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Archive for June, 2017

Pekoe Most Poison (A Tea Shop Mystery) by Laura Childs

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Pekoe Most PoisonOld cities have some pretty odd traditions and Charleston is no exception. However, even though the tradition was originally for a good cause, the idea of “Rat Teas” is perhaps one of the oddest. According to author Childs latest Tea Shop Mystery, the idea of holding fancy teas with servers dressed up in rat costumes comes from an effort to raise funds for rodent prevention early in the city’s history. In Pekoe Most Poison, the eighteenth book in the Tea Shop Mystery series, the tradition was revived by socialite and philanthropist Doreen Briggs. Although the costumed “rat Servers” are a little unnerving, the tea seems to be going quite well until a fluke accident causes a fire at one of the tables and hostess’s husband ends up dead. Worse yet for Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop, it initially appears as though it was the orange pekoe tea that caused the dead.

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I have been a fan of both the Tea Shop books and Childs’ Scrap Booking series, because each puts readers right in an old American city like none other. In the Tea Shop books it is Charleston. Over the years the author has done an excellent job of setting each book’s plot around something unique to that area. Having visited Charleston fairly regularly over the years, it is fun to see how very accurate some of her descriptions are. But setting alone won’t carry a book. The main characters need to be well developed letting readers get to know them over the course of the series. And the characters need to be true to themselves. It is with the main characters in this book, and frankly the previous book in the series, that things have gone off track. Something is different. The characters just aren’t the same. Theodosia isn’t acting at all like herself nor is Drayton. I for one don’t like the change. Read the rest of this entry »

Kill Devil Falls: A Novel of Suspense by Brian Klingborg

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Kill Devil FallsImagine if you will, a country house mystery but instead of in a beautiful old house filled with interesting things the setting is a nearly deserted old mining town high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and instead of mostly unaquainted invited guests the characters are a few “hanger-oner” town residents, a prisoner and a U.S. Marshal sent to transport the prisoner. That in a nutshell is what Kill Devil Falls is. Does it work? For the most part I’d say it does. But for fans of the country house mysteries, be aware, this is no cozy, the action is on stage and at times brutal. The language is just what you would expect from a band of low life scumbags-rough and filled with cursing.

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The basic premise of the book is U.S. Marshal Helen Morrissey is sent to pick up a prisoner who is wanted for a string of robberies. Rita, the prisoner is one tough sounding woman who is on the run from her partner in crime. She took the money and her partner is not the only one looking for the loot. Morrissey is unhappy because she is forced to travel up a winding mountain road to a place so small it is not even in her GPS system to pick up the prisoner she was supposed to fetch from the county seat. She gets to Kill Devil Falls to find the remainders of a rundown nearly deserted community that has been condemned, a hand full of ragtag residents who for some reason have stayed. The sheriff is not in town, his son the deputy cannot assist with the transport and darkness is quickly approaching. And then Helen’s car breaks down and her prisoner is murdered. She is stuck in this Godforsaken place with at least one murderer on the loose, a target on her back and people dropping like flies. <!–more–>

This book is a bit of a surprise for a few reasons. First, it is published by Midnight Ink whose offerings tent to run more to the softer side of the mystery genre. The author does put an interesting and fresh spin on the “country house” theme. And, in spite of the fact that none of the characters are particularly likable, the overall book is. This is due in part to the vividly described setting.

This book appears to be the first in a series. Helen could certainly support a series, but I think if that is to happen, the reader is going to need to have her flushed out more. We really learn very little about Helen in Kill Devil Falls, but hopefully we will the next time out.

Matrimony in Miniature: A Miniature Mystery (Miniature Mysteries) by Margaret Grace

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Matrimony in MiniatureMatrimony in Miniature, the ninth book in the Miniatures series, finds protagonist Gerry Porter hustling to wrap up plans for her wedding to Henry Baker. Or, more to the point, her friends are hustling while Gerry pretty much goes about business as usual. The couple agreed to a small, low key wedding, but Gerry is beginning to suspect that with her friends involved, there will be all sorts of added frills. She is okay with that as long as the wedding happens and everyone involved has a good time. However, Gerry’s hopes for that diminish considerably when she receives a phone call from the wedding’s venue alerting her that there has been an accident on the premises. Of coarse the accident turns out to be a murder and Gerry being Gerry, she is soon nosing around to see what she can find out. This leads to her granddaughter Maddie also becoming involved.

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It’s always good to visit Lincoln Point, California and the cast of characters who range from police officers to small town business owners to the crafting group who meet regularly at Gerry’s craft store. While I am not into miniatures, I am fascinated with the ongoing project in each of the books. In Matrimony in Miniature, Maddie and Henry’s granddaughter Taylor are working on Maddie’s science fair entry, a miniature water treatment plant, while Gerry is working on a new Victorian home. I am forever impressed by the creative use of everyday things in making props for miniature models and houses. Read the rest of this entry »

Brooklyn Graves: An Erica Donato Mystery by Triss Stein

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Brooklyn GravesWho would steal a window from a family mausoleum? Even more perplexing, why would the management attempt to cover it up and not report the problem to law enforcement?

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Erica Donato has a busy life. She is completing her doctoral project, a single parent of a teenaged daughter, and working part time at the Brooklyn Historical Museum at a job that is one-step above an intern. Erica is to complete any task assigned to her at the museum. Her newest project is to assist in an assessment of old letters and sketches long-ago forgotten in an attic. These appear to be related to the company, Tiffany.

Dr. Thomas Flint is a Tiffany expert. She is to assist on escorting him to a mausoleum. As the rainstorm is subsiding, the two enter the cemetery only to be told of its closure. Through the sloppiness of recent rain, the two arrive at the neglected Konick Mausoleum. Although the damage seems to be more damaged by humans than nature, Erica is in awe at the inside of the museum in viewing a window made by Tiffany. Even knowing of the Tiffany reputation, actually seeing the beauty of the glass reaches beyond her wildest expectation.
Now Erica has another challenge, her daughter’s long-time friend, Dima is shot with his body left in front of his home. The family has been close to Erica for years. Why was he killed? Read the rest of this entry »

Death at Breakfast: A Novel by Beth Gutcheon

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Death at BreakfastDeath at Breakfast is a delightful first book in a very promising new mystery series. Many people dream of traveling when they retire. Maggie Detweiler is not just dreaming of travel, she is ready to go. Freshly retired from her head mistress job, she recruits a long time friend Hope Babbin to accompany her on her first journey. As the two women are as polar opposites, this quick trip to Maine for a cooking class is more or less a trial run to see if different as they may be, these two friends can become ongoing travel buddies. What could possibly go wrong?

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Yes, the two women ate going to a resort in Maine for a week long cooking class, but this is not exactly a completely random selection for their first outing. The local deputy sheriff, Buster Babbin, is the long estranged son of Hope. What does Hope expect from this reunion of sorts? Whatever her motives, Buster is having none of it until, as fate would have it, there is a fire at the Inn and the charred body of a guest is found in the ruins. Now Buster has a job to do right under the noses of his mother and her busybody friend. Read the rest of this entry »

Burned Out Old Broads VII: Ten Little Puritans and Burned Out Old Broads VIII: Learning to Love Willie by Joy Johnson

Reviewed by Teri Davis

The Boob Girls VIIThe Boob Girls VIIIBenjamin Franklin once stated, “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” However, there is that says that at least you can have fun along the way. That is the thought behind Joy Johnson’s delightful Boob Girls series. For most retirees in a home, life is not uplifting.

Author, Joy Johnson has discovered that aging does not mean that life ends. With a few close friends, their lives now consist of humor, excitement, mystery, romance and making the most of each day.

