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Thursday, September 1, 2022

Review - Getaway with Murder

The author of Southern Homebrew, House Flipper, Paw Enforcement mysteries, and Tara Holloway novels brings us a new mystery series.  This series takes into the mountains to a rustic lodge where death checks in.

Author: Diane Kelly

Copyright: October 2021 (Berkley) 296 pgs

Series: 1st in Mountain Lodge Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery

Main Character: Misty Murphy, new owner of the Mountaintop Lodge

Setting: Modern day, Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb: "As if hitting the half-century mark wasn’t enough, Misty Murphy celebrated her landmark birthday by amicably ending her marriage and investing her settlement in a dilapidated mountain lodge at the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With the old inn teetering on both a bluff and bankruptcy, she must have lost her ever-loving mind.

Luckily, handyman Rocky Crowder has a knack for rehabbing virtual ruins and for doing it on a dime, and to Misty’s delight, the lodge is fully booked on opening night, every room filled with flexible folks who’d slipped into spandex and ascended the peak for a yoga retreat with plans to namastay for a full week. Misty and her guests are feeling zen—at least until the yoga instructor is found dead.

With a killer on the loose and the lodge’s reputation hanging in the balance, Misty must put her detective-skills to the test. Only one thing is as clear as a sunny mountain morning—she must solve the crime before the lodge ends up, once again, on the brink."

My Thoughts:  Features Misty Murphy as a newly divorced and just turned fifty amateur sleuth, a hunky handyman named Rocky, a new age housekeeper, and a diner owner as her new best friend. The characters were all fun and relatable. A dog named Molasses and cat called Yeti are delightful additions. This debut novel has a basic whodunit plot with a lodge full of suspects that each have motive or opportunity. The setting is stellar and adds to the storyline. I was engaged and read through it every chance I had. As the first book, Misty guesses everyone at the lodge at one point, but she learns as she goes. I enjoyed this book with its mountain setting and the characters rounded out the story.  I will be back for more.

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

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Monday, August 22, 2022

Review - The Woman in the Library

 "[The Woman in the Library] is a mystery-within-a-mystery, with the clues in Freddie's story becoming more intriguing as Leo's advice becomes more sinister. The two story lines work together beautifully, amping up the suspense before reaching a surprising conclusion." ― Booklist

This is the mystery of the moment, getting a lot of attention and praise.  See what my thoughts are on the unique plot and writing.

Author: Sulari Gentill

Copyright: June 2022 (Poisoned Pen Press) 292 pgs

Series: Stand Alone Mystery

Sensuality: Off-page intimacy

Mystery Sub-genre: Suspenseful Mystery

Main Characters: Freddie and Hannah, authors

Setting: Modern day, Boston primarily

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb: "Ned Kelly award winning author Sulari Gentill sets this mystery-within-a-mystery in motion with a deceptively simple, Dear Hannah, What are you writing? pulling us into theornate reading room at the Boston Public Library.

In every person's story, there is something to hide...

The tranquility is shattered by a woman's terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who'd happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer."

My Thoughts:

The novel has an interesting approach: 1) A mystery writer, Hannah, in Australia is writing a novel set in Boston.  Hannah corresponds with Leo in Boston to get details of the city and locals correct.  We get a chapter of Hannah's murder mystery and the next chapter is Leo's email replies which start to take a strange turn.

2) Hannah's actual manuscript is based on Freddie, a female writer, who goes to the Boston Public Library seeking inspiration for her book.  After hearing a horrific scream from somewhere inside the library, Freddie and the three people she was sitting near strike up a conversation and eventually form an unlikely friendship.  A few hours later a woman is found murdered in the Library.  As their friendship solidifies, something is off among the foursome.  But Freddie is getting seriously involved with one of the group.

It seems like this approach would be confusing, but it actually flowed quiet well.  I was invested in Hannah's manuscript and got absorbed in that story, while the email critiques of the chapters were a slow burn and wouldn't have worked on their own. 

