Three Good Mysteries

Kate Parker’s Deadly Wedding continues the adventures of Olivia Denis, begun in Deadly Scandal. Set in London in the late 1930s, the series combines mystery with a touch of cloak and dagger adventure. When Olivia agrees to help out with the wedding of a distant cousin, she doesn’t expect to find herself investigating a deadly-weddingmurder. And two attempts and another murder. As Olivia probes the family’s secrets, she has more and more reason to be glad that these people, with whom she spent much of her childhood, are only distant relations. Along the way she learns things she never knew about her father (they’re working together to investigate the murders, but Sir Ronald still doesn’t want to acknowledge Olivia’s job as a journalist), she sees some terrible sights on a trip to Vienna shortly after the Nazis move in, and the coming war colors everyone’s future. Olivia is a determined, independent woman, surrounded by a range of interesting characters, and her instincts for mystery solving are strong. I hope we’ll be seeing more of her Deadly adventures.

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Send In the Clowns is another (#4) thoroughly enjoyable Country Club Murder from Julie Mulhern. This time Ellison Russell witnesses a murder in The Gates of Hell—a haunted house attraction where her daughter Grace appears to have overstayed her curfew. Of course the body disappears send-in-the-clownsbefore the police get there, but when it does turn up it opens a whole can of worms for Kansas City society. Ellison deals with her snobbish mother, her goodhearted but old fashioned father (who thinks Ellison needs a man to “manage” her), and struggles with her up and down feelings for police detective Anarchy Jones and lawyer Hunter Taft. I love the characters in Mulhern’s series, and the 1970s setting is spot on.

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Janet Evanovich’s Turbo Twenty Three is the latest in the long-running series about Stephanie Plum, accidental (and accident-prone) bond recovery agent. I still love this series. Stephanie and Lula still make me laugh out loud. If Lula’s turbo-twenty-threedescription of going into a public men’s room (her idea for a new reality series, after Naked Bungee Jumping didn’t work out) doesn’t make you laugh, you should probably be reading something else. This installment features an enraged clown, murders at an ice cream factory, Grandma’s new boyfriend (a tattooed biker, but age appropriate), Randy Briggs (the three-foot-tall naked bungee jumper), Joe, Ranger, Rex the Hamster, a slimy booby trap, several fugitives, and another wrecked car. All in a day’s work for Stephanie and Lula.

Books: Mystery With Humor

Corrie Locke, the heroine of Lida Sideris’ Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters, is a newly minted lawyer who has just landed her dream job as a contract attorney for a motion picture production company. Murder and Other Unnatural DisastersUnfortunately for Corrie (but not for the reader), Keith-Ameripictures appears to be staffed entirely by lunatics. And while all Corrie wants is to live a fairly normal life and hang on to her new job, her reputation, or rather her father’s, haunts her.

Corrie spent her teen years helping her private investigator dad solve cases, even cracking a few herself. And word has gotten around. One of the security people at her new job quickly pulls her into the mystery of a recent suicide that might have a more sinister explanation, a pro basketball player insists she hunt for his missing lucky (and extremely bad-tempered) cat, and a barely coherent rap star brings her a case of alien abduction.

Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters is a wild roller coaster ride, full of loony characters, snappy dialog, and at least one ruthless murderer. Fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series will certainly enjoy the ride, and will spot a few common notes: Corrie’s self-appointed sidekick, Veera, reminds me of a better educated, better behaved, and definitely better dressed Lula, and Corrie finds her attention split between two attractive men: her long-time best friend Michael Parris and snarky, quick-thinking ADA James Zachary.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and abrupt transitions sometimes had me wondering where the characters were and how they got there. But the dialog is snappy and funny, and Corrie is an entertaining and sympathetic heroine as she navigates the perils of her new job, the temptations of investigating crime and craziness, and the dangers of raiding her mother’s padlocked and nanny-cammed closet for wardrobe emergencies. I hope this is the beginning of a new series and that Corrie, Veera, Michael, and James will be back. Put up your shingle, Corrie, and make your own dream job.

