Book Review: No Substitute for Matrimony by Carolyn J. Rose @CarolynJRose

No Substitute for Matrimony
Subbing Isn’t for Sissies #13
Carolyn J. Rose
Carolyn J. Rose, October 2020
ISBN 978-1-7342412-3-5
Trade Paperback

The author has written a score or more of what can be characterized as cozy mysteries. However, this novel is more of a deep dive into the subtle and not-so subtle characteristics of a lengthy cast of participants and their attitudes on life. They range from husband-to-be-Dave the detective to Barbara’s wealthy and intrusive friend, Mrs. B., to other faculty and staff at the school where Barbara substitute teaches.

Most of those who people the story are friendly, inquisitive, opinionated and talented. The narrative is well-done and the book is the kind that can fill several pleasant and warm afternoons. Yes, there’s a murder and Barbara’s husband-to-be is the detective charged with solving the puzzle. But that isn’t the most interesting element of the book.

The author has a penchant for giving readers access to her opinions about almost anything in sometimes calm, more often snarky terms. Her humor at times I found misplaced, but that’s a minor criticism. The writing is clean, the story proceeds at a reasonable pace and reaches its logical and satisfactory conclusion.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2021.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Sins of Edom, Red Sky.

Book Review: His and Hers by Alice Feeney @alicewriterland @Flatironbooks

His & Hers
Alice Feeney
Flatiron Books, July 2020
E-Book

The Title – His and Hers –  refers to the book’s two main characters.

Hers:  Anna Andrews, a newsreader, divorced and living and working in London, with a troubled past.

His:    Detective Chief Inspector Jack Harper who lives and works in the small English village of Blackdown where he grew up.

We are introduced to these two characters in separate chapters at the beginning and throughout this rather unusual and intriguing novel.

When the body of a young woman is found in Blackdown Woods, Detective Chief Inspector Jack Harper is called to the scene.

Anna Andrews, who has recently been taken off her job as newsreader, is asked to travel to Blackdown to cover the murder. She is somewhat reluctant to go.  Anna grew up in Blackdown, her mother still lives there, but Anna hasn’t seen her in months and the village holds no good memories for her.

The murder victim, Rachel Hopkins, is known to both Anna and Jack,  a fact neither wants revealed.  But as the investigation unfolds the reader is privy to both Anna’s and Jack’s take on the murder. It isn’t long before the connections between Jack and Rachel and Anna and Rachel  surface, casting suspicions on both of them.

This twisted tale is full of surprises and more victims before it reaches an exciting and dramatic climax.  But even there the tale isn’t quite over…

You’ll have to check this one out… You’ll be glad you did.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2020.

Book Review: His & Hers by Alice Feeney @alicewriterland @MacmillanAudio

His & Hers
Alice Feeney
Narrated by Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine
Macmillan Audio, July 2020
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

There are two sides to every story: yours and mine, ours and theirs, his and hers. Which means someone is always lying.

When a woman is murdered in Blackdown, a quintessentially British village, newsreader Anna Andrews is reluctant to cover the case. Detective Jack Harper is suspicious of her involvement, until he becomes a suspect in his own murder investigation.

Someone isn’t telling the truth, and some secrets are worth killing to keep.

I haven’t read anything by Alice Feeney before but, oh my goodness, His & Hers will most certainly not be the last. There are serial killer books and then there are serial killer books but this one stands head and shoulders above many that I’ve read before.

I can’t say much without giving away important plot details but let me just say that the author has done a masterful job of creating characters of such depth that none are completely good or bad (or perhaps I should say most are not) and none can be 100% trusted (I was especially intrigued by Jack’s young colleague, Priya). Ms. Feeney has also developed a high-tension plot that has a dramatic backstory and is largely dependent on all the bodies that keep showing up; the reader has a pretty good idea of who is going to end up being those bodies but guessing the killer’s identity is something else entirely. Twice—twice!—I was sure I had the murderer pegged and, both times, I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong.

There are three points of view here and the narrators handle them beautifully, Richard Armitage for Detective Jack Harper and Stephanie Racine for TV news personality Anna Andrews. The third POV is that of the killer but that voice is cleverly disguised electronically so the listener can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman and also can’t tell if it might be one of the two protagonists. Nice touch!

Serial killer stories aren’t for everyone but if, like me, you find them interesting and compelling, His & Hers is one you won’t want to miss. As for me, I’m adding it to my list of Best Books read in 2020.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.

Book Review: Murder Off the Page by Con Lehane @clehane @MinotaurBooks

Murder Off the Page
The 42nd Street Library Mysteries #3
Con Lehane
Minotaur Books, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-31792-6
Hardcover

When Raymond Ambler, librarian in charge of the crime fiction collection at the 42nd Street Library, and his friend and co-worker Adele Morgan are out for a drink one evening, they see an attractive and somewhat drunk woman in her early thirties, surrounded by a group of men harassing her. Adele recognizes the woman—she had been at the library earlier in the day. The woman notices Adele, and comes over to join their table, sitting on Ambler’s glasses, which he left on a stool. She introduces herself as Shannon Darling. Bartender McNulty steps in, and insists on taking her back to her hotel room.

Shannon told Adele she was writing a book on women mystery writers, focusing on Jayne Galloway. She seemed to be an inexperienced researcher, unfamiliar with how to do archival research, and appeared at the library more elegantly dressed than most researchers. Adele suspects Shannon is hiding something.

When a man is discovered shot in a hotel room registered to Shannon Darling, NYPD detective Mike Cosgrove investigates. He discovers that during Shannon’s visits to the city, she has bouts of uncontrolled drinking and one-night stands with men she meets in the cocktail lounges of posh hotels. Bartender McNulty and Shannon both disappear, and become suspects in the case.

Ambler and Adele investigate, wanting to clear the name of their friend McNulty. What they discover is that Shannon seems to be leading a double life. When not in the city she is a doctor in the suburbs with an upscale Greenwich Connecticut home and a successful husband and a young daughter.

For mystery readers that enjoy librarian amateur sleuths and lots of New York City color, this is reminiscent of Michael Jahn’s Bill Donovan series. This is the third book in the series.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, July 2020.

Book Review: A Death at the Yoga Cafe by Michelle Kelly

A Death at the Yoga Café
Keeley Carpenter #2
Michelle Kelly
Minotaur Books, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-06738-8
Hardcover

Michelle Kelly’s book has all the elements a reader expects in a cozy mystery. Keeley Carpenter, the main character, has returned to her hometown after years away in the big city, and opens a vegetarian café and yoga studio in the building that used to house her father’s butcher shop. Her mother, who shows up for a visit a week before she is expected, is a perfectionist and constantly criticizes Keeley.  Keeley’s boyfriend Ben, is a good-looking detective on the local police force.

Keeley witnesses an argument between the town’s mayor and his newest girlfriend, who is a business rival of Keeley’s and who was the “mean girl” in high school. Unfortunately, this mystery also includes some of the cozy mystery clichés. The girlfriend begs Keeley to investigate the death, instead of hiring a lawyer. Why would someone facing arrest for a murder beg for help from a yoga teacher that she bullied in school? And why would the yoga teacher confront the killer alone, without telling the police her suspicions.

The book contains recipes and instructions on how to do select yoga poses. While the premise of the book shows promise, it fails to deliver on a satisfying conclusion to the mystery.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, March 2020.

Book Review: Charity’s Burden by Edith Maxwell @edithmaxwell @midnightinkbook

Charity’s Burden
A Quaker Midwife Mystery #4
Edith Maxwell
Midnight Ink, April 2019
ISBN 978-0-7387-5643-1
Trade Paperback

The story opens as Quaker midwife Rose Carroll is called out to attend Charity Skells, one of her previous patients. The patient insists she’s having a miscarriage, but Rose sees a discrepancy in the woman’s symptoms. After all, Charity had just delivered a child a few months ago, when Rose had warned the father that his wife was too fragile to bear another child any time soon. Rushing the woman to the hospital where she bleeds to death, it soon develops that a botched abortion is involved. But abortion is against the law. Who can have done such a thing? At least two possibilities seem likely.

