Wednesday, January 31, 2018

File M for Murder (A Cat in the Stacks Mystery #3)

Author:  Miranda James
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover LP; Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book; MP3 CD
ISBN #:  9781471329920; 9780425246184; 9781522670742
Berkley Publishing
304 Pages
Various Prices; $7.99; $7.99; $9.99 Amazon
January 31, 2012

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Athena College's new writer in residence is a famous native son, playwright Connor Lawton, known for his sharp writing - and sharper tongue.  After an unpleasant encounter, librarian Charlie Harris heads home to a nice surprise:  His daughter, Laura, is visiting and will be subbing for another professor this fall semester.  It's great news until he hears who got her the job: her old flame, Connor Lawton...

Fearing competition for Connor's affections, one of his admirers tries to drive Laura out of town.  And then, before Connor finishes the play he is writing, he is murdered - and Laura is the prime suspect.  Knowing she's innocent, Charlie and his faithful sidekick, Diesel, follow Connor's cluttered trail of angry lovers, bitter enemies, and intriguing library research to find the true killer before his daughter is forever catalogued under "M" - for murderer.

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Charlie Harris is enjoying his life in small town Athena, Mississippi - aside from the fact that egotistical playwright Connor Lawton is making him miserable.  It seems he's in town to hone a play at the college, and he's being a pain in the rear to everyone he meets.

But when Charlie's daughter Laura arrives, it's a welcome surprise.  Laura is conducting a semester at the college teaching acting, and it's an unfortunate occurrence when Charlie discovers that Connor and Laura once dated.  Everything he knows of the man screams Horrible Human Being.  But it's an even bigger surprise when he discovers that Laura has kept a secret about the true relationship she had with Connor.

Then Laura finds Connor's body and things change.  She's high on the suspect list, and Charlie now has a personal interest in finding the killer.  Once he saw Connor's body for himself, he knew it wasn't an accidental death, and he's also sure Laura is innocent.  But with so many people who disliked the man, there isn't going to be an easy path finding out the truth.  When things escalate and Charlie's very household comes into danger, the stakes are raised and Charlie will do anything to keep his family safe..

This is the third book in the series, and I would have liked to enjoy it more.  I did like the second one better than the first, but it seems Charlie is in a rut.  We've never really learned much about him except that he's barely over fifty and has a bit of a paunch.  There's no descriptions, not only of Charlie, but really of anyone else, sans hair color (black).  We're told his kids are attractive, but that's a relative term (especially since he's their father).  I would have liked to have seen more personality traits.  (We do get height - maybe the author doesn't like short people - everyone seems to be nearly six feet tall or taller).  There are also no descriptions of the town, so there's no connection of it to the story.  This place could be Anywhere, USA.

Then there's Deputy Berry...who's the most unlikable person in the book.  She has no humanness about her - she's cold, standoffish, always professional.  She's also never available when Charlie wants to reach her.  I realize she's a police officer, but surely at some point she can show that she's also a human?  Unbend a little?  Do her employees even like her?  Because I see nothing in her that shows she has any empathy for anyone else, nothing that shows she has a sense of humor, has a social life.  She's colder than my freezer.

Then there's Diesel.  I'm a lifelong cat owner, and I talk to them, play with them, etc.  But they don't act like humans.  Most times, cats do their own thing and are cats.  Diesel is practically a furry person.  It doesn't make sense (nor does the fact that Charlie talks to him like Charlie's a woman, not a man - I've never heard a guy call a cat 'sweet baby').  While Maine Coons do trill (I've owned one), they don't act like human beings.

As you can see, the book didn't impress me much - I've begun to wonder if I liked book #2 better because of the secondary characters in that book, since it obviously wasn't Charlie's family.  It makes you wonder what his late wife was like - was she as boring as everyone else?  They sit around brooding most of the time or sleeping.  A barrel of fun indeed.

As far as the plot goes, it was quite similar to the first - a writer comes to town, nasty and unlikable, and is murdered, and someone Charlie cares about is suspected of the crime.  This is only the third book.  Surely there could have been a different plot available?  And the ending - I don't know how I can put this without giving anything away, but I'll do my best: it would have been nice to see something of a certain person who was heavily involved.  There was no indication why, no indication of the person even existing.  No reason why anything happened or a certain person was targeted.  No.  Reason.  At.  All.  So it didn't make sense.

Hopefully the next book in the series will be better, and we'll actually get to see why on earth Helen is interested in Charlie - unless she spends her off time sleeping, too.

https://www.amazon.com/File-Murder-Cat-Stacks-Mystery/dp/0425246183/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2279509499

More on Miranda James's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/j/miranda-james/

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Linking Rings (An Eli Marks Mystery Book 4)

Author:  John Gaspard
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN E:  9781635112870; 9781635112849
Henery Press
276 Pages
January 16, 2018

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Eli's trip to London with his uncle Harry quickly turns homicidal when the older magician finds himself accused of murder.  A second slaying does little to take the spotlight off Harry.  Instead it's clear someone is knocking off Harry's elderly peers in bizarrely effective ways.  But who?

The odd gets odder when the prime suspect appears to be a bitter performer with a grudge...who committed suicide over thirty years before.  While Eli struggles to prove his uncle's innocence - and keep them both alive - he finds himself embroiled in a battle of his own: a favorite magic routine of his has been ripped off by another hugely popular magician.

What began as a whirlwind vacation to London with girlfriend Megan turns into a fatal and larcenous trip into the dark heart of magic within the city's oldest magic society, The Magic Circle.

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"What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes" - Harry Houdini

Eli Marks is a magician who has accompanied his uncle Harry, also a magician, to London for a special show at the Magic Circle, the most illustrious magic club anywhere.  It is also the first time the Magnificent Magi, a group of select magicians, have reunited in many years.  While they don't at first have a lot of time for reminiscing, Harry and Oskar, one of the other magicians, are going to perform an act together, and are starting rehearsal.  But when something goes terribly wrong and Oskar is killed, Harry is put front and center as the most likely suspect.

But the rest of the magi don't believe it for a minute.  They don't know who killed him, but they know it wasn't Harry.  Then Laurence Baxter, the most famous of them, invites everyone to stay at his home out in Hampstead Heath.  So Harry, Eli and Eli's girlfriend Megan temporarily move to the estate, along with the rest of them.  The only one not staying is a retired police detective named McHugh that Harry has called upon to help solve whatever is going on.

But within a day or two of arriving, another of the magi is found dead - poisoned - at the estate, and now they are all taking things seriously.  Someone is obviously on the loose killing people, and it's likely that the murderer is among those at the estate.  But who?  None of them truly believe another of murder, but there doesn't seem to be any other explanation.

To top it off, an old school friend of Eli's, Jake North, is also in London starring in a play.  While Eli would normally be happy to see him, he discovers that Jake has done something unthinkable, and it may change - or end - their friendship permanently.

Things may get worse before they get better, and Eli realizes that he has to figure out what exactly is going on if he's to see that Harry gets home safe; but he still has a few tricks up his sleeve that will certainly come in handy if they're going to escape from the mess they've been thrown into...

I do love magicians.  I do love mysteries.  So together they make for a perfect story, and this is very good indeed.  Our friend Eli, based in Minneapolis, has traveled to London with Harry and Eli's fianceé Megan for a short vacation and to enjoy the goings-on.  He doesn't expect to find that Megan has booked them into a nightmare of a hotel, nor that his friend Jake is being underhanded, nor that Harry will be a murder suspect.  But there you are - and Eli is right in the middle of it.

