A Caribbean Mystery

A Caribbean Mystery
by Agatha Christie

As Jane Marple sat basking in the tropical sunshine she felt mildly discontented with life. True, the warmth eased her rheumatism, but here in paradise nothing ever happened. Then a question was put to her by a stranger: ‘Would you like to see a picture of a murderer?’ Before she has a chance to answer, the man vanishes, only to be found dead the next day. The mysteries abound: Where is the picture? Why is the hotelier prone to nightmares? Why doesn’t the most talked-about guest, a reclusive millionaire, ever leave his room? And why is Miss Marple herself fearful for her life?

Of note: A Caribbean Mystery introduces the wealthy (and difficult) Mr Jason Rafiel, who will call upon Miss Marple for help in Nemesis (1971) — after his death.

NOTE: A Caribbean Mystery is the last review of Vacation Mystery Week! Thank you all for tagging along and sharing in these vacation themed stories. Please check out one of my favorite Agatha Christie stories and let me know which books you love to read on vacation!

I was first introduced to Agatha Christie as a preteen. I spent many a night curled up on the couch with my mom binge watching David Suchet’s Poirot (and BBC’s Sherlock Holmes and A&E’s Nero Wolfe). My mom is definitely responsible for my love of historical mysteries.

Now, I know I read a number of Agatha Christie novels as a preteen, but I cannot remember which ones, and I decided it was time to revisit her work after watching Murder on the Orient Express over the holidays. I found myself rewatching the old tv shows, and found A Caribbean Mystery to be the perfect read for the Caribbean cruise vacation I took last week.

I have always been a fan of Hercule Piorot, but GUYS, I forgot how much I loved the snarky Miss Marple! Miss Marple is on vacation in order to relax and maintain good health…which of course means that she is bored out of her mind. Then a man suddenly dies, the day after telling Miss Marple that he has a picture in his wallet of a murderer. Marple knows that something fishy has happened, and must discover the truth without her normal confidants.

I loved how our detective assumed a self-depreciation persona to gain information from her fellow guests. It’s refreshing how she does not lament her age, instead embraces it. She frequently rolls her eyes at the ignorance of youth and manipulates people’s preconceptions of ‘little old ladies’ to her advantage.

The mystery was interesting, twisted, and surprising. It kept me hooked and guessing until the very last page. Marple is relatable as she frequently brainstorms the facts in order to discover the culprit; she does just suddenly have the answers. My favorite part of A Caribbean Mystery was Marple’s conversation with the fantastically curt Mr. Rafiel. And it was kinda refreshing that Christie didn’t attempt to provide an explanation behind the murder’s behavior.

A Caribbean Mystery was fantastic and a mystery that I would recommend to anyone, especially those needing a light read for a beachy vacation! I have a feeling that I will be spending more time enjoying the adventures of Miss Marple this year.

Have you read A Caribbean Mystery? What is your favorite Agatha Christie story? Let me know and happy reading!

Lindsay

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

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

The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

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The Old Man and the Sea is one of Hemingway’s most enduring works. Told in language of great simplicity and power, it is the story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, and his supreme ordeal—a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Here Hemingway recasts, in strikingly contemporary style, the classic theme of courage in the face of defeat, of personal triumph won from loss. Written in 1952, this hugely successful novella confirmed his power and presence in the literary world and played a large part in his winning the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Have you ever made a decision knowing it was going to change your perspective?

I hated Ernest Hemingway. I decided that I hated him half way through A Farewell to Arms my junior year of high school. I didn’t care if he was considered a literary genius…A Farewell to Arms just plain sucked. And I didn’t like him.

And then I visited Key West and spent a day at the beautiful Hemingway home. And I took a writing course taught by a fabulous person who loved Hemingway’s works. And then I went back to Key West and feel even more in love with Hemingway’s home. And this tiny voice in the back of my head told me I was being pig-headed holding on so tightly to that hate. And as a strong-willed, intelligent woman….I completely dismissed that little voice. PSSSHHHHH I DON’T LIKE HEMINGWAY!

And yet…many times I found myself looking at his name on a shelf at Barnes and Noble. I always perused the used Hemingway texts at my local bookstore. I reached out to that friend/professor asking which story one should read if they were hypothetically interested in trying to not hate Hemingway. And then I found myself with a used copy of The Old Man and the Sea in my beach bag as I headed off to enjoy a ‘me day” at the beach.

I’m not going to talk about the story, as many of you have likely read it as a required text in some high school or college course. There are a bagillion reviews on The Old Man and the Sea that you can read if you want to know more about it. All I am going to say is that I love it! I adore Santiago and his love of baseball. I was surprised by his respect for the fish. I enjoy his relationship with the boy. And I burst into tears, sharing the sadness of the fishing community as Santiago slept and I turned the last page.

Just 2.5 hours of reading at the beach and The Old Man and the Sea changed everything.

I no longer hate Ernest Hemingway (no comment on A Farewell to Arms :D) I find myself often thinking of the Old Man. I wouldn’t say no to reading something else.

Let me know what you think and happy reading.

Lindsay

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

by Ransom Riggs

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A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow-impossible though it seems-they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I needed something lite to read after finishing In the Woods. (worst book hangover ever!) I picked up Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for three reasons:

1. It was spooky and perfect for October.

2. It promised to be a quick YA read.

3. I already had it on my shelf.

I liked it. The main characters were well developed. The setting was fantastically detailed, with the sunken ship being my personal favorite. It was a good story about the relationship between a grandfather and grandson, discovering personal strength, and embracing one’s differences. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was a solid young adult story with a fantastic setting. The story seamlessly jumps between 1943 and modern day. I personally loved how Rigg’s utilized old photographs to enhance the story. It was just good.

I don’t really have any complaints, though I would have preferred if this was a stand-alone novel. I enjoyed the setting and the characters but I didn’t turn that last page feeling invested enough to read the rest of the series. This is a personal issue I have with most young adult stories, and is the primary reason I steer clear of them. I just don’t want to dedicate my reading time to a YA series. I don’t have issues with adult series (I fully plan on reading all of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books). I just feel that most YA stories don’t necessarily need a full series…or that multiple books can be combined into one story….. I’m not out to start any arguments; YA series just aren’t my thing.

Anyway, I decided to watch the 2016 movie and I liked it as well. There are a number of changes, of course, to the characters and the latter half of the storyline, but I was totally ok with them. I felt the changes stayed true to the tone of Riggs story. I actually adored the end of the movie; it gave me the closure I was looking for in the book. Let me know what you thought of the book and/or movie!

November is here so the next month will be dedicated to reading all the Nonfiction and gritty murder mysteries. My tentative TBR will be up in a few days. Let me know if you have any suggested reads.

Lindsay

The Altar Girl

The Altar Girl

by Orest Stelmach

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The daughter of uncompromising Ukrainian immigrants, Nadia was raised to respect guts, grit, and tradition. When the events around the seemingly accidental death of her estranged godfather don’t add up, Nadia is determined to discover the truth—even if she attracts the attention of dangerous men intent on finding out what she knows through any means possible.

Her investigation leads her to her hometown and to the people least likely to welcome her back: her family.

In this thrilling prequel to the Nadia Tesla series, Nadia must try to solve the mystery surrounding her godfather’s death—and his life. The answers to her questions are buried with the secrets of her youth and in post–World War II refugee camps. What Nadia learns will change her life forever.

I picked up The Altar Girl via the Amazon First picks deal ages ago. The book sat in my kindle library for a rather long time awaiting the perfect reading mood. That mood arrived after a couple of draining and frustrating weeks. I didn’t want my usual choice of fun and quirky cozy mystery; I needed a grittier mystery that didn’t shy away from the darker aspects of crime. I kept coming back to The Altar Girl.

It was good; it gave me exactly what I needed in a story. Nadia is Ukrainian-American. She is the estranged child of immigrants who is struggling with her muddled sense of identification when her godfather dies. Nadia knows it wasn’t an accident. So she heads home to discover the truth, confront her family, come to terms with her upbringing, and quench her need for a greater purpose.

The Altar Girl gives us a glimpse of two separate points in Nadia’s life: the first is the current hunt for her godfather’s this murderer and the second is her attempt at 14 to be the youngest teenager to complete the wilderness survival test. Stelmach utilizes different tenses in each timeline which adds a subtle depth to Nadia. The stories seamlessly entwine; her memories dragging the reader through Nadia’s modern decisions and illuminating the familial issues that haunt her.

All of the characters were fantastically developed as Stelmach doesn’t shy away from flawed and twisted traits. Nadia struggles with the guilt of no longer being a good child. Her mother twists the truth, manipulating her children in a sick expression of self hatred. And Donnie deserves his own character case study!

