mystery fiction

Review: U Is for Undertow

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U Is for Undertow
U Is for Undertow by Sue Grafton

3.499999 of 5 stars (rounded to 3 since that’s my only option due entirely to the laws of fractions and decimals) for the twenty-first book, U Is for Undertow, a mystery published in 2009 by author Sue Grafton.

When I first stumbled upon this series, I was super excited that there would be 26 books by the same author, all about the same character. But as I started reading the series, as much as I loved it, you could tell it gets a bit harder and harder to keep up with the creativity. Grafton does a good job at this, and I suspect since she knew there would be 26, it was planned out fairly well in advanced — at least enough to know it could sustain the plethora of content to come. Sometimes the antics remind me a bit of Scooby Doo.

U is for Undertow is nearing the end of the series, but it is still a good book. It starts off with quite an intro to the mystery. A man begs Kinsey to investigate… and she slowly realizes who he is, a bit famous for some things going on around a few years prior… and she has to investigate a rather interesting family. What’s great about this series is the character of Kinsey doesn’t age much throughout the books. Even though it’s about 30 years from start to finish for the author to draft the books, they all take place in the 1980s… so you often have to remember that you’re reading a book set 20 years prior, as the story doesn’t always tell you that. It’s clear in this one because there are flashbacks and actions to the 1960s…

A good entry in the series. Stick with the series if you start it. Kinsey’s a combination of Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovich‘s “One for the Money / Stephanie Plum) series and “VI Warshawski from Sara Paretsky‘s PI series. All 3 are similar, but where Stephanie is new to detective work and VI is an ole’ pro, Kinsey’s in the middle. She’s had training. She’s savvy in many areas. But she gets hurt too much for reasons a real PI would probably know better.

Best part of these books… Kinsey’s relationship with Henry, her friend and landlord. They have a wonderful father / daughter connection and I enjoy those parts of the books just as much as the investigation parts. Whenever Henry’s in a scene, I know it will be a good one.

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: Body Work

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Body WorkMy rating: 4 of 5 stars┬áto Sara Paretsky‘s novel Body Work, the 14th book in her “VI Warshawski” mystery series published in 2010. I read this book when it first came out, as I was already caught up in the series. I need to get back to them as I think there are a few more, as she tends to release one every 2 to 3 years.

Warshawski is a private investigator working in Chicago. She’s in her late 40s/early 50s throughout a big part of the series, very tough and one of the original female detectives written about in a full on series. I suspect she is the incarnation of the author, as I’ve read a bit about her, too. She’s quite fascinating and very open about her life and what she’s doing.

In this book, Paretsky takes us into the underground club scene, scattering around with VI Warshawski’s cousin Petra, a group of artists, tattoo junkies and soldiers back from Iraq with PTSD. It’s the kind of book where you think you know what’s going to happen, but you’ll be surprised a few times. I remember it made me want a tattoo even more than I already did at the time. 7 years later, I still don’t have one… but not because I am worried / scared. I can’t decide what to get!!!

Paretsky’s books are also somewhat educational. She takes care to provide a lot of details (without going overboard) about the social issue and topics she’s handling in each one. It makes for a great mystery, but also a solid learning experience.

The main character, Warshawski, is very amusing in an offbeat way. She’s got a chip on her shoulder and often borders on “I want to knock her down a peg or two,” simply because she sometimes lets her attitude get in the way of her success, both in her personal life and her professional life. However, she’s also a very dedicated and solid friend, so you know you can always count on her.

Lots of great scenes in this book, particularly about the art of tattoo work and the impact of war on soldiers. Also a few highly descriptive scenes including some violence. Not too bad, but enough that it may turn off a few folks who prefer the cozy mystery. I don’t know how that woman gets back up again after being knocked down so many times. I’d stay on the floor and say “I’m done.”

If you’re not up for a whole series, you can read this one stand-alone. Not a big connection between all the books other than the timeline of her aging and some friends that shift in and our of her life.

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: Crunch Time

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Crunch Time
Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Diane Mott Davidson‘s “Goldy Bear Culinary” mystery series is one of my early favorites, and I’m sad that the author isn’t writing anymore. There were about 20 books in total, but this review is for #16, Crunch Time. This was the second or third cozy mystery series I took on, and only the second where I’ve been able to finish reading all books. (LJB’s “Cat Who” series is the other one).

In this book, the crime action comes right to Goldy’s home, which makes for even more fun. Friends are staying with Goldy after their house burns down, and Goldy knows they are keeping secrets. She pushes her way in and tries to figure out how to help them, keep her business running and ensure her own home and family aren’t impacted. But of course, Goldy falls prey to the culprit at one point, too.

I enjoy this series because she is such a real character. And the supporting cast feel like people you’d love to be around. Humor, sarcasm, love… Goldy’s husband and son are very real people.

As far as books in the series, this one falls somewhere in the middle. Not the best, not the worst. The recipes seem fairly easy to follow, if you like that sort of thing.

Some folks thought this was a bit long. I can see why, but it’s still a fast read.

It’s a fun series to read, but you probably only need to read a few throughout to get the gist… unless you can commit to all ~20. Then by all means…

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 Cat Who Ate Danish Modern

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The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern
The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Background

The summer after I graduated from college, I started missing regular reading… during school, I had less personal choice and recreational reads, as all the college textbooks and novels were the priority. I was an English major and rarely had time for adding in my own particular interests. The last course I had taken was an independent study that one of my professors and I had built the curriculum on together: Murder Mysteries. I learned all about the genres and sub-genres, authors and styles. One in particular I grew fond of was the cozy mystery. I also had a thing about wanting a Siamese cat. And so… my love affair with Lilian Jackson Braun began. Finding myself without required reading, I selected a few books, including this cozy mystery series, and I read through a huge amount in the first few years.

Review
People either love or dislike the cozy mystery book. Sometimes it’s too simple. I get that. But sometimes, it’s exactly what you want to read before bed, when you need to relax, or because it’s just fun and charming humor and easy story.

Braun started writing in 1960s and published a few of these books, then stopped writing for 25 years before re-igniting the series in the 1980s… producing another 25+ in the collection. This is book number two, and it is where Qwill, the main character, adopts his second Siamese cat when its owner… for reasons I cannot disclose… can no longer care for YumYum. And thus begins the life of these 3 primary characters in the entire series.

Qwill is a really likable character. He’s about 60, a bit ornery, highly intelligent, very set in his ways, and the object of every woman over 60 in town. There are less male protagonists in cozy novels than female leads, which make this a bit of a unique series. It was one of the very first series that put the cozy sub-genre on the market. And the world that Braun creates in Moose County is just amazing.

In this book, Qwill hasn’t yet moved to Moose County, so you’re still learning background about him and his prior life before becoming sober and everything changing post divorce. And he’s asked to write a story and column about home design, something he has very little knowledge of.

It’s a very cute story with a cast of strong characters, a few of which move with him to Moose County along the path. This book establishes his relationship with the two cats, including their extra-strong senses when it comes to helping him solve crimes.

Yes, the cats come up a lot. Always funny. But the mystery is the focus, I promise. It’s worth a shot to see if you’re hooked on the series, but if you do… you have to read the first 3 or 4, so you can see his initial move to Moose Country where 90% of the books take 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.


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Review: All That Remains

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All That Remains
All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The “Kay Scarpetta” mystery series by Patricia Cornwell was one of the first adult mystery book series I began reading. I also started these very young, around 13 or 14, which may not be the best thing for young adults if they don’t have a strong sense of right/wrong and a stomach to handle really gory stuff. All That Remains is the third book in the series about a forensic medical examiner in Virginia who helps solve brutal crimes.

What I love about the early books is the relationship between the detective, Pete Marino, and Scarpetta, the medical examiner. It’s love/hate, and as the series grows, their relationship gets very volatile and intense. In the early books, like this one, you just want to hate Pete but you know he’s got a heart in there. He represents a typical cop of the 1970s / 80s, who is starting to change his philosophy on women being involved in his jurisdiction. And he’s of course in love with her but can’t do anything about it.

In this book, young couples are brutally murdered. And the psychopath behind it all is playing games with Scarpetta. All her serial killers end up wanting to get to Scarpetta, to impress her, because of how methodical and intelligent she is.

Cornwell’s writing is intense. And she describes everything about the blood and guts during the autopsies, finding the victims and conveying what the murderer is likely doing to his/her victims.

As the title suggests, this is all about “what remains” of the body to be able to figure out who is the culprit. Every page leads you to revelations, and you want to close your eyes and pretend you’re not reading about the gore, but you can’t help needing to keep reading it.

Scarpetta is so complex. Sometimes you love her. Sometimes you really want to lock her in a closet until she learns how to play a little nicer. But she will always evoke some huge reaction from the reader.

If you can handle the creepy-factor and the explicit language (vicious, usually not too sexual), you have to read a couple of these books to see how hard the author works to make each one unique and a very complex mystery.

She was one of my faves, and I stopped around 17 or 18 in the series to give myself a break. I’m close to going back to finish it up. And she’s still writing more!

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.


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Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

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The Mysterious Affair at Styles
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I love mystery fiction, and in particular, the classics. Agatha Christie died in 1976, and I was born the following year. Two things come to mind… (1) It’s a good thing I wasn’t alive when she died because I would have been so miserable to be around. (2) Since I was born just about a year later, I’m wondering if maybe a small part of her lives on… as I love her genius and her works of literature… and I can re-read her books over and over again without ever getting bored.

There are tons of reviews of all her major works, and I don’t need to be repetitive in my review. What I’d really try to get across is why you need to read ANY of her works, and then why I’d suggest this one:

1. This was one of her first books, and I believe the first published one, in 1920, which means she was probably writing it exactly 100 years ago. And though some of the language is a little different, and it takes place with a different cultural atmosphere, the crux of the story — its plot, is appropriate at any point in time. People don’t love Christie for her beautiful language or her great ideas… yeah, she had some of those… but it’s her plots and characters that stand out. And those transcend time.

2. Who else can create such a puzzle that you are constantly trying to guess what’s going on? True, tons of writers today, but not 100 years ago. And even with modern writers, it’s often in a suspense and thriller type of novel, where it’s all about the chase. Christie was all about the calm approach to solving a murder. She didn’t try to end each chapter with a big WOW and heart-wrenching scare tactic. It’s simple evolution of a timeline, collections of clues, conversations with people… and then you start to see the puzzle come together. But at the last minute, you get the unexpected twist.

3. With this first book, you meet Hercule Poirot, one of her two popular detectives. Poirot is annoying. He’s painful. He will make you angry while you are laughing. And that’s the cool part. Columbo is the best comparison I can come up with. And I’m certain Columbo was based on large part by Christie’s Poirot.

So why this book???????

It’s the first in the series. It’s a prime example of why her stories work. It’s the ultimate tale – a family with secrets. It takes place in the UK… the best place to visit and perhaps live. I don’t live there, only visited it. :}

But it’s really the slow build-up of the clues that will have your mind working overtime. So… if you need a Christie stand-alone book, go to “And Then There Were None.” If you like female investigators, choose a Miss Marple. If you like a Belgian male detective, flip a coin and pick between Murder on the Orient Express or The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Both will be a great read. But if you need to start at the beginning, go with this one to see what an author’s first book looks like. Because if I didn’t have my Christie… I’d be like…

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.


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Review: The Lost Symbol

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The Lost Symbol
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dan Brown is one of my favorite authors. I know there are several of my online and in-person (sounds so weird!) friends who disagree, but ultimately… you have to acknowledge the amount of time and dedication he puts into his story, the vast eccentric cast of characters, the intrigue and suspense, the unexpected connections and the fast-paced thrill of turning the pages more quickly than you can actually read each one. People love books for different reasons. It’s not always the “beautiful and lyrical prose” or the “emotional gut punch you feel from its reality.”

These books are meant to keep your heart racing, your mind guessing and your eyes unable to blink for a few minutes at a time. At the time I’m writing this review, it’s been about five years since I read the book, and I still haven’t seen the movie… but I am excited to watch it, though I haven’t heard great things from those who have.

Of the four Robert Langdon books in the series, this was my least favorite. Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code had such complex and shocking story lines, I couldn’t help but be amazed. Inferno was so intense and ripe with “what if” scenarios, my mind was non-stop going. With this book, it’s still a huge and complex puzzle, but it felt a little weaker than the other ones. There was a different type of emotional connection given Langdon’s friendship with the kidnapped mentor.

I liked the puzzle, but were pictures necessary?

It was a little too easy to solve this time.

It felt a bit repetitive at times.

But you still flip the pages faster than a normal read.

I’d push you to read his other books. I’d be OK if you skipped this one.

But I am still super excited about Origin, the fifth in the series, which will debut later this year.

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