Liz has been reading Bells, Tails And Murder by Kathy Manos Penn.
Leta Parker has long been an Anglophile, so after the tragic death of her husband she decides to leave Atlanta, taking her dog and cat to start a new life in a Cotswold village. It’s the perfect setting for a cosy mystery and Leta’s inquiring mind and interest in people make her an ideal detective. But when Leta finds a body in suspicious circumstances, she has trouble convincing local policewoman, Gemma, that she is not just an interfering American with too much time on her hands.
There are many possible villagers who have motives for the murder but they are Leta’s friends so she searches for clues. In an added twist Leta discusses her investigation with dog, Dickens, and cat, Christie. Not only do they understand her, but she can also interpret everything they say. Suspension of disbelief is necessary, but it adds to the fun! At times I had problems remembering who was who, so a list of characters at the beginning of the book would have been helpful.*
Readers on both sides of the pond will appreciate the descriptions of a visit to Oxford and of the charming imaginary Cotswold village. The setting reminded me of the adventures of Agatha Raisin with a little bit of Midsummer Murder and it is a good choice appealing to both a British and an American audience. If you fancy a light read with a mystery to solve its great escapism.
*Whoops There was a helpful summary of the characters at the beginning of the book but somehow I missed it (Remember to go to the very beginning of a book on Kindle!)
She crossed an ocean to start her life over. Can she nab a killer before her quaint village becomes a graveyard?
Recently widowed Leta Parker desperately needs a change of scenery. Pursuing her lifelong dream of retiring to the Cotswolds, she leaves her soulless corporate hustle in Atlanta and moves to England with her talking dog and cat companions—Dickens and Christie. But she’s barely begun making new friends when she stumbles across her housekeeper’s body …
With several villagers pegged for the crime, Leta teams up with a retired English teacher and her sharp-as-a-tack octogenarian mother to track the killer before the trail goes cold. As the not-so-friendly local policewoman elbows them out and scandalous rumours plague the tight-knit community, it’s left to the ladies and their pets to sleuth for the truth.
Can Leta, Dickens, and Christie sniff out the culprit before the cute little town loses more than its charm?
Alex had been reading Saint Vandal’s Day by D. E. Haggerty
5 twinkling stars
I received a free copy of this book as part of Rosie Amber’s Review Team. The opinions are honest and my own.
I’ve not read anything by D.E. Haggarty before and didn’t know what to expect. What I didn’t expect was to be so amused and entertained that I read this in one complete chunk and with a big grin on my face.
The story is the seventh in the series and concerns Callie’s Bakery and someone’s attempts to discredit it and spoil Callie’s imminent wedding. To be honest, I worked out quite early on who was behind the threats, vandalism and unpleasantness but that didn’t spoil the story for me at all. The book is well-written and the dialogue positively sparkles off the page. The relationship between the three women is a delight and I did like the romantic touches between them and their respective partners. The pace never flags and I was kept enthralled throughout.
My only regret is not having come across this series earlier. This is the last in the series and as such it touches on what’s happened in the earlier books. I’d recommend starting with the first book! I may still go back and read the others because this one certainly brightened my day!
And for all those bakers out there – all the delicious cupcake recipes are listed at the end of the book so you can make your own.
St. Valentine’s Day is THE perfect day for a wedding. Unless a vandal is trying to ruin your life that is.
Callie is finally getting her dream wedding. On St. Valentine’s Day no less. Only a vandal is determined to destroy her bakery before the wedding can occur. Anna, self-proclaimed best cupcake baker this side of the Mississippi, is not letting anything happen to the cupcake bakery. No way. Barista extraordinaire Kristie jumps at the chance to help as well. Together the three women launch a mission to find the jerk who thinks it’s okay to attack the bakery.
Will the gals of Callie’s Cakes find the vandal and save the cupcake bakery before Callie’s dream wedding is ruined?
