Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rhinehart

I had forgotten how well Mary Roberts Rhinehart puts her mysteries together. The opening page pulls you in and sets the flow. The Era she is writing in is Downton Abbey's time frame of plastic collars and alligator suitcases. The Women are Ladies even if they are scheming and old fashioned words are thrown around like "cur." Still there is a forgotten mystique about the authors who wrote and wove these tales and a charm.


Reading this story, set in another Era, you also get a social history lesson. I can spend hours just listening to the slang, savoring the descriptions of costume. As I am a train aficionado I also loved the lurid and inconvenient train trips during this murder mystery. There was a particularly amusing description of a horse and buggy ride too. But I will let you discover that for yourself.


When you read this... go into it with the enjoyment of a student in a strange land. Small details and the larger plot are both here and a cast of amusing and somewhat villainous characters. Personally I enjoyed the housekeeper very much as well as several of the side characters. But in the end the mystery stands on good writing and from her time frame Rhinehart was one of the best.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Rogues' Holiday by Maxwell March (Margery Allingham)

Inspector David Blest has two choices, jump or die. Trapped

aboard a motor boat with a pistol to his head and the life of his unconscious companion on the line, he’d better make his decision quick.

On the trail of the mysterious death of a gentleman in the Senior Buffs Club, young Inspector Blest is led to a fashionable seaside resort on the English coast, where the locals appear all too happy to help his investigation. Things take a turn when Blest meets Judy Wellington, an apparently sickly young woman desperate to escape her past. But who is Judy Wellington? What exactly is she running from? And how has Blest found himself the murderer’s next target?




Margery Allingham, famous for Albert Campion, also wrote serialized stories for Magazines under the name - Maxwell March. While Campion and Black Dudley took off the serials were put together and formed three Novels. And that is the thing about Allingham, no matter what name she wrote under, the plots build nicely and are page turners. They are filled out by Characters that add interest and that I wanted to spend time with.

From the very first page, I was lost under the old spell of the Golden Age of Writers. The Characters are likeable and sometimes hold a certain naivete. The Inspectors are tough and intelligent. This mystery has a rainy night...cozy reading feel to it. I turned pages so fast,that I was through with the book, about the same time I am halfway through others.

The Characters include an intelligent Inspector, a sickly, young Woman who holds the key to a mystery and a dying, Con Man. Margery Allingham is a great, master builder of the eccentric- particularly in people. But what may be the
cream of her writing is that she has preserved a certain way of life in England where the "whodunit" lives forever...like Agatha Christie, Allingham needs to be read and savored for the charm her books have.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Elementary, She Read: A Sherlock Holmes Bookstory Mystery by Vicki Delany


Gemma Doyle, a transplanted Englishwoman, has returned to the quaint town of West London on Cape Cod to manage her Great Uncle Arthur's Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. The shop--located at 222 Baker Street--specializes in the Holmes canon and pastiche.

When Gemma finds a rare and potentially valuable magazine containing the first Sherlock Homes story hidden in the bookshop, she and her friend Jayne (who runs the adjoining Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room) set off to find the owner, only to stumble upon a dead body.

The highly perceptive Gemma is the police’s first suspect, so she puts her consummate powers of deduction to work to clear her name, investigating a handsome rare books expert, the dead woman's suspiciously unmoved son, and a whole family of greedy characters desperate to cash in on their inheritance. But when Gemma and Jayne accidentally place themselves at a second murder scene, it's a race to uncover the truth before the detectives lock them up for good.

This mystery has a good mix of background, food and interesting characters. Next door to the Bookstore, we have Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room so prepare for mouth-watering descriptions. The luminous view of a water- front Restaurant adds to the blend, as does the hint of a past romance. 


We are led step by step through the passionate and at times frenzied world of Collectors. But would one of them actually have been desperate enough to commit murder...not once but twice for a rare object?

Gemma Holmes, an Englishwoman, cannot help but sense things. Like her Counterpart, Sherlock Holmes, she is good at following small clues... that no-one else would notice. When the Beeton's Christmas Annual is stuck on a shelf in her Bookshop...Gemma decides to track down the Owner. The red herrings in this story catapult Readers to a surprise ending and Murderer. But isn't that the way we like to shadow in our mysteries- fellow Sherlock's?


Vicki Delany does a great job at putting Holmes in this story. Her characters are a blend of amusing and eccentric. To give you an idea- the Cat's name is Moriarty. I could not wait to read this book as I am a huge fan of Conan Doyle and this cozy was a welcome addition to my Holmes- related Mysteries.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Murder Most Pekoe by Laura Childs

When Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is invited by  Doreen Briggs, one of Charleston’s most prominent hostesses, to a “Rat Tea,” she is understandably intrigued.  As servers dressed in rodent costumes and wearing white gloves offer elegant finger sandwiches and fine teas, Theo learns these parties date back to early twentieth-century Charleston, where the cream of society would sponsor so-called rat teas to promote city rodent control and better public health.

But this party goes from odd to chaotic when a fire starts at one of the tables and Doreen’s entrepreneur husband suddenly goes into convulsions and drops dead. Has his favorite orange pekoe tea been poisoned? Theo smells a rat.


Laura Childs, in her eighteenth book, continues her successful Tea Shop Series... with an added dollop of murder set in Charleston. The first Chapter sets the tone with a "Rat Tea" for a Murder. Who among the group of prominent Suspects had a motive? Theodosia Browning, ends up on a murder hunt, along with her staff member and friend, Drayton... at the request of the victim's wife.  She also runs a successful Tea Shop, which allows us to be treated to Child's wonderful research on Tea. Some of the scenes made my mouth water as I am a great Tea Lover. I suspect many who read this series fix their Teapot of leaves while they read.

The descriptions are lovely of Charleston and the roads that make up the historical district. I have in my mind's eye those same charming buildings while I read Child's very apt sketches.

But the heart of any mystery is the "who done it." Laura Child's is good at building the mystery- throwing in red herrings, so that at the end I was completely surprised. The pace is slow enough, so that if like me, you are a novice to the series, you can quickly pick up the thread of the characters.

This may have been the first book in the series I have read but it won't be the last.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Crooked Street: A Joanna Piercy police procedural (A Joanna Piercy Mystery)




Jadon Glover, the perfect Husband, did not return home one night.  His wife Eve, calls the police, but too often errant Husbands have run off or had one drink too many, so, the Police are not very concerned. He is a financial Manager with Johnston and Pickles the Officers are told... but when they start digging- he doesn’t work there! Nothing is known of his background or Parents. In short, he is as beige as the background in his perfect life. But then things start to unravel.

The Detective in charge of the case is a second wife.  D.I. Joanna Piercy and her Husband have no children together and his job is as stressful as hers.  They are struggling with the need to move...she to accept his Parents.  The death of a child in her Husbands job is heartrending to him and at one point he says, “he wishes he had something to come home to cuddle and love.” The bulk of our story though is the police work, fitted into a detailed investigation, which leads to a gritty, forensic find.

Priscilla Masters builds the mystery slowly. The layers are interwoven in her chapters... question by question and with a variety of clues. The comprehensive descriptions  threaded within the plot reveal a vendetta against the main character that she ties up successfully.  I sat reading until very late at night and I suspect you will too.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Strangers in Company by Jane Aiken Hodge


Jane Aiken Hodge was one of a series of Writers which included Mary Stewart, and Victoria Holt that wrote gothic suspense.  I devoured her books like “Maulever Hall” and “Watch the Wall, My Darling.”  When I came across a Book of Hodge’s I had not read I was delighted.  This is another Suspense that builds gradually and insidiously.  We don’t know who or what.. until the end.

Marian is hired to accompany Stella as they travel through the Greek Isles.  The Tour throws a group of Strangers together and then accidents begin to happen. Who can Marian trust?  She becomes worried for both herself and Stella.  To complicate matters Marian has become attracted to a classics Professor. This is a nice little mystery and just the type I am partial to.  Read it on a rainy night and let the tension build with each page.  Jane Aiken Hodge is good at that.

"Throughout her career, she wrote books set in what she called the borderland–that line between mystery and romance novel. In her last novels, her mysteries became thrillers. This invisible line–this borderland–made her “gothic romantic suspense” voice unique." (Wray, "Kiss And Thrill," Jan.22)


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Judgement of Murder by C. S. Challinor

My Review:

Rex Graves is an Advocate at the English Court when the daughter of Lord Gordon Murgatroyd asks for his help. He is reluctant at first. Sentencing was  heavy-handed at Court by Lord Murgatroyd and behind his back he was referred to as Judge Murder. Many people respected him but even more hated him.  Now the old Judge has died but but was it a natural death or was it murder? 

Then things are missing from the house.  Odd things.  First  a stamp collection is gone according to the daughter but is she lying or really on the trail of something? Later... a latex fingertip, a pink slide are all found in the bedroom and examined for finger prints but the evidence is slight so the clues are building.

Ten years earlier a girl had been kidnapped and murdered on her way home from school.  But had the man convicted really been guilty?  And what did the second kidnapping of a teenager have to do with the Judge?

Rex and his friend Adrian pursue people and clues from London to Canterbury. They pour over events and interview witnesses. Bringing the right person to justice will depend on detail, luck and determination.

C.S. Challinor writes in the style of an English cozy.  She leads us on a trail... laced with red herrings galore. In many ways, the jailbirds tended to be the stronger characters, along with the dark descriptions of their past lives.  I love English Mysteries, so it was fun guessing how this would end. The pace is slow but with plenty of twists to keep you reading.


[A] winner . . . A must for cozy fans.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Satisfying . . . Smooth prose will keep cozy fans turning the pages.”—Publishers Weekly

“Will delight all cozy and Agatha Christie fans. C.S. creates devilishly complex characters keeping the reader on edge until the final page.”—Suspense Magazine