The Murder at the Vicarage

Murder at the Vicarage

by Agatha Christie

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Murder at the Vicarage marks the debut of Agatha Christie’s unflappable and much beloved female detective, Miss Jane Marple. With her gift for sniffing out the malevolent side of human nature, Miss Marple is led on her first case to a crime scene at the local vicarage. Colonel Protheroe, the magistrate whom everyone in town hates, has been shot through the head. No one heard the shot. There are no leads. Yet, everyone surrounding the vicarage seems to have a reason to want the Colonel dead. It is a race against the clock as Miss Marple sets out on the twisted trail of the mysterious killer without so much as a bit of help from the local police.

You may remember I raved about Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery a few months ago. I just loved reading the adventures of the snarky Miss Marple and decided I was going to read the entire Marple Mystery series from start to finish. So I picked up Murder at the Vicarage.

Sadly, it took me a while to get into the story. Murder at the Vicarage is told from the Vicar’s point of view instead of Miss Marple’s. The Vicar comes home to discover the body of a prominent individual slummed over the writing desk in his study. He then takes it upon himself to figure out what happened, with his congregation jumping at the chance to share their gossip with him. The Vicar is a kind, smart, and curious character but he doesn’t hold a candle to Miss Marple. Murder at the Vicarage lacked the level of snark I had enjoyed in A Caribbean Mystery.

The story starts slow and builds momentum as the murder investigation progresses. It was fun seeing the nuances of the small town unfold on the pages, and I became more invested in the story as Miss Marple steadily made her opinions of the investigation known. The mystery is a tad convoluted but fun, and Marple’s big reveal at the end was fantastic.

Murder at the Vicarage was a good start to the series. It isn’t my favorite story, but one I would still recommend just because of Christie’s fantastic mystery writing! Have you read Murder at the Vicarage? Let me know what you thought!

Lindsay

The Big Over Easy

The Big Over Easy

by Jasper Fforde

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Jasper Fforde does it again with a dazzling new series starring Inspector Jack Spratt, head of the Nursery Crime Division.

Jasper Fforde’s bestselling Thursday Next series has delighted readers of every genre with its literary derring-do and brilliant flights of fancy. In The Big Over Easy, Fforde takes a break from classic literature and tumbles into the seedy underbelly of nursery crime. Meet Inspector Jack Spratt, family man and head of the Nursery Crime Division. He’s investigating the murder of ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Dumpty, found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. Yes, the big egg is down, and all those brittle pieces sitting in the morgue point to foul play.

(I originally shared this review on June 16, 2015…so three years ago! I have been struggling to stick with a book this summer and The Big Over Easy felt like a perfect reread. I still stand by what I originally said about the book and I’m loving it even more the second time around! Enjoy!)

Jack Spratt is in charge of the Nursery Crimes Division of Reading, a division on the verge of losing its budget thanks to his recent inability to convict the Three Little Pigs of murdering the Big Bad Wolf. Then the smashed remains of Humpty Dumpty are found next to a wall and Jack knows it wasn’t suicide. Now Jack must find the murderer, save his misfit division, and keep sleuthing celebrity, DCI Friedland Chimes, off the case.

I absolutely loved The Big Over Easy. Thank you for the recommendation Polly! Each page is packed with nursery rhyme references but it never feels overwhelming as the passages are so matter-or-fact. It leaves you with this nagging feeling that these events actually happened. Fforde’s dry, sarcastic humor kept my snickering and speeding through the novel. The Jack and the Beanstalk references killed me every time!

My only complaint is the climax chapters were too fast paced for me in comparison to the rest of the story. That’s it for me but I did take some time to read the few negative reviews of The Big Over Easy. My response to them is: do NOT read this book if you don’t like murder mysteries. It’s a murder mystery that mocks the elaborate and showy nature of modern mystery development. How can you expect to like that when you don’t enjoy mystery novels?! Other reviewers complain that Fforde is trying too hard to be clever and only includes all the nursery rhyme information to make his readers feel smart when they get the references. You’ve got to be kidding me. Yes, the clever jokes and writing style may be too much for some but I highly doubt Fforde is more concerned with boosting the ego of his readers over the need to provide a good complex story. My only advice for such thinkers is that you should get over yourself and learn to enjoy the mechanics and discipline required to write a well balanced story.

