Thursday, September 4, 2008

20 Short Summer Vacation Mysteries (Anthology)


Detectives make their reputations solving cases of murder and mayhem. Ever wonder what happens when they try to get away from it all?

In this summertime crime spree, twenty of today’s best mystery writers- from award winners to fan favorites, to soon-to-be-discovered talent- take their series sleuths on holiday. So pour a glass of lemonade, kick back, and soak up these original tales of steamy suspense.

Title: And the Dying is Easy
Edited by: Joseph Pittman & Annette Riffle
Start & Finished: 4/29/08- 5/7/08
Published: 2001
Publisher: Signet
Pages: 387 (total)
Genre: Anthology-Mystery

Everyone needs a summer vacation, even characters from mystery series! Of course when they go on vacation, the mayhem just seems to follow them. Signet is one of the best publishers of cozy mysteries and this anthology of "All-New Summertime Suspense" proves it. There is something for every type of fan from culinary, private eye, pet, and even a historical cozy or two as well.

While researching these authors and their series I was surprised that quite a few of them no longer are being published. In fact, many of these series came to a halt soon after this anthology was published! 2001 wasn’t that long ago was it? Well for those whose series are still going strong, I’ll be picking some of them up soon!

Title: Salt on the Rim
Author: Jeff Abbott
Series: Whit Mosley Mystery
Pages: 21

Agatha Award winning author Jeff Abbott’s newest series character Whit Morley, got his start in the first short story of this anthology called Salt on the Rim. Morley is Port Leo, Texas’ local justice of the peace and coroner who takes a load off a couple of times a week at the nearest waterside bar. One night a flirtatious woman walks in and the next day he finds himself investigating her death. It looks like a simple car wreck but he’s not so sure.

I had never heard of Abbott before I read his story but I can’t say I really liked how the story was laid out because the audience didn’t receive any clues (at least not any that I was aware of) as to who the killer was. For half the story you’re not even sure there is one! I think it just wasn’t long enough to really get to know any of the characters. I’ve never read a book where the investigator was a judge before so it did leave me wanting to pick up at least one of the books in the Whit Mosley series to get to know the character better.

Whit Mosley Series: A Kiss Gone Bad, Black Jack Point, Cut and Run

Title: A Case of Feline Psychopathology
Author: Lydia Adamson
Series: Alice Nestleton Mystery
Pages: 12

Lydia Adamson’s cat behavior expert and sometimes sleuth Alice Nestleton gets a call from an old friend to help out on a cold case in A Case of Feline Psychopathology. It looked like a standard suicide case at the time but now the retired detective thinks there may be something more to it and the only witness is the victim’s cat.

Cats are among some of my favorite animals but I’ve never read any of the cozy mysteries that use them as essential characters in their plots, at least not yet. After reading this short story I have to say I’m intrigued about the main character and what she does. I’m also very impressed that Adamson was able to write a complete story that was actually good in so few pages so now I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do with a complete novel. Considering that there are over 20 books in this particular series (she has two other series that also include animals in the plots- the Deirdre Quinn Nightingales and the Lucy Wales), I have a lot to choose from!

The Alice Nestleton Series: A Cat in the Manger, A Cat of a Different Color, A Cat in Wolf's Clothing, A Cat in the Wings, A Cat by Any Other Name, A Cat with a Fiddle, A Cat in a Glass House, A Cat with No Regrets, A Cat on the Cutting Edge, A Cat in Fine Style, A Cat on a Winning Streak, A Cat Under the Mistletoe, A Cat in a Chorus Line, A Cat on a Beach Blanket, A Cat on Jingle Bell Rock, A Cat on Stage Left, A Cat of One's Own, A Cat With the Blues, A Cat With No Clue, A Cat Named Brat, A Cat on the Bus

Title: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Author: Ann Campbell
Series: Annie O’Hara & Claudius Mystery
Pages: 18

Another short story that includes an animal as a character is Ann Campbell’s Let Sleeping Dogs Lie. Annie O’Hara and her retired prison dog Claudius sniff out crime in this good, but short-lived series (only three books were published). According to the local beauty parlor gossip (run by the larger than life LaKeisha), a local man’s wife might be trying to kill him and Annie has to decide whether or not to meddle.

