Monday, November 20, 2017

Passport to Murder

Poor Emmeline Prather. All her life she has dreamed of going to Paris and now she is on her way. In Passport to Murder by Mary Angela Em is on the plane with her students and some faculty members flying to Paris. Suddenly one of the professors goes into anaphylactic shock from a peanut allergy.

Outspoken Professor Molly Jaspers and her husband Bennett are on the trip because she is going to speak at the Sorbonne on organic gardening. Right before they board the flight, Molly and Andre Duman are overheard arguing. He says, "One day Molly is going to offend the wrong person and find herself in trouble."

One day comes and Molly dies on the plane from her peanut allergy, but everyone thinks it is an accident.  The plane turns back to Minneapolis and everyone thinks it is an unfortunate accident.

When the autopsy shows Molly had not ingested any peanuts and there was no peanut residue on her
clothing, the police change the verdict from accidental to murder. Naturally Em is devastated about having to return and she refuses to believe it was murder and especially doesn't believe Andre should be a suspect.

The sad group returns to South Dakota and their dreams of a week in Paris are dashed forever. As Em investigates, it seems dear Molly was not much loved by her colleagues. When someone else from the group dies, Em is determined to prove Andre is not the murderer.

The one plus in her misadventure is the opportunity to get to know her colleague Lenny Jenkins. While in Minneapolis, Em is invited to hear Lenny play guitar at First Avenue, where Prince got his start. Em even ropes Lenny into helping with the investigation.

When small pieces start to fall into place, Em knows who the killer is and works with the local police to solve the case.

Em is a terrific character - outspoken, funny and fearless except in the affairs of the heart. I hope to read more of Mary Angela's Professor Prather books.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Murder is Her Hobby

Murder is her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death will be at the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW) until January 28, 2018.

Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) crafted her extraordinary “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”—exquisitely detailed miniature crime scenes—to train homicide investigators to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.” These dollhouse-sized dioramas of true crimes, created in the first half of the 20th century and still used in forensic training today, helped to revolutionize the emerging field of homicide investigation.

To learn more about this exhibit, click here.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sun, Sand, Murder

Special Constable Teddy Creque is the only police presence on his sun-drenched island in the British Virgin Islands. Crime has been non existent on Anegada and Teddy is happy with that status. In Sun, Sand, Murder by John Keyse-Walker, Teddy's life is about to turn upside down.

An hysterical phone calls sends Teddy to the beach to investigate a murder. When he arrives, he finds De White Rasta, a drug addled idler, nearby and the body of biologist Paul Kelliher baking in the sun. All around the body are holes dug in the sand.

Rather than leave the body exposed to the elements, Teddy drags it back to a nearby tent and returns to call in his superiors. When the British Virgin Islands Police Force deputy commissioner arrives to investigate the crime, Teddy is dismissed as non essential, especially after he discovers Teddy disturbed the scene of the crime.

Teddy has problems in his personal life as he has been having a blazing affair with a sultry helicopter
pilot named Cat Wells. She shuttles visitors to Anegada and occasionally stays on the island. Teddy knows this is a dangerous affair because Anegada is small island, but he persists. 

Relegated to useless and asked to track down next of kin, Teddy tries to find out more about Paul Kelliher. Kelliher had been coming to the island for five yeas, staying for part of the year and then leaving. He said he was a biologist from a university in Boston. As Teddy tries to trace Kelliher, he discovers he didn't exist and his address and identification were fake.

When the Joint Interagency Task Force South lands on Anegada with heavily armed, they are sure this island is a drug hotspot and Teddy is the drug king. Teddy worries about his job and his freedom and he doubles his efforts. He finds a notebook with what looks like code, and Teddy finds an unlikely ally, De White Rasta who it turns out is a well-educated, titled Englishman with a knack for codebreaking.

Sun, Sand, Murder is a well-written gripping mystery that kept me guessing throughout. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Seeds of Revenge

It's the dead of winter and the farm is quiet at this time of the year, but Megan Sawyer is drawn into another murder. In Seeds of Revenge by Wendy Tyson, Megan stumbles across a young woman stranded in the snow not far from town. She turns out to be Merry Chance's niece, Becca.

Becca Fox is in Winsome to stay with her aunt and develop her business The Love Chemist. Her product is a mix of pheromones and perfume to produce the love potions. Megan is not sure it's a viable business plan, but she listens attentively.

When she drops off Becca at Merry's place, a man steps out of the shadows and Becca begins shouting that she doesn't ever want to see him and her aunt should not have tried to bring them together. As Megan drives away she wonders what conversation is going on behind close doors.

Megan learns from her boyfriend Denver that Becca's family had lived in Winsome in the past. Paul
Fox was hired by Eloise to work with some of her patients suffering from trauma, but unexpectedly Eloise asked him to leave the practice and the family moved away.

When Paul is found dead under unusual circumstances, Megan arrives at the crime scene and all windows are wide open on the house. Worrying that this means there was a gas leak, she hurries to speak with police chief Bobby King. Megan notices a faint odor in the room, but it is not natural gas.

Days later it appears Paul died from phosgene poisoning, a plot stolen from one of Megan's aunt Sarah's mystery books.There are plenty of other suspects because Paul took sadistic pleasure in wounding others. especially his daughter Becca.

More incidents occur that seem to be from Sarah's books. What is the killer trying to say? Megan finds herself plunged into the middle of the mystery and a string of other crimes.

For a review of another Wendy Tyson book, click here

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Death at the Emerald

Lady Frances Ffolkes finds herself in the middle of a 30-year-old missing persons case. Newly commissioned (by herself) as a consulting detective, she takes on the case in Death at the Emerald by R.J. Koreto.

Surprised to receive a summons from Lady Torrence, Lady Frances learns the woman wants her to find her missing daughter Louisa. Thirty years prior, Louisa abruptly left her family home because of her tyrannical father, but no one has heard from her since.

Louisa always had a love for the theater as a child and when she expressed an interest in becoming and actress, her father made plans to send her away. Before he could, she ran away and was never heard from again.

Using her maid Mallow as her Watson, Lady Frances 
assumes Sherlock Holmes' techniques and tries to discover what has happened to Louisa. Faced with a road block at the theater, she knows the men of the theater are lying about knowing Louisa. When one of them is found murdered outside the theater, she knows she is on the right path.

She finds a flyer in the belongings of the murdered man that promotes The Halliday Mission,
Maidstone, Kent, and discovers The Mission is now based in London. The Hallidays themselves are long dead, but their son Reverend Samuel Halliday is the vicar at a church in Wimbledon.

Unsure what if any connection there is to Louisa, who she now knows was an actress named Helen, Lady Frances sets out to meet the Reverend. When she discovers a grave with a huge monument towering over it, Lady Frances enlists of the aid of Scotland Yards' Inspector Eastley to help with the exhumation.

What she discovers leads her on a clever path of deception and mistaken identity. Another terrific adventure for Lady Frances Ffolkes and the dependable Mallow.

For another review of a Lady Ffolkes book, click here

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Molly Murphy Sullivan has been caring for her mother-in-law in suburban Westchester County with plans to spend the Christmas holidays there. When plans change, Molly, her mother-in-law and her family find themselves invited to Scarborough, the home of wealthy Cedric Van Aiken in The Ghost of Christmas Past by Rhys Bowen.

Excited to be spending the holidays in such a lovely mansion, Molly soon realizes there is much tension in the household. She learns the couple's toddler daughter Charlotte walked out of the house 10 years ago at Christmas and has not been seen since.

Winnie Van Aiken is a shadow of her former self, thin, gaunt and pale. She has never given up hope about her daughter, but no one else seems to believe the little girl could still be alive.

Winne's elderly aunt, a somewhat doddering woman, confuses Molly with Winnie's long-lost sister. Startled when Winnie's father claims she has no sister, Molly is
not sure what is going on. Later on in the visit Aunt Clara asks about young man that provokes another outburst from Winnie's father. Is Aunt Clara confused or are the residents of the regal house hiding something.

When Aunt Clara dies in her sleep, Molly worries about her own family. Unable to resist a mystery, Molly spends her time investigating the disappearance of the little girl. After 10 years there are hardly any clues left to discover, but she persists.

On Christmas Eve there is a knock on the door and standing there is a young girl who announces, "I am Charlotte." This throws the entire household into tizzy. Could this be Winnie's long-lost daughter or a carefully prepared imposter?

A definite page turner and the resolution will surprise the reader. I enjoyed The Ghost of Christmas Past very much

Monday, November 13, 2017

Death in the Manuscript Room

Libraries are usually quiet, calm places, but add librarian Raymond Ambler to the mix and there is room for trouble. Con Lehane's Murder in the Manuscript Room is a taut, tense mystery full of secrets and lies where people's rights are infringed upon in the name of national security.

Caught in the middle of a custody battle for his grandson Johnny with his socialite grandmother, Raymond is in a foul mood when he reaches the library on 42nd Street. He is greeted by two people; one he knows - Mike Cosgrove, an NYPD detective, and another he doesn't - Paul Higgins, an amateur writer and former police intelligence officer.

Higgins wants to donate his papers to the library's crime fiction collection. Although Ray doesn't think there is much value in the papers, he is intrigued when Higgins wants some of the papers restricted from view. And when he mentions the name of a long-dead truckers union leader, Richard Wright, Ray is all ears. Ray's childhood friend Devon Thomas was accused of the murder and is serving a life sentence.

Days after the papers are brought to the library, research assistant Leila Stone is found murdered in Ray's office. The police leap to
arrest an Arabic doctoral student for the crime. Gobi Tabrizi is researching the origins and evolution of Islamic law, Sharia. He seems unassuming and not the least bit interested in murdering a library researcher.

Tabrizi is carted away by a mysterious government unit and Ray decides to get more involved. As he digs deeper he finds gains soe scary insights into the world of secrecy and political expediency.

When someone else dies, Ray feels himself in danger and worries about his grandson and his library colleague Adele. Murder in the Manuscript Room is an excellent puzzle with a frightening outcome.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Character Study in Great Detail

If you have ever wanted to know more about a certain character in your favorite book, check out the
links below. Author Alison Golden goes into great detail about her characters in a way I have not seen before. The character sketches have always interested me because sometimes I feel as if the characters are people I know, but I have never seen such detail (no offense to other authors who do this).

If you have read any of Golden's Inspector David Graham books, the detailed backgrounds fill in so much information about each character.

If you are interested in these background sketches, click here. The titles are shown below.

For a review of The Case of the Fallen Hero, click here.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Death on Paradise Island

National rugby hero Josefa Horseman returns home to Fiji from one year rehabbing his knee in the United States. When he returns home, he discovers he has been promoted Detective Inspector at his day job on the Fiji Police Force. In Death on Paradise Island by B.M. Allsopp, Joe is thrown right into the case of a drowned woman.

Without so much as a chance to sleep after his 24-hour plane ride, Joe is sent to a luxury resort called Paradise Island to investigate the drowning of one of the maids. Most everyone thinks Nisi accidentally drowned, and her family has already prepared her for burial, clearly destroying any exterior evidence. But the postmortem reveals, Nisi did not drown and she had had either a miscarriage or an abortion in the previous week.

There are plenty of suspects including her uncle Jona, an angry man tasked with keeping an eye on his niece; Dr. Vijay Chakra, who has disappeared from the scene; Maika, Nisi's boyfriend; and Bill Burgermeister, a scientist
leading the marine reserve project. Joe and his team including Sergeant Susila Singh fan out on the island to look for a motive.

Even in Paradise there are secrets, lies and hidden jealousies that lead Joe and his team on a strange path to solve the crime.

In the back of Joe's mind is his rugby career. He is positive he will be recovered enough to play again after resting this season, but nearly everyone he meets comments on his retirement from the game and his promotion in the police department.

This is an interesting mystery that shows even Paradise can be a place where bad things happen, and there are people who seem to have a perfect life wishing for more. I enjoyed Death on Paradise Island and hope there are more books in this series.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Frances Evesham Interview

How many books have you published?
I've published seven books in all. Two are set in Victorian England (The Thatcham Hall Mysteries),
and a series of five 'Agatha Christie' style murder mysteries set in the present day in a small English seaside town in Somerset.

How did you become interested in writing?
I've always loved reading, the first step to becoming a writer. The first books I remember loving were The Borrowers, the Moomins, the Narnia stories and any book about horses. I began to scribble in notebooks, and when, later, I heard about the Bronte sisters, I developed tiny notebooks, like the ones they used, in the hope that their genius may rub off on me!

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening, etc?
I write in fits and starts, as I can't stop once I get into a story, and when it's finished I like to take a break. Also, a writer these days has to spend considerable time marketing, so I devote one day a week to non-book writing activities.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
I plan very carefully, because there needs to be a coherent thread throughout the book, leading to the murderer. I plan the overall story line, and then write short synopses of each scene. Then, I begin to write, and often completely change the story as better ideas pop into my head. Like many writers, I find my characters develop a life of their own, and I've even had to change the identity of a villain. In that case, I had to go back and revise the entire book, but I was delighted with the result.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
I set each story in a place I know. The Exham on Sea books are set in Somerset, and Libby, my amateur detective, lives in a small town very like my own, but with a different name. I don't want to offend any neighbors! The characters begin with characteristics of people I have known, but these develop and change. I write a background for each person in the story before I begin writing the book, so they are very real to me.

Who is your favorite author?
I love other mystery writers, and Agatha Christie is at the top of the pile, for her plots and wicked sense of humor. I adore the author character who appears in several of her books, called Ariadne Oliver, who gives wonderfully stringent opinions on writing that I suspect must be some of Christie's own opinions. She's especially good in "Mrs McGinty's Dead" where she describes one of her own inventions, a Finnish detective: "Of course he's idiotic, but people seem to like him." Perhaps Christie felt like that about Hercule Poirot.

How do you promote your books?
I invite people to sign up to my newsletter, (at so I can tell them directly about new books and , especially, any special promotional prices. I send a free Kitchen Cheat Sheet to all new members of this VIP group, as a welcome. I occasionally speak at events in the local area, and have strong links with some other writers. That means we can introduce our readers to each others' books, which is a win-win as my readers hear about other authors they might enjoy, and new readers can hear about my books. I'm thrilled when a reader contacts me, through my website or directly through email after I send out a newsletter, and I've discovered readers all over the world who are rapidly becoming friends. I don't do very much social media, but maintain a Twitter and Facebook account.