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Monday, May 28, 2018

Author Guest Post - Catherine Dilts

Please welcome Catherine Dilts to the blog.  I have reviewed the first of her Rock Shop Mysteries (click here).  Today she shares a common main character type in mysteries.    

The Reluctant Amateur Sleuth

A beloved traditional protagonist in mystery fiction is the reluctant amateur sleuth. An ordinary citizen is thrown into the middle of a mystery, which he or she is then compelled to solve. From Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown to the current cozy novel, readers find the amateur sleuth appealing. We want to believe that anyone in the right (or wrong) circumstances will rise to the challenge of solving a crime in order to see justice served. Or perhaps to defend against landing on the receiving end of a killer’s wrath.

I enjoy reading reluctant amateur sleuth mysteries, so it was natural that I would write short stories and novels using this type of character. My Rock Shop Mystery series features Morgan Iverson, an empty nester in her late forties who develops a reputation for solving crimes. But the reader knows she could never find the killer without the assistance of the rock shop donkeys, Adelaide and Houdini.

Life hasn’t gone the way Morgan Iverson expected. A widow too young, her children have flown the nest, leaving her feeling irrelevant and alone. When her brother asks her to manage the family rock shop in the Colorado mountains for two weeks, she believes the temporary change of scene will do her good.

On day one of Stone Cold Dead, she learns her brother is not returning. On day two, while chasing the shop’s escape-artist donkeys, she finds a body on a trail. In the reluctant amateur sleuth story, the protagonist’s involvement in solving the crime has to make sense. Why does Morgan get involved? The killer thinks she witnessed the murder. If Morgan doesn’t solve the crime, she’ll become as extinct as the fossils lining the rock shop’s dusty shelves.

Solving a murder gives Morgan a reputation. In book two, Stone Cold Case, Morgan discovers skeletal remains in an abandoned prospector’s cabin. The local auto mechanic, a recovering alcoholic, recruits Morgan to solve the fifteen-year-old cold case of her daughter’s disappearance. Investigating reopens old wounds in the small mountain town that put Morgan in a killer’s crosshairs.

In book three of the Rock Shop Mystery series, Morgan’s

reclusive prospector neighbor is blown to bits.  The police believe he stumbled into his own trap, but his granddaughter claims he was murdered. She asks Morgan and newspaperman Kurt Willard to find his killer. Morgan resists the temptation to become involved, until it appears a thief is determined to steal the shop’s Triceratops brow horn. When alien hunters invade the rock shop, Morgan is glad to escape to a Denver mineral and fossil convention, until that adventure goes terribly wrong. Thinking the Triceratops fossil may hold the key to solving the prospector’s Stone Cold Blooded death, she steps into amateur sleuth mode once again.

What comes next for Morgan? Book four, Stone Cold Pressed, begins when a professor is murdered in the basement of Kurt’s newspaper. The citizens of Golden Springs and local Native American tribe members attempt to purchase a strip of old growth forest to protect a popular hiking trail jealously guarded by its owners. Morgan becomes involved when the fight over the land endangers her friend.

Lucy is training to run an Ultramarathon – a footrace distance beyond the 26.2 mile marathon distance – which takes her across the disputed land. When a seventy-year-old mystery collides with a modern day murder, Morgan and Kurt find themselves once again stepping into the role of amateur sleuth. Watch for Stone Cold Pressed later this year.

I am thrilled to participate in the series The Secrets of the Castelton Manor Library. I am hoping to learn the publication date soon for my installment, book 14, titled Ink or Swim. The series is available via subscription now. This series is similar to Nancy Drew, in that each book is written by a different author.

Faith Newberry is a little more eager to delve into mystery, but as an amateur sleuth, she always has a good reason to become involved. Her cat lives up to his namesake Watson, often revealing the solution to the crime.

The reluctant amateur sleuth is a popular character in mystery fiction. While we enjoy reading about private detectives and law enforcement personnel required by their professions to solve crimes, the amateur sleuth can feel more accessible to the reader. Maybe there’s a little of the amateur sleuth in us all!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Thank you Mr. Dilts for joining us and sharing. 

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Review - Murder in G Major

As some publishers, like Berkeley, have cut back on their mystery books they are offering, others are picking up the pace.  I have become more aware of Henery Press and their line of mysteries.  Somewhere in my internet wanderings or on a newsletter somewhere, I came across mention of this series featuring a young woman classical musician.  I had to read it, so I purchased it and kept moving it closer to the top of my To-Be-Read pile.  I am so glad I discovered this series.  See if this might be a new series for you too.

