Monday, December 14, 2009

Mystery Monday!

Yes, I am taking a break from holiday craziness to get caught up on a few reviews. Several of my favorite mystery series have had recent additions.

Swan for the Money by Donna Andrews: I really enjoy the Meg Langslow mysteries, and this one was no exception. This is the eleventh entry, and by now, the characters are old friends. Andrews keeps the series fresh with a full complement of supporting characters (especially Meg's crazy family) and venue changes. In this case, Meg has been hornswaggled into overseeing a rose show. I don't have much interest in flower competitions, so I wasn't sure how exciting this entry would be, but the rose information is well-incorporated and not belabored. The prize-crazy participants, including a saboteur and a dognapper, add to the chaos and humor. An enjoyable entry in a long-running favorite. Start with the first, Murder WIth Peacocks.

Source disclosure: I purchased this book.

Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke: I enjoy Hannah Swensen's mysteries and recipes, and the twelfth in the series, set during the Christmas season in Lake Eden, Minnesota, was a fun visit with familiar characters. The solution to this one was on the lame side, I thought, but the murder isn't the real draw in this series. I still find Hannah's chaste love triangle to be contrived and really implausible: Mike and Norman, her beaux, are friends with each other, and neither is bothered by her dates with the other. I have been wishing for the past few books that Fluke would just have her pick a guy and be done with it, but this is not that book. However, this entry introduces an unforeseen complication that may make the next book a doozy. Oh, have I not mentioned the murder? Larry, the owner of the Christmas tree farm, is shot in his trailer after eating Hannah's plum pudding (with actual plums!). He wasn't a particularly sympathetic guy, so I didn't care that much about the sleuthing. Hannah's holiday preparations (especially her cat, Moishe, and his response the the Christmas tree) and the mystery of Norman's mother's odd behavior are more engaging. Start with the first in the series, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.

Source disclosure: I purchased this book.

The Tale of Briar Bank by Susan Wittig Albert: I could not love this adorable series more, and it seems clear that Wittig Albert is having a great time writing it. This book blends facts from Beatrix Potter's life in the winter of 1909 with an imaginative tale involving Viking treasure, a dragon, and the local animals trying to crack the apparently accidental death of a man whose head was clobbered with a falling branch. But what of the claw marks on the tree? A delightful blend of biography, historical fiction, fantasy, and gentle mystery. Start with the first, The Tale of Hill Top Farm.

Rotton to the Core by Sheila Connolly: I really enjoyed the first in this series, One Bad Apple, and was looking forward to the next installment. I was very pleased with the follow-up. Meg Corey is settling into ownership of an apple orchard in Granford, Massachusetts, having hired a student to help manage the orchard. A young man is found dead in her orchard, and turns out to have ties to her manager. The victim, Jason, was part of GreenGrow, an organization promoting organic farming. Was his death a political statement, or something personal? Meg is a complex, interesting protagonist, and Granford a charming setting. The information about apple orchards is well-incorporated and fascinating.


susanalbert said...

Thanks for including the Cottage Tales in your roundup. I'm glad you're enjoying the series--I certainly am! An update: Book Six (The Tale of Applebeck Orchard) just appeared; Book Seven (The Tale of Oat Cake Crag) is finished and will be out in September 2010; and Book Eight (the last book in the series: The Tale of Castle Cottage) will appear in September 2011.

allisonmariecat said...

Thank you for stopping by! I have Applebeck Orchard on my list to pick up, but that's great news about books seven and eight...although I'll be sad to see the series end.