Thursday, September 17, 2020

Ellie Alexander's Beyond a Reasonable Stout


Beyond a Reasonable Stout (#3 of 4 A Sloan Krause mystery) by Ellie Alexander

ISBN-10 : 1250766109 - Mass Market Paperback $7.99
Publisher : Minotaur Books (September 29, 2020), 304 pages. 
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

The blurb:  In the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, Washington, the tourists are gone and the local villagers prepare for the upcoming winter light festival. Soon the German-inspired shops and restaurants will be aglow and visitors will return to the northern Cascades to drink warm mulled cider and peruse the holiday markets. Until then, Sloan Krause and her partner in crime Garrett Strong are experimenting with a new line of “hoppy holiday” craft beers at their brewery.
But the low-key vibes at Nitro are suddenly disrupted by a local political scandal: City Councilmember Kristopher Cooper is running for re-election on a platform of making Leavenworth dry―until, just before election night, Kristopher turns up dead. Now, with every beer-related businessperson in Leavenworth coming under suspicion, it’s up to Sloan to find out who the guilty party really is…before someone else gets tapped for murder.

My review: I am one of those readers that is reasonably comfortable starting a book in mid-series. if I like the characters and first book I find, I will go back and read all the books in order.  Honestly, if I find a book and an author that I like, I hunt down their backlist.  Ellie Alexander is one of the authors that I'd learned about through the publisher and NetGalley.  In the days of browsing bookstores and libraries, I likely would have found her books and loved them.  

Sloan Krause had grown up in the system as a foster child. She has mostly painful memories of her childhood but much of this is the distant past. She's built a family and strong friendships in the small town Leavenworth. It's Germanic town with German-inspired shops and architecture and families that immigrated from Germany. Sloan married into the Krause family and they've given her the stability and love that she wanted growing up. Even as Sloan and her husband separated, her ties to her in-laws are unharmed. 

While Sloan's life centers around her teenage son, her family and her love for brewing beer, she seems to be the glue/part of the center of the town. She knows how to keep a secret and is often the confidante of many other citizens. Her desire to help puts her in a strange position and she is more than willing to dive into a mystery.  

In Beyond  a Reasonable Stout, Leavenworth faces a strange challenge with the upcoming elections. A City Councilmember and candidate Kristopher Cooper is running on the platform of turning the town known for its beer and Octoberfest into a dry town.  When Kristopher Cooper is discovered dead so many are relieved and under suspicion.  Sloan finds herself drawn into the investigation and we follow her along as she balances the pressures of work, family and solving the latest murder.  Ellie Alexander combines an engaging character with a fairytale of a town and delicious food and beer to give us people that we care about and a place we'd love to move to and then mixes in a suspicious death. I'm hooked and certain that you will be too!

About the Author:  ELLIE ALEXANDER is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she's not coated in flour, you'll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. She is the author of the Bakeshop Mysteries, including Meet Your Baker and A Batter of Life and Death, as well as the Sloan Krause mysteries.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Angel's Share by Ellen Crosby

ISBN-13 : 978-1250164858 - Hardcover $26.99
Publisher : Minotaur Books (November 5, 2019), 369 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

The blurb: When Lucie Montgomery attends a Thanksgiving weekend party for friends and neighbors at Hawthorne Castle, an honest-to-goodness castle owned by the Avery family, the last great newspaper dynasty in America and owner of the Washington Tribune, she doesn’t expect the festive occasion to end in death.

During the party, Prescott Avery, the 95-year old family patriarch, invites Lucie to his fabulous wine cellar where he offers to pay any price for a cache of 200-year-old Madeira that her great-great-uncle, a Prohibition bootlegger, discovered hidden in the US Capitol in the 1920s. Lucie knows nothing about the valuable wine, believing her late father, a notorious gambler and spendthrift, probably sold or drank it. By the end of the party Lucie and her fiancĂ©, winemaker Quinn Santori, discover Prescott’s body lying in his wine cellar. Is one of the guests a murderer?
As Lucie searches for the lost Madeira, which she believes links Prescott’s death to a cryptic letter her father owned, she learns about Prescott’s affiliation with the Freemasons. More investigating hints at a mysterious vault supposedly containing documents hidden by the Founding Fathers and a possible tie to William Shakespeare. If Lucie finds the long-lost documents, the explosive revelations could change history. But will she uncover a three hundred-year-old secret before a determined killer finds her?

My Review:
This is the first Lucie Montgomery book that I've read and I plan to read the 9 that came before it!
The book is set in a small wealthy Virginia town full of the first vineyards of America and families that have held their farms/land since before the US was a nation. The Montgomery family and the Averys (billionaire relatives by affinity) and many of their longtime neighbors have had their homes and estates in this town for over 300 years.
Honestly, I'm just counting the years until we've paid off our mortgage, so this sort of longtime ownership of huge fertile tracts of land is exotic and fascinating to me.
The mystery in this case involves a murder but also the rumored existence of papers taken from the White House hundreds of years ago. There is a tie to the freemasons and to President Madison and a hidden treasure. The characters are easy to like and the mystery is fascinating. Overall, The Angel's Share is a delight of a read with the bonus that it makes you want to explore small towns in Virginia.

About the Author: Ellen Crosby is the author of the Virginia wine country mysteries, two mysteries featuring international photojournalist Sophie Medina and MOSCOW NIGHTS, a standalone. THE ANGELS' SHARE, her latest book, is #10 in the wine country series. Look for two more books in that series in early 2021 and 2022. Before writing fiction, Crosby--who has lived in England, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and the former Soviet Union--worked as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post, an economist at the US Senate, and Moscow reporter for ABC Radio News. Visit her website at and follow her occasionally on Facebook at EllenCrosbyBooks, sometimes on Twitter at @ellencrosby--but mostly on Instagram at ellencrosbyauthor. She also writes a very occasional (but interesting) newsletter.