Book Review: A Body in the Backyard by Elizabeth Spann Craig

A Body in the Backyard is the fourth Myrtle Clover Mystery by Elizabeth Spann Craig.

Summary (from Wattpad)

It’s just an ordinary day for octogenarian sleuth Myrtle Clover—until her yardman discovers a dead body planted in her backyard. This death isn’t cut and dried—the victim was bashed in the head with one of Myrtle’s garden gnomes.

Myrtle’s friend Miles recognizes the body and identifies him as Charles Clayborne… reluctantly admitting he’s a cousin. Charles wasn’t the sort of relative you bragged about—he was a garden variety sleaze, which is very likely why he ended up murdered. As Myrtle starts digging up dirt to nip the killings in the bud, someone’s focused on scaring her off the case. Myrtle vows to find the murderer…before she’s pushing up daisies, herself.

Favourite Quote

This precognition was an irritating thing.  It made you feel like you were always one-step behind.

Review

This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and the first in the Myrtle Clover Mysteries that I have read.  And, I can say I really enjoyed this cosy mystery.  Myrtle Clover is an entertaining sleuth.  She reminds me a little of Miss Marple as she is always popping up everywhere, but unlike Miss Marple, Myrtle is so much more proactive when it comes to finding the evidence she needs to solve the case.

Myrtle is a fantastic sleuth determined to get to the bottom of the case before her son, Bradley’s chief of police, Red does.  Red is an interesting character.  Professionally he doesn’t want his mother to interfere with a murder inquiry.  Personally he is worried about her, and thinks at her age she should be living in a retirement home.

There were other entertaining characters in this story also: Wanda the psychic and her brother, Crazy Dan, her neighbour, Miles, and Pasha the feral cat (one of my favourites).  I liked how the other characters interacted with Myrtle, their opinions varying from a nosy old lady to a vulnerable OAP, from the stern teacher who taught them over thirty years ago to the crank gnome collector.

This gentle-paced cosy mysteries was a fun, quick read.   I will definitely be reading more of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, maybe even before this month is out.

Rating

Originally I was only going to award the book 3.5 / 5 but Myrtle was so much fun I bumped it up to 4

I found “A Body in the Backyard” by Elizabeth Spann Craig on Wattpad.

Book Review: Shadow of Doubt by Linda Poitevin

Summary (from Wattpad)

When police officer Kate Dexter runs over a man on a dark country road, the last thing she expects to discover is that he’s also been shot. Unable to get help because of the storm that caused the accident in the first place, she takes the unconscious stranger to her family’s farm, intending to alert the local authorities.

Then Jonas Burke regains consciousness, and his shocking blue eyes and incredible story give her pause. Is he the victim of the conspiracy he claims? Or is he the dirty cop-turned-murderer that’s the subject of a Canada-wide warrant?

With a manhunt underway for the fugitive she’s now harboring, Kate finds herself torn between career and instinct. Even as everything cop in her insists she turn him over, her heart tells her he’s innocent…but can she trust a heart that’s gone as rogue as the cop she may be falling for?

Favourite Quote

The gesture of familiarity twisted through Jonas with all the subtlety of a prison-made shank.

Review

This was one of those books where, on reaching the end of the chapter, I found myself saying, “Just one more”.  Again and again and again.  I just couldn’t stop reading until I reached the end.

The story, set in Canada and then the United States, is told from the perspectives of both Kate Dexter and Jonas Blake.  Their characters are so different from each other that you are pulled along by their toing-and-froing, and the tension between them was palpable throughout. I also liked Todd Jennings, Dexter’s partner.

There is plenty of action in this story, and so many twists and turns to keep you wondering where the next threat is going to come from.  After all, the odds are stacked against them from the start. The pace of the story was just right; fast enough to keep the reader engage but not so fast that they got lost.

As I read, I could clearly envisage each place Dexter and Blake visited.  From the country road where the story began, to the dark alleys, diners and motels that they called into.  The ending wasn’t unexpected, but I was kept guessing as to how the story was going to get there, which made for a fresh and captivating read.

This is one of the best books I’ve read on Wattpad, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially to those who like their crime novels to have a romantic suspense element to them.  I will certainly be reading more by this author, without a doubt.

Rating

4.5 / 5

I found Shadow of Doubt by Linda Poitevin on Wattpad.

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

Book Review: Under the Dragon’s Tail by Maureen Jennings

under-the-dragons-tail-front-coverUnder the Dragon’s Tail is the second of The Murdoch Mysteries by Maureen Jennings.

