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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Review - Backcountry

I reviewed the first book in the series, Endangered (click hereand the second book, Bear Bait (click here), third book Undercurrents (click hereas well as interviewed the author (click here.)  I eagerly anticipate each new release and this is quickly becoming a favorite series.  For this addition to the series,  we will follow Sam Weston for twenty-one days on the wilderness outing

Author: Pamela Beason

Copyright: June 2017 (Wildwing Press) 302 pgs

Series: 4th in Sam Westin Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy, Amateur sleuth

Main Characters: Summer Westin, Wildlife Biologist 

Setting: Modern day, North Cascades National Park

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

From cover: "Sam Westin is rarely afraid in the wilderness, but maybe she should be now, in spite of her self-doubt. Her friends Kyla and Kim were murdered on a popular hiking trail only a few weeks ago and the murderer is still unidentified. When Sam steps in as a substitute for Kyla to shepherd six troubled teens through the backcountry, she can't help watching over her shoulder. Has grief at the violent deaths of her friends made her paranoid, or is she right to suspect her rag-tag band is sharing the mountain wilderness with the killer?"

Sam Westin is a powerhouse in her own right, even facing troubled teens in the middle of nowhere.  FBI agent Chase Perez  is present sporadically throughout the story, primarily in the struggle to maintain a long-distance relationship.  Maya Velasquez from the second book gets a starring role in this story as a team member for the wilderness trek.  The troubled teens are: Olivia Bari - frequent truancy and suicide risk, Gabriel Schmidt - computer gaming addict, Justin Orlov - bully and on probation for vandalism and assault, Taylor Durand - obsessed with appearance and potential drug user, Nick Lewis - cuts himself, and Ashley Brown - drop out and run away.

Wilderness Quest is a twenty-one day wilderness therapy program for troubled teens and provides the set up for this murder mystery. The grandeur of North Cascades National Park is on display as Sam imparts her love of nature to the troubled teens.  There is a sense of danger that shadows the group on its daily hikes and overnight camping throughout.
The plot is deceptively simple and develops before your eyes in subtle ways that are easy to miss.  Without intentionally investigating the murder of her two friends, Sam is picking up clues as she leads these troubled teens.   A subplot is the investigating detective for the murder suspects Sam somehow being involved. Pacing is steady throughout between the daily rigors of dealing with six troubled teens, the investigation which Sam is a suspect, and Sam's personal life juggling time with Chase.

The various threads and tensions continue even after the trek  and Sam stumbles across the murderer who was closer to the Wilderness Quest than ever suspected.  The wrap-up is satisfying, ties up all the loose threads, and and ensures the next book will continue Sam's exciting adventures. To say it is a happy ending seems so trite, yet it does leave a smile on your face as the story ends.

I am particularly fond of Chase Perez and would like to see more of this character - perhaps Sam and Chase could work on the same mystery.   Of the many romantic interests in the cozy genre, I find Chase Perez the most fascinating and holds the most potential.  I was surprised at how vested in these troubled teens I had grown through the story. I have to admit that when the Wilderness Quest concluded and Sam watched these teens return to their families I shed a tear or two.

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

Here is a short little video on the North Cascades National Park.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Review - Murder in Bloomsbury

Last month I reviewed the first in this series, Murder in Mayfair (click here).  So I was excited to get the review copy of the next book so quickly after discovering this author.  If you enjoy Charles Finch and C. S. Harris, give this new series a try.

Author: D.M. Quincy

Copyright: Feb 2018 (Crooked Lane) 304 pgs

Series: 2nd in Atlas Catesby Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Character: Atlas Catesby, youngest son of a Baron

Setting: 1815, London

Obtained Through: Publisher (Netgalley) for honest review

From cover:  "Aristocratic adventurer Atlas Catesby has spent the last year trying to forget Lady Lilliana Warwick, but when she reappears in his life imploring him to help her solve a murder, Atlas feels compelled to say yes.

