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Friday, September 22, 2017

Review - Doom with a View

Way, way back I reviewed on of Kate Kingsbury's Pennyfoot Hotel Holiday novels, Mistletoe and Mayhem (click here).  This is a new series and set in modern time in Oregon.  Join me for this mystery series from Crooked Lane Books.

Author: Kate Kingsbury

Copyright: Sept 2017 (Crooked Lane Books) 288 pgs

Series: 2nd in Merry Ghost Inn Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy with paranormal touches

Main Character: Melanie West, co-owner of Merry Ghost Inn B&B

Setting: Modern day, Sully’s Landing, Oregon

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the book cover: "With the arrival of six senior reading group members at the Merry Ghost Inn, the long-awaited Grand Opening week has finally begun for Melanie West and her grandmother, Liza. All is well with the Oregon coast-side B&B until Melanie’s dog, Max, finds the dead body of one of their guests.

Everyone at the inn immediately falls under suspicion, including the innkeepers themselves. Melanie and Liza are not sure who they can trust, and the idea of cohabitating with a murderer is enough to send chills down anyone’s spine. To make matters worse, the curmudgeonly town detective wants them to steer clear of the investigation, but doesn’t seem too inspired to solve the case in a timely fashion himself. To clear their own names and to avoid the blight on the inn’s reputation that yet another dead body will bring, Melanie and Liza dive headlong into the murder investigation.

With a little help from their chuckling ghost, Melanie and Liza dodge the detective, tip-toe around their suspicious guests, and still serve up delicious Bed & Breakfast meals on time in Kate Kingsbury’s delightful second Merry Ghost Inn mystery, Doom with a View."

Melanie, is an okay lead character.  I didn't feel part of her experience and that impacted the rest of the story for me.  Liza is her rebellious and outspoken grandmother that Melanie co-owns the B&B alongside.  Cindi is their tattooed part time help who I wish had been developed a bit more, she has tremendous potential.  Officer Ben Carter fills the CRI (cop-romantic-interest) role and seems to have a sense of humor.  Detective Tom Dutton (Grandma Liza calls Grumpy) is more realistic for a police detective.  Max is Melanie's dog and almost constant companion.  Orville is the resident laughing ghost who is heard but not seen.

The setting with the B&B could have been utilized a bit better, rather than Melanie and Liza seemingly hiding out in a little nook in the kitchen away from their guests.  But, then I love when the setting is another character so I may be biased.  I did appreciate the ocean side being ever present.

The plot is a mild Christie setup with sabotage to the balcony railing and a clandestine shove.  Figuring out who among the guests, all of which had motive, had the compunction to actually commit murder is the gist of the story.  The pacing suffered occasionally to a bit of meandering, which some may enjoy, but for me began to lose my interest.   

The killer reveal was quick and all the motive and details were discussed with the killer in a terribly civilized manor.  Now I truly love a good nail-biting killer confrontation, so this was too gentle and cozy for me.  But, I know some will enjoy how Ms. Kingsbury reveals the killer in a gentler fashion.

I liked the idea of the B&B setting, but wish it would have been used to its potential.  I didn't care for Melanie's ongoing search for her long lost mother.  It seemed like an afterthought written in and not that important at all.

Rating:  Good - A fun read with minor flaws. This will appeal to some, but not others.






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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Review - Murder on the Rocks

This is a new-to-me series that I stumbled across.  I couldn't help but compare this  series to Brewing Up Trouble mystery series by Joyce Tremel (click here) which is set in Pittsburgh with a focus on craft beer brewing.  But there are plenty of differences to make them each unique even with a similar bar setting.  This neighborhood bar themed mystery is set in Milwaukee.  So join me for a peek at this unique series with book one.

Author: Allyson Abbott

Copyright: Aug 2013 (Kensington) 351 pgs

Series: 1st in Mack's Bar Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Mackenzie "Mack" Dalton, Milwaukee bar owner with neurological senses disorder

Setting: Modern day, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

Mack's Bar is one of those nice, friendly places where everybody knows your name. That's great when someone's buying you a round, but not so hot when you find yourself atop a list of murder suspects--with your fingerprints on the bloody knife!

