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Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris
by Paul Gallico
A delightful work of fiction set in London and in Paris tells the tale of Ada Harris, a hard working char woman who sets her sights on owning a Christian Dior dress. She doesn’t want to wear it, just to own and look at something so beautiful as one would admire a work of art. How indeed would an honest widow, who is already living with few indulgences, manage to accumulate enough money for a designer dress?
Paul Gallico in Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris takes us on the journey with Mrs. ‘Arris as she struggles with the money issues that crop up all through the book as there are many aspects of a trip to Paris that the poor lady who is clearly not a seasoned traveller could not anticipate. You will quickly come to love Mrs. ‘Arris as everyone does who meets her. She is so genuine and determined and never wishes anyone ill.
Paul Gallico makes his character come to life from her wrinkled face and the twinkle in her eye to her accent (e.g. “lydy” for “lady”), dropping her “h’s,” and her word choices like “lumme” and “blime.” Her interactions with other characters are key to the story. They have aspirations of their own, and Mrs. ‘Arris is not shy about helping others including Natasha, Dior’s top model, and M. Fauvel, a quiet accountant at the fashion house. She breaks down English/French and class barriers with her inviting charm and practical approach to problems.
This little book brought smiles to my face, and I got teary eyed a few times as I found Mrs. ‘Arris had stolen my heart. The author’s writing style is perfect for this book, moving along quickly with descriptions that can put the reader in a messy bachelor’s flat or on the thick gray carpets of Dior’s. It is a charming novel that has held up well across the years, and that I will no doubt reread just for pleasure in the near future.
Notes: Blogger friend Christopher recommended this book in a “throw back” post. His review was so convincing that I bought it immediately. It’s over a year later, but I finally read it and am so happy I did. Thanks, Christopher! You can find his review here: https://pluckedfromthestacks.wordpress.com/2019/06/24/mrs-arris-goes-to-paris/.
Publication: 1958—Doubleday & Co.
And yet with some chars there was more to it than just that, and particularly with Mrs. Harris—a kind of perpetual house-proudness. And it was a creative effort as well, something in which a person might take pride and satisfaction. She came to these rooms to find them pigsties, she left them neat, clean, sparkling and sweet-smelling.
She had an exquisite figure and clever tiny feet that never once had tripped upon the corpses she had climbed over on her way up the ladder of success.
Mrs. Harris simply felt that if one owned a dress so beautiful that it cost four hundred fifty pounds there was then nothing left upon earth to be desired.
Hot Fudge Murder
by Cynthia Baxter
The first chapter of Cynthia Baxter’s Hot Fudge Murder efficiently brings readers up to speed on the characters while beginning the action of the new plot. Kate McKay, owner of Lickety Splits, is hired by fashion designer Omar DeVane to cater an affair at his vacation home, throwing her into the world of the rich and famous. His favorite treat is hot fudge sundaes which Kate is glad to provide.
There is a murder at the event, and the important tourist trade in Wolfert’s Roost plummets, threatening the business interests of Kate and other locals. Kate begins an informal investigation in an effort to save her town financially.
Hot Fudge Murder has two potential love interests for Kate; they are in and out of the plot as Kate interviews suspects. Another character is Emma, Kate’s niece who lives with Kate and works for her in the ice cream shop. Also on the Cream Team are Willow, a yoga instructor and Katie’s best friend, and Ethan, Emma’s current crush.
The fashion world setting is interesting with some humorous elements such as when a fashion model appears clueless as to where she should look in a kitchen to find ice. In her world it was always provided in a bucket. Character-suspects include Omar’s personal assistant, his financial manager, an elegant magazine editor, and his favorite model.
Kate does most of her investigating through interviews—with a little deception thrown in. Consistently, as she is talking to other people, Kate’s mind is tossing around ideas for innovative ice cream flavors. A few sound like winners, but many sound disgusting (e.g. Pear with Blue Cheese). I think they are included to be outrageous and showcase Kate’s creativity Occasionally, however, that aspect of the story seems overdone.
Hot Fudge Murder is fun. I look forward to the next book in the series.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #2 in the Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone
2. Each chapter starts with interesting historical notes about ice cream.
3. The book includes a recipe for hot fudge sauce and also for a peach and basil sorbet.
Publication: January 29, 2019—Kensington Books
…by making and selling ice cream, I was doing much more than living out a longtime fantasy. I was providing people with the ultimate comfort food, one that was unique in its ability to serve as a treat, a reward, a celebration, a way to feel better on a bad day—or a way to simply enjoy life.
Chloe was curled up in a chair, just watching us. Sometimes I felt that cats were actually creatures from another planet, sent here to spy on us earthlings.
The problem was that with men, as with ice cream, no matter how many delectable possibilities there were, in the end you had to make a choice.
Reason to Doubt
by Nancy Cole Silverman
In Reason to Doubt, Carol Childs, a forty year old divorced mother of two works as an investigative reporter for a small southern CA talk radio station. She is currently involved in trying to find the serial killer known as Model Slayer because of his choice of victims and his trademarks at the crime scene. This investigation takes Carol into some seedy places and dangerous situations. It also puts her in direct conflict with her daughter Cate at the same time she is trying to prove Cate’s boyfriend’s innocence. She finds herself in conflict with the official investigation as she protects her confidential sources.
The plot is complicated and although the crimes are solved, the psychological motivation is hinted at but not specified. At times it feels like the investigation is circular, not really going anywhere. Cate is a major driver of the storyline, but she is not well developed. What I knew of her, I didn’t like; she is immature and selfish. On the positive side, she does stand up for the person she believed in, but she could be a poster child for a “love is blind” movement. The ending is a surprise because it is not a conclusion you would expect from Carol’s research, but I had my suspicions about that character from the time of his introduction into the plot. Despite those criticisms, I did like the book and would recommend it.
I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #5 in the Carol Childs Mystery Series
Publication: November 6, 2018—Henery Press
As a reporter, it was my job to take what a confidential informant gave me, verify that information with a second and third source, and report it. If word got out a reporter had rolled over and given up to the police what information had been given to us in confidence, that reporter would be burned and the station toast.
I had reported on enough police investigations to know how overworked many LAPD detectives were and how easy it was to coerce a nervous witness. Under the right circumstances, people confessed to all kinds of things.
Tyler didn’t have to tell me reporters who squealed to the police about their confidential sources and what they told them would be out of luck when it came to finding another job. Sources wouldn’t trust them, and potential employers had a pool of fresh young talent to choose from as opposed to a reporter who had burned her sources.