Book Review: Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany

Elementary, She Read
A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #1
Vicki Delany
Crooked Lane Books, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-68331-096-9
Hardcover

In Elementary, She Read, author Delany introduces quite an interesting set of characters along with a new twist on mysteries set in bookshops. While Gemma Doyle is the protagonist of this new series, the history behind the story begins when Gemma’s Great Uncle Arthur seized the opportunity to buy a building at the famous address of 222 Baker Street- though this Baker Street is located in West London, Massachusetts rather than London, England. With such a well known address, it was a given that her mystery loving uncle would open a Sherlock Holmes bookstore.  When he found a bookstore alone wouldn’t make it, he expanded to include any and all things pertaining to Sherlock Holmes. Along the way, the opportunity arose to open a tea shop, named appropriately Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, next door but connected by an internal door. That shop is run by Gemma’s good friend Jayne. That is the story behind the story.

In a nutshell, the main plot of Elementary, She Read is this. The store is swamped one afternoon by a traveling bridge group, and while tidying the store after the group has left, Gemma finds an old Strand magazine that is not part of the store’s inventory hidden among the other magazines. Curious as to how it came to be there, she thinks back over the people who had just left the store and remembers one lady who was carrying a plain white plastic shopping bag that did not appear to be part of the group. She searches the store, finds the bag the woman was carrying and in it found a clue as to where the woman might be staying. Puzzled as to why the woman left what could well be a valuable magazine in the store, she puts the magazine to her home safe and sets off to find the woman. From there the plot follows a familiar path of amateur sleuths. Gemma tries to do the right thing and ends up finding a dead body or two and lands in the middle of a police investigation as a prime suspect. Eager to clear her name she starts snooping around trying to solve the murder, as well as unravel the original mystery as to why the magazine was placed in her store. The plot is well done with plenty of twists to keep readers on their toes. When the solution was finally revealed, I have to say I had figured out that the guilty person was involved but had not worked out how or why. I felt like Delany played fair with the readers by giving them clues to follow yet making the puzzle complicated enough to keep us working at it.

Readers don’t see much of Uncle Arthur in the book, and I hope that changes as the series moves forward. He seems to be a character ripe for development. Gemma is a great protagonist and has the eye for noticing details like Sherlock himself. There is a book about thinking like Sherlock mentioned several times throughout the book. The book actually exists (I checked on Amazon) and I plan on getting a copy. Readers get to know Jayne a bit but I suspect we’ll get a better read on her in future books. There were a couple of “villains” among the characters giving readers people to despise. One was a police woman who seems to have taken an instant dislike to Gemma, while the other was a fellow shopkeeper who has the need to control everyone else’s business. I’m sure we’ll get more of them as well.

There are the standard animals in the book-Gemma’s pet dog and the store’s resident cat who seems to like everyone except Emma.

Elementary, She Read is a wonderful beginning to what I hope is a long running series.

I volunteered to read and review this book which I received from the publisher.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St.Clair, February 2017.

Book Reviews: Devine Intervention by Martha Brockenbrough and Clarity by Kim Harrington

Devine InterventionDevine Intervention   
Martha Brockenbrough
Arthur A. Levine Books, June 2012
ISBN 978-0-545-38213-7
Hardcover

I am not a big fan of YA novels, other than the Potter series, but Devine Intervention surprised me.  The book started out with interesting subject matter and continued to be a great read.  The point of view and witty dialogue was funny and witty.

The main character has several voices in his head and is quickly required to make a decision to either go along with a new program or to Hell.  I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the ending will catch you off guard.

The dialogue was easy to follow, which was good because as stated earlier, numerous voices are talking to the main character at a time! The concept for the book I thought was unique and the writing was very good.  I would highly recommend this book for teenagers, YA, and even older folks looking for a great read.

Reviewed by Chris Swinney, September 2013.
Author of Gray Ghost.

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ClarityClarity
Clarity Series #1
Kim Harrington
Point, March 2011
ISBN 978-0-545-23050-6
Hardcover

Clarity is a teenage girl with psychic “abilities” and from a family with abilities. Together, in their home, they run a psychic reading establishment.  This proves wildly unpopular for Clarity, known as a freak in her small town. When their small town which relies on the summer tourist season experiences a murder during that peak season, it’s Clarity they go to for help. That leaves Clarity stuck between her ex-boyfriend who she still has feelings for even though her ability has gotten in their way and the new chief of police’s dreamy son who doesn’t want to like her but can’t seem to stay away.

The trio is using Clarity’s psychic abilities to try to solve the murder and, when all signs point to someone close to Clarity, she’s torn between what she feels and what she can prove. Clarity deals with her love triangle, her teenage rebellion with her mother, the town’s teenagers that are not fond of the “freaky girl” and the stress of more murders as she gets closer to the truth with sarcastic wit that keeps you turning the pages.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Christina Macias, October 2012.

Book Review: Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding by Lea Wait

Shadows on a Cape Cod WeddingShadows on a Cape Cod Wedding
An Antique Print Mystery 
Lea Wait
Perseverance Press, April 2013
ISBN 978-1-56474-531-6
Trade Paperback

Antique print dealer Maggie Summer is spending time on Cape Cod, helping her best friend Gussie with her wedding. Arriving at Gussie’s home a little early, Maggie takes a walk on the beach and, lucky her, discovers the body of a murdered man.

Maggie, being blessed—or cursed—depending on who is talking, enters full steam into the investigation. Plenty of suspects are available, but what seems lacking is motive. Leave it to Maggie to dredge up several scenarios. Could the murderer be the man’s daughter, who’d thought her father already dead? The cousin he lived with, who manages expenses with no visible means of support?  And why doesn’t the police chief seem more concerned?

Knotty questions indeed for Maggie to wrestle, and at the same time soothe her possible fiance, who wishes she’d mind her own business.

This cozy, while not quite this reader’s cup of tea, has a very good puzzle at its core. The setting is excellent and the story well-written. The characters? I’m still evaluating. It seemed at times a little much to include a deaf woman, a boy with Down Syndrome, and a lady confined to a wheelchair all within one novel, while the romance between Maggie and Will didn’t seem to strike any sparks.

One thing I liked very much was the catalog-style listing of an antique print, complete with pricing, that headed up each chapter. A reader could learn a lot from this alone. Kudos.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, May 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.