Review: TRIPLE CROWN by Felix Francis

51sNDuu+HRLTRIPLE CROWN, by Felix Francis ((G.P. Putnam, 2016, $25.99) takes us back to Kentucky, where Jeff Hinkley, investigator for the British Horseracing Authority, has been called on to unearth a spy in the American horse-racing community. Someone is trying to influence the races that make up the prestigious Triple Crown (the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes) by taking out the challengers to the horse most favored to win. Drugging is suspected, but every raid seems to be fore-stalled, and no evidence is ever found. When three of the prime contenders in the Kentucky Derby come down with the same rare disease, and are disqualified, Jeff goes undercover to find out who is trying to fix the races, and who is the mole in the Federal Anti-Corrution Sports Agency (FACSA). It’s a fascinating look at the underbelly of American horse-racing, as Jeff deals with horses, trainers, and jockeys, and learns just how far some people will go to attain their goals. A great ride, by a master.

Review provided by Roberta Rogow

Review: A MEMORY OF MUSKETS by Kathleen Ernst

51HTbdGAdsLThe past often impact on the present in Kathleen Ernst’s Choe Ellefson mysteries. A MEMORY OF MUSKETS (Midnight Ink, 2016,$14.99) has Chole embroiled in a battle over the part played by German immigrants in the Civil War. She’s all for highlighting the home front, but her boss wants a battle, even though there never was one in Wisconsin! At the same time, her fiance, Roelke McKenna, is having disturbing feelings about one of the buildings on the Old World Wisconsisn Museum’s property. A hidden diary flashes us back to the tumultuous 1860’s, and the tortured soul of a young German girl, promised to one man but in love with another. Both stories collide when one of the Civil War buffs who portray soldiers in the mock battle is found dead on the grounds of the museum. What’s worse, valuable antiques are missing from the museum’s back storage rooms, and someone is using the re-enactment as a venue for peddling fake photographs. Between them, Chole and Roelke sort out who is who, what is real, and how to leave the past in the past, and go forward into a brighter future. Photographs a the end of the book show some of the artifacts mentioned, and the author’s acknowledgments give more information about Civil War events.

Review provided by Roberta Rogow

Review: MURDER AT THE MANSION by Janet Finsilver

515ogsanePL            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

Review of ILL MET BY MURDER by Elizabeth J. Duncan

ILL MET BY MURDER (A Shakespeare in the Catskills Mystery by Elizabeth J. Duncan / Released Dec 2016 by Crooked Lane Books

61f0hk37cl-1-_sx331_bo1204203200_            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.

Review of ANTIQUES FATE by Barbara Allan

51pqjr1zlul-_sx303_bo1204203200_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.

Mystery Reviews

61ge1tk-aul-_sx309_bo1204203200_In Dead End Street, by Sheila Connolly (Berkley, 2016, $7.99) the staid world of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society is rocked by 21st Century social issues when its president, Nell Pratt, discovers that the society owns property in one of the worst neighborhoods in Philadelphia. A visit to the site leads to a shooting and a death. The Philadephia police are ready to chalk the incident up to local gang-bangers having their usual fun and games, but Nell thinks there’s more to it, and won’t stop looking until she finds some answers. At the same time, she’s concerned about the use of the property, and how to make her organization more relevant to the parts of Philadelphia that do not have access to cultural beacons like the Museum of Fine Arts. The answer to both questions may lie with the community itself. A good addition to an intriguing series.

51lazfqmwzl-_sx332_bo1204203200_It’s family that causes the upset in Mary Dahein’s Bed-and-Breakfast Mystery Here Comes the Bribe (William Morris, 2016, $23.99). Judith McGonigle Flynn is trying to stage a wedding at Hillside Manor, but everything that can go wrong is. The father of the bride insists that Judith is his long-lost mother. The bride and groom act as if they barely know each other. The mother of the groom is in thrall to a collection of oddballs. The officiants are vague about their religious affiliation. Then the mother of the bride is found dead. Not only that, but there’s someone trying to buy up all the houses in the neighborhood at rock-bottom prices, with the hint of a major condominium development in the works. Judith’s in-laws insist on helping out with the investigation, as family relations get stranger and stranger. It’s a wild ride in the California sunshine, with a twist at the end that will have every reader gasping with laughter.

511maarv7zl-_sx308_bo1204203200_From California to Colorado, with The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala, by Laura DiSilverio (Obsidian 2016, $7.99). Amy-Faye Johnson’s reading club, the Readaholics, is reading Rebecca, the classic mystery by Daphne DuMaurier, so it’s only natural that they sponsor the Celebration of Gothic Novels in their town of Heaven, CO. Three major authors are appearing, including one who has a connection to a member of the club, one who may have stolen her prize-winning book from an aspiring fan, and one whose love life has become very complicated. When a stranger turns up dead at the costume party that was supposed to be the high point of the weekend, things get murkier than the most tangled web spun by a romance novelist. The Readaholics pool their resources, as they try to uncover the identity of the dead man and his connection to one or another of the three writers. There are digs at the arcane world of mystery writers, as well as small-town politics, gossipy neighbors, conspiracy fans, and the Colorado landscape. The solution to the mystery leads to repercussions for all concerned, and the promise that the next book the Readaholics will tackle will be something more straightforward… like a spy thriller!

51azaqzlall-_sx304_bo1204203200_It’s across the country to New England, where Sarah Winston runs garage sales, in Sherry Harris’s All Murders Final! (Kensington, 2016, $7.99) With winter coming on, Sarah thought that an on-line “virtual garage sale” web site might be a way for her to continue to re-cycle other peoples’ stuff during the inclement weather. Alas, it’s not working as well as she planned. Buyers are not coming through with money, sellers are misrepresenting their goods, and a cleaning woman who adversided on the web site may be involved in a string of local robberies. Then she discovers one of the leading citizens of the town dead, with the very tablecloth she wanted to buy stuffed in the dead woman’s mouth! Things get even odder as Sarah finds herself the target of a stalker. She hates to bring her ex-husband into the matter, but when she’s accused of stealing a car, things really get serious. Sarah’s love life gets even more tangled than the local political scene, as she discovers more about the dead woman than she really wanted to know. Motives abound, but the killer is someone no one even suspected. Tips on running a garage sale are included.

513lm0m6jalFinally, a not-so-cozy mystery in Washington DC: Stabbing in the Senate, by Colleen J. Shogan (Camel Press, 2016. $13.95) Kit Marshall finds her boss, Senator Lansford, in his office, impaled by one of his own desk ornaments. When she pulls the object out of the body, she leaves her own fingerprints and DNA on it, and is immediately accused of his murder. Now she has to prove her innocence, which means finding out who did kill the senator, who tended to make enemies in his own party as well as with the Opposition. It’s a fascinating look at the back-stage world of Big Government, as Kit and her friend Meg search for clues in high and low places. Is this murder purely political, or does the answer to the mystery lie closer to home? And what happens when the murderer is finally unmasked? Kit risks her career and her personal happiness to find out. A resourceful heroine, and a glimpse behind the scenes, even more pertinent in this year of political turmoil.

Reviews provided by Roberta Rogow for her column Roberta’s Ramblings for the Sept/Oct edition of The Book Breeze

Ancient World Mysteries Reviews

The Ancient World has its mysteries… here are a few of them:

51-SPTjegML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Gary Corby’s Athenian Mysteries are set in Athens during the time when some of the most notable citizens were establishing the basis of Western culture. One of them in Nicolaos, who calls himself an “agent”, who tackles investigations for the de facto ruler, Pericles.

In THE MARATHON CONSPIRACY (Soho Crime, 2014, $15.95), Nico and his soon-to-be wife, the priestess Diotima, are called to the Sanctuary of Artemis to look into the discovery of a skull in a nearby cave. Coult it be the remains of Hippias, the traitor who summoned the Persians into Hellas? What’s worse, one young women studying at the temple school is killed and another is missing, and the school itself is in turmoil. It takes Nico’s pesty young brother Socrates to unlock the puzzle, and solve one of the great mysteries of the Battle of Marathon.

51biSkrp20L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_DEATH EX MACHINA (Soho Crime, 2015,$15,95) has Nico, Diotima and Socrates investigating rumors that a ghost is haunting the grand theater, where the ceremonies of the Great Dionysia are to be performed.

A series of accidents has marred the rehearsals of the new tragedy by the most famous of the writers, Sophocles. A purification rite should take care of the ghost, but when an actor is found hanging from the apparatus used to elevate the one who takes the part of the god at the end of the play, Pericles does the unthinkable. He literally stops time until Nico can unravel this mystery and find the true culprit.

The position of non-Athenians in the city plays a part in the drama, and there are appearances by Euripides and his harridan of a mother as well. Author’s notes at the beginning and end of each novel add to the reader’s enjoyment of the books, and explain what is often left out of history books.

511OrM7CNaL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_RAIDERS OF THE NILE, by Steven Saylor (Minotaur, 2014, $15.99) is a prequel to his Sub Rosa series, featuring Gordianus the Finder. Here is Gordianus as a young Roman adrift in the steamy cultural mix that was Alexandria before the Romans took over. Gordianus’s slave woman, Bethesda, is kidnapped, and he will do anything to find her. His search takes him into the desert, where he gets involved in banditry, and hears that the Roman fleet is on its way.

Street performers, mystical priests, mismatched twins all play a part in this wild romp that will lead Gordianus back to his roots in Rome. A Chronology of historical events (and how they coincide with Gordianus’s life) is included, as well as Author’s notes that explain some of the tangled politics of Egypt and Rome at this crucial time.

Followers of the career of Marcus Didius Falco will be delighted to know that there is a second generation of Falco informers in Rome. Falco’s daughter, Flavia Albia, has taken his career and his old digs, and is working during the frenetic reign of the Emperor Diocletian.

UnknownIn ENEMIES AT HOME (Minotaur, 2014,$15.99), Flavia takes on a case that she knows will end badly. A rich man and his wife have been robbed and brutally murdered, The household slaves are immediately suspected. All of them will be tortured, some may be sent to arena. They seek sanctuary in the Temple of Ceres, where they may stay until they are proved innocent… or not. It’s up to the aedile, Tiberius Manlius Faustus, to do it, and he, in turn, hires Flavia as his agent to get to the bottom of the tangled web of lies, truths and half-truths that creep into any household in Rome. There is a sickness in the house that may have something to do with the well, and Flavia finds herself in more trouble than she bargained for. The innocent do not always go free and the guilty are not always punished in the stew that is Rome.

51Tq2eja3nL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_DEADLY ELECTION (Minotaur, 2015,$25.00) finds Flavia back in Rome after a short period of rest, recuperating from her last case. There’s a problem with the family auction business; a dead body has been found in a chest sold at the last auction. At the same time, her friend Faustus, who came to her rescue when she was deathly ill, calls in a favor, when he needs help getting on of his friends elected.

The two cases collide, when it turns out that Sextus may have something in common with the previous owners of the chest, and the body may have a bearing on the coming election. Roman political campaigns are rough, and Flavia is caught between family and friends, while she digs for dirt, literally and figuratively. A shameful secret, a tangled web of sisters, a family feud that lasts for generations, all play a part in this tragic election.

In the end, there is justice of the Roman sort, and Flavia finds a new partner in life, with a hint of more adventures to come.

Both books contain maps of Rome and lists of characters, which help keep the action clear.

Reviews provided by Roberta Rogow for her column Roberta’s Ramblings in the May 2016 edition of The Book Breeze.