Wednesday, 3 March 2021

A Midweek Reading Update and New Books

This is a bit of a catch up post; update on the last books completed, some new books and the latest books started. I'll review the last 3 books I've read and the follow-on books plus I've received some new books this past week so I'll provide the synopses of those too.

Most Recently Completed

1.Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came by M.C. Beaton (Agatha Raisin #12).

"Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came is the 12th Agatha Raisin mystery by M.C. Beaton. Once again, Agatha, who had retired to the Cotswolds finds herself involved investigating a murder mystery.

The story starts with Agatha running away to an island out in the Pacific. Her marriage to James Lacey had ended when he ran off to a monastery. While Agatha enjoys her stay, the wife of a newly wed couple is found dead and her new husband arrested for murder. Back in Evesham, Agatha discovers she has a new neighbor, a mystery writer John Armitage. After a few mishaps, they finally meet but Agatha doesn't take to the man. Starting a new healthy life, she takes a Pilates course in a neighboring town. While there she discovers a body floating in the flooding river.

Along with her ex-partner in the publishing business, Roy, she begins investigating the murder of the young lady. They pretend to be news reporters looking into clubbing activities of the local young people. Her new neighbor also ends up assisting Agatha in her investigation. The young lady was found in her wedding dress and suspects abound, especially her work mates and her fiance and old boyfriend.

It's a very shallow group of people for the most part. Agatha still struggles with personal issues; should she or shouldn't she get involved with John. Is she too old? All the old issues come back to haunt her. For such a successful business person, Agatha has many issues still unresolved. But she is trying to quit smoking finally which is something. Her friend Mrs. Bloxby is a steadying influence, trying to protect Agatha from getting involved in another heart-breaking relationship. Her friend Bill, the local cop, makes appearances but not in such a major role as normal because Agatha is dealing with the Worcester police department. Even Charles, her rich friend and sometime paramour makes an appearance. Only James Lacey is absent.

It's an interesting tale even if Agatha is wearing a bit thin. She needs something good to happen in her life, needs to regain her bounce and confidence. Still, there is enough action, an interesting mystery and a satisfying ending. (3.5 stars)"

2. Wycliffe and the Dead Flautist by W.J. Burley (Wycliffe #17)

"Wycliffe and the Dead Flautist is the 17th book in the Superintendent Charles Wycliffe mystery series by W.J. Burley. The books are set in the Cornwall region of the UK. I've not read the series in any particular order and it hasn't affected my enjoyment of the books by reading them in this manner.

Wycliffe and his wife Helen have returned from the Dordogne region of France and Wycliffe is drawn immediately into a 'murder', or more accurately a suicide, which the investigating officer believes to be a murder. This has occurred on the estate of Lord and Lady Bottrel; the body of their groundskeeper has been found in his cottage, killed with his shotgun.

An aside here. Wycliffe has returned thinking he might like to retire in the Dordogne... except "his French wasn't very good, he found the summers there too hot, he had never fished in his life and he didn't particularly like the French.'... lol

Anyway, the body has been discovered by a young couple, son of the Lord and daughter of the Lord's lawyer, whose home is also on the estate. The investigation will for the most part stick to that seemingly isolated estate, with Wycliffe and his team, led by Inspector Kersey, his Scene of Crime expert Fox and DS Lucy Lane. Of course there are others who help, including the pathologist Franks, with whom he has a respectful relationship... Besides the investigators who make up an interesting team, you've got a mix of suspects / witnesses from the Bottrels, the Landers and the family of missing young woman Lizzie Biddick, whose importance to the investigation grows as the story moves along.

I do like Wycliffe, who uses his forensic teams and investigators, often as sounding boards for his thoughts as he tries to get a sense of the investigation. Wycliffe needs to be at the location (most Superintendents would stay back and let the investigators do their work) to get a feel for the area for the people for the crime scene. Of course that means that lovely, understanding Helen is once again on her own.

As always, an interesting mystery with tenuous clues and uncooperative but seemingly cooperative witnesses. It seems at times like Wycliffe is pulling teeth. There is a mixture of sexual issues, maybe blackmail, etc that Wycliffe must  work through as he and his team investigate. I like the way they interact, an excellent working relationship, discussions over breakfast and meals at the local inn.

Considering the small cast of characters, progress is slow but steady and there are no obvious suspects (or all they all suspects?). The ending comes quickly and ultimately satisfyingly. I like Wycliffe very much, his style, his personality and I also like those who work with him, no matter how small their role. I think I like that we aren't swamped with their personal issues; it's all about the investigation. All in all, I enjoyed very much, have no complaints with the progress of the investigation or the final denouement. Very satisfying; a favorite series of mine. (4.5 stars)"

3. The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie (Miss Marple #3).

"The Moving Finger is the 3rd Miss Marple mystery by mystery author, Agatha Christie. Having said that Jane Marple plays a very small, albeit critical role in this entertaining story.

The narrator and focus of the story is one Jerry Burton, a young man who, along with his lovely sister Joanna, has moved temporarily to the small country town of Lymstock, taking up rented accommodation from elderly Miss Barton. Miss Barton, being somewhat down on her luck and experiencing monetary difficulties has rented out her house and moved herself and her maid into a smaller residence. Jerry was a flyer and injured himself in a crash and his doctor sent him off to the country for rest and rehabilitation.

Relaxation becomes something of an issue when the pair receive an anonymous letter implying that the two are not really brother / sister in very derogatory terms. While they find this very disturbing, the pair, as they make rounds of the other villagers discover that they are not the only ones who have received such letters; Mr Symmington is having an affair with his clerk, etc etc. For the first portion of the novel, we meet the other main characters as seen through Jerry and Joanna's eyes. Mr. Symmington, the lawyer and his fragile wife, their daughter, the unloved Megan who attaches herself to the Burton's, their nanny, young lovely Elsie Holland who cares for their two boys; the doctor Mr Griffiths and his busy body sister Aimee Griffiths; the quirky vicar's wife Mrs Dane Calthrop. She has a habit of seeing right through you, telling you truths which make you feel uncomfortable. Definitely my favorite character.

The letters ultimately result in the death (by suicide) of one of the residents. This brings in Inspector Nash, a competent, efficient police inspector who begins an investigation of the letters and who might have written them. It's deemed that while the death might have been a suicide, the letter writer must bear a responsibility. When another death, a murder takes place, the residents of town begin to suspect each other.

Finally, about 3/4's of the way through this entertaining, flowing story, Mrs Dane Calthrop calls in an expert, who turns out to be Miss Marple. And while she makes only small appearances to the story afterwards, she will be the source of the fascinating conclusion to the mystery. I have to say that I've probably seen various TV versions of this story, featuring one or two of the wonderful actresses who portrayed Miss Marple. And while I remembered the story and had a vague recollection of who might have committed the crimes, it still came as a pleasant surprise to me. It's a short story but is peopled with wonderful characters, especially the Burtons and of course the wonderful Dane Calthrop and it flows so nicely and is light, airy and wonderful. I really couldn't put it down and enjoyed everything about it... well, there could have been more of Miss Marple. (4.5 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (Dark Rising #2).

""When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back, three from the circle, three from the track; wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone; five will return, and one go alone.”

With these mysterious words, Will Stanton discovers on his 11th birthday that he is no mere boy. He is the Sign-Seeker, last of the immortal Old Ones, destined to battle the powers of evil that trouble the land. His task is monumental: he must find and guard the six great Signs of the Light, which, when joined, will create a force strong enough to match and perhaps overcome that of the Dark. Embarking on this endeavor is dangerous as well as deeply rewarding; Will must work within a continuum of time and space much broader than he ever imagined."

2. The Baron and the Arrogant Artist by Anthony Morton (Baron #44).

"When an unpleasant young man called Forrester forced his way into Quinns, determined that Mannering should finance his artistic efforts, the art dealer was firm but unimpressed.

The Baron was not to know that later that day he would receive a desperate phone call from the artist's terrified girl-friend. She had found Forrester half-dead, hanging with a noose round his neck. But why should such a brash young man want to kill himself? Or was the victim of attempted murder?"

3. The Murder in the Links by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot #2).

"On a French golf course, a millionaire is found stabbed in the back…

An urgent cry for help brings Poirot to France. But he arrives too late to save his client, whose brutally stabbed body now lies face downwards in a shallow grave on a golf course.

But why is the dead man wearing his son’s overcoat? And who was the impassioned love-letter in the pocket for? Before Poirot can answer these questions, the case is turned upside down by the discovery of a second, identically murdered corpse…"

New Books

1. The President is Missing by Bill Clinton & James Patterson (2018).

"The President is Missing. The world is in shock.

But the reason he’s missing is much worse than anyone can imagine.

With details only a President could know, and the kind of suspense only James Patterson can deliver."

2. The Man Who Would Be King & Other Stories by Rudyard Kipling (1888). 

"This anthology of tales by Rudyard Kipling contains some of the most memorable and popular examples of the genre of which he is an undisputed master. The Man Who Would Be King (later adapted as a spectacular film) is a vivid narrative of exotic adventure and disaster.

The other tales include the ironic, horrific, poignant and haunting. Here Kipling displays his descriptive panache and realistic boldness. Shrewd, audacious, abrasive and challenging, he remains absorbingly readable.

Contents of this Wordsworth Classics edition:
* The Education of Otis Yeere
* At the Pit's Mouth
* A Wayside Comedy
* The Hill of Illusion
* A Second-Rate Woman
* Only a Subaltern
* The Phantom 'Rickshaw
* My Own True Ghost Story
* The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes
* The Man Who Would Be King
* Wee Willie Winkie
* Baa Baa, Black Sheep
* His Majesty the King
* The Drums of the Fore and Aft"

3. The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry (Cotton Malone #2).

"Cotton Malone retired from the high-risk world of elite operatives for the U.S. Justice Department to lead the low-key life of a rare-book dealer. But his quiet existence is shattered when he receives an anonymous e-mail: “You have something I want. You’re the only person on earth who knows where to find it. Go get it. You have 72 hours. If I don’t hear from you, you will be childless.” His horrified ex-wife confirms that the threat is real: Their teenage son has been kidnapped. When Malone’s Copenhagen bookshop is burned to the ground, it becomes brutally clear that those responsible will stop at nothing to get what they want. And what they want is nothing less than the lost Library of Alexandria.

A cradle of ideas–historical, philosophical, literary, scientific, and religious–the Library of Alexandria was unparalleled in the world. But fifteen hundred years ago, it vanished into the mists of myth and legend–its vast bounty of wisdom coveted ever since by scholars, fortune hunters, and those who believe its untold secrets hold the key to ultimate power.

Now a cartel of wealthy international moguls, bent on altering the course of history, is desperate to breach the library’s hallowed halls–and only Malone possesses the information they need to succeed. At stake is an explosive ancient document with the potential not only to change the destiny of the Middle East but to shake the world’s three major religions to their very foundations.

Pursued by a lethal mercenary, Malone crosses the globe in search of answers. His quest will lead him to England and Portugal, even to the highest levels of American government–and the shattering outcome, deep in the Sinai desert, will have worldwide repercussions."

4. Murder on the Champs de Mars by Cara Black (Aimee Leduc #15).

"Paris, April 1999: Aimée Leduc has her work cut out for her—running her detective agency and fighting off sleep deprivation as she tries to be a good single mother to her new bébé. The last thing she has time for now is to take on a personal investigation for a poor manouche (Gypsy) boy. But he insists his dying mother has an important secret she needs to tell Aimée, something to do with Aimée’s father’s unsolved murder a decade ago. How can she say no?

The dying woman’s secret is even more dangerous than her son realized. When Aimée arrives at the hospital, the boy’s mother has disappeared. She was far too sick to leave on her own—she must have been abducted. What does she know that’s so important it’s worth killing for? And will Aimée be able to find her before it’s too late and the medication keeping her alive runs out?"

5. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot #17). 

"The tranquillity of a cruise along the Nile was shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway had been shot through the head. She was young, stylish, and beautiful. A girl who had everything...until she lost her life.

Hercule Poirot recalled an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: "I'd like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger." Yet in this exotic setting nothing is ever quite what it seems."

6. Trunk Music by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #5).


"Back on the job after an involuntary leave of absence, LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch is ready for a challenge. But his first case is a little more than he bargained for.

It starts with the body of a Hollywood producer in the trunk of a Rolls-Royce, shot twice in the head at close range - what looks like "trunk music," a Mafia hit. But the LAPD's organized crime unit is curiously uninterested, and when Harry follows a trail of gambling debts to Las Vegas, the case suddenly becomes more complex - and much more personal.

A rekindled romance with an old girlfriend opens new perspectives on the murder, and he begins to glimpse a shocking triangle of corruption and collusion. Yanked off the case, Harry himself is soon the one being investigated. But only a bullet can stop Harry when he's searching for the truth . . ."

7. Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff (2016).

"Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George — publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide — and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite — heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors — they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.

At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn — led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb — which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his — and the whole Turner clan’s — destruction."

8. Extra Kill by Dell Shannon (Lieutenant Luis Mendoza #3).

"Lieutenant Luis Mendoza is tasked with solving a double murder, shrouded in strange rites. Acting on one of his famous hunches, he is drawn into the world behind the glitter of Hollywood and into the Temple of Mystic Truth. There he finds cultists Martin and Cara Kingman, who turn out to be less than spiritual . . ."

There you go. All caught up. Next post I'll try to get back to my ongoing look at favorite authors. 

Your Midweek Music Medley

Posting this a bit late today as Jo and I had a busy morning. In fact yesterday was pretty busy too. We ordered our new glasses yesterday. I got some herbal tea at the local tea shoppe and visited Laughing Oyster book store. Today Bonnie got her shot and had her eyes checked, best they've been for ages. Then Jo did some grocery shopping while I waited in the car with the dogs. 

So we had a nice lunch and are relaxing and watching shows we taped Monday. Jo tried our new spirolater again made zucchini noodles. Excellent.

I'll do a reading update later or tomorrow. But for the moment here is your midweek music medley to get you through the rest of the year.

Your Midweek Music Medley - 03 Mar 2021

1. Australian rock band INXS - Don't Change (1982).

2. American rock band Living Colour - Love Rears Its Ugly Head (1991).

3. English rock band The Cure - Never Enough (1990).

Rock on. Enjoy the rest of your week.

Sunday, 28 February 2021

My February Reading Update

I finished two books this weekend. I also picked up a couple of books at my local used book store on Friday. Today I'll focus on my end month review. Satisfied with my February reading although the majority were relatively short books. Without further ado, here is my summary for February 2021.

General Info            Feb            Total (Including my current read)
Books Read -              13                         22
Pages Read -            2650           5350 (Avg per book - 243)

Pages Breakdown
    < 250                      10                         13       
250 - 350                      1                           6
351 - 450                       
   > 450                         2                           3

5 - star                          1                           1           
4 - star                          7                         13
3 - star                          4                           7
2 - star                              
No Rating (NR)            1                           1                                   

Female                          8                         12
Male                             5                         10
Not Stated                           

Fiction                          2                           3
Mystery                        8                         15
SciFi                             1                           1
Non-Fic                                                     1   
Young Adult                 2                           2           

Top 3 Books

1. Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke (Inkworld #3) 5 stars
2. A Dram of Poison by Charlotte Armstrong 4.5 stars
3. Wycliffe and the Dead Flautist by W.J. Burley (Wycliffe #17) 4.5 stars


12 + 4 (Finish off Some Series) (completed 4)
1. The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver (4.5 stars)
2. Wycliffe and the Beales by W.J. Burley (4.5 stars)
3. Wycliffe and the Dead Flautist by W.J. Burley (4.5 stars)

Individual Challenge - First Book in Series (completed 3)
1. Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll (DNF)
2. Undersea Quest by Jack Williamson & Frederick Pohl (4 stars)

Individual Challenge - Next Book in Series (completed 1)
1. Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke (5 stars)

Individual Challenge - Non Series (completed 4)
1. Stardust by Neil Gaiman (4 stars)
2. A Dram of Poison by Charlotte Armstrong (4.5 stars)

Monthly Challenge - January Focus Author - Simon Brett (completed 4) 

Monthly Challenge - February Focus Author - M.C. Beaton (completed 5)
1. Agatha Raisin and the Well-Spring of Death (3 stars)
2. Death of a Prankster (3.5 stars)
3. Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam (3 stars)
4. Death of an Addict (4 stars)
5. Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came (3.5 stars)

Currently Reading

1. 12 + 4 Challenge - The Baron and the Arrogant Artist by John Creasey (aka Anthony Morton)
2. Individual Challenge (1st Book in Series) - The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill (Simon Serrailler #1)
3. Individual Challenge (Next Book in Series) - The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (Dark is Rising #2)
4. Individual Challenge (Non- Series) - Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
5. Monthly Challenge - March Focus Author (Agatha Christie) - The Moving Finger (Miss Marple #3)

Next Challenge Books in Line

1. 12 + 4 Challenge - The Hermit of Eyton Forest by Ellis Peters
2. Individual Challenge (1st Book in Series) - Every Dead Thing by John Connolly (Charlie Bird #1)
3. Individual Challenge (Next Book in Series) - The Man Who Went Up in Smoke by Maj Sjowall (Martin Beck #1)
4. Individual Challenge (Non-Series) - The Miracle Strain by Michael Cordy
5. Monthly Challenge - March Focus Author (Agatha Christie) - The Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot #2)

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

New Books and My Favorite Authors

Jo and I ran some errands this morning and after a very satisfying lunch are now watching old Law & Orders. They are always great to watch. I've been enjoying a silly comedy sketch show that CBC is showing, just started the 2nd season. It's called Tall Boyz and reminds me of the humor of 4 on the Floor and Kids in the Hall.

I've received two books in the mail in the past couple of days; older mysteries by new authors for me. I'll provide the synopses for both and also continue with my ongoing and winding down look at my favorite authors. (NB. I've decided on my next 'book look'.. 😀)

New Books

1. Alibi for Murder by Charlotte Armstrong (1955). I've recently enjoyed A Dram of Poison by Armstrong and want to explore her work more.

"An unscrupulous actress is perpetrating a supernatural hoax that has stunned the country. She's the Dream Walker - a mysterious apparition who shows up in two different cities at the same time, then disappears, untraceable. Olivia Hudson, an acting teacher at a private Manhattan girls' school, considers this no more than a mean-spirited prank born of desperation and blind ambition. Until, that is, it tarnishes the deservedly spotless reputation of a beloved, but famous, family friend. Now, Olivia respects a good actress, but when this woman's antics begin to involve murder... someone has to intervene. Someone who can best an actress at her own game... to escape with her life!"

2. The Penguin Pool Murder by Stuart Palmer (Hildegarde Withers #1 / 1931). Jo and I started to watch the movie starring Edna May Oliver as Miss Withers. Both the books and movies were very popular at the time.

"For the third graders at Jefferson School, a field trip is always a treat. But one day at the New York Aquarium, they get much more excitement than they bargained for. A pickpocket sprints past, stolen purse in hand, and is making his way to the exit when their teacher, the prim Hildegarde Withers, knocks him down with her umbrella. By the time the police and the security guards finish arguing about what to do with Chicago Lew, he has escaped, and Miss Withers has found something far more interesting: a murdered stockbroker floating in the penguin tank.

With the help of Detective Oscar Piper, this no-nonsense spinster embarks on her first of many adventures. The mystery is baffling, the killer dangerous, but for a woman who can control a gaggle of noisy third graders, murder isn't frightening at all."

My Favorite Authors - Michelle Spring

Michelle Spring
Michelle Stanworth was born in Victoria, BC in 1947 and is both a sociologist and crime writer. Under Stanworth, she wrote sociology books. As Michelle Spring, and having moved to the UK, she wrote a number of books featuring British PI Laura Principal. I discovered the series in early 2000's and enjoyed each of the 5 books. I've also read her one standalone mystery. I'll highlight the 6 books for you here. Each of the Laura Principal book titles is from a song title. The neat titles and the cover photos both attracted me at first.

1. Every Breath You Take (Principal #1 / 1994).

"Wildfell Cottage is a serene weekend oasis for three career women whose lives have taken sudden turns. But they are barely acquainted before one of them is dead—and another is determined to find out why.

Between the worlds of academia, art, and politics, someone slipped into a woman's life and snuffed it out in a burst of rage, leaving Laura Principal to untangle a wicked web of secrets and hypocrisy. What Laura finds is the perfect suspect. Unfortunately, a better one has found her. . . ." (4 stars)

2. Running for Shelter (Principal #2 / 1995).

"When Laura Principal rings the bell at theatrical producer Thomas Butler's London mansion, a young maid opens the door. And suddenly, Laura is plunged into a mystery whose depths she fears to plumb.

The maid asks Laura to help her find some missing money, but overnight she disappears. Neighbors say she was abducted; the Butlers insist no such person ever existed. But beneath the vicious underpinnings of affluence—in clubs, country houses, and charming mews—Laura uncovers the unbelievable truth. Proving it, though, could be fatal." (4 stars)

3. Standing in the Shadows (#3 / 1998).

"The shocking murder lingered in the tabloids for weeks. A sweet elderly lady bludgeoned to death in a quiet corner of Cambridge by her eleven-year-old foster child, Daryll Flatt. Hideous as the crime was, the case was closed when the boy confessed to the murder. Now, two years later, Daryll's older brother hires private investigator Laura Principal to revisit the case—and to answer the baffling question: Why?

On the surface, Daryll fit the mold of a child murderer perfectly—a hopeless boy, abused and cast off by a wretched family. Yet as Laura Principal probes deeper, several curious facts reveal themselves. And with each step closer to the truth, Laura senses someone in the corner of her eye, a threatening presence . . . standing in the shadows . . . watching her every move." (4 stars)

4. Nights in White Satin (#4 / 1999).

"At the annual May Ball, a jubilant celebration marking the end of examinations at Cambridge, private investigator Laura Principal is hired to provide security. Then, somewhere between the dancing and the fireworks, a student disappears.

Katie Arkwright wore white, a vision of purity. But when Laura starts probing into the missing woman's life, she finds that Katie concealed a dark side. The deeper Laura searches into a tangled past, the more tension mounts in every corner of Cambridge—where someone waits, coiled to strike. And strike again." (4 stars)

5. In the Midnight Hour (#5 / 2001).







"Twelve years ago, four-year-old Timmy Cable vanished suddenly from a wild and lonely stretch of East Anglian beach. After a massive police search fails to find a body, the boy is presumed dead.

Now, on a quiet street in Cambridge, Timmy's mother, still wracked with grief, is drawn to a teenage street musician—and feels desperately certain that this tall, blond boy must be her son. Has the long nightmare of loss ended at last? If so, where has Timmy been all these years? And why, whenever the boy is questioned about his past, does he become strangely hostile?

It falls to private investigator Laura Principal to ferret out the truth. Is this young stranger with a badly bruised face truly Timmy Cable? Or is he merely a dangerous interloper, bent on taking the wealthy Cable family for a lucrative ride? And what can explain the trail of violence that begins with his arrival—and ends with murder?

As Laura Principal searches for answers, she confronts a loss that threatens to turn her own world upside down. For Laura, this is a haunting case that reaches its breathtaking climax . . . in the midnight hour." (4 stars)

6. The Night Lawyer (2006).







"I had previously read Michelle Spring's Laura Principal mysteries and enjoyed very much. The Night Lawyer is a standalone mystery and it didn't grab me as much. The main character, Eleanor Porter, is recently hired as the night lawyer for a London newspaper, meaning she works the night shift reviewing articles for possible legal issues. Sounds like an interesting job. Ellie has a past, a previous nervous breakdown, something from her childhood that is alluded to throughout the story and also a stalker. Ellie isn't a confident character; she's trying to rebuild her life, from a previous relationship breakup (the reason for her nervous breakdown) and also trying to build her body and character with a karate course. There are things I didn't like at all, her neediness to reconnect with her ex, her constant panic attacks. But I imagine these characteristics are realistic; but the extent of them kind of irritated me. However, the story moved along nicely and ultimately resolved itself to my satisfaction. Not my favourite of her, but nevertheless, a well-paced mystery. (3 stars)"

I do hope that Michelle Spring writes more books in the series. I'll keep looking. Check out the first book and enjoy your week. 

Your Midweek Music Medley - 24 Feb 2021

It's a frosty morning today so while Jo and one puppy are having a lie-in I'm in the family room having a reading morning with the other pup. 😁 But before that, here is your midweek music medley to help you get through the rest of the week.

