Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Review: A Beeline To Murder by Mary Weimer

Publisher: Kensington Books
Rating: 4*

In this book we meet some interesting characters. Abigail Mackenzie is a beekeeper and she owns a small farmette outside of Las Flores, California, which is not too far from Napa Valley. Which is California's big wine country area. Abby was a cop on the Las Flores Police Department where her best friend Kat still works.  Abby also does some work for the DA in the town along with some private investigations for certain people. She has a standing order with the pastry chef in town to deliver honey to him for his many confections.

On this morning Abby was early delivering the honey because she had paperwork to deliver to the DA also. Abby was looking around for Chef Jean-Louis, but could not find him and he did not answer when she called his name. She continued to look and finally found him behind a baking table in the kitchen, DEAD. She quickly called the police and Kat responded with some new people from the morgue. The police did their investigation and when they were done in a few days, they determined that the death was a suicide.

When Philippe, the Chef's brother came to claim the body he said that no way would his brother take his own life, the chef was planning a big trip to the Caribbean in July for his birthday. So, Kat connected Phillippe with Abby who agreed to investigate the death for $10,000. She needed the money for renovations for her farmette.  Little did she know that she would find a love interest in the handsome French-Canadian.

She was able to prove that the death was a murder, but the trail lead them to many people and many twists and turns, before they finally got the correct people.

This book was well written, kept my interest, and I have recommended it to all my friends and family. I loved the descriptions of the small town setting which transformed me back to days spent at a farm.  The book helped me as an escape from busy daily life to an idyllic place and time.  I loved the adventure of solving the puzzle of the murder with Abigail who was easy to like and identify with. I would surely buy it for Christmas presents.

Bookstore Links: Amazon.com  |  Amazon.co.uk  |  B&N  |  Waterstones  |  WH Smith

Reviewed for MCT by Mary W.

Review: Silent Scream by Angela Marsons

Publisher: Bookoutour
Rating: 4*

Very few books drive me to write reviews as soon as I'm done reading them, either because they stir very strong feelings of irritation and dislike or because they are so absolutely brilliant. Silent Scream is definitely one of the latter.

Silent Scream is one of those detective murder mysteries in the vein of Karin Slaughter. It’s realistic but not overly gritty, with a main character that is flawed but in a way that is so easy to relate to as to be likeable.

Set in the United Kingdom, D.I. Kim Stone is on the trail of a murderer, this is soon complicated when remains are unearthed near Crestwood, a former children's care home. The author manages to bring to light the hardships faced by children in the care system and at the same time shows the effect on someone who has had similar experiences without having the main character coming off as overbearing and whiny.

Now I adore mystery, I have read a lot of mystery books, so many in fact that I don’t even remember them all. A lot are predictable, it is hard to find something that is not, and this book was not only completely not predictable but that last twist still blew my mind even when I figured it out a little before the author could tell me what happened. And when I say a little before I mean 2 pages before!

So if you like whodunnits and even if you don’t but want to read something in this genre, do yourself a favour and read this.

Well executed, brilliantly done and I cannot wait to read the next one.

Bookstore Links:  Amazon.com  |  Amazon.co.uk  |  B&N  |  Waterstones

Reviewed for MCT by Celeste M.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Winner #1

Welcome to our book club's brand new blog.

Today we have randomly drawn the winner from the reviews posted this month.  Congratulations to Cailin who has won this month's prize of an Amazon gift card for $12 for her review of I'll Never Let You Go by Mary Burton.

Review: A Line of Blood by Ben McPherson

Publisher: HarperCollins
Rating: 4*

In “A Line of Blood” we meet a small family living in North London.  Some would call them yuppies.  Alex Mercer, a Scot, is a television producer.  His wife Millicent, an ex-pat American, writes self-help books.  They try their best to live their life and provide good parenting for their son who is an intelligent and precocious eleven year-old named Max.

Alex and Millicent did not have a ‘usual’ beginning, but rather almost a marriage of convenience.   After a ‘hook-up’ and instant physical attraction, Millicent – a California girl – stays in London to be with Alex.  Because she is from the States, the only way she can legally stay and work in England is to marry.   After fifteen years of marriage Alex has never met Millicent’s parents.   They had muddled along nicely until they lose a baby, a girl, named Sarah.  Both grieve, but Millicent has a breakdown of sorts – and their son Max is so traumatized that his and his mother’s relationship is forever changed.  In fact the entire family dynamic is forever changed.

