Mystery Book Recommendations–Good Reads

I’m constantly being asked what mysteries I’m reading. As a result, I thought I would share my list from last month.

Fer de Lance (Nero Wolfe Mysteries) by Rex Stout

It’s been a while since I read a Nero Wolfe mystery. I wanted to refresh my memory for a recent blog I was preparing. So I selected this Wolfe novel.

What does the murder of a poor immigrant and a wealthy college president have in common? That’s the secret Wolfe and Archie need to uncover in order to solve this murder.

Fer de Lance is one of the world’s deadliest snakes and when Nero Wolfe finds one in his desk drawer he knows he has annoyed the murderer and is on the right track.

This is the first book in a long list of Wolfe mysteries from Rex Stout. In this book we are introduced to Wolfe’s habits and eccentricities. Plus we get to meet most of the main characters that reappear throughout the series including Archie Goodwin, his assistant and narrator of the stories; Fritz his gourmet chef; Theodore who assists Wolfe in the orchid greenhouse; and people like Orrie Cather, Saul Panzer, and Fred Durkin who aid in solving the crimes.

If you want to read a Nero Wolfe mystery this is the book you want to read first.

Chapter and Hearse (A Booktown Mystery) by Lorna Barrett

I’m a big fan of Lorna Barrett’s amateur detective Tricia Miles. The stories take place in the fictional town of Stoneham, NH also known as Booktown, because the main shopping district features different types of book stores. Tricia owns a mystery book store called Haven’t Got a Clue and the store’s book shelves are watched over by a cat named Miss Marple.

You would expect that a town with so many book stores would be a quiet place to live, but somehow Tricia is always solving a real life murder. This time a gas explosion has injured Tricia’s sister boyfriend, Bob Kelly, and killed the owner of the town’s history bookstore. Bob refuses to talk about what happened and the mother of the dead man seems pleased her son has departed. To make matters more complicated Tricia’s sister, Angelica, seems to be the next target of the killer.

Now it’s personal and Tricia needs to find out what is happening before someone else is injured or killed.

The books are nicely paced and its added fun that the amateur detective is the owner of a mystery book store.

Nice Weekend for a Murder (A Mallory Mystery) by Max Allan Collins

This was my first Collins mystery but it won’t be the last. I really enjoy his style.

The murder takes place during a mystery weekend at Mohonk Mountain House an isolated resort located in upstate New York. Participants are asked to solve the murder of a fictional mystery book critic. Real mystery writers are playing the part of the suspects and a real critic, Kirk Rath, is playing the victim. Yup, you guessed it! The tables are turned when the Kirk is murdered.

Mallory one of the mystery writers believes he witnessed the killing of the critic. However, the conference leader, hotel staff and his peers try to convince Mallory what he saw was nothing more than a prank from some of the participants. However, later when Mallory finds Kirk Rath’s body he feels a duty to solve the crime.

In addition to all the clues and plot twists there are wonderful references to mystery writers like Chandler and Hammett. The Movies being shown for the participants include a Charlie Chan film fest and Mickey Spillane in a Mike Hammer film.

If one mystery isn’t enough for you to solve this book is a perfect fit. Try to solve both the mystery weekend crime and the actual murder of the critic.

Aside from a great story this is a fun book for mystery readers because of all the references to other mystery books, authors and films.

Dying for Danish (A Lexy Baker Bakery Cozy Mystery) by Leighann Dobbs

Lexy Baker owns a catering business, pastry shop and a dog named Sprinkles. Her shop is doing well and she just bought all new kitchen equipment based on the big check she is about to receive for catering an upcoming wedding for a wealthy family.  However, when Lexy discovers the body of the bride-to-be her plans come to a screeching halt.

Lexy needs to find the killer so she gets paid for the job. She enlists the aid of her amateur detective grandmother and her friends from the local retirement village who use their iPads to provide her with information about the suspects. Add Lexy’s best friend, her good looking police detective neighbor and even her dog and you have quite a team out to solve the case and save Lexy’s business.

In addition to a good mystery you get a great recipe for Danish pastry.

Morning Cup of Murder (A Lacy Steele Mystery) by Vanessa Gray Bartal

I love coffee so I was attracted by the title of the book. Lacy Steele our amateur detective spends each morning at the local coffee shop as she tries to re-establish her career as a journalist and her personal life. After trying to make it in New York she returns to her tiny hometown and is living with her grandmother. When grandmother is arrested for the murder of an old school chum Lacy sets out to solve the case and clear her grandmother.

Grandmother’s defense for the time of the murder was that she was baking her famous prune cake for Lacy. Because the cake takes several hours to prepare Lacy knows she couldn’t have committed the murder. However, the police aren’t buying the cake as an alibi, and Lacy needs to find some hard evidence.

With the help of a high school friend, Jason, who is now a member of the police department and some amateur sleuthing on her part she discovers more and more about the murdered woman and eventually the killer.

Warning–don’t read while hungry there are many references to the delicious prune cake throughout the book.

A Man Lay Dead: Inspector Roderick Alleyn by Nagio Marsh

While Agatha Christie may have the title of Queen of mysteries, Nagio Marsh is the empress of the Golden Age Mysteries. Following one of the Golden Age characteristics this book opens with a party at a country house. As part of the weekend activities the host, Sir Hubert Handesley, has planned a murder game to entertain his guests. When the game turns deadly Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard is called in to find the murderer.

Inspector Alleyn keeps all the facts of the case in his notebook and it would be nice to have a look at what he is writing. But keeping with the rules of Golden mysteries we are included for all of the questioning and discovery of the clues—so we should be able to write the same things in our notebook and solve the case.

If you like Christie you’ll like Marsh, so give this one a try.

Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson

Diane Mott Davidson continues to produce wonderful Goldy Schultz mysteries. I’ve been reading these books for years but somehow missed this one. So this was a catch-up read.

As you probably know Goldy Schultz is a caterer but in addition to whipping of delightful recipes she also manages to always cook up a great murder. This time she is helping a friend and fellow chef Yolanda Garcia. When Yolanda’s house is destroyed by arson, she and her irascible aunt Ferdinanda move in with former cop and PI Ernest McLeod.  But when Ernest is murder Goldy finds herself with some unexpected house guests.

It doesn’t make it any easier for Goldy that her husband Tom is a police detective and Yolanda is a prime suspect for the murder of Ernest. After a break-in by an unknown intruder and a second murder the heat is turned up on the case. Now it’s crunch time to catch the killer before he gets to Goldy and her friend Yolanda.

The delicious recipes mentioned in the book are always included.

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