Dean Street Press mines the Golden Age

death-in-the-dentists-chairDeath in the Dentist’s Chair by Molly Thynne; Golden Age mystery; republished by Dean Street Press; list price, $2.99 (USD) for Kindle – but FREE when posted.

Why some mysteries are perennially popular and others fall out of favor is a mystery to me, and always has been, but one of the greatest advantages of digital publishing is the opportunity to rediscover such Golden Age gems as Molly Thynne’s six classic mysteries.

I picked up four of the six for free, thanks to my friend Cindy, who brought both Dean Street Press and Thynne (pronounced “thin”) to my attention recently, but any of them would have been a bargain at the $2.99 (USD) list price, and I recommend all six without reservation.

If you don’t like Golden Age fiction, you wouldn’t like these.  But, if you do, you’re in for a treat!

This week’s free offering is Death in the Dentist’s Chair – a popular place for murder in Golden Age fiction, as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers also disposed of victims in a dentist’s office. Marian Babson did, too, decades later, in her In the Teeth of Adversity. This one is as every bit as good.

It’s a locked-room mystery, a favorite theme in classic crime fiction, returning Dr. Constantine and Detective-Inspector Arkwright, whom Thynne introduced in Death at the Noah’s Ark. Thynne created a challenging mystery with an intriguing cast of characters in a delightful setting, and wrapped it up in well-written prose for a satisfying story – and I could and do say the same about the other five mysteries she wrote.

The only complaint I can possibly make is that she only wrote six. I’d like to read more.

NOTE: Sis borrowed this title from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, then bought her own copy.  The publisher not only made no attempt to influence her review – the publisher doesn’t even know she has reviewed it!

Description: Constantine reflected on the various means dentists have at their disposal should they wish to silence their patients … Mr. Humphrey Davenport, society dentist, has an embarrassing problem – he has managed to get locked out of his own surgery. And to make matters worse, Mrs Charles Miller is locked inside, minus her false teeth. When the door is finally opened, the patient is found with her throat cut. Dr. Constantine, a fellow patient at the clinic, is a witness to the gruesome discovery. He lends his chess player’s brain to solving a locked room mystery with a difference, ably assisted by Detective-Inspector Arkwright. Was the murderer the theatrical Mrs. Vallon? Or little Mr. Cattistick, who recognized the fortune in jewels around the dead woman’s neck? Or perhaps it was Sir Richard Pomfrey, the subject of an unusually venomous look from Mrs Miller shortly before her demise? Death in the Dentist’s Chair was first published in 1932. This new edition, the first in many decades, includes an introduction by crime fiction historian Curtis Evans.

Also recommended without reservation:

The Crime at the Noah’s Ark: “There’ll be blue murder here before Christmas!” A number of parties heading for a luxurious holiday spot, are forced by severe winter weather to put up at the ‘Noah’s Ark’, a hostelry they will share with Dr. Constantine, a shrewd chess master and keen observer of all around him. Other guests include bestselling novelist Angus Stuart, the aristocratic Romsey family, a pair of old spinster sisters, and a galloping major whose horseplay gets him into hot water – and then gets him murdered. Who is the masked intruder who causes such a commotion on the first night? Who has stolen Mrs van Dolen’s emeralds, and who has slashed everyone’s (almost everyone’s) car tyres? And are the murderer and thief one and the same, or are the guests faced with two desperate criminals hiding in plain sight in the snowbound inn? Dr. Constantine, aided by two of the younger guests, is compelled to investigate this sparkling Christmas mystery before anyone else ends up singing in the heavenly choir …

The Draycott Murder Mystery: There was something about those hands, with their strangely crisped fingers, as though they had been arrested in the very act of closing, that somehow gave the lie to the woman’s attitude of sleep. A howling gale … A lonely farmhouse … the tread of a mysterious stranger … and then the corpse of a beautiful blonde, seemingly stopped in the act of writing. This is all a bit much for local bobby PC Gunnet, especially when it seems the dead – and aristocratic – woman shouldn’t even have been there in the first place. But nonetheless the owner of the farm, John Leslie, is convicted, and his guilt looks certain. Certain, that is, until the eccentric Allen “Hatter” Fayre, an old India hand, begins to look more deeply into the case and discovers more than one rival suspect in this classic and satisfying puzzler.





Shop Amazon Gift Cards. Any Occasion. No Expiration.

Saturday Savings: More histories, more mysteries

Endeavour Press discounted two biographies of Queen Victoria and one of Prince Albert, her husband, today (Saturday, 10 September 2016):

victoria1Queen Victoria, compiled by the queen’s librarian, was written to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and relies on the queen’s own notes. Richard Rivington Holmes provides contemporary insight into the queen, her peers, her background and her heirs. He also explores her lineage and how she came to inherit the throne and rule the British Empire. It’s on sale today for 99 cents (USD), a significant savings from the print list price of $25.95 (hardbound) or $26.95 (paperback). Sir Richard Rivington Holmes (1835-1911) was a British archivist and courtier, best known for being Librarian to the Queen at Windsor Castle. He was reappointed this role in 1901 by King Edward VII. He is also well known for his large Ethiopian artefact collection that has been catalogued into the British museum. Holmes is buried in Buckinghamshire.

