Friday, December 8, 2017

The Land tells the Story

FLAME IN THE DARK (Soulwood #3)
Faith Hunter
Ace Books
December 5, 2017

The Soulwood series is an offshoot of Faith Hunter's urban fantasy Jane Yellowrock series, set in the same world and featuring some of the same characters. The difference between the two heroines is profound, however. Soulwood's Nell Ingram is a hill woman raised in a polygamous fundamentalist cult, God's Cloud of Glory Church. Women of the church are second class citizens, no strangers to terror and abuse. Nell is a young widow who has left the church,  starting over away from her family who remains there. She lives close by on the property that her late husband willed to her. The church does not like that, and previous books have covered the conflict. Nell has an unusual ability; a marked affinity with the land and the plants and animals who live on it. PsyLED, the division of Homeland Security that deals with paranormal crimes got wind of her through Jane Yellowrock and recruited her into their ranks, made up of were-creatures, witches, empaths, and other paranormal creatures. 

Nell is now fully integrated into PsyLED Unit 18 after months of intensive training. The unit is assigned to investigate the attempted murder of a Senator, resulting in multiple deaths and a devastating fire. Since the shooter literally disappeared, it is deemed a paranormal crime. As the bodies pile up and fires continue, Unit 18 can't decide whether it is a turf war between paranormals or something even more nefarious. Nell's ability to "read" the land around the Senator's mansion helps them to discover what they are up against. It is frightening and dangerous to all.

Nell Ingram is a unique character, smart, strong, compassionate, determined and possessed of a power of which even she doesn't know the limits. She has come such a long way from the first Soulwood novel, Blood in the Earth. She will never go back to the church but loves her family and has gained acceptance in their ranks. There is even a romance for her among her colleagues that I was afraid ended in tragedy, but Hunter didn't leave us hanging on that!

I highly recommend both Jane Yellowrock and the Soulwood series. I know that I will be re-reading (or listening to the audiobook) before the next is out. Many thanks to NetGalley and Ace Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 5 Stars

Of Homicide, Pancakes and Crepes

Pancake House Mystery #3
Sarah Fox
Random House Alibi
November 7, 2017

Wildwood Cove is looking forward to a visit from Hollywood. A film crew, with several well-known stars, is filming the remake of a cult horror film. Even Marley McKinney, owner of the Flip Side Pancake House is mildly interested, although she is no horror fan. All the crew loves eating at the pancake house so the lead makeup artist, Christine, invites Marly for an exclusive tour. Upon arriving, Marley finds Christine dead and her trailer in flames. The police rule her death a homicide, and Alyssa Jayde, the lead actress in the film, becomes the prime suspect. Further complications arise when Marley discovers that Alyssa is an old flame of her boyfriend, Brett. Marley sets out to find out who the murderer is but there are many people with motives on the film crew. As she learns more about them, it seems that Marley might be the next victim.

I have enjoyed the two previous books in this cozy series. The small town coastal village atmosphere is evocative, and Marley is a likable character. She has a lot of insecurities stemming from the loss of most of her family in an accident that play into her life, and her attempts to overcome them are brave and believable. Of Spice and Men is an excellent addition to the series.

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 3 Stars

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Paranormal Investigations by Jesperson and Lane

WAYSIDE CROSS (Jesperson and Lane # 2)
Lisa Tuttle
Hydra Books
November 28, 2017

The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross starts with an early hours summons to the door of the residence, and business premises of Jesperson and Lane Investigations. The young man is plainly distressed and babbling about being pursued by witches. He then points  at Miss Aphrodite Lane, calls her a witch, collapses and dies in the hallway. The coroner pronounces it a heart attack, despite the young man, Charles Manning, being in perfect health. Jasper Jesperson is of course intrigued and visits Manning's brother. The brother tells him that the two were estranged over a property dispute and Charles was living in Aylmerton. Charles had become involved with Felix Ott, who is a folklorist who wants to bring back the pagan wisdom of ancient Britain. Jesperson and Lane set off for Norfolk to investigate. When they arrive they find a community immersed in superstition with three sisters rumored to be witches and tales of the "little folk". 

I waffled quite a bit over the rating of The Witch at Wayside Cross. While I enjoyed the primary mystery of Charles Manning's murder, the secondary story of a missing baby was a distraction for me. This series is centered around paranormal events, but the resolution of the missing baby puzzle severely strained my credulity. Jesperson and Lane are still a bit two-dimensional with little more revealed in this second book. I also missed Mrs. Jesperson, Jasper's mother. Now she is an interesting character! Hopefully, she will return for a third outing and there will be more background provided for the main characters.

Thanks to NetGalley and Hydra Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 3 Stars

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Cold War Intrigue in an English Village

A Very British Mystery #3
Anselm Audley, Elizabeth Edmondson
Thomas & Mercer, Audible
October 19, 2017

It's January 1954, and there have been leaks of research done at "The Atomic" facility; leaks that have ended up in the hands of Soviet Russia. British Intelligence Agent Hugo Hawkesworth, who works at the center is assigned the task of finding out who is the source. When a nuclear scientist, Bruno Rothesay, goes missing British Intelligence is sure that he must be the mole. When Rothesay's body turns up, Hugo isn't so sure. The scientist was an arrogant serial adulterer who had plenty of enemies, including his own wife. Intelligence and the obnoxious Inspector Jarrett have a culprit in mind, one who has appeared in previous books and is convenient. Hugo thinks he is entirely too comfortable a fit, which puts him at loggerheads with his superiors-again.

