Murder on the SS Rosa

Murder on the SS Rosa
by Lee Strauss

It’s 1923 and young war widow fashionista Ginger Gold makes a cross-Atlantic journey with her companion Haley Higgins to London England to settle her father’s estate. When the ship’s captain is found dead, Ginger is only too happy to lend her assistance to the handsome Chief Inspector Basil Reed.

The SS Rosa delivers a convincing array of suspects ~ the wife, the mistress, a jealous crewmate. To Ginger’s dismay, her name has been added to the list! With a little help from Ginger’s dog Boss, Ginger and Haley navigate the clues (those wartime operative skills come in handy.) They must solve the case and clear Ginger’s name before they dock ~ and oh, whatever shall she wear!

NOTE: This is the last of the cozy-mystery reviews for Vacation Mystery Week. Murder on the SS Rosa is definitely my favorite cozy mystery on this list! Keep going for the review…

Amazon suggested I read the Ginger Gold box set, which contained the first three books of the cozy mystery series. Murder on the SS Rosa is the first book and it is set on a cruise ship. Folks, it was FATE! I had to read it. I had just finished A Subtle Murder and was REALLY needing a good vacation cozy mystery. Lee Straus delivered!

I enjoyed Murder on the SS Rosa. It was just well written. The first Ginger Gold book provides a detailed plot, a hardheaded protagonist, and a number of fully developed characters. And I mean each of these characters had distinct personalities, negative traits, positive traits, and plotted backstories. People…I don’t typically find this stuff when reading cozy mysteries. Most usually lack that one final rewrite before publication. So I really had fun reading it.

And I like Ginger Gold! I enjoyed her blunt honesty and shameless investigations. I liked her sweet friendship with Haley, her intelligence, her enjoyment of fine things. and her contemplation of both her past and her future. I like her so much that I immediately started the next book in the series.

The only negative I have was that it was a tad too short. Sure, cozy mysteries are not supposed to be long, but I would have appreciated 50 more pages of just detail. Murder on the SS Rosa needed just a little more descriptive language for the setting and the ending. But that’s it.

New to cozy mystery? I recommend this one. Fan of cozy mystery? I recommend this one. Burned out on cozy mysteries….I cant help fix that but this one is still good. Read Murder on the SS Rosa and let me know your favorite cozy mystery series!

Lindsay

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Death in a Deck Chair

Death in a Deck Chair
by K.K. Beck

Young, innocent Iris Cooper, awarded a round-the world cruise by her doting and wealthy Aunt Hermione, is on the final lap of her voyage home. Her travels have prepared her for many of the types she meets on board: participants in a Balkan political intrigue, a vampy screen star, a muck-raking writer for a tattle-tale publication; a professor given to lecturing on the mind of the criminal lunatic; a prince who wants to be a jazz pianist. But she is not prepared for a murder. The captain recruits a reluctant Iris to take shorthand notes during the investigation, and soon Iris is on the trail of a dangerous murderer.

NOTE: Death in a Deck Chair is the book that hooked me on cruise ship mysteries. I loved this series and wish there had been more than just 3 books. Funny enough…the third book in the series is also a vacation mystery! Be sure to check out my reviews of Murder in the Mummy Case and Peril Under the Palms.

May found me struggling with a pretty epic book hangover after rereading my favorite mystery, Every Secret Thing. I’ll go into more detail about book hangovers later in the week, but I eventually found a cure while watching A Book Olive’s video, Spring 2017 Book Haul, Part 2: Fiction. (please check out her site as she is one of my favorite booktubers) Olive talked about picking up a few historical cozy mysteries by K.K. Beck and my interest was peeked. I started the first in the series, Death in a Deck Chair, on my Kindle that very night!

I am a fan of Beck’ Iris Cooper series. Death in a Deck Chair, finds 19 year old Iris returning to America via cruise ship after a around-the-world tour with her hilarious Aunt Hermione. I found Iris to be rather relatable and extremely likable; I enjoyed her intelligence, snarky whit, and unflapable curiosity. And I adore Aunt Hermione as well. I would have jumped at the chance of traveling the world with this woman and it’s obvious Iris inherited her spunk from her aunt. And don’t even get me started on Jack Clancy (you’ll hear more about him in the next few days!)