Cupcakes not included, although recipes for all the delicious cupcakes Anna bakes are.
Sherry has been reading Madam Tulip by David Ahern
This book was a delightful read. It starts a bit slow and this reviewer wasn’t sure it would be enjoyable, but luckily, it picked up speed as well as the reader’s interest by the second chapter. Don’t give up on this one based merely on the first few pages. Keep going for a richly described tale with compelling and fully fleshed-out characters.
Derry O’Donnell is a financially strapped actor and, needing to earn some cash, with some help from her friend, recreates herself as Madam Tulip. She naturally has the gift of premonition and can read cards intuitively and accurately. What better way to try to make a living when her mother threatens to stop her financial assistance?
Little does Derry know she’s about to get herself in way more trouble than just her mother cutting off her funding.
When someone dies at an event where Madam Tulip is reading cards, Derry finds herself in the middle of the drama—certainly not like a stage drama—this is real. Life and death.
She gets by with some help from her gay former navy SEAL friend and her outrageous painter father. She also stumbles upon an old love who is operating under cover. Friend or foe? That is something she can’t tell even with her psychic gifts.
The heroine is plucky and irreverent. Her internal dialogue is wonderful. The father and SEAL friend are both unique characters and so well-done personality-wise, this reader wanted to hang out in the pub with them all.
The author clearly has a wonderful sense of humor. There were a number of places that made this reviewer laugh out loud. I love a smart story and this one fits the bill. An adventure with serious moments as well as humor to lighten the mood. A perfect read- not great, heavy literature, but an amusing way to spend some time.
I was glad to learn there’s a whole series of these stories as I’m not ready to let them leave my life yet. This one is a keeper. Highly recommended for a fun read.
Suspense, mystery, action, a little romance and lots of laughs.
Derry O’Donnell, out-of-work actress, is talented, a teeny bit psychic … and broke. Spurred on by an ultimatum from her awesomely high-achieving mother, and with a little help from her theatrical friends, Derry embarks on a part-time career as Madam Tulip, fortune-teller to the rich and famous. But at her first fortune-telling gig – a celebrity charity weekend in a castle – a famous rap artist will die.
As Derry is drawn deeper into a seedy world of celebrities, supermodels and millionaires, she finds herself playing the most dangerous role of her acting life. Trapped in a maze of intrigue, money and drugs, Derry’s attempts at amateur detective could soon destroy her friends, her ex-lover, her father and herself.
Madam Tulip is the first in a series of Tulip adventures in which Derry O’Donnell, celebrity fortune-teller and reluctant detective, plays the most exciting and perilous roles of her acting life.
Liz has been reading Death By Windmill by Jennider S. Alderson
Death by Windmill is the third mystery to be solved by tour guide Lana Hansen, but this time its personal. Lana is just beginning to make up with her estranged mother when another guest on the tour in the Netherlands reveals a secret that could lead Lana herself into committing murder. The theme is Mothers and Daughters but most of them seem at odds with each other. While visiting some interesting sites in Amsterdam and the stunning Keukenhof Garden, we meet a number of people linked to the McGruffin company back in Seattle, many, including Lana, having been treated unjustly by its management. As the women are taken from one fascinating location to another, resentment and anger rise to the surface.
After one of their party dies, Lana must discover if it was an accident and who might have wished the victim to die. Her spirits are raised when she meets Alex, the perfect date, but will she be able to see him again? Another fast moving cozy mystery by Jennifer S Alderson which gives the reader a wonderful introduction to a holiday destination.
A Mother’s Day trip to the Netherlands turns deadly when a guest plummets from a windmill. Was it an accident or a murder? For Lana Hansen, the answer will mean freedom or imprisonment for someone close to her…
Wanderlust Tours guide Lana Hansen and her mother, Gillian, haven’t seen eye to eye in over a decade, ever since Lana was wrongly fired from her job as an investigative reporter. So when Lana’s boss invites Gillian to join her upcoming Mother’s Day tour to the Netherlands, Lana is less than pleased.
