Archive | August 2016

Review: Murder at Rough Point by Alyssa Maxwell. Kensington Books.

murder-rough-pointVanderbilt relative and working newspaper reporter Emma Cross is pleased to receive a request from Edith Wharton to attend, in her reporter capacity, a house party at Rough Point, Frederick Vanderbilt’s cliffside dwelling that has been rented out for the occasion.

 

It is a choice gathering of prominent artists, including a Russian ballet dancer turned choreographer, an Italian cellist, a sculptor, and an opera diva. Emma becomes less pleased with the illustrious guest list when she finds her parents also in attendance, as their relationship has become strained.

 

But it’s a job, so Emma sets out on her challenging dual role as guest and writer.   What starts out as an elite meeting of bohemians becomes much more sinister as guest start dying. The first loss appears to be a tragic accident, but as the death toll mounts, there is a rising sense of a malevolent intent at work in the group. The storm grows treacherous; the dwindling gathering finds itself nearly cut off from the outside world. It seems dangerous to stay, and yet nearly impossible to leave. Nerves become frayed, suspicions mount.

 

This is an engrossing story, skillfully told. Historical footnotes at the end offer additional depth.  My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for making an advance copy available for me to read and review.

Review: Miss Seeton Cracks the Case by Hamilton Crane, Heron Carvic. Farrago.

In this episode of the tales of Miss Seeton, we find a rash of busjackings and home invasion robberies. The police are perplexed; the villagers are upset. The village gossip machine is working overtime, fueled in large part by the duo known as The Nuts. Often a side note in previous books they get the attention they so richly earned in this one–but not quite in the ways they had hoped for.

 

Miss Seeton’s unique sketching abilities are called upon but the results appear disappointing both to the police and to the lady herself. The mysterious trio responsible for both bus holdups and home invasions continue their activities, gaining confidence with the continued success of their labors.

 

But in the end, villainous overconfidence meets Miss Seeton and her brolly. Guess who wins?

 

Once again, a delightful read.

 

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for making an advance copy available for me to read and review.

Welcome To My World

Welcome to my new improved (I hope) blog site.  It was a struggle to move content from old site to new, and not everything transferred to the new site.  I haven’t figured out how to format pages to my satisfaction, but I’m working on it.   So please, bear with me if this site does not seem quite what it should be. I’m really hoping it will improve–SOON.

July6_04 copy

©Warren Gibson 2014

Review: Miss Seeton, By Appointment by Hampton Charles. Farrago.

Hampton Charles continues the tradition of Miss Seeton started by Heron Carvic in this book.

Once again Miss Seeton is in fine style, brought in from the sidelines by Scotland Yard to do her part in thwarting a theft. We have a lovely damsel in distress, Wendy Smith newly created as high fashion model “Marigold Naseby” who has been crowned the new Lalique Lady and is scheduled for a lofty fashion shooting by celebrated photographer Cedric Benbow (Miss Seeton’s school chum, Clive Bennett).

But she is targeted by the villainous Sir Sebastian Prothero, and blackmailed into a forced theft of Lalique jewelry. We meet memorably-named characters Wormelow Tump and Ferencz Szabo AKA Frank Taylor, introduced in a previous story–although it seems to me their characters are different in this one? Also, Bob Ranger and the lovely Anne are still engaged in this book, although I believe their wedding was described in (the previous?) book, Advantage Miss Seeton.

But no matter. This is a splendid story, meticulously crafted. The climactic scene where Sir Sebastian gets his well-deserved comeuppance is as exquisitely choreographed as any Busby Berkeley musical. Miss Seeton and her team are so magnificent; one almost feels sorry for the hapless villain. Oh–an added bonus. In the course of the story, Miss Seeton is invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party, where OF COURSE she has a personal meeting with Her Majesty.

Great fun, and most enjoyable reading.   My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for making this book available for me to read and review.  Once again, my pleasure.

Review: The Book of Beloved: Pluto’s Snitch Book 1, by Carolyn Haines. Thomas & Mercer.

belovedIt’s 1920, and school teacher Raissa James, has just received an invitation for a grand house party at her uncle’s Mobile estate, Caoin House. Raissa, just 24 years old, had been widowed by the loss of her husband in the recent war. Raissa decides to accept her uncle’s invitation.

Arriving at the lovely estate, Raissa meets several people: including a young man named Robert Aultman, her uncle and his lady friend Isabelle, and attorney Carlton McKay. Raissa is interested in ghost stories and spiritualism, and is soon enthralled by stories about the past of Caoin House. She sees a mysterious figure that turns out to be the ghost of Eli Whitehead, builder of Caoin House. Raissa learns the tragic story of the death of Eli and his wife and child.

But the party is lively, and Raissa finds herself enjoying her visit–until it is marred by tragedy: the puzzling fall of Robert from the roof of the house. Raissa is drawn into a drama of exploration in which the past and the present seem oddly mingled.

Raissa, with her extraordinary ability to sense ghostly presence, embarks on a journey to deal with the deep hidden secrets of Caoin House and free the restless spirits therein. But for Raissa, danger is close at hand in the present.

This is an enthralling story, the first book in a projected new series. It is a most promising start. My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for making this book available for me to read and review.  It was my pleasure.

Review: Toto’s Tale and True Chronicle of Oz, by Sylvia Patience. Independent Book Publishers Association (BPA) Members Titles

This is an utterly charming book. It is apparently intended as Middle Grade Children’s Fiction. However, as a childhood reader of L. Frank Baum’s original Oz books, I found it a well-told tale that is eminently sensible, written as it is from the view of Dorothy’s tiny but valiant Toto.