Each character was unique, with vibrant well developed personalities and each hiding their own secrets. It was easy to picture each of them sauntering along the upper ship decks by day and sneaking around the corridors by night. What’s even better is the lack of an insta-love story for Iris. Sure there is some flirting and the swapping of steamy kisses, but Iris doesn’t lose her cool over some good looking chap. She is there to find a killer!

My only negative point is that I wanted more. You will be able to read my review of the rest of the series, Murder in a Mummy Case and Peril Under the Palms, this week and my main complaint will be that I wanted just a little more from each story. I related with the characters and Beck provides decent descriptions, but I feel these stories would have better longevity just a few extra pages worth of detailed descriptions and enhanced development. The could just be a flection of the times as the book, though set in the 1920s-1930s, was written in the early 80s. *shrugs shoulder* Readers should also know thateven though I  didn’t figure out who-dunnit before the end, there were times where I easily guessed what would happen next. So, those wanting a novel that will keep them guessing at every turn should probably steer clear of this series. 

Death in a Deck Chair is a great start to a fun cozy mystery series and the perfect read for a racing summer day. Go ahead and pick up all the books, cause you won’t be able to put them down once you join Iris in solving the mystery! 

Are you a fan of K.K. Beck? Have you read any of the Iris Cooper stories? Let me know what you think!

Lindsay

A Subtle Murder

A Subtle Murder
by Blythe Baker

Murder and intrigue on the Arabian Sea…

When Rose Beckingham sets sail for England in the summer of 1926, she brings more than souvenirs from her years in India. She carries the memory of a family tragedy and a secret so terrible it could destroy the new life she hopes to build in London.

But Rose isn’t the only passenger aboard the RMS Star of India with something to hide. Halfway across the Arabian Sea, death strikes and a murderer begins a deadly game only Rose can hope to end. 

With a mysterious Frenchman haunting her steps, can Rose outrun her past? And can she stay alive long enough to decipher the clues left by a taunting killer? Or will murder call again before the first port?

NOTE: This is the first of the three cozy mysteries to be shared this week. It is also my least favorite. Read on for more info…

Every summer I find myself desperate for new books that fulfill the following criteria:
1. summer mystery
2. fun story

I can feel you roll your eyes, but hear me out. I am a fan of dark thrillers and deep-thinker stories, but lying on the beach sand under a blazing sun in 100+ degree heat is not the time to be reading that stuff. No. I want to read a light fun story where, typically, our quirky female heroine captures the bad guy before afternoon tea. These types of stories are perfect for reading while listening to waves crash on to shore. I specifically search for these stories (hence the theme week) and found A Subtle Murder.

I was disappointed. A Subtle Murder wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t that great. I almost always feel guilty writing these types of reviews, but in this case…I know Blythe Baker could have done so much more.

The plot was good. It was well developed and planned out. I liked Rose Beckingham: her past, her secrets, and her personality. But that was where my enjoyment of the story ended. Nothing else seemed to be developed past the initial draft stage. The setting needed more description. The supporting characters were rather one-dimensional, with their negative traits overshadowing any positive attributes. I can not remember any of their names and I just finished the book last month!

I know Blythe Baker is a decent story teller, because I easily found myself drawn to Rose and her journey. She did a decent job writing that one specific character. And yet, here I am giving A Subtle Murder a resounding meh. This is my main issue with cozy mysteries. They are typically published while still needing one to two good draft edits where the author works on developing the background ‘fluff.’

I’d like to say I am tempted to continue the series just to find out what happens to Rose….but let’s be honest…I won’t be reading the next book in the series.

Are you a Blythe Baker fan? Does the series get any better? Do you have any vacation themed mysteries I should check out instead? Hit me with up any info you have!

