Flying Too High

Flying Too High (Phryne Fisher, #2)Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another delightful installment of mystery, sex, and adventure. Bert, Cec, and Dot all take center stage in this one. Phryne buys a house (221B), hires Mr. and Mrs. Butler, and does daredevil tricks on the wing of an airplane. I’ll definitely continue to read these. Hard to say yet whether the books or the TV series is better…

Book description: Walking the wings of a Tiger Moth plane in full flight would be more than enough excitement for most people, but not for Phryne―amateur detective and woman of mystery, as delectable as the finest chocolate and as sharp as razor blades. In fact, the 1920s’ most talented and glamorous detective flies even higher here, handling a murder, a kidnapping, and the usual array of beautiful young men with style and consummate ease. And she does it all before it’s time to adjourn to the Queenscliff Hotel for breakfast. Whether she’s flying planes, clearing a friend of homicide charges, or saving a child, Phryne does everything with the same dash and elan with which she drives her red Hispano-Suiza.

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Pies and Prejudice

Pies and Prejudice (A Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery, #1)Pies and Prejudice by Ellery Adams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I must not be a fan of cozy mysteries. Especially stories that involve magic. They just seem fluffy / silly to me. Known as “the pie queen” in my family, I was hoping the pie angle would bump it up for me, but the recipes were nothing special, and I wasn’t even convinced the author had ever baked a pie. Putting frozen pie dough in the microwave to thaw it?? Oh no, no, no, no, no! And the way the character manhandles the dough all the time, the pie crusts would be a bit tough. She should have been a bread baker! Still I’d give it 3.5 stars. Just not sure I liked it enough to continue to see where the author might be going with the magical element. There are a few nods to Pride and Prejudice – 5 women (though not all sisters), hunky guy in the swimming hole ala Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, and a few other things, but plotwise there is no resemblance to Austen. I liked the aunts. Strong women characters are always a plus. I just don’t think they needed to have magical powers.

Book description: When the going gets tough, Ella Mae LaFaye bakes pies. So when she catches her husband cheating in New York, she heads back home to Havenwood, Georgia, where she can drown her sorrows in fresh fruit filling and flakey crust. But her pies aren’t just delicious. They’re having magical effects on the people who eat them–and the public is hungry for more. Discovering her hidden talent for enchantment, Ella Mae makes her own wish come true by opening the Charmed Pie Shoppe. But with her old nemesis Loralyn Gaynor making trouble, and her old crush Hugh Dylan making nice, she has more than pie on her plate. and when Loralyn’s fiancé is found dead–killed with Ella Mae’s rolling pin–it’ll take all her sweet magic to clear her name.

A Deadly Grind

A Deadly Grind (Vintage Kitchen Mystery, #1)A Deadly Grind by Victoria Hamilton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A decent start for a cozy mystery series. This one involves cooking and includes a recipe. I was drawn to it because of the historical (vintage) angle. In this case, I ended up looking for pictures of Hoosier cabinets online. I always enjoy learning something in the books I read. The setting is Queensville, Michigan – a made up town on the Canadian border – named for Queen Victoria. The action centers around an annual event – The Queen Victoria tea – where locals act the parts of Queen Victoria, Albert, and Princess Beatrice. The servers wear historical maids costumes. In addition to serving at the Tea, Jaymie also does odd jobs at the next door B&B and at the Queensville Inn, which gives her access to snoop on suspicious visitors. Jaymie is single and in her 30s, so there are a couple of potential love interests that may develop in the series. Lots of local characters that also promise to be recurring. I took a few notes at the beginning, but on the whole there were not so many characters that I risked losing track of them. The plot kept me guessing with a number of potential suspects to sort out, and the ending was satisfactory. I could have given it 4 stars, but I like to give a series room to grow….

Book description: When vintage cookware and cookbook collector Jaymie Leighton spies an original 1920s Hoosier brand kitchen cabinet at an estate auction, it’s love at first sight. Despite the protests of her sister that the 19th-century yellow-brick house they share in Michigan is already too cluttered with Jaymie’s “junk,” she successfully outbids the other buyers and triumphantly takes home her Hoosier. But that night on the summer porch where they’ve left the Hoosier to be cleaned up, a man is murdered, struck on the head with the steel meat grinder that is part of the cabinet. Who is this stranger—and what was he doing on their porch? Does his death have anything to do with the Hoosier? As the police struggle to determine the man’s identity, Jaymie can’t help doing a little digging on her own, accompanied by her three-legged Yorkie Poo, Hopalong. But in her bid to uncover the truth about the hidden secrets of the Hoosier, Jaymie may be the one who ends up going, going…gone.

