Book Review: Cozy Mysteries

Book Review: The Agatha Christie Book Club by C.A. Larmer

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3+ out of 5 stars to The Agatha Christie Book Club, the first in a mystery series published in 2017 and written by C.A. Larmer. In this series debut novel, you’ll find some of the charm in the traditional English cozy mystery novel mixed with modern day tools and techniques; a fine balance of the two with the potential to grow into a stronger series.

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Why This Book 
That’s an easy question: I love cozy mysteries. I adore Agatha Christie. I won it on a Goodreads Giveaway. As I packed for vacation last month, this book arrived in the mail the day before the flight. I took it as a sign to read it on the trip, but devoured it before the plane even landed.

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Alicia, bored with her book club, assembles an interesting cast of characters to fit the theme of a new book club in her small Australian hometown. She follows familiar Christie methods to locate the members and holds a traditional English tea party to kick it off. By the second meeting, one of the members fails to show. Alicia decides to investigate more about the missing member, quickly learning nothing is at it appears to be. Add in her attractive and single chef sister and six other quirky book club members, you’ve got various caricatures of Christie characters, all who seem to have a few hidden secrets. The missing woman’s family doesn’t seem concerned at her disappearance, but there are many conflicting stories about whether the woman truly was a kind housewife or a mean-spirited diva. One by one, Alicia eliminates her suspects until she determines who was behind it all from the very beginning, of course, in traditional Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple manner…

Approach & Style 
I read the paperback version, a 270 page edition, in 3 hours at an airport and on a plane trip from NYC to North Carolina. There are about 30 chapters with each one relatively short at around 8 to 9 pages. It is written in third person point of view in modern times, focused almost entirely on the perspective of the main character, Alicia Finlay. There are a few small sections from the culprit’s perspective, but only to help stir up some drama and remind us of a Christie story.

Strengths 
The cast of characters is diverse, clear and consistent. I kept changing which one I thought was behind the disappearance, ultimately settling on the proper solution. The author has built in lots of Christie authenticity and connections, which helps you become immersed in the story. I like the setting, and it seems like a good starting point for a book series. Writing was simple and easy to follow — no issues with voice, dialogue, description or narratives.

Concerns 
The plot was a tad too simple for my tastes, but I know it was meant to incorporate a lot of Christie’s characters and books as themes and reminders. It could have used a bit more substance and/or individuality to help it stand apart from other cozy mystery books and Christie-formula novels. I also felt it lacked enough typical setting descriptions to help readers feel as if we were there in Australia.

Author & Final Thoughts 
This is the first book I’ve read from this author, but she has at least one another series about Ghostwriting mysteries. I will take a look at the descriptions to see if it is of interest. I’d read more from her as it was a good book to curl up with by a fire or on a plane for a few hours. Not a thriller or suspense mystery. More a cozy read covering interesting facts and plots about characters, authors and books that readers love to digest in quick sessions.

About Me 
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Review: At the Drop of a Hat

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At the Drop of a Hat3 out of 5 stars to At the Drop of a Hat, the third book in the “Hat Shop” cozy mystery series, written in 2015 by Jenn McKinlay. Another good book by this lovely author… serves as a model cozy with light humor, romance and mystery.



Why This Book


I’d purchased a few of these paperbacks on Amazon earlier this year, wanting to have a few cozy mysteries to include in between my NetGalley Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) books. Jenn McKinlay is a fun writer and the books take place in my favorite place, England. I had just finished the second book in this series last week and wasn’t ready to give up the characters, so I read this one back-to-back.



Plot, Characters & Setting


Cousins Scarlett (American) and Vivian (British) are at it again in this whodunit caper set in London. A young bride-to-be, Ariana, wanders into their hat store, asking for her mother’s hat to be repaired so that she can wear it on her own wedding day. Vivian recognizes the hat as one their late grandmother made years ago, suddenly feeling nostalgic and eager to help Ariana. Once she has the repair costs, Scarlett tries to contact Ariana, but she can’t reach her. Scarlett heads to Ariana’s office, where she is an assistant to a difficult and womanizing barrister (attorney). When she arrives, Scarlett finds Ariana screaming while standing over the dead body of the attorney, who either fell or was pushed off the roof of his building. Scarlett and Vivian want to help Ariana, as they don’t believe she is guilty. Harrison, Scarlett’s pseudo love-interest tries to stop her, but agrees to help find the real culprit. Scarlett and gang (including her assistant hat maker Fee, and her best friends, gay couple Andre and Nick) try to avoid being caught by the cops while checking out the attorney’s background. Between former girlfriends and models who hated him and the shady men he was in debt to, the attorney had no chance! But which one off’d him? Scarlett figures it out and uses herself as bait to catch the criminal, and this time, the answers are a layer deeper than she realizes. Add in some romance with Harrison, some questions about Vivian’s lack of a boyfriend and a bet between all the friends, this book has its normal dose of humor.



