Monday, October 29, 2018

The Body in the Attic

Author:  Judi Lynn
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781516108398
Lyrical Underground
218 Pages
$15.00; $3.99 Amazon
November 27, 2018

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House-flipper Jazzi Zanders and her cousin Jerod have found their latest project.  The property, formerly owned by the late Cal Juniper, is filled with debris that must be cleared before the real renovation begins.  But a trip to the attic reveals something more disturbing than forgotten garbage - a skeleton wearing a locket and rings that Jazzi recognizes...

Tests confirm that the bones belong to Jazzi's Aunt Lynda, who everyone assumed moved to New York years ago after breaking up with Cal.  Soon enough, the whole family is involved, sifting through memories and rumors as they try to piece together what really happened to Lynda - and the baby she gave up for adoption.  In between investigating and remodeling, Jazzi is falling for the old house's charms - and for her gorgeous contractor, Ansel.  But with surprises lurking in every crook and nanny, a killer might be waiting to demolish her dreams for good...

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Jazzi Zanders and her cousin Jerod are house flippers.  They've just acquired an old Victorian previously owned by the estate of Cal Juniper, who was once engaged to Jazzi's aunt Lynda.  But Lynda disappeared shortly after the engagement, and everyone thought she met someone else in New York and just never returned.

But while attempting to remove items from the attic, Jerod opens a trunk and they find Lynda's remains inside.  Now the question has to be asked: what was she doing up there, who put her there, and was Cal in any way responsible?  But as they start digging into the mystery, what they find out is there are people who loved Lynda and some who hated her; but finding out who killed her isn't going to be easy - not even for the police.  Then when another mystery presents itself that's tied to Lynda, Jazzi knows somebody is hiding something - but how far are they willing to go to keep their secret?

This is the first book I have read by this author (she usually writes romances, and I'm not super fond of the genre) and I have to say that I was impressed.  Yes, of course, being the type of book she's written previously, there is quite a touch of romance involved (had to say it for those who think there's too much) but it never overshadows the mystery involved, and that's a good thing.

I liked the idea that this protagonist is a house flipper (unusual for a cozy) and she didn't run back home with her tail between her legs because her previous relationship soured (although she's already home, she's not moping about it but has moved on).  She's got a good business going, has money in the bank, and while she's interested in Ansel, who works with them, she's keeping that information to herself since he's involved with someone.

Back to the mystery - I liked the premise of the entire thing.  A relative whom everyone thought ran off didn't, and then they had to figure out who knew her 'when' and who wanted her dead but left her body in a trunk in the attic of the man she was to marry.  Then when the second murder is revealed, it only adds to the first question because it deepens the mystery and gives us something else to look at.  Quite a conundrum, and quite delightful to decipher.

I also found the fact that while in reality the police detective probably wouldn't have involved Jazzi in the case, he was likable enough and reacted well with her; neither one was offensive nor pushy, and I can see them becoming friends over time.  It seemed to work somehow and I was able to overcome this detail.  To tell the truth, I loved the fact that the detective wasn't hateful and that there wasn't an 'evil nemesis' in this book as I find both of those distracting from a mystery.

In the end, when everything started coming together it all did so nicely, and while there were no hair-raising moments, it didn't seem to matter.  The story was written well enough that I enjoyed the tale and I look forward to the next in the series.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Body-Attic-Judi-Lynn/dp/1516108396/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2577178737

More on Judi Lynn's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/l/judi-lynn/

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Doughnuts

Author:  Lara Ferroni
Genre:  Cooking

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781632171252
Sasquatch Books
208 Pages
$12.99; $9.99 Amazon
September 25, 2018

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There's nothing quite like a fresh doughnut!  With instructions written for home cooks, this book makes it easy to create doughnuts in your own kitchen.

Be prepared to be tempted by favorite classics like old-fashioned sour cream, maple-bacon bars, or red velvet, and new delights such as pineapple fritters, dulce de leche, and rainbow cake.  There are also variations for vegan and gluten-free versions in this expanded edition, now with 30 new recipes.  Your family and friends will not be disappointed!

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Since I love to cook and bake, and have made doughnuts in the past, I thought I'd look and see if this book has anything new.  Not only does it have what's listed above, but there are also recipes for doughnuts that are gluten-free (although I have to admit I haven't made those).  But it's there for those who haven't been able to find recipes before.

To tell the truth, yes, it's easier to just go and purchase doughnuts from a store; but you're going to get ones that have tons of preservatives in them and there's no guarantee that you won't find ones that don't taste like what they are - out of a box.  While many of these recipes take time and effort, the end result is you're going to get a very nice doughnut indeed with great taste.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Doughnuts-Simple-Delicious-Recipes-Make/dp/1632171252?crid=

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2573238623

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Murder at Harbor Village

Author:  GP Gardner
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781516109007
Lyrical Underground Publishing
216 Pages
$15.00; $3.99 Amazon
November 13, 2018

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Young retiree Cleo Mack is trading in academia for a second act in Harbor Village, a community for active seniors in coastal Alabama.  But someone in this picture-perfect coastal town is burning the candle at both ends...

It's love at first sight when Cleo arrives in Fairhope, Alabama, after taking early retirement from her longtime position as professor of social work.  Touted as "the nicest town in the world," Fairhope is home to an eclectic community of retirees.  Harbor Village boasts classes in painting, pottery, and photography, not to mention being a buyer's market for husbands.  It seems an ideal place to make new friends and rediscover life.  Until a dead body is found in the pool.

When the victim turns out to be the unpopular director of senior living, Cleo is named acting director.  Now she must rely on her well-honed people skills to uncover a killer in a place where short-term memory isn't what it used to be, and age is just a number.  And if Cleo keeps snooping around, her number may soon be up...

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Cleo Mack is a young widow in Alabama who is offered early retirement from her teaching job at a university.  While she's still deciding - her daughter wants her to move to Birmingham - she stops off in Fairhope and immediately falls in love with the town.  Then she meets an older woman who tells her how nice her retirement community is; and a younger woman who is an RN at the same facility, and she makes the decision then and there to call Fairhope home.

When she's offered a job at the facility the next day, she's surprised but accepts.  Then someone is murdered and she's offered the job of Executive Director - which she agrees to take on a temporary basis only.  Soon enough she finds out that there's more to the story, and as circumstances will have it, that there's also a very real reason she was offered the job...

I honestly wanted to love this book.  It's a mystery, which I love, and the cover was enticing.  However, there were too many unnecessary details, which seemed like the author only wanted to get her 'word count' up enough to get it published.  Things like, "I added some chocolate covered almonds and put the snacks into a plastic bag from the grocery store."  Do we really need to know it was a 'plastic bag from the grocery store'?  Or about all the snacks?  Then there were conversations (and thoughts in her head), things like asking where the detergent is, the bed linens, where to put the modem, etc.  These are all superfluous and too much like the things we do in our ordinary life.  We know they need to be done; we don't need to hear Every Single Detail.  Even to putting the iron on the shelf in the laundry room.  Did we think it would be on the coffee table instead?   

