by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have reviews of 3 new mystery novels from Carolyn Hart-Ghost Gone Wild, What the Cat Saw and Death By Surprise. The first 2 are from Berkley and the last one from Seventh St. Press. Details on how to win copies of all 3 at the end of this post.
Ghost Gone Wild
Review by Sandra Murphy
Baily Ruth is back but this time she’s in even bigger trouble than usual. How can an angel, sent from Heaven on Official Business be in trouble you say? Well, it’s the Official Business part that did it. It seems Bailey Ruth was hijacked by Delilah Duvall, another angel, to help Delilah’s nephew, Nick–there are rules about helping family directly, so hijacking Bailey Ruth seemed like a good idea at the time.
The problem is Bailey Ruth is used to certain privileges as an angel. To change her clothes (and she is kind of a clothes horse), all she has to do is think of what she’d like to wear and she’s dressed in style. The same goes for matching shoes, purse and even manicures. Travel from place to place–just think of where she wants to be and it’s faster than beaming up! She remains invisible to living people unless absolutely necessary and necessary happens way too often, according to Wiggins, the Official Dispatcher of Angels.
This time, because Delilah intervened, Bailey Ruth’s stuck in one place like a mere mortal! It’s so inconvenient to have to plan what to wear, shop and get from one suspect’s house to another. Eating on the other hand, is a delight at Lulu’s where the best breakfasts can be found.
Delilah’s nephew, Nick Magruder, has come back to his home town, rich as can be and ready to rub it in the faces of his old enemies, the people who made fun of him and his love for Featherfoot spiders when he was a kid. He’s pretty obnoxious about it too. When somebody takes a potshot at him, the only surprise should be that it was only one shot!
Things get out of hand with Cole, who is not a nice guy and easily angered. Nick shows no good sense at all by running all over town looking for Cole, who then turns up dead with a bloodied Nick standing over the body–and right across from the police station to boot.
Delilah is a pain in Bailey Ruth’s patoot. She doesn’t listen, is headstrong, thinks her way is the only way to do things and she’s got a huge blind spot where nephew Nick is concerned. Bailey Ruth’s patience is stretched to its angel limits this time!
The Bailey Ruth mysteries are light and fluffy, funny and a good read. Bailey Ruth is a character you wish you’d known when she was alive and hope is watching over you now that she’s an angel.
Other titles include: Ghost at Work, Merry Merry Ghost, and Ghost in Trouble.
Carolyn Hart is also the author of the Death on Demand mystery book store series and the Henry O mysteries as well as stand-alone books.
What the Cat Saw
Review by Sandra Murphy
Chloe is a free spirit. She lives in the moment, meets interesting people, goes fun places and charms everyone in sight. Her sister, Nela, is steadier or at least she was until her fiancé Bill was killed. Now, she has the unsettling feeling that she can read the minds of cats. Surely it’s a delusion brought on by stress–or is it?
Chloe and current boyfriend, Leland, are off to vacation in Tahiti. Nela has agreed to fill in for Chloe at the charitable foundation. Since Chloe is of a mind that things always work out, her explanation of just what the trust does and what her job is, lacks detail.
Still, the job comes with a place to stay. An employee died and her cat needs a caretaker until plans can be made for him. Nela is surprised to find out the employee was a young, fit woman who fell from second floor outside staircase–and the cat says she was murdered.
Nela’s own background is investigative reporting so it’s a natural instinct that makes her want to look into the death–until Chloe becomes a suspect–then it gets personal. Chloe’s the latest hire at the foundation; costly pranks and vandalism begin soon after her arrival and right after the death, Chloe announces her boyfriend won a trip to Tahiti–really, he won a trip? It all sounds very convenient to police. Add in a missing heirloom necklace worth $250,000 that the trustee kept in an unlocked desk drawer and things look bleak for Chloe. Nela is also under suspicion. The police think she might be there to make sure Chloe didn’t leave behind any incriminating evidence.
