Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Templars' Last Secret by Martin Walker

First Line: Bruno Courrèges, chief of police of the small French town of St. Denis, awoke a few seconds before six, just as the dawn was breaking.

When a woman's body is found at the foot of a cliff, Bruno believes that there is a connection to the ruined Château de Commarque which stands high atop that same cliff. What he doesn't need is a young woman from Paris following him around for a week recording how he does every little thing. Not in the middle of an investigation!

Fortunately for him, Amélie proves to be an excellent addition. With her help, Bruno learns that the dead woman was an archaeologist searching for an incredibly important artifact-- and that she had ties to Islamic terrorists. The terrorism angle alone puts formidable pressure on the chief of police. Will he be able to solve the case and still find time to enjoy good food, good wine, and a pretty woman or two?

In reviewing the last book in this delightful series, Fatal Pursuit, I admitted that I was tiring of the formula the series had fallen into, and I hoped that the next book would shake things up a bit. It does, and I couldn't be happier.

The Templars' Last Secret teases us with castle ruins, caves, Templar treasure, and prehistoric art, but what it's really about is policing in France, especially since the terrorist attacks. We are shown how the French government reacts to certain situations and how countries are now working together against a deadly common foe. One of the ways that policing has changed is by the use of technology and social media to solve crime, and the character of Amélie is just the sort of person to show a reluctant Bruno how vital it can be.

Amélie adds quite a bit to the story, not only with her technical expertise but by her very nature. It was fun to watch her interact with the people of St. Denis and to see their reactions to her. I'm hoping that this will not be her last appearance in this series.

Yes, Martin Walker has rejuvenated his series that I love so much, and I'm looking forward to the next book with great anticipation.

The Templars' Last Secret by Martin Walker
ISBN: 9781101946800
Knopf © 2017
Hardcover, 336 pages

Police Procedural, #10 Bruno Chief of Police mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison

First Line: The girl walked alone on the darkened street.

Zoe Fleming has no use for her tycoon father or his political aspirations. She is a human rights attorney who has made a home and a life for herself in Zambia. When a young girl with Down syndrome is raped in a Lusaka slum, Zoe joins Zambian police officer Joseph Kabuta in investigating the brutal crime. Clues from the young girl's past uncover a connection between the girl-- Kuyeya, whose name means "memory"-- and a powerful Zambian family who will stop at nothing to hide the truth.

Sometimes I need to read a book that tells the story of a group of people who give their all to do good despite everything the powerful and corrupt do to stop them. The Garden of Burning Sand was perfect for the job.

Corban Addison has the welcome knack of honestly portraying brutality without being graphic. In doing so, he tells us some home truths: the prevalence of child rape in sub-Saharan Africa, and the uphill battle to eradicate AIDs. When all the evidence Zoe and the others gathered in Kuyeya's case went to trial, I didn't really expect the outcome-- partially because everyone concerned put their lives in very real danger by fighting for this child. 

The story in The Garden of Burning Sand is compelling, the setting puts the reader right in the middle of the action, and the characters make you want to take the next flight to join in their fight. I will certainly be looking for more books by Corban Addison.  

The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison
ISBN: 9781623653866
Quercus © 2015
Paperback, 400 pages

Contemporary Fiction, Standalone
Rating: A
Source: Paperback Swap

New Mexico Road Trip: Museum of International Folk Art, Part Two

As I said in my first post about Santa Fe's Museum of International Folk Art, it was the highlight of our week in New Mexico and the cause of both Denis and me wearing out our camera batteries. I took so many photos there that I've split my final choices into three separate posts. This is the second one which will take you from the main exhibition hall of the first post and into the Hispanic Heritage Wing for the Flamenco exhibit. My mother loved flamenco music, and I grew up listening to it on Mom's hi-fi. Thanks to Youtube, I'm listening to a wonderful flamenco guitar as I share these photos with you. Enjoy.

Wonderful carved doors leading to another section of the museum.

Native American art of the Pacific Northwest. Gorgeous!

When we entered the Hispanic Heritage wing, I was thrilled to see that most of the exhibit showcased wonderful needlework. Some of the work like the shawl in the photo below shone so brightly in the lights that it was only when you got up close and personal that you could see the stitching and the hours and hours of work it took with delicate materials like silk thread to make the shawl.  ¡Fantastico!

A Manila Shawl from China or Spain, 1900-1930

Detail of the shawl.

Bullfighter's Entrance Cape, Madrid, Spain, ca. 1955

Detail of the bullfighter's cape. ¡Ole!

Another section of the Hispanic Heritage Wing.

Detail of the stitching on the bullfighter's cape from the photo above.

Detail from the bullfighter's jacket.

Denis wearing out his camera battery.

Manila Shawl, China, 19th century

Detail of the shawl.

The Spirit of Flamenco by Roland van Loon, 2015

You can also see this painting in the photo I took of Denis, and that angle is the best because it seems to catch fire in that lighting. The artist really captured the heart of flamenco. 

Next week, I'll conclude my visit to the Museum of International Folk Art with a visit to the Tramp Art exhibit. See you then!


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dead Storage by Mary Feliz

First Line: "Maggie, we've got a crisis," Jason had said the last time I'd talked to him.

Even with deadlines looming, professional organizer Maggie McDonald believes she can help friends Jason and Stephen get their large Victorian home decluttered before its scheduled renovation. However, she hasn't even filled one bin with junk before Jason leaves on an emergency business trip, Stephen's injured mastiff limps home... and Stephen himself winds up in jail charged with murder. 

Stephen was caught at the crime scene covered in blood and is the number one suspect, but he refuses to talk to anyone but Maggie. It's time to set aside the decluttering and start sorting through secrets to save her friend.

Mary Feliz has created a good strong mystery that will keep readers guessing as to what is really going on in that area of small businesses where the murder occurred. She also addresses such issues as homeless people, immigration status, and PTSD with sense and sensitivity.

But what she's done that I appreciate the most can all be found in the character of Maggie, and of her family, too. She and her family honestly try to do good for their friends, their neighbors, and their community. Maggie, her husband Max, and their two boys are also intelligent and filled with common sense. When one of the boys is threatened at school, it's handled swiftly and appropriately. Maggie is not the type of amateur sleuth who takes chances with her family's lives. She's also not the type of person who takes ill treatment like a doormat. Her response to an obnoxious lawyer had me laughing and cheering.

Maggie also does what so many other amateur sleuths don't-- she keeps in close contact with local police, and any time she finds something pertinent to an investigation, she shares it with them immediately. This means that the dangerous parts of the case are handled by the professionals... and that the reveal is not done onstage with the heroine narrowly escaping with her life. We learn what's happened by sitting down with Maggie, her friends, and family at her kitchen table and talking it all over. This is something that not all cozy mystery fans are going to appreciate, but I certainly do. Intelligence and common sense go a long, long way with me, and this means that I'm looking forward to visiting with Maggie again soon. 

Dead Storage by Mary Feliz
eISBN: 9781601830074
Lyrical Underground © 2017
eBook, 241 pages

Cozy Mystery, #3 Maggie McDonald mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri

First Line: At about five-thirty in the morning, he could no longer stand lying in bed with his eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling.

Inspector Salvo Montalbano is just about to leave on vacation with Livia when he comes to a halt, transfixed by something he sees on the beach. A seagull is doing an odd dance on the sand...and then it falls over dead. Puzzled by what he's seen, Montalbano stops by the police station to check on things before leaving. He discovers that Fazio is nowhere to be found and was last seen on the docks, secretly working on a case. Montalbano's first priority now becomes finding Fazio, little knowing that he will soon uncover a hidden world of sadism, extortion, and murder.

When I began reading The Dance of the Seagull and learned that Montalbano was going on vacation with Livia, I groaned out loud. I'm not a fan of Livia; it seems that all she and the inspector can do when they're together is misunderstand each other and fight. I'd much rather deal with clues and dead bodies. But as soon as Montalbano steps foot inside the station and learns about Fazio, we are immediately immersed in an investigation.

Montalbano, the old grouch, seldom gets the sleep he needs, but now he seems to be getting flashes of "second sight" along with his insomnia. I love to watch this character put together completely disparate occurrences to form kernels of knowledge that tell him what's happened. All homicide detectives should be so lucky. He's also fortunate in the team he's brought together, and The Dance of the Seagull shows us exactly what each member is willing to do for the others. These men aren't simply co-workers who put their lives on the line; they are also friends, and-- most importantly-- family.

No Montalbano mystery is complete without a scene starring fan favorite Catarella and a few more showcasing the mouthwatering food of Sicily. This entire series is a gem, and one of the best pieces of translation I've come across in my reading. I've been with this series since the beginning (The Shape of Water), and the cast of characters, the setting, and the mysteries have me completely hooked. I'm not about to miss a single installment, and if you give the series a try, you'll probably find yourself feeling the same way.

The Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri
Translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli
ISBN: 9780143122616
Penguin Books © 2013
Paperback, 277 pages

Police Procedural, #15 Inspector Montalbano
Rating: B+
Source: Paperback Swap

A Who Are You? for July

It's time for one of my favorite ways to learn about new-to-me books to read, which also means that it's time for me to start hearing The Who singing "Who Are You?" in my head.

This time, I'm not a female character. I am Arthur Prescott, a professor at the University of Barchester in England in Charlie Lovett's wonderful The Lost Book of the Grail. Here's a synopsis of the book:

"Arthur Prescott is happiest when surrounded by the ancient books and manuscripts of the Barchester Cathedral library. Increasingly, he feels like a fish out of water among the concrete buildings of the University of Barchester, where he works as an English professor. His one respite is his time spent nestled in the library, nurturing his secret obsession with the Holy Grail and researching his perennially unfinished guidebook to the medieval cathedral.

But when a beautiful young American named Bethany Davis arrives in Barchester charged with the task of digitizing the library’s manuscripts, Arthur’s tranquility is broken. Appalled by the threat modern technology poses to the library he loves, he sets out to thwart Bethany, only to find in her a kindred spirit with a similar love for knowledge and books—and a fellow Grail fanatic.

Bethany soon joins Arthur in a quest to find the lost Book of Ewolda, the ancient manuscript telling the story of the cathedral’s founder. And when the future of the cathedral itself is threatened, Arthur and Bethany’s search takes on grave importance, leading the pair to discover secrets about the cathedral, about the Grail, and about themselves.

Arthur is a curmudgeon, and I can be, too. Arthur is obsessed with the Holy Grail, and when I was in college, I was rather obsessed with King Arthur and "all that jazz," too. As Arthur, my favorite place is the library of an ancient cathedral amongst its priceless manuscripts, and I can see that being one of my favorite places, too.  Arthur and I share so many likes and dislikes that it makes reading this book an absolute delight-- almost as though I'm actually living the action in the book as I read.

Add to my affinity with Arthur the finding of a kindred spirit, the cathedral and its manuscripts coming under threat, the search for a lost manuscript, and the breaking of a code, and I'm in heaven. And I haven't even told you about some of the best parts of this book! (You'll have to wait for my review.)

Yes indeed, I am enjoying my stint as Arthur Prescott. Being inside the skin of a grumpy English male professor doesn't seem strange at all. And after all this, there's only one question I must ask:

Who are you?

I'd really like to know! And please don't forget to tell us the title of the book so we can all add it to our wish lists!


Friday, July 14, 2017

A Chewing Through the Restraints Weekly Link Round-Up

As Denis would say, someone seems to be playing silly buggers with me, so I thought I'd give you a word of warning. Various things go into a blog's appearance. Some of the photos used for things like the background, header photo, and sidebar have to be uploaded to a photo storage website that assigns direct URLs to each photo. Then those direct URLs are inserted into the HTML of the blog.

A few days ago, I received an email from the photo storage website that I use, informing me that they noticed that I'm doing "third party hosting" and that's against the law in their neck of the woods. (I was mightily miffed because they were holding my images hostage and my blog looked downright peculiar.) Well now, boys and girls, I've been doing that with your outfit for almost ten years now, so don't try to make it sound like I've just turned outlaw. It's probably more like you've changed your rules to gouge more money out of people. (Not that I'm cynical or anything....)

After much checking and re-checking, I tried clicking on the link to see the amount of money I owed and to pay it, but it won't let me pay. (Now don't that beat all in our capitalist society?) I fixed the photos, and now I've been trying to find another storage site that will let me do the same thing and states clearly that third party hosting is legal. One said it would, but it doesn't, so the search continues. I just wanted to let you know what's going on in case you visit my blog and it looks like Kittling: Books has been buried under crime scene tape. Sheesh!

I need to head out to the corral for some peace of mind. Head 'em up! Mooooooove 'em out!

[Author's Note: The decidedly heated--but perfectly polite-- email I sent last night seems to have done the trick. My blog no longer has the crime scene tape/bleak Arctic tundra look. (It alternated.) I hate to lose my temper because I've been on the receiving end more times than I care to remember, but when I'm forced to in a situation like this, I find it helps to know how to singe the hair off the intended target's head without resorting to four-letter words!]

►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►The Happy Wanderer◄

►I ♥ Lists & Quizzes◄

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 great weekend, and read something fabulous!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Gone With the Wool by Betty Hechtman

First Line: Why hadn't I realized this problem before?

Every October, Cadbury by the Sea has a festival to celebrate the return of thousands of monarch butterflies to their winter homes on the Monterrey Peninsula. Casey Feldstein has her hands full setting up a yarn retreat, doing her nightly baking for local businesses, and helping out at the festival. But when a former butterfly queen is found dead, Casey has to add one more thing to her to-do list: finding a killer with a score to settle.

Fellow fans of this series will like knowing that a secret from the previous book is dealt with here in Gone With the Wool, and the reaction Casey gets isn't exactly what she expected. How's the mystery? First rate, because Hechtman's red herrings led me in the opposite direction from the villain-- a bit like Julius the cat's "stink fish" would make me head away from the kitchen pronto.

If there's any weakness in this book for me, it's the fact that Casey spent 97% of her time sleuthing and dodging irritating parents. You see, her friend Sammy's parents are in town, and they still think Casey is going to marry their darling boy. (Definitely not happening.) 

The reason that Casey had so much time to play detective is that her "early bird" friends who attend each of her yarn retreats are now so well-trained that they can do the work themselves. (You're not paying them, Casey, shame on you.) One of the reasons why I enjoy this series so much is that I love the participation in the retreats and the interaction with all the crafters. For me, yarn is as big an addiction as reading, so I need my fiber fix as much as my mystery fix. 

If you're in the mood for a book (and a series) with a strong cast of characters, a good setting, intriguing mysteries, and a few balls of yarn thrown in for good measure, I suggest you sign up for one of Betty Hechtman's Yarn Retreats.

Gone With the Wool by Betty Hechtman
ISBN: 9780425282670
Berkley Prime Crime © 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Cozy Mystery, #4 Yarn Retreat mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.