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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review - Undercurrents

I reviewed the first book in the series, Endangered (click here) and the second book, Bear Bait (click here) as well as interviewed the author (click here.)  I eagerly anticipate each new release and this is quickly becoming a favorite series.  For this installment, we travel to Ecuador for a suspenseful underwater adventure. 

Author: Pamela Beason

Copyright: April 2013 (Berkley) 336 pgs

Series: 3rd in Summer Westin Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Suspense

Main Characters: Summer Westin, Wildlife biologist on short-term internet reporter job

Setting: Modern day, Galapagos Islands

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Sam (Summer) jumps at a short term assignment that will pay her a healthy salary for a week of work in the historic Galapagos Islands. She has to quickly take scuba lessons, because her assignment is to cover a marine survey (accessing marine life numbers), take pictures and video, then write online posts from two different aspects.  It sounds like an easy way to make some good money, practically a vacation.  Well....

Sam barely lands and she is whisked out to sea to begin her assignment for "Out There" with Dr. Daniel Kazaki of the Natural Planet Foundation (NPF), diving amidst giant tortoises, marine iguanas, sea cucumbers, territorial sea lions, and schooling hammerheads.  But Dr. Kazaki's air supply was polluted with carbon monoxide that an inexperienced Sam is challenged to save him.  When they return from the near fatal first dive together, they are kicked out of their lodgings. Sam pushes until Dr. Kazaki admits that there is fierce resentment from the fishing industry against any environmental groups. He shrugs off the contaminated air and loss of rooms and finds them other arrangements on a large luxury yacht catering to a handful of tourists. But Sam soon feels that everyone on board has some ties to dangerous anti-environmentalists. 

Sam is required to make her internet posts as herself and also as a fictional identity of "Zing."  She posts a video of carnage to multitudes of sharks as Zing and quickly gets threatening messages in reply.  Apparently, sea cucumbers and shark fins are valuable commodities in the Asian market. She is glad to have a level of anonymity when locals are actually looking for Zing and threatening Sam. While Sam is experiencing her own drama, love interest Chase is undercover for the FBI to infiltrate an extremist hate group at the border.  He is close to death at every turn but his mind is on Summer's online posts and the danger he realizes she must be in.

Sam is stretched to her physical and psychological limits in this addition to the series. She finds herself isolated in a foreign country with no help, even from the embassy.  She is determined and reaches new heights of nerve and steel in the face of a murder that could easily have been her.  FBI agent Chase Perez struggles between his dangerous career and wanting a more picture-perfect life with Summer.  Will his mind being on Summer put his life in danger during this volatile sting operation? Dr. Daniel Kazaki is a break out character that the reader quickly grows fond of.  Dr. Juanita Jane (JJ) Bradley appears about two-thirds of the way into the book, but her mythic strength of character and sheer grit are memorable.  Maya, a troubled youth from the Bear Bait novel, is present in this book briefly.  I enjoy Maya's addition and look forward to her developing in the books as well.  Then there is Sam's task-master from "Out There", Tad Wyatt.  He is single-minded in gaining readers and what will profit "Out There", but in the end he comes through.

The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and the underwater menagerie are vividly portrayed.  Because of the plot revolving around preserving a historic region of wildlife versus opportunistic international fishing interests, the reader needed to experience the wonder of the marine life that is at stake.  The area is painted in its wonder and stark reality both. You felt like you were diving with Summer and marveling at the underwater mystery and glory along with her.  Kudos - particularly since I have such a fear of being trapped underwater that I questioned if I could stand to read an underwater adventure.  The portions that are following Chase in the harsh desert are equally well painted.

The plotting was tight and the pacing kept a steady tempo. It could be a bit jarring to swap from Summer to Chase, or vise versa.  But I also appreciated knowing what was happening on both fronts.  In the end, it added to the suspense with a cliff hanger about Chase that the reader doesn't know what happened until Summer finds out. 

The suspense steadily built up to the climax.  The reveal of the killer was unique and I felt very well done.  The wrap-up leaves the reader practically aching for more.

I have to say that each book seems to best the prior one.  This is the most outstanding one yet, and I loved the previous two.  This should be in hardback and promoted more, it is that good - in my opinion.

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

Here is a short video clip of diving in the Galapagos to set the scene for the book.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Mystery Trivia Challenge

Well I blew it and missed posting about the Children's book week.  It was last weekend.  Dang!  But in case you collect the posters or would still like to find out more, click here.

It is time for another game involving classic mysteries.  See if you can figure these trivia questions out.  You are on the honor system, please don't look up the answers.  I will post the answers later in the week.  Have fun with this and post if you think you got them and if they were a challenge, or not.

1)  What was Nero Wolf's passion besides food?  Answer:  Raising exotic Orchids

2)  What nationality was Hercules Poirot? 
Answer: Belgian

3)  What did Ellery Queen's father do for a living? 
Answer: New York Police Inspector

4)  Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe are part of what mystery detective genre? 
Answer: Hard Boiled PI

5)  What car did early Nancy Drew drive? 
Answer:  blue roadster (now a blue hybrid)
6)  Which Agatha Christie book had ten strangers, each with a dark secret, who are lured to a mansion on an uninhabited island and killed off one by one? 
Answer: And Then There Were None

7)  Who was the popular detective that author Dorothy Sayers features in her mysteries? 
Answer:  Lord Peter Wimsey

8)  Inspector Roderick Alleyn was penned by which author? 
Answer:  Ngaio Marsh

9)  Which well established mystery writer was convicted of participating in the murder of her friend's mother in 1954? 
Answer:  Anne Perry!

10)  What is the title of the Agatha Christie short story and play in which a murderer escapes punishment - and Christie rewrote the ending because she didn't like that?   
Answer:  Witness for the Prosecution

Well I hope one or two of these stumped you!

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Review - Artifact

This debut novel was awarded the Malice Domestic Grant and was named a "Best of 2012" debut mystery novel by Suspense Magazine.  It has been compared to Elizabeth Peter's Vicky Bliss mysteries.  Check out my thoughts on this new adventure mystery series.

Author: Gigi Pandian

Copyright: August 2012 (Gargoyle Girl Productions) 296 pgs

Series: 1st in Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries

Sensuality: mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Jaya Jones, young multicultural historian and professor

Setting: Modern day, San Francisco, London, rural Scotland

Obtained Through: purchased at Left Coast Crime

From the book cover we get a concise summary that I cannot improve on:
"When historian Jaya Jones receives a mysterious package containing a jewel-encrusted artifact from India, sent by her ex-lover (Rupert) the same day he died in a supposed accident in the Highlands of Scotland, she discovers the secrets of a lost Indian treasure may be hidden in a Scottish legend from the days of the British Raj.  But she's not the only one on the trail..."

I would add that her apartment is broken into as an apparent attempt to steal the antique gold and ruby bracelet.  Jaya teams up with Lane Peters, a graduate student and expert in Indian jewelry and they set off to discover who is after the bracelet in hopes of uncovering who probably murdered Rupert.  The bracelet is only one piece from a rumored treasure thought to be non-existent. Their adventure takes them first to London for some research and then to a remote archeological dig in the Scottish highlands.  Was her former boyfriend Rupert murdered? can Jaya trust Lane, who seems more interested in finding the rest of the treasure?  Is there some strange undercurrent surrounding the dig and its crew?

Jaya, her mother is from India and father is American, is a refreshing multicultural character. She loves history and its significance to the present. She is impetuous (running off to England and Scotland with only a day's notice), trusting, and no pretenses.  I can't tell too much about Rupert, the ex-lover without giving anything away.  Lane Peters, graduate student and Indian jewelry expert, is hiding something.  When his secret is revealed it gives a great dimension to his character.  It seems he will be a recurring character and that is a good thing.  The minor characters of Jaya's Russian landlady Nadia and her friend Sanjay, the stage magician (Hindu Houdini) and terrible sitar player, are great additions and add flavor.

It is unusual for a debut novel of a cozy to take the reader on international treks since you are establishing the various eccentric characters that will be regulars and populate the book.  But this is a cozy treasure hunting series, so the reader gets a trip to London and then to the atmospheric Scottish Highlands with caves, castles, mist shrouded countryside, tales of local faeries kept alive, and eventful train rides.

It took me longer than usual to read this book.  I had a lot going on distracting me and I didn't feel pulled into the story.  I suspect the opening plot idea didn't grab me right away, but rather grew on me as I read. There are several good twists to the story that I find I appreciate more looking back.  I was completely caught up with the climax, and the wrap up at the end left me ready for the next book.  Whatever caused my slow start was gone by the end.

I have read several comparisons of this series with the Vicky Bliss books. I haven't read any of the Vicky Bliss (shocking, I know!) so I can't compare them.  I can say that this first novel shows a lot of promise for historical adventures of a cozy nature.  It makes history fun and interesting as an added bonus.

Ratings:  Good - A fun read. 

An added bonus just for fun - check out this unique bed cover with a book printed on it!  Here is an Etsy seller with a story duvet cover that allows you to turn the pages even (click here.)


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Monday, May 13, 2013

Read Humane

May is national pet month and the Penguin Group publishers wanted to help animals in need. I think you will agree that what they are doing is noteworthy.

Best-selling author Jill Shalvis is the spokeswoman for Penguin Group's Read Humane program, which is donating $25,000 to The Humane Society of the United States' Animal Rescue Team (more info click here) to help in the fight against animal cruelty. 

As part of the program, six of Penguins' best-selling paperbacks are getting a distinctive Read Humane seal on their covers.  The Read Humane special editions feature a distinctive Read Humane seal on their covers, conveying their support for this compassionate cause:
Rescue My Heart by Jill Shalvis, 
Hounds Abound by Linda O. Johnston (click here)
File M for Murder by Miranda James
The Cat, the Wife and the Weapon by Leann Sweeney (click here)
Till Death Do Us Bark by Judi McCoy (click here)
Double Booked for Death by Ali Brandon.

From the Read Humane website (click here):

"The Animal Rescue Team, which works with law enforcement to investigate illegal animal cruelty, targeting the worst cases of animal abuse nationwide. According to The Humane Society of the United States, its Animal Rescue Team rescues thousands of animals from puppy mills, animal fighting operations, hoarders, and other situations where animals suffer from life-threatening cruelty. They also provide expert animal rescue response during natural disasters."

Have you rescued an animal in need? You can share your story in the comments 

Here is a heartwarming video of a rescued homeless dog.  

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - May 2013

It is the first Monday of the month - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival. 

Reminder of the Historical Mystery Reading Challenge (click here.)

Please help the newsletter for the blog carnival to get more subscribers.  If a blog reviews mystery/suspense/thrillers (even occasionally) then I would like to feature those reviews.  I send the newsletter out once a month announcing the deadline for submitting to this blog carnival.  Multiple entries from a blog are welcome.

Subscribe to our carnival reminder mailing list

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

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The Last Grave by Debbie Viguie

Booking Mama reviewed The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie

Carstairs Considers reviewed The Baker Street Translation by Michael Robertson and notes there are more letters to Sherlock Holmes that might just uncover a plot against the royals.

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed What Darkness Brings by C.S. Harris

Back to Books reviewed The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Crime Fiction Collective reviewed Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Carstairs Considers reviewd Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal.  He notes there is more WWII intrigue as Maggie Hope tries to find a spy at Windsor Castle.

A Date with a Book reviewed Grace Under Pressure by Julie Hyzy

Kings River Life Magazine reviewed Unleavened Dead by Ilene Schneider

Carstairs Considers reviewed Death Dines In - Edited by Claudia Bishop and Dean James.  Note this is a collection of short stories with brief author interviews and recipes.

A Date with a Book reviewed Murder Most Frothy by Cleo Coyle

Kings River Life Magazine reviewed Parrots Prove Deadly By Clea Simon

Becky's Book Reviews reviewed The Cape Cod Mystery by Phoebe Atwood Taylor

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed His Majesty's Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal

Booking Mama reviewed Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger and describes it as a literary mystery.

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva

Carstairs Considers reviewed His Majesty's Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal and notes it's the third Maggie Hope book and finds her behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany.

Booking Mama reviewed Six Years by Harlan Coben

Hard to Classify

Booking Mama reviewed The Mystery Box edited by Brad Meltzer, it is a collection of short mystery stories.

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

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 (

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review - His Majesty's Hope

I reviewed the first book "Churchill's Secretary" (click here)  and the second book "Princess Elizabeth's Spy" (click here)  plus an author interview (click here.)  Now the third installment in the series in out this month.  It is hard to review it without spoilers because there are several twists, but here goes. 

This is part of the Historical Mystery Reading Challenge (click here.)

Author: Susan Elia MacNeal

Copyright: May 2013 (Bantam) 368 pgs

Series: 3rd in Maggie Hope Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Intrigue

Main Characters: Maggie Hope, a spy who started as Churchill's secretary

Setting: WWII, England and Berlin

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Maggie is going on a big mission - solo.  She will be air dropped into Germany and meet with the German resistance to accomplish two goals.  She should only be there three days and then on her way back.  She will be the first female spy sent into Germany.  Everybody is nervous, particularly Maggie.  Part of the book is told from the point of view of Elise, a young German nurse working in a Berlin Hospital who is a devout Catholic.  Elise's best friend and fellow nurse is married to a Jewish Doctor and their lives are torn apart.  Elise also worries about her mystery patient, a terrified pilot who has been recovering but doesn't speak, not a word.  Then Elise becomes suspicious of what is happening to disabled children patients.  Maggie and Elise's paths will cross and neither of them will be the same afterward.  More of Maggie's family secrets are revealed and more surprises.  Maggie won't make that three days only target, but the real question is whether she can get out at all.  While Maggie is on the razor's edge spying, her dear friend and Churchill's right hand man, David is dealing with an increasing difficult personal life as his family pressures him to be something he isn't.

Maggie has come a long way as a character. She has worked hard in training to be a spy when she began as just a secretary.  But this book provides her biggest challenge yet.  She will have personal bombshells dropped and must maintain her cover, not just for her life but for the resistance members who are aiding her. Nurse Elise is gutsy while a little naive.  She will face the horrors of what is happening and put her safety on the line when it counts.  Clara Hess, who is part of Maggie's mission, is a survivor who will do whatever she must to come out on top.  If you read "Princess Elizabeth's Spy" you are aware of Clara's personal connection to Maggie.   

Berlin and Charite Hospital are portrayed so well that you feel the oppression, suspicions, and fear that are a dark cloud over the city while attending society parties.  Well done.

Women were spies in WWII, mostly dropped into occupied France.  So the idea of a woman spy being dropped into Germany isn't too much of a stretch.  The plot line takes some hits in credibility because of the mystery patient in the Berlin hospital is a bit too convenient for Maggie to stumble across in her undercover role... and the patient's identity was too predictable.  But I have to say that I still devoured it in-spite of that.

I found the climax to be exciting and thrilling yet tragic too.  The wrap-up is actually realistic considering what Maggie goes through on her mission, she has some healing to do.

If you are a Maggie Hope fan and enjoyed "Princess Elizabeth's Spy," then you will find this novel even better.  I really enjoyed it and found even the somewhat obvious plot twists to be engrossing.  There are comparisons to Maisie Dobbs, but I don't see the writing styles being similar enough to fairly place them together.  What is the strong point, in my view, for this book is the Maggie and Elise dynamic.

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