My rating: 4 of 5 stars to Kylie Logan‘s Gone with the Twins, the fifth book in the “League of Literary Ladies” mystery series about a woman who owns a B&B on an island between Ohio and Canada and helps the local police solve crimes using her skills as a secret famous fiction author. I was excited to read this book as it was recently released and one of the only mystery series I am current on. While it was a good story and follow-up to the previous books, it wasn’t my favorite and felt a little too easy this go-round. But still worth a read.
Bea is still upset after finding out a secret about Levi at the end of the previous book, but her heart still wants him. As the story starts out, a rival B&B has opened, taking all of the normal summer guests that would have gone to Bea’s place had the famous Champion Twins not set up camp on the island. Recently thrust back into the spotlight after having been kidnapped, Riva and Quentin Champion have designed their new B&B like Tara from “Gone With the Wind,” which just happens to be the book that Bea and her friends in the literary league started reading. When the local real estate agent who sold most of the homes to the main island inhabitants passes away, her niece, Vivian, takes over and begins making enough enemies that she’s soon found dead in her basement on the evening she was set to meet several people to sell them antiques from her late aunt’s house. When it looks like Chandra, Bea’s neighbor and New Age friend, is the primary culprit, Bea sets out to prove her friend’s innocence. Along the way, she and Levi re-connect and he watches over her when the murderer gets too close. Somehow, it’s all connected and Bea will stop at nothing to figure out what’ at the core of the shenanigans, especially when rumors about her not-true ex-con or ex-psycho status, as well as fake bed bug stories, start popping up all over town. In true Bea style, she dives in with the Chief of Police, Hank, and soon uncovers more connections to her own past than she realized were possible.
Bea’s friends and hijinks are on target. The story incorporates daily life as well as solving the crime, making it a fun and quick read. Her interest in Levi maintains its roller coaster course, providing a good boost of romance, fun and humor. The descriptions of the Twins and their history is something cute to laugh about. And the cast of new characters is vivid and amusing.
The story focuses on Chandra’s relationship with her first husband, who was connected to Vivian, the victim in this book. The Twins figure prominently both in the real estate transactions and the fame of Hollywood being brought to the quiet Lake Bass island. Levi appears frequently while Luella and Kate take a bit of a back seat this time. It’s good to focus on different supporting characters in each book, as we get a more well-rounded opinion of the whole shebang!
The plot was a little too simple in this book. A few red herrings helped create a bit of fun and suspense, but the title gives it away, knowing the Twins have something to do with the mayhem. No spoilers given away here, just mentioning what felt too obvious for a reader. While there were a few potential suspects, the reasons for everyone never felt compelling enough for one of them to want to murder Vivian, but when you find out why, it makes sense. Just a little too loose for me.
The story starts off with the death of the elderly real estate agent who sold Bea the B&B. I would have liked to know that character, Estelle, a little more. Her death and appearance just seemed inserted for plot points. As this is Book 5, I think the author should have dropped more hints about Estelle in Books 1 thru 4 so we as readers felt the loss, too.
The charm and suspense felt a little off in this book, too. I expected more, given the great impressions I had from the earlier books. Still worth a read, just sayin’! That said, I love Bea and the whole premise of the book, and her secret identity as F.X. O’Grady. I hope the next book focuses more on her own past… and I definitely look forward to the next one, even is this one was a little disappointing.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
3 stars to Kylie Logan‘s And Then There Were Nuns, her fourth installment in the League of “Literary Ladies mystery” series. When one of your all-time favorite stories is Agatha Christie‘s And Then There Were None, you feel compelled to read any books that appear to follow in its footsteps, especially if they are part of an existing mystery series you already enjoy reading, hence why I selected this one earlier in the week. While it followed the original storyline, and had its own new interpretations, I found a few too many parts in need of work. It kicked off with a great premise and a few deaths but then disappeared into a poorly formulaic distraction — still worth a read if you’re a fan of the author and the series, but not an ideal introduction for someone new to the series. Let’s dive into the specifics…
Bea runs an historic inn on Ohio’s South Bass Island near the Great Lakes and the Canadian border having moved there after escaping a stalker when she lived in New York City. She belongs to a reading group with several friends who often help one another with their various businesses and relationships, this time Chandra’s persistent attempts to deliberately annoy them. This month, they’re reading a non-mystery book when Bea is asked to help a friend provide meals for a group of ten nuns who are staying in another converted mansion. When her friend is called out of town, Bea takes the lead to ensure the nuns have everything they need while on their retreat, but soon finds one of them dead on the beach from a whack to the head. When another one dies, Bea and her friends start to see the resemblance to Christie’s classic mystery novel and reluctantly determine they’re back on another case.
