Saturday, December 31, 2011

Middle Sis' December Books

Murder Past Due by Miranda James Cosy "Cat in the Stacks" mystery with a male college librarian/archivist in a small southern town. When a famous college alumnae and bestselling author is murdered the day after he donates his notes to the library, our hero swings into action to help an old college friend and her son, who are prime suspects. Male protagonists written by women sometimes seem more feminine than male, and that's certainly the case here--Charlie Harris is sensitive and introspective and not macho at all. And his Maine Coon cat, Diesel, his best friend and constant companion (how does he not get into trouble for taking his cat into the bakery?), is not the usual sidekick for a man, nor the pistol my Maine Coon cat is, but the chirping meow is recognizable to any Maine Coon owner. Too bad the cat on the cover is not a Maine Coon. Note to publishers: trying to sell a genre book will work better if you're accurate in basic details, like the cat prominently portrayed on the cover. Having the wrong breed on there just cheeses the cat-loving mystery buffs you're trying to attract, and non-cat-loving mystery buffs are unlikely to buy a book featuring a cat, so you might as well have the graphic designer get it right and please your target audience. Pleasant read, although the mystery is not mysterious at all and even a lackadaisical armchair detective can solve this one before the book is one-third read.

Death by Cashmere by Sally Goldenbaum Lovely setting in a fictional Cape Cod-type seaside town, the first in the series centered on the Seaside Knitting Studio introduces us to a group of women brought together by their love of knitting and food and proximity. Loved the setting, and would love to live there. Note to publishers: the copy editor needs to make sure that there is continuity through the book. After a big deal is made about the turquoise sea yarn (p. 82) Nell uses to make herself a scarf/shawl to wear to the gala event that is pivotal to solving the murder mystery, to have her go find her "black" shawl (p. 167) is just sloppy. Also sloppy: not keeping track of who is who: p. 167, Izzy is working on a sweater and Cass is working on a shawl for her mother, yet just a few scant paragraphs down, "Izzy put down the alpaca shawl she was making for her mother." And how could Izzy be playing with her toast (p. 215) when they weren't served breakfast until p. 216? (Yes, a point is made of Stella the waitress bringing their food.) It's hard enough keeping track during some passages of dialogue, when all four women are talking (Nell, Izzy, Cass, and Birdie) and no names are used; the reader doesn't need sloppy editing. I never found any of these women to have a unique voice or way or talking that came across in the written dialogue, and pages of unattributed dialogue were frustrating if the reader is trying to keep track of who knew what, when, and how. Again, the mystery is not mysterious, and this undiscerning armchair detective had the mystery solved halfway through the book without even trying, but the setting is so vividily described, and Nell such a nice woman, I'm sure I'll be back to visit Seaside.

The Middle Temple Murder by Joseph Smith Fletcher Enjoyable historic-period mystery (set in 1912) in which the murder of a mysterious stranger from Australia is solved by an honest newspaperman with a nose for following a cold trail. I very much enjoy mysteries where the detective has to use his brains and courage, not his cell phone and brute force, to solve the mystery. Complicated shenanigans where no one, except our hero, is what he seems.

Chili Con Corpses (The Supper Club Mysteries) by J.B. Stanley Contemporary series focused on a group of dieting friends who take a culinary class, which is disrupted by the murder of a classmate. Pleasant enough, also with a male protagonist who seems more feminine than male in his attitude and actions. Do men really sit around in coffee shops talking about what would be the perfect gift to buy a particular woman? 

The Burglar and the Blizzard, a Christmas Story by Alice Duer Miller Historical mystery wherein the solving of the mystery may ruin our hero's (yes, another book with a male protagonist--it was a bit of a theme this month) chance at happiness. Enjoyable, fast read, neatly solved, no drama.

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