Tag Archives: cozy mystery

April Showers Bring Dead Flowers: Book One of the Murder on the Vine Series by Krista Lockheart Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

After inheriting her grandparent’s lavish New England estate, horticulture Professor Heather Moore discovers more than she bargained for as an attempt to restore her estate’s garden turns up human remains and puts her in the crosshairs of a deadly killer in author Krista Lockheart’s “April Showers Bring Dead Flowers”, the first book in the Murder on the Vine series!

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The Synopsis

There’s something growing in the garden . . . and it’s not a flower. A mystery is growing in the garden!

Greenhouse expert and horticulture Professor Heather Moore gets a new lease on life when she inherits her grandparents’ estate in New England. But the garden she loved as a child has seen better days. Determined to restore her grandfather’s garden to its former beauty, she’s accompanied by Ant, her charming chihuahua, and Pansy, her grandfather’s cat.

But wait, what? Heather suddenly digs up an even bigger challenge when she finds some human remains in an old potting shed. As she discovers clues and follows the evidence, a few suspects cross her mind, but ultimately they point to one wily and clever killer. Suddenly in danger herself, can Heather solve this puzzling mystery, restore her family’s legacy, and bring about justice?

Meanwhile, her chance meeting with fellow flower enthusiast, Lars Oslo, turns her world upside down as she falls in love with that handsome and kind man. Their dates are off the charts romantic, & Heather feels like she won the lottery as their relationship progresses. Read how her fresh clean romance bursts into bloom in an unforgettable way.

April Showers Bring Dead Flowers is the first novel in the Murder on the Vine series. Join Heather and Ant as they explore the seedy underworld of gardens, greenhouses, and flower shops in this ‘unputdownable’ murder mystery!

The Review

This was such a delightful read. The author did an incredible job of capturing the lightheartedness of the cozy mystery and the spine-chilling danger that comes with any murder mystery read. The atmospheric story really brings readers into the world the author has built effortlessly, and the juxtaposition of the raw beauty and inspiration that nature brings and the author’s passion for horticulture with the horrors of the murder case brings Heather into an entirely new world she never asked to be in was highly creative.

The thing that stood out to me was the depth of emotions and character development that the author poured into this narrative. The first few pages set up the dynamic shift in Heather’s life when she meets Lars, and the romance that sparks between them is palpable. The humor and love that the protagonist brings to her relationship with her pets as well as a great character trait to explore in this story, providing a great balance to the author’s clash with the killer in this story.

The Verdict

Harrowing, thoughtful, and engaging, author Krista Lockheart’s “April Showers Bring Dead Flowers” is a great first entry into the Murder on the Vine series and a beautiful cozy murder mystery read. The dive into horticulture and the world of planet preservation and study was a unique character direction that highlighted a community many don’t understand, and the rich dynamics at play in both the character’s relationships and the narrative overall will have readers invested with each twist and turn that comes their way. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Critically acclaimed and award-winning author Krista Lockheart writes irresistible cozy mysteries filled with humor and buzzworthy characters and plots. Her favorite activity is interacting with her readers from all over the world, and she enjoys their feedback and comments on her social media platforms. She loves good food, good conversation, and good books! Cooking is a passion, and she especially enjoys making pasta with vegetables. Chocolate, avocado, and seafood are her favorite foods to celebrate with.

Krista comes from an artistic background, and her art workshops sell out within a few hours of signup. Her work has earned cultural council grants and has been featured in newspapers, magazines, and on TV and on the radio.

In the past few months, her memoir, travel travels, and short stories were published four times in the Writer & Readers’ Magazine, and her travel tale about her expedition to Peru was the editorial feature in DRIFT Travel magazine.

She contributed a short story to a Halloween anthology and her debut novel was #1 in 12 categories on Amazon during its initial release (including in the Free Kindle Store and in New release categories).

It also earned five book awards including First Place at TheBookFest in Humorous, a Second Place and Honorable Mention at TheBookFest, a First Place award from Royal Dragonfly Book Awards, and a Silver Award from Literary Titan, along with five star editorial reviews. It was recommended by US Review of Books, and the Chick-Lit Cafe, as well as featured in the Midwest Book Review.

https://www.kristalockheartauthor.com/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09WHBPNP4/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F61136419-april-showers-bring-dead-flowers%3Fac%3D1%26from_search%3Dtrue%26qid%3Duv0qAOaTxk%26rank%3D1&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Dead Man’s Doll (Sugarwood Mysteries Book 2) by Diane Bator Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

The holidays bring a bit of horror to the small town of Sugarwood as a woman stumbles across the murder of a local butcher and discovers tales of voodoo and witchcraft integrated into the mystery in author Diane Bator’s “Dead Man’s Doll”, the second book in the Sugarwood Mysteries series!

