Book Review: Requiem for a Mezzo by Carola Dunn

Requiem for a Mezzo is the third book in the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries by Carola Dunn.

Summary

When Daisy’s next door neighbour gives her tickets to the opera at the Albert Hall, she has her fingers crossed for a quiet evening out with the dashing Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard.  Things are going swimmingly until after the interval when one of the soloists drops dead on the stage.  And it quickly transpires that the victim, Bettina Westlea, made many enemies in the musical circle she moved in, the majority of which were with her on stage at the time of her death…

Favourite Quote

(2 favourites this time as I couldn’t choose between them!)

Tall and sleek, she wouldn’t have been caught dead in last year’s calf length hems, though her budget was as limited as Daisy’s; she made her own clothes and spent on materials and trimmings the equivalent of what Daisy put into books and gramophone records.

*

‘Daisy!  Don’t tell me you’ve fallen over another dead body?’

Review

I am a big fan of Daisy Dalrymple.  I like the way perfect strangers just walk over to her and unburden themselves of all they know about whatever crime the Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher is working on, much her to bemusement and his annoyance.  How can he keep her safe if she finds herself right in the middle of everything?  It’s also nice to see how much Alec recognises and respects Daisy’s intelligence and independence.

There is such an interesting list of characters in this instalment, hailing from all corners of Europe.  This adds flavour and colour to the story, and as the majority of the cast are all singers, they have entertaining artistic temperaments too.

Light and easy to read, these books are full of the charm of the era in which they are set, though you will find mention of some of the main events that had a tremendous effect on people at the time: the First World War, the influenza epidemic and the Russian Revolution.

If you like cosy mysteries set in 1920s England, I think you will enjoy these books, as you will if you enjoy Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Phryne Fisher stories or pretty much anything written by Agatha Christie.

Rating

Book Review: Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith

morality-for-beautiful-girls-front-cover

Morality for Beautiful Girls is the third book in The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.

Summary:

Things are all-change for Mma Ramotswe.  First, she has decided to move her detective agency into the office of her fiance’s garage, but something’s not right with Mr J.L.B. Matekoni.  As she tries to work out what is wrong with him, as well as care for the two orphans they have decided to foster, she must also find a way to ensure that both of their businesses keep ticking over.

Then an important client who works for the government sends her on a case out of Gaboronne, leaving Mma Makutsi to not only run the detective agency, but step in as Acting Manager for Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors.  While Precious Ramotswe is investigating a possible case of poisoning, Grace Makutsi must help the organiser and chief judge of the Miss Glamorous Botswana beauty competition seek out the most deserving of the finalists.  If she can do that, she will earn the detective agency a generous fee.  The problem is, she only has three days in which to do it…

Favourite Quote:

What was too big, anyway? Who was to tell another person what size they should be?

It was a form of dictatorship, by the thin, and she was not having any of it.

Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this read, or rather, re-read, but it has been a few years since I have read from this series.  A point worth noting is that these books are always as good as I remember them and never fail to entertain.  They are nicely paced and easy to read, thanks to the writing style of the author.

It’s very easy to connect to the characters in these books, and as the characters themselves are concerned about the welfare of others, (indeed a theme of the book is that Africa can teach the world how to care for other people), when they are going through a rough patch, as a reader I feel concerned for them.  There is so much colour and vibrancy to the story, and the descriptions of Botswana, especially the descriptions of how the people feel connected to their land, is engaging and uplifting to read.

Grace Makutsi really comes into her own in this instalment, as she takes on the role of Acting Manager for Mr J.L.B. Matekoni’s Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors as well as trying to fulfil her job as assistant detective.

The next book in the series is The Kalahari Typing School for Men.  And I can’t wait to reread it, so I’ve added it to next month’s reading list.  I highly recommend this book series for those who enjoy a gentle ramble through a heartwarming cosy mystery alongside some wonderful characters.

Rating:

five-stars

Short Story Review: Who Stole the Fish? By Peter Tremayne

murder-through-the-ages-front-coverWho Stole the Fish? is a Sister Fidelma Mystery by Peter Tremayne.

It is 664 AD, Ireland.  The Abbey of Durrow has an important visitor, an emissary from Rome.  Naturally, at the evening meal, an extravagant dish is to be served to their guest: a great salmon.  Only during the early part of the meal, Sister Fidelma’s presence is required in the kitchen by Abbot Laisran.  The fish has gone missing, along with the man who has been cooking it.  And the abbot wants the mystery cleared up before the emissary hears anything about it.

But where is the fist?  And where is the cook?

Although I have a number of the Sister Fidelma Mysteries sitting on my bookshelves, I have yet to get around to reading one.  So this short story is my first introduction to the sleuthing nun, and I must say, I liked her.  She is sensible, logical and observant – nothing escapes her notice.  I am now determined to read a full-length novel staring Sister Fidelma in the new year.

A great read!

I found this short story in, Murder Through the Ages: A Bumper Anthology of Historical Mysteries, edited by Maxim Jakubowski.

Book Review: The Camelot Code by Sam Christer

the-camelot-code-front-coverWhen an antiques dealer turns up murdered in his shop in Maryland, the local police calls in some expert help in the form of Mitzi Fallon, who has just started her new job with the FBI’s Historical, Religious and Unsolved Crimes Unit, based in San Francisco.  The antiques dealer had had a valuable Celtic cross stolen from him, and so begins a journey that will take Fallon on a journey that is more dangerous than she could have ever guessed and leading her to a secret she will never believe…

I was unsure of picking up this thriller when I first saw it.  I have a keen interest in Arthurian myths and I couldn’t help but wonder if this story would read as silly.  However, for the most part, I was wrong.  The actual story line was very good and the characters engaging, although, naturally with a story like this you have to suspend disbelief.  After all, contemporary thrillers are not fantasy and it is hard to make the fantastical believable in the every day world.

