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Death at Sycamore House–cozy mystery/police procedural

Death at Sycamore House

by Betty Rowlands

Death at Sycamore HouseJust when Sukey Reynolds begins to feel work as a Detective Constable has slowed to a snail’s pace, her team gets called in on a murder investigation in the quiet area known as Sycamore House. In a case that initially appears to Sukey to be easily solved, a number of secrets surface along with an increase in suspects and a second murder. The team has to try to sort through multiple red herrings to arrive at the truth.

Sukey cooperates with her newspaper reporter boyfriend, but she shares a limited amount of research results, always taking care not to leak information. The characters in Betty Rowlands’ Death at Sycamore House are interesting, and the plot is engaging. The outcome is an enjoyable, police procedural.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: This book is #12 in the Sukey Reynolds Mystery Series. I started into the series late and have only read a few, but I find that I don’t need to have background on the characters to enjoy or understand the individual books. The focus is on solving the crime.

Publication:  October 28, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

“She’s probably regretting not having made an effort at reconciliation and now it’s too late.”

“She must have spent most of her life desperately seeking the love she never got from her own mother.”

“Now and again you pick up a piece that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere, almost as if it belongs to another puzzle and has somehow got into the wrong box. Then you suddenly see its connection with another piece that you haven’t noticed before.”

Deadly News–small town editor with big city roots

Deadly News

by Jody Holford

Deadly NewsIn Deadly News, the start of a new series by Jody Holford, Molly Owens accepts the editor’s job at the Britton Bay Bulletin. Owner Alan introduces her to the staff: old-timer Vernon with an insulting attitude and nothing good to say, reserved and polite Elizabeth, lecherous Clay, and enthusiastic intern Hannah. It is immediately obvious that it will take some time to fit in, but Molly is determined.

One of the staff members is murdered and Molly feels responsible. She also thinks it is important to follow up on that reporter’s last assignment. The waters get muddied quickly as Molly follows various leads, and someone in town makes it clear she is not welcome there.

The characters are interesting, and the mystery provides a challenging puzzle to solve. Romance is thrown into the mix in the form of Sam, whose dazzling smile attracts lots of attention. There is even a cute stray dog who plays an important role in directing Molly to a clue. Molly is likable and you’ll want to see her succeed in her job…and in staying alive.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Britton Bay Mystery Series

Publication:   October 30, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

Word of mouth was the fastest form of communication in any place with less than a dozen stoplights.

Sam’s smile made her feel like she’d just snuggled into a warm jacket on a cold day.

“We should do something fun this weekend. Do you like to camp?” Molly scrunched her nose up. “Only when I’m pretending I can’t afford a night in a hotel.”

Burning Meredith–police procedural

Burning Meredith

by Elizabeth Gunn

Burning MeredithWith the interruptions common in daily life, I never finish a book in one sitting, and I rarely complete a book the same day I start it. Burning Meredith was an exception. I did stay up late to finish reading it because it was such a good mystery. Due to its focus on police investigative techniques, it is considered a police procedural by those who like to subdivide the genre.

Burning Meredith centers around a huge forest fire in the south-central Montana mountains, destroying many acres and threatening little Clark’s Fort. If it is possible for a bad thing to be good, then this forest fire was it. The disaster breathed new life into the little weekly Clark’s Fort Guardian and provided opportunities for young, local photo-journalist Stuart Campbell to shine. Not afraid of hard work and familiar with the mountains, he manages to put the Meredith Mountain area on the map nationally.

I like the journalist character, but I truly associate with retired teacher Alice Adams who works for the paper as an editor, initially only a few days a week. As she says, “After thirty-two years of catching kids passing crib notes, you didn’t just stop on a dime. Shouldn’t there be a twelve-step plan for this transition?” She is a respected fixture in the community, as she has taught English and social studies to several generations of Clark’s Fort middle schoolers. She encourages her nephew Stuart in his journalistic efforts, and she provides invaluable assistance in solving the mystery of an unidentified man whose body is found after the fire has been controlled.

There are two major threads to this plot; the author initially shares these in separate chapters as unrelated storylines. The reader gets caught up in the reporting of the fire, and then suddenly there is this other direction that appears like an itch waiting to be scratched. Author Elizabeth Gunn’s writing is excellent in terms of the general plot and how it plays out and also in her turn of phrase. Some of Gunn’s prose is so good that I found myself rereading parts just to enjoy her choice of words, her descriptive excellence, or her metaphors. Many mysteries do not allow for much in the way of character development or they expend too much energy on the characters at the expense of the plot. Gunn hits the mark with her writing style. Her main characters are developed and interesting; her minor characters provide a nice backdrop.

Elizabeth Gunn has two series of police procedurals. Will Burning Meredith begin a new series? I could find no indication that it would or wouldn’t, but my opinion is that this book is a good basis for one.

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: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Police Procedural

Publication:   June 1, 2018—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Like a bonus for a job well done, Clark’s Fort got a second freaky dose of luck. A surprise deflection in the polar vortex brought cold, moist air and a drastic dip in air pressure down across Canada and pouring into Montana.

“As you well know, Clark’s Fort doesn’t generate much news.”  “For sure. My street gets so quiet on August afternoons, I swear I can hear the bluebirds planning their trip south.”

She gave him the English teacher look that had brought silence to rooms full of eighth-grade miscreants for a generation.

…when the weather warmed up the country roads became mud-holes even  more impassable than the snow-drifts had been. People still had to get around, so they chained up and churned out, making ruts you could lose a spring calf in.

Alpha Alpine–serial killer or local shenanigans?

Alpha Alpine

by Mary Daheim

Alpha AlpineI was amazed when I saw the list of books Mary Daheim has written in the Emma Lord Series. She has already been through the alphabet once with titles in ascending order and has started again. I know I would have enjoyed the book more had I read the previous 26 books because there must be a lot of back story to Alpha Alpine, but Daheim does a great job of cluing the reader in on the many characters mentioned and how they relate to each other and to the current story. In fact I would say she is a master at making the book understandable and interesting to the new reader without being redundant.

Emma Lord is the editor and publisher of a weekly newspaper in Alpine, Washington, where if everyone is not related to everyone else, they are at least all related to Vida who is the House and Home editor and makes it her job to know everyone’s business. Emma is married to Sheriff Milo Dodge, giving her an inside edge and also causing friction when Dodge can not disclose information she wants. This mystery contains the murder of young girls, an unexpected assassination attempt, an explosion, domestic abuse, and a visit by Dodge’s brother in his Texas sized RV. All of these events keep both Emma and Milo quite busy in their jobs and at home.

The paper has an interesting staff, and the story is also fleshed out with deputies, townspeople and visitors, but despite the large number of characters, I never felt overwhelmed by them. The setting is well defined as mountainous Alpine seasonally moves from hot to cooler weather.  Along with Emma and Milo, the reader is continually evaluating characters and their motives as new information and more crimes come to light. When you get to the end, you will be happy with the resolution, but you may find yourself wanting to know more about Alpine and its inhabitants.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: #27 in the Emma Lord Series but works well as a standalone

Publication:   December 12, 2017— Random House (Alibi)

Memorable Lines:

But promises are flimsy things and easily broken.

She’d been bitten by the need-to-know bug. Sometimes that bite can be fatal.

I knew when to shut up, focusing instead on Hercule Poirot grooming his elaborate mustache while exercising his little gray cells. Ten minutes and a second murder later, my eyelids felt heavy. Milo turned off the light. I curled up next to him and fell asleep in the sanctuary of his arms.

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