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mystery

REVIEW: To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie

to dwell in darknessI’ve been a huge fan of the Duncan Kincaid / Gemma James mysteries for a while now, and I can’t believe that number 16 is out already!

Gemma’s partner, Melody Talbot, is bout to watch her boyfriend’s band perform at St. Pancras Station when all of a sudden all hell breaks loose. A white phosphorous bomb has been ignited – was it set off by the protestors Melody solved earlier? Duncan and Gemma are back and dealing with a possible terror case in Duncan’s new division – can they keep their family together while solving one of the biggest cases of their lifetimes? Duncan begins to question his priorities and whether or not he is still in the right job.

I love Crombie’s books with a passion. She creates a wonderful atmosphere in modern London while still being able to create the feeling of a classic murder mystery. Even after 16 books, the characters continue to evolve and remain fresh – and the mysteries never get formulaic or boring! If you haven’t read her books before, I highly recommend starting at the beginning of the series and reading forward so you don’t miss any of the character development or any of the amazing mysteries!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a host on this tour!

Summer of Christie Read-a-Long: Dead Man’s Folly

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Here are the next questions from Book Club Girl’s read-a-long of Dead Man’s Folly!

Both Ariadne and Mrs. Folliat hint to Poirot of an evil lurking at Nasse House. Why do you think Poirot cared to listen to the warnings, instead of chalking it up to empty suspicions?

Poirot is always great about listening to people, no matter what the situation. As soon as he can read the clues in someone’s face and mannerisms, he knows whether or not the case is worth it and if the person is truly dedicated to finding the truth. Since he’s known Mrs. Oliver for a while, he already trusts her intuition.

Throughout Poirot’s investigation he was so close to uncovering the truth. What were some of the clues he couldn’t decipher along the way?

I think that he knew they were clues, but because he couldn’t figure out the motive, they just didn’t fit together in a rational pattern. Plus, if he were to figure everything out right as he found the clues, it wouldn’t have been such a great mystery :)

The Chief Constable, Inspector Bland and Ariadne all doubted if Poirot could solve this mystery towards the end. Do you think Poirot himself was starting to give up?

PSHAW! There are only a few cases where Poirot really doubts himself, but I don’t think this is one of them. Many times he is overconfident, but I think in this case he was just so annoyed that he couldn’t figure out a motive. I think his annoyance just made him more determined to figure out the case.

Do you think Mrs. Folliat should be held legally accountable for her son’s actions? Does her lack of action make her guilty?

I meaaaaaan. Yes and no. Her son committed murder. She didn’t do it herself. Whether or not she could be tried as an accomplice or just a hinderance to a police investigation is another matter. It bugs me that she wouldn’t ever say anything. Her involvement in the whole ordeal is more sad than malicious, but she should have done something.

In the book, Sir George (a.k.a. James Folliat) was not overly painted as an evil, murderous person; however, in the TV episode his sinister traits were apparent towards the end. Do you think Sir George was inherently capable of performing multiple murders? Or, do you think he was caught in a spiral of deceit that he would stop at nothing to protect?

I hate to say, but I haven’t watched the episode yet! I have it on my DVR, but I haven’t had the time to really sit down and watch it yet :(

Lady Stubbs was described as “subhuman” from the beginning. Did you suspect her of being anything but what she claimed to be?

Never trust the quiet ones. People said that she was feeble-minded and meek, but I mean come on! Always suspect the quiet ones because they are the ones thinking! There was always something a little suspect about her character, but it did take me a while to figure out exactly what that was. Once you see her true self, it’s kind of freaky.

Supporting character development played a big role in the novel and was only touched upon in the TV version. Do you think the relationship between architect Michael and Mr. and Mrs. Legge was pivotal to the plot or served as background filler?

I can’t really answer, since I haven’t seen the show, but I think that books always have better focus on supporting characters than movies/shows.

