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READER-to-READER MYSTERY REVIEWS: Share the customer reviews you've written

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Showing 26-50 of 116 posts in this discussion
Posted on Jan 24, 2012 11:12:09 AM PST
Luv2CUSmile says:
I finally got around to reading a few of the "free" selections I picked up around Christmas...
Design on a Crime (Deadly Décor Mysteries, Book 1)
Good Story, Surprising Ending, Worth Reading (3 1/2 STARS), January 23, 2012

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Design on a Crime (Deadly Décor Mysteries, Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
For the relevance to this review... I love mysteries of all types. This appeared to be a cozy mystery and as it started out, it went along as such (btw, formatting on my Kindle was fine)- Part of the mystery is not only about main character, Haley having to clear herself of being accused of murder, but also, what it is that happened to her in a heinous, violent crime some 4 yrs or so earlier and why that incident caused her to fall away from her faith in God... yes, the author has brought in religion as to how this young woman needs to recognize, as much as she feels let down by God, that God should not have turned His back when she needed Him during that time... She is alive, prospering, and actually doing pretty well... considering... (this is mentioned a lot)- The obstacles she has to overcome in her faith (which is equally hard since her father is the priest of the local church), the obstacles she has to overcome to get past the incident 4 yrs earlier, and how she feels she has to be strong and take control now to catch the real killer. The writing is done well in my opinion. At least on a level as many other cozy mystery writers- nothing wrong with a light, easy read.
After a bit, the focus does come to her faith more than solving but "things" come out in her conversations with friends, her sensei, doctor, father, and others. I actually could have seen more written in here in various places so the aspect of her faith was not beginning to overshadow the story itself, however, I would read the next in series. I will also look to read other books by this author. It doesn't bother me to read a book that reminds us all in a very creative way to be aware and thankful for God. I don't feel it is any different than someone reading books about occult and wican subjects.
The book had a good story line, no matter that I didn't care for who the "perp" turned out to be. The author did write well and kept you engrossed which is the main thing I look for in a well written book. I do hope the story lines in the future don't get lost in the message for Christianity but this did not make it a bad book. If you are a cozy mystery fan, this will fill that void. Done with this ramble, I hope this helps some make a better decision to give this book a chance. If I relied on the reviews here, I would have missed out on a pretty good read.

My review apologies, for the frustration that I appear to emit due to some of the other reviews- it causes me to ramble a bit- but my point, the book is worth reading and following the series if you are a cozy mystery lover and not offended by the slightest reference to God. I am a Christian although my preferred genre does not focus on salvation, God, faith, etc- I don't mind when it is part of a story line in a book. & I don't mind if the author's views are the same or not. As long as it fits with the story line in some way, I will continue to read it... Seems so many could not remove the focus that there are references to religion throughout the book... I think it fit and was still very entertaining as a cozy mystery-

Posted on Jan 29, 2012 4:39:22 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 30, 2012 10:08:42 AM PST
Patricia Wentworth: THE IVORY DAGGER : A Miss Silver Mystery

THE IVORY DAGGER (1950) by Patricia Wentworth is the eighteenth in the Miss Silver series. It is a classic or Golden Age mystery in the Agatha Christie tradition. However, the story does not feel the same as the typical village cozy whose detective puts two and two together. Miss Silver is an older spinster who knits endlessly for her favorite niece and grand niece, but is not regarded by the other characters as a quaint busybody in the manner of Miss Marple. Rather Miss Silver's detective skills are those of a private detective whose aid in solving mysteries is viewed by the police as a help, not a hindrance.

In this mystery, a beautiful but helpless young woman, Lila Dryden, is coerced into a short engagement to an older, wealthy man, Sir Herbert Whitall, by her aunt, Lady Sybil Dryden. Sir Herbert, loved by none who knew him, wants to be married to Lila not for herself but because he wants to count her among his prized possessions. Lila will occupy the same place in his life as all the other assets that he has control over and delights in showing off. His cruel and dismissive behavior would most likely be viewed as sociopathic if he were a character in a modern mystery.

Coming to Lila's rescue is her former love interest, Bill Waring, who has just returned from a prolonged visit to America. He had been injured in a train accident in the United States and had been comatose in an American hospital for an extended period. However, no one in England knew what had happened to delay his return. When he was finally well enough to take a ship back to England, he and Lila's female friend, Ray Fortescue, attempted to visit Lila at the home of Sir Herbert, where she and her aunt were staying until the wedding, which was scheduled to take place the following week.

Thus, in short order, we have the set up to the murder that Miss Silver is asked to help solve by the scheming aunt, Lady Sybil. Miss Silver wastes no time in settling herself, her knitting bag filled with balls of pink yarn, and her moth eaten tippet in Sir Herbert's residence. Evidently a wealthy relative of Lady Sybil's had been helped by Miss Silver in the recent past; therefore, she was deemed acceptable to the gentry. Lady Sybil was postive her niece was innocent even though her own past transgressions might be revealed in the process. Detective Inspector Frank Abbot of Scotland Yard is on hand as the official police presence, but as usual, he and Miss Silver meet to compare notes as often as possible.

The rest of the cast of characters, all of whom are residing in Sir Herbert's mansion for one reason or another, each plays his or her part, but I don't think the police or the reader is meant to take most of them seriously. One aspect of the writing that was quite annoying to me was that the author had Miss Silver give a gentle little cough before nearly every utterance. I don't remember that literary device in other books of the series, but maybe this time I found it more irritating. If I had been on the spot to hear those repeated coughs, I would have run out of the mansion screaming.

Even though THE SILVER DAGGER is a serious and well-plotted mystery, there are elements of humor as well. Frederick, the thin, pale, lovesick, young footman is an aid, albeit a bumbling one, to Miss Silver and Inspector Frank Abbot. It is Frederick who finally reveals the clues that will eventually lead to the apprehension of the murderer.

I would give THE IVORY DAGGER 4 stars.

ETA: Success--a blue title at last!

Posted on Feb 13, 2012 6:18:02 AM PST
janebbooks says:
Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves

Not a review exactly but a preview of one of the Vera Stanhope mystery series. It's going to be a 5 STAR READ!

I've read and reviewed the first two of Ann Cleeves' fine Shetland Island mysteries...Raven Black: Book One of the Shetland Island Quartet and White Nights. There's something comforting about reading her books. You know you'll get a great know you'll read about a interesting part of the know you'll enjoy the characters and the low body count. While Cleeves' mysteries are not cozy...they still comfort. TELLING TALES, the second of the Vera Stanhope series, has already piqued my interest.
Here's what's going on:

Ten years ago, Cleeves' narrator Emma discovered the body of her best friend, 15 year old Abigail Mantel. A neighbor Jeanie Long was convicted of the crime and has killed herself in prison after being denied parole. Now there's new evidence of her innocence.

The setting is a small Yorkshire riverfront village where men make their living as pilots and coxswains guiding deep-sea vessels on the major navigable rivers of East Anglia.

Emma and her husband are in church with their young child when Inspector Vera Stanhope of the Northumbria police appears in the story. What an entrance she makes at the close of the first hymn when the back door closes with a bang:

"A large, formidably ugly woman" stood at the back of the church. She wore "a shapeless Crimplene dress covered with small purple flowers and a fluffy purple cardigan. Despite the cold, on her feet she wore flat leather sandals."

She has come as an outsider to revisit the ten-year old murder case of Abigail Mantel.

And if video is your thing....Vera has just been released for Region 1 (US and Canada). Two-time Oscar nominee Brenda Blethyn plays the solitary, obsessed, caustic, brilliant, and a bit disheveled Stanhope. Filmed in the Northumberland villages of the original books, the set includes four feature-length, character-driven crime dramas including TELLING TALES.

Posted on Feb 17, 2012 11:26:20 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 18, 2012 6:42:28 AM PST
L. M. Keefer says:
Before the Poison: A Novel

Maine Colonial did a great review of this book on this thread so be sure to read hers. I liked the narrator's thoughts and conversation, too, as he was cosmopolitan, cultural and intellectual. Posted this review now as a reminder as the book is available in the U.S. this week:

If you are new to Peter Robinson's books, you have a delectable treat awaiting you: intelligent dialogue, tangible setting, smart and original characters, measured humor, lucid prose and an intriguing plot. For Robinson's regular readers, this book is an innovative departure from his Inspector Banks series as the protagonist is not a detective, but a musician. This book's appeal hinges on the well-educated and cultured narrator who composes musical scores for movies. Occupying his creative mind for 300 pages is one of the book's chief charms. Sometimes I forgot I was reading a book as the narration seemed so alive and genuine. He and his fellow characters comfortably talk about movies, literature, philosophy and art, from Becket to Britten and from Hitchcock to Hockney. You get to sit in on the chat, imagining yourself in red-leather banquettes in English village pubs, stylish antiqued-rooms in London Soho hotels, and gleaming brass Paris cafes.