When Alex follows his son into the next-door neighbor’s yard in chase of their cat, what they discover will change and scar them even further.    They find their neighbor dead in the bath.  Fearful for the mental trauma that seeing a dead body might have on his son, Alex thinks that is the worst that can happen… but that is only the tip of the iceberg.  The police find a bracelet that belongs to Millicent in the neighbor’s house – beneath the bed…   The police request that Alex “help them with their inquiries”.  Betrayals, arrests, psychological counseling, adultery, suspicion, and domestic violence are all results of their discovery.  Life will never be the same for the family Alex calls his ‘little tribe’.

How the neighbor came to meet his demise drives the story and the reader is compelled to discover the who, the why, and the how it will change lives.   “The line of blood” differs from most other psychological thrillers in that the narrative is told solely from the male point of view via the character of Alex.  All the characters depicted in the novel were fully-fleshed out and very believable.  Written with an empathetic voice and an understanding of human nature, this is a debut novel that packs a punch.  It is equally disturbing and compelling. I would highly recommend it to all lovers of mystery and suspense.

Ben McPhersonI always wonder about the author’s reasons for choosing a specific title.  In this case I can only assume that he is referring to the protagonist’s family ‘line’ and how violent death seems to visit each generation.

Ben McPherson was born in Glasgow and grew up in Edinburgh, but left Scotland when he was eighteen. He studied languages at Cambridge, then worked for many years in film and television in London.  In 1998, after working a forty-eight-hour shift, he went for a drink at the Coach and Horses in Soho and met the woman he would go on to marry. Similarities to the characters in A Line of Blood end there.  Ben now lives in Oslo with his wife and their two sons. He is a columnist for Aftenposten, Norway’s leading quality daily newspaper.

Bookstore Links: Amazon.com  |  Amazon.co.uk  |  B&N  |  Waterstones  |  WH Smith

Reviewed for MCT by Lynne L.

Review: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Publisher: William Morrow, HarperCollins
Rating: 3.5*

Memory is a funny thing. You never know if what you remember actually happened or is your mind just telling you it happened. I’ve read somewhere, that whenever you recall a past event, you’re actually remembering the last time you recalled the event and not the event itself. I don’t know how far this is true, what I do know is that my own memory can be a dirty liar.

This book is centered around the alleged possession of Marjorie and is told from the point of view of her younger sister Merry. Or rather multiple viewpoints of Merry's ; eight year old Merry, twenty three year old Merry, alternative personality Merry. My favorite aspect of the book was the relationship the sisters shared before it all went to hell, perhaps even while it was going to hell. I loved 8 year old Merry, I found her simply adorable, and perhaps this is because I have a younger sister I tended to relate to their relationship more.

The thing is, I don’t know that I would classify this as horror exactly. It was suspenseful. It was mysterious. It didn’t scare me. It had its moments of subtle creepiness but it wasn’t nearly enough for me.That final twist was interesting but predictable. I didn’t catch the twist within the twist, but I am not a morning person and I can’t be expected to notice anything the author doesn’t come out and tell me straight at 6 in the morning which is when I finished this book. Was anyone in fact possessed? Personally I don’t think so, but what do I know.

Not a bad book but not what I expected at all. I enjoyed the writing and cared about the characters. However if you’re expecting gruesomeness and have a high tolerance for the creepy, then this book will fall short of your expectations. If you want suspense without the gory, bloody, creepy horror, you might like it more.

Bookstore Links: Amazon.com  |  Amazon.co.uk  |  B&N

Reviewed for MCT by Celeste M.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Review: The Way Through The Woods by Colin Dexter

An Inspector Morse Novel
Publisher: Crown, Random House
Rating: 5*

They called her the Swedish Maiden – the beautiful young tourist who disappeared on a hot summer’s day somewhere in North Oxford. Twelve months later the case remains unsolved, pending further developments, and Inspector Morse just cannot let it go.

My all time top favourite series in the mystery genre, and this book is the best I have read in the series. Few modern writers can rival Colin Dexter's exquisite character building, whether within the genre or from outside. Inspector Morse is a delightful, masterpiece creation. Morse is at once brilliant; peevish yet often sly and diplomatic, kindly towards those who work under him; with classic tastes in cars, music, and lifestyle; and, as far as women are concerned, lusting after every woman in sight in a manner that is pathetic yet endearing, a little creepy yet gentlemanly mannered that kind of makes you laugh at him and yet feel sorry for him at the same time. He is a very real character with very real strengths and weaknesses.

