Three reads…

These are my latest three reads, State of the Onion was this month’s read for the Cozy Mystery Corner on Goodreads. This was an okay cozy mystery, more action or tension than the average cozy and less character development.  I think this is mainly due to the White House setting and all the attendant security and political issues.  The book was well written and paced, however some of it seemed to push hard at the boundaries of belief suspension.  Many readers do enjoy this series and so I am inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt and think about reading another in the series.

Stirring the Plot is the third in the Cookbook nook series by Daryl Wood Gerber, who also writes the Cheese Shop Mysteries that I like under the name of Avery Aames.  This book has a Halloween setting and witches abound, all in good fun until one of them ends up dead.  The witches, a charitable group, and others come under suspicion and the twists and turns uncover secrets and misdirect the reader and Jenna, the sleuth.  The romance subplot begun in earlier books continues to develop here as does Jenna’s life and immersion in the community, which she moved to in order to recover from her husband’s death.  I heartily recommend this fun, fast paced cozy mystery.

Making Marion was an impulse pick up for me from the library. I was scanning the new arrival shelves and the cover popped out at me.  This book handles the topic of childhood neglect and its impacts sensitively without being maudlin.  Marion is still, as an adult, dealing with the rejection from her mother and the resulting selective mutism, but has bravely chosen to strike out on her own in search of answers about her beloved father who died when she was a child.  She meets a motley crew of campground characters and makes her way into their unconventional “family” with the help of Scarlett, the owner.  Lovely happy ending after some bittersweet moments, themes of loving yourself, forgiveness and family are all explored in this charming book. I will definitely look for more by this author, Beth Moran.

I “read” another book besides these three this week, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death.

I read this as the November read for the Kindle English Mystery book club.  I use the word read lightly.  This book is organized into a series of loosely connected short stories with recurring characters.  I read the first one and then skipped around and read another.  Finally, I skimmed most of it.  For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get into the character or the book.  To be fair I don’t really read many historical fictions and very few with religious undertones, so it might work for other readers.

The Fat Woman Mystery and One Dead Cookie

  These are my two latest cozy mystery reads.  I got The Fat Woman Mystery on my Kindle for $2.99 after seeing it advertised.  I enjoyed it, especially the realistic discussion of the differences between the casual dieter, 10 to 20 pounds to lose, and the life long dieter with serious issues with food in the obese to morbidly obese category.  The main character, Margaret, is very likable and easy to relate to, at least for me.  She doesn’t want pity or sympathy from her friends, other members of her diet club, as she deals with the death of her husband.  She is in a not so small case of denial about her grief.

The mystery was interesting and tied together lots of pieces very nicely.  My first issue with this is that I found that the book seemed short, either that or it was a very quick read.  The second is that I found the theme really similar to another series that I really, really love by JB Stanley AKA Ellery Adams, the Supper Club Mysteries.  I couldn’t help compare the two, with the Supper Club Mysteries coming out on top as far as character development and richness of setting and story line.

One Dead Cookie is the fourth book in a Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery.  I really enjoy this series.  The main character, Olivia owns the shop and lives above it with her dog.  She is busy dealing with baking for her best friend Maddie’s engagement party.  The party gets wilder when a B list celebrity arrives and the murder occurs.  The murder is connected to people who stayed in the area and to an old unsolved crime.  On top of the murder, there are other smaller crimes occurring muddying the waters.  I really do enjoy this series, but I will say this was not my favorite it it so far.  I am looking forward to reading the next one nonetheless.

The Wolfe Widow & Crime Rib

  These are the latest two cozy mysteries I have read.

The Wolfe Widow is the third in the book collector series by Victoria Abbott. I really enjoy this well written series.  I will say I got a little nervous in the beginning which starts out with our protagonist, Jordan, losing her position with the difficult to please Vera Van Alst. I was afraid that the whole tenor of the series was about to change.   The mystery is an interesting twist on this series that usually revolves around stolen books in that the books take more of a back seat here.  Jordan follows up on clues about the suspected villain with the help of Uncle Kev, but the rest of her side kicks seem to have disappeared.  All is explained in a neatly wrapped up conclusion after many twists and turns.

A very well written series, good mystery plot with excellent pacing and tension building, I would highly recommend this book (but start with the first in the series).

I am happy that I gave Crime RIb a chance.  I really wasn’t going to read it because the first in this series Death Al Dente didn’t really work for me,  but I kept hearing good things about the second book.  The mystery was well done and kept you guessing until close to the end.  I liked the characters much more than I remember liking them.   The food and festival details were fun and certainly kept me interested.

This was definitely a case of the series improving as it progressed or maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood when I read the first one.

All Fudged Up by Nancy Coco & A Peach of a Murder by Livia J. Washburn

Woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep last night, so I read these two cozy mysteries.  All Fudged Up was definitely an impulse buy, I saw it in my local bookshop and just added it to the pile.  A Peach of a Murder is book one in a series that has been around a long time and I finally decided to give it a try.

All Fudged Up revolves around a young woman returning to her family owned resort to take over running it upon the death of her grandfather.  She was not unprepared because she had been planning for it for a while but her grandfather died suddenly and she had jump in feet first.  The setting is Mackinac Island and a grand old hotel and fudge shop.  As soon as she starts working to get ready for the tourist season, a dead body turns up in her hotel, putting her in the hot seat as far as local law enforcement and just the locals in general are concerned.

The character, Allie, has a lot to overcome and she handles it all admirably with the help of some loyal staff and a friend that comes to stay  and help.  I did enjoy the setting and the main characters.  The townsfolk need to be fleshed out more but I  am assuming that will occur as the series progresses.  The mystery was interesting with lots of twists and turns, it was wrapped up very quickly in the end.  There seems to be a couple possible romantic leads but nothing too much happened in this book.

This is a promising, fun series with an interesting setting and theme.

A Peach of Murder is book one in Livia J. Washburn’s A Fresh Baked Mystery Series, which now boasts nine books.  The protagonist, Phyllis, is perfecting her peach recipes for competition, when a murder occurs at the peach orchard.  Her son is a local cop and that gives her an in with inside information and leads that she wouldn’t know about otherwise.  Phyllis’s husband has died and she has turned the family home into a boarding house, mainly for retired teachers.   One is an older good friend of hers, Mattie, who is sadly showing the first signs of dementia.

The plus was the resolution of the mystery and the tie up of all the threads, exceptionally well done!   The hints were there, but subtly done.  The theme of baking/cooking contests was fun and entertaining, just seeing the petty rivalries that such events stir up.  The negative was I just didn’t find Phyllis all that exciting or likable.  She is the stereotypical school marm character and comes across as judgmental to me.  Myaybe being a teacher I am just sensitive to that portrayal of us?   I think if you like very, very  clean cozies that exemplify southern Christian values you will enjoy this more than I did.  It is well written and I said the mystery piece was handled very well.

 

Diamond Solitaire by Peter Lovesey

This is the second book in the Peter Diamond series.  I really liked the first book in this series and that is why I picked this one up.  This second outing in the series is very different from the first, Diamond is no longer a policeman, he begins the book as a Harrod’s department store security man, which he doesn’t last very  long as once it is discovered that a small child has managed to breach security.

Losing the job at Harrod’s has left Diamond with time on his hands.  Intrigued by the fate of the still unclaimed Japanese child, he begins to develop a relationship with her and to investigate how she ended up in Harrods.  The investigation trots around the world and involves the cut throat business of pharmaceutical manufacturing and the quest for the next big drug.  Naomi, as she is known to Diamond, appears to be autistic and/or suffering from selective mutism.  Diamond is determined to see this little girl safely home and solve the mystery that surrounds her.

This is just as well written as the first in the series, however a different style.  There is more of a thriller/international chase feel to this book.  I did enjoy it but I found some of it a little far fetched,mainly to do with the actual treatment of Naomi.  The child is discovered and not claimed and then placed in a school for autism where Diamond is given unlimited access to her.  Then, a woman shows up claims the child and waltzes off with her.  The villain and the whole pharmaceutical plot was well done and was tied together with Naomi in a satisfying resolution.

 

 

Resolution & A Brush with Death

Resolution is the third book in the Garnethill trilogy by Denise Mina.  I would highly recommend reading this series in order…or you will be completely  lost.

It is hard to discuss too much about this book without giving away spoilers to the first two in the series, because this plot wraps up events from those books.  On the whole this is a dark, gritty, violent series.  It covers a gamut of issues from childhood sexual abuse, alcoholism, family dysfunction, infidelity, drug abuse, rape and of course murder.  The protagonist, Maureen, as a drunken, self destructive incest survivor drives this whole trilogy.  The closest character I can compare her to is Lisbeth Salander of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame.

The negatives with the books, all of them, for me occur whenever Maureen interacts with the police officers. Those scenes seem to range from unrealistic to cartoonlike, especially by book 3 in the series.  Has Maureen learned nothing about the criminal justice system and dealing with police by that time??  Overall, a good trilogy with character development and growth over the course of the arc, an excellent sense of place, and  a nicely woven plot, if perhaps a little too neatly tied up in the end.

 

A Brush with Death is the second in the Penny Brannigan series set in Wales.  This book picks up right where the first one  left off.  Penny is living in the cottage she inherited from her close friend, Emma.  She stumbles upon a mystery from Emma’s past and feels compelled to follow it to the end.  I quite enjoyed the first in this series, however this one fell  somewhat flat for me.

The positives are the character descriptions and the setting.  Well executed to the point that the reader can “see” the people and the town.  There are a couple new characters that are introduced that I assume will be recurring because of the time spent developing them.  The mystery was interesting and I definitely had the culprit wrong, however there was information withheld from the reader until the reveal, so I don’t suppose you could solve it completely.

The negatives are that the romantic subplot didn’t really work for me. I didn’t get a sense of chemistry between the characters, but that is not a huge element in a mystery.   The dialogue was often stilted or on the other had silly.  The mystery seemed almost secondary, a bit emphasis in the book was the examination of change in social issues.  Although the portrayal of attitudes and the connection to a possible murder motive made this pertinent, it felt overshadowing to me.

I really did like the first book, so I might pick up the third one given the opportunity.

The Killing of the Tinkers by Ken Bruen

 

I  just recent read the first in the series and enjoyed it so much that I picked this one, The Killing of the Tinkers, up from the library.  In this  outing of the series, Jack Taylor is more messed up (if you can believe that is possible) than he was in the first book.  Jack has decided to add a side of cocaine addiction to his already rampant alcoholism on his path to self destruction.  On top of the drugs and alcohol he also is burning through women, including a wife he picked up in London.  Now that Sutton is gone, Jack has acquired some new sidekicks, Keegan and Sweeper, who add their own color to the book.

In this book, the mystery surrounds murdered gypsies (tinkers) and as a side plot, murdered swans.  Jack stumbles his way drunkenly  through the mystery, acquiring some pretty brutal injuries along as the way and losing some teeth.  It seems like you should be able to smell the whiskey dripping off the pages at some points.   The resolution is messy, not a typical  “neat and clean with all the ends tied up”, but it suits Jack and his decidedly messy life.  I am definitely going to continue with this series of very engaging page turners, even though this biggest mystery might be how Jack stays alive.