Saturday, April 14, 2018

Birds of A Feather Mysteries # 4
Marty Wingate
Random House Alibi
April 10, 2018

Love is in the air in Smeaton-under-Lyme, the village attached to the Fotheringill Estate. Julia Lanchester is head of the Tourist Information Center for the estate. Vesta, Julia's assistant at the TIC, is marrying Akash, proprietor of the village store, and Julia is hoping for a proposal of her own from Michael Sedgewick, her live-in boyfriend. Instead, they arrive at their tiny shared cottage to find Michael's sister Pammy, a human "cuckoo in the nest''. Pammy is forty-two and has a long history of failed employment and relationships. The latest failed relationship has brought her to their door, along with multiple plastic shopping bags. Despite everything, they welcome her on the understanding that she will be on her way at weeks end. When Willow, village schoolmistress and Julia's friend, stumbles over the body of an unknown man, things get more complicated, and Pammy shows no sign of leaving. In fact, she seems to be making a lot of new friends in the village.Julia and Michael have a lot on their plates, both personal and job-related.

I really enjoy this series, primarily for the quirky characters, village atmosphere and situations that Julia finds herself in. There is a charming sense of community in the village and on the Estate. Julia herself is a busybody, but one with a heart of gold. She just can't seem to help managing other people's lives, but she does so with the best intentions and usually to good effect. Farewell, My Cuckoo is a near-perfect example of why traditional cozies have been so popular and remain so.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Alibi for an advance copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING-4.5 Stars

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Grisly Good Fun in Flaxborough

The Flaxborough Chronicles # 3
Colin Watson
Farrago Books
March 22, 2018

The sight of some large policemen taking a bathtub from a respectable home in the quiet market town of Flaxborough is not a usual occurrence. Inspector Purbright suspects a particularly grisly crime (see John George Haigh for the pertinent details) has been committed in the home. Inspector Purbright knows someone is dead, but who is it?
Is it the missing milquetoast tobacconist, Gordon Periam, who owns the property, or his fly-by-night lodger, Hopjoy? As Purbright's investigation proceeds with the well-meaning and ultimately bumbling interference from the British Spy service, Purbright learns that appearances can be deceiving.

Hopjoy was Here is another witty and blackly humorous entry in Colin Watson's classic series. Each of the books so far has been a great read, bringing back a time long gone in Britain. Thanks to Farrago Books for bringing them back in new editions, and also to NetGalley for an advance copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 4 Stars

Monday, April 9, 2018

Murder Among the Masons in 1950's England

Mirabelle Bevan Mystery # 3
Sara Sheridan
Kensington Books
March 27, 2018

England Expects begins with the apparently professional murder of newspaper sportswriter Joey Gillingham in Brighton. The reading of a newspaper article about the killing piques Mirabelle's interest and a conversation with Bill, her employee and former policeman, Bill Turpin, indicates a possible connection to the local lodge of Freemasons. Since Mirabelle is always looking for a puzzle to solve, she visits the lodge and is on the scene of yet another murder. By the time the case is resolved, Mirabelle and her friends are in more danger than she could ever have imagined.

I have been a fan of Mirabelle Bevan since the first in the series, Brighton Belle. The 1950's setting is fascinating in itself. Mirabelle is beautiful, fashionable, insightful, and absolutely focused on any case she becomes interested in. However, the Brighton Police, except for Inspector McGregor, does not like her meddling. Inspector McGregor has a personal interest in Mirabelle and knows that her background as a former Special Operations Agent in World WarII gives her excellent investigatory skills. Mirabelle has been sunk in grief after the sudden death of her lover, Jack, several years before, but with the help of her co-workers Bill and Vesta Chamberlain, is finally digging herself out. Vesta Chamberlain is a young black woman whose life gives insight into being a person of color in England at the time. The Freemasonry angle is historically correct because there was a scandal involving the Masons and the Brighton Police in the 1950's; just not as grave as this case. I am happy that Mirabelle seems to unthaw a bit in her personal life and is showing signs of becoming more engaged in life.

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

RATING-3.5 Stars

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Disappearance on Dartmoor

A Lady Darby Mystery # 6
Anna Lee Huber
Berkley Books
March 6, 2018

The newly married Lady Keira Darby and Sebastian Gage are still in Ireland after concluding a dangerous investigation when he is urgently summoned by his grandfather, Viscount Tavistock.Gage has not visited his family home on desolate Dartmoor in fifteen years, not since the death of his mother.But his cousin, Alfred, heir to his grandfather and Blackstone Manor, was seen walking out onto the moor and has not returned for several days. Gage has no good memories of his childhood at Blackstone, where he was bullied and bedeviled by Alfred and Alfred's brother, Rory.Gage has always been reticent about his feelings for his family, so Keira hopes that she can learn more and help heal his wounds.Keira has plenty of wounds of her own after her first disastrous and abusive marriage, but she has always had the support of her large and loving family.

Gage's family on his mother's side is hardly welcoming. His aunt, the dowager, has always looked down on him because of the relative lowliness of Gage's own father's birth. The fact that his father is now a hero of the British Navy with a title of his own makes no difference. She is cold, dismissive, and often rude.The missing Alfred is by all accounts the unprincipled wastrel that Gage remembers from his boyhood. His ailing grandfather is the same cantankerous and imperious figure he always was. Oddly, he is determined to keep Alfred's disappearance a secret. Only Rory and the family butler, Hammett, appear co-operative.Strangely, there have been many unexplained disappearances and deaths in the family over the years. Could it be a family curse, and what about the reclusive "witch" living on the moor?

A Brush with Shadows is a twisty tale, wrapped in family drama, set on the mysterious and dangerous Dartmoor.The relationship between Keira and Sebastian grows stronger in their understanding of each other and mutual healing after a somewhat rocky start. Thanks to First To Read for an advance copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 4 Stars

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Regency England in the Dawn of a New Age

Wrexford and Sloane Mystery # 2
Andrea Penrose
Kensington Books
March 27, 2018

England in the Regency Period was on the cusp of tremendous change with advances and interest in science and technology. Just as in our own time, technology brought with it social change and uncertainty. Charlotte Sloane is feeling the stress of changes in her own life with a move to a more prosperous (and proper) neighborhood. Can her two street urchin charges, Raven and Hawk, make the adjustment, and can she continue to conceal her identity; that of A.J. Quill, the most successful satirical cartoonist in London? And can she keep her other, even more, secret self hidden? The other change in her life includes her friendship with the mercurial Lord Wrexford. The two worked successfully to clear his name in Murder on Black Swan Lane and formed an undeniable connection.

Murder at Half Moon Gate begins with a night out in the insalubrious gaming and drinking haunts of London for Wrexford and his friend, Sheffield. The two literally stumble upon the body of a murdered man in a stinking alley. Wrexford merely reports the death to the Runners but is drawn in when he discovers that he knew of the dead man. Elihu Ashton was a well-known inventor and was rumored to be working on a revolutionary new invention that would change the steam power industry forever. Ashton's widow asks Wrexford, a known man of science to investigate her husband's death. Rather than an ordinary robbery ending in murder, the widow thinks it was murder connected to her husband's work. Once again, Wrexford needs Charlotte's extensive network of "street spies" to help him investigate.

Murder at Half Moon Gate both satisfies and entertains, with its well-researched history, colorful characters, twisty mystery and burgeoning romance. I am looking forward to the next in the series. Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington for an advance copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 4 Stars

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Murder and Apple Strudel in Vienna

Oxford Tearoom Mysteries # 8
H.Y. Hanna
Wisheart Press
March 13, 2018

Gemma Rose is happily packed for a long-awaited and much-postponed holiday in Malta with her policeman boyfriend, Devlin O'Connell. So she is not at all pleased that the holiday must be postponed...again. Luckily, the Old Biddies have a surprise for her. The Old Biddies are a quartet of pensioners who not only help out at The Little Stables Tearoom but get Gemma embroiled in their sleuthing adventures. They have entered Gemma's scones in the Euro-Tearoom Baking Contest, and the scones were selected to represent England at the event being held in Vienna. Since a friend of Gemma's mum is opening a hotel in Vienna, one friendly to animals, why not go, along with Gemma's mischievous cat, Muesli? Gemma and the Old Biddies arrive in Vienna and check in to Sofia Fritzl's hotel. The hotel is just opening and has a number of dignitaries checked in. One of the guests is Moritz Wagner, a well-known critic. Herr Wagner appears to be charming but is really a brutal critic who delights in destroying businesses. The discovery of his body at the hotel is ruled suicide, but the Old Biddies are sure it is murder. What can Gemma do but get involved again? If it is murder, then the old ladies could be in danger. Suspects abound, and the investigation leads Gemma (and Muesli) into hilarious misadventures.

The Oxford Tearoom Mysteries is a favorite series with great characters and atmosphere. Oxford is one of my favorite places and Vienna is a wonderful destination as well. I have spent only a few days there and hope to return one day. In the meantime, I can content myself with the vivid descriptions of the architecture, history, and wonderful food to be found there. I highly recommend Apple Strudel Alibi for readers of light-hearted cozy mysteries.

I received an advance digital copy from the author. The opinions are my own.

RATING-4 Stars

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The are many "Hauntings" at Idlewild School

Simone St. James
Berkley Books
March 20, 2018

Fiona Sheridan is a freelance journalist living in small-town Vermont. Despite being the daughter of a famous journalist, Fiona's career and life have very much been on hold since the murder of her older sister 20 years before. Her sister's body was found on the grounds of a defunct girl's boarding school, Idlewild. A man is in prison for the murder, but Fiona still has questions and can't let it go. Even her relationship with Jamie Creel, the police chief, and son of the chief who investigated her sister's murder is hampered by her questions and emotional distance.

Idlewild itself was a second, maybe third-rate school where families placed girls who were considered to be unmanageable. The girls were disciplinary problems; broken in some way by trauma, a little too smart for their own good, or just illegitimate. The Broken Girls switches between the story of four friends in 1950 and Fiona in 2014. One of the four friends went missing, and it was assumed she ran away with "some boy." Never mind that the girls had absolutely no unsupervised contact with the outside world.  The records from Idlewild have gone missing, no one associated with the school wants to talk about it, and the school itself is rumored to be haunted. When a body is discovered in a well during a renovation of the property, the missing girl case opens up again. Fiona is determined to get answers this time.

Those of us who have waited a long time for The Broken Girls will not be disappointed. It is intricate, suspenseful, and above all, emotionally involving.  I was utterly caught up in the stories of the four friends; Katie, Roberta, CeCe, and Sonia. I wanted to know what had happened to all of them, and if Fiona's quest would be successful. This blend of Gothic, mystery, suspense and ghost story is not to be missed! Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 5 Stars