Monday, April 30, 2018

See Also Proof by Larry D. Sweazy

Larry D. Sweazy's mysteries are gloomy and dark. He's a master at creating atmosphere. And, this time, in the latest Marjorie Trumaine mystery, See Also Proof, he has a North Dakota winter as background. It's perfect for a feeling of isolation and loneliness.

Marjorie Trumaine is feeling isolated and lonely. Despite the fact that her husband, Hank, was bedridden before his death in October, she misses the time and conversation and love they shared. A January winter is not easy, even though she has her job as a book indexer. And, right now, she has regular visits from the Ladies Aid group who bring food and check on her. Even so, she'd rather be alone with her border collie, Shep, and her memories.

As part of the community, though, Marjorie feels compelled to help when Tina Rinkerman, a mentally challenged girl, goes missing in a storm. She takes food to the family, but, eventually insists she be allowed to search. She accompanies the new sheriff Guy Reinhardt, and they're the ones who come across the body of the local manager of the Red Owl grocery. He's in his car, shot three times. Now, there's a new widow, and she's the mother of three, with a fourth on the way.

This is Reinhardt's first big test as sheriff. He has to juggle a murder investigation while looking for a missing girl. Marjorie is feeling useless, just asked to visit with the new widow. She knows her true strength is in organizing information, so she starts her own index of her knowledge of the cases. And, then she's asked to run an errand for the sheriff, one that will put her in danger, from man and the elements.

Larry D. Sweazy has a gift for creating a lead character, and dropping them into dangerous, dark situations. And, his use of language enhances the atmosphere and the characters. Marjorie knew the dead grocer. "I couldn't consider a world without Nils Jacobsen. I had known the man all my life...Now I knew Nils's story, beginning, middle, and end."

Marjorie Trumaine. She's much younger than you would guess from reading about her. She's only in her mid-thirties, but she knows she inherited her strengths from her parents; persistence, patience, backbone. Those are all traits needed to survive on the North Dakota prairie, as the wife, then caretaker, then widow, of a wheat farmer. Those are also the traits that provide the grit she needs to deal with the January prairie storms, and the attack by an unknown enemy who knows Marjorie may learn the truth.

Each of Sweazy's Marjorie Trumaine mysteries leads to the next, but you can still start with See Also Proof. The words and atmosphere and truth in this masterfully written mystery seep into your soul.

Larry D. Sweazy's website is www.larrydsweazy.com

See Also Proof by Larry D. Sweazy. Seventh Street Books, 2018. ISBN 9781633882799 (paperback),  250p.

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


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Tasting Paris by Clotilde Dusoulier

Look at the cover of Clotilde Dusoulier's Tasting Paris. Those are profiteroles, cream puffs filled with
ice cream and covered with chocolate. I had them in Paris, and they are to die for. Some of the other ninety-nine dishes in Dusoulier's book are too. Her book is subtitled "100 Recipes to Eat Like a Local". It's a magic escape book, filled with photos of Paris, stories about the food and the city. It's a luscious book.

Yes, there are recipes in the book. But, Dusoulier tells readers or travelers what restaurants or bakeries first served various types of foods so those of us who go to Paris for the food can find it. And, she mentions a few places I've been to in Paris, including Angelina's. There's a photo of Cafe St. Regis, where we had drinks. And, she takes readers to different parts of the city, different greenmarkets, bars, bistros.

If you're looking for fresh food, "Every neighborhood in Paris centers on a bustling market street that offers a high concentration of specialist food shops: bakeries, butcher shops, fish stalls, cheese shops, charcuteries, wine shops, delis, pastry and chocolate shops, tea and spice shops..."

Gorgeous photos. One hundred recipes for those of you who cook. Stories of restaurants and bakeries for those of us who love to eat. I'm ready to go back to Paris thanks to Dusoulier's Tasting Paris.

Clotilde Dusoulier's website is cnz.to. You can sign up for her newsletter there, and you can sign up for a private walking tour if you're going to be in Paris!

Tasting Paris by Clotilde Dusoulier. Clarkson Potter, 2018. ISBN 9780451499141 (hardcover), 256p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I'll admit I bought this book to give as a gift, but read it first. (smile)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Agatha Award Winners

Congratulations to this year's Agatha Award winners. The nominees are voted on by the attendees at Malice Domestic. The awards were announced on Saturday night. Named after Agatha Christie, the winners represent traditional mysteries. These books were originally published in the U.S. in 2017.

The winners are:

Best Children's/YA - Sydney Mackenzie Knocks 'Em Dead by Cindy Callaghan

Best Short Story - "The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn" by Gigi Pandian

Best Nonfiction - From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon by Mattias Bostrom

Best First Novel - Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

Best Historical Novel - In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

Best Contemporary Novel - Glass Houses by Louse Penny


Bottom Feeders by John Shepphird

John Shepphird's debut novel, Bottom Feeders, is for those readers who enjoyed Gina Wohlsdorf's Security. It's a violent, gory novel that reads as if it were a screenplay for a horror movie. Who is targeting the cast and crew of a small budget Western?

Eddie Lyons is an out-of-work TV director who jumps at the chance to be part of a quick turnaround, made-for-cable film. Sheila, hired as the assistant cameraperson, cynically recognizes that everyone involved with the production, including herself, is a bottom feeder. "The crews working these flat-rate, take-it-or-leave-it indie quickies made up what she referred to as the bottom feeders of the industry." They all needed jobs. She needed the money to scrape together a rental deposit after she found her roommate in bed with her boyfriend when Sheila returned home after her mother died.

And, no one was easy to work with. The producer was cheap. Sheila had slept with Eddie, and regretted it, after the last movie. One of the animal handlers wanted to use his snakes on the job. The star brought her own team of stylists, and picked the actor to star as the villain. Everyone was there with an agenda.

