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March 27, 2023

3 Mysteries That Are Sure to Entertain

by MK French

Mysteries can be such fun reads as you try to put all the clues together. Whether you enjoy that light read of a cozy mystery or a more sinister plot, these three books will definitely provide you with plenty of entertainment.

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Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder by Joyce Proell & Brenda Whiteside

book cover of mystery Candy, Cigarettes, and Murder by Joyce Proell and Brenda Whiteside
March 2023; Indie; 979-8351585390
ebook, print (263 pages); cozy mystery

Emma Banefield was looking forward to a birthday weekend with her sister Nicole Earp at the peaceful, historic Dulce Inn. Instead, they're greeted by a group of rude or nasty guests and temperamental artists. Things get even worse when Em discovers a body, and a second murder affects Nic personally. The sisters are now up against a surly detective and must discover which of the hotel staff members' secrets are in play, or theirs might be a third murder.

Taking place in Arizona, the novel stars the "Chocolate Martini sisters" on their weekend getaway. The art competition being hosted at the hotel adds tension to the already tense artists, a restaurant critic is present and irritating the new owner, and staff, ready to badmouth everyone. Once Emma finds the critic's body, she goes in full bore to start investigating. Nic is a little softer in her way of questioning staff, but it's still all business. Their suspect list and guesses for motives take a turn when the second body is found, but they continue questioning staff, irritating the police chief with their theories, and coming up with possible motives.

I like that our heroines are in their forties, complete with all the relationship baggage, children, and jobs that it entails. The staff are pretty helpful with all of the sisters' probing questions, even when they're going past the point of politeness, though only one staff member actually points out that they're not police and don't have to be answered. It's that nosiness that gets to the actual killer, who confesses everything to the police. It's such a rapid-fire story, taking place over a single weekend, but that also makes it easy to read over the course of an afternoon. This is the start of a series of novels starring the sisters, so we'll see them again. Hopefully, next time it won't be at such a breakneck pace, and we can enjoy their little asides more.

(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read for FREE)

Lone Women by Victor LaValle

book cover of mystery novel Lone Women by VIctor LaValle
March 2023; One World; 978-0525512080
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); suspense

A dark family secret killed Adelaide Henry's parents and forced her to flee California to the wilds of Montana as a homesteader in 1915. An individual, even a lone woman, could stake a claim, and Adelaide hopes that the empty space can hide the secret. She carries a huge steamer trunk everywhere she goes, but that deadly secret might be the only thing keeping her alive.

While I don't often read Westerns, this novel is a horror story and I love those. As a Black woman in the West at the turn of the century, Adelaide has to carry herself a little differently. She doubts that neighbors are willing to be friends, but Montana is wild and difficult to navigate. Adelaide has the locked trunk with her at all times, and people think it's stuffed with valuable items. It's a while before we meet the demon her family hid, a creature that appeared at the same time Adelaide was born. She tries to create a life in the wilderness, but not all people are as willing to put in the hard work. She's not the only lone woman in the area, and not even the only Black woman, which helps normalize her presence a bit.

As much as it felt like a story about Adelaide starting over, she really didn't. She spoke to the ghost of her mother, she carried the guilt of her monster, the past she never tried to change. Her friends were the other odd women in town, the ones that didn't try to conform or blend in. In that way, the horror wasn't really in the monster that killed those who attacked it, but those "ordinary" people who were vicious to anyone who dared disagree with them. In the end, finding someone who accepted the difference was more important than anything else. I loved how everything came together at the end of the book, and couldn't stop reading until the last page. 

Buy Lone Women at Amazon

Play the Fool by Lina Chern

book cover of mystery novel Play the Fool by Lina Chern
March 2023; Bantam; 978-0593500668
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); mystery

Katie True returned home from Chicago and now jumps from job to job. When she meets Marley, they immediately form a bond. Marley encourages Katie to continue with the tarot, but Katie soon reads the cards for a man who has a picture of Marley with a gunshot wound to the head. This was something her tarot cards couldn't predict, and Katie is determined to figure out what happened. This puts Katie in the middle of a much larger threat.

We start with the tarot reading in her store, then see how the friendship with Marley developed. She doesn't leave well enough alone, following the man from the mall, and continues to stay involved even after the police point out the failing in such a decision. If she stayed home we wouldn't have much of a story, but everything she does is well within the range of a normal twentysomething. She isn't super-powered or especially gifted at detection, though she's very good at reading people. She cares deeply about her family and friends, even though she doesn't have many of those. Her genuine desire to help isn't always appreciated by the police, though they realize she was caught up in circumstances she couldn't help. It's a really fun book to read and enjoyed how the end pulled it all together. 

Buy Play the Fool at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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