The Seventh Witch by Shirley Damsgaard is the seventh in the Abby and Ophelia series about a psychic librarian coming to terms with her heritage as a witch. For the first time, we get to see the full array of powerful women in Ophelia's family, as she and Abby travel to the North Carolina mountains for Great Aunt Mary's 100th birthday. While I missed Darci, I really enjoyed meeting the family, and a chance encounter with Cobra was also fun. Great Aunt Dot, who sees fairies, was a hoot, and the rivalry with another clan was interesting. All in all, a worthy installment. The first in the series is Witch Way to Murder, and they're probably best read in order, given the ongoing character development. These are the best paranormal mysteries I've come across.
Bridezilla by Laura Levine: The Jaine Austen mysteries are fun and quirky, but insubstantial, like popcorn. Jaine is a writer for hire who runs into a disproportionate number of dead bodies. Killing Bridezilla was a lot of fun. Jaine's former high school classmate (and Queen Bitch) Patti hires Jaine to write her wedding vows. She wants Romeo and Juliet...but snappier. The money is too good for Jaine to pass up (someone has to keep Prozac supplied with Yummy Fish Guts cat food), and she finds herself sucked back into Hermosa High history as she continually rewrites to meet Patti's demands. Patti had stolen her groom from another classmate, kicks a bridesmaid out of the party for being too fat, and generally offends everyone she meets. So it's not that surprising when she turns up dead, having plunged from the very balcony that was to serve as her stage, landing on the point of an arrow brandished by a tacky cherub statue. Jaine investigates to clear another classmate. This installment in the series was hilarious and non-stop entertainment. The high school nostalgia brings a surprisingly thoughtful element to balance the hilarity. A very cute, funny mystery. The first in the series is This Pen for Hire.
Apple Turnover Murder by Joanne Fluke: Something about the Hannah Swensen mysteries keeps me coming back again and again, now for the thirteenth time. Is it the small-town charm of Lake Eden, Minnesota? Or Hannah's array of cookie recipes (it's definitely not the hotdish recipes...)? Or the delightfully quirky cast of characters who surround her? I think it's all of these. What it's not is that love triangle with Norman the dentist and Mike the cop, which got tired several books ago. Still, it's not intrusive enough to ruin the fun for me. The twelfth book (Plum Pudding Murder), ended with the arrival of an old flame of Hannah's, promising more in this line. And the despicable Bradford Ramsay is indeed key to the mystery, having been murdered right after Hannah threatens him. Oops. You'd think in a town with a body count like Lake Eden's, people would learn to stop saying incriminating things like "You'll be sorry!" At any rate, Hannah investigates while she tries not to obsess over why Norman has been so distant since returning from a visit to dental school buddies. The usual small-town Minnesota charm ensues, and I enjoyed reading this installment. A cliffhanger ending promises that the love triangle nonsense isn't over, but I'll put up with it to visit Lake Eden again next year. The first in this series is Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.
Scone Cold Dead by Kaitlyn Dunnett: I enjoyed Kilt Dead, the first Liss MacCrimmon mystery, and was looking forward to the second. Really, this series should be perfect for me, as it engages me on several levels: my inexplicable fondness for Maine, my love of small-town cozies, my interest in dancing and Scottish history/culture. Liss moves back to Moosetookalook, Maine, after a knee injury ends her career as a Scottish dancer, to run her aunt's Scottish Emporium. The Highland Games setting in Kilt Dead was more fun, I think, but really, this is a case of early promise not panning out. In Scone Cold Dead, Liss's old dance troupe is coming to town and her former manager is murdered. He was so thoroughly unlikeable that I didn't particularly care who killed him, but there were more problems in this cozy. The pseudonymous Dunnett seems to have adopted the obligatory love triangle of recent cozies, and Liss's boyfriend is grumpy about one of Liss's friends, who turns out to be male. I really can't see why she likes the boyfriend. He was thoroughly unlikeable throughout the book, and Liss was insensitive. I don't buy the law enforcement professional asking for Liss's help "because she knows the dance world." Sure, interviewing her makes sense, but asking an amateur to assist in an investigation? The reasoning seemed thin - it's not like they speak a different language and he needs an interpreter. The murder method is ridiculously complex and fraught with potential for error. I plowed through to the end, hoping it would live up to the promise of Kilt Dead, but no luck. In a fit of optimism, I picked up the third book in the series, A Wee Christmas Homicide, and didn't even finish it. This is extremely rare for me. I usually at least skim to the end to find out who did it, but I couldn't be bothered. In this holiday mystery, Liss discovers she's sitting on a gold mine: the cute little kilted bears she thought brightened up the Scottish Emporium are Tiny Teddies, the must-have toy of the season. Two other Moosetookalook businesses also have supplies. Instead of just chucking them on eBay, Liss comes up with a convoluted plan to celebrate Twelve Days of Christmas and bring tourists to benefit ALL Moosetookalook businesses. The obnoxious Gavin, who had tried to fleece Liss by purchasing all her Tiny Teddies, is murdered, and good riddance I say. Why Liss investigates is beyond me, and I didn't care in the least who killed Gavin. I'm sadly giving up on this series.
Source disclosure: I purchased all these books.