Archive | February 2017

Review: Elementary, She Read: A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery by Vicki Delany. Crooked Lane Books

Once again Sherlock Holmes lends his presence to a tale–but with a difference.

 

Sherlock is actually nowhere in evidence. What we do have is transplanted English businesswoman Gemma Doyle (a distant relation of Sir A?) who co-owns the Sherlock Holmes Bookstore (at 222 Baker Street–but in West London on Cape Cod). Moriarty is also on hand, in the person of the cantankerous bookshop cat, who is charming to all except Gemma.

 

We are soon caught up in an intriguing tale of a suspicious death coupled with the appearance of an ultra-rare and valuable Sherlock magazine. Gemma, who is endowed with some of the great detective’s perceptive talents, finds herself a suspect in the case. She and her good friend Jayne (of the next-door Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room) are obliged to follow a circuitous path to unravel the mystery piece by piece. This is an absorbing and cleverly-plotted book.  My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: Miss Seeton’s Finest Hour, by Hamilton Crane, Heron Carvic. Farrago.

Peanuts creator Charles Schulz is credited with saying; “A cartoonist is someone who has to draw the same thing day after day without repeating himself.” I suppose something like that could be said of an author writing one in a series of books, especially when that author is continuing work initially created by another writer. In any case, Hamilton Crane has created quite a few books in the Miss Seeton series; in this latest one the author departs from the customary by taking us into the past: 1940 at the early days of World War II when England was being exhorted by Winston Churchill to give their best.

 

We learn interesting things about Miss Seeton’s past. For one thing, her father was a World War I veteran who was awarded the Victoria Cross; we also meet her kindly mother.

 

In these earlier days, we don’t have our usual cast of characters nor our usual story location. Scotland Yard man Delphick has not yet crossed Miss Seaton’s horizon, and she has not been the recipient of a home in Plummergen, so we don’t have that gossip mill to content with. But even at this early date, her unique talents for drawing do not go unnoticed as England looks to its citizens for their maximum war effort.

 

This is an exciting story, imbued with historical importance as we glimpse, indeed, young Miss Seeton’s finest hour.

Review: Bonjour, Miss Seeton, by Hamilton Crane, Heron Carvic. Farrago.

This book starts with a cliffhanger prologue: an untimely death at the home of Mrs. Blaine and Miss Nuttel (the pair generally known as “the Nuts” in the village). The book, then, goes back two weeks to catch us up. So at the end of Chapter One, we are all attention to find out just what happened, and to whom.

 

Actually, there is quite a lot going on. Plummergen is abuzz with activity, preparing for a competition with archrival Murrystone , in a charity fundraiser bulldozer race at the entrance of the Chunnel, under construction. Also, the Nuts have a visitor, Mrs. Blaine’s cousin Ada. Given the book’s title, one might guess that there is a French connection: the village schoolchildren are to go on a field trip to visit historic locations in France, and Miss Seeton is asked to accompany the students and guide them in their pursuit of knowledge. Miss Seeton, herself, is hoping that the trip can include the gardens featured in Monet’s work.

 

Miss Seeton surely has good luck in meeting the noble and royal (remember her chance meeting with Her Majesty at a Palace garden party). Once in France, while trying to view and sketch the Money gardens, Emily Seeton encounters the charming Comte de Balivernes, who owns the historic site. The Comte is charmed, and offers Miss S. her own custom tour of his beautiful estate.

 

This story has it all: a murder mystery, village happenings and the ever-active gossip mill, and also more than a slight share of romance. Young Nigel Colveden, charmed in several previous books by eligible young ladies, meets one more, the lovely Louise, daughter of the Comte. More surprisingly, romance blooms for Miss Seeton. This is a varied and entertaining tale.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: Sweet Miss Seeton, by Hamilton Crane, Heron Carvic. Farrago.

Chocolate and Miss Seeton. Two of my favorite things, and they come together in this book.

 

The pretentious artist Antony Scarlett has outraged many with his unusual art endeavors, quite a few involving chocolate and/or other edibles. Miss Seeton even goes to his latest showing and tries to find the art in Scarlet’s work. But her stalwart sweet nature and patience are pushed a bridge too far by Scarlet’s latest plan.

 

His grand scheme involves chocolate–a lot of it–and Miss Seeton’s cottage, which he proposes to purchase. His plan: turn the cottage into a life-sized, ultimately disposable chocolate mold by flooding it with chocolate, letting it harden, then removing the cottage to reveal its chocolate Doppelganger.

 

Not surprisingly, Miss Seeton says no. She is obliged to say it repeatedly as Mr. Scarlet is determined not to be deterred from his scheme.

 

Other elements of the story involve the sad fate of several worthy elderly residents, and a fraudulent construction scheme. Add a beautiful redhead, Tina Holloway, herself a (truly) talented artist whose beauty catches the eye of young Nigel Colveden.

 

It’s odd, though. With all these great elements, for me the book goes wrong somewhere. I’ve read all the Miss Seeton books in the series, and have been enthusiastic about them. But I’m sorry, I didn’t like how this one ended. For all that chocolate, and notwithstanding the title, the ending is bittersweet at best.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

 

Review: Every Trick in the Rook: A Birds of a Feather Mystery, by Marty Wingate. Random House Publishing Group – Alibi.

You gotta love a book that starts with a pair of brawling asparagus farmers. The whole first chapter is just charming. Julia Lanchester, manager of an estate tourist center, and her ornithologist boyfriend Michael, are preparing for a long-awaited weekend. Julia also meets a winsome 11-year old, Tennyson and her talented and personable rook, Alfie. Then Julia and Michael are off for their weekend.

 

But their plans are rudely cut short when the police request their presence. It seems Julia’s ex-husband has been found dead on the estate grounds under mysterious circumstances. The lovely weekend suddenly comes unraveled, and Julia’s life gets a lot more complicated.

 

For one thing, Michael decides it would be better if he and Julia weren’t together, so he leaves. Julia loses her main support, her carefully structured world comes apart piece by piece, her schedule becomes impossibly crowded, and unsettling events leave Julia with jangled nerves and a police presence for her security.

 

This is an endearing story, despite the negative events, due to the presence of Alfie and Tennyson. I didn’t know much about rooks, so had to look them up online. Turns out they are similar to crows, but not found in North America. They are considered quite intelligent (Alfie certainly is). How Julia finds her way through all this is an engrossing and inventive.

 

Does Julia solve the mystery? Does Michael return? What happens to Alfie, Tennyson and Temnyson’s mother? The answers lie within.

 

I am fast becoming a Marty Wingate fan. This is the second book of hers I have gotten through NetGalley; the first was The Bluebonnet Betrayal. Turns out, Marty is as entertaining with bird stories as she is with flower stories!  My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy for me to read and review.

Review: The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, by Lyndsay Faye. Grove Atlantic Mysterious Press: Mystery & Thrillers

Arthur Conan Doyle created an indelible character is Sherlock Holmes, one that has provided inspiration for quite a number of later writers. Notable among these is Lyndsay Faye, who offers here a fine collection of Holmes’ “lost” mysteries. These span the whole of the great detective’s career, from his earliest days onward. For any Sherlock fan, this is a banquet of fine reading; most enjoyable.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and revies.