Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Say Yes to the Death (A Debutante Dropout Mystery)

Author:  Susan McBride
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback, E-book
ISBN #:  9780062358608
Witness Publishing
$7.99; $5.99 Kindle
September 29, 2015
Five Stars

Someone old, someone cruel

Debutante dropout Andrea Kendricks is beyond done with big hair, big gowns, and big egos - so being dragged to a high-society Texas wedding by her socialite mama, Cissy, gives her a bad case of deja vu.  As does running into her old prep-school bully, Olivia La Belle, the wedding planner, who's graduated to berating people for a living on her reality TV show.  But for all the times Andy wished her dead, nobody deserves Olivia's fate:  lying in a pool of blood, a cake knife in her throat - but did the angry baker do it?

Millicent Draper, the grandmotherly owner of Millie's Cakes, swears she's innocent, and Andy believes her.  Unfortunately, the cops don't.  Though Andy's fiance, lawyer Brian Malone, is handling Millie's case, she's determined to spring Millie herself.  But where to start?  "La Belle from Hell" had enemies galore.  Good thing Andy has a BFF who's a reporter - and a blue-blood mother who likes to pull strings.

********

Andy Kendricks is attending a wedding with her mother, mainly because Stephen, her mother's fiance, is out of town and she's the "plus one".   Unfortunately, she doesn't have a gown to wear, and her mother brought one that is just a tad too tight.  When Andy needs to use the restroom and is searching, she hears a conversation between the wedding planner and Millie Draper, the cake baker, and Olivia is berating Millie.  Fond of the woman, Andy intervenes and discovers Olivia is her hated nemesis from prep school.  After her confrontation with Olivia, she resumes her search for a bathroom, and comes across the bride, who is having difficulty 'getting upright' and helps out which results in Andy's having a 'wardrobe malfunction'.  To the rescue is Olivia La Belle, who tells her that she has a dress for her to wear - it seems one of the bridesmaids didn't show up and she needs Andy to step in.  Andy, with no choice in the matter, dons the dress and joins the wedding.

The next morning, she goes to Olivia's office to return the dress and finds a gruesome sight - Millie bending over the body of Olivia, a cake knife in her hand and blood on her clothes.  Although Millie insists she found Olivia dying, Andy convinces her to stay and wait for the police.

But when all evidence points to Millie as the murderer, Andy is positive she's innocent, enlists her fiance Brian to defend Millie, and then vows to do whatever she can to find the real killer and free Millie.

I found this book, as with all of Ms. McBride's works, to be written very well with a very good plot.  We follow Andy and her thought processes (although I don't agree with her mindset at times) as she probes the killing even though she's told to stay out of it by Brian, the police and her mother.  When Andy won't be convinced, her mother insists on helping, figuring she can at least try and keep her daughter out of harm's way.

When Andy digs deeper into Olivia's death, she finds a web of lies that seems to grow bigger every day, and engulfs people she never would have thought were involved in her wildest dreams.  But when she decides, against her better judgment, to help Olivia's assistant Terra, it becomes the key to the entire case.

There were a few things that didn't make sense, even though I didn't allow it to detract from my enjoyment of the story, which I won't detail here because I don't want it to detract from others' enjoyment, either (if you're truly interested and don't mind spoilers, you can email and I will tell you what they are).  

In the end, Andy discovers that not just knowing what you know, but who you know could just kill you.  Highly recommended.


                                                                                

Friday, September 25, 2015

Dangerously Dark (A Chocolate Whisperer Book 2)

Author:  Colette London
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback, E-Book
ISBN #:  9781617733475
Kensington Publishing
352 Pages
$7.99; $5.84 Kindle
September 29, 2015

Five Stars

Hayden Mundy Moore is an expert on everything chocolate, helping clients develop new products and revamp recipes until they're irresistible.  But sometimes, a dash of murder finds its way into the mix...

********

Hayden Mundy Moore is a "chocolate whisperer".  She travels the globe fixing problems for chocolatiers, or really anyone who needs help in this area.  But right now she has some 'down time,' and is determined to fly to Seattle to meet her sexy-voiced financial advisor, Travis.  However, before she can board the plane, Travis tells her she's expected at her college friend Carissa's engagement party in Portland, Oregon.

When she arrives, Carissa is excited about her new chocolate ice cream food truck, Churn PDX, which is different in that it uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the ice cream instantly.  Wanting to show Hayden how it works, Carissa steps inside her truck - and screams, landing directly on top of the dead body of her fiance Declan.

Almost immediately rescued by Austin Martin, another member of the Cartorama community, Carissa leaves in the ambulance with Declan's body, but not before extracting a promise from Hayden to substitute as guide on Declan's Chocolate After Dark, a nighttime tour of places that have special chocolate treats.

Soon Hayden discovers what killed Declan - the liquid nitrogen, which replaces oxygen and can actually suffocate someone.  While the police are calling it an accident, Hayden believes it's murder; much to the dismay of Travis, and her bodyguard Danny, who has shown up unexpectedly to watch over her.  While both are insisting it was an accident, Hayden isn't having any of it and vows to find out the truth of who killed Declan and why.

And what she finds out isn't pretty.  Declan wasn't exactly husband material, and a much more shady character than she could imagine.  In fact, everyone around the Cartorama community isn't really who they claim to be, with secrets running rampant and evasions aplenty, and have reasons to want Declan dead; even her friend Carissa has reason enough to see him gone.

While Hayden thinks she may have been poisoned, (albeit just a bit) and then has another 'accident' later on, she knows she's right on track.  But what she finds out doesn't leave her completely satisfied, it also disillusions her in a way.

This second in the series, much like the first, is well-written and has a very good plot.  I enjoyed the fact that Hayden had a lot of suspects to filter through, trying to decide which one had the greatest motive to wish Declan dead, but never outright accusing anyone without the facts in front of her.  (It can be annoying when the main character goes around accusing everyone of the crime without having proof of it).

I enjoyed the book immensely, but a little disappointed that poor Hayden's love life is going nowhere while Danny's always seems to be going somewhere.  The girl can't get a break.  We know there's a conflict between Danny and Travis; but with Hayden having never met Travis, it's not a fair contest; Danny, for all his protests, is obviously interested in Hayden, but it's like competing with a ghost, somehow; something heard but not seen.  I feel that until she actually meets Travis face-to-face, it's never going to be a fair fight.  Oh, well...for another book I suppose (which I will be waiting eagerly to read)...

When we find out the murderer, yes, it was expected somehow, but it doesn't make it unbelievable in any way.  The characters are three-dimensional, the book a great read; and I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Candy Corn Murder (A Lucy Stone Mystery Book 22)

Author:  Leslie Meier
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover, E-book, Audiobook
ISBN #:  9780758277077
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$15.47 HC, $11.49 Kindle, $29.99 Audiobook
August 25, 2015

Three Stars

Halloween is coming to Tinker's Cove, Maine, and local reporter Lucy Stone is covering the town's annual Giant Pumpkin Fest for the Pennysaver.  There's the pumpkin-boat regatta, the children's Halloween party, the pumpkin weigh-in...even a contest where home-built catapults hurl pumpkins at an old Dodge!  But not everything goes quite as planned...

Lucy's getting very annoyed that her husband Bill and his friend Evan have been working seemingly nonstop on their potentially prize-winning pumpkin catapult.  But when the day of the big contest arrives, Evan is nowhere to be found...until a catapulted pumpkin busts open the trunk of the Dodge.  Amid the pumpkin gore is a very deceased Evan, bashed in the head and placed in the trunk by someone long before the contest started.

Bill is on the hook for the Halloween homicide - he was the last one to see Evan - so Lucy knows she's got some serious sleuthing to do.  The crime's trail seems to always circle back to Country Cousins, the town's once-quaint general store that's now become a big Internet player.  Though the store's founder, Old Sam Miller, is long gone, his son Tom and grandson Buck now run the hugely successful company.  But whispered rumors say things aren't going well, and Lucy finds that this case may have something to do with an unsolved, decades-old Miller family mystery...

With each new lead pointing her in a different direction, Lucy sees that time is quickly running out.  If she wants to spook the real killer, she'll have to step into an old ghost story...

********

In this, Leslie Meier's 22nd outing in her themed mysteries, it's nearly Halloween in Tinker's Cove, Maine, and Lucy Stone is busy.  Her son Toby and his wife Molly have pretty much dumped their son on Lucy (I noticed they didn't offer to pay her); it's one thing to babysit your grandchildren for a week, it's quite another to take care of them for four months, on top of having to pay for expensive day care and adhere to a strict diet while said parents go on an extended vacation.  After all, it was Toby's job, not Molly's, and she could have stayed home with their child for the four months he would be away.  Military wives/husbands do it all the time. 

