A Riveting Read…Plane and Simple

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

I was intrigued by this book from the moment I read the blurb on the back cover: two women, each running from dire circumstances, switch tickets at the airport. Claire, the wife of a politician, gets on a plane headed to California and Eva is going to Puerto Rico.

When the plane bound for Puerto Rico crashes into the Atlantic Ocean, Claire knows the media is going to erupt with news of her supposed death. She has no choice but to adopt Eva’s identity … and along with it, the secrets Eva left behind.

I read this book at every opportunity I had: in line at the post office, waiting at the doctor’s office, and sitting in parking lots. It moves at a quick clip and had me turning the pages as fast as I could devour the words.

The characterization in this book is what makes it so good. The author does a great job of developing these two women and the reader feels sympathy for both of them (though Eva has made her fair share of bad choices, even when alternatives were available to her, and tends to blame others for her misfortunes). I was rooting for both of them. There are a few spots in the book where the reader has to suspend belief a little bit, but because the story is so good, that is easy to do.

I think, in the end, the book is really about strong women, the consequences of telling one’s story in the face of abuse, and having the courage to take the actions that can bring about personal empowerment. Claire and Eva are not without fear and doubt, but they do what they have to do to save themselves.

And the epilogue…you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

I would recommend this thriller to anyone who loves a story featuring strong and well-written female characters, a unique and twisty plot, and stories that explore serious social issues.

***

If you are one of my newsletter subscribers, you’ll know that I have tweaked the format of my newsletters. One of the changes I’ve made is to share deals and releases by other authors here on my blog instead of in the newsletters.

So with that in mind, I have two books to share with you this week. Both are by Laina C. Turner, each one is the first book in a series, and they’re both just 99 cents (and free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited). I have not had a chance to read either of these books yet, but I have both on my Kindle. I’m looking forward to reading them soon.

Friends and Foes: A Read Wine Bookstore Mystery

Stilettos and Scoudndrels: A Presley Thurman Cozy Mystery

***

Until next time,

Amy

P.S. It was Murder

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

The Postscript Murders, Book 2 in the Harbinder Kaur mystery series, is not only a great whodunit, but the author’s love letter to books.

Harbinder Kaur is an officer with the West Sussex police department, and she’s got a doozy of a murder investigation on her hands. Peggy Smith, an elderly woman with a penchant for thinking up ways to kill people, has been instrumental in helping a number of authors craft unique ways to murder characters in their books. Those authors, grateful for her assistance, have dedicated books to her and thanked her countless times in back-of-the-book acknowledgements.

But now Peggy is dead, and the question is this: was hers a natural death, or was it murder? When her demise is followed rather quickly by the deaths of authors who have used her “murder consultant” services, signs begin to point toward murder.

Harbinder is drawn into the mystery when a trio of Peggy’s friends reach out to her with their suspicions about Peggy’s demise. Natalka, Peggy’s nurse, found Peggy’s body. Her friends Benedict, a former monk who owns a seaside coffee shop, and Edwin, a retired BBC radio presenter who lives in the same sheltered living facility as Peggy, are convinced that Peggy did not die by natural means and they are determined to figure out who killed her and why.

Harbinder Kaur is a fabulous main character. She’s thirty-something, gay (but single), Sikh, and still lives with her parents. She has the complexity to carry a series, and though she was not as major a character in the first book in the series (The Stranger Diaries, see my review here), I hope readers will see more of her as the series progresses.

The story is told from the point of view of Harbinder and her three new friends, all of whom fancy themselves amateur sleuths and have backstories of their own which unfold gradually throughout the book. The relationships among all the characters are compelling and intricate, and I enjoyed getting to know each of them.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I delighted at the literary festival in Aberdeen, the friends’ stay at a safe house, Harbinder’s partner (and the hilarious ways he is described), and the easy pace of the plot. There are plenty of juicy turns, and I loved the conclusion, which came as a series of shocking twists at the very end of the book. Each and every thread in the story is tied up neatly, and left me eager for the next book in the series.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a great crime mystery, a book about books, and a companionable group of friends who team up to solve a puzzle.

Collect them All!

