Tag Archives: cosy mystery

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister #Brainfluffbookreview #KindredSpiritbookreview

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I wanted a break from my usual diet of SFF reads and this cover caught my eye. I requested it, as I generally like the output from Severn House Publishing, who release a steady stream of well written and well edited crime and adventure fiction.

A kidnap attempt outside the school gates in broad daylight convinces Gabriel Ash that his renegade wife is trying to steal their sons from him. Only the intervention of his friend Constable Hazel Best kept them safe. It’s a simple if alarming explanation, but is it the truth? Hazel uncovers disturbing information about another crime, the repercussions of which are still threatening innocent lives seventeen years later.

That is half the blurb, but it gives you a good idea of what is going on. And no… I haven’t read any of the previous four books in the series – I did my usual trick of crashing midway into this series and once again, got away with it. Bannister drops in any details about the protagonists’ backstory that impacts on the action and characterisation without resorting to any info dumps. It helps that both characters are good people striving to do their best under tricky conditions. Gabriel Ash has clearly had a torrid time of it in previous books and is busy putting his life together as a single father running a book shop. Clever, sensitive and rather battered, he also has a dog who communicates telepathically with him… he thinks.

Hazel Best is a bright, determined woman whose police career has been compromised by previous shenanigans earlier in the series. One of the few people who now give her the time of day, other than a rather busy Gabriel, is Dave Gorman, her superior. When she gets a bee in her bonnet about exactly who was the target in the attempted kidnapping outside the school, events take off.

This well-written police procedural rolls forward at a reasonable clip, with a good mix of possible suspects. My one grizzle is the dog’s role in unravelling the mystery – given that everything else is so very much set in the world of fact, the dog chatting to Gabriel didn’t convince me. I would have preferred it if this had been left more open so that while Gabriel thinks it’s down to the dog, the rest of us could see another option – and if Bannister intended it to read like that, she didn’t quite succeed.

However, that isn’t a dealbreaker. I would happily pick up another book in this series and it is recommended for fans of cosy crime, particularly dog lovers. While I obtained an arc of Kindred Spirit from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

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#Sunday Post – 27th August, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I have been busy this week writing the course notes for this term’s Creative Writing course which starts on 17th September, which sounds a while away, but I know from experience that it isn’t. I managed to get all but the final handout written, which I’m pleased about. The regular admin and lesson plans still need to be written, but at least I’ve done the hard part.

On Monday I met up with one of my students who has missed a couple of terms through illness. It was lovely to see her again, looking so much better as we caught up on each other’s lives. I had lunch with my sister on Tuesday and we went shopping together on Friday, though I resisted the temptation to buy anything major – which was a feat we celebrated by having a very leisurely chat over a looong cup of tea together. On Saturday, I travelled up to Cambridge to catch up with my son who I hadn’t seen since Christmas – far too long! We visited the Anthony Gormley exhibition, which was marvellous – and then he treated me to a trip on the river. It was so much fun watching him windmill the pole as he punted me up the river that the rain simply didn’t matter.

During this coming week, I will not be commenting or replying on my blog as I shall be on a writing retreat and I’m not sure about the wifi connection – parts of the country aren’t very well served. But I will catch up once I get back.

This week I have read:

Menagerie – Book 1 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent
When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus big-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town.
I rapidly became engrossed in Delilah’s plight, unable to forget the numbers of youngsters imprisoned and trapped by illegal trafficking, though this book can also be read as a piece of escapist fiction.

 

Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister
A kidnap attempt outside the school gates in broad daylight convinces Gabriel Ash that his renegade wife is trying to steal their sons from him. Only the intervention of his friend Constable Hazel Best kept them safe. It’s a simple if alarming explanation, but is it the truth? Hazel uncovers disturbing information about another crime, the repercussions of which are still threatening innocent lives seventeen years later. Once again Hazel finds herself at loggerheads with her superiors. Did they really conspire to protect a murderer? And this time she isn’t getting the support she needs from Ash. She’d thought they were kindred spirits: now she’s not sure what his motives are.
I was overdue an enjoyable cosy mystery and this one certainly ticked the box. Enjoyable, likeable protagonists and a gripping situation that steadily builds into a major mystery with an exciting denouement.

