A is for Alibi Homicide in Hardcover Killer Hairsecondhand-spirits-200

Were you shocked when you saw that title?  Yes!!  I do read both American mysteries AND contemporary mysteries.  I like to mix things up a bit and be a little wild and crazy!  I have a number that I enjoy but here are four of my favorites.  The best thing about this list is that all of these authors are well-established, so if you enjoy the first book, there are many more in the series.

Crimes of Fashion by Ellen Byerrum
This series might be one of the most witty and charismatic books series I have ever read.  Lacey Smithsonian is a fashion writer for the Washington Eye; her clever and often cutting remarks about the sea of gray in Washington DC is very sharp and well-styled.  Her fashion reporting gets her embroiled in crimes that aren’t related to clothing choices.  What I really enjoy is how fashion serves as a plot device: a type of fabric that is poisonous when wet, an article of clothing used to smuggle heirlooms out of a war-torn country, or when the dress really does make the killer.

Lacey’s best friend and stylist Stella is larger than life and always adds a bit of humanity and humor to the storyline, her on-again, off-again boyfriend Vic Donovan provides more tension and conflict to Lacey’s life, and her mother and sister often pop in for surprise visits that create even more upheaval.  The humor is very well blended with thoughtful plotlines and a great deal of couture research.  The first two books in the series were made into TV movies and were actually quite good.

The Lacey Smithsonian books in order are:
Killer Hair
Designer Knockoff
Hostile Makeover
Raiders of the Lost Corset
Grave Appeal
Armed and Glamorous
Shot Through Velvet
Death on Heels
Veiled Revenge
Lethal Black Dress

Bibliophile Mysteries by Kate Carlisle
I know that I have reviewed the Kate Carlisle Bibliophile books before but I really enjoy them.  Brooklyn Wainwright is a book binder in San Francisco.  She repairs old and often priceless books and returns them to their past glory; however, the world of antique and rare books is very cutthroat and many of her restorations lead to murder.

This series manages to keep me engaged and each of the crimes is believable in the crime itself and Brooklyn’s involvement.  The stories have ranged from books that are smuggled into the country, supposedly lost books, and heirloom children’s books.  Of course, the fact that the story is based in books gripped me at the start, but Carlisle’s characters are who keep me coming back for more.  Brooklyn is worldly and yet naïve; her dreamy English security expect boyfriend Derek is well-developed and not a caricature; and Brookyn’s quirky Deadhead parents provide both humor and insight.

The Bibliophile series in order:
Homicide in Hardcover
If Books Could Kill
The Lies that Bind
Murder Under Cover
One Book in the Grave
Peril in Paperback
A Cookbook Conspiracy
The Book Stops Here
Ripped from the Pages
Books of a Feather (coming June 7, 2016)

Alphabet Mysteries by Sue Grafton
It can be hard to stick with an author over a long time and even more challenging for a writer to maintain a character and series, but Sue Grafton has done with her Alphabet Mysteries.  The stories are set in the 1980’s in Santa Teresa, California.  After a difficult childhood, Kinsey Millhone joined the police academy but quickly realized that she was better at being her own boss.  She gets her private investigator’s license and the rest is history.

Each of the stories in the series is unique, well-plotted, and engaging.  Although I will admit that I enjoyed some of the stories more than others, I always close the book at the last page feeling satisfied at a story well-written.  I have recommended these books to many people, and I have to stress that the series keeps getting better.  The first couple of books were good, but by about the fourth book, I was completely hooked.  Often characters will reappear after a few stories and the reader really feels as if he is getting a snapshot of Kinsey’s life.  I am quite enamored with Kinsey’s geriatric landlord Henry, and Rosie, who runs the restaurant down the road.  When each of the books end, there isn’t the burning need to “read the next one,” but I always enjoy when a new one comes out.  It is a great series to pick up, read a few, take a break, and come back to.

The author is most done with the alphabet and I will be sad when it is over.  The Kinsey Millhone books, in order, are:
A is for Alibis
B is for Burglar
C is for Corpse
D is for Deadbeat
E is for Evidence
F is for Fugitive
G is for Gumshoe
H is for Homicide
I is for Innocent
J is for Judgement
K is for Killer
L is for Lawless
M is for Malice
N is for Noose
O is for Outlaw
P is for Peril
Q is for Quarry
R is for Ricochet
S is for Silence
T is for Trespass
U is for Undertow
V is for Vengeance
W is for Wasted
No word yet on when Y will be released but she usually publishes a book a year.

Witchcraft mysteries by Juliet Blackwell
Lily Ivory is a witch; she lives in San Francisco and is the owner of Aunt Cora’s Attic, a vintage clothing store.  Literally run out of a small Texas town, Lily has finally found a place to call home.  With the aid of her familiar, a gargoyle/pot-bellied pig named Oscar, she lives a quiet life above her story.  Lily’s spell-casting training was never completed and as a result, she often attracts unwanted attention of the supernatural kind.  Aidan Rhodes, a powerful and domineering witch, and a man known only as Sailor, both vie for her attention and her talents.

I really enjoy the supernatural aspect of these stories and especially like how it compliments and expands the plotlines without over-powering or diminishing the story itself.  Lily is a very likable character and the author does a great job at making the reader want to root for her.

The Witchcraft series in order:
Secondhand Spirits
Cast-Off Coven
Hexes and Hemlines
In a Witch’s Wardrobe
Tarnished and Torn
A Vision in Velvet
Spellcasting in Silk
A Toxic Trousseau (coming July 5, 2016)



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