I've now read the entire series in order, and I must say that, except for #12 -- which was pathetically bad -- it's not a bad series of cozies. Childs'I've now read the entire series in order, and I must say that, except for #12 -- which was pathetically bad -- it's not a bad series of cozies. Childs' editor is far better in these later mysteries, and thus there are far fewer atrocities with modifying phrases and clauses. Childs still misuses words ("infamous" Will she ever learn what the word means?), but at least we're spared "tasty antiques" in this particular volume. The characters are still fairly stilted (will Childs ever admit that Drayton is gay?), but they're no worse than any other cozy. And the end of this one isn't quite as predictable as in some of the others, although Theodosia behaves in a predictably stupid manner just so the climax can have some high drama power....more
Skip this one; it's awful. I've been reading Childs' tea shop mysteries in order over the last 2 months, and this one is #12. Usually, her mysteries --Skip this one; it's awful. I've been reading Childs' tea shop mysteries in order over the last 2 months, and this one is #12. Usually, her mysteries -- while hardly good literature -- are fun and filled with a few twists, enough for entertaining "beach" reading. But Scones and Bones is bad. It contains all Childs' usual problems of misplaced modifiers and misused words that make the reading unintentionally funny in parts, but it goes beyond that. Several sections of description have been lifted right from her other books, and while it's legal to plagiarize oneself, it's tacky. But the worst is the plot. Childs sets up a pirate treasure mystery as a side plot to the murder, but it's never resolved. She gives lame clues: a coded message which she never bothers to put into the book and a possible cipher stone which might decode it. The coded message is decoded twice, once into Old English, where Childs never explains why on earth the 18th Century pirate Blackbeard would have been literate in a language spoken nearly a thousand years before his time, and another time into a number code. At the end, Childs never bothers to resolve any of this. It's all dropped, along with the possibility that a HUGE diamond has been left behind at the scene of the climax struggle with the murderer. It's so bad. If you're a Childs fan, don't bother with this book; it is so awful that it will put you off reading anything else of hers....more
I love crime and mysteries; I read tons of them, and this was top-notch. Inspector Frey is such a fussbudget, but there's enough humor to keep him fromI love crime and mysteries; I read tons of them, and this was top-notch. Inspector Frey is such a fussbudget, but there's enough humor to keep him from being annoying, so he works fine as a narrator. Frey and MacGray are not Holmes and Watson; they are far from infallible. They make mistakes, but they seem like real people. And the fact that the former is a racist Englishman and the latter is an English-hating Scot makes them a funny team in an otherwise fairly dark story. Most of the side characters were well-developed as well. The setting was also really good. Edinburgh is described extremely well. I liked that, as there are so many books set in Scotland that take waaay too many liberties with historical realities. My one complaint is that I had to order this from the UK; it's not available in the US. Why? It's so GOOD! I've downloaded the novella sequel and eagerly await the next in the series (which comes out in a few days) -- even though I'll have to order it from the UK again....more
The plot was quite clever. The dialogue was stilted and there was way too much emphasis on what James was wearing and eating all the time. However, ovThe plot was quite clever. The dialogue was stilted and there was way too much emphasis on what James was wearing and eating all the time. However, overall, I liked the book and will probably read the next in the series. One thing I did not understand, however, was why this was called a "Winter" mystery. It takes place between the last week of October and the second week of November; that's not winter, not even close....more
