Tour’s Books Blog

August 4, 2010

Two Mystery Reviews: Paranormal Mystery and Cozy from a New Author

  • Showdown in Mudbug
  • Author:  Jana Deleon
  • Type:  Paranormal romantic mystery
  • Genre:  Cozy style paranormal set in Louisiana; final in Ghost-in-law series
  • Sub-genre: Former under cover FBI agent living as a psychic tries to get cops on right trail of a child abductions
  • My Grade: C (3.0*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel; 80,000+ words for $7.99; some discounts available
  • Where Available:  book available wherever books are sold
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from online bookseller website

As a published, Love Spell division of Dorchester publishing has a very distinct type writer for their books.  Sort of a cross between romantic suspense and cozy mystery, what I have come to call ‘romantic mystery’.  Romance is as much a part of the story as mystery is, sometimes more so.  Christine Craig and Jana De Leon two of their notable authors using this style.  Ms DeLeon’s Ghost-in-law series throws in some paranormal aspects.  I liked the first book best, Trouble in Mudbug.  It was everything I enjoy in a lighter cozy mystery with a heavy dose of romance.  Mischief in Mudbug was also good, but I thought not quite as good.  Maybe because the relationship between the ghost of Helena Henry, Maryse’s ex-mother-in-law just boosted things up a notch there.  AT any rate, here are my thoughts on the final chapter in the trilogy.

Jana DeLeon is one of those authors who writes entertaining, fun books with enough mystery plot to keep things interesting while blending it with a romance that thankfully get neither sappy nor angsty. I like her characters, her brisk and easy writing style, her humor, and her charm. Certainly all of those things were just as evident here as they were in Mischief in Mudbug and Mayhem in Mudbug. I enjoyed almost everything about the book except the ending. Helena Henry, the ghost who can’t seem to rest till she learns killed her and why, is the link between the books that gets wrapped up here. And that’s where it fell apart for me.

The book itself follows the pattern of the others with the hero, New Orleans detective Zack Blanchard, being seriously suspicious of the heroine, Raissa Brodeaux, a psychic. Only Raissa is no psychic about the child abduction of the Mayor’s granddaughter. She’s really a discredited FBI agent that left witness protection years ago who knows this abduction is one of a pattern that developed years ago, then suddenly stopped. Now, it’s started again. When Helena Henry appears to her, she knows she’s in trouble, because only people who are in jeopardy of dying see the ghost she’s heard so much about from Maryse.

When supposed psychic Raissa turns up at police HQ to talk to the detectives in charge of the case, her intimate knowledge of the details – and the fact she knows it’s one of an old pattern that stopped 9 years ago, makes her Zack’s number one suspect. But Raissa worked undercover long enough to know how to foil the cops. She wants the person behind the abductions and she wants to know why they’ve happened. Raissa can’t exactly tell Zack everything, especially when the man she went undercover to get the goods on for the FBI is hunting the same people – but maybe not for the same reason.

It’s exciting and interesting and we get to visit all the characters from her first two books. Then in very last 25 pages or so, Raissa and Zach crack the case – sort of, leading to the big confrontation with the villain. This long awaited denouement did not remotely work for me, nor was it developed enough to make real sense. It felt like it just got tossed in but the author couldn’t really flesh it out in a way that made it believable. The villain, yes, that made perfect sense. But the full story of the why and the who was a scant few paragraphs that was outrageously over the top.  I felt there were just too many unanswered questions about this whole can of worms.  I felt cheated. Still do.   Hence, the 3*.   It’s a good, entertaining read and if the ending doesn’t bother you as it did me, you’ll rate it much higher.

My recommendation:  If you enjoyed the other books in the series, you’ll probably enjoy this one too, providing you can overlook an ending that leaves more questions than answers.  Buy it if you like the Mudbug books, or borrow it from a friend.  You will get your money’s worth if you’re a fan, otherwise, move on to a better mystery.

********************************************************************************

  • A Killer Plot
  • Author:  Ellery Adams
  • Type:  cozy mystery
  • Genre:  Amateur sleuth set coastal North Carolina; first in series
  • Sub-genre:  Single woman, wealthy local business owner hostage to childhood issues gets involved with a book group and murder
  • My Grade: C+ (3.4*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel; 80,000+ words for $7.99; some discounts available
  • Where Available:  book available wherever books are sold
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased book from online bookseller website

This is a book that got really good reviews by Amazon readers, a fact that leaves me baffled.  Ms Adams writing style is heavily descriptive, rather formal and staid, and most definitely not enthralling.  What dialogue there is comes off almost archaically formal, harking back to the 1930’s style you’d see in early Agatha Christie, not the kind banter we see now.  The  heroine  struck me as needing a shrink to get over herself,  and the cast of characters – the most interesting one gets murdered – just didn’t light my fire.  The murder mystery plot was actually very good, if you could just wade through the tedious prose.

Olivia Limoges had the kind of childhood that’s best forgotten and at the age of 40+  she returns to her hometown a successful local business woman, but still alone and trapped in her past.  Alone but for her dog, a standard poodle named Haviland, Olivia might live in the small sea town community, but purposefully stays apart from it.  A charming and pushy man named Camden Ford changes all that by involving Olivia in the local authors group.  It helps to pull her, reluctantly, out of her shell and back into the lives of people in Oyster Bay and into the realization that her own life need not be confined by what happened in her past.

Camden Ford writes a famous gossip column under a nom de plume.  He’s busy writing a novel about one of the local ‘summer families’ in Oyster Bay, one of those thinly disguised bits of tell-alls hiding under a whisper thin veneer of fiction.  But Camden Ford goes to the wrong place following a lead and winds up dead in an alley where he’s found by the entire writer’s group.

Olivia and the others in the group pour over the chapters of Camden’s book that he had them reading for comment, hoping to find a clue to the killer.  The widowed local sheriff and the handsome new bookstore owner are giving Olivia looks of interest as well.

The neatly complex story unfolds about the peccadilloes and foibles of the and their paramours and their various business investments – including those in Oyster Bay.  Did Camden die over a corporate secret, or was it more personal than that?

Olivia is not exactly a warm, witty, likable character.  The dialogue between her and other characters is rather old-fashioned formal – and frequently dry as dust.  All in all, the atmosphere is very 1930’s even though many of the plot elements are very 21st century.  What is sincerely missed was a sense of verve and life.  You can be sedate, yet witty, charming and warm.  I realize part of the story is Olivia slowly finding those parts of herself thawing out that she’s kept safely frozen for so long, but I found that boring.

A Killer Plot has a whole lot to recommend it.  The local cast of characters has promise, as do the members of the writer’s group.  I think it was a bit over long and it sure could have used less stilted dialogue with some quick witted banter and bite to liven up the interaction between Olivia and the sheriff and the bookstore owner.  The writer’s voice was too passive to be completely engaging for me.  In that, I seem to be in a distinct minority.

My recommendation: For lovers of Dame Agatha, Dorothy L Sayers and some of the other old classics, A Killer Plot might be just what you’re looking for.  Is it worth $7.99 – or currently $5.32 on Amazon?  Yes.  The plot is good, I just wish I could say it was a lot of fun too.  I’ll pick up the next installment to see if the stories get more lively.

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