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.

Short Story Review: Stage Door: A Cue to A Kill by Lilian Watts

It’s the final night of the Goose Meadow Bay Player’s latest play, a Halloween murder mystery called Bone Chiller.  A play the cast aren’t sad to see the back of because it is rather boring.  As it is the last night, a few of those involve decide that things need livening up but soon things take a sinister turn…

When an attempt is made on one of the actor’s life, the question is can they see the play through to the final curtain as well as catch the culprit?

Stage Door was a quick, easy to read cosy murder mystery with an interesting setting and cast.

The pace was good, the characters entertaining and the storyline interesting.  Having the murder mystery set in a theatre was refreshing, and the fact that there was a murder mystery play going on at the same time kept the story engaging and moving forward.

I downloaded a copy of Stage Door: A Cue to A Kill by Lilian Watts for free from Smashwords.

Book Review: Lost Cause by JL Simpson

Lost Cause is the first book in the Daisy Dunlop Mysteries by JL Simpson.

Daisy Dunlop wants to be an heir hunter.  However, her past record shows that to date, she hasn’t managed to make a go of any of the careers she has set her mind to. So, Paul, her husband and the father of her 14 year old son, Sherman, insists that she goes to work with his best friend, Solomon, a private investigator, to learn some tips and tricks from him before she starts out on her own.Of course, she agrees, but only because she loves her husband, but Daisy and Solomon don’t really get along…

Their first case together involves the search for a missing aristocrat.  It should have been simple, but where Daisy Dunlop is concerned, things very rarely are…

I really enjoyed this book.  The characters were great, especially Daisy, who is determined to prove to both Paul and Solomon that she can succeed as an heir hunter.  Paul and Solomon were also very interesting as we are slowly fed the back-story of their friendship, adding to the engaging nature of the story.

The plot flowed seamlessly and the dialogue was witty and entertaining.  As it is set on the south coast of England, the backdrop to the story is stunning.

Daisy’s personality (and impractical dress sense) ensures that Lost Cause is refreshing, enjoyable and entertaining, and I seriously struggled to put the book down.  This was a fantastic, captivating read, which I highly recommend to fans of contemporary cosy mysteries.  I am looking forward to reading book two in the series, Lost and Found.

I downloaded a copy of Lost Cause for free from Smashwords.