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Monday, October 16, 2017

Author Guest Post - Delia James

Delia James was born in California and raised in Michigan, she writes her tales of magic, cats, and mystery from her hundred-year-old bungalow home. She is the author of the Witch’s Cat mysteries, which began with A Familiar Tail. When not writing, she hikes, swims, gardens, cooks, reads, and raises her rapidly growing son.  Let's join her for some classic movie talk.

LET US NOW PRAISE A VERY TALL MAN

Fall is my favorite time of year. I’ve always lived near the Great Lakes where we get the classic red and gold, crisp, frosted autumns and I love to be out and about and just feel the air.

Fall is also a time when I get my retro on. Maybe because it’s a time of such dramatic change outside, I find myself curling up inside with things that have lasted. I dig deep back into my favorite classic books, and classic movies. And since I’m a fan of mysteries, that tends to pull me back around to the work of actor Jimmy Stewart.

A lot of people may only know Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey — the kind, infinitely upright, somewhat bewildered hero of It’s a Wonderful Life. Or maybe they have heard a passing reference to his Mr. Smith Goes to Washington when the papers are talking about changes to the filibuster rules in the Senate, again.

But Stewart was also the star of some absolutely classic
crime dramas. He wasn’t an action hero. He was a talker, a reasonable, if sometimes cranky, man. His characters were played with intelligence, understatement and a very dry humor, but also with a humanity, and an appreciation for the people around him. Stewart projects a manner that draws you in, in the same way a good storyteller at the party can make you forget the mini-quiches because you really want to hear how this one came out. Stewart also had an eye for a script, and his crime dramas have aged amazingly well. They are slow by modern standards, and the watching them is more like seeing a play than a thriller, but then, I’m a theater buff too, so for me, that’s a feature, not a bug.

The suspense in Stewart dramas builds on small things, ordinary things, like passing remarks and small, observed details. There’s an admirable lack of explosions and very low body counts. The suspense is intimate; it always remains on a human scale. As such, although they are not cozies, I like to go back to them for inspiration, and a reminder of what really makes for a good mystery.

The first of my three Jimmy Stewart favorites has got to be Rope. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and based on a stage play, Rope is one of a flurry of works inspired by the case of Leopold and Loeb. In it, Stewart is a teacher invited to a dinner party by a former student, who has just committed a murder, and hidden the body in the apartment. This does not count as a spoiler, because it happens right up front in the first five minutes of the movie. The suspense is built around whether or not Stewart’s character is going to work out what’s wrong. The humor is dry, the people are deeply individual, and the story is satisfying.

The second favorite is also a Hitchcock project; Rear Window. This is another one-room movie. Stewart is a photographer laid up with a broken leg who starts watching the people in the next apartment building. Yeah, okay, slightly creepy, but the guy’s bored. He also thinks he’s seen a murder, and the disposal of the body. Like Rope, Rear Window is not a whodunit. But even more than in Rope, Rear Window’s story, is built around the slow reveal of the reality, and the humanity, of both friends and strangers.

My final Stewart classic is a local favorite, and probably the most famous Michigan-set mystery. Anatomy of a Murder takes place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and is a classic courtroom drama. Stewart is a lawyer in serious need of cash, so he takes on the case of a man accused of murdering his wife’s rapist. The problem is the murder took place in a crowded bar and a lot of people saw who fired the shots. The further problem is there’s a question of exactly who is guilty of exactly what.

This version of Stewart has a few more shades of gray than his usual characters. More dogged than stalwart, he’s a little depressed, a little adrift and a little more interested in his check than in the truth.

Oh, and if you’re into a side of classic jazz with your crime drama, there’s a cameo by the great Duke Ellington.

It’s fall. Winter, as somebody keeps reminding us, is coming. Time to take up the comforter, the pumpkin spice, and a nice, warm classic.

Enjoy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

THANK You Ms. James.  I enjoy classic old movies and Jimmy Stewart as well.  

