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.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

I had a difficult time immersing myself in I Found You by Lisa Jewell, and I’m not entirely sure why. This novel had many characteristics that I appreciate. It was atmospheric. The writing was beautiful. It involved a mystery that I desperately wanted to solve. Yet, I started this book four separate times before finally reading all the way to the end.

What Jewell successfully created in I Found You is an atmospheric novel, rich with vivid imagery and an underlying sinister feeling that both entices readers to keep turning the pages while at the same time making them feel slightly squidgy about the story that is unfolding. And, for the most part, I think that’s what I was really sticking around for– the atmosphere and, yes, the squidginess, though that seems to be the case with most of the books I’ve been reading lately. Because honestly, I found the plot line to be somewhat predictable, the characters to be kind of unrealistic, and the pacing to be somewhat slow compared to the usual thriller. And, let’s be real– if a man suffering from amnesia shows up on my property during a rainstorm, I’m not inviting him to spend the night in my detached garage (even though the previous tenants were so thoughtful to leave behind their mildewy box spring); I’m calling 9-1-1 not only to get this guy medical attention but to report a missing person. And, God forbid he enters my home uninvited to toast my hypothetical daughter a bagel and watch cartoons with her! How did the protagonist, Alice Lake, find this totally acceptable and endearing when the average person would lose their mind?

Yet, despite my grief with the characters, part of what made this story so compelling is not just the alternation of narrators (between modern-day Alice Lake and Lily Monrose as well as the past’s Graham Ross), but also the alternation of timelines. While I’ve struggled with alternating timelines in the past, Jewell incorporates one that is not only intriguing but even blends the voices of the past and present together in a way that truly had me on the edge of my seat.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

Released: June 2016
Genre: Mystery
Age Group: Adult

[goodreads | indiebound]

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of the protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

TLC Book Tours
This novel was provided for free from the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie is such a tough act to follow. Especially if the next book that is picked up is also of the historical fiction variety. How could anything even compare to a book that I’ve anticipated reading for months? Enter The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron– a bit of a historical “whodunnit” set in 1927 Boston and on the Vaudeville stage. It had the ingredients to become an instant favorite, yet in the end, I just sort of felt like something was missing.

I think the thing that frustrated me the most about The Illusionist’s Apprentice is it’s one of those stories that bounce around the timeline. The story opens in 1926/1927 in Boston. Then, six chapters later, we’re back in 1907 to reveal some small insight into one of the characters. A few pages later, we’re back in 1927 only to bounce back to 1924 in the next chapter for some more character insight. And so on and so forth. Part of me can appreciate what the author was trying to do; there were so many details in the past that seemed unassuming at first, but they ended up being totally relevant to the end of the novel. My biggest qualm was…I just felt disoriented. And I don’t think it’s through any fault of the author or the story; I think I just prefer more linear storytelling. I struggled to keep track of the timeline in Linda Lafferty’s the Girl Who Fought Napoleon after all. That being said, I also felt…well…bored? The timeline shifts slowed the pacing of the story down, sure, but what really frustrated me was that I finally discovered a novel that boasts being written about the jazz age that doesn’t revolve around/involve flappers, and I kept getting stuck in Wren’s sad childhood in 1907.

What I was really sticking around for was Cambron’s writing and world-building. It was beautiful and atmospheric and full of intrigue both on and off stage. Plus, I was totally enamored by her choice to set the story against America’s Vaudeville scene, which is this jarring juxtaposition of gilt and grit and occasionally the grotesque. It’s a breeding ground for secrets and double lives and protagonist Wren Lockhart (illusionist, not magician) has them both; she’s a puzzle I wanted to unlock.

It also made me want to listen to nothing but dark cabaret music for about a week straight, so I’ll leave you with this:

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Released: March 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Age Group: Adult

[goodreads | indiebound]

Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric—even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her.

Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.

