Thursday, January 16, 2020

Review: The Devil's Due by Bonnie MacBird

Kerry Hammond is on a Sherlock Holmes kick and decided to read a new-to-her author who puts her own twist on a beloved character.

The Devil’s Due is the third book in author Bonnie MacBird’s Sherlock Holmes series. MacBird got her start in the film industry and has numerous writing credits to her name—in addition to Emmy awards for three documentaries she wrote and produced. MacBird started her Sherlock Holmes series because of her love for Conan Doyle’s work, and readers in 17 languages are extremely glad she did.

In this installment to the series, we find ourselves in London in the year 1890. Watson takes his wife Mary’s visit to the country as an excuse to check in on his old friend Sherlock Holmes. He finds the detective being targeted by a slanderous media campaign; a reporter is calling Holmes the devil incarnate and blaming him for a series of deaths that Holmes is actually investigating. Prominent London citizens are being murdered and each of the deaths is suspiciously followed by another, this time a suicide, of a friend or loved one.

To add to the difficulty of the investigation, New Scotland Yard has a new chief and he is hell bent on closing cases. The problem is, he doesn’t seem to care about the actual investigation, or whether or not he’s caught the right culprit. With all of these strikes against him, Holmes is more than motivated to get to the bottom of the murders and catch the killer before he or she kills again.

I am embarrassed to say that this is my first read by Bonnie MacBird. After devouring the book, I am shocked at myself. It was a thoroughly enjoyable story and I’m not sure how in the world I managed to miss the boat on this series. MacBird does an excellent job of channeling Doyle’s detective and creating a mystery that fits in with the spirit of the original works.

I found the book entertaining, puzzling, fast paced, and just plain enjoyable. I’m thrilled to have discovered such a wonderful series. I’m a huge fan of everything Sherlock Holmes (come back next week for my post about my visit to Meiringen, Switzerland, the town at the base of Reichenbach Falls where Holmes and Moriarty plunged to their “deaths”). I highly recommend MacBird's series, whether you’re a Holmes fan or just like a good historical mystery.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review was fair and completely independent.

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Friday, November 22, 2019


Cathy Ace, author of the Cait Morgan and WISE Enquiries Agency mysteries, joins us today on Drinks with Reads to celebrate The Corpse with the Golden Nose .  Cathy is one of our favorites here at Mystery Playground, check out her other Drinks with Reads posts.

“There needs to be a new vocabulary invented for all those of us over forty-five—or, in Bud’s case, over fifty—who are beginning new relationships. It’s not as though there aren’t a lot of us, after all, and it can’t be just me who feels uncomfortable about it. Right?”

Cait Morgan, in The Corpse with the Golden Nose by Cathy Ace
(Cait Morgan Mysteries #2)

In The Corpse with the Golden Nose Welsh Canadian professor of criminal psychology, Cait Morgan finds herself in a difficult position: she’s agreed to help her new “beau/boyfriend/manfriend” Bud Anderson look into the suicide of his grief-buddy, but Cait doesn’t believe it was a suicide at all. Nevertheless, she travels with him to the picturesque heart of British Columbia’s wine country where she meets a group of vintners and restaurateurs who are – to say the least – “quirky”.

Bud believes he’s trying to help a friend come to terms with her understandable grief; Cait believes she’s on the hunt for a murderer. Soon there’s another tragedy, and she’s finally able to convince Bud she might have been right to believe they’ve been mixing with a group of people amongst whom a killer is hiding.

Each chapter of this book, described by The Globe and Mail as having “…touches of Christie or Marsh but with a bouquet of Kinsey Millhone”, is titled for what Cait drinks within it – so you can drink along with the book! called it ““Agatha Christie set in the modern world, with great wallops of lovingly described food and drink” and there’s certainly no shortage of meals served as Cait and Bud try to solve the case – so you won’t have to drink on an empty stomach!

Maybe you’d like to try this Holiday Champagne Cocktail as a suitable accompaniment to your reading? The book is set over the Easter period, but if your nights are drawing in, and you fancy snuggling in front of a roaring fire with a cozy throw – and read – try this recipe.

