A Slice of Murder by Chris Cavender

 I have to admit I have avoided this series for a long time because it seemed, well, just a little hokey.  I mean really a pizza themed cozy mystery?  However, I have been enjoying the Donut Shop series by Jessica Beck and discovered that Chris Cavender and Jessica Beck are both pennames for Tim Myers, so I decided to try it.

This is this first in the series.  The setting is a pizza parlour run by a widow and her sister in a small town.  There is some discussion of pizza’s and pizza making but it does not overwhelm the mystery that develops.  Eleanor is delivering a pizza and finds the homeowner stabbed to death.  The police suspect her as the person who discovered the body and had a brief history with the victim.  Eleanor and her sister investigate to clear her of the crime.  The police “investigation” is a little light in reality and any technical aspects, however this is not a police procedural.  I did like that for once in a cozy the protagonist takes a lawyer with her to her questioning.  That is a step anyone should do, but seldom occurs in cozy mysteries.

There are a few red herrings and suspicous characters hanging about, but my gut instinct was right so I guessed the killer relatively early on.  I still enjoyed the book and the reveal was a confirmation of what I thought.  Likeable protagonist, hints at possible romance, and decent plot.  Overall a good start for a cozy mystery series.

Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter

  I have not read any Inspector Morse books before, however I have tried to watch the TV series.  I don’t find the TV series that engaging, Morse seems like a jerk and a flagrant womanizer.  I do love the character of Lewis though and have watched all of the Lewis TV series.  Maybe Morse’s treatment of Lewis is one of the reasons I didn’t get into watching Morse so much?

This is the first book in the series.  It involves two young women who try to hitch a ride home and one of them ends up raped and beaten to death, or is it beaten to death and raped, in a pub parking lot and the other is no where to be found.  Morse and Lewis investigate following up many leads that take them back and forth across Oxford and Woodstock.  The setting is dark and moody, a very atmospheric read and I really appreciate the creation of that type of mood in a book.  Morse is a …jerk to put it politely.  He treats Lewis abomidably and is arrogant and so sure of his own omnipotence.  Lewis is intelligent and very put upon by Inspector Morse.

One of the complaints I noted in comments about this book is the blatant sexism, almost every woman is a lying manipulative creature with no morality and a subservient type of job.   In my mind, that was a sign of the times and not a weakness of the book.  The book was simply reflecting the attitudes and cultural mores of the time it was both written in and depicts.  The plot was complicated, but in some cases unneccessarily so.  Morse keeps secrets from Lewis and the reader.  I found the most interesting character, other than Lewis, was Mrs. Crowther. She characterizes the unfulfilled housewife, a woman trapped by the social expectations of her time, who sees no way out.

My complaint was I just didn’t believe the final reveal, the motive seemed so weak and improbable given the character’s other actions and expressions of feeling in the book.  Maybe that was just me.   Anyway a good read for lover’s of classic mystery, Morse, and/or Lewis.  Just be prepared for Morse to be thoroughly (in my opinion) unlikeable.

Atonement by Ian McEwan

I know I am way behind just finally getting to this now, but better late than never.  Excellent read.  A study of guilt and atonement, childhood and adulthood, innocence and deceit, and all the blurry places inbetween. Briony is a young child with a blurred perception of the world, attempting to step into the adult world and adult situations but with childlike reactions and a lack of understanding that causes her to see the world in black and white, in absolutes.  She is a fantasist and while some of this can be attributed and excused due to her age, not all of it can be.  She crosses a line and makes a false accusation that shatters her family and destroys a young man’s future.  Amidst this wreckage, WWII begins and strews the pieces even further apart.  (There is a Ming vase that provides a telling metaphor for the family)

The post modern style works particularly well here in light of the times and perspectives covered in the book.  The ending was one of my favorite parts of the book, when Briony retreats almost to her childlike ideas and  reveals the true nature of the book itself.  I had a hard time starting with this one, but after the first 100 pages it took off and I was totally absorbed in it.  Highly recommended read!

Illegally Iced by Jessica Beck

This is book 9 in the Donut Shop mystery featuring Suzanne Hart and her donut shop.  The recurring characters of Grace, George, the Chief and her mother remain the same. i have enjoyed this seris all the way along, however this was not the strongest outing in this series.  The final motive when revealed was weak and just difficult to buy into it.  There were a few red herrings that were interesting but I didn’t really believe them.  I will still continue with the series because I have enjoyed it up to now and one misstep in 9 books is really not bad.

The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier

  I woke up early this morning to finish this book by Daphne Du Maurier, perhaps not as well known as Rebecca this is definitely a worthwhile read.  The story concerns John, a British tourist, disconnected and discontented wandering France on his vacation.  A professor of history he realizes that he has no connections to real people or the real world.  His life is boring, sad, and lonely.  A chance meeting sets off a chain of events that will certainly make his life less boring.

He meets Jean, his doppelganger.  The two men are initially shocked and set off have drinks to discuss this strange meeting.  Jean is overwhelmed  by his life and takes the opportunity to make off with John’s identity and leave John to face the consequences.  Rather than wallow, curse or even report the identity theft to the authorities, John steps into the French Jean’s life and for the first time connects to people and to life itself.

The story was well plotted, revealing the intricacies of family, history, power plays, and forgiveness.  The language was descriptive and pulled the reader into the scenes with an excellent sense of place. John, as a man finding his way, showed growth over the course of the book, leading the reader to root for this new better “Jean” and his family.  Many of the secondary characters have their own scene stealing moments.

Excellent read!

Book Tag: Reading Habits

I have been tagged, thank you to Ajoobacats.  Please do visit her wonderful blog.

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

I have a big red easy chair and ottoman in my living room and as always my bed.

Bookmark or random piece of paper?

I usually use receipts, especially the library printout ones.

Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/a certain amount of pages?

I prefer to read straight through from beginning to end but it doesn’t always workout.  I hate picking up and putting down books over and over again.

Do you eat or drink while reading?

Yes!  Tea or coffee although sometimes just a bottle of water.

Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?

The TV might be on in the livingroom while I am reading but that doesn’t distract me as long as the book is good enough.

One book at a time or several at once?

Usually one book at a time but with exceptions for long books like The Luminaries.

Reading at home or everywhere?

I can read anywhere.  I almost always carry a book with me.

Reading out loud or silently in your head?

Silently always.

Do you read ahead or even skip pages?

It depends.  Sometimes if it is a mystery and I think I have the killer, I’ll flip to the back to check but then continue reading.  Some women’s fiction that frustrates me, I’ll check the end to make see if she really does end up with the jerk/forgiving the cheating jerk/becoming bffs with the husband’s mistress.  Then at least I know I can rage silently as I read the rest of the book.

Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

I try not to break the spine, however some new paperbacks I have gotten have the print go right in to the seam and it is hard to read without stressing the spine.

Do you write in your books?

Cookbooks/non fiction usually are the only times.

I tag the following bibliophiles to answer the questions above (if they want to):

ronnie reads and reviews

Novel Meals

Hazy Reads


This is a meme hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies found here.

I saw then that beside the archway was an enclosure, and within it a great retriever, who at the sight of me barked furiously.  I murmered to him, but it was useless.  The sound of my voice drove him to greater fury, and I turned back to the shelter of the cedar, where he could not see me, and waited for him to quieten before deciding upon my further move.  The barking continued intermittently, then settled to a muttering, and finally to silence and once again I ventured forth and looked about me, and up at the massive walls of the chateau, forbidding, pale, yet strangely beautiful in the clear light beneath the moon.  A door in the terraced wall led to the grounds beyond, and some impulse made me pass through it, and stand looking over the sunken moat to the verdure where the cattle had wandered, to the ghostly alleyways bordering the forest, and the silent dovecot, and the broken swing.

Daphne Du Maurier – The Scapegoat

Tuesday Falling & Powdered Peril

These are two very different mystery reads I finished last night when insomnia struck again.  Powdered Peril is book 8 in the A Donut Shop mystery series.  I really do enjoy this series and plan to continue reading it.  The recurring characters from the earlier books are all here again and in fact Grace is central to the mystery in this one, as a suspect in a murder.  There are plentiful red herrings in the story and it made for a great finish.  Suzanne, the protagonist, can be a little brusque but it worked for me, with the stress of her best friend being accused of murder, running her business on little or no sleep, and breaking in a new employee, I think it is to be expected.  Fun, light, cozy mystery.

Tuesday Falling is this month’s read over at the Kindle English Mystery Club on Goodreads.  I will be honest,  the first few pages totally turned me off, the style, the voice; I just was not into it at all.  I put it down and then picked it back up and pushed forward and then it did not take long for the story to suck me in.  Fascinating tale of vigilante justice that makes you, if possible, root for both the killer and DCI Loss at the same time.  Not really a whodunnit, we all know that, in fact we have video evidence and her own signature cards.  Instead this is a why, a what next, and a how dunnit.  The detailed description of the underground labyrinth of tunnels, abandoned places, shelters and basements and how Tuesday lived and used them to her advantage was fascinating for me.  The murders/assualts were original, if horrifying, although the victims did not engender much sympathy being who they were, especially after Tuesday reveals the catalyst crime for her bloody path across and under the city. Thrilling, fast paced read.


Whodunnit Wednesday

This is a meme hosted here for mystery/thriller/crme reads.  If you would like to participate grab the picture and post a link to our post in the comments!

There is a lot of discussion about diversity and reading authors that are not white and male and although personally I am all about the book itself and not who wrote it or their identifying characteristics, I have found that I do read a great deal of female authors.  I believe that this is because the mystery/crime/detective fiction genre has such an extraordinary bounty of these talented females.  So with all that being said, how many of these female authors have you read?

Author – Sample Work

Agatha Christie – And Then There Were None

Margery Allingham – More Work for the Undertaker & The Tiger in the Smoke

Ngaio Marsh – Light Thickens & Overture to Death

Caroline Graham – The Killings at Badger’s Drift

Dorothy L. Sayers – The Nine Tailors

Elly Griffiths – The Crossing Places

S.J. Bolton – Sacrifice

Mo Hayder – Poppet

M.C. Beaton – The Quiche of Death

P.D. James – The Private Patient

Daphne Du Maurier – Rebecca

Tana French – In the Woods

Patricia Highsmith – The Talented Mr. Ripley

Camilla Lackberg – The Ice Princess

Margaret Millar – Beast in View

Mary Roberts Rinehart – The Circular Staircase

Donna Tartt – The Secret History

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

I have been waiting patiently for this book from my local library and picked it up last night.  I put aside the mystery I was reading and dove into it.  In a word, compelling, I stayed up and finished it in one sitting. The book follows a woman’s spiral into making a trainwreck of her life (see what I did there?  I kind of punny, trains are a recurring image in the book.)

Anna is an expat wife of a Swiss banker.  She has been living in Switzerland for 9 years now, but has not even come close to making it her home.  She lives as an old day Hausfrau (housewife) not working, no money of her own, no bank account, and even no driver’s license.  She gives the impression of being completely passive just drifting along at the behest of her husband, his mother, and her children.  Her husband, Bruno, finally fed up with her detachment sends her to a therapist, who then becomes a major character in the book, more important really than Bruno.  The therapist treads along the Jungian and Freudian philosphies, which basically means a lot of talking about nothing, however she does make Anna attempt to learn German after living in Switzerland for 9 years so she can actually hope to communicate regularly with other human beings. The current driving to Anna’s downfall is her serial infidelity.  She engages in multiple affairs and yet still seems detached from it all. I have seen Anna described as heroic and I really don’t get that description at all.  Narcisstic, manipulative, dishonest, disconnected, yes.  Heroic, no.

The  book is well written and you can see that the author’s background in poetry comes through in the writing.  As a character study of Anna, this is well done and engaging.  You spend a lot of time in Anna’s head and even in her dreams, while the rest of the characters are just sketches.  I didn’t really like the way the character ended up.  Very frustrating that she would just allow it to happen, but I do know women like that, so I cannot say that it isn’t realistic.

I enjoyed this and would recommend it to people who enjoy character studies.