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review 2018-12-04 20:24
Mackinac Island & Murder – Tandem Demise by Duffy Brown #DuffyBrown @dollycas
Tandem Demise - Duffy Brown

 

Tandem Demise: A Cycle Path Mystery
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Independently Published (October 28, 2018)
Paperback: 298 pages
ISBN-10: 1729374786
ISBN-13: 978-1729374788
Kindle ASIN: B07JRB373X


 

MY REVIEW

 

Duffy Brown in Tandem Demise takes us to real places and lets us meet some real people, soooo, if you have ever been to Mackinac Island, you will feel right at home, except for the dead guy.

 

I love these quirky characters and the mystery to die for.

 

Especially Eve. She is a real hoot. She fits the definition of a cozy character to a tee. A fumbling, amateur detective, a bit nosy and known for it by all. No place is safe from her prying eyes. She sees dead people. She believes she lives under a black cloud. Does it put her in danger? Of course.

 

The humorous, snappy dialogue kept the action moving and the entertainment at a high level with laugh out loud moments.

 

I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of Tandem Demise by Duffy Brown.

Animated Animals. Pictures, Images and Photos  4 Stars

 

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Source: www.fundinmental.com/mackinac-island-murder-tandem-demise-by-duffy-brown-duffybrown-dollycas
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review 2018-11-07 10:08
A cozy mystery with a harder edge and very engaging characters and location.
Death in a Mudflat. - N. Granger

I received a free ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I enjoy reading mysteries, thrillers, crime novels, police procedurals… and I love watching crime movies and TV series, but my experience of cozy mysteries is a bit mixed. As a horror lover, I am not too squeamish and the fact that there is little violence (or at least not very graphically depicted) in the genre is not a big appeal for me. On the other hand, I don’t like erotica, so the lack of graphic sex is a plus. Above all, I love a good and solid story, and although I enjoy quirky and weird characters, I like the mystery to be well-plotted and detailed enough not to feel annoyed at major gaps or inconsistencies. (Yes, I know we’re talking about fiction, reading it requires a degree of suspension of disbelief and if a novel was truly factual, it would probably be terribly boring, but I can’t abide glaringly obvious mistakes or sleight of hand as a plot device to sort a complex storyline gone awry). I have read some cozy mysteries that I’ve enjoyed, but others place so much emphasis on other elements of the story and try so hard to be light and amusing, to the point where the mystery becomes an afterthought, that almost managed to convince me that the genre is not for me.

Having read N. A. Granger’s blog, knowing that she used to teach biology and anatomy and that her main character is an ER nurse, I was intrigued by her series and had put her books on my list. Her blog post about the creation of the cover for this book piqued my curiosity, and I was happy to try the book when I got the ARC copy.

This is the fourth book in the series, but the author has included a list of characters at the beginning and summarised the relationships between them, offering also a brief indication of the story so far, and that suffices to help new readers get their bearing and follow the story without difficulty, although at some points there were nuances that I was convinced would have delighted readers of the previous volumes that were lost on me. Rhe Brewster, the protagonist, is still an ER nurse, but only part-time now, and she has become an official investigator with the sheriff department (no more amateur sleuth now, although her friend Paulette takes up the role). Her brother-in-law, Sam, is the sheriff and also her beau (yes, there is a story there, for sure); she has a boy with ADHD, Jack, and she is that mix of the intuitive and clever investigator (still fresh from the amateur ranks, but getting increasingly professional, it seems) with the impulsive and rushed person who can get herself into trouble by following her intuition, always with the best intentions at heart.

We also have a wonderful setting, the imaginary small coastal-town of Pequod, in Maine, (and being a fan of Moby Dick, I love the name) where everybody knows everybody else (or almost), but large enough to have a college, a fairly big hospital, and plenty of restaurants and takeaways (if we are to judge by the number of meals and eateries mentioned in the book). Sailing, one of Rhe’s passions, is also featured, and it plays a fairly important part in this story.

