Other genres, such as mismem and griplit, come and go in popularity, but cosy mysteries remain constantly popular. These require creativity, ingenuity and humour on the part of the author, which make for a winning formula for readings. You find some really excellent writing.

Dying for Dinner Rolls by Lois Lavrisa is no exception. This is a short, delightful read. Our heroine Cat works in the family organic food store. She’s recovering from the recent violent death of her father, but her supportive husband and lively children have kept her going. Also she’s making an effort to be there for her Korean mother, Yunni. When Lucy is found dead after nipping home to fetch dinner rolls for Cat and the other members of the Chubby Chicks Club, a group of friends who get together for pot luck suppers and chats, a chilling clue seems to link her death with Cat’s father’s. The police consider it to be a suicide but Cat is convinced otherwise. Annie Mae, the chubbiest of the chicks, joins Cat for a day’s eventful sleuthing which threatens to land them both in jail. Handsome cop José keeps a nervous eye on proceedings and rushes in to rescue the crimebusting pair when the difficult situations they get themselves into threaten to get out of control. They do get a little carried away at times! However, they also get the murderer, but Cat is still determined to track down her father’s killer, whatever the cost.

Once you start this novella it’s hard to put it down. The characters are quirky, diverse and fascinating. Cat is a lively, likeable heroine with strengths and flaws that make her so utterly identifiable with. Annie Mae, twenty years her senior and, by the sounds of it, twenty times her weight, makes for the perfect sidekick for her. The plot twists and turns, just as it should, and the result is a clever, original cosy that has you gasping in horror and chuckling in delight in equal measure. I highly recommend it, and I’m now off to read the next two books in the series.

Just a couple of tiny nitpicks – well, I am an editor! There were just a couple of typos, but that’s quite acceptable as the error-free book has yet to be published, and the cover is a little too cluttered. The image is clean and classy but the quote and the Chubby Chicks logo rather spoiled the overall effect for me.

The author describes this as a dozy mystery, rather than a cozy mystery, which right from the start gives you the idea that the book is likely to be quirky and fun. And it is. It’s a very enjoyable, well written and easy read.

Ron, our laid back hero, who only panics now and then such as when it looks like he’s been snugly stitched up as the perpetrator of the crime, leads us through the story. He’s determined to find out who did actually sink a machete into Old Pete’s head, and so he sets about the task, very unably assisted by Sam, his colleague at The Jolly Jester. He encounters various other shady but fascinating characters along the winding way. He discovers, as do we, that there’s a lot more going on in the village of Duckley than meets the eye.

Well worth a read, and many thanks to the author for keeping me thoroughly entertained.

Available from all the Amazons.

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Melina’s back. You may remember I reviewed the first book in this culinary cozy mystery series, A Crusty Murder, here recently. Now it’s time to look at the second book.

Blurb

When Franklin Seever, the father of Melina’s best friend BettyJo, is poisoned from eating Melina’s fresh baked croutons at a dinner party, a police investigation once again targets Melina.

But Melina has learned her lesson after finding her landlady lying in a pool of blood, and with a crusty piece of bread protruding from her mouth, just a few months ago. If there is one thing Melina is aware of, it’s that you never really know people until you break bread with them.

BettyJo’s dad, a wealthy banker, already disliked Melina before the crouton calamity. What’s he going to think of her now that his life is hanging in the balance? Out of the bread pan and into the fire for Melina as she tries to keep BettyJo from freaking out about her dad, and engages in keeping her safe from a weirdo stalker.

And wouldn’t you know it? Just when Melina’s life couldn’t get more twisted than a loaf of braided bread, the sexy Scotsman, Aidan Sinclair, once again arrives on her doorstep with a smile on his face and an offer that could change Melina’s life forever.

Review

This is another very entertaining novella that makes you hungry as you enjoy the mystery. It’s a well-constructed whodunnit, with very real tension and suspense. But there’s also comedy, hints of romance, friendship, loyalty, patience, impatience and, well, real life. The characters are people you could meet on the street, they’re so very human and convincing. The mystery itself is tightly written and plausible, so all in all, this is an easy-read, easy-enjoy story. J M Griffin has a sharp eye for detail and a sure way of grabbing the reader’s attention.

A perfectly baked piece of fiction – attractive looking, crispily written and ultimately very satisfying and more-ish!

About the author:

J.M. Griffin/Dana Stone grew up in rural Maine. She relocated to Rhode Island and lives in the north western part of the state with her husband and two cats. J.M.’s first published novel For Love of Livvy, began a series of humorous mysteries featuring Lavinia “Vinnie” Esposito. J.M. has also written a romance under the pseudonym Dana Stone.

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Grand Cru Heist by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen is best summed up, I think, as a cozy mystery for men set in the ostentatiously wealthy world of winemakers and connoisseurs. There is a definite feeling of Gentlemen’s Club in the novel with erudite discussions and witty wordplay amidst a haze of cigar smoke. The characters we meet would definitely never confuse “a Bordeaux with a Burgundy”, and I’m not sure the same could be said for a lot of its readers. (I know I’d be struggling!) However, the book gives us a fascinating glimpse into this exclusive world.

