Suspense and Sensibility: Or, First Impressions Revisited (Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, #2)

by Carrie Bebris

I’m a sucker for anything based on Jane Austen if it is well done. And sometimes when it is not. This is evidenced by the fact that I’ve read all of these Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, though this is the only one I have actually written anything on. It starts off pretty well; the characters seemed pretty true to the originals, though Kitty is given a more positive spin. It is an improvement over Pride and Prescience. I actually chuckled a few times. Sadly, it degenerates pretty quickly once the mystery kicks in. Unfortunately, it is another paranormal mystery and it is positively outlandish. It was nice to see the Dashwood women again. Lucy Ferrars nee Steele starts out true to form, but her ultimate fate is positively ludicrous and cringe-worthy. The resolution has some tragic aspects considering the fluffy way it starts out. I was considerably less patient with the rest in the series, just skipping through the mystery part. I remember looking forward to more of Georgiana as she was pretty intriguing, and also an appearance of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Unfortunately, I do not remember anything about any of the other stories, which I guess is a review of the whole series in and of itself.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

September 15, 2014

The Trail of the Green Doll (Judy Bolton Mysteries #27)

By Margaret Sutton

“This must be the entrance to the cave…We never would have found it if Judy’s shoe hadn’t scraped against it when she fell.”
You were determined to find it, with or without me,” she retorted. “Isn’t anybody going to ask me if I hurt myself?”
Apparently nobody was.

Judy’s adventure starts out with her putting a sign on the road advertising her home as a place for tourists to stay. Without consulting her husband who is a secret FBI agent with an office in his house. Not Good, Judy, Not Good. Of course, It quickly attracts some really sketchy men and Judy comes to her senses. Anyway, a young single mother with two children whose car had just been forced off the road and her purse stolen also saw it, and Judy is off to the races.

What follows is a mystery involving a valuable jade collection that is missing from a mansion that has just burned to the ground. The rather flaky and secretive widowed mother was traveling to see her Uncle Paul, the owner. Besides being the key to the missing jade, her history includes a soap opera-ish love triangle between her, her late husband, and his identical twin brother, three cousins who grew up there.

This effort by Margaret Sutton is notable for its exploration of the Hindu mythological tale, The Ramayana, which permeates the story and the mystery. It surely would have been very strange and very educational to her young readers.

This book is not a favorite despite its exotic and interesting aspects. The little family and their troubles did not appeal to me, and one of the mysteries (Talking Trees!) had a very far-fetched explanation. Almost as implausible as the secret tunnel in The Black Cat’s Clue.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

October 8, 2021

Blindsighted

By Karin Slaughter

I thought this one was a good bet because of the fantastic reviews, and the backlist featuring the same lead characters with the promise of relationship development leading to a satisfying and happy partnership in crime-fighting. Unfortunately, I found this book to be way too gruesome and unnecessarily explicit in both the description of the gore and the torture both mental and physical.

I also could not understand and was very bothered by two other character’s unconscionable behaviors. 

**Spoiler**

How could Lena, as a supposedly good and tough-minded cop let a half-conscious pitiful victim steal her gun right off of her and ultimately blow her head off? When she took her gun, Lena had a chance to talk her down and change her mind. Instead, Lena pretty much did the opposite with her accusatory outburst. She as good as pulled the trigger herself. Other than her feeling bad, there were no consequences for her. After that, she was just dead to me. The other thing that really turned me off was Sara, our main girl, putting her own emotional preference of keeping the horrible details of her rape a secret from Jeffrey despite the jarring similarities and connections to what happened to Sibyl, the first victim, and then the second victim. I respect her right not to confide and I even understand it, but not when other women’s lives are at stake! Also she was really dense as to who the psycho was until it was too late. Speaking of which, the demented actions of the killer were so over the top, I didn’t think it credible that he could be such a normal nice guy with no hint of anything “wrong” there. Also, it is established the killer had knowledge and access to a certain drug. There was one pharmacist in town. Hello? 

**end spoiler**

I still give it 3 stars because it kept me reading and engaged. I’m not giving the aptly named author a second chance because I read enough about the series as a whole to know there is too much misery in store. I am a big fan of Midsomer County and the murders therein, but I will be stepping on the gas and leaving Grant County in my rearview mirror.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

July 20, 2019

A Share in Death

By Deborah Crombie

This was a good Agatha Christie/Golden age type mystery set in modern times. It could well have occurred in the 1930s but for Gemma, a single mother and Duncan Kincaid’s sergeant. And one of the character’s purple spiked hair. Most of the appeal for me lies in its being the first in an ongoing series where the continuing characters grow and develop. I don’t believe I will like it as well as Anne Perry’s Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, but it seems to have more promise than another partners-in-crime type series I started but quit after the second one.

The puzzle was pretty good as to the who and the why, although the solution came upon our hero like a bolt of lightning without a lot of build-up. It was kind of a relief to read a story that was just a straightforward mystery without a huge shocker of a twist that authors nowadays seem obligated to include. This requirement also obliges the reader to look for the “trick” around every corner and not take anything at face value. This can be entertaining, but it is also very wearing on the nerves.

I thought it was funny how desperate our hero is for a committed relationship. This was a nice quality, but it caused him to have harmless mini-crushes on two women simultaneously. One happily married with two children! I’m sure it won’t take long for him to notice the woman right in front of him! 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

July 24, 2019

The Girl Sleuth

by Bobbie Ann Mason

Bobbie Ann Mason’s book on Girl Sleuths crystallized for me why I loved Trixie Belden and why Nancy Drew left me kind of cold. Any girl (or boy) that grew up on these series books will find a lot to love and relate to in this volume. As well as very illuminating, it is, at times, laugh out loud funny. You will find yourself cringing and shaking your head in wonder at some of the excerpts from the unrevised versions of the stories from the ’30s and ’40s.

If only I had been introduced to Judy Bolton instead of Nancy Drew! Where was she? Did my library even have her? Did I just overlook her? It’s a mystery, but I am sad for my younger self for being deprived of her adventures when I really would have just gobbled them up and waited in suspense for the next one. Well, this book has made me think maybe it’s not too late…I’m bidding on a lot offered on eBay today!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

April 20, 2014

Nancy Drew and Her Sister Sleuths

by Michael G. Cornelius and Melanie E. Gregg

This book consists of 12 or so essays of diverse, and at times, unusual subject matter. Of course one would expect an essay on race and xenophobia (which yielded unsurprising conclusions), but how the french translation quixotically at times altered “Nancy’s” family origins and relationship to her father? The history of the Stratemeyer syndicate was interesting, dispelling many myths about the series (originating from taking information from interviews of Mildred Wirt and Harriet Adams at face value, not accounting for memory lapses or spin.) The essay claiming Nancy Drew was afraid of technology was poorly supported and weakly exampled. I don’t buy it and I had the feeling that another scholar could have made the opposite case. Of particular interest were the forays into the “sister sleuths” Cherry Ames, Trixie Beldon, and Linda Carlton: In many ways, they were better written and the heroines more interesting and more worthy to be role models than Nancy Drew. The essays range from academic and too serious to fun and amusing. But all were very educational and had interesting insights. Being a Marshmallow and a Potterhead, I did enjoy the occasional mentions of Veronica Mars and the essay on Hermione Granger. Surprisingly, there was little to nothing regarding the great Judy Bolton series.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

April 9, 2014

Murder on St. Mark’s Place (Gaslight Mystery #2)

by Victoria Thompson

**Major Spoilers: murderer revealed.**

Finishing my second of the Gaslight mysteries, I’ve decided that other than the promise of the overarching relationship building between our protagonists, and some promising subplots, the individual mysteries have little to offer me. The writing is too simplistic and basic. It’s all action and dialogue, with the occasional foray into a minor history lesson. There is nothing thought-provoking. There is no wit or humor. It reads like it’s written for a pre-teen except for the adult themes. Here is an example:

Sarah found this the most pleasant of all the rides at the park, so she readily agreed. The line was long, but it moved quickly since the wheel was large and held many cars.

Here is what passes for humor:

Sarah looked down from her perch the top of the Ferris wheel. The view indeed was breathtaking. She couldn’t seem to breathe at all.

Get it?
The killer is so obvious that I was dumbfounded by our heroine’s stupidity and blindness.

Sarah hadn’t thought of that. Another reason to ask Dirk to go with her. He’d know exactly how a man like that would behave since he himself was a man like that.

Exactly, Sarah, Dirk fits the profile of the Killer. But she doesn’t even suspect him until she is shown photographic evidence. She confronts him, but he gives her an alibi for one of the four killings, and she immediately decides he is innocent after all without even checking it out first. She confides some of the facts of the case by way of an apology and targets a witness who can identify him. A day later, Dirk murders the witness.

I killed her, Malloy, just as surely as if I beat her myself!” The tears were welling in her eyes, hot as lava, burning and stinging and begging to be shed.

Yes, you did, Sarah. You really did. You are an idiot. It’s too bad you can’t be prosecuted as an accessory.
Some things are baffling:

Sarah saw no need to blacken the name of the entire Schyler family by accusing their son of murder when he wasn’t able to defend himself.

Defend himself? He just made a full confession including the motive to beating 3 women to death, not to mention attempting to toss her off a Ferris Wheel, but fell off himself instead. What would be his defense? Pray tell.
It turns out that the original victim who got Sarah interested in the case was killed by her brother-in-law, who is a wife-beater, which Sarah has gobs of experience in identifying the symptoms and characteristics thereof. There is no doubt about it. Yet…

“You didn’t get those bruises from falling down the stairs,” Sarah said. “Someone hit you. Was it your husband?

Who else, Sarah? Who. Else.