The book manages to maintain the balance between the quirky atmosphere and characters, and the police-procedural-type of investigation and mystery. There are two cases, one involving three women who have been killed years apart, and a second one to do with drug overdoses at the college campus, which may, or may not, be connected. The story is narrated in the first-person from Rhe’s point of view (if you don’t always appreciate first-person narratives, I’d recommend that you check a sample of the writing first) and her personality shines through in the way the story is told. Some aspects of the story are described in plenty of detail —those that she knows well and is more interested in— like the post-mortem examinations, the steps necessary to maintain the chain of evidence, and the sailing scenes (I have read reviews praising their accuracy, but as I have no knowledge of sailing and little of its terminology, I cannot comment, and I must admit some of the finer details went over my head) and would seemingly push it towards a more straight-type of mystery. But, Rhe is not all procedure and protocol, and there are also plenty of details that emphasize the domestic and amateurish side of the plot (Rhe has two jobs and has to juggle those with her personal life as well, resulting in information not being relayed straight away, details and facts about the cases being confirmed only when there is a gap in her schedule and many discussions with her superior taking place in the comfort of their own home). There is a mix of very high-tech procedures (courtesy of the FBI intervention) with a somewhat old-fashioned feel to the book (people carry mobile phones but don’t often use them, and Rhe and Sam seem to prefer good old-style policing, knocking on doors and talking to people, and even confess to lack of technical proficiency), that is also in evidence when it comes to the personal relationships and lifestyle of the characters. Although Rhe is a woman of action and proves, more than once, that she can look after herself, Sam questions her decisions often and pulls rank on more than one occasion, and Paulette and Rhe are also concerned about the reaction of her friend’s husband to her adventures, although this seems to be played mostly for laughs.

The mix of high and low intensity also carries through when it comes to action. I have already talked about the importance of food, and how often it is the subject of conversations, but there is also plenty of action, involving Rhe getting herself into trouble and, either managing to rescue others at the last minute (with some assistance), or having to get rescued. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but let’s say that at some points the pace quickens, the stakes are high, and there is plenty more action than I have come to expect from cozies.

The writing is easy to follow and flows well, and the characters’ speech is distinctive, their quirks and personalities making the dialogue compelling. I particularly enjoyed the local words and occasional expressions that peppered the novel without overwhelming it or making it difficult to understand.

What about the mystery? Is it easy to crack? Because the story is told from Rhe’s point of view, it is difficult to get ahead of her, although the author is skilled at giving us some clues that Rhe seems not to fully register or process at the time, and those clues might help readers solve the case somewhat before the protagonist. There are red herrings and we are often lead down the wrong path, but as Rhe is now firmly on the side of the law (well, almost all of the time), the emphasis is on getting the required evidence and not only on coming up with a theory or a hunch. I felt that both cases were intriguing enough to keep readers turning the pages at a fast pace, and the place and the characters added atmosphere to the novel.

I am sure that readers who have followed the series will enjoy this novel more fully, as it is clear that the characters, and Rhe in particular, have developed and grown through the books, but I must confess that this first incursion into Rhe Brewster’s world got me attached to the characters to the point where I felt quite emotional and sorry to see them go. Ah, and the prologue of the next book promises a gripping read as well.

I recommend this story to readers of cozy novels who prefer their mysteries with a more realistic and harder edge, crossing into police-procedural terrain, and to all those who love series like Midsummer Murders and want to immerse themselves in a charming small town with a dark (or darkish) underside. (Beware if you’re on a diet, though. There’s plenty of food!)

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review 2018-11-05 18:06
Shattered at Sea, Cheryl Hollon

I really enjoyed this cozy mystery and learned a bit about glass blowing. I received this book for free and I voluntarily chose to review this. I've given this a 5* rating. This has a lot going on, romance, mystery, missing people and a lot of crafty glass blowing. So much to learn about this craft. I imagine it would be an interesting thing to watch. Well, it kept me guessing till almost the end with an happy ending.

