Murder in the Mystery Suite Book Review

There is something so delightfully tacky about the book covers for cozy mystery novels. I especially love the book covers that have a beautifully illustrated background but then have other elements from the novel (say, books, a cat, a bicycle) photoshopped in from what I assume are stock photographs. They remind me of the hidden object games I became obsessed with my final year at college when I was avoiding attending my business law lectures. The textures seem a little off, but I find the book covers endearing and comforting, and this is probably why I couldn’t resist purchasing a copy of Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams. Either that or it was the cat on the cover. I’m 100% more likely to pick up your cozy mystery novel if there is a cat on the cover as demonstrated here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Murder in the Mystery Suite (A Book Retreat Mystery, #1) by Ellery Adams

Released: August 2014
Publisher: Berkley

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Tucked away in the rolling hills of rural western Virginia is the storybook resort of Storyton Hall, catering to book lovers who want to get away from it all. To increase her number of bookings, resort manager Jane Steward has decided to host a Murder and Mayhem week so that fans of the mystery genre can gather together for some role-playing and fantasy crime solving.

But when the winner of the scavenger hunt, Felix Hampden, is found dead in the Mystery Suite, and the valuable book he won as his prize is missing, Jane realizes one of her guests is an actual murderer. Amid a resort full of fake detectives, Jane is bound and determined to find a real-life killer. There’s no room for error as Jane tries to unlock this mystery before another vacancy opens up…

It’s easy for cozy mysteries to become formulaic. Typically, the main character is a female, who is thrown out in to the world on her own after a recent divorce/break up with her boyfriend/death of her husband. She’s still getting used to life on her own, but luckily she has been able to turn her hobby into a career, so she has a distraction as she navigates her grief. Then, someone dies in or around her business, and she’s thrust into a situation where she has to figure out whodunnit.


  • the female lead has a cat (or maybe a dog to appeal to those other readers)
  • a potential love interest is introduced
  • if the female lead is new in town, she may be a suspect in the murder mystery
  • the setting is usually a very small town, where all of the townsfolk have been able to turn their hobbies into careers too
  • the female lead probably lives in an old Victorian-style home

Murder in the Mystery Suite had several of those elements, but then Jane, our heroine, discovers a family secret hidden within the walls of Storyton Hall that sets this novel apart from the rest of the cozies. What I thought was going to be my typical cozy mystery ended up having more action and adventure than usual complete with secret agents, a little bit of espionage, hidden rooms, and blow dart guns. Murder in the Mystery Suite was probably one of the most thrilling cozies I’ve ever read!

There were some inconsistencies, like the fact that this story takes place in rural Virginia, but all of the characters seemed prim and proper; I kept thinking the story took place in England. Also, Storyton Hall is initially described as falling on hard times, and yet the resort was able to invest enough money for a week-long Murder & Mayhem themed program complete with costume parties, multi-course gourmet meals, and Rolls Royce town cars to pick up attendees. If readers can look past that, Murder in the Mystery Suite promises readers a fun and engaging whodunnit. Mystery novel nerds will especially love all of the literary references made throughout the story!

Overall, I enjoyed this novel, and I look forward to picking up the second book in this series, Murder in the Paperback Parlor, in which Jane plans a romance novel themed week for Valentine’s Day.

When Expectations Do Not Meet Reality | The Readahoics and the Gothic Gala by Laura DiSilverio

It’s not uncommon that I start a cozy mystery novel somewhere near the middle of the series. I can only think of three series where I started with book one (Lending a Paw by Laurie Cass, Crepes of Wrath by Sarah Fox, and the Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten Weiss). And honestly, I’ve never had a problem starting in the middle of a cozy mystery series; the books tend stand up by themselves, although if a book is particularly intriguing, I tend to read other books in the series, like the Ghost Hunter Mystery series by Victoria Laurie. But I’ve gotta tell ya…I really struggled with the Readaholics and the Gothic Gala by Laura DiSilverio.

readaholics-and-the-gothic-galaThe Readaholics and the Gothic Gala by Laura DiSilverio

Released: August 2016
Publisher: NAL
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Reading the gothic classic Rebecca already has the Readaholics spooked, and the chills only get worse when someone in town actually gives up the ghost….
Amy-Faye Johnson has her hands full coordinating the Celebration of Gothic Novels in Heaven, Colorado. The festivities start off smoothly, but the weekend is soon cursed with large egos, old resentments, and uninvited guests. Matters become truly grave when a dead body is found at the gothic-themed costume party.

