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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review - Feta Attraction

An early review for this new series claims "The feel of "Murder She Wrote" with the modern swing and excitement of "Castle."  That is quite a claim!  I'm don't think I would characterize it that way.  Find out more about this new Greek restaurant themed cozy mystery.

Author: Susannah Hardy

Copyright: January 2015 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Greek to Me Mystery series

Sensuality: mild kissing, unhappy marriage situation

Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Georgie Nikolopatos, manager of the historic Bonaparte House Restaurant

Setting: modern day, Bonaparte Bay in upstate New York

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review


Georgie's husband, Spiro, has been MIA for days, which he does from time-to-time. Thus, Georgie is busy running the Greek restaurant her husband and his mother co-own. She also has to coordinate with the crew of the TV show Ghost Squad, who received a tip from Spiro their restaurant/house is haunted. She and her mother-in-law need to clear out for the night so the Ghost Squad crew can have the house overnight to themselves, but what was supposed to be a pleasant evening at a spa retreat ends up with Georgie discovering the body of rival restaurant owner Domenic “Big Dom” DiTomasso floating in the water. 

Spiro's continued absence becomes a matter of concern when Georgie gets a ransom demand to deliver the rumored long lost Bonaparte treasure if she ever wants to see him again. To top it all off, the police investigating Big Dom's murder clearly suspect Georgie, and now she has a hunky Naval officer investigating too. It’s up to her to find her missing husband and determine who killed Big Dom before this bad situation gets worse.

Georgie is married to a gay man while living and working in a historic home turned restaurant with her mother in law, but she is ready to change her life. She is an older than usual character with a grown daughter and has the foundation to be a great character. But she placed herself in danger too many times when clearly it was illogical. Sophie, her mother-in-law, is one of those family members with double standards for her son versus for her daughter-in-law but is nonetheless a spirited and kind lady. Inky, the flamboyant tattoo artist that husband Spiro has feelings for, is a quirky and fun character. Navy Captain Jack sounds like Lieutenant Commander "Harm" Rabb from the TV show JAG to me and his character was the breakout performance of the book.

Bonaparte Bay is the epitome of a small town where gossip runs rampant and is the town sport. A nice job was done with creating a real sense of the town with the history of Napoleon's brother and the Pirate days festivities. The location became vital to the entire story and that is a feature that I particularly enjoy in a novel. Kudos.

The plot hinged on the rumor of a treasure awaiting Napoleon in the house that was reportedly built for him by his brother in the event of a successful escape from Elba. The house has long been the restaurant/family home and Spiro's disappearance is tied to a desperate person insisting on the treasure. Who doesn't love a treasure hunt story? Napoleon's mythic fall and very real supporters who tried to break him out of exile are great to fuel the imagination. The pacing maintained a good clip, but I do have to mention a loose end with Spiro never getting any real consequences for some actions of his. That was a fly in the ointment for me.

Another point I must mention is the humor. The book has some quite funny scenes, but I felt the humorous situations resulted from uncharacteristic behavior to accomplish the laughs. I can't give details without some spoilers, so I will leave it at that.

The climax had a bit of suspense and daring action, which I always prefer. The wrap-up leaves some tantalizing hints for the next book.


Ratings: Good - A fun read with minor flaws that cozy fans will likely enjoy.



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Monday, February 23, 2015

Mystery Bingo

Today I am provided a Bingo card you can use while reading mystery books.  A little something to have fun while recognizing the current trends of the mystery genre.
 

click on image, save the larger image to reuse


Let me give a little introduction to the Bingo Card.  In order to develop a Bingo card, I thought of the current trends of the genre.  Cliches, or tropes, are commonly used literary devises or motifs in creative works.  There are good and bad in such tropes.  
     Genre novels provide the reader with an experience we have come to expect for that category, thus certain cliches develop.  A cozy mystery has certain conventions to follow as opposed to a police procedural novel, and this ensures we, the reader, know what to expect when we pick up the book.  

     Some of these conventions have bred a pattern of certain aspects of the novel we can count on to be present in the story.  It is with these developed patterns that the mystery bingo can be used.  I am not making a judgement, it isn't a good or bad idea to fall within these patterns, so long as the book is entertaining! 

     But, these patterns provided enough common elements to fill the squares to the bingo card.  This particular bingo card is geared more towards the cozy mystery conventions we see today, so it won't work quite as well with thrillers or police procedurals.  But, you can investigate how many of your books fill the squares and before you know it....BINGO.

     Just a refresher of some bingo patterns to fill the squares to call a winner:  A horizontal line, a vertical line, a diagonal line, a diamond, four corners small or big, a square frame, or a blackout covering the whole card.  For a list of many patterns I found this website (click here).  But decide on the pattern before you begin playing, no cheating :-)  




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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review - Who Buries the Dead


Today I review the newest in the Sebastian St. Cyr historical mysteries.  Previously I reviewed "Why Kings Confess" (click here), "What Darkness Brings" (click here), "When Maidens Mourn" (click here), and "Where Shadows Dance" (click here).  We were also honored to interview C.S. Harris (click here.)  So how is the series doing now that we are into the tenth book?  Let's find out.

Author: C.S. Harris

Copyright: March 2015 (Obsidian) 352 pgs

Series: 10th in Sebastian St. Cyr Regency Mysteries

Sensuality: mild romance, some clinical discussion of mutilation-not too graphic.

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Suspense

Main Character: Sebastian St. Cyr (Viscount Devlin) a veteran of the Peninsula wars with Napoleon and a nobleman. 

Setting: 1813 London England

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Sebastian is called to assist/consult on a disturbing beheading of Stanley Preston, a quarrelsome Jamaican plantation owner who strives to climb the London social ladder and collects royal memorabilia (including a few heads). Somehow Preston's morbid hobby and his death are likely connected since a piece of King Charles' coffin strap is found at the murder, as well as his ties to Jamaica figure prominently.  Complicating matters is the return from Jamaica of Sebastian's old army commander, Lord Sinclair Oliphant, who engineered the slaughter of an orphanage run by nuns during the war.  An event which still fuels horrible nightmares for Sebastian, and has kept a vow alive to see Oliphant pay for the war crime.  The suspects begin to pile up as the victim's last few days are found to be chock full of explosive arguments with several people from curiosity sellers to prominent society members.  Shortly more beheaded corpses are popping up along with attempts on Sebastian's life.  Meanwhile, Sebastian and Hero both realize that they have much more to loose, as they are now emotionally invested in one another as their love deepens.

Sebastian is a Regency action hero, but this addition to the series delves more into his growth emotionally.  Sebastian's character is deepening and gaining more layers, which makes him even more charismatic.  Hero, my favorite of the novels, has taken a bit of a back seat with motherhood, but has become more of Sebastian's confident and sounding board.  I long for more stories where she can shine.  Jane Austen is woven into this story as an associate of the victim's family.  Jane's character is delightful and the references to London society caught up in her books to where people are categorized by being a "Colonel Brandon" or a "Willoughby" provides a light humorous touch.  Paul Gibson has a few small scenes as he is fighting his own inner demons that are debilitating him.  Lord Sinclair Oliphant, Sebastian's nemesis, is an example of a wealthy man with no moral code.  Jamie Knox, the mysterious tavern owner that suspiciously looks like Sebastian, has a few critical scenes in the story.  Lord Jarvis, Hero's father, demonstrates just how dangerous he is when his daughter is endangered in this installment.

As always, Ms. Harris displays London with a vibrant brush, exposing its beauty and its grim and harsh sides, and it's rich and it's dirt poor with equal dexterity.  The plot delves into two areas, Jamaican slave plantation ownership and the raiding of tombs (even royal tombs) for profit.  These are woven into the plot believably and provide period details as well as motives for murder.  The pacing moved along with the aid of heightened danger between the questioning of suspects.  The climax isn't in the form of a killer confrontation, but is nonetheless suspenseful.  The resolution provides a chilling end in one aspect and a chance at peace in another.

Ms. Harris takes Sebastian and Hero on another thrilling ride providing personal peril against a backdrop of cold amoral people with their own hidden agendas and shocking secrets under a thin veneer of blue blood society.  The characters continue to develop, the plots are multi-layered, and Regency London is faithfully portrayed.

Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.




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Monday, February 16, 2015

Guest Post - Kate Carlisle


I reviewed the debut book of the new Kate Carlisle Fixer-Upper series, A High End Finish (click here), and the second book This Old Homicide (click here) and we were honored to have a guest post from the author (click here).  Ms. Carlisle is back to share another guest post with us.



Sunken Treasure: Finders Keepers?

Kate Carlisle is the author of the Fixer-Upper Mysteries, featuring Victorian restoration expert Shannon Hammer. The first book in the series, A High-End Finish, debuted at #9 on the New York Times bestsellers list. This Old Homicide, Fixer-Upper Mystery 2, is available now wherever books and ebooks are sold.

Off the coast near Lighthouse Cove, California, a clipper ship went down in 1839. The Glorious Maiden transported precious cargo and wealthy passengers along the Western American coast. Rumors suggest that a Spanish princess went down with that ship and, with her, a fortune in gold and jewels.


What if, while snorkeling one day, you found a piece of jewelry that could pay off your mortgage and pay for your kids’ college education? Would you report your find, or would you quietly try to sell the piece for as much money as you could? Who would you trust?

There are approximately 65,000 shipwrecks logged into the North American Shipwrecks Database. Sixty-five-oh-oh-OH. Kind of makes a person want to take up diving.

But if you find treasure, is it yours to keep?

In 2012, a Florida salvage company had to return $500 million in sunken treasure to the government of Spain, without compensation. Just last year, courts ruled that a California couple would have to pay approximately 47% in state and federal income tax on the $10 million of gold coins they found buried in their own yard—private property—whether or not they decided to sell the coins.

The Glorious Maiden is fictional. For that matter, so is Lighthouse Cove, the setting of This Old Homicide, the second book of my Fixer-Upper Mysteries series. The series features Victorian home restoration expert Shannon Hammer, owner of Hammer Construction.

It’s a fun question to contemplate, isn’t it? What would you do if you found a treasure?

In This Old Homicide, Shannon’s neighbor, a retired navy

SEAL, claimed that he found a necklace while diving near the Glorious Maiden, but Jesse has claimed a lot of things, few of them true. His tall tales kept getting taller so that, by the time he bragged about the necklace, no one believed him.

Or perhaps someone did, Shannon will think… on the day she discovers him dead.

Do you think it’s fair that if someone finds a treasure, they have to pay income taxes on it? If you found a treasure worth millions of dollars, what would you do? Would you try to hide it from the authorities? Why or why not?



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


THANK You Ms. Carlisle for those great questions.  I am not sure what I would do if I found a treasure...although considering historical value and a museum would be my first inclination I think.


What about you, dear readers?




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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Review - This Old Homicide


This is only the second in a new series.   I reviewed the debut book of the series, A High End Finish (click here) and we were honored to have a guest post from the author (click here).  This time we have a legendary ship wreck and treasure to bring murder to a small town.


Author: Kate Carlisle

Copyright: January 2015 (Signet) 336 pgs

Series: 2nd in Fixer-Upper Mystery series

Sensuality: kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery

Main Character: Shannon Hammer, owner of restoration/renovation construction business

Setting: Modern day, Lighthouse Cove California (near San Francisco)

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Shannon is just going about her business, when she realizes her next door neighbor, the uncle of her BFF Jane, hasn't been seen around town.  Worried about him, she checks in next door...and finds him dead and his home ransacked.  The next few days reveal it is a suspicious death and Jesse, a former Navy Seal, had claimed to have found an antique jeweled necklace scuba-diving around a famous shipwreck off the shore of Lighthouse Cover.  Most people thought it was another of Jesse's tall tales, but could somebody be looking for the necklace and Jesse got in the way?  Shannon is once again in the middle of a murder investigation as she realizes somebody keeps sneaking into Jesse's house looking for something, and she is doing her best to help the police catch who may have killed Jesse under the guise of a heart attack. She begins a list of suspects and adds more as she uncovers information. Then there is another suspicious death.

Shanon maintains the strong and spunky persona in this addition, but adds determination to the list, and indecisive between the two men who like her.  She can be suspicious and naive in turns.  Jane, her BFF, is overwhelmed with her uncle's suspicious death and the grand opening of her new BandB.  She reveals her vulnerability.  Chief of Police Eric Jensen is settling into small town life, but still has little tolerance for Shannon's help but is also strung along as a potential romantic interest.  Crime Writer MacKintyre Sullivan is kind-of dating Shannon and lends his support in trying to catch whoever continues to vandalize Jesse's house, kudos there.  Lizzie, Marigold, and Emily are her closest friends along with Jane.  They pitch in to assist their talents too.   Whitney Reid has been Shannon's arch nemesis most of her life and has a few scenes where she is really horrible.  Deputy Tommy, the high school sweetheart of Shannon, is married to Whitney and seems oblivious to how mean-spirited his wife is...which I have a hard time with.  I keep waiting for him to grasp how black-hearted she is and file for divorce...but no, which makes me think he can't be all that nice himself then.

Lighthouse Cove California is a standard ocean-side town, but is set apart in this book by the legendary shipwreck of the Glorious Maiden clipper ship with a Spanish Princess aboard.  The plot is simple and straight forward with a few well placed red herrings to mislead.  The pacing maintained a good clip to keep interest.  The climax was suspenseful and tense, managing to rival the climax in the debut and promising to be a staple for the series. 

Ms. Carlisle has departed from the Bibliophile Mysteries to give us a another great heroine with interesting plots and gripping climaxes, essentially raising the bar for the cozy mystery.

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list.









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