Summer Reading!

Summer is here! And is there really a better way to spend a day at the beach than with a good book?

Here is my Summer reading recommendations. I have read, or am in the process of reading, each book. Let me know if any of these are one your list!

Mystery

Cozy Mystery

Nonfiction

Classic

Pirates

Historical Fiction

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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

Murder for Christmas

Murder for Christmas

by Francis Duncan

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A festive mystery for the holiday season: mulled wine, mince pies… and murder

When Mordecai Tremaine arrives at the country retreat of one Benedict Grame on Christmas Eve, he discovers that the revelries are in full swing in the sleepy village of Sherbroome–but so too are tensions amongst the assortment of guests.

When midnight strikes, the partygoers discover that presents aren’t the only things nestled under the tree…there’s a dead body too. A dead body that bears a striking resemblance to Father Christmas. With the snow falling and suspicions flying, it’s up to Mordecai to sniff out the culprit–and prevent anyone else from getting murder for Christmas.

So yall may know that I am a sucker for holiday themed mysteries, especially Christmas (lets be honest..Halloween is really the only other holiday themed mysteries I read). So I scoured Audible for a fun Christmas mystery and stumbled on Murder for Christmas. I couldn’t say no to a snowy British Christmas, a historic home, and a dead Father Christmas. Murder for Christmas turned out to be the perfect holiday read!

I absolutely loved the setting! Mordecai Tremaine, amateur sleuth, is invited to a traditional Christmas at the country home of an acquaintance. The story takes place in a large historic home surrounded by snow and all the traditional holiday trimmings. It was fun wandering the halls investigating the inhabitants with Tremaine. Duncan does a fantastic job providing with a variety of unique and quirky characters that kept the story engaging. Most were steeped in layers that were slowly peeled off throughout the story. I found myself actively trying to figure out whodunnit and i as happy to be (mostly) surprised by the big reveal at the end. Also, the voice actor was fantastic! I definitely recommend the audio version of Murder for Christmas.

And, I liked Mordecai Tremaine. I loved that he secretly indulged in romance stories and that he couldn’t help but investigate those sharing the holiday with him. I especially enjoyed how kind he was. He was a gentleman to a fault and a romantic dreamer. The writing can be a bit pushy and a tad antiquated at times, but I have a feeling I will continue the series just because of Mordecai Tremaine.

I will note that Mystery lovers may find Tremaine to be very blunt and a tad heavy handed in his investigation. He was very forward with his questioning resulting in the people being questioned closing up on him on numerous occasions. I was initially irked at this style but eventually decided it was just part of his charm.

Murder for Christmas is the perfect story for those needing a little mystery during this holiday season. Let me know what mysteries you’re reading this weekend!

Merry 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

Death in a Deck Chair

Death in a Deck Chair

by K.K. Beck

Death in a Deck Chair (Iris Cooper, #1)

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.

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

Murder on the Ballarat Train

Murder on the Ballarat Train

by Kerry Greenwood

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When the 1920s’ most glamorous lady detective, the Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, arranges to go to Ballarat for the week, she eschews the excitement of her red Hispano-Suiza racing car for the sedate safety of the train. The last thing she expects is to have to use her trusty Beretta .32 to save lives. As the passengers sleep, they are poisoned with chloroform.

Phryne is left to piece together the clues after this restful country sojourn turns into the stuff of nightmares: a young girl who can’t remember anything, rumors of white slavery and black magic, and the body of an old woman missing her emerald rings. Then there is the rowing team and the choristers, all deliciously engaging young men. At first they seem like a pleasant diversion….

I think it is safe to say that I am officially hooked on the Phryne Fisher Mystery Series! Murder on the Ballarat Train is the third novel in this mystery series (check out the reviews for Cocaine Blues and Flying too High) and the scene opens with Phryne and Dot on a train bound for the town of Ballarat. Phryne awakens to the overwhelming stench of chloroform filling the first class car and barely manages to flush the fumes before being overcome with by its effects. The spunky young detective is too insulted at the attack to let the culprit go unpunished and soon she is up to her neck investing the murder of a cruel woman, the identity of a lost little girl, and the truth behind a certain sex trade operation.

Honestly folks, Greenwood’s writing improves with each novel. I will admit that Murder on the Ballarat Train does start slow, but the pace picks up after the first few chapters. The plot flows together seamlessly, and we get a better glimpse of Phyrne’s ‘devil may care’ side. Her character development is progresses with each novel and it almost feels as if you are slowly getting to know a new friend. We get to see Dot excel in her quiet strength, and learn even more about Phyne’s go to street men, Burt and Cec. Plus, we are provided a couple of interesting mysteries that twist and flow together perfectly.