This was cleverly plotted with a different approach to the storyline. The manuscript mystery was engrossing while the Hannah and Leo storyline sneaks up on you.  This built tension while the Hannah's manuscript built suspicion as well.  The manuscript characters where well written and Freddie was easy to like.  I wasn't sure if I would like this story, but it hooked me and provided enough surprises in both storylines.  I don't know that I would heap as much praise as I see some pouring on it, but it is certainly a superb mystery that I highly recommend.  Some are labeling it "literary" but this is a solid mystery all the way around.

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

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Monday, August 1, 2022

Review - Mrs. Morris and the Pot of Gold

 Salem, Massachusetts, B&B owner Charlene Morris will need the luck of the Irish—and the help of a ghost—to unveil a hooded killer 

First book in the series is Mrs. Morris and the Ghost (click here

Author: Traci Wilton

Copyright: Aug 2022 (Kensington Books) 306 pgs

Series: 6th in Salem B&B Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal cozy mystery, amateur Sleuth

Main Character: Charlene Morris, new B&B owner

Setting: Modern day, Salem, Massachusetts

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb: "Charlene has hired a van to ferry her B&B guests to an all-you-can-eat corned beef and cabbage dinner hosted by Salem’s Irish community at the Ancient Order of Hibernians club—but she should have booked a hearse. It’s never a good sign when the family black sheep drunkenly crashes a party by punching the guy dressed as a leprechaun. But things go from troublesome to fatal when Charlene stumbles upon a second brawl in an upper room—and this fight Connor Gallagher loses, his anonymous assailant rushing past Charlene, hidden by a hoodie.

 Now Detective Sam Holden has another homicide on his hands, with Charlene as the only eyewitness. Even if she can’t give the police sketch artist much to go on, Charlene is determined to ID the murderer, with the help of Dr. Jack Strathmore, the charming ghost who haunts her B&B. The answer lies in the motive, and to uncover that sleuth and spook will need to shine a light on Connor’s shady past—before the killer pulls another Irish goodbye . . ." 

Charlene, previously of Chicago, still misses her deceased husband but she has settled into her new life in historic Salem as a B&B owner. Jack Strathmore is the extremely handsome ghost who owned the family mansion and chose to stay with Charlene when he could have "gone to the light".  Their relationship is enough for both of them at the moment.  Will Johnson and Minnie, her small staff, are delightful as grounds maintenance and cook/housekeeper.  Avery is a teen who works part-time and has become like family to Charlene.  Detective Sam Holden is six foot and resembles the actor Sam Elliot, and is fond of Charlene but waiting for her grieving to end.  Silva is her plush white cat who is a sweet cat with little antics.  To complicate things further, Charlene's parents come for a surprise visit.  Charlene and her mother historically have a contentious relationship, so she isn't happy to see them.

The setting of Salem wasn't utilized particularly. Rather, the Irish annual celebration takes center stage in this outing.  The investigation takes place in and around caring for and entertaining her B&B guests.  The plot has some meaty aspects and the murderer isn't easy to detect.  There is plenty going on and keeps the readers interest.  The climax was nail biting and quite suspenseful.  

This is a perfect mix of tenacious heroine, flirty ghost, well developed murder mystery, and spot on writing.  This is a cozy goodness and the Jack makes a charming ghost for the ideal entertaining mystery.  I am now on a mission to read the ealier books I've missed.

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

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Saturday, July 9, 2022

Review - Claws For Suspicion

I have reviewed this authors other works such as Her Veiled Magic series (click here)  and her Baba Yaga series (click here) that were great.  This is the third in her new cozy mystery series and I jumped at the chance to read and review the newest addition.

Prior books in the series:
1) Furbidden Fatality (click here
2) Doggone Deadly (click here)

Author: Deborah Blake

Copyright: May 2022 (Berkley) 285 pgs

Series: 3rd in Catskills Pet Rescue Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery, Pet themed mystery

Main Characters: Kari Stuart, owner of the Serenity Sanctuary

Setting: Contemporary, Lakeview New York

Obtained Through: Publisher (Netgalley) for honest review

Book Blurb: "Kari Stuart is finally starting to relax into her role as the new owner of the Serenity Sanctuary and is looking forward to the various fun autumn activities in the beautiful Catskills town of Lakeview, like the annual Oktoberfest celebration. It’s time for friends and quality bonding with handsome vet Angus McCoy. Until the unexpected arrival of her unpleasant ex-husband, Charlie Smith.

