Cover Image: Absence of Mallets

Absence of Mallets

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Member Reviews

Kate Carlisle’s Fixer-Upper Mystery series is one of my favorites, and Absence of Mallets, the ninth book in the collection, not only gives us an engaging mystery, but also touches on contemporary real-world issues that really add to the story.  The title, as you will discover, is especially apropos.

Shannon Hammer has contracted to build a series of tiny homes for the local veterans. In addition to building the houses, she is teaching a series of classes designed to bring more women into the construction profession.  Her sister, Chloe, has agreed to help out and to publicize the plight of the veterans.  At the same time, Shannon’s boyfriend, Mac is hosting his first-ever writer’s retreat at the lighthouse.  Unfortunately, Linda, the artist (and friend) Shannon commissioned to make mosaic tiles for the homes, is murdered, and Shannon vows to catch her killer. 

This book is as wonderfully faceted as the rest of the series. The cast of ongoing characters are so well drawn that Shannon, Mac, Eric, and Chloe feel like old friends.  They each bring their own set of skills to the story and touch our hearts with their sincerity and charm.  The mystery, this time around,  is particularly poignant. We have only begun to know the victim when she is murdered, but this is a crime that will tug at your heartstrings as much as it does Shannon’s.  The visiting authors provide a host of self-centered suspects (each with secrets of his or her own) whose extraneous involvement with the construction crew heightens the mystery and provides sufficient clues and red herrings to keep Shannon on her toes.  The resolution of the mystery is both dramatic and suspenseful.  

Although the mystery is the clear focus of the story, the plight of the veterans is also on display.  I like how Shannon and her crew have made building the veteran’s homes and teaching construction skills to the women an important part of the story.  This subplot is both tragic and heartfelt, and I appreciate the skill with which Ms. Carlisle weaves these issues into the plot line.

Each of the books in this fantastic series can be read as a standalone, but I do recommend reading them in order.  Otherwise, you would miss out on the ways the characters evolve over the course of the series.  Absence of Mallets is likely my favorite Fixer-Upper novel so far, although the seventh book, Shot Through the Hearth, is a close second.  I can’t wait to see what Shannon and her crew do next!

Note: I received an ARC of Absence of Mallets from NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group. The above is my honest review.
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This is book 9 in the Fixer-Upper Mystery series and it's a great addition. You can read it as a stand alone but all my favorite characters are back with up dates. Mac is hosting his first writing conference and the light house mansion with the actual lighthouse off limits as repairs are still in progress. Shannon is busy with her crews building the veteran's village of small houses and teaching her classes on construction. She doesn't have time to investigate who murdered one of the writers attending Mac's class. A good read that has me hoping that book 10 doesn't take too long. I received a copy of this ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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What a great addition to the cozy mystery genre. I really enjoyed this book and cannot wait for the next installment.
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I have read all of the previous Fixer Upper mysteries and looked forward to reading this one. As always, I enjoyed the cast of characters and the mystery. Having worked with the military and veterans almost all my career, I appreciate the way the veterans were treated in this book. 

Looking forward to the next one!
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Dollycas’s Thoughts

Shannon and Mac are both super busy but now that they are living together they are assured of running into each other eventually. He is in the throes of writing a new book and trying to keep a handle on the latest group of authors staying at the lighthouse mansion for a two-week writing retreat. Sharon has a huge new project that is near and dear to both her and Mac. Shannon’s crew is building 50 tiny Victorian-style homes for needy veterans. The little village already has a community center addressing all kinds of needs for the veterans including classes both Shannon and Mac are teaching. Shannon’s sister is also back in town willing to help Shannon in any way she can. Sadly, Shannon is going to need her help for more than her building and decorating expertise. She is going to need her to help find the killer who bludgeoned her new tile artist and friend to death and left her lying on the beach just waiting for the tides to wash her out to sea. Shannon, Mac, and Chloe need to hammer out the details quickly because more violence takes place and someone else gets hurt. The mallets are the key, if they find those they know they will find the killer.

