Beyond the Gravy by Mandy Morton

Beyond the Gravy written by Mandy Morton is book seven in the Feline Detective Agency series. It was published May 16, 2019.

A Land Full of Criminal Cats… and tea trays full of food

I was pleasantly shocked, and initially a bit alarmed, when I discovered that this book, series is all about cats. It occurs in a world much like the ones humans live in with the exception of the fact that there are no actual humans. How wonderful!

It actually did not take me long to forget that humans actually exist. These cats have all the characteristics and personalities of humans and the only time I remember they are cats is when paws and claws are mentioned instead of hands and fingers. It was too easy to get sucked into.

They don’t even eat cat food. They eat a whole lot of food, especially the main characters. If ever I doubted that English food cannot be delicious I was steadily reminded by mentions of crisps, savory pies and biscuits on just about every page.

Mind you, this is not a novel about cats who cook. But the two main characters, Hettie and Tilly, live in a little apartment connected to a bakery and happen to adore food.

This novel at heart is about criminal activities in their community and the frequent meals provide these foodies fuel to investigate.

Hettie… the main detective

Hettie is a former lead musician of a folk band who is on the stern side when she doesn’t have her catnip pipe to calm her down. She leads the detective agency and has a rather cynical attitude towards life. Her sense of humor is pretty dry and she is quick to be critical.

Having fallen into the world of being a detective she is honest enough to admit she is not exactly the best detective in the world. But she does seem to have a bit of luck on her side as well as a fun little sidekick that helps her get the job done.

Tilly… the sunny side up sidekick

Tilly is a comforting little character. She likes cardigans, reading mysteries and keeping the small flat she shares with Hettie nice and cozy. Tilly is sometimes unnerved by Hettie’s brash nature but goes out of her way to make Hettie’s life easier. Once a street cat, she was homeless and ill when Hettie met her and is thoroughly appreciative to have a roof over her head.

Not to say that she doesn’t have a fun little life, because she does. She typically answers the agencies phone calls and inquiries while also being a valuable sidekick. Sure she often prepares the tea and plans dinner but she is in my opinion probably the brains behind their operation. Due to her love of criminal tales she adds valuable knowledge which helps them to solve crimes. Of all the novels I have read Tilly would receive the best supporting actress award.

Irene Peggledrip… resident cat psychic of gravy

Irene is the local psychic medium, because doesn’t every city in the world have a resident who can see into the great beyond? Even in the world of cats in this case. Irene in particular sees the future through gravy. Yes. Gravy.

But she has been alarmed by some hair raising experiences at her residence that has left the fur on her back standing on end. A pack of wild cats who are long dead have been wrecking havoc and tearing her home apart.

This is all very bad for business which prompts Irene to dial up the Feline Detective Agency.

Hettie and Tilly have their reservations about accepting her case. Who wouldn’t? It is spooky business and when I tell you these ghost cats are are causing chaos I absolutely mean it. It was delightful and worth a really good laugh. However living near the bakery costs money so our fearless duo accepts the check and promise to assist.

Agatha Crispie… and the wild trip of a lifetime

Tilly wins a contest to visit the famed crime writer Agatha Crispie at her home. The journey to claim her prize comes with its own set of obstacles including a serious run in with a cat biker gang and a night at a hotel where the proud and despicable owner revels in historic hangings.

At this point I am fully immersed in this world. We have cats wearing leather, actual gangs and high speed chases. What more could I ask for? Tea. Of course. Because tea must be had- along with more biscuits, scones and cheese straws than you can shake a paw at.

The whole cast is memorable…

Throughout this novel I was introduced to so many wonderful characters of various backgrounds. There is the surly and functioning alcoholic postmistress, Lavender Stamp, who lives to send all of her customers away in tears. There is Bruiser, a leather clad biker who chauffeurs Tilly and Hettie around. The Butter Sisters own the bakery and keep the food mukbangs going with daily vouchers they provide to the Detectives. There is even new cat in town who opens a restaurant and claims the heart of one of their friends.

