Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Marigolds for Malice (An Enchanted Garden Mystery #3)

Author:  Bailey Cattrell
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780451476906
Berkley Publishing
303 Pages
$6.47; $7.99 Amazon
August 28, 2018

⭐⭐


Ellie is happy running her perfume shop, Scents & Nonsense, in the charming town of Poppyville, California.  And she's even happier when she can use her inherited abilities to infuse her perfumes with an extra special something that eases woes or solves problems for her customers.  But she'll need those abilities and more when murder comes to town.

Ellie and her women's business group, the Greenstockings, are helping to open a new museum about local history.  While sorting through the collection of artifacts, they discover a time capsule from the days of the gold rush.  Among the contents is a strange botanical manuscript that local history professor Eureka Sanford believes is extremely rare and valuable.  When the professor is found dead in the museum, Ellie has no choice but to sniff out the intruder...but this one may have roots that are as old as Poppyville.

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This is the third book in the series and I really wanted to like it as well as the first two (although I did like the second one better than the first, I will admit).  But I was turned off completely when I found out what the professor was doing.

First, they find an old butter churn and discover that it's a time capsule from the 1800's.  When, among much fanfare, it contains an old botanical notebook, Ellie finds it's hot to the touch - at least for her.  The rest of the items - a diary page and large gold nugget among them - seem to be just pieces of history.

But the professor who takes charge of everything (save for the nugget which has been removed to the bank) for the museum.  While the botanical notebook haunts her, Ellie goes to see if she can look at it again and finds the professor dead and all the items missing.

Now, of course, Detective Max Lang thinks she's guilty, but Ellie isn't going to sit still while he tries to pin a murder on her.  She's determined to figure out where the notebook is, and who stole it and why...

This book started out well enough, and it was discovered that Ellie's ancestor was the woman in a photo found in the churn.  I thought this could be interesting.  But it wasn't.  It seems the esteemed professor was going to write a book on the photo and the botanical notebook, which would have both belonged to Ellie as the rightful descendant.  And she wasn't going to ask Ellie if it was okay to do so, or include her in the book, or ask for her help.  Basically, she was going to steal the items for her own profit.  I didn't like this one whit, and I didn't feel sorry for her death after that.

I also don't like Max at all.  I get that he's the friend of her ex-husband.  But did he hate her when they were married, too?  Or did he just develop that when they got divorced?  There's no reason at all for his attitude unless he loves her ex-husband Harris and is jealous of her for having been married to him.  He's a character the book could do without.

It disappointed me so much that I didn't much care for the book after that.  And I cared even less for Ellie's "relationship" with Ritter.  Which isn't a relationship at all.  He goes away for work months at a time, only returning while he's waiting to leave again.  He doesn't have any plans to really have a future with her if he's never there.  Just around often enough to make sure she isn't seeing anyone else.  Nope.  No future in that.

These things ended the series for me.  Even if there were any more books, I wouldn't read them.

https://www.amazon.com/Marigolds-Malice-Enchanted-Garden-Mystery/dp/0451476905/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2918984673

More on Bailey Cattrell's Books:

Fat cat at large (A Fat Cat Mystery Book 1)

Author:  Janet Cantrell
Genre:   Mystery

Trade Paperback - LP; Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781410478269; 9780425267424
Berkley Publishing
304 Pages
$25.99; $7.83; $2.99 Amazon
September 2, 2014



The jig is up for Chase's adorable plus-size cat, Quincy.  His new vet says "diet" - that means no more cherry cheesecake bars.  From now on he gets low-calorie kibble only.  But one taste of the stuff is all it takes to drive him in search of better things.  Quincy's escape is the last thing Chase needs after the nasty run-in she has with underhanded business rival Gabe Naughtly.

Chase tracks Quincy down in a neighbor's kitchen, where he's devouring a meatloaf, unaware of the much more serious crime he's stumbled upon.  Gabe's corpse is lying on the kitchen floor, and when Chase is discovered at the murder scene, she becomes suspect number one.  Now, with a little help from her friends - both human and feline - she'll have to catch the real killer or wind up behind bars that aren't so sweet.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Oh, my.  Here's the second book in a row that I've read that has glaring errors in it.  Glaring.  Errors.  Things that should never be, but are.

First, her name is Charity, so why on earth is her nickname Chase?  Maybe if her name was Chastity, but Char would be a better choice.  Anyway...she owns a bakery that only sells dessert bars.  That's it.  Bars.  For some odd reason, they sell out every single day.  They must be the best in town, because dessert bars are okay once in a while, but I wouldn't buy them every day.  Or bake them every day.  Enough of that...

She lives above the bakery in an apartment but brings Quincy down and shuts him in the office while she's working.  Every single day.  A little bitty office instead of leaving him upstairs where he can look out a window and sleep anywhere he wants.  Is she that lonely?  Because that's just a very cruel thing to do to a cat.  It's like taking him up to the apartment and shutting him in the bathroom all night.  Not to mention it's probably a pretty big health violation.

Then, they have someone stealing from them but they don't know who it is.  Why?  Because they don't have security cameras, which is odd.  Chase opens a bakery, but doesn't think security cameras would be a good idea?  I wonder why that is?  Perhaps because she's dumber than a box of rocks?

I'm also guessing the author has never actually been to Minneapolis except maybe for a day or two on vacation, because she mentions how it's August and she'll have to dig her sweaters out soon.  I grew up in Minneapolis.  You need those sweaters now.  My sister still lives there, and it's July, and they're having days in the 70's right now.  So the nights will definitely be chillier.  I went there several years ago in August and wore sweatshirts and a light jacket.  It also rains.  A lot.  I'm also thinking it's probably not a good idea to walk out alone at night in Dinkytown.  This isn't a small town.

Then, someone puts rats in their business which they discover before the health inspector shows up.  Which, unless the health inspector is dumber than a box of rocks also, would know that these are rats that have come from a pet shop, since they're tame and don't look anything like feral rats.  These are white rats that you can pick up.  Yeah, the inspector would have to be pretty stupid not to be able to tell the difference.

Then - and this is the big one - after the health inspector visits, Chase is talking with her friend Julie and she actually says this:  "We had a violation on the health inspection, but it's an easy fix - just the sign missing that tells us to wash our hands.  Stupid regulation anyway."  Excuse me?  She thinks it's stupid for employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom?  Ewww...you want to buy food where the employees don’t wash their hands?  Now I wonder if she washes her hands at home.  Gross!

Here's an FYI for the author:  Gabe's prints would have been on the knife, considering that even if the knife had been washed, he would have had to touch it to put it back in the butcher block.  So the fact that only Chase's prints were on the knife should have alerted them that the killer must have wiped the knife clean and she was telling the truth.

Then there's the hint of the ubiquitous love triangle.  No thanks.  I absolutely abhor them.  They're never interesting and always annoying.  I say it like this:  if it were a guy who was stringing along two women, you'd think he was a dog, or worse.  So why is it okay when a woman does it?

But the worst is poor Quincy:  cats don't eat constantly, they're not dogs.  So you can leave their food down all day and they'll only eat when they're hungry.  But it's irresponsible for Anna to keep shoving sugar-laden foods in his face.  Especially since cats can't taste sweets.  At all.  They are the only mammal unable to do so.  They don't have that protein gene.  Which has me wondering why he's eating them.  Get your facts before you write.  It helps.

So needless to say, I won't be reading any more in this series, even though I've bought the other two books.  I have better things to do with my time than be annoyed.

https://www.amazon.com/Fat-Cat-At-Large-Mystery/dp/0425267423/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2918917749

More on Janet Cantrell's Books:   https://www.fantasticfiction.com/c/janet-cantrell/

Plum deadly

Author:  Ellie Grant
Genre:   Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781451689556
Gallery Books
304 Pages
$9.98; $10.99 Amazon
September 3, 2013



Unjustly accused of cooking the books, Maggie Grady is forced to retreat from her high-flying New York financial career to the town where she grew up.  Her aunt Clara greets her with open arms and a job at the family-owned business that has baked the best pies in the South for over forty years.  Unfortunately, while Maggie is determined to return to banking, her reputation there seems permanently in the pits.  That is, until her old boss, Lou, visits with news that he's found the real crook.  Before he can reveal the details, though, Maggie finds his body right behind the pie shop.

