Friday, March 31, 2017

Ghost Hunting and Musical Endeavors

When Gethesame Brown (great name) finds herself stranded in a small town in Ireland, she doesn't expect to find herself living in a castle haunted by a ghost. In Murder in G Major, Alexia Gordon introduces her new series. Gethesame had been promised the position of assistant conductor for the Cork Philharmonic only to have it pulled from under her feet by someone's girlfriend.

With her luggage stolen she finds herself stranded in Ireland. She is offered the job of music teacher at St. Brennan's Academy, tasked with turning the motley crew of boys into winning musicians. Winning the All County competition is the enormous goal set for her by her employer.

Oh and did I mention the ghost of famed composer Eamon McCarthy lives in the castle. He also wants something from Gethesame - to prove he did not kill his wife and commit suicide 25 years ago.

With these small tasks, Gethesame tries to marshal the boys into some semblance of an orchestra while trying to discover clues to the 25-year-old murder. She even gets the dead composer to write a piece for the boys to perform.

I really enjoyed the beginning of this book, but then before I knew it, the body count started piling up and it steamrolled out of control. I hope this was just enthusiasm for a first time author. I thought the character was original and interesting. Here's hoping the second book is paced more evenly.

For books by Alexia Gordon, click here

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Troubled Waters in Venice

Venice's Commissario Guido Brunetti has been a favorite of mine for years. His thoughtful approach to solving crimes and his patience makes him well respected by his staff. Having visited Venice recently, I revel in following Brunetti's footsteps through the lovely city. In The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon, Commissario Brunetti is asked by his wealthy, aristocratic mother-in-law to look into a near drowning 15 years prior. Brunetti is not sure what he can do.

The teenage granddaughter of  a Venetian patroness falls into a canal late one night. Unable to swim, she nearly drowns but a very drunk young man leaps in and saves her. The man who saves her claims he saw someone throw her in, but the next day he doesn't remember a thing. Unfortunately she suffers severe brain damage and doesn't mature.

Fast forward to the present, Brunetti listens sympathetically to the
grandmother's account of the accident and meets the lovely, childlike granddaughter. He knows that if a crime had been committed, the statute of limitations would protect the criminal, but something about the case intrigues him.

Convincing the Vice-Questore Patta, a notorious social climber, to reopen the case, Brunetti calls on Patta's assistant Signorina Elettra to use her computer skills to look into the case. What they find is disturbing, but probably unpunishable.

The Commissario Brunetti books are some of my favorite to read, but I love listening to the audio books for the elegant Italian accent of the narrator.

For more books by Donna Leon, click here.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The WISE Agency

As much as I love reading The WISE Agency books, I still cannot figure out how the titles connect to the books. Same is true for The Case of The Curious Cook by Cathy Ace. There's a vague reference to a TV show called The Curious Cook, nevertheless this book was a gem as usual. The ladies of WISE are a varied group: Mavis, Annie, Carol, Christine and the dowager Althea.

When the Duke of Chellingworth (Althea's son) hires a bookseller, Bryn Jenkins, to assess water damage to some valuable books, Bryn reveals there are some strange things happening at his shop. Instead of books disappearing from his shop, someone is leaving books. This tantalizes Althea and she convinces the WISE women to investigate.

With their expertise in surveillance, the agency sets up cameras strategically located in the shop to discover who is leaving the books behind. While looking through the books, Carol discovers miniature drawings of scenes in Swansea. They look like the work of a famous artist, now dead. Lizzie Llewellyn has been missing and based on the amount of blood found at her cottage, believed dead - murdered by her brother. Her brother is serving a life
sentence in jail.

As half the WISE agency works to discover who is leaving the books, the others move on to discovering if the miniatures are indeed the work of Llewellyn and whether or not her brother killed her.

Authenticating art is always a tricky process and the investigators are thorough searching for the truth. I very much enjoyed this book as the story unfolded to a startling conclusion. It is well written and the characters are nicely drawn. You know you would recognize them if you met them on the streets in Wales.

