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Showing posts by: Debbie Meldrum click to see Debbie Meldrum's profile
Jan 13 2017 12:00pm

Review: Fickle by Peter Manus

Fickle by Peter Manus is a twisting noir mystery that Booklist calls, “An incredibly daring novel and a complete success.” (Available January 17, 2017)

A blogger who goes by I.G. Fickel (yes, that’s how she spells it) tells her followers that she has witnessed a man commit suicide by jumping in front of an oncoming train. At first, the followers assume she is either alluding to a noir classic or may be starting a new story they will work on together. After all, that’s what the blog is for.

Fickel convinces them this is not fiction and posts that she was interviewed by two police detectives. The followers try to give her advice, tell her to get a lawyer, and warn her to stay out of the investigation. Fickel dismisses the idea as she knows she is innocent.

The friendlier of the two detectives shows up at her office. Fickel uses descriptive aliases for all the players in this case. The rules of her blog state that no one can use their real name or anything that will identify them in real life.

[Read Debbie Meldrum's review of Fickle...]

Jan 4 2017 1:00pm

Review: Survivor in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Debbie Meldrum reviews #20, Survivor in Death.

Nixie Swisher’s best friend Linnie is getting to spend the night in the middle of the week while Linnie’s parents celebrate their wedding anniversary. When Nixie wakes up in the middle of night, craving a forbidden cold drink, Linnie isn’t interested in joining her. Downstairs, two masked and armed men in black break into the house and kill everyone except the hiding nine year old.

While Lieutenant Eve Dallas is fully equipped to investigate the murders, she has nothing to fall back on when handling a devastated little girl. The family appears to have been a normal, happy, middle-class family. The housekeeper who was also killed may have just been collateral damage. And poor Linnie was mistaken for Nixie.

The precision of the attack leaves little doubt that the killers will come after Nixie if they realize their mistake. And Eve is not about to let that happen. Going around the Child Protection System means the little girl will have to be put in the safest place Eve knows of—her own home. The one Nixie calls a castle when she first sees it.

[Read Debbie Meldrum's review of Survivor in Death...]

Jan 2 2017 1:00pm

Review: Divided in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Debbie Meldrum reviews #18, Divided in Death.

I’ve heard great things about Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb’s books but had not read any before this one. Dropping in this far into the series left me a bit confused, at first, but simply flipping to the back cover helped. This is the near-future and, while technology has made great leaps forward, some humans still have a long way to go.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas has just enjoyed a romantic reunion with husband Roarke, who has been away on business. He receives a call from his assistant, Caro. It seems her daughter—also an employee of Roarke’s—found her husband and best friend in bed at her friend’s home. Both are dead. Worse yet, Reva Ewing had gone to confront the two of them. She meant to override the security system, but found it already off when she got there.

She could see the two figures huddled together under the silk and lace coverlet. They’d fallen asleep, she thought bitterly. All cozy and warm from sex.

Their clothes were tossed over a chair, messily, as if they’d been in a hurry to start. Seeing them, the tangle of clothes, broke her heart in hundreds of places.

Bracing against it, she strode to the bed, gripped the stunner in her hand. “Wake-up call, you piss-buckets.”

And whipped the silk and lace cover away.

The blood. Oh my God, the blood. The sight of it all over flesh, all over the sheets, made her head spin. The sudden smell of it, of death, mixed with the scents of flowers and candles, made her gag and stumble back.

[Read Debbie Meldrum's review of Divided in Death...]

Aug 25 2015 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart

Jade Dragon Mountain is the debut mystery by Elsa Hart set in China in 1708 featuring the exiled librarian Li Du (available September 1, 2015).

Here are some of things I know about China: Ming vases, Mao Tse Tung, calligraphy, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and they put on a spectacular Olympic opening ceremony. Not much for a country with a more than 4,000-year history.

I learned a bit more by reading Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart. Most surprising for me was the fact that Jesuit priests not only visited the country, but played a big role in China. As observers, and in an attempt to win converts to the Catholic church, of course. But also as respected advisors to the Emperor. And some Jesuit priests play a role in the book as well.

