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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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