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review 2017-12-08 22:25
Death Comes to the School (Kurland St. Mary Mystery, #4)
Death Comes to the School - Catherine Lloyd

I caught a cold a few weeks ago that I thought I'd kicked to the curb after only 4 days, only to have it come raging back a week later in the form of a cough that will. not. die.  I've sounded like a barking seal for the last 8 days and yesterday, to add insult to injury, I got a skull cracking headache, too, leaving me feeling like every time I coughed I was going to end up like those people in the X-files, whose brains exploded out their ears.

 

So even though I have 3 other books currently going, I needed something very easy on both my brain and my eyes.  Death Comes to the School was a perfect fit with it's on-the-large-side-of-average typeface and it's very familiar backdrop and characters.  It allowed me to forget for a time about the icepack wrapped around my head and the cough lozenges that have stained my tongue purple (black elderberry). 

 

The story starts off 3 years after the last book;  why don't authors of series do this more often?  It makes everything that happens so much more believable; rather than have a village of death, you're backdrop is just a village where normal stuff happens.  Anyway, the murder happens fairly quickly, to a school teacher nobody liked, and it happens rather oddly, with a hat pin in her neck and a pen in her eye.  From this point, the author has a bit of fun twisting the character stereotypes of the time around and using them to her advantage.  The mystery plotting of the book is really very good, although the motivation tie-in at the end was a tad weak.

 

The character angst though, I could have done without.  I really like Robert and Lucy, both individually and together but this book ... this book turn them into cardboard cliches, all because Lucy has yet to produce an heir.  This is an historically accurate issue; childbirth was a treacherous business and entailments created situations where entire villages depended on one poor woman to produce a son.  I get that.  But the whole emotional miscommunication thing that bogged down this story was stupid; for two characters that talked and argued about everything incessantly in the first three books, the whole "doesn't she want me?" "he doesn't desire me anymore, I'm a failure" let's-not-talk thing was just annoying.  

 

There was more to like than not, though, and as a nice bonus, the book takes place during Christmas, so it was seasonal too!  This has been a solid series so far and I'm already looking forward to the next one, which will undoubtably continue to revolve around heirs and spares, but hopefully without all the silly angst.

 

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review 2017-08-21 11:20
On her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service (Royal Spyness, #11)
On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service - Rhys Bowen

There is no getting around that these books are the very definition of cozy; they're also charming in a way that endears them to even a thoroughly unromantic soul such as mine.  And while the focus of the series is an overall sweetness and innocence, Bowen occasionally slips edgier tragedies in that makes them all the more heartbreaking.  I think Bowen manages to capture perfectly a certain naiveté at a time in history when the world was at a tipping point, before everyone found out how truly evil humanity can be.

 

This eleventh book is a good example of this, even though the mystery itself wasn't quite as finely crafted as some of her others.  Anyone who has read the series will be thoroughly at home with Georgie and Belinda (another one!), Darcy and Fig.  And Queenie was left behind in this one - YAY!  This time Georgie is in Mussolini's Italy and there are dodgy goings-on at a house party the Queen has sent Georgie to, in order to spy on her son and that hussy Wallis Simpson.

 

I guessed the murderer early on (too much page time) but the story never failed to keep me amused, and there was a scene between Georgie and a German soldier that purely broke my heart for it's sweetness and naiveté.  

 

The ending for Belinda's story line was just way too convenient, in the way these story lines always are, but in spite of that, I'm happy to see it wrapped up and I'm looking forward to the next book - may the fates keep Bowen from turning it into a wedding-in-peril story.

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review 2017-07-29 06:23
A Most Novel Revenge (Amory Ames, #3)
A Most Novel Revenge - Ashley Weaver

Well, that was almost a Greek tragedy.

 

1930's England and Amory's cousin begs her by letter to join a house party at the Lyonsgate Estate; the first house party the estate has seen since a tragic weekend 7 years prior and with the exception of Amory and her husband, it's the same roster of guests.  They've all been brought back together by one woman who is determined to rake up all the secrets of the past and what really happened on that 'lost' weekend.

 

The series started with Amory estranged from her playboy husband, but instead of taking the obvious route - divorce and future romantic entanglements - the author brings Amory and her husband Milo back together for reconciliation.  Frankly I didn't think I'd like it and she sure didn't do much to sell Milo's legendary charm to the reader.  But three books in and I've warmed to Milo and find I don't mind him sticking around at all.

 

The plotting was amazing, frankly.  I never had a hint of where she was taking this story until the very end and when I read it, had to do a double take to make sure I'd read the right name.  I don't often trot out comparisons, but really, this was a mystery worthy of the era it's set in; very Christie-esque.

 

I rated it slightly lower than I usually would for such an outstanding mystery because the pacing was a bit slow; I never got bored or distracted, but neither did I feel antagonistic about being interrupted.  I might, upon further consideration, up it to 4.5, but for now it's a very, very solid 4 stars.

 

 

 

 

 

Total pages: 349  (qualifies for x3 location multiplier)

$$: $12.00

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review 2017-06-27 06:42
Come Hell or Highball
Come Hell or Highball - Maia Chance

Prohibition era; Lola's husband dies of a heart attack and she discovers he wasn't as rich as she'd thought.  She and her cook Berta are without house and home, and while hiding out in her husband's heretofore unknown love nest in the city, agree to retrieve a film reel for one of her late husband's mistresses.  Thus begins what is supposed to be a madcap and hilarious adventure into mystery and mayhem.

 

Eh.  Either I was off my game or the book was.  Nothing struck me as madcap so much as it did silly (and there's a subtle difference, in my opinion).  Lola failed to elicit much sympathy from me, her mother was annoying in all the wrong ways, her brother in law unrealistically meddlesome (he kept trying to gaslight Lola) and Berta was sorta weird.  The romantic tension that was supposed to exist between Ralph and Lola was absent.  The mystery plot was all over the place; incredibly complicated, and hinged on unknown information until the very end.  

 

Now that I've beaten the poor book to death, for all that it wasn't a bad read.  It kept me entertained enough to keep reading, it just didn't hook me, or bond me to the characters in any way that will result in my desire to read any additional books in the series.  Which is a shame, because I do love the Prohibition-era setting.

 

 

 

 

 

Page count: 307

$$: $6.00

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review 2017-04-20 07:30
Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause (Miss Dimple, #2)
Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause - Mignon F. Ballard

 Set in small-town Northern Georgia during WWII, this series gives a great sense of time and place; it reminds me a lot of that old TV series Homefront (early 90's?).

 

As for the mystery though, it was o.k., but overly-convoluted.  If Ballard had been able to structure it differently it would have worked a lot better, but as is, it's more than a little hard to follow.  A skeleton is discovered during a school outing, the money from a bond rally goes missing, the town slacker goes missing, Miss Dimple's landlady is getting mysterious notes and someone is shot during the follies.

 

There are a lot of characters in this book and, told in third person, from the POV of several of them, the first few chapters felt like a hot mess - I couldn't keep anybody straight.  Even after they sorted themselves out I never felt entirely confident about who was who as the POV shifted - I had to remind myself often about how someone was related to everyone else.  Each chapter starts with the internal dialogue of one of the characters, but it's never the same one, and they all remain unnamed.  This is likely done on purpose because it's the criminal, but when it wasn't, it became overly confusing.

 

The author kept using rifle and shotgun interchangeably; for someone who knows the difference, this is a big deal: a rifle shoots a single bullet at a time; a shotgun shoots a single shell full of tiny bullets (called buckshot) that spray outwards soon after exiting the barrel.  So, when a shotgun was reported missing, but later someone was shot and had a single bullet wound, it messed with the plot and my head; until the terms were used interchangeably again and it became obvious what was going on, I thought there were two weapons.

 

Still, I enjoyed the story and the characters.  The series is "Miss Dimple" but really the mystery solving is a team effort on the part of the women holding everything together while the war rages on.  At the end it becomes clear that there are several threads of mischief running through Elderberry at the same time, but really, I stuck around to see if Will would show up for Charlie one last time before being shipped off.

 

                                                                                              

 

 

Page count: 262
Dollars banked: $3.00

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