Speaking of Janet Evanovich, Tricky Twenty-Two is the latest in the long-running adventures of Stephanie Plum, the world’s most accident-prone bond enforcement agent. I can’t say worst, because Tricky Twenty-TwoStephanie usually gets her man (or occasional woman) in the long run, but along the way she destroys cars, gets beat up, goes to pre-funeral viewings with her gun-toting grandma, and wavers between two men, cop Joe Morelli and security ace Ranger Manoso.

I see a lot of snarky reviews from people who swear they’ll never read another book in this series, they’re terrible, they’re repetitious, etc. So, okay, don’t. (Like the people who want the TV shows they hate canceled, instead of just turning to another channel. Better yet, turn off the TV, folks.) Meanwhile, this installment hit Number One on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Yes, in Tricky Twenty-Two a few cars are destroyed (one of them by geese–now that’s different). Yes, Grandma takes her gun to a viewing or two, Lula eats her way through the book, Stephanie and Joe get crosswise, Stephanie moonlights for Ranger. Yes, if I were Stephanie I would have married Joe a long time ago.

These are comfort books. I know what’s coming–that’s why I buy them year after year. That’s why I enjoy them. I love the characters. I love the crazy messes Stephanie gets into. I’ll keep reading them as long as Evanovich keeps writing them. I’ve gotten bored with other mystery series and characters, but I still love Stephanie.

And More Books

When I cut my work schedule back to three days a week a couple of months ago, I was hoping to catch up on reading.  Well, not catch up, really, since I continue to buy books faster than I read them, but at least read more.  It’s been slow.  But I’ve kicked a few other projects off the virtual sticky notes on my computer screen.  I resurrected, edited, and submitted a favorite manuscript to the 2014 Golden Heart contest.  I’ve gotten back to my work-in-progress.  And I’ve just about finished up my term as president of West Houston RWA.  It’s been too cold to do yard work, but my Christmas cards are ready to mail.

The last book I finished reading was Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria, another Tara Holloway novel by Diane Kelly.  Tara Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangriais a gun-toting IRS Special Agent with relationship problems.  She spends much of this book tracking down fraudulent tax preparers and money transfer businesses, trying to break up with her boy friend so she can date the fellow agent she’s been crushing on (since she rescued him from exile in Mexico), and drinking peach Sangria.  Only Tara would declare her intentions to that fellow agent in the middle of a shoot out with a taxidermist/part-time tax preparer.  Diane Kelly writes very funny books, and I highly recommend them.

Now I’m reading the latest adventure of bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich.  Stephanie and her sidekick Lula are hunting for a gangster, but they catch more glimpses of a giraffe running loose in Trenton, New Jersey, than they do of Uncle Sunny.  Stephanie also has two men in her life, Joe Morelli and the mysterious Ranger, constant car trouble, and a loony grandma.  I love the series for the characters, whether they solve a mystery or not.

I’ve been fairly restrained about buying books lately, at least partly because we had no West Houston RWA meeting (with accompanying book signing/sale) to tempt me.  I did go over to Barnes & Noble a couple of weeks ago for the latest Tara Holloway novel, Death, Taxes, and Green Tea Ice Cream, and The Vanishing Thief, first in a new series of Victorian Bookshop Mysteries by my fellow Golden Heart finalist Kate Parker.  (The women I have met through the Golden Heart are keeping my bookshelves and Kindle full!)

Recent downloads to my Kindle include Tales from the SFR Brigade, a free collection of eight stories.  If you’d like to sample some science fiction romance, this is a good place to start.  Thrown is a new contemporary romance with anThrown equestrian background from Colette Auclair, also a Golden Heart finalist.  And I downloaded Orange Is the New Black, by Piper Kerman.  I haven’t seen the Netflix series based on the book, but I heard an interview with the author on NPR the other day, and it sounded too interesting to pass up.  Who knows, it might even inspire me to subscribe to Netflix.  Just what I need, more TV.

Speaking of Golden Heart finalists, the Firebirds (class of 2012) have restarted our blog.  Today’s post is a very funny interview with Colette Auclair about Thrown.  I’ve promised to post on January 13, so I guess I’d better think of something to say.  Hmmm, maybe I’ll write about . . . books.  And now I think I’ll go read one.

 

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