I really enjoy this series and there were so many great things in this story. Shannon and Mac are in a really good and comfortable place. Chloe is taking major steps in her career so she will be in town more as she and police chief Eric plan their wedding. The town is taking a huge step to help homeless veterans even though they are getting a little interference from a few residents. These core characters truly feel like old friends. I live a little vicariously through Shannon remembering the short time I worked in home construction. Being in an occupation dominated by men isn’t easy but Shannon is killing it and goes out of her way to help more women get into the field. Her class at the community center in this story really made me happy.

Of course, with the good comes the bad. Mac’s current writing group is so bad. Selfish, irresponsible, and creepy doesn’t really cover the group but it’s a start. Then we have the murder of a woman who seemed to be a wonderful human being and an attack on another with a huge heart. This cast of characters was so well written. They invoked all the emotions the author intended so easily. I had a hard time adjusting after the victim was revealed. We just met her and just started to see her artistry and she was gone. This was nicely played by the author. Readers and characters alike were invested in seeing her get justice.

That being said there really were a limited number of truly viable suspects. Being new in town she knew only a few people so I found it easy to hone in on the right individual after a few clues were revealed. What I really enjoyed was the way Eric, Mac, Shannon, and Chloe worked together. Eric has learned to trust Shannon’s instincts and that makes the story even better.

I really appreciated the message/theme of the story. The plight of homeless vets is heartbreaking and Lighthouse Cove has made them a priority building the village of Homefront. The community center is wonderful with classes, counselors, and even a cafe, plus there is room to offer more services. If only more communities in real life could follow in these footsteps.

While the mystery wasn’t as complex as other books in this series, Absence of Mallets is my favorite book so far. Murder and mayhem aside, it is a feel-good story. The perfect book to read after the holiday season. It warmed my heart seeing what good people can do and as I turned the last page I had a huge smile on my face.
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In Absence of Mallets, author Kate Carlisle continues her Fixer Upper series of cozy mysteries.  I first got interested in this series from the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel movies starring Jewel that are based on this series.  Anyone who is a fan of those movies definitely will enjoy reading these books.   As with the earlier books, the author does an excellent job of maintaining consistency with both the characters and the plotlines in this installment.

As the novel opens, we find Shannon working on a group of tiny homes that are being built for veterans to occupy.  Her boyfriend Mac has opened his mansion to a group of writers for a retreat.  As the plot develops, the author throws romance, friendships, relationships and curveballs at the reader while still maintaining the integrity of the storyline.  I particularly enjoyed the fact that throughout the book there were a substantial number of clues that could lead to several different characters making the final reveal of the killer a total surprise.  I am looking forward to seeing what the author has in store for these characters in future books in this series.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Penguin Random House in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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This was the first of this series that I have read.  I really enjoyed it and decided to start with Book 1 to read the entire series.  The characters are fun and the small town flavor made the atmosphere enjoyable.  I would recommend this book for those who like cozy mysteries.
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Absence of Mallets is the 9th Fixer-Upper cozy mystery by Kate Carlisle. Released 7th Dec 2021 by Penguin Random House on their Berkley imprint, it's 304 pages and is available in mass market paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a fun and easy-to-read cozy with well established three dimensional characters and an ensemble cast. Although it's the 9th book in the series, it works fine as a standalone with the codicil that events and relationships established in this book will spoil some of the previous books if read out of order. Readers who read them out of order won't be lost or confused though; the author manages to fill in the backstory and character developments without spoon-feeding or info dumping.

For readers of romance who like some cozy mystery in their reads (or cozy readers who enjoy clean romance) this series will be a good fit. The plot is simple and mostly linear. The violence is mostly off scene and without gore. The language is PG and there is no racy content. The denouement and resolution were a bit flat in my opinion, but not egregiously so.

Four stars. Well written and engaging.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie

I always look forward to reading a new mystery in this series, as I think it is great that women are more accepted in construction now than ever. Shannon now oversees the company that her father started many years ago, and business is excellent. Shannon’s father taught her and her sister how to use tools and how to build or repair things when they were growing up. It is fascinating to see the results of their father’s mentorship as we catch an inside glimpse of life as a successful contractor and as the star of a home improvement show. Regarding Shannon’s boyfriend, Mac, it is equally interesting to see the life of a bestselling author.

Shannon’s biggest ongoing project is called Homefront, where a community center and half of the fifty tiny houses for veterans to live in are underway. The community center includes various services for the veterans. Shannon is giving a construction class to women veterans, and one of their projects will be doing much of the work on a tiny house. She is happily surprised when her sister, Chloe, could leave her Hollywood set to spend a couple weeks in Lighthouse Cove with her family and her fiancé, even sitting in on a class and helping on the site.

Mac is working on the next thriller in his book series about a former Navy SEAL. He had purchased the property on which a historic mansion and a decommissioned lighthouse sits. The mansion has been remodeled, and Shannon’s crew will soon begin to shore up and refurbish the gorgeous old lighthouse. Mac hosts writers’ retreat groups at the mansion. This time he has a group of six, all of whom are long term friends. They can take advantage of a quiet time, appreciate the ocean and beach, and write. Mac will invite them into a writing class he is leading for the veterans at Homefront.

One of the women Shannon meets at the veteran’s village is Linda, an artist who designs incredible mosaics. She is not a resident at Homefront, but as a veteran, will take a couple classes. Shannon and Linda became friends almost instantly. Shannon even offers her a job doing mosaics on some of the kitchen backsplashes. There is also a friendship budding between Linda and Travis, one of the veterans who works for Shannon. One of the writers is also attracted to Linda, coming to the site when least expected to talk with her.

Linda is found dead at the beach not far from the writers’ retreat. It is believed she was attacked with one of her own mallets that is missing from her tools. Whoever did it is framing Travis for the murder. Just because he is a veteran with PTSD, some people believe he is capable of murder, but he is devastated by her death. Shannon had been sure she and Linda would be lifelong friends from the short time they knew each other, and is grieving her loss. Shannon won’t rest until finding who killed Linda.

The primary characters are easy to be invested in, as are some of the secondary characters. I enjoyed getting to know Shannon’s sister Chloe better. I loved meeting some of the veterans at Homefront, and seeing the dignity afforded to them. Each person is defined according to their roles. I admit, it was hard to read the story at times since I liked and had hoped to see more of the victim.

The author has hit a home run with Homefront, which Shannon calls a refuge for heroes. Seeing how well planned and uniquely designed Homefront is, and the services currently available at the community center, the author has an excellent vision for how our veterans need to be treated. In this case, the setting is as important as the mystery!

Shannon, Mac, Chloe, and their friends will go to any length to get justice for Linda and get Travis off the hook, especially when Shannon barely avoids serious injury from the sabotage of work in place. It has been very finely plotted and executed, with twists and turns that continue to change the possible suspect list. There were some unexpected results in the excellent resolution to the novel. I highly recommend this, and any of the other stories in the series!
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Absence of Mallets:  A Fixer-Upper Mystery
By Kate Carlisle
Berkley
December 2021

Review by Cynthia Chow

It’s been three months of bliss ever since Shannon Hammer’s boyfriend MacKintyre Sullivan moved in together in their town of Lighthouse Cove, California.  While Shannon heads her Victorian building restoration Hammer Construction, mega-bestselling author Mac recently opened a writers’ retreat taking place in his former historic lighthouse mansion. Mac and his former Navy SEAL friends have also invested in five acres of land where Hammer Construction will be building tiny homes for veterans.  This latest batch of writers are causing more than the usual amount of stress for Mac and Shannon though, seemingly disinterested in actually writing and instead more focused on their own social media.  As they intrude on her worksite while recording everything on their phone, Shannon feels most protective over mosaic artist Linda Rutledge.  A former veteran helping at the construction site and taking one of Shannon’s Homefront occupational program classes that teach skills to veterans, Linda is too nice to say no to the constant demands for attention by smitten writers.  That means that Shannon is devastated when she comes across Linda’s body on the beach, apparently bludgeoned to death by one of Linda’s own custom mallets.

Fortunately for Shannon, her sister Chloe is in town visiting from Los Angeles where she is the star of the TV show Makeover Madness.  Engaged to Police Chief Eric Jensen, Chloe now has a frequent reason to visit and conveniently help along with the investigation.  Surveillance cameras and Chloe’s own footage help to provide them with clues as to who had been stalking Linda and dangerously sabotaging Shannon’s worksite.  Blatant attempts to frame one of the veterans are quickly dismissed by Shannon and her equally sharp friends, but that only elevates her fears that this will only escalate the attempts to shut down the investigation and quickly close the case.

This 9th in the series finds Shannon in a very happy place in her life, so it’s infuriating that these outsiders are disrupting a project designed to help so many.  Not only is she training women in the field of construction, she is helping to house veterans all dealing with their own form of PTSD.  Shannon’s experience in past investigations and her ability to spot construction-related clues the police would otherwise miss make her instrumental to Eric, who has accepted and even welcomes her input. As he puts it though, he just wishes that she would stop somehow always end up facing “a crazy whacked-killer” all by herself.  Her relentless mean-girl nemesis Whitney Reid Gallagher continues to annoy Shannon, as Whitney is irrationally prejudiced against the undesirable veterans and Shannon herself.  Lightening up the mystery are Shannon and Mac’s mixed family of furry companions, who along with Hammer Construction’s reliable workers provide emotional and physical support.  Details about mosaic artistry and building construction make this a unique and fascinating mystery, leaving readers wishing they could have their own set of pink tools as they join Shannon on her compelling adventures.
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This is such a fun series, and I had a great time with this cozy mystery. I loved the plot, the twists and turns, and the characters! Kate Carlisle is a fantastic author, and I cannot wait for the next book!
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Shannon Hammer and her boyfriend Mac Sullivan love being busy, and it’s a good thing because they each have so many different things they are working on. Shannon is a building contractor and is working on a couple of large jobs, but building a village of tiny houses for veterans is currently her top priority. Mac is a successful author who recently began hosting writer’s retreats for other authors. All of the prior retreats have gone really well. However, the latest group of six authors range from weird to rude to potentially violent. When a murder occurs, Shannon and Mac immediately jump in to investigate in order to find out who is behind this tragic death.

Absence of Mallets is the ninth book in the Fixer-Upper series. I loved the prior book and although this one doesn’t quite measure up, it’s still very good. The best part of the book is seeing Shannon in action. Whether she’s building a house, leading a workshop to train female veterans how to use power tools, or solving a murder, she shows her intelligence and her compassion. I also like her and Mac as a couple. They are always there for each other and I like the fact that as a thriller writer, Mac doesn’t shy away from the investigations and is right there with Shannon gathering clues.

The downside of the book is the appalling behavior of a few of Shannon’s acquaintances, as well as the six writer’s retreat participants. The way these characters behave seems more like that of high school bullies instead of adults in their 30s. As their actions escalate, they become even harder to take. There is a slow build-up to the actual murder and when it occurs, I was very surprised at the identity of the victim, especially in light of the things that some of the other characters do. There are plenty of suspects, though, and although I had theories, I was kept guessing as to what had really happened until the very end. The resolution of the crime is satisfying and I especially like the extended epilogue with updates on a few of the characters over a couple different timeframes. Overall, I like the book and am happy it ends on a positive note.

~ Christine
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Contractor Shannon Hammer and her crew are hard at work at her boyfriend’s passion project, Homefront. It’s a village of 50 tiny houses built especially for veterans. Mac, Shannon’s boyfriend and a very successful author, raised funds for Homefront and helped to find the land. He and his friends have conceptualized and designed a place where veterans could live and heal, complete with a community center with a dining room and conference rooms, medical and psychological services, classes, and even a barber onsite. 

Shannon was proud to have won the contract, and she and her crew have been working hard to create a village of unique homes that would be safe, comfortable, and welcoming. They have already finished 25 of the 50 houses, and vets have already started moving in. And Shannon is preparing to teach classes herself, to help share marketable construction skills to veterans who want to learn to swing a hammer. 