This story had two of the most colorful characters I’ve seen in this anthology yet, and one of them is a dog! Claudius is a German shepherd who seems headstrong and yet also very intelligent to the point where if you take some of the words out of context you would believe the thoughts were that of a person. The other character I liked was LaKeisha the beauty parlor owner because she’s incredibly vibrant and just an altogether interesting character. I’m hoping that she appears in some of the books in the series. There were one or two little things about the story that I didn’t care for but overall I liked it.

Annie O’Hara & Claudius Series: Wolf at the Door, Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, Wolf Tracks

Title: The Chocolate Kidnapping Clue
Author: JoAnna Carl
Series: The Chocoholic Mysteries
Pages: 19

In The Chocolate Kidnapping Clue, JoAnna Carl first introduces her Chocoholic Mystery series heroine Lee McKinney. When Lee was 16 years old, she visited her aunt and uncle in Warner Pier, Michigan to work in their gourmet chocolate shop while her parents got a divorce back home in Texas. Being homesick and lonely she started spending her free time on the beach which is where she stumbles upon a kidnapping and an attempted murder.

JoAnna Carl is one of my newest favorite cozy mystery writers and the whole reason I picked up this anthology in the first place. It’s such a good series and that comes across well in this short story which I thoroughly enjoyed!

The Chocoholic Mystery Series: The Chocolate Cat Caper, The Chocolate Bear Burglary, The Chocolate Frog Frame-Up, The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle, The Chocolate Mouse Trap, The Chocolate Bridal Bash, The Chocolate Jewel Case, The Chocolate Snowman Murders

Title: Never Neck at Niagara
Author: Edie Claire
Series: Leigh Koslow Mystery
Pages: 18

A weekend getaway to Niagara Falls sounds like heaven to amateur sleuth Leigh Koslow in Never Neck at Niagara. Even if her significant other will be working the entire trip, she should still be able to find something to do. While out biking she overhears a man planning to murder his wife so she warns her. After a woman shows up dead the next day, Leigh herself might not make it home alive.

Niagara Falls sounds like a beautiful and very dangerous place! Edie Claire is another author whom I’ve never heard of before but from what I can tell, her amateur sleuth doesn’t really have anything to distinguish herself from other similar characters. I did like her short story though because it was set in a unique location and the mystery itself was complete (even if it too could have benefitted by being a little longer).

Leigh Koslow Series: Never Buried, Never Sorry, Never Preach Past Noon, Never Kissed Goodnight, Never Tease a Siamese

Title: Unreasonable Doubt
Author: Max Allan Collins
Series: Nathan Heller Mystery
Pages: 20

Max Allan Collins is a popular mystery author who has also written novels, comics, screenplays, and some of his books have even been made into films. His Nathan Heller series is one of his best known works and this short story Unreasonable Doubt is a part of it. A Chicago private investigator by trade, Heller and his wife are on vacation in LA visiting friends and a branch of his detective agency when he takes Walter Overell on as a client. A day later he finds himself investigating the murder of Walter and his wife.

How interesting! The whole series is set in Chicago during the 30s-40s era and the main character involves himself in famous crimes that happened around that time. This particular story is based on the infamous Overell murder case that happened in 1947. I will certainly be picking some of Collins books up soon if they are anything like this story.

Nathan Heller Series: True Detective, True Crime, The MillionDollar Wound, Neon Mirage, Stolen Away, Dying in the PostWar World, Carnal Hours, Blood and Thunder, Damned in Paradise, Flying Blind, Majic Man, Angel in Black, Kisses of Death, Chicago Confidential

Title: Murder Can Hurt Your Ears
Author: Selma Eichler
Series: Desiree Shapiro Mystery
Pages: 23

“Henna-haired and weighty food-lover” private investigator Desiree Shapiro is on a forced vacation in Aruba with her friend in Murder Can Hurt Your Ears when the elderly lady in the suite next door is murdered. After overhearing the murder itself, Desiree is determined to find out if what she thinks she heard is what happened.

The Desiree Shapiro books are a long running, well-loved series and that comes across in this really good short story. I loved the main character! She’s funny and she embraces the way she looks wholeheartedly. This is another series I’m going to have to try out soon.

Desiree Shapiro Series: Murder Can Kill Your Social Life, Murder Can Ruin Your Looks, Murder Can Stunt Your Growth, Murder Can Wreck Your Reunion, Murder Can Spook Your Cat, Murder Can Singe Your Old Flame, Murder Can Spoil Your Appetite, Murder Can Upset Your Mother, Murder Can Cool Off Your Affair, Murder Can Rain On Your Shower, Murder Can Botch Up Your Birthday, Murder Can Mess Up Your Mascara, Murder Can Run Your Stockings, Murder Can Depress Your Dachshund, Murder Can Crash Your Party

Title: Journey’s End
Author: Hazel Holt
Series: Sheila Malory Mystery
Pages: 19

British cozy mystery writer Hazel Holt’s sleuth Sheila Malory is traveling through the Scottish Highlands with her friend and their Antiquarians group in Journey’s End when one of the unlucky party falls into the gorge of the Falls of Shin. Was it an accident, or was it murder?

There wasn’t much of a mystery to this story. The person dies and then a few pages later someone confesses as to why. There were a lot of references to locations that I’m sure someone from the UK would understand but I didn’t. This was my first “British cozy” and I have to say I was a little disappointed.

Mrs. Malory Series: Gone Away, The Cruelest Month, The Shortest Journey, An Uncertain Death, Murder on Campus, Superfluous Death, Death of a Dean, The Only Good Lawyer, Dead and Buried, A Fatal Legacy, Lilies that Fester, Leonora, Delay of Execution, Death in Practice, The Silent Killer, No Cure for Death, Death in the Family, A Time to Die

Title: The Body in the Bay
Author: Peter King
Series: Jack London Mystery
Pages: 23

According to Peter King, before Jack London became a famous author he was a detective and a pretty good one at that. In The Body in the Bay he discovers what the title implies while out fishing with a friend and later he finds himself with Lillie Langtry as a client. Some important letters have been stolen and her bodyguard has gone missing. Blackmail, kidnapping, and murder are all a part of this plot set in San Francisco during the late 1800s.

Call of the Wild and White Fang were two of my favorite books growing up and it was a cool experience to walk with the fictional detective based on the real author. Peter King is a very good writer who is able to take the audience back in time easily, make the characters seem real, and still have an interesting (and complete) mystery.

Jack London Series: The Jewel of the North, Dead Man's Coast, The Golden Gate Murders

Title: The Jungle
Author: John Lantigua
Series: Willie Cuesta Mystery
Pages: 16

The smell of bananas and hate are in the air when Willie Cuesta comes to Palm Beach to investigate threatening phone calls being made to a wealthy old man who got rich off of bananas and other peoples suffering in John Lantigua’s short story The Jungle.

This was an interesting story and I liked the main character too but it was by no means my favorite in this anthology. The author wasn’t able to make me care whether the mean old man died or not and the ending was just too easy. From what I’ve heard about the author’s books they seem like they would be very good though.

Willie Cuesta Series: Player's Vendetta, The Ultimate Havana, The Lady from Buenos Aires

Title: The Loch Ness Mystery
Author: Sam McCarver
Series: John Darnell Mystery
Pages: 23

John Darnell is a paranormal detective, the “world’s first detective specializing in apparent supernatural events”. His wife and he are on a case/ vacation in Scotland in The Loch Ness Mystery after a tourist dies under mysterious circumstances and the photo he took of what could be the legendary “Nessie” is stolen.

Sam McCarver’s characters are well-developed and so is his mystery. This seems like a really cool series and this story was certainly one of my favorites in the anthology. I can’t say I believe in old Nessie but I can’t say that I don’t either. I do love to hear stories about the sightings of her (or would that be it?) though!

The John Darnell Series: The Case of Cabin 13, The Case of Compartment 7, The Case of the 2nd Seance, The Case of the Ripper's Revenge, The Case of the Uninvited Guest, To Die, or Not to Die

Title: Porridge and Bess
Author: Tamar Myers
Series: Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery
Pages: 16

Culinary cozy mystery author Tamar Myer’s spunky heroine Magdalena Yoder is vacationing in Charleston, South Carolina in the short story Porridge and Bess. When her unpleasant tour guide dies, using her incredible observation skills she is able to present the investigator with the murderer.

My favorite kind of cozy mysteries are the culinary ones like Joanne Fluke and JoAnna Carl so although I haven’t read any of her books, I have heard of Myers’ Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries. Magdalena Yoder’s personality threw me off at first but by the end of the story I really liked her. I’m going to have to add some of the books in her series to my growing wishlist but I’m not sure if I’ll try the recipe for the shrimp and grits that is provided at the end of this story. Yuck!

Pennsylvania Dutch Series: Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Crime, No Use Dying Over Spilled Milk, Just Plain Pickled to Death, Between a Wok and a Hard Place, Eat, Drink, and Be Wary, Play it Again, Spam, The Hand That Rocks the Ladle, The Crepes of Wrath, Gruel and Unusual Punishment, Custard's Last Stand, Thou Shalt Not Grill, Assault and Pepper, Grape Expectations, Hell Hath No Curry, As the World Churns

Title: Missing, Presumed...
Author: Dana Stabenow
Series: Alaskan Mystery
Pages: 18

Bill the bartender/magistrate and Moses the shaman from Dana Stabenow’s Liam Campbell series meet for the first time in Missing, Presumed.... Set in Alaska where most of the population makes their living from fishing, Bill presides over a case where the jury has to decide whether or not a man has died (presumptive-death hearing). Not exactly the summer vacation she was hoping for!

Interesting little tidbits of law sprinkled throughout the story but I wasn’t pleased with the ending. I did like the story and the characters though. All of Stabenow’s books are set in her home state of Alaska and they sound like they might be good too even if the main characters from this story are only minor ones in the novels.

Liam Campbell Series: Fire and Ice, So Sure of Death, Nothing Gold Can Stay, Better to Rest

Title: Call it Dead Time
Author: Andy Straka
Series: Frank Pavlicek Mystery
Pages: 20

In Call it Dead Time by Andy Straka, private investigator Frank Pavlicek is about to go on vacation when his old partner (now a falconer and “security consultant”) from when they worked at the NYPD together calls him for help on a murder case. Postponing his plans for awhile, Pavlicek agrees to come help catch a killer but the victim isn’t exactly what he expected.

Not my favorite story but it was enjoyable. I like how the author took the standard idea of the anthology “a murder happens while the sleuth is on vacation”, and turned it on it’s ear. Pavlicek isn’t a falconer yet in this story but it is where he decides to become one.

Frank Pavlicek Series: A Witness Above, A Killing Sky, Cold Quarry

Title: Not a Monster of a Chance
Author: Denise Swanson
Series: Scumble River Mystery
Pages: 14

Denise Swanson’s small town of Scumble River, Illinois has an amateur sleuth named Skye Denison who is quite good at solving mysteries. Set shortly after the second book in the series, Not a Monster of a Chance features school psychologist Skye as a lifeguard during the summer season. Soon after a couple of kids claim to have seen a “monster” in the lake, she witnesses a very mysterious drowning.

I’ve seen a couple of Swanson’s books around but I’ve never read anything by her before. This seems like a great series! I really loved this story and the mystery was really good. The characters are also genuinely interesting people with great personalities. I can’t wait to pick up some of the other books by the author.

Scumble River Series: Murder of a SmallTown Honey, Murder of a Sweet Old Lady, Murder of a Sleeping Beauty, Murder of a Snake in the Grass, Murder of a Barbie and Ken, Murder of a Pink Elephant, Murder of a Smart Cookie, Murder of a Real Bad Boy, Murder of a Botoxed Blonde, Murder of a Chocolate-Covered Cherry

Title: Corpse on a Holy Day
Author: Peter Tremayne
Series: Sister Fidelma Mystery
Pages: 19

Peter Treymane’s Sister Fidelma is on a religious pilgrimage to the places where St. Declan preached during Corpse on a Holy Day. Once the group reaches the place where the saint is buried, a recently dead body is found in the open sarcophagus.

I didn’t really care for this short story for a variety of reasons but the main one being that the characters are thrust upon you with no warning and none of them, not even the main character has an exceptionally likeable personality. There are also a ton of references to Ireland’s religious system that I just didn’t understand like Sister Fidelma is “a dálaigh, or advocate, of the law courts of the five kingdoms of Ireland”. Maybe it’s explained better and the characters are more developed in the actual series but this story just didn’t impress me. I wasn’t even aware while I was reading it that the story isn’t set in modern times but in the seventh century!

