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Showing posts by: Kerry Hammond click to see Kerry Hammond's profile
Oct 24 2016 11:00am

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency 1.01, Series Premiere: “Horizons” Episode Review

In a word: Wow. Don’t talk, don’t blink, and don’t get up to get a drink of water. If you miss even one second of the first episode of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, you will be completely lost.

Ok, so I feel that I must be honest—even if you see every single second of it, you will still be lost. But keep watching, because everything is supposedly interconnected, and I am sure—or at least hopeful—that things will start to make sense.

Viewer discretion is advised, and we find out why in the very beginning: The opening sequence is quite a gruesome crime scene. Blood spatter everywhere, a severed arm on the floor, and the complete destruction of what looks to be a hotel room. The only thing living is a cute black kitten. This may seem innocuous, but trust me, it will come up again later.

[They always do...]

Sep 26 2016 12:00pm

Agatha Raisin 1.08: “The Murderous Marriage” Episode Review

Our season is at an end, and it couldn’t have been a more exciting finale. The entire season seemed to be leading up to this event. Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) is getting ready for her upcoming nuptials—to James Lacey (Jamie Glover). 

Drunk at her hen party, Agatha tells Gemma (Katy Wix) that her only wish is for Gemma to get together with Bill Wong (Matt McCooey). Meanwhile, a homeless man is looking at a newspaper announcement of PR guru Agatha Raisin’s upcoming marriage, and he seems quite disturbed by it. We know this will not bode well for Agatha.

Church bells ring and James and Charles Fraith (Jason Merrells) are in the church waiting for the bride. Roy Silver (Mathew Horne) walks Aggie down the aisle. However, the blissful event is interrupted when Bill Wong runs in yelling “Stop!” Is Bill trying to stop the wedding because he has a crush on Agatha? Nope. He’s putting an end to the wedding because Agatha’s husband—and the homeless man we see at the beginning—Jimmy Raisin (Jason Thorpe), is still alive. So she’s kinda still married; great timing on Bill’s part.

[Read Kerry Hammond's review of “The Murderous Marriage”...]

Sep 19 2016 1:00pm

Agatha Raisin 1.07: “Witch of Wyckhadden” Episode Review

This episode has a mysterious start, and—spoiler alert—it’s the best episode of the season so far. We start with Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) in the back of a cab. She’s on the phone with Gemma, explaining that she’s not running away—she just has a family crisis. The taxi drives past a woman in a caravan who notices the car and proceeds to flip over a tarot card. 

When Agatha gets out of the cab at her destination, it’s a beautiful castle. Things get even more mysterious when we see she’s wearing a red wig. Lest you think she’s just changed her hair color, she adjusts the wig on her head, showing us she’s clearly in disguise.

There is a haunted house-type atmosphere as Agatha checks in with the creepy hotel manager Claude Martin (Peter De Jersey). She explains she’s there for a four-day visit and has booked a spa retreat. Creepy hotel manager explains that she has actually booked the S.P.A. retreat, which is the Special Paranormal Activity package. Agatha is not pleased. 

[Read Kerry Hammond's review of “The Witch of Wyckhaddon”...]

Sep 12 2016 12:00pm

Agatha Raisin 1.06: “The Day the Floods Came” Episode Review

This episode is all about a bride, but don’t get too excited, the bride is not Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen). Agatha is, however, in attendance at the wedding. Not because she knows the bride or groom, but because she’s handling the PR for the wedding. So much for retirement. We see that Sir Charles Fraith (Jason Merrells) has decided to make his home, Barfield House, an event venue. Seems that our wealthy landowner might not be so wealthy after all and is looking to find a revenue stream.

The wedding is going great, if you don’t count the fact that the bride is in tears and in need of some comforting from our Aggie. She pulls it off, playing fast and loose with the truth of what was her own marriage. We see a little bit of regret for her youthful indiscretion and marriage at such a young age, but just a touch. Once Agatha calms the bride and the nuptials are complete, it’s the groom that looks uncomfortable. He looks more like he’s at a funeral than at his own wedding. 

[Read Kerry Hammond's review of “The Day the Floods Came”...]

Sep 5 2016 1:00pm

Agatha Raisin 1.05: “The Vicious Vet” Episode Review

Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) is still having no luck on the relationship front. Things aren’t going anywhere with James Lacey (Jamie Glover), even though she had high hopes. We see her strut through the village in her signature high heels and impeccable wardrobe, with a huge smile on her face. She’s clearly on the prowl. But why, pray tell, is she dressed to the nines and carrying her cat, Hodge, in a cat carrier? 

