Arsenic with Austen: A Crime with the Classics Mystery by Katherine Bolger Hyde (Minotaur Books, $24.99, 312 pages)
Professor Emily Cavanaugh is a 21st Century woman who finds herself caught up in the dealings of a sleepy village on the Oregon coast. She’s been widowed for two years, is childless and growing restless with her duties in the Language and Literature Department of Reed College in Portland.
As would be anticipated in a traditional British mystery by Agatha Christie, Emily receives a piece of formal correspondence from an attorney in Stony Beach, Oregon. It seems her dear Great Aunt Beatrice has died and left her a legacy. What follows is one of the most heart-warming murder mysteries this reviewer has read.
Emily Cavanaugh is summoned to Aunt Beatrice’s funeral and the reading of the will. It seems Emily was fantasizing a modest inheritance when she hoped that the extensive library filled with leather bound books would be hers. Emily spent many summers sitting in that same library reading with the encouragement of her aunt. Clearly, the Victorian mansion, half of the town of Stony Beach and millions of dollars was way beyond her hopeful anticipation.
Yes, there are villains scattered among the townsfolk. How else would there be a mystery for Emily to solve? She also reconnects with her former boyfriend who seemingly dumped her at the end of a summer romance. As with Dame Agatha’s stories, Ms. Hyde leads the reader around leaving a trail of tantalizing clues and misdirection.
Author Hyde has hit all the right notes in this her debut mystery novel. She weaves in enough credible references to classic literature written by women such as Jane Austen and Emily Bronte to prove her in depth understanding of the genre. While Ms. Hyde is a resident of Santa Cruz County in California, she credits a writer’s retreat on the Oregon coast with inspiring the location of her tale. And, by the way, she is an alumna of Reed College. Let’s hope there will be more enjoyable mysteries from Ms. Hyde in the future.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Arsenic with Austen was released on July 12, 2016.
Cat Bearing Gifts: A Joe Grey Mystery by Shirley Rousseau Murphy (William Morrow, $19.99, 304 pages)
Get ready for another charming tale about talking cat Joe Grey and his pals – both feline and human. This episode focuses on Kit, the cat who has wanderlust in her veins. She and her elderly humans, Lucinda and Pedric Greenlaw, are the victims of some serious road rage. The three of them are nearly killed as Pedric drives home from a lovely visit and shopping spree in San Francisco.
Readers of the series know that the featured town, Molina Point, is a version of Carmel-by-the-Sea, yes, that Carmel where Clint Eastwood was mayor for a time. Anyone learning that a car is traveling on Highway 1 toward Molina Point would immediately know that the car occupies the outside lane. The drop to the Pacific Ocean is abrupt and poor Pedric is driving a huge Lincoln Town Car in the dark!
The scruffy, easy-to-dislike bad guys who are also on their way to Molina Point cause a horrific and deadly collision. The mayhem that ensues brings the spotlight on the feline character, Pan, who has been featured in the most recent Joe Grey mystery with his father, Misto. Kit is his counterpart and when she is lost in the coyote-filled hills above the crash site, Pan is beside himself with worry for her safety. Pedric and Lucinda are injured as might be expected and their welfare is in the hand of the humans with talking cats.
Greed and apathy are the featured evils that must be dealt with in order to bring the Molina Point clan back together safely. As usual there’s plenty of skulking around the quaint neighborhoods, and more than one rooftop race to outwit the bad guys. Author Murphy ties together the human and feline dramas with plenty of friendship, devotion and sleuthing. The heart warming story is a purrfect read during these cold winter months – or during the upcoming weeks of Spring.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. Shirley Rousseau Murphy is also the author of Cat Telling Tales: A Joe Grey Mystery.