Category Archives: Book review

The Other Lady Vanishes

By Jayne Ann Krenz

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Well now. I confess the heroine in this one was NOT who I expected it to be, although she does appear as a secondary character. Krenz (excuse me Quick) has used a variation of this plot line (heroine goes into hiding after having been committed to an asylum and kept there against her will). It’s a prime example of adapting a basic premise to different plot lines for different eras. 

We are so used to and dependent on technology that we modern readers sometimes forget how easy it used to be to disappear and create a new identity for yourself.

This story involves drugs, spies, Hollywood Stars, fortune tellers, blackmail…

From Amazon Description

“Quick conjures up a celluloid world that will be catnip to fans of that era evoking the sensation it was plucked straight from the Warner Bros. vault.”–Entertainment Weekly

The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Knew Too Much sweeps readers back to 1930s California–where the most dazzling of illusions can’t hide the darkest secrets…

After escaping from a private sanitarium, Adelaide Blake arrives in Burning Cove, California, desperate to start over.

Working at an herbal tea shop puts her on the radar of those who frequent the seaside resort town: Hollywood movers and shakers always in need of hangover cures and tonics. One such customer is Jake Truett, a recently widowed businessman in town for a therapeutic rest. But unbeknownst to Adelaide, his exhaustion is just a cover.

In Burning Cove, no one is who they seem. Behind facades of glamour and power hide drug dealers, gangsters, and grifters. Into this make-believe world comes psychic to the stars Madame Zolanda. Adelaide and Jake know better than to fall for her kind of con. But when the medium becomes a victim of her own dire prediction and is killed, they’ll be drawn into a murky world of duplicity and misdirection.

Neither Adelaide or Jake can predict that in the shadowy underground they’ll find connections to the woman Adelaide used to be–and uncover the specter of a killer who’s been real all along..

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The Serpent Garden

Judith Merkle Riley

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is my favorite of all Riley’s books, perhaps because the heroine is an artist like myself. Susana Dallet is left the widow of a painter at a time when artist Guilds didn’t allow women to paint no matter how talented they were. Since her husband was murdered when he was committing adultery, he was no loss. 

He also departed the world leaving Susana broke and with no means of supporting herself. On the advice of the widow (of another dead painter) downstairs, Susana finishes a commission taken by her dead husband, pretending his ghost came home and finished the work so she would have money for his funeral. The widow downstairs tells her that she has supported herself for several years by selling her dead husbands paintings of a naked Adam and Eve. However she is running out of them, so she suggests Susana paint more Adam and Eves adding miniatures by HER husband and they split the money. So Susana becomes two dead painters. 

Her work draws the attention of Cardinal Worsley and hr recruits (blackmails) her to travel with King Henry VIII’s sister when she travels to France to marry it’s aging king. 

This book is full of ironic humor, fun and adventure without straying from the mores existing at the time. There are plots, subplots, conspiracies; even one involving a conflict between the angel Hadrial (in charge of inspirations, arts and music —don’t ask) and a demon prince who is out to make as much trouble as he can while he fulfills-the last command put on him before he was imprisoned. 

Don’t worry—Everything ends well. 

CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO BOOK

Review: DVD- Murdoch Mysteries

While this is a venue where I do advertise my own books, I also use it to review other media; mostly e-books, but I occasionally will also review a different media.

The DVD’s are as well produced as any you could buy in a store. They aren’t cheap but not exhortatively expensive either ($49 on Amazon).

I was first acquainted with this series when it was shown on Ovation network under the title of “The Artful Detective”. I had a hard time finding it under this title because Ovation Network never mentioned it as the original title of the series. FYI there are also a series of movies giving longer treatment to the stories with different actors in the key roles. As these actors had different takes on the characters, viewers of the tv series may not be thrilled with them. However, I really enjoy well-done period mysteries, especially when they are as true to life (in the period) as these are and peopled with colorful characters and entertaining mysteries. My favorite in the TV Series is probably going to be “The Annoying Red Planet”, although a couple of others run close.

Word of warning here: if you are expecting modern (PC) sensibilities of sensitive subjects like abortion, cross dressing, civil rights or gay rights you won’t find it here. As a person who likes history to include all the warts and imperfections, I found this series delightful. The forensics are very true to what was being used then and the mysteries are excellent and never telegraphed ahead of time.

Book Review: Montana Horseman

by John S. McCord

You don’t find many western writers around these days. It isn’t so much that there are not any, it’s that the genre was taken over several years ago by bodice rippers, looking for new ground because they had worn out the Regency and Historical genres. This is an old fashioned western, written from the Hero’s point of view. There is no vanilla porn, but there is romance and a straight up good story.When I first discovered this author, my husband and I liked his books so much that we bought extra copies so we would still have some around to read when the paperbacks wore out! Sadly, McCord’s books have never made it to e-books, so it and the others in the series must be read the old-fashioned way—in book format.

In a way, this is a coming of age story about how a 16-year-old boy gets himself named as a gunfighter, but it is also a close up view of what western society in that day and age was like. Nothing is sugarcoated. I especially loved the practice horse race scene where the heroine thinks his pet race horse is going to kill Ward!

Book Review: Cruel Zinc Melodies

Garrett, P.I. Book 12 By Glenn Cook.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was the first new Garrett mystery I’d read in years, and it had a slower, more meditate pace than the earlier books. Unlike the earlier books, we meet an older, more mature Garrett. Tunfare has changed from a boomtown due to the war, to a city where returning soldiers can’t find work, and crime lords and keeping a lower profile due to the new sheriff in town Deal Relway’s getting support from the Crown Prince. When Garrett, in a much overdue scene, lays down the law about Tennie’s ridiculous jealous antics, I could only say it was about time; she was getting boring. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the earlier books, but characters need to grow if they are to hold onto readers interests. Cook has finally allowed this to begin with the Garrett characters and I’m sure it can only enhance the series.

To say I was pleased to revisit old friends is a given. The story was full of all the usual treats: That sedentary detective the Dead Man being his mysterious self. Fast talking Garrett juggling too many balls in the air and in danger of dropping them all. Spoiled Tennie Tate causing problems (although Garrett finallydid get tired of her shenanigans). Morley in trouble financially and desperately looking for a way out. Saucerhead and a host of others behaving in their normal fashion. Plus, giant mutant bugs, and a strange entity at the root of all Garrett’s troubles…

Come Sundown by Nora Roberts

A review by Mystery Loves History

Four Stars

Roberts has written her usual tightly woven story. Be warned the story has multiple flashbacks (For most of the book, it seems to be two stories in the same book). This made the story move a little slowly for me. I confess I am not a fan of so many flashbacks—it breaks up the story. However, Roberts is called a master of this genre for a reason. She proveded a red herring suspect and a great many plot twists (no I won’t say who is the red herring—it would spoil it). I did guess who the actual villian was early in the book. If you are a mystery fan you will enjoy playing the “guess-who-done-it” game with the author, and Roberts plays it well.

A Review of “The Girl Who Knew Too Much”

by Amamda Quick aka Jayne Anne Krenz aka Jayne Castle, etc

A review by Mystery Loves History

Four Stars

The 1930’s is a new era in history for Krenz and it sometimes takes her several books to find her feet when she switches time periods. I refer here not to the actual story itself but to a feel for the mores and customs of a particular era. I have no doubt she will be more at home in the next book. And I DO hope there is a next book. The ending of this one certainly set it up for one.

The story itself is excellent, and the mystery is beautifully done, with plenty of red herring suspects to throw the reader off the track. True mystery writers always play a kind of guessing game with their readers, in which the writer may drop clues to the mystery, but uses misdirection to distract the reader from guessing the solution too soon. Krenz did great here and like all good mystery writers she played fair: the clues are there if the reader is paying attention.