Wimsey Wednesday: an Introduction to a Not-Altogether-Unhealthy Obsession

Howdy! I’m on vacation in Brazil for most of September, so I turned the tables on my readers and opened up the blog for guests posts while I’m gone. You may recognize today’s guest blogger from the comments as “intexplorer”, but I just call him “Dad”. As you will see, I come by my love of both Dorothy Sayers’ work and alliteration naturally.

When I was a teenager, I was a voracious reader with tastes that were either very eclectic or not-very-discriminating.  I read science fiction, mysteries, adventures, history, political tomes, fantasy, and more.  When I first read Lord of the Rings, I remember being struck with how complex the sentence structures were.  Whereas the fiction of C.S. Lewis and Alastair MacLean were always easy reads and instantly accessible, J.R.R. Tolkien and, later, Dorothy Sayers, required a bit of literary recalibration.  Looking back on this, I think that my reading diet contained so much light fare that my brain was not accustomed to the meaty writing of a Sayers or Tolkien without some extra effort on my part.

Mind you, I’m not equating the quality of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy with The Guns of Navarone, but I guess it does follow that part of the genius of C.S. Lewis was that he wrote superb fiction which is instantly accessible to the average reader.

Dorothy Sayers created the character of Lord Peter Wimsey after World War I as a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Bertie Wooster.  Wimsey is a member of the English aristocracy, but as the second son, he has no title, few responsibilities, and lots of money.  So naturally he decides to devote some of his spare time and ample intelligence to solving the mysteries that spring up all about him.

Author Dorothy Sayers was one of the first women to receive a degree from Oxford (in 1915) and was a friend of C.S. Lewis and other members of an Oxford literary club called the “Inklings.”  Sayers seems to have been unlucky in love and, clearly, Lord Peter Wimsey was her perfect man.  He is introduced as a somewhat cardboard-ish figure in Whose Body, but as Sayers develops his world and character over the course of eleven novels, he becomes as real and interesting as any person I’ve not personally met; and more interesting than many people I have met.

The books are a marvel to read, with the mysteries being of secondary importance to the sense of time, place, and manners.  Most of the books are also available as audiobooks and some as dramatizations, with the former to be preferred over the latter.  The late Ian Carmichael read most of the novels in unabridged format for the BBC Radio 4 “Book at Bedtime” series during the 70’s and early 80’s—long before audiobooks became popular.  Carmichael completely owns the characters, and any of these books make an excellent way to pass the time during long car trips.  Many is the time we have listened to some—or most—of a Wimsey mystery on a road trip, and then been forced to spend the next week or so finishing the audiobook in one or two hour segments every night: they are that addictive.

The Lord Peter Wimsey novels can be divided into two groups:  Wimsey the bachelor, and Wimsey the wooer (of novelist Harriet Vane).  Perhaps coincidentally, the two Wimsey television adaptations are divided the same way.  Next week, I will review the better (and more recent) series, which covers three of the four Wimsey/Vane novels.  And then I will review the earlier adaptation, which stars an already-too-old Ian Carmichael.  This series is also excellent, but likely to be of more interest to those who share my not-altogether-unhealthy obsession with the Wimsey characters and series.

*Janie again here! For my take on Dorothy Sayers, see my post here.

Review of by Cape Refuge (2002) by Terri Blackstock (Cape Refuge Series #1)

Bottom line: A realistic mystery that is well worth reading.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Mystery and suspense combine in this first book in an exciting new 4-book series by best-selling author Terri Blackstock. Thelma and Wayne Owens run a bed and breakfast in Cape Refuge, Georgia. They minister to the seamen on the nearby docks and prisoners just out of nearby jails, holding services in an old warehouse and taking many of the ‘down-and-outers’ into their home. They have two daughters: the dutiful Morgan who is married to Jonathan, a fisherman, and helps them out at the B & B, and Blair, the still-single town librarian, who would be beautiful if it weren’t for the serious scar on the side of her face.

After a heated, public argument with his in-laws, Jonathan discovers Thelma and Wayne murdered in the warehouse where they held their church services. Considered the prime suspect, Jonathan is arrested. Grief-stricken, Morgan and Blair launch their own investigation to help Matthew Cade, the town’s young police chief, find the real killer. Shady characters and a raft of suspects keep the plot twisting and the suspense building as we learn not only who murdered Thelma and Wayne, but also the secrets about their family’s past and the true reason for Blair’s disfigurement.

Review:

It has been a while since I’ve started a mystery that compelled me to finish it. Despite having some characters that irritated me, and the frequent point of view changes between five or so main characters, I found myself really caring about them, and rooting for them all the way through (even the ones I occasionally wanted to shake – Jonathan, I’m looking at you here.) I thought the book could have done with some slimming down in spots – there were a couple of places it seemed like the characters should have caught on well before they did.

But overall, as I said, I found it compelling. It was a frighteningly believable story, and I found myself suffering with the helplessness of the main characters as it feels like all is crashing down around them. What do you do when it seems like everyone is against you? In a small, isolated town, where only a few people are in power and they all know each other, that can create a dangerous dynamic.

I also liked how the author was able to create scenarios with tension and danger, without relying on completely implausible set ups, such as a middle aged woman singlehandedly barging in to a biker bar to confront the bad guy who could eat her for lunch. (Side note: on kboards, a forum I sometimes hang out on, I learned about an acronym for just such heroines – TSTL, or Too Stupid To Live. I thought that was hilarious.)

It features Christian themes pretty heavily throughout, but it was done in a way that made sense in the story – in fact I thought that part was exceptionally well handled. So, apart from a few quibbles with the pacing and one or two of the characters being annoying (though in a very realistic way, which was perhaps why I found them so annoying – these are people that would irritate me in real life, too) it was a very enjoyable read. Well, enjoyable in the traditional mystery sense of “I need to figure out who did it and what is going to happen to the characters now!”

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of by Miss Pym Disposes (1946) by Josephine Tey

Bottom line: A quirky novel with a murder. A good read for fans of the Golden Age mystery era who are looking to add some more authors to their list.

Rating: Recommended if you are a fan of Golden Age mysteries.

Blurb:

Miss Lucy Pym, a popular English psychologist, is guest lecturer at a physical training college. The year’s term is nearly over, and Miss Pym — inquisitive and observant — detects a furtiveness in the behavior of one student during a final exam. She prevents the girl from cheating by destroying her crib notes. But Miss Pym’s cover-up of one crime precipitates another — a fatal “accident” that only her psychological theories can prove was really murder.

Review:

Reading something by Josephine Tey has been on my “to be read” list for a while – I’m a huge fan of other Golden Age mystery authors and she is ranked up there with Sayers, Christie, Allingham and Marsh (see a recommended reading list for those authors here). Tey has several standalone novels (as opposed to a series), so I picked this one because it was a) at my library and b) set in a college (I have a soft spot for the academic world).

It’s been a few days since I read this now, and I’m still trying to decide if I liked it. It is very different from a standard murder mystery, in fact, if I hadn’t read the blurb (which I think gives away too much), I wouldn’t have realized I was reading a murder mystery. You’re more than two thirds of the way through the book before anything unpleasant happens.

However, despite that, it was an enjoyable read. Miss Pym, the heroine, is a quirky but fun character, and the occasional humorous non sequitur reminded me a little bit of Douglas Adams humor. The setting in a women’s college and some of the themes throughout the book reminded me quite strongly of Gaudy Night (published in 1935 – just over a decade earlier), though it didn’t feel like a knockoff, just familiar.

As I said earlier, I’m not entirely sure that I liked it. I would certainly rank it below the other four authors previously mentioned. It didn’t follow the normal conventions of a mystery, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did take some recalibrating. I think I would read more Josephine Tey, but I’m in no hurry to run out and get another one. If we can borrow from the collegiate world, I would consider this a Golden Age 201 course – after you’ve taken Golden Age 101 (Sayers, Christie and so on) and want to pursue the subject, this would be a good next step. 

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of Temperance Brennan (A.K.A. Bones) Series by Kathy Reichs

Bottom line: A good look at the behind the scenes of police work and what a forensic anthropologist does – extremely violent and sometimes sub-par storytelling.

Rating: Recommended if you’re a fan of police procedurals or the TV show Bones.

