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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review - Moon Spinners

Today we are taking a break from the summer heat and visiting the ocean.  A charming small town in Massachusetts with soft ocean breezes.  Sounds idyllic?  So join me in Sea Harbor for an original cozy murder mystery.

Author: Sally Goldenbaum

Copyright: April 2010 (NAL); 320 pgs

Series: # 3 in Seaside Knitters Mysteries

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery sub-genre: Cozy

Main Character: Nell  Endicott with Izzy, Cass and Birdie

Setting: Modern day Sea Harbor Massachusetts

Obtained book through: Library

The small town of Sea Harbor has two powerful families (Delany and Santos) in the development/building business but they put their differences aside long enough to attend a charity event.  But on the drive home Sophia Santos' car goes off a sea side cliff.  The police find from the wreckage that the expensive speciality brakes were cut.  Grace is a friend of the group and the victim was her aunt who raised her. So naturally the group jumps into investigating Sophia's last week to find out why she was murder and by whom.  There are plenty of suspects lurking around corners since Sophia was powerful and opinionated - even her husband.

The main character of Nell is like slipping on a warm wool sweater, so comfortable.  Her niece Izzy owns the local yarn and knitting shop.  The dynamic between the two is loving and enjoyable.  Throw in Cass and the the older wealthy Birdie and you have a delightful team whose friendship is their rock and their sleuthing is their next hobby after knitting.  I have to admit that it took me a little bit to figure out the four cohorts and their relationships since I had not read the two prior books, but that didn't last long.  It is easy to catch on.

I classified this as a cozy rather than a craft mystery because I think the emphasis really is on the community and the relationships in the group rather than the knitting.  Granted there are references to the knitting they each are doing, but it is such a part of each character that it lends to the story rather than seeming contrived.  I loved the sea side brought to life and could almost smell that sea brine and feel the ocean mist on my face.  The sense of place is wonderfully done.
It was a night for the Moon Spinners to begin their task.  Nell stood in silence, imagining the women of the ancient Celtic myth pulling the silvery strands  of light from the sky and winding it on distaffs until weeks later the waning moon would disappear completely, leaving the world wrapped in a blanket of darkness, the tides quieter, creatures safe from the hunter...

Nell wouldn't know later what it was - the strain of staring at the bright light or the anticipation of the party?  But the moon seemed to grow larger beneath her stare, a moon lacking the comforting, gentle smile of her childhood when she'd lie flat in a Kansas field and look up at it, making wishes, telling secrets.

Tonight it wasn't a smile that passed down over those thousands and thousands of miles.  The moon's light and shadow had mixed in an ominous way.  Nell felt a foreboding - like the green sky before a tornado rolled across the Kansas plains or the unsettling quiet before a nor'easter surged down on Sea Harbor.

Instinctively, she took a step back and looked away, wrapping her arms around herself and shivering slightly.
Like many cozy mysteries, the process of questioning and detecting takes its time and is not rushed, but it carried me through nicely and kept me coming back for more.  The plot is not complicated but was adequate for the story and felt believable.  I had suspected the killer but didn't have the motive worked out until the big reveal.  I felt the ending was satisfying, but most of all, when I think back on the book I miss the characters.  The true sign of a good cozy!

So if you like your cozy mysteries to provide you with interesting friends to follow their adventures, this is a book for you. 
AND NOW for a blast from the past.  Remember the old novel The Moon Spinners by Mary Stewart that was made into a 1964 Disney movie starring Haley Mills???

* * * * * If you have enjoyed this blog, then PRETTY PLEASE vote for this blog as best Entertainment Blog (proving reading is entertainment) and also as best Hobby Blog. Thank you most sincerely. There are voting buttons on the sidebar too. You will have to register with Blogger's Choice, but it is a simple process. I am listed under * * * * *

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Free Poster

Several months ago I opened up the blog for suggestions to create a poster titled "All I Really Needed to Know I Learned from Mystery Novels".  

I finally compiled the suggestions and made it into a poster and have it ready for readers. 

Click here to open the 8X11 ready-for-framing file and save/print it out for your own enjoyment.

The votes for favorite subgenre of Mystery resulted in:
Cozy mystery 23
Amateur Sleuth 21
Suspense Novel 19
Paranormal 15
Historical 14
Private Investigator 13
Police Procedural 9
Craft & Pet themed tied at 3 each
Foreign Soil 0
Thanks to everybody who participated!
If you like voting on you favorite books here is one:
Vote for the 100 best Thrillers at NPR

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review - Storm Front

Okay, I am introducing a paranormal mystery that most wouldn't think of as a mystery.  This typically gets labeled Urban Fantasy, but it does have a "private investigator" - he just happens to be a wizard.

 Author: Jim Butcher

Paperback April 2000; 320 pgs

Series: # 1 in Dresden Files

Sensuality: mild, innuendo

Mystery sub-genre: Paranormal PI

Main Character: Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden - Wizard and Paranormal Investigator

Setting: Modern day Chicago

Obtained book through: purchased
Harry often consults with the police for their Special Investigations department.  The debut novel gets started when Harry is called to the crime scene of two people, one a call girl and the other a mobster with their hearts blown apart - from the inside outward - with no apparent cause.  Upon exiting the downtown crime scene he is told in no uncertain terms from the local crime boss to drop investigating it.

Already under the Doom of Damocles (a form of probation placed on him by the White Council - who oversee the ethical use of magic), Harry's "probation officer" is a wizard named Morgan who suspects Harry as being the only wizard who could have murdered the couple.  Morgan is determined to prove Harry is the murderer to the White Council by Monday, which will mean Harry's execution.

Things go from bad to worse for Harry as he works the police case and also the only other case he has of a missing husband.  Could the two be related?  Then Harry becomes aware of a new drug that has hit the streets "Third Eye" that is highly addictive and makes people see the spiritual plane. 

My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden.  Conjure by it at your own risk.  I'm a wizard.  I work out of an office in midtown Chicago.  As far as I know, I'm the only openly practicing professional wizard in the country.  You can find me in the yellow pages, under "Wizards."  Believe it or not, I'm the only one there.  My ad looks like this:


You'd be surprised how many people call just to ask if I'm serious.  But then, if you'd seen the things I'd seen, if you knew half of what I knew, you'd wonder how anyone could not think I was serious.

Harry Dresden is a likable character, holding to his own ethical code, a little old fashioned, poor as a church mouse but a powerful wizard and a pretty good gum shoe.  He grows on you - think a of a paranormal Philip Marlow (maybe even a Rockford) with a snarky sense of humor.  He is down-to-earth, not full of himself and just a smidgen emotionally vulnerable.  I have to say there is one action fight scene that is nail-biting good where Harry is caught at the worst possible the shower, and fights au naturale- it is intense and then afterward it is laugh-out-loud funny.

I don't like the character Bob in this book as much as the one in the television series.  Bob struck me as self-centered and hedonistic - not a good combination.  Lieutenant Karrin Murphy is a classic cop who wants to like - maybe even trust Harry - but doesn't understand that sometimes he can't reveal everything to her and has to protect her from the things-that-go-bump-in-the-night.  So there is a tension between them which has me itching to read the next to find out how their potential friendship will develop.

The plot was good and kept my interest with a layering of problems that seem to weave a trap for Harry.  The plot is strong enough to carry the reader through and wonder how the heck will Harry get out of the seemingly impossible problems while staying within the White Council's directives on behavior.

Jim Butcher does an effective job of weaving modern day Chicago with a paranormal world.  I enjoyed the writing style which kept from becoming overly gloomy and managed to be engaging instead.

The various story lines are all tied up neatly and the climax manages to be an edge-of-your-seat ordeal.  Well done and I have become a new fan.

So if you like PI novels and have been wondering what all the Urban Fantasy ruckus is about, this would be a good book to check out and see if you like it - you find just find you are hooked.  If you are already an Urban Fantasy fan, you have probably read these already!

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Question for Readers - Vote!

I have a question for you - the reader.
  What are your favorite to read in the mystery genre?
There are so many subcategories, such variety and choice.

Is it: the cozy mystery,
the amateur sleuth,
the police procedural,
the private investigator,
the suspense novel,
the craft-themed mystery,
the pet-themed mystery,
 the paranormal mystery,
the historical mystery,
or maybe the mystery set on foreign soil?

Here is your opportunity to tell me - it may not be a Gallup Poll,
but your vote still counts.  
Results can be viewed here.
Let's see which subcategory of mystery comes out on top!!

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Guest Review - Silent Scream

Please welcome guest reviewer Stella !!  She is the owner of Ex Libris Blog, so after reading her review here, take a stroll over to her little home in the blogosphere.

Author: Lynda La Plante
Copyright: Paperback - July 6, 2010 (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster); 516 pgs

Series: #  5 in Anna Travis Mysteries

Sensuality: ?

Mystery sub-genre: Police Procedural

Main Character: Det. Insp. Anna Travis

Setting: Modern day London

Obtained book through: Publisher for honest review

Goodreads appetizer: British film star Amanda Delany has the world at her feet. Never one for the quiet life, she has had a string of affairs with the hottest actors around. The tabloids can't get enough of this talented and outrageous young actress and she, in turn, can't get enough of the spotlight.

Then, late home one evening from a night shoot, Amanda puts the key in her front door for the very last time. The next morning, the press gathers once again outside her house, this time to report on a brutal murder. Amanda's body has been found inside, stabbed many times, only her beautiful face left unharmed.
DI Anna Travis is desperate for a break after a long, hard-fought case. But the call comes through, summoning her to the scene of the Delany murder. Anna is shocked by what she finds, and even more so when she discovers the truth behind the public image of this glamorous and successful actress.

Anna and the team grapplel to track down Amanda's killer, headed by the ever demanding DCI James Langton. But Anna has challenges of her own to overcome too. Promotion to Chief Inspector is within her grasp. But when the time comes for her to stand before the board, she faces an adversary from the least likely quarter ...
"Returning to her bedroom, leaving all the lights on, she couldn't stop hearing that terrible single scream echoing in her head. The more she thought about it, the more certain she was that it was a woman screaming. She recalled being cast as the victim of a serial killer in a movie that required her to scream, and when she couldn't get the right pitch, they had brought in another actress who specialised in bloodcurling screams. She remembered when she watched the finished film how chilling the moment had been.

Eventually she went back to sleep, aided by two sleeping tablets. She didn't wake until mid-morning and, brewing up fresh coffee, she wondered if it had simply been a nightmare that had woken her. "

Stella's thoughts: Silent Scream was my initiation to Lynda La Plante's writing, and I have to say I became a fan. Don't let the length put you off reading Silent Scream (516 pages), the writing is flowing and Lynda La Plante's writing style is natural and enjoyable.

What I found the most amazing about Silent Scream was how even though one of the main characters was dead she was brought to life through the investigation. As the investigation progressed, the real Amanda, the person behind the glamour and fame took shape before the reader. Even though she was dead from the very first chapter of the book, she was as much present throughout the novel as if she were there in the "flesh", La Plante gave her substance and complexity. You felt sad and sorry for her because of her unhappy childhood, loneliness and want for love but then when you saw how she behaved at other times and how she didn't care about what she did to others she was downright repulsive. Amanda Delaney's presence haunted the story long after her murder.

The mystery wasn't obvious, it was well structured from the beginning and the reader couldn't guess who committed the murder, leaving you wondering and guessing until the end.
Silent Scream introduced a lot of supporting characters but I can't say the novel could have gone without any of them. They were all essential to the mystery, to give the reader a broader picture of Amanda and show business politics.

The main characters: Anna, Langton and the other detectives and colleagues at the police were well developed and varied. Anna was an especially interesting heroine: a stubborn and driven young detective who isn't well liked by her colleagues mainly for being more of a lone wolf kind of investigator than a team player, but her superiors were all in agreement that she had potential and talent to become more.

I liked the cat-mouse emotional play between Anna and Langton because it seemed credible and very realistic. Once they were an item but even though their affair is over and Langton has a family (a wife and two kids), it is clear they still have so much going on and that neither of them has completely moved on. Their pain and affection for each other makes it harder for them to move on with their lives. I'm sure there will be more about their relationship in later novels too.

Though Silent Scream is said to be 'an Anna Travis Mystery', it can be very well enjoyed as a stand alone novel. Throughout the novel you will get all the details and background info necessary to understand the history of the characters, so you won't feel lost without having read the previous novels in the series.

Verdict: Though I did not find Silent Scream a nail-biting thriller, I enjoyed discovering how a murder investigation is conducted in real life, it was interesting to get to know some professional secrets and what is going on behind closed doors at the police station. The office politics and the process of the investigation were all very well and realistically described. Anna Travis is an interesting and sympathetic heroine and Lynda La Plante's writing is enthralling and flowing. A very enjoyable read , I’ll definitely read more of Lynda La Plante’s novels.

Thank you so much Stella for the review!  We look forward to the next review from you.

And now for those HOT Summer Days

Enjoy your summer and stay COOL.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Blog Anniversary Coming


September will be the

One Year Anniversary

of Mysteries and My Musings.

It will be a big celebration with prizes galore.

Below are some of the prizes and the suppliers
who are on board to make this a memorable event.
Please take a peek at what they are providing to our
Blogoversary event - you might find some early holiday
or gift ideas while you are at it!

Novel Teas by Bag Ladies Tea

I Read Banned Books Braclet from Carolyn Forsman - donated by A.F. Heart

Mystery Air Plant by Augury
Elegant Stone Pendant by Jennifer Ware
 Murder on the Idol Stage Dinner Game by FromAfrancess2You
8x12 fine art print by Gary Heller Photography
Magnifying Glass Necklace by Marolsha
 Mysterious Kingdom Bookmark by Rustic Goth
 Mysterious Perfume Oil Blend by Midnight Gypsy Luxe
Clue Mystery Necklace by Clock Work Beetle
Sherlock Holmes Pinback Button Set by Poptacular
Sherlock Holmes Paperweight by Ephemeralogie
Agatha Christie Earrings by Pretentious Jewelry
Dangle Key Earrings by The Pretty Gypsy
Antique Book Locket by Renee Loughlin
Hitchcock Quote Pin by P Tierney Designs
Mysterious Art Print by John Clark
For 48 hours we will be all about celebrating one year of
Mystery and Suspense and you have a front row seat.
SEPT 15-16, 2010
 * * * * * If you have enjoyed this blog, then PRETTY PLEASE vote for this blog as best Entertainment Blog (proving reading is entertainment) and also as best Hobby Blog. Thank you most sincerely. There are voting buttons on the sidebar too. You will have to register with Blogger's Choice, but it is a simple process. I am listed under * * * * *

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Book Review - The Last Illusion

Author: Rhys Bowen
Copyright: March 2010 (Minotaur); 288 pgs

Series: #9 in The Molly Murphy Mysteries

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery sub-genre: Historical Private Investigator

Main Character: Molly Murphy, Irish Immigrant who is a private investigator

Setting: New York City in 1903

Obtained book through: Libary
The book starts out with Molly and her finace out on the town seeing a magic show at the Miner's Theatre on the Bowery.  During the acts leading up to Houdini a "stunt" goes terribly wrong and an assistant receives grave injury when being sawed-in-half.  The magician claims his equipment had been tampered with.  Before long Mrs. Houdini personally visits Molly and asks for her to lend her eyes and ears undercover as Houdini's assistant because she believes something is terribly wrong in the theater and perhaps even her Harry is in danger.
To complicate matters, Molly is engaged to police captain Daniel Sullivan who reminds Molly that she is to stop her ridiculous profession once they are married, this is the last case she will work, she is forbidden to get involved etc. etc.  It seems as though Molly half heartedly goes along but at other times is serious about being the "little woman" staying at home.  This is my first Molly Murphy mystery and I am already feeling that something has to give in this relationship.
I really enjoyed the plot and the overall premise - great concept for the plot!  I can't say very much without giving away something vital.  My opinion of Molly's finacee is still being formulated.  I can concede that his character is actually pretty flexible given the era this book is supposed to be set in, but I still don't like a sleuth having to justify sleuthing in nearly every chapter.
I loved Molly's friends Gus and Sid.  I want to read some of the older entries in the series to get to know these two women better for they seemed a touch eccentric and quirky but completely fun. 
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Monday, July 5, 2010

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival July 2010

Welcome to the July 5, 2010 edition of mystery and crime fiction blog carnival.  I hope all the U.S. readers had a safe and enjoyable 4th.  
Police Procedural Book Review
KerrieS presents Review: THE SILENCE OF THE RAIN, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, saying, "Set in Rio de Janeiro, translated from Portuguese, the first novel in the Inspector Espinosa series."

KerrieS presents Review: THE WHITE GALLOWS, Rob Kitchin, saying, "reminds me a lot of Susan Hill, Pauline Rowson, and Charles Todd. If you like any of them, then I think you'll like this."

Private Investigator Book Review
  Ms. Smarty Pants presents The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, saying Philip Marlowe gets it done.

Amateur Sleuth book Review
Musings of the Book Goddes gives us The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting.
ArtSeblic give us Trojan Gold (aVicky Bliss mystery) by Elizabeth Peters.

Cozy Mystery Book Review

Lori's Reading Corner gives us Chapter and Hearse by Lorna Barrett.

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review
KerrieS presents THURSDAY NIGHT WIDOWS, Claudio Pineiro. She shares "Every Thursday night Teresa Scaglia's husband and three friends got together at the Scaglia's house to have dinner, play cards, and drink. For a long time it had been traditional for the wives to go to the cinema. Teresa Scaglia arrives home to find her husband and two of his friends dead at the bottom of their pool. "

Sandra at Musings of a Book Addict gives us Unseen by Nancy Bush.

Author Interview
 No submissions

Writing Tips and Advice
Writer Sense gives us World-Builing, Creating a Caste/Hierarchy.   
Writer Sense gives us Elements of Fiction - Foreshadowing


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