Canine Cops

Of Mutts and Men is the tenth book in Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie series. Bernie Little is the proprietor of the Little Detective Agency, and Chet, who weighs something over a hundred pounds and flunked out of K9 training on the last day (he thinks a cat may have been involved), is his loyal partner and narrator of the books. Needless to say, Chet is easily distracted (squirrel! bacon crumb!), but he’s always there when Bernie needs him, ready to grab a perp by the pant leg.

Chet and Bernie live in the Valley, in desert country somewhere between California and New Mexico, and Bernie has been worried for years about the depletion of the aquifer that provides water for the area. So when hydrographer Wendell Nero invites him to see something interesting in Dollhouse Canyon, Bernie is intrigued. Unfortunately, all he finds in Nero’s RV office is the scientist’s body, and not many clues.

Bernie does come up with a suspect quickly (more than the local sheriff’s deputy can manage on his own), but soon begins to wonder if he’s rounded up the wrong man. What did Nero want to show him? What’s going on at the vineyard in the next canyon? Who ended up with Nero’s laptop and cell phone?

Of Mutts and Men pits Chet and Bernie against a string of villains and sends them all around the Valley and even into Mexico in search of answers, in another excellent entry in the series. Chet and Bernie’s devotion to each other remains at the heart of these stories.

Bending the Paw is the ninth installment in Diane Kelly’s Paw Enforcement series, featuring Officer Megan Luz of the Fort Worth Police and her K-9 partner, Sergeant Brigit. In this one, Megan and Brigit team up with Detective Audrey Jackson to investigate what appears to be a particularly gruesome murder—lots of blood, but no body. Meanwhile, on her regular patrol duties, Megan searches for a conman who is cleaning up selling nonexistent roofing services to unfortunate homeowners hit by a recent hailstorm. And in between her duties, Megan is planning her wedding to Seth, her firefighter fiancé. (I’m looking forward to seeing how Brigit and Blast, Seth’s bomb-sniffing dog, fit into the wedding party.)

As always, Brigit (who doesn’t speak human and wishes Megan spoke dog) has a brief chapter between Megan’s first person narratives. Always eager to chase someone, Brigit doesn’t worry too much about anything beyond liver treats and chew toys.

Diane Kelly’s books have been on my auto-buy list for years. They always make me laugh out loud at least once. If you’re looking for a light hearted, well constructed mystery full of entertaining characters, you’ll enjoy any of her books.

“Deadly” Reading

Kate Parker continues her pre-WWII series with Deadly Travel. It’s the spring of 1939, and Olivia Denis has been recruited to fill in as a chaperone on a KinderTransport run to Germany and back. Run by local Quakers, the organization rescues German children, mostly Jewish, who are in danger under the Nazis. Olivia’s cover is to write a favorable article which will help raise money for the work, but she’s really going on an errand for spymaster Sir Malcolm Freemantle. The woman she is replacing, Alice Waterson, has been murdered, and Sir Malcolm wants to know who did it. When Olivia arrives in Berlin and checks in with the British Embassy, she’s given another assignment: smuggle the wife and sons of a German dissident and British spy who has been arrested by the Gestapo to safety in England on the KinderTransport.

When another murder occurs, Olivia is certain one of the Quaker chaperones is the killer, but how can that be? These people are Pacifists, after all. Juggling her job, Sir Malcolm’s demands, a seemingly dead end investigation, and her plans to marry Adam Redmond, Olivia has her hands full.

Kate Parker combines the serious, and frequently terrifying, circumstances of the late 1930s, as Olivia and all of England wait on edge for the war they know is coming, with domestic humor and the details of daily life. You can’t go wrong with any of her novels.

Colleen Thompson’s Deadly Texas Summer is a tense and fast-paced tale of romantic suspense. Wildlife biologist Emma Copley is studying the effect of wind turbines on endangered birds, but her project begins to unravel as she gets more and more threatening calls from her unbalanced ex-husband. When her research assistant is killed, Emma is sure her ex is somehow responsible, but the local sheriff pronounces the death an accident.

Beau Kingston, owner of the ranch who’s future may depend on the success of the wind turbines, doesn’t want to believe the researcher was murdered—he has a whole pile of other problems to worry about, including the sheriff, who is his cousin and rival for control of the ranch. But he finds it harder and harder to ignore Emma’s concerns—or Emma herself.

