Tuesday, July 22, 2014

REMAINS OF INNOCENCE by J. A. JANCE

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When HarperCollins offered to send me a copy of Remains of Innocence, I jumped at the chance to read and review it.  I'll admit right off that I'm a huge fan of Jance, particularly her Sheriff Joanna Brady series set in southern Arizona.  The background is that her husband had been sheriff.  He was killed in the line of duty and then she was elected to the job herself. Turned out she liked it and is a great sheriff.

One of the things I like about Brady is how she copes with family issues and criminal investigations at the same time.  Her daughter is nearly grown now and Joanna has remarried.  Butch has launched himself on a new career as a writer, which is convenient since he's also a househusband, takes care of their little son, and they live on a ranch.

Obviously I know the regular characters well so it was difficult for me to discover one victim in this book is someone I knew.  However, the story begins in Great Barrington, Massachusetts where a young woman is dealing with a horrible situation.  Liza has put her mother in hospice and gone to mom's house to retrieve a cookbook her mother insists she must have right now. Problem is that mom is a hoarder and the house looks and smells like something on the television show about hoarders.  When she tries to reach the book, it falls on the floor and hundred dollar bills flutter to the floor.

The family dynamic and the true story of those hundreds will initiate a murderous rampage across the country and lead Liza to Bisbee, Arizona and Sheriff Brady.  I couldn't put the book down as I worried about Liza and also wondered who killed the character I cared about. The mystery isn't solved until the end and I was on tenterhooks that whole time.  Unfortunately, Jance's books fit the category of books I can't wait to finish and yet dread coming to the final page.

This is a great story with wonderful characters and if sometimes Butch seems too good to be true, well that's okay with me.

Highly recommended
Source:  HarperCollins

Sunday, July 20, 2014

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by NEIL GAIMAN

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I'm not quite sure what made me think I would like this book except that so many bloggers I respect were raving about it.  It's fantasy which I never read; perhaps I thought this was a good time to try the genre in order to widen my reading experience.

Actually, I can see why fans of fantasy would love the book.  There is a real story here, a human story that readers can identify with to a certain extent.  The writing is excellent, so evocative of the protagonist's experiences and fears, and as far as I can tell, true to a boy's thinking.  Each character was created beautifully.

But in the long run, this story just isn't for me.  I'm a fan of mystery novels and nonfiction so you can see how I'm not cut out for this story where a pond is an ocean, and parts of a farm are where fantasy creatures live, and you can pull growing kittens out of the ground like plants.

If you like fantasy, please do read this book.  It's so well written that you will love it and broaden your reading life.  Otherwise, no.

Source:  William Morrow/HarperCollins

Saturday, July 19, 2014

NORTH SEA COTTAGE by DORTE HUMMELSHOJ JAKOBSEN






I've read books in the Rhapsody Gershwin series by this author, and I was glad to receive this novella featuring Tora Skammelsen, a writer.  The Gershwin stories are witty with characters who have funny names.  They are lighthearted, great fun to read.

North Sea Cottage is quite different.  Tora Skammelsen has just left her husband and isn't in a good frame of mind.  Her mother and sister hover annoyingly; they want her to do things their way but she wants some time to think.  She writes historical fiction and has accepted the use of her aunt's small cottage near the sea since her aunt is in a nursing home due to a broken hip.  The only caveat is that Tora must not for any reason go into the stable there.

She arrives just in time for a big storm.  The power goes out and fortunately she finds plenty of candles, but then lightning strikes the stable and sets it on fire.  After the firemen extinguish the fire the stable is completely open so Tora goes in to look around.  What she finds in a cellar under a trap door is so shocking it sets her off on a mission to solve a mystery involving her family's past.

I was fascinated, and also fooled until almost the end.  This is, to my mind, Jakobsen's finest writing yet.  I'm looking forward to more about this heroine, hopefully soon.

Highly recommended
Source:  Gift from a friend via Smashwords

Friday, July 18, 2014

GOLD DIGGER by FRANCES FYFIELD

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Frances Fyfield writes unusual mystery novels of which this is a prime example.  It begins with a woman sitting on the lap of a man who it becomes obvious is dead.  She refuses to believe it at first but must convince herself he is really gone.  She doesn't seem quite stable mentally and remembers how she first met him when she was put into his house to rob it.  She knew the house and the man because her mother had cleaned house for him when the woman was a child.  At long last she calls for an ambulance and police to come for his body.

A former cop named Jones remains in the house afterward as though he belongs there.  We learn the story of Mad Di (Diana Quigly), Jones and a few other denizens of a little seaside town in England slowly, leaving plenty of time and room for misunderstanding.  The dead man is Thomas Porteous, Di's husband, who was much older in chronological age but a child in spirit. The house had been a primary school for years but now is a huge gallery for Thomas' collection of art.  Both Thomas and Di have an excellent eye for wonderful art.  A friend who is otherwise a con man finds the art for them, but also they travel and search it out for themselves.  

Meanwhile, Thomas' grown daughters and the husband of one conspire against him.  They feel entitled to his wealth despite the fact that their mother had taught them to despise him.  Mother apparently drowned when she fell from a ferry in the English Channel.    Thomas and Di have several years of supreme happiness by simply ignoring the rest of the world.  I loved them both and, as intended, hated his children.

