Book Review: Late for Dinner by M.K. Scott @morgankwyatt @SDSXXTours

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Title: Late for Dinner
Series: The Way Over the Hill Gang, Book 1
Author: M.K. Scott
Publisher: Sleeping Dragon Press
Publication Date: July 9, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Cozy

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Late for Dinner
The Way Over the Hill Gang, Book 1
M.K. Scott
Sleeping Dragon Press, July 2018
ISBN 978-1944712334
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Marcy Collins proved her investigative skills in the field time and time again, but after an accident leaves her disabled, she’s forced into early retirement in a senior convalescent center. Although her mind and body may not be what they used to be, her steadfast determination to fight crime and advocate for victims continues.

When her well-meaning former partner is assigned with helping to keep her mind agile, he unknowingly inspires her to search for clues in a long-forgotten cold case. Before he knows what’s happening, Marcy assembles a team of sharp-eyed, witty, and often cantankerous senior sleuths to bring a criminal to justice and help her regain some of what she thought she’d lost for good.

Follow the former detective and her team of unconventional sleuths as they dig through the clues and wind their way down a treacherous path of deception, tomfoolery, and murder!

Senior sleuths always amuse me, most likely because I’m a senior myself and would like to think my brain would still be lively if I end up in an assisted living facility 😉 Solving crimes would be right up my alley and much more fun than playing bingo or doing arts and crafts. I mean, think about it—surely years of reading mysteries would pay off then, right?

Late for Dinner introduces a few elements to the senior sleuth concept that are a little different from what I’m accustomed to seeing. The leader of this small pack of investigators is not a senior herself; Marcy is in the assisted living home to hopefully recover from a crippling car accident and she was, in fact, a police detective, waiting to see if she can go back to desk duty or will be forced to retire. Also, the first case they look into has no connection to any of them so there’s no personal impetus to solve this cold case.

What the Way Over the Hill Gang does have is a yearning for something interesting to do and each member has expertise to offer, such as Lola’s sharp eye and ability to read people. Herman, Jake and Gus all served in the military in World War II and bring relevant experience and skills to the mix while Eunice, on the periphery and not officially part of the gang, is a world-class gossip and can ferret out almost anything that’s out of the norm. I liked all these people a lot, even when they were annoying as all get out.

Watching the gang work to prove that a woman had not committed suicide years ago was a lot of fun despite a couple of issues. The writing seemed a little stilted to me, to the point that I occasionally had to read a passage again to make sure I got it right. Also, I never could get a handle on when this is taking place—there are references to techniques and items that point to today but the three men would have to be in their 90’s and it seems unusual they would all be so active,. When all is said and done, though, I don’t really care so much and will certainly move on in the series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

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An Excerpt from Late for Dinner

Lola stared at her manicured fingers gripping the card deck with the same disgust she’d shown when she discovered the local television station had replaced her favorite crime program with a teen reality show.

Her elderly bridge partner, Herman, had a shock of silver hair that waved over his skull similar to a rooster’s comb. Any hair in a man’s later years was all gravy to the point most of the other male residents grumbled that Herman was a show-off.

He waved his hand in front of her face. “Still breathing? Good partners are hard to come by.”

“Don’t I know it.” She shuffled, ignoring the twinge of pain in her hand.

Marcy and Jake laughed at her comment, but Herman narrowed his eyes, probably taking it as an insult regarding his failure to get the last two trumps.

Lola dealt out a card, still out of sorts, but not quite able to put her finger on why and retorted, “Retirement stinks!”

Marcy, always a calmer member of the group, shot her an easy smile that hardly creased her face. Most folks would think she was younger than her forty plus years with her dark hair hardly touched by gray and her trim body. The only old thing about her was the wheelchair, which was temporary.

If Lola had had a clue that chasing criminals would have kept her looking young, she might have chosen that as a career as opposed to making use of her long legs and other notable assets as a Vegas showgirl. Still, it had been a good life. Her ability to sum up people in a few seconds allowed her to have more than her share of pleasant adventures and adoring admirers. That was behind her. She sighed and acknowledged Marcy with a nod, curious to hear what the woman might say.

“Hear ya. Most working folks would envy us. We’re all living in a premier assisted living community with plenty of activities. What else could you want?”

Lola pursed her lips and rolled her eyes upward as she tried to explain how she felt without insulting her companions. “Sure, we have shuffleboard, fit and sit exercise class, flower arranging, and Bible Bingo. Those are old people things. Even the food has morphed into tasteless mush.”

“About that.” Jake held his hand up. “Something is going on with the dietary director.” He glanced around making sure he had everyone’s attention and cupped his ear with his hand. “I hear things.”

A general murmur of agreement followed, with the exception of Gus yelling, “What?” He sat at a nearby table playing solitaire. Gus didn’t know how to play bridge and had no desire to learn.

Various eyes connected around the table, knowing the inevitable process of repeating what had been said in a much louder decibel would probably result. Gus’s early life of working with explosives damaged the man’s hearing. Even though he had hearing aids, he usually didn’t wear them, because he thought they made him look old.

Instead of yelling his former comment, Jake ran a hand over his shoe polish black hair before mouthing the words. Gus popped up both thumbs, signaling his understanding. At some point, he taught himself to lip read, but it only worked if he was directly looking at a person.

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About the Author

M. K. Scott is the husband and wife writing team behind The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries. Morgan K Wyatt is the general wordsmith, while her husband, Scott, is the grammar hammer and physics specialist. He uses his engineering skills to explain how fast a body falls when pushed over a cliff and various other felonious activities. The Internet and experts in the field provide forensic information, while the recipes and B and B details require a more hands on approach. Morgan’s daughter, who manages a hotel, provides guest horror stories to fuel the plot lines. The couple’s dog, Chance, is the inspiration behind Jasper, Donna’s dog. Murder Mansion is the first book in The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries. Overall, it is a fun series to create and read. Drop Dead Handsome is the second book in the series. Killer Review should be out in October 2016.

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Book Review: Death at Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon

Death at BreakfastDeath at Breakfast
Beth Gutcheon
William Morrow, May 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-243196-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Indulging their pleasure in travel and new experiences, recently retired private school head Maggie Detweiler and her old friend, socialite Hope Babbin, are heading to Maine. The trip—to attend a weeklong master cooking class at the picturesque Victorian-era Oquossoc Mountain Inn—is an experiment to test their compatibility for future expeditions.

Hope and Maggie have barely finished their first aperitifs when the inn’s tranquility is shattered by the arrival of Alexander and Lisa Antippas and Lisa’s actress sister, Glory. Imperious and rude, these Hollywood one-percenters quickly turn the inn upside-down with their demanding behavior, igniting a flurry of speculation and gossip among staff and guests alike.

But the disruption soon turns deadly. After a suspicious late-night fire is brought under control, Alex’s charred body is found in the ashes. Enter the town’s deputy sheriff, Buster Babbin, Hope’s long-estranged son and Maggie’s former student. A man who’s finally found his footing in life, Buster needs a win. But he’s quickly pushed aside by the “big boys,” senior law enforcement and high-powered state’s attorneys who swoop in to make a quick arrest.

Maggie knows that Buster has his deficits and his strengths. She also knows that justice does not always prevail—and that the difference between conviction and exoneration too often depends on lazy police work and the ambitions of prosecutors. She knows too, after a lifetime of observing human nature, that you have a great advantage in doing the right thing if you don’t care who gets the credit or whom you annoy.

Feeling that justice could use a helping hand–as could the deputy sheriff—Maggie and Hope decide that two women of experience equipped with healthy curiosity, plenty of common sense, and a cheerfully cynical sense of humor have a useful role to play in uncovering the truth.

I nearly always enjoy a cozy mystery series that features senior sleuths so Death at Breakfast had a head start with me from the beginning. I also enjoyed the setting in a bed and breakfast because such a location allows for a diverse cast of characters rather than the usual somebody-in-this-small-town-must-be-the-killer scenario and it accommodates a group of people who are mostly strangers to each other. Those points open up the solution to the crime to a wide range of possibilities.

Another aspect of the story that works well is that the murder doesn’t occur until well into the book. Normally, I prefer it to happen early on but, in this case, the delay gives the reader the opportunity to get to know the B&B guests and staff as well as a few townspeople so I really didn’t mind.

Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin are a pair of sleuths I’m happy to have met. Intelligent and friendly, they’re using this trip to Maine to see if they can stand each other well enough to do some traveling together, a terrific idea. They’re not snoopy, either, just well-suited to think about various potential clues and come to a rational conclusion. Very appealing sleuths, indeed. I also liked deputy sheriff Buster Babbin, Hope’s son, who’s definitely conflicted in his feelings about his mother and who suffers from a lack of self-confidence; watching some of those issues get worked out was a worthy side trail.