The ner’re-do-well brother of Lilliana’s maid died of arsenic poisoning. Authorities are ruling his death an accident, but his sister suspects he was murdered. As Atlas and Lilliana investigate, they discover that the victim had a mysterious lover?a high-born lady he threatened with scandal after she spurned him. When they finally uncover her shocking true identity, the case blows wide open and it turns out there is a whole string of women who had reason to kill the handsome charmer. Now, as Atlas fights his growing feelings for Lilliana, they must work together to catch the assassin before the killer gets to them first."

Atlas Catesby is stuck in thinking that society's rules make it impossible for he and Lilliana to ever be more than good friends, which tortures him.  Still he agrees to look into the death of her maid's brother never imagining it would become such a tangled tale.  Lilliana may be the highest ranking noble in residence, but she is strong-willed, smart, and doesn't care what society thinks. She inserts herself into the investigations and clearly is partial to Atlas's company.  Gabriel Young, the Earl of Charlton is Atlas' good friend and quite smitten with Atlas's married sister.  Thea Palmer is Atlas' sister and an avid mathematician who lives in town while her husband does the lordly farmer life.  The Bow Street Runner, Endicott, from the prior book is back and his character is growing on me. The more you learn about the victim, the more you feel sad for the young ladies he was using for social advantage.

London is always a great setting and it is used well in this outing.  The plot starts as a rather clear cut investigation, but that soon grows more complicated.  The pacing kept my attention and I looked forward to getting back to the book. 

The climax is deliciously tense and provides a surprise twist or two.  The wrap up was satisfactory and a yearn for the next book in the series.  

I enjoyed the twisting mystery and I enjoyed the sub plot of Lilliana and Atlas dancing around their mutual growing attraction.  Atlas is oblivious at points!  It provides a touch of light-hearted in the midst of the mystery.  The subplot of the Earl of Charlton's infatuation with Atlas's married sister provides another engrossing thread.

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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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Review - Say No Moor

I had reviewed one prior book in the series, the 9th titled Fleur De Lies (click here).  We are back with the Seniors Tour in England now.

Author: Maddy Hunter

Copyright: Jan 2018 (Berkley) 336 pgs

Series: 11th in Passport to Peril Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre:
Cozy Mystery

Main Character:
Emily Andrew-Miceli, Travel Agency Owner and Seniors Tour Escort

Setting: Modern, Cornwall England

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest opinion

Cover blurb:  " Hoping to reach an expanded clientele of senior travelers, Emily Andrew-Miceli invites a handful of bloggers to join her group's tour of England's Cornwall region. But when the quarrelsome host of a historic inn dies under suspicious circumstances, Emily worries that the bloggers' online reviews will torpedo her travel agency.

To make matters worse, Emily is roped into running the inn, and not even a team effort from her friends can prevent impending disaster. As one guest goes missing and another turns up dead, Emily discovers that well-kept secrets can provide more than enough motive for murder."

Emily, is pretty laid back for dealing with a group of cantankerous seniors, but add on the divisive bloggers, two of which are feuding, and I wondered how to remained so calm.  There is a regular cast of Iowa seniors that Emily is escorting: Emily's Grandmother Marion known as Nana, Alice, Osmond, Helen, Margi, Dick Stolee, Dick Tieg, Bernice, Lucille, Grace, George, and Tilly.  Plus Emilly's ex-husband, now Jackie.  FYI for fans, Emily's husband Etienne isn't in this book, like in the prior book I read. 

Cornwall sounds amazing and the sights that the tour visits made me want to spend time in Cornwall.  The plot is around the murder of the chef and half owner of the Inn, a gruff and bullish man.  The plot has subplots of a thief steeling items from the tour group, the group having to scramble and do their own cooking in hopes of keeping the bloggers satisfied, and one of the regulars goes missing.  The subplots help to keep the pacing humming along.  The climax is pretty suspenseful and surprising.  The wrap up ties up loose ends and left me satisfied.

This series accentuates the zany seniors who are recurring characters.  They are over-the-top with quarrelsome banter between them, opinionated, and often down right hilarious.  A few places I laughed till I had tears.  I know humor is subjective, but give it a try for a good laugh.  I found more twists in this story than the prior I had read, kudos.  It takes a little for the story to build until the first murder, but it was worth it.

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

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