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review 2018-10-22 00:30
The Man on the Washing Machine (Theo Bogart Mystery, #1)
The Man on the Washing Machine - Susan Cox

Another Bouchercon find, although I think I might have had this title on my "Maybe" list for awhile a few years back.  If it was, it was because the title intrigued me, but I didn't get a strong enough vibe from the blurb to commit.  Susan Cox was one of the participants in Bouchercon's Author Speed Dating event, and my interest was renewed.

 

I liked it, and I'm interested in reading the next one, but my enjoyment wasn't without reservations.  Either Cox's writing style and I were not in sync, or it was poorly edited before going to print.  This is one of those situations where it could go either way: Cox's style is a bit loose and free form, so I often felt like the MC, Theo's, thoughts jumped around, or she made connections without a clear line of reasoning, or - and I'm blaming the editing for this one in particular - there would be an abrupt change of narrative topic or scene.

 

Otherwise, it had great bones.  Theo is hard to warm to, but she's in hiding, so maybe her need to stay detached extends to the reader too (the POV is first first past, or after-the-fact).  But the San Francisco neighborhood, and most of the characters involved in the mystery, come alive.  

 

The story starts with a man pushed out of a window and before it's all solved, there are smugglers, compost-obsessed-gardeners, machetes, a suspiciously-acting possible love interest, and yes, a man on a washing machine.  It all ties together in the end, sort of.  Mostly.

 

This is a first novel as well as a first in a series, and frankly, it shows.  The narrative could have flowed better, the plot could have been tighter, more cohesive.  But as I said, it has good bones, and there's a lot of potential in this odd but glorious neighbourhood Susan Cox has created.  I definitely want to see where she takes it.

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review 2018-10-08 09:12
Murder at an Irish Wedding (Irish Village Mystery, #2)
Murder at an Irish Wedding - Carlene O'Connor

I received this for fee at Bouchercon, and I'm pretty sure I met and liked the author.  Unfortunately, I can't say the same about the book.

 

It's the second in the series, and I've not read the first, so maybe there's some second book syndrome at play here, but mostly, it was the MC I just didn't click with. At all.  She's pushy, nosey and for someone who claims to not being a liar, lies an awful lot, be in a lie of omission, misrepresentation, or blatant untruth.  Some writers can take a character like this and make them likeable, or grudgingly admirable, but that failed to happen with Siobhán.  She just appeared incredibly immature.  How she maintains any relationship with her love interest, a member of the local garda, when she's so blatantly disrespectful of him and his responsibilities is a wonder.

 

What I did like was the setting: a small Irish village, one of the few remaining that are walled.  Some of the secondary characters were charming, and the mystery plot had a lot of potential.  Actually, the mystery plot was pretty good; I didn't guess the murderer at all, so the author completely fooled me.  I also appreciate that the author does the 'right thing' at the end of the book:  Siobhán signs up for the garda (or, presumably, enrols in the proper training course).  Maturity seems to be arriving in book three, though I'll just have to take the ending of this one at face value.  My TBR is too high to take chances on reading another.

 

I read this for the Murder in a Small Town square in Halloween Book Bingo.

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review 2018-10-01 11:36
A Room with a Brew (Brewing Trouble Mystery, #3)
A Room with a Brew - Joyce Tremel

This series started out promising, but this third one fell flat for me.  Way too much exposition, a lot of irrelevant, and a general feeling of friendships that are forced onto each other.  The latter is probably more my introverted reaction to people getting into each other's business.

 

In the course of plans for a weekend Oktoberfest celebration at her brew put, Max and her friends go out to listen to the band she's hired.  In the course of the evening one of the band members pulls the "haven't we met before?" on Max's friend Candy.  The next day, another band member calls Max claiming he has to talk to her in person to share important information, but he's killed before they meet.   

 

The bones of the mystery are good; really good, as a matter of fact.  But the ... flesh of the story was too outlandish.  Candy's backstory could have been believable, but it was too heavy handed and it tarnished an interesting and believable plot.  Even the purpose of that fateful phone call was plausible, but it got lost in all the cloak and dagger.

 

I read this for the Amateur Sleuth square in Halloween Bingo.

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review 2018-10-01 05:42
The Grub-and-Stakers Quilt a Bee
The Grub-and-Stakers Quilt a Bee - Alisa Craig

Years and years ago, I picked up one of the Grub and Stakers books, House a Haunt because of the quirky name and the allusion to a ghost story.  I remember having to make myself finish it (I did that back then), but I couldn't remember why; it must have held some attractions because when I saw several for sale in the book room at Bouchercon, I bought them.

 

Now I remember why I had to make myself finish. But I don't know that it's because the books are bad, or if, as I suspect, it's because they're meant to be a type of satire/humor that I'm not primed for.  Alisa Craig is, after all, Charlotte Macleod, an author with more than a few awards and lifetime achievement honors under her belt. 

 

I've never read (that I can remember) anything else by Macleod, but these are written with tongue so firmly in cheek, it's silly.  The characters are over-the-top in a grandiose fashion.  A random opening of the book brings this example of the narrative style:

 

"I should hope so, egad," Arethusa replied. "I shall sit mumchance at the sideboard, like the twenty-ninth of February."

 

or

 

"I have speculated, Dittany. I have also remarked the absence of smudges, stains, or deposits of bird droppings on his garments despite the fact that yon aforementioned ledges have visibly served as roosting places for our feathered friends for, lo, these many decades. I have concluded that it would have taken a degree of ingenuity, agility, and persistence most remarkable in an elderly man of sedentary habit and scholarly inclination for Mr. Fairfield to have accomplished such a feat."

Most of that painful verbosity comes from two characters, a Regency Romance author, played to the hilt of stereotype in that way that usually the Brits do better than anyone, and the Sergeant, a Scotsman.  Another character is a famous author of westerns and he is also played to the hilt of stereotype.  

 

And it is hilarious - the book - on the whole, and the mystery was really clever.  But it was often a slog getting through all that florid writing.  If this book doesn't hold the record for the most occurrences of "forsooth" it must surely be a contender.  The thing is, there's genius here; if Monty Python wrote a cozy, it surely would look a lot like this.

 

I read this book for the Cozy Mystery square in Halloween Bingo.

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review 2018-09-23 02:48
Hollywood Homicide (Detective by Day Mystery, #1)
Hollywood Homicide - Kellye Garrett

This was a freebie I received at Bouchercon 2018 (the author was there, but I never met her and have no obligation to her or Midnight Ink).   When I saw this on the freebie table, I immediately grabbed it because it was obviously a cozy mystery, the first in a new series, and I've been looking for new series.  It was also an obvious fit for for the bingo Diverse Authors square and the back of the book made it sound like a great read right up my alley.  It was ticking all the boxes.

 

Ok, so maybe not quite all the boxes, as it turns out. There was a lot to like in this book and I think Garrett has found a unique niche for Day's investigations - the refreshingly mercenary angle of "doing it for the money", i.e. investigating the crimes the police are offering reward money for.   But there were also a few things that dragged the story down and left me feeling less than enthusiastic.  

 

What I didn't like:

The story was too long and the pace dragged.  Every scene was just too detailed and long.  A tighter editing process would, I think, have helped a lot without losing any of the story and it would have given the book a snappier pace.

 

One of the characters, the brains/girl with all the cool gadgets, spoke in text speak.  All the time.  Do people actually speak in text speak?  Because if those people actually exist, they should be smacked about until read words come out of their mouths.  It was annoying as hell reading it; I can't imagine remaining calm if someone started speaking it to me.

 

Slightly less annoying, although only because it's such a frequent device I've become numb to it over time, is the MC never seeing a conclusion she wasn't ready to jump to.  At least the author set her up to do it with a believable amount of desperation as a motivation.

 

What I did like were all the strong female characters; even the shallow ones were likeable and the friendships came across as believable and relatable.  I liked Day, the MC, too.  Her life is a mess, but she knows it; she has her head on straight, and even though she has a few too many TSTL moments, I found myself cheering her on.  I liked the plot too, though it would have been so much better for having had a tighter editing and fewer conclusion jumps.  As a reader, I should never lose count of how many people the protagonist has accused of a crime.

 

Overall, I think the author has a lot of talent for writing mysteries with a solid cast of characters.  A stronger editing would have made this a much better book though, and ffs, lose the text speak.

 

I read this for the Diverse Voices Square for Halloween Bingo.

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