A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes

A Fatal Collection is the first book in the Keepsake Cove Mystery series by Mary Ellen Hughes. Don’t you love the cover? It just radiates cozy mystery vibes.

Keepsake Cove is a charming community in the town of Mapleton, located on Maryland’s eastern shore. Filled with adorable shops selling everything from toys to candles to glass, the area holds a special place in the hearts of the people who call it home and the hearts of the people who love to visit. Callie Reed has gone to Keepsake Cove to reconnect with her aunt, the vibrant, smart, and fascinating owner of a music box shop. The two haven’t seen each other in ten years, though they’ve corresponded and their ties are strong.

When Melanie dies shortly after Callie’s arrival, Callie is numb with shock. And when Callie learns that Melanie has left everything to her—her shop, her cottage behind the shop, her inventory, and even her cat—Callie is left reeling.

But once in Keepsake Cove, Callie has some time to think over some of the choices she’s made. She discovers that maybe the inheritance and the new responsibilities as owner of the music box shop are just what she needs to take her life in a new direction. And then there’s that one incredible music box that … well, you’ll just have to read the book to know what I’m talking about.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There were plenty of juicy red herrings, hidden secrets, and conflicts among friends and foes in this vibrant and engaging story. There was a complex and rich set of characters, many of whom I hope to see in future books in the series. The author did a great job setting out the clues, most of which went unnoticed by me. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the best kind of mystery.

I highly recommend this to cozy and traditional mystery readers, as well as people who enjoy a good story set along the Atlantic seaboard.

***

What I’m reading:

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

***

Until next time,

Amy

Follow Me…for Murder

#FollowMe for Murder by Sarah E. Burr

#FollowMe for Murder is the first book in Sarah E. Burr’s Trending Topic Mystery series. It’s actually the only book in the series right now, but I’m hoping there are more on the way.

Coco (Cordelia) Cline is a young entrepreneur and the savvy owner of a social media consulting business in her hometown of Central Shores, Delaware. She got her start as part of a small team of people who sold their lifestyle-centric tech startup to Facebook, netting millions of dollars apiece. She kept the rights to her lifestyle blog, though, and continues to post to hundreds of thousands of social media followers who hang on her every word.

Sean and Olivia Chen are the owners of a high-end consignment shop in town and they’ve hired Coco to handle the social media campaign associated with the shop’s grand opening. Coco has lots of great ideas, if only Olivia would quit posting impulsively (and to no effect) on social media. Coco and the Chens agree to meet at the shop to discuss the online ramp-up before the big day, but the Chens are late. Coco has her own key to the shop, and when she lets herself in she finds the dead body of the Chens’ assistant, a young woman named Stacy.

Suspicion, naturally, focuses on Coco almost immediately. After all, she found the body. And the police are looking at the Chens, too, since Stacy’s body was found in their shop. Coco needs to clear her name for obvious reasons, but she has to clear the Chens’ name, too, or else their shop is going to fail before it even gets up and running. With the help of her boyfriend and two of her best friends, Coco sets out to find the killer. Along the way she finds that Stacy was hiding some secrets and behavior that could be potentially explosive in the little town of Central Shores.

I loved that this cozy mystery has a lot going on. Besides the mystery of who killed Stacy, there are also hints of political intrigue going on in the little town and Coco’s insecurity about the state of her relationship with her boyfriend of four years, Hudson, whose star is rising quickly as a local television news personality. There’s the high school enemy-turned-voracious follower of Coco’s blog, and a new relationship between one of Coco’s best friends, Charlotte, and a guy working for the county crime lab.

The pacing of the book was spot-on. It moves just as quickly as a cozy should. The characters were fun, too—Coco’s friend Jasper was one of my favorites. And the idea of an amateur sleuth using social media to dig for clues in the case is great. Why? Because it’s a double-edged sword, just like social media in real life: Coco is trying to keep people in town and her minions of followers from finding out she’s the person who discovered the body, so she has to watch everything she says and does. She has to be careful about appearing in photographs that will find their way onto social media. On the other hand, she is a social media expert, so being able to find clues buried in suspects’ profiles and elsewhere online is a great asset for someone with her skill set.

This was a fun read and I’m eager for the second book in the series to come out. I would highly recommend #FollowMe for Murder to anyone who likes a good cozy, mysteries set in beach towns, anyone with a love-hate relationship with social media *raises hand*, and anyone who likes a great cast of characters.

***

What I’m reading:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

The Crate by Deborah Vadas Levison

***

Until next time,

Amy

Christmas in August?

Christmas Cow Bells by Mollie Cox Bryan

I know Christmas is in December and July, but I wanted to make sure I share this with you before the holiday season starts in earnest because this is one book I think you’re going to want to read.

I’ve read most, if not all, of Mollie Cox Bryan’s books, and I’ve loved them. But this…this is the best one yet. Not only does it involve my favorite holiday, Christmas, but it also involves three of my other favorite things: cows and cheese and mysteries.

Brynn has recently moved to the small, insular community of Shenandoah Springs, Virginia, with dreams of a bucolic life centered on her three beloved cows and her new cheesemaking business. She’s reeling from the blow of a failed relationship, and what she needs is a friend.

She finds one, but something awful happens and Brynn realizes quickly that small-town life is not the idyll she had first thought. With suspects galore, a pastoral setting, rapidly-evolving relationships among the residents of Shenandoah Springs, and even recipes, this books is a treat for the mind and the senses. I highly recommend it.

***

What I’m reading:

Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

#Follow Me for Murder by Sarah E. Burr

***

If you’re interested in joining me for fun content, a free downloadable cookbook, quizzes and games, and behind-the-scenes looks at writing books, click here to join my newsletter! I look forward to welcoming you.

Brilliant First in Series

Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose

This is the first book in Andrea Penrose’s Wrexford & Sloane Mystery Series. What attracted me first was the evocative and atmospheric cover, but when I started reading I found that the cover was only one of a number of things I liked about this book.

Set in Regency London, this novel features main characters Charlotte Sloane and the Earl of Wrexford. Charlotte and Wrexford are from different worlds (though there are hints that Charlotte’s past may not have been so different from Wrexford’s station in life) who join forces to solve a grisly murder for which Wrexford stands accused in the court of public opinion. The dichotomy between Charlotte’s meager circumstances and the opulence in which Wrexford lives is striking, and the author does a fabulous job of releasing each character from his or her presumed caste in society in order to work together in a race against time.

I learned a lot about Regency London, the incredible differences between the haves and the have-nots, and the scientific theories that were all the rage at that time. The aura of mysticism surrounding the notion of alchemy lent a spooky element to the story.

I think my favorite characters are the two young brothers—street urchins—whom Charlotte has taken under her wing. Their desire to please, their street smarts, and their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of friendship, love, and honor is wonderful. I hope to see them again.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good English historical mystery, complex characters with intriguing backstories, and a heavy dose of moody settings.

A Mammoth of a Mystery

The Mammoth Murders by Iris Chacon

The Mammoth Murders is the second book in Iris Chacon’s Minokee Mysteries. I read the first book, Finding Miranda, a while back and loved it, so picking up a copy of Book 2 was a no-brainer.

I loved every word of this book. I cannot get enough of Shep and Miranda. And Carlo. The three of them make a great team, and the relationship between Shep and Miranda is just about the sweetest thing in print.

When a farmer finds a sinkhole on his property and realizes that sinkhole might just contain some very valuable archaeological finds, the race is on to see who will claim the prize first…will it be someone who will donate it to the university, or will it be someone with a more nefarious intent? When Shep and Miranda and their crew of a very intelligent cat, an ornery but good-as-gold neighbor, some of Shep’s radio followers, and Carlo (the Italian valet, cook, and all-around superhero) get involved in trying to find a missing archaeologist, they soon learn that not is all as it seems.

But the mystery isn’t the only good thing about this book. Miranda and Shep are engaged to be married, though they haven’t told anyone. Somehow, Shep’s domineering mother finds out and enlists the assistance of Miranda’s parents (and in particular, her cold-as-ice mother) to plan the spectacle of a wedding that neither Miranda nor Shep want.

