Ace Carroway and the Deadly Violin by Guy Worthey

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received an advance reading copy of this book for an honest review.

Ace Carroway and the Deadly Violin by Guy Worthey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

So! What’s up next for Great-War-pilot-turned-crime-investigator Cecilia “Ace” Carroway and her motley crew of detectives at C. Carroway and Associates? Violinist P. Charles Derkin comes seeking the agency’s assistance, convinced that his violin will soon bring him to the same terrible fate as the instrument’s two previous, deceased owners in Ace Carroway and the Deadly Violin by author Guy Worthey.

For the record, cursed or haunted spooky-spooky stuff isn’t my go-to kind of reading, so if you’re like me, don’t be spooked-out by the skull on the book cover. While a character or two may be terrified at certain times here, this tale isn’t terrifying.

Just like the earlier books I’ve read in The Adventures of Ace Carroway series, reading this sixth book was like meeting up with a gang of old pals. Good ol’ Bert and Quack especially are in fine, hilarious form in this one!

Sharp, intrepid, multitalented Ace sure has picked a fitting career for herself, giving her the chance to strategize and innovate, to help folks in distress, and to fly high and kick some bad-guy patootie. And yeah, she has her moments of misfirings, shyness, and embarrassment, so hey. She isn’t too perfect, which would get annoying.

And I actually saw one of the twists coming this time before Ace and the fellas did. Score ten points for me! (Ahem.)

This author’s clever and zany style keeps me on my toes, and I can’t wait for Book Seven.

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Here’s my review of Book One in the series, Ace Carroway and the Great War.

 

Phoebe’s Christmas by Sydney Tooman Betts

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received an advance reading copy of this book, for which I’ve given an honest review.

Phoebe’s Christmas by Sydney Tooman Betts

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Phoebe goes off to spend the Christmas season as a companion to a wealthy, aging, rather suspicious widow and the widow’s relatives. Phoebe’s new position gives her a chance to form some new friendships, and to resume an old one. But her place on the household staff also brings her close to what could be someone’s very real murder plans in Phoebe’s Christmas by author Sydney Tooman Betts.

Now, I make it no secret that I normally don’t mix murder themes and Christmas in my reading, for my own Yuletide-loving reasons. Even so, as I’d already enjoyed the first book in this ChristFic series, and I trusted this author’s judgment in the handling of the tone, I took a chance on this holiday novella.

It isn’t exactly the most Christmassy of Christmas tales, though I did get a kick out of a sleigh ride and some boughs of holly. But in general, this longtime historical fiction fan really enjoyed the read.

Granted, I had some trouble keeping all the characters straight at first. But the unfolding of the plot gradually engrossed me, the gripping climax put me on edge and gave me inner chills, and the appearance of a biblical theme I’m quite fond of (Who is my neighbor?) got a genuine “Gloraaaay!” out of me. A-hem.

I’d recommend reading Phoebe’s previous mystery before plunging into this one. Still, if you’re not a stickler about reading a series in order (I’m not always) and you’d appreciate a winter mystery with faith woven in, I wouldn’t stop you from picking this one up.

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Here’s what I had to say about Phoebe’s first mystery, Phoebe’s Secret.

 

Deadly Pearls by Miranda Atchley

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received an advance review copy of this book for an honest review.

Deadly Pearls by Miranda Atchley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Fiona had big dreams when she left her native Ireland, but her experience so far in Jazz Age New York isn’t what she imagined life in America would be like. Max has been living as unadventurous a life as possible since he fought in the Great War and lost so many of his comrades. Neither Fiona nor Max would have foreseen they’d one day have a shared mission to solve a murder case in Deadly Pearls by author Miranda Atchley.

I was drawn to this ChristFic historical mystery novel as soon as I heard about it. The essence of the big-city, Roaring Twenties setting is clear throughout the story, and I liked the heroine most during her sleuthing scenes. Themes of prejudice and classism are important to the plot, and I appreciate how a key romantic thread here isn’t rushed or forced.

Now, I would’ve liked if there’d been more originality to the (sometimes repetitive) phrasing and descriptions rather than several of the clichés, it seems the story is pretty preoccupied with a lot of blue and green eyes, and some of the supporting cast would have needed a little more dimension to go beyond being expected “character types” to me. Also, I prefer when sleuths or detectives figure out a little more in a mystery rather than the villian doing much of the explaining with a long monologue in the end.

Even so, I found this to be an entertaining and worthwhile opening to an upcoming series, and plenty of other ChristFic mystery fans should enjoy this one.

 

Script for Scandal by Renee Patrick

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Script for Scandal by Renee Patrick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

It’s 1939 in Hollywood, and costume designer Edith Head lets her friend, Lillian Frost, know about a script for an upcoming film. The story is based on a real-life bank robbery, and to Lillian’s horror, the character based on her detective beau, Gene Morrow, is the crooked, murderous cop in all of it in Script for Scandal by authors Renee Patrick.

So! It was a little strange diving into this third Lillian Frost & Edith Head mystery, written with British punctuation and spelling and no page breaks between chapters, after reading the first two novels with American English and chapter breaks. But those technical differences weren’t as important as my interest in this continuing series and the story at hand.

Like its predecessors, this novel has its share of real figures from Hollywood’s Golden Age, the glamour of it all balanced with its seamier side, and Lillian’s first-person narration has dry, clever irony throughout, which sometimes smooths into dry comedy.

Now, it took me longer to get through this read than I’d anticipated. The unfolding of the plot was slow for me in places, my prior history with the main characters being what urged me to continue. Also, in connection with something I said in my review of Book Two (“…one of [Lillian’s] love interests isn’t compelling enough to make me see why he’s still in the running for her”), I think it’s now safe to say outright that I’m still not a fan of Gene as a beau for Lillian.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the twists as the mystery got down to the nitty-gritty, and I’m already ready for a Book Four of this series from the married duo of authors behind the pseudonym Renee Patrick.

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Note to my blog readers: this book contains some innuendo and also has a moderate amount of language I wouldn’t use.

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Here’s my review of the first Lillian Frost & Edith Head novel, Design for Dying.