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review 2018-04-19 11:29
Dead Calm (Mattie Winston, #9)
Dead Calm - Annelise Ryan

With the exception of one book, this has always been a strong series; it started off a bit slapstick, as the MC, Mattie, had one Stephanie Plum-like disaster after another, but this was quickly tamped down and the humor became much more subtle.


I started off impatient with Dead Calm because there was an obscene amount of info dumping going on at the start, far more than usual.  I was just about getting fed up when I remembered that the last book left off in the midst of a larger murder mystery (not a cliff hanger though) and this was the author's way of picking that story up and continuing with it, while also introducing new murders to be solved in parallel.


Once I got past all that, it was great; the murder mystery confined to this book was excellent and boy, I did not see that end coming.  The larger story arc was wrapped up beautifully too; nobody trying to be heroes and unrealistically saving the day, but justice prevails nonetheless; I like that Mattie and Hurley recognised that the case was bigger than their capabilities, and I thought their solution clever and realistic.  A smaller sub-plot, concerning an alien skeleton found on property Mattie and Hurley are trying to build on, started off silly but the solution was heartbreaking and touching.


This is just a good book (aside from the info dumping; it was necessary, but annoying).  I enjoy reading a mystery that involves true investigation, collecting the evidence and putting things together to build toward a solution. I hope Ryan can keep it going.

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review 2018-04-18 09:02
The Secrets of the Bastide Blanche (Verlaque and Bonnet Mystery, #7)
The Secrets of the Bastide Blanche - M.L. Longworth

A departure from the format of the first 6 mysteries, I had doubts at first (as always), but it's possibly one of the best in the series.


Longworth tells this story from two angles, a few months apart.  One is set over a dinner in NYC, between an editor and a world famous, Nobel-level author, ostensibly discussing the possibility of the great man's newest book, a memoir.  But over dinner, at the editor's prompting, he tells the story of events that took place 3 months previously, in France.  The second angle is set 3 months back in time, focussing on Verlaque, Bonnet and Paulik as they find themselves in the middle of events as they unfolded.


The events surrounding the author's purchase of the Bastide Blanche are the culmination of several past events and include haunting, gaslighting, kidnapping, and a missing woman.  Verlaque and Bonnet each delve into different parts of the house's  - and the author's - histories to try to untangle the mess of events.


Longworth created a story to get lost in; one of those where I should probably have liked some of the characters a lot less than I did.  It was well plotted, bringing an end that even though it was foreshadowed early on, was both unexpected and tragic for almost everyone.  My only complaint was a sketchy resolution concerning the house's history; the reader gets enough to fill in the broad strokes, but I'd have liked to have known how much of the legend was real: was anyone buried in the basement?  (not a spoiler, btw)  But I did particularly like the ending, the editor's advice to the author; yes, there was a mercenary aspect to it, but truth, redemption and justice won too.


An excellent cozy series that isn't anything like cute and fluffy, but rather intelligent and well-written, and one that seems to be getting better as it goes.  

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review 2018-04-05 02:25
The Importance of Being Urnest (Maggy Thorsen mystery, #10)
Importance of Being Urnest - Sandra Balzo

This series is one of my quiet champions; nothing flashy, nothing mind-blowing, but always solid writing, intelligent plotting and biting wit.  There's nothing cutesy or trendy about this series.  I am solidly in its demographic and just enjoy the dialogue, the plotting, the friendships, even the romance (what there is of it).


This book swirls around several different events: a shoot-out that leaves Maggy's boyfriend (also the Sheriff) injured; the unfortunate death of an elderly lady who had just been in Maggy's coffeeshop; the social drama surrounding the local assisted living; a friend's new job at the mortuary and crematorium.  There's a very obvious bad guy in the mix but how it all comes together in the end was cleverly done.


I'm not sure what else I can say except I'm looking forward to more. 


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review 2018-04-03 08:10
Comic Sans Murder (Dangerous Type, #3)
Comic Sans Murder - Paige Shelton

I always enjoy Paige Shelton's cozies.  She write a great backdrop, mostly interesting characters, if sometimes a little, tiny bit wooden, and generally plots a decent mystery.  This is the third series of hers I've read, I think, and though I liked the characters in her ghost series better, the setting for this series is my favorite so far.  A shop that focuses on all things related to traditional printing: a replica Gutenberg press, bespoke stationary, book and typewriter repairs.  Set in a ski resort town in Utah.  It just sounds like an amazing way to earn a living.


The mystery in this one should have been obvious to me, but somehow it wasn't.  I might not have been paying attention, or it might've been just good writing on Shelton's part.  I'm inclined to give her the credit.  A solid, dependable series in the cozy genre.

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review 2018-03-21 06:18
The Fast and the Furriest (Second Chance Cat Mystery, #5)
The Fast and the Furriest - Sofie Ryan

There was something about this book; I enjoyed it more than the last one, even though Ryan used more than a couple tried and true tropes.  Somehow she just made it work.


Sarah's friend and employee Mac, he of the simmering romantic tension and secret past, has just had his past come to visit.  When her dead body is found, Mac is, of course, the prime suspect.  Sarah's grandmother's friends kick in to gear to help dig Mac out of being rail-roaded for a crime he didn't commit.


As I said, tropes galore.  But Ryan makes subtle choices that perhaps make the story work: the seniors that investigate are actually licensed private detectives (or at least, one of them is, and the rest are legitimately working with him) and they always cooperate with law enforcement.  That's not to say there aren't a few moments where belief must be suspended (the final scene comes to mind), but for the most part, this isn't some insane slapstick caper.


I've been head down in a lot of historical fiction and popular science lately, and this was a nice, light break that offered a well plotted mystery to boot.  Just what I needed.

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