Victoria J. Mejia-Gewe

Los Angeles, CA United States
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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-21-18

Absolutely amazing book!

In <strong>Skeletons in the Attic</strong> by Judy Penz Sheluk, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable sits in the office of Leith Hampton, the lawyer who drew up her father's will after having been a good friend to Jim Barnstable. Callie is shocked to learn that her father owns a house in Marketville, a town an hour outside of Callie's home of Toronto. But even more shocking to Callie is her father's message that he has come to believe that his wife, Abigail, did not abandon him and Callie on Valentine's Day 1986 when Callie was 6. Instead, he believes that Abby was murdered, and he will bequeath the house to Callie, on the condition that she move into it for at least a year. She will get $50,000 on the condition that she finds either the killer or proof that Abigail Barnstable ran away on her own. If she fails at this, her father has put on retainer Misty Rivers, the psychic who was the last tenant in the home before Jim decided to fix it up and potentially move into it. Misty will instead get the $50,000 to solve the mystery.

Callie soon moves to Marketville, and the moment she arrives, she meets her very good looking next door neighbor, Royce, the contractor with whom Callie's father was making plans to renovate the run- down house. When the movers arrive, one announces that thought he heard footsteps and crying in the attic, prompting Callie to pay them to look in the attic "for mice," but she is unprepared for what the man who does go up there finds: a coffin. Opening the coffin after the mover hurries away, Callie is scared to find a skeleton inside. This job is going to prove more challenging than Callie expects.

<strong>Skeletons in the Attic</strong> was a fascinating book that kept me riveted through the whole time I was listening. I was impressed by the way the book kept me guessing and threw in so many different angles and red herrings. Each character comes under suspicion at different points of the book, making me continually guess what was going to happen. But I never guessed the conclusion, which came as a big shocker and fascinating solution. It does leave us with a minor point unanswered, but the book reflects the fact that not all questions in life will get answered. I see it less as a cliffhanger, the complaint of some reviewers on Amazon, than as a reflection of the way life doesn't always give pat answers to every question.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Each one comes to life vividly, even ones we see only briefly. Callie comes across as a strong, brave young woman, determined to get to the truth, despite the opposition of others in her life. The various other characters seem realistic, making me feel that I would recognize them if I visited Marketville. I also enjoyed getting to see a couple cameos by Arabella Carpenter, whom we meet in <em>The Hangman's Noose</em>, also by Sheluk.

Claira Jordyn performs the audio version of <strong>Skeletons in the Attic</strong>. It took me a little while to get into her narration, but once I got a little while into the book, I became comfortable with her performance. Jordyn does not use the same level of expression I am used to hearing in cozy mysteries. She uses a more even- keeled tone of voice than typical. However, it did not take me long to find her performance relatable. By avoiding strong emotions, Jordyn allows the book to speak for itself and gives it its own voice instead of her own voice.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to <strong>Skeletons in the Attic</strong>. I loved the amazing plotting of the book and the detail and care that Sheluk takes in creating the details of the book. The characters really impressed me with their depth and lifelike natures. I give this book five stars!

<strong>Disclaimer:</strong> I received this book for free from the author, but that in no way influenced the content of ny review.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-21-18

Unopened World War II Letters Lead to Murder

In <strong>Letters to Die For</strong> by Richard Houston, Jake Martin, a computer technician-turned-handyman, has found some unopened letters from World War II while working on the home of Debbie Walker. Debbie tells him just to throw away the letters and everything else in the armoire, so Jake takes the letters home with him and shows them to Bonnie Jones, his octogenarian next door neighbor. Bonnie feels really concerned that the unopened letter never reached the woman intended to receive the love letter that would have been sent to her after his death, so she insists that Jake Investigate the letter to find the children of the couple. When Jake finds more letters, Bonnie just becomes even more insistent.

