DiSilverio’s Pick of the Month, Award-Winning Cozies, plus New Series Lineup | Mystery Reviews, September 1, 2015

Pick of the Month

redstarDiSilverio, Laura. The Reckoning Stones. Midnight Ink. Sept. 2015. 360p. ISBN 9780738745114. pap. $14.99. M

reckoningstones81415Mercy Asher lived with her parents in Colorado as a member of a religious cult until the day she accused the leader, Pastor Matthew Brozek, of molesting her. Branded a liar, the 15-year-old fled, unaware that on that same night she left, the pastor was beaten into a coma and his wife killed. Twenty years later, Mercy has reinvented herself as a well-known and sought-after jewelry designer named Iris Dashwood. When she learns that the pastor has awakened from his long coma, her muse deserts her and she must return to the tiny town of Lone Pine to confront the terrible things that happened. ­VERDICT ­ DiSilverio is acclaimed for her three cozy series (“Readaholics”; “Swift Investigations”; “Mall Cop”). Here, she delivers an outstanding, dark stand-alone that twists and turns between flashbacks and current-day events. Mercy/Iris, a flawed and tragic woman, must overcome her past in order to have a future. When all the secrets come to the surface, no one will be left undamaged. An excellent read for Megan Abbott or Kate ­Morton aficionados.

Cozy corner

Beck, K.K. Tipping the Valet: A Workplace Mystery. Perseverance. Sept. 2015. 208p. ISBN 9781564745637. pap. $15. M

Tyler Benson, parking valet extraordinaire, is excited to move up to parking at Ristorante Alba, an upscale Seattle restaurant, where tips will be better than at Donna’s Casino. Yet Tyler can’t escape Donna’s. The Russian mob that frequents that establishment is running a car-chop ring out of Alba, with the aid of two valets there. When a corpse is discovered in the trunk of an Audi sedan, last left unattended at Alba’s, Tyler is at the top of the suspect list. Trying to keep his inept and unsuccessful father out of trouble only digs a deeper hole. VERDICT Agatha Award nominee Beck (“Iris Cooper” mysteries) launches a new cozy series in which an easygoing and charming Tyler is dealing with crazy relatives. The incompetent Russian gang members lend an amiable quality. And, who knows what will happen between ­Tyler and lovely Flavia Torcelli, the hostess at Alba? Steer fans of Elaine Viets and Denise Swanson to this title.

Chance, Maia. Come Hell or Highball. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. (Discreet Retrieval Agency). Sept. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781250067876. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466876545. M

hellorhighball82815New York 1923. Society matron Lola Woodby endures her loveless marriage with a lot of bootleg highballs and chocolate. But when her philandering husband, Alfred, shuffles off this mortal coil, Lola is left with nothing but debts. Even her beloved home, Folie Maison, falls to Chisolm, her stick-in-the-mud brother-in-law. Fleeing her home, Lola hides out in Alfie’s love nest near Washington Square in lower Manhattan, along with her Swedish cook, Berta Lundgren, and her adorable Pomeranian puffball, Cedric. Needing rent money, Lola accepts an offer by one of Alfie’s mistresses to find a reel of film, encountering along the way murder, arson, movie stars, girdle manufacturers, as well as a dreamy Irish private investigator named Ralph Oliver. VERDICT This light and frothy historical by the author of the “Fairy Tale Fatal” series introduces a delightfully sweet protagonist who is nicely paired with the tough-as-nails Berta. Tiny Cedric adds levity as well. Cozy fans who are fond of Alice Duncan, Deborah ­Woodworth, and Ashley Weaver will want to add Chance’s mystery to their to-read pile.

Loweecy, Alice. Second to Nun: A Giulia Driscoll Mystery. Henery. Sept. 2015. 270p. ISBN 9781941962930. pap. $15.95. M

Giulia Driscoll has left the convent behind and now operates her private investigation shop with the same firm hand that wielded a ruler in the classroom. She’s hired by the owner of a lighthouse bed-and-breakfast on Conneaut Lake, PA, to examine her haunted inn. Not prone to flights of fancy, Giulia can’t decide if the apparitions are real or the manifestation of someone trying to run the Stone’s Throw Lighthouse out of business. And when the owner falls off a widow’s walk where the railing was perfectly fine earlier, Giulia knows she has to bring the investigation to a close before someone gets killed. VERDICT Driscoll’s second solo turn as a sleuth (after Nun Too Soon) offers a fun and fast read with a lot of appeal. Readers who like cozies with a soupçon of the mystical may take to this series.