 

Spectacle – Book 2 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent
The Savage Spectacle is a private collection of “exotic wildlife.” Specializing in ruthless cryptid cage matches, safari-style creature hunts and living party favors, the Spectacle’s owner, Willem Vandekamp, caters to the forbidden fetishes of the wealthy and powerful. At the Spectacle, any wish can be granted—for the right price. But a number of new exhibits not only create more opportunities for making money, they also pose risks Willem hasn’t yet encountered.
This next slice of the adventures featuring Delilah, a shape-shifting human with disturbing powers was just as engrossing as the first book – and I’m looking forward to reading the final book in the trilogy, which is the Netgalley arc I will be reviewing in due course.

 

Fifty-One by Chris Barnham
Jacob Wesson is a timecop from 2040, sent back to WWII London to stop the assassination of Britain’s war leader. The assignment plays out with apparent ease, but the jump home goes wrong, leading to a series of events that not only puts in jeopardy the outcome of WWII, but all history…
This intelligent, well written time travelling adventure is not only a thumping good read, but raises some interesting questions on the nature of time travelling that I’ve never seen so fully explored. I was also very impressed with Barnham’s depiction of war-torn London in 1940 and the 2040 equivalent.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 19th August 2018

Teaser Tuesday featuring Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Fury – Book 3 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Foundryside – Book 1 of the Founders series by Robert Jackson Bennett

Friday Face-off – Myths and Legends… featuring Myths and Legends by Anthony Horowitz

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Thursday Doors https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/08/24/thursday-doors-110/ Regulars will know this quirky series is a firm favourite – but these walkways are just lovely… you can imagine all sorts of magical adventures occurring in these surroundings.

…my dream dinner guests list… prob’ly change again by next week!… https://seumasgallacher.com/2018/08/24/my-dream-dinner-guests-list-probly-change-again-by-next-week/ Seumas has fun playing this game – this is a dinner party I’d love to attend. What about you – who would you invite to your dream dinner?

#writerproblems: catching #characters with a coda of giveaway #countdown https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/08/23/writerproblems-catching-characters-with-a-coda-of-giveaway-countdown/ Jean gives her take on integrating family life with that of a working writer – and reminds us of a fabulous opportunity to get hold of her marvellous debut novel. I’ve been lucky to read the arc and will be reviewing it in due course. In the meantime, do keep a lookout for it – it’s a wonderful, quirky read…

Spraoi 2018 – Scotch is back! https://inesemjphotography.com/2018/08/24/spraoi-2018-scotch-is-back/ No – we’re not talking the drink, we’re talking a Dutch band playing at a free street festival in Waterford, Ireland. These photos sum up the joy and passion of live music for both the participants and those watching…

Do you Reread? https://emeraldcitybookreview.com/2018/08/do-you-re-read-2.html This is an interesting question – if you get down as far as the comments, you’ll find my views on this subject there. But I am always intrigued to know if readers go back to books they love…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and have a great week.

Teaser Tuesday – 21st August, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister
50% Severick shrugged. ‘Nobody said it would be easy. Find a line of enquiry and I’ll try to help. But now right now. Right now I’m ready for my tea.’ He headed determinedly for the door and Gorman moved aside to let him pass. ‘I have it on good authority it’s Black Forest gateau for afters. I’d invite you to stay but…’
‘But what?’
‘You might accept.’

BLURB: A kidnap attempt outside the school gates in broad daylight convinces Gabriel Ash that his renegade wife is trying to steal their sons from him. Only the intervention of his friend Constable Hazel Best kept them safe. It’s a simple if alarming explanation, but is it the truth? Hazel uncovers disturbing information about another crime, the repercussions of which are still threatening innocent lives seventeen years later.

Once again Hazel finds herself at loggerheads with her superiors. Did they really conspire to protect a murderer? And this time she isn’t getting the support she needs from Ash. She’d thought they were kindred spirits: now she’s not sure what his motives are.