With only her own word that Lou planned to exonerate her, Maggie is in the spotlight.  the police seem to suspect that Aunt Clara's damson pie may not be just dangerously delectable, but downright deadly.  Maggie doesn't just have her own name to clear, she has to make sure that her aunt's beloved business isn't harmed, either.  Yummy local reporter Ryan Summerour appears eager to help, and Maggie can't help hoping that it's not just the police who find her a person of interest - but Ryan, as well.  She'd thought it challenging to make the perfect pie crust that Aunt Clara demands, but that turns out to be nothing compared with finding a murderer...

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I started to read this book and got through part of the first chapter before...

What on earth is going on here?  I can see why there were only two of these.  Almost immediately, the protagonist tells us that she lost her job at a bank because she'd been accused of embezzling money from an important client.  They showed her papers that verified this and told her they wanted to keep it quiet.  They froze her bank accounts and said they would take what was needed to pay back her debt.

First, you'd have to be pretty darn stupid to embezzle money and leave a paper trail behind you.  Then, we're told a policeman was standing outside her door at home to make sure she didn't take anything valuable with her.  Huh?  They want to 'keep it quiet' but tell the police?  How does that work?  The police are not going to ignore embezzlement, so why would they tell them?  They can't just order and officer to stand outside her door with no reason behind it.  There wouldn't have been a police officer at all.

Secondly, they really don't have the right to stop her from taking her belongings, unless they have proof she bought them with stolen money (and they didn't) - this was ridiculous.  From.  Her.  Home.  There is no way they could have stopped her from taking her clothing, jewelry, shoes, household appliances, furniture, etc., if it came down to it.  And, since the author mentioned it, if it was her home, why did she leave?  Being accused isn't the same as being convicted.

If they tried this garbage with someone in actuality, then they'd better be prepared for the court fight that comes next.  Because you can bet your sweet rear end there certainly would be one.  An innocent person would not only have denied it, they'd threaten to take it to court, get an attorney, and demand copies of the "incriminating" evidence.  They'd better have more than a couple of sheets of paper - and be able to answer where the 'evidence' came from.

When it comes to that, why didn't she?  She knew she wasn't guilty but didn't fight it?  Just accepted it and grabbed a duffel bag full of everyday clothing and left?

The author should have done better homework.  This was just sloppy.  Either get your facts together or write something else.  FYI, dumpster isn't capitalized unless it's the actual name of the company that produces it or at the beginning of a sentence.

I won't give away the ending, but I will say that Maggie is a complete moron.  If you want to see the reason why I say that, I have hidden it in a spoiler on Goodreads.

There were so many things wrong with this book and not a single thing right.

https://www.amazon.com/Plum-Deadly-Ellie-Grant/dp/1451689551/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2917267613

More on Ellie Grant's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/ellie-grant/

Monday, July 29, 2019

And Then They Were Doomed (A Little Library Mystery)

Author:  Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781643850009
Crooked Lane Books
$26.99; $12.99 Amazon
August 13, 2019

⭐⭐


Little person author Zoe Zola believes that one of the unluckiest things in life is to receive an invitation - in the form of a letter edged in black - to an Agatha Christie symposium at an old Upper Peninsula hunting lodge.  Her reluctance dissipates when she learns that the organizer is named Emily Brent - the name of a character poisoned by cyanide in Christie's And Then There Were None.

As a dreary rain soaks the U.P., Zoe and nine other Christie scholars - each of whom bears a vague resemblance to one of the mystery novel's characters - arrive at the lodge.  At the opening night dinner, arguments flare over the experts' discordant theories about Christie.  Next morning, the guests find one particularly odious man has gone - whereabouts and reasons unknown.  Such a coincidental resemblance to a work of fiction is surely impossible; therefore, it appears to be possible.

As the guests disappear, one by one, Zoe resolves to beat a hasty retreat - but her car won't start.  She calls her friend, amateur sleuth/little librarian Jenny Weston, but Jenny will have to wait out a storm off Lake Superior before she can come to the rescue.  If Zoe's to stay alive to greet Jenny when she eventually arrives, she'll have to draw on everything she knows about Agatha Christie's devilish plots.

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Zoe Zola is a writer who is writing a biography on the life of author Agatha Christie.  When she receives a black-edged envelope, it's not the first time she's ever seen one.  It always means death.  And it's an omen she thought ended with the death of her own mother.  Because it seemed her mother had sinned in the eyes of her family, and each time an envelope arrived, it meant the loss of one more family member she would never see again.

So Zoe doesn't open the letter, merely looks at it.  She thought she was done with her mother's family, they would never find her.  But now...when her neighbor Dora arrives, she sees the letter, and when Dora's daughter Jenny comes to Zoe's home, she finds both her mother and Zoe staring at it.  So Jenny opens it - and finds not a death notice, but an invitation to a webinar on Agatha Christie.

After much indecision, Zoe decides to attend, and Jenny will drive her there.  Jenny, for her part, has decided she can't marry the man who loves her but doesn't know why.  So she's going to visit her sister Lisa, a documentary filmmaker, while Zoe is at the webinar, and will return to drive her home.  But will either things turn out the way they want?  Or will Zoe find herself in a bizarre twist of Christie's famous And Then There Were None?...

This is the first time I've made a foray into this author's works, and more than likely it will be the last.  The book is...very dark, to say the least.  It's also full of revenge and hatred, much more than any cozy I've ever read, or should be labeled.  I'm not sure if the author was perhaps trying to "recreate" a combination of Christie's And Then There Were None and Murder On the Orient Express, but if so, it falls far short.  Christie's works are witty and highly entertaining, and this one is neither.

The characters are not people I would ever want to know or spend time with, which is essential in a book.  Even with Zoe's difficult past, she states how she is happy, but she's not.  She has walls that people will never get through - and you can't have that many walls around your soul and be truly happy.  She takes personal offense at things people say - the way people say things, because why should you walk on eggshells around them so as not to offend them? - even though no offense is made, and subtly attacks others.

Dora is just Dora - seemingly happy but refusing to confront her daughters about anything, for some odd reason.  I'm not saying she should be combative, far from it; but if you can't have discussions with your own children about life - and they think it's interfering instead - well, something is really wrong.   Both her daughters are dysfunctional and she won't confront them because they won't talk to her if she does.  So what was she doing why they were growing up?  Ignoring them?  Leaving them to their own devices instead of developing a healthy relationship with them?  Just figuring if she let them do whatever they wanted there would be no future problems?

The older daughter, Lisa, would rather live on twigs and berries than worry about having financial stability (she can make documentaries till the cows come home, but if no one is going to pay to see them, what good does it do?) while the younger, Jenny, has a man who's in love with her and wants to marry her, and just like her mother, she won't sit down and talk out the problems so the relationship can progress.  She'd rather just walk away.  Do these sound like people you want to spend time with?  And these women aren't just out of their teens - Lisa is 40, and Jenny is 38!  That one threw me a little bit.

Then there were the problems which popped up before I even got halfway into the book:  I had a difficult time believing that a guy Jenny had gone to high school with but hadn't seen since then would just proposition her after about twenty minutes of talking to each other.  Really?  He tells her he had a crush on her in high school and then wants to jump in the sack with her.  Right.

Then, when Zoe got to the lodge, Jenny went in with her.  Almost immediately the proprietor Emily Brent, started talking about Jenny leaving.  Zoe should have decided to go with her.  If Emily hemmed and hawed and decided she could find a room for Jenny after all, then Zoe would have known immediately why she was there.  It didn't make any sense - missed clues on her part, and she was writing the biography of Christie!  The very minute Emily grabbed Jenny's arm to shove her out the door should have alerted them both.  But it didn't.  And therefore, I couldn't take the book seriously after that.  When danger slaps you in the face, you don't turn the other cheek.  You run like hell.

Unfortunately, Zoe and Jenny didn't take the hint, but I did, and I refuse to read books that will wind up making me angry or irritated, which this book would have done if I'd read it without skipping bits and pieces.  Especially when I got to the end and realized I was right.

