Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dead Days of Summer, by Carolyn G. Hart

It doesn't look good for Max Darling. In this latest in the "Death on Demand" series, mystery bookstore owner Annies Laurence Darling's husband is the prime--only, really--suspect in the murder of a woman with whom it seems he must have been involved. But Max doesn't remember anything: not leaving the seedy bar with her, not getting blood all over his clothing, not abandoning his car. Annie and her friends, fierecely defending his innocence even as evidence against him mounts, set out to prove his innocence by finding the real killer. Was it the husband of the woman's employer? Or the fiance of her employer's daughter? Or the employer's neighbor? The brutality of the murder with a tire iron surely points to a man. Hart does a fine job of illustrating the loyalty of this tightly-bonded group of friends. The mood is a little more desperate than some of the series but still full of Hart.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Laced, by Carol HIggins Clark

Jack and Regan Reilly's jobs as NY policeman and PI won't leave them alone, even on their honeymoon in Ireland. John and Jane Doe have followed them, clearly to taunt them because this time they haven't stolen jewels at a charity event, but an antique lace tablecloth --from the very castle at which the Reillys thought they would be spending days of ease in wedded bliss. The usual roundup of madcap characters and unlikely events, combined with a ghost, a painting treasure hunt, original Claddagh rings, temporary tooth caps (with red smiley faces in them, no less!)....well, you get the idea. It all makes for great fun and an easy read--perfect for a rainy summer's day, or a sunny day on the beach, at the lake, or on the deck at home.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Witch Way to Murder by Shirley Damsgaard

Looking for an unusual, well-written mystery set in Iowa? Look no further than Witch Way to Murder by Iowa author, Shirley Damsgaard. Ophelia Jensen is a small town librarian with some special talents, and I don’t mean finding odd facts on the Internet. Ophelia has psychic abilities she wishes she didn’t have.

Ophelia’s Grandmother, Abby, encourages her stubborn granddaughter to face her past and reach out to people and her own talents, but this is tough for a woman who’s best friend was murdered four years ago. It doesn’t get any easier when a handsome stranger comes to town filled with questions, and the two of them trip over a dead body. That’s one too many for Ophelia, and she’s determined to figure out what’s going on.

This is a fast paced read with an engaging heroine who grabs you from page one. I enjoyed the humorous elements in the story and loved the way all the characters, even the secondary ones, were fully developed. I suspected who the villain was part way through the book, but the author kept me in suspense about whether I was right.

It was a fun read, and I tore through Damsgaard’s second Ophelia and Abby mystery titled Charmed to Death in one sitting. Her third book in the series, The Trouble with Witches was released on August 29, 2006 and the fourth book in the series, Witch Hunt will be released on May 29, 2007.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Calamity Jayne by Kathleen Bacus

If you were hunting for a spare tire in your car trunk but discovered the dead body of a prominent local attorney instead, you’d run away screaming. Tressa Jayne Turner, known to family and friends as Calamity Jayne, has done just that, leaving behind an envelope full of cash. She reports the crime, but the only problem is that no one believes her story: not the police, not her family, and not her childhood nemesis “Ranger” Rick Townsend. Disaster has always followed Tressa Jayne the way cats follow catnip, so this seems like yet one more blonde moment in a life full of blonde jokes. The trouble is, she’s telling the truth. The murderer thinks she stole his money, and he demands she return it. Since the police won’t investigate the murder, Tressa Jayne does. In Calamity Jayne, Knoxville, Iowa resident, Kathleen Bacus delivers a hilarious mystery tale which is light, yet suspenseful. Readers will root for funny, sweet Tressa Jayne, hoping someone will finally take her seriously before it’s too late.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

My best friend told me that I had to read The Beekeeper's Apprentice. No, really, I had to read it. My future happiness depended upon it! Well, okay. I always trust her judgement, especially on mysteries, so I picked it up. And couldn't put it down. A caveat: the premise could strike you as a bit hokey--14 year old Mary Russell encounters 50-something, now retired Sherlock Holmes on the downs of Sussex and begins a lifelong detecting partnership--until you see how Ms. King's expert handling has created a premiere 'literary mystery' series.

Imagine Dorothy L. Sayers meets Conan Doyle. King's obvious love for Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey novels, as well as the mythical Holmes figure, is evident, but it doesn't keep her from writing an extraordinary, compelling, amusing and smart mystery all her own. Mary Russell's 'voice' is unique, strong, complex and amusing. Like Sayers' Harriet Vane, Russell is a whole person in her own right, matched with an equally complex and fascinating detecting partner, but King gives Russell more breadth and depth than Sayers ever gave Harriet.

The series is now at eight (8) novels, and it's worth reading them in order, as the relationship of the main characters grows and evolves. The actual mysteries are quite good, though some are better than others, but every story is literate, witty, and evocative of the early 20th-century world. They encounter famous and literary characters, but not in a contrived fashion, and familiar Holmes' characters--Mrs. Hudson, Dr. Watson and Mycroft Holmes in particular--are fleshed out and given new, three-dimensional life.

If you like your mysteries very smart, well-written, amusing and thought-provoking, you can't go wrong with Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Key Lime Pie Murder, by Joanne Fluke

It's happening again in Eden Lake, Minnesota, home of Hannah Swensen's "Cookie Jar" cookie and coffee shop. This time Hannah is a judge at the Tri-County Fair, and when one of her fellow judges, the local home economics teacher, is murdered, Hannah is--as usual--on the case! The eighth in this easy-going, easy-reading series is cozy fun as the reader follows Hannah and her two boyfriends, her business partner, and her family.