He comes bearing a shocking revelation—the paperwork on their divorce never went through, and they are still married. Worse yet, he thinks this entitles him to half of her lottery winnings—although he'll happily take partial ownership of the sanctuary instead. Kari isn’t sure if he’s telling the truth, or if it’s just another one of Charlie’s lies. 
But things go from bad to worse when an unexpected death makes Kari the main suspect in a murder investigation. Will she and Queenie be able to find the real killer and keep the home they’ve built at the sanctuary safe, or is their string of luck finally tapped out?" 

My Thoughts:
Kari Stuart is a kind hearted young woman who works hard to save a pet rescue and shelter. She is easy to relate to and cheer for, particularly against her money-grubbing ex.  Suzanne, Kari's loyal bestie, is a dog groomer and supportive friend with lavender colored hair who lends her time and talent to the shelter effort.  

The volunteers at the shelter are wonderful recurring characters: Volunteer Sara Hanover is a retired ninth-grade English teacher who is somewhat a mother figure.  Bryn, a younger volunteer training to be a Vet-Tech, takes time to warm up to people.  Angus McCoy is a local veterinarian who volunteers his time to the shelter and is the potential love interest.

The story centers around a juicy mystery, relatable heroine you feel invested in, interesting supporting characters, a refreshing love interest I enjoy, and a delightful writing style.  The icing and cherry on top are all the heartwarming animals throughout the book.  This is cozy mystery gold.

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

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Mystery Movie Review - Dark Winds

If you haven't been watching the new AMC adaptation of Tony Hillerman's multi-award-winning novels, you are missing out.  Although in 2002 there were three movie adaptations done for PBS (starring the incredible Wes Studi and Adam Beach) based on Hillerman's books, this AMC series has Robert Redford and George RR Martin, as well as the lead actor as executive producers and it shows.  It is already slated for season two in 2023. Watch on AMC+, VUDU, or AmazonPrime.

The series is based on the characters and books of Tony Hillerman that center around the Navajo Tribal police on the reservation in New Mexico.  Set in 1970s, it mixes police procedure with native culture and mysticism against the backdrop of a vast and beautiful but harsh landscape.  Thus far season one is essentially one book over several episodes which allows for more in-depth development of the story.  The FBI are pursuing bank robbers who escaped onto the reservation by helicopter while Lietenant Joe Leaphorn is investigating a double homicide, contending with his ongoing grief over his son's death, and a new city-fied officer assigned to him who he doesn't trust.  As the investigation deepens, the twists and mysticism complicate things.

I classify it as a Native American police procedural, but many classify this as more a psychological police thriller.

Rating: 100% Rotten Tomatoes / 88% Audience
Director: Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals) and Sanford Bookstaver
Filming locations: Santa Fe, EspaƱola, Tesuque Pueblo, Cochiti Pueblo, and the Navajo Nation.

  • Zahn McClarnon as Joe Leaphorn, 
  • Kiowa Gordon as Jim Chee, 
  • Jessica Matten as Bernadette Manuelito, 
  • Deanna Allison as Emma Leaphorn, 
  • Noah Emmerich as FBI Special Agent Whitover

"McClarnon delivers an intense, if not smoldering performance, that is wonderfully complemented by actors Kiowa Gordon and Jessica Matten. A beautifully done series. ‘Dark Winds’ is the best show on AMC since ‘The Walking Dead’” Vincent Schilling for Native Viewpoint

" 'Dark Winds' may seem similar to other detective shows but it’s more than that. With well-written and sharply defined characters, plus an invigorating and tightly wound story, it’ll be hard to wait a week for each episode to drop." Kristen Lopez for indieWire 

"As both a period piece and a cultural primer for an unabashedly Native American story told through a Native American lens, Dark Winds successfully gives audiences a different perspective and backdrop for a crime drama."  Tara Bennett for IGN Movies

"Dark Winds feels like it will deftly combine a standard murder mystery, tribal traditions and difficulties, and supernatural elements, tied together by a great performance by McClarnon." Joel Keller for Decider

The fact that this production has Native writers, Native crew, Native talent and Native directors and producers and still consult with Navajo (Dineh) persons for accurace I think gives the adaptation amazing authenticity and depth.  Zahn McClarnon (Fargo, WestWorld, Longmire) is stellar in his portrayal of Joe Leaphorn and he is a large part of the success of scenes grabbing me so deeply.  All the acting is well done.  The script is taut and draws you into the story and the people.  The setting is integral and becomes a character in itself.