This was a story of using someone to get revenge on another person.  Using them to even a score.  Not even caring about their emotions, their physical being, the end result they would have to live with.  Regardless of that outcome, there was nothing that made it right, or made it seem like it would have been worth it.  Is it worth it to a human being to lose part of your soul to aid someone who destroyed that which you loved most?  I don't think so, at least not in my opinion.  To bury the anger you feel at realizing you were played like a violin and not be able to do anything about it?  Sorry, but perhaps if things had turned out differently; if there had been justice for Zoe; I might have liked the book better.  There wasn’t even justice for the reader.

Just Killing Time (A Clock Shop Mystery #1)

Author:  Julianne Holmes
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780425275528
Berkley Publishing
294 Pages
$7.59; $2.99 Amazon
October 6, 2015

⭐⭐⭐


Ruth's beloved grandfather instilled in her a love of timepieces.  Unfortunately, after her grandmother died and he remarried, Ruth and Grandpa Thom became estranged.  She had wanted to reconnect after her recent divorce, but sadly they've run out of time.  Her grandfather has been found dead after a break-in at his shop - and the police believe he was murdered.

Now Ruth has been named the heir to Grandpa Thom's clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket, in the small Berkshire town of Orchard, Massachusetts.  As soon as she moves into the small apartment above the shop and begins tackling the heaps of unfinished work, Ruth finds herself trying to stay on the good side of Grandpa's bossy gray cat, Bezel, while avoiding the step-grandmother she never wanted.  But as old secrets and grudges start to surface, Ruth will have to kick into high gear to solve the killer case before someone else winds up dead...

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Ruth Clagan has just spent a week at a Vermont retreat, trying to decide what she wants to do with her life.  Her marriage has recently dissolved, and she's estranged from her grandfather - partly because he never wanted her to marry her ex-husband, and partly because he remarried only two years after the loss of her beloved grandmother.  But now she wants to reconnect, and sends him a postcard telling him so.  But before she's able to see him, she receives a telephone call from an attorney who tells her that her grandfather - or G.T. (for Grandpa Thom) as she calls him, is dead - killed during a robbery, and the sheriff suspects it was murder.

Stunned, she returns to the small Massachusetts town of Orchard to find out what happened.  She finds that while his wife received the house and its contents, she received her grandfather’s shop, the Cog & Sprocket, and everything in it.  Ruth is overwhelmed by it all, and still doesn’t know if she’s going to stay or not.  Fortunately, she has the help of G.T’s assistant Pat Reed, and unfortunately, she’ll have to work with G.T.’s widow Caroline, because she does the books and knows what G.T. was working on.  While she may not be happy about the situation, she hasn’t got a choice.  She's also inherited the shop's cat, Bezel, since she's going to be living in the apartment above the shop.

What Ruth does see is that there are clocks - so many clocks - filling the shop, and Pat tells her they're from the estate of Grover Winter, G.T.'s best friend.  He bought them all at once, and had planned on repairing and selling them, with some of the profits to go to Grover's family.  But since he died before he was able to do so, that task will fall to Ruth.  If she decides to stay.

However, Ruth is curious to find out who killed her grandfather, and she hopes she can find the answers in the shop.  But she'd better find out soon, because if she doesn't, Orchard might have one more death on their hands...

I have to say that for the most part I enjoyed this book, but I really didn't care about all the inner workings of a clock.  It seems that would appeal only to those who are interested, and I've always felt that writers should realize if their books are going to appeal to a mass audience or a select few.  Perhaps if there had been more on the mystery and less on clocks, I might have enjoyed it a whole lot more.

There were also a couple of things that bothered me.  I get that Caroline inherited the house and its contents, but she had to have known that the quilt was made for Ruth by her grandmother, so I wondered why she didn't offer it to her.  After all, would the loss of one quilt make that much of a difference?  She also didn't ask if there was anything in the house that had belonged to Ruth's grandmother that she might have wanted.  Wouldn't they have meant more to Ruth than to her?  Especially since she'd never met the woman?  It's little things like this that bring the reader to care about characters more. 

Aside from this, the book was pretty much an easy read.  It wasn't difficult to figure out the killer, although the reason why didn't become apparent until toward the end, which is fine.  I understand her wanting to rebuild the clock tower, but that's not much of a reason to read the next book. 

Unfortunately, most of the book was about clocks and the clock tower.  If you remove these parts, there wasn't a whole lot of mystery left.  Just when you'd start to get involved in the mystery, here comes another infomercial on the workings of clocks.  Because of this, the book was finished quickly without too much thought.

However, since it is the first in a (very short) series, I may or may not read the rest of these books.  All in all, not a bad book, but not a great one, either.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Murder in Tranquility Park (A Ferrara Family Mystery #2)

Author:  J. D. Griffo
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496713964
Kensington Mystery
317 Pages
$6.47; $5.84 Amazon
March 26, 2019




Ever since Alberta Scaglione inherited her spinster aunt's Cape Cod cottage, she's been enjoying the good life in Tranquility, New Jersey, with her black cat, Lola.  But since things are mostly quiet in this town, she finds other things to do - like joining Jinx for morning jogs in Tranquility Park.  She has to do something to stay healthy, as long as it doesn't involve Jinx's healthful tofu sausages and gluten-free pasta.  But when they stumble across a treehouse hidden in the trees, and a dead body underneath it, they take a detour into solving a murder.  Now the Ferrara ladies will have to exercise extreme caution to avoid a permanent decline in their health...

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Alberta Scaglione inherited millions from her spinster aunt, but spends her days sitting in her backyard watching the lake.  Her granddaughter Jinx has convinced her to jog with her three days a week, and on this day while they are jogging through Tranquility Park, they come across a treehouse...and the dead body of a local man.

Now, to the chagrin of the local police, they're determined to solve the murder first.  Hopefully, before the murderer finds them...

Okay, I said I wouldn't read any more in this series and I probably should have followed my own advice.  I couldn't even get through this book.  First, why are they calling themselves the Ferrara Family Detective Agency when they aren't one?  Secondly, it was creepy why Jinx was asking her grandmother about her sex life.  Ick.  Also, why was Jinx telling Vinnie (the police detective) what size bra Alberta wears?  (Telling Alberta she should be proud of her bust size implies that having large breasts should be flaunted.  And FYI, I'm larger than Alberta, so it's not because I'm a small-breasted woman - it's because a woman isn't defined by the size of her breasts, as Jinx seems to think).  (Also, I just looked it up and saw that the author is a man - draw your own conclusions).

Also, Alberta tells us that Italian men all scream instead of just speaking in a natural voice to get their point across.  Huh.  I wouldn't recommend people move next door to an Italian couple, if that's the case.

Then Alberta states as how it's their crime scene, and not the police's, as they got their first.  Their, as in Alberta and Jinx.  Who are not police officers.  Who are not police detectives.  Who are not private investigators.  Who are private citizens.

At this point the book lost me.  These women truly believe they have the right to investigate on the fact alone that they found the body.  They don't even try to hide it.  They actually tell the police that.  Well, I guess it beats trying to figure out a plot line that would give them a real reason to investigate, right?

Unfortunately these women are abrasive, abusive, and can't be taken seriously.  There are so many more better books out there.

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Tranquility-Ferrara-Family-Mystery/dp/1496713966/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2912113669

More on J.D. Griffo's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/j-d-griffo/

The Bodies in the Library (A First Edition Library Mystery #1)

Author:  Marty Wingate
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781984804105
Berkley Publishing
336 Pages
$26.00; $13.99 Amazon
October 8, 2019

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Hayley Burke has landed a dream job.  She is the new curator of Lady Georgiana Fowling's First Edition library.  The library is kept at Middlebank House, a lovely Georgian home in Bath, England.  Hayley lives on the premises and works with the finicky Glynis Woolgar, Lady Fowling's former secretary.

Mrs. Woolgar does not like Hayley's ideas to modernize The First Edition Society and bring in fresh blood.  And she is not even aware of the fact that Hayley does not know the first thing about the Golden Age of Mysteries.  Hayley is faking it till she makes it, and one of her plans to breathe new life into the Society is actually taking flight - an Agatha Christie fan fiction writers group is paying dues to meet up at Middlebank House.

