Some books from the Library

Final Account is book 7 in the Inspector Banks series. This is a series I really enjoy and I have not read in a while so it was a pleasure to pick it up again. This book was renamed in the US, so UK readers will know it as Dry Bones that Dream.

In this installment, Banks is called to the scene of an almost headless victim of a shotgun blast. His traumatized daughter has to give her accounting of events and Banks becomes emotionally involved as he resolves to see justice done for the daughter’s sake. As the investigation broadens more characters are involved and Banks realizes that not everything about the crime, the victim, and some of the others he meets along the way are as it seems. Great installment in a series that I regularly enjoy.

This is the second book in the Inspector Vaara series.

Inspector Vaara is investigating a crime in which a woman was brutally tortured to death. At the same time he has been called to look into whether there is any truth to a local hero being branded a war criminal. Deception abounds and Vaara cannot seem to untangle his personal feelings and ideas of right and wrong from the investigations. Add into this all a strong dose of political pressure, chronic pain, visiting obnoxious relatives and it is a pressure cooker of a situation. This is a good outing in the series, but not as good as good as the first book, which I really liked. There is also somewhat of a cliffhanger at the end of the book regarding Vaara’s personal life.

This Dog for Hire appeared to be a cozy mystery, however I would not really classify as that. Yes, there is non-police sleuth and yes, we have an animal sidekick. But the crime and underlying mood of the book feels darker and more tense. The sleuth, Rachel Alexander, is hired to work on the case of murdered artist, whose valuable dog disappeared is missing. There are many theories of the crime batted around and Rachel does quite a bit of chasing down leads. The dog is recovered early on, the gist is not animal abuse by any means. The resolution and events that led to the crime are shocking when revealed. Great first in a series.

The Secret Place is the second book in two months I’ve read by Tana French. I love her writing and her books, generally. This book was an exception. I can appreciate the attention to detail and the research that went into delving into the teenage culture and vernacular, but there was only so much of it I can take. I was doing fine up until about a third of the way through and then I just had enough. The book is over 450 pages long and while the crime was interesting and the adult characters are superb, it is very teen centric. The crime and practically everyone involved are teens and the locations center on private boarding schools and the local shopping center/hangout.

As a Tana French fan, I am glad that I read it as her characters often roll over into other books, but it definitely was not a favorite.

Four More Mysteries…

These are my latest four library reads. I really love Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series and A Bitter Feast was an excellent addition to the series. Duncan, Gemma and their children are invited to a co-workers family estate for a community event. Duncan is involved in a car accident and the occupants of the other car both die. Duncan and Gemma become involved as it is soon apparent that this was no ordinary car accident. The usual supporting characters of Doug and Melody are also seen here and have a strong side plot involving Melody’s hidden relationship with a musician. The plot has some fun twists and turns as another murder occurs while the investigation is in full swing. Great installment taking the detectives out of their usual, more urban environment.

Snow Angels is the first in a new series by James Thompson. The Inspector Vaara is a wounded officer, married to an American ex ski champion, living and policing in a ski resort town. The darkness and bleakness is an ever present character in this novel as Finland is seen through Vaara’s American wife’s eyes and through Vaara’s explanations to her. Vaara is drawn into a brutal murder investigation of a celebrity, who is a young female Somali immigrant. The murder has brutal sexual and racist components and Vaara is in a race to solve the case before a media frenzy takes hold. This was a completely immersive experience with many tragic elements to the crime and the people attached to it. Very good start to a new series. Themes of racism, female genital mutilation, brutal violence.

Slough House is the 7th book in the Slough House series. In this outing, Ex- Slough house agents are being picked off in retaliation to an action in Russia. Lamb, River and the rest of the current staff must move quickly to save themselves. There is a surprise reappearance of a familiar face along with other recurring characters like Tavener and Molly. Lamb and his operatives find themselves up against everyone, the Russians, Tavener and multi-millionaire corrupt businessmen. Given that Slough House operatives are the rejects of the service no one expects much of them. Excellent book, however I would strongly suggest reading the series in order as the relationships develop over time and the characters all have histories.

Tana French’s Broken Harbor is a dark investigation into the murders of an entire family. This is a devastatingly sad mystery. From the back story of Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy the investigating officer, to the love story of the victims, to the horrible effects of the recession on an entire generation, sadness abounds. I did suspect the outcome relatively early on, however I believe that was by design. There are several red herrings that seem to be there to build tension and accent just how tragic the entire story actually is. Excellent psychological mystery. Themes of mental illness.