The characters are introduced differently than the books, but Anne Hillerman (Tony's daughter who has continued the novels) has okayed the differences and assures that the characters themselves weren't changed significantly.  

The details of the 70s are ever present while the camerawork is deft and modern.  The mysticism and eerie touches are fantastic and true to the novels.  I highly recommend to police procedural fans, but especially to anyone who enjoys any Native American mystery novels or those that incorporate wilderness and sweeping vistas.  If you are a Hillerman fan, it is a "must-see."  I will have a hard time waiting until next year for season two.


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Monday, July 4, 2022

Review - A Botanist's Guide to Parties And Poisons

I love starting with the first book in a new series. That's what we have today, a new historical mystery series with a unique and truly smart heroine. 

"The Lost Apothecary meets Dead Dead Girls in this fast-paced, STEMinist adventure.  Debut author Kate Khavari deftly entwines a pulse-pounding mystery with the struggles of a woman in a male-dominated field in 1923 London."

Author: Kate Khavari

Copyright: June  (Crooked Lane Books) 265 pgs

Series: 1st in Saffron Everleigh Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy, historical amateur sleuth

Main Characters: Saffron Everleigh, research assistant at University College London

Setting: 1923, London

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb: "Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh is determined to blaze a new trail at the University College London, but with her colleagues’ beliefs about women’s academic inabilities and not so subtle hints that her deceased father’s reputation paved her way into the botany department, she feels stymied at every turn.

 When she attends a dinner party for the school, she expects to engage in conversations about the university's large expedition to the Amazon. What she doesn’t expect is for Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives, to drop to the floor, poisoned by an unknown toxin. 

Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor, is the main suspect and evidence quickly mounts. Joined by fellow researcher--and potential romantic interest--Alexander Ashton, Saffron uses her knowledge of botany as she explores steamy greenhouses, dark gardens, and deadly poisons to clear Maxwell's name.

 Will she be able to uncover the truth or will her investigation land her on the murderer’s list, in this entertaining examination of society’s expectations."

My thoughts:

Saffron Everleigh is a woman pioneering in Botany where woman have rarely been allowed before.  She must face condescension, belittling, and pressure for intimate favors by her male scientific brothers.  She is tough, but can she figure out who the killer is and avoid being poisoned herself?  Alexander Ashton is accepting of Saffron and compliments her temperment well as a friend and potential romantic interest.  Dr. Maxwell is a dear character and I hope he is in future adventures.

Miss Khavari's style makes this a delightful story.  The plot is just twisty enough - apparently academia can be deadly!  The acadmeic life are realistically fleshed out along with the trials of women at the time. The climax is nail biting and thrilling, just the way I love it.  I highly recommend for anybody who enjoys historical mysteries, this is an author to remember.

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

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

My Musings - Favorite Historical Mystery Series Pt 3

This concludes my series on historical mysteries loosely divided by era in today's post.  I love historical mysteries and if you've been looking for a new series, or wanted to jump into this subcategory of mystery perhaps this will help.  This is in no way a comprehensive listing, that would be quite an undertaking.

In part one I covered up through Regency era mysteries (click here).   

In part two I covered the Victorian era (click here).  Now I am sharing the Gilded era through World War I & II mysteries.

Gilded and Progressive Ages (1870-1929)

Silver Rush Mysteries by Ann Parker 
1)  Silver Lies
2)  Iron Ties
3)  Leaden Skies
4)  Mercury's Rise (click here)
5)  What Gold Buys
6)  A Dying Note
7)  Mortal Music
8)  The Secret in the Wall

Change of Fortune Mysteries by Jessica Estevao
This series was fantastic, but publisher didn't continue it further.
1)  Whispers Beyond the Veil (click here)
2)  Whispers of Warning (click here)

Stella and Lyndy Mysteries by Clara McKenna
1)  Murder at Morrington Hall (click here)
2)  Murder at Blackwater Bend (click here)
3)  Murder at Keyhaven Castle
4)  Murder at the Majestic Hotel

