Friday, June 8, 2018

Summer Reading 2018 Conan Doyle for the Defense

36978075

Mystery and true crime readers, this is a double treat. A complicated story of police malfeasance, perjury, witness tampering, wrongful prosecution, conviction and imprisonment - and it's all true! Author Margalit Fox has crafted a narrative that explains the crime, the actions of the law enforcement and judicial persons involved in the arrest and trial, and how Conan Doyle came to be involved. But the book also grounds the entire case in the social milieu of the times, explaining the prevailing attitudes and prejudices that fed into the situation and resulting injustice. 

Examples from various Sherlock Holmes stories are interwoven, along with quotes from other researchers and writers who have traced the threads of the story, remembrances of Adrian Conan Doyle and even copies of letters from the convicted man to his family and friends. Taken together, it paints a picture of a time when it was common for "the conflation of foreignness with criminality, a contrivance used to justify identifying, marginalizing, and punishing the convenient Other." Perhaps readers might even notice some similarities between the climate 100 years ago and that of today.

Highly recommended for those interested in legal history, murder mysteries, and all things Conan Doyle. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Summer Reading 2018 Ruthless Magic


Take the competition of The Hunger Games, mix in the magic of Harry Potter, and then go ahead and add some Divergent while you are at it. That will give you a feel for the vibe of this book, and the series it begins. In this version of our world, magic users have always existed, but they have finally come out to the public. The Confederation (like a Ministry of Magic), has all those with magical potential tested and then they choose the best to receive further training, notifying them with a magical letter. The testing and choosing also assigns where the Chosen will serve and what training they will receive (a bit like being in a faction). Those who don't make the cutoff may have their powers Dampered, or they may elect to face the Exam - a lovechild of the Triwizard Tournament and the Hunger Games.

This year's exam begins with 57 candidates hoping to earn a place as a Champion with a mentor to help them improve their skills to better serve society. Failure will leave them with their magic burned out of them, completely cut off from access to the power they have grown up with, or even dead. Among those gathered at Riker's Island to vie for one of the coveted spots are a mix of Old and New Magic. Some of the Old Magic families are like the Pure Bloods at Hogwarts who hold the Mud Bloods in contempt, treating those from New Magic families as upstarts and even dangerous.

The characters are intriguing. Finn comes from a powerful Old Magic family, but his skills are erratic and not as strong as expected. His friend Prisha was always in the top half of their classes, but she was not Chosen. From the New Magic side comes Rocio, whose brother died during the Exam three years ago. She has a Hermione-like affinity for magic, when she enchants something the magic rushes to her and through her, yet she was not Chosen either. Her mother speculates that it was because of prejudice against New Magic.

The Exam begins as soon as the candidates arrive and takes all their skills into account - even things like paying attention to details in their surroundings and following the rules. They are tested on creativity, offensive and defensive abilities, and much more. Some are cut very quickly, while others hang in even when it is clear they are not very powerful and have no qualms about ruining the chances of better-qualified candidates. What exactly is the Confederation looking for and why do they go about it in such a brutal way? As the five days of testing whittle away at the number of hopefuls, we as readers begin to have some suspicions of our own. Are we correct?

Highly recommended for readers of the series I have mentioned, or fans of other urban fantasy stories with strong characterization, some possible romantic vibes, and a perplexing mystery at the center of it all. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Spring Reading 2018 One Man's Meat (A Flaxborough Mystery)

One Man's Meat (A Flaxborough Mystery) by [Watson, Colin]


You would think that there is not a lot of intrigue or danger in the field of pet food production, and you might also believe that a small carnival is just a bit of fun, or that they have nothing to do with local boarding kennels. Imagine how surprised you will be to learn how they all connect. Between the death of a young man who falls from a carnival ride, the wife of a local executive who goes missing, and the arrival of another of Miss Teatime's old friends, Flaxborough is in for more drama. Coroner's inquests, doctored photographs, extra-marital affairs, and a busy rumor mill will keep everyone busy as the constable's try to piece it all together.

As usual, Purbright plugs away at the investigation until he finally makes sense of it all. With the help of Sid and the other constables, and even some assistance from the ever busy Mrs. Teatime, he does find out what it all means and amuses readers along the way with his humor and his gentle teasing of his supervisor. The various personalities in the town are stereotypical while still having some individuality to keep things interesting.

