#Book Review: Death of a Showman

This week I will be posting the reviews I did for the May issue of Historical Novels Review Magazine. I was not able to post them until after they appeared on the Historical Novel Society website on May 1st. They will also be in the May print issue of Historical Novels Review. The first is an outstanding cozy mystery that had me chuckling throughout. It is call Death of a Showman and is set in 1914 New York.

This fun and well-written cozy historical mystery by Mariah Fredericks takes us right to the heart of Broadway. This is the fourth book in the Jane Prescott series. It can be read as a standalone, but events from previous books are discussed in this story, so reading the first three books would be beneficial. In 1914 New York City, Jane Prescott, lady's maid to Louise Tyler, is back in New York after a trip to Europe. Louise has invested in a Broadway Show and Jane begins accompanying her to events and rehearsals as a chaperone. Leo Hirschfeld, Jane's romance from the previous summer, has written this Broadway musical. He has also made some choices that are hard for Jane to accept.  Then a well-known producer is killed in a bathroom of the famous Rector's. Tabloid reporter Michael Behan is on the case. Will Jane help him find the killer?

Mariah Fredericks takes us on a sometimes hilarious journey into the world of Broadway and the elite circles of 1914 New York City. The author's wry humor will keep you chuckling as we uncover more secrets and clues, and we learn that especially in show business, things aren't always as they seem. Jane is an engaging protagonist. Her shrewd mind, adventurous spirit, and clever wit will definitely keep the reader entertained. Jane is perfectly imperfect, and stumbles frequently into mishaps and mayhem, taking us along for the ride. The mystery is multi-faceted and compelling, and the characters all shine. Historical people, places, and events from Gilded Age New York are shown in vivid detail.

This was an enjoyable read from start to finish. Highly recommend.

I received a free copy of this book from Minotaur Books for review in Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mariah Fredericks

Mariah Fredericks was born and raised in New York City, where she still lives today with her family. She is a graduate of Vassar College with a BA in history. She has written several novels for young adults; her novel Crunch Time was nominated for an Edgar in 2007. A Death of No Importance is her first mystery for adults. 

Mariah Fredericks’ Website

LINK TO BUY ALL FOUR BOOKS IN THE JANE PRESCOTT SERIES, INCLUDING DEATH OF A SHOWMAN

LINK TO MY AMAZON REVIEW OF DEATH OF A SHOWMAN (HELPFUL VOTES APPRECIATED)

Death and the Singing Birds

This is Book 3 in the Nell Drury mystery series.   It can be read as a standalone. It is 1926 in Kent, which is still adjusting to post-war life. The book opens with Chef Nell Drury preparing for Lady Ansley’s luncheon to welcome their new neighbors, Sir Gilbert and Lady Lisette Saddler. As they attempt to entertain the eccentric pair,   they learn Sir Gilbert is organizing a Summer African Art Festival at his home, Spitalfrith    Manor.  The  festival would feature the “Artistes de Cler.”   The festival is the talk of the town and everyone is invited. When a murder occurs at the festival, Lord Ansley’s valet is arrested. Can Nell clear his name?

This is a nice historical cozy mystery. The characters are well developed. I loved the author’s description of Lady Saddler “…She smiled, but it wasn’t the kind of smile that warmed the cockles of one’s heart. It was more the smile of a crocodile….” The members of the “Artistes de Cler” are an interesting group of characters as well. The story is told from several points of view, but it works well and is not confusing. In fact, it gives us more knowledge of some of the characters. The author also provides a helpful cast of characters list at the beginning of the book. I was hoping to read more about food since Nell is a chef, but the story centered more along the lines of art and investigation with just passing references to food. The mystery is well done, with plenty of red herrings thrown in. Recommended for fans of historical mysteries.

AMY MYERS’ WEBSITE

BUY DEATH AND THE SINGING BIRDS ON AMAZON

Unveiling the Past

Meghan DeFord and Sean Eagle are married cold case detectives who usually work together, but are now working separate cases in different cities. Meghan is teamed up with another detective, trying to help a woman find her father, who vanished without a trace. Sean is continuing to work a case of two missing boys and is teamed with a detective who is troubled and lashing out. At the same time, Meghan has decided to try and make contact with her father, who has never been in her life. She consults her mother, Diane, about the best way to approach him.

This is an interesting Christian mystery with a solid message of God’s love and forgiveness. I really enjoyed the interactions between Meghan’s mother and grandmother (and their three dachshunds). However, there are times when it seems that things are tied up too neatly and quickly. I have seen God work this way, but it usually takes time. There is also a little conflict in my opinion between the way Meghan describes her mother and the way Diane is actually portrayed. Meghan describes her as unmotherly early in the book, and she is one of the reasons that Meghan doesn’t want to become a Mom. However, in the book, Diane is portrayed as a delightful person who is very dedicated to her daughter. She is briefly portrayed as a stressed single Mom early in the book. Since the DeFord women were first introduced in the novel Bringing Maggie Home in 2017, that conflict may have been resolved in that book.

The two mysteries are interesting and engaging, and the personalties of all the detectives are explored.

If you enjoy Christian mysteries, you will enjoy this book. I suggest reading Bringing Maggie Home first.

Three and a half stars, rounded up to four.

Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Unveiling-Past-Kim-Vogel-Sawyer-ebook/dp/B07WQPLWBR/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=unveiling+the+past&qid=1603651270&sr=8-1

Link to the author’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Kim-Vogel-Sawyer/e/B001H6GWJY?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Link to my Goodreads review (Please Like and Follow if you are so inclined): https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3607519136?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Still Knife Painting

As you will soon see, I felt very strongly about this one. I can be a lenient reviewer, but hateful stereotypes really set me off. Unfortunately, that’s what I found in this new series.

Still Knife Painting is a new series about Miranda Trent, who has inherited her Uncle’s homestead in Kentucky, in the heart of the Daniel Boone National Forest. She starts a unique business for tourists called Paint ’n Shine, providing a package which includes a scenic painting class, a Southern dinner, and a moonshine tasting.

I was excited to read this because like the protagonist, Miranda, I lived elsewhere, but spent all my summers in the mountains with my relatives, who were Appalachian locals (in my case from the mountains of North Carolina). Unfortunately my expectations for this book fell far short. The main character Miranda is very unlikable. Miranda is supposed to be from a local family, even though she has been living in New York, so she should have some empathy and understanding for the locals. Instead she looks down on them and is downright rude at times. Her thoughts are shown in italics, and are usually something mean about others. I really hated the approach of presenting her thoughts in italics, because whenever I saw italics coming up, I knew it was probably going to be something cruel or condescending.

Then there were the ridiculous stereotypes presented in this book. When the Sheriff’s Deputy showed up and is described as a “Barney Fife,” I rolled my eyes back in my head. Then he passed out at a crime scene. Too cheesy. Too ridiculous. Mountain people are not stupid. They are not Barney Fife. The police do not pass out at the scene of a crime. I really wanted to put the book down at that point.

In addition, she should have some understanding of the rich culture and traditions of the locals. Very little of that is brought forth. Instead she is rude, condescending, and standoffish with the locals. As someone whose families are locals, Miranda should at least have been sharing a lot more of the cultural stories and traditions of the area. Miranda is starting a business involving art, distilling moonshine, and cooking, but she doesn’t really spend much time tying that in with the rich history of each of these things in the mountains. We could have learned something in this book besides how the main character is annoyed and affronted by everyone and everything. A lot of potential was lost in this series. Her constant denigration of the locals really ticked me off. I know the locals in my mountain town to be loving, smart, resourceful, and talented. The book’s presentation of mountain locals as stupid, inconsiderate people who supposedly tried to limit Miranda’s art is really offensive.

And by the way, young people are taught to say “yes Ma’am” and “Yes Sir” in the South. It’s automatic. This is not an “insider/outsider” thing and should not have annoyed Miranda. After spending all her summers in this area, she should have known this. Miranda spent a lot of time complaining about the insider/outsider perception in the mountains. Although there is some of that, nobody in any town anywhere is going to open up to a rude person who looks down on others. At the same time she is complaining about the insider/outsider perception, she complains that mountain people share too much of their personal lives with her! This is contradictory.

There is no real strong cast of characters as there would be in a small town. Just another of many disappointments. None of the characters are memorable for me except Miranda, and that is only because of her horrible personality.

What started out as a series with potential fell flat for me. I will not be interested in reading anymore of these books. I cannot find anything likable about the main character. I was excited to see a series set in the Appalachian Mountains. That excitement faded pretty quickly. 

I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

Link to my review on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/B07W8VL149/ref=acr_dp_hist_1?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar

Link to My Goodreads Review (If you enjoyed this review, please put a Like on Goodreads):

A Deception at Thornecrest

A Deception At Thorncrest is the latest book in the Amory Ames mystery series. In this installment, a heavily pregnant Amory is visited by a woman claiming to be married to Amory’s husband! If that isn ‘t enough, relatives are coming out of the woodwork, and a local young man is shockingly murdered. Even though the baby’s arrival is imminent, Amory is on the case, determined to find the killer.

