Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Book Review: The Last Mrs. Summers by Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness Mysteries #14)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong atmosphere, fun characters, good story
Cons: Usual slow start
The Bottom Line:
Cottage in Cornwall
Unexpected reunion
And great atmosphere

Gothic Trip to Cornwall

As I have stated multiple times over the years, I skipped over the classics of the mystery genre in my reading journey.  I’ve filled in a few over the years, but one of the classics I am still missing is Rebecca, which helped inspire The Last Mrs. Summers, the newest Royal Spyness Mystery from Rhys Bowen.  While I’m sure familiarity with Rebecca would have helped me appreciate this book more, I still enjoyed catching Georgie’s latest adventure.

If you are new to the series, Lady Georgiana Rannoch O’Mara is a minor royal in 1935’s England.  Yes, she has finally married Darcy O’Mara, but settling into a happy ever after is not in the cards for them.  Instead, they have more adventure and mystery to look forward to.

It's been a quiet couple of months now that Georgie and Darcy are back from their honeymoon to Africa.  Darcy has just left on one of his secret assignments, and Georgie, who should be hiring a new cook, is feeling a bit at loose ends.  So when her best friend Belinda shows up talking about the small cottage she’s just inherited in Cornwall, Georgie jumps at the chance to join Belinda in taking a look at it.

It turns out that cottage was too nice a term for Belinda’s inheritance.  Shack would be a better term.  That’s when Belinda runs into her childhood friend Rose.  Rose surprises Belinda by announcing that she is now married to Tony Summers and has become mistress of Trewoma Hall.  Rose insists Belinda and Georgie stay with her while they are in the area.  However, something doesn’t seem right at Trewoma Hall.  Will Georgie figure out what is going on before tragedy strikes?

If you are familiar with the series, you know what to expect here, and you won’t be disappointed.  Before the plot really kicks in, we get updates on the various supporting players in the series.  I do love them, so it is nice to pop in on them.  Belinda is my favorite of Georgie’s friends and relations, so I was thrilled to find out she was going to be strongly featured in this book.  Of course, as we meet the new characters, they are strong as well.

The downside of getting to check in with Georgie’s family and friends is it takes a bit longer for the plot to get going.  Once we meet Rose, things definitely pick up, with lots of questions to be answered.  Again, I’m sure if I were familiar with Rebecca, I’d enjoy spotting some nods to that Gothic classic.  Even without that knowledge, I reveled in the atmosphere that Rhys Bowen created as she told the story.  Once Georgie figures everything out, the events make perfect sense.

Some books in the series have involved more history than others.  This book just focuses on the plot at hand with only a few references to the historical events unfolding around the characters.  Still, the setting is well down, and I felt like I was back in 1935 with the characters as I read.

Fans of the series will be delighted with Georgie’s latest adventure.  Pick up The Last Mrs. Summers and be prepared for an atmospheric trip to another time and place.

And be sure to enjoy more of Georgie’s adventures with the rest of the Royal Spyness series.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Ornament Review: A Job Well Done - Once Upon a Time #10 - 2020 Hallmark Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good ending to Santa’s journey
Cons: Sound ends abruptly, tip
The Bottom Line:
A well-deserved rest
Brings Santa’s journey to end
And wraps up series

Relaxing After a Job Well Done

I’ve been saying for a few years that I didn’t see how much longer that Hallmark’s Once Upon a Christmas series could keep going, so I wasn’t too surprised when I saw that the series was going to end with 2020’s release, A Job Well Done.  As the title of the ornament suggests, the series goes out…well.

Santa is back from his Christmas Eve delivering toys.  He’s relaxing in his chair, and his shoes are on the floor next to him.  His hat is hanging on the edge of the chair.  He’s got a mug of hot cocoa in one hand and a snow globe in the other.  And he’s got a puppy keeping him company as well.

When this series started, Santa was sitting as well, that time in a chair with a table next to him as he went over his naughty and nice list with his puppy on the floor next to him.  I love the symmetry between these two ornaments.

Like all the rest, this ornament features light and sound when plugged into Hallmark’s Magic Cord.  This cord is on the way out; in fact, I’m sure that the ornaments released this year for it will be the final two ornaments that use the cord.  As such, if you haven’t stocked up on the cord yet, I suggest you do so quickly.

Anyway, when you plug this into the cord, you’ll find the base and the snow globe Santa is holding light up.  Push the button by the puppy and you are treated to a show.  As Santa talks about his satisfaction with another successful Christmas Eve, the lights on the ornament blink.  After about 20 seconds, he stops talking and we get a musical version of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”  All the while, the lights of this and ALL the ornaments attached to the same Magic Cord blink in time with the music.  The show lasts about a minute before abruptly stopping.  That’s the only part I found weird.  I’m sure it is an issue of space on the recording in the ornament, but it just needed another few seconds to fully wrap up.  Or maybe it is just my ornament.

I will say again, I will miss the Magic Cord.  The way ornaments from a series can interact to tell one story with the new Power Cord is wonderful and fun, but I miss the way all the ornaments on the Magic Cord interacted, whether they were part of the same series or not.  I wish that both cords were going to be used going forward since they both have strengths.  I’m sure it’s an issue of not wanting to confuse casual collectors, so I understand.

All of the ornaments in the Once Upon a Christmas series feature nice flat bases, and this ornament is no exception.  As such, you can set them out in a line and enjoy Santa’s journey in chronological order if you so desire.  The series marker, a 10 in a Christmas tree, is also on the bottom of the ornament.

The hook to hang the ornament is on Santa’s head.  Slip a loop through it, and you’ll find that it really tips forward.  It would be hard to hide in among tree branches, too.  The ornaments in this series are heavy, so be sure to find a sturdy branch on your tree to hang them on.

I keep referring to this as the final ornament in the series, and it is the final official ornament in the series.  Like the first year, which offered a companion ornament, we will get an unofficial entry in the series in the fall to bookend Santa’s December.

It’s unfortunate that A Job Well Done doesn’t send the series out with perfection.  Still, fans of the series will be happy with how it ends.

Missing part of Santa’s journey?  Here are the rest of the Once Upon a Christmas ornaments.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

July 2020's Monthly Reading Summary

July has come to an end, so it's time to look back at what I read during the month.  Yes, the Index has been updated.

All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).