A second Jubilee memoir, Victoria, Queen and Empresswas also written tovictoria2 celebrate 50 years of rule. G. Holden Pike received access to Victoria’s diaries to pen his biography.  It, too, has been discounted to 99 cents (USD), from a list price of $22.95 (hardbound). Holden Pike covers topics such as the Queen’s education, through to Prince Albert’s death, and finally to the Golden Jubilee, alongside other contextually relevant aspects of the Victorian era. Godfrey Holden Pike (1836-1910) was the sub-editor of The Sword and The Trowel for twenty years. He contributed many articles to the magazine, alongside penning many historical and biographical works such as Oliver Cromwell and His Times, and From Slave to College President.

albertHector Bolitho, the renowned biographer of royals, tackles Victoria’s husband in Albert, Prince ConsortThis one is also on sale for 99 cents (USD) today. Bolitho explores the life and personality of Prince Albert, from his birth in Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, his marriage and restraining influence on Queen Victoria and his early death from typhoid.

Earlier this week, Lea Wait’s Shadows on a Morning in Mainethe eighth in her Antique Print Mystery series, was released. It’s available for $4.99 (USD). (See my Sister Sites page for more info on Lea’s website.) I’m really, really, really ready to escape from the unrelenting heat and humidity of the Gulf Coast, so a virtual vacation to Maine sounds perfect.

shadowsDescription: Antique print dealer Maggie Summer’s making big changes in her life. She’s taken a sabbatical from her college teaching job and moved to the coast of Maine to run an antique mall with Will Brewer, her significant other, and is finally hoping to adopt the daughter she’s been hoping for. However, the troubled girl referred to her doesn’t want any part of the plan, showing affection only for harbor seals, which remind her of her “real mother.” Maggie’s distraught when someone starts shooting the seals — and the a young fisherman is murdered. When Will then confesses a secret from his past, she begins to wonder if moving to Maine is the biggest mistake of her life.

R. Allen Chappell has been compared to Tony Hillerman — which is recommendation enough for any mystery fan. His Navajo Autumn is discounted to 99 cents (USD) today from $2.99. I read a sample, enough to make me want to read more.

Description: Thomas Begay is found dead-drunk under the La Plata Bridge …not unusual for Thomas Begay. What is unusual, is BIA investigator Patsy Greyhorse, found lying beside him …not drunk, or even a Navajo, but very dead nonetheless. Long time friend Charlie Yazzi, fresh from law school, risks his career …and even his life to help his old schoolmate. The Answer seems to lie with the Yeenaaldiooshii …should one choose to believe in such things. In the far reaches of the reservation there still are traditional Navajos living their lives with few concessions to modern mores. Guided by their strong sense of cultural heritage these outliers remain a strong anchor for the Navajo Nation. This story follows the lives of such people, caught up in a plot that could have far-reaching implications for the entire tribe.

Saturday Savings 03.09.2016

Histories, mysteries and more . . .

Labor Day weekend brings an end, for some, to summer, and the beginning, to others, of college football season. Mister Sister and I spent the last few days giving our house a much-needed deep cleaning as we get ready for Game Day celebrations. I’m ready to relax (after the game, of course) with some good books. Here’s what I’ve found on sale today:

TitanicWalter Lord’s account of the Titanic disaster earned him a reputation for meticulously researched literary non-fiction. Open Road Media brings his A Night to Remember and The Night Lives On, which examines factual and fanciful theories surrounding the ship and its sinking, in The Complete Titanic Chronicles, discounted today to $4.99 (USD) — $20 off its list price!

Endeavour Press offers the sensational and best-selling history from Lord Russell of Liverpool of Nazi war crimes, detailing the illegal as well as immoralScourge atrocities committed against Germany’s own citizens, prisoners of war and others.  Lord Russell of Liverpool—né Edward Frederick Langley Russell, 2nd Baron Russell of Liverpool—was Deputy Judge Advocate General for the British Army of the Rhine, and was a chief legal adviser for Britain during the war crimes trials following World War II. The Scourge of the Swastika, his history of those crimes, is on sale today for $1.99 (USD), down from $14.99 (USD).

Mysterious Press discounts Aaron Elkins’ fourth Gideon Oliver mystery, Old Boneswhich won the Edgar Award and which was voted one of 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century by the Independent Booksellers Association, to $1.99 (USD) from $7.99.