Amory’s wry sense of humor, even while thinking her husband might be a bigamist, is a delight. The mystery takes many twists and turns, and the true culprit is a surprise. Although this is book seven in a series, it can be read as a standalone. However, it may contain spoilers for the previous books.

Anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries with lots of humor and a strong cast of characters will enjoy this book. I would definitely read more of this series, and I rate it four stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Deception-Thornecrest-Amory-Ames-Mystery-ebook/dp/B084M1YJBC/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=A+Deception+at+Thornecrest&qid=1601728429&sr=8-1

Link to the author’s Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Ashley-Weaver/e/B00IN9UBPO/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Link to my review on Goodreads (Please like if you are so inclined) https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3550625941?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Mrs. Morris and the Ghost of Christmas Past

Mrs. Morris and the Ghost of Christmas Past is the third book in the Salem B&B Mystery Series. Although this is the third book in a series, it can be read by itself. However, there are some spoilers for the previous books.

Charlene is the owner of a bed and breakfast in Salem, Massachusetts. In addition to Charlene, her cat, small staff, and guests, the house is inhabited by Jack, who happens to be a ghost. In this book, Charlene’s parents are visiting for Christmas when a local restaurant owner is killed. Was it an accident or murder?

This book dragged on for me and I did not really connect with the characters. Even Jack, the ghost, was not very interesting. One thing I learned over and over is that Charlene’s mother is annoying and often rude. The reader is pounded over the head with that. The murder mystery was not very engaging in my opinion. Unfortunately, I have no interest in reading anymore of this series.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers and Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Morris-Ghost-Christmas-Salem-Mystery-ebook/dp/B082WQRCGP/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3M9E16DNZ1JUB&dchild=1&keywords=mrs.+morris+and+the+ghost+of+christmas+past+traci+wilton&qid=1601597064&s=digital-text&sprefix=Mrs.+Morris+and+th%2Cdigital-text%2C177&sr=1-1

Link to the Author’s Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Traci-Wilton/e/B07PX3ZTDY/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1



			

Candy Cane Crime

*****

Candy Cane Crime is a short novella, and book 5.5 of the Amish Candy Shop Mystery series. It can easily be read on its own, however.

I loved this story by Amanda Flower. Bailey, the owner of the candy shop in Harvest Ohio, is too busy to take on running the town candy cane exchange, so her cousin Charlotte steps in and begins collecting the messages that will be attached to candy canes and delivered all over town. To Charlotte’s amazement, some of the notes are addressed to her, and a sweet mystery begins. Who is sending the notes?

This story is short, but fun, and does what a Christmas story is supposed to do–it transports you instantly to the Christmas season, no matter what time of the year it might happen to be. It didn’t bother me a bit that the mystery was easy to figure out because the book was so enjoyable. The town of Harvest is brimming with life and fun, and I definitely want to read the rest of the books in this series. And Jethro! I won’t spoil it for you, but I loved Jethro. Rated against other cozy Christmas novellas, this gets five stars.

I received a free copy of this story from Kensington Books via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Candy-Cane-Crime-Amish-Mystery-ebook/dp/B08C9DQJVV/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=candy+cane+crime&qid=1601596911&sr=8-1

Link to the Author’s Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amanda-Flower/e/B003AYZWD8/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

An Ivy Hill Christmas

My review of An Ivy Hill Christmas by Julie Klassen

Richard Brockwell is a careless playboy content to live off of his family’s money in London. But it is Christmas season, 1822, and his mother has summoned him. He is to come home for Christmas or his funds will be cut off. Left with no choice, Richard heads for Ivy Hill. Before, during, and after his journey, a dog, a boy, and a beautiful woman threaten to open up his cold heart. Will God do the rest?

I loved this beautiful story of redemption, charity, and second chances. . This wonderful novella will speak to anyone who has struggled with forgiveness and anyone who has longed for a chance to right old wrongs. The characters are well written and memorable, especially Richard, Arabella, and the boy Jamie. And let’s not forget Wally!

It was fun to read about and join in the Christmas celebrations from 1800’s England, and there was even a recipe at the end of the book.

This is actually my first visit to Ivy Hill, but it won’t be the last. I plan to go back and catch up on Julie Klassen’s “Tales From Ivy Hill” series.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

Buy book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ivy-Hill-Christmas-Tales-Novella-ebook/dp/B0821PWW1B/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2SI2MXB7Y5KEQ&dchild=1&keywords=an+ivy+hill+christmas+julie+klassen&qid=1601571685&sprefix=An+Ivy+Hill+Christmas%2Caps%2C178&sr=8-1

Julie Klassen’s Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Julie-Klassen/e/B001JS6J70/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

My review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3572850187?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1