Tag Archives: cozy mystery fiction

Top 10 Tuesday — Unusual Crime-Solving Professions

1 Aug

IYears ago I read G.K. Chesterton’s collection of short stories entitled The Club of Queer Trades. It was fun reading. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

(For Amazon) British writers have long enjoyed inventing preposterous clubs with eccentric members, unusual qualifications for membership and zany rules of behavior. The brilliant and gifted G. K. Chesterton was no exception, and the entertaining short stories in this volume revolve around just such an institution. In The Club of Queer Trades, candidates qualify for admission by creating a thoroughly original profession and proving they can make a living from it.

Six marvelously funny episodes with improbable plots are made especially pleasurable through Chesterton’s vivid descriptions of late Victorian London, sly pokes at the legal system, and a characteristic gift for delicious nonsense. In each story, a bizarre crime — such as kidnapping of a respected clergyman in “The Awful Reason of the Vicar’s Visit” — seems in the process of being committed. Actually, the events are all frenzied activities traceable to club members or would-be members. Here are intriguing tales of a little old lady imprisoned in a gloomy private dungeon; of prim and proper matrons bent on committing evil deeds; of a former British army officer and his extremely unusual residence; and a host of other incredible characters and situations.

This book got me thinking of all the mystery and suspense I read, and the many jobs the main characters have. There are plenty of FBI agents, US Marshals, and other law enforcement types, plus doctors, lawyers, PIs, bodyguards, etc., who get in on the action. But what about the unassuming amateurs or even the little known professionals that solve crimes, at least fictional crimes? So for this Top Ten Tuesday I’ve compiled a list of my own queer trades.

Top Crime-Solving Professions

 

Advice Columnist — Josephine Tulip (Mindy Starns Clark)

Josephine Tulip is definitely a smart chick, a twenty-first century female MacGyver who writes a helpful hints column and solves mysteries in her spare time. Her best friend, Danny, is a talented photographer who longs to succeed in his career…perhaps a cover photo on National Geographic?

When Jo’s next-door neighbor is accused of murder, Jo realizes the police have the wrong suspect. As she and Danny analyze clues, follow up on leads, and fall in and out of trouble, she recovers from a broken heart and he discovers that he has feelings for her. Will Danny have the courage to reveal them, or will he continue to hide them behind a façade of friendship?

Bailiff — Hugh de Singleton (Mel Starr)

Some valuable books have been stolen from Master John Wyclif, the well known scholar and Bible translator. He calls upon his friend and former pupil, Hugh de Singleton, to investigate. Hugh’s investigation leads him to Oxford where he again encounters Kate, the only woman who has tempted him to leave bachelor life behind, but Kate has another serious suitor. As Hugh’s pursuit of Kate becomes more successful, mysterious accidents begin to occur. Are these accidents tied to the missing books, or to his pursuit of Kate?

One of the stolen books turns up alongside the drowned body of a poor Oxford scholar. Another accident? Hugh certainly doesn’t think so, but it will take all of his surgeon’s skills to prove.

Church Secretary — Cindy Preston (Debbie Viguie)

Cindy and Jeremiah come from two different worlds, even though they work right next door to each other. Cindy is a strong Christian who lives a normal but somewhat dull life, working as a church secretary. Jeremiah is a Reformed rabbi with a mysterious past full of danger and excitement. But one eventful Easter/Passover week, the two find themselves working together to solve a murder and stop a serial killer from striking again. Solving the mystery should put an end to their alliance, but the church secretary and the rabbi quickly find themselves enmeshed in another mystery. Soon the two form a friendly alliance and friendship, exploring personal history and faith and growing closer with each passing adventure. Despite their differences Cindy and Jeremiah find a lot of common ground.

Crime Scene Cleaner — Gabby St. Claire (Christy Barritt)

Gabby St. Claire dropped out of school on her way to completing a degree in forensic science. Instead, she did the next best thing: she started her own crime scene cleaning business. When a routine cleaning job uncovers a murder weapon the police overlooked, she realizes that the wrong person is in jail. But the owner of the weapon is willing to do anything to keep Gabby quiet. With the help of her neighbor, Riley Thomas, Gabby plays detective. But can Riley help her before another murder occurs?

