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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog MURDER AT BUCKSKIN JOE. A NOVEL by J.v.L. Bell (@jvlbell) A cozy historical murder that is worth its weight in solid gold #RVRT #historicalfiction #cozymystery

Hi all:

I bring you a novel I truly enjoyed, which combines two fascinating genres, and it works very well, at least in my opinion. See what you think!

Muder at Buckskin Joe. A Novel by J.v.L. Bell

Murder at Buckskin Joe. A Novel by J.v.L. Bell

Territory of Colorado, 1865

Millie knows the raucous mining town of Buckskin Joe is no place for children, but when Dom’s Uncle George shows up needing help, the whole family reluctantly heads to South Park. George has been accused of murdering his mining partner, Wandering Will, and although Millie questions his innocence, she finds there are many suspects who wanted Will dead.

There’s fancy-girl Queeny, Will’s ex-wife, and dancehall-girl Kate, who wanted to be Will’s next wife—until he dumped her. Mountain man Kootenay despised Will enough to have dispatched him and the Odd Fellows have seized George and Will’s mine, claiming the gold inside for themselves.

Millie’s investigation heats up when Dom volunteers to visit the local saloon for some hands-on investigating of Queeny and Kate. Interruptions from hostile Utes, the children’s devilment, and the local schoolmistress chasing after Dom make this Millie’s most difficult investigation—especially when the killer decides she is getting too close.

Murder at Buckskin Joe weaves a cozy murder mystery with fascinating South Park mining history and lovable, unforgettable historic characters.

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Buckskin-Joe-J-v-L-Bell-ebook/dp/B09G39199C/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09G39199C

https://www.amazon.es/Murder-at-Buckskin-Joe-English-ebook/dp/B09G39199C/

Author J.v.L. Bell

 About the author:

Author J.v.L. Bell is a Colorado native who grew up climbing 14,000 ft. mountains, exploring old ghost towns, and hiking in the deserts of Utah. Whenever possible, she and her family can be found hiking, rafting, or cross-country skiing.


https://www.amazon.com/J-v-L-Bell/e/B01KKX8WZQ/

www.JvLBell.com

 My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

Cozy mysteries can be a bit hit-and-miss for me, but this one, with the added attraction of the historical gold-mining background setting and the fabulous cast of characters, worked wonderfully for me, and I loved it. Even though this is the third book in a series, it can be read and enjoyed in its own right, as it does provide readers with all the relevant details needed to follow the story, although I confess I wouldn’t mind reading the two previous ones.

The description of the book is quite apt, although it can’t reflect the full catalogue of adventures and characters included in the novel. We have the fabulous background of the gold mining town (already running out of gold at the time of the story), with plentiful but well-integrated historical detail; we have the day-to-day drudgery of living in an outpost of “civilization” (a term I use fairly loosely here); we have the animals (I love Buttercup, the fainting goat, and don’t ask me to explain, but I am also fond of the burros [donkeys in Spanish], and even the bear… No, I’m not explaining that either); we have a sheriff who is a gifted baker (the characters aren’t the only ones drooling over his confectionery); we have secret and newly found relatives all around; we have ill-fated love stories, and others that seemed impossible but work out; we have Dom and Millie’s children, Rachel (oh, she is infuriating but such a fabulously realistic character and I love her to bits), and Hosa (who wouldn’t worry about a Navajo boy who lost his family but only wants to go back and fight against the white men?)… And, of course, we have Dom and Minnie. Minnie is the main character, and although the story is told in the third person, we see everything from her point of view, and it is impossible not to like her. I particularly enjoyed the fact that she is not a modern heroin transplanted to the past. Although she has her own ideas, she also hesitates, tries her hardest to conform to the norms (down to using etiquette books and all), and feels conflicted about her desire to investigate and what she feels is her duty towards her husband and children, and she is not perfect. She is daring and determined, rushed at times, but she can also be frightened and even phobic about certain situations. She doubts her own skills as a mother and questions herself, and that made her a true character rather than a caricature for me. Dom, her husband, is again not perfect. He supports her, is patient with her, and understands her, but he is not beyond making mistakes, trusting people he shouldn’t, and even turning on her when he gets anxious or scared. Yes, they do fight, and yes, they do love each other. It feels like a real marriage, with two people trying their hardest to make everything work in their highly unconventional family.

I have already mentioned some of the things I really liked about this novel. I enjoyed the way the characters are created because even those who don’t play big parts are not simple cut-outs. They all have their personalities, their distinctive features, and they all keep us guessing. I also like the historical note the author includes at the beginning of the novel. I have read historical novels where I spent most of the time wondering how much of what I was reading was based on fact and how much was creative license. Here, the author covers that at the very beginning, before we start reading, and although in her acknowledgments she talks about her sources and her process of creation in more detail, we are in no doubt as to what we are reading.

I also enjoyed that, despite the many things going on throughout the novel, the actual investigation is never too far away from the centre of the action, and although, evidently, this is not a police procedural novel where everything is highly scientific and all the details are accounted for, if we take into account the era and where the action takes place, the murder mystery works well, and I loved the slightly bittersweet ending as well.

The writing is dynamic, flows well, and it combines inner reflection and observation on the part of Millie with plenty of action scenes, which keep us turning the pages. There are many amusing moments, some scary ones as well, and the dialogues bring the characters to life and make them jump out off the page truly realised. We also learn about gold mining and about the era, its social mores and the way daily life was organised. The knowledge and research the author has done and her talent in combining a cozy murder mystery with a historical novel portraying the life in the second half of the XIX century in the Territory of Colorado shines through. It’s a winner.

I don’t really dislike anything about the book; I can only say that I hope there will be further adventures, and we’ll get to know what happened to some of the other characters we’ve met here. I am happy there are previous novels I can catch up on as well.

In summary, this is a fantastic novel. It is funny, it is informative, it is full to the brim with unforgettable characters, it has plenty of adventures, it contains historical information about gold mining that never impedes the flow of the story, and it includes adventures and action scenes to satisfy those who prefer stories that keep moving along at a good pace. And a fairly solid, if cozy, mystery. There are threats, scary moments, and even violence, although not extreme, and I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys a good yarn. It’s solid gold.

Thanks to the author for this novel, thanks to Rosie and all the members of her team for their support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and always keep smiling and keep safe!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog HAWTHORN WOODS by Patrick Canning. A noirish cozy mystery with dark undertones #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you another review for one of the books I’ve discovered through Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Hawthorn Woods by Patrick Canning

Hawthorn Woods by Patrick Canning

Logline:

Seeking to rediscover herself after a divorce, a detective-minded woman embarks on solving the small mysteries of a Midwest neighborhood, only to learn the secrets hidden there are more horrifying than she could have ever imagined.

Synopsis:

Summer, 1989. Reeling from a catastrophic divorce she just can’t seem to leave behind, Francine Haddix flees San Francisco for a two week stay at her sister’s house in Hawthorn Woods, Illinois. The quaint neighborhood of shady trees and friendly neighbors seems like the perfect place to sort through her pain and finally move on with her life—but the tranquility doesn’t last long.

Beginning with a complete stranger throwing a drink in her face at her own welcome party, Francine soon discovers the supposedly idyllic suburb is hiding a disturbing number of mysteries. Why is the handsome-ish guy next door lying about who he is? What’s hidden in the back of the teenage troublemaker’s shed? Who wrote a threatening message in blood? Which of the smiling neighbors has a secret they’d kill to keep?