Rose feels she must take a hand, helping her good friend police detective Kevin Donovan solve the mystery. After all, it’s easier for a midwife to ask ladies personal questions. The list of suspects grows as she discovers Charity’s husband is involved with another woman. There is a substantial inheritance in the offing, as well. Jealousy and greed are powerful motives and Rose never hesitates when it comes to keeping her clientele safe.

The story is a historical gem where we learn about attitudes toward abortion, birth control, and family planning. Oh, and some pure evil. I was a little surprised by some of it but I must say my sympathies are all with the desperate mothers. Rose is a brave, compassionate soul and an excellent sleuth; a heroine well-worth reading.

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

Book Review: Deadly Aim by Paty Jager

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Title: Deadly Aim
Series: Shandra Higheagle Mysteries, Book 3
Author: Paty Jager
Narrator: Ann M. Thompson
Publication Date: July 21, 2017

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Deadly Aim
Shandra Higheagle Mysteries, Book 3
Paty Jager
Narrated by Ann M. Thompson
Patricia Jager, July 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

The dead body of an illicit neighbor and an old necklace send potter Shandra Higheagle on a chase to find a murderer. Visions from her dead grandmother reveal Shandra is on the right path, but the woods are full of obstacles; deadly ones.

Detective Ryan Greer believes Shandra’s dreams will help solve the mystery, but he also knows the curious potter could get herself killed. He’s determined not to let that happen.

Until he’s blind-sided. Are Shandra’s powers strong enough to save them both, or will the murderer strike again?

Big game hunters are not the most popular figures in the real world or in fiction so it isn’t easy to have much sympathy when Shandra finds J.W. Randal’s animal-ravaged body on her property. Perhaps it would be better to say my sympathy was with Shandra, first for finding another body on her Huckleberry Mountain and second for her finding out she had such a reprehensible neighbor. I guess this just goes to show that large properties can make it hard to know your neighbors. At any rate, finding a body on her own land at least provides some justification for Shandra sticking her nose in where it doesn’t really belong.

It’s fortunate for Shandra that the deputy sheriff, Ryan, is not averse to her sleuthing and, in fact, he respects her spiritual connection to her Nez Perce ancestry and the dreams that seem to lead them to important hints. What occasionally gets in the way is the growing romance between the two and their “mating dance”, if you will. I appreciate the way Ms. Jager is allowing a natural growth of their mutual attraction rather than the instalove we see too often. I was happy to learn that they still haven’t told each other their deepest secrets but that seems to be coming soon.

Meanwhile, back to the investigation…clues begin to mount that point in different directions including potential bad blood in the game hunting business and a possible illicit liaison. Most intriguing is a particular necklace whose provenance is difficult to track down .and this part of the hunt brings Shandra’s particular creative expertise to the forefront. When things come to a head, though, there’s more than one surprise

In this entry, a bit more editing could have been useful as occasional flaws are more obvious than in previous books in grammar and word choices as well as in shifting points of view. Also, while Ann M. Thompson is a better than average narrator, she did pull me out of the story every now and then with mispronunciations and odd pacing. Still, an interesting mystery and Ms. Thompson’s reading made this an appealing tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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About the Author

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 35 novels, 8 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her Shandra Higheagle mystery series has been a runner-up in the RONE Award Mystery category, and a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Pinterest

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About the Narrator

Audiobook narrator and voice over artist Ann Thompson continues to work in radio and TV news broadcasting as she has done for the past 25 years. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. A-P has named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology. Once she even rode the “Vomit Comet” to simulate zero gravity in a KC-135. Thompson has reported from India, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Belgium as part of fellowships from the East-West Center and RIAS. She values author partnerships like the one with Paty Jager for the Shandra Higheagle series.

Website

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