YULE BE DEAD by Lorraine Bartlett with Gayle Leeson {Christmas Cozy Mystery Review}


Series: Victoria Square, #5
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: November 27, 2018
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★¾


A Christmas crime shocks the merchants of a quaint shopping district in this latest installment of The New York Times bestselling Victoria Square series.

It’s Christmastime, but not everyone is jolly–especially not Vonne Barnett. Her dead body has been found in Victoria Square. Katie Bonner, the manager of Artisan’s Alley, happens to be at the tea shop Vonne’s mother, Francine, owns when the news is delivered.

Vonne left a trail of men behind her so the suspects are many–but the clues are few. A broken teacup leads Katie to one of the suspects, but before she can investigate, she’s attacked. Katie may be closing in on a murderer, but time is ticking because the murderer is definitely closing in on her.


Yule be dead — is that a great Christmas cozy mystery title, or what? This is the fifth book in the Victoria Square series, with Katie Bonner and her Artisan’s Alley merchants gearing up for the busy holiday season. Things get even more hectic when the tea shop owner’s daughter is murdered, and the questions Katie starts asking put her in hot water.

I’ve read one previous book from this series, so it was a delight to reunite with these characters. YULE BE DEAD is part mystery and part Victoria Square saga. Katie has so much going on in her life. She’s managing her business, entertaining her visiting mother-in-law (mother of her late husband), dealing with two romantic interests, and eyeing the tea shop that’s now for sale. While I enjoyed reading about all of those elements, I felt that the murder mystery got somewhat lost in the shuffle, and Katie’s investigation didn’t actually lead to the killer’s identity.

While I was hoping for a stronger mystery, I still greatly enjoyed this book. The characters and their relationships are real and complex, and I’m also looking forward to seeing where Katie’s new venture takes her.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: THE WALLED FLOWER by Lorraine Bartlett

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Series: A Victoria Square Mystery, #2
Publisher: Berkley
Released: February 7, 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher

If Katie Bonner’s late husband hadn’t invested all their savings in the crafts fair Artisans Alley, the Webster mansion could have been hers to remodel into a bed-and-breakfast. Instead that dream belongs to another young couple. But that dream becomes a nightmare when a skeleton is discovered sealed in the walls of the mansion. The bones belong to Helen Winston, who went missing twenty-two years ago. Heather’s aunt, a jewelry vendor at Artisans Alley, asks Kate for help finding her niece’s murderer. The case may be cold, but the killer is very much alive-and ready to go to any lengths to keep past secrets buried…

———

The murder mystery in THE WALLED FLOWER is the most intriguing I’ve read in a long time. Katie Bonner is a young widow, cheated out of owning the property of her dreams, the Webster mansion, because her late husband invested all of their money into the struggling Artisans Alley just before he died. Katie pays a visit to the new owners of the mansion to see their renovations and also to pine away for what she lost. Poor, Katie! While she’s there, a skeleton is found sealed behind a wall, and it’s revealed that the bones are those of Heather Winston, a young woman who went missing 22 years ago.

Heather’s aunt is Rose Nash, a jewelry vendor at Artisans Alley, and also Katie’s good friend. Rose persuades Katie to help her uncover clues that might reveal who Heather’s killer is. Even though Katie has a very full plate with running the crafts fair, finding a new apartment, trying to make peace between squabbling vendors, and fulfilling matron of honor duties for a not-so-close friend’s wedding, she agrees to help out. After all, the town’s lazy-ish detective is not inspired to work hard on a two decades old cold case.

This book grabbed me from the beginning. What a challenge it would be for an amateur sleuth to solve a murder that took place 22 years ago! Where would you begin? Ms. Bartlett has a talent for creating an intricate mystery with many interesting twists and turns. The plot moved at a very fast pace as more clues and characters were introduced. I thought to myself, “How is she ever going to figure this out?!?” This was not an easy one to crack, but Katie Bonner was smart and savvy enough to do it.

THE WALLED FLOWER is the second book in the A Victoria Square Mystery series, but if you haven’t read the first book like me, not to worry. The author gives just enough backstory to get the reader up to speed without spoiling the mystery in the first book. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to fans of cozy mysteries. A clever title for an equally clever story!

Rating: 4½ Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.