Howl of Wolves (Sam Clair, #4)

A Howl of WolvesA Howl of Wolves
by Judith Flanders
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781250087836
Series: Sam Clair #4
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Pages: 295
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books

Book editor and amateur sleuth Samantha Clair attends a play filled with gruesome deaths--one of which is real.

Sam Clair figures she'll be a good sport and spend a night out at the theater in support of her upstairs neighbors, who have small parts in a play in the West End. Boyfriend (a Scotland Yard detective) and allround good sport Jake Field agrees to tag along to what is apparently an extra bloody play filled with dramatic gory deaths galore. So Sam expects an evening filled with faux fatalities. Until, that is, the curtain opens to the second act revealing a dummy hanging from the rafters, who's been made up to look suspiciously like Campbell Davison, the director of the production.

When Sam sees the horrified faces of the actors onstage, she realizes that this is indeed not a dummy, but Davison himself and this death is not part of the show. Now everyone wants to know who killed Campbell Davison?

As Sam learns more about the murdered man, she discovers that he wasn't all that well-liked amongst the cast and crew, so the suspect list grows. The show must go on but Sam knows a murderer must be apprehended so she sets out to find out what happened and why.


Flanders writes a great mystery, whose main character has a dry wit that I enjoy.

Howl of Wolves is centred around a theatre production, which isn’t one of my favourite settings, but it worked. I enjoyed watching Sam put facts and observations together without wedging herself in where she didn’t belong, or going around the backs of the police. The murderer might have been several people but wasn’t obvious enough to ruin the surprise.

I’d like to hope that there will be a fifth book, but it’s been awhile since this one was published. No more Sam and Jake adventures would be a disappointment.

Devil’s Bones (Sarah Booth Delaney, #21)

The Devil's BonesThe Devil's Bones
by Carolyn Haines
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 9781250257864
Series: Sarah Booth Delaney #21
Publication Date: September 14, 2020
Pages: 355
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Not one of the best ones by a long shot.  The story meandered, felt disjointed – something that was not helped by the secondary plot introduction – and the killer was telegraphed from the first scene they were in.

Normally, I love this series and I love these characters, but between the meandering and the lack of mystery behind a string of murders, there wasn’t much to keep me engaged.  The author also seemed more melancholy and wistful than usual, with less of the humour I enjoy so much.

All together, it resulted in a poor showing for book #21.  Hopefully #22 regains the series stride.

The Paper Bark Tree Mystery (Crown Colony, #3)

The Paper Bark Tree MysteryThe Paper Bark Tree Mystery
by Ovidia Yu
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 9781472125248
Series: Crown Colony Mystery #3
Publication Date: June 27, 2019
Pages: 327
Genre: Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Constable

Su Lin is doing her dream job: assistant at Singapore's brand new detective agency. Until Bald Bernie decides a 'local girl' can't be trusted with private investigations, and replaces her with a new secretary - pretty, privileged, and white. So Su Lin's not the only person finding it hard to mourn Bernie after he's found dead in the filing room. And when her best friend's dad is accused, she gets up to some sleuthing work of her own in a bid to clear his name.

Su Lin finds out that Bernie may have been working undercover, trading stolen diamonds for explosives from enemy troops. Was he really the upright English citizen he claimed to be?

Meanwhile, a famous assassin commits his worst crime yet, and disappears into thin air. Rumours spread that he may be dangerously close to home.

Beneath the stifling, cloudless Singaporean summer, earthquakes of chaos and political unrest are breaking out. When a tragic loss shakes Su Lin's personal world to its core, she becomes determined to find the truth. But in dark, hate-filled times, truth has a price - and Su Lin must decide how much she's willing to pay for it. 327


I enjoy this series for the setting, the time, the history and the characters, but The Paper Bark Tree Mystery was a poor entry structure wise.  The plot was good, but marred by the fragmented delivery; characters would transition from point A to point S without the reader knowing anything about B-R, making for a disjointed and often confusing read.  Ultimately, this is the fault of whomever edited it, but it’s a shame because the story and the series has so much going for it and a lot of potential ahead.  I’ll read the next one if there is a next one, but I hope for a much smoother narrative.

 

Wicked Hour (Heirs of Chicagoland, #2)

Wicked HourWicked Hour
by Chloe Neill
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780399587115
Series: Heirs of Chicagoland #2
Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Pages: 352
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Berkley

Vampires were made, not born—until Elisa Sullivan came along. As the only vampire child in existence, she grew up with a heavy legacy, and tried to flee her past. Then circumstances drew her back to Chicago, and she stayed to keep it safe. With shifter Connor Keene, the only son of Pack Apex Gabriel Keene, at her side, she faced down a supernatural evil that threatened to destroy Chicago forever.

After the dust from the attack has settled, Elisa is surprised when Connor invites her to a usually private Pack event in the north woods of Minnesota, and by the warm welcome she receives from some of Connor’s family, even though she's a vampire. But the peace doesn't last. The shifters tell tales of a monster in the woods, and when the celebration is marred by death, Elisa and Connor find themselves in the middle of a struggle for control that forces Elisa to face her true self—fangs and all.


 

I was a big fan of the Chicagoland Vampires series, but wasn’t quite so sure about the spin-off until I finished the first book (which started slow).  Then I was hooked.  Wicked Hour was even better than the first book combining a group of established friends from the first book with a great setting, snarky dialog, and an interesting mystery.  What is the mysterious beast in the north woods of Minnesota?

The two main characters of this series are a vampire and a werewolf in love with each other, so I expected the inevitable conflict between species to be one the author might milk for at least a couple of books.  So imagine my glee when she didn’t take that trope-tastic route but instead had her two main characters act like rational adults.

Where the author did skirt the line was the amount of animosity Lis was up against from the werewolf clan.  At times it felt too manufactured to be believed, although towards the end  the author made it work by turning it inward and making it about something larger than Lis’s vampirism.

All up it was an excellent sophomore entry in a promising new series I look forward to continuing.

Mama Rides Shotgun (Mace Bauer, #2)

Mama Rides ShotgunMama Rides Shotgun
by Deborah Sharp
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 9780738713304
Series: Mace Bauer #2
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
Pages: 336
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Midnight Ink

Mama's fixin' to get hitched to Husband #5. But first, she coerces her daughter, Mace, to saddle up for some country-gal bonding on the Florida Cracker Trail.

The trek takes a deadly turn when Lawton Bramble—wealthy rancher and one-time beau of Mama's—keels over in his Cow Hunter Chili. Lawton had a horde of enemies and a famously bad ticker. Could a grudge-wielding rival have "spiced" the cattleman's chow?

With (or maybe despite) the help of her sisters and her sexy ex-beau, Detective Martinez, Mace sets out to corral a low-down varmint who's determined to kill again.


 

Re-read update:  This book did not hold up well on re-read.  I had the same issue with the re-invention of the first book’s history, and the rest of it, even though I didn’t remember who the murderer was, I found extremely tedious and meandering.

Here’s hoping the third book holds up better.

Mick Abruzzo: The Second Wire

Mick Abruzzo: The Second WireMick Abruzzo: The Second Wire
by Nancy Martin
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781483533490
Series: Blackbird Sisters #9.5
Publication Date: June 1, 2014
Pages: 70
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Self-published

The son of New Jersey's last remaining mob boss, Mick Abruzzo wants to live in the real world with a legitimate job, a wife and happy family. But when his family needs him, Mick feels obligated to help. This time, it's his presumed-dead brother, Little Frankie Abruzzo, who needs help getting out from under a pushy bookie. But the simple job of getting Frankie out of debt soon escalates into bad business that threatens the life Mick wants with his lover, Nora Blackbird.


 

At the start of book 10 A Little Night Murder (I think) it’s obvious there’s some backstory missing; something that was going on between book 9 and 10.  This short story fills in the gaps.  It’s not strictly necessary, but for a reader invested in the series, it’s satisfying to have.

As a bonus (because not all between novel novellas are equal) this is a very well written, fully formed story about Mick’s struggles to get out of the family business and stay legit.  Martin always wrote Mick as a real person, struggling against his upbringing to be better and this story gives the struggle centre stage.

