Sis remembers . . .

 

Copyright Raul654, used with permission
Copyright Raul654, used with permission

In the U.S., today is set aside to remember the men — and women — who died in the service of our armed forces. Originally known as Decoration Day and celebrated by marking the graves of those who died in our bitter Civil War, it was, not surprisingly observed on different days in different places — and especially from North to South.  Some stubborn Southerners still continue to observe Confederate Memorial Day, ignoring the united day that finally became a federal holiday in 1967.  Along the way, the day also came to be known as the official unofficial beginning of summer — a day for barbecues, beaches and social permission to wear white shoes until the unofficial end of summer on Labor Day.

It’s also become one of the most dangerous holidays in the U.S., with the highest incidence of drunk and/or drugged driving, a fact I learned to my surprise in my days as a journalist.  The research I wrote to write a package of stories on that has left an indelible mark on my memory, from the stories of those who lost someone in a wreck caused by a drunk driver to the poor slob who had not forgiven himself for killing someone while driving drunk.  I haven’t considered driving after drinking so much as one sip of wine since.  This is one of many instances when I’m happy to learn from other people’s mistakes and don’t insist on making my own!

Whatever else you do today, I hope you will take a moment to remember those who gave their lives in our service, whether you are from North or South, East or West, or another nation.  I also hope you will take care if you must drive today, remembering that not everyone else will.

And, finally, I remember my great-uncle, Bobby, who died at Salerno, and I invite you to acknowledge your remembrance of those of your family and friends who lost their lives while serving.  God bless.

Take a chance on No Second Chances

By Lyndon Stacey, 224 pp., published by Severn House Ltd. Available in hardcover, list price $28.95 (USD); pre-order Kindle edition, list price $14.99 (USD).
By Lyndon Stacey, 224 pp., published by Severn House Ltd. Available in hardcover, list price $28.95 (USD); pre-order Kindle edition, list price $14.99 (USD). Release schedule 1 July 2016.

No Second Chances opens with an unintended mystery:  Why should Daniel Whelan, an ex-cop delivering farm supplies, jump to the aid of a client he scarcely knows and her insanely impulsive 15-year-old daughter? It doesn’t make sense, and it never makes sense, yet the mystery deserves a second chance and readers, especially those with a passion for animal rescue and dogs in particular, should give it that chance.

Whelan and Taz, the German shepherd who retired from the police force when his handler resigned and now accompanies him on his farm rounds, are engaging and fully developed characters.  I liked them, and I’d like to know them better.  Lorna Myers, the client who only learns her husband has disappeared when a pair of thugs shows up at their farmhouse in search of him, is never much more than a supporting character.  Her daughter, Zoe, is a primary personality, and utterly annoying.

Yet these irritations are what drive the plot.  She rushes headlong into danger, pulling Whelan and everyone else along and irritating both characters and readers alike as she searches for her missing boyfriend while all but ignoring the danger confronting her mother in the wake of her stepfather’s disappearance.  Not to mention the dangers confronting herself, both from those who want to stop her from finding the 19-year-old Traveler (also known as a gypsy, though from Ireland rather than Romany), those who are searching for her stepfather, and those who know that her search for the boy may very well lead to the whereabouts of the stepfather – or at least the reason for his disappearance.

Against all odds, Whelan sticks with Zoe, her boyfriend, and her mother.  Readers who are willing to give the book a second chance should ignore the odds and stick, too, because the mystery is neatly plotted, Stacey’s writing is a pleasure to read, and several of the characters are deftly drawn. The book introduces a character, a beauty who rescues greyhounds, who seems poised to appear in future books in the series, and, like Whelan, I’d like to know her better.

Mysteries, by definition, must include some violence. This isn’t a cozy (although Amazon.com currently has it categorized as such), but the violence shouldn’t offend most readers’ sensibilities. The dialogue does include some vulgar language, though far from egregious by common standards and not unexpected with Travelers among the cast of characters.  I did, however, object to Daniel’s use of an epithet as a term of endearment in the last line. It stopped the story from ending on an otherwise good note for me.

Note:  Severn House provided a complimentary advanced reading copy via NetGalley to allow Sis to read and review this mystery. The review reflects her own and only her own opinions. Sis doesn’t take any chances where her reputation is concerned.

