Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Case of Cat and Mouse by Sofie Kelly


I like Sofie Kelly's Magical Cats mysteries featuring Hercules, the tuxedo cat who can walk through walls and Owen, the tabby who can make himself invisible. The connection to the feral cats at Wisteria Hill is intriguing. I like the voice of Kathleen Paulson, the librarian and amateur sleuth, owned by Hercules and Owen. In A Case of Cat and Mouse, though, there are two sentences that stand out for me. I wish I could give you the background without spoiling the dramatic conclusion. When Kathleen's boyfriend, Detective Marcus Gordon, questions her ability, she answers, "I'm a librarian. I know all sorts of things."

Kathleen knows how to do research which is why she's hired to provide background tidbits for the revival of a TV show, "The Great Northern Baking Showdown." It's being filmed in Mayville Heights, Minnesota because Elias, the executive producer, is from Minnesota. Several of the local residents won competitions to appear on the baking show. Kathleen provides background about Mayville Heights, Minnesota, baking, and even the competitors. When she finds one of the judges dead, she's also the perfect one to research the judge's life. Because she's been part of the show, members of the cast come to her with their alibis and lies when they won't go to Marcus.

No one on the show seemed to like the victim, Kathleen admits she wasn't a nice person, but she didn't deserve to be murdered. Everyone in town, including Marcus, expects Kathleen to poke around. Unlike other amateur sleuths, Kathleen keeps the police in the loop. She tells suspects and witnesses they need to talk to Marcus, and she even calls him to tell him he'll be hearing from some of them. 

I enjoy this series because Kathleen does not sneak around behind Marcus' back. He's not stupid. He can't always tell her what's going on with the investigation, but he always seems to know what she uncovers. He's doing his investigating.

I  have a couple issues with this book, though. With so many people involved in the baking show, it was hard to remember what role some of them had. I felt it was a mistake to name one man Richard and another Russell. I still couldn't tell you which one was a judge on the show and which was a host. I also have a problem when a character has a tic. I can't tell you how many times Kathleen messes with the straps of her messenger bag. It seems to play a role in every scene.

There's quiet humor in this book, including an unsolved mystery that involves the library and a very clever prankster. I love the stories about the two squirrels at the library. There is a solution to the disappearance of small items owned by Marcus, gum, a key-chain knife, a lighter.

Despite my couple complaints, those who like cozy mysteries featuring cats and librarians, especially remarkable cats (and cat lovers think all cats are remarkable), will enjoy Sofie Kelly's A Case of Cat and Mouse.

Sofie Kelly's website is www.sofiekelly.com

A Case of Cat and Mouse by Sofie Kelly. Berkley Prime Crime, 2020. ISBN 9780440001164 (hardcover), 295p.


FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves

While Ann Cleeves always makes a reader feel sympathy for the victim, in this latest Vera Stanhope novel, The Darkest Evening, it was Vera who moved me. She has never seemed so vulnerable, so lonely. Even her team recognized that this case was personal for Vera, although they could never say it to her.

In the first couple pages, we meet a young woman, Lorna, with a young son that she has fought for fiercely. We know little about her, other than she was once ill and overcame it, and now has a young son. It's just before Christmas, and it's nasty weather. 

When Vera is lost in the blizzard, and comes across a stranded car with a baby in the backseat, we know where it's heading, that something happened to the boy's mother. But, it's Vera's panic at being lost that we feel. When she can take on her persona as a police officer and rescue the baby, she overcomes her fear. Then, she's forced to face her family past when she shows up at Brockburn, the family estate of the Stanhopes, where she and her outcast father, Hector, were not welcome in her younger years. Even though she's not fond of the family, and knows Harriet, her aunt, always looked down on them, she's willing to speak up and confront them on behalf of the child. Then, when a farmer finds a young woman's body outside the backdoor of the house, it's a murder case, and Vera can call in her team, and step into her role in life.

The Darkest Evening appears to be a case connected to the village, the Stanhopes, to family. When there's another murder, Vera is angry that she brushed aside the victim. She already had her suspects, and didn't pay attention. When the man who discovered the corpse leads Vera and her officer, Holly Jackman, to the victim, Vera handles it professionally, and stays with the corpse. That night, Vera feels her age and her vulnerability.

As always, Cleeves' books are complex. There are red herrings that set Vera's team and the reader off in the wrong direction. Just once, I had the correct inkling who the killer might be, but I let it go. Cleeves is clever that way. As a reader, I don't always acknowledge the truth in front of me.

But, Vera. She is a little too close to this case. It's too personal. When Holly realizes how Vera is related to the Stanhope family, suspects in the case, she knows Vera is ignoring that. "She's never really understood the difference between her own morality and the constraints of the law."

Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope books are excellent police procedurals. Readers can follow the entire case and the investigative process. Let's face it, though. As much as I enjoy police procedurals, Vera is the reason I read these books. She's an aging woman struggling with her life, her family history, and her lack of relationships. For her, work is her life. Her personal life is an unwanted stopgap between investigations. It's only as a police officer that Vera has standing in life. In The Darkest Evening, with its connection to the Stanhope family, Vera is forced to face her vulnerability as a person. Any one of us who has used work as an escape can feel for Vera. As a reader, I can acknowledge the murder victims, and the loss felt by the families and community. As an aging woman, I feel for Vera.

Ann Cleeves' website is www.anncleeves.com

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves. Minotaur Books, 2020. ISBN 9781250204509 (hardcover), 373p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Christmas in September

On Thursday, I ordered fourteen Christmas books for the library's OverDrive account. We already have the physical books on order for the library. But, I only order the OverDrive titles the week before they come out in eBook or audio. All fourteen of these titles will be released on Tuesday, September 29. If you're one of those people who snatch up Christmas books, get ready. And, if you think it's too early, skip this post and come back later. But, those of you who get your books at the library, or read or listen to them from OverDrive might be interested. (And, it's a trial run for me. I can see if Blogger is going to work for my upcoming Treasures post, or if it will leave me frustrated and angry.)

Even if you're not a fan of Christmas books, you have to admit Janet Dailey's Holding Out for Christmas has an adorable cover. A rancher in Branding Iron, Texas yearns for the sultry singer he saw on stage at the previous year's Cowboy's Christmas Ball. But, the kindergarten teacher who returns home for the holidays has dreams of a big career in Nashville. And, no little holiday romance will get in the way.

Robbie's back in South Lick, Indiana for Christmas at her popular country store and cafe in the latest in Maddie Day's Country Store Mystery series, Candy Slain Murder. It may be a bumpy road for the holidays. First, a man shows up at Pans 'N Pancakes, claiming he's the long-lost half-brother of Robbie's assistant. Then, a fire destroys a home, exposing skeletal remains in the attic. All Robbie wants for Christmas is to stop her winter wonderland from becoming a nightmare.

