Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Christmas Peril (A Theater Cop Mystery ) by J.A. Hennrikus

J.A. Hennrikus writes a good- little- mystery in time for an early Christmas read. The heart of the story is the mystery, not the jingle of bells or even the town. The past is only a reference to the people and to Sully herself. But, the plot is strong and any number of people could be the perpetrator. I like stories like that and those which tie up neatly at the end.
 
Sully, has left the Police Force and is a General Manager for a Theater group. She is also involved in a murder. Peter Whitehall, a distant relative, and  a leading Citizen of the Town is found dead. Sully, is drawn into helping when she is asked by the murdered man's Lawyer. He also happens to be her ex-Husband. But can she stay out of trouble as the bodies start dropping?


There are quite a few little sub-plots in the story. One is her ex-husband which leaves the door open to a reunion and romance. Another is the play and all the Actors with their various quirks and problems.  But the pieces tie together well and there are likeable characters which keep you reading. All together a nice mystery for a cozy night of reading.

Blurb:

Sully Must Get Her Childhood Friend Off the Naughty List Before They’re Both Scrooged
When Edwina “Sully” Sullivan’s life imploded, she left behind her job on the police force and her unfaithful husband to start a new life as the general manager of her hometown theater, the Cliffside Theater Company.
For five years, she focused on budgets instead of crime and kept the Cliffside running alongside its mercurial artistic director. But when her childhood friend is suspected of killing his father, no one is looking for another culprit. So, in between keeping A Christmas Carol on budget and Scrooge sober, Sully dusts off her investigative skills to find a murderer. Her two lives collide when her ex-husband arrives on the scene to play lawyer and she’s forced to confront her past in order to save her present.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Black Plumes by Margery Allingham

Margery Allingham writes a beautifully crafted story of murder.  The twists and turns lead you to a smooth conclusion. You think!  But as with other great Mysteries of hers, I became so enamored of the characters I missed the last clue. That only added to the enjoyment. Her writing is deeply entrenched in another Era similar to Dorothy L.  Sayers, but that makes the flow of her words lovely.  Each chapter keeps you firmly turning the page.

Francis Ivory has come to her Grandmother for help.  There is something unnatural and fishy going on in the family business.  Her Brother-in-law is trying to force her to marry against her wishes and his own terror is impinging on the family business.  Her Step-Sister is a hysteric and in bed most of the time.  She either is very frail or scared to death.  Francis decides to take on a fiancée, who can at least protect her from an unwanted marriage.  But can he protect her from the Murders that begin at the family Home?  Death is walking those hallways.

The interaction between the characters is very strong.  Gabrielle, the Matriarch of the family is either very shrewd and capable of murder- or facing senility. At times I suspected both.  That is the beauty of Allingham’s writing. And between the hysteria there is some very real terror going on.  People are dying. The Author is a master at projecting suspense to the Reader.  The tension is carried from Chapter to Chapter as it always is in a good mystery.  I highly enjoyed this Mystery and I am giving it five stars.


Blurb:
The slashing of a valuable painting at the renowned Ivory Gallery in London, one of the most prestigious art galleries in the world – followed by the murder of the proprietor’s son-in-law, Robert, sets the stage for another finely tuned Allingham mystery. The proprietor’s mother, 90-year-old Gabrielle Ivory, holds the key to the web of intrigue and danger that permeates the gallery.

Gabrielle Ivory was once a society beauty. But now, nearing 90, she’s largely disregarded by the younger members of the Ivory clan, who like to imagine Granny as rather a relic of a dead era. That’s a mistake, and it’s not their only one. A series of malicious attacks is threatening the Ivory Gallery in London. Robert Ivory and his high-strung wife, frantic to preserve the status-quo, want to chalk it all up to practical jokes gone wrong. But Gabrielle is not inclined to collude in this delusion.

A brilliant standalone mystery from the author of the beloved Campion books. Golden Age Crime at its intriguing best.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Man of Dangerous Secrets by Maxwll March

Maxwell March is the pseudonym of Margery Allingham. So, if you enjoy her work, which is similar to Dorothy L. Sayers, then this is another mystery you should read. The plot is very thick with characters but that does not deter. From the first page I was intrigued. How could you not be? The book starts with an almost murder and keeps up the tense pace till the end.

