Game of Bones by Carolyn Haines

Game of Bones is the 20th book in the Sarah Booth Delaney mystery series. It was officially released on May 14, 2019.

Digging the scene…

Someone’s got dirt and blood under their nails. That’s for sure! And Sarah Booth is tasked to find out who done it when she’s hired by an archeologist, Frank Hafner, to prove he didn’t kill his nemesis during a controversial Native American mound dig.

The murder victim is Sandra Wells, also a professor, who was battling with Frank in front of the cameras as they filmed for a reality TV show.

Professor Frank Hafner, we are judging you…

Remember that sleazy professor you had in college who was single and always free to mingle? And not just with his fellow professors. You know the guy who seemed to prefer to flirt with the students that were not yet working on doctoral dissertations? Well Frank is that guy.

We soon discover that the world of academia is as full of bedfellows as it is fellowship students. He isn’t dense and knows that everyone in town, as well as those watching the excavation unfold on TV, are aware that he had more than a little pick axe to grind with Sandra Wells.

Sandra Wells… dead woman possibly walking

Sandra is not a woman who was fun at parties. Well maybe she had fun at parties but probably only after sleeping with most of the men there. Held in low regard but highly esteemed for her money she doesn’t care about the sacred mound.

Sandra is the type of professor who you knew would rather be anywhere but in an actual classroom.

The harsh reality is that her students didn’t like her. Neither did her fellow professors. She ends up dead in a way that robbed her of any beauty, the one thing she had going for herself, she once may have had.

Native American mounds… stepping on the wrong turf

One of the things I liked about this book was having a chance to learn a bit about the existence of burial mounds. It was a good history lesson and one that is rarely discussed. The author didn’t shy away from the harsh reality that some disenfranchised groups are powerless in protecting their heritage from those who are known to plunder and have the money and economic backing to legally do whatever they please.

Peter Deerstalker… the Legal Eagle who is ready to shut it all down

Peter is a member of the Tunica Native American tribe. As an attorney he is well used to people trying to exploit his people. That in itself gives him a reason to be a suspect in Sandra’s murder. He has been in close contact with her (really, which man in this book hasn’t?) and a strong motive to harm her.

College students… always thinking they know it all

It seems everyone has an ulterior motive for being on the dig site. Especially the students. Sure these kids want to get a good grade but for some of them they are looking for much more.

The students and young people were milling about and on the outskirts of many events in the novel. Some were sleeping with professors. Some were literally casting spells.

Kawania… you can take the girl out of the coven but you can’t take New Orleans out of the girl

Hailing from New Orleans she is eager to name drop Marie Laveau as part of her family lineage. A student of Sandra’s she plays up her familial history and her Native American bloodline. As well as person who won’t hesitate to put a spell on you. She adds a bit of American Horror Story: Coven to the air. Like Peter Deerstalker she is a member the Tunica tribe.

Delane Goggans…

She’s got it bad, she’s hot for teacher. Okay, I will try not to reference bad songs from the 80s again but it needed to be said and no lies were told.

Delane is clearly in love with Frank Hafner and it is suspected that she will do almost anything to protect him from getting sent to the state penitentiary.

Case closed…

This book exceeded my expectations in many ways. Sarah Booth has grown up and is able to show a sensitivity which I did not anticipate seeing. I loved revisiting the effervescent Jitty, the ghost, and could have used a lot more of her quips and barbs. This time she presented herself in many invocations of Native American women which offered food for thought along with a dose of history.

There were some supernatural elements and rumors throughout this book. But I suppose that is to be expected when we are dealing with Sarah Booth who has her own personal ghost. Whether some of the supernatural elements were based on superstition or stereotyping is a question I will turn over in my brain in time to come.

I liked the college students being introduced and seeing them run around Zinnia. It was nice to see them as focal points within the story. They really made for good characters and I was constantly wondering how much they were involved with the murder. The topic itself, of excavation of Native American burial places and areas of importance, was an excellent choice for a cozy mystery.

The author did a good job of presenting the big business behind digging up bones. As well as what it means to the disenfranchised people who are helpless in watching their ancestors and their way of life be examined without their permission. Reality TV being incorporated was very cool and I could imagine the characters and persons of interest playing up for the cameras.

There weren’t many things endearing about the murder victim and I enjoyed the candor the suspects used in talking about her deep flaws and true intentions. It was fun to discover all of the various secret motivations behind those who worked on the excavation site. A couple of the surprises made my jaw drop; I simply did not see them coming.