Speaking of winter wonderland, Vicki Delany's fifth Year-Round Christmas Mystery is Dying in a Winter Wonderland. The Christmas spirit is falling a little flat in Rudolph, New York this year when Luanne Ireland moves her wedding up months, and expects everyone to be able to work with that. Merry Wilkinson had agreed to help with the decorations, but it's not the best time of year for that. Then, Luanne's fiance is found murdered at their wedding venue. Merry resolves to restore peace and calm to the community, but she's beginning to suspect a death knell could ring in the New Year. 

Hollyberry Homicide is the fifth book in Sharon Farrow's Berry Basket series. When the original actor in Oriole Point's production of A Christmas Carol dies, Marlee Jacob agrees to take over the role of Jacob Marley. But, clues start mounting that there's trouble behind the scenes. There are accidents on set, and a body is found with a sprig of holly draped over it. Marlee has to solve the case so there's a very, berry Christmas. Berry recipes are included.

December turns Lake Eden into the North Pole in Joanne Fluke's latest Hannah Swensen mystery, Christmas Cupcake Murder. But, Hannah's keeping the heat on in the kitchen as she bakes irresistible holiday cupcakes while preventing a person who attempted murder from succeeding the second time around. A man was found near death in the abandoned storefront two doors down from Hannah's bakery. He can't recall anything about himself, except he has a great deal of knowledge about restoring antique furniture. With just a few clues, Hannah's out to solve the puzzle. 

Amish romances and novels are extremely popular in southwestern Indiana, and Shelley Shepard Gray is one of the most popular authors writing those books. Now, she joins forces with Rachel J. Good and Loree Lough for a collection of holiday stories, Amish Christmas Twins.

Janna Jaxon's The Widow's Christmas Surprise is a historical romance. Lady Maria Kersey has a beautiful baby daughter, but she's in mourning for the husband who died a month earlier, killed in a duel. Her future is in doubt since there's no male heir. She's scorned by the ton, but her husband's steward, Hugh Granger, is an ally. He's in love with her, but has nothing to offer. Although they're attracted to each other, she heads to London to spend time with friends, widows who lost their husbands in the Battle of Waterloo. But, the holidays provide a twist of fate, and a gift of love.

Susan Mallery brings readers the sixth Happily Inc. novel, Happily This Christmas. Wynn Beauchene has a thriving business, a great kid, and a crush on the guy next door, local cop Garrick McCabe. But, Garrick's haunted by the ghosts of past mistakes, including estrangement from his pregnant daughter. He desperately needs Wynn's help to add a woman's touch to his house before his daughter arrives for Christmas. Maybe the holiday will work its magic on two wounded souls.

Can holiday wishes come true for two single parents in Debbie Mason's Christmas on Reindeer Road? Mallory Maitland swore never to give up on her late husband's two sons, her stepsons. But, when the teens land in hot water, she has to lean on the caring Chief of Police Gabriel Buchanan. After his wife died, Gabriel left his job as a New York City homicide detective to raise his three boys. Back in Highland Falls, trouble comes in the form of his beautiful neighbor and her troublesome stepsons. Gabriel doesn't need the additional problem of a romance. His mother-in-law is looking for any excuse to take Gabriel's sons. He can't risk involvement, although Mallory could make this Christmas, and future ones, merry and bright.

The Brightest Star is a heart-warming novel from bestselling author Fern Michaels. This Christmas theme will sound familiar. For generations, Lauren Montgomery's family has operated a Christmas shop, Razzle Dazzle Decor. Now it's threatened by an online superstore, Globalgoods.com. Lauren, who tries to keep the family business afloat by writing biographies for business figures, is eager for a new job, until she learns the subject of her new book is the owner of Globalgoods.com, the company that could put her family out of business. Even so, she travels to Seattle to meet with the mogul. She's surprised when she meets his son, a handsome, intelligent, kind man who represents the company that threatens everything Lauren loves.

Mary Monroe's holiday book is The Gift of Family. Middle-aged couple Eugene and Rosemary Johnson are successful, secure, and still very much in love.  They've never given up on their dream to be parents. But, their hope seems further away than ever, especially this Christmas when Rosemary has to have surgery and home help to recuperate. Eugene has the brilliant idea to contact Ethel Perkins, a widow who raised Eugene and his brother. Ethel is struggling as she attempts to raise her great-grandchildren and keep them out of trouble. Ethel's problems only grow worse, as Eugene and Rosemary pitch in to help her and the children. And, the best way the two families can enjoy the holiday season is by celebrating it together.

Diana Palmer, Marina Adair, and Kate Pearce each have a story in the collection Christmas Kisses with My Cowboy. The summary says, "This Christmas the best kind of trouble comes in threes: Three bestselling authors. Three stories of holiday romance. And three cowboys who are ready for love - whether they know it yet or not."

A Christmas Carol Murder is the third book in Heather Redmond's series featuring a young Charles Dickens as the amateur sleuth. Each story's plot inspires a future book by the journalist who aspires to be a novelist. This time, Dickens suspects a miser of pushing his partner out a window, but Charles' fiancee, Kate Hogarth, has a more charitable view. Charles and Kate are out with friends in London in December 1835 when a body plummets from the upper story of a house. The dead man at their feet, his neck wrapped in chains, is Jacob Harley, the business partner of the owner of the house, an unpleasant codger named Emmanual Screws. Before Dickens can investigate, Harley's body is stolen. And, then the journalist believes he is visited by the man's ghost. Or, maybe it's just his imagination. Together, Charles and Kate attempt to solve the mystery.

Sheila Roberts takes readers on a Christmas cruise in One Charmed Christmas. Catherine Pine is hoping for a better Christmas than last year, her first without her husband. And, this year, her kids and their families are absent. Then, a good friend invites her on a cruise to lift her spirits. Every day is an adventure. There are new friends, and one of them is the lovable Sophie Miles. Everyone seems to love Sophie, from Dr. Rudy Nichols, a perfect match for the hypochondriac Sophie, to chocolatier Trevor March. And, anything could happen this charmed Christmas.

I have family members and friends who love Christmas books. September 29 brings all kinds of Christmas books, from holiday mysteries and murder to historical and contemporary romances. If you're a fan of holiday reading, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Pancakes in Paris By Craig Carlson


While I enjoyed Craig Carlson's memoir, Pancakes in Paris, I can only agree with his subtitle "Living the American Dream in France" if your idea of a dream is opening diners, dealing with French bureaucrats and laborers, and working yourself until you collapse. In other words, the book is a fine place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live it.

Carlson admits he's an unlikely candidate to move to Paris and open a successful chain of diners, Breakfast in America, BIA. Originally from upstate Connecticut, he grew up in a poor immigrant family, Polish and Finnish. His parents didn't get along, and finally divorced. Craig and his three older siblings bounced between grandparents. They were even sent to an orphanage for a year. Carlson's father drank and gambled. His mother was bi-polar. But, he did develop a strong work ethic in order to survive when he was living with his father, Fast Eddie. And, he took French as his seventh grade language requirement. 

