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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2008
First of all, I LOVE the title - the play on I Corinthians 13:12 "for now we see through a glass, darkly..." - for it is a harbinger of things to come, both in this particular storyline and no doubt in the series as well. While Sarah Atwell's Glassblowing Mystery might at first blush appear to be a typical arts and crafts cozy, it is definitely NOT your typical cozy. This story is a bit more dark and a whole lot more suspenseful than most.

Emmeline Dowell is living an artist's dream in Tucson - she owns a fabulous old building in the Warehouse District, with a shop and studio below and her living space above. She need only walk down a flight of stairs to slip into her studio and lose herself in her art each day. Ms. Atwell does a great job of incorporating the art of glassblowing into her novel, and yet not so much so that someone who isn't interested in it at all should skip it. There is plenty here to hold the attention of any mystery lover.

Emmeline is a strong yet soft-hearted woman who often uses her art and her position as a business owner to help others. She decides to reach out to a young Irish woman, Allison McBride, who is short on cash but interested in learning the art of glassblowing. Emmeline's involvement is rewarded with a dead man in her studio and even more trouble than this reader sees coming. We also meet Chief Matthew Lundgren, of the Tucson PD, who is a top-notch cop from Em's past. At this point, this cozy morphs a bit into a police procedural, with plenty of cops, bad guys, murder, and mayhem, with the FBI tossed in for good measure.

After a LOT of suspense and much maneuvering by the main characters, the story once again takes on a more lighthearted tone and things get wrapped up rather neatly, with just enough loose ends to keep the reader waiting for the next installment. I thoroughly enjoyed the history of glassmaking that was included at the end of the novel, but the recipes just didn't belong. I love finding recipes in culinary cozies, but their inclusion here feels awkward and out of place.

All in all, this is an enjoyable, exciting read, but it's not your grandma's cozy! It is definitely more dark and has a lot more meat than the typical cozy. I'll be looking forward to book #2 in the Glassblowing Mystery series!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2008
Time was, one read a mystery for the fun of trying to figure out whodunnit, or whytheydunnit. In the last few years, however, one can also learn about any number of useful and interesting things, all the while enjoying a cozy read. You can learn about (even if not necessarily how to do it) knitting, weaving, making candles or soap, scrapbooking or making greeting cards, running a bookshop or a bed and breakfast. Not to mention catering or running a coffee/tea shop, complete with recipes. That latter is probably my only complaint about this book--and it's a minor grumble. The recipes didn't really add anything, and they're not at all out of the ordinary, either. but -- I would still recommend the book.

Glass-blowing is an old art, and not one to be found on every street-corner. I was fascinated by all the tips and elements of the art cleverly strewn throughout the book. Each chapter begins with a definition--some of which I did know and some I'd never heard of. I enjoyed them all.

Emmeline Dowell runs a glass-blowing studio and gallery in Tucson, Arizona. She gives classes to those who would like to learn more about the process, and sells her own work, too. She's a feisty, hard-headed forty-something, single woman of the kind that can be tiresome, but the author keeps her from falling into that category. She's a warm and friendly person, which can sometimes get one into trouble, and sure enough, Em's in all kinds of hot water almost immediately.

The supporting characters are wonderful, and the travelogue about Tucson, carefully interwoven with the narrative, makes it sound like the marvelous place it no doubt is. The mystery is handled honestly. All sorts of clues abound, but one rushes right by most of them, until the `ahah!' moment arrives, and all is made clear. (Inadvertent pun. Sorry.)

Through a Glass Deadly is an impressive debut, and I'll happily anticipate the next installment.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2008
This was a superb mystery, sharply written and populated with delightful characters. I've always loved glass, and Sarah Atwell really brought the world of glassblowing to life for me. The main character, a glassblower who owns a shop in Tucson, is fun and feisty...and doesn't hesitate to speak her mind! I am definitely looking forward to the next one in this series.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I have a "can't eat just one potato chip" addiction to cozy mysteries. I love a quirky hero or heroine with a fun cast of characters who manages to teach me about a new-to-me subject while solving a murder mystery. This one appeared to be perfect. First, I've done some stained glass and glass fusing and even a tiny bit of glassblowing; I knew an eensy bit about the subject. Plus, it takes place in Tucson (only 100 miles from Phoenix) -- not too far from my stomping grounds. (I don't know why so many cozy mysteries seem to be set in the midwest.) What fun!

And, by and large, it *is* fun. Em is a glassblower with her own studio in the Tucson arts district who gives regular classes in the subject. (Good way for the author to do exposition.) A young and nervous woman shows some interest in the subject and Em (a sucker for strays, she confesses) takes Allison under her wing. But just after she offers Allison a job, a man is killed in the glass studio... who turns out to be Allison's estranged husband.

The glassblowing info presented works, but unless you're familiar with some of the process, I'm not sure if you'd get a much out of it as I did. I could visualize what it's like to hold a ball of liquid glass at the end of a long tube (Don't Drop It!)... maybe you couldn't.

This is a first novel, and in several ways it shows. Atwell's writing can sometimes be as rough as a student driver trying to learn to drive a standard transmission. But darnit, she succeeds despite that. I liked Em, I believed in her situation (including the reason she'd get involved in trying to solve the crime), and I was perfectly willing to be carried along by the "and THEN what happened..." events.

