Pocket Apocalypse (InCryptid, #4)

Pocket ApocalypsePocket Apocalypse
by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 0756408121
Series: InCryptid #4
Publication Date: March 15, 2015
Pages: 368
Publisher: DAW Books

Australia is a cryptozoologist’s dream, filled with unique species and unique challenges. Unfortunately, it’s also filled with Shelby’s family, who aren’t delighted by the length of her stay in America. And then there are the werewolves to consider: infected killing machines who would like nothing more than to claim the continent as their own. The continent which currently includes Alex.

Survival is hard enough when you’re on familiar ground. Alex Price is very far from home, but there’s one thing he knows for sure: he’s not going down without a fight.


The second of Alex’s books, and the best of the two by a clear margin.  This one takes place in Australia, and the author nails the setting, while taking the mickey about (northern) Australia’s natural population’s inherent desire to kill everyone.  Half-off Ragnarok struggled to get this cultural uniqueness right, in my opinion, so it was a relief to see the improvement here.  Shelby still remained elusive as an individual, but her family members more than compensated.

Shelby’s family is why I didn’t like this book even more; they’re over-the-top asses to Alex and it teetered on caricature.

The plot was good; while I wasn’t shocked by the turn of events, I didn’t see them coming, either.  I love how the author and Alex brought in the wadjets, using this angle to work in the injustice of ‘otherness’, though the Yowie’s (who I loved) circumstances turned what was a subtle but effective highlight on that injustice into something more like a sledgehammer.

The Aeslin mice are here but I did not appreciate the turn of events the author took with them.  Maybe she’d argue it was necessary to the story line, but she’d never convince me.  Luckily it was a relatively short scene.

With every book of McGuire’s I’ve read, I have both enjoyed them and found them problematic.  That I mostly keep coming back (I’ve skipped a few) for more Price family antics suggests she gets it right more often than she doesn’t.

A Bad Day for Sunshine

A Bad Day for SunshineA Bad Day for Sunshine
by Darynda Jones
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780349427171
Series: Sunshine Vicram #1
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Pages: 390
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group

Del Sol native Sunshine Vicram has returned to town as the elected sheriff, expecting nothing more than a quiet ride. But now a teenage girl is missing, a kidnapper is on the loose, and all of this is reminding Sunshine why she left Del Sol in the first place. Add to that the trouble at her daughter's new school, plus a kidnapped rooster named Puff Daddy, and, well, the forecast looks anything but sunny.

But even clouds have their silver linings. This one's got Levi, Sunshine's sexy, almost-old flame, and Quincy Cooper, a fiery-hot US Marshall. With temperatures rising everywhere she turns, Del Sol's normally cool-minded sheriff is finding herself knee-deep in drama and danger.


A long time fan of Jones’ writing, I was excited to hear about this new series after her Charlie Davidson series came to an end, but also hesitant, as the premise for this new series sounded like quite a departure in a lot of ways.

I needn’t have worried; A Bad Day for Sunshine has everything I loved in the Charlie Davidson series (save the outright paranormal plots), only slightly more polished.  Where the snark and jokes in the CD series could sometimes be a tad overdone (naming ever in animate object), here it was perfectly balanced.  The multiple plots were here too, without quite the manic pace, and the friendships and dialog were bang on perfect.  Levi too is the version of Reyes one could take home to their more liberal parents.  In many ways, as much as I loved the Charlie Davidson series, Sunshine Vicram feels more polished.

Plotwise, there are many different irons in the fire and all were good, though a few were telegraphed ahead of time to varying degrees.  I knocked half a star off because the multi-book plot feels transparent.  I still can’t say who did it, but I feel confident about who didn’t and what role the character played in the crime.  Whether I’m right or not, it left me feeling frustrated with the lack of resolution at the end, and doubly so when I found out the next book doesn’t come out until July 2021.  But A Good Day for Chardonnay will definitely be pre-ordered.

Extracurricular Activities (Murder 101, #2)

Extracurricular ActivitiesExtracurricular Activities
by Maggie Barbieri
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 0312355386
Series: Murder 101 #2
Publication Date: November 27, 2007
Pages: 294
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur

 

Well, I didn’t think I’d be able to refrain from immediately picking up the next book, but I’m a bit surprised by how quickly I devoured it.  Almost as good as the first one, though the action got a little bit over the top.  I found the premise believable, but the number of times Allison, the MC, found herself in peril stretched the boundaries of believability, even for a cozy.  Not cozy peril either: she’s shot, she’s stabbed, she’s kidnapped … her insurance rates must be hell.