It has been a while…

I am really not thrilled with this new WordPress format and it seemed to have turned me off of keeping up with my blog. I am now deciding I should just bite the bullet and make myself get comfortable with it. I actually haven’t read that much because I have been working on lots of things for work instead, but I will put in the few books I’ve finished.

The Z Murders is a classic and my edition is one published as a British Library Crime Classic. This is more of a thriller centering on the mysterious Z and a cross country chase aimed at finding the damsel in distress, before the killer strikes again. Temperly is an extremely lucky protagonist, he’d have to be to follow this killer’s trail. Not much in the way of clues the reader can figure out, most of the novel is a chase scene. The killer’s motives and plan are quite a bit unbelievable but still this was an enjoyable read from the writer of Mystery in White.

The Long and Faraway Gone is a look back at 1986 for the original crimes. This was book centers on two survivors of cold case crimes twenty five years later. They are entangled as the two crimes occurred close together in Oklahoma City. Wyatt, the lone survivor of a bloody massacre, and Juliana, whose sister completely disappeared, are both looking at the past and trying to understand what happened and why. The novel explores the impact crime has on those it touches, long after the original event. This was an okay read for me and when I flipped it over and say the author is a screenwriter, that made sense to me. It seems to me it would be a better movie than a book.

A Place of Execution is by Val McDermid and has many rave reviews. It covers a span of time from the early 1960s to the 90s. A child disappears in the 1960s and years later the crime is being looked at again. First, this book was longer than it needed to be to tell the story, over 400 pages. It seemed repetitive in places and the ending was what I assumed fairly early on. This was a disappointing read.

Night Dogs is a novel I have been reading about for a while. It is touted as extremely realistic for police work at time, mid 1970s and the place, Portland Oregon. I think it was a little much for me. I have a hard time reading about animals being hurt, in pain, or killed and there is quite a bit of that in this book. I will have to admit to skimming some of it because of that. The story was interesting but I wouldn’t really say I enjoyed the book. Probably a good read for someone who wants realism with lots of grit from that time period.

The Reluctant Detective is the first in the C.T. Ferguson PI series. CT is fresh off the plane from getting in big trouble in China, working as a hacker. As the son of a wealthy and influential “old money” family, this does not go over well. His family more or less force him to use his skills for good by becoming a pro-bono PI. From there, the novel takes off. Well paced and almost a fun read as C.T. has a self deprecating sense of humor. His first case appears to be a simple adultery case but ends up of course being so much more, with danger galore. I enjoyed this and would read another in the series.

I watched Bridgerton, along with many other people I know and picked up the first couple books in the series. Some changes from the series, but still light fun romance reads. The stories revolve around the Bridgerton family, marriages, titles, and scandals.

These are the first two books from the Bitter Roots series. The protagonist is Zac Waller, a police dispatcher who is more than what meets the eye. There is a new mystery in each book so you can read them as stand-alones. There is a little something of everything here, mystery and murder, police work, characters from the community, family drama, and a pinch of romance. Light mystery read but very enjoyable.

December Reading…

The Santa Klaus Murder is actually a reread. I forgot I had read it until I got started and just decided to finish. A manor house murder mystery set at Christmas time complete with a Santa running around. A enjoyable holiday mystery.

The Christmas Invitation was a fun holiday women’s fiction read. A beautiful home in a bucolic setting, complete with snow and holiday decorations. A misunderstandings from the past intruding on the present. A big boisterous family with lovely traditions and a lonely portrait artist recovering from illness, all make for a completely lovely Christmas read.

Sweet Water feels like a very timely novel with the discussion of privilege and the lives the uber wealthy lead. In this mystery, Sarah, is the wrong side of the tracks girl who marries Martin, a man far above her station. She seems to have spent the marriage enjoying the perks but not really understanding what they mean or where they are coming from, perhaps preferring to stick her head in the sand. Her son becomes involved in horrible crime and Sarah must decide who she is, who she wants her son to be, and what price she is willing to pay. Overall, a good read, I did think the reason behind the crime was pretty obvious early on but I still enjoyed the book.

Frozen Minds is book 2 in the DI Winter Meadows series. The case here involves a murder in which the body is discovered in the freezer of a care home for adults with disabilities. As the detectives work on the case, the reader meets several of the residents and the care home workers. There is quite an obvious red herring thrown out early on and the murder is not the only crime occurring. This was an okay read. I actually went back and checked the publication date because it really came across somehow as dated feeling, but it was published in 2016. Not sure that I’d read more in this series.

