Family Secrets by Shawn McGuire

25th July2021.

I enjoy discovering new authors and series, especially at the cosy mystery end of spectrum. Family Secrets, the first of a series set in the town of Whispering Pines in Wisconsin, features ex-cop Jayne O’Shea and her Westie, Meeka. They arrive at the home of her late grandparents to find the body of a young woman on the lawn.

With the help of Tripp, another visitor to the community, Jayne slowly becomes involved in an investigation where nothing is as it first seems. The sheriff appears uninterested in the murder. His nephew and deputy, Reed, is openly hostile to Jayne’s involvement. And a whole host of local characters, from a green witch to some local councillors, become suspects.

It’s all lovingly written and described. Jayne’s a strong character with her own baggage to deal with, picking away at the loose threads to piece together the relationships and motives that will help her solve the case. It’s fairly standard fare, but lifted by the setting, the Wiccan religion that guides many of the people, and the distinctive characters who add warmth, humour and charm to the story.

It’s a gentle, easy to read novel that charms and leaves you looking forward to the next in the series.

Description

Sixteen years after a family feud drove her from the cozy Northwoods village of Whispering Pines, Wisconsin, former detective Jayne O’Shea returns to prepare her grandparents’ lake house for sale. Once there, not only does she find that the house has been trashed, her dog discovers a dead body in the backyard.

Jayne intends to stay out of it, but when it becomes obvious the sheriff isn’t interested in investigating the death, Jayne can’t stop herself. Her list of suspects grows faster than the plants in the commons’ pentacle garden. Could it be the local Wiccan green witch with her stash of deadly plants? The shopkeeper who slips into trances and foretells death? The visitor determined to practice black magic?

What Jayne knows for sure is that the closer she gets to solving this crime, the more the sheriff wants her to back off. And when a local fortune teller provides a crucial clue, Jayne knows it’s up to her to solve this murder.

Family Secrets by Shawn McGuire

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

19th July 2021.

The second Hercule Poirot story, published in 1923, is a complex murder mystery where nothing is ever as it seems. On two occasions, Poirot seems to have solved the murder, only to discover something new which turns everything on its head and forces him to start again.

Talk about a masterclass in how to wrong foot the reader.

It all starts with a cry for help from France. Hastings and Poirot arrive to discover a murder with the body lying on an adjoining golf course. All is not quite as it seems, though French detective Giraud seems to have worked it all out with this forensic approach to crime scene investigation.

The rivalry between the two detectives adds another layer of intrigue and entertainment to the story. Then there’s Hastings, losing his heart to a woman he meets on a train. She returns later to be part of the plot and a possible murder suspect, along with the man’s son, wife and next door neighbour.

The story is ably narrated by Hastings, who struggles to keep up with the deductions of his friend, Poirot. It allows Agatha Christie the chance to recap on what Poirot has deduced, helping the reader to keep up with the complexities of the investigation. But then we discover a new piece of evidence that casts doubt on all the great detective has deduced.

It’s easy to feel a little sorry for Hastings, whose struggles and efforts to form his own theories often result in gentle admonishment from Poirot and his superior intellect. But Hastings has to struggle with the investigation to ensure the author doesn’t give too much away too soon.

And, when the mystery is finally solved, you can’t help wondering how you missed all the clues.

This is a first rate whodunit that’s so complex, I wondered how Agatha Christie planned and worked it all out with such clarity and detail. But that’s why she’s known as the Queen of Crime. Her easy to read, direct style, takes you straight to the heart of matters without frills. Her characterisation is as succinct, creating believable characters and plenty of suspects.

But it’s her grasp of the small details that ultimately solve the crime that impressed me the most. Not once, did I truly feel I knew the identity of the murderer or the motive for the killings. Then again, it didn’t matter. This was such a complex, yet fascinating story that swept me along until it was time to reveal everything.

Description

On a French golf course, a millionaire is found stabbed in the back…

An urgent cry for help brings Poirot to France. But he arrives too late to save his client, whose brutally stabbed body now lies face downwards in a shallow grave on a golf course.

But why is the dead man wearing his son’s overcoat? And who was the impassioned love-letter in the pocket for? Before Poirot can answer these questions, the case is turned upside down by the discovery of a second, identically murdered corpse…

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

Rosecliff Manor Haunting by Cheryl Bradshaw

17th July 2021.

This is the second story in the series featuring Addison Lockhart. She dreams about twin girls who died as children many years ago in a nearby manor house. It seems like they fell to their deaths from an attic window. But did they?

This is another entertaining and well-written murder mystery with a supernatural twist. Though Addison is psychic, she uses determination and deduction to solve the murder and bring peace to the spirits of the children.

If you like a cosy mystery with strong characters and a bit of a twist, this series is well worth a try.

Description

Psychic medium Addison Lockhart jolts awake, her brow sweaty, head throbbing. The dream had seemed so real.

The twins, eleven-year-old Vivian and Grace, were so full of life she wanted to reach out, touch them. But she couldn’t. The girls had been dead for forty years. Why then had they appeared to her, summoning her help? Were their untimely deaths really an accident, or was something far more sinister to blame?

Rosecliff Manor Haunting by Cheryl Bradshaw

The Stabbing in the Stables by Simon Brett

14th July 2021.

When Jude’s asked to help heal one of her friend’s horses, she doesn’t expect to find a body at the riding stables. But this is Fethering and murder is never far away. Jude’s friend and fellow sleuth Carol has her own problems. She senses marital problems for her newly-wed son and his wife.

With the police releasing no information about their investigation, Jude and Carole have to resort to what they do best – make their own enquiries. They soon latch onto a former Irish jockey and horse whisperer, who seems to know a lot more about the murder than he’s willing to tell.

Like the previous books in the series, this one is filled with the usual red herrings, humour and puzzles to solve. Jude and Carole slowly work their way to the truth, putting themselves in danger once more as events twist in an unexpected direction.

Their chalk and cheese relationship provides additional layers of conflict and humour as their friendship and partnership overcomes all challenges to solve another murder.

If you like a cosy mystery with a strong underbelly of humour and social comment, the Fethering Village mysteries may be just what you’re looking for.

Description

When healer Jude pays a visit to Long Bamber Stables one evening – to meet her unusually horse-shaped new client and his owner Sonia Dalrymple – she does not expect to stumble across a man lying in the darkness. Walter Fleet, co-owner of the stables, has been viciously stabbed to death.

Sleuthing neighbours Jude and Carole begin to make discreet enquiries, but it soon becomes clear that Long Bamber Stables is a hotbed of dangerous passions, murderous rivalries and hidden truths . . . and this horsing community will do anything to protect their reputations.

The Stabbing in the Stables by Simon Brett

Murder in the Meadow by Faith Martin

13th July 2021.

With big changes to the team, including a fast track detective sergeant with her own agenda, Detective Inspector Hillary Greene has enough on her plate before a body is found by the river. Wayne Sutton, an artist and gigolo, was battered to death and the list of suspects is large.

With one eye on the investigation and the other on Detective Sergeant Gemma Fordham, DI Greene sets about another complex and entertaining investigation.

The interplay between the characters and the issues in the backstory, including Hillary’s love life and troubles inherited from her former husband turned crook, Ronnie, help make the series entertaining and compelling to read. The murder mystery elements are always first rate and the humour and troubles Hillary negotiates have made this series into a favourite of mine.

I’d recommend starting at the beginning and working your way through the books to get the most from the characters and backstory. You’ll also be rewarded with some cracking murder investigations.

Description

Wayne Sutton is found dead by a stream in a beautiful meadow. His head has been bashed in and a red paper heart left on his body. The handsome young artist had a reputation as a ladies’ man.

DI Hillary Greene discovers that many wealthy married women were buying his paintings and taking ‘private’ art lesson from him. It appears that several of them might have wanted him dead.

Hillary also has a new detective sergeant, Gemma Fordham. Seemingly efficient and pleasant, she harbours a secret agenda.

Can Hillary get to the bottom of a complex case involving jealousy, love, and cold-blooded murder?

Murder in the Meadow by Faith Martin

The Witness at the Wedding by Simon Brett

27th June 2021.

I’ve enjoyed all the Fethering murder mysteries so far. The humour that runs through them, gently poking fun at the foibles of the middle classes, is amplified through Carole and Jude, the chalk and cheese amateur sleuths who seem to have little in common yet work so well together.

In this story, the wedding of Carole’s son Stephen to Gaby seems to arouse all manner of anxieties and emotions. Forced to present a united front with her ex-husband, David, Carole’s dragged out of her Fethering comfort zone long before she meets Gaby’s strange parents. And then there’s a dark family secret no one’s keen to admit or reveal.

Everything comes to a head at the engagement party when Gaby’s father is murdered on his way home. It’s not long before a second murder follows. Jude, who’s is helping a journalist friend overcome depression, is soon in the thick of things. The two of them begin to delve into the West Sussex connection that could shed light on the murders.

From here, the story picks up pace as Gaby looks set to become the killer’s next victim.

While quite some time is spent setting the scene before the murders, it’s the perfect opportunity for the author to explore Carole’s past and reveal why she can be so insular and controlled in her life. More of Jude’s colourful past is also revealed, though she very much plays second fiddle in this outing.

While the unravelling of the killer is more straightforward than previous mysteries, it’s still exciting and handled with style and skill. While a traditional whodunit, the most enjoyable moments are delivered by Carole and Jude as they set about solving the murders with determination and imagination.

This is a highly enjoyable series that continues to entertain and develop.

Description

It’s time to celebrate in Fethering Village, as Carole’s son is getting married to a wonderful girl, albeit one with rather odd parents. Not only do they have no interest in the wedding preparations, but the mere thought of talking about the event frightens them beyond words.

When the bride’s father is found murdered, Carole and Jude fear the bride-to-be is the killer’s next target. They must unravel the bride’s family’s past before the killer makes another deadly move . . . and before the wedding festivities become completely funereal.

The Witness at the Wedding by Simon Brett

The Birthday Mystery by Faith Martin

25th June 2021.

Jenny Starling is catering for a 21st birthday party for twins Justin and Alicia in their parents’ country mansion in the Cotswolds. On the day she arrives, a worker from the estate is already dead, having drowned in a pond.

It soon becomes clear that all is not well in the house or between the twins, whose bitter rivalry and fighting comes under the spotlight when one of the guests dies at the party, poisoned by weed killer. The police arrive and begin an investigation, aware that Jenny is no slouch when it comes to solving murders.

Will she solve the case before the police, or will she hamper their investigation and land herself in hot water?

This light-hearted cosy mystery begins slowly, setting the scene, introducing the characters and the key relationships. Whether Jenny Starling is in the garden gathering herbs, checking out her sleeping accommodation in the house, or simply enjoying the country air, she’s never far from trouble, eavesdropping like a young Miss Marple to gather vital clues.

While some of the main characters seemed a little caricatured at the start, the story soon settled into a steady, entertaining rhythm, with plenty of humour to season the mystery. The competition between Jenny and the detective leading the enquiry was an enjoyable battle of wills as the cook pieced together the clues to solve the case.

This is an enjoyable first book in a series that features an excellent amateur sleuth, who’s more than a match for the police and killers. I look forward to reading the next in the series.

Description

Jenny Starling is catering the twenty-first birthday party of upper-class twins, Alicia and Justin.

She arrives at their parents’ country house and is immediately met by the police. A young man has drowned in the pond. Was it an accident or murder?

But the birthday party goes ahead. Then just after midnight, everyone gathers for a champagne toast . . . and one of the guests falls down dead. The police are baffled and there is a whole party full of suspects.