Could Lars Otto have been the killer (of the first victim, his sister-in-law) all along? That would explain so much…

Including the bruises on his hands that same day. Ya think? And so on.
I hope I am not being too harsh. but this is one of the highest-rated in the series. There is a lot to like in the first two, but for me, a mystery has to have either an intriguing puzzle, or some wit and humor, or great descriptions or thought-provoking insights into social or psychological conditions. Or some snappy entertaining writing. I’m a sucker for a good romance, but the one in this is shaping up to be fairly predictable. I am interested in the subplots, including Sarah’s reconciliation with her wealthy snobby family. When she is not trying to solve a mystery, Sarah is likable and admirable. I can download the series from the library. So, who knows? I may be trying the next one, barring nothing better coming along. They are fast and easy, for sure.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

September 19, 2017

Murder on Astor Place (Gaslight Mystery #1)

by Victoria Thompson

I understand the bad reviews for this one amongst many who enjoy cozy mysteries. The author pulls somewhat of a bait and switch on the reader. It starts out with the trappings of a cozy: likable female amateur crime solver aided by a man; little or no onscreen violence, the hint of romance and promise of a relationship, and neighborhood-based. Most of all, the voice of the author is light and breezy despite the grim happenings. The tone is very discordant and encourages the reader to persevere through the urban poverty, sad, hopeless lives, and brutal (off-screen) murders. But then only to be confronted with the horrifying reveal at the end. This book bears a lot of resemblances to Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series. A lot. Because I’ve been reading Anne Perry’s dark and dense mysteries for over 2 decades, I saw the squalid key to the puzzle coming very early in the book. Also, there was a big clue. Thompson did throw in a few extra wrinkles at the end, which were a little over the top.

I liked the heroine and enjoyed the historical setting, driven to Wikipedia, as I was, to see how successful Teddy Roosevelt was in cleaning up the sickening corruption of the New York Police Department. Not Very. The male protagonist was a major problem for me in this book, as he was just as corrupt as his colleagues and seemingly not too bothered by it. In fact, he resented Teddy’s efforts. Frank Malloy is no Thomas Pitt. Despite my problems with some of the aspects of this first book, I am going to give the series another try because, reading a few random reviews and previews ahead, I like the arc the series will be taking. There was a lot of ground laid in this first book for many interesting and promising journeys ahead. Also, I noted that this first book’s reviews were not as strong as the follow-ups, and MS Thompson has won or been nominated for a few prestigious awards.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

September 19, 2017

The Stranger Diaries

By Elly Griffiths

“It’s a quote,’ I say. ‘From The Tempest.’ ‘What’s the next line?’ says Harbinder though I’m sure she’s looked it up. ‘Hell is empty,’ I say, ‘and all the devils are here.”

I loved the 4 narrator format on this audio. There were many things I liked about the book: The literary theme, the characters, the old-fashionedness, the creepiness, the light humor. I liked the characters seeing themselves from the different perspectives of the others and the changes of attitudes from the first impressions. There were also some amusing references to Harry Potter and Georgette Heyer. However, the murderer proved something of an anticlimax. Looking back I should have guessed (which I didn’t even suspect, my bad) because there was no one else it really could have been as motivation or opportunity was lacking in everyone else. Actually, the motive was pretty obscure to me. The Stranger, the story within the novel wasn’t very good either. And much to my annoyance and confusion, since I was listening to it on audible, the last 30 minutes is a telling of the whole story all over again and just tacks on an ending. There was a ghostly presence near the end but I feel like it was a loose end. I feel like there should have been more links between the story, The Stranger. and the mystery of The Stranger Diaries.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

May 19, 2020

The Haunted Road (Judy Bolton #25)

By Margaret Sutton

Dr. Bolton patted his black-haired daughter on the shoulder…”I have a quotation that may help you get through today…It’s this: A trouble either can be remedied or it cannot. If it can be, then set about it. If it can not be…bear it so bravely that it may become transfigured to a blessing.”
‘Today I’m setting about it,” Judy said. “I’m not ready to bear it bravely and I’m the one who’s transfigured-or disfigured. I can’t decide which.”

I had to take a break from this book because of other commitments, so my memory is a little weak about some of the particulars. This was pretty exciting and suspenseful due to Peter’s disappearance while chasing a highjacked truck. At first, there is a real danger that he was buried in a landslide. When we learn that he probably got away from that, we know he is still in danger because he never comes back. Judy is frantic, and can’t help but think that the worst has happened. At the urging of Peter’s boss, Mr. Trent, she does some undercover work in a factory. The scenes in the factory are interesting, especially dealing with the notorious Twila North. What a piece of work she is!

Judy hides away in a truck, which leads to her finally finding Peter. He has been wrapped up in a sheet for 5 days unable to hardly move with only an occasional drink of water. He hasn’t eaten or, as Peter subtly hints, been able to use the bathroom.

Despite the grim proceedings and Peter’s life being really feared for, there is some good amusing banter between Judy and Horace including some banter regarding how she looks with her new disguise of black dyed hair and glasses. I also like the brief appearances of Holly, Honey, Lois, and Lorraine.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

July 14, 2021