Author: Alexia Gordon

Copyright: Sept 2016 (Henery Press) 268 pgs

Series: 1st in Gethsemane Brown Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery

Main Character: Gethsemane Brown, African-American classical musician

Setting: Modern, Southwest Ireland Coast

Obtained Through: Personal Purchase

From book cover: "With few other options, African-American classical musician Gethsemane Brown accepts a less-than-ideal position turning a group of rowdy schoolboys into an award-winning orchestra. Stranded without luggage or money in the Irish countryside, she figures any job is better than none. The perk? Housesitting a lovely cliffside cottage. The catch? The ghost of the cottage’s murdered owner haunts the place. Falsely accused of killing his wife (and himself), he begs Gethsemane to clear his name so he can rest in peace. Gethsemane’s reluctant investigation provokes a dormant killer and she soon finds herself in grave danger. As Gethsemane races to prevent a deadly encore, will she uncover the truth or star in her own farewell performance?"

Gethsemane Brown is a fresh and unique amateur sleuth. She hears Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" play as her internal warning system, she is independent, smart, and determined to make her last-chance job as a music teacher work by her team winning the Annual All-County School Orchestra Competition in 6 weeks - which will hopefully get her career jump-started.  She gets to live in the cabin that the great composer Eamon McCarthy lived, Carraigfaire Cottage.  Eamon McCarthy, the spitfire genius composer who is accused of killing his wife and then committing suicide, is the resident ghost who insists Gethsemane clear his name.  He does not like Gethsemane drinking his 12 year old special order whiskey either.  She makes a few friends in the town of Dunmullach, and Francis Grennan - co-worker in the school is a potential romantic interest in future books.

Carraigfaire Cottage, where Gethsemane is staying, and the nearby lighthouse provide great atmosphere, Dunmullach gives us the Irish culture, and St Brennan's School for Boys ends up giving Gethsemane her second chance in music.  These settings are utilized to great effect and bring the place to life.

I enjoyed this book and found it hard to put it down.  The plot immerses you in Eamon's world of twenty-five years ago as Gethsemane tries to unveil who killed him and his wife. The action is consistent and kept my interest.  The killer confrontation was deliciously tense and heart-pounding.  The wrap up leaves it open for future adventures with Gethsemane.

I thoroughly enjoyed this new series.  Don't worry, you don't have to be into classical music to enjoy the story.  I found Gethsemane very relatable and a delightful character. Eamon is a fiery Irishman who grew on me and I found I cared about his character finding some closure.  I even grew fond of the cottage too. Excellent mystery and writing, indulge yourself with this new series.

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

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Review - A Conspiracy in Belgravia

Happy Sir Arthur Conon Doyle's 159th birthday!

I was incredibly excited to read and review the first in this series, A Study in Scarlett (click here), which is a retelling of the famous Sherlock story featuring a woman as the actual detective with her false identity as Sherlock.  The concept was great, but more importantly the execution was superb.  The highly anticipated second book in the series arrived and it took a little longer for me to get to the book.  But I finally have a review.

Author: Sherry Thomas

Copyright: Sept 2017 (Berkley) 336 pgs

Series: 2nd in Lady Sherlock Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre:
Historical Detective Mystery

Main Character: Charlotte Holmes, disgraced upper class woman who creates the Sherlock Holmes identity

Setting: 1886, Devonshire and London England

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

"The game is afoot as Charlotte Holmes returns in USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas’s Victorian-set Lady Sherlock series.

Being shunned by Society gives Charlotte Holmes the time and freedom to put her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, she’s had great success helping with all manner of inquiries, but she’s not prepared for the new client who arrives at her Upper Baker Street office.

Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte’s dear friend and benefactor, wants Sherlock Holmes to find her first love, who failed to show up at their annual rendezvous. Matters of loyalty and discretion aside, the case becomes even more personal for Charlotte as the missing man is none other than Myron Finch, her illegitimate half brother.

