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The Day He Left by Frederick Weisel

Paul Behrens had found his calling teaching literature to middle school students. He loved being a teacher. Married with a son and daughter, he was in good health and they lived in a nice home. So why did he leave one morning and not come back?

Did life get be too much to handle? Is he running from something or to someone? Eddie Maher and his team tackle the mystery of Paul’s disappearance in Frederick Weisel’s novel, The Day He Left.

Maher heads the VCI (Violent Crime Investigations) team in the Santa Rosa Police Department. The members of the team are Daniel Rivas, close to retirement he is the memory for the team; Steve Frames is a former Marine with weapons training; Eden Somers was an FBI analyst good at research with an uncanny ability to find the obscure links in an investigation; and Martin Coyle is the computer guy.

The team handles all manner of crime and never has a shortage of cases so when Annie Behrens walks in to report her husband missing it wouldn’t seem to be a priority – he is an adult male gone less than 24 hours. But he left without his phone and briefcase. Also his son saw him that morning early, dressed up instead of wearing his usual polo and khakis, and Paul was crying. Did Paul leave with the intention of never coming back?

Mahler wants to give it 24 hours and the team begins to dismantle Paul’s life. What they find is more questions than answers. Paul’s marriage was far from ideal. He and Annie had grown apart. She is drinking heavily and involved with a doctor at the hospital where she works evenings. His son is dealing drugs at the high school and Claire, his daughter, is being bullied.

In the briefcase he left behind is a friendship bracelet in a sealed bag. What if any significance does it have to the case? On his laptop is a letter of resignation and searches for Child Protective Services, sexual assault and molestation. He withdrew $1200.00 from the bank the night before he left. Plus who is the man caught on video breaking into his classroom the morning of his disappearance?

When they find Paul’s dead body the team’s focus turns from a missing person to homicide. To find the killer they must discover Paul’s motive for leaving – was he a victim or a predator?

As Mahler leads the search he has Frames only part time as he is on loan to Narcotics for a sting operation and Eden has been called into the FBI office about the case of the Highway 60 serial killer. Eden researched the case for years and it led to her resignation from the FBI so she wants no part of the case. The suspect has been arrested again but he may be set free and he has Eden’s name and address.

Weisel has penned an excellent police procedural but it is also a character study. Each team member is a person with thoughts, feelings, and flaws. These are not the typical hard-nosed sceptics depicted in a lot of crime novels. Eddie and the team know that those they deal with have varying motivations and experiences that influence actions and the information they provide.

This is the second book of the Violent Crime Investigations Team mysteries. The first, Silenced Women, came out last year but you don’t have to read the first one to enjoy this one. However, if you do read Silenced Women first you’ll see how the characters are evolving.

This is not the perfect crime novel but it is an interesting cast of characters. You can be entertained reading about the process of finding whodunit along with a detective’s reflections on people and life.

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Pump: A Natural History of the Heart by Bill Schutt

Everyone has a heart. Some are described as cold or big, some soft or hard. A few people have one of gold and others one of stone. If we are fortunate, it works just fine but for many their ticker is faulty. Whether using it to describe character or taking about how it functions, Bill Schutt covers it all in Pump: A Natural History of the Heart.

Schutt divides his exploration into 3 sections: Wild at Heart, What We Knew and What We Thought We Knew, and From Bad to Better. Just looking at some of the chapter titles lets you know this is not a dry scholarly text – Blue Blood and Bad Sushi, The Barber’s Bite and the Strangled Heart, and What’s Snakes Got to Do, Got to Do with It?

Before we get to the meat or heart of the book, the author tells us about nine blue whales who perished in the Cabot Strait in 2014. The tragic event made it possible for researchers to harvest the heart of one of the smaller whales (only 76 feet long). The harvesting and preservation of the 386-pound heart is a fascinating start.

Wild at Heart is a look at the circulatory systems of different species and how hearts function, the anatomy of the organ and how it evolved. To start the author goes from the massive heart of the whale to organisms so small they don’t have a heart. The horseshoe crab and its blue blood and open circulatory system are covered as are insects and their circulatory systems that don’t have a heart or carry oxygen.

This section is full of interesting facts and asides, such as the tiny masked shrew whose heart beats at a rate of 1320 beats per minute. How cold affects the heart and Ice fish and their antifreeze protein are covered as is the North America Wood Frog which can freeze (body fluids turn to ice) and then revive.

The second section, What We Knew and What We Thought We Knew, discusses the history and advancement of medical knowledge concerning the cardiovascular system. It is here that Schutt talks about the belief that the heart contained the soul of a person.

The Egyptians believed it contained all the good and bad deeds done by the deceased. They preserved it so the person could be judged in the afterlife. Aristotle also believed that the heart was the seat of intelligence, emotions and the soul. This cardiocentric view would remain for centuries to come and gave rise expressions such as cold-hearted, soft -hearted, and blue bloods.

The pioneers of medical knowledge covered included Hippocrates, Galen, Ibn al-Nafis, William Harvey, and Vesalius. Bloodletting and the use of leeches is well-covered as the practice lasted into the early twentieth century. George Washington’s treatment for a throat infection included bloodletting.

Charles Darwin’s health problems and the discovery of Chagas disease are also covered in this section before moving on to From Bad to Better. This final section covers the advances made in modern cardiology.

Schutt begins with tuberculosis (consumption) and the development of the stethoscope. To diagnose a patient a physician needed to listen to the lungs. This was done by a method called auscultation. One could tap the chest and listen to the sound resonated back or listen directly by placing your ear on the patient’s chest. After an embarrassing situation involving a plump female patient Dr. Rene Laennec saw two children playing with a piece of wood and a pin. One held the wood to his ear and could hear the other child scratching the opposite end with a pin. A tightly rolled piece of paper placed against the patient’s chest was Dr. Laennec first attempt and led to the instrument that is probably the first thing people think of when you say doctor or medicine.

Werner Forssmann’s development of heart catherization is unique in that he was his own guinea pig so to speak. After a brief sidetrack to holistic medicine, the switch from cardiocentric to craniocentric thinking, and varicose veins, Schutt discusses the phenomena of broken-heartedness.

The Burmese Python makes an appearance in this section because after feeding their hearts grow in size by 40%. As does Zebrafish and their ability to repair their damaged hearts. Research is being done on both of these processes to help those with faulty tickers. Schutt ends with the research being done with transplanting pig hearts into humans, cardiac regeneration, and using plant-based solutions to further the research.

This is an informative entertaining read with Schutt talking to us and letting his sense of humor shine through. It is peppered with black and white drawings by Patricia Wynne that illustrate what they author is saying. I highly recommend this if you want to know more about the heart and a whole lot of other fun facts.

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Courting Misfortune by Regina Jennings

America’s first detective agency, the Pinkerton Detective Agency, was started in 1850. Kate Warne, the first female detective, was hired in 1856. The widowed Mrs. Warne proved to be very effective and would eventually lead a division of female detectives at the agency. One of whom may have been like Calista York, Regina Jennings’ heroine in Courting Misfortune.

This title is the first in a Christian historical romance series called The Joplin Chronicles. Set in Joplin around the end of the 1890’s it portrays a city emerging from its mining camp origins but still plenty rough around the edges.

Calista found life as a Kansas City debutante less than satisfying and believes she has found her calling as a Pinkerton detective.  Even though she has completed two successful assignments she is still on probation. Now Calista has one month to complete her next case and prove to the skeptical Mr. Pinkerton that she can do the job.

The case is finding Lila Seaton. Lila is the daughter of Chicago mobster Jinxy Seaton. Calista is less than thrilled about working for a gangster but seeing the haunted eyes in a photo of the missing young woman she is convinced she must help. Lila has been missing 8 months without a trace. Jinxy has learned from an associate that Lila was spotted in Joplin, Missouri in the disreputable House of Lords. Jinxy is certain Lila was kidnapped and is being exploited by the same people who murdered her sister.

Calista knows Joplin well as her Granny Laura lives just outside of town. During summer visits Calista was closely guarded when they made the trip into the rough and tumble mining town.  Now to do her job she must dodge her family and venture to the very places Granny avoided. Making the Keystone Hotel her base of operation, Calista heads for the House of Lords.

Matthew Cook grew up in Pine Gap and when he decided to answer God’s call to be a missionary he thought he might be sent to a foreign locale. Instead he found himself a short train ride away in Joplin, Missouri.

As he walks the streets of Joplin Matthew sees plenty of souls in need of guidance including the young woman who is pacing in front of the House of Lords.  She seems to be working up her nerve to go in and he steps in to warn her. But Calista does not welcome this good-looking stranger’s attention nor his desire to save her from poor decisions. Matthew however is determined to rescue her.

Matthew’s persistence is annoying but Calista is still able to pursue contacts that might lead her to Lila. Then her family discovers she’s in town.  Keeping her job and quest to find Lila a secret is proving difficult as her family joins Matthew in trying to keep Calista from the people and places that might lead her to the missing woman. Can she find Lila before her time runs out?

As for Matthew, besides his worry and growing attraction for Calista, he has taken a job in the mines to be closer to the people he hopes to help. Plus he must try to stop an outrageous plan to auction off a baby to raise money for the Children’s Home!

This is an entertaining read and the author is well-versed in Joplin history.  There is a little mystery, fun characters, and a developing romance with faith the underlying motivation for our two protagonists.

The library has this title in our fiction collection and you can find the ebook and eaudiobook on Hoopla. Plus there are 5 paperback copies available to be read then either passed on to a fellow reader to enjoy or returned to the library. Just ask us to see if one is available.

Plus you heard it here first! (or maybe second or third) – the author, Regina Jennings, will be in Joplin on December 9th for a presentation on Pinkerton Detective Kate Warne. Please join us at the Joplin Public Library on Thursday, December 9th, at 6pm in our Community Room. A book signing will follow the presentation.

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Random Road by Thomas Kies

Geneva Chase is a really good reporter. She writes well, has great instincts and her resume includes jobs at major newspapers, magazines and even Fox News. But Geneva, the person, is a mess. Her poor choices and drinking has cost her all those resume filling jobs.

In Thomas Kies’ debut novel, Random Road, Geneva finds herself on probation at the only job she could get, crime beat reporter for the Sheffield Post. Sheffield, Connecticut is where she grew up and where hopefully she can start over.

The start over has not gone well. Out with Frank, her married lover, she encounters his wife and in the ensuing drunken brawl Geneva punches an off-duty cop. Hence her probation and mandated AA meetings.

Okay before I go further, you are probably asking yourself why I picked this title. I’m a mystery reader and I like character-driven novels. However, I usually like those characters, if flawed, to at least be striving for something better. But Geneva is likeable and her self-destructive tendencies are revealed over time. Plus I was hooked on the whodunit.

And who can resist a novel with the opening line ‘Last night Hieronymus Bosch met the rich and famous’? The scene this line describes may be the career remake Geneva needs. She has an exclusive on a multiple homicide in the gated community of Connor’s Landing. Six bodies, hacked to death, in the beautiful Queen Anne home of a multi-million dollar estate. The police aren’t giving much away other than the brutality of the crime and that there are at least 2 perpetrators.

She has other stories to follow as well. One is Jimmy Fitzgerald. Jimmy has been in trouble and gotten off lots of times thanks to his rich father. But this time he killed a mother of three in a hit and run. Another is the Home Alone Gang, burglars targeting the very affluent in Fairfield and West Chester counties.

But her story on the murders is picked up nationally and she has drawn the attention of a possible tipster.  A message in her voice mail says “I know who killed those people”. The male caller states he knows who and why but cannot go to the police. Geneva has no way to trace the call and doesn’t know if it’s legitimate or a crackpot. So as she waits for another call, she starts digging for her own clues.

On the personal front, she reconnects with Kevin Bell after seeing him at an AA meeting. Kevin, widowed with a teen daughter, was her best friend in school. Their reunion soon leads to deeper feelings but Frank is proving hard to dump.

There is a lot going on in this novel and Geneva’s personal relationships seem to go at the same speed as her breaking news stories. As tragedy strikes at home, her different news stories coalesce. Geneva’s search for the killers takes her unexpected places and exposes the sometimes lethal results of too much money and privilege.

This story has the potential to restart her career if she can stay sober, keep her job, work out her personal relationships, and not get killed in her search for suspects.

This is an older title and the first in the Geneva Chase Mystery series. The following titles are “Darkness Lane”, “Graveyard Bay”, and “Shadow Hill”.  “Shadow Hill” published this summer to some really good reviews. It is also a recommended title for fans of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series. Other series read-alike are the Jane Ryland mysteries by Hank Phillippi Ryan and the Hollows novels by Lisa Unger.

 

Our Team: the Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series that Changed Baseball by Luke Epplin

When thinking of historic moments or teams in Major League Baseball, the 1948 Cleveland Indians did not leap to mind. That changed when I read Luke Epplin’s new book, Our Team: the Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series that Changed Baseball.

A very good friend recommended that I read “Our Team”. He said I would like it and, as is often the case, he was right. It is in turns biography, social history, sports history, and a recap of the crucial games in Cleveland’s 1948 season and World Series win.

Epplin focuses on four people: owner Bill Veeck, fielder Larry Doby, and pitchers Bob Feller and Satchel Paige. He introduces each man while telling us about the time in which they were living. If you didn’t already know, you’ll find out how very different it was to play baseball professionally if you were Black.

Bob Feller was a pitching phenom. His dad recognized and nurtured his talent. From his home field to high school and semi-professional baseball, crowds showed up to watch Feller pitch. He drew the attention of the Cleveland Indians and was signed to a contract in 1935, his junior year in high school.

Originally set to start in the minor leagues he pitched against the Cardinals in an exhibition game and skipped straight to the majors. Feller worked 3 innings and struck out 8 batters – sending him to the minors didn’t make sense.

In contrast Satchel Paige’s path to the Majors was long and arduous. He didn’t have a father to nurture his talent. He worked from a young age and actually learned to pitch at the Alabama Reform School for Juvenile Negro Lawbreakers. When he was released at 17 he signed with a Black semi-professional team to study the game and hone his talents.

He soon learned that people would pay to watch him pitch. Like Feller he was a phenomenal pitcher but Paige was also a showman. He was good at gauging the crowd and keeping them entertained. He played in the Negro League during the season and then, as many League players did, went south to keep playing to make a living.

To earn some extra money Major Leaguers also played after the season was over. Barnstorming games often pitted Negro Leaguers against Major Leaguers. In October 1936 Paige and Feller met for the first of many games they would pitch against each other. Neither allowed a run with Feller striking out 8 and Paige 7.

Paige was such a dominant pitcher and had so much success against Major League players that League executives deemed a white player that could hit off Paige ready to play in the Majors. Despite this, he would not get his chance in the Major Leagues until the summer of 1948 when he was 42 years old.

Larry Doby was born in the south but his family moved north to find work. With his father was mostly absent and his mother working as a live-in domestic, he lived with his grandmother in Camden, NJ. He spent his free time playing stickball. Before high school his mother moved him to Paterson, NJ so he could attend an integrated school. A natural gifted athlete he was a 3 sport star and welcome to socialize with all his teammates.

Unlike Paige, Doby never aspired to play in the Major Leagues. He had his pick of sports but wanted to play Negro League baseball. He signed with the Newark Eagles and was an instant success. World War II interrupted his stint with the Eagles but after the war he resigned and continued to improve.

His talent drew the eye of both the Dodgers and the Indians with the Indians buying his contract from the Eagles in the summer of 1947. Unlike what the Dodgers did with Jackie Robinson, Doby did not go into the Minor League system. He went straight to the Majors.

The man who brought Feller, Paige and Doby together for that championship year was Bill Veeck. Bill loved baseball. His father was team president of the Chicago Cubs and Bill worked for the Cubs himself until he had the opportunity to buy the Milwaukee Brewers. In Milwaukee he perfected what he would eventually bring to the Indians. He roamed the crowds during the games talking to people, he gave away prizes, and had firework shows.

He wanted to win almost as badly as he wanted to fill the stands and make sure the fans had a good time. He also wanted to integrate baseball. He did it with personnel and eventually his Indians became the first American League team to sign a Black player.

There is so much more about each of these men that Epplin explores – how World War II affected each man, Feller’s quest to secure his financial future, Paige’s style and remarkable longevity, Veeck’s energy, and Doby’s ability to excel amid the isolation and injustices he endured integrating the game while living in a segregated society.

Then of course there is the season. The ups and downs in the race for the pennant against the Yankees and the Red Sox. The season came down to a one game playoff against the Sox to determine who would face the Boston Braves in the series. Even though we know the result, Epplin keeps you turning the pages to see what happens next.

Epplin did his research and brought to life these four remarkable men and the time in which they lived. It is both an entertaining and sobering book you don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy.

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We Came, We Saw, We Left: a Family Gap Year by Charles Wheelan

Charlie Wheelan is standing on a train platform in Medellin, Colombia and two of his children are missing. So begins Charles Wheelan’s account of his family’s gap year adventure. Charlie and Leah decided to take a year (or 9 months) and travel around the world with their children ages 13-18. We Came, We Saw, We Left: a Family Gap Year is an entertaining chronicle of seeing the world with and through evolving youth.

Charlie and Leah traveled the world the year after they graduated from college. Now, having turned fifty, they want to recreate that adventure with Katrina, Sophie, and CJ. Katrina just graduated from high school and can delay college for a year. High school junior Sophie (16) and 8th grader CJ will be home-schooled. Charlie, an author and a professor at Dartmouth College, and Leah, a math teacher, can take sabbaticals. Now how do they pay for the trip?

They decide to rent their house while they are gone and use the rent money for lodging. Only the things that are required to be were booked in advance such as flights and excursions. As for the rest they travel local buses, taxis, and trains and they do a lot of walking. They have a daily food allowance, a small amount of ‘free’ money per person and Leah is in charge of the budget.

The Wheelan family are seasoned travelers so with expenses figured out and a flexible itinerary of where they want to go, what could go wrong? Well, you can be at one train station, your wife at another, and Katrina and CJ missing somewhere in Medellin. Spotty Wi-Fi, no cell service, and vying for limited space on local transit are just some the challenges the family face and take in stride as they traverse the globe.

A world map entitled Nine Months, Six Continents, Three Teenagers is at the beginning of the book and shows the route from Hanover, New Hampshire to South America. Then on to New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Vietnam to Calcutta, Cape Town, back to India then Germany and other stops along the way before returning to New Hampshire nine months later.

No time line is given for the journey. They were in Colombia in September and New Zealand at Christmas but otherwise the telling is by place not day or month. Each chapter begins with a small map pinpointing the places for this part of the trip.

Wheelan is an amusing, self-deprecating writer. Traveling together for nine months is not all roses and he doesn’t avoid telling about some of the less savory aspects. The whole clan suffers from motion sickness and no matter where you are, you can’t avoid germs. Aside from the gastric distress and colds, a flesh eating parasite also makes an appearance on Katrina’s foot and leg.

As with any family there will be squabbles and some disagreements. The author keeps a record of the trip in his journal. At the halfway point he has written: Countries: 8, Bus trips: 28, Flights: 13, Boat rides: 6, Jeep rides: 7, Horse rides: 2, Incidents of motion sickness: 7, Search parties looking for us: 2, Family meltdowns: 5, and Books read (by me): 25.

Whether it is museums, hikes, or diving, the squabbles and discomforts are woven into the grand adventure as we follow the family around the world. Wheelan is good at evoking the sense of a place whether it is a hike in the Amazon or drinking coffee at an outdoor café.

Some excursions were exciting – diving at the Great Barrier Reef, exploring a 7-level cave in the Rain Forest, visiting the Tiger’s Nest, a monastery in Bhutan and hunting for kiwi in New Zealand. Others were sobering – deforestation in Laos, the Vietnam Hanoi Hilton, a slave museum in Zanzibar and the Airbnb apartment they rented in Vienna. A small plaque, Stolpersteine (stumbling stone), stood in front of the building with the names of the Hofling family and the date, June 15, 1942, that the Nazis took them from their home.

This was an enjoyable journey to places many of us will never go. The author described many of the places and creatures he saw through his camera lens. I would have loved to see some of that wonder and beauty included as color photos but perhaps that would require another book.

Speaking of another book, Wheelan spent some of his travel time working on a novel. Finished by the end of their gap year trek, “The Rationing”, was published and you’ll find it at the library.

This family had a wish, then a goal and finally a plan. As Wheelan says “We pulled it off. We made it around the world: nine months, six continents, three teenagers and one flesh-eating parasite.”

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Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney

Caroline B. Cooney is known for her young adult novels but she was intrigued with telling the story of someone who chose or was forced to live their life as a different person and managed to do it for almost 50 years. The resulting novel is her first for adults, Before She Was Helen.

Cooney’s effort is a well-done tale of surviving life’s challenges with a little murder and mayhem thrown in. NoveList (a reader’s advisory tool available through the catalog or the library website) describes the novel as compelling, funny, suspenseful, and intricately plotted with authentic characters. It’s the library’s pick for the Spring Book Discussion scheduled for April 26th from 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Helen is a semi-retired teacher living in the Sun City Retirement Village. The village is nice but bland. On a forgetful day a resident may need the garage door opener to identify their unit by which door goes up. You can be anyone you want to be and no one questions your past.

This suits Helen fine. She can have friends and participate in the lifestyle without too many awkward questions. Helen’s neighbor, Dom, may like the anonymity too but he doesn’t participate. He is an unpleasant man who doesn’t invite friendship. However, he and Helen have an arrangement. After a fall he gave her a key to his unit to be used only if he misses his daily check-in.

On the summer morning that begins this novel, Dom has not texted his usual message or responded to her text and phone call. Reluctant about what she might find, Helen uses the key. Dom is not inside the villa and in fact his golf cart (his transportation) is not in the garage. There is, however, a connecting door to next villa. This villa is largely unoccupied as the owners rarely come to stay and Helen knows of no other villas with a door between the units.

Doing her due diligence, she goes back through Dom’s place and over to the next villa. When there is no answer to the doorbell and repeated knocks Helen goes back to the connecting door. Could Dom be in the next villa? His missing golf cart says no but now she really wants to see the next villa.

Dom is not there and the villa appears so empty that Helen doubts anyone ever lives there. A rainbow of light catches her eye and she discovers a beautiful glass tree dragon sculpture. Unable to resist she snaps a picture with her cell phone and goes home.

Wanting to share her discovery with her great niece and nephew she sends the photo from Helen’s phone to her family phone, Clemmie’s phone, and texts the beautiful sculpture. For most of her adult life the world has known her as Helen. Clemmie only exists for her family and they know nothing of Helen.

The response Clemmie gets is surprising. The glass sculpture is actually a rig for smoking marijuana. The tree dragon was stolen from the maker, Borobasq, and Clemmie’s nephew has already contacted him about her discovery.

Clemmie’s fingerprints are in the villa with the stolen statue. Then her niece sends her news from her hometown, the decades old murder of the high school basketball coach is being reopened. The same coach who forced her transformation from Clemmie to Helen.

To add to her worry, Borobasq soon finds her. The glass maker is actually a drug dealer and whoever stole the rig took his cash, lots of cash. He has come to find his money and inflict a little pain. Before he can determine Helen’s involvement in the theft a body is found in Dom’s garage.

With the sheriff questioning her about what happened next door while a drug dealer hides in her bathroom, Helen has to think fast. Can she figure out what is going on before Clemmie is exposed and her two worlds collide?

Cooney takes us back and forth from Clemmie’s youth through young adulthood and Helen’s situation. We go from the culture of the 1950’s to navigating senior living and modern conveniences. “Her life didn’t turn out the way she expected—so she made herself a new one” is accurate and inadequate. There is so much more to Helen’s story which is why it’s a good pick for the library’s Spring Book Discussion.

The Spring Book Discussion for Before She Was Helen will be Monday, April 26th, from 6:00-7:00 p.m. via Zoom. You can find the link on handouts at the library and it will be posted on the Joplin Public Library Facebook page. We hope you’ll join us.

The library has this title in print and in the ebook format on both MoLib2Go.org (Overdrive) and Hoopla. If you find the print and MoLib2Go.org titles checked out, it is always available on Hoopla.

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Cozy Reads for January

Hidden Treasures by Jane Cleland

The Crystal Cave Trilogy by Susan Albert Wittig

Game of Dog Bones by Laurien Berenson

Yesterday’s Echo by Matt Coyle

Over the past few weeks I’ve been catching up with some of my cozy mystery series as well as checking out a new to me author.

Jane Cleland’s Hidden Treasure is number 13 in the Josie Prescott series. Newlywed Josie and husband Ty just bought their dream home. While prepping for a remodel, Josie finds a hidden trunk the previous owner left behind. She returns the trunk and its contents, potentially rare relics, to the owner and an instant friendship forms.  Maudie, encouraged by her nieces, may be interested in selling the trunk’s contents and enlists Josie’s aid. Soon, however, one niece is dead and Maudie and the trunk’s contents are missing. Josie is determined to find a killer and discover what happened to Maudie. Is she dead? Kidnapped? And who has the relics?

The Crystal Cave Trilogy is an adjunct to the long running China Bayles series by Susan Wittig Albert. Ruby Wilcox is China’s best friend and business partner.  The three novellas in this collection are all centered on Ruby and her psychic abilities. Each story from a dream that turns out to be a real kidnapping to the stopping of a serial killer before he can claim another victim highlights her expanding abilities. There is also the thread of possible romance with detective Ethan Connors. The skeptical detective slowly begins to accept Ruby’s gift and wants to know more about her. But is he interested in her as a person and just her abilities? For China Bayles’ fans this may tide you over until number 28 comes out later this year.

My last cozy is Laurien Berenson’s Game of Dog Bones. Number 25 in this canine mysteries series has Melanie Travis, her husband Sam, and Aunt Peg all headed to New York City for the Westminster Dog Show. Aunt Peg has been chosen to judge in the prestigious event. Scheduled to give a seminar on judging the day before the show, Peg is disgruntled that a dog show is being held in the same venue. Victor Durbin and Peg have a history and his location seems to have been chosen to detract from Peg’s seminar. When Victor’s body is found the day after the show, Aunt Peg becomes the number one suspect. Victor was pretty unscrupulous and had plenty of enemies. With so many suspects can Melanie find the killer before Peg is arrested for murder?

In reading book reviews, I ran across a review for Matt Coyle’s Rick Cahill series. Ready for a mystery that is a little edgier I started with the first in the series, Yesterday’s Echo. Manager of a restaurant in La Jolla, California, Cahill likes to keep a low profile. He is an ex-cop who was accused of his wife’s murder eight years ago. He returned to his hometown but it comes with its own bad memories. His dad was kicked off the police force for being a dirty cop.

Into his less than idyllic existence drops Melody Malana. When Melody’s dinner companion becomes less than cordial, Cahill steps in. When he rescues her a second time that evening he takes her home for safety but she leaves before morning. He assumes the interlude is over but soon finds that Melody has not disappeared from his life. When two thugs do not believe his denial and try to beat her location out of him, Rick decides he needs to find her. Tracking her to a hotel he finds a crime scene. A dead man occupies Melody’s room.

Melody pops back into his life only to be followed by the police. First she is taken in for questioning soon followed by Cahill. After Melody is arrested it becomes apparent that Rick may be next. It is now a race to see if he can uncover the truth before he is either in jail or the next victim.

This series has the feel of classic detective fiction but Cahill is a complex character and he doesn’t always get it right. He carries a load of guilt over his wife’s death and seems to always be under the shadow of his father’s sins. He still has his cop’s gut but sometimes follows the wrong instinct.

I’ve read the first two in the series – working my way to Blind Vigil, which published in December. Fast-paced with unexpected twists, these are hard to put down.  If you enjoy Lawrence Sanders and/or Andrew Vachss novels this is a series I think you’ll like.

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The Secret, Book & Scone Society by Ellery Adams

I enjoy mysteries with well-developed characters and if it is part of a series, all the better. Ellery Adams’ Secret, Book and Scone Society series has everything I like.

The series gets its title from the first book, The Secret, Book & Scone Society. The setting is the small town of Miracle Springs, North Carolina. The town is situated on the Appalachian Trail and is known for its thermal pools and spa. The afternoon train brings not only tourists but those seeking the comfort and relief the thermal pools provide.

Nora Pennington, the owner of Miracle Books, looks forward to the shoppers and to those seeking change and healing. She is a former librarian and a bibliotherapist. After talking to and listening to her readers she selects titles that help them achieve change and peace.

Nora was the recipient of bibliotherapy after an accident left her with burn scars on her right side. A nurse at the hospital knew Nora’s love of books would help her. The carefully chosen titles took her from despair and remorse to hope.

Sitting in the park before opening the bookstore, Nora meets a man in need of her talents. He works for the company bringing a new housing development to Miracle Springs. Something about the project has him deeply troubled and an employee at the thermal pools told him about Nora.

Before he comes to the bookstore, Nora sends him to the Gingerbread House for a scone. Hester Winthrop, the owner, will bake him a customized scone. She draws people out then adds ingredients to their scone that will invoke a special memory.

However, somewhere between receiving his scone and his session with Nora the stranger meets the train and not in a good way. Estella Sadler, owner of Magnolia Salon and Spa, is the first to tell Nora about the death. She is followed by Hester who at least knows the man’s name is Neil.

Soon a deputy arrives requesting the presence of Nora and Hester at the sheriff’s office. June Dixon, the employee at the thermal pools who sent Neil to Nora, has also been brought in to be interviewed. After the interviews the ladies are convinced that Sheriff Hendricks will not investigate Neil’s death. The easy thing for him to do is rule it a suicide.

Feeling that the troubled man who sought them out deserved better, the ladies decide to find out for themselves if it was suicide or murder. They want to keep their investigation a secret so to explain their meetings the four (Estella has already been asking questions) form a book club – the Secret, Book, and Scone Society.

It soon becomes apparent that things are not what they seem with the new housing development. Then another partner in the development is found dead and Estella is charged with his murder. Can Nora and her new partners find the murderer and free Estella before someone else dies?

Each of these ladies is a loner because of past traumas. To trust each other and become friends, they realize they must share their most painful secrets. As they meet to share information and theories, we hear the stories and the traumas that have brought them all to Miracle Springs.

This series is a winner if the rest of the books are as good as the first. Nora is the lead but each of the four women are strong, sympathetic characters. The setting is charming as is the bookstore in an old train depot. The mystery keeps you turning the pages with some twists you might not see coming.

I’m looking forward to “The Whispered Word”, “The Book of Candlelight” and what other titles may follow. Recommended read-alikes are Jenn McKinlay and Eva Gates. I will add Susan Albert Wittig as I think if you like the China Bayles series you’ll like this one too.

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Vanishing in the Haight by Max Tomlinson

The Summer of Love occurred in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco in 1967. Tens of thousands of young people converged on the neighborhood for music, drugs, and free love. Max Tomlinson chose this setting to begin his novel, Vanishing in the Haight.

Margaret Copeland, problem child in her wealthy family, left home to join the thousands gathering in Haight-Ashbury. However, sharing a mattress with strangers in a noisy, smoke-filled room has lost its appeal. High and clutching a dime Margaret is on her way to a pay phone. She wants to go home but a stranger who knows her name is waiting. Her body is found in a nearby park beaten, raped and suffocated with a dry cleaning bag.

The San Francisco police attributed her death, despite inconsistencies, to the Zodiac killer. Her family was not convinced and now 11 years later her dying father wants the truth. His hope is that Colleen Hayes can find the man responsible for Margaret’s death.

At first glance Colleen is not an obvious choice. She’s on parole after serving 9 years for manslaughter. She killed her husband when she discovered he molested their 8 year-old daughter, Pamela. She does have a business, Hayes Confidential, but is awaiting her PI license.
Colleen came to San Francisco a year earlier to reconnect with her daughter. In her search for Pamela she found the body of a young woman and helped Dan Moran of Santa Cruz Homicide find the killers. Impressed by her tenacity, Moran is the reason Edward Copeland wants to hire her.

The only job Hayes Confidential has is guarding an abandoned paint factory where Colleen is also living. This is where Edward Copeland’s lawyer finds her. Unsure about taking on the case Colleen doesn’t say yes or no. The decision is made for her by an early visit the next day from her parole officer. After Colleen declines his advances, he deems her living situation is a parole violation. She agrees to look into Margaret’s murder for much needed money and legal help with her parole officer.

Colleen starts digging and one of the first things she wants is a look at the police file. Futile requests have been made by the family before but she goes ahead with the paperwork. As she works her way from one desk/department to another at SFPD, calls are made alerting someone to her request.

She doesn’t get the file but she has the name of the investigating officer and tracks him down. Forced into retirement soon after Margaret’s death, Jim Davis agrees to meet and bring his copy of the murder file. But someone doesn’t want Margaret’s killer found and Davis is killed before he can talk.

The tension builds as Colleen follows clues and evidence that was ignored in the initial investigation. We know the police were protecting someone in the summer of 1967. How far will they go to shield a killer? A killer who is back and stalking his next victim. Colleen wants justice for both Margaret and Jim but can she find the truth before there is another death?

Tomlinson has penned a tough, tenacious heroine in Colleen. She’s smart, has a strong desire for justice, and can be gently compassionate. It is interesting to have a novel set in a time when you had to have dimes for the pay phone, the library was the place to go for research and finding addresses, and you put on bell bottoms and platform shoes for a night out.

This was billed as a book one in the Colleen Hayes mystery series. The second book, “Tie Die”, is out and I’m looking forward to Colleen’s next case.

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