Review: Dark Angel

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Dark Angel (DI Greco #4) by Helen H. Durrant

I couldn’t put this one down, I’m sorry it took me so long to start it! I’ve long been a fan of Helen H. Durrant’s Calladine and Bayless books, but this is my first DI Greco. I can safely say this can be read as a standalone or an entry into the series, I wasn’t lost at all, any prior references are explained enough that they’re not a distraction.

First off, I have to say that Durrant is skilled in drawing in a reader completely into the world she creates, making the book so much more than a gripping mystery (as if that wasn’t enough!), but also the frequently messy lives of the very compelling and realistic (if not flawed) characters. You end up with not only a thrilling case that keeps you turning pages, but also the can’t-turn-away-train-wreck that is Greco’s personal life. I like Greco, he’s unemotional and methodical, traits that frequently cause problems with interpersonal relationships. Reading this, I was reminded Olympia Dukakis’s line from Moonstruck (“Can I give you some advice? Don’t s**t where you eat.”) and boy, is that relevant to this book. Still, I felt for Greco, it was clear he was being pushed into something he didn’t want and that never ends well.

But it’s the case that takes front and center in the book, it got off to a running start with a body found at a music festival by a young woman before turning to the murders of two young men who got more than they bargained for when they burgled a house. The quick pace and many twists and turns kept me greedily turning page after page and that surprise ending left me gasping. An excellent read from start to finish, something I always expect from this author and definitely recommended for fans of gritty crime fiction.

Review: Death of a Russian Doll

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Death of a Russian Doll (Vintage Toyshop #3) by Barbara Early

Poor Liz, her promising new romance with new police chief Ken Young was shattered when his estranged wife, Marya, blew into town looking to reconcile. Liz does her best to get over it, but when Marya is found strangled to death and Ken comes under suspicion, Liz steps in to help her dad solve the murder and uncovers the secrets Marya has been hiding for years. But who killed her?

Another great chapter in the Vintage Toy Shop series, I loved the twisty plot, this wasn’t your ordinary cozy! There were a lot of timely themes in this story that were handled with humanity and grace. When the whole truth came out, it wasn’t difficult to feel for Marya and her tragic history, and it made for a memorable read. I totally knew who did it by a third of the way through the book (and I was completely wrong, so the ending was a surprise!)

As always, the villagers are a hoot and the liberal sprinkling of puns made me chuckle. Add in Liz’s new romance and the nostalgic (at least for me!) setting and the book left me with the warm and fuzzies. A marvelous series that just keeps getting better and better! This book can be read as a standalone, as any references to the earlier books are adequately explained, but I definitely recommend reading them in order (actually I just recommend reading all of them!)

Review: Rip Your Heart Out

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Rip Your Heart Out (Ripple Effect #4) by Jeanne Glidewell

I’m a bit late to the Ripple Effect series, this is the fourth book but only the first I’ve read and I can safely say this can be read as a introduction to the series or as a standalone. Following the adventures of retired couple Rapella and her husband, Rip, as they travel around the US in their RV, they find themselves in the middle of a mystery wherever they go. Rapella, a charmingly naive chatterbox, made for an entertaining sleuth (and I enjoyed Itsy as the sidekick!) and I was drooling over the beautiful scenery on their cruise. Add in a mouthy cockatoo, a sweet St Bernard and a zippy, lively plot and there was a lot to like!

The plot, surrounding an anonymous tip that a local woman’s death was not due to natural causes and is later determined to be murder. Suspicion is thrown onto Sydney, one of Rip’s cardiac nurses and the niece of the recently deceased woman. There were many facets to the plot, from the seemingly “haunted” house to the squabbling siblings to the possible cache of missing gold and I was sucked in from the start. From the breathtaking scenery on the cruise that made me drool to the many lovable (and not so lovable) characters that jumped off the page and the hijinks that Rapella got into had me chuckling (especially the Uber part!) While I read a lot of cozy mysteries, there have been few that were as fun as this and and I’m definitely going to read the other books in the series.

Review: Scared Stiff

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Scared Stiff (Mattie Winston #2) by Anneliese Ryan

Heh. Poor Mattie doesn’t have an easy time of it, does she?

During a blind date with the OCD William-not-Bill, Mattie is called out on a dead body call. Shannon Tolliver was found dead in her front yard, amongst the Halloween decorations. When Shannon’s estranged husband Erik is arrested, Mattie knows he’s not the killer, so the real question is: who killed Shannon and why?

This was a great followup to the first book; thoroughly entertaining and completely engrossing, it was full of hilarious cringe moments (I laughed out loud through the whole scene when they were recovering the rich couple!) lots of intrigue and one creepy suspect (am I the only one who thought he was creepy at the get-go?) The main plot, Shannon’s murder, leads Mattie far and wide in her search for suspects, uncovering quite a few and introducing a few new characters I hope to see more of (the gay bar scene? Loved it!)

Just one thing, I’ve got a Dropped Thread Alert! (Possible spoiler ahead!)

What about the gun? Erik told Mattie that he gave his gun to Shannon, who stored it in the guest bedroom. When Mattie and Hurley went to Shannon’s house to see if it was there, Mattie got busy looking at her medicine cabinet, her hormones flared and she got horny with Hurley and she never checked to see if the gun was still there and it was never mentioned again. Arrgh!

Overall, an excellent second in this series and it made me excited to read more.