“The Maid” by Nita Prose

Genre: Clue-Like Mystery The Maid
Publisher: Penquin-Random House
Pub. Date: Jan. 04, 2022

I am not often a fan of cozy mysteries but I did enjoy, “The Maid,” Nita Prose’s debut novel, which is satisfying on every level. A guest is found dead at a posh city hotel, and the major suspect is Molly Gray, a cleaning servicewoman who takes unusual delight and pride in her work. Molly Gray is a quirky girl who probably is on the autism spectrum.  She doesn’t understand the complexities of social interaction and frequently misinterprets others’ intentions. This is how the hotel bartender, who she has a crush on, exploits and uses her in a drug ring. While some readers may be able to figure out who the killer is right away, that will not spoil the novel. The story is more about Molly and her development as a person. This is a heartwarming tale that will have you rooting for Molly, and maybe like myself, help one remember that there is a real person with feelings inside all of us.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“Broken Heart Attack” (Braxton Campus Mysteries #2) by James J. Cudney

Genre:          Humorous Cozy Mystery
Publisher:    Creativia Publishing House
Pub. Date:    November 25, 2018

I have read a couple of the author’s books and I must say he is getting better and better at his craft.  I do believe that James J. Cudney has the potential to become a household name for those who enjoy light-hearted murder mysteries.  “Broken Heart Attack” is the second book in the “Braxton Campus Mysteries.”  However, “Heart Attack” can be read as a stand-alone book.   One needn’t read the first novel, “Academic Curveball,” to follow along.  The author smoothly informs us that the protagonist, Kellan, is a young widow and a single dad.  (I would love to write more about his marriage because it has such a good twist, but that would be a spoiler).  In book one, he was working as a writer for a murder mystery TV series until he became an amateur sleuth at Braxton College.  He finds a dead body on campus and uses his writing expertise to help solve the crime.

In book number two, Kellan is now working as a professor at the college.  I am happy to report that the characters of his spunky, ringleader-like grandmother, as well as his spunky and sweet young daughter, remain in the series.  Kellan’s young daughter has a larger piece of the writing pie than she did previously.  The father/daughter relationship is easy on the reader’s eyes.   This reviewer hopes it will be continued even further in book number three.   Personally, I would like to see more of Kellan’s family dynamics and issues into the story.  (I actually thought this in “Curveball” as well).  The reader will find tantalizing family dynamics, issues, and major drama, in the characters that make up the Paddington clan.  The possible murder in “Heart Attack” occurred during a play’s dress rehearsal.  Kellan is there along with, Nana D. (the grandmother) and her friends the Paddington sisters-in-law.    It is here that one of his grandmother’s friends dies of a suspicious heart attack.   Nana D. suspects her friend was actually murdered by a poison that caused the heart attack.  So, Kellan is once more back into the crime-solving business.

As in book number one, the story is told in the first person by our professor.  Also, once again the writing is at a top-notch comical level with the character of Nana D.  When she doesn’t get her way with Kellan she is prone to say things like, “I won’t disown you, but I will set you up with every available harebrained girl in town.  I’ll have you fending off more cougars…,” and so on and so forth.  This is to her grandson who she adores.  One doesn’t mess with Nana D.   And yes, once again the novel ends with a cliffhanger leaving you wanting to ask Cudney when number three will be released.

I am not your typical cozy mystery reader because I am not usually a fan of the genre.  But, I do make a few exceptions as with “Curveball.”  This whodunit borders on the tradition of an Agatha Christie read.  At times, the author (who is a friend of mine), doesn’t trust his own talent and tends to explain the plot to his readers especially when writing about potential killers.  But, heck I just said something similar in another review about a book written by the enormously talented and accomplished author, Barbara Kingsolver.  So Jay, aka James J. Cudney, is in very good company.    I do want to add that although “Heart Attack” can be read alone, you would be missing all the fun by skipping the first book in the series.

