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review 2019-03-18 08:15
Death Comes to Bath (Kurland St. Mary Mystery, #6)
Death Comes to Bath - Catherine Lloyd

This has been a reliable series from the start.  Death Comes to Bath is not the strongest in the series in terms of mystery plotting or main character development, but the atmosphere, setting and secondary character development balance the scales.


After a serious setback in Sir Robert Kurland's post-war recovery, Lady (Lucy) Kurland packs up and drags him to Bath for 3 months for the restorative water cure, dragging her sister along in the hopes that she will find a suitable man to marry.  Sir Robert makes fast friends with their cantankerous neighbour and when he ends up dead, Robert and Lucy take it upon themselves to discover who, in one of the most disastrous families that ever was, might have committed the crime.


The outrageous dysfunction of the murdered man's family almost lends an air of frivolity to the story, but not really.  The plotting of the murder itself was semi-predictable; the murderer wasn't a shocking revelation, though it wasn't at all telegraphed. A few extra points go to the author for the plot twist that I only cottoned on to a few pages before it was revealed to the characters.  


The character development between Lucy and Robert was sadly predictable, although also historically accurate, so no fault goes to the author.  What was far more interesting to me is the continued exploration of Lucy's sister Anna's reluctance to marry because she doesn't want kids.  Historically accurate or not, I find her small story line compelling and it filled the gaps nicely for me when the story threatened to become stale.  (It's possible I mixed metaphors there?)


MT and I spent an all-too-short overnighter in Bath a few years ago, and all it's done is whet my appetite for the city.  The area of Bath this story covers is small, and almost cliched with its mentions of the Pump Room, but I still ate it up with a spoon.  


Death Comes to Bath is a light and charming way to spend a few hours, and I will happily anticipate a 7th adventure.

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review 2019-03-01 00:54
A Brush with Death (Susie Mahl Mystery, #1)
A Brush with Death - Ali Carter

Didn't really like this book, though it wasn't the stuff of DNF.  I think a number of factors were involved, including what might be a cultural divide in terms of narrative style.


Susie Mahl is a fine artist who supplements her income by doing high-end pet portraits, something that also allows her to move amongst those that occupy the rarefied air of wealth.  While working on a commission that came about through a recommendation by Lady Greengrass to a neighbor, Lord Greengrass is murdered.  Susie is close enough to the family that Lady Greengrass calls on her to stay until the funeral, a request Susie uses as an opportunity to solve the mystery.


I'll start with the plotting; it was lacking.  There was never any question for me as to who the murderer was.  In fact:


the reader enters the scene seconds after the murder has occurred, as the murderer has just finished and so is still right there (sitting atop the victim if I remember correctly).

(spoiler show)

The whole thing was truly transparent and the author never came close to convincing me that there were any other viable suspects.


Susie Mahl, as a character, was problematic for me.  She is strong, independent and opinionated.  Things I generally like in my MCs.  But she also had an ego that often ventured into "I'm better than everyone else" territory, and I didn't care for that.  This arrogance spanned across several subjects, but the most distasteful, to me, were the multiple times she expressed her belief that she alone could solve the mystery, and the inspectors would never figure it out.  How I'd have loved to see one of those inspectors tell her they could do portraits better than she could.


Finally, the overall writing style just didn't do it for me; it felt choppy and the dialog simplistic and unnatural.  Some of this might be a cultural style, as I mentioned above, and some of it could be first-book-learning-curve, but added to my other issues, the result is a lack of desire to continue the series.


I read this as part of the 2019 Snakes and Ladders game.


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review 2019-02-19 07:19
The Last Equation Of Isaac Severy: A Novel In Clues
The Last Equation Of Isaac Severy: A Novel In Clues - Nova Jacobs

I feel like this book was both better than I thought it was, but not quite as good as I expected.  The former because my reading was more fractured than I'd like and the book never got a chance to really suck me in; it was always getting interrupted.  The latter, because its novel-to-mystery ratio was higher than I'd have wished.


Isaac Severy was a brilliant mathematician whose last act before dying was writing a bombshell of an equation, which he hid away.  Days after his death, his granddaughter receives a letter from him with his last wishes: to burn all his work save this equation, which she should delver to one trusted colleague and no one else.  But first, she must find the equation using the clues left for her as she goes about fulfilling his final requests.  