BonesBook description: With the roar of thunder and the speed of a galloping horse comes the tide to Mont St. Michel goes the old nursery song. So when the aged patriarch of the du Rocher family falls victim to the perilous tide, even the old man’s family accepts the verdict of accidental drowning. But too quickly, this “accident” is followed by a bizarre discovery in the ancient du Rocher château: a human skeleton, wrapped in butcher paper, beneath the old stone flooring. Professor Gideon Oliver, lecturing on forensic anthropology at nearby St. Malo, is asked to examine the bones. He quickly demonstrates why he is known as the “Skeleton Detective,” providing the police with forensic details that lead them to conclude that these are the remains of a Nazi officer believed to have been murdered in the area during the Occupation. Or are they? Gideon himself has his doubts. Then, when another of the current du Rochers dies—this time via cyanide poisoning—his doubts solidify into a single certainty: someone wants old secrets to stay buried . . . and is perfectly willing to eradicate the meddlesome American to make that happen.

I love Rudyard Kipling’s stories, and Kim, the classic story of an orphaned boy, a lama and two empires clashing over one magical land, is free today, thanks to Open Road Media.

Soho’s reading challenge continues

Dark NightRecommended:  Upon a Dark Night by Peter Lovesey; originally published in Great Britain in 1997 by Little, Brown and Company, published in the U.S. in 2005 by Soho Press Inc.; reissued by Soho for Kindle, list price $14.99 (USD)/currently $9.99 (USD), paperback edition, $14.00 (USD). Book 5 of a 16-book series.

Peter Lovesey features a fiction favorite – the victim whose memory is utterly lost – in Upon a Dark Night, his fifth crime novel featuring the irascible yet insightful Peter Diamond.

The effort is ambitious, even audacious, yet Lovesey succeeds where lesser writers have failed. First, he did his homework. He writes knowledgeably about dissociative amnesia, avoiding the popular misconceptions regarding this really rare form of memory loss.  This factual framework means a story that was written nearly 20 years ago remains believable today, even with advances in medical knowledge.

The story also succeeds because of Lovesey’s skill. The plot is complex, but the clues are well placed and the characters, as always, are well drawn. Lovesey rightfully allows Diamond to suffer some consequences for his boorish behavior, and this allows readers to continue to believe in the obviously flawed but essentially kind character of the detective. The pace also showcases Lovesey’s skill, maintaining the reader’s interest in seemingly separate storylines and allowing the reader to see the connections while Diamond remains in the dark.

Like the earlier books in this series (as well as other series on Soho’s International Crime list), the setting is superb. Throughout the story, Lovesey scatters details from Bath’s past and present, along with intriguing hints of history involving ancient battles between the Britons and the Saxons. He also continues to showcase the city using the Royal Crescent not only as the scene of a woman’s death but as the backdrop for a production filming The Pickwick Papers.

I’m reading my way through the Peter Diamond series as I participate in Soho’s reading challenge celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction. I have two months to read all 16 mysteries, and I hope to pull it off because it’s been a pleasure to read these and I’d like to read the first five and I’d like to read the 11 remaining.

These are traditional detective stories. In some, such as this one, the victims do die violent deaths, but Lovesey exercises discretion in the details. He also keeps the use of expletives to a minimum, though readers will find a few in this particular novel. He writes too well to rely on them, either for “realism” or other unconvincing reasons, so readers shouldn’t take offense.

NOTE: Sis thanks Soho for her complimentary reading copy of Upon a Dark Night and for the opportunity to participate in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge. Her review, as always, reflects her own opinions.

Description:  A young woman is dumped, injured and unconscious, in a private hospital’s parking lot. She is an amnesiac with no memory prior to her discovery by hospital personnel. Detective Inspector Peter Diamond of the Bath homicide squad is unwilling to become involved. He has other, more important cases to solve: A woman has plunged to her death from the roof of a local landmark while half the young people of Bath partied below, and an elderly farmer has shot himself. Are these apparent suicides what they seem, or are there sinister forces at work? And might the amnesiac woman hold the key to both cases?

About the author: Peter Lovesey has written 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He has received the Cartier Diamond Dagger, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Visit his website at www.peterlovesey.com for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.


Lambert & Hook return for Final Act

Kindle edition coming 1 September 2016
Kindle edition coming 1 September 2016

Recommended:  Final Act (Book 29 in the Lambert & Hook series) by J.M. Gregson; Kindle ebook scheduled for release 1 September 2016 from Severn House Publishers, Kindle pre-order price $15.33 (USD); hardbound edition now available, list price $28.99 (USD), current price $24.05 (USD).

A company of actors all but upstage the “real” detectives in Final Act, the latest mystery in J.M. Gregson’s long-running Lambert & Hook series.

Sam Jackson chews the scenery behind the scenes as the highly successful television producer pretending to be a Hollywood mogul – coarse in appearance, behavior and speech – until he’s found dead in his caravan in a break between shooting. Everyone on location, from his assistant to the star to the aging actor in a cameo role, has a reason to wish him dead, and Gregson focuses suspicion on each one equally, and convincingly.

Jackson himself is so repulsive that the reader won’t regret his demise. In fact, I enjoyed the mystery more once he was off stage, so to speak, and the other characters could take over. And they do take over, pushing Detective Chief Superintendent Lambert and Detective Sergeant Hook out of the limelight and into supporting roles for their 29th appearance.

The series began in 1989 with Murder at the Nineteenth. That one, alas, alack, is not available for Kindle, but many of the earlier ones have been re-released by Endeavour Press. I’ve picked up several at discounts, though they are still a bargain at anything from 99 cents to $3.99 (USD). The list price on Final Act is much higher, and much higher than many of the U.S. mysteries. The quality is also higher.

Gregson writes well. The characters are fully fleshed. Even when they are the stock characters of drama – the national treasure with a knighthood, the Page Three girl with a plunging neckline, the good-looking gay with a house-husband – they aren’t stereotypical shortcuts or social statements. The story demands them, and Gregson provides them. He also provides a satisfying puzzle. Until the very end, it seems as though anyone could be the killer. But at the very end, it seems that only one could ever have been suspected.

What more can a mystery reader expect?

NOTE:  Sis received a complimentary advanced reading copy from Severn House via NetGalley, for which she is grateful. Neither attempted to influence her review.

Description:  Sam Jackson is not a man who suffers fools – or anyone else – gladly. A successful British television producer who fancies himself as a Hollywood mogul, he makes enemies easily, and delights in the fact. It is no great surprise that such a man should meet a violent death. Detective Chief Superintendent Lambert and Detective Sergeant Hook deduce that the person who killed him is almost certainly to be found among the company of actors who are shooting a series of detective mysteries in rural Herefordshire. But these are people who make a living by acting out other people’s fictions, people more at home with make-believe than real life – and the two detectives find interrogating them a difficult business. How can Lambert and Hook fight their way to the truth when faced with a cast of practised deceivers?

About the author:  J.M. Gregson, a Lancastrian by birth and upbringing, was a teacher for twenty-seven years before concentrating full-time on writing. He is the author of the popular Percy Peach and Lambert & Hook series, and has written books on subjects as diverse as golf and Shakespeare.

Readers who are reluctant to, or who refuse to, pay so much for ebooks may prefer to borrow this title from a lending library, but many of the titles in this series are quite affordable. Here are a few:

Description: Lydon Hall is, as the estate agent’s brochure puts it, a house full of character. But its many interesting features should surely not include a corpse in the elegant drawing-room? Is this death the suicide it appears to be? Superintendent John Lambert and Sergeant Bert Hook are brought in to investigate the tight-knit village community which houses Lydon hall. And everyone one they meet seems suspicious. From the glamorous French widow of the deceased to the man living rough on the moor they all seem to know more about this death than is at first apparent. Moreover, it gradually emerges that the staff of the estate agency he owned all had their different reasons for disliking the dead man…

‘Making a Killing’ is a chilling, expertly plotted mystery story and the second book in the Lambert and Hook Detective series.

The Fox in the Forest When the town vicar Peter Barton is found shot in the woods between two peaceful villages on Christmas Eve, Superintendent Lambert and his CID team are called in to investigate. His estranged wife herself was missing in the days before her husband’s death, busy with her lover. Could she be the killer Lambert is looking for? Or could it be the only man who seems to dislike the victim and owns a matching shotgun? Or the sweet local boy who travels through the woods every day? Then a second victim is found, again in the woods, again with a shotgun: a man they had held for 36 hours before. It seems that they have a serial killer on their hands, selecting victims at random, a killer who the papers are calling the ‘Fox’. With an endless list of potential suspects and no real evidence, Lambert struggles to find his culprit. The rural community closes in upon itself with secrets when another girl is attacked by the Fox and everyone seems to know the details of the two killings. Can Lambert and his team find a killer amongst the various townspeople with connections to the murders? More importantly, can they piece together the few clues they have to find the truth before another victim is found?


Sis congratulates MaryJo Dawson on the release of her sixth Sally Nimitz

EVC
Kindle edition $2.99 (USD)

Ending the Varney Curse, the sixth Sally Nimitz mystery, is being released today, but publication wasn’t the point when MaryJo Dawson wrote the first one.

“I wrote it for fun,” MaryJo says of The Death of Amelia Marsh.

All six books are available in ebook, from Amazon and other retailers, as well as a tradeback edition for readers who prefer printed books. The Death of Amelia Marsh is a Kindle freebie, and I reviewed it on Amazon when MaryJo was no more than an online acquaintance. She’s now a treasured friend who has allowed me to read final drafts of her last two mysteries, and I readily admit I am biased about her work.

That said, I do recommend Sally – it’s such a relief to encounter a sensible, instead of a silly, sleuth in a more or less cozy mystery.  More, because MaryJo’s mysteries do feature amateurs who solve mysteries (not all of which are murders!) without vulgar language or gruesome grit. Less, because the characters are more developed and the insights much deeper than those in most of the current crop of cozies.

Still, it’s best to let someone who can be impartial review Ending the Varney Curse. Instead, let me introduce you to MaryJo, if you don’t already know her, or, if you do, perhaps tell you more than you already know.

MaryJo, like Sally, had a satisfying career in nursing, most of it in obstetrics. I suspected as much while reading her first mystery, because the descriptions and details resonated with authenticity.  I didn’t know, though, that, like me, she was initially inclined toward literature and history. She backed into nursing.

“The profession chose me,” MaryJo recalled.  “My parents were stunned when, after a year of college, I chose to apply to nursing school. My main reason? It was less expensive. We had little money, and my dad was going to borrow so I could so on with my education.”

Nursing school, especially back then, allowed students to work while pursuing their education.

“There were times during those three years that I wavered in my choice. But God was looking out for me, because throughout my life, with its many ups and downs and different locations, I was always able to get a good job,” MaryJo recalled.MaryJo

A native of Wisconsin, MaryJo has lived and worked in many places from Maine to Mississippi. She now lives with her husband, Bill, in a small town at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in southeastern Colorado.

MaryJo also draws from her own background in creating what I call fiction for Christians (or Jews, or just those who want a clean read). Her stories aren’t really Christian fiction – you won’t find heavily moral messages or preachiness and the references to prayer are subtly matter of fact.

“Throughout the series, the lifestyle (Sally) believes in and lives pops up consistently. It is essential to who she is, who her best friends are, and how the various mysteries are handled,” said MaryJo, who was not only brought up as a Christian but who has, as I have seen firsthand, become a woman of a deep and abiding faith.

Readers who are hostile to religion might not find as much to like as those who are more welcoming, but faith isn’t exactly a theme in these mysteries. Instead, it is a part of who Sally (and recurring characters Anne and George) are, and MaryJo shows us this, rather than tells us so.

Perhaps it’s no wonder that one of the writers who inspires her is Dorothy L. Sayers, best known today for her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries but whose serious writing includes many works of Christian non-fiction. Other influences and inspirations are Josephine Tey (whose Brat Farrar is a personal favorite), Rex Stout, and the husband-and-wife team of Brock and Bodie Thoene.

You won’t find MaryJo on Facebook. She doesn’t blog, or maintain a website. She does participate in Amazon’s Meet Our Authors Discussion Forum, which is where I first encountered her, but she limits her time online, striking a balance between activities there and offline.

“There are only so many hours in a day. I can’t spend them all on the computer, nor do I want to, so picking and choosing became a necessity,” MaryJo explained.

When she’s not writing, you might find MaryJo in her garden or on a walking path. She calls herself a “pretty boring person” and says she’s very comfortable with that. She loves family and friends, home and hobbies, and she knows something about exquisite chocolates . . . as I know firsthand!

Recent reads include:

Dead Wake by Eric Larson, which was selected by her book club

The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Calvary Road by Roy Hession, who also wrote We Would See Jesus (which MaryJo recently read and recommended to me)

Read a sample of MaryJo’s books, or buy from Amazon by clicking on these links:

The Death of Amelia Marsh — available as a free Kindle ebook; tradeback, $10.10 (USD).

The Disappearance of Douglas White — ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $11.49 (USD).

The Strange Situation at Emlee ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $11.49 (USD).

CharlieThe Truth About Charlie — ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $9.99 (USD).

Did Lucy Bedford Have to Die — ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $11.99 (USD).

Subscribers:  Leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle edition of MaryJo’s latest (or substitute an earlier book if you prefer). Refer a friend who subscribes to MiddleSisterReviews.com for an additional chance. The winner will be chosen by a random method, which may involve the caprice of a cat or another four-legged friend, from comments posted by midnight CDT.

Texas blooms at Chelsea in this cozy

Bluebonnet betrayalRecommended: The Bluebonnet Betrayal (Book 5 of the Potting Shed Mystery series) by Marty Wingate; scheduled for release 2 August 2016 by Alibi, a Random House imprint; list price $2.99 (USD), Kindle edition.

Marty Wingate takes her Potting Shed Mystery series to Britain’s most famous flower show with The Bluebonnet Betrayal, scheduled for release Tuesday, 2 August 2016.

The cozy mystery series features professional gardener Pru Parke, a Texan who transplants herself to England in the debut, The Garden Plot (available in ebook for $2.99/USD), and who presents the reader with a bouquet of garden lore when she’s not unearthing clues . . . and occasionally when she is. Pru is both a proud native of the Lone Star State and an avid Anglophile, and the series offers a good sense of both backgrounds.

These are true cozies, written without vulgar language or vulgar depictions of violence. Readers may also like the fact that Pru is neither a young woman nor an old one. In this fifth book, she has married DCI Charlie Pearse, whom she meets in the first book, and Wingate writes of their romance with a deftness as well as discretion. I love their flirting, but I’m never embarrassed by too much intimacy.

The association of the amateur with the professional is a standard of the cozy genre, but here Wingate succumbs to the all-too-common temptation to allow the amateur (Pru) to make rather ridiculous demands for inside information from a police officer who only knows her by reputation. We don’t, or shouldn’t, expect too much realism from cozies, but it’s disappointing to see an otherwise sensible sleuth act so silly – and irritating to be asked to believe that a Scotland Yard detective would yield to such appeals. Especially with so much evidence to indicate that Wingate is fully capable of writing around this dilemma.