The recently widowed narrator, Chris Lowndes, has a problem. The Yorkshire estate he just purchased housed a murder about 60 years earlier and Lowndes can't stop thinking about it. In the U.S. there are laws requiring real estate agents divulge a home's murderous past, but apparently not in England. Supposedly, a previous tenant, Grace Fox, poisoned her physician husband one blizzardy 1953 night, or did she? While narrator Lowndes is not always a sympathetic character, Grace Fox is as a former WWII nurse and mother. You want Lowndes to indulge his obsession and investigate her past to determine her guilt or innocence--and perhaps put to rest the home's sordid history, making it more habitable for himself and future tenants.

Neatly spliced into Lowndes's narrative are book excerpts detailing Grace Fox's trial and her wartime diary which Lowndes unearths which illuminate possible motives and means. As Lowndes explores the past, this book is a page-turning tale in which the journey is as satisfying as the unique conclusion. The author's storytelling virtuosity made me want to investigate his separate Inspector Banks' mystery series. If you like thoughtful and well-written mysteries, you should enjoy this one in scintillating British dress. The TORONTO STAR declared it: "maybe the best crime novel of the year." It just may be.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 18, 2012 5:20:47 AM PST
Check out Great for reviews

Posted on Mar 5, 2012 4:19:11 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 5, 2012 5:12:03 AM PST
janebbooks says:
The Inspector and Silence: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery by Hakan Nesser

...three pale women wrapped in lengths of unbleached cotton cloth..., March 4, 2012

Hakan Nesser is my favorite Swedish crime novelist. I have just finished reading his THE INSPECTOR AND SILENCE, an Inspector Van Veeteren mystery. Van Veeteren is Nesser's "agnostic detective chief inspector on his last legs" and appears with no first name in the novels. In this installment, VV after nearly thirty-five years with the police is considering a career change.

When the "three pale women" appear in the pages of this fifth Nesser translated novel, I thought of the chalky tones and pale Pre-Raphaelite women descending a staircase in a painting by Edward Burne-Jones. Nesser's women, however, are the high priestesses who attend the messiah figure of one Oscar Yellinek in the forests near the idyllic town of Sorbinowo somewhere in a country resembling Sweden. Yellinek and the women are conducting a summer camp for young girls for indoctrination into the dubious and secretive religious sect of Pure Life.

After several anonymous telephone calls to the Sorbinowo police about a girl missing from the Pure Life camp, acting Chief of Police Fluuge has called for help to the Maardam police, in particular one Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, as instructed by his vacationing boss. Van Veeteren is happy to leave the hot summer weather of the city and journey to the scattered lakes and deciduous woods of Sorbinowo.

Come join Van Veeteren as he motors into the countryside with a CD of a cello concert playing and a pack of Reed's cigarettes in the glove box.

By the time the murderer of three members of the Pure Life sect is discovered, our detective has enjoyed gourmet meals at the town's better restaurants, downed a number of light and dark beers and glasses of red wine, and chewed a few toothpicks between smokes. As Van Veeteren obeys his celebrated intuition, with only one unsolved case to his name, the reader is treated to a number of pleasant occasions. A trip on the river in a red Canadian canoe with mineral water, freshly baked cookies and a parasol. A nap on a river bank slope covered in beech trees. A few gourmet dinners and quiet productive talks with the editor of the local newspaper.

Who is the murderer? Is this Van Veeteren's last case?
Read this most provocative novel to discover the answers.

Five out of five stars

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2012 11:27:19 AM PDT
Donna McLean says:
I've seen this film many times and enjoyed it. Now I'm ready to read the book! Thanks for the recommendation.

Posted on Mar 24, 2012 12:25:51 PM PDT
annie says:
Deadly Friends: A DI Charlie Priest Mystery

If you've not yet discovered Stuart Pawson's "Charlie Priest" series, I urge you to do so today! A campaign should be started to bring this to the airwaves because it would make a great TV series. Priest is likeable, authentic, competent, and interesting. Pawson's style of writing is succinct and shot through with humor that will leave you chuckling. I've read several in the series and have not been disappointed. I'm off to order another installment now!

Posted on Mar 24, 2012 2:08:20 PM PDT
Donna McLean says:
Okay, I hope I'm doing this right - my first review on Amazon!

The Red House Mystery (Annotated)

*spoiler free guarantee*

Who knew that A. A. Milne, author of the much loved Winnie-the-Pooh stories, also wrote detective fiction? I didn't, until one blustery day when I happened upon a nifty novel titled The Red House Mystery.
Published in 1922 and re-released from time to time, The Red House Mystery is a classic British locked room puzzler in the style of Christie or Sayers combined with the pleasing wit and gentle humor of the Pooh Bear stories (although it is not a book for children). The detective, an amateur named Antony Gillingham, literally stumbles onto the scene of a crime that has only just been committed at the British estate owned by wealthy Mark Ablett. Mark's ne'er-do-well brother, Robert, turned up the day before the murder, much to the surprise of all those who previously believed that Mark was an only child! Luckily for Antony, his best pal Bill (one of those goofy but endearing Bertie Wooster types so popular in 1920's fiction) happens to be a houseguest at the Red House, and this gives Antony a good excuse for hanging around the manor, asking lots of impertinent questions of all the guests and housemaids, and snooping and sifting through clues that lead to a genuinely surprising ending.