TLC Book Tours
This novel was provided for free from the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

About a month after publishing a blog post about how I was nervous to start reading Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris, a reader pointed out that a fair amount of time had passed and I still hadn’t written a review for the novel; she was curious about what I thought of the book. The truth is…it took me nearly a month to read the novel, and it was a pretty grueling experience.

I went into reading Dead Until Dark with skepticism. I’ve never developed a fondness for novels about vampires, and I suspected this novel was mostly smut, yet I was pleasantly surprised in the first few chapters. I was impressed by the character of Sookie Stackhouse and how vivid her voice was. She seemed like a down-to-earth and simple southern girl who had an insatiable curiosity about vampires. She also had a peculiar gift that allowed her to read the thoughts of others, which…okay…I wasn’t that impressed with. It was a little too Bella Swan for my taste (and yes, I realize Dead Until Dark was published first), though I was willing to overlook it.

And then everything changed following her first roll in the hay with Bill, the vampire. Sookie Stackhouse? Surely her name is really Mary Sue!

  • She’s the most gorgeous girl in Bon Temps, Louisiana, which she and everyone in Bon Temps constantly remind the reader about. I guess the only reprieve the reader gets is at least Sookie doesn’t try to convince you she’s just mediocre looking despite an excess amount of male attention.
  • She refers to her magical ability, which allows her to read the minds of those around her, as a “disability”. Gross.
  • Said magical ability is a result of her not-so-human status (which is actually revealed in later novels, I just accidentally found a spoiler).
  • Spoilers also tell me of a love pentagon? A love hexagon? Just no.
  • She’s abstained from any romantic and sexual relationships because of her mind reading ability, so naturally her first sexual encounters, with a vampire of course, reveal she’s actually a sexual beast. Who doesn’t come out the gate swingin’ though, amiright? (Just kidding. The answer to that question is “NO ONE”).
  • She essentially has a minimum wage job, but she doesn’t ever have to worry about money because a giant “nest egg” has been willed to her. On multiple occasions. This allows her to take all the time off from work that she needs with no consequence. That and her boss is in love with her. How convenient.

There was a mystery in this book too that became quite muddled after Sookie lost her V-card. I mean, it was a compelling murder mystery at first, but then the story morphed into this weird relationship power struggle between Bill and Sookie. Bill was a bit of a wet blanket unless bedroom activity was involved, and Sookie was excessively stubborn by refusing her gentleman caller unless bedroom activity was involved. I forgot about the mystery until the last couple of chapters, which in all fairness, wrapped up nicely.

In the end, while I didn’t hate Dead Until Dark, it definitely didn’t impress me. I sort of wish I could have my month back to trudge through a different novel.

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris

Released: May 2001
Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Mystery
Age Group: Adult

[goodreads | indiebound]

Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She’s quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn’t get out much. Not because she’s not pretty. She is. It’s just that, well, Sookie has this sort of “disability.” She can read minds. And that doesn’t make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He’s tall, dark, handsome–and Sookie can’t hear a word he’s thinking. He’s exactly the type of guy she’s been waiting for all her life….

But Bill has a disability of his own: He’s a vampire with a bad reputation. He hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of–big surprise–murder. And when one of Sookie’s coworkers is killed, she fears she’s next….

I Had Hoped for a Boarding School Novel but was Taken on a Wild Ride Instead | Deliver Her by Patricia Perry Donovan

I may have hyper-focused on the portion of the synopsis that mentions that Alex Carmody is shipped off to the Birches, a boarding school in New Hampshire. That coupled with a beautiful cover of a young woman standing in what I perceived to be the campus of a boarding school in the middle of Autumn in New England– I didn’t stand a chance. But, if you’re looking for a novel that takes place at a boarding school– one where the main character navigates cliques in the cafeteria at lunchtime, enrolls in fascinating classes that exists only in our imaginations, or discovers a group of exceptional friends– look somewhere else. If you’re looking for a novel full of suspense and deceit and a journey both metaphorical and literal, look no further than Deliver Her by Patricia Perry Donovan.


deliver-herDeliver Her by Patricia Perry Donovan

Released: May 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
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Purchase: Amazon|BAM!|B&N

On the night of Alex Carmody’s sixteenth birthday, she and her best friend, Cass, are victims of a terrible car accident. Alex survives; Cass doesn’t. Consumed by grief, Alex starts cutting school and partying, growing increasingly detached. The future she’d planned with her friend is now meaningless to her.

