COVID-19

Mysteries in the Time of COVID-19

With apologies to Gabriel García Márquez, here are the mystery book reviews that I wrote while I was working from home during the COVID-19 crisis. Reading has been slow and it didn’t help that some of these books were longer than the average cozy mystery. Still, they ranged from cat shows to filming movies to universities to ancient Athens; all, for the most part, enjoyable and a few I would most definitely recommend



Allyson's bookshelf: currently-reading

The Pumpkin Killer
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Sherlock Holmes and the Molly-Boy Murders [11/30/2020].

[note: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review]

The Game is Afoot!

Author Margaret Walsh has continued what Arthur Conan Doyle started. Normally, I’m not particularly fond of authors picking up where the author has left off (usually because said author has died), but I was totally captivated by Margaret’s vision of Holmes and Watson as well as her take on Inspector Lestrade.

The case itself took the more modern aspect of one’s true gender identity and placed it squarely within Victorian morals and attitudes.

While I had wondered if this story would have taken place during the era, Margaret has an addendum to the story where she demonstrates by listing her sources. So I have no doubt the story was true to the era.

I highly recommend this book — I give it 4.5 paws — if you are a Holmes fan, but all means, give it a go. As long as you have an open mind about the subject, you’ll have a grand read!


“Irish Village Mystery”
Murder at an Irish Wedding (#3) [11/25/2020]

Siobhán O’Sullivan is back, this time, helping cater a wedding where her beau Macdara is friends with the groom. When the best man is found bludgeoned and Macdara’s Garda cap found under the corpse, it is up to Siobhán to solve the murder as Macdara is considered a suspect.

There’s a lot going on in this book with the wedding party literally at war with each other as the father of the bride doesn’t feel that the groom is good enough for his daughter.

And the ending of the book — wowza! I honestly didn’t see that coming.

If you’ve read and enjoyed the first book, by all means, read this book despite the range of reviewer comments you’ll encounter.

I gave this book a 4 paws and that’s because I thought the ending and solution was really well done.


“Hilary Quayle Mysteries”
The Laurel and Hardy Murders (#4) [11/20/2020]

Many decades ago, I had read a book in the series concerning the death of an actor during a production of The Scottish Play.

This time, Hiliary becomes involved with a murder during a Sons of the Desert, a Laurel and Hardy appreciation association, meeting. Despite not being allowed to join (it was men-only), she works with her secretary/lover to uncover the killer’s identity.

I’m not a big fan of Laurel and Hardy’s work, but having worked on many Star Trek conventions in the 1970s, I could really appreciate the behind the scenes of running the local organization as the Sons of the Desert is a real organization.

The story is chock full of seriously eccentric characters and it’s a trip down memory lane for those of us who remember some of the actors who starred with Laurel and Hardy.

And the mystery is pretty good as well.

This story may not be for everyone but I really enjoyed it.

A solid 5 paws — looking forward to reading more books in the series as soon as the price becomes more reasonable.


“A Likable Daisy Mystery Book”
Prove it: Murder in the Mix (#1) [11/16/2020]

[note: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review]

Steph Wu is a new mom who lives with her newborn Madelyn and her accountant husband in an apartment above a neighborhood bakery/coffee house. She is very friendly with the owner of the bakery and the lead baker but eventually becomes skeptical when the owner is found dead.

Because she is on maternity leave, it gives her plenty of time to consider who would have killed the owner. Besides, the bakery is closed and she really misses her favorite caffeine drink.

Most of the book is from Steph’s point of view but a few times, the author shifts to other character’s point of view, which can be disconcerting at times but it didn’t distract me from the story at hand.

Steph’s nature curiosity makes her a natural to bring the murderer to justice and the author lays out the clues well (and even tosses in a few clever red herrings).

What I appreciated was that most of the necessary loose ends were cleared up.

I give this book a solid 4 paws — a good, cozy read!


“Cat in the Stacks”
Cat Me If You Can (#13) [10/29/2020]

It’s no secret that I love cats and this series is up there as one of my favorites.

Once again, Charlie is in the midst of a murder. This time, he’s on vacation with Helen-Louise and kitty Diesel at a hotel with the rest of his fellow mystery club. Unfortunately, a friend of one of the members unexpected shows up and just as unexpectedly is killed.

I’ve read the entire series and I think this is one of the best in the series (and this is a good book to start the series with). The characters are great, the setting equally fun, and the mystery (and solution) was satisfying.

If you haven’t checked out this series, you should (especially if you like the south, kitties, books and of course, mysteries). It’s nice to have a series that has a cat in it who acts like a cat.

A solid 5 paws — I cannot recommend it more highly!


“Pumpkin Hollow Mystery”
Candy Coated Murder (#1) [10/29/2020]

Pumpkin Hollow is an unusual town in that it celebrates Halloween all year round. While some residents think this is a great idea and a wonderful tourist attraction, others in the town, especially some of the merchants think this is a terrible idea.

Our heroine has returned to her childhood home of Pumpkin Hollow to help with the family’s candy and coffee shop. Mia has spent the last few years accumulating a number of degrees, none of which brought her any happiness like her home does.

She certainly doesn’t appreciate some of the town wanting to rescind the year round Halloween tradition and works to get those who approve to support keeping things the way they are. However, one of the proponents of ditching the tradition is killed and left on her porch positioned like a scarecrow and we’re off to the races to find the miscreant.

Of course, this being a cozy mystery, we find out whodunit, however the question about keeping or ditching year round Halloween isn’t resolved. That’s not fair to the reader as the author has spent a great deal of time on the subject to leave the readers hanging on such a major issue.

Sorry. I paid for a complete book, hence my rating of 2 paws. Perhaps other readers will rate this book higher but I seriously dislike being jerked around like this.


“Bookstore Cafe Mystery”
Death by Pumpkin Spice (#3) [10/25/2020]

Our heroine Krissy has been invited to attend a Halloween Party at the mansion of the recently departed Howard Yarborough’s mansion. Howard’s interest lay with the macabre and decorated his mansion accordingly — the perfect place to hold a Halloween party… and a murder.

I enjoyed the book but found Krissy to be annoying at times, taking unnecessary chances (that turned out to be in the nick of time during more than one occasion). Be that as it may, it was a fast, decent read, but honestly, no great shakes.

Definitely pick it up as part of your Halloween reading (I love reading Halloween books during the Halloween holiday), but it’s probably not worth it any other time of year.

A so-so 3.5 paws


“The Nero Wolfe Mysteries”
Murder in E Minor (#1) [10/07/2020]

This is the first book written by Robert Goldsborough continuing the saga of Nero and Archie originally written by Rex Stout.

I’m pretty sure I’ve read one of the Goldsborough Nero Wolfe’s but I honestly don’t recall which one it was. What I do know is that I’ve read just about everyone one of the Nero Wolfe books that Rex wrote and enjoyed each of them very much.

I’m always skeptical when a new author takes over writing for such an esteemed mystery writer of Rex’s caliber but Robert manages to capture the essence of what makes a Nero and Archie adventure so much fun to read.

The story centers around the death of a demanding maestro who just happened to be an acquaintance of Nero’s back in his Montenegro days.

If you are a Nero Wolfe fan, this is definitely worth your while: a great story written as close to something that Rex would have written himself.

A solid 5 paws — I cannot recommend it more highly.


“The Princess Louise Mysteries”
King and Joker
Skeleton-in-Waiting [10/01/2020]

It’s really too bad that author Peter Dickinson passed away a few years ago, so we won’t get anymore books in the series.

I really enjoyed the first book very much; didn’t enjoy the second book as much, though it was still a good yarn.

The series takes place in an alternative history where Britain’s Royal Family’s Prince Albert Victor never died and ended up marrying his fiancé Mary of Teck and ruling himself so that the thrown is never passed on to his brother George V. This means that the setting is familiar but not quite that familiar. There were times where I got lost as to who was who (apparently, the physical copies of the book had a pedigree chart, something that the electronic version did not) but I was eventually able to muddle through.

The stories center around Princess Louise, Lulu to her family, who is the youngest daughter of sovereign King Victor II. In the first book, Lulu is in her mid teens and the second book, she’s in her twenties, married with a young son.

The first book is also more of a straight mystery whereas I thought the second book was more of a thriller.

What I most appreciated was the way that the Royal Family had their public persona and their private ones as well as the interpersonal interactions.

These two books would be fun for those who enjoy alternate histories with a touch of mystery.

A solid 4 paws.


“Kurland St. Mary Mystery”
Death Comes to the Village (#1) [09/22/2020]

This is the first book in a series that I wish I could read more of. Alas, while I was able to purchase this book for a very reasonable $1.99, the rest of the series are priced unreasonably. So my only hope is that the rest of the series will come down to a more reasonable price so I can enjoy the rest of the book.