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The Synopsis

Christmas blooms in Sugarwood in the form of a brightly lit tree in town square, colourful ornaments, and a snowstorm. It’s just Audra Clemmings’ luck that she literally stumbles over the local butcher in Miss Lavinia’s shop. Then a witch doctor arrives in town.

Can Audra solve the mystery before the killer turns their sights on her?

The Review

I absolutely loved the juxtaposition of the holiday settings with the cozy murder mystery meets witchcraft and horror elements of the narrative. The author did an amazing job of bringing a good dose of humor and wit to the narrative amongst the more chilling elements of the story, and the rich detail and atmosphere that the author was able to achieve were inspiring to see come to life on the page.

The character growth and the exploration of our understanding of things like witchcraft, voodoo, and other magical-based belief systems were the true heart of this narrative. The humor and relatability that the author infuses into characters like protagonist Audra and Marilee, and even the inclusion of Audra’s dog Drake, added a depth and captivating element to the cozy murder mystery, while the magical practices element of the story showcased how it is often our own prejudices and misconceptions that make people far more dangerous than the unknown and things classified by society as “supernatural” and having all of this come to life in a Christmas setting was made even better.

The Verdict

Chilling, witty, and entertaining, author Diane Bator’s “Dead Man’s Doll” is a brilliant cozy mystery for the fall/winter season of 2022 and a perfect next chapter in the Sugarwood Mysteries series. The thoughtful and thrilling narrative blends well with the funny character dynamics and rich cultural and spiritual elements explored in the story, making this a one-of-a-kind read you won’t be able to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Diane Bator is a prolific writer published by BWL Publishing. She is a A member of WCYR, Sisters in Crime and a board member for the Crime Writers of Canada. She is the author of several mystery series and a budding playwright.

https://dianebator.ca/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BG9JCVBP/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F62884670-dead-man-s-doll%3Fac%3D1%26from_search%3Dtrue%26qid%3D4B8y5jPuET%26rank%3D2&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

The Flower Enigma (Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles Book 5) by Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A man and woman seeking a quiet vacation away from their busy work lives find themselves instead embroiled in one crisis to another as the small town of Magnolia Bluff experiences a new round of intrigue and terror in authors Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey’s “The Flower Enigma”, the fifth book in the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicle series. 

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The Synopsis

JJ and Jo find the ideal spot to get away from their busy work lives—Magnolia Bluff offers Flower Bed & Breakfast, a quaint country destination within the beautiful Texas Hill Country.

They pull up to the picturesque building only to discover a crowd of citizens anxiously awaiting a special podcast, created by a group of local women, to start. Flower B&B is the sponsor of today’s show in this multi-day series. The couple works through the human log jam. As they check in, they learn that a cyber-attack may prevent the show from airing.

JJ, a technology guru, is convinced by Jo to help the group meet their broadcast promise. While he’s working on the issue, Jo spots a girl in the crowd with fear in her eyes who flashes the international help sign. The teenager vanishes into the throng. Fearful young people signaling for help strikes too close to home for Jo.

Their romantic vacation becomes a journey from one crisis to the next as these vacationers help the evangelizing ladies even as risks are multiplying. Threats expand to include all the podcasters, the show location owners, and suspected missing teens.

Authorities discount the gossipy group’s allegations that Mateo Hernandez built a wall around his property for more than privacy. JJ and Jo work to assemble the necessary clues to convince Chief Jager that Hernandez is a bigger menace. Their nosing around places them both in harm’s way. When Jo is attacked it becomes personal.

This romantic getaway isn’t even close to plan. Lives are at stake, and the young couple won’t accept failure.

The Review

This was such a thrilling and fun suspense thriller of a read. The blend of cyber-thriller and the cozy mystery was such a unique and captivating angle to keep the reader invested in this story, and the fast pace of the narrative gave readers an edge-of-their-seat feeling throughout the entirety of the narrative. The authors were able to find the right harmony of atmosphere that wove both lighthearted dialogues between the protagonists and the townspeople and tension-filled moments when delving into the darker mysteries at the heart of this narrative.

What drove this story, as often is the case with great cozy mystery reads, was the rich character dynamics of the book. The story’s opening chapters reflect this greatly, as Lilly, the owner of the Inn the protagonists are staying in, immediately shows a unique small-town charm as she carries on with grand storytelling and makes hilarious assumptions about people. The blend of humorous interactions like this and the twisted confrontations that arise later on made this story so engaging.

The Verdict

Captivating, thrilling, and engaging, authors Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey’s “The Flower Enigma” is a must-read cozy mystery meets suspense thriller read and a great addition to the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles series. The rich storytelling and entertaining characters of this small town mystery will have readers invested in this narrative, and the twists and turns it takes will keep you hanging off of the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Charles Breakfield is a renowned technology solutions architect with years of experience in security, cloud computer, hybrid data/telecom environments, artificial intelligence, and unified communications. He finds it intriguing to leverage his professional skills in writing the contemporary award-winning stories of the Enigma Series and the short stories he creates with his co-author.