Mackenzie "Mack" Dalton is a Milwaukee bar owner with a nose for trouble--literally. A neurological glitch has left her with extra perceptive senses. So when she stumbles upon a dead body in the alley behind the bar--the same spot where her own father was shot eight months earlier--she can tell right away there's something fishy in the air. The lead detective thinks there's a link between the two deaths, and he'll need Mack's help to sniff out the murderer amid the crowd of eccentric regulars. But when all the evidence points to her as the most likely culprit, it could be an early last call for Mack--and celebratory cocktails for a killer.  Includes drink recipes.

Mack's neurological mix up of her senses is unique for a main character and there is a lot of sorting through her situation.  Zachary Fairbanks, paramedic and casual boyfriend provides some complications.  Detective Duncan Albright is the romantic interest who goes undercover as part of the bar staff (with the assumption both the recent murder and Mach's father's murder eight months prior are connected) to determine the killer.  Full cast of bar regulars and employees, most all of which become suspects, are interesting and some are quirky.

Mack's historic bar is the location of mostly all the action.  The bar's connection with Capone was fascinating and I would have liked a bit more atmospheric description.  The plot was intertwined with Duncan's undercover work and growing closer to Mack.  I have to admit the pacing slowed slightly in a few places, but not for long.  The climax was nicely tense and nail biting, the way I like it. wrap-up sets up the continuing adventures of Mack smoothly.  

I liked the cop going undercover as a bar employee to investigate.  Mack didn't resonate strongly with me, nothing wrong with that though.  I got a little sidetracked by having to follow her different sensory condition, but I'm interested in following the series.  The climax was the strongest scene of the book, which was a great payoff.

Rating:  Good - A fun pleasant read with interesting characters.  Recommended for cozy lovers.





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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Review - Whispers of Warning

I reviewed the first novel in this new series, Whispers Beyond the Veil (click here) and was honored to have a guest post from the author (click here.)  Now we have the critical second book, which has a lot to live up to from the first.  Let's see how the series holds up with the newest addition.

Author: Jessica Estevao

Copyright: Sept 2017 (Berkley) 331 pgs

Series: 2nd in Change of Fortune Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Characters: Ruby Proulx, a psychic with a "questionable" past

Setting: 1898, Old Orchard-Maine

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the cover: "Free from the clutches of her con artist father, Ruby Proulx is starting to settle in at the Belden, her aunt Honoria’s seaside hotel. She loves finally being rooted in one place and also feels a sense of purpose as she helps Honoria keep her business afloat by acting as a psychic medium for the hotel’s metaphysically inclined guests.

When one of the guests, renowned Spiritualist and outspoken suffragist Sophronia Foster Eldridge, checks into the hotel for a monthlong stay, Ruby finds her sense of purpose expands outside the confines of home and family. Sophronia takes Ruby under her wing and mentors her in the mediumistic abilities, encouraging her to fight for women’s rights. 

But not everyone is as happy with Sophronia’s appearance in Old Orchard. When a dangerous act of sabotage is carried out and a body is found floating in the pool of a local bathhouse, Ruby takes it upon herself to find answers— and in the process learns that her new friend has been hiding some deadly secrets of her own."

Ruby has a good heart in spite of her con-artist rearing from her no-good father. She is afraid people will see through the attempts to be good and see the con she used to be.  She doesn't even trust her own psychic abilities.  Aunt Honoria is the family she always wanted, and will do anything for her.  Officer Warren Yancy provides the potential love interest, he struggles with his growing feelings for her.  Lucinda (Lucy) is Officer Yancy's sister who has become Ruby's fast friend and is a great side kick.  

The true seaside town of Old Orchard is a perfect setting along with the  Hotel Belden.  The murder doesn't happen right away, so there are events and conflicts happening leading up to the death. This doesn't slow the story down, but gives it more complexity.  The killer is a surprise I didn't anticipate!  The killer reveal had a few short moments of thrills that I loved, and answered all the questions.  The wrap up leaves a tantalizing tidbit for the next book. 

I love the "scandalous" bicycle outfits that Ruby and Lucy dare to wear.  I also appreciated the coverage of the ugly and even violent attitudes towards those seeking the vote - something we forget too easily.  All this was woven into the story without an agenda, but a tableaux of the era.  The mystery was solid, the historical setting is absorbing, and the characters each so realistic that the mix is truly an exciting escape.  The second book in the series maintains the high bar set by the debut book.  I have to say how I am loving the covers for this series, too.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend. 

Here is a short video of historical photos involving the pier that is about to open during the book.  The pier and pavilion have had a hard time over the years as the video shows.  Tiny text at upper left. 


https://youtu.be/-GnzZs2_72A



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