Seeking to reclaim a natural passion for sleuthing numbed by her divorce, Francine rewrites her prescription from one of relaxation, to one of investigation. If she can detect the lies, follow the clues, and remember how to trust herself, she might get to the bottom of what’s so very wrong in Hawthorn Woods. She might even be able to believe the future can be good again—assuming she lives long enough to be in it.

https://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Canning-ebook/dp/B08CS2RK9S/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Patrick-Canning-ebook/dp/B08CS2RK9S/

https://www.amazon.es/Patrick-Canning-ebook/dp/B08CS2RK9S/

Author Patrick Canning

About the author:

PATRICK CANNING is the author of three novels, including Cryptofauna (2018), The Colonel and the Bee (2018), and his latest, Hawthorn Woods (2020). He has also published several short stories. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys playing beach volleyball, following space exploration, and losing at bar trivia. Patrick lives in Los Angeles with his dog Hank, who some consider to be the greatest dog of all time.

www.patrickcanningbooks.com

Instagram: @catpanning

My review:

I write this as a member of Rosie’s Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

I had come across Patrick Canning thanks to Rosie’s Review Team, where his previous novel got great reviews, and I had to check his new book. It is quite different to The Colonel and the Bee demonstrating that this is an author who has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, and one likely to enchant us with a variety of stories for a long time to come.

This is a difficult book to review without revealing any spoilers, as talking in any detail about the plot or the characters could let the cat out of the bag, so I apologise for being a bit vague here. I think the synopsis I include above offers a fair idea of the plot. The premise makes one think of a cozy mystery. Francine, a young woman who works as a hairdresser and is still trying to get over her failed marriage (she was convinced it was going to be forever, but they didn’t even make it to their first wedding anniversary) takes the chance of her sister’s long-delayed honeymoon trip to housesit for her, intent on having a therapeutic holiday while there that will help her to move on in her life. The setting reminded me of Desperate Housewives, Blue Velvet or many series and novels about small towns or housing estates, perfect on the surface but with a fair amount of dirt hidden under the carpets. When Francine puts on her Nancy Drew hat and starts investigating what at first-sight appears to be a pretty harmless incident, things soon start to unravel, and she discovers she is not the only amateur detective at work. We realise that what appeared to be a light read starts getting darker, and by the end of the book it has touched on some very serious topics: domestic violence, intolerance and prejudice, historical memory, Justice, animal cruelty, anti-Semitism, mental health problems…

Francine is an eminently sympathetic character. She is going through a hard time but keeps trying to make the best out of things and is always prepared to give everybody a second chance (even when it might be risky). We learn early on that she has always taken refuge in fantasy, loved reading Nancy Drew novels as a child, to the point where she would take on her persona, and her self-esteem is quite low (she does not see herself as others do). She believes in her intuition but second-guesses herself often and can easily be swayed by others she trusts. She is also quite fixated on a questionnaire her ex-husband gave her, and each chapter starts with one of the questions of the questionnaire and her answers (the questionnaire is real, just in case you wonder) which also helps give us an insight into the workings of her mind. Most of the story is told from her point of view (in the third person), but, as mentioned, her perception of things is coloured by her own experiences and feelings about herself, and she is not the most reliable of narrators. There is a long catalogue of other characters, although we don’t get to know them in as much detail as we do Francine. There is a much younger narrator as well, who reminded me of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn mixed in one, a bit naughty and not always a follower of rules, but he knows how to enjoy himself and is a great observer (and yes, a detective of sorts as well). There is a nice elderly man who becomes a father figure to Francine; there is a mysterious and attractive stranger; there is a friend of Francine’s sister who adopts her and takes her under her wing (and she brings a bit of a chick-lit element to the story); there is a vet Marine of a certain age who believes he is still a Don Juan; there is a youth with a motorbike whom everybody believes is a troublemaker; there is a woman who has become the self-appointed queen bee and insists all should follow her rules; there’s the sheriff and his jealous Russian wife (rumoured to be a mail catalogue wife)… As I said, we don’t get to know all of them in detail, but there are secrets and mysteries hiding in many of their lives, and I think most readers will be taken by surprise by how deceptive appearances can be.

The writing flows easily, and we get a good sense of the neighbourhood and the characters without long-winded descriptions disrupting the action. The pace is fairly steady to being with —it ebbs and flows, with some moments of contemplation punctuated by excitement and action— but towards the end, the pace increases and the book crams a lot of action in the last few chapters. Although most of the book is pretty light, with only some hints at dark goings-on (I’ve mentioned animal cruelty, and there are a couple of instances of it), towards the end, things become tenser, minor incidents pile up, and then there is an explosion of action and violence (not extremely explicit or gore, but I would recommend caution to those who prefer a light read) that will get readers turning the pages faster and faster.

I always mention the ending, and I enjoyed this one. Yes, it did not disappoint. In fact, it ties everything up in a most satisfactory way (together with something that happens in the book and I won’t mention).

I recommend this book to people who like the idea of cozy mysteries but prefer something darker; to those who enjoy small-town settings with a dark underbelly, and to readers who delight in putting puzzles together and questioning everything they read. There are unreliable narrators, details that don’t quite seem to fit in, lovely dogs, wayward kids, romance, several mysteries, a colourful cast of characters, and a heroine most of us will root for. If you like the sound of all that, check a sample and give it a go. It will entertain you, make you think, and might even surprise you.

Thanks to Rosie and her team, thanks to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep safe, and if you feel up to it, like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

I can’t comment in detail on the psychiatric/mental health aspects of the book without revealing too much of the plot, but I can say that although like the rest it requires a degree of suspension of disbelief, it has a solid base in real mental health conditions.

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog LIARS & LUNATICS IN GOOSE PIMPLE JUNCTION: A GOOSE PIMPLE JUNCTION MYSTERY, book 5 by Amy Metz (@authoramymetz) A cozy mystery full of Southern charm, wit, and many laughs

Hi all:

I catch up on a series I love today. Perfect for any holidays!

LIars & Lunatics in Goose Pimple Junction by Amy Metz

Liars & Lunatics in Goose Pimple Junction: A Goose Pimple Junction Mystery, book 5 by Amy Metz

It’s election season, and there’s a new candidate in town. Virgil Pepper is determined
to take the job from Goose Pimple Junction’s long-time mayor. Virgil is a charming and
charismatic candidate but someone who will say anything (and mean none of it)
to get what he wants. Three things top his list: to become mayor, to acquire Jackson
Wright’s land, and to make Caledonia Culpepper one of his many conquests.

Wynona Baxter is back, and she’s a new woman. Now Daisy has a new identity, new life,
and new business–ironically named Killer Cupcakes. But the town soon finds out that
isn’t the only kind of killer in town. Book five of the Goose Pimple Junction mystery series
combines political hijinks, delicious cupcakes, Goose Juice moonshine, the ups and downs
of finding true love, and, of course, murder.

It is said that “It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only
variable is about what.” Lying in politics, lying for personal and professional gain,
lying about an identity . . . What are the folks of Goose Pimple Junction willing to
lie for . . . and what are they willing to die for?

https://www.amazon.com/Liars-Lunatics-Goose-Pimple-Junction-ebook/dp/B07WMZV27F/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Liars-Lunatics-Goose-Pimple-Junction-ebook/dp/B07WMZV27F/

https://www.amazon.es/Liars-Lunatics-Goose-Pimple-Junction-ebook/dp/B07WMZV27F/

Amy Metz
Author Amy Metz

About the author:

Amy Metz is the author of the Goose Pimple Junction mystery series. She is a former first grade teacher and the mother of two grown sons. When not writing, enjoying her family, or surfing Pinterest and Facebook, Amy can usually be found with a mixing spoon, camera, or book in one hand and a glass of sweet tea in the other. Amy loves unique Southern phrases, cupcakes, and a good mystery. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Find out more at http://authoramymetz.com

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Metz/e/B008NA07X4

My review:

The author provided me with an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. This in no way influenced my opinion.

I have read and enjoyed some of the books in the collection, but I somehow missed number 4, and that, perhaps helps me tailor my comment also towards readers who might be considering reading this book without having checked the rest. Yes, the story is self-contained, although there are references to events that have taken place in previous books, and a lot of the characters will be familiar to those following the series, who will be in a better position to understand the background to some of the interactions and also the web of relationships and the ins and outs of life at Goose Pimple Junction. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I love the name of the place! So, regarding the issue of reading it as a standalone, I’d say one does not need to have read all the books in the series to enjoy it, but because some of the characters have names and nicknames (witty and funny, I admit), and their relationships are not always evident, it might get a bit confusing to follow the story if you are totally new to it. On the other hand, as I said, I had missed one of the books, and I could pick up the narrative without any problem. I am convinced, though, that reading them all in order enhances the experience, and it’s like visiting a familiar place where you always have fun and renew old friendships every time you go.

The way the story is told is quite interesting, and it adds to the mystery. We start with a murder (a new character, Virgil, who is in the race to become the mayor of the town, is murdered in mysterious circumstances), a confession, and then we go back to several months before the event, counting back to the time of the crime, and then moving forward with the investigation. It works well, because we keep mulling over in our minds how everything we read might relate to the crime (and there are other suspicious deaths as well), and this results in plenty of red herrings, more and more suspects and plenty of possible motives (Virgil is far from a nice man, as we discover. In fact, he is a narcissist who treats women badly, and his business practices and politics aren’t much better either). Although told in third person, the narration follows the points of views of several of the characters, without ever giving us an advantage when it comes to solving the mystery. We might think we know what has happened, and we are privy to some information the sheriff department don’t have, but things are, of course, not as straightforward as they seem to be.

As the mystery part of the plot advances, we also get to learn more about some new arrivals to the town (not totally new, but I’ll avoid spoilers), and also catch up on what has happened to those inhabitants we have come to know and cherish. There are romances developing, a new cupcake shop (if you’re on a diet, I’d take care with the book, as there are many reference to Killer Cupcakes, both the shop and the actual items), there are shady business deals (moonshine liquor, buying land with coercion and under false pretences), there is Oktoberfest to spice up things and bring in the party atmosphere (the fancy dresses, mostly wordplay related, bring in plenty of chuckles), and the ending is very satisfying, and it hints at even better times to come for Goose Pimple Junction. (Yes, I want to move there, or at least go for a very long holiday).

The story flows well, moves at good pace, and the combination of the mystery aspects with the lives of the characters is seamless. I highlighted so many parts of the dialogue, funny repartees, and quotes, that I was unable to choose just a few to add to this review, so my recommendation is to check a sample of the book if you’re trying to decide if you’ll enjoy it or not. I wonder if a list of characters, with their names, nicknames, and relationships might serve as a memory aid for readers visiting the town again, and might also assist readers totally new to the series.

The Southern-style sayings and the dialect of the region (Tennessee), the peculiar lingo and expressions of some of the townspeople, the new characters (I liked Daisy, but her mother, Kaye, must be my favourite new addition), and the quotes at the beginning of the chapter (all about lying and liars), give this book its unique flavour, and people who’ve read previous books in the series and loved them, will have a blast with this one.

I recommend this book to lovers of cozy mysteries, especially those who enjoy stories set in the Southern part of the USA and prefer their crimes laced with plenty of humour, wit, and local flavour. I think the novel works better as part of the series, and I’d recommend people who like the sound of it to start at the beginning, with Murder and Mayhem in Goose Pimple Junction (you can check my reviews of the first three books in the series, here). I hope to keep on visiting the town in the future, that is, if I don’t manage to move there!

Thanks to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share if you enjoy it or know somebody who might, and above all, enjoy the holiday season!

Oh, and before I forget!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview #DOVERONE (A DOVER MYSTERY BOOK 1) by Joyce Porter (@farragobooks) A satirical vintage cozy mystery with an awfully funny (anti) hero #mystery

Hi all:

I bring you something a bit old today but wickedly funny.

Dover One by Joyce Porter
Dover One by Joyce Porter

Dover One (A Dover Mystery Book 1) by Joyce Porter

Detective Chief Inspector Wilfred Dover is the most idle and avaricious hero in all of crime fiction. Why should he even be bothered to solve the case?

For its own very good reasons, Scotland Yard sends Dover off to remote Creedshire to investigate the disappearance of a young housemaid, Juliet Rugg.

Though there’s every cause to assume that she has been murdered – she gave her favours freely and may even have stooped to a bit of blackmail – no body is to be found. Weighing in at sixteen stone, she couldn’t be hard to overlook.

But where is she? And why should Dover, of all people, be called upon to find her? Or, for that matter, even bother to solve the damned case?

Editorial reviews:

“Something quite out of the ordinary.” Daily Telegraph

“Joyce Porter is a joy… Dover is unquestionably the most entertaining detective in fiction.” Guardian

“Plotted with the technique of a virtuoso.” New York Times

“Wonderfully funny.” Spectator

“Dover is wildly, joyously unbelievable; and may he remain so for our comic delight.” Sun

“You will be fascinated by his sheer dazzling incompetence. Porter has a keen eye, a wicked sense of comedy, and a delightfully low mind.” Harper’s

https://www.amazon.com/Dover-One-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B07XX255JK/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dover-One-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B07XX255JK/

https://www.amazon.es/Dover-One-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B07XX255JK/

Author Joyce Porter
Author Joyce Porter

About the author:

Joyce Porter (28 March 1924 – 9 December 1990) was an English crime fiction author. She was born in Marple, Cheshire. In Macclesfield she attended the High School for Girls, then King’s College London. She served in the Women’s Royal Air Force from 1949 to 1963. An intensive course in Russian qualified her for intelligence work for the WRAF. She left the service determined to pursue a full-time career in writing, having written three detective novels already.

Joyce Porter lived the last years of her life in a pretty thatched cottage on Sand Street in Longbridge Deverill, a village in Wiltshire. She is buried in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul.

Porter created the characters of Eddie Brown, Constance Ethel Morrison Burke, and Wilfred Dover.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joyce_Porter

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Farrago for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. Let me clarify that this novel was first published in 1964 by Cape, and Farrago is now republishing all the books in the series.

In brief, this book is a blast. I hadn’t heard of the Dover series and had never read any of Joyce Porter’s books before (more fool me!), but I’m pleased to have discovered both, the character and the author. While the character is truly dislikeable, the author had a talent for creating solid and engaging mysteries inhabited by a fantastic array of characters, and her observational skills and her comedic timing turn her books into a peculiar creation, somewhere between the satire and the farce.