Hank, the police sheriff Bea initially disliked, soon recruits her to be the lead for him on the investigation given it’s a small town and she already has a connection to the nuns. Bea manages the care for the guests at her own inn, deals with her friends’ problems and attempts to investigate the case of the disappearing and dying nuns. In the end, she avoids being killed in an accident meant for someone else and narrowly misses being shot by the murderer; however, she solves the case and the criminal is carted off to prison with little lasting impacts. Throw in a few guests on a genealogy quest and a bird-watching hunt, and you’ve got all sorts of kooky characters this time.
For a fun side story, Levi, the man she has flirted with in the last three books, wakes up in her bed in this fourth installment, leading us to believe something happened in between to push them into accepting their growing attraction to one another. But it doesn’t last when each reveals the secret reason why they had been holding off from dabbling in the relationship waters. At least we’re finally getting to connect the spoiler bread crumbs that were dropped along the way in the earlier books.
1. The setup for the story kicked off with an intriguing plot. Ten nuns invited to a retreat by a leader who suddenly can’t show up himself. The caretaker of the mansion also is mysteriously called out of town and needs Bea to help watch over the nuns. The nuns claim not to know one another but soon start revealing some have interesting connections to each other. Reader love this stuff. It provides lots of guesswork and a myriad of options to develop a complex story.
2. We finally understand the chemistry and concerns with a Bea and Levi match up. Getting some of the backstory was helpful, but it was also brilliant to only provide some explanations to understand why they both came to the island. We still have the mystery of what happened to each of them prior to arriving which I suspect will come out in a future books.
3. The character of Hank is growing on me. He’s not so gruff anymore and he’s becoming more real. I was frustrated with him in the earlier books given his on again / off again relationship with Chandra and dismissal of Bea and the girls.
1. The plot devolved near the end. (SPOILER ALERT) I understand the backdrop is Bea’s bed and breakfast, but the murderer can’t always be the mysterious guy staying at the Inn. It undermines Bea’s intelligence if she never picks up on it until the end, and it sets up too repetitive of a storyline. The author needs to find a way to better use the people who stay at the Inn and who already live on the island.
2. The story stopped following Christie’s plot a third of the way through the book. I know you can’t kill off more than two or three of the ten characters without reality stepping in to have police surround the remaining nuns 24/7, but when one of the nuns is not really who she says she is, you can’t abandon the entire plot line to cater to a story that is completely different. It was still a good story, and provided many laughs and drama, but I felt like it was a bit disconnected.
I was a little disappointed in the plot of this book, perhaps because it didn’t live up to the real Christie story or perhaps because sometimes not every book in a series can be top notch. I’m hoping it bounces back in the next installment because I really like the characters and the setting for the series. I’d still encourage readers to read this book if they’re committed to the series as many good things happen to evolve the characters and add complexity, but if you focus on the plot too much, you may not love it.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
3 stars to Kylie Logan‘s The Legend of Sleepy Harlow, the third in the “League of Literary Ladies” series about a woman who moves to the midwest to open a B&B after some mysterious troubles in NYC. Since this is a good Halloween ghost story that ties together an incident from 300 years ago to the present on quiet South Bass Island on the Great Lakes, it’s worth a read, but I needed a little more complexity in the story to push it up to a 4.
A supernatural ghost hunting group who call themselves EGG visits the B&B on Halloween to try and find the headless ghost, Sleepy Harlow, who was murdered by a rival bootlegger nearly 300 years ago. Unfortunately, when they visited South Bass Island the previous year, they tormented Bea’s friend Kate who was very angry with their return. When one of the group turns up dead, Sheriff Hank can only assume Kate is guilty, but he enlists Bea to help find more clues that can save Kate from going to prison. While searching around, as well as helping another friend write a biography on Sleepy Harlow, Bea finds unusual connections among the EGG team, realizes who murdered the EGG ghost hunter and determines which one her friends has deeper ties to Sleepy that she realized.
Everyone loves a ghost story. And when it’s parallel to Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow, how can you resist? There’s romance, threats, murder, ghosts and intrigue in this story helping to cement South Bass Island in deep American history.
We get some much needed focus on the Bea and Levi romance dance. Whether you’re a fan or don’t want them together, at least we now understand what’s going on between them.
There were not enough suspects in this one. EGG had very little ties to the inhabitants of South Bass Island which meant the murderer could really only come from their group. No other suspects were even considered besides Kate — and we knew she couldn’t have done it given she is one of the primary characters in this series.
The connection between Sleepy Hollow and one of the girls was a great nugget and surprise, but barely a page was devoted to it. It would have been even better if in the resolution, the character reflected on her newly found relation and change to her past history / family tree. What a miss!
Overall, it’s a good read. I feel like it could have been bound more tightly together given it’s a serial cozy mystery. The story was good, could have been better with more details and fell shy of getting a 4 from me. But I like the series, the author and the characters, so I’ll move on to Book 4.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
#Mayhem at the Orient Express was a good start to the League of Literary Ladies #mystery series. I stumbled upon this through a Goodreads recommendation based on the other cozy serial mysteries that I often read. I certainly wasn’t disappointed but I also wasn’t amazed by the debut.
I eventually began liking the main characters, the setting and the overall style. From this first in series, it appears there will be 4 leading female characters — perhaps 1 lead and 3 supporting female characters may be more appropriate. Kate and Bea were a little too similar for me, at least in their attitude and dialogue but I suspect over time they will get more distinct. Chandra brings the comedy and levity to keep the wheels turning, but it’s the addition of Luella as the one who rounds out the group who makes them seem more like a family. The 4 come together in an unusual way which I’m not sure I am too fond of, but it eventually works enough to get the relationships started or on a different course depending on how much credence you give to the squabbling at the beginning of the story.
I’m hopeful that if this will be called the League of Literary Ladies, their interest in books will become more apparent. Chandra’s preference to see the film versions rather than read is cute, but if you are going to call them the League of Literary Ladies, I think they will need to be more literate!
I greatly appreciate the story’s narration or point of view coming from Bea who is the most logical on most occasions. I’m very fond of the author dropping in a little sarcasm directly calling out that there are readers or an audience to the book’s hijinks. It only appears a few times, just enough to make you chuckle, but not enough to pull you out of or away from the actual story.
The B&B backdrop is strong. It will bring easy snooping, lots of new characters, and reasons why the protagonists are so often close to murders and mysteries. The most fascinating mystery is actually what brought Bea to this island from New York. In the first book we learn a few of her secrets and personal tragedies, but there are definitely strong direct and indirect hints at even more things we really need to know about her.
The relationships with the male characters throughout the story are slow to start but have potential. I’m not sure they are too critical to the story when you have 4 females already playing off one another in the suspense and clue-tracking escapades. It’ll probably serve up good fodder for backdrop in helping the protagonists have more personality and feel more connected to the reader.
I’ll give book 2 a chance to see where it’s going… curious what others thought?