Tag Archives: mystery

Review of Premeditated Peppermint (Amish Candy Shop Mystery #3), by Amanda Flower

I won a copy of Amanda Flower’s Premeditated Peppermint through Goodreads. Early November may seem an odd time to read a book set around Christmas, but I try to fill my Little Free Library with holiday books in December. So, I wanted to go ahead and get this read and added to the stock.

Description:
Christmas is Bailey King’s favorite time of year. For her first Yuletide in Harvest, Ohio, the former big-city chocolatier is recreating a cherished holiday treat: peppermint combined with molten white chocolate. But her sugar high plummets when her former boyfriend walks into the candy shop she now runs with her Amish grandmother. New York celebrity chef Eric Sharp and his TV crew have arrived to film an authentic Amish Christmas. Bailey’s not about to let her beloved town–and Swissmen Sweets–be turned into a sound bite. Unfortunately, she gets more publicity than she bargained for when Eric’s executive producer is found strangled to death–and Eric’s the prime suspect.

With Bailey’s sheriff deputy boyfriend out to prove Eric’s guilt, her bad-boy ex tries to sweet-talk her into helping him clear his name . . . and rekindle their romance to boost ratings for his show. Now, between a surplus of suspects and a victim who wasn’t who she seemed, Bailey’s edging dangerously close to a killer who isn’t looking to bring joy to the world–or to Bailey–this deadly Noel . . .

Review:
I can’t say I truly loved this. I suppose that if you’re really into cozy mysteries you might like it a bit more. Certainly, the writing is fine. (I thought a tad forced at times, with names used too often in dialogue. Mostly fine though.) However, I seriously disliked one of the characters, thought another was painfully cliche, and I had a serious issue with this being categorized as an Amish mystery.

Specifically Premeditated Peppermint calls itself an “Amish Candy Shop Mystery.” And while the argument could be made that the emphasis is on Amish Candy shop, not Amish mystery, I still think the selling point is meant to be that this is a book about Amish characters. There are Amish people in the book, but (and here’s my beef) THE MAIN CHARACTER IS NOT AMISH.

I suspect (though I don’t know) that Flower has some Amish connection in real life. The culture is treated respectfully and the book does address some of the difficulties of navigating non-Amish life as an Amish person. The rules and mores are repeatedly dismissed by outsiders as flexible, for example, and the main character is considered Amish by those same outsiders for her mere association with the community. While all that may be true, the Amish community is still just window dressing on the book. It’s what makes the world-building different from other cozy mysteries. And in the end, I was uncomfortable with it; side-eyeing and wondering where exactly the line of appropriation really is.

Outside of that big issue, I also thought it inappropriate Bailey inserted herself into a police investigation, thought the pushy mother shipping Bailey and her son before they’d even had a date too much to believe, and the mystery wasn’t hard to figure out at all. As a side note, I was able to follow it just fine without having read the previous books.

This is not to say the book is without merit. It was cute, had some good quips and is as squeaky clean as anyone could hope. It seems to have just not been the book for me.

Review of Ice Cream Man, by Charles Puccia

I received an audio copy of Charales Puccia‘s Ice Cream Man for review. A copy of the ebook can be downloaded for free from Puccia’s blog.

Description from Goodreads:
Solving a marital problem can create bigger problems –ones that lead to murder.

For the love of his boss, Vinnie pays. He should know that benefits don’t always accrue to the person paying.

VINNIE BRIGGS will do anything to help his boss DAN LIVORNO at Del Vecchio & Neal, Inc. Dan is the most beautiful and intelligent man Vinnie’s ever met, and he has met a lot of men in his short twenty-two years. Dan’s problem derives from his wife –GINNY LIVORNO’s obsession with super strong, muscular men: sthenolagnia. Jealousy consumes Dan, and for good reason: Ginny’s drop-dead gorgeous, the kind of woman you rarely meet, if ever.

Dan’s believes to help Ginny he must remove her from the source of her obsession, the champion pro bodybuilder BEN HAUSEN, and Ginny’s personal trainer. Out of sight, out of mind. Just because Ben’s gay doesn’t reduce Dan’s jealousy, leading to irrational decisions.

Dan knows his marriage is at stake. Ginny agrees, but not because of her so-called obsession, which she denies. A fortunate circumstance presents Dan his solution: apply for the DV&N’s directorship of European Financial Services in Paris.

LINDA LORDS, Dan’s rival in financial analysis, has the same goal. With the help of BILL BARRINGTON, the executive vice president at DV&N, she has a better shot at the Paris job. Linda and Bill have their obsession to satisfy–greed. As co-conspirators, with Linda in Paris, they can embezzle enough money to begin new lives. Joining the superrich, they’ll abandon family obligations and morality. The have visions of unbridled sex, gambling, and any other vice they choose, not necessarily with each other. All they need do is eliminate Dan as challenger for the directorship.

