Tag Archives: mystery

An Unsuitable Day for a Murder by Catriona McPherson

19th April 2012

*Kat Bozowski at Thomas Dunne Books kindly sent this to me after I loved the last one so much. Thanks, Kat!

Star-crossed lovers. Mirren Aitken and Dugald Hepburn are destined to be opponents, but they love one another. Their families are adamantly against the match because the two families are business competitors – each owns a department store across the street from the other.

When Mirren goes missing, Mrs. Ninian Aitken, businesswoman and matriarch of the family, sends for Dandy Gilver. Dandy senses there is something more going on between these two families, and her suspicions are confirmed when Mirren is found shot in the head. Is it suicide? Murder? But another death confirms to Dandy that something is rotten, especially after both families tell her in no uncertain terms that the investigation is over.

Along with Alec and Bunty, her aging Dalmatian, Dandy uncovers family secret after family secret and wonders if these two young people will receive any sort of justice.

This particular installment of Dandy Gilver’s adventures was as fun as ever; however, with so many Aitkens who are often called, alternatively, Mary Aitken or Mrs. Ninian Aitken, Bella or Mrs. John Aitken, and Abigail or Mrs. Jack Aitken, I was very often confused as to whom was being discussed. Plus, when some of the family secrets come out, the confusion only got worse. As a frequent reader of mysteries, I pride myself in following along and even determining part of the mystery myself. Though I must say Dandy was just as confused as I was, it was still too much at times. In fact, I passed this one on to my mom, and she texted me several times: Who is this character? What happened? I giggled because I totally did the same thing. There is a family tree in the front of the book; however, I don’t like having to flip back and forth so often.

In the end, Catriona McPherson’s An Unsuitable Day for a Murder is a fast, fun read, and though the path to resolution is a bit circuitous, it’s also very well thought out.

For the record, I only mildly liked After the Armistice Ball, but I loved Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains and The Burry Man’s Day.

Preorder your copy from Indiebound or for preorder it for your Nook. Or buy others in the series here.


Series Obsession: Mad for Maisie

22nd March 2012

You guys know I have a tendency to gush about my favorite series, right? I mean, I wouldn’t leave you alone about Miss Silver and only haven’t blogged about her because my habit was getting pricey. Then there’s the Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series that I devoured. Then I discovered Bess Crawford, the series by Charles Todd (which I will tell you about next week), and I read all the books in that series in a weekend. So yeah. I love a good series.

I first discovered Maisie Dobbs in Target many moons ago. Now I know some people swear by the book selection at their Target, but I was never all that impressed with ours. Plus, if I’m going to buy a book, I’m going straight to Barnes & Noble, our only bookstore in this area. However, Target is one of those places I go when I need a pick-me-up. It’s so cheery. And what better way to put a bounce in your step than to buy a new book? That was probably 7 or 8 years ago, and I read Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear. The novel stuck with me because of Maisie.

Can I gush?

Maisie Dobbs is a grown-up Nancy Drew, except she’s not privileged like Nancy, though she does run around in a spiffy little MG, and honey, I loved me some Nancy Drew. We’re talking lights-out-read-under-the covers-in-the-dark kind of love. I’d pretend I was asleep when my mom came in and reminded me (knowing I was awake) that I would ruin my eyes reading in the dark. I loved Nancy because she was afraid of a lot, but she did what she had to do anyway.

That’s Maisie. Except instead of being scared of noises made by peacocks, Maisie’s dodging shrapnel. Let me explain…

Maisie goes to work as a domestic for Lady Rowan when she’s young because her mother has died, and her father isn’t bringing in all that much money. Maisie is devastated to leave her father, but she knows a job is necessary, and the Comptons have quite a library. Used to early hours, Maisie begins getting up very early to read in the library until the Comptons come in very early and catch her, tucked away with a book. Lady Rowan, spying the intellect in the young girl, puts her through school where Maisie excels until she joins up as a nursing sister during World War I. After these experiences, which leave her scarred both mentally and physically, Maisie returns to school and trains with Dr. Maurice Blanche, an eccentric man who mentors Maisie in psychology and the human spirit.

Can we also talk about my obsession with World War I?

There is something undeniably interesting about this time period, and I didn’t need the Downton Abbey craze to tell me that. In part, I think it’s because the role of women changed so much during and after this war that it left an indelible mark on society. Maisie is a perfect example of that: she starts her own business as “psychologist and investigator” – with a male assistant, Billy. Her cases inevitably lead both her and Billy back into their wartime experiences in an England still catching its breath after the atrocities of war. It’s an incredibly unique perspective.

