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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Marriage and Mayhem by Jeanne Glidewell

Marriage and Mayhem is the seventh book in the Lexie Starr Mystery series. This was my first time reading any part of this series or any works produced by Jeanne Glidewell. It was released on April 16, 2019.

Someone collapses… something blue…

This book gets off to a rather dramatic start as we begin this story towards the end of Lexie’s daughter, Wendy’s, nuptials. You know, that fun part where everyone holds their breath as the minister says, “if anyone objects speak now or forever hold your peace.” Sure it is omitted from many modern day ceremonies but it is included in this one so that a groomsman can collapse on cue.

He is not the only one who swoons from apparent poisoning, the floral assistant takes a tumble as well. All of this is a real departure from the idyllic scene the bridezilla and her mother had imagined. And someone is going to pay big time for such an inconvenience.

Second wedding… and I am glad I wasn’t around for the first

After this grand introduction we go back a month or so in the story. We learn that this is Wendy’s second wedding and I simply cannot imagine how much of a basket case she must have been the first go round.

I have the greatest sympathy for Wendy in most regards, I really do. She has less than 30 days to get this wedding together and she can’t even find a dress without having a meltdown. If you personally haven’t been in her shoes then maybe one day you will. It is stressful and makes you want to just fast forward your life 30 days until you are eating cake and starting your honeymoon.

Unfortunately she asks her mom for help and that wasn’t a wise thing to do. Lexie is certainly no wedding planner and doesn’t exactly have the best people skills in the world either.

Lexie… how old are you?

Lexie wants to help her daughter when she can hardly help herself. Starting with the fact that she runs a bed and breakfast but admits she is a mediocre cook at best.

She does things that do not make sense such as referring to her hairdresser Yvonne, who is in her mid to late thirties, as a spinster. Yet she goes to her (and only her) immediately to ask her who she should hire as a wedding planner. Why would a spinster be an expert on anything related to a wedding? Perhaps she should have asked her daughter who is working on marriage number two for help instead. Or Yelp for crying out loud.

Lexie simply had an unpleasant, borderline ugly, personality in my opinion. Some of the things that spewed from her mouth and the thoughts in her head were so juvenile that I thought I was reading the diary of a 12 year old. At one point she refers to a woman who is a former basketball player as “too tall”.

A few times Lexie was actually funny. But not enough to be redeemed if you ask me.

Lariat… the life of the party

It should have come as no surprise to Lexie that the spinster hairdresser would recommend Lariat, a drunkard, for the role of wedding planner.

When Lexie gets the first whiff of alcohol reeking from his body I beamed.

Needless to say he was the comic relief I was looking for and the only thing that kept me reading.

Case closed…

Far too much of this story was taken up by the happenings before the wedding which were not remotely interesting. The stilted and awkward dialog also took away from the story’s progression. Lexie as a main character, in particular, came across as painfully judgmental and yet bewilderingly naive at times.

The most memorable, and funny, character by far was the drunken wedding planner. That in itself says a lot to me. It made the book hard for me to read and my attention was not held unless the wedding planner was up to his boozy shenanigans.

There were also times when the same thought was repeated at least three times within the space of a single chapter. I was deeply disappointed when I realized I had guessed the culprit from the beginning of the novel. Some of this book was funny yet not enough to hold my attention. The overall unfolding of the mystery itself did not make this a worthwhile story for me. However, I did think Lariat was a hoot.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black

I have a theory I would like to share with you all. The better the book cover, the worse the book.

Yes, in a way I do sometimes judge a book by its cover. I think the cover for The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black is pretty striking. It gives off old Hollywood vibes and I think of pregnant women drinking highballs at noon in the 1950s- because fetal alcohol syndrome wasn’t even a thing back then.

Isn’t this during a time in which women didn’t work and would hire Dick Tracy to find out who their husband is cheating on them with? Well that was what I expecting when I stumbled upon this mystery involving private eye, Philip Marlowe.

Hi my name is Philip Marlowe and I am an alcoholic

Truthfully I have yet to do my research on this Philip character but from what I have gathered he has been a central role in many crime mysteries by various authors throughout time. Based on this rendition of him I definitely think he drinks too much and is not as smart as most people think.

I interpreted him as a low rent Dick Tracy. Overly eager to fool himself into thinking he is more than the hired help when a hot blonde saunters into his office asking him to find her lover who disappeared. She is wearing gloves and a veil- why on earth would he think she wants a romantic relationship with him?

Clare Cavendish… heiress and temptress

That hot blonde with the black eyes is of course Clare Cavendish. She is heiress to a perfume fortune, very much legally married to another man and emotionally unavailable.

Just Philip Marlowe’s type, or at least according to Benjamin Black. However, I believe any element of common sense screams in disagreement from the very beginning of this crime novel. It has a lot of old Hollywood elements chief among them an strange ability to fool oneself into thinking that this is how life works.

And fool himself… he did

There was not a whole lot of character development here and since I was not previously familiar with anything about Philip Marlowe, or had ever even heard of him, it would have been helpful for me to understand why he thought the way he did. Even he had a hard time believing Clare really wanted him to simply find her former lover. Far more incredulous was that she was willing to roll in the hay with Philip in order to get him to seek this loverboy who clearly did not want to be found.

I didn’t have to have much of a backstory on these characters to know that Clare had ulterior motives and Philip had stars in his eyes. He also had stars circling his head after he got banged up several times on this cursed quest.

Now really, I don’t mind a good action scene with a solid knockout but I don’t even think Philip got a good swing in on the bad guys. We find him coming to the next day with while admitting he didn’t think he would live to see it more than a few times. At least get a good swing in there Philip old boy! Don’t you know the ropes?

On the other hand I think the precarious and harrowing situations he found himself in were the most interesting parts of the book.

Women are his downfall… and so are the men behind them

Reading this had me singing “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga because that is how I saw most of it.

Philip was certainly caught up in a bad one. I spent most of the time hoping that it was worth it to him seeing as it almost got him killed more than once.

Case closed…

I didn’t enjoy this book all that much. I really thought it was just okay putting it in the two star category. The story was just all over the place. There was a clearly fake romance going on, an elusive lover, and blatant deception that wasn’t fully addressed.

The conclusion itself had some action to it and wrapped up pretty swiftly for all of the unlikely suffering that had taken place beforehand. Clare’s family members are suddenly involved from out of nowhere and while it was pretty obvious that Philip was a pawn he wasn’t even really a part of the conclusion. He just kind of stood there and for the first time wasn’t actually knocked out.

If I were Clare I wouldn’t have paid for his services.