Cut to James Lacey coming out of the pub to see that the village looks like a ghost town. When he inquires where everyone has gone, he’s told that there’s a new vet in town—and the pieces all fall into place.

[Read Kerry Hammond's review of “The Vicious Vet”...]

Aug 29 2016 2:00pm

Agatha Raisin 1.04: “The Potted Gardener” Episode Review

This week, the village of Carsley is plagued by joy riders. The episode opens with a yellow car tearing up the green late at night, blasting loud thumping music, red and orange flames painted down the side of the car. As if that’s not enough trouble in this quiet little Cotswolds village, the residents all wake up the next morning to find that their gardens have been vandalized. Some have uprooted trees, while others find dead fish in the koi pond or smashed pots in the greenhouse. Why is this significant? The Open Gardens Competition is coming up and everyone has been pruning and primping their entries.

Agatha Raisin's (Ashley Jensen) garden is the only one not vandalized, although it looks as if it has been. Apparently, she is going with a Zen theme. She reports that she is attempting to detox her life and be at one with nature—trying to get the qi flowing. Her aim is harmony and peace, but her blended veggie drinks appear to be nasty, and Roy Silver (Mathew Horne) is not having any.

[Read Kerry Hammond's review of “The Potted Gardener”...]

Aug 22 2016 2:30pm

Agatha Raisin 1.03: “The Wellspring of Death” Episode Review

“The Wellspring of Death” opens in the village of Ancombe, as we toggle back and forth between a young mother taking her child for a walk in a baby carriage and an Ancombe Water Company tanker truck careening through the village. Thankfully, the truck narrowly misses flattening both villager and her child, but we are immediately aware that the villagers have a slight problem with the new water company that is in town to tap their spring water and sell it on the open market.

By the way, and this might just be me, but who else thought that having a skull as the logo on the water bottle might be a bit of bad luck? Even if it is a cartoon version of the one on the spring, which has water flowing out of its mouth.

The big controversy is that the spring owner has already sold her water rights to Ancombe, but the Parish council is split on whether or not to grant access to allow the tanker trucks passage through the village. Robert Struthers (Tom Chadbon), the Chairman of the Parish Council, has the deciding vote on the issue. He says he will think about his decision overnight and let them know in the morning, which we all know is tantamount to signing his own death warrant.

[Sign on the dotted line...]

Aug 15 2016 12:00pm

Agatha Raisin 1.02: “Hell’s Bells” Episode Review

Our normal, serene helicopter view of the village of Carsely in the Cotswolds, usually accompanied by pleasant background music, is not the opening for “Hell's Bells.” Instead, we arrive at the village to the soundtrack of really bad church bells and see everyone in the outdoor seating area of the pub wincing. One man even stuffs a twisted napkin into his ears to block out the noise.

Cut to the bell pullers, who are practicing their…let’s still call it a song, even though it resembles nothing remotely musical. All of our favorite villagers are there, including Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) and Bill Wong (Matt McCooey). We find out they are preparing for the bishop’s visit and being coached by Amanda Barton (Sally Bretton). Amanda is new to the village, and the show, which as we know in the mystery game, does not bode well for the longevity of the character. When we also see that the vicar’s wife, Sarah Bloxby (Lucy Liemann), doesn’t like Amanda—and is clearly jealous of the time she spends with her husband—we really suspect that Amanda’s days in Carsely are numbered. After all, someone has to be sacrificed in order that Agatha has a murder to solve.

[Seems like a cruel equation...]

Aug 10 2016 11:00am

Agatha Raisin Pilot: “The Quiche of Death” Episode Review

“The Quiche of Death” aired on British television in 2014. Season 1, filmed in 2015, is just airing now on Acorn TV. The pilot functions as both a character introduction and background explanation for the series. We learn a lot about Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) in this episode and get introduced to the recurring cast of characters.

Our first introduction to Aggie is when she has already packed up her home and her life, ready to turn over her business and retire. She’s moving to the Cotswolds, the idyllic village she remembers from her childhood. First things first, she has one more public relations nightmare to deal with, as one of the company’s clients, a pop star in a boy band, has been caught in an indiscretion. She takes charge and handles the situation, and it's clear to see how Agatha got to be so successful.

[Read Kerry Hammond's review of “The Quiche of Death”]

Aug 8 2016 12:00pm

Agatha Raisin 1.01: “The Walkers of Dembley” Episode Review

Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen), former Public Relations Executive turned retiree at a very young age, has taken to her new home in the village of Carsley in the Cotswolds. It took the villagers a bit longer to take to her, which can happen when one is accused of poisoning one of the village’s most prominent citizens (Pilot episode: “The Quiche of Death”). Cleared of all charges and suspicion, Agatha even managed to come out on top—a skill at which she seems to excel. 

As a bit of background, Raisin is the long-running character in a series of novels by M.C. Beaton. The books, which would best be classified as amateur sleuth or cozy mysteries, contain quite an element of comedy and a large supporting cast of quirky Cotswold characters. 

All is forgiven, and Agatha walks through town with a purpose, saying hello to all the villagers she passes. They seem happy to see her and return her greeting. We quickly realize that she is still seeking approval when she informs her housekeeper Mrs. Simpson (Katy Wix) that she is going rambling, admitting it’s because she just wants to blend in. Considering that she is always dressed like she’s going to a London party, we know this is highly unlikely.

[Read Kerry Hammond's review of “The Walkers of Dembley”]

Jun 29 2015 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: A Batter of Life and Death by Ellie Alexander

A Batter of Life and Death by Ellie Alexander is the second book in the Bakeshop Mystery series featuring baker Jules Capshaw in her hometown of Ashland, Oregon (available June 30, 2015).

Reality TV meets cozy mystery, with a little bit of murder thrown in. The town of Ashland is known for its Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but the last of the plays are being performed and the theater company is about to go into hiatus for the fall. The town is experiencing cooler weather and a slowdown in tourist traffic. What better time for a television crew to set up shop to film a reality show for the Pastry Channel? Juliet Montague Capshaw aka Jules, has recently moved back to her hometown to help her mother run Torte, a family owned bakery and coffee shop. She is roped into being a contestant on the show and soon finds out that there is as much drama behind the scenes as there is on camera. Specifically, Chef Marco is causing a lot of problems on set as he finds it hard to remain sober for filming.

[There's no such thing as “cooking” wine...]

Feb 7 2015 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: A Woman Unknown by Frances Brody

A Woman Unknown by Frances Brody is the 4th book in the Post-WWI British mystery series featuring sleuth Kate Shackleton (available February 10, 2015).

It’s 1923 and Kate Shackleton is running her own private investigations firm with the help of ex-policeman Jim Sykes. It is a profession she kind of fell into while searching for information regarding her husband Gerald, missing in action from the war. One evening she is visited by a man named Cyril Fitzpatrick, who is worried about his wife, Deirdre. He wants to hire Kate to find out what Deirdre is doing behind his back and where she is going when she disappears for lengths of time, saying she is visiting her ailing mother. Kate doesn’t take on matrimonial cases, but Mr. Fitzpatrick assures her that his marriage is not the issue and that he just wants to make sure Deirdre is not in any trouble. Mr. Sykes convinces Kate to take the case. He knows Deirdre because he helped her out of a shoplifting charge the year before, and is worried that if she is up to her old tricks she will not get off as easily this time.

[Better safe than sorry...]

Nov 20 2014 12:45pm

Fresh Meat: Betrayed by Lisa Scottoline

Betrayed by Lisa Scottoline is the 13th book in the Rosato & Associates series featuring attorneys Bennie Rosato and Mary DiNunzio (available November 25, 2014).

You can listen to an exclusive audio excerpt below!

This installment in the series centers around attorney Judy Carrier, one of the lawyers working with Rosato and DiNunzio. Poor Judy is in a funk, and let’s face it, jealous of her best friend, Mary DiNunzio. Mary has just made partner at the firm, hence the new firm name “Rosato & DiNunzio.” Mary is also getting married, and involving Judy in all of the wedding plans, including making her the maid of honor. All of this probably would not be hitting Judy quite so hard if it weren’t for the fact that she is having problems and serious doubts about her current live-in boyfriend, Frank. He is just not proving to be marriage material and does not seem to be taking the relationship as seriously as Judy would like.

[This won't be the only relationship tested...]

Nov 15 2014 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: A Deadly Measure of Brimstone by Catriona McPherson

A Deadly Measure of Brimstone by Catriona McPherson is the 8th cozy mystery featuring heroine Dandy Gilver, and this time a weekend spa getaway is interrupted by some deadly happenings (available November 18, 2014).

Dandelion Gilver, and her partner in detection, Alec Osborne, are back in the latest installment of a wonderful historical series that takes place in Scotland in the early 1900s. The year is 1929 and Dandy is up to her elbows in sick family and staff. Her two sons, her husband Hugh, and several of their servants have come down with a bad case of influenza. As Hugh and the boys are showing signs of recovering, she receives a letter addressed to Messrs Gilver & Osborne asking for their help. It is not only a new case, but one that sounds quite interesting, if not a bit tricky.

[To the spa we go!]

Nov 8 2014 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Laws of Murder by Charles Finch

The Laws of Murder by Charles Finch is the 8th book in the historical mystery series featuring gentleman detective Charles Lenox, who’ll return to professional crime-solving with an awful case for the Yard (available November 11, 2014).

The year is 1876, the place is Victorian England. Gentleman and detective Charles Lenox has made a recent career change. For the last seven years he has served as a Member of Parliament, a career at which he’d always wanted to try his hand. As much as he loved being involved in politics, there was still a problem...he missed detecting. He has always been drawn to detective work, and his previous success proves that he was good at it. Prior to joining Parliament, he had made a name for himself in London. He had even taken an assistant under his wing, John Dallington, and trained him in the field. Even though he dabbled in cases during his political career, he has decided that he misses it enough to go back to it full-time.

As the book opens, Lenox has left Parliament and he joins Dallington, along with two others, to open a detective agency. Lenox believes that his prior reputation, as well as all of the help he’s given Scotland Yard in the past, will mean that the new agency will thrive. He even plans to consult for the Yard as needed, hoping to work with his old detective friends on cases that arise. But on the eve of the agency’s grand opening, members of Scotland Yard make statements to the press that aren’t exactly complimentary.

[Such a thin line between love and hate…]

Oct 2 2014 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: A Demon Summer by G.M. Malliet

A Demon Summer is the 4th book from G.M. Malliet to feature Max Tudor, vicar of St. Edwold’s Church in the town of Nether Monkslip, England.

Max Tudor is a former MI5 agent turned vicar, who showed up in the small town of Nether Monkslip to turn many a female head. He is attractive, charismatic, and extremely intelligent. Due to his background and former profession, he is frequently involved in murders that take place in the area, helping DCI Cotton solve the most baffling cases.

Max’s arrival in the village some years before had electrified the female population of Nether Monkslip, for Father Max Tudor was everything they could have wished for: kind and decent (basic requirements, of course, for a vicar), handsome and youngish (both huge bonuses), rumored to be a former MI5 agent (so daring and mysterious!), and most of all, unattached and, to all appearances, available. A lamp ripe for sacrifice on the marital alter.

The women got busy, either throwing themselves at his feet or pushing their nieces, daughters, and best friends at his feet. Church attendance skyrocketed, along with volunteerism for the little chores that needed doing around the church—cleaning the brass and silver, preparing the vessels for the Eucharistic services—that might bring them into closer proximity with Max.

But Max remained steadfastly uninterested. Oddly oblivious to the frenzy of self-sacrifice and do-goodery he had unleashed. Perhaps he thought it mere coincidence that the St. Edwold’s Altar Guild suddenly had more helpers than it could accommodate, all of them female, and all of them jostling for a slot in the rotation. The church flower rota became a free-for-all, with the altar bouquets growing more grandiose and extravagant with each passing week.

[Looks like a popular guy...]

Sep 17 2014 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Wouldn’t It Be Deadly by D. E. Ireland

Wouldn’t it be Deadly by D. E. Ireland is a historical mystery series debut, featuring Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins, that picks up where My Fair Lady left off (available September 23, 2014).

Many of us know the story of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins from the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, which was made into the movie My Fair Lady. From the original story we know that Henry Higgins used his mastery of phonetics to teach Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, to speak properly and even passed her off as a duchess at the ball. D. E. Ireland takes the story from here, and creates one of the best new traditional mystery series I have had the pleasure of reading this year.

Once Eliza completes her transformation, she decides to leave Professor Higgins and his good friend Pickering , and get a job teaching phonetics lessons. She becomes the assistant to Higgens’ rival, Emil Nepommuck. Higgins is not happy about the arrangement and when Nepommuck takes credit for Eliza’s transformation, Higgins writes the newspaper denouncing Nepommuck as a fraud. When Nepommuck is found murdered, it’s the unfortunate Higgins who is the chief suspect. Knowing him to be innocent, Eliza feels it her duty to assist the police and prove her friend innocent. The fact that he claims to have been wandering around London listening to accents doesn’t help matters. Since he can provide no solid alibi or anyone who remembers seeing him, and the police are under pressure to solve the case quickly, Higgins is the natural suspect.

[But he won't be the only one...]

May 3 2014 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Boiled Over by Barbara Ross

Boiled Over by Barbara Ross is the second cozy installment in the Maine Clambake mystery series featuring Julia Snowden, former New York City girl who has returned to Busman’s Harbor, Maine, to help her family with their struggling clambake (Available May 6).

I read a lot of cozies because I love to get to know great characters who are regular people who do everyday things. Well, until they happen to come across a dead body. For me, nothing beats an amateur sleuth who gets tangled up in a small town mystery. Barbara Ross’s Maine Clambake series provides both great characters and a small town mystery that is intricate enough to keep even the best armchair detective guessing.

Julia Snowden joins the planning committee for Busman’s Harbor Founders Weekend. Her family’s clambake provides a new invention for the event: the Claminator. The morning of the festivities, things don’t quite go as planned and they find a burned foot sticking out of the Claminator.

[But where is the rest of the body?]

Mar 20 2014 11:40pm

Fresh Meat: Dyed and Gone by Beth Yarnall

Dyed and Gone, an Azalea March mystery by Beth YarnallDyed and Gone by Beth Yarnall is the mystery debut of Azalea March, California hairstylist and salon owner, who'll investigate the death of a hair world celebrity at a Las Vegas convention to clear her best friend's name (available March 25, 2014).

Normally the first book in a cozy series starts off in the main character’s hometown, and you slowly get introduced to supporting characters and the locale. Then, some local person gets bumped off and everyone is a suspect. Dyed and Gone decided to go a different route and ramp it up a notch, or twenty, and it really works.

Right from the start, Azalea and her two best friends (business partner Vivian and stylist Juan Carlos) are in Las Vegas, attending the North American Salon Trade Expo, which Juan Carlos calls “NAST-E.” Prior to the conference, Azalea, dealing badly with her love life, has hit rock bottom:

I’d been dangling at the end of a string of very poor romantic choices and losing my grip fast when Vivian had burst into my apartment the day before yesterday. She’d yanked the TV cable right out of the wall, ending my three-day, tear-inducing Hallmark channel marathon.

“Please tell me you haven’t bid on any more of those horrible flower dresses,” she’d said, hands on hips. This wasn’t the first time she’d rescued me from floral disaster.

My guilty gaze flew to the laptop on the coffee table in front of me propped up by a stack of bridal magazines, my finger hovering over the return key. “Ah, no?” Not yet, anyway.

“Azalea!” She rushed over to where I sat on the couch and looked at the screen. “Oh, for God’s sake. That’s the ugliest one yet.” She closed the computer, sat down next to me, and pulled my Buy Now hand into hers. “You can’t bury your feelings in sappy movies and vintage Laura Ashley dresses. You’re getting out of here. Now. Pack a bag.”

How did she always seem to know when I was at my lowest? This particular low had been courtesy of a too-hot-to-be-legal cop who’d done the old I’ll-call-you thing and then didn’t. The jerk.

Juan Carlos had skidded to a stop in the entryway. He’d leaned on the doorjamb, one hand over his heart, huffing and puffing as though he’d run a marathon instead of up my three front steps. “Please tell me we got here in time to stop Laura Ingalls Wilder from adding to her Little House on the Depressed Prairie collection.”

Of course, this is a murder mystery, so not all of the Las Vegas fun is hair extensions and dye jobs.

[Some dye and some die...]

Mar 4 2014 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Board Stiff by Annelise Ryan

Board Stiff, a Mattie Winston mystery by Annelise RyanBoard Stiff by Annelise Ryan is the 5th in the Mattie Winston Mystery series about a small-town coroner who'll investigate the death of a nursing home owner (available March 4, 2014).

Mattie Winston is a nurse-turned-coroner by profession, living in a small town in Wisconsin. Mattie is tough, never dainty, and sweet on Steve Hurley, a local homicide detective whose ex-wife, Kate, just moved back in with him. When Kate shows up on his doorstep, Hurley finds out that she’s not so much his ex-wife as his current wife (since she never signed the divorce papers) and she’s not so much alone, as she's traveling with the 15 year-old daughter that he never knew he had. Feeling bad, Hurley lets them stay with him, causing Mattie to enter a downward slide. Losing your boyfriend is one thing, but finding out he’s still married and has a daughter is more than most people can handle.

As the story opens, we find Mattie attending a mandatory therapy session, ordered by her boss, Izzy, at the coroner’s office. It’s a requirement to getting her old job back, which she desperately wants. She might as well work for the coroner if she’s not going to date Hurley. Since they broke up, the conflict of interest issue is a moot point. In addition, she’s been spending a little too much time at the casino, and kind of needs to stop.

[Troubles beget troubles...]