Tour’s Books Blog

March 4, 2013

Urban Fantasy Week

Why is it that many Urban Fantasy (UF) books are released around the same time?  Maybe it’s just the series I read run in bunches.  Anyway, this seemed like my week for UF.  Some good, some WTF moments, and some leaving me wanting more.

Maybe I should take a moment and explain just what good urban fantasy (UF) is – and isn’t.  Look it up in Wikipedia and it will tell you it’s ‘define by place’, namely an urban setting.  To me, it’s a little broader than that, but yeah, setting come into play.  Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series is usually considered a perfect example of UF, yet he uses true fantasy worlds in addition to urban setting through his series.  Usually the territory of science fiction writers, and occasionally cross-over mystery writers, the surge in women readers has lead to a kind of subset to the typically noir UF.  It’s romance writers and lighter fantasy writers that are now pushing the sales in UF.  And that translates into a style that is less Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder and more Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles – and maybe a bit of Janet Evanovich’s Steph Plum thrown in.  Tough women, but female leads and with a more romance, or at least emotional turmoil – and often using the two guy choice plot device – tiresome, but frequent.

So I have 3 UF’s and a paranormal romance for you this week.

Black City

Black City by Christina Henry is the the fifth book in the Black Wings series with lead character Madeline Black, former Agent of Death, escort of the newly departed to the doors that lead to the afterlife.  She is also many time great-granddaughter of Lucifer, widow of Gabriel, mother-to-be, and budding slayer of evil.  She’s high on the hit list of Tatiana, Queen of the Fairies, because she publicly diminished Oberon her king.  She also in the Agency’s hit list, even though they stripped her of her wings, because she’s causing havoc.  And what Maddy is turning into has her guardian gargoyle concerned she’s headed for ‘the darkside’ of her power.

Maddy destroyed Azazel, her father, and thought she destroyed his experiments, vampires that had been given the blood of angels so they could walk in the sun.  But suddenly thousands of vamps storm into Chicago in broad daylight laying waste to the human population in downtown.  The Agency refuses to intercede, they only escort the spirits of the dead, they won’t stop the slaughter even though they have the means.  Maddy does all she can, but it’s not enough.  Then Therion, King of the Vampires offers the humans a deal, he’ll call off the killing if they hand over Maddy Black.

Now Maddy has another enemy to run from, all the damn bounty hunters out to get her.  And all the while dealing with her ever cunning grandfather Lucifer and the capricious Puck.  In getting through yet another attempt by Tatiana to kill her, by capturing J.B. her former boss, a Fairy king and someone who loves her, she also reveals to Tatiana’s son his true father – the same father that Nathaniel has.  And discovers how and why Lucifer has been a ‘naughty, naughty boy.’  And the price he extracts from Maddy for his aid.

For a fairly short book, Christina Henry packs in a lot of story, mostly about how ambiguous good and evil, right and wrong, can be, while continuing to grow Maddy’s powers.  Entertaining to be sure, with a huge cast of characters, but lacking the power, depth, and detail of really great UF.

Black City was purchased from Amazon for $6.00 with the 4-for-3 discount.  My score is B- (3.8*) and recommended for fans of the series.  Since all books in this series are short, try buying them used or borrow them.  A good series, fast, easy reads, and entertaining without the kind of rich complexity that Jim Butcher or other UF authors have.  It is, however, sufficiently original and well dome to worth the time and effort to find and read the whole series.  Books should be read in order as each ends with a ‘cliffhanger’.  Fans of Kitty Norville and Cassie Palmer will enjoy this one.

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Dead Letter Day

Next up is Dead Letter Day by Eileen Rendahl, which unlike the earlier books in the Messenger series, was released in the more reasonably priced MMPB size.  Good thing too, because this was a strange read.  It isn’t often you read a UF book that leaves you wondering if there will be recipes in the back, like many cozies have.

Paul, the boyfriend of Melina’s friend, Meredith, and kind of the cool ‘uncle’ she never had who helped her get used to the whole world of Arcanes for she was a messenger, has gone missing.  Meredith is beside herself with worry and even Mel is concerned.  Concerned enough she approaches the pack Alpha, Chuck, to ask if he knew anything.  Werewolves were not generally a friendly bunch, but she Chuck got along.  Like many Arcanes, he was very long lived, so that meant moving himself and his pack to a new location every 10-20 years.  They were coming due for that move.  Paul was important, but whether he would move or stay with Meredith, remained a question.  Beyond that, Chuck was worried – especially about the strange reports of werewolves in a kind of half shift that real werewolves never had.  They had been seen by ‘Danes, mundanes being the word used for those with no arcane ability.