But, someone has a larger agenda. The first murder had nothing to do with the movie, but when someone hits the camera truck with a metal-tipped arrow, the local sheriff's deputy recognizes the method. And, deaths quickly escalate. If the killer can't hit the victim with an arrow, a slit throat will do. Or, the set can be burned out to make the targets flee right into the killer's trap.

The violence escalates in Bottom Feeders until the reader realizes almost the entire dislikable cast will be wiped out. It's reminiscent of the horror movies in which the players should be warned not to step out of the trailer, or don't separate from the others. Too late! Someone is going to die.

I had problems with the book, other than the unlikable characters. The solution wasn't very credible. I questioned one of the author's pet phrases used for describing a character, but if I mention it, I could reveal the killer. But, I'm not a fan of slasher films. Those readers who enjoy that kind of book and movie may enjoy Bottom Feeders.

John Shepphird's website is www.johnshepphird.com

Bottom Feeders by John Shepphird. Blackstone Publishing, 2018. ISBN 9781538469200 (paperback), 238p.

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


Friday, April 27, 2018

Winners and an Exotic Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. A Crime of Poison is going to Marilyn W. of Sheffield, AL. I had two copies of The Purloined Puzzle. They're going to Donna B. from Garnet Valley, PA and Glen D. of Yuba City, CA. They're going out in the mail today.

These week, I'm offering mysteries with exotic settings. You can "travel" to Italy with David P. Wagner's A Funeral in Mantova. Rick Montoya, a self-employed translator in Italy is working for an American, Angelo Rondini, who has been invited to his cousin's funeral. But, the local cop, Inspector Crespi, asks Rick to work undercover in the murder investigation. Of course, Rondini wants them to discover his cousin's murderer. This is an atmospheric mystery, filled with glorious food and scenery.





Or, you can visit Greece in Jeffrey Siger's latest Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery, An Aegean April. The island of Lesvos has become a flashpoint for the refugee crisis. But, it also becomes the center of a murder investigation when the patriarch of a shipping clan, a man with an idea to relieve the issue, is assassinated. And, a local aid worker, a refugee himself, is found at the crime scene. But, the American in charge of the NGO pushes Kaldis to investigate. This is a powerful, riveting story.





Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win A Funeral in Mantova" or "Win An Aegean April." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, May 3 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What Are You Reading?

Let's talk about what we're reading this week, or in my case, not only what I'm reading, but what I bought and hope to read.

I bought two books recently. I'm reading Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution by Todd S. Purdum. You won't see a review for quite a while. The book has 400 pages and I only read it in between mysteries that I've reviewing. But, this one hits home for my love of Broadway, musical theater, and biography. So, someday I may finish it.

I also bought a book that I could have read from the library. In fact, I checked it out once, and realized there were too many people waiting for it, so I returned it. Then, with yesterday's arrest of a suspect accused of being the "Golden State Killer", I just went ahead and ordered I'll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. I know the holds list is only going to get longer on that one.

What are you reading or listening to this week? I hope you've found something of interest.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Ten Year Stretch edited by Martin Edwards and Adrian Muller

Ten Year Stretch is a crime fiction anthology to commemorate the tenth anniversary of CrimeFest in Bristol, England. Peter James wrote the foreword. Martin Edwards and Adrian Muller edited it. Edwards writes the introduction about the authors and Muller writes the afterword to tell the history of the convention. And, there's a stellar list of authors who contributed original short stories to the collection.

I really could just say if you like crime fiction you should be familiar with these authors. Twenty writers offered new stories, and donated all the royalties to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). Check out the roster: Bill Beverly, Simon Brett, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Jeffrey Deaver, Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis, Peter Guttridge, Sophie Hannah, John Harvey, Mick Herron, Donna Moore, Caro Ramsay, Ian Rankin, James Sallis, Zoe Sharp, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Maj Sjowall, Michael Stanley, Andrew Taylor. Maj Sjowall, with her partner Per Wahloo, originated what we call Scandinavian noir, but hasn't written a novel in forty years. Her story, "Long Time No See", is translated for this collection.

As expected, all of the stories were intriguing. Peter Guttridge's "Normal Rules Do No Apply" is set at CrimeFest where an author is killed. Other authors appear as characters in the story. Ian Rankin brings back a retired Rebus. Deaver's "Blind Date" was a creepy story. Simon Brett's mystery was nostaligic. "The Last Locked Room" is a tribute to locked room mysteries, and a retired policeman investigates a mystery his grandfather left him. But, it's Yrsa Sigurdardottir's "Road Trip" that was terrifying, although the entire story takes place in and around a car.

This is a collection that's of the highest quality. Ten Year Stretch is an anthology that really belongs in every crime fiction reader's collection.

Ten Year Stretch edited by Martin Edwards and Adria Muller. Poisoned Pen Press, 2018. ISBN 9781464210549 (paperback), 366p.

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


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Claws for Concern by Miranda James

It's always a pleasure to return to Mississippi to the world of Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel. Although Charlie gets involved in murder investigations, he's grounded with his job, his family, and good friends. It was time to pick up Miranda James' latest, Claws for Concern.

Charlie's too caught up in his new role of grandfather to be interested when an author wants to talk to him. But, Jack Pemberton does try to smooth the way, in traditional Mississippi fashion. One of Jack's friends is also a friend of the Ducote sisters, and she encourages Charlie to listen to the author. Jack is a true crime writer who is interested in telling some of Charlie's stories. As a southern gentleman, though, Charlie doesn't feel right talking about himself or putting himself forward.

The highlight of Charlie and Diesel's lives right now is the new grandbaby, Charlie. When his grandson's scheduled for a visit, Charlie's impatient to leave his volunteer job at the Athena Public Library. He still notices the stranger in the library, a man he'd started seeing in the last week. When the man finally gets around to asking for help, he finds an address in an old phone directory, and stuns Charlie when he asks if Charlie's Uncle Del is still around. When there seems to be a family connection, Charlie's interested in Bill Delaney's story.

But, Jack Pemberton has a warning for Charlie. It seems Bill was once involved in a shocking murder case. Instead of welcoming Delaney into the family home, or writing with Jack Pemberton, Charlie finds himself investigating a twenty-year-old case, teamed up with Pemberton. This case has family written all over it.

Yes, Charlie's latest case is intriguing. I'm always a fan of cold cases. It's fascinating to watch the sleuth dig into the past and try to put the puzzle together. But, the real reason I return to the Cat in the Stacks mysteries? It's Charlie and his world. It's a pleasure to read about a mature sleuth with a family he loves. They've had problems at times. And, Charlie's work life hasn't always been easy. But, he's a gentleman who loves his community, friends, and family. And, James makes this such an essential part of every story. It's a joy to return to a world where two charming males, Charlie and Diesel, enjoy their lives.

The website for this series is http://www.catinthestacks.com

Claws for Concern by Miranda James. Berkley Prime Crime, 2018. ISBN 9780425277782 (hardcover), 277p.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The War Bride's Scrapbook by Caroline Preston

Caroline Preston, author of Jackie by Josie, takes a unique look at a World War II marriage in the fascinating "novel in pictures", The War Bride's Scrapbook. Using historic pictures and captions, clipped art and illustrations, she tells the story of a couple who met and married quickly during the war, and the follow-up when the man came home. It's a sad story, but very revealing of the times and attitudes.

Two adult women correspond after one finds a scrapbook in a suitcase in their mother's closet. They had never seen the scrapbook, and the story it reveals is not one that they had ever heard nor understood. The scrapbook is divided into four sections, "Life Before Perry - 1921-1943", "Our Romance - 1943", "Life Without Perry - 1943-1945", and "Homecoming - 1945". The scrapbook ends there. Fortunately, the daughters reveal the story's ending.

Lila Louise Jerome graduated from Sweet Briar College in Virginia, but failed to graduate with the "Mrs." her parents hoped she would achieve. She was fascinated by architecture, but women couldn't get an architecture degree in Virginia at the time. So, after graduation she worked for her father in the insurance business, and, once the U.S. entered the war, she worked for the University of Virginia running the Bond Drive office. Then, she met Perry Weld for the second time, when her roommate left. She advertised for a roommate and Perry answered. He was a sergeant, a combat engineer getting ready to go overseas. He'd graduated with a degree in architecture, so they shared an interest. Fifteen days later they were married in what was called "a furlough wedding". And, when Perry was sent for training, and then overseas, Lila Weld put together a scrapbook, a keepsake for when "a husband returns home".

What happens when a man comes home, a husband that you only knew for a month before he left? What happens when the man comes home injured, no longer the man you married? This marriage, and Lila Louise Jerome's experiences were unusual. And, her daughters questioned why Lila and Perry didn't divorce. It's a fascinating question, and Lila's future is revealed only in her obituary years after the war.

Preston's book brings the war years and this marriage to life, using all the little details of the scrapbook. It's a unique way to tell a story. And, it works so well. It's a moving book, with a powerful ending with that obituary. Preston, an archivist who has collected historic scrapbooks for years, puts them to excellent use in this unusual story.

Caroline Preston's website is www.carolinepreston.com

The War Bride's Scrapbook by Caroline Preston. HarperCollins, 2017. ISBN 9780061966927 (hardcover), 223p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday Reading Corner & Promises, Promises

Today's Sunday Reading Corner, Promises, Promises, isn't quite what I would have hoped. It's been a while since Jinx was in a video chat, and he was a little too eager. But, here it is.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Antique Blues by Jane K. Cleland

I have to admit that I read so many mysteries that, over the years, I've dropped some series that I used to enjoy. They no longer seem fresh or the characters haven't changed. But, I always look forward to the next Josie Prescott Antiques mystery. Author Jane K. Cleland continues to explore the antiques and art world. Best of all, Josie Prescott continues to evolve while her friendships and loyalties remain steadfast. Fans of Josie and her world will enjoy Antique Blues, and welcome the heartwarming ending.

Josie and her fiancé, Ty Alvarez, are at a party for Mo Shannon when Josie overhears a troubling conversation. Mo's parents fear Cal Lewis, boyfriend of Mo's sister, Lydia, may be abusing her. Josie's suspicions are aroused even more when Mo asks Josie to appraise her newly acquired Japanese woodblock print. Cal sold it to her, and he protests that it's not worth appraising for insurance purposes. Then, Mo is murdered, and Cal disappears on the same day.

Naturally, Josie offers assistance to her friend, Police Chief Ellis Hunter. She's the one with the knowledge and staff who can work on tracing the history of the Japanese piece. It may provide a reason for murder. Josie also knows Mo's family and some of her friends.

Although the Shannons are in mourning, Mo's father, Frank, shows up at Josie's, and asks her to appraise a Martin guitar he owns, but he can only provide vague details as to its history. While tracing the provenance, Josie begins to add some of Frank's own story to the account of Mo's murder.

There are so many reasons I appreciate Jane K. Cleland's mysteries. Although Josie does have one tstl moment in this book (too stupid to live), that's an exception in this story. Josie respects her relationship with Police Chief Hunter, and she shares her knowledge and her suppositions with him. At times, he's able to shoot down her ideas. Cleland does not treat the police as idiots. It's only Josie's specialized knowledge that allows her to find clues the police might not discover.

The hunt for information about the antiques and art is fascinating. Cleland involves Josie's staff. Josie isn't the only one who works on these searches. Her staff knows experts, calls and communicates with them, and passes information on to Josie. She doesn't work in a vacuum. The information about the Japanese art work and the Martin guitar comes as a result of teamwork.

And, Cleland has one strong point going for her, from my point of view. Once Josie began to date Ty Alvarez, the two remain a couple. There is no romantic triangle, no cheating. That romantic triangle element that lasts forever in some cozy series is one of my pet peeves. It's a pleasure to see the strength, the humor, and the love in the relationship between Josie and Ty. And, it's a relationship supported by a close-knit group of friends.

Josie Prescott has grown over the course of the series. She embodies, and believes, that people change. "We get better. Stronger. More capable. At least, we do if we want to." Josie Prescott has grown, personally and professionally, over the years. Antique Blues is the perfect example of Josie's growth, culminating in a wonderful ending for those of us who have followed the series.

Jane K. Cleland's website is www.JaneCleland.net

Antiques Blues by Jane K. Cleland. St. Martin's Minotaur. 2018. ISBN 9781250148742 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Winners and "P" = Murder Mystery

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Lisa W. from Rochester, IN won the copy of Becky Masterman's A Twist of the Knife. Rattlesnake Hill by Leslie Wheeler will go to Sally S. from Antioch, CA. The books will go out in the mail today.

Today, murder mysteries deal with poison and puzzles. I have a copy of Parnell Hall's latest Puzzle Lady mystery, The Purloined Puzzle. Amateur sleuth and crossword expert Cora Felton is asked to solve a puzzle, only to find that it's been stolen, and a murder weapon, a blood-stained knife, is found in its place. And, Cora's least favorite ex-husband is in town pulling a real estate scam. And, he may have purchased the knife.






A Crime of Poison by Nancy Haddock is a Silver Six Crafting mystery. The Silver Six are known for their arts and crafts. Every business along the town square in Lilyvale, Arkansas will benefit from the Fall Folk Art Festival and Bake Sale. That includes Nixy's store run by her and the Silver Six, a group of retirees. But, when a local troublemaker is found dead, two members of the Silver Six are accused of cooking up a murder plot. Nixy and the group don't want their group reduced, so they have to find a killer.





Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win The Purloined Puzzle" or "Win A Crime of Poison." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 26 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

What Are You Reading?

I just discovered a new mystery series that fits my interests. Cora Harrison's Reverend Mother mysteries are set in Cork, Ireland in the 1920s, not long after the Easter Rising of 1916. The series contains politics, social and cultural issues. But, at least in the one I read, it's also a straightforward traditional mystery with the Reverend Mother of the convent St. Mary's of the Isle as the amateur sleuth. She's a woman with a deep understanding of people. I've just started the first in the series, after reading the latest for a review. The first book is A Shameful Murder.

What are you reading or listening to this week? Anything that particularly piques your interest? We'd love to know!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Have You Heard? Killer Insight by Victoria Laurie

Today is my review deadline, which I will make, but that means I didn't read anything else last night. So, I'm glad Sandie Herron wrote a review of the audio book of Victoria Laurie's Killer Insight. Thank you, Sandie.


Killer Insight                                        
Killer Insight: Psychic Eye Mysteries, Book 4 | [Victoria Laurie]Series: Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye #4
Written by: Victoria Laurie
Narrated by: Elizabeth Michaels
Unabridged Audiobook
Length: 9 hrs and 18 mins 
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: 03-02-10
ASIN: B003AOVPCA
**** stars

Abby Cooper, psychic intuitive, has been dating FBI agent Dutch Rivers for many months.  That they love each other is clear, and so is the fact that they are both stubborn.  They end up in a fight with many misunderstandings, and Abby takes it to mean they've broken up!
           
An old friend of hers is getting married, and one of her bridesmaids went missing several days ago, so she asks Abby to be her attendant.  With a desire to “get out of Dodge,” Abby agrees and hops on a plane bound for her old neighborhood in mile high Colorado.  Her visit is anything but pleasurable though.  From the moment she arrives, she joins with the group of old friends and tries to find the missing bridesmaid.  However, Abby's usually clear visions are quite foggy.  That is compounded by dealing with the high altitude, a different environment, and so many close friends, including ex-boyfriend Duffy McGinnis, now the town sheriff.  He is still handsome, charming, and seductive.  Believing she is single and unattached, Abby flirts back with Duffy.

Friends keep disappearing one by one.  They find one woman outside a shack, shot in the center of her chest three times.  There was no way she would have survived that wound.  The shooter must have either been clumsy or the victim of a set up because they find one man's wallet outside the shack by the victim, looking just like evidence. I found the audiobook so compelling.  It puts the story in your face and fills your senses so you, as the reader, are almost another character in the story who observes everything.

From the beginning of the book, Abby states that she died; that's no spoiler.  She does get to the scene of another killing just at the right time for the killer, someone she knows and is shocked to see with the gun in her hands, to shoot Abby in the chest.  Abby meets with her deceased grandmother who takes her on a tour of her life via pictures so she can know the ramifications of staying in what is perceived as Heaven, or she can know how many people she will help if she returns to Earth.


You will need to read this tense psychic thriller among friends to get the full story and see if you can figure out "whodunit" before the author reveals that fact and to find out what happens to the killer next.  Is there ever a wedding?