This book was the second in a series, but, although I hadn't read the first book, I had no trouble catching onto the characters and set up. This is alThis book was the second in a series, but, although I hadn't read the first book, I had no trouble catching onto the characters and set up. This is always a plus in a mystery series. Hunt has set this series in Salt Lake City in the 1930s, specifically for this book in the summer of 1934, and he clearly revels in his historical research. He describes streets and buildings I know or have heard about (Sweet's Candy Company, anyone?) and appears to pay meticulous attention to details -- except when he doesn't. In this particular story, Hunt uses the murder of Rulon Allred by a polygamist rival as an inspiration for his fictional crime set decades earlier. He changes the real polygamist towns of Hilldale and Colorado City (collectively known as Short Creek) to Dixie City, but that's OK; it's fiction after all. However, he's got the polygamists wearing pioneer clothes decades too early; a brief glance at the round-up photos even from the 1950s show that they didn't start their back-to-Brigham look until later. Also, Hunt has a few other anachronisms which seem to arise from using only books for research and not talking to real people: 1) Family Home Evening. Uh, that was a David O. MacKay Mormon thing which took hold in the late 1960s and early 70s. Hunt's a good 30 years too early. 2) His cop protagonist keeps noting how the nearby wildfires have polluted the air in the Salt Lake Valley. However, what Hunt doesn't seem to be aware of is that this would have made the summer skies look like the winter skies. In the 1930s, Salt Lake residents used mostly coal in their furnaces, and the result was winter air thick enough to slice -- air that made our current temperature inversions look sparkling clean in comparison. Hunt's protagonist would surely have thought of this, but Hunt doesn't seem to know about it. 3) The protagonist's wife teaches school at East High. She's married, has two kids at home, and is pregnant, and she's teaching school in 1934. Probably not. Obviously, Hunt wants to make his cop protagonist into a man with modern appeal, a man who thinks of his wife as a partner instead of as a lesser human whose job it was to keep him happy. While I admire this sentiment, I believe Hunt has pushed it too far past believability. He seems to have forgotten that 1934 was during the Depression. I knew a woman (now deceased) who taught school in the Salt Lake Valley in 1934; she had to hide her marriage and lie to her employer in order to keep her job, as it was district policy to fire married women so a man could have the job. (It was assumed that a married woman would be taken care of by her husband.) When this woman got pregnant, she had to quit because she could no longer hide her lie. Thus, I have a hard time believing that this pregnant school teacher whose husband has a good job would be allowed to continue her profession in 1934. Then there's the problem of travel. The protagonist and his buddy zip out past Utah Lake to an abandoned army fort without one thought of where they would buy gas. They also travel south to the fictional Dixie City -- which is somewhere past St. George, Utah -- without a single tire blow-out and without even worrying about the car's overheating in scorching weather. This is ridiculous. People who lived in southern Utah at the time used to tie wet burlap to the grills of their cars to help keep the engines and radiators cool. Heck, I used to drive a 1966 VW Beetle, and it would just shut down in weather over 100 degrees. Yet Hunt's characters have no car problems at all. They don't even worry about paying for gas in the height of the Depression. This bothered me. Other than that, the book is pretty good. The protagonist is a bit of a Mary Sue, but the criminal underworld of the polygamist clans was great. I'd definitely recommend this book to mystery lovers and those who enjoy historical fiction....more
I love cozy mysteries, and Shelton has been my favorite cozy writer for several years now. I first got hooked on her Farmers' Market series, then smootI love cozy mysteries, and Shelton has been my favorite cozy writer for several years now. I first got hooked on her Farmers' Market series, then smoothed right into her Country Cooking School series. But now Shelton has a new series out --- this one is minus the recipes of the other two because it's book-themed. To Helvetica and Back is set in Star City, a fictional version of Park City, Utah. There are quaint shops, a film festival, and suspicious polygamists lurking not far away. And skiers. Plenty of skiers. The real Park City attracts them from all over -- and one never knows what might be hiding in their pasts. These elements add to Shelton's excellent characterization skills. The protagonist is dealing with people she's known forever -- but does she know everything about them? Not as much as she thought. And then there's that cute geologist who's new in town. Her best friend, who just happens to be a cop, has been hinting there's a problem in his past. Is he really a murderer? I love how much of Utah Shelton manages to work into this book: mining, skiing, polygamy, the Sundance film festival, geology. It's great. And the mystery of a typewriter with coded keys.... even though it was more than obvious what all the numbers referred to, the whole point of Why? and Why wait so long? made this into a real mystery. I rather miss the ghosts from Shelton's Country Cooking School series, and it is odd not to have a few of her great recipes in the back, but I enjoyed the book restoration and sales tidbits. If you think cozies are silly, then this is not for you. But if you like them, try out this first-in-a-new-series book by Paige Shelton. You won't be disappointed....more
