Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Birdwatcher by William Shaw


First Lines: There were two reasons why William South did not want to be on the murder team. The first was that it was October. The migrating birds had begun arriving on the coast. The second was that, though nobody knew, he was a murderer himself.

William South is a policeman and an avid birdwatcher. He is trusted and respected by all. When he's not on the job, he keeps himself to himself, watching the birds he loves so much-- sometimes with his neighbor. When that neighbor is found brutally murdered, the lead officer on the investigation is Detective Sergeant Alexandra Cupidi, a recent transfer from London. She insists on having South on the team because of his knowledge of the area and of the victim, although South learns that he really didn't know much about the dead man after all.

As the investigation progresses, all signs point to the killer being someone from South's childhood in Northern Ireland, a man who is the only person who can tie William to the past he's worked so hard to forget. The more South is drawn into the investigation, the harder he has to work to keep his own connections to the suspect, and his past, a secret.

The first four lines of The Birdwatcher are stunning. You know immediately that William South is a killer, but as you read and make your way around South's mind, you can't believe that he is. And then you learn more. And more. South is a completely sympathetic character in a vivid, atmospheric setting, tasked with finding a killer, and teamed with the questionable DS Alexandra Cupidi. I first learned about this book after reading the synopsis of Salt Lane and discovering that it was the second book in the Alexandra Cupidi series. I had a feeling that I definitely wanted to start at the beginning, so I got a copy of The Birdwatcher. I'm glad I did because I was only a few pages into the story when I knew that I was reading something very special.

It wasn't just about a mystery that keeps you guessing. It wasn't just about the remoteness and loneliness of a landscape that mirrored the mind of the main character. It was about a troubled teenage girl who proved to be the one person lonely William South could open up to. And it was about a totally infuriating lead investigator. As I read The Birdwatcher, I wondered if I really wanted to go on to read Salt Lane. You see, I couldn't stand Alexandra Cupidi. She's the type of "force of nature" that I want to head in the opposite direction from. Cupidi presumes much when it comes to William South. She commandeers his house and turns it into their base of operations, and she also turns him into a babysitter. It's almost as if she went out of her way not to endear herself to me. And it worked. But... she's a fine investigator.

I think William Shaw is a puppetmaster when it comes to storytelling. Keep your eye on him. I was completely drawn into his tale, and although the ending was inevitable, I loved the book, and nothing is going to keep me away from the second Alexandra Cupidi mystery-- not even Cupidi herself.


The Birdwatcher by William Shaw
eISBN: 9780316316255
Mulholland Books © 2017
eBook, 337 pages

Police Procedural, #1 Alexandra Cupidi mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Deadly Shaker Spring by Deborah Woodworth


First Line: We buried her this afternoon, my sister, my heart.

It's 1937, and much of the United States is still firmly in the grip of the Depression. Times are hard, and emotions are high, especially in the small community of Languor, Kentucky. People are tired of doing without, and they need a scapegoat to help them feel better. When people with ulterior motives and carefully planned agendas come to town, they play people's fears like a well-tuned orchestra.

As a result, ominous things begin to happen in the Shaker community of North Homage. A sister suffers a mysterious head wound, a sackful of rats is set loose in the schoolhouse, food is stolen, buildings are defaced, and hate-filled messages point to a very real threat of violence. It is up to Sister Rose Callahan to set everything straight, and the new eldress of the community begins to find clues in the journals of her predecessor. The threats come from within North Homage and from without, and they combine both old and new secrets. With that threat of violence hanging over the peaceful religious community, Sister Rose must work fast.

The trouble with reading so many series is the fact that some are bound to fall by the wayside. Before I began my book blog, I read the first Sister Rose Callahan mystery, Death of a Winter Shaker, and I really enjoyed it. As a teenager, I once visited the Shaker community of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, and learned how fascinating the Shakers were. Besides their gorgeous furniture, they were quite innovative in architecture, interior design, agriculture, and labor-saving devices. Since they were celibate, their communities depended on converts and orphans to survive and thrive. Woodworth's series is set when most Shaker villages had died out. The first book took up the topic of "winter Shakers"-- those homeless people who would convert to Shakerism during the winter so they would have food, clothing, and shelter, only to leave when spring came. This second book focuses on intolerance, a theme that is very pertinent today.

