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Shot in the Dark (A Coffeehouse Mystery) by Cleo Coyle, Berkley, US $27.00, Pp 352, April 2018, ISBN 978-0451488848

The Marmalade Murders: A Penny Brannigan Mystery by Elizabeth J. Duncan, Minotaur Books, US $26.99, Pp 288, April 2018, ISBN 978-1250101495

Shot in the Dark is set in New York City and the story happens at the Village Blend, a coffeehouse that has become a hookup hot spot. It was not always a hookup hot spot. A new smartphone dating app has elevated its status and made it attractive for young old people alike. Village Blend manager Clare Cosi has problems with many such dates at the coffeehouse particularly when she sees her octogenarian employer selecting suitors with the help of his smartphone. The business at the coffeehouse is booming and the smartphone app is definitely one of the reasons for this surge in business. As people come to date, the expresso shots flow. But another kind of shot during a dark night changes everything and Clare has to cope with the dead body. The Village Blend loses this elevated status when a gunshot leaves a dead body at the coffeehouse. The Corpse is not only known as a successful entrepreneur but also for his “hit it and quit it” modus operandi. He is always prowling for women on dating apps and devastating these women the morning after. When the NYPD arrests one of his recent victims, Clare believes she has not been framed. Clare seeks and gets help from her husband and the crew of quirky baristas in order to start what she calls “swiping” through suspects in her own shop. She is determined to find the real killer before another falls victim. The characters in Shot in the Dark are immensely vibrant characters. Cleo Coyle never disappoints her readers and writes with wit and grace. Shot in the Dark is thoroughly enjoyable novel.

Cleo Coyle is a pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi, writing in collaboration with her husband, Marc Cerasini. Both are New York Times bestselling authors of the Coffeehouse Mysteries—now celebrating more than ten years in print. As Alice Kimberly, they also write the nationally bestselling Haunted Bookshop Mysteries. Alice has worked as a journalist in Washington, D.C., and New York, and has written popular fiction for adults and children. A former magazine editor, Marc has authored espionage thrillers and nonfiction for adults and children.

*****

The Marmalade Murders is set in the beautiful Welsh town of Llanelen where Canadian expat Penny Brannigan and her business partner, Victoria, have been running a successful spa business for the last thirty years. Penny Brannigan is to judge the children’s pet contest at the local agricultural show. She has also planned to join Victoria in checking in the home crafts a day before the show. It is going to be a friendly competition. The town and county folk gather for the outdoor competition of farm animals and indoor competition of cakes, pies, and pastries, as well as vegetables and fruit. But, there is another kind of competition this year – a competition of murders. Penny Brannigan, who is also amateur sleuth, is helping with the intake of the domestic arts entries notices that the president of the Welsh Women’s Guild isn’t there to see her granddaughter and pet pug win a prize. She concludes something is wrong somewhere. Their suspicions come true when the agricultural show’s president’s black Labrador ‘Retriever’ discovers the body of the missing woman under the baked goods table. When they suspect a trans-woman, amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan does not agree. She takes it upon herself to find the real killer. But another body is discovered days later. It is now up to Penny to figure out what happened — and more importantly — why. The Marmalade Murders — the ninth book in award-winning mystery series — is a light mystery that is extraordinarily delightful and entertaining. Elizabeth J. Duncan is a formidable storyteller when it comes to telling a light mystery. It is a must-read for mystery-loving readers.

Elizabeth J. Duncan is a winner of the Bloody Words Best Light Mystery Award and has been a finalist for the Agatha and Arthur Ellis Awards. She has worked as a writer and editor for some of Canada’s largest newspapers, including the Ottawa Citizen and Hamilton Spectator. Duncan is a faculty member of the Humber School for Writers. She lives in Toronto, Canada and enjoys spending time each year in North Wales. Elizabeth is the author of the Penny Brannigan Mystery series, including Murder on the HourSlated for Death, and The Cold Light of Mourning.

*****

 

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