Mondays (and in this case, Thursdays) are for Murder: Date with Death…

0

image

Well, last time I was complaining that Monday had come around too fast.  This time, it’s come so quickly that it’s got to Thursday before I can put up Monday’s post.  Sorry about the delay this week, but the week was busy, then when I sat down to blog I realised the keyboard had decided to retire without telling me, so I had to track down a new, more enthusiastic keyboard that was willing to work with no pay and under the constant threat of tea spillage and here we are, it’s Thursday.

Today’s book is the opener of a new cosy mystery series set in the Yorkshire Dales and although it has a punny title, I really enjoyed it.  We received our copy of Date With Death (Book 1 in the Dales Detective Series) by Julia Chapman from PanMacmillan Australia for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Samson O’Brien has been dismissed from the police force, and returns to his home town of Bruncliffe in the Yorkshire Dales to set up a detective agency while he fights to clear his name. The people of Bruncliffe, however, aren’t that welcoming to a man they perceive as trouble – and he is greeted by his old friend, Delilah Metcalfe, not with an hug but a right hook that sends him sprawling.

Delilah, meanwhile, is besieged by financial concerns and struggling to keep her business, the Dales Detective Agency, afloat – all while trying to control her wayward Weimaraner dog Tolpuddle. Then when Samson gets his first case, investigating the supposed suicide of a local man, things take an unexpected turn, and soon he is discovering a trail of deaths that lead back to the door of Delilah’s agency. With suspicion hanging over someone they both care for, the two feuding neighbours soon realise that they need to work together to solve the mystery of the dating deaths – and working together is easier said than done.

date with death

Plot Summary:

Delilah is in deep debt and struggling to hang on financially until her dating agency business gets off the ground. When Samson O’Brien returns to the Dales in disgrace, Delilah’s only financial option is to let him rent out her ground floor office for his new detective agency…a timely move indeed because it seems someone in their community is picking off members of Delilah’s agency one by one.

The Usual Suspects:

This is a bit of a tricky one because there isn’t anyone in the village (or beyond) who particularly stands out as someone who would happily be serial killing members of a dating agency.  As the story moves along, instead of actual people as suspects our protagonists try to build up a mental picture of who such a person might be.

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

This is quite a refreshing aspect of the book because in your usual murder mystery you at least have a few suspects to work with.  It takes a little while to prove that the deaths are indeed murder, and then the hunt involves some rather tricky and dangerous tactics.  As well as attending the odd speed dating night out.

Overall Rating:

poison clip art

poison clip art

poison clip art

poison clip art

 

 

 

Four poison bottles for the amount of dutch courage needed to get through a blind date with a farmer whose personal hygiene habits receive only passing attention

Despite the fact that this is definitely a cosy and there is a lot of time spent on developing the characters, both main and secondary, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and would certainly be interested in following the series.  Delilah is the only girl in a family of manly men and is determined to make her business successful after a recent divorce.  Samson is the black sheep of the village, having left his alcoholic father in dire circumstances (in the opinion of the town) to swan off to London and bag a high paying and dangerous job with the Met.  When Samson returns home, his welcome is not particularly warm and he discovers that many things have changed drastically since he’s been away.  Samson’s return coincides with a little problem at work which he wants to keep hidden from the villagers at all cost.

I quite enjoyed the premise of the murdered folk all being from the same dating agency (although I’m sure this has been done before in some way, shape or form in other cosies) as well as the way in which Delilah and Samson (eventually) go about sorting it out.  It seems rather far-fetched that no one would bother to inform the police about their suspicions, but it works for the story and makes the eventual hunt far more suspenseful, knowing that Delilah and Samson are on their own.

As one who likes my mysteries twisty and my murders happening in quick succession, I did find the long sections developing characters, backstory and village life a little distracting, but I accept that this is obviously one of those series where the relationships between the characters and their relationship with their environment is of utmost importance.  The book also sets a bit of groundwork for other books in the series.  There are definitely some shady characters getting around Bruncliffe that will no doubt play a part in nefarious doings further down the track.

There’s a lot going on here that will satisfy those looking for both an exciting mystery and a story about coming home and reinventing oneself.  I must give a shout-out to the collective folk of the retirement village, of which Samson’s father is part, for lifting the mood whenever they appeared.  I’m glad to see that they will feature heavily in the next book in the series.  I would certainly recommend giving this one a go as your next holiday read, or, if you happen to live in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the perfect book to snuggle up under a blanket with on a rainy, lazy weekend…for whenever the humidity decides to bugger off for good.

