Review: The Ellsworth Case

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The Ellsworth Case by Diana Xarissa

This series of novella length non-murder mysteries are like candy for me. In The Ellsworth Case, the fast moving plot centered around counterfeit bills being passed around town and two suspicious couples staying at The Doveby House. I loved all the red herrings, the on-going mysteries of the treasures the sisters find in the house, and all the trouble that seems to arrive on their doorstep.

The Ellsworth Case is a delightful quick read perfect for an afternoon by the pool or to curl up with on a rainy day.

The Ellsworth Case is available on Kindle from Amazon

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Review: The Secret Poisoner

26196584The Secret Poisoner: The Victorian Age of Poisoning by Linda Stratmann

What a great book! Very well organized and thoroughly researched, the book neatly lays out the progression of forensic toxicology in the 1800s, encompassing some truly outrageous poisonings in England, France and even in the United States. I don’t know what surprised me more, how many people got away with it, or how many people were found guilty of their crimes. Forensic toxicology was in its infancy during the nineteenth century and some of the techniques used to find poisons in the body after death were ingenious. Equally amazing was that many scientists would take samples from the stomach, intestines and vomit of the poison victim and taste a small amount. Good grief, that takes a lot of guts (pun intended.)

Warning: there are numerous references to animals being experimented on, so if you’re an animal lover, you may find it hard to read at times (I know I did.)

I think the hardest stories to read were the ones where women poisoned young children.  The story of Sarah Chesham, who poisoned two of her sons (among others)  with arsenic and got away with it, was particularly disturbing and will probably stay with me for awhile.

The upper room in which the boys slept projected several feet over a room occupied by Deards and, that night, he heard the two children groaning in pain. Next morning, as he sat at breakfast, the boys’ vomit poured between the cracks in the floorboards and on to his table and the floor. He knocked on the Cheshams’ door, but there was no answer. Later that day, he was astonished to see Sarah Chesham in the street. ‘Mrs Chesham, are you aware how bad your children are?’ he exclaimed, adding, ‘We can scarcely live in the house!’ Her reply was, ‘I will go home and alter it.’

Stratmann, The Secret Poisoner p 156

It’s also disturbing how easily people could purchase a variety of poisons, from arsenic, strychnine and cyanide from a grocer or a druggist, right up until the 20th century.  While these poisons are still available today,  they are regulated and very few consumer products still contain them.

Overall, The Secret Poisoner was a fascinating read, one that will appeal to fans of history, true crime and/or forensic science.

The Secret Poisoner is available at book retailers or on Amazon

Review: The Madness of Mercury

30054044The Madness of Mercury by Connie Di Marco

Cute cozy mystery with a great premise, suspenseful plot and great characters and an action packed ending.

Julia, an astrologer, becomes a target of harassment from a religious group called The Prophet’s Temple. After doing a reading for a client’s elderly aunt, she learns that the other aunt is being wooed into joining the cult. Much bad mojo ensues, throwing everyone into danger.

I liked the premise of an astrologer doing the investigating. I mean, who would be any better chart out instances where evil could cross your sign, or even portents of harm? I’d sign up for that, except it probably costs a lot.

I got bored with the all the harassment and intimidation by the whack job cult after awhile. It was just too much filler and it really bogged down the book. In fact, I had to skip a few chapters in the middle of the book because it got so repetitive and boring. I did enjoy the action-packed ending, though, it made up for the plodding story in the middle of the book.

Overall, a cute read with interesting characters and a great plot, just a little too much filler.

The Madness of Mercury is available at book retailers or on Amazon

Review: Jørn Lier Horst – Ordeal

norsk, Norwegian, nordic, crime, police, procedural, mystery, book, review, ordeal, mystereityOrdeal by Jørn Lier Horst

Jørn Lier Horst never fails to impress me, his William Wisting series draws you in with their intense and thrilling plots. A former police detective in Norway, his experience shows with how well crafted and realistic the story’s investigation plays out. In Ordeal, the cold case of a taxi driver missing for over 6 months has Wisting stumped, that is until a close friend tells him about a strange customer at her cafe who makes several comments that could be clues to the case. That starts Wisting on a journey encompassing illicit activities going back decades, the seemingly unconnected murder of a young woman, and daughter Line’s impending motherhood.

One of the things I love about this book (and the series) is how clean it is.  That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy a more complex story in other books, it’s just that I really appreciate how sleek and uncomplicated this series is. There’s no excess filler in the plot; it’s a straightforward police procedural with a minimum of extraneous details. And yet the stories never seem to suffer because of it; the labyrinthine plots just suck you in from the beginning.

I also like how Wisting and daughter Line work together but separately on cases; the unique symbiosis adds so much depth to the story and really highlights how close Wisting is to Line, and yet how distant their relationship is in a lot of ways.

Overall, another stellar book in the incomparable Wisting series, and I definitely recommend this series to any mystery lover.

 

Ordeal is available at book retailers or you can order a copy on Amazon

Review: The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum

29242824The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten Weiss

I’ve been looking forward to curling up with this book for awhile; with a cute premise (a paranormal museum? Sign me up!) an interesting plot and a beautiful northern California setting, I just wanted to sink right in to it.

And it was pretty good, there was a lot to like about it: a twisty plot that kept me guessing, a likeable main character, a historical mystery subplot and a way cool paranormal museum (did I mention what an awesome idea I think this is?) Unfortunately, a few things bogged it down. In fact, this book nearly ended up on the Did Not Finish pile because (and this is one of my pet peeves) there always seems to be a catty woman who hates the MC over something trivial, and in this book it was one of the police detectives. After finding the murder victim, Maddie and her friend Adele are hauled down to the station for questioning. The detective bursts into the room and declares, “ok, which one of you idiots killed her?” What, seriously? Maybe it was supposed to be funny or something, but I just found it really annoying.

My favorite part of the book was the historical mystery subplot, it added just a touch of paranormal to the story. In the 1890s, Cora McBride was convicted of killing her husband and Maddie sets out to prove Cora’s innocence. I enjoyed watching Maddie dig up new evidence and the idea of staging a mock trial was a novel and interesting idea. Wish I could’ve seen it!

Overall, a good start to a new series and I recommend it to cozy mystery fans who enjoy a touch of paranormal.

The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum is available at book retailers or on Amazon

 

Review: Missing by Ed James

30318747Missing: A Gripping Crime Thriller by Ed James

Thrilling, compelling and gritty, Missing delves into the difficult subject of of child sexual abuse and its impact; not only for the victim, but also the family and the police officers assigned to investigate the case.

This will definitely be high on my favorite books of the year list, the finely woven plot unwound bit by bit, with lots of plot twists and red herrings that kept me guessing as the book raced towards the shocking finale.

The main character, Craig Hunter is a likeable guy. I mean, who wouldn’t love a copper that would jump out a window into a tree to rescue a cat? I really enjoyed that scene, it made for a great start to the book. I also liked how well the characters from the Scott Cullen series were integrated into the story, adding more dimension to the characters I already knew (and loved.)

Overall, Missing is a dark, riveting, and memorable book with a strong plot that will draw you into the middle of the action. I definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys police procedurals or just a good, old-fashioned hard-boiled mystery.

Missing by Ed James is available on Amazon

Review: Charms & Witchdemeanors

30078041Charms & Witchdemeanors by Amanda M. Lee

This series is hit or miss for me. Most of the books are so fantastic that I read them in one sitting, unable to put them down.

This isn’t one of them. In fact, the first 1/3 of the book was so inane, I considered abandoning it (and the series) altogether. The immature griping and sniping between Bay, Clove and Thistle is just annoying. They’re all in their late 20s and having meltdowns because one of them moved in with her boyfriend. And she’s not moving to China, she’s moving a mile down the road. I’m not sure what the point of the asshole FBI agent was. He didn’t add anything to the story, he was just another annoying character trying their hardest to get me to stop reading the book.

