Varnished without a Trace (A Tallie Graver Mystery) by Misty Simon #Review @KensingtonBooks

Varnished without a Trace (A Tallie Graver Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
5th in Series
Setting – Pennsylvania
Publisher: Kensington (September 29, 2020)
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
ISBN-10: 1496723767
ISBN-13: 978-1496723765
Kindle ASIN: B082WR62G8

This Christmas, Tallie Graver would like to take a break from running her cleaning business to be with her boyfriend, Max, and enjoy their first holiday together–alone. Instead, she’s stuck keeping her mother and grandmother from duking it out during the town’s annual Christmas Eve bingo game. As for the festive spirit, she’ll have to settle for her mean-spirited Aunt Ronda, whose mouth could use some soap.

The night only gets worse after Tallie discovers Ronda’s body. It seems someone cleaned her clock with a can of varnish. While all the evidence points to Ronda’s husband, Tallie doesn’t believe her beloved Uncle Hoagie could do such a dirty deed. Of course, his sudden disappearance doesn’t help his case. If Tallie hopes to clear his name, she’ll need to dig up some dirt to locate the real killer. Otherwise, someone else could get rubbed out . . .


Dollycas’s Thoughts 

Christmas, Bingo, and Bodies! Yes, it is another fun book from Misty Simon!

Tallie and Max are turning her little apartment above the funeral home into their own little penthouse just in time for the holidays. Max is trying to get his accountant practice up and running but he could be making a career change. Tallie is trying to take a little break from her cleaning business to run interference between her mother and grandmother who has come to town for the holidays. Her plans go a little awry when she is separated from her elders at the annual Christmas Eve bingo event at the fire station. She ends up sitting next to her Aunt Ronda, a bingo regular who is upset by all the holiday interlopers winning the prizes.

When Tallie wins the final game Ronda leaves in a huff. Tallie notices Ronda has left her bag behind tries to catch up with her outside. She does find her but Ronda won’t be playing bingo ever again as she is very dead with a can of varnish by her side. Boy, that happened quick.

Seeing that her Uncle Hoagie owns the local hardware store where the varnish came from the police want to talk to him immediately. One problem, Uncle Hoagie is nowhere to be found. Add to that, someone is setting fires around town. No one has been hurt yet but it appears the firebug is escalating.

Tallie isn’t sure if it’s the holiday spirit or if Police Chief Burton facing the inevitable but he asks for Tallie’s help in solving the murder case. Equally surprising, her Uncle Sherman, the fire chief, asks for Tallie’s assistance in solving the firebug case too. If Tallie wants to ring in a bright and shining new year she needs to wrap up both mysteries as soon as possible.

Wow, Ms. Simon packs a lot into these pages along with a generous supply of giggles.

I am so happy Max has moved in with Tallie. They compliment each other nicely and he has a way of handling her family in a way she never could. Tallie is getting stronger but hasn’t left behind all her insecurities.

We are introduced to two new characters in this story. Tallie’s grandmother and Burton’s father. Both strong characters and meeting them shines a light on the other characters they have touched over a lifetime. The author continues to allow her characters to grow in a realistic way.

The story has a nice twist in that not one but two people ask Tallie for her help realizing she has a talent for solving mysteries. She proves it when her observations turn the story in a different direction. Due to the murder, we meet Ronda and Hoagie’s children and again it prompts Tallie to ask key questions. Ms. Simon’s writing style takes her readers right into the ebbs and flows are Tallie’s life, like we are looking right over her shoulder as she follows the clues wherever they lead. This new partnership between Tallie and Burton gives a different dimension. I wonder if it will last.

I have enjoyed every book in this series but I feel Varnished without a Trace is the best one yet. I just can’t get enough of these characters. I strived this year to get caught up on this series and I am a little sad that I now have to wait for the next installment. Until next year, Tallie! I am not tapping my foot or anything. Okay, I am, but I know writing and publishing great stories take time. 🙂

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About the Author

Misty Simon is the author of the Tallie Graver Mystery series. She loves a good story and decided one day that she would try her hand at it. Eventually, she got it right. There’s nothing better in the world than making someone laugh, and she hopes everyone at least snickers in the right places when reading her books. She lives with her husband, daughter, and three insane dogs in Central Pennsylvania where she is hard at work on her next novel or three. She loves to hear from readers so drop her a line at You can find Misty Simon on Facebook here. and on her blog here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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