The dialogue zings all the way through this book. It’s laugh-out-loud funny in places, and hits just the right notes of relatability and plausibility. Come for the mystery, stay for the characters, and you’ll be glad you did.

Another Christie Classic

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

There’s a reason Agatha Christie is the best-selling mystery author of all time. She’s that good.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is the fourth Hercule Poirot novel, and features the inimitable Belgian detective at his best. He’s moved to the town of Kings Abbot to pursue the growing of vegetable marrows, but soon finds himself embroiled in the investigation of a most perplexing murder. There are suspects aplenty, so Monsieur Poirot’s famous little gray cells are put to the test in sussing out the culprit.

The characters in the book are expertly drawn, as one would expect from Dame Agatha, and each of them harbors a secret (some more shocking than others). M Poirot makes it his mission to uncover each character’s secret, and he does so (as he does in all his appearances in Christie’s stories) with an abundance of well-earned self confidence and faultless logic.

The solution to the mystery of who killed Roger Ackroyd lies in that faultless logic, and it makes the path to figuring out whodunit especially fun for readers. Many of you have no doubt read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (as I have, but I’m on a mission to reread all the Christie novels) but I urge you to read it again and pay special attention to the way in which Christie lays out the clues. It’s ingenious. Even more ingenious is the twist at the end, one of the most famous plot twists in modern literature.

The British Crime Writers’ Association has voted The Murder of Roger Ackroyd the best crime novel ever written. I wholeheartedly recommend it to every reader who appreciates a good mystery.

The Philadelphia Story

Pretender ’56 by Jane Kelly

If there’s one thing this terrific book reinforces, it’s the idea that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The United States in 2022 isn’t all that different from the United States of the 1950s—there are bright lines between social classes, there’s a dichotomy in the way different parts of society experience the justice system, and powerful people often hold more influence than they deserve.

You’ll find all these issues, in addition to a murder mystery, in Pretender ’56, Book 2 in Jane Kelly’s Writing in Time mystery series. Amateur detective Tracy Shaw and her aunt Julia are sleuths with a mission to see justice served in the double murder of two young people who may have angered some powerful people in the city of Brotherly Love.

I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this tension-filled tale. The story of what really happened the night Cassie Kelly and John Brien were murdered, while the eyes of the world were on the magnificent royal wedding of another Philadelphia Kelly (Grace, that is) to the Prince of Monaco, is filled with suspense and puzzling clues. The pace is spot-on and the main character, Julia Tracy, is beguiling and clever in her search for truth and—maybe—justice.

The author does a brilliant job describing the world of 1950s Philadelphia, with its changing social mores and distinctions between the haves and the have-nots. It’s a fascinating look at a microcosm of American life during the mid-twentieth century.

I highly recommend this book to mystery lovers, and particularly those with a fondness for more recent historical fiction and those who love Philadelphia, PA.

A Deadly Game

Rock Paper Scissors by Matty Dalrymple

I listened to the audiobook version of this thriller while I was on a long drive, and every time I had to get out of the car I couldn’t wait to get back to hear more of the story. It’s gripping—if I had been reading the paperback or even the ebook version, I would have called it a page-turner.

There’s something special about Lizzy Ballard, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Her special ability has been the proximate cause and the direct cause of the deaths of two loved ones, and she’s afraid of her own reactions to the events and people around her–that is, once everyone starts to figure out exactly what’s going on.

The threads connecting the characters in this story are both both believable and fascinating. There’s something in the book for everyone who loves thrillers: there’s blackmail, bookies, murder, scheming power brokers, questionable medical ethics, and innocence. There’s wealth and want. There’s a teenager with a desire for friends and a normal life, and there’s the guardian who’s willing to do anything to protect his young charge.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who reads thrillers and who is open to the idea that we haven’t yet discovered everything there is to know about the human mind. An exceptional read.

*One quick note: from now on, I’ll be linking the photo of the book’s cover to its Amazon page so interested readers can buy the book directly. And for people who want to know more about the author or prefer to buy books at etailers other than Amazon, I’ll also be linking the author’s website to his or her name in the heading at the top of the page.