Mysteries--especially with a hint of romance--are my favorite read!
Review method--totally subjective and my personal opinion.
Five Stars are for life-altering books that I think you should keep and read again and again.
Four Stars are for great books.
Three Stars are for good books.
All of the above I recommend reading. You will very rarely see me give a review of One Star (awful) or Two Stars (not worth reading) because I usually don't finish books that I don't think are awful and/or not worth reading. Sadly, sometimes, I do get tricked into wasting my time.
Astral Alibi(2006) by Manjiri Prabhu **** (Four Stars)
Want something unique and different and really, really good? This female Indian (the mysterious subcontinent kind of Indian) detective uses a person's star chart (plotted by the positions of the planets on your birthday) to solve crimes. And there's a romantic twist, too, which I always enjoy. Hurry up with the next book!
Battered To Death by Gayle Trent *** (Three Stars)
Death, romance, cake-making, and a punch of interesting characters. I liked this one.
Basket Case (2001) by Carl Hiassen **** (Four Stars)
What can I say? Crazy characters, a maybe-murder, unexpected romance, snappy dialogue. It's Hiassen. Buy it, read it.
Body Wave (2002) by Nancy J. Cohen *** (Three Stars)
Hair-dresser, salon owner, amateur detective--this heroine does it all. Add a dash of romance with a handsome detective, fun and eccentric characters, and you've got a recipe for an enjoyable read.
Bone Hunter by Sarah Andrews **** (Four Stars)
Intelligent, socially inept, and the main suspect in a brutal murder, the heroine falls for (literally) the first cop she sees. I loved it.
Busy Body (2010) by MC Beaton **** (Four Stars)
I love MC Beaton and I love Agatha Raisin. A very good mystery with great characters and terrific setting.
The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder by Mary Jane Maffini **** (Four Stars)I'm always glad to find a new female mystery writer to follow. She gives you all the clues to solve the mystery...and then fools you completely. What more could you ask for?
Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme by Carole Nelson Douglas **** (Four Stars)
I love mysteries but I've read this series because of the love triangle between Temple, Matt, and Max. Now that she's apparently picked her guy (and the other guy has bowed out) I'm really not that interested. The overarching story is, in my opinion, too over-the-top. But I'll always love those Fontana brothers....
Chocolate to Die For by JoAnna Carl *** (Three Stars)
Contemporary small-town mystery
This is actually two short(ish) stories in one book. I like the characters and stories and, even though the villain isn't a surprise, there are some surprising twists
Coffee to Die For (1998) by Linda French *** (Three Stars)
The crazy things we do--and the risks we're willing to take to protect someone we love--move this heroine to risk her life to find out who really done it. I liked it.
A Crazy Little Thing Called Death by Nancy Martin ***** (Five Stars)
A Blackbird sisters mystery. Buy them all!
Cross Your Heart and Hope to Die by Nancy Martin ***** (Five Stars)
A Blackbird sisters mystery. Buy them all!
Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz **** (Four Stars)
Smart, funny, great characters--and a heroine who constantly defies good advice, follows her gut, and very nearly makes a disastrous mistake. Despite that, I really enjoyed this book.
As Dead as it Gets by Cady Kalian *** (Three Stars)
This author was told "no prologues!" so firmly that she actually puts her prologue as an odd flashback in Chapter 2. Sadly, it tells us everything we need to know to solve the mystery and cost the author a star in this review. Next time, listen to your editor! No prologues!
Death of a Trophy Wife by Laura Levine *** (Three Stars)
Jaine Austen is an overweight, underemployed writer with oddball friends. I've read several in this series; this one, with an unsympathetic victim and an annoying primary suspect, was the least charming.
Death in a Hot Flash by Jane Isenberg *** (Three Stars) 2000
This community-college teacher keeps getting drawn into murder mysteries to help her students, but risking her life also means risking her relationships. An easy read.