The plot involves a romantic quadrangle that is a bit of a stretch, too, and I suspect many readers will identify the murderer much sooner than Pru does. I also got a bit irritated with the repeated identification of bluebonnets as a Hill Country wildflower since I know them firsthand from my hometown of Houston, and have seen them bloom in profusion throughout the southeastern part of the state. I’d have expected Wingate, who herself is a well-known garden speaker and writer, to know better.

Yet, despite these detractions, this is an enjoyable and entertaining read. Wingate transports readers to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the grounds of the Royal Hospital on which it is held each May, quite fun for all of us who would like to go but may never have a chance. I had read the debut but not the middle books of the series, and I thought this one worked as a stand-alone. The series is attractively priced, too, from $2.99 (USD) for the first and last and $3.99 (USD) for Books 2, 3 and 4.

The Bluebonnet Betrayal isn’t likely to rate a best-in-show, but it’s certainly worth the price of admission.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary advanced reading copy from Alibi via NetGalley. She happily asserts that neither has attempted to influence her.

Description: Pru’s life in England is coming full circle. A Texas transplant, she’s married to the love of her life, thriving in the plum gardening position she shares with her long-lost brother, and prepping a Chelsea Flower Show exhibit featuring the beloved bluebonnets of the Texas hill country. Technically, Twyla Woodford, the president of a gardening club in the Lone Star State, is in charge of the London event, but Pru seems to be the one getting her hands dirty. When they finally do meet, Pru senses a kindred spirit—until Twyla turns up dead.

Although Twyla’s body was half buried under a wall in their display, Pru remains determined to mount a spectacular show. Twyla would have insisted. So Pru recruits her husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse, to go undercover and do a bit of unofficial digging into Twyla’s final hours. If Pru has anything to say about it, this killer is going to learn the hard way not to mess with Texas.

About the author: Marty Wingate is the author of the Potting Shed mysteries from Random House/Alibi. She also writes the Birds of a Feather mystery series, which debuted in 2015 with The Rhyme of the Magpie.

Marty speaks at national events, and writes about gardens and travel. She can be heard on A Dry Rain (adryrain.net), a free podcast available on iTunes. Marty is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, as well as the Royal Horticultural Society and the Garden Writers Association. She leads small-group garden tours to European destinations including England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and on North American journeys. Marty doesn’t believe that the thin veneer of tourism – successive one-night stops in a series of hotels – can ever replace getting to know the people, history and culture of a region, and so, when arranging her tours, she always includes time for a cup of tea, a pint of beer, or a glass of wine.

Bloodhounds tracks the history of the mystery

bloodhoundsRecommended: Bloodhounds by Peter Lovesey; 304 pp; first published in Great Britain in 1996 by Little, Brown and Company; this edition published by Soho Crime, Kindle list price currently $4.99 (USD), paperback edition, list $15.95 (USD) but selling today at $12.98 at Amazon.com. Book 4 of a 16-book series.

Bloodhounds lays a trail that leads from the earliest crime stories to contemporary ones, while treating fans of this fiction to a modern locked-room mystery.

In the fourth book of the deservedly popular Peter Diamond series, bestselling writer Peter Lovesey tips his hat to his colleagues, from John Dickson Carr to Andrew Vachss. The result is not only a pleasing puzzler, but a guide to the best of the past and the present. This one should be read with a notepad at hand, for jotting down all the titles you’ll want to search for later – and plan on jotting them down because I doubt if you’ll want to interrupt your reading to fetch them.

I’m reading my way through the 16-book series as Soho Crime celebrates 25 years of publishing international crime fiction with a reading challenge. I have two months to complete it, and I don’t foresee any obstacles.

In this one, Diamond is back in Bath and back on the force at the only job he really does well . . . even if he is a bit of both a curmudgeon and a Luddite.  Lovesey created him at a time when political correctness was at its silliest, and Diamond is nothing if not politically incorrect. He is, however, sincere and that sincerity earns the admiration of readers as well as the (sometimes grudging) respect of the detectives who work with him at Avon and Somerset.

Bloodhounds pits Diamond against John Wigfull, the oh-so politically correct and career-conscious cop introduced in The Last Detective as Diamond’s would-be successor. Lovesey skillfully plays the two characters off, with John the rhinestone and Peter the Diamond.  We get Wigfull at his worst, smug with apparent success . . . but appearances are deceiving and he is, after all, the imitation detective while Diamond is genuine.

 Once again, Lovesey takes the reader on a tour of Bath, showing us the graceful Georgian buildings as well as the grimy back streets where no open-topped buses venture. The rich setting is a trademark of the Soho International Crime series, and Lovesey shows why he’s a champion from the first to the fourth (so far – I expect nothing less in the books to come).

The Bloodhounds of Bath are an uncongenial collection of fans of detective fiction who meet weekly in a crypt below a local church. Perhaps the only thing the members have in common is their love for mysteries, though the debate over the merits of any mystery are fierce and more than a few hackles are raised.

The first several chapters alternate between the Bloodhounds and Diamond, and this style may bother some readers. Lovesey had already earned my trust, so I was quite willing to follow where he led – and, before long, he led me (and Diamond and other detectives) along several false trails on the way to a satisfying solution.

The victim is battered with a blunt instrument, but the details are never gory or graphic. The corpse may be bloody, but the language (with perhaps one exception) is not.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary copy of Bloodhounds from Soho Crime via NetGalley for her participation in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge.  Neither the publisher, nor any of its authors, have dogged her to write anything other than her own opinions.  She is, however, most grateful to Soho Crime for the opportunity to read and review this series!

Description:  A rare stamp and a corpse are discovered in Bath within hours of each other. As he investigates, Inspector Peter Diamond discovers that both the person who found the stamp and the victim belong to the Bloodhounds, an elite group of mystery lovers, who now urge Diamond to bring the murderer to justice. But there’s a hitch: the body lies inside a padlocked houseboat and the only key is in the pocket of a man with an airtight alibi.

PETER LOVESEY wrote the 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2000, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Visit his website at www.peterlovesey.com for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.


 

Saturday Savings 23.07.2016

The Scottie Barked at Midnight

Scottie BarkedThe ninth book in this popular cozy mystery series is on sale at $2.99 (USD), half the $5.99 price. This is a series I’ve only recently started, so I have yet to read this mystery, but the whole series gets an enthusiastic endorsement from one of my reading friends, Stacey, and I think she’s a good judge of a good cozy mystery.

Description:  Spring is just a few weeks away, but winter is still digging its claws into Moosetookalook, Maine. With business at the Scottish Emporium frozen up, Liss MacCrimmon is cautiously optimistic when a twist of fate lands her on a reality competition show—until the contest gets a little too cutthroat . . . While driving on an icy road one night, Liss swerves her car when something darts out in front of it. The Scottish terrier she finds shivering in the snow turns out to be a reality TV star. But when the pooch’s owner is murdered, her daughter asks Liss to take her place on the reality show. Before Liss can tell her she’s barking up the wrong tree, she finds herself ensnarled in the strange world of reality competitions and hot on the trail of a deadly competitor. And just as she starts pawing at the truth, Liss realizes she could be next on the murderer’s list.

DunnettAbout the Author:  Kaitlyn Dunnett first caught the Scottish heritage bug when her husband learned to play the bagpipes. Many Scottish festivals and parades later, and after a brief stint as bass drummer with a bagpipe band, she decided to combine her love of things Scottish with her love of writing. The Liss MacCrimmon mysteries are the result. Kaitlyn lives on a Christmas tree farm in the mountains of western Maine and can be reached through her website at www.kaitlyndunnett.com.

Click the image below to see the entire Liss MacCrimmon series:

Kilt Dead

is scheduled to be released 26 July 2016.

I’d heard of Nicholas Sparks, but I never read any of his best-selling novels until I started borrowing them from my beautiful mom-by-marriage, and, I confess, I enjoy them almost as much as she does.  I found The Rescuea novel published in 2000 on sale today for $1.99 (USD). Most of his ebooks are priced at $7.99 (USD), so this is a significant savings.

RescueDescription: When confronted by raging fires or deadly accidents, volunteer firefighter Taylor McAden feels compelled to take terrifying risks to save lives. But there is one leap of faith Taylor can’t bring himself to make: he can’t fall in love. For all his adult years, Taylor has sought out women who need to be rescued, women he leaves as soon as their crisis is over and the relationship starts to become truly intimate. When a raging storm hits his small Southern town, single mother Denise Holton’s car skids off the road. The young mom is with her four-year-old son Kyle, a boy with severe learning disabilities and for whom she has sacrificed everything. Taylor McAden finds her unconscious and bleeding, but does not find Kyle. When Denise wakes, the chilling truth becomes clear to both of them: Kyle is gone. During the search for Kyle, the connection between Taylor and Denise takes root. Taylor doesn’t know that this rescue will be different from all the others.

roger ackroydI’ve collected Agatha Christies since I was in my teens, and I had at least one copy of every title when I was in my twenties, but one in particular — The Murder of Roger Ackroyd — mysteriously disappeared every time I moved. Now, I have a Kindle edition which cannot go astray. Today, this classic mystery is discounted to $1.99 (USD), and it is one that belongs in the library of every mystery fan if not of every well-rounded reader. This is the book that made Christie, the bestselling mystery writer of all time, a household name. Debates raged over whether Christie played fair. I think she did. Other writers have since copied her clever plot device, but, to my mind, no one has ever equaled this effort. This is one I can read over and over and over again and enjoy each reading as much as I did the first time.

