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Book Review: The Teatime Mystery by Faith Martin

The Teatime Mystery (Jenny Starling #6) by Faith Martin
My rating: 🌟🌟 (2 stars)
Publisher: Joffee Books


In a week that was insanely busy, this was the book I chose to read, and it took forever to get through. I've settled on the fact that it's not me, it's the book. This investigation into who killed Tris, the privileged local Lothario with a cricket bat had all the pop and swiftness of watching a glacier move, by the hour. The murderer was who I'd suspected and that didn't even bring a thrill. This is one of Jenny's outings that I'd recommend skipping (the food wasn't even inspiring!). That's enough said about it & I'm just glad it's over.

The next surely has to be better.


Summary: Jenny Starling is doing the catering for the village cricket match. But she’s not expecting one of the players to turn up dead.
Everyone from the village has turned out to watch the match, and with this being the club’s centenary, Jenny Starling has been hired specially to provide her stunning food for the event.
Then the next man up to bat, Tristan Jones, is nowhere to be found. He is discovered behind the pavilion, murdered by a blow to the back of the head with an old cricket bat.
The handsome twenty-something had a reputation as a Lothario, with an appetite for married women. Did a scorned woman or a cuckolded husband kill him?
However, he’d annoyed other people too. He was a stockbroker who took big risks with other people’s money and lost their lifesavings.
Soon another body turns up and Jenny Starling is going to need all her cunning to crack this complex case.




Book Review: We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop


We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop
My rating: 🌟🌟🌟 (3 stars)
Publisher: Atria Books

I think between having high expectations based on Dunlop's last book She Regrets Nothing that I very much enjoyed and realizing the terrible thing the main character's sister had done so very early on, I only liked this in a middling kind of way. Honestly, if I'd known the secret beforehand and that there'd be a fairly detailed recitation of what happened, I'd not have chosen it to read when I did (though I can't say I'd ever have been "in the mood" for the secret subject: highlight>>(Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy)).

As to the writing, Dunlop again does a wonderful job crafting her story and her way with words shone through. I did enjoy the look-in at the two sisters bound and estranged. I also enjoyed the epilogue and I attributed that to it ending more positively than I'd thought it would. I very much enjoyed Liz's life in Buenos Aires along with her expat pack. All their stories and what led them to drop out of the world for a time was well done. It was almost dreamlike this existence they had. All things considered, I'd read another by Dunlop.


Summary:  Katie Cleary has always known exactly what she wants: to be the best skier in the world. As a teenager, she leaves her home to live and train full time with her two best friends, all-American brothers Luke and Blair, whose wealthy father has hired the best coaches money can buy. Together, they are the USA’s best shot at bringing home Olympic gold—as well as a love triangle waiting to happen.
But as the upward trajectory of Katie’s elite skiing career nears its zenith, a terrifying truth about her sister becomes impossible to ignore—one that will lay ruin not only to Katie’s career but to her family and her relationship with Luke and Blair.
With her life shattered and nothing left to lose, Katie flees the snowy mountainsides of home for Buenos Aires. There, she reinvents herself as Liz Sullivan, and meets a colorful group of ex-pats and the alluring, charismatic Gianluca Fortunado, a tango teacher with secrets of his own. This beautiful city, with its dark history and wild promise, seems like the perfect refuge, but can she really outrun her demons?
Told in alternating chapters, Katie grows up, falls in love, and races down the highest peaks on the planet—while Liz is reborn, falls into lust, and sinks into the underground tango scene at the bottom of the world. From the moneyed ski chalets of the American West to the dimly lit milongas of Argentina, We Came Here to Forget explores what it means to dream, to desire, to achieve—and what’s left behind after it all disappears.
 






