book review, Children's Fiction, Fiction, murder, Mystery Review, youth fiction

Speaking From Among the Bones

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Speaking From Among the Bones
A Flavia De Luce Novel

 

Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, 2013

 

From the back of the book: “Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they’re found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sister’s diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies. Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of Saint Tancred’s death, the English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked. Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there’s no such thing as an open-and-shut case.”

 

You’ve probably guessed by now that I am a fan of Flavia de Luce. She is funny, brilliant, bold and a real smart-a**. But she is also vulnerable to her sister’s vicious and hurtful attacks – so much so that she alternates between wanting to poison them and wanting to love them. She never really goes through with any of her diabolical plans, but it’s fun to read her plans for them. Her true love are poisons and she thinks about them all the time. I have to share this quote with you, it’s so “Flavia”: “Whenever I’m a little blue I think about cyanide, whose color so perfectly reflects my mood. It is pleasant to think that the manioc plant, which grows in Brazil, contains enormous quantities of the stuff in its thirty pound roots, all of which, unfortunately, is washed away before the residue is used to make our daily tapioca.”

 

In this book, Flavia cycles her way through the English countryside, crawls through an open grave into a tunnel that goes under the graveyard to the church and, of course, is almost killed (she rescues herself!). Through it all she keeps herself motivated even when the police tell her to stay away, when her sisters bring her to tears and her father forbids her to leave the house. The murder itself happens before the book opens, there are a couple acts of mild violence and some shocking news at the very end of the book (no spoilers!). As always, this book is for middle-grade readers of all ages, especially those who like strong female characters and cozy mysteries.

 

Rating: 4-daisy-rating

 

Reviewer: DebbyDebby 2
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book review, cattle mutilation, electrocution, Fiction, kidnapping, Mystery Review, Nebraska, school outbreak, suspense

Hotwire: A Maggie O’Dell Novel

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I’d been in a dry spell, with nothing good to read, when a coworker recommended Alex Kava.   The novel I chose to read by Kava was Hotwire : A Maggie O’Dell Novel.

Maggie O’Dell is a FBI agent, who as the story opens, has been asked to speak at a conference on her specialty: forensics. But when she arrives in rural Nebraska, Maggie receives a call from her boss telling her to put the conference on hold a day to help  local law enforcement.  In many small midwestern towns cows often outnumber the people living there. This makes it difficult for these towns to afford their own forensic departments, so they must rely on state and federal  resources for assistance. That said, Maggie finds it odd to be called on to investigate a cow mutilation.  Even more unusual is the fact the carcass is completely drained of blood, with one eye missing and the poor animal’s legs raised towards the sky.

What is thought to be a government cover-up by the cattle ranchers, and part alien invasion by more creative residents, has Maggie stumped. And when local teenagers begin to die under mysterious circumstances Maggie decides to stay on to further her investigation, conference or no.  Later, when the body of yet another teen is found she is so puzzled  Maggie feels the need for a break.  Running down a secluded country road Maggie turns to see an old truck pulling to a stop at the top a hill. It guns its’ motor. Within seconds Maggie is run down, electrocuted, and kidnapped.

Meanwhile, across the country a strange outbreak occurs in Norfolk, VA and moves through several schools, making elementary students violently ill.  Maggie’s boyfriend, Colonel Benjamin Platt races the clock to discover just what is making the children sick, and hopefully discover an antidote.

How the author links these seemingly random events makes Hotwire an exciting read. Maggie O’Dell is a resourceful character with lots of experience from which to draw and being independent as well means she doesn’t depend on her boyfriend to rescue her from the kidnappers.

I enjoyed Hotwire.  It was a fun, fast-paced novel, with enough science and real life scenarios to keep me guessing.  While the epilogue didn’t pull all the events together as well as I would have liked, I was still satisfied with the results.  I plan to read another Maggie O’Dell novel, just to see what happens next!

4-daisy-rating

Reviewed by Leigh

leigh-21

alex
Alex Kava

 

book review, Children's Fiction, murder, Mystery Review, youth fiction

The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

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The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
A Flavia de Luce Mystery
 
Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House, 2010
 
From the inside front dust jacket: “Flavia de Luce, a dangerously brilliant eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders….finds herself untangling two deaths—separated by time but linked by the unlikeliest of threads. … Astride Gladys, her trusty bicycle, Flavia sets out from the de Luces’ crumbling family mansion in search of Bishop’s Lacey’s deadliest secrets. Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What of the vicar’s odd ministrations of the catatonic woman in the dovecote? Then there’s a German pilot obsessed with the Bronte’ sisters, a reproachful spinster aunt and even a box of poisoned chocolates. Most troubling of all is … the charming but erratic Nialla. All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help.”
 