I have to admit that I figured out the general solution to who hated the obnoxious Alexander enough to kill him in a rather gruesome manner fairly early but not the details so the actual denouement held some surprises for me.  I suspect each succeeding entry in the series will be tighter and I’m hoping this will become a long run.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.

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About the Author

Beth GutcheonBeth Gutcheon is the critically acclaimed author of eight previous novels: The New GirlsStill MissingDomestic PleasuresSaying GraceFive FortunesMore Than You KnowLeeway Cottage, and Good-bye and Amen. She is the writer of several film scripts, including the Academy-Award nominee The Children of Theatre Street. She lives in New York City.

Find out more about Beth at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Book Review: Clam Wake by Mary Daheim—and a Giveaway!

Clam WakeClam Wake
A Bed-and-Breakfast Mystery
Mary Daheim
William Morrow, August 2014
ISBN 978-0-06-231772-8Hardcover

From the publisher—

With the holidays gone and Hillside Manor almost empty, Innkeeper Judith McMonigle Flynn has a bad case of the blues. A housesitting stint at her aunt and uncle’s retirement home on Whoopee Island with cousin Renie seems like the ideal pick-me-up. Surrounded by retirees in the off-season sounds peaceful and pleasant–or so the duo thinks. But it isn’t long before a dead body pops up in their vicinity. Not surprising in an area full of older folks—until they learn it wasn’t a bad ticker that did in the victim, but a very sharp knife. With clouds of suspicion hovering over her and Renie, Judith reluctantly begins sleuthing—if only to prove they didn’t commit the crime.

But what she finds is puzzling. The victim reputedly didn’t have an enemy in the world–except for the killer. Digging for clams and answers, the cousins discover that retirement can be deadly—at least among the eclectic, eccentric residents of Obsession Shores.

It’s kind of mindboggling that this series has lasted so long (#29!) but even more so that it has held up pretty darn well. It follows the tried and true formula of amateur sleuth continually coming across bodies and feeling that she simply must solve the crime but, somehow, author Mary Daheim manages to keep things fresh.

Innkeeper Judith and her cousin, Renie—a truly obnoxious individual but one who sort of fits like an old glove—have been left behind by their vacationing men so Judith has left the bed & breakfast in capable hands and they’ve gone off to housesit for Auntie Vance and Uncle Vince on Whoopee Island. The two will be proxies at a community meeting about installing sewer lines but, lo and behold, within hours of arriving, Judith and Renie have discovered a body. Naturally, sleuthing ensues. Is the battle over sewer lines versus septic tanks really that desperate? What did this poor guy do to deserve being offed? And does Judith’s family history have something to do with all this?

Clam Wake is fun, no doubt about it and, although it may not be the very best in the series, I found a lot of comfort in returning to the Pacific Northwest and spending a little time with Judith, Renie and assorted family, friends and pets, especially Judith’s cantankerous mother, Gert, and equally crabby cat, Sweetums. I missed Joe and Bill, though, and hope to see the husbands again in Ms. Daheim’s next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2014.

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About the Author

 

Mary DaheimSeattle native Mary Richardson Daheim lives three miles from the house where she was raised. From her dining nook she can see the maple tree in front of her childhood home. Mary isn’t one for change when it comes to geography. Upon getting her journalism degree from the University of Washington (she can see the campus from the dining nook, too), she went to work for a newspaper in Anacortes WA. Then, after her marriage to David Daheim, his first college teaching post was in Port Angeles where she became a reporter for the local daily. Both tours of small-town duty gave her the background for the Alpine/Emma Lord series. Mary spent much of her non-fiction career in public relations (some would say PR is fiction, too). But ever since she learned how to read and write, Mary wanted to tell stories that could be put between book covers (e-readers were far into the future and if she hadn’t seen her daughter’s iPad, she might not know they exist). Thus, she began her publishing career with the first of seven historical romances before switching to mysteries in 1991. If Mary could do the math, she’d know how many books she’s published. Since she can’t, she estimates the total is at least 55. Or something. At the time of her husband and mentor’s death in February 2010, David and Mary had been married for over 43 years. They have three daughters, Barbara, Katherine and Magdalen, and two granddaughters, Maisy and Clara. They all live in Seattle, too. Those apples don’t move far from the tree…literally.

 

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