Is this a great book? No. But I never considered putting it down, and I happily read all the way through. I would also pick up the next book in the series without a second thought. So sure -- it's worth four stars.

The only real flaw is probably the fault of the publisher rather than the author. Yes, I love the new fad of including recipes with mystery books, just like you do. But Em is a self-professed non-cook. It must have been a contractual obligation to include recipes, because we get the recipe for what she made for dinner in an early scene... composed of a boxed Mac-and-cheese mix with hot dogs. And a few others that aren't much better. This doesn't distract from the story, but it's a really silly waste of paper.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2010
WOW! What a fantastic author Sheila Connolly/Sarah Atwell is! I don't know exactly how I found her, but I did so through Amazon.com. THANK YOU!

The more I read, the more I wanted to read this book, the first in Atwell's Arizona-based "glassblowing" series. As always I began with the back-cover blurb. Here it is:

"Glassblower Emmeline Dowell has made a home for herself among the artists of Tucson's Warehouse District. With a weakness for taking in strays from homeless dogs to extra students, Emmeline can't help befriending troubled newcomer Allison McBride. But their friendship takes a dangerous turn Em finds Allison's husband in the studio - dead. Now Emmeline is involved in a far-reaching murder investigation. And when the killer acts again, it's up to her to pick up the shards of Allison's life before it's too late." (Interesting note: "shards" is the name of Em's shop).

A nice touch is Atwell's use of glassblowing terms as chapter head notes and a history of glass making added at the end. I wish the history had been longer!

Here is a sample of Atwell's clever prose:

"Cam drifted forward, Allison drifted sideways. They reminded me of a pinball game in slow motion. Finally they bumped into pieces of furniture and sat. Allison chose an armchair, and Cam positioned himself on the closest couch. The dogs watched the two of them in fascination, waiting to see what happened next."

Connolly/Atwell is extremely talented and extremely busy. Besides the three titles in this glassblowing series, she has written a Massachusetts-based "orchard mystery" series. The fourth title in it is due out in December. Start with:One Bad Apple (An Orchard Mystery). And, happily, Connolly has launched a third series. It takes place in Philadelphia in a museum setting. The first title is due out in October:Fundraising the Dead (A Museum Mystery),

THANK YOU Sheila Connolly!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2008
Great!
This book looks like an action movie.
Speedy story and attractive characters were really good.
I read this book without stop.
Most of all, I love simple story line and happy ending.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2008
Atwell captures the world of glass blowing perfectly. I have taken glass blowing workshops and her details and description were spot on. I hope this becomes a long series, it was totally enjoyable. I enjoy mysteries set in art and craft venues, and this is one of the best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2008
2 areas were particularly good. First I enjoyed being inside the head of the main character whether she was debating her life with her dogs or trying to figure out clues. Next the glassblowing definitions and how they related to each chapter kept you wanting to read to find out what was going to happen.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 6, 2011
This book had potential. And up to the last third, it was going to be a much better book than it turned out to be.

We know from certain obvious marketing tells, that this is a murder mystery. Not the least being that the back cover material tells us so. There is a body. Then the ubiquitous second body also.

There are spoilers in this review because the work warrants it.

Atwell has a few stumbling blocks in the beginning, the least of which is her mother hen attitude of the new person in her life. How she decides the girl has an Irish face? (What is that?) and that she sounds Irish, when we read every piece uttered by the character and any vernacular comes much later.

Moving past that, we get into the murder, the mystery, then the clues coming together. A lot of telling. Not too much showing. That is something to work on.

We get background and see what glassblowing is, and how it relates to the mystery. But then it is all solved.

And only 2/3rds of the book. Not enough red herrings. No wrong paths. Just simple and straightforward, and with the Chief of Police and an FBI agent along for the ride, they couldn't get there.

But really it is the outside character who shows up and has so much of the detail of 'why' things have happened. And then, to make it dramatic, we kidnap one character and without any mystery any longer, just have to gather the ransom and make an exchange. 100 pages to do this, where our minds are not engaged. Where there are no puzzles to solve. It is point A to B to C...

That is what is not forgivable in this work. That is why it is merely average. That is why Atwell, unless I become rich with a great deal of leisure time, won't find me reading any more in this serious.
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on September 25, 2013
Normally I would give a summary in my own words on the book and then my thoughts on it...I just can't do that with this book. Why you may wonder? Well, this book was so incredibly simplistic in its plot and how we came from the murder to the solving of the crime, I just can't do it. This book was an okay read, but it was not one that I loved at all, nor did I come to absolutely love any part of it. I liked the characters...to a point. I liked the concept of the plot. I liked that there was some learning in the midst of the mystery about glass blowing. I think the thing I came to like the most about this book was the main character Em, she was such a mother hen type and wanted nothing more than to help out strays, be them animals or people. I did enjoy watching her develop throughout the book. I just was not sucked in to this book in any way, shape, or form. I found it to be almost to simplistic in the mystery end of things and solving that mystery. There were not many twists or turns in the plot/book to keep me wondering and having that "can't wait to pick it up again" feeling. I stuck with it, pretty much just to read on about Em and see if she went anywhere with her ex, the police chief, again. The writing was a bit rough around the edges, but being a first book, I could forgive that. I don't really see myself picking up the next book in the series. If you are in to soft and simplistic mysteries than this would be the book for you I suppose. It just didn't do it for me, as a mystery reader who loves lots of action and wonder.

3/5 Stars
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