on October 19, 2000
This is certainly not heavyweight reading. But especially in the fall of the year, it's very fun to read. In the tradition of amateur sleuths, Susan Henshaw balances home, family, holiday preparations with a little detective work. It's fun to escape into a suburban world where several murders don't upset plans for holiday celebrations. Granted, the plot isn't exactly complicated but the characters are vividly drawn and they're fun to spend an autumn afternoon with.
on October 8, 2004
Although I enjoyed reading this cozy little mystery in a few hours, it certainly wasn't one of Valerie Wolzien's best. I found a lot of redunancy, loose ends, and out-and-out glaring errors. Still, I did enjoy the book.
When Susan finds a body at the library, you know it won't be long before she's involved in the murder investigation. Then when a talk show host is also found murdered on his doorstep, Susan just allows herself to be bambozzled into having his widow and her TV group stay at her house. Why? She doesn't even know her. The obnoxious, nosy neighbor is bothersome in more ways than one.
Despite all this, it was an enjoyable read for an evening if you just forget about nitpicking.
on August 23, 2001
Susan thought that the body on the floor of the library was a Halloween joke, but it turned out to be real. Later that day, well known anchorman Jason Armstrong is found dead on his front porch by trick or treaters. Susan ends up with his partner/wife and her entourage trashing her house and turning her life upside down, while she, Kathleen and new police chief and old friend Brett Fortesque investigate the murder.
This is a pretty good cosy with well developed characters, both new and old. It is however improbable that anyone would put up with Rebecca West and Company or the horrible Amy Ellsworth. I am surprised that the author didn't take the opportunity to kill her off and be done with her.
Valerie Wolzien, All Hallows' Evil (Fawcett, 1992)
All Hallows' Evil was my first, and very likely last, foray into the world of Valerie Wolzien's bedroom community of Hancock, Connecticut. Not necessarily because the book was bad, or the mystery wasn't workable. It's the little niggling details that really dropped the ball here.
Amateur sleuth Susan Henshaw is at the library one Halloween day when she stumbles upon a body in the stacks. It looks like a prop, but turns out not to be. Later on, the town's newest celeb, morning talk show host Jason Armstrong, turns up dead on his own front porch. Obviously, something is not right in the town of Hancock. Susan and her sidekick Kathleeen, with a little help from the town's new sheriff, get to work trying to figure out whodunit.
All well and good, to be sure. Nothing we haven't seen and enjoyed in a passel of other mystery novels. What sets this one apart is some painful sentence construction, grammatical errors that are too consistent to be editors' mistakes, and some continuity errors that are almost painful to behold (my favorite: about two-thirds of the way through the novel, Susan gets home late. Her husband immediately jumps up and says, "Where have you been? I was worried about you?" They barely have time to get another two sentences in the conversation before Susan asks him why he wasn't worried, and he not only admits to it, but then goes on to offer up a valuable clue. Oops.)
You may be better off sticking with that passel of other mystery novels. Stylewise, the first name that came to mind when I tried to think of a comparison was Marcia Muller; if you enjoy Wolzien's work but have been bothered by the niggles above, you might want to give Muller a try. ** ½
on September 22, 2002
Usually the Hancock Library is a peaceful place, but in this book it is anything but, as Susan Henshaw discovers a dead body there on Halloween. Shortly thereafter, another body is discovered and Susan begins some amateur sleuthing with her friend Kathleen, a former policewoman. Things become a bit absurd when a local celebrity decides to move in with Susan (whom she barely knows) because she's upset over the death of her husband. After this motive is stated, the woman continues her life without much remorse over the death while continuing to live in the Henshaw house. Every time Susan arrives home, another member of the celebrity's entourage has taken up residence or is at least demanding food and other favors. The unlikely situations continue as her neighbor Amy pops in and out of her house at will and makes herself right at home. Anyone who puts up with this much interference in her life, would be an unlikely candidate for unravelling a mystery! Even though cozies are designed to be fun, the reader needs more realism than is shown in this book. The strength of this series lies in the repeated characters and their interactions, not in the plots.
on November 5, 2002
The Hancock library is usually a place where people can kick back and relax with one of their favorite mysteries. But when it involves Susan Henshaw, it doesn't involve relaxing. It involves detective work. When Susan finds a dead body in the library, she thinks that the body is fake, until the man starts gasping for help. Soon Jason Armstrong, the celebrity host of a morning talk-show appears dead, and a homeless man takes the credit for both murders. Susan knows that he's lying, and insists on finding out who the true murderer is. On top of detective work, she has trick or treaters, camera people, and demanding guests in her home. Could life get any more complicated? When it involves Susan Henshaw, it can.
This was an exciting new mystery by Valerie Wolzien. The characters were enjoyable, and the mystery, while somewhat cliched, was exciting. A must-read novel for all fans of Susan Henshaw.
on January 21, 2000
While this book had a lot of interesting components, I didn't feel they were brought together very effectively. There were several annoying loose threads that were never properly addressed, and much of the character interaction just left me scratching my head. Normal people, even normal people who find themselves embroiled in murder investigations, just don't act like that. Or if they do in that part of the country, I don't think I'll be planning any visits there. The whole town was just too precious, and I have a hard time feeling pain for a woman who constantly complains about how hard it is to raise two children when 1) they're pretty good kids, 2) she doesn't have to work outside the home, and 3) her husband, whom she frequently neglects in order to flirt with the local lawman, brings home a handsome salary that can easily resolve the vast majority of minor family problems.
In the 4th book in the Susan Henshaw Mystery series, it is Halloween in Hancock, Connecticut. Susan is at the library browsing for some books, and stumbles over what appears to be an elaborate Halloween costume. She has seen witches, goblins, and ghosts, but when she almost trips over a man with a knife in his chest, she is impressed by how realistic the costume appears. After peering closer, she realizes that the man has actually been stabbed, and so finds another dead body in her small, seemingly peaceful town.
Later in the evening, trick-or-treaters find another dead body posed like a Halloween prop. This time, it is the body of morning talk show host, Jason Armstrong. His wife, Rebecca and he host a morning television program together, and are newlyweds that recently moved into town. Susan had just met his wife recently, and finds it odd when she sees Rebecca out running so soon after her husband was found murdered. Catching up with her on the track, Susan determines that Rebecca has not been notified of his death, and has the horrible task of informing the widow. Latching on to Susan, Rebecca asks to be taken to the police station, and ultimately moves her entourage into Susan's home for the duration of the investigation. But is this a "black widow" that gets rid of men when she tires of them? Or is there another sinister plot to eliminate handsome men in Hancock?
This series has really developed and added depth since the first book in the series. I am finding that I enjoy Susan a lot more, and this time, was kept guessing as to the identity of the killer. There is one more character I would love to see killed off, however, as Susan's neighbor, Amy, really grates on my nerves (which I believe is the point). Another sticking point for me was the use of the nickname "Bananas" for the child of Susan's friend, Kathleen. With that being said, however, I did enjoy the mystery along with its many twists and turns, and look forward to the next book in this fun domestic cozy series.
The first book in the series is called "Murder at the PTA Luncheon". Enjoy!
on January 21, 1997
The handsome Brett Fortesque returns to Hancock as police chief here! Susan finds herself involved in yet another murder investigation--only this time, the prime suspect and her entourage move into the Henshaw home, meaning Susan has to juggle her sleuthing activities with keeping these interlopers fed and in clean linens. She also has her hands full keeping her pesky, nosy neighbor Amy out of the investigation. Oh, yeah--she has two teenagers and a husband, too. And her friend Kathleen has a little boy. How do these ladies do it???? The result is Wolzien's best since "We Wish You a Merry Murder." Enjoy. .
on August 22, 2001
It's Halloween and the body on the floor of new library could be just a joke, but it isn't. Later on, the body of a well known TV anchorman is found stabbed the same way on his front porch. Susan naturally starts to investigate and is joined by her old friend and now the new police chief, Brett Fortescue.
As usual, I enjoyed this mystery. Ms Wolzien always tells a good story. I was annoyed by two things. What sane woman lets a stranger and a rude entourage invade her home, and why wasn't the rude, insensitive and nosy neighbor Amy Ellsworth thrown in as a murder victim? I certainly wanted to dispose of her by the end of the book.