Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Unnatural Causes by Dawn Eastman

First Line: Although Dr. Katie LeClair knew her racing heartbeat was due to a surge of adrenaline, she couldn't calm the fear and anxiety that fueled it as she strode through the sliding emergency room doors and into Baxter Community Hospital.

Becoming a doctor has meant years of schooling, training, and moving, and now that Katie LeClair has settled down as the new doctor in Baxter, Michigan all she wants is a place to call home. But that's not going to be as easy as she thought. One of Katie's patients has been found dead. The woman's death is ruled a suicide which was the result of medication prescribed by Katie... medication that Katie doesn't remember prescribing.

An autopsy reveals that it was murder, and Katie finds herself investigating in her spare time. Trouble is, the secrets she's uncovering could lead to her own untimely demise.

Dawn Eastman, the author of the highly entertaining Family Fortune cozy series, is branching out with this book. Unnatural Causes is a fast-paced, solid mystery that kept me guessing, and the main characters are well placed to solve mysteries. Katie LeClair is a caring, gifted doctor, and what makes her a good doctor makes her a good investigator. Her brother Caleb is very good with computers, and since Katie saved the life of the police chief's dog, she also has an "in" with the police department.

All elements mesh together well and run like a finely tuned machine. The trouble is, I just didn't find myself warming up to any of the characters-- which is one of the main selling points of mysteries on the cozier end of the genre. Unnatural Causes is well-written and does have an appealing main character, so don't be afraid to give it a try. Your mileage may definitely vary!

Unnatural Causes by Dawn Eastman
eISBN: 9781683313144
Crooked Lane Books © 2017
eBook, 288 pages

Amateur Sleuth, #1 Dr. Katie LeClair mystery
Rating: B
Source: Net Galley 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Signal Loss by Garry Disher

First Line: Lovelock and Pym. They sounded like some kind of show-business duo-- magicians, maybe; folk singers.

Two hit men sent on a job to the Peninsula southeast of Melbourne, Australia have a bad day, and the resulting brush fire draws attention to a drug lab and two burned bodies in a Mercedes.

With meth-related crime on the rise, interdepartmental bickering breaks out and Inspector Hal Challis has to fight to keep control of this case. Meanwhile, Sergeant Ellen Destry-- the newly appointed head of her department's sex crime unit-- is hard at work hunting for a serial rapist who is very adept at not leaving any clues.

Both Challis and Destry have complex cases with many interwoven threads to untangle, and their teams have to be at the top of their game to solve them both.

The opening chapter of Garry Disher's latest Hal Challis investigation, Signal Loss, is tense, very human, and even darkly funny-- and it does what it's supposed to do: grab your attention and make you want to read as quickly as you can all the way to the very last page.

Disher is a master of Australian noir, and although the emphasis in this book is more on the investigations than it is the characters' personal lives, you still know what's happening to them when they're not at work. At work, Challis assigns Pam Murphy a case that zeroes in on one of her personal prejudices, and the young woman realizes that she's got a lot to learn about human nature. There's also a (human) cougar on the prowl. She's head of the drug squad, and when she's not after all the glory, she's eyeing some of the men. I would've rolled my eyes, but these women-- and men-- do exist.

The interaction between characters is very good, but the investigations are even better, and readers can learn how things like Facebook are now being used to fight crime. You can also increase your knowledge of Australian slang, and with a smartphone close at hand, it's only a matter of seconds to learn what is being said if the meaning isn't clear in the context (and it usually is).

I haven't managed to read every book in this series, but I didn't feel lost while immersed in Signal Loss. Garry Disher is an excellent writer, and if you haven't read any of his work, I do recommend him.

Signal Loss by Garry Disher
ISBN: 9781616958596
Soho Crime © 2017
Hardcover, 352 pages

Police Procedural, #7 Hal Challis mystery
Rating: A
Source: the publisher


Monday, December 11, 2017

While Miz Kittling Knits: The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries

You haven't seen any of my knitting since the end of May. Once the weather heats up and I start spending a lot of time outside, my knitting projects tend to consist of simple things that would bore you to tears. And as far as that "heated-up" weather goes, it's simply too hot to knit anything that has much size to it.

