Friday, May 26, 2017

Big City Problems in Downeast Maine

SHIVER HITCH (Jane Bunker #3)
Linda Greenlaw
St. Martins Minotaur
June 6, 2017

Jane Bunker was born on remote Acadia Island but her mother fled to Miami taking Jane and her infant brother, Wally, along. Jane never heard anything good about her Bunker family but when her career as a homicide detective exploded she decided to settle in Maine. The plan was to find out about the Bunkers but after nine months she has not even visited the island. Her two gigs as an insurance investigator and assistant Knox County sheriff have kept her busy and it is the depths of a Maine winter. But when she is sent over to Acadia to investigate a house fire, she discovers a dead body in the ruins and a tangled web of murder, resentments, and big-time drug smuggling. 

It has been a number of years since the first two Jane Bunker mysteries, Slipknot and Fisherman's Bend. I was concerned that I wouldn't remember much about the previous two but found myself slipping into the story easily. Jane is by nature a solitary soul but has made friends in her mainland village of Green Haven, notably her eccentric landlords and her fisherman friend, Cal. After many years of Maine vacations, I find her descriptions of life on the mainland and on remote Acadia completely authentic. I can even hear the distinct Downeast accent in the dialogue. Maine is a beautiful state but has all the problems of anywhere else, especially drugs and lack of economic opportunity. And Maine can be particularly dangerous, especially in the winter. Jane makes a number of missteps in her investigation; missteps that could get her killed. Hopefully, Shiver Hitch signals more to come in the Jane Bunker series. We still don't know much about the Bunkers, and the appearance of her brother, Wally, signal more to come.

Thanks to St. Martins Minotaur and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. The opinions above are my own.

RATING- 4 Stars

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Murder on the Racecourse

A Lady Hardcastle Mystery #3
T. E. Kinsey
Thomas & Mercer
June 8, 2017

Lady Hardcastle and her maid/companion, Flo, are excited to be invited to the estate of Lord Riddlethorpe for a house party and racing week. Having recently acquired one of the new autos, Lady Hardcastle and Flo are determined to be included, not just as spectators, but as racers themselves. But at the first race, an experienced driver is killed in a crash. The crash appears to be a misjudgment on his part but later is discovered to be sabotage. Lady Hardcastle has developed a reputation for sleuthing, so it is natural that Lord Riddlethorpe asks her to investigate. It is a motley crew of guests, from business associates to old friends, but who among them would have sabotaged the race? Old secrets and associations are revealed before Lady Hardcastle finds the answers.

A visit with Lady Hardcastle and Flo in the halcyon days before WWI is a welcome respite from our turbulent world. The banter, coupled with the respect and love that the two have for each other shines in the Lady Hardcastle novels. More is revealed about their earlier, adventurous life in the far-east. Lady Hardcastle was actually a spy for the Foreign Office, aided and abetted by the tiny, but fierce Flo. I highly recommend Death Around the Bend, as well as the two previous novels in the series, A Quiet Life in the Country and In the Market for Murder.

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. The opinions above are my own.

RATING- 4 Stars

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Detecting Team in London's Era of the Psychic "Craze"

Lisa Tuttle
Randon House Hydra
May 16, 2017

We first meet Miss Aphrodite Lane on a train from Scotland to London. Miss Lane has been the assistant to a psychic for several years, Gabrielle Fox. Miss Lane, having discovered that Fox is actually a fraud, has left her employ without a word. She has little money and few possessions but sees an advertisement reading "Consulting Detective Requires Assistant. Must be Literate, Brave, Congenial, with a Good Memory & Willing to Work All Hours". Thus is born the detecting team of Jesperson and Lane and an adventure in the world of the psychic "craze" in Victorian England. The duo's first two cases turn out to be linked; the case of a somnambulist and that of several missing psychic mediums.

I have always been fascinated by the interest and belief in psychic phenomena during the Victorian era. Even someone like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was deeply involved and entirely credulous. There are references to Holmes and Watson in The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief, but only as fictional characters. Mr. Jasper Jesperson is a young man with many talents and Miss Lane is an intrepid young woman. This first novel in a projected series is an entertaining read, although a little slow paced, with many clues about Mr. Jesperson's early life, lived all over the world, and how he gained his arcane knowledge. I hope we hear more about his life in future books. I recommend The Somnambulist for fans of historical mystery and fantasy.

Thanks to Hydra and Net Galley for an advance digital copy. The opinions above are my own.

RATING- 3.5 Stars

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Who is Killing Off the Charwomen?

An Ellie Haskell Mystery
Dorothy Cannell
Random House Alibi
May 9, 2017

Ellie Haskell is in the throes of spring cleaning "fever" when her flamboyant charwoman, Mrs. Roxie Malloy, turns in her resignation. Mrs. Malloy is off to London to help out her son and his wife, Ellie's cousin Vanessa, with their new baby. Ellie must secure the services of a new charwoman from the Chitterton Fells Charwomen's Association (C.F.C.W.A), a tight group of women with more rules and regulations than your average large corporation. She hires Mrs. Gertrude Large (all the charwomen must be addressed as Mrs. or Miss) but for fewer hours per week than Mrs. Malloy. When Mrs. Large is killed in a fall from a ladder in the home of one of Chitterton Fells' several new residents, Ellie is in a tight spot again. Even worse, the charwomen are being murdered in quick succession, and Mrs. Malloy seems unreachable. Ellie, her husband Ben, and cousin Freddy go "undercover" as a new cleaning concern with the idea of searching the homes of their clients for clues.

The Ellie Haskell Mysteries have long been favorites of mine from The Thin Woman onward and I am delighted that Random House Alibi is bringing them out in new editions for new readers. It has been a very long time since I first read them and I find them charming as ever. They are full of good humor, village life and a cast of eccentrics that will keep you chuckling. I had forgotten much of the plot so it was almost a new experience with a nice twist at the end. I recommend them for traditional British cozy fans and for complete escape reading.

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

RATING- 4 Stars

Thursday, May 4, 2017

High Energy Thriller on the Streets of East London

WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU ( DI Fenchurch #3)
Ed James
Thomas & Mercer
April 20, 2017

DI Simon Fenchurch and his partner DS Kay Hooper are on night shift and assigned to attend a debate about a new "Uber" type cab company. London cabbies are not at all pleased and massed outside the debate site. No wonder, as London cabbies have to undergo rigorous education and certification on "the Knowledge"; encyclopedic knowledge of London and all its highways and byways. So why should this upstart company with drivers who are not required to have licenses be allowed to operate? The appearance of Lord Ingham, a longtime Conservative Party operative with some very right-wing views ratchets up the potential for violence. When the situation devolves into a riot, Simon is the one who saves his life. From the debate Fenchurch and Hooper are called to the scene of the brutal murder of a young City lawyer at a construction site, the worlds of the new "Travis" company, Lord Ingham, and a pedophile sex trafficking ring collide with multiplying bodies and a brutal betrayal. 

Just as in the previous two Fenchurch novels, the abduction of Fenchurch's young daughter, Chloe, a decade before underlies the story. Simon and his wife, Abi, have managed to make some accommodation for the loss of Chloe, and are even expecting another child. But Simon will never give up on finding out what happened to Chloe, and neither will his retired policeman father, Liam. The present case seems to have a connection to Chloe. So will Simon and Abi finally get answers, and will they be the answers they want?

What Doesn't Kill You is another high-action ride through the mean, traffic and construction clogged streets of East London. Simon Fenchurch is one of the most driven police officers in today's crime fiction, and he has little regard for rules and regulations when he is on the case. Once you start a Fenchurch novel, it is very hard to put down.

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. The opinions above are my own.

RATING-4 Stars