Book Review: A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary by Terry Shames

A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary
A Samuel Craddock Mystery #8
Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-63388-490-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

After using an online dating site for senior citizens, town favorite Loretta Singletary–maker of cinnamon rolls and arbiter of town gossip–goes missing. Chief Samuel Craddock’s old friend Loretta Singletary–a mainstay of the Jarrett Creek community–has undergone a transformation, with a new hairstyle and modern clothes. He thinks nothing of it until she disappears. Only then does he find out she has been meeting men through an online dating site for small-town participants. When a woman in the neighboring town of Bobtail turns up dead after meeting someone through the same dating site, Craddock becomes alarmed. Will Craddock be able to find Loretta before she suffers the same fate? Finding out what happened to Loretta forces him to investigate an online world he is unfamiliar with, and one which brings more than a few surprises.

It’s just another day in Jarrett Creek for Samuel Craddock when his good friend, Loretta Singletary, asks him to get involved in a church ladies’ issue, something he decidedly doesn’t want to do and he’s almost relieved when she has to leave to meet a friend. He does momentarily wonder why she seemed so skittish but police chief duties soon distract him. It isn’t until various people start realizing that they haven’t seen Loretta that he becomes not exactly alarmed but very curious.

Loretta is the essence of a settled, unremarkable woman so, when Samuel hears that she might be involved in online dating, he’s truly surprised. This is really out of character for her but what really disturbs him is that she has literally disappeared and, when he hears that a woman in a neighboring town is also missing, Samuel and his chief deputy, the energetic and opinionated Maria Trevino, begin to investigate in earnest. Following the few leads they develop soon brings them to the realization that Loretta could be in serious trouble and they don’t have much time to find her.

One thing I can always count on with a Samuel Craddock book is that, while typical police procedural action might be limited, Samuel has the mind and life experience that make him a thoughtful, intuitive investigator and he’s nearly always a step ahead of me. He notices things and he really hears what people say but, most of all, he recognizes that the unexpected is often the truth. He’s not perfect—modern social behavior sometimes baffles him and he can be reluctant to open up about himself—but he’s the kind of man I’d trust to have my back.

Samuel’s stories always focus on a particular issue and, this time, it’s the potential dangers of online dating, especially for older women…and men…who may be particularly vulnerable. Ms. Shames handles the topic quite nicely without  belaboring the point. To lighten the mood a bit, we’re also treated to the comings and goings of the townsfolk and the almost-feud over the annual goat rodeo.

This has been one of my favorite series since the very first book and I’m still just as entranced with Samuel Craddock and the denizens of Jarrett Creek. Once again, I stayed up all night and it was time well spent—who needs sleep when Terry Shames has a new book out?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2019.

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Book Review: The Walker on the Cape by Mike Martin

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Title: The Walker on the Cape
Series: Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, Book 1
Author: Mike Martin
Narrator: Francis G. Kearney
Publication Date: March 18, 2019

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The Walker on the Cape
Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, Book 1
Mike Martin
Narrated by Francis G. Kearney
Mike Martin, March 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

A man’s body is found on the Cape in a small fishing community on the East Coast. At first, everyone thinks it’s a heart attack or stroke. But then it is discovered that he was poisoned. Who would do this and why?

Finding that out falls to Sergeant Winston Windflower of the RCMP along with his trusted sidekick, Eddie Tizzard. Along the way, they discover that there are many more secrets hidden in this small community and powerful people who want to keep it that way.

Windflower also discovers two more things: a love of living in a small community that is completely different from his upbringing in a remote Indian reserve and maybe the love of his life. He gets a taste of East Coast food and hospitality as well as a sense of how crime and corruption can linger beneath the surface or hide in the thick blanket of fog that sometimes creeps in from the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

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A full-blooded Cree, Winston Windflower is not your everyday Mountie and he’s been posted in a small fishing village, Grand Bank, on the coast of Newfoundland, far from his reservation home in Northern Alberta. The fog and the unique personalities of the people here take some getting used to but Winston has begun to fit in quite nicely and has made some good friends including his sidekick, Constable Eddie Tizzard. Windflower believes Tizzard has earned a promotion to corporal and intends to recommend him to the higher echelons but, first, the duo has to cope with the suspicious death of Elias Martin, a man who was not well-liked.

The sergeant’s supervising inspector doesn’t believe this is anything but a natural death but Winston and Eddie think otherwise so Winston makes a few endruns around his boss, with Tizzard watching out for him, to get to the truth. They do, in fact, find clues to follow in town and elsewhere and a plethora of suspects along with hints of corruption. Sgt. Windflower soon shows why certain higher-ups hold him in high regard as he doggedly works toward a resolution.

Along the way, Windflower and a local lady, Sheila, are stepping out and enjoying the early joys of a relationship. We also are treated to some of his cultural background with customs he’s brought with him, such as smudging, and I hope to see more about that in the following books.

I mentioned in my review of the seventh book — https://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/a-trio-of-teeny-reviews-2/ — that this series has a sort of feel-good vibe to it, a wholesomeness that makes everything about it very likeable, from the setting to the characters to the actual mystery and I still feel that way. Adding to the pleasure is Mr. Kearney’s narration with his authentic-seeming (to me, at least) Canadian intonations enhanced by the local fishing village accents although he didn’t really have a wide variety of voices, especially for women. I do hope Mr. Martin will continue—quickly!—to produce audio versions of the succeeding books; I’ll be standing in line for them 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2019.

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

Mike Martin was born in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a long-time freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand. He is the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People and has written a number of short stories that have published in various publications including Canadian Stories and Downhome magazine.

The Walker on the Cape was his first full fiction book and the premiere of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. Other books in the series include The Body on the T, Beneath the Surface, A Twist of Fortune and A Long Ways from Home, which was shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award as the best light mystery of the year. A Tangled Web was released in 2017 and the newest book in the series is Darkest Before the Dawn.

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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About the Narrator

Following college and many years as a local entertainer and actor I eventually entered the business world and a career of building and selling multiple successful enterprises.

In 1985 I purchased an aviation business and while building a very successful business also earned multiple movie credits as a helicopter camera ship pilot – https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0443932/?ref_=nv_sr_1 – among other services, and flew the camera helicopter for London Weekend Television’s mini series “Piece of Cake” in 1988. I have an extensive aviation background from helicopters through turboprop and jet aircraft, and a deep knowledge of all things aviation.

I have always been an insatiable reader with a love of history – the ultimate story, and anything military – especially if it flies. My evolution into narration and the joy of storytelling is the culmination of many years of a life fully lived, and is reflected in a voice of experience.

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card
Runs May 21st-27th⎮Open internationally

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Book Review: No Saving Throw by Kristin McFarland

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Title: No Saving Throw
Series: A Ten Again Mystery #1
Author: Kristin McFarland
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Genre: Cozy Mystery

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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No Saving Thow
A Ten Again Mystery #1
Kristin McFarland
Diversion Books, May 2019
ISBN 978-1-63576-582-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A supremely geeky murder mystery perfect for Whovians, gamers, and Muggles alike.

Autumn has everything she could possibly want: Loving friends, a successful business, and a gaggle of gamers in her store every day.

Welcome to Ten Again, a tabletop gaming store that attracts nerds of every kind and fosters a community Autumn’s pretty proud of―a community that also keeps business afloat. And now that Autumn’s in the running for a grant, Ten Again’s future is looking bright.

That is, until one of Autumn’s gamers is mysteriously murdered. With everyone in the mall as a suspect and accusations flying, Autumn is going to have to do some sleuthing of her own to save her shop and her gamers from a fate more dangerous than having no saving throw.

I surprised myself by wanting to read this book because I’m about as far from being a gamer as I could possibly be but a couple of things drew me to it. First, I’m really overdone with the crafty and culinary cozies and, while I’ll certainly keep reading some of those, I appreciate the thought of something just a little bit different. Secondly, I may not be a gamer but my grandson is and I’ve at least picked up some of the jargon when he tells me about campaigns and so forth. Besides, watching LARPers is fun.

Although I thought this was a tad lightweight and perhaps even slightly juvenile, it’s an enjoyable story and I think the author “got” the gamers nicely in their geeky exuberance and determination to figure out who killed their fellow player without doing any actual sleuthing. Autumn is an appealing character, too, and as a former shop owner, I truly understand her need to protect her store’s future.

I loved all the sidelong nods to certain things claimed by nerds but beloved way beyond their world, things like Star Trek, Dr. Who and Veronica Mars, and the plethora of potential perps made this a lively mystery worth some cogitating on my part. I think I might recommend this to my grandson 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2019.

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“A cozy shop, a tricky murder, geek humor, and gaming
lore galore―what’s not to love in No Saving Throw?
This book is a winner, and I can’t wait to take another turn!”
–Leigh Perry, author of The Family Skeleton Mysteries

“Enjoyable debut….Readers will hope to see a lot
more of the plucky Autumn.” –Publisher’s Weekly

“A nat 20! No Saving Throw is a fun, tight mystery that perfectly
encapsulates the difficulties gamers face at being taken seriously.
Protagonist Autumn Sinclair will stop at nothing to save not
only her store, but also the geeky community it fosters.”
―Alex Erickson, author of the Bookstore Café Mysteries

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About the Author

Kristin McFarland has a Master of Arts in Journalism from Indiana University, which launched her on a short-lived but very exciting career as a newspaper reporter. After graduate school, she worked for five different newspapers around the country, writing about politics, crime, arts, environmental issues, crack addicts, prostitutes, and parades. She eventually wised up and decided that making up political fights and crime scenes would be a lot more fun than reporting on real ones. Today, she lives in southern Indiana, where she spends most of her time daydreaming about fictional lives and/or thinking about wool.

Website // Twitter // Instagram // Goodreads

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Book Review: Deadly Dog Days by Jamie M. Blair

Deadly Dog Days
A Dog Days Mystery #1
Jamie M. Blair
Midnight Ink, November 2016
ISBN 978-0-7387-5018-7
Trade Paperback

Start with a soon to be forty woman who feels like a fish out of water. Meet Cameron Cripps-Hayman, currently living in Metamora, Indiana and wondering what happened to her life. She is currently estranged from her husband, Ben, grew up here and convinced her to move when he took the job as town sheriff. Between his arrogant and opinionated, (did I mention, she was also snooty and greedy as well), mother’s coldness and Ben’s working all sorts of hours, the marriage started to unravel and they have been separated for the past six months.

Cameron is feeding a flock of ducks while mulling over her lot, as well as the sad state of things in town when she realizes there’s a hand sticking out of the water on the opposite bank. She can tell by the slender fingers that the deceased is female and notices a red something wrapped around the corpse’s wrist. What Cameron will quickly learn is that the victim is Jenn Berg, a young woman who was not only starring in the play everyone hoped would bring tourists and begin the revitalization process, but who was pregnant and rumored to be dating Ben.

What follows includes Cameron becoming a suspect in the eyes of some community members, her assuming responsibility for Jenn’s four unruly dogs, her mother-in-law trying to steal everything of value from the home she gave Ben and Cameron, plus the added chaos created by the five volunteers Cameron is supervising. Their original mission was to sell tickets to the play through a phone bank in the church basement, but that goes south when the play is canceled and the phone bank is asked to leave because of Cameron’s supposedly being a suspect.

While there is a murder to be solved, it often takes a back seat to the antics of the phone bank folks who decide they all want to play detective. One is a kleptomaniac who spends more time knitting than calling, another is a drunk, yet another is doing community service for an unspecified assault, and the other two are nerdy high school kids. At other times, the drama between Cameron and Ben takes center stage. Then there are other townspeople who share the suspicion spotlight at various times, the bartender who was involved with the victim as well as her younger sister, a shopkeeper with dementia, an elderly philosopher who is constantly dowsing, an aspiring film maker and a wealthy eccentric who lives in a castle take center stage, plus the surly kennel owner who Jenn owed money to for a fifth dog. Add in a scheme to thwart the mother-in-law by painting the house in violation of a town ordinance, another dead body and a promising home-made dog treat business, not to mention the antics of Ben’s fifteen year old daughter Mia who knows how to play Ben against Cameron and you have a delightfully chaotic murder mystery. Cozy lovers will find this a delight.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, April 2019.