No Saving Throw by Kristin McFarland (Ten Again Mysteries #1) – 5
Autumn is happy running Ten Again, the gaming store she owns in the small Wisconsin college town where she grew up.  Things are going well until one of the regular gamers in the store dies in the mall.  Things quickly turn on Autumn and the rest of the gamers, with some of them in particular in the police’s spotlight.  But Autumn doesn’t think her gamers, who have become her friends, could really be killers.  Can she prove it?

While I’m not much of a gamer, this book still sounded like lots of fun, and I was right.  There are some references to geeky things, most of which I got, but if you don’t get the reference, it shouldn’t interfere with your enjoyment of the book.  That’s because the mystery is strong, with lots of events and clues to keep the pages turning until we reach the logical and suspenseful climax.  The characters are wonderful, and I love how much they care for each other.  I also appreciated Autumn’s debates about being involved in the investigation.  It felt realistic when she would try to get out before something pulled her back in.  I do wish Autumn swore a little less, but that’s my only complaint about this fun debut.

Super Puzzletastic Mysteries presented by Chris Grabenstein – 5
This book for middle grade readers features twenty stories by members of Mystery Writers of America.  Each story provides the clues and puzzles you need to solve it along with the characters.  In fact, the solutions are at the back of the book to give you time to figure out what is really going on before you see if you got it right.  While a few authors feature series sleuths, most of the stories feature original characters.

And all of them are fun.  Many are straight up mysteries, but some feature puzzles we can learn about and solve with the characters along the way.  The stories average about 15 pages each, so they would work well for reading aloud and solving as a group.  It might take a group to solve some of them.  I figured a few out, but many left me stumped until I turned to the end.  There isn’t a bad story in the bunch, and kids will certainly enjoy this collection as much as I did.

The Brim Reaper by Diane Vallere (Samantha Kidd #3) – 4
Perpetually unemployed Samantha Kidd has agreed to help her friend Eddie with a fashion exhibit at the local museum featuring vintage Hollywood costumes.  However, when the shipments of hats at the center of the exhibit arrive, the boxes are empty.  Then Samantha and Eddie find a dead body in the museum.  After calling the police, Samantha fully intends to walk away from the case and focus on a job she’s taken working for her boyfriend, Nick, as he launches his own shoe design studio.  However, she can’t just walk away.  As her attention continues to be divided, will she be able to balance her new job and her relationship with finding a killer?

This is another delightful mystery.  The plot is strong, with plenty of suspects, clues, and events to keep us engaged until Samantha finds the killer.  I’m really like Samantha and the rest of the regular characters.  The suspects aren’t quite as well developed, but that’s more due to lack of page time than anything else, and they are still strong enough to make us care about the outcome.  There are a few minor timeline issues and typos; I wish the book had gotten the final edit it needed.  While this isn’t a laugh a page mystery, there are some fun scenes and phrases that made me grin if not laugh out loud.  Overall, this is another diverting mystery.

Hems and Homicide by Elizabeth Penney (Apron Shop Series #1) – 4
Iris Buckley is happy to be opening a new shop in her native Blueberry Cove, Maine.  Partnering with her grandma, Anne, the shop will be a physical location for her internet business selling original apron designs and vintage linens.  However, while starting the renovations, Iris discovers a skeleton in the basement.  Anne immediately identifies the remains as belonging to her friend Star Moonshine.  Anne always assumed that Star just drifted out of town back in the early 1970’s, but clearly something happened to her.  Anne wants to make sure justice is served for her friend.  Can Iris help her do that?

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about this book, and it is easy to see why.  Author Elizabeth Penney has created a wonderful location.  Blueberry Cove is the kind of town I’d love to visit.  Iris leads a cast of charming characters that I can’t wait to get to know better as the series progresses.  While the plot got out to a great start, I did feel it bogged down a bit early on in the book.  But once it kicked into high gear, we got some great twists before everything was neatly tied up.  Prepare to be charmed when you pick up this book.

Sowing Malice by Wendy Tyson (Greenhouse Mysteries #6) – 5
When the von Tresslers moved to town, they didn’t make the residents of Winsome, Pennsylvania, very happy.  They’ve mostly kept to themselves except when they were pushing to do things their way.  Now, David von Tressler has died, and most of the mourners are from out of town.  That includes three women that Megan Sawyer runs into at the local nursery.  Shortly after Megan meets them, one of the women disappears.  Then a body turns up at Megan’s farm.  What is going on?

I was thrilled to see another entry in this great series, and I wasn’t disappointed.  The mystery is strong.  It starts quickly and there are plenty of twists and turns before we reach the end.  The characters continue to be wonderful.  We got updates on the series regulars and the new characters were well developed.  There’s nothing here that spoils previous books in the series, so you could jump in here, but to fully appreciate the character growth, I do recommend reading the series in order.  This series is more of a traditional mystery than a lighter cozy, but as long as you know that going in, you’ll be fine.  I definitely recommend this book and the entire series.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette (Ice Cream Parlor Mysteries #1) – 4
Bronwyn “Win” Crewse is ready to reopen Crewse Creamery, the ice cream parlor founded by her grandparents in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, after some renovations.  Unfortunately, opening day sees an early October snow storm and no customers.  However, Win’s day gets even worse when she stumbles upon a dead body after she’s closed the shop for the day.  The man turns out to be someone who crossed paths with Win’s family years ago, and not for the better.  Before Win knows it, the police are looking at her father as the killer.  Now, Win needs to figure out what really happened so she can clear him of a crime she knows he didn’t commit.  Can she do that and get customers into the ice cream parlor?

I love ice cream, so that was a draw to this series, and the ice cream descriptions definitely made me drool.  The delicious sounding recipes at the end will help with that.  The mystery started out a little slowly.  It did eventually get going, and we had some good suspects and twists before Win figured everything out.  The characters were a mixed bag.  I loved Win, and her family is wonderful as well.  I especially appreciated the close relationship she has with both her parents and her grandfather.  Her friends were more caricatures than fully developed characters, and as a result, they amused me at times and annoyed me at others.  I can see them getting more developed as the series goes along, however.  This is still a tasty treat, and I can see it developing into a favorite series for many.

“Q” is for Quarry by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #17) – 5
Private investigator Kinsey Millhone is feeling a bit restless when Lieutenant Conrad Dolan walks into her new office.  Eighteen years ago, in 1969, he and his friend, Stacey Oliphant, found the body of a young woman.  Both men have pursued the case over their careers with the police, but they haven’t figure out who she was.  They want to take one more look at it, and they want to hire Kinsey to help them with the leg work.  Will the three of them find any new leads in this cold case?

