Review: The Bones of Paris (Harris Stuyvesant #2) ~ Laurie R. King

Bones of ParisISBN ~ 978-0345531766
Publisher ~ Bantam
No. Of Pages ~ 432 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Penguin Random House

Paris, France: September 1929. For Harris Stuyvesant, the assignment is a private investigator’s dream—he’s getting paid to troll the cafés and bars of Montparnasse, looking for a pretty young woman. The American agent has a healthy appreciation for la vie de bohème, despite having worked for years at the U.S. Bureau of Investigation. The missing person in question is Philippa Crosby, a twenty-two year old from Boston who has been living in Paris, modeling and acting. Her family became alarmed when she stopped all communications, and Stuyvesant agreed to track her down. He wholly expects to find her in the arms of some up-and-coming artist, perhaps experimenting with the decadent lifestyle that is suddenly available on every rue and boulevard.

As Stuyvesant follows Philippa’s trail through the expatriate community of artists and writers, he finds that she is known to many of its famous—and infamous—inhabitants, from Shakespeare and Company’s Sylvia Beach to Ernest Hemingway to the Surrealist photographer Man Ray. But when the evidence leads Stuyvesant to the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Montmartre, his investigation takes a sharp, disturbing turn. At the Grand-Guignol, murder, insanity, and sexual perversion are all staged to shocking, brutal effect: depravity as art, savage human nature on stage.

Soon it becomes clear that one missing girl is a drop in the bucket. Here, amid the glittering lights of the cabarets, hides a monster whose artistic coup de grâce is to be rendered in blood. And Stuyvesant will have to descend into the darkest depths of perversion to find a killer . . . sifting through The Bones of Paris.

2 Thumbs-UpIf the macabre and gruesome are not what you enjoy in your reading material this is a book that you may want to pass over; it’s also the second book in a series, which I didn’t realise when I started reading and I feel that by not reading book one I may have missed some important details that would have raised the rating of this book higher.  However, with that said, this novel is a stand alone with a few grey areas.

The main protagonist is a private investigator, not the usual sort but a man who follows the money and goes where he is needed.  I found him to be unlikable and lacking in the kind of judgement I would have hoped to see in a man of this kind, and despite his being on retainer he seems to spend his time throughout the book living from hand to mouth and making bad decisions about most aspects of his life and the case the book centres around.  There is no real depth to him, or any of the other characters mentioned in the book, and this made it a slow and plodding read for me.

Location wise though I could not fault the book; Paris at the tail end of the 1920’s and featuring some of its more famous residents, was well written and researched.  I particularly enjoyed the references to the Paris catacombs, and the way in which they came about.  I seem to be reading a lot of books that feature places I have visited, and this one was no different; because of this the visual elements of the story, such as the aforementioned catacombs came vividly to life.  I did find, however, that the lack of pages given over to solving the crime was rather disconcerting and that when the culprit was revealed it was rather an anti-climax.

For anyone who has read the first book in this series, they may enjoy this one; as for me I doubt if I will go back and read book one as this book was a disappointment that would be hard to recover from.  I also doubt that I will read anything else by this Author.

divider

Review: The Unquiet Bones (The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon #1) ~ Mel Starr

The Unquiet BonesHugh of Singleton, fourth son of a minor knight, has been educated as a clerk, usually a prelude to taking holy orders. However, he feels no real calling—despite his lively faith—and he turns to the profession of surgeon, training in Paris, and then hanging his sign in Oxford.

Soon after, a local lord asks Hugh de Singleton to track the killer of a young woman whose bones have been found in the castle cesspool. Through his medical knowledge, Singleton identifies her as the impetuous missing daughter of a local blacksmith.

The young man she loved—whom she had provoked very publicly—is quickly arrested and sentenced at Oxford. But this is just the beginning of the tale.

The story of Singleton’s adventure unfolds with realistic medical procedures, droll medieval wit, romantic distractions, and a consistent underlying sense of Christian compassion.

4 Thumbs-UpThis book is the first in a series, The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon, and if this one is anything to judge the rest by it promises to be an intriguing and interesting set of books.

Unlike most cozy mysteries that are set in Bake Shops, Quilting Clubs or just centred around folks that enjoy unravelling a good mystery, this one is set in medieval England.  The main protagonist is a four son, and as befitting the times is having to make his own way in the world, with death of his three older brothers being the only way he will inherit. The way he finds is the path of the surgeon, although given the condition of 14th century medicine I feel that the title ‘surgeon’ should be loosely interpreted.  With a skillful hand the Author paints perfectly the lot of a younger son, and the reader is transported into the time period to suffer the cold and hunger that the main character experiences.  Despite all his hardships, this character is very likeable, and is very well aware of the holes in his knowledge and goes to great lengths to make sure that those around him understand his skills only go so far.  As the novel progresses so we see our main character grow and begin to find out who he really is; this is done with humility on the part of our ‘hero’ which only serves to endear him to the reader even more.

