Archive for Mystery Books

Chicks On The Case Book Reviews

Chicks on the case

Chicks On The Case Mystery Reviews

I’ve been reading some new mystery series these last few months. I found a wonderful blog Chicks On The Case, where six fairly new mystery authors gathered to start a blog, taking turns writing posts, sharing histories, sharing sidebars, interviewing other authors and sometimes bloggers, and generally having fun. I love reading their blog, posting a new article 3 times a week. You can find their blog here.

They all got together last year at Malice Domestic for the awards ceremony. I wish I’d been there.

So let me introduce you to a mess load of authors, the chicks on the case crew, chicks to us fans, all within the first few years of publication. This in no way reflects their individual personalities, it’s just titles I gave them based on their books and characters. I love all the chicks on the case!

Let’s Start With The N00b ChicK

HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE (A Detective by Day Mystery)

By Kellye Garrett

4 of 5 stars


Read this fast paced novel, now!

Talk about your reading you can’t put down. I started it this morning, and finished it in less one day.

Let’s get to the scoop.

The characters were all well developed. Except for Aubrey. I wish I knew more about him. But with the ending, he’s not going anywhere, so stay tuned for more. I can’t decide if I like Dayna Anderson or Sienna Hayes better. Dayna is the main character, and a bit of a power player, with just enough uncertainty to make her real. But Sienna… what a fun character. Her personality is the one friend you have in your life that makes things way too wacky. Come on, we all have one of those, right?

The descriptions were out in full force. They made me feel like I was in LA. Not the LA we all read about, the living in the real world LA.

The red herrings and clues were planted everywhere. I was wishing I could see the author’s chart of everything, to see how she made all the twists and turns in the story. Keep in mind, there wasn’t a single clue or red herring not needed. They all fit, and kept me guessing! I had no clue who was the killer until the reveal, because of all the planted clues and red herrings and Dayna’s guessing game. Nice job!

Dialogue was funny as all get out! I caught myself laughing out loud.

It moved extremely fast. Like action packed fast! Like I couldn’t keep up with it fast! Could be a good thing or bad thing. I leave it up to you to decide.

Also in this series:

  • Hollywood Ending (August 2018)

The Socialite ChicK

DEATH CRASHES THE PARTY (A Liv And Di In Dixie Mystery)

By Vickie Fee

4 of 5 stars

Good but wanted more

I really wanted to get more into the characters. Why they were the way they were. I wanted to get to know them. The main character seemed a little ballsy for a small town, especially since she grew up there. I could see this as a big town gal come home, or having a rough job in the past. A little backstory might have explained why she was that way.

It was an easy read. The descriptions I thought were very good. Not ones I jumped past, which is a surprise for me.

There were enough clues, but nothing really pointing me in the wrong direction. Nothing really pointing me in the right direction either. Cozies aren’t supposed to have lots of depth, but a little more would have been good.

On the other hand, the humor in it was awesome, just the right amount of this type of story. It really helped with the pacing.

Also in this series:

  • It’s Your Party, Die if You Want To
  • One Fete in the Grave
  • Til Death Do Us Party (March 2018)

The Intellectual ChicK

THE SEMESTER OF OUR DISCONTENT (A Lila Maclean Academic Mystery)

By Cynthia Kuhn

4 of 5 stars


I got schooled in this story

This was an interesting read. The wording fit the characters. What I mean is, the story takes place in a college, so there were big words used throughout (dialogue). Not so obscure they couldn’t be understood, but it made me think the characters wrote the story.

I loved the characters. They were all stereotypical of a college, but unique at the same time. And I loved Nate. I thought Would have liked to see a little more of the main character’s job actions in this. It might have given more insight to why Lila Maclean seemed so timid. She seemed a little subdued for an amateur sleuth, so Nate’s strong personality was a good balance. Lila’ s subtleness brought in extra helpings of red herrings.

I thought the reveal was complete, but a few sentences here and there were confusing.

Good descriptions, not sure if more were necessary or not.

