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review 2017-02-23 04:17
The White Cottage Mystery
The White Cottage Mystery - Margery Allingham

My first Allingham, and fittingly, her first too.  Definitely not my last.  

 

DCI Challenor's son is on his way home to London one evening when he sees a young woman stepping off the bus with a heavy load and stops to offer her a ride to her home.  Moments after leaving her there, he and the local constable hear the rapport of a shotgun and on returning find a man most definitely dead and a hallway full of suspects.

 

This is a very short read, relative to today's average mystery, coming in at just 157 pages.  But it's a fast-paced 157 pages and Allingham dispenses with anything monotonous or that might smack of filler.  The timeline jumps from one paragraph to another; sometimes by just a few hours, sometimes a few days, towards the end, a few years.  This might really aggravate some readers but if you're familiar with Golden Age mysteries, you won't find it unusual.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed it; so much so that it was 1am when I finally shut the light off, having finished the entire book in one sitting.  She had me guessing the entire way through, and not once did I come close.  I found DCI Challenor's advice at the end appalling; it would never fly in our time, but in the age it was written, it would have been standard.

 

A very good mystery and from my first peek, I'd say Allingham is under valued as a master of mystery, but to be sure, I'll have to read a few more - as soon as possible.

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review 2017-02-16 06:47
Better Late Than Never (Library Lovers' Mystery, #7)
Better Late Than Never - Jenn McKinlay

McKinlay has to be the most inconsistent writer to have ever graced my shelves.  She creates fantastic, likeable characters, and then proceeds to play with them like a disturbed child pulling wings off of flies.

 

If someone purporting to love you, or at least be infatuated enough to want to pursue you, isn't listening while you repeatedly say "no, I'm not going to date you", it's not charming, even if he's British.  Making your normally intelligent, independent MC constantly roll over and accept not being listened to and laughing each time her feelings are dismissed isn't anything to be proud of either.  Mixed messages much?

 

"She was just lying there, with her arms crossed over her chest and her feet crossed at the ankles, looking perfectly peaceful - almost as if she was taking a nap."

 

Not if she was strangled, she wasn't.  Suffocation and strangulation are entirely different deaths and strangulation is never pretty.  This isn't an obscure fact; McKinlay was either wilfully ignorant or lazy.

 

Her plot twists weren't subtle, neither was her plotting.  In quite a few areas, the narration was unnatural and stilted; people don't talk like this is real life.

 

She did two things right, for which I'm happy to give each a star:  the love triangle is resolved, and boy howdy, McKinlay should stick to romance.  The moments between Lindsay and *ahem* almost made reading the book worthwhile all on their own.  The chemistry was palpable.  

 

She also ends this book with Lindsay swearing off sleuthing for good.  I don't know if this is the end of the series or just a weird cliffhanger-ish thing, but either way, it gives me the perfect opportunity to stop reading this series, always hoping in vain for improvement - for which I am heartily thankful.

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review 2017-02-11 07:24
The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle (Book Club Mystery, #2)
The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle - Laura DiSilverio

I read the first in this series without high hopes, frankly, and I was pleasantly surprised by it.  It had great characters, with a strong focus on friendships and family, and I really liked the chemistry between the MC Amy-Faye, and Detective Hart.

 

This second entry still has all of that - including the great chemistry - and those are the things that carried the story for me.  I've read enough cozies now that it's impossible to not feel weary when certain over-used tropes are trotted out, and the family/friend in peril is one of the most threadbare.  Still, I could have over-looked it (because there really are only so many reasons a girl can get herself involved in a murder mystery) but plots that involve the amateur detective and her friends running "investigations" that involve questioning suspects always make me roll my eyes.  I always end up with the sense that these characters are playing dress-up and make-believe.

 

Still, if a cozy fits the mood, there's at least as much to like as there isn't.  DiSilverio can write well, and it's one of the better edited books I've read (especially from Penguin) in awhile.

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review 2017-01-14 06:33
Tangled Up in Brew (Brewing Trouble Mystery, #2)
Tangled Up in Brew - Joyce Tremel

The downside to first person present:  it's way too easy for the author to spend an insane amount of time inside the MC's head.  At least 40% of this book is internal dialogue.  

 

The other 60% was just ok.  Nothing exciting but nothing eye-rolling either.  The murder mystery was crafted with good intent, but the actions of one of the characters was just too obvious.

 

The first book had me really interested in the MC and her family and friends but there's no development in this one and it left me feeling ambivalent.  I doubt I'll make much of an effort to buy the third book.

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review 2017-01-08 22:58
By Familiar Means (A Witch's Cat Mystery, #2)
By Familiar Means - Delia James

Not bad, not great.  Nothing new, but pleasantly written with genuinely nice characters.  Annabelle's grandmother is in town and she gets involved in the 'mystery' of course.  She sometimes skirts the bleeding edge of what's fast becoming a 'grandma' trope in cozies: an 80 year old with the body of a 60 year old and the maturity of a 20 year old.  There's a love triangle brewing too - not once has it been articulated, but you just know it's there, lurking.

 

Annabelle takes on a mural commission and while touring the new premises, finds a secret tunnel with a dead body.  Because it's not really a secret tunnel unless there's a dead body.

 

The mystery plotting was...ok.  I'm not sure anymore if whodunits are just being poorly plotted and written, or if the new trend is to make it obvious who the bad guys are, but keep the reader guessing as to which bad guy actually did the deed.  If this were real life the culprits would have been labelled inept before page 50.  Even in print, the false leads were weak beyond belief and the arrest made no sense.

 

But even so, this wasn't an unenjoyable read.  It was light and relaxing; I just won't go crazy for the next one.

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