Inane characters aside, the plot was quite good and the only reason I’m giving this book 2 stars. Aunt Tillie is accused of poisoning another old lady. Lots of very old small town secrets come out and the murderer was a complete surprise. In fact, if you took out the annoying cousins, this would be a 5 star book.

Overall, just….okay. But barely….okay.

Crimes and Witchdemeanors is available at book retailers or you can buy a copy on Amazon

 

Review: Divining Murder

30077551Divining Murder by GM Cameron

A woman is found murdered in a ritualistic way, and the police have very information to go on.  The victim, a middle aged woman who left her husband to start a mysterious new life is found in an alley in Glasgow with multiple stab wounds.   Shortly after the murder, Andromeda (Annie to her friends)  spies a man at a Glasgow train station whose aura is clearly evil.  After leaving an anonymous tip for the police, they trace the tip back to her, and with no other information to go on, begin to investigate what she saw.   It soon becomes apparent that Annie is the key to unraveling the mystery and stopping a man bent on evil.

I’m a sucker for paranormal mysteries, and I’m a sucker for Scottish mysteries, so I had pretty high expectations just from reading the blurb.  And it was (for the most part) an excellent mystery, with a taut plot, great characters and lots of magic.

The plot was really well done; a great premise that grew and spiraled as the book went on, wth an action packed ending.  I liked that there were actually 3 teams working on the mystery separately, it was  a great way to integrate new information.  So there was Annie and her friends,  the victim’s ex-husband, friend and her sister (who is a nun) plus the police.  And – you won’t believe this –  every time the amateurs found out new information they – get ready for this – called the police and told them of their findings!  Amazing, right?

I really enjoyed all the characters, from bohemian Annie to angsty punker Doll to soft-hearted thug Mick, they were a likable crew.  I have to say, out of all the characters, the cops were the most confusing to me.  I lost track of who was who, outside of Angela and Donnelly.

What kept me from rating this 5 stars (because it really was a great book) was a couple of things.  For one, it was predictable.  I knew what was going to happen at the end before I was a third of the way through the book.  I kept reading, hoping I was wrong but no, it’s like I’m psychic or something.  Also, this book went on way too long, a little editing would’ve tightened up the story and made it a lean, mean, mystery machine.

Overall, a great mystery and perfect for anyone who loves Tartan Noir or witches or magic.

SPOILER behind the tag: Continue reading “Review: Divining Murder”

Review: Peril in the Park

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Peril in the Park by Barbara Venkataraman

Peril in the Park, the third in the Jamie Quinn series has Jamie’s boyfriend Kip, the director of the city parks, trying to figure out who is behind a recent vandalism spree and under pressure from the city council (and a developer) to okay a new skyscraper to be built on wetlands. After being threatened by email and the murder of a PI connected to the threats, Kip goes missing. Jamie rushes to solve the mystery before Kip is the next to die.

This book had a great plot; there were several aspects to it: the vandalism, the murder of the PI and Kip’s trouble at work spilling over into Jamie getting email threats. While it was pretty obvious they were all related (and, I figured out whodunit pretty easily) it was still a gripping read and hard to put down.

As always, Jamie’s humor -mostly about herself- is a big part of the draw. She’s easy to relate to, nearly everyone is a Jamie, or knows a Jamie. And I find that helps to draw me into the story.

The only suggestion I would make on improvement is the develop the secondary characters more. While the character of Duke has evolved a bit in the first 3 books and we know more about his back story, the same can’t be true of the other characters. For me, to embrace the other characters as “part of the family” I guess I need more information on them, otherwise they’re just talking heads.

Overall, a fantastic read in a series I really enjoy. It can be read as a standalone, as prior events are summed up briefly, but I recommend reading the other 2 books in the series.

The Jamie Quinn Omnibus (Books 1-3) is available at Amazon