Her husband Bill, along with his friend Evan, are working on growing a prize-winning pumpkin; and when someone's pumpkin is vandalized one night, Evan and Bill rig an alarm system that blares a horn anytime anyone comes near; her daughter Sara is planning on participating in Take Back the Night (a march to stop violence against women) and also participating in a dive to carve pumpkins underwater for the festival.

Plus, there's a new day care worker, Heidi, and she's a terror.  I can't understand why anyone in the town pays attention to her, but the women on Lucy's committee, for some reason, are allowing her to push them around.

But when pumpkins and pumpkin displays are being vandalized, they know there's a real problem out there; and when Evan turns up dead, and Bill is the the most likely suspect, Lucy decides she needs to ferret out the killer, and fast.            

Having read other Lucy Stone books, I really liked her and her adventures.  But this book - something just nagged at me somewhat.  In this book Lucy has turned into the kind of woman I really dislike:  someone who doesn't stand her ground.  Allowing a day care worker to tell you how to raise a child?  If someone like Heidi tried to tell me what to feed my child, I'd tell her to stuff it.  I'd ask her if she had children - which Heidi does not - and then ask her why she thinks she knows better than I do, since I'd raised four children (as Lucy has) and they are all doing just fine.  Plus, if a newcomer came in and told me they knew how to throw a children's party better than we do (a DJ?  For preschoolers?  Really?  They can dance instead of play games?) I'd let her know in no uncertain terms that just having some sort of degree didn't make her an expert.  Not giving children Halloween candy? Again, really?  Once a year is going to rot their teeth?  I don't think so.  Nothing like raising unhappy children.  Who are these people, really, that they allow her to dictate to them how they should be raising their children?  

I always enjoy when there's a mystery within a mystery, as there was here.  And it could have been oh, so interesting.  But instead of focusing on the mystery itself, I felt that this book was more about a political agenda than a murder.  Yes, I know violence against women is a real thing - I've been a victim myself many years ago  - but this is supposed to be a cozy mystery.  That means people are reading for escapism, and not reading the news or watching it on television.  If I want reality, I'll turn on CNN; if I read a fiction novel, I don't expect to get slapped in the face with it.

I hesitate to say any more about this book as I feel it will be giving too much away, but part of the explanation given toward the end just didn't make sense.  There are always signs that anyone with half a brain would notice, and Lucy didn't suspect a thing...

However, anyone who has read any of the previous books in this series might truly enjoy this one as well.  


Friday, September 18, 2015

Pane and Suffering (A Webb's Glass Shop Mystery #1)

Author:  Cheryl Hollon
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback; e-book
ISBN #:  978-1617737602
Kensington Publishing
320 Pages
$7.99; $5.84 Kindle
September 29, 2015


Five Stars

To solve her father's murder and save the family-owned glass shop, Savannah Webb must shatter a killer's carefully constructed facade...

After Savannah's father dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, she drops everything to return home to St. Petersburg, Florida, to settle his affairs--including the fate of the beloved, family-owned glass shop.  Savannah intends to hand over ownership to her father's trusted assistant and fellow glass expert, Hugh Trevor, but soon discovers the master craftsman also dead of an apparent heart attack.

As if the coincidence of the two deaths wasn't suspicious enough, Savannah discovers a note her father left for her in his shop, warning her that she is in danger.  With the local police unconvinced, it's up to Savannah to piece together the encoded clues left behind by her father.  And when her father's apprentice is accused of the murders, Savannah is more desperate than ever to crack the case before the killer seizes a window of opportunity to cut her out of the picture...

********

Savannah Webb returns home to Florida from Seattle when her father dies of a heart attack.  She is planning on staying long enough to oversee the transfer of her family's glass shop to her father's assistant, Hugh Trevor, and then leaving.  But before she can do so, Hugh's body is found in the back of the shop, also apparently dead of a heart attack.  At this point, Savannah is convinced that both her father and Hugh were murdered, and since the police officer she speaks with doesn't believe her, she knows she must try and find the truth for herself.

