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review 2017-11-18 05:42
Grace to the Finish (Manor House Mystery, #8)
Grace to the Finish - Julie Hyzy

I always enjoy Julie Hyzy's mysteries; as a writer, she doesn't burn a series out with a spectacular book or two, with mediocrity dragging the remaining books down.  Her writing, character development and plotting are even and steady and her series' arcs are a slow burn, rather than a flash in the pan.


Grace to the Finish was actually slightly less about the murder mystery (although that was good too), than it was the resolution to a series long arc concerning her sister.  Hyzy's solution was clever, if a little bit convenient.  The actual mystery was ok, but less a puzzle for the reader to solve than the narrative of the mystery's solution.


With cozy series one can never be sure if the titles aren't a indication of the series' status, so Grace to the Finish could very well be the last book; if so, it ends in a pretty good place without a lot of loose threads left dangling.  But if there's a ninth book, I look forward to it with pleasure.


Book themes for Las Posadas:  Read a book dealing with visits by family or friends, or set in Mexico - Grace has to deal with her sister's return and a visit from her long absent Aunt.  These two are major players in the plot.


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review 2017-10-23 23:41
Death in Dark Blue (Writer's Apprentice Mystery, #2)
Death in Dark Blue - Julia Buckley

The author has done something interesting in this series (for a cozy), making it one you definitely want to read in order.   Each book has its requisite self-contained murder mystery, but there's a much more interesting mystery arcing over several books, concerning an innocent man being accused of murdering his missing wife.


This mystery arc keeps things interesting and kept me reading, even when I thought the MC was way overdoing her hero-worship of her boss (a famous author), which luckily is only at its worst at the very start.  The MC is generally too sunny and optimistic, actually.  I like her, but she seems to be missing depth that comes from the more complex emotions, so that even when she's 'angry' it's impossible to take it seriously.


But those are small characterisation issues; the rest of the mystery is really different and quite interesting.  I love the amount of research the characters involve themselves in as a means of trying to 'investigate', rather than bumbling about interrogating their neighbours. And I really wanted to find out how the multi-book story arc ended, staying up way too late last night in order to do so.  Of course, just when one part ended, another started, guaranteeing a continuation of the intrigue through at least one more book.


LOTS of potential with this series, if the author can continue the great plotting and can tighten up the characters a bit.

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review 2017-10-23 05:31
Pros and Cons (Magical Bookshop Mystery, #2)
Prose and Cons - Amanda Flower

I wavered between 3.5 and 4 stars for this one, but ultimately, I enjoyed reading it, so 4 stars it is.


Amanda Flower is a pseudonym for an author that wrote an Amish series under another name, Isabella Alan, which I started off really liking and ended up being totally fed up with after 4 books. The best part of the series was the protagonists attraction to an Amish man who was, of course, impossible to have.  Beyond that, the plotting and characters just ended up being irritating.


But so far, there's none of that nonsense here; I like the characters, especially the front-running love interest, the sheriff, David Rainwater.  I like the story setup too, with the tree growing through the middle of the bookshop, the crow, the cat and the mystical properties of the nearby spring that brings the bookshop to life.  I love that the bookshop throws books at people.  Seriously, that might be my favourite part of the whole series.


What I do NOT like is the similarity in spinelessness between Violet in this series, and whoever the protagonist was in the Amish series.  I don't admire waffling women (or men), and Violet more than just waffles - or should I say she does less than waffles? - she just doesn't do anything in terms of steering her own life.  The author has setup a love triangle of sorts (why? because we hate them!) and Violet doesn't even want one of the men - a childhood sweetheart - but rather than just tell him to bugger off, she neither does nor says anything. If she doesn't grow a spine, it'll ruin this series.


The mystery plotting was... ok.  I didn't see the murderer at all, but I'm not sure you could say this was written to be a fair play mystery either.  The first in the series touched on Native American mythology, and I love that the author made the sheriff, one of the romantic interests, a Seneca.  I'd have liked a bit more of that in this book.


In general - it has potential.  Make that MC someone worth admiring instead of a noodly, passive aggressive character that lets men push her around, and the author will be onto a solid cozy series that could be a lot of fun.

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review 2017-10-19 08:23
Blunt Instrument
A Blunt Instrument - Georgette Heyer

Here's the thing about most Golden Age mysteries:  the puzzle is all.  No matter how witty or clever or brilliant the writing is, it's almost never about the characters themselves, but about the murder mystery puzzle.  Which is, of course, why I read mysteries; I love the puzzle and I love trying to solve it.  But unfortunately, if the reader does solve the murder/puzzle, there's not a lot of characterisation to fall back on; solve the puzzle and the remaining story can be tedious.


I solved this one on page 88-89.  I don't think I did anything particularly clever, just that a certain passage hit me a certain way and it all became clear to me.  The only thing I ended up getting wrong was the relation of the murderer to one of the characters and then only because I imagined the murderer to be the wrong age.


I didn't dnf, or skip to the end to see if I was correct solely because, when Heyer is 'on' with her writing she is on, and this is one of her better writing efforts, even if the plotting went astray (and I've found out her mysteries were all plotted by her husband).  The story behind the mystery plot is a farce and Heyer thoroughly caricatures everyone except Hannasyde.  The dialog was electric and even though I was thoroughly impatient with Neville at the start, I thought him wildly entertaining by the end.  I wanted to keep reading just to see what he'd say and do next. 


So, 2 stars for the plotting because... page 89.  There was never any doubt on my part that I was wrong.  But an extra star because the characters are Heyer at her wittiest and most hilarious.

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review 2017-10-18 06:41
The Mystery of the Lost C├ęzanne (Verlaque and Bonnet, #5)
The Mystery of the Lost Cezanne - M.L. Longworth

Something went wrong somewhere in this book, and I don't know what it was or where it happened.  Ok, yes, I know where part of it went wrong; I knew who the murderer was reaching page 80, but that shouldn't have mattered much to my overall enjoyment.


The book is about the discovery of a lost painting of Cézanne's, which right away I love; I even enjoy the flashback POV chapters, a device that I'm at best ambivalent about.  The setting is Aix en Provence and it sounds as wonderful as it always has in Longworth's books, and Verlaque and Bonnet get more and more likeable with each book.  


But at some point after about 2/3 of the way through, it fizzled.  I don't like to say it's because there was no perilous climax, but it might be.  Everything was tied up neatly at the end, but it still felt unfinished, or more accurately, un-satisfying. 


Still an enjoyable read I always wanted to get back to, but not nearly as well constructed as the previous 4.

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