But when one of the group is found dead in the venerable stacks of the library, Hayley has to catch the killer to save the Society and her new job.

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Hayley Burke is both happy and apprehensive when she's hired as the curator for the First Edition library at Middlebank House.  Happy because the job pays well and she gets to live on premises for free.  Apprehensive because the collection is of authors of the Golden Age of Mysteries, and she's never read a mystery in her life.  She's afraid she'll be found out and will be sacked.

There's also the problem of Mrs. Woolgar - secretary to the late Lady Georgiana Fowling, owner of the books.  Mrs. Woolgar resents Hayley, and it shows.  However, they must work together so she manages to keep a stiff upper lip about it.  (While Hayley lives above the library, Glynis Woolgar lives below it in a flat of her own).

Hayley is intent on finding ways to make the library more profitable and more well known.  To this end she's allowed a writer's group of mystery fan fiction to meet there every Wednesday.  The group - five students at a local university - are prone to contentiousness, and have, on occasion, left a bit of a mess for Hayley to clean up.  Mrs. Woolgar doesn't want the group to meet there, and sadly, Hayley has come to agree and says she will speak with them.

But before she can tell them, one of the group is found dead in the library (shades of Agatha Christie!) but no one knows how he got there since the library and the building was locked.  Afraid of the negative impact on the group, Hayley finds that she's up to her ears in suspects, and needs to sift through them to find out who wanted the man dead...and maybe learn a little about how mystery writers come to their own deadly conclusions in the process..

I have to say that I have loved all of Ms. Wingate's books thus far, and this one is no different. Hayley Burke is a 40-something divorced woman who has landed a plum job (thanks to her friend Adele) that she's sure she doesn't deserve.  She's in a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend Wyn, and due to attempting to set literary evenings with the local university, has met a professor that is making her question her relationship altogether.

But it's her lack of knowledge as to mysteries in the written form that has her most worried.  She's sure she'll be found out and just as afraid she'll lose her position because of it.  But when she finds herself in a real-life murder, everything changes, and now her job really could be on the line.

I do like Hayley's character.  She's insecure but determined, and even though the police have told her to stay out of the investigation, she really believes she will - until she's forced to enter it, and she's not sure exactly what she's doing.  Much as someone would act if they were suddenly thrust in the middle of a real-life mystery.

The only person I didn't care for in the book is the character of her daughter, Dinah.  Dinah is 22 years old and going to school.  But she's selfish and thoughtless - partly because of Hayley, of course; but it rankled that she treats Hayley like a never-ending bank, especially since she has to know that Hayley is also paying for her own mother's care.  I would like to see her realize, in future books, that she shouldn't depend upon Hayley for all her financial needs and perhaps get a part-time job to help pay her own way and ease her mother's dwindling bank account.

I do feel the mystery was done well, and as I love locked-room mysteries, I was pretty sure I had it figured out (I was right) but finding out who actually did the deed took a bit longer.  I loved the library cat, Bunter (and knew who he was named after).  Bunter became as invaluable to Hayley as his namesake became to Lord Peter; and there's a tiny hint of paranormal that was interesting, to say the least.

All in all, I felt it was done very well as an introduction to Hayley and the First Edition Library.  While there wasn't a huge depth of character in this book, that can be easily remedied as the series progresses, when we get to know the main characters better.  A little now and more later.

In the end, when the murderer is caught and the reason why the murder was committed, it was believable, and the clues were there if you see them.  An admirable beginning for a new series, and I hope to see the next one soon.

https://www.amazon.com/Bodies-Library-First-Mystery/dp/1984804103/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2912098082

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

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Lively Form of Death (A Chief Inspector Morrissey Mystery #1)

Author:  Kay Mitchell
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780373261062
Worldwide Mystery
251
Various Prices
September 1, 1992

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Marion Walsh, the town's local femme fatale, loses her housekeeper to a bottle of poisoned milk - a bottle most likely intended for her.  Helen Goddard, whose husband, Robert, had been shamelessly seduced by Marion's charms, is the logical suspect, especially after Marion is brutally murdered.

But Chief Inspector Morrissey begins to sense something twisted and evil, something beyond the obvious love triangle everyone seems willing to accept - particularly after a convenient suicide and confessional note.

A killer has gotten away with three near-perfect murders - perhaps more as the trail leads back to an unsolved case of missing boys...and to a hideous mesh of perversion, blackmail and deadly secrets.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Helen Goddard knows her husband is sleeping with Marion Walsh.  She hasn't done anything about it because she's not sure what she wants to do.  But there's gossip - mainly between the charwoman for Marion and the milkman's wife.  And everyone in town knows about it.  Marion's char, Betty Hartley, isn't above making a snide remark or two to Marion, and also not above stealing a pint or two of milk, figuring she won't notice.

But Little Henge is about to change:  Betty steals a pint of milk from Marion - milk that's tainted with cyanide, and was more than likely meant for Marion.  Now the police are called, and Chief Inspector John Morrissey travels to Little Henge to question, search, and discover what he can.  What he discovers is that Betty's cohort, Ida - the milkman's wife - has a lot to say about the murder and who might be suspect - namely, Helen Goddard, whose husband was having an affair with Marion.

But Morrissey doesn't expect to find that he's attracted to Helen; mostly because she reminds him of his wife, and he doesn't want to believe she's capable of murder.  After all, Marion is an unlikable woman, and he decides right away there's more to the murder than she's saying.  But it's not until Marion is also murdered - brutally - that he begins his investigation in earnest, and what he finds isn't at all what he expected...

This is the first in a short series of books by Kay Mitchell.  I can only say after reading it I wish she would have gone on with the series.  It is that good.  Really.  The mystery starts almost immediately with the death of Betty, and we learn that Marion doesn't want anyone involved in her life - so much so, she destroys evidence.  But it is what comes after that which is so fascinating to read.

Morrissey is very thorough, and keeps his emotions in check while he investigates.  He uses his logic at every step of the way, and even when it leads him down one road, if he's not positive it's the right one, he begins again until it leads him down another.  In this he differs from his sergeant, Barrett, who is not only ruled by emotion, he's convinced the murderer is Helen's husband Robert.  He rankles at being dismissed by Morrissey, because he thinks he's smarter than him.  But Morrissey is no fool.  He knows what Barrett is about - and he also knows Barrett has more on his mind than a murder case.

But then Morrissey's wife Margaret tells him of something that's bothering her - it seems on one of her committees they were discussing the disappearance of several boys from their son's school - more than would be expected, and asks him to look into it, which he promises to do when the case is settled.  However, when everything seems to be wrapped up nice and tight, Morrissey has questions...and those questions lead him down another path again...one he discovers quite by accident and ties both cases together.

The book is written very well, with characters who are believable and animated; you are drawn into the story almost immediately and waiting for the next piece of information to fall in your lap.  Morrissey is quite interesting and I enjoyed watching him put the pieces together as he gleaned information from various sources.  Small things discovered had him chasing clues that lead to something else to add to the puzzle.  Red herrings abound, and it is up to the reader to decipher them along with the Inspector.

It is by chance that I discovered this book and I liked it so well that I have been searching out the rest in the series.  This book is a British police procedural of the finest and should be read by anyone who enjoys the same.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Lively-Form-Death-Kay-Mitchell/dp/0373261063/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2906766186

More on Kay Mitchell's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/kay-mitchell/

Friday, July 19, 2019

Read and Buried (A Lighthouse Library Mystery #6)

Author:  Eva Gates
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781643852331
Crooked Lane Books
$18.99; $12.99 Amazon
October 15, 2019

⭐⭐⭐


The Bodie Island Lighthouse Library Classic Novel Book Club is reading Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne while workers dig into the earth to repair the Lighthouse Library's foundations.  The digging halts when Lucy pulls a battered tin box containing a Civil War-era diary from the pit.  Tucked inside is a hand-drawn map of the Outer Banks accompanied by a page written in an indecipherable code.

The library is overrun by people clamoring to see the artifact.  Later that night, Lucy and Connor McNeil find the body of historical society member Jeremy Hughes inside the library.  Clearly Jeremy was not the only one who broke into the library -- the map and the coded page are missing.