I’m sure it’s no surprise to say they do indeed begin to make some headway as they go back over the case.  I enjoyed being along for the unpredictable ride.  I thought I had things figured out a few times before we reached the real climax.  The characters are as strong as ever.  I loved seeing the growth in Kinsey, especially with a recurring sub-plot popping back up.  There are a couple of other fun sub-plots with the regulars.  Dolan and Oliphant could be a bit annoying at times, but that never lasted for very long.  This book is based on a real-life Jane Doe, and there is information in the back on how Sue Grafton became interested in that case, which is still unsolved best I can tell.  It’s always a pleasure to see a long running series that is still this strong and entertaining after so many volumes.

Quiche of Death by Mary Lee Ashford (Sugar and Spice Mysteries #3) – 4
Sugar Calloway and Dixie Spicer, owners of Super and Spice Cookbooks, are spending a weekend with the Arbor family gathering material for a cookbook to preserve family favorite recipes, some of which have been turned into the frozen meals the family is famous for.  However, the weekend gets off to a rocky start when Theo, the only grandchild, arrives with his fiancée, Collette.  This is the first time Collette has met the family, and things don’t get well.  Then Sugar finds Collette’s body the next morning on her walk.  There is a possibility it was a hunting accident, but could it be murder?

I really have grown to love the characters in this series, so I was happy to be visiting them again here.  Don’t worry, we do get to see all the regulars as the story unfolds.  It was a bit overwhelming meeting the Arbor family all at once, but it wasn’t long before I had these suspects straight in my mind.  Unfortunately, the plot could have been better.  One aspect wasn’t fully developed, and the pacing was uneven.  However, Sugar does uncover some interesting information, and I was engaged the entire time I was reading.  In fact, I was sorry to reach the last page of this quick read.  I enjoy the setting, Iowa, since it is one we don’t get to see very often, at least in the books I read.  Naturally, we get three delicious sounding recipes at the end to enjoy once we are done with the book.  If you are looking for a fast, fun read, this is the book to pick up.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Dead Body Language by Penny Warner (Connor Westphal #1) – 4
Connor Westphal has moved from San Francisco to the town of Flat Skunk in California’s gold country, where she is running the weekly paper she inherited from her grandparents.  When Lacy Penzance comes in to place an ad to track down her long-lost sister, Connor readily agrees.  Then Lacy takes back her ad.  The next morning, Lacy is found dead.  The sheriff doesn’t think it is the suicide it was staged to look like.  Under the guise of writing an article about Lacy, Connor begins to investigate.  Will she find the killer?

What I haven’t mentioned so far is that Connor is deaf.  I found this character trait to be an interesting addition to the mystery, and it really added suspense to the climax.  Connor is an all-around strong character, and I enjoyed getting to meet her friends here as well.  The plot is strong, although I have a couple niggles about who the killer turned out to be.  Even so, I have to admire the strong plotting; I missed several major clues.  I did find there to be a few more four-letter words than I was expecting, and I think there were timeline issues, although I might have added an extra day in there somewhere as I was reading.  I originally read this book close to when it was originally released in 1997, but I never read the rest of the series.  I’m looking forward to fixing that soon.

From Beer to Eternity by Sherry Harris (Chloe Jackson Sea Glass Saloon Mysteries #1) – 4
When Chloe Jackson promised her friend Boone she would help his grandmother, Vivi, if something happened to him, she never expected she’s have to follow through.  But after his untimely death, she heads to Emerald Cove, Florida, to help her with her beach side bar.  Things get complicated when Chloe finds one of the regulars dead behind the bar one morning.  With the police looking at Vivi as a suspect, Chloe has to figure out what really happened.  Can she do it?

Picking up this book, I was immediately transported to the beach, a place I love.  The setting was fantastic, and I would love to visit in person.  The mystery was a little slow to get going as we were introduced to the characters and setting, but once it did, I was fully engaged.  There were plenty of twists along the way.  The climax was a bit rushed, but it still answered all of my questions.  There are several times where Chloe seemed to have more time in her day than normal, and one chapter with a wonky timeline, but none of this impacted the plot in a meaningful way.  Chloe had been working as a children’s librarian before this story started, so I loved the occasional references to children’s books.  She leads a group of fantastic characters, some of whom already feel like friends.  I will definitely be back for the next round.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

A Chorus Lineup by Joelle Charbonneau (Glee Club Mysteries #3) – 4
The high school show choir Paige Marshall has been coaching has been invited to the national finals in Nashville.  She expects that only complication will be the career making audition back home in Chicago she’s been invited to in the middle of the competition.  But that’s before someone sabotages all the team’s costumes and band instruments.  Then a murder takes place.  Can Paige figure out what is going on?

It's been years since I read the first two books in this series, but I was soon back in Paige’s world thanks to reminders in the text about what had happened before.  Some of them do get spoilery, so keep that in mind if you are interested in the series.  Thanks to the references, I was able to fully appreciate the character growth in the regulars we saw here.  The new characters were just as strong.  The plot was good and kept me guessing.  I was surprised by a sub-plot that took over in the final quarter, completely slowing down the momentum.  But we are then flung back into the mystery for a climax that had me turning pages while it successfully wrapped everything up.  It also wrapped up these characters’ arcs, so fans of this series will be able to walk away satisfied with the time we’ve spent with them.

Echo Park by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #12) – 5
Since Harry Bosch joined the open unsolved squad of the LAPD, he has been actively working on one of his own unsolved cases, that of a young woman who vanished thirteen years earlier.  He has a suspect, but it is just based on gut feeling.  Then he gets a surprising call.  A man who was recently arrested with dead bodies in his car has reached a plea deal to avoid the death penalty.  He’s going to confess to several other crimes, including Bosch’s cold case.  Is the confession credible?

I had missed Harry Bosch, so I was thrilled to be back in his presence when I picked up this book.  He’s a fantastic character, and he comes to life once again in these pages.  FBI agent Rachel Walling is also present, and I enjoyed their interactions.  The rest of the characters, returning and new, are just as vivid.  I knew to expect twists, but they still caught me off guard when I reached them.  Yet each one was logical.  This series has more sex, language, and violence than my normal cozies, but they are never gratuitously put into the book but used to tell the story.  I definitely count myself among Michael Connelly’s fans, and I can’t wait until I find the time to visit Harry Bosch again.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

August 1st's Weekly TV Thoughts

The Titan Games – Another injury for the men.  I wonder what happened to him.  I hope he’s okay overall.  Meanwhile, the women’s finale was close.  I was definitely rooting for her.  I really liked her from the package at the beginning of the episode.