But then it explains why Cleo - in her 40's - would want to move into a retirement community and hang out with people in their 80's playing dominoes.  Who would do that?  Isn't that like a teenager wanting to hang around with people in their 40's?  I can't see how anyone would think this was normal behavior.  It's nice that she's friends with the residents; but they shouldn't be her only source of a social life if they think playing dominoes, eating sandwiches and going to bed at 8 pm is a fun night.  (I also can't see someone owning two cats and just leaving one to fend for herself while taking the other with her.  I'm a cat owner, and I would never do anything like this.)

So while the first half of the book was really strange and didn't make any sense, the second half picked up a bit and it got interesting.  I enjoyed reading about how Cleo was actually taking charge of everything and figuring out what was going on; it brought the book to a nice pace.  The writing was done very well, and the descriptions of the harbor area were lovely; I do believe this author has potential. 

Although I never felt that Cleo was threatened in any way or in danger of any kind, and I felt the circumstances surrounding the murder was rather 'mild' to put it, it was still a decent start for a first book, and I hope to see this author hone her skills and improve over time.  I'd like to see less mundane details and more teeth in the series.  All in all, not a bad beginning for a new series and I will read the next.

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-at-Harbor-Village-Gardner-ebook/dp/B079WM9X29/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2572273884

More on GP Gardner's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/gp-gardner/

Monday, October 22, 2018

Killalot (An Ivy Meadows Mystery #6)

Author:  Cindy Brown
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635114331; 9781635114300
Henery Press Publishing
282 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $6.99 Amazon
November 15, 2018

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A jouster, a playwright and a detective walk into a faire...but it's no joke when one ends up dead.

Actress and part-time PI Ivy Meadows is thrilled when she learns that the famous playwright behind Hello Dolly Madison is in Arizona.  Not so much when she realizes he's a suspect in the murder on a Renaissance faire jouster.

As is her friend Riley.  And about a thousand other people, all disguised in Renaissance costume during the fatal jousting match.

When Ivy is hired to investigate she goes undercover as a Cockney belly dancer at the faire and finagles her way into the playwright's Kennedy-inspired version of Camelot--as Marilyn Monroe, no less.

Then, in the midst of her toughest case ever, Ivy has to solve another dilemma:  Will she follow her lifelong dream of being an actor or settle down with the love of her life?

The murder investigation, the play, and real life come together in a twist that begs the question:  Is there a happily-ever-after for anyone?

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Ivy Meadows is attending a Renaissance faire with her boyfriend Matthew, brother Cody and Cody’s girlfriend Sarah, courtesy of free tickets from Ivy’s friend Riley, who’s a knight who will be jousting.  When they go see the jousters, a match between Riley and Angus, the Black Knight, Riley can’t be found.  Yet when a jouster rides in from a different direction, it’s assumed it’s Riley.  And when Angus is hit with the lance and falls off his horse, again, they think it’s Riley.  But the knight rides out of the arena as quickly as he arrived, and it’s obvious that Angus has been direly hurt.  Then Riley appears holding his head, saying as how he was hit from behind and someone stole his horse.

When the dust settles, it’s determined that someone stole Riley’s horse and helmet and purposely attacked Angus.  Yet when the man later dies from his injuries, Riley is suspected of being involved.  The people at the Faire want an investigation, and they hire Ivy to look into the matter for them.

While hunting for the person responsible, she's curious why Riley's horse ended up at a nearby ranch, which is owned by a playwright.  It is by chance that she discovers the playwright is looking for a Marilyn Monroe impersonator for a spoof of Camelot called Kennelot, and with the help of her friend Timothy, she fits the bill and is hired on the spot.  But the other two people on the "set", JFK and Jackie, seem suspicious and she isn't ready to rule them out as yet.

Then, as if things couldn't get any worse, her boyfriend Matt tells her he wants to discuss something, but before he can he receives a call from home saying his mother had a stroke and he needs to leave immediately, so whatever it is has to wait; leaving Ivy to deal with her insecurities wondering what it is.  With enough on her plate and too much on her mind, is Ivy going to be able to track a killer?  Or will someone be able to get away with murder?...

This is the sixth book in the series and a very good entry indeed.  Ivy is a terrific character, albeit a neurotic one.  She's human, and has her own demons to face: she carries forever a guilt that she caused her brother's disability (which is true enough) but has never been forgiven by her parents for doing so, leaving her PI uncle as a pseudo-parent instead; and it carries over into other parts of her personal life.

But she needs to concentrate on finding out who really killed Angus, yet she's not being helped by anyone she talks to in finding out the truth.  It is only matters of chance that even allow her to get close to discovering what she needs to know.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit and felt the mystery was done very well, and even though I was pretty sure who the killer was early on (I read a lot of these), it was still fun to watch Ivy sift through the clues to get to the truth.

We also watch Ivy as she wonders whether she can have a career and a love life, or will she have to give one up?  She needs to face her own demons and given her past, that's not an easy thing for her to do.  It's also a lot of fun to watch her try and stay in character as "Marilyn" and still figure out if anyone at the ranch had anything to do with the murder.

The story moved along quite nicely, the words flowing at a good pace.  The characters are fully dimensional and believable, and you can feel Ivy's angst as she tries to figure things out for herself - in all areas.  When the ending comes and the killer is revealed, it's rather sad and makes you realize that no matter the circumstances, we are all accountable for our actions.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Thread Herrings (A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery #7)

Author:  Lea Wait
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496716712; 9781977365200
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$7.99; $29.99; $5.99 Amazon
October 30, 2018

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Tagging along to an estate sale with her fellow Needlepointer, antiques shop owner Sarah Byrne, Angie Curtis impulsively bids on a tattered embroidery of a coat and arms.  When she gets her prize back home to Haven Harbor, she discovers a document from 1757 behind the framed needlework - a claim for a child from a foundling hospital.  Intrigued, Angie is determined to find the common thread between the child and the coat of arms.

Accepting her reporter friend Clem Walker's invitation to talk about her find on the local news, Angie makes an appeal to anyone who might have information.  Instead, both women receive death threats.  When Clem is found shot to death in a parking lot, Angie fears her own life may be in jeopardy.  She has to unravel this historical mystery - or she may be the next one going, going...gone...

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When Angie Curtis attends an auction with her best friend Sarah Byrne, she doesn't expect to find anything in particular.  But on an impulse she purchases an old needlework embroidery of a coat and arms.  Even though Sarah tells her it isn't worth much, Angie decides she likes it and takes it home.  When she removes the frame she finds what turns out to be a piece of ribbon that identifies a child from a foundling hospital.  When she investigates further she discovers that it originated in England.

She decides to do a little more digging but the historical society is unable to help; running into her friend Clem Walker - a reporter for a television station - yields at least some sort of answer.  Clem puts her on the air to talk about her find but the response they receive isn't one they're waiting for.  Death threats ensue, and while Angie is shaken, she thinks at first it must be a crank.  But when she's supposed to meet Clem for lunch and the woman doesn't show up, it's not long after that she's found dead in her car, with an embroidery needle in her neck, leaving the threat to Angie's life taken seriously.

But when another tragedy strikes it's apparent to everyone that Angie's life is in danger, so she's convinced to hide out until the killer is found, having no contact with her friends or family unless by phone.  But it's not long before she starts to feel caged; and since she has nothing but time on her hands, she slowly starts to put the pieces together of who wants her dead.  But the why eludes her, and unless she can convince a killer to confess, someone just could get away with murder...