Now it's cooler-- in fact we finally turned on the heat last Tuesday-- and my knitting needles have been seeing a lot more action. I've been working on an afghan that's keeping me snug and warm from waist to knee, and I'm looking forward to it getting down to my cold little toes, but I have been knitting smaller projects as well.

I decided to show you one of my failures because...well...because things don't always go according to plan. When I found this "tassel cowl" pattern on the internet, I thought it would be perfect for my beautician's teenage daughter.

I thought it looked fun in the multi-colored yarn in which it's shown, but I thought it would also look extremely well worked in a "dressier" yarn, so I brought out a skein of Red Heart Fiesta acrylic yarn in black-- which is really a combination of black and blond strands twisted together.

I had a second reason for trying this pattern: learning how to seam knitted pieces together. As I knitted the length of ribbing, following every single one of the directions in the pattern carefully, I began to have doubts. When I seamed the piece together (which went really well, I might add) and put it on the mannequin, I saw that I had been right to doubt. Take a look for yourself....

This is supposed to have enough stretch to fan out and spread across the wearer's shoulders. All I have is an extremely warm double thickness turtleneck that would look stupid if I attached the fringe at the bottom. What makes this doubly disappointing is that I'd already knitted a second in a lovely, Christmasy red acrylic yarn with a gold metallic strand in it. Fortunately, I didn't seam the red one together, so I can either pick it apart and reuse the yarn or use it as a mat. There is definitely something wrong with this pattern (probably the needle size)!

Every time I try to knit something special for Tucker's daughter, it turns out to be a dud for one reason or another. I'm beginning to think I'm trying to knit through some sort of curse! So this year I've just wrapped up Tucker's gift along with three other finished selections from my stash. I'm sure mother and daughter will be happy with what I've chosen.

And what was I watching on television while I was knitting away on my cursed project? Diana Rigg and Neil Dudgeon (now on Midsomer Murders) in The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries.

This five-episode series (1998-2000) is based on the series of mysteries written by Gladys Mitchell, and if you're the sort of person who likes their television and movie viewing to follow the books they're based on very closely, you're going to be due a disappointment.

In the books, Mrs. Bradley is an old woman, and she's, quite frankly, ugly. It's her mind and her wit you're going to like her for, not her appearance or her fashion sense. Diana Rigg, no matter her age, is far from ugly, and you can tell she enjoys wearing the clothing styles of the late 1920s. In fact, she reminds me a bit of Essie Davis in Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries set during the same time period in Australia. (There's just something about that clothing....)

Although the casting strays far from Gladys Mitchell's Mrs. Bradley, the writing does not. These five episodes are classy, intriguing mysteries that are filled with witty dialogue that only an iconic actress like Diana Rigg can deliver.

In other words, The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries are perfect companions for evenings spent knitting-- whether the knitting project turns out well or not!

Friday, December 08, 2017

A Real-Life Mystery Weekly Link Round-Up

There was a real-life mystery going on here last week. We live in a cul de sac, and a fence surrounds the property. Back in the days when we had much rowdier neighbors, it wasn't unusual for everyone to use the area in front of our house to park and block our driveway. The neighborhood seems to be undergoing a kinder, gentler phase, but when I walked past the front door and glanced out the window at about 1 AM last Thursday morning, I noticed a large white vehicle parked where it was blocking the drive.

Eight hours later when Denis went out to hop in the car to go to his dentist appointment, the vehicle was still there, and he couldn't get out. He walked to the dentist but was so clogged up by auto exhaust and pollen that his new crown had to be rescheduled. When he walked back home, the vehicle was still blocking the drive. Denis had to call and cancel his appointment with the hearing aid folks, but he still had some shopping to do. So he called the non-emergency number for the police and told them the situation.

To cut a very long process short, the car had been loaned to a young woman who left it at the end of our driveway, unlocked, and no one knew where she was. The vehicle owner's wallet, credit cards, and ID were in the unlocked vehicle. (What git leaves that stuff in his vehicle--even if he's not loaning it to someone?) The police got in touch with the owner who came and drove away in his property. Finally, Denis could run the rest of his errands. But what happened to the girl?

I doubt that we'll ever learn what happened, so I think I'd better mosey out to the corral to get those links ready for you. Head 'em up! Moooooooooooove 'em out!

►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
  • The mysteries of a shipwreck hundreds of years old off the coast of Italy are being revealed by 3D scanning.
  • A rare Roman sundial has been uncovered in Italy.
  • A 260 million-year-old forest that existed before the dinosaurs has been discovered on Antarctica. 
  • A mysterious blocked passage discovered near a Mayan temple could unlock secrets of this ancient civilization.
  • Archaeologists are finding buried treasure at the Abbey of Cluny in France.
  • An ancient Egyptian mummy wearing a golden sky god mask has been discovered in a long-lost sarcophagus.

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • How fruit fly brains could improve our search engines.
  • See a brilliant blue butterfly take flight for the first time.
  • How O-Six became the most famous wolf in the world. 
  • This rock art may be the earliest depiction of dogs.

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • Joe Ide: Creating a complicated hero from the 'hood. 
  • Lee Child shares tips for using research and dialogue in writing.

►I ♥ Lists◄

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, December 07, 2017

Chained by Eileen Brady

First Line: He was luscious.

When one of veterinarian Kate Turner's canine patients digs up a bone she identifies as human, the entire town of Oak Falls, New York, is shocked to learn that DNA has identified town golden boy Flynn Keegan as the murder victim. The handsome boy never got a chance to go to Hollywood and become a star.

Ten years leaves the police and the forensics team little to go on, and the grieving family begs Kate to conduct her own investigation. All she can do is go around town to interview the people who knew Flynn-- that and juggle all her patients, the defection of her current boyfriend, the re-appearance of an old flame, and worry about a brown bear that's roaming the woods outside of town. But all those questions Kate's asking? Well, she's definitely making someone very nervous.

I absolutely love this series for the details of Kate's life as a vet. Eileen Brady has been a practicing vet for over twenty years, so no matter how silly some of those patients (and their owners) may seem, I have the feeling that they are all based upon fact. This verisimilitude makes me feel as though I could walk right into the book and ride along on Kate's housecalls.

The mystery is a good one, and I also think I relived a few of my high school days as I read. With the defecting current boyfriend and an old one coming to town, I was worried that the mystery would take a backseat to romance, but my fear was groundless, I'm happy to say. Kate's grandfather the retired arson investigator is the voice of reason in her life, and Kate needs one because she had some low points in her investigation-- what I call Too Stupid to Live Moments. Like what? The snowpocalypse is going to close down the town completely, but that's the precise moment when Kate just has to go up into the mountains to take photos for evidence. Are you kidding me? Killer on the loose who's mad because you're learning too much. A bear roaming the area you're traveling to, and a blizzard that's already begun?  Shame on you, Kate!

It's a good thing that those veterinary house calls and the mystery are so good because, as a rule, I don't react well to Too Stupid to Live Moments. I'll be keeping an eye peeled on Kate during her next investigation to see if she toes the line.

Chained by Eileen Brady
eISBN: 9781464209567
Poisoned Pen Press © 2017
eBook, 275 pages

Cozy Mystery, #3 Kate Turner DVM mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

And Death Goes to... by Laura Bradford

First Line: You know the kid who lurks at the top of the stairs, listening to adult conversations they're not supposed to hear?

The St. Louis Advertising Awards are the area's Academy Awards for those in that field, and the Tobias Ad Agency has been nominated for its most prestigious prize, Best Overall Ad Campaign. Naturally, Tobi Tobias wants to win, but she isn't shocked when she doesn't. What does shock her is when the winner takes the stage and plummets to her death when a platform gives way.

Tobi's Grandpa Stu is on hand to help compile a list of suspects, but the first question that Tobi must answer is... Was the dead woman the intended victim? Other lives may depend on the answer.

Laura Bradford provides a solid mystery filled with twists and turns. I enjoyed trying to identify the killer, and I also greatly enjoyed the fact that there was a significant decrease in the use of all of Tobi's nicknames, which I found so distracting in the previous two books in the series. But in some ways, the mystery was overshadowed by Tobi's personal life.

Many times Tobi has mentioned the fact that she's "almost thirty" as though she has the wisdom of the ages at her disposal, but her behavior has proven otherwise. I was thrilled to bits that Tobi finally put on her big girl panties to deal with a situation in a truly adult manner. In some ways, this series could almost be considered the coming of age story of its main character.