I’ve been trying to find a way to describe this book. It is clearly a mystery and as I said above, it is a good, solid mystery, with red herrings, twists, turns and enough clues to make most lovers of the genre enjoy the putting together of the puzzle. You even have the mandatory summing up at the end, by Detective Chief Inspector Dover, but like everything else in the book, any similarity with what would happen in a true golden age mystery (yes, Agatha Christie comes to mind) is pure coincidence. You’ll have to read the book to judge by yourselves what you think of the ending, but it made me chuckle. I guess I would call it a vintage cozy mystery (if such a thing exists). It is not a standard modern cozy mystery, because although we do have some of the typical elements of those (a peculiar investigator, a strange crime, and a weird assortment of characters), the investigator here is a professional of law enforcement (to call him something) from Scotland Yard and all (the fact that the Yard are keen on sending him as far away as possible notwithstanding), and rather than being engaging and likeable, he is quite the opposite. In some ways, the novel has element of the police procedural, of the period, of course, and the mystery plays a more important part than it does in some of the modern cozy mysteries, where the main character is usually an amateur and his personality, her relationships, her business/profession, and her adventures can take up much of the novel.

Dover is a great creation. He is terrific and horrible all at the same time. He is lazy. He will go to any extents not to make any effort, either mental or physical. He is completely self-centred and totally uninterested in his job. There is no rule he won’t break in order to make his life easier and get a quick result. He exploits Sergeant MacGregor, making him do all the donkey work, and scrounging his cigarettes; there isn’t an invitation to food or drink he ever turns down; he is prejudiced, short-tempered and blows his top at the drop of a hat; he is pompous and never listens to anybody… As the back matter of the book says: “Detective Chief Inspector Wilfred Dover is arguably the most idle and avaricious hero of any novel, mystery or otherwise. Why should he even be bothered to solve the case?” This is not a novel for those who are looking for a character to root for. Although his sergeant is the total opposite, when it comes to solving crimes, he is methodical but not a great asset, either. The mystery takes place in a small town, mostly around what would nowadays be called a luxury housing state, and we come across a fantastic catalogue of characters and suspects, from the slightly odd to the wildly eccentric, and every shade in between. The local law enforcement sounds pretty normal in comparison, although the police women we meet are something else as well. Sorry, I’d rather not spoil it for readers.

The story is narrated in the third person, and although we mostly follow Dover’s adventures, we are clearly outside observers, rather than seeing things from his point of view. We might be privy to some of his thoughts and those of the other characters, but always as spectators. People who read the novel and feel disgusted by the lack of political correctness and the character’s flaws miss the distance between the narrative’s perspective and the character, in my opinion. We are not meant to like him or agree with his approach, quite the opposite. Of course, the novel is of its time, and that’s another one of the joys of it. I loved the language, the references to popular culture, the snippets of information about clothing, habits, social mores… It occurred to me that people researching the era (writers, designers, scholars…) would have a field day with this book.

I don’t want to go into too many details about the plot, but we have a pretty special victim, a bunch of characters from the ridiculous to the more ridiculous (dope fiends, yapping dogs, leery aristocrats, amateur detectives, defrocked priests (well, sort of), a writer interested in little known tribes…), blackmail, a ransom note, a missing body, adultery… and more. Take your pick.

Although I know comedy and sense of humour are very personal, and many of the references in the book are very British, I found it really funny and witty. The book is eminently quotable, but I had to try to offer you at least a few snippets, so you can get an idea:

I was nearly fifty when I married. Up till then I had always avoided matrimony like the plague, going on the principle that there is no need to throw yourself into the river to get a drink of water.

Dover didn’t approve of foreigners, mainly on the irrefutable grounds that they were un-English, and he was looking forwards to giving Boris Bogolepov, guilty or not, a rough old time just for the sheer hell of it.

It’s no good going round with an open mind like a vacuum cleaner because all you’ll finish up with is…’ Dover paused to work this one out ‘… is fluff!’ he concluded triumphantly.

I recommend this book to people who love cozy mysteries but are looking for something leaning more towards the police procedural side, and who prefer their humour rather sharp and British. Although I’ve read far worse, and there is only limited violence (fairly slapstick), the novel is non-PC (not that it condones the points of view exposed, but…) so it could be offensive to people reading it as a straight narrative. On the plus side, royalties from the book got to the work of the Friends of Friendless Churches (yes, they do exist, and do a great job as well). Go on, try it. You know you want to!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to spread the word if you’ve enjoyed it or know somebody who might. And always keep reading, reviewing and having fun!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog DEATH IN A MUDFLAT: A RHE BREWSTER MYSTERY by N.A. Granger (@NAGrangerAuthor) A #cozymystery with a harder edge #Bookreview

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book by an author that you might know through her blog.

Death in a Mudflat by N.A. Granger
Death in a Mudflat by N.A. Granger

Death in a Mudflat: A Rhe Brewster Mystery (The Rhe Brewster Mysteries) by N.A. Granger A cozy mystery with a harder edge and very engaging characters and location.

Fearless detective, ER nurse, devoted mother, and Pequod, Maine’s, answer to Kinsey Milhone, Rhe Brewster is back on the case. When an idyllic seaside wedding is suddenly interrupted by the grotesque sight of a decaying human arm poking out of the tidal mud, Rhe is thrown head first into a treacherous world of duplicity, drugs, and murder.

With her best friend Paulette and her main man Sam, the Chief of Police, Rhe seeks to solve the puzzle of the body found in the muck while also working with the FBI to identify the source of shipments of tainted heroin flooding the local campus and community. Maine’s opioid crisis has hit the town hard, with an escalating number of overdoses. More murders are uncovered, testing Rhe’s detective skills and steely resolve. While she follows the clues, Rhe encounters some sinister inhabitants of Pequod’s underbelly, including a practitioner of the Dark Arts, a hydra-headed crime gang, and an embittered, unhinged lobsterman with an axe to grind and nothing to lose. In her relentless drive to solve the crimes, Rhe narrowly escapes a watery grave, trades blows with Russian goons and unknowingly prompts Paulette to put her life on the line in an attempt to catch a murderer in the act.

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Mudflat-Brewster-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07D8MM4VS/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Mudflat-Brewster-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07D8MM4VS/

Author N.A. Granger
Author N.A. Granger

About the author:

Noelle A. Granger grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in a rambling, 125-year-old house with a view of the sea. Summers were spent sailing and swimming. She was also one of the first tour guides at Plimoth Plantation. Granger graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor’s degree in Zoology and from Case Western Reserve University with a Ph.D. in anatomy. Following a career of research in developmental biology and teaching human anatomy to medical students and residents, the last 28 years of which were spent at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, she decided to try her hand at writing fiction. The Rhe Brewster Mystery Series was born.

The series features Rhe Brewster, an emergency room nurse, as the protagonist. Rhe lives in the fictional coastal town of Pequod, Maine, (similar to Plymouth) and Granger uses her knowledge of such a small town, her experiences sailing along the Maine coast, and her medical background to enrich each book in the series. In the first book, Death in a Red Canvas Chair, the discovery of a wet, decaying body of a young woman, sitting in a red canvas chair at the far end of a soccer field, leads Rhe on a trail that heads to a high-end brothel and a dodgy mortuary operation.

The second novel in the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, Death in a Dacron Sail, was released in 2015, and finds Rhe responding to a discovery by one of the local lobstermen: a finger caught in one of his traps. The third book, Death By Pumpkin, begins with the sighting of the remains of a man’s body in a car smashed by a giant pumpkin at the Pequod Pumpkin Festival. Up next? Death in a Mud Flat.

