Friday, September 22, 2023

Montgomery Bonbon #1: Murder at the Museum (2023) by Alasdair Beckett-King: An Audiobook Review

Bonnie Montgomery is an ordinary 10-year-old girl who lives with her mother and grandpa Banks. But as soon as she's on a crime scene, with the help of a moustache, a beret, and foreign accent, voila... she would instantly transform into her alter ego: Montgomery Bonbon, the great detective.

πŸ•΅️‍♀️ On a visit to Hornville Museum, the power is suddenly off, and then, a horrible shriek. Montgomery Bonbon, accompanied by her—I mean his—accomplice (grandpa Banks) rushed to the crime scene, where a museum's staff was found murdered, and a rare exhibit was stolen.

πŸ•΅️‍♀️ Undeterred by the local police's effort to ban Montgomery Bonbon from the crime scene, Bonnie must count on her wit and deduction skill to solve the murder and the theft. It's easier said than done, for Montgomery Bonbon has had quite a few dangerous struggles, including interviewing the suspects, entering a closed scene, and snooping at private places, before his triumphant moment finally come

πŸ•΅️‍♀️ This was a refreshing, funny, fast-paced murder mystery for young readers. Montgomery Bonbon, the small moustachioed man with his foreign accent is not dissimilar to Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. Not just his appearance, but also his style of denouement in the end.

πŸ•΅️‍♀️ I loved every single moment of this story, especially when Montgomery Bonbon lost his moustache - I laughed out loud at that!! And that little cheeky moment at the end concerning the moustache, why, that's a clever touch, I say! The mystery itself was brilliantly written, clever solution, with a little theatrical drama which is not unlike Poirot's.

πŸ•΅️‍♀️ An added value to this delightful mystery: I listened to the audiobook, narrated by non-other than the writer himself: Alasdair Beckett-King! He isn't just a wonderful writer, but also a stand-up comedian and actor. Hence, this highly entertaining gem!

Rating: 5 / 5


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Mayhem in Circulation by Leah Dobrinska (A Larkspur Library Mystery #2)

Thanks to Level Best Books publisher and NetGalley for providing me a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

πŸ‚ Larkspur, a small lakeside town in Wisconsin, has lately been suffering from vandalism. Dead bird and egg yolks were found scattered on the road. And it happened just before the upcoming Fall Festival, not mentioning the tourism showcase Mayor Sandra Collins and team have been working very hard to prepare for.

πŸ‚ But that was just the beginning. The next day the mayor was found dead outside the municipal building, amidst graffiti paint. Even worse, it happens just when the reporter, who would do the town profile, arrives. Is it an accident? Or... murder?

πŸ‚ It's a murder alright. Inspector McHenry is handling the investigation, and Miss Greta Plank, the thirty-years-old Larkspur Library Director, isn't supposed to involve in anything concerning the murder. But, how can she do nothing when their beloved town is suffered? Greta is an amateur sleuth, and she has done some sleuthing before (in book one). Despite of McHenry's concerns of her safety, Greta does involve in the case. Suspicious (and often dangerous) things seem to be happening wherever she is. What's happening to this town? Who would do such an unthinkable thing? Is it an outsider's job? Or anyone of the community?

πŸ‚ Though I didn't start from book one, I could immediately feel transported to the Larkspur town from the start, with its warm friendly community vibes. I loved Greta's three supportive girlfriends, and of course, her budding romance with McHenry. I loved the witty banters the two exchanging during their investigation, and McHenry's reliable and protective support to Greta.

πŸ‚ Of the mystery itself, I liked how the suspicion were equally divided over some close suspects - each with few mysterious snippets of action or conversation, which kept the story run along smoothly, until the disappearance of one of Greta's friends. That's when the story changed gear, from a sinister atmosphere to a truly murderous danger.

πŸ‚ All in all, it's an enjoyable, charming, unputdownable cozy mystery - a perfect autumn read! I couldn't guess the murderer; it's a little bit surprising. I loved particularly how the writer made Larkspur, the town, become a unique character in this story. The other characters are believable, like what you'd expect in a small town, where gossips, friendship, and jealousy are bound to surface. It's not difficult to guess that I'd be waiting expectantly for the next book!

Rating: 4,5 / 5

**Mayhem in Circulation (A Larkspur Library Mystery #2) will be published on 5th December 2023.


Monday, September 18, 2023

The Crooked Wreath aka Suddenly at His Residence (1946) by Christianna Brand

πŸ–Ό️ The Crooked Wreath is book #3 of Inspector Cockrill series. It was originally published in the UK by different title: Suddenly at His Residence. I have ranted before on how publishers annoyingly change titles when publishing cross country. For this book, however, I prefer the US title: The Crooked Wreath. I happened to listen to the audiobook version with the same title. 'Suddenly at His Residence' seems to reveal too much of the book. By reading the title, I immediately guessed the victim-to-be; it must be a wealthy man. The crime is perhaps within the family, and the motive would be inheritance. And so it is what the book is about!

πŸ–Ό️ Sir Richard Marsh is a wealthy man; the owner of Swanswater estate, but he's turned a bitter man. When his wife, Serafita, was still alive, he had cheated on her. After her death, Sir Richard married Bella, his mistress. But, perhaps out of guilt, he made in his house a shrine for Serafita, complete with her portrait, and a wreath. Her ballet shoes were also kept around the house (she was a ballerina). Every anniversary of her death, he made his family gather around this shrine to do a kind of memorial ceremony. And so, long after her death, Serafita is still 'resided' in her house.

πŸ–Ό️ This year his grandchildren attend the memorial. There are Philip, with his wife Ellen, Claire (who is having an affair with Philip), and Peta. Those three are his grandchildren by his deceased wife. Also attend the service are Edward, his grandson by Bella; and Sir Richard's young lawyer, Stephen, who is in love with Peta. Annoyed by these young people's lack of respect, Sir Richard threatened to disinherit them.

πŸ–Ό️ On that fatal night Sir Richard spent the night at the lodge, where, he spitefully stated, he would make a new will. The next morning, the family found him dead of poisoning, while the will was nowhere to be found. No one could have entered the lodge that night because the gravel path was freshly rolled by the gardener. And when his body was first found, the path was still pristine. How, then, the murder could have been done?

πŸ–Ό️ Inspector Cockrill is investigating the case, however, his role in the story was passive - too passive for a detective story. The deduction was mostly done by the suspects. They alternately come up with solutions of who must have been the murderer, and how it must have been done. It means that we get to suspect each of the family member along the story, and each of them is quite plausible.

πŸ–Ό️ This story reminds me of Heads You Lose; closed-circle of suspect (within the family); Cockrill's passive involvement and his good relationship with the family; and the psychological suspense in the end. This one's ending is unsettling, though. Cockrill relies too much on the suspects, I think it would've been better had the story been without detective. And the dramatic, theatrical ending is rather unreal for me. It could be good for a Hollywood movie, but rather unsuited for the tone of the whole story.

πŸ–Ό️ To conclude, it is an intriguing locked-room mystery, brilliantly written, but with unsettling ending, and lack of detective role.

Rating: 3,5 / 5

For Bingo Card: Locked Room Mystery 

Friday, September 15, 2023

Murder in a French Village (2023) by Merryn Allingham (Flora Steele Mystery #7)

Thanks to Bookouture publisher and NetGalley for providing me a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

πŸ’™ The seventh instalment of Flora Steele Mystery series - a cozy mysteries set on the 1950s - follows another sleuthing adventure of Flora and Jack Carrington, this time farther away from their little village of Abbeymead. Flora is a bookshop owner, while Jack is a crime writer, and through the previous six books they had been both partners in crime and, ahem... a couple in the making.

πŸ’™ The story opens when two women were crossing the busy street of Paris, when a black car suddenly jumped from a traffic light queue, hit one of them to death, then drove away. The survived woman is none other than Sybil Carrington, Jack's estranged mother. She summoned Jack to come to Paris, as she's convinced the incident was a deliberate murder, and SHE was the intended target.