This is not the "little grey cells" approach of Poirot, but police procedure mixed with small town society and foibles. Perfect for mystery lovers who are looking for a more leisurely pace to reaching the solution and enjoying the journey.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 The Naked Nuns (A Flaxborough Mystery)


The Naked Nuns (A Flaxborough Mystery) by [Watson, Colin]

Things are heating up in the quiet town of Flaxborough. Arnold Hatch, owner of the Floradora Club, and his wife Sophie have a "friendly" competition going on with Harry Crispin and his housekeeper, Millicent Spain. Crispin puts in a large swimming pool, so the Hatch household extends their own pool to keep up. Mr. and Mrs. Hatch put in a light sensitive remote control to close their bedroom drapes at night, so Crispin flashes his car's high beams at the windows to open the drapes after bedtime. Small town life can be like that, right? 

But when authorities in America contact the constable's office with a warning that a hitman may be on his way to take out an unknown target, it seems the rivalry may be heating up. Inspector Purbright and his staff make inquiries, but no one seems to know who the target might be. When a strange American arrives, it seems he may have some answers, but he's not sharing. And what in the world are the telegrams about naked nuns referring to? Nothing is adding up and someone could soon be dead.

As usual, Purbright plugs away at the investigation until he finally makes sense of it all. With the help of Sid and the other constables, and even some assistance from the ever busy Mrs. Teatime, he does find out what it all means and amuses readers along the way with his humor and his gentle teasing of his supervisor. The various personalities in the town are stereotypical while still having some individuality to keep things interesting. 

This is not the "little grey cells" approach of Poirot, but police procedure mixed with small town society and foibles. Perfect for mystery lovers who are looking for a more leisurely pace to reaching the solution and enjoying the journey.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 Furyborn

34323570

There isn't much to add that hasn't already been said about this book. The two strong female protagonists will appeal to readers who enjoy female-centric stories, while the alternating timelines will keep you guessing about how it all ties together. The story of Eliana reminds me of Kate Elliott's Court of Fives with an empire building by conquest over another civilization, the ruins and traditions buried beneath them. The world building in Rielle's story is interesting- the humans, the angels, the marques (a mix of both), and the way they all interact will hook you in during the brief interlude before Chapter 1 even begins. 

If you enjoy fantasy, strong female characters, plots and mysteries, supernatural or superhuman abilities, and some swords and sorcery action - then give Furyborn a try. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 A u 7 9

40050901

Like fast-paced investigative thrillers? Enjoy the ins and outs of working a case full of false leads and dead ends? You should try A u 7 9. This case has everything an adrenaline junkie or police procedural fan could want. There is a missing ATF agent, a homicide detective bending all the rules, a couple of local gangs that might be involved, the theft of explosives, and a nosy cub reporter making allegations. In come members of the FBI's Tracker unit, a new group that has already solved a crucial case to the satisfaction of the agency and the President. But can they find the right clues and resolve this situation in time?

The characters are interesting and the scenes are full of action. Each member of the Trackers has special skills that all work together - investigation, computer analysis, bomb disposal, sharp shooting, etc. And the plot keeps readers guessing about just who the bad guy is, or if there could be more than one. The trust that the unit members have for each other throws the doubts about the other characters into sharp relief as signs point to a possible leak inside one of the Texas law enforcement branches.

Fans of shows featuring federal and police detectives, or books like the FBI novels by Catherine Coulter, should give the Trackers a try. The author's former career in law enforcement and her familiarity with all the details of that profession give the book a strong sense of realism.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 Broomsticks Over Flaxborough

39673672

A local folklore society turns out to be the cover for a coven of witches. After a recent celebration at the home of a coven member, an empty car is found and the owner is missing. Where has the driver gone? And where is the owner of a local store, who also hasn't been seen since that night? As the missing person investigations begin, police discover that members of the coven are not willing to discuss any helpful details of the celebration and even act as if being questioned is a persecution rather than an investigation.

The missing woman was a coven member, but the store owner was part of a local philanthropic group. Could there possible be any connection between the two disappearances? Everyone tries to help - the local pastor, the energetic Miss Teatime, and all the constables. But the town has also been overrun by a group of young ladies in white costumes doing a door-to-door campaign for a detergent and there will even be some commercials filmed with local folks participating. Could any of the people working on the add campaign have something to do with one or both of the missing persons? As usual, Purbright keeps working the case from all angles until he finally sees how the pieces fit together.

Those familiar with Flaxborough from previous installments in the series will recognize Purbright and other recurring characters, including Miss Lucy Teatime. Set in an English village in the mid-twentieth century, the novels all deal with crimes investigated by Purbright and the rest of the Flaxborough constabulary in a methodical and respectful way. There are no computers or rogue agents picking locks to find evidence, just a patient gathering of facts and fitting them together.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.