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Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Body Reader---An Engrossing and Moving Mystery

The Body ReaderThe Body Reader by Anne Frasier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read this book in one day--quite a page turner. A unique mystery in that the detectives involved in the murders of young girls in Minneapolis are themselves quite damaged. Jude Fontaine has just been reinstated to the Homicide squad after having successfully escaped from a windowless box in which she'd been imprisoned for three years. She'd been abducted while jogging and given up for dead once the case went cold. During a blackout she is able to taser her captor, run up the stairs of the house in which she'd been held captive, retrieved her kidnapper's gun, shot and presumably killed him. She found her way to police headquarters, naked but for a filthy coat and hat she'd pulled from a rack as she left and in oversized boots.
At the station, she is at first treated as a homeless person, probably mentally ill and about to be placed in a holding cell, when the detective on duty decides to run a print to see if her claim to be the missing detective is true. There is a match and Uriah Ashby, who came to Minneapolis after she'd been kidnapped, arranges for her to be taken to the hospital.
And so begins a tale of murder, kidnapping, corruption and, in the cases of Fontaine and Ashby, healing to some extent. An engrossing tale with many twists. Also with well developed characters with whom the reader can relate. The emotional scars the two detective carry are painfully real and the suffering of the parents of missing and murdered teen aged girls is almost too hard to read, the anguish is so palpable.
An author I'd not read before is now on my list of authors to explore.
This review is based on reading the paperback won in a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Good Bye to Selwicks, Past and Present, As the Pink Carnation and the Moonflower Depart

The Lure of the Moonflower (Pink Carnation #12)The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And so the Pink Carnation Series comes to a close. Jack Reid, the half caste son of Miss Gwen's husband, also known as the Moonflower is himself part of the Carnation's mission. Though he doesn't know it, she is hoping to reunite him with his family from whom he ran away eleven years ago. Neither Jack nor the reader realize this aspect Jane's latest adventure.
No, she is in Portugal, which Napoleon is in the process of overrunning, to wrest the Portuguese Queen, who somehow missed the boat to Brazil, from the French and reunite her with her court on its way to South America. To do this, she enlists the aid of the less than dependable Moonflowegur. As they make their way tracking the Queen as a French officer and his servant, the two encounter The Gardener, the French spy with whom Jane had an affair a couple of years back.
Discarding their original disguises, they become a horse trader and his wife. In the normal scheme of things in the series, not only do the Carnation and Moonflower succeed in their mission overcoming many obstacles along the way, but they also fall in love, marry and continue as partners in their spying enterprise.
So, too, do Colin and Eloise finally get their lives sorted, marrying in Selwick Hall and looking forward to discovering ever more information from the papers in the Carnation's trunk, which is given them as a wedding present by his Aunt, Mrs Selwick-Adderly, who has a few revealed secrets of her own.
Sadly, though all loose ends are tied, it is time to say good-bye to the Selwicks, past and present. It's been fun.

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Book 11 of The Pink Carnation series--One More to Go!

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla (Pink Carnation, #11)The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Next to the last installment of the Pink Carnation series. I've read them all so far and have thoroughly enjoyed them. Some others have been disappointed that, though the possibility of Black Tulip and other spy activity led to the murder of the Duke's parents, that that was not indeed the case. For me, the presence of Miss Gwen and her very sharp parasol and the mystery surrounding the posed corpse's demise were enough to keep me interested. In actuality, I wish we'd seen more of Sherry. As for the actual perp, I identified him/her--no clues here--the moment of the appearance of person in the narrative. I'm really surprised Sally didn't, too, since she, like I, am a bit leery of any posture that seems too extreme or out of kilter with those of others in the scene. That is all the hint I shall drop.
As with all the PC books, the girl gets her man--in more ways than one-- and all's right with the world .

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Among the Wicked---Secrecy Among the Amish in Upstate NYS

Among the Wicked (Kate Burkholder #8)Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kate Burkholder is the Chief of Police in Painter's Mill,Ohio, a town of 5300. She is content to have returned to the town in which she'd grown up as a member of the local Amish community after having left the plain life and made a career in law enforcement. She is also happy with her live-in arrangement with BCI agent Tomasetti. When he arrives at her office with an agent from New York State's BCI with a story of the strange death of a young Amish teenaged girl in the wintry woods of Upstate New York, she is unprepared for the request the New York trooper asks.

It seems the Amish community has drawn ranks and is not willing to discuss the death with local Englisher law enforcement. Even the girl's parents and the family with whom she has been living have given them little information. Frank Betancourt and Tomasetti's boss, Supt Bates would like Kate to come to New York under the guise of an Ohio Amish widow seeking to join the community in Roaring Springs. After a bit of thought and an attempt to convince her boyfriend that she is up to job, Kate assumes the persona of Kate Miller and begins her investigation.

Taking up residence in a broken down, hardly heated and lantern lit trailer on the edge of town she begins the process of meeting the locals by getting breakfast at the Amish run restaurant and passing off Ohio purchased baby quilts as her own work in the quilting shop. Soon she has been offered a ride to Sunday service with the waitress' family and invited to join the weekly quilting bee. Trying to probe without arousing suspicion she soon finds herself uncovering much more than just the facts of the death of a young girl out in the woods in a snowstorm. Alone with only a scooter bike for transportation and a cell phone to call Tomasetti and another to call the local police to update them on her discoveries, she soon finds that having a 22 and a 38 are no assurances that she will be safe. There are many wicked folks keeping many others frightened and silent. But what exactly is happening here? The answers are pretty surprising.

This is a review of an ARC provided by Goodreads for an unpaid review.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Flying High with the Texas Star and the Darling Dahlias in Alabama, 1930

The Darling Dahlias and the Texas StarThe Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lily Dare, the sexy, glamourous, scheming, barnstorming pilot and star of the DareDevils team arrives in Darling as the special event of the annual Watermelon Festival. She churns up all kinds of mischief, including marital discord between the Kilgores. As if that weren't enough of a problem for the Dahlias and the other folks in Darling, Euphonia, queen of the meringue pies and master cook at the Darling Diner, has joined her sister Jubilation cooking in a juke joint over in Maysville, the black neighborhood. Not only does her absence severely cut back on the wonderful variety of the Diner's menu and the resulting drop in lunch/dinner customers, but also it leaves Violet and Myra May severely short-handed for the preparation of food at Mildred Kilgore's big do during the Festival.

Add to these widely problematic scenarios, the relationships between Charlie Dickens and the mysterious millener, Fannie and Lizzy's on/off involvement with Grady and you have a lively romp for the week-end in Darling, Alabama. Enjoy the air show and the watermelon, y'all!

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Who or What is a Confederate Rose? The Darling Dahlias Know!

The Darling Dahlias and the Confederate RoseThe Darling Dahlias and the Confederate Rose by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Why has Lizzy been put on furlough from the Darling treasurer's office? What do those strange embroidered numbers, letters and symbols mean on Miss Roger's grandmother's pillow? What is going on with Mrs Biggs? Her hair is falling out, she thinks her husband is having an affair and she has thrown herself into Charlie Dickens arms and then accused HIM of trying to molest HER! Lots of strange goings on that various Dahlias find themselves investigating. All culminating with the Confederate Day celebration.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

From the Coldest of Winters to a Record Hot Summer--Kallentoft Horrifies Once More in Summer Death

Summer DeathSummer Death by Mons Kallentoft
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kallentoft continues the career of Malin Fors in this the second book of his series which takes place in a small city, Linkoping, Sweden. It is high summer and the heat is greater than any summer in recent memory. Much of the city seems empty, so many of the inhabitants have gone north to the colder areas around sea and lakes to escape the oppressive heat. Others have left to volunteer to battle the forest fires raging out of control not to far from the city center.

Not only is it too hot to do much of anything, air conditioners are failing to keep interiors cool. All who are stuck here are lethargic and in the case of Malin, bored and lonely. Her teen-age daughter is off on vacation to Bali with her father, Janne, who won the trip. Her parents, who would normally return from their new winter home in Tennarife, had decided to stay away this year and her Dad calls periodically to assure that she is keeping the plants watered while they are gone. Many of her coworkers are off on vacation with their families, although her partner, Zeke is not, nor is her immediate boss and mentor, Sven. She is worried about Sven, he has gained so much weight and is in his early 50's now. She worries that in this heat he may suffer a stroke or heart attack. Making these long hot days even more unbearable is the lack of crime--there is nothing for them to do--those who are still working in Linkoping Police Headquarters.

All of that is soon the change, however, when Malin, who is swimming at the deserted city pool --too early for it to be crowded by her fellow sweltering citizens--, receives a call from Zeke. A young teenage girl has been found, alive but naked and bloodied, in the summerhouse of a nearby park. She is awake and responsive but dazed and refuses to speak. There is no sign of her clothing and she has wounds along her legs and arms, made by a sharp instrument. Her body has been cleansed with bleach and the wounds also cleaned carefully. The police were alerted by an anonymous 911 call and there seem to be no witnesses in the area.

As they begin the investigation with very little to go on, the very next morning after the discovery of Josefin Davidsson in the summerhouse of the Horticultural Society Park a call comes in about a 14 year old girl who has gone missing. Her parents left her home alone while they went for a few days to Paris. Although they believed that she would be with her boyfriend while they were away, he has not seen her. The parents, though unable to reach her on her cell phone or on the home's landline were not particularly alarmed until they returned and could not locate her. ( I found this amazingly strange, but later in the book it appears that it is not uncommon for Swedes to leave children that young on their own.)