In addition to the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, Granger has had short stories, both fiction and non-fiction, published in Deep South Magazine, Sea Level Magazine, the Bella Online Literary Review, and Coastal Style Magazine, and has been featured in Chapel Hill Magazine, The News & Observer, The Boothbay Register, and other local press. Granger lives with her husband, a cat who blogs, and a hyperactive dog in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She spends a portion of every summer in Maine.

https://www.amazon.com/N.A.-Granger/e/B00DN6I8GQ

My review:

I received a free ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I enjoy reading mysteries, thrillers, crime novels, police procedurals… and I love watching crime movies and TV series, but my experience of cozy mysteries is a bit mixed. As a horror lover, I am not too squeamish and the fact that there is little violence (or at least not very graphically depicted) in the genre is not a big appeal for me. On the other hand, I don’t like erotica, so the lack of graphic sex is a plus. Above all, I love a good and solid story, and although I enjoy quirky and weird characters, I like the mystery to be well-plotted and detailed enough not to feel annoyed at major gaps or inconsistencies. (Yes, I know we’re talking about fiction, reading it requires a degree of suspension of disbelief and if a novel was truly factual, it would probably be terribly boring, but I can’t abide glaringly obvious mistakes or sleight of hand as a plot device to sort a complex storyline gone awry). I have read some cozy mysteries that I’ve enjoyed, but others place so much emphasis on other elements of the story and try so hard to be light and amusing, to the point where the mystery becomes an afterthought, that almost managed to convince me that the genre is not for me.

Having read N. A. Granger’s blog, knowing that she used to teach biology and anatomy and that her main character is an ER nurse, I was intrigued by her series and had put her books on my list. Her blog post about the creation of the cover for this book piqued my curiosity, and I was happy to try the book when I got the ARC copy.

This is the fourth book in the series, but the author has included a list of characters at the beginning and summarised the relationships between them, offering also a brief indication of the story so far, and that suffices to help new readers get their bearing and follow the story without difficulty, although at some points there were nuances that I was convinced would have delighted readers of the previous volumes that were lost on me. Rhe Brewster, the protagonist, is still an ER nurse, but only part-time now, and she has become an official investigator with the sheriff department (no more amateur sleuth now, although her friend Paulette takes up the role). Her brother-in-law, Sam, is the sheriff and also her beau (yes, there is a story there, for sure); she has a boy with ADHD, Jack, and she is that mix of the intuitive and clever investigator (still fresh from the amateur ranks, but getting increasingly professional, it seems) with the impulsive and rushed person who can get herself into trouble by following her intuition, always with the best intentions at heart.

We also have a wonderful setting, the imaginary small coastal-town of Pequod, in Maine, (and being a fan of Moby Dick, I love the name) where everybody knows everybody else (or almost), but large enough to have a college, a fairly big hospital, and plenty of restaurants and takeaways (if we are to judge by the number of meals and eateries mentioned in the book). Sailing, one of Rhe’s passions, is also featured, and it plays a fairly important part in this story.

The book manages to maintain the balance between the quirky atmosphere and characters, and the police-procedural-type of investigation and mystery. There are two cases, one involving three women who have been killed years apart, and a second one to do with drug overdoses at the college campus, which may, or may not, be connected. The story is narrated in the first-person from Rhe’s point of view (if you don’t always appreciate first-person narratives, I’d recommend that you check a sample of the writing first) and her personality shines through in the way the story is told. Some aspects of the story are described in plenty of detail —those that she knows well and is more interested in— like the post-mortem examinations, the steps necessary to maintain the chain of evidence, and the sailing scenes (I have read reviews praising their accuracy, but as I have no knowledge of sailing and little of its terminology, I cannot comment, and I must admit some of the finer details went over my head) and would seemingly push it towards a more straight-type of mystery. But, Rhe is not all procedure and protocol, and there are also plenty of details that emphasize the domestic and amateurish side of the plot (Rhe has two jobs and has to juggle those with her personal life as well, resulting in information not being relayed straight away, details and facts about the cases being confirmed only when there is a gap in her schedule and many discussions with her superior taking place in the comfort of their own home). There is a mix of very high-tech procedures (courtesy of the FBI intervention) with a somewhat old-fashioned feel to the book (people carry mobile phones but don’t often use them, and Rhe and Sam seem to prefer good old-style policing, knocking on doors and talking to people, and even confess to lack of technical proficiency), that is also in evidence when it comes to the personal relationships and lifestyle of the characters. Although Rhe is a woman of action and proves, more than once, that she can look after herself, Sam questions her decisions often and pulls rank on more than one occasion, and Paulette and Rhe are also concerned about the reaction of her friend’s husband to her adventures, although this seems to be played mostly for laughs.

The mix of high and low intensity also carries through when it comes to action. I have already talked about the importance of food, and how often it is the subject of conversations, but there is also plenty of action, involving Rhe getting herself into trouble and, either managing to rescue others at the last minute (with some assistance), or having to get rescued. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but let’s say that at some points the pace quickens, the stakes are high, and there is plenty more action than I have come to expect from cozies.

The writing is easy to follow and flows well, and the characters’ speech is distinctive, their quirks and personalities making the dialogue compelling. I particularly enjoyed the local words and occasional expressions that peppered the novel without overwhelming it or making it difficult to understand.

What about the mystery? Is it easy to crack? Because the story is told from Rhe’s point of view, it is difficult to get ahead of her, although the author is skilled at giving us some clues that Rhe seems not to fully register or process at the time, and those clues might help readers solve the case somewhat before the protagonist. There are red herrings and we are often lead down the wrong path, but as Rhe is now firmly on the side of the law (well, almost all of the time), the emphasis is on getting the required evidence and not only on coming up with a theory or a hunch. I felt that both cases were intriguing enough to keep readers turning the pages at a fast pace, and the place and the characters added atmosphere to the novel.

I am sure that readers who have followed the series will enjoy this novel more fully, as it is clear that the characters, and Rhe in particular, have developed and grown through the books, but I must confess that this first incursion into Rhe Brewster’s world got me attached to the characters to the point where I felt quite emotional and sorry to see them go. Ah, and the prologue of the next book promises a gripping read as well.

I recommend this story to readers of cozy novels who prefer their mysteries with a more realistic and harder edge, crossing into police-procedural terrain, and to all those who love series like Midsummer Murders and want to immerse themselves in a charming small town with a dark (or darkish) underside. (Beware if you’re on a diet, though. There’s plenty of food!)

Thank to the author for the book, to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and always keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE MYSTERY OF THREE QUARTERS: THE NEW HERCULE POIROT MYSTERY by Sophie Hannah (@sophiehannahCB1) Poirot is back in good shape. #Poirot #mysteryreaders

Hi all:

I must confess this series passed me by but I could not resist when I saw this novel was available on NetGalley…

Book review The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah
The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

The Mystery of Three Quarters: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery by Sophie Hannah A good old-fashioned and convoluted mystery with a Poirot in good shape.

The world’s most beloved detective, Hercule Poirot – the legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and most recently The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket—returns in a stylish, diabolically clever mystery set in 1930’s London.

Returning home after lunch one day, Hercule Poirot finds an angry woman waiting outside his front door. She demands to know why Poirot has sent her a letter accusing her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy, a man she has neither heard of nor ever met.

Poirot has also never heard of a Barnabas Pandy and has accused nobody of murder. Shaken, he goes inside, only to find that he has a visitor waiting for him — a man who also claims also to have received a letter from Poirot that morning, accusing him of the murder of Barnabas Pandy…

Poirot wonders how many more letters of this sort have been sent in his name. Who sent them, and why? More importantly, who is Barnabas Pandy, is he dead, and, if so, was he murdered? And can Poirot find out the answers without putting more lives in danger?

https://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Three-Quarters-Hercule-Poirot-ebook/dp/B079KKJHMM/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mystery-Three-Quarters-Hercule-Poirot-ebook/dp/B079KKJHMM/

Author Sophie Hannah
Author Sophie Hannah

About the author:

Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling crime fiction writer. Her crime novels have been translated into 34 languages and published in 51 countries. Her psychological thriller The Carrier won the Specsavers National Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year in 2013. In 2014 and 2016, Sophie published The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket, the first new Hercule Poirot mysteries since Agatha Christie’s death, both of which were national and international bestsellers.