When Shannon met Linda, a veteran and a mosaic artist, they immediately hit it off. Shannon loved Linda’s work and asked her to help with the Homefront project, to make some unique kitchen backsplashes for the homes. Linda loved the idea and accepted the job, and when she was getting started, with all her tools and materials lined up, Shannon couldn’t help but admire her collection of mallets. Linda had a dozen different mallets for the different materials she used, including a big mallet that her grandfather had made himself, adding some lead to the mallet head for some extra wallop to the tool. Shannon understands the importance of good tools, and even took some photos of the hand-crafted one to share with another artist friend of hers. 

Meanwhile, Mac is keeping busy finishing up his next book and hosting a group of writers at his mansion by the lighthouse. The six authors in residence are mostly published already and don’t need a lot of direction from him. However, he does feel responsible for them, so he shows them around their small town and even takes them to Homefront and lets them sit in on a writing class. But when some of the veterans share their writing with the class, the writers group are as encouraging as they are critical, so Mac puts an end to that immediately. One of the writers from Homefront, Travis, had written a particularly beautiful piece, but with his inexperience as  a writer and his PTSD from his time in the military makes Mac concerned that the criticism will quiet him. 

Shannon isn’t particularly happy with the writers group either. Lewis, the author whose first book sold especially well, keeps pulling out his phone and taking photos or videos of others without asking permission. He went out for drinks with Linda and told her that he was worried about his next book, that the other authors are jealous of him and won’t help, but the manuscript is due in two weeks. She told Shannon all about that, feeling really bad for him and his situation. But just a couple of days later, Mac sees an announcement about his next book being sold, and the early buzz is really good. 

But Shannon has to focus on her work. She goes back to Homefront and spends her days putting together the tiny houses. There’s one day when Linda was supposed to come late, after spending her morning collecting seashells out by the lighthouse, but she never showed up. Shannon tried to get ahold of her, to make sure she was okay, but it wasn’t until that night when she went with Mac to see the writers group and give them a writing assignment on the beach that Shannon finds out what happened to her new friend. That’s how they found Linda’s body on the beach. 

Shannon is heartbroken for her friend and wants justice to be done. But it’s not until another vet is attacked and her work is sabotaged, causing injuries to herself and her sister that she really starts to look around to see who could be the killer. As much as she would love for it to be Lewis, the arrogant writer, she needs more evidence than just his not being a nice person. Could it have been one of the other writers? Could it be one of the veterans? Shannon wants to find answers before someone else gets hurt, or worse. 

Absence of Mallets is the ninth book in the Fixer-Upper series of murder mysteries from Kate Carlisle. Following contractor Shannon Hammer and her construction crew who focus on restoring Victorian houses in their small Californian town. Her boyfriend is a former Navy SEAL and a bestselling author of military thrillers, her sister stars on her own home construction television show, and Shannon and her family and friends help solve the murders that Shannon has a tendency to stumble over. These books are clever, well plotted, fun, and filled with actual DIY construction tips. 

I love the Fixer Upper mysteries, and I think that Absence of Mallets has a lot of substance. The writers group brings a lot of intrigue, and the idea of Homefront, the community for veterans, is a truly special project, and I was thrilled that Carlisle brought that into the story. Ever since I heard about that part of this novel, I wanted to dive into this book. I know of real-life projects similar to this, and I love that she is spreading the word about veterans communities. I hope this sparks more ideas for what we can do to help our veterans. But back to the book, I thought this one had a lot of good suspects, and it may turn out to be my favorite book of this entire series. I definitely recommend this one to anyone interested in giving the Fixer Upper mysteries a try. And if you’re already a reader of the series, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in this one. 

Egalleys for Absence of Mallets were provided by Berkley Publishing Group through Netgalley, with many thanks.
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I really like this series and I always enjoy getting to spend with the characters.  It always annoys me when characters in a series have really interesting jobs but other then the occasional mention the job gets no page time.  That is not the case here.  Shannon is a hands on fully in contractor and while she is in charge she never sits on the sidelines and delegates.  I also like that Shannon's sister, Chloe is also in the construction business but in a different but no less interesting way.

This book does a good job of balancing Shannon's job as a contractor working on the veteran's project and Mac's job as an author hosting a writing retreat.  Both aspects adds in characters that are interesting and complex and makes for a fascinating dynamic.  Figuring out what everyone is hiding and all their secrets had me hooked and kept me intrigued from the beginning.  The actual murder doesn't occur until halfway through the book and there were a few decisons that were made that didn't seem particularly logical.  

I enjoyed this read and found it a light entertaining mystery.  Because there were a few things that didn't quite work for me with the mystery I don't think this is the strongest book in the series but it was still a lot of fun.
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Shannon and her boyfriend Mac are back in Lighthouse Cove for this 13th book in the Fixer Upper Mystery series.  I’ve been looking forward to reading this book, and I was not disappointed. 
Mac is a famous thriller writer, and he’s been holding workshops for other writers at his lighthouse retreat. This time, the group that comes in doesn’t seem as interested in writing, they like spending time in the village and the construction site. 
Shannon is busy with her crew building tiny houses for a veteran’s village called Homeland. They are almost done with the latest group of homes.  Shannon meets a woman named Linda who does glass mosaics and invites her to build some backsplashes.  Linda has attracted the attention of one of Mac’s writers named Lewis, she feels bad for him because he’s got writer’s block. 
Unfortunately, Linda is found murdered and the killer is at large. The list of suspects is long - her work crew, the veterans, Mac’s writers.  When one of the veterans is attacked, Shannon feels obligated, as Linda’s boss and her friend, to get involved. She’s got an idea about the killer’s identity, but no way to prove it. 
I loved the characters, they are fun and quirky and are very relatable.  Kate Carlisle knows how to write characters that you care about, and her stories keep the reader engaged. She’s one of my favorite authors and I look forward to reading more of her books. 
This is a excellent cozy mystery, 4.5 stars. 
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Shannon Hammer is back.  Shannon and her crew are busy working on the veteran’s village project.  They are near completion and then they will be moving on to renovate Mac’s lighthouse.  Mac Sullivan has a writing retreat coming into town that day.  The group will be staying for two weeks.  At the end of the first day, it is obvious that this writing group is going to be a handful.  Shannon and Mac are both busy with their various projects.  It is a good thing they live together, or they might never see each other.  Life takes a dark turn when a new acquaintance of Shannon’s is murdered near Mac’s lighthouse.  Shannon and Mac dive into investigative mode to discover who committed this heinous act.  Unfortunately, this is only the beginning.  Shannon and Mac need to work quickly if they are to stop this unhinged killer.  Absence of Mallets by Kate Carlisle is the 9th A Fixer-Upper Mystery.  It can be read as a standalone if you are new to the series, but I recommend reading all the books in this entertaining cozy mystery series.  I always enjoy visiting Lighthouse Cove to spend time with Shannon Hammer, Mac, and the rest of the great characters in A Fixer-Upper Mystery.  The characters are developed and relatable.  I love Shannon and Mac together.  They are a cute couple.  They really get each other.  Shannon’s sister, Chloe is back in town.  I am glad the sister’s relationship is going well.  The members of the writing retreat are unique.  I can understand why Mac is rethinking having writer’s retreats after this bunch.  The whodunit is well-plotted with several suspects, good clues, and misdirection.  Shannon and Mac actively work the case.  There is plenty of action which had me quickly turning the pages to get to the enjoyable reveal.  I do wish, though, that the mystery had been more complex.  I did not feel it was at the same level as the past A Fixer-Upper Mysteries.  Absence of Mallets is a feel-good story that will leave you smiling.  I liked the epilogue that gives us a hint of what will take place in the next book.  Absence of Mallets takes us back to Lighthouse Cove where there are cute couples, a veteran’s village, a newcomer is nailed, a murderous mallet, a soothing staple gun, a lethal lighthouse, a wonky writer’s retreat, and killer clues.
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Shannon could not be happier that her hunky thriller-writing boyfriend, Mac, has moved in, and it is a good thing they are living together because they are both busier than ever. Mac is hosting writing retreats at his now vacant lighthouse mansion, while Shannon and her crew build Homefront, a quaint Victorian village of tiny homes for veterans in need. Mac’s latest guests are proving to be a handful though, and Shannon has heard some grumbling from the luminaries of Lighthouse Cove about her latest passion project. But nothing can throw a wrench in their plans except a malicious murder.
When one of Shannon’s new friends is found brutally bludgeoned with a mallet near the lighthouse on Mac’s property, the couple hammers out a suspect list and searches for a motive. As they drill deeper for clues, more violence strikes and a new victim winds up in a coma. The pressure is on, and Shannon and Mac will have to move fast to find an unhinged killer dead set on demolishing anyone who gets in their way. . . . 
This one was a great mystery. Shannon and the gang work hard to make sure the Homefront keeps the peace. 
#AbsenceofMallets #NetGalley
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I've long been a fan of Kate Carlisle's Fixer-Upper cozy series. There's always something to learn in the fields of architecture and construction. There's always an intriguing mystery to solve. Shannon and her friends are good people who go out of their way to do the right thing, and the resident ill-tempered diva makes her presence known without overpowering my patience (or lack thereof). Absence of Mallets is another strong entry in this engaging series.

