Day: March 14, 2017

Review: Single Malt Murder: A Whisky Business Mystery

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Single Malt Murder: A Whisky Business Mystery
Single Malt Murder: A Whisky Business Mystery by Melinda Mullet

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 stars to Melinda Mullet‘s Single Malt Murder: A Whisky Business Mystery, the first book in the new “Whisky Business” cozy mystery series. I stumbled across this book on NetGalley as a pre-release opportunity to read and review. I’m so glad I did! It was a fantastic new cozy with all the Scottish charm you’d come to expect… and now I may need to take up whisky drinking (even more than the Jack Daniels I already enjoy too frequently)!


Story

Abi Logan’s a semi-famous photographer in London, whose parents passed away in a car accident when she was 8 years-old. Her father’s brother, Uncle Ben, raised her in his flat until she joined a newspaper and traveled the world for a story. He retired to a small town in Scotland where he purchased a single malt whisky distillery and made a core group of new friends and family. When he passes away from cancer, she inherits the distillery and heads to Scotland to find a buyer and say goodbye to him. But she quickly learns the old-fashioned whisky team don’t take too kindly to a woman trying to run things. She finds a few friendly souls and begins to find someone to help her run the place until she can sell it; however, she receives several threats to get out quickly, later finding the dead body of the son of her late uncle’s girlfriend drowned in a whisky barrel. More threats and a few additional deaths fall across her path… leading her and best friend Patrick to try to solve the investigation before she ends up a victim herself!


Strengths

1. The description and coverage of the whisky-making process is delectable. I’ve never been much of a straight-whisky drinker… the occasional glass over ice on a cold night has been known to occur. I have been a long-time imbiber when it comes to a splash of ginger ale and lime wedge. Delicious! But now I’ve learned so much about the process, I want to try good whisky — and on its own! Go into this read lightly, you might become an addict quickly.

2. Patrick and Abi have a great relationship. She’s smart, no nonsense and independent. He’s witty, business-savvy and a good listener. He’s also gay, so no worry about any relationship-type issues. I hope he finds a couple of good paramours… it’d be fun to see how the writer handles it in the small Scottish town. Abi’s already got one suitor based on her interactions and it’s got the potential to steam up the pages. Just think “what’s under that kilt?” and you can leave the rest to your imagination.

3. The story is clever and has several different paths. Lots of characters and suspects without over-doing it. A good amount of red herrings. A fair hustle of danger. I read it almost entirely in one sitting, as each new chapter covered a different angle.


Suggestions

1. One concern is the breadth of future stories… how much can really occur in a whisky distillery after the debut is all about who will end up owning it? One option which the author seems to be considering is that Abi won’t live in the Scottish town as she ends up back in London at the end of the book, undecided about next steps. Perhaps that’s just to carry us to book 2, but I’d like her to stay and see how the story could combine her world travels as a photographer / reporter and as a distillery-owner.

2. Some of the supporting characters were a little too similar. I will remember 1 or 2, but the rest blended together enough that I may forget when I start the next book. I think some time may need to focus on bringing forth a stable of 4 or 5 core supporting characters, each with clear and distinct personalities. It’s minor and easily addressed.


Final Thoughts

Give this new series a chance. It’s a non-traditional setting (at least for me) in a small Scottish town. It’s got a girl with no family left, so it’ll be interesting to see how she handles life “on her own” and assembles a new family. Patrick will definitely make the series stand out. And the writing is clean and interesting, especially with hints of Scottish brogue thrown about!

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365 Challenge: Day 2 – Honesty

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Honesty: free of deceit and untruthfulness; sincere

Being honest is almost always the only proper route in life. On rare occasions will I find it acceptable to be less than honest. It’s innate, at least in me, and I think in most people, that the honest response or answer is the first one (s)he thinks of; however, the degree to which they debate following through on the honesty is what differs among us.

I’m sure I was taught as a child that “honesty is the best policy,” whether it was in school or at home. I don’t exactly remember this conversation other than hearing about it in classic 1950s and 1960s TV shows and the occasional movie where someone is trying to coax a child to tell the truth. But even if I weren’t actually taught this message, it seems like the right thing to do. If not, everything would be more like a treacherous game than a way of life. Let’s all play some Game of Thrones today! Russian Roulette is the new mantra. NOT!

