I loved this book. I missed out on it during the Christmas season, but it’s cold and rainy here down under, so it was the perfect atmosphere in spite of it being the last day of July.
There’s always something wonderful going on in Caerphilly, even if a lot of people get bumped off. This time it’s a Helping Hands program, started by the towns’ churches’ interfaith committee, to help out people with small (or large) projects, run by volunteers lending their individual expertise. The biggest project of them all is a notorious hoarder who is in danger of having his home condemned and his family having him declared unfit to care for himself. Meg and the mayor get the Helping Hands involved and are helping him deal with all his stuff and make repairs to his home when Meg finds him bashed in the head in his garage.
The mystery plot wasn’t one of her best, though Andrews did a great job keeping the reader in a state of reasonable doubt, but the rest of the story was just lovely. Not a word normally associated with mysteries, but it was. Though there was less emphasis on the Christmas spirit in this one, I loved the ending and I loved the surprises. The only thing that I noticed (beyond a couple of minor continuity errors) was that of all her books, this one was probably the one where the titular birds (magpies) had the smallest role. The birds have never been pivotal to the plots, so it’s barely worth mentioning. Have I mentioned how much I loved the ending?
I read this book last year, but 2020 was a year full of cracks, and this book’s reading record and thoughts slipped through one of them. I re-read it last night to brush up my memories.
I think the thing I love the most about Meg Langslow, after 26 books is her sheer competence. Her family is quirky, and the mysteries are always good, but there just doesn’t seem to be any crisis that Meg, and the members of Caerphilly can’t handle with astonishing efficiency.
Terns of Endearment takes place on an educational wildlife cruise. Her grandfather has been lured into a series of on-board lectures, but soon after the ship sets sail, a series of events leaves the ship stranded in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Dead bodies, sabotage, and on-board illnesses slow down the Langslow family not a bit and soon enough they’re sorting out the crew, the passengers and the mysteries. It should be over-the-top, but it isn’t. It’s inspiring. I want to be Meg when I grow up.
I read this for the first time in 2008, when it came out, but find I don’t have any notes or reviews of it; obviously I was only lurking and shelving on GR back in 2008. I remember really liking it back then, and I’ve read all but the 13th and final novel since.
However, upon a second read many years later, I find the writing doesn’t hold up. Sookie is naive and a bit simple (not simple-minded), as she is supposed to be, but the writing too feels naive and simple, which left me impatient.
It’s possible later books are better written, but so far I have not the urge to find out.
I’d given up on this series. Purrfectly Dead was one of those books whose publication has been slated for years, but whose release date was always being pushed back. I’d accepted it was something of a zombie. And then a few months ago, there it was, released and waiting for me.
The series itself always leaves me baffled – not least because I thoroughly enjoy it in spite of myself. I must not be alone in this feeling, as the author recognises this in the first chapter, in a clever breaking of the fourth wall combined with a series world-building summary: the MC can communication with animals telepathically, and part of her job is overseeing the pet cemetery, which serves as a crossroads for animal spirts travelling to visit their former owners (also dead).
I’ve never been a fan of talking animals so I shouldn’t enjoy this series as much as I do (and the cat calling the MC ‘toots’ grates on my nerves), but I love the idea of the crossroads, and the mysteries are usually pretty good, so it works.
I enjoyed the book, including the incredibly fast, witty dialogue, and not only laughed out loud, but had to read MT passages about the rock star with writer’s block and his efforts to overcome it (all of which involve copious amounts of recreational drugs). But there’s a theme to the plot that’s based on Native American mythology – Thunderbirds – that I’d have liked to have enjoyed more, but didn’t. There was no reference to Native Americans or their myths beyond using Thunderbirds, and the themes behind averting a supernatural war were heavy-handed. A tad preachy. However, the murder mystery was excellent with very clever plotting and possibly the best method of hiding by a villain I’ve ever read. Admittedly impossible, but so much fun anyway.
I hope the reasons for the series hiatus are behind it and there’s a 6th book in the works; the premise is a bit silly, as the author acknowledges, but it’s also so heart-warmingly wonderful and fun at the same time. So fingers crossed I can look forward to another one.
Following a personal tragedy, florist Persimmon 'Simmy' Brown has moved to the beautiful region of the Lake District to be nearer her charismatic parents. Things are going well, with her latest flower arrangements praised and Simmy content to lose herself in her work. But the peace she has found is shattered when, at the wedding of a millionaire's daughter, the bride's brother is found brutally murdered in the lake.
As the wedding florist, and one of the last people to talk to Mark Baxter alive, Simmy gradually becomes involved with the grief-ridden and angry relatives. All seem to have their fair share of secrets and scandals - an uncaring mother, a cheating father, and a husband twenty-five years older than his bride. When events take another sinister turn, Simmy becomes a prime witness and finds herself at the heart of a murder investigation. The chief suspects are the groom and his closely knit band of bachelor friends. They are all intimidating, volatile and secretive - but which one is a killer?
I picked this up at a used book shop during our aborted Christmas travels; having spent time in the Lake District, specifically, the towns of Windermere, Bowness, and Ableside that this story is set in, it appealed to me instantly.
Alas, it was no more than a drab average. The characters didn’t know what they wanted to be: the MC tells an inspector at the beginning she’s moved to Windermere after her divorce, that she was childless and insisted that there were “compensations”. By the end of the book she’s barely coping with the stillborn birth she had 2 years before. Coping and repression are likely, of course, but they aren’t part of of the narrative, so the reader is left with no grasp of this MC. The Inspector is either attractive and friendly or greasy-haired and antagonistic. The MC’s mother is supposed to be a hippy, but acts more like a criminal attorney; I never once got the impression she liked her daughter. The bride of the story is either flaky, naive and needs to be protected, or a headstrong woman who is the only one that can steer her much older husband’s life. Flip-flop.
The elements of the plot were interesting, but the plot itself wasn’t anything special. The motivation was pathetic and unbelievable, given the characters, and the murderer pretty obvious after about half-way.
The setting was what I’d hoped for, at least. My memories of the Lake District are still vivid, and I loved the area, so ‘re-visiting’ it through the book kept me picking it back up. This is the first in a series all set here, and while weak, not so bad that should I come across another one at a used book shop, I’d probably pick it up.
Surrounded by secrets, great and small, the formidable Miss Phryne Fisher returns to vanquish injustice.
When a mysterious invitation arrives for Miss Phryne Fisher from an unknown Captain Herbert Spencer, Phryne's curiosity is excited. Spencer runs a retreat in Victoria's spa country for shell-shocked soldiers of the First World War. It's a cause after Phryne's own heart but what could Spencer want from her?
Phryne and the faithful Dot view their spa sojourn as a short holiday but are quickly thrown in the midst of disturbing Highland gatherings, disappearing women, murder and the mystery of the Temperance Hotel.
Meanwhile, Cec, Bert and Tinker find a young woman floating face down in the harbour, dead. Tinker, with Jane and Ruth, Phryne's resilient adopted daughters, together decide to solve what appears to be a heinous crime.
Disappearances, murder, bombs, booby-traps and strange goings-on land Miss Phryne Fisher right in the middle of her most exciting adventure.
I’ve been a fan of this series from the beginning but this one was phoned in, either by the author herself or Allen and Unwin, or, possibly, both. I still enjoyed the hell out of catching up with Phryne and friends, but in quality, this was disappointing.
Death in Daylesford is one of her longer entries, and the story meanders quite a bit across at least 3 different plot-lines taking place in two different places: Melbourne’s mystery being solved by Phryne’s three adopted kids and her assistant’s fiancé (a police detective), and one in Daylesford, a spa town about an hour away from Melbourne, spear-headed by Phryne and her assistant Dot.
The Melbourne plot could have been scrapped and I’d have never missed it. While I like Jane and Ruth as characters, I found their plot/mystery to be too Nancy Drew for my tastes. The death they investigated was tragic, and it’s solution sad, but it was superfluous to requirements.
Phryne’s mysteries were more interesting and more diabolical, but poor editing and the inclusion of the Nancy Drew parallel plot detracted significantly from what it might have been. The poor editing is obvious – and surprising – in the form of missing words, and one scene where the dead body is removed from the scene twice. Blaming the parallel plot is just speculation on my part, but so many things in Phryne’s mysteries were glossed over and she reached conclusions with no discernible process to the reader, that I have to believe Greenwood just didn’t have the page space to expand on plot points the way she might have. Which is a shame, because the plots were interesting and deserved more than they got.
In spite of all this, I enjoyed the read, and I’m thrilled to see a new Phryne Fisher mystery out, after I’d started to believe the series was over. I hope there will be more, and I hope the author and the publisher both get their groove back.
Ballantyne Foundation Director and PI-in-training, Elliott Lisbon, is enjoying her idyllically slow life on Sea Pine Island, South Carolina. It’s the week before the annual Beach Ball and she’s sipping Bellinis on the sidelines. Her committee involvement is limited to securing the centerpieces: scrumptious masterpieces from the Cake & Shake. But when the head baker goes missing, Elli’s calm life gets a major shakeup. She takes the case and soon learns that missing is a relative term.
As Elli walks the delicate line between a woman finding herself and a woman needing to be found, the days speed up and she knows something’s about to go down. From drug runners to whistleblowers to sea turtle sabotage, Elli stirs up secrets and inadvertently whips a desperate killer into a frenzy. If she doesn’t find a way out of the heat, she’s going to get burned.
I’m always excited about a new Elliott Lisbon mystery being released; Kendel Lynn doesn’t publish on the typical once-a-year schedule, so you just never know when or if the next one is coming.
But they’re worth the suspense – these are well-written mysteries with solid plots and while definitely cozy, there’s nothing cutesy or twee about the characters or the plots. Shake Down starts off slow and builds slowly, with the search for a missing woman. Is she missing? Did she just take off? Was there foul play involved? Elliott Lisbon is a PI in training, putting in her required hours before receiving her license and she’s hired to find the woman, or find out what happened to her.
For spice, and possibly levity, there’s a reality tv show involved in the plot, but the ending is unexpected and, well, unexpected. This one isn’t going to keep you on the edge of your seat, but it will offer you a satisfying mystery.
Just as the holiday cheer is in full swing, a man is poisoned, sending the community into a tailspin. The list of suspects, Verlaque and Bonnet quickly discover, almost fills the church itself, from the visiting vendors at the Christmas fair to the victim’s unhappy wife and his disgruntled business partner. In A Noël Killing, with the help of an ever-watchful young woman named France, the pair must solve the murder while the spirit of the season attempts to warm Verlaque’s stubborn heart.
In general, this series has been excellent in every way, but this one wasn’t its strongest entry.
The narrative meandered. A lot. It took several chapters to get a grip on what was going on, and who was doing what to whom. There’s a slow build up to the crime, which I don’t mind, but because everything else was slow too, it was a battle to keep my attention on the book.
Once things did start moving, they felt scattered and disorganised, though this improved quite a bit as the story progressed. Still, of the books I’ve read this month, this is the one I’m struggling most to remember anything about. It wasn’t unpleasant or badly written, it just wasn’t a strong plot and it lacked the usual strong writing, or perhaps strong editing.
I’m happy to blame it on Covid and hope that the next one measures up to the first 7.
Bowen’s homage to Rebecca, this entry might or might not be a disappointment to those who have read du Maurier’s classic – I’ve never read it myself, so the plot here was new to me, though I could appreciate the allusions and the tip of the hat to the gothic atmosphere.
The story, homage or not, is well-written enough that I don’t think fans of the series will be disappointed. It’s not her absolute best (The Twelve Clues of Christmas, imo) but it’s well-plotted and the characters are well drawn. Darcy has little page time, as usual, but we get a lot more of Belinda and her background, which I enjoyed. Queenie makes a thankfully brief appearance, but otherwise it’s a whole new cast of characters in the wilds of Cornwall, in what ends up to be a delightfully crazy plot.
Eventually though, I’m going to have to cave and read Rebecca.
Grab your tickets for Cajun Country Live!, the pickers' and crooners' answer to the legendary New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Maggie Crozat, proprietor of the Crozat Plantation B&B, plans to be in the cheering section when her friend Gaynell Bourgeois takes the stage with her band, Gaynell and the Gator Girls.
The festival's headliner, native daughter Tammy Barker, rocketed to stardom on a TV singing competition. She has the voice of an angel...and the personality of a devilish diva. But Maggie learns that this tiny terror carries a grudge against Gaynell. She's already sabotaged the Gator Girls' JazzFest audition. When a member of Tammy's entourage is murdered at the festival, Tammy makes sure Gaynell is number one on the suspect list.
Gaynell has plenty of company on that list--including every one of Tammy's musicians. Posing as a groupie, Maggie infiltrates Tammy's band and will have to hit all the right notes to clear her friend's name.
Not bad; I think Crooked Lane Publishers could do better with a tighter editing process, but the plotting was excellent. The characters weren’t engaging as past entries of the series, but I’m not sure I can say why. Generally, a relatively solid entry in a better than average series.