Lucy's nemesis, Louise Jane McKaughnan, confesses to entering the library after closing to sneak a peek but denies seeing Jeremy -- or his killer.  When Lucy discovers that fellow-librarian Charlene had a past with Jeremy, she's forced to do what she vowed not to do -- get involved in the case.  Meanwhile, the entire library staff and community become obsessed with trying to decode the page.  But when the library has a second break-in, it becomes clear that someone is determined to solve that code.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Lucy is in the middle of her performance review with library director Bertie.  When the owner of the construction company (who were hired to do repairs on the lighthouse) tells them they need to come outside now, it's Lucy who has to enter the pit to see what they've found.  It's an old tin box, and Zack, the owner's son, brings it to the surface.  What's discovered inside is an old Civil War diary which contains nothing more than weather patterns; but what's odd is it also contains a map with numbers and a piece of paper with coded writing.

When the historical society members arrive at the library, they want to see the diary.  But since there's been too much havoc, Bertie tells them they have to wait until tomorrow.  Lucy has a date with Connor McNeil, during which they look at the copy Lucy's made of the page with the code.  Try as they might, they can't decipher it.

When they call it a night and Connor brings Lucy back to the library (where she lives on the fourth floor) they see the door is completely demolished.  Calling to police, they are instructed to wait outside; but Lucy, hearing her cat Charles' wails, rushes in.  There they find the body of one of the society's members, Jeremy Hughes, and the two pages are missing from the diary.  Now the police are trying to find a killer - someone who wanted those pages badly, and it seems that all anyone else is interested in is figuring out the code.

Trying to fend off questions and figure out what the code means, Lucy must call on all her wits to figure out who wanted it enough to kill...

This is the sixth book in the series, and while, for the most part, I have enjoyed them, I began to wonder about this one.  It seems that no one really cares - except the police, of course - who killed Jeremy.  All anyone is interested in is the code and what it means.  Half the town thinks it's buried treasure.  So in essence, the murder takes second place to figuring out the code.  Then, with Bertie's blessing, copies of the code are passed around like candy, even though she really doesn't want anyone to have anything to do with it.  The townspeople are given copies if they ask, even if Lucy protests. 

But the kicker was the scene in which Louise Jane shows up at Lucy's apartment late one evening.  Now I'm going to be blunt and say that I absolutely detest  Louise Jane.  There's no reason for an 'evil nemesis' in a book.  Louise Jane completely ruins the books for me.  She's nasty, snide, controlling, pushy, snarky, etc., and I have to wonder what the heck is wrong with Lucy?

Why did she just allow Louise Jane into the lighthouse when she was in bed in her pajamas?  Since she knew she was downstairs via an intercom, why didn't she tell her no, she wasn't going to allow her in.  Why did she go along with it when Louise Jane pushed her way into her apartment and said she was going to conduct a seance?  Why, when Teddy and Grace found out Lucy didn't know about it, do the right thing, apologize and go home?

Lucy has no backbone.  She allows Louise Jane to steamroll over her every chance she gets.  Lucy needs to grow a pair and tell her she’s not going to allow her to push her around any more.  Honestly, Louise Jane adds nothing to the story line, and detracts from it constantly.  She's like having an insect fly around your head.  It's annoying, you want it gone, but it won't leave.  She's annoying right to the end of the book.  Even when Louise Jane makes herself finally useful to Lucy toward the end, she doesn't do it without self-aggrandizement.   I also thought it would have been better without the slapstick It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World scenario, but that's neither here nor there. 

The murderer was found of course, and everything came together nicely; and while I did like the resolution of the murder and the reason for the diary, it was the presence of Louise Jane who ruined the book for me - without her antics, this would definitely have been a four- or five-star book.  Sorry.

https://www.amazon.com/Read-Buried-Lighthouse-Library-Mystery/dp/1643852337/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2902771885

More on Eva Gates's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/eva-gates/

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Murder on Cape Cod (A Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery #1)

Author:  Maddie Day
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496715067
Kensington Mystery
302 Pages
$7.99; $7.59 Amazon
January 31, 2019



Summer is busy season for Mackenzie "Mac" Almeida's bicycle shop, nestled in the quaint, seaside hamlet of Westham, Massachusetts.  She's expecting an influx of tourists at Mac's Bikes; instead she discovers the body of Jake Lacey.  Mac can't imagine anyone stabbing the down-on-his-luck handyman.  However, the authorities seem to think Mac is a strong suspect after she was spotted arguing with Jake just hours before his death.  Mac knows she didn't do it, but she does recognize the weapon - her brother Derrick's fishing knife.

Mac's only experience with murder investigations is limited to the cozy mysteries she reads with her local book group, the Cozy Capers.  So to clear her name - and maybe her brother's too - Mac will have to summon help from her Cozy Capers co-investigators and a library's worth of detectives' tips and tricks.  For a small town, Westham is teeming with possible killers, and this is one mystery where Mac is hoping for anything but a surprise ending...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Mackenzie "Mac" Almeida owns a bicycle shop in the small hamlet of Westham, Massachusetts.  She also belongs to a unique book club that only reads cozy mysteries.  After leaving the club's meeting, she goes to the local soup kitchen to help, and sees a local handyman, Jake Lacey, who's recently done work for her.

When he asked to get paid for his work, she tells him that she'll pay him when he does the job right since her roof is still leaking, and he tells her that soon he won't need her money after all.  When she leaves for the evening, the night is foggy.  She trips over something on her way home and it turns out to be Jake's body.  She calls the police immediately.  But when she's suspected of the murder, and she sees what appears to be her brother's fishing knife sticking out of his chest, she knows she has to do something to get herself and her brother off the suspect list.  With the help of her book club members, Mac's on the trail of a killer.  But unfortunately, the killer is on her trail, too...

I loved the premise of this book, but that's all I loved.  First, the blurb is really, really misleading.  When she spoke with Jake it was hardly an argument.  He asked to get paid for the work he did on her roof, but she told him she'd pay him when he did the work properly.  Then he said he wouldn't need her money soon, and she told him that was 'great' and he went on his way.  Does that sound like an argument?  The police are complete morons if they think that she murdered Jake because of a two-minute conversation about a roof.  Otherwise, people all over the country are murder suspects if they tell someone they'll pay them when the job they hired them for is complete.

I also didn't like the fact that it seemed she was listing advertisements for other authors.  I would much rather she made up titles and authors than tell us about books from her friends.  If you bought a sofa, would you expect the sales person to tell you to go down the street and check out furniture at another store because their friend was a salesperson there?  It really smacked of trying to sell books.

But then the book started to go downhill fast.  Cops don't normally string police tape up before they've removed the body and bagged evidence (although I'm sure they can, but I've never known it to be done) - and they only do that if they need to return to the scene for more evidence and need access to the area.  What they do do is stage cops around the area to keep onlookers out.  (Although I don't know how many onlookers they'd have on a foggy night).  And since I never read that they were at the murder scene again, why was the tape up at all?

Sorry, but I didn't much care for the description of Mac's boyfriend: "...luscious lips, dark blond hair to his shoulders..."  I know, I know...but I can't stand men with long hair.  It's unattractive to me.  And what is 'luscious lips' supposed to mean?  Then I discover that he's a baker.  With long hair.  I'll bet it's cute when he puts it in the little paper elastic hat so it doesn't get in the food.  Yeah, that's an attractive picture.  (Hey -we're all entitled to our personal opinions, and this is mine.  Good for you if you like long hair on men, but I don't; and yes, it colors the book for me.)  Also, her mother's a Looney Tune.  She can tell what food Mac is craving but doesn't know her son is in trouble?  Well that makes perfect sense.

But the worst was the police officers.  The police gave out the name of the person who found the body to news crews before they had a chance to thoroughly question her.  This police chief needs to be fired.  It was about a half hour after finding the body and was already on the news!  And they had details of how she found the body while walking home.  WTF?  Also telling them what the deceased did for a living?  In a "small hamlet?"  How many handymen can there be?  Sure, no one will figure out who the dead guy is, right?  Plus, Jake was stabbed and she's a suspect, but no one looked to see if she had blood on her hands?  Or her clothes?  Supposedly she went home to wash, change clothes, then come back and call police?  Oh, puh-leeze!  (Especially since the people at the soup kitchen could tell them what she was wearing when she left - which was what she had on when the police arrived.  So I guess she had time to do laundry and put it back on, right?)  I'm doing better police work than these cops.