Really well done and reminds me why and how much I miss this series.

Mama Does Time (Mace Bauer, #1)

Mama Does TimeMama Does Time
by Deborah Sharp
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 0738713295
Series: Mace Bauer #1
Publication Date: March 1, 2009
Pages: 336
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Midnight Ink

Meet Mama: a true Southern woman with impeccable manners, sherbet-colored pantsuits, and four prior husbands, able to serve sweet tea and sidestep alligator attacks with equal aplomb. Mama's antics — especially her penchant for finding trouble — drive her daughters Mace, Maddie, and Marty to distraction.

One night, while settling in to look for ex-beaus on COPS, Mace gets a frantic call from her mother. This time, the trouble is real: Mama found a body in the trunk of her turquoise convertible and the police think she's the killer. It doesn't help that the handsome detective assigned to the case seems determined to prove Mama's guilt or that the cowboy who broke Mace's heart shows up at the local Booze ‘n' Breeze in the midst of the investigation.

Before their mama lands in prison — just like an embarrassing lyric from a country-western song — Mace and her sisters must find the real culprit.


Update for second read:  Holds up to my first review perfectly; 7 years later and I still can’t keep Maddie and Marty straight in my head.  Still a very good read.
I put off reading this book for a long time because it just had way too redneck-y a vibe for me to think I’d find it enjoyable. But then I read about the author being a native Floridian (as I am) and I thought, well, I should give this a go, she should be able to do “old Florida” justice with out turning everyone into caricatures.
So I was pleased to find myself thoroughly involved in this book by about 1/3 of the way in. I had to struggle a bit to keep Marty and Maddie straight, but each character very much has their own personality and for the most part, they’re colourful and likeable. Of course I love the Old Florida setting.

The plot was well done; a lot of red herrings and suspects, a lot of clues. Very strong ending.

I’ll be ordering the next books in the series, and I’m hoping for some more scenes of the chemistry sort between Carlos and Mace. 🙂

 

Dead as a Door Knocker (House Flipper Mystery, #1)

Dead as a Door KnockerDead as a Door Knocker
Rating: ★★
isbn: 9781250197429
Series: House-Flipper Mystery #1
Publication Date: February 11, 2019
Pages: 368
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks

Whitney Whitaker dreams of running her own real estate company instead of managing properties part-time for a small agency. So when one of her more difficult clients decides to liquidate a property, Whitney seizes the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to score the distressed house for a song. But when her cat Sawdust digs up a corpse in the flower bed, all bets are off.

When the investigation - led by Nashville Police Detective Collin Flynn - starts moving slower than molasses, Whitney figures an important clue must be missing. So she launches an investigation of her own before the mortgage property forecloses on the property and Whitney loses her investment. But who was composting in the garden? Who would want that person dead? And is Whitney their next victim?


Diane Kelly writes a very good series about an IRS agent, Tara Holloway, and a surprisingly decent series about a police officer and her K-9 (surprising because the dog has its own chapters).

This is not on par with those other efforts.  This was just short of awful.

The characters are good, but the author has fully grown adults running around saying “the b word” but not thinking twice about haring off to the home of someone they decide must be a suspect and “interrogating” them, flinging accusations around like confetti.

The plot was well constructed but just about smothered under chapters of introspection and a detective just short of being earnestly incompetent.

Sawdust is awesome, but Kelly tends to give him slightly canine tendencies that don’t quite ring true, and frankly, no matter how endearing Sawdust is, a reader can’t help but wonder if this isn’t a marketing gimmick to appease the cat lovers out there.

Disappointing, but this won’t be a series I’ll be continuing.

Reading progress: page 153 out of 356

Reading progress: page 153 out of 356Dead as a Door Knocker
by Diane Kelly
ISBN: 9781250197429
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 29, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Women Sleuths, Cozy, General
Pages: 368

Not loving this so far. Having the MC say “the B word” instead of bitch, and the “h word” instead of saying hell is puritanically childish. I’ve read her other books and know she can do better.