Shannon and her construction crew are working on probably their best project of the entire series: a veterans' village. This village is for veterans in need, with fifty tiny houses being built and given to the vets on a first-come, first-served basis. The community center is large and has just about everything these men and women could need. 

Shannon's boyfriend, Mac, has moved in with her and has turned his lighthouse keeper's house into a writers' retreat. His latest group, a bunch of entitled, argumentative, sneaky know-it-alls, fuels most of the action in the book and has Mac wondering if he needs to pull the plug on the whole retreat idea.

If you find yourself feeling the need to spend some time with good people, I've got just the people and just the place for you: Shannon Hammer and her friends in Lighthouse Cove, California. So what if a dead body or two may be involved? These folks will restore your faith in amateur sleuths specifically and in the human race in general.
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Since I'm a fan of fixer upper cozies, especially ones presenting a strong female protagonist, I knew this series would become a fast favorite. 
Shannon and her guy, Mac are adjusting to living together, but this new writer's group that Mac is hosting is over the top.
Shannon feels things are going to take a bad turn, and she finds out quickly that she was right. 
The death of a friend shakes up Lighthouse Cove, and especially those working and living at the Homefront. 

I found myself caught up in the mystery and while parts were a little telling, I still enjoyed the end and the reveal.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for selecting me to read an advanced copy of this book. 

#AbsenceofMallets #NetGalley
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This is a series I like a lot! It's got a fair bit of she-power, with female contractor Shannon as the main character. As I know less than nothing about construction, her world is an exotic-to-me setting for a story. This entry is a 3.5 for me.

There's so much I love here, including the heart that comes through in this mystery set around military vets. I love the tiny home village, the way they're exploring different new careers, like construction, and also different ways of self-expression, like creative writing. I feel like the PTSD is handled well, and it just makes me happy to spend time in this community.

However.

There are some inexplicably poor choices made by the author and by Shannon. The guilty party/parties are way too over the top. The idea that Shannon et al wouldn't watch the video that could reveal the murderer--even while they acknowledge that this could show us the murderer!--until the next day or when they can all watch it together or something...that's just stupid and insulting to the reader. And Mac's decision not to say anything to the writer's group or police after the FIRST break-in at the lighthouse? Ludicrous.

I know assuming your audience is intelligent makes plotting harder. But, mystery authors (in general, not just this one), you've gotta make your smart characters do smart things! When you make them act in ridiculous ways, you undermine your whole story.

I like Shannon, her crew, and her community, and I'm looking forward to the next murder she solves--smartly!

Review copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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