The Dealer, is blackmailing four very important Tycoons in their field. He is known only by a Pseudonym. One of the blackmailed, Sir Henry Fern, has a beautiful Daughter- who has lost two
fiancée's in bizarre accidents. But were they accidents? Jennifer Fern is contemplating another proposal when Tony is poisoned. She decides to find someone to help her track down the Killer and stop them. The easiest way for someone to do that...is to become her third fiancée and stay one step ahead of death.

I should "fess" up and say I love these older Mysteries. It is another Era and the stories are interwoven with chivalrous Characters, stolid British Policeman and glamorous Women. But they also contain evil, murder and blackmail. The writing
has an old- fashioned, charming, quality to it that people who read the older mystery classics will recognize and approve. I enjoyed it. 

Blurb:

He was haunted by the face of a girl, a girl lovely beyond all imagining, with stark terror in her wide grey eyes.

Robin Grey is Scotland Yard’s inside man – handling matters requiring a delicacy, integrity, and secrecy outside the jurisdiction of regular government offices. He is a man of details, of observation, and of intuition.

While lurking about Waterloo station on a mission for the Foreign Office, Grey’s interest is piqued by a suspicious looking character. Tailing him, Grey catches the man shove a fellow passenger onto the train tracks. Rushing to intervene, Robin Grey never stops to think that saving the victim might ensnare him in the same sinister plot.

Heiress Jennifer Fern is cursed: tragic accidents have claimed two past fiancés, and she would have lost a third had it not been for Robin Grey’s heroic actions. Terrorized by the torment that stalks her, Grey is drawn to this young woman and feels honour-bound to help her. Tempting fate, he goes undercover to solve this deadly mystery.

But if loving Miss Jennifer Fern means certain death, can Grey protect her, and his own heart, before history repeats itself?

Queen of Classic Crime, Margery Allingham, delivers a dazzling mystery writing as Maxwell March.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

The latest story of Susan Elias MacNeal, The Paris Spy, has all the smoothness of a Chàteau Lafitte Rothschild. The descriptions are lovely on the Rue Saint Honorè, a boulevard filled with People- though there is the palatable taste of fear mixed with patriotism.  I can actually see Paris like a downtrodden flower, with rainy streets trampled by the Germans. The darkness, filled with humiliation   for some... beauty and fashion for others.

Maggie Hope has a job to do for Intelligence. She is posing as a neutral Irishwoman coming to buy her trousseau and accidentally meets the famous Coco Chanel. They attend the ballet and Moulin Rouge together.
That opens the door to the fashionable among the Germans and the French. Four other Agents are there in the huge gathering and an arrest occurs. Two of those four are friends of Maggie and she will not rest until they all complete their Assignments. British Agents have been signing in with information in code and leaving off their security checks. It is vital the Germans do not have the codes.Tension is high as the SOE has a mission to complete and the alternative is death for thousands of Soldiers if any leaks occur.

MacNeal, writes descriptively of the life that the Parisians had in the midst of a takeover by the Germans.The beautiful Women, that German Officers pursued in their boredom, with drink and fashion... may be Collaborators or something else. But the Author also masters the wartime terror of the Agents sent in to bring back information. For those outside the favor of the Nazi Officers are dealt a much different treatment than most of France. They see only starvation and torture.

I have always loved WWII research and the detail that goes into these stories. The glamour of mixing artists and actresses with the  descriptions of creativity in a Country at War and the horror seem to go hand- in -hand. The little vignettes of  courage were touching that those people who went into intelligence faced. For they knew the risks when they were sent behind enemy lines and went anyway. They did not take the easy way out.

I found this book well researched and incredibly moving for the sake of its contents. The tension kept me on the edge of my seat. I read this in one night and couldn't sleep until I had finished it.


Blurb:
American-born spy and code-breaker extraordinaire Maggie Hope secretly navigates Nazi-occupied France to find two brave women during the darkest days of World War II in the latest novel in this New York Times bestselling series—“a treat for WWII buffs and mystery lovers alike” (Booklist, on The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent).

Maggie Hope has come a long way since serving as a typist for Winston Churchill. Now she’s working undercover for the Special Operations Executive in the elegant but eerily silent city of Paris, where SS officers prowl the streets in their Mercedes and the Ritz is draped with swastika banners. Walking among the enemy is tense and terrifying, and even though she’s disguised in chic Chanel, Maggie can’t help longing for home.

But her missions come first. Maggie’s half sister, Elise, has disappeared after being saved from a concentration camp, and Maggie is desperate to find her—that is, if Elise even wants to be found. Equally urgent, Churchill is planning the Allied invasion of France, and SOE agent Erica Calvert has been captured, the whereabouts of her vital research regarding Normandy unknown. Maggie must risk her life to penetrate powerful circles and employ all her talents for deception and spycraft to root out a traitor, find her sister, and locate the reports crucial to planning D-Day in a deadly game of wits with the Nazi intelligence elite.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood

Kerry Greenwood writes a really strong story set in  Australia...with loads of character and action. Phyrne Fisher has been asked to look into the disappearance of three pregnant girls and a female Reporter. There is a hint,that white slavery may be involved. The Book is set after World War One so there are characters who live with the scars of War. Mr. Bates, who is one of them, resented his story being taken over by the girl Reporter. But so do others resent her. Phyrne is on the trail of the disappearing girls. She interviews the homes they came from and the friends or people they talked to. The list is growing of people who could have helped them disappear ...but did they?

The main character has a large group of people in her life who help with the investigation. Mr. and Mrs. Butler run her house, Dot, Ruth, Jane and now with this one Tinker, help on occasion with research and cover. Many of those they interview live in seedy circumstances and in a couple of cases, a jealous Mother or an abusive Father are not ruled out. The puzzle builds as Phyrne goes to the Blue Cat Club for a Conference with a group of men who have to remain anonymous. They may have information however. 

Greenwood has gone into many of the taboos of the post World War One time-frame. This includes a Priest who inpregnated one of the girls, a Father who sold his daughter to a Neighbor for rent, beer and cigarettes, and a comunity of Men who love their fellow man not a Woman. The attitude of the sparse, religious setting the girls were forced to live in and have their babies... which would be taken away from them as soon as they were born, adds a fine historical touch to the plight of Women.  All- in- all you have a fine, mixed plot to enjoy and savor.

The vintage tidbits bring realism to the book. I enjoyed the description of designer clothes, and food, that the Phyrne household got to eat. The licentious, underbelly of Society, Phyrme treads to interview and has no fear of ... as she follows the path of the disappearing four Women- just expands the flavor. It is easy to see why these Books were made into a Television Series they have everything. I read this book in one sitting. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Low Country Bonfire by Susan Boyer

I really enjoy this series. Susan Boyer has the dialect of the South down just fine with her newest addition. Her Liz Talbot series is a fine and dandy Mystery. I defy anyone to stop reading in the opening Chapter when Tammy Sue sets fire to her Husband's Mustang, over his cheating, and a body is discovered. Half of the island is there to witness it. 

Liz and her Husband Nate are hired to help find the Murderer in their home area. They are watched over by Colleen, who is a former deceased friend of Liz's, and guards the Island. She seems to have a stronger, human- element than the earlier Boyer books, because now she takes solid form on occasion and likes ham biscuits.This among a diet by the locals which has rich gravy, cheese eggs, and all kinds of goodies to eat. You will definitely appreciate the food.

There were quite a few characters in this story and all of them have a history with each other. Zeke, on the other hand, was a huge story- teller, but no one knew the real person. That was a page turner... to find out what happened in those twenty years- before he married, and ended up dead, in the back-end of a Mustang. The first Chapter sets a fast pace and builds to a few surprising twists.

I really liked the Characters built into Stella Maris- the island. Their warmth and family loyalties... even tempers, make it interesting. Low Country Bonfire has lots of brooding feuds, and secrets sure to keep you reading. The food, the characters, all come across as appealing. Susan Boyer writes a fun, entertaining mystery.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Leave It to Cleaver by Victoria Hamilton

Victoria Hamilton writes in a smooth, cozy style. It's almost like coming home to a neighborhood and a group of people you know well. Even though this was my first read out of a series of six books, it will stand alone.

I am also drawn to her covers and titles. I admit it I am a sucker for a clever pun. I have been known to buy a book just for the cover as have many of my friends.

Although the story starts in the present, the mystery part began many years earlier. Two bodies are found murdered in bizarre ways and the town is shocked. The hunt to track a killer is on..Jaymie can help as these victims were classmates of her Sister. But will this stir up more deaths?  How safe is Jaymie?

The Book is written, with chapters fluctuating between the past and present. In some Authors this is confusing but not Victoria Hamilton. She is a clever enough Writer to blend the two well. There are pending marriages between Jaymie and her Sister, which add a nice touch to the mystery. The added charm of vintage cookware and recipes made it that more palatable.This mystery is perfect for anytime reading.The pages turn by themselves.