Publisher’s Description: Ex-police dog handler Daniel Whelan finds himself drawn into the complex affairs of a neighbouring family – with potentially fatal consequences. Lorna Myers thinks she knows where her businessman husband is – until two men come looking for him one October evening. By lucky chance, ex-police officer Daniel Whelan happens to be on hand to take control of the situation, but for Lorna it’s the start of a nightmare. If Harvey isn’t abroad working, then where is he?  When Lorna’s daughter asks Daniel for help with a problem of her own, he finds himself reluctantly drawn into the complex affairs of the Myers family – with what could be deadly consequences for both him and his faithful canine partner, Taz.

Pre-order Kindle edition:

Previous books in this series:

No Going Back (Daniel Whelan Mystery, Book 1)


The first in an exciting new mystery series featuring ex-police dog handler Charlie Whelan – When two young sisters run away on Dartmoor, Charlie Whelan and his German shepherd, Taz, are called into action, and a desperate search quickly turns up one of the girls. However, rather than showing relief at being rescued, she seems terrified. Darkness halts their hunt for her elder sister, and Charlie returns home with one distressing question on his mind: just what were the girls running from?

No Holds Barred (Daniel Whelan Mystery, Book 2)


The second in the exciting new mystery series featuring ex-police dog handler Daniel Whelan – When ex-police dog handler Daniel Whelan is asked by his former boss to help a friend who is struggling to run her husband’s haulage company while he is recovering from a vicious attack, he and his German shepherd, Taz, rapidly find themselves attracting the wrong sort of attention. Daniel investigates and soon finds evidence of some very nasty business indeed – but after several violent warnings, he begins to wonder . . has he bitten off more than he can chew?

Nothing But Lies: A British police dog-handler mystery (Daniel Whelan Mystery, Book 3)


Daniel’s ex-colleague, police officer Joey Matsuki, has asked for his help. Joey is concerned for the safety of his fiancée, Tami, who has reported sightings of a sinister, hoodie-clad figure lurking in the area. Joey fears the involvement of a notorious local criminal recently released from prison. But with nothing concrete to go on and police resources scarce, he’s asked Daniel to keep an eye on Tami on his behalf. Working undercover as Tami’s temporary horse-box driver, Daniel soon begins to believe there may be more to the situation than meets the eye. As he questions Tami’s friends and neighbours, it becomes clear that something is not quite right. There are things people aren’t telling him; small but significant incidents that can’t be explained. Events take a tragic turn when there is a fatal hit-and-run incident. But was it really an accident – and could Tami herself have been the intended target?

About the author: Lyndon Stacey is an animal portraitist by trade and loves Western style horse riding. She lives in the Blackmore Vale in Dorset, with three assorted dogs and two cats, and is now a full-time writer. Her many interests include horse riding, animal psychology, classical music, genealogy and exploring the countryside on her motorcycle.

Deep Waters swirl into the ’60s

Recommended:
Severn House, U.K., in hardcover and Kindle.
Severn House Publishers Ltd., U.K., in hardcover and Kindle.

Patricia Hall’s Deep Waters pulls London Metropolitan Police Detective Sergeant “Flash” Harry Barnard and his girlfriend into the undertow of an old crime that churns up new victims in the Swinging Sixties of London’s East End and its environs.

The story focuses more on Harry than on Kate O’Donnell, his photographer girlfriend, and Hall crafts a complex mystery using Harry’s wartime childhood, his national service during the floods that devastated England’s East Coast in 1953, and his assignment on the CID’s Vice Squad more than a decade later.  I hadn’t (and still haven’t) read the previous mysteries in this series, but Hall provides sufficient background and this story stands on its own.

The writing is strong, with a literary style that maintains just the right amount of tension while bringing just enough of the past into the present.  This is no Austin Powers parody, swamping readers with references to cultural icons. Hall tosses out a few references to Lennon and the Beatles, the Kinx, the Rolling Stones and Cilla Black.  She also tosses in a few phrases from Sixties’ slang, like dolly bird, but younger readers and U.S. readers ought to be able to follow along without any real difficulty even if, unlike me, they haven’t previously encountered these.

For me, learning about different places and different times is part of the fun of reading fiction – and I’ve been reading British literature nearly as long as I’ve been reading American literature.  Those who are well-versed in Brit lit won’t find any obstacles.  Those who are not should enjoy the exposure to different spellings and new words.

