Review of The Case of the Curious Cook by Cathy Ace – 3.5 Stars

The Case of the Curious Cook (WISE Enquiries Agency #3)The Case of the Curious Cook by Cathy Ace

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Review of The Case of the Curious Cook by Cathy Ace – 3.5 Stars

Before you go any further with this book please be aware that it is the third in the series. I picked this up in a store and found the premise intriguing; a book shop that seems to be unknowingly acquiring books, but nowhere on the cover does it mention this apart from the text “A WISE Enquiries Agency Mystery”. Although it is quite an interesting story, I really don’t think this book worked well as a standalone.

As mentioned the premise is really intriguing and in fact it develops nicely to include the story of a brother imprisoned for murdering his sister (both of whom are artists) and a rather questionable old folks home that may be coercing old people to handover their cash to them in their wills. All of this takes place on and around the lovely town of Hay-on-Wye (in Wales), which is a superb setting and well described.

This point probably stems from reading this book as a standalone also, but there just seemed to be far too many characters to keep track of, the duchess, Mavis, Annie, Christine, Carol, the duchess son and daughter, the two book shop owners, the two old folks homes owner, Annie’s love interest (pub landlord), Christine’s love interest (dodgy builder), Carol’s hubby and Son, several old ladies at the old folks’ home, etc, etc (not to mention the pets). For a 197-page book this just seemed so excessive. Perhaps if I had read the first two I would have enjoyed this group of characters more but I found it really confusing and just unnecessary to the story.

However, an important point to make with this book is that the writing is actually really easy to read and flows nicely. I often think it is useful for readers to see a brief extract as they would in a book shop so here is a little passage from the novel:

‘Oh Henry, your face is a picture,’ said the old woman, with a voice he recognized.
‘Mother?’
The woman pulled her wig from her head to reveal his mother’s neatly-trimmed almost-white hair. She took off the specatcles and he saw her twinkling eyes. The brownish lipstick made her look washed out, and the purple floral dress was – well, it made him feel quite bilious.
‘Ta-daa!’ said his mother with a flourish. ‘You truly had no idea it was me, did you dear?’

I would definitely read other works by this author, especially as a light-hearted mystery (something suitable for a holiday read or something). I hope in future editions they make it obvious on the covers the number of the series each book is. This would help the reader make a better assessment.

So in summary my opinion is; it’s a great setting, easy-to-read, interesting concept. It just doesn’t work well as a standalone with a large cast of characters to keep track off.

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Review of The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey – 4 Stars.

The Daughter of Time (Inspector Alan Grant, #5)The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is pretty much as the back cover describes. Inspector Alan Grant finds himself cooped up after suffering from a broken leg. When his friend Marta brings him a jumble of historical mysteries the portrait of Richard III immediately intrigues him. Soon the inspector is pulling every historical source he can find to determine the truth, did Richard the third truly murder the princes in the tower.

When I started this book it took me a really long time to adapt to the slow and methodical writing approach. It is deliberately done this way so that the reader gets caught up in Alan Grant’s viewpoint of ‘don’t believe everything written in the history books’, take things one step at a time. The author also has a good way of drip feeding bits of British History without it becoming a cumbersome read. However, as this novel was first published in the 1950s the writing is a little old-fashioned and takes a bit of time to get used to, for example;

 

“If anyone, looking into a crystal ball at that party, had told Cecily Nevill that in for years not only the York line but the whole Plantagenet dynasty would have gone forever, she would have held it either madness or treason.”

I did enjoy the story of this book but found the character Inspector Alan Grant to be a bit bland. However, I do confess when reading this I had no idea it was a series and had assumed it was a standalone (it was pleasantly readable as a standalone), so I do wonder if perhaps I had read the others in the series first I would have enjoyed this character more.

I really loved the concept of the book; trying to solve an old murder mystery from centuries before with just the materials you can lay your hands on at the time. I must say considering the novel is nearly seventy years old it has aged brilliantly and is still very readable. It is a quirky novel, well researched and an intriguing addition to the Richard III and the murder of the princes’ debate.