I will be submitting this book for the Popsugar Challenge under the category of “author using a pseudonym” because Julia Chapman is the pen name of Julia Stagg. You can check out my challenge progress here.

Until next time,

Bruce

Mondays are for Murder: Shake Hands or Die…

2

image

How did it get to be Monday again so fast?  However it happened, Monday means murder and we received Shake Hands or Die by Michael Northey from the publisher via Netgalley for review.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

“Father John was friendly during the services. He had no problem in greeting people during the Peace, where people wander about mid-service saying hello, peace, waving, some greeting others with a chaste hug, in general recognition of being one big family. He had a nice smile. Only he never stood at the church door after service to shake hands or say goodbye…”

Wacky new vicar Father John aims to modernise St Martha’s church in the delightful city of Hillford. People love his fun gimmicks but cannot understand why he will not ever shake hands at the end of service. Even the charming archdeacon, Babs, cannot get him to change his mind. Until one day, the reason becomes crystal clear.

Ambitious journalist Fred Vestal, on loan from a London tabloid, is trying to shake up the sleepy local paper. He turns up to a service at St Martha’s and sees an uninhibited children’s play. After getting a sniff of a story, he interviews the vicar and writes a vicious article, labelling Father John as a public menace.

When they next meet, Father John refuses to shake hands with Fred. Soon afterwards a body is found in a pile of compost in the churchyard. The little cathedral city of Hillford, where even the police seem off-beat, looks for an answer…

shake-hands-or-die

Plot Summary:

John is a vicar with some madcap methods that seem to be bringing the punters back to the Church. Fred is a journalist with the aim of making a name for himself, no matter how many reputations he destroys in search of the truth. When Fred is found dead outside John’s church, for the police all roads seem to lead to Rome. (Well, C of E).

The Usual Suspects:

For much of the book, there are only two suspects: John the vicar and a gang of thugs who were last seen carrying Fred off on their shoulders, ostensibly in hero worship.  Really though, the police only ever suspect John, given the fact that he has motive and, rather stupidly in our opinion, buggered off immediately after the murder happened.

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

Starts off farcically, takes a slide through bizarre Shakespearean monologue and finishes without the police doing much at all.

Overall Rating:

poison clip artpoison clip art

 

 

 

Two poison bottles for the kind of quirky comedy one might find in “Carry on, Vicar”.

 

This turned out to be wholly and utterly the kind of cosy mystery from which I normally steer well clear.

You know the ones.

There’s a veritable tsunami of ones set in America, with themes of knitting, baking or painting and suitably pun-laden titles such as Grand Hoummus-cide and Brushed Off and Hooked on Murder.  In these mysteries, the focus tends more toward the quirkiness of the setting/characters/situation and less toward an actual reasonable murder mystery with a logical and intriguing solution.

So it was with Shake Hands or Die.  Strangely though, the irritating quirkiness didn’t really start to show itself until about a third of the way through, so I was already drawn into the story before I twigged to exactly the kind of quicksand of ridiculum into which I had unwittingly stepped.  The first third of the story introduces John and his wacky, lively methods that have swelled the congregation of his parish church, as well as his idiosyncratic insistence on not shaking hands after the service.  By a third of the way through, the reader is given the necessary back story as to why shaking hands is such a stressor for John, and the story then moves on to introduce soon-to-be-dead Fred, the journalist with an axe to grind.  The second third of the book starts to deal with the relationship between John and Fred, features the murder of the aforementioned soon-to-be-dead Fred and then quickly descends into absolute silliness from which an ensemble cast of absolute loonies takes the stage.

We have the gang of thugs who are actually university educated professionals in disguise who spend their time calling each other canine-inspired names and being smugly sarcastic to those less educated than themselves.  There’s Karen, the fiancee of dead Fred, who gets pages and pages of soliloquy on the spot of her lover’s demise, replete with phrases like, “Oh Fred, my Fred, my darling, my only love, Fred!”

I kid you not.

There’s also a vigilante gang of old people (including the indespensible retired army Major character) who attempt to do some investigating of their own. Then there’s the police – an odd couple who are having an affair, of which much is made, as well as having difficulty agreeing on how to go about investigating the crime, of which little is made.  One of the policeman is also brother to a local councilman and these two speak in the most unlikely contrived way to each other that it had me scratching my head throughout.