Your Midweek Music Medley 24 Feb 2021

1. American disco / soul group Odyssey - Going Back to my Roots (1981).

2. American disco group Double Exposure - My Love is Free (1976).

3. American R&B / post-disco group The SOS Band - Weekend Girl (1985).

Enjoy the rest of your week. Stay safe. 😷

Sunday, 21 February 2021

A Weekend Update and My Favorite Authors

Since your dumping of snow last weekend, it's been a lovely week. The yards are beginning to show green again and my snowman is just a shadow of his former self. Poor guy. Of course, the dogs haven't brought back his hat yet. I may have to go out and get it myself. There are a bit in the dumps at the moment because their toys are in the washing machine. Clyde always watches me closely when I move them from the washer to the dryer. So cute!

I've finished two books this weekend, one I've been working on since January and the other a quick little mystery from my February Focus author, M.C. Beaton. I'll provide the reviews of both and also the synopses of the next books in line. Then I'll continue with my ongoing look at favorite authors. 7 to go after this entry. What will I do next?

Just Finished

1. Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke (Inkworld #3). This is the final book in this excellent fantasy trilogy. (Ed Note: It seems there might be a 4th book coming out in 2021, a German edition anyway. We'll see.)

"Inkdeath is the 3rd and final book in Cornelia Funke's Inkworld trilogy. It's an intimidating length but once you get going and back into the flow of Inkworld, it's a page turner that you'll find difficult to put down. I admit it took me a while to finish but then again I'm usually reading more than one book at a time. Today I sat down the final 200ish pages and just went at it. So good!

It's such a rich, fascinating series that it's difficult to describe the story in a few words, but let's see. Inkworld is a world in a book series created by Italian author, Fenoglio. Over the course of the 1st two books, characters from the books have been read into our world by Mo and Meggie. Mo is a bookbinder and has the ability to read characters from books out of those books, hence his nickname Silvertongue. There are other people who can do this, including Mo's son, Meggie, bad guy Orpheus and others. Mo's wife, Resa, spent the 1st book a prisoner in Inkworld. Mo and Meggie live with Mo's aunt, Elinor, a big-time book collector.

By the time we get to Book 3, pretty well the whole family, sans Elinor, as well as Orpheus, Fenoglio, Farid (a character read out of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves) find themselves transported to Inkworld, along with all of those characters who had originally come from Inkworld. (Confused yet?) Mo has now become the Blue Jay, a character created by Fenoglio to battle against the books' villains especially the evil King, the Adderhead. Inkdeath chronicles everybody's adventures until the final, fantastic ending.

So much goes on in this story and we meet so many fantastic characters and creatures. It's not a story for the faint of heart. It's gritty, depressing at times,  filled with action and many interacting story lines. The villains are really bad people, from the Adderhead, to the Piper of the silver nose and Thumbling (can you guess how he got his name?) Orpheus is really really bad, selfish, willing to do anything to gain riches etc. The good guys are out and out good guys and some are a bit more enigmatic. But there are so many great ones, Dustfinger of the fire creating hands, brothers Darius and the Strongman, the Black Prince and his bear, Minerva, the wonderful land lady of Fenoglio and Roxanne, Dustfinger's wife, etc. And there are so many others, tragic, like Violante, the Adderhead's daughter and her son, Jacopo... I could go on. I liked the creatures too, especially the Glass men, who work as scribes for Fenoglio and Orpheus and are great spies. It's so rich and wonderful.

There are ups and downs, surprises, both of the good kind and traumatic. It jumps from character to character and keeps you on your toes. As the story builds, it gets better and better. I loved the ending and was at the same time happy and sad; especially knowing it was the last of a wonderful trilogy. It left me choked up and feeling somewhat bereft that I won't get to spend time with these people anymore. So excellent. A must read series. (5 stars)"

2. Death of an Addict by M.C. Beaton (Hamish MacBeth #15).

"Death of an Addict is the 15th book in the Hamish MacBeth mystery series by M.C. Beaton. It's an interesting story, with Constable MacBeth of Lochdubb, Scotland, investigating the death of a young man and going under cover to infiltrate drug dealers in Strathbane.

I'm not reading these in order, just reading those I've got on my book shelf, so it's apparent that some things have gone on in Hamish's personal life that I've missed. Having said that, it doesn't take away from the story and you can get the gist of it.

Hamish goes to Drim, a village in his constabulary, to investigate reports of a sea monster in the Loch. While there he meets a young man renting a chalet from another local. Also there is a young lady, renting another of the chalets. This young man will turn up dead, presumed dead of an overdose. The boy's parents tell Hamish that the boy had once been addicted to heroin but had turned his life around. The whole thing seems to be questionable to Hamish, but his superiors in Strathbane feel it's an open and closed case.

Hamish takes time off from his work as local constable and begins an investigation on his own. His findings result in a bigger investigation of drug runners in the area. Det Inspector Olivia Chater is brought in from the Glasgow force to work with Hamish undercover to try and catch the local big guys in the drug enterprises.

This will involve pretending to be a big man in drugs as well and even mean a trip to Amsterdam. Hamish must learn to work with Olivia.. Hamish has trouble dealing with women, shyness and a habit of falling in love, and Olivia has felt the pressure of being a senior female police officer, which makes for a sometimes prickly relationship.

It's an entertaining story with sufficient action to hold your interest and some nice twists in the plot. It's all a new experience for Hamish, moving from his quiet rural constabulary to the high stakes drug trade. Most enjoyable. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (Dark is Rising #2). I enjoyed the first book in this YA fantasy series very much.

""When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back, three from the circle, three from the track; wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone; five will return, and one go alone.”

With these mysterious words, Will Stanton discovers on his 11th birthday that he is no mere boy. He is the Sign-Seeker, last of the immortal Old Ones, destined to battle the powers of evil that trouble the land. His task is monumental: he must find and guard the six great Signs of the Light, which, when joined, will create a force strong enough to match and perhaps overcome that of the Dark. Embarking on this endeavor is dangerous as well as deeply rewarding; Will must work within a continuum of time and space much broader than he ever imagined."

2. Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came by M.C. Beaton (Agatha Raisin #12).

"Marital bliss was short-lived for Agatha Raisin. Her marriage to James Lacey was a disaster from the beginning, and in the end, he left her-not for another woman, but for God. After having been miraculously cured of a brain tumor, James has decided to join a monastery in France. Agatha can usually depend on her old friend, Sir Charles Fraith, to be there when times are tough, but even Charles has abandoned her, dashing off to Paris to marry a young French tart.

Miserable and alone, Agatha hops on a plane and heads for a remote island in the South Pacific. To Agatha's surprise, she makes friends with her fellow travelers easily, and keeps herself out of mischief, despite the odd feeling she gets from one particularly attractive honeymooning couple. But when she later finds that the pretty bride has drowned under suspicious circumstances, Agatha wishes she had found a way to intervene.

Returning home to the Cotswolds, Agatha is grimly determined to move on with her life and to forget about James and Charles. They have, after all, forgotten about her. And what better way than to throw herself into another murder investigation? A woman, dressed in a wedding gown and still clutching her bouquet, has just been found floating in a river. The police say it's suicide, but Agatha suspects the girl's flashy young fiancé. With the help of her handsome, and single, new neighbor, Agatha sets off to prove the police wrong."

My Favorite Authors - Julie Smith

Julie Smith
Julie Smith was born in Annapolis Maryland in 1944 and is the author of novels, short stories and 4 mystery series. I've tried 3 of them so far and each is unique in its own way, one set in California and the others in New Orleans. I'll highlight the 6 books I've read so far.

1. New Orleans Mourning (Skip Langdon #1 / 1990).

"It's Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and civic leader and socialite Chauncy St. Amant has been crowned Rex, King of Carnival. But his day of glory comes to an abrupt and bloody end when a parade-goer dressed as Dolly Parton guns him down. Is the killer his aimless, promiscuous daughter Marcelle? Homosexual, mistreated son Henry? Helpless, alcoholic wife Bitty? Or some unknown player? Turns out the king had enemies...

Enter resourceful heroine Skip Langdon, a rookie police officer and former debutante turned cynic of the Uptown crowd. Scouring the streets for clues, interviewing revelers and street people with names like Jo Jo, Hinky, and Cookie, and using her white glove contacts, the post-deb rebel cop encounters a tangled web of brooding clues and ancient secrets that could mean danger for her—and doom for the St. Amants." (3 stars)

2. The Axeman's Jazz (Skip Langdon #2 / 1991).

"What’s the perfect killing field for a murderer?

A place where he (or maybe she) can learn your secrets from your own mouth and then make friends over coffee. A supposedly "safe" place where anonymity is the norm. The horror who calls himself The Axeman has figured it out and claimed his territory--he's cherry-picking his victims in the 12-Step programs of New Orleans.

And he's had the gall to name himself after a historical serial killer. He just needs to go down, and fast, because this is New Aw'lins, dawlin'--half the town is either alcoholic or co-dependent!

Who better to take him out than tall, funny, social-misfit Skip Langdon, now a homicide detective on the Axeman team, a gig that takes her into the 12-Step groups to meet the suspects (giving author Smith a chance for gentle satire). As Skip threads her fascinated way from one self-help group to another, she finds she has more in common with the twelve-steppers than just the murder—her mother, for one thing, whom she encounters at Over-eaters Anonymous! And she knows what they do not: that among their anonymous numbers is a murderous, and dangerously attractive psychopath." (3 stars)

3. The Sourdough Wars (Rebecca Schwartz #2 / 1984).

"The Sourdough Wars by Julie Smith is Smith's second book in her Rebecca Schwartz mystery series. She also writes the Skip Langdon and Tabitha Walls' series. Rebecca Schwarz is a lawyer based in San Francisco working in partnership with her friend, Chris Nicholson. This mystery finds them involved in the world of Sourdough bread and bakeries.

Both attend a play by acquaintance Peter Martinelli. Martinelli, it turns out, comes from a family that had been successful in the sourdough bread industry, supposedly very big in the San Francisco area. He inherited the 'starter' dough for their famous sourdough bread. Martinelli is persuaded to sell this starter dough off at an auction, which sparks interest from rival bakers, the brothers Tosi, Sally Devereaux (a smaller baker) and Clayton Thompson, rep for a major bread-making conglomerate. All the interested parties arrive for the auction but when Martinelli doesn't show up, Rebecca and her boy-friend Rob the reporter discover his dead body (murdered).

This begins an investigation by Rebecca, Rob and Chris into the world of sourdough bread and who might be guilty of the murder. It's a fun ride, in a similar vein as those of Lilian Jackson Braun's 'Cat who' mysteries, or Karen Kijewski's Kat Colorado mysteries. There are plenty of suspects, including all the competing parties and even Peter Martinelli's sister, who had also wanted the starter dough.

Combined a quick paced mystery / adventure with lots of action, you also have Rebecca's relationships, with her Jewish parents, her sister and boyfriend and all of the other's mentioned. It's not a complex mystery, just an entertaining one. Enjoy. (3 stars)"

4. New Orleans Beat (Skip Langdon #4 / 1994).

"While I won't say the Skip Langdon mystery series is one of my top ten mysteries, the stories by Julie Smith are always different and entertaining. New Orleans Beat is the 4th book in the series and maybe one of the best so far.

In this latest story, New Orleans police detective, Skip Langdon, is called to the scene of a death (murder?) of a young man, Geoff Kavanagh, who lived at the home of his mother. He is found at the bottom of a ladder, a death initially called an accident. As the story progresses, Skip begins to suspect that Geoff's death was, in fact, a murder.

The story will involve many people, many damaged people, as Skip gets more into the investigation. As well, Skip is dealing with the frustrations of a long-distance relationship and with helping her best friend Dee-Dee raise his 'adopted' children, a teenage girl and younger brother. It makes for a messy, packed story.

I admit that, mainly because I have 4 or 5 stories on the go at one time, I sometimes had a bit of trouble keeping track of who was who, but that is my issue, not yours. There is so much going on that it makes for a fascinating tale. Aspects that particularly interested me. The story was published in '94 and I liked reading about the online group, The Town. It reminded me of the impact of my first online communities. There is also 'witchcraft', a group of woman supporting each other. Is it a factor in the murder(s)?

Part of the story struck a chord with me as well, especially considering what is going on in America today. There is an ongoing theme about the appropriateness of blacks and whites dating. Skip, dealing with her relationship problems, finds herself attracted to a black man. I don't know if Smith is criticizing this issue (meaning she feels it's not an issue) or just commenting on it as a fact of American life at that particular time. As an aside I do recall being on course in Oakland in the '90s and finding it strange when one of my white American classmates said she thought it was disgusting when we saw a black man with a white woman (but if I recall, not if it were the other way). Anyway, not here to debate the issue, but just found it interesting and somewhat unsettling.

So, all in all, a rich, layered story with a somewhat untidy, but interesting, mystery and ending. Ultimately satisfying. (4 stars)"

5. Death Turns a Trick (Rebecca Schwartz #1 / 1982).

"A light, entertaining, well-paced mystery, the first Rebecca Schwartz mystery. A nice, spunky character, a lawyer in San Francisco who gets involved in a murder in her apartment and works to keep her boyfriend from being charged/ found guilty of the crime. It's not a deep crime mystery, just good fun. I like Rebecca and her sister Mickey and the other characters that were introduced. Entertaining and comforting. 3.5 stars. I'll read more of this series. (3 stars)"

6. Louisiana Lament (Talba Wallis #3 / 2004).

"Louisiana Lament by Julie Smith is the 3rd book in the Talba Wallis mystery series set in New Orleans. I've read books in Smith's other series, one featuring New Orleans cop Skip Langdon and the other San Francisco lawyer, Rebecca Schwarz. This was my first exposure to Talba Wallis.

Wallis is a PI who works for Eddie Valentino. In a previous book she had met her sister, Janessa (same father, different mother). Janessa had told Talba in no uncertain terms that she didn't want anything to do with her. Suddenly she gets a call from Janessa to come help her. On arrival, Talba discovers the dead body of Alyson Brown, Janessa's employee. We discover later that Alyson's daughter has also been murdered. Janessa and her friend, Nathan are both suspects.

Talba persuades her boss to take on the case and this begins the investigation into the murders or murder / suicide. One other aspect of Talba's character that needs to be highlighted is that she is a published poet, under the pseudonym of the Baroness of Pontalba. The story uses poetry at times provide clues to the mystery, an interesting aspect of the story.

There are no shortage of suspects' Alyson's son and other daughter, Janessa and Nathan, Alyson's business partner, etc. it's a meandering story that wanders between Talba and Eddie as they track down the suspects to gather clues. You get a nice picture of parts of New Orleans as the investigation is followed.

It's an interesting story. I found New Orleans interesting and also the main characters. I do find it interesting that Talba is black and the author is white and I wonder how accurate her portrayal of that culture is. At any rate, while not perfect, it is an interesting story and mystery. I will check out the other books in the series. (3 stars)"

I have three more of Smith's books on my shelves, two Skip Langdon and one Rebecca Schwartz. The complete listing of her works can be found at this link. Some reading ideas for you. Enjoy your upcoming week.

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