Book Review: House of Desire by Margaret Lucke @MargaretLucke @OakledgePress1

House of Desire
A Claire Scanlan Haunted House Mystery
Margaret Lucke
Oakledge Press, June  2020
ISBN: 978-1-939030-06-1
Trade Paperback

A haunted house story is always fun, and when it’s mixed with time-travel, murder, and ghosts, the whole spectrum is covered. In House of Desire, the precept is intriguing. A grand old Victorian mansion has passed into the hands of the present generation heirs. Though none want the house as a home, one wants to sell to a developer; one wants to sell to a museum that will preserve the house and its history; one doesn’t know what to do. Her heart votes for the museum, her head tells her she needs the most money. Meanwhile, the sales reps negotiating for the museum are hosting a big bash to raise funds for the preservation, which the developer also attends. And then a man is murdered. The odd thing is, no one seems to have a motive.

Claire Scanlon is one of the agents advocating for the museum, but she is more than that. A psychic (although I’m not sure she meets the exact criteria for that) when she meets a young woman on the mansion’s stairs, she soon realizes the girl, Roxane, is invisible to everyone but her. What is Roxane’s story? Why is she here? Why is she wearing the same necklace Claire has on? And why is she so afraid? Claire will have to travel into the past to discover the answers to these questions, and discover the present day murderer.

The novel is written with four different points of view, something that occasionally becomes a bit clunky. Although this book is evidently part of a series, I didn’t find Claire’s character especially strong as the heroine. And although I went back and reread parts, the answer to how Roxane and Claire had the same necklace was never answered. Since I read an ARC, perhaps that is addressed in the final version. I hope so. Loved the setting of a house of ill-repute and found its denizens excellent; the current characters not so much.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

The Stranger Diaries
Elly Griffiths
First Mariner Books, March 2019
ISBN 978-0-358-11786-5
Library ebook

Clare Cassidy is an English Literature teacher at Talgarth High in the town of Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex. The school itself has some history connected to a writer R.M.Holland, well known for his short story “The Stranger” and for residing in the school back in the early 1900’s, long before it became a school. There is also a haunting tale about his wife who’d died in mysterious circumstances, and even now her ghostly presence wanders the rooms where she lived with her husband.

Ella Elphick, a teacher at Talgarth High well-liked by colleagues and students, has been murdered. The novel is told through three of the characters, Clare, her teenage daughter Georgia, and DS Harbinder Kaur, the detective assigned to the case. Clare is writing a book about R.M. Holland, and has been keeping a diary for years.

The reader comes to know these three woman through their everyday lives and their thoughts on the murder. DS Kaur, who once attended Talgarth High, is thirty-five and still lives with her parents. Georgia aspires to be a writer and is meantime dealing with her over- protective mother and her own self confidence. And Clare, unsettled by the murder of her friend, and worried about her teenage daughter’s budding romance.

Another body is discovered throwing light on the possibility that Clare may be in danger.

I wasn’t particularly fond of the way this mystery unfolded. Moving back and forth between the three main characters tended to duplicate some of the information and there was little urgency in unmasking the perpetrator, even after a second victim appeared. Scattered throughout the novel was the short story “The Stranger” which I also found distracting. The final outcome didn’t work, at least, for me…

However, as I write this, I’m aware that this novel has been awarded the 2020 Edgar award for Best Novel. Not my cup of tea I guess.

Respectfully submitted,

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2020.

Teeny Book Reviews: The Glass Thief by Gigi Pandian and Edisto Tidings by C. Hope Clark @GigiPandian @HeneryPress @hopeclark @Bellebooks

The Glass Thief
A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery #6
Gigi Pandian
Henery Press, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-63511-555-0
Trade Paperback

When I read the first Jaya Jones mystery, I thought, “Aha, the lady version of Indiana Jones!” and I’ve been a big fan ever since. After that first book, I’ve gone on a number of adventures with historian Jaya and have enjoyed every one of them.

This time, our treasure-hunting, ghostbusting heroine gets dragged into a locked room mystery involving a French family with a sordid history of Cambodian treasure looting, a resident ghost and several murders that have all (coincidentally?) occurred in their mansion two nights before Christmas. Perhaps most puzzling, a famous novelist is writing a new book and needs her help in a very odd way. Not only that, Jaya’s boyfriend, Lane, throws her for a loop and may have brought their relationship to an abrupt end.

The story takes place in San Francisco, Paris and the exotic land of Cambodia and I felt like an armchair traveler the whole time because Ms. Pandian is so good with settings. Jaya is on the hunt for the elusive Serpent King sculpture which has mysteriously vanished from the Delacroix home and the twists and turns abound, enough to keep me on tenterhooks as I waffled from one possible solution to another. That’s another thing the author does well—dream up a boatload of threads that may or may not connect to each other.

As always, Jaya’s friends are appealing and as well drawn as you could possibly want although Jaya is on her own through much of the tale. By the way, anyone with a taste for scrumptious food will be drooling over the dishes the author has everyone chowing down on—as I write this, I’m craving some mouthwatering Indian delicacies 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

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Edisto Tidings
An Edisto Island Mystery #6
C. Hope Clark
Bell Bridge Books, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-61194-956-8
Trade Paperback

As you can see, I’m a little out of season with this book as the story takes place at Christmas but, never you mind, a good story is a good story no matter when, right?

And a good one this is. Police Chief Callie Morgan is called to the scene of a murder—or is it a murder? There’s a body for sure, and it was found on a vacant lot owned by a contentious local, but there’s a very personal twist in that the victim is her biological mother’s husband. Obviously, Sarah, Callie’s mother, has to be a prime suspect along with the lot’s owner who also knew the victim.

Meanwhile, Callie also has to deal with a number of thefts that seem to be perpetrated by Santa. Somebody is stealing Christmas presents but might have an altruistic if criminal purpose. The resort town’s short-term rental visitors will be leaving in a few days and, if any of them are involved in these crimes, Callie’s timing had better be good. Fortunately, some of her friends are quite helpful when it comes to solving crimes and the police department staff is intelligent and reliable.

I really like this series, largely because Callie is so normal; she’s not on a power trip, she has heavy-duty baggage but is coping as well as one could hope, she’s smart as a whip and she cares about her job and the people she serves. Callie is a former big city cop so she has some skills not always easily found in small town departments but she also knows that the people of Edisto Island are not the least bit backward or dumb. In other words, she fits in well.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

Book Review: Things in Jars by Jess Kidd @JessKiddHerself @AtriaBooks

Things In Jars
Jess Kidd
Atria Books, February 2020
ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0
Hardcover

When I first laid eyes on this novel I wasn’t going to read or review it. Not my kind of crime novel, I thought. But I read the first page. Then I read the entire thing, almost without stopping. This woman has a way with words and even more significantly, with story.

Here is London of the Victorian Age, but not the London of royalty and means. This is the London of disease, of violence and brutality, of starvation and lives too often begun and played out in darkness and misery, unseen, unremarked and unconsecrated. Here is London in myth and reality. More, here is a story that takes one to the edge of the sea and dares you to look deep, below the surface and just consider the possibilities.

Bridie Devine is an unusual anomaly in London. She’s a middle-aged single woman who supports herself as a private investigator. It’s the middle of the century and while prisons like Newgate are well-known, well-established protective police departments are not. The story chases Bridie back and forth from significant childhood among Irish contemporaries to recognition of her prodigious intellect at an early stage to considered analysis of facts and evidence.

Make no mistake, though this story deals prominently with other worldly manifestations, it is rooted in the mean and fraught world of the lower classes and with real human emotion and attitude. Here is a story that will grab you and not let go, even after the final page.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Blood on the Chesapeake by Randy Overbeck @OverbeckRandy @WildRosePress

Blood on the Chesapeake
The Haunted Shores Mysteries #1
Randy Overbeck
The Wild Rose Press, April 2019
ISBN 978-1509223282
Trade Paperback

History teacher/coach Darrell Henshaw has taken a new job in a small town on the Chesapeake Bay. An unwanted shock comes when the first thing he sees as he approaches the high school is a naked young black man on the widows walk outside his office. No one else admits to seeing him, although, to Darrell’s dismay, there are rumors of a ghost. It’s said the ghost is that of a high school boy back in the sixties who committed suicide.

This is not Darrell’s first experience with the occult and an episode in his past proved that to ignore the sighting is the wrong thing to do. Soon the ghost begins visiting him, pleading for his help. The ghost says he was murdered and needs Darrell to prove it using clues provided to him to bring the perpetrators to justice. Darrell, with the help of a charming young woman he meets, figures he has no choice but to do as the ghost asks, especially since there are peculiar things going on in the school and in the town. He soon finds it isn’t the ghost he has to fear, but the living.

The racism of the sixties is front and center in this story, with effects that linger into the nineties when the action is set. It’s a sad story, too often true of the day–although the ghost is a twist. I found the story a bit predictable, and the big, ample breasts bouncing on practically every woman’s chest rather annoying. But if you like ghost stories, this one carries through to a satisfactory conclusion.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2019.
https://carolcriggercom.sitelio.me/
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.

A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 5

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

Peachy Flippin’ Keen
Southern Eclectic #3
Molly Harper
Pocket Star, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-7894-8
Ebook

Molly Harper has a ton of books but I had never “met” her until I came across the first book in this 4-book series and fell deeply, madly in love with Lake Sackett, Georgia, and the McCready clan, not to mention the folks in their town. These books are Southern fiction at it’s best and this novella is no exception. Nothing earthshattering happens here as it’s pretty much a set-up for the book coming out in June, Ain’t She a Peach (and I can hardly wait to start that one).

Frankie McCready has to be the cutest, most unusual county coroner and embalmer you ever did see but she fits right in with the family and the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop which is exactly what the name says. One day, there’s a new lawman in town, Sheriff Eric Linden, fresh from Atlanta, and he apparently never read the Southern charm book. Pranks are being perpetrated on the McCready premises but it’s questionable whether the sheriff will help solve the case or drive Frankie to murder (of him) first. Then again, they did have a previous encounter so keeping that secret is one thing they have in common, probably the only thing. Can you guess where this is headed?

These books can be read out of order because each one focuses on different members of the family but, for a real treat, read these in order.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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Death Promise
Jacqueline Seewald
Encircle Publications, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-893035-94-2
Trade Paperback

On the surface, this sequel is a thriller involving human trafficking and organized crime as well as maybe Russians and international intrigue but, for me, the core story is that of Daniel Reiner and the family dysfunction that suddenly mushrooms when he learns he has a much younger teenaged sister, daughter of the father who abandoned him as a child. Who is Beth and is she truly his half-sister? International consultant Michelle Hallam agrees to help Daniel look into the situation but what they learn in Las Vegas sends them into a tornado of more and more questions with frightening answers. This is a nice blend of suspense and romance with lots of action to keep the pages turning.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place
A Flavia de Luce Novel #9
Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-0-345539991
Hardcover
Random House Audio
Narrated by Jayne Entwistle
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

Great sadness and a near-cliffhanger enveloped our cheeky pre-teen detective at the end of the previous book and fans had to wait, with huge anticipation, for this newest book to find out what would become of the de Luce family and its faithful servants, Dogger and Mrs. Mullet. When Aunt Felicity becomes overbearing and a bit of a bully, Flavia decides to do away with herself but Fate intervenes when Dogger suggests an outing, a boat trip on a nearby river. Is anyone surprised when Flavia quite literally catches a corpse, setting her off on another investigation?

Rumor has it the next book, The Golden Tresses of the Dead (January 2019), will be the last we see of Flavia but, oh my goodness, I hope not and the surprise at the end of The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place gives me a little bit of hope for her future. Who knew, back in 2009 when the series began, that so many mystery readers would fall in love with this kid?