I was overdue for an interesting, well-written whodunit featuring sympathetic protagonists. Just as well I spotted this arc on my TBR pile waiting for me to get around to it. So far it’s been a joy and as long as the ending is well handled, it should continue to be so. The review will appear on or around 1st September when Kindred Spirits is due to be released.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 18th July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #Can’tWaitWednesday

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister

#cosy mystery

A kidnap attempt outside the school gates in broad daylight convinces Gabriel Ash that his renegade wife is trying to steal their sons from him. Only the intervention of his friend Constable Hazel Best kept them safe. It’s a simple if alarming explanation, but is it the truth? Hazel uncovers disturbing information about another crime, the repercussions of which are still threatening innocent lives seventeen years later.

Once again Hazel finds herself at loggerheads with her superiors. Did they really conspire to protect a murderer? And this time she isn’t getting the support she needs from Ash. She’d thought they were kindred spirits: now she’s not sure what his motives are. One thing is certain: with her life in imminent danger, Hazel’s going to need friends like never before …

I enjoy cosy mysteries and I liked the sound of this one, so requested it on Netgalley – and found I’d done my regular trick of crashing midway into a series. Never mind… it’s a while since I’ve enjoyed a whodunit and I’m really looking forward to tucking into this one during the summer holidays.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Witch at Heart – Book 1 of the Jinx Hamilton Mystery series by Juliette Harper #Brainfluffbookreview #WitchatHeartbookreview

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Himself had got hold of this one at some stage, so when I was recovering from a stress migraine headache, it looked an ideal world to get lost in…

Jinx Hamilton has been minding her own business working as a waitress at Tom’s Cafe and keeping up with her four cats. Then she inherits her Aunt Fiona’s store in neighboring Briar Hollow, North Carolina and learns that her aunt has willed her some special “powers” as well. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step and Jinx has a major problem. She’s a brand new witch with no earthly clue what that means. Throw in a few homeless ghosts, a potential serial killer, and a resident rat and Jinx is almost at her wit’s end. Thankfully she has the unfailing support of her life-long BFF, Tori and it doesn’t hurt that there’s a hot guy living right next door.

Like a lot of urban fantasy whodunits, this one has a perky, enjoyable protagonist who I immediately liked. Jinx is a kindly, uncomplicated soul, who works alongside her best friend as a waitress and lives at home – until her Aunt Fiona dies. There are some appealing moments of humour and a chirpy upbeat mood, with the cats also contributing to the general cosy sense of small community and peacefulness.

While there is a hint of romance, the overriding relationship that powers this book is the friendship between Jinx and her friend Tori, which I really appreciated. It makes a nice change for the love pervading a book to be one between best friends, which can be every bit as powerful as any other kind, I think.

However, this is also a murder mystery. It’s a balance, isn’t it? Cosy mysteries evidently aren’t going to be the gritted, gory type where there are body parts featured in profusion, or the backdrop is going to be the bleak, hopeless cityscape. And yet, any murder is tackling the business of one person wilfully taking the life of another. If the idea of deliberately killing someone isn’t to be devalued, there has to be a sense of shock over the event.

It isa balancing act to successfully negotiate between these two extremes – and Harper manages it very well. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Jinx’s adventures in coping with the new store, the introduction of a murdered ghost who doesn’t know who she is gave a poignant edge to the story. I gobbled up this readable, engaging adventure in two greedy gulps and while the puzzle surrounding the displaced waif is very satisfactorily tied up, there are sufficient ongoing plotpoints that will encourage me to revisit this enjoyable world. Recommended for fans of cosy urban fantasy murder mysteries.
8/10

Sunday Post – 29th April, 2018

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I should have kept quiet – we are back to cool, showery weather with really chilly nights. Though the cherry and blackthorn trees are all looking fabulous and branches are now disappearing under the profusion of new leaves, so Spring is thoroughly under way. Not that I’ve been out to enjoy it…

It’s been a mare of a week, where I’ve been running on the spot to keep a nose ahead of all the deadlines thudding into play. Normally, I am far more organised – the reason being that I don’t cope well up when taking everything up to the wire. It didn’t help that the stress of it caused my headache to make a return during the whole of Monday, easing up just sufficiently for me to stagger into college for the first session of the term in the evening. But I was still thick-headed and below par right up until Friday. The good news – I managed to hit all those targets and Tim passed his Speaking and Listening exam with flying colours. Miranda’s Tempest will be going to the editor on time, I’ve finished my short story and my summer term Creative Writing course is now under way. Phew! I’m hoping the coming week is a LOT easier…

This week I have read:

Witch at Heart – Book 1 of the Jinx Hamilton series by Juliette Harper
Jinx Hamilton has been minding her own business working as a waitress at Tom’s Cafe and keeping up with her four cats. Then she inherits her Aunt Fiona’s store in neighboring Briar Hollow, North Carolina and learns that her aunt has willed her some special “powers” as well. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step and Jinx has a major problem. She’s a brand new witch with no earthly clue what that means. Throw in a few homeless ghosts, a potential serial killer, and a resident rat and Jinx is almost at her wit’s end. Thankfully she has the unfailing support of her life-long BFF, Tori and it doesn’t hurt that there’s a hot guy living right next door.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one, particularly when I wanted an upbeat, chirpy read while coping with a low-grade headache that nonetheless made life less than fun… And this engaging offering ticked all the boxes – review to follow.

 

Before Mars – Book 3 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
After months of travel, Anna Kubrin finally arrives on Mars for her new job as a geologist and de facto artist-in-residence. Already she feels like she is losing the connection with her husband and baby at home on Earth–and she’ll be on Mars for over a year. Throwing herself into her work, she tries her best to fit in with the team.

But in her new room on the base, Anna finds a mysterious note written in her own handwriting, warning her not to trust the colony psychologist. A note she can’t remember writing. She unpacks her wedding ring, only to find it has been replaced by a fake…
I have loved this series so far and this tense thriller doesn’t disappoint. Newman’s nuanced protagonist had me turning the pages later than I should have been, as I was very keen to find out what will happen next. I’ll be reviewing this one during the week.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 22nd April 2018

Review of Still Me – Book 3 of the Me Before You series by Jojo Moyes

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Hyena and the Hawk – Book 3 of the Echo of the Falls series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Crimson Ash by Haley Sulich

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Head On – Book 2 of the Lock In series by John Scalzi

Friday Face-off – When a knight won his spurs… featuring Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guest Post – Lindsey Duncan discussing how she developed entertainment in her sci fi novel Scylla and Charybdis

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Smorgasbord Laughter Lines – Observations on Life – Old Farmer’s Wisdom and the Centre of the Universe! https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/04/24/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-observations-on-life-old-farmers-wisdom-and-centre-of-the-universe/ It’s been the kind of week where I needed a few laughs along the way – and these made me chuckle…

A Short Analysis of Emily Dickenson’s ‘I Started Early – Took My Dog’ https://interestingliterature.com/2018/04/26/a-short-analysis-of-emily-dickinsons-i-started-early-took-my-dog/ Another storming offering from this oh-so-interesting site…

Girls, Girls, Girls – Why Are There So Many “Girls” in Mysteries and Thrillers? https://thebookishlibra.com/2018/04/24/discussion-girls-girls-girls-why-are-there-so-many-girls-in-mysteries-thrillers/ An excellent article about something under our noses that needs examining in a bit more detail.

Self Editing: 7 Tips to Tighten the Story & Cut Costs http://authorkristenlamb.com/2018/04/self-editing-writers/ The mighty Kristen Lamb at her fabulous best.

Dying for Space: A Review https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2018/04/25/dying-for-space-a-review/ Yep. I know – it’s my own book. But when this plopped into my Inbox, I was on the floor and it cheered me up immensely, reminding me why I do this. So I’m sharing it with you…

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett

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Simon Brett is patron of the West Sussex Writers club, so I have had the pleasure of hearing him speak a number of times. His witty take on the world pervades this pleasing cosy mystery.

When an author event at the local library ends in murder, Jude finds herself a suspect in the waspishly witty new Fethering mystery. Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death. More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.

