Review: The Treasure at Poldarrow Point

Title: The Treasure at Poldarrow Point (Angela Marchmont, #3)

Author: Clara Benson

After solving two cases in close succession, Angela Marchmont is struck with a nasty case of pneumonia. Her doctor has ordered a rest cure at the sea side, so she’s headed to Cornwall. She’s barely unpacked when her impulsive goddaughter has shown up and discovered a local story of buried treasure.

Naturally, young Barbara has decided that would be the perfect project for their summer holiday. Angela is reluctant at first, but she gets caught up in the lives of the local residents. There’s a sweet old lady and her nephew, a quarrelsome married couple, an odd scientist, and an attractive Scotland Yard detective all involved in the events nearby.

The lighthearted treasure hunt takes a deadly turn when someone takes a shot at Angela and Barbara goes missing.

This one was my favorite in the series so far. The others were rather predictable, but not in a terrible way. This one I was actually caught off guard more than once. I thought I had it figured it out, but there were several surprises in there. I have already downloaded the next one in this series. If you like the British mysteries, this series is so much fun.

Review: My Sister’s Grave

Title: My Sister’s Grave (Tracy Crosswhite, #1)

Author: Robert Dugoni

Setting: Washington state

Themes: Crime, Secrets, Family, Second Chances

Plot: Tracy Crosswhite’s sister disappeared 20 years ago. She was never found. Now her body has turned up, and Tracy has her doubts that the right man was convicted of Sarah’s murder. Especially since someone is trying to keep Tracy from asking questions. Tracy won’t rest until she finds out what really happened to her sister, even if she has to go through hell to find out.

Reaction: It’s been a little while since I read this one, but I did enjoy it. This is the first book I’ve read by this author. I was able to guess what was going on long before it happened, but I read to the end anyway. It was pretty dark and gruesome towards the end, but I think I will give this series another try. Just maybe not right away. I’m only giving it 3.1 stars out of 5, but like I said, I liked it enough to finish it.

Book Review: The Halo Effect

Title: The Halo Effect

Author: Anne D. LeClaire

Format: Ebook

Themes: Grief, art, secrets, religion

Setting: Modern small town Massachusetts

Will Light’s daughter disappeared after school. Days later, her body turned up in the woods. She’d been murdered. The police investigated, but nothing turned up and the case went cold.

Now Will is overwhelmed with grief and the loss of his precious daughter. His wife Sophie has moved out, tired of dealing with his drinking and his anger. She’s channeling her sorrow into advocacy for children in general, becoming a voice for murdered children. But Will is too angry and bitter to move on.

The local church wants Will to paint a piece for the new building, but Will has no interest in the saints. What good are they when Lucy is dead? (Except that you know he changes his mind because it’s in the book description.) Instead he buys a gun and goes prowling every night, looking for his daughter’s killer in the faces he sees.

I liked this book. I’ve dealt with grief myself, and I know something about the anger and the self-destructive behavior it can provoke. So I was able to sympathize with Will and his wife. I really wanted him to find some peace with his situation, but that’s not something you can rush.

The story also follows Lucy’s best friend Rain and the local priest Father Gervase, both of whom are dealing with their own private sorrows. I really liked Rain, who reminded me of my own kids when they were teenagers.

The author does a good job with this one, but I felt like the conclusion was just sort of tacked on at the end. There was no warning that they were close to catching the killer, it just sort of happened. That kind of bugged me. But I still liked it well enough to recommend it. Just be aware that it’s a sad book. If I judged this one as a mystery, I’d rate it pretty low, but as a study of loss and its effects, I’d give it 4 stars out of 5.

 

 

 

Book Review: Murder at Hazelmoor

The new residents at Sittaford House planned a little evening party with neighbors. Even the snowstorm didn’t discourage them. But when a little harmless table turning became something more sinister, everyone became a little nervous. Was Captain Trevelyan really dead? His friend Major Burnaby set off on a 6 mile hike to find out.

The police decide that there was nothing supernatural about the death – it was murder, and they know who did it. But the fiance of the accused is sure of his innocence and sets off to find the real killer.

I really liked this one. It’s set in the moors and there’s this great sense of isolation, which is intensified by the presence of a prison nearby. When one of the inmates escapes, the police have to decide how he fits into the crime.

This is one of the few Agatha Christie books that doesn’t feature either Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple. I didn’t miss them, but if you didn’t know that, you might keep waiting for them to show up. Recommended, but more fun on a cold and windy night.

Burn, Rewrite, Reread

I’m stealing this one from the girls over at TwinTales because it was so much fun to read their picks. Even though they read a lot of YA and I don’t, it’s still a good idea. I decided to go to my GoodReads shelf for 2015, which I hope is recent enough that I still remember what I thought about the books. I also decided to do all mysteries, to tie them together.

