Monthly Archives: March 2016

Book Review: The Skeleton Garden – Airplanes, bodies, gardening..Great Mystery!

The Skeleton GardenThe Skeleton Garden (Potting Shed Mystery #4) 
by Marty Wingate

Long lost brother and sister, Simon and Pru are reunited in adulthood. Pru was raised by their parents in the United States, while Simon was left behind in England to be raised by his mother’s relatives, Birdie and George Parke. He was told his parents died in a car accident. Even though he was brought up in a loving home, to find out his family left him behind had a devastating effect on him to say the least.

Pru  and her new husband Christopher move to Chelsea to spend a year house sitting and working on a proper English garden. The current gardener is actually her brother, and she is thrilled to share her love of gardening with him, but everything isn’t coming up roses. She and her husband settle in, she in the garden, Christopher working with the local police but there are skeletons in the garden, both figuratively and literally .

Things are not always sweetness and light between brother and sister, they are learning to get along as siblings and gardeners. Simon is thrilled to be chosen to show off the garden in an upcoming issue of a very prestigious gardening magazine, but Pru has a bad feeling about the whole idea. There is so much to do the pair wonder how it will be possible to get done. Then Christopher’s teenage nephew is sent to live with them because he got in a bit of trouble and his parents want him to be removed from the situation. Orlando isn’t too keen on working in the garden. As a matter of fact, Pru spends more time fixing the problems he creates by taking short cuts.

Things change for everyone when a plane from the war and a skeleton is found buried in the garden. Christopher is working the investigation to see if they can find the identity of the bones. Then one of the locals winds up dead in the garden, this crime casts suspicion on almost everyone in the village.

Pru can’t help herself – she has too many questions and not enough answers so she quietly talks to the people she has become close to hoping to help Christopher crack the case. But will this happen without more murders?

This is the fourth Potting Shed Mystery, but the first one I’ve read. It worked perfectly well as a standalone novel. I was not confused about the characters and their relationship to each other.

I love the cast of characters. They were interesting and well developed. Pru’s relationships with her husband, brother, friends and cook brought so much life to her character I felt like having a cup of tea with her telling her everything would be ok! Evelyn, the cook, has a hard shell, but inside she is a soft, caring woman who loves her husband Peachey. I want her to cook for me, the recipes she whipped up while the other characters moved in and out of her kitchen sounded delicious.

Wingate wrote a solid mystery with as many twists and turns as an English garden maze. I enjoyed every minute of this book and will seek out the previous books in this series.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from House Party that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under cooking, England, family, history, House Party, Mystery

Book Review: Casey’s Last Chance – Fast Paced Noir Mystery

Casey's Last ChanceCasey’s Last Chance

By Joseph B. Atkins

Casey Eubanks has a job to do. It is distasteful, but this could be his last chance at getting a new start in life. If anyone needed a break, it was Casey, but if history holds, he will need nothing short of a miracle.

His only way out is to break the union organizers at a factory in Memphis. Easier said than done in 1960, wages are low and the factories are holding all the cards. Men and women work way too many hours a day with little or no breaks. Sweatshops are the norm, not the exception and the women in this particular shop are treated poorly no matter their age. Even pregnant women are expected to work long and painful hours or there are others in line waiting to take their place.

Casey sets up on a hill overlooking the rally, setting his rifle scope on the beautiful dame in charge. Ah, there is always a dame in a good noir, and Casey’s Last Chance is no exception. Ana Gadomska gave Casey every opportunity to kill her. Unbeknownst to her, she was the perfect target standing stock still in the crosshairs of his scope, but for reasons only known to him he did not pull the trigger.

That is when things go from bad to worse for the hitman. The local police were going to take him out, but lucky for him his is a better shot. When Gadomska and her bodyguard find out about the scheme and go after Casey, he ends up jumping from the frying pan into the fire by kidnapping her.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now Casey is back to where he started before he took the deal. But he has doubled is trouble. Not only does he have the original people after him but now he has the cops and the wealthy owner of the factory putting a bounty on his head.

Casey’s Last Chance is a perfect noir mystery. It is gritty, has rough characters and the main character is no angel. The writing style takes me back to the old Alfred Hitchcock Magazines I read as a very young girl. Even though his wings are tarnished, I was fond of Casey and pulled for him even in spite of his shortcomings as a person.

Atkins is currently teaching journalism at the University of Mississippi. He is a US Army Vietnam Veteran, a noted journalist and former congressional correspondent. He has written previously published short works of fiction and a non-fiction book entitled Covering for the Bosses: Labor and the Southern Press.

I highly recommend this book for fans of noir mysteries. It is complex, fast paced and true to the genre. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Atkin’s work.

