A High End Finish & Tailing a Tabby

  Finished these two yesterday while home sick.

I love the theme behind Tailing a Tabby, a crime solving book mobile ibrarian.  In this book, Minnie rescues a famous local artist who is having a stroke and earns the gratitude and friendship of the man and his wife.  Later when the artist is accused of murder, Minne gets involved to help him clear his name  The bookmobile profession is perfect for sleuthing because Minnie has a good excuse for traveling all over and talking to all kinds of people. Minnie’s sidekick is Eddie the cat, who she talks to as though he is human.  There is also side plots that involve a matchmaking aunt and a pain in the behind boss who wants Minnie to get rid of a patron he doesn’t like.  The mystery wraps up quickly in a dramatic scene at the end.  Hints of perhaps a love triangle in future books.  Fun read, especially for readers who like cats as significant characters.

A High End Finish is A Fixer-Upper Mystery with home renovations of Victorians mainly being the theme.  I was a little hesitant to try this because I’ve tried another home renovation/do it yourself series and couldn’t really get into it.  The main character here is a daughter who has worked in her father’s construction business all her life and has now taken it over as he has retired.  The storyline involves various members of the community being murdered with Shannon’s trademark pink tools, that and attempts on Shannon’s life lead to a lots of theories, from the police and townspeople, about what is happening.  Ample red herrings here, although my gut instinct proved right in the end.  The mystery has a dramatic conclusion with Shannon mostly saving herself.  There is a romance angle here that is unresolved in the end and appears to be heading towards a love triangle in future books in the series.  Independent female lead character with some some interesting contradicitons and a full cast of supporting characters lending color and interest to the story.

Sun Storm, A First Date with Death, and Literally Murder

These are my latest three reads.  Sun Storm is a Nordic thriller set in Northernmost Sweden.  Rebecka Martinsson is heading home after a desperate call from a friend.  She is now a Stockholm attorney and has left the past, which included leaving home and her church in disgrace, behind her.  She arrives to find out a local religious celebrity has been murdered in a rather gruesome manner.  Her friend and the victim’s sister, Sanna, found the body and has attracted the attention of the police with her rather odd behavior.  Sanna is not the only one acting oddly in this investigation. There is enough strange behaviors and guilty looks to spread suspicion around.   The weather, the isolation, and the landscape are an integral part of the plot, including even being a weapon of sorts.  The themes include religious fervor and corruption, pedophilia, loyalty and friendship.  Very good read for fans of Nordic fiction!

Literally Murder is book 4 in the Black Cat Bookshop series. In this book, Darla and Hamlet travel to Florida to appear at a Cat Show convention.  I am always hesitant when cozy mysteries attempt to leave their “home town” or regular locale.  I usually feel that something is lost without all the other regular characters and the setting, but that was not the case with this book.  I really enjoyed seeing Darla and Hamlet travel and meet new people.   The murder was interesting and started off with a twist right at the beginning.  There are some heartstopping moments in the storyline involving Hamlet.  Professor James T. James and the other regulars make some brief appearances but the main storyline involves Darla and Hamlet.   Well done cozy mystery in a very enjoyable series.

A First Date With Death is a new-to-me cozy.  The theme is “love or money”.  The book is based on filming one of those reality romance shows ala The Bachelor with a twist.  Our protagonist, Georgia, was left at the altar and then lost her job on the police force. She is getting pretty desperate for money and joins as a contestant on the show with a chance at a sizeable prize.  The idea behind the show is that some of the men are on it for love and some for money and she needs to figure out the ones in it for money and eliminate them.  Of course, one of the eligible bachelors ends up dead and then the fun…sleuthing begins.  Georgia is a great character, the plot is paced really well so the book flows by quickly, and the whole concept is fun to read about. I really loved this cozy and read it in one sitting.  My only concern is how the series will continue.  I don’t suppose Georgia will keep being on dating shows repeatedly so I’m not sure where the author plans on going with the series, but I am really looking forward to finding out.

Good Husband Material, Homecoming & No Mallets Intended

These are my three latest reads, two “women’s” fiction and one cozy mystery.  Good Husband Material is by Trisha Asley, an author whose work I have enjoyed in the past.  In this book, Tish is married to James, who on the surface is “Good Husband Material”.  Tish’s mother certainly seems to think so.  Tish follows her dreams and moves with James to a  small country cottage and in the course of renovating it and adjusting to country life, she starts to reassess what it means to be a good husband, a good wife or to have a good marriage.  Her assessment is fueled by the reappearance of Fergal, her first lost love and on the surface, definitely not “good husband material”.  Fun plot with interesting characters who, for the most part, show growth, over the course of the story.  The pacing made this seem like  a very quick read with a well developed setting and characters.  Recommended reading for fans of women’s fiction.

Homecoming by Cathy Kelly centers around  Golden Square in Dublin and its succession of tenants.  The characters lives intermingle, often under the subtle or not so subtle guidance of Eleanor a retried psychoanalyist who has fled New York and returned “home” in the grip of grief over the loss of her husband Ralf.  Eleanor is a keen observer of people and her observations and interactions elicit change and reaction in the other characters.  Through Eleanor and the daily life on the square the reader meets sisters, Nicky and Connie, one the picture of feminimity and the other not, Nora, the single podiatrist, Megan Flynn, the disgraced actress, and others.  Nicely done  “slice of life” revolving around a place, rather than one individual person.  I preferred this to some of the other books by Cathy Kelly that I have read.

No Mallets Intended by Victoria Hamilton is the fourth book in a cozy series that I am really enjoying. In tis book, Jaymie is working with a group to restore and preserve a grand manor in town.  There is discussion of the vintage pieces that Jaymie collects and uses in her designs.  There is an attack on Jaymie and of course, a murder.  The plot lines concern questions of inheritance rights, fraud, stolen property, murder and some romance.  I really did enjoy the plot line of Jaymie’s own romance in this book of the series.  The mystery is well plotted and the pacing keeps the story moving quickly making for a quick read.  Recommended for cozy mystery readers.

Forty Days Without Shadow & Foursome

Forty Days Without Shadow is termed an Arctic thriller, set in the Norwegian tundra and involving the indigenous Sami people who live there.  There is really a pair of protagonists, Detective Klemet Nango, a native Sami, and Detective Nina Nasen, an outsider fresh out of the police academy.  The detectives main job is to regulate disputes involving reindeer herding, but they are dragged into the theft of an important Sami artifact from a local museum.  The storyline also involves a Lutheran sect intent on destroying Sami culture, which the Pastor sees as counter to the Lutheran religious beliefs, disputes between the reindeer herders, and geologists who are anxious to mine the pristine wilderness.

The author did an excellent job of establishing a sense of place and in developing the detectives, through their interactions between themselves and the community.  The pacing was slow but that was in keeping with the building tension and sense of isolation.  This book provided a glimpse into life in an isolated northern outpost among people who live life under harsh, life threatening conditions.

I did enjoy this book, but be prepared for a slow building tension rather than the fast paced page turners usually associated with thrillers.

Foursome, despite the title, is NOT erotica.  The foursome referred to is a group of friends, two couples, who have known each other and been the mainstay of each others social lives for many years.  When one of the marriages breaks up (Alex and Isabel), it has far reaching consequences and causing Rebecca to reexamine whether she every really knew them or anyone for that matter.  There is another storyline in the book which revolves around Rebecca’s job and her interactions with a co-worker, Lorna.  That particular storyline sums up very accurately why women are their own worst enemies as far as professional lives.  I have watched these kind of relationships/interactions in places I have worked and it never ends well.  I thought that part of the book was very accurately done.

I guess not having life long friendships like this, I really didn’t get some of this.  When the friendship became, so much work/drama/chaos and zero fun or actual friendship, I just would have moved on and …then you wouldn’t have had a story.  The main ideas here are that you never really know anyone as well as you think and that secrets will always out.  Competently written and engaging enough for a quick read.

Bless Her Dead Little Heart & Rubbernecker

I have read most of Miranda James/Dean James/Honor Hartman’s books and enjoyed them all.  Bless Her Dead Little Heart, A Southern Ladies Mystery, is a spin off from the popular Cat in the Stacks series that features Diesel, the Maine Coon. Diesel is prominent in this book as well because the Southern Ladies, sisters Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce Ducote, are cat sitting him for Charlie Harris.  The sisters are well drawn, distinct characters who each bring their own drama into the story.  The plot concerns an old “friend”, Rosabelle,  arriving with a story of someone trying to kill her.  Roseabelle is then closely followed by her extended dysfunctional family.  Murder, drama and secrets ensue.  Deputy Berry, from the Cat in the Stacks mysteries, and the Southern Ladies  have their hands full with a rich cast of suspects, motives and clues.

