Book Notes Review “The Poison Pen” by Paige Shelton

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing a free e-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

The Poison Pen

Book 9 in the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series
by Paige Shelton

Publisher’s summary

The Poison Pen, the ninth installment in the Scottish Bookshop series by Paige Shelton, set in a specialty bookstore in Edinburgh called The Cracked Spine.
Edinburgh is mourning recent the death of Queen Elizabeth II when Bookseller Delaney Nichols’s boss comes to her with a most unusual assignment. An old friend of his, living in an estate in the village of Roslin, has found what could be a priceless relic on her property, and Delaney is tasked with investigating. Could Jolie possibly have an item of breathtaking Scottish historical significance in her possession? But when Delaney arrives at Jolie’s estate, she is greeted by a legal team with a vested interest in the property. Jolie manages to remove the interlopers, but as they’re examining the priceless item, they hear a scream, and meet a much less welcome discovery: a body.
As Delaney digs deeper, she discovers Jolie’s own fascinating history. Jolie’s mother had long claimed that her daughter was the rightful heir to the throne, not Elizabeth II, because of an affair she claimed to have with King Edward VIII. The only evidence, however, is in the form of a purported journal that one of Edward’s secretaries kept. The puzzles become more confusing when a connection is uncovered between this far-fetched story and the murdered man. Delaney will have to read between the lines to put together the pieces…or become history herself.

My Thoughts

Characters

There is a robust cast of characters. Delaney Nichols is a Kansas transplant living in Scotland. She’s now part of a solid group of friends in Edinburgh and has married one of the local pub owners. But she still struggles a bit with things like driving direction/feeling like she’s driving on the wrong side of the road. She’s also successfully solved several local murders.
Jolie Lannister is a close friend of Delaney’s boss. A hoarder, she lives in the old family estate, which has seen better days. She’s a flamboyant character and fun to read.
Bowie Berry is Jolie’s attorney. She’s pushy, over-bearing, annoying, and may or may not have her client’s best interest at heart.
Elias is Delaney’s co-investigator in this book. A cab driver, he and his wife have become close friends of Delaney. He becomes involved when an old friend is accused of murder.
The rest of the characters are well-rounded and a solid group of friends.

Mystery

An old sword goes missing. What is its history? Is it as old as Delaney suspects? Is it worth killing for? Is Jolie the illegitimate daughter of Edward VIII, as her mother claimed? And why did someone have to die? It’s a twisty path to the truth.

Overall thoughts
The Poison Pen is a quick read. The characters are well-written, with plenty of conflict to add interest. The mystery isn’t easily solved, and that is a good thing. The only issue I had was with one of the characters and how easily he seemed to have gotten an important job. I don’t want to give away any more because of spoilers. 

4/5 stars

Paige Shelton’s website

Publishing Info

Publisher Imprint: Minotaur Books
Genre: Mystery/Cozy Mystery
Pages: 304
Pub date: 4/9/24
ISBN: 9781250890603

Book Notes Review: Rhythm and Clues by Olivia Blake

 

Disclaimer: Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing a free e-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Rhythm and Clues


The Record Shop Mysteries #3
by Olivia Blacke

Publisher’s Summary

The rhythm is gonna get you.

It’s been five whole months since the last murder in Cedar River, Texas, and Juni Jessup and her sisters Tansy and Maggie have been humming along when disaster strikes again.

Their struggling vinyl records shop/coffee nook, Sip & Spin Records, is under pressure from predatory investors, though the Jessup sisters aren’t ready to face the music and admit defeat. But the night after theirmeeting, the sketchy financier is killed outside their shop during a torrential Texas thunderstorm that washes out all the roads in and out of town. Now the sisters find themselves trapped in Cedar River with a killer, and Juni is determined to solve the case.

When the river spits out an unexpected surprise, Detective Beau Russell asks for Juni’s help, never predicting her investigation will spin her into danger. Up until now, the Jessup sisters have been playing it by ear, but with the whole town watching, can they catch a killer before he strikes again?

