This winter I’ve read many mysteries. Since I’m president of the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime, I decided to read some books by my fellow guppies. “Guppy” means the “great unpublished” in the past history of the chapter, but many of the members are currently published authors. Here are my reviews of three of these writers. If you click on the covers you’ll arrive at their Amazon page where you can buy a copy if you’d like.
Death Takes a Bath [Level Best Books] is a wonderful first entry in Sharon Lynn’s Cotswold Crime series. Shy Maddie McGuire wins an archeology internship to Bath, England, and over the course of the novel this plucky heroine comes into her own. A twisty plot has her dealing with a dead body, a difficult co-worker planning to show her up, and a bit of romance with a constable who’s called in to investigate a murder. Maddie, unfortunately, finds the body. The humor is perfect as she struggles with a language that might be called “English” but doesn’t always resemble her American dialect. The dialogue is witty, the descriptions of Bath and the countryside are delightful, and the reader is treated to interesting history of the town and region. I’d recommend this cozy mystery with plenty of twists and turns, a heroine who finds her voice, and an atmosphere that will please anglophiles.
Diving in the ocean isn’t something I’d ever do, and the atmosphere of such a sport is simply scary to me. But I put my fears aside to read Kait Carson’s Death by Blue Water [Four Cats Press], a great first mystery in her series. Hayden Kent is a paralegal who works for a supportive lawyer-boss named Grant Huffman. She’s also a deep-sea diver. Recently, her diving has helped her broken heart from a failed marriage to Kevin. As this story begins, she’s diving over a favorite old wreck named the Humboldt, 120 feet below the surface near Marathon, Florida. What she sees starts the story off at a gallop: the dead body of her former brother-in-law, Richard, his leg tangled in an anchor rope. Hayden also suffers from migraine headaches, which sometimes cause her to blackout. It’s one of these episodes that makes her a key suspect in Richard’s murder. Soon, her diving gear is sabotaged, and several curious events make it clear that someone doesn’t want her to survive. But why? Carson does an expert job of describing diving, the equipment divers use, and the safety measures they follow. She really knows her stuff. Her characters are interesting, especially the suspicious ones, and her plot has twists and turns you don’t anticipate. This first book in the series is a page-turner, and I anticipate more to come.
The seeds of A Deadly Combo [River Rock Press] lie with the relationships among the characters. Raquel (Rocky) Nelson is an artist by day and a boxer by hobby. Both art forms help her in her quest to prove her sister innocent of a murder.
Rocky’s father owned the Never Look Back gym, but he won the lottery, cashed in his winnings, and retired, selling his gym. Still, he and Rocky hang out there as she learns the fine art of boxing. Her sister, Bridget, is determined to win the Best Of Show trophy at a local trailer fest, where people create vintage trailers by renovating them in interesting and innovative ways. Unfortunately, Opal was last year’s winner, and Bridget is so fiercely competitive that words are spoken, and she threatens to do Opal in. Next thing you know, Opal’s husband and trailer carpenter, Wes, is found electrocuted, and Bridget’s gold cup is missing, mysteriously showing up near the crime scene.
While Bridget is a “person of interest” to Detective Thompson, she joins her sister Rocky and dad in their investigation of Wes’s murder. What makes this a worthwhile plot is the relationships among these characters. Rocky is a complex protagonist, with difficulties she still hasn’t overcome from her family’s past. It’s obvious her father loves both of his daughters and uses his charm to help them gather clues. Rocky and Bridget fight sometimes like only twins can, but they also work together to uncover the killer. Skillfully planted clues, a great setting, and complicated characters make for a solid plot, and Phillips’ ability to hide the killer in plain sight is classic.