Book Review: A Bouquet of Rue by Wendy Hornsby

A Bouquet of Rue
A Maggie MacGowen Mystery #12
Wendy Hornsby
Perseverance Press, April 2019
ISBN 978-1564746078
Trade Paperback

If you’ve never been to France, Hornsby’s A Bouquet of Rue will prove a good substitute to getting a passport. Maggie MacGowen, a documentary filmmaker, has joined her fiancé, Jean-Paul Bernard, to prepare for their wedding, as well as make films for a French TV company. Maggie has contacts and family in France, so she is not without means, and Jean-Paul is an important person as well. Within a few days of Maggie’s arrival, however, it seems a teenage girl has gone missing, and a Muslim refugee is being not only bullied at school without the girl, Ophelia’s, support, but is being blamed for her disappearance. Maggie and Jean-Paul become involved because their semi-permanent house guest, Dr. Ari Massarani, also a Muslim refugee, teaches Nabi and comes to his defense.

I found most of the book dealt with French customs, their food, their drink, their lifestyles⏤not so very different from their American counterparts. Perhaps they are even more concerned with money⏤or the lack thereof. And  both their family and their national attitudes are maybe more closed than Americans often are. The food and drink parts are a little overwhelming to one for whom food is fuel.

Was there a murder? Yes. Did I care? Not so much. More interesting was the spotlight shown on racial profiling and school bullying, apparently a world-wide problem with no resolution in sight.   But I would say this book takes a good hard look at it. Read, think, and learn.

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

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Book Review: Water Signs by Janet Dawson

Water Signs
A Jeri Howard Mystery #12
Janet Dawson
Perseverance Press, April 2017
ISBN 978-1-56474-586-6
Trade Paperback

Methodology is at the forefront of this story. There’s really never any doubt as to who the criminals are. The problem PI Jeri Howard has to work through is proving what happened to her friend Cal Brady who was discovered drowned in the Estuary. Why would anyone want to murder a lowly security guard? Well, unless he’s seen something he shouldn’t have and begun investigating it. Because when thugs turn to murder, there must be more at stake than keeping the homeless off a building site.

I think this story might find its audience with native Oaklanders. The book is filled with local political agenda items. I admit to skipping much of the driving directions and what building is on what corner and which business faces onto the Estuary and such. I’ve never been there, probably never will be there, and beyond a general setting, really didn’t care about reaching the closest Starbucks in the least time. IMO, all this doesn’t add to the plot, unless perhaps you live in Oakland.

That said, I sympathize with the problems of gentrification and can certainly see, with the big money involved, how it could lead to criminal activity. In fact, there’s probably not too much fiction in the plot. It’s all happened at one time or another.

But I wanted to read about Jeri solving her friend’s murder. The investigation sometimes got lost in the details. Besides, Jeri will go broke handing out all those business cards.

Even so, Jeri is sharply drawn. The reader definitely knows what makes her tick. I liked her friends. I liked the way she worked her way to the truth, and I  liked the way she took the murderers down, even though it happened a little fast at the end. Go Jeri!

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: Fortune’s Fool by Albert A. Bell, Jr.

Fortune’s Fool
A Sixth Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger
Albert A. Bell, Jr.
Perseverance Press, April 2017
ISBN 978-1-56474-587-3
Trade Paperback

In this mystery set in the first century AD, Pliny the Younger stumbles upon a mystery in his own villa at Lake Comum, at the foot of the Alps, in Italy.

Pliny has a long term relationship with his slave, Aurora. His wife suspects that there is something between them and demands that he marry Aurora off. He chooses a slave, Felix, who is older and served the same role in covering up a relationship between Pliny’s uncle and a slave, the union produced a son. Felix was castrated by a former master at age 16, a fact which is not known throughout the household. But Pliny neglects to inform Aurora until just before the wedding, and she is not pleased.

His wife Livia, was married before. Her first husband drowned in the lake, but his body was never found. Livia is displeased with the size of the rooms in this villa, so Pliny sets about to have a work crew demolish one of the walls, to add on two rooms. While the workers are breaking down the wall, they discover a skeleton. Who was this person and how did he or she die?

This is the sixth book in the series, and will fascinate mystery lovers with curiosity about the Roman Empire. The combination of history and culture is irresistible, and don’t let a lack of knowledge about the ancients deter you.  There is a glossary of terms in the back; also a cast of characters, both historical and fictional characters.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, June 2017.

Book Review: Matrimony in Miniature by Margaret Grace

Matrimony in Miniature
A Miniature Mystery #9
Margaret Grace
Perseverance Press, September 2016
ISBN: 978-1-56474-575-0
Trade Paperback

Matrimony in Miniature, the ninth book in the Miniatures series, finds protagonist Gerry Porter hustling to wrap up plans for her wedding to Henry Baker. Or, more to the point, her friends are hustling  while Gerry pretty much goes about business as usual. The couple agreed to a small, low key wedding, but Gerry is beginning to suspect that with her friends involved, there will be all sorts of  added frills. She is okay with that as long as the wedding happens and everyone involved has a good time. However, Gerry’s hopes for that diminish considerably when she receives a phone call from the wedding’s venue alerting her that there has been an accident on the premises. Of coarse the accident turns out to be a murder and Gerry being Gerry, she is soon nosing around to see what she can find out. This leads to her granddaughter Maddie also becoming involved.

It’s always good to visit Lincoln Point, California and the cast of characters who range from police officers to small town business owners to the crafting group who meet regularly at Gerry’s craft store. While I am not into miniatures, I am fascinated with the ongoing project in each of the books. In Matrimony in Miniature, Maddie and Henry’s granddaughter Taylor are working on Maddie’s science fair entry, a miniature water treatment plant, while Gerry is working on a new Victorian home.  I am forever impressed by the creative use of everyday things in making props for miniature models and houses.

The murder in this book was a bit more personal to Gerry than in some books as it occurred at the location that was to host her wedding and the victim was the wife of one of her craft group. Those connections give Gerry a reason to be more than a bit anxious to have the case solved. She does try to discourage Maddie from becoming involved, but Maddie has picked up the “investigator bug.”  I hate seeing children in peril. Author Grace skirts dangerously close to that but manages to keep Maddie safe.

The one thing that is a bit of a distraction with this series and seemed especially so in this book, is that the author in an effort to portray the characters’ lives gives the readers a bit too much of their comings and goings. My head hurt from all of the shuffling back and forth of the girls to and from school, Henry’s house and so forth. It seemed like every time the plot was humming along, there would be paragraphs of interruptions while Gerry, Henry or both drive back and forth and numerous phone calls to coordinate the driving. It is a small quibble, but this reader found it distracting.

I suppose it wouldn’t be necessary to have read any of the previous books in the series to enjoy this one. Certainly a lot of the characters’ backstories are given to readers along the way, but I suspect if readers jump into the series with this book they will find themselves seeking out the earlier books.

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

Book Review: Shadows on a Morning in Maine by Lea Wait

shadows-on-a-morning-in-maineShadows on a Morning in Maine
An Antique Print Mystery #8
Lea Wait
Perseverance Press, September 2016
ISBN:978-1-56474-577-4
Trade Paperback

Maggie Summer has taken a sabbatical from her teaching job, moved to Maine and, along with her “guy” Will Brewer, plans to open an antique mall where she can sell her antique prints. Finally, she is in the process of adopting an older child.

She runs into trouble when she learns the child does not necessarily want to be adopted, being weary of going from one foster home to the next. Another complication is that Will is not enthused about the situation. Maggie wonders if they can stay together and run the business if she goes ahead with acquiring a daughter, especially one as troubled as Brook.

Also troubling, seals have been killed in the harbor, their bodies left for all to see. Maggie is afraid Brook, who shows a fondness for seals, will see one and decide not to become her daughter. All bad enough until a young man, a lobsterman, is also murdered. Now Maggie is under a time pressure for the murder and seal killings to be solved before Brook’s next visit.

I always enjoy stories set along the coast of Maine, especially when the scene is set as well as this one is. Love the small town, closed community atmosphere. I don’t find Will a good match for Maggie, but that’s part of what I enjoyed about the story. One does wonder how it’s all going to turn out, meaning I’ll need to read the next installment to find out. I will, because the book is well-plotted and entertaining. I also enjoy the short descriptions of the prints Maggie sells in her antique shop, one of which heads up each chapter.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Reviews: Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu by Vasudev Murthy and Shakespeare No More by Tony Hays

sherlock-holmes-the-missing-years-timbuktuSherlock Holmes
The Missing Years: Timbuktu
Vasudev Murthy
Poisoned Pen Press, January 2016
ISBN 978-1-4642-0452-4
Hardcover

A fine pastiche that will take its place in the ever-growing libraries of Holmesians around the world. In the persona of Dr. John Watson, the author has crafted an intriguing tale of world journeys, strange and strangely twisted criminal characters and adventures at every turn.

For the most part the author has immersed himself into the very English character of the long-time companion and associate of the iconoclastic Sherlock Holmes. A man whose brilliance and observational talents are second to none, is accurately portrayed in print as a man often given to boorishness and impatience. Here we see him in a somewhat softer portrayal as he entices Dr. Watson to follow him first to the Continent and thence to the central wilds of Africa. It is of course, not yet the Twentieth Century and Holmes is in pursuit of the missing half of a treasure map written in an ancient text, long since lost to the turn of the world.

The adventures and the characters are many and worth pursuing and if we are occasionally jolted forward into the Twenty-first Century, by a peculiar grammatical construction, that only enhances the enjoyment readers will discover. A very worthwhile reading experience, indeed.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, April 2016.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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shakespeare-no-moreShakespeare No More
A Jacobean Mystery
Tony Hays
Perseverance Press
ISBN: 978-1-56474-566-8
Trade Paperback

This novel, set during Jacobean times in England, is a worth addition to the growing Shakespearean canon. The narrative purports to be chronicled by a constable in Stratford on Avon in the years following Shakespeare’s retirement from the stage. Shakespeare has returned to the family home and promptly begins to sow discontent and turmoil. It isn’t much talked about but the actor and playwright, though a family man, had a roving eye and didn’t much mind if the woman he pursued was married to someone else. One of the women he pursued is the wife of our narrator, Simon Saddler, wool merchant and town Constable.

When the novel opens, Shakespeare lies dying and he calls Saddler to his side to accuse another or poisoning him. After his death, Constable Saddler, in spite of his distress over his wife’s infidelity, Simon determines to investigate the allegation. This turns out to be a dangerous decision. Political maneuvering in these times was often deadly and the King’s supporters were not reticent about using assassination as a tool.

Readers familiar with this period of English history will recognize some of the characters and scenes deftly built into the story. The novel is well-paced, drawing on a variety of sources to weave this speculative and very enjoyable tale into a carefully grounded narrative. The inclusion of a cast of characters and a good “Author’s Note,” at the end all adds to a positive experience for any reader.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, April 2016.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Manhattan in Miniature by Margaret Grace

Manhattan in MiniatureManhattan in Miniature
A Miniature Mystery #8
Margaret Grace
Perseverance Press, April 2015
ISBN 978-1-56474-562-0
Trade Paperback

Manhattan in Miniature is the 8th Miniature Mystery book by written by Margaret Grace, the pen name Camille Minichino uses for the series.

I’ve always thought I might be interested in miniature crafts – building dollhouses, furniture and decorations so I hoped to explore the idea further with this book, and possibly move on to reading the rest of the series. The author even includes Miniature Tips at the back of the book, sort of a mini how-to-do-it for some of the items that are mentioned in the book. It was fun learning about the craft, although by the end of the book I’d learned enough to decide that it may not be for me.

Still, I found the book charming. Gerry Porter takes her granddaughter, Maddie, along with her when she is drafted to assist her friend, Bebe at a NYC craft show. It’s also an opportunity for Gerry to visit with Cynthia, an old friend from college. With that , we have the set up for not one but two mysteries for Gerry and Maddie to solve. One involves some theft from the crafts fair. The other is Cynthia’s concern that her elderly Aunt Elsie, who died recently from a heart attack, was actually murdered.

Even with all this set up, there just wasn’t enough going on to hold my interest throughout the book. Especially given the author’s tendency to account for every moment, even when there isn’t much of interest going on.

The story is told from Gerry’s point of view. She is a woman who does not tell others what she feels and thinks. Not her granddaughter or family – not her friends, not even her fiancé. There is a running inner dialogue about what she really thinks but only the reader is privy to that. I think Gerry needs to learn to speak up a little.

Still, the story has charm and is a fun light hearted read. If you like other books in the series, I think you will like this one also.

Reviewed by Constance Reader, September 2015.