 

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under Book Review, debut novel, Mystery, Noir Mystery

Book Review: Dying to Tell – My Favorite Dead Detective is Back!

Dying to TellDying to Tell

By TJ O’Connor

My favorite dead detective is back in all his crime solving glory. Oliver “Tuck” Tucker was murdered by an intruder, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing what he does best.  He continues to solve murders and mysteries from the other side of the grave.

He is not alone in his crime fighting. His former partner Bear and his wife Angel work with him. Oftentimes Tuck’s presence has helped them, but sometimes it annoys those he left behind. They love him, but Angel especially might need to move on to seeing other men who are not dead, even though she still loves Tuck. Being the wife of a ghost wouldn’t be easy for any woman, but Angel tries to make the best of a bad situation.

As for other crime solving partners, Tuck has a legion of dead people contacting him. Some of them are helpful, some want to get revenge. Most interestingly, some of them are long dead relatives sent to look out for Tuck and help ease him into his new life among the dead. Oftentimes he learns much more about his family than he would have ever found out while living.

In Dying to Tell Tuck meets another of his ancestors. His deceased grandfather, who was an Army captain, shows up looking for answers about an Army mission gone bad from 1942. This mystery is directly related to a case Bear catches. A dead man is found in a hidden bank vault and everyone surrounding the death have secrets or are not who they seem to be.

Tuck participates reluctantly in the investigation until it hits him close to home. Angel is somehow being targeted, and the killer will stop at nothing to keep his secrets from being revealed. Can Tuck find out what is going on before it is too late for his wife?

This book is easily a stand-alone mystery. There are references to the first two books in the series, Dying to Know and Dying for the Past. They are explained without an overabundance of back-story, but enough so new readers would not be lost.

O’Connor’s characters are believable and fully fleshed out with pasts and present stories and events. He artfully weaves the dead and living characters together, using Tuck as the conduit to make it all work.

This is the third in O’Connor’s award winning  Gumshoe Ghost Mystery series. His plots are varied and intricate yet fun and easy to read. They keep me guessing until the final pages. Just when I think I have the killer figured out, a monkey wrench that makes total sense makes me point to a different suspect. This delectable dead detective series is a must read for mystery lovers.

It has quickly become one on my favorite mystery series. O’Connor is an author that should be sought out if you like a well told mystery with a fabulous mix of homicides, history and humor to keep you turning pages well into the night.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under Book Review, books, Mystery

Book Review: Trish’s Team – A Great New Tween Book

Trish's TeamTrish’s Team

Part of the Lady Tigers Series

By Dawn Brotherton

Trish loves softball. She is a twelve-year-old dynamo on the field and a pretty great kid off the field. She is serious about the game, but not obsessed with winning. Overall, she is mature for her age, but when she makes one bad decision it affects all aspects of her life.

In order to join the Lady Tigers Softball team she has to give up her violin lessons. Giving up her involvement in the orchestra that has been a part of her life for several years would be a hard thing for Trish to do. She loves playing the violin, and her parents have invested a lot of money in lessons and her instrument.

Her parents are very busy. They are too busy to be around on the weekends and evenings due to meetings, golf games and exhaustion from their demanding lives. Most of the time this has worked out ok, but unfortunately Trish takes advantage of their inattentiveness to deceive them.

She feels guilty and conflicted after making this choice, and soon it becomes a house of cards, threatening to crumble. Will she be able to make amends before it is too late?

This is the first book in Brotherton’s Lady Tigers Series. It is a solid story with interesting and engaging characters. The interaction of  Trish with her friends and parents is refreshingly honest and reads like She shows empathy and feels guilty when she does something wrong. When her lies start to catch up with her she becomes physically sick.

It is written for young readers, deftly showing how one decision can affect many other things and people without being “preachy”. It also demonstrates how conflicted tweens are; mature and childlike while struggling to find their way to adulthood. This is not a heavy book, but it addresses many social issues in interesting ways. For example, the kindness of Trish and her friends to a new girl that someone else is not being nice to is understated but very important.

At the end of the book there is a glossary of softball terms in case the reader isn’t familiar with the game. The descriptions of the games add excitement and action to keep the pace quick and interesting

This is the first book in Award Winning Dawn Brotherton’s Lady Tigers Series. She also writes the Jackie Austin Mystery Series. She is currently serving as a colonel in the United States Air Force Reserve and is married with two daughters.

I am looking forward to the next Lady Tigers book, and highly recommend it to tweens. I am also adding the Jackie Austin Mystery Series to my list of books I want to read. I can’t wait to read more of Brotherton’s books.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under baseball, Book Review, books, children's books, family