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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Mystery Movie Review - Pretend You Don't See Her

This movie is based on the book of the same name by Mary Higgins Clark (Queen of Suspense) first published in 1997.  I include this movie because there are many tolerably well done movies that, although not stellar, provide entertainment.  

What's It About:
  "Lacey Farrell (Emma Samms), a young rising star on Manhattan's high-powered and competitive real estate scene is in the course of selling a luxurious apartment when she becomes the witness to a murder and hears the dying words of the victim, a woman convinced that her attacker was after a journal kept by her recently deceased daughter Heather up until the day she died in a hit-and-run, what everyone believes to be a tragic accident." 

2002  PG-13
Writers: Donald Hounam & Mary Higgins Clark
Director: René Bonnière

Emma Samms (General Hospital, Dynasty) as Lacey Farrell
Hannes Jaenicke as Curtis Caldwell Blake
Beau Starr as Detective Ed Sloan
Reiner Schöne as Jimmy Greco
Stewart Bick as Ken Lynch
Laura Press as Chantal Greco
William Colgate as Svenson

Filming locations:  Toronto, Ontario, Canada

My Thoughts:
This suspense made-for-TV movie falls into the category of the modestly done book-to-movie adaptations that are often cranked out. It follows the book well but suffers from needing a better script writter that could have really brought the book to life with better crafted scenes to increase the tension for screen rather than the page.  

Otherwise it is a fair suspense movie.  Emma Samms does well as a woman who witnesses a murder and her life is turned upside down.  She hides her normal British accent to play a New Yorker. The cinematoghaphy is on par for a made-for-television movie.  The title comes from a 1957 song "Pretend You Don't See Her" by Jerry Vale and alludes to the main character hiding in Witness Protection while being hunted by the killer.  The song is used in a few scenes and I felt they could have put a bit more effort into the music overall, perhaps an updated version of the song for the movie.  

If you are looking for a movie that won't keep you awake from fright, but will entertain for an hour and a half, this is a good pick.  Average acting, fair storyline, and some good tense moments.  Available to watch on PrimeVideo.  

Overall, not terrible but not great either.  An average made-for-TV effort with television-series level production quality.  Middle of the road and worked okay for me since I like Mary Higgins Clark's work.

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Monday, March 13, 2023

Review - A Botanists Guide to Flowers & Fatality

 “A cleverly plotted puzzle” (Ashley Weaver) in the vein of Opium and Absinthe, this second installment is perfect for fans of Rhys Bowen and Sujata Massey.

1)  A Botanist's Guide to Parties And Poisons (click here)

Author: Kate Khavari 

Copyright: June 2023 (Crooked Lane Books) 352 pgs

Series: 2nd in Saffron Everleigh Mysteries

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy, Historical amateur sleuth

Main Characters: Saffron Everleigh, Botanist and college researcher

Setting: 1920s, London, England

Obtained Through: Publisher (Netgalley) for honest review

Book Blurb: "1920s London isn’t the ideal place for a brilliant woman with lofty ambitions. But research assistant Saffron Everleigh is determined to beat the odds in a male-dominated field at the University College of London. Saffron embarks on her first research study alongside the insufferably charming Dr. Michael Lee, traveling the countryside with him in response to reports of poisonings. But when Detective Inspector Green is given a case with a set of unusual clues, he asks for Saffron’s assistance.

The victims, all women, received bouquets filled with poisonous flowers. Digging deeper, Saffron discovers that the bouquets may be more than just unpleasant flowers— there may be a hidden message within them, revealed through the use of the old Victorian practice of floriography. A dire message, indeed, as each woman who received the flowers has turned up dead.

Alongside Dr. Lee and her best friend, Elizabeth, Saffron trails a group of suspects through a dark jazz club, a lavish country estate, and a glittering theatre, delving deeper into a part of society she thought she’d left behind forever.

Will Saffron be able to catch the killer before they send their next bouquet, or will she find herself with fatal flowers of her own in Kate Khavari’s second intoxicating installment." 

My Thoughts:

Saffron Everleigh, a woman pioneering in Botany, continues to face challenges as her male colleagues spread rumors and don't support her.  Her side kick in the first mystery, Alexander Ashton, is away on safari for the college and makes an appearance in the last chapters.  Saffron is teamed with Dr. Michael Lee for her research work but they don't get along even when he helps her investigate the murders.  

The plot is well conceived and presented and Saffron's investigation takes her into a seedy side of society's young party scene.  The characters are yet again well developed.  I flew through the pages, devouring them.  It had a very tense and dramatic killer reveal like I love.  This unique heroine and clever mysteries are my new favorite series.

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

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Monday, March 6, 2023

Musings-Where did "The Butler Did It" Come From?

This is a shorter post today as we examine the idea of "The Butler Did It."  Enjoy.

Everybody knows the phrase "The Butler Did It."  It is referred to as a joke as if that was a common villain in murder mysteries at some point.  But the truth is, it wasn't used that often to warrant being a trope.  A trope is "a convention or device that establishes a predictable or stereotypical representation of a character, setting, or scenario in a creative work."  But, if it was never really used enough to become a convention that is predictable, where did we get the phrase?