Case closed…

What a refreshing read. I feel full enough after all of the tea, pies and baked goods to say that it was enjoyable. This is a fantastical tale where you can easily forget you are reading about cats with human qualities. I really enjoyed the foodie aspects being tied into the narrative so often.

This novel was very well paced. I learned a great deal about the characters along the way. Their personality types mirrored those of humans and were equally well fleshed out.

Since the cats live in a world that is seemingly lawless it made perfect sense that a detective agency would be needed. Despite the two main charcters, Hettie and Tilly, being polar opposites their strengths and weaknesses combine to make a great duo. Tilly couldn’t have been sweeter and Hettie couldn’t have been grumpier. Both are intelligent and observant and when they link wits they uncovered enough to solve the riddle.

The fact that they were working on a case for a psychic was interesting to say the least. I would say that it would be hard to wrap their paws around ghosts that even the psychic that hired them cannot handle. I enjoyed the way the truth unfolded, although I think that Hettie had more than a little bit of luck on her side, and ultimately I did not come near to guessing the whodunit in this fantastic work.

The other characters all had such definitive personalities it made me want to read more about them in the other books in this series. Where else can you hear tales of a drunken, angry cat who runs the post office? Or kitties that are sky high off of catnip?

I will have future reviews of this entire series to post in due time. Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review.

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A Twist In The Tail

A Twist in the Tail is book number one in the Oyster Cove Guesthouse Mystery series. It was released on May 16, 2019.

Josie Waters isn’t starting off so well…

Josie Waters is recently divorced from a wealthy and well respected chef. She returns to her hometown of Oyster Cove, Maine to start a whole new life. Josie begins by purchasing a unique Victorian guesthouse once owned by her mother’s friend, Millie Sullivan.

I was not really able to grasp why she bought a guesthouse where she would be somewhat expected to live up to the culinary treats that her predecessor had offered her clients. But she gets an “A” for effort I suppose. She is trying her best to improve her cooking skills while sinking her life savings into her new venture.

The old mansion is going to need repairs. And that is going to cost her some money. Anyone who owns a home can sympathize.

Which is why it is why it is especially dreadful when she discovers that one of her patron’s dead body in a wing of the mansion that has been enclosed and is clearly in a “do not enter zone”. Someone clearly didn’t heed the construction zone signs and even worse that someone happens to be a known food critic who had already complained about his eggs not being done to his liking.

Mom and Millie to the rescue…

Thankfully Josie has a mother who is a nosey individual and listens in on CB radios along with her friend Millie. They do not mind getting right down to the bottom of whodunit. Even if they’re in the way of everyone while doing it.

Nero, Marlowe and their kitty gang…

One gift that Millie left behind were two criminal investigation cats, Nero and Marlowe. They don’t think Josie is the smartest creature by far so they quickly take to acting out and throwing things around in order to slam clues in her face. They’re not above messing up her whole house in the process.

Seeing their side of things was a lot of fun. They even have an entire kitty gang that runs the streets of Oyster Cove checking out everything and everybody. What would dense Josie do without their collective efforts?

Case Closed…

It did seem like everyone made an effort to find the killer in this book. Josie had her mom, Millie and childhood crush Mike on her side. The cats had their kitty gang all ready to spring into action. And in the end the main character, Josie, seemed to need all the help she could get.

There were some things that I found repetitive, particularly between the narrative of the cats and Josie. I think I would have preferred it from one perspective. The relationship between Nero and Marlowe was entertaining. Very neat to see a cat detective and a protege. I loved how well they worked together.

There was a subplot involving some pesky birds but I found that it wove nicely into the unveiling of the mystery. I rather liked the bickering between Josie and her high school rival Stella- it was just enough cat fighting for my liking.

But I won’t deny that if there was a book devoted exclusively to the cat crime fighting squad I would be all over it. As for whodunit I loved the final scenes and learning the motivations of the killer. The person that was killed had a number of people who would benefit from their demise and I enjoyed guessing along the way until the conclusion.