Each book in the Abby Cooper series is a bit better than the last, and this is no exception.  This book took "normal" thriller circumstances and tips them on their ear.  Everything is a bit off kilter, or a lot in many areas.  You will enjoy tracing the abundant clues and chasing down a murderer.  I am not the least bit worried about running out of Victoria Laurie mysteries.  Don't miss any highly recommended Abby Cooper mystery. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Shot in the Dark by Cleo Coyle

The seventeenth Coffehouse Mystery by Cleo Coyle, Shot in the Dark, was one of my favorites. It's timely, and the authors are acutely aware of the relevance of social media in our daily lives. Fortunately, Sandie Herron enjoyed the book, too, because she had already signed on to review the book. Today is release day for Shot in the Dark. Thank you, Sandie.


SHOT IN THE DARK
By Cleo Coyle
Berkley Prime Crime, April 17, 2018

The Village Blend coffee shop has a new distinction – best hookup hot spot.  A new dating app has smartphone users swiping at possible dates faster than Clare Cosi and her baristas can keep the coffee flowing.  Clare’s ex-husband Matt fills them all in on the finer points of the Cinder app where Cinder-ellas meet Cinder-fellas.  Special ring tones signal when a candidate arrives in the man’s pumpkin box, and it is up to him to take the chance by swiping right or rejecting the young maiden by swiping left.  All the presenting and choosing are done quickly, making way for a new round of candidates.  Once the decision to meet occurs, much of the in-person side of dating takes place in public places, like the coffee house we all love.



One evening shots sound at The Village Blend.  While everyone ducks, Clare springs to action and climbs to the second floor lounge.  A young woman has a gun pointed at a man cowering in his seat.  She is spewing the sordid details of their Cinder love match gone terribly wrong.  Clare talks her down just as police arrive.  The publicity kicks in just as quickly as nine different videos of the event go viral, turning this hot spot into a dead spot.

Before Clare can turn her thoughts to how to recapture her audience, she meets her former mother-in-law Madame for a late dinner, saving her from abandonment from her own over-65 dating service beau.  Clare can’t avoid further trouble when she sees a dead woman floating in the Hudson River.  The floater turns out to be an executive from Cinder!

As their way of fighting back against the bad publicity, the entire Cinder staff cooks up an event to be held at The Village Blend with an audience of paid party goers to guarantee excellent attendance.  While Clare agrees to the stunt, she cooks up her own side event.  She has a picture drawn of the offending male and passed from barista to barista so they all know who to look out for.  Then she fires up her own cell phone to join Cinder and hunt him down herself.



A series of rowdy events full of mischief and mayhem follows, events not to be missed in the history of The Village Blend coffee house.  Barista Esther hosts a poetry slam in the second floor lounge that is wildly popular.  The crowd spills onto the outside sidewalk.  Thanks to Cinder’s initiative, The Village Blend is back in business.  But more occurs at this party to beat all parties than meets the eye.  One very dead body sends Clare down a new avenue of espionage, betrayal, and undercover acts that undermine several companies and individuals. A possible new suspect is found when Clare pieces together many of the new clues. 

I enjoyed the build up to the big comeback party when it seemed everything took off in many directions.  Clare was determined to find who put the woman in the Hudson River and make sure he was punished.  In doing so, she becomes entangled in discovering several corporate crimes.  She takes dangerous chances to track down a killer.  Many people become involved in the treachery that is uncovered, and I admire Clare’s persistence. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this 17th entry in the entertaining Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle (real life husband and wife team Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini).  It began with an event that caught my attention and touched a note in my own life so I was invested in following along on Clare’s quest to find several criminals.  I was glued to the pages when we came to the conclusion that was complex yet well explained.  An excellent choice in reading. 

*****
Cleo Coyle's website is http://www.coffeehousemystery.com/

Shot in the Dark by Cleo Coyle. Penguin, 2018. ISBN 9780451488848 (hardcover), 352p.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Shimmer of Hummingbirds by Steve Burrows

It takes a little time to figure out what's happening in Steve Burrows' fourth Birder Murder Mystery, A Shimmer of Hummingbirds. I hadn't read the previous books in the series, so I don't know the relationships. Burrows won the 2015 Arthur Ellis Award for his first book, A Siege of Bitterns. The author, and his character, Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune, have both followed their passion for birdwatching.

Jejeune is in Colombia, although his boss doesn't believe he's really there to watch birds. The detective's brother has disappeared after he was involved in the deaths of four indigenous people. Jejeune is actually passionate about this birding trip, where he meets up with an old friend. But, of course, he's also looking for answers in the rainforest.

While Jejeune is gone, his nemesis, Marvin Laraby, takes over and steamrolls a murder investigation that involves a team of investors. But, the team keeps in touch with their boss, and Jejeune realizes Laraby is blundering toward the wrong solution.

Armchair travelers will enjoy the descriptions of the Colombian rainforest and the Norfolk forest. Fans of British police procedurals will appreciate the details of the investigation. I'll admit I wasn't as interested in the bird watching aspects of the book as in other elements. And, I'd advise readers to start with the first in the series. Since I haven't read the earlier books, I can't comment about the continuing storylines and characters. But, Burrows hints at ongoing problems at the conclusion of A Shimmer of Hummingbirds.

Steve Burrows' website is www.abirdermurder.com

A Shimmer of Hummingbirds by Steve Burrows. Point Blank, 2018. ISBN 9781786072337 (paperback), 384p.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

Lisa Genova is known for her fiction that involves people whose lives are changed by diseases that affect the brain - Alzheimer's, left neglect brain disorder, autism, Huntington's disease. Now, she takes on ALS with Every Note Played. While the progression of the disease is explained completely, there's a few issues with her characters.

This is the story of a divorced couple, Richard and Karina. They're forty-five, and met in college where they were both studying piano. Karina came from Poland, and, while in school, she was the more accomplished pianist. By the time of the story, Richard is world-renowned as a classical pianist.  Now that their daughter, Grace, is in college, Karina lives alone, giving piano lessons in the house in Boston where they moved early in their marriage. It's at a party that Karina learns Richard has cancelled his latest tour because he has ALS.

Viewpoints alternate as the reader learns about the progression of Richard's disease through his eyes, and through Karina's. When she's in town, and he accidentally calls her in an emergency, they both realize he has reached a stage where he needs more attention than he's getting in his condo. Karina offers to have him move back in, and she becomes his primary caregiver.

Did you notice the unemotional way I summarized Every Note Played? That's one of the two problems with the book. Every Note Played is very unemotional. It's interesting to see the progression of ALS. But, it's hard for the reader to care because the other problem is Richard. He's a selfish man, and there's very little reason to feel sorry for him. The characters lack emotion and depth in this story.

I loved Still Alice. I can't say I really enjoyed Every Note Played. It read like a textbook, rather than a novel. Interesting, yes. But, the characters were too cold, and it was hard to become emotionally involved in the book.

Lisa Genova's website is www.lisagenova.com

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova. Scout Press, 2018. ISBN 9781476717807 (hardcover), 307p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Cobra Clutch by A.J. Devlin

It's fun to read a debut author's first mystery. It's even more interesting when it's a book I never thought I'd pick up, but I discover I enjoyed the character and the story. In fact, I'll look forward to A.J. Devlin's followup to Cobra Clutch.

When "Hammerhead" Jed Ounstead retired from pro wrestling, he took a job as a bar bouncer. Occasionally, he helps his father, an ex-cop turned private detective, by running a few errands. He had no plans of becoming a detective, despite his father's hopes. But, when Jed's former tag-team wrestling partner shows up, Jed doesn't have much of a choice. He owes his successful career to Johnny Mamba.

Someone kidnapped Johnny's python, Ginger. He loves her, and he uses her in his entrance to the ring. He insists he can't wrestle without her. There's a ransom demand for Ginger. Jed agrees to look into it, but he doesn't make himself very welcome at the X-Treme Canadian Championship Wrestling building. But, before he can investigate further, Johnny Mamba and Ginger are murdered.

Now, it's more than a job. Despite the investigating officer who was his father's protege, Jed insists on looking for the killer. Jed involves his Uncle Declan, a former IRA operative turned bartender. But, he can only help so far. Jed's house is trashed. He's beaten up, kidnapped, and nearly shot to death. He finds himself involved not only with the pro wrestling world, but with a case involving drugs and bikers. But, "Hammerhead" was more than a nickname. Jed isn't going to quit.

Cobra Clutch is a fast-paced, action-packed, debut. The violence is graphic. There are traces of humor, usually provided by Declan. But, the angry, flawed sleuth is bold and competitive in this gritty original story. If you tried and liked Glen Erik Hamilton's Van Shaw novels, give this one a try.

A.J. Devlin's website is www.ajdevlin.com

Cobra Clutch by A.J. Devlin. NeWest Press, 2018. ISBN 9781988732244 (paperback), 270p.

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

Friday, April 13, 2018

Winners and the Deadly Female

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Plum Tea Crazy will go to Kimbrell S. from Spartanburg, SC. Amy W. from Spring Grove, IL won Hummus and Homicide. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away books written by "Deadly Females". The books also feature female main characters. Leslie Wheeler's Rattlesnake Hill takes Kathryn Stinson to the Berkshires where she's searching for a family story. But, these aren't the Berkshires everyone knows. The people of Rattlesnake Hill are suspicious, and they remember the woman who was murdered, the woman who lives in the same house where Kathryn now lives. And, then a passionate affair leads Kathryn into a collision with the past and present.





Becky Masterman's A Twist of the Knife takes former FBI agent Brigid Quinn to Florida. She doesn't go back to visit her family often, but her former partner, Laura Coleman, whose life she once saved and who saved her life, is also living in Florida. When Laura calls about a case that's not going well, Brigid gets on a plane. It's a story about family. Brigid's own family has secrets. And, Laura is trying to exonerate a man on death row for killing his family. If Creighton didn't kill his family, who did?





Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win Rattlesnake Hill" or "Win A Twist of the Knife." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 19 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

St. Louis Trip, April 2018

I consider the trip to St. Louis my birthday celebration. My best friend, Donna, and I worked a half day on Monday, April 9, and then headed to St. Louis. We have a simple routine to start us out. We eat a quick lunch at Subway, then plug in my GPS and my cell phone for music, and head out. When we're going to a show in the arts area near the Fox Theatre, we try to stay at Grand Center Inn, a bed-and-breakfast within walking distance of the theaters.

Grand Center Inn

We planned a quick dinner before our show, but a lot of the small restaurants are closed on Mondays because the Fox is dark on Monday. We ended up at a little grill, but it was just enough for a light dinner. And, it was the perfect place to meet up with Jayne, a friend from the Byrne & Kelly shows.

Monday night, Byrne & Kelly were performing at the Grandel Theatre. It was once the First Congregational Church, built in 1884. It was renovated in 2017 to be a center for local dance and theatre companies.


The Grandel

What's Byrne & Kelly? Neil Byrne and Ryan Kelly are Irish musicians, singers and performers who started out, and are still with, Celtic Thunder. But, they've been touring themselves for about five years, when Celtic Thunder is not performing. They're usually joined by Nicole Hudson on violin and Peter Sheridan on keyboard, but all four musicians can play multiple instruments. I've seen Neil play four or five.

This was the fourth time I've been to see Byrne & Kelly. There's a Meet-and-Greet, usually before the show. It costs extra, but it's nice to have a few minutes for a photo or an autograph. I have a couple photos from the Meet-and-Greet, and then pictures from the early part of the show. After that, I put the phone away, and just enjoyed the singing and music.

Left to right - Neil Byrne, me, Donna, Ryan Kelly

Neil Byrne, Me, Ryan Kelly
Peter Sheridan on keyboard

Nicole Hudson

Neil Byrne

Ryan Kelly

Byrne and Kelly

It's so nice to attend a performance, and walk down the block to the inn.

Tuesday morning, we had room service. We didn't ask for it, but I think we were the only two staying at the inn, so when we checked in, he asked if it was okay if he served room service the next morning. I think it was probably easier than setting up the dining room.




We had a leisurely morning because we were planning to go to Left Bank Books, and they didn't open until 10 a.m. We walked down to the corner so I could get several pictures, including the one of the "Nijinski Hare" by Barry Flanagan.



We had never been to Left Bank Books, but it was on our list of bookstores we wanted to get to someday. We spent at least an hour browsing, and, yes, buying, at the bookstore.

Sign in Left Hand Books


We took a short walk from the bookstore, and ended up at Hortense Street, a gated street. StLTourguide has an interesting article about this street. https://stltourguide.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/c-w-e-north/. I'm going to quote just the opening of her blog post about this street before I show you some photos of the houses there.


"No street in St. Louis better exemplifies the adage that “money can’t buy happiness” than Hortense Place, which runs between Euclid Ave. and Kingshighway Blvd. in the Central West End. Developed by cotton magnate and banker, Jacob Goldman, who was prevented from residing in other of the neighborhood’s exclusive places because he was Jewish."

Here are some of the houses on Hortense Place, including the one Goldman built and StLtourguide calls the castle.










That may have finished our St. Louis trip, but our day wasn't over. We drove back to Evansville, fed my cats, and went to McAllister's for a quick dinner before going to a movie. We went to see "The Leisure Seeker" with Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren. Moving movie. Powerful ending. But, there's no one I can recommend it to without giving away the ending. If you're interested, check out previews on IMDB.

Wonderful trip with a great traveling companion. Perfect birthday escape.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

What Are You Reading?

It's a day early for "What Are You Reading", but I was in St. Louis Monday night and Tuesday. Great trip, and I have lots of pictures to show you. So, I'll share those on Thursday's blog.

Instead, let's talk about what you're reading or listening to today. And, if you miss today's post, and want to talk on Thursday, I'm okay with that. It's always fun to talk books. (And, I went to a bookstore while I was gone, so I'll share that on Thursday.)

So, do you mind stepping into the gap? What are you reading or listening to? I'll share my trip on Thursday.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark

Becky Clark, the author of "funny mysteries with a dash of murder", launches a new series with Fiction Can Be Murder. But, humor isn't universal, and I found the ending absurd and the motivation improbable. However, I know others will enjoy Charlee Russo's search for a killer.

When literary agent Melinda Walter dies in a one-car accident, even Charlemagne "Charlee" Russo's boyfriend questions her. Charlee had been questioning her agent about her royalty checks. Now, Melinda is dead, killed with the methodology Charlee used in her latest manuscript. While the police question Charlee, the author panics. Is she also a potential murder victim? Who had access to her manuscript? By Charlee's reckoning, at least fifteen people could have read "Mercury Rising". That includes every member of her writing critique group.

Charlee knows where she was when Melinda Walter was killed, but it takes time to check alibis for all those other people. One by one, she eliminates them as suspects by taking chances, and even following people. But, something must be wrong with her answers. Charlee eventually finds she has no one left on the list. And, there's still a killer out there.

As I said, the humor in this particular mystery wasn't for me. While the author tried to inject humor in the form of Charlee's hand tremor as she constantly spilled coffee on herself, I found that sad. The members of the writing group were indistinguishable at times. In fact, by the time the killer was revealed, a person with an outlandish motivation, I couldn't even remember who the killer was.

Perhaps I've just been reading too many mysteries lately that are similar. The premise that a mystery author's story was used as a murder method just seemed too familiar to me, although I couldn't place it. I might have been thinking of Layton Green's Written in Blood in which crime scenes resembled famous crime scenes in literature. Close enough, but I don't know, and that's not a cozy, humorous mystery.

Saying all that, Fiction Can Be Murder launches a new humorous mystery series. We'll see where it goes.

Becky Clark's website is www.beckyclarkbooks.com

Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark. Midnight Ink, 2018. ISBN 9780738753324 (paperback), 312p.

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

Monday, April 09, 2018

Scot Free by Catriona McPherson

Multi-award-winning author Catriona McPherson starts her new humorous series off with a bang. Literally. Her character is hiding in a closet during fireworks in Scot Free. And, those fireworks explode in Lexy's life throughout the book.

Lexy Campbell followed her American boyfriend from Scotland to California. She married him, started a marriage counseling practice, and six months later, divorced the cheater, and is heading home. She has one last session before she leaves, with the sweet old Bombaros. But, it's the police who dig Lexy out of the closet where she's hiding on the Fourth of July. Mr. Bombaro is in the morgue. Mrs. Bombaro is in jail, under suspicion of blowing up her husband.

Lexy can't let that sweet old lady rot in jail. She cosigns for the bond, and then realizes she'll need to find the killer. Lexy's watched enough detective shows. But, she was heading back to Scotland, and now she needs a place to stay. The Last Ditch Motel is just down the street from the police station. And, the eccentric residents and owners are just the supportive friends Lexy needs in this time of crisis. It's just that there seems to be as many crises at the motel than in Mrs. Bombaro's life. Whether it's an invasion of bugs or an invasion of relatives, Lexy, with her language barrier, manages to confuse everything.