The book takes place post World War I in the quiet village of Kurland St. Mary where Major Kurland returns after he is badly wounded in the war. Our heroine is the rector’s oldest daughter who dutifully took over keeping the household after her mother died in childbirth.

As the rector’s daughter, she calls on the injured Major as she would call upon any other member of the village where they manage to get on each other’s last nerves and solve a murder mystery. The interaction of the Major and Lucy is perfect as well as Lucy’s interaction with the Major’s manservants (who feel she’s a meddling woman).

This is a great book and I highly recommend it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to read the rest of the series.

A solid 4 paws.


“Irish Village Mystery”
Murder in an Irish Village (#1) [09/15/2020]

Siobhán O’Sullivan has had her own 2020: her parents were killed in an accident leaving the young woman to not only keep the family’s bistro open and running, but raising her multitude of siblings.

If that wasn’t enough, a dead body was found in the cafe. Needing to keep both her family together and the bistro open, Siobhán goes about investigating the murder despite the local police admonishing her.

This was a great read. The author really puts the reader in Ireland where the story takes place, using plenty of Gaelic terms (thankfully, there is a list of common words and phrases to consult as well as pronunciations).

I enjoyed the book so much that when another book popped up at a great price, I didn’t hesitate to grab it and will review it probably sometime next year.

The book is a solid 4 paws — especially for those of us who enjoy reading mysteries with settings other than the United States.


The Miss Silver Mysteries Volume One
Grey Mask, The Case Is Closed, and Lonesome Road
[09/05/2020]

Miss Silver is a former governess turned sleuth, who, while listening to her clients and knitting in her office, manages to not only solve the mysteries but appear in the nick of time to avert a tragedy.

These stories take place after World War II where Europe isn’t quite back on its feet and the former military are finding their place back in society.

The author’s style reminded me somewhat of Agatha Christie in that the author spends a lot of time on characterizations and setting the mood. So if you prefer more fast-paced mysteries, this isn’t for you.

However, if you, like me, enjoy Agatha Christie and post-war mysteries, then by all means, check out Miss Silver and be prepared to be entertained.

The books are a solid 4 paws


“Purr-suasive Witches”
A Wonder Cats Mystery Book (#11) [08/09/2020]

Aunt Astrid gets involved with some “witches” and it takes Cath and a very pregnant Bea (plus the kitties and other critters) to save the day.

If you enjoy this series, this is a very good book. If you are new to the series, do yourself a favor and start from the beginning.

This book is a solid 5 paws


“Secrets at St Bride’s”
Staffroom at St Bride’s (#1) [08/05/2020]

This book started off being very confusing for me because I was expecting to read a mystery.

I was intrigued by the idea of story centering around a private girls school because I had really enjoyed reading the Chalet series which took place pre- and post-World War II.

So I kept reading this book expecting a murder but when it was obvious that a murder wasn’t going to happen (there was an attempted murder but that was late in the book), I sat back and really enjoyed the book for what it was: a book about a boarding school in England where most of the teachers and staff had secrets.

I really don’t know how to categorize the book except that it is well-written and fun to read. Given these days of COVID, quarantine and politics not-as-usual, it was a pleasant diversion. I would greatly look forward to reading more books in the series.

A solid 4 paws.


“The Wickenham Murders”
Peter and Georgia Marsh — Marsh and Daughter (#1) [07/31/2020]

This was a splendid book.

Well written with fantastically interesting characters. Granted, there were times that I thought Georgia was a bit too whiney but given what she’d gone through, I guess I’d whine a bit too.

This is one of these “solve the murder in the past and present” type of cozy mystery. Peter and Georgia research and write books (and I think articles) on past mysteries, with Peter doing most of the writing and Georgia doing the legwork as former police officer Peter was injured on duty and is in a wheel chair.

The more than Georgia delves into Wickenham’s past, the more resentful the townsfolks become. This mixture of resentment and present feuds makes for a dandy mystery.

This is the first book in the series and I’d like to read more, assuming I can get them for a decent price. They are a long read, but totally worthwhile.

A solid 5 paws.


“The Agatha Christie Book Club” #1 [07/15/2020]

I admit I wanted to read this book because I had just recently finished reading “The Murder at the Vicarage” and I was intrigued by the title (and the purchase price was right!)

It was an OK book. I wasn’t exactly bowled over and in fact, as I was reading the book, I kept thinking I would be better off doing something else. But it wasn’t a bad read, so I decided to plod on to the inevitable conclusion and revelation.

I admit that the revelation was quite clever but I just don’t see myself reading anymore in the series. Having said that, if you are interested in a relatively decent read set in Australia, then you might enjoy this book a lot more than I did.

A 2.5 paws — barely a decent read.


“Something in the Water”
Peter Shandy (#9) [07/08/2020]

This is the penultimate Peter Shandy Mystery and it’s a total goodie.

Peter finds himself away from home to get samples of lupines when he witnesses an elderly gentleman wolf down a chicken pot pie only to fall head-first into said chow dead.

As with other books by Charlotte MacLeod, this one is full of colorful characters (some of which we’ve met previously) and a great plot.

If you are a fan of contemporary Maine cozy mysteries, this definitely should be on your list to read.

A solid 5 paws.


“The Murder at the Vicarage”
Miss Marple (#1) [07/03/2020]

I am a great fan of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series though some might find them a bit on the slow side. I enjoy Miss Marple’s musings and the quaintness of the English village life.

I think I’ve read all the Miss Marple books and I think this is the only book that is from a first person point of view that isn’t Miss Marple’s, but that of the village vicar who finds the dead body in his library.

Of course, the village has all kinds of secrets and those come out as the murderer is tracked down.

If a slow, rich, character study of an English village of yore, this is a good you’ll enjoy. All other should stay away.

A solid 5 paws.


“A Body in the Attic”
Myrtle Clover Mysteries (#16) [06/07/2020]

It’s Miles this time who finds the dead body in the attic of one of his chess-playing friends and of course, Myrtle is on the case to figure out whodunit.

This is another solid entry in the series and even Elaine’s newest hobby is more amusing than usual.

Well-worth reading if you’re a fan. Even if you’re not a fan, this is a good book to start reading the series.

As always, Myrtle gets a solid 5 paws.


“A Stitch in Time”
John Putnam Thatcher (#7) [05/25/2020]

I am a big fan of author Emma Lathan and her John Putnam Thatcher series. I’m pretty sure I’d previously read this book but even in re-reading the tome, I couldn’t remember if I had read it before or not.

It’s an OK book by Emma’s standards and certainly not the best in the series (I thought it lacked some of the humor in other books), but it’s still a solid read centering around a hospital and the murder of one of its doctors.

While I am giving this book five solid paws, as I said, it’s not one of her best though I will say here that my favorite book of hers is “Death Shall Overcome.” I might just glom onto a copy and re-read it for a fourth or fifth time (it’s that good).


“Death Ex Machina”
The Athenian Mysteries (#5) [05/19/2020]

As I’ve mentioned previously, I really like mysteries set in the theater, so when I came across this book on sale, I was intrigued.

While I enjoy period pieces, this is the first mystery series I’ve read in ancient Athens, so I honestly didn’t know what to expect.

I loved it. The dialogue was witty, the descriptions really fantastic, and it was a good mystery to boot.

As a medical historian (more medical nerd since I’ve never gotten paid for any of my medical history musings), I appreciated the fact that the author did his homework, so I am inclined to think that the rest of the book has some roots in actual history as well.

The plot is a simple one: our hero, a private detective in Athens and his wife, a high priestess of Athena are hired by a playwright during the great festival to get rid of a ghost who is thwarting the rehearsals. While Nico is able to get rid of the “ghost,” unfortunately, he has a murder to contend with and we are off to the races.

I did manage to pick up another book in the series at a very good price. Unfortunately, the publisher prices the books above what I consider reasonable for an electronic book, so unless I win the lottery, I don’t think I’ll be reading many of the books (unless they are on sale).

Well worth your time and eyes. While this is a long book, it’s totally worth it and I give it 5 paws up! for a delightful story that had me laughing out loud at several points.


“Death By Suspenders”
Spencer University (#1) [04/25/2020]

This is the first book in a series that I assume takes place at Spencer University.

Young professor can’t keep her snoot out of mysterious goings on at her university and goes full-tilt when the hated professor is killed.

Yawn.

There are very few books that I won’t finish reading. It wasn’t that this book was a slog to read it was one that wasn’t all that great.

It was OK and I don’t plan to read any further books in the series even if they are on sale.

A dismal 3 paws — not my cup of tea but it might be yours. Reader beware.


“Dead Pan”
Jocelyn O’Roarke (#4) [04/16/2020]

Joss is a stage actress who came out west to act in a made for TV movie for an old friend who had written the script.

