Friday, April 28, 2017

Something Completely Different

And now for something completely different. . .  Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession and How Desire Shapes the World by Aja Raden is not a cozy mystery by any stretch of the imagination, but it does answer the age-old question of why jewelry is an obsession.

From the diamond mines in Africa to the emerald mines of the New World, Raden takes the reader on a journey like no other. And along the way your are some historical facts that might be the perfect trivia answer

First there is the section on Want - Desire, Delusion and the Scarcity Effect. How did the Dutch buy the island of Manhattan for $24 worth of beads from the Lenape Indians? Was it bad deal for the Indians or was there more to the story. The beads we not plastic worthless toys, they were in fact Murano glass, never before seen in the New World. That's what made them valuable.

Ever hear the phrase Diamonds are Forever? Did you think it is customary to spend two months salary on an engagement? Well both the phrase and the custom were developed by two marketing professionals at N.W. Ayer in 1938.

In another section you'll learn the myths and misconceptions swirling around Marie Antionette and her so-called necklace theft.

Other facinating facts include:
* Fabrege eggs and the Russian czars
* How World War I was the impetuous for the development of the wrist watch
* A necklace once owned by "Bloody" Mary Tudor, coveted by Elizabeth I and found its way around Elizabeth Taylor's neck
* The development of cultured pearls

And much more. This is a fascinating book and an excellent read. For other books by Aja Raden, click here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Magical Doll

Doll collecting has grown into a huge industry and it's not a hobby for women only. Many men are as avid collectors as the women. In A Killer Keepsake by Ellery Adams and Parker Riggs, The Forget Me Not Doll Club is in the middle of its ritual club meeting argument.

Freelance writer Molly Appleby's assignment for Collector's Weekly was to interview the club members for an article. Now with the article in print, she attends a meeting to present copies to the club members. There's Rita Garrett and her goth daughter-in-law Eliza, estranged couple Luke and Vanessa Kearns, senior citizen Lamar Aldridge, doll dealer Sierra Davis and HBIC Miranda Perry. The bickering turns to a new topic. Miranda wants to buy Sierra's doll Emma, reputed to be haunted, because she thinks the doll will help her gain a better divorce settlement from her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Sierra refuses, but Miranda harangues.

The next day Sierra's store is robbed, Emma (the doll) is missing and Miranda is found murdered
with Emma in her home. Molly and her pal Detective Tony Lombardi start to investigate.The doll's backstory is told through a series of flashbacks involving a young woman named Evelyn Conway married to an abuser in Germany in the later 1930s. The magical qualities of the doll seem to save the life of Evelyn and the doll finds her way into Sierra's mother's life.

The plot of A Killer Keepsake is intricate and complicated and the reader better pay attention to even the smallest details in order to solve the mystery or mysteries, as there are several.

I have always enjoyed books by Ellery Adams and this one was no different. It did take another level of attention span to stay in the story though.

For a review of other books by Ellery Adams, click here. For other books by Ellery Adams, click here.  For books by Parker Riggs, click here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Elizabeth Buzzelli Interview

Interview with Elizabeth Buzzelli

How many books have you published?  

Eleven and am working on the twelfth now--three different series and a stand alone.  Of course, I have a drawerful of unpublished manuscripts which I plan to get back to one day though there was probably a good reason they didn't get published to being with.

Under what names do you publish? 

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli for all but my Nut House series with Berkley, which was published under Elizabeth Lee.

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 almost all the time.  Writing can't be confined to certain hours of the day.  I'm always thinking.  I'm always plotting or talking to my characters.  Physically I spend more time at my desk when I am farther along in the novel--that's when I have already worked out the story and theme, characters, setting--and am driving the plot along, heading for the ending.   I find that a writer's life is never a lonely one.  At parties, if I am bored I can always hide behind a glass of wine and a far off smile and spend time with my characters, who invariably have snide things to say about the other party-goers.  I tend to choose to have fun with what I'm doing, and  will have nothing to do with lonely garrets. 

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?

I have to know the basic plot--at least where I will begin and where I hope to end, though this often changes. I find I can't really hammer a plot into place until I know the people living the story. And even then--as characters change, so does the plot. I am now in a book where I am halfway through and still don't know for sure who the murderer is. I'm getting nervous. The longer it takes to discover who is doing the dirty work, the more I have to go back and rewrite.

How do you promote your books?  

My publishing house does most of the promotions, and sets up appearances.  I always have a fairly splashy book launch, and then tend to go  to bookstores, 

libraries, conferences, and book clubs.  Actually I go just about anywhere I am asked.  Well, almost anywhere.

Who is your favorite author? 

Louise Penney.  Her books of vivid settings, odd characters, few taboos, and nasty murders are most like what I write.  She's been my inspiration for a few years now and I know, each time she brings out a new book, that I'm going to have a rousing good time as well as learn something new about writing along the way.

Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?

I can't imagine anybody working under a couple of contracts a year writing with pen and paper.  In the first place, I can't read my own writing.  In the second place I like a neat manuscript--not one crossed out and written along the edges of the paper.  Maybe some writers can still put pen to paper but I'm not one of them. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

All That Glitters

Lately my reading has drifted toward jewel thefts and art authentication. Not sure what that means, but I'm enjoying the adventure. Nancy Cole Silverman's Without a Doubt is feeding that obsession.

Carol Child's is a reporter for a local radio station. She and her friend Sheri have just completed a location segment at a Beverly HIlls chocolatier, when Carol notices her boyfriend Eric coming out of Henery Westin's, one of Beverly Hills' most exclusive jewelry stores with a sultry woman famous for being famous.

A few minutes later a thunderous blast shakes the street. Alarms start blaring and people are scattered everywhere. The bomb blast came from inside the jewelry store and a robbery has taken place. Ever the reporter, Carol tries to get the details. After interviewing the store manager and the detective on hand and going on air with a live remote, she heads for her car.

As she reaches the lot, she notices an elderly woman struggling with shopping bags. The woman gives Carol a pin with a Phoenix rising from fire, surrounded with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Surely it is a knock off, not the real thing. Unknowingly it turns out she has assisted the thief with her bags right after a brazen theft at a famous jewelry store. The theft leads her into the lifestyles of the rich and famous and she tries work out the details. One minor distraction is the jewelry theft ringleader - he has taken a shine to her and keeps calling her with little clues.

This complicates her relationship with Eric, who is an FBI agent, and her activities at her radio station. When people begin to die, Carol digs deeper into the story and discovers the connection between this robbery and a series of robberies in Europe.

The complicated plot leads deeper into the lifestyles of rich polo players, actresses and people vying for fame. An enjoyable read.

For other books by Nancy Cole Silverman, click here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

It's in the Stars

As an astrologer Julia Bonatti knows she should trust what she sees in the stars, but serving as a bridesmaid for her friend Geneva diverts her attention. In All Signs Point to Murder by Connie DiMarco, Julia is torn by her desire to assist her friend and keeping quiet. This has catastrophic consequences.

On the wedding day the bride's sister is missing. After the ceremony, Moira is found slightly drunk and injured from a fall down stairs. She claims there was something wrong with the drink but everyone knows Moira. She is a drama queen.

When the wedding planner Sally Stark is found unconscious on the dance floor during the reception, Julia knows her evening is not going to end early. She agrees to stay at the wedding venue in hopes of calming down her friend. 

The next morning she is awakened by the sound of gunshots. As
she springs out of bed dashing toward the sounds, she encounters other family members and witnesses the groom coming out of the garage. Rob says he shot an intruder, but when they enter the garage, they find Moira bleeding on the floor. He claims he heard whispering in the garage and that someone fired at him first.

Pulling all the pieces together Julia works through the stars and digs deeper into family secrets to find the killer. 

As always Connie di Marco has written a gem. The first in the series is The Madness of Mercury. Check out my review here.

For other books by Connie Di Marco (or as Connie Archer) click here. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Gaslight Mystery

The 18th book in the Gaslight mystery series, Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson, takes a little twist. Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy have set off on their honeymoon leaving nanny Maeve Smith and NY police officer Gino Donatelli in charge of the household. When Mrs. O'Neill, a friend of the older Mrs. Mallory, asks for help, Maeve and Gino jump right in.

It seems Mrs. O'Neill's lovely daughter has been arrested for killing her affluent husband, and has been rendered mute and cannot explain what happened. Maeve and Gino have assisted Sarah and Frank in solving other mysteries, but they are not sure what their official role should be. They decide to portray themselves as associates in the newly-formed Malloy Detective Agency. Of course Sarah's wealthy parents - The Deckers - delight in offering their assistance.

As Maeve and Gino delve more deeply into the murder of Randolph Pollock, they discover a missing first wife and a Ponzi scheme to build a railroad in Panama involved several society gentlemen. They soon discover the lovely Mrs. Pollock isn't all she is cracked up to be.

