Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Spoonful of Murder (A Soup Lover's Mystery #1)

Author:  Connie Archer
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780425251478
Berkley Publishing
304 Pages
$7.99; $7.99 Amazon
August 7, 2012




Winter is big business in small-town Snowflake, Vermont.  Tourists arrive to hit the ski slopes - and what could be more satisfying after a chilly day of carving powder than a steaming bowl of soup?

When Lucky Jamieson inherits her parents' soup shop, By the Spoonful, she realizes it's time to take stock of her life.  Should she sell her parents' house or move in herself?  Does she really want to run a restaurant business?  And what about her grandfather Jack, who seems to be showing signs of Alzheimer's?

But her decisions are moved to the back burner after an icy blonde tourist is found frozen to death behind the soup shop, and Lucky is bowled over when her soup chef, Sage DuBois, is led out of the kitchen by the police.  As suspicion and speculations snowball, Lucky decides that the only way to save her employee and her business is to find out herself who iced the tourist -- and landed her chef in the soup...

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I decided to choose this book because it has a slightly different premise - the protagonist owns a soup shop - and I thought it would be interesting.  It wasn't.  In fact, I don't understand how it got five star ratings when there was so much wrong with this book.

First, she's afraid to lose her 'wonderful chef'.  Really?  Let's be honest, shall we?  You don't need to be trained at a culinary school to make soup.  It's not that difficult, unless you're making Bouillabaisse or something similar.  None of these soups are in that category (and none of them are interesting enough to make, either).  Let's face it, he could be replaced with anyone's grandmother.  Plus there's the fact that all she serves other than soup is sandwiches, and we're supposed to believe that this is a successful business.  Anyway...

Then the police just 'prop' the dead woman against a dumpster so the doctor can look at her.  Say what?  He's going to examine her in the snow?  Doesn't this town have an ambulance?  A morgue?  I guess if you die here in the winter they just throw you outside and prop you against a tree or something.  Why not?  You'll freeze in no time!

Then she hounds a realtor until she gets a key to the dead woman's home.  The realtor tells her not to tell anyone, so what does she do?  Tells the first person she sees!  Can you say "Go ahead, lose your license, I don't care".  Plus when she worms information out of people and is asked to keep it secret, what does she do?  You guessed it - she tells someone else and asks them to keep it secret.  What kind of person is she?

She cleans up a crime scene, and even gets her grandfather's help in stealing police keys in order to look at the evidence they have against Sage.  Um, those are criminal actions and she can be prosecuted.  But does that happen?  No.  She confronts people outright and asks them if they were sleeping with the woman or if they killed her.  She's certifiable, and doesn't care who she hurts or tells things to as long as she gets what she wants.  Man, she should have stayed in Madison and left this town alone.

Then there are things that don't make sense:  She wants to sell her parents' home because she doesn't want to pay a mortgage (but is paying rent at an apartment); doesn't want to fix up the home (but is fixing up her apartment).  She's an idiot.  Why doesn't she keep the house and just have her grandfather move in with her?  It would make more sense.  (Then the little things like a reporter getting her name completely wrong - not likely).

Not to mention what kind of people are in this town?  They take advantage of her by eating at the restaurant for free but when a body is found outside behind the restaurant, not inside, they won't eat there anymore so she can stay open?  Guess they'll have to find another restaurant to leech off of.  She's dumber than a box of rocks if she forgives any of them.  Gee, I guess if someone was killed outside the bank these people would go crazy because they wouldn't be able to get their money.  This entire town is full of nutcases.

As you can see I'm no fan of this book, but since it's the first in the series I will cautiously wade into the next and see if it improves.  If not - or if it's as bad as this one - I'm done with the series.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Passion for Haunted Fashion (A Haunted Vintage Mystery #6)

Author:  Rose Pressey
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496714640
Kensington Publishing
448 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
May 29, 2018

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Folks say the Sugar Creek Theater is haunted.  But that doesn't scare off Cookie Chanel, owner of Georgia's chicest vintage clothing store, It's Vintage, Y'all - especially since Cookie talks to the ghost of her grandmother every day through her cat Wind Song.  Still, after she agrees to be in charge of costumers for a production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, she's surprised to find the specter of a young woman in the theater, keeping watch over a trunk of 1950's dresses.  And when Cookie's best friend Heather is found standing over a stabbed actor, she has two mysteries to solve.  This is not a dress rehearsal.  A desperate killer is waiting in the wings.  If Cookie doesn't tread the boards lightly, it'll be curtains for her as well...

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Cookie Chanel, owner of a vintage clothing store, is asked to do the costumes for a local production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Sugar Creek Theater.  While in the basement she hears a scream and runs toward the stage, where she sees her friend Heather (who is in the play) standing over the body of the main actor with blood on her hands.  After calling the police she helps Heather clean herself up and eventually hears her boyfriend, homicide detective Dylan Valentine, outside the door.

After discussing what happened they naturally take Heather to the police station and Cookie waits until she can escort her home.  Realizing that Heather is the only real suspect, she knows that Heather didn't do it and decides to conduct a little investigation of her own, along with the help of her attending ghost Charlotte and her Grandma Pearl, stuck in the body of her cat Wind Song.

Also along for the ride is another ghost:  Peggy Page, a young woman who disappeared in 1956, and doesn't know what happened to her; she's been stuck in the theater since that time but doesn't know why or how she got there.  Charlotte convinces Cookie to help find the truth, and since Dylan now knows that Cookie communicates with ghosts, she vows to enlist his help if needed, too.  But will Cookie be able to find out what happened to Peggy before Heather is thrown in jail for a crime she didn't commit?  Or will Cookie, putting her own life on the line to save her friend, wind up as a ghost keeping Charlotte permanent company?

I really enjoy these books as they are quite a fun read.  I don't like paranormal books about vampires, witches, etc.; but I do love books with ghosts (as long as they're friendly) and these are written very well.  Cookie is an extremely likable character, as she's not perfect.  She has a terrific sense of style, but can't cook too well; cares about her friends but is rather klutzy.  In other words, she's an imperfect human, much like the rest of us.

As a matter of fact, she would be a lousy PI as she's prone to panic attacks (kept at bay with the help of Charlotte) and not very good at hiding herself - her main choice is bushes if she can find them - and so far has no idea how to wear disguises like the people who are usually stalking her.  Lord help her if she ever gets stuck in a desert while following a suspect!  She's not very good at thinking on her feet - when confronted with situations she just says the first thing that pops into her mind - and pretty much does whatever Charlotte pushes her to do.  Poor Cookie.  But she's still a delightful character and one that you wouldn't mind spending time with at all. 

When she does start investigating, she's very good at noticing details, which is important, and does her best to find out the truth, even when it gets her in some sticky situations.  At least she has Charlotte to help her out, but I do think that Charlotte could do a little better job without being snarky; i.e., if they hear someone out on the porch, why send Cookie out when Charlotte could just go herself and see who it is?  This is probably the only thing that bothers me about the series, but it's so minor I never let it spoil my enjoyment.

The author is very good at spinning a tale that keeps you interested throughout, and there is enough action to keep the story flowing at a nice pace.  The characters are three-dimensional and and believable; there is plenty of humor in the story to boot.  When the ending comes and the killer is revealed it is satisfying indeed.  This is a wonderful series and I enjoyed every minute of the book.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Passion-Haunted-Fashion-Vintage-Mystery/dp/1496714644/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2407838036

More on Rose Pressey's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/p/rose-pressey/

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Dying for a Change

Author:  Kathleen Delaney
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781592860630; 9780373268177
Worldwide Mystery
252 Pages
Various Prices Amazon;
September 30, 2002

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A corpse in a closet spoils real estate broker Ellie McKenzie’s first ever sale.  The victim, Hank Sawyer, a local hot-shot contractor, wasn’t known for his upstanding business practices.  In fact, he’d been pushing toward a controversial land deal to build a discount store.  Who hated him enough to want him dead?  Too many people to count, including Ellie’s own boss and the victim’s wife.