This spinoff series has the strength to stand on its own, primarily due to the main characters.  Like the other books by Miranda James that I have read, it is a far better  than the average cozy.  Interesting characters, setting, and a well plotted storyline all make for an enjoyable read. As the first book in the series, it seems to be setting up for recuring characters that will round out the cast nicely, including a new dog and cat.  Recommended for cozy readers, I particularly think fans of Anne George’s Southern Sisters series would really enjoy this new series.

Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer is this month’s read at the Kindle English Mystery Club on Goodreads.  The book follows Patrick, a young man with Asperger’s, as he stumbles upon a murder while studying anatomy at University.  The book works in two time lines, Patrick’s time line that includes flashbacks to his childhood, and Samuel Galen’s story, coming together superbly in the end.  Another storyline interwoven here, is the unsolved mystery of Patrick’s father’s death.  Even though this was a smaller part of the plot, it was significant in that it drove Patrick’s quest and his relationship with his mother.

I found this book to be well written and engaging.  It certainly kept me turning the pages to figure out everything that was going on.  Parts of the flipping between stories and timelines are easy to get confused in until you realize what is happening with  the story and the pacing.  This book has been compared to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, as any book with a protagonist with Asperger’s seems to be, but I could also draw comparisons to The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks…except not anywhere near as dark.  Good Read!

Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

I picked this up in Barnes and Noble today while waiting for my daughter to shop.  It was on my to be read list so it caught my eye.  The premise is Nora wakes up one morning in her quaint farmhouse, in a quaint little north east US village, to discover her husband has committed suicide while she slept.  Nora becomes obsessed with why?  why did he do it? why on that particular day? what happened on the day it becomes obvious he planned it?  Her husband’s family and indeed the whole town seems pretty determined that she should just drop it and get on with ther life.  That determination turns from gentle persuasion to outright threatening.

This is a well written thriller with a character who exhibits inner strength, probably more than she thought she had.  The  main theme of this book is secrets, secrets and the damage they do.  Secrets that harm and kill.  An underlying theme could be summed up as “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Even though the “bad guys” are pretty obvious the motivations and exactly who is on what side is not discovered until the end.  Recommended for fans of women’s fiction and thrillers.

Something in the Blood & The Quiet Girl

I picked up Something in the Blood, a Honey Driver Mystery, with high hopes.  It is a British cozy set in Bath with a middle aged female protagonist, Honey, who works in the hospitality industry.  I just couldn’t get into this one from the start, I didn’t find Honey Driver to be an appealing character.  I just didn’t like her.  She was very heavy handed in her search for clues and dealing with suspects.  The clues were too obvious so I figured out the “reveal” relatively early on.  I have had other books give away the ending but have still been able to enjoy the story for the setting, the characters, or the writing.  Just not for me, I guess.

The Quiet Girl is from Peter Hoeg, who also wrote Smila’s Sense of Snow.  I thought Smila’s book was great and this one had some aspects the same.  The main characters both have a special talent or skill  and both are somewhat isolated from mainstream society.  Kasper was more difficult for me to connect with as a character than Smila.  He was a complicated character, who followed his own rules and moral code.  The plot was intricate with many twists and turns.  I enjoy Peter Hoeg’s writing style and I did like this book, however I still prefer Smila’s to The Quiet Girl.

A Little Dinner Before the Play by Agnes Jekyll

I received this book for Christmas as part of the Penguin Books Great Food series.  The books in the set are reprints of classic food writing, some are memoirs more than traditional cookbooks.  This book, A Little Dinner Before the Play, consists of extracts from The Kitchen Essays first published in 1922.

I really enjoy cooking and reading about cooking and this was a fascinating glimpse into some historical perspectives about food, food service, and cooking.  Political correctness is nowhere to be found here with chapters on what to feed the too thin and the too fat, along with ideas as to why the guests are too thin or too fat.   There are many recipes that I have tried in more modern formats and much basic cooking.  There are even ideas for Meatless meals which is a theme that continues on today in the common meme “Meatless Mondays”.

I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading others in the Great Food set that I have.