Cover Image: Hammers and Homicide

Hammers and Homicide

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Member Reviews

Princess Fuzzypants here: Sometimes there are books that take a while to catch hold. The characters do not grab or there seems to be a whole bunch of stuff but nothing really gels. This book started like that. I am glad, however, that I stuck with it. Dawna, in spite of looking like she might be one of those frustrating heroines, got her footing as the book progressed. A widow who thinks the ghost of her husband might be lingering talks to him all the time. Her adult daughter who has returned home thinks the old girl has gone barmy. While there are lots of hints that there might be more than meets the eye, it is not until the end of the story that the reader is enlightened.

In the meantime, two murders are committed on the property of the hardware store Dawna and her late husband ran. And his best friend ends up in jail charged with the first murder because one of his tools is the murder weapon. Neither Dawna nor daughter April believe he is guilty which means someone else must have been the killer. And when the second murder creates doubts of the guilt, the clues are few and far between. The villain finally emerges and threatens the two women, assuming they had figured things out, but it is a surprise to everyone.

So, from an iffy start, it had a strong finish. Four purrs and two paws up.

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Hammers and Homicide is the first book of a new cozy mystery series and is a wonderful debut. I loved the main character, Dawna, her daughter April and the town sheriff, J.T. I also enjoyed the setting of Pine Bluff, Oregon and look forward to many more books in the series.

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This is a fun cozy mystery for those who like a small town flavor. What is a person supposed to do when someone is murdered in your store? You have to find out who did it. The characters were developed well and are likable.

I was a little surprised at the paranormal aspect of the novel. I did not understand from the summary that it would be included. While this is a good read on its own, there are several hints to more novels in this series.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an honest and independent review.

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Dollycas's Thoughts

Dawna Carpenter never thought she would be running her hardware store, Carpenter's Corner without her husband in her sixties. She lost her active husband to a heart attack a few weeks ago and is still adjusting to life as a widow. Her youngest daughter April has moved back to town saying she was "tired of the corporate world, city life, and city men". Dawna believes her siblings decided "she was the best candidate to keep an eye on her nutcase of a mother" but she has taken over Dawna's design and furniture restoration business so that Dawna could work full-time at the hardware store. Dawna never imagined she would find a dead man in the bathroom she shares with the store next door.

The deceased Warren Highcastle had come to Pine Bluff to turn the town's old theater into a fancy new hotel which was a huge blow to the Women's Service Club which wanted to restore the theatre. With Highcastle's death, that option may be viable again but it could also land some members on the suspect list. Dawna and April are worried about the future of the store now that a murder has happened on the premises and that the police have made them close the store as their investigation continues. To hurry that up they decide to try to hammer out the path to the killer themselves. But with the body count on the rise, they know they could be next. Can Dawna and April catch the killer before the killer catches them?


In this first Hometown Hardware Mystery, the author introduces a large slate of characters. Dawna Carpenter is a strong mature woman with a huge heart and a lot on her plate. She is mourning her husband who she often thinks is nearby, she talks to him often, and when she gets in trouble he just may be around to help her. I loved the way she talked to him even though her kids thought she was crazy. Dawna uses the phrase "Good Night" like I use the phrase "Good Grief" and she is a bit klutzy like me so I was able to identify with her quickly. She has a great relationship with her daughter April. Their interactions reminded me of those I have with my daughters. Sweet, funny, sometimes trying, and sometimes only things we understand.

We also meet J.T. Dallas, Pine Bluff's chief of police. He's all business when working on a murder but otherwise is fun and caring and may be a good match for April. Darlene Lovelace owns Lipstick and Lace next door to Carpenter's Corner and is Dawna's least favorite person in Pine Bluff. We meet several other residents of the small town throughout the book. They all feel like folks you would meet in any small town, except one of them is a murderer.

Ms. Charles has written a compelling mystery. Our protagonist is still working on her sleuthing skills so all the clues didn't all fall into place for her before the reveal. I did figure it out a little quicker but the showdown was fantastic. "What in the name of Zeus is happening?" I loved the way everything played out.

There was a lot of humor throughout the story. There was an incident in Steam Engine Park that had me laughing out loud and in tears. Described so well, that I pictured it clearly, and then just a few pages later I was giggling again. Karma will get me back, I am sure.

Hammers and Homicide is a delightful start to the Hometown Hardware Mystery Series. I love that the lead character is my age and that the author has surrounded her with genuine true-to-life characters. The paranormal sprinkle was unexpected and appreciated. There is a subplot still open that has me concerned but excited to see what Ms. Charles has in store for her characters next.

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Book Review: Hammers and Homicide by Paula Charles

Rating: 4.5 stars

Dawna Carpenter, a recent widow running her own hardware store, faces a new challenge when she discovers a dead man in her shop's bathroom. As the victim's identity unravels and suspicions arise, Dawna and her daughter, April, embark on a thrilling investigation to unveil the truth behind the murder. With a blend of wit, charm, and suspense, "Hammers and Homicide" by Paula Charles introduces readers to a captivating cozy mystery that sets the stage for an exciting new series.

The story unfolds seamlessly, drawing readers into a quaint small-town setting filled with intriguing characters and unexpected twists. Charles skillfully weaves a well-structured plot that keeps readers guessing until the very end. The dynamic between Dawna and April adds depth to the narrative, making their sleuthing endeavors entertaining.

One of the standout features of this book is its strong character development. Dawna's resilience and April's quick wit make for a compelling duo that readers will root for throughout the story. Additionally, the supporting cast adds layers of complexity and intrigue to the unfolding mystery, creating a rich tapestry of personalities that enhance the overall reading experience.

While the ending may have veered slightly off course and into rolling eye territory, the journey leading up to it is filled with suspenseful moments and cleverly crafted clues. Charles's writing style is engaging and evocative, painting vivid pictures of the town and its inhabitants. The cozy atmosphere she creates is inviting and immersive, making it easy for readers to become invested in the story's outcome.

Overall, "Hammers and Homicide" is a solid debut in the "Hometown Hardware" series that promises more thrilling adventures to come. With a compelling mystery, well-drawn characters, and a touch of small-town charm, this book is sure to delight fans of cozy mysteries. I eagerly anticipate delving into the next installment to see how the unresolved threads from this book unfold.

⚠️This review was written based on personal opinions and experiences with the book. Individual preferences may vary⚠️

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An okay start to a new series. The premise of this one sounded interesting and I was hoping for a Jessica Fletcher type heroine given the age of the main character. This one missed the mark a bit on that hope. Dawna is definitely a character and a bit of a different one with the way she expects to see the ghost of her husband multiple times during the story. I wasn’t expecting that element in the story and it threw me a bit and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. Also there was some random bank trying to call in a loan on her business that Dawna has no knowledge of, and with her husband being dead for 3 years, it seems mighty implausible that a bank would let it go for years without calling it in sooner. The fact that this element is left unresolved in the story which bugged me, even though it’s only mentioned twice in the whole book. It seemed out of place and jarring and completely unnecessary to the story especially since it isn’t resolved. I did like the mystery and most of the characters, so I will give a book 2 a chance and see if maybe it gels a little better than this one. I’ll also be interested to see if this random bank loan plays in to book 2. Maybe that’s supposed to be setting up the next mystery? If so, I think that could have been done better…

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This was a fun debut to a new cozy series. I loved the them of the cozy, and I had so much fun trying to solve the mystery with the protagonist. I am excited for the next installment!

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This was a great start to a new series. Dawna has taken over running the hardware store after her husband has passed away. A dead body appears in the bathroom of the hardware store. Dawna and her daughter, April, start investigating, fearing the impact the murder could have on business.

I really enjoyed the characters and the setting of the story. The mystery was well done and I didn't guess the culprit until the end. I will definitely be reading more.

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🔨Book Review🔨

Title: Hammers & Homicide
Author: Paula Charles
Publication: 1/16/24
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Hometown Hardware Mystery #1
My Rating: Really enjoyed!

In short: Dawna, a recent widow, finds a man murdered in the hardware store she runs.

What I enjoyed:
🛠️Small town Oregon setting
🛠️Older sleuth who is starting over after her husband passed away
🛠️The relationship between mother and daughter. They made a great team & their banter was so realistic

🎧Narrated by Petrea Burchard - Loves her narration, tone & pacing!

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed this debut cozy mystery! Dawna was a great character and I really enjoyed the banter between her & her daughter and they made a great sleuthing team. The descriptions of the town gave this story a great sense of place and made me feel like I was there. This was a solid debut and set the stage for a great series.

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Hammers and Homicide is the first book in a new cozy mystery series. The book features Dawna Carpenter, a widow taking over the running of the hardware store that her husband owned. When the body of a murder victim is found in the store, Dawna and her grown daughter start investigating.

This is a relaxing read with a nice small-town setting in the fictional town of Pine Bluff, Oregon. I had mixed feelings about the main character, so that detracted a bit from how much I liked the book as a whole. I like her daughter, April, though, and the way Dawna and April look out for each other and work together on the case. There is a very small paranormal element in the story, but not enough to be an issue if you don't usually read that type of book. I like how things wrapped up with the case and in the lives of Dawna and April. I think this has the potential to be a fun series. (3.5 stars)

I received an advance copy of this ebook at no cost from NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books, but my review is voluntary and unbiased.

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I was definitely ready for something on the lighter side after finishing The Storm We Made by Vanessa Chan, and Hammers and Homicide proved to be a great choice. Only in a cozy mystery would a book involving a murder be considered light.

What drew me to this book was the older protagonist, Dawna Carpenter, a recent widow who runs her own hardware store. It's just like any other work day for Dawna until she finds a body in the shared bathroom between her store and the boutique next door. The victim turns out to be a land developer who was in town to buy the town's old theater and turn it into a hotel. The victim had made quite a few enemies in the short time he had been there. When a long time friend of Dawna's is arrested for the murder, Dawna doubles her efforts to find out what really happened, not believing her friend could have committed the crime. With the help of her daughter, there's nothing stopping Dawna, even when danger strikes even closer to home.

Dawna isn't the most graceful person, nor is she a good cook, but she is a good neighbor and friend. Her daughter April recently moved back to town to work and keep an eye on her mom. I enjoyed the mother/daughter relationship Dawna and April share, with their gentle ribbing and the way they look out for each other. There's a hint of romance between the sheriff and April, perhaps something to look forward to in future books. I did find the tell for who the killer upon first meeting too obvious, but there were still unexpected moments in the book. Hammers and Homicide was funny and entertaining. There's even a paranormal element I hadn't been expecting!

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This was a fun cozy mystery. I liked the plot and the characters were a lot of fun. Very much recommend this book.

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I enjoyed this book. This is one of my favorite genres!! I read this book in one sitting! It was a quick, fast , interesting read! I would definitely recommend this book.

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I enjoyed this cozy mystery series in which a widow is running her own hardware story and getting involved in solving a murder even when she didn't want to be.

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Apparently a debut and the first in a the Hometown Hardware cozy series, the story is narrated in first person, past tense, by one Dawna Carpenter. Widowed a few years prior, this sixty-plus woman owns and runs the only hardware store in her small Oregon town, and is finally–sort of–coming to terms with living alone, when there’s a murder–right on her business premises.

Beware: hint of paranormal; obsessing over food choices; copaganda.

The narrative aims to paint Dawna as a zany grandmother, and for the book to have a generally campy tone with the lightest whiff of paranormal elements; I am not a fan of camp myself, though I can see its good points when done well, which I didn’t feel was the case here.

There is a lot of repetition, a lot of inane, tiresome detail, and a lot of page space devoted to Dwana’s musings on food, guilt and ghosts.

We learn what everyone is wearing, how long they take to change clothes, every item they buy on a trip to the market, possibly the story of the shop, store or diner, and even how Dawna and her daughter carry their purchases from market to car.

Dawna exclaims “good fright”, “good night” and “son of a biscuit eater” in lieu of swearing, and everyone in town apparently says “noggin” rather than “head”, along with other peculiar word choices. (Including equating someone filing a civil suit with “bringing charges”.)

Romance-adjacent small-town cozy mysteries, right? If there’s no cupcake shop in Main Street, then we have some other quirk to make them special among the sea of other special small-town cozies. Meanwhile, I still find Saint Mary Meade, where the only quirk is the utter ordinariness of both people and place, a lot more memorable than any of them.

Back to the book at hand.

There are a few glimmers of realism; this is clearly a small town, where small businesses struggle to survive during the off-season (winter for most industries). The police department is something like three people, and depends on help from a larger neighboring town when dealing with bigger crimes–such as two murders in two days. Both Darlene–the town’s femme fatale wannabe (and yes, there are hints of slut shaming here)–and Dawna are worried about the loss of income when the cops close both their stores–as the scene of the crime is the toilet they share–for an unspecified number of days.

The narrative meanders off constantly into irrelevant scenes; pages are wasted on Dawna falling on her face while sitting on a camp chair during an open air concert (the night of the murder, mind you), and on the history of the town’s early 1900s chuck wagon-cum-food truck that doesn’t actually appear in any scene.

As for Dawna, kooky is one thing; vapid is another entirely. I can put up with the former if there’s substance behind it, but the way she’s written, she’s willfully oblivious.

If your one employee is always in your business premises before you, his car is on the lot literally at all hours, and there are blankets and a pillow in your warehouse/storage area, how does it not occur to you that he’s likely homeless and making do on site? If you get a legal notice of default on a loan bearing your business’ name, would any reasonable person assume that someone else is in trouble, because “she didn’t apply for a loan”, or would they conclude someone stole their identity, and take immediate action to avoid eviction and bankruptcy?–especially if they’ve been the one in the marriage keeping the businesses’ books for decades, and if we are supposed to believe they are smart enough to investigate murders.

Which, it turns out, they really aren’t.

As narrator, Dawna relates what she sees or hears, but she doesn’t connect many of the obvious dots, and the ones she does connect are all, conveniently, unrelated to the murder or obvious red herrings. And so we have another amateur sleuth bumbling her way into the crosshairs of the killer’s gun, and calling that “solving” the case.

I found the solution contrived, the killer’s motives weak, and the lack of resolution to the rather large question of the defaulted loan highly annoying–more even than Dawna’s kookyness.

I wanted so much to like this book–or rather, the writing and the protagonist. Alas, it was not to be; I doubt I’ll seek out anything else by this author.

Hammers and Homicides gets a 5.75 out of 10

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Eaten up with guilt and missing her deceased husband to distraction, Dawn lets her imagination wander a bit too far in the realm of what-ifs, imagining that her late husband was still with her. She and her daughter became involved in a murder mystery that had them running foul of the law. Never one to give up, Dawna continued her investigations in search of the truth and justice. It was an entertaining, intriguing, and engaging read.

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Nice start to a new cozy mystery series. Lots of potential for more adventures for the mother and daughter, including a romance. Not thrilled with the tiny bit of woo woo, but easily overlooked. People cope with death of loved ones in various ways. Who am I to judge. Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary.

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Hammers and Homicide is book #1 in the Hometown Hardware Mystery series by Paula Charles.

I really enjoyed this book. My favorite part of cozy mysteries are the characters and I really like Dawna and April. I liked how they worked together to investigate. Dawna’s interrogation skills need work but it was realistic since she is a hardware store owner. Warren Highcastle was not a nice man and so plenty of people had a motive to kill him. I figured out who the killer was when Dawna did. I look forward to the next book.

Thank you to the author, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) copy of this book and I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

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Hammers And Homicide is the first book in the A Hometown Hardware Mystery series by Paula Charles.

Dawna Carpenter Has continued the family business, Carpenter’s Corner Hardware store in Pine Bluff, Oregon, after her husband’s death. One morning, as she arrived near the store, she heard a loud argument from a nearby real estate company. Arriving at work, Dawna is surprised to see that her lone employee, Steve Harrison, has not arrived as yet. Later in the morning, she goes to use the bathroom, and to her horror, she finds a dead body with severe head injuries caused by a framing hammer lying next to his body. The bathroom is shared with Darlene Lovelace, who owns a pricey boutique next door. The body is quickly identified as Warren Highcastle, a real estate developer in town trying to buy the old Emery House opera theatre and convert it into a hotel. A women’s club in Pine Bluff had attempted to buy the opera house, but the offer was rejected. Dawna is a member of that club. With the murder happening in the hardware store and with easy access to the weapon, Dawna will become the prime suspect.

Dawna and her adult daughter, who recently moved back to Pine Bluff, will set out to clear Dawna's name from suspicion. But when the owner of a construction company that was going to work on the project is arrested, Dawna and April will also start to work to clear his name. Dawna will soon find many other suspects to clear her name.

I enjoyed this first book in a new series. I particularly liked how well Dawna and her daughter worked together. Also, I enjoyed how Dawna sensed her late husband's presence and how talking to him helped her in her investigation. The book is well-written and plotted. The characters are all well-developed, engaging, and entirely believable. There were plenty of red herrings that kept me guessing until the end of the book.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

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I thought it was cool that Dawna could sense her late husband’s presence but it wasn’t in a creepy or scary way. Bob definitely came in handy at one point and Dawna’s special ability (that her daughter kinda sorta embraced as far as her dad was concerned) made for the sweetest scene toward the end and even helped her with a clue in the case.

I love the mother/daughter relationship these two have! Their dynamics are great and the banter was so funny sometimes especially with Dawna being such a klutz but the kind who was easily able to laugh at herself. My kinda people. 🤣

What a crazy showdown this one was! I loved how it played out and hearing Dawna and April’s future plans for the store was pretty exciting. I’m sure Bob heartily approved! Can’t wait for the next book—maybe April and JT can get together.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book provided by Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley, and my opinions are my own.

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