"This plot formula has the unusual distinction of being a cliché of mystery writing without ever having been widely used.  

The concept of "the butler did it" is commonly attributed to Mary Roberts Rinehart. Her otherwise forgettable 1930 novel, The Door, is notable for (spoiler alert) the ending, in which the butler actually is the villain. (The actual phrase "the butler did it," however, never appears in the text.)

While suspicion had fallen on butlers with some regularity in earlier mystery fiction, only one previous author placed the knife (or in this case the pistol) directly in the butler's hand: "The Strange Case of Mr Challoner" by Herbert Jenkins, published as part of the collection Malcolm Sage: Detective in 1921. It was The Door, however, that locked the cliché into the imagination of the reading public." Nate Pedersen "Why do we think the butler did it?" The Guardian, Dec 9, 2010 

     In 1867 the Civil War began in the United States, but before that the system of owning slaves had engendered a fear of slaves rising up against their owners, which occrured in only a few instances.  This fear was particularly fed among the women to fear what would happen to them if slaves rebelled.   This kept both women and slaves, who had similar non-legal status, to distrust one another.  Apparently it wasn't only the Amreican south that may have spawned the "Butler Did It" concept.  Although nobody specifically makes that specific connection.

"In Lady Audley’s Secret from 1862, too, the character Lady Audley “shares with her Victorian readers a mounting anxiety about the eyes and ears of servants in the home.” It makes a certain sense that the trope seemed more popular because it dug into the fears of the upper class at the time."  Addison Rizer  "When Did the Butler Dunnit? The History of 'The Butler Did It' Trope" Bookriot, Jan 19, 2023. 

Whatever the specific reasons that caused us to blame the Stoic Butler stereotype, suggests that "The butler is the avatar of the most unlikely suspect that turns out to be guilty because the author wasn't creative enough to come up with a better way to surprise the reader... except that you can see it coming a mile away."

Additionally, also reveals that there is something similar which I'd not heard about.  "It is the case that this is an English-language trope: crime novels popular in Germany in the same period were notorious for the cliche that "the gardener did it," thus transplanting the blame out of the house."

In the course of researching this post, I found there is a stage play titled "The Butler Did It" and a movie based on the play.  Here is the description of the play: 

"This comedy parodies every English mystery play ever written: but it has a decidedly American flair. Miss Maple, a dowager with a reputation for "clever" weekend parties, invites a group of detective writers to eerie Ravenswood Manor on Turkey Island where they are to impersonate their fictional characters. The hostess has arranged all sorts of amusing incidents: a mysterious voice on the radio, a menacing face at the window, a mad killer on the loose. Who is that body in the wine cellar anyway? Why do little figurines keep toppling from the mantle? Then a real murder takes place, and Miss Maple is outraged. She offers an immense reward to the "detective" who can bring the killer to justice. And what an assortment of zany would-be sleuths! When they're not busy tripping over clues, they trip over each other! Laughs collide with thrills, and the climax is a real seat-grabber as the true killer is unmasked, and almost everyone turns out to be someone else! Can be played as a pure farce, or as humorous satire."

I want to see this play, it sounds like a lot of fun.  Have you seen it?  If so, please share what you thought of it.

I hope you enjoyed our little exploration of this expression and its murky origins when it actually is a rarity.  What else would you like to know?  Leave in the comments if there is a mystery/thriller subject you would like me to tackle.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Review - Death at the Manor

 "The tortured spirits of the dead haunt a Regency-era English manor—but the true danger lies in the land of the living in the third installment in the Lily Adler mysteries, perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn."

Here are the previous books in the series that I have reviewed:

1) A Body in the Garden (click here)  

2) Silence in the Library (click here

Now let's take a trip into the English countryside for a locked room murder.

Author: Katharine Schellman

Copyright: August 2022 (Crooked Lane Books) 348 pgs

Series: 3rd in Lily Adler Mysteries

Sensuality: mild with mature themes

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical cozy

Main Characters: Lily Adler, still grieving society widow

Setting: 1815 London, England

Obtained Through: Netgalley/publisher for honest review

Book Blurb: "Regency widow Lily Adler is looking forward to spending the autumn away from the social whirl of London. When she arrives in Hampshire with her friends, the Carroways, she doesn’t expect much more than a quiet country visit and the chance to spend time with her charming new acquaintance, Matthew Spencer.

 But something odd is afoot in the small country village. A ghost has taken up residence in the Belleford manor, a lady in grey who wanders the halls at night, weeping and wailing. Half the servants have left in terror, but the family seems delighted with the notoriety that their ghost provides. Intrigued by this spectral guest, Lily and her party immediately make plans to visit Belleford.

 They arrive at the manor the next morning ready to be entertained—only to find that tragedy has struck. The matriarch of the family has just been found killed in her bed.

 The dead woman’s family is convinced that the ghost is responsible. Lily is determined to learn the truth before another victim turns up—but could she be next in line for the Great Beyond?"

My Thoughts:  Lily Adler is an independent young widow that seems fresh in a crowded historical cozy field. In this addition to the series, Lily faces doubts of her observational skills.  Aunt Eliza and her companion Miss Clarke are new characters that I love and hope they return in future books.  Captain John (Jack) Hartley is present only in the first few chapters since he is leaves to command a ship.  Lily's friend Ofelia and her new husband join her to visit her aunt.  And to complicate the romantic field, Matthew Spencer enters the picture in this outing.  

The country setting and neighboring haunted house add a slight gothic touch which I always enjoy tremendously.  The plot moves along steadily as Lily and Ofelia investigate the increasingly surprising Belleford manor residents.  There is a good story twist as well with the killer reveal.  The suspenseful climax had plenty of tension and danger, also a favorite.

Overall this was a great addition to the series although I really like Captain Hartley and I'm not sure about Mathew Spencer getting involved with Lily simply because I like Hartley so much.  I can see the gentlemen causing fans to pick sides and root for Hartley or Spencer.  The mystery was well done and spending time with Lily's aunt was delightful.  I am certainly anxious for the next book and highly recommend this title.

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

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Monday, February 27, 2023

Musings-Little Free Libraries & Full Libraries

"Little Free Libraries" are a fairly new idea.  It was started by in 2012 in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

According to their website: Why Does Book Access Matter?  We are facing a growing literacy crisis. Today in the United States, more than 30 million adults cannot read or write above a third-grade level. Studies have repeatedly shown that books in the hands of children have a meaningful impact on improving literacy. The more books in or near the home, the more likely a child will learn and love to read. But two out of three children living in poverty have no books to call their own."  I couldn't agree more.

I think the little free libraries are great, but they are a capsule idea that full-fledged libraries are built around and expand upon.  Everything on the Free Little Library site they plug as their mission and vision is applicable to full-blown, full-service public libraries as well... plus so much more.  

Public libraries offer more than just books for free, most are community hubs and resource centers.  You can hear praise for the Little Free Libraries in one breath and then people want to defund public libraries in the next.  In my town, the public library has computers you can use free for job searches, resume writing classes, computer literacy classes, makers space, english-as-a-second language aid, geneology research help, even tax-filing aid during tax season.  

Little Free Libraries have made tremendous inroads in "reading deserts," such as inner cities.  But consider the case where a lady went through the process (applied, built according to specs, followed rules, and registered her site) and got a Little Free Libary placed in her front yard.  She was overwhelmed when once a week the school bus stopped at her house and children wiped out the books each time.  Public libraries don't run out of books, and my public library system has story hours and librarians who love finding a child a book that is age and reading level appropriate that will help them fall in love with reading.

Little free libraries are the splashy-trendy thing and definitely have their place, but public libraries offer far more to communities and society as a whole.  Their important role mustn't be forgotten or downplayed.  In the article "5 Reasons Why Libraries Are Essential To Have" by Greta Lastauskaite (click here for full article) she notes:
1)  Libraries maintain history, and more importantly, truth
2)  Libraries offer free educational resources
3)  Libraries help to build communities
4)  Libraries are transparent with all the services they provide
5)  Libraries contribute to increasing economy

Georgia Public Broadcasting's article "Public Libraries Are Still Important" by Ashley Payton (click here for full article) shares: "In a society where the cost of living continues to rise, public libraries remain one of the few free spaces that provide public resources catering to the most diverse demographics: toddlers, people facing housing insecurity and unemployment, people with disabilities, students, senior citizens, educators, parents, and caregivers. In public libraries, no matter where you come from or your social-economic status, you can access countless resources and services free of charge...

Public libraries offer more than book rental services. Additionally, they offer vitally essential resources used for educational purposes such as 1) Technological: High-speed internet access, computers, e-books, printers, and other tech gadgets  2) Educational Entertainment: films, games, and music, 3) One-on-One and group services: literacy and homework support, story-time, and afterschool and summer learning programming, teen spaces and study rooms, job training, and other employment services.

At the beginning of the pandemic, schools transitioned into virtual instruction, and most public institutions were physically closed. Many families did not have technological resources such as wifi access - Libraries served in unprecedented capacities. Many libraries provided free supplies, book bundles, curbside assistance, and wifi access." 

The next time you hear somebody saying we need to cut 
funding to libraries, remember how critical full-blown, full-service public libraries are to every community and push back, before the only libraries we have are "little free" ones.

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” – Neil Gaiman

Libraries are perhaps even more important now than before.

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Thursday, February 23, 2023

Review - A Doomful of Sugar

 Another new series for cozy mystery fans.  Who doesn't love maple syrup and beautiful maple trees??  Let's take a trip to Vermont in the autumn where murder strikes on a maple farm.

Author: Catherine Bruns

Copyright: October 2022 (Poisoned Pen Press) 278 pgs

Series: 1st in Maple Syrup Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy mystery, amateur sleuth

Main Characters: Leila Khoury, new boss of Sappy Endings Maple Farm, cafe, & gift shop 

Setting: Contemporary, Sugar Ridge, Vermont (population 5000)

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb:  "There's nothing sweet about murder…

Leila Khoury has always believed that everyone loved her father as much as they loved his artisanal maple syrup. But when he's killed, and she returns to Sugar Ridge, Vermont to take over his business, she starts to realize how much of his life she's left untapped.

With her brother under suspicion, her mother just barely holding it together, and police not producing any leads, Leila will have to investigate herself if she wants answers about her father's sticky end. But the more she learns, the more she worries that there won't be a sappy ending to the story.

A cozy mystery perfect for fans of Joanne Fluke, this edition includes 5 delicious maple recipes for mystery readers with a sweet tooth!" 

My Thoughts: 

I have a mixed reaction to Liela since she is impatient and reacts badly in some instances (like confronting a suspect blurting out accusations--talk about stupid), then she has moments where she is caring and likeable. The mother, Selma, expected Liela to get married and be a homemaker rather than have a career and they still don't get along. I appreciated Liela's best friend, Heather as the support system for Liela.

The beginning was slow with a whole lot of backstory and descriptions with memories of her father as she is greiving. After the first few slow chapters it eventually picked up and I finally got into the story.  I actually had started the story, but was so put off I set it aside for a couple of months before coming back to it.  That is just an FYI, it does pick up and get better.

The mystery itself had some good meat to it and wasn't obvious with good red herrings.  I did enjoy it after those first rough chapters and looking back on it, it was entertaining overall.  The killer reveal was nail biting and suspenseful--my favorite.  

Rating: Good - after a slow start it improves and the mystery is worth it.

Here is a short video on how to make your own maple syrup from the tree sap.

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Monday, February 20, 2023

Mystery Movie Review - Charade

 This 1963 suspense thriller took a long route to fame.  Screenwriters Peter Stone and Marc Behm shopped their movie script "The Unsuspecting Wife" around Hollywood, but were consistantly turned down. So Stone turned it into a novel with the new title Charade and it was serialized in Redbook magazine. The serial publishing in Redbook managed to catch the attention of a few Hollywood companies that turned it down before! The film rights finally sold to producer and director Stanley Donen who reworked it into a final shooting script and specifically tailored it to movie stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, and Behm (the original author) received story co-credit.  The movie was a huge hit

What it's about:

Charade has been called 'the best Alfred Hitchcock film he didn't direct.' The movie opens with a man, Charles Lambert, thrown off a train.  His wife,  Regina Lampert [Audrey Hepburn], an elegant American interpreter living in France, is on a skiing holiday in the French Alps at the time and meets Peter Joshua [Cary Grant]. Regina returns to her home in France to find the place completely emptied of everything and the news her husband was killed-and Peter Joshua there by her side.   The police say her husband had a different name and it turns out she knew nothing about Charles - not even his real name.  Regina is threatened and pursued by three men after $250,000 allegedly stolen by Charles.  What follows is a cat-and-mouse game to unearth the money.  Then there is Peter Joshua who has many identities and seems to be after the money one minute and protecting Regina from the others the next.  Nothing is what it seems and there are plenty of twists.


Cary Grant as Peter Joshua (alias Brian Cruikshank, Alexander Dyle, and Adam Canfield)

Audrey Hepburn as Regina "Reggie" Lampert

Walter Matthau as Hamilton Bartholomew

James Coburn as Tex Panthollow

George Kennedy as Herman Scobie

Dominique Minot as Sylvie Gaudel

Ned Glass as Leopold W. Gideon

Rotten Tomatoes 94%  

Noteworthy awards or rankings:

  • Nominated Academy Award for best Song "Charade" Music by Henry Mancini/Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
  • Golden Globe Award Nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture-Cary Grant 
  • Golden Globe Award Nominations for Best Actress in a Motion Picture-Audrey Hepburn
  • In 2022, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
  • Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
  • Included among the American Film Institute's 2002 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 top 100 America's Greatest Love Stories movies.


  • Charade was remade in 2002 as "The Truth About Charlie" starring Mark Walhberg and Thandiwe Newton.  Significant changes to the storyline and the chemistry between Grant and Hepburn was missing. It only got 34% from Rotten Tomatoes.
  • The beautiful outfit Audrey Hepburn wears when she discovers her empty apartment was designed by Givenchy. It was homage to the iconic look of then first lady Jackie Kennedy, who wore the couture of Oleg Cassini.
  • It's clear this film was made while Kennedy was President because, during the final scenes in the embassy, one can see Kennedy's portrait on the wall of the secretary's office.  Kennedy was assasinated while they were filming. 
  • Audrey Hepburn and Walter Matthau are seen walking through the old Paris food marketplace of Les Halles as it sets up for the day's business. It closed in 1971 and was replaced by a modern shopping mall.
  • The subway scenes were shot on Paris Metro line #1. In the film it runs from Chateau de Vincennes to Pont de Neuilly. 
  • The Paris office of American Express, shown in the movie, was a well known place for U.S. tourists to meet up, get information, book tours, exchange currency and collect their forwarded mail. Sadly, it closed some time ago as travel habits changed in the digital age.
  • This film is one of the rare movies that becomes a whole different story on subsequent viewings, once the plot twist is revealed at the first viewing.
  • In the opening scene, Reggie asks her friend if her son can do something constructive. The actor who played the son, Thomas Chelimsky, apparently took this advice to heart, because he became a successful doctor in Wisconsin.
  • The Puppet Theater is The Théatre Vrai Guignolet at Rond Point des Champs Elysées, Paris, France.  It is the most famous puppet theater in all of France. It's location has never changed since 1818.
  • While on the Bateaux Mouches, the tour boats on the Seine in Paris, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn have their first passionate kiss. The boat then goes into darkness under a bridge. There are many references to Hitchcock films in Charade. At the end of "North by Northwest" Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint have a passionate kiss and then go through a tunnel.
  • During the last scene, the screen splits into a checkerboard showing their ending kiss along with Cary Grant's funniest scenes from the movie and "The End."

My Thoughts:

This is a classic for a reason.  It is a highly entertaining suspense thriller set in Paris with some comedic tidbits by Cary Grant. The all star cast makes the tension sizzle and the chemistry between Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn makes this one of the best thrillers that has aged well.  It builds the suspense and the audience knows Grant isn't who he claims he is, but can he be trusted or will he kill Hepburn if she doesn't turn over the money? Next to Grant and Hepburn, Walter Matthau gives his best performance of his long and illustrious career.  

The twists are great in this movie that was considered experimental when it released.  Cary Grant was cast in this romantic leading man role, even as his hair had greyed, opposite the younger and lovely Audrey Hepburn which gives another layer to the movie.  Charade shows that you can build tension and fear without gore and lots of on-screen violence.  The dialog and character interactions are all crisp and deliver in every scene.  Every major character gives a spot-on performance, which is difficult in an ensemble cast.  The Paris scenery in winter is perfect for a brooding and layered movie.  The music throughout adds perfectly to each scene.  

Movie Trailer:

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Friday, February 17, 2023

Review - An American in Scotland

 I love finding a new series when the first book is released and I've discovered this one at the beginning of its journey.  I also love books set in England/Ireland/Scottland since that is my ancestry.  So this new series by a new author is right up my alley, in my wheel-house, etc.  Join me on a trip to a small Scottish town where murder welcomes the new doctor within hours of her arrival.

Author: Lucy Connelly

Copyright: April 2023 (Crooked Lane) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Scottish Isle Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy mystery, amateur sleuth

Main Character: Dr. Emilia McRoy, new American Dr & Coroner in town

Setting: Contemporary, Sea Isle-Scotland

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb:  "Sea Isle was supposed to be the fresh start Dr. Emilia McRoy dreamed of.  Far from the busy emergency room across the Atlantic in Seattle, she hoped to settle down and begin this new chapter as a small-town doctor to the quirky residents who immediately welcomed her.  When she stumbles across a dead body, she starts to think that she may not be as Scot free of the drama and intrigue as she initially thought.

Emilia soon learns she has bigger issues at hand. It starts with realizing she'll work closely with the less than helpful local constable, Laird Ewan Campbell.  Her luck continues when she discovers that part of her new responsibilities includes being the coroner for the very body she found.  Finally, when the body goes missing before she can even begin the autopsy, Emilia must convince the townspeople that a crime did, in fact, occur.  The deeper she digs into the picturesque town, the more suspicious she becomes.  And then there are her sleep issues.  It may be due to the ever-growing list of suspects, a number of threatening letters, or the surprise visitor who breaks into her house at night.  But she’s never backed down before, and she doesn’t intend to start now.

Someone doesn’t want this doctor to treat the ailments of Sea Isle, but Emilia McRoy is determined to find the murderer before they kilt again."

My thoughts:  Dr. Emilia McRoy is a well written character, she acts like a smart doctor which I really appreciate.  We've all read stories where the heroine is supposed to be smart, but sure doesn't act that way. I enjoyed how she and Laird Ewan Campbell, the head honcho of the land in Irish tradition, butt heads at first. I felt that was realistic with her being an emergency room doctor/surgeon and used to being revered in her circles.  The townspeople soon become the family she didn't know she needed and that makes this new series special.  Abigail and her autistic brother Tommy are gems and the pub owner, Mara, becomes fast friends with Emilia.  

The murder mystery is well thought out and a nice puzzle, particularly since everybody in town is new to Emilia.  The sense of a lurking threat is palpable and the suspense is high with somebody getting into her Doctor's office in the  repurposed church where she also lives. 

The Scottish sea-side landscape is vividly portrayed.  I've always wanted to visit, more now than ever. Emilia meets town's people as she employs her emergency room skills with farm accidents to delivering babies.

This new series is a perfect combination of developed, realistic characters and good plotting with a steady pace.  I have many series I follow, but this just shot up to the top of my list of must reads.  It will be hard to wait for the next in this series to release.  I can't recommend this new cozy mystery series highly enough, I think you will enjoy this too.

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

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Monday, February 13, 2023

Musings-Murder Mystery Weekends

Remember when the trendy party was to throw a mystery themed dinner with the aid of a boxed murder mystery?  I even put one on that was themed around an Egyptian archological dig.  The box had invitations with the character that invitee would play and costume ideas, dinner recipes, and the scripts for each character during the evening.  It was different and if you invited people who got into their character, as my invitees did, it was a lot of fun.  

The boxed mystery dinner party games are still available, but apparently murder mystery weekends are sweeping from Britain across the US.  The Guardian did an article about the popularity of the themed weekend getaways (click here), but you can find them from East to West coast of America, from dude ranches to wineries as well.  Forbes did an article as well for the US luxury take (click here).  Keith and Margo's Murder Mystery is one brand that helps them all put on mystery events with a rotating list of places on schedule.  Here is their description from their website:

You are at one of our many luxury Murder Mystery Weekend™ hotels and resorts enjoying a beautifully prepared dinner when suddenly… a shot rings out and the person sitting next to you keels over, dead!

Instantly you realize that same person had asked to exchange business cards at a cocktail reception just minutes before and now, to your relief,  the Police have arrived. Now all eyes are on you as a Homicide Detective is asking you funny questions and you find yourself becoming the leading witness in a murder mystery investigation. And that’s just the beginning.

Complete with clues, twists and turns, an ingenious plot starts to unravel during the course of the Murder Mystery Weekend™ as you then start to track a killer, or killers, all played by incognito actors in the group masquerading as guests.

To your surprise, beginning with the festivities on Friday evening and continuing through Sunday Brunch, you just might find yourself turning from “star witness” to “leading suspect.”

At the end of the Murder Mystery Weekend™, after investigating and collecting all the clues and interviewing your favorite suspects, you have the chance to hand in your solution and prove motive, means and opportunity, not only to clear your own name but to show everyone that all that crime show watching did not go to waste."

The Grand Resort in Warren, Ohio even provides the ultimate cozy mystery experience with a Knitting Murder Mystery.  They say "the murder mystery is for both knitters and non-knitters, and there will plenty of fun, swag, knitting time, and a giveaway, just for knitters."  So there is a little something for everyone in these mystery weekends.

If an entire weekend is too much for you, look for a dinner mystery. One summer I acted in a trope that put on a murder mystery for dinners ranging from corporate affairs to local clubs.  There were all sorts of different ideas for the mystery, from a western theme to a roaring 20s.  Napa Valley Wine Train hosts regular murder mystery dinners aboard that sounds like a fun time. 

The classic mystery is always entertaining and these weekends are proof of the popularity of a good mystery and the enduring desire to play detective.  What about you?  Would you like to immerse yourself in a weekend mystery game?

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Review - Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust

This is a new to me series, starting with the second book.  I had no problems jumping in with the second book.  I liked the idea of a Pizzeria themed series, so I took a chance on it.  Check out what I thought of this new series.

Author: Mindy Quigley

Copyright: April 2023 (St. Martin's Paperbacks) 320 pgs

Series: 2nd in Deep Dish Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy mystery

Main Characters: Delilah O’Leary, co-owner of Delilah & Son[ya]

Setting: Modern day, resort town of Geneva Bay, Wisconsin

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb:  "Newly single pizzeria owner Delilah O’Leary is determined to keep her restaurant afloat in the picturesque resort town of Geneva Bay, Wisconsin. To boost her bottom line, she sets her sights on winning the hefty cash prize in the town’s annual “Taste of Wisconsin” culinary contest. In her corner, she’s got her strong-willed, “big-boned” cat Butterball, her wisecracking BFF, her cantankerous great-aunt, and a nearly-flawless recipe for Pretzel Crust Deep-Dish Bratwurst Pizza. But while Delilah and her team have been focused on pumping out perfect pizza pies, her ex-fiancé has cozied up to a new squeeze, juice bar owner Jordan Watts—Delilah’s contest rival.

When one of Jordan’s juice bar customers is poisoned by a tainted smoothie, Delilah lands deep in the sauce. Accusations fly, suspects abound, and a menacing stranger turns up with a beef over some missing dough. Between kale-juicing hipsters and grudge-bearing celebrity chefs, Delilah must act quickly before another one bites the crust." 

My Thoughts:  Delilah O’Leary is the heroine and it took me awhile to like her. At first her perfectionism was more annoying than interesting, fortunately that wasn't prevalent.  Her business partner, Sonya Perlman-Dokter, is the "Son" in the restaurant's  name and she likes puns making her more appealing than Delilah at times.  Sam Van Meter, ex-fiance who financed the restaurant has a charmed life as a wealthy software developer.  Delilah's romantic interest is the handsome police detective Calvin Capone which brings the trope of the cop mad over main character sleuthing. I did like this detective.  Great-aunt Elizabeth O'Leary is cranky and brings some tension to the story as well.  The Delilah & Son staff consists of Melody, Jarka, Robert "Rabbit" and Daniel which are each enjoyable. Of course Butterball the cat is a star-long live Butterball.  

There was enough going on and a few twists to keep my interest and I liked the tense moments for the climax. Nicely done. The wrapup made me miss the characters when the story ended.  This was an enjoyable mystery with a little bit of a rough start, but worth sticking with it. I liked that the police detective was a descendant of the legendary gangster, Al Capone.  The twists involved were well done and the tense reveals were good suspense.  One down side, the pizza flavors mentioned in the book didn't appeal to me at all-glad it's fictional.

Rating:  Good fun read with nicely done twists-enjoyable

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Monday, February 6, 2023

Musings - Bookshelf Love


"I marvel that the complexity of the human heart can be expressed in the arrangement of one’s books. Inside this paper universe, I find sense within confusion, calm within a storm, the soothing murmur of hundreds of books communing with their neighbors."  Leslie Kendall Dye

It was 2007 when ebooks became mainstream thanks to the Kindle (although Sony Librie, released in 2004) and by 2010 they were clearly here to stay.  Many claimed that ebooks would be the death of physical books. So far that hasn't been the case, although ebooks have made a serious dent in print book sales.  

"According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center that examined how we consume our book media and what preferences the consumer base seems to demonstrate, traditional print is still the most popular format for both the adult reader market and the child and developing reader market. A staggering 37% of Americans claim that the exclusively read print books and don’t engage with their digital counterparts, compared to only 7% who claim that they only read eBooks and digital editions and don’t engage with paper copies.  The Pew Research Center data also discovered that print books outsell digital formats by 4 to 1, and only 3-in-10 would describe themselves as ‘an eBook reader’ in 2022. It’s a larger figure than in previous years, but still a smaller section of the marketplace than we’d expect when the rest of the world is going in the direction of rapidly increasing digitization."  Scan, Listen, Understand blog: Why Do Print Books Still Dominate the Reading Market in 2022?

Buying used books is on the rise to be economical because many people just like having a physical book but don't like the expense.  Buying print is especially true in academic circles for research where print is still the preferred format.  While many in the 55+ age group have readily jumped on board the ebook train, many don't want to worry about keeping a devise charged or learn the technology and consider a paperback more convenient. Plus,you can purchase a print book pretty much anywhere from the airport to the grocery store anymore.

But surprisingly, a younger generation loves the print book as well.  TikTok and Instagram enthusiasts particularly love having the physical copy for photos of the cover art of books in their hands or with creative "poses".  And print is still easier to share with a friend.  

But I was fascinated by the growing trend of younger generations falling in love with book shelves and book cases for the atmosphere they create.  I have watched Facebook reader groups post about their bookshelves and asking how others organize their books: by color, size, or by genre, alphabetize by titles or by authors etc.  They discuss bookshelves for their newborns or toddlers with physical books in the baby's room so the children grow up with books as a part of their world when they become aware of their surroundings.  

In 2020 with the pandemic and web meetings galore, the ability to pick a stylish bookcase background became very popular and we've all seen news interviews with the person backed by carefully curated bookshelves behind them as a statement both design-wise but philosophical as well.

Another sign of how prevalent book shelf love has become is the abundant articles and advise about styling your bookshelves so the overall effect is graceful and a decor item featuring your beloved books.  Such advise as: alternating from horizontal to vertical stacking, a few meaningful mementos like a vase, statue, and cherished photos in decorative frames, perhaps a decorative basket, plus layering deep shelves with a bigger item to the back and smaller to the front.  Don't forget those statement making bookends or an easy-care plant or flowers.

Bookshelves/bookcases are expensive so here are some directions on repurposing drawers to create a bookshelf (click here).  And to also repurpose the chest of drawers into a bookcase (click here).

I take all this bookcase love as a sign that print books will be around for a while longer.  I'm happy about that because print books have a long tradition since the Gutenberg press and it is an artform in itself.  

Check out this shortish video of making a blank page book from hand.  This is the art of book making-before automation.

Keep the Book Love Alive!!

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Friday, February 3, 2023

Review - A Certain Darkness

 Set in post WWI we find out about the this pivotal war from the perspective of a spy now decommissioned but somehow drawn back into the game again and again.

1) This Side of Murder (click here)

3) Penny for Your Secrets (click here

Author guest post (click here)

Author: Anna Lee Huber

Copyright: August 2022 (Kensington Books) 370 pgs

Series: 6th in Verity Kent Mysteries

Sensuality: Perilous situations

Mystery Sub-genre: Intrigue, Suspense

Main Character: Verity Kent, former British spy and married into money

Setting: 1920, London

Obtained Through: Publisher ( Netgalley) for honest opinion

Book Blurb: "March 1920: Life has turned unsettlingly quiet for former British Intelligence agent Verity Kent and her husband, Sidney. But even that false calm is about to end. As threats remain, the French authorities soon request Sidney’s help with a suspect who claims to have proof of treason—shortly before she is assassinated. And Verity, too, is called to investigate a mystery . . .

 The murder of a Belgian lawyer aboard a train seems at first to be a simple case of revenge. But the victim was connected to British Intelligence, and possessed papers detailing the sinking of a gold-laden German ship during the war.

 As Verity and Sidney dig deeper, they discover their cases are intertwined—and a lethal adversary persists. Officially, the Great War may be over, but this is a battle of nerves and wits they cannot afford to lose . . ."

My thoughts:  Verity Kent is back in another case of intrigue that takes her across Europe with her husband Sidney. Verity may no longer be a spy but she still needs nerves of steel for this case.  I think the relationship with her husband has healed and better than the last book I read.  This series has developed an arch-nemisis of Verity and that person is active in this novel as well.

The book creates a dilemna for Verity when what is at stake is far more than what she or Sidney had been told. They follow what cryptic clues they have dodge bullets while searching for the truth.  The pacing slowed at times, but picked up again before long.  The climatic confrontation is well done and not predictable, so good job there.

This is a well done novel and the historical aspects of the first world war are always appreciated because not many novels cover it.

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

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Monday, January 30, 2023

Musings - Agatha Christie's Plays


Agatha Christie's play The Mousetrap is the longest running play (since 1952) in the world with a break only during the Covid pandemic.  The story is loosely based on the real Dennis O'Neill case. Mousetrap is coming to Broadway in 2023 for the first time after 70 years in London's West End at St. Martin’s Theatre. It has been performed more than 28,000 times for more than 10 million audience members.  Link to the Broadway play for more information

The play takes place at a guest house (like a B&B) where they are snowed in with a murderer.  There is the husband and wife who run the guest house, four guests (one unexpected) and two police officers.  At the end of every performance they ask that the audience keep the killer a secret to not spoil the show for future audiences.  It seems to have worked, I understand that the end has quite the twist.    

Not many people think of Agatha Christie as a playwright, but the following is a list of her plays:

Akhnaton (Play)

Alibi (play)

And Then There Were None (adapted)

Appointment with Death (adapted)

Black Coffee (play)

Butter in a Lordly Dish (radio play)

Cards on the Table (adapted)

Chimneys (adapted)

A Daughter's a Daughter (adapted)

Fiddlers Three (play)

Go Back for Murder (play)

The Hollow (adapted)

Love from a Stranger (adapted short story)

The Mousetrap (play) Longest running play Guiness World Records. Finally coming to Broadway

Murder at the Vicarage (adapted)

Murder Is Easy (adapted)

Murder on the Nile (adapted)

Peril at End House (adapted)

Personal Call (radio play)

Spider's Web (play)

Three Blind Mice (radio play and short story) became Mousetrap

Towards Zero (adapted)

The Unexpected Guest (play)

Verdict (play)

Wasp's Nest (adapted short story)

Witness for the Prosecution (adapted short story)

The Yellow Iris (radio play)

I hope to see Mousetrap at some point, how about you?

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Friday, January 27, 2023

Review - Murder at an Irish Castle

The promotion for this new series claims "Fans of Hannah Dennison and Carlene O’Connor’s mysteries are in for a treat with Ellie Brannigan’s captivating debut cozy mystery, complete with a sharp and endearing protagonist."  That along with the Ireland setting got me to give it a try.  This is a new-to-me author so I wasn't sure what I was getting into.  Read on to find out about this new cozy mystery series and my thoughts.

Author: Ellie Brannigan

Copyright: February 2023 (Crooked Lane Books) 313 pgs

Series: 1st in Irish Castle Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: cozy mystery, amateur sleuth

Main Characters: Rayne McGrath, Upscale bridal gown designer

Setting: Modern day, Utah's Heritage National Monument

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review, Netgalley

Book Blurb: "Rodeo Drive bridalwear designer Rayne McGrath expected her thirtieth birthday to start with a power lunch and end with champagne, lobster, and a diamond engagement ring from her fiancé. Instead, flat-broke [fiancé stole all her money]  and busted, she’s on a plane to Ireland where she discovers that she’s inherited a run-down family castle. Uncle Nevin’s will contains a few caveats—for example, if Rayne doesn’t turn McGrath Castle around within a year, the entire village will be financially destroyed.

 With the fate of the town in her hands, and rumors that Rayne’s uncle’s death wasn’t actually an accident, she can’t possibly go back to her old life in L.A. As the devastating truth about her uncle dawns on Rayne, it’s not just her reputation that’s on the line, it’s her life.

Featuring a sharp and endearing protagonist, a colorful and quirky locale, and replete with twists and turns befitting an old Irish village, the first in Brannigan’s mystery series transports us to a milieu as romantic as it is deadly." 

My Thoughts:  This book features: Rayne McGrath who is a down-on-her-luck bridal dress designer used to California glitz thrown into the low-tech Irish world; Uncle Nevin, who passed under questionable circumstances, left his castle to be run by Rayne-but she has to live there; Cousin Ciara, an out-of-wedlock daughter of Uncle Nevine, is to co-own the castle and run the livestock and land; Hunky Amos who works on the castle grounds and immediately likes Rayne; plus the adorable dog Blarney.  

The castle and people are great and I felt like I was there with them.  The plot really got going when Ciara insists that Nevine was killed-it was no accident.  I really felt Rayne's distress with all the dramatic events in her life and being in a foreign county.  I was glued to the book and sped through reading it.  The killer confrontation was short but effective.  I really liked the wrap-up that left me wanting the next book.  This was an enjoyable mystery filled with delightful characters.

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

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