Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

Despite being England's figurehead, Queen Elizabeth II is feeling a bit down.  She secretly decides to travel to Edinburgh from Buckingham Palace to visit her retired yacht, Britannia.  Dressed in a skull hoodie, she makes her way to the train station.  The close members of her staff are stunned to discover that she's missing and decide to find her on their own, without help from the outside authorities.  There's Shirley (her dresser), Anne (her lady-in-waiting), William (her butler), Luke (her equerry), and Rebecca (from the stables).  They are joined by Rajiv, who works at the cheese shop where the cheddar for the Queen's horses is purchased.  Throughout the ordeal, the reader gets to know these six people intimately, and hopes that their fondness for the Queen will ensure that she will be brought back safe and sound--without a lot of fuss.  Mrs Queen Takes the Train is a delightful novel for anglophiles and people who enjoy character-centered cozy stories like Major Pettigrew's Last Stand ,  Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English, and the books of Maeve Binchy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Finding Casey by Jo-Ann Mapson

In this sequel to Solomon's Oak, Juniper is now in college and her adoptive parents, Glory and Joseph, have moved into a new home that has a ghost they've named Dolores.  Glory is surprised to find herself pregnant, since she's in her forties--she hopes that it will be trouble-free.  Juniper, meanwhile, still cannot forget her older sister, Casey, who disappeared eight years ago.  Juniper believes Casey's still alive and hopes to someday know what happened to her. Interspersed with the Vigil family's holiday season story is the tale of a young woman named Laurel Smith, who has secretly left a place called the Farm to take her seriously ill daughter to the hospital. Suspicious of everyone because of her own sheltered, isolated life, Laurel hopes that her daughter, Aspen, will get well.  In Finding Casey, Mapson has created a story with a great sense of place in the setting of Santa Fe and characters that are extremely likable and that the reader roots for.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society by Amy Hill Hearth

Dora, newly divorced, is bored working in the post office in the then-small town of Naples, Florida in 1962. When Jackie Hart moves from Boston with her family it's like a breath of fresh air to Dora and the other outsiders in the town. Jackie has the idea of creating a book group that meets at the local library. Its members are Dora, Jackie, Miss Lansbury (the librarian), Robbie-Lee (who happens to be gay), spinster Plain Jane, elderly Mrs. Bailey White (just released from prison for killing her husband), and African-American servant, Priscilla. The group bonds through their meetings and finds strength from each other when they need it--which is often in the conservative and racist town. Despite the presence of social issues, there is a lightness that shines through the novel. An enjoyable, at times quirky read.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino

Toyko businessman Yoshitaka Mashiba is found dead in his home, poisoned by some coffee.  The prime suspect is Mashiba's wife, Ayane, but she was away for the weekend, visiting her parents in Sapporo. Ayane's apprentice in her quilting business, Hiromi Wakayama, found Mashiba and called the police.  It seems they were having an affair.  Detective Kusanagi feels that Hiromi is their prime suspect, while his female colleague Kaoru Utsumi feels that Ayane is responsible-- although proving her guilt will be extremely difficult. The reader knows, however, that Ayane did the deed. With the help of professor Manabu Yukawa, whose nickname is Detective Galileo, they hope they will succeed.  Salvation of a Saint is the second book to feature Kusanagi and Yukawa.  It's a real treat for people who enjoy a good puzzle and the intricacies of trying to prove guilt.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham

Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths keeps to herself on the Cardiff police force.  In her teens, she had a breakdown, the specifics of which she hides from both her colleagues and the reader.  Right now, she is working on the case of a retired cop named Brian Penry (who stole money from a school he was working for), yet she finds herself drawn to an investigation into the murders of a prostitute, Janet Mancini, and her young daughter, April.  Given the task of tracing why wealthy, missing (and presumed dead) businessman Brendan Rattigan's debit card was found at the crime scene, Fiona finds herself digging even deeper into the case, going beyond the bounds set by her superiors. Will Fiona succeed in finding justice for both Janet and April while not losing her job or sanity in the process?  I had very high expectations for Talking to the Dead, based on a couple of starred reviews in library publications.  While it was good, it isn't in the same league as Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton, The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill, or Blue Monday by Nicci French, which would be good read-alikes.