Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dru's Cozy Report: January Reading List

Welcome to Dru's Cozy Report. I will be sharing, on a monthly basis, my views on current cozy mysteries. The first entry is a debut series featuring a home contractor with a ghostly encounter; the next four entries are about apple orchards, home renovation, preparing meals for the first family and a radio talk show host, all in an on-going series.

If Walls Could Talk by Juliet Blackwell is the first book in the new "Haunted Home Renovation" mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, December 2010

Since she took over her father's construction business, Melanie Turner has made quite a name for herself remodeling historic houses in the San Francisco Bay Area. But now her reputation may be on the line. At her newest renovation project, a run-down Pacific Heights mansion, Mel is visited by the ghost of a colleague who recently met a bad end with power tools. Mel hopes that by tracking down the killer, she can rid herself of the ghostly presence of the murdered man. Mel's only clue is an odd box she discovers inside a wall at the job site. If she can make sense of its mysterious contents, she might be able to nail a killer—before she herself becomes the next construction casualty.
What a great new series. The ghostly presence of a recently deceased colleague and vandalism to her workplace and home spurs Mel into action. When she looks into the murder and the history of the home she is renovating, she wonders if the two are connected. The surprising revelation that she discovers not only enhances the mystery, but sparked my interest more as I quickly turn the pages. This well-written mystery with likable characters, fascinating insight into home renovations and great conversation is a very entertaining read.

Visit Juliet Blackwell's website at

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book, in hopes I would review it.

A Killer Crop by Sheila Connolly is the fourth book in the “Orchard” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, December 2010

When Meg Corey's mother arrives unannounced in Granford, Massachusetts, Meg's sure it's not just to pay a surprise visit to the apple of her eye. The timing is terrible—it's harvest season and Meg is understaffed in the orchard. Plus Elizabeth Corey is clearly hiding the real purpose of her trip from her daughter. After an English professor from Amherst—who is an old friend of her mother—is found dead on the floor of a cider home, Elizabeth is interrogated by the police, and then grilled by her daughter. She is indeed keeping a secret—but could Meg's own mother really have committed murder? One thing is clear; someone decided to teach the professor a lesson. And the key to unlocking the mystery may lie with a poet who could not stop for death.
I adore this book. When Meg's mother is questioned by the police for an old friend's death, Meg fears her mother is the only suspect and both Meg and her mother set out to clear her mother. Between harvesting the apples, entertaining her mother, and her relationship with Seth, Meg has a lot on her hands. The current storyline held my interest as history was intertwined with the present as Meg and her mother picked through the clues. The characters were more defined and I enjoyed the interaction between Meg and her mother. The dialogue between the main characters was very comfortable, and I felt I was a part of the conversation. I don’t know much about Emily Dickinson, but this story increased my interest in learning more about her life. This is, by far, the best book in this likable series.

Visit Sheila Connolly's website at

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book, in hopes I would review it.

Mortar and Murder by Jennie Bentley is the fourth book in the "Do-It-Yourself" mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, January 2011

Avery and her boyfriend, Derek are renovating a magnificent 225-year-old Colonial on Rowanberry Island, just off the coast of Maine. The DIY is going great even if the neighbor, a reclusive thriller writer, seems as strange and mysterious as his fiction. But his reputation seems in perfect keeping with what Derek and Avery discover next. The body of an unidentified woman with a piece of paper in her pocket bearing the address of Derek and Avery's Realtor is found floating in the sea near the island. Then a second woman is retrieved like jetsam from the harbor. But it's not until Avery discovers a secret room in the house and learns about Rowanberry Island's long tradition of smuggling, that a bizarre link is made between the dead women—and if it foretells anything, it's that things on the island are only going to get deadlier.
What a great story. When bodies turn up dead in the water, Avery can't just leave it to the police. The inquisitive nature of Avery has her searching for reasons as to why. When a secret is discovered, Avery nudges her way into the investigation, but she better hurry because secrets exposed can be dangerous. I found myself devouring this book as I wanted to see what happens next. A brilliant plot, amusing dialogue and an island locale creates an intriguing mystery where fixing up can be risky business.

Visit Jennie Bentley's website at

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book, in hopes I would review it.

Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy is the fourth book in the “White House Chef” cozy mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, January 2010

With a new First Family moving into the White House, executive chef Olivia Paras can't afford to make any mistakes. But when a mysterious box of take-out chicken shows up for the First Kids, she soon finds herself in a no-wing situation. No way is Ollie handing over a suspicious box of barbecue chicken wings to Abigail and Josh Hyden, children of the country's new commander in chief and her new boss. With no clue who provided the culinary gift for the kids, Ollie's not about to put them at risk. With the First Lady giving her the cold shoulder for her decision, and the family's personal chef being brought in, Ollie starts to fear she may be plucked from the White House staff. When it turns out the chicken was poisoned, Ollie realizes the First Kids are targets—and she'll need more than a wing and a prayer to keep them out of harm's way.
Ollie just can’t help herself and ruffles some feathers when she refused to serve undocumented chicken wings to the First Kids, which later is proven to be tainted. Ollie’s primary concern is the safety of her kitchen and the food she prepares and when that is threatened, Ollie wants answers and in this caper, it’s Ollie’s heroic measure that kept the pot from boiling over. What a tailspin of emotions contained within the walls of this book. I was rooting for Ollie as she adjusted to the demands of the new inhabitants of the White House, the uncertainty of her job and the promise of new beginnings. The writing was superb as was the mystery which kept me turning the pages. The character’s relationships were more defined and explored. I enjoyed how easy the conversation was between all the characters with a bit of humor to whet your appetite. But mostly I love the White House and D.C. setting which made me wish that I was there with Ollie. This fabulous read will leave your hunger delectably satisfied.

Visit Julie Hyzy's website at

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book, in hopes I would review it.

Stay Tuned For Murder by Mary Kennedy is the third book in the “Talk Radio” mystery series. Publisher: Obsidian, January 2011

Maggie Walsh is a natural on the radio, but she's still learning how to play the ratings game. Her big guest star is self-proclaimed oracle Madame Chantel, whose on-air "chats" with the dead are the talk of Cypress Grove—until Chantel makes some grim predictions at a seance and one of the town's most beloved citizens is found murdered. Meanwhile, WYME is busy promoting the opening of a fifty-year-old time capsule. But the more Maggie learns about what might be unearthed, the more she suspects that the timing of the murder was no coincidence. The appearance of another body has Maggie rushing to find the killer—and wondering if there might be something to Chantel's ghost stories.
When Maggie’s talk show guest, psychic Chantel, invites her to a séance and makes a dire prediction, Maggie is stunned when a friend is found murdered. When another person dies, Maggie questions if their deaths are connected either to the opening of the time-capsule and the secrets that may be contained within or something more troubling. The plot and tone of this book kept me glued to the pages as I tried to fit the pieces to the mysterious puzzles in Cypress Grove. I loved the interaction among this great cast of characters and I especially like when Maggie stepped out of character and talk to the reader, being both humorous and quirky. The insights on the art of deception also enhanced my reading pleasure. I look forward to reading the next book in this fun and entertaining series.

Visit Mary Kennedy's website at

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book, in hopes I would review it.

For more of my book musings, visit my website here.


Marianne Arkins said...

Hey ... the cover of that first book has a dog that looks like Dakota. That's enough to sell me (well, that and your review *G*).

Sounds like you had a good month!

Aurian said...

I just finished the other two books by Juliet Blackwell, so this new one is next on my cozy list!

Mason Canyon said...

Enjoyed your reviews on all of these wonderful cozies. The White House Chef series has long been a favorite of mine. Always enjoy seeing what new adventure Olivia gets herself into.

Thoughts in Progress

Tori Lennox said...

I need to add the Juliet Blackwell book to my shopping list. I've already read or have the others in my TBR pile. :)

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Excellent books, great covers and useful reviews, Dru Ann. Thanks for keeping us in the mystery loop.

ev said...

I love adding new books to my must buy pile. Hubby might not tho. LOL

Cleo Coyle said...

An outstanding reading list! Thank you, Dru!

Kuzlin said...

I'm just finishing If Walls Could
Talk, which I really enjoy, and then next planning on moving on to Buffalo West Wing (Julie Hyzy) and Dead Air (Mary Kennedy). Guess it's a good thing it's a 3-day holiday weekend!

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

Thank you so much, Dru!

Dru said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by. I had a good reading month.

Heather Webber said...

Oooh, a very good reading month! Thanks for sharing, Dru Ann!

Brandy said...

I've read Juliet Blackwell's other series so may have to give this one a try as well. Thanks for the great reviews!

Nanc said...

Thanks, Dru!
I always appreciate you reviews. Now that I have a Kindle I'll just keep adding to it...though I will miss the occasional "Timber" of my TBR pile!!!

Vickie said...

First of all, Dru, you are so lucky to get these books from the publishers to review! I am uber envious.
Cool reviews. I always look forward to your visits here.
I have BUFFALO WEST WING on the wishlist, read and enjoyed IF WALLS COULD TALK, and MORTAR AND MURDER and A KILLER CROP are on the nightstand.

Linda McDonald said...

Thanks Dru for the great report!