Mystery Round Up

Julie Mulhern’s The Deep End is the first in her new Country Club Murders series, set in Kansas City The Deep Endin the 1970s. When Ellison Russell goes for her usual early morning swim in the country club pool, finding a body in the water is only the beginning of her problems. The body is her husband’s mistress. Her husband is missing. And her oh-so-proper and oh-so-controlling mother is appalled. As Ellison sets out to discover the truth behind the murder, and as more bodies turn up, she makes some discoveries about herself and what she wants from life as well.

The Deep End is a good mystery with a clever solution; it’s also fun for the references to the pop culture and politics of the 1970s, the absence of cell phones and computers, and the supporting cast of eccentric characters. And there’s an attractive police detective (with a little surprise of his own) and a charming lawyer, and another installment (Guaranteed to Bleed) waiting on my Kindle.

 

Lowcountry Bordello is the fourth installment in Susan M. Boyer’s Liz Talbot mystery series. Liz is Lowcountry Bordelloonly days away from her wedding, her mother and sister planning up a storm, when her friend Robert asks her to follow his wife Olivia, also Liz’ close friend, for a few nights. Busy with the wedding, and unwilling to get into the middle of her friends’ marriage, Liz declines. But then Olivia calls, terrified, sure she’s seen Robert’s corpse. In the parlor of a high-class bordello.

Liz can’t stay out of it now, so with the help of her partner/fiance Nate and her ghostly friend Colleen, she sets out to peel away the layers of mystery surrounding the bordello on Church Street in Charleston, while dodging her mother and a dictatorial wedding planner. As usual, the city of Charleston and Liz’ home on the island of Stella Maris area as much a part of the story as the mystery.

 

Tara Holloway, gun-toting Special Agent of the IRS, is back in Death, Taxes, and Cheap Sunglasses. While Tara’s boyfriend, Special Agent Nick Pratt, and DEA Agent Death, Taxes and Cheap SunglassesChristina Marquez are off to infiltrate a drug cartel run by the murderous El Cuchillo, Tara and her partner Eddie Barton tackle a variety of cases, including an art museum that doesn’t seem to know much about art (macaroni mosaics, anyone?), a wild life refuge that may not be as charitable as it claims, an identity thief (that one sends Tara to a toga party—dressed in a fitted sheet), and a charity scam on Facebook. Throw in some forbidden legwork for Nick, and Tara is up to her neck in excitement. This is a series I never miss (and I love Kelly’s Paw and Order series just as much).

 

Aaron Elkins’ Switcheroo is the latest adventure in the career of forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver, the Skeleton Detective. I’ve been following this Switcherooseries, one of my favorites, for many years. Part of the charm of these books, beyond the mysteries, are the settings, as Gideon and his wife stumble into cases all over the world. This one is set on Jersey in the Channel Isles, and moves from the German occupation during World War II to the present day. (The first book in the series came out in 1982, but Gideon has only aged about five years — I wish I new that secret!) Switcheroo is more about people (and food) than bones (of which there are actually very few in evidence) and thoroughly enjoyable.

Recent Reading: Friends

Today I am blatantly promoting books by friends, women I have met through RWA’s Golden Heart contest, but I wouldn’t steer you wrong. These are books, and writers, that I enjoy.

Nan Dixon is a Starcatcher (2011) and Lucky 13 (2013) GH finalist. Her debut novel, Southern Comforts, offers the reader a lovely trip to Savannah (with a side trip to Boston) and food and wine descriptions that will leave her mouth watering. (Psst: the recipe for those brandy pecan bars is on Nan’s website!).

Southern ComfortsAbby Fitzgerald is determined to make a success of her family’s bed and Breakfast, Fitzgerald House, but her long term plan is to add her own restaurant, Southern Comforts, and prove her standing as a top-drawer chef. And despite the business assistance of her two sisters, Bess and Dolley, she’s set on doing it herself. Her irresponsible father and the chef who dumped her in New York, blocking her culinary career, have led her to distrust men—and their money.

And money is what Grayson Smythe has a lot of. The Boston businessman has booked a six-month stay at Fitzgerald House while he oversees the conversion of a warehouse to condos, and Abby’s sister has forgotten to tell her that the deal includes dinner. Gray quickly falls in love with Abby’s cooking, but admitting that he’s falling in love with her is another matter. And persuading her to trust his good intentions is even harder.

