Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sticks and Scones

By Diane Mott Davidson

Goldy is a caterer and she has landed a three part job with the man who owns Hyde Castle. This fellow, who inherited the castle, wants all three meals to feature Elizabethan-era types of food. The castle was brought over from England and reassembled in Colorado. The owner, Eliot Hyde, has been renovating the castle with a view to converting it to a conference center. The three catered events are designed to highlight the castle and its amenities, so it is very important that all goes smoothly.
But a few hours before the first event, Goldy wakes up to a suspicious noise. Just as she is going to get out of bed to investigate, the front window of her house is shot out. The police are called and an investigation begins.
Goldy's husband, who is a cop, is out of town. He returns the next day and joins Goldy at the castle chapel just in time to get shot by an unknown assailant minutes after Goldy finds the body of a young man in the creek near the chapel. Tom, the husband, is helicoptered to the hospital with a serious but not fatal wound. Eliot lets Goldy, Tom and Goldy's son move into the castle until their window can be fixed. Goldy finds that she left her disk with her recipes at the house and goes back, alone, to retrieve them, where she is, not surprisingly, bonked on the head by a thief stealing their computers.
Tom is investigating a the theft of a valuable shipment of stamps in which the delivery driver was murdered. The young man whose body was in the creek was part of that robbery. Since Tom in incapacitated, Goldy sort of takes over the investigation which seems to be linked not only to the castle and its chapel, but also to Goldy's ex-husband, recently released from prison and now hooked up with a woman who was dating one of the men involved in the stamp robbery.

This was an okay read. It seemed very contrived to me. Too many people tied to too many other people in such a small location. And that whole secret love child part of the plot was just silly and unbelievable.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Deep South

By Nevada Barr

Leaving Colorado, Anna Pigeon has taken a position as the new district ranger on the Natchez Trace national park. She has two male rangers under her supervision one of which apparently resents his new boss. Not much time goes by before Anna discovers, with the help of her dog, the body of a teen girl. The girl, Danni, had a lot of baggage. An aspiring beauty queen, Danni's mom had insured her face for $40,000. Danni's brother is violent and angry, her mother is disturbed, her father indifferent, her boyfriend is upset, any one of them may have had reason to kill Danni. Or maybe she just was in the wrong place at the wrong time. As Annie discovers one dark night when she too is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This was an OK story. At one point, a prankster puts a six foot alligator under Anna's car and it attacks her dog and cripples it. I guessed then that eventually Anna would end up having the crap beat out of her. And so it was. It made me think of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, who managed to solve crimes without getting themselves almost killed in the process.
One thing, though, was the information about the Natchez Trace, about which I knew nothing. So that part was interesting. Actually, this was a pretty good read, if not quite my cup of tea.

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By Caroline Bridgwood

Set in the 1930s and 40s, this is the story of a British family, the Winstanleys.
Kitty Conway goes to live with the Winstanleys after her father dies, leaving her an orphan. Nim Winstanley was her mother's brother. He is the lord of Russington Hall and he has fascistic leanings, applauding what Hitler has done for Germany and claiming that Britain could learn a lot from him. Beattie is his wife and together they have several rambunctious children. The oldest is Irving and there are also Jack, for whom Kitty has a crush; Lexi, the blonde beauty; Frannie, who tries hard and is the same age as Kitty, and a couple younger ones. These kids are kind of wild and the girls are kept at home and educated by a governess who doesn't take her job very seriously. Kitty does her best to fit in and they are pretty nice to her, with some exceptions. But Kitty never does quite fit in, always a bit of the outsider, but not in a particularly painful way.
Everyone grows up and beautiful Lexi is engaged to marry a very wealthy young man. Shortly before the wedding is to take place, a young German man from her past appears and she runs off with him to Germany. When war starts, she is stuck there, with her two little children.
Frannie takes up with a Jewish man who is a communist. She follows him to Paris but he runs afoul of the Germans and is killed. She is also arrested and Kitty comes to France to try to help her. Jack is also in France, trying to make money on the black market. Kitty becomes part of Jack's black market activities. She also goes to Germany in an attempt to locate Frannie. She doesn't find Frannie, but she does find Jack after he is arrested for his black marketeering.
The war does finally end and the bedraggled remains of the Winstanleys come back home to Russington Hall, quite a bit changed by the events of the war, including Kitty, who, while not a Winstanley, still is pleased to be a part of their family.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hello Darling, Are You Working?

