Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich

Turbo Twenty-Three 2016

I continue to read this series even though the slapstick is predictable, and Stephanie will never make up her mind about the men in her life. Stephanie is having sex regularly with Morelli but on a trip to Disney World, she spends the night with Ranger. Nobody wants to commit so Stephanie will remain single forever. And the series will go on. Evanovich has plenty of action, and the books are a fast read. Just sit back and go along for the ride.Turbo 23

Stephanie stumbles onto a plot to ruin ice-cream man Bogart when the HR person ends up frozen and covered in chocolate and nuts in the back of a stolen truck driven by one of her skips. Ranger is hired to do security and Stephanie goes undercover. She works the factory line, loads the truck, and works as the clown before the truck is blown up. [Fans know that was coming.] Another skip is an Asian mobster who turns out to have ice cream cups in his office he’s using to ship drugs around the area. He threatens Stephanie, and a clown breaks into her room and almost strangles her. She recognizes the clown when staking out the Asian’s office. They capture her and plan to make a popsicle out of her.

What do you think about Stephanie and the series?

Do you think she should choose between Morelli and Ranger or remain single?

Who is your favorite character?

 

 

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Plaid and Plagiarism by Molly MacRae

Plaid and Plagiarism by Molly MacRae 2016

My niece loaned me this cozy murder mystery with a setting in Scotland.

The highland bookshop mystery is the first in a series and introduces the reader to Janet Marsh, divorced from her cheating husband and owner of a home in Inversgail, Scotland. Her daughter Tallie Marsh has tired of her corporate lawyer career and has IMG_0798 (2)joined her along with friends Christine Robertson, a social worker who is taking care of her elderly parents who live in Inversgail, and Summer Jacobs, divorced newspaper worker. They have joined forces to take over a bookstore and add a tea room and bed and breakfast.

The bookstore owners Kenneth and Pamela help them learn the business and get to know the townsfolk before moving away.

They are staying above the bookstore until the tenants move out of Janet’s house and she can move in.

The story introduces the characters in town including Una Graham, a columnist nobody likes who ends up dead in the shed behind Janet’s home. The motive for the murder is strong but isn’t revealed until late in the book.

The four friends come up with a list of suspects and motives throughout the story but their speculation seems a bit sluggish as they repeat information the reader knows. MacRae uses Scottish terms that put the reader in the highlands. The eccentric characters like Rab McGregor, Ian Atkinson, and Constable Hobbs add to the story and should return in the series.

 

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich  2010

This book is based on characters in one of the holiday books Janet Evanovich wrote and were tied to the Stephanie Plum series. Diesel, who has been in previous Stephanie PlumWicked Appetite stories is matched with Lizzy Tucker who has special powers to identify magical Stones tied to the Deadly Seven Sins. Diesel’s cousin Wulf also wants the stones and Lizzy to find them. Enter Diesel to protect her. Lizzy works at a bakery and makes magically delicious cupcakes with her two not-so-normal co-workers. Glo buys a book of spells that go wrong in her hands. (Think Lulu). Lizzy inherited her aunt Ophelia’s house and Glo rescues a weird cat that turns out to have belonged to Ophelia. Add Carl the monkey (from the Plum series), also rescued by Glo and it’s typical Evanovich chaos. The book is better than some of her holiday stories, but still lacks the chemistry the early Plum stories had. It’s disturbing that Diesel climbs into bed naked with Lizzy after just meeting her. In today’s world of perverts and unwelcome touching, his actions made me uncomfortable although Evanovich tries to paint it as normal fun and games.

I think I like the Stephanie Plum series because Stephanie represents the ordinary every girl surrounded by hunks and crazy people, and she deals with them without breaking a sweat. Some characters like Stephanie have a great connection with the reader, and I wish I knew what made the difference.

What makes a character connect with you?

“Z” is for Zero

“Z” is for Zero – No more.

A CraftonI finished reading the series and I thought I would summarize what I’ve learned from Sue Grafton’s books. She began writing in 1982 and died in 2017. That’s 35 years to write 26 books. Some writers pen 3 to 4 books a year, but Grafton did a lot of research and you could always count on learning the details of a subject in her stories. She liked description and used it for locations, buildings, clothing, and the characters.

Even if you don’t use a lot of description, a few lines help to set the place, person, and mood of the story.

Grafton wasn’t afraid of trying new things. The earlier stories followed a traditional detective or PI point of view as Kinsey is hired to find out who killed someone, and she has to interview the suspects, watch for lies, and make notes of the clues until a final showdown with the bad guy, escaping with her life and capturing the killer.

Many times the original murder occurred years before and in later books, she uses other POVs to flip back and forth between the past and present to flesh out the other characters beyond observation and help explain any motives. Sometimes her plots are complex and other times she gives us a breather with only a few characters and a simple plot. Don’t follow the same old formula when writing a series. Kinsey’s personal life is doled out over the series, and she adds friends to her circle with more of them becoming regulars as the series progresses. Jonah, Cheney and Dietz move in and out of her love life, and it would have been nice to see how they all ended up in “Z” or if Grafton would have left us guessing. I’ll add Henry to a possible husband although Kinsey laments their age difference. What does it matter as she gets older?

