Nov 11, 2012

Book Review: ELEGY FOR EDDIE by Jacqueline Winspear

Title: Elegy for Eddie: a Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear
Published: October 30, 2012; Harper Perennial
Genre: historical mystery
Source: publisher

Maisie Dobbs, private investigator in London, 1933, is asked by Covent Garden costoermongers -fruit and vegetable sellers - to find the person or persons behind the suspicious death of Eddie Pettit, a simple minded man who had a special gift understanding and working with horses. Eddie was hit and killed by a massive roll of paper that had fallen from a conveyor belt in a paper manufacturing firm owned by an important newspaperman. To Eddie's friends, the incident was not an accident but deliberate.

The mystery plot is tied to a larger scenario - Britain's preparing way in advance for a likely war with Hitler's Germany.

Comments: The plot moves well - the life and death of Eddie Pettit, a simple worker, integrated with the larger political scene in England in 1933.

This was my first introduction to Maisie Dobbs and to her lover James Compton, who unlike Maisie, belongs to a privileged and wealthy English family. I wish I had met Maisie in her first books and read about her early struggles growing up in the working class and the gradual improvement in her life before this book, which seems to be the ninth in the series. I felt as I read along I had missed out on a whole lot about Maisie and would have appreciated the character better if I had seen how she had developed. Nevertheless, this can be a stand alone read.

Nov 10, 2012

Book Review: ALLERGIC TO DEATH by Peg Cochran

Title: Allergic to Death by Peg Cochran
Published August 7, 2012; Berkely Paperback
Genre: mystery, cozy

"Did you happen to notice if she ate anything while she was at the theater?"
"As a matter of fact, yes." Gigi began closing up the containers. "I'd just delivered her lunch ---" (ch. 2)

Gigi Fitzgerald delivers her home-prepared meals to customers in her hometown, Woodstone, Conn. Someone tampers with the food container meant for a restaurant reviewer and pours peanut oil over the melba toast appetizers.

The reviewer goes into a fatal anaphylactic shock after popping one of the toasts into her mouth, driving off, and crashing her car headlong into a tree, Gigi insists to police she never uses peanut products in her recipes, especially knowing her customer's allergy.

There are several people who might have wanted the reviewer dead, however: the cast of the play rehearsing at the Woodstone Theater; the reviewer's ex-husband or his current wife; a restaurant owner who was terrified he would be given a bad review that could ruin his business, other people who have had bad reviews in the past...

Comments: The plot was very well developed and though death-by-allergic-reaction-to-food is not a new device in mystery novels, Allergic to Death was especially well done. It kept you guessing, even though at the very end, the identity of the culprit was not a complete surprise. The motive was a surprise, however.

Gigi is a new character on the cozy mystery scene and she has two love interests which I can tell will be developed in the next books. I am looking forward to the next in this new series.

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book.

Nov 8, 2012

Book Review: The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy L. O'Brien

Timothy L. Brien tours with the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for his historical thriller, The Lincoln Conspiracy, from October 29 - December 7.

Title: The Lincoln Conspiracy: A Novel by Timothy L. O'Brien
Published September 18, 2012; Ballantine Books hardcover
Genre: historical thriller
"Money turns the wheel in America, not votes," Fiona would say whenever they strolled near the Treasury. (ch. 2)
That quote, if I may jump the gun here, is key in the question of why President Lincoln was assassinated, according to this new historical thriller set in 1865, right after Lincoln's death and funeral. Metropolitan Police Detective Temple McFadden becomes embroiled in a shoot out at the train station that kills a man carrying two vital pieces of information, two diaries - one belonging to the president's widow Mary Lincoln and the other to John Wilkes Booth, who had shot the president.

Booth's diary contains letters in code to and about unknown persons - Maestro, Patriot, Tyrant, Conductor, Avenger, Lord War, and more. Temple and his group must decode and interpret these as vital clues to the other people involved in Lincoln's murder.

The Lincoln Conspiracy is a thriller that would appeal to history enthusiasts and those interested in President Lincoln and U.S. Civil War history. The author has woven historical facts and historical people and places into a novel of intrigue.

Publisher's DESCRIPTION: This thriller poses a provocative question: What if the plot to assassinate President Lincoln was wider and more sinister than we ever imagined?

In late spring of 1865, as America mourns the death of its leader, Washington, D.C., police detective Temple McFadden makes a startling discovery. Strapped to the body of a dead man at the B&O Railroad station are two diaries, two documents that together reveal the true depth of the Lincoln conspiracy. Securing the diaries will put Temple’s life in jeopardy—and will endanger the fragile peace of a nation still torn by war.

Temple’s quest to bring the conspirators to justice takes him on a perilous journey through the gaslit streets of the Civil War–era capital. Aided by an underground network of friends—and by his wife, Fiona, a nurse who possesses a formidable arsenal of medicinal potions—Temple must stay one step ahead of Lafayette Baker, head of the Union Army’s spy service. Along the way, he’ll run from or rely on Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s fearsome secretary of war; the legendary Scottish spymaster Allan Pinkerton; abolitionist Sojourner Truth; the photographer Alexander Gardner; and many others.

The Lincoln Conspiracy offers a riveting new account of what truly motivated the assassination of one of America’s most beloved presidents—and who participated in the plot to derail the train of liberty that Lincoln set in motion.

Timothy L. O’Brien is the Executive Editor of The Huffington Post and was an editor and reporter at the New York Times. He holds master's degrees in U.S. History, Business and Journalism and lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

For other reviews of The Lincoln Conspiracy, visit Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Thanks to Amy Bruno at The Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and the author/publisher for a review copy of this book.

Nov 6, 2012

Book Teaser: The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB; choose sentences at random from your current read. Identify author and title for readers.

