mystery, teen

Beyond Suspicion

Beyond Suspicion
Author: Catherine A. Winn
Publisher: The Poisoned Pencil
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-1-9293-4510-6
Page: 230
Price: $10.95

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Shelby really wants to go to her best friend’s birthday party, and she’s disappointed when she finds out she’ll be stuck at home, babysitting her baby brother. Since her mom got married to Roger and had a new baby, Shelby’s life has been hard, and she vents her frustration to her friends before taking her one year-old brother, Josh, out for a walk in the park. A small fireworks display distracts Shelby, and when she turns around, Josh is gone.

The situation goes from bad to worse when the police won’t believe her story and instead blame Shelby for Josh’s disappearance. She has no one to turn to except a new boy, Matt, who suddenly decides to help her. Unexpected support also comes from Roger, who defends her to the police and hires an attorney to clear her name. Following a couple of hunches leads Shelby to Josh, but she soon finds herself and Josh in danger. Only her quick thinking can save both their lives before it’s too late.

Beyond Suspicion is a fast read that will keep young adults interested from the first page. Shelby’s predicament with difficult parents is easy to relate to, as is her determination to find her baby brother. There are a few scenes that may require the reader to suspend disbelief, but overall, this is a nicely written story that teens will enjoy.

WARNING: Contains violence.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

mystery

The Charlemagne Connection

The Charlemagne Connection
Author: R.M. Cartmel
Publisher: Crime Scene Books
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-9929486-2-7
Pages: 328
Price: $13.99

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Commander Truchaud has been called back home to Nuits-Saint-Georges to help his sister-in-law, Michelle, handle his father, who is suffering from dementia and getting worse each day. He soon learns that a German tourist disappeared a while back, when his sister and her friend arrive, attempting to locate him. Fearing foul play, they try to determine when he was last seen, and with whom.

Inheritance laws in France are strict, and Truchaud soon learns that this German man might have been a threat to someone whose family owns one of the local vineyards. He also suspects that his disappearance may have something to do with the mysterious circumstances in The Richebourg Affair.

The Charlemagne Connection is more of a novel than a whodunit, and mystery buffs won’t find much to solve. But those who enjoy exotic settings and good character development will enjoy this book. I’m looking forward to the conclusion of this intriguing mystery.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

children, mystery

Museum Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Museum Archives

The Case of the Missing Museum Archives
Author: Steve Brezenoff
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: Middle grade / Mystery
ISBN: 978-1-4342-9692-4
Pages: 128
Price: $6.95

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Amal Farah is visiting her father at the Air and Space Museum when the plans for a failed flying machine go missing. Since Dr. Farah is in charge of keeping them safe, he is blamed for their disappearance. When her dad’s job is threatened, Amal gathers her friends together find out what happened to the plans.

Along with Clementine, Raining, and Wilson, Amal investigates the theft, asking the museum staff lots of questions. Bit by bit, they piece together what they think happened, and then confront the perpetrator. Soon the missing plans are recovered, and Dr. Farah’s job is safe.

The Case of the Missing Museum Archives is part of the Museum Mysteries series. The story is reminiscent of Scooby Doo cartoons, when a band of kids gets together to thwart the bad guy. However, the cast of characters is more diversified, featuring other ethnic backgrounds. Children will enjoy solving this mystery along with Amal and her friends.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

mystery

Crime and Puzzlement

Crime and Puzzlement
Author: Lawrence Treat
Illustrator: Leslie Cabarga
Publisher: David R. Godine
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-87923-405-8
Pages: 69
Price: $8.95

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If you stumbled upon a murder scene, how difficult would it be to figure out what happened? How is the body positioned? Are there footprints or scuff marks on the floor? Is there evidence of theft or a struggle?

In these 24 pen and ink drawings, murder scenes are laid out for the amateur sleuth to interpret. The reader is invited to study the drawing, and then answer a series of questions designed to draw out the truth.

Unfortunately, many of the scenes are a bit difficult to make out. In one scene, a mustache brush provides a vital clue, but many wouldn’t even be able to identify it on the table. In another, signatures need to be compared, but it’s hard to tell if their similarity is a clue or simply the way they are drawn. Some of the scenes appear a bit dated, making it difficult for the younger reader to even understand what’s happening.

Crime and Puzzlement is a nice idea, in concept. Savvy mystery readers may be able to solve a few of these puzzlers, but a lot of folks will probably feel frustrated.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

mystery

Kittens Can Kill

Kittens Can Kill
Author: Clea Simon
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0358-9
Pages: 294
Price: $24.95

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When Pru Marlowe visits the home of David Canaday, she is expecting to be caring for a new kitten. She hardly expects to find David lying on the floor, dead. After rescuing the tiny feline from his feuding daughters, she attempts to determine what really happened.

Wallis, her resident tabby, resents this intruder to her home, but tries to find out what he might have seen. Although Pru can usually hear what Wallis has to say, she struggles to understand the kitten. Other canine friends also share their opinions on the Canaday daughters and David himself. Pru tries to piece together these and other tidbits of information she receives from sometimes lover, officer Jim Creighton, and the regulars at Happy’s bar.

Pru is never sure if her ability to communicate with animals is a gift or a curse, and she struggles with not letting anyone know. Keeping Creighton in the dark is a necessity, as she fears he may doubt her sanity if he learns the truth. Bourbon is her crutch when life feels too overwhelming.