 

 

English Teacher — Amelia Prentice (E. E. Kennedy)

Amelia Prentice, a forty-something high school English teacher comfortable in her predictable routine, regains consciousness after tripping over the corpse of a former student in the safest of places, the public library. Returning to the classroom, she tries to pretend nothing happened. But when it becomes obvious that the victim’s death wasn’t an accident and she is now a murder suspect, she realizes that her cozy small-town life in New York’s Adirondack region will never be the same.
 
Crazy things begin to happen: The victim’s mother disappears. Amelia’s friend Lily is thrown overboard from the Lake Champlain ferryboat. A mysterious millionaire from Montreal seems determined to buy Amelia’s house. The school nurse is viciously attacked by a student. Amelia’s old beau Gil suddenly seems determined to rekindle their romance. Amelia is carjacked, and of course, there’s the Lake Champlain Monster . . . 
 
It will take all Amelia’s wisdom, humor, and faith to figure out what’s going on and embrace the new life that lies ahead. If she survives.

Forensic Artist — Gwen Marcy (Carrie Stuart Parks)

In 1857, a wagon train in Utah was assaulted by a group of militant Mormons calling themselves the Avenging Angels. One hundred and forty people were murdered, including unarmed men, women, and children. The Mountain Meadows Massacre remains controversial to this day–but the truth may be written on the skulls of the victims.
When renowned forensic artist Gwen Marcey is recruited to reconstruct the faces of recently unearthed victims at Mountain Meadows, she isn’t expecting more than an interesting gig . . . and a break from her own hectic life.

But when Gwen stumbles on the ritualized murder of a young college student, her work on the massacre takes on a terrifying new aspect, and research quickly becomes a race against modern-day fundamentalist terror.
As evidence of a cover-up mounts–a cover-up spanning the entire history of the Mormon church–Gwen finds herself in the crosshairs of a secret society bent on fulfilling prophecy and revenging old wrongs.

Can a forensic artist reconstruct two centuries of suppressed history . . . before it repeats itself?

In A Cry from the Dust, Carrie Stuart Parks utilizes her own background as a celebrated, FBI-trained forensic artist to blend fact and fiction into a stunning mystery.

Housewife — Tess Spenser (Heather Day Gilbert)

Child of the Appalachian mountains, Tess Spencer has experienced more than her share of heartache. The Glock-wielding, knife-carrying housewife knows how to survive whatever life throws at her. But when an anonymous warning note shows up in her best friend Miranda’s mailbox — a note written in a dead woman’s handwriting — Tess quickly discovers that ghosts are alive and well in Buckneck, West Virginia. Hot on a cold trail, she must use limited clues and her keen insight into human nature to unmask the killer…or the next victim might be Tess herself. Tinged with the supernatural and overshadowed by the mountains’ lush, protective presence, this twisting psychological mystery is the first in A Murder in the Mountains series.

Limo Driver — Andi McConnell (Lorena McCourtney)

Downsized from her job.
Dumped by her boyfriend.
Depressed about that upcoming 6-0 birthday.
Not a good week for Andi McConnell.

But now there’s good news: She’s just inherited a limousine, a long, sleek, black limousine, from an eccentric uncle.

There’s also bad news: The dead body that soon turns up in the trunk. And Andi is the top suspect in the murder.

Enter Keegan “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, former TV detective, very interested in the case – and in Andi. As they work together to solve the crime, a big question looms: when the bullets start flying, are the windows in Andi’s limo really bullet proof?

Night Watchman — Ray Quinn (Mark Mynhier)

Eleven months ago, Ray Quinn was a tough, quick-witted Orlando homicide detective at the top of his game–until a barrage of bullets ended his career…and his partner’ s life.

Now medically retired with a painful handicap, Ray battles the haunting guilt for his partner’s death. Numbing the pain with alcohol and attitude, Ray takes a job as a night watchman at a swanky Orlando condo.