Book Review: A Very Murderous Christmas: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season by Cecily Gayford


A Very Murderous Christmas: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season by Cecily Gayford
My rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4 stars)
Publisher: Profile Books

A quite enjoyable collection. Not all stories had murders central to them but they all felt appropriate for the theme. I quite liked seven of the ten offered here and below were my favourites:

Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz- in which the new owner of Camberwell Crackers meets his end in a very gruesome but apropos way.

A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake- in which a robbery and murder occur on a train on a snowy night. This one reminded me of Mystery in White.

Loopy by Ruth Rendell- in which the fate of a woman engaged to a man who is forty-two and reluctant to leave his mother's home ends exactly as one would expect in such a story. Clever telling from the man's POV.

Morse's Greatest Mystery by Colin Dexter- in which the cranky and curmudgeonly Morse displays his heart for the Littlemore Charity for Mentally Handicapped Children. Very sweet & no murder here.

The Jar of Ginger by Gladys Mitchell- in which a group sit and discuss the ways to dispose of a spouse and a bit of laced ginger is suggested the conduit to that end. Creepy and clever to the last.

Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces by John Mortimer- in which Rumpole helps a country prior bend the new "country squire" into a donation for the church and also solves an intricately planned and executed robbery to the exoneration of his client, both due to his memory. Loved this!

The Problem of Santa's Lighthouse by Edward Hoch- in which a vacationing doctor finds himself investigating the curious case of how Harry Quay died when he was ostensibly the only one on the walkway of the lighthouse. The solution here was obvious to me but I still enjoyed this one and its attempt of misdirection.

If you're looking for some short stories to get stuck into during the Christmas or snowy season, this does nicely. Definitely recommended.

Summary: The Christmas season is one of comfort and joy, sparkling lights and steam rising from cups of mulled wine at frosty carol services. A season of goodwill to all men, as families and friends come together to forget their differences and celebrate the year together. Unless, of course, you happen to be harbouring a grudge. Or hiding a guilty secret. Or you want something so much you just have to have it - whatever the cost. In A Very Murderous Christmas, ten of the best classic crime writers come together to unleash festive havoc, with murder, mayhem and twists aplenty.
Following Murder on Christmas Eve and Murder under the Christmas Tree, this is the perfect accompaniment to a mince pie and a roaring fire. Just make sure you're really, truly alone ...




Book Review: Murder on Christmas Eve: Classic Mysteries for the Festive Season by Cecily Gayford


Murder on Christmas Eve: Classic Mysteries for the Festive Season by Cecily Gayford
My rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4 stars)
Publisher: Profile Books

As my last Christmas murder mystery was a disappointment, I jumped right into this with fingers crossed the title really meant what it read. I'm happy to report, this little collection is on-brand. I really enjoyed eight of the ten here so, four stars. My favourites:

The Trinity Cat by Ellis Peters- a clever story in which elderly Miss Patience has been murdered and the rectory cat intent on ferreting out his Christmas present points the paw at the guilty party. The power of the catnip (or catmint, as it's called here) will not be denied. I'll pretty much read anything Peters writes and this made me want to revisit Brother Cadfael.

The Santa Claus Club by Julian Symons- in which Francis Quarles must figure out a locked room mystery that has Lord Acrise murdered during a dinner in plain sight. The culprit is a little obvious but it's a neat little read.

No Sanity Clause by Ian Rankin- a modern story in which a man recently released after serving his time leans back into theft during a hotel Christmas party and crosses paths with two people, one of whom gives him another chance. Fuzzy on feels but a bit wobbly on ethics. Loved that main character utilized the library and counted books in things he fantasized about for Christmas.

The Footprint in the Sky by John Dickson Carr- in which Dorothy Dolly Brant is thought to have committed assault on her neighbour in the night during a bout of sleepwalking. But the answer lies in the fact that the crime is upside down. Clever.

A Wife in A Million by Val McDermid- in which a disgruntled wife is, instead of handing out holiday cheer, out slipping a little arsenic into grocery items and DS Maggie Staniforth is on the case and dealing with her own disgruntled wife. Very cleverly told.

Cambric Tea by Marjorie Bowen- in which there's no murder but there is a plan for framing people for one. Enjoyable and all four characters are fairly unsympathetic.

As Dark As Christmas Gets by Lawrence Block- in which there's no murder but a manuscript is thought to have been stolen and Leo Haig & his assistant Chip are on the case. This was so neat that I actually looked up the author's series these characters live in. It appears that Leo doesn't show up until book three so I'll likely begin there. His Nero Wolfe obsession is unique & I know little more than my father was also a Nero Wolfe fan so, I'm intrigued. I also found out that the story was written as a Christmas gift to Otto Penzler with the sole requirement being the story be set in The Mysterious Bookshop. As it happens I've just this week. bought a copy of a collection of Christmas mysteries complied by Otto Penzler. Kismet.

On Christmas Day in the Morning by Margery Allingham- in which the postman is killed on Christmas morning causing quite a commotion but this still turns out to be a heartwarming tale to end on.

I'd recommend this for fans of Christmas mysteries. It's ten stories in a neat little paperback that doesn't take a lot of time to get through. Not every one is a murder but I felt those were still on-brand and fit well for the most part. I have the other two books in this trio and will be reading them.


Summary: Christmas Eve. While the world sleeps, snow falls gently from the sky, presents await under the tree ... and murder is afoot. In this collection of ten classic murder mysteries from the best crime writers in history, death and mayhem take many festive forms, from the inventive to the unexpected.
From a Santa Claus with a grudge to a cat who knows who killed its owner on Christmas Eve, these are stories to enjoy - and be mystified by - in front of a roaring fire, mince pie to hand.







Book Review: Followers by Megan Angelo


Followers by Megan Angelo
My rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4 stars)
Publisher: Gaydon House (January 2020)

I quite enjoyed this creepy, cautionary and sometimes witty tale.

The story is told in two timelines, 2015 and 2051. We follow Orla and Floss from 2015 and also through 2051 (from their twenties to their sixties). I really liked that we followed them through the decades and saw them change (or not change) as life moved on Marlow has the POV for the 2051 thread.. Her crisis point arises as a married, thirty-five year old who is about to embark on motherhood and what she does in response to that is what turns out to be the beginning of a whole new life. Her life's been wrapped up in social media followers and influencers much like her mother before her with an additional feature of reality tv on overdrive with pharmaceutical tie-ins and all run by the government.

From the start, characters reference an event called The Spill, where everyone's online lives are basically used against them and social chaos ensues culminating in a government takeover of the internet, China style. And that made me want to know about what happened, who was responsible and why they did it. So of course, this information was teased out slowly but very well in the narrative and it didn't bother me a bit when the big day finally arrived somewhere around the 80-85% point. I'd usually be raging at taking so long but I was gripped. Deftly written by Megan Angelo.

To the characters, I found that Marlow and Orla were best drawn. There were plenty of contexts that went to make their points of view clear and their actions understandable. Floss is another story altogether. She was determinedly shallow but never had enough background given or perspective depth to make her anything more than that. I wanted to know why she made the decisions she made, if anything deeper than a need to be seen drove her and what she truly valued. By the book's end, she seemed the least changed and that was something of a disappointment. Aston, who was a tertiary character at best, had a deeper characterization and backstory which was very well done.

By the time I was 95% in, I still didn't know how this was going to end. A big takedown of Constellation? A family reunion and new life for Marlow? Honey's downfall (because she really needed one; wth was with her parties with only white and fair-skinned people allowed?)? All of the above? None? That was a wonderful feeling and I'm not telling you how it ended. I will say the ending felt a bit abrupt and a tad too tidy but I appreciated the ending the author wanted to tell.

There was plenty that was highlight-worthy and a couple of my favourite quotes follow:

"She was- though she couldn't admit it directly, not even to herself- in search of a shortcut. A way to be someone who had done something without having to actually do it."

"She knew how strangers saw her; as the cheapest sort of star, the tagalong friend of a TMI queen. But the point was: they saw her. She was visible. She was there."

"I was Twitterfamous," one of the old men croaked at her, glaring, Marlow just nodded and smiled, pretending to be impressed. She has never quite understood Twitter, though Floss still talked about it like a dead, beloved friend. Short messages, but to everyone, mostly pointless, with blatant lies allowed- Marlow could not imagine what had been the appeal."

As speculative fiction goes, this had it all. It was rooted and grounded enough in the current landscape but the steps forward felt quite plausible and made for an uncomfortable read. I'm not an over-sharer online but when banking, medical and other online information that people don't control came into play here, it made the hair on my arm stand on end. We already live waiting for the next corporate entity to do a tepid mea culpa when they've had a data breach with our information so that thread of the story felt all too possible. So, think before you share and post to mitigate the possible damage.

Lastly, extra points for the mention of CoreStates bank. It took me back to my childhood.

Highly recommended.

Many thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for the opportunity to read this arc. 


Summary: An electrifying story of two ambitious friends, the dark choices they make and the profound moment that changes the meaning of privacy forever.
Orla Cadden dreams of literary success, but she’s stuck writing about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Orla has no idea how to change her life until her new roommate, Floss―a striving, wannabe A-lister―comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they so desperately crave. But it's only when Orla and Floss abandon all pretense of ethics that social media responds with the most terrifying feedback of all: overwhelming success.

Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity―twelve million loyal followers―Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything, even horrible things, to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.

Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.
Orla Cadden dreams of literary success, but she’s stuck writing about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Orla has no idea how to change her life until her new roommate, Floss―a striving, wannabe A-lister―comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they so desperately crave. But it's only when Orla and Floss abandon all pretense of ethics that social media responds with the most terrifying feedback of all: overwhelming success.
Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity―twelve million loyal followers―Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything, even horrible things, to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.
Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.




Book Review: Death of a Christmas Caterer (Hayley Powell #5)by Lee Hollis


Death of a Christmas Caterer by Lee Hollis
My rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4 stars)
Publisher: Kensington


It's the time of year when I like to get in some seasonal reads and the more snow & Christmas cheer, the better, so I picked this one up. This is a big deal as I've not read the four books preceding and I usually hold myself to being orderly with series. I enjoyed this and didn't find jumping in this far in to be a hindrance in understanding the setting and characters at all.

The conundrum of how Garth the caterer is beaten to death in his workplace is a classic locked-room mystery. I love those and watching Hayley insert herself into the investigation was as well done as such a thing can be in a cozy. I liked her for the most part (her love life was unnecessarily & tediously, messy). The clues blew around and suspects and red herrings came in flurries with no clear answer to how Garth died in the manner he did when there was no evidence anyone had come in or gone out of his place. The answer lie in a botched coroner's report and as soon as that was revealed, I knew the answer. I'm giving credit to my penchant for ID Channel and having seen a case where this exact thing happened to a man relaxing in his hotel room. The remainder of the story comes to a quick and satisfying close. I was dismayed to read that a botched coroner's report is the problem in prior books. There should be a better way to conceal the mystery than hinging the entire investigation on the coroner's mistakes. Also, how many mistakes can a coroner have and retain their position? Luckily for this hamlet where murders abound, the coroner retires at the end of this one, no longer to be the foil. I kind of just want to go on to the next one to see how the mystery is played with a competent coroner. I also have to say I was less than thrilled with the resolution of Hayley's rude, drunk co-worker who dabbles in sexual harassment at the office holiday festivities. I haven't read the prior books to know if there's an established reason for her excusing him for it but it didn't seem like this was the first occurrence for him so... it didn't play well for me.