The cast of characters from the Last Ditch Motel make this mystery shine. They're larger-than-life, exaggerated, and, just wonderful. The book takes me back to the days of early Evanovich when exploding cars and the cast of characters was funny. McPherson introduces her own charming sleuth with a quirky group of friends in this new romp, Scot Free.

Catriona McPherson's website is www.catrionamcpherson.com

Scot Free: The Lighter Side of the Dark Underbelly of the California Dream by Catriona McPherson. Midnight Ink, 2018. ISBN 9780738753867 (paperback), 288p.

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

Sunday, April 08, 2018

A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks

If you like compelling historical mysteries that portray social and class inequities, you might want to try Mariah Fredericks' A Death of No Importance. Set during the Gilded Age, the story includes mining disasters, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the execution of an immigrant, anarchism, and murder. And, yet, the author manages to vividly describe the excesses of the rich as the story is told by a lady's maid, an orphan who came from the lower class, and served the upper class.

Jane Prescott looks back at 1910 in her account of what was considered a crime of the century. After the death of her first employee, Jane is hired by the nouveau riche Benchley family. She is to serve as the maid for Louise Benchley and her younger sister, Charlotte. Charlotte throws herself at Norrie Newsome, heir to a prominent family. The scandal provokes an ultimatum, and the couple's engagement is to be announced at the Newsomes' Christmas Eve party. Everyone is uneasy, and there is added security because Mr. Newsome has received threatening notes about his ownership of a mine where over 100 died, including children. When Jane finds Norrie's body in the library, she has multiple reasons to worry. Did Charlotte kill the man who had become inattentive? Or, if anarchists killed him, what did Charlotte's long-time friend know about the murder?

As New York scandal sheets comb through Charlotte's story, naming her as a suspect, Jane teams up with a newspaper reporter to search for stories in the Newsomes' past. Was Charlotte the only one with a reason to kill the Newsome heir?

A Death of No Importance is an eye-opening story that deals with the extremes of wealth and poverty, and the inequities in society. Jane Prescott is an observant sleuth who belongs to neither world. She's an orphan whose minister uncle housed prostitutes to try to give them a second chance. She has a friend, a young woman who is organizing unions and consorting with anarchists. Yet, she lives and works in the Benchley household. She appears to have a foot in both worlds, but, she actually belongs to neither. It makes her a perfect observer.

The mystery is an intricately plotted story that confronts social issues of the time. Fans of Alyssa Maxwell's Gilded Age mysteries may want to try this well-developed book.

Mariah Fredericks' website is https://www.mariahfredericksbooks.com/

A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks. Minotaur Books. 2018. ISBN 9781250152978 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Necessary Ends by Tina Whittle

Tina Whittle's Necessary Ends is called "A Tai Randolph Mystery". And, yes, Tai is in it, and she's essential as always. But, this is the story of her lover and partner, Trey Seaver. It's also the culmination of a story arc, a point that marks a change in the direction of this series, and a change for the characters themselves.

Tai Randolph owns an inherited gunshop in Atlanta, Georgia. Trey is an ex-cop, once a SWAT sniper. Following an accident in which there was damage to his frontal lobe, Seaver now works in corporate security. Then, an old case from his police days comes back, and Trey has to reevaluate his decisions.

Private investigator Finn Hudson shows up, saying there was a possible assassination attempt against Nicolas Talbot. Talbot was a hotshot Hollywood mogul who was the primary suspect in his wife's murder. Trey still thinks Talbot did it, but the murder remains unsolved. Now Talbot thinks Trey Seaver has the best reason and ability to want him dead. But, he wants to meet with Trey before accusing him publicly. It's at that meeting that Trey's ability to act as a human lie detector comes into play. Talbot insists he didn't kill his wife, and Trey believes him. Who really killed her, and who wants Nicolas Talbot dead? It's a case that takes Trey and Tai into the ridiculous world of filming a television show, and brings them all kinds of suspects.

Necessary Ends is a suspenseful, complex mystery featuring a pair of sleuths who are an awkward fit for life, but a perfect pair together. This intense, character-driven story marks growth and change for both damaged characters, Tai and Trey. The story is filled with complications and uncertainty. It's a mystery that should appeal to fans of Karin Slaughter.

This is the sixth book in the Tai Randolph series. Do yourself a favor. Go back and read the first one, The Dangerous Edge of Things. Why shouldn't you catch up with these two fascinating characters while you wait for the seventh book to come out?

Tina Whittle's website is www.tinawhittle.com

Necessary Ends by Tina Whittle. Poisoned Pen Press, 2018. ISBN 9781464209833 (hardcover), 318p.

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




Friday, April 06, 2018

Winners and a Cozy Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The copies of The Lemonade Year are both heading to California. Tricia J. of Solana Beach won a copy, as did Bonnie K. from Carmichael. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away two cozy mysteries. Laura Childs' Plum Tea Crazy is the latest in her Tea Shop Mystery series. Charleston Tea shop owner Theodosia Browning is at Timothy Neville's parade-watching party when local banker Carson Lanier tumbles over the widow walk railing. But, when Theodosia finds a bolt from a crossbow, the man's death is ruled a murder. The police want her to mind her own business, but Neville wants her to solve the case.





Do you want in on the launch of a new series? Hummus and Homicide is Tina Kashian's first Kebab Kitchen Mystery. Lucy Berberian is working at her family's Mediterranean restaurant, and she's enjoying the change from her career as a lawyer. She could do without the new health inspector, a mean girl from their high school years. But, when the woman dies right after eating at the Kebab Kitchen, Lucy's the number one suspect.






Which cozy mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win Plum Tea Crazy" or "Win Hummus and Homicide." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 12 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.