Welcome to my blog where I share book reviews
and life along the winding road

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Killing the Rising Sun by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

In Killing the Rising Sun, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard explain the events leading up to World War II in the Pacific, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the eventual defeat of the Japanese by launching an atomic bomb. While the atrocities are well known, it does go into detail how the people of the Philippines were treated and the bloody battlefields. But it also humanizes those in the midst of the war in Asia and gives us a glimpse into those in power and those fighting.

One thing that did get my attention in view of our current situation with so many refugees coming into the country, was that Japanese soldiers, several years before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, under cover of other professions, infiltrated the Philippines. Their motives were to map the islands (7,000) and spy on Philippine coastal defenses. Filipino president, Manuel Quezon  stated later that he was unaware that his gardener was a Japanese major and his masseur a Japanese colonel. General MacArthur was criticized for being ill-prepared. After leaving the US army in 1937 he had lived in opulence in a Manila penthouse as a field marshal in the Philippine Army before being recalled to the US Army in 1941 and thought to be the best choice to command American forces. But after Japanese bombing, he retreated, leaving his army to face the brutal treatment of the Japanese - The Bataan Death March.

Reports of General Douglas MacArthur can be read here

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Front Page Murder by Peter Bartram

Peter Bartram has another big hit with his latest Crampton of the Chronicle mystery, Front Page Murder. Colin Crampton is a fun character with his quick wit, sarcasm and bevy of quirky friends who help him to solve crimes and provide stories for the Evening Chronicle.
Peter Bartram has a delightful way of introducing places and characters:
Mrs. Gribble, my landlady - the Widow to her tenants - and I nurtured a healthy dislike for one another but found a way to rub along. . . The Widow was dressed in a long flannelette dressing gown in shocking pink. She'd put her hair in curlers and fixed a net over it all . . The Widow shuffled uncomfortably in her fluffy slippers.

For me, it's not just about the mystery, but being immersed into 1960s Brighton, bringing back lots of memories of visits to the seaside town.

Front Page Murder: Comic postcard artist Archie Flowerdew is sentenced to hang, but his niece, Tammy, is convinced her uncle is not guilty of the crime. After defacing the Royal Pavilion with words to that effect, she is wanted by the police and Colin not only tries to get to the bottom of the crime, but hussles Tammy to a safe house.

Front Page Murder e-book 

is on special offer until the end of December for 99p/99c

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Note: The Crampton of the Chronicle mystery series can be read out of order without being confusing to the reader.

A Message from the author:

By Peter Bartram

Will you be having a murder for Christmas?
   No, I don't mean a real one. You don't want blood on the carpet when the children are playing with their new toys. Or old Uncle George slumping forward with a knife his back just as he's about to tuck into his Christmas pudding.
  I mean a fictional murder. A good old-fashioned cozy mystery. I confidently predict that more readers than ever will be curling up by a crackling log fire during the festive season with a cozy book.
   So just what is it that makes cozy murder such a popular pastime when Christmas comes? I suppose it could partly be the beginning of winter and the longer nights. Perhaps they stimulate the darker sides of our own psyches and get us reaching for the murder mysteries.
   Or perhaps it has something to do with the need for escapism. Of course, it's great to have friends and family around and join in the festive cheer. But it's also good to have a quiet moment alone when you can let your mind journey into another world - one of adventure and mystery.
   And maybe the special attraction of cozy mysteries at Christmas is in the name. Christmas is a time when we all want to be cozy. By that, I don't just mean we want to be cozy and warm by a fireside. We also want to be cozy in spirit. That's because Christmas is the time for forgiveness and redemption. And the best cozy mysteries capture that spirit and warm the hearts of readers by doing so.

   One of my favourite Christmas crime mysteries is The Blue Carbuncle, a Sherlock Holmes story. It's the one where a priceless jewel is found in the crop of a Christmas goose. Holmes and Watson track the carbuncle back to an opportunist thief who stole and then hid it by forcing the goose to swallow it when he thought he was going to be found out.
   Holmes decides this first-time thief regrets his crime and lets him go - thus offering him the chance of redemption.
   Many authors, including big names such as Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, have written Christmas murder mysteries. So I approached writing Front Page Murder, my own Christmas mystery, with some trepidation. I decided to make the story a race against time - with the deadline Christmas Eve.
   Then I peopled the story with characters. The Crampton mysteries already have a cast of regulars - lead by Colin Crampton himself. But there are some new ones - including a pompous major who talks backwards, a vain artist with red trousers, and a sex-pest vicar.
   Atmosphere is important - so there's some snow, cold winds and a winter fox. There are references to Christmas activities, such as a mince pie baking competition and the Christmas number one - it was The Beatles' I Want to Hold Your Hand in the UK. (In the US, it was Dominique by the Singing Nun!)
   There's an unusual puzzle based on the old song which begins, "On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me a partridge in a pear tree." Perhaps you can see if you can solve the puzzle before Colin.
   And, finally, there's a very Christmas denouement - but no "spoilers" here! Merry Christmas and stay cozy!


