Book Review: A Body at Book Club by Elizabeth Spann Craig

A Body at Book Club is the sixth book in the Myrtle Clover Mysteries by Elizabeth Spann Craig.

Quick Review (read on for the full review)

Loved it.  A great cosy mystery, with quirky characters and lots of humour.  Myrtle is fantastic. 5/ 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

This is one book club meeting that doesn’t go by the book.

When octogenarian sleuth Myrtle Clover discovers Naomi Pelter’s dead body during a book club meeting, the other members seem shocked. But Myrtle can read between the lines. Naomi had riled everyone up by flirting with other people’s husbands, arguing with neighbors, and generally making a nuisance of herself. Murdering troublemakers is the oldest trick in the book.

The book club members seem too sweet to be killers, but Myrtle knows better than to judge books by their covers. Myrtle’s investigation into the murder will take a more novel approach than her police chief son’s by-the-book methods. Can Myrtle and her widower sidekick uncover the killer…before he writes them off for good?

Favourite Quote

“Marathon?  For heaven’s sake, Miles.  Have you been drinking?  I’m in my eighties.  The only time you’re going to catch me running is if something really scary is chasing me.  Even then, I’ll probably just give in.’

Review

It was last Indie Only Month that I came across the wonderful Myrtle Clover Mysteries.  Very quickly the series worked its way into my favourite top five cosy mystery list. And, I think this might just be my favourite book in the series yet – but I’ve loved them all so it’s hard to tell 🙂  I do think this might be the funniest though.  Let’s get to the review proper…

First off – it’s all about Myrtle – she’s fabulous!  (As is Pasha the feral cat).  Mrytle might be in her eighties but that doesn’t stop her sleuthing.  I’m surprised she gets invited anywhere in Bradley anymore because wherever she goes someone always turns up dead.  But, I suppose at least she has the good grace to find out who the murder is.  Her neighbour Miles makes a great sidekick and Wanda the psychic is a hoot with the cryptic warnings and riddles she passes on to Myrtle.

For this mystery, I didn’t guess who the murderer was until just before the reveal, which always makes for a satisfying read. The book moves at a fairly rapid pace and the ending is just perfect for this story.  The dialogue is witty and realistic and the characters interact so well together.

If you enjoy cosy mysteries full of quirky characters and humour, I can’t recommend this series to you highly enough.  There is a high possibility that I might have to read another book in the series this month…

Rating

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Book Review: The Anatomist’s Apprentice by Tessa Harris

The Anatomist’s Apprentice is the first book in the Dr Thomas Silkstone series by Tessa Harris.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Dr. Silkstone is an interesting character and the mystery isn’t too bad either.  I will be reading more of these books.  3.5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

The death of Lord Edward Crick has unleashed a torrent of gossip through the seedy taverns and elegant ballrooms of Oxfordshire. Few mourn the dissolute young man-except his sister, the beautiful Lady Lydia Farrell. When her husband comes under suspicion of murder, she seeks expert help from Dr. Thomas Silkstone, a young anatomist and pioneering forensic detective from Philadelphia.

Thomas arrived in England to study under its foremost surgeon, the aging Dr. Carruthers, and finds his unconventional methods and dedication to the grisly study of anatomy only add to his outsider status. Against his better judgment he agrees to examine Sir Edward’s decomposing corpse, examining his internal and external state, as well as the unusual behavior of those still living in the Crick household.

Thomas soon learns that it is not only the dead but also the living to whom he must apply the keen blade of his intellect. And the deeper the doctor’s investigations go, the greater the risk that he will be consigned to the ranks of the corpses he studies.

Favourite Quote

A good corpse is like a fine fillet of beef, the master would say – tender to the touch and easy to slice.

Review

First impressions: The front cover grabbed my attention immediately.  Then, as I read the back cover, I thought the story sounded very interesting.  According to the acknowledgements in the front of the book, it was inspired by a murder trial at the Warwick Assizes in 1781 during which an anatomist was called to give evidence for the first time (that we know of).  However, this is not the fictionalised version of that case.  The case in question is entirely fictional.