Review:

I watched several seasons of Bones before giving up. It’s a good mystery show, but I got tired of the sexual tension being the main focus and the jerry-rigging done by the writers to keep that tension…tense. That being said, if you’re a mystery fan, it’s worth checking out, especially the first couple seasons or so. Anyways, a few years ago I had been wandering my library looking for something fun to read and randomly grabbed one of the Temperance Brennan mysteries that inspired the show. It was very good, although the show has practically nothing in common with the books except the name of the main character and the fact that she’s a forensic anthropologist. So I read a few more over the years and always found them to be clever and entertaining.

On my recent library run I had picked up several first-in-a-mystery-series books to review, and Deja Dead was one of those. I was looking forward to reading it, based on my previous experiences with Kathy Reichs. This, my friends, is a good example of why I’m not an optimist. I didn’t enjoy it at all. It was tedious and gruesome and slow. I didn’t identify with the main character at all, and despite the extremely graphic nature of the violence, didn’t find it all that interesting until the last 70 or so pages. For a book that clocks in at 532 pages, that’s kind of a big deal. I did see some hints of why I enjoyed some of the other books in the series. Towards the end, the characters felt more fleshed out. The murder(s) part of the plot was believable if grisly. The ending was genuinely a page turning, oh-no-what-next kind of thing for me. So overall I’m going to rate the series as a “Recommended If” with the first book a “Not Recommended”. From what I recall, the murders/violence stay pretty graphic but less so than this book (I’d skip the series entirely if you’re not a fan of that sort of thing), but the writing improves tremendously: the action starts rolling earlier in the book and the characters feel more realistic. I will say that I found the science-y parts to be well done and interesting.

Available:

Deja Dead (Book 1) Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Death Du Jour (Book 2) Amazon, Barnes & Noble

First Season of BonesAmazon, Barnes & Noble

What did you think? Did you like the series?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Mystery Series Roundup

We have moved recently, and I have been a little disappointed with my new library. For one, the online e-book lending system has been upgraded since I used it last and I can’t figure out how to browse for Kindle books. It’s very unwieldy. For another, they put all their fiction in one category. ONE. That means mysteries are next to literary fiction, romance next to sci fi, all lumped into one big heap. Of course it’s neatly organized alphabetically by author, but one of the great pleasures of the library is browsing. I find it far too overwhelming to do so when you have such a large and varied selection of books. However, the redeeming feature I’ve discovered is the online hold feature. Essentially you get to shop for books online, for free, and they collect them and put them on a shelf at the front of the library for you. It’s wonderful. I came home with 11 books the last time, many of them first in a mystery series. So here are three that I’ve recently read or reread, and I hope you can find a new-to-you series to enjoy.

How do you like your mysteries? Intensity varies from low (over-easy) to high-ish (over-hard).

Over-easy: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (1998) (series by the same name) Alexander McCall Smith Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’ve read the first eight or so of these mysteries, and they’re just lovely. Set in Botswana, the pace is slow and rambling, like a story shared by an old friend on a back porch with iced tea. Though there is sadness in the books, the intensity level is very low. The mysteries investigated have more to do with everyday problems than murder and the books themselves are more about the characters than the investigations. A pleasant lazy Sunday afternoon read.

Blurb of first book:

This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

Over-medium: Still Life (2005) (Chief Inspector Gamache series) Louise PennyAmazon, Barnes & Noble

This was a new read for me. It had been recommended by a few different people and I finally got around to reading it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be reading the rest of the series. Two things I wasn’t crazy about were 1) there are a lot of characters introduced pretty quickly and 2) the point of view shifts pretty quickly and seemingly randomly. But those were fairly minor annoyances. The setting was great – a small town in Quebec, the characters were very good, and the murder itself was cleverly plotted. Her detective was interesting without being forcibly quirky and I can’t wait to learn more about him.

Blurb of first book:

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

Over-hard: Track of the Cat (1993) (Anna Pigeon series) Nevada Barr Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’ve read perhaps six or seven of this series. Each murder mystery is set in a national park, and investigated by Park Ranger Anna Pigeon. I give high marks to Barr for creating a complex main character – Anna is middle aged, stubborn, occasionally bad-tempered, and very capable – and for setting – I love the idea of using national parks as a background. Although I wouldn’t say the first book, Track of the Cat, is particularly grueling, some of her stories can be very violent and graphic. I have avoided Hard Truth, my “local” national park mystery because of fairly consist reviews saying how graphic the content matter (child abuse). Winter Study was also fairly gritty. That being said, I have continued to read books in this series. If you’re looking for an intense, page-turning mystery with great settings and interesting characters ,this just might be the series for you.

Blurb of first book:

Patrolling the remote West Texas backcountry, Anna’s first job as a national park ranger is marred by violence she thought she had left behind: the brutal death of a fellow ranger. When the cause of death is chalked up to a mountain lion attack, Anna’s rage knows no bounds. It’s up to her to save the protected cats from the politics and prejudices of the locals – and prove the kill was the work of a species far less rare.

 

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Castle TV Series

Bottom line: A murder mystery TV series with great characters, acting, and storylines.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Castle is my favorite TV show. Maybe of all time, but definitely my favorite currently running show. It’s a murder mystery that features Detective Kate Beckett and her crew, who have been told to bring a writer, Richard Castle, along with them in the course of their investigations, so that he can gather information to write a series of books.

I only tried it because it stars Nathan Fillion, who was the male lead in the tragically short lived TV series Firefly. Castle is fantastically good. It’s one of those rare shows where everything comes together: the writing, characters, casting, acting, plots, etc. are all just incredibly well done. They even managed to handle the sexual tension (it’s TV, therefore there must be sexual tension) well. I stopped watching Bones because at the end of every season, there would be this huge “will they/won’t they” cliffhanger, and then when they started the next season they just pretended the last episode hadn’t happened. After 5-6 seasons like that, I just got fed up. I’m not a huge TV watcher in general, but any time the writers start to obviously manipulate the audience, I lose interest instantly (this annoys my husband – we’ll be invested maybe a couple of seasons deep and all of a sudden, I’m done.). I want to be thinking about the story and the characters, not be wondering about how the writers are going to yank my chain next. Anyways, in Castle the relationship between the male and female lead feels natural, and progresses and regresses (for the vast majority) according to believable events within the context of the show. As the characters are the main draw for me, this is even more important than usual. And ALL the characters are great, even the supporting cast – they feel realistic and interact well and are basically the kinds of people that you wish you could go hang out with.

The only downside for me is that sometimes you get an incredibly intense, edge-of-your-seat, gruesome show, and sometimes you get a fun, lighthearted show, and you never know which you’re going to get. Although I think in general that’s a good thing (keeps it fresh), it is the reason I stopped watching about a year ago when I was pregnant and tired and stressed out and couldn’t handle anything even remotely intense. I haven’t managed to get caught up yet, but I will.

Get the first season: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Side Note: As an interesting promotional tactic, the powers that be have created the Nikki Heat books that are supposedly written by the character Richard Castle (the Amazon author page even shows Nathan Fillion). They’re actually not bad mysteries. The writing style is a little more sensationalized and occasionally cheesy than I would typically go for, but it’s a fun extension of the Castle world. This is one of the incredibly rare times when I’ll tell you to watch the TV show first, but there it is. I’ve read the first two Nikki Heat books and enjoyed them. I don’t know yet if I’ll read the others – my “to be read” list has become quite enormously high again – but not because I don’t think I wouldn’t like them. Do be aware, especially if you typically read cozies, that these are fairly intense and PG-13-y.

Get the first book, Heat Wave: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of JET by Russell Blake (2012) (Jet Series)

Bottom line: JET is a free, full length novel introducing the JET series. If you’re a fan of thrillers, give it a try!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

Code name: Jet 

Twenty-eight-year-old Jet was once the Mossad’s most lethal operative before faking her own death and burying that identity forever. But the past doesn’t give up on its secrets easily.

When her new life on a tranquil island is shattered by a brutal attack, Jet must return to a clandestine existence of savagery and deception to save herself and those she loves. A gritty, unflinching roller-coaster of high-stakes twists and shocking turns, JET features a new breed of protagonist that breaks the mold.

Fans of Lisbeth Salander, SALT, and the Bourne trilogy will find themselves carried along at Lamborghini speed to a conclusion as surprising as the story’s heroine is unconventional.

Review:

I recommend reading this book when you can devote a few hours to it and finish it all in one gulp – otherwise, you’ll still end up finishing it all in one gulp, but there will be babies crying, dogs barking, chores neglected, and food uneaten as you frantically race through the pages. The style reminded me the most of the Bourne trilogy (as suggested in the blurb). We have an extremely competent assassin: a female character far more strongly developed than one would normally expect to see in this genre. We have international shenanigans, scary bad guys, cool weapons, and clandestine government agencies. The writing was very tight, and as I said earlier, I was very impressed with the lifelikeness of the main character. Blake managed to create a ruthless assassin who still feels realistically human and also manages to be a sympathetic character. Descriptions were evocative without being tedious, and there are enough logistics and details (e.g. what kinds of weapons they used, how they get from point A to point B) to give the reader a good flavour of setting but not so much that your eyes start to glaze over. The only thing I know about guns is that they fire bullets, and the only thing I know about cars is that they come in different colours. (Yes, I’m a girl. Yes, I know that’s a stereotype, but seriously, I look at a car and I can generally tell if it’s an SUV, truck, or car, but that’s it. I’m a mess trying to find my car in parking lots. Do you know how many gray cars there are?!? Anyways…)The only aspect I wasn’t crazy about was how the story jumped around in time and place, but I recognize that these were all important for the plot and/or backstory. My brain is very linear and I just have a hard time coming into and out of the main story line.

So basically, we have an intriguing premise, lots of action, an interesting main character, and last but not least, very good writing. Oh, and it’s free. What’s not to like? I’ll definitely be reading more in the series as time (and budget) allows, and will be checking out some of Blake’s other works.

Side note: This is a violent story, and while the writing certainly conveys that, it never felt overly graphic to me (and I am a total wimp).

Get it! Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of The Alphabet Mysteries Series by Sue Grafton

Bottom line: A great example of the hard boiled genre, featuring a strong female P.I.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb for First Book: A is for Alibi (1982)

A IS FOR AVENGER
A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she’s got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes.

A IS FOR ACCUSED
That’s why she draws desperate clients like Nikki Fife. Eight years ago, she was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she’s out on parole and needs Kinsey’s help to find the real killer. But after all this time, clearing Nikki’s bad name won’t be easy.

A IS FOR ALIBI
If there’s one thing that makes Kinsey Millhone feel alive, it’s playing on the edge. When her investigation turns up a second corpse, more suspects, and a new reason to kill, Kinsey discovers that the edge is closer–and sharper–than she imagined.

Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Mysteries, so I got A is for Alibi from the library and started over at the beginning (not all of them – I’m dedicated to you, my loyal readers, but not THAT dedicated). I’ve read up through T, though Grafton has published up through V (W is for Wasted comes out this fall). For a series that has 22 published books, plus some short stories (none of which I’ve read), the level of quality is surprisingly consistent – and high. The mysteries and characters are interesting and varied enough so that you don’t feel like you’re reading the same book over and over again. There are, obviously, some books that are better than others, but for the most part they’re very good reads.

One thing to note is that just because this series features a female detective, do not mistake these for cozies. They are definitely hard boiled: gritty and full of the realities of life – sex and bad language and all the rest of it. Kinsey is a tough, prickly, character, one that you come to respect before you necessarily start to like her. In the first book, you get enough details about her earlier life to keep you interested, without there being an info dump of backstory. I find it annoying when within a few strategic conversations in the first chapter you learn everything you need to know about a character. Real life doesn’t work that way. You do learn more about her as the series progresses, in a very natural way.

I’d recommend this series for anyone who likes the hard boiled mystery genre, or even mystery fans in general. Be warned that there is quite a bit of detail involved in tracking down various aspects of the cases; facts don’t seamlessly fall into place on the first try, which I quite like. Another great thing about these books is that any library is almost guaranteed to stock them. So, pick one up and give it a try – if you like it, you’ll eventually have 25 more great books to keep you entertained. Even for someone who reads as fast as I do, that’s at least a hundred hours of happiness.

 Get it! Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Summer Reading List – Golden Age Mysteries

I’m going to be posting some summer reading lists throughout the, well, summer. These won’t be in-depth reviews, just a list of “hey, these are great and you should drop everything and read them now!” books. I’m going to be doing it by genre, and for my first genre I’m picked Golden Age Mysteries. These are the mysteries that many people think of as the “classic” mysteries, typically written in the 1920’s or 1930’s. I love this era – so much so that they comprise the vast majority of the mysteries on my personal bookshelves that survive my frequent purges. So, here’s your summer reading list for Golden Age Mysteries:

  1. Gaudy Night (1935) by Dorothy Sayers. Amazon, Barnes & Noble. Normally I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one (just because it’s not the first and I’m a bit obsessive that way), but I think it really is her best and if you want to give Sayers a try, this is the one to do it with. (See my review of Sayers’ work here.)
  2. Murder on the Orient Express (1934) by Agatha Christie. Amazon, Barnes & Noble. Probably my favorite Christie, and a great introduction to her work. See more reviews of Christie here.)
  3. Opening Night / Night at the Vulcan (alternate title) (1951) by Ngaio Marsh. Amazon, Barnes & Noble. I’ve only read a handful of Marsh’s works, but I’ve enjoyed all the ones that I have read. I’d rate her a bit below Agatha Christie, but still very fun to read if you like this genre. She was from New Zealand and worked in the theatre, so several of her works are set in the theatre as this one is (and also features a heroine fresh off the boat from NZ).
  4. Death of a Ghost (1934) by Margery Allingham. Amazon, Barnes & Noble. This is my favorite Allingham. Her work is a bit darker than any of the others I’ve mentioned, but this one especially is extremely well crafted. Some of her books I found the characters to be flat, but in this one they are more fleshed out.

The four authors above are considered the four original “Queens of Crime”, and reading one of each of their works would certainly constitute a good introduction into the golden age of detective fiction. Another author that I hear frequently recommended along with the four above is Josephine Tey, but I have yet to read any of her works.  So, as a bonus, I’m including:

5. Anything written by Josephine Tey. Amazon, Barnes & Noble. This is going on my reading list for the summer.

I hope you enjoy your first reading assignment from me – look for more to come!

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of Maui Widow Waltz by JoAnn Bassett (2011) (Islands of Aloha Series)

Bottom line: Meh.

Rating: Recommended if

Blurb:

Even “death do us part” couldn’t spoil her wedding day plans… Wedding planner Pali Moon is thrilled when a would-be bride shows up at “Let’s Get Maui’d” inquiring about a lavish beach wedding. That is, until she learns it must be on Valentine’s Day–just nine days away. Oh yeah, and one other little hitch–the groom disappeared at sea a week earlier. But the bride’s convinced he’ll be found safe and sound, so she’s got a plan–and a man–to do a proxy ceremony if necessary. The day before the big nuptials a man’s body washes ashore on a South Maui beach. Has the groom finally shown up? If so, what’s it going to be–a wedding…or a funeral? This is the FIRST book in the “Islands of Aloha” Mystery series.

Review:

I was really excited about this book. I’m always looking for a new mystery series, and if it’s set somewhere fun I’m even happier. I got it for free, and it is very highly rated on Amazon. However, I just never got into it. The mystery itself was decent, but I had a hard time getting behind the characters. They felt clichéd to me, and interacted in odd ways. For example, the cast of good guys included: male gay best friend, quirky/hippie female best friend, and a new potential love interest with secrets. I kept skimming through the dialogue and character development pieces to get to the end, so I could figure out whodunit, why, and then move on with my life. Even then, when I got there, the ending felt rushed, and I had to skip back and read it a couple of times to see if it made sense.

So, it wasn’t my cup of tea, but I know that a lot of my impressions as a reader are subjective. Maybe I was just not in the right place when I read it, I don’t know. It was well edited (thank goodness), and the writing wasn’t bad. So if you’re hankering after life in the islands, or you’re depressed because you still have to grab your winter coat when you head out the door, check it out. I probably won’t be reading any more of the series, unless I can grab another one on a free promotion. Hey, my reading habits don’t come cheap.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

More Information: The author’s website is here.

What did you think? Did you like the book?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.