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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Hiss Before Dying by Rita Mae Brown

Rita Mae Brown wrote a multi-layered story of friends and family, interspersed with historical facts, in this cozy. There are two mysteries occurring in the book. I found myself wishing I had started with the first book, because the animals in this series are full of personality and quite amusing. The beauty of fall in the Blue Ridge Mountain area of Crozet, Virginia had lovely descriptions, almost like poetry at times.

In the opening Chapter, the three animals, Pewter, Tucker, and Mrs. Murphy are wandering along as an Eagle goes over. I felt the same terror that the small animals do, at this large predator on the hunt. From the Eagle's huge talons hangs a blue eyeball. A seamless start to the new Mystery and one- I was prepared to enjoy.

The gorgeous scenery and bits of history had me so enthralled I actually forgot this was a mystery at times. Then the bodies started turning up and Mary Minor Haristeen ( Harry) identifies a slave pass...well, I won't say anymore.


The Mystery moves slow, layering the time frames, while the personalities of the animals and people work well together. I do like getting to know historical facts and different time frames. But the heart of this series is in the current day I felt and the charm of the animals too, while they talked, fussed and helped. The recent format of switching back and forth between past and present could be confusing to new Readers but not long- time followers. Finally, I enjoyed getting to know all the characters very much and will be adding the first few books of the Mrs. Murphy series to my reading list.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ivy Get Your Gun (An Ivy Meadows Mystery Book 4) by Cindy Brown

Cindy Brown manages to combine humor and mystery in a delectable little cozy. Ivy, whose real name is Olive, stars in a western- themed play set in Gold Bug Gulch. She is on the trail of a pack of Chihuahuas, who have enticed a pug to join them owned by her friends.  Ivy is also trying to figure out who set up a Cowboy for death. But when the murders keep happening, Ivy follows the path of a killer- who will stop at nothing.

There are many chuckle, aloud moments, as when our heroine deals with cacti, and no toilets, to settle for a bush. The description of that little interlude alone is worth reading the book for. Although, Ivy and her costumes as a P.I. provide some pretty amusing reading as well. Can I say Nun?

The array of characters add to this neat little mystery. We have a bat-loving Conservationist and the sudden addition of a son for her friend, Arnie. There is the cast for the Arnold Opera House
and multiple Investors. Let's just say there is plenty of opportunity for laughs and Ivy to track down the killer.

I have enjoyed Brown's addition to the series. It is not easy to write a mystery with this much humor.The book is a page turner and I finished it in one night.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Nearly Nero: The Adventures of Claudius Lyon, the Man Who Would Be Wolfe by Loren D. Estleman

Loren Estleman does a very clever satire of Nero Wolfe in this book. Claudius Lyon has no license to practice as a Detective. So, he never takes money and his cases are very different than Wolfe's. He has copied Wolfe as much as his life will allow. His sidekick is not Archie Goodwin but Arnie Woodbine. If you mumble, it sounds kind of alike-or does it?

The Chair in his Office is not the famous yellow of the Wolfe Books but orange. His sidekick takes every advantage of him, rounding off checks to the next hundred and his Cook serves pigeon and charges the Boss for chicken. Still they all rub along...Saints and Sinners.

If you are familiar with the Nero Wolfe stories this book has some laugh out loud moments. The comparisons are adroit and very colorful but not always to Claudius Lyon's advantage may I add. He has the girth of Wolfe but very little else. His problems are much smaller but they get solved in a timely way. The comparison of  Lyon's townhouse  to anything Wolfe is very aptly described as working out of a Motel Six.

So if you are a fan of Nero Wolfe you will like Nearly Nero very much. And even if you haven't read the Wolfe Books there are plenty of comparisons to satisfy your curiosity and keep you reading. Each story is different and I enjoyed the characters very much.