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review 2018-11-04 22:55
Brief Thoughts: Small Town Spin
Small Town Spin - LynDee Walker

Small Town Spin

by LynDee Walker
Book 3 of A Nichelle Clarke Crime Thriller

 

 

A YOUNG ATHLETE IS DEAD.
A TRAGIC SUICIDE?  OR FOUL PLAY?


A retired NFL quarterback's teenage son is found dead on a rocky shoreline near his family's Virginia home, and crime reporter Nichelle Clarke is called in on special assignment to handle the delicate story.  Just yesterday, T.J. Okerson seemed destined to follow in his father's footsteps towards gridiron glory.  Now his parents, close friends to one of Nichelle's inner circle, are blind-sided and grieving.

The sheriff of the sleepy Chesapeake Bay town is ready to stamp the case a tragic drug overdose and move on.  But Nichelle isn't so sure.

Determined and unafraid, she dives into the seedier side of the quaint island community.  Nichelle's investigation reveals an underground moonshine operation--and more suspicious deaths.  Soon she finds herself confronting a killer who will stop at nothing to keep Nichelle from uncovering the truth.



Small Town Spin is another solid story in this well-written cozy series that I'm happy to have been recommended.  As per usual, I love Nichelle's thought process whenever she starts investigating each case, and I love that she's so resourceful and confident.  I also appreciate the fact that Nichelle has kind of learned from her previous experiences and indeed DOES try not to be the TSTL.  As she mentions, she's not exactly looking to get herself killed or anything.  She just wants her story.

Unfortunately, danger just seems to keep popping up because she's so determined to get to the truth of each story.

Of all the books so far, I kind of feel like this is one with a meatier plot than the rest.  It's quite thought-provoking, even if the entire detailed outline of the murder mystery was quite convoluted.  Maybe Nichelle was following too many trails, I don't know.

Still, this was highly enjoyable!

On a side note:  the love triangle is quite prominent in this particular book than it had been in the previous.  I suppose I understand Nichelle's need to play the field a little bit.  But something about triangles just really ruffle me up.

On another side note:  I was chatting with my BFF about this series, wanting to introduce her to it if she were in the mood for a new cozy.  The topic of the love triangle came up, and then I suddenly admitted that I was really hoping that Nichelle and fellow reporter, sports persona Grant Parker would end up together.  I'm sure that's not going to happen, because the two have already friend-zoned each other; AND Parker is in a committed relationship.  Also, a lot of other readers seem to be rooting for the mafia boss...

But anyway, I just felt like Parker and Nichelle just clicked really well, especially after they finally started communicating more properly at the end of the first book.  Now the two are sort of partners in crime as he had helped her out, both in the previous book and this one.  And they seem to really understand each other.

While love interests, Joey and Kyle, will just tell Nichelle she needs to stop getting herself into trouble, Parker will offer his services to aid her investigative efforts.  I think I like that he doesn't immediately try to coddle her... then again, he's also not playing the role of over-protective potential boyfriend.

Anyway, another entertaining installment to the Nichelle Clarke series, and three more to go!

 

 


 

Halloween Bingo 2018

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/11/brief-thoughts-small-town-spin.html
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review 2018-11-04 22:28
More Rambling Than Review: Death by Dumpling
Death by Dumpling: A Noodle Shop Mystery - Vivien Chien

Death by Dumpling

by Vivien Chien
Book 1 of A Noodle Shop Mystery

 

 

Welcome to the Ho-Lee Noodle House, where the Chinese food is to die for. . .

The last place Lana Lee thought she would ever end up is back at her family’s restaurant.  But after a brutal break-up and a dramatic workplace walk-out, she figures that a return to the Cleveland area to help wait tables is her best option for putting her life back together.  Even if that means having to put up with her mother, who is dead-set on finding her a husband.

Lana’s love life soon becomes yesterday’s news once the restaurant’s property manager, Mr. Feng, turns up dead―after a delivery of shrimp dumplings from Ho-Lee.  But how could this have happened when everyone on staff knew about Mr. Feng’s severe, life-threatening shellfish allergy?  Now, with the whole restaurant under suspicion for murder and the local media in a feeding frenzy―to say nothing of the gorgeous police detective who keeps turning up for take-out―it’s up to Lana to find out who is behind Feng’s killer order. . . before her own number is up.



