Review: Bewaji’s Ankara Adventures (The Aso-Ebi Chronicles, #1) by Sharon Abimbola Salu

I was delighted to discover yet another mystery novella with no murder. Not that I don’t enjoy the ones with murders, but there are so many varieties of crime, why not investigate something else for change? And this one is a humorous cozy without cuteness or quaintness, too. With an urban Nigerian setting, it’s truly different.

I loved the main character, Bewaji. She gets lucky in her inquiries, but the luck is plausible, she’s aware of it, and she uses it to do some sleuthing. Though the book is written in the third person, the narrative voice is clearly hers, as much inside her head as the usual first-person cozy narration. And Bewaji is funny. Any book that can make me laugh out loud is a winner.

Review: Black and White and Dead All Over by Anna Castle

Colorful Cozy with Texas Sass

I love Anna Castle’s way with words. The first person narration of this book has so much personality, humor and style, I could have enjoyed it for the writing alone, but the setting, characters and plot are equal to the words. The fictional town feels true to the region, a mix of Anglo and Hispanic, of Southern and Western. Athletic, witty, and independent, photographer Penny Trigg stands out among cozy mystery protagonists, and the book as whole is refreshingly free of the features that have made many cozies too much alike in recent years. If you’re allergic to cuteness, no worries. You can read this book with pleasure.

Being a little too impulsive for her own good, Penny makes some decisions that get her in trouble, and her path to getting out of it leads her into the citizens of Lost Hat’s secrets, the investigation of two murders, and of course, more trouble.

The first character to die was so real and likeable, I had no discomfort at all with Penny’s involvement in finding out why he died and who did it. Amateurs’ motives need to be plausible, and her stakes are high. She has additional good reasons to investigate murder and blackmail, as does her new friend Krystle, an equally original character, not the typical sidekick. I especially loved the scene where Krystle talks Penny into a reckless attempt at sleuthing, and Murphy’s Law kicks in with hilarious results.

There’s a third member of the sleuthing trio: intelligent, cautious, and self-effacing Tillie. She’s an asset as well as a contrast. Their investigative teamwork ranges from adventurous and funny to patient and still funny, and their encounters with their suspects take the reader on a colorful tour of Lost Hat. I didn’t figure out whodunit. The last two suspects stayed in the running right up until the end.

The romantic subplot is tightly integrated into the mystery plot, as are Penny’s work as a photographer and her boyfriend’s computer expertise. Every element serves the story and gives the reader’s reasons to care what happens.

I seldom binge read a series, but I’m already on the second book. Stay tuned for the next review.

*****

Universal link: https://books2read/black-white-dead

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1457418389

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/black-white-dead-all-over-anna-castle/1121869639

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Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Black-White-Dead-All-Over-ebook/dp/B00WFISKMA

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-White-Dead-Texas-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00WFISKMA

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.co.ca/Black-White-Dead-Texas-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00WFISKMA

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.co.au/Black-White-Dead-Texas-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00WFISKMA

Review: Definitely Dead by Lois Winston

I often enjoy a mystery regardless of solving it myself or not, for various reasons. In this case, the pacing and the humor kept me so amused I forgot to try to solve the murder.

Talkative, a bit flaky, and quite attached to her designer shoes and handbags, Gracie Elliot is one of those characters who would drive me crazy if I had to meet her, but she’s hilarious in print. Her inner dialogue shows enough self-awareness that her flaws become funny rather than obnoxious. Her involvement in solving a crime is refreshingly up-front and intentional. She thinks the fastest way to get the murder of a client in her senior match-making service solved is to jump in and do it herself—and make her husband help. As with any amateur sleuth mystery, there’s an element of the implausible requiring suspension of disbelief, but within the context of the plot, characters and setting, Gracie’s actions and motives work, and so does her husband Blake’s more reluctant involvement. Their marriage is a delight for the reader, full of wit and affection.

That said, there’s nothing saccharine about this cozy mystery. Some cozies are just too cozy to live, and I can’t finish them. This one is tart rather than sweet. Gracie is a sharp and critical observer of her fellow humans’ appearances, personalities, mannerisms, fashion sense and home decor—which is an asset in the both the mystery and the comedy departments. As well as being an aficionado of quality handbags and shoes, she’s a former fabric designer (laid off and desperate to make a living—hence the senior dating business), and she can assess a woman’s income and lifestyle from her living room and her clothes and accessories, which makes Gracie a suitable detective for the particular crime she’s looking into. I was so amused by the parade of suspects, especially the ones with bad taste, that I didn’t care which one of them had done it.

Gracie aspires to become a romance writer, and her observations on learning the craft of writing add an extra layer of enjoyment for a writer reading the book.

For sales links click here.

 

 

Review: The Brim Reaper by Dianne Vallere

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Diane Vallere uses fashion brilliantly to show character. She understands its place in culture and history. And she uses it to plant clues. I’m not a fashionista—more the opposite—but I loved getting immersed in Samantha Kidd’s personal and professional world of style. She’s a feisty, funny, independent protagonist, determined to help a friend. Vallere successfully sustains the plausibility of the amateur sleuth when Samantha’s good friend and former colleague Eddie becomes a possible suspect for a fashion-related murder at a museum where he’s in change of an exhibit featuring the hat collection of a famous neo-noire actress. The crimes to be solved include hat theft as well as murder and attempted murder.