Fforde’s jaw dropping ability to expertly meld so much research and detail in to one murder mystery has me wanting to be a better writer. I recommend The Big Over Easy to writers, as well as readers, as a prime example of a writing style that remains showing despite being so informational.

Have you discovered the Nursery Crimes Division? It’s time you should!

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

A Caribbean Mystery

A Caribbean Mystery

by Agatha Christie

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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.

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 Piorot (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

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

Trio for Blunt Instruments

Trio for Blunt Instruments

by Rex Stout

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If Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie, would ever admit to an Achilles’ heel-which they wouldn’t-it would be a weakness for damsels in distress. In these three charming chillers the duo answer the call of helpless heroines with nothing to lose-except their lives. First a beautiful young Aphrodite comes to Nero looking for a hero-and the answer to the mystery of her father’s death….Then an old flame of Archie’s reignites with a plan that may corner him into a lifetime commitment-behind bars….And finally a detective’s work is never done, as a hot tip leads the team into the sizzling center of a sexy scandal that could leave them cold-dead cold.

After a much needed month off, I am back with weekly book reviews!

So, you might know that I adore Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories. I tend to read my Nero Wolfe during the holidays because my mom and I like to binge watch the TV series over Christmas. Winter has always been a time for Nero Wolfe; however, Trio for Blunt Instruments would be better suited for a summer read. Trio of Blunt Instruments is a collection of 3 novellas (Kill Now Pay Later, Murder is Corny, and Blood Will Tell) in which the murders are committed with…you guessed it…a blunt instrument! Here are my thoughts on each story.

Kill Now Pay Later

Sadly, this is my least favorite of the three. I adored the murder victim, who was a hard working immigrant who works for Nero Wolfe, but his daughter, main female character, just fell flat. She is presented as an intelligent, hard working woman but the description never matched her actions. Her reactions to the men around her, men that were influencing her future, was distracted and halfhearted, and not in a way that could be explained away with grief. However, the murder is intriguing and I enjoy how Nero Wolfe gets involved and stands up for a man he respected no matter his assigned social status.

Murder is Corny

Definitely my favorite of the three! It may not be the most complex mystery of the three novellas, but I find the way Archie which is framed as the murder to be so simple, yet brilliant, that I find myself rereading that one scene over and over again. Murder is Corny was actually converted into a TV episode for the show. It was fantastically done, and stays true to the story, so I had the film version playing in my head, which only enhanced my reading. Plus, Wolfe’s dialogue on how to properly prepare summer corn will leave your mouth watering!

Blood Will Tell

The last novella, Blood Will Tell, presents the most complex murder. Archie is dragged in to a world of jealousy and manipulation when he is sent a bloody tie in the mail. What follows is a detailed look at the effects of individuals’ actions and the destructive nature of manipulation. My favorite aspect of the story is reading of Archie’s almost romantic wish for everything to turn out right for good people despite the negativity around him.

Trio for Blunt Instruments was a fun quick read that offered a variety of mysteries. It is the perfect book for a hot summer days, or those winter days where you long for summer weather. I definitely recommend it. Let me know what your favorite Nero Wolfe story is (mine is still The Black Orchids), and I would love to hear which books you are reading this winter!

Lindsay

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

by Cat Winters

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In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

I am not the type of person who typically buys a book because of the cover. Sure, I like pretty covers. Sure, I’ll pick one edition over another based on the cover. (I actually tend to prefer old used books that have that particular smell…anyways) But I do not buy books that I don’t find interesting, great cover or no. So, it may surprise you that I was drawn to In the Shadow of Blackbirds because of the cover. Thankfully, I was also intrigued by the paranormal historic mystery promised by the synopsis…but that cover! It is so beautifully haunting that I was going to read this book no matter what!