Once more Kallentoft uses his keen eye to describe the scenes in the countryside, at police headquarters, in the homes of the victims and of the families of the police officers. Several times he goes from kitchen to kitchen to dining room on the same morning, tracing the beginning of the day or the end of the day of the characters in the book. It is fascinating to have them brought to life through the simple things we all do when we are getting ready to leave our homes for work, or when arriving back from work or play, or when we are readying ourselves for bed. There is such an intimacy between reader and players in the tale.

He also continues the voices of the victims as they try to reach each other, their families and the investigators. In this book, the voices are truly heartbreaking, particularly in the case of the missing girl, Theresa Eckeved, who does not seem to understand where she is and why her father is not coming to her aid. And as always, there is the voice of the killer but it is eerie but vague, so once more it is not until the end of the book that one finally knows who it is and what is driving the person.

The heat, the frustration of the investigators, the suspects, the heat, the loneliness of Malin, the devastation of the fires that cannot be controlled, the oppressiveness of the heat and the investigation, all of these things start to drive the reader almost as mad as the good and bad personages in this story. The culmination is as much a relief as a mad dive into the coolness of the backyard pool or the downing of a nice cold beer.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Midwinter Blood by Mons Kallentoft---Chilling Engrossing Thriller

Midwinter BloodMidwinter Blood by Mons Kallentoft
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first experience reading this author was as a GoodReads winner of the third of his five books in the Malin Fors series. That was way back in 2013! Upon finishing Autumn I ordered the first and second book in the series, as at that time there were only the three. It has taken until now for me to unearth this, the first in the series.

Although the Autumn Killing had hooked me on Malin and her life and work as a detective in Sweden, I noted in my review at the time that there were aspects of her approach to her work and her relationships at work as well as parts of her life which probably would have been clearer if I'd started at the beginning. Having done that now, I think that is true though not essential, since the writing and action soon grab you in both books.

The author uses so many different ways to put the reader in the place of the crime--from his almost painter like descriptions of the various types of housing found in this city, to the colors of the roofs, sidings, and shutters upon them. His descriptive language of the curtains, furnishings, carpets in the various homes to the bone chilling cold of a lengthy stretch of sub zero weather on a frozen wind blown plain place the reader squarely in the scenes. One feels the sudden warmth of the inside of the car or the entrance into a building as surely as being there. The crunch of the grit thrown on pathways to prevent falling on the icy pavement and the danger of driving across an icy lake or down a dark narrow road, alternately accelerating and slowing to prevent going off into a rut alongside are very real. The scenes are eerie and atmospheric even before the sight of an obese, horribly slashed and mutilated naked body hanging from an isolated oak tree is introduced.

Once seen, however, the solution of the crime becomes all consuming. Malin, a divorced, lonely, confused 30 something mother of a 13 year old is as competent and confident an investigator as she is an insecure divorcee, unsure of how and why her marriage failed, and an at sea mother, aren't we all, of a teenaged daughter with her first serious boyfriend. Her coworkers are also major characters in the tale and throughout the writing the author develops their characterizations so that they are as well known as Malin.

If that group of characters in the police headquarters are the white hats, Kallentoft continues to people the story with a number of equally well developed gray hats and a number of black hats, too. There is the brute, Cornerhouse-Kalle, long dead but whose prior existence permeates the lives no only of his murdered son but also many of the other of the less affluent section of the city. The daughter who has managed to pull together a life for herself and her son that is fairly normal and whole. A woman, widowed and living with her three sons and their families, in an isolated mini-town they've drawn around themselves. Two teenaged boys who have bonded in a sort of brotherhood and who have become a handful for the mothers who have tried to raise them single-handedly and the school, whose principal has tried to guide and discipline them. Despite the best attempts they have become 15 year old bullies who tormented the murdered man and may have gone too far.

As Malin and her team weave through and around these characters the voice of the dead man is heard at various times speaking to Malin though she cannot hear, speaking to others of the dead that surround him and speaking to some of the living who are being investigated. But soon the reader becomes attuned to the fact that there is more than one silent speakers and that this new voice is NOT of the murdered man but rather of the murderer!

Still with all the investigation and the silent speakers it is not until the last 50 pages that it becomes clear who has done this unspeakable thing and the fact that there is more than one maniacal beast in this menagerie.

Having closed the book on this case with Malin, I have already opened the next one, Summertime Death. Which brings me to a final note--these are Swedish novels translated into the English. I believe there are only five books to the series but I've found varying English titles for them. I suspect there may be titles in England that have different names here in the States. That confusion makes it a bit difficult to buy the books. For example, I have found this book titled Midwinter Sacrifice and Savage Spring has appeared as Spring Remains. Summertime Death is alternatively titled Water Angels. I'm not sure how to find which are two titles for the same book, since even Amazon has several English language titles that I believe are actually only one book.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Worth Reading Another Installment--Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies

The Darling Dahlias and the Naked LadiesThe Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second installment of this cozy mystery set in 1930's rural Alabama. Wasn't crazy about the first book in the series but glad to have given the second a try. Having set the stage in the Cucumber Tree outing, Albert more highly developed the characters in this one. And they are a delight--with all sorts of problems associated with the Depression and its financial hardships, a brush with a Capone operative in several laugh out loud scenes, and a bit of big city sophistication with a couple of risqué dancers hiding out in Darling, the home of the Dahlias and their Garden Club.
After the first book, I wasn't sure this would be a series I'd follow. After this one, I can't wait to read the next and find out what's new at Beulah's Bower and the Darling Diner and Telephone Exchange with its party lines buzzing.
There continues to be the horticultural slant for which Albert became famous in her China Bayles series but where China is mostly interested in herbs, the Dahlias are floral types with a bit of vegetable gardening thrown in--it IS the Depression after all. Included are recipes common to the time as well as a wonderful group of housekeeping tips making use of homemade cleansing agents. Washing soda! Haven't thought of that since I was a kid--linseed oil, cream of tartar and castile soap--sure takes me back. But, I still use white and cider vinegar more often for chores than for eating.
And the description of the canning pressure cooker and supplies--all of that is still downstairs in my cellar--handed down by mother and mother in law. Yes, times were tough, but the tough got going and I'm enjoying the memories, if not the work.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Donald Bain Carries on Truman's Series with Aplomb! Internship in Murder is a Home Run!

Margaret Truman's Internship in Murder: A Capital Crimes NovelMargaret Truman's Internship in Murder: A Capital Crimes Novel by Donald Bain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have read every book in this series and, though Ms Truman has been dead for a number of the later ones, Donald Bain continues to bring outstanding stories inside the Beltway to life. The mysteries are satisfying and not easily solved, the plot has a feeling of veracity and the characters are well drawn. It is not hard to insert real Washington insiders into the fictional skins. It is particularly pleasing that along with PI Robert Brixton and his gal, Flo, that Mac and Annabelle Smith have been brought back as leading players in the plot. I've missed them in several of the more recent outings. Looking forward to the next installments--this election cycle should give ample fodder for Bain's imaginative writings.

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Friday, June 3, 2016

First Darling Dahlia's --Need to Read Another Before Deciding if I Like the Series

The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree (The Darling Dahlias #1)The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think this series is an acquired taste and I'm not sure I've acquired it yet--will try another installment before deciding. Love the China Bayles series by this author so want to give this one a fair trial.

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

All In---- Translated from the Swedish

All InAll In by Simona Ahrnstedt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A perfect summer read--fun, interesting, not particularly deep. Although it takes place in Sweden, other than a few Swedish surnames, school names and place names, the plot could easily be set in any American seacoast area where the rich and influential spend summer vacation. The heroine is a countess who does not use her title, though all know who she is, and is trying to establish herself in the financial world that is dominated by men, her father and brother most prominently. The hero is supposedly a self made man from a poor background who has become a billionaire through corporate takeovers and dismantling of old hereditary finance companies.

In this instance, David Hammar, handsome, ruthless, smart and rich has his sights on the De la Grip family owned investment firm, Investum. Hoping to enlist the aid of one of the family members in the take over he sets out to charm the daughter of the racist, misogynistic owner, Gustaf. To that end he invites Natalia De la Grip out to lunch and finds he enjoys her company a great deal. She is as brilliant, ambitious and dedicated to her job in finance as he.

She is in the midst of a large financial deal herself and hopes her success will impress her father and that it will cause him to give her a position on the board of directors of Investum. Within a very short time she impresses David and so begins an affair fraught with secrets and emotional conflict.
While these two and their relationship are central to the plot, the machinations of a corporate take-over are fascinating as are the secondary characters: Natalia's family, David's secrets, David's partner Michel, Natalia's best friend Asa.

Less fully developed but still intriguing are J-O, Natalia's boss and Malin, David's PR manager. Other characters appear as secrets are revealed but to mention them here would be to ruin the revelations--which keep the story moving--though after awhile it becomes rather a tiring ploy. There could have been a few less and still been interesting but I suppose they serve to provide a suitably apt happy ending--the rich girl stays rich and her regal standing remains, sort of.

The only strange thing about the book is the final scene, which is jarring to say the least, since it seems to have no relationship to the 400+ pages that have gone before. Unless, hmmm, it is a precursor to the next book(?), which will have two new star-crossed lovers. If so, it may be worth reading next summer on a lazy, mindless day.

This review is of an advanced uncorrected proof received from Goodreads with hopes of an honest review.

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