What could be worse than spending ten days with her estranged mother? Lana is about to find out…
The tour begins on a high note when the majority of guests bond during their visit to the Keukenhof flower gardens and a cruise around the picturesque canals of Amsterdam.
Despite her initial reservations, Lana thinks this might be the best group she had ever led. Until she discovers one of her guests—a recent retiree named Priscilla—is the person who destroyed her career in journalism.
All Lana can see is red. But circumstances dictate that she figure out a way to lead the tour, make peace with her mother, and not murder her guest. She doesn’t know whether she can handle the pressure.
Lana needn’t worry. Shortly after their fight, Priscilla falls off the balcony of a historic windmill at Zaanse Schans. Was she pushed or simply careless? The investigating officers suspect murder—and topping their suspect list is Lana’s mom!
Can Lana save Gillian? Or will her mother end up spending the rest of her days in a Dutch prison?
Sandra has been reading Hide Not Seek by D.E. Haggerty
Hide Not Seek is the third volume in The Not So Reluctant Detectives series and completes the trilogy with Pru’s story.
Although she has not lived in Milwaukee for very long, Pru has formed a strong bond with Mel and Terri whose stories were told in the first two books. She thought she had left the past behind her, and when she starts getting threatening notes we finally find out what Pru has been hiding from the others, but she does not give up her secret until absolutely forced to.
There are lots of twists and turns and a great surprise ending. You can read this on its own, but it will make a lot more sense if you read the books in order. I really like the relationship between the three women and how they complement each other. Their escapades are not so wild in this book, with Owen and Ryder more aware of what is going on, but that is good as Mel’s more extreme behaviour is kept in check. As Pru is an English teacher, the chapters begin with cryptic quotes from poems and novels (they are listed at the end).
Hide Not Seek is an enjoyable resolution to the series, and I am looking forward to reading DE Haggerty’s next book.
I know who you really are.
Pru has a secret, which she has no plans to reveal – ever. But after a woman is murdered and all clues point to her, she has no choice but to disclose her true identity. When her revelations thwart the killer’s plan to frame Pru for murder, the killer begins stalking her. With each note he sends, he gets closer. The police are stumped. Pru wants to run away. She really, really wants to run, but Ajax has found the woman of his dreams and he’s not letting her go anywhere. He can be patient. In the meantime, he’ll protect her with his life. Pru isn’t feeling very patient, and her friends, Mel and Terri, are definitely not willing to wait until the police discover who the stalker is. The three friends take matters into their own hands and jump headfirst into the investigation.
Will Pru and her friends uncover her stalker before he turns his violence on Pru?
This review was written for Rosie’s book review team and it was purchased by this reviewer.
A Clerical Error is a cozy, the third in the Yellow Cottage Vintage Mystery series. I read the second in the series, The Curse of Arundel Hall, so I am familiar with the setting, and I was looking forward to this next adventure. What appeals to me about these books is the historical setting, the paranormal aspects of the stories, and the fact they are cozies.
The Yellow Cottage series is set in the 1930s, and the author is developing her characters and the back story with each further adventure. Following the death of her husband, Ella Bridges moves to Linhay Island, spurred by a strong suggestion from her husband’s boss, the British Home Secretary, that she move away and forget her husband. She takes up residence in a refurbished cottage that was once a part of the Arundel Hall estate – a cottage inhabited by ghosts. In this volume, only Phantom, a cat ghost and companion to Ella, remains. Ella develops a reputation as something of a local sleuth, following her solution of a murder in the previous book.