Counterfeit Lady mysteries by Victoria Thompson
1)  City of Lies (click here)
2)  City of Secrets (click here)
3)  City of Scoundrels (click here)
4)  City of Schemes (click here)
5)  City of Shadows
6)  City of Fortune

Gilded Age Mysteries by Rosemary Simpson
1)  What the Dead Leave Behind 
2)  Lies that Comfort and Betray
3)  Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets
4)  Death Brings a Shadow
5)  Death, Diamonds, and Deception
6)  The Dead Cry Justice (click here)
7)  Death at the Falls

Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson 
1)  Murder on Astor Place
2)  Murder on St. Marks
3)  Murder on Gramercy
4)  Murder on Washington Square
5)  Murder on Mulberry Bend
6)  Murder on Marble Row
7)  Murder on Lenox Hill
8)  Murder in Little Italy
9)  Murder in China Town
10)  Murder on Bank Street
11)  Murder on Waverly Place
12) Murder on Lexington Ave (click here)
22) Murder on Trinity Place (click here
25 books in the series

Molly Murphy Mystery series by
Rhys Bowen 
1)  Murphy's Law
2)  Death of Riley
3)  For the Love of Mike
4)  In Like Flynn
5)  Oh Danny Boy
6)  In Dublin's Fair City
7)  Tell Me, Pretty Lady
8)  In a Gilded Cage
9)  The Last Illusion (click here)
18 books in series

Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen 
1)   Her Royal Spyness
2)   A Royal Pain
3)  Royal Flush
4)  Royal Blood (click here)
5)  Naughty in Nice (click here)
6)  Twelve Clues of Christmas (click here)
7)  Heirs and Graces (click here)
8)  Queen of Hearts (click here)
9)  Malice at the Palace
10)  Crowned and Dangerous
11)  Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service
12)  Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding
13)  Love and Death Among the Cheetahs
14)  The Last Mrs Summers (click here)
15)  God Rest Ye Royal Gentlemen (click here)
16)  Peril in Paris

Kitty Weeks mysteries by Radha Vatsal 
1)  A Front Page Affair
2)  Murder Between the Lines (click here)

Jane Prescott Mysteries by Mariah Fredericks 
1)  A Death of No Importance 
2)  Death of a New American (click here)
3)  Death of an American Beauty
4)  Death of a Showman

Phryne Fisher mysteries by KerryGreenwood 
1)  Cocaine Blues
2)  Flying Too High  
3)  Murder at Ballarat Train
4)  Death at Victoria Park
5)  The Green Mill Murder
6)  Blood and Circuses
7)  Ruddy Gore
8)  Urn Burial
19) Unnatural Habits (click here)
21 Books in the series

World War I & II themed

Maggie Hope mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal 

1)  Mr. Churchill's Secretary (click here)
2)  Princess Elizabeth's Spy (click here)
3)  His Majesty's Hope (click here)
4)  The Prime Minister's Secret Agent (click here)
5)  Mrs Roosevelt's Confidant (click here)
6)  The Queen's Accomplice (click here)
7)  The Paris Spy (click here)
8)  The Prisoner in the Castle (click here)
9)  The King's Justice (click here)
10) The Hollywood Spy 

Woman of WWII Mysteries by Tessa Arlen
1)  Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders (click here)
2)  Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers

Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear 
1)  Maisie Dobbs
2)  Birds of a Feather
3)  Pardonable Lies
4)  Messenger of Truth
5)  An Incomplete Revenge
6)  Among the Mad
7)  The Mapping of Love and Death
8)  A Lesson in Secrets (click here)
9)  Elegy for Eddie
10)  Leaving Everything Most Loved
11)  A Dangerous Place
12)  Journey to Munich (click here)
... 17 books in series

Electra McDonnell by Ashley Weaver   

1)  A Peculiar Combination (click here)
2)  The Key to Deceit

Sparks & Bainbridge Mysteries by Allison Montclair 
1) The Right Sort of Man (click here)
2)  A Royal Affair (click here)
3)  A Rogue's Company (click here)
4)  The Unkept Woman

Verity Kent Mystery series by Anna Lee Huber 
1) This side of Murder (click here)
2)  Treacherous is the Night
3)  Penny for Your Thoughts (click here)
4)  A Pretty Deceit
5)  Murder Most Fair
6)  A Certain Darkness

I know I haven't even scratched the surface of all the wonderful historical mysteries available.  Please share what are your favorites in the comments.  Are any that my mentioned your favorites?  

