Review: The Grave Gourmet (Capucine Culinary Mysteries #1) ~ Alexander Campion

grave gourmetA savory blend of murder and fine French cuisine set against the dazzling beauty of Paris, Campion’s debut–the first in a mouthwatering new series–is an intriguing mystery with a culinary twist.

2 Thumbs-UpFirst, let me add here that although there are no recipes included in the book itself they can be found on the Author’s website under recipes.

Now, onto the book itself.  If you are looking for serious crime novel set in Paris, this may not be the one for you.  Although it is a crime novel, and it is set in Paris it is more a light-hearted look at the Police Judicaire, and the homicide division.

The main protagonist is a very chic, very French woman, married to a food critic.  She is moneyed, over-privileged, beautiful and a little bit lost in the soup when it comes to investigating murder.  For any reader that has spent more than a 2 week vacation in Paris, they will recognize her as one of the women that walks the Champs-Élysées; well dressed, elegant and knowing eyes will be upon her as she walks by.  For some readers this may be off-putting, but in this character her self-assurance and feeling of privilege are what add humour to this story.  Having spent some time in Paris, I found her attitude and bearing to be more stereotypical than an accurate description of Parisian women, but it wasn’t this that made me feel no connection with her, it was more her constant preening and admiration of herself that kept me from fully liking her.  Her Husband, I felt, read almost as if he had been written by a different hand; he was personable, funny and spent a great deal of time in the kitchen.  He had a total understanding of the way his wife thought and reacted to certain situations, and was always on hand to return her to their version of the real world.

From the descriptions of the locales in and around Paris, it is apparent that the Author has spent a great deal of time living there, and partaking of all that French cuisine and vineyards have to offer as the book is filled with plenty of intriguing information about this aspect of French life.  Unfortunately all the great locales and haute cuisine covered in the book does not make this any more than a mediocre police procedural, even though it is woven skilfully into a basic plot.

I didn’t dislike this novel, but then again I didn’t love it; it was fun and just OK and, based on this I find it highly unlikely that I would read anymore books by this Author.  I would recommend it to anyone that is looking for a light read with a twist.

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Review: Clementine’s Shadow ~ Peggy Rothschild

Clementine's Shadow

After moving to the California High Desert for a new start, Deputy Casey Lang faces a hard truth: She must work through her fear of shooting another child or kiss her career goodbye. The disappearance of a six-year-old girl from a summer concert in the park puts Casey’s resolve to the test.

Set in a scorched landscaped of played out silver mines and dry riverbeds, Clementine’s Shadow tells the story of a child snatched by a predator and the desperate hunt to find her. As the temperature rises, three unlikely heroes emerge to help.

 5 Thumbs-UpThis is the Authors debut novel and, if she manages to keep up this level of penmanship, she will soon become a household name amongst the lovers of the mystery genre.  How do I know this? Because I stayed up far too late so I could finish this gripping novel.

From the very start she develops her characters with sensitivity and style, with both the main characters being women in search of very different things.  The male characters in the novel are also very well-developed and, unlike many novels with strong female leads, the Author does not belittle the men involved in the unfolding drama.  In the beginning, the cast of characters may seem disjointed and a little hard to follow, but the Author skilfully weaves their stories together as she progresses.  I just wonder what happened to a couple of the characters that appear early in the book, but then do not appear anywhere again, apart from in the thoughts of one of the males whose back story is told.  The Author has also skilfully included characters in this novel that are really not likeable, at all, by anyone who reads this.

The description of the desert and mountains are very well done, to the point where you can almost hear the coyotes barking in the night, and feel the dip in the temperatures as the day draws to its close.  And small town life is described to a ‘T’.

The subject of the book is very well handled, for such a concerning topic.  Graphic details are kept to a minimum, but not to the degree where the horror of the situation is diluted beyond belief.  There is no gratuitous sex or violence in this book, which will please those who are getting tired of Authors using it to pad out their novels.  Also there is minimum use of the F-bomb, again pleasing for those its use might offend.

I don’t usually mention the way a novel has been printed in my reviews, but felt that this one would have to be an exception.  The pages were printed in such a way that, people like myself who hate to break the spine on a book, can read this in its entirety without having to do so.  This was due to the wide margin along the spine edge of the pages, and is something that I, personally, would appreciate other publishers implementing.

Despite a few proofreading errors, this fresh and original book is full of well-rounded and compelling characters and plenty of sharp dialogue which is appropriate for the context in which it is used.  The plot is atmospheric and twisting in a way that keeps you turning the pages to the totally unexpected conclusion.

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