Book Review:The Richebourg Affair

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The Richebourg Affair

By R.M. CartmelThe Richebourg Affair

309 pages

R.M. Cartmel’s novel, The Richebourg Affair is a solid, satisfying mystery set in the tiny village of Nuits-Saint-Georges, France. Commandant Truchaud, a decorated member of the Paris police department receives a call that his brother has died, and he must return home to Nuits-Saint-Georges immediately. His commanding officer insists Truchaud take at least a month off to go home to his family’s Domaine where he can properly attend to the burial of his brother. He also needs to make sure the rest of the family as well as their wine business is on steady footing before he returns to his post in Paris.

He arrives home to find his father in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the family business possibly involved in underhanded dealings and ghosts of his past rearing their heads at the most inopportune times. Truchaud finds a murder victim from an adjoining Domaine soon after his arrival home. Could his brother’s death have been murder instead of the suspected heart attack?

Helping the local police, Truchaud is knee deep in the investigation when he finds himself in more danger than he thought possible in his quiet hometown known for much sought after wines. Rich Burgundy, not blood is supposed to be flowing, but treachery and lies have fermented along with wine for years and the corks are about to pop.

The Richebourg Affair took me a little bit longer to read than a run of the mill mystery due to the different names for the various characters’ roles. Thanks to Cartmel’s handy listing (starting on page 305) of each character’s name and the role in which they play, it made it easier for me to identify each of them. The village is added to my list of main characters, because without this famous wine-producing village, there would not be a story.

I loved this book. So much so, that I researched the cost of the famous Richebourg wine that is discussed by the wine experts throughout the story. I will only be able to dream about the heady bouquet and flavors dancing on my tongue as $1800.00 USD would blow a hole in my budget the size of a Parisian vacation. However, there are more budget friendly options from Nuits-Saint-Georges, which I just might have to purchase for a special occasion.richebourg-2963-1-3

Much to my surprise, this is R.M. Cartmel’s first novel. It is layered with well-developed characters and a solid mystery in addition to the murder(s) set in a most interesting place. It teaches readers about wine growing and producing without a drop of boring lecture. All of the information is skillfully tucked into the story fitting perfectly as a backdrop, but always present. The reader has all of the answers needed to tie up loose ends when Truchaud hosts a dinner with all of the officers on the case as well as those affected by the happenings in the village. After the perfect end to a great story, I am looking forward to many more adventures of Commander Truchaud.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Image of a classic Richebourg label from wine-researcher.com (http://sr3.wine-searcher.net/images/region/richebourg-2963-1-3.jpg)

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Rollover by Susan Slater Keeps the Reader Guessing

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Rollover

Susan Slater

220 pages

Rollover by Susan Slater is the second book in the Dan Mahoney mystery series. Mahoney, an insurance investigator from Chicago, is sent by his company to Wagon Mound, New Mexico because a client’s necklace was stolen during a bank heist. United Life and Casualty will have to pay out a half a million dollars if the claim is valid, so they send out the best investigator they have.

Before Mahoney makes it into town, he and his Rottweiler, Simon are in a horrible accident that lands the investigator in the hospital. Simon is missing and Mahoney cannot communicate. Elaine, Mahoney’s girlfriend flies in to be with him. She helps him recover and stays to help him investigate the theft because he needs a hand and she really cares for him.

Mahoney talks to Gertrude Kennedy, the owner of the missing Tiffany necklace. It is a beautiful antique sapphire and diamond necklace designed by her grandfather as a gift to her grandmother. It has survived the fateful trip on board the Titanic. Gertie and her daughter Penelope really want Mahoney to find the necklace rather than pay the insurance money because it is priceless to them.

Things start heating up when Mahoney finds more questions than answers during his investigation. The thieves tunneled into the safe deposit box room instead of into the safe. The set up to the theft had to take so much time, it was quite possibly an inside job. For a tiny town, there is more than the usual number of suspects. Add attempted murder, kidnapping and an actual murder and this case may be too hot for Mahoney to handle.

Slater based her work of fiction on an actual unsolved bank robbery at the Norwest Bank in Wagon Mound, New Mexico in 1998. Like her fictional characters, the robbers tunneled into the safe deposit room instead of the safe. Unlike her work of fiction, the real bank robbery was never solved.

http://www.poisonedpenpress.com/five-oclock-shadow/

http://www.poisonedpen press.com/five-oclock-shadow/

I loved the story, pace and characters in this mystery. All of the craziness in the small town setting was totally believable, by the end of the novel, I suspected everyone except Mahoney and Elaine. The pace was faster than a rollover accident, I couldn’t put it down until I read one more chapter. Until Ms Slater writes her next book in the Dan Mahoney series, I will read her other books, Flash Flood, Five O’clock Shadow and O to 60. I suggest you do too.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review

Book Review: This Private Plot by Alan Beechey

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This Private Plot  by Alan Beechey

Poisoned Pen PressThis Private Plot

ISBN-978146202407

305 pages Genre: Mystery

Alan Beechey’s latest, This Private Plot,is a wonderful romp. His character,  Oliver Swithin, is a children’s book author that is currently working on a trivia book. We travel with him to his childhood home in a small village appropriately named Synne, which I am pretty sure is pronounced “sin”. Swithin is with his girlfriend, a police officer that reports to Swithin’s uncle, who is also on holiday in Synne.

While out on a naked midnight romp in the “Shakespeare Race” an authentic turf maze, our couple finds Dennis Breedlove, a former children’s television personality, hanged. The police think it is suicide, because a blackmail note is found. It turns out that Breedlove is actually the blackmailer.

Swithin is on the trail of the killer. Several trails actually. Convinced that one of the blackmailers is the killer, Swithin tries to match up suspects with the nursery rhymes Breedlove used to identify them. With the help of his girlfriend and unheeded warnings from his uncle to stop, he discovers that Synne has more than its share of secrets. They include a strange writing group run by the Vicar, a couple which may be the same person, a recluse monk and possibly his own family.

All of sleuthing is going on while Swithin’s brother is trying to prove there were two William Shakespeares and his uncle is starring in a local theater production of Hamlet. There are great tidbits of information on Shakespeare as well as other bits of trivia shared by Swithin while this story unfolds.

Beechey is a master of double-entendre. From names such as Lesbia Weguelin (to which I read “let’s be a wigglin’) to the name of the actual town. Swithin talks often about living in Synne. More than once, I stopped to read a particularly funny line to whoever was near me at the moment.

This mystery is so wonderfully British in the spirit of Agatha Christie with the humor of P.G. Wodehouse, I simultaneously laughed and was intrigued. At times, this book was a bit bawdy, but never graphic, I did not find it offensive. Deliciously tangle plot that is perfectly tied up by the end of the book, with a beautiful, unexpected twist at the end.

This is the third book in Beechley’s Oliver Swithin Mystery Series. It was the first one I’ve read and worked very well as a stand-alone mystery. Swithin is an endearingly wacky character. I want to see more of him and the other characters that Beechley skillfully brings to life  .

 

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Book Review: Now You See It by Jane Tesh

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Now You See It

Jane Tesh

Poisoned Pen Press

ISBN-9781464201967

230 pagesNow you see it

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Genre: Mystery

Camden’s renowned singing voice is not the only thing missing in the latest book in the Grace Street Mystery Series. Randall is hired to find a missing diamond bracelet for a local socialite. Then a priceless magic box once owned by Harry Houdini disappears, plunging Camden and Randall knee deep in mysterious world of local illusionists when they attempt to find it.

Fuel is added to the fire because the Finch brothers were holding a contest involving the box, which offers a piece from their magic collection to the person who wins. An ongoing rivalry among the magicians also hinders the search for the Houdini relic. Then one of the magicians winds up dead, and Randall’s girlfriend Kary goes undercover as a magician’s assistant to help him solve the case.

