Dahlia Donovan


Grasmere Cottage Mystery: Dead in the Garden (2018), Dead in the Pond (2018), Dead in the Shop (2018)

Grasmere Cottage Mystery

Dead in the Garden (2018)

Dead in the GardenThis is a cozy mystery, set in England, and is both adorable and has an amazingly diverse cast of characters.

Valor and Bishan are shocked and distressed to discover a dead body in their yard.

But it becomes even more distressing when Bishan is arrested for the murder.

Bishan is autistic, and that is a major issue in the story, because jail is even harder for Bish to handle than for someone who isn’t neruodiverse. But to be clear, Bishan’s autism is why Valor is willing to take matters into his own hands to get him out of jail, but it is not how Bishan is defined in the story. It’s a trait, not a personality.

Valor, is estranged from his family, and has made his way on his own since he was disinherited.

It seemed being gay and dating an Anglo-Indian had been one step too far for the son of an earl. Valor Tarquin Scott had been struck from the family; his father, mother, and elder brother hadn’t spoken to him in over a decade, not since a year after his graduation from Harrow.

By contrast, the Tambolis had embraced both their son and his boyfriend. Valor had been relieved. He didn’t honestly know how they would’ve gotten through without their support.

It’s a very sweet story (despite the murder) and although it was short and not particularly deep, it was a cute escape from the real world.

Publisher: Hot Tree Publishing
Rating: 7/10

Dead in the Pond (2018)

Dead in the PondThe first book ended with Valor and Bishan learning their beloved housemaster from Harrow–and a note that book two was going to end on a cliffhanger.

So I bought book two AND book three, because I wasn’t going to be messing around when cliff hangers are involved.

At one point towards the end of this book, my husband walked over to me and I just put my hand up, palm out, and ignored whatever it was he wanted, because HOLY CATS. CLIFFHANGER.

This book is told mostly from Bishan’s point of view, which is really very interesting, since Bishan doesn’t see things the way most of us do.

Spurling held the bag up for the second time. “Do you know what my nan will do to me if I don’t deliver this to you?”

“No. What?” Bishan asked seriously.

Spurling stared at him.

“Oh, a joke.” Bishan kicked himself mentally for not catching it.


The trouble with the subtle approach was Bishan didn’t read tone or body language at all. He couldn’t. Sunesh had dedicated almost an entire year to try to teach him— and it ended with him finally dumping a tub of yoghurt over his brother’s head in frustration.

Although this is a cozy, there is a good deal of murder in this series, and what Valor has to deal with from his family is pretty rough, although much of it is him telling us how unpleasant his discussions are, rather than having to read racist, homophobic rants.

There’s an interesting bit that goes through all three books, about how Val and Bish feel about marriage.

“You hate marriage.”

“I dislike my parents’ idea of it.” Valor lifted one of the rings between two of his fingers. “Hate is such a strong word.”

“You said you did.” Bishan remembered the conversation perfectly. “Why’ve you changed your mind?”

“I love you.”

“Did you not love me before?” Bishan frowned at their clasped fingers.

It’s odd to me, how different people view marriage.

I am offended by people who get married and divorced and married and divorced rather than by people who prefer a committed relationship without marriage. But the story also clearly makes the point of the problems that can arise when partners don’t have some kind of legal documents.

One of the scenes I really loved was when Bish and Val argued.

That is a genius method of argument.

And as supposed, I finished the second book and IMMEDIATELY started the third. And then stayed up entirely too late just to make sure that things were going to at least be mostly alright. But I really do hate cliffhanger endings.

Publisher: Hot Tree Publishing
Rating: 7/10

Dead in the Shop (2018)

Dead in the ShopValor and Bishan are struggling after the events of the last book. Someone is trying to kill them–has killed people around them–and they don’t understand why.

And that’s one of the interesting things about this story–that there isn’t really a good why. Don’t get me wrong, the killer is caught and explains why things happened, but inveterate mystery readers are used to complicated reasons as to why the killer acts as they do (with lots of monologing) but here we know the reason, but it’s … unsatisfactory. NOT in a bad story kind of way, but in a real life kind of way, which meant that was unsatisfactory as it was, it was also very good. (In the same way that some of the good police procedurals I read end with the bad guy getting off on a technicality, or because of who they know. That’s the way life works sometimes, and as hard of an ending that is, it’s also quite often how life goes.


More terrible things happen, but the killer is finally discovered and caught, and our two heroes finally get to live happy ever after, even if it takes them awahile and a lot of work and therapy.

And Valor also works on his relationship with his sister.

“I am sorry I insulted your cottage.”

Valor hopped off the counter and turned slightly to face her. “You didn’t. The cottage doesn’t have feelings. You insulted my choices. I know you’re trying, Penny, but luxury has gifted you a twisted view of the rest of the world.”

Also, I want friends with whom I can go on a pudding crawl with.

Pudding crawls had become one of their traditions after one of their many Olivers had given up drinking. They’d supported him through Alcoholics Anonymous, and decided to create a way to celebrate without alcohol. Instead of reunions spent in one pub after the other, they gorged on sweets instead.

So the story ends well, but not without work on the part of the characters. And each book was better than the previous, although really this could / should have been a single book of novel length rather than three novellas. But I get why they were published and marketed that way. So I’m not too angry.

Publisher: Hot Tree Publishing
Rating: 8/10