Then the next thing they know, Debbie is dead, and somehow Jake's scaffolding seems to have played a role. Jake thus meets Sergeant Cruz and Debbie's step- sister, Lisa, as he gets involved in this case. Then, he and Bonnie get hired as sleuths, along with Jake's ever-present dog, Fred, who finds key evidence himself, to solve the death. But someone is determined to prevent them from making progress, and more letters keep appearing in the house.

<strong>Letters to Die For</strong> proved to be a creative and fun book that I enjoyed. I somehow got book four without listening to the first three, but except for a couple minor details, I had no trouble with being left behind from details of the previous books. I found myself guessing what would happen all the way through. I did find myself a little confused by details of the ending, but that may be related to the fact that my migraine was bad, forcing me to go back several times to listen again to certain sections.

I enjoyed connecting with Jake, Debbie, and Fred, who were delightful characters in the book. I appreciated the way the senior citizen Debbie is shown as a capable, strong character, determined to participate and not be left out of the investigation, even of the more dangerous situations. And she proves her worth. I liked seeing her relationship with Jake and Fred, as the trio develops a real team. It is fun to see how Fred, the golden retriever, serves as a regular character in the book who never leaves Jake's side and plays the role as Jake's partner.

The audio edition of <strong>Letters to Die For</strong> is performed by Todd McLaren, who sounds a lot as I would picture Jake sounding. He comes across as a middle aged man with a degree of cynicism after his difficult divorce, which came upon his catching his then- wife getting dressed as she was leaving her boss's office. Then she got complete custody of the kids. We can hear some of his pain in his voice at times. I also really like the performance of the role of Bonnie, who sounds like a gentle, empathetic character.

I had fun listening to <strong>Letters to Die For</strong> and enjoyed the details of the letters and the different angles of the investigation. I especially enjoyed the relationships among the individuals investigating the case. I give this book four stars.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-21-18

Fascinating book with great twists

In <strong>The White Russian Caper</strong> by Phyllis Entis, which is set in 1979, Damien Dickens gets a phone call from Stephane Major, the director of the Miss America pageant, that the reigning Miss America has not shown up to her latest engagement at his hotel, which hosts the pageant. Since it is too early to call the police, Dickens goes to the hotel and into the suite reserved for Miss America, only to find the suite ransacked. He opens the door of the closet and finds Cynthia Mills, Miss America, naked and seriously injured as she has been stuffed into the closet. She motions to Dickens to pull up the carpet, and he finds a coin that she entrusts to him. Dickens's wife, Millie, recognizes the coin as Russian from the czar era.

This leads Dickens to visit a Russian professor at Princeton who is a serious coin collector. Learning that this coin is highly valuable, Dickens goes toward the hospital to visit Cynthia, and he disappears. After a while, Millie gets a call that Cynthia Mills, Miss America, has died. She is going to have to take over the investigation into her husband's disappearance and the death of Miss America herself.

I listened to <strong>The White Russian Caper</strong> after having enjoyed, the previous book in the series, <em>The Green Pearl Caper</em>, and I enjoyed this book more than the first. The plot takes dramatic turns and gives us plenty of excitement without creating undue tension in the listener. It uses first person narration by Dickens until the PI gets kidnapped and then turns to third person narration focused on Millie's investigation. I was impressed by the quality of the shift, which Entis manages smoothly. The storyline moves along its many twists in a smooth manner. Then just as we think the book is wrapping up, a new twist takes place, creating more drama.

I also liked the way the characters are drawn in this book, making them each seem real and effective. I had fun following Damien Dickens as he pursued his investigation and was amused at Stephane Major and his obsession with Miss America. The book also deals with a hotel magnate in Atlantic City who wants to build a giant casino hotel in both Atlantic City and Hollywood, Florida. I thought it humorous that in this character, the book depicts Donald Trump, but with a different name. But my favorite character was Millie Dickens, who proves herself to be both capable and determined, yet full of compassion and sympathy for others.

Tom Lennon performs the audio edition of this book, and he does an effective job of making the book enjoyable to listen to. Much of the book contains a first person narration by Dickens, and Lennon sounds just as I would imagine the seasoned detective to sound. He uses good expressions without using too much energy, suiting the spirit of the book.