It's a fast-moving story with a lot going on, and slightly reminiscent of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.  (But don't be alarmed; it's not a rip-off at all).  It's put together well, and a ton of fun to read.  I especially found McHugh interesting, and it would be wonderful if he showed up in a future book or two.

When all is said and done, and the murderer is revealed, it's quite a surprise.  It's like magic - you think you see one thing, but it may be something else entirely - or not.  This is a delightful series that has plenty going for it - mystery, intrigue, suspense, wonderful characters - and you just might find a little bit of magic yourself in reading it.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Linking-Rings-Eli-Marks-Mystery/dp/1635112842/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2276908238

More on John Gaspard's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/john-gaspard/

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Classified as Murder (A Cat in the Stacks Mystery #2)

Author:  Miranda James
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; MP3 CD; Digital Book; Audiobook
9780425241578
Berkley Publishing
304 Pages
&7.99; $9.99; $7.99 Amazon
May 3, 2011

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Suspecting that someone is stealing from him, the aging and eccentric James Delacorte wants Charlie to do an inventory on his rare book collection.  Soon after they begin, Delacorte is found dead at his desk, leaving Charlie with the bigger task of solving his murder.

Immediately Charlie is suspicious of Delacorte's own family, and relies on the help of Diesel to paw around for clues.  The cat and mouse game heats up after a highly valued copy of Edgar Allan Poe's Tamerlane goes missing and a second murder occurs.  Now Charlie and Diesel must solve the case before the killer strikes a third time - and hope curiosity doesn't kill the cat...

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Librarian Charlie Harris lives and works in small town Athena, Mississippi.  One day he's approached by James Delacorte - a wealthy resident - and he asks Charlie if he will inventory his rare book collection.  But he has an ulterior motive - it seems he believes one of his family members is stealing from the collection book by book.  And since those same members live in the Delacorte house, he knows it has to be one of them.  Charlie is offered a generous salary to do so, is allowed to take his Maine Coon Diesel with him; besides, he finds it tempting to see the collection, so he accepts.

But then Charlie's son Sean arrives, along with his poodle Dante - he hasn't seen him since Christmas, and he asks out of the blue if he can stay with Charlie for awhile.  He agrees of course, but doesn't want to press him as to why he left his job at a law firm in Houston and decided to move to Mississippi.  Things between them seem slightly tense, but after Charlie has tea with the decidedly strange Delacorte family, Sean isn't sure Charlie should take the job.

The next day Charlie begins his task with Mr. Delacorte at his desk in the same room, and everything  seems fine.  Then Charlie goes home for lunch, and when he returns, he finds James slumped over his desk, his tongue swollen and his face splotchy.  He immediately calls the police and waits outside the room.  When Detective Kanesha Berry arrives, she's a little surprised to find Charlie there because they have an uncomfortable history - her mother is Charlie's housekeeper - but she respects him and he her.  After everything is said and done, and Charlie tells her what he was tasked to do, she allows him to stay - under the condition that he observes only - and reports back to her anything he finds out.

But then another bombshell is dropped - Delacorte's attorney tells Charlie he's co-executor of the will, is to continue his inventory, and when all is done, it will become property of Athena's library, along with the funds to keep it in order.  After hearing of the murder, Sean decides Charlie isn't going back without him (or Dante).  Charlie agrees, and everything somewhat returns to a semblance of order.

But all is not well in the Delacorte household.  No one seemed pleased by the terms of James's will, and at least one person wants Charlie to stop what he's doing, according to the late night anonymous telephone call he receives.  But Charlie keeps going, at least until another murder occurs, and Charlie realizes that there's more at stake than just rare books...

I will say that this book was much better than the first in the series.  While we still get Charlie's daily routine, it's not so much that he's telling us every single action he does (as in the first book).  With his son in the picture, it gives a little more insight into why Charlie seemed so dull and lifeless in the first book, and I am hoping that things will progress even more in the third.

The mystery itself was very well done, and a sort of funny twist on a quintessential solution to mysteries.  I really enjoyed the way it was handled, and thought it was incorporated into the story nicely.  I liked several of the characters in this book, and also the fact that Detective Berry is less abrasive in this book and looks like she might be on her way to becoming a friend to Charlie (I certainly hope so). 

In the end, it was a fun read and I will read the next in the series.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Classified-Murder-Cat-Stacks-Mystery/dp/0425241572/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2274636190

More on Miranda James's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/j/miranda-james/

Friday, January 26, 2018

Scone Cold Killer (An All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery)

Author:  Lena Gregory
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781516104659
Lyrical Underground Publishing
192 Pages
$15.99; $3.99 Amazon
January 23, 2018

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For Florida Diner owner Gia Morelli, there's no such thing as too much breakfast - unless it kills you...

When Gia Morelli's marriage falls apart, she knows it's time to get out of New York.  Her husband was a scam artist who swindled half the millionaires in town, and she doesn't want to be there when they decide to take revenge.  On the spur of the moment, she follows her best friend to a small town in Central Florida, where she braves snakes, bears, and giant spiders to open a cheery little diner called the All-Day Breakfast Cafe.  Owning a restaurant has been her lifelong dream, but it turns into a nightmare the morning she opens her dumpster and finds her ex-husband crammed inside.  As the suspect du jour, Gia will have to scramble fast to prove her innocence before a killer orders another cup of murder...

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Gia Morelli's life has fallen apart.  Her ex-husband was convicted of swindling people out of millions, and everyone thought she knew about it, hounding her constantly.  So she moved to Florida to be near her best friend Savannah and open a breakfast cafe.  She hoped that she'd be far enough away that no one would have ever heard of Bradley Remington.

But on her first days' opening, she she finds something in the dumpster...her ex-husband.  After calling the police, she not only discovers that her past has followed her, but that the detective in charge of the case, Hunter Quinn, is Savannah's cousin.  Shaken and demoralized,  she reluctantly accepts the help of those around her, but then things start to escalate.  Both her garage and cafe are broken into, and a mysterious woman confronts her about Bradley.  It seems people are after something Bradley left with her, but she hasn't a clue as to what they're talking about.  She left with only what she could take, and a paltry settlement from her divorce.  Yet someone wants something, and they'll stop at nothing to get it, even if it costs Gia her life...

This is a wonderful beginning to a new series.  Gia is a delightful character - she's tough yet vulnerable, and it shows in her thoughts and actions.  She's torn at the thought of her attraction to Hunt and yet not trusting men.  Her friendship with Savannah is strong, and she's torn at keeping her near or wanting to see her safe.  She's wary of anyone she meets but doesn't know if she'll ever be free of her past.  She's complex; but who wouldn't be, having gone through what she has?

The mystery was extremely well done, the characters well drawn.  Each one had a definite personality and it was very nice to see some backstory involved - a bit of history to all so that we can truly understand who they are.  I took an immediate liking to most of them, which is a very good thing in a book.

While I also wanted to know what it was that Bradley left with her, I defied my curiosity and carried through to the end of the book instead of peeking at it.  It made the story more enjoyable to discover along with Gia what everyone was looking for, and gave a nice bit of tension to the tale.