Approach & Style


I read the paperback version, which was about 280 pages, broken up into 27 chapters. Each one is short and a quick-read. The book is told from Scarlett’s point of view in the first-person perspective. She’s funny and direct, which is a good contrast against her reserved British friends.



Strengths


Scarlett is a great character. Her personality is spunky. Her dialogue with Harrison is on point. She has a lot of charm. You care about what happens to her. I like the supporting cast with the best friends Nick and Andre, and learning about their life together as a couple is fun. The references to Scarlett’s grandmother Mim are always enjoyable, too. The plot in this book had lots of potential. The police are often helpful and open to Scarlet’s help, rather than the usual angry and pushy when the main character tries to get involved. I look forward to seeing this series grow stronger.



Concerns


While its intended to be a light and fun cozy with some humor and romance, the point is that it’s a mystery… and I would expect a certain amount of complexity in the plot with multiple suspects. This one was very simple and had a short list of suspects. Several potential people were considered, but it was over 50% into the book before Scarlet even did any research. And when she did, she only looked at two people. It needed at least another 50 pages with some investigation and research into the victim’s past and the people he spent most of his time with. It makes me a little concerned to continue with the series, but I do enjoy the characters and the setting. So if you think of it more as a light romance and humor book with some mystery thrown in, then you might be totally fine with it.



Final Thoughts


McKinlay is my new Evanovich. She’s a great character-writer, and I love all the antics and banter. It’s worth sampling one of her books, purely from that perspective. The series focus on the hat industry is kinda cool and provides a lot of backdrop to meet new characters and people to kill off for the mysteries. Hope you enjoy them.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Review: Death of a Mad Hatter

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Death of a Mad Hatter3+ out of 5 stars to Death of a Mad Hatter, the 2nd book in the “Hat Shop” cozy mystery series, written in 2014 by Jenn McKinlay. I enjoyed this book and it was a good, traditional cozy read full of fun characters and some great family drama. And it made me think of the wonderful adaption of the Alice in Wonderland books…



Why This Book


I’m a fan of Jenn McKinlay’s writing style and several of her other book series. I’m almost current on her “Library Lovers” mystery series and had picked up the first book in the “Hat Shop” series last year. I liked it so much, I ordered books 2 and 3 on Amazon. I was recently in a reading slump and hadn’t read for 7 day. That’s very unheard of for me, so I went with an old favorite to push me out… and it’s helping. I am even going to read book 3 next, so that I’m back on my game.



Plot, Characters & Setting


Scarlett Parker, an American, moved to London in the last book to help run the hat shop her grandmother willed to her and her British cousin, Vivian Tremont. Their grandmother has been gone for a few years, but Scarlett needed to escape a relationship disaster and thought London would provide a fresh lease on life… and it has, especially when she’s finding herself attracted to Harrison, their hat shop’s business manager. In this book, she and Harrison continue their flirting dance while trying to ensure their hat shop isn’t dragged down by a murder. An old friend of their grandmothers, Dotty Grisby, asks the girls to make all the hats for her upcoming tea party in the hopes she can have the new hospital wing named after her late husband. As Viv and Scarlett meet and work with all the members of the Grisby family, they find themselves embroiled in a sea of vipers who are all annoyed that their late father left all his money to the eldest son, as was traditional in England up until the law changed a few years ago. And the widow has a bit of dementia, believing Viv is actually her grandmother, not realizing how many years have passed since she died. When the eldest son turns up dead at the tea party, the cops find evidence potentially connecting the hat shop to the murder. Scarlett investigates while Harrison tries to keep her out of it. She becomes close to some members of the family and an annoyance to others. At one point, someone even tries to hurt both her and Harrison. But Scarlett won’t give up and keeps pushing deeper and deeper until she learns more family secrets. And when she visits one of the family members to try to warn her, Scarlett finds herself right in the line of fire again. She survives this one, but the outcome leaves a few more issues among the family and Scarlett’s newest friendships.



Approach & Style


The story is told in a first-person perspective from Scarlett’s point of view. It’s consistent throughout the story, and every so often, she pushes the envelope just a little by making comments aimed at the reader. I read the paperback version, which is 28 chapters, each about 10 pages long, totaling just under 300 pages in the book. The writing and language are light, but consistent. There is humor and a little bit of suspense, but it’s a cozy mystery, so never anything too scary, vulgar or off-putting.



Strengths


Scarlett is a strong character. She’s charming and funny without pushing the boundaries. She laughs at herself, is a bit opinionated, and is often a little too direct in the British world, but this makes the drama feel real. I like her relationship with Nick and Andre, a gay couple who she’s befriended in the previous book. And her tiptoeing around Harrison is flushing out nicely. She and Vivian haven’t quite clicked for me, but then again, they are cousins who have been a bit separated over the years, so I wouldn’t expect it to be all chummy right away.

The humor is what makes Ms. McKinlay’s books good. It’s got a balance of character, plot, setting and fun. The family drama here is strong. There are a lot of characters who could be good or bad. It keeps you guessing and you want to know who is out to kill the eldest brother. Makes you wonder how many people would really kill their brother, son or uncle in order to collect an inheritance, but still…



Concerns


The books take place in London, and although you do feel transported there, it’s mostly by the description of the setting being laced throughout the story. I’d like the language and the structure of the relationships to be more closely aligned. It happens a few times in the story, e.g. when they talk about Scarlett being too direct for the British, but I think it needs to be more obvious in the words, phrases and attitudes we see covered for each character.

For this specific plot, I had a hard-time buying the ultimate killer’s true motivation. I won’t give away any spoilers, but you know there are a few layers or relationships going on between the grandfather who recently died, his widow, his mistress he lived with in France, the machinations between the 4 children and then the grandchildren. I’m not sure it was cleanly explored enough for readers to figure this one out… not that it’s the point of the novel, but I would have liked more time to get to know the family before the revelation of who killed whom and why. At 280 pages, it felt too short for the complexity behind this story. Still good, but could have been better.



Final Thoughts


If you like cozy mysteries, British characters, American humor and a play on Alice in Wonderland, you will find this one amusing. I really think the author is a strong writer in the humor and cozy market, and I plan to read book #3 very soon, perhaps tonight, as I want to see if the series is growing or just maintaining its place.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews

Review: A Likely Story

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A Likely Story3 out of 5 stars to A Likely Story, the 6th book in the “Library Lover’s Mystery” series, written in 2015 by Jenn McKinlay. A good continuance in the cozy series and a quick read. Basic, but fun. Fans will enjoy it, but seemed a tad bit shorter and less complex than usual. I’ve been reading lots of NetGalley approved thriller and suspense requests lately, which meant I needed something lighter for a few days. I’m a fan of Ms. McKinlay and had purchased a few of her books last month to insert between electronic-reads. It was time and I’d missed this series a bit. I am only 1 book behind now!



Plot, Characters & Setting


Lindsey, Briar Creek’s town librarian, has taken a boat with Sully, her on-again / off-again boyfriends, to drop some books off for the reclusive Rosen brothers. Stewart and Peter, in their 70s, have lived on a small island off shore for their whole lives, but rarely come off or let anyone else on. Lindsey is one of their exceptions in this small Connecticut town. When she arrives, Stewart doesn’t greet her at the dock and she’s forced to walk up to the house. Unfortunately, the pathway is always booby-trapped, so she and Sully have to be careful to avoid the traps the Rosens have set for all other guests. When they arrive, poor Peter Rosen has been shot dead and Stewart is missing. They notice the Rosen boat, which had been docked just outside, was now missing. Did Stewart kill his brother and run off, or did he escape from an unknown killer? The cops investigate. Lindsey tries to figure it out on her own, as usual.

Along the path, she meets an older woman determined to buy up all the houses on the surrounding islands. Lindsey wonders what’s lurking beneath the surface besides investment properties. She encounters two antique dealers from half way across the country, who claim to be there at Peter’s request to help sell some of the belongings. But Lindsey knows them as hoarders with money, so she isn’t buying it. As she investigates, her friends join in the fun and danger. Lindsey makes some enemies, but she’s asked to help by the lead cop who was injured in one of the booby traps. And as Lindsey’s searching the house, someone breaks in and captures Lindsey and Sully. Who is this person and what is going on in the Rosen household?

Lindsey of course solves the case, although she’s almost shot in this one. A few new family members show up, the mystery of the old houses on the island comes out and Lindsey makes a decision between Sully and Robbie, who is also back from NYC with some interesting news about changes going in on his life. What’s a girl to do? Besides help Beth through her new romance and Mary and Ian when something new pops up in their lives, too. All in good fun, Lindsey says… but she wants a break, too!



Approach & Style


I read the paperback version, which was about 300 pages long. It had some recipes, some commentary and a new short story from the author, which took up another 50 pages.

Similar to other books in the series, it’s narrated by a third person with perspective set only on Lindsey. Minimal violence. Nothing overtly sexual other than a little light kissing between some characters.

Took me less than 3 hours to read over the course of 2 days. Finished it more quickly than usual, probably due to it having less characters than previous ones.



Strengths


Lindsey is a likable protagonist. She’s not too simple or silly. She’s not too dramatic or controlling. She seems like your average everyday gal who gets thrust into murder. Between her friends and her colleagues at the library, you get a bunch of side-stories that always make you laugh and feel connected with her as a character. I enjoy her relationship with Milton, and in this book, things with Ms. Cole take a new turn. The plot of the mystery, once it unwinds, is good. It has some family drama and other connections to the past which were a nice highlight. There’s a suspenseful chase scene in the house with the criminal at one point where I kept turning the pages as I really thought Lindsey was either gonna catch him or get killed!



Concerns


Lindsey still seems caught up between Robbie and Sully. I’m a Robbie fan. But she’s leaning towards Sully in this one. And just as it appears she made a choice between them, news comes in at the end of the book which could change everything. I’d really like her to make a choice and stick with it for a few books, letting the other character go for a while, so we have an opportunity for a little change.

While the plot had some good parts to it, it seemed to grow more complicated only near the end. The first half of the book was very light and at times, I wasn’t very excited over what happened other than the fact one of the brothers was missing and could be alive/dead or the killer/victim. That kept me going, but I think the other characters should have been more prominent to make this more complex and intriguing.



Questions & Final Thoughts


It was a good read. Nothing extraordinary, nothing bad. I enjoyed it. I’ll keep reading the series. The 7th book has been out in hardback for a few months, but I’ll wait until November until the paperback release. Not in any rush. I may switch over to another of her series about hats and murders in London.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Review: The Maltese Falcon

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The Malteses FalconBook Review
4 out of 5 stars to The Maltese Falcon, a classic mystery novel written in 1930 by Dashiell Hammett. If you ask a mystery fan when the genre started, a good chunk of them will say during the Golden Age (1920s & 30s) with authors like Dashiell Hammett, specifically with the creation of the Sam Spade character. Immediately what comes to mind is the old-fashioned black-and-white movies with the coat and hat on the detective, the accents and the chase scenes. While these are all true, few have actually read these novels. I’ve been a fan of mystery since I was a young kid, reading a bunch in my teenage years. I re-read a lot during an independent study course I design while getting my English degree while in college. This book was one of the first the Dean and my professor recommended to me. I had read parts of it and seen the movies made from it, but I wasn’t as familiar with the whole Golden Age. But once you read this book, you thirst for more. It’s so well-written (apart from some of the ideas that have positively changed since then, e.g. racial or gender bias) from a mystery perspective, you are immediately engaged. And one of the sub-plots in these types of books are often “will he get the girl” or “is the girl on his side of the bad guy’s side?” In The Maltese Falcon, you get it all. It’s international. It’s romantic. It’s dangerous. It’s scary. It’s complex. And it ends in a very unexpected kinda way. It’s a game-changer for the genre and that’s why it’s called the Golden Age. For mystery fans, you better have read this one. For non-mystery fans, it’s a good story, and if you like older books, them you should give it a chance.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: To the Nines

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To the NinesBook Review
3 out of 5 stars for To the Nines, the 9th book in the “Stephanie Plum” cozy mystery series, written in 2002 by Janet Evanovich. And with this review, I am officially caught up on older reads for this series… and I can now pickup where I left off by reading book 19 this summer… and it will be a much more detailed and thorough review. In this one, #9, Stephanie is chasing an illegal immigrant as her bail jumper. While hilarious and funny, this one didn’t feel as strong as the rest. Hard to keep up in such a prolific series, right? Still funny. Takes her all over the place. Even to the strip clubs. And you probably think she had to perform this time… you won’t know unless you check it out. Rest assured, she’s still working for her cousin’s agency. And she still has her colleagues to keep her in check. Hopefully Joe and Ranger don’t see the extents she has to go on this case. But when it turns out to be one of her scariest and biggest, she has to turn to them for help. She’s still getting the hang of this job, but with each culprit, she’s one step closer to perfection.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: Hard Eight

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Hard EightBook Review
4 out of 5 stars to Hard Eight, the 8th book in the “Stephanie Plum” cozy mystery series, written in 2002 by Janet Evanovich. OK… so I cannot figure out for the life of me how Ms. Evanovich comes up with the hilarity in these characters. It’s absolutely amazing to see the varying degrees of lunatics Stephanie has to deal with. In this book, it’s less about one particular mystery, although there is a driving case she is working on. There are about 10 skips (bail jumpers) she’s trying to chase, all the while solve little crimes and issues throughout the lives of her friends, family, and the people she’s trying to capture whom she takes a liking to. She’s in the wrong profession, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It gives me a regular dose of humor to enjoy. The main story, about a kidnapped child, though not funny, is handled quite well. You never know who to root for in these books. Sometimes I wanna see Stephanie put in these bad situations… I mean who wouldn’t want to watch Lula trying to take control and become her own bail bonds woman.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews