This is a thoroughly enjoyable cosy mystery set in Maine, although we get to find out a few other countries such as Egypt and the Sudan, and it all starts with a tourist ride on the Penhallow and Mooseland Lake Railway. What a wonderful name!

Rachel Tinker is a volunteer on the railway – she sells the tickets – so when a dead body is found on the train when it returns to base, she’s involved in inquiries. Her long-time colleague, the prickly Griffin Tate, a retired professor of Middle Easter history, becomes involved too as it seems that the Queen of Sheba may be behind all the murky deeds. Rachel and Griffin are drawn closer during their investigations. They make for an interesting and feisty pair. They’re both strong-willed, witty and, despite themselves, attracted to each other but Griffin has constructed a hard shell around himself and Rachel is under no illusions about the guy. Besides, Rachel is self-sufficient and has plenty of friends so doesn’t especially need a man in her life. But he is so very good looking…

So there’s banter and attraction alongside the delvings into dark doings with a link with the distant past. We encounter a wide cast of intriguing characters, all rounded and convincing. The story is very clever and the writing is lively. You’re kept guessing all the way through.

I’m looking forward to reading more books by this excellent author.

 

 

 

 

This is a light and easy-to-read novel with plenty of humour as we join three very different couples in the run-up to their weddings. This is such an exciting time for the future brides and grooms, but also something of a minefield. So many things can go wrong…

Charlie and Sienna have plenty of money, but this bride-to-be intends to set her standards very high. Can Charlie meet her expectations? Is she putting too much store on appearances and forgetting what a wedding is really about?

Thomas and Bryony are our next couple. Bryony is nothing like as demanding as Sienna, but there are problems bubbling under the surface that may spoil her big day.

And then there’s Agnes and Simon. Surely the wedding of these two unassuming people, although with parental pressure in the background, will go without a hitch?

We encounter a lovely variety of characters and situations in the novel, which makes for an enjoyable summery read.  

About the author

Bettina Hunt lives in England with her husband and two sons. Without A Hitch is her second novel. She blogs about beauty, afternoon tea, spas and travel, as well as sharing poems and short stories at www.beautyswot.com. She can be found on Twitter most days – join in the chat @BeautySwot.

 

 

 

 

 

The book details

Title: Without A Hitch

Publisher: CreateSpace/Amazon Media

Publication Date: October 2017

Formats: Kindle and Paperback

ISBN: 978-1978270053

Genre: Romantic Comedy/Chick Lit/ Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Page Count: 286

Buy Links: Kindle – https://amzn.to/2rATgfP

Paperback – https://amzn.to/2wxndTJ

The book begins with the warning “Never meet your heroes”, since they have a tendency to turn out rather disappointing in real life, and initially that definitely seems to be the case for the narrator of this book. He has travelled to Greece to meet  his idol, the Greek author Irakles Bastounis. Bastounis is an era-defining author who has brushed shoulders with many others and been married to Miss Venezuela, amongst other wives. Not surprisingly our young man, whose name we never learn, is daunted when his dream actually comes true and so he fluffs up his initial meeting with the literary giant. However, he gets a second chance when Bastounis commands, not asks, him to drive him somewhere. This one somewhere becomes many as the two form an unlikely partnership as they travel through Greece together to places with significance in Greek mythology. “Myths are our roots,” according to Bastounis.

Another quote from the book is “Acclaim is a dangerous currency”, but I hope the author won’t mind if I acclaim his work. It’s compulsive reading and is rich and multi-layered. Throughout this excellent story are references to the twelve labours of Heracles (Hercules). Bastounis and his chauffeur share the same physical journey but embark on separate spiritual journeys, both facing their own labours – challenges they need to tackle. It’s probably our narrator who gets the most out of them, but Bastounis isn’t far behind. They learn more about each other too, and initially what the young man learns about his companion isn’t flattering. Opinionated, rude, privacy-invading, outspoken – other than an amazing way with words Bastounis doesn’t seem to have much going for him. However, perhaps this is another one of our young man’s challenges: to see beneath the surface, to see what’s really there in front of you.

As we and Bastounis discover, our narrator isn’t as insipid as he might first appear. He’s witty, wry, very observant and while it’s true he has a lot to learn, he’s definitely the man for this job as he’s receptive to all that Greece and Basounis have to offer him. He realises neither family nor friends will appreciate the enormity of what he’s going through with his irascible companion. They just think he’s wasting his time bumming around in Greece but he’s aware that it’s them living the vacuous, shallow lives.

This book gives you much to think about. Who actually is the real hero here, the Heracles? Our narrator or Bastounis? And who’s Cerberus? Cerberus was the three-headed Hound of Hades. It was his job to stop the dead escaping from the underworld. So if he’s collared, that means presumably that these lost souls can break free. They can live again. Does collaring our young man to act as his chauffeur allow Bastounis a last chance to make his mark, or by befriending and de-clawing Bastounis is it our narrator who can run from the shadows into the light?

As well as such fascinating teasing, there are wonderful, vibrant characters and vivid settings in the book that captivate. You’ll find the sights and soul of Greece within these pages. A marvellous novel.  

(Published by Thistle Publishing, available from Amazon stores.)

 

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.

Tenacious, conscientious DI Erika Foster is back in this sixth book in a series that started off brilliantly and just keeps getting better.

The action starts on Christmas Eve when a burlesque dance, Marissa Lewis, is viciously attacked and murdered on her doorstep. This keeps Erika preoccupied on Christmas Day when she’d otherwise be going for lunch with her superior officer. Her victim turns out to be a complicated young lady, with as many enemies as admirers. As with many of DI Foster’s cases, the implications spread out further and further and bring many people under suspicion. A further attack and suicide attempts, successful and otherwise, just keep the surprises and ingenious twists and turns coming in this very cleverly constructed police procedural mystery. Once you start reading, you can’t stop. You simply have to know what’s going to happen next.

The past never lets go of Erika and in this story her relationship with her father-in-law is brought to the forefront. Also, colleague James Peterson, with whom Erika was previously in a relationship, returns to add some complications.

As ever, we’re presented with a gripping, exciting story and some totally fascinating characters. Those we already know, such as Erika and her team, continue to develop subtly which makes them ever more interesting. The new people we meet in the story are all strong and diverse. Robert Bryndza excels in portraying totally convincing characters from all walks of life.

This is another top-class novel from Robert Bryndza, but then we’d expect no less from this consistently outstanding author.

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 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.

Oh, but I love this book about expat life in Provence! It’s beautifully written, thoroughly entertaining and sums up the expat experience superbly. The writing sparkles with enjoyment and humour, although the author’s not above giving gentle digs where they’re due. After all, the French do have their little, incomprehensible ways when it comes to, well, quite a lot of things!

Through a series of sips – vignettes of the author’s part-time expat lifestyle in France – we discover American Keith Van Sickle’s adopted corner of Europe and how he gets on in it. There’s never a dull moment. We share the thrills and frustrations as Keith and Val grapple with French living, attempt to communicate and, zut alors, try to actually get things done. And we mustn’t forget their dog too.

From the jolly, lively and excellent cover to the last page, this book keeps you riveted and provides plenty of chuckles. I do hope there’ll be some sequels as this is an author I want to keep on reading.

So that you can see what I mean, here’s a guest post from Keith

Guest Post

My wife Val and I have had plenty of mishaps living in France, like the time I tried to donate blood. After filling out a long and complex form, I had to have a private interview with a doctor. He didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak much French. After a few minutes of struggling to interview me, he slammed my file shut and announced that I would not be allowed to donate blood due to “insufficient command of the French language.”

And then there were the vocabulary mix-ups. Many words are the same in French and English, like nation and danger. If we don’t know a word in French, sometimes we just fake it by using the English word with a French accent.

It works most of the time but you have to be careful because some words exist in both languages and have entirely different meanings. These are the infamous faux amis, or “false friends.” Ask Val about the time she shocked people by talking about preservatives in food. Oops, preservative means “condom.”

We love France and spend part of every year there. It started when we wanted to live abroad but couldn’t find expat assignments. So we invented our own. We quit our jobs, became consultants and moved to France to follow our dream.

Oh, and we didn’t speak French.

The French have a reputation for being hard to get to know, especially for those who don’t speak their language, so we worried about how we would be received. And it was tough at first, trying to learn the language and meet people.

But despite our various misadventures, we slowly settled in. We mastered the local rules for greeting people (two kisses in certain towns and three in others.) We experienced the ridiculous security procedures surrounding the purchase of a simple $20 beard trimmer. We learned the language well enough that Val blushed when a famous chef called her “young and delicious like the fava beans of springtime.”

And we made friends! That really helped us feel comfortable in our new home. It can take a while, but once a French person welcomes you into their life, you are friends forever.

Now Val and I split our time between Provence and California. Thomas Jefferson is supposed to have said, “Every man has two countries – his own and France.” Maybe he was on to something.

I’ve written about our life in France in my book One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence, available from Amazon.

Keith Van Sickle

on Tour

November 6-17

with

One Sip at a Time

One Sip at a Time:
Learning to Live in Provence

(travel memoir)

Release date: January 28, 2017
at Dresher Publishing

ISBN: 978-0998312002
192 pages

Author’s page | Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

Can a two-career couple really pick up stakes and move to Provence?

Keith and Val had a dream – to live in Provence, the land of brilliant sunlight, charming hilltop villages and the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean. But there were two problems: they weren’t French speakers and they had full-time jobs. So they came up with a plan…

Follow their adventures (and misadventures) as they quit their jobs, become consultants and split their time between two countries. Laugh along as they build a life in Provence, slowly mastering a new language and making friends with the locals over long meals and just a bit too much wine.

If you’ve ever dreamed of changing gears and learning what joie de vivre is really all about, you won’t want to miss this delightful book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One Sip at a Time Keith Van Sickle

Keith Van Sickle
is a technology industry veteran
and lifelong traveler
who got his first taste of overseas life
while studying in England during college.
But it was the expat assignment to Switzerland
that made him really fall in love with Europe.
After returning to California, he and his wife Val dreamed of living abroad again
but were unable to find another expat gig.
So they decided to invent their own.
Now they split their time between Silicon Valley and St-Rémy-de-Provence,
delving ever deeper into what makes France so endlessly fascinating.

Find the author on Facebook and Twitter
Visit his website

Subscribe to his mailing list and get information about new releases.

Buy the book on Amazon.com

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Ironically, having to rush down to Bordeaux due to a family crisis has made me late taking part in the France Book Tours virtual tour for the latest in the Winemaker Detective series, in which Bordeaux has previously featured. Events were entirely beyond my control but here I am now, a little late and still stressed to the eyeballs, but delighted to be sharing this lovely book with you.

Requiem in Yquem sees Benjamin Cooker and assistant Virgile back in action in this newest wine-centred cozy mystery. This time we are in Sauternes region, where a brutal murder of an elderly couple has shattered the locality. Virgile has some history in the area, which comes in handy, and this together with a wine connection and Benjamin’s tenacity soon has them on the trail of the killer.

As always with this series, there is plenty of good food and wine to relieve the dramatic tension, and also superb descriptive writing, and our two imperfect heroes with their problems and quirks keep these stories realistic and totally absorbing.

Here’s an atmospheric excerpt so you can see for yourself just how enjoyable the writing of Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen (pictured above) is.

From Requiem in Yprem

It was a rustic bed. Resting on a pine frame, the thin mattress had served for more than sleep. Lovers had coupled in the night here, and children had been birthed in white-hot pain. Under the goose-down comforter, the sheets were heavy and rough. A crucifix above the bed attested to a faith filled with incense and rosary beads. A frond secured behind it awaited Ash Wednesday, when it would be reduced to gray dust—a reminder of mortality.

An antique clock with a brass pendulum ruled over the dreary room, which was steeped in darkness day and night. Éléonore and René Lacombe were too discreet to let the sun reveal their furrowed faces, skeletal torsos, and arthritic joints. The couple anticipated death with resignation mingled with apprehension.

On this late-autumn morning, the two old creatures were lying side by side, with waxy faces, half-closed eyes, gaping mouths, and limp, fleshless arms. Éléonore and René looked like marionettes abandoned by a puppeteer who had rushed offstage. Except for the blood.

The bullets had been carefully aimed. Had Éléonore and René awakened? Had they seen the murderer’s face? Clearly, there hadn’t been enough time to switch on the lamp or let out a word or a cry. And certainly not enough to grab the shotgun below the bed, which René hadn’t used since he stopped pigeon hunting five years before. No, the scenario had unfolded without a hitch. No mess in the house. No closets forced open or drawers rifled through. The covers were even pulled up, as if to keep the victims from getting cold before moving on to the afterlife.

Was it possible that someone was after the couple’s modest possessions? A postal employee’s pension, combined with the meager savings of a seamstress, was hardly enough to motivate a crime like this.

They kept no wads of euros tucked beneath their mattress. The small savings they had managed to accumulate was safely deposited at a bank in Preignac, a commonplace town in the Sauternes appellation of southwestern France. The Lacombes’ nest egg was available for withdrawal if anything happened. But nothing ever happened. Theirs was a humdrum life permeated with silence, small grimaces, groans, and occasional laughter. Some bickering, of course, but nothing serious.

Éléonore and René had sometimes joked that they would be inseparable even in death. And when the first officer on the scene carefully pulled down the covers, it was confirmed. Éléonore and René were holding hands.

Here’s your chance to win a copy of this very entertaining mystery that really does keep you guessing right up to the end.

 

 

Jean-Pierre ALAUX and Noël BALEN

on Tour

September 11-22

with

REQUIEM-IN-YQUEM cover

Requiem in Yquem

(mystery)

Release date: September 12, 2017
at Le French Book

215 pages

ISBN: 9781943998104

Website | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

The intricate taste of greed and remorse.
The “addictive” Winemaker Detective series returns with a French mystery set in Sauternes, home of one of the world’s finest dessert wines, Yquem, known to some as liquid gold.
In the mist-covered hills of Sauternes, where the wine is luscious and the landscape beguiling, the brutal murder of an elderly couple intrigues the wine expert Benjamin Cooker and awakens memories for his dashing assistant Virgile Lanssien. Drawn into the investigation, the two journey through the storied Sauternes countryside, where the Château d’Yquem has reigned for centuries. Will the murder go unexplained and the killer remain free? The Winemaker Detective’s discernment and incessant curiosity pushes investigators to look deeper, while Virgile rekindles memories of his days at school and questions the meaning of his life.
In another satisfying wine novel with a French flair, authors Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen give readers a perfectly intoxicating combination French wine, gourmet meals, and mystery in the gloriously described Sauternes wine region with all the scenery, scents, and sounds of France. This light, fun mystery combines amateur sleuths, food, and wine in a wonderfully French mystery novel that doubles as a travel guide.
It is a new kind read on the international mystery and crime scene: a pitch-perfect, wine-infused, French-style cozy mystery.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Alaux-Balen

©David Nakache

 

Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen,
the authors of the Winemaker Detective series
are epicures.
Jean-Pierre Alaux is a magazine, radio and TV journalist
when he is not writing novels in southwestern France. |
He is the grandson of a winemaker
and exhibits a real passion for wine and winemaking.
For him, there is no greater common denominator than wine.
He gets a sparkle in his eye when he talks about the Winemaker Detective mystery series,
which he coauthors with Noël Balen.
Noël lives in Paris, where he shares his time between writing,
making records, and lecturing on music.
He plays bass, is a music critic,
and has authored a number of books about musicians
in addition to his prolific novel and short-story writing.

Follow Le French Book on Twitter | on Facebook
Sign up to receive their latest news and deals.

 

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR

Sally Pane studied French at State University of New York Oswego and the Sorbonne before receiving her Masters Degree in French Literature from the University of Colorado where she wrote Camus and the Americas: A Thematic Analysis of Three Works Based on His Journaux de Voyage. Her career includes more than twenty years of translating and teaching French and Italian at Berlitz and at University of Colorado Boulder. She has worked in scientific, legal and literary translation; her literary translations include Operatic Arias; Singers Edition, and Reality and the Untheorizable by Clément Rosset, along with a number of titles in the Winemaker Detective series. She also served as the interpreter for the government cabinet of Rwanda and translated for Dian Fossey’s Digit Fund. In addition to her passion for French, she has studied Italian at Colorado University, in Rome and in Siena. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband.

 

***

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Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open to all
2 winners

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