Dragonwell Dead–Laura Childs

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This is yet another from the “catch up on previously abandoned book series” list.

In this series, based on teas (if you didn’t know Dragonwell was the name of a green tea, you do now) with the protagonist being the owner of a tea shop in Charleston.

These books are very much cozy mysteries. Very very much so. In fact, they’re so cozy they’re the literary equivalent of a petit four.

There’s hardly any mystery here. There’s not much in the way of danger or suspense. This is mostly just a gentle stroll through a minor adventure.

In this book, a friend of the protagonist drops dead after drinking a glass of sweet tea. His widow asks her to help get his stuff from the office, etc.

Obviously, he was murdered. But by whom? His widow? His secretary who was harboring a crush on him? His co-worker/competitor? The orchid collector that wanted his collection?

The book includes tea time tips and a handful of recipes that I wasn’t inclined to try, although I considered the mini pecan muffins.

For what it is, it’s perfectly lovely. If you like your mysteries extremely gentle and sweet, this is the one for you.

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Deja dead–Kathy Reichs

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I’m sure I’ve read at least one of these books before but can’t find a description of any that seems familiar, so I started fresh.

These are the books that are the basis for the TV show “Bones” which you may have seen. I used to watch it but I lost interest after they decided to put the main characters in a long-term relationship. It took the edge of the show and turned it into too much romance and social crap and not enough mystery stuff.

Anyway.

This is the first in the series featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, who is on temporary assignment in Quebec.

She suspects a recently discovered set of bones is associated with previously found skeletons, suggesting a serial killer is going around, killing and dismembering young women.

Side note: one of the things I’m really looking forward to about aging is that I’ll no longer be in a high-risk demographic for serial killers. These are the thoughts that come from reading mysteries on a regular basis.

The cop working the case has an attitude and dislikes her greatly, which makes her attempt to horn in on the investigation much harder.

Eventually they find a hidey-hole belonging to the serial killer, but there’s no physical evidence to show them where he normally lives or who he really is.

After her close friend is found murdered (way to raise the emotional stakes, Reichs) she redoubles her efforts and they find someone they think is the killer.

Obviously not. Because while the cops are busy investigating the new guy, the real killer comes after Temperance.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you she makes it, given that this is a series.

This is a good one. Fast-paced, interesting, scientific, and well-written.

Shopaholic and Sister–Sophie Kinsella

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I’m finishing up as many of my ongoing book series as I can, and this is one of the ones I’m picking back up after a several year absence.

These books–which spawned a movie starring Isla Fisher–are adorable, but beware the extreme flightiness of the protagonist.

The basic premise of all these books is that the main character, Becky, is a reckless spender with no sense of budget or reality who somehow manages to make everything work out and be beloved by all at the end.

She should apply some of those principles to my bank account. Ahem.

Anyway, in this one, Becky comes home from a year-long honeymoon with her very rich husband with a huge amount of souvenirs and is greeted with the news that she has a half-sister from a liaison of her father’s before she was born.

She’s all excited about girly stuff but of course, her sister is not girly. Angst.

Also, she manages to create issues for her husband’s business, because of course she does, why would she stop with destroying their personal finances and alienating her sister?

Sometimes I get frustrated with Becky.

In the end she reconciles with her sister, makes a slew of new friends with her random foray into activism, and her meddling leads to victory at her husband’s job. Yay for Becky.

These are girly books. Not even a little bit, in the way that some chick lit books can be enjoyable to all, but seriously girly. Consider yourself warned.

This is the epitome of “beach books”–in fact, this entire series is that way. This is mindless fluff. If you want to spend a few girly hours with silliness, go for it. It’s good for what it is.

 

The Case of the Missing Books–Ian Sansom

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This is one of my favorite books. It’s a random one to be one of my favorites but it is and I love it. I read it probably twice a year, usually when I’m sad or stressed and want to feel happier.

It’s totally absurd, but so so funny.

The book features Israel Armstong, a nominally Jewish librarian. He’s always WANTED to be a librarian but has actually been working at a bookstore in a mall in England whilst living with his vastly more successful lawyer girlfriend.

He applies for and gets a job as a librarian in Ireland (Northern Ireland? my grasp of Irish distinctions is not good) which seems like a promising career move. His girlfriend encourages him to take the job and the readers realize far faster than Israel does that she’s dumping him via job offer. Harsh.

When he gets to Ireland, he discovers that his accommodations are in a chicken coop on a farm, his library is a mobile library, and the books are all completely missing.

He’s told he can’t quit because they won’t pay his way home if he does, and if he wants out he has to find the books.

He then spends the book trying to understand his Irish neighbors whilst solving his missing book problem. Humor ensues.

I don’t know why I love it so much, other people I know who have read it are pretty meh on it, but I do. And for that reason I recommend it. I think this, the first book in the series, is the best in the series.

S is for Silence–Sue Grafton

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This is a huge series, a popular series, and I’ve read the previous books, but not recently.

I actually read this when it came out, but I’d forgotten that I had so I re-read it again now that I’m trying to finish out some series.

I remember being disappointed with this book at the time and that’s why I didn’t continue on then.

Reading it now, I stand by that assessment. It’s not as great as some of the other books in this series.

In this book, perpetual heroine Kinsey Millhone is hired to look into the mysterious disappearance of a young mother something like 40 years before. Her daughter is sad, and wants to know what happened.

And so she dives in, and finds that the missing woman had a bad reputation. She was an abused wife but apparently people in town were ok with that because she fought back. *sigh* I can’t even with those townspeople.

And she was also apparently known as a slut. So. Take that for what it’s worth, because I totally don’t trust those townspeople after that domestic violence situation.

She’s missing, along with an undisclosed amount of money from a medical malpractice settlement, a brand spanking new car, and her little yippy dog, but not her daughter.

None of those things were ever seen again.

The idea is that she either ran away or was killed, but in either case, the car should have been found. Brand new cars don’t often up and disappear.

Suspects include the abusive husband, her brother, and various lovers, possible lovers or past lovers, plus the wives and family members of said lovers.

In the end, of course, it was murder. Minor spoiler, but c’mon, you knew she was dead, right? It’s been 40 years! Someone would have seen her, she wouldn’t have abandoned the kid for that long.

The problem I had was that the book itself provides a lack of motive for the eventual murderer, and never resolved the discrepancy. I felt annoyed and cheated. Otherwise, it’s classic Sue Grafton. Sharp, fast, playful.

There are better books in this series, but if you’re reading the series (and are WAY behind the publishing dates like me) it’s not worth skipping this one if, like me, you’re a completionist.

And if you find the resolution for the discrepancy, and you’ll know what I mean when you finish it, please let me know so I can feel better about this book.

Death Walked In–Carolyn Hart

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This is the 18th book in this series, and although I’ve really enjoyed this series, this one was not my favorite. I think, maybe, the characters are getting tired. You know how some series go on and on and then you suddenly realize the characters had reached the end of their lifespan a few books earlier? I hope–I very very much hope–that this isn’t the case here but I’m afraid.

These books are centered on a woman who runs a mystery bookstore on an island off the coast of South Carolina. At the beginning, it was mostly just her at the center of the story. As the books have gone on, she’s gotten married, and the cast of familiar characters includes a host of people and they’re all pretty predictable. I can always tell what her mother-in-law is going to say or do, and the same with her husband, and I wish, I REALLY wish, they had some more fire. *sigh*

Ok, in this one, Annie and her husband Max are remodeling an old plantation home for their own use. Because naturally, he’s from money, making all sorts of life issues for them easier. Ahem.

He owns a private detective agency on the island because on a small island there’s SO MUCH need for that, but again, fine, ok.

Someone calls and says she’s afraid and needs help and he’s not willing to take the call. Apparently in the last book which I read approximately 12 million years ago, a woman started her conversation with him that way and it ended badly.

*I* think if you’re not interested in talking to people with problems, maybe you should close down your private detective business, but ok.

But his secretary (also super predictable) takes a message anyway. The lady says she hid something at the house they’re remodeling but now the locks have been changed and she needs to get it back.

They go out there and it’s some lady living in a small cottage not far from their mansion and another mansion, where she worked as a housekeeper. The other mansion has a rich guy and his family living in it and the rich guy just had his rare coin collection stolen.

Clearly, the idea is that she hid the coins in their house.

But no one can find the damn things. Coins are small, mmmkay?

Oh and the lady in question has been murdered, making her unlikely to be the thief.

Other characters drop, but no one we expect to see again anyway, and everyone looks for the coins, and in the end, it’s a nice little mystery but not terribly exciting.

I’m partial to the earlier books in this series, especially “The Christie Caper.” There’s nothing actually wrong with this book, it just lacks the ingenuity and fire I’d like to have seen. I’m not saying not to read it, I’m saying maybe start with the earlier books first.