Then, she's not supposed to talk about the murder but the cops told the news crew.  Well, I'd say that instruction just flew out the window.  She should stand outside with a bullhorn and tell everyone in the vicinity, since the cops don't think much of keeping a murder investigation under covers.  Plus, the news crew is standing right in front of her business - telling people the name, just like she's the murderer.  Trust me, news crews do not stand in front of the homes or business of people who've found a murder victim and announce both the name and business of that person.  The ensuing chaos would be insane.  So why would the police ask her not to talk about the murder scene but then they tell the news crew all about it?  Seriously?  I could get whiplash from all the head shaking (not to mention a headache from the eye rolling).

Then the investigating detective finally gets around to questioning her, and she tells him about the man who came into the shop looking for Jake and acting suspicious.  The man gave her his name, too.  But the detective doesn't ask her if she knows his name and she doesn't volunteer it.  You'd think this would be important.  But again - these cops are inept.

I normally love Maddie Day, but not this time.  This book had so many holes in it that it could be a sieve.  So many, in fact, I couldn't finish it because I value my time.  I really hate to waste money on books but I couldn't bring myself to continue reading this one.  I have to wonder how this book got any five star reviews.  The book (at least as far as I read) was completely unbelievable because nothing made any sense.  I'm sorry I bought it and wish I could get my money back.  Lessons learned, I guess.

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Cape-Capers-Group-Mystery/dp/1496722884/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2900169615

More on Maddie Day's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/maddie-day/

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Deadly Greetings (A Card-Making Mystery #2)

Author:  Elizabeth Bright
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback
ISBN #:  9780451218773
Signet Mystery
233 Pages
Various Prices Amazon
June 6, 2006

⭐⭐


Jennifer is struggling to keep Custom Card Creations open for business, so her aunt Lillian snags her a delightful (and cheaper) apartment by the lake.  Then Jennifer hears that the apartment is haunted by the ghost of its last occupant - who doesn't like to share.  Meanwhile, she also has to put up with the unwanted advances of her downstairs neighbor, her ex-fiancé, and a drunken deputy.

Things only get worse when a tragic accident kills Maggie Blake, one of Jennifer's most beloved card club members.  Then Jennifer receives a handcrafted card from Maggie.  Written before she died, it warns that someone is trying to murder her.  No one is above suspicion, not even the card club.  Jennifer must investigate before she loses another good customer to more grim tidings.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

It's rare that I won't finish a book, no matter how bad it is.  But this one is truly awful.  I began reading it because of the first paragraph which reads that a ghost was trying to kill the protagonist.  I should have stopped there.  Unfortunately, this book is truly awful.

Jennifer Shane is annoying, self-centered, and obnoxious.  She treats men like dirt but for some strange reason she's so attractive to them they're falling over their feet to get to her anyway.  (She has a guy in love with her but finds him annoying because (gasp) he wants to spend time with her).  Are there no other single - nice - women in this town?

Her aunt Lillian steamrolls over her every chance she gets - which explains why Jennifer's brother doesn't like her much; and I'm also surprised she doesn't weigh a ton considering she eats nothing but take-out and fast food and never works out - she doesn't even take walks and complains when her aunt wants to take one!  This woman needs to learn to cook. 

So a friend of hers dies and her brother - the police chief - tells her about it right after the accident.  Shouldn't he be trying to find family to notify first?  Nothing like not following protocol.  But when she shows her brother a card that Maggie sent her - one that states someone was trying to kill her, he blows her off.  He says it was obvious it was an accident.  Really?  He's not even going to look closer at the 'accident' to see if something was off?  He's not a very good cop.

But what got me was the fact that she moves into an apartment with a ghost (no spoiler, it's in the blurb) and the day she moves in she leaves her two cats alone in the place while she goes to clean her old apartment.  For hours.  And is surprised when she returns late at night and her cats are in their carriers and won't come out.  Honestly?  Would it be that much trouble to have taken them with?  Sorry, but this irritated me.

At this point, I was too frustrated to finish the rest of the book.  I have better books to read than waste my time with this series.  No wonder it was canceled after the requisite three books.

https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Greetings-Elizabeth-6-Jun-2006-Paperback/dp/B013J96WJG/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2898693639

More on Elizabeth Bright's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/elizabeth-bright-2/

Monday, July 15, 2019

Peach Clobbered (A Georgia B&B Mystery #1)

Author:  Anna Gerard
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781643850061
Crooked Lane Books
$17.70; $12.99 Amazon
July 9, 2019

⭐⭐


Nina Fleet's life ought to be sweet as a Georgia peach.  Awarded a tidy sum in her divorce, Nina retired at 41 to a historic Queen Anne house in quaint Cymbeline, GA.  But Nina's barely settled into her new B&B-to-be when a penguin shows up on her porch.  Or, at least, a man wearing a penguin suit.

Harry Westcott is making ends meet as an ice cream shop's mascot and has a letter from his great-aunt, pledging to leave him the house.  Too bad that's not what her will says.  Meanwhile, the Sisters of Perpetual Poverty have lost their lease.  Real estate developer Gregory Bainbridge intends to turn the convent into a golfing community, so Cymbeline's mayor persuades Nina to take in the elderly nuns.  And then Nina finds the "penguin" again, this time lying in an alley with a kitchen knife in his chest.

A peek under the beak tells Nina it's not Harry inside the costume, but Bainbridge.  What was he doing in Harry's penguin suit?  Was the developer really the intended victim, or did the culprit mean to kill Harry?  Whoever is out to stop Harry from contesting the sale of his great-aunt's house may also be after Nina, so she teams up with him to cage the killer before someone clips her wings.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Nina Fleet is a 41-year-old divorceé who bought an old Victorian home just outside Atlanta, Georgia in small-town Cymbeline.  She'd like to turn it into a B&B, but the mayor won't let her.  One day she receives a knock on her door and answers it, seeing a six-foot-tall penguin standing there.  Well, actually it's a man in a penguin suit, and he eventually tells her she's living in his house and demands she give it back.  He has a letter from his great-aunt, the former owner, that states an intent to leave the house to him in her will, but she died before she could change it.

Nina refuses to give the home back, and Harry Westcott, an out-of-work actor, threatens to take her to court.  Not a good start.  Later the mayor shows up with a bus full of nuns and tells her she'll fast-track her request to open the B&B if she takes in a group of nuns who have been evicted from their convent.  Faced with not much of a choice, she agrees.

She finds out that Gregory Bainbridge, a developer, has evicted the nuns so that he can build homes on their land.  When she starts talking to people, it's apparent that everyone hates Bainbridge.  But it's even more apparent when she's called to help someone who's been stabbed in the chest - and seeing the penguin suit, she thinks it's Harry.  But it's Bainbridge, and now she has an entire stable of suspects - namely almost everyone in town.

But then Harry tells her that he was the intended victim, and he has a stalker that's trying to kill him.  But the situation gets out of control when Nina realizes that there's more at stake than a stalker, and she needs his help to find a killer...

I guess I was expecting more from this book than I received.  Firstly, the title is disappointing.  You'd think Peach Clobbered would mean something like someone dying by having a truckload of peaches fall on them.  In fact, the only peaches mentioned in the book is peach cobbler, and trust me, no one dies from eating it.  (A better title would have been Death of a Penguin).  Anyway...

I got tired of her telling everyone her name was Nine-ah, not Neen-ah.  So why didn't her parents name her Nyna?  Then she wouldn't have to keep correcting anyone.  It got annoying after awhile.  I also thought it was pretty stupid to open a B&B if you can't cook.  Wouldn't catering in breakfast eat into your profits?  Plus, eating quiche every day of the week?  Half the fun is the different choices for breakfast each day.  Cereal?  Seriously?  When no children were staying there?  Who goes to a B&B and eats cereal?  Coffee and tea but not milk nor juice?  My suggestion is that she learns to cook so she can actually make money, not spend it.  Details, people.

