Read Recently — September 2015 — Mysteries

Words With Fiends by Ali Brandon

A sequel to Double Booked For Death (last seen Here)(possibly third in the series). Darla Pettistone is adjusting to being a NYC bookstore owner, and she and vicious thug bookstore cat Hamlet have adjusted and solved at least two other mysteries together. Hamlet is kind of traumatized by past events in the book I haven’t read; Darla winds up hiring a “cat whisperer”–excuse me, a “feline behaviorial empath”; a term he prefers because “the whole cat-whisperer thing sounds a little woo-woo“–whose whole approach to reading Hamlet’s problems consists of staring him in the eyes and apparently reading his mind. And, of course, being right. As he starts feeling better, Hamlet starts communicating with Darla by pushing books with significant titles off the shelves, so it isn’t like the cat whisperer is alone in bringing the woo to the book.

Darla herself is taking Karate classes (she may have undergone some trauma along with Hamlet in the second book) along with her teenage store clerk, who has fallen in love with the Sensei’s dog (you know me, I don’t judge. Two consenting sentient beings can be together if they want, but I don’t know about this . . .), an Italian Greyhound. Their Sensei is a Hollywood famous martial artist; the type with the walls of the dojo covered with pictures of them with famous people. He’s a nice enough guy, though the class is full of hostile people, all of whom turn out to be good suspects when the Sensei turns up dead. At first it looks like suicide (Darla and her clerk find the body when they arrive for a special belt test at a time when the dojo is otherwise closed), but the Police soon realize it is murder. Darla and Hamlet can’t stay out of it, though to her credit Darla does try. And the title comes from the fact that Darla is playing an online “Scrabble”(tm)-type game with randomly-matched opponents.

The Woo is strong in this one and it doesn’t fit (I’m obviously okay with stories with a strong fantasy element and indeed, there are many mysteries qua mysteries that feature supernatural detectives and/or victims (I mean stories that you would find shelved with the other mysteries in Indigo, rather than with the fantasy)) but this one won’t decide whether it’s got a fantastic element or not and putting more woo into it doesn’t make it better. I also felt that the redemption of no less than 4 characters from the dojo comes out of nowhere (they suddenly become good guys and cease to be suspects without any build-up) and thus doesn’t satisfy. Finally, if you’re paying attention you can spot the killer early, and then everything else is clearly flimsy red herrings.

My words for this round are: not satisfying, not recommended.

The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco: a book club mystery by Laura DiSilverio

I read and enjoyed DiSilverio’s first Mall Cop Mystery and at the time I bought this one hadn’t yet found any more in that series. This one is the start of a new series.

Amy-Faye Johnson, our first-person narrator, runs an event-planning business in Heaven, Colorado. Business is good since the town changed its name from Walter’s Ford; people seem to like the idea of getting married in Heaven and that was kind of what the city government was counting on.

Amy-Faye is also a member of the Readaholics, a group of her friends who get together and read a mystery novel together and discuss it. The novel in the period of this story is The Maltese Falcon, thus giving us the book title. One of the group members, Ivy, soon turns up dead after drinking herbal tea liberally dosed with oleander. The cops think it’s suicide, but the rest of the Readaholics aren’t so sure . . . as Amy-Faye starts investigating, and getting close to the handsome new cop in town (who for some reason I keep seeing as played by Matt Damon), she begins to receive anonymous (and sometimes highly creative) threats. Could the killer be willing to kill again to cover up the reason for Ivy’s death?

I was kinda mixed on this one. On the one hand, DiSilverio is a good writer and I have enjoyed her work before. On the other hand, I didn’t exactly feel drawn to the characters, and the setting . . . Heaven, Colorado, is pretty generic. Other things that bugged me included Amy-Faye’s nickname: “A-Faye”, the subplot involving her on-again-off-again ex-boyfriend’s wedding ended stupidly, and the fact that it takes about 30 whole pages between Ivy’s death to someone actually using the words “poison Ivy” together, in that order, in the same sentence. I got all the way to the end thinking I was going to not-recommend this one, and yet . . . I found myself at the end wondering what came next and thinking seriously about buying the next book. I’m not really sure why.

So, I guess I have to call it very, very mildly recommended.

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