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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Review - Buried in the Stacks

This is a new series for me and I am jumping in without exposure to the prior books in the series.  That presented no problem for me in understanding the backstory and history.  If you love cozy mysteries, check out my review of this newest in the Haunted Library series.

Author: Allison Brook

Copyright: Sept 2019 (Crooked Lane) 336 pgs

Series: 3rd in Haunted Library Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild 

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery with friendly ghost touches

Main Character: Carrie Singleton, librarian

Setting: Modern day, Clover Ridge Connecticut

Obtained Through: Publisher ( Netgalley) for honest opinion

Cover blurb:  "Librarian Carrie Singleton is building a haven, but one of her neighbors is misbehavin'. Can resident spirit Evelyn help Carrie catch the culprit who made her a ghost?

In winter, the Haunted Library is a refuge for homeless townspeople. When a group purchases a vacant house to establish a daytime haven for the homeless, Carrie offers the library as a meeting place for the Haven House committee, but quickly learns that it may be used for illegal activities.

As the new Sunshine Delegate, Carrie heads to the hospital to visit her cantankerous colleague, Dorothy, who had fallen outside the local supermarket. She tells Carrie that her husband tried to kill her--and that he murdered her Aunt Evelyn, the library's resident ghost, six years earlier.

And then Dorothy is murdered--run off the road as soon as she returns to work. Evelyn implores Carrie to find her niece's killer, but that's no easy task: Dorothy had made a hobby of blackmailing her neighbors and colleagues. Carrie, Evelyn, and Smoky Joe the cat are on the case, but are the library cards stacked against them?"

Carrie is a character I related with.  She is settling in and loves her job, reasonable and smart.  She sees and talks to the library's resident ghost, Evelyn Havers, who had worked at the library and died in the parking lot.  Evelyn is a nice lady but has all the same personality and opinions as when she was alive.  Dylan Avery is her boyfriend and a private investigator away working a case. I don't have much to go on since it was mostly phone calls with him and never a description.  Smoky Joe is Carrie's cat but he roams the library whenever she is at work and gets fat off all the food patrons slip him.  He steps up to protect Carrie in the climax!  BFF Evelyn is getting married and preoccupied so Carrie is facing the sleuthing by herself.  Sally the Library Director brings in a touch of the political side of running the library.

The plot moves along and reveals in bits and pieces as you read.  The pace keeps moving with the subplots of the homeless in the library and solving the bigger problem of suspected illegal activity at Haven House meant to help the homeless.   

The climax springs forward as the killer reveals him/her self to Carrie and provides a nicely done climax where even Smokey Joe gets his claws out. 

This is a classic cozy with plenty of local color and town characters with a good mystery to figure out.  I like Carrie and will likely back and start from the beginning just to see how Carrie and Dylan got together.   Highly recommended for cozy fans.  It reminded me of a younger take on the Cat Who mysteries with the town and characters.  I am pleased to have discovered it.  I would have liked a description of Dylan to get an image of what he was like, though.

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

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Monday, June 8, 2020

Review - Penny for Your Secrets

“No sooner are Verity Kent and her dashing but troubled husband, Sidney, back from solving a mystery in Belgium (Treacherous Is the Night) than they are confronted with one at home in London…Touching details of the Kents’ struggle to overcome Sidney’s anguish add to the stellar mystery here, making this a great read for fans of the series and for all who enjoy Downton Abbey–era fiction.”  —Booklist

Of all the mysteries available, I tend to default to historical mysteries often.  Today I review the newest in the Verity Kent mysteries.  Previously I reviewed book one "This Side of Murder" (click here), I read book two "Treacherous Is The Night" but didn't review it at the time.  Now I am reviewing the third in this series.

Author: Anna Lee Huber

Copyright: Oct 2019 (Kensington) 336 pgs

Series: 3rd in Verity Kent Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild and innuendo

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth with espionage touches

Main Character: Verity Kent, former Secret Service Agent married into money.

Setting: 1919 London England

Obtained Through: Publisher ( Netgalley) for honest opinion

Cover blurb:  "The Great War may be over, but for many, there are still obstacles on the home front. Reconciling with her estranged husband makes Verity sympathetic to her friend Ada’s marital difficulties. Bourgeois-bred Ada, recently married to the Marquess of Rockham, is overwhelmed trying to navigate the ways of the aristocracy. And when Lord Rockham is discovered shot through the heart with a bullet from Ada’s revolver, Verity fears her friend has made a fatal blunder.

While striving to prove Ada’s innocence, Verity is called upon for another favor. The sister of a former Secret Service colleague has been killed in what authorities believe was a home invasion gone wrong. The victim’s war work—censoring letters sent by soldiers from the front—exposed her to sensitive, disturbing material. Verity begins to suspect these two unlikely cases may be linked. But as the connections deepen, the consequences—not just for Verity, but for Britain—grow more menacing than she could have imagined." 

Verity and newly returned husband Sydney are back.  I particularly enjoy Verity's character and find her a great heroine.  There is an appearance from Max, Sydney's former commanding officer and briefly an interested suitor of Verity's. This book we have more on Verity's loyal maid and housekeeper Sadie.  Also, we have the addition of Nimble, a battle scarred (literally) former serviceman of Sydney's who becomes his valet.  I really enjoy these two characters and would like more of them.

The setting is mostly in England with a trip for questioning.  The period details are vivid and encompassing so I felt transported in time. It is just after WWI, when a generation has been stripped of their innocence and over indulges in drinks and parties to dull the hardships, horrors, and mourning they have endured. 

The pacing seemed slow in spite of there being two murder investigations.  I contribute this, at least in part, to there being no sense of urgency, no ticking clock or hurry to stop a killer but rather a mindful pursuit of the culprit that felt endless.

The two mysteries are solved and there isn't a nail biting killer reveal.  There were a few brief moments of struggle that ended in a flash.  I personally much prefer a heart pounding reveal but that isn't always how it works out.  There is a manipulator behind the mystery that will likely appear again as a powerful enemy.

I found this book a mixed bag overall.  I particularly appreciate that this takes place right after World War I, which truly is the Forgotten War. But, Verity working through marital problems as they get to know each other after being separated by the war just doesn't work for me.  I find myself wanting the trope of a romantic interest which would at least provide a little light-hearted break, but rather we get tension between the two.  Relationships in the story can put some zing into the plot, but instead this just drags the whole story down in my opinion.  I appreciate the light shining on PTSD of the returning soldiers, I just don't need it as a recurring tension between Verity and her husband.  I also grow weary of hubby having such a hard time with accepting Verity worked as an agent and was in danger when he was getting shot and bombed. I feel there is an unspoken double standard in this book in hubby's suspecting Verity was unfaithful while he was gone because soldiers in war are notorious for sexual escapades (live it up when and where you can for tomorrow you might die sort of idea). Besides the fact she had been notified he was dead.  If it seems like this is mostly about Verity and hubby Sydney, that is what stayed with me from the story and not the mystery.  The mystery seemed to be a backdrop for Verity and Sydney to go through their personal issues.

I will provide a caveat that this is my opinion and I recognize that there are many others who found this book a wonderful outing in the series.  I'm just saying it didn't strike the right notes for me and why.  If you enjoy Downton Abbey and a lot of drama, this could be for you.

Rating:  Good - A fair read with minor flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying. 

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