All of the residents of Selchester Castle make an appearance in A Matter of Loyalty: Hugo and his sister Georgia, author Freya Wryton, Gus, the new Earl of Selchester, and his daughter Molly, and Mrs.Partridge, the housekeeper. The previous Earl is almost a presence because his misdeeds cast somewhat of a pall over the household even years after his death. Each has his or her part to play in this story, and one's life is brought into great danger. The Very British Mysteries are impossible to pigeonhole, part Cold War spy novel, part historical mystery, and part budding romance. They paint a picture of a Britain brought to its knees by WWII and just beginning to dig out of deprivation, only to be caught up in Cold War paranoia, even in Selchester village.

Sadly, A Matter of Loyalty is the third and last book in the series. Ms. Edmondson passed away leaving only notes and conversations with her son, Anselm Audley, for the book. Mr. Audley has done an admirable job working from their conversations to finish it. While I would have liked to see more of the characters and Ms. Edmonson's plans for them, the ending does not leave us hanging. Michael Page gives voice to the characters and is, as usual, outstanding.

RATING-4.5 Stars

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Quintessentially British Treat

Oxford Tearoom Mystery, Book 7
H. Y. Hanna
Wisheart Press
October 19, 2017

    I am so happy that I discovered The Oxford Tearoom Mysteries and #7 does not disappoint. It's time for the summer ball in Oxford, and Gemma is looking forward to a chance to dress up for the evening and enjoying time out with her CID Inspector boyfriend, Devlin O'Connor. The ball they are attending is featuring an old alumni, celebrity chef Josh McDermott. The four nosy Old Biddies, Gemma's unpaid "help" at the Tearoom are all aflutter about his return, but not everyone is pleased. That becomes clear when Gemma stumbles over Josh's dead body. Since the four Old Biddies consider themselves great sleuths, Gemma is once again drawn into keeping them under control and out of the notice of Devlin. It is all complicated by a visit from Devlin's decidedly unconventional mother, who could not be more different from Gemma's oh-so-proper mum.

Another One Bites the Crust is almost as good as a visit to Oxford in summer with its descriptions of life among the "dreaming spires." The mystery is full of twists, but the real charm lies in the characters we have come to love over the course of the series, and the mouth-watering treats that Dora, the Tearoom Baker, produces. This one includes a recipe for custard tarts, a quintessentially British classic. I am looking forward to the next visit with Gemma and friends. I received an advance digital copy from the author. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 4 Stars

RATING- 4 Stars


Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Quiet Seaside Holiday, Miss Fisher Style

Phryne Fisher Mystery # 18
Kerry Greenwood
Allen and Unwood
December 5, 2017

After a taxing investigation, Miss Fisher is offered a house in Queenscliffe for a month's holiday. While she is away, taking her adopted daughters,Jane and Ruth, her companion,Dot, and their dog, Molly.  The efficient Mr. and Mrs. Butler are left behind in Melbourne to oversee renovations to Miss Fisher's bathroom, and perhaps a holiday of their own.  They are expecting to be greeted by the Johnsons, the caretakers of the house. Instead, they find an open door and no Johnsons to be seen. Could it be foul play?

Dead Man's Chest is a romp through 1929 Queenscliffe. Miss Fisher deals with events featuring missing caretakers, smugglers, delinquent adolescent boys, a tipsy neighbor, a new canine addition to the household, the introduction of a new ongoing character, the filming of a movie, a downtrodden ladies companion and a search for pirate booty with her customary panache. She even falls in with a group of surrealists who lend comic relief. Along the way, the Fisher family consume an alarming amount of food, provided by the aspiring cook, Ruth. 

As always, Dead Man's Chest is a delight. I enjoy the sly humor and wealth of period detail in the Miss Fisher Mysteries about a time and place of which I know little. Thanks to NetGalley and Allen and Unwin for an advance digital copy of this reprint edition.

RATING- 4 Stars


Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Deadly Maine Christmas

A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery # 6
Lea Wait
Kensington Books
October 31, 2017

It's Christmas in Haven Harbor, ME, seven months after Angie Curtis moved back to her hometown. A lot has happened in those seven months. Angie has reconnected with old friends, made new ones, taken over her grandmother's needlepoint business and helped solve several murders in the small seaside village. She is in a fledgling relationship with Patrick West, the son of Hollywood star Skye West, who recently renovated a local estate. When Skye contacts Patrick to announce her unexpected arrival in Maine for Christmas, bringing her co-stars and writers of her troubled current project with her, Angie's plans are upended. Skye wants everything to be perfect for her guests. Angie somewhat reluctantly agrees to help, despite her busy schedule, and the two transform the estate into a Christmas wonderland.  The murder of one of the co-stars and some suspicious Christmas cookies delivered to Patrick threaten the wished-for peace of the season and Angie's future.

The Mainely Needlepoint Mysteries are well-plotted cozies, loaded with local color. For anyone who loves Maine, they are a great "fix" for those who are missing the Downeast way of life. Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance digital copy.  The opinions are my own.

RATING- 4 Stars