Squash a few fresh cranberries between your thumb and forefinger and drop them into a champagne glass of your choosing
Add a measure of Chambord (a sweet, raspberry liqueur - add more if you like a sweeter drink)
Top up with chilled sparkling wine/champagne

The tartness of the cranberries works well with the sweetness of the raspberries – and it’s a true flavour of the Holiday Season. Cheers!

If you’d like to find out more about Cathy Ace and her Cait Morgan Mysteries, you can do so here:

Twitter: @AceCathy

Friday, November 8, 2019

Gaelic Coffee and A Step So Grave

Gaelic Coffee and A Step So Grave

Our guest today on Drinks with Reads is Catriona McPherson, the national best-selling and multi-award-winning author of the Dandy Gilver series of preposterous detective stories, set in her native Scotland in the 1930s. She also writes darker contemporary suspense novels, of which STRANGERS AT THE GATE is the latest. Also, eight years after immigrating to the US and settling in California, Catriona began the Last Ditch series, written about a completely fictional Scottish woman who moves to a completely fictional west-coast college town. 

Catriona is a member of MWA, CWA and SoA, and a proud lifetime member and former national president of Sisters In Crime, committed to advancing equity and inclusion for women, writers of colour, LGBTQ+ writers and writers with disability in the mystery community.
Here is my personal recipe for a drink that will warm you to the marrow – even if you’ve come on the coal boat to a draughty mansion in the remote West Highlands of Scotland, because your beloved son is threatening to marry a girl ten years too old for him and you’ve got to stop it, while pretending not to because you are a guest in his father’s house. For instance. It can also serve as a soother and stiffener if a member of the household ends up lying the garden with a peat cutter through the rib cage. Truly, country life is not nearly as restful as it is cracked up to be. 

  • A good glug of any whisky (= US single malt Scotch)
  • Another good glug of Drambuie
  • Some brown sugar. How much depends on whether you actually like whisky. I hate it so I’d use about a cane plantation’s worth
  • Strong hot black coffee
  • Cream. Traditionally it’s single (= US light) cream, poured over the back of a spoon so it doesn’t sink. I say: life’s short – whip the cream.
In a glass that will be okay with hot liquid (it doesn’t have to be a curling trophy, but why not if you can?) mix the whisky, Drambuie and sugar. The sugar might not all dissolve at this stage. Fill the glass with hot coffee, leaving an inch at the top. Stir again. The sugar should dissolve now. Carefully add whipped (and sweetened, if you like) cream until the glass is full. You could use aerosol cream, but don’t tell me. Enjoy!

A Step So Grave comes out in the US on the 5th of November and is available from your favourite bricks and mortar bookshop as well as all the usual places online.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Review: A Step So Grave by Catriona McPherson

Kerry Hammond is here with a review of the latest book in one of her favorites historical series.

A Step So Grave is the 13th book in the Dandy Gilver mystery series by Catriona McPherson. It was published on November 5, in Hardcover, by Quercus. This series is set in Scotland in the 1920s and 1930s and features Dandelion Gilver, lady detective. McPherson is also the author of the Last Ditch mystery series as well as 10 standalone novels. To read a review of her latest standalone, Strangers at the Gate, click here.

In A Step So Grave, Dandy, her husband Hugh, and their two sons are traveling to a remote area of Scotland….in February. Dandy is not pleased to be traveling so far in the bitter cold, but she can hardly complain. They are going to meet her son Donald’s bride-to-be and her family. It’s also a celebration of said bride-to-be’s mother, Lady Lavinia, who is turning fifty.

Unfortunately, Lady Lavinia is murdered before she can celebrate her birthday and there seems to be no end of suspects in and around the house. Dandy must figure out who murdered the woman so that she can decide if she needs to step in to call off her son’s wedding—in order to save him marrying into a murderous household. When the police pin the murder on an unknown vagrant that no one even saw, it’s quite convenient, but it’s not good enough for Dandy. With the help of her detecting partner Alec, she is determined to get to the bottom of things.

This was one of my favorites in the Dandy Gilver series. It had it all: a country house murder, lots of suspects, plenty of subterfuge, strange Scottish superstitions, and family secrets. Put these all together and it made for one heck of a murder mystery. I can’t say that I solved the murder, but I enjoyed watching Dandy and Alec piece everything together and outwit the police. I really enjoy this series and always look forward to the next installment.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review was fair and completely independent.

