A Teeny Book Review Trio @dpeterfreund @ABRAMSbooks @martywingate @BerkleyMystery @atticalocke @mulhollandbooks

In the Hall with the Knife
A Clue Mystery #1
Diana Peterfreund
Harry N. Abrams, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-4197-3834-0
Hardcover

I whiled away many, many hours with friends years ago playing Clue, one of the best board games ever, and then I fell in love with the game-based movie starring Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Brennan and the rest of a wonderful cast. A series of novelizations came along; a new movie is in pre-production and there was a movie or mini-series (hard to tell which) that bears no real resemblance and I wasn’t impressed. Now, there’s a new book and, I must say, I had a lot of fun with this.

Ms. Peterfreund has turned this into a teen cast and they all have names that fit the game, names such as Finn Plum and Scarlet Mistry. Rather than a gloomy mansion with guests who must discover a murderer before they’re all killed, we have a small group of students who are stranded in their forest-bound school with the headmaster who is soon found murdered. The game is on, not only to find the killer but to figure out who can be trusted and who has much to hide. Readers of all ages will really enjoy this.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

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The Bodies in the Library
A First Edition Library Mystery #1
Marty Wingate
Berkley Prime Crime, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-984-80410-5
Hardcover

Hayley Burke recently started her dream job as curator of a book collection focused on the women authors of the Golden Age, authors such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. The late Lady Georgiana Fowling’s personal assistant and now permanent The First Edition Society secretary, Glynis Woolgar, views Hailey with suspicion but she hasn’t figured out the curator’s big secret yet—while Hayley has experience with libraries and literature, she knows next to nothing about the Golden Age or, in fact, mysteries and detectives. The two women do NOT see eye to eye on how Hayley is running things, including hosting a fan fiction writing group in the library, and things certainly don’t get better when a body is found in their own locked room mystery. To get to the answers she needs before her position as curator implodes, Hayley reads her first mystery, The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie, and is soon assisting the police with their investigation, whether they want her help or not.

Marty Wingate has been one of my favorite traditional mystery authors for some time although I’ve been seriously remiss about writing reviews. With this new series, she has created an ambience of the very Golden Age mysteries the Society promotes but with a charming modern-day setting and the de rigueur sleuthing works really well. Kudos to the author for what looks to be a clever and appealing new series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

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Heaven, My Home
A Highway 59 Mystery #2
Attica Locke
Mulholland Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-0-316-36340-2
Hardcover

Being a black Texas Ranger comes with its own set of problems, as you might expect, and Darren Mathews is indeed dealing with those issues as well as repercussions from his last case. On top of that, his own mother is blackmailing him, his marriage is strained and alcohol is getting the better of him. Investigating the disappearance of a young boy draws him back into the world of white supremacy when the Rangers think Darren is the best man to work with the local white sheriff because the boy, son of a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, was last seen in a black community.

Darren is confronted by racial prejudice from the white people in town, including the sheriff, but also believes that Leroy Page, an elderly black man who saw the child, is not cooperating with the hunt for the boy. Darren’s friend, Greg, a white FBI agent, shocks Darren when he posits that Leroy just might be guilty of a hate crime in reverse. Could he be right?

Several threads in this story reflect the racial stress that has been growing in this country but Ms. Locke has a deft way with words and creates a kind of tension we don’t often see. Getting to the resolution of this disappearance is rough but I couldn’t look away until I knew what really happened.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

Book Review: A Killer Plot by Ellery Adams

A Killer Plot
Ellery Adams
Berkley, 2010
ISBN 042523522X
Mass Market Paperback

Olivia Limoges is a wealthy resident of Oyster Bay, North Carolina, and is a bit of a loner with a mysterious past in this beach town where she lived as a child.  Her wealth gives her an air of entitlement, despite a very sad and troubled childhood that makes her the target of much gossip, but she would like to fit in better.   Unfortunately, her social graces are somewhat lacking or, at least, well hidden, and she spends most of her time with her standard poodle, Captain Haviland, and works on an unfinished novel.

Then Olivia meets Camden Ford, a gossip hound and would-be tell-all biographer who is in town digging up dirt on a celebrity staying nearby. Camden is a member of the Bayside Book Writers, a critique group, and invites Olivia to join.  His motives in doing so are not entirely altruistic—the group needs a better place to meet and Olivia has the space—but his charm wins her over with a little push from Dixie, a waitress with her own kind of eccentricity.

Olivia discovers that she actually does like these people and is settling in to the critiquing routine when one of her new friends turns up dead.   For a couple of reasons that actually make some sense, the local police chief welcomes a little sleuthing by the group and they do indeed come up with some useful information.  Along the way, a side story involves the town’s reaction to proposed development that could change the character of the town, causing a good deal of anguish.  Then another body is found.

Having been published early this summer, this mystery set in a coastal town is an obvious and worthy beach read.  Ms. Adams, who has written three other mystery series under two different pen names, has created a very likeable group of characters who have been given enough depth to make the reader engage with them and care what happens to them. This is true not only of the primary characters but also the secondary and that’s refreshing.   Olivia herself is NOT immediately appealing and learning what makes her who she is strengthened my enjoyment.   I found one of the book group members to be a bit irritating but it was in the sense of knowing she’d drive me crazy if I had to spend too much time with her in real life; in fiction, my annoyance level was moderate—and I wouldn’t particularly care for a cast of characters that are unrelentingly likeable.  That would be more than a little boring, I believe.

The mystery itself is well-plotted and I didn’t guess who the killer was.  The only difficulty I had was I thought the killer’s motive was a little far-fetched but not unreasonably so.   There is also a hint of romance that the author offers in a light-handed way.  This first in the Books by the Bay series is a very good start and I’m looking forward to the next one.

Note:  I have known this author for several years, having met her through my bookstore and hosted signings.  Having read all her other books, I can honestly say this is the most intriguing and my opinion is not influenced by the fact that I know Ms. Adams.  I would feel the same if it had been written by Jane Doe.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2010.