Sunday, September 1, 2019

A Brand-New Series From a Gold Dagger Winner






THE LONG CALL
Two Rivers #1
Ann Cleeves
St. Martin's Minotaur
September 3, 2019



The Long Call begins the first new series by the author of Vera and Shetland in twenty years. Set in North Devon, it introduces us to DI Matthew Venn, a very different sort of detective to the usual run. Matthew grew up in a strict evangelical cult and was expelled as a young man when he lost his faith. He is also gay, something frowned upon by the Barum Brethren. When we first meet, he is standing outside the funeral of his father. The funeral was by invitation and Matthew was not invited. Upon leaving, he received a call to a nearby beach and a body with a large albatross tattooed on his neck stabbed to death. His search for the killer will lead him into a web of secrets and lies involving the very people he grew up with. The community center run by Matthew's husband, Jonathan, appears to be closely linked.

Ann Cleeves writes intensely atmospheric, character-driven mysteries and The Long Call does not disappoint. This murder investigation is Matthew's first as lead, and he has many doubts, mostly driven by his past. Added to his worries is the apparent involvement of his husband's center. He worries that it's a conflict of interest. The supporting characters are well-drawn and memorable, especially his female investigating partner, Jen Rafferty. She is Matthew's opposite but serves as a perfect foil for his introspection. The supportive and loving relationship between Matthew and Jonathan helps him keep his balance in a case that destroys his previous beliefs about the Brethren.

Some might find that The Long Call moves a bit slowly, and I would agree. However, I like character-driven mysteries, rather than a fast-moving plot. There is plenty of action in the last third of the novel! Thanks to NetGalley and Minotaur for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 4.5 Stars







Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Most Welcome Return




THE SPOTTED DOG
Corinna Chapman # 7
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
September 10, 2019


It seems that I have been waiting forever for The Spotted Dog rather than "only" seven years.  I have read, re-read and listened to the adventures of Corinna Chapman, plus-size baker extraordinaire, and her gorgeous Israeli detective lover, Daniel. So I was delighted to receive an advance copy. Set in a highly fictionalized Melbourne, Corinna owns and runs Earthly Delights, a bakery on the ground floor of the Insula, an apartment building inhabited by a weird and wonderful cast of occupants who have a supportive and loving community of their own.

The Spotted Dog opens as all the books do, at the 4 AM rising of Corinna to do the baking. Baking is her calling, but even after years, Corinna is not at her best. Thankfully she has an assistant, ex-addict Jason, who comes in even earlier. Corinna opens the door to release Heckle and Jekyll, the "mouse police" from their nightly duties. Down the alley, she sees a tall man shambling towards her and mumbling that Sister Mary sent him to see Daniel. Sister Mary is the local stalwart advocate for the homeless, addicted, and mentally challenged outcasts of Melbourne. Of course, Corinna brings him in, where he collapses. Someone has mugged him and stolen his beloved service dog, Geordie. Alasdair Sinclair and Geordie were invalided out of the Army after horrible experiences in Afghanistan. A companion mystery is that of a visitor to Insula, Philomela, left both in a wheelchair and mute after an accident. Then there are a series of break-ins occurring at Insula. Can all these happenings be connected?

Corinna, with her absolute comfort with her body and huge heart, is one of my favorite fictional characters. All the supporting characters from previous books at least make an appearance. The interlocking storylines are a bit convoluted in this one, however. The "Autlralianisms" are plentiful, so Google is definitely a friend! As usual, the food descriptions are mouth-watering and recipes are included. The Spotted Dog is another satisfying read, though perhaps not one of my personal favorites. It could be read as a stand-alone but I would recommend reading the entire series. Thanks to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen.