This book was a change of pace for loyal follows of Brandy/Malloy, but Maeve and Gino have played major roles in other books and it was enjoyable to see them unravel the mystery.

These books give the reader an authentic picture of life in New York in the late 1890s and into the beginning of the 20th century.  I've enjoyed getting to know the characters and watching them evolve. You will too.

Other books in this series by Victoria Thompson can be found here

Friday, April 14, 2017

An Angel Lake Mystery

When Elise Pepper returns home to Tennessee to await her divorce. she doesn't think she will witness a train crashing into a car. But that's exactly what happens as she out on her daily dog-walking job. In The Sweet Taste of Murder by CeeCee James, the victim is Cameron McMahon, the town's richest, most hated man.

The police investigation reveals that Cameron was already dead from poisoning before the train hit his car. When it is also revealed that Elise's good friend Lavinia is Cameron's daughter and she stands to inherit about one million dollars, there are lots of rumors. To make matters worse, Lavinia discovered Cameron was her father a few months prior to his death.

As suspicion falls on Lavinia, sales at her Sweet Sandwich shop begin to drop. No one wants to eat in the cafe owned by a possible poisoner.

There are several other suspects including Sylvia, the estranged wife of local hothead Frank and the
very pregnant girlfriend of Cameron. Cameron's ex-wife is in the frame as well as a paralyzed former partner of Cameron whose son was killed in a car accident in a vehicle purchased from Cameron.

I know it is a requisite of all mysteries to have the guilty person be the one you least suspect, but the killer in this book is so far out of the frame as to be almost invisible.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book and the characters - Elise, Lavinia and Brad - but the solution came out of nowhere. I'm hoping the next book in the series is better.

You can find other books by CeeCee James here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An Art Mystery

Ever since I read The Woman in Gold and all of Ritter Ames' art theft books, I have been intrigued by the art authentication process. The Lover's Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson leads the reader on a merry chase.

Zelda Richardson needs a recommendation to get into the Museum Studies Master's program in the Netherlands. She has spent many fruitless years as a computer programmer in the United States and yearns for something more creative. She lands a job as an intern at the Amsterdam Historical Museum working on an exhibition of art stolen by the Nazis. Before long she is in the middle of two women claiming to own a painting by an insignificant artist.

Why are two women so determined to claim a painting by an unknown artist from the stolen art collection? The first woman tells the story of fleeing Amsterdam as a young child right before the Nazis occupied the city. 

American Rita Brouwer believes Girl With a Vase as it has been called, is one painted by her sister's
boyfriend Lex Wederstein and given to Rita's father. She is adamant that the woman in the painting is her sister Iris and the painting is called Irises for her sister and the flower. Before long another woman claiming to be the granddaughter of Dutch art dealer who was killed during the war claims the painting was his. Both seemed armed with the proper paperwork, but Zelda wants to believe Rita.

The narrative dips back and forth between current day and the past to explain the background of how the painting came to be hidden and why.  It is truly a treacherous and winding path to the truth and one of bravery and loyalty.

Thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. I hope Jennifer S. Alderson writes more books featuring Zoe Richardson. She is a headstrong, but determined character. For more books by Jennifer S. Alderson, click here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

College Town Murder

As Dr. Sheridan Hendley arrives to begin her new fall semester at Cold Creek College, she hardly expects to have a bird's eye view from her office of emergency medical vehicles at the Rec Center. Before long Sheridan hears that the victim was a faculty colleague. Adam Mulberg, abnormal psychology professor with surfer boy good looks, used his charm to increase his popularity with the female students at the college.

In Christa Nardi's first book in the Cold Creek College series, Murder at Cold Creek College, Sheridan finds herself in the midst of a police investigation at their small college in Virginia. When she discovers the victim had a relationship with her friend Kim, a professor, and one of the administrative assistants, Sheridan decides she needs to learn more about Adam Mulberg.

She pieces together that he has been married four times and some of the ex-wives are still local and may even be on the faculty. When the handsome Detective McCann begins to look suspiciously at Kim, Sheridan tries to prove him wrong. As she delves deeper into the private life of Adam Mulberg, she realizes he was a womanizer and may even have had affairs with his students.

Sheridan is an excellent character. She does not blindly put herself in jeopardy while she investigates although she does come to the attention of the killer. I enjoyed the book and look forward to others in the series.

For more books by Christa Nardi, click here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A Little Library Mystery

Elizabeth Buzzelli's latest book She Stopped for Death features an odd collection of characters. Jenny Weston has moved back to Michigan after her divorce and lives with her mother Dora. Next door neighbor is Zoe Zola, an almost famous writer, a Little Person and Lewis Carroll enthusiast all rolled into one person.

Dora has been instrumental in placing Little Libraries in the town of Bear Falls, Michigan, and when she excitedly finds snippets of poetry in the boxes, she is sure they are from reclusive town poet Emily Sutton. One night Dora, Jenny and Zoe wait patiently in the dark for the deliverer of the poetry to visit the box. Sure enough it is the shy, unassuming poet who shows up to deliver her poetry. They hope to befriend her, but she flees into the night.

Emily has lived with her sister in a house on the edge of  Pewee Swamp. Hardly anyone has seen either sister in years. Once a celebrated poet, she lives in the shadows. When Dora finally
befriends Emily she learns the cousin who shops for the sisters has not been there in weeks and the poet's sister Lorna has abandoned her. Emily immediately volunteers Zoe for shopping duty.

Not pleased with having to run the errands, Zoe grudgingly shops, although Emily hasn't given her enough money for the purchases. When Zoe delivers the groceries, Emily refuses to come to the door so Zoe leaves the bags on the porch.

Many other mysterious happenings occur and they center around Emily. Zoe begins to think there is more going on at the house than meets the eye.

She Stopped for Death is an exciting, complex book with half truths, missing siblings and a dramatic climax. I very much enjoyed the book and hope there are others in the series.

For other books by Elizabeth Buzzelli, click here.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

An Academic Mystery

In The Art of Vanishing by Cynthia Kuhn, Lila Maclean has survived her first semester as a college professor at Stoneham University in Colorado. Hoping for a less stressful conclusion to the school year, she plans to avoid direct contact with the chancellor. Unfortunately that is not to be. 

An arrogant, obnoxious author has been scheduled to appear at Stoneham, and she is "voluntold" to go to a reading in Denver by fabled author Damon Von Tussel to interview him. She tries to see the author before his talk, but is thwarted by security.  After the talk, the author disappears and no one knows where he is. 

Worried that he will pull the same disappearing act on them, Lila is tasked with making sure he appears at the event. With arrangements made and a marketing blizzard promoting the event, everyone is on edge that the great Von Tussel will not appear. 

But turn up he does with his long-lost daughter and her fiance in tow. Thanks to Lila's mother, renowned artist Violet O and former romantic interest of the author, Von Tussel seems willing to cooperate. Things don't work out as expected and Lila uses her artistic, avant-garde mother to save the day. 

After several accidents and an attempt on his life Von Tussel's appearance is again thrown into doubt. The plot bobs and weaves in several directions to a surprising ending. 

The Art of Vanishing is a good follow up to the first book in the series The Semester of Our Discontent.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Inspector Gamarche and the Academy

One of my all time favorite authors is Louise Penny. She has a knack for writing tense, taut mysteries. Her Inspector Garmarche mysteries leave the reader wrung out from the tension created in the books. A Great Reckoning is no different.

Taking on the task of cleaning up the damaged reputation of brutality and corruption surrounding the Surete Academy, Inspector Gamarche brings in his son-in-law Jean-Guy Beauvoir to serve as his second-in-command. But two troublesome hires include Michel Brebeuf and Serge Leduc, The Duke, as he is called. Both have been rumored to be involved in illegal activities, but with not enough evidence to prove the rumors true, they both have been allowed to remain at the Academy. The Duke had been heavily involved in shaping the curriculum and whipping the young recruits into his image. A dangerous problem in Gamarche's eyes.

This year's students could not be more different, but four stand out.
Amelia Choquet, tattooed, pierced and aloof; Jacques Laurin, arrogant, self-assured head cadet; Huifen, a third-year cadet without survival instincts and Nathaniel Smythe, shy and unsure. Inspector Gamache senses the danger surrounding these cadets and works to protect them, but still train them well.

Back home in Three Pines, Reine-Marie Ruth, Clara and Myrna spend their days reading through old historical papers found stuffed in the wall of the bistro.When a strange map is discovered, Inspector Gamarche uses it as a teaching tool for his four cadets. Before long there is a murder at the Academy and suspicion falls on Inspector Gamarche.

The Academy, the map and the mysterious relationship between Gamarche and Amelia leads to a thrilling conclusion. You will not be able to put this book down once you begin reading it.

For other books by Louise Penny, click here.