Posted on Apr 17, 2012 10:30:23 AM PDT
Donna McLean says:
"Before the Poison", recommended by Maine Colonel and L. M. Keefer on this thread, sounds fascinating and I just have to read it! Meanwhile, here's a review of a classic by Christie on a similar theme.

Sparkling Cyanide

*spoiler free guarantee*

Six people gather at a swanky 40's era nightclub to celebrate the birthday of the beautiful but self-absorbed Rosemary Barton, who elegantly lifts her champagne glass for a toast at midnight and ungracefully drops dead on the expensive silk tablecloth the very next minute.
This novel was originally a Hercule Poirot short story, Yellow Iris, with similar settings and characters but a completely different ending. Poirot doesn't appear in the novel. As a Christie fan I have a particular fondness for both versions of the story, and the novel is notable in that it presents a different form of storytelling than the typical mystery. In Part One, the six characters who were present when Rosemary died each tell their story of what happened that fateful night and the months preceding it. In this way the reader is given insight into the lives and minds of the suspects and may, perhaps, begin piecing together the jigsaw puzzle toward the eventual conclusion of the mystery. The remaining two parts of the novel revert to the usual straightforward style of a murder mystery, telling us "what happens next" and keeping us turning pages in suspense until the satisfactory conclusion is reached and the murderer revealed, in deft Agatha Christie style. If you like a classy whodunit in the grand tradition, you will not be disappointed in Sparkling Cyanide.

Posted on Apr 28, 2012 5:51:03 PM PDT
janebbooks says:
Blue Lightning, a SHETLAND ISLAND thriller by Ann Cleeves

4.5 out of 5 stars AUTUMN ON THE SHETLAND ISLAND OF FAIR ISLE...a time of fieldfares, redwings...and murder.

For several weeks, I have been savoring every page of the last installment of Ann Cleeves' excellent SHETLAND ISLAND Quartet. BLUE LIGHTNING is the title of this murder mystery featuring, as in the other novels, one James Alexander (Jimmy) Perez, an inspector with the Highland and Islands Police. Jimmy Perez has been lurking around the other mysteries in the series. In BLUE LIGHTNING, he takes center stage.

Perez has come to Fair Isle, the tenth largest of the Shetland Islands, to introduce his fiancee Fran Hunter to his parents, Big James and Mary Perez. Joining Perez and Fran at various stages of the story are characters from Cleeves' other tales: Sandy Wilson, the policeman from Whalsay, and the most interesting woman in the novels, Rhonda Laing, Perez's boss, the FISCAL (a cross between a magistrate and a prosecuting lawyer).

Anna Cleeves uses the most prestigious Bird Observatory in the U. K. located at the Northern part of Fair Isle as the prominent setting for her tale. The Observatory is a former lighthouse now a field centre with living accomodations. The time is the autumn of the year, the height of visiting birdwatchers and tourists following bird migration patterns. Cleeves introduces her fictional main characters in BLUE LIGHTNING slowly and carefully:

Angela Barton, the warden and celebrity bird watcher
Jane Latimer, the well-liked and brilliant chef
Maurice Parry, Angela's older husband who is the observatory director
Poppy, Maurice's daughter, a reluctant visitor
Ben Catchpole and Hugh Shaw, the assistant warden and handsome birder, respectively
Dougie Barr, a frequent visitor and birder who has just sighted a rare trumpeter swan
John Fowler, a journalist, and his wife Sarah, first time visitors...and
Stella Monkton, a woman with a secret, who appears in the final chapters

All of the new fictional characters except Stella Monkton, needless to say, become suspects as two of the woman working at the observatory are found murdered. First, Angela Barton, the warden...then the cook Jane Latimer. Both are stabbed with a kitchen knife...with bird feathers surrounding their posed bodies.

No fairy tale ending for this story and the series. But a riveting hunt for a murderer. And a prominent clue-a simple and single curlew feather.

Posted on Apr 28, 2012 6:24:02 PM PDT
Book 'Em - An Eamonn Shute Mystery

5 Stars I Love Eamonn!

Eamonn Shute , an affable Irishman, is smart, capable, and rich. He loves to cook, loves to eat, and is endearingly self-conscious about the results. He's also in love with a lovely but mercurial entrepreneur, Nicky Muniz. When Nicky is set up by her ex-husband, Eamonn is there to help. But bad goes to worse as evidence piles up and Nicky's troubles multiply. Eamonn struggles to clear her name.

