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.

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)