Lindsay

Blood and Circuses

Blood and Circuses

by Kerry Greenwood

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Phryne Fisher’s life has grown boring. Perfectly… boring. Her household is ordered, her love life is pleasant, the weather is fine. And then a former lover, knocks on her door, begging assistance. He works for Farrell’s Circus and Wild Beast Show, where suddenly animals are being poisoned and ropes sabotaged. The injury of a trick rider provides Phryne the perfect cover to join the troupe, and to exercise her equestrian skills.

Abandoning her name, her title, her comfort, and even her clothes, Phryne must fall off a horse twice a day until she can stay on. She must sleep in a girls’ tent and dine on mutton stew. And she must find some allies. Mr. Christopher, the circus’ hermaphrodite, has been found with his throat cut, making it all-too-clear how high the stakes might be.

Blood and Circuses is the sixth installment of the Phryne Fisher Mystery Series, and I just want to start by saying that I really struggled with this one. I had finished the previous story, The Green Mill Murder, at the end of September (review posted last November) and I forced myself to take a break from the series. This wasn’t due to series burn out; instead, I had enjoyed The Green Mill Murder so much that I was worried the next book would run ruin that book high. Now, I know this is a negative outlook, but it was justifiable. Blood and Circuses is not my favorite episode of the TV adaptation. I was worried the book would leave me just as disappointed.

So I waited a month before picking it up. I thought it would be a perfect read since I enjoy reading about circuses in October. I read half it and put it down.

So, I am going to start with the negative points and then move on to the positive. (I promise I have positives!) My first negative, is the difference between Sampson in the TV version and the book version; the TV Sampson was infinitely better. So I was disappointed in that. The first half of the story is focused on a number of  Miss Fisher’s very unflattering traits. She only takes this case because she is bored, and makes this very clear to the friend coming to her for help. Phryne then gets a big dose of reality when she must take on the persona of an uneducated, meek woman in an intensely regulated community. She is used to walking into a room and having the undivided attention; however, at the circus no one knows who she is and no one cares. She is treated like an outsider, and her insecurity in the face of apathy is pathetic and petty. All she does is whine for 150 pages. I pushed myself to read through her physically and mentally draining days learning to stand upon a horse. The interesting mystery was drowned out by her crying herself to sleep in her dust covered bunk. Where was the fiery, intelligent woman who flew her Gypsy Moth into uncharted mountains? Why did this have to be such a hard read?

I put it down, and didn’t pick it back up until the following March. It was the best thing I could have done.

So, this is a little more personal than I tend to get into my reviews, but I think my personality can be too much for some people. I am honest, blunt, and uncompromising at times. I love every bit of myself, the good and the bad, and I like to believe that I am self-aware enough to make the changes needed to be a better person each day. But most people don’t appreciate my brand of honesty, so I spend most of my day ‘editing’ myself. This can get very, very lonely. I was especially struggling with this during March, and I finally understood Phyrne was feeling when I picked Blood and Circuses back up. I understood what it felt like to be surrounded by people who can’t see the real you. I knew what it was like to constantly question your self worth.

Did I still find Phryne’s lamentations annoying? Yep. Did I still think it unhealthy that a man’s romantic gestures are what brought her out of her self depreciating funk? Oh yeah. But I finally understood  Greenwood was trying to show readers that Phyrne isn’t perfect. That even she struggles with picking herself up out of the dirt. And I’m so grateful that I read this book at the right time in my life

So, I recommend Blood and Circuses, but only to readers who are already acquainted with the Honorable Miss Fisher. It provides a good mystery with outstanding supporting characters, and gives a great insight on how a strong woman can still struggle with positive self worth. Please read it, and let me know what you think!

Happy Reading.

Lindsay

Vacation Reads!

We are going on a cruise this spring and I get way too excited about picking my Vacation TBR. I always tend to stick to a specific theme. Since I’m cruising…I’m reading all the tropical books!

My list is:

  • Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  • A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
  • Dress Her in Indigo by John D MacDonald

What reads would you take on a cruise? Have you read any of these?

