Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Review: Pane and Suffering by Cheryl Hollon

Publisher: Kensington Books
Rating: 4*

Savannah Webb is forced to return home after the death of her father from "natural causes."  She is forced to take over running his glass shop after a second person, whom she plans to sell the shop to, also dies from the same "natural causes," leaving Savannah convinced that foul play is at hand, As Savannah struggles to decide whether to sell the shop, her father's clues lead her on a cipher-filled hunt to reveal the killer.  An inept police officer adds humour and a group of local merchants band together to perform their own investigation to find the killer before he strikes again.

The story is a little slow paced in the beginning as the author develops the main characters and sets the scene, but this pays off well later on.  Throughout the book, there is a beginner's class taught at the shop where the students make glass sun catchers.  Tidbits about how to cut and solder glass is woven into the story, but this enhances the story rather than feel intrusive to the overall book.

There might be a romance between two of the characters that gets explored in later books, but the fledgling romance feels a little out of place here.

I thought for sure I knew who the killer was, but it turned out to be a character not even remotely on my radar.  I enjoyed that twist in the plot-line and Savannah's ultimate decision of what to do with her family's store.

Overall, this was an enjoyable mystery. I learned a bit about the glass business and I'm looking forward to the next story, Shards of Glass, when it comes out next year.

Bookstore Links:  |  |  B&N  |  Waterstones  |  WH Smith

Reviewed for MCT by Jamie A.

Review: Oliver The Cat Who Saved Christmas by Sheila Norton

Publisher: Random House

Rating: 5*

Genre: Children's & YA Fiction



This review has been filed under and posted on our attached Fine Fiction Reviews blog.  

Please follow this link to read the review on Fine Fiction Reviews. 

Friday, 4 December 2015

Featured Giveaway: The Grantchester Mysteries

The Grantchester Mysteries is a series of novels by James Runcie.

These are moral fables in the tradition of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown, mixing crime, comedy and social history. The series is set in the Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester and takes place from 1953 to the mid nineteen seventies.

The principal character is Canon Sidney Chambers, a clergyman-detective named after the great eighteenth and early nineteenth century cleric Sydney Smith. The recipient of many a secret, but always willing to think the best of people, Sidney can go where the police cannot.

His best friend is Inspector Geordie Keating, he has a Labrador called Dickens and at the start of the series he is thirty-two years old and unmarried.

We are privileged to be able to offer two of the latest mysteries in this series to give away to our readers in exchange for reviews.  Request by email to:

Read more about the series on the author's site.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death  (Bloomsbury)


Review: MOTIVE by Jonathan Kellerman

Publisher: Headline
Rating: 4*

Mysteries and Crime ThrillersAlex Delaware and Milo Sturgis are back in Motive, Jonathan Kellerman's latest in the Delaware series.

This new story opens with Milo stymied over a murder investigation that's run straight into a wall.
While commiserating with Delaware over the unsolved death a woman is found shot to death in a parking lot.  The pair check out the scene of the puzzling death but clues are in short supply.  Sturgis and Delaware investigate, pursuing their mutual suspicions but the new case also goes cold, frustrating the pair.

Ready to move on despite their frustration, a weird piece of evidence surfaces in the second corpse's home, seeming to link the two cold cases.  As they pursue leads the dead bodies continue to pile up and the connections between the stiff's leads the pair of investigators to pursue a serial killer.   They focus on a couple of suspects with Delaware making logical, psychopathic explanations that make a case against each suspect.  When one of their main suspects ends up dead, Delaware and Sturgis figure out who the serial killer was and how he was related to the others.

Motive is set mainly in Los Angeles proper and the setting is sometimes brought to life, such as the hills of LA and weird CD store but but other times it is just a backdrop. The clever plot unfolds as strings of evidence pointing each suspect are made, broken, re-weaved and strengthened, leaving the reader to bounce from target to target for the perpetrator. As readers of the Delaware series are aware, Kellerman reinforces a reader's guessing game with the banter between Alex and Milo. Its moves the story along and misdirects the reader with their plausible rationalizations of scenarios.

Kellerman really knows how to develop a line of questions to probe into a crime and his dialogue is simply stellar in Motive.   I liked the way Kellerman uses his skilful character development to demonizing a suspect for a period and then yanks them back to being sympathetic.  Deeper descriptions of persons and places ensure that Kellerman's stories are character driven and are able drag the reader into the setting and its world; not merely a plot driven shallow shell.  As any writer who has taken a first course in writing or has ever had an editor knows, visceral detail is what distinguishes a real writer from the slush pile.  I did enjoy the read; it was fast paced and entertaining.

Bookstore Links:  |  |  B&N  |  Waterstones  |  WH Smith

Reviewed for MCT by Dan Petrosini.

Review: The Christmas Escape by Anne Perry

Publisher: Random House

Rating: 3.5*

Mysteries and Crime Thrillers
Charles Latterly, a recent widower, is taking a vacation on Stromboli, one of Italy’s islands over Christmas. The inn where he is staying is in the shadow of a volcano that has been sputtering on and off for years. He is thrilled to meet Stefano, their host, who is a wonderful cook and tries his best to take care of and calm his guests. The other guests consist of The Baileys, who are a mismatched couple. Mr. Bailey bullies his wife as well as treating everyone else abominably, often baiting them. Colonel Bretherton is an old military man, who seems to care very much about Mrs. Bailey. The Finbars, Roger, an older gentleman who is his great-niece’s guardian, and his precocious niece, Candace, who meets Charles upon his arrival and charms him immediately. The last vacationer is Quinn, a best-selling author who wrote a rather racy book from the perspective of his major character, Lucy, who reminds Candace of her feisty grandmama. Considering this is a novella, Anne Perry does an admirable job of introducing us to her characters and letting us get to know them. 

There is a lot of animosity between some of the characters, which plays out at the dinner table during meals. Most involves the obnoxious Mr. Bailey. Quinn and Mr. Bailey often have curt words with each other with Candace coming to his defense and inadvertently causing more issues. Charles tries to be the peacemaker in a couple of situations but is not always successful. Mr. and Mrs. Bailey do not seem to have an amicable relationship and the smitten Colonel must be careful not to intervene in their situation. When Bailey turns up dead, although it is covered up to look like an accident, there are any number of suspects. Of course, that investigation has to be put on hold as the volcano wakes up and furiously begins to spew lava and hot rocks. The mad dash down the mountain and the dead bodies left in its wake bring this story to a fast and furious ending. 

This short novella is well-written with descriptions that are very realistic and make the reader feel like they can actually see the beautiful Stromboli. The biggest disappointment about this novella is the fact that, other than being set in the Christmas time frame, there is not much about it that is Christmas-like. The story may just as well have taken pace at a different time of the year as during this holiday season. I have not read any of the Anne Perry mystery series so can not relate to her other books as many of the other reviewers have done but I enjoyed the book as a standalone.

Bookstore Links:  |  |  B&N  |  Waterstones  |  WH Smith

Reviewed for MCT by Carla JH.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Review: The Lewis Man by Peter May

Publisher: Quercus Books
Rating: 5*

Mysteries and Crime ThrillersPeter May's THE LEWIS MAN is the second book in the Lewis Island Trilogy set on the islands of Lewis and Harris, the largest in an archipelago of islands off the west coast of Scotland.  The islands are made up of beautiful hilly terrain, machair (fertile grassy plains), and bogs and they stand proud, weathering the harsh north-sea winds and deep cold winters. The islanders are hardworking people and they make a living out of harvesting peat from the bogs.  On one such day of hard work, the people digging in the bogs find a human body.  It is initially thought to be thousands of years old because peat preserves bodies from decay, but when a modern tattoo is discovered on the arm, the police realise they have a murder investigation on their hands.  DNA links the corpse to an old man, Tormod Macdonald, but Tormod, now suffering from dementia, is believed to have been an only child with no known relatives.

Fin Macleod, recently retired from the Lothian & Borders CID, following the death of his son Robbie in a hit-and-run accident and his subsequent divorce, has returned to his native island and his parents’ ruined croft. He involves himself in the investigation because Tormod’s daughter, Marsaili, was his first love, and he is indeed, as we soon guess, the father of her son, Fionnlagh.

And so we set on a long path of discovery into the past, following Fin Macleod in his investigation, with flashes of viewpoint into the childhood memories of Tormod in interspersed chapters.  We learn of the dark history of the island's past in which Tormod and two other children cling together as orphans and support and carry each other through dark times.  There are many touching scenes as they find love and courage to face the harshness of society around them.  Tormod loves the islands and the seas and he hates the modern double glazing that now locks him away from the sounds of the winds and the seas that make him feel alive.

It is only nominally a crime novel in that the discovery of the body in the peat bogs sets the story going.  It is more a beautifully written ode and a homage to these beautiful islands and the proud, hardy people who live on them.  The language is atmospheric and nostalgic, weaving the islands' landscapes and the characters' lives together into an inseparably infused whole.  Even when the islanders leave the island, they carry it as a part of themselves as Fin does, and it calls them back.  The islanders understand each other instinctively in a way outsiders cannot and it is a place of healing for Fin who finds comfort from the tragedy of his son's death and a deeper love with Marsaili and his long lost son by her.

There is a rare glimpse of humour in naming the book Lewis Man, but the characters we come to love suffer terribly through their lives and the book is full of pathos.  It is only in the end that they find well deserved happiness and joy.

Follow this link to learn more of the islands and the books. (Note you have to scroll down and turn the 3 Scottish and BBC radio broadcasts that play simultaneously off first.)

Below, Lewis island landscapes.

Bookstore Links:  |  |  B&N  |  Waterstones  |  WH Smith

Reviewed for MCT by Jac Wright.

Mysteries and Crime Thrillers Suspense

Mysteries and Crime Thrillers Suspense

Mysteries and Crime Thrillers Suspense
A restored croft village.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Winner #2

Mysteries and Crime Thrillers Suspense

Welcome to our book club's blog.

Today we have randomly drawn the winner from the reviews posted this month.  Congratulations to Marie Claude who has won this month's prize of an Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card for $12 for her review of Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart.