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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

The Honey Farm: A Novel by Harriet Alida Lye, Liveright Publishing Corporation, US $25.95, Pp 336, May 2018, ISBN 978-1631494345

Impostor Syndrome (The Arcadia Project) by Mishell Baker, Saga Press, US $29.99, Pp 480, March 2018, ISBN 978-1481480185

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.

*****

Cynthia’s once-beautiful honey farm is in trouble. The drought has chased the bees out of it and the soil has dried into sand and dust while the honeycomb feels like wax. All this has made the livestock sick. Indefatigable Cynthia and her assistant Hartford conceive a plan to bring the farm back to life. Their plan is to offer it as an artists’ retreat with free room, board, and “life experience” in exchange for working on the farm along with her. Several artists including aspiring writers, filmmakers, and painters feel it is a good idea and move on the farm. They include Silvia, a wide-eyed graduate and aspiring poet, and Ibrahim, a painter. Soon they feel attracted to each other and become involved in romantic relationship. But they are not ready to face the unexpected on the honey farm. Silvia finds certain events such as taps running red water, scalps itch with lice, frogs swarming the ponds. They were not expecting such happenings at the paradise-like farm and think they are ominous. Soon, residents start leaving the honey farm one by one. As the summer comes to an end, Silvia and Ibrahim start hearing of Cynthia’s secrets and past. They are shocked. The Honey Farm is full of mystery, suspense and thrill. It compels you to look beneath the surface. It is written in beautiful and lyrical language. Harriet Alida Lye is a gifted storyteller. Harriet Alida Lye is a new voice in the world of fiction who holds a lot of promise. It is a great psychological thriller.

Harriet Alida Lye lives in Toronto with her dog Fox. Her essays have been published in VICE, Hazlitt, the Happy Reader, the National Post, and more, and she was a writer-in-residence at Shakespeare & Company in Paris. The Honey Farm is her first novel.

*****

In the third and final book of Arcadia Project series, Millie Roper is back and is ready to pull off two very difficult heists as the fate of the world hangs in the balance. The organization she works for is also in the middle of a big crisis. The Arcadia Project closely watches the interaction between the human world and the magical parallel reality of the Fey Queen. A rift between the agents in London and Los Angeles emerged three months ago and weakened the Arcadia Project. The fey Courts split down the middle as half of them supported the London agents and the other half Los Angeles agents. New Los Angeles agent Mille Roper is sick and is not able to fight back. When London tries to frame Millie’s partner, Tjuan, for attempted homicide, Millie hides him and tries to clear his name. Millie’s investigation takes her across the Pond to the heart of Arcadia at the mysterious and well-guarded White Rose palace. Millie has to penetrate the walls of the palace and get the key to Tjuan’s freedom which is locked in a vault under the fey Queen’s watchful eye. It is now for Millie to plan a heist and shape the future of the two worlds. She may pretend that she knows what she is doing…but does she really? Mishell Baker has successfully mixed humor with action. Her characters seem to belong to the real world and you feel empathy for some of them. Impostor Syndrome is a highly entertaining book, just like the previous two in the series.

Mishell Baker is the author of the Nebula and World Fantasy Award Finalist Borderline, which was also a Tiptree Honor book, as well as the second and third books in The Arcadia Project, Phantom Pains and Impostor Syndrome. She is a 2009 graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and her short stories have appeared in Daily Science FictionBeneath Ceaseless Skies, Redstone Science Fiction, and Electric Velocipede. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children.

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