Stargirl – One thing I’ve noticed is they allow scenes to develop on the show.  It isn’t as rush as many shows are today.  I do enjoy that since it allows things to feel more real.  Speaking of which, Courtney’s dad is a jerk.  I love the actor, and he did a good job, but man is he a jerk.  A quieter episode overall, must have needed to save the budget.  But things are about to heat back up.

Tell Me a Story – I’d been curious about this show, so with it airing on the CW, I thought it was time to give it a shot.  It was…interesting.  I called the climax of the episode early on.  Having three stories makes me wonder how they will tie together, if they tie together in any way but the superficial way they already do.  I’ll give it another week, but I’m not sure I will stick with this one.

United We Fall – Much better than last week’s episode.  I was laughing so hard at some of the lines and moments.  Both stories really were fun.  Unfortunately, my cable went out at the end.  I got to see the contraption she built, but then it cut out.  I know it was mostly commercials, but I would have liked to see the final scene, including the tag.

Killer Camp – They got me.  I was shocked that Rob was the killer.  However, I wasn’t surprised to find out there was another one.  After all, the show would be over in three episodes otherwise, and that wouldn’t be good at all.

Cannonball – Again, some new contests.  I’m impressed with everything they keep coming up with.  I would have done horribly on the balance/surfboard competition.  I can’t balance to save my life, or in this case, win money.

Holey Moley – I’ve missed this show the last couple of weeks.  Nice to have it back.  I was rooting for the woman who does the obstacles courses.  In fact, I would bet we’ve both done the Camp Pendleton Mud Run together since she lives near the base.  I was sorry to see her go out when she did.

Don’t – A new game tonight.  Lots of trivia challenges in this episode, and they proved to not be very good at them, didn’t they?  Of course, I didn’t know the answer to most of those questions, so I can’t say too much.  And yes, I still laugh harder at the narrator than I do at anything else.  Especially what sounded like it was going to be a promo to come on the show but instead was telling you “Don’t apply.”

Friday, July 31, 2020

Book Review: Echo Park by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #12)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters and plot
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
A case from the past
Is it solved with confession?
Another great book

Does the Confession Solve the Cold Case?

I’ve missed Harry Bosch.  It’s been way too long since I was able to visit him via one of the books in the series, and I quickly remembered why I love these books so much as I fell under the spell of Echo Park.

Since Harry Bosch joined the open unsolved squad of the LAPD, he has been actively working on one of his own unsolved cases, that of a young woman who vanished thirteen years earlier.  He has a suspect, but it is just based on gut feeling.

Then he gets a surprising call.  A man who was recently arrested with dead bodies in his car has reached a plea deal to avoid the death penalty.  He’s going to confess to several other crimes, including Bosch’s cold case.  Is the confession credible?

 As I already said, it was great to be back with Bosch.  He’s a wonderful character, and once again author Michael Connelly does a fantastic job of bringing him to life.  Rachel Walling, an FBI agent who has been in some of Connelly’s non-Harry Bosch novels, appears in this one, and she is a great compliment to Bosch’s character.  There are other characters we’ve gotten to know in this book, and it’s wonderful to see them again.  Of course, we’ve got new characters, too, and I appreciated how vividly they came to life as well.

And the case?  Well, it wouldn’t be a Bosch case if it didn’t twist all over the place.  I knew to expect them but I was still surprised by what happened as the case unfolded.  Yet, each one was completely logical given what had come before and leads up to a fantastic climax.

Since this isn’t one of my typical cozies, there is more language, sex, and violence than I would normally read.  However, these elements are kept to a minimum and are never used gratuitously but always further the story or characters.

I did listen to the audio book.  The version I listened to was narrated by Len Cariou, who did a great job reading the book without getting in the way of the story.

There is a reason why Michael Connelly has so many fans, and I definitely count myself as one of them.  Echo Park is another outstanding book from a master of mystery.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Harry Bosch series.

July 31st's Book Beginning and Friday 56

It's Friday!  That means it is time for Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring Killer Chardonnay by Kate Lansing.

This is the first on the Colorado Wine Mystery series, and the first novel from Kate Lansing.  It's wonderful!

Here's how the book begins:

I arrange open bottles of wine behind the hard maple countertop from lightest to heaviest.

The opening sets the stage, but this from page 56 will definitely make you wonder what is going on:

We continue our sibling banter, but there's something simmering below the surface, a forced nonchalance emanating from Liam that sets me on edge.

I really enjoyed this book.  I'll be publishing my review on Thursday next week, so I hope you'll come back and read my review then.

In the meantime, have a wonderful week.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Book Review: A Chorus Lineup by Joelle Charbonneau (Glee Club Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, compelling mystery
Cons: Weird pacing in the last quarter
The Bottom Line:
Sabotage, murder
At show choir competition
Good series wrap up

Competitions Are Murder

I really did intend to return to the Glee Club Mysteries sooner.  After all, I enjoyed the first two and it was obvious the series ended with A Chorus Lineup.  But somehow, I let years go by before picking up this book.

If you missed this series or it’s been a while since you visited the characters, Paige Marshall is our main character.  While she dreams of being an opera singer, she also needs to pay the bills, so she took a job teaching her local Chicago high school’s show choir.  It’s been rocky with two murders along the way, but as this book opens, things are looking good for Paige and the choir.  They’ve been winning regional competitions, and now the choir is heading to the national competition in Nashville.  The biggest complication that Paige can foresee is the audition of a lifetime she’s been offered back in Chicago that’s in the middle of the competition week.

The choir arrives a few days before the competition itself, taking advantage of some master classes and time to rehearse on the stage where the competition will take place.  The first morning, however, one of the mothers from one of the other teams makes a horrible discovery – someone has destroyed the costumes of most of the teams and even sabotaged band instruments.  The woman immediately starts to publicly and repeatedly blame Paige for the sabotage.  When a murder happens, the stakes are raised.  Is the event safe?  Can Paige figure out what is happening?

Since it had been so long between books, I was fuzzy on all the details of the characters, however, it wasn’t long before I was remembered who people were and their relationships.  It helped that there are plenty of references to events from the previous books.  Some of them are spoilery, so if you are interested in the series, I recommend starting from the beginning.

