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City of the Dead
by Jonathan Kellerman
City of the Dead is the first Jonathan Kellerman mystery for me, but it is certainly not his first suspenseful book. In fact, it is the thirty-seventh book that features Alex Delaware, a psychologist who is frequently called on by the police to make sense out of crimes and uncover the perpetrator. Although I might have enjoyed the book more if I had read others in the series, I had no problem following this tough as nails plot. It begins with a double homicide when a truck collides with a nude young man and a barely noticeable trail of blood leads to a nearby house where another body is found. Alex is called in to consult. He does not interact much in interviews, but the police rely heavily on his instincts and perceptions based on his observations of those interviews.
While aiding in this case, he is working on a separate case in his professional practice. He interviews the members of divorcing couples to advise the family court judge of his custody recommendations. This time the child is a three year old girl. The mother hails from a wealthy background, and the father is a professor with Ivy League credentials who jumps from job to job. His specialty, besides the study of symbolism, seems to be disparaging his wife because she is not an academic.
Alex Delaware is an interesting character—highly intelligent, a keen observer, and compassionate in a professional way. He interacts well with the police officers he works with; they sometimes need his help and counsel personally and professionally. His own support system is his partner Robin who restores and repairs musical instruments. They both have offices and work spaces at home which involves them in each other’s work at least minimally.
Pieces of this puzzle gradually come together, especially as more DNA evidence emerges. The tricky part is knowing whom to get that evidence from and where to look for it. The joint, noncompetitive efforts of the police and Alex pull out some interesting clues. In the end, the killer is a surprise as the last pieces of the puzzle are put together. If you like a mystery that is a little tougher and more suspenseful than a cozy mystery, you’ll probably like this one.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Ballantine Books (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery and Thriller, General Fiction (Adult)
Notes: 1. #37 in the Alex Delaware Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone.
2. Contains descriptions of the results of violent acts and some objectionable language.
Publication: February 8, 2022—Ballantine Books (Random House)
But when I embark on a custody consult, optimism falls by the wayside and I assume everyone’s going to lie to me.
The practice of family law—of law, in general—has nothing to do with truth and everything to do with brinkmanship and illusion.
Humans are programmed to detest uncertainty, and nothing ruins a detective’s life more than too many question marks.
Wine Tastings are Murder
by Libby Klein
Welcome to the world of Poppy McAllister, a plus-sized, forty-something pastry chef with self-esteem issues. And commitment issues (ask Tim and Gia). And food issues. Food calls her name and sticks to her like a long lost twin. Her latest effort is the kale diet where she discovers that a kale frittata is like “an omelet full of yard clippings.” Also, and you need to think this one through…our featured pastry chef can’t eat gluten!
Wine Tastings are Murder is full of madcap adventures that will keep you laughing through a serious and complicated murder investigation. What in the world are Aunt Ginny and her octogenarian friends doing in the evenings that leaves them cackling, smirking, and sitting on bags of frozen vegetables?
Poppy is owner of the Butterfly Wings B&B, a new business that she is trying to launch. She agrees to cooperate with a company sponsoring a wine tasting at a local winery, but one of the guests has an apparent heart attack—or was the medical event more than that? Suspicion falls on other guests and on winery personnel. Poppy needs to find out if they are who they claim to be and what motives they might have.
The eighty year old “biddies” are not the only source of humor. Poppy hires “Victory,” a chambermaid from Eastern Europe, who does not understand guest privacy, the basics of inn housekeeping, appropriate attire, or the nuances of English. It also gradually occurs to Poppy that Victory has narcolepsy.
Figaro, Poppy’s cat, has met his nemesis in Tammy Faye, a teacup Pom who is the treasured delight of guest Sunny Baker. The two chase each other all over the house leaving a trail of destruction. Technology joins the fun as Aunt Ginny’s new toy Alexa demonstrates that she is always listening. Aunt Ginny doesn’t know how to use Alexa who sounds alarms and speaks at the craziest of times.
On the personal front, you’ll adore little Henry, Gia’s four-year old son. He has Poppy on emotional speed dial without even trying. Amber, a local police officer who has been at odds with Poppy since high school, might be softening just a tad. Then there is the romantic conundrum. Readers are anxious for Poppy to choose between “hunky” Italian coffee shop owner Gia and long ago love, Chef Tim. Read Wine Tastings are Murder to see if there is resolution in either love or murder. I guarantee the outcome will be a surprise.
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.
Notes: 1. # 5 in the Poppy McAllister Mystery Series. You could read this as a standalone. It is better to have read the first four for the background, but Klein fills you in well, and the read is worth it if you aren’t able to backtrack on this series.
2. The end of the book contains lots of recipes (6 gluten-free and 1 paleo) that will have you drooling, even if you don’t need gluten-free.
Publication: December 1, 2020—Kensington Books
I was all for eighty-year-olds going “a-courting,” but Royce Hansen had the short-term memory of a fruit fly and Aunt Ginny could do crazy all on her own.
The biddies all nodded and smiled sweetly. “Have fun, honey.” They waved as I left the room. They’re not fooling anyone. They’re definitely up to something.
She made me feel like I was back in the eighth grade again. Fat, awkward, and foolish. Gigi even made my baking, the only talent I had in life, sound like I was adding water to a boxed cake mix and cooking with a high-wattage lightbulb.