My favorite Stewart movies are Hitchcock's Rear Window, Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Glenn Miller Story, and the Cheyenne Social Club.

For Halloween I like to watch the classic Tom Hank's movie The Burbs.  Of course, for a classic scary movie, Betty Davis in Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte is great.

How about you?  What movies do you like to enjoy either with cold weather approaching or for Halloween?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

GIVEAWAY


The publisher has offered one copy of Familiar Motives for giveaway!

Entry for giveaway lasts until Monday October 23rd 6:00 p.m. (MST).  U.S.  entries only please.
The publisher will be shipping the books to the winners.

How to enter:

*** First, you must be a member (follower) of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.
I shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.

IF you are a member or follower (including email subscriber) of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.


BECOME a member/follower/email subscriber of this blog if you aren't already and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.




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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Spooktacular Giveaway Blog Hop 2017

If you are joining us as part of the Spooktacular Giveaway Blog hop, look around and stay for awhile.  We celebrate everything mystery and suspense here - no doubt you can find something of interest!



GIVEAWAY PRIZES:

We are celebrating Halloween here at Mysteries and My Musings with a giveaway for the sixth year!  One combination prize to a winner, 6 winners!

1)  A Panicked Premonition by Victoria Laurie and A Ghostly Light by Juliet Blackwell

2)  Wrong Side of the Paw by Laurie Cass and Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen

3)  Muffin to Fear by Victoria Hamilton and Murder She Wrote: Hook, Line, and Murder by Donald Bain

4)   Familiar Motives by Delia James and By Familiar Means by Delia James

5)   Telling Tails by Sofie Ryan and A Tale of Two Kitties by Sofie Kelly

6)  Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao

Entry for giveaway lasts until October 31 6:00 p.m. (MST).  U.S.  entries only please.

I will be shipping the books to the winners.

How to enter:

*** First, you must be a member (follower) of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.

I will accept entries for this giveaway until 6:00 p.m (MST) on  Oct 31, 2017.    I shall notify each winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.  If I don't hear from you in 3 days, I will select another winner and notify them.

IF you are a member (or email subscriber) of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

BECOME a member (or email subscriber) of this blog if you aren't already and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.

Other participating blogs: 



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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Review - Murder on Black Swan Lane

I loved Andrea Penrose's Lady Arianna Regency series beginning with Sweet Revenge (click here), The Cocoa Conspiracy (click here), and Recipe for Treason (click here), plus an interview with the author (click here).  She has started a new historical mystery series that I was excited to read and review.  Check out what I thought.

Author: Andrea Penrose

Copyright: June 2017 (Kensington) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Wrexford and Sloane Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Earl of Wrexford, former military man and amateur chemist teamed with Widowed Charlotte Sloane, a satirical cartoonist under the name A.J. Quill

Setting: Regency era, London England

Obtained Through: Personal Purchase

From the book cover: "The Earl of Wrexford possesses a brilliant scientific mind, but boredom and pride lead him to reckless behavior. He does not suffer fools gladly. So when pompous, pious Reverend Josiah Holworthy publicly condemns him for debauchery, Wrexford unsheathes his rapier-sharp wit and strikes back. As their war of words escalates, London’s most popular satirical cartoonist, A.J. Quill, skewers them both. But then the clergyman is found slain in a church—his face burned by chemicals, his throat slashed ear to ear—and Wrexford finds himself the chief suspect.

An artist in her own right, Charlotte Sloane has secretly slipped into the persona of her late husband, using his nom de plume A.J. Quill. When Wrexford discovers her true identity, she fears it will be her undoing. But he has a proposal—use her sources to unveil the clergyman’s clandestine involvement in questionable scientific practices, and unmask the real murderer. Soon Lord Wrexford and the mysterious Mrs. Sloane plunge into a dangerous shadow world hidden among London’s intellectual enclaves to trap a cunning adversary—before they fall victim to the next experiment in villainy"

Charlotte Sloane has been scraping by financially since her husband died and she took up the satirical cartoon drawings he had done. But she still cares for a pair of homeless boys (Raven and Hawk), feeding them from her scant rations and clothing them. She is practical, rational, observant and an excellent artist.  She is also educated in Latin and well read, hinting that there is more to her background than meets the eye.