Never one to sit still, he uses his spare time to explore books on World War II his¬tory, travel with his family, and cultural exchanges everywhere. Charles’ love of wine tastings, cooking creations on the grill like individual pizzas, and Harley riding are sometimes sprinkled throughout the Enigma Series.

Recently, Charles commented that being a part of his father’s military career stationed at various outposts, has positively contributed to the many characters in the stories. He enjoys exploring the various character perspectives and interactions pulling from real people. He accepted the challenge to try to teach Burkey humor which is also incorporated into many of the stories in an unexpected manner.

Burkey commented that If Charles is not creating a new story he paces like a caged tiger. So yes there is another story in the works. You can enjoy snippets of their stories, book trailers, audible sections, and get FREE stuff at www.EnigmaSeries.com.

Rox Burkey is the co-author of the 13 books in the Enigma Series. The prequel, Out of Poland, historical fiction released in 2021. In addition to her award winning novels and nurmerous short stories, she is a techologist by profession. She is known for helping business customers modernize and optimize customer experience (CX) with processes, technology shifts, and building roadmaps to success. Nothing makes her workday go better than for a customer to indicate she helped reach their business goals. She is adept at learning the drivers for customers and helping to measure their success as well as adjust their journey using CX principles.

Rox loves writing fiction as much if not more than her professional job. More than once she has been a featured speaker, workshop leaders, subject matter expert, interviewer, podcaster, book reviewer through RoxBurkey.com. Her favorite is writing the novels and short stories of the Enigma Series. She convinced her co-author Charles Breakfield that writing fiction is a lot more fun than white papers or documentation.

As a child, Rox jumped at the chance to lead the other kids with exciting new adventures built on make believe characters. As a Girl Scout until high school, she contributed to the community and went on to support the local Head Start program. Rox enjoys her family, cross country travel (okay international too) listening to people, outdoors activities, sewing, cooking, baking, and imagining the possibilities.

Recently Rox indicated that her humor was lousy, and Charles was helping her. You can enjoy snippets of their stories, book trailers, audible sections, and get FREE stuff at www.EnigmaSeries.com.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B6QK4FGK/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F61889926-the-flower-enigma%3Fac%3D1%26from_search%3Dtrue%26qid%3DVCEhxr792K%26rank%3D1&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Devil’s Chew Toy (Hayden & Friends Book One) by Rob Osler Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A gay relationship blogger teams up with a take-charge lesbian and a feisty bull terrier to find a missing go-go dancer and take down an international crime ring in author Rob Osler’s “Devil’s Chew Toy”, the first book in the Hayden & Friends LGBTQ+ Mystery Series! 

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The Synopsis

Perfect for fans of T.J. Klune, Becky Albertalli, and David Levithan, this hilarious, big-hearted LGBTQ+ mystery follows an unlucky in love—and life—gay relationship blogger who teams up with a take-charge lesbian and a fiesty bull terrier to find a missing go-go boy and bring down an international crime ring.

When Hayden McCall’s new crush suddenly disappears, the twenty-something gay ginger relationship blogger and middle-school teacher teams up with a take charge butch lesbian, a gentle giant, and a feisty bull terrier to find the missing guy. 

Driven by a belief that the police won’t take the crime seriously, the improbable crime fighters prove that friendship — fueled by a lot of caffeine — has the power to bring down a diabolic international crime ring.

The Review

I absolutely loved this book. The humorous and captivating story balanced out so well with the rich and diverse characters. The pacing and atmosphere that the author crafted within this narrative were so engaging for a reader to dive into, and each scene and character felt alive on the page as if you could just step right into it. The themes the author explores in this book, from police brutality to the struggle of being “illegal” while living in the United States and so much more made the heart of this narrative feel so important as well.

The thing that really stuck out to me as a reader was the LGBTQ-driven themes and how prominent the ammeter sleuth meets crime thriller and humorous cozy mystery genres were within the story itself. The dynamics between Hayden, Hollister, and Burley were great to see, and getting to see the evolution of their friendship was so fun to connect with. Yet the actual mystery aspect of the narrative kept me on the edge of my seat, constantly guessing the truth behind this young dancer’s disappearance. 

The Verdict

Captivating, thoughtful, and entertaining, author Rob Osler’s “Devil’s Chew Toy” is a must-read ammeter sleuth meets LGBTQ+ humor and crime thriller! The way these cozy mystery reads have gained more and more popularity, especially in the face of the hit Hulu original series Only Murders in the Building, has given bright and original stories like this the spotlight they deserve, and the author’s unique blend of humor, wit, and charm with important themes and heartfelt character growth will have readers eager for more of this engaging series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Prior to Devil’s Chew Toy, Rob Osler’s short story, Analogue, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, won the Mystery Writers of America Robert L Fish Award as part of the 2022 Annual Edgar Awards. Rob lives in California with his long-time partner and a tall gray cat. 

