Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mothers, Daughters, and Other Mysteries by Heather McPhaul

Don't let the title fool you, this is a story of relationships, but it is also a legitimate murder mystery served up with inter-active humour, sometimes quirky, sometimes laugh-out-loud, sometimes with snappy wit. There are many different relationships between mothers and daughters: love, pride, disappointment, competition, among others. This book has them all.

Imagine the insecurity and fate of a young woman who has not quite found her niche in life. Now imagine her mother, a famous soap opera actress, strong, confident, and not 30 pounds overweight. On the other hand even she, Ava Gerard, has her own fears to conquer...she has never won an Emmy! Here we have the basis for the relationship between Heather McPhaul's two main characters. Still, many can relate to at least some aspects of these relationships.

Leann Conklin has a difficult time with her many choices of work, but has finally found the one that at least has one customer. She is on her first day as a private investigator and is hired by the wife of a supposed cheating high-profile husband, Joseph Marlens, to take photos of night-time activities in his office where she believes he is having an affair with his new secretary, Brenda. No problem, a handy perch, perfect view to take the photos that very night, but they only appear to be working, nothing more.

After work, Marlens escorts her to her cab then returns to his own car and is immediately shot to death! Oh, oh! Looks like another short term job for Leann. But wait! Why is her picture plastered all over the news? And just who is this cop that keeps showing up everywhere? Surveillance or something more sinister? She wasn't even there when the shooting happened, but now she must either run for her life or wait for the murderer to catch up with her.

Heather McPhaul has a wonderful quirky style of writing. She can switch locations and personalities at a moments notice without losing the plot. This book gives her plenty to work with as naturally, the plot is about to thicken like glue! But this is where our perception of the mother-daughter relationship alters. They actually not only work together, they work well together and the humour flies. Fast paced, with an actress in the mix, the book is given a lot of opportunity to entertain. The mystery and the chase to keep Leann from being arrested or killed covers a lot of ground quickly. The story spins out in rapid speed to the final confession.

Loose ends are tied up, but there seems to be a possibility of a man in Leann's future, even the possibility of a partnership of some type, whether it will be romantic, friendly, or working relationship remains to be seen, but sounds like a good deal to me. However, we will have to wait and see if anything comes of it. For now, we will have to just sit back and enjoy this attention-grabbing book and leave the rest to chance, or to the author.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Scar by Ryan Frawley

Published by 529 Publishing
Reviewed for Review the Book

I began this book in an erroneous state of mind. I was sure I was reading non-fiction, but no, this book is a novel, in fact it is Ryan Frawley's debut novel. It must say a great deal about the author's ability when the reader can err between fact and fiction. In my own defense, there are several passages that were obvious and deliberate fiction. Regardless, this is an exceptional story from the mind of Dermot Fallon, a man who has the ability to keep a journal illuminating the mind of a schizophrenic, a man who is suffering from and hospitalized with schizophrenia. His psychiatrist collaborates on the story which has been written in journals he has provided his patient with to put down his thoughts and memories. The results have been outstanding.

Reproduced from Dermot's own writing, the psychiatrist's footnotes help sort the story out. The storyline by its very definition of mind fracture would be difficult to write, but handle it Ryan Frawley accomplishes this complex story very well. This is the first time I have felt the stirring of understanding schizophrenia, and just how rampant this particular disease of the mind or psyche is. Dermot is a patient in Riverview Hospital, a real mental health facility near Vancouver, BC. I was born and raised in Vancouver, which makes me feel almost as an onlooker of important tragedy in this large city.

This is a very powerful book. It is well-researched and portrayed. Reading the book brought me through pain and elation, through Irish mythology and human relationships. Partway through the book, I began to notice a puzzle. Not the obvious coded puzzle that is a part of Dermot's history, but a puzzle for the reader to solve. This was very interesting to me, a little bit of mystery in the mix. What does this mean? Well, that I am going to leave up to future readers because I will not give it away, if indeed there is anything to give away. I do believe I am right, though, and it will be interesting to see if other readers feel the same. A fascinating, frightening yet entertaining book overall.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Plan Bee - a Queen Bee Mystery by Hannah Reed

Published by Berkeley Prime Crime, New York

There is always a lot of action in the small town of Moraine, but the annual Harmony Festival is anything but harmonious. Between the usual squabbles and vendor problems, some impromptu explosions are keeping the townspeople frazzled. This book was well-written as expected, but the storyline was quite different from previous books in the series. Written in Hannah Reed's wry and witty way, some of the characters undergo surprising changes, a metamorphosis so to speak, adding an interesting and unexpected factor to the mix.

I really enjoy this series of quirky characters in a small town. A small part of that enjoyment is because I was once a beekeeper, but the author does spice her book up with some interesting honeybee facts and lore, as well as including recipes using honey. This series may come under the classification of cozy, but don't be fooled, they always have a good and surprising mystery to solve and this book was no stranger to the theme. When our heroine, Story, trips over a body in the cemetery, only to have it disappear, no one believes her. Was there a body? Was it overactive imagination in the dark? If there was a body, where did it go? The challenge is to discover if another body found elsewhere is in fact the same one, and if the perpetrator of the crime is a local, a stranger, or a team. Whose body is missing? Why are some townspeople being attacked? And what in the world do hickory nuts have to do with anything?

This is the kind of book where you can recognize some characters, relax and enjoy them, learn something new, but remain on high alert for the chase to find answers and solve the mystery. A very enjoyable book, #3 in the series, it gets better all the time.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 - The Samantha Darling Mystery Series by Sarah Browne

Published by Scrivener House Digital
Reviewed for Review the Book

Samantha is up to her neck in trouble. Call it a sudden atmospheric and/or culture shock, but she is about to be transformed from a dinosaur of the Computer Age into a somewhat savvy Dotcom California fledgling quickly learning the lingo. If that weren't enough, she has a fear of heights and is sent to California's coast along the Pacific Highway resulting in terrifying cliff driving, and Carey Wells, the Isis CEO she is to interview not only lives on a cliff, but has a glass floor at the edge where one can look down at the ocean below and watch the sea otters. All this because the nice paper magazine “Real Life” has been taken over by a Japanese digital conglomerate and will now be operating strictly on-line as “E-LIFE”. Joining the cyberworld has her editor in a panic for a groundbreaking story from Sam.

Sarah Browne writes with tongue-in-cheek (and often cheeky) humour, this ebook is fascinating and funny reading. Sam's first encounter with the CEO is breathtaking since she finds herself interviewing a very distracting hunk in a hot tub. But it isn't all daydreams and wishful thinking, oh, no! There is quite a cast of characters in this book ranging from the mysterious and missing ex-galpal Lily, the old friends from Carey's hometown, Jake and Danny, who are also dotcom literate and technical, and Ben, the good friend but also technically the competition CEO.

The evening of her arrival in Carmel coincided with the eve of a marathon which she was definitely not planning on running. She was, however, destined to be at Carey's pre-marathon party. By the next morning, Sam discovers her first dead body. With pressure from her editor, pressure from the police, and pressure from her vertigo, Sam finds herself without a story and stuck in California. Who can she trust? Who is killing off dotcom bigwigs? This is a story with lots of detail, descriptive and peopled with unique characters. Fun, rich in cybertalk, and a compelling murder mystery. A very entertaining read.