Would Josie be able to solve a crime entirely on her own? I think that is yet to be seen. Perhaps a sequel will convince me.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Murder with Collard Greens and Hot Sauce by A.L. Herbert

Murder with Collard Greens and Hot Sauce is book three in the Mahalia Watkins Soul Food Mystery series. Written by A.L. Herbert it was published on March 26, 2019.

I have not completed a book in this series before and listened to the audio version of this book. This was a standalone novel with very few references to preceding books.

Mahalia… owner of the Sweet Tea soul food restaurant and our determined main character…

Mahalia, also known as Halia, truly loves cooking and her restaurant. I loved the descriptions of her restaurant and despite being very chaotic I saw how it could be a calming place for her. Serving up delicious soul food is certainly her dream job and she lives for it.

She is on the conservative side and only becomes more aggressive when hunting down the truth. While Sweet Tea may be her life’s work she doesn’t express a particular interest in romance much to her Mother’s eternal dismay. Her mom is intent on having a grandchild even though Halia often reminds her that she is now in her 40s and is not worried about having a child.

As for Sweet Tea itself the descriptions of the offerings would leave your mouth watering. From her savory, crispy fried meats to her mother’s sweet baked goods, it is a book that a foodie would enjoy. Having family from the south I would say that while well researched the recipes were more for a northern soul food palette rather than a traditional southern soul food pallet

Wavonne… the cousin who did not come to work, she came to play

Mahalia’s cousin Wavonne was pure comic relief. She helped to get them into a lot of the funnier predicaments throughout the book. Where Mahalia may be a stick in the mud at times Wavonne lives with her head deep in the clouds and sometimes embraces delusions of grandeur.

She dresses wildly and wouldn’t be caught dead in khakis. Beyond confident she is ambitious and not afraid to jump in front of a camera for a chance at fortune. Nor is she ashamed to pursue wealthy older men who are widowed after perusing the local obituaries.

Basically she is a lot of fun. Even though she is over the top I could not, and would not want to, imagine the book without her. Her clownish antics would earn her a best supporting actress award.

For what she doesn’t bring in her work efforts at the restaurant she makes up for in taking the reader to interesting places and situations. Such as when she gets drunk at a party, causes a rift between a couple and then ends up chatting with a dog- spilling the tea about her woes.

Wavonne even shines at a drag queen nightclub where her outfit and makeup, unfortunately, fit right in. I really liked what a contrast she was to her cousin Mahalia.

Prince George’s County, Maryland… where money and culture meet

I am somewhat familiar with Prince George’s County, Maryland and found many of the books descriptions of the area and people to be pretty apt. It does have a prominent Black American population and there are pockets of affulence throughout the county.

Monique… the Queen of hair, hanging on by a strand

People are not always who they seem to be and Monique would be an excellent example of this. While she has a growing hair care empire that has experienced many successes her life behind the scenes does not match what she presents to the outside world. It was interesting to see how in order to be successful it was imperative that she keep certain parts of her personal life deeply hidden because they would contradict with her brand.

The life of a diva comes with a great deal of scrutiny. Monique lives under a microscope and seems to love all of the attention. She does not shy away from the limelight and promotes her line on television with camera crews documenting all aspects of her journey. She has managed to make a significant impact on the hair industry with her products. It has made her wealthy and a household name to some.

She seemed to be someone that many would envy. Having personal assistants, an over the top tour bus and stylists at her beck and call. She also has a husband, a frenemy and an assistant who are the keeper of her biggest secrets. It is said to keep your friends close and your enemies closer and Monique is taking that advice to heart even if it kills her.

Odessa… a frenemy until the end…

Super bold, thin and determined to not live in Monqiue’s shadow. She does not bite her tongue. Odessa and Monique are opposites in many ways and have legendary clashes.

Monique does not hesitate to shame Odessa with snide remarks about the lowly Coach handbags she carries. Odessa is quick to criticize Monique’s weight and plus sized figure. Their story, and history, was scandalous and worth the read.