Randall has more on his mind than finding the lost items and solving a murder. His personal life is more stressful than his PI business. Kary will not marry him even though she loves him because they cannot agree on something very important. Kary wants children and Randall cannot get over the accidental death of his daughter, Lindsey. Pictures of her break his heart, and he recently received a DVD with Lindsey’s last dance recital on it that he cannot bring himself to watch.

Cam has finally decided to pop the question to his longtime girlfriend Ellin but literally does not have the voice to ask her. He is afraid she will turn him down. Shelia Kirk, the wife of a new sponsor, has taken over Ellin’s show and office leaving behind chaos and craziness.  The forceful woman has some crazy new ideas for the Psychic Service Network TV station and Ellin is not happy.

All of the elements of this book come together magically by the last page. It was fun to see how each part of the separate, yet connected plot came to a satisfying conclusion. It is fun to learn some little known facts about Houdini and magicians in general

I liked Tesh’s characters in Mixed Signals. I loved them in Now You See It. Maybe I knew them better, or maybe their vulnerability had me pulling for them to solve the mystery and overcome their personal demons to find happiness.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2013 Laura Hartman

Book Review: Outrageous October by Barbara Levenson

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Outrageous October

Barbara Levenson

296 pages

Reviewed by Laura Hartmanoutrageous_october_book_cover

Outrageous October is the third book in Barbara Levenson’s Mary Magruder Katz Mystery series. The book opens with a year-old murder in High Pines, Vermont. How could Miami criminal defense lawyer Mary Katz possibly get involved with a cold case half a country away?

Mary Katz’s law office in Miami is successful. She is happy and content living with her fiancé Carlos, a hot Latin that she is crazy about and her beloved German Shepherd Sam. After winning a court case, she calls Carlos to make a dinner date to celebrate. He begs off saying he has a business meeting. Not wanting to dine alone after her day, she calls a girlfriend to join her for dinner. Unfortunately, they choose the same restaurant that Carlos has chosen for his “business meeting” with his ex-wife.

Mary runs out of the restaurant distraught. Her friend has a home in High Pines, Vermont, and suggests some time and distance might help Mary heal her broken heart. She agrees, packs up Sam and leaves without allowing Carlos to explain. She returns his engagement ring with a note that explains she cannot live with a man that lies to her. The only person that knows where she is going is her friend, whom Mary swears to secrecy.

Sam and Mary arrive in the tiny Vermont town where everyone knows her name because her friend had to announce her arrival to the caretaker of the home where she is staying. She soon finds out that small towns have no secrets, but mysteries surround her.

Due to a wrong turn on the unmarked mountain roads, she accidently stayed in the wrong home the first night. It happened to be the home in which the murder happened the previous October. Sam barks and growls at suspicious noises and a locked upstairs door. Is someone in the house? Is it haunted? Why is there an SUV parked in the barn one day and gone the next?

Mary moves to the right home with the help of her new friends in High Pines. These friends include Dash, a handsome lawyer that could use an extra lawyer to help with his caseload. Mary agrees to take a case that seems straightforward, but becomes entangled with seedy characters and possibly a murderer. Dash has more in mind than a business relationship, but Mary is still in love with Carlos, even though he shattered her heart.

Levenson weaves a plot that is full of energy and draws the reader in with unanswered questions and emotions that tie up neatly before the end of the novel. Her colorful characters are interesting and intriguing, coming to life on the page. This is the first book by Levenson I’ve read, but it easily can be read as a stand-alone novel. I plan to read the previous two books in the series, Fatal February and Justice in June. The fourth in the Mary Magruder Katz Mystery Series, Neurotic November is due out this winter. Mystery fans looking for a new series should try Ms. Levenson’s books.

Copyright © 2013 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Book Review: Capacity for Murder by Bernadette Pajer

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Capacity For Murder

Bernadette Pajer

Poisoned Pen Press

252 pages

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Capacity For Murder, the third book in Pajer’s Professor Benjamin Bradshaw Mystery series, opens with a cry for help via telegram from Dr. Hornsby, owner of Healing Sands Sanitarium in Ocean Springs, WA. The Dr. begs Professor Bradshaw to come to him immediately, because he is a leading expert in electricity and there has been an “accident of electrical nature”.

Reluctant to leave Seattle for the untamed coastal retreat, Bradshaw declines at first. Nevertheless, the lure of mystery, science and the fresh ocean air eventually convinces him to help. He sets off with his young son, the college students from his summer school class, his close friend Henry and Henry’s sister Missouri.

Upon his arrival at Healing Springs, Bradshaw finds Dr. Hornsby an emotional mess. He appears to have accidentally killed his beloved son-in-law with an electrotherapy machine. The Professor soon realizes the machine was sabotaged, making this a murder, not an accidental death.

The patients at the Sanitarium are sequestered on the property until the killer is found. The odd  rules and foul smelling food served is as off-putting to the Professor and his group as the array of strange characters they have to interview. Most of them seem to have the motive to kill the victim.

The reader learns about Professor Bradshaw’s personal life as he fights his attraction to Missouri as the demons in his past that keep him from her. Meanwhile, Henry plays a perfect Dr. Watson to Bradshaw’s Sherlock Holmes as they look for clues to find the killer.

Pajer brings history to life through this wonderful work of fiction set in the early 1900’s.. Oftentimes I read books that have facts in them that I assume to be true, but they could possibly be a fragment of the truth wrapped in fantasy to fit the story line. Capacity For Murder has a seal on the front proclaiming it was “Peer Reviewed & Approved for Science” by the Washington Academy of Sciences.

This certification cannot be taken lightly. Her manuscript was approved and certified after a “rigorous scientific review” determining the science in her novel is accurate. This is by far the most interesting and enjoyable science lesson I have ever read.

Professor Bradshaw and his cohorts are likeable characters. The mystery was fun to try and solve along with them as the clues stacked up. Sometimes I find it is difficult to pop into an established series without reading the previous books. This is not the case with Pajer’s book. I did not feel lost or confused; she perfectly wove in backstory without dwelling on it to bring new readers into the story. This is a solid standalone mystery, and I enjoyed it so much I will seek out the first two and look forward to a fourth.

Copyright © 2013 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Book Review: Holy Smoke by Frederick Ramsay

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Holy Smoke

Frederick Ramsay

Poisoned Pen Press

ISBN-978-1-46420090-8

247 pages

Genre: Mystery

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Holy Smoke is the product of burning sacrificial animals. Frederick Ramsay explains the history and ritual of Holy Smoke in the most interesting way: in the midst of a mystery. Holy Smoke is the final book in a trilogy set in Jerusalem in the year 29 C.E.

Gamaliel, the highest-ranking Rabbi in Judea and his friend Loukas, a knowledgeable and trusted physician find themselves in the mist of murder and intrigue. A body is found in the holiest place in the Temple.  This is no ordinary murder – the charred body is a sign from an angry God or someone managed to dump a body in the place considered the most sacred place on earth for Jews without getting caught.

The mystery widens out into the far corners of Jerusalem. If God didn’t kill the victim, the murderer could be lurking in plain sight. Will Gamaliel and Loukas solve the mystery before becoming the next victims?

Ramsay’s novel is interesting on so many levels, it appeals to a wide range of readers. Mystery lovers will enjoy the challenge of this well written novel’s twists and turns.  If you are fond of cozy mysteries, Holy Smoke, by definition, fits. It has two very unlikely sleuths plunked in the middle of a crime, in an interestingly different setting and the murders are all done “off camera” without blood and gore.

If this isn’t enough to tempt you, add in the bonus of learning really cool facts about life and customs in Jerusalem when it was under Roman rule.  This includes mention of a controversial young rabbi from Galilee shaking things up by doing things like healing someone on the Sabbath, which is against Jewish law.

Frederick Ramsay is as interesting as his book. Check out his website http://frederickramsay.com/ and you will begin to understand where his ability to write so many diverse novels comes from. His background includes serving in the Army, teaching, theology, insurance salesman and working at the BWI airport.  It is the reader’s good fortune that he took all of his life experiences and began to spin stories to intrigue, enlighten and entertain us.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Copyright © 2013 Laura Hartman

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