It’s not fair that Chloe seems to be the only suspect. After all, there’s Eric the former director who was booted out for a younger man, his lover Robbie, who holds a grudge, Abby the new director’s latest girlfriend, Cole the vice president in name only and not long for that, but it’s obvious: if it’s murder, the suspect pool is small and confined to the foundation.
Jugs the cat is not over the top–no talking, no obscure messages but he does hold the clue to the murder. Steve, the newspaper reporter, should be as skeptical as anybody about Nela and Chloe, but finds himself drawn to Nela, as she is to him. Will they be able to share the details of the investigation and work their way toward a relationship or will it all implode?
A good read overall, but I must admit I had a big problem during the big dramatic scene at the end. To a cat person, it will be obvious; to non-cat people, it won’t matter. When you read the book, let me know if you spotted it and what you think.
Death by Surprise
Review by Cynthia Chow
The award-winning and extraordinarily prolific author, Carolyn Hart, is probably most well-known for her cozy Death on Demand, ghostly Bailey Ruth Raeburn and Henrie O mysteries. Her many readers may be surprised that Hart was once such a huge fan of grittier, hard-boiled noir private eye novels that in 1983 she penned her own version of the genre. We can give (a Thanksgiving) thanks to Seventh Street Books for reprinting this novel that distinctly displays the writing skills of a promising writer.
Katherine Cecilia “K.C.” Carlisle is only the latest incarnation of K.C. Carlisles practicing law, much to the distress of her snobby attorney cousin, Kenneth Calvin Carlisle V. While the congressional candidate’s white-shoe corporate law firm caters to the elite in their exclusive seaside town of La Luz, Californian, K.C. accepts all of the seedier but needy clients who pass through her door. However, even K.C. has reservations about Francine Boutelle, a brash woman claiming to be crafting a tabloid exposé on the Carlisle family, but whose questions are more akin to extortion threats. Demanding fifty thousand dollars for her silence, Francine declares that she will publish an article exposing K.C.’s father as a judge who accepted payoffs for his decisions unless paid. Disbelieving the accusations, but neither promising nor rejecting the offer, K.C. is left with instructions from Francine to drop off the money at Francine’s apartment Wednesday night, where K.C. can see the evidence in the form of a manuscript.
K.C. soon receives a succession of calls from her cousins and brothers requesting she allows a vote to dismantle the Cochran-Carlisle Trust in order for all of them to receive their inheritances now that they are all over twenty-five. Suspicious of the timing, K.C. doubts their veiled excuses and suspects that Francine has had a hand in the family’s sudden shift towards deciding to receive their money now. K.C. goes along with the vote though, and unfortunately when Francine turns up dead with Kenneth’s scarf around her neck, it is he who ends up arrested by the police, even though it seems that virtually every Carlisle family member, including K.C.’s estranged mother, passed through Francine’s apartment the night of the murder. In an act that displayed a remarkable lack of self-preservation, Francine invited her blackmail targets to her home for the payoffs, providing ample amounts of means for her murderer. Disbelieving that Kenneth would get his hands dirty strangling someone, K.C. finds herself investigating the many secrets of her family and realizing that even she had something that she would prefer would remain hidden from the world.
The independent K.C. is unapologetic about her life, engaging in a commitment-free relationship with an ambitious former district attorney who is running for congress against Kenneth, and being bruised from an early traumatic experience that has her unable to trust. K.C. is going to need that rebellious streak, but she has the unlikely assistance of a newspaper owner whose hatred of the Carlisle family spans decades.
Carolyn Hart’s early writing here reveals why she would become one of the most popular and successful mystery writers alive; she clearly has fun developing characters who are either deeply flawed or loathsome. Although it pushes the definition to call this a “hard-boiled” mystery, this is definitely less cozy than her usual writing but just as much fun, and a ton of action is packed into a relatively brief novel. The humor has an edge and K.C. is a very engaging, spirited character who easily carries the novel on her shoulders. Fans will enjoy seeing a different side of Hart’s writing without being deprived of her skillful plotting and fun characters that have become her trademark.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 Carolyn Hart books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Hart,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 16, 2013. U.S. residents only.
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