The Finishing Stroke by Ellery Queen

The Finishing Stroke by Ellery Queen

The Finishing Stroke is set primarily at Christmas-time, but bookended by a prologue set twenty-some years prior to the main events and a wrap-up that takes place over twenty years later. The bulk of the story takes place at Christmas, 1929. John Jr. has put together an extended Christmas party at the home of his guardian, Arthur Craig. We've got an assortment of guests, including John's girlfriend, Rusty Brown and a few of their friends. There is also the family doctor, the family lawyer, a pastor and a publisher. And, of course, Ellery Queen. Sebastian announces that some important events will happen during the party. First, his book of poetry is being published by the House of Freeman. Second, January 6th is his twenty-fifth birthday and he'll come into the trust fund that his father set up for him in his will. Third, he's going to marry Rusty. There's a final item, but he's keeping that a secret...
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The Hour of Death by Jane Willan

The Hour of Death by Jane Willan

I picked up The Hour of Death because of its Christmas-time setting. It's the second in the series, but the first I've read and it worked fine. I felt like I got to know the characters well. I got enough background but not too much. I enjoyed Sister Agatha for the most part. She's smart and tenacious, if a bit overly suspicious. Amateur sleuths pretty much have to be though. I could have done without her constant reference to other fictional detectives. Don't get me wrong, I adore Gamache and Jessica Fletcher, but she referred to them way too often. She stands on her own well, she doesn't constantly need to refer to other detectives. The nuns are an interesting group of women. While they do pray and sing and worship, they also make cheese and text each other and have an artist as a tenant. I think the Advent touches were some of my favorites: the hymns, the idea...
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A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

I have a tendency to read most Holmes knock-offs I come across. A Study in Scarlet Women was free with Audible's new Plus program. Sherlock is actually Charlotte Holmes. Charlotte is socially awkward, but , of course, incredibly observant and intelligent. She creates Sherlock so she is allowed to solve mysteries and problems. Women at the time are not expected to be able to manage on their own, let alone to be smarted than the police. I like that Charlotte makes her own choices and is trying to live life on her own terms. She teams up with Mrs. Watson, a widow who used to be on stage, to set up the whole "consulting detective" business/Sherlock deception. I do love both of these women, tough, independent, but also vulnerable in their own ways. This time, the main mystery centers on three deaths, supposedly natural connections, but Charlotte knows they are related murders. And proving who the killer was matters, if only...
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They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall

They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall

I am a huge Agatha Christie fan, so when I was They All Fall Down is an adaptation of And Then There Were None, I was of course interested. Seven people are lured to an island in Mexico and if you've read/seen And Then There Were None, you have a basic idea of what's going to happen. In this case, I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say they all end up dead. The setting is great, an isolated private island in Mexico with a gorgeous house. The premise is obviously good, it worked for Christie, it works here. The people gathered each have their own secrets that have now caught up with them. The characters are mostly memorable if a bit caricature-ish. I didn't like any of them, but I wasn't supposed to either. The story is told in the first person by Miriam, a dance mom who has some definition. She is not a nice person...
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‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost

‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost

'Twas the Knife Before Christmas is a perfect cozy mystery for this time of year. It's Christmassy from beginning (the corpse being found in a candy dish of peppermints) to end (a Christmas Eve party at an inn that may or may not have been built by Santa Claus). Holly is our amateur sleuth. She works at her parents' tree farm where the annual Reindeer Games is underway. She's also the future innkeeper. Her parents are building an inn at the farm to help accommodate all the tourists that come to Mistletoe, Maine. Her friend Caroline is accused of murder, actually arrested, so she takes it upon herself to do some investigating, not trusting her maybe-boyfriend/sheriff to handle the job on his own. In her defense though, Evan, the sheriff, clearly has something else on his mind. It turns out his sister is in some trouble and is hiding out at his house. There were a lot of people in town who...
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The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

In 1866, Mark Twain was a travelling correspondent for the San Francisco Daily Alta California and he convince them in early 1967, to provide $1250 to pay his fare on the Quaker City tour of Europe and the Middle East. Throughout the five-month trip, Twain sent 51 letters to the Alta for which he was paid an addiationa $1200. The paper published between August 2, 1867 and January 8, 1868 under the running heading: "The Holy Land Excursion. Letter from 'Mark Twain.' Special Travelling Correspondent of the Alta." These letters, together with seven printed in two New York papers, became the basis for Innocents Abroad, written during the first half of 1868. First, you have to see the route this trip took. It looks like such an amazing trip and hits most of the spots I would love to see one day. I don't think I would want to visit with Twain though. While he is funny in a snarky way and full of historical tidbits, he's...
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