Archive for Mystery Books

Joanna Carl’s Chocoholic Mysteries

JOANNA CARL

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

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, www.juliehyzy.com.

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

Donna Andrews Turing Hopper Mysteries

DONNA ANDREWS

Donna Andrews Turing Hopper Mysteries

Donna Andrews is a popular mystery writer in Northern Virginia. She has two series out there right now, but I am writing about my favorite one.

She writes

The Meg Langslow series – about a blacksmith in Virginia who is an amateur sleuth.

The Turing Hopper series – A computer, who is not really an amateur sleuth because it is a computer, but heck, it has no license, so why not?

Which one am I going to talk about?

Turning of course, because she is so absolutely fascinating.

Turning is an artificial intelligence program at a database company in Virginia. “She” has a couple of people who know she is a program; most believe she is actually a person.

Basically this is the story of an amateur sleuth that is a hacker, but the hacker is inside the computer system.

The characters are very real to me, very well written. Most of the time, if you get involved in the story, the only way you can tell a computer is talking is because of the italics. That is Turing talking. The other characters start out a little one note as most do at the beginning of a series, but Donna Andrews developed the stars rather quickly, like she has known these characters all her life.

As I have been to the area where this story takes place, the setting is very close to reality. Which makes for fun.

There are not really a lot of twists and turns creating massive sub-plots. Not sure because of the main character being in one place, or that is the author’s choice. But the lack of a multitude of sub-plots actually makes the stories a little easier to swallow. I say this because of who the sleuth is.

I mean, come on, a computer that is a sleuth? How ingenious is that! You really don’t need much more.

This is a well written series, albeit short. There are only four books at this point. I am hoping Donna Andrews will continue the story some day, as I really want to find out what happened to T2. Please write at least one more!

Definitely worth reading for both genders and multiple ages. This is not a series only certain people will like.

The Turing Hopper Series

  1. You’ve Got Murder – 2002
  2. Click Here for Murder – 2003
  3. Access Denied – 2004
  4. Delete All Suspects – 2005

You can find out all about Donna Andrews and her books at www.donnaandrews.com

Ellen Byerrum Crime of Fashion! Oh My!

ELLEN BYERRUM

Ellen Byerrum Crime of Fashion! Oh My!

The Crime of Fashion is a wonderful cozy mystery series, written by Ellen Byerrum. The series is running strong, with nine books in the series.

Lacey Smithsonian writes a fashion column for a newspaper in the nation’s capitol. She wants to be a hard news reporter, but no one takes her seriously, and she is stuck writing about crimes of fashion. You would be surprised (or probably not), at the fashion faux pas in the political hub of the country.

Of course, as an amateur sleuth, she always tends to be at the wrong place at the right time. This is another series, where we have a single woman, who happens to be in love with a former cop turned private eye. Brook and Stella are her BFFs, who have definitely different perceptions of things, but it adds to the well rounded characters in the books. Her EFP (extra-fashionary perception) pops clues up to help solve the murders. I wish we could all be that in tune with our sixth sense.

The settings are truly spot on, as she does her research, and even when she makes up a store or street in town, the others around it are quite real. Ellen has her pulse on the area, true as life. It is exciting to read the stories and being able to picture in my mind the areas as real.

Ellen keeps things real in the stories by actually having gone through private eye school, getting her license in the state of Virginia. She has been a news reporter in the past. She loves vintage couture. And, her first two books were turned into Lifetime movies! I saw them, and they were very close to the books!

Other than learning about what is wrong to wear with what, we also get to learn key information about fabulous vintage clothes, via a ‘magical trunk’ left by a relative. If you want to learn a little bit about couture and occasionally its history, this is the series for you.

Crime of Fashion Mystery Series:

  1. Killer Hair – 2003
  2. Designer Knockoff – 2004
  3. Hostile Makeover – 2005
  4. Raiders of the Lost Corset – 2006
  5. Grave Apparel – 2007
  6. Armed and Glamorous – 2008
  7. Shot Through Velvet – 2011
  8. Death on Heels – 2012
  9. Veiled Revenge – 2013
  10. Lethal Black Dress – 2014

Find out more about the Crime of Fashion series at http://www.ellenbyerrum.com.