17 June 2009

Just finished reading...

I've read seven books so far this month. I attribute this to the fact that I haven't been called into work at all, though I thought I'd keeping myself pretty busy working on the Left Coast Crime 2010 committee, the garden, and knitting.

Death Loves a Messy Desk
by Mary Jane Maffini.
In the third Charlotte Adams outing, Charlotte has been hired by the office manager of an importing company called Quovadicon to clean up an employee's particularly messy desk. When Charlotte goes to the office, the employee, Barbara not in. Loathe to do too much without consulting the desk's owner, Charlotte drops by her home. She finds the door wide open, and the landlord worried. Charlotte is convinced that Barb is in trouble, and when the police decline to search for her, Charlotte decides to investigate on her own.
Charlotte is nothing if not persistent, and comes close to getting herself killed. But despite being nosy and pushy, she is likeable enough for the reader to care what happens to her, especially since her closest friends are suddenly too busy to spend time with her.

A Night at the Operation by Jeffrey Cohen.
Another third installment.
Although Elliott Freed and his ex-wife Sharon have been divorced for some time, they are still close friends and still celebrate their wedding anniversary together. However, this time, Sharon's soon-to-be new ex-husband Gregory tells Elliott that Sharon has disappeared. Elliott is certain that this is a mistake, and that Sharon will contact him to let him know where she is, but there is no word from her at his house or his theater, Comedy Tonight. Elliott's friend the police chief says it's too soon to search for her so Elliott decides to do it himself. He goes to her office and learns of the suicide of a patient whom she apparently misdiagnosed. The staff all believe she's gone away for a few days to get her head together, but Elliott doesn't think she would do that without telling a soul, and he's convinced that foul play has come to her.
Elliott is blessed with family and friends who are somewhat eccentric, and he seems to attract disastrous incidents, such as being hit by a brick while walking down the street. The accident-prone part of me really identifies with him.

The Anteater of Death by Betty Webb.
This is the first in a new series with protagonist Theodora "Teddy" Bentley, an heiress who has decided to become a zookeeper. She works, despite her family's disapproval, at a small private zoo on the central coast of California. One morning, Lucy the anteater discovers a human corpse in her enclosure, and is blamed for the death of one of the zoo's largest benefactors. Teddy is certain that Lucy is innocent, and sets out to prove it. Her efforts are complicated by her mother's unsubtle efforts at matchmaking, the attempts of an upper-crust group to evict her from her shabby houseboat, and her ex-boyfriend Sheriff Joe Rejas, who thinks she's getting in the way of his investigation.
The unusual cast of supporting characters is somewhat reminiscent of Donna Andrews' Meg Lanslow books, where only Meg and her husband appear to be sane. I look forward to more in this series.

The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey.
This classic novel from mystery's golden age was the June read for the DorothyL Book Discussion group. I'd read it years ago, in my teens, and remembered the basic plot but few of the details. It's the story (based on a real-life incident) of a teenaged girl who turns up at her adoptive parents' home after being missing for a few weeks, saying she was being held against her will in an isolated house by two elderly women. Of course, the women assert that they have no knowledge of the girl, and their solicitor Robert Blair endeavours to clear them from suspicion. This is nominally an Alan Grant novel, but we actually see very little of the good Inspector.
A great example of Tey's wonderful writing!

Murder Alfresco by Nadia Gordon.
Another third book, this is part of the Sunny McCloskey series. I met Nadia at Left Coast Crime in Hawai'i last March, and won this book for correctly answering a trivia question.
Sunny is the chef/owner of Wildside a restaurant in the Napa Valley. She leaves a boring party late one night, intending to call a taxi, but discovers that her cell phone battery is dead. Since it's only a few miles, she decides to walk home. The only vehicle she sees is a truck pulling out from the drive of a vineyard. A few minutes later, she sees something hanging from a tree branch, and upon investigating further, discovers it's the body of a woman. She breaks into the vineyard's office and calls the authories, but although she tries to forget about the incident, she finds herself obsessed with the young woman and determines to find out what kind of person she was, in the hopes of settling her mind. The story is a bit coincidence-laden, but it's well-written, and Sunny is a sympathetic protagonist.

Show No Fear by Perri O'Shaughnessy.
The twelfth Nina Reilly novel is a flashback to when she was in law school and working as a paralegal for a small firm in Carmel. Nina is pretty stressed: her mother is suffering from a severe illness and is suing her acupuncturist; the father of Nina's son Bob has suddenly reappeared and is harrassing Nina; and Nina's brother Matt is dealing unsuccessfully with his drug addiction. When the bodies of two people close to Nina turn up in rapid succession, she is one of the few people who thinks that the deaths might be connected. I didn't enjoy this as much as the other Reilly books, and I'm not sure why.

The Diva Takes the Cake by Krista Davis.
In the second of the Domestic Diva mysteries, our heroine Sophie Winston is struggling to make sure her sister Hannah's wedding goes off smoothly. Planning this wedding has been difficult for her, as she dislikes Hannah's intended, Craig, and secretly hopes that Hannah will change her mind. When Craig's ex-wife is found hanging in a neighbour's backyard, Sophie is certain that the wedding will be cancelled. However, it is not, and although Craig hasn't invited any of his family members to the wedding, his father, uncle and cousin turn up. Sophie is certain that Craig is the killer, especially when another of his relatives is found murdered, but the there are several other possible suspects.
I enjoy Davis' writing, and the little tips preceding each chapter, but I find it hard to understand why she puts up with Natasha, her ex-husband's new paramour.

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