There were some major plot differences between the TV rendering and Christie’s book. What were they? How did you feel about them?

Sorry, I can’t answer!

REVIEW: The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig

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Publisher: New American Library

Release Date: August 5, 2014

Source: Publisher

I can’t tell you how sad I am that this is the penultimate book in the Pink Carnation series!!! I’ve been reading this series for eight whole years, and it feels as if I am about to lose one of my best friends (even though the last book won’t come out for another year). I’ve fallen in love with Eloise and Colin, the Selwicks, the Dorringtons, the Fitzhughs, and of course we cannot forget Miss Gwen! The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla is another brilliant addition to this intriguing, humorous, and engaging series.

Sally Fitzhugh, sister of the ever-comical Turnip Fitzhugh, is muddling through the latest Season just as vampire hysteria has hit the ton. Lucien, the Duke of Belliston, has just returned after years of mysteriously being “away”, and he is soon rumoured to be a vampire himself! Sally, convinced the gossip is just that, is determined to find out who this man really is and why he is so set on keeping his past hidden in secret. Lucien reveals that his parents were murdered when he was young, but the murder was made to look like his mother committed a murder-suicide. As Sally vows to help Lucien uncover the real murderer, they find a body arranged to look as if it was drained by a vampire, and only Sally can help Lucien find out who is trying to frame him. The modern thread of the story follows Eloise back in the States as she teaches a history course and tried to finish her dissertation – all while trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with Colin.

After all these years (and 13 books!), Willig still manages to keep her mysteries and romances fresh and engrossing. I often find myself rereading books from this series, and this addition will be no different. Sally is meddling and opinionated, but she is almost always right. She knows who she is, and she is willing to help Lucien, the social outcast, because she can see the real human being under all of his pain and suffering. One of the reasons I love this series so very much is because it never gets too serious. Amidst all of the drama and action, Willig inserts her wonderful Anglophile humor with Monty Python jokes and fun British lingo. One of my favorite scenes in the book involves an appearance from Miss Gwen:

“‘… I will require a cold collation to be delivered to my room along with a pot of tea steeped for precisely five minutes. Not six minutes shall you steep, nor four, but five.’

‘I shall be sure to relay that,’ replied Lucien, with remarkable forbearance. ‘I should hate to think that your tea might be steeped for only three – or,’ he added, in a tone of great seriousness, ‘as much as seven.’” p. 253

And one can’t forget the appearance of a remarkably well-trained stoat. Lady Florence Oblong (the stoat) deserves as much praise as any of the other characters :)

As always, Willig creates another book to be added to my shelf of favorites. I highly recommend this book for a light and fun summer romp!

Book Club Girl’s Agatha Christie Read-A-Long: And Then There Were None

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Book Club Girl’s Agatha Christie Read-A-Long: And Then There Were None

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1- When we first meet the “ten soldiers,” while they may not have been the best group of people, you don’t necessarily wish them ill will. As their pasts are revealed and their true personalities unmasked, did you feel any sympathy for them as a victim of the situation? Do you think that we, the reader, were predisposed to dislike certain characters more and feel sympathy for others?

I don’t know that I felt any sympathy for these characters when we first meet them. They’ve all committed pretty horrible crimes for which they can’t be tried in court. Especially as their true personalities surface, most of the ten characters show no remorse for their crimes. I did love the character Vera because she seems to be the smarted and most put-together of them all, but I do think that has a lot to do with what Christie wants us to think.

2- Each soldier was initially defined by their stature or position in life, did that change for any of them as the story progressed, or did they rely more on their roles off the island for survival?

At first, each character is completely defined by his or her role in society, but as each character drops one by one, the roles definitely change. I think the roles are soon redefined by who can remain the most calm (and sane, if you think about it). They do all start to lose it eventually, which truly evens the social playing field.

3- One of the themes present throughout And Then There Were None is guilt and the effect it can have on a person. How did each character deal with the guilt of their past crimes? Who handled it the best? And who was the most torn up from it?