Sister Rose Callahan is a woman who was brought up as a Shaker but lived out in the world for a short period of time, so she's more than capable of dealing with non-believers. But with the shortage of members, she's had to assume the role of eldress-- caring for the spiritual health of the female members of the community-- as well as trustee-- the person who takes care of the financial side of things. This wouldn't be an easy task for anyone, but it's particularly tough for Sister Rose, since Elder Wilhelm is a thorn in her side, constantly harping about the good old days and completely unwilling to deal with the problems of the present in any real meaningful way.

As in the first book, A Deadly Shaker Spring has a marvelous sense of place and culture. You really don't need to know a thing about the Shakers to understand what's going on. If you do know about them-- like I do-- your knowledge will be enhanced. Since readers will know the person (or persons) responsible, this mystery isn't a whodunit, but a whydunit, and although I did find one character's conversion at the end to be too quick to be completely believable, I still found this to be an excellent read. Even after more than ten years between reading the first book and the second, I immediately fell back in with the characters, and that, to me, is a sign of how good Deborah Woodworth's writing is. I'm glad I have all the books in the series waiting for me. They are "reading money" in the bank.


A Deadly Shaker Spring by Deborah Woodworth
ISBN: 0380792036
Avon Books © 1998
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Historical Mystery, #2 Sister Rose Callahan mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Alibris.


 

A Birthday Trip to Butterfly Wonderland


When I gave Denis annual passes to both the OdySea Aquarium and Butterfly Wonderland, we had to head over there immediately so he could begin enjoying his gift. The following are photos taken at Butterfly Wonderland. I hope you enjoy your visit!


A brand-new African Moon Moth drying out in the nursery.


An added bonus of butterfly conservatories is that you get to see beautiful flowers, too.


I call this one the Marvel Comic butterfly. Look at it closely. Is it a superhero or a masked villain?


Say cheese!


Hibiscus


More pretty flowers


This little girl spent the entire time chasing after butterflies in a vain attempt to have one land on her. Meanwhile, they were landing on me constantly. Don't chase them, honey. Let them come to you!


I think this one could glow in the dark.


I think I'm being watched...


Any butterfly that has blue on it is a fan favorite here.


Another one the fans were chasing.


The Common Morphos has brilliant blue wings that you only see when they're in flight. They are gorgeous, but when they're at rest, this is normally what you see. Boring!


Once in a while, you might get a glimpse. (This one's slip is showing.) And it has blue eyes, too!


Here I am, working my fingers to the bone in an attempt to photograph the blue side of those wings, and this Common Morphos adds insult to injury by spending TWO MINUTES on my cup holder! Have you ever heard a butterfly laugh?


This little guy wanted to hitch a ride to the outside world. It just couldn't make up its mind. Denis's hat, or...


My hair? (Yes, that's my real, unadulterated hair. I started turning gray when I was sixteen. And here I am, not even eligible for my OAP.)


There you have it, another trip to Butterfly Wonderland-- and it won't be our last. Hope you enjoyed it, I know we did!


Monday, July 16, 2018

Murder at the Grand Raj Palace by Vaseem Khan


First Line: As Inspector Ashwin Chopra (Retd) stood below the soaring arch of the Gateway to India, gazing up at the Grand Raj Palace Hotel, he couldn't help but reflect on the history of that architectural marvel that, over the decades, had graced countless covers of countless magazines around the world.

When American billionaire Hollis Burbank is found dead in the Grand Raj Palace Hotel a day after buying India's most expensive painting, it would suit all the powers that be to have the investigation handled quickly and any potentially embarrassing facts to "disappear." It simply has to be a suicide.  But no matter how much the police officer in charge is pressured, he's not so sure Burbank took his own life. Since he's under too much scrutiny to follow his instincts, he calls in a man he knows he can trust: retired Inspector Ashwin Chopra, now head of the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency. In no time at all, Chopra discovers that there's a hotel filled with people who have a reason to want Burbank dead. Now all he has to do is prove which one actually carried out the murder.