Meg Carmody is heartbroken for her daughter, even as she’s desperate to get Alex’s life back on track. The Birches, a boarding school in New Hampshire, promises to do just that, yet Alex refuses to go. But when Meg finds a bag of pills hidden in the house, she makes a fateful call to a transporter whose company specializes in shuttling troubled teens to places like The Birches, under strict supervision. Meg knows Alex will feel betrayed—as will her estranged husband, who knows nothing of Meg’s plans for their daughter.

When the transport goes wrong—and Alex goes missing—Meg must face the consequences of her decision and her deception. But the hunt for Alex reveals that Meg is not the only one keeping secrets.

This novel is both predictable and suspenseful

I knew fairly early on how this novel would end, and yet I still found myself compelled to read on. Because it’s the ride the author takes the reader on that makes Deliver Her so worth while. Donovan slowly reveals the tragic past of a broken family, and at the same time, she propels the reader forward across icy roads blocked by moose and car rides from creepy strangers to reach a place of healing that is both literal and metaphorical.

This novel has crossover appeal

Deliver Her is told from multiple POVs. First, there is Meg Caromdy, who is a mother who seems to have reached the end of the road in her relationship not just with her husband but also with her daughter. Then, there is Alex Carmody, who is battered by the guilt that she may have been the cause of her best friend’s death. And finally, there is Carl, a recovering addict, whose role is to transport Alex to the Birches safe and sound. Deliver Her isn’t explicitly a young adult novel or an adult novel, so the reader spends half of the novel caught up in the psyche of a teenage girl and the other half in the mind of a mother at her wit’s end. Further, Donovan manages to strike a  gentle balance of writing from the teenage perspective without bogging the narration down with angst that I think make this novel appeal not just to a young adult audience but to readers who may be reluctant to pick something up that is labeled “YA”.

I’m strangely okay that this novel doesn’t take place at a boarding school

It’s hard to feel disappointed that Deliver Her isn’t a novel that takes place at boarding school because Donovan paints such convincing and heartbreaking picture of a dysfunctional family. One where family members are so caught up in their lives, regardless of how mundane they may be, that they don’t even see how disconnected from one another they really are until it’s too late. One where family member’s harbor secrets to protect others or tell lies to one another just to make it through the day peacefully, without confrontation.

Every single character, from Jack, Alex’s naive little brother, to Carl, a recovering addict, who transports the troubled youth to rehab centers, garners sympathy and yet, most of the time I kept thinking, gosh I hope my marriage doesn’t turn out this way, or I hope my child doesn’t end up like this.


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This novel was provided for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



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.

This is Not a Cozy. I repeat! This is Not a Cozy | A Grave Prediction by Victoria Laurie

I’ve written about the Ghost Hunter Mystery series by Victoria Laurie a few times on Books & Tea. It’s a cozy mystery series with a supernatural flair, and I’ve loved what I’ve read so far. Then, during my last library visit, I realized Laurie had another book series called the Psychic Eye Mysteries. I knew very little about the series except than the main character was a psychic, and it took place in Royal Oak, Michigan; so, between setting and the fact that Victoria Laurie was the author, I knew I had to test out the new series.

A grave preditionA Grave Prediction (Psychic Eye Mystery #14) by Victoria Laurie

Released: July 2016
Publisher: NAL
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Professional psychics learn to deal with skeptics, but Abby has to prepare herself for one steep uphill battle when she’s sent to San Diego to help train FBI officers to use their intuition. Her first challenge: a series of bank robberies in which the thieves made off with loads of cash but left no clues.

