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Posts Tagged ‘cozy mystery’

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I am reviewing these two TV movies (made for the Hallmark Channel) together, as they are the first two films in a new mystery series and feature the same main characters.

Jeff Jackson (Jesse Metcalfe is a former Boston PD detective who has retired early and moved to Martha’s Vineyard where he grew up and now hopes to live a quiet life. Zee Madeiras is a Doctor on the Vineyard and former childhood friend of Jeff. Her father is the Vineyard Chief of Police, who asks for Jeff’s help in solving crimes. In A Beautiful Place to Die, a young man is found floating in the harbour and it becomes apparent that he was murdered…the night before he was seen arguing with the children of a wealthy businessman, but they are not the only people with a reason to want him dead. As the suspects mount up, Jeff and Zee find themselves uncovering secrets and facing danger…

In Riddled With Deceit, a rare and expensive emerald brooch, which was stolen years before from the family of Zee’s best friend, is returned, only to be promptly stolen again. Jeff and Zee assist the police with looking for the thief, but before long it has also turned into a murder enquiry…

If you are a fan of murder mysteries set in beautiful places – for me, I love shows like Midsomer Murders, set in the Cotswolds; Death in Paradise (Caribbean), Shakespeare and Hathaway (Stratford-upon-Avon) – then this is the series for you. Admittedly all of the above examples are English shows, but if those are your kind of thing then I think you would enjoy these two movies. Although set on Martha’s Vineyard, they were not filmed there – but the scenery is beautiful nonetheless and the mysteries are engaging enough to keep you interested, while still being a fairly undemanding and fun watch.

If you want a really gritty realistic crime drama, then maybe give these a miss, but otherwise, see what you think – you might enjoy them!

(NB: These films are based on books from Phillip R Craig, who wrote a series of Martha’s Vineyard Mystery books. I’ve not read any of them, but might be tempted to give one a whirl).

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The Birthday Mystery is the first in a series of cozy(ish) mysteries featuring cook Jenny Starling as an amateur sleuth.

Jenny is hired to cater the 21st birthday party of aristocratic twins Alicia and Justin Greer. However when she arrives she discovers that a young man has been killed on the premises of the Greer home. The death is thought to be accidental and the party proceeds. But another death during the evening shocks everyone, and as the cook, Jenny is aghast when she learns that the victim was poisoned. She soon sets out to help the police solve the mystery, and in the process secrets are uncovered.

Hmm, I have mixed feelings about this one. It started promisingly – Jenny seemed a likeable enough character, and it appeared to be an intriguing mystery, with enough suspects to keep the reader/listener (I listened to the audiobook) guessing, and plenty of red herrings. However, the constant references to Jenny’s physical characteristics soon became annoying; she is described at the beginning of the book as being 6’1″ in height, and probably slightly overweight, but the author rather patronisingly points out that despite this, Jenny is very attractive – this in itself was somewhat insulting, as if saying that it is unusual for an overweight person to be attractive. Still, okay, it’s not unusual for a writer to give a physical description of their character. But it felt as though Jenny’s appearance was being pointed out constantly. She was frequently referred to as being “Juno-esque” and I felt that the only reason to labour the point was that it became plot relevant somewhere down the line. It doesn’t.

Secondly, while it is a staple ingredient of cozy crime stories to have the main character as someone assisting the police who in all honesty has no right to get involved, in this case it lost it’s charm. Jenny seemed to forget that it wasn’t her job to investigate at all and took it as her right to solve the crime. To add insult to injury, she later reveals that she has known for ages who the perpetrator was – THAT’S WHEN YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO TELL THE POLICE!! Instead she kept the info to herself. Sigh. The last part just consisted of Jenny’s exposition to the police, as to the who, how and why of the crime. Frankly it was all a bit ridiculous.

Overall, while the book held my attention for the first two thirds, it ended up annoying me at the end. I also felt that it was not cozy enough for a cozy mystery, and not thrilling enough for a full-on thriller. It seemed somewhat caught in the middle. That said, it is only the first book in the series and maybe some of the kinks might be ironed out in subsequent stories.

This audiobook was narrated by Charlotte Worthing, who did a perfectly decent job.

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This is the first book in the Cape Bay Cafe series, and it definitely falls into the cozy murder mystery category. It introduces us to Francesca Amaro, who, following a broken engagement and the death of her mother, has moved back to the sleepy seaside town of Cape Bay, Massachusetts, from her high powered life in New York. Francesca runs the Antonia’s Coffee Shop – previously run by her grandparents and then her mother – which serves the best coffee in town.

When Mr Cardosi, the father of her childhood friend Matt, is murdered, Francesca and Matt set out to solve the crime and bring the perpetrator to justice. Along the way there are hints of romance, a colourful cast of local characters, and lots of talk of sweet treats!

I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Marguerite Gavin, who did a great job. The story is told in the first person and while the romance part is fairly predictable, the mystery part did keep me guessing and there were plenty of red herrings. I really enjoyed listening to this story. I had to suspend my disbelief quite a lot, as Francesca had a habit of jumping to conclusions based on very little, but both she and Matt were very likeable characters, and sometimes you need something that just makes you smile and is easy to listen to. Coming in at under 5 hours, it’s probably half the length of an average novel, and for this reason, once we have been introduced to Francesca and her background, the story rattles along at a nice pace.

If you are a fan of the genre, I highly recommend giving this book a try, and I look forward to reading the next one in the series.

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