Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Murder and Destruction in Alsace

The Alsace region is steeped in the history of both France and Germany. It is also a region where belief in witchcraft is rife. Benjamin Cooker is looking forward to introducing his assistant Vergile, to the wines and sumptuous food of this region, but almost immediately they are met by a death while touring the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. This unpleasant start to the trip is rapidly followed by an attack on Benjamin's car and the wanton destruction of vines at several local vineyards. The police are stymied, but Vergilie is sure that he and Benjamin can solve the puzzle.

Benjamin Cooker and Vergilie and delightful characters. Benjamin appears quite straitlaced while Virgilie has all the energy and enthusiasm of youth. Benjamin, as usual, plays a significant role in solving the mystery, but this time Vergilie goes off on his own. I was delighted to see him getting more individual attention in the novel.

The descriptions of Alsace are wonderful, as are the descriptions of the wine and food. I love reading these books. They're better than a travelogue. You are transported to an exotic region and steeped in culinary delights. In addition, you can learn a great deal about wines, how to select them, and how to pair them with a meal.

If you enjoy a good mystery coupled with wonderful scenery and delightful cuisine, not to mention the wines, you'll enjoy this trip to Alsace.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dark Deeds from WWII End in a Present Day Murder

Aimee Leduc is following in her father's footsteps as a detective, but since his death, she takes only technical cases specializing in computer crime. When Soli Hecht, a Nazi hunter friend of her father's, asks for help, she is unable to refuse. Besides, she's in a precarious financial state and needs an infusion of cash.

The task is to decode an encrypted Israeli military file which turns out to be a photo in occupied Paris showing a cafe. One of Soli's requirements is that Aimee deliver the decrypted file to a member of his synagogue, but when she tries to deliver the photo to the elderly woman, she finds her strangled with a swastika carved in her forehead. Now Aimee is caught. She has to solve the murder.

The best part of this novel is the WWII history and the scenes of Paris. The author has researched the era and the sections of Paris that appear in the novel giving the story a feeling of realism. The plot is interesting in that it integrates past and present in solving the mystery. However, while I enjoy puzzles, I found too many in this book and that detracted from the main plot.

Aimee's character is another problem. She's obviously smart and able to solve complex problems, but the author has also made her a superwoman capable of tackling strong men and saving herself in extremely dangerous circumstances that call for incredible stamina and skill.

If you enjoy mysteries with their roots in WWII, you may enjoy this one. However, some of the character's actions can be hard to relate to the real world of Paris.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Use and Misuse of an Unusual Gift

Frank House, born Franz Haus, has a remarkable gift. He can often see what will happen in the future. During WWII he used this gift to help General Berg win engagements, but as he watched the barbarity of some of the Nazi troops, he regretted his part in the killing. After the death of his family, he escaped to Switzerland and then to the United States.

Parker House, Frank's grandson, is a fledgling attorney in a low level firm. His gift, which is the same as his grandfathers, is starting to show making him an object of interest to a more prestigious law firm. As Parker struggles with career decisions and a new romance, Frank is experiencing deep regret for his WWII actions, and now an outside group seems interested in finding him.

The theme of this book is how God's gifts can be used and misused. Frank and Parker are good people, but at times the pressure to use a talent for evil is too great to withstand. We see both men struggling with this and learning to use their talent responsibly.

Although billed as a thriller, this book has none of the action associated with that genre until the end. However, it is a satisfying read. The story is told in the alternating voices of Frank and Parker and moves from WWII to the present. I enjoyed both characters and thought the author did an excellent job moving between characters and time periods.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Death Follows a Remarkable Archaeological Discovery

Dr Anlon Cully, a wealthy scientist, is enjoying a relaxing evening at his home near Lake Tahoe with his friend Pebbles, the bartender at a local restaurant. He tells her about a call he received from Matthew Dobson, his uncle Devlin's archaeological research partner. Devlin is dead after suffering a fall when climbing a mountain in New Hampshire.

Anlon is the heir and Dobson wants him to come East immediately to sort out Devlin's affairs. Although he'd rather stay in his comfortable Tahoe residence, Anlon agrees to go and invites Pebbles to go with him. Not only has Anlon inherited his uncle's house and it's contents, he also finds that he has been left several stones that appear to have unusual powers. When Dobson, too, is murdered, finding out what the stones mean becomes critical.