However, (and you knew that "however" was coming, did't you?) I failed to get into the story of these people.  It was difficult to believe Di could be so gullible with her life experiences and yet sometimes so wise.  I never could figure out Jones and other characters, and the plot didn't really make a lot of sense to me.  Sometimes a book doesn't hit me right for unknown reasons and I think that's the case with this one.  I think for one thing Fyfield is sort of an acquired taste, one that I have yet to acquire.

Recommended only for Fyfield fans
Source:  Partners in Crime Book Tours

Thursday, July 17, 2014

MOON OVER TANGIER by JANICE LAW

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Janice Law writes this series starring Francis Bacon, artist and bon vivant who is flamboyantly gay and gets himself in more trouble over pretty young men than you can shake a stick at.  He's always either way behind in promised paintings to a gallery, or cadging drinks while he looks for jobs.

This time Bacon has fallen hopelessly in love/lust with a man named David who unfortunately for both of them has PTSD from his service in World War II.  Bacon himself served by helping people to shelters in London during the blitz as some sort of warden.  That experience tends to help him when he's caught in perilous situations in this story.  He follows David to Tangier after a break-up caused by David's violent outbursts, and as usual he's made an error in doing so. After all, things were going well in London and London is where Bacon belongs, but . . .

In Tangier they get mixed up with a crowd that attends parties at a wealthy Englishman's home up in the hills.  The man also happens to work for British intelligence and there is a German art dealer selling forgeries of Picasso paintings supposedly lost in the war.  Bacon is, to make a long story short, forced by the police to replace the forger who has been killed.  Just the kind of sticky wicket Bacon often finds himself in.  

I laugh all the way through these novels because of the silliness of Bacon and the pickles he gets into but also because the other characters are so over the top.  Another thing I like about the books is that Francis Bacon has such a good heart.  He means well and always helps the people who deserve that help.  Very clever stuff.

Highly recommended
Source:  Netgalley 

  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

GUILT BY DEGREES by MARCIA CLARK

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This is my second Deputy D.A. Rachel Knight mystery and I'm thinking perhaps I should have waited a bit before reading it.  Going directly from the first one to this may explain why I didn't think this quite lived up to Guilt by Association.  Still, it was a good read and I enjoyed the fact that some of my favorite characters from the first were in this one as well.

I do get impatient with Knight's love life, or rather her resistance to same.  Her quirky attitude about commitment and her past doom every relationship so far.  Oh well, that's her problem. The great part of her life is her close friends, and her "pal" Luis the gangbanger determined to get an education and better himself.  She has been upgraded to a suite of rooms at The Biltmore; a dream life in the opinion of this housekeepingphobe to coin a word.

In this story a homeless man seems to be trying to grab the arm of a woman on the street when he collapses and everyone just sort of steps over him until finally someone notices the pool of blood.  He has been stabbed and bled to death.  This is tied to the horrific ax murder of a cop in his home workshop some time earlier that we have suffered through in the prologue.  The murdered cop and the homeless victim are brothers.

Knight is shocked and offended that people ignored him just because he was homeless, so of course she takes up the cause not knowing she is dealing with a seriously dangerous person. Just finding out who the dead man is and connecting the dots takes up a good part of the book but Knight is like a bulldog.  Meanwhile, having broken up with her latest boyfriend, she is angry and lonely and bitter and very difficult to get along with.  Good thing she has those loyal friends and the tenacity to chase down this case.

I have two more novels in this series to read but they'll have to wait while I read others that I've promised to review.  Maybe that's a good thing but I do look forward to them.

Recommended
Source:  Netgalley

Thursday, July 3, 2014

GUILT BY ASSOCIATION by MARCIA CLARK

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I've just had proof that you should be careful how you select books to read.   For some reason when I saw coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial, I didn't like Marcia Clark, the prosecutor.  I really can't say why unless it was because she was losing the case.  But I've read a book by the defense attorney without qualms, so why wasn't I reading Clark's mystery novels that I had heard were very good?  I finally took advantage of an offer I couldn't refuse to read her Rachel Knight series of which this is the first.

Guess what?  I thoroughly enjoyed this first one and have gone directly into the second.  

For one thing, I like Rachel Knight.  She's a deputy district attorney who is a smart lawyer, not dumb enough to take ridiculous risks (most of the time), has great friends, and she lives in a hotel (sigh).  She's trying to get over a relationship with another attorney but is attracted to someone in this story.

Her friends are smart and fun, a lawyer and an investigator, and the plot is interesting.  It begins with the rape of a wealthy physician's daughter.  Knight is under a lot of pressure to arrest the boy he suspects is responsible.  At the same time she is investigating against orders the death of another deputy district attorney everyone liked.  He died under very suspicious circumstances in a cheap motel.

I found this to be a page turner with great characters, an involving story, and plenty of red herrings to throw me off for a few minutes.  And now I'm well into another case with Knight, happy in the knowledge that I have two more to go.  This almost makes the current heat and humidity bearable. 

Highly recommended
Source:  Netgalley