Tag Archives: cozy mysteries

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Broken Heart Attack

Broken Heart Attack by James J. Cudney

Broken Heart Attack (Braxton Campus Mysteries #2)
by James J. Cudney (Goodreads Author)

This second book in the author’s Braxton Campus Mysteries series begins just a week after the first book left off.  Kellan has a lot of stressful things happening in his life; he is contending with a new job, a vicious new boss, a cross-country move with his six-year-old daughter, and the reappearance of his supposedly dead wife.  He doesn’t need to add helping his seventy-plus-year-old grandmother run for mayor, a possible murder investigation where the victim literally falls over on him and multiple run-ins with the local sheriff who seemingly has it out for him.

  Unfortunately for Kellan but fortunately for the plot, his grandmother, who was a good friend of the victim, doesn’t give him a choice about investigating.  Soon Kellan will be involved in the affairs of a wealthy but scandalous family, all while dodging “enforcers” sent by his Mafioso mother-in-law.  It’s going to be a fast-paced ride!

The subplot adds to the drama of the investigation and speaks of Kellan’s mind state as he begins his investigation, encouraged and goaded by Nana D and her septuagenarian/ political campaign club.  As we learned in the last book, Kellan‘s wife, whom he thought long dead, is actually alive, thanks to her parents who head a mafia family and who faked her death to save her from their rival crime syndicates.

 In this sequel, Francesca, and her parents, wants Kellan to join her in hiding, leaving behind his family and the new life he’s trying to build for himself and Emma, the couple’s daughter.  Does Kellan still love his wife, who allowed him to mourn for her; and is that enough reason to turn Emma’s life upside down; not to mention would he ever see his own family again? Kellan faces an impossible choice, but once he’s made it, will everyone be able to live happily ever after?

This massive novel, nearly 500 pages, contains a complex cast of characters/relationships for our main protagonist, as well as an absorbing mystery with a number of potential culprits as there are several potentials with motive and opportunity.  However, the true criminal is hiding in the background, and is not truly revealed till near the end.  While the mystery is absorbing, and easily fits the mold of the “cozy mystery” genre, the subplot provides a tantalizing cliffhanger to end the book and entice the reader to reach for the next volume.

I award this story four and a half stars, for its compelling story that though a bit meandering in the beginning hits its stride and becomes fast-paced about halfway through.  I would recommend this book to any fan of the genre, as well as mystery lovers in general.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Elementary, She Read

Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany

Elementary, She Read (A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #1)
by Vicki Delany (Goodreads Author)


Amy Caudill‘s review

  

The first installment in this lovely cozy mystery series features Gemma Doyle, who may or may not be related to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and is part-owner of the Sherlock Holmes Bookstore and Emporium at 221 Baker St., West London, Massachusetts.  This series, set in the present, contains many allusions to both Victorian literature and “Sherlockians,” fans of the great detective.

As a fan of Sherlock myself, I was intrigued by the concept of a modern day version of the detective series, and I love that the main protagonist, Gemma, while not actually a fan herself, seemingly has much in common with Sherlock Holmes.  She is extremely observant and direct to the point of bluntness, facts which her friends tolerate and understand but strangers sometimes find unsettling or offensive.

Her partner Jayne, co-owner of Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, next door to the bookstore, is pulled into playing Gemma’s reluctant John Watson, as Gemma investigates the murder of the owner of a potentially valuable first edition print of one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories that is left hidden inside her store.

With a supporting cast of characters including a local reporter named Irene, a former love interest for Gemma in Detective Ryan Ashburton, a rival/foil in another Detective, Louise Estrada, and a comic relief character in Jayne’s boyfriend Robbie; author Vicki Delany has set the stage for a rich “universe” to draw on in furthering this series.

The mystery itself involves greed, theft, inheritance and multiple murders; and includes a number of suspects; though the true killer isn’t revealed till nearly the end of the story.  Gemma conducts her own investigation, alongside and in spite of warnings from the police, and has plenty of false starts and leads that don’t pan out before the exciting conclusion, which contains the only scene where the action is present and not just a dead body after the fact.

The author also included numerous references to books written in the Holmesian style by other authors, both classic and modern, as well as other detective stories from the Victorian and Edwardian era, which is only appropriate as one of the main settings is a bookstore.  Unfortunately, the distraction was too great for me as I stopped reading multiple times to get on Amazon and find out more about the different books mentioned!

Overall, this book contained a number of interesting characters and an absorbing plot, so I will look forward to exploring more in the series.  I give this book 4.5 stars.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Academic Curveball

Academic Curveball by James J. Cudney
Academic Curveball (Braxton Campus Mysteries #1)by

James J. Cudney (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review

Kellan Ayrwick, a television executive, changes careers, and his address, in the first book of this series by author James P. Cudney.

The story begins as Kellan makes a trip home to Braxton, Pennsylvania, for his father’s retirement as President of Braxton College.  Kellan is also doing double duty- the party coincides with the meeting he’s arranged for a source on the true-crime drama Dark Reality, of which he is assistant producer.  Unfortunately, his meeting with his “source” never happens, as the dead body of Professor Abbey Monroe is found by a family friend during the party.

Kellan is ever-more deeply involved in the investigation into Monroe’s death, as well as the politics concerning a change in leadership for the school, the power plays and underhanded dealings of the Board in regards to scholarship and the athletic departments, and even a potential romance between Kellan and one old friend, as well as his sister Eleanor and another old friend.   Somehow Kellan must balance all of these complicated relationships while exercising his investigative journalism aspirations to appease his boss back in Los Angeles.

Even if I didn’t know that this was the first book in a series, the author did leave numerous hints throughout the text that Kellan wanted to make a more permanent move to Braxton, such as 1) his dissatisfaction with his boss, Derek, over lack of proper recognition for all his hard work; 2) the cajoling, encouragement, and guilt-trips laid by various members of his family; 3) and his own stated desires to renew his relationships with family members, such as Eleanor and Nana D, and his former close friends Connor and Maggie.  All of these led me, as the reader, to believe that events would eventually shape to allow Kellan to come home for good.

While the story contains multiple subplots and a large number of characters, I found the overall storyline drew me in and the mystery absorbing.  The eventual homecoming of Kellan may have been predictable, but the climax and resulting conclusion of the story were not.  The plot contained a number of surprises-the identity of the killer, the identity of the new President of Wharton-among them, along with a twist at the end I didn’t even imagine coming!

In short, this book, of the “cozy mystery” style, contains a dash of action, plenty of suspense, and enough twists and turns to hook me and award this book five stars.  I will definitely be checking out more books in this new series, and recommend it to readers.