Tag Archives: Murder mystery fiction

Jenn McKinlay, On Borrowed Time

(2015-01-17 005)Title: On Borrowed Time

Author: Jenn McKinlay

Series: A Library Lover’s Mystery, book 5

Publication Information: New York: Berkeley Prime Crime, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-425-26073-9

Library of Congress Classification: PS3556.R45

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Norris, Lindsay (Fictitious character)—Fiction
Briar Creek (Conn. :  Fictitious place)—Fiction
Library directors—Fiction
Public libraries—Fiction
Man-woman relationships–Fiction

This is the fifth book in A Library Lover’s Mystery series.

Lindsay Norris is the public library director of Briar Creek, Connecticut, a small New England town. She lives in an apartment with her dog, Heathcliff, and is part of a love triangle with local taxi boat captain, Mike Sullivan, and recently arrived (and married) British actor, Robbie Vine.

The town is preparing for Christmas. The library is decorated, and we get to meet the locals as the book progresses. Beth, the children’s librarian, is one of Lindsay’s best friends. Unfortunately, Beth also has a thing for Lindsay’s brother, Jack. Jack is an economist; he travels the world having one adventure (or misadventure, depending on your point of view) after another as he helps companies across the globe.

Jack sneaks into the library through and open window and Lindsay discovers him. Of course Jack doesn’t come right out and tell her that he’s in trouble. That would be too easy. He promises to tell her everything after he takes a nap. Lindsay was going to use the room for her library book club, but Jack’s presence causes her to move the meeting to another room.

Lindsay later finds the body of someone she doesn’t know in the room, and Jack is now missing. She does not tell the police the entire story of what happened, and she ends up getting Mike and–to a lesser extent–Robbie involved in the case. Mike and Lindsay witness Jack’s abduction by speedboat. Then Lindsay is threatened not to tell the police or her brother would be killed.

Beth is an interesting character. As a librarian responsible for teenage programming, she gets dressed up in a steampunk outfit to lead a teenage group in a get-together at the local restaurant. She’ a bit eclectic, and these are the types of characters that I like. To an extent she marches to her own drum and doesn’t care what others think. The book includes book club members’ recipes, one of which is Beth’s.

The love triangle isn’t something that I can relate to, since I’ve never been in one. Mike and Robbie do compete for Lindsay’s attention, and try to one-up each other. Robbie is only married for convenience and promises to divorce his wife.

It’s Christmas time and the library is decorated, but there really isn’t a feel for the holiday. The only time that Christmas comes into the picture is when Lindsay debates on whether or not to tell her parents what happened to Jack; the family is supposed to get together for the holiday.

As for Jack, eh. He’s just another pretty boy. It’s stretching reality to believe that archaeologists could live the life of Indiana Jones let alone economists. I sympathize with poor Beth, who’s bound to get burned in one of the upcoming novels.

A. Van Kraft, Sleepy Hollow: the Secret Life and Legend of Ichabod Crane

(2014-06-21 003)Title: Sleepy Hollow: the Secret Life and Legend of Ichabod Crane

Author: A. Van Kraft

Publication Information: A Studio Book, c2013. 1st ed.

ISBN: 978-0-615-81934-1

Library of Congress Classification: PS3611.R238

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Stevens, Andrew (Fictitious character)—Fiction
Crane, Ichabod (Fictitious character)—Fiction
Male teachers—New York (State)—Sleepy Hollow—Fiction
Intelligence officers—New York (State)—Sleepy Hollow—Fiction
Sleepy Hollow (N.Y.)—Fiction
New York (State)—History—Fiction

This book is a clever twist on Irving’s Legend.

Ichabod Crane is not what he seems. This is an alias for Andrew Stevens, a New York State agent sent to Sleepy Hollow by the Inspector General to take an informal census and to study the population. He is undercover and assumes the position of schoolmaster while he carries out his mission. What Stevens discovers shocks and horrifies him.

The year is 1788. George Washington has yet to take the oath of office as the first president of the United States–which takes place in 1789. The country is still governed by the Articles of Confederation. The United States is in a shambles, as Stevens says, and is just beginning to pull itself together after the Revolutionary War and the weak organization under the Articles.

Brom Bones, Katerina Van Tassel, Baltus Van Tassel, they are all here. Even the Headless Horseman makes an appearance, but the supernatural does not play any real role in the book. There are supernatural occurrences that happen, but they are explained away by Brom. The crimes taking place in Sleepy Hollow are all too real, too common and horrifying, and when Stevens discovers what is going on, he must flee or lose his life. Without the help of Katerina and Brom, he would die.

I liked this book. The reveal of what’s going on is surprising, and the punishment inflicted by the Sleepy Hollow people on one of their own is gruesome, but the person got his just desserts. There’s also references to Irving’s story throughout that contrasts with what Stevens is experiencing.