When this series began with The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, I wasn't entirely sure which direction it would take. There was a supernatural element that really didn't fit well with the rest of the story. However, with each new book, this series has gotten stronger and stronger, and now I have to get my hands on each new installment as quickly as possible. I first began reading because I was desperately missing my Vish Puri fix-- the superb series written by Tarquin Hall. Now I still miss Vish Puri, but I've found that Ashwin Chopra does not stand in the shadow of the wily investigator from New Delhi. Not at all.

Khan always includes interesting bits of Mumbai history in his books, and Murder at the Grand Raj Palace is no exception. There are several things going on at this opulent hotel, and one of the most important involves Chopra's wife, Poppy, who wants their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary to be very special. There's only one problem: her husband refuses to cooperate, so she finds herself drawn into the mystery of a young woman who's run away from an arranged marriage. This runaway bride subplot is the weaker of the two, but I cut Poppy some slack because it's her first real investigation-- and it provides some fantastic laugh-out-loud comic relief.

The major investigation concerning the billionaire is as twisty-turny as any crime fiction lover can want, and it really kept me guessing. To this first-rate mystery, readers can then add uproarious scenes of a baby elephant tracking someone through the hotel, and characters like Big Mother (Shubnam Tejwa Parwardhan, former maharani of Tejwa, and her Panzer-like wheelchair). Murder at the Grand Raj Palace is a wonderful puzzle for the mind and the perfect balm for the spirit. If you haven't tried the series yet, I urge you to do so. Begin at the beginning with The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra because these characters do grow and change. Now... follow that elephant!


Murder at the Grand Raj Palace Hotel by Vaseem Khan
ISBN: 9781473612372
Hodder & Stoughton © 2018
Hardcover, 375 pages

Private Investigator, #4 Baby Ganesh Agency mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.


 

Paul Doiron at The Poisoned Pen!


The first Sunday in July saw me staying out of the pool and going to my favorite bookstore, The Poisoned Pen, to see author Paul Doiron instead. Having read some of his Mike Bowditch mysteries, I was looking forward to finding out more, and he was in town to talk about his latest, Stay Hidden.

Before the event officially started, we were all treated to ice cream, and since it was a typical summer day in the Phoenix metropolitan area (i.e., hot), I don't think there was even one drip of ice cream left when Paul came out to talk with us. In fact, he came out a bit early to talk to fans and to enjoy some ice cream, too.

Paul Doiron, ice cream in hand, talking with a fan.
Everyone who bought a copy of Paul's book also received a copy of a special essay written by C. J. Box on why he decided to write about a game warden-- fitting since Mike Bowditch is a game warden in Maine.

Host Barbara Peters asked C.J. Box if Wyoming has game wardens who are also homicide investigators, and he said no. "Is Maine the only state that does this?" Barbara asked.

"Good question!" Paul replied. "But I do know that they also investigate boating accidents which can be suspicious. Lake boating accidents, that is, not offshore boating accidents which are handled by the Coast Guard.

"All conservation officers investigate hunting homicides, which is the technical term for a hunting accident, the idea being that there's no such thing as a pure accident. That somebody has made a mistake, and they don't want to let you off the hook by just shrugging their shoulders and saying, 'Oh well...look...you know...'"

"Didn't we have one of those on a national level?" Barbara asked.

"Oh yeah, Dick Cheney!" Doiron responded.

"We had our own version over here," Barbara said. "Do any of you remember the honeymooning couple at the Grand Canyon where the husband had a camera and kept telling his wife to back up, back up, until she fell off the edge and died? They actually prosecuted him because there was a witness who said that it was deliberate. So you can disguise a homicide as an accident..."

Available Now!
"Yes, that will be book ten," Paul said.

"I don't think Mike can successfully do one in the Grand Canyon," Barbara said.

"We have pretty steep cliffs in Acadia National Park," Paul replied.

"I've been to Acadia several times. I love it," Barbara said. "Next time you're here, I'll bring some of our photos to share. By the way, is it Mount Desert, or Mount Dessert?" (Talking about the proper pronunciation of Mount Desert Island.)