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Burn: Belladonna at Belstone by Michael Jecks, #8 in Knights Templar series. It’s funny, because I just praised this series in a previous post, but this one was quite a disappointment. I would have said burning it was great, but of the mysteries I found, this was my least favorite. It’s set in a convent and it seemed like NONE of the nuns were keeping any of their vows. OK, maybe poverty, but there was so much sex in here that it was hard to keep track of. If you want to try this series, DO NOT start here. You’ll be so sad.

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Rewrite: A Man of Some Repute by Elizabeth Edmondson, #1 in A Very English Mystery series. This one wasn’t bad, it was just too predictable. I have read a LOT of mysteries, so maybe that was the problem, but I felt that some of the characters were more types than actually rounded, real characters. Also the identity of the killer was not a surprise at all. I would have liked this one to be more unexpected.

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Reread: Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz. Everything that I found lacking in the previous books was here, and then some. Just when I thought I knew where this book was going, Horowitz turned it completely on its edge and I was just stunned! I listened to this one, which heightened the suspense and made it even better, but wow, it was amazing! One of my few five star reads for that year. The characters and the plot were outstanding. Even if you are only a casual fan of Sherlock Holmes, you have to read this one!

Hope you enjoyed my picks. I’ll have to do this again with fantasy or sci fi reads too. Happy reading!

Book Review: The Tournament of Blood

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Title: The Tournament of Blood (Knights Templar #8)

Author: Michael Jecks

Setting: England 1322

If you’ve ever seen a movie with two knights jousting in single combat, you might think you know all about medieval tournaments. You’d be wrong. That was just one event of the whole contest, and the contest itself was only a part of a huge series of events that took place. This book, which cites references for the curious, describes in detail everything that went into the pageantry of a real tournament. Our main character, Sir Baldwin, is a former Knight Templar. By this time in history, though, that order has been declared outlaw and excommunicate, which means that Sir Baldwin is living incognito in rural England, serving as a Keeper of the Peace. (Which is apparently like a sheriff, but not quite.)

Sir Baldwin and his wife are awaiting the birth of their first child, so talk of a tournament doesn’t really interest them. Once the baby girl safely arrives, Baldwin is happy to escape for a few days and join friends. But almost as soon as he gets there, his friend the bailiff Simon Puttock gets into a quarrel with a builder about the stands for the event. Then the builder is found dead. And that’s just the beginning.

Other bodies follow – the builder’s partner, a squire or two. The event was supposed to be a chance for knights to improves their combat skills, for squires to impress and maybe earn a knighthood of their own, for merchants to make some money and for the common people to have a little hard-earned fun. Instead, it’s turning into chaos.

I really enjoy this series. It’s really long and very popular among historical mysteries. This one was bloodier than usual. By the end of the book (slight spoiler) I was surprised by the way justice was administered. It’s a little different from the previous books I’ve read.

If you’re interested in this author, I would recommend starting with the first one, The Last Templar. Some fascinating stuff about the religious order, about the whole issue of holy wars and politics. There’s a lot of religion and politics in these books, so if you like your mysteries to have plenty of meaty historical details, you’d eat these up. I’d give this one 3.9 stars.

Book Review: Allegedly

Title: Allegedly

Author: Tiffany D. Jackson

Challenge: Read Diverse Books

Setting: Modern day, not sure about place

Themes: Race, family, criminal justice system, mental illness – just wow, so much going on in here, it’s hard to wrap my mind around it.

Story:

Mary is fresh out of prison, what she calls “baby jail.” She’s been stashed there since she was convicted of murder at 9 years old. Which makes no sense, because that’s not at all what would have happened, but this is a book about how messed up things can get. As soon as she’s out, she gets stuck in a group home and given a job working at a nursing home. That’s where she meets Ted, who’s also living in a group home. Now Mary’s pregnant, and if she doesn’t do something, the state will take her baby.

Because Mary was convicted not just of murder, but of murdering a baby. A white baby. And Mary is black.

My Reactions:

This is one messed up book. It’s also really good, so I was torn between wanting, needing to know what happened and having to take break from the horror of it all and where I thought it was going. Everything in this story is so messed up. Her mother is horrible. The workers at the group home don’t care about anyone. The other girls, wow, there’s some seriously bad stuff going on there. But what really made this book good was Mary. Just when you think you have her figured out, the author changes things up and you don’t know what to believe. By the time you get to the ending, you think nothing will surprise you. But you would be wrong.

Would I recommend it? It depends. I admit that I found it so tough to read that I skipped a big chunk in the middle. Then when I got to the ending, I had to go back and read more. But I know that a lot of my friends are not going to be interested in something so dark and grim. I tried to tell my kid about the book (they’re 21), and they found it very upsetting to even hear about it. What hooked me was the mystery aspect of the story – did she or didn’t she? But this is a murder of a BABY, and I should have been more prepared for the emotional impact of that.

