[ Reviews ]

A Mountain of Books Leads to Quick Mini-Reviews – Joan Hess, Gwendoline Butler, E.X. Giroux, & Cathy Ace

I have read so many books so far this year that I can’t keep up with my Goodread Reviews, so I decided on some quick mini-reviews of four books at a time. Warning: There may be spoilers, and I may be more direct than usual. 

These are MY reviews and therefore reflect MY impressions. If you disagree, feel free to make your defense in the comments. I love a good discussion! Crude, nasty or mean comments are not helpful and will be removed.

Here we go!

I like a book that takes time to set up the crime, so it didn’t bother me that so much happened before the first corpse appeared. Hess, the author who finished the Amelia Peabody book, The Painted Queen, after Elizabeth Peters died is obviously a talented writer. In A Diet to Die For, her humor takes over, especially with the portrayal of her teenage daughter’s attempts at dieting. It’s an easy read–what some call an airplane read–and it keeps you guessing until the end. Lots of fun characters.

This was my first John Coffin mystery. I always peek in a book first to see if I like the writer’s style–the way they use words. Butler passed, so on I read. The mystery is interesting and held my interest. I had some trouble with Coffin’s morose attitude. His relationship with Stella reminded me of movies where they add some ugliness just to make it “real”. I wasn’t sure why they were together. And there was a subtle – and sometimes not-so-subtle – theme going through it that all men were violent, something I wholeheartedly disagree with. That said, the mystery was compelling and I read it through to the end. Not sure I want to go on another journey with Coffin, though.

The sleuth of this series, barrister Robert Forsythe, is the kind of amateur detective who observes more than acts. When he’s invited to visit the wealthy Anthony Funicelli because the man fears for his life, he enters a world of bizarre family relationships where he meets the characters who all seem to dislike each other except for the cheery brother and the greedy wife. There is mention of the secretary who raised the barrister, Sandy, and her intuitive contributions to his sleuthing, and I would like to have seen more of that relationship at work, though she’s there for the finale. The book is a nice way to spend the afternoon. The relationships are complex and the clues subtle. I didn’t fall in love with the characters, but that may change if I read another on Robert’s home turf.  

SPOILER ALERT  I really enjoyed this mystery. Cait Morgan is a Welsh-Canadian criminology professor who helps the police, especially her friend, Bud. She’s in France for a conference when she meets up with an old and despised boss, and when he invites her to his birthday party, she’s trapped into saying yes. Said boss dies at the party – all of the guests are poisoned – and Cait, who is also a suspect, tries to put her photographic memory and criminology skills to work to find the killer. The location and characters are charming. The mystery gets a bit complicated and requires Cait’s explanation to make it all clear. SPOILER REMINDER The one thing that threw me was the ending, and here begins the spoiler. A few months after Bud’s wife is murdered, these good friends are talking about love and marriage. I would have been happy to find the two had grown closer by the next novel, but after just learning his wife had been murdered a few pages previously, to see them moving into a new relationship didn’t sit right with me. Though, to be fair, it doesn’t sit right with Cait, either. This won’t keep me from reading another Cait Morgan mystery.  

About Author

Jacqueline Vick

After trying her hand at various jobs including telemarketer for a funeral home, Jacqueline Vick combined satirical humor and the quirks of her ginger mutt to create the Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mysteries. In addition to mystery novels, she is the author of numerous novellas, short stories, screenplays and articles.