For other books by Cathy Ace, click here.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Zoe Chambers Mystery

Author Annette Dashofy writes a tense, taut mystery in Circle of Influence, the first Zoe Chambers mystery. Zoe is a paramedic and deputy coroner for a rural township in Pennsylvania. When she is called to the scene of a suspicious death, she is stunned to learn it is her best friend's husband Ted. He is found in the car of township supervisor Jerry McBirney.

Ted and Jerry had a loud, public argument at the township meeting, when Jerry had Ted's mother arrested for taking an old computer from the building. After the meeting Ted was heard to say "Someone should just kill that guy and put him out of his misery." Unfortunately it is Ted who is found dead and Zoe cannot figure out why he is in Jerry's car.

With the help of Police Chief Pete Adams, Zoe tries to solve the mysterious death of Ted.
When another victim is found, the plot takes a huge turn. There are many twists and turns in this mystery and Zoe and Pete find themselves doubting everyone around them. Suddenly Ted's son Logan and Pete's ex-wife Marcy (also Jerry McBirney's current wife) are in the frame.

If you are looking for a tension filled mystery, Circle of Influence is for you. If you would like to see more books by Annette Dashofy, click here

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Oxford Tearoom Mystery

When Gemma Rose returns to England from years in Australia, she never thought her first encounter would be with an angry American wielding a knife. A Scone to Die for by H.Y. Hanna introduces the first (well not exactly) in a new Oxford Tearoom Mysteries.

Gemma has given up her corporate job in Australia and settled back in Oxford, living with her parents. At 29 there are some serious adjustments to that arrangement, but life is more complicated, especially as she is an Oxford graduate with parents who dream of more. Undaunted she opens her dream tearoom - The Little Stable Tearoom - in Oxford with childhood friend Cassie as a server and a quiet, almost reclusive chef named Fletcher Wilson.

Her first few customers are four old ladies who could give MI5 a run for their money in intelligence gathering. Then Gemma encounters a rude, loud American who claims to be a tourist with no knowledge of Oxford, but something seems amiss. When Gemma attempts to clean a water spill from papers the American has left on his table, he nearly flips out brandishing a knife. When he calms down and leaves, Gemma hopes she has seen the last of him.

Bright and early the next morning she encounters him again in her courtyard. This time he is dead with a scone stuffed into his mouth. But the biggest shock comes when Gemma meets the police detective in charge of the case. He turns out to be her former boyfriend Devlin O'Connor, now Detective Inspector, Oxfordshire CID.

The ins and outs of this murder lead Gemma back to Oxford University with old school rivalries, big money, unkempt promises and a shocking conclusion.

An enjoyable read, but I never felt the author captured the English flavor well. Sometimes I felt this book could have been set anywhere in the world. As for not being the first book in the series as it is billed, there is a prequel entitled All Butter Short Dead. Not sure what the concept of prequel is all about, but there it is.

For other books by HY. Hanna, click here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Collecting Can Be Murder

Jordan Bingham and her eccentric employer Vera Van Alst cannot believe their luck when they are invited to purchase a collection of mystery writer Ngaio Marsh's first editions. The classic collection is owned by recluse Chadwick Kauffman who few have seen in the past years. In Victoria Abbott's The Marsh Madness things spin out of control quickly.

Jordie, Uncle Kev and Ms Van Alst are invited for luncheon at Kauffman's summer estate Summerlea. After a strained luncheon, the deal is completed and the books are sold to Ms. Van Alst. The next day Jordan and Vera are shocked to learn that Kauffman has died from a fall down the staircase at Summerlea. But they are more stunned when the photo of the victim shows someone different than the man they met.

After a series of anonymous calls accusing them of the crime, Kev disappears into the wind, Jordan is on the run and Vera is being harassed by the police. Jordan tries to figure out who was impersonating Kauffman and why. First she discovers the butler at Summerlea was not the real butler, then she finds out the assistant was an impersonator and lastly police officer Tyler (Smiley) Dekker (her boyfriend) is working with the Harrison Fall, NY, detectives to pin the crime on Uncle Kev and Jordan. Not a good day all around.