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Review of Skeleton Key by Robert Richardson – 4 Stars

Skeleton Key (Augustus Maltravers, #1)Skeleton Key by Robert Richardson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brief Outline
Novelist Augustus and his girlfriend Tess have planned a week’s holiday staying with friends in Bellringer. This stay is immediately disrupted when a skeleton is stolen from Edenbridge House, the stately home of the Earl of Pembury. The mystery of the missing skeleton surges through the village with rumours abound. So when the heir to the estate, Simon (Lord Dunford) is found murdered, most people find themselves as suspects.
Maltravers and Tess find themselves caught up in the mystery of vengeance and murder. Could it be Simon’s own cousin Oliver Hawkhurst or the estate’s coldly efficient secretary, Mister York? Who had the strongest motive for murder? Maltravers and Tess increasingly want to know the truth and more importantly, want to stop the killer from killing again.
Writing Style
This book does start very slowly (particularly for a crime novel) and it does take a while to build up the suspense and the storyline. I think this is partly to do with a lot of characters in the book for the reader to get to know. However a few chapters in it gets going and the mystery starts to take shape. I would say this is more of an Agatha Christie or M.C. Beaton style of pace.
The storyline is quite interesting and the settings are very well described; a small village, cricket pitch, large estate house, etc. There are quite a lot of characters in this novel to get used to, each with their own agendas and interest in the murder, this was probably my slight criticism of the novel as it distracted me from the story a little trying to remind myself who was who and what they had said/done previously. However the main characters Maltravers, Tess and Simon were all very interesting and it was enjoyable to read their story unfold.
Summary
An enjoyable book, particularly for fans of MC Beaton, Agatha Christie style of the crime genre.
About the author
I came across this book as the author has won the John Creasey Annual Award given by the Crime Writers Association. This award is for the best crime novel by a first-time author of any nationality first published in the UK in English. I have adored the work of some of the previous winners including SJ Watson and it is always a helpful place to discover new talent.

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Review of An Island of Illusions – 4 Stars

An Island of Illusions (A Sarah Woods Mystery #3)An Island of Illusions by Jennifer L. Jennings

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hadn’t realised this was the third novel in the series when purchased and do feel I would have been better acquainted if I had read the previous books prior to this, for example Sarah’s relationship with her husband has broken down quite dramatically in this book and I feel there was probably a prelude to this that I have missed out on. This issue aside (as I do feel it is my mistake) the book was very good.
I enjoyed the mystery plot and the investigation that went into resolving the storyline, very cosy mystery based. This story is quite quick paced and it doesn’t take long for the readers suspicions about the characters to build. Who is really good and who is putting on a show.
The characters were quite well written and did what they were supposed to. The husband was annoying, the soon to be lover alluring, and the culprit kept you guessing. There was a few things that didn’t work though with continuity of Sarah’s decisions being a little frustrating.
The book itself was very easy to read, nothing too hard-hitting. It wasn’t edge-of-your-seat thrilling but it was enjoyably. The mystery storyline was very good. I would happily read this author again and think her writing style will develop well.

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Review of The Library by Carmen De Sousa

The Library: Where Life Checks OutThe Library: Where Life Checks Out by Carmen DeSousa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This mainly follows the story of Mark Waters a homicide detective. When investigating a case he comes across a beautiful young barmaid who is suspect in a murder case. Months later the couple are together, with a baby on the way, a baby that isn’t Mark’s. Alongside Marks troubled social life he is called in to investigate a new murder in a local library. Mark’s new in-laws could be caught up in the case and with difficult decisions ahead Mark’s investigation takes some interesting turns.

The story had an interesting premise and with a touch of paranormal involved I was looking forward to this read and it didn’t disappoint. It is a light-hearted cosy thriller that is easy to read and flows quite naturally. I did feel the characters could be explored/ explained a little more as there was gaps in their personalities with quite a lot of characters for the novel length but I am hoping that is because the author is creating a series and looking to grow the characters.

The authors writing style is quite slow making this story ideal for lazy afternoon reads. Although there are a few action based scenes, it is mostly a book about the investigation and waiting for the clues to drop, with enough twists to keep the reader guessing.

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Review of Loose Ends by Terri Reid – 4 stars

Loose Ends (Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery #1)Loose Ends by Terri Reid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story follows Mary, a former police officer who has now moved to a new town and started her own private investigation practise – in the paranormal. She is thrown into the story very quickly when the town mayor’s wife approaches her to help with an old unresolved case of her husband’s assistant who had drowned. This case connects with another at around the same time involving five little girls who have disappeared. With a new police chief in town Mary has to convince him she is being haunted by the paranormal, stalked by a killer and that she isn’t insane – making for a fun combo.
The characters were well cast with a real mix of light-hearted paranormal activity. I did think the love story with the new police chief could have been a bit more interesting but as this is the first in the series, perhaps the author is leaving room for this to progress. I think some of the other side characters who help Mary in this novel could have some really interesting stories later to tell later in the series.
Overall, I found this novel an excellent read and would recommend it to fans of the mystery genre. The novel was interesting, unusual and very quick and easy to read. Start of a fun series.

A great debut novel for this self-published indie author.

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