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.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

What Are You Reading?

You're going to have to help me out today. I'm not far enough into anything to claim that I'm reading it. We'll see what happens. I am taking a book back to the library. There are people waiting for it, and I just haven't had time. Short deadlines for April. Do you think I can get nine more books read in the next two weeks? Wish me luck.

Anyways, what are you reading? That's the important question. Let's talk about your books or audio books.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee

Abir Mukherjee follows up the success of his debut novel, A Rising Man, with another richly detailed mystery set in 1920s India. And, for all of us who didn't read the first mystery, there's no problem in picking up the story of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant "Surrender-Not" Banerjee. A Necessary Evil is a complex, fascinating story of a little-known culture.

Because Banerjee went to school in England with the son of the Maharajah of the wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore, the two are sent to meet with the Crown Prince. It was essential that Sambalpore agreed to join the Chamber of Princes in order to persuade the restless natives that the British government did listen to their demand for home rule. But, before Banerjee learns why his presence was requested, the Prince Adhir is assassinated in their presence. Now, the two are tasked with investigating the murder, while pretending to be in attendance only to attend the funeral.

The aging Maharajah of Sambalpore is the fifth richest man in India, and the lifestyles of his sons and wives reflect his wealth. While the new Crown Prince flirts with the woman that Wyndham admires, Sam does his best to see past his own prejudice when he has to investigate another murder. In this secretive world, lived behind walls that most Englishmen never see, the two officers discover power and rules that don't reflect British rule.

Captain Sam Wyndham is a complex man, the narrator of this fascinating story. He's an addict who lacks respect for anything. He's a forthright, brooding character, flawed and introspective. He works well with the quiet "Surrender-Not", who sometimes covers up for Wyndham. But, Sam is candid about his own flaws.

Mukherjee takes readers into a rich, atmospheric story. It's dramatic, with moments of humor, usually involving Wyndham. A Necessary Evil is an intricately plotted, elaborate mystery with a strong sense of place. If you're looking to read a complex story with a fascinating history and characters, try either of the books in this remarkable series.

Abir Mukherjee's website is www.abirmukherjee.com

A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee. Pegasus Books, 2018. ISBN 9781681776712 (hardcover), 384p.

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






Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Date with Malice by Julia Chapman

I'll date myself by saying the duo in this book will remind you of "Moonlighting". Julia Chapman's Date with Malice, the second in a series, is a suspenseful, humorous mystery set in the Yorkshire Dales community of Bruncliffe. You might not want to pack up as quickly as you'd pack to go to Louise Penny's Three Pines. The residents of Bruncliffe look at outsiders with a suspicious eye. But, there's a terrific bakery, and the townspeople support each other.

Some of them even support Samson O'Brien's Dales Detective Agency. The son of the town drunk returned home after a fourteen year absence. After his heroic deeds in saving several people, some of the townspeople even hire him. Alice Shepherd, a senior living at Fellside Court, an independent living facility, suspects someone is watching her, and plans to kill her. But, her interview is interrupted when a local farmer bursts in to announce his prize-winning ram is missing. In Bruncliffe, a ram means a farmer's livelihood. And, Alice is getting forgetful. So, Samson's priority is the missing animal. Then, Alice Shepherd dies.

Now, which investigation warrants more attention? While Samson is uneasy about Alice's death, no one has proof it was any more than any accident. While he looks for the missing ram, he also continues to pay attention to the worried seniors. Samson's own father is a resident there, but he isn't worried. And, then there's another accident.

Samson teams up with Delilah Metcalfe, sister of his dead best friend, his landlady, and owner of the Dales Dating Agency. Delilah still knows all the people and the local area, while Samson has been away too long. Despite their banter and their ongoing rivalry, the two care for the people in the community. If someone is killing off seniors, they want to stop it. And, about that missing ram...

Date with Malice is a delightful follow-up to Date with Death. The atmospheric mystery has a strong sense of place with the description of the Dales. But, it's the characters that shine. The relationship between Samson and Delilah is humorous. They're likable, appealing characters. In this book, the seniors are spirited assistants in the investigation. And, the family relationships are important.

Well-developed, interesting characters? Check. Strong sense of place? Check. Intriguing mystery storylines and ongoing suspense? Oh, yes. Who knows what's going to happen in the future stories in this series? Take a chance on the mystery, romance, and humor in Date with Malice.


Julia Chapman's website is www.jstagg.com

Date with Malice by Julia Chapman. St. Martin's Minotaur. 2018. ISBN 9781250109385 (hardcover), 300p.

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



Monday, April 02, 2018

Hard Aground by Brendan DuBois

While Hard Aground is Brendan DuBois' eleventh Lewis Cole mystery, it's the first I've read. And, I wish I had read more of them about this intriguing character. While the back jacket mentions "Rear Window", I can think of a couple books that have similar characteristics. More later.

Lewis Cole is retired and writes freelance pieces for magazines. But, right now, he's laid up, recuperating from recent surgery to remove several tumors. While he waits to learn if they're malignant or benign, He's stuck in his Tyler Beach home. And, he's reliant on friends to help him change his medical drains. His lover, Paula Quinn, is assistant editor of the Tyler Chronicle. When she's not covering stories, she's home with Lewis. Or, there's his friend, former Boston mobster Felix Tinios. Even a local police officer, Diane Woods, helps now and then. But, it's hard for Lewis to get his mind off his surgery and the people who were lost years earlier to a biowarfare experiment.

When his neighbor, antiques dealer Maggie Tyler Branch is murdered, Lewis has something else to occupy his mind. Someone killed her with a shotgun, and Woods loses her case to the state. New Hampshire is in the middle of the opioid crisis, and there are hints that Maggie's murder may be part of that problem. Felix has a few clues for Lewis. And, it doesn't hurt for Cole to do research online.

This is a case that haunts Lewis. It doesn't help that two amateur genealogists want to get into his house. There are memories all around him, and he swears someone is in his house at night. And, it's not just the ghost of the woman who was the love of his life. Suddenly, Lewis' house and the locations around it seem to be ground zero for all of the investigations and local mysteries. "History. Here in this part of the world, it's all around us. But beware of what you look for, or what you dig up. You might just be goddamned surprised."

It's a case that taunts Lewis Cole, and leaves him trapped in his house while everyone seems to want in. It's a story that reminds me of several others with sleuths who were trapped, and had only their minds to investigate a case. I thought of Laura Lippman's The Girl in the Green Raincoat and, of course, Josephine Tey's classic The Daughter of Time. Brendan DuBois' Hard Aground is in good company.

Lewis Cole is an intriguing character with a past that is sobering when you read about it. He's a man who doesn't consider himself a writer, but a "snoop". He has an unusual small group of friends. The menacing atmosphere in Hard Aground makes for a fascinating book, with quite an ending.

Brendan DuBois' website is www.BrendanDuBois.com

Hard Aground by Brendan DuBois. Pegasus Crime, 2018. ISBN 9781681776521 (hardcover), 224p.

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


Sunday, April 01, 2018

May Treasures in My Closet

I know it's Easter Sunday, but there's a full box of May releases to talk about. And, the review schedule is so full of April books, that we have to do this today or there's no time in the schedule. So, catch up when you can, but I have quite a list for you.

I'm a fan of Kate Ellis' Wesley Peterson mysteries, so I immediately thought of that series when I read Rebecca Alexander's A Baby's Bones. Others may think of Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway books. Archaeologist Sage Westfield is supervising the excavation of a sixteenth-century well when her team recovers bones, the bones of a baby and an adult. The account of a cold case four hundred years earlier links with a contemporary murder and discovery of a body. (Release date is May 1.)





The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews is the story of two groups of women on Talisa Island, Georgia. In 1941, four young women bury a body on the island. Almost eighty years later, the owner of the island summons the heirs of those women. When the owner dies, this new generation join together to find the secrets of the past. (Release date is May 8.)







Maymee Bell launches the Southern Cake Baker Mystery series with Cake & Punishment. Pastry chef Sophia Cummings is back home in Rumford, Kentucky. She insists it's only temporary because she broke up with her boyfriend, but she agrees to bake the wedding cake for her best friend from high school. Then, the chef at the country club where the wedding is to be held is murdered, and Sophia steps up to replace the chef, bake the cake, and try to save the wedding by finding the real killer. (Release date is May 6.)





Fall of Angels is the first in Barbara Cleverly's new historical series, Detective Inspector Redfyre Investigates. Back from four years in the trenches in World War I, Redfyre is in attendance at a concert when a female trumpet player plunges down a flight of stairs. Is someone angry at a woman's nerve in performing in public, or is this part of a larger campaign to attack women who want greater roles for women in post-war England? (Release date is May 15.)






In the fourth Sam Clair mystery, A Howl of Wolves, Judith Flanders sends her amateur sleuth to the theater. Samantha and her boyfriend, a Scotland Yard detective, go to support Sam's upstairs neighbor. But, when the curtain opens for the second act, the hanging body isn't a dummy. It's the director of the production. The show must go on, but a killer needs to be caught. (Release date is May 15.)






Amanda Flower kicks off the Magic Garden mystery series with Flowers and Foul Play. Fiona Knox lost her fiancé and her flower shop, but when she flies to Scotland after she inherits her godfather's cottage and possibly a magical walled garden, she may lose her life when she's swept into a murder investigation. (Release date is May 8.)







Southern private investigator Sarah Booth Delaney has an unusual case in Charmed Bones by Carolyn Haines. When she's called to a school board meeting, she wasn't expecting to face three Wiccan sisters who want to open a Wiccan school. She's enlisted to find the real reason they came to town, but before she gets far, the sisters' landlord is murdered, and all evidence points to the Wiccan sisters. (Release date is May 15.)







Catherine Isaac's You Me Everything is a summer vacation in the French countryside for readers. Just months after she gave birth to their son, Laura left her boyfriend, Adam, because she was sick of his lies and his complete lack of interest in fatherhood. Adam moved to France to follow his dreams, unencumbered by a child he never wanted. But, ten years later when Laura's mother is in a nursing home, she forces her to recognize that William needs his father in his life. So, Laura and ten-year-old William set off to spend the summer in France. Laura's mission? To make Adam fall in love with his own son. (Release date is May 1.)



In Linda O. Johnston's Pick and Chews, Carrie Kennersly, a technician for a local vet and owner of the Barkery & Biscuits dog bakery is caught up in murder when her boyfriend, veterinarian Dr. Reed Storme is accused of killing a former veterinary colleague who was trying to compete with him. Now, he's a little more amenable to the amateur sleuth digging for clues. (Release date is May 8.)






Jenny Milchman brings us Wicked River. Honeymooners Doug and Natalie Larson want to start their lives together, on their own in the six million acres of Adirondack forest, separated from civilization. But, just as they start to explore, it becomes clear they are not alone in the woods. As they struggle with the worst the wilderness has to offer, a man watches them, wielding the forest like a weapon. (Release date is May 1.)






Film rights have already been sold for Aimee Molloy's The Perfect Mother. Set among a new mothers' group in Brooklyn, the novel centers on an infant abduction that upends the lives of the women in the group. The story of betrayals, lies, and the pressures of modern motherhood, takes place in thirteen days in the record-breaking heat of July. (Release date is May 1.)







Beach House Reunion is the latest in Mary Alice Monroe's Beach House series set on the Isle of Palms, South Carolina. This moving story of the strong Rutledge women brings Cara Rutledge home with her newly adopted baby daughter. She needs the help of her niece over the summer, and it's a summer that will change everyone's life, filled with love and courage. (Release date is May 22.)






Clare O'Donohue's first World of Spies mystery, Beyond the Pale, might have been written just for me. Two tenured professors, Finn and Hollis Larsson, head to Ireland for a simple, twenty-minute job. Procure a priceless rare book manuscript. But, their contact doesn't show. Now, they're followed across Ireland as they search for the truth. Ireland, theatre, castles, craic. It doesn't get any better. (Release date is May 8.)






Warlight is the new novel by Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient. In 1945, two teenagers in London are abandoned by their parents and left in the care of a near stranger - someone referred to only as The Moth. During the day, Nathaniel and his sister attend classes. At night, their home becomes crowded with an odd assortment of people. Then their mother returns, with no explanation, and without their father. Only years later does Nathaniel realize what was actually taking place, and the profound effect it had on their lives. (Release date is May 8.)




Nora Page's first Bookmobile mystery, Better Off Read, introduces seventy-five-year-old librarian Cleo Watkins. When the roof at the local library is damaged in a storm, Cleo takes to the road to drum up support. But, one of her library supporters is murdered, and the local good ol' boys are quick to pin the murder on Cleo's best friend. Now, she has to fight for the library, and her friend's freedom. (Release date is May 8.)






Shelter in Place is Nora Roberts' latest novel. "It was a typical summer evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine - until the shooting began. For eight minutes the chaos and carnage spread - eight minutes that transformed the lives of everyone in its wake. Some had their futures stolen from them, while others would discover their true calling. But for one person, it would be the start of a far more calculated plan, one that would force the survivors to face an even greater test int he years to come. (Release date is May 29.)





Susan C. Shea takes readers back to France in Dressed for Death in Burgundy. Amateur sleuth Katherine Goff seems to have finally found her place in the small community of Reigny-sur-Canne. Then she stumbles across a body in the local museum during a tour, and sets out to clear a friend of suspicion of murder. (Release date is May 1.)







Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project, teams up with Anne Buist for Two Steps Forward. It's the story of a pilgrimage, a journey for Zoe, an artist from California still reeling from her husband's sudden death, and Martin, an engineer from England who is recovering from a messy divorce. They meet at the beginning of the Camino de Santiago, the route walkers follow through northwest Spain, some on a religious journey, while others are on life's journey. (Release date is May 1.)





Gloomy. Dark. Foreboding. Those are all words to describe Larry D. Sweazy's atmospheric new Marjorie Trumaine mystery, See Also Proof. The isolation of a North Dakota winter is essential in creating the mood for a mystery that finds a young mentally challenged girl missing in a storm. The community turns out to search for her, but Marjorie and the sheriff find the local grocer shot to death. Sweazy is a master at creating atmosphere. (Release date is May 1.)





Jon Talton fictionalizes an actual Arizona bombing case in his latest David Mapstone mystery, The Bomb Shelter. Talton's story is a about a Phoenix reporter killed by a car bomb forty years earlier. Three men went to prison, but was there more to the story of the assassination? David Mapstone, historian-turned-sheriff's deputy is the perfect one to take on the case when the newly re-elected sheriff reopens the investigation. (Release date is May 2.)






Florence Nightingale must save her career by becoming an amateur sleuth in Christine Trent's No Cure for the Dead. When a young nurse appears to have committed suicide at the Establishment for Gentlewomen During Temporary Illness, the new superintendent, Florence Nightingale, realizes she could lose her job. She doesn't believe it's suicide and sets out to find a killer in a historical mystery that reveals the conditions of hospitals and nursing before Nightingale took control. (Release date is May 8.)






Isn't that one of the cutest covers you've ever seen on Betty Webb's latest Gunn Zoo Mystery, The Otter of Death? While volunteering for the yearly otter count near Gunn Landing Harbor, zookeeper Teddy Bentley spies her favorite otter, Maureen, with a cell phone. That leads Teddy to find the body of the phone's owner. The local Marine Biology instructor was known to sexually harass his female students. There are more suspects than just the one the local sheriff has picked as the primary suspect, and Teddy sets out to find a killer. (Release date is May 2.)





Boston and the Red Sox go hand-in-hand, but murder? In Pamela Wechsler's latest Abby Endicott mystery, The Fens, the star catcher for the Red Sox goes missing on opening day. Then, another player turns up dead. Endicott, Boston's chief homicide prosecutor, discovers greased baseballs and mysterious sums of cash. A lot more than the Red Sox's season is in danger. (Release date is May 1.)






Tin Man by Sarah Winman is the intimate story of a working class man and all the loves and small kindnesses that make a life. (One of my best friends says this is a must-read.) Matt Haig, author of How to Stop Time, is quoted as saying, "It breaks your heart and warms it all at once." (Release date is May 15.)

I'm always curious. Do any of these books appeal to you? Do you have other May releases you're anticipating?




Other May Treasures in My Closet - As I said, there are so many May releases. Here's the rest of what I have in my closet.

Alam, Rumaan - That Kind of Mother (May 8)
Barron, Laird - Blood Standard (May 29)
Blundell, Judy - The High Season (May 22)
Butler, Ellen - Isabella's Painting (May 2)
Cohen, Elisabeth - The Glitch (May 22)
Fleet, Rebecca - The House Swap (May 22)
Fontaine, Tessa - The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts (May 1)
Gabel, AJA - The Ensemble (May 15)
Gobbell, Phyllis - Treachery in Tuscany (May 2)
Greenaway, R.M. - Creep: A B.C. Blues Crime Novel (May 15)
Hechtman, Betty - On the Hook (May 8)
Kidd, Jess - Mr. Flood's Last Resort (May 1)
Kirsanow, Peter - Second Strike (May 15)
Klein, Randall - Little Disasters (May 22)
Krist, Gary - The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles (May 15)
Laukkanen, Owen - Gale Force (May 8)
Lepionka, Kristen - What You Want to See (May 1)
McCauley, Stephen - My Ex-Life (May 8)
McNamara, Frances - Death at the Selig Studios (May 29)
Orenduff, J. Michael - The Pot Thief Who Studied Edward Abbey (May 22)
Pataki, Allison - Beauty in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Love, Faith, and Resilience (May 1)
Pollan, Michael - How to Change Your Mind (May 15)
Poulson, David A. - Last Song Sung (May 29)
Richardson, Lance - House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Saville Road (May 1)
Skalka, Patricia - Death Rides the Ferry (May 8)
Thompson, Victoria - Murder on Union Square (May 1)
Wallace, Auralee - Down the Aisle with Murder (May 1)
Weeks, Stephen - Sins of the Father (May 2)
Whishaw, Iona - It Begins in Betrayal (May 1)
Wolff, James - Beside the Syrian Sea (May 15)