The ending might disappoint some readers, as Hall doesn’t mop up every single storyline.  It’s no cliffhanger, but neither is it neat and utterly complete.  The crimes are violent – it is, after all, a murder mystery – but the depictions are no real threat to the reader’s sensibilities.  The dialogue does include some of the vulgar words to be heard in London’s East End, both then and now, but Hall doesn’t drown the reader in them.

Note:  Sis received an advanced reading copy from Severn House and NetGalley, for which she is grateful.  This review reflects her opinions and only her opinions.

Deep Waters by Patricia Hall; 208 pp.  Severn House.  Hardcover $28.95 (USD); Kindle  list price $22.91 (USD), pre-order price $14.99. Hardcover available now; Kindle edition scheduled for release 1 July 2016.

Synopsis:  A past crime leads to new murder in the latest O’Donnell mystery

It’s 1964. Detective Sergeant Harry Barnard has been ordered to track down notorious Soho club owner Ray Robertson, who hasn’t been seen for several days. The case takes on a greater urgency when a battered body is discovered at the gym Ray owns. Is Ray the killer … or is he a victim? Photographer Kate O’Donnell works on a feature about the rebuilding of Canvey Island after the devastating East Coast floods of 1953. But as Kate and Harry are about to discover, the Canvey Island floods, the murder and Ray Robertson’s disappearance are connected in more ways than one …

Highly recommending: The Red House Mystery

A.A. Milne’s classic locked-room mystery is was free today Friday, from Mysterious Press

Red House MysteryA hot, drowsy afternoon at Red House, home of wealthy Mark Ablett. Downstairs the servants are resting. Outside the secretary is reading. Then the peace is shattered by a piercing cry for help and a gunshot. Minutes later, Robert Ablett’s body is found in a locked room with no possible means of entry or exit.

A.A. Milne’s classic manor house mystery is one of my all-time favorites, as much a delight to read today as when I first found it on my grandmother’s bookshelves. I know it by heart, yet I still enjoy reading every word of it.

The Mysterious Press edition of The Red House Mystery is free today on Amazon.com, as well as from Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, Indiebound and Kobo, in an optimized for e-reader version.  It’s still a bargain at its list price of $0.99 (USD).  (My apologies to any who missed out!)

Milne, of course, is best known for his Winnie-the-Pooh stories — which I adore — but he was an avid mystery reader and I think he wrote one of the best ever, beginning with the dedication to his father, John Vine Milne. In many respects, it is a typical Golden Age mystery. The setting is an English manor house, the home of an unusual snob and the cousin who acts as his secretary, land agent, business advisor and companion. The snob, Mark Ablett, is fond of house parties — but prefers guests who cannot repay his hospitality — and the house is full when his previously unknown brother arrives unexpectedly from Australia, only to be found murdered behind a locked door in Mark’s office.

All typical . . . yet not at all typical with Milne’s witty writing, pleasing plotting, and a (mostly) charming cast of characters. If you haven’t read it, here’s an exceptional opportunity. If you have only a print edition or the public domain digital edition, here’s an excellent opportunity to upgrade to a properly formatted edition.  Enjoy!

From the publisher: Mark Ablett is not really a snob—not the worst kind of snob, at least. He simply prefers artists to everyone else, and the discussion of his own creative abilities to any other talk whatsoever. His vanities are easily forgiven especially since he is generous with his money—inherited not from his clergyman father but from a neighborhood spinster who took a liking to him—and he is always willing to play the host at the Red House, his delightful country estate.

One lazy summer morning, as his guests enjoy breakfast before a round of golf, Mark opens a surprising letter. His brother Robert, the black sheep of the family, gone some fifteen years now, is back from Australia and plans to call at the Red House that very afternoon. It is the first that Mark’s friends and servants have heard of a brother, but that shock is nothing compared to what happens next: After being shown into an empty office to wait for the master of the house, Robert is shot dead. Mark is nowhere to be found, not unlike the pistol that fired the fatal bullet. It is up to Tony Gillingham, man of leisure, and his young friend Bill Beverley to assume the roles of Sherlock and Watson and solve a crime so clever that Alexander Woollcott pronounced it “one of the three best mystery stories of all time.”