Compelling characters and a well paced plot make this story a joy to read. The suspense kept me reading long into the night. Highly recommended.

Posted on May 9, 2012 10:25:55 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 10, 2012 11:13:26 AM PDT
janebbooks says:
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin

M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I........

That's how Southern children are taught to spell MISSISSIPPI. And this is a Southern tale set in rural Mississippi. It's September and grassy fields are filled with honeysuckle, goldenrod and thistle near woods of loblolly pine trees. Kudzu is running wild in gulleys along red clay roads.

And then Tina Rutherford, a college student headed back to Ole Miss, goes missing.

The folks in the hamlet of Chabot recall the time another girl disappeared. They remember the odd friendship of Larry Ott, a white boy and book nerd, and Silas 32 Jones, a black boy and baseball player, in the late 1970's. Larry Ott was the main suspect then in the disappearance of Cindy Walker, but he was never arrested. He has lived under a cloud of suspicion for twenty five years and now runs his dad's garage the Ottomotive Repair. Sitting there day after day with no customers unless a traveler drops by with an overheated radiator or somebody going somewhere needs a quick brake job.

Silas 32 Jones has fared somewhat better. He left Chabot and had worked at Ole Miss as security campus police for ten years before accepting a constable job and returning to his old stomping ground. He hasn't called Larry Ott in the two years he"s been back in Chabot.

Although Tom Franklin's novel won a Golden Dagger and was nominated for the 2011 EDGAR for best mystery, his book is not much of a mystery. Instead it's a story of friendship. A friendship lost then found again. A friendship of loyalty and secrets.

And it's a story of loneliness. Larry Ott lives alone and takes Kentucky Fried Chicken to his mother in the nursing home twice a week. Every night except Sunday he comes home from the Ottomotive Repair, feeds his mother's chickens who have first lady names, and reads Stephen King novels or watches television on one of three channels. And he often reflects on the change in the world in all that spare time. He remembers his daddy working in the yard shirtless finding "ticks in his hair and chiggers fattening with his blood." He remembers carrying a shotgun to school, leaving it by the woodstove, and walking home shooting squirrels for supper. Nowadays, "mosquitos infected you with West Nile and ticks gave you Lyme disease. The sun burned its cancer into your skin, and if you bought a gun to school it was to murder your classmates."

Yes, Tom Franklin knows his Southern...and writes a powerful story of friendship and change. It's just not much of a mystery.

3 out of 5 stars as a mystery

5 out of 5 stars as a Southern melodrama


Posted on May 10, 2012 6:55:12 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 10, 2012 8:45:07 AM PDT
Condorena says:
Howtown by Michael Nava
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lawyer Henry Rios travels north to the California area where he grew up to take a case as a favor to his estranged sister. Henry had a very painful childhood as did his sister but they both had left their past behind in different ways. Rios refers to his hometown as How Town, a phrase taken from an E. E. Cummings poem called 'anyone lived in a pretty how town'.

"women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars and rain....'

The case is a difficult one involving a pedophile who has purportedly committed murder. Under another circumstances Henry would have refused the brief but he does want to help his sister and thereby her friend. It means meeting old friends whose reactions to him he is unsure of since he came out, but immediately he realizes that there is something very wrong in the city of Los Robles amidst the politicos, the movers and shakers as well as the police.

Henry believes the truth must come out one way or another and he has to step lively or he will be steam rolled into the ground.

Henry Rios is a complex character with many shadows in his life but at least during this book he tries to stay in the sun.

In reply to an earlier post on May 14, 2012 8:03:01 AM PDT
So glad to have a new Ann Cleaves book coming. The review sounds terrific. Thanks for the review.

Posted on May 14, 2012 12:01:00 PM PDT
Condorena says:
Murder Casts a Shadow: A Hawaiæi Mystery by Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is 1935 in Hawai'i and even though the depression has hit these tropical islands as well, the sugar industry has cushioned the effects of unemployment somewhat. Honolulu may have not have all the sophistication of a mainland city especially when it comes to the arts but it tries to make up for it with an excellent community theater. London playwright Ned Manusia has come to put his latest play on here and he feels quite at home here because he is of Polynesian extraction himself. He was born in Samoa.