Using all her wits and her uncle's supply of costumes, Jordie figures out the scam, Now all she has to do is convince the police. It makes for an interesting plot.

For more books by Victoria Abbott, click here.

Friday, March 17, 2017

No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

From the very beginning of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Novels by Alexander McCall Smith, I have been a huge fan. The warming feelings I have for the characters extends to the latest book Precious and Grace. Mma Ramotswe (Precious) and Mma Makutsi (Grace) solve many of life's little mysteries with their folksy knowledge and insight.

In the latest installment they are asked by Susan Peters, a woman who was born in Botswana to Canadian parents, to find her childhood home in Gaborone. She says she lived there until she was eight years old, but doesn't remember exactly where she lived. She has a photo taken with a woman who cared for her as a child and she wants to find her as well.

Precious senses unhappiness in her new client, but is not sure of the source. She sets out to find the childhood home of Susan, and discovers it is right next door to her home on Zebra Drive. 

As usual there are plenty of small stories playing out in this book. Mma Potokwane is thinking of hiring a new house mother who is distantly related to her. Mr. Polopetsi somehow gets himself involved in a pyramid scheme and Fanwell finds a stray dog. Grace's archenemy Violet Sephotho has been nominated as a candidate for the Gaborone Chamber of Commerce's Woman of the Year.

Using her loving heart and her detective instincts gleaned from Clovis Andersen's The Principles of Private Detection, Precious, with Grace's assistance, solves all the mysteries.

For more books by Alexander McCall Smith, click here


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Country Club Murders

Nothing ruins your morning swim more than bumping into a dead body floating in the pool. That's how Ellison Russell began her day in 1974 with Madeline Harper dead, and oh, did I mention she was Ellison's soon-to-be ex-husband's mistress? Julie Mulhern dips into the lifestyles of couples in the 70s in The Deep End, the first book in The Country Club Murders.

When a matchbook leads Ellison to discover some of the kinkier aspects of her husband Henry's affairs, she realizes she doesn't really know him that well anymore. While her mother throws her at newly divorced attorney Hunter Tafft, Ellison digs deeper into Madeline's death.

It's not long before another victim turns up dead on her driveway and this time Ellison is in real trouble.

The Deep End is loaded with the nuisances of life in the 70s and
how much things have changed for women. Ellison paints and her art became more than a profitable hobby. That's where the trouble with Henry began. Women in the 70s didn't make more money than their husbands and Henry developed an interest in handcuffs and leather.

Complicating the investigation is the detective in charge, Detective Jones seems to have taken an interest in Ellison, more than where she is the killer. With her mother pushing Hunter at her and Jones giving her special looks, all Ellison wants to do is paint.

I look forward to other books in this series, especially after I learned Det. Jones' first name is Anarchy, Whoa who names their son Anarchy - even in the 70s!

For more books by Julie Mulhern, click here.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Dinner Club Mystery

Author Linda Wiken has introduced a dinner concept I am wholeheartedly trying to replicate. In Toasting Up Trouble, event planner J.J. Tanner and her friends get together once a month to enjoy a dinner prepared by all of them with a menu from a specially-chosen cookbook. I want to do this with my friends! I'm trying to work out how to pull it off. Love the idea.

Back to the book, J.J. is in the midst of planning a 21st birthday party for the daughter of a wealthy resident and learns her caterer has backed out at the last minute. Scurrying to find a new one, J.J. finds hotshot chef Antonio Marcotti, a troublesome businessman, with a reputation for being mercurial. JJ meets with the chef to discuss the menu and specifically tells him to take one appetizer off the menu because it is out of her budget. At the end of the birthday party evening, J.J. discovers the appetizer was included and she and the chef get into a shouting match.