Beloved children’s author A.A. Milne was a great fan of detective stories. MilneHis first and last attempt at the genre is an absolute delight—one of the most original and charming novels of the Golden Age of crime fiction.

The Winemaker Detective

Featuring mysteries with a French flair

Winemaker DetectiveThe Winemaker Detective: An Omnibus — Treachery in Bordeaux, Grand Cru Heist and Nightmare in Burgundy by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen.

The Winemaker Detective: An Omnibus introduces a master winemaker and his assistant, an unlikely pair of detectives, in an amusing series that shines like a rich Bordeaux with a style that could be called continental cosy.

Benjamin Cooker, the French-English master winemaker, and his assistant, the virile Virgile, manage to solve murder as well as mayhem in the world of wine.  The three novellas – Treachery in Bordeaux, Grand Cru Heist and Nightmare in Burgundy – each combine a satisfying mystery with an ample serving of French culture and especially French viniculture.

For some, the stories may start a bit slow . . . more like traditional British mysteries of a bygone era.  I didn’t mind.  For others, the technical details may be distracting.  Again, I didn’t mind – I quite enjoyed learning more about wines, vineyards and vintages, and other aspects of French culture and the French countryside.  I’m no oenophile – I’ve been known to drink pink wine out of a box and to purchase bottles with screwcaps – but such a background is happily not needed.  Especially with an e-reader, which makes it easy to take a brief detour into the exact definition of grand cru or Haut-Brion without losing the threads of the story or stories.

Indeed, one of the pleasures of the series is learning more about the French countryside in general and the wine regions in particular – a vacation in a volume (or two, or three).

The contrast of Cooker, a man of integrity as well as a man of faith, with his assistant, Virgile, an agnostic and a bit of a lady’s man, lends strength to the series.

But, readers should take warning that the series isn’t strictly cosy:  The stories include a spattering of vulgar language and one fairly explicit (but by no means pornographic) sexual scene – on the whole, tame in both respects.  That’s why I called it continental cosy.  (And, yes, given the setting, I’m opting for the British spelling here.) featured

In Treachery in Bordeaux, barrels at the prestigious grand cru Moniales Haut-Brion wine estate in Bordeaux have been contaminated. Is it negligence or sabotage? In Grand Cru Heist, Benjamin Cooker’s world gets turned upside down one night in Paris with a carjacking. He retreats to the region around Tours to recover, where he and his assistant Virgile turn PI to solve two murders and an unusual theft. In Nightmare in Burgundy, a dream wine-tasting trip to Burgundy turns into a troubling nightmare when Cooker and his assistant stumble upon a mystery revolving around messages from another era.

NOTE:  Sis received an advanced reading copy from Le French Book via NetGalley in exchange for an independent and unbiased review.  Sis has as much integrity as Benjamin Cooker and would never offer less.

Also in this series:


Deadly Tasting – a serial killer stalks Bordeaux.  To understand the wine-related symbolism, the local police call on the famous wine critic Benjamin Cooker.  The investigation leads them to the dark hours of France’s history, as the mystery thickens among the once-peaceful vineyards of Pomerol.


Cognac Conspiracies – the heirs to one of the oldest Cognac estates in France face a hostile takeover by foreign investors.  Renowned wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to audit the books.  In what he thought was a sleepy provincial town, he and his assistant, Virgile, have their loyalties tested.

About the authors:  Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen came up with the winemaker detective over a glass of wine, of course.  Alaux is a magazine, radio, and television journalist when he is not writing novels in southwestern France.  The grandson of a winemaker, he has a passion for food, wine, and winemaking.  For him, there is no greater common denominator than wine.  Noël Balen lives in Paris, where he writes, makes records, and lectures on music.  He plays bass, is a music critic, and has written a number of books about musicians, as well as many novels and short stories.

The three stories in this omnibus were translated by Anne Trager, who founded Le French Book to introduce books she enjoyed to a broader audience, and Sally Pane.  “If we love it, we translate it” is the company’s motto.


 

Sis supports Walk for ALS

and invites you to consider lending your support

ALS is a fatal neuromuscular disease with no known cure, cause or effective treatment.  I first learned of it when I was perhaps nine or 10 years old and read a biography of Lou Gehrig, the baseball player who died of ALS in 1941.  Recently, it has hit closer to home:  one friend lost her mother, then her brother, to ALS within the last few years; another friend, Joanne Stark, has lived with ALS for 16 years; and, more recently, a member of my family has been diagnosed with it.

