Thursday, March 05, 2015

Murder on the Champ de Mars by Cara Black

First Line: Aimée Leduc clipped the French military GPS tracker to the wheel well, straightened up and gasped, seeing the Peugeot's owner standing in the shadowy Marais courtyard.

It's April 1999 in Paris, and maternity leave is over for private investigator Aimée Leduc. Feeling guilty over leaving infant daughter Chloë with a child minder, Aimée vows to spend more time with her child, but it's not going to be easy. She's barely started work on pending cases when she's approached by a young gypsy boy. His mother is dying and urgently wants to speak to Aimée, but the woman is abducted from the hospital before Aimée can see her. All this young private investigator has to go on is the fact that the woman's information has something to do with her father's unsolved murder. It's a race against the clock for Aimée, and race she will because knowing who's responsible for her father's death means a fresh future for her and her baby daughter.

I have come to enjoy Cara Black's series. It's been a pleasure to get acquainted with Paris and its history district by district. In Murder on the Champ de Mars, we learn about the history of the gypsies, and it's a tragic one. I've also been looking forward to seeing how Aimée adapts to motherhood because I didn't think it would be an easy transition. I was right. In fact Aimée-as-parent is one of the things that bothered me in this book.

The parenting issue is clouded by the appearance of Chloë's father, and even with his presence in the background, Aimée's good intentions come to naught. In fact she seems to go out of her way to be away from her baby and to put herself in dangerous situations. This is a woman who needs a sharp jolt to force her to face reality. You can't speed like a maniac through Paris, break into buildings, and generally try to act as though you're a super hero when you have a baby depending on you. But Aimée does, simply because it's more important for her to find out who killed her father. She is a woman obsessed.

Another issue was the pacing of this book. At times it moves at breakneck speed, but there are slow intervals when nothing much seems to be going on. Aimée is a character I've never completely warmed up to. She's much more interested in fashion and makeup than I. My interest has always been more focused on her partner René, their part-time employees, and the stories the author weaves. These slow intervals when Aimée is basically spinning her wheels and grasping at straws affected my enjoyment of the book. By the end, I almost felt as though the mystery solved itself and Aimée just happened to be in the vicinity.

Something else that I noticed in Murder on the Champ de Mars is the prevalence of French words and phrases. Much more than I felt necessary. I certainly don't have a problem with it since I can read and speak French, but if other readers can't, they may find this to be distracting and annoying.

All in all, I did enjoy this book. No non-French crime writer can take you through Paris like Cara Black. It's the main reason why I keep coming back for more. However, it's certainly going to be interesting to see if Aimée's parenting skills have improved in the next book.

 Murder on the Champ de Mars by Cara Black
ISBN: 9781616952860
Soho Press © 2015
Hardcover, 320 pages

Private Investigator, #15 Aimée Leduc mystery
Rating: B-
Source: the publisher


Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The Perfect Game by Leslie Dana Kirby

First Line: The young man was dead, the unfortunate result of excessive speed combined with bald motorcycle tires and an unhealthy attraction to wind blowing through his hair.

It's quite an accomplishment to start an emergency medicine residency at Phoenix Good Samaritan Hospital, but for Lauren Rose it's just as important to be close to her sister Liz.  Between her own residency at Good Sam and Liz's life married to the star pitcher of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team, the sisters may not spend as much time with each other as they'd like, but at least distance has been taken out of the equation.

Then Liz is murdered, and Lauren is bereft. The major part of the Scottsdale police's investigation appears to be badgering her, and when the lie detector test she reluctantly takes is inconclusive, she feels as though she's the main suspect. The only person she feels able to turn to in her fear and grief is Liz's husband, Jake Wakefield. Lauren needs help. Real help. Or she's going to wind up in the Arizona State prison system instead of having a brilliant career in medicine.

When I learn of a new mystery that's set right here in Arizona, I want to read it, and the setting of the Phoenix metropolitan area combined with a bit of Arizona Diamondbacks baseball did not disappoint. Not a baseball fan? Don't worry. There's not enough of the sport in the book to scare away any non-fans.

With the local police zeroing in on Lauren so quickly and their constant badgering of her, readers are practically thrown into the Save Lauren camp. The identity of the killer isn't the issue in this book; it's rather easily deduced. The problem lies in gathering the evidence to prove it, and as things begin to look dire for Lauren, the strongest scenes in The Perfect Game unfold in the courtroom. Deleted internet searches, surprise witnesses, video surveillance and more are making Lauren Rose look guiltier and guiltier-- and then author Leslie Kirby turns her book into a game of cat-and-mouse. Strategy and skill are going to be what saves this young woman... and a little bit of luck.

Unfortunately the entire book fell a bit flat for me, and most of it was due to the character of Lauren Rose. This young woman was just a bit too naive for me to believe completely. Yes, I understand feeling lost and alone and bludgeoned with grief. With no other family than her fragile grandmother, if Lauren didn't feel that way, she wouldn't be quite human, would she? But I turned from fully supporting Lauren to wondering what kind of an idiot she was when she began to get romantically involved with her murdered sister's husband. Multiple scenes in which her sole concern seemed to be about what clothing to wear when going to spend time with Jake Wakefield actually made me question her love for her sister.

Combine my disappointment in Lauren with some rather easily foreseen plot twists, and I was left with a book that has potential, but one that fell short of being a perfect game.

The Perfect Game by Leslie Dana Kirby
ISBN: 9781464201752
Poisoned Pen Press © 2015
Hardcover, 250 pages

Rating: C+
Source: Net Galley  


I've Got Laurie R. King Covered!

If it ever comes up in bookish conversation, I will normally say that I'm not a cover junkie. That I don't care what the outside of the book looks like, it's the inside that counts. Although it's true that the words inside a book count for worlds more than the artwork on its cover, I'm still a bit of a liar, aren't I?

99% of the time I go book shopping with a list (helps me avoid the dreaded duplicates), but what do I do on those rare occasions when I'm just browsing? What makes me decide to pick up one book and not another? Again, I could fib a little and say that the title is what attracts me. Long ago when I was a librarian helping well-known patrons choose their next batches of books, I'd go to their preferred genres and book titles would be the first thing I'd look for. But as I said-- I'd still be fibbing a little. (Unless absolutely none of the books are faced out and all I can see are the spines.)

Any book lover can tell you that the very first thing they see when they're browsing is the book cover. After all, the publishers paid for that artwork to catch our eye and entice us to buy, buy, buy. Once I was finally honest with myself and admitted that the cover is the first thing I see, that led me to another thought about those pesky duplicates.

What if-- like me-- you read a lot of books published outside the USA? Since English is the only language I read with complete comfort, that means that I'm very familiar with the names of publishing houses in the UK. Quite a few of my favorite authors are published both in the US and the UK, and that has explained several of my duplicate copies over the years. Exact same book, but different countries, different publishing houses, different book covers. See why I've trained myself to shop with a list?

This same book/different cover has led me to a favorite little game however. A game of Which Cover Is the Best: the American or the British?  This week I thought I would have you join me in the game with Laurie R. King's recently released Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery, Dreaming Spies.

On the left you can see the UK edition of Dreaming Spies. On the right is the US edition. The UK cover ties in with Mary and Sherlock's travels to Japan with the ship and the Japanese-style branch of blossoms and the moon. But for some reason, it falls a bit flat for me. Perhaps if I could see it in the flesh and hold it and catch the glimmer of the gold ship and blossoms, I'd warm to it more.

The US edition also has ties to Japan with the stylized border and the flowers. It also brings in Oxford University, renowned for its "dreaming spires." If the cover stopped with the border and the spires, I might choose it, but there's a deal breaker on that cover. What is it? That woman in a hat looking toward Oxford. What can I say? I'm sick to death of seeing the back of a woman's head on a book cover. I figure marketing thinks all the women who see this are going to put themselves in the place of the cover girl. That's why you can't see her face. If you do see her face, you won't be as willing to put yourself in the story.

If only that worked for me. But it doesn't. I hate wearing hats. There are only two weather conditions in which I'll even consider wearing one: either to keep the desert sun from frying my brain or to keep sub-zero temperatures from freezing my ears off my head. Besides, there's just something downright rude about all these women standing around with their backs to me.

So there you have my dilemma. I honestly don't know which cover I'd choose! Do you? 

Which cover appeals to you? The UK edition or the US edition? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Too Bad to Die by Francine Mathews

First Line: He learned about Mokie the day the new boy arrived.

Having barely survived his schooling and a quixotic mother, Ian Fleming is now an intelligence officer in the Royal Navy who spends his spare time spinning stories in his head, but when he becomes a part of the all-important Tehran Conference, he has no time to be bored. Tipped off that Hitler's top assassin is in Tehran with orders to kill Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin, Fleming goes undercover to identify and stop the killer. Between martinis, beautiful women and brutal attacks, this naval officer learns that betrayal can come from very unexpected quarters.

Having read and enjoyed Mathews' previous historical thriller Jack 1939, I looked forward to reading Too Bad to Die, and I was not disappointed. I was hooked in the prologue when I learned the origin of the book title. Too Bad to Die is an excellent blend of history, literature and cinema as it gives us the background of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, and the importance of the meeting between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. 

Mathews' research blends seamlessly into her narrative. Her portraits of the world leaders are at once informative and familiar. By sharing scenes from Fleming's boyhood, we can also read and smile and trace the beginnings of one of literature's most famous characters. 

While the book satisfies on both history and mystery levels, it also delivers with a good solid pace and exciting action sequences-- although a scene of torture towards the end of the book may make some readers uncomfortable. My radar must be in fine shape because I did find the identity of the super spy/killer a bit too easy to guess, but there's a lot more to this book than whodunnit. 

If you're a fan of well-researched, high octane historical thrillers, Too Bad to Die is too good to miss.

Too Bad to Die by Francine Mathews
ISBN: 9781594631795
Riverhead © 2015
Hardcover, 368 pages

Historical Thriller, Standalone
Rating: A
Source: Amazon Vine 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Laurie R. King at The Poisoned Pen!

According to The Poisoned Pen's event calendar, there are going to be several Saturdays that I leave Denis sleeping peacefully at home while I jump in the Jeep and head off to my favorite bookstore. Saturday, February 21, was my second in a row because I definitely wanted to see Laurie R. King who's best known for her excellent series of mysteries featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. Having signed up for The Poisoned Pen's weekly emails, I knew that this event was going to be very special. 

The Book Haul
Once again on the drive across town, I seemed to be a magnet for everyone who wanted to get in front of me and drive well below the speed limit. Since I'm a semi-reformed leadfoot, I just turned up the volume on the radio and sang. Loudly. I still arrived in plenty of time to make my purchase and pick the perfect seat.

Instead of reading, I chose to people watch because the place was a beehive of activity. (All you Laurie R. King fans know exactly why I chose that last phrase, don't you?) Author Charles Finch (Charles Lenox historical mysteries), his wife, and infant daughter arrived. The Poisoned Pen, owner Barbara Peters, and bestselling author Diana Gabaldon have begun a Writer in Residence program, and Charles is the first writer to spend a week here conducting interviews and writing workshops. 

While I people watched and waited, I got to see The Poisoned Pen staff do one of the things they do so well: set up an event. They not only had chairs to deal with, but food and drink, the ikebana (Japanese flower arrangements), the slideshow paraphernalia, and assisting the ladies from Sun City who would be modeling kimonos. They also helped any customer who needed it and spread lots of smiles and good cheer as they worked. They're the best.

Timeless Japanese Style 

L to R: model, Laurie R. King
Once the ladies from Sun City were dressed in their traditional kimonos, they walked down the wide middle aisle-- just as though they were on the catwalk at a fashion show. Originally we were to be shown how to fold and tie a traditional obi, but the woman who knew how to do it had had to cancel. 

While one lady told us about kimonos, we were shown four more examples that had been brought in and hung where we could all see them. After hearing how involved tying an obi is, I think we all agreed that the one our model was wearing would be the type we would choose. It was pre-tied and used velcro.

I had always wondered about the shoes and socks worn by Japanese women (you can just see them peeping out from the model's kimono in the photo to the right), so I was happy when the model told us that the socks are extremely uncomfortable and that they force you to take small steps; otherwise, they kill your toes!

I've always loved the simplicity and beauty of Japanese flower arranging, which is called ikebana, and the Sun City ladies talked about it for a few minutes. The arrangements are always made with fresh flowers, and the aim of the creator is to "take the ordinary and make it extraordinary." When asked about the containers used in the arrangements, we were told that they are considered a part of the arrangement but that they do not represent anything.

Laurie R. King then read a brief passage from Dreaming Spies which concerned Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes dressing in kimonos. The passage made us all laugh, but if you want to know what it was, you're just going to have to read the book yourself! Someone in the audience asked about how frequently kimonos were worn in Japan, and Laurie replied that they are considered "Sunday go to meeting" clothes-- something that's worn for special occasions. 

"Almost as good as Stately Holmes..."

It was now time for the interview which host Barbara Peters began by saying, "The title Dreaming Spies is almost as good as 'Stately Holmes.'" Looking out at us and then at Laurie, Peters continued, "I came up with Stately Holmes, and you still haven't used it. You know that I'm never going to let that go!"

Laurie shook her head in mock impatience. "I have a short story coming for Christmas. Hold on, hold on-- it's coming!"

Laurie R. King
In a previous book in the Russell-Holmes series, King had mentioned the couple being in Japan, which led many fans to believe that they'd missed reading a book somewhere along the way. This meant that she had to write a book set in that country-- and it also meant a research trip which she took with Barbara Peters and her husband Rob.

Barbara wanted to see rural Japan, and Laurie-- trusting in Rob's ("Mr. Tech") high-powered GPS that could integrate with his camera and all sorts of other things-- said that she could find it. They promptly got lost. All they had to navigate with was a fold-out map because they discovered that all of Rob's gadgets had been stolen in Vietnam. Somewhere along the way, they took a wrong turn and didn't see another human being for four hours. 

Stopping to see a bridge, Barbara saw the signs for a restroom, and-- being a seasoned traveler-- she knew not to pass up the opportunity. "When I opened the door of the restroom, the lid of the TOTO toilet rose to greet me," Barbara said, and this was the inspiration for a little book Laurie and Barbara wrote and illustrated: Not in Kansas Anymore, TOTO.  

Laurie laughed. "I was standing there taking photos when two women walked by. They looked at each other as if to say, 'Don't they have toilets in America?'"

Barbara then told us of needing hotel rooms in an area where they were in short supply. There was only one room, and the three of them took it. With only two beds, the chivalrous Rob slept out in the hallway. Evidently the hotel management must have been worried about shenanigans going on in the Americans' room because hotel employees kept checking to see if they needed soap... or towels... or anything else they could think of. Each time an employee showed up, Rob (from his vantage point in the hallway) would wave at them. "They looked very relieved," Barbara remarked.

"No, they were disappointed!" Laurie disagreed.

Since the book Laurie was researching takes place in Tokyo in 1924, she was hoping to see buildings from that time period, but unfortunately extremely few exist today. 

Was there anything vital that they learned on their trip? "The importance of an English language GPS!" Laurie said.  

Charles Joins In

L to R: Barbara Peters (background), Laurie R. King, Charles Finch

Charles Finch, author of the Charles Lenox historical mystery series, joined Laurie and Barbara. From the smile on his face, I think he and his family were looking forward to a week away from a Chicago winter. 

"I don't have any good toilet stories to add," he quipped. "I did just want to say that you wrote some beautiful haiku." He was referring to some marvelous freebies that those who purchased Dreaming of Spies received, among them Mary Russell's business card and a gorgeous Japanese print on heavy cardstock with two haiku written by King.

"Why thank you," Laurie said. "I have to admit that they do contain a few elbow nudges, especially to Sherlockians."

"I loved the scene where Mary throws the scholar out of the Bodleian," Charles said.

Barbara, who was now sitting in the background, added, "In case any of you don't know, Charles went to Oxford for three years."

"I do have a good Bodleian story though," Charles said. "Every student has to go to the Bodleian and swear-- in Latin-- not to burn the books. I thought I'd be funny, so when I went to take the pledge I told them, 'I'm here to light the books on fire.' They were not amused!

"I am curious, though," Charles said, looking at Laurie and Barbara. "Did the three of you visit the purple (unisex) baths while you were in Japan?"

"Rob and I did," Barbara replied, "but we were the only people in there, so it didn't count."

Laurie R. King being 'shocked' by interviewer
"I learned that tattoos are a big no-no in the public baths there," Laurie added. "And I have a Bodleian story, too. I needed answers to a few questions concerning the Bodleian, so I wrote their information officer. I explained to him that I was writing a book in which the Bodleian plays a part, and I apologized for a book being stolen in one of the scenes-- something I would never do. 

"In the reply, the information officer told me, 'We're all looking forward to your book. We love your work!'" Laurie got a big smile on her face, channeled a little bit of Sally Field, and said, "The Bodleian really loves me!"

"I worked in the Library of Congress," said Barbara Peters, "and in the 1980s I visited the Bodleian. I was astounded to learn that the Bodleian doesn't use the Dewey decimal system or Library of Congress numbers. They catalog their books by date of accession-- at least they did when I was there!"

"...a reverence for tradition!"

"The English are such stupid people," Charles said with a twinkle in his eye. "I had a carrel at the Bodleian, and from my carrel I could see a book that I needed. I could almost touch it. When I went to the desk to request the book, I was told that it would take eight days for me to get it! Of course they do still open the Tower of London with keys...."

Barbara, anticipating possible audience outrage, quickly added, "Better to call it a reverence for tradition!"

Charles Finch
"I was kidding!" Charles assured us before turning to Laurie and asking her, "What's next?"

"I've written a contemporary thriller that will be out next," Laurie said. "Right now I'm one hundred pages into a Mary and Holmes book that has a large twist in the middle." (Several ooh's and ahh's from the audience.)

"I'm very fond of Harris Stuyvesant," Charles said. "Will we be hearing from him again?" Laurie said we would be.

"What's next for you?" Barbara asked Charles.

"Another Lenox and a standalone," he replied.

Mary Russell's War

Available Now!
"Those of you who are familiar with my website know that I've been writing a weekly serial called 'Mary Russell's War,'" said Laurie. "It's her journal, written in 1914 when she was fifteen and living with her family in San Francisco.

"I'm not sure where it's going to end. I would like to do it as an illustrated eBook or as a hardcover-- depending on the publisher...." looking over at Barbara Peters, editor-in-chief of Poisoned Pen Press.

From the noise everyone in the audience was making, I think Laurie knew we were envisioning a hardcover edition that we could buy and have signed right there at The Poisoned Pen!

Keeping Secondary Characters Fresh

Laurie R. King
During a brief question-and-answer session, one fan asked the two authors what they did to keep their secondary characters fresh and interesting.

Charles smiled and shrugged his shoulders. "I keep messing up. I'll leave one of the secondary characters out of a book, and I'll get all sorts of feedback from readers telling me that that was the worst book ever!"

"That's one reason why I limit my roster to two principal characters," Laurie said. "And I keep them fresh by showing them out in the world."


This event was two hours long-- twice the length of a normal one-- yet it felt as though we'd been there for less than an hour. Food, fashion, flowers, fun, and marvelous book talk.  What a way to send Dreaming Spies out into the world!


Friday, February 27, 2015

The February in Phoenix Weekly Link Round-Up

Another peaceful, balmy week has passed here at Casa Kittling. Rain is predicted by the weekend, and I hope we get some. Denis and I are planning a trip out on the Apache Trail soon to check on all the wildflowers that should be in bloom, and one to the Water Ranch to see how many of our feathered winter visitors are still here in town.

