Friday, September 22, 2017

Murder, Corruption, and the Mistral

Captaine Roger Blanc specializes in ferreting our corruption. He thinks he’s solved an important case in Paris when suddenly he’s transferred to Provence, to a small provincial hamlet. His wife decides to stay behind in Paris with her lover, so he’s alone in a crumbling house that was once housed an olive olive press.

On his first day on the job, the Commandant assigns a murder case that looks like a drug related death that will go immediately to Marseilles. Unfortunately, Blanc’s partner Tonon recognizes the body as belonging to a local thug who delights in terrorizing his neighbors. The Commandant expects the case to go away, but when another body turns up, this time a builder who may or may not have been accidentally killed on his sailboat, Blanc can’t give up the hunt.

The best part of this book is the scenes of Provence, the scent of wild thyme, and the haunting winds of the Mistral. I enjoyed the way Blanc, the Parisian, begins to appreciate his new home. He’s a character you can’t help but relate to. He knows that he may be getting himself crosswise with his new superior, but when he scents the mystery, he has to go after the culprit.

The mystery is not hard to figure out. The author gives us all the clues early in the novel. However, because the French police and criminal justice system are
so different from ours, it’s a fascinating read. If you enjoy a good mystery, and likable characters in an exotic local, you’ll enjoy this book.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.   

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Legal Thriller with an Intertwined Romance

Mason Pharmaceutical Company (MPC) is being sued by numerous plaintiffs. Their drug, Celix , taken by migraine sufferers, allegedly causes brain tumors. Kate Sullivan, a rising star in the Atlanta legal community, wants to be chief counsel on the combined cases. She achieves her wish, but is thrown into a dangerous situation.

One of the chief scientists at MPC, Ellie Proctor, contacts her about possible problems with the testing of the drug. Kate hires a professional investigator, Landon James, to find whether Ellie can be trusted. When the scientist is murdered, Kate and Landon are thrown into a deadly struggle to keep Kate safe.

The plot in this book is fast paced and keeps you wondering how the case will be resolved. For me the best part was seeing the detailed workings of a big law firm preparing for a civil case. It was very realistic. I was a little disappointed in the conclusion. I thought is was a little too violent for the pace of the novel. 

Kate is a character you can relate to. She is consumed by her job and sincerely wants the best for her clients. Landon is likewise a good character. He’s pursued by his demons from his time as an Army Ranger in Iraq, but he wants to keep Kate safe and gradually he begins to fall in love with her. It’s not easy for these two serious people to finally admit to the feelings they have for each other.

This book is Christian fiction, but Kate’s belief fits well into the story and is not overpowering. If you enjoy a good thriller without sex and little violence, you’ll like this book.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.   

Thursday, September 14, 2017

An English Village Full of Secrets

Miss Seeton is back. In this, the twenty-second Miss Seeton mystery, she’s returned in the same form as before. For those unfamiliar with Miss Seeton, she carries a sketch pad, umbrella, and her pictures help the police to solve crimes.

Back from a tour of the North where a golden heron was one of the featured sights, Miss Seeton is ready for another adventure. Nigel Colveden has married a French girl, the daughter of a count. The couple plans to live in local cottage and the ladies have decided that a quilt where each lady provides a square in her choice of embroidery or applique will be the perfect gift. While sketching the newlyweds cottage for inspiration on her part of the quilt, Miss Seeton’s drawing reveals something quite unexpected. This is in addition to the mural portrait of Henry VII found when renovating the Tudor cottage.

Happenings in the village are not the only secrets. Scotland yard and Miss Seeton’s old friends, Chief Superintendent Delphick and Sargeant Ranger, are involved in international secrets. Miss Seeton is helpful as usual.

If you enjoy English village mysteries, this is a fun one. The plot is full of complications, the characters are quirky, and Miss Seeton overcomes all to solve the case. I found the book rather slow. The characters take their time gossiping about Miss Seeton, the village happenings, and in the case of Scotland Yard, the new case.

If you’re a Miss Seeton fan, this book will be a delight. It’s also standalone, if you’re new to the series, but you have to love the slower pace of English mysteries. It can get a bit tiresome waiting for all the village ladies to have their gossip and get on with the action.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Memoir of the Restaurant Business

Jan Agg owns bars and restaurants. Perhaps the one most people have heard of is The Black Hoof in Toronto. It’s a restaurant and bar that specializes in charcuterie. I have never been to a bar specializing in serving a selection of spicy meats, but it sounds delicious.

The book is the story of how Jen found her passion in developing and owning great restaurants. It’s not an easy life to provide delicious food for a varied clientele, but according to Jen, it can be very satisfying. The story covers her early life, first marriage, and subsequent success in the restaurant business with her second husband. I enjoyed the history. It’s good to read about people overcoming obstacles to achieve success, However, I found the amount of time devoted to her early life less interesting than the rest of the book.

My favorite chapters were the first two where she describes her method of running a restaurant and takes you behind the scenes to discuss how she expects her servers to act and how she keeps the restaurant functioning at top speed

The author has a great many opinions and is not afraid to share them This makes the book fun to read. She’s also quite open about her sexual experiences. This doesn’t have much to do with her success as a restaurateur, so if you’re offended by her frankness, you can skip those parts.

I recommend this book. It’s a lively memoir and gives a very interesting picture of the restaurant and bar business. I found myself looking more carefully at the service in the restaurants I enjoy.

I received this book from Viking/Penguin for his review.

A Double Murder in the French Wine Country

An old couple is found shot to death in their cottage near the famous Chateau Yquem. Benjamin Cooker, wine expert and amateur detective, is intrigued by the double homicide, particularly because it reminds him of the famous sauternes produced by the Chateau.

Virgilie, Cooker’s assistant, has a long term friend managing his wife’s family vineyards in the area. Cooker has him contact the friend to learn more about the tragedy. With the scent of a mystery and the promise of memorable wines to sample, Benjamin and Vergilie set off for the Sauternes wine region.

As with the other books in this series, the descriptions of the wine and the countryside are magnificent. They draw you into the setting and make it real.

The mystery in this book is much more a typical mystery than some of the earlier books. Benjamin and Vergilie are caught up in the search for the killer. I was pleased to see Vergilie getting a much larger role. With a beautiful girl, the granddaughter of the murdered couple, and his friend, who has more than a passing connection to the mystery, Virgilie has a major part in this novel.

Benjamin, Elizabeth, his wife, and Virgilie are wonderful characters. I particularly love hearing about the feasts Elizabeth prepares. Benjamin is a source of information about the wine country, and Virgilie adds a light touch with his romantic escapades.

I highly recommend this book if you love wine, or just like a good mystery.

I received this book from Le French Book for this review.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Lilah Concocts a Drop Dead Pudding

Lilah would love to have a full time catering business, but right now her catering consists of making dishes for customers who want to pass the dishes off as their own. One of her first customers, and the mother of her boyfriend, Jay, Ellie loves to get dishes from Lilah and pass them off as her creations. This time, she takes a rice pudding casserole to Marcus Cantwell’s 65th birthday party.

All is going well. Marcus and the children love the pudding until Marcus slumps over, face first in the remains of the pudding. Fearing that she may be suspected of murder, Lilah decides to unravel the murder. There are plenty of suspects. Marcus was married three times and has five children. Distributing the money via his will provides a reason for any of the beneficiaries to commit murder.

The author does a good job of making the suspects and their motivations real. I had suspicions about the murderer, but it took until the end to see the whole picture. One of the delightful benefits of this book is the plethora of delicious dishes Lilah concocts. It will make you hungry just reading about them.

Romance is in the air. Lilah and Jay are going over a rough patch and with three ex-wives people wonder about Marcus’ relationship with Ellie.

I enjoyed this cozy mystery. If you like murder mixed with delicious food and a helping of romance, you’ll love this book.

I received this book from Berkley Publishing
Group for this review.

Enhance Your Creativity: Detach from Your Smart Phone

Smart phones are useful, but they can become a crutch that keeps us from getting in touch with our creative side and distances us from other people. Zomorodi, host of WNYC Studio’s ‘Not to Self,’ realized that being constantly plugged in to her smart phone was keeping her from doing other things, like thinking. She wondered if other people had the same problem. She got her answer when she offered her listeners a series of experiments to help them get away from their phones and hundreds of people signed up.

The book describes the experiments and encourages the reader to try them. One of my favorites was deleting an app you’re spending too much time on. Zamorodi was addicted to Two Dots. It wasn’t easy to delete the app, but it was remarkable how much time she had to think when when she wasn’t glued to the device.

The book also contains information she gathered from neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists. The research is discussed in the chapter which is most closely related to the experiment being described.

I don’t have a particularly bad phone habit, but I found the exercises helpful. Some of the research is well worth reading. You know that people aren’t really paying attention to you when their eyes keeping straying to their smart phone. Just the presence of the smart phone in viewing range can reduce the empathy between friends. I recommend this book if you want to cut your phone dependence, or if you’re interested in the psychology of phone use.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.