B O O K R E V I E W :: Vinyl Resting Place by Olivia Blacke

In Vinyl Resting Place, Juni Jessup and her two sisters are excited to open Sip and Spin, a record store and coffee shop in their hometown just outside of Austin Texas. Almost everyone in town is at their grand opening. It is a perfect night with music, drinks, and a taco truck until Juni finds a dead body in the store’s supply closet. Juni’s, ex-boyfriend Beau, now a detective, identifies her uncle Calvin as the prime suspect since the victim was holding one of his business cards in her hand. Juni and her family don’t believe that Calvin could do anything so horrific.

When he is arrested, Juni and her sisters unquestionably put up the record store as collateral for bail. They are as surprised as the police when he skips town shortly after his release. Juni knows there must be a good reason for his flight. Regardless, if they don’t exonerate him and make it safe for him to return to Cedar River, he will forfeit bail and the sisters will lose the record store they’ve worked so hard to build. Juni uses all the tools in her arsenal to find out who really killed the woman in the closet but as she gets closer to answers, the killer proves how far they will go to keep the truth from coming to light.

I am always interested in cozy mysteries, but I specifically requested this one because its record store setting. George loves vinyl and we sometimes listen to records together The book includes references to records, different genres of music and the Austin music scene, which I really enjoyed. Juni has just returned to Cedar River after working in Oregon, so the book delivers interesting interactions with people she hasn’t seen in years—including ex-boyfriends!

The book also has all the elements that make cozies enjoyable: a likable amateur sleuth, an animal companion, in this case a stray cat, and an interesting setting and mystery. Blacke included several potential avenues of investigation that had me guessing. It’s not as saccharin as some cozies, which is a plus for me.

A few details took me out of the narrative. Juni and her sisters put the record store together in just a few weeks (my brain is interrupting and saying no business can become established so quickly). Uncle Calvin, besides being family, seemed like a bit of a jerk, so it was hard for me to understand the risk the sisters took in using their store for collateral. Also, Juni didn’t seem interested in the identity of the victim for an unusually long period.

With winning characters, a fun location, and a hotbed of entangled relationships, Vinyl Resting Place provides a strong foundation for this new series. I will certainly read future books!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for a gifted copy of the book!

B O O K R E V I E W : Murder Most Festive by Ada Moncrieff

Murder Most Festive
Ada Moncrieff
Publication Date: October 12, 2021

Lady Westbury, whose party invitations are the envy of the upper crust, has opened Christmas festivities beyond her immediate family. Able to negotiate any social milieux, she is excited to bring together a diverse cast of chat including MP Anthony De Havilland. However, even her skills aren’t sufficient to restore calm and order when one of the guests in found dead in the snow on Christmas morning.

David Campbell-Scott, a war hero, had made his fortune abroad, and this was his first trip home in almost ten years. With the gun nearby and only one set of tracks leading to the body, the local constable is quick to declare it a death by suicide.

Hugh Gaveston, the closest friend of the Westbury’s daughter, Lydia, and amateur detective, doubts this pronouncement and as an amateur detective decides to investigate. As he questions the motives of each guest, he uncovers shocking secrets.

Although I like cozy mysteries all year, there’s something especially fitting about reading them during the holiday season, and MURDER MOST FESTIVE was a satisfying and enjoyable book in this category! Set in 1938, the book draws on an earlier writing style reminiscent of Agatha Christie. While at times it can be a little awkward, it also is fitting for the book. I did figure out the identity of the killer early, but I still enjoyed the narrative, and I thought the characters were well-developed and interesting. I would definitely read another book featuring Hugh.

Thank you to @poisonedpenpress for the gifted copy!

B O O K R E V I E W : A Murder Yule Regret by Winnie Archer

Ivy Culpepper, photographer and part-time employee of famed bread shop Yeast of Eden in beautiful Santa Sofia, receives an opportunity of a lifetime when she is asked to document Eliza Fox’s holiday party. As fitting a Hollywood starlet, Eliza’s asked guests to come dressed costumed as characters from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Shortly after Eliza makes her grand entrance, a scream brought guests outside to find one of the caterers gesturing over the cliffs: a man had fallen—or been pushed—to his death.