As a mystery, His Right Hand isn't quite as good as The Bishop's Wife: the guilty party is too obvious way too early in the book. And again, the big pAs a mystery, His Right Hand isn't quite as good as The Bishop's Wife: the guilty party is too obvious way too early in the book. And again, the big problem with setting a series of books in a tight Mormon community is that there's just so very much that must be explained to the non-Mormon, non-Utahn reader. This does bog things down a bit. However, I feel that this is an important book, rather than a terrific mystery. Harrison explores gender issues within a strict religious setting, and that's a very hot topic for 2015. (Only a few short months ago, Born Again Kim Davis became a homophobic heroine to many who claim to be Christians.) Harrison probes into some pretty deep areas about gender as a construct vs a God-given state. (I suspect the author may have been reading some feminist literary theory, which is something not very many Mormon women do.) She forces the reader to think through some difficult things: What does gender mean? Is it fluid? How can a person be devout in a religious organization which actively condemns what the said person believes is true about her/his basic identity? What are the downsides to the LDS Law Of Chastity? How many marital problems are caused by following this doctrine? How many suffer in silence and ignorance because all discussion is taboo? How can the kind-hearted religious person who fits the mold possibly understand and accept the person who does not? These are some might tough questions with which lots of LDS women wrestle. And I think Harrison's book might make a few more women -- those who perhaps feel that the "Sunday School" answers will do (Note: LDS Sunday School answers to all life's problems are: pray, go to church, read the scriptures.) -- wrestle a bit more and think a bit more deeply. Thus, while His Right Hand is not a superb mystery, it IS a superb bit of philosophy wrapped into a contemporary mystery novel in a way that will make difficult thinking accessible to the non-academic reader. I'd like to see this book in the hands of all Utah Relief Society members -- but that image makes me giggle. :) If you're not from Utah and not a Mormon, you might have some difficult with this book. However, if gender issues and/or religions grappling with modernization interests you, it might be a good choice anyway....more
I love the Three Investigators series, but this particular book is not as good as the rest. The crime and the hiding of the stolen dog statue are clevI love the Three Investigators series, but this particular book is not as good as the rest. The crime and the hiding of the stolen dog statue are clever enough (for an MG mystery), but the other books in the series always take a very Holmesian logical view that all things that appear to be supernatural are explained away rational; this book does not. The ending of the book actually leaves the young trio of sleuths believing in some supernatural mumbo-jumbo, which is completely out of character for them. Read this one only if you're a big fan of the series and can't bear to skip even one book. Otherwise, choose Stuttering Parrot or Phantom Lake or Skeleton Island -- or pretty much any one of the other books in the series. ...more
Disclosure: This book won't be released until 8/4/15. I snagged a copy from an out-of-state friend of mine who got it from the publisher -- and passedDisclosure: This book won't be released until 8/4/15. I snagged a copy from an out-of-state friend of mine who got it from the publisher -- and passed it on to me (because she knows I love cozies!).
Paige Shelton's cozies are a cut above the average. A cozy isn't meant to be fine literature. When I rate If Onions Could Spring Leeks with five stars, I'm comparing it to other cozies, not to Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman. Cozies aren't supposed to be Pulitzer Prize material, so I'm not judging them by the same standards. And I do give Onions five stars.
Onions is the fifth book in Shelton's Country Cooking School series, the basic idea of which is that Betts Winston has come home from law school, back to Broken Rope, Missouri, where she now assists her grandmother teaching cooking classes. The catch is that the ability to see ghosts -- and sometimes travel to a parallel plane of past existence -- runs in the Winston family, at least while they're in Broken Rope. Thus, former inhabitants of the town get mixed into all Betts' mysteries. In Onions, it's high tourist season, and Betts has volunteered to drive a motorized wagon to shuttle tourists around town during the days (as the cooking classes are on a summer night schedule). She finds the body of an annoying, unlikeable man in the barn which houses the wagons -- and then someone knocks her out. The trouble isn't finding suspects; the trouble is that far too many people had a reason to get rid of the man. But Shelton also works in a side plot involving ghosts-- one of whom was murdered and several of whom might have been murderers. The murder from the past is tied by various locations to the modern murder, so Betts is stuck in the middle of both. And let's not forget that sexy Jerome! ;) Betts' ghostly boyfriend is so much more interesting than her live one! I would recommend that readers take the whole series in order to make things less confusing, but I suppose one could just "drop in" and read this book and still enjoy it. (The problem would be that because Shelton is so much better than average cozy writers at developing characters, a reader who has not seen the growth of Betts, Gram, Teddy, Jake, and Jerome might lose quite a bit of the depth that's actually there.)
PS. Shelton gives recipes for nearly every food item mentioned in the book -- except for green bean casserole (but then everybody knows how to make that!)...more
Meh. It was OK. My problem with this book was that the characters were so unbelievable. The protagonist was all right, but all the men seemed to be overMeh. It was OK. My problem with this book was that the characters were so unbelievable. The protagonist was all right, but all the men seemed to be over-protective and straight out of the 1950s, telling the women what they could and could not do all the time. Bleah. And the author had no real concept of age. One character runs (literally) around in a park and has a girlfriend; McKinlay has him behave as if he's about 60 years old. But then she comments that this man was 40 years old in 1970. Since the book was published in 2015, that makes the character 90. NINETY. Ninety and running around in a park and dating a 40-something bakery owner. Ummm..... right. And then she throws in Leo and Atom, a couple of "teens," who think they're ghostbusters and act like they're nine years old. Oh, and once McKinlay uses them to give out a bit of information to the protagonist, she leaves their whole part in the plot unresolved and hanging. So, meh. That's the best rating I can give this one. The recipes were pretty good, though. :)...more
There is a reason why Paige Shelton is my favorite cozy author. Bushel Full of Murder is the latest in Shelton's Farmers' Market series, but Shelton woThere is a reason why Paige Shelton is my favorite cozy author. Bushel Full of Murder is the latest in Shelton's Farmers' Market series, but Shelton works enough backstory into the plot that a casual reader should have no trouble following the current mystery. Oh, certainly, this book follows the typical cozy pattern: single female with a love interest/ hot cop deals with a murder by being nosy, even though the police try to keep her out of the investigation, and, after a climax scene wherein she does something dumb and gets into a very risky situation, she gets the murderer to confess and helps the police capture him/her. All cozies are like that now. But I'm a cozy junky, and I can firmly state that Shelton's cozies are a step above average. She gets the editing done right, for one thing. The mere fact that the woman can spell "Farmers' Market" correctly (making it plural possessive) is a huge sign. The POV works (it often doesn't in cozies). The pacing works. The backstory makes sense. Her protagonists are never idiotic. Bushel Full of Murder is no exception. Becca, the protagonist, is very realistic and likable. In this installment, Becca's flighty younger cousin has been accused of several crimes, and she's being followed by a cop from Arizona. But when the cousin ends up being right at the scene of a murder, things don't look good. Shelton fleshes out Becca, her cousin Peyton, her twin sister Allison, the murder victim, various other suspects, and the hot cop. There are no cardboard characters here, no hint of RL Stine's completely interchangeable characters. In fact, Shelton's characterization skills are on a par with those of many successful crime writers, rather than just those of other cozy writers. I wouldn't be surprised if someday Shelton tried breaking out of the cozy mold and writing a less patterned mystery or crime novel. So, should you read Bushel Full of Murder? Well, do you like cozies? This is a light, quick read with no blood or guts. The red herrings are just right, the pacing is perfect for a beach read, and the characters behave like real people. A serious mystery this is not. If you're looking for light, you cannot do better than Shelton. Give the series a try. (If you want to read the books in order, you'll need to begin with Farm Fresh Murder.)...more