Dead and Berried by Karen MacInerney: I liked the first in this series, Murder on the Rocks, though there were a couple of annoyances, mostly related to Natalie's brain falling out her head on occasion. Natalie continues to suffer from this malady in the second entry, but I still liked her. Natalie's ex-fiance is visiting from Texas to woo her back to Texas and a life with him. Candy is visiting the Gray Whale Inn to gather tips for opening her own B&B. A possible subdivision has Cranberry Island's preservationists up in arms. And Natalie's best friend is acting distant ever since she started dating the new priest and shunning Natalie's brownies for her diet. Natalie tells us right away that the ex-fiance is an ex for a reason, actually a few reasons, all of them curvy and attractive. So it's hard for me to understand why she doesn't just kick his butt out (he'd made his reservation under a fake name), especially when he and Candy are flirting outrageously in front of Natalie and Natalie's island sort-of-boyfriend, John, is understandably upset about the ex's presence. A whiff of his cologne is apparently enough to make her forget what a cheating jerk he was. Anyway, this drove me up the wall. Natalie also charges off to check things out AGAIN and gets bonked on the head a few times. Does this woman not get that she needs to let someone know where she's going at all times? The mystery was pretty good, not predictable, and I enjoyed the visit to Cranberry Island and its varied inhabitants. And if I didn't like Natalie, I wouldn't be so annoyed that she's being an idiot about her ex. And the Peach Sunrise Bread sounds absolutely amazing--I can't wait to try the recipe. So, all in all, a decent second entry, and I'll give #3 (Murder Most Maine) a try when it comes out in a month or two.
My review of Murder on the Rocks
Charmed to Death by Shirley Damsgaard: I really liked the first entry in this series, Witch Way to Murder, which surprised me--I'm not usually a fan of paranormal mysteries, as the paranormal is either cheesy and annoying or interferes with the mystery. Damsgaard absolutely nails the balance in her series about Ophelia and her grandmother, Abby, both psychic and with their own special powers. In the second entry, Ophelia must face her past, the horrible death of her best friend five years earlier, to prevent more murders. In the first book, Ophelia had rejected her gifts, and by the end, she's accepted them and decided to develop them with her grandmother's help. So in book 1, Ophelia is rather abrasive and not overly likable. I was a bit concerned that we would see some backsliding in book 2, but I was very pleased that the character development was consistent. The suspense in this one was fantastic. I did guess the killer, but I don't think it was horribly telegraphed. Ophelia's continuing relationship with Darci was fun to see, and other returning characters behaved in a consistent, yet interesting, manner. I really like this series, and I'll be picking up the next one soon.
My review of Witch Way to Murder
Busy Bodies by Joan Hess: I love the Joan Hess books starring bookstore owner and busybody Claire Malloy. The first is Strangled Prose. In this entry, Miss Parchester asks for Claire's help--she has a conceptual artist living on her street, blocking traffic and causing protestors to assemble outside his house over his provocative yard displays. Hess quickly explains that the police won't stop him (in a way I didn't really buy, but that's fine--she at least addressed the concern). and Claire sticks her erudite nose into the situation, becoming involved with the mysterious writer, angry neighbor, the born-again protestors, and the artist himself (along with his hangers-on). Claire was extra nosy in this one, but that's fine. Caron and Inez getting picked up by Animal Control while wearing gorilla suits was hilarious. I always enjoy a visit to Farberville and Claire's antics, and I thought this, the 10th entry (I think) was quite funny and well-plotted.
Closely Akin to Murder by Joan Hess: This one was a little different. Claire gets a phone call from her cousin Ronnie, asking for Claire's help. The weird part? Ronnie died a couple of decades ago. Claire learns that Ronnie spent several years in a Mexican jail for killing famous movie producer Oliver Pickett in self-defense. Once she got out, she changed her name and began a new, very successful life. Except someone is blackmailing her now. Claire takes Caron to Acapulco, where she encounters several people involved in the events of 20+ years before. Her search leads her to Arizona (with a hilarious scene in a convent) and Illinois, before she finds the truth. Lies upon lies make her investigation a challenge, but it's Claire, so she gets there in the end. Masterfully plotted with the more disturbing elements (Caron kidnapped, Claire facing a Mexican jail) lightened by Claire's trademark humor, this is an outstanding entry in a delightful series.