July 19, 2017 · 3:05 pm
Little Girl Gone: A Novel by Margaret Fenton (Create Space, $10.10, 266 pages)
Margaret Fenton’s second novel – following Little Lamb Lost, takes the reader once more into the world of Birmingham, Alabama social worker Claire Conover. As is typical for social workers, Claire is carrying a full caseload. Her caring attitude is tempered with a realistic approach to dealing with runaway and discarded children. A stony-faced young teen girl who was found sleeping in a cardboard box proves to be quite the challenge for Claire.
“Sandy,” at least that’s the name she reluctantly gives Claire, won’t provide any assistance with her details. She’s very slim, not starving, but definitely willing to go out for breakfast when Claire offers to take her. Thus begins the saga of reuniting “Sandy” with her family. The story unfolds naturally as Claire does her job using the skills she has developed over years in the job. Ms. Fenton infuses her characters with down-to-earth feelings to which the reader can easily relate.
The men in Claire’s life are Grant, her techie boyfriend and Kirk, a clever newspaper reporter. There’s mutual attraction between Kirk and Claire; however, she knows better than to be caught up in a fling with a flirt when she has calm and reliable Grant in her life. Kirk has provided helpful insights in past cases and is once again a source of information and strategic planning that brings him into a team-like relationship with Claire.
Ms. Fenton is a confident and strong writer who has lived the work she portrays. Much like a police procedural, Little Girl Gone takes the reader behind the scenes into real life situations that are both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Crisp dialogue coupled with excellent scene-setting descriptions make this a most satisfying read.
A review copy was provided by a publicist.
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October 23, 2016 · 12:19 pm
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.
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February 3, 2013 · 9:30 am
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.
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November 17, 2010 · 5:42 pm
Cat Coming Home by Shirley Rousseau Murphy (William Morrow; $19.99; 354 pages)
This latest Joe Grey mystery oozes with picturesque Carmel charm. Shirley Rousseau Murphy extolls the architectural beauty of her coastal hometown in the thinly veiled story location, Molina Point. The plot revolves around Joe, Dulcie and Kit – three cats who speak to their pet parents and sometimes unsuspecting people. The characters in the mystery that the cats solve are a grandma named Maudie, her six-year-old grandson Benny and, of course, the evil doers. It’s not fair to describe the villains as their identities are the key to the mystery. Keep in mind that appearances can be very deceiving!
The story opens with a ghastly double murder that devastates a perfectly lovely family. Benny’s dad, his new wife, her two children, Benny and his grandma are driving up a mountain road on their way to an Easter weekend of relaxation at Lake Arrowhead when a vehicle pulls up alongside them and shoots the dad and stepmom. Chaos follows as their car tumbles off the road and everyone is tossed about. After being rescued, Maudie becomes so distraught that she decides to leave her home in Los Angeles, bringing Benny with her to Molina Point, her childhood home.
Joe Grey and his buddies become part of the story when a series of home invasion crimes occur in Molina Point not long after Maudie and Benny arrive in town. Added to the intrigue is the presence of an older yellow tom cat that lurks nearby and seems to have something important in mind. Kit is fascinated by this stranger and makes it her business to find out what he’s doing in town. Kit’s need for a focus in her life seems to be a continuing thread in these books.
The home invasions are targeted at ladies who are home alone. They are being viciously attacked by intruders, the interiors of their homes are trashed, but not much is stolen. One of the home invasions happens on Maddie’s block. To make matters worse, Molina Point’s dedicated chief of police, Max Harper, is being singled out in the local newspaper for failing to bring the crime wave to a halt. As usual, the cats are quick-witted and fleet of foot as they race around town just a paw or two behind the villains.
Whether the setting for a mystery novel is a big city or a small town, human frailties are usually at the core of the story. This tale (or tail) is no exception. Author Murphy does a wonderful job of developing her characters and providing insight into human nature and feline nature as well. She refrains from rehashing the premise of her Joe Grey series which allows for more action and intrigue.
This review was written by Ruta Arellano. This book was purchased for the reviewer.
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