Dolly and the Bird of Paradise (1983) Dorothy Dunnett
Dolly and the Doctor Bird (1971)
Dolly and the Nanny Bird (1983)
**** (Four Stars) for all
I knocked off a star because portrait-painter and spy Johnson Johnson (that's his name, not a typo) is too ruthless for my soft sensibilities. Yes, I know the fate of the world is at stake--but that's no reason to be just plain mean about it. In fact, that's probably one of the reasons Sean Connery didn't play him on the big screen in the '70s. But I dare you to read one of these books--I can just about guarantee that you'll want them all.
Don't Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman **** (Four Stars)
Old and crabby, the hero solves a decades-old grievance and saves the day. I love his grandson as his sidekick, and I couldn't believe who-done-it. A great book.
Coffin's got the Dead Guy on the Inside by Keith Snyder
**** (Four Stars)
This spy-thriller-mystery has a great cast and story.
Concrete Dessert by Jon Talton *** (Three Stars)
As I was reading this book I just kept thinking that this author has huge potential. He needs a good editor and/or a good critique group.
Elvis and the Memphis Mambo Murders by Peggy Webb (2010)
*** (Three Stars)
With a cast of zany characters, not one but two smokin' romances, and a basset hound, this should have been great. Try it--you might like it more than I did.
The Fax of Life by Leslie O'Kane *** (Three stars)
I really enjoyed this book. The main character designs and writes very clever greeting cards, creates logos and headers for business, has a husband and kids, and solves murder mysteries in her spare time.
The Flaming Luau of Death by Jerrilyn Farmer *** (Three Stars)
There was a lot to like about this book--until you found out how horrible these seemingly-charming women actually were.
Fool's Puzzle by Earlene Fowler **** (Four Stars)
A newly-widowed cowgirl-turned-museum director has to solve two murders--and discovers a mystery surrounding the death of her husband. Plus, she gets a new love interest and nearly gets to shoot somebody. I'm going to buy the rest of the books in this series.
Get Real by Donald Westlake **** (Four Stars)
A Dortmunder novel, but curiously unsatisfying. The twist at the end was predictably unpredictable, but it kind of left me wanting a little more resolution, a neater package, a different twist. But this is still a must-read, of course.
Golden Eggs and Other Deadly Things by Nancy Tesler
*** (Three Stars)
An interesting mystery with an edgy twist at the end, but I didn't like how selfish the character and her family seemed to be.
The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan (2007)
*** (Three Stars)
A mystery writer who is also a thief is an interesting premise. The hero was interesting but somehow the book felt flat--and then when an incredible coincidence breaks the case the author really lost me...but I liked the idea so much that I read another book in the series....
The Good Thief's Guide to Berlin by Chris Ewan (2013)
** (Two Stars)
There are so many bad guys in this book that I longed for a hero--and the mystery writer/burglar/protagonist refused to take the role. It's hard to root for a guy who breaks into the houses of people he knows--and who know him--for thrills. I might have been able to live with that, though, if the twist at the end didn't have him thinking about doing the absolutely unthinkable to save his own skin. Sound intriguing? I thought it was just really disappointing.
Hardcore Twenty-Four by Janet Evanovich. ***** (Five Stars)Another great Stephanie Plum novel. Buy them. Buy them all, keep them forever, and read them over and over.
Heat Wave by Richard Castle **** (Four Stars)
Naked Heat by Richard Castle**** (Four Stars)
The chemistry between the characters is electric and the mystery is intriguing. I really enjoyed it. Not a lot of male writers can really capture a tough heroine without taking her over the top (or making the hero too feminine) but he succeeds remarkably. And the tension in book two feels very, very real. Love it!
Huckleberry Finished by Livia J Washburn *** (Three Stars)
I love the premise of this book--a literary-themed tour guide brings a group down the Mississippi to Mark Twain's home town. Sadly, the murderer was pretty obvious, the good guy was obviously the good guy, and the bad guy was the obvious bad guy. But the characters were good and the story was fun, even if it could have used a plot turn or two.
How to Murder a Millionaire by Nancy Martin ***** (Five Stars)
Nancy Martin is an artist and her Blackbird Sisters series is masterful. She has wonderful characters in great settings, circumstances, and vintage clothes. She has a dangerous, edgy maybe-hero who's sexy as hell. I've read them all and am eagerly waiting for the next in the series.