The ending and reveal eventually come with a whimper rather than a bang, and by this stage I could not fathom what it was that I had just read.  Either this cosy mystery thing has blown out toward whimsy beyond all proportions, or the editor of this one read the first third, decided, “Yep, that should be fine”, and subsequently didn’t bother casting an eye over the rest.

I’d recommend this is you like murder mysteries that make you feel as if you’ve tripped and stumbled into the twilight zone of contrived English countryside villages.  Otherwise, it’s probably best to move right along.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Mondays are for Murder: The Secrets of Gaslight Lane…

3

image

Today’s foray into the underbelly of human society is The Secrets of Gaslight Lane, by M.R.C. Kasasian, which is the fourth book in the Gower Street Detective historical, humorous mystery series.  I have not read any of the previous books in the series, but saw this one on Netgalley and decided to have at it because the blurb looked reasonably enticing.  Allow me to present said blurb, from Goodreads:

London, 1883: All is quiet at 125 Gower Street. Sidney Grice is swotting up on the anatomical structure of human hair whilst his ward, March Middleton, sneaks upstairs for her eighth secret cigarette of the day. The household is, perhaps, too quiet.

So, when a beautiful young woman turns up at the door, imploring London’s foremost personal detective to solve the mystery of her father’s murder, Grice can barely disguise his glee.

Mr Nathan Garstang was found slaughtered in his bed, but there is no trace of a weapon or intruder. A classic locked-room case. But what piques Grice’s interest is the crime’s link to one of London’s most notorious unsolved murders. Ten years ago, Nathan’s uncle aunt and servants were murdered in their sleep in the very same house.

Now, it seems, the Garstang murderer is back…

the secrets of gaslight lane

Plot Summary:

Before I get into the plot of this one, I should probably explain that Sidney Grice is an established personal (not private!) detective who lives with his ward and goddaughter, March Middleton, and a half-witted maid named Molly who is too stupid to be believed as a character.  There is also a cat.  Clearly, there is an enormous amount of relational information between the two main characters that has been dealt with in the previous books and despite the fact that none of it is rehashed here, I found it fairly easy to understand what was going on and who was who.  So, to the plot.  Essentially, a murder takes place in the same house and in the same fashion as a previous murder, and suspects are scarce.  That’s all you need to know, really.

The Usual Suspects:

Given that this is set up in the manner of a locked-room mystery, the suspects are limited to those who were in the house at the time and those who may have possibly had access to the house at the time.  This includes the daughter of the deceased, all the household servants, including one who had been present during the first murders many moons ago, and a missing lunatic who had also been one of the household retainers during the time of the previous murder.

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

I wouldn’t say the hunt for the murderer/s is convoluted, because it is fairly easy to follow, but it is extremely drawn out.  Grice conducts his investigations, much like Poirot, by talking to all concerned and then some, and this pretty much comprises the whole of the novel.  I would have to say that the final reveal was a little anti-climactic after all this talking and searching as the murderer/s decide to come quietly and relate their part in the dastardly deeds at some length.

Overall Rating:

poison clip artpoison clip artpoison clip art

Three poison bottles for the simple blessing that dead men tell no tales

I don’t really know what to make of this one as a whole.  It had some appealing elements, but overall it was, in my opinion, at least two-thirds longer than it needed to be.  It’s one of those tomes that I describe as “hefty” – when applied to books read on a digital device, this refers to stories that one feels as if one has been reading for hours upon hours, yet the little percentage counter at the bottom of the screen barely ticks over.  Had this book been considerably shorter, I would have enjoyed it much more.  The bits that I would have liked to have seen cut out were the pointless interactions, mostly featuring Molly – the idiot maid – that seem to have been included for comic relief.  The fact that Molly was so dense that it was difficult to believe such a dunderhead could exist soured these exchanges for me somewhat.

On the other hand, the banter between Grice and Middleton was quite funny and kept me turning the pages beyond the point at which I would normally have given up.  Grice has no consideration for the feelings of others and so much of the comedy rests on his insulting the other characters.  Middleton makes up for this somewhat and plays the straight man to Grice’s outrageous behaviour, yet also manages to keep some outrageous behaviours for herself.

The ending is reasonably complex, with aspects from the earlier murder playing a part in the second, as one might expect.  The story is not really written in a way that invites the reader to guess along as to who the murderer might be, but instead, I felt, focuses more on the relationships between the characters.  While overall I am reasonably ambivalent toward this particular mystery, I would be interested in reading the first in this series to discover the beginnings of this unlikely duo.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Mondays are for Murder: Dying in the Wool…

1

image

I’ve decided not to let you wait too long before presenting another Murderous Monday and today’s offering is the first in a new (to me) series set in the 1920s or thereabouts in England.  I must admit that I always feel a bit uncomfortable reading books set in England between the two world wars, because the people always seem so happy to be recovering from the travails of World War 1 and have no idea what’s coming for them in a very short decade.  But I digress.  Today’s book is Dying in the Wool: A Kate Shackleton Mystery by Frances Brody.  I really enjoyed this involving mystery set in Yorkshire and based around the closely guarded secrets of a family of Mill owners and their workers.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Take one quiet Yorkshire village..

Bridgestead is a peaceful spot: a babbling brook, rolling hills and a working mill at its heart. Pretty and remote, nothing exceptional happens.

Add a measure of mystery …

Until the day that Master of the Mill Joshua Braithwaite goes missing in dramatic circumstances, never to be heard of again.

A sprinkling of scandal …

Now Joshua’s daughter is getting married and wants one last attempt at finding her father. Has he run off with his mistress, or was he murdered for his mounting coffers?

And Kate Shackleton, amateur sleuth extraordinaire!

Kate Shackleton has always loved solving puzzles. So who better to get to the bottom of Joshua’s mysterious disappearance? But as Kate taps into the lives of the Bridgestead dwellers, she opens cracks that some would kill to keep closed.dying in the wool

Plot Summary:

Kate Shackleton,  amateur photographer, wife (widow?) of a man missing-in-action in World War 1 and lady with a knack for chasing up lost loved ones, meets up with a friend from her VAD days and is given her first opportunity to use her skills professionally.  Teaming up with ex-policeman and friend of her father’s, Jim Sykes, Kate sets off for Bridgestead in an attempt to shed light on the six year old disappearance of her friend Tabitha’s father, the owner of the local mill and dye works.  Things are not as easy as Kate might hope, however, as everyone except Tabitha believes that the matter was over and done with six years ago and the fate of Joshua Braithwaite – whatever it happened to be – is one that need not be disturbed.  Nevertheless, Kate determinedly sets about leaving no stone unturned and with the clandestine help of Jim Sykes, may yet come up with an answer before Tabitha’s wedding…but will it be the result Tabitha was hoping for?

The Usual Suspects:

There are a shed full of suspects getting underfoot in this one: Braithwaite’s cold and dismissive wife; captain-at-the-helm for now, Joshua’s cousin Neville Stoddard; Wilson, disgruntled inventor of a new loom picker for the mill and his downtrodden, alcoholic wife; Paul and Lizzie Kellett, stalwart workers at the mill and confidantes of Joshua Braithwaite; Hector, Tabitha’s younger fiancée and witness to Braithwaite’s initial downfall and Dr Gregory Grainger, the psychiatrist in charge of the hospital to which Braithwaite was taken after his supposed attempt at suicide.

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

Kate’s hunt for answers is one I found to be particularly engaging because the author has done a great job of drip-feeding secrets and tidbits of information throughout the tale.  No one seems to be wholly innocent in the dealings, but of exactly what they are guilty is also up for investigation.  There are a couple of extra murders thrown in partway through the tale to muddy the waters and the twists and turns kept me guessing right to the end.

Overall Rating:

poison clip artpoison clip artpoison clip artpoison clip artpoison clip art

Five poison bottles for the steady drip of dye as it permanently stains the fabric of a life

Apart from the inexplicable appearance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at a dinner party late in the piece, this was a fairly typical but deeply involving mystery.  It’s never certain that Kate is involved in a murder mystery because no body has ever been found and, as a known philanderer, the object of Kate’s investigation could well have nipped off somewhere to start a new life, with or without an extramarital partner in tow.  I particularly enjoyed the way that the characters all seemed to have layers and motivations that were peeled back with each step of the investigation; this added to the puzzle element of the story and ensured that I didn’t twig to the murderer/s too early in the piece.

The ending was surprisingly action-packed and I was impressed with the realistic way in which the characters’ reactions to the eventual solution to the mystery (including Kate’s own reaction) were written.  While it would have been easy to wrap things up neatly, certain characters including Kate herself – as well as the reader – are left to ponder the rightness of various outcomes and actions.

