Thursday, May 21, 2015

Well Researched Historical Mystery in Victorian Era Brooklyn

As a child, Mary Hendley saw a murder. Ever since, she has wanted to be a detective. Unfortunately for Mary, detective jobs for women are non-existent in the 1800s. Instead of living her dream, Mary works in a sweatshop making hats.

Because of the political climate, Chief Campbell, head of the Brooklyn police, is forced to hire a woman to investigate the murder of W. W. Goodrich's brother. Goodrich worked for Edison as a bookkeeper and was privy to the competition between Edison and Tesla. J. P. Morgan also figures in the story as Edison's backer.

Due to a series of misadventures, Mary happens to be in Campbell's office. She appears to know something of criminology, and he offers her the chance to head the investigation.  

Mary's new role is not an easy one. The police are unhappy that a woman got this plum assignment. In addition, Mary's best friend Kate was engaged to Goodrich and is understandably depressed by his murder. Although there are many difficulties, Mary revels in her new job and vows to find the murderer.

For me, the best part of the book was the attention to historical detail. The information about the rivalry between Edison and Tesla is not generally known and paints Edison is a less flattering light than usual. The way Mary is treated by the police and the role played by the women demonstrating to give women a chance to have jobs with the police are very well done.

The first third of the book has too much backstory for my taste. It turns out to be relevant, but it took a long time for the murder to occur. Because so much is backstory, the author does more telling the story than showing Mary's reactions. Improving this technique would involve the reader more.

The plot is good once Mary starts hunting for the murderer. There are plenty of twists and false leads that keep you guessing. If you like historical mysteries, this is a good one.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Detective Story with Many Angles

Leonid McGill is having a bad day. On the train from Philly to New York, a beautiful woman sits next to him. They connect, but there's a catch. She's being followed by a man sent by her ex-fiance. In the the elevator leaving Penn station, McGill is forced to save her almost killing the man. For that he connects $1500 and a date with the beautiful woman.

When he get to the office, a man is waiting to see him. Hiram Stent is a vagrant, but he has been offered a cut in the million dollar inheritance if he can locate the missing woman who is to receive the money. Leonid refuses to take the case, and the man is murdered. Now McGill feels honor bound to take the case to get justice for Stent.

These are not his only problems. His wife is in a sanitarium after a suicide attempt. His son, Twill, is out of the office working on a dangerous case of his own. The women in his life all have their own problems.

Mosley has created a compelling character in Leonid McGill. A man with a horrific past, family problems, and love affairs who is able to think about himself and his circumstances with insight and candor. His ruminations were some of the best parts of the book.

The book has several subplots, but it's easy to keep them apart and each adds to the overall story. The background is well described from the seedy sections of New York to the elaborate residences of the rich.

If you're a fan of Chandler and Marlowe, you'll find much to like in Mosley's latest book.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Search for a Missing Girl Takes Marston to Barcelona

Hugo Marston, security chief at the American Embassy in Paris, is supposed to meet Amy Dreiss, a girl he considers almost a daughter, for breakfast at his favorite American restaurant. When Amy doesn't show up, he's concerned. He becomes even more concerned when no one as seen her for several days, and it appears that she has gone to Barcelona with a man she hardly knows.

At the urging of Amy's father, Hugo and his CIA pal, Tom, head for Barcelona. Once there they become entangled in the murder of the man Amy went to Barcelona with. Now the hunt for Amy takes on a new dimension as they hope to find her alive.

For me, the Barcelona setting was the best part of the novel. I enjoyed the description of the small streets leading into open piazzas where parents enjoy the cafes while the children play.

Hugo is a likable character. He's dragged into the police investigation of the murder because of his FBI background, and he does a creditable job of dealing with a foreign police force. Tom is another story. His alcoholism and juvenile antics alienate the Barcelona police and seem designed to make him appear to be a totally unlikable character.

Marston and the Barcelona police follow up on clues and do a credible amount of police work. I like that. I don't enjoy books where coincidence piles on coincidence, and the police are not forced to do any investigating.

I recommend this book if you like a good mystery, just take Tom's antics with a grain of salt – Hugo does.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Solving an Eighteen-Year-Old Kidnapping

Eighteen years ago, Evelyn's best friend Cassie, was kidnapped from her bedroom. The killer, dubbed the Nursery Rhyme killer, left notes based on nursery rhymes. In Cassie's note, it indicated that he also planned to take Evelyn, but something prevented him. It has haunted Evelyn ever since.

Now Evelyn is a profiler working for the FBI. When more killings start in Rose Bay, her hometown, she grabs the chance to work on the case. Her boss thinks she's too emotionally involved to work the case well, but Evelyn insists and is assigned.

After reading this book, I had to agree with Evelyn's boss. She was much too emotionally involved to do well on the case. Although she is supposed to be their best profiler, she misses the most obvious clues. Her profile is the basic profile used for any serial killer. Her emotions are on the ragged edge, and she makes errors in judgement that get her into trouble. We constantly hear about how Cassie is her inspiration, but Evelyn can't seem to get her professional act together. She is so emotionally upset that she is usually crying, fainting or being sick on the floor. I found her a less than desirable character.

Evelyn is billed as a strong woman playing in a man's game and winning. However, in this book she is always being rescued, usually by Kyle, another agent. He is a great character, but too good to be true.

The plot is interesting, but the profiler missing clues keeps the book going on much too long. If there had been less of Evelyn emoting, it would have been a better book.

I can only recommend this book if you like romantic suspense.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Gilded Age Murder in Newport

Emma Cross, although a relation of the Vanderbilts, is not wealthy. She lives in Gull Manor in Newport because she inherited it from her Aunt Sadie. Emma is the society editor for the local Newport newspaper and uses her modest fortune to help those in trouble.

In the summer of 1897, she is unsure about her romantic life. Last summer she turned down a marriage proposal from Derrick Andrews, but wonders if she did the right thing. Jesse Whyte, a detective she grew up with, is also interested in her, but she sees Jesse as her partner in solving crimes.

When a baby is left on her doorstop, the summer focuses on finding the mother of the baby. There's something mysterious and dangerous about it, because the man who most probably left the baby there was murdered on the way out of town. A lethal accident in a yacht race increases the tension, and Emma finds herself in midst of a society dilemma.

The best part of this book is the realistic description of the members of the Gilded Age like the Astors and the Vanderbilts and their magnificent summer “cottages.” The author weaves the plot around real events which gives a good view of how the upper class families lived.

Emma, in trying to solve the mystery, rushes headlong into situations that put her in danger requiring rescue, usually by Jesse. Although she seems a bit silly, she also seems to be a realistic product of her time.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it if you like historical mysteries with a dollop of romance.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.  

Educational Book for Children About Big Tractors

Farming is big business. Big tractors are required to do the planting and harvesting on large commercial farms. Big Tractors gives an overview of how these tractors look  and what they do in language a child can understand.

The pictures are outstanding. They show off the tractors and implements to good advantage. In fact, the pictures are so good Daddy or Grandpa may be interested in looking through the book.

Another feature I liked is the timeline showing how tractors have changed to adapt to the new farming methods. I highly recommend this book if your child is interested in tractors. Even if you live on a small farm and your child is familiar with tractors, the pictures of monster tractors give another perspective on farming.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Coming of Age Story in a Closely Knit Barbados Community

When their mother feels unable to care for them, Dionne and Phaedra are sent to their grandmother Hyacinth in Barbados for the summer. Natives of Brooklyn, the girls find Barbados a strange place. Dionne, the elder, interested in boys and becoming a woman hates it. Phaedra, the younger sister, finds the place strangely attractive. She makes friends and feels at home there, something she never felt in Brooklyn.

The setting is beautifully written drawing the reader into the exotic local of Barbados. The girls characters are believable. You can't help feeling excited for Phaedra who is discovering a place where she feels at home and is eager to learn the culture. Likewise you can feel Dionne's pain as a teenager uprooted from her culture.

The plot while not exciting is filled with the drama and tragedy of real life. The prose draws the reader into the world of the girls and their grandmother and makes you see the beauty of love and the allure of the island.

If you enjoy coming of age stories in a different culture, this is one you'll enjoy.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Biographer and His Subject on the Lam

Jack Dillon needs a good writing assignment. His work isn't selling, and his wife thinks he's a failure. Then miraculously he meets with Walt Stuckey, a famous TV comedian. Walt has a secret. He left his show suddenly and no one knows why. Now he wants to tell the story, and he chooses Jack to do it.

Since childhood, Jack has been a fan of Stuckey. They're both from Jersey, and as the work progresses, that bond turns into friendship. Tragedy strikes when Walt suffers a stroke. His greedy son, Garrett, tries to take over the biography project and mold the book to suit his ideas, but Jack isn't having it. He can't let Walt down even if helping him means doing something illegal.

The opening of the book moves slowly as Jack and Walt get to know each other. However, after Walt's stroke and Jack's decision to get him away from Garrett, the story devolves into a chase scene. Here the pace picks up substantially. However, much of what happens is hard to believe.

I found Jack a rather flat character. He does some heroic things, but he seems to remain the potential failure of the first section of the book. Walt is an interesting character, but plays a smaller role than Jack. Garrett is a stereotype of the greedy son.

If you enjoy mysteries that are primarily a chase scene, you may enjoy this one. It's not one of my favorite plots so I can't recommend it highly. The first section is boring,
and after that almost too much is happening.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Montana Mystery Populated with Quirky Characters

Looking for a quiet place to write, Max Gallagher rents a cabin in the Crazy Mountains of Montana. His quiet is immediately disturbed when he tries to light a fire in the fireplace, fills the cabin with smoke, and discovers a dead girl stuffed in the chimney.

The girl turns out to be Cinderella Huntingdon who has been missing for five months. The teenager and a teenage boy who worked at the Huntingdon ranch disappeared at the same time and the speculation was that they were together, but only Cindy has been found.

Since it's not clear that Cindy was murdered, Sheriff Martha Ettinger's resources to pursue the investigation are limited. She suggests that Cindy's mother, Etta Huntingdon, hire Sean Stranahan to find out. Stranahan is an artist, fly fisherman and sometime detective. From this point on it's his story.

The plot has interesting twists, the Montana scenery is breathtaking, and the characters are suitably quirky for people living in a small town is in the wilds. However, the book moves very slowly, and the viewpoint shifts between characters making it difficult to identify with one character.

I enjoyed the mystery. If you're looking for a good mystery in an unusual location, you may enjoy this book, but be ready for a leisurely ride.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

The Life and Death of a House

The House on Moody Avenue is supposed to be the story of the house, but in reality it is a scattered series of tales about the people who lived in the house.

Lisette, the first mistress of the house, has a tragic history. Her mother and siblings died. Her father felt he could no longer manage the farm, so he migrated with her to New York City. There he abandoned her. Lisette experienced life on the streets, but didn't let it shake her strong faith. In a fairy tale like twist she meets and marries a wealthy man. The house was his wedding gift.

After Lisette, the house passes through a series of residents from boarders to beatniks over the ninety years of it's life. The opening story is fairly well done, but after that the stories become less and less polished and therefore less interesting. It seemed rushed as though the author felt she needed to finish the book quickly.

This book has a great idea, the life and death of a house, but misses the mark. I believe the story would have been stronger if the house were the focus rather than the residents.

The writing is archaic, reminiscent of writers like Louisa May Alcott, but without Alcott's perceptive character descriptions. I can't recommend this book. The plot is too scattered, and the characters aren't interesting.

I reviewed this book for BookLook Bloggers.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

An Arranged Marriage Against a Background of Post Civil War Throughbred Racing

Maggie Linden has trained a very special Thoroughbred, Bourbon Belle, but women are not seen as appropriate horse trainers. This is the time just after the Civil War. Landowners in the South are struggling to keep their property. Maggie's father is no exception. They are faced with foreclosure.

If Bourbon Belle wins the Peyton Stakes, they could pay off their debts. Maggie is sure she can do it, but her father isn't convinced. When her jockey, a small black boy, is forced to leave the area with his family because of racial incidents, even Maggie begins to have doubts.

Cullen McGrath has come to Tennessee from England. He's Irish and like the blacks, the Irish are not welcome in the post Civil War South. Cullen wants to buy property, but no one will sell to him. He is even forbidden to bid on property going up for auction. He reaches the Linden farm in his search and offers to buy the property, but Maggie's father has a better idea: marry my daughter.

This is the second book in the Belle Meade Plantation series. The setting around Belle Meade Plantation is beautifully described and the actions, particularly the racial tensions, are true to the period. If you're interested in Thoroughbred racing, the book has good historical detail about racing in the period. However, horses don't overpower the story. This is about Cullen and Maggie.

In the early chapters, Maggie is a spoiled brat. She's agreed to marry a man to save her farm, but she's ashamed of him and let's him know. She's more concerned about losing her social position than in learning to be a good wife. Cullen is a much stronger character, and I loved Maggie's father.

For a Christian romance, this book has a lot of sexually explicit content. If that bothers you, you may want to give it a miss. However, it is not as explicit as books in romance or mainstream categories
. I enjoyed the book, but can't recommend it wholeheartedly because of the sexual content.

I reviewed this book for BookLook Bloggers.

Friday, May 1, 2015

A Quirky Detective, Gauguin, and Murder

Although Pont-Aven is not his territory, Georges Dupin is assigned a brutal murder case because the Commissaire for that area is on holiday. Dupin isn't enthusiastic about the case. A famous hotelier has been murdered in the bar of his hotel. There are few clues, but the pressure is high to find the murderer, particularly since it's almost tourist season in Pont-Aven

Pont-Aven is a delightful small town in Brittany that was once home to a famous artist's colony who premier member was Gauguin. The area is beautifully described. It makes you want to visit. The history of the art colony is another plus. I enjoyed learning the history of this group.

Dupin is a somewhat grumpy character. He dislikes authority, likes to work alone, and is sometimes difficult for the inspectors who work with him to keep up with. He loves long walks, coffee, and cafes.
He works very hours, forgets to eat, and is often hungry. However, when he does eat the food is lovingly described.

The other inspectors are good foils for Dupin. Le Ber, who works most closely with him, has learned to do what Dupin wants and not ask too many questions. Labat is much more formal and finds it harder to deal with Dupin's quirks.

For me, the delight of this mystery was driven by the descriptions of Brittany and the history of the artist's colony. The murder itself is not hard to figure out because there aren't many suspects, but the motive is much more interesting. If you enjoy a mystery in an exotic setting, you'll enjoy this one.

I reviewed this book for Amazon Vine.