The protagonist, Li Du, is a Chinese scholar from a good family. After distinguishing himself at his studies—often with Jesuits—he becomes the Emperor’s librarian. At the beginning of the story, in 1708, Li Du is in exile from the capital of Beijing. He wanders the country, using travel books as his guides. Having visited the tea jungles of the far southwest region of China, he comes to the town of Dayan. He applies to the magistrate of the region, his older cousin, for a place to stay.

[Not the best timing...]

Jul 14 2015 10:15am

Fresh Meat: Open Grave by Kjell Eriksson

Open Grave by Kjell Eriksson is the 6th Nordic mystery featuring Police Inspector Ann Lindell where a Nobel Prize winner is greeted with jealousy and violence (available July 14, 2015).

I don’t have a great deal of experience with Scandinavian authors. I have read the Stieg Larsson novels. And I’ve read a couple books by Icelandic author, Arnaldur Indridason, but that’s about it. Still, I knew that the pace and plotting would be different than American novels. More leisurely. Seemingly more relaxed.

In American mystery novels, the protagonist is usually introduced on the first page. At least by the second chapter. I forgot that this is the sixth book in the Ann Lindell mystery series until page 111, which is where she shows up for the first time. Did the story suffer for the delay? I didn’t think so. She’s an interesting and complicated character, but so was everyone else. Lindell adds an interesting layer, though.

Agnes rounded the table, opened a drawer, and took out a plastic bag which she gave to Lindell.

“You probably know that Viola is not well,” Agnes said suddenly, when Lindell was standing with her hand on the doorknob.

She stared at Agnes.

“How did you know—”

“My sister Greta keeps track of everything,” Agnes explained.

“You knew that I—”

“You’re the police officer from Uppsala who associated with Edvard, yes. I recognized your name. I’ve known Viola my whole life. I’ve met Edvard too. A good person.”

Lindell bowed her head and got an impulse to hide her face with the plastic bag.

[Don't expect to discover the body right away...]

Jun 15 2015 4:00pm

Fresh Meat: Death in Salem by Eleanor Kuhns

Death in Salem by Eleanor Kuhns is the 4th historical mystery in the Will Rees series where an innocent trip through Salem puts the weaver in the middle of a murder investigation (available June 16, 2015).

Will Rees is on his way home from a business trip. He stops in Salem, Massachusetts, to buy something special to take home to his wife and runs into an old army buddy. Twig, the buddy, is now an undertaker. He invites Rees to accompany him to an after-funeral reception at the home of a prominent Salem family. Within days another member of the family has died, and Rees agrees to investigate the murder.

Rees’s business is weaving, and the trip has been made by horse and wagon. The army he and Twig served in was led by General George Washington.

I have to admit to being a bit confused as to when the story was taking place at first. That was due in large part to my seeing the means of travel and knowing a war has recently fought on American soil and assuming that it is just after the Civil War. Once I got my bearings, on page three, I was fine.

[It was a short-lived confusion...]

May 18 2015 4:00pm

Fresh Meat: Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton is a standalone mystery about a mother who, three years after her two young children disappeared, is plotting revenge (available May 19, 2015).

Little Black Lies may sound like the title of cozy mystery, but don’t let the title of this amazing book fool you. There’s very little that’s cozy about Sharon Bolton’s devastating story of death, guilt, and grief. It is also about moving on—or at least trying to—after a tragedy.

It’s been almost three years since Catrin Quinn lost her two young sons, and so much more, in a terrible accident. To the outside world, she seems to be coping. She goes to work and checks on the condition of the marine life near her hometown in the Falkland Islands and interacts with coworkers, neighbors, and family. But her losses haunt her. During the day, any person or place can bring it all back. At night, alone at home with her dog, there’s nothing to distract her from her grief and guilt. And plans for revenge.

[Someone has it coming...]

May 5 2015 9:00am

Fresh Meat: Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison

Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison is the second cozy mystery in this contemporary English manor house, now facing the disruption of a high-speed rail project for Little Dipperton (available May 5, 2015).

Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall is full to bursting with characters I would love to befriend. If you have read any of my other posts, you are probably aware that I am a fan of cozy mysteries. Not to say I don’t like the other types of mysteries, or non-mystery genres for that matter. But there is something about the amateur sleuth oeuvre that appeals to me.

I know there are some authors of the genre who don’t like their work being called “cozy.”  I think, though, that what I enjoy about these mysteries is that they so often live up to that name in a good way. Cozy—giving a feeling of comfort, warmth, and relaxation. And that’s what the good ones do. And spending time with the characters is like spending time with friends.

The main character is Kat Stanford, an antiques appraiser who has left her job on an Antiques Roadshow-like program to start her own business. Additionally, there is a dowager duchess, Lady Edith Honeychurch, who still rides sidesaddle. But there's also a gun-toting woman on a mobility scooter, a middle-aged woman trying to hide her secret identity as a writer of torrid romances—not completely successfully, and a sweet little boy who fancies himself an RAF squadron leader.

[Don't you like them already?]

Feb 22 2015 11:00am

Fresh Meat: A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders marks the debut of Samantha Clair, a London book editor caught up in a criminal investigation (available February 24, 2015).

I read a lot of mysteries featuring amateur sleuths. A lot. There are those with crafting themes, various types of cooking and baking, and many featuring pets. All sorts of settings and careers are represented. This protagonist of this series debut works at one career I haven’t encountered. Samantha “Sam” Clair is a middle-aged book editor at an independent publishing house in London.

A book set in London? Great. About a book editor? Cool. With a mystery to boot? Oh, yes, please!

When I imagine a glamorous day in the life of an editor—and I do—I think of lunches with famous authors, tough negotiations with agents, and networking at cocktail parties and book launches. Then there’s the really fun part of reading a lot of books and helping nudge some of them into publishable shape.

[You know, pretty much the dream...]

Oct 24 2014 10:45am

From Page to Screen with Broadchurch: Is the Book Always Better?

This should actually be called Screen to Page, since the television series came before the book. The show is a BBC production. One murder case is investigated over the course of eight episodes.

Ellie Miller has just returned from a three-week holiday with her family. She’s expecting to step into her new role as a Detective Inspector on her first day back at the Broadchurch police station. Instead, she’s introduced to DI Alec Hardy, who has been brought in while she was gone. Before Ellie can get into it with the big boss, she and Hardy are called out to investigate a report of a body on the beach.

[Talk about a rough first day back...]

Oct 6 2014 10:00am

Fresh Meat: The Old Deep and Dark by Ellen Hart

The Old Deep and Dark by Ellen Hart is the 22nd mystery featuring P.I. Jane Lawless as she investigates a string of murders at an old theater (available October 7, 2014).

I have a friend who hates seeing a Cast of Characters at the beginning of a novel. She feels it means either A) there are too many characters or B) she won’t be able to tell them apart without going back to the description.

The Old Deep and Dark contains just the right amount of characters. Each one is distinct and fully fleshed out. However, the plot involves an old theater in the midst of being renovated by one of the main characters. So a Dramatis Personae, as it were, fits with the theme.

Cordelia Thorn is a great character among many good characters. She’s larger than life in every way. This is an older woman who is completely at home with who she is. Outspoken but kind. Determined to get her own way, but always alert to her friends’ needs.

The recently purchased Thorn Lester Playhouse is a character as well. Built in 1903, the building has a storied past. While work progresses on the building and Cordelia begins to solidify plans for the play that will be performed at the unveiling, she discovers that her new baby comes with ghosts. Cordelia fills in her friend, Jane Lawless, a restaurateur and newly-minted private investigator.

[Do what you love, right?]

Sep 11 2014 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Broadchurch by Erin Kelly

Broadchurch by Erin Kelly is a small town murder mystery based on the television series from Chris Chibnall (available September 16, 2014).

At its core, this is a police procedural. A dead body has been found, obviously murdered. Detectives need to figure out who did it and why. Once they do, if they do, apprehend the culprit. But there is so much more than that going on.

All of the action takes place in a small town. The good thing about small towns is that everybody knows everybody else. It’s also the bad thing about small towns. At first no one can believe someone they know could have done this. It must be an outsider.  But as the investigation drags on, they start looking at each other differently. Every action and word becomes suspect, sinister.

A big city Detective Inspector is leading the investigation. Alec Hardy’s got the experience, the know-how. What he doesn’t know is how to navigate this small town. He’s brusque, rude even. No one on the team likes his style. Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller, as his reluctant second in command, gets the brunt of it.

She’s barely holding it together. Danny was her son’s best friend and her best friend’s son. As a detective she knows what questions she needs to ask and just who should be questioned, whether she likes it or not. And Miller does manage to keep up with Hardy. Not only keep up with but stand up to when necessary. Ellie’s a mum. And that doesn’t just mean the soft, nurturing part. She has the grit and stamina to keep going, protect herself and those close to her while ferreting out the truth.

[It's a refreshing, fully developed character...]

Aug 27 2014 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Nasty by Bret R. Wright

Nasty by Bret R. Wright is the first book in the Nasty P.I. series starring Nate, who makes a living by snapping photos of adulterous spouses (available August 28, 2014).

“I’m Ignatius Jepson. I go by Nate. On the street they call me Nasty. Go figure.”

So begins Nasty, the story of Nate Jepson, private investigator and former Navy SEAL. He’s a guy just trying to make a living, deal with some of the terrible things he’s seen—and done—and eat burritos in peace. But then one night while he’s doing his version of meditation on a lonely beach, a stranger with a bag full of beef sticks runs into him, literally. Beef sticks and bullets fly everywhere, and Nate ends up having to deal with a dead body and the fallout of ticking off a gang boss, the cops and almost everyone he knows.

[Is it weird that now I'm hungry?]

Jul 13 2014 11:00am

From Page to Screen with 4:50 From Paddington: Is the Book Always Better?

I read the Agatha Christie's book version of 4:50 From Paddington way before I saw the TV-movie, directed by Martyn Friend. I was most likely in my late teens or early twenties when I read it. That was the time I went on a huge Agatha Christie binge. I read as many of her books as I could find. Fortunately, it wasn’t too hard to find them between the local library and my big sister’s bookshelves.

This particular story finds an aging Miss Marple being visited by her good friend Elspeth McGillicuddy, who tells the amateur sleuth a fantastic story. While the train she was traveling on to get to St. Mary Mead slowed to allow another train to pass, Mrs. McGillicuddy witnessed a man strangling a woman. Miss Marple believes her old friend, even though authorities turn up nothing. And though she can’t physically carry out the investigation, Jane Marple enlists the help of Lucy Eyelesbarrow, an Oxford-educated, freelance domestic servant. She is much sought after by ladies who want the best and like to impress. Lucy is dispatched to the Crackenthorpe estate, the only place on the train line where a body could have been disposed of without being found soon after. She is to assist the remaining daughter of the house with various domestic chores and with taking care of the cranky, ailing patriarch, while looking for the body.

[That's a sneaky plan, Miss Marple...]

Jul 2 2014 11:00am

From Page to Screen with Gone Baby Gone: Is the Book Always Better?

My only previous experience with Dennis Lehane was the movie version of Mystic River, but I was impressed by the story and as a result, Gone Baby Gone rose to the top of my to-be-read pile. The book, penned by Lehane in 1998, was later turned into the 2007 film by the same name written by Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard. So I checked them both out. In a word? Wow.

Four-year-old Amanda McCready has gone missing from her Dorchester apartment. Her aunt and uncle ask private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro to help look for her. But they don’t want to do it. There is already plenty of attention on the case from both the police, and the media. Worn down by Amanda’s aunt, they give in and embark on an investigation could change everything for them.

[And the verdict is...]

Apr 29 2014 12:45pm

Fresh Meat: The Blood of Alexander by Tom Wilde

The Blood of Alexander, a Jonathan Blake/Argo Foundation thriller, by Tom WildeThe Blood of Alexander by Tom Wilde is a debut thriller featuring a global organization dedicated to stealing back antiquities, one of which may lead adventurer Jonathan Blake to the tomb of Alexander the Great (available April 29, 2014).

Part Indiana Jones and part Jason Bourne, Jonathan Blake is a highly-trained antiquities expert for the Argo Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to “preserving the past and expanding the boundaries of man’s knowledge of his own history upon planet Earth.” Before he was found by the foundation, however, Blake’s life had taken a very different turn.

