Due in part to a slightly awry reading schedule- and one where I tend to focus on children’s genres most often- I don’t get to mystery reading as often as I might wish to. But when I dive in, all the joy and comfort a solid and fun cozy mystery brings welcomes me right back! Thank you to generous friends at Crooked Lane Books/Penguin Random House Canada, I have two series openers on the review docket today: Grounds for Murder by Tara Lush and Booked for Death by Victoria Gilbert. Enjoy and look forward to more mystery reviews coming!
Tara Lush’s Grounds for Murder, the first book in A Coffee Lover’s Mystery series is delightful fun. (Fun with a share of murder and suspense thrown in, of course!). Lana Lewis, former crime reporter in Miami, has returned to her small Florida hometown of Devil’s Beach to run Perkatory, her parent’s coffee shop. Since the death of her mother- whose dream was to run a stylish coffee shop for coffee purists- Lana’s widowed father has traipsed further and further into a hippie-New Age-relaxed-lifestyle, leaving the share of running Perkatory to Lana. With the hope of winning a state barista championship with her (notoriously womanizing) employee Fab by her side, Lana feels like things might just be okay for herself and for her mom’s shop. Manageable, even. But when Fab is found dead not long after an intense argument with Lana and suspicion latches onto her as the prime person of interest, things turn sour very quickly. Taking matters into her own hands- repeatedly and against the advice of the extremely handsome and concerned police chief Noah- Lana goes on a dangerous trek to seek out the true killer. With a cool, smart and astute protagonist, lots of banter between the protagonist and the handsome counterpart, and a dangerous mystery in the middle, readers familiar with Meg Cabot’s supremely entertaining adult novels will likely be very charmed. A genuinely entertaining cast of characters with multiple tantalizing hooks have me looking forward to see what the author will brew up for Lana, Noah, and the rest of Lana’s Devil’s Beach crew in future books. (Content Note: There is speculation about a character dying by suicide. In the ARC, the wording used most often is “committed” or “committing” rather than “dies by” or “died by”, which is most currently the preferred wording.).
You may already be familiar with mystery author Victoria Gilbert from her popular Blue Ridge Library Mystery series (which have been reviewed on this site!). Taking a detour away from Blue Ridge and turning to a picturesque waterfront town in North Carolina, Gilbert brings readers Booked for Death, book one in A Booklover’s B&B Mystery series. Former teacher Charlotte Reed runs a local bed and breakfast named Chapters in the historic, tourist friendly town of Beaufort. A surprise inheritance left to her by a somewhat mysterious and larger than life great-aunt, forty-two year old Charlotte now lives an unexpected new life as a B&B owner and operator. Already well-established and known for its literary themed stays and events, Charlotte takes great pride in her renovated inn, its impressively stocked small library (full of rare and archival worthy finds) and in the meticulous research she puts into themed events. While welcoming a busy group of vacationers taking part in a Josephine Tey-themed stay, Charlotte certainly doesn’t expect something as grisly as an actual murder to rock their stay. But when a somewhat unlikable, confrontational guest is found murdered during a dinner party, guilty fingers surprisingly point to just about everyone. Even Charlotte. As Charlotte begins some amateur sleuthing of her own, she discovers some genuine surprises not only about her friends and guests, but also about her great-aunt. Readers who have previously read and enjoyed Gilbert’s cozy mystery novels will likely enjoy this series openers. While the story overall might have benefited from perhaps more digging into and about our protagonist Charlotte’s backstory- if only to help connect the reader more with Charlotte’s slightly detached feel as the narrator- it seems as though future entries into this series will deliver on that front. As ever, Gilbert takes great, precise care to reveal setting and place, as well as historical landmarks- and matching place and time with character’s histories and experiences. With some unexpected and fascinating reveals and turns, along with a steady, thoughtful narrator- whose tragic recent history seems ripe for future exploration- Booked for Death is a terrific choice for readers who enjoy a character-centered and/or literary-centered cozy mystery.
I received copies of these titles courtesy of Crooked Lane Books, imprint of Penguin Random House Canada, in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.