Joanne plans to participate in the in the Mid Island WALK for ALS on Sunday, June 5, 2016, to raise money for the ALS Society of Canada.  Here is an excerpt from an email she recently sent to family and friends, and which I have her permission to share with you in the hope that you will consider contributing to either the ALS Society of Canada or one in your own area:

“The WALK for ALS supports provincial ALS societies and their programs to help people with ALS and their families, and the ALS Society of Canada’s investment in breakthrough research…help and hope! This year is the sixteenth anniversary of my ALS diagnosis. Although I have experienced a slow decline this past year, life is certainly still worth living! I still hope for an ALS cure in my lifetime. It is my hope that you will consider sponsoring me by making a secure online donation using your credit card through my ALS fundraising website.

Last year, friends helped her raise almost $6,000 (Canadian). This year, friends helped her raise $6,285!  Thanks for letting me share Joanne’s story with you.

A brilliant burglar

A Brilliant Plan, Brilliant Actors
by Alex Ames
by Alex Ames

A Brilliant Plan and its sequel, Brilliant Actors, are a pair of brilliantly plotted and wickedly funny cozy mysteries, featuring Calendar Moonstone, the daughter of middle-aged hippies and a talented designer of beautiful jewelry . . . who just so happens to moonlight as a cat burglar!

In her debut, Calendar plans to combine a Thanksgiving visit to her parents’ home in San Diego with an unacknowledgeable visit to a swanky art gallery with a small collection of very large diamonds. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one with plans, not to mention designs on another treasure, and Cal finds the body of the night watchman before she can exit with the diamonds.  If that isn’t bad enough, the police are waiting for her at her parents’ home, House of Moon, full of suspicion.  Nor are they alone with those suspicions.

The only way to hold the plan together is to find the killer, along with the missing jewelry.  Cal does just that, though it’s not easy – of course!

Ames writes that he decided to become a writer because he didn’t have the courage to become a cat burglar.  So, he set out to create a character worthy of Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, but I’ll take Calendar over Stephanie any day — especially if we could have her and Cary Grant.

She may be a thief, but she’s got scruples.  She’s also smart – and she needs to be because the cops are merely a few among many who’d like to pin the crimes on her!  My only real complaint is how long it is taking Ames to write a third one in this series.  He does have a day job, plus another series in print, but I’m absolutely smitten with this one and I want more.

This set of clever, cozy mysteries is likely to appeal to fans of Marian Babson, M.C. Beaton, Kate Carlisle, Kate Collins, Janet Evanovich, Joan Hess, Elizabeth Peters and others who combine mirth and mystery. It should appeal to those who don’t like Evanovich, too.  Oh, and did you note what a bargain they are?  You could buy both in Kindle format for less than four bucks, and I thought the first one was worth at least that.

A Brilliant Plan:  Meet Calendar Moonstone, acclaimed creator of jewelry for the rich, the royals and the famous. And compulsive part-time cat burglar whenever there are rare diamonds whispering her name. It was planned as a routine Thanksgiving part-time job: get in, crack the safe, fetch the diamonds. Instead Calendar finds the dead body of a night watchman and by sheer chance becomes involved to find the murderer and the stolen jewels. She gets teamed up with a cute police detective and a not so cute insurance investigator who sees Calendar behind almost every jewelry heist ever committed. To stay out of jail, Calendar has to use all her wits, skills and charm. And must solve a century old jewelry mystery.

by Alex Ames
by Alex Ames

Brilliant Actors:  What could be more exciting than attending the Academy Awards ceremony, joining the hottest after-show party, and have an A-movie star wearing your jewelry? All of the above, plus spending the rest of the night in jail! Acclaimed jewelry maker and part-time cat burglar Calendar Moonstone finds a stolen necklace in her purse, an enigmatic, unemployed actor with a cheesy name working against her, full-time insurance nemesis Fowler Wynn hard on her trail, and an intriguing chief of police asking for a date. The only catch is she has just thirty days to clear her name or go to jail—permanently. With the help of her trusted friend Mundy Millar, good ties in the movie business, and her uncle Bernie’s biker gang, Calendar sets out to make sure that the right person is caught and her own name cleared again. Even if it means she has to cut some corners, pick some locks, and break some hearts—Calendar style. 

