne’er-do-wells, and even a few celebs trying to duck the paparazzi. But when murder joins this curious community, the Bayside Book Writers are there to get the story…

Olivia Limoges is the subject of constant gossip. Ever since she came back to town-a return as mysterious as her departure-Olivia has kept to herself, her dog, and her unfinished novel. With a little cajoling from the eminently charming writer Camden Ford, she agrees to join the Bayside Book Writers, break her writer’s block, and even make a few friends…

But when townspeople start turning up dead with haiku poems left by the bodies, anyone with a flair for language is suddenly suspect. And it’s up to Olivia to catch the killer before she meets her own surprise ending.

A Deadly Cliche (2011)

Product Description: While walking her poodle, Olivia Limoges discovers a dead body buried in the sand. Could it be connected to the bizarre burglaries plaguing Oyster Bay, North Carolina? At every crime scene, the thieves set up odd tableaus: a stick of butter with a knife through it, dolls with silver spoons in their mouths, a deck of cards with a missing queen. Olivia realizes each setup represents a cliché. And who better to decode the cliché clues than her Bayside Book Writers group?

 

 

What I don’t like: I don’t like the long passages from the books Olivia is writing and critiquing for her writer’s group; I don’t want to read partial books. I don’t like that Olivia is seen as a benevolent benefactor (when she could be seen / developed as a hard-working woman with incredible business sense). I don’t like the lack of colors (as detail; they feel missing).

What I like: I like how complicated Olivia is. I like that Olivia is friends with people she doesn’t quite understand. I like that she is attracted to someone without completely understanding why. I like that Olivia’s best friend is a dog. I like that the mysteries are not too easy to figure out. I love the ocean-side setting. I love the wrath of mother nature in the second book. I love the way the second book introduces a serious complication that can be developed in future books.

I like more than I don’t! I think you will too. Happy Reading!

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Devil’s Food Cake Murder by Joanna Fluke

The most recent in the Hannah Swensen Mysteries was released recently. At one time, I would have been first in line to purchase another in this installment, loving the recipes, the mysteries, and learning about the cold northern state of Minnesota. However, the last few have seemed way too similar, way too same ole same ole, to justify that this time. In fact, I had tried several of the recipes for cookies and baked goods last winter, and we didn’t really like them (and I am a great cook / baker), and I was really tired of Hannah’s ambivalent feelings for Norman and Mike. So, I wasn’t in a hurry to buy this one. Nonetheless, it lured me in hopes of returning to the original spunk of this series and its protagonist, Hannah Swensen.

Product Description: These days, everyone in Lake Eden, Minnesota, is buzzing with activity, and Hannah Swensen is no exception. But no matter how busy she may be, Hannah can always find time to help a friend in need – especially when there’s a murder to investigate. A new minister is in town to cover for Reverend Bob Knudson, who’s honeymooning with Hannah’s good friend Claire. But when the replacement is found face down in a plate of devil’s food cake with a bullet in his head, Hannah starts asking questions. She soon discovers that the good Reverend wasn’t quite the saintly fellow he appeared to be. It will take some more digging to find the culprit, but Hannah is sure of one thing: even the most half-baked murder plot can be oh so deadly…

While I don’t think this one is good as the first five, it is much better than the most recent. I did figure out the “twist” with Norman way before it was revealed, but the hanging ending will keep me interested enough to purchase the next one. It also made me think this was not as “goody goody” as it had really become in the last few books, which certainly makes it more appealing to me as a reader. I didn’t learn as much about Minnesota as I have in past books, but I didn’t get bored. It was a fun, fast read.

Happy Reading!

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Crimes of Fashion

The newest in the Crimes of Fashion cozy mystery series by Ellen Byerrum was released last month, and while I have not had a chance to read it yet, I have read and enjoyed the first six. Lacy Smithsonian, fashion writer, is interesting and smart. The history incorporated into each book through Lacy’s affinity with her aunt’s clothing is almost paranormal in nature and is certainly fun.

Book One, Killer Hair (2003)

Crimes of Fashion” columnist Lacey Smithsonian delves into her latest mystery when hot new stylist Angie Woods supposedly commits suicide, but Lacey believes otherwise and teams up with a gorgeous ex-cop to find the truth, an investigation that leads her to a congressional staffer.

 

 

 

 

Book Two: Designer Knockoff (2004)

When fashion columnist Lacey Smithsonian learns that a new fashion museum will soon grace decidedly unfashionable D.C., it’s more than a good story-it’s a chance to show off her vintage Hugh Bentley suit. And it’s not long before the dapper designer himself spots Lacey in the crowd. A reporter at heart, she manages to get all the juicy details about his past-including a long-unsolved mystery about a missing employee. Could it be linked to the disappearance of a Washington intern or the recent Bentley boutique robbery? Lacey sets out to unravel the murderous details in a fabric of lies, greed-and (gasp!) very bad taste…

 

Book Three: Hostile Makeover (2005)

As makeover madness sweeps the nation’s capital, reporter Lacey Smithsonian interviews Amanda Manville, a TV makeover show success story. But with Amanda’s beauty comes a beast in the form of a stalker with vicious intentions.

Book Four: Raiders of the Lost Corset (2006)

Lacey can’t wait to see France for the first time with friend Magda Rousseau, corset creator for D.C.’s wealthiest and kinkiest. Lacey’s job there is to report on haute couture, but the real reason for the trip is the supposed Rousseau lost treasure: a corset lined with jewels. But just before the big trip, someone poisons Magda. Could it have something to do with the priceless corset? To find out, Lacey must follow a dangerous thread that will lead her to the answers–and perhaps the missing jewels.

Book Five: Grave Apparel (2007)

When a holiday sweater-hating diva is found beaten and left for dead wearing a hideous acrylic number that screams Christmas, “Crimes of Fashion” columnist Lacey Smithsonian must unravel the mystery before she becomes the next fashion victim.

Book Six: Armed and Glamorous (2008)

Fashion reporter Lacey Smithsonian pursues a course in private investigation in order to have a shot at a better job and gets to test her skills when a D.C. socialite is discovered dead outside the first class.

Book Seven, which is a new release, is Shot Through Velvet (2011). I have not read it yet, but it is on my list:

Fashion reporter Lacey Smithsonian is touring a failing velvet factory in Virginia on its final day of operations-and finds one of the factory owners dead, lashed to a spool of velvet and soaked in blue dye. The workers are delighted, since they blamed the “Blue Devil” for killing their jobs.

But when another nickname, the “Velvet Avenger”, makes the rounds, and ribbons of blue velvet start popping up, it could be more than Lacey’s job at stake-it could be her life…

Happy Reading!

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Heather Webber’s Cozies

When I was putting together my Witchy Chicks list, I realized that I had not blogged about Heather Webber. I first learned of Webber on the Cozy Mystery Blog. There, she is described with “Webber writes a cozy mystery series that features a landscaper who specializes in “surprise garden makeovers” but who is sometimes surprised by murders, which she solves, not commits!” that series, the Nina Quinn series, is pretty good. I like the “surprise makeovers” and I love the gardening theme. The books of the series are

  • A Hoe Lot of Trouble
  • Trouble in Spades
  • Digging up trouble
  • Trouble in Bloom
  • Weeding out Trouble.

To my knowledge, no new books have been published in this series since 2008.

I then began reading the Cozy Chicks blog (because I was a fan of Kate Collins and Lorna Barrett). On their blog, the cozy chicks offer an opportunity to get free bookmarks. I sent off for them, and they came back–many autographed. Webber’s was one I received, and I found out that she has another series, and it is about a psychic, which is of course right up my alley! (Webber has her own blog at http://www.heatherwebber.blogspot.com/, in addition to holding the “friday” spot on the cozychicks.)

The Lucy Valentine series has three books so far.

When psychic matchmaker Lucy Valentine is hired by a new client, she’s shocked to find he has a skeleton in his past–literally. (2010)

This first in the series is a great start; it has a mystery (which was way too easy to solve), love, and psychic abilities. I loved it.

