Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Murder for Christmas (Mordecai Tremaine Book One) by Francis Duncan

This book was written in the 1940's but it has a lovely, almost- Victorian turn of phrase. Mordecai Tremaine has a great interest in the study of mankind. His host, who met him at a Party, sent him an invitation to share an old- fashioned Christmas at his home. The Manor House is set in an English Village complete with a set of eccentric characters. Now what could be more perfect for a mystery?

Mordecai is a sentimental Man in his 60's who harbors a desire to see romance in the World. That led to his amusing habit of reading Romance Stories. It was quite a new twist for a Detective and he keeps his habit hidden. I had a good chuckle out of it.

I happen to be partial to Mysteries of this Era and in particular the English Manor House mysteries. The Characters are a little confusing at first but soon become clear as to their place in the story. So if you like the older Mysteries and I do...you will enjoy this one.

Blurb:

When Mordecai Tremaine arrives at the country retreat of one Benedict Grame on Christmas Eve, he discovers that the revelries are in full swing in the sleepy village of Sherbroome—but so too are tensions amongst the assortment of guests.
When midnight strikes, the partygoers discover that presents aren't the only things nestled under the tree...there's a dead body too. A dead body that bears a striking resemblance to Father Christmas. With the snow falling and suspicions flying, it's up to Mordecai to sniff out the culprit—and prevent anyone else from getting murder for Christmas.
Murder for Christmas is a festive mystery for the holiday season: mulled wine, mince pies... and murder.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Witchs' Tree: an Agatha Raisin Mystery

M.C. Beaton writes a biting, humorous mystery with her newest book, The Witch's Tree. The descriptions are often hilarious and so are the quips. That does not preclude the book from moving at a fast pace. Nor the murders from being serious. By chapter three I was both amused, hooked and could feel the eeriness of a good, cozy- mystery.

Sir Edward Chumble and his wife Tiffany felt it necessary to invite the Vicar and his wife to dinner. This should naturally be blamed on Agatha Christie for her wonderful descriptions of village life.  When driving home Rory and Molly Devere find the first body hanging from a tree and from the looks of it ...one more horror to add to the village that has become a nightmare to the Vicar's wife. But one of Beaton's shining qualities is her ability to add humor to a dark situation. 

By the time Agatha Raisin gets hired by Sir Edward Chumble she is once again in the thick of it with her sometime boyfriend Sir Charles Fraith. Favorite characters are still in the picture and I like the Agatha Raisin... Beaton portrays in this her 28th Book in the series. Although I had not read any of the books before now I had watched the TV Series. The book stands alone you can start anywhere in the series and pick up enough to enjoy it.

A Witch's Coven adds a little bit more October fun. That and Agatha on the hunt again determined to root out everyone's secret makes for an enjoyable read.
I enjoyed the quirky characters and the dialog very much. I will certainly be an Agatha fan after this and I rated the book five stars.

Blurb:

The Witches’ Tree continues the tradition in M. C. Beaton's beloved Agatha Raisin mystery series—now a hit show on Acorn TV and public television.

Cotswolds inhabitants are used to inclement weather, but the night sky is especially foggy as Rory and Molly Devere, the new vicar and his wife, drive slowly home from a dinner party in their village of Sumpton Harcourt. They strain to see the road ahead—and then suddenly brake, screeching to a halt. Right in front of them, aglow in the headlights, a body hangs from a gnarled tree at the edge of town. Margaret Darby, an elderly spinster, has been murdered—and the villagers are bewildered as to who would commit such a crime.

Agatha Raisin rises to the occasion (a little glad for the excitement, to tell the truth, after a long run of lost cats and divorces on the books). But Sumpton Harcourt is a small and private village, she finds—a place that poses more questions than answers. And when two more murders follow the first, Agatha begins to fear for her reputation—and even her life. That the village has its own coven of witches certainly doesn't make her feel any better...

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber

Anna Lee Huber writes a fast- paced mystery set after World War I. The story holds you from the very first page with its wonderful descriptions. The tension increases from chapter to chapter with a touch of the Gothic. A cryptic Message has been sent to the Widow of an Officer killed on the front. It alludes to the fact he may have been a Traitor. Her trip to find the truth is the beginning of a dangerous mission. But one she feels she must go on...

The Guests are all invited to an Engagement Party, set on Umbersea Island, complete with a Castle and estate grounds.
Many of the men were from the same unit overseas, the unlucky Thirtieth- overrun by the Germans. It seems an odd beginning to the festivities as several are still stamped with the bitterness of War. Then the deaths begin...without Verity having any idea why or who is behind this. But as she is stranded on the island... it will become life or death to find out what is going on... and play along. Is it a form of revenge or is there a crazed Killer among the group?

This story has great interlocking characters. Some you like... others you feel sorry for...but as the bodies pile up it becomes a question of truth.
This book captivated me from the first page. I read it in one sitting. I could not go to bed until I found out what happened. Huber writes with a consistent tension that keeps you hooked. If you like historical mysteries then I highly recommend this one.



Blurb:
The Great War is over, but in this captivating new mystery from award-winning author Anna Lee Huber, one young widow discovers the real intrigue has only just begun . . .
 
England, 1919. Verity Kent’s grief over the loss of her husband pierces anew when she receives a cryptic letter, suggesting her beloved Sidney may have committed treason before his untimely death. Determined to dull her pain with revelry, Verity’s first impulse is to dismiss the derogatory claim. But the mystery sender knows too much—including the fact that during the war, Verity worked for the Secret Service, something not even Sidney knew. 

Lured to Umbersea Island to attend the engagement party of one of Sidney’s fellow officers, Verity mingles among the men her husband once fought beside, and discovers dark secrets—along with a murder clearly meant to conceal them. Relying on little more than a coded letter, the help of a dashing stranger, and her own sharp instincts, Verity is forced down a path she never imagined—and comes face to face with the shattering possibility that her husband may not have been the man she thought he was. It’s a truth that could set her free—or draw her ever deeper into his deception . . .

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.