By Rupert Everett

Rhys Waveral has had some success in his life. He had a role on a TV show that earned him a lot of money. After the show ended, Rhys moved to Paris, France to a room in a nice hotel. He lives a life of leisure, drinking too much, taking too many drugs, staying up too late, and pretty much just wasting his life. But then the money is gone, lost in an economic downturn. Rhys now owes the hotel a lot of money and he needs work as fast as he can get it. So when he is offered a lot of money to spend a few days with a middle-aged woman at a party in Morocco, he has his misgivings but accepts. After all, he is no stranger to hustling, having spent his teen years as a prostitute in London.
His parents are concerned as is his fragile wife and they follow him to Morocco. Their intention is to intervene but they all get caught up in the debauchery as Rhys becomes more and more disenchanted with the way his life has been going. Those who should be there to help are drowning in the drugs, booze and promiscuity that Rhys longs to escape. And escape he does, flying away on a plane to his final destination.

Rhys is not a happy person. He is just drifting through life, with no particular goals except easing his pain with liquor and drugs. The loss of his money forces him to confront himself and his lifestyle and he really doesn't like what he sees but fears he cannot change. He is not a pleasant character nor are any of the people in the story, they are all selfish, shallow and stupid. This book is supposed to be amusing, but I was not amused. And the ending is not happy. It is entertaining in its way, like watching a freak show, if you like that sort of thing.
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The Love Knot

By Rebecca Brandewyne

Orphaned as a little girl, Verity Collier has been working as a teacher at the orphanage where she was raised. But she hates it. The pay is poor, the accommodations uncomfortable, the food meager. So she accepts a governess position in the wilds of Cornwall, far from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Stopping at an inn for supper, she falls into conversation with a mysterious stranger whose face is hidden in shadow. Then, riding in her new employer's coach on the way to his manor, she robbed by a highway man who is very similar to the man at the inn. The robber tries to steal her locket left to her by her mother, and she refuses to give it up. He then slices a lock of her hair and takes that instead and she continues her journey to her new job as governess to Lord Ransleigh's two young children.
Ransleigh's kids recently lost their mother. She fell to her death from a cliff at the nearby sea shore and somehow the two kids were involved.
When Verity arrives, Ransleigh is absent, away on business. The staff is welcoming and her new home is everything her previous place wasn't. Plus the kids seem really sweet, if a rather subdued. But all is not perfect. Verity is hearing a strange and threatening voice, warning her that her life is in danger. And there is talk of French spies in the area. And Ransleigh resembles the highwayman who stole a lock of her hair. And the servants are whispering that Ransleigh actually threw his wife off the cliff, that her death was not an accident. Yes, there are a lot of secrets and strange occurrences at the manor house.

This was an okay story. Verity and Ransleigh, of course, fall in love and he, of course, is the highwayman and the dead wife, of course, got what she deserved. And Verity, of course, saves the day and they all live happily ever after. Nothing new here, just your typical Gothic romance story. A fairly good story, but nothing special or particularly memorable.

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The Green Trap

By Ben Bova

Paul Cochrane is not at a good place in his life. He used to live in Massachusetts but moved to Arizona recemtly after his wife died in an automobile accident. But the change of scenery didn't really help that much. He does his job (he's a professor of astronomy) but other than that, he is just drifting.
Then his brother, who is a microbiologist in California, calls up and insists Paul come out there for a visit. The brother has something momentous to share with Paul but he won't tell him exactly what it is. So Paul flies out to California but arrives just in time to find out his brother has been murdered.
The brother has developed a process to extract hydrogen cheaply from water, a discovery that will revolutionize the energy industry. Needless to say, everyone wants to get their hands on his research. Some because they want to shut down big oil, some because they want to protect big oil and all because they want to make the big, big money.
Paul returns to Arizona and there he is visited by two people, both of whom want his brother's research and they are certain Paul has it or can get it. One of the people is soon dead and the other is a sexy and seductive woman who will do whatever it takes to get what she wants, which is money. She has a buyer for the research who will pay her $10,000,00 for it. She soon has Paul wrapped around her finger and convinced that she loves him.
Things go from bad to worse as various factions try to force Paul into giving up his brother's data. Paul finds himself threatened, beaten, terrorized and deceived. His world spirals out of control and he is driven to desperate measures, measures that gain him a brief triumph but ultimate defeat.

I hated this book. The characters, especially the woman, are not appealing. And the ending was just vile. A hateful and mean-spirited book, it has given me such a distaste for the author that I will never read any of his works again.

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