Archive | July 2016

Review: The Crepes of Wrath, A Pancake House Mystery, by Sarah Fox. Random House Publishing Group – Alibi

This is a cleverly-titled story of a young woman, Marley McKinney, who sets out to do a good deed for her cousin Jimmy while he is in hospital. Marley agrees to stay in Jimmy’s charming Victorian at Wildwood Cove and oversee the running of his pancake house.

The pleasant summer stay turns tragic when Marley’s cousin Jimmy is found dead on a rocky cliff, just after he was released to return home from his hospital stay. Marley is crushed, and then shocked when Jimmy’s death is found to be murder.

Marley find some friends to help her as she seeks to unravel the tangle of events. Marley turns out to be the heir to Jimmy’s house and business. She is kept busy dealing with her grief, running the pancake house, playing with Jimmy’s cat (named Flapjack, naturally). Marley finds herself in danger as well but with the help of handsome and supportive childhood sweetheart Brett and Ray, the local sheriff, Marley finds resolution, discovers Jimmy’s killer, and makes an important decision to leave her job in Seattle and settle in Wildwood Cove. With the setting so well established, it seems clear that this is just the beginning of Marley’s experiences in this lovely coastal town.

This is a satisfying, well-written book with lively characters and imaginative storytelling.  My thanks to the author and publisher for making this book available for me to read and review.

Review: Advantage Miss Seeton by Hampton Charles. Farrago

Continuing with the Miss Seeton stories after the untimely death of its author Heron Carvic, Hampton Charles carries on the tradition valiantly with this book.

We find Miss Seeton becoming involved in the world of competitive tennis, again as a sideline of her activities on behalf of Scotland Yard.

Bright young Trish Thumper (continuing with the catch-name tradition begun by Carvic), is a Wimbledon contender. But her father, Sir Wilfred Thumper, has earned his reputation as a “hanging judge” with his severe decisions in court, a history of justice not even slightly tempered with mercy. Now Justice Thumper has received threats that the Yard is taking seriously. They set about ensuring the safety of Justice Thumper’s daughter.

There are villains, of course: a trio is systematically robbing village churches of their silver in a series of burglaries. The burglary theme becomes enmeshed with the threats to Thumper and his daughter. Miss Seeton and her trusty friends and Yard personnel blaze a trail that goes to Wimbledon and also to Glyndebourne (continuing the theme of classical music also begun by Carvic).

It is lively tale. The evildoers are dealt with in trademark Seeton tradition–the Brolly continues to be a formidable weapon. The scene at Glyndebourne, in particular, is not to be missed.

There are several romances thrown in for good measure: Bob Ranger and Ann, the doctor’s daughter, soon to be wed; also journalists Amelita (Mel) Forby Thrudd Banner, and Nigel Colveden (son of Sir George) and the splendidly athletic Trish.

It’s all most satisfying and entertaining. The villains are dealt with, the lovers continue happily on their respective paths, and Mr. Justice Thumper learns some humility at last.

My thanks once again to the publisher (Pete at Farrago) and NetGalley for sharing this book to read and review.

Review: Miss Seeton at the Helm by Hamptom Charles. Farrago

So, after the loss of Heron Carvic, Hampton Charles has picked up the challenge of continuing the saga of Miss Seeton. I think he has done admirably in this book.

We find Miss Seeton “at the helm” of a Greek island cruise. She is the delighted recipient of this fine vacation, framed by Scotland Yard as a “merit award” for her artistic services to the Yard. However, Miss Seeton is blissfully unaware of an art fraud scheme with a Yard investigation underway, and the principal players are scheduled to be on the cruise. Chief Superintendent Delphick has hopes for his favorite umbrella user, and once again she does not disappoint. Miss Seeton’s talented artistic eye catches themes–parallels with a famous artwork– that ultimately prove the undoing of the schemers. In the process of the cruise, the bad guys plan the demise of Miss Seeton, and more than one attempt is made against her. Some are lost, others are caught, and once Miss Seeton comes through it all relatively unscathed. (Not really a spoiler–you can’t lose the title character and go on with the series now, can you?)

