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Next to Love: A Novel

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I found this book to be merely adequate. It is written in present tense "He is remembering..." "He goes down the stairs....", which seemed weird to me. The most interesting aspect of the book, for me, was the descriptions of what life was like in the 1940's and 1950's.
Princess Elizabeth's Spy: A Maggie Hope Mystery

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Maggie Hope is sent to Windsor Castle during WWII as Princess Elizabeth’s math tutor. However, as an employee of MI-5, she is actually there to discover who at the castle is working for the Nazis. This is a “cozy” mystery that will appeal to readers interested in life during the WWII period and also the British royal family and what their lives were like at this time. Maggie is an intelligent and likeable character, but I felt that the story relied a little too heavily on luck, coincidence, and hard-to-swallow situations, such as her escape from a German submarine. Still, an enjoyable enough read for the period details.
Black Mask 3: The Maltese Falcon: And Other Crime Fiction from the Legendary Magazine

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This is a 6-disc audio collection of stories from the pulp fiction magazine "Black Mask". The stories were first published in the 1920's and 1930's and sound dated to the current-day ear, but they provide a fascinating look at what life was like in those years. I was only familiar with two of the authors, Erle Stanley Gardner and Dashiell Hammett (writing as Peter Collinson). The other four authors, Keith Alan Deutsch, George Harmon Coxe, Frederick Nebel, and Lester Dent, were unknown to me after many years of reading mystery and detective fiction. There is a lengthy history of Black Mask in the Introduction. I personally found this somewhat dull, but someone with an avid interest in the history might find it to be very informative. Each story is preceded by a brief introduction of the author, which I enjoyed. I found all of the readers of the stories to be entertaining.I found this collection to be interesting and enjoyable. To me, the main value of these stories was in looking back at how life was lived in those distant decades.
A Catered Thanksgiving

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I started this book a while back and abandoned it after the fourth chapter. I found the dialogue short, choppy, and dull. There seemed to be a lot of unnecessary chit-chat that didn’t move the story along, and there were long descriptions of food and cooking that were unimportant to the plot. Characters seem undeveloped and uninteresting. I was surprised to see that this was the seventh book in a series, given what I found to be inferior writing. A couple of months later I decided to give it another try, hoping I would find my previous assessment incorrect—nope, I forced myself through ten chapters before once again abandoning it.
English Tea Murder

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Disappointing. The story takes place on a trip to England and the book is largely a travelogue.
No Mark upon Her

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Another excellent book in this series. What amazes me is the number of plot lines that Crombie can juggle in a book. Duncan Kincaid becomes the investigator in the murder of a high-ranking female police officer who is training to row in the Olympics. Her ex-husband becomes a suspect, as does another man with whom she’s had a relationship, an army vet with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Kincaid eventually finds, with the help of his wife, Gemma, that a serial rapist may also be a suspect. A high level cover-up at Scotland Yard is unveiled by Duncan and Gemma. We also learn about the world of competitive rowing, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and search and rescue dogs. As always, Duncan and Gemma’s family life plays a large part, as they are juggling work schedules to care for their two children and the child they are fostering. Though their domestic situation continues to evolve in each book, this one can be enjoyed without having read any of the previous books in the series.
Breakdown

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A fun book with all the usual Paretsky elements: an intricate plot that keeps you guessing until the end, a cast of characters large enough to need a scorecard to keep straight, a gritty Chicago-area setting (local residents can actually visualize V.I.’s movements), and the stable of familiar regulars (Lotty and Max, Mr. Contreras, etc.). A solid and entertaining novel.
Wicked Autumn: A Max Tudor novel

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This book should appeal to fans of Agatha Christie. It is a “cozy” mystery, the first in a new series, set in a small English village. The main character, Max Tudor, is an Anglican priest who was formerly an MI5 agent, a past which serves him well in assisting the police with a murder investigation. The victim, Wanda Batton-Smythe, head of the local Women’s Institute, has a knack for bullying and antagonizing everyone in the village, so the list of suspects is large when she is found dead. Max’s past as an MI5 agent, the event that caused him to turn to the priesthood, and his criminal investigation talents all make for an atypical village sleuth. The importance of the Women’s Institute, its function in village life, and the infighting it engenders are of interest to Americans, who have no counterpart. And there is a hint of potential romance in the future for unmarried Max: possibly the sexy doctor’s sister or the earthy owner of the New Age shop?The characterizations are especially rich in this book. The village has a large cast of characters, all very well developed. There is a list of all the characters, along with descriptions, at the beginning of the book. I feel that I will have no difficulty remembering the village inhabitants when the next book in the series comes along. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it.
Body Work

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Another winner from Sara Paretsky with a very involved plot and a cast of characters so numerous you may need a scorecard to keep track of them all. Private detective V.I. Warshawski becomes involved in a shooting that occurs at a nightclub where her young niece, Petra, is working. The nightclub features a woman known as the Body Artist, who allows anyone in the audience to draw on her nude body. The woman who is later shot at the club has been drawing pictures on the Body Artist that incense an Iraq war vet in the audience. He is the obvious suspect, until he is later found unconscious. Various possible motives, links between characters, and Paretsky’s usual assortment of crooks and thugs begin to appear. I found Warshawski’s actions at the end of the novel rather hard to believe, but altogether a very satisfying book.
Dial C for Chihuahua

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I did not care for this mystery. This book’s attempt at humor comes off as just plain silliness. For me, the dog was not very likeable, and Geri, the female sleuth, was undeveloped. Situations were unbelievable (apart from a talking dog). I was surprised to read on the book’s cover that the author teaches writing, as I was not impressed by the writing here.
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