The man, paparazzi Ed Yentin, had no shortage of enemies. He had already published one scathing article about Eliza’s husband and was rumored to be writing a second more shocking piece. Eliza’s wasn’t the only career or marriage he devastated. Actress Cordelia Knight, who also had secrets exposed by Yentin, was rumored to be in attendance.

Ivy, no stranger to investigations, becomes embroiled in the case when her photographs from the party become important evidence. Though Ivy wants to prove Eliza innocent, she may have the strongest motive of all.

All year, I read cozy mysteries but they seem particularly fitting during the holiday season! This is the seventh book in the Bread Shop Mystery Series, and though I had no problem starting here, I might have missed some background on the recurring characters: Emmaline, the no-nonsense sheriff and Ivy’s best friend, Olaya, the talented owner of Yeast of Eden and Ivy’s mentor, Mrs. Branford, Ivy’s older neighbor and partner-in-crime, and her boyfriend, Miguel.

The mystery—Hollywood intrigue exported to a small costal town—was fun with many possible suspects. I was surprised by how things wrapped up.

All the descriptions of baked goods were so tempting, but the book includes several recipes (including one for a fun cocktail that I am definitely trying soon). Best of all, the animal sidekick is a pug!

Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for providing an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review!

R E V I E W : The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves

During a party, physician Nigel Yeo approaches Jen Rafferty with a professional question but decides to ask her at a more appropriate time. The next morning, her boss, DI Matthew Venn, calls her to a crime scene. Yeo had been murdered, stabbed by a shard of glass from a vase made by his daughter, Eve, a glass artist, in her studio.

Dr. Yeo, the head of North Devon Patients Together, a watchdog group monitoring national health care, had been investigating a case of a severely depressed young man who had been seen and released by doctors only to die by suicide.

The overlapping relationships in North Devon are difficult to untangle, making it difficult not only to determine a motive but even to clearly identify what Yeo was doing in the days leading up to his death. And Matthew, fairly stiff and notoriously private, chafes when his husband, Jonathan, director of the Woodyard Art Centre and friend of Eve, pushes him to relax his boundaries.

Dogged investigation leads to surprising conclusions as Matthew and his team find themselves professionally and personally taxed by the case. This is my favorite kind of procedural, distinguished by:

  • A complex, well-plotted case
  • Superlative writing
  • A rich, character-driven story
  • Interesting personality conflicts among the investigative team
  • A vibrant setting

Book Two in the Two Rivers series, The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves, is a worthy follow-up to the series opener, and I am excited to see what’s next for DI Venn, Jonathan, and his team!

Thank you to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for providing an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review!


The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng, Publication Date: August 10, 2021

An aspiring artist an alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Kelly never looked back when she left her Michigan hometown. But on her birthday, while attending her best friend’s art opening, she opens the door to the bathroom and walks into her own twenty-ninth birthday party in Michigan with her family and a husband, Eric, who had been a high school acquaintance. She has twelve years of new memories—but has echoes of her Chicago life.

What’s more, she experiences glitches: her tattoos fade in and out, and when she asks Eric about conversations they’ve had, he denies them. She doesn’t doubt he loves her, but he also has a controlling impulse and a covert relationship with a secretive and security-conscious start-up.

Kelly tries to find her real life, but there’s no one she can really trust, not even her own memories.

For me, The Other Me started slowly, and I thought there was too much time and repetition regarding the authenticity of Kelly’s relationship with Eric while I would have been happier for Kelly and Linnea to interact more. Once the situation clarified, Kelly determined a course of action, and more characters entered the narrative, I thought the action was more exciting and that interesting ethical issues were introduced. Trying to keep it vague – best to go into it without too many preconceived ideas!

Thanks to @NetGalley and @Berkleypub for providing a digital reading copy in exchange for an honest review and to @berittalksbooks for organizing the #berkleywritesstrongwomen #berkleybuddyreads!