I took in a shuddering breath, full of the thick jungle air that to me, after my timeless stay in a disease-ridden hellhole, was sweeter than any wine. My eye, the one I could still see out of, found a cluster of bright stars burning through a hole in the dense tropical forest canopy— stars so bright they almost hurt after all the time I’d spent in the dark. In the next instant I had to clamp my good eye shut against a sputtering glare that came from a match struck nearby. I felt the flicker of the flame through my eyelid as a deep, rough voice said in English, “Mother of God, they really did a number on you, kid.”

[But Blake's a guy who doesn't quit...]

Apr 20 2014 9:00am

From Page to Screen with The Thin Man: Is the Book Always Better?

The movie version of The Thin Man (1934), written by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich and directed by W.S. Van Dyke, is one of my all-time favorite movies. What’s not to love? William Powell and Myrna Loy are at their best. Asta the dog is cute. There’s wise-cracking dialogue, great clothes and a twisty murder-mystery to solve. It is one of the early influences on my love of all things mystery.

When I watched it again recently, maybe for the thirtieth time, I realized I had never read the book. Never read anything by Dashiell Hammett come to think of it. How could I call myself a mystery lover with this gaping hole in my reading history?

I set out to fill that void immediately. I wouldn’t be able to hold my head up around my mystery writer friends until I did. Besides, books are always better than the movie version, right? I knew I was in for a treat.

Well, maybe not so much.

[Screeeech. What did you say?]

Oct 11 2012 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Double Vision by F.T. Bradley

Double Vision by F.T. BradleyDouble Vision by F.T. Bradley is a middle grade spy thriller (available October 16, 2012).

One’s a Secret Agent, One’s Not.

Twelve-year-old Linc is a troublemaker with a dilemma. His antics on a recent school field trip went way overboard, landing his already poor family with a serious lawsuit. So when two secret agents show up at his house, Linc is eager to take them up on their offer to make the lawsuit disappear. They just need one tiny favor.

Turns out Linc looks exactly like one of their top kid agents—an agent who vanished during a vitally important mission. But no debriefing can prepare Linc for how dangerous the mission really is. It’s too bad he isn’t a black belt, a math genius, or a distance runner like his agent double. He’ll need all those skills and more if he hopes to make it out of this mission alive. . . .

Lincoln Baker is a typical twelve-year-old boy. He likes to skateboard. He has good friends. He is an okay student. Well, until his lack of impulse control kicks in, usually during field trips.

[That’s when most kids’ impulse control falters...]

Sep 27 2012 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Passenger by Andrew Smith

Passenger by Andrew Smith is a young adult paranormal thriller (available October 2, 2012).

Best friends Jack and Conner can’t stay away from Marbury. It’s partly because of their obsession with this alternate world and the unresolved war that still wages there. But it’s also because forces in Marbury—including the darkest of the dark, who were not revealed in The Marbury Lens—are beckoning the boys back in order to save their friends . . . and themselves. The boys try to destroy the lens that transports them to Marbury. But that dark world is not so easily reckoned with.

Marbury seems to be an alternate Earth, although one without a moon. As in other stories, the boys travel through a portal to get there. But Marbury isn’t Wonderland, Oz, or Narnia. It’s a dark, dreary, and dangerous place. One that may have been made even worse by their previous visit.

[Never a good idea to go back to a place you helped to destroy]

Sep 19 2012 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: Chasing the Skip by Janci Patterson

Chasing the Skip by Janci Patterson is a young adult crime novel (available October 2, 2012).

Ricki’s dad has never been there for her. He’s a bounty hunter who spends his time chasing parole evaders—also known as “skips”—all over the country. Ever since Ricki’s mom ran off, Ricki finds herself an unwilling passenger in a front-row seat to her father’s dangerous lifestyle. Her feelings become even more confused when her dad starts tracking seventeen-year-old Ian Burnham. She finds herself unavoidably attracted to the dark-eyed felon who seems eager to get acquainted. Ricki thinks she’s ever in control—the perfect accomplice, the Bonnie to his Clyde. Little does she know that Ian isn’t playing the game by her rules.

Ricki has reason to believe she can take care of herself. Her mother treats the fifteen-year-old more like a girlfriend than a daughter. Ricki manages their apartment, doing the cooking and cleaning. She even hacks into her mother’s bank account to pay the bills when Mom forgets. Sometimes the forgetting happens because of a new man in Mom’s life.

[Growing up fast . . .]