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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review - Final Settlement

I like discovering new series and this is one I have wanted to read for a while now.  This is the only realtor mystery series out, at least that I know of.  It is based in a small Maine harbor town in the dead of winter.   The cover shows the abandoned lighthouse where death struck on the icy rocks.   Bundle up, it is a chilling read!

Author: Vicki Doudera

Copyright: April 2013 (Midnight Ink) 336 pgs

Series: 4th in Darby Farr Mysteries

Sensuality: Mild references

Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Darby Farr, Real Estate Agent

Modern day, Hurricane Harbor Maine

Obtained Through: Publisher

Darby returns to her hometown of Hurricane Harbor in Maine for her best friend's wedding. She arrives in town as Lorraine Delvecchio's body is discovered tangled in a lobster trap.  Her daily walk out to the abandoned lighthouse on the Manatuck Breakwater turned deadly.  Everyone believes that Lorraine must have slipped on the ice and fallen into the brink where the icy water quickly finished her.  But Chief Charles Dupont doesn't believe it was an accident and enlists Darby's aid to ask a few questions.  Darby discovers that Lorraine had a perfect memory, which she may have used to obtain money through blackmail.  On a personal note, Darby discovers a small box that had once belonged to her mother and tries to unravel some mysterious family history.

Darby is level headed and a savvy business person. She is also from Japanese/American heritage which plays a stronger role in this book as she digs into her family history.  Darby's boyfriend, journalist Miles Porter, comes for a visit and to attend Tina's wedding.  Since this was my first book in the series, I didn't get much of an impression of Miles other than the character has potential.  Darby's best friend, Tina, is a fiery red-head that adds to the story.  Chief Charles Dupont, working his last year before retiring, is a warm and unexpected character with some depth that lends a touch of humanity and forgiveness to the story.   Bitsy Carmichael, the woman who returns to Hurricane Harbor after having run off years earlier is a surprise breakout character.

The setting presents a frozen backdrop for this story.  It is stark and unforgiving, as if reflecting Lorraine Delvecchio's attitude.  But all is not frozen as events unfold.  The bleak setting provides a counter point to much of the events.

The suspects are slowly revealed as Darby unveils more of Lorraine Delvecchio's victims.  There is a good bit going on besides Darby investigating.  There is Tina's wedding that Darby is participating in, the box that Darby finds from her mother and trying to decipher the items within, Miles comes for a visit, and the events in Chief Dupont's life that are changing.  The pacing begins to slow in a few spots, but quickly get back on track. The specific killer is not obvious, which lends some tension at the climax.

There are actually two climatic scenes, because one involves Darby's mother's box and repercussions from what Darby finds inside, and the second climax involves who killed Lorraine.  Both climaxes were realistic, exciting, and dangerous, thus overall well done.  The wrap-up is smooth and natural.  The overall is a well crafted and interesting mystery with some good, suspenseful moments.

Rating:  Good - A fun mystery with interesting twists, highlighted by an original main c

Here is a short video of a Maine lighthouse in winter for the isolated and cold setting book.


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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review - Princess Elizabeth's Spy

I reviewed the first book in this series, Churchill's Secretary (click here,) as well as interviewed the author (click here.) I enjoy a good historical mystery, but historical intrigue is particularly a favorite. The second book in this World War II intrigue series is out and here is my review.

Author: Susan Elia MacNeal

Copyright: October 2012 (Bantam) 384 pgs

Series: 2nd in Maggie Hope Adventures

Sensuality: Mild references

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Intrigue,

Main Characters: Maggie Hope, American in London

Setting: 1941, London England

Obtained Through: Personal Purchase

Picking up shortly after the end of the first book, this book finds Maggie struggling to meet the physical demands of MI-5 training.  Her first assignment looms before her and she fears she will get a desk job because of her short comings in the physical training.  But she is assigned to Windsor castle undercover as a private Math teacher for Princess Elizabeth.  Intelligence reports indicate a plot to kill the king and replace him with his brother who is sympathetic to Hitler.  In order for that plan to work, the heir to the throne, fourteen year old Princess Elizabeth would have to be eliminated too.  Maggie quickly joins the staff at the war beleaguered castle and suspects something is definitely suspicious when a lady-in-waiting is killed during a ride with the Princesses.  Personally, Maggie is trying not to worry herself sick over her boyfriend, a pilot in the Royal Air Force, who was shot down over Germany.

Maggie is smart, sensible, and grateful to do everything she can to help the war effort.  She is not sure about her father who remains aloof.  She is human in the story, and makes some mistakes that she kicks herself over.  She finds the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to be delightful and the details of their young lives are fascinating.  Maggie's dear friend, David Greene, the aide to Churchill also has a key part in the story.  I really like his character and appreciated his getting some of the spotlight.  The surprise breakout character was actually Princess Elizabeth, with her sense of duty to the people while still a child herself.

Windsor Castle during the war is well portrayed, with hiding in the old dungeons during air raids, the royal jewels simply boxed up and tucked away, and all the paintings removed from frames and stored bringing the stark reality to the situation.  The war is ever present.

Obviously, to write a fiction book about significant historical events and people is ambitious and risks criticism.  I found the scenarios and overall plot suspenseful and not outrageous.  There is some creative license, but that is true in any fiction, and always more so in intrigue.  The pacing slows a bit as Maggie adjusts to the castle and the reader is introduced to all the characters and their activities.  Events begin to speed up rather quickly and tension is maintained.

The climax is full of nail-biting tension that I fully enjoyed. The wrap-up left the reader with a cliff-hanger, setting up the next book.  This creatively utilizes WWII as a rich tableau for Maggie to come into her own.  It easily mixes history with suspenseful fiction which makes for enjoyable intrigue and drama.  The writing style is not necessarily poetic or high literature, but it cleanly and effectively transports the reader to 1940s England for quite a ride with a few twists and surprises.

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

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Julia Child, Spy

I enjoy espionage books and movies.  I also like sharing the tidbits about real world spies when the opportunity allows.  Julia Child, known for making French cooking popular in the U.S. and one of the first television chefs, was one of those spies.  She wrote several books beside her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, including My Life In France, and Julia's Kitchen Wisdom.  I found there is also a book titled Julia's Cats about her love of cats.

The National Archives in August of 2008 released unclassified personnel files, including those of Julia Child and 24,000 other spies.  Julia had a disappointing employment record before working for wartime intelligence.  Julia reportedly attempted to join the Navy right after Pearl Harbor attack, but was too tall and rejected.  I don't think the armed services were accepting women at that time anyway.  This is what brought her to the attention of the intelligence community at the Office of Strategic Services. 

According to an ABC news story (click here), "Nevertheless, she became a top secret researcher for the director of the OSS, the legendary William "Wild Bill" Donovan. And, later, she worked to reduce the threat of U-boats, the deadly Nazi submarines." 

She went on to become such a part of U.S. culture that she was satirized on Saturday Night Live, and a there was Google doodle to celebrate her 100th birthday.  

Here is an interview with an author who wrote about Julia and her husband, Paul and their work as spies.  If you are interested in learning more, this looks like an interesting book.  I think I will be getting it myself.


Here is a short news broadcast about Julia as well. I find this so fascinating.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Reader Poll

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Holiday Buzz

It has been awhile since I read this series.  The last was Roast Mortem (click here.)   Let's see how the most recent book in this popular series stacks up.  Let's visit New York during the holidays for  glittery parties and murder.

Author:  Cleo coyle

Copyright:  December 2012 (Berkley) 385 pgs

Series: 12th in A Coffeehouse Mystery

Sensuality:  mild

Mystery Sub-genre:  Amateur Sleuth, Cozy

Main Character:  Claire Cosi, manager of Village Blend Coffeehouse

Setting:  Modern Day, New York City - holiday season

Obtained Through:  from publisher for an honest review

The book begins at the Great New York Cookie Swap where pastry chefs bake up their very best for charity. Clare is in charge of the beverage service.  Clare and the owner of a bakery share an employee, Moirin Faigan, who disappears during the event.  Clare later finds her murdered beside the broken down carousel.  Naturally the police feel there is a connection with a serial "attacker."  Normally Clare works well with the police, but her boyfriend Mike Quinn is working in D.C. these days and there is a new cop, egotistic Detective Fletcher Endicott, who places all his faith in forensics only.  Clare quickly decides she will have to do some asking around and do the police's legwork.  Clare soon realizes that she knew very little about the real Moirin, some good and some bad.  But was any of it worth killing her over?

Clare has nearly taken to doing the policework in this addition to the series. She checks backgrounds, questions witnesses and acquaintances etc.  Which gives an odd feel to the story.  Even the snobbish Detective Fletcher Endicott eventually just starts turning to Clare.  This is the improbable part of the storyline.  I have missed a few books since the last Coffeehouse mystery I read, but Clare seems like a different character.  The good side is she is game to go in disguise and investigate, which brings a certain level of daring adventure to the plot.  The bad side of that coin is she thinks nothing of hunting a killer.  Additionally, her life has begun to revolve around Mike, yet he is gone for most of the story.  She bases many decisions on how Mike might handle things, or what Mike would like.  Her number one barista and Assistant Manager Tucker is the best sidekick.  Tucker has become my favorite sidekick in this series and I am thrilled he is getting more involvement in the plots.  Madame goes undercover at the Evergreen Recreation Center, which is a great chapter, but is essentially the only time we really get with Madame. 

Mateo's character doesn't have much left to offer in his philandering self-absorbed personality, which is why their divorce remains so plausible.  Mike was never a favorite of mine and I was okay with his being only a part-time character.  The surprise character was the aging ex-rock star.  I can't reveal more without saying too much.

The setting of New York during the holidays is depicted with a mix of glitz and realism that has become a trademark of this series.  I like how the author can give us the good and the bad of New York without the reader feeling like they have been to the Bowery.

Sometimes this series gets a bit more gritty than a standard cozy, while other times it remains solidly in the cozy arena.  This book remains squarely in the cozy field, which works perfectly for a holiday themed mystery.  The pacing is pretty steady and keeps your interest.  Just as you think this is beginning to drag a little, something happens and you are engaged again.  Although the killer was not a complete surprise to me, the motive took some pieces to be revealed as Clare dug up information before the reader could figure it out.  That worked well to keep the readers interest also.

The climax was exciting including a fight with the killer.  The wrap-up was a touch bittersweet.  This book has a heady mix of an aging ex-rock star, two "Real Housewives" divas, a nursing home, a casanova hockey player, and even Irish mob influences for an enjoyable mystery.

Of course there are the many amazing recipes too!

Rating:  Good fun read - Enjoyed it! But not the best in the series to begin with if you haven't read this series before.  Followers of the series will not want to miss this one, but bare in mind it is a lighter holiday plot than others.


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Monday, January 7, 2013

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - January 2013

It is the first Monday of the month - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival.  Please help the newsletter for the blog carnival to get more subscribers.  I send the newsletter out once a month announcing the deadline for submitting to this blog carnival.

If a blog reviews mystery/suspense/thrillers (even occasionally) then I would like to feature those reviews.   Multiple entries from a blog are welcome.  Now on to this month's blog carnival.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural / PI Book Review / Legal

Tea Time with Marce reviewed the legal thriller Attorney-Client Privilege by Pamela Samuels Young

Booking Mama reviewed the Black Box by Michael Connelly

A Date with a Book reviewed Body Double by Tess Gerritsen

Books to the Rescue reviewed Sketch Me If You Can by Sharon Pape

A Date with a Book reviewed Hour of Predators by Lane Stark

Booking Mama reviewed The Child Who by Simon Lelic

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

Tea Time with Marce reviewed the more hard core In the Belly of Jonah by Sandra Brannan

Booking Mama reviewed A Marked Man by Barbara Hamilton, the first in the Abigail Adams historical cozy series.

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed A Fatal Winter by G. M. Malliet

Books to the Rescue reviewed All Sales Fatal by Laura DiSilverio

Booking Mama reviewed The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed To Hell in a Handbasket by Beth Groundwater

Books to the Rescue reviewed The Diva Takes the Cake by Krista Davis

Booking Mama reviewed Iced Chiffon by Duffy Brown

A Date with A Book reviewed If You Can’t Stand the Heat by Robin Allen

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Booking Mama reviewed Say You Are Sorry by Michael Robotham

Tea Time with Marce reviewed Primal by D.A. Serra

Booking Mama reviewed Resurrection Express by Stephen Romano

Booking Mama reviewed Black Fridays by Michael Sears


Author Interview

Mysteries and My Musings gives us an interview with Beth Groundwater

Examiner gives us an interview with Terry Odell

Mysteries and My Musings gives us an interview with Juliet Blackwell

Mysteries and My Musings gives us an interview with Anna Lee Huber

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A huge "Thank You" to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.  Keep them coming.

Let's make next month's Carnival even better. For more information on the specifics of the Carnival and how to submit your posts go here.
Submit your blog entry for next month's Carnival here: (

Spread the word far and wide!!!

Post a widget on your blog for this carnival here (

Subscribe to our carnival reminder mailing list

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Review - The Twelve Clues of Christmas

I just love the Royal Spyness series and Georgiana is consistently a pleasure to share an adventure with.   I have reviewed Royal Blood in 2010 (click here), Naughty in Nice (click here) was the 2011 release, and also obtained an interview with Rhys Bowen (click here.)  This time around we have a holiday themed release, which is appropriate for anytime of the year.  Find out more about this most recent addition to the ongoing adventures of Lady Georgiana below.

Author:  Rhys Bowen

Copyright:  November 2012 (Berkley) 320 pgs

Series:  6th in Royal Spyness Mysteries

Sensuality:  n/a

Mystery Sub-genre:  Historical Cozy

Main Character:  22 year old Lady Georgiana Rannoch, 35th in line to the throne of England

Setting:  1933, Small English town of Tiddleton-under-Lovey

Obtained Through:  from publisher for an honest review

Lady Georgiana escapes the increasing tensions at the family's Scottish property where she is reminded of how she is a financial burden on her brother's family.  Desperate to escape the hostile family environment, she answers an advertisement for a well bread lady to be a social hostess for a country house party over the holidays.  

Lady Camilla Hawse-Gorzley is quick to snatch up a royal for her festivities and pays Georgie’s way.  Georgie has no idea that Lady Hawse-Gorzley is coincidentally Darcy's aunt.  Georgie quickly discovers that Lady Camilla Hawse-Gorzley, like many of the upper-crust, have fallen on hard times and this gathering is for paying guests to experience a fading British traditional country holiday season.  Georgiana is the star, being related to the king and queen.  To make Georgiana's holiday complete, her mother is staying incognito in the village to assist writer Noel Coward with a play and her grandfather is in tow as well.

But the season is ruined by deaths that follow the 12 days of Christmas, starting with Mr. Freddie Partridge dead in a pear tree from a shooting accident, the next day one of a pair of secret lovers (turtle doves) has a fatal slip, and so it continues - all appearing to be accidents.  Could it be the local jail break of three prisoners, or possibly the local "Lovey curse" laid on the villagers by a witch the villagers burned at the stake centuries ago? The only newcomers are the guests staying at Lady Hawse-Gorzley's.  Tiddleton-under-Lovey is the quint village, complete with a simpleton (every village must have an "idiot"), and a crazy woman (said to be descended from the witch who was burned.)  The accidents seem random and unrelated, or are they?

Georgie is facing some tough times, she must take control of her future because her brother's meddling wife is determined to get her married off, or reduced to a servant.  She is also facing that her dreams of marrying Darcy are less than sure because of a snag, just as Darcy seems to be expressing a desire for more between them.  It is in the midst of her complicated personal life that the "accidents" happen.  Georgie is growing and about to take her destiny into her own hands.  Darcy is also showing signs of maturing and wanting more from his life.  I liked getting to see more of Darcy, among his relatives especially, in this book.  Georgie's mother does not have a large role in this book like in the one just prior.  But, I love that her grandfather gets to be involved with the investigation and we get to know him better.  He is the character that I still would like to see more of, I just love him.  A delightful character in this book is Darcy's aunt who hired Georgiana, Lady Camilla.  She quickly realizes that she took on a bit more than she realized with this venture and struggles with guest expectations while the news of deaths pile up.  The break out minor character was the dowager Countess Albury who doesn't put up with much nonsense and speaks her mind.

The setting is perfect for the sense of danger lurking everywhere, particularly since Georgiana and most of the other guests are out of their element.  There are thick freezing fogs and dangerous sink-hole bogs that give eerie touches, and colorful village traditions that add to the flavor.  There is even a Christmas guide with recipes and party games at the back for a bit of historical holiday explanations. 

I have to say this plot was engrossing.  There are plenty of false trails to follow and the real motive and murderer aren't as easy to  nail down as you initially think.  The pacing is steady and doesn't let loose of the reader.  Beware, this is one of those books that you will want to neglect everything else for and end up reading all night long.

The killer confrontation is exciting, with plenty of blood pumping suspense set in the dangerous countryside.  The whole story leads you to this heart-pounding climax with Georgiana in severe danger.  Ms Bowen masterfully crafted the entire story and then wraps up with hope for a brighter future for Georgiana.  Well played, well played indeed!

Rating:  As always, near perfect - buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

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