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. 

Ingredients
  • 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.
Method
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. 


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Review: Little Voices by Vanessa Lillie



Kerry Hammond is here to give us her review of a new psychological thriller by a debut author.

Little Voices by Vanessa Lillie was published on October 1, in Trade Paperback, by Thomas & Mercer. It is the author’s debut and promised to be a gripping novel psychological suspense. How could I pass up the chance to check out a new author?

Devon didn’t plan for motherhood to happen quite the way it did, with a premature birth and a traumatic delivery that threatened to take both her life and that of her baby girl. When she is finally released from the hospital, rather than enjoy her new family and motherhood, she learns that her friend Belina has been murdered. It happened on the very day she went into labor, the last day she saw Belina. Devon can’t seem to stop thinking about what might have happened and when the police accuse her college friend, Alec, of Belina’s murder, she feels she needs to step in. The problem is, the police are telling her to stay out of it, the voices in her head are telling her she’s a horrible mother, and Alec isn’t telling her the information she needs to clear his name.

Devon was like a dog with a bone as she tried to solve her friend’s murder. We didn’t learn as much about the women’s friendship as I would have liked, but it was clear that Devon’s need to find the killer came from something inside her, some inner turmoil, as much as it did her connection to Belina. As the story progresses, we learn more about Devon’s struggle with the voices in her head and what is really driving her to obsess about the murder.

The novel is set in and around Providence, Rhode Island, amid the fishing boats that struggle to make a living and what appears to be the class structure that exists depending on which side of the city you live. The author drew me into the setting as much as she did the characters and plot. Just when it seemed that every novel takes place in New York City, this one was a pleasant switch to a state that many, like me, know next to nothing about. I could visualize the harsh winter, the sea air, and the fishermen who brave the weather for their next catch. I will definitely look forward to the author’s next book.

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. 




Monday, October 21, 2019

Review: The Lies We Tell by Debra Webb


Sharon Long is here today to review book two in a dark series by Debra Webb.

The Lies We Tell by Debra Webb is the second installment in The Undertaker’s Daughter series. It was released on September 17, in paperback, by Harper Collins. Webb is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than 130 novels. I was intrigued by a character who was an undertaker’s daughter and was excited to read this one.

Dr. Rowan DuPont is a psychiatrist and former member of the Special Crimes Unit, and she is currently working as an undertaker. The book opens with her visiting 71-year-old Herman Carter in the county jail in Winchester, Tennessee. Carter was a family friend whom she once trusted but who had deceived her. He had been writing to Rowan for over five months and finally, she decided to visit. Her decision was largely based on wanting to know the truth behind her mother and her twin sister’s deaths; Rowan is sure Herman knows more about these deaths than he is letting on. She wants information where Herman wants forgiveness. Rowan agrees to write down her questions and let Police Chief Billy Brannigan give them to Herman.

After her visit, she returns to the DuPont funeral home, a business that has been in her family for 150 years. She has a body to prepare for burial. She begins the process and is startled by a vine tattoo that goes from the dead man’s neck down to the center of his back, where a wreath of thorns surrounds the name Norah. How could her mother’s name be on this man’s body? Rowan does not know this man and in Winchester, everyone knows everyone. Her search begins, she is determined to find out why her mother’s name is on this body, and more importantly, if that is what led to her mother’s suicide. What she doesn’t realize is that her former mentor-turned-serial-killer is waiting for her.

What I enjoyed most was the plot, or should I say plots, in this story. This book has three great things: an old Victorian house, a small hometown where the residents have secrets, and a serial killer. I loved the author’s character development of Rowan and Billy, her childhood friend who has always been by her side. These two characters are believable and likable; as I read, I could see being friends with both. This mystery also had a touch of romance in the storyline. I was a bit hesitant to start with book two in a series, but I felt that it read like a standalone.  

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.