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Moving Is Murder (A Salem Falls B&B Paranormal Cozy Mystery, #1) by Nellie H. Steele 

Exciting and fun, with lots of action and animals that can communicate with their human. 

When Ellie Byrne’s husband left her for a waitress, he packed his clothes and emptied their joint bank account, leaving her without a dime but with a mountain of debts. For six months, she struggled to pay her bills and keep the row house they had shared, wondering how she would dig herself out of her dilemma, and then the divorce papers arrived with more demands from the soon-to-be-ex. Meeting with an attorney that her best friend, Mia, conjured up on her behalf, Ellie was reassured that maybe all was not lost, only to discover she was being laid off from the part-time job that was her only means of support. 

Worse yet, a letter awaited her at home, telling her of the death of her beloved aunt, Susie. However, Ellie, it turned out, was Susie’s only heir, and her aunt had done quite well for herself, leaving Ellie a beautiful old Victorian mansion ready to reopen as the prosperous bed and breakfast it had once been, an extensive portfolio of successful investments, and interests in numerous businesses in her hometown. Having nothing to lose, Ellie makes the 5-hour trip across the state to Salem Falls, where Susie had lived her entire life, to meet with the attorney handling the estate. According to the will, Ellie now had enough cash and other assets to live comfortably for the rest of her life, so she leaps at the chance for a do-over. 

The house is gorgeous, and Susie had been working on well-thought-out plans for the B&B’s reopening, including murder mystery weekends. But, the house comes with a string attached. A couple of very special residents must be allowed to stay: Susie’s dog, Lola, and the cat, Cleo. This proves to be no problem, as Ellie has long wanted a pet. It isn’t until Ellie suffers a bump to the head that she finds out just how special they are. 

As Ellie settles in, the upsetting news arrives that Susie didn’t die from natural causes; she’d been murdered. With a plethora of locals who had a bone to pick with her, the local sheriff of this once quiet little town finds his hands full, weeding through all the possible suspects. And when Ellie herself is targeted, she decides she isn’t going to wait around doing nothing only to end up like Aunt Susie. 

Moving Is Murder is the first book in a new cozy mystery series by author Nellie H. Steele, and I think it will be a great one! With underdog amateur sleuth Ellie Bryne, you get a 50-something woman on a mission to make good on her second chance at a happy, successful life. Ellie’s husband did her wrong, but she’s gotten the opportunity to make lemonade out of the lemon of a situation he left behind. The main character and her backstory are relatable, the murder mystery compelling, and the ensuing investigation solid with plenty of collateral action for the heroine to overcome. 

The little town of Salem Falls, while quaint from the outside looking in, has its dramas bubbling right below the surface, and Ellie’s Aunt Susie was up to her eyebrows in all of it. As this is the debut novel of the series, readers meet a goodly variety of interesting town residents and business people, many of whom become suspects in Susie’s murders. Hopefully, most will return in future books. 

I really enjoyed the personalities of both Lola and Cleo: very dog-like and cat-like, I thought. Cleo is somewhat sly and snarky, full of drama, and the smart one of the pair. Lola does what a dog’s going to  do and gets carried away at times, barking at her surroundings and chasing things that maybe she shouldn’t. She has such a good heart, and I was completely caught up in her drama. 

With a compelling plot and engaging characters, I recommend MOVING IS MURDER to cozy mystery readers who enjoy stories where animals can communicate with their humans, settings in the New York/Pennsylvania region of the United States, and more mature amateur sleuths. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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