I really enjoyed <strong>The White Russian Caper</strong> and thought it excellently written, with lots of creative angles to it. I liked the compelling characters and the fun plot. I give this book five stars!

<strong>Disclaimer:</strong> I received this book for free from the narrator, but that had no effect on the content of my review.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-19-18

A highly creative mystery

Lord Peter Wimsy sprang fully formed upon the world in 1923's <strong>Whose Body?</strong> by Dorothy L. Sayers. Heading out to an auction of rare and valuable manuscripts, Lord Peter, the younger brother of the Duke of Denver, realizes he has forgotten the catalogue for the auction. He returns home just in time to receive a phone call from his mother, the Dowager Duchess of Denver, offering him what he considers to be the case of a lifetime. Thipps, the architect consulting on the church restoration in their hometown, has discovered the body of a naked man wearing nothing but pince nez, which are eyeglasses without the arms, and lying in Thipps's bathtub. So Lord Peter sends Bunter, his manservant, to the book sale and goes to check out the body in the bath.

Later that night, Lord Peter gets a visit from his friend Charles Parker, a detective with Scotland Yard, who earlier visited Thipps's house to see if the body might belong to Sir Reuben Levy, a missing rich financier. Sir Reuben went home late one night, only to be found missing the next morning, his bed slept in but with all his clothes left at home. They've found one naked body and have another naked one missing. In delight over his unusual case and the fact that Parker has an interesting case too, Lord Peter exults and arranges for the pair of friends to go in together on both cases. Together, the pair work on the two cases, leading to a dramatic solution.

<strong>Whose Body?</strong> is a highly creative and fascinating mystery. This introduction to Lord Peter Wimsy features one of the most clever mysteries and solutions to be found. The plot has so many interesting details, keeping me drawn to it no matter how many times I've listened to this book. The setting of the book is fully drawn and colorful. I feel that I'm actually sitting in Lord Peter's study as he plays the piano and talks with Parker or that I'm accompanying Bunter in his forensic investigation of the disappearance of Sir Reuben.

Sayers did an excellent job of drawing her characters, and there are some particularly endearing ones in this book. Lord Peter seems like a real person despite his eccentricities. We picture clearly little Thipps and his deaf mother who wins the heart of everyone at the coroner's inquest. But my two favorite characters in the series make strong introductions in this book. Bunter shows himself capable in all things, whether in making certain Lord Peter is dressed properly for each occasion, in performing his fingerprint and photography work, or in holding his own in repartee with Lord Peter. My other favorite character in the series is the Dowager Duchess of Denver, Lord Peter's mother. She is described as being as alike Lord Peter in temperament and she is unlike him in appearance, and she happily supports her son in all his sleuthing despite the consternation of Gerald, Lord Peter's brother, the Duke of Denver. Those of us who have read the other books in the series will enjoy the irony of Lord Peter's telling Gerald that someday he'll be happy to have a sleuth in the family when a crime is committed, as we know that just in the next book, <em>Clouds of Witness</em>, Lord Peter saves Gerald's life when the latter is accused of murder.

As in other books by Sayers, <strong>Whose Body?</strong> also draws attention to issues facing society of the day. We learn that Lord Peter turned to detecting as a way to deal with the severe shell shock (known today as PTSD) he developed from his time serving as a major in World War I. While under the strain of the case, he wakes up Bunter in the night complaining that he can hear German sappers digging, getting ready to attack his side, a flashback to his days on the frontlines of the trenches.

The other social issue that arises here is attitudes towards Jews, as antisemitism gets portrayed by people towards Sir Reuben and other Jews. However, in general the majority of attitudes are more positive, if following another stereotype, that of Jews as wealthy men (and notice that girls don't figure into this image) of business. The Honorable Freddie Arbuthnot, Lord Peter's friend and a financial wizard, has been trying to marry Rachel Levy, and he doesn't mind marrying a Jew because his sons would have a financial advantage.

Nadia May performs the audio edition of my copy of <strong>Whose Body?</strong>. I originally listened to this book a number of years ago with a different narrator and had real problems connecting to it. Thus, when I saw that May had recorded the book, I eagerly purchased the copy. The recording, unfortunately, has some minor glitches in evenness of sound quality. However, the performance itself is superb, voicing Lord Peter's silly speeches in such a way that I find them believable and fun. May does a great job of making this book even more fun than it might have been in just reading visually.

<strong>Whose Body?</strong> is a creative book with a clever mystery and delightful characters. I have come to appreciate the book more each time I have listened to it and had great fun this time as well. I give the book five stars.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-19-18

A Unique Trip

In <strong>Not Dead Yet. . .</strong> by Peg Herring, a group of four transients have made a home in the basement of the Schmidt Museum in Chicago between 1965 and 1967. Libby, an older British woman; Leo, an older Italian man; Memnet, a young Egyptian woman; and Roy, an American cowboy were brought to this museum by Norman, the eccentric scientist head curator of the museum and who was killed in a fall down the stairs soon after they arrived there. Together the foursome support each other with petty crime and Memnet's playing music on a lute at the train station. They have installed a secret passage to get into the museum and a hidden room in which to secrete themselves in the event that someone comes to their unused storage room.

Then one day, Memnet gets approached by a homeless girl but is too afraid of the girl to talk to her. But the girl keeps lingering around the museum, so Roy takes an opportunity to confront her but scares the girl away. However, he runs into the girl soon after in a park where she has been sleeping. Since the girl left her bag under the bush where she had slept, the group of four decides to go to the park and wait for her to return. But just as the girl starts to approach, the group sees a pair of men roughing up a third man. When the third man escapes from the pair, one takes out a gun and kills the third. The girl walks up and promptly faints. Their protective instincts kicking in, Leo and Roy attack the men to keep the girl safe, and, using their wits, the duo succeeds in knocking out the criminals. They take the still unconscious girl back to their museum, which is how the newly orphaned 14-year-old Jake joins their group.

Though the group members keep their eyes out for news of the murdered man, there is nothing about him anywhere. Then they spot the man with the gun and hurry to move outside of their local community. But they soon learn that the man with the gun is a high ranking agent of the FBI. They have to keep away from him while starting a new life in their new home as a family unit. Their deductions cause them to fear that something sinister is about to happen. But how could this group of misfits stop that?

Despite my initial concerns about whether <strong>Not Dead Yet. . .</strong> would suit me, Peg Herring, who knows my taste in books, encouraged me to give her book a try, and I am glad she did. It worked well to have set the book in 1967, and the slang from that era gives it authenticity. Each slang term is given in context enough to help us understand the meaning even if we haven't run across the word before ourselves. The book really contains three mysteries: What happened to the murdered man? What is the truth about how this disparate group of people came to be together in the museum? And what do the murderers have in plan for the future? These questions, as seen through the eyes of Jake, draw us further into the story.

I enjoyed the characters in this book. Each of the four transient characters has unique features to her or his own nature. Libby, imperious and proper, has become the chef and strict grandmother figure. Leo, intelligent and creative, repairs everything and has become the kind grandfather figure. Roy, impetuous and independent, takes care of stealing all their necessities to provide for the group. Memnet, timid and nervous of new experiences, grows in courage and strength through her relationship with Jake. In addition, Jake shows deep intelligence and a great love of reading, ultimately helping her new family in their darkest hour.

Becky Boyd performs the audio edition of this book. I enjoyed her performance as she portrays the unique characters in this book, to each of whom she gives flavor so that we see the differences in the nature of each individual. I appreciated the voices she uses for each, including doing an excellent job with the accents of each, British, Italian, Egyptian, Western American, and general American. With good expression that drives the narrative, Boyd makes the book all the more lively.

<strong>Not Dead Yet. . .</strong> turned out to be an unusual, quirky mystery with a surprise twist halfway through the book. The details of a man's having been murdered without his body's being discovered and the way the murderers chase after the artificial family starts off interesting. Then the conclusion becomes exciting and dramatic, and we see real growth in the lives of the five friends. I enjoyed this book and give it four stars.

