With apologies to Gabriel García Márquez, here are the mystery book reviews that I wrote while I was working from home during the COVID-19 crisis. Reading has been slow and it didn’t help that some of these books were longer than the average cozy mystery. Still, they ranged from cat shows to filming movies to universities to ancient Athens; all, for the most part, enjoyable and a few I would most definitely recommend
Purr-Suasive Witches (A Wonder Cats Mystery)
“Secrets at St Bride’s”
Staffroom at St Bride’s (#1) [08/05/2020]
This book started off being very confusing for me because I was expecting to read a mystery.
I was intrigued by the idea of story centering around a private girls school because I had really enjoyed reading the Chalet series which took place pre- and post-World War II.
So I kept reading this book expecting a murder but when it was obvious that a murder wasn’t going to happen (there was an attempted murder but that was late in the book), I sat back and really enjoyed the book for what it was: a book about a boarding school in England where most of the teachers and staff had secrets.
I really don’t know how to categorize the book except that it is well-written and fun to read. Given these days of COVID, quarantine and politics not-as-usual, it was a pleasant diversion. I would greatly look forward to reading more books in the series.
A solid 4 paws.
“The Wickenham Murders”
Peter and Georgia Marsh — Marsh and Daughter (#1) [07/31/2020]
This was a splendid book.
Well written with fantastically interesting characters. Granted, there were times that I thought Georgia was a bit too whiney but given what she’d gone through, I guess I’d whine a bit too.
This is one of these “solve the murder in the past and present” type of cozy mystery. Peter and Georgia research and write books (and I think articles) on past mysteries, with Peter doing most of the writing and Georgia doing the legwork as former police officer Peter was injured on duty and is in a wheel chair.
The more than Georgia delves into Wickenham’s past, the more resentful the townsfolks become. This mixture of resentment and present feuds makes for a dandy mystery.
This is the first book in the series and I’d like to read more, assuming I can get them for a decent price. They are a long read, but totally worthwhile.
A solid 5 paws.
“The Agatha Christie Book Club” #1 [07/15/2020]
I admit I wanted to read this book because I had just recently finished reading “The Murder at the Vicarage” and I was intrigued by the title (and the purchase price was right!)
It was an OK book. I wasn’t exactly bowled over and in fact, as I was reading the book, I kept thinking I would be better off doing something else. But it wasn’t a bad read, so I decided to plod on to the inevitable conclusion and revelation.
I admit that the revelation was quite clever but I just don’t see myself reading anymore in the series. Having said that, if you are interested in a relatively decent read set in Australia, then you might enjoy this book a lot more than I did.
A 2.5 paws — barely a decent read.
“Something in the Water”
Peter Shandy (#9) [07/08/2020]
This is the penultimate Peter Shandy Mystery and it’s a total goodie.
Peter finds himself away from home to get samples of lupines when he witnesses an elderly gentleman wolf down a chicken pot pie only to fall head-first into said chow dead.
As with other books by Charlotte MacLeod, this one is full of colorful characters (some of which we’ve met previously) and a great plot.
If you are a fan of contemporary Maine cozy mysteries, this definitely should be on your list to read.
A solid 5 paws.
“The Murder at the Vicarage”
Miss Marple (#1) [07/03/2020]
I am a great fan of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series though some might find them a bit on the slow side. I enjoy Miss Marple’s musings and the quaintness of the English village life.
I think I’ve read all the Miss Marple books and I think this is the only book that is from a first person point of view that isn’t Miss Marple’s, but that of the village vicar who finds the dead body in his library.
Of course, the village has all kinds of secrets and those come out as the murderer is tracked down.
If a slow, rich, character study of an English village of yore, this is a good you’ll enjoy. All other should stay away.
A solid 5 paws.
“A Body in the Attic”
Myrtle Clover Mysteries (#16) [06/07/2020]
It’s Miles this time who finds the dead body in the attic of one of his chess-playing friends and of course, Myrtle is on the case to figure out whodunit.
This is another solid entry in the series and even Elaine’s newest hobby is more amusing than usual.
Well-worth reading if you’re a fan. Even if you’re not a fan, this is a good book to start reading the series.
As always, Myrtle gets a solid 5 paws.
“A Stitch in Time”
John Putnam Thatcher (#7) [05/25/2020]
I am a big fan of author Emma Lathan and her John Putnam Thatcher series. I’m pretty sure I’d previously read this book but even in re-reading the tome, I couldn’t remember if I had read it before or not.
It’s an OK book by Emma’s standards and certainly not the best in the series (I thought it lacked some of the humor in other books), but it’s still a solid read centering around a hospital and the murder of one of its doctors.
While I am giving this book five solid paws, as I said, it’s not one of her best though I will say here that my favorite book of hers is “Death Shall Overcome.” I might just glom onto a copy and re-read it for a fourth or fifth time (it’s that good).
“Death Ex Machina”
The Athenian Mysteries (#5) [05/19/2020]
As I’ve mentioned previously, I really like mysteries set in the theater, so when I came across this book on sale, I was intrigued.
While I enjoy period pieces, this is the first mystery series I’ve read in ancient Athens, so I honestly didn’t know what to expect.
I loved it. The dialogue was witty, the descriptions really fantastic, and it was a good mystery to boot.
As a medical historian (more medical nerd since I’ve never gotten paid for any of my medical history musings), I appreciated the fact that the author did his homework, so I am inclined to think that the rest of the book has some roots in actual history as well.
The plot is a simple one: our hero, a private detective in Athens and his wife, a high priestess of Athena are hired by a playwright during the great festival to get rid of a ghost who is thwarting the rehearsals. While Nico is able to get rid of the “ghost,” unfortunately, he has a murder to contend with and we are off to the races.
I did manage to pick up another book in the series at a very good price. Unfortunately, the publisher prices the books above what I consider reasonable for an electronic book, so unless I win the lottery, I don’t think I’ll be reading many of the books (unless they are on sale).
Well worth your time and eyes. While this is a long book, it’s totally worth it and I give it 5 paws up! for a delightful story that had me laughing out loud at several points.
“Death By Suspenders”
Spencer University (#1) [04/25/2020]
This is the first book in a series that I assume takes place at Spencer University.
Young professor can’t keep her snoot out of mysterious goings on at her university and goes full-tilt when the hated professor is killed.
There are very few books that I won’t finish reading. It wasn’t that this book was a slog to read it was one that wasn’t all that great.
It was OK and I don’t plan to read any further books in the series even if they are on sale.
A dismal 3 paws — not my cup of tea but it might be yours. Reader beware.
Jocelyn O’Roarke (#4) [04/16/2020]
Joss is a stage actress who came out west to act in a made for TV movie for an old friend who had written the script.
She has no delusions that her primary mission to keep the erstwhile child star now all grown up, divorced, with a child and having beat a drug addiction on the straight and narrow. (For what it’s worth, the movie they are starring in doesn’t sound all that interesting, more like a Hallmark movie.)
I will warn you now, this is a long book that took me quite a while to finish, but it was a great book; one that prompted me to look at purchasing other books in the series. I learned a lot about movie making; the behind the scenes look at the process was great.
This is definitely a series I will be reading more of in the future (already have another book since it was on sale) and I recommend at least this book, hopefully, I’ll be able to recommend the series.
I give this book a solid 4.5 paws — well worth reading, especially if you enjoy the behind the scenes of the creative process.
“Murder at Kensington Gardens”
Ginger Gold Mysteries #6 [04/03/2020]
Another British mystery, this time, it is a very modern aristocrat, post World War I, a widow, who lives in a very nice large house with various people including her mother-in-law, a unmarried pregnant medical student (I told you she was progressive), a woman who works in the pathologist office, and a ton of other characters.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away but it centers around Ginger’s boyfriend’s ex-wife who was living a double life as a burlesque dancer (which, apparently, was pretty racy and scandalous). I was rather interested in the fact that women actually attended these burlesque shows, but then, this was the twenties and as the song says, “Anything Goes.”
Other than the titillation of burlesque show and Ginger’s lovely clothing, there really wasn’t much going for the story. It was better than some I’d read, but I wasn’t motivated to check out to see if there were other books in the series worth my time. I’d definitely buy another book if it was on sale, but I’m not going to go out of my way to read the series.
I give this book 3.5 paws — good enough to read on a rainy afternoon.
“The Religious Body”
Inspector Sloan (#1) [03/28/2020]
Despite not being overly religious, I do enjoy religious mysteries. After all, the core of a good mystery is explaining the circumstances about which the murder has occurred, which means, you learn a lot about a lot of different subjects. In this case, the mystery surrounds the death of a nun, so consequently, there is a ton of background on being in a convent as well as what England was like post World War II.
I purchased this book because of the subject matter (and of course, the price) and wasn’t disappointed in the least. I’m not really fond of police procedurals (it’s not that I don’t enjoy them, they aren’t the kind of book I seek out to read). Despite that, it is a really good book and the mystery and subsequent resolution were totally satisfactory (as well as surprising).
This is definitely a book for the post World War II British mystery fan, police procedural or religious mystery. It ticks off a number of different boxes and does them all proud.
I give this book a solid 4.5 Paws! — definitely worth the read.
Cat in the Stacks (#12) [03/21/2020]
As always, I look forward to more adventures of Charlie and Diesel and I almost didn’t read the book. I had requested the loan from my local library but somehow, the email letting me know that the book was available was missed or never arrived, so when I received the email saying I had three days to read it before it was automatically returned, I was in a state of panic. Luckily this was over the weekend, so I spent good chunk of my free time furiously reading the book. Thankfully, “Miranda” is such a great author that I had no trouble finishing the book with time to spare.
This time, Charlie’s daughter is caught up in the death of a seriously obnoxious actor who was the guest actor for the play the college was putting on. I’d worked in amateur theatre so I really enjoyed the behind the scenes especially having to deal with the various personalities it takes to put a play on.
This is a great book if you enjoy the theatre or any kind of performing arts (similiar to “Dead Pan” which I reviewed) or if you enjoy a good mystery that has cats. The cats don’t solve the mystery as they have done in other mysteries, but you’ll enjoy them hanging around acting like cats.
As always, this was definitely a Five Paws Up! book — great for theatre buffs and mystery buffs.
“Murder at the Cat Show”
A Perkins & Tate Mystery (#2) [03/17/2020]
I’d read a previous mystery by Marian Babson and enjoyed it very much. I found this ebook on sale and since I was familiar with her work, I glommed on to it.
I wasn’t disappointed especially since I love cats.
The mystery takes place at a cat show were the protagonists are the PR firm hired to publicize the event. As anyone who has a cat or two knows, cats are their own people and I can’t imagine having that many cats under one roof. Granted, most of them are used to this kind of life, but still, cat wrangling (especially at the end of the book) wasn’t my idea of fun. But the book was fun and well worth reading. I’d definitely be interested in picking up more books in the series as long as I can get them on sale.
I give this book a solid Four Paws! — well worth reading and you’ll have a great time at it!
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