Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Small Plates by Katherine Hall Page

It doesn't matter if you read Katherine Hall Page's mysteries about caterer Faith Fairchild or not. Page's collection includes Faith in many of the short stories. And, an anthology can be picked up any time. This one came out a year ago, however it fit my mood when I went looking for the perfect book. You really just need to enjoy mystery stories to appreciate Small Plates.

Most of Page's stories are set in New England, everywhere from Maine to resort areas to Boston and the surrounding communities. A couple feature the old families, the Winthrops and the Cabots. There are even a couple Christmas mysteries for those of us who love them.

I had two favorite stories. "The Proof Is Always in the Pudding", the first of two Christmas mysteries, involves Faith's husband's family. When Faith's mother-in-law says she needs a man, it kicks off the story of the Fairchild Christmas Dinner Curse, a story going back to the late eighteen hundreds. It's a story of class and deceit and love. And, it's a story of murder.

Then, there's "Sliced". Anyone who watches food television shows will recognize a reality TV show in which chefs get eliminated if they don't prepare the most appealing appetizer, entree and dessert. Faith is not happy to be participating in the show for a local charity, but her best friend asked her. And, she really regrets her agreement when she meets her competition, three chefs who dislike Faith. Any one of them would like to eliminate her for good.

There are nine mysteries and a couple recipes in the book. Page's collection is an appealing taste of New England crime, with the inclusion of a familiar character for comfort. Although not all the entries include Faith Fairchild, the ones that do may just whet your appetite for longer stories, Katherine Hall Page's books that feature the caterer. Small Plates is the perfect appetizer, a sample of the storytelling skills of an author who has honed her skills over the course of twenty-two mysteries. Welcome to Katherine Hall Page's world, enchanting settings disturbed only by the intrusion of a killer or two.

Katherine Hall Page's website is www.katherine-hall-page.org

Small Plates by Katherine Hall Page. William Morrow. 2014. ISBN 9780062310798 (hardcover), 223p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec

Ready for an atmospheric, traditional police procedural? Jean-Luc Bannalec's Death in Brittany was a bestseller for many months in Germany after its 2012 publication there. It's not a fast-paced thriller, though, so it won't make the bestseller lists here. It's for those of us who appreciate a thoughtful police officer and the slow unraveling of a crime. In addition, there are the beautiful small towns of Brittany to entice a reader.

Commissaire Georges Dupin was banished from the Paris police force, sent to the remote Breton coast. However, he enjoys his mornings in Concarneau, sipping coffee at a waterfront cafe, away from the politics of Paris. But, the murder of a renowned ninety-one-year-old hotelier in nearby Pont-Aven threatens to thrust his latest case into the spotlight. Pont-Aven and the Central Hotel played host to Gaugin and other artists in the 19th century, building its reputation on the connection to the artists. Now, the death of Pierre-Louis Pennec throws the entire region in an uproar.

Dupin finds everyone shocked by the murder, but no one is particularly helpful when it comes to investigating the crime. And, a break-in at the crime scene only muddies the waters. It seems everyone associated with Pennec and the Central Hotel has a closely-guarded secret. It will take a few walks and a few cups of coffee for Dupin to dig through his thoughts for the truth.

Dupin, with his love of coffee, good food, and walks by the sea, is only slightly eccentric as a detective. His biggest flaw is his inability to hold his tongue, so he tries to avoid conversations and confrontations with the higher ups.  And, with the trace of humor in this book when it comes to Dupin, he acknowledges that. "He found it a bit sad, because he lacked some of the 'hidden depths' which now seemed a quasi-requirement for his profession: drug addiction, or at least alcoholism, neuroses or depression to a clinical degree, a colourful criminal past, corruption on an interesting scale or several dramatically failed marriages. He didn't have any of those things to show off about."

Spend a day or two with Dupin, walking the paths of small-town Brittany, exploring the cafes and side streets, while pondering the mysteries of murder, Death in Brittany. It's a charming quiet mystery that introduces a traditional police detective and a story that reaches into the past.

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec. Minotaur Books. 2015. ISBN 9781250061744 (hardcover), 320p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Currently Reading?

I know I don't put this in my signature line as often as I should, what I'm currently reading. It's the
perfect question, though, for all of us who love books. What are you currently reading?

I'm reading a book that was a bestseller in Germany in 2012, and comes out Tuesday in this country. Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec (a pseudonym), represents one of my favorite types of mystery, the police procedural. It introduces Commissaire Georges Dupin, exiled from Paris to the remote Breton coast. He's enjoying his morning coffee when he's called to a sleepy community that was once a gathering point for artists, Pont-Aven. Someone killed a ninety-one-year-old man, owner of a legendary hotel. And Dupin, not exactly known for his tact with the politically powerful, has to juggle phone calls and a murder investigation.

I'm spending my weekend with Commissaire Dupin in Brittany. What are you currently reading?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Resorting to Murder edited by Martin Edwards

I always have a hard time reviewing story collections, no matter how much I enjoy them. Do you just want to take my word that readers who appreciate the Golden Age mystery classics will appreciate Resorting to Murder? No?  Well, then take editor Martin Edwards word for it.

There are fourteen stories in this anthology. Edwards, himself an award-winning crime writer, calls these "vintage stories written over a span of roughly half a century, and which have a backdrop of a holiday". This is not a holiday as Americans think of it, Christmas or Thanksgiving. A holiday in this case is a trip or vacation, "enjoyable escapism" as Edwards says. Yet each story tells of a murder, "enjoyable escapism" for the reader who gets to watch a classic sleuth solve the crime in most of the stories. And, who better to kick off the anthology than Arthur Conan Doyle with the story of Sherlock Holmes' case in Cornwall, "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot"?

Edwards provides an introduction to each author and story. Some of the authors may be familiar to those who love older British mysteries. G.K. Chesterton and R. Austin Freeman have always been a couple of my favorites. And, somewhere or another I must have read Basil Thomson's "The Vanishing of Mrs. Fraser" before. It's just as fascinating as the first time I read it or something similar, the story of a young woman who leaves her ailing mother at a hotel, goes in search of help, and returns to find her mother gone, and the hotel staff denying everything. It's a must-read.

The collection is part of the British Library Crime Classics series, edited by Edwards, and published in this country by Poisoned Pen Press. I have two mystery novels in the series, ones I haven't had a chance to read yet. But, I'm looking forward to them.

Now that it's summer, I'd recommend a trip back in time if you enjoy and appreciate the classic British mystery. Resorting to Murder will serve as an introduction to both well-known and lesser-known authors, and some stories you may not have seen elsewhere. Trust Martin Edwards to tell you the background of the stories and authors.

Martin Edwards' website is www.martinedwardsbooks.com

Resorting to Murder edited by Martin Edwards. Poisoned Pen Press. 2015. ISBN 9781464203756 (paperback), 278p.

FTC Full Disclosure -The publicist sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Winners and Give Me an H Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the copies of Kate White's The Wrong Man. They're going to: Susan S. from Valatie, NY, Mildred B. from Great Neck, NY, and Kay S. of Georgetown, TX.

This week, I'm giving away mysteries by two authors whose last name begins with H. Let's start with Carolyn Hart's latest Death on Demand mystery, Don't Go Home. Annie Darling, owner of the Death on Demand mystery bookstore, may have promised her husband, Max, that she wouldn't get involved in any investigations, but when a friend is in trouble, Annie can't let her down. Successful author Alex Griffith returned to Broward's Rock, promising to reveal secrets about the town's residents. Marian Kenyon was the last one seen having an argument with Griffith before he was killed. But, Annie believes that her friend didn't kill him, and she can't let a friend be wrongfully convicted, even if she does put herself in jeopardy.

