Archive for category Mystery

Always Time to Die – Elizabeth Lowell (DNF)

Time enough to die? Perhaps. Time to waste on this: hmm..

Stars: DNF Two and a half of five.

Review format: DNF note plus links.
Summary:With her trademark electrifying storytelling and razor-sharp tension, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Lowell proves once again why she is one of today’s top masters of suspense — in a riveting tale of dark family secrets ready to explode with the devastating force of a Southwestern earthquake.
The powerful Quintrell family of New Mexico has spent decades in the public eye. Now the recent death of the clan’s patriarch, a former U.S. senator, has placed his son, Governor Josh Quintrell, squarely in the spotlight as he prepares his run for the highest political office in the land. It is not a good time to be rattling skeletons in the family’s closets. 
Researching personal histories isn’t just Carolina “Carly” May’s profession, it’s her passion. When the governor’s eccentric Aunt Winifred invites Carly into the Quintrells’ private Taos compound to compile a genealogical record of the illustrious residents, she can hardly believe her good luck. But digging into the past is raising troubling questions about the would-be president’s private life, his late father and catatonic mother, and the grisly street crime that left his notorious drug-addicted sister dead. And it soon becomes frighteningly apparent that the motivation of the dotty old woman who hired Carly might be something more akin to revenge — and that someone is determined to remove the inquisitive genealogist from the picture by any means necessary. 
As a dark world of twisted passions and depraved crimes slowly opens up before Carly, she realizes that there is no one whom she dares to trust — perhaps least of all Dan Duran, a dangerous and haunted mystery man who’s somehow tied to the Quintrells’ past. But she will need an ally to survive the terrible secrets a father carried to the grave and an even more devastating evil that lurks among the living — because following the bloodlines of the wealthy and power-hungry can be a bloody business … and some dead secrets can kill.(overdrive summary)
Provenance: eBook borrowed from the library.

This book’s called “Always Time to Die”.  Perhaps there is, but I don’t have time to read through books that are not grabbing me.

The beginning is overly dramatic – the murder of the already-dying elderly man by a mysterious figure. The point of view hops between the female lead Carly, and Dan the male lead. Carly: feisty. Dan: dangerous and hunted.

The writing is competent and somewhat enjoyable, and there were certainly hints that a romance would sprout, but nothing had happened by the time I gave up on this.  I needed a faster pace and less gothic atmosphere to pull me in.

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Treachery in Death – J.D. Robb

Dallas takes on a dirty cop.

Stars: Two and a half of five.

Review format: Note plus Links.
Treachery in Death – J.D. Robb. Summary: Peabody tackles her first case(s) as primary, and then inadvertently learns of a corrupt group of cops.  Dallas makes it their mission to bring them down.
Provenance: borrowed from local library.
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Mistress of the Art of Death – Ariana Franklin

Surfacing from TBR.

Stars: Three and a half of five.

Review format: Note plus links.
Summary: In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town’s Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and hides them in a castle fortress. King Henry I is no friend of the Jews -or anyone, really- but he is invested in their fate. Without the taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt. Hoping scientific investigation will exonerate the Jews, Henry calls on his cousin the King of Sicily -whose subjects include the best medical experts in Europe- and asks for his finest “master of the art of death,” an early version of the medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno. But her name is Adelia -the king has been sent a mistress of the art of death.
Adelia and her companions -Simon, a Jew, and Mansur, a Moor- travel to England to unravel the mystery of the Cambridge murders, which turn out to be the work of a serial killer, most likely one who has been on Crusade with the king. In a backward and superstitious country like England, Adelia must conceal her true identity as a doctor in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she is assisted by Sir Rowley Picot, one of the king’s tax collectors, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. Rowley may be a needed friend, or the fiend for whom they are searching. As Adelia’s investigation takes her into Cambridge’s shadowy river paths and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again.  (from goodreads)
Provenance: Bought used from Bay Books, San Ramon CA.

Mistress of the Art of Death – Ariana Franklin. 

I was excited to encounter a used copy of Mistress of the Art of Death in the fabulous Bay Books, while I was on vacation.  It had been on my TBR pile for about six months.

The premise is quite interesting- a female forensic scientist back when the science was almost non-existant, and women didn’t enter professions whatsoever. The historical detail is engrossing – the best part of the book, I think.

About a month has elapsed between reading the book and writing this review, and I am having some trouble coming up with specific comments. This is a symptom that it did not make a lasting impact on my memory.

The romantic tension and the actual mechanics of murder mystery were the weak points.

That’s all I can scrape up. I know I wanted to look for the sequel, so that means it is three and a half stars.

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The Fourth Stall – Chris Rylander

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
Stars: Two and a half stars out of five
Summary: Sixth-grader Mac and his business partner/best friend, Vince will help you with your problems—for a price. Business is going well until a third grader claims he’s being threatened by well-known crime boss and dropout, Staples. First time author Chris Rylander weaves film noir and Godfather themes into a well-written story with a great cast of characters that boys will not be able to put down. (from
Audience: I think the target audience is kids in grades four to eight… Caveat – your fourth-grader needs to be a precocious reader, while your eighth-grader may be less-interested in a book about sixth graders.  Also, there are no major female characters, so girls who require a girly book will be disappointed.

The Fourth Stall is a kids’ mystery/suspense book, written in the style of Goodfellas or The Godfather.  I requested it from the library based on the surprising descriptions of wise-guys and moral ambiguity via the Excelsior File.

The writing is funny, and the book certainly starts off with witty narration by Mac.  I was amused, but overall a tiny bit disappointed.  I was hoping for laugh-out-loud funny, even absurdity, because of the implausible film-noir tone.  What happened instead was the threat of takeover was real, and there were moral dilemmas in multiple directions.  The energy level stayed fairly consistent throughout, instead of cranking up to antic.  I had hoped for antic. 😉

Along with the wiseguy tone, the characters are the best part of the book. Mac and Vince are solid leads, while the school bullies are amusingly described.

It’s a solidly-written book, but despite styling it after the Godfather it was too light to interest me as an adult.

I will probably request the next novels from Chris Rylander for my kids only.

Spoilers and other reviews below

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