I love mysteries and read three very different ones during the month of March.
A Batter of Life and Death by Ellie Alexander is the second book in the Bakeshop Mysteries series. I haven’t read the first so this is an introduction to the characters and setting for me. I was hooked from the first page when I discovered that the setting was Ashland, Oregon, known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and all things outdoorsy. I have been there numerous times so the setting is familiar. Jules, the main character, has returned to Ashland to help her widowed mother run their bakeshop Torte. Early on, Jules learns that Ashland has been chosen as the setting for a reality TV baking show. When one of the chefs (a drunken jerk) is murdered, Jules is drafted to be a contestant. Being a nosy sort (as all good amateur sleuths must be!), Jules begins to nose around for clues as to the murderer. Secrets about each of the other contestants emerge. The climax occurs in one of the theaters, as it should in Ashland.
Jules is a strong woman and likeable character, as is her mother. My only problem is that she is apparently separated from her husband, Carlos. We only know him from her point of view so as a reader; I only have a vague idea of who he is as a person. As such, I have no interest in her relationship with Carlos. Jules needs to make up her mind so this doesn’t detract from the mysteries. I have to say that the setting really does make a difference – lots of Shakespearean references and artistic people.
This book was a winner for me. It was a fast, fun read with an interesting setting and characters and a tight plot.
Paw Enforcement by Diane Kelly is the first in a new series and I listened to this book. For Janet Evanovich fans, this is a book for you! Policewoman Megan Luz has anger issues and is assigned a new partner who is a bitch – a real bitch named Brigit. Neither wants to partner the other. When Brigit alerts Megan to a problem in a mall lunch area, Megan discovers a bomb and is able to clear the area before it explodes. It is from this point on that the two begin to bond as a team. Someone who calls himself The Rattler has set the bomb and Megan is able to work with the Detective assigned to the case (she eventually wants to make detective). Megan also starts an on-again/off-again romance with Shane who works on the bomb squad.
The story is told from three points of view: Megan, Brigit and the Rattler. As a listener/reader, we know the identity of the Rattler well before Megan.
This is a lighthearted read. Megan, with her anger issues, comes across as really human. She is intelligent but (as Brigit would tell you if she could!), Brigit is smarter than Megan. Although it is somewhat odd to know the bomber early in the book, it was fun to see the process that the police and bomb squad went through during the investigation. I look forward to future outings with these two!
On a more serious note is The Gentle Art of Murder by Jeanne M. Dams. Dorothy Martin is an American married to a retired policeman. They live in the Cathedral town of Sherebury. This book is all about Art. The head of the Art Department at the local university is found dead at the bottom of the elevator shaft. Since he was hated by all of the art department instructors, anyone could be the killer. Dorothy does her usual snooping and what she learns helps the local police find the murderer.
This series can be hit-or-miss for me. This one is a hit. Dorothy is a delightful, older lady sleuth (with a penchant for wearing hats) with a very understanding husband. The plots are always complex and tight and it can be difficult to figure out the murderer before the big reveal. In this book, it’s obvious from early on that the killer is a seriously disturbed person and people in the art department are in real danger. That seriousness is often missing in mysteries these days.
Just a note: Dorothy meets up again with artist Penny Brannigan (from the Elizabeth J. Duncan series). It’s always fun to have characters from other series cross-over. Ms. Dams has also named a character in this book after another author, Gillian Roberts.
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