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Review: Blue Moon by Lee Child

Jack Reacher is back and Kerry Hammond is here to tell us what he’s up to.

Blue Moon by Lee Child was published on October 29, in Hardcover, by Delacorte Press. It is the 24th book in the widely read and critically acclaimed Jack Reacher series. In case you’ve been living in a cave for the previous 23 books, Jack Reacher is a former Army MP who wanders the country, standing up for the underdog and providing his own kind of justice to those who can’t find it otherwise.

In Blue Moon, Reacher gets off a bus and helps an elderly man from an attempted mugging. He soon gets wrapped up in a turf war between two groups; the Albanians rule one part of the city and the Ukrainians the other. Local law enforcement can do nothing to stop them, or are currently being paid off, and the citizens are powerless. Reacher does not like this. Reacher feels he needs to even the playing field. It’s one man against two powerful organizations, but if anyone can do it, Reacher can.

I always enjoy these books. The reader is always guaranteed that the good guys will prevail, the bad guys will die a horrible death, and law and order will be re-established in whatever part of the country Reacher has just visited.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review was fair and completely independent.

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Review: Two Bites Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein

Debra H. Goldstein has a new cozy mystery out and Kerry Hammond is here with her review.

Two Bites Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein released in Mass Market Paperback on September 24 by Kensington. It is the second book in the Sarah Blair mystery series and my first read by Goldstein, who is also the author of two other mystery novels and quite a few short stories. I love to try out a new cozy series and thought I’d give Sarah Blair a try.

In Two Bites Too Many, we find Sarah divorced and settling in with the Siamese cat she inherited named RahRah. Sarah works at a law office but her twin sister, Emily, is a professional chef who is trying desperately to open a new restaurant. The bank loan has been denied and Sarah and Emily’s mother, Maybelle, ropes Sarah into a visit with Lance, the bank president, to try and make him reconsider.

After some coaxing, Lance agrees to look at the loan application again, but dismisses the ladies to prepare for a city council meeting. Maybelle, never one to let things go, decides to go back and speak to him, entering through the alley door to his office where good friends and close business associates sometimes enter. What Maybelle finds is Lance’s dead body and a murder weapon with her fingerprints on it. Caught between her sister’s struggle with the restaurant and her mother’s possible arrest for murder, Sarah finds herself looking into each and every townsperson who had a grudge against Lance. If she doesn’t prove her mother’s innocence, who will?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Jumping into book two wasn’t a problem at all, I felt that the author did a good job of alluding to past events without giving away too much information, so I can now go back to book one without any spoilers. I liked the cast of characters and the mystery provided enough of a challenge that there were surprises for me in the end. Another cozy series that I can look forward to following.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review was fair and completely independent.

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Review: Strangers at the Gate by Catriona McPherson

Catriona McPherson has released a new standalone novel and Kerry Hammond is here with her review.

Strangers at the Gate by Catriona McPherson was published on October 22, in Hardcover, by Minotaur Books. I am a fan of all of McPherson’s books, from her Dandy Gilver series to her standalones. I look forward to each and every one of her new releases because you just never know where she’s going to take the reader.

When I started Strangers at the Gate, I wasn’t sure if McPherson could pull it off. We start with a young couple who have landed dream jobs in the quiet countryside. Paddy is a new partner of a law firm and Finn has gotten a position as deacon of a church. It’s almost too good to be true and they set off to live in the gate house of the property owned by Paddy’s new boss.

The young couple seems to be on track and I, as a reader, wondered where this could all go. Then they get invited to dinner at the boss’s house and have a great night getting to know him and his wife. When Finn forgets her purse and goes back to the house to get it, she finds their hosts' bodies—stabbed and bloodied on the kitchen floor. Any normal couple would call the police and report the crime. But not Paddy and Finn, they go home and panic.

What follows is what happens when you don’t report a crime, when you learn that your significant other has even more secrets than you do, and when you find out that there is way more to the new jobs and new life than you originally thought.

I got sucked in right away. At first I thought it was unbelievable that the couple wouldn’t just call the police and report the death—for at the time they didn’t know if it was murder or suicide. But the more I leaned, the more I understood what drove them to wait. They were basically digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole and I really wanted to see how they would get out. I really enjoyed the ride!

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review was fair and completely independent.

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage.