Monday, February 27, 2017

Early Hollywood in Alaska

MURDER ON LOCATION (Charlotte Brody #3)
Cathy Pegau
Kensington Books
February 28, 2017

Spring is coming to Cordova, Alaska, along with a visit from Hollywood. A movie company is shooting the action sequences for an adventure film called North To Fortune. The film is a big-budget production with a well-known director and stars. Charlotte Brody is not particularly star-struck but she is looking forward to covering the story for the local paper. Not everyone is excited, however; the local native Eyak Indians do not feel that they will be accurately portrayed in the film. There is a lot of tension between the Eyaks and the film-makers, and among the cast and crew, culminating in the murder of the film's director out on the glacier. Some of the company even whisper that the film is cursed. The natives are the obvious suspects according to some, but what about the producer worried about cost overruns, the cheating director's wife, and his daughter who has a dangerous secret?

Charlotte Brody is an intrepid reporter and sleuth, often driving her doctor brother to distraction. Her love interest, Deputy James Eddington, also tries to keep her out of the case but soon realizes that she won't stop until she gets the story and the murderer. This time, Charlotte may have bitten off more than she can chew. Charlotte is a likable and thoroughly "modern"  young woman who is learning to love her new life in the Alaska Territory of the 1920's. The books in this series offer a glimpse of what it may have been like to be among the last pioneers in America. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.

RATING- 3.5 Stars

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lila Maclean Academic Mystery #2
Cynthia Kuhn
Henery Press
February 28, 2017

The follow-up to The Semester of Our Discontent finds Lila Maclean setting into her new teaching career at the prestigious Stonedale University in Colorado. The university "Arts Week" is to be headlined by the famous author, Damon Von Tussel. Von Tussel is celebrated for his first (and only) book. After years of not publishing, he has a new book in print. Most of his time in the intervening years has been spent behaving in a difficult and caddish manner. Of course, as he and Lila's flamboyant artist mother had a romantic relationship at one time, the chancellor thinks Lila is just the person to make sure Von Tussel behaves. Famous last words. The first event goes off without a hitch but Von Tussel simply vanishes afterward. It's time for Lila to call for her mother in hopes that she still has a way to reach him.  There is someone on campus, however, who seems to be motivated to scuttle the Von Tussel appearances; valuable items go missing, cryptic messages are received, and people are injured in strange "accidents".

I find this series easy to read and different from most cozy mysteries due to its academic setting. I always knew that academia is cut-throat in its demands to "publish or perish" and political infighting. The corporate world has nothing on academia in that regard. While I like Lila, I find her a little passive and easily dominated.  She just seems to stumble into solutions rather than actively seeking them out. I did enjoy meeting Lila's mother after hearing so much about her in the previous book. 

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

RATING- 3 Stars

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Terror in the Yukon Wilderness

Kelley Armstrong
Minotaur Books
February 7, 2017

The village of Rockton in the Canadian Yukon is a pretty strange place; not on any map or GPS and completely off the grid. The reason for that is that the towns' residents are all on the run from something. It could be from their own criminal pasts, abusive relationships, or a myriad of other reasons. Some people are let in to do a necessary job. Others have to pay big money to get there. Casey Duncan, who we met in City of the Lost not only has a past but was hired to be Deputy Sheriff and Homicide Detective. She was a successful detective on a big city force whose past caught up with her, or so she thought. 

Casey and another deputy, Will, are chasing after a resident who has gone off the reservation, so to speak. This resident regularly heads off into the surrounding woods; something strictly forbidden by Sheriff Eric Dalton. The Sheriff's reasons are sound. The woods are full of dangerous predators, both human and inhuman. A blizzard blows up and Casey and Will take shelter in a cave, where they discover a woman in a pit. The woman has been missing from Rockton for fifteen months and was presumed dead. It is a struggle to get her out and back to Rockton, and their original quarry is still missing. Questions are raised about other missing women from Rockton. Could those women also be the victims of this captor? And what is going on with the Council, the secretive body who approves all new residents?

Kelley Armstrong has produced another pulse-pounding thriller in A Darkness Absolute. Someone is stalking Casey and when the woman in the pit is re-taken, the action ratchets up, veering close to horror. It kept me guessing throughout and I didn't figure out who the predator was until close to the end. The relationship between Eric and Casey is an added attraction. The two are carrying a lot of baggage and are definitely not "stock" characters. Nor is the supporting cast. I am looking forward to what is possibly coming for Eric and Casey.

RATING- 4 Stars

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

DEAD IN THE WATER (Mattie Winston # 8)
Annelise Ryan
Kensington Books
February 28, 2017

Mattie is juggling life with a two-year-old, a job as Deputy Coroner, her live-in fiance, Police Detective Steve Hurley, and his teenage daughter makes every day a three ring circus. Adding the pressure of planning a wedding has her way over her head. When she and Steve are called to the scene of an unexplained death, a whole new set of problems begin. The victim is a young woman with no evident cause of death, but she is just the start. Mattie's boss, Izzy, has a heart attack and two more deaths occur. The victims are a colleague, Hal Dawson, and his girlfriend. Mattie's long-lost father is in town, lying low, and Mattie fears he might be involved.

I have been reading the Mattie Winston mysteries from the beginning. Dead in the Water is a little darker and the humor not as wacky as in some of the others. This is still an entertaining entry in the series and moves the story of Steve and Mattie in a positive direction. They have overcome a lot of obstacles and make a great team.

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.

RATING- 3.5 Stars

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Homage to the Immortal Holmes and Watson

Lyndsay Faye
Mysterious Press
March 7, 2017

The Whole Art of Detection is an anthology of "lost mysteries" penned by Lyndsay Faye and previously published,  primarily in Strand Magazine.  The stories cover the early years of the association of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson until 1902. 

It has been years since I first read the original mysteries, decades actually.  I am far from a purist and have read many Sherlock Holmes pastiches and  enjoyed almost all of the movie and television versions available, particularly his most recent incarnation in the BBC version. The Sherlock Holmes who remains in my mind's eye, however, is Basil Rathbone, followed closely by Jeremy Brett. Faye's stories and language are very close to the original stories as I remember them. The same is true for Faye's first book, Dust and Shadow, also a Holmes and Watson novel.

I am a huge fan of Lyndsay Faye's work. It is imaginative, daring, and extremely well-written. Anyone who can pull off a re-imagining of Jane Eyre as a serial killer has me as a fan for life (Jane Steele).  I loved all of the stories in the collection, but most particularly those of the earliest years when Sherlock is establishing himself as a "consulting detective".  The stories also portray the admiration and camaraderie that existed between Holmes and Dr. Watson that comes across as real and believable. The Whole Art of Detection is a collection that is perfect for bedtime reading and that is how I read it, savoring them one by one.

Thanks to and Mysterious Press for early digital access in return for an honest review.

RATING- 5 Stars