Sophie’s novels The Point of Rescue and The Other Half Lives have been adapted for television as Case Sensitive, starring Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd. Sophie is also a bestselling poet who has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot award. Her poetry is studied at GCSE and A-level throughout the UK.  Sophie is an Honorary Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. She lives in Cambridge with her husband, two children, and dog.
Sophie’s website is www.sophiehannah.com, and you can follow her on Twitter at @sophiehannahcb1

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sophie-Hannah/e/B001JP23J6/

The Mystery of Three Quartes alternative cover

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Harper Collins UK for the ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I had not realised that an author had been commissioned to write new Poirot mysteries, and as I saw this book after a conversation about Agatha Christie, I could not resist requesting a copy of it. This means I have not read the author’s two previous New Poirot Mysteries (The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket), so I cannot discuss the evolution of the characters or compare this one to the previous two. I am not familiar with any of Hannah’s previous writing either. I have read some of Agatha Christie’s novels and short stories, some of them I read translated into Spanish many years back (and might not have fully reflected her style of writing although I remember enjoying them) and I have not read a Poirot one in many years, although I have watched both films and TV series adapting some of Christie’s classic Poirot novels, so I would not dare to address this review to connoisseurs. Still, for what is worth, this is my opinion.

I enjoyed the novel. The case starts with four seemingly random people accusing Poirot of sending them letters accusing them of a crime. Not only has Poirot not sent them such letters, but the alleged victim died of natural causes (he was an elderly man and drowned whilst bathing, alone in his bathroom). So, who is behind the letters? And what’s his or her motive? I will try and not reveal any spoilers, but I can say that there are plenty of clues to follow, red-herrings along the way, peculiar characters, true and false motivations, slices of cake, dogs, a public school for boys, a wonderful old mansion, faulty typewriters, likeable and less likeable characters, and a Poirot in full form.

The novel is told by Edward Catchpool, a Scotland Yard Inspector who, like Captain Hastings in Christie’s stories, is the scribe behind the stories. He is a new creation and one of a couple of characters that, from the comments, I have read, are regulars in The New Poirot Mysteries. The narration is split between parts written in the third person (when Catchpool is not present) that, when we are some way into the book, he explains he has compiled through later discussions with Poirot, and those written in the first person, that pertain to events he witnessed or participated in himself. This works well, in general (we might wonder briefly how Poirot might have become aware of some detail or conversation, but we all know he has his ways), and it also allows for any differences in style with previous novels to be blamed on Catchpool’s own style of writing (that would not be the same as Hastings’). The language is straightforward and effective in conveying the story, without any jarring moments due to usage inappropriate to the historical period. Catchpool himself does not reveal much of his own personality through the novel and he is mostly a blank canvas to reflect Poirot’s thoughts and his deductive process. There are some interesting personal morsels about the inspector included in the narrative (he does not like his boss at work and he is averse to the idea of marriage, especially one to suit his mother’s taste) but not enough for readers to become truly attached to him. As this is the third novel and I have not read the two previous one, it is likely that people who have followed the whole series will know and appreciate the character more fully (but this is not necessary for the enjoyment of the mystery).

Notwithstanding my disclaimer on my limited expertise in all things Poirot, the Poirot in the novel will be recognisable to most people who have some familiarity with Christie’s detective. People still think he is French, his ‘little grey cells’ are mentioned often, he sprinkles his dialogue with French terms and some peculiar English translations (‘oil of the olives’ instead of olive oil, for instance), he is a keen observer, opinionated, with high regard for himself, and a lover of comfort and good food and drink. Perhaps he is an extreme version of Poirot, but I could not help but remember, as I read the book, that Christie expressed her dislike for the character and called him: detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep. (We might agree or not with her assessment, although her Poirot had some moments of weakness and sometimes showed more of a soft heart than he would have liked to admit). He is that here and keeps making demands on people, puts to the test his ideas and theories in pretty cruel ways, and drags the resolution of the case, creating anxiety and disquiet among all. But he can come up with pretty amazing insights and his figure has always been one of those that perhaps we would not like to meet personally, but we nonetheless admire.

Some of the secondary characters are almost caricatures, and the story is fundamentally about the plot and not about the psychological complexity of those involved, but there are some likeable characters, and I had a soft spot for the younger generation (and the dog). There are good descriptions and observations that will keep people guessing and turning the pages, although the story is not told at a fast pace, and the ending drags on (as is usual for this type of stories, where the reveal can become as frustrating for the readers as for those present). Although the evidence, in this case, remains mostly circumstantial and stretches somewhat the imagination, everything is explained and tied up and people who like a definite ending will have no complaint. There is a murder but there is no explicit violence or bad language and although it will not suit readers looking for gritty and realistic thrillers, it should not offend or discourage most readers who love a gentler mystery.

I am not sure if this would fit into the category of cozy mystery. By its tone and nature, it should do, but many books marketed as cozy mysteries abound in over-the-top characters, seem to place more emphasis on other aspects rather than the actual mystery (romance, recipes, pets…), include elements of other genres (paranormal, for instance), and can be frustrating to any readers looking for logical explanation and a meaty, intriguing, and complex mystery they can actually solve. This is like a good old-fashioned mystery, with plenty of character, a light read that will keep you entertained, and if that’s what you’d like to read, I’d recommend it. (Does it add anything new to the Poirot canon? Well, that is a matter for another discussion. Judging by the reviews, most people think the author has done a good job and has made the character her own). Personally, I’ll keep track of the author and future novels in the series.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author, for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, please remember to like, share, commment, click, and always keep reading, reviewing and smiling!

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Sally Cronin shares a review of Christoph Fischer’s new book. Don’t miss it!

via Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves – Over my Dead Body: Murder at Eurovision – A Bebe Bollinger Murder Mystery by Christoph Fischer

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#Bookreview MURDER AT THE BIJOU: THREE INGREDIENTS I by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene. A fun and delicious book for readers with a sense of adventure who admire creativity #Iamreading

Hi all:

I bring you a book by an author and blogger whose work I have featured more than once, and I hope to have many more opportunities to keep doing it in the future.

Murder at the Bijour: Three Ingredients I by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
Murder at the Bijou: Three Ingredients I by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Murder at the Bijou: Three Ingredients I by Teagan Riordain Geneviene

Long ago I developed a writing exercise. I would ask friends to give me three completely random things. Then I would write until I had mentioned all the things. I brought that exercise to my blog, but I had the readers send me their things. I let the random things drive every detail of a serial story, setting, plot, and characters. That resulted in The Three Things Serial Story, which gave birth to this culinary mystery. However, this time the “things” are food related — or ingredients.

As with the first serial, Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I is a spontaneously written, pantser story. I let the “ingredients” readers sent each week drive every aspect of a new serial story. This is the “bookized” version of that serial.

This time the Jazz Age setting is Savannah, Georgia where our flapper, Pip is “sentenced” to live with her grandmother and learn to cook. Pip gets caught up in a layered mystery that includes bootleggers, G-men, and the varied challenges of being a young woman in changing times. She meets new friends including some animal characters.