Home is Meadow Lakes Retirement Community for Mary Rose McGill, Marge Aaron, Robinson Leary, and Hadley Joy Morris-Whitfield. These women seem at first to have little in common except for their love of life and learning to enjoy each day sharing their friendships and adventures. Read the rest of this entry »

The Criminalist: A Novel of Forensic Science Suspense by John Houde

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

The CriminalistThe Criminalist by John Houde, is an average mystery. The plot involves a forensic scientist, Paul Connert, teaming up with Vika Koslava, to try and find her half-sister. They had come to America for be models for an adult-themed photo shoot but when one of the key people disappears, things begin to go awry. First, Vika’s half-sister comes up missing after a wild night of partying. Then, Vika crosses paths with Paul, who is involved in an investigation of a possible sex-trafficking ring. They ultimately end up working together to catch the renegade cop who is part of the ring. Read the rest of this entry »

Out of the Black by John Rector

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Out of the BlackMoney can make people desperate. For Matt Caine, the is exactly his life now, desperate.

Matt’s wife died in a car accident. His wife survived, but his daughter was permanently damaged requiring much rehabilitation and therapy. Unfortunately, providing for Anna’s special needs now requires this time and money. Another disadvantage is that now this single-parent has the challenge of also providing for his daughter and his night. Most businesses are not very understanding.
An old friend is now meeting with Matt, offering him a solution.

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Jay believes an acquaintance of his has money. So now he has developed a scheme. He just needs Matt’s help for it to be possible to solve both of their problems. Added to his problem, Matt borrowed money to pay for Beth’s funeral and his daughter’s hospitalization and care. However, the mobster that he borrowed the money from, now wants it paid back. Read the rest of this entry »

A Ghostly Mortality: A Ghostly Southern Mystery (Ghostly Southern Mysteries) by Tonya Kappes

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

A Ghostly MortalityA Ghostly Mortality is the sixth entry into the Ghostly Southern Mystery series by Kappas with protagonist Emma Lee Raines. While Emma Lee is one of the town’s two undertakers, she also has a side gig that is far more interesting. An accidental conk on the head has left her with an unusual talent; she can see and communicate with the dead. And not just any old dead person either. The ones who seek Emma Lee out are the ones who can’t quite move on because the circumstances surrounding their deaths have not been resolved. And so Emma Lee has reluctantly become a “betweener,” a person who helps those stuck on earth move on by solving their cases. The ghosts pass Emma Lee’s name on to the next ghost in line leading the little town of Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky to appear to be suffering from “Cabot Cove” syndrome.

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While all of the books in the series up until A Ghostly Mortality have been very close to slapstick funny, this one takes a more emotional tone. The ghost who needs help this time around is none other than Emma Lee’s own sister Charlotte Rae. Readers of the series will remember that Charlotte and Emma Rae haven’t exactly been filled with sisterly love of late. Charlotte refused to believe in Emma’s abilities. Plus, she recently left the family business to work for the competition. But now, she needs Emma’s help.

On the flip side, Emma is faced with the fact that if she helps Charlotte pass over, she will never see her sister again. While the previous books were basically laugh-a -minute, this one comes close to being more of a tear jerker at times. But as always, A Ghostly Mortality is a quick entertaining read with a really great ending.
Enjoy.

The Deceiver by Frederick Forsyth

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The DeceiverA very interesting read, although somewhat cumbersome because of naming all the top personnel in all spy ranks all over the world. Sam McCready is in fact The Deceiver. McCready has worked for many years for British intelligence all over the world. He knows all the good and bad guys that are in or have been in his profession. He has excelled in all his endeavors but to many who sit back and watch he is in fact a bit cocky and very unorthodox in his spy techniques.

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Because of changes at the top of the British Secret Intelligence Service there is an ongoing survey of their agents and their capabilities. Strangely enough one of the persons who has proposed a quick out or retirement for McCready is Timothy Heyward who broke in under McCready and has been very jealous of him over the years. However when the powers that be made known their plan to usher him out McCready requested a hearing to understand their plan and to hear his reasons for wanting to stay on. Read the rest of this entry »