Title: The School of Essential Ingredients: A Novel
Author: Erica Bauermeister
Published January 5, 2010; Berkley Trade Paperback
Genre: women's fiction; Source: publisher

"You can see why it would be tempting to use a mix" - her eyes sparkled - "but then you'd lose out on all the lessons that baking a cake has to teach you." (p. 72)

Book description: A national bestseller about a chef, her students, and the lessons that food teaches about life.

Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young mother; Tom, a lawyer; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple.

The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian's soulful dishes, but each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. Soon they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create.

Nov 5, 2012

Book Review: The Bracelet by Roberta Gately

Title: The Bracelet: A Novel by Roberta Gately
Publication date: November 6, 2012; Gallery Books paperback
Genre: fiction set in Pakistan

In Geneva, Switzerland, Abby Monroe is being prepped for her work with the UN in Peshawar, Pakistan as a nurse. During an early morning run, she sees a woman fall to her death from a hotel balcony, and doesn't know if she has witnessed a murder, a suicide, or an accident. She notices an unusual and elaborate bracelet made of precious stones on the dead woman's wrist. When a man shouts at her from the balcony and rushes down to confront her, Abby fearfully hides from him and hurries away.

In Peshawar, Abby once again sees the unusual bracelet. Abby is puzzled by this and feels she is being observed and followed. She tries to see if she can recognize the man from the balcony.

During her work as a UN nurse, Abby also meets New York Times reporter Nick Sinclair, and they both try to discover who is behind a far reaching human trafficking ring that preys on women and girls from the villages. This provides further drama and explosive action in the novel.

My comments: I enjoyed the suspenseful plot surrounding the unusual bracelet. It was a good story and an excellent vehicle for the novel to describe human trafficking of women and girls taken or lured from their villages and then forced to work under demeaning conditions. The descriptions of women shelters and camps are realistic, even more convincing when I learned the author was a nurse and humanitarian aid worker in several war zones, from Afghanistan to Africa.
I recommend this novel on several levels.

Roberta Gately is also the author of Lipstick in Afghanistan.

Thanks to Gallery Books for an ARC of this book.

Nov 3, 2012

Sunday Salon: Humorous Mystery Novels

This post I printed on November 18, 2009 gets a good number of hits from people looking for funny mystery novels. I've updated the Left Award winners for Best Humorous Mystery.

Need a good laugh combined with a good mystery read? Try one of the books below.

Left Coast Crime gives an award called THE LEFTY - for the most humorous mystery published in a particular year. Lefty winners:

2012: The Real Macaw by Donna Andrews
2011: The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein by J. Michael Orenduff
2010: Getting Old is a Disaster by Rita Lakin
2009: Greasing the Pinata by Tim Maleeny
2008: Murder With Reservations by Elaine Viets
2007: Go to Helena Handbasket by Donna Moore
2006: Cast Adrift by Peter Guttridge

2005: We'll Always Have Parrots by Donna Andrews and Blue Blood by Susan McBride
2004: Mumbo Gumbo by Jerrilyn Farmer
2003: The Hearse Case Scenario by Tim Cockey and Pipsqueak by Brian M. Wiprud

2002: Dim Sum Dead by Jerrilyn Farmer and Fender Benders by Bill Fitzhugh
2000: Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews
1999: Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
1998: Three To Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich
1996: The Fat Innkeeper by Alan Russell

I read the 2000 winner, Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews, some years back, and it is truly hilarious. I recommend it if you need a good laugh while you wonder who dunnit.

Left Coast Crime 2013 will be held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, March 21-24.

What funny mysteries have you read and would add to the list?

Nov 1, 2012

Book Review: Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia Macneal

Title: Princess Elizabeth's Spy: A Maggie Hope Mystery
Author: Susan Elia Macneal
Paperback; Bantam, published October 16, 2012
Genre: historical mystery

About the book: Maggie Hope has been promoted to MI-5 as a secret agent/spy during WWII but because she fails the physical tests, she is assigned to watch and protect the young Princess Elizabeth at Windsor Castle,  under the guise of being her math teacher. The deaths of two young women, one of them a lady in waiting at Windsor Castle, become linked to a master plot that threatens the royal family.

Maggie and her father, a cryptographer working for the government at Bletchley Park, are also involved in cracking enemy codes and rooting out spies against the royal family and the English during the war.

Comments: I learned a lot about England during the war - the relentless bombing of London and other cities, their efforts to find planted spies, decode messages from Hitler's Germany, and block German plans to have King George VI replaced by his older brother Edward, who had abdicated to marry an American divorcee. Fascinating, heady stuff,  though I don't know how much of the details is based on fact and how much is fiction. I would have liked to see a more detailed disclaimer at the end of the book, though there is a list of books the author used for her research.

The plot is purely entertainment, outside of the historical facts. It has the Princess Elizabeth, a young, blue-eyed girl, taking part in an improbable plot of mystery and suspense. The author clearly admires how the British conducted themselves during WWII and has written about the present royal family's history and the princess in a somewhat sentimental way.

Princess Elizabeth's Spy ends with a question regarding Maggie's mother, which will lead this spy/sleuth into the heart of Berlin, in the follow up book. I am looking forward to it.

Susan Elia MacNeal is the author of the Maggie Hope mystery series, including her debut novel, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, and the upcoming Hitler’s Nightingale. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her family.
Visit her website at

For other reviews, visit the book's tour schedule. Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the author for a review ARC of this book.

Sunday Salon: Always Currently Reading

  Currently reading:  Missing and Endangered   by J.A. Jance, February 16, 2021, William Morrow Genre: thriller, suspense Source: library Ab...