She has no delusions that her primary mission to keep the erstwhile child star now all grown up, divorced, with a child and having beat a drug addiction on the straight and narrow. (For what it’s worth, the movie they are starring in doesn’t sound all that interesting, more like a Hallmark movie.)

I will warn you now, this is a long book that took me quite a while to finish, but it was a great book; one that prompted me to look at purchasing other books in the series. I learned a lot about movie making; the behind the scenes look at the process was great.

This is definitely a series I will be reading more of in the future (already have another book since it was on sale) and I recommend at least this book, hopefully, I’ll be able to recommend the series.

I give this book a solid 4.5 paws — well worth reading, especially if you enjoy the behind the scenes of the creative process.


“Murder at Kensington Gardens”
Ginger Gold Mysteries #6 [04/03/2020]

Another British mystery, this time, it is a very modern aristocrat, post World War I, a widow, who lives in a very nice large house with various people including her mother-in-law, a unmarried pregnant medical student (I told you she was progressive), a woman who works in the pathologist office, and a ton of other characters.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away but it centers around Ginger’s boyfriend’s ex-wife who was living a double life as a burlesque dancer (which, apparently, was pretty racy and scandalous). I was rather interested in the fact that women actually attended these burlesque shows, but then, this was the twenties and as the song says, “Anything Goes.”

Other than the titillation of burlesque show and Ginger’s lovely clothing, there really wasn’t much going for the story. It was better than some I’d read, but I wasn’t motivated to check out to see if there were other books in the series worth my time. I’d definitely buy another book if it was on sale, but I’m not going to go out of my way to read the series.

I give this book 3.5 paws — good enough to read on a rainy afternoon.


“The Religious Body”
Inspector Sloan (#1) [03/28/2020]

Despite not being overly religious, I do enjoy religious mysteries. After all, the core of a good mystery is explaining the circumstances about which the murder has occurred, which means, you learn a lot about a lot of different subjects. In this case, the mystery surrounds the death of a nun, so consequently, there is a ton of background on being in a convent as well as what England was like post World War II.

I purchased this book because of the subject matter (and of course, the price) and wasn’t disappointed in the least. I’m not really fond of police procedurals (it’s not that I don’t enjoy them, they aren’t the kind of book I seek out to read). Despite that, it is a really good book and the mystery and subsequent resolution were totally satisfactory (as well as surprising).

This is definitely a book for the post World War II British mystery fan, police procedural or religious mystery. It ticks off a number of different boxes and does them all proud.

I give this book a solid 4.5 Paws! — definitely worth the read.


“Careless Whiskers”
Cat in the Stacks (#12) [03/21/2020]

As always, I look forward to more adventures of Charlie and Diesel and I almost didn’t read the book. I had requested the loan from my local library but somehow, the email letting me know that the book was available was missed or never arrived, so when I received the email saying I had three days to read it before it was automatically returned, I was in a state of panic. Luckily this was over the weekend, so I spent good chunk of my free time furiously reading the book. Thankfully, “Miranda” is such a great author that I had no trouble finishing the book with time to spare.

This time, Charlie’s daughter is caught up in the death of a seriously obnoxious actor who was the guest actor for the play the college was putting on. I’d worked in amateur theatre so I really enjoyed the behind the scenes especially having to deal with the various personalities it takes to put a play on.

This is a great book if you enjoy the theatre or any kind of performing arts (similiar to “Dead Pan” which I reviewed) or if you enjoy a good mystery that has cats. The cats don’t solve the mystery as they have done in other mysteries, but you’ll enjoy them hanging around acting like cats.

As always, this was definitely a Five Paws Up! book — great for theatre buffs and mystery buffs.


“Murder at the Cat Show”
A Perkins & Tate Mystery (#2) [03/17/2020]

I’d read a previous mystery by Marian Babson and enjoyed it very much. I found this ebook on sale and since I was familiar with her work, I glommed on to it.

I wasn’t disappointed especially since I love cats.

The mystery takes place at a cat show were the protagonists are the PR firm hired to publicize the event. As anyone who has a cat or two knows, cats are their own people and I can’t imagine having that many cats under one roof. Granted, most of them are used to this kind of life, but still, cat wrangling (especially at the end of the book) wasn’t my idea of fun. But the book was fun and well worth reading. I’d definitely be interested in picking up more books in the series as long as I can get them on sale.

I give this book a solid Four Paws! — well worth reading and you’ll have a great time at it!



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