I can't tell you how thoroughly I enjoyed this book.  We get to see how Angie reacts when she's not only faced with a life-or-death situation, trying to figure out why someone would kill for a badly kept piece of embroidery.  She's used to being independent and for the first time must actually do what the police say and keep out of sight, even if it is in a beautiful place with Patrick.

Most of the "action" actually takes place through telephone calls which makes it a little unique in the fact that the protagonist didn't go out and stumble across clues.  They were given through conversations (and a little bit of Internet research), which I thought was quite interesting.

When Angie finally puts everything together she has a difficult time convincing people to believe her, but I think that only made the book more plausible and it showed that the author is able to convey a story without putting the main character through a bunch of false steps before figuring out the truth.

I liked the fact that for those of us who have never been to an auction (nor probably will ever have a true desire to do so) the steps leading to the auction itself were explained, as I didn't realize that there was an 'order' that must be done (although I did know that one can't just go in, sit down and raise a paddle to bid).

When the ending comes and we ourselves learn the truth, it is a tale as old as time, but a sad one nonetheless, and shows us to what extent some will go to in order get what they want.  As the seventh book in the series, it is just as good as the previous ones, and Ms. Wait is indeed able to craft a story that keeps you reading throughout, wanting to know where the tale will lead.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Thread-Herrings-Mainely-Needlepoint-Mystery/dp/149671671X/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2566318328

More on Lea Wait's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/w/lea-wait/

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

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
336 Pages
$17.70; $15.99; $12.99 Amazon
October 9, 2018 (Trade 2019)

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When a heartbroken Samantha "Sammy" Kane returns to her hometown of Heartsford, WI for her best friend Kate's funeral, she learns that Kate's much-loved craft store is in danger of perishing with its owner.  Confounding all her expectations of the life she would live, Sammy moves back home with her golden retriever and takes over Community Craft.  A few doors down Main Street, fellow new arrival Ingrid Wilson has just opened the Yarn Barn, a real "purl" of a shop.  But when Sammy strolls over to see if Ingrid could use a little help, she finds Ingrid's dead body - with a green aluminum knitting needle lodged in her throat.

Detective Liam Nash is thrown for a loop as every single citizen of Heartsford seems to have a theory about Ingrid's murder.  And nearly everyone in town seems to be a suspect.  But the last time Sammy did any sleuthing was as a little moppet.  And this is not fun and games.  Sammy is eager to help the handsome Liam - who seems to be endlessly inventive in finding reasons to talk with her - and when Liam arrests affable woodworker Miles Danbury, Sammy puts everything on the line to help clear Miles.

As the case comes dangerously close to unraveling, Sammy must stitch the clues together.  But the killer has other plans -- and if Sammy's not careful, she may wind up in a perilous knot.

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Sammy Kane took over ownership of the local craft shop after the unexpected death of her best friend Kate.  She has a part-time employee in Kate's younger brother, Carter.  One day when he's helping her at the shop he receives a call from Ingrid Wilson, who has a yarn store just down the street.  Ingrid wants his help at her shop, but after talking with Sammy, she tells Carter she'll go instead.  Ingrid is not well-liked in the town, so Sammy decides to make her wait for a bit.  But when she arrives at Ingrid's shop she finds the woman dead, stabbed with a green knitting needle.

With a killer on the loose, and a new detective in town, Sammy wants to stay out of the investigation.  But when one of her friends is implicated in the crime, she decides that the only thing to do is enlist the help of her cousin Heidi and sister Ellie to find the right killer before the wrong one is jailed for something he didn't do.  But will she be able to find the truth before it's too late?...

This is the first book in a new series and really wanted to love it; but unfortunately, I didn't.  While it had some nice things going for it, there were a lot of things that irritated me.  Heidi, for one.  Who walks around saying, "I am here" and then does 'jazz hands'?  Are you really that self-important that you have to gesture when you enter a room?  Not to mention Sammy made it sound as if Heidi 'had work done,' which I just found odd.  (Also mentioning that her hair was dry because she dyed it didn't make any sense.  Women all over the country dye their hair, and it's not dry.  What is she using?  Cheap stuff?)  It also really seemed as if she was making 'digs' at Heidi with these remarks.  Plus, it doesn't say much about what Heidi thinks of herself if her boyfriend Tim cares more about 'the girls' than he does what she thinks or says.  Throughout the book Heidi comes off as thinking she's one hot chick, and pretty egotistical about it.  Just sayin'.

Then there were the little things, which are, in fact, the things that make up the book as a whole, of which some examples are as follows:  How many times Spring Fling was mentioned - over and over.  We got it.  Who wears pantyhose anymore?  I thought Bara was a dog but she calls him puppy?  I don't call my cat my kitten, so I'm just wondering about this.  Alpaca yarn isn't cheap.  It's about $10-$11 a ball, and it takes 2 balls to make a pair of socks, so I have a hard time believing women were just tossing pairs of $20 socks to parade watchers.  If people knew that giving Tyler candy made him hyperactive but upset her mother, why would they keep giving it to him?  Is it really funny to watch a mother get upset?  Plus, her sister won't own a pet because she's "meticulous" but has a two-year-old son.  Riiiight.  We're supposed to believe that her son is spotless?  What does she do?  Follow him around with a wet washcloth and a dust buster?  Kids are messy.  It's part of life.  When Nash called in the Crime Scene Unit to dust for prints, instead of sending the three women home he should have taken them to the station to get their prints so they could be eliminated.   Anyway, it's little things like this that make up the whole of a book, and if it's only one or two things, fine; but when it's time and time again it becomes irritating.

As to the big things, you have to like your characters, and I didn't like Sammy.  She was self-righteous and acted like a teenager, being sometimes snarky even.

Liam told Sammy that she needed to pay attention to details; well, I do, and that's one thing no one has ever accused me of not doing.  Unfortunately, it was these things that kept me from completely enjoying the book.  That, and the climax, which I have hidden in a spoiler below:



As it stands, I'm giving a pass because this is the first in a new series, and I like to give the author time to hone the characters, so we will see where the next book takes us.

https://www.amazon.com/Crafter-Knits-Clue-Handcrafted-Mystery/dp/1683317718/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2564144192

More on Holly Quinn's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/q/holly-quinn/

Monday, October 15, 2018

Wycliffe and the Scapegoat (Wycliffe Book #8)

Author:  W. J. Burley
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  978038515169; 9780752849713; 9780752849713
Gollacz Publishing (Orion)
173 Pages
Various Prices Amazon
Original Publish Date 1978

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Every year, at Halloween, high on the Cornish cliffs, a life-sized effigy of a man is strapped to a blazing wheel and run into the sea - a re-enactment of a hideous old legend where the figure had been a living sacrifice.

And now Jonathan Riddle, well-known and respected local builder and undertaker, has disappeared - and it seems all too likely that his corpse has gone the way of the historic 'scapegoat'.

As Chief Superintendent Wycliffe begins to investigate, more and more unpleasant facts emerge until he is left with an incredible, and seemingly impossible, solution...

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Jonathan Riddle is a builder and an undertaker.  While being an undertaker is only a small part of what he does for a living, this is what the townspeople focus on, primarily calling him "the undertaker" instead of his name.  He lives with his mother, sister, and nephew Matthew, who also works for him.

Halloween is coming and the town reenacts a blazing wheel with the effigy of a man - it will be sent into the sea and is supposed to bring good luck for the next years' crops.  This year DI Wycliffe and his wife witness the event with friends, and nothing more is thought of it and Wycliffe returns home.

But not for long - it seems Riddle has disappeared, and some people think instead of an effigy it was he who was strapped to the wheel and sent into the sea.  When Wycliffe arrives he discovers that Sarah, Riddle's sister, didn't report him missing until Sunday although he didn't return home Friday night.  Now Wycliffe finds this odd because it seems Riddle was a creature of habit and never stayed away overnight.  But when he starts looking into the disappearance he must decide who had the best motive to want him gone...

I decided to read this book because it takes place at Halloween, and I like to 'read the season' as it were.  However, it had nothing to do with Halloween at all save for the fact that the wheel is sent off at the beginning of the book.

First, I didn't understand why people didn't like him, merely because he was a loner growing up.  Then he's not reported missing until Sunday which seemed odd considering he never stayed away overnight.  You'd think they would have gone to the police some time on Saturday about it.  His family also didn't seem too concerned about his being missing, which was, again, odd.

But honestly, I found this book very dry and boring.  One gets no sense at all of DI Wycliffe's personality.  Read Colin Watson's Flaxborough Chronicles and you have a very different person in DI Purbright.  Wycliffe, on the other hand, we learn nothing at all about save for the fact that he is married.  He is supposed to be intelligent (well, he does solve the case) but we are given nothing to confirm that.  He doesn't appear to think much of anyone he comes in contact with, and there's no 'gleam' in his eye when he's interviewing people, you never get the idea he truly knows what he's looking for.  Not a character I can see should be a detective inspector at all.

As far as the murderer goes, it was pretty easy to discover right at the beginning.  While most of the characters were actually pretty lifeless - they seemed to have given up on life and just accepted that this is their lot; not a single one has any fire to them, any feeling left, any soul.  Which brings me to the fact of finding the killer.  Look at their lack of personality and you're given only one person who could possibly be guilty.

But the strangest thing was the ending of the book.  I felt as if the book just...stopped.  Almost as if there was another chapter somewhere that hadn’t been added where it should be.  The book felt unfinished, and while this is where the author chose to leave it that way, I wasn’t very happy with it and therefore won’t be seeking out any more in this series.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Reason to Doubt (A Carol Childs Mystery Book 5)

Author:  Nancy Cole Silverman
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback: Digital Book
ISBN: 9781635114256; 9781635114225
Henery Press Publishing
256 Pages
$29/46; $$14.90; $4.99 Amazon
November 6, 2018

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Carol Childs is in the middle of one of the biggest stories of her life.  Her daughter Cate has returned from college with a boyfriend in tow.  A photographer who police suspect to be The Model Slayer, responsible for the murder of three young women.

Not since the Hillside Strangler has Los Angeles been so on edge.

And when the police arrest Cate's boyfriend, Carol's personal life and professional worlds collide.  A tattooed cocktail waitress calls the radio station and asks to speak with Carol off the record.  She knows the true identity of the real Model Slayer because she says she killed him.

Tensions mount as the clock ticks.  The police are convinced they have the right man.  Mother and daughter aren't talking.  Carol can't reveal to investigators all she knows, and unless Carol can find the real killer before the trial begins, an innocent man may spend the rest of his life in prison or be executed for a crime he didn't commit.

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Carol Childs works for a radio station in Los Angeles as a reporter.  She's just met her daughter's boyfriend Pete, who's an aspiring photographer, and she thinks he's nice enough, but still worries that Cate is too young to be seriously involved with anyone.  Suddenly both her life and that of Cate's is upended.  Her daughter calls in a panic and says the police have arrested Pete as the Model Slayer - a man who has been randomly killing women and posing them around the valley.  Cate insists there's no way Pete could be the killer, but Carol doesn't know him well enough to decide.

Then she gets a telephone call and a woman tells her that Pete couldn't be the killer, because she'd already killed him.  When Carol meets with her, the young woman calling herself Xstacy explains what happened and how she knows Pete's not guilty - giving Carol information only the police know which strengthens her story.

Even though she's close to the situation because of Cate, she insists she's given the story by her boss and when she investigates further, she discovers that while Pete may not be guilty, there's an awful lot of evidence pointing to the fact that he is.  Will Carol be able to prove his innocence or will he go down for crimes he knew nothing about?  She now not only has to help her daughter, she has to protect her sources from both the police and a killer or lose everything...

I thoroughly enjoyed this fifth book in the Carol Childs Mysteries.  The writing is crisp, the story line original, and the characterizations of people and places fully dimensional.  You can almost sense Carol's angst against having to protect her sources against helping her daughter; while Cate doesn't truly understand what her mother is going through, she only knows that she loves Pete and wants him out of jail at any cost - and that brings the tension between them front and center.

We also have the return of Chase, a private investigator with a recent past with Carol, who's been hired to help any way he can, all the while still intimating that he'd like to continue where they left off.  The romance in the story is by no means overshadowing the mystery which is a good thing, but it is there nonetheless, and you can tell Carol is trying to keep him at arms' length while also trying to sort out her feelings for him and for her ex-boyfriend, an FBI agent who has temporarily entered her life - but on the other side for the prosecution.

The story moved along quickly, and while the descriptions weren't graphic of the dead women you still managed to imagine the horror in your mind, thinking of what they must have gone through before they were killed.  When there's another murder that hits close to home, Carol is even more desperate to find the killer before he finds her source and kills again, and it is in the last few chapters that it all comes to a head.

When the book is over and the killer is revealed it comes as a complete surprise; there were plenty of twists in the story and enough red herrings to keep one looking in more than one direction.  Ms. Silverman is a talented story teller who is able to grab one at the very beginning of a book and keep you on the edge of your seat right through the last page.  I have enjoyed each and every one of these books, and they are on my shelf as 'keepers.'  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Reason-Doubt-Carol-Childs-Mystery/dp/1635114225/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2559026694

More on Nancy Cole Silverman's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/s/nancy-cole-silverman/

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Death of a Russian Doll (A Vintage Toy Shop Mystery Book 3)

Author:  Barbara Early
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683317029
Crooked Lane Books
295 Pages
$17.70; $9.99 Amazon
October 9, 2018

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Who knew?  Liz McCall is not thrilled when her boyfriend Police Chief Ken Young introduces her to his estranged wife Marya.  The model-quality Russian immigrant, back in East Aurora to rekindle their romance, will be working as a hairstylist at the barber shop next door to Well Played, the toyshop Liz manages for her dad.  When Marya offers to help with the shop's doll rehab project, Liz can't help but offer up only a weak smile, but her secret hesitations are for naught as Marya's body is discovered in the barber shop with a hair dryer cord wrapped around her neck.

Liz's dad, retired from the police force, is asked to investigate since Ken is the prime suspect.  The whole town is abuzz with the scandal and Liz has a few questions of her own, wanting nothing more than to forget the loud argument she overheard between Marya and Ken the night before.  There could have been other motives...Was Marya going to cut into a competing hairstylist business?  Who is the bumbling private investigator hanging around and why won't he explain himself?

All eyes are on Liz, including those of an odd matryoshka doll in the shop which seems to move of its own accord...

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Liz McCall works in her father's toy shop and lives above it with her dad.  She has a pretty decent life, and seems to be content, but she's had a rough love life.  She broke up with her first love, Jack Wallace, in order to be with Police Chief Ken Young.  However, just as Liz decided she made the right decision, Ken dropped a bomb...

It seems he had a wife he never told her about named Marya, and Liz felt betrayed.  Needless to say, after that, she didn't want much to do with either one of them.  But Liz and her sister-in-law Cathy are rehabbing dolls for needy children, and Liz, who hates dolls, doesn't want much to do with them.  Cathy has help with the clothes and cleaning, but she doesn't know about doll hair - although she knows someone who does.  That someone is Marya, so she asks her to help.  To Liz's dismay, Marya shows up at the shop ready to start work, but it's apparent she doesn't like Liz.

When Marya is found murdered and Ken is the main suspect, he's temporarily removed from his job while her father Hank, former police chief, is asked to fill in until the case is solved.  While she's worried for her dad, Liz decides if she can do a little digging on her own she'll be able to help.  But will it be helping her dad or allow a murderer to kill again?...

I've read the first two books in the series, so if anyone hasn't read them, I'll try not to say too much rather than ruin it for anyone.



Then there's Liz herself, who probably isn't mature enough to handle a relationship of any kind.  She still lives with her dad (which pretty much kills the love life of any adult woman) and allows her father to cut her hair. (Really?)  She wears cartoon-themed footed pajamas.  (Honestly?)  She allows her sister-in-law to fix her makeup and hair when she's going out, and even choose her clothes for her.  This is an adult woman, not a five-year-old child.  Yet it seems she's never gotten out of the childhood stage at all.  I was choosing my own clothes (and can dress quite nicely for events) and wearing makeup when I was a teenager.  Liz still isn't capable of these things, and we're supposed to believe that she's even capable of handling a relationship?

Unfortunately, because of the things I mentioned above, it detracted from the mystery.  Every time it progressed, Liz did (or wore) something else that just seemed unreal.  In real life, if a bunch of people saw her in those pajamas, they wouldn't think it was cute; they'd wonder what was wrong with her.

We were also given no clues at all to the killer until the very end.  We weren't given a chance to figure it out for ourselves - which is why we read mysteries.  Most of the book was centered on Liz and her love life; less on the mystery.  Other than that, it was a decent cozy and can be read in one evening.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Murder on the Toy Town Express (A Vintage Toy Shop Mystery #2)

Author:  Barbara Early
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #: 9781683313090; 9781683317562
Crooked Lane Books
304 Pages
$14.38; $15.99; $9.99 Amazon
October 10, 2017

✮✮✮


Liz McCall has come to love running her father's vintage toyshop back home in East Aurora, NY, so when the Train and Toy Show comes to town, she's all aboard for a fun toy-filled weekend.  The only hitch is that her childhood bully Craig McFadden, now local business rival, has set up a booth next to hers.  But the fun and games are over when Craig falls from the ceiling in a publicity stunt gone wrong.

What was initially thought to be a fatal accident proves much more sinister.  Pulled into the case by her feelings for both Ken, the police chief, and Jack, her high school sweetheart whose brother is one of the prime suspects, Liz dives headfirst into the investigation.  But as she digs deeper, she's shocked to learn her father may  have been the intended target.

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Liz McCall runs her father's vintage toyshop in East Aurora, New York.  After a shooting that left Hank McCall unable to continue as chief of police, he decided to do what he'd always wanted, and the toy store achieved that.  She and her dad are preparing for the Train and Toy Show.  When they arrive at the convention hall, Liz, to her dismay, sees that Craig McFadden is at the table next to hers.  Craig was a bully growing up and picked on her at school through the years.  He left for awhile, but when he returned opened a comic book store.  She also meets his new employee Maxine who seems nicer than Craig deserves.

But when she finally sees Craig he's dressed in some sort of odd costume with a cape and all she can find out from Maxine is that Craig has something he's going to do that will be a big surprise.  Adding to this is the fact that Liz is torn between her high school sweetheart Jack, who's attending the show with his older brother Terry, an ex-con; and Ken Young, chief of police who still relies on her father's advice now and them.  But when Craig's surprise is more than anyone bargained for - he falls from the catwalk onto a train set below - Liz has to wonder if he jumped, was pushed, or if this was a stunt gone terribly wrong.  When it's believed to be murder that leaves only one thing to do...find the killer...

This is the second book in the series and could have been very good.  I can say that I like the characters; Liz is smart and is able to notice details of things around her; her father is far too fond of puns if he's given the chance.  (I did have to wonder, however, about the mother naming her son Kohl.  She does realize that ancient Egyptians used it as makeup, and that it's still used as eyeliner, right?)

While Jack and Ken are both decent characters and seem to like one another, I also have to say that I absolutely abhor love triangles, and this book takes it to the max.  Liz is a grown woman but can't decide which of two men she wants in her life.  Just give each man a suit of armor and put them on trusty steeds with lances to joust while the woman dithers over who she wants the most and you can pretty much sum up love triangles.

In the end when the killer was finally revealed and the reasons given it was at least satisfying, but I also have to state that this is the second book I've read this week that gave us a cliffhanger and that's another thing I absolutely hate.  I tend to call it 'holding the reader hostage' because if you want to know what happens then you have to read the next book.  Now, this is fine if you're watching a television show and you know in about three months you'll find out what happens.  But with books you could wait a year or more, and that's unfair to the reader.  If you went to see a mystery at the theater and the ending left you with: 'if you want to find out the rest of the story you need to see the next film' you'd be livid.  It pretty much sums up what I feel about cliffhangers.

I would have loved to give this book a better rating, but the things I mentioned disappointed me which is why I couldn't rate the book higher.  I will read the next in the series because generally I read three books in a series before I make the decision to continue on or not.  Hopefully the next will end the nonsense from this one.  If not, she's lost me as a reader.

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Toy-Town-Express-Mysteries/dp/1683313097/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2073902435

More on Barbara Early's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/e/barbara-early/

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Deadly Dram (A Whisky Business Mystery #3)

Author:  Melinda Mullet
Genre:  Mystery

Digital Book; Audio Book
ASIN #:  B079R3PW46
Alibi Publishing
272 Pages
$4.99 Amazon
September 4, 2018

✮✮✮


It's been a year since globetrotting photojournalist Abi Logan inherited Abbey Glen, a whisky distillery in the heart of the Scottish countryside.  To her surprise, the village of Balfour already feels like home, and her new business partner, Grant MacEwan, continues to be too charming to resist.  But Abi has a history of relationship disasters, so she struggles to avoid an ill-fated romance with Grant.  Steering clear is hard enough on a day-to-day basis, but when the two head off to a whisky industry competition together, Abi panics.  Five-star resort, four glorious days of nonstop whisky tasting, and a fatally attractive Scotsman - what could possibly go wrong?

The night before the award presentations, with foreign and domestic whisky makers at one anothers' throats, two judges are found dead under mysterious circumstances.  What started with three dream-come-true nominations for Abby Glen's whisky soon turns into a nightmare for Abi.  With a killer on the loose, she must call on her investigative skills to stop another murder - before she gets taken out of the running herself.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽ 

Abi Logan is a photojournalist who has just returned from a month in Iceland.  After being home for a few days she's starting to rethink her career choices, especially since she's inherited a distillery that's one of the best in Scotland.  She's also attracted to her partner Grant McEwan, who hasn't hidden the fact that he's attracted to her as well.  But since she has a lousy relationship history (she, for some reason, doesn't think this has to do with her traveling all the time!) she's determined to stay away from him.