I believe that Ms. Gregory has found her niche with this new series.  The characters are animated, the scenery vivid, the mystery believable.  When we come to the end and the killer is revealed, it was both satisfying and convincing.  I only wish the sequel was at hand, since I didn't want it to end.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Scone-Cold-Killer-Lena-Gregory/dp/151610465X/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2273141930

More on Lena Gregory's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/lena-gregory/

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Murder Past Due (A Cat in the Stacks Mystery #1)

Author:  Miranda James
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Large Print; MP3 CD; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9780425236031; 1410433435; 9781522670759
Berkley Publishing
304 Pages
August 3, 2010

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Everyone in Athena, Mississippi, knows Charlie Harris, the good-natured librarian with a rescued Maine Coon cat named Diesel that he walks on a leash.  He's returned to his hometown to immerse himself in books, but soon enough he's entangled in a real-life thriller...

A famous author of gory bestsellers and a former classmate of Charlie's, Godfrey Priest may be the pride of Athena, bur Charlie remembers him as an arrogant, manipulative jerk - and he's not the only one.  Godfrey's homecoming as a distinguished alumnus couldn't possibly go worse:  by lunch, he's put a man in the hospital.  But dinner, Godfrey's dead.

Now it's up to Charlie, with some help from Diesel, to paw through the town's grudges and find the killer before an impatient deputy throws the book at the wrong person.  But every last one of Charlie's friends and co-workers had a score to settle with the nasty novelist.  As if the murder wasn't already purr-plexing enough...

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Charlie Harris is a college librarian in Athena, Georgia.  He moved back home after his wife died and he inherited his Aunt Dottie's house.  She used to take in roomers, and he continues to do so.  His latest is Justin Wardlaw, who's in his first year of school and doesn't want to live in the dorms.  It also helps that he went to school with Justin's mother Julia.

When Charlie hears that another old schoolmate, Godfrey Priest is coming to Athena, he's not looking forward to seeing him.  Godfrey is a best-selling author, but he was a bully in school and almost everyone disliked him.  So when he appears at Charlie's door, he's surprised.  It seems that Godfrey wants to leave his papers to the college and is willing to donate the money for their upkeep.  But then he drops a bombshell - he tells Charlie that Justin is his son and he wants to see him.

While Charlie doesn't know what to do with this information, he's nevertheless stunned when he returns home and sees Justin arguing with his dad, Ezra - the man who raised him.  He's doubly upset when he sees Ezra slap Justin and tells him to leave.  But after talking with Justin, he finds out he already knows about Godfrey and is prepared to talk with him.

But it's not too much later when Charlie finds Justin outside of the hotel where Godfrey is staying, and he seems to be in shock.  Justin isn't making a lot of sense, so Charlie persuades him to go back to the room where Charlie finds Godfrey's body - and sees Justin's cell phone nearby.

While he doesn't believe that Justin murdered Godfrey, he wonders how the cell phone got there.  Soon there's more suspects than Charlie can count, and each of them had solid motives to kill the man.  But it would be easier to catalog every book in the library than find the guilty party...

While I thought this book had promise - a small town librarian with a Maine Coon cat - it didn't quite live up to its potential.  For one, I wondered why Justin was living at Charlie's when he had a home in town.  It didn't make any sense.  If you live in the city where you go to college, and aren't staying in a dorm, why would you pay money to live in someone else's home?  One town over maybe - but the same town?

Another thing that bothered me is the author feeling the need to tell us every time Charlie did anything at all - used a penknife to open a letter, washed dishes, etc., including the fact that he mentions he forgot to wash his hands after dinner.  So what?  I don't know anyone who finishes a meal and then feels the need to run to the sink to wash their hands - unless, of course, you're eating messy food (they weren't).   Every.  Single.  Action. 

It didn't help that the characters were either dull or cardboard cutouts.  Charlie is only 50, but acts like he's nearly 80.  I know 60-year-olds with twice the life in them that he has.  Justin also seemed a bit like a mama's boy, which is another reason I wondered why she allowed him to leave home in the first place.

While the best thing about the book was Diesel, he wasn't the detective and didn't help solve the crime.  We just get a play-by-play of Diesel's actions, much like Charlie's.  It keeps the plot slow-going, and I found myself losing interest quite a bit.  We never learn enough about anyone in the book to know whether to like them or not; we're only given bits and pieces.

In the end, the murderer wasn't really a surprise, but the reasons the murder was committed was as old as time itself.  I would like, in the next book, to see Charlie with some sort of life in him, and the characters get more definition.

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Past-Due-Stacks-Mystery/dp/042523603X/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2271209500

More on Miranda James's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/j/miranda-james/

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Phantom of Oz (An Ivy Meadows Mystery Book 5)

Author:  Cindy Brown
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635112955; 9781635112923
Henery Press
268 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $$4.99 Amazon
January 30, 2018

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Creepy munchkins.  A mysterious phantom.  And a real Wicked Witch.  Are you ready for it?  Actress and part-time PI Ivy Meadows has been hired to uncover the cause of the creepy accidents that plague the roadshow The Wizard: A Space OZpera and find out who dropped a chandelier on the Wicked Witch of the East.  Was it the ghost who haunts the Grand Phoenican Theatre?  A "wicked witch" in the cast?  Or is it someone - or something - more sinister?  It's Ivy's most personal case so far.  Her best friend Candy, who's touring with the show, is caught in a downward spiral of self-destruction, and in is more danger than she knows.  To save her friend and the show, Ivy must answer even tougher questions.  Do spirits really exist?  What is real beauty?  What does friendship mean?  Ivy needs to learn the answers, and fast - before Candy reaches the point of no return.

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Ivy Meadows is an actress and part-time PI in Phoenix, Arizona.  One day she receives a call from her best friend Candy, who has moved to California to pursue her acting career.  It seems she's in Phoenix touring with a roadshow of The Wizard: A Space Ozpera - a sort of The Wizard of Oz in outer space.  While Ivy is excited that she's going to see Candy again, she's totally floored when she finally does.

Candy isn't the same voluptuous woman she parted with: she's now razor thin to the point of emaciation, with dingy hair and grey teeth.  In fact, it pretty much looks like Candy is doing some sort of drug and Ivy is sure she's killing herself.  But she won't talk about it, and she doesn't want to spend a lot of time with Ivy.

When Ivy visits the theater to watch rehearsal, she encounters a most unpleasant woman - Babette, who runs a reality show that 'discovers' new talent, and she thinks nothing of destroying others' dreams nor humiliating them in public.  There's also someone else in the theater, but unseen:  the ghost of a broken-hearted actress who killed herself after a tragic love, the Lady in White.  She's been disrupting rehearsal, causing accidents, and while not everyone believes in her, enough do that the accidents are causing problems with the play.  And Babette is making the most of it, using the media to tell everyone how the ghost is targeting her and trying to kill her.

But it's not until after a particular incident when Candy disappears that Ivy begins to seriously worry about her friend and if something's happened to her.  Surely it couldn't be a real ghost causing all these problems?  What if it's something - or someone - more sinister, and why would they want Candy out of the way?  But it's not until she receives a phone call from Arrestadt Giry - the director and Candy's boyfriend - wanting to hire her to locate her missing friend that she begins to worry in earnest. Then, when another tragedy befalls production and someone is murdered, Ivy is in a race against time to find and save Candy - but is it from an unseen force or herself?

I have to tell you that I absolutely love the Ivy Meadows mysteries.  They're smart, funny, suspenseful, and intelligently written.  Ivy is no flaky miss who stumbles around in investigations.  While she sometimes gets a slow start, she's on the ball: she asks questions, has a curious nature that propels her along, and doesn't walk head on into iffy situations (although she does sometimes go places I probably never would - like cobwebbed hallways).  She's sharp and cute, and even though she sometimes has a lapse of judgment where her personal life is concerned, her heart is always in the right place.

In this book, when Ivy goes to see Candy perform in The Wizard, she doesn't have a clue that things are about to change - not just Candy's physical and mental changes, but that her own life will change.  She winds up as a temporary cast member (which could lead to a permanent job) who's taken over Candy's role when she disappears.  While everyone is telling her Candy left on purpose Ivy's gut is telling her something else.  (As a side note, you can still get Moon Pies where I live - and in many different flavors).

It doesn't help that she develops a cold which can threaten her performances; her brother Cody has a secret that worries her - and she's keeping one from her boyfriend Matt; and her Uncle Bob is out of town on a romantic rendezvous with his girlfriend, so she's on her own, unless you count on the help of an unseen and possibly unworldly spirit.

I found the book to start a little slow, but once it picked up it was quite intriguing and kept me reading in one sitting.  Ivy is not only an extremely likable person, she surrounds herself with others who are also likable but quirky.  I think this is what makes the series so much fun to read.  Everyone has a little bit of strangeness in them, and it makes them human somehow.

When we finally come to the end and the killer is discovered it is put together extremely well, believable and satisfying.  Ms. Brown has written another suspenseful tale full of humor and enough twists and turns to keep one interested throughout.  This is the fifth book in the series but can be read as a stand alone, and I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Phantom-Oz-Ivy-Meadows-Mystery/dp/1635112923/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2269970434

More on Cindy Brown's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/cindy-brown/

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Death of a Kitchen Diva (Hayley Powell Mysteries #1)

Author:  Lee Hollis
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781410448873; 9780758267375;9780758267375
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
Various; Various; $7.99; $5.99 Amazon
March 1, 2012

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Welcome to Bar Harbor, Maine, one of New England's most idyllic coastal towns.  But as new food writer Hayley Powell is about to find out, the occasional murder can take a bite out of seaside bliss...

Single mom Hayley Powell is barely keeping her leaking roof over her head when her boss at the Island Times gives her a new assignment - taking over the paper's food column.  Hayley's not sure she has the chops--she's an office manager, not a writer, even if her friends clamor for her mouth-watering potluck dishes.  But the extra income is tempting, and Hayley's chatty first column is suddenly on everyone's menu - with one exception.

When rival food writer Karen Appelbaum is found face-down in a bowl of Hayley's creamy clam chowder, all signs point to Hayley.  To clear her name, she'll have to enlist some help, including her BFFs, a perpetually pregnant lobster woman, and glamorous real estate agent.  As she whips up a list of suspects, Hayley discovers a juicy secret about the victim - and finds herself in a dangerous mix with a cold-blooded killer.

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Hayley Powell is a single mother of two who works as an office manager at a small newspaper.  When she realizes she barely has enough to get by, she digs in her heels and asks her editor for a raise.  While he tells her there just isn't any money, he offers her a new job:  If she'll take over the food column he'll give her $25 for each one published.  Since she really has no alternative, she accepts the job.

For her first column she offers a recipe that everyone seems to love except one person - Karen Appelbaum, food columnist at a rival paper.  Karen first accuses her of stealing recipes, then when they have a slight collision in the supermarket, Karen ends up with Hayley's mother's recipe for clam chowder and publishes it before Hayley has a chance.  Now everyone thinks Karen is the genius who came up with the recipe and really do think Hayley stole it.

But it's a nasty encounter at a bake sale that causes the most trouble, and Hayley threatens Karen.  So when Karen is found dead that evening and Hayley is at the scene, she's considered the main suspect.  In fact, she's considered the only suspect.  Hayley realizes if she doesn't want to spend her life behind bars, she has to find out who set her up to take the fall...

This sounded like a great premise to me: a single mother who takes a shot at writing a food column.  But oh, my, I had no idea that Hayley was too stupid to live.  She's flighty and honestly, seems not to be very bright at all, and neither are her friends.  I mean, she goes out with them and Mona, who has her own lobstering business, is telling her that she's pregnant for the sixth time, and upset with her husband because of it.  Excuse me, but has this woman heard of birth control?  There are many different options to keep from getting pregnant, and she could use any of them.  Perhaps Liddy and Hayley could have a sit down with Mona and explain it to her.  She'll probably need it in the future.

Then, Hayley goes to a bake sale where Karen happens to be, and Karen squirts whipped cream on Hayley's backside.  After asking Karen if she's back in third grade, Hayley rubs a brownie into Karen's sweater.  Say what?   Which starts a food fight.  Between adult females.  A LOT of adult females.  And people are sooo amused by this they just shell out money because it was so hilarious.  Um, no.  They'd probably be embarrassed and leave instead of staying at this disaster.

As if that wasn't enough, at Karen's funeral Hayley's friend Liddy notices that her antique brooch is on the dead woman's outfit.  So she tells Hayley she needs to go get it, because she's not having it buried with the body.  Sooo....with everyone looking, Hayley rips it off the outfit.  She doesn't bother unpinning it, just yanks, and her 'friend' Liddy doesn't offer to run interference - by I don't know, distracting the minister maybe while Hayley surreptitiously removes it - nooo...she stays put and allows Hayley to look like she's stealing it.  She doesn't even 'fess up and say it belonged to her.  She just allows Hayley to take all the heat; but then again, 1) what was Liddy doing lending an antique brooch to Hayley? and 2) what was Hayley doing lending out a brooch that didn't even belong to her?????  Who does that?  It didn't make any sense, especially because she didn't even like Karen.  I certainly don't go around borrowing stuff and then lending it out to other people - and if I did, I wouldn't lend it to someone I didn't like.  Hayley the doormat, I guess.

I have to admit after this ridiculous scenario (and ridiculous it was) I pretty much lost interest in the book, and skimmed a lot, especially since I had already discovered the murderer.  (Hayley gave us a pretty big clue).  Still, I wanted to see if this woman-who-act-like-an-idiot was as stupid as she first appears, and yup, she was:  She's running with her dog and someone is shooting at her.  She mentions she's next to the car that was following her, the driver's door is open and the engine running; then a shot rings out and hits one of the mirrors...and she doesn't get in and drive away.  I think under the circumstances, the police wouldn't consider it a stolen car.  Why would they?  She's got the mirror for proof - all she had to do was get in the car and leave.  The killer would be stranded, and the police would know who owned the car.  (She couldn't remember a single detail about it when asked, though). 

Unfortunately, situations that could have been hilarious just came off as totally insane.  Hayley is a sad woman who really needs someone to help her sort out her life because she's not doing a very good job of it.  She acts more like an awkward teenager who hasn't found their feet yet in the world. 

Since this is the first in the series, I usually give the author a pass in the hope that the second will be better, and I would like to say that this is true (although I haven't as yet read the second), but this just wasn't believable, and unfortunately, the murder investigation took second place to Hayley's antics, which just got in the way.

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Kitchen-Hayley-Powell-Mystery/dp/0758267371/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2265999644

More on Lee Hollis's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/lee-hollis/

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Stowed Away (A Maine Clambake Mystery #6)

Author:  Barbara Ross
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Mass Market Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781432845841; 9781496700414; 9781541455740
Kensington Publishing
280 Pages
$21.24; $7.99; $24.99; $6.99 Amazon
December 26, 2017

✮✮✮✮✮


It's June in Busman's Harbor, Maine, and Julia Snowden and her family are working hard to get their authentic Maine clambake business ready for summer.  Preparations must be put on hold, however, when a mysterious yacht drops anchor in the harbor - and delivers an unexpected dose of murder...

