I was looking over the list of books I read a while back and realized there were several I really liked being published in December. While I try to blog about one book at a time, I thought I would take advantage of the holiday season, when people are often looking for gift ideas, to highlight the books I enjoyed. So, here they are, in order of when they are being published.
First one up is a police procedural, The Second Goodbye by Patricia Smiley, with a suggested publication date of December 8, 2018. Here’s the review I wrote after I finished the advanced copy I was provided:
I just finished The Second Goodbye by Patricia Smiley. It was an enjoyable read all the way around with engaging characters, good plotting and a satisfying conclusion. This is my first read and the third book in the Pacific Homicide series. The story is self-contained, with a few recurring characters. It is not necessary that you read the books in order, although in this one there is the beginning of a possible future relationship between Detective Davie, the protagonist, and one of the secondary character.
The pacing of this book is excellent, unfolding evenly, in a way that captures and maintains your interest throughout. While there are no big twists in the plot, it is enjoyable to read about good, solid detective work that “peels the onion” of a case. There is just enough tension in the book to add an extra dimension without derailing the primary focus of Davie’s investigations. While there are two concurrent investigations Davie is conducting, one is the central focus of the story while the other assists in adding depth to her character and increasing the reader’s understanding of what drives her.
This book will probably appeal to a broad range of readers. It has a strong female detective, and as such will intrigue fans of detectives such as Kinsey Millhone, protagonist in Sue Grafton’s alphabet series. It also is a strong police procedural, with emphasis on detective work and only modest amounts of blood, guts, and gore. This combination may make it more appealing to a larger audience than many hard-boiled detective series.
I’m putting this book high on a list of new novels to try. I don’t feel I missed anything by not reading the first two books in the series, but if you like reading in series, I expect you wouldn’t be disappointed starting at the first book and working your way through the series. My thanks to NetGalley and Midnight Ink Publishing for providing an advance digital copy in exchange for an unbiased review. The opinions expressed here are wholly my own.
If police procedurals aren’t your thing, how about an historical fiction mystery. Death Comes to Bath by Catherine Lloyd is in the cozy vein of books since the protagonists are a couple who aren’t trained detectives. He is recovering from wounds he received at the Battle of Waterloo and she has a talent at investigation. Here’s my review:
Step back in time to Regency England with Death Comes to Bath by Catherine Lloyd and join Lord and Lady Kurland as they travel to Bath, England to seek treatment for his leg that was injured in the Battle of Waterloo. This is the sixth in “A Kurland St. Mary Mystery” series and my introductory read to the books. The story is a complete mystery of its own and it is not necessary to have read the previous books in the series. There may be some secondary character development, or some exploration of the two principal characters’ relationship that has been established in earlier books, however enjoyment of this book is not dependent on having previously read anything in the series.
Lord and Lady Kurland rent a house in Bath for a month while he participates in daily treatments in the healing waters. Almost immediately upon moving into their rental house their next door neighbor, Sir William Benson, comes to call. He is a bombastic, opinionated man, but Lord Kurland enjoys his company and a friendship develops. They are also soon visited by Sir William’s second wife, Miranda and her two sons, who voice very different opinions of the man.
Lady Benson extends an invitation to dinnr, explaining it is at the insistence of her husband. Both Lord and Lady Kurland accept, and are soon introduced to the rest of the Benson household, Sir William’s three sons from his first marriage. The tension between the members of the blended household is apparent from the initial meeting with Sir William contributing to its increase as it becomes apparent that he enjoys changing his will on a regular basis depending on who may have disappointed him most recently.
It comes as no surprise to any regular reader of mystery fiction that Sir William becomes a victim of murder. Lord and Lady Kurland enter into an investigation as they are both determined to discover what happened to Sir William and set things to rights if it is within their power. In addition to the death and subsequent investigation, the book has secondary stories featuring Lord Kurland’s doctor, Sir Patrick Fletcher, his very pregnant wife, Penelope, and Lady Kurland’s sister Anna. There is just enough story involving these characters to give depth to the novel without bogging it down in unnecessary detail.
Character development of the principals as well as the victim and his family is well done. Through the writing, they are presented as complex people who are interesting and have their own individual strengths and weaknesses. There are also clues and red herrings sprinkled throughout the book allowing the reader to draw conclusions as to who might be guilty of committing murder. While I solved the mystery prior to the end of the book, it wasn’t too early in the book and it was still enjoyable to read and ascertain if I was correct.
This book is an excellent representation of a cozy mystery. The reasons for Lord and Lady Kurland being in Bath and the involving themselves in the solution of their neighbor’s murder are completely believable, which adds to the overall enjoyment of the story. The characters who populate the book add depth and interest beyond the mystery itself and help to increase the reader’s interest in the book as well as the series. Although I haven’t read any of the other books, I would certainly consider reading others in the series and would probably opt to begin with the first book as I suspect there is some relationship development that would be interesting to experience as it grows.
My thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for providing an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
If those don’t appeal or if you are looking for another recommendation, then I would suggest A Moment in Crime by Amanda Allen. It’s another cozy, this time taking place in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the days of the Golden Age of Movies. It’s a murder mystery with lots of the action taking place on a movie that is being filmed on location. My review is here:
Thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for sending me the advanced digital copy of by Amanda Allen. The book offers a delightful mix of western, wonderful characters, most of whom you would like to at least meet if not befriend, and a neat murder mystery to complete the package.
The beauty of Santa Fe is drawn here with enough description to call to mind the gorgeous vastness of the western United States, without being so belabored as to feel like a travelog. It’s just enough to remind anyone who has lived or visited the area of the beauty they experienced and to provide enough intrigue for anyone who hasn’t to want to spend some time there. The period nature of the book, taking place around a silent film set in the small town of Santa Fe evokes just enough atmosphere to create the feel of having stepped back in time.
This was my first read in the Santa Fe Revival Mystery series, but hopefully not my last. Although it is part of a series, the book is a complete mystery in itself, and as such, can easily be read as a stand-alone. There are some recurring characters who are enticing, and who add enough charm to the story to make it even more interesting. The only drawback to the series is there are a few “spoilers” in this book that relate to the first book in the series. This might make reading out of order a bit frustrating to someone who wants to read mysteries with an opportunity to solve the puzzle along with the protagonist.
Clues are sprinkled throughout the book, along with red herrings, in such a way as to be present without being overly obvious. In addition, there are characters who are so warmly drawn the reader almost can’t help being drawn in and hoping they are neither victim nor perpetrator. As for the protagonist, she is a thoroughly modern woman who has a clear picture of what she wants and is taking steps to follow her dream regardless of family expectations and mores of the time.
The story takes place against the backdrop of a film shoot happening on location in New Mexico, but has more to do with the personalities of actors and other film professionals than the technical aspects of shooting. While most of the personalities ring true, there is a slight hiccup with the film’s female lead in that when we first encounter her she doesn’t appear very likeable. However, as the story unfolds she is much more sympathetic and likeable, but there is no explanation that would suggest a change of her heart. Rather it seemed as if the original concept for her was one of a more self-centered individual, and then she morphed into a more caring one. The transition was a bit abrupt, but she remained believable in the new persona.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good mystery wrapped up in the pages of a cozy book that has little violence and well drawn characters. These characters are written with distinctive voices enough so that it is easy to keep them firmly in mind as you progress through the story. As such, this book is equally suitable for someone who wants a vacation book where they can read straight through or a book they can pick up and put down as they progress through their other routines.
So, there are three books if you are looking for something to read over the holidays or if you are looking for a gift for someone. Hope you find something you like, have a wonderful holiday season and Happy Reading.