Mystery Monday #3: Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby by Amy Patricia Meade

For any reader, it’s fairly easy to get sucked into a new series just for the sheer joy of enjoying the characters so much that they cease to exist within the confines of a paperback and start leaping all over the page. And in the case of Amy Patricia Meade’s cozy mystery Million Dollar Baby, oddly enough, it wasn’t the main female lead – author Marjorie McClelland – that caught my attention but rather the rich, urbane and somewhat eccentric hero and reluctant sidekick Creighton Richard Ashcroft III. But before I get ahead of myself and spew adulation about the funny British debonair, I’d tell you the rest about the book first.

In post-Depression 1930’s, Marjorie McClelland has just published her new book Death in Denmark when she met Creighton Ashcroft, who moved in to Ridgebury, Connecticut after leaving his multimillion business in New York in pursuit of some other things in life. Marjorie asked Creighton to be her editor as he “doesn’t seem to be occupied much” with the latter agreeing not because he was the altruistic type but rather he finds the blond, green-eyed minx easy on the eyes. When the pair decided to check out Creighton’s new crib, Kensington House, the duo stumbled upon the bony remains of someone who might have been murdered in the mansion grounds (making Marjorie immediately suspicious of the British millionaire). Apparently, the famed abode boasts not only of a (describe place) but rather a sinister history of murder or suicide as well (just take your pick).

MY VERDICT:

One word: fun. Because Creighton made it so. He was charming, witty, and a little bit of maverick that hours spent on staking out potential criminals seem like adventures in themselves. To be honest, he made Marjorie tolerable. Not that she was bad; She was actually a colorful character. She’s smart, inquisitive and tenacious. However, her being kind of silly at times is something I couldn’t really appreciate (it works well in other female leads I’ve read about though; maybe it’s just hard to reconcile that idea with Marjorie McClelland). Plus, I can’t believe how she liked the police officer over Creighton, granting that the former is way handsomer than Creighton. For me, it’s not just about how handsome the guy is (though that will give you a better first impression); it’s much about how he can be fun, smart, kind, and resourceful when necessary. And Creighton’s cute, too, not to mention very witty (haven’t I mentioned that yet?). While reading, I couldn’t help thinking that maybe Marjorie needed prescription glasses in order to see that she and Creighton are more suited to each other (if their easy and at times prickly banter isn’t evidence enough). Sometimes, one can’t help but think that authors devise these “forks in the road” in order to make these female leads “redeem themselves” eventually.

On the other hand, I’d have to commend Amy Patricia Meade’s elegant world-building of the 1930’s Ridgebury community. I am not an expert on nor an enthusiast about the Depression era but the feelings evoked in the book somehow communicate how it was like living in a time when money has become a precious commodity many times over (I’d say it’s pretty much like how America and the rest of the world nowadays is). People were scrambling to find jobs, even taking a part-time just to augment the family income. And the book was spot on about that. The secondary characters which we meet in this series are rather remarkable in their steadfastness despite the economic crisis they were all facing. In fact, they give a distinctive color to the book and ultimately, the series.

As for the mystery, it wasn’t too easy to guess nor was it very hard to infer. I would have loved it to be just a teeny weeny bit complicated but since it has served its purpose then it’s all good. I would love to read more about Marjorie’s and Creighton’s deductive reasoning in the next books of the series though. Nothing like a new mystery to hone an amateur detective’s observation (and probably staking out) skills. :D


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Mystery Monday Logo and Art © The Traveling Reader, 2011. Book cover image © Amy Patricia Meade and Midnight Ink.

You can find out more about this book and the rest of the series on:
Series Info – Marjorie McClelland Mystery Series
Author’s Website – http://amypatriciameade.com
Author’s Blog – http://amypatriciameade.com/homepage-fade-slider/blog/
Twitter – @amypmeade
Goodreads – Amy Patricia Meade on Goodreads

Mystery Monday #2: The Ghost and Mrs. McClure

I know it took me a long time to produce a follow-up to my Mystery Monday #1: Secondhand Spirits post and I apologize for that. But here’s post no. 2 and hope you’ll like it as much as you did post. no. 1. :)

The Ghost and Mrs. McClure by Alice Kimberly

The first novel in this “hauntingly good” cozy mystery series by the hubby and wife writing tandem of Marc Cerasini and Alice Alfonsi, under the pen name Alice Kimberly, has introduced us to Penelope “Pen” Thornton-McClure, co-owner of Buy the Book, a quaint bookstore in an even quainter town of Quindicott, Rhode Island. Pen is a single mom eager to make a new life for her and her seven-year old son Spencer back in her hometown after witnessing her husband’s suicide and leaving her publishing job in NYC and her late husband’s elitist family.

