A Virginia mall is the backdrop for Die Buying, a fun mystery by Laura DiSilverio (Berkley Prime Crime; paperback, $7.99). After her military career was cut short by a roadside bomb, E.J. Ferris couldn’t get hired by a real police department, so she chafes at that “mall cop” title while patrolling the food courts and slick storefronts of Fernglen Galleria on her Segway. When a body shows up in a window display, E.J. duels with a local detective to solve the murder — and others that follow. Aided by her grandfather, who’s retired from the CIA, E.J. puts equal muscle into tracking the mall murderer and nabbing an escaped python named Agatha. As one of the merchants reminds her: “This is a mall. The place is filled with strange people.”
Cozy mysteries from Laura DiSilverio, Sheila Connolly, Spencer Quinn and more
Bitter Harvest , by Sheila Connolly (Berkley Prime Crime; paperback, $7.99), has the frosty bite of winter in New England. Meg Corey, downsized out of a banking career, is a newbie at running an apple orchard, and she frets over her first season’s crop. Will its profits allow her to spiff up the old farmhouse that’s both home and office? When an unexplored closet reveals a dingy piece of embroidery, Meg is distracted from money issues by the handiwork hinting at a 19th-century story. Reading between the stitches, she tries to decipher the silk sampler’s secrets, apparently to the displeasure of someone who locks her in a freezing barn. Then a gunshot takes out Meg’s kitchen window. Who knew heirloom needlework could be so perilous?
If dogs could talk, they’d probably sound like Chet, narrator of The Dog Who Knew Too Much , by Spencer Quinn (Atria, $25). A robust 99-pound mixed breed, Chet enjoys Slim Jims as much as he adores Bernie Little, his partner in crime solving. In this fourth installment of Quinn’s series, Bernie and Chet search for a boy named Devin, missing from a wilderness hike. Then Bernie lands behind bars, Chet is dognapped, and they need every bit of their combined wits to crack an increasingly complex case. But no force of evil can defeat a dog who rides shotgun in a Porsche.
In Tempest in the Tea Leaves , by Kari Lee Townsend (Berkley Prime Crime; paperback, $7.99) , an enormous white cat named Morty (short for Immortal ) settles into a faded Victorian home where Sunshine Meadows opens her new psychic business . Sunny isn’t sure if Morty is part ghost — those glowing black eyes are scary-strange — but she’s certain that her crystal ball, tarot cards and palm reading will entice the residents of Divinity, N.Y., to glimpse the future. Librarian Amanda Robbins is game, but the woman’s extreme nervousness puzzles Sunny, until she sees Amanda’s death looming in her specially brewed tea leaves. Warning the cops about her tea-infused vision doesn’t help either woman, and Sunny realizes she doesn’t need psychic powers to know her own future is that of a murder suspect.
A magician back from the dead and a dying woman planning to bequeath a fortune to her felines are just two of the strange people we meet in Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta, by Carole Nelson Douglas (Forge, $24.99). Midnight Louie, a 20-pound tomcat, narrates alternating chapters with Temple Barr, a Las Vegas amateur sleuth. In their 23rd adventure, Temple juggles the attentions of a new fiance and a former boyfriend while teaming up with Midnight Louie to investigate the death of Violet Weiner’s handyman. The old woman’s caregivers seem more interested in her will than in her well-being — and her feline heirs keep disappearing. The story’s a lark, but Douglas’s afterword addresses a real-life worry of pet owners: What happens to those cherished animals when their owners die?
Blumenstock is a Washington writer.