Sister Fidelma Series: Absolution by Murder, Shroud for the Archbishop, Suffer the Little Children, The Subtle Serpent, The Spider's Web, Valley of the Shadow, The Monk Who Vanished, Act of Mercy, Hemlock at Vespers, Our Lady of Darkness, Smoke in the Wind, The Haunted Abbot, Badger's Moon, The Leper's Bell, Whispers of the Dead, Master of Souls, A Prayer for the Damned, Dancing with Demons, Council of the Cursed

Title: Lightning Strikes Twice
Author: Judith Van Gieson
Series: Claire Reynier Mystery
Pages: 15

In Lightning Strikes Twice, Judith Van Gieson’s librarian and rare books expert Claire Reynier goes on a trip to visit her childhood best friend who was raped when she was 12 and has since oppressed all the memories from her childhood. After finally talking about it after all those years, Claire’s friend repeats something the man said and she knows she has heard it before somewhere but where? Since finding out might bring back some of those memories, Claire is determined to do so.

Another story that I really enjoyed even though it wasn’t a murder mystery and was essentially a cold case. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have a clue who the author of the story was because the story itself can stand on it’s own incredibly well. My favorite quote was “librarians were known as the keepers of memory” and I loved how the main character Claire proved that in the end.

Claire Reynier Series: The Stolen Blue, Vanishing Point, Confidence Woman, Land of Burning Heat, The Shadow of Venus

Title: Under the Big Black Sun
Author: k.j.a. Wishnia
Series: Filomena Buscarsela Mystery
Pages: 17

Nominated for the prestigious mystery author awards (the Edgar and Anthony) for the first book in his Filomena Buscarsela series, k.j.a. Wishnia’s main character is on vacation in Miami with her daughter during the short story Under the Big Black Sun. In which an obnoxious man she had met earlier is murdered and the local cops think it’s an open and shut case but Filomena knows that there is something more going on.

I wasn’t too sure if I would like this story or not but I’m so glad I did! k.j.a. Wishnia’s main character Filomena is another ex-NYPD cop turned private detective with an attitude. The plot of the story is focused and interesting and there was a lot about the story I liked but it should have been longer.

Filomena Buscarsela Series: Flat Rate and Other Tales, 23 Shades of Black, Soft Money, The Glass Factory, Red House, Blood Lake

Title: Serve and Volley
Author: Matt Witten
Series: Jacob Burns Mystery
Pages: 23

Up in Adirondacks there is a little community built around what the locals call Lake Chutzpah where Matt Witten’s character Jacob Burns and his family vacation. During the story Serve and Volley one of the richer members of this utopian community’s rude, arrogant teenage son is killed soon after a volleyball game where he makes a few enemies. After Jacob’s friend is arrested, he sets out to find out who really killed the boy.

This was a great story! Loved the idyllic setting and how the authors main character reflects the author to a degree (like his character, Witten also writes screenplays for shows like House, Women’s Murder Club, CSI: Miami, etc. and has even been nominated for an Emmy). The murder in the book was unfortunate but I couldn’t find any sympathy for the victim. I might have to try out a few of the authors books even though it seems that he has stopped writing mysteries after his fourth story in this series.

Jacob Burns Series: Breakfast at Madeline's, Grand Delusion, Strange Bedfellows, The Killing Bee

Title: Sweet Rewards
Author: Wayne Worcester
Series: Dr. Watson Mystery
Pages: 18

Last but certainly not least in this anthology is Wayne Worcester’s last story in his Dr. Watson series starring Sherlock Holmes called Sweet Rewards. In it, Dr. Watson convinces Holmes to take a holiday to Shoreham by the Sea. As luck would have it, someone keels over in the lobby of their hotel and Holmes soon deduces that the victim was smuggling a stolen painting.

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never actually read any of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries or seen any of the movies but I have of course heard of the man. If the originals are anything like Worcester’s imagining of them, I will have to make sure to read them soon. This was such an interesting story!

Dr. Watson Series: The Monster of St. Marylebone, The Jewel of Covent Garden


  1. I'm impressed that you went into so much detail. Some great titles in there!

  2. Wow, at first I was thinking these were all seperate books you had read, and I was like, WHOA! And I got really interested in the cat book, as they are also my favorite animal. But then I figured it out. Fun anthology!

  3. Naida: Thanks! There are a couple of series here that I wouldn't mind reading sometime soon.

    Lenore: I think some of the titles might be even better than the stories lol :)

    Carolyn Jean: Yeah, it might help if I put that it's an anthology in the title lol. There are like 20 different books in that cat series. I think they sound really interesting and I'm wondering why the author decided to stop writing them.

  4. Thank you for the reviews, Jen! I have discovered that mystery short stories are often hit and miss with me. They tend not to be enough to quench my thirst for a mystery--and yet I keep reading them, hoping to find that perfect one. I do enjoy other types of short stories though.



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