The next morning J.J. arrives back at the party site to find the police on hand and Marcotti stabbed to death. Naturally the loud argument between J.J. and Marcotti was heard by others, so she is a suspect.There are a host of other suspects: another restaurant owner from the same village in Italian who has been feuding with Marcotti for 25 years, a decorator friend of JJ.'s who was stiffed by him, the cheated on wife, a corrupt councilman, the young mistress and even the PI hired to find the killer.

I found J.J. a little too bold and abrupt with the people she suspected. There were times when she dangerously put herself in jeopardy to ask questions the police should be asking. I also was mystified by the duplicity uncovered in her office and how it was so mildly handled. I guess I am more vindictive!

All in all I look forward to other books in this series. If you are interested in other books written by Linda Wiken as Erika Chase, click here. For books by Linda Wiken, click here. For books as Erika Chase, click here.

Friday, March 10, 2017

George Washington Slept Here

When Megan Sawyer moved back to Winsome, Pennsylvania, to run her grandmother's organic farm and cafe, she did not expect George Washington to be causing her trouble. In A Muddied Murder by Wendy Tyson, General Washington seems to be right in the thick of things.

The local beautification board has been refusing to give Megan permits for her cafe. Simon Duvall is the lead curmudgeon and week after week has continued to deny the permits needed to open the cafe. After another failed inspection, Megan is at her wits end, but when she finds Simon dead in her barn the next day, she fears she will be a suspect. She also discovers her Grandmother was considering a bid from Duvall and the Historical Society to purchase the Washington Acres farm because George Washington possibly slept there!

The plot thickens when Simon's mother Lenora, who is in charge
of the Historical Society, plans to make a big announcement about the farm and an historical preservation project. Historical preservation would put a huge dent in Megan's plans for the cafe and the adjacent building she hopes to purchase.

When another person connected to the Historical Society is seriously wounded in a stabbing attack, Megan continues her investigation in earnest while trying to protect her interests
I enjoyed this book and I have the next in the series, Bitter  Harvest, in my possession. If you want to see more books by Wendy Tyson, click here.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

University Politics Lead to Murder

It always seems as if there is conflict in university departments among the professors and grad students. In When the Grits Hit the Fan by Maddie Day, the tension between professor and graduate student boils over into a full blown battle. Totally unlikable professor Charles Stilton is accused by his graduate student Lou of stealing her work, which he loudly denies. As he leaves Charles  makes an insulting remark to his department chair Zenobia Brown.

But events take a turn for the worse when Robbie Jordan, owner of Pans 'N Pancakes, and Lou discover Charles' body under the ice of an ice fishing hole. As Lou was last seen arguing with Stilton, she is terrified that she will be arrested. Although Robbie has been warned by Detective Octavia Slade to stay out of the investigation, she disregards her advice and begins her own investigation. Robbie knows her friend is innocent and uses her agile crossword puzzle mind to prove it.

With her Country Store as gossip central, Robbie has her hands full with hungry customers and those
just wanting the latest news. It keeps her hopping, but in her mind she is still trying to figure out who killed Stilton. His abrasive personality rubbed up against several members of his department as well as his own wife and son.

I always love these little Country Store places. Not only do they have great breakfasts, they sell all kinds of vintage kitchen gadgets and make a great place to stop when on a road trip. Maddie Day brings Pans 'N Pancakes to life and you just know there is a real place somewhere in Indiana that resembles this shop.

As usual Robbie finds herself in the thick of things to the point of being in serious jeopardy herself as well as endangering her boyfriend Abe as she tries to clear her friend. Secrets from the past rear their head in the dramatic conclusion of When the Grits Hit the Fan.

For my review of the first book in the series, click here.

For more books by Maddie Day, click here

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Lily Dale Mystery

Cats are thought to be extremely intelligent, but can a cat travel 400 miles to lead a family to a new home? In Nine Lives by Wendy Corsi Staub, Isabelle Jordan and her son Max leave their New York City home after the death of her husband.