The Altar Girl was a fantastic read. I have a few negative points but they are too nit-picky to discuss here. This book was thrilling, gritty, and somewhat heart wrenching. Stelmach’s subtle writing techniques, such as never mentioning the godfather by his given name, entrenched readers in the unique culture of his upbringing. I loved reading about the history of Ukrainian refugees, their struggle to survive WWII, and the development of their own community in a new country.

I was pleasantly surprised by the gritty mystery full of family drama. The Altar Girl is something I would usually shy away from, but I’ve already picked up the next book in the series. Is anyone else a fan of Orest Stelmach? Let me know what you’re reading!

Lindsay

Murder at the Brightwell

Murder at the Brightwell

by Ashley Weaver

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Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who regrets her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. Looking for a change, she accepts a request for help from her former fiancé, Gil Trent, not knowing that she’ll soon become embroiled in a murder investigation that will test not only her friendship with Gil, but will upset the status quo with her husband.

Amory accompanies Gil to the Brightwell Hotel in an attempt to circumvent the marriage of his sister, Emmeline, to Rupert Howe, a disreputable ladies’ man. Amory sees in the situation a grim reflection of her own floundering marriage. There is more than her happiness at stake, however, when Rupert is murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime. Amory is determined to prove his innocence and find the real killer, despite attempted dissuasion from the disapproving police inspector on the case. Matters are further complicated by Milo’s unexpected arrival, and the two form an uneasy alliance as Amory enlists his reluctant aid in clearing Gil’s name. As the stakes grow higher and the line between friend and foe becomes less clear, Amory must decide where her heart lies and catch the killer before she, too, becomes a victim.

Murder at the Brightwell is a delicious mystery in which murder invades polite society and romance springs in unexpected places. Weaver has penned a debut in the tradition of Jacqueline Winspear.

I discovered Amory Ames through Olive at A Book Olive. (She’s also responsible for introducing me to the Iris Cooper series) She has only great things to say about the Amory Ames mystery series and I was in need of a new historical read featuring a snarky female detective. The first book, Murder at the Brightwell, was the perfect choice for my cruise vacation last March!

Amory is unhappy. She’s bored, and depressed at her rapidly deteriorating marriage to socialite Milo Ames. A welcome distraction arrives with Gil, the fiancé she jilted to marry Milo. Gil begs her to join him on holiday to help persuade his sister from jumping into a bad marriage. Amory agrees to help. She desperately needs an adventure and a chance at a different future. And then someone gets murdered!

I am hooked on Weaver’s Amory Ames series. Our heroine is smart, sharp tongued, and gloriously flawed. I immediately connected with her tendency to overthink everything and her stubborn refusal to backdown from a fight. She begins her investigation with the best intentions, to help a friend, but her quest quickly becomes one of selfish needs as she is desperate to find her own sense of purpose in the world. Thank you Ashley Weaver for not sugar coating Amory’s motives! (Seriously..isn’t this why we mystery lovers enjoy a good whodunnit?!)

I would recommend Murder at the Brightwell just because Amory is so well written. But…all the main characters are just as fantastically developed! The Brightwell Hotel is the perfect setting with its picturesque beach local. And I found myself guessing at the culprit’s identity right up until the big reveal!

Now is Murder at the Brightwell the perfect novel? No. You can tell the historic British story is written by a modern American due to the overall tone. It is what it is. I will also admit to not being a fan of Milo. Don’t take this to mean that he was poorly written because that’s not the case; his personality isn’t one that would mesh with mine. I liked him well enough, just not enough to really root for him to win Amory’s affections. I didn’t really root for Gil either for that fact. I didn’t find the romantic element of the story necessarily engaging. I enjoyed Murder at the Brightwell because of Amory and her murder investigation.

Murder at the Brightwell is the perfect summer read. I definitely recommend the story if you enjoy a strong willed female detective! Let me know if you’re also a fan of Amory Ames!

Lindsay

Winter Update

This is my Winter Reading Update. I have decided to provide a quarterly update to help keep track of my reading goals, progress, and trending themes. It is no surprise the majority of my reads were historical mysteries. These are the books finished January, February, and March 2018.

TOTAL: 9

This number includes my one DNF and I have them listed under the different genres. It was an ok reading quarter and I’m looking forward to what I will read this spring!

Mystery: 5

 

Historical Fiction: 1

This genre tab has books that are strictly historical fiction without an additional mystery plot.

TBCNM

 

Nonfiction: 2

Reread: 1

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Do Not Finish: 1

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What books did you finish this winter? Do you have any suggestions for my spring TBR? Let me know and 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