But going back to Quindicott is no picnic in the park. The bookstore needed immediate renovations and inventory problems that had to be sorted. Without much hesitation, Pen cashed in her late husband’s life insurance policy to breathe new life into the bookshop that has been in her family for years. Pen also bought and annexed the “cursed” establishment next door making Buy the Book twice as big with enough room for book-related events that could house a sizable crowd.

And it was during the first affair organized by Pen that the mystery started. Timothy Brennan, author of the famed Jack Shield series, chose Buy the Book as the first stop in his Shield of Justice book tour. It was a calculated move as the spot where Buy the Book’s community center is located was the site of the unsolved murder case involving Jack Shepard, the real life hard-boiled detective for whom the Jack Shield books are modeled after. Tim Brennan had known the real Jack back when he was still a reporter and he wanted to cash in on that notoriety. But Jack Shepard the ghost was not happy. Yup. The infamous PI has been trapped in the premises of the bookstore since 1949 when his life was unfortunately snuffed out before he could crack the case he promised his friend he would solve. Quite baffling how only Pen could hear him in her thoughts even though he had played pranks with the construction workers as the bookstore renovations were going on. What started as a getting-to-know-you between our heroine and our ghostly gumshoe quickly became an unlikely partnership in solving the murder case of Tim Brennan’s untimely demise while promoting his latest opus.

MY VERDICT:
I like it. I like how the book was able to make me feel part of that darling Rhode Island community. Alice Kimberly was keen on painting vivid details so it was quite easy to picture myself going around Buy the Book and the other locations. Unlike other cozies when it was the main character who’s responsible for solving the crime, with the Haunted Bookshop Mystery Series, it’s actually a ghost who aids and ultimately solves the mysteries (I’m on to the third book now). So this kind of premise requires a suspension of belief on the reader’s part for him/her to accept certain circumstances like how Jack and Pen are able to communicate telepathically even if Pen acknowledged herself to be a skeptic about things psychical. But I’m rather imaginative so it wasn’t that hard to believe how a ghost could interact with the living in that singularly peculiar manner.

The only stumbling block maybe for me was Jack’s language that hailed all the way from the 1940’s Americana. English is not my native tongue so I consulted the Kindle Touch’s built-in dictionary more than a few times in order to better understand the context. Some of the slang weren’t even decipherable. But other than that, the book was really fun. The relationship between the MC and the secondary characters were hilariously charming. I sure want to feel that camaraderie again in the next books as I’m planning to read them. But what sold me in on the series is my burning curiosity as to what will become of Jack as the story progresses. Will the mystery behind his death be solved? Or will he remain an immaterial entity longing to have a slice of life that was inopportunely snatched from him? Maybe it’s kind of creepy how I think he and Pen could have something going on but I’m a romantic at heart so I’m hoping (and I’m crossing my fingers on this one) the authors would be able to provide something to satiate my wants for a hot romance between the lovable single mom and the supernatural investigator.

P.S. Read my review of the second book in this series – The Ghost and the Dead Deb on BookTrib:

http://mauiehernando.booktrib.com/reviews/the-ghost-and-the-dead-deb/


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Mystery Monday Logo and Art © The Traveling Reader, 2011. Book cover image © Alice Kimberly and Berkley Prime Crime, New York.

Alice Kimberly is the pseudonym employed by the popular writing couple Marc Cerasini and Alice Alfonsi in penning The Haunted Bookshop Mystery Series. They pair also go by Cleo Coyle in writing the very popular Coffehouse Mystery Series.

You can find out more about this book and the rest of the series on:
Series Info – Haunted Bookshop Mystery Series
Author’s Website – http://www.coffeehousemystery.com/cleos_haunted_bookshop.cfm
Author’s Blog (with other mystery authors) – http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com/
Twitter – @CleoCoyle
Goodreads – Alice Kimberly on Goodreads

Mystery Monday #1: Secondhand Spirits

Today marks an important event in The Traveling Reader’s calendar because today is the debut for Mystery Monday. Certainly, the start of the year deserves a resounding bang and a brand new blog feature. At the start of every week, I’m going to be reviewing mystery books, cozies most especially. Hope you are as excited as I am. :)

And as far as debuts go, we are starting off with a spine-tingling piece of murder.

If you’re looking for a fluffy read, then don’t try this, as it will only seduce you with how incredibly engaging it is.

Lily Ivory is a free-spirited witch who has lived like a nomad, traipsing from one world capital to another. As a child and a budding witch, she was staying under the tutelage and guidance of her grandma Graciela, an accomplished witch with a Mexican/Cuban origin, in a small Texan town. Unfortunately, before she could complete her training, an incident threatened to divulge her status as a witch (not that others haven’t noticed the peculiar events that seemed to happen when she’s around) so she had to scram before they could burn her. After years of being on the road, Lily has finally decided to settle and take up a business of selling vintage garments in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. In a relatively short time, Lily’s vintage clothing and curio shop, Aunt Cora’s Closet, bloomed and boomed under her care. With a handy talent for spotting rare vintage finds and outfitting people with clothes that flatter them, the witch has finally found a place she could call home while keeping her secret under wraps. Being a newcomer, Lily was a bit hesitant to open up to people lest she be outcast (not again) when they find out her true nature. But fate must have something in store for Lily when she had to use her powers to get to the bottom of a mystery involving a dead client, missing children and a powerful spirit.

I literally knocked myself on the head (only a bit as I read this book through kindle which was only lent to me..hehe) when I finished Secondhand Spirits. I was only expecting a tepid storytelling peppered with details that make it a cozy mystery. Boy, was I wrong. The book, being the first in Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mystery Series, did not only lay the foundation for the rest of the books but it has suckered me in through the crisp dialogues, descriptions and a solid mystery case. Lily Ivory is quite a character herself. She’s a professional witch – one who knows what she can and can’t do – yet doesn’t hesitate to call in help from other paranormal experts. I truly truly like hearing her voice as she narrates the lovely time she has running her store plus meeting (and trusting) new friends. She’s smart, decisive yet is not too perfect not to be plagued by bouts of insecurity. After all, one has to be very careful when dealing with paranormal deviates as they operate on Maslow’s law – if something could go wrong, it really could in ways you can’t and won’t imagine.

Another thing that endeared this book to me was the romance. It wasn’t love-at-first-sight nor a forced occurrence. It naturally flowed with the story that I was so caught up in it long before I realized what’s happening. You’d really ache for Lily to find her HEA (happy ever after, that is). Max Carmichael was a reluctant hero and rescuer. He was a mythbuster after all with a natural distaste for anything magical or weird so being in like/lust with a witch is something he was loathe to do. But what could he do if Lily Ivory turned out to be more complicated and likeable than a potion brewed under the moonlight?

So I repeat.

If you’re looking for a quick, easy read with no flesh or bones, then don’t read this. But if you’re prepared to invest your time, effort and heart in a world of vintage clothes, strong female bonds, romance and magical mysteries, then this one’s for you. Read Secondhand Spirits and you won’t regret it. I should know as I’m now researching more about SanFo just for kicks. ;)

P.S. For more of Lily Ivory and her hippie gang, read my review of the second book in this series – A Cast-off Coven on BookTrib:

http://mauiehernando.booktrib.com/reviews/a-cast-off-coven/


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Mystery Monday Logo and Art © The Traveling Reader, 2011. Book cover image © Juliet Blackwell & Signet.

You can find out more about this series on:
Series Info – A Witchcraft Mystery Series
Author’s Website – http://julietblackwell.net/
Author’s Blog – http://paranormalartmysteries.blogspot.com/
Twitter – @JulietBlackwell
Goodreads – Juliet Blackwell on Goodreads