The mystery itself was one that kept me guessing. I had no idea that things would unfold the way they did and basically any theory I would have been able to develop would have not have even come close to the truth. I call that impressive. There were not a ton of subplots in this book- it was pretty straight forward and things were wrapped up nicely in the end. The action scenes were good and the multiple discoveries that mattered the most occurred in the final pages.

Thank you to Net Galley and to the publishers of this book for providing with an Advanced Reader Copy of Game of Bones in exchange for my honest review.

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The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window is a best selling mystery book by A.J. Finn. Published in January 2018 it took the literary world by storm so to speak. It is now on schedule to become a major motion picture.

This is not a cozy mystery but it does not have graphic violence or gore. The main character, Dr. Anna Fox, is however out to solve a crime that only she believes actually occurred. Many refer to it as a psychological thriller.

Paging Dr. Fox…

We first meet Anna where we will ultimately spend most of our time with her- boozed up in her home.

She suffers from agoraphobia and apparently alcoholism as well. Anna can hardly go an entire page without a sip of the red stuff and needless to say she strongly prefers Merlot. We discover that she is a former child psych, having left her practice in order to stay home in her New York City brownstone and gaze out of her windows with a camera in hand.

Her days are spent with glasses of wine, old movies and a camera at the ready to take in some action. As a result of her agoraphobia she faces crippling fear when attempting to leave her home and has not been out in about a year. But that doesn’t stop things from coming to her. From food delivery to stone cold murder she gets it all through the windows and doors of her domicile.

The cast of enablers…

Of course if one is to never leave their home they must have a support team around them right? Anna’s team is comprised of her husband and daughter, Ed and Olivia, from which she is separated. She also has a Physical Therapist that comes around every week or so. To round out the team there is a psych who suspects that she is boozing it up and prescribes her meds that she washes down with merlot anyway.

She spends time online helping other people who suffer from agoraphobia as well as playing chess. Her neighbors never come around anymore until one day a new one does. And that is when things start to get interesting.

Through the drinking glass…

It is very hard to tell with Anna what is real and what is not and even the book’s narrative made my head spin a bit. I felt like I was drunk in college again only I was pretending to live in NYC and had money for expensive wine. Whoever wrote this certainly knows what it feels like to go on a binder.

And as a reader even I started to question what exactly was happening many times.

Jane is…? No, seriously!

Enter the new neighbor, Jane Russell, who brings some life to this monotonous existence. She’s vibrant and embraces Anna immediately, having saved her from being pelted with eggs the one time she does venture outside around Halloween. She seems to really understand Anna and doesn’t even mind that she lives in a bathrobe.

After spending a couple of days with her new friend and meeting her home schooled son, Ethan, Anna is shocked to witness someone in Jane’s household being murdered. There is a dramatic scene in which she drops her camera and calls the police slurring like a drunken sailor.

Once again we find ourselves victims of her shaky narrative and clouded thinking. She has to be the most unreliable narrator in the history of mystery narration.

Alistair… the husband across the street

Alistair has an absolute disdain for Anna. From the very beginning he is wary of her and wants nothing more than for her to quit being nosey and stay out of his life. Good luck with that my friend. Nosey is her middle name.

Ethan… the kid across the street

Ed warns Anna early on not to be a cougar. But Anna cannot help spying and taking interest in connecting with the teenager that lives with Jane and Alistair. You know what they say about things that don’t start well…

David… the hot basement dwelling tenant

Finally there is David, a mysterious man who lives in her basement. She is aware of his comings and goings but doesn’t seem to know any more about him than she does the people that she spies on all day and night.

Case closed…

This novel has been heralded as brilliant. Worthy of film magic even. I thought it was really very good but it took me a while to form that conclusion.

I spent the first half of the book feeling like I was inebriated. The second half is when things really started to get interesting and in the very last chapters was when things took off and picked up at a pace worth galloping along with.

I still have my doubts about Anna- she was such an unreliable narrator and witness that I find it hard to believe that the police would have taken her seriously. The action scene at the end was a bit clunky in my opinion. And I really did think she was too slow to catch on to a lot of things making it highly unlikely she would have survived. She really wasn’t a very good psych after all.

And for this novel to take place in NYC it sure is quiet enough to hear every single thing! This should have been set in some small town in Minnesota or something, then I could believe that people can hear and see all the happenings of their neighbors and live without alarm systems.

But the twists made it worth it. The ending ultimately left me satisfied. Is it worth the hype? Feel free to weigh in.

One last thing

The author of this book is shrouded in controversy so deep that I will address it in another blog post entirely.

Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

Hollywood Homicide is book one in the Detective by Day Mystery series. Written by Kellye Garrett this book was released on August 8, 2017.

Ironically this was the first cozy mystery I ever picked up. I had never even heard of the genre before. I found the cover to be intensely interesting and beautiful.

The premise itself- a former actress turned sleuth drew me in. I had not seen many mystery leads who were black or of color before and for it to be a female to boot made it all the more appealing to me.

Lights, camera… Dayna?

Dayna, known as Day, is having a rough go at life lately. Once she was the star of nationally syndicated commercials for a chicken chain. She was also known for her attitude fueled catchphrase.

It could wear anyone thin. When we meet Day she no longer has the chicken slinging deal. She has put on a few pounds and signed up with temp agencies which has distanced her from her famed character. Not that she isn’t still recognized- but now it’s because people think they know her but can’t place her in their minds. People who encounter her all feel like she is some random classmate that you saw at a pep rally years ago in high school and you still can’t remember her name.

She has very few of the accoutrements of her old Hollywood lifestyle left. Having packed away her size 4 garments and moved into her friend Sienna’s “bloset”. Her bloset being an actual closet filled with Sienna’s shoe collection but large enough to hold a bed for Day.

Her problems are way bigger than her bloset. Her parents home is facing foreclosure and she signs up to bail them out despite not having enough money to fill the gas tank of her Pepto Bismol pink Infiniti.

Even her car isn’t prepared to embark on a murder investigation. Neither is Day but she vows to in order to obtain reward money for a tip leading to the arrest of a hit and run killer. Simply put she doesn’t fit the role.

Hollyweird happenings…

We learn from Dayna some information about how Hollywood works. From agents and managers to the differences in the houses in the surrounding areas. Sure, she may have had a fall from grace and a star status that has faded but she is now a California girl.

It doesn’t hurt that she fits right in with her friends who are willing to help her while pursuing their own dreams. One of which is Sienna.

Sienna… bloset owner in red

I think Sienna deserves a novel of her own. She owns the shoes and bloset that provide a home for Dayna. No one knows where her money is from aside from maybe an ex husband. She’s ambiguous in some ways but it is crystal clear that she wants fame.

She will even wear all red all the time to get attention from bloggers and possibly reality tv gigs. Who am I to judge her life ambitions?

Emme… the hermit twin to the star

Another friend who helps the main character in times of need is Emme. She just happens to be the twin sister of a mega celebrity. Which doesn’t stop her from being a recluse who is far more comfortable in front of her computer screen than anywhere else on earth.

Aubrey… the former cop now on his own bike patrol

An unlikely ally from the start we find that Aubrey has had his own fall from grace from the police force. He rides a bike, always. Clearly they’re above being inconspicuous when it comes to tracking suspects. Kind of hard to do with a bright pink car running on fumes or a ten speed built for sidewalk travel.

Image result for man on bike funny

Case closed…

The author knows her stuff. The ins and outs of Hollywood are clearly familiar to her and I felt as if I was there while reading.

I appreciated that Day was quite wrong, quite often. In a series debut I wouldn’t have expected her to be an actress turned expert detective which made me free to laugh along the way at the silly jokes and quips. After all this is a cozy mystery.

But she can at least act her way out of a paper bag, and a lot of other precarious situations. Although challenged financially (we’re talking she is using a phone card and living in a closet) she has what anyone would call “heart”. For her first attempt as an investigator she could have done worse.

Yes, the main character is a bit of an airhead, but I liked her silly personality. I also liked the crew of people that surrounded her. You could tell she has a few real friends in her life who are willing to help her out of a bind. Dayna was smart enough to use her acting skills in order to, at times, make up for her lack of knowledge and know how. There was some entertaining Hollywood style action movie scene at the end that stayed true to the heart of the novel.

Reading this was like a wild goose chase. Day thought just about everyone did it at some point. Meanwhile I figured the culprit from the time they were introduced. I still enjoyed the journey through the streets and metropolitan area of Hollywood and all of the fashions and celebrity happenings along the way

I am excited to see how her detective skills improve in the future. I would love to find out more about what lead her friends to where they are today. I very much look forward to reading the second book in this series, Hollywood Ending. Hopefully she uses her acting skills to even greater advantage than before.