BELOW IS A SPOILER SO PLEASE DO NOT READ ANY FARTHER UNLESS YOU WANT TO KNOW:

But here's the biggie:  While Harry may not like the fact Nina has his great-aunt's house, she bought it legally and holds the deed.  He can't sue her for that.  He can't demand she give the house to him.  He has a letter, not a writ of execution that states the house belongs to him.  He has a letter that states she's going to it, but no will stating the fact; and, the opposing attorney could claim that perhaps she changed her mind and decided not to give him the house after all.  Poor Harry doesn't have much of a claim after all.

Now, if he were to sue anyone, he could sue his father - the legal executor of the will.  If his father knew about the letter and sold the house out from under him, then he might have a case.  But a letter saying, "yes, you can have it" probably wouldn't hold up in the long run.  It would, of course, depend upon who the judge was; but I can't see basing an entire series around an improbability - and the story line will get old fast with Nina and Harry 'helping' each other solve cases and then him threatening to take her house every chance he got.  Why doesn't he get a real job and buy a house instead of expecting someone to just give it to him for free? 

No, thanks.  Harry is a taker - he's not a likable person; he wants things given to him but isn't willing to do anything just because it's the right thing to do.  He's not willing to see that she bought the house fair and square; he wants her to give it to him merely because he thinks he deserves it.  I saw nowhere where he told her he spoke with either his father or the attorney who wrote the will before confronting Nina.  He derides her and even blackmails her if she doesn't do what he wants.  Harry's the worst society has to offer and I'd be happy never to see or hear from him again.

Sorry, but as long as there's a chance Harry might be in this series again, I think I'll skip this one.

https://www.amazon.com/Peach-Clobbered-Georgia-Anna-Gerard/dp/1643850067/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2897262055

More on Anna Gerard's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/anna-gerard/

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The House on Hallowed Ground (A Misty Dawn Mystery #1)

Author:  Nancy Cole Silverman
Genre:   Mystery/Paranormal

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635------; 9781635115512
Henery Press Publishing
[Pages tba]
$31.95; $15.95; $---- Amazon
September 10, 2019

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


When Misty Dawn, a former Hollywood Psychic to the Stars, moves into an old craftsman house, she encounters the former owner, the recently deceased Hollywood set designer, Wilson Thorne.

Wilson is unaware of his circumstances, and when Misty explains the particulars of his limbo state, and how he might help himself if he helps her, he's not at all happy.  That is until young actress Zoey Chamberlain comes to Misty's door for help.

Zoey has recently purchased The Pink Mansion, a historic Hollywood Hills home, and believes it's haunted.  But when Misty arrives to search the house, it's not a ghost she finds, but a dead body.

The police are quick to suspect Zoey of murdering her best friend.  Zoey maintains her innocence and fears her friend's death may have been a result of the ghost...and a long-time family curse.

Together Misty and Wilson must untangle the secrets of The Pink Mansion or submit to the powers of the family curse.
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Misty Dawn is a psychic who's helped both the police and the FBI solve crimes.  But since she never saved any money, she's currently living in her VW van with her cat, Bossypants.  On this day, however, she's given a chance at a real home.  One of her clients, realtor Denise Thorne, has offered to let her live in her late brother's home in exchange for regular readings.  With some misgivings, Misty decides there are more pros than cons and agrees to the arrangement.

What she doesn't expect though, is the fact that Wilson Thorne, who was a movie set designer, would still be living in the home.  Sort of.  Since he's a ghost and all.  And he doesn't want to share his space with Misty or especially her cat, since he's allergic.  However, Misty isn't afraid of ghosts, having dealt with them in the past, and she's not going anywhere.  So eventually they come to an uneasy truce, although Wilson isn't happy about it.

Then a young actress shows up at Misty's door; a young woman named Zoey - and Wilson already knows who she is.  Zoey is convinced her new home - nicknamed the Pink Mansion - is haunted, and she wants Misty to find out why the ghost is there.  When Misty is waffling about helping Zoey, Wilson convinces her to do so, and agrees to help, too.  Once Misty knows she's won in her battle with Wilson, she agrees.

But then she gets another visitor - Denise.  Wilson couldn't stand his sister in life, and he still can't, and wants Misty to get rid of her.  But Denise has just come from another psychic (she's a psychic junkie it seems), who told her she was going to meet an important man.  She takes this to mean that she's finally going to meet Hugh Jackman.  This is significant because poor deluded Denise believes that Mr. Jackman will meet her, realize they're soulmates and leave his wife.  When Misty refuses to be part of it, and actually tells her she's stalking him, Denise refuses to accept it.

The next day Misty goes to Zoey's and is surprised to see the place surrounded by police.  She discovers that Zoey's best friend Lacey accidentally drowned in the spa the night before.  After the police leave, she also meets her fiancé Chad, who has a band, and his bandmates Zac and Kelsey.  Then Zoey tells Misty that she thinks the ghost killed Lacey - who was not only her best friend, but her stunt double - because it thought she was Zoey, and now the ghost is out to kill her.

When Misty starts looking into the history of the house, she discovers that a four-year-old girl drowned there in 1943.  She knows a small child didn't kill Lacey and isn't out to kill Zoey, so now her curiosity gets the better of her and she's curious as to what's going on.  But Misty finds more than she's looking for, and none of it is good.  Now she needs to help Zoey, help the police find a killer, and help Wilson find out why he's still stuck in the human world...

This is the first book in a new series, and a very good start.  If anyone has read the Carol Childs series by the author, they will have remembered Misty Dawn as having shown up on Carol's doorstep one day, much as Zoey showed up on hers.  But then, Misty wasn't asking for help, she was there to help Carol (mostly against Carol's will), and help her get into a good place in her life.

Now Misty has her own beginning, and quite a delightful one.  I do love stories about ghosts (as long as they're not poltergeists), and I love it especially when they interact with the living.  In this, Ms. Silverman does not disappoint.  Wilson begins as quite an arrogant, curmudgeonly spirit who morphs not only through his association and friendship with Misty, but as he drops his earthly ties, he becomes more ethereal and caring about the earthbound people around him.  It is quite a transformation, and quite enthralling.

The story line is written very well, and with plenty of things happening around Misty, and it's wonderful to watch her 'read' the people around her to get to the core of it all.  Her ability to see and hear things others aren't aware of is the main charm of the story.  It draws you into the action, and the developing friendship between Misty and Wilson is indeed worth reading.

Watching Misty try to help those around her and help the police solve the murder of Lacey also brings her in contact with police detective Romero, who doesn't believe in ghosts or pretty much psychics, yet we see things change between them through the course of the book.

When we finally discover who killed Lacey and why, it's disturbing; but the way Misty puts it all together with the almost-blessing of Romero is fun to read, and even Wilson does his part, understanding at last what he needs to do to help someone else instead of thinking only of himself.

We watch as the characters of Misty and Wilson first circle each other in a battle of wills, then come to an uneasy truce, and finally to friendship and caring about each other.  Their characterizations are done beautifully, and I loved the fact that we watched them develop throughout the book.

Misty is quite a character on her own, having lived life on her own terms (as did Wilson), and she's comfortable in her own skin.  I felt that this was an outstanding introduction to the collaboration of Misty and Wilson, and I enjoyed it immensely. In this, Ms. Silverman has created an entertaining cast of characters that bring the story to life, and I find myself eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/House-Hallowed-Ground-Misty-Mystery/dp/163511554X/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2865570054

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

Murder in the Balcony (A Movie Palace Mystery #2)

Author:  Margaret Dumas
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover' Trade Paperback
ISBN #:  9781635115352; 9781635115353
Henery Press Publishing
[Pages TBA]
$31.95; $15.95 Amazon
September 24, 2019

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Description to come


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Nora Paige is an ex-Hollywood wife who was dumped by her movie-star husband and moved to San Francisco to manage the Palace Theater, which shows classic Hollywood films.  She's decided to move out of her friend's cottage and buy her own home when she discovers that her almost-ex-husband is supposedly broke (not that she believes it for a minute).  But there are even worse things afoot:  her employee Callie's boyfriend Warren has been killed, and even though the police aren't saying, she thinks he might have been murdered.

