Monday, March 30, 2020

A Fatal Yarn by Peggy Ehrhart

First Line: If you were going to give a tree a sweater, wouldn't you do it in the fall-- not in the spring when days were warming and nature was coming back to life?

When the mayor of Arborville, New Jersey, is murdered, Pamela Paterson wonders if his death has any connection to the sweaters that have started appearing on many trees in town. An anonymous activist has been wrapping the tree trunks in yarn to cover the red X's that mark certain trees for removal. The mayor was an ardent advocate of this tree cutting.

When someone is arrested for the crime, it's a member of the group Pamela belongs to-- Knit & Nibble-- because he was seen arguing with the mayor. Pamela is positive that the police are barking up the wrong tree, and with the help of her reporter friend Bettina, she branches out on her own to find the real killer.

A Fatal Yarn has some good misdirection that makes for a mystery to keep readers guessing, and it continues to do something that I really appreciate. So many niche cozy mystery series have a "hook"-- be it knitting, cooking, glassblowing, or any other hobby-- but often those hooks are superficial. Once used to draw readers in, they have little to do with the actual story. Not with Peggy Ehrhart's Knit & Nibble series. Knitting continues to be at the heart of the stories, and I really liked the version of yarnbombing that was used in connection to the tree sweaters.

Pamela Paterson is the heart and soul of the Knit & Nibble mysteries. She's an editor for "Fiber Craft Magazine," and I have the sneaking suspicion that I'm not the only reader who wishes the magazine was real. Many of the articles mentioned sound fascinating. The only thing I don't care for is Pamela's best friend Bettina constantly trying to be a matchmaker between Pamela and Pamela's next-door neighbor. Not every single woman wants or needs a man to be happy, and that matchmaking schtick gets old.

Not only A Fatal Yarn but all the books in this series are perfect comfort reads for trying times. Ehrhart has a writing style that is lush, filled with a dazzling color palette and mouthwatering tastes and aromas. She wants readers to be fully immersed in her world, and she creates a wonderful feeling of community by including all the sorts of little rituals that bind us together. Just one tiny word of warning. If repetition bothers you, don't read these books one right after the other. If you do, you might want to scream after awhile when Bettina dons her pumpkin-colored coat for the umpteenth time or puts her sage green plates on the table yet again. If you aren't bothered by repetition, then dive right in. Peggy Ehrhart's Knit & Nibble mysteries are a feast for the eyes, the taste buds, and the heart. It's a series that I truly enjoy.

A Fatal Yarn by Peggy Ehrhart
eISBN: 9781496723673
Kensington Books © 2020
eBook, 336 pages

Cozy Mystery, #5 Knit & Nibble mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley 

Murder at the Mena House by Erica Ruth Neubauer

First Line: When selecting an exotic location for travel, it's advisable to choose one where the air isn't trying to kill you.

Egypt, 1926. Traveling with her Aunt Millie means constantly fending off her well-meaning relative's attempts at matchmaking. Ensconced in the luxurious Mena House Hotel in the heart of Cairo, American Jane Wunderly would rather gaze longingly at the Great Pyramids of Giza than into the eyes of a dashing stranger. However, when she meets Mr. Redvers, her opinion slowly begins to change.

There are lots of interesting guests at the Mena House, but socialite Anna Stainton takes the cake as the most infuriating one. When Jane is found standing over Anna's dead body, she becomes the prime suspect. Jane has no time to lose; she must learn who she can trust and who had the motive to commit murder. Somewhere amongst all those staying at the Mena House is a person with too many secrets, a person willing to commit as many murders as it takes to keep them.

There is some great period detail in Murder at the Mena House that puts readers right in the middle of the action, and life without air conditioning in the desert is just one of those fascinating facts.

Jane Wunderly is a strong, interesting character with a backstory that makes it clear why she's not in the market for a husband, although I do wish she could afford to travel without the disagreeable Aunt Millie (who has her own little secrets).

How's the story? It's a good'un, with excellent misdirection and some exciting action scenes. Am I willing to take another trip with Jane? You bet! Just let me finish packing my bags.

Murder at the Mena House by Erica Ruth Neubauer
eISBN: 9781496725875
Kensington Books © 2020
eBook, 304 pages

Historical Mystery, #1 Jane Wunderly mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley


Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Lantern Men Giveaway Winner!

A big Thank You! to everyone who entered my giveaway for a UK edition of Elly Griffiths' latest Ruth Galloway mystery, The Lantern Men. I knew you really didn't want to wait until the US release of the book! I just wish I was independently wealthy and could send each of you a copy.

The lucky winner of The Lantern Men is  Brenda S. from Connecticut. Your book will be on its way to you by Tuesday at the latest!

Friday, March 27, 2020

A Crazy Times Weekly Link Round-Up

The rain doesn't seem to know when to stop here in the Phoenix area, and since I'm being a hermit and staying at home, it doesn't bother me a bit. The rain is falling gently for the most part which means that it's being allowed to soak in the ground instead of flooding roads and buildings.

Last week, Denis and I braved our local Target to get necessary groceries. It was interesting to see which shelves were cleaned out and which weren't. Purchase quantities have been limited on several items, which is good-- especially in the light of my second link in the "Books & Other Interesting Tidbits" section. With my new dietary restrictions, I admit to being a bit worried, but although we didn't get exactly what was on my shopping list, we were pleased with what we did bring home. We shouldn't need to do this again for at least two weeks if not longer, and since Denis and I are both in at least one of the vulnerable groups for COVID-19, that's a good thing. (Something tells me we're also going to be taking advantage of curbside pickup as well as delivery services.)

As I chatted a bit with a former co-worker, she confirmed things that I'd already observed in almost every aisle of the store. Overtime has been approved, and those of you who have never been in retail have no idea of just how big a sin overtime is usually considered. As soon as a truck comes in, it's unloaded, and the goods are taken out to the salesfloor and stocked. But shelves are being emptied as fast as they're being filled. They're doing their absolute best and should be praised.

It makes me wonder how people in critical services working long hours are getting the supplies they need? Not everyone has family members who can take care of this for them. It's also good to see so many businesses making special shopping hours for the elderly and other at-risk people, although those times aren't going to fit in with everyone's lifestyles. However, I know why most places have to schedule these shopping times so early in the day: it's because it's the only possible time businesses can monitor who's shopping-- and also the time they'll garner the fewest complaints from everyone else. And that just made me think of something else that chaps my hide.

On the first Tuesday of December every year, Target used to have a very special shopping event for senior citizens and the disabled. I know that, in the store I worked in, there were a lot of nursing homes that scheduled transportation for their residents to come to enjoy themselves. Most had mobility issues-- many of them quite severe-- and this was just about the only time they could get out and shop when they weren't being elbowed aside by shoppers full of youth and good health. For two hours once a year, they could come in, shop, have free gift wrapping for all their Christmas gifts, eat and drink refreshments, and listen to school children singing carols. Did you notice how, at the beginning of the paragraph, I said "used to"? That's because so many able-bodied people complained about their shopping being curtailed by two hours once a year. Pardon me while I grind my teeth.

All this is somehow leading me to the t-shirt photo in this post. I think this t-shirt should be the required uniform of any self-serving jerk who is trying to make a buck from COVID-19. I refer again to the second link in my "Books & Other Interesting Tidbits" section. This infuriates me! Those of you who are not familiar with (vulgar) British slang may not understand the significance of a big W in front of an anchor, and if you aren't, that stands for "wanker." If you're still a bit puzzled, I'll refer you to its definition according to The Free Dictionary. At least I am also seeing some of the good deeds people are doing during these crazy times. It almost takes my mind off the others who can only see inconvenience or dollar signs.

Now it's time for me to shut up and to dodge the raindrops on my way to the corral. I hope I'm providing a diversion or two with my links. Head 'em up! Moooove 'em out!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄

►The Happy Wanderer◄
  • Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson's sprawling Bahamas estate is up for sale. 
  • After reading Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders, I had to visit Eyam in the Peak District of England, known as "the plague village." Current events have me thinking of it again. 
  • Step inside Alnwick's Poison Garden, the world's most dangerous garden-- if you dare. (I dared and impressed the docent with my knowledge of some of the plants. Oh! And "Alnwick" is pronounced "Annick" and is the castle where several scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed.)
  • A tiny island off the coast of Maine could be a renewable energy model for the rest of the world.

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • John Singer Sargent "abhorred" making his lavish portraits, so he took up charcoal to get the job done. (And his charcoal sketches are just as good if not better than his oils.)
  • Greta Thunberg finally met her role model Malala Yousafzai.

►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.

Stay healthy! Practice social distancing by curling up with a good book!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Run Afoul by Joan Druett

First Line: As he slumped exhaustedly in the cutter that pulled from the brig Swallow to the expedition flagship Vincennes, Wiki Coffin wondered if he smelled as bad as Lieutenant Forsythe.

As the Vincennes, the flagship of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, leads the convoy into the Brazilian port of Rio de Janeiro, careless maneuvering causes one of the vessels to run afoul of a Boston trading ship. Not only is this a shocking embarrassment, but the Boston trader is captained by expedition linguist Wiki Coffin's father.

The encounter reunites Captain William Coffin with his illegitimate half-Maori son and sets in motion a series of events that will see two men dead, William Coffin on trial for murder, and Wiki feverishly trying to find the real killer before the expedition leaves port.

The U.S. Exploring Expedition was a real expedition led by the eccentric Charles Wilkes. Expert maritime historian Joan Druett had the perfect idea to use this as the basis of a mystery series that would travel the world. I really enjoyed the first two books in the series, A Watery Grave, and Shark Island, so it was well past time to move on to the third book. Run Afoul did not disappoint.

I've read Joan Druett's non-fiction, and this woman knows her stuff. Every time I pick up a Wiki Coffin mystery I learn something without ever feeling as though I'm sitting in a classroom. In one Wiki Coffin mystery, I learned about firing cannons and felt as though I had to duck and run for cover. In this one, I learned about one ship running afoul of another and the nasty but necessary procedure for ridding a ship of rats.

Run Afoul has an excellent mystery that kept me guessing, and I enjoyed watching Wiki trying to solve it. Speaking of the main character, he is a bit of a rogue. This is book three, and it looks as though the young man is going to have a woman in every port, but the romance is certainly not overdone. No, Run Afoul is about the mystery, the superb setting, the fascinating Wiki Coffin, and the sea. It's an unbeatable combination for any historical mystery lover.

(If you find yourself wanting to read more about the U.S. Exploring Expedition, one of my all-time favorite non-fiction books is Nathaniel Philbrick's Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842.)

Run Afoul by Joan Druett
ISBN: 0312353367
Minotaur Books © 2006
Hardcover, 288 pages

Historical Mystery, #3 Wiki Coffin mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Book Outlet.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Burning Issue of the Day by T.E. Kinsey

First Line: "Be a dear and pass the pepper, would you?" said Lady Hardcastle.

January 1910. A journalist has been killed in a suspicious fire. All the evidence found at the scene points to a suffragette who insists that she is innocent. It's not long before Lady Hardcastle and her trusty maid Florence Armstrong are enlisted to prove the woman's innocence. The evidence is damning but also easily planted, and with the police treating it as an open-and-shut case of arson, the two women must fight through stubborn resistance to get at the truth.

Reading a Lady Hardcastle mystery never fails to brighten my day. And if you think reading a mystery-- and a humorous mystery to boot-- is a waste of time, think again. In The Burning Issue of the Day, I learned quite a bit about the fight for women's suffrage in Bristol, England, as well as the settings for several scenes in the book. (The author's notes at the end of the book are well worth reading.)