Irish Chain by Earlene Fowler *** (Three Stars)
This is the third in the series that I've read, and I liked it the least. Newly-married after knowing each other just a few months, both main characters seem to be intent on letting their pasts ruin their future.
Just the Fax, Ma'am by Leslie O'Kane ***** (Five Stars)
This fun romp with murder, mystery, and mayhem with Molly Masters, greeting-card writer and work-at-home mom, is filled with great characters and snappy dialogue. I'm happy to say that this story was published in 1997, and I look forward to reading more by this terrific author.
The Kentish Manor Murders by Julian Symons **** (Four Stars)
This book was originally published in 1988. For a long time I only read recently-published books to try and figure out what editors were buying. Happily, this summer I've been reading a lot of older, terrific books. In this book an actor who portrays Sherlock Holmes solves a mystery for a Holmes-obsessed fan. Fun and different.
Last Writes by Laura Levine **** (Four Stars)
Jaine Austen gets a job writing for a sitcom, but when the star drops dead in front of her she has to solve the crime to save her job. I really liked this book in the series.
A Long Line of Dead Men by Lawrence Block **** (Four Stars)
The best kind of mystery--he gives you all the clues you need to solve it and the killer is still a surprise.
A Little Night Murder by Nancy Martin ***** (Five Stars)
She made us wait for another Blackbird sisters mystery, but I always enjoy the anticipation. Very-pregnant Nora and Michael have a date with a judge, but a whole parade of problems are in the way. Will they make it to the altar? What about the Blackbird curse? Buy the book yourself, and see if Michael survives the drive-by shooting, 'cause I'm not telling!
Little Scarlett by Walter Mosley ***** (Five Stars)
I love this author, his characters, and his stories. I've never encountered a voice like his before. This mystery has a surprising twist at the end.
Midsummer Night's Mischief by Jennifer David Hesse
*** (Three Stars)
A Wiccan lawyer has to find a book thief to save her job. Sadly, the prologue told me everything I needed to solve the mystery before our incense-burning heroine.
Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything by Nancy Martin **** (Four Stars)
This is the Nancy Martin who wrote the Blackbird Sisters series, and this story has a great protagonist, an ornery dog, and a budding romance. I really hope this is the first book in another series.
Murder Ink Revived, Revised, Still Unrepentant. Perpetrated by Dilys Winn *** (Three Stars)
mystery, short story collection
I usually feel gypped by short stories; if it's good enough for a short, in my opinion, it's good enough for a full-length novel. But there are good things in these small packages, and I liked them.
Murder Melts in Your Mouth by Nancy Martin ***** (Five Stars)
A Blackbird sisters mystery. Buy them all!
Native Tongue by Carl Hiassen ***** (Five Stars)
I love how Carl Hiassen takes this huge cast of wildly disparate characters and sets them on an inevitable collision course--and that I never see the crash until it explodes under my eyes. Go buy every Hiassen novel ever written. Just do it!
Not a Girl Detective by Susan Kandel **** (Four Stars)
I really enjoyed this story and will look for the rest in the series.
Nutcase by Charlotte Hughes *** (Three Stars)
As usual, my favorite part of this mystery was the ongoing romance. Will she get back together with her husband? Will she ruin her chances by going into business with her ex-boyfriend? Will she blow up her office again?
Occult and Battery by Lena Gregory *** (Three Stars)
A haunted house, a gay best friend, and a budding romance. The stuff that series are made of.
On What Grounds (2003) by Cleo Coyle *** (Three Stars)
The mystery wasn't great but the setting was interesting and the sexual tension sizzled. I went out and bought the next book just to see what happens between the heroine, her ex, and her potential new love-interest. Smokin'!
Out of Time (1998) by Katy Munger *** (Three Stars)
A tough southern female private eye takes a case to prove the innocence of a woman on death row. Although there was a suspicious number of coincidences--and a strangely lazy murderer who could have taken more pains to hide the growing number of corpses--this was a good read.
Revenge of the Chili Queens by Kylie Logan **** (Four Stars)
A travelling chili salesman who dances in fishnets and a chili costume as the "Chili Chick," a budding romance with a mysterious ex-cop, and a family as mixed-up as a pot of...well, chili--there's a lot to like here.
Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz **** (Four Stars)
This zany family of private investigators are funny, exasperating, and a lot of fun to read. This was my favorite of the series.
Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews ** Two Stars
I enjoyed the trash-picking antique-dealing main character's storyline--until I accurately predicted who would be murdered (not until page 73!) and who the killer was, and how the heroine would become the main suspect. And then I skipped to the end to see how it would all wrap up...and, sadly, I was right.
The Shortest Way to Hades by Sarah Caldwell **** (Four Stars)
This book was first published in 1985. I probably bought it around 2000, and it moved with me from Alaska to Colorado. It sat on a shelf in my garage for awhile, then moved to a bookshelf where it survived several rounds of purges. And, finally, I read it this summer. And it's terrific. I love the way it's written--smart and sassy with that low-key British humor that makes you think. The characters are great, the mystery is intriguing, and I didn't figure it out even AFTER the villain was revealed. Two thumbs up!
Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot **** (Four Stars)
A teen pop star starts a second career as a college dorm director. She wants to take college classes but the bodies keep piling up. Smart, sassy, funny.
Size 14 is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot *** (Three Stars)
Heather has gained a couple of pounds and, somehow, lost a little of the charm I enjoyed so much in the first book. Still worth reading!
Sick Puppy by Carl Hiassen ***** (Five Stars)
Twilly Spree is back. That's it. Buy the book.
Sleight of Paw by Sofie Kelly *** (Three Stars)
Somehow, this book wasn't as good as it should have been. It had all the right ingredients--good characters, an interesting mystery, and cats with magical abilities--but somehow it fell flat.
Spellman Six by Lisa Lutz **** (Four Stars)
This zany family of private investigators are funny, exasperating, and a lot of fun to read.
Son of Fletch by Gregory McDonald **** (Four Stars)
This book was written in 1994. Fletch used to be huge--I read all the books (I thought--I hadn't read this one) and saw the movie with Chevy Chase. Well, I'm telling you that Fletch is STILL great, and now there's a Fletch, Jr! I'm going to look for more from this author.
Ten Thousand Islands by Randy Wayne White *** (Three Stars)
If you want another mystery where the hero is smarter, faster, and stronger than everyone else, this is an entertaining read. If only the heroine had listened to the hero, he wouldn't have to risk his life to save her.... Sigh.
'Til Dice Do Us Part by Gail Oust **** (Four Stars)
A fun read with unique and interesting characters. I suspected all the wrong characters and never guessed who the killer really was. My favorite kind of mystery!
Hammerhead Ranch (2000) by Tim Dorsey **** (Four Stars)
Triggerfish Twist by Tim Dorsey **** (Four Stars)
I'm not sure why they call Serge Storm books "Mysteries." There's no mystery about who's doing the killing, or why. But I've been hooked on Serge's brand of crazy ever since I discovered him in a grocery-store discount bin. That fact would probably make Serge smile.
Uncorking a Lie by Nadine Nettmann *** (Three Stars)
This book had an interesting premise--a wine professional discovers a fake bottle of wine and gets involved in murder. Sadly, if she had shouted that it was a fake instead of whispering it in the wrong ear, she could have prevented two murders. When police say amateurs should leave the sleuthing to them, this is the book they would hold up as an example of why that's true.
Wicked Weaves by Joyce and Jim Lavene *** (Three Stars)
Looking for love at a Renaissance Village, where the actors channel the characters they portray and take their roles deadly serious? When a body is found, all of those characters become suspects.
The Wombat Strategy: A Kylie Kendall Mystery by Claire McNab **** (Four Stars)
A gay Australian girl goes to Los Angeles to claim the legacy of a father she barely knew. This fish-out-of water story is a very fun read.