As always, narrator Jayne Entwistle kept me entranced and, at times, sitting in the car in my driveway or a parking lot so I could continue to listen. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: Jayne Entwistle brings Flavia to life and I highly, highly recommend the audiobooks and/or the print books (I do both so I won’t miss anything) but reading in order is a must.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn
A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Short Story
Gigi Pandian
Henery Press, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-63511-314-3
Ebook

“Jaya, for the love of all that’s good and holy, please remember that not everything is a murderous plot.”

With that, Jaya and Tamarind (the latter wearing stylish purple combat boots) are rescued from the Denver airport in a snowstorm by a pair of friendly guys and are soon ensconced at a Victorian hotel, the Tanglewood Inn. Did Jaya really see someone at the window of the turret room she’s been assigned? Kenny thinks the hotel is perfect but it puts Jaya more in mind of a spooky haunted house. Sure enough, the owner, Rosalyn, shares the tale of her hotel library’s “avenging ghost”.  A former guest, a Mr. Underhill, died there in the 1930’s and an Agatha Christie book had something to do with it in a classic locked room mystery.

And then they hear a scream in the night…

I’m already a devotee of Jaya’s historic treasure hunting adventures and this little story is a perfect interlude before the next novel. Besides, who could ask for more than a locked room mystery?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

Book Review: Death Overdue by Allison Brook

Death Overdue
A Haunted Library Mystery #1
Allison Brook
Crooked Lane Books, October 2017
ISBN 978-1-68331-386-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Carrie Singleton is just about done with Clover Ridge, Connecticut until she’s offered a job as the head of programs and events at the spooky local library, complete with its own librarian ghost. Her first major event is a program presented by a retired homicide detective, Al Buckley, who claims he knows who murdered Laura Foster, a much-loved part-time library aide who was bludgeoned to death fifteen years earlier. As he invites members of the audience to share stories about Laura, he suddenly keels over and dies.

The medical examiner reveals that poison is what did him in and Carrie feels responsible for having surged forward with the program despite pushback from her director. Driven by guilt, Carrie’s determined to discover who murdered the detective, convinced it’s the same man who killed Laura all those years ago. Luckily for Carrie, she has a friendly, knowledgeable ghost by her side. But as she questions the shadows surrounding Laura’s case, disturbing secrets come to light and with each step Carrie takes, she gets closer to ending up like Al.

Carrie has itchy feet, never staying in one town very long, and she’s just about ready to take a hike again when the library director in Clover Ridge offers her a full-time position to head up programs and events. Her immediate reaction is that she doesn’t want to be tied down but a ghostly voice in her ear prompts her to at least ask for details. When Evelyn Havers reveals herself to Carrie, it’s all Carrie can do to not freak out but she’s really distracted by the frightening idea of actually settling down.

So, when Carrie decides to stay in town and accept the job, she jumps in with enthusiasm, taking on the position’s pleasures as well as its normal glitches plus some pointed small acts of sabotage by the woman who wanted the job. Carrie finds a way, with Evelyn’s help, to get Dorothy to stop and peace descends on the library, at least momentarily, until guest speaker Al Buckley, a former police detective, drops dead during a presentation regarding new evidence in the cold case murder of Laura Foster fifteen years earlier. Carrie immediately suspects foul play, contrary to her boss’s belief, but it’s days later before the police say that Al was poisoned.

As with many cozies, Carrie really hasn’t got any valid reason to investigate but that’s OK with me. I enjoyed going along as she followed one clue after another to finally get to the truth and she’s smarter than many amateur sleuths, avoiding the TSTL syndrome although she does suffer from running her mouth too much 😉 A plethora of potential murderers keep her busy as does a bit of romance but even that has its own surprises. Speaking of surprises, I was more than a little bemused by Carrie’s reaction to having a ghost in her life.

With Halloween right around the corner, the timing couldn’t be better for this supernatural cozy and, while Carrie can be abysmally self-absorbed and downright immature, I do like her and I adore Evelyn. The icing on the cake is the library setting, my second favorite book-related backdrop, and Carrie is actually a pretty good sleuth with this first case…or, two cases, in reality. I’m going to be eagerly awaiting the next adventure hoping especially to spend much more time with Evelyn.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2017.