But when a pastor and an exotic dancer are found dead in one of the condos in an apparent murder-suicide, Ray can no longer linger in the shadows. The pastor’s sister is convinced her brother was framed and begs Ray to take on an impossible case — to challenge the evidence and clear her brother’s name.

Ray reluctantly pulls the threads of this supposedly dead-end case only to unravel a murder investigation so deep that it threatens to turn the Orlando political landscape upside down and transform old friends into new enemies. As Ray chases down leads and interrogates suspects, someone is watching his every move, someone determined to keep him from ever finding out the truth — at any cost.

Nun — Sister Evangeline Devine (Lynne Hinton)

Sister Eve knows God moves in mysterious ways. And Eve adores a good mystery. Especially a murder.

Two decades into her calling at a New Mexico monastery, Sister Evangeline Divine breaks her daily routine when a police officer appears, carrying a message from her father. Sister Eve is no stranger to the law, having grown up with a police captain turned private detective. She’s seen her fair share of crime―and knows a thing or two about solving mysteries.

But when Captain Jackson Divine needs her to return home and help him recover from surgery, Sister Eve finds herself taking on his latest case.

A Hollywood director has disappeared, and the sultry starlet he’s been running around with isn’t talking. When the missing man turns up dead, Captain Divine’s case escalates into a full-blown murder case, and Sister Eve’s crime-solving instincts kick in with an almost God-given grace.

Soon Sister Eve finds herself soul-searching every step of the way: How can she choose between the vocation in her heart and the job in her blood?

Recovery Specialist — Landry Parker and Nickolai Baptiste (Robin Caroll)

Former Army MP Landry Parker fell into the recovery specialist role quite by accident — to help her ailing father. Now that she’s on her own, she is determined to prove herself and honor her family legacy.

After being shot in the line of duty, former police officer Nickolai Baptiste became a recovery specialist, and he’s good at his job — maybe even the best.
           
A potential client pits Landry and Nickolai against one another to find the Dutchman’s Lost Gold Mine map that was stolen from her murdered husband, and the potential payday is too enticing to pass up. The trail takes them from New Orleans to Weaver’s Needle in Arizona where legend claims the mine is hidden. Landry and Nickolai are no strangers to adventure, but the unlikely partners quickly discover there’s someone after the treasure and there are those who want to ensure the lost mine in Arizona’s Superstition Mountain stays lost forever.

Can Landry and Nickolai work together despite their distrust of each other to save the legend before more innocent lives are lost? Will they find the real treasure isn’t the gold, but something more valuable . . . true love and understanding?

What do you do?

Could you solve mysteries too?

 

 

 

Book Review: The Cover Story

17 Jul

A bizarre hit-and-run brings Branigan Powers back to the crime-solving beat.

A fatal crash involving two college students heading home for the holidays seems like an unfortunate accident. But when the surviving girl wakens, she tells a curious story of the vehicle that forced them off the road–an old-fashioned, 1950s-style hearse.

Reporter Branigan Powers delves into the mystery that takes her to the college campus, and leads her into dangerous fraternity and sorority pledge parties.

Reunited with the homeless Malachi Martin, who is so adept at seeing what isn’t there rather than what is, Branigan must uncover what is really going on at the college before other students are put in danger.

This second installment in the author’s first cozy mystery series delves into the world of newspapers and life on the streets — both of which the author knows well.

Deb Richardson-Moore was a reporter for The Greenville (SC) News for 27 years before earning a Master of Divinity degree and becoming pastor of the Triune Mercy Center, a non-denominational mission church with outreach to Greenville’s homeless population.

Her first book, The Weight of Mercy, chronicled her first three turbulent years among her homeless congregants.
When her publisher (Lion Hudson LLC in England) asked for a second book, Deb pivoted to fiction and wrote a murder mystery that has a homeless encampment as a backdrop. The Cantaloupe Thief is a puzzling whodunit that explores what happens when an entire group of people is unseen, unheard, unrecognized.

Deb is a graduate of Wake Forest University and Erskine Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Vince, have three grown children, and live in Greenville, SC.