Book Review: Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie Was Here
Fredrik Backman
Washington Square Press, February 2017
ISBN: 978-1-5011-4254-3
Trade Paperback

Best-selling author Backman (A Man called Ove) is back with a difficult, intense novel about the life of the woman in the title. Britt-Marie is a familiar figure to many, hence the initial popularity of this deliberately paced novel of life in a small Scandinavian town, populated by a surprising number of odd mis-fits and other people who exhibit familiar and unusual traits.

Her unfaithful husband has left her, or she’s left him; I was never quite sure and she needs a job to sustain herself. We discover very early that Britt-Marie is an unusual person with a highly developed sense of necessary cleanliness, and precision-focused life. Appointments are kept, one is never late and one tries desperately at times to maintain a precise even rigid life style.

Written in the first person present tense, the novel is at times slow-moving, hard to penetrate and ultimately satisfying in resolution. However, it is not the sort of book that will appeal to a wide reading audience, unlike the author’s A Man Called Ove, which is charming and enormously popular, or boring and a struggle to complete, depending on whose reviews you read. I watched the movie which was charming.

This novel maintains an even pace and readers, if they complete the story, will be well-informed of the life and times in this small community and they will understand that Britt-Marie was indeed, here.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, October 2018.
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: The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry                 
Jane Harper
Flatiron Books, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-10560-8
Hardcover

Parts of Australia are in the depth of a persistent drought. Back to the tiny farm town of Kiewarra, comes Aaron Falk. He returns to his childhood home to the funeral of his youthful friend, Luke Hadler, Luke’s wife and their small son. It appears Luke murdered his own wife and son and then dispatched himself with a rifle bullet through the skull.

Falk is not happy to be back because he and his father were run out of town decades ago. Falk, now a member of the federal police of Australia, on short leave, expects to attend the funeral, talk with one or two family friends and then flee back to Melbourne. It doesn’t work out that way.

Like a dripping faucet, piece by casual comment, the possibility that Luke Hadler could not have done this hideous deed grows in Aaron Falk’s mind. Encouraged by the single local law officer and the discovery of interesting anomalies, Falk stays, irritates some residents, and eventually solves not just one but several crimes.

The characters are excellent, the descriptions of the community and surrounding landscape are compelling and the pace is relentless. This is a terrific very well-written novel and the concluding climax is a page-turning grabber.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, October 2018.
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: Anything Could Happen by Will Walton

Anything Could Happen
Will Walton
Scholastic Press, June 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-70954-5
Hardcover

It’s not every book that can convincingly cast a character with such seemingly unrelated skills. A closet dance fiend who can also (albeit a bit dubiously) aid in delivering a calf. Tretch keeps these truths hidden, right along with another fact he hasn’t figured out how to share.

He appreciates the perks of life in a tiny town while acknowledging the total lack of privacy. Also absent, is the population to properly support a funky, refurbished theatre. So, no matter how cool the 1976 King Kong movie is, Matt and his dads will probably be moving to a city soon. The time to come clean is now. Or never.

And it’s here that I could tell you Anything Could Happen is about absolutely true friendship, the strength and support of family and crushing on the wrong kid. Accurate, yet incomplete. To me, it simply shows how sensitivity is a strength, not a weakness.

Tretch is wise beyond his years, in a unique—not unrealistic—way. His uncanny ability to set his own feelings aside to focus on a friend isn’t instinctive, making it all the more admirable. He is incredibly aware of others’ feelings and hasn’t shared particular pieces of himself solely for the purpose of protecting his friends and family.

“…the insults that somehow fly right past me, but I fear would peg each of them smack in the gut.”

Secrets don’t stay hidden forever and often, they are spilled at once. How they come out matters as much as addressing the information, once it’s laid bare. A lot of pressure for an adolescent and while Tretch may not initially handle it smoothly, once he allows himself to be honest, his sincerity is unquestionable.

This was fun, without being frivolous and is appropriate for the Middle-Grade reader, but (I think) appealing to all.

Oh, and now I know who Ellie Goulding is.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2018.