The out-of-town authors claim not to know the victim, but Amy-Faye has doubts. With skeletons turning up in all of the suspects’ closets, Amy-Faye and the Readaholics must tap into their knowledge of gothic literature to find a killer who lurks in the shadows…


Expectations did not meet reality

The summary put a lot of emphasis on not only the Gothic Gala but also on the book club that main character, Amy-Faye, participated in, yet the Gothic Gala concluded by the third chapter (roughly), and Amy-Faye only met with her reading group twice in 300+ pages. I…was kind of disappointed. I mean, part of me understands that a crime could not take place and be solved during the course of a charity event, but a girl can dream, right?

There were a lot of characters

And I mean A LOT. Considering I usually start mid-series with cozies, I still do not struggle with keeping all of the characters in line. But, that was not the case with the Readaholics and the Gothic Gala. Not only does it appear that the usual cast of characters is pretty large (the reading group + Amy-Fayes employees + the entire town of Heaven, Colorado), but all of the additional, out-of-town characters at the partie(s) are quite large too, so it was hard to keep track of everyone.

The ending really caught me by surprise

But not in a good way. Mostly because I couldn’t remember which character was which, so when the murderer was revealed, I found myself flipping to the beginning of the book for reminders. Also, I don’t think enough clues were revealed throughout the course of the novel about the victim’s identity. The motivation really caught me by surprise, but again…not in a good way.

Overall, I’m kind of let down, and when I try to think of how to sum up my feelings about this story, all I can conjure up is a shoulder shrug. The storytelling in this particular novel was not up to par, and honestly it discourages me from exploring other books in this series. That being said, I can tell Laura DiSilverio is a wonderful writer, and I am curious about her other series.

A Series Starter that Breaks the Cozy Formula | Crepes of Wrath by Sarah Fox

The Crepes of Wrath by Sarah Fox is an ambitious, first novel in a cozy mystery series. The author tries so hard to take popular, cozy characteristics that have been written about to death and put a unique spin on them, but the execution is not always successful.

Crepes of wrathThe Crepes of Wrath (Pancake House Mystery #1) by Sarah Fox

Released: August 2016
Publisher: Alibi
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When Marley McKinney’s aging cousin, Jimmy, is hospitalized with pneumonia, she agrees to help run his pancake house while he recovers. With its rustic interior and syrupy scent, the Flip Side Pancake House is just as she pictured it—and the surly chef is a wizard with crêpes. Marley expects to spend a leisurely week or two in Wildwood Cove, the quaint, coastal community where she used to spend her summers, but then Cousin Jimmy is found murdered, sprawled on the rocks beneath a nearby cliff.

After she stumbles across evidence of stolen goods in Jimmy’s workshop, Marley is determined to find out what’s really going on in the not-so-quiet town of Wildwood Cove. With help from her childhood crush and her adopted cat, Flapjack, Marley sinks her teeth into the investigation. But if she’s not careful, she’s going to get burned by a killer who’s only interested in serving up trouble.

Cozy mystery murder victims tend to be morally ambiguous characters

At some point in their life, the murder victim probably screwed over other characters in the story. Maybe they manipulated business deals to gain a large sum of money while leaving their business partner in financial ruin. Maybe they planned to demolish a beloved park to build a gas station. Or, maybe they were just a social pariah. Whatever the reason, it’s not like anyone is particularly sad that the person died, and it allows for several compelling motives.

In the Crepes of Wrath, the murder victim is a beloved member of the Wildwood Cove community and our main character, Marley’s, Uncle Jimmy. I was intrigued by this gutsy move at first, but then my interest waned as the story progressed. Uncle Jimmy’s death was meant to be emotional, and Marley spent the first half of the book morose and weepy. But, I was unmoved because I didn’t really get to know him. I didn’t get to see his involvement with the community or his relationship with Marley, so I didn’t get the opportunity to care about this character.

