While tough, world-weary gumshoes in the Philip Marlowe mold still mesmerize readers, hardworking folks who sleuth in their spare time also attract ardent fans. Kirkus Indie recently reviewed three novels featuring private eyes with surprising day jobs—winery owner, Lutheran pastor, and master gardener—valiantly searching for clues.
In Carlene O’Neil’s Hair of the Dog, Penny Lively, theproprietor of the Joyeux Winery in California, must help her cousin, the prime suspect in a murder case involving a veterinarian. Penny proceeds to examine several figures with dubious motives: a rabies researcher, the chief of a pharmaceutical company, two employees in the vet’s clinic, and the victim’s wife. Our reviewer calls this third installment of a series “an enjoyable and well-paced mystery with a surprise kicker.”
A pastor named Stephen Grant becomes enmeshed in a case involving counterfeit wine, the FBI, and a few murders in Wine Into Water, part of Ray Keating’s thriller series. Grant teams up with his old CIA partner/lover, compiles a list of suspects, and plans on heading to WineCon to look for the killers. “A first-rate mystery makes this a series standout,” our critic writes, even if the “protagonist splits his hero status with others.”
J. Marshall Gordon’s sequel Malice at the Manor focuseson a cheater linked to the sale of a fake Confederate artifact who turns up dead on the tranquil grounds of a North Carolina estate. Gardener Penny Summers, who’s visiting the manor, discovers an array of murder suspects, including the victim’s estranged stepdaughter and his angry co-conspirators. With the help of some friends, Penny investigates the homicide, the fraud, and a subsequent shooting at a Civil War re-enactment. According to our reviewer, “Readers should hope that this winning mystery series…will be fruitful and multiply.” Myra Forsberg is an Indie editor.