Fleece Navidad – Maggie Sefton

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We agreed that it was never a good sign when a book includes a Cast of Characters at the beginning.  And there were a LOT of characters to keep track of.  Joan admits that she probably should have READ the Cast of Characters so she wouldn’t have spent so many chapters spinning her wheels, trying to figure out who the main character was.

But once the story got going, we enjoyed the light, cozy, seasonal aspect of it.  It didn’t make us feel “icky” as some of our darker mysteries do. We compared it to a holiday Hallmark movie.  Poor Joan read it in August and wanted to drink hot chocolate.

The book was terribly sweet, with the perfectly perfect people, town, and holiday scene, but we agreed that small towns can be that way.  We did get tired of the weather observations and all that wool made us itch.

The mysteries were interesting, though.  Who killed Juliet?  Was Claudia really a black widow?  Claudia didn’t LOOK like a black widow and she was a little too dumb, too.  But Sheila was sure full of hate and for so many reasons.  She really needed to get a life.

Darla made the ginger cookies featured in the book and they were delicious!

Favorite characters — Annie (the lamb) (of course), Kelly, Hilda and Lizzie, Claudia, even though she was so manipulative.  She was at least entertaining to watch.  Burt, Curt, and Juliet.

Least Favorite – Sheila — What a witch.  Claudia.



Live and Let Growl – Laurien Berenson

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We always seem to love a good dog-related mystery.  And though our dog du jour is a poodle, that’s NOT what is pictured on the cover of the book, which is a little disconcerting.  It was also disconcerting that while Miss Ellie was portrayed as an aging Grand Dame of the dog world, she was, in fact, only 63 years old.

We found this to be an interesting mystery, though it took us forever to actually get to anything mysterious.  But getting to the mystery was fun and we liked “visiting” Kentucky, the dog show, and the horse facilities, which were all declared to be true representations.

There were some plot holes and inconsistencies, but the group pretty much didn’t care and just enjoyed the book.

Fluff.  Entertaining fluff, but fluff nonetheless.

Favorite Character – Terry, Aunt Peg, Faith the dog,

Least – Billy, for lack of anyone else.  Miss Ellie (because she was drunk and in a car accident).

Fuzzy Navel – J.A. Konrath

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[Joan trying to decipher Pam’s notes…]

The group really seemed to enjoy the fast pace and non-stop tension of this book.  Members liked the locale (Chicago area), the author’s style, and the many bizarre characters.

One person who didn’t enjoy the book was Joan.  Too much blood, too many seriously crazy people, and a whole lot of unbelievable action.  Jack gets shot in the head, gets her head STAPLED and then JUST KEEPS GOING.  She’s like the frickin’ Energizer Bunny.

Then we get to the end [SPOILER ALERT] and someone dies, BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHO!

Did anyone see a fuzzy navel?

Favorite characters – Mom, Harry, Herb, Jack

Least Favorite – Psycho Alex, the three guys with guns




Bittersweet – Susan Wittig Albert

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A holiday read (Thanksgiving), this has touches of that cutesy cozy holiday mystery genre that some readers find annoying — warm and fuzzy family stuff, trying to too hard to be cutesy, a huge cast of characters, and the need to wrap everything up in a super happy tidy bow.

That said, we seemed to like this.  The author’s depiction of the Texas Hill Country was declared to be spot on, we liked the plant references and the food, and we found the story of hunting and those weird deer strangely interesting.

Joan found the narrator’s need to hint at upcoming death and destruction annoying because, hello?  It’s a mystery.  Murder and mayhem are par for the course.

We also found the prologue’s introduction of the bad guys too distant from the part of the story actually dealing with those men and then, we didn’t know which bad guy was which.  Who was the pilot?  By the end, though, it wasn’t really that important — we knew we didn’t like them.

All in all, we enjoyed the book and were intrigued to learn that the author has quite a number of books under her belt, to include Nancy Drew mysteries.

Favorite characters – The first person who dies (no spoiler!), Mack (would like to read more books with her in them), the little girl; the hunky sheriff, and the old vet.

Least – China (a bit of a busybody), Letha (fake and a twit), Derek, Ronald and Thomas Perry, Ethan and Murphy.


3.5 stars.

Treachery at Lancaster Gate – Anne Perry

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Well, this landed with a thud.  The group was NOT impressed and two of our members didn’t finish it, even after reading 100 pages.  Members of the group found it tedious.  The writing style was awkward and the redundant internal landscape of the characters was blamed.

It WAS rather different from what we’ve read in the past.  Set in a different era (Victorian), with different modes of transportation, coldness, and fog.  Lots of fog.  We also dealt with different strata of society, the sense of entitlement in the upper levels (affluenza!), women and their place in that society, and the internal dialogue about what it means to be a policeman that we haven’t really gotten before.

The whole concept of a police force was pretty new at this time and Tellman’s stubborn belief that policemen couldn’t be bad because, well, they just COULDN’T, was fairly naïve.  Men are men, no matter what their profession.  And bullies are bullies.

The men and their respective desires to be home was lovely and charming.  The women and their ability to get right to the point, read people and their reactions, and hear what wasn’t being said were all charming.  A portrayal of such a different time and place.  Joan couldn’t imagine going to a party with that much style and grace and ferret out, with a witty quip, just what was being said and done.  So fun to watch!

Favorite characters – Aunt Vespasia, all of the wives, Lord Narraway, Josiah Abercorn was so wonderfully awful.  Also, what a great name!  Alexander because of his loyalty to his dead friend, even to his end.  Tellman for his sensitivity and determination, even when he knew it wasn’t going to end well.

Least favorite – Godfrey Duncannon, Jack because I wanted him to suck it up, step aside, and let Pitt do his job.  Ednam, the dead guy.



Little Shoes: The Sensational Depression-Era Murders That Became My Family’s Secret – Pamela Everett

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While we had hoped that the author would come and speak at our meeting, at the last minute, she had to cancel.  But being a determined group, we pressed on.  Besides, Joan brought cookies.

We agreed that the author did an excellent job of presenting the case and we found the various threads of her family’s history, the historical and cultural implications of the crime, and the investigative process nicely woven together.  Of those threads, the author’s personal story of her search for the truth was most compelling.  It gave the reader an emotional connection to the story that we don’t usually see.

The story didn’t drag and we all hoped for Dyer’s reprieve right up until the end.  We found the beginning of the particularly engrossing, while the courtroom chapters were dryer and less gripping.  Joan also brought maps showing the route the little girls would have had to walk both in modern-day terms, and in terms of what the area looked like in the 1930s.  This bit of evidence, more than anything else, convinced us of Dyer’s innocence.

The subject, of course, is horrifying, but on the flip side, we found  so many things about the era and the way people reacted to the crime fascinating — Newspaper coverage from coast to coast; people going to the courthouse, night after night, demanding justice; people sitting down and writing letters with the thought and time that went into their protests and queries.  And we found it very interesting that these letters and newspaper accounts still survive to allow the author to re-live that time and to shine light on an important historical case.

Favorite Character – The author, whose personality and presence is felt throughout the book.  Loyal and stalwart Haskell Wright.  The father of the Everett girls.

Least Favorite Character – The judge.  Albert Dyer – Joan wanted to slap him and tell him to just shut up.  We also didn’t like Dyer’s wife.


The Scarred Woman – Jussi Adler-Olsen

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It was a truth universally acknowledged that this was a depressing book filled with unlikable characters.  Because this was by a Danish author, Pam really liked it and has read others in the series.  The rest of us were not impressed.  Those of us actually finished it (some didn’t), found it to be a very tough book to slog through.  Particularly at the beginning when there were so many characters and points of view, none of them likeable.  We agreed that it was probably the least likeable group of characters to inhabit a book that we’ve encountered in quite some time.

Joan pointed out, though, that as she kept reading, she started to see the humor, which is what Pam likes about this series.  The characters are all perfectly awful, but the absurdity of the characters started to show and bad guys almost hilariously got what was coming to them in perfectly awful ways.

All in all, an interesting story, horrible characters notwithstanding.  A commentary on Denmark’s culture, the ongoing impact of the Nazi era, and how the media isn’t doing anyone any favors when it touts the idea that a person’s beauty is the sole measure of their worth.

Joan’s big question was who was Rose’s father?  That had to be the reason her “father” was so terrible to her — she wasn’t his.  It will probably pop up in the next book, but most of will never know because we won’t be reading it.

We agreed that it was less a police procedural and more of a visit to a nut house.

Favorite Characters – We ranged from liking no one to liking the Nazi because he was the only stable character and he knew what he wanted.  Carl, Gordon, and Assad (sure want to know what his story is and why there’s so many mysteries about him)

Least Favorite Characters – All of the women, and then specifically the Icelandic girl, the t.v. crew, the grandmother, Denise’s mother, the higher ups at the police station.  Jazmine.  Anne-Line.  Wow, truly awful, yet cunning.  The cold-blooded Denise.


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