A Roux of Revenge, Written in Blood, & The Cornish Coast Mystery

My latest three reads are pictured above.  A Roux of Revenge is the third book in the “A Soup Lover’s Mystery” by Connie Archer.  Lucky is busy running her business, hosting a pumpkin carving contest, and attempting to sort out the family problems of young employee, Janie and her mother, Miriam.  In the midst of all this, a fair is being hosted in the town by a somewhat sleazy businessman, a murder occurs of  a mystery man, and details of an old unsolved robbery surface.  There is lots of action that certainly pushes the plot along in this outing of the series.  Lucky is a great character and the other recurring characters continue to be fleshed out as the series develops.

The mystery plot is interesting with a few red herrings to throw the reader off the trail.  There is also an interesting romantic subplot with Lucky that is explored more than it was in previous books.   I thoroughly enjoyed A Roux of Revenge and look forward to the next book in the series.

Written in the Blood by Caroline Graham is one of the books that the Midsomer Murders TV series is based on  with the wonderful Inspector Barnaby as the sleuth.   This was actually one of my favorite episodes of the TV show.  A writers group’s invitation to a well known author to speak leads to murder and old secrets springing forth.  The members of the writing group are an eclectic bunch from a woman writing her family history, to a college professor who does improvisational work and a kind of poetry, the professor’s wife with a children’s book about a dragon and others.  There are many secrets that come to light before the murderer is finally exposed.   A really well done English village mystery which includes a colorful cast of characters, a lovely setting, and an intelligent, admirable sleuth.

The Cornish Coast Mystery by John Bude is a British Library Crime Classic.  It is part of a series of crime novels from the British golden age of crime writing that are now being republished after almost disappearing from sight.  This was an engaging read right from the first chapter.  The Vicar earns not only the Inspector’s respect but the reader’s as well.  His methodical approach to solving the crime and following the clues shows intelligence and insight.  The interest in this book is in the details.  The details show the difference between reading a book that written in the past and reading a modern day historical  fiction.   The scene is established vividly through the details.  The red herrings are supported by evidence to lead the reader along enough to be convincing.

The author employs a technique that I know I have seen in current mystery novels and I am curious whether he was the first to try it.  I don’t want to say more because it is an integral part of the plot.  I am certain I will enjoy reading more work by John Bude and more of the British Crime Classics in general.

Fiction from #Deadly Ink

I attended the Deadly Ink conference this past weekend and the authors of these books were all there.  The Donna Andrews book I picked up ahead of time after hearing that she would be the Toastmaster of the event and realizing I had never read any of her books.  I purchased other books at the conference, which was excellent and very well ran.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to attend writing classes, listen to authors on panel discussions and just in general meet with authors in a more intimate setting.

The Cat Sitter’s Cradle is book 8 in the Dixie Hemingway series, a series began by Blaize Clement and continued by her son, John after her death.  I had read a book or two in the series a while ago, unfortunately I am not very good at keeping track of my series and was surprised to see how many books I had missed.  This happens to me all the time with lots of series.

Even though I read this one out of order, it did not impact my enjoyment of it.  The book opens with Dixie   stumbling across both a woman giving birth and a “dead” expensive exotic bird while walking her dog.  The book takes off from there and continues at a good pace.  On one of Dixie’s pet sitting jobs, a dead body appears and she finds herself right in the middle of the investigation, knowing both the victim and the suspects.

The mystery plot was well done and I was surprised at who the killer was revealed to be.  The characters are interesting and very natural feeling.  Dixie’s back story is tragic and probably a little darker than the average cozy, but makes her a more complex character.  Dixie’s brother and his partner are well done, in that they fit seamlessly into the story.  Lately, I have noticed that there seems to be a trend to have a gay character, just for the sake of having a gay character, not because they are a purposeful part of the story, that type of insertion feels to me more like a marketing ploy and turns me off.

Very good pacing throughout the story and the romantic subplot was charming.  The writing gave a well defined sense of place (or at least I think so having not spent much time in Florida).

Lovely, quick reading cozy mystery.  I bought a second one at the conference, The Cat Sitter’s Pajamas which I will read soon.

Murder with Peacocks was written by Donna Andrews, the Toastmaster of the convention.  This series is set in Yorktown, Virginia and I spent some time growing up in Norfolk, so I am somewhat familiar with Virginia.

Meg Langslow has returned home for the summer to be  the unpaid, unofficial wedding planner/wrangler/point person for not one, but 3 family members.  Lots of crazy characters and antics are involved here along with the murder of a particularly unpleasant guest. There is also a romantic interest, sort of anyway.  Let’s just say that there are obstacles in the way of the romance and leave it at that.

This is the first in the series and so I assume that that is why so little of the book is actually concerned with the mystery, rather it involves the antics of a wide ranging cast of characters.   I feel as though this book really was introducing the supporting characters, the setting and the sleuth.  Setting up for a very popular and long running series of cozy mysteries.  Definitely on the side of the humorous cozies, this series seems more for comedy than mystery.

Cinnamon Girl:  A Village Cooks Mystery by Valerie Horowitz is a culinary mystery with some interesting political connections.  The sleuth Bonnie Emerson, is a daughter of a former POTUS.  Now married, she has a son and a small cookbook and cooking supply store in a affluent New Jersey community.  A murder occurs and through several events it becomes evident that the murderer thinks that Bonnie knows who he is.  The Secret Service is called in and the investigation continues through a large cast of characters, interesting cookbook references, and another death.

I live in New Jersey and so the setting is very familiar to me and seemed accurate. There is a large cast of characters and the author provides a list in the front of the book to keep them straight. This is the author’s first in a series of Village Cooks Mysteries.

 

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.

 

 

Through a Glass, Deadly by Sarah Atwell

This is the group read this month for The Cozy Mystery Corner Book Club on Goodreads.  Sarah Atwell is a pen name for Sheila Connolly, who writes the County Cork series, which I adore and two other series I have not tried yet, an Orchard series and a Museum series.

This series theme is glassblowing, which I admittedly know nothing about and don’t necessarily have very much interest in to be honest.  In general I am not an artistic or crafty person at all, not really any talent in those kinds areas. When I was a kid, in about second grade, my mom told me she always knew which project was mine when it was time to visit the classroom for back to school night.  She said she just had to look for the worst one on the wall and that would be it.  I have not improved over time.

Anyway, there is a lot to like about this book, the sleuth, Emmeline or Em, is different from most cozy mystery protagonists, at least initially.  She hears the proverbial bump in the night and rather than rush headlong into danger, she actually calls 911 and waits until she hears the culprits running away before getting out of bed to investigate.  She is a successful established business woman, most cozy mysteries start the series with the sleuth beginning their business.  The setting is in Tuscon and she does make the setting important and incorporate it into the story line.  It seems to me accurate and a good sense of place, although I have not been to Tuscon so I really have no way of knowing.  Interesting comments about limited exterior lighting to prevent light pollution suggest knowledge of the area.

Her brother, Cam is also another non-traditional cozy character.  He is obviously loyal and loving to his sister, an IT worker who lives a few hours away and visits when he can.  He seems somehow naive and innocent in an interesting way.  The other secondary characters are similarly interesting.

The book is also not traditionally plotted.  There is a murder and it is pretty straightforwardly solved in about the first two thirds of the book.  Then there is a second plot related to the murder but more in the lines of a low level thriller involving kidnapping and a missing valuable object(s).  It made it a different read than the usual cozy.

The negatives are that at least for me, there is too much detail on the glass blowing.  It might just be me, I like my themes in cozies to not overwhelm the mystery plot and here I found myself skimming some of the glass blowing detail because  I couldn’t understand it anyway.  I mean I get that you have special tools and furnaces and that temperature is important, but beyond that…ehh.  The other negative is that the mystery is not enough, there needs to be more red herrings or twists if it is going to be a mystery.

The negatives might improve in later books in the series.  There are two more and then it appears that is it.  Being that the series appears to be discontinued after 3 books, I am not sure that I will continue with it, although I do like a lot about the book.

A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie

This took me quite  a while to get round to reading.  I checked it out of the library a couple times and never got around to it before having to return it, until this time.  I am glad that I did read it this time.  This was a Agatha Christie-like English country house murder mystery.  Our sleuth, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, accepts a holiday time share to an estate in the Yorkshire countryside, wakes up to use the pool early and finds a body.  He is not accepting the local police’s assumption of suicide and so ends up having a “working vacation.”

Very well crafted mystery plot, with more than one murder, hints of blackmail, and infidelity scattered about.  Secrets abound among the group of vacationers with some having more to hide than others.  The stories are all cleverly woven together, there are no unnecessary story lines or characters.

Superintendent Kincaid has a sidekick in the form of his Sergeant Gemma James, a single working parent.  Gemma helps Kincaid with this case long distance, since he is away on vacation, however I am sure that as the series progresses her role will be more prominent.  After all, the series is  Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James, not just Kincaid.  Gemma seems like a good counterpoint sidekick for Kincaid and I look forward to seeing how the relationship between the two develops.

The series feels very much like Midsomer Murders, in fact Kincaid reminds me somewhat of Barnaby, so fans of that TV series should enjoy this!  This is an exceptional example of an English country house style murder and a highly recommended read.

Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham

 Interesting opening to a new series.  DC Griffith is a oddball police officer, a little bit maverick , a little bit socially awkward, a little bit protector of women,  and little bit..disturbed.  (Think Lisbeth Salanderesque.)  The issue at the heart of DC Fiona Griffith’s behavior is not revealed until the end so I won’t discuss that here.  The case she investigates involves a sad drug addict and her six year old child.  The pair of them are found dead in a squat.  The child’s murder was particularly brutal.  In the midst of the horrific crime scene, the police find a platinum card of a missing, presumed dead businessman. There are lots of twisting turns bits and Fiona investigates thoroughly, sometimes putting herself in danger, sometimes offending people, and sometimes getting into trouble.

I enjoyed this book a great deal, however I will say that Fiona’s behaviors were almost a distraction from the crime and the investigation. I found myself more engaged by the mystery of Fiona than the case she was working.  This may be due to this being the first in the series??  Even once the source of Fiona’s issue is revealed, it simply raises more questions which I assume will be addressed in future books.

I will definitely be following this series, if for no other reason that to see what happens to Fiona.

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.