In A Clerical Error, Ella takes a bike ride around the island and meets two ladies involved in raising funds for their church. Despite their somewhat off-putting interaction, they persuade Ella to run a stall to make money for the church at the May Day Fete. The action begins with the sudden death of the vicar, Father Michael, at the Fete. The vicar had only recently returned from a sabbatical and while liked, was not well known by his [parishioners. Characters previously introduced reappear, cleverly woven into the story: Sergeant Baxter, a policeman Ella had worked with before; her ever supportive Aunt Margaret; her housekeeper Mrs. Shaw, and her Uncle Albert, the Police Commissioner at Scotland Yard.
Confounding the threads of the investigation and shocking Ella is the discovery that her husband is still alive and the fact Mrs. Shaw is not who she claims to be.
The descriptive narrative is very well done, if at times not completely necessary. I particularly liked the walled garden – I could almost smell the flowers and hear the bees. I also enjoyed learning more about the island and Ella’s cottage, both of which are characters themselves. The author does a good job of creating well-rounded and sympathetic people to populate her books, and she keeps the reader in the 1930s. Best of all she provided enough plot turns to engross the reader in finding out who done it. While Phantom appears from time to time in the story, I would have liked to see more of Ella’s paranormal skills, and the story of her husband’s reappearance and the sequalae was somewhat of a stretch.
All in all, though, a satisfying read and one which keeps me interested in reading the next book in the series. This is a book to cuddle up with on a rainy day, and the ending does leave you hanging!
When the crime scene is pure coincidence and there’s no evidence, how do you prove it was murder?
Ella Bridges faces her most challenging investigation so far when the vicar dies suddenly at the May Day Fete. But with evidence scarce and her personal life unravelling in ways she could never have imagined, she misses vital clues in the investigation.
Working alongside Sergeant Baxter of Scotland Yard, will Ella manage to unearth the clues needed to catch the killer before another life is lost? Or will personal shock cloud her mind and result in another tragedy?
‘A Clerical Error’ is set in 1930’s England, and is the third of The Yellow Cottage Vintage Mystery series.
‘Miss Marple meets The Ghost Whisperer’ – Perfect For Fans of Golden Age Murder Mysteries, Cozy Mysteries, Clean Reads and British Amateur Sleuths
J. New is the British author of The Yellow Cottage Vintage Mystery series. Set on the fictitious island of Linhay in the south of England during the 1930’s, they are an homage to the Golden Age mysteries but with a contemporary twist.
I fell in love with Derry, the hapless heroine of David Ahern’s cozy mystery series, in Madam Tulip, the first book of this terrific series, as she supplemented the vicissitudes of an acting career by capitalizing on her inherited psychic gifts. As the glamorous and mysterious Madam* Tulip, world-famous psychic and fortune-teller, Derry reluctantly finds herself telling fortunes for well-heeled clients. (*That’s Madam without an “e”, because she’s not married to Monsieur Tulip.)
Just as her acting career seems poised to take off, disaster strikes their venerable old theater, and Derry is forced to take a job for her wealthy American mother Vanessa—art gallery owner, agent, and force of nature. At the same time, Derry attempts to dodge the more extreme scheming of her Irish father Jacko—famous artist, compulsive gambler, and womanizer. At times Derry wonders if she’s the only one who remembers that her parents are divorced, as she’s caught in the middle of their ongoing battles/attraction.
But in the midst of these scenes from her regular life, Derry is approached by a friend from Book 1 with a command performance request for Madam Tulip from a wealthy Countess. Reluctantly, Derry agrees and along with her conscripted sidekick Bruce, is soon ensconced in the aristocratic estate and lives of a compulsive gambler Earl and his family.
As a reader, that was about the time that I started to add up the ways that author David Ahern was systematically both using and subverting the standard Cozy Mystery tropes.
The sweet old lady amateur detective is a gray wig and a costumed role for a young woman who prefers the cash to solving the crime. “Derry and Bruce were different people in as many ways as you could imagine. But they were both actors. To be insulted by offers of money was, therefore, an existential impossibility.”
Her gay best friend is not only a handsome fellow actor but he’s also a competent ex-Navy Seal and computer expert who—in contrast to Cozy genre norms—doesn’t cook, own a small dog, or give fashion advice. (Although he is somewhat-unfortunately named Bruce, so there’s that…)
Neither the police nor local medical providers are the least helpful.
The murdered body itself might be offstage, but bits of it have taken to turning up in particularly graphic ways. Despite body bits, liberal clues, and red herrings that point to the bad guys and accomplice early on, the actual motivating factor isn’t revealed until the end, when it almost doesn’t matter.
In keeping with the Cozy ethics, there is no swearing, unless “gobshite” counts. But there are no cats, no knitting, and not much use for cupcakes either. “The neighbours of the Palace Theatre were mostly bars catering to stag parties—hordes of drunken revellers whose uses for a cupcake could prove unorthodox.”
Instead of a cozy little village, the action moves to an aristocratic estate that can only be called ‘familiar’ by Downton Abby fans. There are several sightings of “HER”, and in addition to the Queen, members of the Royal family play roles. One thing that makes American-raised Derry (and Americans like me) wonder is the whole concept of the Queen and British royalty. Like Derry, we can’t quite figure it out.
‘I’ve never understood why the Irish are so keen on the British Royal Family,’ observed Derry to Jacko in a whisper. ‘You know—all that bad history. You’d think they’d have a grudge.’
‘Sure what has history to do with it, at all?’ replied Jacko. ‘Isn’t it a grand show, with all the parades and marriages and scandals galore? All paid for by the British taxpayer, God bless them. We Irish say think you very much’ do carry on.’
The book’s pacing works well, with the scene set at the aristocratic estate, eccentric characters such as the ex-showgirl Countess, and occasional arrival of random body parts. My only complaints with the book start when the cozy mystery escalates into a thriller mode that’s less convincing, with James Bond style over-the-top villains and complex rigged death scenes that frankly would have been much more easily arranged with a strategic bullet or two and some judicious arson. Indeed, Derry willingly puts herself at risk because she feels guilty over something she had no control over or responsibility for. While this enables the thriller-style finale, I think the judges would agree that it doesn’t really make sense. Sure, if Derry had been English, she would have apologized for everything from the weather to her own incompetence in briskly ferreting out the murderer. But Derry is Irish-American. And the Irish aren’t about feel guilty about bad things happening to the English, while the Americans aren’t going to apoligize for anything except possibly Donald Trump.
And finally, there is a ‘you’ve probably wondered why I’ve called you all here’ scene that’s almost an afterthought, and a bit of cozy-mystery cheating as the final motivating clue isn’t revealed until after all the action.
But you know what? These complaints are absolutely minor next to the character building, scene setting, and snarky conversation. I love this series, highly recommend it, and suggest that readers treat themselves to both books in order. I would give Madam Tulip and the Knave of Hearts an equally-enthusiastic four stars. As I said with the first book, if you’re up for a funny, well-written genre mashup with memorable characters and a great sense of voice and style, I think you’ll love this series.
And of course, I can’t wait for Madam Tulip’s next appearance.
I reviewed Madam Tulip and the Knave of Hearts for Rosie’s Book Review Team
***I received this book from the publisher or author to facilitate an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***
David Ahern grew up in a theatrical family in Ireland but ran away to Scotland to become a research psychologist and sensible person. He earned his doctorate and taught in major Universities but could never explain to his granny why he didnít own a stethoscope. Finding the challenge of pretending to know things exhausting, David Ahern shaved off his beard and absconded once more, this time to work in television. He became a writer, director and producer, creating international documentary series. He won numerous awards, but found nobody was much impressed. For want of a better plan, David Ahern took to writing fiction. Madame Tulip isn’t his first novel, but writing it was the most fun he’s ever had with a computer. He is now writing the third in the series and enjoys pretending that this activity is actual work. David Ahern lives in the beautiful West of Ireland with his wife, two cats and a vegetable garden of which he is inordinately proud.