<strong>Disclaimer:</strong> I received this audiobook from the author, but that had no impact upon the content of my review.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-19-18

A Fun, Creative Trip with a Retired CIA Agent

In <strong>Granny Undercover</strong> by Harper Lin, Barbara Gold, retired CIA agent, goes to the garden store to get material for the garden she intends to plant for her new kitten. There, she hears talk about the president of the topiary society, who died after getting almost decapitated with his hedge clippers. Considering that this sounds suspicious, Barbara goes to the garden where the death occurred and looks for evidence. It soon becomes apparent to her that this was no accident or suicide, but rather a murder. Thus, Barbara has found herself another case to investigate and keep herself interested.

The plot of this book was fun with creative touches and full of humor. Barbara has fun sleuthing and poking into the lives of the members of the garden club. We see her meet a new senior citizen man who has no idea whom he is really pursuing and also have a discussion about YA books with her 13-year-old grandson. And then there is the fight with the two senior citizen men rolling on the grass, throwing punches at each other.

The characters are as delightful as the details of the plot. Barbara is fun with her straight- forward, matter of fact approach to the fact that a septuagenarian is solving a murder. I also enjoyed Octavian, who seems to be developing as a love interest for Barbara. I just hope that he can appreciate such a capable (and deadly) woman as much as he appreciates her looks. The other character I had fun with is Barbara's grandson, Martin. At 13, her is generally not interested in his grandmother's interests, but she has bonded with him over some books about fighting dragons, and he has a great time at the senior citizen fight. He truly does seem like your typical 13- year- old boy!

Sara Morsey returns to perform the audio edition of this book. She does a great job of sounding like a 70- something grandmother who is active and alert. She sounds like the ages of the characters she voices. I like the way she tends to make Barbara's exploits sound matter-of-fact, as Barbara sees her self- appointed role of detective as mild compared to the work she did in the field. Morsey's performance works effectively.

I had a great time visiting again with Barbara in <strong>Granny Undercover</strong>. It will be fun to see how she manages to keep her cover in the future as she seems firmly set on continuing her role as investigator. I would love to see the reactions of her family the first time they see her in action. It is really refreshing to read about a strong capable senior woman who doesn't need to be rescued by a knight in shining armor. I give this book five stars!

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-19-18

Suicide or murder?

In <strong>The Mad Hatter's Son</strong> by Helen Starbuck, Annie Collins, an OR nurse, gets a phone call she will forever regret returning. Libby Matheisen, Annie's former roommate from college and after, is a high- end painter whom Annie hasn't seen in four years since Libby's marriage to Edward, a rich computer specialist with whom Annie does not connect. So it is with surprise that Annie gets a message from Libby to call her. Libby tells Annie that she had a miscarriage recently and has never been well since, with a vague set of symptoms like depression, achiness, and hair loss. She wants to hire Annie to care for her, though her husband makes Annie sternly aware that he believes any problems Libby may have are post-pregnancy-related depression and that she doesn't need Annie's care.

Annie soon discovers that Libby is a difficult patient, not letting her get certain tests run and complaining a lot. The last straw comes when the pair run into a man at the farmers market, someone Libby clear knew and seemed to react to strongly, but whom she refuses to discuss with Annie. When Annie arranges to meet with the man, Jeff Davies, she learns that he had a two-year affair with Libby, but she cut things off upon learning about her pregnancy, which she never disclosed to him. As Libby still refuses to discuss things with Annie, Annie decides that this job is not for her and leaves. But then the next day, a man gets sent to the ER after having gotten beaten up outside his work within an inch of his life and needs major surgery. Unfortunately, however, a week or so later, Jeff dies. And before long Libby has died, supposedly of suicide, but Annie thinks that unlikely.