Reread: Murder Over Easy

Title: Murder Over Easy, Trailer Park #2

Author: Jimmie Ruth Evans

I don’t know if you ever reread books, but I am happy to revisit one I enjoyed before. And when I saw this one at the library, I decided to pick it up for a second helping.

Wanda Sue is a hardworking single mom, trying to make ends meet. She works two jobs, one at the local diner and one overnight stocking shelves at the discount store. On her way home early one morning, she gets a call from her boss at the diner that he’s been arrested for the murder of another waitress. Wanda Sue believes her boss is innocent, so she starts out to find the real killer.

So what was it about this book that make me pick it up again? Well, it wasn’t the genre. I got a little bit into the book and then remembered that I don’t really like cozy mysteries. They rely so much on quirky characters and coincidence that the “mystery” is virtually nonexistent. I generally spot the victim and the murderer before anyone is dead, and that drives me nuts. No, it was the character.

Most fiction is written about the middle class. People who live in moderately nice houses, have a couple of cars, a couple of kids in school, and a decent job. Books about single people generally don’t mention roommates and their apartments are nice. Then there are plenty of book about the rich, too. But books about the working poor are not so common. The ones you do find focus on drugs or violence or despair, not on how many of the working poor are functioning just fine, thank you. Sure, money is really tight, but that’s just the way it is and there’s no point in worrying about it. Meanwhile, it’s time to get to work, and if that means working two jobs, then it does, and that’s that.

My family has fluctuated between lower middle income and upper middle income, but some of my best friends were a distinct income bracket below mine. I was in their homes often enough to know that they are not well represented in what’s being published today. Their lives are different from those with more money, but they aren’t as bleak as you might imagine. I loved this series because you see that. Wanda Sue doesn’t complain. Sure, she’s tired, but she’s happy to have her jobs, she loves her kids, and she helps her friends when she can. I would recommend this series just because of her, but start with the first book, Flamingo Fatale.

Book Review: Archie Meets Nero Wolfe

Title: Archie Meets Nero Wolfe

Author: Robert Goldsborough

Genre: 1930s crime fiction

Setting: NYC 1930s

Review:

My grandma collected mysteries. Most of them were by Agatha Christie, but once I had read all of those, there was another sizable chunk by this author, Rex Stout. Their covers were different, often featuring a woman in distress on the cover, but they sounded interesting. I don’t remember which book I started with, but I wound up reading them too.

This one is what is called fan fiction today – a tribute by author Robert Goldsborough. It’s an imagining of the first time Archie Goodwin, smart ass and tough guy, meets the cerebral genius of Nero Wolfe. In the first book by Stout, Fer-de-Lance, the two are already working together. But how did it all start? When and why did Archie come to New York? And why are the police always so willing to give him a hard time?

I really liked this one. Not only did  he get the setting right – early Depression era, jobs are scarce, society very stratified – but the characters are less defined versions of themselves. Which is exactly right, I think. Wolfe is still himself, with his fascination with orchids, his profoundly sedentary lifestyle, his gourmet taste. Even his office looks the same. And Archie is a much younger and less experienced version of himself, but it’s apparent what he will become.

I’m giving this one a solid 4 stars and a recommendation. However, if you haven’t already read a Rex Stout book, you might not enjoy it as much as I did, so start by reading Fer-de-Lance and then see if you like the style.

Book Review: Last Seen Leaving

Title: Last Seen Leaving

Author: Caleb Roehrig

Genre: YA mystery

Challenge: 2017 Read Diverse Books – LGBT YA romance

Themes: coming out story, missing person

Story:

Flynn is kind of coasting through high school, putting in just enough effort, hanging out with his best friend, skating, occasionally seeing his girlfriend. One night in October, he comes home to find a police car in the driveway. His girlfriend, January, has gone missing. Flynn got into an argument with her and she broke things off with him. That was the last he heard from her, and he’s not about to share the  circumstances with the cops.

That’s because January accused him of being gay. And Flynn kind of suspects that she’s right. He’s not ready to admit that though, not to the cops, not to her, not to his parents, but most importantly, not to himself. And in the meantime, no one has seen January. It seems she was keeping secrets too. Is anyone telling the truth in this story?

I don’t have a lot of experience with LGBT teen fiction, and I don’t read much contemporary YA either. I mainly picked this one up because of the missing person angle. I love a good mystery, and I couldn’t help but feel for this young guy caught in the middle of a dangerous situation and tagged as the number one suspect.

But there’s two mysteries in this one – the missing girl, and Flynn’s own feelings. I thought the author did a good, but maybe not great job of handling both storylines. I think the mystery got a little predictable, with the stepdad and his political career, the selfish mom, the two sets of friends – maybe too cliched.

As for Flynn, he was a very appealing character and I wanted him to figure things out. He reminded me of someone I love. It’s not easy to come out while in high school. It’s not easy to stay in the closet either. And to have to figure it all out in the middle of being a murder suspect – that’s really rough.

Recommended for readers of YA. New author for me too.