Winemaker Benjamin Cooker is the victim of a carjacking in Paris. To recover from the unpleasant ordeal, he takes himself off to a rather nice hotel in Touraine to convalesce. Here he meets the British version of himself – Robert Morton, another man who likes his fancy motors and vintage wines. He’s also pulled into a murder when Morton’s young female companion is found dead, and shortly afterwards Cooker stumbles on another body. While this is going on, his friend Hubert de Boüard, owner of the Château Angélus, is suffering from burglaries and receiving clever, cryptic messages from the thieves. Cooker throws his returning energy and intelligence into working out what’s going on in both cases. He certainly does seem more clued up than the investigator from the gendarmes, especially when it comes to European car registration numbers. With the help from his assistant, Virgile, Crooker sets to.

The book is partly set in Bordeaux, without doubt the most beautiful city in France. (With my daughter at university there, I get to visit it every now and again.) If you know the city, but actually even if you don’t, you can really appreciate the descriptions of various parts of it that we find in the book. There are a few mentions of its history too. There is some lyrical writing (“The two pilgrims braved the west wind and the light rain that seeped into their bones, and for a while, they forgot their ages, their health, their ambitions, and perhaps even their own convictions”), and sharp observation (“Restaurants always seemed to be full of bored couples who enjoyed eavesdropping”). It’s tightly written, moves steadily and always with dignity, like Cooker himself, and is an intriguing mystery.

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I’ve mentioned the Gentlemen’s Club atmosphere, and this is a predominantly male book. There are some women amongst its pages, although they do stay in the background. There’s Cooker’s wife, Elisabeth, patient and loving, also a bossy nurse, a moody prostitute and an eye-catching waitress. They’re succinctly portrayed and, whilst minor characters, they’re certainly not shadowy.

Time for a very quick, gentle grumble. We get a ‘discretely’, meaning separately, where we need a ‘discreetly’, meaning stealthily, and teetotaler preceded by ‘an’ amongst the, admittedly, very few typos in this very well presented novel. However, to make up for that we get the lovely touch of the made-up term ‘Saint-Emillionnaire’ to describe someone who’s made a fortune from that type of wine. And I was delighted to see that Cooker’s dog is called Bacchus – I mean, what else! And to return briefly to our ‘an teetotaler’, the definition is wonderful and gives us a good idea of what our hero Benjamin Cooker is about. To him teetotalers are “A race of individuals not to be recommended…”, and the same can be said of the criminals Cooker helps to root out. (I’ve since been informed that I had an ARC – advanced review copy – of the book and that these and other typos will be sorted out in the final version.)

This is an enjoyable read. It’s quite a short book but, since it’s only the second of a promised series of twenty-two, then we can be consoled with knowing that there is plenty more entertainment coming our way from these two authors.

grandcru authorsPhoto is copyright of David Nakache

Follow the rest of this enchanting book’s virtual tour by visiting the France Book Tour  website.

 

 

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REVIEW:

Here in France, it’s normal to be presented with an amuse-bouche when you go to a restaurant. An amuse-bouche is a small, tasty hors d’oeuvre, designed to both whet your appetite and show you what the chef is capable of, and, most importanly, leave you wanting more.

A Crusty Murder is J M Griffin’s amuse-bouche. It’s a fairly short but wonderfully tempting and enjoyable novel filled with delicious characters as well as food. It’s a mouth-watering mystery and a tasty introduction to a new series from this author. This is apparent from the very first paragraph:

Crusty bread protruded for her mouth, a dreadful halo of dark red blood pooled around her head. But, it wasn’t a halo. It was a nightmare scene before me. I peered closer touching the bit of bread. My fingers brushed her skin. I gasped and jumped back. Mrs. Peterson was dead.

What a thing to find in the kitchen. However, our heroine, Melina Cameron is as resourceful as she is a skilled baker. She copes surprisingly well with this gruesome discovery of her dead landlady, but when another body with associations to her turns up, the heat goes up. Melina now has to prove her innocence as well as keep her bakery, The Hole in the Wall, going. The finger is also pointing at Melina’s best friend and neighbour, Betty-Jo so the two of them unite to track down what’s behind these deadly events.

And as if that’s not enough, there’s her grandmother to cope with. She’s something of a handful, a twenty-year-old trapped in a seventy-year-old’s body!

Luckily there’s Aidan Sinclair, a handsome Scotsman here on business, to lend a hand. He’s not the only man to find Melina attractive. Detective Graham is also rather smitten, but he also seems rather too keen to pin the murders on her too!

The characters are particularly strong. They’re all fascinating in that they’re all very real with their quirks and flaws. Between them they create a rich atmosphere of coziness with intrigue at its centre, a bit like the wonderful empandas that are cooked up: unassuming pastry on the outside but a surprizing filling on the inside.

So we have murder, romance, friendship, tension and wonderful food all in the same book. It’s a well written novella, which I thoroughly enjoyed, fulling showing off the versatility and talent of the author and tantalizing us to want more bites of this series.

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AUTHOR BIO:

J.M. Griffin/Dana Stone grew up in rural Maine. She relocated to Rhode Island and lives in the north western part of the state with her husband and two cats. J.M.’s first published novel For Love of Livvy, began a series of humorous mysteries featuring Lavinia “Vinnie” Esposito. J.M. has also written a romance under the pseudonym Dana Stone.

ONLINE LINKS:

  • Blog  http://mycozymysteries.blogspot.com
  • Facebook  danastone.5815
  • Twitter  mycozymystery

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