Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #3) by Susan Bernhardt

Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #3) by Susan Bernhardt

It’s summertime in Sudbury Falls but the living is far from easy for Kay Driscoll. Her son, Andy, is getting married in under a week and the reception is being held at Kay’s home. Her husband, Phil, isn’t doing all that much to help with all the chores that need to be done. If anything, he’s adding on to Kay’s work load.

Phil’s cousin, Loren, is in the hospital and someone has to take care of his 12 year-old daughter, Janey, until Janey’s mother arrives in town to pick her up. Of course Phil agrees to take the girl into their home but Kay knows she will be the one watching her for the time she’ll be with them.

Janey is not the easiest of kids to like but then again most 12 year-old children are hard to deal with. But Kay is expecting two hundred people for the wedding reception and has to make sure the house is in good order, decorations are in place, and the catering will be perfection. All Phil has to deal with is rehearsals for his band because they will be entertaining.

A few days after the wedding Kay, Phil, Janey, and her friends are at the July 4th fireworks display when they they think they hear gunshots. A book club member, James, is found dead in the sand. The police think he killed himself but Kay believes otherwise.

No one loved James as much as James loved himself. He was having affairs with numerous women who adored him and he also just started a new job that he loved. Life seemed to be going his way. Kay felt that James had absolutely no reason to commit suicide no matter what the police thought.

But James was not well liked. He was rude to people, made crude comments, basically stole his new job from another man, and many of his love interests were married women and their husbands probably didn’t appreciate James showing that kind of attention to their wives. In other words, there’s a huge list of people who would love to see James dead.

Kay didn’t like James either but she did want justice to be served so she started investigating his death along with her friends Deidre and Elizabeth. Investigating came easy to Kay and she helped solve other murders in her town but asking questions made her a target to the murderer and put her life in danger.  

Between weddings, taking care of 12 year-old Janey, being a loving wife and mother, and watching out for her life Kay has her hands full this summer. It was summertime but the living was far from easy.

“Murder by Fireworks” is the third Kay Driscoll novel is this excellent series by Susan Bernhardt. I’ve read them all and each book is better than the previous one. This is my favorite of the three.

Ms. Bernhardt is becoming a wonderful mystery writer. Through reading all her books, not only the Kay Driscoll series, I’ve seen how the author honed in on her craft. It’s obvious that she takes her time thinking about story lines and how the plot leads to the bad guy. The stories are well-thought out and complicated. The murderer is not someone you would suspect by page 50 and her explanations for why the murder was done forms a near perfect murder/mystery.

Do not expect a simple cozy while reading this. “Murder by Fireworks” is up there with most any other good mystery novel. The book isn’t just for women and I’m sure it would appeal to any mystery lover.

The characters are wonderful and that includes the character of the Town of Sudbury Falls. It makes city dwellers, like myself, wish they lived in a small town where everyone knows your name, people you can share the joy of holidays with and are willing to help out with a crises at a moment’s notice.

While Reading any of Susan Bernhardt’s books you’ll find yourself engrossed in a good mystery and you won’t want to stop it reading until the mystery solved.

Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of any book in the Kay Driscoll Series and discover what a good writer this author is.

For more about Susan Bernhardt’s books please see Susan’s section on my blog.

murder fireworks

The Blue Virgin (Nora Tierney Mysteries #1) by M.K. Graff

The Blue Virgin (Nora Tierney Mysteries #1) by M.K. Graff

Nora Tierney is an American writer living in England. She’s single and pregnant but don’t feel sorry for her about that. Nora is a strong woman who not only has a book to finish but is also looking for a murderer.

Her close friend, Val Rogan, is the main and only suspect of a recent murder. Former model, Bryn Wallace, was found killed in her apartment. The police believe that Val is the sole suspect because she and Bryn were lovers and were about to move in together. The two had a small argument, more like a disagreement, that night but they solved the problem within minutes. Val left Bryn’s apartment but shortly after wards someone else came in and killed Bryn. Unfortunately, Val was the only person witnesses saw or heard with Bryn that evening so the police believe that she’s the killer.

Nora is infuriated with the police department and plans on finding out who the real murderer is. The police are not happy with Nora interfering, the new man in Nora’s life isn’t thrilled with Nora’s involvement, and everyone is concerned about the pregnancy but Nora is not going to allow her good friend to wind up taking the blame for a murder she had nothing to do with. Val loved Bryn and would never harm her and all Nora has to do is to prove that to the police which is easier said than done. But when more murders happen Nora has to do something to get Val off the hook so she plans to investigate on her own no matter the objections of her friends and the police.

The Blue Virgin by M.K. Graff is the first in the Nora Tierney Mystery Series and it’s a wonderful beginning. The plot line is well thought out and you will not figure out who the bad guy is until the very end.

Nora is a good lead character along with all her friends who are willing to help her out and protect her when she needs them. England is also a wonderful character. Author M.K. Graff knows the history of this country, especially Oxford, and takes readers on a tour of the magical land. Learning a little history within a murder mystery is always fun and gets me into the feel of the area.

I’d say that the novel is cozy-like but much more complicated than your usual run of the mill cozy. Nora is not an investigator by trade but is doing it, like all cozy heroines, to help out a friend in need. M.K. Graff is a  wonderful writer and adds so much more to the novel’s narration than the typical cozy writer, not that I have anything against cozy writers. I’m a true fan of the genre.

Visit Nora is jolly ol’ England, have a spot of tea and a few shortbread cookies and let yourself be swept away into this captivating series.

Kneaded to Death (A Bread Shop Mystery #1) by Winnie Archer

Kneaded to Death (A Bread Shop Mystery #1) by Winnie Archer

Ivy Culpepper returned to her home town of Santa Linda, California after living in Texas for a while. Her mother, a school teacher, was run over by a car in the school’s parking lot and Ivy wanted to be back home with her father and brother to mourn their loss. Things weren’t all that great in Texas where she divorced her cheating husband and the death of her mother was more than she could stand.

For six months Ivy didn’t know what to do with herself. All she thought about was her mom until she decided to take a bread baking class at Santa Linda’s best Mexican bread bakery, Yeast of Eden. There she found a good friend in the bakery’s owner and the rest of the women who loved bread as much as she did that they also wanted to learn the secrets of baking it.

But as she became more involved in the community she also found out some secrets. One husband and wife were trying to bully the people on their street to make changes in their houses to suit the historicalness of that block. This couple has also been breaking into houses looking for something but no one knows exactly what.

Ivy has also met a man who co-owns a shop across from Yeast of Eden and is threatening the bakery’s owner.

And she’s also met her first true love who left Santa Linda when he and Ivy were dating when they were teens thus breaking her heart. He has returned to California to help his mother in running their family restaurant after his father died.

At the first bread baking class one of the women gets a phone call and excuses herself to take it. A few minutes later she is found dead in her car, poisoned according to the police. Everyone is devastated with their friend’s murder and Ivy, the bakery owner, and another women, decide to investigate. But the investigation makes a big turn when Ivy discovers that somehow the death of her mother, six months earlier, is connected to this recent murder. Was Ivy’s mother intentionally killed to cover up something? No one knows for sure but now, more than ever, Ivy is going to find out the truth no matter what anyone says, even if it puts her life in danger.

“Kneaded to Death” by Winnie Archer is the first in the Bread Shop Mystery Series and let’s just say I’ll be reading the second. This is a good cozy with a complicated murder mystery. The plot line is well thought out and the characters are great especially Yeast of Eden’s owner and her sisters.

Ms. Archer did a terrific job in making readers to first not trust some of the suspects and then having us change our minds about them. And even when you find out what actually happened you don’t hate the murderer.

I’ve read my fair share of cozies and have seen main characters baking cakes, cookies, and donuts but never a bread baker. I liked it. Who doesn’t like bread? Author Winnie Archer knows her bread and describes the bread and the baking techniques so beautifully I wanted to run out and take a bread baking course while stuffing my face with a crispy baguette.

“Kneaded to Death” is one good story and shouldn’t be missed especially if you’ve read your share of cozies like me. The story is good, the writing is excellent, and the plot is complicated enough to keep you wondering what happened and why. Don’t miss out on this novel.

Peaches and Cream Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy – Book 41 by Susan Gillard

Peaches and Cream Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy – Book 41 by Susan Gillard

Heather Shepherd and her baking assistants from her popular bakery, Donut Delights finally got home after their vacation in Florida. All of Hillside, Texas is happy to have the bakery open again so they can once again dine on Heather’s donut delights. No one is happier than long time client Eva Schneider who has brought her friend Carly LaFonte.

Carly is not in a good mood and Eva explains that Carly has lost her  favorite sterling silver necklace. But Eva’s friend is not a nice person and even Eva says that she doesn’t trust her.

But before Heather can think much about mean Carly her husband, Police Detective Ryan Shepherd, calls and tells Heather that yet another murder has taken place in their home town. This time the victim is Shane Price who owns the Tourism Depot. Heather leaves for the store to investigate the murder as she is hired by the Hillside Police Department to work with them as a consultant.

There is a broken window at the back of the store and Heather thinks that this might be the place where the murderer entered but Ryan tells her that the spray pattern of the glass proves otherwise. He also believes that the crime scene was tampered with because there is no evidence at all. It’s almost as if the killer cleaned up after himself.

Shane’s wife and ex beauty queen, Hannah, is on the suspect list because she doesn’t seem all that upset over the death of her husband, is more concerned about his will, and she had a quick alibi for the time he was killed.

Tristan Turner, who worked for Shane and found his body, is also on the suspect list as is another of Shane’s employees, Jean LaFonte, who supposedly had been having an affair with Shane. Making things more interesting is that Jean is also the granddaughter of Eva’s friend, Carly.

Heather and her friend, Amy Givens, investigates and finds out a few things. Shane and Tristan argued all the time; others also believe that Jean was having an affair with her Shane; and Carly is getting very defensive about her granddaughter and is loudly warning Heather to stay away from Jean.

So many suspects but Heather and Amy will help the Hillside Police find the killer while still creating some luscious donuts in their free time.

“Peaches and Cream Murder” by Susan Gillard is the 41st installment of her Donut Hole Cozy Mystery Series and of course it’s another good one. All the usual characters are present and accounted for and ready to help Heather in any way possible.

This is a cute series and each book can be read in a day. The murders are interesting and easy to follow. No wonder Ms. Gillard has such a huge fan base. Yet another Donut Hole Mystery not to be missed.

“I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.”

To see other reviews of Susan’s books see Susan’s section on my blog.

 

Guru Bones (A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery) by Carolyn Haines

Guru Bones (A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery) by Carolyn Haines

Zinnia, Mississippi private investigator, Sarah Booth Delaney, is not thrilled when her friends coerce her into going to a spa and a lecture by health guru, Priya Karsan. Sarah Booth likes her sugar, salt, and all things not healthy so this was the last place she wanted to be. But off she unhappily goes to The Club where the event will take place.

When she and her friend, Cece Dee Falcon who is the society editor for the Zinnia Dispatch, get there they see The Club manager, Jasper Pew, running outside asking anyone to call the police because someone was killed in the kitchen. Sarah Booth runs in and sees a woman hanging upside down with some kind of chemical on her and she’s told that the dead woman is the food guru herself, Priya Karsan.

Priya has been lecturing about the dangers of some foods and campaigning against the herbicide NoRoots that has put Gyndrex Chemical Corporation in the red. Could this chemical corporation be so angry that they would have her killed? It’s possible because Cyrus Angler, a farmer and opposer of Gyndrex, had a crop duster crash into his pumpkin field that very same day. The plane was spraying a herbicide made by Gyndrex. Since food crops weren’t treated aerially Sarah Booth find the crash to be very suspicious.  

Cyrus asks Sarah Booth and her partner in the Delaney Detective Agency, Tinkie Bellcase Richmond, to investigate what happened in his field. There’s nothing that Sarah Booth and Tinkie like more is to investigate, get into trouble, and with the help of their pets solve every murder. So off they all go ready to get to the bottom of these events.

There’s also a nice little twist towards the end that was very interesting and great for for the story.

“Guru Bones” by Carolyn Haines is a 72 page novella and is just as wonderful as the previous 15 plus books she’s written in this series. Yes, I’m proud to say that I’ve read every one of them. Sarah Booth and Tinkie are just as wild and crazy as they’ve always been and their pet dogs and cat are right there by their side making sure the humans don’t do something silly like having the bad guys murder them.

I do want to mention something about author Carolyn Haines. She’s very interested in history and all her books all have some historical background in them. Usually the readers learn the history by the ghost, Jitty, who haunts Sarah Booth. Jitty appears as as historical figures to Sarah Booth thus helping her to figure things out.

Ms. Haines is also a true animal lover which is why, I suspect, all the pets in the Sarah Booth books are almost like super heroes. The animals don’t have any special powers and the things they do to help is just what other pets would do out of love but with a touch more. I like these little guys.

You’ll enjoy “Guru Bones” if you’re a fan of the Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery Series already and if you haven’t started the series yet  I strongly suggest you do so as soon as possible.

To see other reviews of Carolyn’s books go to Carolyn’s section in my blog.

 

Kiwi Lime Surprise Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy – Book 40 (Donut Hole Cozy Mystery) by Susan Gillard

Kiwi Lime Surprise Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy – Book 40 (Donut Hole Cozy Mystery) by Susan Gillard

Everybody needs a vacation every so often and Heather Shepherd surprises her baking assistants with a vacation after all their hard work baking donuts. Off they went from Hillside, Texas to sunny Key West, Florida to swim, sail, eat a lot, have lots of fun, and maybe think of some new kinds of donuts to bake.

Florida is one steamy state but Heather and her assistants are used to the heat in Texas but Florida’s weather seems to be worse. So one night Heather leaves her hotel room to get a breath of steamy air when what does she find but a dead body. No matter where she goes there’s always a murder that she needs to investigate.

This victim is a woman lying beside a pool with blue-gray jelly blobs next to her. The woman,  Daphne Wilder, is a waitress from the hotel and it looks like the murder weapon of choice was jellyfish. She went into anaphylactic shock after being stung several times. But how did these potentially deadly jellyfish get to the pool? Obvious someone wanted Daphne dead. But who and why?

Key West police Detective Smith is sure that he and his department can solve this murder without Heather and her her assistant Amy Givens’ help but Heather and Amy aren’t so sure about that. Heather has been working with the Hillside Police Department for quite some time helping to solve murders there and she knows that she can help Detective Smith. After all, Heather is really good at finding bad guys. She’s also a witness of sorts in this murder because she’s noticed a dangerous looking strange man hanging around the hotel.

Even though the detective doesn’t want Heather’s help that isn’t going to stop her from investigating just the same. She’s already discovered where the jellyfish came from and has even found a suspect or two. Nothing will stop Heather until she finds out who the killer is.

“Kiwi Lime Surprise Murder” is the 40th book in author Susan Gillard’s Donut Hole Cozy Mystery Series and of course it’s another winner. Like all the previous installments it’s chock full of fun and likable characters. The story line is short and sweet and easy to follow. Another good book to hunker down with on a snowy cold winter’s day and read about Florida, a good murder mystery, and a new yummy donut.

To see other reviews of Susan’s books see Susan’s section on my blog.

“I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.”

 

Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #2) by Susan Bernhardt

Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #2)  by Susan Bernhardt

Kay Driscoll and her husband Phil are about to celebrate their first Christmas at Sudbury Falls. They have parties to attend, a party of their own to host, their sons are coming in for a holiday visit, and one of their sons will be celebrating a birthday just after Christmas. Needless to say Kay has a lot to do. Christmas presents have to be bought, birthday gifts have to be found, decorations have to go up,  and Kay is loving every moment of these hectic days especially since hubby, Phil, will be home with her for the entire week. Kay is in bliss until … yes, there’s always an “until.”

While attending a holiday party at the Hawthorne Hills Retirement Home Kay and the rest of the guests watch as Les Hollings, a caretaker, eats some food, starts to choke, falls to the ground, and dies. Les was allergic to peanuts and somehow peanut butter got into this food thus killing him.

The retirement home swears that they don’t use any peanut butter since some other guests have the same allergy. Sweet Marissa’s Patisserie had catered some of the food and Marissa said she didn’t use any sort of peanut product in the dishes that went to the retirement home. So how did the peanut butter get into Les’ food and no one else with a peanut allergy had problems? Well, that was obvious to Kay. Les was murdered for some reason.

With a little persuasion Kay agrees to investigate the murder not that she’s a detective but she did help solve a previous murder during Halloween. Husband Phil begs her not to get involved and the Sudbury Falls police chief especially doesn’t want her involved but what they don’t know can’t hurt them even though she herself just might be hurt in the process. But Kay starts her own investigation anyway with a little help from her best buds Elizabeth and Deidre.

“Murder Under the Tree” by Susan Bernhardt is the second book in the  Kay Driscoll Mystery Series. “The Ginseng Conspiracy” is not only the first in the series but also Ms. Bernhardt’s first novel. It was terrific but “Murder Under the Tree” far surpasses it. It’s almost like the author got into her natural writing groove. Her skills are sharper and seems to lack the fear that she might have had about pleasing her publishers and readers with her first novel. Here she’s obviously writing from her heart. The party scenes and Kay’s home life descriptions are just about perfect and far from boring. I especially enjoyed the way she spoke about Sudbury Falls and how the community was gearing up for the Christmas Season. It made this Jewish New Yorker wish she lived in a small town and participated in all the Christmas activities and decorations. Big kudos to Susan Bernhardt for coming so far in her skills to write what she obviously felt and throwing her fears to the wind.

Now for the mystery portion. It was good. There were lots of suspects and you never really knew who the killer was until close to the end. Although I did start to suspect before Ms. Bernhardt gave the murderer’s name. The characters are enjoyable and well thought out. There’s a nice twist at the end when one of the character’s made a surprise discovery. That part was kind of nice and heat breaking too.

One thing was left up in the air and I read the last few pages a few times to make sure I didn’t miss it. The characters did talk about this missing aspect so I’m wondering if that will be answered when I read the third book which I have in my Kindle.

Will cozy lovers like the Kay Driscoll series? Sure, although it isn’t really a cozy even though some of the basics for a cozy are here. Mystery lovers will take to it because Ms. Bernhardt’s books are wonderful thrillers too.

And while I’m at it, I want to suggest that Susan add some recipes to her books. She talks a lot about food and I’d like to see a recipe or two. What can I say? I like food.

Do yourself a favor and start the Kay Driscoll mysteries. You’ll then see for yourself how a writer progresses from being good to incredible.

For more about Susan Bernhardt’s books please see Susan’s section on my blog.