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The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

Are we ready for our first Christmas Countdown mystery? Let’s celebrate 20 days until Christmas with:

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus: A Novel by Beth Moore

Thoughts Before Reading:

This is Beth Moore’s first novel after years of nonfiction. It was something new, but something she had been thinking about doing for a while.

It was suggested by my sister blog after she read it for book club. It isn’t a Christmas centered mystery, but does have important scenes that take place at Christmas, so I thought I would set it out for our first review.

Jillian Slater is living in San Francisco in an controlling and very bad relationship. But when she discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her she is hit hard and unsure of what to do.

Then she receives a call that her long estranged father is dead.

And that her grandmother, the ice queen, who she also hasn’t seen in over twenty years is offering to pay her way to New Orleans so she could attend the funeral.

As her life is currently in shambles, Jillian decides to take it.

However, there is a lot that was kept from her. It turns out that the housekeeper, Adella Atwater, came up with the idea for a family reunion, not her grandmother, Olivia.

It also turns out that she lives in an church turned boarding house-full of all kinds of characters. There is David a forty-year old bachelor and music teacher; Carrie a student in medical school and always studying or working; and an elderly dementia suffering woman.

With no money, no reason to go back to San Francisco, and not sure what to do…she remains in the house.

Meanwhile, the New Orleans Police Department have been looking into the murder of Jillian’s father, Raphael. But while they try to uncover a killer, a lot of other strange things start happening. Baby things are left outside the house, someone tries to break into the house, things go missing, etc. The NOPD spend a lot of time coming to the house trying to figure out what does this all mean? A sentiment shared by the rest of the residents.

Besides that Saint Silvanus holds a secret from its first beginning as a church. Will it be revealed?

Will Jillian ever learn the truth about her fathers death? Will she grow to enjoy living in Saint Silvanus? Will her family rifts be mended? Or torn further apart?

Through in a life changing Christmas concert and last supper, and this book has everything.

Thoughts After Reading:

I didn’t love this book.

Jillian bugged me, a LOT. First she is unsure what to do when she comes across the homeless. She has never had to deal with such things and finds the “sour smells” of the city unbearable. Come on now. I am from California and have been to San Francisco many times. I have been everywhere from the high price areas to the touristy ones and there are homeless EVERYWHERE. They hide in bushes and jump out to surprise you; walk out into traffic; are on every street corner along with “sour” smells. I don’t know what San Francisco Moore encountered but that sounds nothing like the one in California. Jillian should have experienced this numerous times and know how to deal with it.

And what happened with the church?

So throughout the novel, Moore has the story of the church’s beginning and the first pastor intersecting with the story of Jillian. But she never really says why this matters to the characters as they have no connection to each other and they never say who killed the minister. Was it suicide or murder?

There were also a lot of little details missing as Moore doesn’t always describe her characters. For instance she calls Jillian “dark”. Dark hair? Dark skin? Mexican? African-American? Greek? Spanish? Italian? Black hair? Brown? Chestnut? I know it is her first time writing a “novel” so it makes sense there are a few kinks.

The mystery also isn’t very mysterious. I knew as soon as the character entered the picture. It was extremely obvious the way they acted was not normal.

But there was something I did like: the characters.

The characters were amazing! I loved every single one and each felt extremely lifelike and ones you would meet in real life.

They all had their own hangups, issues, and backgrounds that were relatable-either to you or reminded you of someone you know. They made the book interesting, a page turner, and had you feel at home in Saint Silvanus.

This in itself made the book worth reading.

For more Christmas mysteries, go to Gingerbread Cookie Murder

For more mysteries not in a series, go to The Manchurian Candidate

For more Christian mysteries, go to Everbody Loved Roger Harlan

For more mysteries set in New Orleans, go to Triple Six

The Hyde Park Murder

Happy 4th of July Everyone!

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Typically I post a recipe, but as I stumbled upon a book that not only takes place on the 4th of July but features a president, I thought I would post on this instead.

