Friday, December 7, 2018

The Hour of Death by Jane Willan

Just finished reading The Hour of Death by Jane Willan, the second book in Sister Agatha and Father Selywyn Mystery Series. I so enjoyed this book.



"Jane Willan’s The Hour of Death will be a Christmas delight for fans of G. M. Malliet, set on an island in Wales.

Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn make sleuthing a work of art. But will they paint themselves into a corner when they investigate the Village Art Society president’s death?

As Yuletide settles upon Gwenafwy Abbey, the rural Welsh convent’s peace is shattered when Tiffany Reese, president of the Village Art Society, is found dead on the floor of the parish hall. Sister Agatha, whose interests lie more with reading and writing mystery stories than with making the abbey’s world-renowned organic gouda, is not shy about inserting herself into the case. With the not-entirely-eager assistance of Father Selwyn, she begins her investigation.

Sister Agatha has no shortage of suspects to check off her naughty-or-nice list, until finally, Tiffany’s half-brother, Kendrick Geddings, emerges as the prime suspect. There never was any love lost between Tiffany and Kendrick, and of late they had been locked in a vicious battle for control of the family estate. But if Sister Agatha thinks she has the case wrapped up, she’ll have to think again.

As the days of Advent tick by, Sister Agatha is determined to crack the case by Christmas in The Hour of Death, Jane Willan’s perfectly puzzling second Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery."

If you are a fan of the Max Tudor series by G.M. Malliet, you will love this series. The book story takes place the small village of Pryderi. While the other Sisters are busy making cheese to sell, Sister Agatha is busy investigating the death of Tiffany Reese. The police call it a natural death and are ready to close the case, but Sister Agatha is sure it is murder. After all she listens to a podcast by Inspector Rupert McFarland, who gives instruction in how to be an investigator. She is also trying to write a mystery book, but it seems like murders are getting in the way of that. And if it weren't enough that there is a murder in Pryderi, a developer is trying to bully sheep farmers out of their land.

Sister Agatha also has learned her amateur trade from Inspector Gamache of the wonderful Louise Penny series, Inspector Barnaby by watching Midsomer Murders, and Miss Marple books written by Agatha Christie. She often consults Agatha Christi books to help her in the investigation. References to these famous investigators are cleverly mentioned throughout the story as Sister Agatha often thinks " what would Gamache do?...what would Miss Marple do?...Inspector Barnaby would never do this... What would Jessica Fletcher say?" She carries a notebook and a Sharpie with her at all times, ready to take notes. She has different notebooks for different things she is working on and depending on the time of year. For this investigation, during Advent, she will need an appropriate notebook: "...a lovely notebook bound in purple lambskin, handcrafted in Bethlehem, with 192 leaves of Smythson's signature gilt-edged, cream colored featherweight paper. Both practical and luxurious, the advertising copy touted, 'This  mid-size notebook, transitions effortlessly from your desk to your travel bag.' She hoped it would also transition from desk... to oversized red jumper pocket."

Sister Agatha can frequently be found in the Buttered Crust Tea Shop and Father Selwyn. Stop in and say hello.

About the author:
Jane Willan

"Reverend Jane Willan is a parish minister and author in Paxton, Massachusetts. She serves the First Congregational Church of Paxton and lives in the church parsonage with her husband Don and their two rescue dogs, Magi and Moses.

Before moving to Paxton, Jane served congregations in the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ in the small town of Creston and the larger-but-still-small town of Burlington, Iowa. 

Before becoming an ordained pastor, Jane worked in Boston as a science editor, a freelance science writer, a teacher, and a brief stint in biological research at Harvard. In 2003, she became a full-time pastor and took her first church in Iowa.

Jane completed her undergraduate work at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio. She has a Master of Science degree from Boston University, and a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School."

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Some more fun sites for you

It is getting to be that busy time of year here in the U.S. The holiday season is upon us. Barely came out of Thanksgiving last week, and everyone is running as fast as they can to Christmas. I have scaled back quite a bit these days.

I don't have a book ready to talk about for this week but have a couple in the works. I have found a few more websites/blogs/Facebook groups that I have been having a lot of fun with so I thought I would share them and you can join in.

A few years ago, I asked someone what to get another person for Christmas. He said "Not books. She has a problem with books. She doesn't do her work if she gets started on a book.". Well that's me. I am having a great time looking at these websites/pages, commenting, participating in giveaways, applying to read and review and attend online book parties. hahaha

I don't know how I got to all of these Facebook groups. I think one person commented on one and like potato chips or chocolate, one led to another and another.


1. House of Clues:

About: House of Clues is a new author-reader group brought to you by writers connected through Henery Press. A different author will host the conversation daily. We look forward to chatting with you! Note: promo posts are reserved for the authors who’ve created this group." 
Each day a different author posts fun facts about their books, themselves and engages the followers in light conversation. Some of the authors that are members are Julie Mulhern, Cynthia Kuhn, Tonya Kappes, Sybil Johnson, Hallie Ephron and several more that are with Henery Press. 

