Two Cozy Mysteries by Sandra Balzo

A few years ago, prior to blogging, I read a couple of Sandra Balzo’s cozies. Both were in her Maggy Thorsen Coffee Shop Mystery series. I remember them as being lighthearted and a little funny. When the author asked me if I’d like to read the first book in her new series, I said yes.

The new series, Main Street Mysteries, features a Wisconsin crime-beat reporter, AnnaLise Griggs. In this new book, Running On Empty, she has come home for a long weekend visit with her mom. Home is a small tourist town in North Carolina.

The town’s residents are used to boating accidents, but when more people than normal are dead, AnnaLise starts to help investigate. Since this is a small town she knows most of the people and that helps her connect with the right people.

Speaking of connecting, I had a hard time getting with AnnaLise in this new series. I was nine chapters in before I felt like anything was happening. It seemed as if the author was taking forever to introduce all the characters, set the time and place, and in general, to get things going.

I decided to stop and download the author’s first novel in her first series. I figured I would read that one and compare it to the new series.

In Uncommon Grounds, Maggy Thorsen is one of those protagonists you want to pull for. She is a never-say-die person. On the first day when she and her two partners are about to open their new high-end coffee shop, one of the partners is electrocuted by the espresso machine. It wasn’t an accident.

Maggy’s coffee shop is also in a small town and she knows most of the people too. She manages to get people to talk to her, share their secrets and help her solve the mystery. I had a couple of people I suspected, but I wasn’t positive until near the end.

After finishing this book I went back and finished reading Running On Empty. What I liked here were the quirky characters, especially “Mama” who owns the Main Street cafe. She loves to serve name-brand recipes and lots of comfort food. AnnaLise’s mom with her memory problem is a sympathetic character. Some of the other characters I couldn’t buy. For me, the story just seemed to ramble around.

Overall, I was disappointed in Running On Empty. It’s probably just me. Sandra Balzo is a good writer and knows how to tell a good story. Her other series of six books is very popular. Will I read the second book in this new series? Probably. I don’t want to give up on a good author.

RUNNING ON EMPTY:  Publisher: Severn House, 2011:   My Rating: C

UNCOMMON GROUNDS:  Publisher: Worldwide Library, 2007:   My Ratings: B

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11 Responses to Two Cozy Mysteries by Sandra Balzo

  1. Tea says:

    Makes me want to open a coffee shop. I always want to do whatever the person solver is doing in a cozy. I have one titled Dolled For Murder. When I look at it, I want to collect dolls, rejuvenate dolls, whatever. Had fun reading about your cozies.

  2. In Tucson we have both an Uncommon Grounds coffee shop and a Common Grounds coffee shop! Sorry you were disappointed with these cozies. I really like cozies from time to time but I think cozies must be harder to get right than “regular” mysteries.

  3. Barbara says:

    If you can’t make a connection with the characters in a cozy, there’s really nothing left.

  4. Kay says:

    I feel like I’ve read a book that featured a coffee shop called Uncommon Grounds. However, I haven’t read this author before. Hmmm….maybe I saw a coffee shop named that – but not Jill’s in Tucson. I always find it interesting when I have an author that I enjoy and then with a new series starts and I don’t connect. It’s kind of like why this one over that one. Maybe it was just first book-itis, introducing characters and such. 🙂

  5. kaye says:

    they both sound really good. thanks for the tip.

  6. It’s too bad the new book didn’t live up to your expectations. Maybe the next book in the series will be better since all the characters will be established.

  7. Staci says:

    I love the way you really tried hard to connect with the main character in the new series. I have to say that after reading your thoughts on Uncommon Grounds I want to read that one!! I think you were totally fair and I’m rooting for the author’s next book to be a success with you!

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  9. Beth F says:

    The coffee mystery in particular interests me! I’ll start with the first series and then give the second a try.

  10. I gave up on cozys altogether a couple of years ago — they used to be my favorite go-to genre. Just got tired of the improbable-ness (the Jessica Fletcher effect — don’t be friends with this lady, murders always happen around her!), the other reason is the way the heroines always seem to make a great living doing the most improbable things — coffee shops, independent bookstores in tiny towns, herb shops in Texas…almost always the kinds of places that would go bankrupt in today’s economy faster than you could say ‘cozy mystery’.

  11. Ann says:

    Thanks for the review. I haven’t read any of these.

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