If you have not read The Three Things Serial Story, be warned. This adventure contains a bit of a spoiler, but does not go into detail about it.

Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Bijou-Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene-ebook/dp/B074S5ZK7L/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Murder-Bijou-Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene-ebook/dp/B074S5ZK7L/

Teagan Geneviene author

Biography

Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, a southerner by birth, was “enchanted” by the desert southwest of the USA when she moved there. She had always devoured fantasy novels of every type. Then one day there was no new book readily at hand for reading — so she decided to write one. And she hasn’t stopped writing since.

Her work is colored by her experiences in both the southern states and the southwest. Teagan writes many types of fantasy, from what she likes to call “quest type” fantasy, to urban fantasy, to fantasies with a dash of mystery. Her blog “Teagan’s Books” contains serial stories written according to “things” from viewers.

Major influences include Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, and Charlaine Harris.

See book trailer videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoM-z7_iH5t2_7aNpy3vG-Q?disable_polymer=true

My review:

I am a big fan of Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, as an author, a blogger, and I was lucky to discover her blog a few years back, and although I missed some of her early serials at the time of their initial conception, I have managed to catch up with them over time. I have also read her novel, Atonement, Tennessee (you can check my review here) and know that apart from an imagination that knows no bounds, and a love of period research and attention to detail, she has a way with words and can create magical characters that readers get to care for and make them live through situations that never fail to surprise us and keep us on tenterhooks.

As she explains in her description, she has been running a number of serials on her blog, pantser style. She asks her readers for things and/or ingredients, and she makes up a story that keeps developing as her imagination, and the things and ingredients, dictate. I am in awe at her creativity and I must recommend her blog (Teagan’s Books), as I know she is working on her next serial (and her process of creation is totally interactive).

Many of her readers (I included) kept telling her we would like to have the option of having her serials in book format, and eventually, she relented. I have reviewed her first serial in book format, Three Things Serial Story: A Little 1920s Story (you can read my review here) and many of the things I said about the previous book can be applied to this one. This is another light, fun, and fast book, with the same protagonist, Pip, a young woman, a flapper (as she keeps reminding herself and us, because being modern at the time was not an easy task), who, on this occasion, is sent to stay with her grandmother, Granny Phanny (she is a fabulous character, and although she would hate to be called a flapper, she is an utterly modern woman) in Savannah so she can learn how to cook. That helps introduce the ingredients part of the story, and the culinary theme adds a layer of interest to the story, although I would advise not to read the book when you’re very hungry, because although sometimes the ingredients don’t end up in a dish, they often do, and they all sound delicious.

Pip, who narrates the story in the first person, is recovering from a heartache and meets a cast of wonderful characters, from a family of Chinese restaurateurs, to a vet and his doctor wife, G-men, police officers, mobsters, and there is even a paranormal element in the story. Oh, and let’s not forget a collection of pets that will warm your hearts and make you laugh.

Pip’s language remains as peculiar as usual, and the author seamlessly includes the popular and fashionable expressions of the era in her book. I challenge readers not to end up using some of them, especially some of Pip’s favourites.

I recommended readers of the previous serial to play a game and try and imagine in which direction they would send the story, or how they would use the three things at the beginning of each chapter. You can do the same here, and if you’re fond of cooking, I’m sure you will have fun exploring possible ways of using the ingredients, both to cook and to advance the story. And by the end of the book, you’ll be amazed at how the author has managed to create a cohesive story from such diverse elements.

I recommend this book to readers with a sense of fun and play who enjoy a fast and light mystery (cozy style. No explicit violence, although there is violence, no sex scenes) set in the Jazz Age (oh, don’t forget to follow the author’s blog if you enjoy that historical period as she shares a post on the subject every Wednesday), with charming characters and great food. And even if you don’t have a lot of time to read for long stretches at a time, as the serial was created to be read a chapter per week, it is very easy to follow the story and not get lost. So, there is no excuse!

Thanks to the author for this great book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, REVIEW, and follow her blog!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog THREE THINGS SERIAL STORY by Teagan Geneviene (@teagangeneviene) Light, fun, and dynamic, recommended to those with an adventurous and playful spirit #Bookreview

Hi all:

It is my pleasure to bring you the review of a book by a fellow blogger known and loved by all of us (and if you haven’t met her yet, this is the perfect opportunity).

I have talked about Teagan Geneviene before (please, do not miss the chance to be a character in her new serial. Come and play the fairy name game, here!) and I was lucky enough to win a paperback copy of her newest book and after being separated from the book by my travels I managed to catch up with it and….

Three Things Serial Story by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
Three Things Serial Story by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Three Things Serial Story: A Little 1920s Story by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

The Three Things Serial Story is a spontaneously written (“pantser”) story. Everything in it — characters, setting, plot, was driven by “things” left by readers of the blog Teagan’s Books, episode by episode. Each week readers left three more things. The story evolved according to what those random things inspired. The serial began with an oscillating fan, which brought me the vision of the 1920s setting. The era and narrator continued in two more serials that followed. While it was not great literature, it sure was a fun ride! Many readers asked me to provide the serial as a book, and that’s what I’ve done with this novella. So sit back and enjoy the Three Things Serial.

https://www.amazon.com/Three-Things-Serial-Story-Little/dp/1540698645/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Three-Things-Serial-Story-Little/dp/1540698645/

Teagan Geneviene author

Biography

Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, a southerner by birth, was “enchanted” by the desert southwest of the USA when she moved there. She had always devoured fantasy novels of every type. Then one day there was no new book readily at hand for reading — so she decided to write one. And she hasn’t stopped writing since.

Her work is colored by her experiences in both the southern states and the southwest. Teagan writes many types of fantasy, from what she likes to call “quest type” fantasy, to urban fantasy, to fantasies with a dash of mystery. Her blog “Teagan’s Books” contains serial stories written according to “things” from viewers.

Major influences include Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, and Charlaine Harris.

See book trailer videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoM-z7_iH5t2_7aNpy3vG-Q?disable_polymer=true

My review:

I was the lucky winner of this book as part of a promotion the author run on her blog, Teagan’s Books and I freely chose to review it.

I have been a follower of the author’s blog for several years, although I was not following her when she wrote this serial. Teagan Geneviene is a fascinating and versatile writer. I have read her novel Atonement, Tennessee (check my review here) that is a magical experience, full of finesse, beauty, and attention to detail, evidently the fruit of a lot of thought, careful planning, research, and revision. On the other hand, she is also able to produce her legendary serials. She starts with an idea, or an image, and asks the readers of her blog to contribute certain elements. These might be things (objects, words, concepts), foods, words related to a certain era… She links each one of the posts to the blog of the contributor, and progressively builds up her story, going wherever the three things (foods, objects, or whatevers) and her imagination take her. Although, as I’ve said before, I wasn’t following the author’s blog when she wrote this serial, I have met the main character, Pip in a later serial and I have followed several others, some with familiar characters and a recent one with different characters, and more in the steampunk style. Unsurprisingly, they have a big following and the authors keeps her followers (and I suspect, herself) guessing where the story is going to go next.

Many of the readers of her blog had asked her to publish the serials in book format and finally, she obliged.

Anybody reading the description of this volume will get a sense of how it came into being. The story has a wonderful sense of time (the jazzy 1920s, brilliant, young, full of flappers, parties, movies, and excitement) and it is told in the first person by Pip, a young woman transplanted from the South to the big city, with a huge imagination and an endless curiosity that gets her involved in all kinds of adventures, including but not limited to: kidnappings, rides in fire trucks, romances, secret coded messages, international intrigues, hidden treasures… Pip also has a wonderful turn of phrase (she never swears, at least not as we understand it, and there is no bad language in the book, although she uses her own expressions that colour her language and readers will come to love) and believes she is a very modern woman, although she is less savvy and cool than she would like to believe.