Thanks to those references triggering my memory of the earlier books, I was able to appreciate the character growth we’ve seen in Paige and some of the supporting characters in early books and again here.  The care and support they show each other is wonderful.  Naturally, the book is filled with new characters, all of whom come across as well.

The plot was strong for most of the book.  I was kept guessing who could be involved in the events unfolding, and couldn’t wait to see how that would end.  Then, in the final quarter of the book, we take a pause in the action for a sub-plot to take over.  It completely killed the momentum.  However, when the we got back to the mystery, it was kicked into high gear for the rest of the book, and the climax answered all my questions.

Even with the weird pacing, I still enjoyed A Chorus Lineup.  This book does a great job of wrapping up the characters and their lives, so fans of the series will close the book with a huge sense of satisfaction.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Movie Review: Batman Returns (1992)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Acting from the cast
Cons: Overly dark and disturbing
The Bottom Line:
Batman, two villains
Focus on wrong characters
Leaves this film darker

Tim Burton Must Have Been Given More Control with Batman Returns

When I watched Batman, I was surprised that it didn’t feel much like a Tim Burton film.  Yes, there were touches of his trademarks here and there, but it wasn’t nearly as bizaar as some of his films can be.  So I went into Batman Returns hoping the same would hold true here.  Sadly, this movie was much stranger than the original.

Our story actually opens in the past as a family, horrified by their newborn, send him out one winter night into the sewers.  This baby grows up to become Penguin (Danny DeVito).  When Penguin begins his reign of terror on the streets of Gotham during the city’s tree lighting ceremony, he is just searching for answers to who he is.  He says he even understands why his parents sent him away.  However, his path has crossed that of business man Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), who thinks he can use Penguin for his own purposes.

Meanwhile, Shreck’s administrative assistant Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) is frustrated with her life, or lack thereof.  Working late one night, she runs afoul of Shreck, who tries to kill her.  She takes on a new persona, Catwoman, and begins to go after Shreck to get her revenge.  How will Batman (Michael Keaton) deal with these two villains?

Yes, there is a reason I mentioned Batman last in a Batman movie.  Honestly, this isn’t his film.  This film is about the three villains.  Yes, there are three.  Even this casual fan had heard of Penguin and Catwoman.  I’m not sure if Max Shreck was invented for this movie or if he is in the comics, but he is definitely a villain of this piece with his own agenda.  Anyway, we get plenty about the villains, their backstory, and what makes them tick.  I would guess that the two famous villains get as much screen time as Batman, if not more.  They definitely have more if you combine the time the villains have against the time Batman has.  I get that it is important to know your villain, but this is definitely too much.  Honestly, Batman doesn’t have any real character growth, and you don’t feel any attachment to him.

And this isn’t the fault of the actors at all.  Michael Keaton does a good job.  He’s just let down by a script that gives him nothing to work with.  He’s really playing a straight man to the villains, who are all obviously having fun.  They are almost over the top without actually going there.

Then there are the other Tim Burton touches.  Penguin is disturbing.  I’m not talking about his looks, but his actions are psychotic.  Selina/Catwoman is a much more sympathetic character.  In fact, I’d say she’s the most sympathetic character in the film.  And there are the clowns.  Clowns everywhere.  Tim Burton loves circuses, and he works them in here.  Overall, this has significantly darker themes and scenes than the last film does.  It’s not The Dark Knight dark, but it’s heading in that direction.  Add in the overt sexuality of the film, and it is disturbing.  I’m not talking about fun double entandres, either.  Some of the comments made me uncomfortable, and I was watching by myself.  I can’t imagine watching this in mixed company.

The story itself isn’t bad.  It would help if we spent a little less time with the disturbing and given that time to developing Bruce Wayne/Batman more.

This movie came out three years after the first one, and it is amazing how much film making had advanced in that time.  Don’t get me wrong, there are still dated elements, but it doesn’t feel nearly as dated as Batman does.

Ironically, this movie takes place during the Christmas season.  It’s definitely the anti-Christmas film, which is probably why there isn’t a campaign to consider it a Christmas film like there is with Die Hard.

I’d expected to like Batman Returns after enjoying Batman, but this one left me very disappointed.  I definitely don’t plan to watch this film again any time soon.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Book Review: From Beer to Eternity by Sherry Harris (Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and setting, solid mystery
Cons: Minor pacing and timeline issues
The Bottom Line:
New series starts with
Death outside a beach side bar
Look forward to more

Cheers to a New Series

Sherry Harris is one of many authors whose books I can’t wait to read, so when I learned she was planning a new series I was excited.  I might not have picked up a book set in a bar otherwise, but I’m very glad I did since I enjoyed From Beer to Eternity.

Chloe Jackson has taken a leave of absence from her job as a children’s librarian in Chicago to keep a promise to a friend.  Before Boone left with the National Guard, he asked Chloe to help his grandmother, Vivi, with her bar down in Florida if anything should happen to him.  So when Chloe got the tragic news of his untimely death, that’s just what she did.  However, when she arrives, she finds that Vivi is quite capable of taking care of herself.  While Chloe tries to figure out what Boone thought Chloe could help with, she starts picking up shifts in the bar in Emerald Cove on the Florida Panhandle.

That’s how Chloe meets Elwell, a local who is a bit eccentric but mostly harmless.  One morning, Chloe finds him dead behind the bar.  As the police begin to focus on Vivi, Chloe begins to poke around, hoping to figure out what really happened.  She doesn’t know Vivi well, but she doesn’t strike Chloe as a killer.  Can she clear Vivi of the crime?

I love the beach, but I haven’t been so far this year.  With Emerald Cove being a beach community and the bar opening right up to the sand, this was the beach vacation I needed.  Okay, so there might be a bit more murder and mayhem to this book than I would personally want for a day at the beach, but it’s fiction.

In this case, the mystery did seem to get off to a slow start.  Or maybe I was just impatient.  Either way, we got quite a bit of information early in the book introducing us to the characters and the location.  It’s certainly information we need, but I was ready when the plot picked up.  Once that happened, I was completely hooked.  We got the expected twists and surprises.  The climax was a bit rushed, but we did get all of our questions answered.

I do have to comment on some timing issues.  There were several times in the book that I felt like Chloe was blessed with more than 24 hours in her day, and one chapter in particular where timing issues were obvious.  Overall, these issues were minor but annoying, especially since it is one of my pet peeves.

