Slay Bells Ring by Karen Rose Smith

The winter holidays are fast approaching in the seventh book of the Caprice De Luca Home Staging Mysteries, and what should be a festive time for the residents in a small Pennsylvania town turns to sorrow when a beloved citizen is murdered. Though Caprice De Luca has been warned by family and the police to not interfere in these types of investigations, her inquisitive nature plus the desire to help friends will have her once again trying to find anything that points to the identity of the killer. Though her prying questions sometimes put the amateur detective in danger, it will not stop her from seeking answers. I really enjoyed this compelling mystery where nothing is ever known for certain until the final piece of evidence is revealed. Karen Rose Smith interweaves family matters with countless mysteries, making SLAY BELLS RING delightfully intriguing.

When a couple in Kismet, Pennsylvania decide they want to sell their house, Caprice De Luca offers to use her expertise as a home stager and help them get a quick offer. Since it is November, she uses Christmas decorations to highlight the features in the older home to make it appealing. While talking to Sara Merriweather who lives in the house, Caprice learns that it was her husband Chris’s idea to sell as she really does not want to move. It seems the normally jovial man has been more subdued lately, and his change in personality became more noticeable upon his return from a trip with fellow veterans.

As the days go by and Christmas gets closer, Caprice keeps working with the Merriweathers. Every time she sees Chris, he appears preoccupied, making her wonder what could be bothering him. When he is discovered killed by a Christmas decoration, the whole town is sad to hear the man who crafted toys and even played Santa Claus was dead. With Chris being such a good friend of her dad’s, Caprice wants the culprit found swiftly and perhaps she can find some answers on her own.

There are scenes in the story where holiday fun, family gatherings, and pet antics are taking place, and these events give insight into the nature of Caprice. Her family is extremely important to her, and now that Grant is her fiancé, he is also a vital part of her life. How she interacts with loved ones demonstrates her compassionate side, and this concern is shown to others when a murder occurs. In SLAY BELLS RING, a client is mysteriously killed, and Caprice wants to help his family discover what happened. As more and more details about the life of Chris are exposed, I along with all those investigating felt confused and often at a loss. Karen Rose Smith skillfully sprinkles in informative hints, if one pays very close attention. SLAY BELLS RING has plenty of mysteries to keep the guesses coming.

With the Christmas season being a big part of the story, there are lots of celebrations where tasty food is being served. I certainly want to try out one of the recipes included in the book. The Pennsylvania setting had me remembering my visits to this state, and now I want to revisit. Another entertaining installment in the Caprice De Luca Home Staging Mystery series, and I look forward to more escapades featuring these likable characters.

I voluntarily reviewed the book and all comments are my honest opinion

Series:  Caprice De Luca Mystery – Book 7

Publisher:  Kensington

Releases:  October 31, 2017

Purchase:  http://tinyurl.com/y9ukdy7v

Genre:  Mystery

Author website:  http://karenrosesmithmysteries.com/

Rating:  4.5 Stars

Nearly Nero by Loren D. Estleman

Though I have never read any of the Nero Wolfe stories written by Rex Stout, I have heard about the character that solved crimes without ever leaving his home. NEARLY NERO is a collection of novellas created by Loren D. Estleman, and these imaginatively amusing stories honor the original Nero Wolfe novels. Puns can be found all throughout the book, from titles to details concerning the Brooklyn home and even the characters themselves. Nine of the ten novellas were previously printed in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine while one is new, and in each one, Claudius Lyon along with Arnie Woodbine try to discover the answer to a challenging puzzle. No killings or violent crimes have been carried out, just someone wanting a solution to troubles that have cropped up in their lives. What the perceptive pair deduce left me grinning quite a few times, because what they conclude often has something humorous connected to it.

When Arnie Woodbine answered an ad for a job, the former felon ended up working for Claudius Lyon, an extremely odd individual who has a great love for Nero Wolfe, a man well-known for resolving what actually happened by having somebody else do all the research. Claudius has redone much of his life to match similar aspects in Nero’s, and he now needs someone to help with solving any problems brought to him by having that person do all the physical investigating. So Arnie is now employed and does tasks asked of him in order for Claudius to explain whatever dilemma he has been given. Since neither of them are licensed detectives, no fees are charged, but this fact does not stop the police captain from repeatedly trying to prove they are committing a crime.

After Claudius and Arnie meet and start working together, the two deal with a predicament plaguing someone in every story. A wide variety of people come asking for help, and their problems also greatly vary. But the portly amateur detective and his cunning assistant sort through clues, then make deductions based on fact. While there is not a lot of depth to the novellas because of their length, the information about each case let me make my own guesses as to what was really going on. Arnie is the one who describes what is taking place, and his inner thoughts were often a highlight of a scene. How the final assumptions were reached are frequently shrewd, and I thought the reasoning to be rather comical at times while other logic showed real aptitude. Loren D. Estleman has made me want to check out the original Nero Wolfe stories, as I would like to know about the team who inspired such a fun duo. NEARLY NERO is an entertaining and witty parody.

I voluntarily reviewed the book from the publisher, and all comments are my honest opinion

Publisher:  Gallery Books

Releases:  May 9, 2017

Purchase:  http://tinyurl.com/k9c6glb

Genre:  Mystery

Author website:  http://www.lorenestleman.com/

Rating:  4 Stars

Shades of Wrath by Karen Rose Smith

 

51m1jma2o1lFor the sixth book in the Caprice De Luca Home Staging Mystery series, the danger keeps increasing for the main character who turns amateur sleuth once more when a person in her hometown is murdered. Caprice De Luca is a professional home stager with a reputation for making every detail perfect. She is also curious by nature, and frequently becomes involved when there are lots of questions connected to the killing of someone whom she knows. Getting those much needed answers becomes very important to her, because she not only cares but wants justice. I never knew what would happen in an upcoming scene or who might perhaps be accused of the crime. Karen Rose Smith intricately entwines many clues with possible suspects to make her mysteries exceptionally riveting. Also, the issue of domestic violence is tackled with realism and sensitivity in this story. SHADES OF WRATH intrigues with a wide range of motives and lively characters.

The houses that Caprice De Luca stages are usually being decorated to be sold. But her latest project will be done so women facing a crisis will have a relaxed place to stay. A large older house has been donated to be a women’s shelter, and Wendy Newcomb would like to make the place inviting with help from the talented home stager. Caprice is someone who likes to aid people and even animals in need, so she wants to do her part.

At her first meeting with Wendy, a disagreement with a man known to them both is taking place and Caprice overhears much of it. Later, another appointment never takes place because Wendy is dead and it appears to have not been an accident. Since Caprice knows about a couple of instances where the woman had been confronted by angry individuals, she wonders if one took their rage a step further. Although plenty is going on in her own life at the moment, she still makes time to look for evidence as to what really happened to Wendy before their meeting.

There are numerous activities that Caprice takes part in, and delving into many of them let me get a sense of the person she truly is inside. She loves animals, and helps to find homes for those which are strays. Her work as a home stager is certainly important to her, and clients are treated with respect. Much of her life is centered on family, and gatherings including food are special. I definitely got hungry when several very tasty meals were being prepared. Her romance with Grant is moving forward, and these moments are made personal.  Ms. Smith gives her characters believable temperaments, and Caprice is uniquely delightful. When she cannot keep herself from looking into a murder, then her inquisitive behavior really shines.

In SHADES OF WRATH, the list of those who might be guilty just keeps growing and a few of the additions are unexpected. I always try to read the mysteries of Karen Rose Smith very carefully, as I never know where a hint might be revealed. Once again, I was repeatedly caught off guard when facts are finally disclosed, making the story full of surprises. Caprice may try and stay out of the investigation, but she just seems to wind up in situations where something new is learned and trouble often follows these discoveries. With the way in which the story concluded, I am eager to see what occurs next in Caprice’s life. There are constant mysteries to solve in SHADES OF WRATH, where truths are not guaranteed until the very end.

Copy received from author

Series:  Caprice De Luca Home Staging Mystery

Publisher:  Kensington

Releases:  November 29, 2016

Purchase:  http://tinyurl.com/j2288rp

Genre:   Mystery

Author website:  http://www.karenrosesmithmysteries.com/

Rating:  4.5 Stars

Dead in a Flash by Brynn Bonner

51xmfydE3mL._SY346_For the fourth book in the Family History Mystery series, two simultaneous undertakings by genealogists double the secrets and suspects. Brynn Bonner cleverly interweaves looking into past lives with current events, and the result is an enthralling story packed with unknowns. I became caught up in the many often shocking revelations that came to light throughout the story, as each new disclosure had my mind frantically trying to work out what these new facts meant. But just when I thought my deductions were going in the right direction, another clue about what was actually going on was uncovered, changing my assumptions once again. DEAD IN A FLASH intrigues with countless mysteries.

Since the most recent project Sophreena McClure has taken on is going so well, the genealogist thinks everything will easily be done on time. Working alongside her business partner and good friend Esme Sabatier, they collect information desired by a client and then compile their findings in a scrapbook. If their latest assignment can make a previous senator from North Carolina happy, then hopefully word will spread and more folks will be hiring them. With only one additional interview left, Soph and Esme will soon be finishing up scrapbooks on the senator’s career and his personal family.

Although most of what the two women have found out about the likable older gentleman concerns good times, there was one huge tragedy in his past. When the house where he grew up caught fire, his younger brother was killed. While most everyone thought it was an accident, his parents were certain the incident was deliberate in order to hide the abduction of the infant. When old rumors resurface, their client wants the genealogists to look for clues into what really happened that fateful day. As Soph and Esme begin investigating, they get another task to complete very quickly, yet feel confident it can be finished on time. When someone whom they know is murdered, questions about possible motives keep growing.

When I read a cozy mystery, I want the characters to be just as believable as the storyline and Brynn Bonner always complies. In the Family History Mystery series, I have repeatedly found the two main characters, Soph and Esme to be not only appealing individuals but also very realistic. Even the small touch of supernatural associated with Esme is convincing and can make a situation even more fascinating. The profession of these two distinctive individuals is truly attention-grabbing, as I like learning about any relatives who came before me. It is enjoyable watching them work and make choices about the best way to unearth the background of someone.

There are so many uncertainties in DEAD IN A FLASH, and each worry gets plenty of attention. With Soph and Esme working on two projects at the same time, they encounter lots of issues which need answers before they can hand over the scrapbooks. A murder puts a damper on their investigating, and they are constantly challenged by what they find. But these two dedicated and compassionate genealogists give it their best effort to locate any info. There is a long list of characters in this story, but thankfully their names are different enough that I could keep them all straight. Several people who are special in the lives of Soph and Esme are featured, and I always enjoyed their interactions. I am really eager for another book about the study of family history and unexpected murder. DEAD IN A FLASH captivates with a riveting whodunit.

Received copy from publisher

Series:  Family History Mystery – Book 4

Publisher:  Pocket

Releases:  August 30, 2016

Purchase:  http://tinyurl.com/ju9eb4s

Genre:  Mystery

Author website:  http://brendawitchger.wordpress.com/

Rating:  4.5 Stars

Silence of the Lamps by Karen Rose Smith

51b-1oGDeYLThough Caprice De Luca never intends to become entangled in a local murder, there always seems to be a good reason for her involvement. In the fifth book where her concern for others once again puts her in the middle of a police investigation, the amateur sleuth will not quit seeking answers until her sister is no long a suspect in the killing of a man whose list of enemies just keeps growing. Karen Rose Smith scatters crafty clues throughout the story to keep guesses about the murderer’s identity ever-changing. SILENCE OF THE LAMPS is a cozy mystery filled with compelling situations and engaging characters.

Often when a house that home stager Caprice De Luca has decorated is being shown to potential buyers, her sister, Nikki, does the catering. The food is always tasty, and even goes along with the overall theme of the residence. During one showing, another caterer comes by and criticizes everything about her sibling’s business. Though Drew Pierson once worked for Nikki, they are no longer on friendly terms and he seems determined to prove his business is better than her own. He has even sold one of his special creations to a restaurant chain which will make him a big profit.

When Nikki feels her competitor has taken things too far and wants to confront him, the two sisters go to where Drew lives. But upon arriving at the home where his grandmother also lives, they discover him murdered. Afterward, several good reasons for someone to want the scheming caterer dead are exposed. While Caprice may have been a great help in solving a few murders in the area, she is warned to not interfere in this latest case. Concerned that the police might think her sister is somehow linked, the home stager slyly begins asking questions to see where their answers lead.

Reading about Caprice De Luca and her never dull life causes plenty of entertainment, as I find her to be an interesting person. She is very enthusiastic when it comes to her home staging business, and seeing what items she picks out for her themes is certainly fascinating. Karen Rose Smith puts much effort into making her stories come across as realistic, and I enjoy reading about the descriptions of the objects used in particular houses. Caprice is devoted to her family, friends and the many animals in her life, as she makes sure each receives the required amount of attention to let them know they are cherished by her. She is someone willing to go the extra step when she knows her help is needed, and I certainly admired her tenacity to give her all when anything is attempted. But she is human, and her doubts about her relationship with Grant just made her more genuine.

Karen Rose Smith excels when it comes to cozy mysteries. It is easy to become immersed in the lives of the many reoccurring characters, and I am always eager to learn what is presently happening to them. The mysterious homicide in any Caprice De Luca story is cleverly concocted, and the murder in SILENCE OF THE LAMPS is truly cunning. As facts about the victim of the killing are uncovered, my deductions constantly altered. Until all is revealed, I was taken on a journey of surprisingly disclosures. I am already eager to see what occurs in the next Caprice De Luca Mystery.

Copy received from author

Series:  Caprice De Luca Mystery

Publisher:  Kensington

Releases:  April 26, 2016

Purchase:  http://tinyurl.com/jlxqy3n

Genre:   Mystery

Author website:  http://www.karenrosesmithmysteries.com/

Rating:  4.5 Stars