RATING- 4 Stars


Monday, August 26, 2019

Turmoil Beneath the Placid Surface





THE MISSING ONES
Hester Thursby Mystery # 2
Edwin Hill
August 27, 2019


The first novel in this series, Little Comfort, introduced us to Hester Thursby, a librarian with a profitable sideline in searching for missing persons. At the time she was on leave from her library position, having been left to care for 4-year-old Kate, daughter of her best college friend, Daphne. Daphne took off and left the child with her and her "not-husband," Morgan, who also happens to be Daphne's twin brother. The events of Little Comfort left her nearly dead and overly protective of Kate. Hester can't let out of her sight long enough to return to the library job, or even let Kate go to pre-school. Worse, she has been lying to Morgan about it. Upon receiving a cryptic text from Finisterre Island, off the coast of Maine, Hester is off once again, Kate in tow. Upon arrival, she finds not the idyllic place that most tourists see, but the real island with missing children, suspicion, rivalries, drug problems, and extra-marital entanglements. 

The Missing Ones has more twists and turns than even Little Comfort provided. Finisterre is based on Monhegan Island, but highly fictionalized. As someone who vacationed on a Maine Island for many years, I can attest to Hill's accuracy. My island is much smaller, with even fewer amenities, but over the years, I came to understand just un-idyllic and challenging life is for the year-round residents. A tremendous amount is going on beneath the placid surface, if not to the dangerous level of Finisterre. The Missing Ones foreshadows events to come, and I am eager to find out what happens next. Hopefully, Hester, Morgan, and especially Kate can find a bit more normality.

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington for an advance digital copy. I highly recommend the series for readers of mystery and suspense.

RATING- 4.5 Stars


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Action, Romance and Magic




SAPPHIRE FLAMES
A Hidden Legacy Novel # 4
Ilona Andrews
Avon Books
August 27, 2019


A lot has happened since the events of Wildfire, three years before the opening of Sapphire Flames. Nevada Baylor has stepped down as head of House Baylor and is in Spain with her husband, Conor Rogan and his mother. Catalina has stepped up to lead the house, even though that was nothing she ever wanted. When Augustine Montgomery contacts her to investigate the deaths of a woman and her daughter in a housefire, Catalina at first refuses the job. It smells like House warfare, and Catalina wants no part of it. But the victim's daughter who was not at home and therefore survived was a friend. The fact that Alessandro Segredo, Catalina's teenage crush is involved makes her even more reluctant.

What follows is the Andrews' signature blend of action, humor, and romance. A lot of stuff gets blown up, the body count is high, and Catalina is targeted by a very creepy mind-mage. It's a fun read with a well-built magical world and great characters. One of the more minor characters in previous novels steps to center stage, Since I don't entirely trust him, I'm looking forward to future developments. 

Thanks to Avon and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. I highly recommend the Hidden Legacy series and all of the Andrews' books.

RATING- 4 Stars



Monday, August 12, 2019

Art Theft is Just a Part of this Heart-Pounding Thriller




THE HIDDEN THINGS
Jamie Mason
Simon and Schuster/ Gallery
August 13, 2019


Carly Lidell is not your average fourteen-year-old. She survived an attack at her own front door and in the foyer from a local lowlife by fighting back and knocking out he attacker. The whole "thing," as Carly calls it was captured on video by the home security cameras and quickly went viral. Only the corner of a painting hanging in the foyer is visible, but the video is of great interest to several people. The picture is one of the works stolen, a minor one, in the notorious robbery at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. It seems that the painting has surfaced once before and in the process changed the lives of all involved. What could it be doing hanging in a suburban foyer? The players in this drama are Marcelline, John /Jonathan, Carly's stepfather, Owen Haig, and Roy Dorring. Four years earlier John had led Marcelline into a plan to sell the painting to an obscenely wealthy family rather than turn it into the FBI or the Museum. She nearly paid with her life and had to disappear. Owen was the agent for the family and has been obsessed with getting the art back ever since. Roy was just the sad-sack trying to make a buck, which is the entirety of his life. The viral video sets this group on a collision course. And Carly? She wants to know why her stepfather is so changed and acting so suspiciously since the "thing."

The Hidden Things is a fast-paced thriller with characters that are so fleshed out they jump off the page. Marcelline made a bad mistake and just wants her life back. John is a sociopath; Roy, a quintessential loser, and Owen can only be described as a "black hole" whose real motives are indecipherable to me. And Carly is bright, gifted, compassionate and could someday rule the world. I would give this novel an enthusiastic 5 stars, had it not bogged down a bit in the middle. Jamie Mason is a gifted storyteller with a sharp eye for characterization and pacing. I highly recommend The Hidden Things. Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery for an advance copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 4.5 Stars







Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Halloween Shenanigans in Maine





HAUNTED HOUSE MURDER
Maine Clambake Mystery, # 7.5
Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, Barbara Ross
Kensington Books
August 27, 2019


Every year on our Maine vacation I put aside at least one book set in Maine. One of this year's books is Haunted House Murder, a compilation of short works from three writers who have well-established series set in small-town Maine.

Leslie Meier's Haunted House Murder features Lucy Stone, part-time reporter and mom (now grandmom) in Tinker's Cove, Maine. A long-abandoned house, reputed to be haunted, has new occupants. Ty and Heather Moon. The Moons are unfriendly and eccentric, to say the least, but Lucy is occupied with having her grandchild visit for two months. She is delighted to have him but finding childcare more of a challenge than she remembers from raising her own four children. But when a child goes missing, Lucy's sleuthing instincts kick in.

Lee Hollis' Hayley Powell of Bar Harbor in Death by Haunted House also has eccentric new neighbors: a family who strongly resembles the Addams family. Hayley is willing to let well enough alone until a local realtor goes missing after a violent confrontation with the father of the new family, Damien Salinger. Hayley, with the help of her new puppy, finds the realtor's body but lots of people in Bar Harbor didn't like the victim.

The people of Busman's Cove are always looking for ways to extend the tourist season and this year have planned a Ghost Tour in Hallowed Out. Julia Snowden throws herself into participating, but she thinks that the ghosts of the town are much more imagined than real. But when an actor from New Jersey is murdered during a reenactment of a Prohibition-era incident and innocents are suspected, Julia finds herself in the thick of things.

Haunted House Murder is an entertaining compilation for Halloween. I was a little disappointed in the longest of the three, Haunted House Murder, which was heavy on Lucy's childcare woes. The other two shorts introduced me to two new amateur sleuths I plan to read more about in the future. Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 3.5 Rounded up to 4




Monday, July 29, 2019

Gilded Age Murder in Newport




MURDER AT CROSSWAYS
A Gilded Age Mystery Book 7
Alyssa Maxwell
July 30, 2019


It's Fall in Newport and time for the annual Harvest Festival. Reporter Emma Cross has returned to Newport after a year living and working in New York. She had hoped that she could break out of the mold of "society" reporting but found that was an impossibility. When her love interest, Derrick Andrews, offers her a chance to be the editor-in-chief of her old newspaper, she jumps at the chance. Things are not all rosy at The Messenger, however. As usual, she faces opposition from the male staffers and what appears to be outright sabotage. And, she finds a body on the beach, one strongly resembling her half-brother, Brady's long-missing father, Stuart Gale. Emma fears that the man's reappearance will send Brady into an emotional, and probably drunken tailspin. The breakdown of The Messenger's society reporter's carriage throws Emma back into her old role. Stuyvesant and Mamie Fish are having a ball for the Harvest Festival, at which the guest of honor is to be Prince Otto of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Of course, The Messenger must be there. A murder in bizarre circumstances at the ball calls for Emma's investigation with the assistance of the flamboyant and eccentric Mamie Fish.

The Gilded Age Mysteries is an exceptionally well-researched series, aided by the author's long association with Newport. I enjoy all the descriptions of fashions and social mores, and especially the characters themselves. Mamie and Stuyvesant Fish are precisely what the historical record describes, especially Mamie's penchant for outspoken behavior! This is a historical mystery series well worth reading, and I thank Kensington Books and NetGalley.com for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 3.5 rounded up to  4 Stars