Kittens Can Kill is the fifth installment in the Pru Marlowe Pet Noir series, and this one is just as enjoyable as the rest. Pru and Wallis make a great team, and cat lovers will find their interactions amusing. Any cozy mystery and pet lover will really enjoy this one.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

mystery

Neurotic November (Mary Magruder Katz #4)

Neurotic November
Author: Barbara Levenson
Publisher: CreateSpace
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-1-5005-1945-2
Pages: 322
Price: $11.99

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Mary Magruder Katz is back in this sequel to Outrageous October. After her short stay in New Hampshire, she has come home to Florida and is now trying to reestablish her law practice.

Her newest client, college football star Jay Lincoln, is facing rape charges. Carlos’s father is caught up in some bank fraud issues, and Mary’s secretary’s fiance (and Carlos’s cousin) is facing murder charges. To add to the stress, Mary is all mixed up about her relationship with Carlos, and her family is pressuring her to commit. Does she really want to stay single, or would she like to get married one day?

Neurotic November is a fast-paced mystery with legal finesse, but there are some editing glitches in this one. Jay Lincoln becomes Jay Washington for a chapter or two in the middle, and there are numerous typos. Unfortunately, I lost respect for Mary in Outrageous October and she did little in this book to earn it back. In my opinion, she’s a spoiled brat who doesn’t deserve a nice guy like Carlos. Read this one for the mystery, but the hot romance is pretty much gone.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

mystery, teen

Mr. Samuel’s Penny

Mr. Samuel's Penny
Author: Treva Hall Melvin
Publisher: The Poisoned Pencil
Genre: Mystery / Teen
ISBN: 978-1-9293-4504-5
Pages: 264
Price: $10.95

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Lizbeth Landers is spending the summer of 1972 with relatives in Ahoskie, NC. Soon after arriving, she finds herself at the Danbury Bridge, looking on in horror as Mr. Samuel and his baby girl are pulled from his submerged car. His hand clutches a penny, which mysteriously vanishes from the police evidence the next day. The two deaths are determined to be murder.

Collecting pennies is Lizbeth’s passion, and she realizes this particular penny is special. After witnessing Mr. Samuel’s widow’s grief at losing her husband and baby, Lizbeth is determined to find the missing penny and discover the murderer. There are plenty of places to search for pennies, and she won’t rest until it’s in her possession.

Mr. Samuel’s Penny is not just a clever murder mystery, but also gives the reader a glimpse of the south during a time of racial unrest. As a black girl, Lizbeth feels discriminated against by some of the white members of society. Over the summer, she discovers that not everything is exactly as it seems.

Full of interesting plot twists and side stories, Mr. Samuel’s Penny is an enjoyable read. I look forward to reading more books in this new Elizabeth Parrot Landers mystery series.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

children, mystery

The Mystery Hat

The Mystery Hat
Authors: Rune Brandt Bennicke & Jakob Hjort Jensen
Illustrator: Jakob Hjort Jensen
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-1-62914-621-8
Pages: 32
Price: $16.95

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Beaver, Crow and Pig are out for a winter stroll through the woods when they discover a knitted hat in a puddle. Crow notices the hat looks familiar, and the three friends immediately think about the possibilities of how it got there. Finally, Pig solves the puzzle.

The Mystery Hat is a brilliant children’s mystery. The characters are adorable, the problem is kid-sized, and the possible solutions are amusing and creative. And even when kids know the ending, they will keep reading this cute story over and over again, just because it’s so much fun! I really love this one!

Reviewer: Alice Berger

mystery, thriller

Moscow Bound

Moscow Bound
Author: Adrian Churchward
Publisher: Silverwood Books
Genre: Mystery / Suspense
ISBN: 978-1-78132-200-0
Pages: 336
Price: $16.99

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Scott Mitchell is an English human rights attorney living in Russia. When wealthy Ekaterina Romanova seeks his assistance in finding her missing father – a man she believes is being held against his will – Scott’s interest is piqued. But Ekaterina refuses to fully cooperate with him and withholds information he needs to help her in her quest.

After placing themselves at the site of a gruesome murder, Scott and Ekaterina find themselves dodging General Pravda, who is intent on discovering their motives. Pleading client confidentiality only goes so far in Russia, and Scott knows he could face a prison sentence. But when they uncover a highly confidential document, they suddenly find their lives in danger. Scott is determined to help Ekaterina find her father, no matter what it takes.

It’s evident that author Adrian Churchward is highly knowledgeable about Russian government actions, given the complexities of intrigue in this plot. The story is fast-paced and compelling, if at times a bit confusing to the average reader. Moscow Bound is the first book in The Puppet Meisters trilogy, and I look forward to seeing more in this series.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

mystery

The Richebourg Affair

The Richebourg Affair
Author: R.M. Cartmel
Publisher: Crime Scene Books
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-9929486-0-3
Pages: 328
Price: $13.95

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Commandant Charlemagne Truchaud returns home to Nuits-Saint-Georges for his brother’s funeral. But while he’s there, he begins to notice that things are not all as they should be. His father is acting unusually, his brother’s widow shares some disturbing news about the last season’s harvest, and he begins to suspect that some kind of foul play may be afoot.

As he digs deeper, a local wine merchant is murdered, one of his own police staff is seriously injured, and he begins to think his own and several other people’s lives may be threatened. But who is behind these anomalies and why?

Taking place in French wine country, The Richebourg Affair is rich in setting. Cartmel delivers a crash course in wine making from the grapevine to the bottle. Although more of a novel than a true whodonit, this suspenseful story captures the reader’s imagination from the beginning, and is an enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series.

Reviewer: Alice Berger