Book Reviews: Dread on Arrival by Claudia Bishop, Exercise is Murder by Janis Patterson, and A Rendezvous To Die For by Betty McMahon

Dread on ArrivalDread on Arrival  
A Hemlock Falls Mystery (#17)
Claudia Bishop
Berkley Prime Crime, April 2012
ISBN 978-0-425-24707-5
Mass Market Paperback

Dread on Arrival, the latest entry in the Hemlock Falls mysteries, is a spoof on TV reality shows featuring antique pickers,  pawnshop owners, and the wildly popular Antique Roadshow. Except I doubt there has been murder done on the sets of these shows. That’s not the case here, and certainly Edmund Tree, star of “Your Ancestor’s Attic”, seems a rather likely victim. Neither he, his fiancee, nor the people who work for him are especially charming folk, all of which provides plenty of suspects when Mr. Tree is murdered whilst the cameras are rolling. And really, amateur sleuth Sarah Quilliam isn’t certain she’d care, except that her town, her sister, her friends, and her hotel are embroiled in the mystery. And any thing that hurts them, hurts her.

Claudia Bishop has created a fun town full of quirky characters, all of whom are people you’d like to know–and you might even find counterparts in your own home town. Everyone wants to get in on solving this newest case of Murder in Hemlock Falls, but only Sarah has the correct expertise. The author includes several yummy sounding recipes, drawn from the meals served in the fictional Inn at Hemlock Falls, NY, as well as a Cast of Characters to help identify the many folk in the book.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2012.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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Exercise is MurderExercise is Murder
Janis Patterson
Five Star, December 2012
ISBN 978-1-4328-2636-9
Hardcover

Ex-cop Rebecca Cloudwebb, now an antique dealer after an on-the-job shooting has invalided her out of the force, is drawn into a particularly nasty murder when social-climber Laura Tyler drinks a glass of poison on her first visit to a tony exercise club. Rebecca, on the scene to deliver some expensive earrings to a wealthy client, watches in horror as the woman dies. Suspects abound. The problem is that the rich ladies in the class consider themselves above the law, and there seems to be no motive–until it occurs to Flora Melkiot, Rebecca’s client, that perhaps Laura wasn’t the intended victim. Coercing Rebecca into working with her, the two set out to find the murderer, much to the cops’ chagrin.

Wow! What a bunch of dysfunctional women, with not a pleasant one between them. At times I had a difficult time remembering who was married to whom and who was sleeping with whom. Mostly, I didn’t care. I just hoped Rebecca and Flora were able to find the killer before more people died. There’s a lot to this book; politics, grudges, blackmail, affairs, sordid secrets. Working through the mystery revives Rebecca Cloudwebb’s determination to rise above her own depression and despair—a good thing since it seems certain she has more adventures in store.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2012.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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A Rendezvous To Die ForA Rendezvous to Die For
A Cassandra Cassidy Mystery
Betty McMahon
Lulu, 2011
ISBN 978-1-257-93132-3
Trade Paperback

Minnesota “nice” turns lethal in this story, pitting freelance photographer Cassandra Cassidy against a murderer who begins his career at a re-enactors fur trader rendezvous.

Ms. McMahon touches a lot of bases with this mystery. Wrapped around the actual murders is information on photography, cow cutting (if you don’t know what this is, you’re about to find out) and re-enactors totally dedicated to their chosen era’s realism. I think you’ll find plenty of research has gone into these details, adding verisimilitude to the whole. Although Cassandra Cassidy wobbles on the TSTL edge, her motivation in solving the whodunit when the cops can’t seems logical, especially since she is one of the main suspects. If the tiny bit of romance seems a trifle “thrown in for good measure,” it, along with the unanswered question of what happened to Cass’s parents, leads me to believe there may be a sequel in the works.  Which is fine with me. I like Cass.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2012.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.