For once, a pair of (not-so-amateur) sleuths have a good working relationship with the local detective inspector, and that's something I greatly appreciate. Lady Hardcastle and Florence Armstrong are marvelous characters, and I love their lively banter. Well, to be honest, I love all the humor in the entire series. In this fifth book, we get the added bonus of learning a bit more about these two women's escapades before they settled down in a small English village.

Whodunit was rather easy to deduce, but I didn't care because I enjoy the characters, the setting, and the humor too much. If you like historical crime fiction and need to read something that can put a smile on your face, pick up one of T.E. Kinsey's Lady Hardcastle mysteries. You can pick this one up and not feel lost, but don't be surprised if, once you've read this book, you go back to read all the others. They're little gems, and perfect for learning things and for a badly needed pick-me-up.

The Burning Issue of the Day by T.E. Kinsey
eISBN: 9781542041157
Thomas & Mercer © 2019
eBook, 312 pages

Historical/Humorous Mystery, #5 Lady Hardcastle mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

On My Radar: Spencer Kope's Shadows of the Dead

If you've been following along on Kittling: Books for very long, you'll know that Spencer Kope's Special Tracking Unit series is one of my favorites. Kope takes his time writing: Collecting the Dead was published in 2016, and Whispers of the Dead was published in 2018, so you know I did a little happy dance when I discovered that the third book in the series, Shadows of the Dead, will be released in August.

Let's find out more about it!

Available August 25, 2020!

"A woman—abducted and found in the trunk of a car after a high-speed chase—regains consciousness in the ICU to reveal two crucial pieces of information: the man who kidnapped her is not the same as the man who left her in the woods, and she's not the first victim—in fact, she is number eight.

Magnus “Steps” Craig is part of the elite three-man Special Tracking Unit of the FBI. Known for his ability to find and follow trails over any surface, Steps is called in on cases that require his unparalleled skills. But there’s a secret to his talent. Steps has a kind of synesthesia where he can see the ‘essence’ of a person—what he calls ‘shine’—on everything they’ve touched.

Brought in to track the driver through a dense forest after the bloodhounds have lost his trail, Steps and his partner Jimmy find the driver laughing maniacally, babbling about souls, and hiding a pristinely maintained box of eight posed rats. Now the Special Tracking Unit must chase two villains—through not just the real world, but the dark web as well—tracking an enemy they can't see, as time runs out for the unknown victims."

Shadows of the Dead sounds like another good'un, doesn't it? I can't wait to get my hands on it. If you haven't read any of the books in this series, why not give the first one, Collecting the Dead, a try?

Monday, March 23, 2020

The K Team by David Rosenfelt

First Line: It was the type of situation John Lowry knew he should avoid.

Corey Douglas and his K-9 partner, Simon Garfunkel, may be recent retirees from the police force, but they're not quite ready to stop chasing the bad guys. Together with a fellow former cop, Laurie Carpenter, and her investigating partner, Marcus, they form the K Team, in honor of Simon.

Their first job as private investigators comes to them from Judge Henry Henderson, who's known as a tough but fair judge. It's hard for the K Team to believe, but Judge Henderson is being blackmailed and extorted, and he doesn't want to involve the police. He wants the K Team to get to the bottom of it.

In this first book in a new series from David Rosenfelt, we see everything through the eyes of retired cop Corey Douglas, and I found his jaded sense of humor to be only mildly amusing. He's also an award-winning commitment-phobe, and how he deals with his growing relationship with Dani did bring a smile to my face.

For me, the best part of The K Team was figuring out the mystery-- who was blackmailing the judge and why. That really kept my interest. Other than that-- being familiar with Rosenfelt's Andy Carpenter series-- I found the book to be lackluster. I'm willing to read the next book in the series, but if it doesn't liven up either, I'll stick with Andy. Of course, your mileage may vary.

The K Team by David Rosenfelt
eISBN: 9781250257185
Minotaur Books © 2020
eBook, 292 pages

Private Investigator, #1 K Team mystery
Rating: B
Source: Net Galley