Summary:

Toronto, July 1895.  When a midwife and abortionist is murdered, Detective William Murdoch investigates.  Although the dead woman, Dolly Merishaw, seems to have kept quiet about the clients that had used her services, it transpires that she kept a record book as protection, should she need it, or, for a spot of blackmail.  Fallen on hard times, it seemed that she tried to get some money out of one of these old clients.  But which one?  And did they resort to murder?

Dolly wasn’t very much liked and there are no shortage of suspects.  But when one of the young boys in Dolly’s care turns up dead on the kitchen floor, Murdoch must work quickly to uncover the murderer, before any other children are hurt.

Favourite Quote:

“…The wicked shall get their due.”

That didn’t sound quite right to Murdoch but maybe it was a Methodist saying.

Review:

As I mentioned when I reviewed the first book in The Murdoch Mysteries series, Except the Dying, I am a big fan of the television series.  The first book was brilliant, and the second didn’t disappoint either.  I like the fact that the books and the TV series are so different, and I love them both.  The books are far more grittier than the cosy mystery series we see on the TV, and there is a place for each.

The author easily captures the time period and brings it to life with ease.  As I’ve already mentioned, there is a grittiness to the story, but then life was gritty, hard and dark for most people at the end of the nineteenth century, and that clearly comes through.

The pace is good and there were enough twists and turns in the story to keep me guessing.  Murdoch is a fabulous main character and is very likeable and realistic.  I was pleased to see Dr Julia Ogden make a small appearance in this instalment, and I’m hoping that there will be more later in the series.

I can’t recommend this book and series highly enough, and am looking forward to reading the third Murdoch Mystery, Poor Tom is Cold, soon.

Rating:

five-stars

Short Story Review: The Red-Headed League by Arthur Conan Doyle

Summary:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson receive a visitor, Jabez Wilson, a man with a shock of red hair.  He explains that his assistant encouraged him to respond to advert in the paper offering very well-paid work to red-headed male applicants.  He wasn’t sure, thinking it was too good to be true, but acquiesced.  The following morning, he followed the directions from the advert and joined a long line of red-heads applying for the job.  However, it is only a very specific shade of red hair they are looking for, and Wilson is the only one offered the position.

When Wilson learns of the very simple work he must undertake in order to earn his high wage, he is eager to begin.  But after only four weeks the office mysteriously closes, and no-one has heard of the Red-Headed League, nor the man Wilson was interviewed / managed by.  So, he gets Sherlock Holmes on the case…

Favourite quote:

“It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes.”

Review:

The second short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle that I have been reading on Wattpad, is The Red-Headed League.  This is a very clever short story, but I enjoyed it less than A Scandal in Bohemia.

The misdirection is clever, the plot extremely well thought out and it is always great to see how Sherlock Holmes thinks and interprets the clues he has been given.  The idea of The Red-Headed League makes this an unusual story and for that reason, memorable, for it is so strange.  I think that it is that strangeness though, which is the reason why I liked this less than A Scandal in Bohemia.

Next up in the series is A Case of Identity, the review for which I hope to post within the next couple of weeks…

Rating:

three-stars

Short Story Review: A Scandal in Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle

Summary:

While Dr Watson is visiting his friend, Sherlock Holmes, the latter receives a visitor, one who gives a false name.  True to form, Holmes quickly determines his true identity: the heir to the Kingdom of Bohemia, who is soon to be married to a princess from a strict family.  Only a past lover is in possession of a some letters and a photograph of them together, which could be used for blackmail and ultimately ruin his chances of marrying the princess.

The woman in question is Irene Adler…

Favourite quote:

To Sherlock Holmes, she is always the woman.  I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name.  In his eyes, she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex.

Review:

I have been working my way through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle on Wattpad, the first instalment of which is A Scandal in Bohemia.  It’s been too long since I have read a Sherlock Holmes story, and this, the first of 56 short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle staring the “consulting detective”, was a great way to reconnect with them.

Of course, I loved it.  What I did find interesting was that Arthur Conan Doyle decided to begin the run of short stories by depicting that it is possible to outsmart Sherlock Holmes.  And Irene Adler is such an iconic character, possibly rivalling Sherlock in popularity.  All-in-all, a short, entertaining read and an enjoyable way to pass an evening.

Next up in the series is The Red-Headed League, the review for which I will probably post next week…

Rating:

four-stars