In this book Hampton Charles, like Heron Carvic before him, has some fun with names. We have the cruise company itself (Heron Halcyon Holidays–surely a tip of the hat to author Heron Carvic?), Sir Wormelow Tump, and a man with two names (Ferencz Szabo and Frank Taylor). Also Charles manages to put some romance into the story. In this case, though, it’s a little confusing when Mel Forby and Superintendent Delphick get caught up in a shipboard romance.  Perhaps Mr. Charles forgot that Delphick has a spouse and that Mel is engaged in a romance with her fellow journalist Thrudd?

Once again, great fun, imaginative plotting and a fine cast of characters good and bad.  My thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this very enjoyable book.

Review: Yellowthread Street by William Marshall. Farrago.

I have to apologize to NetGalley and Farrago. Farrago has graciously auto-approved me for its NetGalley offerings. For that, I am truly grateful. I LOVE the Miss Seeton books, also published by Farrago.

But this book and I are just not a good fit I made it through about two chapters. The author sets an exotic scene in 1970s Hong Kong, and indeed he writes with humor. But the humor is a bit too dark for me. Once I encountered bodies dismembered by meat axe and another scene of amputated fingers, I was done.

I think this is likely an excellent book judging from comments of other readers. I suspect there are many to whom the dark humor and gritty realism will appeal. But it’s not for me.


Review: Miss Seeton Draws the Line by Heron Carvic. Farrago.

Once again, Miss Seeton is requested to lend her unique sketching talents to Scotland Yard. This time, there is a series of child stranglings without any leads. Also in Miss Seeton’s little village there has been a series of burglaries leaving residents missing some of their most prized possessions.

Miss Seeton is asked to sketch the children of the village. All goes well, if unremarkably, until Miss S. tries to sketch little Effie Goffer. Indeed, she feels quite embarrassed that her picture goes seriously awry, with wavy lines across it. Of course, being as how this is Miss S. the odd drawing turns out to be significant, although not quite in the way Scotland Yard had hoped.

As usual, the village gossip line is working overtime and the stories surrounding Miss Seeton are becoming downright ludicrous. Leave it to Mel, an enterprising young journalist, to put the false and misleading stories in their place.

Miss Seeton soldiers on, finding difficulties with her bank and also encountering yet another young person whose picture she cannot complete. In the course of events, Miss Seeton comes into harm’s way but ultimately succeeds with the help of a few stalwart friends and, of course, her trusty brolly.

Once again author Carvic leads us on a merry chase with an outcome that Miss Seeton’s fans will relish.

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for making this book available to me to read and review.

Review: The Saint Louisans by Steven Clark. Amphorae Publishing Group; Walrus Publishing

I was drawn to this book due to its title featuring Saint Louis. My parents grew up in the Ozarks of Missouri. Saint Louis held a special place in my mother’s heart because at age 16, that city became her escape route from the poverty of her rural home. She went to live with her aunt and uncle; her uncle worked on the Saint Louis streetcar line. My mother was a talented seamstress and found a job with a tailoring establishment in Saint Louis where she felt the job and life with her aunt and uncle helped her to change from a country girl to a city lady. So, I wanted to learn more about the city of Saint Louis.

This book does indeed offer a wealth of material about Saint Louis, about its history and past and present settings. I felt Saint Louis, past and present, was actually the central theme of the story. The central character was Lee, a nurse specializing in hospice care, so much so that she sees herself as a kind of angel of death. Her services are requested by Margot Desouche, a wealth and socially prominent St. Louisan. We learn of Margot’s impending demise, her evolving relationship with Lee, the impressive historic mansion she lives in and hopes to preserve, and the difficult relationships within her family. Lee has her own issues within her family. While Lee sees it as her mission to bring peace to Margot and her family before Margot passes away, she is less clear in her vision of her own family’s needs. The passing of time and its effects interweaves with the theme of death and dying, both for the city and for the individuals and families involved in the story. I found this book chiefly interesting for its in depth information about Saint Louis. I felt the story was drawn out overlong and I found no clear conclusion or resolution. Perhaps there is not one to be found. Or perhaps I just missed it.

