Archive for the ‘Amateur Sleuth’ Category

Madness In Miniature-Margaret Grace

April 7, 2014

Madness In Miniature
Margaret Grace
Perseverance Press, Apr 7 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9781564745439

On summer vacation, tweener Maddie enjoys spending time with her grandmother retired English teacher Geraldine “Gerry” Porter in Lincoln Point, California. The pair carries Gerry’s latest dollhouses to the soon to be opened craft chain store SuperKrafts. However, as they walk together, they overhear a heated debate between shopkeepers Maisie Bosley of Maisie’s Card Shop and Bebe Mellon of DIY Ceramics; both sold their stores for different reasons to the giant chain. Gerry and Maddie also meet returning native Catherine Duncan who is selling the concept of the superstore to the locals.

Arriving from New York for the Grand Opening is CEO Craig Palmer III. He is barely in town when a minor earthquake strikes leaving him the only one dead. Gerry’s nephew LPPD Detective Skip looks into the visitor’s death, which turns out not to be from the quake but instead a homicide with apparently Bebe as the prime suspect. Not believing her friend is a killer, Gerry and her eleven year old sidekick investigate.

The latest Miniature Mystery (see Mix-up in Miniature, Mourning In Miniature and Monster In Miniature) is a wonderful cozy starring a dynamic amateur sleuth team. The case is fun, but takes a back seat to the interesting look into town relationships especially with the schism caused by the dispute over the pros and cons of the new superstore.

Harriet Klausner

A Biscuit, a Casket-Liz Mugavero

April 6, 2014

A Biscuit, a Casket
Liz Mugavero
Kensington, Apr 1 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780758284808

In Frog Ledge, Connecticut, Happy Cow Dairy Farm owners Hal and Emmalee Hoffman host a Halloween gala. Among those participating is Pawsitively Organic Gourmet Pet Food baker Kristan “Stan” Connor who caters the canine costume caper. However, the party ends with the murdered corpse of Hal found stabbed to death with a scythe amidst the field of maze he planned to sell to attendees. State Trooper Jessica Pasquale leads the official inquiry.

Already in financial trouble but unsure how much, a distraught Em asks Stan to look at the farm’s books, which she does. Stunned with what she uncovers as several people had reasons to kill Hal, Stan heads to Izzy’s coffee shop to learn what else she can about people’s motives and opportunities.

Unlike the first A Pawsitively Organic Mystery (see Kneading to Die) in which the heroine has cause to investigate as Pasquale and the locals suspected the newbie poisoned their pets, this enjoyable amateur sleuth lacks a solid rationale for Stan risking her life. Still fans will appreciate this New England cozy as Stan the Gourmet Pet Food queen works the Halloween homicide.

Harriet Klausner

Panthers Play for Keeps: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir-Clea Simon

April 4, 2014

Panthers Play for Keeps: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir
Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen, Apr 1 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781590588727

In Beauville, pet guru Pru Marlowe walks Spot the service dog in training. Spot interrupts their sojourn when the canine finds a battered, severely mauled female corpse.

The shape of the body leads to the conclusion that a large most likely feral feline attacked and murdered the young woman. However, no animal that fits the description has been spotted in this section of the Berkshires in many years. Pru’s lover Police Detective Jim Creighton leads the investigation while the animal expert vows to stay out of the inquiry though she uses her uncanny skills to consult with her cat Wallis and Spot. The amateur sleuth turns active when Jim vanishes.

The fourth Pru Marlowe Pet Noir (see Parrots Prove Deadly, Dogs Don’t Lie and Cats Can’t Shoot) is an enjoyable psychic mystery. The engaging investigative storyline is made fresh by the heroine left confused rather than lucid after discussing the case with her detecting partner Wallis and her trainee Spot; forcing her to rely less on her anthropomorphic buddies and use more “normal” human abilities.

Harriet Klausner

Brooklyn Graves-Triss Stein

March 10, 2014

Brooklyn Graves
Triss Stein
Poisoned Pen, Mar 4 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9781464202193

In the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, widow Erica Donato finds she can continue to pursue her History Ph.D., work at the museum, assist snobbish visiting dignitary Dr. Thomas Flint on his history of the Tiffany studio, and raise her teenage daughter Chris; just don’t sleep. She shows the unreasonable demanding Flint the National Historic Landmark Green-Wood Cemetery whose mausoleum contains incredible stained glass windows.

Someone murders Dima, husband of Erica’s friend Natalya and father of Chris’ friend Alex. Erica tries to get the grieving widow to understand that NYPD is not the Russian police that Natalya remembers from her childhood in her homeland. Though she has no time for sleuthing, Erica looks into the homicide. Erica also works with Flint’s geeky Pratt student assistant Young Ryan Ames (who dreams of being the next Dave McKean instead of a historian) on the documents including whether the author of many of them, Maude Cooper, was an unknown Tiffany Girl. To their amazement, the pair finds oddities.

The second Erica Donato Mystery (see Brooklyn Bones) is a fabulous amateur sleuth as the protagonist knows she should not make inquiries into the murder, but cannot stop herself. The seemingly diverse whodunits are entertaining although the abrupt climax relies too much on happenchance. Fans will enjoy frantic caring Erica’s guided tour of Brooklyn Graves.

Harriet Klausner

Board Stiff-Annelise Ryan

March 9, 2014

Board Stiff
Annelise Ryan
Kensington, Mar 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780758272768

In Sorenson, Wisconsin someone murders Twilight Home CEO and owner Bernie Chase. Resident Irene thinks Bjorn killed him, but he cannot remember what he did or saw. As she explains to Deputy Coroner Mattie Winston that Chase was killing patients costing him a lot of money for their care, she also shows her the body in the restroom with isolyser powder all over Chase.

Irene hesitates bringing the cops in to investigate as she wants to protect Bjorn. Mattie demands they do so while musing that she will see her former boyfriend Homicide Detective Steve Hurley for the first time since his wife and a teenage daughter he never met before arrived at his house. Mattie applies her forensics skills to help the cops with the inquiry.

The latest Mattie Winston Mystery (see Lucky Stiff and Frozen Stiff) is a wonderful amusing cozy due to a very strong cast beginning with the protagonist. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate this fun entry due to the residents of Twilight Home as seemingly every one of them insists Chase was a serial killer who deserved to die and though several suffer from dementia complicating the case; others conceal what they know behind a claim of having the disease.

Harriet Klausner

Moving Target-J.A. Jance

February 23, 2014

Moving Target
J.A. Jance
Touchstone, Feb 18 2014, $25.99
ISBN: 9781476745008

Exhausted by her wedding plans’ commander her mother, Ali Reynolds escapes to England by accompanying her octogenarian assistant Leland Brooks as he goes home to see his estranged family for the first times since the Korean War when his father disowned him for being gay. In England, they meet Leland’s relatives and learn that his dad was murdered in an unsolved decades old cold case. The pair investigates and based on circumstantial evidence, they believe Leland’s late brother Langston probably killed their father. DNA on bloody clothing should prove whether their hypothesis is correct.

At the same in Texas teenager Lance Tucker develops the GHOST program that will change online security once he finishes. However, he is arrested and placed in juvenile detention for hacking into and shutting down the San Leandro School District’s computer system in protest of their new Big Brother procedure. Someone sets Lance on fire and his computer teacher dies; both incidents are considered suicide attempts. Ali’s fiancé computer security expert B. Simpson, who hopes to hire Lance, thinks otherwise as he surmises ruthless people want GHOST. He arranges protection for the lad starting with Sister Anselm as Lance’s advocate and others for the endangered Tucker family.

The latest Ali Reynolds investigation (see Deadly Stakes) contains two engaging mysteries on opposite sides of the Big Pond. As separate entries the cases are fascinating, but the sum of the parts fails to make a cohesive whole. While the English whodunit enables fans to learn more about Brooks’ roots, the inquiry feels soft especially compared to the antics of Texas Taser tornado Sister Anselm.

Harriet Klausner

The Cat, The Devil and Lee Fontana-Shirley Rousseau Murphy and Pat J.J. Murphy

February 20, 2014

The Cat, The Devil and Lee Fontana
Shirley Rousseau Murphy and Pat J.J. Murphy
Morrow, Feb 11 2014, $19.99
ISBN 9780062268785

All because of a lost wager several decades ago, in 1947 Washington State, Lucifer arrives at McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary to visit convict Lee Fontana as he has plans for the soul of the aging bank robber. Also with plans to help Fontana keep his soul is his long time companion in and out of prison Misto the cat.

A paroled Lee struggles to adapt to the civilian world as this is nothing like what it was when he went to prison. He works for his friend Jake Ellison, driving a truck on a Southern California farm. However, Lee is angry with Jake for being married to his beloved Lucita and envies the affluence of the farm (and much more) owner. The Devil whispers to Lee he can have the wealth and the woman that he craves while Misto struggles to save the soul of his human buddy.

This is an entertaining supernatural “loose” prequel to the Joel Grey saga (Misto was in Cat Bearing Gifts). The dark soul war stars a unique triangle consisting of the caring spirit Cat, the avenging diabolical Devil and the ex-convict Lee Fontana. Although readers will wonder why Misto thinks slimy Fontana is redeemable, fans will enjoy the feline version of Stephen Vincent Benet’s The Devil and Daniel Webster.

Harriet Klausner

Green Living Can Be Deadly-Staci McLaughlin

February 19, 2014

Green Living Can Be Deadly
Staci McLaughlin
Kensington, Feb 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780758275028

In Blossom Valley, California, O’Connell Organic Farm and Spa marketing expert Dana Lewis arranges for a Green Living Festival to showcase their products. Dana’s middle school best friend Wendy Hartford will host a booth for her carbon footprint offset firm Invisible Prints.

Another classmate Kimmie Wheeler finds the murdered corpse of Wendy in her Invisible Prints booth. Kimmie persuades a stunned Dana to investigate the homicide over the strong admonitions by lead Detective Palmer warning her to stay out, and her mother and her boyfriend reminding her of how dangerous her two previous cases (see All Natural Murder and Going Organic Can Kill You) proved. Dana uncovers the shocking truth that Invisible Prints was a fake, which angered the financial backers, and that the victim’s loved ones seem indifferent that she died.

The latest Blossom Valley cozy is an enjoyable murder mystery though the audience must accept the heroine risking her life to investigate after her previous dangerous escapades to enjoy the fun whodunit. Fast-paced, fans will appreciate Dana’s fumbling inquiry especially the amusing relationship between the heroine and her demanding “boss” Kimmie with her trimmed nostrils remaining in headquarters while the marketer works the lethal field.

Harriet Klausner

Death Of An Irish Diva-Mollie Cox Bryan

February 19, 2014

Death Of An Irish Diva
Mollie Cox Bryan
Kensington, Feb 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780758266330

The day after the St. Patrick’s Day gala in Cumberland Creek, Virginia, renowned Irish dancer Emily McGlashen, who gave the crowds quite a performance at the parade, is found murdered in her studio with her shoe lace around her neck. Freelance reporter Annie Chemovitz takes a leave of absence from her book she is writing on the New Mountain Order to cover the story.

The police name Vera Matthews as a major suspect as her purse was at the crime scene. Additionally Vera owns a rival dance studio that has lost most of its business since Emily opened hers up and raided her customer pool; forcing the former to live in her studio after renting out her home. Vera’s Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Club Cropper friends reject the theory she is a murderer. Led by Annie, the Croppers investigate with clues leading to nowhere until an antique scrapbook surfaces.

The latest Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Club cozy (see Scrapbook of Secrets) is an enjoyable whodunit as the Cropper crew finds many people loathing the despicable victim, but none who clearly committed the killing. Although there is similarity to Scrapped with a Cropper named as the suspect, readers will enjoy this investigation as the inquiry fails to absolve Vera until the scrapbook provides clues in another direction that Annie hopes does not end in another dismal dead end.

Harriet Klausner

Ripper-Isabel Allende

February 8, 2014

Ripper
Isabel Allende; Oliver Brock (translator) and Frank Wynne (translator)Harper, Jan 28 2014, $28.99
ISBN: 9780062291400

In 2012 San Francisco, high school senior Amanda Martín loves her divorced mother Indiana Jackson, but is more like her beloved dad Ed the homicide cop. Whereas her spiritualistic mother sees the good in everyone, her daughter and her ex-husband see the evil in the same people. Meanwhile her mom has two suitors she admires but Amanda notices the dark flaws in both candidates seeking to be her stepfather.

Amanda loves mysteries and serves as the headmaster of an online whodunit game Ripper. The players include her sexagenarian maternal grandfather Blake; wheelchair-bound New Zealander online as “Esmeralda” the Gypsy; a lonely New Jersey teen called Sir Edmond who never leaves his room except for the bathroom; a Montreal nineteen years old with an eating disorder using the name Abatha the psychic; and in Reno thirteen years old genius “Sherlock Holmes”.

After her grandmother’s omen of a city bloodbath, someone murders Golden Hills Elementary School security guard Ed Staton with a bat and soon other killings follow. Deciding to investigate, Amanda persuades her Ripper playing friends to change the setting of their game from 1888 London to 2011 San Francisco so that they can help her investigate. When Indiana vanishes, Amanda fears for her mom’s life, so with resolve and her online support, Amanda works the case that turned frighteningly personal.

Ripper is an exciting amateur sleuth starring a precious investigator and a fabulous support team whose online persona radically differs from their reality. Although the online game is never developed, the players are especially their virtual personalities. Readers will appreciate Amanda and her virtual squad gum-shoeing the mean streets of San Francisco.

Harriet Klausner