When Julia's old prep school rival Wyatt Jane invites her to dinner on board her billionaire fiancé's decked-out yacht, Julia arrives to find a sumptuous table set for two - and the yachtsman dead in his chair.  Suspicion quickly falls on Wyatt, and Julia's quest to dredge up the truth leads her into the murky private world of a mega-rich recluse who may not have been all that he seemed...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

It's June in Busman's Harbor, and Julia Snowden and her family are preparing for the summer tourist season, when people will flock to their private island and have a real Maine clambake while enjoying the season.  But on their island stands the shell of the home Julia spent all her summers growing up; decayed by age and fire.  Since her mother came into quite a bit of money, she wants to restore the home, but Julia wants to tear it down; still, her mother is willing to see an architect that their friend Quentin has said is in town and can possibly help them.

Imagine Julia's surprise when the friend turns out to be an old school roommate of Julia's - and not one fondly remembered.  While she keeps her thoughts to herself, she still doesn't trust the woman.  But Wyatt Jayne acts as if she doesn't remember the incident that still stands clear in Julia's mind, and when plans for the house have been barely discussed, she invites everyone to dinner aboard her boyfriend's yacht, which is in harbor for renovations.  After Julia meets the boyfriend - Geoffrey Bower - she's surprised that Wyatt would even be attracted to him, but likes him nonetheless.

But it's the next day that even more surprises are in store.  While Julia and her family (and boyfriend Chris) are discussing what to do with the house - restore, renovate or tear down - that she receives a tearful phone call from Wyatt that something's occurred and she needs her at the yacht.  Julia and Chris race to the harbor, and find an almost hysterical Wyatt - and a very dead Geoffrey with a hideous grin on his face.

But this is not all - a crew member has disappeared along with a diamond ring that Julia glimpsed on the table; her niece Page has a new friend with green eyes the exact color of Chris's; Quentin seems to be closer to Wyatt than he's saying; and she also discovers that her friend Genevieve is the chef on the yacht and was hoping for a romantic weekend with Detective Flynn, Julia's once nemesis on the local police force.  But when the police start looking at Wyatt as a serious suspect in the obvious murder, Quentin asks Julia to help her, and she reluctantly agrees - with the help of an unlikely source, Flynn, who's also on the outside due to his relationship with Genevieve. But there's another surprise on the horizon, and it's one that might change the game for everyone involved...

This is the sixth book in the Maine Clambake Mysteries, and I believe that it's the best one yet.  There's the mystery of the ring, which no one seems to have seen but Julia but she knows it's connected somehow, yet since the boat was deserted at the time Wyatt found the body - Geoffrey had given everyone the night off - there's suspects aplenty but sorting through them isn't easy since none of them are inclined to talk and all of them had apparent alibis for the evening.   But Julia plods on, determined for the sake of her friendship with Quentin that she'll do her best to find the truth of the matter.

I truly enjoyed reading this book.  The inhabitants of Busman's Harbor are a varied bunch, and Ms. Ross has a way of bringing them to life, giving each and every character a distinct nature that contribute to the story.  The town she has created seems warm and inviting, and while tourists are welcomed during the summer, it's apparent that those From Away aren't part of their circle which envelops only friends and family, those who they care about and hold dear.  It's this feeling that gives the books its personality and makes it a wonderful read.

We watch as Julia once again uses her wit to sort through the clues - which are plenty - and come to the heart of the matter.  The series grows with each book, and in this one her relationship with Detective Flynn goes through a change, one for the good, as they realize that they need each other and are working toward the same goal in the end.

The story moves at a quick pace, the writing flows, the setting is descriptive and vivid, the mystery is well-thought out and keeps you looking for any evidence along with Julia.  I also like the fact that the police are not cartoon buffoons who can't get anything right;  both Flynn and Binder know what they're doing; the difference is that they're looking in other areas, and since Julia's not a cop, she doesn't have to follow the same rules; and it was nice to see that Flynn actually listened to - and believed - her theory about the murder.

In this book we once again watch Julia as she navigates her relationship with Chris; we learn more about Chris's family and more about Quentin; we learn that not all secrets are good and that what seems to be perfect isn't always so.  It will be interesting to see where these are taken in the next installment.

As always, Ms. Ross never disappoints: When the ending comes and the murder was solved it was all believable and gratifying.  The tale was intriguing and the clues were, for the most part, overt; the threads of the mystery were tightly woven and it all came together nicely.  This can be read as a stand alone, since there is enough information where you don't feel muddled, but since this is such an enjoyable series I would recommend that you read them all.  For myself, I eagerly look forward to the next.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Stowed-Away-Maine-Clambake-Mystery/dp/1496700414/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2150511785

More on Barbara Ross's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/r/barbara-ross/

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Antique House Murders (The Oakwood Mysteries Book 2)

Author:  Leslie Nagel
Genre:  Mystery

Digital Book, Audiobook, MP3
Alibi Publishing
232 Pages
May 30, 2017

✮✮


Mulbridge House stood, silent and decaying, deep in the woods at the heart of Oakwood, Ohio, long before the passing of Augusta Mulbridge.  Yet suddenly everyone in town seems to have a stake in its fate:  the greedy heirs, eager to tear it down for a tidy profit; the local preservationists, determined to maintain it an an historic site; the angry neighbors, staunchly opposed to the construction of a modern subdivision.  Even Charley Carpenter is forced to admit that her beloved shop, Old Hat Vintage Fashions, could use an infusion of the estate's treasures.

The clock is ticking.  The wrecking ball is ready to swing.  All that stands between Mulbridge House and oblivion is one final vote.  That, and murder...

The trouble begins when Charley walks into auctioneer Calvin Prescott's office to find her cherished family friend crumpled on the floor.  Detective Marcus Trenault quickly connects his death to a string of increasingly violent burglaries plaguing Oakwood.  But when Charley uncovers a link to a massive land swindle worth millions, not to mention a drug ring operating out of the manor's abandoned outbuildings, that theory crumbles faster than Mulbridge House.  Now Charley's racing to catch a killer before everything falls apart.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Charley Carpenter owns a vintage clothing store, and is making a deal with Calvin Prescott to buy clothing from the estate of Augusta Mulbridge.  But while there, she hears and sees an argument between Millie Peache and Calvin - it seems Millie thinks Augusta made a will leaving the home to the preservation society, not to her children.  The unfortunate thing is that Millie is insistent it's inside a book that is to be sold at the sale, but which one?  Before she's evicted, Charley also hears the sniping remarks by Augusta's daughter Holland.

When Charley is able to pick up the clothing from Calvin's she finds him dead, and immediately calls the police - her boyfriend, Marcus Trenault.  Since Calvin was also a family friend, she has a personal interest in finding his killer.  But Marcus warns her to stay out of the investigation and let him do his job.

Charley, however, isn't about to let it go.  She decides that while she conducts her own investigation, if she finds anything of interest she'll tell Marcus, and he'll be grateful that she's helped solve the murder, right?  But what Charley doesn't figure on is that the killer - or killers - have a vested interest in finding the supposed will and aren't about to let a little problem like Charley get in the way, even if they have to kill her to keep her quiet...

First off, let me say that this is not a cozy mystery.  There are (although not graphic) sex scenes and quite a bit of swearing.  Those things alone exclude it from the genre; but it wouldn't make a difference if I enjoyed the book otherwise.   While this book was written well, it could have been so much better.  There was something niggling at me throughout the book about Charley, and I was trying to figure it out while reading.

