Books By C. LItka

Books By C. LItka

Friday, November 11, 2022

The Final Quest

This will be the final installment of my quest to find a new genre to read. As I said said when setting out on this quest, science fiction no longer appealed to me as a reader, and the same could be said for fantasy – though I was never a big fan of fantasy to begin with. Seeking a new genre to read, I downloaded free books from Amazon in Historical Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and Cozy Mysteries. What follows is my book report on the Cozy Mysteries I sampled.

Murder and Mint Tea, A Mrs. Miller Mystery by Janet Lane-Walters DNF 21%

This story features a 60 something old retired nurse with a lot of friends that we are introduced to along the way, which I believe is a key story beat in this genre. She lives in a “Painted Lady”, i.e. and old Victorian era house that she has converted into two flats – taking the upper one for herself and renting the lower one. Which tells me that Janet Lane-Walters is not very old, since any elderly widow with any brains at all, especially a nurse, would not choose live at the top of the stairs at her age. I believe the mystery concerns her new tenant. This tenant is a pretty lady with two children, a nice one and a nasty one. Her son made the arrangements and the lady is having an affair with a friend is his. I never reached the point where someone gets murdered, so there will be no spoilers in this review.

As I’ve said before, I don’t mind slow openings. My stories never open with a bang, so it would be the pot calling the kettle black to criticize a slow opening, but let’s just say that the only thing that happened in the first 21% of the story is that Mrs Miller breaks her leg crossing the street in a snow storm. Seeing that it is almost healed by the time the slightly slutty new tenant and her obnoxious son and nice daughter are introduced, what was the point of that incident? It’s a mystery. A cozy mystery. And remains one, since I called it a day on this cozy mystery before ever finding out. Or caring.

An Occupied Grave, A Brock & Poole Mystery by A G Barnett DNF 31%

This is a traditional English mystery story set in contemporary Britain. Unlike the previous story, this mystery starts right out of the gate with the elbow of a body discovered in the newly dug grave at the grave side service of a dead lady. Investigating the body, we have a new police detective, Brock, on his first day at the station, who is assigned the case along with detective Poole. Brock has a backstory that is slowly revealed, as does Poole during the investigation. The victim is a young man just released from jail – a relative of the person being buried – who is hated by everyone in the village because, while drunk, he drove his car into a young couple from the village, killing the young man, and the young woman, turned to drugs and died. So everyone in the village is a suspect in his killing.

While not a classic, it is not a bad mystery story, and I didn’t deliberately decide not to finish it, I  just have not been not motivated enough to pick it up again. Maybe I will finish it someday, but I really wouldn’t call it a cozy mystery. It is a straight up traditional mystery.

I then briefly sampled two other books, The Nantucket Inn by Pamela Kelly about someone opening her home as a bed and breakfast, and Deadheaded and Buried, An English Cottage Garden Mystery by USA Today Best Selling Author H. Y. Hanna. In sampling both of these books I came to the realization that I really didn’t want to read stories set in the contemporary world. I read for escape, and I’m not really into the daily Starbucks lifestyle. So I moved along to sample one more cozy mystery.

Murder in the Manor A Lacy Doyle Cozy Mystery – Book One by Fiona Grace C on the curve

Yes, I finished this one, and yes it is set in the contemporary world, so I guess I found it more compelling than the two previous contemporary stories. This story concerns a just divorced woman, Lacy Doyle, who is an interior designer, on the cusp of turning 40. After signing the divorce papers, she decided to quit her job and fly to England to visit a town she remembers visiting with her parents just before her father disappeared out of their lives. She has money to spend, enough to spend several hundred pounds on a taxi ride to this village without batting an eye. With all the hotels booked for the Easter Holiday season, she is offered a cottage on a cliff overlooking the sea to say at, that owner is planning to renovate. The next day she meets the handsome pastry chef, Tom, who runs a bakery, discovers a recently abandoned store across the street that reminds her of the past. She meets the owner and decides to open up an antique shop in it just as soon as she can change her visa to allow her to work in the UK. After this happens she inherits a dog who has made his way “home” after his owners, the former renters of the shop were killed in a car crash. She runs about buying a store’s worth of antiques using her London antique dealer contacts from her former job and opens the antique store – all in two weeks after arriving. Really? And what’s the rush?

That day, or the next the old lady of the local manor stops by and wants her to appraise her antiques, since she plans to sell them. They agree to meet at the manor the following day for breakfast, “I have it delivered to the house promptly for seven a.m.” the lady of the manor says. The lady says something that seems to indicate that she knew Lacy Doyle’s father – this is a plot thread that runs through the series, I believe. When Lacy arrives the following morning, she finds the door unlatched, and the lady of the manor dead inside. She calls the police, who determine that the lady was murdered. Lacy, somehow becomes the prime suspect. Who delivered the breakfast, you ask? It is never mentioned again. There is, however, Nigel the valet, but he was out somewhere with “an alibi” at seven that morning. For some reason, the victim’s three children, though they wouldn’t inherit anything but items from the play room, become Lacy’s prime suspects as she seeks to solve the mystery since, for some reason, she finds herself (almost) universally hated in the village for killing the old lady. The almost is handsome Tom, the pastry chef, and her next door neighbor on the cliff. Lacy must clear her name or her antique business would go bust, so together with Nigel she set out to solve the mystery It seems that a small, but very valuable painting, is missing from its place on the wall and they believe it is hidden in a locked grandfather clock because it seems people want that clock. And so it goes with various red herrings right up to the end where Lucy and Nigel gather all the suspects together – the victim’s three children – and the police, so Lucy can explain who did the deed, how and why.

The story had energy which kept me reading, but was unrealistic in so many ways. For example, the (unnecessary) speed at which Lacy set up shop. The fact that she was immediately the main suspect without any evidence, the fact that everyone in the village believed that and shunned her. Moreover, there was a sloppiness of the mystery, who delivered the lady’s breakfast was never addressed, and the missing miniature painting in the clock could’ve easily been slipped into a coat pocket and taken, but was instead locked in the clock. By the time the mystery was explained in classic drawing room mystery fashion, I didn’t care. A good mystery needs to be clever, and this was, at best a Hardy Boys level of a mystery with too many assumptions and right guesses.

Note: While downloading the cover image for this book, I was amazed to find that this title had over 10,000 ratings on Amazon. Wow. And darn good ones as well. Lordy, I'm out of the mainstream.

So what’s a fellow do do now? Where to turn for good books to read. To the past, of course. To either books or authors that I have read long ago and retain fond memories of. I went on Abe Books and ordered an old omnibus collection of three novels by a favorite author that I may’ve read, but don’t remember much beyond enjoying them. Stay turned. (Spoiler; so far so good. At last, good, clever writing by a master of the language.)

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