The author strikes a good balance between humor and mystery, with a touch of romance. The characters and their relationships as well as the well-planted red herrings the kept me so involved, the pace never slowed down and I didn’t figure out whodunit until Samantha did.

This is the third book in the Style and Error series. Vallere handles backstory so smoothly a reader could begin here and feel neither lost nor bogged down in catch-up details, but I recommend going back to the beginning and getting to know Samantha from the start.

sales links on https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/books-by-genre-mystery/

Author’s web site: https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/books-by-genre-mystery/

Two Reviews: Short and Sweet, Short and Scary

WinstonCrewel Intentions

Lois Winston’s Crewel Intentions is a mini-sequel to the first book in the Anastasia Pollock crafting mystery series. It’s light, tight and cozy, with the mystery neatly set up and solved in a few chapters. Anastasia is as delightful a narrator as ever, with her humor and knowledge of crafts. A fun read for anyone who enjoyed Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, and is curious about what happened to Erica next.

Many of Winston’s books are listed on this site with buy links:

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/books-by-genre-mystery

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/books-by-genre-romantic-suspense

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/short-story-singles-and-collections

LSDL Cover copy

DV Berkom’s Let Sleeping Dogs Lie is a chilling mystery/thriller set in the Arizona desert.

Skinwalkers, A woman kidnapped by a bad boyfriend. Clues in petroglyphs behind an abandoned gas station.

I kept wondering how Berkom could tie it up in twenty-three pages—it just kept rolling, getting more intense. But she pulls it off brilliantly. This was my first venture into the Kate Jones series, and won’t be my last. A boxed set is in my Nook and I’ll be reading it soon.

Buy links and information about Berkom’s other books can be found at http://dvberkom.com

You’ll also find some of her work on the mystery page on this site.

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/books-by-genre-mystery

Page-turning Comedy: Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun by Lois Winston

WinstonGlue_Gun_book_pageCrafts editor Anastasia Pollack is at her funniest and most determined when her luck is at its worst, and she’s just been run over by the bad luck bus of life. It may be hard to imagine how hilarious a book can be when the protagonist’s husband dies and leaves her broke and in debt and with a Communist mother-in-law who moves in with her—but it just gets funnier. And though I cringed at the image I found the weird creativity of the murder itself it comical.

Early on, I figured out whodunit but this was still a nonstop page-turner. I enjoyed reading to see if I was right. Anastasia is an irresistible character. While some of the comedy—her mother’s many marriages, her parrot that quotes Shakespeare at the perfect moment—is larger than life, the protagonist feels real, and so do her teenaged sons and her relationship with them. Winston strikes exactly the right balance between believable and over-the-top. The pacing of the plot kept me asking how Anastasia was going to get out of each crisis and when and how the killer would get caught. The narrative style is so engaging, I think I could read a book without a plot by Winston and still be entertained.

For those who enjoy the truly cozy aspect of a cozy mystery, there are craft projects at the back of the book—directions how to do the projects Anastasia works on in the course of the story. There’s also a tempting sneak peek at the next book in the series, which promises to be equally amusing and well crafted.

You can find Lois Winston’s books on the mystery page, the short story page, and under her pseudonym Emma Carlyle on the romantic suspense page.

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/books-by-genre-mystery/

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/books-by-genre-romantic-suspense/

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/short-story-singles-and-collections/

 

 

Review: Designer Dirty Laundry by Diane Vallere

VAllere1-DESIGNER DIRTY LAUNDRY

Samantha Kidd leaves her sixty-hour-a-week job as a buyer for a major New York store to work as a trend specialist for a store in her old home town. Her first day on the job, things start going wrong.  Within minutes, she sees her new boss lying dead in an elevator. In a light mystery like this, the author has to walk a fine line between trivializing death and loss, and writing humor around it rather than about it. Samantha’s reaction to her boss’s death is human, appropriate for the level of connection she had to him. It’s an effective beginning which made me care about both the main character and the mystery.

As a narrator, she’s likeable and energetic, with a self-deprecating sense of humor. Her personal story is engaging—in one career move she is both starting over and coming home. She’s better cut out for being a trend expert than a detective, but her motive for trying to take on that role is solid. It would be a spoiler if I told you more, but she couldn’t possibly have a higher personal stake. In an amateur sleuth story, I find it more believable when the amateur is highly motivated like this, and when she isn’t always good at detecting—doesn’t completely outsmart the professionals. In her determined effort figure out who committed the crime and why, Samantha makes progress but also misses major clues and makes a few near-fatal mistakes.

Though a couple of details in the final resolution of the mystery stretched my suspension of disbelief, the plot kept me turning pages, curious what would happen next. I was rooting for Samantha to notice those clues she overlooked. Even though I’d picked up on them, I still didn’t know whodunit, only that these things were clues to something. Overall, this book is tightly crafted. The characters are colorful but not caricatured, and the romance subplot shows promise for the series. I enjoyed the setting in the fashion industry. It’s fun when a protagonist has profession about which I was previously ignorant, and I learn something about it in the course of the story. A cozy mystery with good characters is like a well-made dessert with quality ingredients. Indulge yourself in this one: it’s a delightful treat.

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/books-by-genre-mystery