Lindsay

Too Many Women

Too Many Women

by Rex Stout

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Celebrated sleuth Nero Wolfe is renowned for cracking tough cases — and never leaving his New York apartment, where he quaffs beer and cultivates orchids. For legwork, Wolfe employs a fast-talking, wisecracking assistant named Archie, who also serves as our narrator.In Too Many Women, Wolfe and Archie are charged with investigating the mysterious goings-on at a big engineering supply company.

Work has been crazy the last few weeks. I always find myself needing a good cozy mystery when I’m stressed. I was struggling to find what I wanted, so I decided to stick with a solid favorite, Nero Wolfe.

Too Many Women did the trick! Archie finds himself working in an office setting surrounded by beautiful women and conniving men. A man was run down by a car and Archie is asked to prove it was murder. What follows is humorous account of Archie’s attempt to survive in the office world, full of lies and manipulation.

Of course I adore Archie and Wolfe, but I was even more pleased at how the women are presented. Sure some of them are flighty and manipulative (which is accurate based on my personal experience) but there were a number that were smart and self reliant. I didn’t figure out ‘who dunnit’ until right before Wolfe made his big reveal. And the banter between Inspector Cramer and Wolfe always makes me smile!

Nero Wolfe always makes my day and Too Many Women didn’t disappoint. What is your go to comfort read? What historic cozy mystery do you recommend?

Lindsay

A Christmas Beginning

A Christmas Beginning

by Anne Perry

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Whatever the season, a new novel by bestselling author Anne Perry is always a wonderful gift, but her holiday novels are particularly special treats, and A Christmas Beginning is a deeply felt story of passion and redemption.

Superintendent Runcorn of Scotland Yard is spending Christmas on the wild and beautiful island of Anglesey off the north coast of Wales. On one of his solitary strolls, the lonely bachelor stumbles upon a lifeless body in the village churchyard. The unfortunate victim is quickly identified as Olivia Costain, the local vicar’s younger sister.

In life, Olivia had been a free spirit, full of charm and grace. For Runcorn, she is a haunting reminder of Melisande Ewart, the one woman he’s never been able to forget. Everyone on Anglesey is quick to insist that only a stranger to the island could have committed the heinous crime. But the evidence proves otherwise, and the unpopular work of discovering who among Olivia’s friends and neighbors–and numerous eligible suitors–is a ruthless killer falls to Runcorn. A plebian outsider in the drawing rooms of the snobbish local gentry, Runcorn never dreams that the key that will unlock the secrets of Olivia’s life and death may also, miraculously, open the door to a new future for himself.

Last December I was struggling to find a historical fiction novel that had a good mystery and involved Christmas in some form. Goodreads kept recommending Anne Perry, and I picked up a few of her novels at the local library. Sadly, there was always something that had me putting the books down by the end of the first chapter. I just couldn’t embrace the characters, or the mystery didn’t intrigue me. I finally picked up the audio version of A Christmas Beginning and it satisfied my Christmas mystery needs.

I won’t provide a summary of the story as the synopsis above does a pretty good job, but I do want to start the review by saying that I wasn’t a huge fan of A Christmas Beginning. With that being said, I am going to state the positives first. I really liked Superintendent Runcorn. I found his gruff personality, subtle kindness, and struggles with self confidence endearing and I would probably love a tv show staring him. He wasn’t perfect, and that’s is what kept me reading. I also enjoyed the murder mystery. The brutality of Olivia Costain’s murder was shocking and stark for the setting, and it may seem morbid, but it was perfect. I was glued to the investigation because 1. I had to know why this murder happened the way it did and 2. I wanted Runcorn to succeed so badly.

Now, you may be asking why I wasn’t a huge fan of this novel after those last two points. It’s because of the writing style. There were times when the prose was tedious and repetitive, and I lost count of the number of times Runcorn was reminded of his social standing and the proper way of everything. Yes, I know it was a different time with different social rules and groups, but the reiteration of this point every few minutes was downright annoying. I also felt aspects of the investigation and reveal were too hurried, which in my opinion, diminished the brutal effect of Olivia’s murder. When I think back on the story months later my initial response is ‘eh.’