The Anatomist’s Apprentice is Dr. Thomas Silkstone.  I think the title is a little misleading because by the time the book is set, the doctor is no longer an apprentice.  That being said, it does sound good, doesn’t it?  As soon as we meet him, we are introduced to his work.  There are passages within the story that are not for the faint-hearted – or those who like to eat their lunch whilst reading.  The reason for this is that we are given some very graphic details about the work and experiments of Dr. Silkstone in his capacity as an anatomist.  (See above quote).

Dr Silkstone, along with his work, is interesting and engaging, and makes for a very good main character.  However, a number of the other characters were a little flat, my least favourite being the Lady Lydia, who spent most of her time looking beautiful whilst being confused or upset.  Also, I felt some of the other characters didn’t read as consistent.

One of the highlights of the book was the level of detail the reader is given.  Places jump off the page so you can easily visualise where the characters are, and the author doesn’t shy away from darker topics: the grim reality of life at the time and the cost that must be paid for scientific breakthroughs.  I did find the pace a little slow in places and I wasn’t particularly bothered by the romance – it didn’t feel like an integrated part of the plot.

On the whole though, I did enjoy it and would read more books from this series.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Book Review: The Sanctuary Seeker by Bernard Knight

The Sanctuary Seeker is the first book in the Crowner John Mysteries by Bernard Knight.

Summary (from Goodreads)

November, 1194 AD. Appointed by Richard the Lionheart as the first coroner for the county of Devon, Sir John de Wolfe, recently returned from the Crusades, rides out to the lonely moorland village of Widecombe to hold an inquest on an unidentified body.

But on his return to Exeter, the new coroner is incensed to find that his own brother-in-law, Sheriff Richard de Revelle, is intent on thwarting the murder investigation, particularly when it emerges that the dead man is a Crusader, and a member of one of Devon’s finest and most honourable families…

Favourite Quote

It was now more than three hours since they had left Exeter and the ceaseless downpour along the eastern edge of Dartmoor was enough to rot a man’s soul.

Review

The first time I came across Crowner John it wasn’t in one of the Crowner John Mysteries but in The Tainted Relic by The Medieval Murderers, of which Bernard Knight is one.  I so thoroughly enjoyed the Crowner John story (in that and subsequent volumes) that I knew I had to give this mystery series a try.

My first impression of the book came from its cover, and I loved it.  I also liked the chapter subheadings, which always began with, “In which Crowner John…” does something or other.

I really enjoyed the story too.  The characters are diverse and have their own histories which nicely come through as the tale unfolds, adding richness and depth.  Crowner John is an interesting character with an interesting task to tackle which the author presented in an engaging way.  It would have been very easy to bog down the story with great swathes of historical detail, but that isn’t a problem here.

There is an authentic feel to the story, not solely because of the level of historical accuracy but also because the characters feel quite true to the time period.  The mystery is a good one and the story moves at a good if not fast pace.

The glossary in the front of the book was very handy and very informative.  In fact, I learnt a great deal from reading it, and although I know a fair amount about the period (I like to consider myself a bit of a history buff) some of the in-depth information I had never come across before whilst other snippets built upon what I already knew.

The Sanctuary Seeker was a great historical mystery, and an enticing first book in a series.  As such, I am looking forward to reading book two, The Poisoned Chalice.

I recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction.

Rating

4.5 / 5

Book Review: Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener by M. C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener is the third book in the Agatha Raisin series by M. C. Beaton.

Summary (from back of book)

Agatha is taken aback when she finds a new woman ensconced in the affections of her attractive bachelor neighbour, James Lacey.  The beautiful Mary Fortune is superior in every way, especially when it comes to gardening – and with Carsely Garden Open Day looming, Agatha feels this deficiency acutely.

So when Mary is discovered murdered, buried upside down in a plant pot, Agatha seizes the moment and immediately starts yanking up village secrets by their roots and digging the dirt on the hapless victim.  But is this wise?  For Agatha has an awkward secret too…

Favourite Quote

Despite the fact that she was still married, although she had not seen her husband for years, did not want to, and had practically forgotten his existence, she felt exactly like the spinster of the village, cats and all.

Review

I love these stories; they are addictive cosy little mysteries which means that they are quick to read, and easy to become engrossed in.  I do find it impossible to put these books down once I start, and once I finish them I want to pick the next in the series up right away.

The residents of Carsely are fantastic and familiar, which makes these stories a joy to read.  With each instalment in the series we learn something new about them.  Agatha is back to her old self from the first book in this story with her competitive streak doing its best to get her into trouble. Bill Wong, James Lacey and Roy Silver are a great supporting cast for Agatha’s adventures.

The murder in The Potted Gardener is certainly imaginative.  I wonder how the author came up with the idea!

I can’t recommended this series highly enough to those who enjoy a humorous, slightly outlandish cosy mystery set in a picture perfect English village.

Rating

Book Review: Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet is the second book in the Agatha Raisin series of books by M.C. Beaton.

Summary (from back of book)

Retired PR boss Agatha Raisin is enjoying life in her pretty Cotswold village of Carsely.  It even seems likely that the attractive new vet, Paul Bladen, has taken a shine to her.  But before romance can blossom, Paul is killed in an accident with Lord Pendlebury’s horse.  Only the circumstances are rather suspicious.  So Agatha decides she must once more play amateur investigator…And this cloud has a silver lining – she can persuade her usually stand-offish neighbour, James Lacey, to become her partner in the quest.  As usual, Agatha is quite prepared to rush in, heedless of the lurking menace to both James and herself.

Favourite Quote

‘I am not sweet sixteen,’ said Agatha huffily.

‘Exactly.’

That ‘exactly’ seemed to Agatha to be saying, ‘You are a middle-aged woman easily flattered by the attentions of a younger man.’

Review

These books are so enjoyable, so readable and so funny.

Agatha Raisin makes a wonderful main character. The shortcomings in her personality (namely her rude and abrasive attitude) are mechanisms to counter her vulnerabilities; protective measures she has needed in the past to prevent her from getting hurt, and that is quite cleverly demonstrated within the narrative.

As Agatha’s antics unfold, I do find myself cringing, and desperately willing her to change her mind, or do something else that will spare her from the next embarrassing moment she is creating for herself.

The mystery around the death of the vet is a good one; there are many suspects to choose from because he is such a horrid character.  Bill Wong is wonderful as Agatha’s police connection, and James Lacey as the focus of her romantic interest is entertaining to be behold as he does his best to avoid her one minute and then wants to sleuth with her the next.

This is turning out to be one of my favourite cosy mystery series. Great fun!

Rating

 

Book Review: A Dreadful Penance by Jason Vail

A Dreadful Penance is the third book in the Stephen Attebrook Mysteries by Jason vail

Summary (from back of book)

November 1262 is an unlikely season for war.  But war nonetheless is coming to the March, the wild borderland between England and Wales.  Not the war that most fear between the supporters of the King and the rebellious barons uniting around Simon de Montfort, but with Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the Welsh warlord who styles himself Prince of Wales and who has united the fractious tribes of his land against the English.

The English are uncertain, however, where and when the blow will fall.  So, Sir Geoffrey Randall, coroner of Herefordshire, dispatches his deputy, the impoverished knight Stephen Attebrook, to the border town of Clun to make contact with a spy in order to learn Llewelyn’s plans.

At the same time, Randall directs Attebrook to investigate the murder of a monk found dead in his bed at the Augustine priory of St. George at Clun.

The assignment casts Attebrook into the middle of a desperate feud between the priory and the lord of Clun and reveals a forbidden love that can only result in suffering and death.

Favourite Quote

Although he could not help looking clownish – a little round man with his head wrapped in linen who could barely keep his place upon his mule – any fool was dangerous with a sword.

Review

This is the first book I have read in the Stephen Attebrook Mysteries and I loved it.  I have added the other books to my TBR list, but this novel works well as a standalone.  The author provides enough information on what has gone before to ensure the reader can, not only keep up with the storyline, but enjoy it also without feeling like they needed to have read the first two books before this one.

Stephen Attebrook is an interesting character.  I like his fairly abrasive personality and the antagonistic camaraderie he shared with Gilbert Wistwode,a clerk also in the employ of Sir Geoffrey Randall.

I thought the story was a little slow to get going at first, but a couple of chapters in and the pace and the drama suddenly picked up.  What followed was an entertaining, gripping read, that I struggled to put down.  The historical detail was fascinating, with sufficient depth to bring the time and place to life.  The only thing I didn’t like was that I felt the ending was too abrupt.

I am eager to read more of this series, and would recommend this books to anyone who has an interest in the Marches during the medieval period and to those who enjoy historical fiction in general.

Rating

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.