Finally it was Charley herself who figured it out for me: she states at one point that she was determined to investigate on her own, but reinforced Marc's opinion that she was unfit to take part in police business and he wouldn't discuss his cases with her anymore.  Say what???  She's not a police officer and isn't fit to take part in police business!  She's the owner of a vintage clothing shop.  He shouldn't be discussing cases with her.  She acted like it was a contest, and she was determined to solve the murder before he did - just so she could get him to admit she was better at it than him.  (Talk about self-esteem issues).

In fact, the police rather come off as buffoons with Charley feeding them clues because they're too dumb to figure it out.  Not once did Marc say something like, "We already know that, Charley," but he always seemed dumbfounded when she put things together.  Perhaps she should be the officer and he should run the store (because it's certain she's not doing it anyway).  It appeared as if the only reason they're together is so that Charley can solve his cases.

While I like strong women in books (who doesn't?), I don't like women who think they have to one-up their police officer boyfriends.  After all, in real life do you think that police officers allow their wives and girlfriends to 'take part' in police business?  Not gonna happen unless they're officers themselves.  Yes, this bothered me.  Not once did it seem that she was trying to solve Calvin's murder because of Calvin; it honestly seemed like she was doing it for the reasons mentioned above.  And that is why I found her rather unlikable.

What you have with Marc and Charley is immovable object meets irresistible force - but in this case, 'nothing's gotta give'.  They're like tigers circling each other to see who's got domination, and that's not a good thing.  He's controlling and jealous, she's manipulative and narcissistic.  A toxic relationship.  They fight and yell at each other.  Yeah, that's a good relationship all around.  I can't see it lasting a year unless they get help.  It's called emotional and mental abuse, people.  It's not a good thing.  Neither is making a joke of rape.

Unfortunately, there were also too many characters, and I found myself asking 'Who?' several times throughout the book.  Also, while she's a business owner, she's out solving crimes.  I think she really does believe herself to be Daphne from Scooby Doo.  Supposedly she can pay an employee a decent starting wage, but where is her money coming from?  There wasn't a single customer, she never spent time in her store, which was odd; and she had no problem committing crimes (we're talking felonies, folks) in the course of her 'investigation', and dragging her friends in on the mix at times (who were, for the most part, stereotypical).  Not to mention the eighteen-year-old who thinks the bad guy with a gun shooting at her is fun and exciting and wants to chase him down and a 'sharpshooter cop' who can't hit the guy shooting at him (huh?) among others.

But what saved the book and gave it two stars was the ending - which was quite a rush and put together well.  It was riveting, believable and satisfying; unfortunately it wasn't enough to save the rest of the book.      

https://www.amazon.com/Antique-House-Murders-Oakwood-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01ILZPRPI/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2261775739

More on Leslie Nagel's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/n/leslie-nagel/

Friday, January 12, 2018

Escape Claws (A Cat Lady Mystery #1)

Author:  Linda Reilly
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781516104192
Lyrical Underground Publishing
202 Pages
$15.00; $3.99 Amazon
December 26, 2017

✮✮✮✮


For the first time in sixteen years, Lara Caphart has returned to her hometown of Whisker Jog, New Hampshire.  She wants to reconnect with her estranged Aunt Fran, who's having some difficulty looking after herself - and her eleven cats.  Taking care of a clowder of kitties is easy, but keeping fran from being harassed by local bully Theo Barnes is hard.  The wealthy builder has set his sights on Fran's property, and is determined to make her an offer she doesn't dare refuse.

Then Lara spots a blue-eyed Ragdoll cat that she swears is the reincarnation of her beloved Blue, her childhood pet.  Pursuing the feline to the edge of Fran's yard, she stumbles upon the body of Theo Barnes, clearly a victim of foul play.  To get her and Fran off the suspect list, Lara finds herself following the cat's clues in search of a killer.  Is Blue's ghost really trying to help her solve a murder, or has Lara inhaled too much catnip?

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽       

Lara Caphart is a struggling artist who lives in Boston.  When she receives a telephone call from her friend Sherry telling her how her Aunt Fran is in trouble and needs help, she takes time off from her part-time job to return to Whisker Jog, New Hampshire and see if she can help her.

When she arrives, she finds that her aunt has knee problems and has trouble getting around, and that she's turned her home into a mini-cat sanctuary, with eleven of the furballs.  Lara immediately begins cleaning up while reconnecting, and tries to decide how to get Fran part-time help when she returns to Boston.

She coaxes Fran into having lunch with her at Sherry and her mother's cafe, and while there they witness an encounter with blowhard Theo Barnes and townspeople.  She also discovers that Theo is intent on buying a parcel of land Fran owns, and since he's also Sherry's landlord, has given them notice to vacate by the end of the year.  It seems he has grand plans which includes condos nearby.

Lara also discovers that Fran is caring for two children - Brooke and Darryl while their mother is working.  It seems Darryl has trouble reading, but when she looks in on him, she sees that he is reading perfectly...with her childhood pet Blue by his side.  But Lara wonders how that could be, knowing Blue, a Ragdoll, couldn't still be around.  When she tells Fran, Fran insists it must have been one of the other cats she saw.

Then Lara is awakened in the middle of the night by voices outside, she looks but only sees her aunt.  Not wanting to disturb her, she goes back to bed.  The next morning while doing chores, she sees Blue again and follows her, but before she can get close she sees something that startles her - the body of Theo Barnes.

When the police arrive, they determine he's been murdered and Lara thinks they're trying to pin the murder on her aunt.  Knowing it's not possible, she's determined to find out who killed him.  But after speaking with Sherry, she discovers that Theo wasn't liked by anyone except his niece Mary, which isn't going to make her task an easy one.  Yet she discovers that she has help in an unlikely form - that of Blue, who seems to be an expert at finding clues for Lara to follow...

First off, let me say that I love books with cats, and so was intrigued by this book.  I was pleased that Blue played quite a large role in the book also.  I liked the fact that Lara was pretty much a normal person.  She didn't go around poking her nose into everyone's business, most of her questions were 'in her head', so to speak.  Which is why it puzzled me when Josette called her nosy and said she was trying to pin the murder on her.  All Lara said to her was "Josette you must have  been so horrified when you got back that morning and heard about Theo."  How can you interpret that as saying she killed her husband?  It's an innocuous question you might ask anyone if you didn't know them well enough to realize they disliked their ex-spouse. 

I also would have liked to have known what happened to the letters Lara wrote.  We understand that Fran had hers, but she never said how they were returned - in which case if Lara's mom returned them, then why would Fran be upset with Lara?  Wouldn't she be able to decipher the fact that if her letters were returned, then Lara's were probably not sent?  Clarification would have been nice.  We also gather that Lara's mom wasn't a nice person, but is she still alive?  Nothing is ever said; only that her father passed away; and we're not told what her upbringing was like in Boston with a mother like that.  I would like to see this expanded on.

The last thing that irked me is that 56 is not old; while it is middle-aged, I know people in their fifties who have fulfilled lives and are as active as younger people.  (I live in Las Vegas and see it quite a bit).  From the way Fran was described earlier in the book, I pictured her closer to eighty.  Yes, I understand the knee problem, but she's withdrawn from life, so I thought she was a lot older.  Even with bad knees, she must be taking some sort of medication to help that will at least allow her some ease of pain.  It's like her entire zest for life (if she had any) was taken away.

Aside from this, I liked most of the characters and also liked the fact that she's opening the cat sanctuary.  It will be interesting to read about the stories of the different cats that pass through along with the people who adopt them (with Blue's approval, of course). 

When the mystery was solved and we find out the identity of the murderer, I can say that it came as a surprise, which is rare.  The plot was very well done and the ending was thoroughly satisfactory.  It is a great start to a new series, and I look forward to the next and where it will take us.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Escape-Claws-Linda-Reilly/dp/1516104196?

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2255166752

More on Linda Reilly's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/r/linda-reilly/           

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Death in D Minor (A Gethsemane Brown Mystery #2)

Author:  Alexia Gordon
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781635112346; 9781635112313;9781520078267
Henery Press Publishing
236 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $29.99; $2.99 Amazon
March 10, 2017

✮✮✮


Gethsemane Brown, African-American classical musician and expatriate to an Irish village, solved a string of murders, led a school orchestra to victory in a major competition, and got used to living with a snarky ghost.  She can rest easy over the Christmas holiday.  Right?  Wrong.  The ghost has disappeared, her landlord's about to sell her cottage to a hotel developer, and her brother-in-law is coming for a visit - with one day's notice.  She scrambles to call her spectral roomie back from beyond and find a way to save the cottage from certain destruction.  But real estate takes a backseat when her brother-in-law is accused of stealing a valuable antique.  Gethsemane strikes a deal with a garda investigator to go undercover as a musician at a charity ball and snoop for evidence linking antiques to a forgery/theft ring in exchange for the investigator's help clearing her brother-in-law.  At the party, she accidentally conjures the ghost of an eighteenth-century sea captain, then ends up the prime suspect in the party host's murder.  With the captain's help, she races to untangle a web of phony art and stolen antiques to exonerate herself and her brother-in-law.  Then the killer targets her.  Will she save herself and bring a thief and murderer to justice, or will her encore investigation become her swan song?

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽ 

Gethsemane Brown is a music teacher in Ireland, a fairly new life.  She lives at Carraigfaire Cottage, once the home of a famous Irish composer, Eamon McCarthy.  While Eamon's ghost once haunted the cottage, he has since disappeared.  And Gethsemane wants him back - mainly because his descendant Billy, the current owner, is planning to sell the cottage to an American real estate developer named Hank Wayne who will destroy the heart of the cottage while turning it into a hotel.  Because of this, she asks for help from the local priest in the form of borrowing a book to summon spirits, in the hope that it will bring Eamon back to get rid of Hank, who has a deathly fear of ghosts.  But instead, it brings the spirit of a sea captain who needs her help.

To add to this her brother-in-law Jackson Applethwaite arrives looking to purchase a needlework collection for his museum.  But when a small piece of the collection - now stolen - is found in the pocket of his overcoat, he is suspected of the crime.  In order to clear his name, Gethsemane agrees to go undercover at a private function for Olivia McCarthy-Boyle, a serious art collector, as one of the musicians in order to find a bill of sale for the collection.

But while searching for the bill of sale, Gethsemane encounters a few slight problems...first, that the ghost she conjured up isn't that of Eamon, but a Colonial sea captain, and while she's still adjusting to it, she finds Mrs. McCarthy-Boyle's body in the bushes below the office balcony. 

Now art fraud has escalated to what appears to be murder.  At first it seems that Gethsemane is the guilty one, but luckily there was a witness to her whereabouts, yet Jackson's still not off the hook, and suddenly her simple task seems to have become much more complicated.  Only her wits and hopefully, the help of Captain Lochlan, will help her find the truth before Jackson isn't able to return home to Virginia at all but remain in Ireland, and in a lot more cloistered area than the remote village where she lives...

For the most part, I enjoyed this book.  I thought the plot was well thought out and the writing was very good.  What bothered me though is that I had a hard time believing a priest would actually give anyone a book on summoning spirits - especially knowing why she wanted it.  I seriously doubt if you went to a priest and asked him for a book so you could summon 'just one' ghost that he would willingly give you a book (if there was one in his possession).  It's not the sort of thing they do.

Secondly, Gethsemane is just a tad arrogant - it was apparent in the first book, but I hoped it had been toned down a bit for this one.  However, she believes herself such a good detective that she actually compares herself to Poirot - yes, Christie's Poirot.  That's arrogance.  Don't get me wrong, I like strong female characters, but when she withholds potential information so that she can investigate, and in a country she's still unfamiliar with?  It doesn't ring true. 

Aside from these things, the ending was satisfactory, and while I enjoyed the first book more, I will probably read the next in the series.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Every Second Thursday (A Kelsey & Lambert Mystery #2)

Author:  Emma Page
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #"  9780708909225; 9780008175900
Walker Publishing
186 Pages
$1.99; $17.55; (used) $7.99 Amazon
October 1, 1981

✮✮


Everyone is convinced that Vera Foster committed suicide - everyone, that is, except the policeman in charge of the case.  Chief Inspector Kelsey puts his reputation on the line.  He must solve the most complicated puzzle of his career to prove what his intuition won't let him deny.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Vera Foster is the spoiled only child of the late Duncan Murdoch.  After her father's unexpected death, she married his sole employee, Gerald Foster.  Now, nine years later, she's still mourning the loss of her father and temporarily bedridden due to sciatica.  She also has a live-in companion named Edith Jordan, who is staying with her until she's mobile again.

Her housekeeper Alma Driscoll leaves every second Thursday to help a neighboring elderly couple, and doesn't return until Friday morning.  Her Uncle Matt also visits Lynwood, the Foster's home, whenever he can to get a free meal and perhaps snatch a small item or two.

This particular Thursday, Gerald has business away, and he promises to be home early the next day; so her sole housemate is Miss Jordan.  But when Alma returns the next morning, she sees that lights are on where they shouldn't be, and Vera's bedroom is locked without answer.  So Alma rouses Miss Jordan, but eventually Vera's door needs to be broken by the gardener's son and they find her slumped over in bed apparently dead by her own hand.

While it is eventually ruled suicide in court, Chief Inspector Kelsey sees something right after leaving that has him suspicious - a small action, but he questions it nonetheless.  He insists that Mrs. Foster was murdered by her husband and he's going to prove it, even if it has to be on his own time.  So he enlists the help of Sergeant Lambert to discover how Gerald Foster murdered his wife when he wasn't even in the same town...

While this could have been a very good mystery - a woman is murdered and the detective is sure that the husband committed the crime even though he was far away - it was rather dull in nature.  It's hard to put my finger on exactly what it was, but the book dragged on when there should have been something, anything, to pull the reader in.  Most of it, as would be expected, is rehashing events as they occurred, but there was no spark in the words.  It was basically 'she went to the store, she bought carrots' type of dialogue.  But the big thing is that there was no spark among the characters.  Kelsey appears to be tired of his job; he sends Lambert out to do most of the legwork; it as if he has no energy left in life and is waiting only to retire.

But the ending!  When it comes, you are more or less left hanging.  Yes, there is a conclusion; this is no 'you need to read the next book to find the outcome' type; however, it is unsatisfying - while we do see justice for one, there is still the question of another - you're never given a complete answer as to what is or has happened.  (If you read the book, you will understand what I am trying to say; if not, I will not elaborate further).  I felt that there was another chapter to be written but that the author decided not to do so for whatever reason.  Because of this, I am not sure if I will even attempt another book by this author.

https://www.amazon.com/Every-Second-Thursday-Emma-Page/dp/000817590X/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2249436743

More on Emma Page's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/p/emma-page/

Friday, January 5, 2018

X Marks the Scot (A Liss MacCrimmon Mystery #11)

Author:  Kaitlyn Dunnett
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496712592
Kensington Publishing
$17.19; $11.99 Amazon
304 Pages
November 28, 2017

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The old Chadwick Mansion on the edge of Moosetookalook, Maine, has been shrouded in mystery for generations - until Scottish Emporium owner Liss MacCrimmon uncovers a forgotten family secret.  But she never imagined that a little curiosity would lead her into such deadly territory...