With the sheriff playing them against each other for his own reasons, Emma and Beau don’t know who to trust, but it’s so hard to resist their growing attraction to each other. With suspects mounting amid contradictory alibis, will Emma survive to discover the truth? Well, it’s a romance, folks. You can count on a happy ending. But getting there will be quite a struggle, with layers of suspense and mystery—and two irresistible little boys.

I’ve been missing in action for a couple of months for a number of reasons, not the least of which was WordPress moving to their new block editor. But I’ve finally overcome a couple of problems, and I have a backlog of book reviews to post. I’ll try to catch up by the end of the year. Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by.

Cozy Catch Up

Murder, Curlers & Kilts, the fifth installment in Arlene McFarlane’s charming Valentine Beaumont series, finds Valentine attending Rueland’s annual Multi-Cultural Festival. One of this year’s big attractions is a caber toss—or is it the participating men in kilts? When a kilt-clad body pops out of the pond in the middle of the park, Valentine is on the trail.

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Helped or hindered by the usual gang of beauty specialists (Valentine’s salon employees Max, Jock, and Phyllis, not to mention her arch-rival Candace), Valentine works her way through a long list of possible suspects while trying to stay under the radar of Detective Romero. In true Valentine fashion, she finds herself hanging on for dear life as she pursues the killer onto a Ferris Wheel.

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And—biggest question of all—is it true what they say about men wearing kilts? Well, Valentine may just have a chance to find out.

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Lowcountry Boondoggle is Susan M. Boyer’s ninth Liz Talbot mystery, and once again the city of Charleston and the South Carolina barrier islands are a fascinating part of the story. This time around, Liz and her husband/partner are drawn into a case by a former client, Darius Baker (Lowcountry Boomerang), whose recently-discovered son, Brantley, has become involved in a hemp farming operation. Nothing wrong with that, until the uncle of one of Brantley’s two partners is murdered and his house destroyed in a gas explosion.

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Was the hemp operation involved? The uncle, a university professor, had declined to invest. What about all those women who showed up at the professor’s funeral? Or the cloud over Brantley’s head—could he have set the fire that killed his adoptive family? And then there were two of the professor’s students, possibly involved in something shady. Not only are there plenty of suspects, the suspects are suspicious of one another.

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Lowcountry Boondoggle is another wild ride for Liz and Nate, not to mention the continuing adventures of Liz’s family, what with her father’s over-the-top Halloween yard decor and a couple of surprises from her brother Blake. I’ve enjoyed this series from the beginning, and this installment did not let me down.

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Killer Queen is the latest (and eleventh) installment in Julie Mulhern’s Country Club Mystery series, and it’s just as good as its predecessors. Ellison finds another body—in her own house. Worse, the dead woman had introduced herself to housekeeper Aggie as Mrs. Anarchy Jones. Since Anarchy has no Mrs, not even an ex, it takes a while to figure out who the dead woman is, as well as her connection to Kansas City country club society. But of course there is one. In fact there are so many connections that Ellison can’t find one suspect who had motive, means, and opportunity at the same time.

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Ellison’s supporting cast is here—her daughter Grace, her friends Libba and Jinx and the rest of the bridge-playing gals, and her parents. And—terrifying—Anarchy’s mother. Kansas City in the early 70s, when computers and cell phones dominated no one’s life, also plays its part.

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I love this series. Next one arrives in February—I’ll be waiting.

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The Luck Runs Out is the second installment in Charlotte MacLeod’s Peter Shandy mystery series. Things are definitely going wrong at Balaclava Agricultural College after someone turns the horseshoes hanging in the barn to the unlucky position. A robbery, a murder, and the pignapping of Belinda of Balaclava, a very large, very pregnant porker. Are any of these connected? It falls to Peter, with help from his new wife Helen and the towering president of the college, Thjorkeld Svenson, to untangle the mysteries.

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I read this series back in the 70s and I’m enjoying its resurrection in ebook form. Kudos to Open Road and Mysterious Press for rescuing so many older mysteries. But this one, I have to say, is riddled with typos, superfluous commas, and missing periods. I suspect that someone had the original book (probably an old paperback) scanned and formatted, without taking the essential middle step of proofreading the scanner output. If you can tolerate that, you’ll enjoy the story.

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