I thoroughly enjoyed Southern Comforts and I’m looking forward to reading Bess and Dolley’s stories one of these days.

Heather Ashby is a Firebird (2012) GH finalist, and a Navy veteran (and long-time Navy wife) herself. UnforgetttableWith co-author (and retired Marine) Christopher Bergeron, she wraps up her four-book Love in the Fleet series with Unforgettable, a follow up to the previous book, Never Forget, continuing the story of Royal Navy Lieutenant Gwyn Pritchard and Marine Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor and adding a romance for Navy pilot Mike Nickolopoulos and Marine pilot Cate Hawkins. Unforgettable also ties up the stories of the 9/11 spirits trapped aboard the U.S.S. New York. Ashby and Bergeron blend romance and healing among the officers with exciting military action and suspense, producing a very satisfying finale to the series.

Susan Boyer is also a Firebird. Her 2012 GH finalist mystery novel, Lowcountry Boil, won an Agatha Award for Best First Book. Lowcountry Boneyard is the third installment in Susan’s Liz Talbot mystery series. Liz is a private investigator based on Stella Maris, an island off the coast of South Carolina, a ferry ride from Charleston. She works cases with her partner Nate Andrews and occasional well-placed help from the ghost of Colleen, her long-dead high school best friend, whose mission in the afterlife is to protect Stella Maris.

Lowcountry BoneyardIn Lowcountry Boneyard, Liz and Nate take on the case of missing heiress Kent Heyward, cutting their way through long-buried family secrets and rivalries. They have some problems of their own to solve, too—their business may do well with Liz based on Stella Maris and Nate a few hours away in Greenville, but their romantic relationship is suffering.

I’m looking forward to Liz’ next case (Lowcountry Bordello, due out in November) and hope there will be many more. By the way, if you enjoy cozy regional mysteries, check out Susan and Liz’ publisher, Henery Press.

Recent Reading

This evening I finished reading The Sound and the Furry, the sixth Chet and Bernie mystery by Spencer Quinn.  I enjoy this series so much that I went to my local Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago looking for the latest installment, and it did not disappoint.  The mysteries are always interesting, but the real charm of the books is their narrator, Chet, the canine half of the Little Detective Agency (Bernie Little being the human partner).  Chet’s interpretation of what’s going on is often hilarious, but clearly Bernie couldn’t have a better partner.  Open the book just about anywhere and you’ll find Chet’s take on Bernie (who can do no wrong), humans in general, and the joys of being a dog.

The Sound and the FurryHere’s an example:  “Batshit crazy,” Scooter said, hanging me up right there,  The night a bat flew into the house, back in the Leda days, and Bernie chasing after it with a broom, swatting and swatting the air!  Had I ever been more excited in my life?  The screams of Leda’s: I can still hear them.  Had the bat left any poop behind?  Would I have missed something like that? Does the bear shit in the woods?  That was too much.  I lost the thread completely.

Chet loses the thread quite often, distracted by a stray bit of bacon or an equally stray memory, but he always comes through for Bernie.  In The Sound and the Furry, the partners leave their Arizona home territory for a trip to Louisiana, where Chet enjoys some fascinating new smells and has a close encounter with an alligator.

Another mystery series I am enjoying comes from my friend Susan M. Boyer.  Last year Susan’s Lowcountry Boil won the Lowcountry BombshellAgatha Award for best first mystery.  Lowcountry Bombshell, the second adventure of South Carolina private investigator Liz Talbot, is, if anything, even better, involving a client who appears to be Marilyn Monroe’s doppelganger.  Calista McQueen was born exactly fifty years after Marilyn, and her life has mirrored the late actress’ in too many ways.  As she approaches the anniversary of Marilyn’s death, it becomes Liz’s job to make sure Calista doesn’t become a dead ringer.   By the time she reaches a solution, Liz finds herself in as much danger as Calista.

The Lowcountry mysteries are set on the coastal island of Stella Maris, populated with Liz’s family and friends (including one occasionally helpful ghost), and reading them is like going home with Liz for a visit.  I recommend them highly.  And if you like cozy mysteries, check out the rest of the Henery Press catalog.

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