Sunday, January 9, 2011


If you’re ready to sit down near the fireplace and relax with a cozy mystery, here’s a pair of intriguing recent paperbacks that offer enjoyable escapism.

Each book utilizes the theme of home renovation, with a savvy, likable, strong female character and a touch of romance.

“Mortar and Murder” by Jennie Bentley (Berkley Prime Crime, $7.99) is the fourth appealing book in her popular “Do-It-Yourself” series.

Avery Baker and her boyfriend Derek have purchased a
large run-down 225-year-old house on Rowanberry Island, just off the coast of Maine.
They plan on restoring it to its original splendor, then selling it, a monumental task. They’re diligently getting started when they find a woman’s dead body floating in nearby waters.

The local sheriff warns them not to get involved in the case, so of course they do, trying to figure out her identity.

A clue points to a local realtor, but that doesn’t help much, especially when a second woman turns up dead. The house has a “twin” on the opposite side of the island; Avery does research, learning more dark family secrets.

Avery discovers a hidden room in the house and has other assorted misadventures. Violence flares as Avery and Derek struggle to survive and solve a complex, deadly crime.

“If Walls Could Talk” by Juliet Blackwell (Obsidian, $6.99) is the first in a haunted home renovation series.
It introduces Melanie Turner, who’s taken over her father’s construction business, remodeling houses in the San Francisco Bay area.

Matt Addax, her latest client, wants to restore a huge dilapidated Pacific Heights mansion, which has a “twin” house located next door. He and Melanie discover Kenneth, his business manager, badly wounded after a party at the site.

Kenneth dies, implicating Matt, who is soon arrested.

Melanie is trying to track down a determined killer, who is seeking a valuable item that may be hidden in the structure.

There’s a wide assortment of possible villains, and a touch of romance as Melanie reconnects and gets assistance from a hunky former boyfriend.

They soon get deeper in trouble, especially when Kenneth’s frustrated, talkative ghost appears on the scene.
These books are ideal for lovers of the “Murder, She Wrote” television series, although it deals with a younger generation.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.

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