New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith

New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith is the first book in the 10 part Skip Langdon series. It was published on Christmas Day in 1990.

Meet Skip Langdon…

Skip has something to prove. The daughter of a doctor whose clients are New Orleanian elite. She’s still seen as the child of “the help” when she finds herself back in her hometown embarking on a new career as a police officer. She was not originally assigned to be a detective. Nor was she supposed to be a member of the homicide team. But she finds herself there after the murder of a prominent member of society is shot to death in the beginning of the book.

Dolly Parton comes to Mardi Gras, and she brought her pistol to make the King’s head roll…

Have you ever been to New Orleans? I have and even though it wasn’t Mardi Gras I found Bourbon Street overwhelming. For those who hail from The Big Easy the Mardi Gras parade is an annual tradition so looked forward to that they often begin planning the next years costume the day after the parade.

I still wonder how much thought the person who decided to dress up as Dolly Parton to shoot Rex, the crowned king of Carnival, put into that costume. But just envisioning it made me laugh too hard. This year Rex is Chauncy St. Amant and boy oh boy does he have some skeletons in his closet.

New Orleans is a strange city…

I had a great appreciation for the way the author handled the history of the city of New Orleans. There were many issues related to race, lineage and self-loathing that many people are afraid to discussed. But the author did not shy away from it. Nor did she sugar coat it. There were phrases and concepts that made me cringe but the truth is a very hurtful thing.

Still the city is strange and that cannot be denied. Millions flock there to come undone in the streets during the infamous Mardi Gras celebration.

Image result for new orleans funny gif

It is undeniably humorous even from afar.

Blame it on the Rookie…

She makes some Rookie mistakes along the way. Skip is in an environment and around people that are far too familiar to her and she is still finding her footing on the scene. Because she knows the people being investigated personally she has a bit of an advantage but also a disadvantage in that her ability to move within the circles of the New Orleans elite ostracizes her from her fellow law enforcement team.

Image result for rookie cop funny

The original BBW…

I was pleasantly surprised to find that our main character, Skip Langdon, is presented as a tall, plus sized woman. Seeing as this novel was released in 1990 back when Big wasn’t accepted as beautiful. Not that this novel pretends that it was. There was plenty of fat shaming throughout the book. Some of it interferes with her investigation at times when people resort to insulting her weight in order to get her to back off.

Lets not pretend she is a fashionista. She is not. And everyone reminds her of this as she walks about awkwardly in her high heels and poorly coordinated outfits. But that’s what happens when you pick up cloths from wherever you dropped them. Don’t get all judgmental and act like you haven’t.

The Big Easy has some sleazy characters…

Chief among them are the highly entertaining son of Chauncy, Henry. He is very angry and bitter and gay. His biting comments are so much fun. He knows he can dress better than Skip and doesn’t mind telling her.

Image result for mardi gras drag queen gif

His mother is also an alcoholic. Not even a functioning one. I think she would be classified as barely functioning. It is a good thing she is skinny enough to be carried everywhere.

Image result for mardi gras drunk woman gif

Case closed…

This book wasted no time and there were many exciting twists. She did a good job of getting down and dirty with her detective work. Skip had no problems participating in a one woman stakeout.

She uses her ability to toggle back and forth between the world of law enforcement and privilege to her full advantage. I felt her character was fully fleshed and could feel her compassion and disdain for the haves and the have nots.

As the mystery behind the case unfolded the pace quickened even more with several subplots being revealed. There was unforgettably rich irony when Skip discovers the full story behind the killer and turns it over to her superiors at the precinct.

I have never read a cozy mystery with a member of law enforcement as the main character. And as a result perhaps that means this series would not be characterized as such. But in my opinion it can get a pass. While there is some foul language it isn’t overly vulgar and violence takes place off screen so to speak.

I think certain taboo topics within the book could have been handled in a better manner. But again, there are prejudices in this world and sometimes that can be harder to swallow. A bit more character development would not have hurt either.

I liked this book and will read the second book, Axeman, at some point in the future.

Campy and cozy… let the world of fashion and reading collide

When I am in the mood for something very campy I reach for a cozy mystery. I thought of this tonight while looking at pictures of celebrities and members of the fashion world attending the Met Gala. The theme this year is camp.

Cozy mysteries are definitively campy…

It is something that I love about the genre. The titles are tongue in cheek. The cover art is often as colorful as a Moschino ad.

You gotta love it… or leave it alone

And just like a Jeremy Scott fashion creation it isn’t for everyone!

There will always be Chanel… and classic high falutin literature

But for me I don’t mind filling my closet and bookcases with low brow things that help make life a joy.

Give me Commes Des Garçons; give me Alexander Wang…

Let’s get tacky!

Because it’s best to live, and love, before we die.

Murder in Cherry Hills by Paige Sleuth

Murder in Cherry Hills by Paige Sleuth is book one in the Cozy Cat Caper mystery series. Try saying that ten times fast. There are currently 28 Cozy Cat Capers. This was published August 7, 2015.

This was actually the first cozy mystery book I ever completed. It is a short one and I listened to the audio version while I unpacked boxes following a move. The book was extremely pleasant and helped to make my suffering something I could endure.


Kat finds a cat and a dead body

Kat Harper, our main character, is returning to her hometown of Cherry Hills in Washington state. She was an orphaned child herself which added an interesting spin on many of the cozy tropes. I liked that she was not moving to her hometown just to be coddled by her mom. Kat comes across as independent and smart enough to not put herself in harms way, even after discovering her former neighbor’s dead body.

Matilda… take us to your leader

Matilda the cat is an instrumental part of the story in that she helps to lead Kat to finding her former owner who was murdered.

She comes across as sweet and not overbearing. Unlike in many mysteries she does not have a narrative. I got what she was saying and preferred it that way. So did Kat who decides to take little Matilda in.

Person of interest…

Kat does find herself being named a person of interest- which seems logical when you stumble upon a dead body. The cop who has her in question is also a person who grew up an orphan alongside Kat. It tugged at my heartstrings to see these two reunited even if it was under the strangest of circumstances.

Kat to the rescue… for real

I really liked when Kat took on the neighbor’s role within the animal rescue organization. It was not one she took on because she wanted to have a power trip but she became very good in her position and grew more astute to the happenings within the local rescue community.

Isn’t that how many good things happen in life? Such as me falling into reading and enjoying cozy mysteries because I was unpacking my life and needed a quick read to carry me though. Hats off to you Kat! She even caught the killer along the way.

Case closed…

This was actually an excellent read. Sure I am partial because it was the first cozy that I actually completed. But it is one that I would sincerely recommend to anyone, even a 10 year old.

It is appropriate for someone of any age because there is no foul language, the romance is fit for a Disney movie and there is no graphic depiction of crime. The mystery behind the killer was very easy for me to figure out quickly but this was a light read and didn’t make me have to think too hard while hanging paintings.

I would read others in the series on days when I want an easy read. To me it does not come as a surprise that the novels would still be successful today and I do wonder what becomes of Kat, Matilda and her investigation skills in future books.

May flowers, readings in bloom and Christmas in July

I live in a place where I am able to behold the beauty of multiple growing seasons. The heart of the deep South offers soil so very fertile that I have literally seen roses in full bloom in light dustings of snow.

Spring is a season to cherish and at the same time one in which I begin to do a countdown until the cooler weather returns. The summers always promise to be hot enough to make sitting outside during the daytime impossible. And the mosquitos take over the nights, which are considerably cooler, leaving me permanently itchy and begging for fall.

I carry a fan

Books are a healthy distraction…

I read a lot throughout the year but during the summer I think I read even more. I look forward to heading out to my book club meetings twice a month. I also seek the lovely air conditioning inside the library where I also stock up on things to read.

Tomorrow I will be posting my review of a fun, yet short, cozy mystery. I also have plans to fill my weekend with some wonderful books that I am excited to explore that will be hitting the shelves in the coming weeks. I plan on raiding my husband’s supply of lemongrass herbal tea (iced, iced baby) and hammering out those reviews with great joy!

Christmas in July…

Now is as good of a time as any to let you know that I am a huge fan of Christmas. While I overdo decorations for each holiday I go beyond all out for Christmas. You know, the house that has three Christmas trees and a wreath on every bedroom door. Yeah, that would be our house.

There are a LOT of cozy mysteries that will be released that are Christmas themed. Too many for me to review I am sure. I have decided to call my July blog Christmas in July. I just cannot get enough of my favorite season.

Share your favorite Christmas cozy mysteries with me!

Please comment or drop me a message with your very favorite Christmas themed cozy mystery. Tis the season… albeit it early by about six months.