My Impressions:

The Cover Story is the second installment in Deb Richardson-Moore’s Braningan Powers Mystery series. Combining a small town setting with real-life issues of homelessness, this novel has a depth that is not always found in the cozy genre. It is, of course, first and foremost a mystery, and a puzzling one at that. I did not see the ending coming despite the clues revealed by the author. An investigative reporter and a police detective are two characters on the case, something fairly standard in a mystery novel. But the addition of a homeless man as investigator, someone invisible to most regular people, is genius. The Cover Story is a great addition to your mystery library, and one I can recommend.

The story opens with a hit and run that leaves one college coed dead and another seriously injured. The facts of the case seem unbelievable, until the vague memories of the surviving victim are revealed over time. There are suspects galore, and the questions concerning the case are seemingly unanswerable. But with the main characters investigating in their specific worlds — newspaper reporter, policeman, and homeless man — they, and the readers discover just whodunit. Appearances are truely deceiving.

Author Richardson-Moore has vast experience with the homeless, and her passion and compassion are revealed within the pages of The Cover Story. Malachi Martin, a veteran living on the streets, is a very intriguing character. Street smart and intelligent, he is able to uncover things because of his invisibility. Either inadvertently or by choice, those living a normal life don’t see him. But his unique position allows for him to see things many wish to hide.

I really enjoyed this unusual and engaging mystery. It is the second in a series, but can be read as a standalone. But I recommend starting at the beginning with The Cantaloupe Thief, another excellent mystery novel.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

 

Book Review: By Cat Or By Crook

30 Jun

Rags helps to unveil some ancient mysteries Iris continues her refurbishing work at the grand old Kaiser home, but things aren’t going smoothly. Is she being stalked or is she simply spooked by what she hears at night kicking around in the attic? She certainly didn’t expect to hire gravediggers, nor did she anticipate the discovery of a large fortune amidst the chaos and mayhem at the old mobster hangout. Of course, Rags is on duty. He helps to reveal some decades-old family secrets and he finds a murderer’s calling card in the most unexpected place.

 

Patricia Fry has been writing for publication for over 40 years, having been fortunate enough to establish a career doing what she loves. Hundreds — maybe thousands — of her articles have appeared in over 500 different publications and she has published books on a variety of topics — grandparenting, local history, youth mentoring, journaling and many aspects of publishing and book promotion. After years of writing nonfiction, in 2012, she decided to branch out and try writing fiction and the Klepto Cat Mysteries were created.

The Klepto Cat Mysteries feature Rags, an ordinary cat with a most extraordinary habit — he’s a kleptomaniac. Currently, Patricia is producing anywhere from three to five books per year in both ebook format and in print.

My Impressions:

By Cat Or By Crook is a cozy mystery featuring Rags the kleptomaniac cat and his owner Savannah. Savannah and her husband Michael are veterinarians and have numerous pets. So do their friends and family, giving this book animal-lover appeal. The book revolves around a renovation of a house with a very mysterious background. Rumors of missing people, murders, and gangsters abound. The novel is the 20th in the series, so there are relationships between characters that go unexplained. I was a bit lost at first, but soon caught on to who was related to whom. This one was a quick and easy read with a few twists. An ominous thread is left unraveled at the end, but I think it was more for effect than a story for another book. By Cat Or By Crook can be termed a clean read although some very mild language is used. Although this one really didn’t click with me (I just never could get connected with the story or the characters), it has numerous 5-star reviews on Amazon. Be sure to check them out.

(Thanks to the author for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Halloween Cozies

25 Oct

Last year I posted a Top 10 List of Spooky Christian Fiction for the Halloween Freebie. But I realize not everyone likes creepy-crawly scary. 😉 So here are a few cozy mysteries that will give you that spooky vibe without keeping you up at night! To find more Halloween treats, check out The Broke And The Bookish Top 10 Tuesday.

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Top 5 Slightly Spooky Cozy Mysteries

 

Agatha Christie is considered the Queen of Mystery and her Hercule Poirot series is a favorite for road trips. Her novel, Hallowe’en Party will have you sleuthing right along with Poirot.

Lillian Jackson Braun was the author of the beloved Cat Who series featuring two inquisitive and intuitive cats who aided their owner in solving crimes in upstate Michigan. The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts is a must read for fans of this series.

Janet Evanovich is the popular and prolific creator of the Stephanie Plum series. Her Between The Numbers series features quirkier characters than normal who have a spooky side as well. Plum Spooky is her Halloween offering.

Every book in Carolyn Haines’ Sarah Booth Delaney series features a ghostly sidekick who gives advice from the beyond to help solve the case. Hallowed Bones is a good place to start in this long-running series.

Debbie Viguie has a fun mystery series featuring a church secretary and a rabbi, unlikely partners in crime-solving. The Psalm 23 Mysteries series often revolves around holidays and her Halloween edition is titled I Will Fear No Evil.

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What are your Halloween reading recommendations?

Book Review: Murder Mezzo Forte

14 Jul

51FFdJqPxAL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_He is a reclusive history professor with musical hallucinations, she a headstrong professor of religion, a converted Wiccan. Earlier, they solved a campus murder, but now police say they formed two-thirds of an illicit love triangle with a newly-murdered female colleague and they’re probably guilty of her murder. A leak of the alleged scandal to the college administration threatens their jobs. Their desperate attempt to prove themselves innocent of the triangle and the murder plunges them into a tangle of unsavory corporate relationships among college trustees. And it puts their lives in danger from a mysterious criminal organization that seems to have tentacles everywhere.

Can this ill-matched pair’s stumbling efforts succeed against the entrenched forces of the police, the college’s incompetent administration, and that powerful but unseen criminal organization? If not, they may end up unemployed, in prison, or suffering a fate much worse . . .

 

 

DTaylor-384Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he earned a PhD in Renaissance literature and taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. His publications include three suspense novels, one historical novel, and a book of poetry. He lives near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and essays on current topics.

Find out more about Donn at http://www.donntaylor.com.

 

My Impressions:

History professor Press Barclay and former Wiccan Mara Thorn are back to investigate in the second book in the Preston Barclay Mystery series by Donn Taylor. In Murder Mezzo Forte, the two are on the verge of losing everything — their jobs, their reputations and their lives — as they try to find out who killed friend and colleague Mitra Fortier. This professor seems to have known too much and that’s what got her killed.

Taylor brings back old characters and introduces new in his college community based novel. He does a good job of covering back stories from the previous book, so this one can easily be read as a standalone. It has all the classic elements of a cozy mystery — quirky characters, humor, and intrepid amateur sleuths. But Taylor adds a bit extra as he explores the roles of reality and fantasy in our lives. Many of the characters indulge in the fantastical, making up scenarios that just don’t fit the facts. As Press gets further into his investigation, he recognizes his own lapses as well. Both Press and Mara struggle with faith issues as they deny their growing attraction. In the end, the two make a good team, a fact I hope is explored in future books.

A good choice for fans of cozies, Murder Mezzo Forte combines a puzzling mystery with deeper issues to think about. I’m looking forward to more in the series.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to LitFuse for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Book Review: Rhapsody in Red

13 Jul

510cgTf5ofL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_It was a bad day to find a corpse on campus. Preston Barclay is a self-made recluse (and he likes it that way). Teaching college history allows him time to grieve the loss of his pianist wife and find relief from the musical hallucinations that have been playing in his head since her death. But when he and headstrong colleague, Mara Thorn, discover the body of another instructor on campus, Press’s monotonous solitude is shaken up. When the preliminary evidence singles out Press and Mara, they must take some chances, including trusting each other, to build their own defense by bending the rules just a little bit. They form an unlikely alliance to stay ahead of the police, the college’s wary and incompetent administration, and whoever is trying to get away with murder. Or else they both might end up unemployed, behind bars, or worse…

 

 

DTaylor-384Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he earned a PhD in Renaissance literature and taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. His publications include three suspense novels, one historical novel, and a book of poetry. He lives near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and essays on current topics.