But, that being said, I was very quickly drawn into the story of Mitzi Fallon.  She was an interesting if flawed character which made it easy to relate to her and want her to succeed.  She was strong, independent, but with a well-defined mothering instinct.  Irish was also an interesting character as was Sir Owain Gwyn but there were a handful of minor characters that I found a little annoying.

The story itself is well paced, full of action and suspense, and did a good job of blending the mythical and the modern.  The author very cleverly modernised names for the story, which showed you who they were based on without labouring the point, which would have added in too much backstory and slowed the pace.  I would certainly read more from this author in the future.

Have you read this book?  What did you think to it?

Book Review: 4.50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie

Elspeth McGillicuddy has just completed her Christmas shopping in London and is on the train to St Mary Mead to visit her old friend, Jane Marple.  When another train draws parallel to her own, the blind in the opposite compartment flies up and she glimpses a man strangling a woman.  Although she cannot make out all the details, she is certain of what she saw, as is Miss Marple, when she recounts her tale.

Naturally, they report what she believed she witnessed to the appropriate authorities, but when no body materialises, Miss Marple realises that she is going to have to come up with a plan to not only prove her friend was right, but to find justice for the dead woman.  Using maps and Elspeth’s recollections, Miss Marple is able to pinpoint the location of the crime.  Nearby can be found Rutherford Hall.  Logic dictates that it is there, perhaps somewhere on the edge of the vast estate, that the murdered woman’s body lies dumped and hidden.

Miss Marple calls in a favour with a friend, the much in-demand Lucy Eyelesbarrow, who gets herself employed as a sort of housekeeper by the Crackenthorpe family who live in Rutherford Hall so that she can investigate undercover.  However, things are not that easy.  The Crackenthorpes are a dysfunctional family, who lie, cheat and keep secrets.  But is there a murderer in Rutherford?  Who is the dead woman?  And, is Lucy in any danger?

This is one of my favourite Miss Marple stories (my favourite is Murder at the Vicarage).  Lucy is a very interesting character, especially, I believe, to later generations who lack first-hand experience with domestic service.

The opening chapter unveiling the crime is one of the best starts to a book.  It is remarkable and unforgettable and although we, like Elspeth McGillicuddy are witness to a murder, there is nothing anyone can do.  We are all helpless as the woman is being strangled on the other train.

The Crackenthorpe family are interesting suspects, especially as they all seem to have a secret they wish to keep hidden.  And of course, old Crackenthorpe, the miserly father of the brood, is entertaining in as much as he thinks all of his children are trying to kill him but he plans to outlive the lot of them.

A fabulous cosy mystery and a quick read whodunnit.  What’s not to like?

Book Review: Death of a Cad by M.C Beaton

death of a cad by mc beaton front coverDeath of a Cad is the second book in the Hamish Macbeth mystery series by M.C Beaton.

Captain Peter Bartlett is by general consensus, a cad.  Not many people have a good word to say about him – quite the opposite.  Except, he seems to have a way with the ladies.

So when Priscilla Halburton-Smythe returns from London, bringing her fiance, the famous playwright, Henry Withering, home to Lochdubh, her family throw a party and invite a number of people to stay at Tommel Castle.  Only Captain Peter Bartlett turns up murdered…

Can Hamish Macbeth solve the case when it seems nearly everyone at the party detested the man and had a motive to kill?

I love this cosy mystery series.  Hamish Macbeth is a fabulous character and the books are just so easy to read.  Effortless, indeed!

The Highland setting is well-described and the story’s unfolding is easy to visualise.  Lochdubh is the perfect location for a gentle, humourous piece of cosy crime fiction.

M.C. Beaton has a great way of portraying her characters; not too heavy on the detail but provides enough for the reader to get to know them.  This helps when the cast is as vast as the one we see in Death of a Cad.

This is simply a wonderful instalment in a great series.  Death of a Cad is an entertaining read, one that I would recommend to all fans of cosy mysteries.  I can’t wait to read book three in the series, Death of an Outsider.

Short Story Review: Mister Mottley Cooks His Goose by Ellen Seltz

Mister Mottley Cooks His Goose is the first of the Mister Mottley cases by Ellen Seltz.

Edmund Mottley has had a spot of bother at university, and so his father has decided to send him to a friend’s house for the Christmas period where he is to interview for a job.  He isn’t much enamoured with the idea but off he goes, to find that there is much more going on in the house than he could have imagined.

There is a full house when Edmund arrives; the young schoolboy, Tommy (and his imaginary dog), his tutor, his step-mother’s journalist friend as well as a Russian professor.  Tommy quickly confides in Edmund…he thinks there is something going on in the house, and he thinks he knows who the culprit is and has been keeping a watchful eye on them.  Edmund, naturally, believes this to be Tommy’s childish fantasy, but soon he realises that it might not be the case…

Told through both narrative and letters, this short story is typical of those set between the wars, in style, plot and language, making it a thoroughly entertaining Christmas read.  Edmund is an interesting character and I liked the way he befriended the lonely Tommy.  The other characters, as well as the storyline itself, was engaging, and contained enough depth to ensure that I read it in one sitting.

This was a charming period read, and I will be definitely reading the second short story in this series, Mister Mottley and the Key of D.

I downloaded a copy of this short story for free from Smashwords.