Warren was a newly-minted real estate agent in the office of her realtor June Howard.  While everyone is stunned at the news, it's even more disturbing when they find out Callie wasn't the only girlfriend Warren had.  Now Nora learns that high-end real estate developer, Stan McMillan is trying to buy up their entire block, and she not only is panicking at the thought, she's wondering if he's the killer.  Since the lead detective won't tell her anything, she does a little investigating on her own.  Everything she finds points in his direction.  When someone else is gravely injured, she's positive she's on the right track.  But is she?  Or are there other clues but she's just not looking in the right direction?

First off, I'm going to say that I am a huge classic movie fan - in the sense that I don't watch any other movies.  I own thousands of them and can name any actor, any film, any plot, any year.  It's one of my superpowers.  So this book was made for me.  I loved all the references that Nora spouts at any given moment, and it actually enhances the plot of the book.

For you see, while Nora is still somewhat feeling sorry for herself - like the movies she references at the beginning of the book when she hasn't decided what to do about Ted, by the end of the book the movies reflect her feelings and the fact that she knows everything will be just fine.  It's a lovely nuance about life.

We also have returning - literally, from Colombia - the enigmatic Hector Acosta who is obviously interested in Nora but is allowing her time to figure out that she's interested in him.  Which she is.  But she's not ready to let him know how much.  It makes for a nice romance, the kind in classic movies, where romance was paramount.  I can't wait to see how it all plays out.

But back to the murder - now we have a cheating dead boyfriend, which makes it less tragic for Callie (although death is always sad), and Nora is convinced he was 'done in' by Stan but can't prove it.  So she assigns her ghost-in-residence, Trixie, to keep an eye on him during a real estate conference that's being held at the theater; and she does her job admirably, sticking with him like Velcro.  However, something happens that startles Trixie so much she temporarily disappears from Nora's life, and so she'll have to fly solo if she's going to get to the truth.

[For those who haven't read the first in the series (a true loss), Trixie is an usherette who was killed in the theater back in the 1930's and can't leave; she's thrilled that Nora can see and hear her.  The unfortunate thing is that Nora is also the only one who can see and hear her, which means she needs to keep it to herself so they don't have her committed.  Still, Trixie is an endearing character, forever trapped in the past as she knew it, trying to understand the present, and with a sparkling personality to boot.]

This is the second book in the series, and just as delightful as the first.  Nora is a hoot, with her witty banter (much of it to herself) that has me laughing throughout.  (It's a good thing that she's not saying aloud much of what she's thinking).  We've come to see a new side to grumpy Marty, and while I liked him in the first book, I'm glad to say he's still like that one sarcastic friend you have but don't spend a lot of time with, for obvious reasons.  He's warming up (reluctantly) to Nora, only because he thinks she almost knows as much as he does about classic movies.

When the ending comes and murderer is revealed, you realize just how far someone will go to achieve their ends - and how far they're willing to go still.  When it's finished, you can close the book and feel satisfied that everything is just the way it should be.  There's even a teaser (just a small one) that makes you realize the next book can't arrive too soon, and I loved reading it.

Ms. Dumas has spun a terrific tale of murder that nabs you from the moment you open the book and keeps you happy until the end.  Her characters are animated and believable, the plot nicely done and well-thought out, with just the right amount of clues to lead you where she wants you to go.

The descriptions of the theater are wonderful, making anyone who's ever been in an old, majestic theater long for the lost opulence and grandeur, when it was magical and exciting as you watched life on the screen.  For anyone who actually loves classic films this series is made to order.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

Amazon:  Amazon to be added

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2841566282

More on Margaret Dumas's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/margaret-dumas/

The Subject of Malice (A Lila MlLean Mystery #4)

Author:  Cynthia Kuhn
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #: 9781635115147;  9781635115116
Henery Press Publishing
248 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $4.99 Amazon
July 23, 2019

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The organizers have rustled up plenty of surprises for the literary conference at Tattered Star Ranch.  But the murder of an influential scholar wasn't on the program - someone has clearly taken the theme of Malice in the Mountains to heart.  This shocking crime is only the beginning: Other dangers and deceptions are soon revealed.

English professor Lila Maclean has a full agenda:  She must convince a press to publish her book (possibly), ace her panel presentations (hopefully), and deal with her nemesis (regrettably).

However, when Detective Lex Archer requests Lila's academic expertise, she agrees to consult on the case.  While her contributions earn high marks from her partner, it could be too late; the killer is already taking aim at the next subject.

As Lila races to keep her colleagues alive, publish or perish takes on new meaning.

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Lila MacLean is an assistant professor of English at Stonedale University.  She's at the Malice in the Mountains literary conference, and while there is finally going to meet her publisher and discovers she's also up for an award.  But it's not going to be easy - her colleague and nemesis Simone Raleigh is there for the same reasons, and Lila discovers that Simone has a sister - Selene, who is Simone's twin.  They are alike in almost every aspect, right down to picking at Lila every chance they get. It doesn't help that the Raleighs seem to be friends with the publisher; and what's worse - she's just discovered that their own book proposal is on Isabella Dare.

Lila has been passionate about the author for as long as she can remember, and is writing a book on her.  But when the Raleighs decide that their own book will be comparing Charlotte Bronte's work to Isabella Dare's, she can hardly believe her ears.  It's obviously an attempt to undermine her, and she's furious, even though she's keeping her emotions in check.  She also knows that the Raleighs know she's been writing a book about Isabella since she works at the same university.

Later that night, Lila is asked to sit at the press table, along with her editor Meredith, and other members of the Fairlake University Press:  managing editor Richmond Haskin, Hanover Jones, computer expert, Ellis Gardner and Candace Slaten.  While all seems to be going well, there is a book signing, and Lila is joined by others in line.  But then she hears a scream...and discovers Meredith and Hanover bending over the body of Ellis, who appears to be dead.

Cue the arrival of Detective Lex Archer of Stonedale PD, who is also Lila's boyfriend and was at the conference to be with her.  Now he's on the job, and since it's an academic conference, he and the department need Lila's help.  It's not the first time she's helped the police, but it's the first time she's actually been added as a consultant, and she's giddy over it.

Then there's golden boy Flynn McMaster (gee, I love that name for some reason); an author who has taken both the book and film worlds by storm.  There's a new book coming out which focuses on his work - and is going to be published by her own house.  When Flynn is introduced as the keynote speaker, he decimates the book and the publisher, and everyone is stunned.

What later ensues can only be described as a disaster.  The press is trying to do damage control because of Flynn's unauthorized - and devastating - speech about the book; Lila sees Selene - an engaged Selene - coming out of Flynn's suite the morning after a party; Lila discovers another body; and she learns something about Lex that threatens their budding relationship.  Now Lila has to figure out how to get her book published before the twins and help find a killer who might kill again if they're not stopped...

I have always enjoyed Ms. Kuhn's books and this one, I am glad to say, was just as enjoyable as the others.  There is a lot going on, so you have to keep on your toes to pick up the clues as they come.  Although I didn't understand why Lila kept her emotions to herself (I'm not one to be a doormat for anyone), I am glad to say that her 'gumption' finally won out in the end.  Faced with everything that was happening, it was bound to, sooner or later.  Lila is a wonderful character; she's intelligent but not without insecurities which make her likable.

The story goes in several different directions from Lila's intense desire to get published so she will get tenure, to avoiding the Raleighs, to trying to find a killer.  Yet all threads come together in the end, and the journey is a gratifying one.  The mystery is done beautifully, and you never quite know who the killer might be until near the end, which is how it should be.

When all is said and done, the reasons for the murder is rather sad; yet there is a delicious surprise at the end which leaves us longing for more.  This was a captivating story that pulls the reader in quickly and keeps them absorbed throughout and I thoroughly loved it.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Subject-Malice-MacLean-Academic-Mystery/dp/1635115140/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2889566939

More on Cynthia Kuhn's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/k/cynthia-kuhn/

Curses, Boiled Again! (A Lobster Shack Mystery #1)

Author:  Shari Randall Genre:   Mystery Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:  9781250116703 St. Martin's Publishing 290 Pag...