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Murder in the Wine Country–plant smuggling mystery

Murder in the Wine Country

by Janet Finsilver

Redwood Cove is an isolated community in northern California. The wealthy Michael Corrigan, owner of Resorts International, is not the stereotypical rich businessman with cutthroat motives and actions. He is boss to Scott, manager of Redwood Cove Community Center, and to Kelly, manager of Redwood Cove Bed and Breakfast. Always looking for ways to help others, especially veterans, Michael is hosting an exclusive event for other wealthy philanthropists with the goal of providing a model of community support that he hopes will inspire them to implement similar programs in their own communities. 

Problems have arisen in the little town with the presence of plant poachers who are digging up a certain plant that is popular in China and smuggling them out of the country. In the midst of this event, wardens warn visiting chefs, who are encouraged to forage for edible plants in the area to showcase in their culinary creations, of potential danger from these smugglers. When there is a death, a robbery, and three missing people, Kelly and the Silver Sentinels, a group of seniors who use their skills to help solve crimes, gather at Kelly’s B&B and get to work.

Other mainstay characters are involved in Janet Finsilver’s Murder in the Wine Country. My favorites are Tommy, a sweet boy with Asperger’s, and his Basset hound Fred. Deputy Stanton enjoys spending time with Tommy working on projects and with Tommy’s mom Helen, a widow who works at the inn. There is certainly potential for romance between them in future books. Scott and Kelly also have romantic inclinations, but the author doesn’t rush the characters into relationships. Another interesting character is Julie, a visiting chef who has a service dog Rex, who is not only a faithful companion, but can warn her of an impending epileptic seizure. He plays an important role in the story.

The plot moves along at a nice pace. Kelly’s investigations are successful to the point of putting her in danger of losing her life. The Silver Sentinels are ready to help at a moment’s notice as are other community members who aren’t even involved. The setting is great, but it’s the people who make Redwood Cove the kind of place you might want to live.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley 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: #6 in the Kelly Jackson Mystery Series, but as the author provides good support for readers who are just beginning the series, I have no hesitation in recommending it as a standalone.

Publication:   April 28, 2020— Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

I had my own rescue bag of sorts. Years ago, I had vowed I would always stop to help a loose animal that was in danger, even if it meant missing an important appointment or an airplane flight. This was after watching car after car whiz by a shaking dog stranded on an island of a busy street, no one stopping to help.

Mary handed me a plate with a chocolate brownie studded with chunks of chocolate. Coffee and chocolate, my two favorites. I might recover after all.

For a split second, I considered not saying anything regarding the incident but immediately rejected the thought. He’d asked about the rest of the afternoon. Omitting was a form of lying, and I wouldn’t go there.

Carnegie’s Maid–sacrificing for family

Carnegie’s Maid

by Marie Benedict

Carnegie's MaidCarnegie’s Maid, a work of historical fiction, attempts to explain what could have caused Andrew Carnegie, a ruthless businessman, to become a philanthropist and founder of the Carnegie Libraries. As a former impoverished Scottish immigrant, he fights his way to the top echelons of America’s monied, sometimes stepping on the backs of other immigrants to get there. Author Marie Benedict has created a lady’s maid from Ireland who is on a mission to support her Irish Catholic Fenian family. Her Clara is hard-working, smart, and focused. An opportunist, she takes the place of another Clara becoming a lady’s maid rather than a scullery maid making herself privy to the family’s secrets and business machinations.

As seen in Benedict’s other excellent work of historical fiction, The Other Einstein, the novel Carnegie’s Maid demonstrates the author’s intensive research and attention to detail. As I read I found myself wishing for a main character based on an actual person as in The Other Einstein. I assume the details and records of Carnegie’s life are just too sketchy to provide such a character. Benedict has taken the immigrant culture of the times, the certainty that Carnegie’s mother would have had a lady’s maid, the mystery of Carnegie’s altruism, and his delay in marriage as the basis for her fictional Clara. There is much more supposition in this book, but it is well written and not outside the realm of possibility.

I enjoyed the tale with its details about the difficult lives of the Irish both in Great Britain and in the United States. It paints a picture of the U.S. as a very difficult land of opportunity, with no handouts, and even fewer options for women. Gender, ethnic background, religion, money, family, and education all play a role in the highly stratified, unofficial class systems of the time.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction

Notes: by the author of The Other Einstein

Publication:   January 16, 2018—Sourcebooks Landmark

Memorable Lines:

“These Catholic Irish running from the havoc wreaked by their famine and pouring onto American shores are not like the hard-working Protestant Irish who immigrated in earlier years. This new Catholic crop is rough and uneducated, and they’ll destroy the fabric of this country’s shaky democracy if we let them, especially in these days of Civil War unrest, just like they did back home in Scotland when they stole factory jobs away from Scottish men and women. An Irish Catholic servant might suffice as a scullery maid but not as my personal maid.”

For whom was I crying? for all the immigrants like the Lambs, who came to America seeking a better life but settled instead for a soot-infested home and dangerous work in the mills and gave thanks for it?

For the first time, I realized how alike my situation was to that of Mr. Carnegie. Although the scale was quite different, the stakes were not. The well-being of both our families rested on our success.

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