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Sunday, May 8, 2022

Review - Peril at Pennington Manner

When I read "Perfect for fans of Jane K. Cleland and Ellery Adams" I knew I had to read this new series filler with anitiques and artwork.  Author Tracy Gardner is also writing mystery books for Hallmark  now, too.

Author: Tracy Gardner

Copyright: December 2011 (Crooked Lane Books) 304 pgs

Series: 2nd in Avery Ayers Antique Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy mystery, amateur sleuth

Main Characters: Avery Ayers, appraiser at Antiques and Artifacts Appraised

Setting: Modern day, Lilac Grove

Obtained Through: Netgalley-Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb: "Thanks to Aunt Midge’s unlikely friendship with Nicholas Pennington, the Duke of Valle Charme, Avery Ayers and her associates at Antiques and Artifacts Appraised head off to their most glamorous assignment yet—cataloguing and appraising the contents of a castle-like mansion on the Hudson River. But regal splendor becomes a backdrop to mayhem when the precious Viktor Petrova timepiece disappears—and housekeeper Suzanne Vick plummets from a parapet to her death.
Avery, her dad William, and colleagues Micah Abbott and Sir Robert Lane soon learn that Suzanne’s predecessor also met with an untimely end. Further, the housekeeper’s suspicious demise coincides with Avery’s discovery that many of the Duke’s most priceless heirlooms have been replaced by fakes.
Detective Art Smith lends his expertise, but the suspect list encompasses the Duke’s entire retinue—including his family. Could the killer be someone intimately familiar with the Pennington estate, such as caretaker couple Ira and Lynn Hoffman, the Penningtons’ chauffeur Roderick, or even one of the heirs to the Pennington fortune?
Then the duke himself is injured in an inexplicable riding accident, and the clock swiftly ticks toward a reckoning with a cold-blooded killer. A criminal mastermind is making a desperate bid for ill-gotten riches…can Avery bring the culprit to justice before her time is up?"

My Thoughts:
This is the second book and I hadn't read the first.  It is explained well and I understood the issues from the first book that carried into the second without any problems.  Avery Ayers runs the family's appraisal business and is level headed and mature. She doesn't plan on investigating, she is just observant and puts pieces together.  Her sister Tilly is back from college for a spell and clearly there is something troubling her.  Aunt Midge is a treasure and I love her and am looking forward to more of her character.  Detective Art Smith is the romantic interest and is a law enforcment person.  

A large part of the story takes place at Pennington Manor and it is a great setting.  I love the artwork descriptions sprinkled throughout.  The plot initially involves the theft of many artifacts and pieces of art, then a murder occurs and things get dicey.  The killer reveal has some good tense moments and the wrapup is satisfying.  I'm hoping to fit in the first book between books to catch up.  

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

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Monday, May 2, 2022

Mystery Movie Review - Death on the Nile 1978

Death on the Nile (Sept 1978) 2:20 minutes

This presents the 1978 adaptation of the Agatha Christy novel.  At the end I will compare it to the 2022 Kenneth Branagh version.  But I heartily believe the 1978 adaptation is the better movie.

The tranquillity of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway, a controlling and spoiled heiress, has been shot through the head. She was young, obsenely wealthy, stylish, and beautiful.  Hercule Poirot is on vacation and proceeds to question suspects.  All of the passengers had reason to murder her. Poirot must solve the original and subsequent murders while on a steamboat on the Nile.

Rating: PG
Director: John Guillermin
  • Peter Ustinov as Hercules Poirot (humanizes Poirot without changing Christie's vision)
  • Mia Farrow as Jacqueline De Bellefort-very different than the 2022 character, she is more a love-struck girl at the beginning who is dissillusioned and a shell through the rest.
  • Angela Lansbury (Jessica Fletcher-Murder She Wrote) as Mrs. Salome Otterbourne alcohol-soaked erotic novelist
  • Bette Davis (Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte) as Mrs. Van Schuyler stuffy and overbearing Washington socialite
  • Maggie Smith (Professor McGonegal-Harry Potter) is Miss Bowers as Van Schuyler's bitter companion
  • David Niven (The Guns of Navaronne, The Pink Panther) as Colonel Race perfectly plays nobility and has easy chemistry with Poirot
  • Jack Warden (The Replacements) as Dr. Bessner, a hysterical Swiss physician

  • Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle the newlywed husband of Lois
  • Olivia Hussey (Romeo & Juliette 1968) as Rosalie Otterbourne, daughter to the lascivious author
  • I.S. Johar as Manager Of The Karnak I.S. Johar provides some comic relief as the manager of the ship
  • George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke, The Dirty Dozen) as Andrew Pennington
  • Lois Chiles as Linnet Ridgeway shows the calculating and vendictive side far better than the 2022 version
  • Jon Finch as Mr. Ferguson, Marxist spouting young man who likes Rosalie
  • Jane Birkin as Louise Bourget 
Bette Davis and Maggie Smith are great in their bickering and snappish dialog.  Angela Lansbury as a lascivious romance writer is humorous and a very different role than you think of for her.  Olivia Hussey (who played the ultimate Shakespear's Juliette in my opinion) brings dramatic intensity to a sweet character.


"Death on the Nile is a clever, witty, well-plotted, beautifully-produced and splendidly acted screen version of Agatha Christie’s mystery. It’s old-fashioned stylized entertainment with a big cast and lush locations. Peter Ustinov is the fourth actor to play Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot." Variety Dec 31, 1977

 "Its a fun, if somewhat slow-moving murder mystery that favors glamor and drawing room banter over suspense, like a lavish version of a British TV mystery set in the 1930s."  Sean Axmaker - Stream on Demand

"The way the investigation plays out is more dynamic than that in Orient Express, with less of a focus on interrogation only and more twists and turns to come, and the ending is very satisfying." Kieron Moore - Starburst

Peter Ustinov is particularly good and captures a subtle dry humor in Poirot. He manages Poirot's complete awareness of his being the greatest detective and his being eccentric.  More approachable than other Poirot adaptations and even the books just in his manerisms and expressions. 

Poirot gives the audience how each suspect could have committed the murder which is brilliant.  Then he pulls out how it really happened, which is classic Poirot.  

Anthony Powell (whose costumes really transport you back to luxurious 30s) won an Oscar for the costumes in this movie!  He also did the costumes for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. 
Angela Lansbury as Salome Otterbourne

Excellent use of camera work of the era for suspenseful effect.

Music (mysterious and forboding) was the same composer for the first two Godfather movies.

Filming locations: Hotel Pullman Cataract, Sharia Abtal El Tahrir, Aswan, Egypt as well as on a boat on the Nile.  I believe shooting the film on location made a big difference in the film.

  • Agatha Christie was inspired to write the film's source novel while on an extended 1937 Egyptian vacation, and the hotel scenes in ''Death on the Nile'' were shot at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan where Christie stayed. 

  • After the success of "Murder on the Orient Express", EMI studios picked "Death on the Nile" for the follow up movie rather than one of the 32 other Poirot books because the 70s had a resurgence of Egyptian fascination due to the tour of the "Treasures of Tutankhamun" to museums around the world.  Death on the Nile opened in theaters to coincide with Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY's Tut opening.

  • Seven of the cast members account for a total of twenty-eight acting Oscar nominations with eight wins.

  • During World War II, Major David Niven's batman (personal attendant) was Private Peter Ustinov.

  • David Niven, who played MI5 agent Colonel Race, was author and British MI5 agent Ian Fleming's choice to portray James Bond. Niven was himself involved in British Intelligence operations during World War II, where he worked with Fleming on some projects.

  • The character of Colonel Race, one of Agatha Christie's recurring characters, appeared in four novels: "The Man in the Brown Suit", (1924), "Cards on the Table" (1936), "Death on the Nile" (1937), and "Sparkling Cyanide" (1945).

  • Colonel Race (David Niven) boards the S.S. Karnak wearing a straw boater hat with a "Royal Green Jackets" hat band. Later in the movie, he wears a "Royal Green Jackets" necktie. The Royal Green Jackets, formed in 1966, were descendents of David Niven's wartime regiment, the Rifle Brigade.

  • The location shoot in Egypt went for seven weeks, of which four were spent on the steamer riverboat "S.S. Karnak" and three filming in places such as Luxor, Cairo, Aswan, and Abu Simbel.

  • Filming had to be stopped every day at noon for around two hours because temperatures reached around 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Make-up calls were scheduled for 4 a.m., and filming started at 6 a.m. Bette Davis once quipped, "In the older days, they'd have built the Nile for you. Nowadays, films have become travelogues, and actors stuntmen."

  • Albert Finney was initially asked to reprise his role as Poirot from Murder on the Orient Express (1974). However, he had found the make-up he had to wear for the first movie very uncomfortable in the hot interior of the train, and on realizing that he would have to undergo the same experience, this time in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, he declined the role.

  • This was the first of Peter Ustinov's six performances as Hercule Poirot.

  • Cybill Shepherd turned down the role of Linnet Ridgeway.

  • Bette Davis, Maggie Smith, and Angela Lansbury all shared a small steamboat cabin as dressing room. While one actress dressed in the center of the cabin, the two others would lie on one of the beds on the left or right side.

  • The only working collaboration of Peter Ustinov and Angela Lansbury despite the two having been in-laws - Ustinov was married to Lansbury's half-sister: stage actress Isolde Denham, from 1940 to 1950 - and they were longtime friends.

  • This is Angela Lansbury's first appearance in a Agatha Christie murder mystery. She would play Miss Jane Marple in The Mirror Crack'd (1980). Both films gave her an image in the murder mystery genre, which led her to be cast in Murder, She Wrote (1984), where Lois Chiles and Olivia Hussey appeared as guest stars.

  • Murder, She Wrote: Death 'N Denial (1995), which is set in Egypt, had a character called "Sally Otterburn".

  • The film adapts the character of romance novelist Salome Otterbourne from the original novel. Salome is a thinly disguised version of real-life novelist Elinor Glyn (1864 - 1943) who wrote racey material for the time.  She was one of the most famous women screenwriters in the 1920s. She has 28 story or screenwriting credits, three producing credits, and two credits for directing.

  • Maggie Smith appeared in Christie's Evil Under the Sun (1982). She also appeared with David Niven in Neil Simon's Murder by Death (1976).

  • The interior scenes set at Linnet Ridgeway's mansion were shot at Compton Wynyates, a Warwickhire country estate.



The 2022 version made significant changes to the characters and story details from the book.

The 2022 beginning changes much of the story.  1978 version begins with the backstory of Linnet, Simon, and Jackie rather than the contrived beginning of 2022 movie. 

Even though there is a different actor from the 1974 Murder of the Orient Express, Peter Ustinov manages to stay true to the original Poirot while making the character more approachable. 

Whereas Kenneth Branagh is creating an entirely different character that only shares the same name.  Poirot has no scar on his face that he uses the mustache to cover, there is no tragic past love story etc.

Bouc isn't originally in this second story at all, he is used instead of the character Colonel Race.  So he and his mother are added and push out others.   Salome Otterbourne becomes a jazz/R&B singer rather than the shocking novelist which also changes a lot.  There were so many changes, in fact, I was concerned the 2022 version wouldn't even have the same killer and motive.  

Kenneth Branagh added more social/cultural correctness with representation of a gay couple, and more people-of-color which isn't a bad thing.  But he changed so much it almost isn't Christie's story anymore.  Branagh also makes the story darker (which he did to Orient Express too.)  Even the clothing is subdued and everything darker compared to 1978 version.

1978 movie was filmed on location, heat and all.  But the 2022 version, inspite of nearly 2x the budget than Orient Express, was filmed in Longcross Studios in Surrey, with only a few background scenes shot in Morocco and Egypt.  A life-size replica of the Abu Simbel temple and SS Karnak were all in Surrey and the Nile scenes were shot in Cotswold Water Park.  And it is obvious in some instances that green screens were used.  

It seems the most 2022 version had going for it was Gal Gadot and Dawn French, in my humble opinion.

Have you seen both versions?  Which do you like better?  Share your thoughts.

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