Also in this particular book Dexter reaches his peak in literary writing. Consider the brilliant 5 stanza poem on the "Swedish Maiden" with which Dexter introduces the murder to us. This is beautiful, brilliant poetry. The scene in Lyme Regis where Morse watches the tide coming in and the sea gulls momentarily flying suspended in the air then "peeling off" like fighter air-planes ... that is exquisite writing that evokes the scene's beautiful setting very viscerally.

While the writing and the characterization delights one aesthetically, at the same time the brilliant mystery and the plot dazzles one's mind with an equally exquisitely layered puzzle one impulsively feels compelled to follow. One cannot ignore the tantalisingly sexy direction the plot veers in which teases you with its somewhat restrained sauciness. i.e. It is not explicit sex, but it is all the more tantalising and titillating for its restrained quality. In hindsight it seems to me that Morse had been investigating the case quietly on the side all along and even the vacation in Lyme Regis was a pre-planned move following a thread of investigation; not the coincidence it appears to be at first sight. Ah, just brilliant!

One should also mention the supporting cast - particularly Chief Superintendent Strange and Lewis - and Morse's interplay with them which creates moments of delightful comedy, humor, and the deep development of all 3 characters. Do all men contemplate most women they meet as sexual objects, even the straight-laced Lewis as in the scene with the victim's mother? The evidence is that they do (something I have explored in my own stories). I say Freud hit the nail on the head. It is decidedly a Freudian world out there.

There are some minor faults: Dexter makes sudden dips into the POVs of every minor character he meets. He sometimes breaks into the omniscient POV from the close third person limited POV and gives us warnings about what is yet to happen in the future. However, these minor points do not in any way lessen the sheer aesthetic beauty in the writing, exquisite characterisation, and the brilliantly woven and gripping intellectual puzzle that makes up this modern classic.

Bookstore Links: Amazon.com  |  Amazon.co.uk  |  B&N  |  Waterstones  |  WH Smith

Reviewed for MCT by Jac Wright.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Review: The Last Policeman Series by Ben H. Winters

Titles: The Last Policeman, Countdown City, and World of Trouble
Publisher: Quirk Books
Overall rating: 4*

Henry Palace thought he had a future, a future to recover from his past.  Being a cop was his calling and he felt he could be good at it.  But now the world has just learned that an asteroid will hit Earth in just a few months and suddenly,  nothing is the same.  While many decide to quit their jobs to hit their bucket list or simply give up on life, Henry Palace finds himself a detective, and he is determined to do his job regardless of the circumstances.  When he is called to a suicide scene, some details seem to point to a more complicated solution.  Palace investigates against the advice of his colleagues and the world that is collapsing around him.

Some people, however, think that there is a way to save the world, a plan that the government is trying to hide.  Nico, Palace’s tortured sister is a member of a group trying to locate and free a scientist who pretends to know how to reroute the asteroid.

Even if the mystery part of the books is rather simple and more of a pretext, Winters succeed in telling a tale of the end of the world that is as sad as it is fascinating.  The books in the series are set at three different moments of the countdown to doomsday and give a realistic and complex view of how a civilisation collapses when day to day routines of life are replaced by hopelessness and chaos.

The Last Policeman is a series that will stay with me for a long time and has already provided many conversation topics with my family.

Bookstore Links: Amazon.com  |  Amazon.co.uk  |  B&N  |  Waterstones  |  WH Smith

Reviewed for MCT by Marie Claude.

Review: Hostage Taker by Stefanie Pintoff

Publisher: Bantam, Random House
Rating: 4*

FBI Special Agent Eve Rossi, whose expertise are used in hostage negotiations, was not given an option when told to return to work while on bereavement leave. Asked for by name, a hostage taker at St. Patrick's Cathedral has given Eve his list of demands.

This well written novel is peppered with confidential files, news reports, and maps, giving Hostage Taker a more realistic feel. I found this to be an effective way of giving background information.  The main character, Eve Rossi, is a strong female, whose intelligence and inquisitiveness help get the job done. The only parts of the book that did not ring true for me are the numerous times that Eve's boss Henry Ma second guesses Eve's decisions. Seeing that she was the one requested by the hostage taker, it just did not seem likely that the Director would take such chances with the hostages.

With a well developed plot and interesting characters, Hostage Taker would appeal to readers who are fans of the police procedural/thriller genre.

Bookstore Links: Amazon.com  |  Amazon.co.uk  |  B&N  |  Waterstones  |  WH Smith

Reviewed for MCT by Sharon B.