Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

The RiverBoat Mystery – #4*Review – Faith Martin @JoffeBooks @Faith_NovMartin

Jenny Starling has a job on a luxury paddle steamer working for a wealthy businessman. All she has to do is cook for his small number of guests. But things quickly turn sour. Then she discovers the body of one of the passengers in the store cupboard. Who wanted him dead and why? Jenny will have to ignore many red herrings and follow the clues to get to the bottom of a complex and intriguing murder mystery.

JENNY STARLING In her late twenties, Jenny Starling is an impressive woman. Physically, she stands at 6ft 1inch and has shoulder-length black hair and blue eyes. Curvaceous and sexy, she’s a modern single woman, living the lifestyle that suits her – that of a travelling cook. Her famous (and now very rich) father, is a ‘celebrity’ cook, divorced from Jenny’s mother. Jenny drives a disreputable cherry-red van and is happy travelling the country catering events and cooking great food. She is on a one-woman crusade to bring back ‘real’ food. And definitely doesn’t like having to divert her attention from achieving the perfect Dundee cake or creating a new sauce recipe by having to solve a murder. She finds crime very distracting, especially when there is chocolate to temper or pike to poach. Nevertheless, she is very good at reading people, and with a quick and agile brain, becomes very good at unmasking killers. And her always-undaunted sense of humour goes a long way in keeping her sane when all around her people are dropping like flies.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review

My Thoughts…

Another eclectic cast of characters for Jenny Starling, the enigmatic travelling cook to cater for. I didn’t like this story as much as the first two in the series, maybe because the murder doesn’t happen until halfway through the book?

Jenny is on top form as the reluctant detective, and the police detectives she pits her wits against are clever than most. There are so many suspects and lots of sub-plots in this story and aside from the parrot, who is wonderful, it is difficult to empathise with any of the passengers or crew on the Riverboat.

The plot hides its secrets well, I didn’t work out whodunnit, but Jenny does in her own unique way. A story that takes a while to get going, but worth the wait for the intricate ending.

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Posted in Book Review

Murder at the Manor Hotel – Betty Rowlands – 5* Review @bookouture

 

As the stage is set for a local village play in a beautiful countryside manor, Melissa Craig plays the role of detective once again when one of the cast is mysteriously murdered… 

Melissa is delighted when she’s asked to help put on a play at her favourite local Cotswolds hotel. There’s nothing she loves more than getting to know the cast, who are just as colourful behind the scenes as they are on stage.

Rehearsals are running smoothly until the perpetually grumpy supporting actor is found spread-eagled at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs leading to a cellar.

As Melissa tries in vain to save his life, she is sure she can hear voices nearby and suspects there is more to this accident than meets the eye. Why on earth was he trying to get down to the hotel’s private cellar? And why does the hotel manager seem so angry about it?

When the hotel floorplans deliver some unexpected revelations, Melissa is convinced that she’s dealing with a murder. But when all of your suspects are actors, how can you tell the good liars from the bad? Can Melissa find the killer before the final curtain falls? 

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My Thoughts…

If you enjoy an escapist read, the Melissa Craig Mysteries will be the perfect fit. The latest in the series takes place at a Cotswold Country Hotel. Melissa has been asked to write a short pantomime or ‘pantocrime’, as she calls it for the owner of the hotel’s birthday. A successful entrepreneur Mitch is popular but does he have a reason for wanting the play performed on his birthday, at the hotel?

The cast is vibrant and seems to be having fun, but when someone has a tragic fall, the mood changes and Melissa finds herself embroiled in the solving the mystery. The setting adds depth to the story, there is a rumour of ghosts and other funny goings-on. Melissa uses her crime writer detective skills, which inevitably puts her in danger, much to the consternation of her friends.

This is an enjoyable easy read, with a well-thought-out plot, believable characters with a little humour and romance to keep the story becoming too dark.

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Faith Martin- 5* Review – Hillary’s Final Case

Hillary Greene has returned to Thames Valley Police HQ, acting as a cold-case consultant for the Crime Review Team, looking into murders which the police have never been able to solve. This is a crime mystery full of well-observed characters, which will have you gripped from start to the absolutely thrilling conclusion.

THE DETECTIVE DI Hillary Greene An attractive, single woman nearing the landmark age of fifty, Hillary Greene was a police officer of many years’ experience (earning the rank of DI) and came up through the ranks. Consequently, she knew how the system worked and was always fiercely loyal to the force without being blinkered to its faults. Forced to retire early through no fault of her own, she has now returned to the force as a civilian consultant on cold cases.

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My Thoughts…

The final book in the Hillary Greene series answers all the questions both in her professional and personal life. The cases in this concluding book are a continuation from the storyline in the previous book ‘Murder in Mind’.

The crime solving is believable and engaging, not everything is solved, but this adds to the authenticity. All the main characters are featured in ‘Hillary’s Final Case’ and there is a satisfactory resolution of Hillary’s personal life.

I have only read two books in this series, but as they read well as standalone stories this isn’t a problem, Cold cases featuring missing girls are the theme of this book, and all the stories are absorbing and poignant. There are many twists, but it’s rewarding to follow the clues and solve the mysteries and crimes with Hillary Greene and her team.

If you enjoy crime novels and cosy mystery this is a series worth reading.

I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Murder in Mind- 5* Review – Faith Martin

Seventy-five-year-old Sylvia Perkins was found battered to death in her home in 2010. The murder weapon was suspected to be a fire poker and it seems she was quite popular with older gentlemen. 

Her grandson Robbie inherited everything, but he can’t be placed at the scene of the crime. 

WHO KILLED THIS HARMLESS OLD WOMAN AND WHY? AND WHAT SECRETS WAS SHE HIDING? 

Hillary also has a new boss and a baffling cold case to contend with, not to mention a marriage proposal to consider. 

Hillary Greene has returned to Thames Valley Police HQ, acting as a cold-case consultant for the Crime Review Team, looking into murders which the police have never been able to solve. 

She wasn’t sure she wanted to go back. But solving crimes is irresistible for Hillary Greene. 

DI Hillary Greene 
An attractive, single woman nearing the landmark age of fifty, Hillary Greene was a police officer of many years’ experience (earning the rank of DI) and came up through the ranks. Consequently, she knew how the system worked and was always fiercely loyal to the force without being blinkered to its faults. Forced to retire early through no fault of her own, she has now returned to the force as a civilian consultant on cold cases.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

I’ve noticed this cosy mystery detective series has featured consistently in the Kindle bestselling lists, and so I decided to see why. ‘Murder in Mind’ is the penultimate book in the series but after the first chapter, you know who is who, and what Di Hillary Greene’s backstory is, so it reads fine as a standalone.

Although a former DI, Hillary now works as a civilian consultant for a cold crime unit. The reason for using civilians in this crime-solving setting is explained realistically. Against a background of police budget cuts, civilians are cheaper to employ, and she has the necessary professional knowledge and connections to make crime solving in this way possible and authentic.

It’s refreshing to see a woman in her fifties at the forefront of the story. Her expertise and tenacity are unquestioned by her colleagues, both civilian and police, and she is a likeable, relatable character.

I also liked the two younger characters working with her, both have stories and Jake’s is particularly poignant and threatens both his own and the team’s credibility and safety.

The cold crime is brutal and tragic and the list of possible suspects vast, each thread of evidence is explored in a believable and interesting way, with lots of false clues, until the well- thought out ending is revealed.

This is a curious mix of police procedural and cosy mystery, which draws you into the plot and the characters’lives, I want to read the previous books now and look forward to the final book in the series.

I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

5* Review – Betty Rowlands – Murder on the Clifftops

French cheese, fine wine and… a mystifying murder?

A delightful afternoon stroll turns to disaster when the guests of an artists’ retreat in the French mountains spot the body of a man at the bottom of a cliff.

Amongst them is Melissa Craig who, binoculars at the ready, suddenly finds herself at the centre of a very puzzling mystery. Was it an accident, or was he pushed?

Her suspicions are confirmed when another body is found days later in almost exactly the same spot. It can’t be a coincidence; someone in this idyllic French village is up to no good, and it’s up to her to find out who.

Between the eccentric locals and mischievous guests, Melissa finds herself with no shortage of potential suspects: was it the surly handyman with a dark past, or perhaps the short-sighted widow with an excellent golf swing? But the real question is: how close to the edge will Melissa have to tread to find the culprit…?

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My Thoughts…

The third book in the ‘Melissa Craig Mystery’ series, sees crime writer Melissa and her neighbour and friend Iris, artist and textile designer, leaving their Cotswold cottages for southern France. Iris is lending her services to her Philippe, her French entrepreneurial friend and Melissa who knows the region decides to do some research for her next novel.

Melissa and Iris’ relationship is tested as they live and work in close proximity, especially when Melissa questions Philippe’s motives. There are an interesting set of players; artists and those interested in the French way of life and particularly its language.

A tragic but seemingly accidental death causes disruption in the students’ ranks. When someone else dies, Melissa begins to suspect foul play. A keen but bumbling French Gendarme, makes Melissa think beyond the obvious explanations, and she finds herself in danger whilst searching for the truth.

This story reads well as a standalone, especially with the change of location but the threat to Melissa and Iris’previously harmonious relationship adds additional conflict to the plot and Melissa finds she misses having someone to bounce ideas off, and you really need to have read the previous novels to appreciate its effect on both women.

There are lots of suspects, an interesting backstory, that illuminates current events and a charismatic crime writer turned sleuth. Don’t expect twenty-first-century political correctness and attitudes, these mysteries take place in the late twentieth century and the storylines and characters’ reflect this.

The murders are gruesome, but the story’s ethos is gentle, as is expected in a cosy mystery. Definitely, something that will interest ‘Midsomer Murder’ fans and those who enjoy ‘Miss Marple’ and ‘Poirot’.

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Betty Rowlands – 5*Review Murder at Hawthorn Cottage

Meet Melissa: cat lover, caring mother… daring detective? 

Melissa Craig is absolutely delighted with her new life in an old crumbling cottage, spending her days pruning the primroses and getting to know Binkie, the ginger cat next door. She only wishes she had made the move to the countryside sooner.

But when a knock at the door brings news of a shocking discovery, she suddenly finds herself thrown into the middle of a baffling mystery: the bones of a young woman have been found in the woods just behind her new home.

Perhaps the little village of Upper Bembury is not as idyllic as it first seemed? 

Strange phone calls in the night convince Melissa that the police are barking up completely the wrong tree, so she can’t resist doing a little digging of her own. From the bingo hall to the beauty salon and beyond, her search ruffles a few feathers and uncovers many of the village’s most scandalous secrets, but gets her no closer to finding the culprit…

The discovery of a tatty old photograph in a drawer is the final piece of the puzzle she needs, but as a newcomer in this close-knit community, does Melissa have what it takes to get to the bottom of this extraordinary murder mystery alone?

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My Thoughts…

The quintessential cosy mystery a beautiful rural setting, a village full of quirky, nosy characters and female crime writer who courts danger and trouble in the same way the characters in her books do.

Melissa seems much older than her mid-forties, I have to admit I imagine Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher when I visualise her but apart from this misconception, she is the perfect protagonist for a cosy mystery. Initially published under a different title in the twentieth century, the book is only dated by its philosophy on relationships and women living on their own.

The storyline is fast-paced and engaging. Melissa’s independent character and mindset come across well in the story, and the plot twists are just the right side of believable. The suspense in the final chapters builds to adrenaline fuelled ending, full of action and powerful imagery.

An enjoyable, escapist read that I suspect may become my secret addiction.

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire – M.R.C. Kasasian – 3*Review

A new day dawns in Sackwater, not that this sleepy backwater is taking much notice…

Inspector Betty Church – one of the few female officers on the force – has arrived from London to fill a vacancy at Sackwater police station. But Betty isn’t new here. This is the place she grew up. The place she thought she’d left behind for good.

Time ticks slowly in Sackwater, and crime is of a decidedly lighter shade. Having solved the case of the missing buttons, Betty’s called to the train station to investigate a missing bench. But though there’s no bench, there is a body. A smartly dressed man, murdered in broad daylight, with two distinctive puncture wounds in his throat.

While the locals gossip about the Suffolk Vampire, Betty Church readies herself to hunt a dangerous killer.

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

Cosy Mystery is a favourite genre, and this story fits neatly into it. By definition, these stories are quirky full of eccentric characters, a smart detective, often disguised as a bumbling fool and numerous gruesome, but not graphically described murders, or similarly heinous crimes.

To enjoy a cosy mystery the reader needs to connect with the detective and enjoy the cast of characters and setting. I instantly connected with ‘Betty Church’, and empathised with her, the discrimination she suffers is disturbing but historically correct. I enjoyed how she always came out on top despite working almost entirely with misogynous males. The cast of characters are undoubtedly eccentric, but they are too much. Their strangeness is returned to again and again until it becomes wearing and detracts from the sharpness of the detective’s character and the story’s pacing.

The plot is over the top but well-written and full of action and vivid description, unfortunately, it is hampered by the quirks of the supporting characters that make the story drag in parts.

So on balance, this one isn’t for me. With a different set of supporting characters, I would give this series another chance.

I received a copy of this book via Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.