2. Cozy Mystery Review Crew:

About: "Cozy mysteries and advance review copies of cozy mysteries are offered to members for a fair and honest review." 

A book is posted every week (my observation) with the description. You can then submit to read and review. It is a random drawing. 

You can read How it Works and FAQs here:

I am anxiously awaiting on my first book that I was accepted to review. 

3. The Review Crew:
About: "The Review Crew exists to offer readers the opportunity to receive free books in exchange for your honest online reviews."

Like The Cozy Mystery Review Crew, books open for review are posted and you submit a form to be chosen to read a book. So far I have seen Historical Mysteries for review. As tempted as I was go submit for one, I have to pace myself.  :)

From both Cozy Mystery Review Crew and The Review Crew: 
" Please keep in mind that we have a zero tolerance policy for folks who accept free books but do not follow through with the review commitment."

4. Sleuthing Women...Read, sleuth, solve, repeat:

About: "...The sleuthing women are a specific group of authors building this collective for mystery readers...We want to be a part of your day and help make it better. This is a fun, happy place focused on mystery books with female sleuths...."

As the description says, each day a different author posts information, comments and conversation.

5. Jungle Red Writers:

About: "Welcome to Jungle Red, a salon of eight mystery writers. Fans of classic films may recognize the name Jungle Red as a tip of the hat to Clare Booth Luce's The Women. Like that eclectic group—we go through our highs and lows, fun and feuds with just an occasional unsheathing of our Jungle Red nails. Join us as we discuss (and occasionally diss) the world of reading, writing, publishing and anything else that strikes our fancy. All you need is an appreciation for a thoughtful turn of a phrase, admiration for a clever twist in a plot—and a sense of humor."

The eight mystery writers are: Rhys Bowen, Deborah Crombie, Roberta Isleib, Hallie Ephron, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Julia Spencer Fleming, Ingrid Throft, and Jenn McKinlay.

Recognize a few? They also have a blog if you don't do Facebook:

I know where I found out about this one. We are going to read books by this group for our Mystery Book Club in February.

Check out these sites. Lots of fun.

Coming soon: Hour of Death by Jane Willan and our MBC favorites of 2018.

Let me leave you with this link I also ran across today.
20 of the Best Historical Mystery Books or They Don't All Have to Be Set in Regency England

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Guaranteed to Bleed by Julie Mulhern

Guaranteed to Bleed is the second book in The Country Club Murder series by Julie Mulhern.
And it was my second audio book, ever. I think I am getting the hang of it, although sometimes I need to rewind a bit to catch something. This book has a few "whaaat?" moments that I felt the need to rewind.



"With his dying breath, Bobby Lowell begs Ellison Russell, “Tell her I love her.”

Unable to refuse, Ellison struggles to find the girl the murdered boy loved. Too bad an epically bad blind date, a vindictive graffiti artist, and multiple trips to the emergency room keep getting in the way.

Worse, a killer has Ellison in his sights, her newly-rebellious daughter is missing, and there’s yet another body in her hostas.  Mother won’t be pleased.

Now Ellison must track down not one but two runaway teenagers, keep her promise to Bobby and elude the killer—all before her next charity gala committee meeting."

 We find out more about Ellison and her family and her "friends", while Ellison finds yet another body or two. I love the complexity of the story - so many levels to it, which will transition to the next book and the next. I snickered several times. 

I love the references to things from the 70's: Tab (soft drink, that I drank regularly in the 70's, that I would still drink if that had left the saccharin instead of putting in aspartame), Tame cream rinse (I think that is the only one there was), Life cereal (I still buy a box once in awhile. It was my favorite. "Get Mikey. He'll eat anything."), Victoria Holt books (my favorite at the time) and Mr. Coffee (still my favorite).

 I like the romantic triangle that is developing between Ellison, Anarchy, Hunter and Francis' attempt to manipulate it. Even though Ellison is a grown woman, her mother is trying to set her up. I actually like Francis. Even though she seems overbearing, we see how she really is trying to look out for Ellison and Grace, now that they are alone. And I love her housekeeper Aggie. Luckily she used to be a private investigator so she can keep up with Ellison and all the trouble she runs into.

Like book one, this book does deal with a tough issue though. Grace and her friend Donna runaway. Ellison is of course trying to find them. The reason they ran off is a due to a sad situation. It actually reminded me of a similar thing when I was probably Grace's age in the 70's and had a friend that I helped in a similar way because of an almost similar situation. 

What else was popular in the 70's?  Bars with female impersonators etc. Yes it's true. So we get a short snippet of that.  Oh my. The 70's.

If you are looking for a series to get hooked on, I recommend the County Club Murders.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Ella Maud by Nicholas Nicastro

Do you like historical mysteries? True crime unsolved mysteries?
I recommend Ella Maud by Nicholas Nicastro. I really liked it.


" A beautiful girl of 19 disappears from her home after bidding a fateful goodnight to her sweetheart. She is found dead in the Pasquotank River 36 days later. He is convicted TWICE for her murder – but is innocent. So what really happened...?
Ella Maud Cropsey, known to her friends and family as Nell, was born in July 1882 in Brooklyn, New York, before the family moved to Elizabeth City in North Carolina. Nell starts seeing Jim Wilcox, son of the local sheriff. They are an odd couple: Nell is beautiful, independent and eager for new experiences; Jim is short, stolid and five years older than Nell, but content with his lot.

On the night of November 20, 1901, Jim and other guests are there, calling on Nell, her sister Ollie, and their brother, William. Around 11 p.m., Jim rises and bids the group good-bye, then asks Nell to accompany him to the porch. A few minutes later, Ollie’s suitor Roy Crawford is asked to tell Nell to come inside as he leaves. Moments later, Roy calls back softly that Nell is not on the porch...

In Ella Maud, Nicholas Nicastro revisits a haunting mystery that still fascinates a nation a century later. His masterly re-imagining of these tragic events sees beyond the prejudices that destroys families and taints small communities but corrodes civilization itself. Nicastro’s simple story-telling style, with its kaleidoscopic perspectives, is moving, beautiful and profound. He echoes the footfall of greats like Herman Melville, William Saroyan, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Louisa M. Alcott, Harper Lee and Alice Walker. A massive achievement."

I love the cover of the book. So mysterious and ghostly.

The author does an excellent job of telling the story of this true unsolved crime and providing a possible solution based on statements and speculations of Nell's (Ella) disappearance. It is a tale of a family, sibling rivalry, teenagers, sisters, parents of teenagers and a tragedy. The story grabbed me right away and I raced through it. We get glimpses of what may have happened which is very intriguing and suspenseful. It is also a sad story. Nell is not the only victim. I then looked up the actual account of the story and found it very interesting. The book is written based on the facts that were known. But there are still a lot of unknowns.

 What do you think happened?

 Ella Maud “Nell” Cropsey

(I received a free copy and voluntarily provided this review

Thursday, November 8, 2018

IQ by Joe Ide

Our Mystery Book Club selection for November was IQ by Joe Ide. I liked it. It is a story of strength, perseverance and survival in the face of adversity. It was quite a page turner and hard to put down. 


About: A resident of one of LA's toughest neighborhoods uses his blistering intellect to solve the crimes the LAPD ignores. East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood's high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can't or won't touch.
They call him IQ. He's a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he's forced to take on clients that can pay.
This time, it's a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes. "

The story goes back and forth between 2013 as Isaiah (IQ) is working his most recent case, and 2005, when Isaiah was still a teenager in this "bad" neighborhood.

In 2005, Isaiah is living with his older brother Marcus, going to high school, participating in school sports and doing ok. In a split second, his life changes when he looses his brother to a hit and run accident.. On his own, no family, no money no means of support, he has to make his own decisions. If social services find out he is alone, he will be sent who knows where. Does he get a job, join a gang, join in a life of crime? 

Isaiah has some great qualities in his favor; intelligence, perseverance, patience, incredible observation skills and especially a conscious. 

My thoughts:

I found the other characters interesting and amusing. Dodson is Isaiah's friend from high school. Deronda is an ex-girlfriend of Dodson's but is still hanging around. The banter between Isaiah and Dodson reminds me of the relationship and banter between the current Hawaii 5-0 McGarrett and Danny. Partners, would do anything for the other, best of friends but drive each other crazy. I found their conversations and those between Isaiah and Deronda funny. IQ is the straight man and they are the comedic sidekick.

As I read the book, I could see a movie playing in my head. The "security guards" for Cal the rapper, also mad me laugh. Not sure they were meant to be, but in all their seriousness, discussions, and showing off, they seemed kind of silly.

Now, the language throughout the book is bad. Lots of swearing. But...I see the language as a character in this book. It is part of that neighborhood and culture. I don't think the story would have worked as well without it. It is part of that culture.

The book club members' thoughts:

A few people put the book down after 50ish pages because of the language and the story line of a rapper. Just not their thing. A few more read it but again didn't care for the subject matter. The majority of the members liked it. They liked Isaiah and the similarities to Sherlock. A couple of people already had book two checked out.

There are two more IQ books in the series:
Book #2 is Righteous and #3 is Wrecked.

IQ received an Anthony Award for Best First Novel, Macavity Award for Best First Novel, and was nominated for and Edgar Award, Barry and Strand Critics Award for Best Novel and short-listed for The CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger- 2018.

Joe Ide is of Japanese American descent and grew up in South Central Los Angeles. Joe’s favorite books were the Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories. The idea that a person could face the world and vanquish his enemies with just his intelligence fascinated him. Joe went on to earn a graduate degree and had several careers before writing his debut novel, IQ, inspired by his early experiences and love of Sherlock. Joe lives in Santa Monica, California.

I recommend it and I do want to read the next two books in the series.