It seems her father once worked for the government, and when she was growing up, he would leave riddles in code all around St. Petersburg for her to figure out.  So when she finds a piece of paper with a code on it, and it directs her to a park, she encounters another.

Soon she has enlisted the aid of the owner of the pub next door, Edward, a British transplant, to help her find the truth.  Then Jacob Underwood, her father's young apprentice who has Asperger's Syndrome and uses a service dog, is accused of the crime and she knows she must find the answer before he spends even one night in jail.

Let me first tell you that I figured out the killer within the first few chapters.  But, since I pretty much am able to do that on a regular basis, I will also tell you that I didn't allow it to hinder my enjoyment of this book.  For enjoyable it was.

Savannah is a breath of fresh air.  And we find out early on that she has a great fear of heights (which we know will be tested later in the book, as the fears always are); she's intelligent, strong, isn't afraid to ask for help, not a pushover and stands her ground.  I love that.  I hate women who are wishy-washy and afraid to make decisions.

The plot is different and interesting in the fact that there are codes to be broken in order to find the truth, and Savannah, sometimes with the help of Jacob, is able to do just that.  She puts the pieces together nicely while managing to keep herself relatively safe in the process.  Even when she finds out something disturbing about Edward, she's smart enough to listen to explanation and figure things out for herself, not run away feeling betrayed; another trait of maturity.

When we find out the reasons why her father and Hugh were killed, it all seems such a waste, but is believable enough that someone who has convoluted ideas could do this.  Ms. Hollon brings to us a protagonist that is clever and straightforward, someone whom I would like to spend time with, and hope to do so by further books in the series.  Highly recommended.




Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1395284426           
             

Friday, September 11, 2015

The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks

Author:  Tracey Goessel
Genre:  Biography

Hardcover, e book
ISBN#: 9781613734049
Chicago Review Press
560 Pages
$24.89 Amazon; $23.65 Kindle
October 1, 2015

Five Stars

Silent film superstar Douglas Fairbanks was an absolute charmer.  Irrepressibly vivacious, he spent his life leaping over and into things, from his early Broadway successes to his marriage to the great screen actress Mary Pickford to the way he made Hollywood his very own town.  The inventor of the swashbuckler, he wasn't only an actor - he all but directed and produced his own movies, and in founding United Artists with Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, he challenged the studio system.

But listing his accomplishments is one thing and telling his story is another.  Tracey Goessel has made the latter her life's work, and with exclusive access to Fairbank's love letters to Pickford, she brilliantly illuminates how Fairbanks conquered not just the entertainment world but the heart of perhaps the most famous woman in the world at the time.

When Mary Pickford died, she was an alcoholic, self-imprisoned in her mansion, nearly alone, and largely forgotten.  But she left behind a small box; in it, worn and refolded, were her letters from Douglas Fairbanks.  Pickford and Fairbanks had ruled Hollywood as its first king and queen for a glorious decade.  But the letters began long before, when they were both married to others, when revealing the affair could have caused a great scandal.

Now these letters form the centerpiece of the first truly definitive biography of Hollywood's first king, the man who did his own stunts and built his own studio and formed a company that allowed artists to distribute their own works outside the studio system.  But Goessel's research uncovered more:  that Fairbanks's first film appearance was two years earlier than had been assumed; that his stories of how he got into theater, and then into films, were fabricated; that the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios has a specially constructed underground trench so that Fairbanks could jog in the nude; that Fairbanks himself insisted racist references be removed from his films' intertitles; and true cause of Fairbanks's death.

Fairbanks was the top male star of his generation, the maker of some of the greatest films of his ear; The Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood, The Mark of Zorro.  He was fun, witty, engaging, creative, athletic, and a force to be reckoned with.  He shaped our idea of the Hollywood hero, and Hollywood has never been the same since.  His story, like his movies, is full of passion, bravado, romance, and desire.  Here at last is his definitive biography, based on extensive and brand-new research into every aspect of his career, and written with fine understanding, wit, and verve.

********

What can you say about Douglas Fairbanks?  Those who know of him, already know what he meant to Hollywood.  They know he was married to Mary Pickford, and they, along with Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, created United Artists.  It was Douglas Fairbanks who created the original swashbuckler pictures (which his son, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., continued to make through the years), and helped begin the career of that marvelous director, Wild Bill Wellman.

But this book is so much more.  At a whopping 560 pages, Ms. Goessel has done her research well.  She begins with Douglas's grandparents, his deep relationship with his mother, Ella, that was strained by his first marriage to (Anna) Beth Sully; her father's attempt to manipulate himself into Douglas's career, his deep and abiding love for Mary, which foundered only when his career began to decline and his natural restlessness took him in other directions.

There is much information given on the life and career of Douglas Fairbanks, what drove him, what he considered important, what molded him into the person he became both on screen and off.  I found the book to be quite riveting, if slow at times.  The reason I mention this is because like other books of this genre, much is given to the films he made - not the fact that they were made, which is quite important, indeed; but the fact that every single detail about the plot of each and every film is listed.  What part he played, the co-stars, the scenes in the movies; indeed, there is so much information given that one need not even see the films because it is much like reading the screenplay of each one.  (In this I have always believed that the filmography belonged in the back of the book, and the biography front and foremost, where you would expect it to be).  That notwithstanding, this is a very good book indeed.

Douglas Fairbanks was a man who decided very early on he was going to be an actor, and never gave up.  He made the transition from theater to film quite seamlessly, always keeping his goal in mind - to be a star.  This was helped by the fact that he was energetic, had an optimistic personality, and did his own stunts beautifully as he was also quite athletic.  He had a smile that was dazzling, a personality that was brilliant, and was witting and entertaining.  He was a shrewd businessman who knew what he wanted, and would usually get it.  He was fearless and masculine, yet insanely jealous, a trait he was never able to escape. He was generous and gave tirelessly of himself to charitable causes throughout his life.  He treated all men the same, and Charlie Chaplin called him 'his only friend.'  He built a magnificent estate for himself and Mary, Pickfair, (which she retained when they divorced years later).

Douglas and Mary were extremely powerful back in the early days of Hollywood, and when they created United Artists, they were able to break "film blocking," in which theaters had to rent other films along with theirs, causing the profits for their films to go down.  Mary counted every penny and this was important to her.

But the advent of talking pictures changed everything.  Mary didn't think they would last, and Douglas didn't want to do them.  Perhaps they liked the relative freedom of doing silent films; no lines to remember, or perhaps there were other reasons that we will never truly know.

Ms. Goessel's research included the letters between Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, giving us a view of their love for each other.  We see the rise of Douglas Fairbanks's brilliant career, and in the advent of talking pictures, his decline.  He made only a handful of talking pictures before he retired in 1934.  When he died in 1939, Hollywood lost not only a legend, but a man who had the foresight and ambition to create a lasting legacy.

The one thing I would have liked to have seen in this book is photos.  Since I received an ARC, and I can't be sure that they just weren't in my copy, I am not going to say definitely that there aren't any.  For those who have not been exposed to Mr. Fairbanks, photos would have been a welcome touch, and for those who know who he is, an added bonus.

Regardless, this book will be valuable to anyone who wishes to know more about the original swashbuckler of Hollywood.  Highly recommended.

There is one interesting side note to this all - Mary Pickford's first two husbands, Owen Moore and Douglas Fairbanks, both died in 1939, and both of a heart attack.  Just an odd coincidence...  


                         

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Murder on the Bucket List


Author:  Elizabeth Perona
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9780738745091
Midnight Ink Publishing
336 Pages
$11.51; $9.59 Amazon
July 8, 2015
Three Stars

The septuagenarian women of the Summer Ridge Bridge Club have gathered in secret late one July night to check skinny-dipping off their bucket list.  But as Francine observes, the jittery members seem more obsessed with body issues and elaborate preparations than actually stripping down and getting in the pool.  A pungent smell emanating from the pool shed provides a perfect distraction.  When a dead body flops out, it's an answered prayer for Charlotte, since the first item on her list is to solve a murder.

Unfortunately for Charlotte and Francine, before they can discover who really killed the man, they must negotiate neighborhood tours of the crime scene, press coverage of their skinny-dipping, an angry homeowners' association, a disastrous appearance on Good Morning America, media offers sought by a hungry publicist, and a clever killer.

********

There is a group of five senior female friends - Francine, Joy, Mary Ruth, Charlotte and Alice - each with a Bucket List.  One night at one of the Alice's home, they decide to do one of the items on someone's list, which is skinny dipping; and are going to do so in Alice's pool.  But soon they discover a nearby shed that holds a dead body, and since solving a mystery is on another's bucket list, they decide to help Charlotte, another lady, do just that.  What ensues is each of the ladies having a chance to do one of the items on their bucket list, and in doing so, ferreting out clues (and a few secrets) regarding the murder along the way.

There were several things that just went wrong - one scene (SPOILERS AHEAD) where a television anchor has one of the women in Francine's home, cooking for a show...using Francine's ingredients, pans, etc...without asking Francine if it were alright - and then, when someone is injured, telling Francine that SHE can get sued to pay medical bills.  Say what?  You walk into a stranger's (to her) home, have someone just help themselves to whatever you have in the freezer, start cooking, and then try and tell them they can get sued?  You have it wrong.  The reporter - and friends - can all get sued for doing what they did.  What kind of person does that?  Walks into someone's home and just decides to "help" themselves to whatever they want?  In another scene, a thirty-something cop notices that one of the seventy-something women has a nice body...eeewww...and then allows these women to 'show' the place of murder to whomever they want - allowing people to trample all over the murder scene.  Really?  And I'm supposed to take this book seriously?

While this isn't bad for a first effort, it could have been so much better.  The plot was well-constructed, and the ladies genuinely seemed to be fast friends - but I didn't find the book as entertaining as I would have liked it to be.  I also would have liked to have seen character development in these ladies, but there wasn't enough.  I didn't understand the reasons they did what they did.  Most of the women seemed kind of flaky in their thinking, and the plot points just didn't seem to come together enough; it all seemed convoluted somewhat; however, I believe the author will do better in the second in this series; oftentimes the first effort leads to much better books in the long run, and I will continue with the series.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Miss Dreamsville and the Lost Heiress of Collier County

KAuthor:  Amy Hill Hearth
Genre:  Literary Fiction/Drama

Paperback, e book
ISBN #:  9781476765747
Atria Books
320 Pages
$8.84 Amazon; $11.99 Kindle
September 8, 2015

Five Stars

In this sequel to Amy Hill Hearth's "funny and charming" (Publisher's Weekly) debut novel, Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society, the eponymous book club reunites one year later, in the late summer of 1964.
Their mission: to fight a large development along the tidal river where member Robbie-Lee grew up and where his mother, Dolores Simpson, a former stripper turned alligator hunter, still lives in a fishing shack.

The developer is Darryl Norwood, ex-husband of narrator Dora Witherspoon, who returns to Collier County to assist in the battle.  An old land deed, the discovery that one of the key characters has been using a false name, and a dramatic court hearing are just a few of the highlights.  Not to mention the reappearance of the Ghost of Seminole Joe.

Just as Hearth's debut explored the ways we can find a sense of belonging in other people, her latest novel shows how closely tied each of us is to our sense of home - and the conflicts that can arise when our idea of that home becomes threatened.  For Darryl, the river is a place ripe for development.  For Dora, who's known as the Turtle Lady because she rescues Everglades "snappers," it's a place that belongs to the critters.  And for Dolores, former stripper, it's a place to hide from the world...

********

In the first Miss Dreamsville, we learned about Jackie Hart, a transplant from Boston, and her struggle to fit in with the people of the Florida Everglades.  In her attempt to find a place to be, she started the Collier County Literary Society, and became Miss Dreamsville for the residents.

In this book, which takes place the following year of 1964, we learn about another of the members of that book club - Eudora Welty Witherspoon, known to all as Dora.  The story begins where the last ended, when Jackie urged Dora to go and find out more about 'her people,' where she came from, and Dora has been doing exactly that in Jackson, Mississippi.  But one day Dora receives a telegram from home.  The telegram is from Dolores Simpson, who lives in an old shack on the edge of the Everglades.  It simply reads that there's trouble, and Dora needs to come home now.

Borrowing money from her landlady, she boards a bus back home to Collier County with dread filling her, not knowing what the trouble may be.  When she arrives at Dolores' shack, Dora discovers the trouble is worse than she thought.  Her ex-husband Darryl is back in town, and he's going to build a housing development right where Dolores' shack sits, and it has divided the town into two camps:  those that want it, and those that don't.

So Dora, not knowing what to do, not wanting to face Darryl alone, and not wanting to think about what might or even could happen, turns to her friends from the book club - Jackie, Plain Jane, and Mrs. Bailey-White.  (Of the remaining members, Dolores' son Robbie-Lee (who is also Dora's best friend), is in New York, and Priscilla is in college; and Miss Lansbury, the librarian, has retired.

But here we have another dilemma:  Jackie, Plain Jane and Mrs. Bailey-White are taking care of Priscilla's little girl while Priscilla is in college.  While it shouldn't be a problem, and wouldn't today, the crux of the matter is that Priscilla is black, and in the Old South, it was.  And with Jackie's tendency to act as if she were still in Boston, she sometimes forgets that things don't work the same way in the South as they do in the North, and it takes longer for life to change.  She might not be happy about it, she doesn't like it, but she is learning to understand.

Then there's Judd, Jackie's son, who has been taking care of Dora's home and turtles while Dora's been out of town; and thirteen-year-old Judd is beginning to grow up, while Jackie's husband Ted is  beginning to resent his time working away from home when he knows he should be with his family.

Dora finds herself in the center of change, confused about what she learned and what she still needs to learn, not sure if she can share with her friends, but still through it all realizes that in deciding to help Dolores - who has never asked for help from anyone - she will also be helping herself.  

I have found that there are some books you can read and wish you hadn't; others you can read and be happy you read them; still others you will set aside and know that you will read again; and then there are books that only need to be read once to remain with your forever.  This is one of those books.  In the end, there are secrets in the Glades, as there are everywhere in life.  Some are better off never being known.  Some need to be told to end a story.  Sometimes the secrets don't matter.  But if you're lucky, you find out what really does.  Highly recommended.   


Review of Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society:  http://www.joannesbooks.blogspot.com/2013/03/miss-dreamsville-and-collier-county.html



                                 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Shepherd's Crook (An Animals in Focus Mystery #4)

Author:  Sheila Webster Boneham
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback
ISBN: 9780738744872
Midnight Ink Publishing
336 Pages
$12.37 Amazon
October 8, 2015

Four Stars

Animal photographer  Janet MacPhail has just arrived at a sheep-herding competition with her Australian Shepherd, Jay, when she learns that two dozen sheep have disappeared.  Police think the animals have wandered off in search of greener grass, but Janet sees and hears things that convince her the sheep's owners are right - the animals have been stolen.

Janet knows she should leave the snooping to police while she attends to her own problems - new living arrangements, her mom's wedding plans, puppy and kitten antics, and extremists bent on keeping people from having pets.  But when a livestock handler turns up dead and the sheep's owner disappears, the police and a pair of thugs pay Janet way more attention than she likes.  She sets out to find answers, putting herself and those she loves in the killer's crosshairs.

********

Janet MacPhail has entered her dog Jay in a sheepherding competition.  While there, she notices two men around the area, apparently arguing with Ray Turnbull, the farm's livestock handler, and then Evan, the ranch's owner.  Soon it is discovered that two dozen sheep are missing, presumably stolen, and when Ray's body is found hanging in the barn, she begins to wonder if he had anything to do with the missing sheep.

But when Evan's wife Summer also disappears, Janet now thinks that maybe Summer had something to do with the missing sheep, and even though she knows she needs to stay away from the investigation, she's finding that hard to do.  Especially since Ray's dog Bonnie is gone, and no one seems to know where she is.

Then there's the matter of her mother's wedding in a couple of weeks and Janet knows she needs to find a dress for the wedding but is putting it off; and her boyfriend Tom is preparing to sell his house and move in, disrupting Janet's comfortable life of being 'just the way she wants it.'  The last kicker is her new next-door neighbor, Phil Martin, is putting a bill to the city council to limit the amount of pets one can have in their household, which doesn't sit well with Janet and her friends, all animal lovers.

Yet we find that the murder is more than it appears to be on the surface, and Janet discovers blackmail is also involved.  Because of this, she winds up putting her life in danger while she's trying to find out who killed Ray and why, where Summer is, and why she disappeared.  In the end, we are given a satisfactory conclusion to the story.  Recommended.





Altered to Death (Faith Hunter Scrap This Volume 6)

Author:  Christina Freeburn Genre:  Mystery Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:  9781635112825; 9781635112795 Henery Press...