Abby’s sixth sense leads her team to a tract of land recently cleared for development. But instead of finding clues to the cash, Abby gets a vision of four buried bodies. A site search turns up some bones and pottery from an American Indian tribe, but that’s still enough to delay construction for years.

With a furious developer and dubious FBI agents on her back, Abby is losing credibility fast. But unlike the best laid plans, Abby’s talent rarely leads her astray. And if the bodies aren’t there yet, that means that four deaths can still be stopped. She’ll just have to dig a little deeper . . .


This is not a cozy. I repeat! This is not a cozy.

You may remember, a few weeks ago I participated in the Save My Cozies Readathon— during which, I started reading A Grave Prediction by Victoria Laurie. I quickly realized after the first F-bomb that A Grave Prediction was not a cozy mystery. Cuss words don’t phase me; I admit, my own language is quite colorful. But, it still caught me off guard because I thought I was jumping into a cozy mystery.

This book felt long…sometimes

A Grave Prediction is only about 300 pages, which isn’t very long. But, sometimes it felt life a long novel. I’m sure there is an element of tedium to detective work, and unfortunately, Laurie managed to capture that in a few scenes (ie. every time Abby needed to freshen up with a shower after a workout or every time Abby walked downstairs to grab a banana or a bag of chips while her friend napped…who cares?)Now that we have that out of the way…


Abby is a psychic-turned-consultant to the FBI, Candice is a private investigator, and together, they make an unstoppable team. They are compliments to each other’s talents; Abby my have a psychic vision, and Candice uses her PI skills to find concrete evidence to support Abby’s intuition. Beyond their partnership, they’re best friends. They console and support one another when skeptics are critical of their abilities. They encourage one another to step outside their comfort zone. And of course, they engage in some classic, witty banter. These two gals had me rolling in laughter!

A compelling almost-murder mystery

What starts out as a mystery revolving around a series of flawlessly choreographed bank heists turns into a race against the clock to prevent the deaths of four girls. Abby’s intuition tells her these crimes are linked, but she can’t figure out how or why, and this time, Abby and Candice must solve the case without the resources of the FBI. Their sleuthing leads them to the seedier neighborhoods in southern California to the quiet, manicured homes of suburbia, where they break protocol by assuming fake identities and engage in the occasional breaking and entering in the effort to save lives.

Abby Cooper is one of Victoria Laurie’s finest characters

I can’t help but compare Laurie’s two series here. I love the Ghost Hunter Mystery series because Laurie’s writing is spooky and thrilling, but the voice of her protagonist, M.J. Holliday, doesn’t stand out to me. I actually think MJ’s friend, Gilley, steals the show most of the time. Then, there is Abby Cooper, the protagonist of the Psychic Eye Mystery series. She’s confident about her abilities but also defensive when approached by skeptics. She’s quick-witted and snarky, especially when engaging in banter with her BFF. She loves pizza and hates exercise and mentally hexes her BFF every time the kettlebell is forced upon her. Abby Cooper felt like the character that Laurie had been mulling over for years. She felt like the character Laurie was meant to write. Abby Cooper just felt…real.

Overall, I was impressed by A Grave Prediction. Not only did Laurie write a compelling mystery, but she has created one heck of a character. And, as usual, I jumped into the middle of this series. Actually, I jumped to book number 14! And just like the Ghost Hunter Mystery series, I know I need more Psychic Eye mystery series in my life. I am apparently a sucker for mysteries that are tinged with supernatural elements (ie. zombie crime thrillers or ghost hunter mysteries). I really, really want to read the earlier novels though because they take place in my home state– Michigan.

Have you read any mystery novels that feature a supernatural element? Tell me about it in the comments! I’d love to check it out!

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.