My sincere thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley for making this book available for me to read and review.

Review of Allingham Box Set 1: Look to the Lady, Police at the Funeral, Sweet Danger. Pub. Ipso Books div. of Peters Fraser & Dunlop Ltd.

The Margery Allingham estate sent me a preview of this box set and asked for my comments, which appear below. (My individual reviews of the three books also appear on Amazon’s pages).

Allingham is a superb writer who can spin a yarn with the best of them. She sets a scene or creates an atmosphere in a way that pulls us in at the outset. She intrigues us early on, and fills in the details as she goes, leaving a trail of verbal breadcrumbs to guide us on our journey.

The first book, Look to the Lady, introduces us to the enigmatic but resourceful “Albert Campion” and also gives us a taste of Miss Allingham’s storytelling abilities. We hear the tale of the ancient and legendary Gyrth Chalice, and encounter a venerable castle complete with mysterious tower room. There is a widely varied assortment of characters, including thugs and petty criminals, a band of friendly Gypsies, and a family of ancient lineage.

In the second book, Police at the Funeral, we meet the widely varied members of the Faraday family. The tale unfolds along with our knowledge of the characters, their relationships and history. The suggestion of something dark and awful just off-screen flavors the story and leads us to a most ingenious dénouement. To say much more might constitute a spoiler.

The third book, Sweet Danger, is perhaps the most fanciful–and that’s saying a lot. We are asked to believe in the existence of a tiny (800-acre) principality of enormous significance to the British Crown, but also to a league of powerful and sinister characters. This book is notable for the introduction of flame-haired Amanda Fitton at age 17; she will prove to be a Person of Importance in the saga of Albert Campion. There is a captivating chapter describing Campion’s entrance and progress through the headquarters of Xenophon House (the villain’s headquarters), in which Allingham clearly channels Lewis Carroll. In case we missed it, at one point Campion offers to “repeat my journey through the wonder house.”  It’s quite a trip, in any case!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my repeat visit to these books, first read perhaps twenty or thirty years ago. At that time, I don’t believe I fully appreciated the finer points of the Albert Campion character depiction. In those days, I preferred Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey. Now, while still a Sayers fan, I find Lord Peter’s storied erudition a bit smothering. I enthusiastically recommend this boxed Allingham trio.

Review: Witch Miss Seeton by Heron Carvic. Farrago

I am an enthusiastic fan of the Miss Seeton books–especially the early ones by Heron Carvic. This book finds our Miss Seeton being made an official part of the police force, still in her role as occasional sketch artist to help the authorities with particular problems.

This time, there is a double plot at work–one involving black magic, witchery and the occult, and the other centered on a new religious sect called Nuscience whose principal goal seems to be to separate affluent members from their money and valuables. Of course, Miss Seeton find herself involved with both the witches and Nuscience and her duties become quite hazardous.

In truth, I didn’t find this book as laugh-out-loud funny as some other Miss Seeton books I have read recently. The plot is rather intricate and the author becomes enmeshed in a detailed description of both sinister plots and their inner workings. I found this section a bit tedious. Also, a central character is named Merilee (similar to my first name). Perhaps I am oversensitive, but in my experience this name is rarely found in literature, and when it is the character is often a bit off. This book follows that pattern–although this Merilee does redeem herself–at a cost–in the end.

But back to the central character: in the course of her work Miss Seeton serves as a substitute teacher for a short time, and the story of how she interacts with the youngsters, turning their boredom into enthusiasm, is engaging. Since I spent several years as a teacher myself, I particularly enjoyed that aspect of the book.

Once again, Miss Seeton’s helpers–human and angelic–find themselves highly challenged keeping the determined little lady safe. Events are also particularly hard on the brollys–several are destroyed or severely damaged in the course of the story. And once again, Miss Seeton foils the evildoers and emerges from her labors relatively unscathed by her daredevil feats.

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for making this book available for me to read and review.  It is most enjoyable.