Will I be reading another Anne Perry Christmas story this December? Nope. But, I do want to hear from those who love this author and her stories as she is such a staple in the historical fiction community. Please let me know your recommendations, because I loved Runcorn enough to maybe give Perry another try.

What are you reading this Christmas?

Lindsay

Death at Victoria Dock

Death at Victoria Dock

By Kerry Greenwood

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Driving home late one night, Phryne Fisher is surprised when someone shoots out her windscreen. When she alights she finds a pretty young man with an anarchist tattoo dying on the tarmac just outside the dock gates. He bleeds to death in her arms, and all over her silk shirt.

Enraged by the loss of the clothing, the damage to her car, and this senseless waste of human life, Phryne promises to find out who is responsible. But she doesn’t yet know how deeply into the mire she’ll have to go: bank robbery, tattoo parlours, pubs, spiritualist halls, and anarchists.

Along this path, Phryne meets Peter, a scarred but delectable wharfie who begins to unfold the mystery of who would need a machine gun in Melbourne. But when someone kidnaps her cherished companion, Dot, Phryne will stop at nothing to retrieve her.

Death at Victoria Dock is the fourth book in the Phryne Fisher Murder series, which I decided to pick up on a whim after a particularly exhausting week. I have found that these short, yet intricate, mysteries and the corresponding TV episodes always put a smile on my face when I need a brief escape from adulthood.

Phyrne is out for a late night drive near the waterfront when a bullet shatters her windscreen. In typical Phryne fashion, she leaps from the vehicle to chase down the shooter only to discover another victim, a young man bleeding to death on the dock. He dies in her arms. Phryne takes it upon herself to avenge his death and finds herself thrust into the middle of a Latvian anarchist war. Once again, Phryne just cant seem to stay out of trouble!

This story follows the same formula as the previous in the series; Phryne investigates two separate mysteries simultaneously. The first deals with the Latvian anarchist and the second concerns a domestic matter of a well-to-do Melbourne family. One reason I enjoyed Death at Victoria Dock is that it brings to focus two drastically different cultural elements. On one hand we have Latvian revolutionists who have fled to Melbourne, struggling to find a life and dragging their war with them. Phryne works with Peter, who tells her all about the revolution and the struggles of being forced to constantly relocate. And on the other side we are trust into a petty, sad, selfish mystery of a family so full of self-importance and self-destruction. This contrast drags to the surface an intellectual depth we have yet to see in Phryne, which makes me love her character even more.

Plus, readers get to spend more time with Phryne’s adopted daughters Ruth and Jane, who are always up for their own investigation. Bert and Cec lend their expertise on communism and we hear about their time in The Great War. And we finally get to see the awkward budding relationship between Dot and Constable Hugh Collins!

My only complaint is the differences between the TV show and the story. (I know…I can feel many of you rolling your eyes. It’s ludicrous that I would prefer the show over the book) The show does such a wonderful job showing Phyrne’s very different struggles with her two cases. In the episode we see how the death of the young man traumatizes Phryne; flashbacks elude to to her roll as a nurse during the Great War. The story lacks these tantalizing details of Phyrne’s past. Plus, there has yet to be a mention of her snarky working relationship with Inspector Jack Robinson. (I need this to happen!) Honestly, that’s the only thing I didn’t like. I thought the story was fabulously written!

Of course I recommend Death at Victoria Dock, and I am ready to pick up the next installment. This is definitely the perfect series for a lite afternoon read. (Parents and students: pick up this series! I know you’re dealing with stress with the first day of school right around the corner) I will make Phryne fans out of all of you! Happy reading!

Lindsay

Peril Under the Palms

Peril Under the Palms

by K.K. Beck

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1920s Stanford co-ed Iris Cooper vacations in lush Honolulu with Aunt Hermione and solves a mystery for her friend Antoinette Caulfield, Hawaiian sugarcane heiress. Wisecracking newspaperman Jack Clancy is on the scoop, writing sensational headlines and digging up secrets.

Peril Under the Palms is the last novel in the Iris Cooper Mystery series. A Book Olive mentioned a concluding short story and I desperately need to find it! I will update y’all once I have that information but until then…on with the review!

Iris and Aunt Hermione are vacationing in Hawaii and celebrating the engagement of Antoinette, Iris’ college roommate and the heiress of a Hawaiian sugarcane family. Iris is determined to have a good time despite her annoyance at traveling with an engaged couple after recently being stood-up by her old partner in crime, snappy reporter Jack Clancy. Thankfully, bodies start dropping like flies, and Iris is pulled into solving multiple murders and unearthing dark secrets about Antoinette’s family. Good thing Jack Clancy shows up to help out!

Peril Under the Palms is my favorite of the series, and I am sad Beck didn’t continue writing Iris’ adventures. The Hawaiian setting is exquisite and the mystery is twisted enough to keep you guessing until the very last page. I’m so glad that Aunt Hermione is back! Her quick whit and insatiable curiosity was definitely missed in Murder in a Mummy Case. This trip finds Hermione working overtime helping with grief stricken old ladies and gathering intel at bridge games. Iris is once again everything I love in a snarky female detective! This story finds her participating in true ‘behind the scenes’ investigation as she sneaks around looking for clues. She is older, wiser, and just as stubborn, and this time Iris intentionally puts herself in danger in order to uncover the truth.

And what can I say about Jack Clancy? The chemistry between the reporter and novice detective is electric! And that’s all I’m going to say because…spoilers! Just know…the scene on the beach…I’m not much of a swooner but that scene was perfectly swoon worthy!

I am so sad this is the last book in the series. Despite the brevity of the stories, Beck did a wonderful job developing her characters and providing thrilling mysteries. I’m not ready to say goodbye; I want to know what happens to them! Hopefully, I’ll have a concluding short story to share in the near future. Thank you again Olive at A Book Olive! I would have never known about this series without you!

Please pick up the Iris Cooper stories! They are the perfect addition to a quiet summer day. And let me know what you think!

Lindsay

Murder in a Mummy Case

Murder in a Mummy Case

by K.K. Beck

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The second in a scintillating new series full of Art Deco ambience is a mystery set in the 1920’s. Young Iris Cooper visits the home of a fellow-student with a special interest in Egyptology–and an actual mummy in his home that soon contains a new dead body.

Today we continue with book two of the Iris Cooper series, Murder in a Mummy Case. Iris is in her first year a Standford when she agrees to spend the Easter holiday at the home of fellow co-ed, Clarence Brockhurst. He is a young egyptologist interested in courting Iris, but our young heroine gets more than she bargained for when she arrives to house full of eccentric characters only to find the body of a maid hidden in a mummy sarcophagus. What follows is a world wind investigation that takes Iris to China Town and dumps her in the world of the occult.

I’m going to start by saying that this is my least favorite of the three Iris Cooper novels. The Brockhurst family were so frustrating. The male Brockhursts are tedious and boring; females are needy and naive. And they were the perfect stereotypical representation of an affluent family in the 1920s. However well written, it didn’t make Clarence and his obnoxious pursuit of Iris any easier to read! Thankfully, Iris was just as put off. And since I started with the negative today, I’ll continue by saying the archaeologist side of me wanted more information concerning the actual mummy, Clarence’s expedition, and why the mummy was being stored in the house! WHY?!? I need more!

All that being said, the characters are once again fantastically unique and well developed. Beck expertly weaves together a variety of different cultures to present a surprising plot, and we get to experience a deeper look at both Iris and Jack. We see Iris struggling to suppress her opinions and refer to her better upbringing. We get to see Jack actually compose his articles, showing us that there is more substance beneath his snarky exterior. And we get to watch the two of them give in to friendship and a mutual love of the mysterious. (eep! you get some spoilers tomorrow!)

Murder in a Mummy Case is a great transitional story that develops our main characters in preparation for the final installment of the series, Peril Under the Palms. Murder in a Mummy Case will leave you laughing at the outrageous and on the edge of your seat in curiosity. It’s the perfect read to pull you through the work week!

Have you picked up the Iris Cooper series yet? Let me know what you think!

Lindsay