Here are a few things about a brief period in my own childhood that everyone might amuse themselves with:

My parents owned a restaurant for five years.  It was one of my dad's dreams to be a restaurant owner.  And while things didn't exactly pan out the way that either he or my mom had hoped, we were still in the business, even if only for a short time.  My brothers and I had two functions: we were to either hang around in the back, watch TV and keep ourselves out of trouble, or in mine and my elder brother's case, we helped out by waiting tables, seating customers, or sitting at the cashier's counter to keep an eye on things.

We also spent a lot of time with prep work and clean-up: vacuuming during quiet hours; folding dinner napkins during free time; mopping the bathroom floors after hours; rolling eggrolls for the next day, chopping veggies; washing dishes; changing dirtied table clothes; refilling salt and pepper shakers... tasks were endless, but at the same time, kind of fun.

I mean, I was a pre-teen with a job when most of my friends just went to school.  That's something, right?

So certainly, upon starting this book, I found some nostalgic feels coming out.

As a child, I came to the restaurant every day after school where my mother would keep me stowed away in the back room near her office.  She had set up a makeshift living room of sorts with a TV and couch, even a small desk where I could do my schoolwork.


Aside from the couch bit, this actually describes those short five years of my life, almost to a 'T.'  And also, I had my brothers to join me in front of the TV as well, or sitting around a corner table doing our homework.  I imagine it may also describe a lot of other young Asian children's lives as well since I know a lot of Vietnamese restaurants and Chinese restaurants in town that are family owned.  On top of that, I've seen the kids sitting off in an isolated corner in the dining room, at a table not made up for guests, doing their homework, or helping out by rolling silverware.

And yes, I do sometimes think back on those few years when I would be sitting in a corner, doing my homework, folding restaurant napkins or refilling salt and pepper shakers.

So I had a feeling that this book would be intriguing for me, even if not for the mystery or for the characters.  And truth be told, when Lana had also dropped this quote:

Things to know about me: I'm half English, half Taiwanese, and no, I don't know karate.  I'm definitely not good at math and I don't know how to spell your name in Chinese.


I had a distinct feeling I was going to like Lana and enjoy her story.  I'm sure I've spent some time in my lifetime growing up answering some of those same questions from friends and acquaintances and classmates.  I'm Cantonese, actually, and both of my parents are from the Canton region in China, even if some of my father's side of the family might have emigrated to Vietnam generations ago.  Both of my parents were born in Vietnam, actually, but they're from a distinct population in Vietnam who are mostly made up of immigrants from Canton.

I remember constantly being pestered by classmates and friends about teaching them how to say something in Chinese.  Specifically, they wanted to learn how to curse in Chinese, and how to say their name in Chinese.  And the responses I had to give them on the latter, were that there are not true translations of Western names into Chinese--really, we just string together a few characters to create a phonetic likeness to what your Western name sounds like.

So no, I also do not really know how to spell your names in Chinese.

But back to the book now...

The truth is, I did indeed find myself enjoying this book, but not as much as my biased preference would have liked to enjoy this book.  There were definitely a lot of glaring flaws in logic when it came to Lana and her sleuthing around with BFF, Megan.  There was also a nagging feeling that this book is a little too Westernized, probably in an attempt not to feel confusing.

There were a couple instances in the book where some of the Moms talk to each other in either Cantonese or Hokkien.  Even an instance here and there where Lana describes someone muttering something in Mandarin.  I guess I would have liked to see more than just an off-hand instance of the languages being used; because in an Asian community as big as the one described in this book, I have a hard time believing that everyone speaks English almost 98% of the time to every other Chinese or Taiwanese person present.  Even in my own household, the language you would hear is more of a 70% Cantonese and 30% English.

We often also mix the two within sentences.  But it's never 98% English.

But now I'm nitpicking, and that's probably not fair to this book.

