I know I know. It is the height of summer and I still haven’t even presented all the books I read this spring. When I have little time, I tend to rather read than write. Thank god for summer vacation where I finally have time for both.
All the following 12 novels are part of the “Peridale Café Mystery” series. I like Julia with her cafe, her adopted, cheeky daughter Jessie and hot writer boyfriend Barker a lot. Her quirky granny Dot is quite entertaining, esp. since she finds a new hobby in almost every book. It is still one big mystery to me how one village can come up with so many murder cases. But then again I don’t really mind because the novels revolving around Julia who always solves them better and faster than the police are diverting and well written. I also like how the characters are developed over the course of the series. There are always new details about them, their upbringing and their family background.
Espresso and Evil*: When a coffee shop opens in the village, Julia is surprised when her customers flock to the new business, leaving her café almost empty. A failed protest against the corporate chain store leaves Julia wondering if her café can survive, but she suddenly has bigger fish to fry when the owner of the coffee shop is poisoned, and she is framed for his murder.
Macarons and Mayhem*: Excitement blossoms through Peridale when a prestigious gardening magazine picks the village as the spotlight for their next issue, but that joy quickly turns to dread when members of Peridale’s gardening society, The Green Fingers, start dying one by one. Julia is asked to bake macarons for the magazine’s unveiling of ‘The Best Garden in Peridale’ party, but with murder striking the village, she has more important things to worry about!
Fruit Cake and Fear*: A storm hits Peridale with disastrous effects. Barker’s cottage is destroyed, forcing him to move in with Julia, but she has more to worry about than him leaving his socks around and not putting the toilet seat up. Julia is shocked when the storm also uncovers a secret basement underneath her cafe and even more shocked when she finds the body of a teenage girl who has been missing for twenty years.
Birthday Cake and Bodies*: When Julia plans a surprise birthday party for Barker to finally meet his family, she did not expect that party to end in murder! With Barker’s three brothers in the frame, Julia is torn between respecting the man she loves, and her need to investigate! Will Julia be able to uncover the dark family secrets that lie at the heart of cracking this case without leaving behind a trail of destruction?
Gingerbread and Ghosts*: Christmas falls on Peridale, but that does not mean café-owner and part-time sleuth, Julia South, can sit back and enjoy the festivities. When the opening night of the annual Christmas play ends with Julia’s elderly gran, Dot, fatally shooting a man in front of the whole village, Julia’s world is turned upside down. Did Dot plan to murder the man she has a secret past with or was she framed?
Cupcakes and Casualties*: The residents of Peridale don’t like change, so when the famous actress, Candy Bennett, rolls into the village to demolish a historic cottage, things don’t go as smoothly as she would have hoped. With the ‘Peridale Preservation Society’ protesting her plans to build a modern home on the land, things quickly turn sour. Days into the project, Candy’s lead builder, Shane, is murdered and the task to solve the mystery once again falls into Julia’s lap.
Blueberry Muffins and Misfortune*: When Barker’s book launch is ruined by the sudden appearance of a decade-old skeleton, Julia finds herself with another cold case on her hands. It quickly becomes evident that the skeleton belongs to Mabel Crump, the former manager of the library, but with Mabel supposedly having fled Peridale for a new life in Spain ten years previously, how did she end up there, and more importantly, why?
Ice Cream and Incidents*: Julia and her family head to the seaside town of Blackpool for a long weekend under the sun, but the trip is quickly disrupted when the B&B owner’s son is found murdered!
Champagne and Catastrophes*: Julia and Barker have finally set a date for the wedding, but that doesn’t mean Julia has jumped straight into the planning, even though it’s only three months away. With their daughter, Jessie, backpacking around Australia for the month, Julia has no excuse not to start the preparations, but she can’t bring herself to dive into the huge task.
An old school friend of Julia’s moves into the cottage across the lane, and she is over the moon when she finds out that Leah happens to be a wedding planner. Julia feels like fate has delivered Leah to her, but things soon turn sour when it seems not everyone in the village is happy to have Leah back after two decades away. When Leah vanishes under suspicious circumstances days into the wedding planning, Julia quickly learns that her old friend isn’t quite what she thought.
Wedding Cake and Woes*: After nearly a year of being engaged, the time has finally come for Julia and Barker’s wedding, but like most things in Peridale, things don’t exactly go smoothly. Julia wakes up late on the damp and grey morning of her wedding to find that her cake has been ruined, her flowers are the wrong colour, and the cars are stuck in a flood. However, all of that pales in comparison when the choirmaster, Gloria Gray, drops down dead during her solo in the middle of the ceremony.
Red Velvet and Revenge*: When Julia South-Brown is asked to judge the first Peridale Bake Off competition alongside local radio DJ, Tony Bridges, she expects it to be some light village fun while her new husband, Barker Brown, finishes work on his second novel. However, it ends up being anything but when Tony shows he is nothing like his charming radio personality. When someone takes advantage of his severe and well-publicised peanut allergy with a contaminated red velvet cake in the middle of the competition, Julia isn’t surprised to find herself with another murder mystery to solve!
Vegetables and Vengeance*: The villagers of Peridale are excited to uncover the secrets of the past when a time capsule dating back to 1959 is dug up, but things soon take a turn for the worst. The time capsule contains a skeleton, leading Julia South-Brown into another mystery! Who does the skeleton belong to, and why has it been buried under the village green for 60 years?
The following series, “Scarlet Cove”, is partly written by the same author as the “Peridale Café Mystery” series, namely by Agatha Frost. The second writer here is Evelyn Amber. Again, there is a woman around forty who moves to a small town in order to start a new life. In this case Liz retired from her job as a detective and wants to devote herself to painting and selling arts supplies. That obviously doesn’t work out as planned because she stumbles upon several murder cases – and solves them. I was right in a mystery novel mood this spring and can only recommend both series.
Dead in the Water*: When Liz Jones retired as a detective at the age of forty-two and moved to the beautiful fishing town of Scarlet Cove to pursue her passion of opening an arts and crafts store, she did not expect the murder and lies of the big city to follow her. Only days after starting her new life, Liz finds herself tangled in a web of death and deception when she pulls the body of a fisherman from the sea, but what appears at first to be a drunken accident soon reveals itself to be something much worse: poison!
Castle on the Hill*:On the night before Halloween, the people of Scarlet Cove annually gather at the castle on the hill in hopes of spotting the headless spirits that are rumoured to stalk the grounds. What starts off as a silly legend for ex-detective, Liz Jones, soon becomes all too real when she discovers a severed head. Her hopes of settling into her new home on the coast are once again hampered when she is dragged into another murder investigation.
Stroke of Death*:Liz Jones moved to Scarlet Cove six months ago for a fresh start away from her detective life in the city. In that time, she has opened an arts and crafts shop, adopted a dog, made friends, and even found a farmer boyfriend. When she takes on her latest project of forming an art group, she does not expect it to land her back in the middle of another murder investigation, but that is precisely what happens.
And another mystery novel. I didn’t like this one as much as the others because the beginning was rather slow. I also couldn’t relate to Goldy as much as to the other female characters. Nevertheless her solving the murder case was entertaining.
Dying for Chocolate*: Meet Goldy Bear: a bright, opinionated, wildly inventive caterer whose personal life has become a recipe for disaster. She’s got an abusive ex-husband who’s into making tasteless threats, a rash of mounting bills that are taking a huge bite out of her budget, and two enticing men knocking on her door.
Now determined to take control of her life, Goldy moves her business and her son to ritzy Aspen Meadow Country Club, where she accepts a job as a live-in cook. But just as she’s beginning to think she’s got it made–catering decadent dinners and posh society picnics and enjoying the favors of Philip Miller, a handsome local shrink, and Tom Shulz, her more-than-friendly neighborhood cop–the dishy doctor inexplicably drives his BMW into an oncoming bus.
Convinced that Philip’s bizarre death was no accident, Goldy decides to do a little investigating of her own. But sifting through the unpalatable secrets of the dead doc’s life will toss her into a case seasoned with unexpected danger and even more unexpected revelations–the kind that could get a caterer and the son she loves. . .killed.
Finally I read “The Diary of Anne Frank” again because I discussed it with one class in middle school. I still remember how fascinated and deterred I felt when I read the diary for the first time when I had just become a teenager. To me it is a very important piece of literature and it is a great starting point to talk about many different aspects, e.g. Anne’s character (which I actually don’t find very nice), her life before and during Nazi time, and historic facts about the Nazis. In times like these where the extreme right has unfortunately become popular and socially acceptable again, it is important to talk about the past and why we should never want to repeat it.
Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank*: Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.
In 1942, with the Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, the Franks and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annexe” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and surprisingly humorous, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.
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