Five Stars for The Witch Doctor’s Wife

9-28 Witch doctors wifeWith The Witch Doctor’s Wife, Tamar Myers delves into her per­son­al his­to­ry as the daugh­ter of Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ar­ies in the Bel­gian Con­go. Rich and alive with the sights and sounds of the continent—as excit­ing, evoca­tive, charm­ing, and sus­pense­ful as Alexan­der McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detec­tive Agency novels—Myer’s unfor­get­table excur­sion to colo­nial Africa recalls Bar­bara Kingsolver’s The Poi­son­wood Bible, even the Acad­e­my Award-nom­i­nat­ed film Blood Dia­mond. Award-win­ning author Car­olyn Hart raves: “Mes­mer­iz­ing….The Witch Doctor’s Wife will long linger in the hearts and minds of read­ers. Authen­tic. Pow­er­ful. Tri­umphant.”

The above is part of the publisher’s blurb for the book that fol­lowed many of Tamar Myer’s two won­der­ful­ly fun­ny and clever cozy mys­ter­ies. I read The Witch Doctor’s Wife about five years ago, before I joined Goodreads, before I had a blog, and, mainly—before I began review­ing the books I read. How­ev­er, I remem­ber it fond­ly, so you know it has stay­ing pow­er.

I did inter­view Tamar for the Sis­ters in Crime blog. I remem­ber a cou­ple of answers from that inter­view. For one, she had a com­put­er ded­i­cat­ed to writ­ing, with no games or inter­net access. (That’s one I real­ly, real­ly should fol­low.) Also, she said she didn’t write the story—it was already writ­ten. All she did was ask the Uni­verse to deliv­er her dai­ly por­tion of cre­ativ­i­ty and it did. She then sat down and wrote a thou­sand pol­ished words a day, five days a week.

And that is tal­ent!

Inci­den­tal­ly, she has writ­ten more books in that series, as well as con­tin­u­ing the cozy series. In fact, she has a four-page Ama­zon author page. For a taste of Tamar’s fun, I would sug­gest read­ing the acknowl­edg­ments in Death of Pie.

Five Stars for Digital Dick

I like mys­tery: cozy, noir, his­toric, roman­tic, sus­pense, and espe­cial­ly off-beat mys­tery. Dig­i­tal Dick def­i­nite­ly qual­i­fies on that last one.

9-21 Digital Dick coverI absolute­ly love this book about a sen­tient com­put­er. That’s a com­put­er who learns to solve crimes while wish­ing he had hands so he could plug into the elec­tric­i­ty him­self. He learns as he goes along, but he’s quite knowl­edge­able for a sev­en-year old. Still, his goofs on prop­er behav­ior are fun­ny (or exas­per­at­ing to his human sis­ter), while, of course, he men­tal­ly runs rings around the bad guys. Even the guys who aren’t bad, just don’t believe in Dig­i­tal Dick.

The pub­lish­ers says, “As a com­put­er with a human per­son­al­i­ty, Dick Young strug­gles to under­stand peo­ple. Some would deny per­son­hood to Dick, oth­ers who fear him would take him apart chip by chip.

After he wit­ness­es a bloody mur­der, Dick offers to assist the San Diego Police Depart­ment catch the killer. But when the search for the mur­der­er turns up a sec­ond body, Dick’s Sat­is­fac­tion Index plum­mets. He breaks com­pa­ny with the police and begins inves­ti­gat­ing the case on his own. As he fol­lows the clues, Dick learns more and more about humans: how they live, how they love and how they mur­der. He will need that knowl­edge to over­come the killer who threat­ens to destroy Dick and every­one that Dick holds dear.”

The July 2015 Mid­west Book Review, puts it this way: “In addi­tion to tak­ing the prize for orig­i­nal­i­ty, this book is a great piece of sto­ry-telling and a good read. I high­ly rec­om­mend it.”

And I add, if you like your mys­tery with a great sense of humor while keep­ing up the sus­pense, this is the read for you.

Covers

All of my cov­ers have been designed by one of my daugh­ters while she was gross­ly under­em­ployed. For­tu­nate­ly for her, that is no longer the case. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for me, I have to rethink cov­ers. I want to go GREAT. I want to go PROFESSIONAL. I want to go with a cov­er that says, “BUY ME!” So, of course, I’ve asked a pro whose cov­ers are strik­ing and ver­setile to design the cov­er of my upcom­ing mys­tery.

In the mean­time, I’ve been writ­ing  a cou­ple of short sto­ries that I intend to offer for free—to fur­ther encour­age read­ers to buy my new mys­tery. So I’ve been did­dling with canva.com. I have used it to make a small design to put on Twit­ter, pro­mot­ing one of my books. (Don’t know if it actu­al­ly works, but…it looks good.) I’ve tried a lot of dif­fer­ent designs using a vari­ety of free and per­son­al pho­tos. This is what I’ve come up with so far.

HIDDEN BODY cover B

Deserter cover 2Tell me, what do you think? Good enough? Or not.

Five Stars for Buried In A Bog

9-14 Buried in a Bog coverI’m going back in my Goodreads file of five star reads. If I look at one I read two years ago and I can remem­ber the sto­ry with renewed plea­sure, I know it deserved every one of those five stars. That’s this one, Buried In A Bog, by Sheila Con­nol­ly.

My review:  This is the first of Sheila Connolly’s third mys­tery series, and my favorite. Buried in a Bog is far more than a mystery–it’s the sto­ry of a young woman from Boston deal­ing with loss and find­ing her way for­ward, as well as a sto­ry of a small vil­lage in Ire­land. It was grandmother’s last wish that she vis­it. It’s a sto­ry of rela­tion­ships, gen­er­a­tions, and above all, real—actually fic­tion­al, but for sure real peo­ple. It’s a mys­tery too, deal­ing with mur­der. This book sat­is­fies on every lev­el.

Anoth­er review­er said, “Awe­some book! The set­ting was cozy and real and made me want to head off to Ire­land for a spell. Can’t wait for the next one!”

Since then, Sheila Con­nol­ly has writ­ten the next one, and oth­ers as well. I espe­cial­ly like the first of her fourth series as well. (It’s a bit woo woo.) But why don’t you check out all of her series on her Ama­zon author page? You’ll be glad you did.

Five Stars for Murder on Lexington Avenue

8-31 Victoria Thompson coverMur­der on Lex­ing­ton Avenue is the 12th in Vic­to­ria Thompson’s Gaslight Mys­tery series. I’ve read sev­er­al, but this one is a favorite of mine. My review: Sarah Brandt, New York mid­wife in the ear­ly 1900s, keeps get­ting involved in mur­der while deliv­er­ing babies. It isn’t any­thing about souls pass­ing in and out, it’s just that the same peo­ple are involved. While one woman is hav­ing a baby, some­one she knows, be it her fam­i­ly or her neigh­bors, is mixed up in mur­der, often as the vic­tim. Sarah is handy and will­ing to help out an Irish cop, Detec­tive Sergeant Frank Mal­loy. In this case, the teenage daugh­ter of the vic­tim is involved with con­flict­ing schools of train­ing the deaf. Her father is a gen­er­al­ly dis­liked busi­ness own­er. But, who killed him? Seem­ing­ly he was alone at his place of busi­ness. His busi­ness part­ner, and sev­er­al oth­ers may have vis­it­ed. Or, none of them saw him, if one is to believe the tes­ti­mo­ny. And, even if Frank Mal­loy finds the killer, 1903 in New York often meant Frank, although he was the police, would find it dif­fi­cult to accuse any­one who had the mon­ey to make sure he didn’t keep his job. Then anoth­er mur­der com­pli­cates the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

The ambiance is authen­tic, the plot is devi­ous, the char­ac­ters are a mix from delight­ful to dev­il­ish. Best of all, the out­come is com­plete­ly unex­pect­ed, but, oh so absolute­ly right! High­ly rec­om­mend­ed to mys­tery and his­to­ry read­ers.

Vic­to­ria Thomp­son has been nom­i­nat­ed for an Agatha for his­toric mys­tery. There are now 17 books in the series. Her Ama­zon author page is here. (I believe the mid­wife and the police detec­tive sergeant are plan­ning to wed in the lat­est. Must read that too!)

Five Stars for Land Of Mountains

This is the first time my five-star review has revis­it­ed any author. You see, I like to toot the horn for as many authors as pos­si­ble, often talk­ing about the first in a series. But this book is a stand-alone, and in an entire­ly dif­fer­ent cat­e­go­ry. For a dif­fer­ent age, as well. Mid­dle-grade to young adult ver­sus adult mys­tery.

First Cover

First Cov­er

Okay, enough with  the blath­er. Land of Moun­tains by Jinx Schwartz is the view­point sto­ry of ten-year-old Lizbuthann, Tex­an, who moves to Haiti with her fam­i­ly dur­ing the 1950s. If Adven­tures of Huck­le­ber­ry Finn is a must for every boy (and girl) to read, equal­ly, Land of Moun­tains is a must for every girl (and boy) to read! (Hey, I know excla­ma­tion marks should only be used once in every full-length nov­el, if ever. You’ll under­stand if you read this book.)

New Cover

New Cov­er

Here’s the Ama­zon blurb: “A ten-year-old’s new home on an exot­ic Caribbean island proves so fas­ci­nat­ing she quick­ly for­gets she didn’t want to leave Texas. After all, where bet­ter than a jun­gle world teem­ing with voodoo, mys­tery, and a real­ly pesky zom­bie, to indulge her favorite pas­time: snoop­ing.

In this humor­ous mys­tery, award-win­ning author Jinx Schwartz trans­ports the read­er to anoth­er time and place where rivers, and lit­tle girls, ran wild and free.”

One review­er says: LAND OF MOUNTAINS by Jinx Schwartz is a Young Adult book for read­ers from 8 to 108. The book is a final­ist for a 2012 Eppie award.

LAND OF MOUNTAINS is a fun read, with seri­ous over­tones and under­pin­nings. WECLOM to Haiti, a coun­try verg­ing on rev­o­lu­tion when Eliz­a­beth Ann or Ann, as her father calls her, and her fam­i­ly of Texas South­ern Bap­tists arrive in 1954. Haiti, they soon learn, is a child’s par­adise and an adult’s night­mare.”

I first dis­cov­ered this book in time to give it to my third grand­daugh­ter when she was twelve. She thanked me pro­fuse­ly. (Note — kids haven’t writ­ten any reviews.) That one had the first cov­er. Last Decem­ber I gave the same book (new cov­er) to my fourth grand­daugh­ter, age eleven. Her fif­teen-year-old broth­er took one look at that new cov­er and said, “I am so going to read that. (Have I made up for the lack of youth reviews?)

Land of Moun­tains is sold as an ebook and paper­back (with either cov­er) at Ama­zon link.

Five Stars for Death By A Dark Horse

8-17 Death by a Dark HorseWhen Thea’s miss­ing horse, Black­ie, is found in the pas­ture with a dead woman, the first thought was that crushed head was caused by Black­ie. Thea knows that’s not true, but how did Valerie die?

Was it mur­der? Who did it? And why? Soon Thea is ask­ing all those ques­tions, but so are the police, and they have more clout.

Death by a Dark Horse is the first in Susan Schreyer’s Thea Camp­bell series. Black­ie is a promi­nent char­ac­ter in each one. (For a horse lover, how can that be bad?) And, since Thea has a habit of find­ing dan­ger, and her horse seems to real­ize that—how can that be bad for a mys­tery lover?

Let me share some oth­er reviews from Goodreads. “The clev­er­ly titled Death By A Dark Horse has all the trap­pings of an engag­ing mur­der mys­tery: high stakes, an inde­pen­dent hero­ine, intim­i­dat­ing goons and a clever vil­lain. All of this is set upon a back­drop of horse-rid­ing and dres­sage, so right off the bat I can eas­i­ly rec­om­mend this sto­ry to horse lovers.”

Anoth­er one: “This mys­tery has enough twists, turns, and inter­est­ing char­ac­ters to keep me reach­ing for my Kin­dle every free moment.

I enjoyed learn­ing inter­est­ing tid­bits about hors­es and their care while try­ing to fig­ure out “who­dunit” and why. The protagonist’s char­ac­ter­is­tics make her some­one I will fol­low into the next book of the series: Lev­els Of Decep­tion.”

I, too, found this mys­tery a cap­ti­vat­ing read. Rec­om­mend­ed for horse lovers, mys­tery lovers, heck, let’s just say for all read­ers and be done with it! And, I just dis­cov­ered, right now it’s a free ebook at Ama­zon.

Discovering Character-And Other Things

I should know Jo, my main char­ac­ter by now—I’ve just com­plet­ed final edits of the sec­ond mys­tery, plus a short sto­ry pre­quel. But she con­tin­ues to sur­prise me. I’ve been resist­ing.

Why? Hey, she and I start­ed out the same age with the same child­hood mem­o­ries, but our per­son­al­i­ties and life expe­ri­ences are dif­fer­ent. Over the years that I wrote and rewrote that first mys­tery, I aged, while Jo kept get­ting younger. By the time a small press said, “Is your man­u­script still avail­able? We want it,” I was near­ly eighty and she was some­where in her late six­ties (nev­er specif­i­cal­ly stat­ed).

As I start­ed the sequel, I thought, 61. Yeah, sounds about right. But, as I wrote, I decid­ed, maybe late 50s. That’s old enough to have the his­to­ry I’d sup­plied. Some of those mem­o­ries could be from Grand­ma, or a par­ent. Or, she’s into old stuff. Then I added a TV ref­er­ence I remem­ber watch­ing with my kids. My kids are most­ly in their 50s. So I wrote away, decid­ing she was that age. But, I still  had those ‘old’ ref­er­ences. Jo described her­self as old in a vari­ety of ways. I do not think of my 50s daugh­ters as old. They do not look old. Perhaps—I just didn’t think.

Until, I saw an arti­cle about Valerie Bertinel­li with her cook­book.8-13 Bertinelli cover She’s 55. Yoiks! How can that be? I remem­ber her on TV as a teenag­er. I’m real­iz­ing that fifty is def­i­nite­ly the new thir­ty. Final­ly, I have an image of my fifty-some­thing Jo—maybe not a beau­ty, def­i­nite­ly not a Valerie twin, but cer­tain­ly not a hag. And a whole new image of my mar­ket. And the pos­si­ble cov­er. And pos­si­bly a redo of the first cov­er. And, def­i­nite­ly, a redo of Jo’s atti­tude. She’s been much too laid back about the guy who’d like to know her much bet­ter. I mean, let’s have a lit­tle chem­istry there.

And maybe I’ll try Valerie’s recipes. (I do love to cook!)

 

 

Five Stars for Red Notice

8-10 Red Notice CoverA non-fic­tion that reads like a thriller? Yep, that’s Red Notice. Before the book begins, the term is explained: “An Inter­pol Red Notice is the clos­est instru­ment to an inter­na­tion­al arrest war­rant in use today.” Any coun­try can issue a red notice, which then goes into the elec­tron­ic sys­tem that is used to ver­i­fy trav­el­ers as they go from one coun­try to anoth­er. Almost always, unless the per­son check­ing pass­ports is not fol­low­ing pro­ce­dure, that per­son is shipped straight to the coun­try they prob­a­bly want to escape. It’s rare that Inter­pol fails to comply—which was why some Jews try­ing to escape Hitler’s Ger­many were returned. There are oth­er such instances as well.

Bill Brow­der, the author of Red Notice was speak­ing in Nor­way when Rus­sia issued the first one on him. Born in the Unit­ed States, he lived in Lon­don with his Russ­ian wife and his chil­dren. But, by then he was no longer run­ning Her­mitage Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, the largest for­eign investor in Rus­sia. By then, some crooked cops and oth­ers had stolen his Russ­ian busi­ness he’d down­sized in favor of diver­si­fi­ca­tion. He sur­vived many legal busi­ness deals that were unpop­u­lar with Putin. He thought, since he was not Russ­ian, that he was safe. How­ev­er, he was only safe while his activ­i­ties were in Putin’s best inter­est.

I could go on, tell you more of this engross­ing, true sto­ry, but I don’t want to ruin it for any read­er. It’s great as a sto­ry. It’s even bet­ter as a warn­ing. One of the author’s Russ­ian lawyers was tor­tured to death because he refused to lie and accuse Brow­der of trumped up charges. Two of Browder’s lawyers were old­er. They remem­bered the Russ­ian mind­set and bare­ly man­aged to escape. The younger lawyer knew he’d done noth­ing wrong. He knew Rus­sia had no legal rea­son to arrest him. But, of course, to Putin, legal had absolute­ly noth­ing to do with it.

Do read this chill­ing tale. Then watch the news. You won’t get most of it—the media is too involved in var­i­ous flashy sto­ries. How­ev­er, recent­ly I read in The Week Mag­a­zine some­thing I saw nowhere else. One night a month or so ago, Rus­sia moved all the bound­ary signs a mile into Geor­gia ter­ri­to­ry. The home­own­ers now in Rus­sia were upset. A pipeline was now in Rus­sia. Noth­ing was, or could be done.