My Thoughts

This is the first book I’ve read in the series, and I didn’t have any difficulty following the storyline or figuring out the relationships. For the most part, the characters kept me interested, but Tansy’s over-protective tendencies toward her sister Juni and Juni’s love life got a bit tiresome. The three Jessup sisters, Maggie, Tansy, and Juni (Juniper) own Sip and Spin Records, a vinyl record/coffee shop in Cedar Rivers, Texas. In business for only six months, they are being courted by Zackary Fjord and his business partner Savannah Goodwin. The two want to buy a controlling interest in Sip and Spin Records. So far, the answer has been ‘no.’ Zackary and Savannah are well-written as business partners with possibly questionable ethics. As the story evolves, the murderer’s identity and motive become more difficult to pin down. There are plenty of suspects and red herrings to keep a reader guessing. Rhythm and Clues is a fun, quick read.

4/5 stars.

Read excerpt here
Olivia Blacke’s website

Publishing Information

Imprint publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Mystery/cozy mystery
Pages: 304
ISBN: 9781250860132
Pub date: 3/26/24

Book Notes Review: Ill-Fated Fortune by Jennifer Chow

Ill-Fated Fortune
Book One in the Magical Fortune Cookie series
by Jennifer J. Chow

From the publisher:

The first in the heart-warming and deliciously mysterious Magical Fortune Cookie series from Lefty Award-nominee Jennifer J. Chow.

Felicity Jin grew up literally hanging onto Mom’s apron strings in their magical bakery in the quaint town of Pixie, California. Her mother’s enchanted baked goods, including puffy pineapple buns and creamy egg tarts, bring instant joy to all who consume them. Felicity has always been hesitant in the kitchen herself after many failed attempts, but a takeout meal gone wrong inspires her to craft some handmade fortune cookies.

They become so popular that Felicity runs out of generic fortunes and starts making her own personalized predictions. When one customer’s ill-fated fortune results in his murder, Felicity’s suspiciously specific fortune has the police focusing on her as the main culprit. Now Felicity must find a way to turn her luck around and get cleared from suspicion.

My Thoughts

Ill-Fated Fortune is the first book in the Magical Fortune Cookie series. I wanted to like this book, but I struggled with it. The characters didn’t really hold my interest, and the mystery didn’t keep me guessing. The magical elements were in the book, but they didn’t hold my interest either.
Having said all of that, though, I would read a second book. Many times, I’ve read a second book in a series that was far stronger than the first.
If this sounds like book you want to read, but are hesitant to buy, borrow it from the library and give it a try.

3/5 stars

Publishing Information

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781250323033
Pub date: 02/20/2024

Book Notes The Curse of Penryth Hall

Black background with red apples, a village skyline on the bottom and The Curse of Penryth Hall centered on the cover.

The Curse of Penryth Hall
by Jess Armstrong

The Curse of Penryth Hall is a historical cozy mystery with supernatural elements and Gothic overtones.

Summary

Ruby Vaughn has vowed to never return to Penryth Hall after the marriage of her best friend Tamsyn to Sir Edward Chenowyth. But her boss, Mr. Owen, has sent her to the village of Lothiel Green to deliver a trunk full of books to a man named Ruan Kivell. Before Ruby makes her delivery, she stops at the hall and finds a much-changed Tamsyn. Tamsyn is much thinner and has a bruised face. That evening at dinner, Ruby exchanges barbs with Sir Edward, until he excuses himself from dinner when he suddenly falls ill. The next morning his mutilated body is found by the housekeeper on the estate’s grounds. She insists the curse, which killed Edward’s uncle and his wife thirty years prior, is back and has killed Edward. When Tamsin hears the news, she insists the curse is coming for her next and forces Ruby to swear she will keep Tamsyn’s young son safe. Ruby’s scientific mind refuses to believe a curse is at work. She resolves to find the murderer behind Sir Edward’s death.

My Thoughts

This is a solid mystery with all sorts of twists and turns and an ending I didn’t see coming. The atmosphere is spooky with a castle falling into ruin and gloomy weather. Ruan Kivell, the local Pellar (a role which Ruan inhabits with mixed emotions), is a man with skill at healing others and putting Ruby’s emotions in turmoil. The verbal sparring between the two is funny and one of the best parts of the novel.
Ruby’s relationship with Tamsyn is complicated. They’ve been friends since Ruby was shipped from New York City to London after being seduced by an older married man when Ruby was sixteen. Ruined for a society marriage, her father sent her to live with his old friend and his family in London so Ruby could have a new start. At some point, Ruby wanted more from the relationship than Tamsyn could give-I think-and their friendship disintegrated. This relationship felt forced to me and distracted from the mystery.

Ruby is a deeply troubled character. Forced to leave home at such a young age, she loses her parents and younger sister years later at sea. She was an ambulance driver for the Great War, moving wounded soldiers from the front lines. Her relationship with Tamsyn fell apart during this period. Once Ruby returns to Penryth Hall, those old feelings for Tamsyn return, and Ruby doesn’t handle them well. Ruby becomes a bit self-centered and that was off-putting.

Overall thoughts

This isn’t a bad book. The mystery gets lost at times, and when that happened, I forgot why I was reading the book. As far as characters go, Ruan Kivell is the most interesting character, in my opinion. As far as the villagers are concerned, he has supernatural powers and is seen as the Pellar. Ruan is conflicted about his role and the pressure he is under to have all of the answers, especially when murder and an old curse is involved.

If historical mysteries set in the twenties, old English castles, and a hint of the supernatural is your thing, then this book may be for you. It really didn’t resonate with me, and if there are more books after this one, I probably won’t be reading them.

Thanks to #NetGalley and #St. Martin’s Press for a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Publisher
St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 336
Pub date: 12/05/2023

Book Notes Review of The Fatal Folio

 

Book cover with cat looking out big window while sitting on bookshelves

The Fatal Folio

Book Three in the Cambridge Bookshop Series
by Elizabeth Penney

If you’re going to commit a murder, do it on a night when mask-wearers abound.

 

The Fatal Folio Summary

During Guy Fawkes celebrations, student Thad Devine is murdered on the grounds of St. Aelred, one of Cambridge, England’s, oldest and smallest colleges. The prime suspect is Oliver Scott. A professor up for promotion, Scott held a grudge against Devine. Oliver Scott is also cousin to Kieran Scott.

Kieran is Molly Kimble’s boyfriend, and she has a knack for stumbling into murders. Having her boyfriend’s cousin the prime suspect in Devine’s murder isn’t a spot she wants to be in, but here she is.

Before Molly can make any headway on the murder, the priceless manuscript The Fatal Folio is stolen during the Gothic Literature symposium, and Molly finds herself in the middle of mystery #2.

As Molly investigates both cases, the circle of suspects widens beyond Oliver, but not by much. All of Molly’s murder suspects either work for or are students at St. Aelred’s and also have ties to the symposium, meaning not only are they murder suspects, but suspects in the theft of The Final Folio. Will her investigating lead to a murderer? Will she recover the stolen manuscript before it’s sold to the highest bidder on the black market?

My Thoughts on The Fatal Folio

The Final Folio is a quick and easy read. The number of suspects kept me guessing about the murderer’s identity and the murderer’s motivation. Another plus was the inclusion of an old library. Molly was hired to catalogue the library at Hazelhurst House, the Scotts’ ancestral home and that was a definite plus in my book. (Pun intended.) If you like old libraries, rare manuscripts, and murder, then this novel may be for you.

 

Publishing Information

St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery
ISBN 9781250787743

 

Thanks to #NetGalley and #StMartinsPress for providing a free copy of #TheFatalFolio for review. All opinions are my own.