This novel doesn’t have a fresh start

In the cozy mystery novels I’ve read so far, the main character is getting a chance at a fresh start. Usually they’re moving to a new city after a failed relationship or failed career. They’re discovering new friends, new favorite hangout spots, and new facets of themselves. Marley isn’t running away from a failed anything thouhg. She actually has a very stable job back in Seattle working as a legal assistant at a law firm; she just happens to be stepping in at her uncle’s restaurant while he’s in the hospital recovering from Pneumonia. I felt like this was another thing that made it hard to relate to Marley because nobody’s boss is that cool– most people can’t just take a month-long sabbatical to go work for your sick uncle. Aside from that, I just really missed reading about a character healing or trying to carve out a niche in their new hometown.

This novel is missing a slow burning romance

The slow burning romance tends to be a key element of cozy mystery series. Not that it’s ever R-rated like a Harlequin romance. Heck, I’m not sure I wouldn’t even consider it PG-13. Regardless, the main character tends to fall for one of their male companions (usually a cop or fellow sleuth) over the course of the series. Marley jumps right in to a romance with someone she had a crush on a decade earlier. It felt rushed. It felt forced.

Marley lacked a clear voice

I could have accepted the deviations from cozy mystery tropes, but Marley did not have a strong enough voice. Her personality did not shine through the narrative, so I had a hard time relating to her or sympathizing for her. She felt kind of generic.

Fox succeeds at writing suspense and piecing together a mystery

Between midnight break-ins at the pancake house and scary car chases, Fox succeeds in making my heart race. Writing suspense instead of sob stories seems to be her expertise. She also manages to piece together a compelling mystery surrounding the murder of a well-loved member of the community. Where other authors may struggle to create believable motives for murdering an otherwise benign person, Fox does so with ease. She even adds in some very clever red herrings to really throw readers for a loop.

Overall, I thought Crepes of Wrath by Sarah Fox was okay. I can appreciate Fox’s series starter for trying to be different. Cozy mysteries are absolutely formulaic, and it’s nice to read something experimental for a change. But because Marley lacked a unique and compelling voice, I struggled to really immerse myself in the story.

The Novel Had a Cat on the Cover, so Are We Even Surprised that I Loved this Book? | Lending a Paw by Laurie Cass

I recently went on a cozy book buying spree, which is when Lending a Paw by Laurie Cass was added to my e-library. I think I figured I was destined to enjoy this book for three reasons: 1. CATS!!! (obviously) 2. our sleuthing MC is a librarian, and 3. the series takes place in Michigan, my home state! Aaaaaand…basically I was right (but for more reasons than the three I just listed).

Lending a Paw by Laurie Cass Book CoverLending a Paw by Laurie Cass

Released: December 2013
Publisher: NAL
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Eddie followed Minnie home one day, and now she can’t seem to shake the furry little shadow. But in spite of her efforts to contain her new pal, the tabby sneaks out and trails her all the way to the bookmobile on its maiden voyage. Before she knows it, her slinky stowaway becomes her cat co-pilot!

Minnie and Eddie’s first day visiting readers around the county seems to pass without trouble—until Eddie darts outside at the last stop and leads her to the body of a local man who’s reached his final chapter.

Initially, Minnie is ready to let the police handle this case, but Eddie seems to smell a rat. Together, they’ll work to find the killer—because a good librarian always knows when justice is overdue.

Reading books that take place where you live is the coolest

Granted, Lending a Paw takes place “up north” in a fictional town named Chilson, which is located somewhere north of Traverse City and south of Charlevoix– basically, where all the wineries, cherry trees, and ritzy vacation homes settled on Lake Michigan are located. It’s totally different from where I live, which is part of the “Rust Belt“, if that paints a charming picture in your head at all. Still, it’s always interesting to see how authors perceive your state. Especially Michigan because Michigan is the best 😉

Eddie the cat is also the coolest

Aside from helping Minnie solve a murder (without magic) and being her co-pilot in the bookmobile, I also have a bias towards cat named Eddie (or variations thereof). Throughout this novel, I could help but picture my late cat, Ed, even though he’s orange. He just seemed like the Eddie in Lending a Paw.

