Book Reviews: All Kinds of Detectives

“Every guy notices you.”
“Even the gay ones?”
They want to be you.”

An Untimely Frost
An innocent actress in 1880s Chicago falls for a rogue who steals her money and smacks her around before moving on to his next victim. Broke and angry, but realizing there isn’t much she can do to catch him, she instead redirects her idealism into helping other women by answering an ad to be a Pinkerton agent. Of course it’s not easy, for even though they want women detectives now, they prefer them more seasoned with life experience. But since she’s an actress, she’s able to fool the family of Pinkertons by playing different roles until one gets accepted, and soon she’s Lilly Long, female operative.
What a fantastic character she turned out to be, so much so that I didn’t concentrate on the plot all that much. Of course she’s not perfect, being quite stubborn, especially when there’s a guy she finds attractive. The same reason she fell for the first guy keeps her from doing anything positive here; she just doesn’t know how to act around men, so she resorts to playground antics, and more often than not the guy falls into that too. But at other times her pugnaciousness is more than welcome, persevering in solving the case with humor and compassion.
The other interesting thing in this book was the settings, especially the empty house that is the basis for her case. Everyone assumes it’s haunted, more so when she finds evidence of the famous crime still in place. What was really interesting was how an empty house could elicit so much of her backstory.
There were a few twists, particularly the boxer and the preacher, that were obvious long before the reveal; I might have given this a 5, or at least a 4.5, if not for that. There were also a few instances of unnecessary verbs which the author should get better at with time. The most important takeaway, though, is that this was quite fun to read. The first ingredient in a successful story of this type is a likeable protagonist, or at least sympathetic, and Lilly is more than just that.

Winemaker Detective Mysteries #1-3
Having read and reviewed, and more importantly enjoyed, some of the newer works in this long series, I had to check out how it started once I saw those tomes were available, possibly for the first time in English.
Wish I hadn’t. I’m surprised the series lasted long enough to get there. These were dull and amateurish in comparison.

Treachery in Bordeaux
This first book is so sloppy and hamfisted, with long digressions and explanations about things that have nothing to do with the plot. Once in a while there’s a tiny clue amongst these long ramblings from the obvious author avatar, but by then you’re zooming by and miss it. There’s actually one point where the protagonist says, “Okay, I’ll stop there. I think I’ve overwhelmed you.” No kidding! As if long boring info dumps weren’t bad enough, the subjects—there’s a long piece on shoes!—had me skipping past them, which at least made for fast reading. It’s a good thing I read and enjoyed others in the series, because had I started here I would not have continued. . . zzzzzzzzz.
I’m going to give it a little bit of a break, as it was the first one, but still. . .

Grand Cru Heist
Cooker gets carjacked in Paris and ends up in the hospital, but he’s more interested in the car and his notebook than anything else.
Even after the reveal at the end, I’m confused. Couldn’t follow the “logic” of how he solved the case I didn’t even know he was on!

Nightmare in Burgundy
There’s a line near the beginning that goes, “It is an honor to be named Chevalier du Tastevin in a setting as glorious as the Vougeot château.” Is this a real thing? Because the authors make it sound so pompous. As always I’m reminded of the line, “I Wouldn’t want to be in a club that would have me as a member. . .”
Someone is graffitiing bible verses. Two “artists” are shot for it, though nobody knows why they were doing it.
Even bigger problems in this book than the previous two. Besides more of those long boring digressions, the killer turns out to be someone we never heard about throughout the entire story! This makes everything written beforehand irrelevant, along with all those long asides that already were. More importantly, it’s insulting to the reader.

As a whole. . .

Buried Crimes
Sophie Allen is back! I love this British crime series, and most of all the character; it’s like visiting an old friend. This time she’s tasked with solving a cold case involving two small bodies found in a yard.
This novel feels like the first one. After the heaviness of the past two, this was a welcome respite. The other cops also feel a bit like family now, and even though it seems like a little bit of a digression the subplot featuring the transgender cop is well done.
All in all, much better! Almost as good as the first, definitely an improvement on the previous. Less of the mildly irritating daughter too.

Dead and Buried
A girl in the 60s dies after an illegal abortion, putting the story into action fifty years later.
Calladine is back for his fifth case and is as big a mess, if not worse, than the last book. It doesn’t help that his right hand is away on maternity leave, and that he’s still falling for any pretty face that talks to him. (I expect this particular dalliance to blow up in his face in an upcoming book.)
As for the plot, there’s far too much here that’s easy to figure out, like the new officer’s motivation, the original crime, even the burial; that’s a little disappointing. There’s also some plot holes, but in general it’s as enjoyable as the first ones in the series. And of course I’m always happy to see more of Imogen.



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