All the Christmas trimmings came with this and that was fun. Carols, a Nativity play with a very funny replacement Joseph, a tree lighting with a run-away sleigh with elf atop and family togetherness. There were also recipes, which I didn't expect going into this! There was one food mentioned (holiday spice cake) that was described so yummily but had no recipe and it's just my luck to always have that happenstance when I read food inclined cozies. There's always one (looking at you Soup Lover's Mystery series!)!

Just what I wanted in a seasonal read so definitely recommended.

Summary: Who better than food and cocktails columnist Hayley Powell to book a caterer for the Island Times holiday party? But Hayley's quest for a cook turns into the pursuit of a killer who caters to no one. . .
Office Christmas parties can sometimes mean career suicide--but they rarely lead to murder. Hayley thought Garth Rawlings would be the perfect caterer for this year's bash, but when the gourmet sees her budget, he goes galloping.

Unfortunately his run is short-lived. Garth is found dead on the floor of his kitchen, with his delectable creations burning in the oven. Faced with a spread of suspects, Hayley is determined to discover who would want to take out the Christmas caterer, because--no matter what the season--justice must be served.
Office Christmas parties can sometimes mean career suicide--but they rarely lead to murder. Hayley thought Garth Rawlings would be the perfect caterer for this year's bash, but when the gourmet sees her budget, he goes galloping.
Unfortunately his run is short-lived. Garth is found dead on the floor of his kitchen, with his delectable creations burning in the oven. Faced with a spread of suspects, Hayley is determined to discover who would want to take out the Christmas caterer, because--no matter what the season--justice must be served.





Book Review: Another Little Christmas Murder by Lorna Nicholl Morgan


Another Little Christmas Murder by Lorna Nicholl Morgan
My rating: 🌟🌟🌟 (3 stars)
Publisher: Sphere


'Tis the season for me to get my fix of murder mysteries at Christmas so this seemed like it'd fit the bill. The title promised I'd be getting  "Another Little Christmas Murder" mystery but alas, this isn't it, people. Christmas is mentioned twice here once to say it's weeks away and at the end when the two main characters are headed to her family's home for Christmas. What this story does have is snow. Lots of snow. A hellacious storm descends on Wintry Wold in Yorkshire and that's really the hook here to what is at its core a country house murder mystery.

Now usually, I love a country house murder mystery but that wasn't what I signed up for when I chose this. Not happy. Also to the not so great side of the ledger, this was terribly slow. It takes place over about two days but the first half is quite a slog and chatty so it's not until almost 56% in that the real investigation to who has done the murder and why get underway. The end was done well and was swift in the tidy tie-up. Our main characters Dylis and Inigo ended the story just where I'd hoped and expected they would which was nice because they were the best of the characters presented (they saved the whole thing).

I'd recommend this as a country house mystery but don't believe the title, it's a lie and will only lead to disappointment or annoyance if you're looking for a Christmas murder mystery. Be advised.



Summary: When Dilys Hughes finds herself snowbound in the middle of a bleak and lonely stretch of Yorkshire, she has no option but to accept help from passing motorist Inigo Brown, who is on his way to visit his uncle.
Arriving at his uncle's remote country house, Wintry Wold, the couple encounters a less than warm welcome from Inigo's new young aunt, Theresa. Why is she reluctant to let Inigo see his uncle, and is he really as ill as they are told?

As the snowstorm brings more stranded strangers to their door, Dilys starts to realise that all is not as it seems at Wintry Wold. When the morning brings news of the death of Inigo's uncle, Dilys sets out to investigate - was it a natural death, or was it murder?
Arriving at his uncle's remote country house, Wintry Wold, the couple encounters a less than warm welcome from Inigo's new young aunt, Theresa. Why is she reluctant to let Inigo see his uncle, and is he really as ill as they are told?
As the snowstorm brings more stranded strangers to their door, Dilys starts to realise that all is not as it seems at Wintry Wold. When the morning brings news of the death of Inigo's uncle, Dilys sets out to investigate - was it a natural death, or was it murder?