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The Hyde Park Murder (Eleanor Roosevelt Investigates #2) by Elliot Roosevelt

Neighbor Adriana van der Meer comes to Eleanor Roosevelt for help. She was engaged to Bob Hannah, but her parents no longer want her to see him. His father, Alfred Doolittle Hannah, has just been accused of a multi-million dollar stock swindle.

But before the case can go to court, Bob’s father dies by suicide.

Not only are the upcoming nuptials on hold, but Bob is convinced that not only did his father not participate in the scam, but that he did not die by suicide but:

Bob sets out to investigate, going undercover as a lowly employee in his father’s former company. He also gets assistance from a call girl, Miss Moira Lasky.

On the case!

Eleanor decides to assist, bringing in the Securities and Exchange Commissioner, Joseph P. Kennedy, Mayor Fiorella La Guardia, Supreme Justice Brandies, and congressman Sam Rayburn.

It turns out that what they stumbled on is more than just a con, but masking who is really behind it all; the growing German Nazi Party.

Seriously?

Will they be able to stop them before they take America’s money to fund their war?

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Thoughts After Reading:

It was okay.

I didn’t think it was as bad as the first one, but it was pretty boring and bland.

They go on and on about stock information I really did not care to know about.

 The only interesting character was Moira but she wasn’t in the book enough.

So pretty much:

For more Eleanor Investigates, go to Murder and the First Lady

For more 4th of July posts, go to Happy 4th of July Triple Berry Salad

For more holiday posts, go to Crazy Cantina Chili

For more books based on real people, go to The Alchemy of Murder

For more on mysteries with embezzlement, go to Murder Well Done

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

Happy 4th of July!

Dust to Dust

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Dust to Dust (Kovac and Liska Mysteries #2) by Tami Hoag

Thoughts Before Reading:

While I enjoyed the character of Kate in Ashes to Ashes, I thought the dynamic of Officer Kovac and Liska was just dynamite. I think Hoag realized this too, and that’s why she switched to making the rest of the series about them.

And while I did enjoy this book, let me warn you it is not for the faint of heart. It can be graphic at times in descriptions and language. Of course I won’t be in my review, but if you decided to read it afterwards, you were warned.

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Internal Affairs Minneapolis Officer Andy Fallon was found dead in his home from hanging himself. One word was left on the mirror, Sorry.

Where is the treasure?!

Was it auto-erotic asphyxia  gone wrong?

Or a suicide, sorry, being the note?

As his father is considered a hero, shot and injured in the line of duty; and most knew that Andy was gay; the department heads decide it is better to qualm any gossip by ending the investigation quickly and moving toward a funeral.

However, this doesn’t sit right with Officer Kovac. Even though it isn’t in his jurisdiction, he decides to start looking into the death for Andy’s father, Mike Fallon. Mike was Kovac’s mentor and he feels he owes it to him to discover the truth.

Liska agrees to their “uninvestigating” and as they begin digging, cracks start to form. They uncover multiple suspects, coming from both the police department and internal affairs.

But the department is not pleased with this investigation as they want this whole case to “go away”. With Captain Ace Wyatt leaving Minneapolis for Hollywood, and Mike having been through so much already; everything would be better if it was just left alone.

But that’s not Kovac and Liska’s style, and as they decide to root out the truth, they discover that Andy was looking into the case of when his father was shot.

WHAT!

Could this two month old death have anything to do with what happened over twenty years ago?

I wonder…

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Thoughts After Reading:

Once again Hoag hits it out of the park. She created an interesting and suspenseful story that keeps you on the edge of your seat to discover whodunit.

So we as a reader know from the beginning that Andy was murdered. While some books it can be annoying or feel too drawn out waiting for the other characters to reach this realization, the way Hoag wrote it just intensified the rest of the book as we all eagerly read to discover which of our potential suspects was the killer.

While I figured out most of the resolution, Hoag still had a few twists I didn’t see coming.

For more Kovac and Liska Mysteries, go to Ashes to Ashes

For more retrograde mysteries, go to A Duty to the Dead

For more suicides as a cover for murder, go to Catering to Nobody

For more mystery reviews, go to Murder and the First Lady

 

Cookie Dough or Die

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Cookie Dough or Die (Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery #1) by Virginia Lowell

After Olivia Greyson’s divorce to a renowned surgeon, she moved home to Chatterley Heights, Maryland. While she was trying to figure out what to do next with her life Olivia was befriended by Clarisse Chamberlain, entrepreneur and businesswoman, who encourages her to buy the historic Gingerbread House and follow her dream to open a cookie shop.

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Since then she and her best friend Maddie have been running the shop together. Olivia runs the numbers and planning; while Maddie is the creative one who is in charge of the baking and making fantastical creations.

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Olivia is catching up on her beauty rest when she hears something downstairs. It’s not a robber, but Maddie coming over to create something fun and wonderful for Spring. After her, the hunky Sheriff Del comes with a a sad message for Olivia; Clarisse was found dead, and it looks like suicide.

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Olivia knows that Clarisse would never kill herself and sets off to discover who murdered her.

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The suspect list is long and complicated. There are her two dueling sons; Hugh and Edward; that have always wanted to inherit the full power of the business. Could they have killed her for the inheritance? Before one was written out of the will?

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Tammy, Olivia’s old best friend from elementary school, also has a strong motive. She has been in love with Hugh for as long as she can remember. They dated at one time, but Hugh was distracted by another, Jasmine, and Clarisse was set against Tammy from that day on. Even when Jasmine left the picture, Clarisse hated any girl that wanted Hugh. Could Tammy have killed Clarisse in order to marry Hugh?

Very fishy

Hmmmmmm?

And what of Jasmine who just mysteriously disappeared? Is she somehow involved with this?

I wonder...

I wonder…

When a local postman hints that he knew Clarisse received some information from a private detective; he ends up on the hit list.

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It turns out he was poisoned by one of Olivia and Maddie’s cookies.

You know what that means...something is about to happen

Now it is clear that they are the next target. Can Olivia solve the murder before she is killed too?

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Thoughts After Reading:

I didn’t really care for this book. I was a bit disappointed too, as I waited three months for the book to come in from a sister library to read but it wasn’t as good.

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The mystery itself was good, but the way it was carried out was seriously lacking.

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The story was okay except there is a lot of information about the characters that we aren’t given which make it a bit confusing. For a first book, it is best to not confuse the reader.

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I didn’t like the mom character as  felt she was far too cliché and boring.

A character like this again?!

A character like this again?!

The end wasn’t all that good either. The mystery was intriguing, but the resolution was too quickly wrapped up. It was very murky mysterious, and then all of a sudden crystal clear. I felt they need more leeway time, steps leading it up to the resolution.

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It was also weird to have a mystery book that features dogs instead of cats. I’m not against dogs or anything, I like them too. But cats and mysteries just seem to go hand in hand. Having a mystery book without one and a dog instead is just so unusual. After all, cats are just so amazing.

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For more mysteries involving a cookie shop, go to Cream Puff Murder

For more Southern mysteries, go to Bloom and Doom

For more suicides as a cover for murder, go to Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters

For more death by poison food, go to A Pinch of Poison 

For more Charles Dickens quotes, go to Gorgonzola Cream Cheese Log

For more mystery reviews, go to Sleeping Beauty

Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters

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Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters by Lida Sideris

After Corrie Locke’s father died, she decided to give up the private investigating business and get into something that is safe and secure; becoming a lawyer.

Everything will be fine.

Everything will be fine.

In fact, Corrie has just landed the job of her dreams, an associate lawyer at a big entertainment production house. Only problem is, this is far from what she dreamed as safe and secure.

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Instead Corrie has a crazy supervisor who changes his mind every second, her ex-boyfriend that was a huge mistake works there too, a gossipy Human Resources executive, a Vice President that doesn’t understand the word “no”, and much more.

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To make things even more complicated, Corrie finds herself donning her gumshoes when someone begs her to investigate a suicide, he believes is a cover for murder.

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Once word is out that Corrie is back in business, she gets two more cases: finding a famous basketball player’s lost lucky charm, his Siamese cat; and figuring out who is making a famous rapper believe he has been abducted by aliens.

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In between lawyering and investigating; Corrie has an old friend she’d always crushed on come back in her life; and a man she can’t stand but is attracted to. What’s a girl to do?

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Thoughts After Reading:

            Fans of Veronica Mars will enjoy reading about this teenage private investigator trying to leave the life, only to discover it is something in her blood.

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Corrie was a fun and likable character as you relate to her normalcy in an office full of strange temperamental people. Her partner in investigating, best friend, and secret crush; Michael, is not only adorable in his nerdy everyday personality, but just as lovable in his attempts to be like Colombo or other TV detective.

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This novel was very engaging and the three mysteries were fun, interesting and great to challenge any reader. The lost cat and rapper tales are minor, but still engaging, and the overall investigating arc of the suicide as murder; is intriguing as it takes a series of twists and turns in trying to find out is it really a murder? And if so who could be the killer?

FRIEND!!???

Who??

The only issues I had with the book was at times it seems to be a little bit disorganized, waiting until halfway in to give us the back-story the author is constantly hinting at.  I would have preferred if we were introduced to it earlier as it helps one understand the characters better. The other problem I had with the novel was the love triangle between Corrie, Michael, and the assistant district attorney. A lot of mysteries have been doing this lately, and I for one am tired of reading it.

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But as those are such minute issues, and on a whole the story was almost impossible to put

down,

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I would give this four and a half stars out of five.

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For more books on private investigators, go to Fool Moon

For more female private investigators, go to One for the Money

For more suspicious suicides, go to Knit, Purl, Die

For more not in a series mysteries, go to The Italian Wife

The Italian Wife

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The Italian Wife by Kate Furnivall

The year is 1922 and Isabella Berotti is a young, expectant mother living in Milan. She and her husband are visiting the outdoor markets when he is shot and killed. Isabella rushes over to help him, and is shot in the back, losing her baby and ability to walk.

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Ten years later, Isabella has used all that frustration and grief to motivate her into walking, only suffering from a slight limp, and achieve her dream of becoming an architect. She is currently residing in Bellina, helping to achieve Mussolini’s dream of reclaiming the marshlands for Italy, and creating a modern state.

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While life has been good, the day of the accident and death of her husband still haunts her. This anniversary she is spending her time reminiscing at a café, when a woman approaches her asking if she could watch her daughter Rosa. Before she can refuse, the woman whispers that “they” know who really killed Isabella’s husband and takes off. Intrigued as to what the woman may know, Isabella sits with Rosa, entertaining her. Everything is fine until Isabella sees the woman throw herself off a building Isabella created.

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Now Isabella finds herself caught up in a web of political intrigue, as Rosa proves to be a powerful piece both the fascists and the rebels wish to use. She teams up with a photographer, Roberto Falco, to protect Rosa, remain out of prison, bring to light the dirty deals in government, and finally solve who murdered her husband.

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Thoughts After Reading:

I absolutely loved this book.

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I thought it was thrilling, interesting, and impossible to put down. The historical truths of Mussilini attempting to control and reshape the land, even going as far as building cities and farms in impossible places, was a fascinating backdrop and made me interested to learn even more.

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The writing was extremely well done and the characters are multi-dimensional, lovable, and always exceeding my expectations as to what would happen next. In fact, I am not only looking forward to her next project, but planning on reading everything she has written prior to this novel.

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I would give it five out of five stars.

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For more stand alone mysteries, go to The Unsolvable Mystery: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

For more mysteries, go to The Silence of the Llamas