At the same time, the rest of the Severy family - blessed with brilliance and saddled with dysfunction - is left to pick up the pieces of their lives, re-orienting themselves after they lose their axis and another death unmoors them completely.  Hazel's uncle, Philip, is receiving mysterious notes and visits from someone eager to meet up with him and discuss his father's work, someone who was harassing Isaac in his final days. 


I ended up caring about most of the characters except Hazel herself.  She was pretty unmoored from the start, and never felt like she had much resolve.  For me this resulted in the impression that she never took any direction action to find the equation, so much as the clues threw themselves at her in desperation. 


Speaking of clues, my biggest annoyance of all was that one of the clues was not only not discovered by Hazel, but the reader didn't got left out too.  Both discover the solution after the fact, and it's a letdown.


These are minor grievances though, and I'm not sure I'd have felt the same way about these things had I been able to commit my time and attention to the book as it deserved.  Perhaps more focus would have allowed me to connect more with Hazel and the story's mystery.  Either way, it was an enjoyable read and kept me entertained, if not deeply invested.

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review 2019-02-13 13:04
The Long Paw of the Law (K9 Cop series, #4; maybe #5)
The Long Paw of the Law - Diane Kelly

This one is going to be short.  The book is too long.  Too much stuffing.  If we shaved away all the targets that qualify as 'author's research she must share so her accountant knows those deductions are legit', and then shaved away the overly long descriptive narrative about the places she goes and the scenery, and - I'm sorry - perhaps pared way back on Bridgit the K9's chapters (which to be fair are already short), this book would have some highly entertaining, unusual investigations for the reader to enjoy.  I even didn't mind the back and forth between the good guys and the bad guys.  The scenes in the compound made me edgy and tense, left with that icky feeling I've also always had since learning about religious cults.  This ramped up tension was then offset by the lighter side as Megan proceeded apace with the missing mother and the garage door burglary cases.


So, it was just an ok read, because it was way too overstuffed; done a disservice by a well meaning, but lax editor, but under all that maximum verbosity, there's a good couple of stories in there with strong females characters, strong family values, and of course, the kick ass dog.  I know this author can write much tighter stories; I've read them, so I'll keep an open mind about trying the next one.


(Note: this review might be messy; I was wide awake when I started it and my medications have all kicked in in the last 3-4 minutes, so I'm off to bed.  Any incoherence will be corrected in the next release - hopefully tomorrow.  :D   Night y'all!

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review 2019-01-09 09:27
The Devereaux Legacy
The Devereaux Legacy - Carolyn Hart

An early stand-alone mystery from Carolyn Hart, that was originally bought by Harlequin and marketed as a gothic romance.  This is one of those stories that is best discovered by someone who hasn't already read a fair variety of romantic suspense.  With nothing to compare it to, one might find this a very lively and escapist story.


Leah arrives in South Carolina after the death of her paternal grandmother and Leah's subsequent discovery that she herself has been presumed dead since she was 2.  Wanting to find out why, and the truth about what happened to her parents, she arrives at the Devereaux Plantation full of questions, discovering she still has a maternal grandmother who is thrilled she's alive, and 3 cousins that might not be so thrilled.


This slim volume reads exactly like a Barbara Michaels in many respects.  Hart says in the introduction to this re-issue that she suddenly found herself in a market that had no interest in women writing murder mysteries, and after 9 years of rejection, found that she could sell her books if she made them romances.  This bow to contemporary demands is apparent in the romance: it's insta-love at it's most glaring, and more than a little bit naive and awkward.  


Sandwiched in between in the awkward romance is, unfortunately, only a slightly less awkward mystery, but knowing what I know about Hart's real mysteries, I have no problem believing it's because she had to cram it in along the edges.  It's a good mystery; just not one that was allowed the space to unfold naturally.


It's definitely nowhere close to Hart's normal standards of writing, but hints of what will come in her future Death on Demand series are evident: haunting atmosphere and fully fleshed out characters that are capable of passionate acts of love and cruelty.  


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