Carlson was fortunate to receive an invitation for his junior year abroad in France when he was in college. He spent five weeks in Paris as part of that year, and loved the city. Paris led him to film as a career. He attended USC's prestigious film school, and then worked as a screenwriter and short filmmaker. That time at the film school also provided him with contacts who would eventually become his first investors in his Paris dream. He worked on a TV show in Paris, and, when he returned to the U.S., he realized what he missed the most was an American breakfast. That was the start of his idea, to open a diner in Paris, one that features an American breakfast.

Craig Carlson had all kinds of problems, ones that readers can discover in the memoir. He's an easy writer to read, and readers will root for him in his business and personal life. By the age of forty, he realized he was in the city of love, with no love in his own life. The story of his romance is part of the charm of the book.

But, let's face it. Paris is the primary charming factor in any book set there. I found the prologue a little sad and nostalgic because the book was published in 2016, before the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. The book begins and ends with Carlson's view of Notre Dame, and his comments about the opportunity to view its beauty on a daily basis. 

This past week, I gave away mysteries for those armchair travelers who are missing travel. Pancakes in Paris fills that same yearning. Missing Paris, or you always wanted to go? Craig Carlson's memoir provides a taste of the city.

Craig Carlson's website is http://www.craigcarlsonauthor.com/

Pancakes in Paris by Craig Carlson. Sourcebooks, 2016. ISBN 9781492632122 (paperback), 306p.


FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Winners and an L.A. Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Julia H. from Excelsior, MN won the copy of Turn to Stone, and Sharon B. from Albuquerque, NM will receive Auntie Poldi and the Handsome Antonio. The books are going out in the mail on Saturday.

Andy Weinberger's An Old Man's Game features Amos Parisman. When a controversial celebrity rabbi drops dead over his matzoh ball soup at Canter's Deli in Los Angeles, retired private eye Amos Parisman, a sixtysomething, no-nonsense detective, is hired by the temple's board to make sure everything is kosher. As he looks into what seems to be a simple, tragic accident, the ante is raised after others start to die or disappear. Amos uncovers a world of treachery and hurt that shakes a large L.A. Jewish community to its core.

 Or maybe you want a glamorous heroine. Donis Casey follows up her Alafair Tucker mysteries with The Wrong Girl. Blanche Tucker longs to escape her dull life in tiny Boynton, Oklahoma. When Graham Peyton roars into town, posing as a film producer, it isn't long before the ambitious but naive teenager runs away with him for a glamorous new life. Instead, Graham uses her as cruelly as a silent picture villain. Yet by luck and pluck, Blanche takes charge of her life and makes it to Hollywood. Six years later, Blanche is Bianca LaBelle, the reclusive star of a series of adventure films. Then, Peyton's remains are discovered on a Santa Monica beach. Is there a connection?

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 An Old Man's Game" or "Win The Wrong Girl." Please include your name and mailing address. The contest will end October 1 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

What Are You Reading?

First, how are you doing? Politics, work, Covid, fires, too many tropical storms. I know it's all becoming too much for some of us. I also know you're doing the best you can. We all are. We're not superhuman, no matter how much we try.We may only bring it up on Thursdays, but I think about you throughout the week. That means all of you who normally respond here, and also those who only occasionally comment. Take care of yourself. Let us know how you're doing.

I'm a little nervous. I'm moderating a panel for an online event tomorrow for thousands of librarians. I hope everything goes well on my end - in other words, that I can keep us on time, and that all the technology works. That's really my job. Keeping my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I'm back to reading a book I didn't have time for earlier. Hopefully, I can actually finish Ann Cleeves' latest Vera Stanhope mystery, The Darkest Evening. Vera gets lost in a snowstorm, but, before she can get her bearings, she comes across a stranded car with a baby in the backseat. The front door is open, and the driver is missing. When she finds her way to a cousin's house, she calls around, looking for a parent. But, just as she thinks she's identified the mother, a neighboring farmer reports he found a body in the snow, a woman who had been hit on the head and killed. Vera delights in a good murder investigation.

And, you? What are you reading this week? Is there something that's keeping you distracted so you don't have to think about the state of the world?

Wednesday, September 23, 2020


 I do not have the patience to mess with Blogger at 9:45 PM after I finished the book I intended to review. The review will run on Saturday. It's too frustrating to deal with the images when I can't put them where I want to. Blogger has changed their format, and I've been messing with it now for over a week. The only reason the last two blogs have looked good is they were published prior to the new Blogger format.

If Blogger can mess with blogs that have been in existence for over fourteen years, it's a shame they can't stop the idiotic spammers who want to talk about vampires, their marriages, and who knows what all. 

Don't worry. I'm not stopping the blog. It's just that it's been a long day, and I hate Blogger.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Next to Last Stand by Craig Johnson

I have a difficult time with a review when I am passionate about a book. What more do I say other than, I love this book? I always have a tough time reviewing Louise Penny's books. I do love Craig Johnson's latest Walt Longmire book, but it is such a remarkable, fun mystery from a masterful storyteller that I'll take a stab at Next to Last Stand.

Sheriff Walt Longmire has a past history with Charley Lee Stillwater. Charley Lee, a veteran of two wars, was a resident of the Veterans' Home of Wyoming, and the first black person Walt's daughter, Cady, met when she was five. Walt is reluctant to accept that Charley Lee's death came abruptly after he won Bingo, especially when he sees the state of the veteran's room. It's packed with paintings, art history books, and a shoebox with a million dollars cash. Just as intriguing as the shoebox is an old, strange canvas in a trunk.

Walt drags that canvas around with him, looking for the story behind it. One clue actually comes in the restroom of Henry Standing Bear's Red Pony bar. It seems to be connected to George Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, or as Henry calls it, The Battle of the Greasy Grass. Finally, Walt takes it to the Buffalo Bill Center in Cody, Wyoming for authentication. But, the night of a fundraiser, with all kinds of aficionados of western art in attendance, the conservator is attacked, and the canvas is stolen.

Walt's investigation is a story of Native and western history, art, and repeated trips back to the Veterans' Home. The case becomes a murder investigation, as, one by one, the sheriff's suspects disappear or end up dead. But, along the way, he meets delightful characters, including Charley Lee's fellow residents.

There are serious aspects to this book, as there always are in Craig Johnson's stories. The discussions of Custer and Little Bighorn, and the differences in the viewpoints between the Native and white accounts is fascinating. Walt ponders whether he should run for office again, and his decision will impact his office staff. There's a small side story about racial threats against a Cheyenne teen basketball player in Montana, with possibilities for a future novel about a white supremacist hate group. The discussions of art and art history led me to search the Internet for information.

