The Cater Street Hangman (Charlotte and Thomas Pitt #1) by Anne Perry

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I’ve read several books in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, but somehow I’ve never managed to read the first one. Well, I’ve managed to correct that! As per usual with this series I listened to it on audiobook, which is what took me so long since I haven’t been driving as much in the summer. Davina Porter did another fantastic job with the narration as I’ve come to expect from her.

The story follows the Ellison family (Charlotte’s family) as they begin to deal with a hangman killing females on a street away. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the killings, just a single female, strangled and mutilated in the night. First it was a maid from another house, then the daughter of a close friend, then another maid from their house, slowly getting closer and closer to their lives. Inspector Thomas Pitt is assigned to the case and regularly interacts with the family in his pursuit of the killer. In doing so, he becomes more and more enamored with Charlotte, as she deals with her own feelings and the crazy family drama that is erupting around her, mostly from her two sisters and her grandmother.

The story is not completely full of twists and turns, but the ones that do occur are quite surprising. I didn’t see the answer until almost right before it was revealed. You meet a multitude of characters, some interesting, some annoying, all well developed, and are pulled in to the world of the upper class. It is interesting to watch the upper and lower classes meet through Thomas Pitt.

This book is a definite ode to the series and a great starting point. I can see why all the other stories are so well developed and unique because this book is what started them all. The story line is unique in its obstacles and turns, but also somewhat mundane. There are the things you expect to happen, but they either happen in a way you didn’t expect or they happen and have an effect on other events that you didn’t expect. I’m not sure I explained that right but I can’t seem to think of another way to say it…

Anyway, if you’ve never read this series, feel free to start right here at the beginning. This is a definite must for any historical mystery readers. Also, any readers who enjoy murder mysteries or are getting into murder mysteries, this is a fantastic read. There are no gory details or steamy scenes. It is a romance, but only as a secondary, possibly tertiary story line. Also, anyone who likes historical fiction, probably not 100% accurate mind you, would also really like this read. I’m glad I finally took the time to read it. I was honestly ecstatic how surprising it turned out.

My rating:

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Bag of Bones by Stephen King

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This was the first Stephen King book I’d ever read. My husband loves Stephen King, but I can’t stay this particular was a favorite for either of us.

The story follows Mike, a writer, after his wife passes away. He moves to their lake house and things get a little…ghosty. He begins to get mysterious messages on his fridge, hears children crying in his house, and knows he isn’t alone in the house. He meets Mattie and her daughter, who are currently fighting a custody battle with Mattie’s father-in-law. The further the book goes on, the more Mike helps Mattie and the more he looks into the mysterious disappearance of Sarah Laughs, a black singer who used to own his house. The two interests collide in unexpected ways and there are numerous twists and turns throughout the story before coming to its rather brutal ending.

So, the first thing that ticked me off was his over-description of certain events that didn’t actually have anything to do with the story. Fortunately, this was primarily at the beginning and faded after a couple chapters. The second thing that kind of annoyed me was how obsessed Mike became with wanting to sleep with Mattie. I know he was a guy and all, but even my husband said it was kind of extreme. The third thing is that there was a lot of violence. I can’t say there was a whole lot of it, the majority of it was only eluded to or implied, however there were a couple particularly violent scenes. Overall, though, the book is just…dark.

There were a lot of difficult topics the book addressed as well, but they were handled really well I think. Racism, small town loyalty, egoism, arson, demonic possession they were all present in the book, but woven into the story line brilliantly to serve a purpose. I can’t say I was a fan of these items while reading, but they painted a true picture of what dealing with the issues is like.

Also, what kept me going in this book was the writing. I mentioned before that he was over-descriptive with things that didn’t pertain to the story line. However, once he got to the story line, the amount of detail and his phrasing sucked you right in and made you feel like you were Mike, you were living this crazy, paranormally-twisted world. I mean it was brilliantly written. If I pick up another Stephen King book, it will be because of how he writes.

Overall, I would have to just say that I wasn’t a big fan of the story line, but the book was amazingly well written. If anyone likes ghost mysteries, horror, murder mysteries, or psychological thrillers, this is a definite read. It’s a little longer than a standard novel, but shorter than most of Stephen King’s other works. If you aren’t too keen on violence, particularly towards women, this is probably a pass. Also, this would be a good read for ghost story readers. Lots of ghost action going on here – LOTS. It made some of the events really interesting to have the ghosts involved, particularly some of the back story. However, if you are just getting into Stephen King, I don’t think this would be a book I’d recommend, start with The Shining instead is what my husband suggests.

