Publication Date: 01/07/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery
(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound
J.J Cook (aka. Joyce and Jim Lavene) on the WEB: website, twitter, facebook, goodreads
Books in the series:
That Old Flame of Mine (2013), Playing With Fire (2014)
Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.
Welcome to Sweet Pepper, Tennessee. Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s home to the hottest and sweetest peppers in the world—as well as at least one ghost and a hotbed of secrets…
Fire Chief Stella Griffin is working to solve the mysterious death of her predecessor, Eric Gamlyn—who also haunts her cabin. Yet the more she learns, the more burning questions she must answer. Just as Stella thinks she has a lead from Deputy Chum, someone snuffs her hopes—and the lawman.
Adding fuel to the fire, Stella’s parents soon arrive—with her ex-boyfriend—hoping to persuade her to return to Chicago. Now Stella is torn between the life she left behind and uncovering what happened to her ghostly friend. But she’d better think fast or more than her investigation could go up in flames…
J.J. Cook, aka. Joyce and Jim Lavene bring readers the second book in the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade series, Playing With Fire. This series is about a small town fire house that needed a helping hand. But when Stella Griffin comes to help out she didn't figure on having a ghostly roommate, the former fire chiefs murder to solve, or the unusual town of Sweet Pepper to entice her to stay. Cook does a fantastic job of drawing the ready in and holding on to them. Playing With Fire is as much about a 40 year old murder as it is about a new one that has just occurred. With two mysteries, a ghost and a HERO, this one is hard to put down!
What I liked:
Joyce and Jim Lavene are something else when it comes to writing cozy mysteries. They have it down to a science. Just when I think, they may have reached their limits in the genre, they come up with something new. The Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade was a great idea for a series. There are a lot of things to like about this one.
The firefighting theme is exceptional. I think service men and women, whether it be Fire, Police, EMT or anything else are heroes from the git go and using that kind of theme in a mystery series is a no-brainer. It adds a human element that grabs the readers attention before they even turn the first page. One of the things that I think these authors do so well, is gauging what readers want to read about. They know the market well and it comes across in everything they write. What better hero than a firefighter? Great idea.
I also enjoy the fact that the Lavenes are not hesitant to use unusual plot devices and paranormal elements to enhance their stories. This is a very popular theme in writing of any kind these days and I think they use it well here. Eric Gamlyn's ghost is an excellent example of how to do it right. Eric is the victim of a 40-year old murder and he wants justice. The fact that he may be falling for his would be hero certainly complicates matters, but it also adds a romantic edge to the story as well. This may be a cozy mystery but there is something here for many different types of readers from the romantic enthusiast to the paranormal fan.
My favorite part of this series and book is of course Fire Chief, Stella Griffin. Stella is a strong female character that has a streak of curiosity to rival any feline. The authors are very good at writing unconventional female leads and Stella is no different. The roles of women in the Lavene's books have always interested me. They are not only writing good mysteries but they are also influencing how readers view female role types and showing what women are capable of. That in itself is a good reason to read this series.
Let's not forget Hero, the inherited dog. Stella's partner in crime, if you will. I have always enjoyed the idea of a canine mascot for the fire department and I think this one is written well and is believable. You can't have a good firefighter related story without the faithful dog and the authors do a great job of making Hero a part of the story.
The mystery aspects of the story, as usual are spot on. Readers are not only trying to solve the mystery of Eric's death right along with Stella, but they are also trying to figure out the current murder and how they might be related. There were plenty of suspects and motives to go around and enough twists and turns in the plot to keep readers guessing right til the end. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, until right before the big reveal. The ending was satisfying and left me wanting more. I wouldn't call it a cliffhanger ending, but it will definitely entice readers to come back to Sweet Pepper, TN. for more.
What I didn't like:
This one is easy, not a thing. I liked everything about this book. It was a great sophomore effort in the series and gave readers a lot to think about in Eric's murder as well as Chum's.
This is shaping up to be a very good series. I like the characters, the paranormal elements, the romantic idea of a ghost falling in love with one of the living and so on and so on. You don't want to miss this one. Playing With Fire is a great addition to the series!
Playing With Fire is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
About the Author:
Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 65 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family.
The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Playing with Fire by J.J. Cook.
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