After reading the first book in this series (The Sweetness as the Bottom of the Pie) I wasn’t too sure I’d read the rest – there was a lot of chemistry in the book and I’m not big on chemistry. But I decided to give it a go and I’m glad I did. Set in 1950s rural England, this book is full of charm and wit – and a good mystery that had me guessing until the end. This is the 2nd book but could easily stand alone. There are a brief mentions of the incidents in the previous book but thankfully, this book doesn’t stand on those shoulders.  I love how Flavia talks to herself, offering encouragement along the way (“Bravo, old girl! You can do it!”). At home she has to contend with her older – and meaner – sisters, Feely (Ophelia) and Daffy (Daphne), a mostly absent father, and the emotional-ghost of her long dead mother. 
 
There are two murders, one in the past, one happens within the current timeline, but the details are neither gory or gruesome. There is some talk of illicit affairs,  an unwed pregnancy, and the cultivation and partaking of “Indian hemp” (cannabis)  –  which I found very surprising but not offensive – at least to my sensibilities. This book is targeted toward middle grade readers but anyone can read it and enjoy trying to figure out the mystery.
 
If your middle-grader is looking for a good mystery with a brilliant female protagonist, this is the perfect book! Chemistry lessons included for free!!
Rating: 4 daisy rating
Debby 2 Reviewer: Debby
 
autism, book review, cross dressing, disappearance, mental illness, murder, Mystery Review, psychology, siblings

In The Blood

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“I am a person with secrets. And I guard them carefully. Keep them locked in a box inside myself. I rarely opened the lid of my psyche to look inside…shame was a thick cloak that I wrapped around myself and hid beneath. It was dark and lonely but at least it was safe.”

Dear Reader,

From the first page of In the Blood, I was captivated by the story of Lana Granger, whose father murdered her mother and enlisted the help of his young child to conceal the deed. Lana, now an adult at Sacred Heart College, learns her trust fund is drying up – at least until her 30th birthday. She accepts a position babysitting Luke, a young boy with whom Lana develops an immediate connection.

As Luke draws Lana into his disturbing world, the hidden events of Lana’s past threaten to immerge and when Lana’s best friend Beck disappears, all eyes turn in Lana’s direction. Her roommate Ainsley, Beck’s parents, and even the police suspect Lana knows more than she is saying. But if Lana comes clean, if she tells, her carefully constructed persona will collapse, pulling Lana down in its’ wake. Lana Granger has lied so much, and her past is so deeply hidden, even she can barely discern the truth.

Lisa Unger’s In the Blood is a thriller with a very dark side. The book is not gory nor is it filled with a horrific description of events, but it is psychologically gripping. Unger is very skilled at creating tension, fear, and concern for her characters. If you want a delicious guilty pleasure read, this is it.

daisy 4daisy 4daisy 4daisy 4daisy 4

Reviewer:  Leigh

leigh 2

book review, Mystery Review

No Cats Allowed

no cats allowed

No Cats Allowed
A Cat in the Stacks Mystery

Miranda James
Berkley Prime Crime, 2016

I have been on the waiting list since February for this book – maybe even earlier – and was not disappointed in having to wait so long! Another cozy mystery starring the beautiful Maine Coon, Diesel and his human, Charlie Harris. Charlie works as an archivist in the library of Athena College in Athena, Mississippi cataloging rare books and collections. He loves his job and takes Diesel with him every day – in fact Diesel goes with him practically everywhere in town! The library has a new interim director, Oscar Reilly, whom everyone loves to hate. He is an obnoxious, know-it-all bully and has no problem stirring up trouble wherever he goes. Is it any wonder he gets murdered? After a couple of chapters of his noxious nonsense even I was ready for him to be killed off! As in the previous Diesel mysteries, murders  just seem to follow Charlie around and he is on hand to help the local cops figure it all out.

This is another fun book to read. I had my suspensions early on who the killer might be; I think the author made it a little too obvious in this one. But that didn’t stop my enjoyment of reading the book. Even though I figured out who did it, I didn’t know why so that was a mystery until the end!! I enjoyed getting caught up with the familiar characters from the other books and reading how their literary lives are moving on. I’m hoping Charlie and Helen Louise finally get married in the next book and it’s a shame I’ll have to wait a year or so to find out!! I love this series and haven’t come across a bad one in the bunch!!

Rating: 4 daisy rating

Reviewer: Debby

Debby 2