Mysteries with an archaeological background fascinate me. This book has a good plot with just enough real mythology to make it seem real. The settings in Tahoe and New Hampshire are authentic and add a layer of believability to the story.

However, the characters are poorly developed. Anlon Cully is a famous scientist. As such you would expect him to be able to figure out much of the background surrounding the stones. However, Anlon stands back in amazement as Pebbles takes the lead in unraveling the mystery. I found this unrealistic.

The dialog is often used to provide an information dump rather than conversation. In some cases this is justified when retelling the background myths surrounding the stones, but the author doesn't restrict the information dump to those occasions which makes many of the interactions seem too formal.

If you enjoy an archaeological mystery, this one has an interesting underlying story. However, the action often plods and the characters sometimes detract from the reality of the situation. There is a twist at the end, but it's fairly easy to see it coming so the ending is something of a let down.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

In the 1880, a Talented Actress Turns Detective

Lily Long is an actress like her mother, and like her mother,who was killed by a lover, she has a problem with men. One night after a performance, she arrives back at the hotel where the troop is staying and finds her husband beating up her surrogate mother after stealing Lily's savings.

Furious that she's been treated this way, Lily wants to do something to help other women. When she sees an ad from the Pinkerton Agency looking for female detectives, she's determined to try to for the position. Unfortunately, the Pinkertons think she's too young. Undeterred, Lily comes up with a scheme to showcase her talents and prove to the agency that she would be a good operative.

Lily is a spirited lady who doesn't give up easily. The historical setting is accurate and the plot has several twists. The ending is difficult to guess. I enjoyed the novel. If you like a historical mystery novel that is more mystery than romance, this is a good choice. Although there is a romantic interest, there are no sex scenes. It's just a good read with the emphasis on plot.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Father and Daughter's Real Life Adventure in the Alaskan Wilderness

James Campabell loves the Alaskan wilderness. He wanted his teenage daughter, Aidan, to experience it, but more than that he hoped the wilderness adventure would help her increase her self-sufficiency and strengthen their relationship.

The adventure has three parts. The first time the pair went to Alaska it was late summer. The task was to help Jim's cousin, Heimo, build a new cabin. The description takes you to a remote location where grizzly bears may wander into your camp, a land with thousands of mosquitoes, and the ever present need to beat the approaching deadline of winter to finish the cabin.

The second adventure takes place in winter. The cabin is finished. Now Jim and Aidan help Heimo and his wife on their trap lines and experience the intense cold. The descriptions make you feel as if you're there trying to stay warm, even if you're reading the book in summer.

The final adventure was my favorite. Aidan and Jim with two friends set off to canoe down the Hulahula. This is the most exciting part of the book where the rapids pose a serious danger to the canoe and immersion in the freezing water can lead to hypothermia and possibly death.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy descriptions of the wilderness, and how special people manage to live so far from civilization. Although the adventures were exciting and kept me turning the pages, the best part was the relationship between Jim and Aidan. While not perfect, it was wonderful to see a father trying to understand his daughter and give her room to grow and experience a unique part of life.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.   

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Mystery from the Fifties in the Barbizon Hotel for Women

In the 1950s the Barbizon Hotel was home to young women trying to make it in New York as models, secretaries, and actresses. At that time, the girls were subject to strict rules about curfew, and men in the rooms, and overseen by a house mother. Today, the old hotel has been renovated as condos, but not all the old residents are gone. Ten of them live on the fourth floor. In their seventies and eighties, these ladies know the stories of the Barbizon including the story of a fight between a maid and one of the residents that ended in a death.

Rose, a former TV anchor, lives in one of the condos with her recently divorced lover, Griff. She desperately wants the relationship to work, but he has ties to his other family, and the relationship is deteriorating. With Griff away a lot, she becomes fascinated by the older residents. The story of the fight impels her to learn more about it even if some of her tactics border on unethical.

The history of the Barbizon hotel is fascinating reading. The story is told from two points of view, Darby, a young woman who lived in the hotel in the 50's, and Rose, who lives there in 2016.

I enjoyed the descriptions of the setting. It made the New York of the 50's come alive. I was less enthusiastic about the characters. Possibly because the novel moves back and forth frequently, the characters felt flat and not well developed. The mystery of what happened in the fatal accident keeps you reading to know what happened and ends with a twist.

I received this book from Penguin for this review.