Or, you could choose to head out west with Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito in Anne Hillerman's Rock with Wings. Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, have plans for a short vacation, but two cases, one near Shiprock, the other at Monument Valley, will send them on their separate ways. While Chee deals with a missing woman, a thug, and a mysterious mound where it shouldn't be, Bernie copes with a drug bust that went wrong and the federal repercussions, problems with her sister, and an ambitious solar energy company. And, despite his continuing physical problems, Leaphorn is able to guide both of them.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Please include your name and mailing address. Your subject heading should read either "Win Don't Go Home" or "Win Rock with Wings." Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, July 2 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

Shelley Noble's Whisper Beach surprised me. I expected the typical summer book about women who reunite after twelve years, discovering romance and rediscovering friendship at a resort. It was anything but typical with a cast of characters that were grittier with more realistic problems than many of the characters in these type of books. Even the setting was a working class setting, the small-town diner and bars of a New Jersey town, as seen by the residents, not the tourists.

Vanessa Moran had escaped from Whisper Beach when she was eighteen. After witnessing the love of her life with another girl, she got drunk, got pregnant, and her father kicked her out of the house. Two friends helped her run; one gave her money; one showed up when she lost the baby. Now, she's a successful businesswoman in Manhattan, only returning for a funeral when her cousin's husband dies. Van hopes to escape quickly, but a couple friends have other plans.

Dorie, the woman who owns the pier's Blue Crab Restaurant, took in all the stray teens who worked for her, including Van. Now, she needs help to keep her restaurant going. With a little pressure, she gathers her "girls" around her one more time - Suze, wealthy socialite turned professor; Van's cousin, Gigi, a lost widow at thirty-one; Dana, the sarcastic one who Van blames for ruining her life; and, of course, Van. It's good to see some old friends, but Van has no interest in seeing Joe, the boy she wanted to marry at one time, or her father who kicked her out. Sometimes, though, life doesn't go as planned, and Van should know that. She appreciates the quote, "You Can't Go Home Again," but Van will learn home isn't what you thought you knew at eighteen.

The women's fiction that deals with friendship seldom deals with working class families and problems with family fights, drunkenness, abuse, pregnancy, illegal workers, all issues that come up in Whisper Beach. When I summarized it to a friend, he thought it sounded depressing. It isn't. In fact, Whisper Beach is a refreshing change from the expected storyline. Even the ending isn't the typical, "And, they lived happily ever after" ending. It's much more realistic, leaving doubt as to what will happen to the characters and their relationships. It's actually a treat to discover Shelley Noble's story of ordinary people coping with life.

Shelley Noble's website is www.shelleynoble.com.Shelley Noble is a former professional dancer and choreographer and has worked on a number of films. She lives at the Jersey shore where she loves to visit lighthouses and vintage carousels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America.

Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble. William Morrow. 2015. ISBN 9780062319166 (paperback), 416p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to participate in the TLC book tour.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book Chat - July Mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian

Did you catch Jinx' cameo? He was only there long enough for that quick appearance, and then went off to take a nap. But, he and I want to share this month's titles. Here are the July cozy mysteries from  Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian

Spellcasting in Silk by Juliet Blackwell - 7th Witchcraft Mystery
Butter Off Dead by Leslie Budewitz - 3rd Food Lovers' Village Mystery
Fatal Reservations by Lucy Burdette - 6th Key West Food Critic Mystery
Magic and Macaroons by Bailey Cates - 5th Magical Bakery Mystery
Peaches and Scream by Susan Furlong - 1st Georgia Peach Mystery
Death of an English Muffin by Victoria Hamilton - 3rd Merry Muffin Mystery
Wound Up in Murder by Betty Hechtman - 3rd Yarn Retreat Mystery
Grace Cries Uncle by Julie Hyzy - 6th Manor House Mystery
Dead Men Don't Eat Cookies by Virginia Lowell - 6th Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery
Death Under Glass by Jennifer McAndrews - 2nd Stained-Glass Mystery
Caught Read-Handed by Terrie Farley Moran - 2nd Read Em and Eat Mystery
Hooked on Ewe by Hannah Reed - 2nd Scottish Highlands Mystery
Macaroni and Freeze by Christine Wenger - 4th Comfort Food Mystery