I feel like this could be another series that I would be happy to continue on with intermittently when time allows, provided the writing continues to be so twisty and layered.

Until next time,

Bruce

Mondays are for Murder: Mud, Muck and Dead Things…

2

image

It’s Monday again so that means murder is likely afoot. You will be pleased to hear that I think I’ve cracked it this time and found a new murder mystery series to enjoy and hunt down. I speak of a series by Ann Granger called the Campbell and Carter Mysteries, a kind of cosy/police-procedural hybrid set in the Cotswolds. Today we will be jauntily striding through the first book, Mud, Muck and Dead Things. The series is based around DI Jess Campbell and new station Superintendent Ian Carter and is a sort of spin-off from an earlier series by Granger, in the sense that DI Campbell apparently appeared in one of the later books of this other series.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Lucas Burton hates the countryside. To him it’s nothing but mud, muck and dead things. And he’s right. When he turns up at a deserted farm in the middle of nowhere hoping to conduct a lucrative business deal he stumbles across the body of a dead girl. And that’s just the start of his problems.

mud muck dead things

The Usual Suspects:

Having not read a non-fantastical police procedural for a while, I was quite refreshed to discover a cast of reasonably ordinary country-mouse/city-mouse suspects. There’s Lucas Burton himself, a shady, wheeler-dealer, working-class-kid-made-good who finds the body and is none too pleased about it. There’s old farmer Eli, upon whose land the body was discovered and who is beholden to a long-ago family drama; Penny Gower who owns the struggling stables down the hill from the farm; Andrew, accountant and admirer of Penny; and a collection of rich horsey types, owners of country pubs and new money blow-ins hoping to weasel their way into the locals’ good graces.

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

As this is a police procedural, with “proper” detectives on the case (as opposed to unqualified but enthusiastic old ladies, school girls or verbose travelling professors), the hunt for the murderer/s is thorough, comprised of many tangents and replete with “friendly chats” with locals who are repeatedly assured that they are not suspects.  There’s also quite a lot of “right, let’s get the London boys onto that” sort of talk.  In fact, it was very like watching one of those British murder mystery shows on TV. There were enough twists and shocking reveals about characters’ pasts to throw the cat amongst the pigeons and keep my interest hearty and my little grey cells ticking over. As is the case in this type of story, the reader generally stumbles upon the culprit at the same time as the main characters, so there isn’t quite so much of that “outwitting the author” game that I enjoy in Agatha Christie’s work, but the reveal here is satisfying (and rather action-packed) and encased in that most engaging of narrative formats: the police interview.

Overall Rating:

poison clip artpoison clip artpoison clip artpoison clip art

 

Four poison bottles for a jolly proper romp through the British countryside

I also quite enjoyed the playful, supernatural twist that Granger injects into one of the character’s back stories. It doesn’t have any particular significance to the outcome of the tale, but I felt it was a fun inclusion that made this story stick out a bit from the crowd. I will definitely be keeping a keen eye out for the other books in the Campbell and Carter series and Granger is going on my “authors to watch” series. Watch as in “keep an eye out for new works” not watch as in “stalk”.

image

*Bruce just ticked another book off Mount TBR!*

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Mondays with Marple: They Do It With Mirrors…

6

image

Welcome to the final Mondays with Marple post for 2014.  I’ve enjoyed Marpling along with you all this year and it’s been fun to explore the world of Jane Marple to such an extent.  This final offering for the year was quite a satisfying puzzle, which is a relief since the last few Marples I picked were less than stellar.  Today we will explore Christie’s misdirection and sleight of hand in They Do It With Mirrors.

they do it with mirrors

Plot Summary:

Miss Marple is coerced into visiting an old school friend at her home, Stonygates – a Victorian mansion that has been repurposed to include a boarding school for delinquent boys – after a mutual friend’s insistence that something isn’t right with Carrie Louise Serrocold.  On her arrival, Miss Marple can find nothing obviously amiss, but traces the threads of a few patterns that give her cause for disquiet.  When Carrie Louise’s stepson (from her first marriage) – Christian Gulbrandsen – arrives unexpectedly, Miss Marple manages to overhear a conversation that leads her to believe that something important is being kept from her dear friend.  An alarming incident involving Carrie Louise’s current husband – Lewis Serrocold – and one of the young delinquents draws all eyes in the mansion, and shortly after this Christian Gulbrandsen is found murdered.  The murder sends the occupants of the house into a flurry of suspicion.  Any one of them could have been responsible for the shooting of Gulbrandsen, and as they are all intimately connected, nobody knows who to trust.

The Usual Suspects:

This is a bit of a convoluted story where characters are concerned – there’s grande olde dame, the quiet, sweet-hearted, trusting Carrie Louise, her third (and current) husband, Lewis, her daughter Mildred, her granddaughter (from her adopted eldest deceased child) Gina; Gina’s American husband Wally; the two grown-up sons of Carrie Louise’s second husband, Steven and Alex; Carrie Louise’s elderly stepson (from her first marriage) Gulbrandsen, Carrie Louise’s brisk and competent companion, Jolly; Edgar Lawson, a troubled young man from the boarding school, and a few assorted psychiatrists and juveniles.

Level of Carnage:

Low for most of the book.  There are a few secondary murders that take place in a rather violent fashion, and a few extra deaths to round out the reveal.

Level of Wiley-Tricksiness:

High.  Obviously the title hints that there will be a bit of misdirection going on here, but as even Miss Marple gets tricked by this initially I don’t feel too bad about falling for certain red herrings.

Overall Rating:

imageimageimageimage

Four knitting needles for the tangled family relationships involved

It was a relief, after a few hit-and-miss Marples, to pick up a standard, old-fashioned pyschological puzzle.  This is Christie at her typical high quality.  The action happens in one place, there’s plenty of opportunity for readers to make a stab (pun intended) at the murderer/s and the eventual reveal is pretty satisfying.  It’s not a “blow you away with it’s brilliance” novel, but it’s a lot better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.  A lot less painful too.  Not to mention less messy.

Next year I will be moving on to a broader review program that encompasses the works of more writers of murder mystery.  Christie’s work will, of course, be included in this program, but I will also branch out to include others such as Dorothy L. Sayers and …. others, who I haven’t discovered yet.  Feel free to suggest some good murdery tales and you may find them featured in my 2015 review series: Monday is for Murder!

Until next time,

Bruce

Funny Strange and Funny Ha-Ha: A Double YA Read-it-if Review…

7

Morning fellow book-a-sauruses! Or should that be book-a-sauri? Only if you’ve been reading too much in the dark…HaHAA, see what I did there? The funnies have already started!  Today I will be providing commentary on two YA new releases that are light, funny and the perfect thing for cheering up an otherwise frown-worthy day.  One is a cosy mystery (well, cosy enough, I suppose) and the other features a little bit of paranormal and I received both digital copies from their respective publishers via Netgalley – thanks! So set your emotionality regulators to “mildly amused” and let’s get this show on the road!

First up we have Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey. (Incidentally, isn’t that a great surname? I think so. Well done on that, Fantaskey family!).  Buzz Kill features high-school newspaper journalist Millie Ostermeyer as she attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding the murder of Hollerin’ Hank Killdare, her school’s almost-universally disliked football coach. Unfortunately, due to his status as one of the least popular people around the school, Millie’s list of possible suspects is quite extensive and even includes her dad, the football team’s assistant coach.  As Millie tries to solve the mystery and win a Pacemaker (high school journalism’s highest accolade), she keeps running into mysterious (and handsome) quarterback Chase Albright and perky, annoying cheerleader and editor of the school newspaper, Vivienne Fitch.  Why do these two seem to be tangled up in every aspect of the crime? If Millie can’t find a lead in this mystery soon, it may be that someone very close to her ends up taking the rap.  So with the help of Nancy Drew, a good friend and a stinky but loveable dog, Millie is going to crack this case…or possibly die trying.

buzz killRead it if:

* you despise Phys Ed class and the many and varied humiliations that accompany it

* you think that being kicked in the backside while wearing a honeybee mascot costume could feasibly be perceived as cause to commit murder

* you’ve been waiting for the teenage Miss Marple to come along, although without the knitting and felt hats (I know I have!)

As soon as I read the blurb for this one the question arose as to why there aren’t more cosy-style murder mysteries aimed at this age group.  It’s such an engaging genre and Buzz Kill is a great example of it.  There was a distinctly light tone used throughout the book and Millie, our narrator, has a dry, self-deprecating humour that really colours the telling of the story.  All the characters you would expect are there: the unpopular murder victim who had wronged plenty of people, the over-zealous-but-not-very-accurate small town police investigator, the popular kids who were humiliated by the coach, the disengaged school principal…it’s your classic whodunnit tale set in a context very familiar to young people and readers of YA.

There’s also a bit of romantic undercurrent to the story with the tall, dark, handsome and mysterious newcomer, Chase Albright being the focus of Millie’s investigative attentions.  As an adult reader and fan of traditional and cosy murder mysteries, I enjoyed the familiar unfolding of the plot and the twist at the end was well-timed and unexpected.  The reveal of the eventual murder weapon is tinged with a bit of slapstick as well and made a very satisfying finish to the book.

I did find that my attention wandered a little towards the beginning of the last third of the book, as the focus shifted more to the developing friendship between Millie and Chase.  Although the mystery surrounding Chase had been set up early in the book, the eventual reveal about his place in the grander scheme of things didn’t really surprise me and I don’t think it will surprise many readers.  This didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the story for me, but simply made that section drag a little.

I’m very happy to have read Buzz Kill and I hope Fantaskey or other YA authors (and publishers!) take a chance on more cosies like this one specifically for a YA audience.  Buzz Kill was released on May the 6th.

Now onto the “funny ha-ha”…

In Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski we are introduced to homeroom 10B, who, after receiving their flu shots at school one day, develop the ability to hear other people’s thoughts.  While for some individuals, this seems like a dream come true and the perfect opportunity to gain the upper hand in their studies or relationships, for others they would like nothing more than  a complete return to normal before they end up accidentally overhearing, for example, any more of their parents’ amorous thoughts.  As the days pass and the teens get used to being exposed to every possible overshare that one could think of (quite literally), some secrets emerge that would ordinarily have never seen the light of day and certain members of the group find themselves subjected to the ethical scrutiny of their peers.  When it becomes apparent that the authorities may be on to 10B’s special abilities, each of the “Espies” must make a choice – do they give up their telepathy for the sake of their health and sanity, or do they hold on to the quality that has turned them into (slightly) super humans?

Don't Even Think

Read it if:

* you have recently taken to wearing a stylish, thought-blocking tinfoil hat every time you leave the house because you suspect the teenagers that loiter in the stairwells of your building have telepathic abilities

* you were reluctant to share airspace with some of your grade ten classmates, let alone brain space

*you’ve ever been in a situation in which you’ve been unutterably grateful that no one could find out what you REALLY think about something

I love a book that’s an out-of-the-box surprise.  Particularly when that surprise is a pleasant one.  I thoroughly enjoyed Don’t Even Think About It.  When I initially read the blurb, I wasn’t 100% sure that this would be to my tastes but I took a chance and I’m glad to say that I was rewarded with an original and highly amusing imaginative tale that blends typical teen angst and relationship drama with ESP to create a very appetising story-smoothie indeed.

The first thing that drew me in (and threw me off a bit, admittedly) was the use of a collective voice to tell the story.  See, by the end of the tale, the teens have become so used to hearing each others’ thoughts that they have adopted a sort of hive-mind, and this is reflected in the narration.  At the beginning this was mildly confusing but within a chapter or two I had it sorted and by the end I felt that it contributed to my experience of the book as original and a stand-out from others in the paranormal/romance YA genre.  After looking at other reviewers’ thoughts, this point stood out as a negative for some, so I suspect it might be a personal preference thing.  As a fan of dialogue-driven writing (as my Fi50 entries will attest!), the multi-character approach to narration appealed greatly to me.

I did have a few troubles in the first half of the book keeping some of the female characters straight, as a couple tended to blend into each other by having similar shy aspects to their personalities.  Other characters like Mackenzie, BJ and Pi stood out as strong voices in the narrative and really drove the story forward.  One drawback of having such a large ensemble cast of characters is that not many of them get time in the limelight and therefore some characters came off as a bit two-dimensional.  Whether this was intentional, as the book is the first in a series and there will be time later to flesh them out, I’m not sure but I can see how this would annoy some readers.  It certainly didn’t bother me however – I felt that the movement between characters added to the light tone of the book and allowed the plot, and the humour, to flow more freely.

As I said, this is the first book in a planned series, but I feel it works perfectly well as a standalone.  If you enjoy your YA light, with plenty of funny dialogue and embarrassing situations, a bit of teen angst and romance, and just enough paranormal to keep things interesting, give this one a go.

Don’t Even Think About It was released on May 1st.

Until next time,

Bruce

Follow on Bloglovin

my read shelf:
Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

//