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review 2020-05-18 03:36
Love and Death Among the Cheetahs (Royal Spyness, #13)
Love and Death Among the Cheetahs - Rhys Bowen

The author starts this instalment with an apology in advance; the book is set in Africa - Kenya - during the late 20's/early 30's, a time when race relations and the views of the British Empire (as were the rest of the world) were shameful.

 

This had me braced for difficult reading, but I have to say, that was not the disclaimer I needed.  In true cozy style, Bowen acknowledged the dichotomy and inequality between white and black without really verbalising it.  What caught me unawares (and shouldn't have; I can only wonder if the pre-apology diverted me), was the casual references to hunting big game.  Of course it was a thing back then, and of course I should have seen it coming.  

 

The other unexpected part of the story was the behaviour of the upper class in Kenya; a risqué path for a cozy, but done well by the author, and based on actual events and a real person: Lady Idina Sackville.  Bowen closes with a short bibliography of texts she used in an effort to write about the times accurately.

 

All in all, another enjoyable instalment in a long-running series that has remained fairly strong throughout, balancing cheeky naiveté and interesting murder plots.

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review 2020-05-18 03:21
A Sprig of Sea Lavender
A Sprig of Sea Lavender - J.R.L. Anderson

I bought this a few years ago, when Otto Penzler was selling his collection through his bookshop, Mysterious Books.  It's a review copy of an author I'd never heard of, but the short catalog blurb made it sound interesting: mysterious death on a train, unknown works by Gainsborough, Turner and Constable found with the body, along with a  sprig of - you guessed it - sea lavender. 

 

This is a mid-century mystery, and it suffered from the usual quirks of that age:  instant, yet chaste, romance, and a complete disregard of the fair-play rules of mystery plotting.  As such, the reader, by the end, is presented with a fait accompli in both the romance and the mystery's resolution, without having any idea whatsoever how the main character got there, although he does explain it all at the very end.  

 

By today's standards, it's all a bit thin, naive and 2 dimensional, but I had fun with it nevertheless.  It wasn't trying to be anything other than an entertaining mystery and, while I've read others that are greater successes, it generally achieved its goal.  

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review 2020-05-15 02:17
What Lola Wants (Lola Cruz, #4)
What Lola Wants - Melissa Bourbon

The first three books in this series were published years ago, and, I'm guessing, got dropped from the publisher.  I was disappointed at the time because I enjoyed the series, and I generally enjoyed the author's mystery writing.  Fast forward several years later, and Henery Press published this fourth instalment. 

 

Meh.  Either my tastes changed, or the author lost her groove during the hiatus.  It was still an interesting plot, and I still enjoyed the characters, but a lot of her romance writing history bled through into the story and the chapters' angst.  And seriously, the editor or author need to repeat things over and over is grating on my nerves.  Lola's always wanted to be a detective; she knows jujitsu; I get it and I got it the first time it was mentioned.  I'm smart that way.

 

Not sure this series is for me anymore.

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review 2020-05-12 06:59
Stick Together (Awkward Squad, #2)
Stick Together - Sophie Hénaff,Sam Gordon

I can't remember how I discovered the first book in this series, The Awkward Squad, but I thoroughly enjoyed it; it felt fresh and it amused me, and I chalked up any small irritations to the translation from the French.

 

This second book was much the same, although there were more straight-up translation issues this time; errors that should have been caught in editing - like saying the "France people" instead of the "French People" in one spot.  And a few things were just cultural references I didn't understand, not being French myself.  Glossing over them didn't affect my understanding of the plot or the mystery, though undoubtedly I missed a layer of enjoyment.  

 

The series focuses on a department of the police judiciaire, which was occasionally referred to as PJs, which made me giggle more than it should have.  This department was created as a repository for all the misfits that couldn't be fired; they were established in an old office building offsite with all the cold case files that have never been solved, and then left to fend for themselves. 

 

I didn't expect this to work as well as it does, but I enjoy reading about the individual misfits and how their odd contributions further the pursuit of criminals and solve cases.  It's far-fetched, sure, but it never feels silly or slapstick, somehow.

 

It's not perfect, but it's highly enjoyable, and I sincerely hope the author continues to write more in the series, and that they continue to be translated into English.

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review 2020-04-29 08:38
The Man that Got Away (Constable Twitten Mystery, #2)
The Man That Got Away - Lynne Truss

I'm not an expert, but to me this book and its predecessor is just quintessentially English.  I've been a fan of Truss' non-fiction for years, and always found her writing and wit excellent, and I genuinely enjoyed her first Constable Twitten book A Shot in the Dark. So I snapped up this sequel as soon as I heard about it.  

 

If you've ever watched Yes, Minster, or Black Adder, or even Benny Hill, and laughed, you may enjoy this mystery series.  But you absolutely have to suspend disbelief because there's a lot of silliness and dry mockery; the reward is not only the chance to be amused in a time of little amusement, but an impressive, intricately plotted mystery.  There were so many balls in the air, and Truss kept them all up there without any apparent effort or stumbling.  It started slow for me, but it gained momentum as this complexity revealed itself.  

 

A lot of fun and I remain a big fan of Truss.  

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