Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Kathi Daley
Henery Press
September 6, 2016

It's autumn in the small resort community of Serenity, NV and high school teacher TJ Jenson is fully involved in the seasonal festivities. TJ has lived in Serenity all her life and knows everyone. One person that she has befriended, Zachary Collins, is a scarred recluse who has had little to do with the community for years. But he and TJ have a shared passion for puzzles and Zachary delights in concocting puzzles and treasure hunts for TJ to solve. Even though TJ is very busy with the beginning of school and her recent guardianship of her very young half sisters she always makes time to visit Zachary. But when she arrives at Zachary's house she finds his dead body sitting in a chair. Even though Zachary is in his eighties and could be dead of natural causes, TJ thinks that something is wrong. For one thing, there is an open bottle od scotch next to his body and Zachary never drank. Zachary has left a box with a clue for her to solve and TJ begins to work on it, in hopes of finding out who might have wanted to kill him.

Pumpkins in Paradise is an intricately plotted cozy mystery, filled with quirky characters and small town atmosphere. Kathi Daley is obviously a seasoned author who is able to juggle multiple characters and plotlines with ease. The clues that TJ turns up all come together to make a satisfactory, and heart-warming conclusion. I am looking forward to visiting Serenity and Paradise Lake again.

Thanks to Henery Press and for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.

RATING- 3.5 Stars

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Good but Poisonous Fun!

Chelsea Field
JFP Press
July 6, 2016

Despite its' somewhat fantastic premise, the existence of a shadowy multi-national organization of poison tasters for the rich and famous, I found Eat, Pray, Die a thoroughly entertaining humorous mystery. Our heroine, Australian Isobel Avery, is on the run from some very threatening bill collectors and has ended up in LA. Isobel's no good ex-husband has landed her in this mess, but she hopes that her new job with the Taste Society will pay her enough to get out from under the burden. That is, if she can stay hidden long enough to scrape together a large payment. Luckily, Isobel has a genetic mutation that protects her from most poisons and she has undergone months of training to distinguish poisons by taste.

Her first assignment is to work with Connor Stiles, a private security agent who is protecting a celebrity chef. Her cover is that of Connor's girlfriend: shame that, because the two are entirely different. Isobel is a free spirit, while Connor could not possibly be more buttoned up. There is plenty of comedy to be mined in the situation and Chelsea Field does not miss an opportunity. Fast paced, funny with strong supporting characters, Eat, Pray, Die is a great summer read and I am looking forward to the next in the series, The Hunger Pains.

Thanks to the author for a digital copy in return for an honest review.

RATING-4 Stars

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Red-Letter Day

AN OBVIOUS FACT (Longmire # 12)
Craig Johnson
September 13, 2016

It is always a red-letter day when the newest Longmire novel lands at my house. I have said it before but I never thought that a series featuring a Wyoming sheriff might become a must-read. An Obvious Fact does not disappoint. Walt and Henry Standing Bear are supposedly on vacation in the small town of Hulett, Wyoming, just across the state line from Sturgis,South Dakota, home of the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Henry is going to participate in the hill climb, but Walt is looking into an accident in which a young cyclist was severely injured. Walt never really takes a vacation after all. Both Walt and Henry are unaware that the injured young man is the son of the legendary Lola, after whom Henry's classic Thunderbird, and Walt's granddaughter, is named.Henry, however, seems strangely reluctant to get involved with Lola in any way.

An Obvious Fact turns into a wild ride involving undercover ATF agents, biker gangs, neo-Nazi wannabes, gunrunners and a megalomaniacal millionaire.  I am always happy when Henry Standing Bear is present for most of the action.The byplay between the two old friends adds to the humor that is always present to a greater or lesser degree. Walt's undersheriff and love interest, Vic Moretti, also adds to the fun when she competes in a skeet shooting match, something she has never done before. I have no idea where the relationship between Vic and Walt is going but it is fun to watch.

Thanks to First to Read for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.  I highly recommend An Obvious Fact.

RATING- 4.5 Stars

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Return to the Heyday of Newport

A Gilded Newport Mystery
Alyssa Maxwell
Kensington Books
August 30, 2016

Emma Cross is one of the poor relations of the Vanderbilt family. She grew up in Newport and has always been treated kindly by the family but she is definitely not an insider. On her own for several years after her father, an artist, and mother decamped to follow their dreams in Europe, Emma is a reporter with the local paper and has dreams of following her idol, Nelly Bly, into fame and fortune reporting on serious stories. In the previous books in the series, Emma has proven that she has a talent for investigating crime, especially murder. The Newport Police even enlist her when a murder occurs among the rich summer crowd,

It's autumn in Newport when Emma is assigned to cover a gathering at Rough Point, the estate of Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt. This gathering is unusual in that the people at the estate are all artists of one kind or another; a cellist, an opera singer, a theatrical producer, an English Lord, a ballet dancer, and surprisingly, Emma's parents. Among the attendees is Edith Wharton, the future Pulitzer Prize winner. All of the people are meant to be close friends, but Emma sees little but strife among the group and they all have varying agendas. They are all being picked off at an alarming rate, one after another, and the killer can only be a resident of Rough Point. A huge storm turns Murder At Rough Point into the classic "country house" murder. Everyone, including Emma, is trapped there with a murderer. Even Emma's parents might be suspects.

The Gilded Age Mysteries are very enjoyable and well-plotted. Emma is a likable character, feisty and independent. I particularly enjoy the inclusion of well-known people from the era. I can't say that I have sorted out all the many Vanderbilts and their ilk but have done some reading about them, directly inspired by these novels. I highly recommend Murder At Rough Point for readers who enjoy historical fiction and classic mysteries. Thanks to and Kensington for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.

RATING- 4 Stars

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Illuminating Tale of the Electrification of America

Graham Moore
Random House
August 16, 2016

The Last Days of Night opens with a harrowing scene. Paul Cravath, a young lawyer freshly out of Columbia, witnesses a man being burned alive in the wires above busy Broadway. The man is a Western Union lineman who dies horribly trying to repair an electrical problem that he obviously has no training for. Paul, through a series of coincidences he really can't explain, has but one client, George Westinghouse. George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison, "the Wizard of Menlo Park", are locked in an epic battle over which of their companies will gain control of the electrification industry. The contention is over the power itself and the patent on the incandescent light bulb; Westinghouse is a proponent of Alternating Current (AC) and Edison has sunk everything into Direct Current (DC). Thomas Edison has used every trick in the book to discredit AC as dangerous in the eyes of the public, going so far as filing no less than 312 lawsuits against Westinghouse for patent infringement. Not to mention the infamous electrocution of Topsy the elephant and a horribly botched legal execution. Whichever man wins this legal battle will gain wealth and acclaim beyond imagining.

The story introduces us to many famous people with a stake in the outcome, Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, Nikola Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell and JP Morgan. This is definitely not the benevolent grandfatherly Edison I learned about in grade school. This Thomas Edison is obsessed by winning at all costs and addicted to fame. It almost seems that he would like to be credited not only for inventing the incandescent light bulb, but also for just about everything invented in the US, past, present and future. Westinghouse seems to not be interested in fame but has an uncommon drive to make the best products. Both men think that Nikola Tesla's eccentric genius can help them iron out the problems inherent in both currents. The problem is that Tesla is completely uninterested in marketing anything. Alexander Graham Bell is the only man to ever beat Edison in court and JP Morgan is as alway interested in profit above all.

The Last Days of Night is a legal thriller as well as a meticulously researched historical novel about a largely forgotten episode in American history. Graham Moore has pulled together the known facts about the famous men and managed to paint them as real human beings. I am the first to admit my ignorance of electrical engineering but I was somewhat more enlightened without being overwhelmed. The Last Days of Night succeeds most as a study of ambition; what are we willing to do to realize our dreams? The young lawyer Paul Cravath finds that it is possible to lose the battle and win the war, at least in this particular litigation.

I highly recommend The Last Days of Night. Thanks to NetGalley. com and Random House for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review,

RATING-4.5 Stars

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Death with Crêpes

Sarah Fox
Random House Alibi
August 16, 2016

The Crêpes of Wrath is a promising beginning in a new series set in a small town on the coast of Washington State. Marley McKinney is filling in for her much loved, elderly cousin Jimmy at his pancake house,The Flip Side. Jimmy is in the hospital recovering from pneumonia. Marley is not particularly surprised when she gets a message that Jimmy is checking out of the hospital and taking a cab home. But when Jimmy's dead body is found later that day on the rocks at the bottom of a cliff, Marley's world is turned upside down. Who would have wanted to kill Jimmy, and who seems to want the pancake house ruined? There are plenty of suspects and lots more going on in the town than Marley could have guessed. 

Likable characters and the small town atmosphere make The Crêpes of Wrath a pleasant and diverting read. I did find the rekindling of an old teenage romance a bit rushed, as well as the solution to Jimmy's murder. Thanks to Alibi and NetGalley for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.

RATING-3 Stars

Friday, August 12, 2016

Poignant and Riveting

Elaine Viets
Thomas & Mercer
August 2, 2016

Angela Richman is a Death Investigator in a small affluent Missouri community known as the "Forest". Even though she is a life-long resident she is not one of the insiders. Her parents worked on one of the estates but Angela is not one of the old money pedigreed families. Despite that she is a well regarded, award winning member of the local police force. She is at a very difficult scene, one in which one teenager is killed and another severely injured. Drinking, pot and texting are involved. By the time Angela has completed her reports she is laid low by what she thinks is a migraine. She goes to the ER but the doctor says she is "too young and fit" for a stroke even though the signs are there. Six strokes, emergency surgery in which she loses part of her frontal lobe and a medically induced coma later, Angela wakes up to a very different reality. 

Dr. Porter Gravois is a real "Forest" insider, handsome, rich and adored by the hospital staff. No one even thinks to call Dr. Gravois to account for the misdiagnosis except the neurosurgeon who saved Angela's life. Dr. Jeb Travis Tritt is arrogant, abrasive, uncouth and loathes Dr. Gravois with a burning passion. When Dr. Gravois is murdered Dr. Tritt is the logical suspect, a suspect whom the hospital staff is fully committed to see punished. Angela, however, wants to see him vindicated, even if she has to do it from a hospital bed. There are lots of things going on at the Sisters of Sorrow Hospital. It appears that the hospital has an "Angel of Death" operating there and Angela suspects an insurance scam. But can her instincts be trusted after such a traumatic brain event?

Brain Storm is a riveting look at the difficulties of recovering from a stroke wrapped in a variety of interlocking mysteries. It is made more poignant by the fact that the author, Elaine Viets, suffered through an almost identical situation and has come through it with flying colors. It is also a cautionary tale about checking your medical bills very carefully; over billing is a regrettable reality that affects us all. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.

RATING- 4 Stars

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Heartwarmingly Delicious Debut

Louise Miller
Penguin Random House
August 9, 2016

Pastry Chef Olivia Rawlings not only sets her career ablaze but the room itself when she drops a tray of Baked Alaska at the posh dinner club in Boston where she works. Olivia thinks that not even her relationship with one of the most prominent members will save her so she does what she has always done; she packs up her dog and runs. Alone in the world since her father's death when she was sixteen, Olivia heads for the small town of Guthrie VT and her best friend Hannah. 

The local Inn is looking for a baker and Olivia is hired by Margaret Hurley, the elegant and formidable owner. Lodging is provided with the position and Olivia moves into the sugarhouse on the property. Olivia has always been a city girl, clad in black, with her hair color changing according to her mood. But she quickly finds herself putting down tentative roots for the first time in her life; even when she runs afoul of the small town's propensity to gossip about newcomers. The City Baker's Guide to Country Living is a delightful read with quirky characters, lots of humor and a slow-burning romance that meets some unexpected bumps along the way. Heartwarming and chock full of mouthwatering food references, I highly recommend Louise Miller's debut novel.

Thanks to the First to Read program for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.

RATING- 4 Stars