Lucky for Dan he has Vinnie to help him, and unlucky for Vinnie, Bill has the Brooklyn mob. Dan has no idea his easy solution to resolve Ginny’s sthenolagnia will change his understanding of the world. Straight arrow Dan must learn about real passion, gay sex, bodybuilding, and cheaters.

Dan’s apparent simple solution begets a complex one. He’ll need Ben’s help, the very muscle hunk he despises. Dan’s new problem is not to solve his marriage, but Vinnie.

Review:
I have really mixed feeling about this book. The writing is fine, as is Derrick McClain‘s narration, but the story seemed to go off the rails at some point and I still can’t quite finger it’s location on the genre spectrum. There is a mystery to be solved by the characters (the reader knows who done it), but there is too much focus on relationships and sex to be a mystery novel. There is focus on a relationship, but not the right sort of focus to be a romance. There is erotica-level sex (in fact, the last 1/4 or so of the book is basically just sex), but it’s clearly not an erotic novel. In the end, I’m not sure what it is. All the disparate pieces just don’t fit together quite right. The graphic sex especially seemed out of place. And I say that as someone who loves a good, dirty erotica.

Similarly, this is a “Vinnie Briggs” novel, but Vinnie isn’t the main character. In fact, he’s in a coma for most of the book. (Though I did find him by far the most endearing character.)

Lastly, some aspects of the book simply made me uncomfortable. Some of the language grated. I know bad guy characters can be expected to use derogatory language. But I didn’t enjoy having it scrape against my backbone, thus it detracted from my enjoyment of the book as a whole. There are gay characters and they’re represented well. But I also felt that there was a certain discomfort with them. It was in some of the subtleties of language and the way they themselves are used by straight characters. Lastly, Ginny has a sexual obsession that she clearly coerces others into participating in. If she was a male character, treating female characters as she does Dan and Ben there would be outrage. As it was, I hated her throughout the whole book.

In the end, I didn’t dislike the book. But I think I’d only continue the series if I found the next book free. So, I liked it enough to read, but not enough to allocate funds for it. That makes it a fairly middle of the road read.

Review of The Flinch Factor, by Michael A. Kahn

I picked up a used copy of The Flinch Factor, by Michael A. Kahn. He’s a local author, but I’ve never met him.

Description from Goodreads:
Several years have passed since we last saw Rachel Gold. The stunning and savvy attorney was then engaged to be married. Since, she’s become a mother, then a much-grieving widow, and now she is embroiled in a lost cause—the Frankenstein Case—where she represents a blue-collar neighborhood fighting a powerful developer intent on bulldozing their homes to erect a swanky gated community. Who’s pushing her here? Of course, her mother.

Rachel’s strategy will be based on the wild card that is the judge on the case—a judge so wacky he’s known to the St Louis Bar as The Flinch Factor (think the spawn of Judge Judy and Pee Wee Herman).

Plus Rachel gains another new client: Susannah, sister of Nick Moran, the heartthrob of every woman whose kitchen he remodeled. Nick has been murdered, found slumped on the front seat of his pickup along an isolated lane known to the vice squad as Gay Way, his pants unzipped, a coil of rubber tubing on the seat, an empty syringe on the floor. His female groupies are, to say the least, stunned. Gay? No way.

Although Susannah seems the classic blindly adoring younger sister, a skeptical Rachel agrees to check it out. To her surprise, she turns up facts and witnesses suggesting that maybe, just maybe, Nick’s death was staged as an overdose during sex. Then things rapidly grow darker in what increasingly becomes a realFrankenstein of a case….

Review:
I enjoyment this. While not really relevant to others’ experience of the book, part of what I liked so much was that the book is set in Saint Louis, where I live. I alway love seeing characters going to familiar places and enacting local quirks. Kahn did right by our fair city.

More widely relevant is how diverse the cast is. I always appreciate this. Rachel is Jewish (and fully adult, no 24-year-old heroine with a miraculous law degree here), her best friend is fat and successful in both his professional and romantic life, her legal partner is transgendered and hit on repeatedly (as well as being like 6′ 2″ and about 250lbs), the main police detective is old, one of her friends is gay, and the individuals Rachel encounters through the book came in a rainbow of races.

The mystery isn’t hard to figure out. In fact, it’s pretty obvious. But being a legal thriller, not a mystery, the fun is in Rachel figuring out how to prove it. I did think she took too long to put the pieces together, considering how smart she’s obviously supposed to be. But all in all, a good read.

An additional note: This is book eight in a the Rachel Gold Mysteries series. I’ve not read 1-7, but had no problem picking this one up and following it.