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Cozy Reads for January

Hidden Treasures by Jane Cleland

The Crystal Cave Trilogy by Susan Albert Wittig

Game of Dog Bones by Laurien Berenson

Yesterday’s Echo by Matt Coyle

Over the past few weeks I’ve been catching up with some of my cozy mystery series as well as checking out a new to me author.

Jane Cleland’s Hidden Treasure is number 13 in the Josie Prescott series. Newlywed Josie and husband Ty just bought their dream home. While prepping for a remodel, Josie finds a hidden trunk the previous owner left behind. She returns the trunk and its contents, potentially rare relics, to the owner and an instant friendship forms.  Maudie, encouraged by her nieces, may be interested in selling the trunk’s contents and enlists Josie’s aid. Soon, however, one niece is dead and Maudie and the trunk’s contents are missing. Josie is determined to find a killer and discover what happened to Maudie. Is she dead? Kidnapped? And who has the relics?

The Crystal Cave Trilogy is an adjunct to the long running China Bayles series by Susan Wittig Albert. Ruby Wilcox is China’s best friend and business partner.  The three novellas in this collection are all centered on Ruby and her psychic abilities. Each story from a dream that turns out to be a real kidnapping to the stopping of a serial killer before he can claim another victim highlights her expanding abilities. There is also the thread of possible romance with detective Ethan Connors. The skeptical detective slowly begins to accept Ruby’s gift and wants to know more about her. But is he interested in her as a person and just her abilities? For China Bayles’ fans this may tide you over until number 28 comes out later this year.

My last cozy is Laurien Berenson’s Game of Dog Bones. Number 25 in this canine mysteries series has Melanie Travis, her husband Sam, and Aunt Peg all headed to New York City for the Westminster Dog Show. Aunt Peg has been chosen to judge in the prestigious event. Scheduled to give a seminar on judging the day before the show, Peg is disgruntled that a dog show is being held in the same venue. Victor Durbin and Peg have a history and his location seems to have been chosen to detract from Peg’s seminar. When Victor’s body is found the day after the show, Aunt Peg becomes the number one suspect. Victor was pretty unscrupulous and had plenty of enemies. With so many suspects can Melanie find the killer before Peg is arrested for murder?

In reading book reviews, I ran across a review for Matt Coyle’s Rick Cahill series. Ready for a mystery that is a little edgier I started with the first in the series, Yesterday’s Echo. Manager of a restaurant in La Jolla, California, Cahill likes to keep a low profile. He is an ex-cop who was accused of his wife’s murder eight years ago. He returned to his hometown but it comes with its own bad memories. His dad was kicked off the police force for being a dirty cop.

Into his less than idyllic existence drops Melody Malana. When Melody’s dinner companion becomes less than cordial, Cahill steps in. When he rescues her a second time that evening he takes her home for safety but she leaves before morning. He assumes the interlude is over but soon finds that Melody has not disappeared from his life. When two thugs do not believe his denial and try to beat her location out of him, Rick decides he needs to find her. Tracking her to a hotel he finds a crime scene. A dead man occupies Melody’s room.

Melody pops back into his life only to be followed by the police. First she is taken in for questioning soon followed by Cahill. After Melody is arrested it becomes apparent that Rick may be next. It is now a race to see if he can uncover the truth before he is either in jail or the next victim.

This series has the feel of classic detective fiction but Cahill is a complex character and he doesn’t always get it right. He carries a load of guilt over his wife’s death and seems to always be under the shadow of his father’s sins. He still has his cop’s gut but sometimes follows the wrong instinct.

I’ve read the first two in the series – working my way to Blind Vigil, which published in December. Fast-paced with unexpected twists, these are hard to put down.  If you enjoy Lawrence Sanders and/or Andrew Vachss novels this is a series I think you’ll like.

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Gone to Dust by Matt Goldman, Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper, Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan

Lately I’ve been reading random things that catch my eye.  Some I’ve enjoyed, others not so much.  Here are some of the former.

TV writer (Seinfeld, Ellen, Wizards of Waverly Place) Matt Goldman penned his first novel last year, Gone to Dust. It features Minneapolis PI Nils Shapiro and is the first of what I hope will be a long series. Nils was a police officer for only a few weeks before being laid off. Instead of waiting for the promised recall he apprenticed with and became a private investigator.

Nils is a likeable character, a little snarky, tenacious, and hopelessly in love with his ex-wife. He is observant with a keen eye for details. He’s a little Monk-like in his ability to process what he sees and hears to make connections other don’t make.

In Gone to Dust he is called in to assist local police at the behest of academy alum and Edina officer, Ellegaard. The scene inside Maggie Somerville’s upscale Edina home is bizarre. Maggie is dead in her bed with no signs of forced entry. There won’t be much forensic evidence to offer clues so Nils and Ellegaard must search for clues in Maggie’s life and relationships. There are enough red herrings and clutter in this story to keep you intrigued.

The second in the series, Broken Ice, published in June and like the first novel has lots of twists and turns. If you’re a Robert Parker or Lawrence Block reader, try Goldman.

Novelist classifies my next book by Molly Harper as contemporary romance but I think it is family not romantic relationships that drive Sweet Tea and Sympathy. Margot Cary, an event planner in Chicago, is on the fast track to promotion when disaster strikes. Everything is set and going beautifully until Margot discovers the chef has ignored the carefully chosen menu and served shrimp. The client for the event is highly allergic and the flamingos who are there as unobtrusive backdrop love shrimp.

The ensuing calamity costs Margot her job and makes finding another position in her chosen field impossible. One step away from becoming homeless Margot gets a call from a relative she didn’t know existed. Margot’s mother left her father when Margot was only a few years old and she hasn’t had contact with the McCready family since. What Aunt Tootie offers, a job and a place to live, Margot can’t refuse.

Margot is planning her escape before she even begins her job on the funeral side of the McCready Bait Shop & Funeral Home. But life in the small Georgia town of Lake Sackett begins to grow on her as does her fondness for the McCready family, well except for her estranged father. Margot also finds Kyle Archer, a widower with two girls, hard to ignore.

The appeal of this book is the quirky characters and small town life Margot comes to know. This is a light-hearted look at a city girl changing and adapting to life with a big family in a small southern town. The library has this in both regular and large print editions.

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan also has some romance but it’s a legal thriller. Kate Sullivan is part of a class-action lawsuit against Mason Pharmaceutical.  She has just been appointed lead counsel for the group and how she does with the first trial will determine how the other litigants fare

Kate’s team is searching for the smoking gun that will show the company knew about the deadly side effects but released Celix anyway when a whistle-blower comes forward. Kate hires PI Landon James to check out the veracity of the witness. Before he can begin his investigation the witness is murdered. The death appears to be a mugging gone wrong but Landon suspects otherwise. Kate is warned off the case then attacked. Landon steps in to become both investigator and bodyguard. To complicate things Kate’s opposing counsel is a friend. She slowly realizes he is desperate to win and may be withholding crucial evidence.

This novel is fast-paced and intense but it has its quieter moments. Kate’s faith is strong but Landon feels abandoned by God. There are discussions on faith and belief flowing through the story but they don’t diminish the intensity. If you like Irene Hannon and/or Terri Blackstock books, you should try this first book in the Devoted Defender trilogy.

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