About the Author:  Alex Ames always dreamed but never dared to become a famous jewel thief or computer hacker or super spy. After some considerations, his only morally feasible option was to become a writer. Alex is the author of the Brilliant – Calendar Moonstone cat burglar adventures and the Troubleshooter corporate thrillers. Find his books in print exclusively on Amazon and electronically at most eBook-sellers.

Available in print from Amazon.com and in e-book from Amazon.com and other sources:

Murder Comes First

A discounted deal from Mysterious Press . . .

Murder Comes First, the 15th of 26 novels in the Mr. and Mrs. North series from Frances and Richard Lockridge, is now available in an e-book edition — and is discounted to $1.99 now $7.99, from $9.99, for a limited time. (Sorry to those who missed out!)

Murder Comes FirstI grew up on Agatha Christie, Erle Stanley Gardner and Rex Stout, but the Lockridge books were not often found in my childhood home and I have many yet to read . . . including this one.  Some readers prefer to read all series in order, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you don’t need to read these in order to enjoy them.  I grab them when they’re discounted, as the list prices are fairly expensive as ebooks go, and read them as I can.

Synopsis:  When an old widow is murdered, Mr. and Mrs. North work to prove a trio of aunts innocent of the crime.  Jerry and Pamela North have tangled with countless murderers, blackmailers, and thieves, but nothing could prepare them for a weekend with Pamela’s aunts. Thelma, Lucinda, and Pennina sweep into town like hurricanes, and take no notice of the destruction they cause. No amount of martinis can soothe Pamela and Jerry’s rattled nerves, and when the martinis stop working, the Norths are in trouble.
 
The aunts are in town to see their old friend Grace Logan, a widow whose temperament is as cold as iced gin. But while sipping tea, Grace does something terribly out of character. She seizes up, gasps for air, and dies. When the trio of aunts is implicated in her poisoning, it falls to the Norths to clear their names—and get them out of Manhattan forever.

About the Authors:  Frances and Richard Lockridge were some of the most popular names in mystery during the 1940s and 1950s. Having written numerous novels and stories, the husband-and-wife team was most famous for their Mr. and Mrs. North Mysteries. What started in 1936 as a series of stories written for the New Yorker turned into 26 novels, including adaptions for Broadway, film, television, and radio. The Lockridges continued writing together until Frances’s death in 1963, after which Richard discontinued the Mr. and Mrs. North series and wrote other works until his own death in 1982.

Save the Lighthouse . . . the Lighthouse Library Mystery series

Recommended without reservation:  By Book or by Crook (Book 1), Booked for Trouble (Book 2), and Reading Up a Storm (Book 3), by Vicki Delany, writing as Eva Gates, from Obsidian/Penguin Group.

Lighthouse LIbraryIn real life, the Bodie Island Lighthouse warns ships away from the Graveyard of the Atlantic off the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  In fiction, the black-and-white striped structure lures readers into a delightful series of cozy mysteries beginning with By Book or by Crook.

The setting shines as strong as the original first order Fresnal light blinking atop the lighthouse at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  It’s a shame the light doesn’t really house a library, much less a tiny apartment at the top for an assistant librarian, because it would be the perfect place to curl up with a good book, by day or by night.  I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that settings are an important consideration for the author, Vicki Delany, writing here as Eva Gates.

Lucy Richardson, the assistant librarian, is another strength in this series.  She flees Boston and the Harvard Library after rejecting an insipid proposal from the son of her father’s law partner and a match made by their mothers.  Lucy spurns the suitor and the superficial society, choosing substance in the South instead.  I like that.  She’s no silly filly, rushing headlong into danger . . . well, not often.  And, even better, she’s not rushing into bed with either of the two men whose attention she attracts, even if one of them is the grown-up version of the boy she first kissed.  I really like that!

The second book in the series, Booked for Trouble, explores more of Lucy’s family background, opening with a surprise visit from her mother. Gates/Delany has a gift for exploring the complex mother-daughter relationship, which adds another layer of interest to the second book in this series.

