Thursday, April 26, 2018

What Are You Reading?

Let's talk about what we're reading this week, or in my case, not only what I'm reading, but what I bought and hope to read.

I bought two books recently. I'm reading Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution by Todd S. Purdum. You won't see a review for quite a while. The book has 400 pages and I only read it in between mysteries that I've reviewing. But, this one hits home for my love of Broadway, musical theater, and biography. So, someday I may finish it.

I also bought a book that I could have read from the library. In fact, I checked it out once, and realized there were too many people waiting for it, so I returned it. Then, with yesterday's arrest of a suspect accused of being the "Golden State Killer", I just went ahead and ordered I'll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. I know the holds list is only going to get longer on that one.

What are you reading or listening to this week? I hope you've found something of interest.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Ten Year Stretch edited by Martin Edwards and Adrian Muller

Ten Year Stretch is a crime fiction anthology to commemorate the tenth anniversary of CrimeFest in Bristol, England. Peter James wrote the foreword. Martin Edwards and Adrian Muller edited it. Edwards writes the introduction about the authors and Muller writes the afterword to tell the history of the convention. And, there's a stellar list of authors who contributed original short stories to the collection.

I really could just say if you like crime fiction you should be familiar with these authors. Twenty writers offered new stories, and donated all the royalties to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). Check out the roster: Bill Beverly, Simon Brett, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Jeffrey Deaver, Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis, Peter Guttridge, Sophie Hannah, John Harvey, Mick Herron, Donna Moore, Caro Ramsay, Ian Rankin, James Sallis, Zoe Sharp, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Maj Sjowall, Michael Stanley, Andrew Taylor. Maj Sjowall, with her partner Per Wahloo, originated what we call Scandinavian noir, but hasn't written a novel in forty years. Her story, "Long Time No See", is translated for this collection.

As expected, all of the stories were intriguing. Peter Guttridge's "Normal Rules Do No Apply" is set at CrimeFest where an author is killed. Other authors appear as characters in the story. Ian Rankin brings back a retired Rebus. Deaver's "Blind Date" was a creepy story. Simon Brett's mystery was nostaligic. "The Last Locked Room" is a tribute to locked room mysteries, and a retired policeman investigates a mystery his grandfather left him. But, it's Yrsa Sigurdardottir's "Road Trip" that was terrifying, although the entire story takes place in and around a car.

This is a collection that's of the highest quality. Ten Year Stretch is an anthology that really belongs in every crime fiction reader's collection.

Ten Year Stretch edited by Martin Edwards and Adria Muller. Poisoned Pen Press, 2018. ISBN 9781464210549 (paperback), 366p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Claws for Concern by Miranda James

It's always a pleasure to return to Mississippi to the world of Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel. Although Charlie gets involved in murder investigations, he's grounded with his job, his family, and good friends. It was time to pick up Miranda James' latest, Claws for Concern.

Charlie's too caught up in his new role of grandfather to be interested when an author wants to talk to him. But, Jack Pemberton does try to smooth the way, in traditional Mississippi fashion. One of Jack's friends is also a friend of the Ducote sisters, and she encourages Charlie to listen to the author. Jack is a true crime writer who is interested in telling some of Charlie's stories. As a southern gentleman, though, Charlie doesn't feel right talking about himself or putting himself forward.

The highlight of Charlie and Diesel's lives right now is the new grandbaby, Charlie. When his grandson's scheduled for a visit, Charlie's impatient to leave his volunteer job at the Athena Public Library. He still notices the stranger in the library, a man he'd started seeing in the last week. When the man finally gets around to asking for help, he finds an address in an old phone directory, and stuns Charlie when he asks if Charlie's Uncle Del is still around. When there seems to be a family connection, Charlie's interested in Bill Delaney's story.

But, Jack Pemberton has a warning for Charlie. It seems Bill was once involved in a shocking murder case. Instead of welcoming Delaney into the family home, or writing with Jack Pemberton, Charlie finds himself investigating a twenty-year-old case, teamed up with Pemberton. This case has family written all over it.

Yes, Charlie's latest case is intriguing. I'm always a fan of cold cases. It's fascinating to watch the sleuth dig into the past and try to put the puzzle together. But, the real reason I return to the Cat in the Stacks mysteries? It's Charlie and his world. It's a pleasure to read about a mature sleuth with a family he loves. They've had problems at times. And, Charlie's work life hasn't always been easy. But, he's a gentleman who loves his community, friends, and family. And, James makes this such an essential part of every story. It's a joy to return to a world where two charming males, Charlie and Diesel, enjoy their lives.

The website for this series is http://www.catinthestacks.com

Claws for Concern by Miranda James. Berkley Prime Crime, 2018. ISBN 9780425277782 (hardcover), 277p.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The War Bride's Scrapbook by Caroline Preston

Caroline Preston, author of Jackie by Josie, takes a unique look at a World War II marriage in the fascinating "novel in pictures", The War Bride's Scrapbook. Using historic pictures and captions, clipped art and illustrations, she tells the story of a couple who met and married quickly during the war, and the follow-up when the man came home. It's a sad story, but very revealing of the times and attitudes.

Two adult women correspond after one finds a scrapbook in a suitcase in their mother's closet. They had never seen the scrapbook, and the story it reveals is not one that they had ever heard nor understood. The scrapbook is divided into four sections, "Life Before Perry - 1921-1943", "Our Romance - 1943", "Life Without Perry - 1943-1945", and "Homecoming - 1945". The scrapbook ends there. Fortunately, the daughters reveal the story's ending.

Lila Louise Jerome graduated from Sweet Briar College in Virginia, but failed to graduate with the "Mrs." her parents hoped she would achieve. She was fascinated by architecture, but women couldn't get an architecture degree in Virginia at the time. So, after graduation she worked for her father in the insurance business, and, once the U.S. entered the war, she worked for the University of Virginia running the Bond Drive office. Then, she met Perry Weld for the second time, when her roommate left. She advertised for a roommate and Perry answered. He was a sergeant, a combat engineer getting ready to go overseas. He'd graduated with a degree in architecture, so they shared an interest. Fifteen days later they were married in what was called "a furlough wedding". And, when Perry was sent for training, and then overseas, Lila Weld put together a scrapbook, a keepsake for when "a husband returns home".

What happens when a man comes home, a husband that you only knew for a month before he left? What happens when the man comes home injured, no longer the man you married? This marriage, and Lila Louise Jerome's experiences were unusual. And, her daughters questioned why Lila and Perry didn't divorce. It's a fascinating question, and Lila's future is revealed only in her obituary years after the war.

Preston's book brings the war years and this marriage to life, using all the little details of the scrapbook. It's a unique way to tell a story. And, it works so well. It's a moving book, with a powerful ending with that obituary. Preston, an archivist who has collected historic scrapbooks for years, puts them to excellent use in this unusual story.

Caroline Preston's website is www.carolinepreston.com

The War Bride's Scrapbook by Caroline Preston. HarperCollins, 2017. ISBN 9780061966927 (hardcover), 223p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday Reading Corner & Promises, Promises

Today's Sunday Reading Corner, Promises, Promises, isn't quite what I would have hoped. It's been a while since Jinx was in a video chat, and he was a little too eager. But, here it is.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Antique Blues by Jane K. Cleland

I have to admit that I read so many mysteries that, over the years, I've dropped some series that I used to enjoy. They no longer seem fresh or the characters haven't changed. But, I always look forward to the next Josie Prescott Antiques mystery. Author Jane K. Cleland continues to explore the antiques and art world. Best of all, Josie Prescott continues to evolve while her friendships and loyalties remain steadfast. Fans of Josie and her world will enjoy Antique Blues, and welcome the heartwarming ending.

Josie and her fiancé, Ty Alvarez, are at a party for Mo Shannon when Josie overhears a troubling conversation. Mo's parents fear Cal Lewis, boyfriend of Mo's sister, Lydia, may be abusing her. Josie's suspicions are aroused even more when Mo asks Josie to appraise her newly acquired Japanese woodblock print. Cal sold it to her, and he protests that it's not worth appraising for insurance purposes. Then, Mo is murdered, and Cal disappears on the same day.

Naturally, Josie offers assistance to her friend, Police Chief Ellis Hunter. She's the one with the knowledge and staff who can work on tracing the history of the Japanese piece. It may provide a reason for murder. Josie also knows Mo's family and some of her friends.

Although the Shannons are in mourning, Mo's father, Frank, shows up at Josie's, and asks her to appraise a Martin guitar he owns, but he can only provide vague details as to its history. While tracing the provenance, Josie begins to add some of Frank's own story to the account of Mo's murder.

There are so many reasons I appreciate Jane K. Cleland's mysteries. Although Josie does have one tstl moment in this book (too stupid to live), that's an exception in this story. Josie respects her relationship with Police Chief Hunter, and she shares her knowledge and her suppositions with him. At times, he's able to shoot down her ideas. Cleland does not treat the police as idiots. It's only Josie's specialized knowledge that allows her to find clues the police might not discover.

The hunt for information about the antiques and art is fascinating. Cleland involves Josie's staff. Josie isn't the only one who works on these searches. Her staff knows experts, calls and communicates with them, and passes information on to Josie. She doesn't work in a vacuum. The information about the Japanese art work and the Martin guitar comes as a result of teamwork.

And, Cleland has one strong point going for her, from my point of view. Once Josie began to date Ty Alvarez, the two remain a couple. There is no romantic triangle, no cheating. That romantic triangle element that lasts forever in some cozy series is one of my pet peeves. It's a pleasure to see the strength, the humor, and the love in the relationship between Josie and Ty. And, it's a relationship supported by a close-knit group of friends.

Josie Prescott has grown over the course of the series. She embodies, and believes, that people change. "We get better. Stronger. More capable. At least, we do if we want to." Josie Prescott has grown, personally and professionally, over the years. Antique Blues is the perfect example of Josie's growth, culminating in a wonderful ending for those of us who have followed the series.

Jane K. Cleland's website is www.JaneCleland.net

Antiques Blues by Jane K. Cleland. St. Martin's Minotaur. 2018. ISBN 9781250148742 (hardcover), 304p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Winners and "P" = Murder Mystery

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Lisa W. from Rochester, IN won the copy of Becky Masterman's A Twist of the Knife. Rattlesnake Hill by Leslie Wheeler will go to Sally S. from Antioch, CA. The books will go out in the mail today.

Today, murder mysteries deal with poison and puzzles. I have a copy of Parnell Hall's latest Puzzle Lady mystery, The Purloined Puzzle. Amateur sleuth and crossword expert Cora Felton is asked to solve a puzzle, only to find that it's been stolen, and a murder weapon, a blood-stained knife, is found in its place. And, Cora's least favorite ex-husband is in town pulling a real estate scam. And, he may have purchased the knife.






A Crime of Poison by Nancy Haddock is a Silver Six Crafting mystery. The Silver Six are known for their arts and crafts. Every business along the town square in Lilyvale, Arkansas will benefit from the Fall Folk Art Festival and Bake Sale. That includes Nixy's store run by her and the Silver Six, a group of retirees. But, when a local troublemaker is found dead, two members of the Silver Six are accused of cooking up a murder plot. Nixy and the group don't want their group reduced, so they have to find a killer.





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. Your subject line should read either "Win The Purloined Puzzle" or "Win A Crime of Poison." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 26 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.