It’s hard for me to answer this question because I don’t want to give the ending away to anyone who hasn’t read it yet! I think the character who “did it” had the most guilt because they couldn’t make life fair for the victims of these people. Ack! That is horrible and vague… Most of the characters don’t handle the guilt at all. They shut themselves up and try to run away from the madness of knowing they are going to die.

4- What did you think of the use of “Ten Little Soldiers” throughout the book, both the poem posted in the bedrooms and the little disappearing figurines on the dining room table? How do they both figure into the story? Do you think the reminder of the “Ten Little Soldiers” poem was necessary throughout the story?

I loved the soldiers so much! They really add to the psychological suspense since each soldier directly corresponds to one of the criminals. The reminder of the poem sort of helps you keeps track of what is really happening and why it is happening to these people. It also gives so much drama to the last death scene, as you know what is going to happen, even though you really don’t want it to.

5- If you were trapped on Soldier Island, which character’s behavior would you most identify with and why? If not, what would you have done differently?

Honestly, I would be taking the house apart trying to build a raft. Especially after the first few deaths, you KNOW what is going to happen, just not who is next. Holing yourself up in a house that is so obviously set up by the person who is trying to kill you is not a very smart idea to me.

6- From the very beginning certain characters are drawn to each other to form alliances in their strange situation—at first Vera and Emily, later Blore, Armstrong, and Lombard, Armstrong and Wargrave, and then Vera and Lombard. What do you think brought them together? How do these alliances affect events?

It kind of reminds me of the show Survivor. You know that no one is to be trusted, but you have to form alliances if you want to stay alive. I think they help the characters keep the madness at bay for a time. They see that they might have a friend and jump on that possibility. Alliances don’t necessarily change events, but they almost make it easier for the puppet master to pull the strings.

7- Did you have your own theories about who Unknown was before getting to the “Manuscript Document” and if so, at what point?

The first time I read it, I had absolutely no idea. I thought of several possibilities, but none of them were even remotely correct. I’ve read it a few times since then, and I try to see the clues Christie leaves, but there almost aren’t any to be found. It is truly a remarkable feat of hers to write such an unsolvable mystery!

8- It’s widely commented that Christie “violated the standard rules of mystery writing” by making it nearly impossible for us to solve the mystery before she explains it to us. How did that make you feel as a reader?

I freakin’ love it! I don’t think there should be “rules” when writing any type of book. I hate when I’m reading a mystery book and I can figure out the ending. It can be comforting to read books that fall into a pattern, but if all mysteries were written as such, everyone would be writing the same book over and over again.

9- As Agatha wrote in her author’s note, the plot was so simple, yet so baffling, that she herself was most pleased with the outcome for having done it. Are there any mysteries from recent years that you think come close to what she accomplished here?

No. It seems impossible to me to meet Christie’s level of brilliance. I think there are many spectacular mystery writers out there right now, but no one is able to blow my mind like Agatha. Gillian Flynn came really close with Gone Girl, but it doesn’t have the same kind of simple poise Christie executes so well.

REVIEW: No Graves as Yet by Anne Perry

No Graves as Yet by Anne Perry

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Publisher: Ballantine Books

Release Date: August 26, 2003

Source: library copy

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

The year is 1914. Joseph and Matthew Reavley have just found out their parents have been killed in a gruesome car accident. Matthew, a member of the Intelligence Service, knows that his father was on his way to bring him a document that could change the fate of England, as well as the rest of the world. Matthew and Joseph know that their parents’ deaths could not be a mere accident when such a document is involved. Especially since when they search their parents’ car and belongings there are no such documents found. Joseph is soon shocked when one of his best students, Sebastian Allard, is found murdered in his university rooms. Are the two deaths connected? Will the document be found and change the world as they know it?

I love reading mysteries set in World War I, and this novel was particularly intriguing since it is set right before the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. I actually read this book as part of my Mystery Book Club at my local library, so it was great to hear other people’s opinions when I have such strong ones. I really wanted to love this book. Maybe I had too many expectations going into it since Perry is such a famous and beloved author. The philosophy in this novel is absolutely brilliant. Joseph and Sebastian have an amazing discussion about war and peace and how civilization could be destroyed in an instant by an act of war. The political views and historical perspective discussed are fascinating, especially considering that the document and scandal talked about in the book are actually thought to be real.

What I really had a problem with was the pace of the plot. The mystery is quite intricate and definitely well thought out, but I just felt that the book took too long to go nowhere. I was not able to predict the “who-done-it” of the book, but by the end of the novel, I just didn’t care. I really just wanted to be over and done with it. It seems like Perry is trying to write about religion, politics, and humanism all within the plot of an historical mystery, but it just becomes too much like a treatise rather than a thriller. Perry’s characters are no-doubt outstanding, they just meander until they trip across the finish line more accidentally than anything. I think that I will try to read one of Perry’s other series, as I do like her writing style, but I don’t think I will be reading the rest of this series.

It’s a Summer of Christie!!!

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You all know just how much I love Agatha Christie, so when I saw there was going to be a new *authorized* book I got really excited! In celebration of the pending release of The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah, I’m joining Book Club Girl’s read-a-long of these classic Christie mysteries over this summer. Here’s the schedule if you’d like to read along:

June 30thAnd Then There Were None

July 30thDead Man’s Folly, and we can discuss the book and the premiere of the movie adaptation on Masterpiece Mystery airing July 27th.

September 2nd:  After the Funeral (be sure to pick up the new edition on sale August 5th with a foreword by Sophie Hannah explaining why this is her favorite Agatha Christie mystery)

October 6thThe Monogram Murders, featuring a guest post by author Sophie Hannah

For more information, go to Book Club Girl’s site: It’s a Summer of Christie!

REVIEW: Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By by Elizabeth J. Duncan

Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By by Elizabeth J. Duncan

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Publisher: Minotaur Books

Release Date: October 29, 2013

Source: Library copy

Rating: 4 out of 5

There’s just something magical about browsing in your local public library and discovering a new series which you just can’t put down. About a month ago, I saw this book on the New Books shelf at my library. I read the description and thought, “Oh my goodness, I have to read this book!” But then I looked through the book and saw it was the fifth book in the series – so of course I had to read the first four books before starting this one! Although you can read Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By as a stand-alone mystery, I would definitely recommend reading the other books in the series for Penny’s character development.

Penny Brannigan moved from Canada to Wales about 25 years ago to start her very own nail salon in the small town of Llanelen. As a favor to a friend, she has agreed to give a talk at a clerical conference in Gladstone’s Library along with her boyfriend, DCI Gareth Davies. Although they think this trip is going to be a relaxing getaway for a few days, they are gravely mistaken as two people are soon dead.

I have to say, I am a sucker for all things British/Welsh, cozy mysteries, and small-town settings. You can tell that Duncan has really done her research for the location and feel of the people. You have your typical small-town characters, but there are so many other characters added into the mix that it never gets boring. I will say that in the first two books, I was able to predict “who-done-it”, but in the later books, Duncan really hones her mystery-writing talent and makes this a book you won’t want to miss. There really is a unique quality to Penny’s character that separates her from so many female heroines. She isn’t afraid to do things for herself or be on her own. She definitely takes a step away from your traditional single woman in a small town, and I can’t wait to read more of her mysteries.

REVIEW: Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

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Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Release Date: April 8, 2014

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4 out of 5

In the latest Maisie Dobbs mystery, Maisie has become restless with her life in England. She wants to remain independent, but she also loves her longtime friend and companion, James Compton. Just as she is thinking of heading on a tour of the globe, Scotland Yard comes to her in need of help with the murder of an Indian woman, Usha Pramal. As a former governess, Usha was a rare woman who had gone to college and traveled to London with an English family to teach their children. When they fired her without aide to get home, she found lodgings and a job and was seemingly on her way back to India. Yet, when she is found in the river with a gunshot to the head, Scotland Yard can only turn to Maisie with no leads in the case.

I have loved the Maisie Dobbs series for quite some time, and this latest addition to her story is excellent. I do highly recommend reading the previous novels in the series first, as there is much background knowledge that would make the book easier to follow. Over the years, Maisie has changed so much as a woman that it is through her cases and trials in life that we see who she becomes. In this book, she is dealing with a particularly difficult decision. How does she maintain her identity while remaining a partner to James? This case will also test her relationships with her employees, Billy and Sandra, as they try to find a balance between kindness and overbearing control.

I am always excited to read a new book in this series, and Leaving Everything Most Loved is no exception. I will say that the last few books have been very serious with little release in term of moments of happiness. Most of Winspear’s books contain a bit of silver lining in the storm clouds, but as we approach the era of World War II, each book has taken on a new gravity. I highly, highly recommend this book, but I also would recommend reading it on a bright sunny day with some chocolate at hand :)

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me host this book. For more information, click here.

REVIEW: Steeped in Evil by Laura Childs

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Steeped in Evil by Laura Childs

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Release Date: March 4, 2014

Source: library copy

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Theodosia Browning runs her own tea shop in the middle of historic Charleston, South Carolina. She has a knack for tea and scones as well as solving murders. When she gets an invitation to a wine-tasting, she can’t say no to such a fun night. Fun… except for the dead body in the wine barrel. The vineyard owner’s son has been murdered, so the owner asks for Theodosia’s help in solving the case.

I’m not going to lie. A few books ago in this series, I thought I was going to give up on it. This is the fifteenth book in the series, and I was worried it was going to get old. After taking a break from the series for a few years, I decided to pick it back up, and boy, was it like running into an old friend. The talk of tea blends and the many treats they are going to serve in the shop is fantastic. The descriptions of Charleston’s locals are hilarious and fascinating at the same time. I so enjoy reading cozy mysteries, and this series always includes recipes and tea party ideas in the back. I do recommend starting the series from the beginning, as many there are many characters and idiosyncrasies to remember.

I will say that the chase scenes are a little overused, and the dialogue can be a bit stuffy at times, but overall, I really enjoyed this addition to the series and do recommend it.

REVIEW: The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

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The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Release Date: March 11, 2014

Source: personal copy

Rating: 5 out of 5

The sixth book in the Ruth Galloway archaeology mystery series is just as good as the first. In fact, each book just seems to get better. Ruth Galloway lives in northern England and is the head forensic archaeologist at a small university. Her current dig takes her to the grave of a woman thought to be an urban legend: Mother Hook. Mother Hook was said to be a woman who had a hook for a hand and killed children whom she was meant to protect. A TV show finds out about the dig and wants to feature Ruth and her crew on their program. Meanwhile, DCI Nelson is working on a missing child case that may be hitting too close to home.

If you’ve read the book before this one in the series, you know that Griffiths’ suspense building can just about kill you. Every time you think that everything is okay, she just turns it back on you in another way. I freaking love it. I love the archaeology she incorporates into the story. I feel like I’m always learning something new without even having to try. The atmosphere of northern England alone is enough to make me want to read this book again. The dark, rainy gloom is always followed by a wonderful day by the shore.

BUT, I must say that my favorite part of this book is the character development. Ruth has always had social anxiety, but she learns to work through it in this story. I have always identified with her character since she is an introvert, a little bit overweight, and extremely self-conscious. She seems to be able to become a more whole version of herself. We also see more of Judy, Tim, and the rest of Nelson’s team. Judy, particularly, gets a wonderful breadth to her character as a mother and wife.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this book, and this entire series. For my review of the first book, click here.