Add this cozy debut to your TBR list:

Address to Die For

Recommended by MiddleSisterReviews.com

Address to Die For by Mary Feliz, published by Lyrical Underground, a digital imprint of Kensington Books, release date Tuesday, 19 July 2016; list price $3.99 (USD) for Kindle ebook, $15.00 (USD) paperback.
Address to Die For by Mary Feliz, published by Lyrical Underground, a digital imprint of Kensington Books, release date Tuesday, 19 July 2016; list price $3.99 (USD) for Kindle ebook, $15.00 (USD) paperback.

Description:  For professional organizer Maggie McDonald, moving her family into a new home should be the perfect organizational challenge. But murder was definitely not on the to-do list. Maggie McDonald has a penchant for order that isn’t confined to her clients’ closets, kitchens, and sock drawers. As she lays out her plan to transfer her family to the century-old house her husband, Max, has inherited in the hills above Silicon Valley, she expects their new life to fall neatly into place. But as the family bounces up the driveway of their new home, she’s shocked to discover the house’s dilapidated condition. When her husband finds the caretaker face-down in their new basement, it’s the detectives who end up moving in. While the investigation unravels and the family camps out in a barn, a killer remains at large—exactly the sort of loose end Maggie can’t help but clean up.

Mary Feliz picked the perfect location for her debut cozy mystery, a $15 million Craftsman home with barn in a village above the hills of California’s characteristically quirky Silicon Valley.

The setting is delightful. The story opens on Maggie McDonald, a professional organizer, and her family as they arrive at the house on moving day. Family and friends live, or have lived, in this part of California, and of course one reads about Google and its headquarters, yet I never saw this locale as clearly as I did in reading Address to Die For.

Each chapter of the mystery is decorated with a “quotation” from Maggie’s notebooks, and these insights and tips add considerable curb appeal to the story.  Maggie herself, in my opinion, is a major selling point for this new series, aside from the added value of her organizational advice.  She’s smart and strong, not one of the silly (and sometimes stupid) sleuths that have become all too common in today’s cozies, quite likeable and definitely good company.

The supporting cast, for the most part, provides a good foundation, too, with lots of loveable dogs and the family’s pair of cats, Holmes and Watson. Feliz keeps faith with cozy fans, avoiding both bad language and bedroom scenes.  At times, the mystery seems to get away from both Maggie and Feliz, but it is an enjoyable read and a good first effort – and well worth the list price of $3.99 (USD). The few flaws are forgivable, and I’ve added Feliz to my list of authors to follow. Scheduled to Death is scheduled for release in January 2017, and the third in the series, not yet titled, is expected in July 2017.

NOTE:  Lyrical Underground, an imprint of Kensington Books, allowed Sis to preview this debut cozy with  a complimentary advanced reading copy provided via NetGalley.  Sis is grateful for the opportunity and happy to report that her review reflects her own, independent opinions . . . as always.

About the author:  Mary Feliz has lived in five states and two countries but calls Silicon Valley home. Traveling to other areas of the United States, she’s frequently reminded that what seems normal in the high-tech heartland can seem decidedly odd to the rest of the country. A big fan of irony, serendipity, diversity, and quirky intelligence tempered with gentle humor, she strives to bring these elements into her writing, although her characters tend to take these elements to a whole new level. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Authors Guild where she feels at home among those plot to kill. She’s also a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, who seem less blood-thirsty and more interested in the skeletons in the closet.

Visit the author’s website at http://www.maryfeliz.com/


Reining in Murder by Leigh Hearon

Recommended, but with reservations

Kensington Books
Kensington Books

Paperback ($7.99, USD) or Kindle e-book ($5.99)  released Tuesday, 29 March 2016

When horse trainer Annie Carson rescues a beautiful thoroughbred from a roadside rollover, she knows the horse is lucky to be alive … unlike the driver. After rehabilitating the injured animal at her Carson Stables ranch, Annie delivers the horse to Hilda Colbert – the thoroughbred’s neurotic and controlling owner – only to find she’s been permanently put out to pasture. Two deaths in three days is unheard of in the small Olympic Peninsula county, and Annie decides to start sniffing around. She’s confident she can track down a killer … but she may not know how ruthless this killer really is …

Like an untried Thoroughbred, Leigh Hearon’s Reining in Murder (A Carson Stables Mystery) shows a lot of promise – but this clean, cozy mystery set in the world of high-stakes horse competition isn’t quite up to the standard of the blue rosettes.

Annie Carson, the heroine who rescues horses, is well-defined, a woman who’s meant to be a little rough around the edges and as comfortable in her own skin as Trotter, the donkey she keeps on her small farm in the Pacific Northwest.  The storyline is complex, with just a few untidy strands sticking out here and there and begging for a defter hand with the clippers.

Given time, I expect Hearon will grow more comfortable with her skills and give her readers that cleaner, tighter finish that will earn blue ribbons with her future mysteries.  Her prose, for the most part, flows like a smooth and easy trot, but it occasionally breaks into bumps where she flings stable jargon around without explanation, in or out of context, and leaves her readers to hang on as best they can.  Most of them won’t know how.

I’ve ridden horses since my father saved pocket-money to pay for pony rides on Saturdays.  He gave me an ancient cutting horse for my 11th birthday, a horse who’d been put out to pasture and who proved to be perfect for a horse-crazy girl who knew next to nothing.  I now have a 16.3-hand* Palomino Quarter Horse who, over the last eight years, has learned as much as I have.

We both know that I can’t cross-tie him unless I leave his halter on, unlike Annie and that $50,000 Thoroughbred she rescues as the story opens.  My husband only knows what cross-tying is because he drilled the screws for the brackets, after I showed him where I wanted them to go.  My best friends don’t know what cross ties are, much less how to use them.  Nor do they know what cribbing is, or even that it’s a stable vice.  Do they even know what “stable vice” means?  I suspect not.  Nor do they know what I mean when I say that my vet “floated” my horse’s teeth, or whether a flake of hay is bigger or smaller than a bale of hay.

Yet, readers will encounter all of those equine terms in Reining in Murder (A Carson Stables Mystery) and I’m betting few, very few, will know how to decipher them.  Even with the built-in dictionaries on e-readers.

Writing vices like these will pull readers right out of a story, as surely as a wicked buck will fling a rider out of a jump saddle.  (Ask me how I broke my back.)  I don’t know why Hearon’s editors didn’t catch these flaws and insist that she recast the offending sentences.  It’s not fair, not to her, nor to her readers.  Especially not to her readers.  And that’s a shame.  Because the promise is there.  It just isn’t kept with this first book out of the starting blocks of what I believe can become a satisfying series.

As a result, I think this mystery is likely to appeal only to fans of cozy mysteries who know a good bit about horses, or who have the patience and the willingness to work through these flaws for the pleasure of being in on the beginning of a new series.

*The height of horses is measured in “hands,” from the top of the horse’s withers (at the end of the mane, where the neck joins the back) to the ground, with each hand equal to 4 inches.  So, Sis’s horse is 5’7″ tall — a long way to the ground.

Note:  Sis received an advanced reading copy from Kensington Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and independent review.  Sis values her integrity and her independence far too much to exchange either for one book or a library full of them.