Annie gets involved in the case to research what happened to Libby despite the objections of Annie's boyfriend and lawyer next- door- neighbor. But even if she gets to the truth, will the truth be too much for Annie to handle?

<strong>The Mad Hatter's Son</strong> starts out as a nice- seeming, maybe a little slow, book, but it quickly turns into a book that grabs ahold of the listener. The plot was of interest, though I guessed the identity of the criminal before I was halfway through the book, so instead it turned into a how-dunnit instead of a who-dunnit. The book did keep me listening, though it was a little intense for my mild tastes.

I did appreciate the quality of how the characters were depicted, so I could picture even Annie's OB nurse friend, Maddy, who is not a major character in the book. Our image of Libby changes as we get to see her through the different lenses of the different people who knew her. Often a character who insists on pushing for a solution comes across as less than believable, but we accept Annie's persistence as natural to her identity.

Suzanne T. Fortin performs the audio edition of <strong>The Mad Hatter's Son</strong>. I recently listened to her perform <em>The Hanged Man's Noose</em> and was even more impressed by her this time than in that book. She takes us through the gamut of emotions experienced by Annie, whether excitement, love, fear, or numbness. I appreciate her perspective on bringing this book to life on audio.

Though <strong>The Mad Hatter's Son</strong> is not my typical style of mystery, I thought it a strong book. I liked the way things unfold slowly, but I would have preferred not to have the identity of the criminal be as obvious as it was to me long before I should have been able to start guessing, especially since I am not usually one to guess at the identity while listening to a mystery, focusing more on the process than guessing the identity. I did appreciate the book in general and give it four stars.

<strong>Disclaimer:</strong> I received this audiobook free through Audiobook BOOM, but that had no effect on the content of my review.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-16-18

One of the funniest mysteries!

In <strong>Some Like It Hawk</strong> by Donna Andrews, the town of Caerphilly has been fighting since the conclusion of the previous book in the series, <em>The Real Macaw</em>, to keep its public buildings. The previous mayor took out a large mortgage in the name of the city, using city property as collateral, and then "allegedly" took off with the money. Now "the evil lender" has repossessed the courthouse, jail, and other buildings. So the citizens of Caerphilly are staging a big public event they call Caerphilly Days to help the effort to fight the evil lender. But their assistance isn't financial. Instead, they serve as a diversion to distract the evil lender. At the time of the sudden repossession, the city clerk, Phineas P. Throckmorton, barricaded himself in the basement of the courthouse. For the last year and a half, the man has been living in the basement, supplied by a tunnel from the Underground Railroad known initially to few, especially to the Pruitts, the corrupt family just kicked out of power. But the trap door, which they keep hidden by the bandstand, makes so much noise every time it is opened that they have to cover up the noise with loud entertainment and plan to replace it altogether during the loud July 4 celebration.

After finishing her blacksmith demonstration, arranged especially to make plenty of noise, Meg Langslow goes with the new Mayor Randall Schiffley and some people from the press to visit the courthouse ostensibly to negotiate with Throckmorton. But while they are in the courthouse near the barrier where Mr. Throxkmorton has locked himself in, they hear a gun shot, and the only person from the evil lender who seems at least a little bit human lies dead. And the evil lender wants to blame Mr. Throckmorton, pressing the police chief to arrest him. Thus, the group of citizens from Caerphilly must work hard to locate not just the murderer but also what the evil lender has been hiding in order to get away with theit tricks.

I have listened to <strong>Some Like It Hawk</strong> numerous times since I discovered the Meg Langslow series. But since I was finally able to listen to the previous book, <em>The Real Macaw</em>, which was only just released on audio, I got an extra appreciation for this book. This book takes an absurd situation and makes it seem realistic. The title refers to the company that the evil lender has hired to use a hawk to deal with what they call a pigeon infestation, but which really consists of Mr. Throckmorton's pet pigeons that used to fly in and out of the courthouse. It's a form of psychological warfare. The owner of the hawk actually likes to work with cadaver vultures, so his vulture, in a test for Meg's grandfather to prove it can find carrion, lands on the disgusting food booth run by a Pruitt.

The plot to this book is well-drawn. The details are humorous, with the setting and events both funny and unique. Drawn in the style that only Andrews can get away with, the plot takes ridiculous events and makes them believable and laugh-out-loud funny. I have listened to this book at least one, probably two, dozen times, and each time has been as funny as the first.

While the plot of <strong>Some Like It Hawk</strong> is well- drawn, it is the characters who especially make the book and others in the series particularly memorable. Meg serves as the straight woman to all the other unique characters. For example, her father, the semi- retired physician, loves nothing more than a mystery and a dead body to solve. He gets to do his work as medical examiner in this book because Dr. Smoot, who likes to dress as a vampire, is highly claustrophobic and is afraid to go to the basement to look at the body. Another character, octogenarian Caroline Wilner, gets Meg to burgle the Caerphilly Inn, using a dead drop to get the pass key to all the rooms.

I love the performance Bernadette Dunne does in the audio version of this book. She does a lot to help make the book even more believable and enjoyable. We feel the laughter in her voice as she performs this fun and humorous book. I thoroughly appreciate the work of Dunne, and even when I read the first three books in the series, which are not on audio, I heard the voices, inflections, and expressions of Dunne's voice.

If you have never read or listened to any of the Meg Langslow books, I'd recommend starting with another, since this one follows the ending of <em>The Real Macaw</em>. But even if you start with <strong>Some Like It Hawk</strong>, you will love this book. It is delightful, with a clever plot and creative, endearing characters. I give this book five stars!

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-16-18

Fun detective book

In <strong>The Green Pearl Caper</strong> by Phyllis Entis, Damien Dickens works as a private investigator along the Atlantic City Boardwalk in July 1979. One day a rich heiress named Celine Sutherland comes to Damien because he got his start as a private investigator working for Celine's father and once rescued her from a life of drugs and prostitution in Mexico. Celine has gotten her life together now and has strong suspicions that someone, possibly her older sister, Sylvia Sutherland, CEO of Sutherland Smokes, Inc. or Sylvia's husband, Gordon Sethwick, the VP of finance there, has been embezzling money. Then Damien goes out late at night to investigate, gets hit on the head, and discovers his wallet and gun have been stolen. He wakes up in a dumpster after being chloroformed while hiding there from a cop who assumes Damien is drunk.

By the time Damien gets home, he learns that Celine has been murdered. It doesn't take long before Damien is arrested for murder, his gun found next to the body. The DA tries to get the judge to deny bail, but it is set way too high for Damien to afford. However, the next day Damien gets released on bail, and it was Susan Sutherland who paid for him because she doesn't believe he killed her sister. Although his detective's license has been taken away, he can still investigate on behalf of himself, which would help to solve Susan's sister's death. Thus Damien gets more and more deeply into the case, finding more drama and danger in the midst.

I enjoyed the experience of listening to <strong>The Green Pearl Caper</strong>. The setting of 1979 allows for the lack of a cell phone and other technology, such as DNA tests, a refreshing change from all the modern tools. The plot has many exciting angles and interesting twists. We get a lot of creative plot points, with some very dramatic points. The last hour and a half in particular prove to be very exciting as the book approaches its solution.

The characters in this book are drawn well. Damien seems just how one might imagine a private investigator who has been in business for years, a very real person. We also find ourselves invested in the lives of the characters, including Millie, Damien's amazing secretary who abandons him when troubles hit him and Gus, Damien's attorney who helps him in many angles of the case.

Tom Lennon performs the audio edition of this book, doing an excellent job of playing the role of Damien Dickens, who gives a first person narration of the book. His voice seems especially suited for playing the role of a grizzled PI. I like the voices he created for the various characters, as well as the expressions and timing of the book. He really does seem to embody the character of Damien.

<strong>The Green Pearl Caper</strong> is a fun book with a lot of creative touches that add to the pleasure of listening to it. The audiobook makes the book become all the more enjoyable to read, and I had a good time spending time with this book. I give this book five stars!

