Typical anthology, some stories were good, though most were meh. I would probably have put this aside after the JD Robb story, but kept plugging away.
Possession in Death (In Death #31.5) by JD Robb (3.5 stars)- This is a futuristic romance taking place in 2060. It was nice to read an In Death story showing all of Eve's coworkers and people important to her. We start off with everyone at a fun BBQ which is quickly overshadowed by murder. I do wish that the more recent works had everyone together in them and actually just hanging out. I had no idea how much I missed that until I read this story. We have Eve called away and finds herself holding an older Romany woman (Gizi) who was stabbed to death. Eve agrees to find Gizi's granddaughter Beata that has gone missing. Eve realizes slowly though that somehow she has been possessed by Gizi. She and Roarke work together to see if they figure out what happened to Beata in order for Eve to return back to normal. I liked the thought of Eve being able to see ghosts and help lay them to rest. Frankly it's not much different from her dreams which have seemed to gotten more prophetic at times during the series. In the end though, the entire story-line moved a little too fast (not surprising since this is a short story) and we don't get a chance to digest things.
The Other Side of the Coin by Mary Blayney (5 stars)- This is a historical romance taking place in 1810. The one story not about ghosts in any way was my favorite. I liked the idea of the Earl of Fellsborough (Harry) swapping bodies with his wife (Bettina). They have an argument and both throw a mysterious coin that is nearby and wish for things at the same time. Bettina wishes that Harry could be in her shoes and Harry wishes that his wife would trust him. It was pretty funny to read them trying to deal with the ins and outs of being men and women in this time period. We also got to see their views on a lot of things such as the slave trade too. The funniest scene though was when the Earl got a period (in his wife's body) and I maybe laughed so hard I hurt my ribs. The agony he was in and the countess just rolling her eyes was hilarious.
“Does it feel like some monster from hell is working its way through your stomach and below and the only relief will be when it explodes out of you? But before that can happen the pain fades, but only for a few moments.”
“Yes.” He sounded amazed at her insight.
“It happens every month, my lady,” Bettina said with a sarcastic emphasis on the honorific. “Indeed, it will happen monthly right before your courses for the next twenty years.”
“God help me.”
I also like how Blayney played with romance scenes in this one too.
Dancing Ghost by Patricia Gaffney (3 stars)-This is a historical romance taking place in 1895. A young woman (Angie Darlington) hires a man (Henry Cleland) who claims to be a paranormal investigator. Angie doesn't really believe that Henry can find or sense ghosts. She is merely trying to use him to prove her grandparent's house is haunted in order to prevent her cousin from selling it. I just found myself bored while reading this. Neither characters interested me much. I was more interested in the literary sayings about love that were appearing on a mirror in a bedroom.
Almost Heaven by Ruth Ryan Langan (2 stars)-This is a contemporary romance. Ted and Vanessa are an older and happily married couple. They leave a party celebrating their daughter's engagement and died when the brakes fail. They get to stay on this side as ghosts and are told they can hang around for a while, but not interfere. Things get dicey though when they realize that someone purposely murdered them. This and the next story are among my least favorite in this anthology. Probably because we don't get any character development from Christina and Jake. They are just props in the overall story and you don't really root for them. I also didn't like Ted that much when he admits he thought their young son Tyler (who suffers from autism) was not intelligent. I just hard cringed at that line.
Never Too Late for Love by Mary Kay McComas (2 stars)-This is also a contemporary romance. MJ is hell-bent on selling her mother's home and then comes to find her ghost and the ghosts of her two aunts who have passed on. The story had too much going on, and McComas trying to throw a love story in there didn't help either. I just didn't think that the story-line was remotely interesting since it seemed like all MJ was talk. And I didn't buy her romance with the guy next door (Ryan) he was beige as hell. The ending just fell flat. I wish the anthology had wrapped on a stronger note.
Yikes. If I wasn't reading this for a square I would totally DNF it.
So far only one story is really tied together with a ghost, Eve Dallas's "Possession in Death" (In Death #31.5). it initially is okay with Eve and Roarke having a BBQ at their home with Eve's fellow cops and friends. She is still feeling awful after closing the case on two thrill killers from the last book (FYI, I forgot how much I loathed that book). Eve gets a call and goes out and finds a woman dying after being stabbed, someone though Eve invites her into herself and is able to see the newly dead. It works mostly, and I did love that Roarke this time was very much about doing what he could to get Eve back to herself.
"The Other Side of the Coin" by Mary Blayney has the Earl and Countess of Fellsborough switching bodies. I know that many people who have read these anthologies know that Blayney also has the whole magical coin thing going on. This was pretty interesting and I loved the resolution. No ghosts though.
I started "Dancing Ghost" by Patricia Gaffney and so far am not a fan. Reading two people sending letters back and forth to each other is boring me to tears. At least this one is about ghost hunters it seems operating in the 1800s.
Well first things first, don't go into this expecting the Dublin Murder Squad. This is a standalone by Tana French. We do get detectives in this one, but one wonders if the next book will follow the squad again and if this story will be discussed on the periphery. This not being a Dublin Murder squad book is not why I gave this three stars though. The story told her is disjointed (purposely due to Toby's injuries) but if it was just that it may have worked. I think the biggest issue I had was the way that Toby finds out the truth (during the world's most boring info-dump) and then the ending that made zero sense after a while.