Mistletoe Murder

Mistletoe Murder (A Lucy Stone Mystery #1)Mistletoe Murder by Leslie Meier

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a temp job with a mail-order company (Signals) about the same time this book was written, which brought back some memories. Read this for the small town atmosphere and the day to day lives of the characters. The plot was okay, although there were incidents (the family cat) that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the murder. In this case, it was just a contrivance to get Lucy into a dodgy part of town to get kittens, and add some social commentary. It wasn’t bad over all and there were some nice humorous moments, but it wasn’t enough to get me to read any farther in the series.

Book description: As if baking holiday cookies, knitting a sweater for her husband’s gift, and making her daughter’s angel costume for the church pageant weren’t enough things for Lucy Stone’s busy Christmas schedule, she’s also working nights at the famous mail-order company Country Cousins. But when she discovers Sam Miller, its very wealthy founder, dead in his car from an apparent suicide, the sleuth in her knows something just doesn’t smell right.

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Death at Buckingham Palace

Death at Buckingham Palace (Her Majesty Investigates #1)Death at Buckingham Palace by C.C. Benison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just love books that feature the current Queen of England as a character. Although the idea of Her Majesty collaborating with a housemaid may seem improbably silly, it is all great fun. Jane is a plucky young Canadian taking a year off from school and staying with her great-aunt Grace in England. Short of cash, and not wanting to return home to Prince Edward Island, she gets a job in Buckingham Palace. The time period is a few years after the Queen’s “annus horribilis” but before the death of Lady Diana. Lots of humor (footmen streaking naked through the palace), upstairs and downstairs intrigue, a film crew doing a documentary on life at the palace, and plenty of red herrings for Jane to sort through. I had fun searching for images of the various palace rooms on the internet to enhance my reading experience. These are books that I would reread, and I will definitely look for the others in the series. [Note: a much older Jane Bee, now married to a British aristocrat, also appears in the author’s Father Christmas mystery series (Twelve Drummers Drumming, etc.)]

Book Description: (from book jacket) Jane Bee came to Europe for adventure, only to end up with the job of a lifetime — housemaid at Buckingham Palace. Now her greatest challenge is removing gum from State Room carpets — until she comes across a nasty accident right outside the Royal Apartments. The Queen Herself has — literally — stumbled across the dead body of Jane’s good friend, footman and aspiring actor Robin Tukes, in what appears to be a suicide. But why would handsome, impetuous Robin, having just toasted his engagement to a gorgeous housemaid, not to mention his impending fatherhood, want to die? Buck House buzzes, but only Jane — and the Royal Personage known belowstairs as “Mother” — suspects foul play. At Her Majesty’s behest, Jane launches a discreet inquiry that takes her from Servants’ Hall to the highest echelons of the Palace. Yet the more Jane uncovers, the more clear it becomes that this latest royal scandal is a real killer.

Morality for Beautiful Girls

Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #3)Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved how Mma Makutsi comes into her own in this book, being promoted not only to assistant detective, but now she is also in charge of running Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors and soon has Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s two lazy and silly assistants falling in line under her more disciplined hand. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is staying temporarily at the orphanage to recovery from a bout of depression, and becomes involved with the mysterious “wild boy” found out in the bush. Lots of the usual philosophical musings from McCall-Smith’s characters on the nature of morality and other aspects of life. Would have been 5 stars, but I’m not a fan of chapters alternating plot threads which he does in this book.

Book description: Precious Ramotswe, founder and owner of the only detective agency for the concerns of both ladies and others, investigates the alleged poisoning of the brother of an important “Government Man,” and the moral character of the four finalists of the Miss Beauty and Integrity Contest, the winner of which will almost certainly be a contestant for the title of Miss Botswana. Yet her business is having money problems, and when other difficulties arise at her fiancé’s Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, she discovers the reliable Mr J.L.B. Matekoni is more complicated then he seems.

Tears of the Giraffe

Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #2)Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now this is more like it. Book #2 seemed much more tightly constructed to me. More of the plot threads were carried throughout the book to their conclusion. It is fun to see the connections between the books and the TV series. One major departure from the TV series (spoiler alert!!) is the adoption of two children from the orphan farm by Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. But Mma Ramotswe takes it all in stride. There is not yet any interaction between Mma Ramotswe and her first husband, Note Makoti, so it remains to be seen if that is in a future volume or if it was added for the TV series.

Book Description: Precious Ramotswe is the eminently sensible and cunning proprietor of the only ladies’ detective agency in Botswana. In Tears of the Giraffe she tracks a wayward wife, uncovers an unscrupulous maid, and searches for an American man who disappeared into the plains many years ago. In the midst of resolving uncertainties, pondering her impending marriage to a good, kind man, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, and the promotion of her talented secretary (a graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College, with a mark of 97 per cent), she also finds her family suddenly and unexpectedly increased by two.