<strong>Disclaimer:</strong> I received this book for free from the narrator, but that had no influence on the content of my review.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-16-18

An excellent classic mystery

In <strong>Flowers for the Judge</strong> by Margery Allingham, the members of the Barnabus family publishing house ask family friend Albert Campion to help them because Paul Brande, the middle of the three partner cousins, disappeared three days earlier. They aren't worrying enough to call in the police because he has taken off without advanced notice before, though not usually this long. In addition, 20 years earlier, his older cousin Thomas Barnabus disappeared into thin air, to the witness of a newsman and a beat cop, never to be heard from again. Things change a couple days later when a secretary of the publisher goes downstairs to the strong room and finds Paul's body. The doctor declares that Paul has been dead for days, but Mike Wedgwood, the youngest cousin, just went downstairs the day before. Why did he not see the body then? Then police find a hose that was used to pump carbon monoxide from Mike's car into the room where Peter was found, definitely making this murder. These already suspicious circumstances, plus the knowledge that Gina Brande intended to ask Paul for a divorce on the very night he disappeared, being in love with Mike, cause the jury at the inquest to indict Mike for murder.

With the certainty that Mike did not commit this crime, Campion goes to work to both prove Mike's innocence and find the real killer. He is assisted by Ritchie Barnabus, the somewhat simple-minded younger brother of Thomas Barnabus, the man who disappeared 20 years earlier. Campion's other cohort is his manservant, Lugg, a former burglar proud of both his past achievements and the rise in station he has made under Campion.

<strong>Flowers for the Judge</strong> was my second introduction to Margery Allingham, with <em>The Crime at Black Dudley</em>, Allingham's introduction to Campion, being my first book by her. I was decidedly unimpressed by the first book, but this book was a dramatic departure from that one. It contains a fascinating plot, considered a classic "locked room mystery," since the murdered man was found dead inside the strong room. Reviews of the book online focus on the romance plot as being significant to the book, with the two lovers having to undergo a trial by fire in order to be together. Personally, I did not find the romance plot to be any more significant than those found in the writings of the other queens of mystery: Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy L. Sayers. Perhaps it is unusual for Allingham, something I would not have personal knowledge of.

I do not understand the title, and performing a Google search didn't serve to enlighten me much. At the end of the trial, the judge in the case carries his flowers out of the courtroom, which only one site I found mentions, pointing out that the aroma of the flowers can't overcome the bad smell of the justice system. But where did these flowers come from, especially since I didn't notice a reference to flowers earlier? Is there a tradition in the British judicial system involving flowers? Why does the title of the book reference just one obscure line in the book?

The characters in <strong>Flowers for the Judge</strong> are generally fleshed out well. Actually, Campion seems to be one of the least developed characters in the book, although I gather that over the course of the series, Campion becomes full and round. As for the other characters, even though we never meet Peter alive, we get a strong image of him, and he is not a nice person. Gina, despite being in love with a man not her husband in 1936, when she could not get a divorce without proof of abuse, is the sympathetic woman waiting for her man, who is on trial. The barrister, Cousin Alexander, was a real delight, especially as he reverts back and forth between his courtroom voice and casual voice.

The good guy in the book with the profound statements is the eccentric Ritchie, who speaks in abbreviated sentences. He makes a profound statement about the people who allow society to define them and control their movements, comparing such people to the people in the prison who can't eat on their own or drink on their own but only when allowed. The truly free are those who have managed to break away from the chains of society and do their own thing.

The audio edition of this book is performed by David Thorpe, who does a good job with certain parts and a less effective job with others. I liked his female voices and the way he voices Ritchie. However, the squeaky voice used for the role of Albert Campion really annoyed me. Otherwise, I felt that Thorpe did a reasonable but not excellent job on this book.

I really appreciated listening to <strong>Flowers for the Judge</strong>. The book had a strong mystery plot with well- rounded characters. I am glad that I took the advice of other lovers of golden age mystery and gave Allingham another chance. I give this book five stars.

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