February in Phoenix
I just went out to take the photo to the left. The quality isn't very good. The brilliant sunshine here in Phoenix has a tendency to wreck havoc with colors. But that's a tiny sliver of my back garden-- the Tombstone roses are beginning to bloom and join the tiny yellow puffballs of the sweet acacia tree in filling the air with fragrance. It's the time of year thousands of people pay to come here to experience, and I know why.

I know all about the gloom of February. Of the cold. Of walking outside and feeling your nose hairs freeze when you take a breath. Of the patches of black ice and piles of dirty, gritty slush lining the streets. Or... *shudder* That will be the end of that! There's even waist-deep snow in Monument Valley.

If you aren't fortunate enough to be able to escape the snow and cold, please stay safe and warm-- preferably with a hot drink and a stack of good books. Take a look at the tiny white blossoms beginning to cover my fence and know that spring will come to you, too.

But these links will arrive even faster. Head 'em up! Move 'em out! 

Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits
  • Harper Lee isn't the only author who has a unearthed book being published this year. A discovered Dr. Seuss book will be in bookstores this summer.
  • A new Pirates of the Caribbean movie starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow is currently filming in Australia.  Dead men tell no tales!
  • Statistics from the Cooperative Children's Book Center show that children's books are shifting toward diversity.
  • J.K. Rowling is a treasure. Have you read the letter she wrote to a fan she met on Twitter?
  • The Willard Library is considered by many to be the most haunted library in America.
  • A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been discovered in a man's attic. Of course there's a bit of controversy surrounding it.
  • Here's a businessman who knows how to treat his employees. 
  • How many of the greatest books by women have you read? (Me? 36 out of 102. Unfortunately I couldn't count the ones I started but didn't finish, or the ones sitting on my TBR shelves.)

Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones
  • A vast bed of metal balls have been found in the deep sea.
  • Divers have found a record trove of gold coins (over 1,000 years old!) in the Mediterranean.
  • The warship that inspired The African Queen is still in operation at age 100. 
  • A Mayan mural reveals an ancient photobomb. 
  • Two new works by artist Paul Cézanne have been discovered.
  • Plague graffiti in a Cambridgeshire church reveals a heartbreaking find. 
  • Right here in the Phoenix metro area, a man found a $35,000 treasure at Goodwill.
  • Earlier this month I shared a link about the sweater once owned by Vince Lombardi that sold at a Goodwill store for 58¢. The auctioneers thought it would sell for $20,000. The operative word being "thought." 
  • German archaeologists in southern Egypt have found two statues of the goddess Sekhmet.
  • A CT scan has shown that there's more to this 1,100-year-old statue of Buddha than meets the eye.

Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett

The Happy Wanderer

I  ♥  Lists

Book Candy
  • Drool Alert! Put on a bib before you check out this delicious new bookstore that just opened in Romania!
  • Someone with a sense of humor created his own book sections at a local bookstore. 
  • Books a Million asked Twitter followers for photos of their to-be-read piles, and the followers obliged.

That's all for this week. Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Have a wonderful weekend-- and read something fabulous!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

By Book or by Crook by Eva Gates

First Line: Only in the very back of my mind, in my most secret dreams, did I ever dare hope I'd have such a moment.

For ten years Lucy Richardson has been a librarian at the Harvard Library and engaged (sort of) to her parents' choice of future son-in-law. But that relationship comes to a screeching halt, and Lucy decides to take the opportunity to make a clean break. 

She moves to North Carolina's Outer Banks to be near her aunt and cousin, and she becomes the newest librarian at the Lighthouse Library. She's doing what she loves in her favorite place in the whole wide world. But when a priceless first edition Jane Austen novel is stolen from the library's exhibit and the chairman of the library board is murdered, Lucy discovers that she's going to have to fight for the new life she's trying to create for herself.

I love libraries. I love lighthouses. When I came across this first book in the Lighthouse Library cozy series, my eyes lit up, and when I discovered that "Eva Gates" is the pen name of one of my favorite authors, Vicki Delany, that was the icing on the cake. North Carolina's Outer Banks seems to be one of the hot settings for cozies, and By Book or by Crook fits right in with its neighbors.

I liked Lucy Richardson, even though she didn't win any points by staying in a relationship for ten years just to keep her parents off her back. Grow a spine, girl, because I have a feeling that those parents of yours won't be able to leave you alone in your new home! 

Lucy is surrounded by an excellent cast of secondary characters who are a good mix of supportive and irritating. Fellow librarian Charlene's passion for rap music is a running joke throughout the book, and it's a joke I enjoyed since I personally didn't have to listen to the music. I did find it a tad worrying that Lucy has two prospective beaus. She may not be ready for them yet, but I've learned to treat romantic triangles with a great deal of suspicion, thanks to Janet Evanovich. 

Lucy's fellow librarians are just the sort of people you'd want to work with, and here's hoping that Louise Jane never ever gets a permanent job in the lighthouse library. Louise Jane is the sort of person you'd just love to slap, and I figure the main reason why she so desperately wants to work in the library is that no one wants her there. (As you can see, this is a wonderful cast of characters because I seem to have gotten emotionally involved with them!)

Another perk of the book is that you really get a feel for what libraries have to deal with in this age of constant budget cuts. The author makes it clear that keeping libraries alive depends on the librarians, the patrons, and members of the library board and city government who all realize how vital these places are to communities.

The mystery in By Book or by Crook provides both the high and the low points of the book. The high point? The killer is hiding in the best place of all-- right out in plain sight, and I cannot believe I didn't figure out the person's identity. The low point? I had a very difficult time suspending my disbelief when it came to the lack of security in place at the library for the exhibit of priceless first editions of all of Jane Austen's novels as well as one of Austen's notebooks. I could easily go on in more depth about this, but I don't want to slip and give away too much of the story.

Lack of security aside, I really enjoyed this book. The author took the rather unfeasible idea of putting a library in a lighthouse and made it work with wonderful descriptive passages, an excellent cast, and an intriguing mystery. I'm looking forward to heading back to the Outer Banks for the next book in the series! 

By Book or by Crook by Eva Gates
ISBN: 9780451470935
Obsidian © 2015
Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages

Cozy Mystery, #1 Lighthouse Library mystery
Rating: A-
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Killer Collection by Ellery Adams

First Line: The potter's hands were wide with short, thick fingers, gnarled and cracked from a lifetime of work.

As a writer for Collector's Weekly, Molly Appleby  has proven herself to have a sharp eye for quality and an ear for gossip, but little does she know that going with her mother to an exclusive kiln opening will have her using both skills to solve a murder.

George-Bradley Staunton has one of the very best collections of folk art pottery in the South, but his utter ruthlessness in amassing his treasures means that when he drops dead at the kiln opening Molly is attending, there are few who mourn him. However, when his death is ruled a murder, the suspect list is long and the police are stumped. Molly has to step in to help catch the killer before the body count rises.

Originally published in 2006 under the name J.B. Stanley, A Killer Collection is the first book in the three-volume Collectibles cozy series. The author has completely revamped each book to have them reissued under her pen name Ellery Adams. What I enjoyed most about this first book in the series were the behind-the-scenes action at an auction and all the good information about Southern folk art pottery-- and A Killer Collection absolutely glows whenever Adams describes the creative process as a potter sits at the wheel.

I was slightly less satisfied with the characters and the mystery. As a journalist Molly has the right training to ferret out the perpetrators of crime and to provide readers interested in collecting with plenty of good information. However, I didn't find enough there to make her stand out from all the other amateur sleuths available today. And for all the readers who prefer justice to prevail and all their plot threads neatly tied up in bows by book's end... they may be left feeling a bit dissatisfied. I have to admit that I didn't particularly care for the way Molly dealt with the information she had.

All in all, the book is enjoyable in its depiction of folk art pottery, its history and traditions as well as in showing us the evolution of a writer.

A Killer Collection by Ellery Adams
eISBN: 9781940846408
Beyond the Page Publishing © 2015
eBook, 189 pages

Cozy Mystery, #1 Collectibles mystery
Rating: B-
Source: Net Galley