A Crampton of the Chronicle mystery

It's December 1963 and Archie Flowerdew is sitting in a cell at Wandsworth Prison waiting to be hanged. On Christmas Eve. It's not exactly how he planned to spend the festive season. But, then, Archie was found guilty of murdering fellow comic postcard artist Percy Despart.

It seems there's nothing that can stop Archie's neck being wrung like a turkey's. Except that his niece Tammy is convinced Archie is innocent. She's determined he will sit down on Christmas Day to tuck into the plum pudding. She persuades Brighton Evening Chronicle crime reporter Colin Crampton to take up the case.

But Colin has problems of his own. First, that good turn he did to help out Chronicle sub-editor Barry Hobhouse has come back to bite him on the bum. Then Beatrice "the Widow" Gribble, Colin's trouble-prone landlady, needs him to sort out her latest faux pas - she's accidentally sent a Christmas card to her local butcher suggesting she's available for hot sex. And that's before Brighton cops clap Colin and girlfriend Shirley Goldsmith in jail on the charge of harbouring a fugitive from justice.

And, anyway, the more Colin investigates Archie's case, the more it looks like he is guilty… Pick up the third full-length novel in the Crampton of the Chronicle mystery series to get you in the mood for a murderous Christmas!

For readers who want to start the series at the beginning, there's a deal which includes Headline MurderStop Press Murder and Front Page Murder in e-book formats for £4.97/$4.97. This offer also closes on 31 December.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR…  Peter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime mystery series, which features Colin Crampton, crime correspondent of the 1960s fictional newspaper the Brighton Evening Chronicle. Peter began his career as a reporter on a real-life local newspaper not far from Brighton. Then he worked as a journalist and newspaper editor in London before becoming freelance. He has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700 feet down a coal mine and Buckingham Palace. Peter's "Swinging Sixties" murder mysteries combine clue-solving with comedy - the laughs are never far from the action. Other books in the series, which has already logged more than 100 5-star reviews on Amazon, include Headline Murder and Stop Press Murder.

Note: I was given a copy of Front Page Murder in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Buzzy the Bee by Ann Summerville

You can find a list of my cozy mysteries and other children's books on my Amazon Author Page.

Buzzy the Bee is now available on Amazon.com

When Joe, the gardener, had to leave for a few weeks, Buzzy and her friends promised to look after his garden – all except Frank, the beetle, who didn’t realize what he was giving up by being lazy and sleeping instead of helping his friends.  (Based on the parable of the five talents).

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Friday, November 24, 2017

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Paulette Jiles sets News of the World in 1870 Texas when the country was recovering from the Civil War and still rife with Indian raids and unrest. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels throughout Texas, gathering crowds and reading from newspapers while trying to avoid any political news that might provoke arguments. It is during one of his speaking engagements that he is approached by Britt Johnson whose wife and children had been kidnapped by the Comanches (he eventually found them). Britt had heard that Captain Kidd was travelling to San Antonio and he asked if he would take a young blonde, blue eyed 10-year-old with him. She had been kidnapped by the Kiowa several years before and spoke no English.
Kidnappings were common during this time period and here in Fort Worth we have a log cabin village (a living history museum) - one of the cabins belonged to the Parker family. Cynthia Parker (the mother of Comanche chief Quanah Parker) was kidnapped at the age of nine and lived with the Comanches for over twenty years. She was never able to adjust when returned to her family.
My thoughts: I liked the story, but it was difficult to read. There are no quote marks and I found myself reading the same sentences more than once to try and distinguish what was spoken and what was internal dialog. Most sentences were also very short and did not flow well.

Note: Tom Hanks is producing a movie based on the book.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Case of the Hidden Flame by Alison Golden

Alison Golden is a prolific writer and very generous with the number of novellas she offers free - The Case of the Hidden Flame was free for Kindle (you can receive more free novellas by e-mail after signing up on her web page).
I liked this story which has been compared to Hercule Poirot in many reviews and it takes place on the island of Jersey (off the coast of France) which is a lovely setting. Maybe I missed something but I'm not sure why is was called the Case of the Hidden Flame.

Detective Inspector David Graham has just arrived on the island of Jersey, taking over a rag tag team of questionable commitment and skill at the Gorey Constabulary, a team that he is supposed to lead and develop into a cohesive investigative unit.

Within minutes, his first challenge presents itself when ex-soldier, Colonel Graves, finds a dead body on the beach. As the military man kneels down, he discovers it is his soon-to-be fiancĂ© half buried in the sand… 

In a small resort like Gorey, this event is monumental, and almost unheard of. The rumors swirl yet it is the new Detective Inspector’s job, with a bag still packed and travel dust on his shoes, to ferret out the clues and solve the case…while bringing his team along to assist. 

Note: The plot wasn't original, as noted on one of the reviews, and was used in a Death in Paradise episode - a great Caribbean series for cozy mystery lovers.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Log Cabin Village, Fort Worth, Texas

Although there were a few rain clouds overhead, it was a nice day on Sunday for a walk along the Trinity River and visit to the Log Cabin Village. The wooden cabins have been moved from other locations, including the Parker family home, and now form a village with a blacksmith shop and grist mill. It's always interesting to see how pioneers lived and survived.