Monday, December 10, 2018

Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy

How many of you remember that Ngaio Marsh's Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn trained as a diplomat before joining Scotland Yard? If you do, it won't surprise you that he's working undercover in World War II in New Zealand. Money in the Morgue is an unfinished novel by Marsh, completed by Stella Duffy.

Alleyn is sent to Mount Seager Hospital in new Zealand where he is undercover watching for a spy. Shortly before his deadline for action, all hell breaks out at the hospital. Glossop, a payroll clerk, is stuck at the hospital with a flat tire and a storm coming. In New Zealand during the war, roads and bridges are dangerous in storms. Glossop has payroll for four sites, so the Matron locks it in her safe. But, she's distracted, dealing with an old man's death in the hospital.

By the time Glossop realizes the safe is open, the payroll is gone, and Matron is missing. It's Alleyn who finds her body, and discovers the old man's corpse is gone. The bridge is impassible, so Alleyn is forced to reveal himself so as to handle the murder and theft. Roderick Alleyn has to investigate, while dealing with lovestruck couples, missing money, AWOL soldiers, bodies, tunnels, murder, and, oh yes, that espionage case.

Stella Duffy, author of Mouths of Babes, was given a few chapters and notes that Ngaio Marsh left when she died. While the plot is supposed to resemble "A Midsummer Night's Dream", it's a plodding story with a slow start. Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn seems out of his element in this story.  I'd actually only suggest it for readers who were avid fans and want to read more mysteries featuring Alleyn.

Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy. Felony & Mayhem Press, 2018. ISBN 9781631941726 (paperback), 312p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

The Second Goodbye by Patricia Smiley

Repeat after me, "I wish I had read the first book in the series, but you don't have to do that to read this book." It's become a mantra. Sometimes, you just can't start at the beginning. Detective Davie Richards is the featured detective in Patricia Smiley's Pacific Homicide series. The Second Goodbye is the third book.

When there are no active homicide investigations, LAPD Homicide Detective Davie Richards, a member of the Pacific Area division, works on cold cases. While she juggles two cold cases, one is the shooting death of a gangbanger. The other one interests Davie more. It's the suicide of a thirty-four-year-old woman who supposedly shot herself in a gun shop. After reading the files, Davie doesn't believe it was suicide, and the investigating officer, now retired, didn't believe it either. Sara Montaine's story fascinates her.

Sara Montaine came out of nowhere, married a man who was financially well-off, nursed him through his final illness. No one seems to have really known her, though, when she died. Who was Sara Montaine? Davie's investigation only adds to the confusing case. Someone else discovered Sara Montaine's past, and, in order to hide the truth, they're now stalking Davie Richards.

This is an intricately plotted police procedural with an intrepid female police officer. If you appreciate the teamwork and careful exposition in other procedurals with female officers, books such as Vicki Delany's Molly Smith mysteries or Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder novels, you'll want to try the Pacific Homicide series. I enjoyed The Second Goodbye. I wish I'd started with Pacific Homicide.

Patricia Smiley's website is

Note:  If you're interested, I recently interviewed Patricia Smiley for Poisoned Pen's blog. Here's the link if you'd like to read that interview.

The Second Goodbye by Patricia Smiley. Midnight Ink, 2018. ISBN 9780738752365 (paperback), 312p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Sandie's Corner - Audible's Best of 2018

Because Sandie Herron listens to audio books, and I don't, she's the one who caught the announcement that Audible named their Best of 2018. I do know that Audible is owned by Amazon, but these titles may be of interest.

I know this was popular last year, so once again, Sandie offers selections.  (Ihe author's name may be too small for some of you, but if I enlarged the pictures one more, they went off the page. Feel free to ask me if you want to know the author or performer.)

Here are the runners-up in the Mysteries and Thrillers Category.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Christmas Carols

Today, I'm going to channel the spirit of my sister-at-heart, Kaye Wilkinson Barley. I think I loved her before I ever met her because I appreciated the honesty of her rants on DorothyL. I have one of my own today. And, because Christmas carols involve words and meaning and implications, I'm going to rant about them instead of talking about a book today.

Personal rant!

This is my personal rant, just because it tees me off that people have to be so politically correct that we ban a Christmas carol, but we allow women and children to be tear gassed, children separated from their parents, put in internment camps (let's just call them prison camps), but, no, we better not play a Christmas carol. You want to ban a Christmas carol? How about "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer"? We're talking hit-and-run here, and we celebrate it. Now, that's a violent Christmas carol. Oh, for Pete's sake. So, I'm going to play that Christmas carol. Here's a fun version. And, Natalie Toro picked Ryan Kelly up at the airport, and SHE talked in another video about how good-looking he was. I don't think she cares that we're playing "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Stupid. We have more important things to care about, not just at Christmas, but every day when people are hurting. The following video did not hurt a child, or cause a child to be taken from their parents. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

And, then there's that poor page in one of my favorite carols, "Good King Wenceslas". The king dragged that poor page out in the weather. "Sire, the night is darker now,
and the wind blows stronger.
Fails my heart, I know not how.
I can go no longer." Darn. I hate cold weather. I identify with that page. Let's ban "Good King Wenceslas". I bet I could find a lot more to ban. Why not? Let's take all the fun out of the season.