Grafton showed how to keep even a lone wolf like Kinsey surrounded by interesting people. She ended up in trouble more than once helping out her friends. Some of her later books had multiple story lines that tied together in the end. It takes skill to keep the stories clear and bring them together logically and smoothly. Grafton also used current events and social issues in her stories like Medicare fraud, mental illness, and abuse of the elderly. Look to the news for story ideas.IMG_0943 (2)

In the end, she made us care about Kinsey and that’s what a great writer does. No matter how intricate the plot, no matter how beautiful the setting, give the reader a reason to fall in love with your main character.

Do you have a favorite author you would recommend to others?

“Y” is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton

“Y” is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton 2017

This was the longest of Grafton’s novels at 483 pages and she often repeated the story about the night Sloan is murdered by her classmates Troy, Fritz, Austin and Baynard. Grafton uses flashbacks to 1979 and then returns to 1989 where Kinsey is asked to investigate a sex tape sent to Fritz after serving eight years for shooting Sloan.IMG_0943 (2)

Grafton uses the Climping Academy to show us the spoiled young people who party with alcohol and dope and spin their lives out of control. The plot of Iris stealing a proficiency test so her friend Poppy and Troy can move onto their senior year turns into a shunning of Sloan and her ultimate death when she steals the sex tape to stop Austin from bullying them. Grafton gives us plenty of suspects, turns and twists, and a final showdown.

Grafton weaves several threads including the blackmail, another murder, and a lot of secrets before the reader discovers the true story. In addition she has Ned from the previous book to contend with as he seeks revenge not only on Kinsey but his past wives Phyllis and Celeste. A third story involves Anna, Jonah and Cheney.

At the end of the story, Kinsey has a cat, dog, and numerous friends but she is cynical about the justice system. What she doesn’t have is a man in her life and fans have to wonder if in “Z” Grafton would have ended the series with Kinsey finding a third husband. We’ll never know.

Kinsey was based on Grafton and she had success and happiness in the end before cancer took her too soon.

 

“X” by Sue Grafton

“X” by Sue Grafton 2015

Grafton has several stories progressing along parallel paths and preparing to intersect in this book. The story begins with wealthy couple Ari and Teddy Xanakis. He cheated. She filed for divorce. Now they are fighting over the money and property, especially a IMG_0942 (2)valuable painting. Teddy tricks Kinsey into finding ex con Christian Satterfield who steals the painting. Kinsey gives Teddy and Ari marital advice (Kinsey?) and this seemed like a separate story. The main plot involves Pete from the previous story. Kinsey considered him a corrupt PI who bent the rules. But his widow Ruthie has such a different view, Kinsey begins to reevaluate her opinion of him, especially when she finds a coded message and list of six women in his belongings. Hoping to close loose ends in Pete’s life, she tracks down the women, who are tied to a sociopath, Ned Lowe, who adds Kinsey to his list of victims. I couldn’t understand why Pete kept the case a secret, and Ned gets away. It seemed sloppy. The other story concerns new elderly neighbors who take advantage of Henry. Kinsey shows the elderly as good and bad guys. Kinsey meets Cheney’s mother but her ex-boyfriend is absent until the end when Dietz talks to him about Ned. The story has several surprises and Pete is redeemed but it wasn’t a favorite.

“W” is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

“W” is for Wasted by Sue Grafton 2013

Grafton uses one other POV in this story and since the guy is dead, the flashbacks of Pete Wolinsky, PI, show the reader what he was up to and how it intersects with Kinsey. Our IMG_0795 (2)orphan detective discovers she is the heir to  dead man, Terrence Dace, who turns out to be the nephew of her father. After spending time in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, his children wrote him off with the help of their mother, and he is a homeless man looking for his uncle’s family (Kinsey). Grafton spends a lot of time on the homeless in this story as well as drug fraud. Pete hires Kinsey’s former boyfriend Dietz to spy on a woman in Reno at a convention with Dr. Reed. She’s met an old high school friend who is a journalist, and they are trying to prove Dr. Reed is changing numbers on a study on a drug for alcoholics. Dietz wasn’t paid and shows up for the money. Dace was part of the study and when he dies, boggarts or beggars rob him. His homeless friends Pearl and Felix with Kinsey’s help, steal back his belongings. Then Felix is beaten and dies from his injuries by the boggarts. One boggart witnessed Pete’s murder, and Kinsey tells Cheney, but Grafton doesn’t mention if anything happened to him. I hate loose ends. Kinsey gets to know her three worthless cousins who want part of the inheritance Dace left to Kinsey. Her mother’s family is looking GOOD by comparison. Kinsey says good-bye to Dietz who is spending time with his son Nick. Cheney asks if she’s dating anyone but he doesn’t ask her out on a date. What is wrong with the guy? A cat is introduced in the story, and Kinsey falls for him and risks life and limb to save him. Grafton reveals more about Kinsey’s personal life in this one and shows the complexity and motives of her detective. I admire Grafton for taking chances with different POV uses and for the detailed research she did about topics that are complicated. The story had a lot of options, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the one she chose.