"Actually, it's pronounced 'dessert,'" Paul replied. So...when you're in Maine and visiting Mount Desert Island, remember-- cake, pie, and ice cream-- so you pronounce it correctly!

"It's been an interesting career arc for Mike Bowditch," Barbara observed. "He always seems to get in trouble."

"Yeah, it all flowed from the very first book, The Poacher's Son, which I had not conceived of as being the first in a series. So when I was writing that book, I made him this insubordinate, independent-minded, troublemaking kind of person. And then when I was trying to sell it, trying to get an agent, my agent-to-be said, 'Is this the only book you're ever going to write? If so, that's fine, but I only represent people who want to do this as a career, so what I need to know from you is...is this book the first in a series?' And I said, 'Funny you should ask, of course, yes, this is the first book in the series!' But I was stuck with this troublemaking game warden and I was wondering who's going to stick around with this guy!

Paul Doiron
"So I've been trying to grow him up over the course of the past nine books. Hopefully, I'm doing it in a realistic way so that he's the same character, he's just getting more mature and a little more responsible."

"I've never asked you," Barbara said, "is it Bowditch ["o" as in "ouch"] or Bowditch [long "o" as in the name "Beau"]?"

"Everyone with the name pronounces it Bowditch [ouch], but I named him for a sign along Route 1 that's by a graveyard. I used to pass it every day. I'd never heard it pronounced before, so I was pronouncing it Bowditch [beau]-- still do-- and the way that I excuse this to the Bowditches of the world is to say You wouldn't want to be related to this guy anyway!"

"Troublemaker that he is," Barbara said. "He's also had a very rocky romantic road. The woman that he's so attracted to has gone away, and he finds himself single again. Is that a sort of strategy in a long-term series, that you create havoc?"

"I don't think it was that deliberate on my part. I gave him this girlfriend, Stacy the daughter of his mentor, and Stacy was more trouble than Mike was. He was getting his act together faster than she was, and the idea came to me... what if the person you think is your soulmate isn't really your soulmate? What do you do? Do you stay together because you thought the two of you should be together? I don't know. I didn't get married until my late thirties so this may be a reflection of..."

Available Now!
"All books are autobiographical?" Barbara commented with a smile. "It's true. They are to some degree. But I think you've got a really interesting point. The kinds of things that can incite attraction and passion and so forth aren't necessarily good for the long haul. They're just exhausting if they go on. I speak from experience there, too! Rob and I have been married for almost twenty-nine years. We got married when I was fifty, and by that time I had learned... to be calmer. Isn't that right, dear?"

"Almost twenty-eight years, dear!" Rob replied.

"Be that as it may, hormones play a much larger part in things when you're younger," Barbara said. "Also, Stacy hasn't really settled into a calling in the same way that Mike... Mike is a game warden for the long haul, but she hasn't quite figured it out."

"And she's not really gone at this point, she's just offstage," Paul said.

"In this book, Mike winds up going to an island, and-- have any of you read Martin Walker?" Barbara asked. "He wrote of a similar situation in France. What if you wind up with a population of animals in an area that can't support it? What happens?"

"Well, in the case of a number of islands in Maine and elsewhere on the East Coast especially..."

"...and in France!" Barbara interjected.

Paul Doiron
"...and in France as well as San Francisco Bay," Paul continued, "there are places where deer have been introduced to be hunted or have found their way there by swimming. Deer are very smart about eluding hunters but very dumb otherwise. They are also great at reproducing, especially if there's no predator. Deer will reproduce and reproduce until they've devastated an ecosystem, and on an island, this can lead to all sorts of trouble.

"Several islands have tried to deal with the problem in different ways. Monhegan Island, which is off the coast of Maine, ended up having to hire a sharpshooter to eliminate all the deer. It sounds really cruel, but the reason why they did that was because there was an epidemic of Lyme disease on the island. Something like a quarter of the population had Lyme. Now we have ticks that make you allergic to eating meat, which is one of my personal nightmares. I wake up screaming...

"Fire Island off the coast of New York suggested bringing in cougars. Yeah, try to imagine that! So it's a real problem."

"There's a proposal to cull the grizzly bears at Yellowstone because there may be more of them than the area can support," Barbara said. "You haven't mentioned the genetic problems that occur when a population is so inbred."

"Yes," Paul said. "There are people who say why don't you just bring in hunters to take care of the problem, and sure, there are people who would be willing to do that, but these are very skinny deer with genetic abnormalities. These are not trophy animals or animals whose meat you would want to eat."

"There's a very powerful scene in the book that won't spoil the plot for you," Barbara said. "It's a scene in which a man has a deer hanging up and he's butchering it... and he's watching all the ticks fall off the carcass. So this is meat that you definitely don't want to eat."

"That's a scene that I personally witnessed," Paul added.

Available Now!
"Mike is sent to this island because there's been a shooting death," Barbara said. "He has to find out if this woman hanging out her sheets was shot because someone thought she was a white-tailed deer, or... was she shot because somebody wanted to kill her?"

Paul nodded. "In Maine, the laws for shooting somebody accidentally during hunting season are incredibly lax. One of my sources for this book was a couple whose daughter was shot and killed in their own backyard, fifty feet from the house. The guy who did it got thirty days in jail.

"Her father said to me, 'If I ever want to kill someone, I'm taking them out in the woods hunting.'

"The foggiest place on the entire Eastern seaboard is an island off the coast of Maine called-- and I'm not making this up-- Mistake Island. I couldn't use Mistake Island in my book, so I made up a fictitious one that's the foggiest place on the entire East Coast. The theme of fog, of not being able to see clearly, is carried throughout the book.

"One of the things I try to do in the books is to move Mike Bowditch around the state of Maine," Paul continued. "Because, like in any place, there are subcultures. Northernmost Maine, which I haven't really dealt with in the books yet, the people up there have Midwestern accents. The area was primarily settled by Scandinavians. It's very flat, farming country..."

"And it's border country," Barbara said.

"Yes," Paul agreed. "As much as I've wanted to do a border book, I've stayed away from it because everything's always changing."

"And now we're engaged in some sort of weird trade war with Canada, for goodness' sake!" Barbara said. "The longest undefended border in the world, perfectly peaceful for however long it's been, and now here we go. So you may have a whole new thing to explore!"

Paul Doiron
"Oh, I definitely will!" Paul laughed. "Maine has four distinct seasons, although spring bears no relation to spring anywhere else in the country. It's basically mud."

"Mud season!" a fan exclaimed.

"Yes, mud season. A game warden's job changes from month to month, so I've been trying to mix it up. Another reason for moving Mike around is to show these different subcultures I mentioned.

"The Maine accent as you know it is basically reserved for a narrow strip along the coast. Roughly from where I live in Camden to Freeport."

"You've got a chance for a lobster war coming up," Barbara commented. "You should be grateful to this administration for plots! But it does turn out that your choice of a game warden was brilliant because it gives you a chance to do so many things."

"I thought it was brilliant! When I started writing The Poacher's Son in 2000, I thought I'd struck gold," Doiron said. "I told myself that I'd read all these mysteries and nobody had made a game warden a sleuth. I was just so proud of myself. You probably know the date better than I do, Barbara, but one day I opened the New York Times and read this review of a book called Open Season written by someone named C.J. Box who's made his main character a game warden in Wyoming. I tried to console myself. Yes, this book is getting excellent reviews, but a year from now no one will remember his name. Then he turns around and writes, what, twenty-two books and becomes a New York Times bestselling author.

"But Chuck is a great guy. We're friends, and he's been incredibly supportive of me. And our parts of the country are so, so different."

"They really are," Barbara said. "A law enforcement professional who has some mobility or jurisdiction is much more interesting to write about."

From Barbara's trip
After a short question and answer period, Paul took a seat with the rest of us while Barbara showed some of the photos she and Rob had taken on their trip through the national parks of Utah and Wyoming.

For years, Craig and Judy Johnson and C.J. Box had invited Barbara and Rob to visit them, and when this two-week period at the end of May turned out to be a dead spot in the world of publishing, the two headed north. (They also visited with Lee Child and Tasha Alexander while they were traveling.)

I'm only going to show one of the photos. Know what that structure is to the left? It's a two-story outhouse. You use the bottom one until the snow gets too high, and then you start using the one on the second floor. Since I'm allergic to snow, I'm glad I've never had to use one.

This was an hour filled with information and laughter. Yes, another good time at The Poisoned Pen. I hope you enjoyed it!



Friday, July 13, 2018

A Ripe Weekly Link Round-Up




After 119 days with no measurable rainfall (I think it was sometime back in the dim mists of March that the phenomenon occurred), monsoon season finally decided to make an appearance in Phoenix. In typical fashion, the storm tried to rip apart a few neighborhoods in the East Valley, but all we got here at Casa Kittling was some very welcome pounding rain.

In other news, when my eye doctor dilated my eyes, then shone a light into them, looked closely, and said, "Oh yes, they're ripe," I was not thrilled. What's ripe? My cataracts and I've been referred to a specialist who will evaluate them Tuesday, and then I'll undoubtedly be scheduled for surgery.

Surprisingly, this has opened up a huge can of emotional worms for me. When my doctor explained the procedure to me, my logical brain was fully functioning, and I (literally) didn't bat an eye. I had to take my grandfather in for cataract surgery, and it was really No. Big. Deal. And this was way back in the 1990s. I really do know the score.

But when I got home, my irrational brain reared its ugly head. The whole idea of having someone poking around in my EYES-- my most cherished body parts!-- makes me shudder. Moreover, I've had a "thing" about doctors since I was five-years-old. Don't ask me how (because no one's ever been able to figure it out), but I got the ring finger of my left hand shut and locked in a car door. I was taken to the local doctor, who bandaged me up and gave me back to Mom. Then-- even though she questioned him repeatedly-- the doctor would not change the bandage. (Things have changed since 1960.) My finger began to rot. Okay, technically gangrene set in. I had to be taken to the big city doctors, be admitted to the hospital, and take my word for it, the cleanup was not fun or pretty. So...I've had trust issues with doctors ever since.

But you know what? I also like to see properly. So I'll deal with this like I've dealt with every other time I've had to have doctors poke around my anatomy. Inside, I may be screaming, but it's got to be done. I want to see clearly. My books and my camera will thank me for it because I certainly don't intend to give them up!

Time to mosey out to the corral. Those links are telling me I've shot off my mouth enough and it's their turn. Head 'em up! Moooooooooooove 'em out!
 


►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄


►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • A trio of javelinas was found on the fourth floor of a Fountain Hills condo under construction. Try before you buy?
  • Like birds, some bats warble to woo their mates. 
  • Introducing a hairy-footed shrimp named after Bilbo Baggins.
  • Fear of humans is forcing daytime animals into night mode. 
  • The UK's hedgehogs (and other mammals) are in danger.

►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, July 12, 2018

The House of Eyes by Kate Ellis


First Line: The infant reclines in his large new pram, shiny and black as a royal Rolls Royce and sturdy as a tank cutting through a battlefield.

When Leanne Hatman goes missing, no one seems concerned except for her father. After all, Leanne is an aspiring model and can't wait to leave the boring backwater of Devon for the bright lights of London. But when Leanne's father claims that a photographer has been stalking her, DI Wesley Peterson decides to look for the girl.

Leanne worked at Eyecliffe Castle, once home to the wealthy D'Arles family and now converted to a luxury hotel. When her father is found murdered on the castle grounds, police fear that Leanne has met the same fate-- but where is her body?

Meanwhile, archaeologist Neil Watson recently returned from an excavation on Sicily, has made a disturbing discovery near Eyecliffe Castle and tells Wesley that he met Leanne's alleged stalker on Sicily. Now that Eyecliffe Castle has become the center of many of the threads in his investigation, Wesley suspects yet another connection between these recent crimes and the disappearance of two girls back in the 1950s. This is a time of great stress for the detective inspector because not only is he immersed in one of the most challenging cases of his career, he is also experiencing a very personal nightmare.

