Archive | June 2017

Review: The Queen’s Accomplice: A Maggie Hope Mystery, by Susan Elia Macneal. Kindle Edition, Bantam Books.

As I have greatly enjoyed all the previous Maggie Hope stories, I was looking forward to this one–and it did not disappoint.

 

What a story! Or, what a bunch of stories–because there are several threads spun simultaneously by the author. There is the story of Maggie helping to solve the brutal case of a WWII-era Jack the Ripper type, identified here as “the Blackout Beast” as he targets young working women in London. But there is also the story of Maggie’s half-sister Elise, a prisoner in Nazi Germany, the story of her friend and her new adorable new baby, the preparation of a pair of Maggie’s colleagues for a dangerous mission in occupied France, and the varied appearances of Maggie’s mother, father, and stepfather.

 

This book held my attention from the start and I finished it in record time as I found it difficult to put down. There is much that in sobering in this story of brave people dealing with the terrible realities of World War II. It is not a story for the faint of heart, as suffering and brutality are as prominent as the heroism of some characters and the evildoing of others. We are made to feel some of the ambivalence faced by people trying to survive this awful period in our history.

 

I did give this book 5 stars, because it is so brilliantly plotted and excellently presented. But it certainly is not what I would call a “cozy” mystery, but rather one that is sobering and thought-provoking.

 

Review: The Trouble With Harriet, An Ellie Haskell Mystery by Dorothy Cannell. Random House Publishing Group – Alibi

I’m a staunch fan of Dorothy Cannell’s Ellie Haskell mysteries, so it was my pleasure to re-read and review this book.

 

But reviewing it presents problems–how to review without using any spoilers? That is a challenge.

 

Well, to start from the title, Harriet certainly causes trouble from the moment she appears in this story. Ellie and Ben are just about to leave for a romantic holiday when Ellie’s long-lost father Morley appears. Furthermore, he has Harriet with him. More or less. That is, Morley produces an urn carrying the ashes of his late beloved Harriet.

 

The vacation is off, and the plot thickens when the urn goes missing. In addition, Ellie is puzzled by a Gypsy fortuneteller’s appearance on the scene uttering dire warnings.

 

The story is full of twists and turns, things that are not as they seem, and more. Cannell weaves all this into an entertaining and witty story that leaves us following Ellie and company all the way through to the turbulent end. As always, great fun.

 

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

Review: More Work for the Undertaker (A Campion Mystery) by Margery Allingham. Kindle Edition, Ipso Books

I am an unabashed admirer of Margery Allingham’s work, and this is one of her most splendid, in many respects.

 

For starters, it gives us some important clues into just who “Albert Campion” really is. The War (WWII) is over, and Campion is in line to become Governor of some unnamed island. We are told that finally, the man is offered something “even his grandfather” would consider suitable. And his man Lugg refers to Albert as “the young viscount” at one point. All this is by way of reminding us the exalted position that the unassuming Albert apparently holds in abeyance.

 

Then there are the characters we meet. Of course there is the splendid Lugg (of whom we learn a little more about in the course of the story). There are the Scotland Yard folks, notably the Chief Stanislaus Oates, Superintendent Yeo and the young, brilliant D. D. I. Charles Luke (again, we learn quite a bit more about Luke here). The Lady Amanda, Albert’s spouse, has an important cameo role and in a way is given the opportunity for the last word (always satisfying, don’t you think?”

 

The new and indelibly memorable characters belong to the eccentric Palinode family. Allingham outdoes herself in her depiction of characters at once extremely odd, unaccountably appealing, and uncommonly intelligent. Then there is the undertaker (Jas Bowles & Son), a creation any author would be proud to claim.

 

The story itself full of momentous happenings, poisonings, anonymous letters, a magnificent coffin that appears and disappears seemingly at will, a sizeable but apparently worthless inheritance, and a case that Scotland Yard wants very much to solve–quietly and quickly.

 

This is a fun, adventurous and challenging read from beginning to end.

Review: Overcoming Fear and Anxiety Through Spiritual Warfare, by Carol Peters-Tanksley MD DMin. Charisma House.

As a practicing psychotherapist, I know how patients with symptoms of anxiety and fear welcome help. So, I was very interested in reading what Dr. Peters-Tanksley (“Dr. Carol”) had to say.

 

In many ways this is a most excellent book. It is well organized, and the author clearly writes from a strong background in both medicine and spiritual matters. The book is in three parts. Part I, The Problem of Fear and Anxiety, has much sound information to impart to troubled readers. Part II turns to scriptural aspects with “What the Bible Says”. This quotes numerous Biblical passages on the subject of fear and anxiety, which would likely be most welcome to the committed Christian reader. It is part III that sets this book apart from most other self-help books. Titled “Strategies of Spiritual Warfare to Defeat Fear and Anxiety” this section calls the reader to a deep commitment of faith.

 

The subject of spiritual warfare is addressed, with a set of strategies for the believer to use in combating fear and anxiety. Now, in this section, I feel a need to be cautious. As Dr. Carol herself says, “there is significant danger in discussing techniques of spiritual warfare” and in another place she notes that the subject is not without its dangers.

 

This is a book for the committed Christian, and I would recommend that it be approached with close and careful reading. I would also suggest having a support system in place. Possibly a church might form a group led by a qualified person to assist those ready to embark on the deeply challenging road set forth here by Dr. Carol. I would also suggest the reader carefully note Dr. Carol’s admonishment that it might be necessary to call upon professional resources, spiritual, medical, and psychological. In my opinion, this is not a book for the weak or fragile to deal with on their own.

Review: James the Connoisseur Cat: A Novel, by Harriet Hahn. Kindle Edition. Open Road Media.

Well, I am a long-time cat person, so I was intrigued by this title as well as James’ portrait on the cover.

 

I soon was charmed by the British silver-grey cat named James and his good friends who introduce him to the good life (which he embraces wholeheartedly). Not sure my veterinarian would approve of James’ penchant for saucers of single-malt whiskey or his taste for gourmet ultra-rich foods. But this is a light-hearted book, so if you take it in that spirit and you like cats, this is a charming read.

 

It’s true that some of James’ exploits strain credibility. But at least the author does not have James actually talking to people, as is the case in some detective stories featuring feline sleuths.

 

If you like cats, and just want a little light reading with some amusing moments, this is a good book for you. I enjoyed it, although it’s true that the story is a little thin on plot and drama.

 

I gave it five stars because, as noted above, I am a cat person and I found this a fun read. Someone who is not a cat person would likely not be amused for long, and would probably award fewer stars.