As you can tell, I've let Bradford's characters get under my skin while I've been enjoying the mysteries they solve and the advertising background the author provides! The same thing will probably happen to you.

And Death Goes to... by Laura Bradford
eISBN: 9781516102105
Lyrical Press © 2017
eBook, 210 pages

Cozy Mystery, #3 Tobi Tobias mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley

Nightblind by Ragnar Jónasson

First Lines: Unsettling. There was something unsettling about that ancient, broken-down house.

When a local policeman-- and Ari Thór Arason's boss-- is murdered, the peace and quiet of Siglufjörđur is shattered. Ari Thór assumes that he will be leading the investigation into his superior's death, but the mayor of the fishing village on the northernmost tip of Iceland brings in the man Ari Thór originally trained with several years previously.

The dark Arctic winter is closing in and there's a killer on the loose. As the two men investigate, they learn that there are many factors in this murder that need to be dealt with-- and some of those factors tie into tragic events in the past.

This is the third of Ragnar Jónasson's Dark Iceland series published in English that I've read, and I've read the books in chronological order rather than by publication date. An earlier book, Blackout, was one of the best books I read in 2017. Jónasson does a stellar job of describing his Icelandic setting and its climate. In Nightblind, a new tunnel has been constructed which prevents the small fishing village from being completely cut off from the outside world during the heavy winter snowfall, but that convenience comes at a price: outsiders are bringing problems and crime to Siglufjörđur.

The mystery in Nightblind is an interesting one, but it slowly sinks under the weight of all the characters' personal problems.The occasional journal entries that readers are given do tie into the mystery, and there's a slowly developed surprise that's revealed at the end, but all those personal problems sapped my interest in the mystery. Nightblind is still a good read; it's just not on par with Blackout.

Nightblind by Ragnar Jónasson
Translated from the Icelandic by Quentin Bates
ISBN: 9781910633267
Orenda Press © 2015
Hardcover (UK edition), 215 pages

Police Procedural, #6 Dark Iceland mystery
Rating: B-
Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Beau Death by Peter Lovesey

First Line: The kid was forever asking questions.

Progress is coming to Bath, England in the form of a new supermarket, and the wrecking crew is demolishing an old row of townhouses to make room. But progress comes to a screeching halt when the side of a building collapses and a skeleton is seen in one of the attics.

The dead man is wearing authentic clothing from the 1760s, and on the floor beside him is a white tricorn hat-- the signature accessory of Beau Nash, one of Bath's most famous historical men, a fashion icon said to be buried in a pauper's grave. Or did the Beau end up in this rowhouse attic instead?

Chief Inspector Peter Diamond has been assigned to identify the remains, and he would love to set Nash scholarship on its ear, but one of his constables is stubbornly insisting that the corpse can't be Nash's. Is Diamond on an historical goose chase, or should he actually be investigating a much more modern murder?

In Beau Death, Peter Lovesey has created a mystery that resembles a Russian nesting doll, and it is a sheer delight to read. In this outing, readers learn about a very real person in eighteenth-century Bath, Beau Nash, and Diamond is led on a merry chase in his attempts to identify the skeleton in the attic. Of course, present-day murders won't leave his team alone, so it's not long until they have several "plates" spinning in mid-air.

The plotting is deft and very intricate without being overdone, and the characters perform beautifully. Diamond is suitably choleric in dealing with his superior officer and a recalcitrant member of his team, and there's a forensic expert named Waghorn that he'd dearly love to toss in prison. Ingebord is her usual sterling self, and there's a new constable named Paul Gilbert who shows a great deal of promise. Also, there are brilliant little observations scattered throughout about such things as whiteboards, cornflakes, cocaine, and men's underwear.

As I said before, Beau Death is an absolute delight to read. I've enjoyed the few books in this series that I have read, and one of these days I vow to make the effort to go back and read them all. There's a very good reason why Peter Lovesey has won lifetime achievement awards: he knows how to tell a tale that will keep you hooked from first page to last.

Beau Death  by Peter Lovesey
ISBN: 9781616959050
Soho Crime © 2017
Hardcover, 416 pages

Police Procedural, #17 Peter Diamond mystery
Rating: A+
Source: the publisher