Johnson's writing sometimes just makes me stop and admire it, as when he says, "When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground." As Walt ponders his own demons, he reflects on George Custer. "I couldn't help but wonder at the decision-making process that had led to his death - the personal, professional, and political demons that had rushed him headlong to his destruction on that sunny hillside on June 25, 1876." Or, there's the comment we should all ponder. "The history books say that there were no survivors at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, but there were thousands, thousands who waited after the battle for the other cavalry boot to drop." Maybe simple sentences, but I find poetry and philosophical notes in so much of Craig Johnson's work.

But, there's also that humor that Craig Johnson, a remarkable storyteller, inserts in  his books. There's witty dialogue between Henry and Walt. Vic is obsessed with getting a new truck, and she and Walt have amusing conversations about that. And, the book culminates in the funniest, most unusual chase scene I've ever read.

Every time I pick up one of Craig Johnson's short stories, novellas, or novels, I know I'm in for a treat. There will be wit, philosophy, sometimes history, always a compelling story. Johnson gives us remarkable characters in a landscape that is foreign to most of us. And, he leaves us feeling as if we've spent time in the company of a bard who spins his poetry and songs of the west.

Craig Johnson's website is https://www.craigallenjohnson.com/

Next to Last Stand by Craig Johnson. Viking, 2020. ISBN 97805255722539 (hardcover), 336p.


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

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

"Killing someone is easy. hiding the body, now, that's usually the hard part." It's even harder to keep that killing a secret when The Thursday Murder Club takes an interest. In his funny, sometimes poignant debut mystery, Richard Osman introduces a savvy quartet of septuagenarians who are intrigued by cold cases and murder.

Joyce, part-time narrator and retired nurse, is often overlooked. She's sees that as her skill, that she appears to be harmless and chatty. Elizabeth, the leader of The Thursday Murder Club, invites Joyce to join the small group who investigate cold case files left by Detective Inspector Penny Gray, the woman Joyce is replacing. Penny's now in The Willows, a place where the residents of Coopers Chase Retirement Village, a luxury retirement home, go to die. The other members of the group are Ibrahim, a psychiatrist, and Ron Ritchie, a famous trade union leader. Elizabeth? Is she a former spy, or something else? There are rumors about Elizabeth's past, and she's notorious for exaggerating those stories.

There are clubs for every interest at Coopers Chase, which was once a convent. The Thursday Murder Club is kept a secret, scheduled into the room once a week as a Japanese Opera study group. The visit of a young ambitious police constable, Donna DeFreitas, interests all of them. But, when the contractor who renovated Coopers Chase is murdered just after he was fired by Ian Ventham, the owner, the quartet turn into amateur sleuths. Elizabeth has a plan to put PC DeFreitas on the investigating team at the police station. It's left to Joyce and the men to tell the police how they witnessed an argument between Ventham and the dead man.

Ian Ventham can't leave well enough along, though. One day, his contractor is murdered. The next, he shows up with a new contractor, Bogdan, and equipment to dig up the caskets and bones in the convent cemetery. There are no protesters as wily as experienced seniors, though, and they block the path to the cemetery. By the time the police arrive, Ventham is furious. Although DCI Chris Hudson tries to calm him down, the man dies on the way to his Range Rover. By the estimation of the members of The Thursday Murder Club, there are seventy seniors who could have killed Ian Ventham.

Two murders, files of cold cases. The Thursday Murder Club is in its glory. But, Bogdan contacts Elizabeth, asks her to accompany him to the cemetery, and digs up, for the second time, a body on top of a coffin. Another mystery at Coopers Chase! It just gets better and better for the sleuths, but they're soon digging into the past secrets of drug dealers and retired residents of their community. While Hudson and DeFreitas would like to keep them on the sidelines, Elizabeth skillfully manipulates the two police officers to keep the group in the loop.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron. The four seniors have a lifetime of experience to buoy up their investigations. They're intelligent, manipulative sleuths. The character-driven mystery couldn't have a better cast of characters. It's a humorous, sometimes laugh aloud story with intelligence and wit. At the same time, it's bittersweet. The members of the group are all too aware of their own mortality, of the loss of memory of their loved ones, of the time when they themselves might suffer from dementia or illness. Death stares them in the face on a daily basis, so a murder investigation has nothing to scare them.

The four members of The Thursday Murder Club are in their seventies and eighties. Let's hope they live long lives to investigate more murders in England.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. Viking, 2020. ISBN 9781984880963 (hardcover), 368p.

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

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Wild City by Thomas Hynes

You know how many virtual book and author events there are right now. I never would have discovered

Thomas Hynes' Wild City if I hadn't watched an event put on by the library marketing team, Library Love Fest from HarperCollins. The book is subtitled "A Brief History of New York City in 40 Animals", and Kath Nash's illustrations beautifully complement the text. The book combines natural history and the history of New York City.

Before the Dutch arrived in New York, the land was teeming with wildlife. The land was a moneymaker for the Dutch, and then the British. In fact, beaver skins were currency. The pelts of otters, mink and muskrats led to fortunes. Later, fish and oysters were over-harvested in the name of profit. But, it was the growing population, with pollution and sewage that pushed out much of the wildlife. By the end of the 1960s, "New York City, once an ecological and natural gem the likes of which had never been seen before, was all but ruined."

It will never be the same, but Hynes spends a couple pages on various species that are making a comeback. And, in many of the stories of various species, he talks about the conservation group that is working to bring back that group. For instance, the pages about Canada geese mentions a group called GooseWatch NYC that advocates for compassionate and tolerant existence with urban wildlife despite the fact that one flock tried to kill Captain Sully. Hynes' humor comes through in statements such as that about the geese trying to kill the pilot.

Hymes writes about the reappearance of whales, deer on Staten Island, the return of beavers. There's a chapter called Legends. Alligators in the sewers stories fall there. There's a sickening account of the execution of an elephant, abused by her trainers. As a fan of the children's book, And, Tango Makes Three, I appreciated the story of the gay penguin couple, Roy and Silo, who fostered Tango at the Central Park Zoo. There are accounts of the working dogs, horses and sheep in the city. But, my favorite story is the one about the honeybees who led law enforcement to the largest marijuana-growing facility in the city. The bees were attracted by large vats of maraschino cherry juice, and they produced cherry-red honey. That led environmental inspectors to the facility.

As I said before, there are moments of humor in this educational, informative book. There are even short tidbits, such as the Collective Noun names for a group of animals. There's a bale of turtles, an embarrassment of pandas, a colony of beavers. My personal favorite? Anyone who has seen Groundhog Day will appreciate the fact that a group of them is called "A repetition of groundhogs."

If you care at all about the environment and animals, Wild City is an encouraging book. It's inspiring to see what can happen when people care enough to clean up rivers, the land, the city.

Wild City: A Brief History of New York City in 40 Animals by Thomas Hynes. Harper Design, 2020. ISBN 9780062938541 (hardcover), 160p.


FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RIP

There is nothing I can say today that is more important than may Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rest in peace. She gave so much of herself for justice, for women, for civil rights.

Here is Linda Greenhouse's obituary in The New York Times.


Friday, September 18, 2020

Winners & An Italian Mystery Giveaway

 Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. The copies of Case Pending are going to Ed H. from Arroyo Grande, CA and Laurie L. from Columbia, MD. The books are going out in the mail today.

We can't go to Europe right now, but we can still be armchair travelers. This week, I'm offering two mysteries set in Italy. James W. Ziskin takes Ellie Stone to Florence, Italy in Turn to Stone.

In Florence for a symposium where she's to accept a posthumous award for her late family, Ellie ends up quarantined with some of the scholars. When the body of the man who organized the symposium is fished from the river, Ellie must investigate to learn if one of her new friends is a killer.

Mario Giordano's Auntie Poldi and the Handsome Antonio is a little more lighthearted.

All the irascible Auntie Poldi wanted from her Sicilian retirement was time to enjoy the sunshine, a free-flowing supply of wine, and a sultry romance with Chief Inspector Vito Montana. But, her idyll is rudely disrupted when her estranged cheat of a husband shows up, begging for help. He's Detective Inspector John Owenya with the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs. Before Aunt Poldi can resume her social life, she has to help John find his half-brother and learn why the Sicilian and Tanzanian mobs are after him. The only clue? A postcard with a phone number and the name "Handsome Antonio". 

Which mystery do you want 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 Turn to Stone" or "Win Auntie Poldi." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, Sept. 24 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

What Are You Reading?

Pandemic. Fires and smoke, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. Wyoming had snow. Pestilence is next. I'm more concerned with all of you. I know some of you are dealing with the fires and smoke. How is everyone? This week, I'm available to catch up with all of you. I'm back from visiting my family in Ohio.

This week, I can talk about the book I'm reading. I'm moderating the mystery panel for Library Journal's Day of Dialog next Friday morning. Five authors are talking about their 2021 forthcoming books. Right now, I'm reading a fun one, S.J. Bennett's debut adult mystery, The Windsor Knot. There's a murder at Windsor Castle, and the 90-year-old Queen Elizabeth II is the amateur sleuth. I've only read the first three chapters, but it's witty. I'm enjoying it. It's a March release.

(Until I get the hang of this stupid new blogger format, you might see images in odd places.)

Anyways, please tell us what you're reading. And, even more important, let us know how you're doing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Breakfast, and Food Memories

Yesterday, Rosemary mentioned I could even post pictures of breakfast. Ta-da!

This was breakfast last Friday when I was home visiting my mother. My sisters were there, too, so Mom made Swedish rosettes. I understand there's a device for them that looks like a rose, hence Swedish rosettes. Mom makes them free-form, though. It's fried dough with powdered sugar on it. If you go to fairs or amusements parks, it tastes like funnel cakes, but better.

Other mornings, it was cocoa and toast, or apple crunch. Mom made that for me for dessert, and I ate the leftovers for breakfast the next couple days. It has to be heated in the microwave so the milk poured over the apples is all buttery. Mmmm.

But, the best food surprise was corn pudding. Other people talk about corn pudding made with Jiffy mix or crackers. My Mom and youngest sister, Christie, make it, though, as few others do. It's been over 25 years since we had it. It takes corn on the cob that's getting older, and it's run over this device at the risk of knuckles and fingernails.

Then, the corn is put in an enamel pan with just butter, salt and pepper and baked. It's a family food memory, and it's wonderful. Christie surprised us and made it. We had it twice when we were there. This is Christie, glowing when she first served it because Linda and I were so surprised and ecstatic.

Rosemary was right to ask about food. Sometimes, that's what brings back the best memories.

Food memories, anyone?

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A Library Book Chat

I was home to visit my mother and sisters last week. I should know better than to take books. I read a chapter and a half. That's it. I spent all the time enjoying the time with family instead. So, I don't have books to review this week.

What I did have when I went back to work yesterday was a stack of books waiting for me. The library holds rolled in during the week I was gone. So, instead of talking about what I read, I'm going to tell you about the seven books I hope to read soon. (As soon as I finish the projects I'm working on. I always seem to be on deadline.) Fiction, a mystery, several romantic comedies, nonfiction. I have tons of mysteries at home, so I usually pick up rom coms at work.

As a librarian, I always throw these at you in alphabetical order by author. Let's start with Helen Cullen's The Dazzling Truth. It's the story of one Irish family, the Moones, over three decades. Aspiring actress Maeve meets pottery student Murtagh Moone in the courtyards of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1978. The relationship progresses to marriage and motherhood. Maeve's joy in her children also comes with a struggle to hold on to herself. Decades later, the family is struck by tragedy. It's then the family must confront the past while planning a future none of them could have predicted.

Romance author Sarah MacLean calls Alexis Daria's You Had Me at Hola "soapy, smart, and so sexy". After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodrigues finds her face splashed across the tabloids. She hopes to remedy her infamy with a new bilingual romantic comedy TV show. But, a casting change pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suarez. There's a disastrous first impression, and the two agree to rehearse in private because their careers are on the line. But, the media spotlight could destroy both of them, and their new relationship. 

Why recreate the summary when Sharon described K.C. Dyer's Eighty Days to Elsewhere just a couple weeks ago on Thursday? She said, "EIGHTY DAYS TO NOWHERE by k.c.dyer. The building that houses her uncles' book store and her apartment was won in a poker game. Now the new evil landlord wants to tear it down unless the family can come up with money they don't have. So Romy Keene applies for a job at ExLibris Expeditions, a company that re-creates library journeys. Romy must recreate the Phileas Fogg's journey from Around the World in Eighty Days."

I had Elin Hilderbrand's 28 Summers home earlier this summer, but others were waiting, so I took it back. Mallory Blessing gives a deathbed instruction to her son, asking him to call a number on a slip of paper. Jake McCloud answers. His wife is the front-runner in the upcoming presidential election. But, Mallory met her brother's college roommate, Jake, in 1973. They formed a bond that lasted for years, through all the changes in their lives, until Mallory learns she's dying. The book is inspired by the film Same Time, Next Year.

Either Miranda James' Cat Me If You Can or 28 Summers will be my first read. Cat Me If You Can is the latest Cat in the Stacks Mystery featuring librarian Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel. Charlie, Diesel, Charlie's fiancee, Helen Louise Brady, and the Ducote sisters all head to Asheville, North Carolina for a vacation and to participate in a gathering of a mystery reader's club. But murder doesn't take a vacation.

From cats to Julie London's You Lucky Dog. Carly Kennedy's sister convinces her to foster Baxter, a depressed basset hound. But when the dog walker accidentally switches Baxter for Hazel, a cheerful basset, Carly discovers Hazel's owner feeding Baxter mac and cheese. And, Baxter becomes besotted with Hazel, so Carly starts spending more time with Max Sheffington, her polar opposite. 

Even the nonfiction book is in alphabetical order, Olive the Lionheart by Brad Ricca. It's subtitled "Lost Love, Imperial Spies, and One Woman's Journey into the Heart of Africa". In 1910, a strong-willed, free-spirited Scottish noblewoman, Olive MacLeod, was engaged to be married to Boyd Alexander, one of the most famed naturalists of his time. When Boyd's work takes him to Africa, and he goes missing, Olive decides to take matters into her own hands. Her search for him led to a whirlwind, history-making adventure across the globe.

If I didn't have books to review right now, these seven would keep me out of trouble for a couple weeks. I can't wait to start on them. Anything on the list jump out at you?

Monday, September 14, 2020

Sandie Herron Reviews: Charles Todd's A Fearsome Doubt

My family and the drive back to Indiana wore me out. I slept away part of Sunday. But, I'll see what I can put together for tomorrow to share my trip home to Ohio. In the meantime, as always, I'm grateful for Sandie Herron's reviews. Here's her review of Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge mystery, A Fearsome Doubt.

A FEARSOME DOUBT                                                        
By Charles Todd
Series:  Inspector Ian Rutledge, Book 6
Bantam (October 1, 2002)

I’ve never read another author’s books that quite so authentically captures the ambiance of an era in time.  While reading, I was literally transported into the story of Ian Rutledge, both the man and the inspector at Scotland Yard.   In this sixth adventure, Rutledge is still haunted by Hamish MacLeod, the man Rutledge was forced to execute during the Great War and who now lives on in his shell-shocked mind.  As much as Rutledge dreads his constant presence, their conversations with each other help Rutledge in his life.

Ben Shaw was hanged for murder in London, 1912.  The inspector on the case built against him was Ian Rutledge.  In 1919 Mrs. Shaw visits Rutledge with what she thinks will prove her husband innocent – a mourning locket supposedly stolen by Shaw but now in the possession of someone else.  Rutledge finds it difficult to re-open the case of a dead man; after all, it will not change the end result.  In addition, his superior found himself promoted after this case was solved.  He will not take kindly to seeing that outcome altered. 

Before Rutledge can do much more than review his old notes, he is called away to Kent to investigate several murders of ex-soldiers who had returned from war missing a limb.  Rutledge must insinuate himself into the life of this town and the people who live there to try and piece together clues from the murders. He is consumed by performing his job as inspector; he has very little personal life.  Although he feels he let his soldiers down, he always felt that he had succeeded in doing his job well.  When Mrs. Shaw shakes that core belief, he is driven beyond human endurance to answer her question and solve these murders.

This book is as much about the mysteries presented as it is about the characters and how they interact with each other and with Rutledge.  It is within the characters themselves that the answers lay.  Troubled by a heavy burden of guilt and grief and loss, Rutledge does not see the solutions until he does his own soul searching.  Solving these crimes becomes more about what is left unsaid than what is said.

Even more than in his previous books, Todd shares how tremendous the burden of war is on those who served in it.  Rutledge shares this early in the book:  “Nor did he need a Cenotaph … as a focus for his grief and loss.  He – like countless others – carried them with him every day.  The men he had served with, shared hardship and fears with, bled and suffered with, were as sharp in his memory and his nightmares as they had been before they died.  As was the recurring voice that lived in his mind.  A reminder in every waking moment of the Scots he’d led and the one Scot he’d been forced to execute during the horrendous bloodbath that had been the Battle of the Somme.”  We would call it post traumatic stress disorder today; in Rutledge’s time, they called it shell shock.  Every soldier went home with some degree of it, and every family they returned to had to deal with it as well, even those where no soldier returned.

I am fascinated to watch how Ian Rutledge survives of the tragedy of war.  His struggle is that of every veteran yet is made even more realistic as he strives to keep on living while he recovers.  I hope that Charles Todd keeps exploring these issues while writing his superb procedurals.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Killings at Kingfisher Hall by Sophie Hannah

I love the cover of Sophie Hannah's fourth Hercule Poirot mystery, The Killings at Kingfisher Hall. However, I'm not the target audience. I found it tedious to spend the first five chapters of the book traveling with Poirot on a bus from London to Surrey.

In February, 1931, Poirot and his friend, the story narrator, Inspector Edward Catchpool, have plans to travel by motor-coach with twenty-eight strangers. Catchpool notices one young woman immediately, "the unhappy woman with the unfinished face". She seems unhappy, but grows even more distraught when Catchpool introduces himself as a Scotland Yard inspector. And, her hysterical behavior on the rest of the trip upsets everyone, as she claims she'll be killed if she sits in a certain seat. That seat is next to a woman Catchpool considers cold, rude, and hateful because of her reaction when he picks up the book beside her, mistaking the author for someone he knows. Poirot, though, has an enjoyable trip, deciding to sit with the cold woman, and hearing her story that she's a murderer.

When Poirot and Catchpool arrive at their destination, Sidney Devenport's house, Poirot finally deigns to tell the inspector what is happening. Although they are to pretend they're there to rave about a game Devenport and a friend invented, they are really there to investigate the murder of Devenport's oldest son, Frank. The younger son, Richard, hired Poirot. He doesn't believe the confession made by Frank's fiancee, Helen Acton. Helen is now in prison, and everyone expects she'll hang for the murder. But, there's a problem. Frank and Richard's sister, Daisy, is the cold woman from the motor-coach, the young woman who confessed she's a killer.

Oh, what a tangled web. Everyone has secrets in this long-winded story, even Poirot. And, Poirot, as always, delights in keeping secrets from Catchpool. Instead of letting him in on the information, he assigns Catchpool the task of asking a list of questions. It's only when Poirot has his audience gathered in the final climatic scene that he reveals all.

As I said, I don't believe I'm the target audience. Readers who enjoy Poirot's long, drawn out explanations may appreciate the book. I found all of the characters dislikable, except Catchpool, and I only felt sorry for him. Daisy Devenport is a rage-filled witch. Poirot is a crafty manipulator who believes no one is as intelligent as he is. Because I read for character, it was hard for me to enjoy a book with a cast of unpleasant people who reveled in their unpleasantness.

Sophie Hannah's website is www.sophiehannah.com

The Killings at Kingfisher Hall by Sophie Hannah. HarperCollins, 2020. ISBN 9780062792372 (hardcover), 288p.

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

Friday, September 11, 2020

A Library of Congress Crime Classic Giveaway

This week I'm giving away two copies of one title. Case Pending was Dell Shannon's first Detective Luis Mendoza mystery. It was first published in 1960, and has been republished by Sourcebooks/Poisoned Pen Press as part of the Library of Congress Crime Classic series. This book originally came out in 1960, so it is not politically correct. However, Librarian of Congress Carla D. Hayden talks about that in her Foreword. Leslie S. Klinger edited, with an introduction and notes throughout the book.

"Here was the kind of casual homicide that occurred every week in a city like Los Angeles in the sixties. Beaten, robbed, and left in an abandoned lot, Ellen Ramirez's death was like many others...in fact, nearly identical to a murder that happened six months
earlier - a case that Detective Luis Mendoza was never able to solve."

Would you like to win a copy? Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read "Win Case Pending." Please include your name and mailing address. The contest will end Thursday, September 17 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

What Are You Reading?

First, how are you doing? Last week didn't sound great for several of us. Take care of yourselves. Many of us check the messages to see how everyone else is doing.

I'm in Ohio this week. I can tell you I'm not reading a thing, but I'm feeling great. I'm visiting with my mother and sisters, as I said yesterday. We are practicing social distancing with the rest of the world. We're spending our time at Mom's or at cemeteries. We're doing genealogy.

Even though I'm not reading, I brought six boxes of books with me for family and the Little Library in the yard next to Mom's. So, I'm still sharing books.

How about you? What are you reading this week? Most important, are you doing okay?

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Vacation Wednesday

Good day, everyone! And, it is a good day. I'm in Ohio with my mother and sisters, who I haven't seen in a year, mostly due to Covid. But, it was time. We're all healthy, and wanted to see each other.

So, I have nothing to post today.

But, I'll check by tomorrow for "What Are You Reading?" And, I have a new contest starting on Friday. So, I do have posts coming up.

However, I know some of you start the day with me, and worry if I don't have a post. Sending all of you virtual hugs and thanks for caring.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Murder in the Bayou Boneyard by Ellen Byron

It's been a while since I read one of Ellen Byron's Cajun Country mysteries, so I'm happy that Murder in the Bayou Boneyard had a list of characters. She's such a skillful writer, though, that once I started it was easy to identify and remember characters. She gives them all distinct personalities, which is not easy in a book with such a large cast.

It's October in Pelican, Louisiana. The bed-and-breakfasts are suffering because a man grabbed up a lot of local property to rent on an app he calls "Rent My Digs." Maggie Crozat comes up with a scheme, and joins forces with four other bed-and-breakfasts to present Pelican's Spooky Past weekends. Each B&B will offer special events, and there will be a mystery play staged in the Dupois cemetery. Crozat Plantation B&B will open a spa. And, Maggie invites a distant Canadian cousin she never met to be the massage therapist.

When Susannah MacDowell, her husband, Doug, and the two twenty-some-year-old twins show up, they are obnoxious, demanding guests. To her regret, Maggie put them in her art studio. But, when Susannah plays psychic and undercuts the local voodoo priestess, Maggie fires her. It's only then that Susanah plays her trump card. She owns property in Pelican, property that adjoins Crozat Plantation. And, the property line is right where Maggie's art studio is.

It seems Maggie's ideas for the weekends aren't working out at all. One guest reports seeing a rougarou in the woods. It's a Cajun werewolf, a combination of a werewolf and vampire. As others start to see it, they cancel reservations. Then, a costumed rougarou staggers into the mystery play, and dies in front of guests and the cast. The cemetery lies in two jurisdictions, not just Pelican where Maggie's fiance is a deputy. The neighboring town and a police officer with a chip on his shoulder claim jurisdiction. And, Maggie tops the list of suspects.

Mystery and humor collide in Byron's latest book. There are wedding plans, as Maggie's grandmother becomes a bridezilla with her talk of their New Year's Eve double wedding. Family, legend and lore, along with food and humor take center stage in the enjoyable story.

Ellen Byron's website is https://www.ellenbyron.com/

Murder in the Bayou Boneyard by Ellen Byron. Crooked Lane Books, 2020. ISBN 9781643854601 (hardcover), 304p.

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

Monday, September 07, 2020

Hanging Falls by Margaret Mizushima

While I don't keep up with Margaret Mizushima's Timber Creek K-9 series as I should, it's easy to pick up the storyline. Hanging Falls, the sixth book, offers mysteries for the sheriff's department, but also provides additional answers in the ongoing story arc of Mattie Cobb's own family.

Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner, Robo, are hiking with the local wildlife manager and her dog when they spot a body in the river. Recent storms and high water don't make it easy for the women to retrieve the corpse. There are no clues as to the young man's identity, but someone took a whip to him, and cut a word in the body.

Although Mattie is supposed to be driving to San Diego to meet a sister and grandmother she didn't know, she postpones her vacation to work on the murder investigation. But, Julia and their grandmother, Yolanda Mendoza, insist on coming to meet her. Because Mattie, her mother, and brother were kidnapped when Mattie was only two, she has no memory of her early life or family. She's nervous and emotional, and her work provides her with a change from her own worries.

She's also a little worried about her relationship with local vet Cole Walker. She and Cole have grown closer, but his teenage daughter, Angela, is giving both of them the cold shoulder. She's had a rough year with her parents' divorce, her mother's depression, and her sister's kidnapping. Cole and Mattie are both careful in dealing with the teen. However, Angela befriends a young woman at the vet's clinic when Hannah and her family bring in her dog. The family is part of a fundamentalist religious sect who has just moved to the Timber Creek area. Mattie is able to put two and two together based on clothing, that the body rescued from the river has some connection to the sect.

Although Mattie and Robo arrested a camper who they caught spying on them, the sheriff's department was unable to keep him in custody. When he's found dead, suspicions fall on several groups of people. One includes a farrier new to the the area. The other is the religious sect. While Mattie splits her time between her investigation and her family, who have past secrets to share, a new crisis arises that needs immediate assistance from Robo and Mattie, a missing child.

There's a great deal of tension in Hanging Falls, but much of it centers on Mattie's emotional reunion with her sister and grandmother. The crimes and investigation aren't as compelling as Mattie's ongoing search for answers. What happened to her father? Why were Mattie, her mother, and brother kidnapped? Where is her mother?

Readers who enjoy K-9 mysteries, and Mizushima's ongoing theme of family, will appreciate the latest in the Timber Creek K-9 series, Hanging Falls.

Margaret Mizushima's website is https://margaretmizushima.com/

Hanging Falls by Margaret Mizushima. Crooked Lane Books, 9781643854458 (hardcover), 288p.

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

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf

 I'm actually in Ohio right now, so it's the perfect time to mention a book I just bought for myself, Kent

State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf. It's a beautiful graphic nonfiction book.

I went to Kent State, but it was five years after the shootings on May 4, 1970. Backderf has a note at the front of the book. "This book is a dramatic re-creation, but all of it is based on eyewitness accounts, detailed research, and investigation. The notes in the back of the book list the source material for every scene." Backderf tells the story of the four students killed at Kent, and the first four days of May 1970.

As a student at Kent, I took a class that covered the events, heard several accounts of the weekend by students who were shot, and I was there during the controversy surrounding the building of a gym on the site of the shootings. I lived in Prentice Hall for two years, a dorm that was right in the midst of the activities, and still had bullet holes in it in fall 1975. Even though I was not there in 1970, the story is a part of my university background. The book was released on September 4, so I have not had time to read it yet. 

I don't usually read or enjoy graphic novels. There's something about the colors and text that don't mix well with my vision. But, this book, done in black and white is readable and accessible to aging eyes. I'm looking forward to exploring this book.

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf. Abrams Comicarts, 2020. ISBN 9781419734847 (hardcover), 280p.


FTC Full Disclosure: I bought a copy of the book.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Have You Heard? - Some Like It Hawk by Donna Andrews

Here's Sandie Herron's review of the audiobook of Some Like It Hawk by Donna Andrews.

Some Like It Hawk                                                          

Meg Langslow Mystery, Book 14
Written by Donna Andrews
Narrated by Bernadette Dunne
Unabridged Audiobook
Dreamscape Media LLC (July 17, 2012)
Listening Length: 8 hours and 51 minutes

The rumors flying as we finished THE LAST MACAW are true.  The now ex-mayor of Caerphilly, Virginia did mortgage the town buildings.  Now, a year later, the bank who loaned the money, which has been absconded with by the ex-mayor, has taken possession of the buildings!  The library moved into Meg and Michael’s house where they eventually want their own library.  The police department moved into Meg’s father’s barn, which is a delight to him since he loves to “help” out.  All the town buildings stand empty except one.  Phineas Throckmorton, the county clerk, is squatting in the basement of the courthouse behind barricades and hasn’t moved since the takeover.  The lender cannot figure out how he is continuing to live there with no access to bring him food or supplies.  A private investigator is hanging about trying to find out what the secret is.  Worst of all a private security company has guards posted all over the town.
The bank who owns the town’s buildings has a few employees on site, only a couple of whom are liked by the town.  One of them approaches the barrier in the courthouse basement and is shot.  Looks like the guards got itchy fingers, but why, when they are working for the same “evil lender” as the victim?

The people of Caerphilly are pitching in to earn funds for the town by hosting Caerphilly Days.  Local craftspeople are giving demonstrations; the Baptist Choir and the Episcopal Choir are giving performances; and every civic, religious, or artistic group is helping.  Meg has moved her entire blacksmithing business to the town square in order to give demonstrations.  The twins seem happy to spend their days in the tent next door. 

At times there is a cacophony of sound between trades people and loud music.  The fair’s planners  made it so the greatest noise occured at certain times ,,, to cover the horrendous squeak made by opening a trapdoor to a tunnel which leads to the courthouse basement.  This is how the clerk has survived.  Only certain townspeople know about this, and they work hard to keep it secret.

Meg and other town leaders are meeting daily and have begun wondering why the evil lender needs Throckmorton out of the courthouse now.  What is the urgency?  The only thing stored there are original documents.  Coincidentally Meg’s cousin, the lawyer handling the battle against the lender, has been looking for some particular documents as well.  What is so important?

Once they answer that question, everything makes sense.  The revelation is ingenious, both obvious and hidden in plain sight.  Author Donna Andrews has manipulated us yet again in this hilarious and offbeat mystery.  I cannot believe it is easy to take a murder, a mystery, and intrigue, toss them together, and produce the entertaining story that Ms. Andrews does so well.  While remaining just as chaotic and riotous as the previous entries in this series, I am seeing a slight shift in the writing toward more complexity that gives the book more depth.  I think it shows growth in characters and author.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Have You Heard? - Cleo Coyle's Decaffeinated Corpse

I'm on the road today, heading out of town. It's a lengthy trip, so Sandie Herron is stepping in for a couple days. Enjoy her remarks about a couple audiobooks, but, remember, these are available as books as well. Thank you, Sandie. And, I'll be back on Sunday.

And, for your information, I have comment moderation on for the two days when I won't be on the website as much. The spammers were out in force on Thursday. I don't know what they think they gain since I delete the posts as soon as I see them. And, everyone here is too smart to take marriage advice from a spammer.

In the meantime, thank you, Sandie.

Series:  Coffeehouse mystery Book 5                      Written by Cleo Coyle
Narrated by Rebecca Gibel
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 7 hours and 29 minutes
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Release Date: April 1, 2012
**** stars

Part owner and manager of New York’s The Village Blend coffee house in Greenwich Village, Clare Cosi has called a special meeting of her best baristas.  Her ex-husband Matt Allegro and his friend Rick have a new coffee they want them to taste.  When she tells them that demand for decaffeinated coffee has risen to 20 percent of their customers, they can’t believe so many want the “neutered” blend.  After all, there are only a couple ways to decaffeinate coffee, and they both strip away some of the essence of the bean, leaving it flat.  Now Rick is making the Village Blend the exclusive distributor of his new naturally decaffeinated coffee.  His coffee hybrids grow decaffeinated beans, so no further processing is required, leaving the flavor fully intact.  This premier group of baristas and Clare can’t believe it when they actually taste how good the coffee really is.

Clare puts clues together to determine that Rick has smuggled a cutting from his hybrid coffee plant into the US from Brazil to make it available for inspection during a press conference announcing the bean’s existence and celebrating its distribution exclusively through The Village Blend.  When the reception is upon them, Matt is attached to his cell phone, which worries Clare; what is Matt paying such close attention to while his buddy Rick is picking fights with a foreign diplomat in town for a special meeting of the United Nations?  Clare steps outside the building to talk to Matt when a body falls from their reception 20 stories up and lands right in front of her.  Things have gotten much worse.

It wouldn’t be a coffee house mystery unless Madame duBois is involved at some point.  Matt’s octogenarian mother is the owner of The Village Blend.  She is quite lively and will do almost anything to protect The Blend, often with hilarity following.  In this book, Madame gets the three of them – Madame, Matt, and Clare – into a diplomat’s smash Halloween Party with terrific costumes.  Circumstances are not intentionally funny but turn out that way. Matt and Rick and a third man all have the same costume!  More clues are uncovered under all those masks.

The inevitable coffee “lesson” was much better suited for the novel in this fourth book in the series.  Cleo Coyle gives information and a sort of history lesson about coffee along with the mystery, but it is all pertinent and interesting, too.  These mini-lessons are some of the funniest points of the books as well, since she often makes the coffee making process quite sensual and full of double entendres. 

Narrator Rebecca Gibel had quite a character list for DECAFFEINATED CORPSE.  We had New York accents for Clare, Matt, and their daughter Joy as well as octogenarian Madame, a few foreign diplomats, a pawnbroker, a Caribbean born man, and so on.  All the voices were distinct.  Stars go to Rebecca Gibel for her hard work. 

Even though I found this entry in the Coffeehouse mystery series a tiny bit bland and predictable, I still enjoyed it very much.  This is a great mystery for coffee lovers and drinkers, decaf or leaded!