WHITE WITH FISH, RED WITH MURDER by Harley Mazuk (A Frank Swiver Novel)
Released Feb 28, 2017 by Driven Press
Mr. Mazuk says he enjoys “old school” pulp and private eye fiction. Consequently, you know what to expect from his novels – fun noir – and you are not disappointed. His protagonist is private eye Frank Swiver, a connoisseur of wine, fine and not so, and big-breasted women, willing and not so. Hard-drinking, hard loving, rarely sleeping and being shot at all the time fills the bill with this noir. With characters reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon, they are all the more fun because Mr. Mazuk knows how to use them well. Along with a train car full of suspects, he sends the reader to the post-war world of Napa Valley wines. And we go willingly.
To his credit, Mr. Mazuk has created a protagonist who is his own person. Just when you expect Swiver to go one way, he goes another. He makes the unexpected choice or says the unexpected thing making his character seem more real and likable. He rescues a cat named Chardonnay because he feels he has to. Of course, the cat later dies – once again, in an unexpected turn of events – but the rescue is an interesting character beat.
Which leads me to my only criticism. The deceased cat seemed to be still laying in the trunk of his car at story’s end, which took place days later. I pondered on that. I think it’s better for a writer to complete or finish off a plot device – sometimes it only takes a sentence or phrase – rather than risk leaving a reader dangling with a ‘what happened to’ thought lingering in their minds.
But all in all, this is a good novel, with colorful characters, interesting dialog and a crackerjack plot. Frankly, it was a surprise to me who ‘did’ it. And that speaks well for any mystery.
Review provided by Heather Haven
From Wisconsin we go to California, for Murder at the Mansion, by Janet Finsilver (Kensington,2016,$15.00). Kelly Jackson has returned to take up her post as manger of a B&B at Redwood Cove, where the annual whale-watching festival has attracted a slew of tourists. Since the B&B isn’t quite finished, Kelly is asked to catalog the antiques left in the old Victorian mansion at Redwood Heights. It sounds like an easy job, but when one of the tourists is murdered, Kelly is among the suspects. To clear her name, she enlists the “Silver Sentinels”, a groups of senior citizens with a lot of savvy and a dogged sense of justice, to help clear her name and find the killer. Old sins have a long reach, and a local legend has roots in fact, as Kelly uncovers murderers in both past and present. Kelly’s love life gets more complicated as she untangles the threads of local history. We may expect more mayhem in this corner of Northern California.
Janet Finsilver is the USA TODAY best-selling author of the Kelly Jackson mystery series. She worked in education for many years as a teacher, a program administrator, and a workshop presenter. Janet majored in English and earned a Master’s Degree in Education. She loves animals and has two dogs—Kylie and Ellie. Janet has ridden western style since she was a child and was a member of the National Ski Patrol. One of the highlights of her life was touching whales in the San Ignacio Lagoon. MURDER AT REDWOOD COVE, her debut mystery, was released on October 13, 2015. Her second book, MURDER AT THE MANSION, became available on June 7, 2016. MURDER AT THE FORTUNE TELLER’S TABLE is scheduled to be out in March 2017
BLACKBIRD FLY (Bennett Sisters Book #1) by Lise McClendon
Women’s Fiction/Mystery / Released Dec 2013 by Thalia Press
Harry Bennett has a heart attack at work and dies leaving a wife (Merle), a son, and a number of secrets, some of which he wasn’t even aware of.
Unraveling her husbands life leads Merle to a family home in a small French village complete with a squatter, mysteries, and a beautiful garden.
As Merle deals with a marriage that had faded years ago, and a house that desperately needs repair she stumbles into murder and romance.
BLACKBIRD FLY is listed as a cozy mystery but I found it to be more Women’s Fiction with elements of mystery. The cover is vibrant and relevant to the story. The POV jumps around and at times was unnessary.
The author’s descriptions at times were breathtaking and at other times distracting, slowing the story down to a crawl.
This is not an edge-of-your-seat story but languid like a summer’s day in the garden.
ILL MET BY MURDER (A Shakespeare in the Catskills Mystery by Elizabeth J. Duncan / Released Dec 2016 by Crooked Lane Books
ILL MET BY MURDER, by Elizabeth J. Duncan takes us up to the Catskills, where an old resort has been turned into a theater specializing in Shakespearean productions. Costume designer Charlotte Fairfax is delighted to oblige the theater’s principal benefactor, Paula Van Dusen, when the wealthy widow enlists her help in using the current production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with its themes of magic and romance, as a background for her daughter’s wedding. All is going well, until the body of one of the groom’s most bitter business rivals is found in the shrubbery during the performance, with the object to transform Bottom the Weaver into an ass jammed onto his head.
There are plenty of suspects, including the bride, one of her bridesmaids, and a very suspicious real estate broker with designs on the property next to the theater. Charlotte’s love life takes a turn for the better as things get worse for the bride and groom. An old scandal leads to the solution of the mystery, and a murderer with a passion for revenge is thwarted by a most unlikely rescuer.
ANTIQUES FATE (A Trash ‘n’ Treasures Mystery) by Barbara Allan / Released 2016 by Kensington
Barbara Allen ( a husband and wife team) has come up with another romp for antiques dealer Brandy Borne and her theatrical mother, Vivian.
ANTIQUES FATE finds the duo in Old York, a neighboring town that relies heavily on its Olde Worlde British background for tourist trade. Vivian’s one-woman show of “the Scottish Play” has been booked for the annual, fete, and Brandy comes along to make sure all goes well. Alas, all does not go well… but it it the famous “Macbeth curse” or something more contemporary that is causing all the mayhem? Is the young and handsome clergyman all he claims to be? Is the overly aggressive real estate promoter going to extremes to get the land deal he wants? And who is selling off the valuable antiques in the town theater? It’s up to Brenda and Vivian (with some help from their Shih Tzu, Sushi) to uncover the dirty secrets of this picture-perfect town. Antiques tips from Brenda and a lasagna recipe are included.
INHERIT THE BONES by Emily Littlejohn / A Detective Gemma Monroe Novel / Released Nov 1, 2016 by Minotaur Books
Review by Heather Haven
This is a debut novel, but you’d never know it by the writing. There is an ease and confidence to the story, characters, and prose that dominate the novel. Ms. Littlejohn has created real people and situations at once familiar, yet slightly off-kilter. On the surface, all seems normal. Almost. But then, how normal is murder?
The protagonist, Detective Gemma Monroe, is six months pregnant, filled with doubts about herself, her lover, her job, and the small Colorado town in which she lives. And then there are the dreams, the recurring dreams about children long dead. They call to her, taunt her, until the very end of the book. Then the truth is revealed in the most astonishing way. As the reader, we follow this storyteller, Emily Littlejohn, and become as haunted as Gemma by the past, present, and future. Such is the legacy of fine writing.
Climatized / A Max Ford Thriller / by Sally Fernandez
Released Oct 2016 by Dunham Books
Review by Heather Haven
It’s not often one comes across a genre novel which causes the reader to think long and hard about just what’s going on in the world today. However, Climatized is just such a novel. Filled with detailed information about politics, the environment, and global warming, author Sally Fernandez forces us to try to separate fact from fiction, truth from lies, and to consider the ramifications of what the human race faces in going toe-to-toe with Mother Nature. The watch word in that long sentence is ‘try’. Weaving real players in with fictional characters, Ms. Fernandez has created a taut fabric of a thriller.
The protagonist, Max Ford, has just opened her offices as a private investigator. Having recently left the States Intelligence Agency, she takes on her first case, that of investigating the supposed suicide of a U.S. senator. Put your roller skates on at this point in order to keep up. We have murder, chicanery, love, loyalty, deception and honor at every turn. Ultimately, what is introduced within the pages of this book are often mind-blowing. Be prepared.