πŸ’™ Stunned but intrigued, Jack left for France, accompanied by Flora, who has her own unfinished business of solving the mystery of her parents' tragic death in France when she was a kid.

πŸ’™ Sybil lives in Provence with a wealthy Italian count called Massimo Falconi. Lately she's been a victim of various incidents, which she claims, done by the count's family, who want her to leave him. Is this true? Or is it just a woman's paranoia? And Sybil's friend's death, is it not pure accident?

πŸ’™ Staying at the count's chateau in a small village in Provence, Flora and Jack feel the hostile atmosphere of the household. Then small incidents start to happen. Even Jack and Flora are now targeted for some of them. Are they just coincidences? Or is there a murderer lurking inside the chateau? And what is the motive? Jealousy from the ex-wife? Or inheritance?

πŸ’™ This was my second read of the series. I've read the first one: The Bookshop Murder in June, which I loved very much, and ready to read more. But ever since, I couldn't find any e-book of the rest (book 2 to 6). I don't know why, but it's pretty annoying! I wish the publisher Bookouture would soon make the digital edition available.

πŸ’™ Anyway, Murder in a French Village is a very engaging read. First of all, due to several minor incidents that scattered along the story, we are provided with a handful of suspects. Moreover, with each incident, more clues are revealed itself. It was exciting to keep guessing who could have done this and that, as we know little by little. more secrets of everyone. Then another thing would happen, that the one we were currently suspecting couldn't have done it, so we suspected another one, and so on. Each suspect is equally explored, which made it more difficult to guess whodunnit until the climax. At least, I couldn't guess, though I have suspected the murderer earlier, along with the others.

πŸ’™ I also love how Allingham explores Flora's personal struggle about her late parents. It adds a deeper touch to this cozy mystery, and made me connected more with Flora and Jack. Speaking of the couple, I love how their relationship also develops along the story. I loved them from book one, they have a strong chemistry from the start.

πŸ’™ Although I would've preferred the mystery to be set in Abbeymead - a cozy mystery in a cozy English village is always superb, n'est pas? - it is probably quite refreshing (and necessary for the series development) to see Flora and Jack going abroad and have more time with each other alone. Now I can't wait to read the next book, which, judging from an exciting news that came in the end, would most probably be set in Abbeymead, with a literary touch! I miss seeing Flora riding Becky (her bike) to deliver books to her customers, or Jack typing manuscript for his next book!

Rating: 4,5 / 5

**The Murder in a French Village (Flora Steele Mystery #7) will be published on 30th October 2023.


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Shelf Control #5: My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George)

Shelf Control is a weekly feature created by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. Since early January 2023, Shelf Control has moved base to Literary Potpourri.

This week I pick an e-book I've been keeping for a while:

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Summary from Goodreads:
"Every kid thinks about running away at one point or another; few get farther than the end of the block. Young Sam Gribley gets to the end of the block and keeps going--all the way to the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. There he sets up house in a huge hollowed-out tree, with a falcon and a weasel for companions and his wits as his tool for survival. In a spellbinding, touching, funny account, Sam learns to live off the land, and grows up a little in the process. Blizzards, hunters, loneliness, and fear all battle to drive Sam back to city life. But his desire for freedom, independence, and adventure is stronger. No reader will be immune to the compulsion to go right out and start whittling fishhooks and befriending raccoons."

I am a bird-lover, and most recently started to compile a list of bird-theme books. It's not much, as I prefer novels with birds as character, rather than how-to-non-fictions of birdwatching or its kind. Right now, I'm just excited to read this one.

Have you read this book? Or do you know bird-theme books I might like?


Monday, September 11, 2023

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie (A Re-read)

πŸ“š Retired Colonel and Mrs. Bantry are a respectable couple in the little village of St. Mary Mead. When a body of a stranger (a young woman) was found in their library, Mrs. Bantry was afraid that scandal will hit her husband hard. So, she quickly asked her friend, Mrs. Marple, to investigate the murder.

πŸ“š The young woman isn't the regular set of village girl. She's rather extraordinary - with heavy make-up, platinum-blonde hair, and silver-spangled dress. Does she have something to do with Basil Blake, a film worker who's just moved in? No, he said he didn't know her. She was finally identified as Ruby Keene, a dancer, by her cousin. But who murdered her? And how and why did her body appear in Colonel Bantry's library?

πŸ“š Ruby's missing was first reported by Conway Jefferson, a crippled wealthy man who's in the process of adopting Ruby, as he's disappointed with his own nearest family (son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and step grandson). Is this the murder motive the police (Superintendent Harper) is looking for

πŸ“š In order to investigate, Mrs. Bantry and Miss Marple is staying at Hotel Majestic, where Ruby worked, and Conway Jefferson stayed. It was here that most of the investigations are going on. Then a second murder happened. A women's body was found inside a burnt car. The car belongs to a man who's staying in the hotel. Are the two murders connected?

πŸ“š This mystery seems simple at first, but it gets more complicated along the way. Miss Marple takes quite an active role in the investigation, thanks to her sharp observation. Small trifles like the dead girl's bitten fingernails proved to be one of the key-clues to this complicated mystery with few twists. An enjoyable read for fans of Golden Age detective stories.

Rating: 4 / 5

For Bingo Card: Re-Read
For Monthly Theme: Books by Agatha Christie


Friday, September 8, 2023

Away with the Penguins (2020) by Hazel Prior

🐧 First of all, Away with the Penguins is the same book as How the Penguins Saved Veronica; the first is the UK title, the latter, the US one (isn't it annoying how publishers keep changing titles? I think they should keep the original one, except for translation - and they, too, should translate from the original title). But let's put that aside, and let the book itself shines, because it is quite marvellous!

🐧 Veronica McCreedy is eighty-five years old lady - a curmudgeonly tough old nut who lives alone with an assistant in Scotland. Though physically declining, her spirit still brightly shines. She is rich but doesn't have any family left to bequeath it to. Or so she thought.

🐧 Now what she needs is to transfer what's left in her into a worthy cause, like what her father had always taught her. And she's found one: penguins! But first thing's first: she needs to make sure she didn't have any family left. A hired agent gave her the confirmation: she has a grandson she never knew, the son of her longtime estranged and dead son!

🐧 Patrick Fuller grew up hating his father for leaving his vulnerable mother in the lurch, when Patrick was a baby. Now he's an unkempt young man without purpose, semi-addicted to dope after his girlfriend left him for another man. It is in this condition that Veronica McCreedy suddenly entered his life as a grandmother he never knew he had.

🐧 Their first meeting is very awkward. Two opposite people from two very different generations, who keep their own bitter secrets, with only one thread connect them: a Joe Fuller, or Enzo, the son Veronica must give up long ago, and a father Patrick grew up hating - well, it's almost impossible to unite them. But nature always has its unique healing quality. In this case, it is represented by the penguins.

🐧 Three scientists do research on how to save Penguins in a colony in Antarctica, but they are in financial difficulty. Veronica is eager to leave her money for this research, and despite the scientist team's warning that their quarter is by no means adequate to accommodate an elderly, Veronica stubbornly comes to Antarctica to see the penguins. What'll happen next? Will Veronica change the penguins? Or is it her life that will be changed by the penguins? And how about her relationship with Patrick?

🐧 This is one of the most wholesome, heartwarming books I've read lately. I loved how the story is told alternately from Veronica's and Patrick's views. It provides the reader outlets to get to know each character more intimately. Then, Terry's (one of the scientists) blogging about penguin adds a charming aspect of the penguin's cause. One of interesting things I learned is that penguins are used by scientists as indicator of ecosystem changes. On the whole, it is a refreshing and entertaining novel, beautifully written - sometimes touching, sometimes funny. Oh, and I adore Pip, the little penguin. Prior wrote the novel so vividly that I felt like seeing cute Pip alive, while occasionally petting him!

Rating: 5 / 5