Nathan… a despicable husband and maybe a wife killer…

Many divas struggle to find mates who will be okay with their success. Monique was not exactly an exception. Her husband had his own ideas about how to handle the fruits of her success and as Halia digs deeper she finds out that he is a man who has skeletons in his closet.

He finds himself as the prime suspect when Monique is killed and that is when Mahalia’s sleuthing kicks in.

Rife with stereotypes

I had to see this book as pure entertainment in order to get through it because of the blatant stereotypes that spilled over from page to page. The author clearly has something going on with him that makes him believe that it is okay to refer to “good hair” versus “bad hair” so very often. Or at all for that matter. While I will say he probably did do genuine research on the black hair care market the stereotypes were absolutely unnecessary.

I was saddened by this. It seemed pathetic and the generalizations were largely unkind. The vast majority of black people do not have the texture of hair that the author described as “good” and there is absolutely nothing bad about that. The author is not Black American so I question where such thoughts came from particularly in light of the fact that there has been a natural hair movement within the Black American community for over five years now.

Some of the stereotypes played into the mystery itself which was the reason I set my negative thoughts aside because hair typing was a part of the story. Unfortunately the stereotypes did nothing more than take away from what could have been a five star read. One star docked for that.

Case closed…

At the end of it all I would read the other books in this series. I think it was well written and it held my attention throughout. Although I could have done without all of the stereotypes- they did not enhance the story.

The ending was a bit confusing because while the killer was not blatantly obvious to me certain things that pointed that person out would have been obvious to Mahalia long before. The conclusion was as dramatic and over the top as the rest of the book so in that regard it was pretty fitting. Perhaps this was done to allow some of the characters to be a little bit more fleshed out than they would have been had Halia put the pieces together quicker.

The character themselves, aside from shameless stereotypes, were all given unique voices. There were suspects that had equal motives to have killed Monique. The frenemy was an interesting character who stole the scene many times. From the beginning I wanted to know more about her.

Nathan is an unsavory character, that is clear, but I did like that Halia was able to push aside some things as she searched for the truth.

There were many people that wanted to upstage Monique and she sought out the motives and possibilities behind them all. With so many suspects I found myself looking forward to the finding out everyone’s bad deeds. And I was not disappointed- it was deliciously scandalous!

The soul food and culinary aspects of the book were pretty great. Food was woven well into the background and the descriptions of it were mouth watering. Mahalia’s restaurant, Sweet Tea, sounds fairy tale perfect. In that I think this book really stayed true to itself.

In listening to the audiobook version my one and only criticism would be that the accent of one of the characters was supposed to be Dominican but sounded more Jamaican. Otherwise I thought the narration was good.

The book had several hilarious moments brought to us mostly by Wavonne. But I suppose that happens when your sidekick is larger than life and more dramatic than a Broadway show.

Game of Bones by Carolyn Haines

Game of Bones is the 20th book in the Sarah Booth Delaney mystery series. It was officially released on May 14, 2019.

Digging the scene…

Someone’s got dirt and blood under their nails. That’s for sure! And Sarah Booth is tasked to find out who done it when she’s hired by an archeologist, Frank Hafner, to prove he didn’t kill his nemesis during a controversial Native American mound dig.

The murder victim is Sandra Wells, also a professor, who was battling with Frank in front of the cameras as they filmed for a reality TV show.

Professor Frank Hafner, we are judging you…

Remember that sleazy professor you had in college who was single and always free to mingle? And not just with his fellow professors. You know the guy who seemed to prefer to flirt with the students that were not yet working on doctoral dissertations? Well Frank is that guy.

We soon discover that the world of academia is as full of bedfellows as it is fellowship students. He isn’t dense and knows that everyone in town, as well as those watching the excavation unfold on TV, are aware that he had more than a little pick axe to grind with Sandra Wells.

Sandra Wells… dead woman possibly walking

Sandra is not a woman who was fun at parties. Well maybe she had fun at parties but probably only after sleeping with most of the men there. Held in low regard but highly esteemed for her money she doesn’t care about the sacred mound.

Sandra is the type of professor who you knew would rather be anywhere but in an actual classroom.

The harsh reality is that her students didn’t like her. Neither did her fellow professors. She ends up dead in a way that robbed her of any beauty, the one thing she had going for herself, she once may have had.

Native American mounds… stepping on the wrong turf

One of the things I liked about this book was having a chance to learn a bit about the existence of burial mounds. It was a good history lesson and one that is rarely discussed. The author didn’t shy away from the harsh reality that some disenfranchised groups are powerless in protecting their heritage from those who are known to plunder and have the money and economic backing to legally do whatever they please.

Peter Deerstalker… the Legal Eagle who is ready to shut it all down

Peter is a member of the Tunica Native American tribe. As an attorney he is well used to people trying to exploit his people. That in itself gives him a reason to be a suspect in Sandra’s murder. He has been in close contact with her (really, which man in this book hasn’t?) and a strong motive to harm her.

College students… always thinking they know it all

It seems everyone has an ulterior motive for being on the dig site. Especially the students. Sure these kids want to get a good grade but for some of them they are looking for much more.

The students and young people were milling about and on the outskirts of many events in the novel. Some were sleeping with professors. Some were literally casting spells.

Kawania… you can take the girl out of the coven but you can’t take New Orleans out of the girl

Hailing from New Orleans she is eager to name drop Marie Laveau as part of her family lineage. A student of Sandra’s she plays up her familial history and her Native American bloodline. As well as person who won’t hesitate to put a spell on you. She adds a bit of American Horror Story: Coven to the air. Like Peter Deerstalker she is a member the Tunica tribe.

Delane Goggans…

She’s got it bad, she’s hot for teacher. Okay, I will try not to reference bad songs from the 80s again but it needed to be said and no lies were told.

Delane is clearly in love with Frank Hafner and it is suspected that she will do almost anything to protect him from getting sent to the state penitentiary.

Case closed…

This book exceeded my expectations in many ways. Sarah Booth has grown up and is able to show a sensitivity which I did not anticipate seeing. I loved revisiting the effervescent Jitty, the ghost, and could have used a lot more of her quips and barbs. This time she presented herself in many invocations of Native American women which offered food for thought along with a dose of history.

There were some supernatural elements and rumors throughout this book. But I suppose that is to be expected when we are dealing with Sarah Booth who has her own personal ghost. Whether some of the supernatural elements were based on superstition or stereotyping is a question I will turn over in my brain in time to come.

I liked the college students being introduced and seeing them run around Zinnia. It was nice to see them as focal points within the story. They really made for good characters and I was constantly wondering how much they were involved with the murder. The topic itself, of excavation of Native American burial places and areas of importance, was an excellent choice for a cozy mystery.

The author did a good job of presenting the big business behind digging up bones. As well as what it means to the disenfranchised people who are helpless in watching their ancestors and their way of life be examined without their permission. Reality TV being incorporated was very cool and I could imagine the characters and persons of interest playing up for the cameras.

There weren’t many things endearing about the murder victim and I enjoyed the candor the suspects used in talking about her deep flaws and true intentions. It was fun to discover all of the various secret motivations behind those who worked on the excavation site. A couple of the surprises made my jaw drop; I simply did not see them coming.

The mystery itself was one that kept me guessing. I had no idea that things would unfold the way they did and basically any theory I would have been able to develop would have not have even come close to the truth. I call that impressive. There were not a ton of subplots in this book- it was pretty straight forward and things were wrapped up nicely in the end. The action scenes were good and the multiple discoveries that mattered the most occurred in the final pages.

Thank you to Net Galley and to the publishers of this book for providing me with an Advanced Reader Copy of Game of Bones in exchange for my honest review.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window is a best selling mystery book by A.J. Finn. Published in January 2018 it took the literary world by storm so to speak. It is now on schedule to become a major motion picture.

This is not a cozy mystery but it does not have graphic violence or gore. The main character, Dr. Anna Fox, is however out to solve a crime that only she believes actually occurred. Many refer to it as a psychological thriller.

Paging Dr. Fox…

We first meet Anna where we will ultimately spend most of our time with her- boozed up in her home.

She suffers from agoraphobia and apparently alcoholism as well. Anna can hardly go an entire page without a sip of the red stuff and needless to say she strongly prefers Merlot. We discover that she is a former child psych, having left her practice in order to stay home in her New York City brownstone and gaze out of her windows with a camera in hand.

Her days are spent with glasses of wine, old movies and a camera at the ready to take in some action. As a result of her agoraphobia she faces crippling fear when attempting to leave her home and has not been out in about a year. But that doesn’t stop things from coming to her. From food delivery to stone cold murder she gets it all through the windows and doors of her domicile.

The cast of enablers…

Of course if one is to never leave their home they must have a support team around them right? Anna’s team is comprised of her husband and daughter, Ed and Olivia, from which she is separated. She also has a Physical Therapist that comes around every week or so. To round out the team there is a psych who suspects that she is boozing it up and prescribes her meds that she washes down with merlot anyway.

She spends time online helping other people who suffer from agoraphobia as well as playing chess. Her neighbors never come around anymore until one day a new one does. And that is when things start to get interesting.

Through the drinking glass…

It is very hard to tell with Anna what is real and what is not and even the book’s narrative made my head spin a bit. I felt like I was drunk in college again only I was pretending to live in NYC and had money for expensive wine. Whoever wrote this certainly knows what it feels like to go on a binder.

And as a reader even I started to question what exactly was happening many times.

Jane is…? No, seriously!

Enter the new neighbor, Jane Russell, who brings some life to this monotonous existence. She’s vibrant and embraces Anna immediately, having saved her from being pelted with eggs the one time she does venture outside around Halloween. She seems to really understand Anna and doesn’t even mind that she lives in a bathrobe.

After spending a couple of days with her new friend and meeting her home schooled son, Ethan, Anna is shocked to witness someone in Jane’s household being murdered. There is a dramatic scene in which she drops her camera and calls the police slurring like a drunken sailor.

Once again we find ourselves victims of her shaky narrative and clouded thinking. She has to be the most unreliable narrator in the history of mystery narration.

Alistair… the husband across the street

Alistair has an absolute disdain for Anna. From the very beginning he is wary of her and wants nothing more than for her to quit being nosey and stay out of his life. Good luck with that my friend. Nosey is her middle name.

Ethan… the kid across the street

Ed warns Anna early on not to be a cougar. But Anna cannot help spying and taking interest in connecting with the teenager that lives with Jane and Alistair. You know what they say about things that don’t start well…

David… the hot basement dwelling tenant

Finally there is David, a mysterious man who lives in her basement. She is aware of his comings and goings but doesn’t seem to know any more about him than she does the people that she spies on all day and night.

Case closed…

This novel has been heralded as brilliant. Worthy of film magic even. I thought it was really very good but it took me a while to form that conclusion.

I spent the first half of the book feeling like I was inebriated. The second half is when things really started to get interesting and in the very last chapters was when things took off and picked up at a pace worth galloping along with.

I still have my doubts about Anna- she was such an unreliable narrator and witness that I find it hard to believe that the police would have taken her seriously. The action scene at the end was a bit clunky in my opinion. And I really did think she was too slow to catch on to a lot of things making it highly unlikely she would have survived. She really wasn’t a very good psych after all.

And for this novel to take place in NYC it sure is quiet enough to hear every single thing! This should have been set in some small town in Minnesota or something, then I could believe that people can hear and see all the happenings of their neighbors and live without alarm systems.

But the twists made it worth it. The ending ultimately left me satisfied. Is it worth the hype? Feel free to weigh in.

One last thing

The author of this book is shrouded in controversy so deep that I will address it in another blog post entirely.

Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

Hollywood Homicide is book one in the Detective by Day Mystery series. Written by Kellye Garrett this book was released on August 8, 2017.

Ironically this was the first cozy mystery I ever picked up. I had never even heard of the genre before. I found the cover to be intensely interesting and beautiful.

The premise itself- a former actress turned sleuth drew me in. I had not seen many mystery leads who were black or of color before and for it to be a female to boot made it all the more appealing to me.

Lights, camera… Dayna?

Dayna, known as Day, is having a rough go at life lately. Once she was the star of nationally syndicated commercials for a chicken chain. She was also known for her attitude fueled catchphrase.

It could wear anyone thin. When we meet Day she no longer has the chicken slinging deal. She has put on a few pounds and signed up with temp agencies which has distanced her from her famed character. Not that she isn’t still recognized- but now it’s because people think they know her but can’t place her in their minds. People who encounter her all feel like she is some random classmate that you saw at a pep rally years ago in high school and you still can’t remember her name.

She has very few of the accoutrements of her old Hollywood lifestyle left. Having packed away her size 4 garments and moved into her friend Sienna’s “bloset”. Her bloset being an actual closet filled with Sienna’s shoe collection but large enough to hold a bed for Day.

Her problems are way bigger than her bloset. Her parents home is facing foreclosure and she signs up to bail them out despite not having enough money to fill the gas tank of her Pepto Bismol pink Infiniti.

Even her car isn’t prepared to embark on a murder investigation. Neither is Day but she vows to in order to obtain reward money for a tip leading to the arrest of a hit and run killer. Simply put she doesn’t fit the role.

Hollyweird happenings…

We learn from Dayna some information about how Hollywood works. From agents and managers to the differences in the houses in the surrounding areas. Sure, she may have had a fall from grace and a star status that has faded but she is now a California girl.

It doesn’t hurt that she fits right in with her friends who are willing to help her while pursuing their own dreams. One of which is Sienna.

Sienna… bloset owner in red

I think Sienna deserves a novel of her own. She owns the shoes and bloset that provide a home for Dayna. No one knows where her money is from aside from maybe an ex husband. She’s ambiguous in some ways but it is crystal clear that she wants fame.

She will even wear all red all the time to get attention from bloggers and possibly reality tv gigs. Who am I to judge her life ambitions?

Emme… the hermit twin to the star

Another friend who helps the main character in times of need is Emme. She just happens to be the twin sister of a mega celebrity. Which doesn’t stop her from being a recluse who is far more comfortable in front of her computer screen than anywhere else on earth.

Aubrey… the former cop now on his own bike patrol

An unlikely ally from the start we find that Aubrey has had his own fall from grace from the police force. He rides a bike, always. Clearly they’re above being inconspicuous when it comes to tracking suspects. Kind of hard to do with a bright pink car running on fumes or a ten speed built for sidewalk travel.

Image result for man on bike funny

Case closed…

The author knows her stuff. The ins and outs of Hollywood are clearly familiar to her and I felt as if I was there while reading.

I appreciated that Day was quite wrong, quite often. In a series debut I wouldn’t have expected her to be an actress turned expert detective which made me free to laugh along the way at the silly jokes and quips. After all this is a cozy mystery.

But she can at least act her way out of a paper bag, and a lot of other precarious situations. Although challenged financially (we’re talking she is using a phone card and living in a closet) she has what anyone would call “heart”. For her first attempt as an investigator she could have done worse.

Yes, the main character is a bit of an airhead, but I liked her silly personality. I also liked the crew of people that surrounded her. You could tell she has a few real friends in her life who are willing to help her out of a bind. Dayna was smart enough to use her acting skills in order to, at times, make up for her lack of knowledge and know how. There was some entertaining Hollywood style action movie scene at the end that stayed true to the heart of the novel.

Reading this was like a wild goose chase. Day thought just about everyone did it at some point. Meanwhile I figured the culprit from the time they were introduced. I still enjoyed the journey through the streets and metropolitan area of Hollywood and all of the fashions and celebrity happenings along the way

I am excited to see how her detective skills improve in the future. I would love to find out more about what lead her friends to where they are today. I very much look forward to reading the second book in this series, Hollywood Ending. Hopefully she uses her acting skills to even greater advantage than before.

New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith

New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith is the first book in the 10 part Skip Langdon series. It was published on Christmas Day in 1990.

Meet Skip Langdon…

Skip has something to prove. The daughter of a doctor whose clients are New Orleanian elite. She’s still seen as the child of “the help” when she finds herself back in her hometown embarking on a new career as a police officer. She was not originally assigned to be a detective. Nor was she supposed to be a member of the homicide team. But she finds herself there after the murder of a prominent member of society is shot to death in the beginning of the book.

Dolly Parton comes to Mardi Gras, and she brought her pistol to make the King’s head roll…

Have you ever been to New Orleans? I have and even though it wasn’t Mardi Gras I found Bourbon Street overwhelming. For those who hail from The Big Easy the Mardi Gras parade is an annual tradition so looked forward to that they often begin planning the next years costume the day after the parade.

I still wonder how much thought the person who decided to dress up as Dolly Parton to shoot Rex, the crowned king of Carnival, put into that costume. But just envisioning it made me laugh too hard. This year Rex is Chauncy St. Amant and boy oh boy does he have some skeletons in his closet.

New Orleans is a strange city…

I had a great appreciation for the way the author handled the history of the city of New Orleans. There were many issues related to race, lineage and self-loathing that many people are afraid to discussed. But the author did not shy away from it. Nor did she sugar coat it. There were phrases and concepts that made me cringe but the truth is a very hurtful thing.

Still the city is strange and that cannot be denied. Millions flock there to come undone in the streets during the infamous Mardi Gras celebration.

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It is undeniably humorous even from afar.

Blame it on the Rookie…

She makes some Rookie mistakes along the way. Skip is in an environment and around people that are far too familiar to her and she is still finding her footing on the scene. Because she knows the people being investigated personally she has a bit of an advantage but also a disadvantage in that her ability to move within the circles of the New Orleans elite ostracizes her from her fellow law enforcement team.

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The original BBW…

I was pleasantly surprised to find that our main character, Skip Langdon, is presented as a tall, plus sized woman. Seeing as this novel was released in 1990 back when Big wasn’t accepted as beautiful. Not that this novel pretends that it was. There was plenty of fat shaming throughout the book. Some of it interferes with her investigation at times when people resort to insulting her weight in order to get her to back off.

Lets not pretend she is a fashionista. She is not. And everyone reminds her of this as she walks about awkwardly in her high heels and poorly coordinated outfits. But that’s what happens when you pick up cloths from wherever you dropped them. Don’t get all judgmental and act like you haven’t.

The Big Easy has some sleazy characters…

Chief among them are the highly entertaining son of Chauncy, Henry. He is very angry and bitter and gay. His biting comments are so much fun. He knows he can dress better than Skip and doesn’t mind telling her.

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His mother is also an alcoholic. Not even a functioning one. I think she would be classified as barely functioning. It is a good thing she is skinny enough to be carried everywhere.

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Case closed…

This book wasted no time and there were many exciting twists. She did a good job of getting down and dirty with her detective work. Skip had no problems participating in a one woman stakeout.

She uses her ability to toggle back and forth between the world of law enforcement and privilege to her full advantage. I felt her character was fully fleshed and could feel her compassion and disdain for the haves and the have nots.

As the mystery behind the case unfolded the pace quickened even more with several subplots being revealed. There was unforgettably rich irony when Skip discovers the full story behind the killer and turns it over to her superiors at the precinct.

I have never read a cozy mystery with a member of law enforcement as the main character. And as a result perhaps that means this series would not be characterized as such. But in my opinion it can get a pass. While there is some foul language it isn’t overly vulgar and violence takes place off screen so to speak.

I think certain taboo topics within the book could have been handled in a better manner. But again, there are prejudices in this world and sometimes that can be harder to swallow. A bit more character development would not have hurt either.

I liked this book and will read the second book, Axeman, at some point in the future.