I can recall a few moments when I wasn’t 100% honest; told you in my 365 intro I intend to tell both the good and the bad!

  • I know I was obsessed with Legos and took a few home with me from a friend’s house one time. I claimed I didn’t know what happened to them, but I clearly remember thinking “these aren’t mine” when they “fell” into my Lego box. I’m not exactly sure why, other than Legos brought me great pleasure and offered an escape from other things in my life (no, nothing bad… I was just a very shy kid).
  • I’ve told someone (on a few occasions) I’d been dating that I wasn’t attracted to someone else when I knew I was. And yes, in the past, I did cross a line many years ago that I should not have crossed. I was bad. I admit it. But I learned from it and I eventually confessed. You can choose to dislike it or me, and I don’t blame you. But we all live in a glass house at some point, and we’ve all thrown the stones when we knew we shouldn’t.
  • I’ve made up plans when I didn’t feel like going out with someone else. I truly just needed down time… and didn’t want to offend the person or have them think I didn’t like them. They would be persistent if I just said I didn’t “want” to go out.

OK, so none of those are all that bad (e.g. murder, marital affair, bullying). But I had an opportunity to tell the truth, and I chose not to. Sometimes, I’m afraid of hurting another person’s feelings. Sometimes it would lead to a far worse situation to be honest, and it’s easier to just tell the white lie to end the immediate issue. Are these acceptable situations?

For the most part, I think they are. If the truth will hurt someone’s feelings, but the lie will avoid a problem – and it is short-term and not impactful – it may be the best course of action. Why tell a friend their new haircut looks bad when it will be fine in a few days? Perhaps if they are going on a date or a job interview, don’t let them suffer a longer-term impact. Bite the bullet, tell them it’s awful and deal with the short-term impacts.

If you’re thinking about cheating, hmm… that’s a tough one. Do you hide it until you know you want to, or do you risk saying “I thought about Person X” to the person you are dating and have them prematurely leave you? I choose not to answer that question because I think the answer lies in the strength of your relationship; you should be working towards a solidarity that can withstand admitting you find someone else attractive. It’s when you choose to act on it that the line has been crossed. Subjectivity in this level of honesty in the important message.

But on the good side, honesty is really the only way to exist. It’s an example of how to level-set the playing field. When you are dishonest, everything that happens afterwards will immediately be suspect. Take the example of someone who lies on their resume or in an interview to get a job. Perhaps the less qualified candidate will get the job due to this lie. But eventually, it’s a high probability (s)he will be found out and either lose their job or be reprimanded. That addresses the situation for the liar, but what about the person impacted by that lie? (S)he didn’t get the job, which may have been a career changer for the future. Where does that leave him or her? Note: I’m not getting into fate and sometimes it’s necessary to lose one thing to set you on the path to what you are really destined for… that’s another topic! Yikes… these challenges might be harder than I thought. Morality exists everywhere!

And so, when I look at honesty, it’s a scale heavily waited to 99% of the time, i.e. it is required. Dishonesty should only be reserved for those moments when you’ve weighed the options and the impacts of that decision are not harmful to anyone, or are less harmful than the alternative.

That said, many readers are probably thinking “he’s so wrong… you should never lie… what do we tell our children…” You tell them the truth. You provide examples, you teach them about cause and effect, you explain the impacts with either decision. Not when they are 2 or 3 or 4, but when they are mature enough to understand.

That doubly said, I RESPECT those who ALWAYS tell the truth, no matter the impact. Perhaps they are too blunt. Perhaps they are inconsiderate. Perhaps they are rude. But they are honest and you will always know what to expect from them. And being consistent is one of those really extremely important things to be. And that will be tomorrow’s characteristic!

TV Show Review: Sherlock

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4+ of 5 stars to the Netflix series “Sherlock.” I’ve only watched the first episode of the first season, but I’m already hooked. Let’s get to the details:

Story

 

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson… classic detectives from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary mystery novels… but re-imagined in the 21st century with computers, cell phones and cars. Sherlock is a “consulting detective” on the police force. Watson is a war hero doctor looking for a job and a place to live. By the end of the first episode, they live together and fight crime side by side.

Sherlock Holmes is played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Who wouldn’t want their detective to be a such a handsome devil. He’s got the expected charming arrogance, but when you see it brought to life, you’ll easily fall for him.

Dr. John Watson is played by Martin Freeman. He’s quiet and shy, but has a certain hint of risk and danger about him. He’ll also send a few shivers in your direction.

Strengths

  1. The characters are well drawn and depicted. Sherlock’s mannerisms and style are evident and on target. The setting and plot are captivating. The dialogue is witty. You want to reach into the TV and smack them both on occasion, but then you just want to sit down for a cup of tea or brandy with them, too.
  2. There are many versions of the Sherlock Holmes stories that have been filmed, and I’ve only see a few; however, both the lead actors have fantastic methods for transforming characters from written words to the TV screen. You watch to see how they will handle each action or story; it’s as much as about the portrayal of classic heros as it is about the mystery.

Suggestions

Part of the charm of the stories written about 125 years ago is lost when re-appropriated to modern times. It’s still very strong, but I’d love to see a little bit of the past weaved in to ensure we feel transported into the intrigue and cleverness of the stories. Maybe we’ll find about some of their ancestors… and they investigate a century old crime!

Final Thoughts

I’m glad there are only 3 or 4 episodes per season, as you don’t want to sit and watch them all in one day… catch one every few weeks, in between reading some of the actual Sherlock stories. Get immersed.

Review: Maids of Misfortune

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Maids of Misfortune
My rating: 4 of 5 stars to M. Louisa Locke‘s Maids of Misfortune, the first book in the “Victorian San Francisco” mystery series and a great blend of murder mystery charm and historical shenanigans. I found the book on Amazon as a free Kindle e-read and thought it would be something slightly different… and it was a welcome read I recommend for anyone looking for a historical cozy.


Story

Annie Fuller is a 26-year-old widow, owning and operating a b&b out of her Victorian home by day, and working as Madam Sybil by night (no, not a harlot!). She’s not exactly psychic, and definitely not interested in a seance or a crystal ball; she’s a financial wizard who helps people make money by reading their astrology and horoscopes. As a woman in a man’s world, nearly 150 years ago, she had to pretend she was just clairvoyant in order to build her client portfolio and be successful. But when her favorite customer appears to commit suicide, she’s just not having it. With all the protocols of 1879 in tow, she disguises herself as a maid in her former client’s house to discover which member of his family killed him for the money he had just made in the stock market. Along the way, she stumbles upon a second death and is able to convince the police that her former client’s death wasn’t suicide. But she’s also earned a few enemies who don’t believe she’s a real maid. With a cast of friends and clients helping her keep up the ruse, Annie investigates using good ole’ fashioned wit and gossip, given there are no computers, cars or cell phones. But she’s got another problem to deal with too… her late husband, that buffoon, left her with an enormous debt and the loan shark is trying to steal her b&b out from under her in order to even the score. Who knew the 70’s… the 1870’s… had so much murderous fun!?!?!


Strengths

1. The plot is strong and full of red herrings. The struggle to find the killer without any modern technology or transportation provides an entirely different (and long forgotten) mode of investigation: using yours words, your eyes and your ears.

2. The Victorian setting is charming and offers a much needed change of pace for the cozy murder mystery. Readers will flock to Agatha Christie’s quaint English villages, but here’s a perfect setting for historical American heritage. And who doesn’t love San Francisco… especially in the 1870s… Gold Rush! Publishing! Horse-drawn carriages!


Suggestions

1. The pace is a little slow. It’s not at all bad or painful, but I think it could use a little extra spice. It fits with the time period, but I think with a bit of panache, the story would jump even further off the page. Cover a little more about what’s happening in SF at the time. Add some history to the founding families. Relate it to a modern reader so they invest a little more for the whole series.

2. Explore more about Madam Sybil. She’s great… I want to see her in action and understand how she works!


Final Thoughts

There is something different here… something worth giving a chance. If you’re a historical fiction fan, with a potential interest in mystery, pick it up and read it. There is a lot of description about life in the 1870s, which will appeal to traditional readers.

If you love cozies, the “small, cozy little town” isn’t part of this series; however, the mindset and the relationships are absolutely one on the same: gossip is abound and people know exactly what to say. I look forward to the next book in this series.

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