Tuesday, March 19, 2013

False Impressions

Author: Sandra Nikolai
Genre: Mystery, Suspense

5 Stars

Megan Scott is a ghostwriter who lives in Montreal with her husband, Tom.  Tom is a salesman who travels quite often for his job, and Megan is a ghostwriter. 

Megan is currently ghostwriting for Michael Elliott, a reporter she once knew in school.   While deep in this assignment, Tom tells her he has to go on another business trip, and tells her it is for employees only, no spouses allowed.  Disappointed, because she knew the place he was going and would have liked to go along, she accepts his explanations.

Then the police arrive at Megan's home one day and tell her that her husband is dead.  And that a female was found dead along with him.  And that they were murdered.  Aside from being devastated - partly because she thought they had a happy marriage; partly because they were attempting to conceive; and partly because the woman with him was someone she knew - she finds out that there is evidence which implicates both her and Michael.  Suddenly, her life is thrown into turmoil.

Now, because Megan knew Michael previously, and they have been spending a lot of time together, the police suspect them of plotting the murder.  To save themselves from being wrongly convicted, Megan and Michael must find the real killer or killers.  Along the way, Megan finds out things about her husband that she wishes she hadn't, and her burgeoning feelings for Michael, which she tries to put aside in her quest for the truth.

I was pleasantly surprised by this novel.  While I expected the mystery to be decent, I certainly did not expect it to be something I could not put down.  It definitely held my interest.

I highly recommend this suspenseful mystery, and hope others will enjoy it as much as I did.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Killer Plot

Author: Ellery Adams
Genre:  Mystery

3 Stars
Olivia Limoges is a damaged soul.  After years away and being raised by her grandmother, she has returned to Oyster Bay, North Carolina, and the home she shared with her parents.  She is also extremely rich, and keeps to herself with only her dog, a standard poodle named Captain Haviland, for company.  She owns an upscale restaurant, prefers to eat at what seems to be a retro eatery, and is friends with the owner.  Olivia is attempting to write a novel, and this same friend encourages her to join a local writers' group, telling her it will be good for her and the progression of her novel.  She is eventually approached by a member of said group, and he convinces her to do so.  Soon after, there is a brutal murder, and Olivia takes it upon herself to find the killer at any cost.
To be honest, I had a hard time liking this woman, and I really tried.  She lost both her parents in two separate accidents, and because of this, she has closed herself off to people.  (Since she was nine, I believe she has had plenty of time to recover; many people who have lost both parents do); and uses her money and power to hide behind.  There are others who have been in this situation and manage to move on, but not Olivia.  The only one she is close to is her dog, Captain Haviland.

Throughout the book I was hoping for some sort of character development whereby she learned to care for people, or at least show some human emotion; but unfortunately, I didn't feel that this ever seemed to have happened.  It would have made the book so much more appetizing if she had progressed in some way.
However, the book itself was an easy read, and the mystery was well thought out.  The descriptions of the area she lived in were done very well.  I liked several of the secondary characters, and that's really what kept me reading, and perhaps by the second book Olivia will have gained some 'character development'.  I plan on reading the second in this series, and hopefully, she'll be a better person.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shedding Light on Murder

Author:  Patricia Driscoll
Genre: Murder

3 Stars
Grace Tolliver is a young widow and an ex-probation officer who buys an antique lamp shop in Cape Cod.  She has an employee, Duane, who was once arrested for theft and drug use, but is now in rehab.  Grace, feeling everyone deserves a second chance, hires him.

She sends him to pick up a lamp for repair, and he comes back telling her the client is dead. Because he was the one who discovered the body, and has a record for theft and drugs, the police figure he did it and arrest and charge him for the crime. Grace, of course, doesn't believe he's guilty and sets about finding the real killer.
I read this book based on other reviews, and I really wanted to like it.  The author had a great storyline, and the mystery itself is pretty good. But there are too many areas that don't make any sense, although I'm not going to list them here (I try not to do spoilers unless it's absolutely necessary).
After Duane is arrested for the murder, nearly everyone in town blames her because she hired him.  They all figure if he didn't work for her, Danielle (the deceased) would never have been killed.  Even her father thinks Duane is guilty.  I guess in this town if you've ever been in jail for anything you'd better watch your back, because that's how the townspeople reacted to Duane.  No one believes in 'innocent until proven guilty' (aside from Grace and a few newcomers).  But Grace doesn't believe it, and since the police won't listen to her, she figures she'll conduct her own investigation into the murder, with help along the way from her other employees, Michael and Bella.

Most of the characters are good, but I never really knew what Grace was supposed to look like.  There is a great job describing the secondary characters, but the only thing I ever found out about Grace was when Bella told her she was "a beautiful 39-year-old woman".  Granted, it may have been fleeting, so I may have missed it, but I don't remember any descriptions of even so much as her hair color.  I like to picture in my mind the characters' faces, bodies, etc., but at least you need something to go on.  Being beautiful doesn't leave a whole lot.
I also personally felt that the novel leaves you hanging.  I didn't think there was a satisfying ending to it.  There were several unanswered questions, and I would have at least liked some satisfaction, which wasn't forthcoming.  For this reason, I give it three stars for the mystery only, since it was pretty good.  It was the details that were missing.


Monday, March 11, 2013

The Telltale Turtle

Author: Joyce and Jim Lavene
Genre:  Mystery

4 Stars
Mary Catherine Roberts is a pet psychic.  She can communicate with animals of all kinds, including reptiles.  When her boss's aunt is killed, she finds the body and the aunt's pet turtle, and asks him to help her find the killer.  Suddenly, there is a huge line of suspects, and Mary Catherine finds herself in more trouble than she ever thought.

She also has a local radio show where she answers questions regarding peoples' pets.  One day, while coming home from work, she 'hears' the distress call of a creature.  As she follows the distraught voice, she walks right into a murder scene, with a woman's dead body on the floor and a very small turtle who wants to know what happened to his human.  She calls the police, and after being questioned, takes the turtle home, and then begins to discover from him various details of the murder (from a turtle's point of view, which isn't a lot).

While trying to convince the police detective assigned to the case that she really does communicate with animals, 'accidents' seem to occur to her and her pet cat, Baylor, who goes with her everywhere, including work.  It seems someone has been paying attention to Mary Catherine and doesn't want her to tell what the turtle knows.  Add in a P.I. who likes her and has a gift of his own, a pet food sponsor who's semi-interested in her, and assorted other characters, and you have a well-rounded novel that should keep you interested.
I felt that this was a very good mystery.  I really enjoyed the fact that Mary Catherine could communicate with animals, and it was interesting to "hear" their thoughts about humans.  Whether they really think this way or not is also interesting, but I do believe that human/animal communication certainly does exist in one form or another; and I do know that there are pet psychics who seem to be pretty good at this (although I have never met one).

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Irregardless of Murder

Author: Ellen Edwards Kennedy
Genre: Religous Fiction; Mystery

3 Stars
Amelia Prentice is a schoolteacher who happens to trip over the dead body of a former student one night in the library.  At first considered a suspect, she soon finds that there is more to the murder than what meets the eye.  What at first seemed like an accident is soon discovered to be a murder, and the list of suspects just keeps growing.
Well, the plot sounded good enough. A schoolteacher trips over the dead body of a former student. She is then a suspect in the murder.

It sounds harmless enough, and a decent mystery. Except: This is religious fiction (which, in my defense, I didn't know before I read the book because our local library only labeled it 'mystery', but that in itself does not mean I wouldn't have read the book anyway, but that my expectations would certainly have been different).    

Please don't get me wrong; I've read religious fiction before and may do so again, if the plot sounds interesting.  It is just religious fiction masked as a mystery that I have problem with (and this is only my own opinion, so I hope no one will take offense by what I am going to say).

The only problem I have with it - and I have read several religious mysteries so I am not basing it on this one book - is that you know the protagonist could step into an army of scorpions and nothing would happen to them, all because of their strong belief in God.

And you also know that by the end of the story, everything, including all the subplots (of which this story had their share), would be tied up in pretty little ribbons and the 'good Christians' would live happily ever after.  There's even a professor who goes around humming all the time - and they're all hymns.  No one I know goes around humming hymns.

The mystery was decent, but could have been better if Amelia had depended on her own wits to save her instead of her belief in God, which I think any logical person would do.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society

Author: Amy Hill Hearth
Genre: Literary Fiction

5 Stars
In 1962, Jackie Hart moves with her family from Boston to Naples, Florida.  Feeling like a fish out of water, she wants to do something to fill her days other than just 'be a housewife'.  She decides to start a 'literary salon'.  Soon after, she hosts a late-night radio show, calling herself Miss Dreamsville.
Her literary salon is made up of a group of misfits, who have their own problems to deal with, but look forward to their weekly meetings to discuss books and other subjects.  What soon happens, though, is it becomes more of 'other subjects', and as they find themselves becoming closer to each other, they realize that they, themselves are changing as people.
I found this book amazing and riveting.  It is about the coming of age of six people - all adults - in 1963 Florida. Each one of them, Dora, Miss Lansbury, Priscilla, Robbie-Lee, Mrs. Bailey-White, and especially Jackie, have been stuck in their own past and their own limitations and are finding their paths in life.

Jackie, a northerner from Boston, moves to Naples, Florida in 1962 with her family and feels totally alienated there, since life is so different from what she has known.  Her husband is busy with his job, and her kids are old enough to be concerned with their own lives.  So, soon after her arrival she starts a literary salon - hence the title. The only people who join are misfits in their own way, who soon realize they are not only discussing books, they're discussing life.
Jackie has a startling effect on people, especially those in her little circle, and they begin to open up to each other. They learn how to think about their own lives and the limitations they have set for themselves,and, the most important thing of all - they learn of each other's pain and secrets and the healing that comes with trusting another person. Highly recommended.

Dance of the Scarecrows (A Jonathan Wilder Mystery #1)

Author:  Ray Sipherd Genre:   Mystery Hardcover; Paperback; ISBN #:  9780312143060; 9780373262878 Worldwide Mystery 252 Pages Various...