This is not a fast paced murder mystery but rather it ambles along at pace that reflects the era it was set in.  It is a simpler time, but this simpler time is laced with a darkness and cruelty that was redolent in the 14th century.  Although the story itself is simple, that is a good thing, the Authors descriptions are not weighed down with too much description, but not too little that the reader loses interest in what is happening.  The book does have a lot of references to Christianity and the Church, but this is not because it is a Christian fiction novelist, again this is just a reflection of a time when the Church played a very large role in the everyday lives of the people it touched.  Again this added to the overall feel of the novel, and did not detract from it in any way.  Through tight writing and keeping on track with the plot, this novel is more than just another medieval tale.

I would highly recommend reading this series, and those readers who enjoy a cozy mystery but are looking for something away from the normal setting might especially enjoy this along with lovers of historical fiction.  I will definitely be reading the remainder of the series as, and when they are published.

divider

 

Review: One Dog Too Many (Mae December, #1) ~ Lia Farrell

One Dog too manyMae December runs a successful dog boarding business in Tennessee. When her neighbor, Ruby Mead-Allison fails to pick up her unruly Pomeranian from Mae’s kennel, Mae pokes around and discovers the woman’s body. She is found with a traffic counting cord around her neck, wearing one red boot. While delving into the mystery of Ruby’s death, Mae meets handsome Sheriff Ben Bradley. Together they find no shortage of suspects. Ruby was standing in the way of a project that would widen her rural road and make the area safer. Was she killed by an angry neighbor? The Road Commissioner? Her estranged husband? Her disinherited brother? The Sheriff may not appreciate Mae’s amateur detecting, but he responds to her as a woman. Meanwhile the murderer thinks its time to put a permanent stop to Mae’s meddling.

Part of the ‘A Book from every State of the Union’ Reading Challenge – Tennessee

5 Thumbs-UpWhat a great start to a series.  This Author’s debut novel contains exactly all the right ingredients needed to make a perfect cozy mystery.

Even if the reader wasn’t aware when they picked this up that is was set in the South, as soon as they start to meet and get to know the characters it would become apparent.  The women and their mannerisms all reminded me of the Southern women I have encountered since coming to live in the US, and some even resembled family members which made me smile.  Through a crisp writing style the Author brings their characters not only to life, but has them serving sweet iced tea to the reader as they progress through this book, and in this way it I found it very easy to connect with them and establish a relationship; even their gossip made me feel included in their everyday lives.

Although this is a cozy mystery, it is written in such a manner that it reflects its setting.  There is no rushing to the climax, which when it comes is fast paced and packs a punch, but rather a slow and deliberate feel to the whole plot; rather like life in a small rural Southern town, slow, deliberate and with meaning in everything that takes place.  So carefully has the Author worked at setting the scene for the plot that the reader is pulled into the town itself and made to feel part of a community where everyone knows everything about everybody… or do they?  In the writing of the dog boarding and breeding side of the novel, it was plainly obvious that not only had the Author done extensive research into these subjects, but then taken the time to make them interesting enough to their readers as to not seem out of line with the rest of the happenings; this time was well spent as I found these parts of the book very interesting and not off-putting at all.

I would highly recommend this book to lovers of a good cozy mystery, and I will definitely be reading more in this series as they appear.

divider

Review: From Mangia to Murder (Sophia Mancini Mysteries #1) ~ Caroline Mickelson

From Mangia to MurderLittle Italy, 1946 – Sophia Mancini would have enjoyed the grand opening celebration of her family’s private detective agency if the volatile chef at Vincenzo’s Ristorante had actually survived the meal. But before Sophia’s chilled spoon hit the spumoni, someone plunged a knife into Vincenzo’s back and the word on everyone’s lips went from mangia to murder.

Sophia soon finds herself trailing crime boss Frankie Vidoni, chatting with his mouthy mistress Maria, and dodging henchman Mooch DiMuccio. She’s suspicious of Vincenzo’s widow, Stella, and his assistant chef, Eugene, because they don’t appear the least bit dismayed by Vincenzo’s passing. There is no conversation Sophia won’t eavesdrop on, no question she won’t ask, and no danger she won’t face to find the killer.

4 Thumbs-Up

This is a debut work for this Author and the first in the Sophia Mancini Mystery series, and is a delightful cozy mystery set in the post war world of Little Italy.  With this setting the novel brings to the reader a reminder of a time and social etiquette that is beginning to fade from memory.

The main protagonist is a post war female, adjusting to living in a world where women once again have to take a back seat to the whims of the males in their lives.  She is written with humour, warmth and strength coming out of the pages as a woman who is determined to make her own way in the world, despite of all the restrictions imposed on her.  The Author manages to instil in her characters the speech and manners of the time, and dresses them according to the fashion trends, which must have required some research on the part of the writer.  The extended family is painted with all the rich texture and whimsy one would expect from an Italian family transplanted not that long ago into America, and gives them traits that can still be found in the older generations of such families today.  All the Authors characters are loving created, and the reader is able to feel connected to in some way to one or more of them as they progress through the book, investing their time into seeing what the outcome will be for these people who, at times, make you feel like you are not only a part of the family but of the community as a whole.

The setting for the novel is, in itself and for me, one I had never come across before and this added to my enjoyment of the book very much.  I could smell the aromas from the numerous Italian restaurants and cafes, hear the mixture of the Italian and American voices, and feel the mistrust there was for anyone they deemed to be outsiders.  In her locale, the Author did an outstanding job of bringing into their writing that sense of community, where the whole neighbourhood supports and aids their fellow-man, regardless of the situation.  The importance of religion in this locale is a part of the novel too, but not to a point where it became preachy, it is just there as part of the everyday life.  There is a lot of dialogue, and well there should be considering the nationality of the players in this novel; it is at times quick and rapidly fired at the reader, with sprinklings of Italian and lots of humour that will make you chuckle and, at times forget that you are actually reading a murder mystery.

There is one thing that really would have made this the perfect little book for me, and that would have been the inclusion of some of the recipes to items the characters eat as they sleuth their way to the conclusion.  Alas, it was not to be, so I’ll have to content myself with hoping that somewhere in the rest of this series, the Author may decide to include one or two recipes per book, to add even more flavour to her writing.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of cozy mysteries and anyone looking for a new, easy to read and enjoyable series to follow.  I look forward to the next instalment.

001

Review: Dead Men & Cats ~ Aya tsi scuceblu Walksfar

Dead Men

The quiet, agricultural community of Shadow Island is suddenly beset by violence. A dead man and a live calico kitten are discovered floating in an old rowboat in Shallow Point Cove. Then Dan Uley’s bookstore is firebombed. With a black cat.

Both men were gay.

Sheriff Johnson, known to have harsh feelings toward gays, makes no progress in catching the culprit.

Megan Albright and Janie Sampson, a lesbian couple and long-time residents, fear the rash of violence is not over, and question the sheriff’s commitment to investigating the crimes.

When their friend, Dan, is gruesomely murdered, they know time is running out to find this killer for there is no telling who will be the next to die.

But, they never thought the trail would lead to a well-liked young man.

 5 Thumbs-UpThis novella is a debut work for this Author. I also have to mention for those overly sensitive folks again, that this book does deal with matters relating to the LGBT community, so if you have issues with sexual orientation you may not want to read further.  Regardless, or even because of this, I feel this Author may well be on their way to having their book spines rubbing covers with Hazel Holt and Laura Childs in the cozy mystery genre.

This is a cozy mystery of the best kind in this genre that I have read in a long time. The main character leads are both women, life partners, who just fit so comfortably into the role that this type of book demands of its ‘heroines’.  They are both extremely well written and well developed characters, with their back stories being leaked to us bit by bit as we progress through the novella.  There is no sudden rush of information, and no changing of the pace of the way of life these characters live, and at which pace the book was written.  They were so well written I wanted to drop by and visit with them, the next time I headed North through WA State; they were the kind of people I would gladly count as my friends, and enjoy becoming involved in adventures with.

The descriptions of the Puget Sound and surrounding area were exactly as they are in reality.  I live in this area so I was able to visualise where things were, or intended to be. I could see the areas of Seattle that were described; walking the streets and driving the causeway over to the Islands.

Like all books of this genre, it is fast paced and laced with twists and turns that make you think.  The Author also puts a lot of emphasis on her plot development, which is apparent throughout.  This is a gentle book with no graphic violence, profanity or explicit sexual scenes, and with the deaths contained within its pages happening out of the pages, instead of us having to live through each gruelling blow.  This novella does have one major difference to the usual cozy mystery, and that is the victims did not deserve to die.  To go into this more would be to have reveal spoilers, so to find out exactly what I mean you will have to read the novella.

I would highly recommend this book to all lovers of the mystery genre, cozy or not, as it is a fast paced novella, with several twists leading to a surprising conclusion.  I am looking forward to seeing if the female leads in this novella make an appearance in future works by this Author.

001