So, anyone have a Christmas carol you want to tear apart today because it offends you? (I can think of more.)

Thursday, December 06, 2018

What Are You Reading?

It's Thursday, my favorite day of the week. What are you reading this week? I'm just a little into M.B. Shaw's debut mystery, Murder at the Mill. It's not Shaw's first book, though. She's a bestselling author under Tilly Bagshawe. This one is about a portrait painter who gets caught up in the intrigues of a village and estate in England at Christmastime. She's renting a cottage on the estate, and painting a portrait of the owner when the youngest child of the family finds a body on Christmas day. I have to admit, it's a little slow-going at the beginning, so I've been picking up a couple other books in the meantime.

I have a question for those of you who are regulars here. Every year, I do a posting of my favorites of the year. I'll run mine at the end of 2018. This year, some of you contributed wonderful posts of your favorites of 2017. I posted them each Thursday, along with What Are You Reading? Who would like to do it again? Let me know if you want to write a piece, and start thinking about your favorite books from 2018.

What are you reading this week? Are you plowing through a book, or have you found something that excites you? Let's talk books.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

The Ice Maiden by Sara Sheridan

Sara Sheridan departs from her Mirabelle Bevins mysteries with The Ice Maiden, called "A historical
adventure with a paranormal twist". Are you ready for that historical adventure in Antarctica in the 19th century?

In 1842, Karina, a widow, is stranded on Deception Island, an island located in the South Shetland Islands above Antarctica. Her husband disappeared while on a whaling ship. She's desperate to reach home, and stows away on a ship, hoping to eventually reach Amsterdam. She hides, but, when discovered, identifies herself as a young man named Karl. To her horror, she learns she's not on the way to Europe, but on the way to Antarctica on Captain James Ross' trip to map the continent.

When the crew learns "Karl" can cook, she's quite happy working as the cook's assistant. Then, an accident reveals her true identity. Although many of the crew view a woman on board as bad luck, Karina starts a relationship with the ship's doctor, Joseph Hooker, and she's content. Then, on the day some of the crew are to plant the flag, Karina falls in a crevasse. She's left behind as dead.

The paranormal twist comes from Karina's experiences after her death. She wants revenge on the men who left her there. Her spirit lingers over Antarctica. It's there she observes the expeditions led by Captains Scott and Shackleton.

The Ice Maiden is an unusual story. While the first half feels as if it's a woman's story of a desperate escape, the second seems to be a history of Antarctic exploration, as observed by a ghost. I did find myself researching the various Antarctic explorations and the men involved. Not quite what I expected when I received the book to review as a mystery.

Sara Sheridan's website is

The Ice Maiden by Sara Sheridan. Severn House, 2018. ISBN 9780727888204 (hardcover), 256p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Kitchen Yarns by Ann Hood

Ah, Ann Hood. I know she's written other books, and I've read other ones, but I identified with her
memoir/essay collection Morningstar: Growing Up with Books. Now, she has given us a memoir about another essential part of her life. Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food includes recipes, but it's a book about those moments in her life when those recipes were essential. Hood turns to food for comfort, in grief, in loss of a marriage, in joy. Her memoir is not in consecutive order. It's in order by memories of the heart.

No one in Ann Hood's family actually taught her to cook. Her grandmother, Mama Rose, didn't want anyone in her small kitchen. Hood's mother worked while her father was stationed at various places in the navy. It wasn't until she was an adult, working as a flight attendant, that she taught herself to cook with the help of various cookbooks. She turned herself into what she refers to as a "good home cook" by the time she was married and raising a family.

M.F.K. Fisher is quoted as saying, "Writing about food is really writing about love." That's exactly what Hood does in this latest book. Yes, she writes about her father's fried chicken, her grandmother's Italian cooking, the potatoes her children made. But, mixed in with those accounts are the stories of living with her grandmother while her father was gone, the loss of her daughter, Hood's divorce, her marriage to the man she loves (a man who knows and writes of food). She shares all of those stories with the reader, allowing us to glimpse her life, her grief, her love of food and family. 

I mentioned that I identified with Hood's book Morningstar. I don't share that same feeling with Kitchen Yarns. I'm not from an Italian family. My father wasn't career military. I didn't have any of the same career or marriage or family experiences Hood did. But, Ann Hood and I are the same age, and there are moments of familiarity when she talks of television or fads or books, and, even at times, food. There were moments when I teared up because of that familiarity.

Throughout the book, Hood mentions the authors who are touchstones of food writing, M.F.K. Fisher, Laurie Colwin, Ruth Reichl. Hood brings the reader into the "home" in home cooking, though. She says, "Each essay stands alone, but taken as a while, they make a life - mine." Hood's new book about family and home, loss and love, and food, "is really writing about love", and her book is a gift of love to every reader.

Ann Hood's website is

Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food by Ann Hood. W.W.Norton & Company, 2018. ISBN 9780393249507 (hardcover), 256p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, after I requested it.