Ned has a second reason for finding himself in Honolulu; he has escorted three important portraits of the Hawaiian Royal Family from the British Museum back to their home. He has done secret commissions for the British Government before. While in Hawai'i he is staying with his old friend Troy Forrest who is the Chief of Detectives for the Honolulu Police and his wife Nyla, who is an interesting blend of Hawaiian, Irish and English.

Shortly after the portraits are delivered the main one of the King Kalåkaua is stolen and a main functionary of the museum Abe Halpern is murdered. Nyla's sister Mina Beckwith is a reporter for the local paper who fights against the restrictions that are constantly keeping her from getting good stories. As a woman it seems it is felt she can only do justice to art and social events, but she is onsite for this case and knows she can run with it. She pairs up with Ned to dig into the background of the murder victim.

Abel Halpern was a grandson of one of the original outsider movers and shakers on the island. There are many rumors about his dirty dealings within the museum, his family, and the city of Honolulu it self as well so his murder comes as no surprise to many. What must be determined was whether this killing was related to the theft of the portrait or incidental to it.

The Hawaiian Islands are the crossroads of the Pacific and people from all over had settled here over the centuries; Japanese, mainland Americans, Chinese, Polynesians and Europeans from many countries. Kings have ruled Hawai'i for a few hundred years. The last, King Kalakaua traveled to San Francisco. It while he was there that the portraits were painted then he mysteriously sickened and died. One of his associates left a mysterious message of the back of the portrait. Ned and Mina feel sure the past and the present are coming together and they are risking their lives to prove it..

This book is the first in a series and it was very appealing . The characters and the story made the reader want to know much more about the history of the Hawaiian Islands and the people that are fortunate enough to live there.

Posted on May 24, 2012 1:27:22 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 29, 2012 4:32:17 AM PDT
janebbooks says:
Caravaggio's Angel by Ruth Brandon

Art, angels and mystery....a deadly combination..., May 23, 2012

Regina "Reggie" Lee is fourteen years old when she first sees the Angel. She is at the Louvre in Paris with her mother. In one of the Baroque paintings, her Angel appears "naked to the waist, with pouting lips, gleaming muscular shoulders and black-feathered wings. He hangs in mid-flight in the picture's top left-hand corner, while from the lower right St Cecilia gazes over her shoulder into his eyes. She is dressed as a Roman artistocrat in a rich red silk dress, low-cut and trimmed at the shoulders with white fur...surrounded by the instruments that denote her identity: in her hands a lute, at her feet a violin and an open music book, behind her a harp. A mysterious ray, possibly the light of holiness, emanates from the...corner, suffusing the Angel and bathing St Cecilia in its glow."

Some years later Dr. Reggie Lee, art curator, starts her new position at the National Gallery of London and proceeds to gather the three copies of Caravaggio's "St Cecilia and the Angel" as a special exhibition. Two of the paintings are at prestiguous museums. And our protagonist follows a faint trail to find the third painting. She makes several trips to the French countryside and Meyrignac, the home of Madame Rigaut, the mother of Antoine Rigaut, the director of the Italian collection of the Louvre. Rigaut had suddenly revoked his agreement to exhibit the museum's copy.

Reggie finds the third Caravaggio...and a fourth copy, the original painting, shows up in tow at her desk with proper provenance. When two bodies appear on the scene, she is more concerned about a fake painting and enlists a journalist to help discover the forgery. (She has a penchant for journalists of the male variety.)

Brandon is a British historian, a biographer, and a novelist. In this novel, she blends fiction and fact to entertain her reader. Carlo Saraceni (1579-1620), the first of the Caravaggisti, painted "St Cecilia and the Angel" in 1610. It hangs in the Galleria Natzionale d'Arte Antica in Rome.

3 out of 5 stars, mildly entertaining

Posted on May 27, 2012 9:39:06 AM PDT
Would you take justice into your own hands to protect those you love? Would you kill to save them?

In No Justice, software designer, Michael Sykora, does just that. Known only to a few, he's also a killer for hire, a part-time hit man who takes scum off the streets. Driven by his own tragedy, Sykora steps in where the justice system fails.

The pace is quick, the characters believable. Sykora wastes no time eliminating his targets. His love for his friends and his concern for the vulnerable is clear; it explains why he does what he does, maybe even justifies it, and makes him human.

His personal relationships are engaging, more so when they overlap his night-time career. He hides the fact he's a paid assassin from his closet friend; a cop. Despite what he does, Michael Sykora has a conscience. He won't murder a target if there's the possibility they might be innocent.

He's a vigilante. Does it make him bad? As bad as his targets? Or is he doing the world a favor? You decide. Remember the title before you decide.

This is an excellent book filled with action, good dialogue, wit, and great characters. The bonus feature at the end raises the question again; the moral dilemma - how far would you go to do the right thing?No Justice (with Bonus Content!) (A Michael Sykora Novel)

Posted on May 28, 2012 2:26:57 PM PDT
You cannot read anything much more intriguing, amusing, educational in a fun way,
endearing than the Bryant and May series by Christopher Fowler. I started with his
best, in my opinion "The Victoria Vanishes" and have read all the others and have
even returned to that one for a second reading. Mr. Fowler is a genius! A pub that
"vanishes"? A detection unit that refuses to accept redundancy? A group of weird
misfits who quickly endear themselves to the reader? Fascinating little-known facts
about London pubs? A senior detective who consults witches? Fabulous writing!

In reply to an earlier post on May 30, 2012 5:21:06 AM PDT
This sounds great. Thanks for the review. I'm going to take a look.

In reply to an earlier post on May 30, 2012 9:02:00 PM PDT
Thank you so much for posting this - I've had the book on my wishlist for a while, but hadn't noticed it's now out on Kindle, so I picked it up. Looking forward to it...

Posted on Jun 1, 2012 5:02:51 AM PDT
Condorena says:

For a long time, Haggadot (books telling the story of the Jewish exodus from egypt after years of slavery and ten plagues)were hand-written, but eventually some were printed. These volumes of Haggadot were rare and cherished. Possibly the first printed texts were produced in 1482 in Guadalajara, Spain.

One famous example is the Sarajevo Haggadah, an illustrated manuscript that is the oldest known in the world, originally coming from Barcelona around 1350.

In People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks has written a fictional account of the mystery of this manuscript. An expert book conservator, Hannah Heath lives in Australia. Awakened from a deep sleep, Hannah receives a phone call requesting that she come to Bosnia to use her skills to conserve and restore the precious Sarajevo Haggadah. The war between the Serbs and Croats is, one hopes, ending soon and the United Nations wants this book to be a unifying factor.

Through the years, this Jewish book survived many wars and travelled to many places as its owners moved or were moved from place to place. At least twice in its history it was rescued from certain destruction by people of the Muslim faith. Perhaps, on one occasion, it was saved from the fire by a Roman Catholic.

In the course of Hannah's repair of the book she came across small artifacts that can help in the investigation of where this book has been. One of these is a small insect wing that turns out to belong to an alpine moth. Another of these is a wine stain, perhaps mixed with blood, and finally there is a small thread or hair as well as some salt crystals. One last mystery that Hannah wants to unveil is why this book was published with illustrations in an era when the Jewish faith did not approve of images in their books, since they were considered sacrilegious.

The chief librarian in the museum where the Haggadah is located has a feeling about this special book: "The hagaddah came to Sarajevo for a reason. It was here to test us, to see if there were people who could see that what united us was more than what divided us. That to be a human being matters more than to be a Jew or a Muslim, Catholic or Orthodox."

Hannah tracks the passage of the book through the centuries by scientifically identifying how the artifacts in the book came to be there. At the same time, she is taking a trip into her own history, which has also been fraught with pain. One of her colleagues points out:

"... the book has survived the same human disaster over and over have a society where people tolerate difference, like Spain, and everything's humming along: creative, prosperous. Then somehow this fear, this hate, the need to demonize the 'other'--just sort of rears up and smashes the whole society. Inquisition, Nazis, extremist Serb nationalists... same old, same old."

Similarly, Hannah's personal mysteries and sorrows also keep repeating themselves because she has yet to come to a mature understanding about them. The United Nations wants the restored book to be part of a shrine to Sarajevo's multiethnic heritage. It will be displayed amidst Islamic manuscripts and Orthodox icons. Hannah still has a way to go before she can put her past in true perspective.

Posted on Jun 4, 2012 2:30:55 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 4, 2012 2:34:20 AM PDT
janebbooks says:
~~~~~~A BOOK REVIEW OF Mrs. Dewinter by Susan Hill~~~~~~

A timid sequel to Daphne Du Maurier's gothic romantic thriller REBECCA

On October 9, 1993, Natasha Walter of the Independent newspaper wrote a review of Susan Hill's MRS deWINTER, a just-published sequel to Daphne DuMaurier's gothic romantic thriller REBECCA (1938). Walter called her review "Dreaming of Manderley again" and said loudly and clearly that she found Hill's novel "timid" for much like second wives, sequels often do little to endear themselves to friends or fans of the original. She parodies the opening sentence of the so-loved REBECCA with a realistic one of her own for her review:

"Last night I went to Manderley again. I peered through the gates, heart beating with anticipation, but instead of grand lovers playing out their romantic struggles, I saw two middle-aged chaps in a Gloucestershire garden having a squabble. I left as soon as I could, but it will never seem the same again."

The reviewer echoes the many voices of Amazon reviewers who wished they had never read the sequel.

But this reader found some redeeming points... just a few. For one, the author of the sequel is one award-winning and prolific British writer, Susan Hill. Hill captures the voice of the narrator of the original by using the second Mrs. deWinter as her narrator. Still demure, unsophisticated, and in love with a handsome man she met in Monte Carlo over ten years ago.

Hill opens MRS deWINTER with a funeral in a Gothic tone..."The undertaker's men were like crows, still and black, and the cars were black, lined up beside the path that led to the church; and we, we too were black, as we stood in our pathetic, awkward group waiting for them to lift out the coffin and shoulder it, and for the clergyman to arrange himself; and he was another black crow, in his long cloak. And then the real crows rose suddenly from the trees and from the fields, whirled up like scraps of blackened paper from a bonfire, and circled, caw-cawing above our heads..." Max and his second wife have returned to England after ten years abroad for the funeral.

Then Hill recalls the other characters from REBECCA. Mrs. Van Hopper from Monte Carlo, the nameless narrator's former employer; Frank Crawley, the kind and efficient manager of Manderley; Beatrice, Max's sister, and her husband Giles. And then in the later chapters the villains, Mrs. Danvers and Jack Favell, Rebecca's worthless cousin...

And just when Mr. and Mrs. deWinter seem to have found a new life in a lovely home called Cobbett's Blake, in a part of England far from the sea sheltered by the thin, high ridge of the Cotswold hills, the story rushes toward a fatal ending. The denouement, such as it is, comes after a garden party at the new home.

Throughout this sequel, the Independent reviewer tells us "Rebecca's remaining lovers will feel like Mrs Danvers - dour, uncomprehending, and dismissive of the newcomer's ineffective attempts to please. The peace of Manderley, they will mutter, should never have been disturbed. We only wanted to dream about going back."

But this reader enjoyed going back. If only to relive the happier times of Max and his nameless second wife. I would have been very pleased with a final scene of the deWinters at Cobbett's Blake in front of a fireplace with Jasper, the new labrador, lying by his master's chair.

3.5 out of 4 stars

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2012 8:43:09 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Sep 28, 2012 2:00:35 PM PDT]

Posted on Jun 14, 2012 4:27:33 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 18, 2012 12:43:56 PM PDT
janebbooks says:
Bloodland by Alan Glynn

"An interesting and timely piece of globilization noir..." June 12, 2012

Alan Glynn's third novel BLOODLAND won the 2011 Irish Book Award in the Crime Fiction category and is, according to a LOS ANGELES TIMES reviewer, "an interesting and timely piece of globilization noir" with an ensemble cast of characters from three continents. At the heart of the story is an out-of-work Dublin journalist named Jimmy Gilroy who has just picked up a fluff assignment of writing a biography of a soap opera star who died in a helicopter crash on the Donegal coast about three years ago.

Seems the coked-up Susie Monaghan had just crashed a convention of international corporate tycoons at Drumcoolie Castle in County Tipperary discussing the purchase of a copper mine in eastern Congo...and had flown up to Donegal with a few paragliders to check out locations for another kind of flying high...

Once one gets the players all sorted out...the politicians, the tycoons, and the Congolese warlord amd the young journalist's notebook fills up, his investigation turns deadly and exciting...but it takes half the book to get everyone in place.

Let me help sort out the players: the lone Congolese warlord is easy. Arnold Kimbela pits the Chinese against the Americans: "They send people over who will live in huts and survive on a bowl of rice a day. You people...have to have hot dogs and sodas and Taco Bell and reality TV shows... So the result is you are being left behind... You have fallen asleep at the wheel." (241)

There are two prominent politicians...a U.S. Senator, John Trumble, who's about to announce his run for President...and an ex-Taoiseach of Ireland, Larry Bolger, who loves his Jamieson.

Four of the tycoons at that Drumcoolie Castle meeting are important players. Senator Trumble's brother, Clark Trumble, the CEO of BRX Mining and Engineering, whose company has just bought the copper mine. Dave Conway, Irish realtor who sells the mine but still lacks financing to finish his dream community Tara Meadows in Dublin. Don Ribcoff, the CEO of Gideon Global who has a piece of the action and provides mercenaries to oversee the re-opening of the mine. And the oldest tycoon of them all, James "Jimmy" Vaughan, the money man who owns Oberon Capital Group.

BLOODLAND is a fine tale of political intrigue, corporate greed and murder that our Irish author weaves...with just a bit of "Dublinese and obligatory swearing."

3.8 stars out of 5 stars
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