So it's that much harder when they, along with her friend Patrick, have to attend a whisky industry competition together.  Armed with a new wardrobe (with the help of the local veterinarian) she's sure everything will go swimmingly.  But when someone is killing off the judges and Patrick looks as if he might be the culprit, Abi must use all her sleuthing ability to ferret out a murderer before he's the one losing everything..

I really wanted to like this book, and for the most part I did.  Ms. Mullet draws beautiful descriptions of everything going on around Abi, of the countryside, etc.; so much so that you can imagine being there yourself.  Her characterizations of people are also wonderful, giving us a feeling for who they are.  I liked the plot line, and thought everything was very well written.

However, I don't know if I'll read any more in this series, and the reasons why are in spoilers below (since I don't want to ruin this for those who have no read it as yet):



If you've read the spoiler, then you know my final thoughts on the book and the ending, so there isn't much left to say.  Other than that, if you're inclined this is a decent book that can be read in one sitting.

https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Dram-Whisky-Business-Mystery-ebook/dp/B079R3PW46/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2553037863

More on Melinda Mullet's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/melinda-mullet/

Friday, October 5, 2018

Death Distilled (A Whisky Business Mystery #2)

Author:  Melinda Mullet
Genre:  Mystery

Digital Book; Audio Book
ASIN #:  B01N6FSSUX
Alibi Publishing
240 Pages
$4.99 Amazon
September 5, 2017

✮✮


It's been three months since Abi Logan last checked in on Abbey Glen, the celebrated whisky distillery she inherited.  With her oversize wheaten terrier, Liam, by her side, Abi returns to the quaint Scottish village of Balfour.  But her relaxing Highland homecoming takes a stressful turn when she unearths an unseemly bit of village history, welcomes a group of Japanese whisky enthusiasts, and becomes sherpherdess to an unexpected flock of sheep - all within the first twenty-four hours.  Still, nothing's more stressful than murder...

Local celebrity Rory Hendricks is the hotheaded, hard-rocking former frontman of the Rebels - and Abi's girlhood crush.  After meeting him in person, Abi can't say no to anything he asks, like photographing his upcoming show...or figuring out who's trying to kill him.  Turns out someone's been bumping off his old bandmates, with the drummer dead under mysterious circumstances and the keyboardist in a coma following a hit-and-run.  Now a series of threatening messages leads Rory to think he's next on the chopping bock.  And the band has a devil's share of broken hearts and bitter disputes in their past, leaving Abi a huge batch of suspects to sift though - all before the killer takes another shot.

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Abi Logan is a photojournalist who inherited half of a distillery in Scotland from her uncle.  She's returned home after three months for rest and relaxation, but it's to be short-lived when she receives a cryptic message from a Mr. Rory Hendricks who wants to meet with her, stating they have a mutual friend in common.  Add to this that old bones have been found buried near the Stag pub, and Abi wonders once again about the history of Balfour.

When she meets with Mr. Hendricks she discovers that his other persona was as Mickey Dawson, lead guitarist for the band the Rebels.  He's heard about her and needs her help in flushing out a killer.  Someone is targeting his band mates, and he thinks he's next on the list.  There's also been trouble at his daughter Summer's art gallery, with painting stolen and lyrics from his songs painted on the wall.

Then Abi's friend Patrick has begged her help with Japanese distillers who want to visit her Abbey Glen, and needs her to convince her partner Grant that it's a good idea; which doesn't sit well with either her nor Grant.  However, Abi's caved to Rory, and now she's got his daughter Summer staying at Grant's home to help, and trying to figure out who is killing the band members, and if she can keep him safe or is it already too late?..

This is the second book in the series and I really wanted to like it, but there were issues I just couldn't get past.  Abi has this wonderful home in the Highlands, a distillery that's making money, and she still won't live there, preferring to travel to war zones.  What does she do with Liam, her dog, while she's traveling?  Does she take the dog on these dangerous missions?  And who will take care of the dog if something happens to her?  Nothing is ever said.

Then one can see the attraction between her and Grant; it's palpable in the air and yet they don't talk to each other; he thinks she's involved with Rory, and she practically threw Summer at him - and Patrick, her friend, is also throwing Summer at Grant.

The mystery takes second place to this, and I don't know if it's supposed to, but because of the back-and-forth between her wondering about how Grant feels about Summer and being depressed over it; there's also the mystery of what happened to the Fletcher brothers back in the 1700's, who were the original owners.  So everything feels more broken up than it should.

In the end, I didn't really like Abi as a person.  She states as how she's independent and stubborn, (well, so are a lot of people) which makes her wrong for relationships (but these facts don't stop others from having them).  She's a personal coward - she can go into war zones but isn't willing to face her own fears when it comes to having a relationship.  I don't really care for characters that aren't willing to at least try, and she won't.  She'll run (her words), which is the act of a coward.

The sad thing is, this could have been a very good book, but there are just too many characters to sift through.  It wouldn't have made any difference if the author was using every single inhabitant of Balfour in the book; yes, there were that many people involved.  By the time I got to the end, I didn't really care about the mystery any more because of the sheer amount of characters not a single person was fleshed out and we couldn't care about any of them (Rory was dissolute, Summer was all fluff, etc.) which brings us to the question of Abi again:

If Abi doesn't change her thoughts and learn to take a personal risk - which is the greatest risk of all; because if you aren't willing to take that risk, then you might as well hide yourself away - then I am so done with the series.  I'm not willing to read books with fifty characters and have the main one biting her nails wondering 'should I?' pacing the floor (which is what it felt like) trying to decide if she should show a backbone.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N6FSSUX/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2552974664

More on Melinda Mullet's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/melinda-mullet/

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Lover Come Hack (A Madison Night Mystery #6)

Author:  Diane Vallere
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635114171; 9781635114140
Henery Press Publishing
244 Pages
$24.96; $15.38; $6.99 Amazon
October 30, 3018

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After a falling out with a friend flips interior decorator Madison Night's world inside out, she's determined to revamp her life.  Jane Strong, fellow mid-century modern enthusiast, encourages Madison's entry in an upcoming design competition, but their rift makes collaboration no longer an option.

When Jane is found dead, Madison tops the suspect list.  And when anonymous computer hackings interfere with both the investigation and the competition, Jane's murder no longer seems random.

With a mess of a love life, an angry client, and a looming deadline on her contest entry, Madison turns to an unlikely ally to decode a motive before a crash becomes imminent.

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Madison Night is an interior decorator who owns Mad for Mod in Dallas, Texas.  She's getting ready to enter the VIP (Very Important Projects) competition for DIDI along with her friend Jane Strong.  But the morning they're due to submit their proposal, she receives a devastating email from Jane that tells her she's not as good as she thinks she is, and that the collaboration is off.  She tries to talk to Jane, but she won't speak with her.

So Madison races against time to submit a new proposal on her own - which means she'll have to spend several hours putting something together, and then find a building on her own (Jane owns the one they were going to use) to renovate.  In a hurry, she asks the security guard to sign her out of the building while she rushes to meet the deadline.  Later that day in the same building she uses the restroom and finds Jane in another stall, obviously sick.  Eventually finding help, it appears that it is too late for Jane and she passed away before the paramedics arrive.

Stunned, Madison returns home wondering how this could have happened.  But she hasn't got time to think about it, she needs to continue on with her project; yet when she tries to use her computer she discovers she's been hacked and when her assistant Effie can't fix the problem she calls the only person she knows who can - Donna Nast, a sort-of nemesis who used to date police captain Tex Allen.

Which brings us to the fact that Madison is soon turning 50, and torn between the two men in her life - contractor Hudson James and Tex.  She's asked both of them for six months of a man-free love life so that she can make up her mind which one she's interested in, and they've (reluctantly) agreed.

But soon it also becomes apparent that unexplained events take place, and it puts Madison front and center in the Main Suspect arena, and the lead detective on the case is singling her out for murder.  Can Madison find a building?  Will she make a decision between Hudson and Tex?  Is Donna helping her or hindering her?  And can Madison outwit a killer before she's either wrongfully convicted?  Or will she wind up just like Jane, out of the competition...and life itself?

I absolutely loved this book.  So much so I read it in one sitting.  Madison is a smart, independent woman who knows what she wants (except maybe when it comes to her love life) and can think on her feet in a crisis.  I love a protagonist who isn't pushy, invasive, nor idiotic enough to do stupid things.  Madison is a wonderful character.

While she's trying to figure out how to win the contest, she's bothered by Jane's death and soon becomes suspicious when she finds out not only her computer was hacked, but nearly everyone connected with the VIP contest.  Stranger still, the police department computers were hacked, and they're not even in the contest.  Watching Madison try and figure out what is happening and why is intriguing, and it makes for quite a fascinating tale.  (It helps that my husband is a computer specialist so I could follow the story quite easily).

The plot is well-written, the story delightful.  the author's descriptions of place are charming; and her characterizations of the people involved are believable and vibrant.  She has given us a narrative that is both complicated and full of suspense; it was indeed a pleasure to read.  When the killer is found out, it gives a sense of satisfaction; we can see the 'wheels turning' in Madison's head as she is putting everything together, and once again, this is not a woman that one should ever underestimate.

The motive for the murders was convincing; the ending amusing; and I can't think of a better way to have spent my evening than in reading this book.  It was worth every minute and I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Lover-Come-Madison-Night-Mystery/dp/1635114144/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2551771619

More on Diane Vallere's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/v/diane-vallere/

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Back Stabbers (The Country Club Murders #8)

Author:  Julie Mulhern
Genre:  Mystery/Suspense

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book; Audio CD
ISBN:  9781635114584; 9781635114553; [9781515963721]
Henery Press Publishing [Tantor Audio]
262 Pages
$24.96; $14.90; $6.99; $24.99 Amazon
October 23, 2018

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All Ellison Russell wanted was an update on her stock portfolio.  Instead, she found her broker dead.

With an unexpected out-of-town guest at her house, Ellison is too busy for a murder investigation.  Only this time, Detective Anarchy Jones wants her help, and she can't deny the handsome detective.  Can Mr. Coffee supply her with enough caffeine to keep her brain sharp and everyone else happy?

Juggling bodies (one, two, three, four), two-faced friends, her social calendar, and a cat (yes, a cat) is taxing but Mother might be the biggest challenge of all.

With a killer drawing closer, can Ellison put together the pieces or will she be the one getting stabbed in the back?

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Ellison Russell has a problem: she's gone to see her broker regarding her stock portfolio, and when she enters the office, she finds him dead.  Another body.  Her mother will be horrified, her homicide detective boyfriend Anarchy will be resigned.  And her father...her father has a surprise for her as well: her older half-sister Karma has decided to visit, and he wants her to stay at Ellison's, since he hasn't even told her mother yet.

Of course, she knows her mother will be furious, but she doesn't have a choice if their marriage has any chance of survival after this comes to light; and it doesn't help when she discovers that Anarchy already knows Karma, and has for a long time.  Only the dead stockbroker keeps getting in the way, especially since Anarchy asks for her help on the case.  With an office full of attractive women to sift through, did one of them kill the man?  Or are more sinister forces at work trying to keep anyone from finding out the truth?  But what will she do about Karma?  And how do she and Anarchy know each other?  How is her mother going to deal with it all?  And what's a girl to do when she's stuck smack dab in the middle of murder?...

Ellison Russell is a widow with a teenage daughter in Kansas City, Missouri.  She's a well-respected artist born of money who has a full life, loving parents, a faithful housekeeper and a devotion to Mr. Coffee.  It is the world of the 1970's before technology became king and people had to either visit or use a telephone to communicate with each other; a simpler life - or so you would think.  But not in the case of Ellison, who has a knack of finding dead bodies on a regular basis, and this day is no different.  Unfortunately, the bodies don't stop with just one, and Ellison's going to need a lot of coffee to keep up.

This is the eighth book in the series, and a wonderful addition as such.  Ms. Mulhern writes characters that are lively and believable; with plenty of sarcasm, wit, intelligence and even, at times, venom.  Ellison has grown from an insecure young widow into an independent woman who's not about to allow anyone to steamroll over her, friend and foe alike.

The tale is often funny listening to Ellison's thoughts in her head while she's dealing with the unwanted drama around her.  Even while she manages to maintain a semblance of her life - still going to play bridge and chair various committees along with attending parties, she also has the addition of a new half-sister to deal with, learning to find her way in navigating a relationship with a sister she doesn't know anything about.

While she's delving into the murders of three people (don't worry; she didn't find all of the bodies); she's dealing with the fallout of such and juggling not only assorted mourners but the fact that there were many more who didn't mourn at all.  Watching her figure out who had the greatest motive - and just exactly if and/or how they were connected is quite an absorbing tale. 

There is plenty of intrigue, secrets and lies, and watching Ellison put it all together is quite a delightful journey to take.  While I wouldn't want to find myself in the nest of vipers that Ellison calls her friends, this is one woman who is well able to deal with it and come out on top.

When everything comes together and the murder is finally discovered, we realize that the clues were there all along yet we were looking down other paths - exactly as both the murderer and Ms. Mulhern expected us to do until the end.  Another admirable entry in the series and I look forward to the next, which can't be soon enough for me.  Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A Killing by the Sea (A By the Sea Mystery #2)

Author:  Kathleen Bridge
Genre:  Mystery

Digital Book
ASIN #:  B078QS9BD9
Lyrical Underground Publishing
269 Pages
$4.99 Amazon
September 25, 2018

✮✮✮


Trading the urban sprawl of Manhattan for the tranquility and exotic beauty of a Florida barrier island was the best decision author Liz Holt ever made. What could be more ideal for relaxing, regrouping, and getting a writer’s creative juices flowing than observing life at the unconventional hotel that has been in Liz’s family for generations? But it’s death that grips the island when a body sweeps in on the tide . . .

The victim was a member of a fishing crew lost at sea who may or may not have drowned. Despite the corpse in their crosshairs, the staff of the Indialantic by the Sea Hotel and Emporium continues its plans for its first annual Pirates’ Weekend. But things go further awry when both a hurricane and a killer leave a trail of destruction. Liz and her new boyfriend must figure out who’s behind the carnage before they also end up in Davy Jones’ locker . . .