Ellie, newly relocated back in her Santa Louisa hometown, takes the murder personally.  After all, she found the body, and now her coworkers are under suspicion.  But digging into the dirty laundry of the folks she grew up with leads to the discovery of yet another body.  And if she’s not careful, her next closing might be her last.

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Ellen MacKenzie has moved back home after a divorce and recently gotten a job as a real estate broker.  But when she goes to show her first home she discovers the bloody corpse of Hank Sawyer, a local contractor, in the closet.  Once the police arrive she finds out that the chief turns out to be the boy she grew up to next door, Dan Dunham. 

While she has no plans to even investigate the murder, she finds out that the main suspect is another broker that she knows just wouldn't commit this crime.  So she decides to ask a few questions and see if she can find a more likely suspect.  But while it appears that Hank didn't have any real enemies, there were a few feathers he ruffled in the process of a new store coming to town, one that would have changed things in their little burg.  Did one of those against this development kill him?  Ellie will have to put her life on the line to find out...

This is an older book and since it's been sitting on my bookshelf for awhile I decided to read it, and I'm glad I did.  It was done nicely, with a good plot line and no real 'evil' people, which was a change.  Although the actual killer wasn't that hard to figure out, the process behind it was a delight to read.

There was plenty of intrigue, although not a lot of 'action' and I liked the fact that the police weren't bumbling idiots; even though we knew that Ellie and Dan would eventually 'connect' he actually acted like a police chief and didn't involve her in the case (asking her to help as others do, hint, hint) nor would he discuss it with her (much).  So that was a welcome change.

Another thing I liked is that Ellie actually wears makeup instead of "throwing on a little lip gloss" and thinking she looks great.  All lip gloss does is make you look like you haven't wiped your mouth after drinking a glass of water.  It doesn't count as makeup.  (Don't get me wrong; I get that some women wear minimal makeup, and that's fine as it's their choice; but lip gloss doesn't count as minimal makeup; it's non-existent).  Just my opinion.

That being said, there were enough likable characters in the book that I will read the next in the series and see where it goes, as Ellie is a smart woman who isn't invasive in her questioning, and that's nice to see.  It was a quick read but a pleasant mystery where even though you could pretty much see the end, was still entertaining.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/037363644X?SubscriptionId=0QCHRJVSKG6F3BRGBNG2&tag=pbs_00008-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=037363644X

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2406714900

More on Kathleen Delaney's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/kathleen-delaney/

Macramé Murder (A Cora Crafts Mystery #3)

Author:  Mollie Cox Bryan
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #9781496704689
Kensington Publishing
352 Pages
$7.99; $4.99 Amazon
August 29, 2107

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As head of a bustling crafting retreat, Cora Chevalier could use a break of her own.  So she and her creative cohorts temporarily swap small-town Indigo Gap for the Sea Glass Island Craft Retreat, where they teach classes and create beachy crafts like shell mosaics and sea glass chimes.  Cora and her boyfriend Adrian are enchanted by their surroundings - especially the stunning wedding and blissful newlyweds they encounter on the beach.  But awe becomes shock when the bride turns up dead the next day...

The woman's death appears to be the result of a severe jellyfish sting.  But when it's revealed that she was murdered and Adrian becomes a suspect, Cora must hitch the real culprit to the crime - and fast.  Because it just might take everything she has to crack a case more twisted than her most complex macramé knot!

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Cora Chevalier and her friend Jane Starr are working at a seaside crafter’s retreat.  Along with them is their friend Ruby, who also is teaching, Ruby’s son Cashel, an attorney who decided to take a vacation, and Cora’s boyfriend Adrian. While walking on the beach with Adrian, Cora sees a wedding and remarks on how lovely it is but is stunned the next day when it’s discovered that the bride has been murdered.  What’s worse, she soon discovers that Adrian knew the woman, and now the police consider him a suspect in the murder.

While Cora knows he’s not capable of it, she still wonders why the police are questioning him, and Ruby volunteers her son’s services as Adrian’s attorney.  It's not the vacation Cashel planned, but nevertheless he accepts that Adrian needs help - even if he doesn't really like him.

When Cora thinks that Cashel might not do his best for Adrian, she decides to step in and try and find out who wanted the bride dead.  But when she starts looking around, she finds that the answer might be closer than she thinks since there are people at the retreat who have secrets of their own, including the woman who organized everything.  It's only when she sees that someone wants Cashel out of the way - and maybe herself - that she understands not only are there secrets, but someone else might die in order to protect them...

While I really enjoyed this book and it was quite interesting, I also discovered that I like Cashel better than Adrian.  While Adrian is nice (and like Cora, I believe nice men are better than those who aren't; I'm married to one myself) I also discovered that there is no fire to him; practically no personality at all.  He seems rather lifeless, while Cashel at least has a personality and you get a sense that he probably also has a fun sense of humor and would do well by Cora; he also seems more intelligent, and I like intelligent men.  I don't get that impression of Adrian - the man wasn't even smart enough to realize that he was wrong in keeping secrets from her while wanting to 'get into her pants' as it were, and he seems so dull.  Ah, well.  There's always the hope that they'll figure they aren't right for each other after all.  Just my opinion...

Aside from that little tidbit, I felt the story was well done and kept the reader interested throughout.  There were enough twists that you had to look for the clues in order to see them, and enough red herrings strewn within.  While there weren't any nail biting moments, there didn't really need to be; you just had to put things together as the plot moved along - which it did admirably.  When the ending came it was done nicely, and while it wasn't a complete surprise, it was satisfying.  Recommended.  

Friday, May 25, 2018

Off the Books (A Novel Idea Mystery #5)

Author:  Lucy Arlington
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780425276679
Berkley Publishing
304 Pages
$7.19; $7.99 Amazon
February 2, 2016

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The Novel Idea Literary Agency has planned a wedding themed week for Inspiration Valley, celebrating not only North Carolina's best vendors but also some of the agency's most popular bridal books.  The fact that Lila can use the event to plan her own impending nuptials is just the icing on the cake.

But wedding bells turn to warning bells when Lila finds a dead man facedown in the frosting.  Soon it's discovered that the victim was connected to several Novel Idea authors, all of whom quickly become suspects in the case.  It's up to Lila and her fellow agents to find the real killer before one of their clients winds up scribbling stories from behind bars...

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Lila Wilkins works for a literary agency in Illumination Valley, North Carolina.  It's her dream job, and she's happy to have it.  During a bridal expo and book fair that the agency is hosting, a handyman is murdered, and Lila is once again the person to find the body.  While many agree he wasn't a very good handyman and had reason to dislike him, how many of those people wanted to kill him?  At least one, apparently, and it's up to Lila and her friends to find the killer in order to save their expo.  But will Lila be putting herself - or her friends in danger while searching for someone who has killed before and might very well kill again?...

Well, this is the last book in the series and it's probably about time to put it out of its misery anyway.  Although I know there are people who think this series is wonderful, I'm just a person who pays attentions to details, and there are plenty of wrong ones in this book.

So Vicky the Viper loves cats but hates dogs.  She threatens to quit if they don't get rid of the King Charles spaniel, Olive.  They're not destructive dogs (but any dog can be) as they're bred to be inside pets, very loving and even lap dogs.  So why the behavior?  Is the dog fearful?  Apprehensive?  Have they taken her to a vet to see if it's a medical condition?  No!  They just give the dog away to a group of children at a home.  Dogs need to have an alpha.  Who's the alpha in a group of children that will eventually change over time?  I'm sorry, but no office manager is so good that she (or he) should be allowed to dictate to the owner of the company what to do.

While I'm not surprised her mother found a boyfriend - this is 'Happy Valley' after all, where everyone falls in love of has something else wonderful happen to them, I always thought her mother would be old and unattractive.  Why, you ask?  She drinks Jim Beam.  A lot.  Alcohol is a hepatoxin, which means it's a toxin to the cells that detoxify your body; it makes you sallow, pasty, and gives you huge pores over time - especially if you drink as much as Althea.  It dehydrates the skin and gives wrinkles.  Who would find that attractive?

So Lila still has feelings (somewhat) for Jude and Makayla calls her on it, saying Jude is a player and Sean is the best.  What does Makayla know?  She never spends time with Sean and Lila...and Sean never spends time with Lila unless he wants sex.  He can't take time in the spring to get married?  His job is so demanding he can't make his own wedding until September?  Does this sound like a man in love who wants to start a new life with someone?  Gee, honey, my job is so important but yours isn't!  We have to plan the wedding around when I can get some time off, because you can take time off any time you want!  He doesn't even love her enough to take time to pick out an engagement ring, or have her go with him.  She's so stupid she just mopes around with longing and wishes she had an engagement ring, and isn't even wondering why he never spends time with her.  He's not working 24 hours a day every single day, so what is he doing?  He's sure not spending time with her.  Maybe Jude is onto something and everyone else is just so dumb they don't see it.

But the worst thing is her son just decided to quit college - that she's paying for - and move in with his grandmother without either of them telling her, so he can work as a cook in a restaurant because he wants to be a chef.  When she finds out - by eating at the restaurant - she naturally gets mad; but then the next day is nearly over it.  I don't know about other people, but I'd be pretty angry if my kid did this, and if my mother went behind my back instead of telling him to sit down and talk it over with me.  Angry and hurt.  It would take time to get over a betrayal by your own son and mother.  It was a lousy thing to do - and Sean takes their side over Lila's.  That should tell you all you need to know.

Because of these things, I didn't find the plot interesting enough to keep my attention throughout the book (who goes to a bridal expo where they have authors selling their books anyway?  If you're getting married, you're not interested in buying books at the same time.  I imagine it's possible, but it sure seems idiotic.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Bear Witness to Murder (Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mystery Book 2)

Author:  Meg Macy
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496709653
Kensington Publishing
288 Pages
$15.95; $9.99 Amazon
May 29, 2018

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Silver Bear Shop and Factory manager Sasha Silverman is cozying up to the fall season by hosting Silver Hollow's Cranbeary Tea Party, the opening event of the village's Oktobear Fest - a too-cute celebrating themed around teddy bears.  She barely has a moment to agonize over the return of her high school rival, Holly Parker, whose new toy and bookstore in town could spell big trouble for the Silver Bear Shop and her cousin's small bookstore...

But when Sasha discovers Holly's shop assistant dead with a knife plunged in her body, the unpleasant woman suddenly looks like a real backstabber.  So does Sasha's ex-husband, rumored to have rekindled the fiery extramarital affair he once had with the victim.  Now, before a gruesome homicide case takes the fun out of both the Fest and her personal life, Sasha must identify the true culprit from a daunting suspect list - or risk becoming as lifeless as one of her stuffed bears...

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Sasha Silverman and her sister run the teddy bear factory that their parents own, along with help from their aunt, uncle, and several employees.  But when Sasha’s old high school nemesis Holly Parker shows up in town, she knows things are about to get problematic.  While in school Holly did her best to make Sasha’s life miserable, and her return is proving that things haven’t changed.  She’s opened a shop that sells teddy bears and other toys along with books, and it’s causing a loss in customers for Sasha’s cousin Matt who own a bookstore across the street; and Sasha fears that there might soon be a loss in her own customer base, too.

But while at a teddy bear tea party for little ones and their teddy bears she learns that Holly’s assistant Gina is suing the mayor because he refused to pay her for some work - work that presented him in a negative light.  It doesn’t help that the suit has been delivered by her ex-husband Flynn Hanson, whom Sasha wants nothing to do with.  Then Gina is killed, and while everyone thinks the current mayor had the best reason to want her dead, Sasha's mom Judith is convinced otherwise and asks her to prove him innocent.

Her sister Maddie is working on a large acrylic bear for the Oktobear Fest, along with other artists in the town, including Maddie's boyfriend, Kip O'Sullivan.  But she's upset that Kip won't finish his bear, and she's afraid it won't be done in time for the fest, which is causing tension between them.  She doesn't know that Kip, in a moment alone with Sasha, has professed his love for Maddie and wants to marry her.

Also, Jay Kirby, another local artist, has made no bones about the fact that he's highly interested in Sasha, but this is complicated by the fact that her ex-husband was a louse, and her mother is trying to push them back together again, regardless of what Sasha wants.

It doesn't help that Holly is making her life miserable, making snide remarks at every turn and trying to ruin her business any way she can.  But little things she discovers about Holly make her suspicious of the woman, and when she goes so far as to do something that puts Sasha in a panic that she realizes she'll have to keep on her guard.  However, it might almost be too late for her when she discovers the truth of the matter, and how far some people are willing to go...

I truly enjoyed reading this book; Meg Macy is a talented writer with a voice that naturally tends to mystery.  She is able to spin a tale that is lively and full of twists and turns, many of which you never see coming - like that in the end.  She has drawn Holly as an unlikable character indeed; I can't imagine having someone this toxic in my life, and I truly feel for Sasha - which brings us to the fact that these are no one-dimensional characters, they have life and breath and you enjoy being with most of them (except, perhaps, Sasha's annoying mother, which is probably which she has the patience she does).

It is always a treat to read about a protagonist who doesn’t allow her emotions to run wild over her life.  Sasha is a delight to read about - she’s smart, attractive, and doesn’t cave to the whims or machinations of others - including those of her mother and ex-husband.  I like a woman with a backbone, and one who doesn’t come off as bumbling or pushy.  Sasha is just such a woman, one you would enjoy spending time with and call your friend. 

When all is said and done, I was truly surprised at the ending, which makes a very good mystery indeed.  While this is only the second book in the series, I hope that there are many more to come, and I look forward to the next.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Bear-Witness-Murder-Teddy-Mystery/dp/1496709659/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2401756419

More on Meg Macy's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/meg-macy/

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Played by the Book (A Novel Idea Mystery Book 4)

Author:  Lucy Arlington
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback, Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780425276631
Berkley Publishing
320 Pages
$7.99; $7.99 Amazon
February 13, 2015

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The owner of the Novel Idea Literary Agency is thrilled when former local boy and popular television show host Damian York returns to Inspiration Valley, North Carolina, to launch his new gardening book.  But Lila is less than excited about the hubbub when she sees her mounting to-do list.  Between planning York's gala and sprucing up her yard for another event, she's spread too thin - especially after she finds a skull buried in her flower beds.

As Lila's macabre discovery leads to other secrets hidden in Inspiration Valley's past, a member of the local garden club is found slumped over her prize roses - murdered.  Now it's up to Lila to dig through old mysteries and new clues to unearth a murderer before someone else is found pushing up daisies...

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When Lila Wilkins is told by her boss that she's going to be part of the garden walk during Inspiration Valley's Annual Garden Walk, there isn't a lot she can do.  But when she sets about pulling up Hawthorn bushes she comes across a skull in the garden.  She immediately calls her boyfriend Sean, who's a police detective, and they cordon off the area until they know more about it.  When it's discovered that the rest of the skeleton lies there also, it becomes a crime scene, and she's out of the running.

But not too much later one of the others on the garden walk is found dead in her home, and the police also have to deal with a murder.  Lila is suspicious of the president of the garden club, for the woman is a nasty piece of work, but her co-worker Vicky insists it's the woman's step-son, since he hated her.  Either way, there's another killer on the loose and Vicky wants Lila to find out who it is.  But in doing so, will Lila put herself - or her family - in harm's way, or will she find a murderer in time?

I should have known this wasn't going to be a stellar book when this book is about gardening but Lila has no clue what plant is in her office.  A Rhododendron is not like an ivy, and it doesn't grow like one; you certainly can't put it up above a cabinet.  I think she's mistaking Philodendron for Rhododendron - and I'm surprised no one has commented on this.  But anyway...

It only took four books to finally make Sean a homicide detective, although he was investigating murders from book one.  I guess in this town it's not a big deal if a patrol officer investigates.  Also, the author(s) can't figure out the name of the realty company:  in two books it's "Sherlock Homes" and in two books it's "Sherlock Holmes".  So which is it?  Homes or Holmes?  I guess the next book casts the deciding vote.  Also, why is Althea the only person in town to talk like a hillbilly?  Is she the only true native and everyone else moved there?  She can't even get her accent straight - she went from saying "lordy" to "lawdy" in this book; and "shug" in the last book to "sug" in this book - either the authors and/or editors aren't doing their jobs.

As I mentioned in my last review of this series, this town is so perfect it should be renamed 'Happy Valley' because everyone is just so nice (except the suspects, of course) and nearly no one has a bad attitude (Vicky the Viper is the only one I can think of - she's just unlikable as a character); but now, everyone can also write!  Both Jay and Makalya are getting book deals!  This town must be quite a ways away, because it's sure far from reality.  It’s bad enough the characters are practically cardboard - you never get a sense of even caring what happens to any of them - but they’re all extremely talented, literary-wise?  Pretty soon the people in this agency will be writing their own novels and sending them to publishers (FYI, this is not realistic for a literary agency, but I guess it’s not really supposed to be).  Plus, I don’t understand how Lila keeps her job since she’s never there.  

You don’t even has to guess who wins the Van Gogh award if you’ve read any of these books, and I don’t think I would be giving anything away if I told you the answer.  Just knowing who entered the gardening contest should tell you all you need to know. Everyone who lives in this town has something wonderful happen to them.  (Makayla and Jay get book deals and fall in love; the sandwich guy and the baker fall in love; well, you get the idea).  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.  The minute this person enters the garden walk, you have your answer. 

Lila laments that Sean isn't making any time for her.  Does she even know what homicide detectives do?  Does she know that they're called out at all hours, all days?  If she's going to pout and be needy, then she needs to cut him loose and move on with her life.  Flora seemed over the top in this book, too.  She's an adult but goes off the deep end about something that happened in her past (and obviously didn't affect her much since she's happily married and usually bubbly).  Zach has turned into a jerk; he taunts Lila and Bentley lets him get away with it.  It's not funny, even though I believe the authors think it was meant to be.  Then, she helped incarcerate Addison's half-brother (whom she adored) and Addison hated her for it, but now they're practically best friends?  Okay, then... 

At the last, the plot 'theme' in this one was extremely close to another book in the series (and since this is only the fourth book, well, that’s a little too close I think).  Both used the growing up in foster homes angle (although they were carried in different directions).  Surely there are other plot lines that could have been used instead of the same basic idea for both books?  (In both books the foster system failed and was the motive for murder).

As you can see by my statements (or rants) I was not enamored by this book (nor have I been by any in the series).  In fact, the only reason I've stayed with them is because I genuinely like one of the authors and I was hoping that this series would improve along the way.  It hasn't.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Lowcountry Bookshop (A Liz Talbot Mystery Book 7)

Author:  Susan M. Boyer
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635113792; 9781635113768; 9781515951957
Henery Press Publishing
268 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $18.99; $6.99 Amazon
May 29, 2018

✮✮✮✮✮



Between an epic downpour and a King Tide, those historic streets are flooded--and dangerous. A late night tragic accident along the Lower Battery leads Liz Talbot straight to her next case.

Who's the client? Well, now, therein lies the first puzzle. When the police arrive at the scene of the accident, Poppy Oliver claims she's only trying to help.

But the dent on the front of her Subaru and the victim's injuries provoke a certain Charleston police detective's suspicious nature. A wealthy, anonymous benefactor hires Liz and her partner Nate Andrews to prove Poppy Oliver's innocence.

What exactly was Poppy Oliver up to? Is she a random good Samaritan who happens upon the accident scene? Or perhaps this tragedy wasn't an accident. She just might be his abused wife's accomplice.

Why does everyone involved in this case have a sudden burning urge for reading material, leading them to the same charming bookshop along the waterfront?

From a risqué, exclusive club in an old plantation to an upscale resale shop in the historic King Street shopping district to a downtown graveyard crawling with ghosts, Liz tracks a group of women who band together to help victims of domestic violence.

In her most challenging case yet, Liz fears she may find a killer, but justice may prove elusive.

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When Liz Talbot and her husband Nate Andrews are called to the offices of Rutledge and Radcliffe, she really doesn’t want to go, as her relationship with Fraser Rutledge isn’t the best.  But a chance meeting with Detective Sonny Ravenel changes that.  He’s being stalked by a mail carrier named Poppy Oliver who insists she didn’t hit anyone with her car, but was trying to help him.

It is only because of her ghostly friend Colleen’s insistence that she meet with Rutledge that she does so.  And when she finds out that he wants them to find out who actually hit Phillip Drayton - because he believes it wasn’t Poppy, that they agree to investigate. While they’re not ready to take Poppy off the suspect list just yet, they’re both almost positive she had nothing to do with it.  But when Liz and Nate start looking for the truth, what they find is a network designed so well that it will take all their resources and wits to get to the heart of the matter before it’s too late to save Poppy from being wrongfully jailed for the crime.

Once Liz and Nate start their investigation it all seems straightforward - they're trying to find out if it was a hit-and-run, and Poppy was involved in the accident.  But once they receive a report that states Mr. Drayton was also tased, pepper-sprayed and attacked with a mini-knife, then things start to get sticky.  Because if it wasn't Poppy, who was filled with enough anger to kill this man?  Poppy is insistent that his wife was a victim of domestic violence; his brother Daniel insists his widow Anne Frances had something to do with it; and there are just enough other suspects to make Liz and Nate's work difficult. 

But during the investigation, they wonder what a bookstore has to do with it, or a limousine that comes and goes, or even a wealthy society matron that seems to be the key to it all.  Liz and Nate will have to go deep and don disguises to find the truth and soon, because Sonny is ready to arrest Poppy and charge her with murder...

Once again Ms. Boyer has written a wonderful tale full of intrigue and secrets, one that involves an underground network designed to save those who are unable to save themselves.  While it soon becomes apparent to Liz what is going on, it will take longer before she and Nate have the proof they need to conclude their investigation, as they must do so without innocent people being hurt.

But there is a bit of humor within the story as well.  While Liz and Nate have their hands full with the investigation, Liz’s father doesn’t know how close he’s coming to being ejected from his own home.  When he adds to his little menagerie of his dog and pot-bellied pig with a trio of pygmy goats, his wife has just about had it.  And when those goats are not only defiling her home but those of her neighbors, she is close to a nervous breakdown.  It does not help one whit that he has also hired a couple of inept men to help build a pool that they have no skill in doing.  So Liz and Nate must do their best to keep her parents’ marriage on solid ground while treading lightly around it.

Weaving these two stories together - one serious and the other with levity - is no easy feat, but Ms. Boyer has managed to do so in an easy fashion.  Her writing flows and the words come together on the page effortlessly; her characters are full-bodied and believable; they are lively people with their own personalities.  Her description of the Charleston area is well-done; I would like to visit one day and dine at some of the restaurants.  She never disappoints in her tales, and this one is no different.

I was fully engrossed in the details and descriptions, and actually felt sorry for Nate at one point (and those who read the story will know what I am talking about); and were even given to see that there might be something good on the horizon for Liz's brother Blake (if you are paying attention, you can figure it out as you go).

All in all, this is another captivating tale that will have you hooked from the very first sentence until the end.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Books, Cooks, and Crooks (A Novel Idea #3)

Author:  Lucy Arlington
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780425252246
Berkley Publishing
304 Pages
$7.99; $7.99 Amazon
February 4, 2014




Inspiration Valley, North Carolina, is bubbling with excitement for the Taste of the Town festival, and Lila is right in the middle of it all.  Along with her coworkers at the Novel Idea Literary Agency, Lila is organizing a grand celebrity chef event, featuring food television's biggest stars, complete with cooking demonstrations, cookbook giveaways, and even a culinary writing contest.

But just as the celebration is about to start, the demo kitchen blows up, taking one of the star cooks with it.  With all the explosive egos of the cook's colleagues, it's hard to find someone who didn't have a motive to eliminate the competition.  Now Lila will have to scramble to figure out which of her clients is a killer - before someone else gets burned.

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Lila Wilkins, along with the rest of the agents at A Novel Idea literary agency, are planning the first Books and Cooks Festival and have several authors lined up to attend.  But when they arrive, it's obvious that there's more brewing under the surface with them than there is in a coffee pot.  They don't like each other, and the main attraction, as it were, Klara Patrick, has been making snide remarks to everyone about their cooking, which is making emotions run high.

After a particularly heated encounter, one of the chefs leaves in a huff, and then there is an explosion in the kitchen shortly after.  When it is determined he's been killed, it doesn't take the police long to figure out that he was murdered.  But discovering the reason why or the person responsible isn't going to be easy, and when another chef is also killed, it's obvious that whomever is doing this has some serious hatred toward the deceased.  But figuring it out could be more complicated than anyone expects...

I really was hoping that the author(s) had improved this series by now, but in the first few pages Lila’s boyfriend cop almost sets the kitchen on fire because he doesn’t know not to add liquor to a pan that’s on high heat.  Really?  Also, he’s in his 50’s and he tells Lila that he can’t even scramble an egg.  Oh, sure.  A lifelong bachelor but he never learned to cook.  Not.  Even.  An.  Egg.  Is he so stupid he can't figure it out?  I sure hope he was joking, because how is he a cop if he’s this idiotic?

Also - and I've mentioned this before - where are the homicide detectives?  Patrol officers do not investigate murders, and if there's none in town they would import one from the nearest city.  I'm guessing he's a patrol cop, because not once has he been addressed as Detective Griffiths.  Not.  Once.  Another reason he's not very good at his job:  the person murdered wasn't supposed to be in the kitchen, and they never even looked for the real target; they just assumed someone wanted to kill that chef.  A real detective never would have made that assumption.

What didn't make sense:

Sean is talking to all the agents and he asks Franklin a question, and Franklin responds with "There are some things that I'd rather remain confidential.  Not everything about the private lives of my clients should be laid bare for all to see and judge."  When Sean agrees, what does Lila do?  In front of everyone, she points out that she gets the impression that Maurice and Joel were a couple at one time.  Did she not just hear Franklin say that some things should remain confidential?  Could she not have told Sean privately?  This, my friends, is what a busybody sounds like.  Butt into everyone's business and tell it for the world to know without thinking of ramifications.

At another point in the story when they're talking about Klara's affair, Jude mentions that he thinks Klara is perfectly capable of hurting another person, and Lila wants to know why he thinks that.  Hello!  She's having an affair!  Doesn't Lila think that's hurting another person?  Did she forget that her own husband was having an affair?  What.  A.  Moron!

Sean asks Lila to sit in while he's questioning suspects.  Say what?  Since when do the police allow private citizens - who have no connection to the case - to sit in on interviews?

She mentions that Ryan is 'obviously unstable' and therefore, dangerously unpredictable.  Again, the man just lost his wife.  Does she expect him to go shopping?

Bentley states that Vicky is one of the agents, which she's not.  She's the office manager, although she acts like she's the owner of the company.  If I had an office manager like her, we'd have a bit of a talk about her attitude, as in giving one to Lila when she goes to lunch.  Not to mention Vicky acts like she has a stick up her rear and is the least likable character in the book.

Speaking of book characters, every single resident of Inspiration Valley is so nice.  There isn't a normal person around them; not one crabby soul, no one who is miserable once in a while; they should rename the town Happy Valley.  They're all so poetic and loving and sweet.  I'm surprised the town's streets aren't covered in sugar while you wade through it, the people are so saccharine.

To top that off, I, for one, am getting really tired of nearly every character in the book quoting literary lines.  Geez, you'd think even one of them would get tired of doing it.  Not only that, they feel the need to tell us where the line derived from.  I'm sure if the reader were curious enough, we could look it up ourself.  Instead, we're given that information because it's assumed the reader is too stupid to figure things out in our own way, right?

At the last, why is Sean so willing to allow Lila to help investigate the crime - and now her mother, too?  They aren't officers, and shouldn't be investigating.  In fact, even when he says he doesn't want to talk about the case, he does anyway.  Oh, right - there's no homicide detective so he has no real idea of what guidelines to follow.  Never mind.

The ending felt forced - the killer just decided to tell Lila the truth out of the blue.  Why on earth would they think that Lila would just allow a killer to walk away?  There wasn't even any suspense building up, and even though the police said they had enough evidence, we never found out what it was.  There didn't seem to be any to this reader.

There is always the hope that the author will improve the series, but that hope is fast dimming as it continues.  Sorry, but there seems to be very little intelligence in this town.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Probable Claws (A Mrs. Murphy Mystery)

Author:  Rita Mae Brown
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN : 9780425287156
Bantam Publishing
352 Pages
$27.00; $13.99 Amazon
May 29, 2018

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With the New Year just around the corner, winter has transformed the cozy Blue Ridge Mountain community of Crozet, Virginia, into a living snow globe.  It's the perfect setting for Mary Minor "Harry" Harristeen to build a new work shed designed by her dear friend, local architect Gary Gardner.  But the natural serenity is shattered when out of the blue, right in front of Harry and Deputy Cynthia Cooper, and in broad daylight, Gary is shot to death by a masked motorcyclist.

Outraged by the brazen murder, Harry begins to burrow into her friend's past - and unearths a pattern of destructive greed reaching far back into Virginia's post-Revolutionary history.  When Harry finds incriminating evidence, the killer strikes again.

Heedless of her own safety, Harry follows a trail of clues to a construction site in Richmond, where the discovery of mysterious remains has recently halted work.  Aided as always by her loyal, if opinionated, companions, crime-solving cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and Tee Tucker the Corgi, Harry hunts for a link between the decades-old dead, the recently violently deceased - and ancient secrets that underlie everything.  And while other deaths are narrowly averted in a flurry of fur, the killer remains at large - even more desperate and dangerous.  The deep-rooted legacy of corruption that's been exposed can never be buried again.  But if Harry keeps pursuing the terrible truth, she may be digging her own grave.

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"Harry" Harristeen lives in Crozet, Virginia with her veternarian husband Fair and her assortment of animals, including her felines Pewter and Mrs. Murphy and her Corgi Tucker.  She has decided to build a new work shed and she's hired architect Gary Gardner, a good friend, to build it.  But when she's standing outside his shop along with Gary and Deputy Cynthia Cooper, a motorcyclist stops and shoots Gary once then drives away.  The bullet is perfectly aimed and he quickly dies from the wound.

But who would want Gary dead?  And why?  When Harry - cautioned by Coop not to interfere - starts a little investigation on her own anyway, she's having trouble putting the pieces together.  It isn't until another murder that she's finally able to figure it out, and even with the help of her faithful companions Pewter, Mrs. Murphy, Tucker, it may very well cost her her own life if she's not careful...

This is the latest book in the Mrs. Murphy series, and as such, does not disappoint.  Ms. Brown has a real talent for weaving the past and the present together without losing her readers in the process.  The stories - one taking place in the present and the other in the 1700's - are seamlessly merged; and both tales are interesting enough that while reading of one century, you long to go back to the other.

The tale in the 1700's tells of the original landowners in the area and how their families fared during that time; and often it connects with the present-day tale; but this time out we are going farther back - back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and how it still affects us in the present day.

It is always interesting to see how far greed will take people, and the lengths they are willing to go to in order to acquire wealth.  That can be said for both eras in the stories told; yet while the tales do not mirror each other, each is fascinating in its own way.

The mystery was extremely well done, and the murderer was unexpected as well.  There were several suspects, but if you watch the clues, it leads in but one direction.  The characters are well-drawn, the scenery is highly descriptive, and I absolutely adore Harry, who is not your run-of-the-mill protagonist, but a woman who is not only smart, but strong, brave, and self-sufficient.  It is easy to see why her husband Fair is enamored of her; this is a woman who can think on her feet (much like Catherine Garth) and stays calm in the face of danger.

While we know Harry could not have solved anything without the help of the delightful (and egotistical) Pewter (as I feel I must give credit where credit is due), I have to say that I truly enjoyed reading this book as much as I have the others, and I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Probable-Claws-Mrs-Murphy-Mystery/dp/0425287157/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2397484573

More on Rita Mae Brown's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/rita-mae-brown/

Every Trick in the Book (A Novel Idea Mystery #2)

Author:  Lucy Arlington
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN:  9780425251676
Berkley Publishing
304 Pages
$7.55; $7.99 Amazon
February 5, 2013

✮✮


Lila Wilkins has it all: the home of her dreams in he charming town of Inspiration Valley, North Carolina; a perfect police officer boyfriend; and a new job she absolutely loves.  At the Book and Author Festival, which is sponsored by the Novel Idea Literary Agency, Lila expects to discover some talented new authors, but what she finds instead is the body of an editor to whom she bears an eerie resemblance.

Trouble is, the editor’s death isn’t the only literary murder taking place.  Soon a blossoming author is also killed, and Lila has a gut feeling that the two murders are linked.  Now she must hunt down the dark figure who killed these women - and to her surprise, she just mind find the clues hidden in a manuscript...

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Lila Wilkins finally has the life she’s been dreaming of - a job at a literary agency, a new home, and a new boyfriend.  She should be content, but she’s not.  She’s worried about her son Trey whom she’s allowed to live in a commune, hoping he’ll want to eventually go to college.  But she has a lot on her plate right now; the agency is hosting a book and author festival and Lila is going to be busy for the weekend.

What she doesn’t expect is to come face-to-face with someone who resembles her so closely they could almost be twins.  The woman, Melissa Plume, is a New York editor who’s attending in the hopes of finding a new author or two.  But when an ominously menacing man is staring at Lila, and just as suddenly places a raven feather on her desk, she’s shaken slightly and wondering what it’s all about.

When she learns later that Melissa has been murdered, she’s sure it’s the strange man, and she’s also sure she knows his identity.  But if she does, will she chase after him and only put herself in danger?  Lila’s sense of justice comes to the forefront, but unfortunately, the killing is quite over yet...

This is the second book in the series, and it’s barely improved over the first.  Lila is a contradiction in herself:  in one scene, she’s hiding in a closet from a killer, and in the next she’s convinced her friend Makayla to go find a killer.  Who does that?  Lila is practically hysterical through the entire book, and I was beginning to wonder if she’s not better suited for reading childrens’ books since she obviously doesn’t have the temperament to read mysteries of any kind.  They seem to set her off in imagining things.

Then again, there’s the issue of Trey: in the last book, Lila happily sent him off to live in a commune, even though he’s only seventeen, but when it turns out that there are nefarious dealings going on in that commune, she wants him out of there.  Gee, do you think if she had said no in the first place there never would be any problem with her worrying about him?

Why the murders occurred didn't make any sense to me, and it's in a spoiler below (Beware!  It contains the reason why the people were murdered):


Which brings us back to the fact of her almost-boyfriend.  I say ‘almost’ because the only time they’re spending together is when she’s calling him to save her from something and he kisses or hugs her.  I would guess that cops don’t really do that unless it’s a dire situation (like she’s just been rescued from a burning building).  Every single time they’re practically making out.  But then again, I don’t understand why Dunston doesn’t have a homicide division and regular cops investigate murders...they wouldn’t; they’d import detectives from other close townships.   So why, oh, why, is a street cop acting like a homicide cop and running an investigation?  As it is, he’s a not-homicide-cop heading an investigation; making out with his girlfriend every time he sees her; allowing her to see confidential information; and allowing her to be part of the investigation.  Okay, then...

I would have enjoyed liking Lila more, but she just goes around investigating the murders without any real reason to do so:  it wasn't a friend or relative, it never impacted her life in any way; she just seems to be extremely nosy and wants to play detective.  She also rarely goes to work and when she does she finds a reason to either get coffee or leave altogether.  Does she really want this job or does she want to become a police officer?  Unfortunately, this book had too many problems and too many unbelievable scenarios.  Perhaps the next will be better.

https://www.amazon.com/Every-Trick-Book-Novel-Mystery/dp/0425251675/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2397452198

More on Lucy Arlington's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/a/lucy-arlington/

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Buried in a Book (A Novel Idea Mystery #1)

Author:  Lucy Arlington
Genre: Mystery

Hardcover (LP); Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780425246191
Berkley Publishing
304 Pages
(Various) $7.19; $7.99
February 7, 2012



After receiving her first pink slip at the age of forty-five, former newspaper journalist Lila Wilkins is desperate for work, even it means taking a pay cut.  After combing through the classifieds, Lila accepts an internship at A Novel Idea, a thriving literary agency in the utopian town of Inspiration Valley, North Carolina.

Lila can't imagine anything better than being paid to read, but with a crew of quirky coworkers and a sky-high stack of query letters, she doesn't exactly have time to discover the next great bestseller - especially when a penniless aspiring author drops dead in the agency's waiting room.

No one else seems too concerned about the man's demise, but when Lila uncovers a series of threatening letters, she's determined to uncover who killed the man's dreams of literary stardom...

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Lila Wilkins has lost her job at a newspaper and needs to find a new one fast.  She’s in luck when there’s an opening for an intern at a literary agency named A Novel Idea.  She’s going to need all the luck she can get when vagrant comes into the office and she’s told that he comes in daily, and has been doing so for awhile.  But when he comes in and doesn’t leave...because he’s dead...it changes the story.  Especially when it soon becomes apparent that he’s been murdered, but none of her coworkers seem to care.

On top of that, her seventeen-year-old son Trey has taken her car without permission and totaled it, along with ruining part of his college’s football field.  Now she has to figure out a way to get to work, and unfortunately, that way will be if she and Trey move in with her mother until she can sell her home and buy one in the town where she’ll be working.  At least it will be cheaper than taking the train every day.

But Lila is bothered by her co-workers’ coldness toward the death of Marlette and since the police have arson and another death to deal with (after all, he was only a vagrant) so she decides to find justice for the man herself.  But in doing so, will she find a murderer or will they find her?

I really wanted to like this book because it had a great premise - a woman who finds a career with a literary agency - but there was so much wrong with it that just didn’t make sense.  First, once the police knew it was a homicide, why didn’t they assign a homicide detective?  Officer Griffiths investigated the murder, which didn’t make sense, since street officers don’t do that kind of thing; and I’m guessing he was a street officer, because why would a homicide detective show up with an ambulance if they didn’t know it was a murder?

Secondly, why did her mother have such a strong accent and she didn’t?  You’d think she’d sound a little bit like the person who birthed her, but there wasn’t even a southern endearment out of her mouth (Not even one ‘sugar’ came forth).  That also seemed rather odd to me,  On top of this, Lila apologizes to the person who almost got her killed!  Lila said she was sorry when the person said Lila ruined their life!  What the...?  She should have told them “Are you kidding?  You nearly got me killed!”  How stupid is this woman?  I would have let them have it both barrels right there in the street!

But the third was the situation with her son Trey.  He’s seventeen, and she has no problem turning him loose with strangers (even if her mother knew them, she didn’t). She just allowed this teenager to go off and live in the woods - and she didn’t even wonder what his living arrangements would be.  She was never curious where he was living (in a cabin?  In the forest?) or where he was sleeping (perhaps with a rock for his head).  What kind of mother cares more about the death of a stranger than she does the welfare of her own son?  HE’S SEVENTEEN. If he liked Iris, then she should have told him he could date her on the weekends, but he needed to live with her.

In fact, at the beginning of the book she tells him he needs to get a summer job and help pay off the damage he caused and he balks at it; yet when he moves to the co-op, he decides he wants to work - but he’s not getting paid.  So basically this is another entitled kid who leaves his mother to clean up his messes.  If he was so mature, why didn’t he realize he needed to help his mom pay what he damaged?  That’s immature, and shows he should have been made to come home.

The book left the irresponsibility of Trey as being perfectly fine, the fact that there wasn’t a detective assigned to the case - and the cop shouldn’t have made a pass at her while she was involved in the investigation (which she was).  That also shows irresponsibility on the officer’s part.  These are difficult to get past when they could have been so easily remedied, and the reason why I couldn’t like it as well as I wanted to.  

https://www.amazon.com/Buried-Book-Novel-Idea-Mystery/dp/0425246191/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2396511047

More on Lucy Arlington's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/a/lucy-arlington/

Charity Ends at Home (The Flaxborough Chronicles Book 5)

Author:  Colin Watson
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback: Digital Book
ISBN # 9780413443502; 9780571252879
[Faber & Faber]; Farrago Publishing
192 Pages
[Various Prices]; $3.99 Amazon
[1968] April 19, 2018

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"I am in great danger...I know that murder is going to be the reward for my uncomplaining loyalty."

This letter containing heartfelt urgent pleas for help is received by three very eminent citizens of Flaxborough, including the Chief Constable himself.  So when one of the town's most tireless charity workers, Mrs. Henrietta Palgrove, is found the wrong way up in her garden pond, a connection seems likely.

Yet Detective Inspector Purbright finds the case does not quite add up and it takes the acute wits of his old friend, the ever-charming Miss Lucilla Teatime, as well as the more unwitting help of Mortimer Hive, indifferent private investigator and accomplished ladies' man, to tease out the real murderer.

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When Detective Inspector Purbright visits his superior, Chubb, the man is in possession of a a letter that seems, for all intents and purposes, to foretell of a murder not yet committed.  But it was addressed only “My Dear Friend” and unsigned.  While it purported to have a picture of the would-be victim, there is no picture attached.  Stranger yet, it seems that Coroner Amblesby and the editor of the local newspaper have also received copies of the same letter.  While at first it appears to be only a crank, when a prominent woman is murdered - in one of the ways mentioned in the letter - it is up to Purbright and his sergeant, Sid Love, to find out who wanted the woman dead.

At the same time, a private detective named Mortimer Hive is on the trail of a pair of illicit lovers, but is having a problem - his camera has been stolen and his car has been disabled - yet the intrepid detective isn’t going to let either stop him, and proceeds on foot to the little love cottage where he finds one lover but not the other.

What these two incidents have in common seem nothing at all; yet eventually it becomes clear to Purbright that they are indeed connected, and with the help of Mr. Hive and the redoubtable Lucy Teatime, Purbright may very well find a murderer who has been hiding in plain sight all along...

This is the fifth book in the Flaxborough Chronicles and is a very good entry in the series.  Purbright is once again in top form, along with Love, whose reasoning process, while slower than his D.I.’s, is still right on the money.  He goes about solving the murder methodically, finding the clues and placing them exactly where they’re supposed to be.

This is what makes a good mystery, and Colin Watson has a knack not only for doing so, but leaving us with endings, while not entirely complete, still leave us the answers we have been looking for.  As it is, I have enjoyed every book in the series thus far, and am looking forward to reading the next.  Highly recommended. 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07B9RK4S6/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2396488473

More on Colin Watson's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/w/colin-watson/

Lonelyheart 4122 (The Flaxborough Chronicles Book 4)

Author:  Colin Watson
Genrre:  Mystery

[Hardcover; Paperback; Audio Cassette;] Digital Book
ISBN #:  9789997409119; 9780571252015; 9780745164359
[Faber & Faber]; Farrago Publishing
160 Pages
[Various Prices] $3.99 Amazon
[1967] April 5, 2018

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Whatever happened to Lil?

Flaxborough butcher Arthur Spain is worried that his sister-in-law hasn't been in touch lately, so he pays her a visit.  But Lil's not at home, and by her porch door are a dozen bottles of curdling milk...Alarmed, he calls the local police, D.I. Purbright and his ever-reliable Sergeant Sid Love.

It transpires Lillian Bannister is the second middle-aged woman in the town to mysteriously vanish, and the link is traced to a local lonely hearts agency called Handclasp House.  So when a vulnerable-seeming lady with the charming title of Lucy Teatime signs up for a romantic rendezvous, the two detectives try extra hard to look out for her.  But Miss Teatime has a few surprises of her own up her dainty sleeve!

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When a local butcher visits Detective Inspector Purbright with the tale of his missing sister-in-law Lillian, Purbright remembers that recently another woman about the same age had gone missing.  After searching Lillian’s home, he finds three letters from a suitor and a checkbook with a check made out to a local matrimonial agency, and he recalls the previous mission woman had also done the same.

After visiting the agency, Handclasp House, he acquires the name of a new client, Lucy Teatime.  He sets his sergeant, Sid Love, to keep an eye on the lady in question while he searches for answers.  Upon further investigation, he learns that there was a break-in at the the agency, and that the amiable Miss Teatime has been able to elude not only Sergeant Love, but another officer as well.  

Convinced that the man who is courting Miss Teatime - for he is sure there is a man - is the same one who had courted the other two ladies who have still not been found, he is more than ever sure that there is a con artist at work who is not only fleecing these women of whatever means they have, but that he has something to do with their disappearance as well.  And while it seems that Miss Teatime is sure the man she is seeing is not the same one Purbright has warned her against, he is.  But will she be able to save herself before she meets the same fate, or will Purbright fail in rescuing her?

Once again we are visiting the market town of Flaxborough and the domain of Detective Inspector Purbright, and once again he is on the trail of a criminal, this time a man who joins a lonelyhearts club in order to fleece vulnerable women of their savings and then dispose of them.  But he’s been elusive so far, and since he manages to change his appearance, no one can give a description.  He also manages to meet in public places that seem ordinary at first, but in being so, no one pays him nor the lady much attention at all; and this is why his scheme has managed to foster so well.

But this time he’s come across two formidable adversaries: Purbright and the redoubtable Miss Teatime, who is nobody’s fool.  In fact, Miss Teatime has a few secrets and surprises of her own which he doesn’t count on.  It is once again a tale well-written with memorable characters who are lively and well-drawn, and a delight to read about.

When the ending comes we are given the requisite surprises that Mr. Watson manages to do so well; I would suggest that anyone reading his books does not jump to the end to sneak a peak at the outcome; it is so much more fun if you read the entire book through.  I absolutely love these books and am looking forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Hopjoy was Here (The Flaxborough Chronicles, Book 3)

Author:  Colin Watson
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780754086260; 9780571252855
Faber & Faber/Farrago Publishing
160 Pages
$21.95; $26.58; $3.99 Amazon


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Within the quiet respectable market town of Flaxborough lurks a dangerous criminal:  someone who has no compunction in committing horrific crimes.  A secret agent has been murdered in unsavoury circumstances connected to an acid bath and it is up to Inspector Purbright to investigate, but it dows not take long for two or more operatives to arrive in Flaxborough looking for the same answers.  How can one of their colleagues have been murdered in such a bland, provincial town?  As ever Purbright must use all his skills as an investigator to get to the truth.

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When Inspector Purbright receives an anonymous letter telling him to come to the home of a local because of mysterious happenings, he gets more than he bargained for.  It seems that someone has been murdered: dissolved in acid, if you will; and Purbright knows that two men lived in the home - Periam and Hopjoy - but since neither can be found, he has no idea whom it was.

However, help is soon on the horizon.  Appearing are two men of the government, apparently special agents, who tell him that Hopjoy was one of them and they need to know if the remains (such as they are) belong to him.  So Purbright does what he does best:  he sets his mind spinning and his men on the roundabout to find the remaining man and perhaps a killer.

What he does find is that one of the men remain, and he is on his honeymoon.  While Purbright believes (somewhat) that the man knew nothing about what was occurring in his home, he nevertheless continues to investigate, wanting to know the details.  And what he finds is not only disturbing, it seems the killer very nearly got away with it...

This is the third book in the series and a very good entry indeed.  Inspector Purbright is at it again, deftly maneuvering his superior Chubb into thinking that he's the one who's come up with the idea to continue the investigation (as he always does) while doing exactly what he wants to do anyway.  This time out, he has the dubious help of two agents, Ross (who gets a little more than he bargains for) and Pumphrey, who are conducting their own investigation but don't know the locals nor how to really deal with them but do their best.

The tale is well-told, and while this is an older book (written in 1962) I find that oftentimes the older books are some of the best, and this is no different.  It is deftly told, and the plot is well done indeed, with plenty of twists and turns and quite a few surprises.  While it feels we are on the same track as Purbright, when he is surprised, we are also.  And we discover the truth at almost the same time and have much the same reaction as him.

In the end, I would say that this series has not disappointed me and I truly enjoy Purbright's clever mind.  He is a marvelous British Inspector and I love spending time with him.  The ending is also a surprise - I imagine both to Purbright and the murderer - but please do not skip to it and read through because it is the journey to the end that makes it all worthwhile.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Hopjoy-Was-Here-Flaxborough-Mystery-ebook/dp/B079JBKWVK/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2393500207

More on Colin Watson's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/w/colin-watson/

Monday, May 14, 2018

Shadow Dancing (The Country Club Murders Book 7)

Author:  Julie Mulhern
Genre:  Mystery

Digital Book
Henery Press
210 Pages
$6.99 Amazon
June 19, 2018

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Visiting a psychic is outside the norm for Ellison Russell.  Finding bodies is not.  Unfortunately, the psychic's crystal ball says she'll soon be surrounded by death.  Again.

Drat.

Now there's a corpse in the front drive, a witchy neighbor ready to turn Ellison and her (not so) little dog into toadstools, and a stripped named Starry Knight occupying the guest room.

How did 1975 go so wrong so quickly?

Ellison must handle Mother (who's found a body of her own), make up with a certain handsome detective, and catch a killer, or the death surrounding her might be her own.

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While Ellison Russell is relieved that her life seems to be getting back to normal - almost - since she's not finding dead bodies every week, it's a strain to realize that she might have blown her relationship with police detective Anarchy Jones and is wondering how to fix it.

But things just aren't meant to be 'normal' for Ellison.  Her friend Libba has dragged her to a psychic and Ellison pooh-poohs everything the woman says.  Then when she hits a young girl with her car (the girl isn't hurt) but she seems to be freezing so Ellison literally gives her the coat off her back.  Vowing to return the coat, Ellison goes home.  But then she receives a visit from Anarchy's dreaded partner, Detective Peters, and he wants to know why her name and address were in the girl's possession...because the girl was found dead.

Now the psychic is calling Ellison at home, telling her she must meet with her because the dead girl, Leesa, has a message:  She wants her to save a friend of hers named Starry Knight before she, too, is found dead somewhere.  It is only by chance - and a blind date set up by Libba - that Ellison sees a young girl in the company of a man she had seen herself earlier when out with her daughter Grace - and not in a good way, either - and confronts them, finally convincing the girl to go with her.

Fortuitously, the girl turns out to be Starry - whose real name is Jane.  Ellison takes her home with her, vowing to figure out a way to get her away from the life she's fallen into.  But Ellison doesn't know that in doing so, she not only has put herself in danger, but also Grace, and even though it's brought Anarchy back into her life, is it worth the risk to take the chance and lose everything she holds dear?...

We are once again living the the 1970s, long before there were computers, cell phones, no GPS to track people and the technology many have come to take for granted.  Because of this, it makes for a very good book indeed, when everyone had a land line and you either used it or drove to someone's home to speak with them.

When Ellison finds that her life might be in danger (again) this time Anarchy feels the need to spend the night (on her sofa) to protect her from the threats.  As she's perfectly fine with this, her mother Frances is not.  What will the neighbors think?  More so, what will Frances think?  But she has problems of her own:  she's discovered an urn in her closet and she's called upon Ellison to find out to whom it belongs.

So Ellison and Aggie are hitting the local library microfiche to see if they can discover anyone who might have been displaced within the last few months but before they can find out Frances tells Ellison she knows who it is, and the answer rocks Ellison from her head to her toes.  The end result puts a serious strain on her parents' lives, and now she's dealing with the fallout from that, too.

While the book is downright serious and sober, there are quite a few humorous moments that you can't help but chuckle at; and I actually found myself wanting to throttle Libba (and can't figure out why Ellison hasn't done so thus far).

It is a tale that is dark as midnight and riveting to boot; it shows us while reality slaps us in the face there are still those that refuse to believe the truth.  As the pieces fall together, we see the ugliness in the world that masks itself in normality.  Those that appear to be anything but sinister can be very much so.  And Ellison, in all her wisdom of finding those bodies and having faced ugliness in the past - including from her own husband - is no stranger to seeing it close to home.

It is a story well-crafted, a narrative both dark and light; one that is always entertaining and magnificently written.  As always, Ms. Mulhern draws us into Ellison's world and keeps us happily engrossed in what she has set down on paper and made to become real; her characters are animated and believable; her descriptions are convincing and give us something to look forward to when we first open the book.

In the end, when the killer is found and the story ends, we are left with a satisfying feeling that all is right with the world again (at least for awhile).  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Dancing-Country-Club-Murders-ebook/dp/B07BMJM89K/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2391675517

More on Julie Mulhern's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/julie-mulhern/

Bed Bugs (A Haskell Blevins Mystery #1)

Author:  Taylor McCafferty Genre:  Mystery Paperback ISBN #:  9780671754686 Pocket Books 256 Pages Various Prices May 1, 1993 ✮✮ ...