Before they leave Max finds an obviously pregnant cat with distinctive markings outside their house. He naturally wants to take the cat along with them, but when they are ready to leave, the cat is nowhere to be found.

Driving for more than seven hours, Bella is nearly exhausted as she searches for the Summer Pine Campground. Ten miles from the campground they spot a cat in the middle of the road, remarkably with the same markings as the cat in New York City. That can't be possible, Bella thinks.

After a quick visit to the local vet, Bella discovers the cat's name
is Chance and she belongs to Leona Gatto from nearby Lily Dale. The vet assures Bella she will be able to find a room in Lily Dale, so she heads there.

What she discovers is a town brimming with quirky psychics and mediums, but with a warm and welcome atmosphere. She also discovers Leona Gatto recently passed away. Feeling dejected and exhausted, Bella jumps at the chance to stay in Leona's hotel as temporary manager.

The longer they stay in Lily Dale, the more it feels like home. When Bella discovers Leona was murdered, she doesn't want her idyllic life to end, so she is determined to find the killer.

This is a charming, entertaining book and I look forward to others in the series. For my review of another Lily Dale mystery, click here.  For more books by Wendy Corsi Staub, click here.

Friday, March 3, 2017

An Intriguing Lady

Lady Frances Ffolkes is an unusual woman in a period of time when unmarried women didn't venture their opinions. Death on the Sapphire by R.J. Koreto introduces Lady Frances Ffolkes, an unmarried titled lady who does not live with her family. Very unusual in the early 1900s.

When Katherine Colcombe, the sister of the late Major Danny Colcombe asks Lady Frances for assistance in finding a manuscript her brother wrote before he died, Lady Frances is intrigued. Danny had told his sister if anything happened to him, she was to take the manuscript to Lady Frances and see about having it published. When Kat looks for the manuscript, she discovers it is missing.

Danny's manuscript was a war memoir based on his experiences during the Boer War, a period in British history best forgotten. When Frances confirms the manuscript is missing, she determines it must have been stolen and wonders what it contains.

Before long Lady Frances finds herself caught between Scotland Yard and the Special Branch in a race to find the manuscript. What is in the manuscript that has caused the British government so much concern?

When people begin to die around her, Lady Frances knows she has stumbled on something explosive. Along with her Lady's Maid, the resourceful June Mallow, Lady Frances pieces together what makes the missing manuscript so powerful.

Lady Frances is resourceful and an excellent character. I enjoyed her dedication to her causes especially women's suffrage in a period of time when many men thwarted the efforts of women to gain the vote. I look forward to other books in the series.

For other books by R.J. Koreto, click here.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Outer Banks Mystery

People who visit North Carolina's Outer Banks for vacation think they are in Paradise. The sun, the sand, the ocean make for an  idyllic vacation. But life is hard for the year-round residents trying to make ends meet when the tourist season is finished. In Port Starbird by Garrett Dennis, we meet retired scientist Storm Ketchum. With a name like Storm Ketchum, his parents must have wanted him to be a hardboiled detective, ala Sm Spade, but he is a man of science.

In Avon, North Carolina, Ketch is desperately trying to save his house from being a victim of eminent domain. Local developer Bob Ingram has offered to purchase his house, but Ketch keeps resisting in the hopes that the deal for the other development will fall through. In his mind he fantasizes about finding some dirt on Ingram, especially because his past two wives died under mysterious circumstances. Ketch's pal Captain Don who owns the Kinnakeet Boatyard is also in the line of sight for Ingram.

While Ketch is browsing for evidence against Ingram, he notices some unusual activity concerning oil drums and dumping in the ocean. He and his friend Kari, owner of Sea Dog Scuba Center, use their diving skills to discover some disquieting findings.

Although there was much nautical description in the book, I enjoyed Port Starbird for several reasons: the lead character is not your typical male lead and he is an interesting, inventive character. Secondly I have been to the Outer Banks in the general area where the book takes place, so reading the descriptions was like revisiting the area.

I look forward to other books in the series. For more books by Garrett Dennis, click here.