This Story Features a Master Ninja Ronin Detective, Which is Pretty Awesome| the Ninja’s Daughter by Susan Spann

When I was offered the opportunity to read the Ninja’s Daughter by Susan Spann, I jumped on it. From what I could tell, the novel featured two subjects that I was interested obsessed with: mysteries and Japanese history. Yet, the longer this novel sat on the corner of my dining room table, the more reluctant I became to read it. I hyper-focused on the idea of the main character, Hiro Hattori, being a master ninja detective and couldn’t help but wonder if I was launching myself into to weird, campy martial arts story reminiscent of those poorly dubbed kung-fu movies of the 1970s. (Yes, yes, I know those 1970s kung fu movies came from China, not Japan). Instead, I discovered the Ninja’s Daughter to be a compelling mystery set in the complex world of feudal Japan right at the end of the Muromachi period.


Ninjas daughterThe Ninja’s Daughter (Shinobi Mystery #4) by Susan Spann

Released: August 2016
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
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Autumn, 1565: When an actor’s daughter is murdered on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim’s only hope for justice.

As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, and rival warlords threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace–but Hiro has a personal connection to the girl, and must avenge her. The secret investigation leads Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the exclusive world of Kyoto’s theater guilds, where they quickly learn that nothing, and no one, is as it seems. With only a mysterious golden coin to guide them, the investigators uncover a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption within the Kyoto police department that leaves Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.


The mystery is compelling even though the characters involved are kind of terrible

Hiro and Father Mateo must discover the link between a golden coin, a missing mask, and the death of a young woman associated from one of Kyoto’s theater guilds. All of the suspects harbor secrets that threaten reputations, so there is a constant veil of deceit that only Hiro seems to pick up on because of his master ninja skills (also his familiarity of Japanese nuances compared to his Portuguese sleuthing companion). Despite their weeping eyes, it’s hard to feel sympathy for any of the suspects because their reluctance to cooperate comes off as selfish instead of simply defensive. I suppose that sounds like an unpleasant read, but I actually kind of liked it. I suppose I’ve been in the mood for unlikable characters lately. But I digress! I even had a hard time feeling sympathy for the victim– not because she may or may not have become a lady of the night to purchase her freedom (freedom in a metaphorical sense, not literal) but because of the ways she exploited her family.

That being said, the scene where the perpetrator is revealed is kind of a let down. All of the suspects are sitting in a room, and Hiro starts explaining to them why he has determined a certain person could not have committed the crime, until he finally reveals who the real killer is. I can’t help but think of the endings of Scooby Doo mysteries (but with kimonos and the fear of bringing shame to the family).

Really, it was the historical aspect that sucked me in

Spann chose a rather complex time in Japanese history to use as a setting for a mystery series. By 1565, Japan had been steeped in a civil war lasting at least 100 years, and now it is trying to recover after the death of the shogun. To add to the tension, the first waves of European missionaries are making contact on Japanese soil (which would inevitably lead to Japan isolating itself in the following period). It’s a time of samurai and ninjas but also art forms such as flower arrangement, the tea ceremony, and Noh theater. This isn’t merely a backdrop for a mystery. The historical aspect plays a vital role in the series as a whole; the political and military turmoil start to burden the Portuguese missionary and Hiro (a ninja ronin detective!) And Spann writes about this without making the story feel cumbersome. I’m not saying the historical aspect of these books are flawless (I’m not sure how someone just “slips into” their kimono), but they are well researched nonetheless (which, I would expect considering Spann has turned an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies into a lifelong passion for learning about Japan, which she writes about frequently on her blog).

Clearly, I owe the Ninja’s Daughter by Susan Spann a thousand apologies for ever thinking it was going to be campy. It was engaging and surprisingly complex compared to the usual mystery I devour. On top of that, I’m pretty sure it will be the book that launches me into an obsession with historical fiction novels taking place in Japan. Heian Period, here I come!

I also want to pick up the previous books in the series. Yet again, I started reading a mystery series from the middle, but I really want to know how the death of the shogun affected Hiro, and I really want to know how and why Hiro ended up guarding Father Mateo.

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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.