3 star, adult

Review: Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke

Hannah Swensen #27

Spring has sprung in Lake Eden, Minnesota, but Hannah Swensen doesn’t have time to stop and smell the roses–not with hot cross buns to make, treats to bake, and a sister to exonerate!

Hannah’s up to her ears with Easter orders rushing in at The Cookie Jar, plus a festive meal to prepare for a dinner party at her mother’s penthouse. But everything comes crashing to a halt when Hannah receives a panicked call from her sister Andrea–Mayor Richard Bascomb has been murdered…and Andrea is the prime suspect.

Even with his reputation for being a bully, Mayor Bascomb–or “Ricky Ticky,” as Hannah’s mother likes to call him–had been unusually testy in the days leading up to his death, leaving Hannah to wonder if he knew he was in danger. Meanwhile, folks with a motive for mayoral murder are popping up in Lake Eden. Was it a beleaguered colleague? A political rival? A jealous wife? Or a scorned mistress?

As orders pile up at The Cookie Jar–and children line up for Easter egg hunts–Hannah must spring into investigation mode and identify the real killer…before another murder happens!

This is a pretty generous 3 Drink Me Potions rating from me. I would say realistically it’s closer to a 2.5 for sure. That being said, these books are kind of a guilty pleasure for me. Not always the most quality, but definitely an easy and lighthearted read, full of recipes for distractions. So no matter the quality of the writing, I find myself picking up one of these novels once in a while just to satisfy (perhaps that younger) part of me.

I do have my qualms about this one. I recently read one of the author’s first books in the series, and I thought it was so much more well written. Now, I haven’t really read them in order nor have I done an in depth analysis to say whether this is a pattern or not, but I definitely enjoyed that other book (Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder) way more as a lighthearted murder mystery with the amateur detective trope.

This particular book had way too much filler (and seemingly way more recipes, though those I don’t mind), but that reduced the plot to have little essence. Comparing to what I was expecting coming off reading the other book, this one left a lot to be desired.

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder follows the amateur detective but expert baker, Hannah Swensen, as she investigates yet another murder in her small town called Lake Eden. When the widely unpopular mayor is suddenly put out of commission, the list of suspects stretches on and on. How will Hannah be able to eliminate all the suspects in order to figure out the killer’s identity?

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5 star, adult

Review: The Guest List by Lucy Foley


The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why? 

Truth be told, I think I would give this 4.75 Drink Me Potions if we had such a rating. There were just a couple of things that aren’t explained, and feel a little bit off. That being said though, why give it a 5 star instead of a 4.5 star rating? Because I think there really is something special about this book. Thrillers and mysteries tend to follow more similar formatting, or at least you generally know how they will play out. In this sense, they tend to be a bit predictable (even if the final twist(s) are unpredictable). It becomes hard for me to then give super high ratings, because would I ever read a thriller/mystery twice? What book would be that good? So the caveat on this rating: it’s kind of my own special rating for thrillers in particular.

The Guest List is a mystery thriller set on a private island in Ireland. The bride and groom are our typical “perfect” couples – Jules is an online magazine editor, and Will is a rising TV star. All too soon we realize that (of course) there is more than meets the eye, as all their special esteemed guests arrive onto the island for their wedding. Seems like everyone might have a reason for not wishing the happy new couple well – what will transpire when all these guests are gathered and effectively stuck on this island?

This book stars the classic multiple POVs – something I know many are not too fond of. I would say that it wasn’t too confusing, although of course, as it is with these kinds of perspectives, it is often slower starting as you get used to the characters. That being said though, the author does a great job of immediately pulling us in. We start right at the scene of the crime, and we slowly get flashbacks from the day before leading up to the climax. Normally this would be fairly confusing too, with all the time skipping – but all the events take place the day before the wedding and the day of the wedding, so it isn’t too hard to orient yourself.

The characters are all well developed and hashed out. Each of them has their good points and character strengths, and are all human by nature of their vices. Each character has enough suspicion and possibly motive for committing murder, so it becomes difficult to tell who might be responsible for the body found, and who might have the most motive for murdering someone. The author gracefully develops each character with just the right amount of suspicion, so that we as readers can believe any of the characters to be a murderer.

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4 star, YA

Review: Capturing The Devil by Kerri Maniscalco

Stalking Jack the Ripper #4

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London they knew. But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World’s Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders.

Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they’ve heard of before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him—and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device—is another.

Will Audrey Rose and Thomas see their last mystery to the end—together and in love—or will their fortunes finally run out when their most depraved adversary makes one final, devastating kill?

And here we are, the grand finale of this series! Part of me is sad that it had to come to an end, but at the same time, now that everything is wrapped up, I’m also glad that it was tied to a bow and just let sail. What a fantastic series – it was truly something special, and I’m so glad that Andge suggested it to me.

Here, Andge actually rated this book a 3.5 Drink Me Potions, her lowest rating for this series, and even with my 4, it is also my lowest. I think we both agree that in terms of the mystery and intrigue, and the dark macabre adventures of our favourite two protagonists, this last novel falls short. The story revolves more around the nuptials of Audrey Rose and Thomas, and their romantic story as it develops in America.

Capturing The Devil follows Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell in their final adventure together – this time in New York – late 19th century New York, that is. The devil himself has now come to haunt the streets of America, too reminiscent of the past killings by Jack the Ripper. Will Audrey Rose and Thomas be able to solve the mystery before it’s too late? And what else stands in the way of their love?

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