Looking forward to the next adventure. Less give a little more backbone with the intelligence. Bring it on girl!

Also in this series:

  • The Art of Vanishing

The Clown ChicK

CARDIAC ARREST (The Ladies Smythe & Westin)

By Lisa Q Matthews

4 of 5 stars

A fast, fun read with quirky characters

This was a fast read. Interesting characters. Didn’t understand why Dorothy Westin was so conservative with her opinion. Considering her age, I thought she might be a tougher broad. I would have liked a bit more backstory explaining why she was so conservative. Loved Summer Smythe’s antics, she felt real to me. Dash was new to me. The gay character is becoming more popular, almost too popular (I wonder why?), but to see a committed one is fresh.

The descriptions were pretty good. I could almost see the places. Almost. Since this was a first book, odds are the descriptions will get much better.

I liked the twists and turns in the story. I wonder if there was a bit of conflict between the two mains was missing, since they had just met. Considering their age, and the antics of Summer, it seems like there should have been a bit of conflict. Again, maybe some tiny flashbacks showing why they immediately got along?

But overall a delight.

Also in this series:

  • Permanently Booked
  • Fashionably Late

The Serious ChicK

PLANTATION SHUDDERS: A Cajun Country Mystery

By Ellen Byron

4 of 5 stars


Cozy history at its best

Even though it’s fiction, I like the faux history about this book. It’s fun to learn while reading fiction. Louisiana bayou country came alive in this book. Makes you want to learn about the real history of some of these towns.

I will say some of these characters could have been fleshed out a bit more, but there wasn’t anything deceiving about them. I would have liked a touch more background between the non-household main characters, but I get this is the first in the series. Maybe we will learn more as we delve into the series. But people like Maggie and Bo were definitely full developed. I liked that each character was different from the others, no cookie cutter ones here.

The descriptions are not too much, which can be overbearing in a cozy. Ellen did just the right amount. You could feel the place, see the place, without feeling the urge to skip pages.

The red herrings were plentiful, but not falsely misleading. I thought I had the killer nailed. I was wrong. But the character I had chosen was suspicious of something, so that was a good sign for me.

I will be reading more of this series when I get time.

Also in this series:

  • Body on the Bayou
  • A Cajun Christmas Killing
  • Mardi Gras Murder (coming in October 2018!)

And Last, But Certainly Not the Least ChicK

Terror in Taffeta: A Mystery (Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries)

By Marla Cooper

4 of 5 Stars

Very twisting

This book had lots of twists and turns in it.

A fast read, which is what cozies are supposed to be.

I felt like Kelsey McKenna was a bit wishy washy, wanting to yell at her to make up her mind already. I wasn’t sure if that was a mistake by the author, or if that’s how she is supposed to act. If so, I like it, but maybe mention in the story why she acts the way she does. Put it in my face?

Loved the character Mrs. A. She was well developed. Got to love to hate her, the perfect MOB (Mother Of the Bride for those not in the know). And I’m in love with Brody. He’s exactly what I want him to be.

The only thing I felt a little odd for a cozy was there didn’t seem to be enough visual descriptions for me. I didn’t get the feel of the places. Especially since this is supposed to be about destination weddings. But some don’t like that, so that’s a personal preference of mine.

A definite light mystery that kept me saying “What?” “No!”  “Now I get it!” “No, wait!” “Now what!” Can’t wait to get the next one.


Also in this series:

  • Dying on the Vine


I highly recommend reading as many of these books as possible. Chicks On The Case is a wonderful blog, full of talented individuals, that are willing to share not only their own writing, but other mystery writers as well.



Hank Phillippi Ryan’s The Other Woman

Hank Phillippi Ryan

HanK Phillippi Ryan’s ‘The Other Woman’

Do you like to read suspense novels? Thanks to my insomnia, I just finished ‘The Other Woman’, by Hank Phillippi Ryan. This is not my usual cozy mystery review, but it’s worth reviewing.

It’s an awesome novel with a Senate campaign race, an alleged secret mistress, and killing allegedly caused by what the news gang is calling a serial killer. Notice how I keep using the word allegedly? I don’t want to give anything away.

The stars of the novel include a disgraced television reporter now working for a newspaper, and a police detective who has to draw the lines between business, friendship and a personal relationship. I really liked this reporter. I felt for her. Imagine having to lower your standards, trying to get back into the big time when everyone is feeling sorry for you, but not wanting anything to do with you!

The way Hank keeps bouncing between the multiple plot lines keeps us turning the pages. Snappy dialogue, great characters that were fully developed, and a plot keeping me guessing at who the bad guy really was, made me not want to put it down. She really knows how to make you think. No wait! It can’t be! That’s not right! Oh yes it is! How did she do that? That is what you will be thinking when you read this.

Seduction, betrayal, murder. Who could ask for more?

Hank’s Bio

And before you ask, no this is not an amateur novelist I’m trying to plug. Hank is an investigative reporter in Boston with over 30 Emmys, and a dozen Edward R. Murrow awards. Her noveling efforts have netted her 5 Agathas, 2 Anthonys, 2 Macavitys, the Daphne, and the Mary Higgins Clark award, amongst others the last I heard.

This gal knows her stuff! And she’s a nice lady, having met her a couple of times at conventions.

You might wanna check out this book, or any of the other like 8 she’s written.





Joanna Carl’s Chocoholic Mysteries


Joanna Carl Chocoholic Mysteries

Joanna Carl has created a truly traditional mystery. Small town, chocoholic mysteries to be exact. It is set in a small town (aka Christie style) with very limited references to the big city. I applaud her for that, because the big city is such an easy fall back position for  traditional mystery writers to use. I say this because so many writers either base their series in the big city, or they end up referring to the big city quite frequently. I know Ms. Carl’s series is based in Michigan, and that’s pretty much the extent of it. Very infrequently do we hear anything about Detroit, Grand Rapids, Warren, Ann Arbor… Okay, you get the point. Anyway, I give the woman thumbs up for that.

All in all, I personally like the setting, but feel the characters kind of take a back seat to it sometimes. Warner Pier is a tourist town, with three categories of people, visitors, summer folks, and permanent folks. The town is well described, and you can visualize how it looks. This makes the town a character in the story, and there are always “visiting people”, aka tourists, who tend to create the plots. This helps with the “Cabot Cove” syndrome, which any cozy writer knows is a series running out of victims and suspects. The town feels real, but sometimes it is more of a presence than it needs to be, IMHO.

The books are not deep and not confusing. Definitely a summer read. Or a bathtub read. You may or may not be able to solve the mystery first. It depends on your level of detection skills and how many of these kinds of books you read.

As far as the characters go, Ms. Carl does a hodgepodge of main characters, so it isn’t the same type of personality all the time. She does a good job at describing them physically, so you get to know them.

Lee McKinney is so quirky it is hard to not visualize her. There is her tongue tied problem when she is stressed, but I don’t think it needs to be explained each time. A simple apology instead of each time saying she twists words around when she is nervous will do. She is strong willed, albeit in one of the latest stories she was acting like a school girl.

Her husband Joe Woodyard seems a little weak in my opinion. Maybe because there are so many town characters involved from book to book; but I wish he would be a little stronger in “dealing” with his wife on her snooping. He is a lawyer after all. I think a stronger personality in the husband would create more tension when it comes to the personal side.

Nettie TenHuis is a strong woman who has her own ideas of how the world should work. Very likable. She reminds me of grandmothers from decades past, who had to be strong to survive. Wish there was more of her in the books.

And Sheriff Hogan Jones is a great guy. He doesn’t take lip from anyone, all the way form his family to the state troopers. As the chief in a small town, he is kind of like the sheriff in Cabot Cove, letting the amateurs help solve the crimes. But if they didn’t help, it would not be a cozy mystery, would it?

Chocoholics Unite!

One fun thing is this is not the standard “recipe/cooking/kitchen” mystery series. The bonus is chocolate, but not in the normal way. Instead of teaching me how to make truffles via a recipe I cannot duplicate, it throws chocolate facts and tidbits at me. Almost everyone knows chocolate has caffeine in it, but do you know how much? Janna Carl does, and shares freely with us. Plus the descriptions of the candies for sale in TenHuis Chocolate shops will make you head for the nearest chocolate shop!

A goddess needs tidbits of knowledge for parties, and here they are, all for the price of a paperback book!

Joanna Carl, The Chocoholic Mysteries

  1. The Chocolate Cat Caper – March 2002
  2. The Chocolate Bear Burglary – November 2002
  3. The Chocolate Frog Frame Up – December 2003
  4. The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle – December 2004
  5. The Chocolate Mouse Trap – September 2005
  6. The Chocolate Bridal Bash – August 2006
  7. The Chocolate Jewel Case – August 2007
  8. The Chocolate Snowmen Murders – September 2008
  9. The Chocolate Cupid Killings – October 2009
  10. The Chocolate Pirate Book – October 2010
  11. The Chocolate Castle Clue – October 2011
  12. The Chocolate Moose Motive – October 2012
  13. The Chocolate Book Bandit – October 2013
  14. The Chocolate Clown Corpse – November 2014

You can find Joanna Carl’s books on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, and your local independent book sellers. Find out more about Ms. Carl at her website.

Julie Hyzy’s Mystery Creates a Play on Food


Julie Hyzy’s Mystery Creates a Play on Food

When I first met Ms. Hyzy, I was skeptical about her new cozy mystery series. Another amateur sleuth who is a cook? Seriously? Are we not already inundated with generic chefs and specialty cooks who get involved in murder? There is only so much a kitchen person can do before history repeats itself. Diane Mott Davidson started the craze over twenty years ago. But that is for another post.

But this mystery series has a twist that makes it stand out from the rest. It is not just another generic mystery. Another component thrown in the mix is the character that is call the workings of the White House. Not only do you get lost in the kitchen scenes, become intimate with the strong, close knit characters of Olivia, Cyan and Bucky, but you also get to meet other positions in the staff of the most famous house in the United States.

Peter Sergeant is the annoying but sometimes likable Sensitivity Director. Tom and Gav are Secret Service toughies to be drooled over. There is the quick spotlight thrown onto the ushers and other “rich people” staff and a wonderful, lovable, First Kid (Josh), who is growing and developing in front of our eyes, not just a background character.

The tension between the characters is believable. The scenes are well researched, and only someone who lives in the District will catch the made up areas, or the missteps.

The one imaginative question that cannot be answered is how real the presidential protocols, rules and other ideas are. Since a lot of that stuff is secretive, we cannot call Ms. Hazy out on using certain presidential liberties. But they are well written and interesting, so I don’t give a darn.

The mystery itself isn’t too bad either. I try to figure out the whodunit before the author tells me. I can guess about half of them just in time, and usually it’s my second guess that is right. She definitely tries her hand at red herrings (which really work), and does not make anything too obvious, even how some of the characters feel about each other!

The titles are foodie plays on presidential phrases, such as ‘Eggsecutive Orders’ and ‘State of the Union’. Kind of cute, interesting, and memorable, aren’t they?

And the recipes are different. they are not just some random recipes like in other cozy mysteries staring cooks. They are all picked to compose a complete fancy dinner! Talk about being thoughtful in the food to share with us.

White House Chef Mysteries:

  1. State of the Onion – 2008
  2. Hail to the Chef – 2008
  3. Eggsecutive Orders – 2010
  4. Buffalo West Wing – 2011
  5. Affairs of Steak – 2012
  6. Fonduing Fathers – 2012
  7. Home of the Braised – 2014
  8. All the President’s Menus – 2015

You can find all Julie Hyzy’s books on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, and your local independent book sellers. To find out more about this gracious lady (I know, because I have met her), visit her website,

And congrats on your latest book, which came out today, January 6th, 2015. I can’t wait to grab one myself!