Reading Fanatic ReviewsCozy Mysteries
A Drizzle of Murder by Constance Barker
A Drizzle of Murder*
A Good Start to a New Cozy Mystery Series
After romance, cozy mysteries are my favorite fiction genre to read. Even though I enjoy the more serious police shows on TV, when I read, I prefer a good cozy. This is the first book in a new series by an author I have not read before. This is a culinary mystery, and I always find these to be particularly fun. Luckily, this one was no exception. The murder takes place in a bakery; the man who helped the heroine move into her new bakery space is found dead. They had not gotten along so well during the move, so she is a likely suspect. Luckily, she has a variety of friends who try to help her figure out what actually happened.
I did enjoy the quirky world created by this author. A good cozy needs to be quirky for sure and perhaps even wacky. I think this book fulfilled both requirements. There is a surprisingly large cast of characters in this book, and the heroine has a lot of friends. I will admit this was a little confusing at first, as we are introduced to many characters one after the other. Their speech patterns were not distinct enough to really help characterize them, so sometimes it was a little hard to follow and know who was who. I absolutely adored the older friends of the heroine; we don’t see enough active, older characters in contemporary fiction. The friends actually do have a big role in this novel as they try to help the heroine sort everything out. There were some definite issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage, enough to be distracting. Commas were problematic as were the hyphens needed for compound adjectives. The last may sound a little silly, but if they aren’t used properly, sometimes the meaning of a sentence is not clear, making you have to re-read to get the meaning.
All in all, though, I thought that this was a good start for a new cozy mystery series. At least when I read the next one, I will have a better sense of the large cast of characters, which will be a help. Now, if the author could just get it professionally edited, that would be a big help for me, too!
Over the Broomstick by Mara Webb
Over the Broomstick*
More Needed in the Middle
I enjoy cozy mysteries very much, especially paranormal ones. In general, I like novellas, but the mystery genre just is not made for this short form of writing. A good mystery needs room to ramble, time for twists and turns happen, a space for the buildup of red herrings, etc. This story felt like it had great potential. The death of a loved one that brings you to a magical town? Sounds like the perfect setup. And the setup was good. But I didn’t feel like the follow-through was there. There wasn’t enough tension and forward motion to the plot. I thought the writing itself was fine. The descriptive passages were perhaps at times a little much, but overall, it was a pleasant read. I just wish that it felt like there was more to the middle of the story.
The Perfect Brew by Jo-Ann Carson
The Perfect Brew*
Bumpy Start Morphs into a Good Read
I enjoy a good cozy mystery. This one, unfortunately, started off with an information dump, which I never like in any sort of fiction that I read. It did get better after that. The heroine got more than she bargained for when she came to a small town in the Pacific Northwest to settle her great-aunt’s affairs. The now-deceased lady has left the heroine a coffee shop… and a curse. Soon, a second body drops, and the heroine has determined to help figure out who the murderer is. She’s got a little something going on the romance front as well, or at least potentially. I found this novel a quirky and enjoyable read, which is how I like my paranormal cozy mysteries.
Buried in the Stacks by Allison Brook
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Thalia, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, Indigo (Chapters), and Bol.de
Burried in the Stacks*
Too Slow Getting to the Murder
Librarian Carrie has many projects going on at work when one of her colleagues is killed in a car accident and believed to be murdered. The library has a resident ghost who happens to be the dead woman’s aunt. The ghost wants to figure out what happened to her niece, and it turns out that the murdered women had a secret life that would make her many enemies.
Despite the paranormal aspect of this, I did not feel that this was a true cozy mystery. It is more like an amateur sleuth story with a paranormal element. I felt like the story started too slow. Until the murder (which happened near the 25% mark), we basically just saw Carrie meeting with her friend, her hospitalized colleague, and working at her job (even though there were new aspects to her job). It just felt like too much setup, not enough actually happening. The writing is straightforward and clean. Even the idea that there is a ghost who is such an integral part of the story is treated in a no-nonsense manner. I feel neutral about this book; it was an okay read, but I’m not particularly looking forward to the next book (which I hope to do for any series that I start).
Clairvoyant Clues by Paula Lester
Another Delightful Visit to the Sunnyside Retirement Community
I think that I have read every single book in this series, and I just adore every one of them. The author has created a zany, quirky paranormal world that I love to revisit whenever a new installment comes out. What’s not to like about a series centered around a retirement home for witches and other magical people? Can Zoey, the young woman who is the director of this community, keep them in line?
In this particular story, Zoey has a lot on her plate. Her mother is just only back in the land of the living but still is not responsive; her father thinks that she is just faking it. Zoey has a new love interest. But the mystery centers around a psychic who is planning to move into the community; she disappears before she can do so. Law enforcement believes that someone at the retirement community, either a resident or worker, had something to do with it. Suspects pile up as many haven’t been so happy with the psychic’s predictions. So, that is what needs to be sorted out in this particular installment.
As always, I enjoyed the characters who make up the retirement community. There is so much humor in this book because of the wonderful characters that the author has created; she has taken great pains to make so individual and relatable as well as zany. Most of these people have what I would say are good intentions, but in trying to help Zoey, they more often make a hash of it all—and quite often in hilarious ways. Since this series now has several books, we have gotten to know some of these characters over time, so reading the book is like visiting your crazy friends; you just know it will be insane but a lot of fun. I totally would like to be the director of this community; you would never be bored! While the novel is a part of a series, it can definitely be read as a standalone, although you will get much more from it if you start reading the series at the beginning. If you like paranormal cozy mysteries with humor and an exceptionally well-drawn cast of characters, you might enjoy this series as much as I do.
Double Fudge Drowning by Diana DuMont
Double Fudge Drowning*
I’ll Take Some Double-Fudge Rum Pie, Please!
I have read all the books, I think, of the Drunken Pie Cafe cozy mystery series. Sometimes I swear that I enjoy the names of the drunken pies more than the mystery! I wish the author included recipes. Anyway, about this book. I like that the author got to the first dead body rather quickly. I do get frustrated with cozy mysteries that spend too much time on the quirky characters or other world-building, delaying the murder and therefore not allowing much time for twists and turns and red herrings necessary for a mystery plot. This did have an extended scene before the crime was discovered, but it was relatively confined (at a town event) and necessary to set up the murder. This time, one of Izzy’s friends looks like the prime suspect, and her alibi doesn’t look too good and cannot be corroborated. Even Sheriff Mitch doesn’t like having to investigate her as he had considered her a friend as well. This book does have a few red herrings and blind alleys, which I always love in a mystery. I think, though, that the number of characters in Sunshine Springs that we know of needs to be expanded to give us more possibilities for suspects. It felt like the suspect pool was limited in this book. All in all, I still found it to be an enjoyable cozy mystery read.
Death of a Dowager by Joanna Campbell Slan
Death of a Dowager*
Jane Eyre Rochester, Amateur Sleuth
I am a massive fan of Jane Austen fan fiction, but I do not think I have ever read any Bronte sister fanfiction. This book is told from the perspective of Jane Eyre Rochester, a few years after her marriage to Edward. Love and their infant son have transformed their lives, but repairs are desperately needed at the manor house, and Edward’s sight continues to worsen. The Rochesters go to London and are caught up in a variety of machinations, including a political intrigue involving the new king and a murder that happens when Jane visits a woman for tea. Unfortunately, one of Jane’s good friends is a suspect. This pulls Jane in so she can attempt to clear her friend.
I thought the author actually did a pretty decent job, in parts, in mimicking the tone and voice of the original Jane Eyre novel. Jane is a fascinating character in many ways, and I like the way that she looks at the world; trying to exist within high society is not easy for her, so it is fascinating to watch events from her perspective. I think it is odd that the author has chosen to place this book at the tail end of the Regency Era as the original Jane Eyre was written in the late 1840s, clearly and definitely part of the Victorian Era. Perhaps she wanted to use some political intrigue from that time of transition to the new king, which wouldn’t have been the same at all, of course, in the Victorian era. I found the political intrigue plot more interesting than the murder plot. As mystery plots go, it was relatively easy to follow and figure it out. I think the author needed a few more red herrings and twists and turns to make the mystery plot more engaging. But the political intrigue, as well as the interactions between Jane and those around her, kept me turning the pages. Frankly, though, I wish we had seen more of Mr. Rochester. All in all, I would say that if you enjoyed the original Jane Eyre and can forgive the author for inappropriately using the Regency Era, you will most likely enjoy this tale.
Un-Familiar Magic by Belinda White
Magic Under Wraps
I am so enjoying this paranormal cozy mystery series. It is definitely one that should be read in order. Amie is a very powerful witch even if she doesn’t have control of her powers yet. The power is dependent on the type of witch she is. In fact, her kind of witch is so powerful that if the council found out, they would force her to live in a box, so to speak, that would drain her powers, which they could then use for their own benefit. The choice is either to live in this box or be killed. So Amie and her family do not want the council to find out about her powers. Those who care about her are trying to teach her how to control her magic but on the down low. Murders, unfortunately, keep happening in this small town, and Amie wants to help. But, of course, if she uses her powers, the council will find out. Will she be able to help without bringing harm to herself?
I like that the author has created a delightful deep point of view for this series. Being in Amie’s head is like watching a friend muse about her day. It feels intimate and personal. I don’t think that is easy to achieve, especially in a paranormal cozy mystery. I look forward to the next book in the series.
Farmers Market Fatality by Sarah Hualde
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBook, Kobo, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, and Indigo (Chapters)
Farmers Market Fatality*
Complex World of Intertwined Lives
This story is complicated for a cozy mystery. For one thing, we have four amateur sleuths to follow. Much is going on in their lives and the lives of their family and friends. The book is busy and fast-paced, but the murder isn’t even known to be certain until over the 40% mark—and this is a long book. Maybe the author was hoping to build suspense about the missing man, but when the actual murder in a murder mystery is left for too long, it doesn’t allow for much development of the murder plot. This is a long novel, so there was still some time for development, but I would have liked to have seen more. It is definitely a book where it felt like at the cozy aspect and the mystery aspect were out of balance, with lots of emphasis on the cozy and not quite enough on the mystery. Still, the intertwined lives of the people of Honey Pot were easy to get entangled in.
Pumpkin Patch Mystery by Lucy May
Pumpkin Patch Mystery*
Another Excellent Visit to Charm Cove
I don’t know how many books I have read in Lucy May’s Charm Cove series, but I have found every one of them a delight. I love seeing a new book in the series pop up at my favorite book review site. No matter how busy I am, I have to pick it up. One of the things that I appreciated about this story was that the murder happened right at the beginning, before the 10% mark. It is definitely a danger with cozy mysteries, delaying the murderer or the crime and filling much of the first part of the book with a look at the quirky community that cozy mysteries always have. I have seen the murder take place as late as almost to 50% mark, though that is extreme. But having such a crucial moment in a murder mystery take place so late doesn’t allow time for the mystery to develop. But that doesn’t happen here. We’re two months past the Wicked-Good wedding, and the newlyweds are embroiled in the murder because the two girls that they had taken to a pumpkin patch found the dead body. So the whole gang gets involved in this murder, though it is apparently not magical in nature. The book had some good twists and turns, which I love in a mystery. The cozy part was not ignored either, and I enjoy watching the interactions of the Charm Cove residents. I like that the author is able to write description in such a way that she places you there in the scenes, but it doesn’t seem like it is too much. Another enjoyable trip to Charm Cove.