Because Chloe has worked as a children’s librarian, we get some references to classic children’s books, which I greatly enjoyed.  It also provided her with some needed skills to help navigate her new life.  She’s a strong main character, and I enjoyed meeting her here.  Since she is completely new to town, we are meeting everyone at the same time she is.  There’s an interesting cast of characters, and they are all strong, whether series regular or suspect.  And yes, I’m fairly certain we’ll see some of the suspects show up again in later books.

I already love these characters and this setting, so I will definitely be back for the next round.  From Beer to Eternity is the first in what promises to be a great new series.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Ornament Review: Happy Halloween! #8 - Frankenstein - 2020 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute Frankenstein themed ornament
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Frankenstein, pumpkin
Combine in cute ornament
Light decoration

This Ornament?  It’s Alive!

I keep thinking that Hallmark will run out of ideas for their Happy Halloween! series.  After all, how many monsters can there be?  But each year, they release a new ornament that surprises me in a good way.  This year is no exception.

Our monster for 2020 is Frankenstein’s Monster.  (And yes, I’ll just be calling him Frankenstein the rest of the time.)  As always, the outside of this ornament is a pumpkin.  The pumpkin has got a scar on its forehead and its mouth is wide wide open, allowing us to see the scene inside.

Inside, we’ve got Frankenstein just getting up off the table that he was lying on when he was brought to life.  The table is shiny and looks metal.  Pasted to the back and sides of the pumpkin are items from the rest of the mad scientist’s lab.  Frankenstein himself is sitting up with his arms in front of him and a smile on his face.

Now, I’ll admit I’ve never read the book or seen any movies versions of Frankenstein, but I don’t picture him smiling at any point in the story.  However, it is perfectly in keeping with this series, which presents these classic monsters in cuter, more friendly formats.

And that’s why I started this series.  It is fun to have something to put out at Halloween, and these are cute.  This ornament is no exception.  I also love the way the pumpkin changes to reflect the monster, in this case, that scar.  Something about the way he has his mouth open seems like Frankenstein, too.

Naturally, as a pumpkin, this ornament has a nice, flat base, so you can set it out as part of a display if you wish.  As an ornament, it is designed to be hung as well, and you’ll find that it tips back ever so slightly when you go to hang it.  That actually works out okay since it allows you to see the scene inside the pumpkin a little easier.

Since this is part of one of Hallmark’s series, you’ll find the series marker, in this case an 8 in a Christmas tree, on the bottom of the ornament.  And yes, I still maintain they should have switched things up for this series and made it a pumpkin instead of a Christmas tree.

If you are looking to add something fun to your Halloween decorations, I definitely recommend this year’s addition to the Happy Halloween! series.  It’s mostly cute with just a touch of scary, so perfect for a light hearted display.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Happy Halloween! series.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Disney Pin Review: Space Mountain - Crests of the Kingdom

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great pin to celebrate Space Mountain
Cons: No cons found in the known universe
The Bottom Line:
A flight into space
Celebrated with this crest
Makes for a fun pin

A Spacey Crest

We are moving into the second half of the Crests of the Kingdom pin series, which means it is time to hit one of the most popular attractions at Disneyland – Space Mountain.

As you’d expect, the crest features the iconic white outside of the attraction.  Okay, so here it is gray since the entire front of the pin is made from pewter, but you can definitely see the outline of it.  Circling the crest is the trail of a shooting star, and a few other stars are around the edges.  The Latin phrase this month is on the trail from the main shooting star.  It’s “Eamus ad astra,” which means “Let’s go to the stars.”  Once again, that’s perfect for the attraction.

When you flip the crest open, you’ll see the cartoon picture inside.  There are no recognizable characters this month.  Instead, we get a picture of two astronauts sitting in their spaceship, which looks remarkably close to the vehicle we ride in for the attraction.  Around them, we see the bottom of another space ship, stars, and planets.

As much fun as it would be to have a Disney character in this picture, it doesn’t diminish my love of the pin.  And I feel like the outside is perfect.  It’s a fun variation on a theme, and I always love that kind of creativity.

I’m not surprised that Space Mountain received a crest during this pin series last year.  Since the attraction is so popular, I’m happy it was such a great release.

If you'd like to see a picture, please visit my Instagram page.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

July 25th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Cannonball (7-19) – That ball challenged looked hard.  Yes, you had to swing, but the balls might not be there when you swung.  I was very impressed with those who did well on that challenge.  And yes, after my comment last time, I have to acknowledge that they completely changed up their editing just to fool me.

Titan Games – Ouch!  I felt so sorry for the competitor who had to stop because he was hurt.  I was rooting for the returning Titan, but I didn’t want him to go out like that.  Meanwhile, the women’s Titan stayed the same, too.  It will be interesting if they stay the entire time.

Stargirl – The conversation with Barbara went about as well as could be expected.  But then she is recording the conversation?  And email Courtney’s dad?  What is she really up to?  I couldn’t believe the ending of the episode.  I’m also kind of wondering where they plan to go next season.  It’s obvious they are going to finish up this arc this season, but this fight has been so personal for everyone, I can’t see what will make it so personal next season.

United We Fall – That was a bit of a disappointment.  Yes, I was still laughing, but the scenes with the brother weren’t funny.  They were pretty disgusting, actually.  Hope next week is better.

Killer Camp – I’m not surprised they got rid of one of the guys.  I was sorry it was Warren.  I liked him.  No clue who the killer is.  I’m sure there is some small thing I’ve missed that would tell me, but I’ll just wait until the end.

Cannonball (7/23) – The guy who won did better than I thought he would.  Just goes to prove in a competition like that, the only round you need to win is the final one.  As long as you keep advancing, you are fine.

Friday, July 24, 2020

July 24th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

We made it to Friday, which means it is time for this week's Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring From Beer to Eternity by Sherry Harris.

This is the first in a new series from a wonderful writer.  It doesn't officially come out until Tuesday, but I've been lucky enough to read an ARC.

And the story begins like this:

Remember the big moment in The Wizard of Oz movie when Dorothy says, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore?"  Boy, could I relate.

Jumping ahead to 56% into this book, we find this:

"But obviously, I've done something.  Struck a nerve, hit a chord, stirred up a wasp's nest.  Pick your cliche."

I hope you'll come back on Tuesday to see what I thought of the book.  (Spoiler alert: I enjoyed it.)

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Book Review: Dead Body Language by Penny Warner (Connor Westphal #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong, unique character, good plot
Cons: Foul language, a niggle with the ending
The Bottom Line:
Connor faces crime
A unique main character
In still strong debut

Unexpected Body in the Cemetery

Dead Body Language was my introduction to Penny Warner’s books.  I read it years ago – so long ago I don’t have a review of it anywhere, and I started reviewing every book I read in 2001.  Since I never moved on to the rest of the series (although I did enjoy the other series she wrote over the years), I decided it was time to go back and revisit Connor.

Connor Westphal has taken her journalism degree and moved from San Francisco to the town of Flat Skunk, a mostly tourist town in California’s Gold Country.  She’s running the Eureka!, a weekend paper she inherited from her grandparents.  Mostly, it is filled with articles about the various events planned for tourist and ads for sales the stores are holding.

A huge part of her business is want ads, so when Lacy Penzance comes in wanting to place an ad looking for her long lost sister, Connor thinks little of it.  Later that same day, Lacy decides to cancel her ad.  The next morning, Lacy’s body is found on her recently departed husband’s gravestone.  It looks like suicide at first, but the sheriff isn’t so sure.  In the guise of writing a tribute to Lacy, Connor begins digging into the case herself.  Will she find the killer?

As I already said, I read this book years ago.  The paperback version I read came out in 1997 and is long out print, but it has been rereleased as an ebook.  I don’t know if any changes were done to update the book in the new version, but I will be commenting on the original 1997 copy.

So far, one thing I haven’t mentioned about Connor is that she is deaf.  That was a twist that originally intrigued me when I picked up the book, and it is handled expertly.  Obviously, I don’t know what being deaf is like, but this felt real to me, and as I was reading, I felt like I couldn’t hear right along with Connor.  We get some discussion about what lip reading is really like early on and how Connor has to fill in the blanks on what most people say, but we slowly get to the point that this is dropped in favor of advancing the story.  Still, I was thinking about that element as I read.  We learn a bit about TTY phones (this is the days before everyone had a cell phone that could text), and the climax is much more suspenseful because Connor can’t hear.

The mystery itself is very good.  When I reached the climax, I was impressed with the clues that Connor picked up on that I completely missed.  There were enough twists to keep me engaged.  I’m a bit on the fence about the killer’s identity.  I’m not completely sure it works, but maybe that’s just me.

I really do like Connor as a main character.  She is strong and resourceful.  Yes, she has made friends who help her out as needed, but she is pretty self-sufficient.  These friends are also real, and I look forward to getting to know them better as the series progresses.

Going back to this book now, I was surprised at the foul language in the book.  There are some four-letter words scattered throughout the book, more so at the beginning and end than the middle.  Also, I felt like Connor’s week stretched longer than five days, but it is possible I lost track of the days as I was reading.  The timelines issues also play into some of my quibbles about the ending – I’m not sure when the villain had time to do part of the plot.

I really did enjoy meeting Connor again after all these years.  I already have the rest of the series, and I plan to move on from Dead Body Language soon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Movie Review: Charlie's Angels (2019)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Action was fun
Cons: Weak plot, thin characters
The Bottom Line:
The action is fine
Held together with thin plot
And weak characters

“Who Am I?  I’m Just the Decoy.”

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed Charlie’s Angels when I’ve caught reruns, and someday, I will get to the rest of my DVD sets.  So, I was intrigued by the new movie that came out last year.  But between the busy holiday season when it was released and the mixed reviews, I waited to see it until I could get it from Redbox.  I wasn’t missing much.

We first meet Sabina (Kristen Stewart) while on a mission with Jane (Ella Balinska).  She appears to be on a date, but we quickly learn her date is the bad guy they are after.  Sabina and Jane don’t necessarily get along, but they are part of a much bigger organization, the Townsend Detective Agency still run by Charlie.  While still headquartered in Los Angeles, both Sabina and Jane work out of the Europe office.

Sabina and Jane soon find themselves on a new mission working alongside Boz (Elizabeth Banks).  This new mission?  Elena (Naomi Scott) thinks the new product her company is testing in dangerous, possibly deadly, but no one is listening to her, so she’s turned to the Townsend Detective Agency.  However, it is soon clear that the wrong people have been listening to Elena.  Will the women be able to figure out who is behind the plot in time to stop them?

Now, let’s be honest here.  The original was never great TV, even by 1970’s standards.  Instead, it was campy and therefore lots of fun.  This movie does nothing to try to capture those feelings.  Instead, it feels like a generic action movie just with female leads instead of male leads.  The opening scene, while fun, almost comes across as a to lecture a time or two, but once the main story gets going, we focus on the action.  There are a few nods to the TV show, but none that are enough to make it feel like it is connected to anything the franchise has produced before.  Since it was designed to appeal to nostalgia for the show, I find that a bit odd.  The exception to that is a fun cameo at the end of the movie.

As an action movie, it is okay.  The action scenes themselves are good, but the plot holding them together needed work.  I’m still not entirely clear what the device does, but it hardly matters since it is just designed to drive the plot.  They telegraph a plot twist that sets up the third act way too far in advance, so when we learn what is happening, I was rolling my eyes.

Likewise, the characters never grow beyond two dimensional characters.  Even then, I feel like I’m being generous.  I’m not blaming this on any of the actresses involved, who do the best they can with the material they have.  Nope, this is firmly on the script, which was so focused on story that it didn’t spend any time on the characters.

I wanted this movie to be better – I really did.  But Charlie’s Angels just didn’t work for me.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Book Review: Quiche of Death by Mary Lee Ashford (Sugar and Spice Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, unique setting
Cons: Mystery could be stronger
The Bottom Line:
A family cookbook
Leads Sugar to a murder
In light, fast, fun read

Murder in the Family

It’s been a year since we last visited the ladies of Sugar and Spice Cookbooks, so I was excited to see Quiche of Death hit my radar a few months ago.  This is a light, fun mystery series, and the latest was no exception.

If you are new to the series, it focuses on Sugar Calloway and Dixie Spicer, two friends who have started a company that creates cookbooks for small groups to use as fundraisers.  They are located in Iowa, an often-overlooked setting for mysteries.  This book finds them working for the Arbor family.  The Arbors own a business creating frozen foods, and they are looking to produce a book that will preserve family recipes, including the quiche that made their food company famous.

The family is spending a couple of weeks together at the family home turned bed and breakfast, and Sugar and Dixie have been invited for the weekend to get a jump on the project.  At dinner the first night, they are trying to get to know everyone when Theo, the only grandchild in the family, arrives with his fiancée, Collette.  This is the first time everyone is meeting her, and the introduction is rocky, to put it mildly.

The next morning, Sugar goes for a walk and discovers Collette’s dead body.  The police aren’t sure whether her death was a tragic hunting accident or if it was murder.  If so, who could have wanted Collette dead?

I really do enjoy spending time with Sugar, Dixie, and the rest of their friends.  The characters are warm and wonderful, and I suspect I’d be right at home if I found myself in their town in real life.  Yes, we do get to see all the regulars even though we start out away from home.

We meet the Arbor family, aka the suspects, rather quickly, and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed at first.  However, as the novel went along, I found it easy to remember who all the family members were and how they fit into the story that was unfolding.

Unfortunately, the mystery was a bit undercooked.  There’s one plot point that was never fully explained, and the pace was uneven.  On the other hand, Sugar uncovers several interesting pieces of information as the book went along, and I was engaged the entire time I was reading.

I mentioned earlier that the setting is unique.  I can’t think of any other series I read set in Iowa; much of the middle of the country is overlooked, in fact.  I don’t know enough about the state to place where the books are set, but I still enjoy getting to read about a different part of the country.

And, just to be clear, I had fun reading this book.  The characters truly are charming, and the setting is wonderful.  This is a fast read, and I was sorry to leave the characters behind when I reached the end.

Naturally, we can’t talk about recipes with having a few at the end.  In addition to a quiche recipe, we get two more tasty sounding recipes.

If you are looking for a light, fun, fast read, Quiche of Death will fit the bill.  I was glad to get to revisit Sugar and Dixie and hope we learn what happens to them next soon.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Ornament Review: Ten Lords-a-Leaping - 12 Days of Christmas #10 - 2020 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great looking ornament
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Start final quarter
With one of the leaping lords
With great looking piece

Let This Ornament Leap onto Your Tree

We are entering the final quarter of the 12 Days of Christmas ornament series from Hallmark.  This year, we get Ten Lords-a-Leaping.

The ornament features a young man leaping over a gold ball.  No real surprise, right?  He’s dressed in blues, aqua-greens, and whites.  He is dressed like an old-fashioned lord in tights and a vest with sleaves.  His cape, flying out behind him, features a bit of his verse from the song, including lyrics and music.  Topping things off is the gold feather in his cap.

I do worry a bit about this ornament blending in with a tree since it is green and blue, but that is a minor complaint.  I love the colors, and they look great together.  I do also miss the hodgepodge look of the birds, but I think the look we’ve gotten for the humans in the series has worked perfectly for them.  I’m also quite impressed with this young man’s flexibility.  I don’t think I could have ever jumped over something like this, even when I was younger.

Since this man is leaping over a ball, the ornament doesn’t have a flat base and won’t sit up on its own.  But this isn’t a surprise to fans of the series – none of them have been able to sit out.  That means you have to hang him.  Fortunately, that’s not an issue at all since he hangs straight.

And yes, you’ll find the series marker on him.  It was the second place I thought it would be, but no, I’m not going to tell you where it is.

I’m thrilled with Ten Lords-a-Leaping; it is a great addition to the series.  I’m looking forward to having the final two entries in the series since I can’t wait to see them all together.

Be sure to check out the rest of the 12 Days of Christmas series.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Book Review: "Q" is for Quarry by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #17)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Intriguing cold case mystery
Cons: In my quest for cons, I couldn’t find any
The Bottom Line:
Kinsey on cold case
Can she learn who Jane Doe is?
You’ll love finding out

“Q” is for Quality

Before I picked up “Q” is for Quarry, the seventeenth Kinsey Millhone mystery from Sue Grafton, I knew that the book was inspired by a real-life unsolved mystery.  Naturally, that intrigued me and made me want to see just how Ms. Grafton would handle the case.  I wasn’t surprised to find that I loved the book.

If you are new to the series, Kinsey Millhone is a private investigator living in Santa Teresa, California, a thinly disguised Santa Barbara.  As this book opens, she is feeling restless.  All that changes when homicide detective Lieutenant Conrad Dolan walks into her new office.  He’s out on medical leave, and he thinks this is a great time to reopen a cold case.

Eighteen years before, in 1969, Conrad Dolan and his friend Stacey Oliphant were on a hunting trip when they found the body of a young woman who had been murdered and dumped in a quarry an hour north of town.  Stacey is retired from the county sheriff’s department and was one of the investigating officers.  The body was never identified and the case was never solved.  The two men would like to take another look at the case and hire Kinsey to do their leg work.  Will the three of them find any new leads?

Of course, it’s no surprise to say that yes, they manage to find a fresh lead or two.  It would be a pretty boring book if they didn’t.  As usual for this series, the plot progresses nicely.  I was sure I had things figured out a couple of times before I reached the end only to have more information come along that made my theory obsolete.  Yet when we reach the end, everything is wrapped up nicely.

I was also happy to see a recurring series sub-plot pop up again in this book, and I enjoyed how it advanced here.

The characters in this series are as sharp as always.  Kinsey leads the pack – she is strong, resourceful, determined, and smart.  Oh, things don’t always work out the way she thinks they will, but she never jumps in completely blind.  Conrad and Stacey could get annoying with their bickering, but overall, I liked them.  Rosie has a couple scenes that are absolutely hilarious, and I’m very curious to see what happens next with Henry.  The new characters fit perfectly into the world that is being created here.

Yes, I finally listened to another audio book!  It was nice to be revisiting listening to stories and this series.  Judy Kaye is the narrator of these later books in the series.  While it was a little rough when she took over the series, I’ve gotten used to her take on the characters now.

This isn’t one of my cozies, so there is slightly more language and violence than I would normally enjoy, but I was expecting that going into the book.  As long as you are expecting it, you’ll be fine.

There is an epilogue from Sue Grafton talking about the real case that inspired this book and how she got interested in it.  As of the writing of the book, it remained unsolved.  A quick internet search makes it look like the real Jane Doe is still a mystery.

It’s always a pleasure to see a long running series that is this strong so far into the series.  “Q”is for Quarry will please Kinsey’s many fans.  While you will get the most out of the series if you read the books in order, you could easily jump in here and see just why so many readers love the series.

Once you read one, you'll want to read the rest of the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries.