Archive | March 2017

Review: Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

In this, the second appearance of “Albert Campion” we are treated to a masterful and sweeping mystery tale in the grandest of grand manners.

 

Mr. Campion is quietly enlisted to the aid of Judge Crowdy Lobbett. It soon becomes apparent that Lobbett’s life is in danger because he knows too much about a notorious underworld organization known only as Simister, which is legendary and known to be ruthless.

 

Judge Lobbett, his son Malcolm and daughter Isopel, are all taken to a remote manor of Mystery Mile for their safety. Arriving at Mystery Mile they are greeted by the (impoverished) lord of the manor, young Giles, and his sister Biddy.

 

Soon the judge goes missing, which is upsetting for Giles and Biddy, while Albert seems oddly sanguine about this turn of events. The seriousness of the situation is offset by the persistent efforts of a purported art expert who wishes to authenticate and sell an artwork for Judge Lobbett. He seems unable to grasp that Giles and Biddy are more concerned about their father’s life than any artwork. But the man is such a stubborn dunderhead that he is tolerated because that is easier than getting him to desist.

 

Bit by bit, the tale unfolds for us, as Allingham tantalizes us with hints that offer glimmers but no real answers. Along the way, we do get glimpses behind the curtain of the “Campion” character and learn fascinating things about him. We have always felt he has Friends in High Places, but it now seems that he is closely connected with a European royal family, and we learn that his first name appears to be Rudolph. There is a suggestion of disinheritance, but there still seems to be access to regal treatment and facilities when the need is great.

 

In reading this book, one is aware of a masterful hand working skillfully on a large elaborate canvas. It is quite exhilarating to experience the creative process as it grows with each chapter we read.

Commentary on the Commenting Process

Today, I removed a post I had made some months ago, a review for a lovely children’s book called Abigail the Whale. I got some favorable responses, and for those I was grateful. But I also got a massive quantity of spam messages. Today, regretfully, I have deleted the Abigal review to turn off the spam machine on this post. For those who really care about the book, I am re-posting the review, below.

Review: Abigail the Whale. Written by Davide Call. Art by Sonja Bougaeva. Owlkids Books

I requested this book from NetGalley because it deals with a pre-teen girl and her anxieties, particularly around her body image. I am a licensed psychotherapist, and I know from years of experience how sensitive girls of this pre-teen and early teen age can be about themselves, and their body image in particular. In the story Abigail’s swimming teacher helps her with her problems through creative visualization technique. I use this very approach–visualization and mindfulness– with my patients, so I looked forward to reading the book.

Indeed, the book offers evocative pictures and conveys the idea of Abigail gaining self-confidence through her thought processes. For that, I can highly recommend it for girls of this particular age group. Abigail is a fortunate girl, to have a caring and wise teacher to guide her. The teacher helps Abigail to learn that “we are what we think”, and urges her to “Try it!” Abigail is a bit skeptical at first, but she is a brave and adventurous girl. She tries her hand at thinking, finding key words such as “light” and “water.” She also learns that whales can do pretty amazing things, like swimming and high diving. She finds that she is actually a–SUPER WHALE!

Good for Abigail! She finds that what she thinks is important, and she can help herself with her life’s challenges. It is very empowering to people of all ages to learn the power they possess to make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others.

 

This is an excellent, attractive and helpful book. I highly recommend it.

My thanks to author, artist, publisher and NetGalley for making a copy of this fine book available for me to read and review. My thanks also to Allison MacLachlan of Owlkids for resolving a question I had.

Blog Tour Review: A Death by Any Other Name: A Mystery, by Tessa Arlen. St. Martin’s Press Minotaur Books.

I am very pleased to be a part of this Tessa Arlen blog tour, reviewing A Death By Any Other Name.

 

This is the second Tessa Arlen mystery I have reviewed that features Lady Montford and her housekeeper Mrs. Jackson, having read and reviewed the previous book, Death Sits Down to Dinner, in March 2016. Written in the style of my favorite Golden Age mysteries, Arlen’s books are richly told tales set in an important historical background.

The book starts with a list of the Dramatis Personae–a feature I have always enjoyed as it gives one a small preview and also can serve as a handy reference for the reader as the plot thickens.

The relationship between Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson is, officially, noble lady and capable housekeeper. Unofficially, they are comrades-in-arms as they pursue the mysteries that they encounter. Arlen manages this role-juggling act for our two leading characters very convincingly.

Tessa Arlen has chosen as the time line for this book the momentous days as the world teeters on the edge of the dangerous precipice that will become known as World War 1. This serves to heighten the drama for the reader, as we are in possession of of a historical perspective that Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson have not yet acquired.

Set against this looming event, the story takes the two ladies to a earnest effort in aid of a cook erroneously considered responsible for the poisoning death of a visitor to her employer’s household. With her professional reputation shattered, her expectations for a successful life are in jeopardy.

Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson find themselves drawn into the world of the Hyde Rose Society, which is about to entertain an important guest persuaded somewhat reluctantly into a judging of tea roses. There is no shortage of intrigue and interesting characters in this story. Once again Ms. Arlen shows herself adept at sprinkling the scene with a tasty selection of best-quality red herrings. In the midst of the drama of the little rose society, and with a world war in the wings, we are thoroughly entertained by this well-drawn story.

As the title suggests, we find, as do our two leading ladies, that a rose by any other name . . .well, you know the rest. The solution is inventive and surprising.

As in Death Sits Down to Dinner, we are furnished with an afterword providing a wealth of historical background for the fictional account we have just enjoyed.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review and to Shailyn Tavella of Minotaur Books for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

Review: The Death of Downton Tabby by Mandy Morton

In my previous review of The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency, I ended by promising to read and review a subsequent book in this relatively new series. This review fulfills that commitment.

 

Ms. Morton has a particular talent for creating tantalizing tales with timely hook-ins, and, since I have been a devoted fan of the PBS series, Downton Alley, I was immediately taken in by the title The Death of Downtown Tabby.

 

Hettie Bagshot and her faithful assistant Tilly are now heading a successful detective agency whose services are retained to provide organization and security for the upcoming literary festival featuring prominent authors including the renowned Downton Tabby.

 

Hettie, Tilly, and their friends work diligently to set up a successful show, and all looks to be in splendid shape for a memorable event.

 

Memorable it proves to be, but not quite for the reasons originally envisioned. Due to a series of unfortunate events, the outcome is more decidedly macabre than was anticipated. The show, however, is a rousing success that one that enhances the reputation of the little feline agency.

 

Ms. Morton seems to have the parameters of her all-feline world well in hand. Once again, we are pleased to witness the eventual positive outcome for Hettie and Tilly although there certainly is a downside for some of the participants. This makes for a lively and quite entertaining story with a refreshing new view.

Review: The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency: A Hettie Bagshot Mystery, by Mandy Morton; St. Martin’s Press Minotaur Books.

Oh my! Where to start? Like quite a few others, I’m a big fan of cat detective stories and have several favorite authors in this area including Rita Mae Brown, Lilian Jackson Braun, Carole Nelson Douglas, and Shirley Rousseau Murphy.

 

All these noted writers feature cats that have humans attached to them in some way; the principal characters do their sleuthing in a world of humans. This book is different. These are two hard-working felines residing and working in a society populated entirely by cats. It’s as though your favorite feline detective writer decided to channel Lewis Carroll (for the through-the-looking-glass qualities of its imaginative world) and Alexander McCall Smith (whose No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency surely provided the inspiration for this book’s title and central pair).

 

The furry detectives, feisty Hettie Bagshot and her loyal but arthritic assistant Tilly Jenkins, are endearing. Reduced to living in a back room and garden shed at a modest rent of two pounds a week, they are clawing for their lives. The goal of their fledgling detective agency is simply to make enough to pay the rent and buy themselves some food.

 

Their big chance comes with a call from Marcia Woolcoat, matron of the Furcross home for slightly older cats. The haughty Marcia has a problem–not so much a missing persons case as a missing bodies case. Their search for solutions takes them into the world of hut cature with some rather macabre findings. How Hettie and Tilly manage to solve this thorny problem and raise their standard of living makes for fascinating reading. The premise (and the puns) are a bit outrageous, but the book is surely laugh-out-loud funny at times.   I liked it so much I ordered another in the series, The Death of Downton Tabby (!). I’ll let you know how that goes. But this book is great fun.

 

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

Review: For Whom the Bread Rolls: A Pancake House Mystery by Sarah Fox. Random House Publishing Group – Alibi

When I reviewed Ms. Fox’s previous book, The Crepes of Wrath, last July, I predicted there would be more. I was right, and For Whom the Bread Rolls is the proof.

 

Once more we have young, spirited Marley McKinney, now an established business owner of the flourishing Pancake House in the seaside town of Wildwood Cove.

 

But there’s trouble in paradise: Marley’s business is the target of vandalism (red paint thrown on the windows) and harassing telephone calls. She knows who is causing this malicious mischief, a disgruntled woman named Ida Winkler. Marley is not one to take this sort of thing quietly, so she sets out to confront Ida with a view to persuading her to cease and desist.

 

The good news is that Marley’s vandalism problem is soon resolved. The bad news is that Ida is found dead and Marley becomes a murder suspect. (means, motive, and opportunity all present)

 

As already noted, Marley is not one to sit quietly and wait. She decides to discover the truth about Ida’s death and also clear her name before her business, her life, and her good name are affected by bad publicity.

 

Marley is aided in her endeavors by her friends and her handsome boyfriend, Brett. She is also kept entertained by her fluffy orange cat Pancake, as well as a rescue puppy that wins her heart; Brett adopts the puppy.

 

Marley runs into other problems in her search for justice. A blackmailer has targeted several people in the little village, and someone is dumping hazardous waste on the beautiful beach. Marley needs the help of all her friends to clear her name, solve the problems, and–oh yes–stay out of danger (not too successful at this last point). Once again the author takes us on a lively journey.

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