Earl of Wrexford, Wrex for short - never a first name, even with his friends - is a scientist in outlook which makes him different than other wealthy or titled peers.  He is faced with accepting he could be arrested for the murder, even though he didn't kill the man.  He has to keep his anger in check and investigate the murder better than the bow street man.  Tyler, his valet, is primarily his lab assistant and secondly his valet.  Tyler is a gem and challenges his Lordship.  Wrexford's best friend Christopher Sheffield has a gambling problem and is always in need to funds that his father will no longer provide.  But, when Wrex needs someone to watch his back, Christopher is right there in the investigation.  Henning is the anatomist dealing with autopsies of the dead, an old military doctor that Charlotte has known for a while and Wrex knew in the military.

The descriptions of London were just enough to set the stage and the rest is left to the reader's imagination.  I had no problem with that and felt the stage was set with atmosphere enough for me.  Even Charlotte's small place in a rough neighborhood was atmospheric for me.  I enjoyed how the settings were used to increase the tension.

The plot contained plenty of misdirection and red herrings to keep me guessing.  The final solution was more involved than I expected.  The pacing was maintained, keeping my interest throughout.  The killer confrontation is full of suspense and wonderfully well done.  The wrap-up raises the question of Charlotte's education and leaves the door open for them to work together again.

I have to say that I greatly enjoyed this novel.  It was entertaining and kept my interest in the characters and the investigation.  The two boys, Raven and Hawk, are delightful, and the subtle attraction between Wrexford and Charlotte is fun to watch.  There were an instant or two where I thought a phrase was more modern, but that didn't detract from the story for me.  I can't wait to jump back into the Wrexford and Sloane world again.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list




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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Review - Yuletide Homicide

It's October and time for some wicked mystery fun.  This book features a practicing Wiccan, but it is not paranormal - so don't worry about that.  I typically like to start with the first book in a series, but I made an exception for this book when offered the chance to read and review it.  So let's get in the Halloween....spirit with this book about a nice little witch.

Author: Jennifer David Hesse

Copyright: Sept 2017 (Kensington) 320 pgs

Series: 3rd in Wiccan Wheel Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Keli Milanni, family law attorney and Wiccan

Setting: Modern day, Edindale, Illinois

Obtained Through: Publisher (Netgalley) for honest review

From book blurb: "It’s Christmas in Edindale, Illinois, and family law attorney Keli Milanni is preparing to celebrate the Wiccan holiday Yuletide, a celebration of rebirth. But this Yuletide someone else is focused on dying . . .

After years of practicing in secret, Keli has come out as a Wiccan to her boyfriend, and she feels like this Yuletide she’s the one who’s being reborn. But the Solstice is the longest night of the year, and Keli is about to stumble on a mystery so dangerous, she’ll be lucky to make it to morning.

Paired with her unbearably stuffy colleague Crenshaw Davenport III, Keli goes undercover at a real estate company owned by mayoral candidate Edgar Harrison. An old friend of Keli’s boss, Harrison, is being blackmailed, and it’s up to her to find the culprit. But the morning after the company holiday party, Harrison is found dead underneath the hotel Christmas tree. The police rule the death an accident, but Keli knows better—and she’ll risk her own rebirth to nab a missing killer."

Keli Milanni is a smart modern gal working hard to make partner at her law firm.  Crenshaw Davenport III, an elitist-top hat wearing- lawyer in her firm who tends to be patronizing but occasionally shows a nicer side, is teamed with Keli to go undercover.  Wes Callahan, a tattooed bartender and former client's grandson, is Keli's boyfriend and I approve of the move away from the CRI (Cop Romantic Interest).  Mila is the owner of New Age gift shop Moonstone Treasures and a Wiccan mentor for Keli.  Farrah is her best friend and trusty sidekick.

Edindale, Illinois seems to be more than a small town from the feel, perhaps a mid-sized city. The main settings that were particularly used well were the hotel for the party and sight of the murder, and the Stag Creek Lodge outside of town for the final killer reveal.  I liked both of these.

I was immediately drawn into the story and it seemed to skate along easily.  There were only a few places where it slowed but those didn't last long.  The plot was enough to keep my interest.

The snowy killer confrontation had some tense moments, just like I like them.  The killer wasn't completely out of the blue, nor was the killer obvious.   

I liked the balance of personal life and the struggle Keli has when she can't be completely open about her beliefs and practice.  The mystery was standard.  If you're looking for a fun mystery to enjoy as a pleasant diversion, this is your ticket.

Rating: Excellent - I enjoyed it, it kept me entertained! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list



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Monday, October 2, 2017

Spotlight-Giveaway: Mrs. Jeffries New Book

Today  I am doing a spotlight for a holiday mystery.  I know, even the Halloween items in the store are overshadowed by December already, let alone poor November's Thanksgiving!   Today we have a spotlight and giveaway for Mrs. Jeffries and the Three Wise Women.  I have to say, I love the title.  I reviewed a prior Mrs Jeffries book a few years back (click here.) 

From the cover: "As the holidays approach, all is merry and bright for Inspector Witherspoon, Mrs. Jeffries, and the staff at Upper Edmonton Gardens...but murder knows no season.

MURDER UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR

Christopher Gilhaney isn’t a popular man, and he proves why once again when he insults every guest at Abigail Chase’s Guy Fawkes Night dinner party. When Gilhaney is shot dead under the cover of the night’s fireworks, his murder is deemed a robbery gone wrong. But when the case hasn’t been solved six weeks later, Inspector Witherspoon is called upon to find the killer—and quickly!

With Christmas almost here, Inspector Witherspoon and everyone in his household is upset at the possibility of having to cancel their holiday plans—all to solve a case that seems impossible. Only Luty Belle, Ruth, and Mrs. Goodge refuse to give up and let the crime become a cold case. In fact, the American heiress, the charming next-door neighbor, and the formidable cook use all of their persuasive powers to get the others on board, because these three wise women know justice doesn’t take time off for Christmas."

I enjoy these traditional mysteries by Emily Brightwell and this one promises to be a lovely adventure.  

GIVEAWAY

The publisher has offered two (2) copies for giveaway!

Entry for giveaway lasts until Monday October 9th 6:00 p.m. (MST).  U.S.  entries only please.
The publisher will be shipping the books to the winners.

How to enter:

*** First, you must be a member (follower) of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.
I shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.

IF you are a member or follower (including email subscriber) of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

BECOME a member/follower/email subscriber of this blog if you aren't already and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Even though Halloween and Thanksgiving seem to get crowded out already, the pumpkin craze has begun.  Here is a recipe to help you enjoy autumn to its fullest with a bit of pumpkin.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes with Cream Cheese Syrup


Ingredients

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup maple syrup
2-4 Tbsp. milk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Additional butter for cooking

Directions

Step 1
Beat together cream cheese and maple syrup. Slowly add milk until desired thickness; set aside.

Step 2
In a bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. In another bowl whisk together milk, pumpkin, egg, butter and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just blended.

Step 3
Heat a griddle or non-stick skillet over medium heat; add enough butter to coat pan. Use ¼ cup of batter for each pancake; cook until one side is golden and bubbles form and start popping. Flip and cook until second side is golden.


Recipe from King Sooper's website.  I wish they had a Bisquick or pre-mix base for a faster version.  



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