Hi, Everyone! Sorry I didn’t get any book reviews posted in April. I’ve been up to my eyeballs in editing the next Marcia Banks and Buddy mystery.
Cover Reveal Coming Soon!!
But here are three books I’ve read recently that I think are worthwhile.
The two best things about this book were the setting and the main character’s grandmother.
Travel-guide writer, Giò Brando has returned to her Italian hometown to lick her wounds after her relationship with a long-term boyfriend falls apart. Although she doesn’t do a lot of wound-licking…maybe because she gets caught up in a murder investigation right away.
Someone has been crushed in their car by a falling rock, and Giò is the first to find the body. Turns out the rock was intentionally dislodged and all the drivers who were near there that morning are on the suspect list. While the police are wading through them, Giò decides to do her own investigating. (Her relationship with the local police, for better or worse, is a bit unrealistic, but I tend to let that slide in cozies.)
The story is well-developed and I didn’t suspect the true culprit until near the end. The descriptions of the setting and the food are great, but I felt that the characters weren’t as fully developed as they could be. I had some trouble relating to them.
I think this was partly because the dialogue sometimes felt a bit stilted. The author is a native speaker of Italian, and her grasp of English (British-style) is excellent. But I’m thinking it’s harder to write natural sounding dialogue in something other than one’s first language.
I’ve now read Book 2 with the same reaction. Loved the story and the setting, but this time, I felt some of the other characters were better developed than Giò, especially her sister and the grandmother. The latter is my favorite kind of female character—an older, no-nonsense woman with a deep love for her family.
Murder On the Road gets 4 fingerprints.
I had decided that I wouldn’t review these books; I don’t do negative reviews. I know how hard it is to write a good book, so I’m not going to dis someone else’s efforts.
Then I decided to lay it all out about this series and let you all decide for yourselves.
I read the 99-cent prequel novella, Shades of Grayson first, and enjoyed it.
Author Grayson Cleary attends a writers’ conference in Canada where he is on the short list for a prestigious award. Instead he wins the “prime suspect” award in a murder case. Helped by a blind writer and his seeing-eye poodle, his new girlfriend, and a ghost, Grayson attempts to clear his name and almost ends up a ghost himself.
I was prepared to give this story four, maybe four and a half fingerprints. It’s well written, the characters are well drawn, and the setting is realistically portrayed (I’ve been to a few of these conferences). Plus the plot has some interesting twists. A lot is packed into 160 some pages.
I liked it so much, I bought Book 1 in the series. In this story, Grayson is a supporting character, a resident at a permanent writers’ retreat at an old castle in Scotland. While this concept, a permanent writers’ retreat (I’d never heard of them and a quick internet search says they’re rare), was both intriguing and a bit of a credibility stretch, again the story is well written. The setting and characters are described in such a way that you feel like you are there with them, negotiating the labyrinth of stone hallways in the old castle and enjoying the fabulous view of the nearby loch.
The story has great twists and turns, plus a resident ghost (I love ghost stories, especially when the ghosts are friendly). I was planning on giving it at least 4 fingerprints, until I got to the ending.
Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that not all the questions of who, how and why were completely answered. The ending was semi-satisfying but left enough loose ends to make it a borderline cliffhanger.
I loathe cliffhangers, but I know some people like them, or at least don’t mind them. At first I wasn’t going to read Book 2, on principle. But the characters and especially the interesting setting lured me back and I’ve purchased Book 2.
I’ll give you an update after I’ve read it.
In the meantime, Grayson’s story gets 4 fingerprints.
And Dark Night, Dead Knight gets 3 ½. (If you don’t mind semi-cliffhangers, it’s a 4-fingerprint read.)
I’d suggest trying out the prequel to see if you like the writing, then decide from there about the other books.
This is a rather unusual mystery. Think Clan of the Cave Bear meets Nancy Drew.
Enga Dancing Flower is a young Neanderthal woman, wrongly accused of murdering her tribe’s leader, who was also her own foster mother.
For a while, the in-fighting in the tribe and between the remaining elders, plus their quest for food, which is getting scarcer as the Ice Age approaches, seem to take precedent over finding the Hama’s killer.
Things don’t drag, however, as the author does a good job of world-building, drawing the reader into the tribe’s story. And when Enga herself is accused of the murder and banished from the tribe, she becomes highly motivated to find out what really happened.
There are several interesting twists near the end, and a satisfying ending. My only complaints are the lack of an explanation of the motivation behind one character’s actions (part of a subplot) and some confusion about the timeline of the past (how old the various characters are in relation to Enga). But neither of these significantly impacted my enjoyment of the story.
I have downloaded the next book in the series to continue to follow Enga’s saga, and I understand that Book 3 is in the works. I recommend this story, nominated for Best Historical Mystery in the 2014 Agatha Awards, with 4 ½ fingerprints.
That’s it for this round, folks. Happy reading!