Like Cocaine Blues, Murder on the Ballarat Tran was turned in to an episode for the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries tv show (which can be found on Netflix). So fans of the tv show will know who-dunnit well before the reveal of the killer, but this didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story. Murder on the Ballarat Train was just a fun read, and the Phyrne Fisher Mystery Series has quickly become my go-to when I am in need a fun, historical murder mystery. Is anyone else a fan yet!?

Lindsay

Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos

Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos

by Donna Andrews

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Every year, Yorktown, Virginia, relives its role in the Revolutionary War by celebrating the anniversary of the British surrender in 1781. This year, plans include a re-enactment of the original battle and a colonial craft fair. Meg Langslow has returned to her home town for the festivities–and to sell her wrought-iron works of art. Except, of course, for the pink-painted flamingos she reluctantly made for her mother’s best friend–she’s hoping to deliver them secretly, so she won’t get a reputation as “the blacksmith who makes those cute wrought-iron flamingos.”

Besides, she has taken on another responsibility–making sure none of her fellow crafters ruin the historical authenticity of the fair with forbidden modern devices–like wrist watches, calculators, or cell phones. She’s only doing it to keep peace with the mother of the man she loves. And Michael himself will don the white-and-gold uniform of a French officer for the re-enactment–what actor could resist a role like that?

Meg’s also trying to keep her father from scaring too many tourists with his impersonation of an 18th century physician. And to prevent a snooping reporter from publishing any stories about local scandals. Not to mention saving her naive brother, Rob, from the clutches of a con man who might steal the computer game he has invented. It’s a tough job–at least, until the swindler is found dead, slain in Meg’s booth with one of her own wrought-iron creations.

Now Meg must add another item to her already lengthy to do list: “Don’t forget to solve the murder!”

Fortunately, the more trouble Meg faces, the more fun the reader will have–and Meg faces plenty of trouble in this lighthearted and funny novel.

Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos is the third book in the Meg Langslow’s mystery series by Donna Andrews. This installment has Meg and Michael participating in the local history fair and reenactment. I am a history nerd and this is definitely the main reason why I enjoy this story. I am fascinated with reenactments and the details about the period costumes were enthralling. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good battle!

The body of a disliked man is discovered in Meg’s metallurgy booth with a knife in his back. He was a well-known scam artist who had his sights set on Rob’s new video game, so Meg is determined to protect Rob and keep him from trouble with the local law. Of course, hilarity ensues. Meg’s Dad is determined to be a murder suspect, the cannons sound through the night, and Meg is stuck keeping the peace between her fellow artisans and Michael’s mother, the tyrant in charge of the event.

I love the characters, the quick pace of the story, and the ‘ah ha!’ reveal at the end of the book. Donna Andrews is my favorite cozy mystery writer. Her stories always make me laugh and are my go-to when I’ve had a rough week. I continue to read them over and over; they are perfect for a trip to the beach! But, Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos offers more than a fun mystery and good laugh. This novel provides more character development, especially in the relationship between Meg and Michael. We see more interaction between the two, learn more about the competition between the two mothers, and delve in to more of Dr. Langslow’s odd hobbies.

Once again this is a quirky cozy mystery. You’ll probably figure out who-dunnit well before the reveal. You will read about some outlandish highjinxs. Do not pick up Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos if you are in need of a serious sophisticated read., but DEFINITELY read it if you’re craving a bit of fun. I promise you will want Meg’s wrought-iron flamingos by the end of the story!

Happy reading!

Lindsay

Gingerbread Cookie Murder

Gingerbread Cookie Murder

by Joanne Fluke

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Nothing’s better on Christmas Eve than waiting for the stroke of midnight with a cup of eggnog and a plate of warm gingerbread cookies. This text presents a collection of three Christmas mystery stories.

I want to start this review by stating that I only read Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke and didn’t have time to read the short stories by Leslie Meier and Laura Levine. Nothing against the other ladies; I just didn’t have the time during the holidays to finish the second two short stories.

Gingerbread Cookie Murder follows Fluke’s leading lady, Hannah, as she tackles the Christmas holidays. She is slammed with cookie orders and stuck embracing her mother’s over active love life, but Hannah is still enjoying the season. That is until she discovers her obnoxious neighbor dead in his kitchen. Everyone deserves justice and Hannah sets out to find this Christmas killer!

I love a good cozy mystery but have avoided diving in to Fluke’s extensive series primarily because I lack the baking enthusiasm. I may have to remedy this because I enjoyed spunky Hannah!

Gingerbread Cookie Mystery was a fun read but you will figure out the culprit quite quickly. I don’t really understand our main character’s love triangle relationship, but that’s my fault for jumping in mid series. It was cute, funny, and full of delicious cookies!

I recommend reading now before those New Years resolutions kick in! Anyone a Joanne Fluke fan?

Lindsay