Website: http://robosler.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/roboslerwriter

Twitter: http://twitter.com/robosler

Instagram: http://instagram.com/roboslerwriter

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3pb3YYz

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57997935-devil-s-chew-toy

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Author Q&A

On writing:

How did you do research for your book?

As DEVIL’S CHEW TOY is a contemporary novel set in a city I’m extremely familiar with, there was not a heavy research task. Also, because the two main characters are VERY amateur sleuths, I could avoid needing to get a lot of police procedure right—though there is some police interaction. That said, it’s amazing how many little questions arise in every chapter that require a pause and some desk research. 

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

The hardest character to write was Hollister—not that she was too challenging. I strove to be respectful of Hollister’s identity as a Black lesbian in America without going so deeply into her character that hers became a story that wasn’t mine to tell. 

The easiest character to write was Hayden McCall. Why? Because there’s a whole lot of me in him. We are both naturally shy and smaller of stature (though he’s shorter and slighter). I took Hayden on the type of adventure—with a bolder, stronger, and more courageous friend—that I would love to go on.

There are many cozy mysteries out there….What makes yours different?

My story features two extremely amateur sleuths, one mild-mannered gay ginger and one butch lesbian. I’ve heard from some reviewers and readers that while pairing a gay and a lesbian as the main protagonists is not unprecedented it is uncommon. Also, I intentionally wrote a story in which the queer characters are neither the villains nor the tragic victims. 

What advice would you give budding writers?

Understand that whatever amount of patience you have will be depleted and then some. Publishing moves in increments of months. It takes a long time—and a lot of collaborators—to bring a book to market.

Your book is set in Seattle. Have you ever been there?

I set the book in Seattle because it’s my “Spirit City.” I lived there for nearly twenty years and loved it. Given as much time as it takes to write a book, I wanted to return to Seattle and its neighborhoods and hills and waterways during the long writing process.

Do you have another profession besides writing?

I have been a marketing and branding strategist for many decades, both at agency/consultancies and at technology corporations. I think the general mind set of prioritizing activities that matter most has helped me with all aspects of writing and the navigating the publishing process.

How long have you been writing?

I actually started my professional career as advertising copywriter writing television commercials for Kellogg’s and Tropicana and Procter & Gamble. Fiction writing also uses words to communicate but that’s about the only commonality I’ve found! It’s the difference between landing one memorable message versus telling a compelling, captivating story over three hundred-plus pages. Trust me, a novel is way harder.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?

You know, I really never do. But then I’m not much of a procrastinator either—not that they’re the same thing. My biggest challenge is going off on a tangent with a character or a scene that needlessly complicates the story and “writes me into a corner.” I do a lot revisions.

What is your next project?

I have recently sold my second short story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It features a fifty-something cross-dressing whacky amateur sleuth named Perry Winkle who solves a murder at his Palm Springs condo community.

What genre do you write and why?

I write traditional mysteries because that has been the genre I have always most loved to read. And I feature LGBTQ+ main characters because I am gay and we need more books—of all genres—that represent the great and glorious rainbow of humanity. 

What is the last great book you’ve read?

Two spring to mind. The first: THE SAVAGE KIND by John Copenhaver, who also happens to be a very nice human being. This novel—no surprise—won the Lambda Literary Award for best mystery this year. The second: DEAD LETTERS FROM PARADISE by Ann McMan is sheer delight. Both books are truly terrific.

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?

“I can’t wait to read the next one!”

How are you similar to or different from your lead character?

Both Hayden and I are gay, mild-mannered, quiet, but good for an occasionally humorous one-liner. We both play tennis and enjoy big personalities. As Hayden says, “we balance each other out.”

If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?

The characters are so distinct in my head, I can’t picture a known movie star playing either Hayden, Hollister or Burley. However, I can see Della Rupert, the oddball proprietress of Barkingham Palace, played superbly by Melissa McCarthy.

If your book were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?

Stanley Kellogg’s “Falling Hard,” of course! This song, which was made up along with the new country star himself, reoccurs throughout the story. Fun fact! After the book was published, a good friend, Ben Davis, and I completed the lyrics and Ben wrote the music and produced the track. It’s on my website. Check it out!

What were the biggest rewards with writing your book?

Hearing from readers that they enjoyed it. 

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?

Long.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Every time you are certain you’re done working on a book, know that you aren’t.

Which authors inspired you to write?

Agatha Christie and Armistead Maupin.

What is something you had to cut from your book that you wish you could have kept?

There’s a line that 91-year-old Jerry delivers in reply to Hayden’s question: “How did you get to be so wise old man?” Over the whistle of the kettle, Jerry replies, “I managed to live a long damn time.”  That “damn” was an Eff-bomb until the final edit. It was the only strong swear word in the book. By removing it the book avoided an R rating, if you will. But I still love the idea of Jerry saying the line with more gusto!