Mel’s boyfriend, Ted Goodnight, is a cop in the Sacramento police department and being the good guy he is, he helps Mel question the people who reported the sightings.  No question, something very strange was out there and it had bitten a cop who was now in a psych ward obviously half infected.  Mel ends up back with Chuck telling him the not so good news, because the werewolves would to get the guy out before the next full moon, just in case.  In investigating Paul’s cabin with a helpful werewolf, she finds a strange silver web mounted between two sicks set like trap in the word behind his house.  No one knows what the hell it is or who could have made it – though it was obviously meant to hurt or disable a werewolf.

Now all this sounds good, except through it all, is woven a major plot line involving Mel being pregnant and mother/daughter relationships, and the meaning of family – the whole teary eyed thing.  Even the solution is all about mother and children -in a twisted, disturbed way.  Honestly, at times the whole feel of the book was not UF, but paranormal cozy.  And one more family meal and I would have been screaming.  Half way through I was pretty fed up and to be honest, the plot involving the missing Paul and who was involved was obvious.

Dead Letter Day was kind of tedious and dull after a decent start.  The whole storyline felt less like it was evolving characters and plots than it was changing tracks altogether, and not in any good way.  This was never a strong series, but this entry was weak and very predictable.

My grade for Dead Letter Day is C- (2.8*) and not recommended for anyone but die hard fans.  I paid $6.01 in the Amazon 4-for-3 pre-order pricing and I consider it a waste of money.  If you must, try for used copy or borrow it from a friend.  This series might just have a fork stuck in it – it’s toast.

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River Road

From the bad to really good with the second installment of the Sentinels Of New Orleans, River Road, by new author Suzanne Johnson.  Her mature and well developed writing style is no doubt the result of her long background in editing and publishing periodicals.  But what I like the best is her characters.  Book 1, Royal Street, introduced Drusilla Jaco, DJ, a wizard of the Green Congress with some elven blood – and the daughter of a man she always thought her mentor, not her father, Gerry.  With his death in the final battle in the Beyond, DJ became the only wizard Sentinel in New Orleans.  It was a big job made bigger by the fact that Katrina, Rita and Gerry had combined to tear down many of the boundaries between this world and the Beyond.

Book two picks up the story three years later.  New Orleans is recovering, but still has vast areas of nothing but ruins.  And lot of trouble with things that are crossing the Boundary – and one of them is the charming and handsome pirate, Jean Lafitte.  DJ owes him big time, having promised almost anything for help during the Katrina crisis, and now he’s called her.  With some dread, DJ goes to Lafitte’s suite at the Monteleone hotel and learns he needs her Sentimental skills to resolve a problem between mer-clans in Plaquemines Parish.  He is in business with the Delachaise clan who are having trouble with another merclan who just came into the area.  Like the Delachaises, the Villiers have no love of wizards, but someone or something is poisoning the water and before a clan war starts, someone has to figure out what’s going on – and that someone is DJ.  He also wants to cash in on her extravagant promises – Jean Lafitte wants a dinner date with her.  Now all she has to do is tell her co-sentinel, FBI agent and shifter, Alex Warin.

DJ and Alex have kept a professional distance for the last 3 years.  Not only is he co-sentinel, he makes more money and isn’t even a wizard, two facts that chafe DJ no end.  And there’s the little fact that he and Lafitte get on like oil and water – and they can’t even kill each other.  What Ms Johnson delightfully refers to as a ‘homicidal stand-off’.

The visit to Plaquemines includes a stolen Corvette (Lafitte’s work, of course), a tense and difficult meeting with the heads of the two clans over lunch – mers apparently have prodigious appetites for seafood – and an excursion to the area with the contaminated water – where Villiers is waiting with a shotgun and a very dead body.  Now DJ has angry mer clans giving her just days to figure out what’s going on with the water, she also has two dead Green Congress wizards, both killed with knives.  And a date with a pirate.  And one with Alex’s cousin Jake, a Afghan war vet who got caught in the battle in Beyond and turned loupe garou – a notoriously unstable type of werewolf, who’s taking her to dinner and the a performance by a famous Cajun musician.  Oh, and a date with Alex where she has to pretend to have been his girlfriend for the last 3 years – and she has to meet his formidable mother.  Life was easier when she had no social life.

It gets more complicated when DJ performs a ritual that would be frowned on to get the water problem solved.  And it gets even worse when the boss for the North American wizards shows up and rather hesitantly informs her the elves know she has a staff, the one she named ‘Charlie’, made by their elders – and it isn’t some ordinary staff.  But it has ‘chosen’ her and can only be used by her, at least as long as she lives.  Isn’t that just dandy news?

Ms Johnson weaves her tale with a sure hand, and despite a few minor flaws, this story was so readable I could not put it down.  In fact, I went back re-read the book, not something I do often.  Her humor, characters, atmosphere, world building, and plot combine to make a highly recommended read.  Besides, I think I have a crush on Jean Lafitte.

River Road gets a rare A- (4.5*) from me.  As a series, Sentinels of New Orleans gets a strong recommended read for any UF fan, especially those who liked early Sookie Stackhouse and Harry Dresden.  I bought the book through an Amazon re-seller as new for $10.00 for the hardcover.  Trade paperback will be published June 25 and is currently discount priced at $10.19.  My copy is destined for my keeper shelf, next to Jim Butcher’s books.

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Immortal Ever AFter

Well, from one extreme to another – the next book is Immortal Ever After, #18 in the Argeneau Vampire series by Lynsay Sands.  What can said about this book?  Really good beginning. ………… hummm……… OK that’s about it.  Thereafter, the operative word is ‘trite’, maybe ‘boring’.  Yes people, he suddenly tastes food and likes it a lot!  A rogue is out to get her back.  She thinks vamps aren’t real.  Can he convince her they’re ‘lifemates’?  If it all sounds familiar, it should.  Different villain  same story.

That’s it.  As boring as most Regency romances, and filled with past characters who make brief appearances, mostly for no apparent reason other than the author wanted them there.  A plot as predictable as sunrise and characters that lacked, well, character.

OK, before the Argeneau vampire lovers come and try to stake, allow me to say that I re-read Single White Vampire just before I read  Immortal Ever After.    No comparison.   Yes, there are some highly contrived plot elements in SWV, but it’s the characters that stand out.  Valerie and Anders are just variations on her past 3 books.  Valerie had a lot of potential, but frankly, 10 years in a relationship and never getting a commitment?  Seriously, what sane woman would do that?  Especially an educated and apparently independent woman she is portrayed as?  Anders just is not a strong character.  he rather bland.  That true of far too many of Ms Sands males lead.  Lucern, Lucian, and Victor stood out the most for me.   The Accidental Vampire was fluff but fun and really lively and entertaining.

Valerie is captured and held in a tiny cage in the basement of an old house.  Six other women are there as well.  Once a day food is given them.  After the first week she realizes the food is drugged and dumps it rather than eat it.  Then her day to be ‘chose’ rolls around and plays drugged until she can attack the henchman she nickname Igor.  Despite years of martial arts training, it isn’t til she drives a broken piece of wood into his heart that she can escape.  She calls 911 for help and leaves the line open when she hears the ‘master’ drive into the garage.  Weak from blood loss and lack of food, she climbs out the window and manages to crawl to a bush.  That’s where Anders finds her.

Enforcers monitor police calls and immediately went to house.  They got there after the police, but wiped their memories and sent them away.  In addition to the six women in the basement, one already dead and the other dying later, they found a pile of dead bodies, all female.  They had a rogue, and a bad one.

The one thing missing was ‘Igor’.  Apparently he too was a vampire and saved by his ‘master’.  The rogue had chosen his victims carefully, women with no families or local friends to miss them.  It’s how he stayed hidden for so long.  But he wants Valerie back.  She’s ‘his’.  Apparently, he’s not only a rogue, he’s also an egomaniac and not real bright.  The fact that Valerie gets captured again does speak well for the Argeneau’s or her.  Actually, everyone was acting dumb.  It must have been contagious.

There are several plot disconnects, like a ‘Renaissance portrait’ and the guy was a WWI soldier who was accidentally turned.  And frankly, not a lot of excitement, mostly just dull to ‘meh’.

Immortal Ever After  was weak entry in an uneven series and profoundly missable, so save your money.  Not recommended despite the high rating on Amazon.  My grade is D (1.8*) and let me tell you, I don’t do that often.  If you need an Argeneau fix, go read The Accidental Vampire.  This was another Amazon purchase under now gone 4-for-3 program and about $6.oo.  $5.90 more than it was worth.  Unless you are a die hard fan, and willing to tolerate drivel, skip it.

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February 20, 2013

More New Authors and Some Well Established Ones

One of the good things about playing in games on PBS (PaperBack Swap) is the chance to ask a person you know what they think of a new author and/or series.  Many adult paranormal romance type authors actually write something between romance and UF – like Chloe Neill with her Chicagoland Vampire series.   That concept has become more and more the territory staked out by this new generation of paranormal writers.  For me, it’s like the difference between a Michael Connelly book and Janet Evonovich, both are mysteries, but very different.  Unfortunately, no new genre title has come along to go with this new style, so I’ll stick with UF for now.  One recent swap I played in was called Unusual Suspects – and the requirement was the lead character NOT be a vampire of any type of shifter, the two most popular ‘species’ – always excluding Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, Wizard for Hire.

I won a set of books (you only get to pick one) from someone who has very similar reading habits and favorite authors as I do.  I don’t read as much historical fiction as she does.  So I requested a book I had never heard of but that looked quite interesting, providing it wasn’t ‘a sucky read’.  She assured me she enjoyed it a lot and it arrived about the same time as House Rules by Chloe Neill.  Yeah, I read House Rules first, but then I read not one but 2 books by new authors.

The upside, I really liked both books.  The downside, the next book in BOTH series will be released in HARDCOVER!  Now getting a new author and series off the ground in this crowed field isn’t easy.  Why publishers immediately jump to hardcovers is beyond me.  They’re doing it in cozies, they’ve always done with action thrillers and hardcore mysteries, and now they’re bumping up trade paperbacks to hardcovers.  Why?  Greed.  They want to milk fans.  Kind of the reverse logic to Barry Eisler releasing his self-published The Detachment as a cheap e-book 6 months before releasing a print edition in trade paperback.  I find the whole thing really annoying – and expensive!  Both books were published by TOR, so beware their trade sized first in series.  If it works out, they’ll do their level best to leech more money out of you to read the rest!

This Case Kill Me

This Case is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova is set in a world where vampires and weres came out during the Viet Nam war and both are exclusively male groups.  The Álfar are the beautiful ones – Fae.  They are attracted to acting where their glamour and unnatural beauty draws legions of adoring fans, something they love.  Vamps lean more toward law, and were to finance and things like protection and Spec Ops for hire.  Only the Álfar have females and propagate the usual way.  There are NO female weres or vamps.  Weres can still father children, normal human ones.  Not so vamps.  So if you’re born female and human, you’re out of luck in the whole ‘becoming immortal’ category – and the status that goes with it.  Being female also closes a lot of doors in firms run by vamps and weres – and those were the most successful ones.  This group of long lived supernaturals are referred to as The Powers, or by the slang word, ‘spooks’ – widely considered insulting.

Linnet Ellery was fostered in a vamp household and came third in her class at Harvard Law, but it was her connections to one of the partners at Ishmael, McGillary, and Gold that got her a job as an associate.  Too bad ‘Shade’ Ishmael is the only one who likes her.  Gold and McGillary want her gone.  The Ellery’s might be an old, well established, and well to do New England family with an ancestor who sat in the Continental Congress and signed the Deceleration of Independence, but she was nothing but a female who took a slot in one of the top two ‘White-fang’ law firms that was usually reserved for a male who stood a chance of making partner – and being turned.  Not only that, she was assigned to a long time lawyer who had only 1 real case, Chip Westin.  His first words to her, “This case is gonna kill me.”  He’s short, bald, out of shape, and at a career dead-end with a case representing the worst clients possible – the greedy and vindictive ex-wife of a human turned were who established a security and protection firm that is now worth close to a billion dollars.  Too bad he started his business after their divorce AND left a will leaving it to his ‘natural’ child, a man he turned were Deegan, who now runs the company.  Standing in her way is a Supreme Court ruling that supports ‘made’ children rights over natural children.  It’s been going on for 17 years, and the bitter window will not let it go.

Witnesses are dying of old age, people’s memories are failing, and Chip is stuck with once again taking this to court against a well funded corporation that has the largest private army in the world.  So not only is Linnet stuck with Chip, she’s stuck with a no-win case.  Chip has Linnet going through files, re-reading everything.  But he’s been getting mysterious phone calls and after an all-nighter he says thinks he’s finally found something, something that matters.  Just as she tries to get him to the elevators, they get attacked by a werewolf.  In a stroke of luck, Linnet falls and the wolf chasing her slides on the floor, through open elevator doors and down the shaft.  Chip, however, is dead.  Then she’s attacked again, at home, and again manages to kill a werewolf.  Her luck is more than just luck.

The firm PI is a changeling, a Áflar baby left in exchange for a human one.  John is as gorgeous as all Áflar, but is as grounded as any human thanks to his parents.  A former cop, he starts helping Linnet re-investigate the old case.  He’s also very attracted to her – and she to him, but then, he’s Áflar, so women tend to fall all over him.

The characters are well defined, the story flows well, and the world building is solid – that unique UF blend of the familiar and fantasy working very well together.  I have pre-ordered the next book in the series, despite it being a hardcover.

This Case is Gonna Kill Me was acquired thru an online book swapping site at no cost.  Trade is available at $11-$12 new and the mass market paperback will be available in July at $7.99.  Is it worth the price?  The MMPB, absolutely.   The trade size, I suggest buying used.  My rating is B+ (4.1*) and recommended.

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Royal Street

Next up is Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson with Book 1 in the Sentinels of New Orleans.  Set in New Orleans as Katrina approaches, it captures the city and it’s devastation, while spinning a tale about about those things that exist beyond the Boundaries that the Sentinels guard.  With the evacuation orders, Drusilla Jaco AKA DJ, evacuates, reluctantly leaving behind her mentor and substitute father, Gerald St. Simon.  Back in Alabama with her grandmother she watches as Katrina unleashes her fury on the Gulf coast – and the winds and rain get the better of New Orlean’s levee system.

Then Gerald goes missing.  Fearing he’s dead, DJ heads back into the city with fake credentials and finds nothing at his house except mud and transport circle of ash.  The Borders were shredded by the storm and Others were crossing over into New Orleans.  The Council of Wizards were working to reestablish the boundaries between the worlds, but something was working against them, and it had something to do with a series of ritual murders taking place – mostly National Guardsmen.  DJ is a Green Wizard, one the specializes in potions, not a powerful Red like Gerald, so the Council sends her unasked for help.

Among those coming thru the rifts in the boundaries is none other than Jean Lafitte, an ‘undead’ being who keeps getting back into New Orleans.  Now ‘undead’ here is not vampires, though they too were banished during the Wizard Wars in the 1970’s.  The ‘undead’ are the people from the past who ‘live’ in Old Orleans in eternal night.  They live because people remember them.  Obviously, Lafitte is well remembered well enough that he can ‘live’ in the modern world, not just Beyond.  And being a pirate, he keeps finding ways back.  She’d sent him back to Old Orleans just before Katrina.  Now he’s back and Alex shoots him.  Now the ‘undead’ don’t really die, but after a shotgun blast to the chest, he would be awhile recovering the strength to return – most likely mad as hell when he did.  Talk about getting off on the wrong foot.  Then to find out that not only isn’t Alex a wizard, he’s a ‘co-sentinel’, well, that really frosted DJ.  Yeah, she was young, and as a Green, not that powerful, but she didn’t need some gun happy alpha male bossing her around and ‘protecting’ her!  The fact he was also FBI meant they could get an inside track on the murders.

Then, a month after Katrina, the city is hit by a second storm, Hurricane Rita, tearing apart even more of the boundaries.  One of the legends to crossover is none other than Louis Armstrong, ‘Pops’.  Rather than send him back, DJ gets him a job at Jake Warin’s bar, Alex’s cousin, playing live, and tries using him as an informant about other undead and what’s going on with these murders.  Then she finally discovers that Gerry really has done the unthinkable, gone into Old Orleans to help a voodoo god gain power to destroy the boundaries and allow free passage between the two worlds.

Voodoo, music, pirates, and murder combine to make an interesting and very readable story, made even better by DJ’s wit and humor.  DJ’s growing pains and slow but sure blossoming of her power and self assurance is rocked time and again.  Yet it never went for cheap sentiment.  Royal Street was a book that surprised and entertained me and honestly deserves more attention than it’s getting.  I got so involved, I stayed up till I was done.  Then went and bought a discounted hardcover copy on book 2 in the series, River Road, unwilling to wait for the release of the trade paperback.  Like the previous book, this one was obtained through Paperback Swap, new author’s best friend!  Like all first books, it had flaws, mostly with building and maintaining suspense of the plot.  Many of the elements were easy to anticipate, even in the big climax.  But in all honesty, it didn’t really detract from my enjoyment.  My grade is B+ (4.2*).  The trade paperback is currently selling between $11-12 at discount.  I’d suggest buying used, but I did enjoy it $10 worth.

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house_rules

Third in this line up is the latest installment of Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series, House Rules.  Previously, in Biting Cold, Merit, Sentinel for Chicago’s Cadogan House and house Master Ethan Sullivan finally got together.  His undead life fully free from the dark magic wielded by Merit’s best friend turned rogue mage, Mallory, now doing ‘time’ in a werewolf kitchen, forbidden to use magic.

Now Cadogan must deal with their decision to the Grand Presidium, the official vampire governing body.  The silence from the GP is deafening.  One thing Ethan was sure of, they were up to something.  The contracts between the house and the GP had no surprises, but upon a deeper look, his fussy librarian and researcher found additional agreements referenced in the primary contract – and that gives the GP most of the wealth of Cadogan House.

On top of that, the new Chicago mayor wants all vamps and weres to register.  And vamps are being killed – in gruesome ways.  The Red Guard is hunting for the perps, while a security consultant works with Cadogan to make sure their House will be secure once they break from the GP.  To really put things in overdrive, the mayor appoints the vamp and were hunter, McKetrick, to the office of Ombudsman, the position formerly help by Merit’s grandfather.  But her grandfather, Jeff the young were with a crush on Merit and a way with the river nymphs, and Catcher, another mage and Malloy’s boyfriend are still working with him trying to keep a lid on Chicago’s supernaturals calm and the mayor keeps making things worse.

With a three prong threat, from the city, from a vamp killer, and devious GP, Merit and Ethan work to keep the house together and city from going in flames – and find a way to keep the GP from causing complete financial ruin to Cadogan House.

While a good, quick read, House Rules lacks the interest and full tilt energy of the earlier books.  The best I could do is B- to c+ (3.5*) for this entry.  Is House Rules worth the $10.20 I paid for it from an online bookseller?  Only if you’re a fan.  But if you don’t need it right now, wait a bit and buy a used copy.

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Murder on Half Shelf

For a change of pace, I read Murder on the Half Shelf by Lorna Barrett, the most recent Booktown mystery featuring mystery bookstore owner Trisha Miles and her cookbook author sister Angelica.  In a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting, Angelica was one of the winners of a one night stay at the town of Stoneham, New Hampshire’s newest business, and bed and breakfast.  Of course, Angelica is in a snit with Bob, her on again, off again, boyfriend and head of the Chamber – and the person who fully expected to be spending this night with her.  So Tricia finds herself playing porter to Angelica as they enter the B&B.  Their hostess Pippa is less than thrilled to find Tricia and not Bob with Angelica and somewhat ungraciously show them to the master suite on the third floor.  A man, who makes a quick appearance, sees Tricia and turns and ran out must be the missing husband.

With her usual blithe disregard for rules, Angelica has smuggled in her dog Sarge and asks Tricia to walk him before they leave for a quick dinner in town.  After bickering, Tricia caves for the sake of her stomach and sneaks into the yard with Sarge.  Like all dogs, he finds something……. it’s Pippa with her head caved in.  Tricia is getting quite the reputation for finding bodies – this being her 4th in 3 years.

Hours pass with police and questions – and no food, then finally, Pippa’s missing husband puts in an appearance – and Tricia knows why he ran.  His name isn’t Joe Comfort, it’s Henry Tyler, a one hit wonder in the mystery world and her old boyfriend who supposedly ‘died’ in a boating accident 20 years ago.  Now she a serious suspect and her sort of boyfriend Grant, the new town Chief starts pulling away.  They’d been down this commitment road with him before.  The excuse is sort of valid, but She’s fed up.

Struggling to find a new store manager, and trying to help out Mr Everett  town lottery winner and benefactor, get his wife’s priorities straight, and solve a damn murder, again, Tricia finds Bob got bought off in the raffle for the free stays at the inn, the man running local nudist camp was being blackmailed, one of her fellow shop keepers orders from her store – convinced she chasing the woman’s husband, and her sister is part owner of the inn.  Oh yeah, she finds the killer too.

Lorna Barrett writes classic style cozies, small towns, limited suspect list, lots of small domestic/business issues fleshing out life, and she writes them well.  While I still find Angelica a grating personality, I am happy to see that Tricia demonstrates backbone, both with her old flame and Russ, her current one.  The who-done-it is better than usual and the why good too.

Murder on the Half Shelf was a good read with well drawn, if overly familiar characters, but is it worth the discount price of $15-16?  Nope.  This is a $7.99 that’s been published in the new small size paperback, even then it doesn’t quite reach 300 pages.   My grade is B- (3.8*) and a recommendation to get it from the library, buy used, or wait on the paperback.

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