Because, in earnest, I really, really wanted to really love this book.  I'm completely ecstatic that this book presents to us an Asian American protagonist, who's just an ordinary person living an ordinary life, with an extremely believable setting and cast of characters.  This book is entirely relatable to me, because I live this life of being stuck between my very Asian parents, and my own American upbringing.  If that makes any sense.

I'm entirely more American than my parents would like.  But at the same time, I'm just as American as my parents hope for in order to live an easier life in America.

Lana is just as American as I am.  She's an ordinary Asian American girl, living her life between cultures--and yet it all just feels completely natural.  At the same time, she still has to abide by a lot of the Asian cultures she grew up learning in order to interact with the very Asian community she calls home.

And I'm not saying that I didn't like this book.  I very much enjoyed it, between the setting, and even Lana's character (who really does remind me a lot of me when I was her age).  Being stuck in limbo and trying to find herself while fending off her mother about doing something meaningful with her life.  Being asked by every Asian relative and family friend why I don't have a boyfriend, and that I need to find one before I get too old to have babies.

On a side tangent:  I really DID start getting annoyed with everyone who kept making it seem like Lana needed a boyfriend to be happy.  Even her best friend started jumping on that bandwagon, wanting her to date or find someone new.  I expect this from parents and parental figures--but coming from Megan was a bit more frustrating.

Because you don't need to be in a romantic relationship to be happy about your life.  And constantly telling me that my life is not happy or not complete just because I don't have a significant other really, really irks me.  AND it's insulting.  How do you know what I want with my life to be happy?  How do you know that I'm not happy being carefree and single?

Ahem...

Anyway, jumping OFF of my soap box before I get too off topic again...

Really one of the bigger things that bugged me about this book (aside from my above ranting) was Lana's means of investigating the murder of Mr. Feng.  And I'm not sure if she was intentionally made to seem so amateur about it, because she is indeed an amateur sleuth.  Her interrogation methods were way too obvious, and made me cringe, wondering how nobody got suspicious with her, or upset that she was asking so many questions.  Everyone just straight up answered all of her questions.  Her rapid-fire way of questioning people felt too brusque, so rather than seeming like she was cleverly trying to find out information from the people in the surrounding stores, she sounded exactly like she was interrogating a suspect in a closed room.

This aspect, I'm hoping will be improved upon in future installments.

I would have also liked more background on what happened to Lana to land her back at her parent's restaurant to begin with.  We know that she broke up with a cheating boyfriend, and we know that she walked out of her place of work.  We never get a clear picture of what exactly happened to make her walk out of her job and come home to work at the noodle shop.  We never get to see much of Lana's ex-boyfriend to understand why everyone around her is so saddened by their break-up.

I'm also hoping that future installments might elaborate more on Detective Trudeau as a character.  Because at this point, while he's not really the broody, jackass detective I'd been expecting... well, he's really just "Love Interest #1" with no personality.  He does not stand out at all and I'm hard pressed to feel anything for any potential romance.

I DO, however, love the presence of Megan.  I thought it was wonderful to give Lana a partner in crime as she goes around investigating the murder.  And I loved that the girls had a moment wherein they realize that maybe they were in a little over their heads.  At least that kind of keeps them from doing anything too stupid.

But otherwise, I'm quite interested in continuing this series.  Like I said, there were a few quibbles--I know it looks more like I had LOTS to complain about--but considering I blasted through this book so quickly, I feel like it kept me quite hooked.  Certainly there were more characters than I could really keep track of, and tons of red herrings that kept me guessing.  And certainly the shoddy detective work by Lana and her BFF can be overlooked in this first book, simply as them being too green to know what they're doing.

I think I would like for the detective to have a bigger role in the next mystery if only to prove to me that there are cozy mysteries out there where the police force is NOT so incompetent that a couple of very green, very amateur wannabe PI's end up solving their case for them.  But I suppose that's just how cozy mysteries are set up?

 

 



 

Halloween Bingo 2018
(written by an author of color)


Other possible squares:  New Release; Cozy Mystery; Amateur Sleuth; Terrifying Women; Murder Most Foul

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/11/more-rambling-than-review-death-by.html
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