In the Shadow of Blackbirds tells the story of Mary Shelley Black, a bright young woman who must relocate to California after her father is arrested. But California in 1918 is a hard place for a 16 year old; surrounded by the devastating effects of Spanish Influenza, Mary Shelley learns upon arrival that something bad has happened to her childhood sweetheart who is serving in the Army in France. Surrounded by death, thanks to the flu epidemic and World War I, Mary Shelley must attempt to come to age while processing loss, dealing with frauds, and finding the truth in ghostly whispers.

Mary Shelley Black was a refreshing heroine!  The typical young adult female lead is drowned in teenage angst and plenty of insta-love, but Mary Shelley is a self aware, confident woman of science in an era where that behavior was socially frowned upon. She typically embraces her personality and quirks with little care of what others think. I adored how often she wore her aviator goggles, but loved even more that she wore them because she liked them….not to get a rise out of people, or to make a statement. Despite handling her situation in a stoic, mature fashion, Winters still manages to present a heroine who is both mature for her age but still a child. You don’t forget that Mary Shelley is only 16 years old, because she is still impulsive, as we see with the lightening storm and her decision to help wounded soldiers. She is a wonderful character; a girl who is willing to discover the truth, capable of following her gut instinct, but naïve enough to trust that people are inherently good despite all that she has been through.

I found the story fascinating, the paranormal aspects engaging, and was thrilled that Winters provided a brilliant standalone novel (instead of trying to force this story into a typical YA duology/trilogy), but I admit the most gripping aspect of In the Shadow of Blackbirds was the year, 1918. I need to read more historical fiction set during the Great War (World War I). Winters’ vivid descriptions of the affects of the Spanish Influenza outbreak, both in physical setting, such as when Mary Shelley comes across stacks of coffins and the constant wailing of ambulance sirens in the background, and in the mental toll on characters battling against an unseen killer, was to me more haunting than the actual haunting! (geez, sorry for the super long sentence guys) And I applaud Winters for her blunt, honest approach on shell shock. She deftly displays the period social reaction to shell shock, at the time a very misunderstood mental and physical reaction to trench warfare, without imparting modern judgement. Winters shows us young soldiers struggling to heal after the war. We hear stories of boys being left by love ones after they lost limbs. We are transported to the bloody mud of the trenches in France, feeling the concussion of artillery shake the ground. And the blackbirds…they may haunt my dreams as they did Stephen’s. Brilliant; her descriptions were absolutely immersive and plain brilliant!

I don’t really have any negative thoughts but will say the scenes involving the paranormal can be a tad jumpy and abrupt. I believe this is done intentionally to leave readers a tad unsettled; it works and it can make the book tough to read during long sessions. I also wasn’t a fan of Aunt Eva. She was just too frantic, and wasn’t as developed as Mary Shelley. The gritty details of her somewhat tragic life were there, but these points were overshadowed by her frantic and somewhat irrational response to events. I could tell there was so much more to her and would have loved to see that on the pages. Especially since deep-down Eva is a survivor. I can also see where some readers might complain about the lightening strike, writing it off as a fantastic and convenient plot tool It is but it was still well done, and I have no complaints.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds was fantastic, and the perfect read during the month of spooks! I dare say Winters’ may have restored my faith in young adult fiction…..no matter. I recommend it for those in need of a spooky read!

Do you have any other spooky young adult books I should check out? Have you read anything else by Cat Winters? Do you know where I can find a pair of vintage aviator goggles?!? Let me know, and happy spooky reading!

Lindsay

Mad City

Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders that America Forgot

by Michael Arntfield

Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot

Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot is a chilling, unflinching exploration of American crimes of the twentieth century and how one serial killer managed to slip through the cracks—until now.

In fall 1967, friends Linda Tomaszewski and Christine Rothschild are freshmen at the University of Wisconsin. The students in the hippie college town of Madison are letting down their hair—and their guards. But amid the peace rallies lurks a killer.

When Christine’s body is found, her murder sends shockwaves across college campuses, and the Age of Aquarius gives way to a decade of terror.

Linda knows the killer, but when police ignore her pleas, he slips away. For the next forty years, Linda embarks on a cross-country quest to find him. When she discovers a book written by the murderer’s mother, she learns Christine was not his first victim—or his last. The slayings continue, and a single perpetrator emerges: the Capital City Killer. As police focus on this new lead, Linda receives a disturbing note from the madman himself. Can she stop him before he kills again?

I received Mad City as my September Amazon First book and decided to upgrade it to the audiobook version because I usually prefer listening to nonfiction books. I was intrigued by the prospect of learning about a forgotten homicide; however, I quickly found myself disappointed in the story’s progression and actually relieved when I finally reached the end.

As you may guess, this will not be a glowing review of Mad City, which I rated 2 out of 5 stars. Mad City, per the synopsis, promises a discussion of the murder of Christine Rothschild in 1968 at the University of Wisconsin. Sure, we learn about this murder, take a detailed look at the killer, and follow Christine’s best friend, Linda, on her personal witch hunt for justice. We also learn about seven other murders (I think it was seven) of females loosely associated with the University of Wisconsin that occur over a span of 15 years after Christine’s death. Additionally, readers are treated to an intense discussion of criminal profiling, criminal mentality, the differences between criminal modus operandi, MO, and signature, as well as, a detailed discussion of every major serial homicide case in America between 1968 and 2013. It was just too much.

I want to get my positive points out now. The prose was well constructed. Additionally, Arntfield is obviously knowledgeable about criminology. His discussion of the criminal mind and detailing of a variety of cases is well researched and comprehensively presented. Honestly, I would consider Mad City a decent novel if it had been marketed as a nonfiction piece evaluating criminal mentality in serial murderers. These two points are the only reason I didn’t stamp Mad City with just 1 out of 5 stars.

Mad City starts strong with the details of the Christine Rothschild case, but then quickly disintegrates into chapters upon chapters of information overload. Readers are forced to sift through the information in an attempt to distinguish the forgotten campus murders between descriptions of other murder scenes, other killers, and other cities plagued with serial murder activity. Unsurprisingly, this information overload completely negates the purpose of Mad City, and leaves these UW campus murders all but forgotten in this criminology text. Additionally, Arntfield pulls this nonfiction into the realm of fiction, when he consistently provides the thoughts and motivations of every investigator associated with the UW campus murders over the course of 15-20 years. What follows is blatant cop-bashing as Arntfield pretty much claims that these investigators intentionally ignored these cases, attempted to ‘pin the crimes’ on individuals just to get them off their desk, and refused to connect the murders out of sheer laziness. Arntfield does give some nod to the lack of modern investigation techniques hampering progress, but his credibility is completely ruined by his blatant padding with pure conjecture. It is cop-bashing by a former cop and has no place in a work of nonfiction.

Spoilers: there are a number of times when the author breaks the fourth wall and provides his personal opinion on events. This type of writing is fine in certain types of nonfiction works (memoirs, self-help books, travel stories, etc.). It is not appropriate in a historical true crime novel, unless the author has a personal role in the story. I spent the whole story annoyed with this audacious style UNTIL it is revealed the author does have a personal role in the story IN THE LAST CHAPTER. UGH! This should have been announced in the epilogue or first chapter, and would have justified the language of the novel.

Sadly, I do not think Mad City succeeded in informing readers on the campus murders that America forgot. The overload of crime information only managed to further muddle the University of Wisconsin murders. I was disappointed, but I do feel that Arntfield has potential if he can make his work on criminology strictly objective.

Do you have any true crime nonfiction that you suggest? I need to read something good!

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