O’Brien, Susan. Sky High: A Nicki Valentine Mystery. Henery. Sept. 2015. 298p. ISBN 9781941962978. pap.$15.95. M

While Nicki Valentine has figured out the single mom routine fairly well, she’s still learning the ropes of working as a PI. Plus she has a crush on her instructor Dean Summers, who has returned after a year in ­Europe. Nicki invites him as her “plus-one” to her friend Mia’s wedding. But, when Bruce, the groom, is a no-show, Nicki and Dean are hired by Bruce’s father to find out what is going on—and it’s pretty sinister. VERDICT This breezy second outing (after the Agatha Award–nominated Finding Sky) features an enchanting amateur sleuth with dear friends and family who have her back at all times. If only she can make this PI business work and keep her relationship with Dean on an even keel, her life will be perfect.

Series Lineup

Beaton, M.C. Dishing the Dirt: An Agatha Raisin Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9781250057426. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466861183. M

dishingthedirt82815Never one to keep quiet, Agatha Raisin confronts Jill Davent when she learns Jill hired a detective to look into Agatha’s background. Two days later, the therapist, who was suspected of being a quack, is found strangled and Agatha is the prime suspect. Now on her 26th case (after The Blood of an Englishman), Agatha must use her sleuthing expertise to save her own hide. [See Prepub Alert, 3/23/15.]

Benn, James. The White Ghost: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery. Soho Crime. Sept. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9781616955113. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616955120. M

The Battle for the Solomon Islands in 1943 was one of the hardest fought campaigns of the war in the Pacific. Lt. Billy Boyle travels to Tulagi at the behest of the Kennedy family to investigate whether or not PT skipper Jack Kennedy is guilty of murder. Even if you are not a mystery fan, the historical details are stellar in Benn’s tenth series outing (following The Rest Is Silence).

Dunlap, Susan. Switchback: A Darcy Lott Mystery. Severn House. Oct. 2015. 198p. ISBN 9780727885227. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780106755. M

In her sixth adventure after No Footprints, stunt double Darcy Lott is facing tough professional and personal issues, not the least of which is the attack on her Zen master, Leo Garson. Living in San Francisco is where her heart is, but her paycheck comes from the movies. How will she make a decision? Will she move? How can she protect ­Garson-roshi when he is so guarded, and why is he keeping secrets from his assistant?

Gregson, J.M. Skeleton Plot: A Lambert & Hook Police Procedural. Severn House. Sept. 2015. 220p. ISBN 9780727885104. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780106649. M

A 20-year-old skeleton dug up in a garden patch leads DCS Jack Lambert and DS Bert Hook (Rest Assured) into a dogged quest to identify the body. Along the way they dig up the dirt on the persons involved with the property development where the bones were found.

Heley, Veronica. Murder by Suspicion: An Ellie Quick Mystery. Severn House. Oct. 2015. 240p. ISBN 9780727885241. $29.95. M

In her 16th mystery (after Murder in Time), Ellie returns home early from the States because she’s worried about her retired and ailing housekeeper, Rose. It’s a good thing, too. The hired caregiver, a member of a charismatic church, has been drugging Rose and had gotten her to sign a new will. Ellie is up to her ears in trouble, trying to undo the damage.

Meier, Leslie. Candy Corn Murder: A Lucy Stone Mystery. Kensington. Sept. 2015. 248p. ISBN 9780758277077. $25. ebk. ISBN 9780758277091. M

Time to prepare for the annual Halloween festivities; Bill Stone and his buddy Evan Wickes have built a pumpkin catapult. But when Evan’s body is found and Bill becomes the No. 1 suspect, reporter Lucy has to put on her investigating hat. Meier’s 24th series entry (after French Pastry Murder) is cozy as cozy can get.

Viccy Kemp is the Technical Services Manager for the Flower Mound Public Library, TX, where she buys the books and deals with library technology. Reading mysteries is her passion because it’s only between the pages of a book that justice can really be done