Friday, May 28, 2010

“A Dose of Murder” by Lori Avocato

This book introduces us to female-sleuth Pauline Sokol. She is thirty-something, single and lives in New England with a platonic male friend named Miles. She is totally burned out having spent many years as a nurse and so one day she decides to just quit. (Haven’t many of us had that fantasy?)

Of course her parents don’t understand this. They are a full-blooded Polish couple, married and living in the same house for over 40 years. Her father lovingly refers to Pauline as his little “paczi”. A paczi is a Polish donut and it sounds like ‘paunchki’.

I once worked with a Polish woman who brought us paczis for a treat. I don’t remember what they tasted like. Pauline tells us that it is a very large donut with prune filling. Perhaps there is a good reason why I don’t remember what a paczi tastes like!

Roommate Miles has a solution for Pauline - his uncle might have a job for her as an insurance investigator working with medical fraud cases. Her background as a nurse would help immensely, and Pauline discovers as her potential boss ogles her, her good looks guarantee she’s got the job. She would be like an independent contractor of sorts, setting her own hours and getting paid when the job is done. Of course she will need all the latest surveillance equipment like a really good video camera.

Pauline’s very first case involves a woman named Tina Macaluso who conned an insurance company out of over $33,000. In an odd twist of fate, Pauline knows Tina - they went to school together.

So this should be easy, right?

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Ultimate Crime

Does it bother us that we read murder mysteries? Sometimes it bothers me.

Even though most of what I read are cozy mysteries which are defined by a lack of graphic violence, we are still talking about the ultimate crime - murder.

Would the books be as interesting if we were reading about say, embezzlement? Probably not. As readers, and even as a society, I doubt we would care as much about finding the perpetrator in an embezzlement case. Especially if it happened to a large corporation - we might feel that they already have enough money. We might even sympathize with the criminal and say that company deserved it.

But it’s hard to sympathize with someone who has taken a life. We want this crime to be solved and the perpetrator punished.

So when we read these books, that is why we root for the female-sleuth - to find the ultimate solution to the ultimate crime.

Perhaps the bigger question is does reading about murder, playing games where characters are murdered, or viewing violent crime on TV and in the movies desensitize us as a society to murder?

The debate continues.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Done with “Hot Six” by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum uses her intuition to solve the case in “Hot Six”. She feels her woman’s intuition is the best thing she has going for her, as she says “I can’t shoot, I can’t run all that fast and the only karate I know is from Bruce Lee movies”.

She even gets to use a loaner car that a friend calls a “silver wind machine”. It’s a Rollswagen. The body of the car is an old Volkswagen Beetle, and the front of the car is an old Rolls-Royce. It’s color is silver with blue swirls and stars. Funny thing is, she doesn’t use the car all that much. Can’t say I blame her. It’s hard to be an unobtrusive bounty hunter when you drive a silver Rollswagen!

You can buy the book here:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Canine Garbage Disposal

Re: “Hot Six” by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie has agreed to watch somebody’s dog for a couple of days. The dog is part golden retriever and his name is Bob.

She soon finds out that Bob eats everything. One day Grandma Mazur was cleaning Stephanie’s cupboards. She left for a moment and Bob had eaten all the prunes, Frosted Flakes and marshmallows that were sitting on the countertop.

He also eats cake, cardboard boxes, pizza, furniture and car upholstery. In short, he’s a canine garbage disposal.

What Stephanie finds out a few days later is the dog’s owner never intended to return for him. So the joke is on Stephanie and she is stuck with Bob. But she doesn’t think it’s a joke, she is starting to like Bob and decides to keep him.

One night Stephanie asks her boyfriend cop Joe Morelli to dog-sit Bob for a couple of hours. She warns Joe to watch Bob, that he will eat everything.

Joe jokes that Bob should be made a cop, and asks what’s his liquor capacity.

Stay tuned for more posts about this book.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Just a Girl, Her Hamster and Her Grandma

Re: “Hot Six” by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum lives in a one bedroom apartment with her hamster Rex. Rex lives in a little glass aquarium and is content with running on his exercise wheel and eating handouts of people food from Stephanie.

Stephanie’s grandmother is normally content to live with Stephanie’s parents - but not lately. Grandma Mazur has packed her things and headed for Stephanie’s apartment. It seems there was an argument between Grandma and Stephanie’s father, and now Grandma has come to live with Stephanie. Grandma claims she is going to learn how to drive and find her own apartment. Oh boy.

Grandma Mazur says she’ll sleep on Stephanie’s couch, but Stephanie feels bad about that so she offers her own bed to Grandma. Now Stephanie is sleeping on her own couch. I’d probably do the same thing if it was me.

After a few days of living with her grandmother, Stephanie notices some things. Like Grandma willingly eats dessert first, before the main meal. That never would have happened when Stephanie’s grandfather was alive. Things were very traditional then, and Stephanie wonders if her Grandma would have been different if she hadn’t married her Grandpa.

Would Grandma have eaten dessert first all the time?

Stay tuned for more posts about this book.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Hot Six" by Janet Evanovich

When I got this book at a used book sale, my hubby asked what the title was. I said “Hot Six” and he looked at me with a raised eyebrow and a little smile on his face. I know he was thinking of substituting an “E” for the “I” in “Six”, but he didn’t say anything.

This was the first Stephanie Plum book I bought and I almost decided to give up on it after reading a few pages. I just didn’t get the humor. But then I thought I’d keep reading and I’m glad I did. It’s an entertaining book and series.

This book opens with Stephanie’s mentor (bounty hunter supreme Ranger) having been a no-show at his court date. A rookie cop who didn’t know any better arrested Ranger for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. If that wasn’t enough, an investigation of a fire in a downtown office building reveals a burned body with a bullet hole to the head, and a surveillance tape showing Ranger in the building shortly before the fire started. To complicate matters, the dead body is the son of an international arms dealer.

So there are a lot of people interested in finding Ranger, including Stephanie’s special friend and cop Joe Morelli. But Stephanie knows better than to try to find Ranger - he’s like the wind. He will find her when he needs to.

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

From Mystery Books News - Nancy Drew Celebrates 80 Years in Print

"Many news organizations (e.g. USA Today) are reporting on the 80th anniversary of the publication of the first Nancy Drew mystery, The Secret of the Old Clock by the pseudonymous Carolyn Keene, on April 28th, 1930. Grosset & Dunlap is celebrating by producing a special 80th Anniversary edition of the book. The series was originally created by Edward Stratemeyer, who was also the creative force behind The Hardy Boys among other series.

Nancy Drew has since been featured in hundreds of books, dozens of games, and several films. She is an industry unto herself!

Fifty-six books in the original series were published between 1930 and 1979, with the first 34 substantially updated and/or rewritten starting in 1959. An additional 119 titles (part of the so-called "Mystery Stories") followed until 2003. But in between there were also 124 books in the "Nancy Drew Files" series and 69 books in the "Notebooks" series, which featured a young Nancy Drew. This latter series was reimagined as the current Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew mysteries for young readers, while the teenaged Nancy Drew continues to solve crimes in the All New Girl Detective series. Nancy Drew is also featured in a separate series of graphic novels!

But for those who want to see how it all began, The Secret of the Old Clock is the place to start. Happy Anniversary, Nancy Drew!

About The Secret of the Old Clock (from the publisher): When the Topham family inherits all of Josiah Crowley's fortune, something isn't right about the whole affair. Josiah promised other friends and relatives that they would inherit. In Nancy's first case, she searches for a hidden will in order to help restore the inheritances to the rightful heirs. Being locked in a closet by robbers and a narrow escape with an old clock lead to Nancy solving this baffling mystery!"

Thanks to Mystery Book News for this interesting item!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Done with “Murder Most Maine” by Karen MacInerney

As Natalie searches for clues to the suspicious death of Dirk the trainer, she wonders why life is so complicated sometimes. The police have ruled the death a homicide. Her handsome boyfriend John is a suspect. The death occurred on her property, the Gray Whale Inn.

In her search, Natalie questions her relationship with John and starts to have doubts. He couldn’t have committed murder, could he? Many years ago, John had a summer fling with beautiful Vanessa, the leader of the weight-loss retreat. Is it over between John and Vanessa? Or does Natalie still have a chance at a relationship with him? She must find out.

Some of the guests at her inn seem suspicious to Natalie. There is Elizabeth, who claims to be a reporter. Is she, and why did Natalie see her coming out of Dirk’s room the day before his death?

The book answers these questions and more. We find out who the skeleton in the lighthouse belongs to, and why it was there.

One mystery goes unsolved though: why several residents of Cranberry Island saw a light flashing from the empty lighthouse one night.

The book also hints at some interesting dilemmas involving weight loss. Should people take supplements to speed up weight loss? Are the supplements safe?

Included with the book are recipes for pumpkin-pie oatmeal, chocolate meringues, teriyaki marinade, shrimp salad, turkey chili and mint dessert bars.

You can buy the book here: