On Summer Vacation Books…

 

 

This is my latest batch of books, mostly Kindle reads with one library book thrown in for good measure.

Jenny Colgan’s books are always sweet, fun escapist reads and Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe is no exception.  Issy gets laid off from her office job fairly early on in the book and gets the courage to pursue her talent for baking, which had been nurtured by her beloved grandfather from a young age.  There is a cad of an ex-boyfriend, a perhaps new romantic interest, a couple of good friends and her aging grandfather/mentor to round out the cast.  Light hearted romantic read, the type of book that is a guilty pleasure.

Sweets & a Stabbing is a short, probably novella length, cosy.  The theme is a cupcake food truck.  Amelia Harley is a recently dumped wife and mother, who embarks on a career as a food truck cupcake baker, to support herself.  The lifestyle is definitely a step down from her former “ladies who lunch” life.  A food truck competitor is murdered and it seems as though a miscarriage of justice is occurring.  Amelia takes on the task of investigating the murder herself.  A quick cosy mystery with an interesting theme.

From Garden to the Grave is another Kindle cosy mystery.  I found it to be well written and interesting.  Verity Hawkes receives a call that her aunt is missing, presumed dead and this leads to her returning to her aunt’s home.  Once there she realizes the state of her aunt’s affairs, a falling down house, a business in debt with seemingly no way of collecting over due bills, enemies among town officials, and a mystery surrounding her aunt.  Then, there is a murder.  With the obligatory, “don’t leave town”, Verity is stuck and finds herself dragged further and further into the investigation.  Fun cosy with a twist.

In The Guilty Wife, the narrator has no problem stating she is guilty, except not of the murder.  She has twisted her life up in a series of lies and evasions to cover up an affair.  This leaves her hanging in the breeze as far as anyone believing her once it is important to be believed.  This book has a great plot and some interesting characters, it just really seemed to drag in the middle for me.  I liked the resolution and how the characters were left. Best described as a domestic thriller.

The Silent Girls is the first in a new series with Detective Anna Gwynne at the lead.  A young girl is abducted and brutally killed from her family farm.  The case has glaring similarities to an 18 year old case, which had been solved and the man convicted recently released from prison.  Of course, all eyes go to the original perpetrator, but Anna feels that something isn’t right about the case. She has the “assistance” from behind bars of a convicted serial killer, who knows more than he’s telling.  There is lots of misdirection here and theories of the crime to make it a really interesting read.  Good, solid police procedural.

I saw Find You in the Dark on a blog and was lucky enough that my library had it.  The protagonist here is a man, Martin, who is fascinated with serial killers, or really their victims.  He has a hobby, a successful one, of tracking down their burial sites to give families closure.  He has a close connection because his wife’s sister was taken, presumably by a serial killer and no one ever knew what happened to her or where her body was buried.  Unfortunately for him, serial killers generally don’t like people sticking their nose into the whole corpse disposal business.  Martin draws attention and puts himself and his family in danger.  I found Martin a little grating and so it made some of the book a bit of drag for me, however the resolution was very good and the plot line was excellent.

 

 

 

 

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A Sight for Sore Eyes, 13 Steps Down, The Fortunate Brother, & Closer to Home

 

Closer to Home was a bargain read I picked up on my Kindle.  It is the first in the DI Kate Fletcher series.  I really liked it.  Kate is a well crafted character with a complex back story, a slight renegade but not ridiculously so, just enough to be interesting. The case is intriguing with twists and turns, connections to the past and to other crimes.  I did finger the villain, but I still feel as there was a lot that was well done here and I would be interested in reading another in this series.

The Fortunate Brother is a murder mystery set in a small coastal community in Newfoundland, Canada.  A small disclaimer here, this is the third in the series, and I did not read the others.  A thoroughly unlikable man dies and there are suspects a plenty in the claustrophobic community which houses its share of oddball residents.  Themes of mental illness, alcoholism, and abuse abound.  This didn’t really work for me.

I have been having a bit of a thing for Ruth Rendell and I read two of hers back to back.  The first was A Sight for Sore Eyes, which is really three stories which seem to be running along parallel tracks until they finally intersect with some awful consequences.  The first story involves a young girl who is home with her mother when she is murdered, the second story is about a young man who is raised with no affection and barely any human interaction leaving him devoid of normal human emotions, and the third concerns a beautiful young woman, the subject of a rock star’s affections for a time and a famous painter’s muse.  Ruth Rendell masterfully weaves the three tales together to their tragic ending.  As I’ve found in her other books, Rendell’s writing really shines at showing the inner lives of her characters and that is certainly true here.  Very good mystery read.

The second Rendell book I read was 13 Steps Down.  I found this to be a very current feeling story, with its theme of celebrity worship and obsessive love.  Mix is obsessed with a model and we follow his story and the story of his elderly landlady, who has never really had a life or a love of her own due to the controlling nature of her father, now long dead.  Again, the writing here really is at its best when revealing what is going through the minds of the characters, especially when the characters are twisted in some way and their thoughts are juxtaposed with the reactions of the others in the scenes with them.  Another excellent mystery read.

 

The Ruin and Other Reads…

I received The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan as a Giveaway from Goodreads in exchange for a fair review.  The book starts with Detective Cormac Reilly still wet behind the ears arriving at a remote cottage to find a quiet yet assertive young girl, her younger brother, Jack, and their very dead mother.  He delivers them to the hospital and forgets about the case until years later when Jack, now an adult, dies on his patch.  What is the connection?  Is there one?  What happened all those years ago and what happened to Maude and Jack in the intervening years?

Examinations of religious morality, the ability of “good” people to look the other way and not question the “wrong” right in front of them,  power and corruption,  and the far-reaching damages of childhood traumas are all woven in to this novel with intricate plotting and interesting characters.  Shades of Tana French.  Highly recommended read!

I am going to lump three very short, basically novella length, and free or very low cost Kindle novellas together here that I read through.  Sweet Masterpiece by Connie Shelton was the best of the three.  The protagonist, Sam, has a baking business and another job, getting foreclosed houses ready for sale.  She gets embroiled in a criminal investigation with the discovery of a grave on one property and some famous art.  There is also a tiny magical element here, so a magical cozy mystery.  This was a fun, short cozy mystery.  There was a bump at the end that I found somewhat jarring and probably should knock it down to 3.5 stars.  The other two,  Barbecue, Bourbon and Bullets and Pains and Penalties were just okay.  2 star reads.

Expiration Date is another cozy.  This one is a new-to-me cozy.  The theme is cook off contests.  The protagonist, Sherry,  is a competitor and one of the judges dies after tasting her dish at the contest.  Her sister is also a competitor and along with a friend she makes they look into clearing her name.  An interesting look at the cooking competition world.  This cozy feels like it is more focused on female friendships and lighter on the mystery side of things.

Fit to Die by J.B. Stanley is book 2 in a series I have been reading out of order.  I picked them up as I found them in used book stores as the series was discontinued.  Now the series seems to have been started up again so I am trying to fill in my gaps so I can read the newest book.

The theme here is supper club, a healthy eating supper club.  Professor James Henry is the town of Quincy’s Gap, Virginia’s librarian and the protagonist of the series.  The supper club in this book joins a new fitness/health club in town even though James has his doubts about the pushy salesmanship tactics the owner employs.  An arson and murder occur in town and the supper club investigates.  These books have a great setting, the community of Quincy’s gap with its characters and events is part of the storyline and makes for fun and engaging reading.  I really like this series and I’m happy to see that it has been continued.

See Her Run was a novel that I read about on a blog and ordered on my Kindle.  Aloa Snow is a disgraced journalist, she wrote a story using, let’s say “alternative facts” and now has no real career.  Someone she has a history with, who is now wealthy contacts her to investigate a case of an ultramarathoner who committed suicide.  The athlete is found barefoot dead in the desert, literally ran to death.  The local authorities did a cursory investigation and closed the case.  The more Aloa digs, the more evidence she finds of connections far beyond this one death.  Very good mystery with a suspenseful plot and engaging characters.

Sentence of Death is one of this month’s read at the Kindle English Mystery Club.  There is a serial killer on the loose in Gateshead and he has a mission.  The deaths are connected to a showing of the opera Ring Cycle that is occurring at The Sage.  Detective Sam Snow is in charge of the case.   Olivia is a recently divorced psychologist, who has come to Gateshead to see the opera when she becomes involved in tracking the killer.  The best part is the weaving of the opera and the killings in the story.  I thought the killer was somewhat obvious rather early on but overall I did enjoy read this.

 

 

 

The Glass Room & The Merchant’s House

 

The Glass Room is another excellent outing in the Di Vera Stanhope series.  In this book, the relationship between Vera and her “hippy” neighbors is explored as one of them runs off on a brief adventure and becomes embroiled in a murder.  The victim turns out to be a not so nice University Professor, Professor Ferdinand.  The murder takes place at a writing retreat, so it forms somewhat of a Christie-esque manor house type murder, but not exactly.  As Vera and her team delve in to Professor Ferdinand’s and everyone else’s past at the house, connections to earlier  events are exposed.  Vera’s keen mind and investigative skill puts the clues together to uncover the killer.

Vera is such a great character and she is shown here with her strengths and weaknesses as she works with her team and on her own to solve this case.  The petty jealousies and competitions that arise within the team are so realistic and make for great storytelling. An excellent book in the Vera series!

