I can’t understand how I’ve managed to miss such a wonderful series for so long. (Originally written by Heron Cavic, Hamilton Crane took over after his death.) But at long last I’ve discovered it, at book no. 23 in the series, so I’ve got a lot of reading to do to catch up.  I’m not complaining!

The books works perfectly as a standalone story. The long-standing characters and their relationships soon become very plain and so there’s no confusion about what’s going on. Miss Seeton, or Miss Ess as the computer insists on labelling her as, works as an artist for Scotland Yard. She has a sixth sense that appears in her pictures. She can’t see it, but The Oracle, Superintendent Delphick, knows how to translate her drawings and find the clues. He needs Miss Seeton with her sketchpad and umbrella wherever there’s a mystery that needs solving.

Miss Seeton is delightfully polite and apparently harmless, but she’s quite a force to be reckoned with. She’s clever and witty and courageous. In this story, for example, she heads up to Glastonbury Tor on her own, encounters a range of eccentrics but deals admirably with them all, and also goes up in a hot air balloon. Nothing fazes this elderly lady, although I think she’s a tiny bit scared of Martha, her housekeeper!

This is a busy book with three plot lines going on – a kidnap, a murder and a missing drugs stash – and they all weave themselves firmly around our demure heroine. Her drawings provide clues to help in solving them all. All the characters we meet are rounded and fascinating, and with the hippie, late 1970s setting in Glastonbury for much of the book we get to see some alternative interpretations of the local landscape and find out a lot about the Zodiac. All very interesting.

This is a quirky, fun novel. It’s a pleasure to read and has you chuckling every few pages at the wit and the bizarreness of the situations that Miss Seeton continually finds herself in.

The cover is classy and eye-catching (and clue-containing). All in all the book is a total delight.

Charity Ends At Home by Colin Watson is the fifth novel in the Flaxborough mystery series. The book has a smart, intriguing cover that gives a new, modern look to a novel that was first published fifty years ago. It recreates that era for us in a timeless way that doesn’t feel dated. We are conducted back in time very enjoyably.

The stately town of Flaxborough is awash with colourful characters. They’re not quite eccentric but definitely not quite ordinary. And a lot of them aren’t quite as respectable as they try to make out. The place is also awash with charities that don’t take very kindly to each other at all. So when a leading light of one of the charities is found dead, there are plenty of suspects, including her husband whose alibi quickly disintegrates.

DI Purbright leads the investigation, assisted by Sergeant Love. And there are another pair of investigators at work – Montgomery Hive and his friend Lucy Teatime. They interact, as do all the characters, in fascinating and delightful ways.

Comedy simmers below the surface in the form of razor sharp wit and situations that are almost ridiculous but somehow retain their dignity. An example is one magnificent scene where everyone is at cross purposes. The headteacher thinks one of his guest speakers, recruited at the last minute, is someone rather important but he is actually a private detective, although he’s masquerading as a photographer. He himself thinks he’s at a prize-giving rather than a careers evening. Add a few too many double whiskeys and some cheeky students and things don’t go as expected.

The whole book is full of wry observations and tongue-in-cheek humour, but it never collapses into farce or slapstick. This is what keeps the story lively, even though the action moves at a sedate pace and our characters are Britishly self-controlled. It’s thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.   

‘The Goat Parva Murders’ is a very entertaining and quirky cozy mystery. It’s populated with many very colourful characters who are a delight,even if some of them are a touch creepy. Our investigative heroes are Inspector Knowles and his sidekick Barnes. They have their hands full trying to make sense of things in Goat Parva, that’s for sure.

Julian Worker is a wonderful writer. There’s sharp observation of detail, loads of tongue-in-cheek humour, and an ingenious and imaginative plot. The story bounds along and drags you with it, with lots of action and excitement.

This is a super piece of writing, one of those indie gems that make you so grateful for the ebook revolution.

Murder She Knit is a gentle, enjoyable cozy. Yes, there’s a murder but it’s offstage, although the dead body is found in the garden of our heroine, Pamela Paterson. Widow Pamela is on her own now that her daughter Penny is off at college, but she has a busy life editing a craft magazine, and knitting and baking fill any time left. Plus there’s a stray cat that keeps appearing and demanding attention.

It’s her turn to host the Knit and Nibble group that meet on Tuesday evenings. At the last minute she invites an old acquaintance she unexpectedly bumps into that day. However, this friend, Amy, never arrives and she’s the body that Pamela subsequently finds, stabbed by a knitting needle.

Pamela, with help from friend and neighbour Bettina, sets about investigating. The mystery she untangles is well constructed, interesting and convincing. The town of Arborville, a small college town, offers plenty of possible needle-wielders. There’s some very special yarn involved, and another victim. The author keeps us all on our toes in guessing who the perp actually is.

The book is well written, with light touches and lots of tension. Pamela is a convincing and likeable heroine, and we’re quickly pulled into her world. We encounter lots of equally fascinating characters. Arborville is described in careful detail and starts to feel like home. And as an extra treat, after the exciting denouement, there’s a recipe and a knitting pattern for us.

An easy, absorbing read, and the first in a series that I look forward to following. And what a lovely cover!

From the very start, I was gripped by this novel. I have to confess that I thought I probably would be, as I’m a huge fan of Aaron Paul Lazar. And this wonderful author didn’t let me down.

Gus and his wife Camille are on a long-awaited and much-needed holiday. But, as is so true when you’re leaving family members behind, they’re torn. They need this break but they miss home too. This is just one of the lovely touches in this book. As with the other novels in this series, there is such a warm domestic background.  In fact warmth is what characterises the book: bad things happen, but there is security and love and loyalty in the background. Gus himself is such a warm likeable character. People can’t help opening up to him, and he can’t help getting involved. Camille is far more than a token sidekick. She’s a strong character, and has a strong role to play in this exciting mystery.

When a car crashes onto the beach close to him, Gus is drawn into a mystery concerning two feuding families. One is dysfunctional in the extreme whilst the other is very close but challenged. Sinister events pull Gus into thrilling events that have their roots in the eighteenth century. We have pirates and lost treasure alongside very modern problems, such a single mum struggling to make a living and also trying to save her baby’s father from the abuse he appears to be suffering at home.

The title Murder on the Brewster Flats is a clever one as there are actually two we learn about – one in the past, connected to the pirate element, and a modern one that puts several other characters in immediate danger. Also clever, there’s a crossover element: Gus and Camille encounter Jack and Scout Remington from the Paines Creek Beach series. It works so well!

This is an exciting and polished novel which you can’t put down. 

Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle by J.A. Lang is a very entertaining cozy mystery featuring Chef Maurice, whose large and very French moustache deserves its own postcode, and his friend and restaurant critic, Arthur Wordington-Smythe. It makes for a very appetising start to a series.
The scene is a small Cotswolds town of Beakley, which is lucky enough to have Maurice’s restaurant, Le Cochon Rouge, in it. I say ‘lucky’ because all the food he prepares sounds wonderful! Maurice is clearly extremely dedicated to his craft. So when Ollie, his fresh mushroom supplier, winds up dead this is not something our headstrong French chef will stand for. He immediately starts to investigate in his own somewhat eccentric way and makes miserable the lives of many of the locals, and especially that of PC Lucy. It’s not long before it seems that valuable and unusual English truffle are involved somewhere and so Maurice acquires Hamilton, a little pig with a lot of personality, from the local animal rescue centre. Hamilton’s sharp sense of smell in tracking down truffles comes in handy, but also gets him and his owner into trouble.
This is a quirky mystery with a clever plot and a host of larger-than-life characters. There’s a lot of very witty writing and it’s the sort of book that constantly has you chuckling as you read. It’s delightful and absorbing, and I for one will definitely be following the rest of Chef Maurice’s adventures.

This is short , lively cozy mystery, despite the fact that our two protagonists are retirees. Connie and Sable, who are sisters-in-law, join forces as private investigators to keep themselves busy. Sable is dragged rather unwillingly into it to start with, but she soon begins to enjoy herself and provides the tough edge and technological savvy that Connie lacks.

Their first case is looking into the disappearance of child-minder Rachel. She’s the sort of person who would never leave her clients in the lurch so there’s definitely something fishy going on. Connie and Sable relish the challenge and prove to be rather good at what they do, which includes irritating the local police force. Fortunately  DI Saffron McCue was a good childhood friend of one of Connie’s daughters, so she can’t get too cross with the well-meaning amateur detectives.

Lots happens in the story to keep both the dynamic duo and the reader on their respective toes. There’s humour, grit, confidence, doubt, triumph and terror. The plot is clever and keeps us guessing. The author’s writing style is clear and enjoyable, and she creates beautifully rounded characters for us to encounter.

An excellent start to a series which I shall be following.

My only quibble – well, I’m an editor so there has to be at least one! – is the title. I can see where it’s coming from since a child’s play area is involved in the story, and it also reflects the fact that the two ladies may be seen to be ‘playing’ at what they’re doing. But to me it doesn’t quite make sense. However, it’s catchy and concise.

I received a free copy of this book and have written this review voluntarily.

This is a murder mystery that involves a busy but secluded religious commune, New Life, headed by Father Ambrose. A trash bag containing the mutilated remains of a young girl is thrown onto their property, thus forcing the community to be dragged into the real world it tries hard to avoid as the murder is investigated.

The book begins very well and this author’s forte is in narrative writing. However, it rapidly gets bogged down with a lot of tedious and repetitive dialogue. Too often characters are telling, and retelling, each other things where it would be far more efficient if the author just told us, the readers, once. There are too many phone calls – two long ones in one chapter alone. Phone calls are notoriously difficult to portray in any novel – should we hear one side only, both sides, how much small talk need there be, and so on – and it’s best to avoid them if possible. Luckily these days we can have brief texts or emails to do their job, because as in this book, they do jar and slow the pace.

The plot is interesting and the descriptive writing generally excellent, but elsewhere the quality is much lower. The book is written in the third person but the author also uses, rather inconsistently, first person techniques such as direct thoughts. These rapidly become intrusive since you start to wonder why particular paragraphs are presented as his thoughts whereas others aren’t. There’s too much inconsistency. The majority of the characters aren’t well developed and remain shadowy.

There’s much to admire but generally I found this book disappointing after such a good start.

 

This is an office-based cozy mystery, which, it has to be said, makes a welcome change from the plethora of bakery-based ones! It’s set in Bostoff Securities where Janet Maple, our heroine, has just been given a job by long-time but rather controlling friend Lisa. Having worked in the DA’s office, Janet has a nose for intrigue and cover-ups. So she quickly becomes alarmed when she notices that things, such as the complicated company structures,  don’t seem to add up and starts to do a bit of digging. Janet finds herself in the awkward situation of suspecting her friend and boss guilty of wrong-doing. She’s not the only one. Her apparently nerdy work colleague Dean (the alias for Dennis Walker, an undercover agent) is on the case too and the pair find themselves working together, as well as becoming increasingly attracted to each other.

The author has a very clear, concise, polished style that makes for enjoyable reading. The characters are nicely rounded  and I suspect the major ones will develop further as the series progresses. The plot is clever and it’s interesting to get an insight into how a securities firm works. All in all, a different and enjoyable cozy, although it has to be said that Baxter the dog could do with being let out a lot more often!

I received a free copy of this book from the author, but this is a voluntary review.

This is a very polished cozy with lots of personality.

Our heroine Cassie, months away from becoming a fully qualified surgeon, is knocked down in a car park and the injuries she receives put paid to her career. She sinks into depression, so decides moving to London might be just the tonic she needs. In fact, she knows this must be the case when her mother, completely out of character, actively encourages her to spread her wings.

And so Cassie arrives in London. Despite having a generous compensation package to live off, she starts off in a hostel, into which she sneaks first a bike and later a cat! The bike is soon stolen and that sends Cassie to the police station where she bumps into DCI Tony Williams and his determined, straight-talking French colleague Violet Despuis, who quickly susses out Cassie’s medical past. And so when four people are poisoned at a soup stall, she tracks down Cassie to help her. Violet is someone you don’t dare say ‘non’ too (especially when Violet finds Cassie’s missing bike) and suddenly Cassie finds herself part of a crime-busting duo, and new owner one of the ginger cat of one of the murder victims.

Love interest arrives in the gorgeous form of ME Jake Edmonds, and this gives Cassie a boost, as does discovering that she’s not half bad at this detecting lark. True, she and Violet resort to breaking and entering, lying and deception to achieve results, but it works!

The author has given us a very interesting and unusual set of characters in this sparkling, clever cozy. It’s utterly absorbing and huge enjoyable. And it’s only the first in a series, so plenty more treats to come.