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Liz Holt has returned to Melbourne, Florida after a disastrous breakup and is now living happily in the home of her childhood, the Indialantic by the Sea hotel with her father and great-aunt Amelia.  She's also at the beginning of a new relationship with ex-firefighter and arson investigator Ryan Stone, who's moved here to help his grandfather run the deli at the hotel's emporium.

When everything at last seems to be going swimmingly for Liz, she sees a body on the beach and discovers it's the nephew of another emporium tenant, Minna, also a friend of Liz's.  It's more tragic when it's discovered that Dylan was murdered, not merely fallen overboard the ship he was on, which is what everyone thought.  But who would want to kill the young man who was also a budding photographer?  While there is no dearth of suspects, it's not going to be easy to figure it out.  Yet that's what Liz and Ryan have decided to do, even if they have to do it on the down low, since the lead detective also happens to be Liz's father's girlfriend, and has warned them away.

But when Minna's house is set on fire and Dylan's belongings have been rifled through, Liz is sure there's more to the story and wants to find out the real reason Dylan was killed, and if the killer didn't find what they were looking for, maybe she and Ryan can find it first...

I have to say that I really struggled with this book.  I've said many times before that I'm a great believer in details, and there were several inconsistencies and things that didn't make any sense, which are in spoilers below:



This is the second book in the series but I felt that it was mainly centered on 1) Aunt Amelia's exploits; 2) Romance; 3) The mystery; when the mystery should have been #1 and Aunt Amelia should have been #3.  We learn a lot about Amelia's TV shows, and almost everyone has a romantic interest; but Liz never gets close to danger and there's no nail-biting moments at all; it's more romance than mystery, and more Aunt Amelia than romance.

The worst thing is we're still not told the entire story of what happened to Liz to cause the scar on her face (although we're getting closer to finding out) and then it’s added in that we don't know what is going on with Susannah - why she's there and too broke to pay her way.  (She's also pretty arrogant in telling Liz she needs to put her phone on vibrate.  What business is it of hers?).  So now there are two things that should be explained and haven’t been done so:  what happened to Liz, and why is Susannah living at the hotel?

At the end, I struggled with the mystery, mainly because it was broken up so much by everything else going on that it seemed almost an afterthought; this wasn’t really a mystery at all, even if there was a murder; it was a book about Aunt Amelia and her career and exploits, with a “murder lite” thrown in. I really didn't care about the victim because not a lot was said about him, and I didn't see why Liz was even investigating because Charlotte isn't an inept detective and the police were doing their job.  It just seemed 'off' to me.

I give three stars for the writing which was very good, but as you can read, I had a difficult time with this book, and I'm sorry for that.  The reasons why are written above, and again, I am really sorry that I just couldn't get into the book.  I'm a big believer in paying attention to details, and there was just so much missing for me.

Midsummer Mayhem (A Potting Shed Mystery #7)

Author:  Marty Wingate
Genre:  Mystery

Digital Book
ASIN #:  B079R4N9T4
Random House - Alibi
$4.99 Amazon
November 6, 2018

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Pru's friends and neighbors are abuzz with the news of an acting troupe putting on an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  And while many are eager to catch a glimpse of famed actor Ambrose Grant, Pru can't wait to finally see the spectacular gardens of the private estate where the play will be performed.  When the estate's gardener abruptly quits - frustrated with actors trampling his beloved plants - Pru is called upon for her gardening expertise.  She throws herself into creating magical woodland forest scenes, and is quickly drawn into the excitement of putting on a play, as she watches the drama on and off the stage.  But the play's suddenly no longer the thing, when one of the actors turns up murdered.

Pru's husband, Detective Inspector Christopher Pearse, relies on Pru's knowledge of all the players in this particular intrigue, and Pru finds herself using rehearsals to investigate.  But playing the role of private eye could prove perilous for Pru, as she closes in on a murderer who won't let anyone - least of all the gardener -  keep him from stopping the show...dead

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Pru Parke is a master gardener at Greenoaks Estate, where she lives with her husband DI Christopher Pearse.  She works with her older brother Simon, and one morning he tells her that a neighboring estate needs a temporary gardener to help with a Shakespeare troupe that is doing an outdoor production at the place.  Since the owners live abroad and the garden is never opened to the public, Pru jumps at the chance.  She also engages part-time help from Simon and her helper Hal to keep the estate in top order.

When she meets the members she is immediately taken with the director, Max Stirling, and a couple of the players - Ambrose Grant, for one, who is quite well-known in the industry as also being on television shows; and discovers that her cook Evelyn Peachey is enamored of him; but it doesn't stop there as she finds her sister-in-law Polly and the Reverend Bernadette fans as well.

She also notes drama in the cast that has nothing to do with the play - one of the players, a young actor named Gabriel Gibb who is playing the young lover Lysander has taken it a step further by bedding as many of the single female cast and crew members that he can.  He goes so far as to make a play for Pru, only apologizing once he discovers that she's a married woman.  But then she also discovers that Ambrose and the costumer designer Miriam have a past neither is willing to talk about but Pru sees they want to; and she tries to decipher a way to help them get back together.

It is only when an actor is murdered that Pru discovers more than one cast member has a past they aren't willing to talk about or admit to, and while she offers to help Christopher find out who had the most to gain by the death, she doesn't realize that digging too deep into the murder could find her digging her own grave...

This is the seventh book in the Potting Shed Mysteries and once again Ms. Wingate has given us a mystery well worth reading.  Pru and Christopher are delightful characters; it is endearing indeed to see that he trusts his wife's judgment and allows her to help - somewhat - in his investigation, even though he'd like her to stay out of it. 

We also see that their cook Evelyn Peachey, who's also teaching Pru how to cook, is becoming more of a friend instead of an employee.  Evelyn has completely warmed to Pru and it's kind of fun to watch her behavior this time out; first when she discovers that Pru has invited him to dinner, and then after meeting him how Evelyn has expanded her cooking to the troupe of actors, sending food every day with Pru. 

I like how Pru was asking questions of everyone while being careful not to be invasive of them so as not to make enemies; and I felt that there were plenty of red herrings strewn within - nearly everyone had a reason to dislike the person - although she had to decide whether it was reason enough to want them dead or not.

When we got closer to the end it was almost as if both Pru and Christopher had the epiphany at the same time about who the killer might be, although neither one could actually imagine just how inventive this person was.  The clues were there throughout but it is up to the reader to sift through them to find the truth, just as Pru needed to do.

Ms. Wingate is a talented writer who has a way with a story that keeps you interested from the very beginning through the end.  She weaves everything so nicely together and creates characters that are animated and believable.  Her descriptions of the gardens are just lovely, and makes you want to visit Great Britain just to take tours and be able to see them for yourself.

When the ending comes and all is said and done, it is almost disappointing that there is no more of the tale; but since I always have such enjoyment reading these books I always look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079R4N9T4?pf_rd_

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2549680999

More on Marty Wingate's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/w/marty-wingate/

Going Organic Can Kill You (A Blossom Valley Mystery #1)

Author:  Staci McLaughlin Genre:   Mystery Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:  9780758275004 Kensington Publishing 294 Pages ...