Murder in the Manor is a cozy mystery set in England with an American protagonist. Lacey Doyle is reeling from her recent divorce and decides to return to the last place she had memories of her father. The small town initially starts off as a vacation destination, but Lacey decides to use her contacts and set up an antique shop in an empty store front. One of the first people who approaches her to do a valuation lives in the elegant manor house outside the village. Unfortunately when Lacey arrives, she not only finds antiques but also a dead body. As a newcomer and the person who found the body, fingers point her way rather quickly and she sets out to investigate to clear her name. Cute cozy mystery read, you just need to suspend your belief a bit at the seemingly bottomless well of money Lacey has to fund her entire expedition.

Ring Around the Rosie is a mystery with a bit of supernatural bent to it. The Rosie of the title is our protagonist’s long dead sister, Rosie, who was murdered and no one was ever caught. Rosie appears at will to chat with Olivia. A second body appears with seeming connections to Rosie’s murder and Olivia starts trying to look into the past with the help of her friend Nate. Good psychological thriller read.

The Sussex Downs Murder

This is the third John Bude mystery I have read. All of them have been reprintings as part of the British Library Crime Classics series. I have to say of this entire series I really like the John Bude books more than many of the others.

In this book, we have a pair of brothers, one missing presumed murdered, a beautiful young wife and a gruesome discovery. Superintendent Meredith has his hands full as the clues point first in one direction and then the other. An interesting mystery leading to an uncommon resolution. The case is uncovered through dogged police work even down to the filling of gas tanks and driving and redriving routes to uncover what may have happened. A really enjoyable classic mystery novel that deserves more attention.

Several reads from this Autumn…

Twelve Angry Librarians is the 8th book in the Cat in the Stacks mystery. In this Charlie finds himself stressed out by the hosting of a Library convention, especially when he discovers an old nemesis is due to be speaking at the convention. This is an always wonderful series and this installment does not disappoint. Charlie and Diesel become embroiled in a murder as one of the convention attendees is killed in front of an audience. There are also subplots from Charlie’s personal life as he is about to be a grandfather, his romantic interest is making a change in her life, and he has to make a decision about his position at the library. Fun cozy mystery read.

Pietr the Latvian is a book that I was looking forward to for quite a while, ever since I watched both versions of the Maigret TV series. Twisting turning plot as Maigret tracks down a villain. Very atmospheric and full of tension, all the makings of book you can’t put down. Maigret is a great detective character and one that makes me want to read more in this series.

Say it with Poison, the first in the Mitchell and Markby series, is a book I’ve had on my TBR for a while. From the description, it sounds like everything I would be interested in reading. Unfortunately, it falls short and I can’t even say why. It just felt like a struggle for me to keep going with it. I didn’t really like the sleuth. The action felt almost non-existent. I won’t be reading any more of this.

The Last Resort was an impulse download, I believe it was a free Amazon First Reads. A weak attempt at a Christie-esque, And Then There Were None crossed with some high tech version of Survivor. Fairly obvious early on as to who the villain was and the reason why. Not the book for me, I’m sorry to say.

Trick or Treat or Die was a impulse download from Amazon, I was looking for a Halloween cozy. The saying don’t judge a book by its cover applies here. Definitely not cozy, it concerns a violent rampage at a Halloween festival. There is also the killing of animals referenced and on screen. For someone interested in reading books about mass killings, like school shootings or the like, this might be the book for you.

I received a free ebook copy of Privilege from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. Sorry to say this was a “did not finish” for me. I just couldn’t get into this book at all. After a few attempts, I gave up and moved on to others.

I received a free ebook copy of The Man in the Microwave Oven from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. Theo is a British expat who owns a soap store in San Francisco. She is trying to keep a low profile and avoid detection after events in her native England. Murder is not very low profile and so when her neighborhood becomes the scene of one, she is definitely concerned. The murder ends up leading to a world of international espionage, old spies, and more entanglements with her family. An okay mystery read.

I received a free ebook copy of When the Past Kills from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. This was a really good mystery in the DI Ridpath series. This series is different from many others as DI Ridpath is assigned to the Coroner’s Office mainly and the perspective towards investigating is different from the standard police force. The mystery itself here was twisted, full of tension and action. This will keep up late turning the pages to finish.

I received a free ebook version of In Bad Company from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. This is book 9 in the Sandhamm Murders series. In this installment, the action centers on Bosnian refugees, organized crime, and domestic abuse. The actions of some of the characters can perhaps be linked to their experiences although that does not excuse any of them. The main focus is a young Swedish mother, Mina, who married a man, who is more monster than man. Nora and Thomas find themselves in a difficult fight to nail down this elusive criminal figure who uses terror and the law to stay ahead of them and out of jail. Very good mystery read.

I received a free ebook version of Death by French Roast from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. This is book 8 in the series and I have not read all the others before it, but that did not hinder my enjoyment of this one. The death of Krissy’s neighbor, although not a murder itself, does draw Krissy into the investigation of unsolved cold case. As she learns of the mystery surrounding “Uncle Wade” and his connection to Rita, a friend of hers, Krissy decides to look into it. Uncovering old secrets and rivalries that have long been brewing. Fun, fast cozy read.

Super Short Check in:

September is always a crazy month for me and this year is even more so with the whole virtual back to school thing going on and so although I am still reading, I really have not had much time to review or post.

Just an FYI, Thin Crust Killers and Assault and Batter are later books in long running series that I enjoy and have been reading for a while. They are by the same author. I would recommend both series The Pizza Mysteries and The Donut Mysteries. Both 4 star cozy reads.

The Ice Princess is a Nordic Noir read. There is a lot of really good Nordic Noir right now and I would say this was just average. Probably about a 3 star read. The main characters were okay, but it seemed to get distracted in the middle and the ancillary characters were not that well done.

Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs was a really good cozy mystery read. The series so far has been great and this was no exception. The characters and setting are all very well done. Writing is above par in the field Definitely a strong 4 star cozy

The Last Kashmiri Rose is not my usual genre being historical, but it was a really interesting read. The time period, the aspects of British colonialism, and the military life in India were all written about. I did find some aspects of the resolution a little hard to believe, but it was still a good read. Probably 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 on Goodreads.

All Sales Fatal and Malled to Death are books 2 and 3 in the Mall Cop series from Laura DiSilverio. I really enjoyed this series, which I believe is discontinued as there have been no further books for a while. I will say that I purchased these two as Kindle books from Amazon and book 3 appeared to be an uncorrected proof, which was a little odd. There were still notes in the book ( add xxxx here ) (build in back story….) etc. That being said I love the characters and the plot from these books. 4 star cozy mysteries.

Survival of the Fritters and A Deadly Inside Scoop are both firsts in new series, they were both okay but I’m not sure that either one grabbed me enough that I would continue with these series. 3 stars

Plantation Shudders is a series I’ve been meaning to get to for a while and I just picked it up from the library and really did enjoy it. I found the characters and the mystery plot well done and interesting . 4 stars.

Some mysteries…

Die Buying is the first in the Mall Cop series. This series was recommended to me multiple times by multiple cozy readers but I’ve never picked it up because,quite frankly, the theme did nothing for me, a mall cop or malls in general just didn’t seem appealing. I really regret now that I didn’t because this series ended up having a rather short run, a 3 book series, and it really is excellent. The protagonist is a veteran on military medical discharge. She was an MP and hasn’t had any luck finding civilian police work and took the closest work to it. The story line is well done and there is an interesting cast of supporting characters. A well written engaging cozy mystery. I am going to finish the series.

Cake and Punishment and Batter Off Dead are books 1 and 2 in the A Southern Cake Baker Mystery Series. I picked up both of these from the library. Sophia Cummings, a trained pastry chef has returned home from NY to recuperate from her broken heart. While home she gets roped into providing cakes for upcoming events as the town’s bakery recently closed. She also stumbles over a dead body or two and gets embroiled in murder investigations. This is fun series and walks a really nice line between being light-hearted enough for a cozy audience and to build that warm homey feeling without becoming silly. I enjoyed these two but I am not sure if there will be more in the series or not as the last one was published in 2018.

My Sister’s Bones is psychological mystery with an investigative journalist who travels the world, probably to avoid looking to hard at the issues that await her at home. The death of her mother triggers a return to home and confrontations head on with her own PTSD from the horrors she has encountered both in her work and in being raised with a violent drunk. She begins to see a small child next door in an ostensibly childless household and no one believes her. The story is told in her interviews in the police station and in events as they happen. There were some really good elements here but somehow as a whole I found just an okay read. A mash up perhaps of Dorothy Whipple’s Charlotte and Geoffrey from They were Sisters, some Girl on a Train, and Room?

Rosemary’s Gravy was an okay cozy mystery more focused on the romantic sub plots than the mystery. I think I probably am not the target demographic for this Hollywood celebrity chef themed cozy.

How to Bake a Murder is a cute short cozy. First in a series featuring a grandmother who is hosting her very reluctant grandmother to give her daughter a break from some teenage rebellion time. The Grandmother, Cookie, runs a bakery which she lives above and is currently barely breaking even. A regular customer dies in the shop and now rumors abound, in the midst of all this a developer swans in with offers to buy up the shop. Cookie wants to clear her name, figure out who killed her customer, and try to hang on to her shop. There are also some romantic side plots. Cute cozy, on the shorter side, currently free as a Kindle book.

The Corpse Who Knew Too Much & For Letter or Worse

I was really excited to see the 4th Food Blogger mystery on NetGalley and requested in right away. I love this series about Hope and her blog, Hope at Home. This time winter has socked in with plenty of snow giving that sense of isolation to the town. An old friend of Hope’s has returned home determined to finally solve the disappearance of her mother. There are plenty of people in town who would just rather that “all that unpleasantness” be left to rest. When a new murder occurs, Hope knows there is a connection and sets out to find out what happened all those years ago.

The Corpse Who Knew Too Much is a great installment in the series. I loved the introduction of the true crime podcasting, it gives a very modern vibe to the cozy. This is a cozy that manages to maintain the traditional feel with characters you want to befriend, the warmth and small town appeal, and yet also brings in the modern world. Good mystery plot and a variety of characters and possible villains to choose from in the investigation. Great read for cozy fans!

For Letter or Worse is the second in the Stationery Shop Mystery series. The theme and the setting of this series are both just amazing. I love stationery and the locale of Tundish, Montana stands out. Even the idea of the store being located in a repurposed jail building is unique and adds to the sense of place. The store owners are called on to host a craft table for a wealthy woman’s birthday celebration which ends abruptly with a murder. After events in the first book, Delta is no stranger to being in the middle of an investigation and she seems to be pulled into this one as well. Fine cozy mystery.

One by One, House of Lies, & The Cooking School Murders

One by One by Ruth Ware reminds me very much of her earlier book, In a Dark, Dark Wood, which I enjoyed greatly when I read it. This builds that sense of claustrophobic menace. Here we have a ski chalet and the weather with an avalanche cutting them all off causing the isolation. A team of wealthy tech entrepreneurs have met for their company retreat and find themselves at odds over the fate of the company involving millions. The tech staff and the chalet staff of two are stranded and then the dying begins.

This had a great sense of place and an interesting protagonist to root for throughout. I think the weakness what that the villain was pretty obvious fairly early on. I did like the story line and the idea of the tech company Snoop.

House of Lies is book four in series of which I have not read the first three, but that did not really seem to be an issue with jumping in here. DS Karen Hart is called in to look into what is initially a missing person case and seems somewhat premature as the girls are almost adults and they have not yet been gone 24 hours. Natasha and Cressida are staying at a Manse turned convention center currently hosting an expensive cram session for children of well off parents who want to give their kids a leg up on exams. They had purportedly decided to take a night off of cramming and hit the town and simply not shown up for breakfast. Suspicious characters abound and soon the case does turn into a murder investigation.

This was a really interesting case with many twists and turns. The characters were all nicely developed. The resolution was very well done. I would want to read more in the series. A very good police procedural.

The Cooking School Murder has been on my TBR for quite a while. Ever since I got hooked into Culinary cozies with the Diane Mott Davidson series, I meant to read the series that is supposed to be the one that started the genre and that is this series, the Eugenie Potter series by Virginia Rich. Virginia Rich published this book, the first in the series in 1982. She published 2 more books in the series before her death. She left notes for a couple more and her friend, Nancy Pickard continued the series.

The title is somewhat of a misnomer, the mystery is not really about a cooking school, the book starts off with a group people who signed up at Eugenie’s request for an Adult Education Cooking course being offered in the Home Ec Room at the local High School. After the murder(s) occur, the course is not revisited.

The good here: I loved the character of Eugenie, the food descriptions, the recipes. The crime was interesting and clever. There is an acknowledgement of classism, which was surprising for the time period. The historical context of the development of culinary cozies is easy to trace from this. Typical things we still see in modern culinary cozies occur here such as, events occur in the story and Eugenie cooks a dish or describes a dish. The townsfolk being introduced, especially in the first book in a series, and the small town “everyone knows everyone” atmosphere which are staples in many cozies. She even uses a technique I even seen in other series of writing out scenarios for how each of her “suspects” could have done it”, as a way of showing the sleuth’s thoughts.

The bad:

It does have a dated feel to it, which is understandable to a certain extent, but I was an adult in the 80s and this feels dated to me. Particularly in the discussion of homosexuality in relation to the character of Edward and to the use of the word gay. This might be because there is somewhat of a Christian bend here. Also in general some of the techniques, like her self dialogue as to her suspects “stories” are clunky.

Overall, I am glad that I read this, simply because it was interesting to see how Culinary cozies have developed.