 

“V” is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton

“V” is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton 2011

Grafton has perfected the different POVs and tying them all together for a story that leaves no guessing. The story begins with a 23-year-old Princeton graduate Phillip IMG_0794 (2)Lanahall who has a gambling problem in 1986. Mobster Dante loans him money which he promises to payback with 25% interest, but Dante sets him up at the gambling tables with a woman who forces him to lose. He offers his new car, and Dante tells his vicious brother Cappi to “take care of it” and check out the car. Instead he tosses the boy off the parking deck. Forward to the present where Kinsey witnesses two women shoplifting and reports it. Audrey is arrested and commits suicide. Her fiancé Marvin hires her to find out the truth. Reporter Diana Alvarez makes an annoying appearance, but Kinsey warms up to her by the end of the story. We meet Pinky who gave Kinsey her first break-in tools, and he needs money. She helps him get a ring which leads to a lot of trouble with the mob. Det. Len Priddy who was a friend of Kinsey’s first husband Mickey shows up and dislikes her now as much as in the past. Kinsey finds herself in the middle of a theft ring, and former boyfriend Cheney warns her to stay out of it. I won’t say anything about Nora, but she has her own POV so she’s important. This story has Kinsey playing detective wholeheartedly and making lots of new friends or tying up loose ends with old acquaintances. Grafton was upping her game as she came to the end of the alphabet. Her sarcasm is subtle but strong. You won’t want to miss reading this one.

 

“U” is for Undertow by Sue Grafton

“U” is for Undertow by Sue Grafton 2009

Michael Sutton comes to Kinsey with a memory of seeing a body buried when he was six years old. He thinks it was 4-year-old Mary Claire Fizhugh, who was kidnapped July 19, 1967, but never returned. Grafton shifts between the 1960s and 1980s changing point of views and giving us background into the different characters that impact the plot. IMG_0791 (2)Patrick and Deborah Unruh have to deal with son Greg turned hippie, his pregnant girlfriend Shelly and her son Shawn who live in a bus. They leave behind their newborn daughter, Rain, who is kidnapped 10 days before Mary Claire but returned after Patrick pays the ransom with marked bills. Michael has a history of falsely accusing people of sex abuse and when the body turns out to be a wolf-dog, they dismiss his story. Clever reference to the boy who cried wolf.

Kinsey has to deal with a family reunion, letters sent to her as a child and her Aunt Gin from Grand, and her obsession for making sense of what happened to Mary Claire. She has to deal with ex-cop Dolan, who was on the original case and Detective Cheney, who helps her with the current dig. The characters are well-drawn with the insights into their past and the reader understands their motives for committing the crimes. It’s a popular technique in today’s writing, especially romance to have both the hero and heroine POV and in mystery to have the killer and detectives POV for a more balanced story. For anyone needing a lesson on how to pull multi-POVs off, read this book. Even though the plot is complicated, it falls into place and is easy to follow. Grafton throws in a date discrepancy but then doesn’t explain when Michael saw the kidnappers digging the grave.

This is also a good book for those new to Grafton because she summarizes everything in Kinsey’s past so you can catch up in her life or read the previous A through T books.

“T” is for Trespass by Sue Grafton

“T” is for Trespass by Sue Grafton 2007

The plot was simple with a woman stealing the identity of nurse Solana Rojas and taking over the life and wealth of Henry and Kinsey’s elderly neighbor, Gus. Grafton IMG_0789 (2)used Solana’s POV in this story and we see her cold-blooded motivation, which made her more terrifying. Kinsey and the others in the story don’t see Solana as a threat until it’s almost too late. Kinsey has broken up with Cheney although she has a short moment of regret when she sees him. Kinsey is driving a 1970 Mustang instead of her old VW, which was buried in the previous story. Kinsey is working on other cases and takes her time looking into Solana’s background a second time (the first didn’t show anything wrong) as her suspicions rise. By that time Solana has sold Gus’s antique furniture, emptied his bank account and is trying to sell his artwork and get a loan on his property. The story has a few shockers, violent confrontations, and a nail-biting ending.

This story hit home because a “friendly” couple helped my great aunt. In reality he was on disability, which he emphasized and they took over her finances claiming to be “helpful.” It was at a time when swindling the elderly was none of anyone’s business, especially when the elderly person praised all the “wonderful” things their helpers did for them. I was in my teens and smelled a rat, but she died before anyone thought to question their care or the fact they had positioned themselves to have access to everything before the estate was settled.