Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Killing in the Cafe: A Fethering Mystery by Simon Brett

The Killing in the Cafe: A Fethering Mystery. Severn House Publishers. March 2016. 192 pp.  ISBN#: 9781780290812.

Polly’s Cake Shop is a village bakery shop that is pure delectable muffins and pastries and a comforting place to spend some time with several cups of tea and one of the desserts.  It now appears it’s up for sale and it’s owner is the epitome of apathy when it comes to the sale of the shop, seeing it as time to end the financial venture and get out with as much money as she can get from the sale. 

The end of this business winds up compelling many residents of the town to form an action committee to save the shop, lest a commercial Starbucks wind up replacing the cozy little restaurant.  It’s a bizarre bunch of characters comprising this venture, but their goal is to have a group of volunteers take over running the same cake shop business as a community venture.  As members vie for control, the committee and other town residents are shocked to find a murder has occurred in their village.  Jude winds up being snagged to run the shop and Carole has mixed feelings about the whole affair.  This is the 17th mystery that Jude and Carole, two friends of opposite character types, set out to solve.

Rather coincidentally, along comes an unknown business entrepreneur who volunteers to cash the renovation necessary for the project.  At first, the murdered man with a bullet in his temple is unknown but very quickly is identified and our two heroines begin to explore his background, as well as the original owner of the cake shop and some other connected characters.

The Killing in the CafĂ©… is an old-fashioned, clever mystery that keeps the reader guessing all the way to the end.  The quirkiness of the characters lends to the intrigue of it all and the who-done-it, eerie quality remains to the very surprising end.  Relationships run awry motivate the crime and provide a satisfying end that is ironic indeed! This is a stand-alone story but will make many readers want to read the other mystery novels in this series! Nicely plotted, Simon Brett.

Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

Into the Dim.  Janet B. Taylor. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. March 2016. 432 pp.  ISBN#: 9780544602007.

Hope Walton up to now has lived a very controlled life.  Her mother insists Hope be home-schooled as she has a photographic mind, remembering absolutely everything she reads.  Now, however, her mother has been gone for six months, believed to have died in a terrible earthquake.  Hope’s father has quickly remarried and it’s quite clear his new bride indicates it would be better to lose the burden of a grieving, angry daughter.  Hope therefore reluctantly accepts the invitation to visit her mother’s family in Scotland.  The shocking details she receives soon after arrival there plummet her into a phenomenal journey that will challenge everything she thinks she knows.

Hope’s Scottish family call themselves the Viators, those who have the ability and materials to travel backward in time.  Hope discovers this fact by accident when she is wandering throughout her aunt’s home and finds basement rooms full of clothing, jewelry, weapons and other artifacts from the 12th Century.  Hope will be shocked beyond words to learn a secret that compels her to travel back to that time of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine.  She and her relatives who travel with her have two quests to complete – to find a certain person and to secure an ancient stone with extremely special powers. 

To no surprise, another family member, who is a sworn enemy of Hope’s aunt, heads another group with the same purposes but with questionable purposes, ends that could literally change the entire history of mankind if successfully completed.

Before she left on the terrifying journey back in time, Hope had met a young teen who seemed the only person on earth to treat her as a friend.  Now she will meet him in the 12th Century and is quite unsure whether he is friend or foe.

In the court of Henry and Elizabeth, Hope will win both support and starkly hostile opposition.  Who prevails in this war is what drives the complex plot of this time travel novel that reflects a personal and historical war.  Plenty of fierce action, dialogue and description pack these pages and keep the reader riveted until the last surprising pages!  Even a few obviously contrived scenes won’t stop the reader’s total engagement and desire to see how this tale unfolds.  There’s an indication as well that this is only the first novel in what will be a series! Nice!

The Promise of Forgiveness: A Novel by Marin Thomas

The Promise of Forgiveness: A Novel.  Marin Thomas. Penguin Group (USA). March 2016. 352 pp.  ISBN#: 9780451476296.

Ruby, now aged 31, seems to be a natural magnet for loser men.  As a result her daughter Mia is one angry teenager convinced her mother is totally selfish and has never given one thought to what Mia thinks or feels about their unstable life.  Her plan was to move to Kansas for a fresh start where she could focus specifically on her daughter’s upbringing. However, now Ruby has received a lawyer’s note telling her to come to see her real father, Hank McArthur, in the town of Unforgiven, Oklahoma.  The town’s name is obviously contrived but clearly appropriately named.  Ruby is distressed as she resents that her natural parents gave her up for adoption.  Meeting Hank, Ruby is determined to give him no easy way to her heart.

Little does Ruby or any reader, for that matter, realize that little by little, Mia and Hank begin to form a natural grandfather and granddaughter relationship.  Both are tart of tongue and Mia seems seriously concerned about the poor state of Hank’s health.  Hank would like Ruby to inherit his oil ranch but it seems someone else has different plans as different “accidents” start happening.  Mia is the smart one who senses someone else with devious ideas is orchestrating the mishaps.

Joe, a ranch hand, and Ruby begin to hit it off, but both have past stories that need to be released before they can let go to care for each other.  Mia, on the other hand, has Hank’s passionate love for horses.  He begins to teach Mia how to train them and care for them as the precious possessions these horses are.  This is really the highlight of this beautiful novel, filled with tender, funny and poignant moments the reader will love!

The Promise of Forgiveness is wonderful, contemporary fiction that is more than pleasing reading and memorable for the evolution of love that gradually but potently emerges! Very nicely done, Ms. Thomas!