Description:  In the village of King’s Abbot, a widow’s sudden suicide sparks rumors that she murdered her first husband, was being blackmailed, and was carrying on a secret affair with the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. The following evening, Ackroyd is murdered in his locked study — but not before receiving a letter identifying the widow’s blackmailer. King’s Abbot is crawling with suspects, including a nervous butler, Ackroyd’s wayward stepson, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, who has taken up residence in the victim’s home. It’s now up to the famous Hercule Poirot, who has retired to King’s Abbot to grow vegetable marrows, to solve the case of who killed Roger Ackroyd.

And, last but by no means least, the bestselling, epic account of one of the most significant battles of the Vietnam War, We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young by retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph Galloway, is on sale at $2.99 (USD) today. Soldiers Once

Description:  In November 1965, some 450 men of the First Battalion, Seventh Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Harold Moore, were dropped into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley. They were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. Three days later, only two and a half miles away, a sister battalion was brutally slaughtered. Together, these actions at the landing zones X-Ray and Albany constituted one of the most savage and significant battles of the Vietnam War. They were the first major engagements between the US Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam. How these Americans persevered—sacrificing themselves for their comrades and never giving up—creates a vivid portrait of war at its most devastating and inspiring. Lt. Gen. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway—the only journalist on the ground throughout the fighting—interviewed hundreds of men who fought in the battle, including the North Vietnamese commanders. Their poignant account rises above the ordeal it chronicles to depict men facing the ultimate challenge, dealing with it in ways they would have once found unimaginable. It reveals to us, as rarely before, man’s most heroic and horrendous endeavor.

A flawless Diamond?

summonsThe Summons sums up why readers love Peter Diamond, the erstwhile detective chief inspector of Avon and Somerset who solves crimes the old-fashioned way.

“. . . but at least he pursued the truth, whatever the cost. That was what had kept him from being kicked off the force all the times he’d traded aggro with people like Farr-Jones. His values were right,” Peter Lovesey writes, as the third in this 16-book series nears its climax.

Diamond’s values are right, and here he pursues the truth at considerable cost. This story opens with Diamond, now working as a bag boy at a London supermarket, and his wife, Stephanie, in bed late at night when two cops arrive with orders to drag him back to Bath. Diamond has begun to realize how badly he misses police work, and how unsuited he is to any other job, but he’s not quite ready to come to the aid of the assistant chief constable who yanked him off his last case. But, the ACC’s daughter has been kidnapped by a man convicted four years earlier of a brutal murder, on the strength of Diamond’s investigation, and who demands that Diamond and only Diamond reopen the investigation and find the real killer.

Soho Crime, celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction, is promoting the series in a reading challenge, and this is a challenge I’ve accepted and enjoyed. I have two months to read the whole series, and I’m more than game.

The detective is definitely a rough diamond, if you’ll forgive the pun, but Peter Lovesey continues to provide the polished prose that would make any story a pleasure to read. The characters are deftly drawn, from the convict who escaped from a prison on the Isle of Wright to the variety of police officers and officials who are working to capture him. And he shows us Bath as Jane Austen never did, highlighting one of the outstanding features of this Soho list:  Settings from cities and towns around the world.

This story is much more tense than the first two, which should please readers who don’t care for a leisurely approach. The violence is, perhaps, more intense, yet its depiction so restrained that it is unlikely to offend. The cast includes convicts and “crusties,” but, while some of the language is quite vulgar, indeed, it is free of the vulgarities that offend some sensibilities. The deceptions are devious, so I was never quite sure if I had solved the case or netted another red herring, so I remained fully engaged even as the denouement unfolded and the end grew near. This is definitely one I’d like to read again.

Details:  The Summons by Peter Lovesey; 304 pp; first published in Great Britain in 1995 by Little, Brown and Company; this edition published by Soho Crime, Kindle list price currently $4.99 (USD), paperback edition, list $15.95 (USD) but selling today at $15.27 at Amazon.com. Book 3 of a 16-book series. Edgar Award Nominee for Best Novel (1996), The Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction (1995). Those who missed last week’s sale may be interested to know that The Last Detective is again discounted to $1.99 and several of the stories are discounted to $4.99.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary copy of The Summons from Soho Crime via NetGalley for her participation in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge.  Neither the publisher, nor any of its authors, have challenged her integrity in regard to her reviews.  They remain uniquely hers.  She is, however, most grateful to Soho Crime for the opportunity to read and review this series!

Description:  John Mountjoy has escaped from prison and taken a hostage, and the only person he’ll talk to is Detective Peter Diamond, who arrested him four years earlier for the murder of a young journalist. Diamond must follow a cold trail to find another killer and clear Mountjoy’s name before another life is lost.

LoveseyPETER LOVESEY wrote the 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2000, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Peter and his wife Jax, who co-scripted the TV series, have a son, Phil, a teacher and mystery writer, and a daughter Kathy, who was a Vice-President of J.P.Morgan-Chase, and now lives with her family in Greenwich, Ct. Peter currently lives in Chichester, England. Visit his website at www.peterlovesey.com for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.