Still, it obviously kept me riveted.  I miss mysteries like this; I know they’re still out there, but there just harder to find, which makes me all the happier that I can revisit the keepers on my shelves from time to time.

I have the rest of the series on my shelves too, but I’m going to try to hold off starting #3 so I can get some Halloween Bingo reading in.  We’ll see how long that lasts.

The Locked-Room Mysteries

The Locked-Room MysteriesThe Locked-Room Mysteries
by Otto Penzler
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780307743961
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Pages: 941
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Vintage Crime / Black Lizard

In this definitive collection, Edgar Award-winning editor Otto Penzler selects a multifarious mix from across the entire history of the locked room story, which should form the cornerstone of any crime reader's library.

Virtually all of the great writers of detective fiction have produced masterpieces in this genre, including Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy L. Sayers, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, G.K. Chesterton, John Dickson Carr, Dashiell Hammett, Ngaio Marsh and Stephen King.

The purest kind of detective story involves a crime solved by observation and deduction, rather than luck, coincidence or confession. The supreme form of detection involves the explanation of an impossible crime, whether the sort of vanishing act that would make Houdini proud, a murder that leaves no visible trace, or the most unlikely villain imaginable.


There were so many promising selections and recommendations from everyone for locked-room mysteries, I found it a little overwhelming:  what to choose?

Then I stumbled across this book at my library and it seemed the perfect answer; at 900+ pages I was certain to find a few good stories and all of them locked room mysteries.

I was not disappointed.  In fact, I think I’ll probably buy a copy of this book for my personal shelves; if half the stories are as good as the ones I’ve read, I can’t go wrong.

For the Halloween Bingo challenge, I read the following stories; none of them less than 4.5-5 star reads:

A Terribly Strange Bed – Wilkie Collins
What do Disney’s Haunted Mansion and the movie Murder by Death have in common?  This story!  It was so much fun; I admit I wasn’t sure how much I’d like Collins’ writing style after listening to Mrs. Zant and the Ghost, but I found this story so entertaining, I’m feeling much more confident about picking up his longer classics.

The House of Haunts – Ellery Queen
A new author for me – I know, Queen is a legend! – but I’d never picked him up, thinking his work might be more noir or graphic than I’d like.  HA!  It was great!  This is the longest of the stories I read, and it had all the elements:  dark, forbidding atmosphere, gothic houses, mentally disturbed residents, an unending snow storm, a question of paranormal influences, and of course a locked room setup.  The ending is nothing short of fantastical and cunning, with Queen coming across as a blend of Whimsey and Holmes.

The Burglar Who Smelled Smoke – Lawrence Block & Lynn Wood Block
Years ago I had a first date that took me to a bookstore and bought me a Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery.  Despite such auspicious beginnings, the boyfriend didn’t last, but I’d read a few of the Burglar Who… books, so I pounced on this story as a guarantee of something light.  After reading it, I sort of think Block would have been better off keeping Rhondenbarr confined to the short story format:  this was a much better mystery than I remember the full-length books being.  This is a true locked-room mystery, and while most relatively savvy readers will recognise the method of death, the details were really fiendishly clever, while still being a light, entertaining read.

The Poisoned Dow ’08 – Dorothy L. Sayers
My first Montague Egg mystery, and probably the ‘weakest’ of the stories I chose at 4.5 stars.  Egg reminds me too much of Poirot, only a little bit… smarmy.  This was also the most conventional of the locked room scenarios offered in the stories I read.  Still, Sayers is a master and given a choice, I might choose Egg over Poirot in short story format.  Maybe.

Death at the Excelsior – P.G. Wodehouse
Did you know Wodehouse wrote crime stories before he brought Wooster and Jeeves into the world?  I didn’t, and when I saw him in the TOC there was no way I skipping it.  It’s a classic mystery, and there are hints of the wry, dry humour Wodehouse would become famous for here and there.  Another truly locked room mystery, with shades of The Adventure of the Speckled Band, but ultimately very different.  This short could also be used for the Black Cat Square.

I’m looking forward to owning my own copy of this; I highly recommend it for classic mystery lovers.

(Read September 8-9 2016; Library copy; ISBN 9780857898920)

Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers

Well, I’m not sure about the ending, but the rest is excellent! Great characters, snappy dialogue and excellent story lines.

 

I enjoy the way the author goes between two or more story lines in these books, each one is a nice break from the other and it keeps things interesting. The main plot line was intense, so the secondary plot offered a breather and I enjoyed reading about the individual agencies working together.

 

The sexual tension between Nick and Tara is fun and the author does an excellent job with the writing – enough to be steamy, not so much as to be veering into erotic writing.  This has been a strong series from the beginning and I’m looking forward to the next book, which luckily is only a couple of months away.

Smarty Bones (Sarah Booth Delaney Series #13)

Wow, this book was busy! It’s like the author had three different novella-length stories she wanted to tell and compressed them all into the same plot line/book. But I don’t mean that as a bad thing. It was just a very busy storyline – which I can see a lot of people not enjoying, but it kept me on the edge of my seat for the last half of the book. I love how Ms. Haines brought Sweetie and Pluto into the storyline and made them active characters – a true animal lover will appreciate it.  I really enjoyed the Lady in Red storyline. I was really intrigued by the role she played in the Civil War and the possible solution to the troubles that she hoped to forward. The modern day storyline revolving around The Lady in Red, however, I have to admit to finding hard to swallow – it felt a tiny bit over-the-top. But I still enjoyed the hell out of this book!  Ms. Haines hints throughout the story that she might be shaking things up again in Sarah Booth’s life. As I’ve always been a fan of Coleman’s, I sort of hope that’s true. I’m looking forward to the next book to find out what happens.

Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria (Tara Halloway #4)

This series is just so much fun. While Peach Sangria is a mystery, it’s not your typical murder mystery.

 

Tara is after terrorists by going after their source of money. It’s a slow story to develop and there’s a lot more character development going on, bulking up the book. But I like the character development so I don’t mind at all that the ‘plot’ isn’t front and center and taking up Tara’s every move.  

 

In the land of character development, Ms. Kelly gave us a love triangle a few books ago, and it’s resolved in this book (thank goodness!). She also does something I don’t think any author to date has done: gotten me to switch loyalties from one man to the other. Usually once a love interest is introduced, and it’s a good one, I get really snippy about author’s messing with the status quo. But Ms. Kelly has done a very good job of changing my loyalties and handling the love triangle resolution with grace.  

Nearly Departed in Deadwood (Deadwood Mystery, #1)

Nearly Departed in DeadwoodNearly Departed in Deadwood
by Ann Charles
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780983256809
Series: Deadwood #4
Publication Date: January 8, 2011
Pages: 376
Publisher: Corvallis Press

This is going on my cozy-mystery shelf, even though it really doesn’t belong there, but I’m not sure where else this genre jumping book (and series) should go.

What I do know is that this book is a really fun read! Humour, a good mystery, lots of creepy, and oh wow the sexual chemistry going on! This little voice in the back of my head nailed the bad guy early on, but I was certain I was wrong. The author makes some very bold moves for a book that comes close to cozy. I have a mental picture of the ending that I’d dearly pay a bit extra to get rid of – I suspect it will stick with me awhile.

Great characters and a great setting. For those who dislike language – it’s here in all it’s glorious colours. So is the sexual chemistry – no graphic scenes, but nothing prim and proper either.

I read the Kindle edition because it was a freebie, but I’ve since ordered the paperback of all the books available in the series.

India Black and the Widow of Windsor (Madame of Espionage #2)

I really enjoy this series – what’s not to like about a brothel madam that becomes a spy for her majesty? I love the repartee between her and French, her partner in spying. I love India’s sass and wit and her pragmatic outlook to life.  

 

This book, the second one in the series, takes place in Scotland at Balmoral castle. Generally, I’m not a fan of ‘away’ mysteries, since I usually have to adjust to a new cast of characters, but this one simply relocates the entire cast to Balmoral for the duration. India goes undercover as a personal maid for a Marchioness who is rather eccentric. There are scenes with this woman that had me absolutely laughing out loud – one involving pepper that forced me to put the book down for a moment, I was laughing so hard. Truly these are Stephanie Plum-worthy scenes, although the book itself could hardly be compared to J. Evanovich’s popular series.  

 

The book ends with some intriguing hints to future character developments and I look forward to the next book.