Anyway, Jacqueline Winspear will be in Houston at Murder by the Book next Wednesday, and I so wish I could go. It starts at 6:30 p.m., the same time I tutor two men for the TOEFL test. If you’re anywhere near there, make sure you head over. The newest book Elegy for Eddie comes out next week as well, and I may have to suck in and spend full price for the hardback. Or, maybe it will be a bit less for the ebook. We. Shall. See.

In the meantime, if you have a Nook and want to read the first book in the series Maisie Dobbs, definitely let me know. We’ll do the whole share thing, and you can borrow it! This series doesn’t have to be read in order, but there is a definite character progression. If you want more info on each individual book, TLC Book Tours is having Maisie March, and there are tons of blogs participating with reviews for all the books. Check it out here at the TLC Books website.

Buy the books from Indiebound or for your Nook.


Murder and Mayhem

29th February 2012

So today I’m performing my civic duty: drug court. I received my jury summons and went to that cattle call nightmare on Monday but was called back for today. Drug court. As I worked for a defense legal firm for six years, I was really hoping for a civil case, but surely drug court will be interesting. No murder, but a girl can hope for a little mayhem, right?

In that vein, I thought I’d review two Dandy Gilver novels today.

*I bought this for my Nook.

Dandy Gilver is just a touch bored. Her husband is obsessed with drains on the Gilverton estate, her sons are off at school, and her maid Grant is far too concerned with fashion. When her friend Daisy asks for help, Dandy (short for Dandelion) jumps at the chance. Daisy’s husband is in insurance, and the Duffy family wants to cash in a claim…for the missing family diamonds. The only problem is Mrs. Duffy’s story about the diamonds doesn’t ring true, and the premium payment hasn’t been met. When Cara Duffy, Mrs. Duffy’s daughter, meets with an accident, Dandy and Cara’s former fiancé Alec decide to do a bit of digging. Why did Cara try to break off her marriage to Alec at the last minute? Why did Mrs. Duffy not report the missing diamonds sooner? Is Cara really dead, or is something more going on?

As Dandy’s first case, there was certainly a lot of going round in circles, which was a bit annoying, but the end result made sense and was satisfying. Dandy is bored; in fact, she’s kind of mean about her husband, but their relationship obviously works for them. I also really like Alec and his relationship with Dandy and Hugh separately.

Verdict: Fun but not the strongest start to a series.


*I bought this for my Nook.

Dandy is back. The boys are at the seaside with the nanny, and Hugh is busy with contractors and estate business. Dandy’s school friend Buttercup and her American husband have moved into the family castle in South Queensferry. Since Buttercup is more comfortable in a speakeasy than a Scottish burgh, Dandy and her friend Daisy are called in to assist with Burry Man’s Day, part of the Ferry Fair. As the big landowners, Buttercup and her husband Cad are in charge of entertainment, judging bonny baby contests and passing out small gifts to the village children. There’s a hitch in the program when Robert Dudgeon, reigning Burry Man, decides he doesn’t want to participate. No one can blame him. He dresses up with burrs covering his body, going around to pubs for whisky and small tips. But Cad and Dandy talk to Robert, and he changes his mind, donning the burry man suit, scaring and thrilling children in a very superstitious community. At the end of the day, Robert participates in the greasy pole climbing contest and drops dead. Weak heart and too much whisky take the blame, but Dandy isn’t satisfied. Why, after 25 years, did Robert Dudgeon hesitate to act as Burry Man? And why did one of the pub owners and his daughter react so oddly when the Burry Man visited? Dandy calls in Alec, and the pair of them work to find out how and why the Burry Man met his death.

This book was so much better than the first, and I really enjoyed the inclusion of the local customs and problems – the teetotalers and the men who drink whisky like milk – as well as post-war sentiments. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Verdict: Dandy and Alec hit their stride, and The Burry Man’s Day is a success.

P.S. I read the third Dandy Gilver book and reviewed it here. The next book, An Unsuitable Day for a Murder, comes out in April.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

23rd February 2012

*I bought this book and placed it as decor on my nightstand…where it remained for almost two years.

When I first began blogging, a bunch of bloggers were salivating over this book. At the time, I thought you were all nutters and wondered why in the hell this book was suddenly getting so much attention. A couple of weeks ago, I found out when I read this sensation novel morning, noon, and night, barely leaving its pages to eat. The Woman in White is one of those books which the reading of I can only compare to having the flu. Palms are sweaty. Your limbs ache from staying in whatever reading position you choose for far too long. There is a distinct desire for someone other than yourself to do any cleaning/cooking/feeding. You do not leave your pajamas.

Why? I’m going to purposefully simplify this plot: Dude gets a job teaching art. Said dude runs into a woman in white the night before he leaves for his new post. Chick is kind of crazy and has escaped from an asylum. Art teacher is unsettled, but he’s off to his new post, which includes two young women, an older sister, Marian, and her half-sister, Laura…who looks exactly like the crazy chick. She’s supposed to marry a titled man about whom the family has received anonymous warnings. There are serious things a-happenin’, and art teacher gets out of the mix, leaving the sister and the family lawyer to tell the tale of what happens after Laura and the count say “I do.”

Sir Whatsit is a vile man, but his Italian buddy who comes to live with the couple is even more dastardly. There are big plans to get money from the new bride, and these men will stop at nothing, NOTHING, I tell you, to get their hands on that dough. And you thought the crazed woman in white was gone? Surprise. She’s back. And it’s spooky. Plus, art teacher who’s in love with the blond, slim Laura (of course) is back to lay claim on his lovey-dovey. Bad guys get told. There’s a happy ever after.

Lessons learned: Men are evil. Men without money are evil-er.

Another lesson learned: Ugly women are smart. Mostly. Except when they’re busy being weak. Pretty women are always weak.

This novel is Gothic and sensational and fun and long and suspenseful, and ultimately, I loved it.

For a free egalley of this, go to Project Gutenberg. If you want to know the ins and outs before you read and don’t want my ridiculously-simplified plot, go here:

Man of La Book

The Lit Bitch

things mean a lot

Yvette Can Draw

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

20th February 2012

* I borrowed this book from my local library. You can buy a copy from Indiebound here or for your Nook here.

In the midst of a dull lunch party in New York, Beatrice’s dull but carefully-crafted life is interrupted by a phone call: Her mother is calling from London to tell her that Beatrice’s sister Tess – who is also pregnant – is missing. Petrified of the possibilities, Beatrice relies on her older sister role to get her to the airport, the London, to Tess’s apartment. Tess is just being her flighty self, surely. The alternatives are too horrifying, and when that horror is realized, Beatrice is changed. Tess had gone into labor three weeks early, the baby, stillborn. The police mark Tess’s death a suicide in the face of this news, but Beatrice knows this can’t be and begins stacking up questions, trying to find proof that Tess was frightened of someone and that the someone murdered her.

From the start of Lupton’s debut novel Sister, it is apparent that Tess has been killed and that Beatrice is responsible for finding her killer. Sister is told in the form of a lengthy letter from Beatrice to Tess, as the sisters often wrote back and forth to one another. In trying to cope with her sister’s disappearance and death, Beatrice turns again to writing Tess, telling her, through her testimony to Mr. Wright, a Crown Protection Services attorney, what has happened since the moment she arrived in London. I thought this was an incredibly smart choice, as the consistency of Beatrice’s voice and writing makes the impacts of some of the twists and turns that much more effective.

Because Beatrice is writing the letters, the reader is aware that he or she is following a desperate sister down any possible path to gain answers to her many questions: Tess was having an affair with one of her married art instructors. She was part of an experimental drug trial, and she was scared of someone or something. Told from another perspective, I may have doubted Beatrice’s many hunches, but as a sister, I was with her 100%, begging alongside her for the police to follow up just one more oddity in Tess’s disappearance. However, Beatrice is an unreliable narrator, as there are moments in her letter when it’s quite obvious something is wrong with Beatrice. She references being unwell and suspecting that her sister’s killer is watching her, though she knows he’s behind bars.

By the end of the book, my legs were incredibly tense from tapping my toes and feet, desperately wanting to beat Beatrice to the finish, yet scared to do so. The ending is so incredibly shocking, but it wasn’t artlessly so. Lupton manages to make you feel you knew what was going on all along, even as you page back through the last chapter to feel the impact again. Even if you’re not a fan of crime fiction, this is one not to miss.

Have you read Sister? I immediately passed it to my mom, who also loved it, and now it’s sitting on my dad’s nightstand. I love that kind of book. 🙂