Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell

 I just finished this cozy mystery, Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell.  The theme is not cookie baking, although there is some of that going on, but rather a shop that sells all things cookie related with an emphasis on cookie cutters, both antique collectibles and the everyday kind.

The sleuth, Olivia or Livie as she prefers to be called, is a divorced woman living with her mother who owns The Gingerbread House, the cookie and everything cookie related shop.  She has a dog, Spunky, and a partner/sidekick, Maddie.  Livie had a mentor in starting her business, Clarissa Chamberlain, who dies in what Livie feels are suspicious circumstances.  The police seem convinced it is an accident or perhaps suicide and Livie sets off to investigate.

I found the characters of Livie, her mom, and Maddie fun and interesting.  They are well drawn, not just stereotypes.  The mystery is interesting although there are few “real suspects”, pretty early on the pool of suspects is narrowed down to three probable villains.

I did find that the victim, Clarissa, seemed to be somewhat contradictory character.  She is Livie’s mentor and seemed to single-handedly pick her up and push her into a business of her own, yet she also seemed to be a somewhat ruthless and calculating business woman, controlling with her sons, manipulative, and yet mawkishly sentimental over her collection of antique cookie cutters.  Certainly interesting to read about.

Well done cozy mystery.  I am sure I will read more in this series.

 

3 More Reads

 

Glazed Murder was a total impulse by for me.  I have a confession, I have always avoided this series because I have a pretty big aversion to donuts.  I worked for a nation wide donut chain that will not be named in college, back in…1984, and I think that I can count the number of donuts I have eaten since then on one hand.

Anyway I picked it up and read it last night and was really surprised, I will admit i flipped quickly past the donut recipes, which were plentiful, so anyone who does want to make them will have lots to try here.  The main character, runs a independent donut shop and has a dead body of a local banker dumped in her parking lot one night.  Suzanne Hart is an interesting character and I like the push-pull relationship with her mother, who she has had to move back in with since her divorce and purchase of the donut shop.  A couple of the secondary characters need more development, but I am sure that because this is the first in a series that will come later.  Anyway, this is a fun light cozy mystery that has potential to become quite a good series.

Murder in Volume was this month’s read for the Cozy Mystery Corner Mystery Group on Goodreads. There is a plethora of book/library/bookstore themed cozies and many of them are among my favorite cozy series.  This is an book one of a 5 book series.  The protagonist is Megan Clark, a librarian and frustrated paleopathologist.  She has a sidekick history professor, Ryan, who is much older than her, and in fact is the father of her childhood friends.  She drags Ryan along on all of her adventures.  It is on one of these new activities, a book club, that Megan and Ryan stumble on a body and are embroiled in the mystery.

The point of view switches back and forth throughout the book.  It is in this switching that we learn that Ryan is having romantic feelings towards Megan, seemingly unrequited as Megan is dating someone else.  The mystery includes references to other mystery series, similar to Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand series.  Part of these are understandable as discussion in the mystery book club meetings.

I did not connect with Megan Clark as a protagonist, she seemed arrogant and takes herself and her paleopathology degree far too seriously, even though it seems like it is not an employable degree. I also didn’t like the developing romance with Ryan at all, not being able to stop wondering what his kids would think of it.

I don’t think this is a series I will continue with, especially when there are so many other very good book themed cozies.

Perfect Love by Elizabeth Buchan is a women’s fiction novel, about Prue  a woman, wife, mother, and stepmother in her forties, who begins to be lured into infidelity.  This is a classic midlife crisis family drama novel, with complex family relationships and situations.   Added into this book is a running Joan of Arc metaphor that really doesn’t seem to work.  It actually could be eliminated from the book altogether.

I have read several of Elizabeth Buchan’s books and I have a strange relationship with them, I always find them very well written, with fully developed characters with all their flaws, and interesting plots. On the other hand, I would not say that I like them, if that makes sense.  Her stories are too realistic, there are never satisfying conclusions, no neat endings, no  punishment for the wicked or rewards for the good.  It always seems like things just trudge along and end with the characters still having numerous issues to work through, much like real life.

As someone who reads women’s fiction, for an escape from reality I am always frustrated, but I still keep reading them for some reason.