His name had been the inspiration of a bemused coworker. “Sounds like and Eddie kind of cat,” Josh had said after I told the story.
“What kind is that?” Holly, another coworker, had asked.
“Just…Eddie.” Josh had shrugged. “You know what guys named Eddie are like.”
And just like that, my cat had a name.

What impressed me the most was the sleuthing

While I’ve enjoyed every cozy mystery novel I’ve read and reviewed for Books & Tea, I’ve always felt the actual sleuthing was minimal. A lot of times, clues are revealed by chance and the main characters, while intent on finding the perp, don’t always piece the puzzle together very well throughout the story. Sometimes I’m totally surprised when the identity of the perp is revealed and I wonder if that’s a good thing; did I not see it coming because the author did not give me enough clues or did I not see it coming because I’m…CLUELESS (hahahahah!)

In Lending a Paw, Minnie “interviews” suspects, pieces together a family tree, and follows tracks and clues before the trail goes cold. She also keeps means and motive in mind, and while her hunches are not always right, another piece of the piece of the puzzle is usually revealed. This novel presented one of the most satisfying mystery-solving experience I’ve read so far.

This is What Happens When You Read a Series Too Casually | No Ghouls Allowed by Victoria Laurie

Last year, I read Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls (Ghost Hunter Mystery #5) by Victoria Laurie, and I loved it. I loved it so much that I finished the book in one sitting, which I haven’t done since high school. The pacing was perfect. The spooks were terrifying. The chemistry between main character MJ, and her team member, Heath, was delicious. And the writing was atmospheric. Plus, it helps that the story took place in Ireland. When I picked up No Ghouls Allowed (Ghost Hunter Mystery #9), I thought I was going to be in for another treat and binge-reading session. Unfortunately…I was mistaken.

Continue reading This is What Happens When You Read a Series Too Casually | No Ghouls Allowed by Victoria Laurie

Meet Maisie Dobbs | An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear

I spied my first Maisie Dobbs novel while exploring the fiction stacks at my local library. It was the character’s name that first piqued my interest; I suspected she would be a plucky, young woman determined to prove herself as a private eye, which sounded right up my alley. Then, it was the beautiful book covers that made me pine for the first book in the series, something my local library unfortunately did not have. I returned week after week, but no such luck. Even though I was a tad reluctant to start yet another mystery series promptly in the middle, when TLC Book Tours offered me the opportunity to participate in the Month of Maisie blog tour, I couldn’t resist. Throughout the month of March, several bloggers will be blogging about Jacqueline Winspear’s historical mystery books from the series starter to her newest novel Maisie Dobbs: Journey to Munich, which will be released on March 29, 2016.

Continue reading Meet Maisie Dobbs | An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear

A Perfectly Proper Review for the Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten Weiss

I’ve only reviewed two cozy mystery novels at Books & Tea, so I easily consider myself a newbie to this genre; however, I’m already beginning to understand what elements I need to ensure I adore a cozy mystery novel.

  1. There must be a small town vibe
  2. There must be witty banter between the BFF4Es
  3. Paranormal elements are a perk
  4. CATS!!!!!

The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten Weiss met two of the four requirements.

Continue reading A Perfectly Proper Review for the Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten Weiss

This cozy mystery is spine-chilling | Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls by Victoria Laurie

I’m convinced there is a mystery novel for everyone– for cat lovers, for tea lovers, for book club lovers, for Florida Keys lovers, for baking lovers. The list goes on! So, I’m not really sure why I was surprised to discover a mystery series that followed ghost hunters filming for a TV show. It wasn’t even a question whether or not I was going to pick a book from Victoria Laurie’s Ghost Hunter Myster series; I knew I had to have it. It was however, a question of which book do I choose? Unfortunately, my library didn’t have the complete series, so I started with the first book they had, which was number five, Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls.

Continue reading This cozy mystery is spine-chilling | Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls by Victoria Laurie

Getting Cozy with Sleight of Paw by Sofie Kelly

Sleight of Paw by Sofie Kelly

Released: September 2011
Publisher: Penguin Books
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Synopsis: Small-town librarian Kathleen Paulson never wanted to be the crazy cat lady. But after Owen and Hercules followed her home, she realized her mind wasn’t playing tricks on her-her cats have magical abilities.When the body of elderly do-gooder Agatha Shepherd is found near Kath’s favorite local café, she knows Owen’s talent for turning invisible and Hercules’s ability to walk through walls will give the felines access to clues Kath couldn’t get without arousing suspicion. Someone is hiding some dark secrets-and it will take a bit of furtive investigating to catch the cold-hearted killer.

My Thoughts

I don’t remember who put cozy mystery novels on my radar, but as far as I could tell, they revolved around cats and baked goods and dead people, and since those are a few of my favorite things (with the exception of dead people, of course), I knew I had to read at least one cozy mystery novel. So, when I went to the library two weekends ago, my goal was to check out one cozy mystery novel. Enter Sleight of Paw by Sofie Kelly. I devoured this book in two sittings, and by the end I was positively charmed and certain I had just discovered a new, favorite genre.

This is what I loved:

1. The setting: Mayville Heights. This small town in Minnesota is practically the Stars Hallow of the Midwest– at least, that’s what I imagined. Mayville Heights is the kind of town where it is probable that everyone knows everyone, a sense of community is valued, so there is always an art/food/music festival going on, and once a week (probably more) the main character and her pals meet at Luke’s Diner for amazing food and a cup of coffee. Oops! Did I say Luke’s Diner? I meant to say Eric’s Place.

2. The friendship between Kathleen Paulson and her two pals, Roma and Maggie. I accidentally started on book 2, so I missed out on Kathleen’s debut in the small town. But, it sounds like the trio solidified their friendship by playing Charlie’s Angels to reveal the killer in book one. But, the friendship in book two is satisfying nonetheless. As I read, I kept wishing that I had friends like Kathleen, Roma, and Maggie in my life. They meet up for brunch a few times a week, they volunteer to plan events in the community, and they exchange lines of witty banter.

3. The cats. Just because they are freaking cats, and I may or may not be on the verge of crazy cat lady-hood. But, Owen and Hercules are not your ordinary house cats. They came from the abandoned house that the community turned in to a feral cat sanctuary. And…they are magical! They can turn invisible and slink through closed doors, which definitely comes in handy during sleuthing.

4. The humor. This book made me literally laugh out loud, which is unheard of because I am usually a very stoic reader. (I didn’t even cry during Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). But, how could I not chuckle at golden moments like this?

Kathleen is talking on the phone with her mom:

“I wasn’t hovering,” were the first words out of her mouth.


“I was lurking,” she continued.

“What’s the difference?”

“It’s all in how you hold your upper body.”

5. It’s “fluffy”, and that’s a good thing. There is nothing wrong with reading a light, feel-good novel. Dare I say it– sometimes, that’s what the mind needs, especially after an intense week at work. I felt so refreshed after reading Sofie Kelly’s Sleight of Paw.

Things that were just okay:

Instead of “Things I didn’t like” because there was nothing about this novel that I didn’t like.

1. The pacing. While I appreciate all of the exposition about the small town and positive friendships and cats (especially cats), I thought the middle was a little slow. The suspense finally started building in the last 100 pages, but I went into reading the novels expecting to be on the edge of my seat the entire time.

2. I picked out the killer before he was even a suspect. Common’ Kathleen! The motive was so clear! Why didn’t you try looking for the means sooner?

3. There wasn’t as much magical sleuthing as I expected. According to what I’ve read about the series so far, the cat’s abilities are utilized more in book one compared to book two (which just means I really have to track down book one!) Still, it was fun. BECAUSE CATS.

By the end of the novel, I felt giddy. Had I found my new favorite genre? I wanted to rush back to the library to check out more cozy mystery novels. Check out Sleight of Paw if you’re looking for a light-hearted mystery, or check it out if you’re a budding crazy cat lady.

I’ll be checking out another cozy mystery novel during my next library visit. Do you have any recommendations?