I could quibble over a few teeny, tiny things – but who reads a cozy to quibble?  This is the kind of book to read for a pleasant escape, whether you’re relaxing on the beach or in a bubble bath, curled up in the corner of your couch or on a window seat.  It’s fun fiction, and you should have fun reading it.  The only serious fault I can find is with the publisher, who having priced the Kindle editions at $7.99 – as high as the list price of the mass market paperback editions – has now discovered that cozy readers don’t care to pay more for an e-book than for a paperback and is threatening to cut series like this from its list.  I opted for the paperbacks, which I now own and could lend or resell . . . but I won’t.  I’ll keep them and read them again.

By Book or by Crook

Book by CrookFor 10 years Lucy has enjoyed her job poring over rare tomes of literature for the Harvard Library, but she has not enjoyed the demands of her family’s social whorl or her sort-of-engagement to the staid son of her father’s law partner. But when the relationship implodes, Lucy realizes that the plot of her life is in need of a serious rewrite. Calling on her aunt Ellen, Lucy hopes that a little fun in the Outer Banks sun—and some confections from her cousin Josie’s bakery—will help clear her head. But her retreat quickly turns into an unexpected opportunity when Aunt Ellen gets her involved in the lighthouse library tucked away on Bodie Island. Lucy is thrilled to land a librarian job in her favorite place in the world. But when a priceless first edition Jane Austen novel is stolen and the chair of the library board is murdered, Lucy suddenly finds herself ensnared in a real-life mystery—and she’s not so sure there’s going to be a happy ending . . . .

Booked for Trouble

booked for troubleLucy has finally found her bliss as a librarian and resident of the Bodie Island Lighthouse. She loves walking on the beach, passing her evenings with the local book club, bonding with the library cat, Charles, and enjoying the attention of not one, but TWO eligible men. But then her socialite mother, Suzanne, unexpectedly drops in, determined to move Lucy back to Boston—and reunite her with her ex-fiancé. To make matters worse, Suzanne picks a very public fight at the local hotel with her former classmate Karen Kivas. So, when Karen turns up dead outside the library the next morning, Suzanne is immediately at the top of the suspect list. Now Lucy must hunt down a dangerous killer—before the authorities throw the book at her poor mother . . . .

Reading up a Storm

Reading StormMisfortune blows into North Carolina’s Outer Banks when a dead body in a boat on the shore leaves local librarian Lucy Richardson racing to solve a strange new mystery. After a successful party at Bodie Island’s Lighthouse Library, librarian Lucy Richardson is ready to curl up with her cat, Charles, and a good book. But her R and R is cut short when she notices some mysterious lights leading a small boat to crash into the coast. The two shipwrecked seafarers survive the ordeal—but one of them shows up dead ashore a few days later. Lucy finds herself again roped into a murder investigation and navigating a sea of suspects, all of whom had motives to deep-six the deceased. And this time, she has a sinking feeling that finding the real killer won’t be so easy . . . . 

About the author:  Vicki Delany began writing on Sundays, and not on every Sunday at that, while mothering three daughters and working full time as a computer programmer.  In 2007, she opted for early retirement and moved to Prince Edward County, Ontario, where she writes as often as she likes.  She has penned several stand-alone novels, all set in Ontario, as well as a historical mystery series set in Dawson during the Klondike Gold Rush.  For more, view her website:  www.vickidelany.com

Save Our Cozies Campaign:  Readers and reviewers are joining forces to show support for cozy mystery series we’d like to see continued.  You can join by reading, writing reviews on consumer sites like Amazon.com and Goodreads, and, most importantly, by purchasing these books when your budget allows. 


Britt-Marie IS Here

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman (Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster); released 3 May 2016; list price:  $26.00 (USD) hardbound edition, $12.99 Kindle edition — and worth the price.
by Fredrik Backman/Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. List $26.00 (USD)
by Fredrik Backman/Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. List $26.00 (USD)

Britt-Marie was here, and here will never be the same.

Britt-Marie won’t.  I won’t.  Nor will anyone who takes the time to make her acquaintance, to open their hearts and minds to Britt-Marie and all she can show them about life, about love, about those around them, even about their own selves.

Britt-Marie is, on the surface, an intensely irritating woman with an inflexible approach to everyone and everything . . . but anyone with any sense knows not to judge a book by its cover. It would be a mistake to judge Britt-Marie – who is not the sort to judge others – by first impressions.