Blind Date by Frances Fyfield

 

 

I have not read any other work by Frances Fyfield, however I did watch and enjoy the TV series of the Helen West Casebook, which was based on her Helen West books.  I picked up this book because it was a selection for this month for the Kindle English Mystery Club on Goodreads.

I liked a lot about this book, the characters of Elisabeth Kennedy and Joe, were interesting in themselves and as a relationship.   The villain(s) twisted relationship revealed over time was intriguing and well done.  I found the setting, Elisabeth’s church tower apartment well done (and it is an important part of the story). The psychology of Elisabeth, the relationship between her and her mother, sister, and nephew is well done.

The mystery has more of psychological thriller feel to it than any other sub genre of mystery. The pacing was well suited to this type of mystery.

The issue I had with this book was with  character development.  I didn’t really get  a sense of Joe’s back story and I had trouble keeping his friends straight because they were not well defined enough.  I didn’t even understand entirely the idealization of Elisabeth’s sister, unless that was just some post-mortem “don’t speak ill of the dead” kind of thing but it seemed like an ongoing aspect of their relationship.  Even Joe realized that the story of Emma was too good to be true.  On the plus side, by eliminating some back story and character development, the pacing is accelerated.  This is fast moving and a quick read.

Overall, I did enjoy this and would read another book by Frances Fyfield.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen

  I just read the first one in this series and really enjoyed it so I was happy to get this one so quickly.  I love the character of Carl Morck.  I liked seeing how his success on the first Dept. Q case has changed him, making him more confident and more passionate about his work.

I do think this second outing in the series was not as good as the first.  My first issue was that the translation did not seem done as well.  The dialog flowed better in the first book and I am assuming that this is a translation issue not a writing issue.  The second “problem” was the limitation of Assad’s role in this book, he was not as prominent or as humorous as in the first one.  I really enjoyed this character and the developing relationship with Carl in the first book.  I will say that Assad came back strongly in the last 50 pages.  Finally, the plot as a whole seemed  more far fetched in this book. The over the top villain and all the animal hunting/cruelty was a little much.

The reader should be aware this is not really a whodunnit.  From the beginning, it is just an effort to find proof to link the group to their crimes, rather than determining a culprit.   I did not have an issue with the  violent, destructive nature of the group, I actually find that very timely with stories in the news today of teens “wilding” and events that occur in the city I work in, so that part was believable for me.   There was still plenty to like here and so even with the issues I had with The Absent One, I still will continue with this series.

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.

The Last Detective by Peter Lovesey

 

The Last Detective is the first novel in the Peter Diamond mystery series.  I saw it mentioned as a recommendation and picked it up from the library and I am so glad that I did.  The character of Peter Diamond was engaging in his own way.  I am not normally a fan of the “anti-technology” quirk but it works for him.  He has an earnest manner about him and his lack of arrogance is quite endearing.  I also liked the changing points of view as the book progressed.  It was handled very well.  I have read books in which changing points of view can be confusing or just a device that adds nothing to the plot, but that is not the case here.

I did know who the “villain” was prior the reveal but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.  I am definitely going to continue this series.  Great mystery read!

 

The Keeper of Lost Causes and The Burning

 

I read these two last night, unable to sleep because I have given up on pain meds.  Anyway it can only get better, at least that is what I keep telling .

I loved The Keeper of Lost Causes!  Sometimes translated works can have awkward translations and be problematic especially for dialogue, but I didn’t notice that here.  Carl Morck is a wonderfully realistic character.  I could completely understand his giving up on things and counting the hours each day and the days to retirement.  Assad as a catalyst was very well written and a character in his own right.  As a watcher of the TV series, Cold Case, the whole concept of Dept. Q was fascinating.  The actual crime itself and the victim’s story is horrifying and totally enthralling.    I had a sense of who the perpetrators were but no real conclusive evidence before the reveal.   Highly recommended read, particularly for readers who like their sleuths “damaged”.

The Burning by Jane Casey is a mystery about a serial killers who burns his victims when he is done with them.  After coming off of reading The Keeper of Lost Causes, this simply did not compare.  Maeve Kerrigan did not seem really grip me as a character and the mystery seemed predictable.  Overall, the plot and the characters lack depth, everything seemed one dimensional.  As a reader, you totally lose sight of “the burning man” during the course of the book. Since this is the first in a series, perhaps depth will develop over time.