The Santa Suit -Mary Kay Andrews

Newly divorced Ivy Perkins has purchased a white farmhouse, sight unseen, in the small town of Tarburton, North Carolina. Having shopped and completed all transactions related to the home purchase online, she is a bit dismayed at the condition she finds the home in when she arrives. Fully furnished, with old, dusty pieces and other junk left from years past, Ivy spends her first few days going through rooms and closets, packing things up for the local thrift store, with the help of her surprisingly young, good-looking realtor, Ezra. She pulls a box down from the top shelf of a closet, and finds an old, beautifully crafted Santa suit, that must have belonged to the prior homeowner. In a pocket she finds an old letter, written by a young child, Carlette, asking Santa to please bring her father home from the war. Intrigued that Santa had held onto this letter, Ivy begins to wonder what became of Carlette and her family…

As Ivy starts exploring her new hometown, she quickly befriends some of the locals, including a young girl set to marry a soldier she’s not yet met, a woman getting ready to close her family’s candy shop at the end of the year and a delightful 96-year-old long time resident of Tarburton. Meanwhile, she’s slowly developing an attraction to Ezra, even as she tries to tell herself otherwise…

But Christmas is coming to small town Carolina, and with Christmas, miracles can happen…

This was a sweet, heartwarming story, with all the feels, that has me more than nostalgic for past Christmas seasons. A quick, satisfying read, and I might have shed a happy tear or two before I turned the last page. I loved it! A wonderful story to start off the holiday season! 

I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from #Netgalley & St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an objective review. 

What You Deserve – Alicia Lawson

FBI Special Agent Erin Hastings is reveling in her recent arrest, achieved after ignoring a superiors’ order, when she is called to assist with another couple of unsolved slayings – this time in California, much too close to the hometown she thought she’d fled forever, after discovering that her twin brother, was in fact a killer – a fact that haunts her to this day. 

From the start, Erin seems to be a petulant individual, constantly at odds with her superior officer, Brody – behavior I wouldn’t expect to be tolerated in a rural police force, much less the FBI – but it’s fiction, with the promise of a series to come, so I just kept on reading. When Erin goes to visit her brother and re-establishes a relationship, it was hard not to like him more!

As the investigation heats up, and the team finds a probable suspect, that’s when the storyline really picked up for me!  The plot twists were unexpected, frustrating, but captured my interest as I plowed through the remainder of the novel. I also think the second of the series cannot come fast enough, as there were definitely a few strings left, just waiting to be pulled in successive novels, a vengeful predator in particular! 

Not a bad start for what is sure to be another great mystery series down the road. Hopefully Erin’s character will develop more depth as the series continues – I have no doubt that Ms. Lawson will find her stride!  I look forward to Erin’s next adventure!

I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from #Netgalley & Relay Publishing, in exchange for an objective review. 

Marked Man – Archer Mayor

A medical student is laboring over his patient in the anatomy lab, when he makes an unexpected discovery – a broken hyoid bone in a patient who supposedly died of natural causes. A trip to the medical examiners office results in a reclassification of Nathan Lyon’s death to suspicious, likely consistent with a strangulation. 

Special Agent Joe Gunther of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation catches the case and begins with the deceased’s family where he finds an unusual living arrangement, containing all of Nathan’s diverse, extended family living in a luxurious, spacious, renovated old mill. The set-up of each of the characters in the family was intriguing – like a logic problem, or a Clue game. It took me quite a while to remember who each of the family members were, and how they were related, and why. 

Meanwhile, a couple of old mob thugs appear, Eddie & Fredo, looking to right an old wrong. Eddie has just been released from prison after a multi-year stint for taking the blame for a murder he did not commit, with the promise that the mob would reward him for his sacrifice. Eddie now is trying to collect on that promise, but most of the players are dead. But that will not stop him from trying…

As the investigation commences, and Joe and his team, along with other familiar faces including Willy, Sally Kravitz and Bev’s daughter Rachel, try to piece together the lives and occupations of the famed Mill residents. As Joe digs deeper into Nathan’s life, he discovers a past identity, and thanks to DNA technology, the ripple effects that gone events are causing in the present, resulting in murder…

I always love re-visiting some of my old New England haunts in Archer Mayor’s series, and it is always a delight to see his beloved characters grace my pages again. While I had a bit of difficulty keeping my characters straight at times, and I often scratched my head trying to figure out where the storyline was going, it all finally comes together, making this a very satisfying read! 

I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from #Netgalley & St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an objective review. 

Her Deadly Touch – Lisa Regan

It’s been four months since Josie’s last case – a double murder on her wedding day, where her grandmother Lisette was killed in front of her. Josie is preparing to return to work after an extended suspension/leave, which has included visits with a psychologist as she struggles to come to terms with Lisette’s death.  As she’s leaving her appointment, she turns on the radio to learn that a local woman is missing – one of the parents of a group of children killed in a school bus accident two years ago – interesting as the trial of the former bus driver is due to begin shortly. A quick detour to visit to her ex-husbands’ cemetery memorial leads to Josie stumbling upon the missing woman’s body – very obviously a homicide. 

As the Denton PD responds to Josie’s call for help to secure the scene, Josie, Noah & Gretchen begin their investigation. The victim was a single parent who, other than attending group therapy sessions with the other grieving parents, isolated herself from everyone after the death of her daughter. So, who would want to kill her – and why? 

As the team gathers background information, they learn that the families of the deceased children – and of the bus driver accused of killing them – all live in the same neighborhood with homes very close to one another. Interviews with each individual offer glimpses into the lives of the others, and the entanglements & secrets that existed between all of them. Shortly thereafter, another parent goes missing and is found dead, the circumstances eerily similar to the first murder. But who wants these parents dead? And why? 

This book had a bit of a different, sadder flavor than those earlier in the series. Between the loss of Josie’s beloved Lisette, and the loss of the five children as a preface to this novel, it was much more somber read than usual, and a bit hard to see Josie struggle with her sorrow – but none-the-less, a good solid ‘whodunit’ from one of my most favorite authors! 

I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from #Netgalley & Bookouture in exchange for an objective review.