JoAnna Carl, The Chocolate Book Bandit

(2015-01-30 001)Title: The Chocolate Book Bandit

Series: A Chocoholic mystery

Author: JoAnna Carl

Publication Information: New York, N.Y.: Published by the Penguin Group, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-451-46754-6

Library of Congress Classification: PS3569.A51977

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Woodyard, Lee McKinney (Fictitious character)–Fiction
Warner Pier (Mich. : Fictitious place)–Fiction
Public libraries–Fiction

Lee McKinney Woodyard has been invited to become a trustee of the Warner Pier Public Library, which has a new director, Henry “Butch” Cassidy. She attends one of the meetings where, unfortunately,  one of the trustees is murdered right before a meeting, Lee becomes a suspect as do the trustees.

Told in the first person, the book slowly reveals who Lee is: married (her second), the manager of TenHuis Chocolate, a specialty shop in Warner Pier, Michigan. (Chocolate trivia is given between every couple of chapters.) Her and her husband grew up in this small town, where everyone knows everyone’s business. She also twists her words when she’s nervous. As the niece-in-law of the local police chief, Lee seems to have an inside track on certain information.  When someone tries to kill Lee, she is forced to deal with having police protection.

Lee ends up investigating the death and well as what’s going on in the library. One of Warner Pier’s local elite has an interest in the basement in the library. Why? Lee finds herself attracted to Butch as her husband seems more and more distant, spending time with his former high school flame.

The book is good, but the reveal of the murderer left me a bit flat. I think part of the problem is that I really do like Shelly Freydont’s murder mystery books.

Shelley Freydont, Silent Knife

(2014-01-11 001)Title: Silent Knife

Author: Shelley Freydont

Series: A Celebration Bay Mystery

Publication Information: New York: Berkeley Prime Crime, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-425-25238-3

Library of Congress Classification: PS3556.R45

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Montgomery, Liv (Fictitious character)—Fiction
Celebration Bay (N.Y. :  Fictitious place)—Fiction
Special events—Planning—Fiction
Special events industry—Fiction.

I read this one after Kate Kingsbury’s The Clue is in the Pudding and was afraid that I wouldn’t like it as much. I was wrong.

Celebration Bay, the town where Liv Montgomery moves to after leaving Manhattan and her events planner job there, is somewhere in New York State. I assume that it’s on a body of water, perhaps the Hudson, but the water doesn’t play any role in this mystery, and this is the second book in the series.

Liv is relatively new to Celebration Bay. She was hired to be the events coordinator for the town when it was decided that such a person was necessary to make sure the town’s festivities ran well. Celebrations are big money to the town. This one takes place during the Christmas season and after Liv had cracked her first case in Celebration Bay months before.

There’s a warm, homey feeling to the place, which is something that I love. Liv has a Westie named Whiskey, who loves singing with her assistant, Ted, a local who also sings in the choir and tells her to bring the Westie to the carol sing. (Liv knows better.) Whiskey is very well liked by just about everyone in the town. When Liv does her morning routine of visiting the local coffee shop and bakery, there’s always something for Whiskey, who is accompanying her. Her landladies, Ida and Edna Zimmerman, also spoil the dog, and are happy to take him in for a time as Liv gets tied up with work or, on some occasions, snooping.

Problems begin when Newland Gifts is taken over and becomes Trim a Tree. The Newland family patriarch is dying and, needing money, the business is turned over to a cousin, Clarence Thornsby and his wife, Grace. To the surprise of everyone, the Thornsbys turn the old store into Trim a Tree and push out the Newlands; only young Penny is kept on as a salaried employee to help run it. Trim a Tree then hires Phil Cosgrove as their own part-time Santa Claus; the store sells the most garish, most outlandish decorations, which endears the Thornsbys to no one.

In a place like Celebration Bay, this is a no-no. There is only ONE Santa in the town, and that’s Hank Ousterhout, who owns the garage. He’s done it for years and done it well. Christmas is traditional, not new wave or hip. The light-up night of the town tree is the beginning of the official holiday season, and all the stores are expected to turn on their lights after the tree is lit, which announces the arrival of Santa. Poor Liv is stuck trying to undo what she was not responsible for: get Grace Thornsby, who is running Trim a Tree, to abide by the town rules and get rid of the extra Santa. When Phil turns up dead the night of the tree-lighting, the secrets start to come out. The local sheriff, Bill Gunnison, has sciatica, as well as new deputies who, in one overzealous move, arrest one of the town’s old-timers on suspicion of murder–which turns out to be a big mistake.

Of course there’s romance. Nancy Pyne, a (relative) newcomer, owns Pine Bough and likes Hank. Typically, Hank is clueless. Penny had little Bobby out of wedlock but is going to marry Jason; no one, however,  is really sure if Jason is the father. Liv has hired A.K. Pierce, an ex-Marine and head of his own security firm, to help the sheriff. She cannot understand Chaz Bristow, the local newspaper editor who once had a career as an investigative journalist in Los Angeles; after several years there, Bristow abruptly quit, came home and took over the paper that he inherited. He spends his time there and fishing, much to Liv’s frustration. He has no real interest in helping to solve the murder, except to turn up and drive Liv crazy.

A fun book with a real feel for of a small town filled with interesting characters.

Kate Kingsbury, The Clue is in the Pudding

(2014-01-17 001)Title: The Clue is in the Pudding

Author: Kate Kingsbury

Series: Holiday Pennyfoot Hotel Mysteries

Publication Information: New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2013, c2012

ISBN: 978-0-425-25232-1

Library of Congress Classification: PR9199.3.K44228

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Baxter, Cecily Sinclair (Fictitious character)—Fiction
Actors—Crimes against—Fiction
Pennyfoot Hotel (England : Imaginary place)—Fiction

The series, Holiday Pennyfoot Hotel Mysteries, set during the Christmas season at the Pennyfoot Hotel. There are regular mystery books at the Pennyfoot set all year round, so I was surprised to find a series like this. I love mysteries set around the holidays–don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s because I like to see what other people do for the holiday season, even if they are fictitious. This book is not the first in the series but several volumes into it.

The setting is historical, taking place in Badger’s End, England, at the beginning of the 20th century. The Pennyfoot Country Club is decorated for Christmas, and the staff are preparing the hotel for holiday festivities. Cecily Sinclair Baxter, the manager of the hotel, has her hands full. The household manager, Mrs. Chubb, has left to take care of her grandchildren while her daughter recovers from being ill. The replacement, Beatrice Tucker, has alienated just about everyone in the house with her waspish tongue and temper. Cecily’s husband’s first name is never given; he’s simply called Baxter throughout. (All the characters at the Pennyfoot are referred to by their first names except Mrs. Chubb and Baxter.)

The hotel is filled up when Archibald Armitage, master thespian, is found murdered in his room. It is revealed that Armitage had been the lover of a young woman whom he had abandoned after she became pregnant by him; she committed suicide. This being the Edwardian Age, her entire reputation had been destroyed as well as her standing in society. Strangely enough, her parents are also staying at the hotel for the holidays. Then there’s Tucker, whom Armitage had apparently insulted one night after she had played up to him because he was well-known. However, Pansy the maid thought Armitage a gentleman because he had saved Tess, Samuel the stable manager and carriage driver’s dog (and Pansy’s fiance), from drowning in the pond. However, she’s in the minority.

There is a lively cast of characters. Tucker is just a miserable, old bag who constantly tears anyone apart for any little infraction. The cook Michel, who speaks English with a French accent (but his Cockney slang when drunk reveals his true birthplace), detests her. She has so upset the household that Cecily tries to bring her into line to no avail; Cecily is also afraid to offend the woman, since she needs a housekeeper to keep the household running efficiently through the holiday season. Samuel and Pansy have been engaged for awhile when something happens to break them up. Pansy’s friend Gertie, also a maid, finds Clive the caretaker an enigma; her twins adore him and he cares for them and her, but he’s harboring a secret. Gertie herself has been around, having had children with a man whom she loved but then found out was already married; had fallen for an upper-class man who wanted to move her and the children to London, but she had realized that it would never work and broke it off; had married a much older man more for the children than for herself; and now, widowed, she is not sure what to make of Clive. Gilbert Tubbs, Samuel’s assistant, also has an ax to grind with Armitage.

Then there’s Cecily’s friends, Madeline and Phoebe. Madeline had married Kevin Prestwick, the local doctor, who had been a suitor of Cecily’s before taking up with Madeline. Madeline has precognitive abilities that come over her and, in a trance, she calls out what she sees. Phoebe married Freddie the colonel, whom Baxter is sure is completely crazy. Phoebe is completely self-absorbed and into how things look; substance isn’t that important.

For the most part, I found Baxter a wet dishrag. I kept wondering why Cecily, had married him. However, in one passage, he secretly admitted that he was proud of his wife’s sleuthing abilities and couldn’t understand why the government hadn’t simply given women the right to vote, figuring that if they were only half as smart as his wife then the country could only benefit from the brainpower.

I liked the book, and the characters. I would recommend the book to anyone who likes historical mysteries. The running joke throughout is that Cecily wants to keep the murder hush-hush, since most people know about the Pennyfoot’s record of having murders committed around the holidays. It’s a definite damper on the festivities.