In the meanwhile, Charlotte wrestles with a surprising proposal of marriage, a mysterious stranger woos her sister Livia, and an unidentified body surfaces where least expected. Charlotte’s investigative prowess is challenged as never before: Can she find her brother in time—or will he, too, end up as a nameless corpse somewhere in the belly of London"

Charlotte Holmes is blond, pretty, feminine, too fond of sweets, and far too intelligent for the time period. She is funny without intending to be as she considers her fondness for desserts and how many chins she has at the moment.  She is coldly logical, but when it comes to Lord Ingram she may have unwanted emotions.  Mrs. John Watson, a retired stage actress has become her sidekick. Lord Ingram Ashburton, a long time friend and first love, knows of Charlotte's secret identity and aids her.  In this outing Lord Ingram's unrequited love for Charlotte whitle in an unhappy marriage is displayed. Inspector Robert Treadles featured in the first book shows up again but has his prejudices against consulting Charlotte again that demonstrates the common man's attitude towards such a woman in that day and age.  Moriarity is developed further and is slowly developing into the mastermind and nemesis.  Mrs Watson's niece, Miss Redmayne, is visiting and assists in the investigation at times.

The plot definitely has several twists and has a level of intrigue that sneaks up on the reader.  The pacing, I felt, maintained a steady pace and kept me engaged.  I will give a caveat that it should be read when you can give your full attention, I read it in short bits here and there because of life circumstances, and found with the twists I could easily loose the thread and get lost.

The killer reveal was a final twist in the story I had not seen coming, well done!  The wrap up is nicely satisfying and even a little poignant. 

Not only was this a great mystery, but the characters are further developed and their personal dramas unfold and gain complication.  A shocking move on Charlotte's father's part shows how little voice women of the era had in their own lives.  I find this series so imaginative and refreshing, give it a try if you like historical mysteries.

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

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Review - Murder at Half Moon Gate

I loved Andrea Penrose's Lady Arianna Regency series and now she has started a new historical mystery series that I am excited to read and review.  The first in the series, Murder on Swan Lake I reviewed (click here) and now for the second in this new series.  Read on to find out how the second novel in this new historical mystery stacks up.

Author: Andrea Penrose

Copyright: Mar 2018 (Kensington) 368 pgs

Series: 2nd in Wrexford and Sloane Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth

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

Setting: Regency era, London England

Obtained Through: Personal Purchase

From the book cover:  "When Lord Wrexford discovers the body of a gifted inventor in a dark London alley, he promptly alerts the watchman and lets the authorities handle the matter. But Wrexford soon finds himself drawn into the murder investigation when the inventor’s widow begs for his assistance, claiming the crime was not a random robbery. It seems her husband’s designs for a revolutionary steam-powered engine went missing the night of his death. The plans could be worth a fortune . . . and very dangerous in the wrong hands.

Joining Wrexford in his investigation is Charlotte Sloane, who uses the pseudonym A. J. Quill to publish her scathing political cartoons. Her extensive network of informants is critical for her work, but she doesn’t mind tapping that same web of spies to track down an elusive killer. Each suspect—from ambitious assistants to rich investors, and even the inventor’s widow—is entwined in a maze of secrets and lies that leads Wrexford and Sloane down London’s most perilous stews and darkest alleyways.

With danger lurking at every turn, the potent combination of Wrexford’s analytical mind and Sloane’s exacting intuition begins to unravel the twisted motivations behind the inventor’s death. But they are up against a cunning and deadly foe—a killer ready to strike again before they can recover the inventor’s priceless designs . . ."

Charlotte Sloane has been scraping by financially since her husband died and she took up the satirical cartoon drawings he had done under the name A. J. Quill. Because of her job, she can't shy away from finding the society's dirt to use in her cartoons that are her livelihood.  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 fears Charlotte has rubbed off on him as he softens to the plight of her two charges and about justice in general. Sheffield is Wrex's good friend and comes through in a pinch. The two street urchins Charlotte has unofficially adopted, Raven and Hawk, are street wise, a touch jaded, and whip smart develop into stars in their own right.

London is presented as just as complex and layered as the characters.  You go from polite society visits in wealthy parlors to slums and warehouses teaming with the disreputable underbelly.  Each holds its unique perils.

The plot winds and weaves, since little about the people involved is honest or straightforward.  The pacing is steady and consistent producing a page turner that keeps you wanting more.  This series is producing some exciting killer confrontations that I particularly enjoy.  The wrap-up is particularly interesting regarding the relationship between Charlotte and Wrex.

I enjoy how the series allows Charlotte to go against the typical female role of this time, while still maintaining some adherence to the era.  The characters of Raven and Hawk are stellar additions to the cast and allow for Charlotte and Wrex to show their softer sides.  The mystery and suspense are top-notch and the slowly developing a relationship between Charlotte and Rex is believable and quite touching.  Overall this series, hits all of the right chords for a beautiful storytelling experience.  

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

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