Three More Series Cozies

Dead in the Doorway is the second installment in Diane Kelly’s House Flipper cozy mystery series, set in Nashville. Whitney Whitaker and her cousin and business partner Buck have bought a house on Songbird Circle to restore and sell, but their plan hits a snag when Whitney and her cat, Sawdust, find the body of one of the neighbors at the foot of a staircase.

No one on the cul-de-sac liked Nelda Dolan very much, but that hardly seems like a reason to push her down the stairs of an empty house. But what was she doing in the house? Searching for something? The previous owner’s family has taken everything they might want, and their late mother, Lillian, didn’t have much to leave behind, unless you count her recipes for prize-winning pies. There doesn’t seem to be anything else worth looking for—until Sawdust finds a secret hiding place.

Whitney can’t resist a bit of sleuthing between tearing out appliances and re-tiling floors (and she makes that all sound so simple!), and Detective Collin Flynn is pretty hard to resist, too. Between the two of them they’ll surely uncover the secrets of Songbird Circle.

Some Like It Shot is the latest installment in Zara Keane’s Movie Club Mysteries, featuring Maggie Doyle, a one-time San Francisco cop now working as a private investigator on the small Irish island where her father grew up and where Maggie spent summers as a child. Business is slow: her main case involves searching for a wandering Maine Coon cat. Then an American movie company arrives on the island. Maggie’s younger sister, an online “Beauty Influencer” (yes, apparently this is a Thing, although I have trouble wrapping my brain around it), has landed her first movie role—as the female lead.

Maggie is not thrilled; she and her sister have a rather dysfunctional relationship. But the movie shoot has been plagued with “accidents,” and Maggie and her off-the-wall assistant Lenny are hired to sniff out any possible sabotage. Maggie and her boyfriend, the sergeant in charge of the tiny Whisper Island police station, suspect that most of the accidents were just that, but when there’s a death on the set the danger ramps up quickly.

I really enjoy this series (this is the sixth book) with its mixture of mystery, humor, and small town Irish life (I did have to look up the pronunciation of a couple of names: the Irish clearly have their own version of the alphabet) and I hope there will be many more.

The Study of Secrets is the fifth installment in Cynthia Kuhn’s Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries. As it opens, Lila is winding up her sabbatical from Stonedale, staying in a cottage on the grounds of Callahan House, a Victorian mansion associated with Callahan College and now the property of Bibi Callahan. Long ago Bibi published three mystery novels under the name Isabella Dare, and Lila has been researching and writing a book on these nearly-forgotten works, while hoping that Bibi will admit publicly that she is, in fact, the author.

Lila has been organizing Bibi’s study for her, and in a locked drawer she finds the manuscript of an unpublished fourth novel. When one of Bibi’s life-long friends is murdered in the house and the manuscript vanishes, Bibi admits that the novel was a barely fictionalized version of the night when her younger sister disappeared, suggesting that she was killed by one of Bibi’s tight-knit circle of friends during a night of celebration between high school and college.

Bibi never meant anyone to see the manuscript, with its unfounded speculation, but when it gets out, and perhaps causes another death, Lila races to solve the long-ago mystery that appears to be the source of the present trouble.

Lila is still trying to finish her book on Isabella Dare—and find a publisher for it—and she’s also writing a mystery novel of her own, so I hope we’ll see another adventure before too long.

More Cozy Series

I started to call this “Two New Cozies,” but actually only one, from Zara Keane, is a new series. The other, by Alice Duncan, I discovered thanks to (I think) Bookbub (I get far too many ebook sales emails every morning!). Just for fun, I’ve added the second book in Nancy Cole Silverman’s series about a Hollywood radio reporter.

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I have enjoyed all of Zara Keane’s Movie Club Mystery stories, and she starts a new Irish-set cozy mystery series with Deadline With Death, throwing in a touch of the paranormal with a bit of time travel. Dee Flanagan performs a daily balancing act, juggling her ill-paying job as a reporter for the Dunleagh Chronicle, her non-paying work on her history blog, and her irrepressible grandmother. When she finds herself caught in the middle of some very odd happenings at Dunleagh Castle, her knowledge of Irish history makes her wonder about the man, dressed in a century-old Royal Irish Constabulary uniform, who falls at her feet, wounded by gunfire. Is he a stray from some sort of historical reenactment? Why didn’t anyone else hear the gunfire, and who shot the clown? Dee tries hard to separate herself from her family’s reputation for eccentricity (all that woo-woo stuff), but with both her grandmother and her mother drawn into the mayhem surrounding the castle, Dee doesn’t know what to think.

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As in her Movie Club Mystery series, Keane fills her tale with the inhabitants and circumstances of life in a small Irish town. Her Time-Slip Mystery series promises to be just as full of humor, eccentric characters, and, of course, mystery. Thoroughly entertaining.