To purchase “Broken Heart Attack” on Amazon open this link

I received this novel from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“Death by Didgeridoo” Barbara Venkataraman

Genre:           Cozy Mystery/Humor Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00038]
Publisher:    CreateSpace Independent
Pub. Date:    November 13, 2013

One has to love the title of “Death by Didgeridoo,” by Barbara Venkataraman.   I will not explain the reasoning behind the words because that would be a spoiler.  I will share that this is a lighthearted ‘whodunit’ and the first book in the “Jamie Quinn Mystery Series.”  The story revolves around the protagonists, Jamie, her aunt, and her cousin, who happens to have Aspergers.  Jamie reluctantly agrees to represent her cousin who is accused of murder.   Since she is a family law attorney, not a criminal attorney, she is in way over her head.   Right about here, we meet my favorite character: Duke.  He is the wildly colorful private investigator who Jamie turns to for crime-solving help.

I was not familiar with this series when the author reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing her work.  I seldom read mysteries of any kind.  But, since the book was previously chosen as “Indie Book of the Day,” I gladly accepted.   I am especially pleased that I did so because my favorite character had me laughing out loud more than once.  Venkataraman is at her best with Duke.  Picture a guy who drinks too much, plays the ladies’ man, and has been married and divorced three times.  A male chauvinist who calls all women ‘Darlin’ and is constantly bragging of his sex life—obnoxious right?    But there is more than meets the eye to this character.  Underneath his masculine bravado, he is a sweetie who will do anything to protect Jamie.  He made me think of a male version of the old cliché, a hooker with a heart of gold.

To keep things interesting, all kinds of obstacles derail Jamie’s quest to clear her cousin.  You will have to read the book to learn about her setbacks.  As for the rest of the series, we learn enough about likable Jamie, her family, and Duke to want read the next novel.  Still, “Death” can be read as a stand-alone book.  If you enjoy a good cozy mystery (meaning no gore), then I can safely guarantee that you will enjoy this novel.  To quote Duke, “Life’s grand!  The only way I’d enjoy it more is if there were two of me.”  I am happy to report there are more than two sequels (three in the first book) in this cozy mystery series.

I received this novel from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

To purchase “Death by Didgeridoo” on Amazon open link

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“Academic Curveball” by James J. Cudney

Genre:        Murder Mystery Academic curveball
Publisher:  Creativia Publishing House
Pub. Date:  Oct. 15, 2018

I just had the pleasure of reading “Academic Curveball.” True to its title, the setting takes place in the world of academia. The novel is filled with multiple spins provoked by murders that may have been the result of the clashing cultures within colleges: educations vs. sports. The author, James J. Cudney, cleverly puts together an often humorous, cozy murder mystery brimming with family drama, action, a twisting plot, and romance. All are nicely wrapped together and kept this reviewer guessing whodunit.

Since spoilers are not welcome, here is a snapshot of the story. Our protagonist is Kellan Ayrwick. He is a young widow and single dad. He works as a writer for a murder mystery TV series. His father is the President of Braxton College. Kellan and his father have a long history of not getting along. The reader will feel the “ouch” during most of their conversations. The mystery gets moving when our hero returns home to attend his father’s retirement party. Once home, murder and mayhem occur on campus, allowing Kellan to play amateur sleuth. There are a host of characters who may be the killer/s. She is not a suspect, but I would be a poor reviewer if I didn’t mention Kellan’s grandmother, Nana D. She is a pistol. Her sassy remarks (all seems a little too Tanya Harding versus Nancy Kerrigan to me) makes her an endearing character as she helps her grandson on his quest to learn the identity of the murderer/s.

In the tradition of Agatha Christie, the story is never dull. However, sometimes I felt as if the information is being spoon-fed to the reader. There is a lot of rehashing. Still, “Curveball” is a delight to read. I am happy to report that I did not guess the killer/s identity. That is a feather in the cap to any author of a murder mystery. Full disclosure: I am friends with the author. I know that in real life his dog’s name is Baxter, so very close to the name of the novel’s college—such a sweet ode to his four-legged buddy. How can you not like someone who names a college after his dog? This novel is the first book in the “Braxton Campus Mysteries.” The last sentence in “Curveball” is a cliffhanger. Personally, I cannot wait to read “Braxton Campus Mysteries II.”

Open the link to buy  “Academic Curveball” on Amazon.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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October 10, 2018 – Started Reading
October 10, 2018 – Shelved

b. Date:    Oct. 15, 2018