We are given a view of Dorothy’s arrival on an orphan train and her adoption by kindly farm wife Em and her husband. Toto, a runt destined for a sad end, escapes his fate, draws Dorothy’s attention at the train station; Dorothy promptly makes Toto part of the adoption deal.

So many sensible things happen in this retelling. The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion all acquire proper names (Jack Straw, Nick Chopper, and Leo the Lion). Another needed addition to the journey of Dorothy and her friends was provision for them to EAT on their journey. I had never thought about it, but of course they all needed fuel to carry out their adventures. Also, this group is remarkably resourceful, and touching in their dedication for mutual cooperation and support. Like the Three Musketeers, it’s “all for one and one for all.” Wicked witches are dealt with, suffering victims are freed from dreadful slavery, and even the flying monkeys are redeemed. Glinda the Good comes through in a matter thoroughly befitting her name.

This is a wonderful book. I recommend it to all who like to read a good story, well told.  My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for making this lovely book available for me to read and review.

Review: The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jeffries. Crown Publishing

This story takes us to a tea plantation in Ceylon in 1925. Lovely newlywed Gwendolyn Hooper, just nineteen years old, arrives at her new home, her husband Laurence’s plantation, a bit bothered–there is no one to meet her when she gets off the ship and she drops her purse with instructions and money, into the ocean. But a fellow passenger, Savi Ravasinghe, helps her find her bearings until her husband meets her.

Apart from the heat, Gwendolyn is enchanted with her new home; the unfamiliar countryside is exotic and beautiful. But small questions start creeping into the story. Her new husband seems to avoid intimacy with her. He discourages her from exploration of the plantation. He is cool to her cousin and best friend when she comes to visit. He seems displeased when he hears the name of Savi, who helped Gwendolyn on her arrival. Then when her sister-in-law Verity comes to visit, the relationship between Verity and Laurence seems uncomfortably close to Gwen, who feels shut out when Verity is there.

In time, though, Gwen gets to know the plantation and its staff. Closeness with her husband is restored, and Gwen is overjoyed when she learns she is expecting their first child. But when she gives birth, everything goes very wrong. Her husband and sister-in-law are away, the doctor does not come, and Gwen and her faithful servant deal with the birth. The story continues, with an anguished Gwen keeping a terrible secret. But, it turns out that she is surrounded with people with secrets.

The author has given us an evocative, heart-wrenching story that is inexorably driven by the customs and beliefs of the settings of time and place. The story is tragic, perhaps in good part because it was preventable if only the persons involved had communicated with one another.

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

Review: Brain Storm by Elaine Viets. Thomas & Mercer.

I was drawn to this book by the description of the central character, Angela Richman, having had a stroke. Since I share that experience, I felt a special kinship with Angela even before I began to read.

The author gives us a view of the story from Angela’s perspective, and it gradually dawns on us that Angela’s view is colored by her stroke-affected brain as well as by the effects of her treatment experiences.

Angela is grievously injured by a stroke that was badly misdiagnosed. She narrowly escapes death, and then wonders if she will ever again be able to practice her profession of death investigator, which relies on her ability for accurate assessment and meticulous description. But she goes forward with impressive determination and courage in spite of it all, and manages to solve the murder of the neurosurgeon who incorrectly diagnosed her.

This is made all the more noteworthy when we learn, in the author’s note at the end of the book, that she in fact experienced and recovered from just such a misdiagnosed stroke experience. The book is well written, with attention to detail and characters. My one small criticism might be that her description of hospital food seems quite a bit worse than what I have encountered in my own not-inconsiderable hospital experiences. Maybe California hospitals have made better progress in the quality of their patient food offerings?

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for making this book available to me.  And my special admiration to the excellent and courageous Ms. Viets.

Review: Cakewalk: A Novel by Rita Mae Brown. Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine

cakewalkWell! I guess I’m late to the Runnymede party. I’ve LOVED Rita Mae Brown’s books for years–especially the Mrs. Murphy and Sister stories. But there seems to be no end to her imagination, inventiveness, or storytelling artistry.  Now, I find, we have the Runnymede stories. Cakewalk is the fourth book set in the charming community of Runnymede, Maryland (with the Mason-Dixon Line running right through it).

It’s 1920. The War to End All Wars is over, Prohibition is in its early days, and women are working hard to get the vote. We have two young sisters, Louise (Wheesie) and Julia (Juts), plus the beautiful, wealthy Celeste Chalfonte, her straight-laced sister Carlotta and BFF’s Fairy and Fannie Jump with lots of adventures. Wheesie is setting the town’s fashion tastes at the Bon Ton and finding her own true love. Juts, in the tenth grade, is engaged in a running battle with an obnoxious schoolmate known as Dimps Junior, getting into battles and scrapes, counting the days till she can leave school.

Celeste is dealing with a new situation–her long-time lover is an expectant mother and marries the baby’s father, leaving Celeste at loose ends. But no problem; Celeste actually surprises others and herself by finding her own handsome antidote.

What is the book about? Life, love, baseball, war, peace, good whiskey, fashion, sex, religion, friendship–all in a rollicking and lively story that just keeps rolling along at a brisk pace. Ms. Brown paints such vivid scenes. Among the more memorable: the moon-jumping cow, the play-by-play of an exciting baseball game, the Runnymede celebration of Magna Carta Day and its vivid, if unladylike, climax. All the while, it’s entertaining, outrageous, thought-provoking, nostalgic, and great fun.

My heartfelt thanks to Rita Mae Brown, the publishers, and NetGalley for making this marvelous book available for me to read and review.