I’ve been doing some more fiction writing lately and decided I’d reactivate this site so I can post some of my newest compositions and a few book reviews. So I’ll start with reviews of some recent cozy mysteries I’ve read.
Cozies: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Or Rather, The Odd:
Probable Claws, Book 2 in the Vanessa Abbot Cat Protection League Cat Cozy Mystery series, written by Nancy C. Davis
I love cats and I enjoy a cozy mystery, but this book didn’t thrill me much. A reader has to be into cat “mental telepathy” to find it enjoyable. The cat owner (and sleuth, if you can call her that) doesn’t have to figure anything out. She simply listens to what her omniscient cats are telling her about whodunit.
Now, if you do enjoy fantasies where cats solve mysteries, this is a great book for you. The mystery itself is valid, though the plot is elementary and the cast limited. The pace could be perked up with less talk, more action, and more emotions brought out in the dialogue. The conversations don’t move the plot along like they could. And the police detective blabbing so much info at the crime scene, discussing the suspects in front of all and sundry, is quite unorthodox.
Have you ever read a book that you thought kind of dragged along to an improbable conclusion, then checked online and found enthusiastic write-ups that leave you wondering what’s wrong with your judgement — or the reviewer’s ?
I recently read Murder in Cottage #6 (Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery Series Book 1) then reviewed the reviews on Amazon. This book has 22 five-star ratings, 1 four-star, and the customer reviews are so upbeat. “An entertaining suspenseful book”; “Loved it”; “Another great read for this cozy mystery series.”
My impression: If you say so. My rating: three-star max. The plot’s okay, though I thought Liz and her friend acted both foolish and out of character toward the end. Actually the last chapter portrays the crook as obtuse as well, if she never twigs onto the fact that she’s being followed all over town all day. I found the dialogue is stilted; no one talks that formally these days.
A good editor could have worked wonders with this one. In fact, the whole story could have been reduced by about 30% just by eliminating all the repetition. For example (direct quote):
Liz couldn’t help but notice the big yellow stain on his shirt. “See you’re lookin’ at that spot on my shirt,” Seth said.
(Well, yeah. The writer just told us that. You didn’t have to.)
The writer has done the character’s thoughts in italics and these tend to repeat the conversation you just read. A lot of stuff like (not an actual excerpt):
He glared at her furiously. “What are you doing here anyway?” he demanded.
Oh, dear, she thought to herself. He’s angry with me for coming. I should have stayed away.
I can’t tell you how many times I read, either in dialogue or thought, that the detective is a hopeless bumbler who will never be able to solve the case on his own. Actually she makes the detective a caricature, a lecherous dimwit. I don’t appreciate that treatment of authority.
I hope that some kind editor has taken the writer of this series, Dianne Harman, in hand and helped her work out the flaws I am seeing (fussy me) so the second book in the series will be much improved.
The Dune House Cozy Mystery Series by Cindy Bell. One day journalist Suzie Allen is informed that her long-forgotten Uncle Harry has unexpectedly left her Dune House, a beautiful house on the beach that was once a Bed and Breakfast. She and her best friend, Mary, head for the town of Garber, on the East Coast ( Maine?) to restore the old place. I’ve read three of these books. In ‘chronological order’, they are:
Boats and Bad Guys
The REALLY Good:
I’ve been reading Joanna Carl’s series, A Chocoholic Mystery, and am enjoying them immensely. The stories are skillfully told; the plots are believable; the characters are likable. Lee McKinley, the heroine, is brave but not brassy, mouthy, or foolishly dashing into disasters. Plus a few sidebar details about the history of chocolate in each book.
There are about fifteen in all, but so far I’ve read (in the series ‘chronological order’):
The Chocolate Cat Caper
The Chocolate Frog Frame Up
The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle
The Chocolate Mouse Trap
The Chocolate Bridal Bash
The Chocolate Jewel Case
The Chocolate Snowman Murders
So if you’re looking for a cozy to fill a long winter evening, these books are scary but no heart-stopping-terror, some romantic interests but no profanity or erotic scenes.