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Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder–deadly Polar Bear Plunge

Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder

by Tina Kashian

As usual, even though this is the fifth book in the Kitchen Kebab Series, author Tina Kashian does a brilliant job of bringing the reader up to date on the characters in the series at the same time that they are taking the Polar Bear Plunge in the little New Jersey town of Ocean Crest. The title of the book, Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder, encapsulates the plot—but in reverse order. The frigid swim Lucy Barbarian and her sidekick Katie Watson undertake for charity results, unfortunately, in a drowning, but not one of accidental causes. This death (MURDER) and Lucy’s investigation to clear her friend Susan, a local baker, takes top billing in the story. Mediterranean cuisine (MOUSSAKA) comes in second as Lucy manages her parents’ restaurant; the book features enticing descriptions of food. Romance is also in the air (MISTLETOE) as Lucy plans her wedding to head chef Azad.

This cozy mystery will have you turning pages quickly as Lucy discovers that everyone who had opportunity to commit this crime also had motive. Secrets abound. Some of Lucy’s inquiries edge along dangerous lines, and the local detective discourages her “interference.” Gadoo, Lucy’s adopted cat, and Cupid, her landlady’s shih tzu, learn to tolerate each other, and Gadoo has an exciting major role in this book.

The setting is an ocean beach town that depends for its economic survival on three months of summer tourist trade. This book, however, has a cold Christmas backdrop with a nice mix of mystery and holiday fun.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #5 in the Kitchen Kebab Mystery Series, but works quite well as a standalone.

2. A recipe section is included with 4 recipes ranging from easy to more complicated.

3. There was a small scene where a character did a coffee reading similar to someone telling the future from tea leaves. I do not read books with a paranormal focus, but this coffee reading was an extremely minor part of the book and would not dissuade me from reading more in the series.

Publication:  September 29, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

It was isolated in the evening, and a cold breeze blew from the ocean. A full moon hung like a Roman coin in the velvet sky and illuminated the ocean in an iridescent glow. The sounds of the waves were constant and calming.

The streetlamp cast long shadows on the snow-covered street. Coming from a cheerful and noisy crowd in the park, it was eerily quiet.

The mesmerizing pull of the ocean was Mother Nature’s way of clearing her thoughts.

Trap Lane–confusion in Folly

Trap Lane

by Stella Cameron

Trap LaneI’m disappointed. I was sure that Trap Lane by Stella Cameron would be another puzzling, exciting mystery in the Alex Duggins Series. It was indeed puzzling all the way through. I felt like I was missing the backstory, but that was not the case. In fact the characters, including the investigators and the reader are clueless all the way through. Even at the conclusion of the tale, not all of the ends are tied up; and the status of most of the characters (those who are not dead, of course) is unknown.

Setting, mood, and dialogue are all well executed, but the characters fumble around trying to protect each other from various unknown dangers. Secrets obviously abound, but they are vague enough to be uncompelling. The characters don’t seem to understand “obstruction of justice” to the point that they obfuscate the many murder investigations with the end result being more harm than good to those they are trying to protect.

The main characters, Alex and Tony, are likable, but I wished I could alternately shake them into reality or plop them in a new setting. The elderly sisters who run a tea shop have the potential to be interesting characters, but serve more as background. Annie, who is supposed to garner sympathy, is never fully explained and appears a wimp. I like her even less than the stereotyped villainess Neve. Even the thread of the forensic pathologist could have been developed to be interesting. Instead, her potential problems and relationships are mentioned and dropped. 

Although disappointed, I will continue to read the Alex Duggins Series, hopeful that the next book will restore my confidence in this series.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #6 in the Alex Duggins Series

Publication:   October 1, 2019—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Accepting that there was nothing she could do to change whatever inner battles he was fighting did nothing to soothe her jumpiness.

So true that love and hate are close neighbors.

What Alex felt for him wasn’t pity, it was closer to grief for the loss of his youthful optimism.

Murder on a Midsummer Night–no sparkle to this mystery

Murder on a Midsummer Night

by Kerry Greenwood

Murder on a Midsummer NightIn Murder on a Midsummer Night, there are two major non-connected mysteries and one minor mystery. A man with no apparent reason to commit suicide is found drowned, and Phryne Fisher is hired to discover what really happened to him. Simultaneously she takes on a case to find a person who was given up for adoption many years prior. A mother has died and her will indicates that this person should be included in receiving monetary benefits. At the end of each chapter is a brief part of yet another tale. It appears very disconnected from the main plot lines until the very end of the book at which time it is tied into one of the threads. Rather than being clever, I found it distracting.

This is the first Phryne Fisher mystery that I have not totally enjoyed. In addition to the dangling mini-mystery, the characters did not have the pizazz that they normally have. The author relates the actions the characters take rather than allowing the reader to watch the action, participating vicariously. I regretted that Phryne’s family members as well as other regulars in the series are present but not very active. The result is a flat feeling to the story. In addition there are a number of truly distasteful characters in this book. Phryne doesn’t like them, and the reader has no reason to like them.

I am a big fan of the Phryne Fisher Mystery Series, but this mystery was disappointing. If this were my first experience with the series, it would probably be my last. Knowing the usual quality of the books in this series, however, I will be back.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #17 in the Phryne Fisher Mystery Series

Publication: February 6, 2018—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

There was never any point being cross about weather, it was like politicians: to be born patiently, because it was compulsory.

She didn’t care what anyone said about the association of Phryne and Lin Chung, especially James, who was leaning against the white-painted wall, looking exquisite and drinking his third glass of the revolting port. That appeared to be the sum total of his social skills but Phryne supposed that he might have hidden depths.

But then, every country has its mistral, its meltemi, its own terrible wind.

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