On rituals:

Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack?

No snacking. But I do try to drink plenty of water.

Where do you write?

I have a home office. I’ve never been able to do the coffee shop thing. I am too easily distracted.

Do you write every day?

Not every day. But I do write most days. 

What is your writing schedule?

I usually write in two- to three-hour spurts. In a mystery, context and pacing is so important I am not skilled enough to dipping in and out.

Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?

Nope. I just plop my butt down and starting tap, tap, tapping. I will say I find it very difficult to stop writing before I finish a chapter, even in the roughest draft form.

In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

No. But I do use notebook paper to scribble plot ideas before I write.

Fun stuff:

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

The seventies. The music was awesome. Though I’m still wary of bell bottom pants.

Favorite travel spot?

Switzerland.

Favorite dessert?

Raspberry rhubarb pie

If you were stuck on a deserted island, which 3 books would you want with you? 

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

Tales of the City

All the Light We Cannot See

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

I set off for Alaska to work on fish processing barge after my sophomore year at college. If fish were running, the shift was 16 hours, every day until all the fish were processed. I still don’t know why I did it, but I returned two more summers. 

Any hobbies? or Name a quirky thing you like to do.

I have been life-long tennis player and watcher. I can usually name the top twenty men players—and often in order!

If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?

Rob Osler writes traditional mysteries featuring LGBTQ+ main characters. 

What is something you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?

We are social creatures who need human interaction.

What TV series are you currently binge watching?

Inventing Anna by Shonda Rhimes on Netflix.

What is your theme song?

“Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits. 

What song is currently playing on a loop in your head?

“The Seaside” by The Lazy Eyes

What is something that made you laugh recently?

Jinx Monsoon’s roast performance on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Hi-lar-ious.

What is your go-to breakfast item?

Toast and yogurt with berries.

What is the oldest item of clothing you own?

I have a green argyle sweater I bought in Seattle thrift store about forty years ago.

Tell us about your longest friendship.

Twin girls, Kelly and Shelly. I grew up with them. We went to elementary, middle school, high school and then to the same out-of-state college! Just a few months back, I did a book event at the wonderful Boise bookshop Rediscovered Books. Guess who was in the front row?

Who was your childhood celebrity crush?

Willy Ames who played the role of Tommy on Eight is Enough.

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Guest Post: Adding More Color To Cozies

Adding More Color to Cozies

Within the mystery genre are several sub-genres, including suspense, hard-boiled, noir, historical, amateur sleuth, police procedural, detective, and cozy. Perhaps the one in the list that is least familiar to most readers is the cozy. If the term is new to you, just think of Jessica Fletcher and Murder She Wrote or most of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries. The hallmarks of a cozy are the avoidance of gratuitous violence, graphic sex, and profanity. But being on the tamer end of the mystery spectrum doesn’t mean a cozy can’t deliver a terrifically entertaining read packed with engaging characters, adventure, intrigue, and loads of humor. 

Given the nature of cozies, they have tended to appeal to a more conservative audience, predominately featuring white and straight main characters in smaller towns populated with other white and straight residents. That said, there have been many truly great exceptions. To name drop just a few: Dean James Simon-Kirby Jones series that features a gay vampire (now that’s different!), Stephen E. Stanley’s Luke Littlefield series, Michael Craft’s Claire Gray series, Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, Ellen Hart’s Jane Lawless series, among others, and Kellye Garrett’s HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE. 

While diverse cozies are nothing new, it seems there are more coming than ever before. And that’s a very good thing.

Michael Craft is back with DESERT GETAWAY, a delightful new Dante (gay guy) and Jazz series (Black woman P.I.). Raquel Reyes’s MANGO, MAMBO, AND MURDER (A Caribbean Kitchen Mystery), Mia P. Manansala’s ARSENIC AND ABODO, Jennifer J. Chow’s DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA, Frank Anthony Polito’s RENOVATED TO DEATH (yes, gay 😊), and Zac Bissonnette’s A KILLING IN COSTUMES (also gay). And yes, my own debut novel, DEVIL’S CHEW TOY, features a gay, ginger middle-school teacher and gay dating blogger and his amateur sleuth partner, a Black butch lesbian.

Representation is important. While I hope the murders and other crimes that anchor even cozy mysteries don’t befall readers, it’s important to have book options that put diverse characters at the center. True inclusion isn’t relegated to the periphery. I, for one, enjoy reading stories I can relate to because of a shared experience with a character and characters that introduce me to new cultures and experiences. That’s an adventure. That’s transportive and escapist. Isn’t that why we read fiction? 

And here’s the best part: a good book is a good book. So even straight readers can enjoy a great mystery with diverse main characters. 

So hooray for the new wave of diverse cozies. They promise any mystery lover a delightfully colorful read.

The Conned Lady (Wild Blue Mysteries Book 5) by Diane Bator Review 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A mystery surrounding an eccentric writer’s late husband and his untimely demise sends Katie and her detective boyfriend Danny on a dark and dangerous path, where everyone is a suspect and everyone is equally in danger, in author Diane Bator’s “The Conned Lady”, the fifth book in the Wild blue Mysteries series.

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The Synopsis

Eccentric romance novelist Mimsy Lexington has a secret.

When she approaches Katie Mullins to help find details around her late husband’s death, Katie and her boyfriend Danny Walker are drawn into a web of lies and deceit. The deeper they dig, the more they realize the biggest dangers may lurk close to home and need to suspect everyone—including Mimsy.

The Review

A truly brilliant and inviting cozy mystery meets an adrenaline-fueled crime thriller! The novel does an excellent job of balancing out nods and characters from previous entries in the series with the new narrative that both new and returning readers will be able to dive head-first into. The atmosphere smoothly dips into humorous character dialogue between friends to tense and heart-pounding terror as threats begin to emerge all around the cast of characters. The focus on the cold-case narrative was so fun and relevant to read, as so many cold cases tend to go unnoticed or fade into obscurity, but hold as much mystery as more high-profile cases. 

The character development in this narrative was superb. Getting to see the intimate moments of Katie and Danny’s relationship and the impact of their pasts coming back to haunt them in the midst of this investigation, as well as the mystery surrounding Mimsy and her late husband’s shady dealings, drew me in as a reader and kept me invested throughout this novel. The small-town setting and quick pace of the narrative kept the plot moving at an even pace, and made the characters feel real and relatable all at once. 

The Verdict

An entertaining, mysterious, and intriguing read, author Diane Bator’s “The Conned Lady” is the perfect next entry into the Wild Blue Mysteries series. The harmony found between the character growth and the suspense of this case the protagonists find themselves in made this story shine so brightly, and the twists and turns the narrative takes will keep readers on the edge of their seats as the climax finally plays out. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Diane Bator is a prolific writer published by BWL Publishing. She is a member of WCYR, Sisters in Crime, and a board member for the Crime Writers of Canada. She is the author of several mystery series and a budding playwright.

https://dianebator.ca/

Headlines, Deadlines, and Lies by Stephanie LaVigne Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A single mother struggling to find her footing as a writer finds herself uncovering more secrets than she could have imagined while investigating genealogy studies in author Stephanie LaVigne’s “Headlines, Deadlines, and Lies”. 

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The Synopsis

“It’s all in the genes, darling!” A witty quip…or a clue?

Piper Harrington is determined to find out.

As a single mom living back in her quaint hometown nestled along Florida’s Gulf Coast, Piper has all but abandoned her dream of ever becoming a professional writer. So when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity opens up at the small beach town paper where she works, she has to make a split-second decision: Go for it (even if it requires a little fib) or give up a shot at her lifelong goal.

To complicate things, in waltzes a worldly crime reporter who is easy to talk to and even easier on the eyes. Add in a demanding editor, alongside a theatrical best friend, a lively family, and co-workers who run the gamut from supportive to conniving, and things start getting tricky.

Scrambling for a topic that could keep readers hooked, Piper dives into the world of genealogy…something she knows absolutely nothing about. When her investigation turns up more questions than answers, her findings threaten to open up a Pandora’s box that can’t be closed.

A story about friendship, family, finding your passion…and the lengths we go to protect those we love.

•••

What do Bogie & Bacall, a goldfish, and a never-ending mountain of laundry have in common? There’s only one way to find out! If you love a fun, beachy read with a lovable female amateur sleuth, then you will have a blast with Headlines Deadlines and Lies; a Florida twist on a cozy mystery!

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The Review

This was a truly marvelous mystery! The author perfectly captures the warmth and wit that the cozy mystery genre often has. The relationship between the protagonist and the cast of characters felt real and relatable all at once. Getting an intimate look into the protagonist’s life as a single mother and aspiring writer was emotional and heartfelt, and the author really captured the author’s mental and physical journey as she underwent this adventure. 

The real defining moment or aspect of this novel had to be the setting of the novel. The cozy mystery novel typically conjures up a cold, wintery setting in some small New England or English town. Yet the author has flipped the script in the best way possible, taking readers to a sunny destination like Florida and still keeping the theme and tone of coziness and suspense that the genre is known for.

The Verdict

A masterful, expertly crafted, and engaging read, author Stephanie LaVigne’s “Headlines, Deadlines, and Lies” is a must-read and satisfying read. The characters immediately draw the reader in with their authenticity and charm, and the evolving mystery keeps readers invested in this narrative wholeheartedly. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Stephanie LaVigne comes from a long line of mystery lovers. Her books combine quirkiness, intrigue, and adventure…plus a healthy dose of humor and wit.

She has published over 50 popular novels under her pen names in both romance and mystery, and is a regular Amazon Bestseller.

After spending years in the NYC film industry, then as a professional photographer, she eventually traded in her cameras to pursue life as a full-time writer. From hopping trains across the US to crewing a sailboat on a trans-Atlantic crossing, from mushing dogs on a Canadian dogsled to unwittingly hiking Mount Washington, she’s seen a few things and lived to tell about them. If nothing else, her life has never been dull.

She currently lives in her favorite South Florida neighborhood surrounded by palm trees, peacocks, a few wild kids, one wild husband, and a handful of incredible family members and friends. 

https://stephanielavigne.com/

https://www.bookbub.com/books/headlines-deadlines-and-lies-the-sunshine-state-cozy-crime-by-stephanie-lavigne

Broomsticks and Board Games (Spooky Games Club #1) by Amy McNulty Audiobook Tour & Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young witch in a town full of supernaturals must balance keeping her neighbors human nephew oblivious of the supernatural community around them, keeping the curse beset on her from claiming her as a victim, and an old town mystery surrounding a former games club that turned deadly in author Amy McNulty’s “Broomsticks and Board Games”, the first in the Spooky Games Club series.

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The Synopsis

Dahlia Poplar is a genuine witch, an unofficial gofer, and Luna Lane’s only cursed resident.

With a werewolf best friend, a vampire ex-boyfriend, and a ghost for a hanger-on, Dahlia is far from the most unusual dweller of her sleepy small town, but she’s the only one unable to leave. Dahlia has to perform at least one good deed per day—or she’s one step closer to turning to stone.

Fortunately, the residents of Luna Lane have plenty of tasks for Dahlia to complete to avert the curse until Cable Woodward, fetching professor and nephew of her elderly neighbor, stops by for the semester on sabbatical. Attempting to help Cable’s uncle work through the trauma of losing his wife, Dahlia uncovers the man’s collection of board games, which leads to him reminiscing about the long-forgotten Luna Lane Games Club.

Dahlia reestablishes Games Club, only to find evidence of a number of horrible demises connected to the original group. While trying to uncover the truth about the deaths, Dahlia has to fight off her curse, protect her elderly neighbor from becoming the next victim, and most vexing of all, keep Cable from figuring out Luna Lane’s supernatural secrets. Only with eerie board games like these, there may not be a loser—or even a winner—who survives. 

The Review

This was the perfect blend of a cozy mystery, YA fantasy, and paranormal thriller. The book builds intrigue by slowly introducing the protagonist and the mystery surrounding the paranormal community of Luna Lane. Quickly however the novel takes readers on a series of twists and turns that not only introduce some memorable members of this cast of characters but keep the reader on the edge of their seat as both personal and grander threats push Dahlia to the edge. 

The audiobook did a great job of drawing the reader in. Between the amazing world-building author Amy McNulty does and the genre-fusion that this story becomes and the soothing yet commanding voice work of narrator Danielle Daly that kept the reader invested, this audiobook was both entertaining and enthralling all at once. 

The Verdict

A thrilling, memorable, and engaging read, author Amy McNulty’s “Broomsticks and Board Games” is a fantastic start to the Spooky Games Club series. The cast of characters is quite remarkable and both humorous and entertaining, while the chilling mystery behind both the games club and Dahlia’s curse keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. With a powerful story and equally powerful narrator, this is one audiobook you won’t want to miss. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Author: Amy McNulty

Narrator: Danielle Daly

Length: 7 hours 4 minutes

Series: A Spooky Games Club Mystery, Book 1

Publisher: Crimson Fox Publishing

Released: Jan. 5, 2021

Genre: Cozy Mystery

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The Light Tower by Laurie Lisa Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young woman must take a journey to discover not only herself but the mother she never knew after she was born under tragic circumstances in author Laurie Lisa’s mystery novel, “The Light Tower”. 

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The Synopsis

In this dramatic mystery, a daughter returns to Chicago to find the truth about a mother she never knew–and her tragic death. Will her journey bring answers or more questions?

Thirty years ago in Chicago, a troubled, full-term pregnant woman escapes from the maternity ward of a hospital and climbs to the top of a 100-foot light tower in an abandoned railway yard. Melody Arnold is convinced that her baby is dead, and neither reassurances from her doctor nor the fact that she is a nurse can convince her otherwise. She jumps. Melody doesn’t survive, but miraculously, when the paramedics arrive, a tiny foot protrudes from the woman’s stomach, twitching.

Now, Kat Flowers is living in Arizona and celebrating her thirtieth birthday. Stuck in a rut of dead-end jobs and a failed relationship, she receives a cryptic birthday card from a father she ran away from fourteen years ago. Desperate for answers, Kat takes a journey back to Illinois—to see a family she left behind and learn the truth about a mother she never knew.