Set in a small village literally a stone’s throw from where we live in Littlehampton, which is mentioned several times in the book, I’ll freely admit that one of the attractions with this entertaining whodunit is the fact that I recognise the towns they visit. It is rather fun to so clearly visualise the setting during the investigation, even if the village of Fethering is a construct. Of course, the book would be a downright trudge if that was the only thing going for it, so the fact that I really like Jude and her relationship with her rather prickly neighbour, Carole. It’s a bonus they are both retired and of a certain age – while I haven’t yet retired, I’m also well into middle age and it’s a solid pleasure to read a book with two female protagonists who reflect my own age-group. It doesn’t happen all that often…

Jude is a thoroughly likeable protagonist, who during the story becomes the chief suspect in the murder. These days, with our overloaded justice system, it’s all too believable to see a scenario where she could be imprisoned for perpetrating a crime she didn’t commit, so the stakes in this case are far higher than terminal boredom. What turns this readable adventure into pure delight, however, are the acidic observations Jude and Carole both have on the world and the characters around them. Brett doesn’t hold back from having a pop at the state of the publishing industry and the struggles rural libraries are having to keep going, amongst other aspects of life in modern England – as well as the protagonists’ observations about the other characters they come into contact while on the case. Several times I giggled aloud at a nicely pithy phrase.

Any grizzles? Well, I was rather taken aback at having a crucial scene in the book where Jude is explaining the denouement glossed over in half a page, rather than being given the reactions of the characters involved. As the stakes were so high at this stage, I expected at least the first section to be fully depicted and the fact it wasn’t jarred with me. This is, after all, one of the planks of this particular genre and while Brett often successfully plays with readers’ expectations, this time it didn’t work. However, that is the only niggle and it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker. I found the ending not only satisfying, but unexpectedly poignant. If you are looking for an entertaining cosy mystery with a thoroughly modern take on the genre, then go looking for this offering – it reminded me all over again why I enjoy Brett’s writing so much. While I obtained an arc of The Liar in the Library from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 20th December, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mystery series by Simon Brett

#cosy murder mystery #contemporary #southern England setting

When an author event at the local library ends in murder, Jude finds herself a suspect in the waspishly witty new Fethering mystery.

Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death.

More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.

Simon Brett is the patron of the West Sussex Writers club that I belong to and has frequently been a guest speaker. He is an excellent speaker, funny and self deprecating as well as being the author of the Charles Paris series, which have been dramatised on Radio 4 with the wonderful Bill Nighy taking the part of Charles – wonderful stuff! This should be a cracking read – well plotted with plenty of memorable characters and a twist of sharp humour running throughout.

ANNDDD…

O.D. Book Reviews features an excerpt from Dying for Space as well as a guest post where the main protagonist, Elizabeth, reflects on why she feels she has to reveal what happened.

 

ANNDDD…

T’s Stuff features an excerpt from Dying for Space in addition to a guest post where I talk about five favourite science fiction books that also use food as part of the scene setting.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE EBOOK The Student Body – An E.J. Pugh Mystery by Susan Rogers Cooper

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The blurb and arresting cover caught my attention and as I felt in the mood for an amusing contemporary whodunit, I requested the Netgalley arc.

Graham Pugh should be having a ball as a first-year student at the University of Texas in Austin. Unfortunately for him, his roommate, Bishop ‘Call Me Bish’ Alexander, is an arrogant asshole he can’t stand, to the point of dreaming of killing him in his sleep. Even more unfortunately for Graham, when he wakes up early one morning for a lecture, he finds that Bishop actually is dead on the floor. With Graham the prime suspect, E.J., Willis and the girls race up to Austin immediately. Unsurprisingly, it just so happens that Bishop annoyed a lot of people on campus, not just Graham. But who killed him? E.J. is soon facing a desperate battle to prove her son’s innocence.

This story, told in multiple pov with E.J.’s viewpoint in first person, was a bit grittier than I’d originally assumed. There were regular flashes of humour and plenty of snarky dialogue – but E.J. was too genuinely distressed at the prospect of her son being accused of murdering the unspeakable Bish for it to be truly comedic. In true whodunit tradition, no one appeared to care much for Bish, who was greedy, insulting and manipulative such that even his own mother wasn’t shedding too many tears.
As for the hapless Graham – despite the fact that there wasn’t any hard and fast proof that he had done it – the local police commander heading up the investigation decided early on that he was the only viable suspect. While I haven’t read any of the previous E.J. Pugh murder mysteries, I did get the sense that in this one, she is further out of her comfort zone than usual. What worked really well, was the uncomfortable dynamic between Graham and E.J.

Under normal circumstances, children leaving for college helps to establish them as adults. Though often needs parental assistance, it tends to be from a distance. Not so when Graham finds himself the chief suspect in a murder investigation that has the campus buzzing. When he calls his mother in, the two of them are clearly floundering. E.J. is concerned and protective, while Graham is terrified and wanting help – but not so that any of his peers would notice that it’s his mother offering the much-needed assistance.

Indeed, I found E.J. a fascinating protagonist. She certainly has edges. As well as battling her overly protective maternal instincts, she seems very ambivalent towards her husband. I had expected him to be the rock on which she leans as she negotiates this tricky investigation – but that role falls to Luna, her neighbour and local policewoman, who travels to Austin out of her jurisdiction to work with the crusty, recently divorced Champion heading up the case. Getting the measure of her character was every bit as interesting as the murder mystery, which has plenty of twists and turns – though I would have liked a sense that the victim was more than just a complete tosser who was universally unpleasant to everyone.

As for the denouement – while one of the key suspects was early on easy to spot, I certainly didn’t guess the motive or the actual murder suspect before the climactic reveal. This is an entertaining cosy murder mystery with plenty going on and an interesting protagonist. Recommended.

While I obtained the arc of The Student Body from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

Review of Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon

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I enjoyed Kingon’s quirky cosy murder mystery featuring her irrepressible protagonist Molly Marbles in Sherlock Mars – see my review here. So when the author contacted me, offering me the opportunity to read and review the prequel, I jumped at the chance.

It is a novel set in the future that tells the story of plus-sized Molly Marbles, who wins a scholarship to Armstrong University on the Moon, a haven for the plus-sized set where her weight drops from 287 Earth pounds to 47.6 without so much as passing up a piece of pie. When boyfriend Drew Barron dumps her, then jumps at a job at Congress Drugs, a company that makes low calorie food supplements, Molly’s weight is the least of her woes. And when her favorite treats, Chocolate Moons are found poisoned, she finds she has bitten off more than she can chew.

This space opera cosy mystery featuring food tells of how Molly recovers from her initial lost love and rebuilds her life – and about a crime that causes a number of chocolate lovers to fall into a coma. I love the details of the future depicted by Kingon’s breezy writing style – some of it is plainly a bit nonsensical, driven more by the word-play and humour, rather than any real possibility. So it is far more space opera than hard-core science fiction.

There is a large cast in this busy story, where by necessity a chunk of the narrative is told in semi-omniscient point of view. The plots and counter-plots where a number of the characters are trying to outwit each other and gain access to business opportunities or expensive works of art means I had to pay attention. Though I was far more interested in Molly than these nefarious deals, which tends to make the plotting something of a hot mess.

What kept me riveted to Molly’s narrative arc is the fact that she is a hefty lady who loves her food – and in Mars, where children are naturally born much slimmer and taller than Earthborn humans, she attracts a lot of attention, much of it hostile. I have read science fiction stories where the different body shape caused by different gravity drives a racist reaction – but what Kingon has done is to have a population define themselves by their body shape, which impacts on their diet and what they want to eat. In this book, Kingon highlights this consequence mostly as a humorous backdrop to the main action – but I did find this a really interesting aspect. Perhaps the reason why I zeroed onto this issue is because most of my family, including me, are allergic to dairy products, including milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter – and we are also vegetarians. So we also have foods we classify as ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

While I found some of the humour and word play not particularly funny, I did really enjoy Molly’s character. Overall, this book isn’t without some structural flaws, but Kingon writes with such sunny energy that pings off the page, I was drawn into the story and enjoyed the originality and quirkiness. Recommended for someone who likes to read something a bit different.
8/10