When it comes to someone adding the extra ingredient of poison to her own precious recipes, Jenny isn’t going to take it lying down. She has a reputation to protect.

Jenny Starling won’t stop until the murderer is found.

The Birthday Mystery by Faith Martin

Eye for Revenge by Cheryl Bradshaw

25th June 2021.

This cross between romantic suspense and murder mystery finds a devastated Quinn, searching for the killer of her best friend Evie. Behind the small town respectability, there are secrets and jealousies to be unearthed.

With a brisk place and a flawed but engaging protagonist in Quinn, this story is as much about her battles and transformation as securing justice for Evie. As the pressure and danger mounts for Quinn, she stands her ground, putting her life on the line to avenge her friend.

This is another thrilling story from the versatile Cheryl Bradshaw, who always writes entertaining stories with pace, mystery and great characters.

Description

Quinn Montgomery has lost the will to live.

She wakes to find herself in the hospital. Her childhood best friend Evie has been murdered, and Evie’s four-year-old son witnessed it all. Traumatized over what he saw, he hasn’t spoken. And when Evie’s cold-blooded killer goes into hiding, Quinn isn’t only out for justice, she’s out for revenge.

Eye for Revenge by Chaeryl Bradshaw

The Hanging in the Hotel by Simon Brett

19th June 2021.

This has become one of my favourite crime series. The books are beautifully written and cleverly plotted with a humorous underbelly of social comment, and engaging and charismatic characters. I particularly enjoy the way the relationship between Carole and Jude is developing. With each book, we learn a little more about Jude’s colourful past. While the two amateur sleuths are different in many ways, they share the same determination to get to the truth.

In this case, it’s the hanging of a young solicitor at a country hotel where Jude is waiting tables. She’s there to help out an old friend and finds herself struggling to believe the young man committed suicide. She spoke to him the night before and he was in high spirits, not suicidal.

But it seems the Pillars of Sussex, a secretive all male group have other ideas. Determined to protect their reputation and some of their more important members, they thwart Jude’s efforts to discover the truth. Meanwhile, Carole approaches the Pillars through another of their members, who has taken a fancy to her.

The story unfolds in small increments until Carole and Jude finally put all the pieces together for an exciting climax at the hotel. Along the way, the author never misses a chance to poke fun at the self-importance of secret societies and the foibles of the middle classes.

If you’re looking for a classy cosy mystery series with humour, distinctive plots and great characters, look no further.

Description

Fethering resident Jude soon regrets helping out at an event at the Hopwicke Country House Hotel. The all-male society, The Pillars of Sussex, are visiting and keep Jude up until the small hours when the last of the rowdy men goes to bed.

When one guest doesn’t show up for breakfast the next morning, Jude presumes he’s feeling the effects of the night before and searches him out. Only to discover his body hanging from the beams of a four-poster bed. Unconvinced that this was suicide, Jude enlists the support of fellow amateur sleuth Carole to crack the case.

The Hangin gin the Hotel by Simon Brett

Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie

15th June 2021.

This final outing for Miss Marple is another convoluted mystery that requires all her skill and know how to solve. Gwenda is in England, looking for a house for her and husband Giles. While driving through Dilmouth on the coast, she’s drawn to Hillside. While she views the house, she has a terrifying flashback to a murder that happened here.

Once installed in the house, coincidences begin to happen, making her wonder if she’s losing her mind. Fortunately, Miss Marple is on hand to put everything into perspective. But the young couple ignore her advice to leave well alone and embark on a journey to find out what really happened at Hillside all those years ago.

It’s classic Agatha Christie, filled with sharply observed characters, lots of suspects, social comment and an original plot littered with red herrings and misdirection.

Perfect.

Description

Although Gwenda and Giles Reed are determined to solve a macabre puzzle involving a hauntingly familiar Victorian villa and a terrifying vision of a strangled woman, Miss Jane Marple advises them not to uncover a long unreported murder.

Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie