Button Man – Mark Pryor

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Once again, duplicate titles created some confusion among our readers.  Last month, Gone was revealed to the be the title of eight other books.  This month, there were three.  And Valorie read one of the wrong ones.

However, after her rather hilarious input, we may have to read her Button Man.

OUR Button Man was less about the mob and more about an American (in cowboy boots, no less!) in London and Paris and role fame, social status, and the desire for justice is played out in our world.

Joan thought Valorie would enjoy this book because it had the violence she so loves.  It also had British and French settings, rain, a little humor, a little spice and was generally an all-around thriller.

We were advised by Valorie, however, that HER Button Man was more bad ass than OUR Button Man, and so we discussed the mob definition of the title.  We agreed that the British Button Man was less “whack-y and more a convenient title for the book.

We found the main mystery interesting and enjoyed the other plot lines around the edges that added intriguing flavor – the Ripper angle, the wife in Texas angle, the antique books angle, the politics, the serial killer profiling, and the tabloids’ impact on investigations.  We all felt like Pendrith was off from the get go, but could NOT figure out why.  Merlyn didn’t seem to be age-appropriate for what she was doing and we had problems with that.

Favorite Characters – Hugo, who was declared to be nice, but not terribly good at his job; Merlyn, Upton, Agarwal, Pendrith, Harry Walton, and none of the above.

Joan’s meeting notes are confusing — Valorie either liked or disliked Leo for setting the fire.

Least Favorite Characters – Pendrith; Harry Walton, eventually.  Dayton Harper, the little shit.  Hugo was cocky and incompetent.

Valorie revealed that the Epilogue to HER Button Man made her tear up a little.

Because this was a British mystery, Ruthanne made faces, didn’t like any of the characters, and ranked it very low.  Joan initially LOVED the book, but once plot holes and stylistic issues were pointed out to her, she dropped her rating.  But only a little.


Gone – Randy Wayne White

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So, the group generally likes books set in Florida because, well, crazy people are entertaining.  But this a Florida with salt of the earth people instead.  We liked the concept of a capable woman running boat charters and found her inner dialogue tamping down her true reactions in order to present a specific persona was refreshingly different.  Bruce had just returned from a trip to the area depicted and said that it was true to life.

We thought the plot was exciting and many of us read the book very quickly.  The mystery of the missing girl was interesting because of our desire to see her rescued from the creepy guy, even if she didn’t want to be rescued.  It’s rather scary to think that there are men out there that have this kind of psychological power over women and they’re like an addiction to these women.  And it’s also scary that seemingly together women get sucked into these situations.

That said, we found the story to be more thriller-ish and a bit predictable.  Too much “women in peril” and we had a hard time believing and/or understanding the final resolution.  Bruce did say that boars really are the scarier mangrove swamp animal.

Favorite characters – Most characters were real humans and quite likeable, except for the lady attorney.  We liked Hannah and her directness, though we did get a little sick of her whiny, “I was gawky” mind set.  Her mother Loretta is wonderfully awful.  Cordial Pallet was a cool old coot.  Friend Nathan and Lawrence, the uncle of the kidnapped girl were also favorites.

Least favorite characters – Gabby, Ricky Meeks, Ricky’s partner, Eugene Schneider (a scuzbag), the captain and the owner of the Sybarite.  Martha the lawyer was creepy and that whole lesbian subplot was unnecessary.


Visions of Sugarplums – Janet Evanovich

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Our group has a real love/hate relationship with silly holiday novels.  While we want something light and festive, some of us also want some substance.  But one doesn’t really read Evanovich for substance, which this book lacks.  But there is plenty of ridiculousness.  And elves.  There are lots of elves.  And cookies.

Our opinions ranged from hating it and finding it completely unbelievable, to loving it and finding it entertaining and fun.  The supernatural bad guy/supernatural good guy plot was ridiculous, as one would expect.  And the whole “elves” angle was silly.  But Diesel is hot, while Stephanie is a hot mess.  Her family is crazy but entertaining.  Morelli didn’t disappoint, but the women generally agreed there wasn’t enough Ranger.

Favorite – Morelli, Gramma Mazur, Mom (after a discussion about her name, research revealed that she is Ellen or Helen.  Dad is Frank.), Stephanie and her family, Diesel, and Rex.

Least favorite – Sandy Claws, Stephanie and her sister Valerie, Briggs, the mean aggressive elf, and Mary Alice, the annoying little girl who thinks she’s a horse.




X – Sue Grafton

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The group was mostly so happy to be discussing something other than a cozy, that we were willing to excuse a LOT of the problems we had with this book.  Some of us found this book to be too long, disjointed, had too many characters, repetitious descriptions, and a little half-assed, research-wise.  Kinsey was declared to be a little slack in her background searches, Henry’s antics seemed a little outrageous for someone of his age, and there was generally a sloppiness to this book not seen in others.

That being said, we enjoyed the multiple threads of investigation and rated this quite high, for us.  Kinsey Millhone is an interesting investigator, even though she’s locked into all of the standard P.I. tropes – working for the mysterious dame, working for free, money is tight, etc.

We had an interesting discussion about 1) why the author kept this series locked in the ’80s, without all the modern conveniences, and 2) investigations in general and what we thought Kinsey should have done differently.  Of course, if she had, there wouldn’t have been nearly as much story.  Which then led to a discussion of investigations members of the group have done, particularly with regard to new neighbors.  Fascinating.

Favorite Characters – Henry, Pete, Henry’s Cat, Kinsey, and Edna for all of her marvelous rottenness.

Least Favorite Characters – Edna, Ned Lowe, Joseph, Teddy, and Kim Bass.  Joan has no patience with unhelpful front desk people.

Be sure to take note of our reading list for 2020!  It’s in the bar on the right.


The Ever-Running Man — Marcia Muller

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Weelllll…  The biggest selling point about this book was the fact that it WASN’T a cozy.  And yet, because it was well along in the series, there were a lot of existing characters.  Many felt there were too many people to keep track of AND there was added annoyance of some of the characters having multiple names.  Then there was too much detail, until there wasn’t enough.

The group’s mixed feelings and reactions were along the lines of “Alright, not great.”  “Not compelling.”  “Better than the cozies.”  “Blech.”  “<shrug> <sigh>”.

The main characters were interesting with fascinating hobbies and houses.  Sharon McCone may be a lil ol’ P.I., but DAMN!  Girl’s got some real estate!  Hy was interesting, with a lot of character and depth, while McCone came off a titch whiny.

The multiple story lines kept us interested, mostly.  But we didn’t find the latter part of the book as compelling.  It was interesting to see how the past history of the characters resulted in modern results and how karma took its sweet time catching up to people, but it made for a good story and good mystery.  Joan enjoyed flying around and the question of “nurture vs. nature.”

While we liked the angst and marital conflict between Hy and McCone, we didn’t find it believable.  And we have some BIG questions about the fate of the bad guy.

Favorite characters – Hy, though we couldn’t figure out why such a goody-two-shoes was in business with two such awful men, the airplane and aviation aspects; Mick, the nephew; the staff in McCone’s office; the cats on the fence; McCone; and the guy who was obsessed with his charts.

Least favorite characters – Kessell/Tyne and Gage were declared to be icky, leaving behind an underlying film of evil. Chad.  Hy.


Raspberry Danish Murder – Joanne Fluke

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Most of the group is now completely OVER cozy mysteries involving food and gossipy women.  Joan is in both wide awake AND in a diabetic coma after reading this one.  So.  Many.  Cookies.  And so much coffee.

Bruce declared, via written book report, that it was actually THREE books — (1) gossips gushing over pastries, (2) a cookbook, and (3) a ridiculous murder mystery.  None of us were sure what to do with the missing husband story and most weren’t interested in reading on to find out about it.

We generally found the mystery/story boring, yet over the top with food (both the making and the enjoying thereof) and coffee.  Ruthann likes this series and finds it fun and enjoyable.  It was declared to be an easy, quick read, especially if you skim the recipes, and people liked the small town atmosphere.

Joan found Michelle and Hannah to be completely ridiculous.  Out to dinner, cooking dinner with people in, crock pot meals and never-ending desserts.  Who really lives like that?  It’s exhausting!

And Norman?  What was up with HIM?  Is he just hanging around being uber helpful because he wants to be Hannah’s friend or get into her cookie sheets?  Mike, too, though less sheets and more of a cop caricature.

While we were curious to learn who killed P.K., the hunt for Pinkie was almost more entertaining. The intertwined mystery of the missing husband was also interesting and we kind of hoped that he was on some sort of James Bond-type mission.  And maybe he is because really, where did he get that kind of money?  But Hannah didn’t seem all that upset about his sudden departure.  And she, the great detective, didn’t seem to be putting much effort into finding him.  Neither did the police, for that matter.

Favorite Characters – Ross because he got the hell out of town and away from all these crazy people.  The cats, Hannah, and the pastries.

Least Favorite Characters – Norman, most humans, Gary, and the sleazebag husband.  Hannah, who wasn’t a baker, she just gave food away.

We aren’t reading The Orchid Thief for next month’s meeting.  Turns out it’s not a mystery.  And it was dreary.  We’ve switched to Marcia Muller’s The Ever-Running Man.  There are copies available behind the desk at the library.

The Alpine Winter — Mary Daheim

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Sorry Mary Daheim, but this went over like a lead balloon.  While there were six of us at the meeting, only one of us finished the book.  We abandoned it after the first chapter, after thirty pages, and someone gave up half way.  Tom heard bad reports and didn’t even TRY to read it.  The biggest complaints we had were:

• Too many characters

• No redeeming characters

• Ridiculousness

• It was mostly gossip

• Poorly edited – there were typos

• Factual errors

• Plot holes

• Generally being “just a mess.”

That being said, “favorite” characters were the guy who was murdered, though he was barely liked, Emma, sort of.  And the priests were occasionally interesting.

Least favorite characters were most characters, Vida, Curtis, and the newspaper, which had a poor hiring process, and seemed to only print gossip.

As for any redeeming qualities, the location was good.

(Rating by the reader who finished it)

(Rating by all who wanted their opinions known)

When Falcons Fall — C. S. Harris

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On the whole, the group enjoyed this book.  A lot.  Only one of us didn’t finish it and that was because she forgot when the meeting was, while another member plowed through it with little enjoyment, just to “get it done.”  It wasn’t her favorite type of book.

Our initial conversation dealt with the pronunciation of “St. Cyr” and Joan has feelers out to find out what’s right — “Sincere” or “Saint Sire.”  It made for an interesting discussion.

We enjoyed it for the multiple mysteries, the historical research, and the mixed motivations.  There were a lot of characters, but in a many-layered story such as this, it was to be expected.

Sebastian was a fascinating character as was his wife, Hero.  Not only was there relationship very modern-feeling, but Hero’s modern point of view was intriguing.  The mysteries were compelling and the setting was very atmospheric.

We did have a few issues with the amount of walking around that was done and we got a bit bogged down with the family tree stuff, but on the whole we liked the historical bits, pulling in smuggling, Napoleon, and that parliamentary act that ruined so many villages and people’s lives.

Joan was glad that Sebastian’s search for his father made a small step forward.  It would have pissed her off if he’d just been spinning his wheels on that for the whole book.

Favorite Characters – Sebastian, Hero.  Lovely, lovely people.  Dapper, upstanding, yellow eyes, empathic.  Charles Bonaparte.  What a fun boy.  Archie Rawlins, Reuben (a true detective), Emma (the victim).

Least Favorite Characters – Creepy guy married to Liv, Major Weston and the aristocracy as a whole.  The horrible woman who owned the school, Rowena LaMont.  “To coddle the fruits of sin is to condone the act that created them, and I believe we must never be lured into such errors by the temptations of misplaced kindness.”  Special, just special.  Reverend Benedict Underwood.  Yuck.  His wife was pretty awful, too. Jude Lowe, Lady Seton, the coroner Higginbottom


Windigo Island — William Kent Krueger

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Those in attendance were Darla, George, Pam, Tom and Bruce

With Joan’s unfortunate absence, we missed out on a review of William Krureger’s life as an author.

With some ambivalence, we sort-of liked the book. It did give reader’s insight into the western Great Lakes area and the lives of the Native Americans who live there. It also highlighted the problem of sex trafficking, although we did not know how accurate it was in regard to Native Americans specifically.  Unraveling the mystery of the missing girls was compelling and well portrayed (at least until the end).

There were a number of dislikes expressed.  We agreed that the ending was pretty formulaic and the weakest part of the book.  One objection was the book’s seeming alignment with current efforts of making women be the heroes.  Another objection was the portrayed investigation being ‘by committee,’ although given the wide geographic and political area covered in the story, it would be necessary to work with many different jurisdictions.  The heavy emphasis on the mystical beliefs of the Native Americans got somewhat tiresome and seemed a bit stereotypical.  We also thought that running with an axe down a pant leg with only a slight limp was improbable!

The book did generate significant discussion of the plight of Native Americans.  Topics discussed included the reality of poor treatment by the government, even up to recent times; lack of good education and lack of employment opportunities on reservations; the reality of families being disrupted by children forcibly sent to government boarding schools, which affected an entire generation; and the general difficulty of subsistence cultures transitioning into a cash based economy.

Characters we liked:  Henry, Daniel, Cork, and Louise (added by Joan).

Characters we disliked:  Cork, Windigo, Manny, and Jenny (added by Joan)

(We didn’t discuss her, but we might also include Louise, who was a terrible mother but became a little more sympathetic by the end).

(Many thanks to Bruce for providing this report ~ Joan)

Murder of Mary Russell – Laurie R. King

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Because Joan was out of town, our meeting this month was run by Darla and George.  Only four people showed up, but they still had a good discussion.  And Joan’s notes are included here.

This book was such an interesting concept.  The author has created a wife for Sherlock Holmes, as well as an in-depth background for his housekeeper, both rather minor characters in the Sir Conan Doyle-created canon.

Ruth did not find it interesting, as she doesn’t particularly like Sherlock Holmes or the time period. Tom thought it was OK. George was disappointed in that there was so little action or “thrills”, i.e. did not live up to the title!  Darla really enjoyed the story telling part of Mrs. Hudson’s history, letters, etc. and she does love an interesting “tale told well”, but Darla was somewhat disturbed by the ending and the possibility that Mrs. Hudson would be returning to her old life after so many years with Holmes.  Joan thought Mary Russell was a really fascinating character, she completely adored Clarissa Hudson and found her whole way of life fascinating.  A long and convoluted journey, rich in detail and story covering many many years.

Holmes is so intense.  And this book was so dense and rich.  Sort of like eating a fabulous multi-course meal that you want to savor all the flavors of, but along the way, you kind of forget just what it was you ate.

Questions remaining at the end – Just what was it that Holmes saw in the picture of the knife stabbed into the wall?

Favorite characters: Mrs. Hudson.  George liked The Bishop (he said he was very up front and honest in his rule as crime boss).  Billy, Mary and to a lesser degree, Holmes.

Least favorite characters: Samuel, Mrs. Hudson, Alicia, Father and son Hudson, and Hugh Edmond.  The Bishop, Jr.

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