This is a short novel, quick, fast and full of adventures that will delight readers of all ages and will not offend those worried about bad language, erotica or graphic violence. Although in this format readers do not have access to the wonderful images, fruit of the author’s research, which illustrate her blog posts, it does offer continuity and an easier to follow story that will keep readers on their toes. It has elements of historical fiction, of mystery (although not by design, it could fit into the cozy mystery category), and a few touches of romance (or rather, romantic interest).

Although this work is too short to fully demonstrate the author’s abilities, it does give the readers a taste of her sense of fun and adventure, and it introduces a character that will become a close friend in series to come. As an exercise, I would suggest you try and put yourselves in the author’s shoes and every time you start to read a new chapter, headed by the three things, try and imagine how you would use those three words to continue the tale. I am sure you’ll be even more amazed at the story.

The author is working on turning some of her other serials into books, so if you enjoy this one, there are more delights to come your way. And, do not forget to check Atonement, Tennesse.

Recommended to anybody looking for a light, fun, and dynamic story set in the 1920s, particularly those with an adventurous and playful spirit.

Thanks very much to the author for her book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

 

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview A SPARK OF JUSTICE. A CIRCUS MYSTERY by J.D. Hawkins (@MysteriesJDH) A solid and entertaining cozy mystery set in the world of the circus, and a must for those who love big cats

Hi all:

I recently read a list of recommended books and when I saw this one I remembered I had a copy and well…

A Spark of Justice by J.D. Hawkins
A Spark of Justice by J.D. Hawkins

A Spark of Justice: A Circus Mystery by J.D. Hawkins

Look behind the scenes at the circus and see if YOU can solve the mystery of who killed the lion tamer!

The Great Rollo had enemies and dirty family secrets. Investigator John Nieves enters the surreal world of the circus, determined to learn if the lion tamer’s death was an accident or foul play, but a series of mishaps suggests that the Cirkys are desperately trying to hide the truth. In his struggle to overcome a childhood fear of clowns and to come to grips with his own search for his Latino identity in a hostile world, even attempts on Nieves’ life cannot thwart him from his obsession to learn who killed the lion tamer.

https://www.amazon.com/Spark-Justice-Circus-Mystery-ebook/dp/B014AB4BYU/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spark-Justice-Circus-Mystery-ebook/dp/B014AB4BYU/

Author J.D. Hawkins
Author J.D. Hawkins

About the author:

J.D. Hawkins is a native of Los Angeles where most of his stories are set, but has also lived in Hawaii and the Midwest States. He spent part of his youth traveling with a carnival and has lived through many real life adventures that include hitchhiking cross country and living through one of L.A.’s more famous earthquakes.

He began writing stories in high school and has turned his hand to writing Mystery and Thriller novels, intentionally devising more original themes than the usual police procedurals and standard murder mysteries.

He once seriously considered becoming a lion tamer and fantasized owning a zoo as a child. He still gives regular thought to becoming involved with a Big Cat sanctuary and this love of wild felines may come out in the plots of some of his stories.

My review:

I was sent an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This book is classed as a cozy mystery and is set in the world of the circus, probably in the recent past, although this is not specified and the novel has a somewhat timeless feel.  There are mobile phones (but hardly ever used, and most people rely on land lines as nobody is located unless they are at home or at work), computers (but only an old-fashioned one is ever mentioned or seen and reports are paper based) but most people do not seem to use any modern commodities, although the mauling of Rolo, the lion tamer and the victim whose murder/accidental death is the mystery at the centre of the novel, is available on YouTube. And of course, the circus where the story is set still has performing animal, including big felines (lions, leopards, tigers, and panthers). In the US there is no federal ban as such yet (although they are banned in many countries) but most of the big circuses have stopped showing those numbers (and indeed Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus gave its last performance in May this year) and there are many local bans, so that adds to the feeling of a somewhat idealised and old-fashioned world.

The story is told in the third person but from the point of view of John (Juan) Nieves, an insurance investigator of Puerto Rican origin, born in New York, who left his studies as a vet to join the police, and after working for the police for a time, moved to the Mid-West and changed his job to try and save his marriage. Unfortunately, it did not work, but he loves his son, thinks about him often and lives for his visits.  His lifestyle is itinerant and he feels no strong attachment to his current job or to his apartment. For some reason, he feels irresistibly attracted to the world of the circus from the moment he sets foot in it. Although he does not like clowns and he is less than welcome by the circus artists initially, he cannot stop going back, even when he does not have a very good reason to. At first, it seems it is due to his attachment to detective work and to his wish to solve the mystery, but later we realise there is something else at play.

As happens in all good detective or mystery novels, the story is not only about the mystery but also about the investigator. In this case, John’s motives and sense of self and identity are put into question from the very beginning, and eventually, the process of self-discovery becomes more interesting than the case itself. If circuses have traditionally been places where people could run away from their circumstances and become a new person, this novel shows them as a big family happy to accommodate those who might not fit into normal society and others who want to become who they feel they really are, no matter how alternative. It is perhaps significant that Rolo did not spend all year with the circus but lived at times with his outside family, and was not as fully invested as the rest of the artists and did not truly belong.

The mystery is pretty intriguing too, don’t get me wrong. A death by a deadly tiger attack is not everyday news, and the fact that the tiger had been spooked by an electrical spark from a damaged cable makes it even less common. There are a suitably large number of suspects (both from within the circus —as Rolo was not very well liked, for reasons we discover later—, and from his personal life, including a wife, a lover, and a brother), a complex web of deceit and betrayal; there are threats and warnings to John to keep out of circus’s business, and there are wonderful descriptions of the world of circus, wild cats, clowns, and behind the curtains insights that will delight anybody who has ever felt curious about this world.

Although there are anxiety provoking and scary moments (near- miss accidents, close calls with a knife thrower, eerie moments with a lion and a panther, and also more run of the mill human violence), there is no actual gore and the investigation itself is not precise and full of detail (in fact, once some of the suspects are removed from the scene they practically disappear from the story).

I liked John (Juan) Nieves, the main character. He is not the usual noir detective, full of clever repartees and sarcastic comments. He thinks before he acts (mostly); he is not unduly violent and uses no foul language; he thinks of his son often and is kind towards animals and kids, and he acknowledges his weaknesses, his doubts, and his mistakes. He is happy to let certain things drop and to hide others that have no real bearing on the matter and will not affect his employer. He is not a rigid believer in the value of finding the truth and revealing it at all costs and is more interested in human beings (and big cats) than he is in some perfect vision of duty.  The author, who describes a personal background in carnival attractions, creates some interesting secondary characters, particularly the circus’s performers, although due to how different clowns look with and without makeup, it is quite easy to get confused as to who is who, but this does not prevent us from following the plot and enjoying the story.

I have read some comments that describe the ending as a let-down and this is true if we think of the novel as being only about the investigation of Rolo’s death. On the other hand, if we see it as a process of investigating and revealing who the real John (Juan) Nieves is, there is no disappointment at all.

Recommended to lovers of cozy mysteries set in original settings, to those who like big cats (or cats of any size), and to readers who appreciate a good background and an inside knowledge of the world of circus, especially those who feel nostalgic about a world that seems to be on the verge of disappearance. A solid and entertaining read.

Thanks to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and of course REVIEW!

 

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