The Merchant’s House is book 1 in a new to me series.  DS Wesley Peterson is recently transferred to a “quieter” patch from London and is looking to start a family with his wife.  He went to university to study Archaeology and connects with old friends on a dig, who uncover a body at their site.  The mysteries run side by side in the book, Peterson’s modern-day murder and missing child cases and the historical case at the dig site.  I have read other mysteries written in such a fashion, an old case and a new with flashes in between and do enjoy it.  I also read the excellent Ruth Galloway series, which is an Archaeology themed mystery series.  There is not as much of the archaeology here  as in the Galloway books.

I found this to be ok, but the missing child piece was pretty obvious relatively early on and there were really no surprises in the historical case either, which was revealed through diary entries.  I did like the character of DS Peterson and like the idea of a DS who has interests outside of the police.  At this point I am unsure, if I will commit to reading another in the series.

Norwegian by Night

15775210  I saw this book on a blog and picked it up at my local library.  I really am uncertain about reviewing it because I don’t think I can do it justice.  This is so much more than Nordic Crime fiction, it is crosses genres and should definitely be considered literary fiction.  The prose is wonderfully nuanced and the book addresses social political issues particularly surrounding immigration and attitudes towards immigrants, aging, conflicts and war.

Sheldon is a Korean war veteran who has reluctantly moved to Norway to live out what is left of his life with the Granddaughter he raised.  He is beginning to suffer the effects of dementia and the lines between what is currently happening and what happened in the past  are blurred.   The murder of a neighbor sets Sheldon on a desperate journey to save a  child and himself in an unfamiliar country.

This book reminds me in some ways of The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared, which I also enjoyed.  Sheldon is a man of many layers, what people see on the outside, an old man, perhaps beginning to be a little out of touch, needing help, hides an inner core built of  steely determination, intelligence, and independence.   All of this is tempered with a strong dose of survivor’s guilt as stories of the dead emerge from Sheldon’s memory.  Sheldon struggles to stay present and use the skills from his old life to keep Paul and himself alive.

Highly Recommended 5 star read!

A Night to Forget, Cappuccinos, Cupcakes and a Corpse, BlueBuried Muffins, and An Affair to Dismember

 

 

Several shorter reads from my Kindle TBR.  Out of the four of them I’d say my favorite was BlueBuried Muffins by Lyndsey Cole.  This was a short cozy mystery with a theme of a small town cafe store with a free library in it.  Annie Fisher has returned to her hometown in a rush after finding out that her boyfriend Max was perhaps involved in some shady dealings.  The trouble and Max follow her home and soon Annie finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation.  She needs to dig into the trouble Max was in to get to the bottom of it all.  Fun, quick cozy mystery read.

An Affair to Dismember is a cozy mystery read with the theme of a matchmaker.  It was a quick read but it just seemed a little too frantically paced and the some of the characters were over the top quirky .  I just prefer characters that I find more relatable.  An okay cozy mystery read.

Cappuccinos, Cupcakes and a Corpse this was another short, quick  food themed cozy.  Francesca has returned home to run the family business and on her way home after a long day, she discovers the body of neighbor.  The neighbor’s son is an old high school friend and Francesca rekindles the flame and the pair of them investigate the murder.  An okay cozy but too fast and short to do much in terms of character development.

A Night to Forget is  a police procedural with some psychological elements.  DI Meldrum wakes up with some injuries like he’s been in a fight, but he has no recollection of the previous night.  He is later pulled in to a murder investigation where the victim had recently been in a fight.  He struggles to remember and investigate without incriminating himself.  I found the pacing somewhat off as this dragged  in the middle, but the plot was really interesting and kept me going to the end to figure everything out.  I would be interested to see what happened to DI Meldrum next.

Close to Home: A Novel

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This is one of the reads this month at the Kindle English Mystery Club.  Cara Hunter is a “new to me” author and I am really happy that I was introduced to her.  My library actually had the book so I ordered it to be ready for the June reading.  The story concerns a missing child from an upper middle class family.  The child, Daisy, is beautiful and precocious, with a habit of eavesdropping and an old beyond her years understanding that knowledge is power.

The DI in charge of the investigation is troubled by investigating a case concerning a child, so soon after he suffered a trauma of his own.  Eventually, his and his team’s investigation uncovers layer upon layer of lies and secrets, until they “catch their man” .  Twists and turns and red herrings are cleverly laid throughout this novel.  DI Fawley and his team are intelligent and very human investigators dealing with a difficult case.  The family’s secrets are finally all laid bare exposing how even middle class suburbia can be a haven for darkness.

I  really, really, liked this book.  I made the mistake of starting it as I lay in bed and finally I had to put it down because I was nodding off.  I was fortunate the next day was Saturday, so I took it with me on the grocery run and stopped off at Starbucks, sat down with my coffee and didn’t leave until I finished it.   Great mystery, great characters, I look forward to reading more by this author.