                                                              The second in the series is described with:

The irrepressible star of “Truly, Madly” is back in business. This time, Lucy Valentine will go to the ends of the Earth to find true love for her clients . . . and maybe even herself.

At first, I didn’t think the second was as good as the first, but by time the ending came (which was way too quickly), I found that I did. the mystery was a bit deeper, and the love story was still there. I missed the match-making from the first book, but it ended with a bit of lovey gooey to keep me happy.

The third in the series is described:

After being “exposed” by a Boston Herald reporter, matchmaking agency owner Lucy Valentine, who has a unique ability, gets more clients than she can handle until she is upstaged by a mysterious masked man dubbed “The Lone Ranger.”

This one is also a winner. I probably should have put Webber in my paranormal category rather than as a Witchy Chick, but there is something about the hereditary quality of her power/s that suggests to be that it might be developed into a bit more than just a “gift” –she is making it the center of her world at this point.

Regardless, If you like “psychic” detectives (in cozies), you will like this series. Happy Reading!

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Top Ten Cozy Mystery Series

I love to read Cozy Mysteries! If you are a fan of cozies, I suggest you spend a lot of time at the Cozy Mystery List (http://www.cozy-mystery.com/). This site is incredible, listing authors alphabetically and by theme. You can find anything you might be interested in there. I am not a fan of the traditional Agatha Christie kind of cozy. I prefer the young, contemporary sleuths. I also prefer series that are still being written and have a lot of books to them! So, here are my favorites.

China Bayles Mystery Series by Susan Wittig Albert

  1. Thyme of Death
  2. Witches’ Bane
  3. Hangman’s Root  
  4. Rosemary Remembered 
  5. Rueful Death
  6. Love Lies Bleeding
  7. Chile Death
  8. Lavender Lies 
  9. Mistletoe Man 
  10. Bloodroot  
  11. Indigo Dying 
  12. A Dilly of a Death 
  13. Dead Man’s Bones
  14. Bleeding Hearts  
  15. Spanish Dagger   
  16. Nightshade    
  17. Wormwood   
  18. Holly Blues   

Cooking Class Mystery Series by Miranda Bliss

  1. Cooking Up Murder  
  2. Murder on the Menu  
  3. Dead Men Don’t Get the Munchies  
  4. Dying for Dinner   
  5. Murder Has a Sweet Tooth   

Domestic Diva series by Krista Davis

  1. The Diva Runs Out of Thyme  
  2. The Diva Takes the Cake   
  3. The Diva Paints the Town   
  4. The Diva Cooks a Goose   

The Flower Shop Mystery Series by Kate Collins

  1. Mum’s the Word 
  2. Slay It with Flowers 
  3. Dearly Depotted 
  4. Snipped in the Bud 
  5. Acts of Violets   
  6. A Rose from the Dead  
  7. Shoots to Kill   
  8. Evil in Carnations   
  9. Sleeping with Anemone 
  10. Dirty Rotten Tendrils  

Fresh Baked Mystery Series by Livia Washburn

  1. A Peach of a Murder   
  2. Murder by the Slice    
  3. The Christmas Cookie Killer  
  4. Killer Crab Cakes   
  5. The Pumpkin Muffin Murder   

Glass Blowing Series by Sarah Atwell (Sheila Connolly)

  1. Through a Glass, Deadly   
  2. Pane of Death   
  3. Snake in the Glass   

Madeline Bean Mystery Series by Jerrilyn Farmer

  1. Sympathy for the Devil   
  2. Immaculate Reception    
  3. Killer Wedding    
  4. Dim Sum Dead   
  5. Mumbo Gumbo  
  6. Perfect Sax    
  7. The Flaming Luau of Death   

Mystery Shopper Series by Elaine Viets

  1. Dying in Style 
  2. High Heels are Murder  
  3. Accessory to Murder   
  4. Murder with All the Trimmings   
  5. The Fashion Hound Murders   
  6. An Uplifting Murder   

Orchard Mystery series by Shelia Connolly

  1. One Bad Apple   
  2. Rotten to the Core   
  3. Red Delicious Death   
  4. A Killer Crop   

White House Chef Mystery by Julie Hyzy

  1. State of the Onion   
  2. Hail to the Chef   
  3. Eggsecutive Orders   
  4. Buffalo West Wing   

Of course, I love cozies so I could go on and on with this list. For instance, I have already mentioned Alice Kimberly’s Haunted Bookshop Mystery Series, Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity series, Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mystery Series, and Annett Blair’s vintage Magic Mystery series on my Witchy Chicks list and Paranormal list. Meg Cabot (on my YA list and Paranormal list) writes the Heather Wells mystery series. These are all cozies and some of my favorites! Happy Reading.

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Polished Off by Lila Dare

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of posting about the first book in the Southern Beauty Shop Mystery series, Tressed to Kill. Today is a follow-up about book two, Polished Off, which was just released this month.

Product Description:  Audrey Faye sashays into Violetta’s Salon looking for stylists for the Miss Magnolia Blossom pageant. Hairdresser Grace Terhune’s opportunity quickly turns into a nightmare with anti-pageant protestors, angry mothers, frantic contestants…and then, a very dead Audrey. The murder weapon was a nail file, making Violetta’s manicurist, Stella, the prime suspect. Now Grace must find the real murderer before she is polished off permanently.

Like the first book in the series, Polished Off begins in the salon at Violetta’s house, the heart of activity for the female characters and the hub of their social and familial networks. And while it still surprises me that I am into that, there are several reasons this book is a winner for me, and the great relationships among the women are just part of it!

Another reason and one of the most interesting things about this book was that the connections between a beauty salon and a beauty pageant are obvious. There could have been no complication of the objectification of women or of the role beauty plays in our lives. Instead, this cozy tackles a heavy-handed feminist view of pageants (they are always evil) and complicates it by noting how people make their lives from it and can win life-changing scholarships. And while, yes, that has been done (think Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality), it seems fresh and interesting here interspersed between mayhem and murder. 

I also really like how each women tries to live her own life without interfering in each other’s more than would be welcome. And, I can’t say too much about this point without giving away plot details that some readers will not want ahead of time, but I can say, Grace, Violetta, and Althea all struggle with deciding when one should mind her own business, and they all make great decisions. This really combats the stereotype of amateur sleuth as busybody present in so many cozies.

And that leads to my final point, which is one that I made yesterday: this series has strong female characters who do not need to be saved, rescued, told to butt out. So while they have great relationships with each other, they are also each unique and interesting of themselves.

Oh, and did I mention that each book in this series has recipes for organic health care products? They do; happy reading!

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Tressed to Kill by Lila Dare

Tressed to Kill is the first in the Southern Beauty Shop Mystery Series by Lila Dare. I learned about this series when I saw that a new book (Polished Off) was coming out for it this month on the Cozy Mystery Blog’s New Releases Post for February.

Product Description: St. Elizabeth, Georgia, offers charm, Southern hospitality-and, most recently, murder. When hairdresser Grace Terhune and her mother, Violetta, gussy up all the high-society ladies attending the town meeting, they find their snobbiest client dead. The police believe the mother-daughter duo did her in. But before things get snarled beyond repair, Grace sets out to clear their names.

 I liked this book much more than I anticipated. I know that I say this a lot, but I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially with the “southern” theme (Louisville is not in the south *smiles*), much less the hairdressing / beauty shop theme. I was pleasantly surprised to find a protagonist that is smart, funny, capable, and interesting. Grace Terhune doesn’t sit back and wait for things to happen, and she doesn’t feel the need to justify her actions all of the time. In addition, her supporting cast is as interesting and is very eclectic and diverse (in terms of age, race, and socio-economic status).  Even the older generation of women in this book are self sufficient and capable. I believe that this book offers at least one character to which all of us can relate. I think this series will be a hit; I didn’t even hesitate about buying the second book. I will review it (book 2 in this series, Polished Off) tomorrow.

Until then, Happy Reading!

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