Kat shares the journey with the charismatic Zen, who has his own reasons for returning home. There, Kat tries to solve the complicated mystery of her mother’s identity . . . and then understand why she made that tragic leap.

A compelling novel about a mother’s dark secrets, The Light Tower explores the lasting connection between a mother and her daughter, even when they never knew each other. This story about one family’s hidden past is a riveting must-read for your book club.

The Review

This was a truly powerful, emotionally-driven narrative. Author Laurie Lisa once again shines through with this incredibly tragic yet real and loving story of a mother and her daughter, whose lives were tragically torn apart one fateful day. As Kat works to solve the mystery of why her mother Melody met such a tragic fate, readers are given a glimpse into some powerful storytelling that touches on the struggles so many faces in our world today.

From mental health and addiction to family and love, the author does a brilliant job of bringing these themes to life within the core story. The best and most engaging aspect of this novel however is the characters, as their arcs and the slow unraveling of the mystery surrounding this horrific event are heightened by the growth they undergo as time goes on. The anger and pain Kat feels at her mother’s fate and Melody’s despair and helplessness as time goes on are all traits so many people can identify with, and allows the reader to feel these emotions as the story progresses. 

The Verdict

A moving, evenly-paced, and emotionally-driven narrative, author Laurie Lisa’s “The Light Tower” is a must-read mystery and drama read of 2021. The depth of character development the author presents and the heartfelt emotions that are poured into the themes of this narrative are truly engaging on every level. If you haven’t yet, preorder or grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Laurie was born and raised in Southern Illinois. She obtained her B.S. in English Education from the University of Illinois (Champaign), where she also met and then married her husband Steve Lisa. Laurie earned both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in English from Arizona State University (20th Century American Literature), where she also taught literature and composition. After her time spent in Academia and raising her three children (Anthony, Michelle, and Caitlin), Laurie returned to her passion for writing fiction.

Laurie is a prolific writer and has completed eight novels in the genre of literary women’s fiction. Each of her books follows its own distinct and sophisticated plot with well-developed characters. In addition to her novels, Laurie has published two academic books, several short stories and poems, and edited other’s works. Laurie resides with her husband, Steve, in Paradise Valley and Flagstaff, Arizona.

You can read more about Laurie and her novels at her website, LaurieLisa.com

Finn-agled: A Finn’s Finds Mystery by Kristine Raymond Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A mysterious box with an even more mysterious secret code sends a young woman and a novelist on a dangerous quest to unravel its secrets in author Kristine Raymond’s “Finn-agled: A Finn’s Finds Mystery”. 

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The Synopsis

A secret message hidden inside of an antique wooden box, an unidentified dead body, and a mother determined to marry her off to the high school crush whom she hasn’t seen since…well…high school. There’s no doubt about it; Finn Bartusiak’s life in the seaside town of Port New is about to get interesting.

Coming into possession of a 19th-century, bronze and mahogany writing box under somewhat suspicious circumstances, Finn’s accidental discovery of a coded note leads her and Spencer Dane, bestselling novelist and love of her life (though he doesn’t know it yet), on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the jumble of letters. But they’re not the only ones interested in the cryptic message. There’s a con man on their trail, and he’ll stop at nothing, including murder, to claim the ‘treasure’ for himself.

The Review

This was a perfect blend of quirky characters and suspense. The author does a fantastic job of creating a grand mystery set within a very self-contained community within this narrative. The pacing is incredible and the tone maintains that lightness yet suspense one expects from a cozy mystery. 

The star of the novel of course was the protagonist, Finn. Her journey sees her struggling with everything from her dog, her nosy mother, a high school crush returned to throw some unexpected romance into her life, and a dangerous individual and con man who will stop at nothing to get his prize. Yet her quirky demeanor is evenly matched by strength and determination that makes her interactions with family and everyone else fiery and entertaining. 

The Verdict

Memorable, engaging, and short yet enthralling all at once, author Kristine Raymond’s “Finn-agled: A Finn’s Finds Mystery” is the perfect winter cozy mystery. A heartwarming cast of characters that are both humorous and close-knit combine with a strong and resilient protagonist and an entertaining mystery that will keep readers invested until the book’s end, and leaves this reviewer hoping for more stories within this series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this amazing story today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Kristine Raymond didn’t figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up until later in life. You guessed it! It’s being an author. Since writing and publishing her first book in 2013, she’s gone on to complete two romance series – one historical western and one contemporary; a humorous non-fiction story; a collection of seasonally-themed short stories; and a contemporary erotic drama. She also hosts a podcast called Word Play with Kristine Raymond.

When not writing, she’s navigating the publishing and promotional side of the business. When not doing that, she enjoys spending time with her husband and furry family, reading, gardening, and binge-watching shows on Netflix.

Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Book + Main, and BookBub. You can also visit her website at www.kristineraymond.com to keep up with her latest news.