"The Witch Elm" told in the first person, follows Toby who is a bright eyed and bushy tailed 28 year old guy in PR at a small art gallery. He is in a long-term happy relationship with his girlfriend Melissa and he has two best friends. Deciding to skip going to his girlfriend's house one night after being out with his two best friends causes Toby's life to twist into something new. Going home causes him to fall asleep and then wake to two men burglarizing his apartment. Toby decides to fight back and is beaten almost to death. When he wakes he finds out he is going to need time to recover. However, Toby post burglary is different. He can barely stand to be touched, he picks fights with his mother, he can barely even be around his girlfriend. When his cousin tells him that their Uncle Hugo is dying of an inoperable cancer she asks that Toby go stay with him and help him. Toby and Melissa go and stay with Hugo, and things at times seem to be getting better until a skull is found in Hugo's back garden in a witch elm tree. FYI, they spell witch wych throughout the book and it kept throwing me every time.
Toby reminds me on the surface level of Rob from "Into the Woods." Two male characters who don't recollect huge pockets of their lives. Rob was left scarred by what happened to him in the woods. He never does recall what happened and French gives no hint what fate befell his two friends. Rob doesn't truly recover from his childhood and in the end because he didn't want to face things, he ruined his career and his friendship with his ex-partner Cassie.
Toby is in PR for an art gallery and things are going okay for him, though he's quite lucky he wasn't fired from his job after his boss caught him in a lie about an artist. Going out drinking with his two friends, Sean and Dec he is giddy with relief about not being fired and getting away with what he has done. There at the beginning we are given glimpses into Toby. A 28 year old guy who doesn't seem to realize that his actions have true consequences. He sees his best friend Dec as being jealous of him and feeling terrible because of his background. He never sees that he should grow up and think about others around him. After the burglary we see Toby change, but often at times while reading this I wondered how much he truly changed. He had physical difficulties, but the same cluelessness that seemed to be in him from the time he was a kid was still there as an adult. I don't think that I liked him much in retrospect. When Toby starts playing detective it really doesn't make a lot of sense to me as a reader. And Toby doesn't find out things by investigating, he just gets people drunk or high and starts asking questions. I don't know, something was missing from this book that I get from the Dublin Murder Squad books.
The other characters don't really jibe that well in this one either. Melissa works better than most of the other secondary characters. I just thought Toby dismisses her throughout the story, though he's painted as being very in love with her.
Toby's family felt a bit confusing to me at first. I honestly needed a chart after we do get to meet all of them. I wish that we had more details about Uncle Hugo. Considering what a huge role this character had to play due to Toby staying at this home, his parts that focused on genealogy felt a bit off at times. Susana and Leo are developed a bit more, but in the end what we know of them doesn't work the whole way when you think about the ending.
As I said above we do get detectives in this one, actually two sets. The first we meet due to Toby's attack, and the next due to the police being called after the skull is found in the witch elm tree. The detectives don't work for me throughout this book. The ones investigating Toby's burglary and beating seemed like an after thought and joke The ones investigating the probable murder didn't seem very solid to me.
The writing was okay, I just though the story after a while started to get disjointed. Due to Toby's memory issue a lot of times things are just being told to him. I just wish that there was another way besides constant information dumps to have Toby find out something. And then in the end we do have him remember something and it absolutely didn't even make sense why he would remember this one incident after everything else was a black hole.
The flow was up and down throughout the book.
The setting of the book takes place at Toby's paternal family's home called "The Ivy House". Honestly I wonder why the book wasn't just called that. The home sounded very real and about 90 percent of the book takes place at this location.
The ending as I already said doesn't work for me. Maybe if French had changed the ending (cannot get into it without spoilers) it would have worked for me. It just all felt a bit too far fetched to me. And as I said above, it doesn't help that Toby reminded me of Rob.
The first Miss Marple mystery that showcases a different Miss Marple than the one I am used to. This one seems nosy and at times to have ill meanings/feelings. However, in the end we get to see our first glimpse of Nemesis in action with her wanting the person or persons responsible for the murder of Colonel Protheroe brought to justice.
The narrator in "Murder at the Vicarage" is the vicar of St. Mary's Mead, Leonard Clement. Leonard ends up admiring Miss Marple by the end of this book, but initially he thought that she and many other in his flock were gossiping and mean spirited. It doesn't help that he married someone who sounds decades younger than him who seems to have little interest in his work or with the village.
St. Mary's Mead villagers are concerned after one of the most despised men that livest there, Colonel Lucius Protheroe is murdered. When the Colonel is found dead in the Vicar's study, everyone quickly starts to suspect the other. Things get even more confusing when two separate people confess to the murder.
When Leonard starts his own investigations he keeps running into one of the residents, Miss Jane Marple. Slowly but surely we work through the village and wonder which one of them killed the Colonel. Pretty much everyone is a suspect at one point and some even wonder if the vicar could have done it.
What I loved about this book was that the only one who figured out what was going on was Miss Marple. A lot of people had ideas and there are a lot of red herrings to throw things off, but the final solution was quite clever. I also loved that we get introduced to characters we are going to see again in future Miss Marple books such as the vicar and his wife. And we will hear about them in some of the later books. I also got a kick out my book showing the layout of the vicar's study and home so you star working through how someone was able to enter and exit without being seen.
You should probably read "Thirteen Problems" before this one if you want to read about Miss Marple since some of the events take place prior to the events in this one.