My rating:

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A Murder is Announced (Miss Marple #5) by Agatha Christie

MURDER IS ANNOUNCED

So this was my first Miss Marple book by Agatha Christie. I had read several of her other books, but none from the Miss Marple series. I can’t say I was disappointed. There were twists and turns, hilarious and interesting characters, and a rather original story line that I have come to expect from Agatha Christie.

The story follows an announcement in the local newspaper about a murder that is going to occur at one of the local houses that night. Friends and townspeople that read it believe it to be a joke or a murder mystery dinner and decide to stop by. At the appointed time, the lights go out, shots ring out, and a dead body is found. From there, the story unfolds as they investigate the dead man and who might have wanted to murder him.

Miss Marple shows up about a third of the way into the story actually, after the investigators have already started their work. There is a continuous series of twists and turns that you don’t expect. The array of characters makes the book lively as well. The majority are elderly women, but their interactions, reactions, and behavior are all fascinating. The story doesn’t stop at one dead body either. There is quite a rampage that goes on. The most amusing character was the maid – she was one of those people that are hilarious to read or watch but would be so very annoying to live with.

The characters and story line are extremely well developed and in no way are they predictable. From mysteriously oiled doors to distant heirs, the story moved very well and kept you guessing most of the time. Miss Marple reminded me some of Sherlock Holmes, but she was more present in the moment. She was sociable with the characters and seemed to get everywhere she wasn’t supposed to. I had not even guessed at who the real killer was until almost the exact moment it was revealed in the book.

I’d definitely recommend this to murder mystery fans. Aside from murder, the book is very cleanly written – no swearing or sexual scenes. It keeps you interested and guessing about the murder the majority of the time with the added bonus of being amused by the characters. Very well done. I will be reading another of this series in the future.

My rating:

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The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

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Since I discovered I greatly enjoy Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries, I went with this book as my next read because it sounded interesting. I was not disappointed. Like the other books, there were several twists and turns and all the little clues factored in to the final reveal of the murderer. I have to say I actually like these books a little more than Sherlock Holmes stories.

The book is written mostly from the perspective of Hercule Poirot’s good friend Captain Hastings. The premise for the book begins with Hercule Poirot receiving a letter about an imminent event that Mr. Poirot will be involved in and signed with the anonymous signature A.B.C. The event is a murder. Not a high-profile, sensational murder, but a crime against a lone shopkeeper that barely gets its own article in the newspaper. Thus begins a series of murders committed in alphabetical order (both the person’s name and the town) with letters sent ahead of time in warning.

You meet a host of interesting characters, ranging from the self-important Inspector Crome and the violently jealous boyfriend of one of the victims to the world-traveling brother and quiet personal secretary of another victim. Throughout it all you get snippets from other people’s points of view. You begin to think the murderer is one person then a piece of evidence shows up and it’s not them. Then clues lead you to think it’s someone else, but lo and behold it’s not them either. The actual murderer at the end really surprised me.

It was actually a really good book. Anyone who enjoys murder mysteries would greatly enjoy this book. I would also recommend it to anyone who wants to get into reading mysteries. There is no gory or sexual scenes which is nice. The majority of the time is the analysis of the evidence and creating conclusions based on what has been found. They are very similar to Sherlock Holmes, but a little better in my opinion.

My rating:

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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Then None B.C.

My husband and I listened to The Orient Express last year and it made me realize how much I liked Agatha Christie. Her Ms. Marple series and And Then There Were None have been on my TBR list for a while. When we had another trip last week, we downloaded And Then There Were None to listen to on the way. I am no longer surprised by how great her books are.

The story begins describing the journey of eight people as they travel to Soldier Island. Each person got a letter from someone they knew inviting them to spend a week for various reasons. Each person accepted. When they arrive at the island they find a butler and a maid…but no one else. There hosts are not there. Just after dinner, the group gathers in the parlor for after dinner drinks. A mysterious voice booms into the quiet room accusing all ten people in the house of a murder. Shortly after, people begin to die and not die simply. Their deaths follow a pattern set forth in the poem Ten Little Soldier Boys poem that is posted throughout the house. What follows is a series of confessions, old memories, deaths, suspicion, and confusion. The book is so well written it is difficult to determine who the killer is and why. You learn all the stories of the accused crimes and determine for yourself if they are guilty or not.

The characters are well developed and thought out. Even the characters who die early you still get a really good feel for who they are. The background stories are interesting and give a great depth to the story line. You never feel like you are back in time reliving the events, but are getting a synopsis from the people that were there with all the emotion and clarity they choose to offer. This makes the retelling even more interesting as each one has been accused of murder. To be able to see if each character views him or herself as guilty is fascinating. Furthermore, you get to see how fear and suspicion affect people in a given situation. The things people do and the way they change under stress and constant fear was very interesting to see as well. I actually think the ending was the most brilliant part.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes murder mysteries or wants to get in to mysteries. It’s a completely clean book – no sex, no drug usage, no foul language, and the murders almost all occur ‘off screen’; the ones you do read are not gruesome, cruel, of violent in any way. The language is interesting without being confusing. The mix of characters unique and adds to the story. All-in-all are wonderful read.

My rating:

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Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder Orient Express B.C.

I have wanted to start reading Agatha Christie for a while now. My husband recently read And Then There Were None by her and absolutely loved it. It is hard to find a book that engrosses him, so when he was so captivated I knew I would have to read one of her books as well. I had downloaded the complete Miss Marple collection on my Kindle, but  I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. So when we had a long trip coming up, I decided I would download us a couple Agatha Christie books to listen to on the way. My husband actually suggested Murder on the Orient Express and I am extremely glad he did.

Let me start by saying the book is part of the Hercule Poirot series, which I have discovered is similar to Sherlock Holmes with a few full length novels and many, many short stories. This book is one of the full length novels and can be read independently.

The book is set between 1930 and 1932 (based on context clues) and opens with Mr. Hercule Poirot getting on a train with two passengers to head toward Turkey. During the ride, he observes the couple and notes so inconsistencies. He disembarks in Istanbul never intending to see them again, but is obliged to board with them on The Orient Express in order to quickly return to London. In preparing to board, he runs into his friend, the owner of the train line, who helps him gain a berth in the fully booked train. Two days into the journey, a wealthy American is found murdered in his suite after the train is stopped at a snow drift. From there, Mr. Poirot is assigned to help solve the mystery of who murdered the man.

There are a lot of twists and turns, several surprises, and an ending that is unexpected. I found Mr. Poirot to be a highly amusing, well-rounded character. For me there was a lot of humor in the book. The book also made you think and try to puzzle out what really happened. There is a mysterious woman in a red kimono, a monogrammed handkerchief, and a few mysterious sounds.  Mr. Poirot does a good job of helping to sort out the timeline and who was where. My husband and I didn’t figure it out until just before he revealed the murderer. You have to be into interesting mysteries if you read this book. There is very little action and most of the book is sort out the facts from interviews with the people on the train and observations made by Mr. Poirot.

The audiobook was very well done. The narrator, Dan Stevens, did an amazing job bouncing between characters and accents. I would highly recommend his audiobook if you want to listen to it.

I think this book should be read by anyone who really enjoys a good mystery that has you puzzling out how the murder was done. Anyone who likes Sherlock Holmes mysteries will most likely highly enjoy this. There is not a lot of action, so if that is what you are looking for, this book is not for you. But if you want to be entertained and have a great way to work your brain, then this is the book for you.

My rating:

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter #6) by J. K. Rowling

When I sat and thought about it, I realized there wasn’t really a whole lot of things that actually happened in this book. There are a few hugely important events, but all in all, the majority of the story is background information and series of suspicions and small occurrences that lead to the important events. That being said, I actually really liked this book. It felt like things were happening all the time even though it was only thoughts or history being presented.

The story opens with Dumbledore escorting Harry to the Weasleys’ house. They take a detour on the way and end up visiting Professor Slughorn, a man Dumbledore is attempting to get to teach at Hogwarts that year. Through Harry’s efforts, Professor Slughorn agrees to come to the school. Harry is rather baffled why Dumbledore seems to express such importance on Slughorn going to Hogwarts, but this is later discovered by Harry. At the Weasleys’ you learn of Bill and Fleur’s engagement and upcoming wedding and the gang prepares for another year at school. When they visit Diagon Alley for supplies, they are saddened by the number of closed shops and the scared feeling from the crowd because of Voldemort’s return and current mayhem. They also visit Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, the joke shop run by Fred and George. When they return to school, Harry begins to take lessons with Dumbledore on the history of Voldemort in order to better understand his enemy. They start back at the very beginning with Voldemort’s parents and later with him in the orphanage before he comes to Hogwarts. Later, Harry discovers that Slughorn was plays a key role in an important aspect of Voldemort’s rise of power – a memory that Harry has to persuade off the new potions teacher. The leads to the discovery and belief that Voldemort created Horcruxes, objects that hold a piece of his soul that allows him to remain alive even if his body is dead. Throughout this whole time, Harry is also balancing his lessons with being the Quidditch captain, a budding relationship with Ginny, and chasing Draco Malfoy around. Harry believes Malfoy to be a Deatheater and up to something at the school. He employs Dobby and another house elf to follow Draco and figure out what he is up to. Harry believes he is behind the two near death experiences of two students, but cannot prove it. All he knows is that Draco disappears into the Room of Requirement for long periods of time. What he is truly doing is discovered at the end of the book, proving Harry right. Furthermore, Harry is accidentally given a book in potions class that has been written in and modified by someone who identifies themselves as the Half-Blood Prince. Throughout the book, Harry uses this modified potions book to excel in his potions class and get close to Slughorn. The modified book as provides new spells written in the margins that have varying effects. Hermione is convinced the book is written by a dark wizard, but Harry insists on continuing to read it and learn the new jinxes. The end result of this study is a brutal surprise that leaves Harry reeling from what he has done.

The book covers a lot of information.The majority of the time, Harry is in high emotional states, usually angry or frustrated that no one will believe him about Malfoy. There is a lot of stress from being the Quidditch captain and his growing relationship with Ginny is interesting to see. There is a funny sort of way the author describes Harry’s coming to realize his feelings for Ginny that I found rather amusing. The growing relationship between Hermione and Ron is also fraught with emotional turmoil as Ron dates Lavender. The struggle between the boys and Hermione about the Half-Blood Prince’s book gets somewhat old, but at least the boys come up with different reasons why Harry should keep reading it each time the subject is brought up. Most interesting was probably the history on Voldemort. You learn a lot about him that you didn’t know before and can see how everyone noticed something was wrong but didn’t stop him before he left Hogwarts. Also, the Horcruxes were an interesting item that helps explain a lot about Voldemort and provides for a more complex story line in the future.

Overall, I think the book was great and showed a fairly good depth of character that was missing in the earliest books. You get to see more emotion from all the characters and the result is just a deeper feeling book that pulls you in. The book didn’t feel like it dragged along in places, but kept the pace going continually through the book. Again, this is not the best book for young children, but probably middle school age or higher is my suggestion.

My rating:

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Immortal in Death (In Death #3) by J. D. Robb

 

I thought this was another of the more brilliant books in the series. It starts out with Eve meeting Mavis’s new lover, an upcoming designer named Leonardo. At the meeting, they have a rather violent run in with Leonardo’s ex, a rising star named Pandora. Pandora is later found beaten to death in Leonardo’s study by Mavis, leading to Eve having to arrest her best friend for murder even when she knows she didn’t do it. Shortly after, Officer Peabody refers a case to Eve that has striking similarities to Pandora’s death. After a third similar murder takes place, the book really takes off. It takes a while, but eventually the cases become linked and the narcotics department want to take over. After being forced to work together, the Eve and the narcotics department settle on Eve leading the investigation with the narcotics department helping. With the help of Officer Peabody, Roarke, and Finney, Eve is eventually able to release Mavis. The trail for the real murder is complicated and intricate. All of Pandora’s friends, high level models, actors, producers, and investors, all become suspects. It is difficult to find a link to the highly dangerous new drug that is the motive behind the gruesome murders. The solving of the case was very interesting to read. It took me a while to guess who the actual culprit was.

On the personal side, this is the book where Eve and Roarke get married. It is interesting to see her wading through the preparations for the wedding because it is not usually stuff she handles. Also, a recent case stirs up memories about her past that cause her a lot of stress. She reaches out to Dr. Mira and opens up new memories of her childhood she would rather remain buried. They break free at a point that is helps her connect deeper with Roarke and even Sommerset. You get to know Dr. Mira better this book which I liked. I find her a very interesting character. You also really get to see Eve, the things that make her tick and how she handles emotional relationships. It is done extremely well. It is a great book for see who the characters really are. The whole book is emotionally charged. There were times you felt you heart being torn right along with Eve as she dealt with everything going on in her life and the case.

This probably isn’t the best book to start with if you are just getting into the series, but it definitely is one of the ones that stands out for me. It’d recommend it to anyone who likes murder mystery books or romantic suspense. This one had equal measure of both topics in it. The stories are wound together fantastically. A great read, but be prepared to be emotionally moved.

My rating:

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Glory in Death (In Death #2) by J. D. Robb

 

I did not like this book as much as the first one in the series, however it was still very good. The story line was not quite as intricate, but was still well-developed and thought out. What I loved most about it was the strong emotional turmoil that was prevalent throughout the book. There were a ton of emotional ups and downs, mostly downs, and it was a highly charged book. You could almost feel the stress from the characters come off the page.

The book starts with the murder of a high-profile district attorney. The crime is committed in a signature way and the killer takes a souvenir. Eve is called on to the case and is once again thrust into the spotlight of a high-profile murder. The killer escalates to another high-profile attack – the murder of a rising star. The same signature murder style and a souvenir is taken as well. Through all of this, Eve is butting heads with her commander. The commander and his wife are godparents to the district attorneys children. For him, the case is highly personal and he takes is stress out on Eve throughout, especially when she has to pull in the son and his father for questioning. As the case unfolds, Nadine First is pulled in to help Eve bait the killer. After a third killing, the case goes into high gear as the killer realizes he killed the wrong woman. Eve scrambles with her own guilt as she searches for the killer.

Eve relationship with Roarke is tested in this case as well. They have their first fight and Eve comes to terms with relying on Roarke as a necessary part of her life. Eve’s emotional growth and development in her relationships is fascinating to read and watch unfold. You learn more about Nadine, Mavis, and Officer Peabody. I like Officer Peabody. She is in the later books and it was neat to read about how they met. Nadine is also quite an interesting person, but is more of a common personality for a media star. However, she is well written and developed. Mavis is just…unique. She is so sweet you have to like her, but her personality comes through in spades.

If you liked the first book, I would definitely recommend continuing the series. This is a great segue book that sets the stage for the emotional and personal development Eve needs in order to grow in the next books. It is laid out with enough emotional drama and enough twists, turns, and red-herrings in the murder case to keep the book flowing smoothly and to keep the reader engaged. There were times I kept driving around just to hear more of the story LOL. For me, the shining glory of this book was the emotional drama followed by the murder case. Still a good book though.

My rating:

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Naked in Death (In Death #1) by J. D. Robb

 

I had read another J. D. Robb book earlier this year and had picked up Naked in Death after reading the Strangers in Death. I had greatly enjoyed Strangers in Death and wanted to start the series from the beginning. I hadn’t actually got around to reading until now.

I was blown away. There’s not other way to describe it. I thought the other book was great, but this was fantastic. It was the perfect book to start a series. I opens with Lieutenant Eve Dallas being assigned to the murder investigation of a high-class, high connected licensed companion. This murder is the first in a series of similar murders, creating issues and road blocks for Eve at every step. The murders are committed by the use of firearms – something that has been banned for the past 30 years in the book. This leads to the investigation of people who both knew the woman and has a registered firearm collection. Hence she meet Roarke. Roarke is a force of nature, a billionaire businessman that radiates power and danger. Eve with her standoff, aloof attitude surprises everyone by getting involved with him – something highly unusual for her. The romantic connect causes even more tangles that Eve has to wade through and a fine line she has to walk. Roarke has her questioning multiple aspects of her life, particularly her instincts about who she can rely on.

The murders lead Eve in multiple different circles as the following murders involve different types of women. Eve meets multiple different characters and people that later help influence the case and help solve the mysteries. Her instincts guide her even when the evidence is pointing in other directions. In the end, Eve has to face part of her past as she brings justice back for the victims.

The writing of this book was fantastic. The unfolding of the story was flawless and the twists and turns it took were seamless while at the same time being surprising. I am so glad I read this. It is a great example of murder mystery and romantic suspense rolled up into one book. I look forward to reading more of the series and getting to know Eve and Roarke better. Anyone looking for a new romantic suspense or mystery series should definitely try this one out. It is somewhat graphic, but no more so than any of the police tv shows currently on television.

My rating:

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