I have been a fan of Kate Ellis's Wesley Peterson mysteries since the very first book, The Merchant's House. The series now spans twenty-two books, and as long as she writes them, I'll be reading them and urging you to do the same. Ellis is superb at blending present-day and historical mysteries as well as creating a cast of characters that become your friends as you read through the investigations. 

Speaking of those characters, Wesley wonders about DC Rob Carter's ambition-- how far will it get him, and at what cost? We also experience more of Rachel's world's longest lead-in to a wedding (and longtime fans will know the reason why she's in no great hurry to get married). Wesley and Pam also have a scare that is beautifully handled, and Wesley's boss may be his old irascible self, but shouldn't he really start thinking about retirement? A wonderful cast of characters and we get first-rate mysteries to solve, too!

Wesley's friend, archaeologist Neil Watson, tends to get short shrift in the series, so I was happy to see that he not only had a larger role in the proceedings, he actually got to go to Sicily for a dig at the Temple of the Gods. (It was nice to see him out of the Devon mud.) Watson uncovers information about the creepy House of Eyes on Sicily as well as background on the D'Arles family and the Grand Tour that the son and heir went on in the 1780s. If you are a mystery lover who also loves a bit of history, this Grand Tour element should be right down your alley. It is also the perfect conduit for the chill factor that pervades the book all the way to the ending.

The House of Eyes is another strong mystery with excellent misdirection. This has always been a superb series, but somewhere along...say...book eighteen (The Shroud Maker), Kate Ellis seems to have raised her game into an even higher gear. I always try to stay a book or two behind in this series-- a safety margin of sorts so that I know I will always have something good to read-- but the way Ellis is writing now, this is harder and harder for me to do. Should all my reading dilemmas be so pleasant!


The House of Eyes by Kate Ellis
eISBN: 9780349403106
Piatkus Books © 2016
eBook, 384 pages

Police Procedural, #20 Wesley Peterson mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Howl of Wolves by Judith Flanders


First Line: "There are thirteen dead people here."

The old adage that no good deed goes unpunished certainly seems to be true for Samantha Clair. Having decided to spend a night out at the theatre in support of her upstairs neighbors who have small parts in a West End play, she discovers that her boyfriend doesn't care for bloody Restoration dramas with high body counts. When the curtain rises on the second act, the faux fatalities become all too real: the body hanging from the rafters is not a dummy, it's Campbell Davison, the director of the production.

As Sam learns more about the murdered man, she finds out he wasn't very well liked, so the suspect list grows-- and Sam can't help doing a little weeding of her own, especially if it will help the show go on for her upstairs neighbors.

About the only disagreeable thing I have to say about A Howl of Wolves is that the mystery took a while to get going, but then I didn't particularly care. This is a series in which I love the main character, and I love the way the author writes so I can forgive some things that other readers cannot.

Samantha Clair is basically a good person who's worked in a self-absorbed business for years... so that self-absorption rubs off from time to time. I adore her sense of humor, and I think I could live very happily inside her head (even though her paragon of a mother, Helena, would rapidly drive me around the bend). One of the perks of this series, I believe, is all the inside information readers glean, and this time A Howl of Wolves delivers twofold. Not only do we learn more about Sam's world of publishing, we're taken behind the scenes in the world of theatre.

This insider information helps to carry one of the themes that runs throughout the book: how society views the place of older women in the world. As Flanders expounded on her theme, I found myself with blood boiling one second and wanting to laugh and cheer the next.

Sam proves to be so good in digging up the dirt on the dead that I got caught up in the flow of the story and forgot to wear my deerstalker cap, so the killer's identity came as a bit of a surprise. (See what happens when one doesn't pay attention?) Now that I've devoured A Howl of Wolves, I find myself in a familiar position: waiting patiently for Samantha Clair to put down her editing pen and start investigating murders once more.


A Howl of Wolves by Judith Flanders
ISBN: 9781250087836
Minotaur Books © 2018
Hardcover, 304 pages

Amateur Sleuth, #4 Samantha Clair mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.