Monday, February 17, 2014

BARBARA GRAHAM is a talented quilter as well as a cozy mystery writer.The fifth book, Murder by Sunlight in her Quilted Mystery series is delightful – rather a strange way to describe a murder mystery, I suppose. Tony Abernathy is the Sheriff of the tiny (made up) Park county on the border of the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. His wife, Theo, owns a quilt shop, also known as gossip (information) central. The small town of Silersville (the only area with a population large enough to merit a name) is about to celebrate the Fourth of July. Tony hopes it will be quiet, but has his doubts with a quilt show being hung in his mother’s folk-art museum, and an antique car parade.
The book is a good example of a small-town rural police procedural. It is peopled with some very eccentric local characters indeed, including a man who always confesses to crimes he didn’t commit, a woman who delights in shooting road signs, a man with a bear as a pet, a kleptomaniac who steals small items and replaces them with something she stole elsewhere. A number of crimes soon take Tony’s and his small staff’s attention: a violent intruder who attacks with a hammer and wrench, a body found in a tree, and another body found in a greenhouse. Other crimes also need to be sorted out along the way. The mystery almost reads like a day in the life of Sheriff Tony.
For those who like crafty mysteries, Theo’s mystery quilt pattern (included in the book) will add another layer of enjoyment. The quilt pattern has nothing to do with the solution to the crimes. If you do not know what a mystery quilt pattern is (and I certainly did not), it is a pattern followed blindly, not knowing what the finished quilt top is supposed to look like. Graham says the clues are a bit like a treasure map.

Monday, February 10, 2014

LEA WAIT has been an antique print dealer since 1977, making her the fourth generation in her family to work in the antiques business. She lives and works in Maine, where she is now a full-time author. Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding is the sixth book in her Antique Print mystery series. This time fictional antique print dealer Maggie Summer is on Cape Cod to help with her best friend's wedding. She is interrupted by a murder and a hurricane, but ultimately solves the crime and the wedding takes place.
This is a very well-written and engaging mystery series, which has been a finalist for an Agatha award. The 'hook' for me is the description of a real antique print at the beginning of each chapter. The descriptions are so evocative that I can picture the print in my mind. For example, chapter 40 is headed "Papaver somniferum. Hand-colored print from A. B. Strong's The American Flora, 1846. White Poppy, with yellow center and green stem and leaf. This variety whose botanical name means 'sleep-bringing,' is the plant from which opium is derived, which is why L. Frank Baum had Dorothy and her friends fall asleep in a field of them in The Wizard of Oz. 6.5 x 9 inches, toned at edges. Price: $50."
This book is published by Perseverance Press, which is making a very nice name for itself  by rescuing authors whose series have been dropped by one of the so-called major publishers. Some of my favorite authors are now being published by Perseverance.

Monday, February 3, 2014

CAROLYN HART is a long-time best-selling author of cozy mysteries. Later this year she will be named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. Dead, White, and Blue is the latest (23 and counting) mystery in her Death on Demand series. The series features amateur detective Annie Darling, owner of the Death on Demand Bookstore in Broward’s Rock, South Carolina. Her husband, Max Darling, enjoys inherited wealth and undertakes confidential commissions as a sort of hobby. He considers himself a problem solver, and is not a licensed Private Investigator.
Although it would seem that a Fourth of July dance would be a happy, relaxed,  occasion, Shell Hurst is making things miserable for her husband, his first wife, her lover, his kids, her blackmailer and just about everyone else. Several days after the dance, Shell’s stepdaughter approaches Max to find her stepmother. Not only is she missing, but so are her new, green Porsche and a waiter from the country club which hosted the dance. Annie and Max begin to investigate. They get help, of course, from some of the other Broward Rock residents: especially local mystery author Emma Clyde, Annie’s dear friend Henny Brawley and Max’s mother Laurel.
Hart’s characters are always reliable, yet utterly unpredictable. Those loveable characters, plus the idyllic-seeming Broward’s Rock are reasons why this series has been going on for so long. But there is another reason why I love these books -- Annie’s bookstore always features a monthly mystery contest. Five books are pictured as watercolor paintings above the coffee bar. From the description of the paintings we, along with Broward Rock customers, are invited to guess the author and title being depicted. I can rarely get one or two, but Henny and Emma always can guess correctly. Annie, as any good bookstore owner should do, also recommends titles for her customers. In this story she mentions over sixty authors and at least 42 titles – that’s enough to create a great list of future cozy reads for me.
In addition to her upcoming Grand Master Award, Hart has won multiple Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards. She is one of the founders of Sisters in Crime and, in 2007, received the Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic.