Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Philippa Carr's Daughters of England Series

Eleanor Hibbert, aka Victoria  Holt, Jean Plaidy, and Philippa Carr
I have not had much time to read because things have been busy at work and with my classes. However, I am working my way through the Philippa Carr Daughters of England series. I just finished The Lion Triumphant, and am now starting the third book in the series, The Witch from the Sea. Both book are some what similar. Basically, the leading men are chauvinistic cads, who don't blink an eye at rape, womanizing, and misogyny. The women are supposedly strong, but at the same time, they seem to be very accepting of the treatment of the men. In The Witch from the Sea, Linnet falls in love with her rapist. I would imagine that Carr is just writing characteristics and situations that would be common at the time the novels are set: the early 1600s. The plots of both books have been engrossing, and I have been enjoying the adventures of Cat (in The Lion Triumphant) and Linnet (In The Witch from the Sea).

As I mentioned, Philippa Carr is the author of the series, and that is a pseudonym for Eleanor Hibbert. Hibbert was quite a prolific writer, using different pseudonyms for different genres. She wrote romantic suspense as Victoria Holt, historical novels as Jean Plaidy, and the romantic, suspenseful, historical Daughters of England series as Philippa Carr. I haven't read any Plaidy, but I am a huge fan of the Victoria Holt books. I have found the Daughters of England series to be equally entertaining. It's always good to have an author you love who is also prolific.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Markup

cover of A is for Arsenic: the Poisons of Agatha Christie
A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Markup is a good Christie reference book. Ms. Markup covers the poisons that Christie used when she wrote her mysteries. As you may know if you have read anything about the biography of Christie, she started out during World War I by working in a pharmacy. She learned the chemical reactions of drugs and also learned something about how dangerous some poisons are. A is for Arsenic is not really about the books themselves, but about the poisons. For example, we learn how arsenic acts, and how is it used. We get some information about the mystery (or mysteries) where Christie used the poisons, but the poisons themselves are the stars of this book.

A is for Arsenic is an interesting ready, but I have to admit that I found myself skimming the book. Instead of reading this book as you would a typical fiction book, I think it would be great as a resource for the dedicated Christie fan, who could consult the book as he or she reads the mystery.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Miracle at St. Bruno's by Philippa Carr

cover of The Miracle at St. Bruno's by Philippa Carr
When I was a teenager, I loved to read Victoria Holt, Phyliss Whitney, and Mary Stewart. Because I wanted to read more of the genre that I loved, gothic suspense, I checked out other books written by Holt. Victoria Holt's real name was Eleanor HIbbert, and she was quite prolific, writing under several different names. I really got into one of the pseudonyms, Philippa Carr. These books weren't really suspense, although at times, there were suspenseful moments. The Carr books follow the family line through a succession of females from the time of Henry VIII to World War II. There are only 19 books in the series, and I think I only read a handful of the later ones. They are available on Kindle for a reasonable price, so over time, I got all 19 books. I started reading the first in the series The Miracle at St. Bruno's, and it reminded me of the others that I read.

Damask Farland is the heroine of the book, and obviously the start of the line of strong women who get involved with strong men. The miracle in the title is the baby who is found in the crib at the local abbey altar at Christmas one year. The boy is named Bruno, and he is raised by the monks. However, in the time of Henry VIII, there is a good deal of religious upheaval. Henry basically got rid of the church because he wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. The reader learns about all the things going on in Henry's court and the country through mostly secondhand stories told by Damask and her cousin Kate. Anyway, the abbey is dismantled, and Bruno is exposed as love child between a Damask's female servant and a monk. Bruno vanishes one day shortly after the abbey is emptied, and he is gone for a few years. Kate marries a lord and quickly has a boy. Damask's father is imprisoned and beheaded for harboring a former monk. When Bruno comes back, he marries Damask, and surprises of surprises, he has enough money to restore the abbey. There is a lot of tension between Damask, her step-father, Simon Caseman (who betrayed Damask's father to get her father's lands), and Bruno. Things also don't go well when Damask is only able to produce a female child.

All in all, the book is a classic start to the stories that were published in the Philippa Carr name. There is some romance, some intrigue, some happiness, and some depression. If you like historical novels with strong female characters, you should give the Carr books a try. You will not be disappointed.

Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh

cover of Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh
I have been busy with other things, but somehow I managed to finish two books at around the same time. How did I do that, you ask? It's because one was on Kindle and the other was in print from the library. Overture to Death was the print book, and it was a re-read of one of Ngaio Marsh's novels. I've been feeling in the mood for some good classic mysteries and Ngaio Marsh never disappoints. Overture to Death was the eighth Roderick Alleyn book, and it was published in 1939. The plot centers around a small village of Chipping, where two elderly, and by elderly I mean early fifties, women want to make the local rector her own. Eleanor Prentice is the maiden aunt who lives with the local squire and his son, Henry. Henry has his eye on the rector's daughter, Dinah, and Eleanor is apposed to it. Idris Campanula is the other spinster. The local group, with the local doctor and the Mrs Ross, a beautiful newcomer to town, decide to put on a play to pay for a replacement piano. When Idris replaces Eleanor at the piano the night of the play, she is shot in the head by a booby trap in the piano. Alleyn is called in to solve the murder, and there are a tangle of clues to make things even more muddled. This is one of the earlier Alleyn's, so Nigel Bathgate makes an appearance.

Overall, the mystery was not easy to solve, and there were red herrings to wiggle around. My favorite part of any of Marsh's novels is the depiction of the characters. I felt that I could really visualize the characters, and I found myself drawn into the plot. All in all, it was a very enjoyable mystery.

As a note, I loved the cover of the book. Yes, it is rather graphic, but I think that it's eye catching. Don't you just want to read a book with a picture of a dead body sprawled on a piano?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Clutch of Constables by Ngaio Marsh

cover of Clutch of Constables
One of my favorite mystery authors is Ngaio Marsh. I've read all of her books, some more than once, and I've enjoyed all of them immensely. Although Christie's later books weren't as good as the earlier ones, all of Marsh's books were equally good. I decided that I wanted to re-read some of her books, so I went to the local library, and I found Clutch of Constables. This was one of the later books, written in 1968. Agatha Troy was older, with a son who was touring in Europe, and a husband, Roderick Alleyn, who was in America, tracking down the Jampot. The Jampot was a master criminal who dealt in art forgeries. However, it was not Roderick Alleyn who came into contact with the Jampot, it was Troy. She joined a river cruise that traveled through the countryside that John Constable commemorated in paintings. Troy felt that something was not right with the others on the cruise. Troy wrote to her husband expressing her concerns. When a possible Constable was found by a pair of the passengers in a junk yard, Alleyn hurried back, sure that the Jampot was within grasp and on that boat. Unfortunately, he didn't get back in time to prevent one of the other boat passengers from dying.

Marsh did a masterful job in plotting out this mystery. You can feel the tension build. I know that I started to suspect several of the passengers, and I wasn't sure if I was really onto the Jampot until the very end. Fortunately for me, even though I had read the book before, I couldn't remember the murderer. All of Marsh's mysteries have an erudite air about them, and there is always a lesson to be learned about art, literature, or classical theater. I am a fan of Roderick Alleyn and Agatha Troy, and it was very enjoyable to revisit them in Clutch of Constables.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Irrationally Yours by Dan Ariely

Irrationally Yours: on Missing Socks, Pickup Lines, and Other Existential Puzzles by Dan Ariely
I subscribe to Dan Ariely's weekly email of answers to questions people send him via the Wall Street Journal. People ask Ariely a variety of questions on topics that involve life, work, and behavior. Ariely, knowing a good opportunity when he sees one, collected the questions and answers into his newest book, Irrationally Yours: On Missing Socks, Pickup Lines, and Other Existential Puzzles. The book is a short, fast, highly entertaining read, and it will definitely getting you thinking about your decisions and behavior.

As an example of a question, someone mentioned that he and his wife were wondering if they should start a family. Ariel's advice was to stay with a family for a week and observe the interactions. Then the couple should offer to watch the kids for a whole week. As Ariely said, if you thought his suggestions were asking too much, maybe you shouldn't have kids of your own. Ariely provides logical, rational insight into the dilemmas and questions that people have. One that particularly caught my attention was the letter from someone who hated his job of eight years and wondered if he should get a new job. Ariely suggested that the person take a long vacation (three weeks) and volunteer at the place that he thought he might like to work. He could then decide if the grass was greener elsewhere. If the guy wasn't interested in trying out the volunteer job, Ariely suggested that maybe the guy's dissatisfaction with the job wasn't that great, and the guy should just stay where he was and stop complaining.

I love to read Ariely's insights into behavior. Since I subscribe to the newsletter, I read (and remembered) the majority of letters. What made the book new and interesting for me were the cartoons by William Haefeli. They did a great job of illustrating, in a comic way, Ariely's feedback. If you haven't read anything by Ariely, you should definitely read this book. It will give you a taste of rational thinking, and it will make you want to read more of Ariely's writing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley

The first book in the Sisters Grimm series, The Fairy-Tale Detectives
I enjoy reading a good children's book, and when I heard about The Sisters Grimm series, I knew I would have to check it out. I got the first book in the series from the library, The Fairy-Tale Detectives. Sabrina Grimm, an eleven-year-old, and her sister, Daphne, seven-years-old, are abandoned by their parents. Well, at least, the parents leave the house one day to never return. The girls are bounced around from a variety of crappy foster homes, until they learn that their grandmother has come forward to claim them. The problem is that their father had always told them that their grandmother was dead. The grandmother turns out to be a thoroughly weird character, who makes really weird looking and tasting food. Daphne, of course, loves her new grandmother, but Sabrina distrusts the woman. When weird things start to happen, like a giant footprint that seems to encircle a crushed farm house, Granny Relda explains that they are the family Grimm. The stories told by the Brothers Grimm were true, and the Grimms have gone through life dealing with the problems that the fairy tale characters, called Everafters, cause. Sabrina doesn't believe Granny Relda, and tries to run away. However, Granny Relda is captured by a huge giant right in front of Sabrina's and Daphne's eyes, Sabrina finally believes Granny Relda. Sabrina and Daphne think that Prince Charming, who is Mayor of Ferryport Landing, New York, where Granny Relda and the Everafters live. Granny Relda's friend, Mr. Canis, turns out to be the Big Bad Wolf. Puck and Jack, of Jack and the Beanstalk, also make appearances with one being the villain while the other is the hero, and I'm going to leave it to you to read the book to figure out which is which.

The Fairy-Tale Detectives is a entertaining take on the modern fairy tale, and I really enjoyed reading it. There seven other books in the series, and I know that I want to find out what happens to Sabrina and Daphne, and to see if they find their parents, who may have been kidnapped by some Everafters who want the Grimm family dead. If the last Grimm dies, the spell that binds the Everafters to Ferryport Landing will be broken, and the Everafters can be free to roam the world again. Not only will the youngster in your life enjoy the story, but you will too.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Murder at the Smithsonian by Margaret Truman

cover of Murder at the Smithsonian
Who would think that a former president's daughter could write an interesting mystery? Well, I've read that Margaret Truman did just that, although I believe there were rumors that her books had ghost writers. There are so many authors out that that I haven't read, and Truman was one of them. Amazon had some of her books on sale for the Kindle, and I took the opportunity to read Murder at the Smithsonian. It's not the first book that she wrote, but the books aren't series books, so i figured it would be okay to read them out of order. Plus I had a hankering for a mystery set in a museum.

Dr. Lewis Tunney is a friend of the vice president, and it seems he also has some secret information about goings on at the Smithsonian. At a gala at the museum, Tunney winds up getting killed with Jefferson's sword, and at the same time, the Legion of Harsa medal goes missing. The murderer has to be one of the guests at the gala, but who could it be. When Mac Hanrahan investigates, he finds his way blocked by everyone. The Vice President is not being very helpful, and the employees at the museum seem to act pretty suspiciously. When Tunney's fiancee, Heather McBea shows up, the investigation becomes even more cloudy. Heather's uncle was the one who donated the Harsa to the museum. The uncle also supposedly committed suicide, which Heather doesn't believe he would do. Then Heather starts to be the victim of some mysterious doings, such as a mugging, room ransack, and bombing. Can Mac Hanrahan figure out what's going on before Heather turns up dead.

The mystery in the book was a good one. However, I did have a problem with Heather. Every time she has information, that she should have shared with Mac if she really wanted Tunney's murder to be solved, she would keep it to herself. Then she would find herself in a threatening situation, and she would STILL keep her mouth shut. I found myself yelling at the book in frustration because Heather was so stupid and has such a lack of self preservation. I seem to be running into that a lot with mysteries lately, and I had the same complaint about Miss Seeton. I guess it's supposed to add to the suspense, but it doesn't work for me. I will continue to read Truman because I have a few more on my Kindle.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Picture Miss Seeton by Heron Carvic

Picture Miss Seeton is a light, quick mystery.
I have been having problems getting into a book lately, so I made a switch over to something light and frothy. I had heard about the Miss Seeton books, and always meant to try one, so i picked up the first in the series, Picture Miss Seeton by Heron Carvic. In this book, we are introduced to Miss Seeton, elderly art teacher, who happens upon a fight between a woman and her boyfriend in a dark alley. Miss Seeton pokes the man with her umbrella, gets knocked down, and finds that the woman/girlfriend has been stabbed to death. That starts the whole craziness where Miss Seeton becomes the center of violent attacks by the drug ring that the boyfriend is part of. Miss Seeton goes to stay in the small village of Plummergen, where her godmother had left her cottage to Miss Seeton. Miss Seeton gets into various escapades, but manages to pull out of all of them with a poke of the umbrella.

I'm not sure if I like Miss Seeton. She seems like a bit of an idiot. Someone tries to kidnap her, but she thinks that it's really just a lark by a youngster. I found myself shaking my head at her several times. It was really annoying when she would keep important facts from the police because she didn't think that it was really important or criminal activity. I will be reading more because they are light, frothy reads. However, if Miss Seeton continues being such an annoying idiot, I might have to change my mind!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton is a great techno thriller.
It's been a long time since I read Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. My only memory of the book is what I saw in the movie. So I thought that I would re-read the book, and refresh my memory. I'm glad that I did. The plot of the book is very similar to the movie. Obviously, the main plot, that John Hammond built a park with dinosaurs in Costa Rica. The dinosaurs came from the DNA of mosquitos caught in amber millions of years ago. Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm are the main protagonists, and Dennis Nedry attempts to steal the dinosaur embryos. The book, though, has more detail, and some slight divergences. There are more people on the island. Some of the people who live in the book, die in the movie and vice versa. And the kids: Timmy is the older one, and Lex is young one.

Crichton's story is quite enjoyable, and you can see Crichton's personal quirks showing up in Ian Malcolm. Grant and the kids have a much more tense time getting back from the outage that leaves them stranded in the park, and the whole group are attacked much more frequently than in the movie. I really miss Crichton's writing, and I'll probably be re-reading more in the future. Next up will be The Lost World.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Skulduggery by Carolyn Hart

Skulduggery by Carolyn Hart was okay, but not as much fun as the other vintage Harts.
I didn't realize that Carolyn Hart wrote books before her Death on Demand series. Boy, was I wrong! One of my favorite books when I was a preteen was Dangerous Summer, which I reread last February 26. I've been reading some of the other vintage Harts and enjoying them. When I saw Skulduggery, the description really attracted me. The story was written in the 1980s, and the main protagonist is Ellen Christie. She is an anthropologist who has gotten some notoriety for identifying bones. One evening, Jimmy Lee shows up at her door with a strange request. He wants her to identify some bones. Ellen decides to be adventurous and goes with Jimmy into San Francisco's Chinatown to check out the bones. Jimmy shows her a skull, which Ellen thinks may be the missing Peking Man (an ancient Chinese skeleton that vanished during World War II). While Ellen is examining the skull, Jimmy's brother, Dan, shows up, shortly followed by some gangsters, probably hoping to grab Peking Man. Jimmy escapes, and Dan and Ellen are left behind to figure out what is going on--and how to find Jimmy and Peking Man.

Doesn't that sound like a fun story? The book wasn't very long, but after the attack where Jimmy vanishes, the book began to drag for me. I started to skim the book because Hart just went on and on about the awful life that Chinese immigrants had in the US. They were poor and lived in squalor. Families fought for a chance to educate their children, to make life better for the children. Old people died alone and destitute. This dialog didn't really move the story any further, and I started to skim the pages to get to the action. Eventually, there is some more at the end, and Ellen and Dan find romance. However, I found the book to be a more tiresome read, and I did not enjoy it as much as I have the other vintage Harts that I've read. If you read it, I hope that your experience is different.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Stately Home Murder by Catherine Aird

The Stately Home Murder by Catherine Aird is a fun read.
Unfortunately, my local library system does not have Heinretta Who by Catherine Aird, so I skipped over that to the third Detective Inspector C. D. Sloan mystery, The Stately Home Murder. The murder takes place in a stately home, owned by the Earl of Ornum. The family is the typical scatterbrained characters that we sometimes associate with nobility and English stately homes, and Aird does a great job of drawing the characters. The family librarian and archivist is found murdered in a suit of armor after making a claim that the he might have found paperwork saying that the Earl was not the legitimate heir to the earldom. Sloan is called on the case, and receives heaps of abuse from his superior, Superintendent Leeyes and little help from his assistant, Detective Constable Crosby. There's stories about a family ghost making an appearance, which signals an upcoming death in the family, and when a hanger-on relative winds up dead, it seems to jive with the ghostly appearance. However, Sloan knows that there must be a connection between the two murders. It's just a matter of figuring out who in the small group of suspects could have performed the murder, and why the crime was done.

I enjoyed this story. The story is a quick read, and I have to admit that I didn't suspect the murderer or the reason for the crime. Up until the last 15 pages or so, I was as bamboozled as most other readers are, I suspect. There is some humor in the dry, British humor sort of way. The story has the feel of a golden age detective novel, and I am looking forward to reading more Detective Inspector Sloan mysteries.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The King of the Castle by Victoria Holt

The King of the Castle is an enjoyable Victoria Holt romantic suspense.
It's been a while since I read a Victoria Holt, and since things were stressful at work, both full-time and teaching, I thought that a comfort book would be a good idea. i couldn't remember reading The King of the Castle, so I got it from the library. As I started to read, the story started to ring a bell, and I think I may have read it fairly recently.

The King of the Castle tells the story of Dallas Lawson, an English woman whose father has recently died. She worked with him restoring paintings. When the Comte de la Talle requests Dallas' father to come to restore the Comte's collection, Dallas goes instead. Imagine the consternation of the Comte's staff when a woman shows up instead of a man. However, the Comte, a womanizer, gives Dallas a chance. The Comte seems to show an interest in Dallas, and Dallas has an interest in the Comte, the Comte's young daughter, the castle, the paintings, and the surrounding land and people. Yep, Dallas is hooked. Of course, there is a problem other than the Comte being a womanizer. There's also a rumor that he murdered his wife by giving her a sleeping draught. Of course, Dallas gets involved in all that is going on, and she restores a painting showing some beautiful emeralds that have been missing for years. There's lots of tension about whether the Comte is really interested in Dallas, and if Dallas should leave the castle before it's too late. She doesn't, or we wouldn't have much of a story.

I liked the book. I think that some women would have problems with the fact that Dallas is so accepting of the Comte's bad behavior and womanizing. Dallas even says that if he would cheat on her, she would still not leave her. Actually, I think the Comte is willing to give up his womanizing ways for the woman he loves. All in all, the Comte is not as bad as he is made out to be. As usual with Holt, the book was an enjoyable read.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sphinx by Robin Cook

Sphinx by Robin Cook is a tame thriller.
I have only read one Robin Cook book, and that was his most recent Cell. He's has written a plethora of books, and I thought I should give some of them a chance. His earliest stuff was supposed to be really good, so I thought I would start there. I just finished reading Sphinx, which was written in 1979, and it was made into a movie starring Lesley Anne Down and Frank Langella. The plot covers the trouble that Erica Barton gets herself into when she decides to travel to Egypt on her own. Erica is an Egyptologist by training, and she wants to escape from a boyfriend who wants to marry her. Erica is a big foolish, and she finds herself in a precarious situation because she does really dumb things, like going off on her own to look for Egyptian artifacts and trusting good looking men.

The book is a product of its time, with Erica acting like many women in the 1970s who wanted to break free from male bonds that kept the women in demeaning roles. There were some action scenes and thrills, however, compared to the fast-paced thrillers of today, Sphinx seems a bit on the tame and lame side. I kept on waiting for something really exciting to happen, and I had to wait until the last 30 pages of the book. Even then the tension was quickly resolved. Cook did some research on Egyptology, but overall, I found the book to be unsatisfying. I think that's why it took me so long to drag through the book.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Religious Body by Catherine Aird

Religious Body by Catherine Aird is an light, entertaining mystery
I am not very familiar with Catherine Aird, but I heard about some of her mysteries, especially The Stately Home Murder. It's supposed to be a must-read in the mystery genre. Since I never read any Aird, I thought I would start with the first book in the Detective Sloan series, The Religious Body. Inspector Sloan is called in to check on the death of a nun. The local doctor who was called in to check the body realized that the nun did not die from an accidental fall down the cellar steps; she was bashed in the head with a heavy object. Inspector Sloan starts his investigation, and he finds out that the nun's cousin is in the local area. The nun's death is to the benefit of the cousin who's chemical company can now go public to great financial benefit to the cousin. Things are looking dire for the cousin, and when a guy is burned at the local farmer's institute in the habit of a nun, with the dead Sister Anne's glasses, the case becomes muddier. How did the students get the habit and the glasses? Then one of the students, the one who got the habit from the convent. What did the student see that resulted in his murder?

Although the book is not long, Aird provides a fairly complex mystery. It wasn't clear at all who the murder was. In fact, I was quite shocked at the end when all was revealed. I already got the two of the next three books in the series. The third Henriette Who is not available from my library. However, the fourth Inspector Sloan book is the classic The Stately Home Murder, and I am really looking forward to reading it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Death in Kashmir by M.M. Kaye

Death in Kashmir is a taut, spy thriller
I just finished my last M.M. Kaye mystery Death in Kashmir. In this book, Sarah Parrish gets involved with Janet Rushton, who turns out to be a spy for the British government at the time that the Raj was handing over India to self rule. Sarah is on a ski vacation, and she doesn't want to take the situation seriously until Janet turns up dead. Sarah knows it is murder, but the others in the ski party think that it was an accident on the slopes. However, Sarah knew that Janet was waiting to transfer important information to her superiors, and it did not seem that had happened. A few months later, Sarah gets a letter from Janet's solicitors that Janet had left her boat rental in Kashmir to Sarah. Sarah knows she should just ignore it and go back home to England. However, she can't get over a feeling of obligation to help Janet since Janet took trust in Sarah. Of course, this leads to Sarah being the object of unwanted attention from the person that killed Janet. Can Sarah find the information that Janet left behind and get it to the proper authorities?

As with the other Kaye mysteries, the heroine is some backbone, but lacks in common sense because she gets herself into trouble, which could have been avoided if only the heroine thought about it. Death in Kashmir is a good thriller, and Kaye did keep my guessing about who was the bad guy. Kaye did a great job describing the situation in India in the late 1940s. In the Author's Note, Kaye mentions that the literary agent who was assigned to her was Paul Scott, who went on to write the Raj QuartetDeath in Kashmir.

It's a shame that Kaye only wrote six mysteries. I'll have to check out Far Pavilions and The Ordinary Princess.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer

The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer is a real page turner
I love Brad Meltzer. Not only is he really into history and conspiracies, but he writes a darn good thriller. I recently got Book of Fate out from Overdrive, and I found myself engrossed in the story to the point where I could not put it down. i found myself taking reading breaks throughout the day and missing my stop on the bus ride to work and home because I was too engrossed in the story. Wes, the president's aide, is there at the NASCAR racetrack when Nico seemingly attempts to assassinate President Manning. Life changed forever for Wes, who suffered an injury to his cheek that left him scarred and bitter. Even worse, Wes felt responsible for the death of the President's friend, Ron Boyle, who was killed in the attempt. Manning lost the election because he came across as the Cowardly Lion during the assassination attempt, and eight years later, when Manning travels as former President to Malaysia, with Wes still an aide, and a shell of himself, something happens. Wes thinks he sees Boyle. A Boyle with plastic surgery, but Boyle nonetheless. When Wes returns to Palm Beach with Manning, he begins a search to find out the truth. Is Boyle alive? Did Manning know? How could Manning lie to Wes? Wes' life is endangered when the Three, a secret group possibly behind the assassination, start trailing Wes. Then Nico, the assassin, escapes from mental hospital to get Wes and Boyle.

Meltzer twists the plot and tension around. I never suspected the truth behind the Three, and the tension was constant with Wes trying to figure out what the heck was going on and Nico trying to track down Wes and Boyle. The story moved around from the viewpoints of Wes, his friend Rogo, and intrepid gossip reporter Lisbeth. I was reminded of The Fifth Assassin, another Meltzer book. I think that Meltzer sticks to a genre that he knows and does well. I enjoyed the book, and I just wish that Meltzer wrote more books.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Death in Cyprus by M.M. Kaye

Death in Cyprus is another mystery winner by M.M. Kaye
I just finished Death in Cyprus by M.M. Kaye. I've been reading through her mysteries, and I only have one more left to read. Death in Cyprus was originally published in 1956 as Death Walked in Cyprus It tells the story of twenty-year-old Amanda Derington, who is breaking out from under her guardian uncle's thumb by traveling first to Egypt to visit with an aunt, and then to Cyprus. Uncle Oswin is not keen on Amanda's rebellion, but he makes plans for her to stay with the manager of his winery business in Cyprus. On the ship from Egypt to Cyprus, Julia Blaine drinks a poisoned glass of lemon water and dies. The problem is that Amanda had just switched cabins with Julia, and Amanda thinks the water was meant for Julie. Steve Howard, a handsome, artist type that Amanda thinks is very attractive, comes to Amanda's rescue when Julia collapses, and he shows great interest in what happened. When the ship gets into Cyprus, the killing doesn't stop. Amanda feels a threat to her safety, but every time, Steve happens to be there to save her. Will Amanda figure out what is happening, and what will happen with Steve Howard?

I really enjoyed this book. The action was fast paced and thrilling. I have to admit that I couldn't figure out who the murderer was or why the murders were happening. The clues are all there, but Kaye does a good job of keeping the reader guessing. What I like the most about Kaye's mystery books is the romantic element. The heroine is always getting herself into trouble, and the hero is always the strong, omniscient, silent type. The heroine doesn't know if the hero suspects her of murder, and the pair of them tend to be at odds because they can't realize that they are in love. Of course, all works out well in the end, which is why I loves these books. Unlike the real world, everything works out for the best. Death in Cyprus is a winner.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

Real Murders is an entertaining mystery, the first in Charlaine Harris' Aurora Teagarden series
I had heard that Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel was going to made movies out of Charlaine Harris' Aurora Teagarden books. I've read the Sookie Stackhause books, and enjoyed them except for the last two, so I decided to give Aurora a try. The first book in the series is Real Murders, which is not being made into a movie by Hallmark. Aurora Teagarden is a librarian and also a member of the Real Murders group. The group researches real murders and discusses them. In some cases, the murders are unsolved, or there is a question about the guilt of the murderer. The group meets once a month, and at a meeting where Aurora Teagarden is to present information on a murder, she finds one of the other members with her head bashed in and arranged like the woman in the murder that Aurora was going to discuss. It seems like one of the Real Murders members did the murder, and when more murders happen, setup to look like other famous murder cases. Everywhere Aurora goes, murder seems to follow, which makes her a bit of a suspect, and it also means that Aurora starts to worry that the murderer might be closer to her than she would like. The ending of the book was quite unexpected and disturbing.

Real Murders was a real page-turner. I found myself reading the book every spare moment, walking up the steps, eating lunch, riding on the bus, etc. Aurora is a likable character, and I will definitely be checking out the second book in the series when it's available for Kindle loan from Overdrive. I'm also looking forward to the Hallmark Channel movies. Candace Cameron Bure will be playing Aurora when the movie comes out in April.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie

Sad Cypress was a thoroughly enjoyable mystery that I would recommend to any who haven't experienced Christie or Poirot.
I like to listen to podcasts of old time radio shows. Sometimes, instead of old time radio, the podcasts will have fairly recent British radio show offerings. My favorites are when they offer a radio play based on one of Agatha Christie's novels. Recently Boxcars711 had a rendition of Sad Cypress. Unfortunately, they only had two of the three parts, so I was quite interested in reading the book to find out if I had figured out whodunit.

Sad Cypress is an Hercule Poirot mystery. Elinor Carlisle is accused of murdering Mary Gerrard, a young woman who had been a protege of Elinor's aunt. When Elinor and her fiance, Roddy Winter, who is also a relation by Elinor's aunt's marriage to Roddy's uncle, get an anonymous letter about Mary Gerrard cozying up to the sick aunt, they go to visit the aunt to see what's going on. Roddy winds up falling for Mary, and when the aunt dies suddenly after a second debilitating stroke, Elinor is the sole heir. The aunt died without a will, but she did express an interest in taking care of Mary Gerrard. Elinor breaks off her engagement because Roddy is in love with Mary, and Roddy also seems upset that Elinor has all the money. Roddy is rebuffed by Mary, and Elinor encourages Roddy to go to Europe. When Elinor goes down to sell her aunt's house and invites Mary and Nurse Hopkins to lunch, Mary winds up dead. Elinor is instantly suspected because of jealousy over the loss of Roddy. The local doctor, who is smitten with Elinor, enlists the help of Poirot to prove Elinor is innocent. Can Poirot do it? More importantly, is Elinor innocent?

Sad Cypress was an enjoyable mystery. The clues are all there, and when Poirot gives the recap at the end, it makes perfect sense. I know that I found myself smacking my palm to my forehead over clues that I overlooked, or didn't even realize were clues. Christie was the master of weaving a great mystery, and in this case, she created some believable characters. Elinor may not always seem very likable, but I did feel sympathy for her. Not only that, but I could see myself have the same reaction to losing my fiance. All in all, Sad Cypress was a thoroughly enjoyable mystery that I would recommend to any who haven't experienced Christie or Poirot.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Death in Berlin

Death in Berlin is my favorite of the M.M. Kaye "Death in ..." series.
I just finished Death in Berlin by M.M. Kaye. This was originally published in 1955 as Death Walked in Berlin. Miranda Brand was on a month-long vacation with her cousin, his wife, their daughter (Lottie), and Mademoiselle (the nanny) in Berlin. As you can tell from the original publication date, the story was set in the time after World War II when the Russians and British/Americans were in Berlin, but before the Wall went up. Miranda's cousin, Robert Melville was in the British military, and his wife, Stella, was older, and a bit concerned about losing Robert to someone younger. While on their way to Berlin, Miranda and the Melvilles joined up with others heading to the city, such as Sally and Andy Page, the Leslies, and the Marsons. While at dinner the night before the group arrived in Berlin, the Melvilles dined with Brigadier Brindley, who told a story about a German SS officer named Riddler who had gotten a fortune in diamonds to only disappear with his wife. The story was that they killer their man-servant and his wife, and escaped. Brindley mentioned that they had a daughter, and a girl had escaped to Britain with a doll full of Riddler's wife's jewelry. Imagine the shock when Miranda said that she was that girl, and that she wore the ankh that was found in the doll. Things took a turn for the worse when on the train to Berlin, Miranda couldn't sleep, went to took for the coachman, and then accidentally walked into Brigadier Brindley's cabin to find him stabbed to death. Fortunately for Miranda, Simon Lang was also on the train, and he investigated the death. More deaths followed, making Miranda appear either responsible or the intended victim. Lots of thrills ensued until the mystery was solved.

I have to admit that Death in Berlin in Berlin is my favorite of the Death in ... series of Kaye's. The mystery is not obvious, and the tension and suspense build as the story continues. Miranda is a very likable character, and I found myself rooting for more action between her and Simon Lang. If anything, the romance part of the story is a tad underdone, but that means that most of the concentration was on the action and the suspense. All in all, this was an an enjoyable and entertaining read.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Death in the Andamans by M.M. Kaye

Death in the Andamans is an entertaining mystery from M.M. Kaye
I have been laid up with a bad back for the past week, but it did give me a chance to catch up on some reading. I have had an urge to read some M.M. Kaye, not the Indian saga, but the mystery books. I just finished Death in the Andamans. This book was originally planned with Kaye and a childhood friend that she was visiting in the Andamans over the winter holidays. A hurricane struck the area, and Kaye and her friend were holed up over Christmas until the storm abated and things returned to normal. The pair plotted out the story of a murder, and years later, Kaye put it to use in this book. The plot is similar to the real situation: with a hurricane that hits the area on Christmas Eve. Copper Randal is visiting with her friend, Valerie Masson, whose step-father is the commissioner of the islands. After a picnic party, a slew of celebrants are headed back to the main island when the hurricane strikes. All except one makes it back safely to the main island, but Ferrars Shilto doesn't make it back. Since a trio of boats, on which Ferrars was traveling, capsized, it is assumed that Ferrars drowned due to the storm. However, one of the guests, who is also a doctor, thinks otherwise, and he turns up murdered after checking out Ferrars' body. Another murder happens before Copper and Val, with their boyfriends, Charles and Nick, figure out whodunit.

I really enjoyed reading the story, and it was an added touch that it happened during the Christmas holidays. The plot was just convoluted enough to keep it interesting and to prevent me from figuring out who done it. It should have been as clear as the nose on my face, but Kaye did an excellent job of keeping the reader guessing. Next up is Death in Berlin.