Book Review: Teetotaled by Maia Chance—and a Giveaway!

teetotaledTeetotaled
Discreet Retrieval Agency Mysteries #2
Maia Chance
Minotaur Books, October 2016
ISBN 978-1-250-072214
Hardcover

From the publisher—

After her philandering husband died and left her penniless in Prohibition-era New York, Lola Woodby escaped with her Swedish cook to the only place she could―her deceased husband’s secret love nest in the middle of Manhattan. Her only comforts were chocolate cake, dime store detective novels, and the occasional highball (okay, maybe not so occasional). But rent came due and Lola and Berta were forced to accept the first job that came their way, leading them to set up shop as private detectives operating out of Alfie’s cramped love nest.

Now Lola and Berta are in danger of losing the business they’ve barely gotten off the ground―work is sparse and money is running out. So when a society matron offers them a job, they take it―even if it means sneaking into a slimming and exercise facility and consuming only water and health food until they can steal a diary from Grace Whiddle, a resident at the “health farm.” But barely a day in, Grace and her diary escape from the facility―and Grace’s future mother-in-law is found murdered on the premises. Lola and Berta are promptly fired. But before they can climb into Lola’s brown and white Duesenberg Model A and whiz off the health farm property, they find themselves with a new client and a new charge: to solve the murder of Grace’s future mother-in-law.

I’m not a strong fan of fiction set in the Roaring Twenties but, every now and then, I come across an author who just does it right, if you know what I mean. I had “met” Maia Chance before with a very different series and knew from that one that I would almost certainly love this book (I haven’t read the first one) and indeed I do.

While Lola does indulge in a bit of wallowing in self-pity—who wouldn’t, considering the circumstances?—she’s a woman who’s not afraid to step out of her society comfort zone when it becomes obvious she needs to make a living. With one sleuthing case under their belts, Lola and Berta have enough confidence to take on a second retrieval which is a good thing if they want to pay the rent and have a cocktail or two, not to mention fulfill Lola’s craving for sweets. Unfortunately for a mother-in-law-to-be, that retrieval turns into a murder investigation and Lola and Berta may or may not be up to the job.

These two very different ladies are a hoot and, as often as not, they come across clues because they sort of stumble their way there, not because they’re really good at what they do (although it must be noted that Berta is probably the more intelligent of the duo). There’s a lot of humor here but also a darned good cozy mystery, one that kept me entertained from beginning to end.

Although there’s a vast difference in wealth, readers who are drawn to Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher and her faithful companion, Dot, will also love Lola and Berta and enjoy the heck out of their adventures. Maia Chance has a fine touch and creates characters and plots filled with humor and more than a bit of pizazz; I am most certainly a fan of Lola and Berta 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2016.

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Lola and Berta may not be Holmes and Watson,
but their deficits in experience and talent are balanced
by determination and an abundance of action.
P.G. Wodehouse fans will find a lot to like.
—Publishers Weekly

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of Teetotaled
by Maia Chance,
just leave a comment below. The
winning
name will be drawn on Friday

night, October 7th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durant

Remember Me This WayRemember Me This Way
Sabine Durant
Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books, May 2015
ISBN 978-1-476-71632-9
Hardcover

From the publisher:  One year after her husband Zach’s death, Lizzie Carter, 41 years old, goes to lay flowers on the site of his fatal accident.  Since the tragedy, she just hasn’t been the same, racked with grief and guilt and regret and . . . relief.  Even though her friends tell her she’s grieved enough for her ‘prince charming,’ her memories of a darker side of Zach that no one else knew are burned into her brain and won’t let her forget him.   But as she puts her flowers down at the roadside, she sees a bouquet of lilies at the foot of the tree.  Addressed to her husband.  She isn’t the first to pay her respects . . . but who is Xenia?  As Lizzie learns more about her husband’s past, she begins to realize that maybe she didn’t know Zach at all.  But she’s still tormented by her guilt and the memories that just won’t fade . . . because Zach doesn’t seem to be as gone as everyone thinks.  And she just can’t shake the feeling that he’s still out there, watching her, waiting to claim her as his own once again.  After all, just because we love someone doesn’t mean we can trust them . . . .

Lizzie does psychometric testing for a living; Zach is an artist, although a not-yet-successful one.  The p.o.v. alternates between that of Zach (the first page is his, and though only one page long [before the narration switches to Lizzie’s], it is quite startling, letting the reader know at once what he/she is in for.  Lizzie’s p.o.v. sections take place initially in February 14, 2013, a year to the day of Zach’s car crash, on a Cornish roadside in the middle of Cornwall and 200 miles from her home in London.  She thinks to herself “His death feels real for the first time.  I must let him go, hard as it is, because, despite everything, he was the love of my life.”  The next section, Zach’s, takes place in July, 2009.  As opposed to Lizzie’s thoughts as described above, he is thinking “She doesn’t appreciate me, that’s the problem.”

All the following alternating p.o.v. sections follow those same timelines [Zach’s last ending on the day of his car crash], wherein initially Zach has a significant other named Charlotte, overlapping with his meeting and becoming involved with Lizzie.  All who meet Zach, who is pretty much addicted to Xanax and tramadol, see him as a very handsome and charming man, although he is self-described as being “not very nice” [with which the reader wholeheartedly agrees], and “. . . People like me can’t relax.  We may roam outside the boundaries that restrict the behavior of other people, but we’re never free.”

The characters all come alive in these pages, but Zach is one of a kind, displaying love, jealousy, and vengeance, among other traits.    The ending is shocking, but thoroughly believable.  This is a book, and characters, who will stay with the reader after the last page is read, and it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, March 2016.

Book Review: A Matter of Trust by Lis Wiehl with April Henry

A Matter of TrustA Matter of Trust
A Mia Quinn Mystery #1
Lis Wiehl with April Henry
Thomas Nelson, March 2013
ISBN 978-1-59554-903-7

Hardcover

Recent widow Mia Quinn is on the phone with her friend and fellow prosecuting attorney Colleen Miller when Colleen is shot. Horrified, Mia hands the phone to her teenaged son, Gabe, telling him to listen in case Colleen is able to identify her killer, even as her life’s blood bubbles away. Mia herself rushes to her friend’s aid, but she is too late.

The DA assigns the murder case to Mia, where she will be assisted by detective Charlie Carlson, a man she doesn’t completely trust. Soon the pair are working together on more than the investigation into Colleen’s death. A case of bullying has ended a boy’s life in suicide and Mia is determined to make the bullies accountable. A bond begins to form between the two, until Charlie makes a confession that undermines Mia’s trust.

Meanwhile, Mia’s husband’s death has left her and her two children in severe financial straits. Her son is fourteen, just the age to go off the rails without sufficient supervision and attention. He’s also resentful of having to watch his little sister, who has night terrors.

A lot of the story is given over to Mia just trying to keep her and her children’s life together. A teaching colleague seems thrown into the plot just to provide a romantic issue. Charlie is given a few too many flaws for his role in the story, and I fear I got a bit impatient with Mia’s ineptitude concerning anything other than her job. The writing is good, the plot intricate, the action moves right along, and I loved how Gabe came through at the end.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2015.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

 

Book Reviews: Cemetery Whites by Connie Knight and A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell

Cemetery WhitesCemetery Whites
A Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery
Connie Knight
Maple Creek Media, April 2013
ISBN No.: 9780985967895
Ebook

Henrietta Hargrove Harrell had driven the dirt roads of DeWitt County for her entire eighty-five years.  Professor Thomas Harrison of San Antonio had been told about Henrietta and on his trip to Yorktown he knocked on Henrietta’s door and introduced himself.  The Professor asked Henrietta to drive him to the Hargrove Family Cemetery.  He told her that seeing the graveyard would fit into some historical research of his.  Henrietta, known as Great Aunt Hettie to the Hargrove clan agreed.  But just in case some problem might crop up, Henrietta brought along Dolnny Harrell, her thirty-three year old grandson, as well as a Colt 45 in her purse.

None of the three in Henrietta’s vehicle noticed the little grey car following along behind.  When Henrietta pulled up at the cemetery the grey car parked in some brush to hide.   The Professor stated that he wanted to see some of the graves in the older section of the cemetery, specifically Thomas Watson Hargrove and his wife, Elizabeth Dennison, early settlers to the area.

Henrietta pointed out the grave where a large patch of white Irises known as Cemetery Whites grew.    The trip to the cemetery didn’t end well for the professor or Henrietta or her grandson.

Caroline Hargrove Hamilton has just relocated from Houston, Texas after the death of her husband.  Caroline has moved back to DeWitt County.  She determines while in Yorktown she will study the history of her family and perhaps be able to publish some articles of historical value.

Caroline’s cousin Janet volunteers to chauffer Caroline around and one of the first stops is the cemetery.  Henrietta is nowhere to be seen but the Professor is lying amount the Cemetery Whites.  It appears that the Professor has been shot.

So begins Caroline and Janet’s investigation into the murder as well as learning much about the family history.  The two dug up a lot of the past and learned about new connections to the family that no one had discovered previously.

This was an interesting book and I look forward to Caroline’s future adventures if the series is carried on.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, December 2013.

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A Treacherous ParadiseA Treacherous Paradise
Henning Mankell
Translated by Laurie Thompson
Alfred A. Knopf, July 2013
ISBN 978-0-307-96122-8
Hardcover

Truth: documents were discovered that told of a Swedish white woman who lived in Africa in the Portuguese founded town of Lourenco Marques. This woman ran a brothel. The record doesn’t say anything about this woman, why she lived in the town, or what happened to her. Apparently, she disappeared as mysteriously as she appeared. Author Henning Mankell tells her tale in this novel of speculative fiction.

1904. Hanna Lundmark, raised in Sweden is forced by her mother to travel to the coast to find work since their meager farm is failing. Soon, she’s on a ship bound for Australia. She marries one of the sailors but a month later, at an African port, he dies. Unable to cope with the grief by staying aboard, she departs and ends up living in a brothel. From then on, she sees her life change in so many ways as she interacts with the native population of blacks, and the numerous whites from various countries.

I wasn’t too sure about this book and even after finishing, am not completely certain of my feelings. It’s long with a long build-up at the beginning detailing much of Hanna’s life. It lacks high action but only because it’s not a mystery/thriller type of book. This is a book about culture, about discovery of attitude and emotions, of decisions made and the consequences that follow. This book shows the racism of the period, of the distrust from both blacks and whites.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, September 2013.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.