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Lost Among the Angels is the first in Alice Duncan’s Mercy Allcutt cozy mystery series, new to me but published several years ago. I picked it up because it’s set in Los Angeles in 1926, a setting and time period that I always find entertaining. Mercy, the naive but enthusiastic narrator, has moved from her sheltered (and wealthy) life in Boston to live with her sister (married to a movie executive), experience Real Life, get a job, and someday write a novel. She manages to land a position as secretary to a private investigator named Ernie Templeton (her big adventures back in Boston involved taking typing and shorthand classes, a secret from her family).

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Secretary, heck, Mercy wants to be an apprentice P.I., and she throws herself into helping her boss with his cases. And help she does, although sometimes it’s more by accident than intent.

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Lost Among the Angels gets off to a bit of a slow start, with Mercy trying to figure out Los Angeles, perhaps a bit too silly and naive, but she grew on me, the cases piled up, and Ernie turned out to be a peach of an employer (and perhaps something more in the following volumes?), alternately amused and aggravated by Mercy’s impulsive behavior, and Mercy’s East Coast elite upbringing actually stands her in good stead from time to time. A fun book, and I’ve downloaded the next one, Angels Flight.

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And here’s the second book in a series I’ve been enjoying, also spotted on a sale. In Nancy Cole Silverman’s Beyond a Doubt, Los Angeles radio reporter Carol Childs investigates a body dropped from a helicopter, meets a Marilyn Monroe impersonator named Holly Wood, and sees someone who just might be the ghost of Clark Gable. Her investigations lead to a string of missing girls, some prominently reported and some barely noticed, and then to the possibility of a human trafficking ring. With her prime suspect seemingly untouchable, and her station management shying away from hard news, Carol may be on her own, but she’s determined to get the story—and find the missing girls. This is another series from the Henery Press cozy stable.

And More Mystery Reviews

I’m running out of titles for these review collections—obviously my reading has leaned heavily to cozy mysteries of late. On the other hand, as I write this I’m reading one alternate history novel (The Boleyn King by Laura Anderson) and one alternate world novel (Within the Sanctuary of Wings, the last—alas—Lady Trent Memoir by Marie Brennan). More on those later.

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Meanwhile, back in mystery land, Diane Kelly’s Death and Taxes series comes to an end Death, Taxes and a Shotgun Weddingwith Death, Taxes, and a Shotgun Wedding, the twelfth adventure of Tara Holloway, gun-toting IRS Special Agent. I’m sure it’s no spoiler to admit that Tara and Nick do manage to get married by the end of the book, or that shotguns actually are present at the wedding.

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Before they make it to the altar, though, Tara tackles a home rental scam, pursuing the fake property manager through an undercover job with Backseat Driver, and all her colleagues lend their talents to track down whoever is sending Tara death threats. That search serves as a trip down memory lane, as Tara and her friends check in with folks they’ve met—and some they’ve arrested—over Tara’s relatively brief career as an agent. (She’s sure packed a lot of action into less than two years on the job!) If you’ve been following the series you’ll enjoy catching up with all the characters.

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I’m glad to see Tara’s Happily Ever After (complete with a five-years-later epilogue), but sorry to see the series end. Never fear, though—Kelly’s Paw and Order K9 team of Megan and Brigit will continue, and rumor has it Kelly has a new series in the works.

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Zara Keane’s Rebel Without a Claus continues the adventures (and sometimes misadventures) of Maggie Doyle, an American ex-cop starting over on the little Irish Rebel Without a Clausisland where much of her father’s family lives. Maggie and her friend and assistant P.I. Lenny are doing undercover work for their newly established Movie Reel Investigations when they find a body in a bathtub. And that’s not the last body Maggie, widely known as a corpse magnet, will find in the course of the book. Throw in a half dozen Bad Santas, some odd behavior on the part of Liam Reynolds, Maggie’s police officer boyfriend, and the unexpected arrival of Maggie’s estranged sister Beth, now a famous beauty vlogger, and you have the ingredients for another tale combining mayhem and laughter.

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I’ve read the whole Movie Club Mysteries series over the past year and enjoyed it thoroughly. I’ll be watching for the next one, Some Like It Shot, due out in the spring.

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Deadly Fashion is the third in Kate Parker’s series set in pre-WWII London. Olivia Denis, Deadly Fashiona young widow (she solved her husband’s murder in Deadly Scandal), works as a barely competent writer on the society page of a London newspaper, holding down the job because she’s also handling investigations for the paper’s publisher. In Deadly Fashion, an interview with a long-admired couturier, Madame Mimi Mareau, leads Olivia into murder investigations and another trip to the continent.

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Parker does a wonderful job of bringing her setting to life. London is still reeling from the Abdication, everyone knows that war is coming sooner or later, and no one is entirely sure whose side of the conflict their neighbor might be on. Olivia and her good friend Captain Adam Richmond know where they stand, and don’t hesitate to follow their investigations, even when the answers aren’t what they might have hoped for.

 

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