Find out more about Donn at http://www.donntaylor.com.

 

My Impressions:

There is just something about a cozy mystery — I love the witty dialog, the tongue in cheek humor, the quirky characters and the puzzling mystery. You get that and more in Donn Taylor’s novel, Rhapsody in Red. Professors Preston Barclay and Mara Thorne join investigative forces when they are targeted as suspects in a colleague’s murder. As they get closer to finding out just whodunit, the danger from the real murderer increases. Along the way they develop a friendship that just might become something more.

Taylor has created an interesting community in Overton College, er, University. Political correctness and secularization run amok as the church-supported institution strives to attract students. Characters run the gamut of philosophies and ideals with enough oddballs to keep the chuckles coming. There’s also a grudge-holding homicide detective that you’ll love to hate.  The two main characters, widower Preston and Wiccan Mara, are oil and water at first, but soon put aside their differences in order to prove their innocence. Suspects are plenty as many people wanted the victim dead. That’s another plus for this cozy — the victim is not mourned by the characters or the reader. A strong faith thread runs throughout the novel as Press and Mara work out their relationships with God. With lots of literary and musical allusions and references, Rhapsody in Red will also appeal to music and literature lovers.

So if you are looking for a mystery to keep you guessing and thinking, check out Rhapsody in Red.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(I purchased a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Book Review: A Fool And His Monet

28 Mar

Unknown-3 Serena Jones has a passion for recovering lost and stolen art–one that’s surpassed only by her zeal to uncover the truth about the art thief who murdered her grandfather. She’s joined the FBI Art Crime Team with the secret hope that one of her cases will lead to his killer. Now, despite her mother’s pleas to do something safer–like get married–Serena’s learning how to go undercover to catch thieves and black market traders.

When a local museum discovers an irreplaceable Monet missing, Jones leaps into action. The clues point in different directions, and her boss orders her to cease investigating her most promising suspect. But determined to solve the case and perhaps discover another clue in her grandfather’s murder, she pushes ahead, regardless of the danger.

Excerpt

 

press-kit-headshotSandra Orchard is a multi-award-winning author of mysteries and romantic suspense She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America and The Word Guild (Canada). A mother of three grown children, she lives in Niagara, Canada with her real-life-hero husband and writes full time . . . when not doting on her young grandchildren. Learn more about Sandra’s books and bonus features at http://www.SandraOrchard.com or connect at http://www.Facebook.com/SandraOrchard.

 

My Impressions:

I really love a cozy mystery — a puzzle to keep me guessing, fun characters, and a plot that often combines drama, romance and more than a few chuckles. I got all that and more from Sandra Orchard’s novel, A Fool And His Monet, book 1 in the Serena Jones Mysteries. If you are fan of this genre, you’ll love investigating along with kick-butt FBI agent Serena!

Serena Jones is a newly minted FBI agent on the Art Crime Team. Charged with investigating stolen art, Serena takes her job seriously even as she has to contend with a nosy great-aunt, a mother who just wants grandchildren, suspects determined to throw her off the chase and a phobia involving elevators. Two hunky men, co-worker Tanner and building super Nate, create a bit of confusion as well. But Serena is determined to get her man!

I loved the characters in A Fool And His Monet. Serena doesn’t shy away from dangerous situations even though she hides her fears. Motivated by the unsolved murder of her grandfather, Serena is tenacious to uncover the truth. A few of her family members and their friends offer a bit of quirkiness to give this mystery a definite cozy feel. Potential romantic interests are introduced, and I look forward to finding out which man will win Serena’s affections. The crime — a museum theft — kept me guessing. There were lots of suspicious characters in this book! The pace of the novel with Serena’s first person commentary was quick, making this book an enjoyable diversion. The case is wrapped up in book 1, but there’s more to come from Serena, Aunt Martha, Tanner and Nate in upcoming books, including a Another Day, Another Dali due out in the Fall.

All in all, I enjoyed A Fool And His Monet and look forward to more from Serena.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Revell for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)