While perusing auction items from the Chadwick estate, Liss purchases a painting of a bagpiper to add to her collection.  Her interest shifts from art to sleuthing upon a strange discovery - what appears to be a treasure map tucked behind the canvas.  She's even more intrigued when she links the scroll to an early Chadwick who smuggled goods across the Canadian border.

So during a business trip to Canada, Liss arranges a meeting with an archivist in hopes of pinning down the truth about the map and the Chadwick bloodline.  Before her quest moves forward, however, she finds the archivist's murdered body at a local genealogical society.  One thing is certain - Liss isn't alone on this treasure hunt...

Liss returns to Moosetookalook, terrified that the killer may have followed her home.  With her life in real peril and the map at risk of being stolen, she launches into full-scale investigation mode.  But as she deciphers clues and inches toward the dangerous culprit, Liss quickly realizes she's only a step away from ending up like the Chadwick clan -- permanently wiped out.

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When Liss Ruskin attends an estate auction, she doesn't expect the picture she bought to be so much trouble...Liss was taken by a painting of the Piper to the Laird of Grant, and successfully bid against two others.  But when she accidentally dropped it, the frame broke and revealed what appeared to be a treasure map underneath.  The problem was that it had no distinctive markings, so she didn't know where or what it was actually for.

All she could surmise was that it had something to do with the Chadwick family, and that there must be some sort of treasure on the estate grounds.  It was her Aunt Margaret who suggested they make a trip to Canada to see if they could discover anything about the family that would lead them to find the truth.  And that was her first mistake...

Upon arriving at her destination, the Chadwick Historical and Genealogical Society in Canada, Liss and Margaret entered the building and called out for Orson Bailey, the man they were supposed to meet.  And meet him they did, but not in the way they expected, for Orson was dead, underneath a table.  It didn't help when she discovered their hotel room had been ransacked, yet the only two items stolen were an iPad and brooch.

So when Liss eventually returned to her home in Moosetookalook, Maine, she was more curious than ever about the map, and Orson's murder.  She wondered if they were connected, especially since other things were occurring - things she knew were connected to the map.  And if there was a treasure involved, how many people were interested in it, and which one was interested enough to kill someone to get it?

This, as always, is another enjoyable book in the Liss MacCrimmon mystery series.  The author does a commendable job of keeping the plot moving along nicely, and the characters are well-drawn and vivid.  It says much for a book when you want to punch a character for being smug and self-satisfied.  It was an entertaining read, and the mystery itself was threaded nicely throughout, giving subtle clues along the way.

Although I pretty much had the murderer figured out early (I read a lot of these), it was still quite nice to see how everything was connected, and how Liss began to put it all together.  I did feel that this book probably wasn't actually suited to be read as a stand-alone since there are references to other books, it was still easy enough to read, and it will be interesting to see how the return of Liss's parents affect her life in Mooosetookalook.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Marks-Scot-Liss-MacCrimmon-Mystery/dp/1496712595/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2244758281

More on Kaitlyn Dunnett's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/kaitlyn-dunnett/

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Death of An Honest Man (A Hamish Macbeth Mystery #33)

Author:  M.C. Beaton
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781455558315; 9781478950257
Grand Central Publishing
256 Pages
$17.10; $23.03; $13.99 Amazon
February 20, 2018

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Nobody loves an honest man, or that was what police sergeant Hamish Macbeth tried to tell newcomer Paul English.  Paul had moved to a house in Cnothan, a sour village on Hamish's beat.

He attended church in Lochdubh.  He told the minister, Mr. Wellington, that his sermons were boring.  He told tweedy Mrs. Wellington that she was too fat and in these days of increasing obesity it was her duty to show a good example.  Angela Brody was told her detective stories were pap for the masses and it was time she wrote literature instead.  He accused Hamish of having dyed his fiery red hair.  He told Jessie Currie -- who repeated all the last words of her twin sister -- that she needed psychiatric help.

"I speak as I find," he bragged.  Voices saying, "I could kill that man," could be heard from Lochdubh to Cnothan.

And someone did.

Now Hamish is faced with a bewildering array of suspects.  And he's lost the services of his clumsy policeman, Charlie, who has resigned from the force after Chief Inspector Blair berated Charlie one too many times, and the policeman threw Blair into the loch.  Can Hamish find the killer on his own?

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Hamish Macbeth has just met the most unpleasant man to arrive in his jurisdiction.  Paul English considers himself to be honest, but he is boorish, mean-spirited, and greedy.  In fact, this is what got him killed.  After an altercation at a local pub with some foresters, Hamish handcuffs the man but he manages to escape - handcuffs and all.  It is not long before his body is found in the bogs, handcuffs and all.  While it is considered an accident, Hamish doesn't believe it; and after examining the body himself, he finds marks of a stabbing.  Now it becomes a homicide investigation, and Hamish is up to his ears in suspects.

Unfortunately, then there's Chief Inspector Blair, who hates Hamish with a passion and wants rid of him.  When he comes nosing around, Hamish's policeman Charlie Carter is angered by something Blair does and throws him in the loch.  But Charlie is tired of being a policeman and decides to leave before he can be punished, which leaves Hamish in need of a new one.  Blair, in his deranged mind, sends Silas Dunbar - with instructions to report on everything Hamish does.  Hamish, in his wisdom, knows Blair and uses Silas for his own means...

Then there's the matter of Hamish's beloved cat, Sonsie.  Taking the wild cat to a sanctuary was the worst thing he's ever done, in his mind.  So he sets out to find her.  When he sees an injured cat, he assumes it's Sonsie and takes her to his vet for care.  While everyone insists the cat is not Sonsie but evil, Hamish refuses to listen.  The villagers believe it's evil and cast a spell, but Hamish persists - even when his dog Lugs is afraid of it.

These three events, seemingly unrelated, are tied together in this delightful mystery.  The plot is one event after another, all commingling seamlessly to create another excellent Hamish Macbeth mystery.

Hamish himself is an enigma - he's a very clever policeman who uses his instinct to solve crimes, yet he has no desire to leave his beloved village and be promoted, so he allows others to take the credit for his work - even while the 'others' is oftentimes Blair.

This book was sheer pleasure to read.  Ms. Beaton has shown herself time and again to be a talented storyteller, and this latest is no less enjoyable than the first in the series.  While the tale weaves its many threads together, we are drawn to not only the murder itself, but the many subplots within, not the least of these being his genuine sorrow at losing Sonsie and his desire to have her returned to him.  This alone was worth reading the book.

While I will say no more lest I give away too much, I will say that the ending was quite satisfying indeed.  In fact, I do believe that Death of An Honest Man is one of the best in the series, and I eagerly await the next.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Honest-Hamish-Macbeth-Mystery/dp/1455558311/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2227280889

More on M.C. Beaton's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/m-c-beaton/

A Crafter Knits a Clue (A Handcrafted Mystery #1)

Author:  Holly Quinn Genre:  Mystery Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:  9781683317715; 9781683319948 Crooked Lane Books ...