It is, in fact, in those first impressions that Backman first shows us how much more there is to Britt-Marie.  Because others do not respond quite as one expects to Britt-Marie, a 63-year-old woman who is painfully proper.  Her days start at 6 a.m. because only lunatics wake up later.  She serves supper promptly at 6 p.m., because civilized people have their dinner at six.  After 40 years of marriage to an unfaithful husband, she has had enough.  She presents herself at the unemployment office, seeking a job because she wants someone to know she’s here.

But, after four decades of raising her husband’s children and seeing that their home is presentable, she doesn’t exactly have the skills employers want.  Especially not in a financial crisis.  Her husband, Kent, knows that the financial crisis is over.  He’s an entrepreneur, so he understands these kind of things, even if the girl at the unemployment office doesn’t nor the people of Borg, where Britt-Marie finds a temporary job.

Borg has nothing much, except a road that runs in two directions, kids who play soccer and a pizzeria.  Or so one might think.  But, page after page, paragraph after paragraph, Backman strips away the camouflage covering both Britt-Marie and Borg.  And a remarkable thing happens because Britt-Marie and Borg are actually much bigger inside than out.

Who and what you see inside may tell you more about yourself than about Britt-Marie or Borg, just as which soccer club you support will tell the people of Borg, and Britt-Marie, about you.  Soccer is important, you see, because soccer doesn’t ask to be loved.  And if you support a club that always promises to win but never does, you give more love than you get back.  Britt-Marie doesn’t know much about soccer, at least not before she comes to Borg, but she may know quite a lot about loving without getting much back.  About hoping, and going on loving, despite disappointments and promises that are never kept.  If you support a club that always wins, you expect to win and you may start believing that you deserve to win.  Britt-Marie knows better.  Passion for one particular club, though, sometimes gets in the way of love for soccer itself.  And perhaps that is something Britt-Marie didn’t know . . . until Borg.

Britt-Marie Was Here (click to read a sample) may be the best book I’ll read this year.  It has, in less than 24 hours, had a more profound impact on me than perhaps any wholly secular book I’ve ever read.  I seldom highlight passages, yet I read it with my highlighter in hand because there were so many sentences I want to retain and to remember.  It begs to be read by book clubs, because it begs to be discussed with other readers, to learn what they see in Britt-Marie and in Borg and what they see in themselves.

The only readers who may not like it are those who adamantly decline to read books with four-letter words.  Britt-Marie would understand – she knows quite well that there are certainly a good number of alternatives to four-letter words.  So do I.  I also acknowledge that Backman employs them not merely because they are in character with the characters who speak them but because they are essential to revealing Britt-Marie’s character.  She overlooks them.  I did.  Perhaps you shall, too?

From the publisher:  A heartwarming and hilarious story of a reluctant outsider who transforms a tiny village and a woman who finds love and second chances in the unlikeliest of places, from the bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.

Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. She eats dinner at precisely the right time and starts her day at six in the morning because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. Not in the least. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.

But at 63, Britt-Marie has had enough. She finally walks out on her loveless 40-year marriage and finds a job in the only place she can: Borg, a small, derelict village devastated by the financial crisis. For the fastidious Britt-Marie, this new world of noisy children, muddy floors, and a roommate who is a rat (literally), is a hard adjustment. As for the citizens of Borg, with everything that they know crumbling around them, the only thing that they have left to hold onto is something Britt-Marie absolutely loathes: their love of soccer. When the village’s youth team becomes desperate for a coach, they set their sights on her. She’s the least likely candidate, but their need is obvious and there is no one else to do it.

Thus begins a beautiful and unlikely partnership. In her new role as reluctant mentor to these lost young boys and girls, Britt-Marie soon finds herself becoming increasingly vital to the community. And even more surprisingly, she is the object of romantic desire for a friendly and handsome local policeman named Sven. In this world of oddballs and misfits, can Britt-Marie finally find a place where she belongs?

Zany and full-of-heart, Britt-Marie Was Here is a novel about love and second chances, and about the unexpected friendships we make that teach us who we really are and the things we are capable of doing.

Note:  Sis received an advanced reading copy compliments of Atria Books and Simon & Schuster, via NetGalley, in exchange for an independent and honest review.  Britt-Marie would expect nothing less.

May 2016 selection Library Reads selection
Visit the author’s website Fredrik Backman for information on appearances in the U.S. this month.