‘C’ is for Corpse by Sue Grafton

‘C’ is for Corpse by Sue Grafton 1986

Bobby Callahan asks private investigator Kinsey Millhone to IMG_1850look into an accident a year ago where he was run off the road and his friend Rick died in a car crash. He is brain injured and doesn’t remember much but believes someone wanted him dead. She is introduced to his shrink Dr. Kleinert, his wife Nola, Bobby’s mother Glen who is rich, his stepfather Derek and stepsister Kitty, who is anorexic and drug addicted. She’s rushed to the ER.

Grafton takes each possible suspect and has Kinsey grill them, sometimes in a friendly way and sometimes in her sarcastic hardliner way. Grafton throws in a few more suspects, including Rick’s angry parents. The characters are hiding something and Kinsey begins the task of finding out the truth, explaining her own method — she noses around, does background checks, uncovers a threat, and follows where it leads.

Kinsey and Bobby visit the crash site, and he remembers a notebook he gave to a friend. Kinsey recalls the accident in which a boulder hit her family’s car and killed her parents. She was in the back seat and pinned to the floor, listening to her mother dying. Kinsey is her mother’s maiden name. If that doesn’t make the reader sympathetic to Kinsey, nothing will.

Her landlord Henry has a girlfriend, Lila, who Rosa thinks is a snake. She doesn’t like Kinsey and brings up her low rent. Kinsey checks into her and discovers Lila is a con artist. It’s a subplot that explores Kinsey’s personal life and how much her neighbors mean to her. When she searches Lola’s room, she is almost caught hiding in the shower. Some tense moments of hiding foreshadow the ending when she runs and hides from the killer. Grafton likes Kinsey to face the bad guy on her own. She doesn’t have her gun, but she finds a handy weapon to save her own life and capture the bad guy.

A few things were hard to accept like operating an x-ray machine although Grafton talks us into buying it. I kept getting the two doctors mixed up and the roles they played. This is where reading the book a second time helps. I didn’t like Kinsey going to an abandoned building alone without a gun. I thought she was smarter than that.

 

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‘B’ is for Burglar

B is for Burlgar by Sue Grafton 1985

It’s been three years since Sue wrote ‘A’ is for Alibi and it shows in her writing. Where ‘A’ started a bit slow, ‘B’ moves the story at a faster pace from the very beginning. It starts at a simple missing person job. Kinsey Millhone needs to find Elaine Boldt because her sister Beverly needs her signature on a legal document.B is for Burglar

The story becomes more interesting when Elaine’s departure for Florida coincides with a burglary in which the neighbor, Marty, was bludgeoned to death and the house set on fire. Her husband Leonard is staying with his sister Lily and nephew Mike is growing pot in the shed behind the charred ruins of his former home. Kinsey has to travel to Florida to see if Elaine ever made it. Pat claims to be subletting her apartment but she claims Elaine picked her up at the airport and drove her here. Grafton drops a big clue. Elaine doesn’t drive. Pat is lying but why? When Beverly wants to drop the case, Julia in Florida pays for the investigation. Kinsey travels between California and Florida to piece together the facts. She also enlist the help of a cop to bypass Dolan’s stuck investigation. When she checks into the insurance angle, the policy on Marty and their home insurance was small and provides no motive. She can’t find a motive for anyone to get rid of Elaine so where is she?

Small things add up to the big picture. I liked how Kinsey uses a clipboard and claims to be from the insurance company so she can interview Leonard. She makes friends with old ladies and Mohawk-haired teenage boys with ease. Jonah is introduced as a possible love interest but timing is wrong for both of them. Kinsey’s tenacity is shown as well as some background information into her personal life. An aunt raised her after her parents died – the cause wasn’t revealed. It was the same aunt who took her to a gun range at a young age and set her on the path to law enforcement and future private investigator. I suspect more of her personal life will be revealed through the remaining books. At least I hope so. I won’t tell you more of the plot and ruin it, but the pieces begin to add up and the book’s ending is a nail biter because Kinsey left her gun locked in her office.

 

‘A’ is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

‘A’ is for Alibi by Sue GraftonA Crafton

My mom loved murder mysteries, and Sue Grafton was one of her favorites. I gathered some of the alphabet murder books and plan to read through them from A to Y. Grafton died before finishing Z.

I finished ‘A’ is for Alibi today, and since I would like to write a mystery, I’m going to note the things I learned from her writing.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments about Grafton and her writing.

The book was published in 1982 and although some things in the book are dated, it doesn’t matter. What is unusual for 1982 is the private investigator Kinsey Millhone. She’s a woman, but not a grandmotherly type or amateur sleuth. She’s a hard-nose, twice divorced, 32-year-old professional. The story begins with her admitting to killing someone in the fourth sentence. Grafton got right to the point quickly—name, occupation, age and POW—killing someone. I’ve been told to introduce the murder in the first page. Grafton does it in the first paragraph, but it’s not the real murder.

The real murder occurred 8 years ago and Nikki Fife served eight years in jail for murdering her cheating husband. She wants Kinsey to find out who the real murderer was. That’s the story. Grafton introduces us to Kinsey’s bare-bones life, her hangout, her neighbor, and a cop who helps with the case. She introduces suspects one at a time, dropping clues along the way. The interviews provide information and secrets that the reader inhales along with Kinsey. I was kept guessing until the end, well, maybe not the very end. But knowing made the ending more exciting because of the danger.

Grafton uses description to set up each chapter, which is a compact scene, a part of the puzzle she’s assembling for the reader. Each witness provides a clue, lead, or lie to keep the reader moving along to solve the mystery. I kept a list of the characters, but they were distinct enough to keep separate if you don’t put the book down for too long.

Grafton adds a fresh murder with an unknown motive Kinsey and the reader need to discover. She also throws in dinner and sex for Kinsey. A red herring is planted and Kinsey uses a tough interview technique (pointing a gun at him) to eliminate the suspect.

The clues come rapid fire in the second half of the book with twist and turns that change the motive from cheating spouse to something more. When another witness is run down in a hit skip, Kinsey is in danger and she defends herself the only way she knows how. No one comes to her rescue. No one needs to.

Grafton makes Kinsey a well-rounded character, not the typical stereotype detective that too many writers fall back on. She’s gritty and straightforward but knows when to listen. She makes mistakes, but doesn’t lose her way. Many of the characters are women in the book (good and bad) and that may seem normal in 2018 but it had to be groundbreaking in 1982.  Now, only 24 more books to go.

Sue Grafton (April 24, 1940 – Dec. 28, 2017) didn’t write ‘Z’ is for Zero. She left that to our imaginations. Thank you.

Cozy Mystery writing

I received “Maid of Murder” and “Murder in a Basket” by Amanda Flowers as prizes during a Sisters in Crime anniversary party.Amanda Flowers

I enjoyed the first two books in an India Hayes Murder series and instead of a review (she is a friend after all) I will share some of the things I learned about writing a cozy mystery from reading her books.

The first obvious one is write what you know. Amanda and I are both from the Akron or the Northeast Ohio area. Her books are set in this area in a fictional town but nearby real references. I set my historical romances also in this area in the fictional town of Darrow Falls but with references to real places.

She introduces the main character, India, and creates sympathy for her by placing her in one of those awkward moments we have all experienced. In book 1, she is a bridesmaid for her best friend (who unfortunately is the murder victim) and has to wear an ugly dress. We’ve all been there and feel a bond toward her. In the second book she has to wear a historical dress, which most of us would also balk at, especially in public.

Other characters are introduced one at a time or in small groups and some are mean toward her. We don’t know if they’re suspects yet, but we’d like them to be.

Secrets and rumors are introduced in the second book to pique our interest while in the first, India is treated badly but not as badly as her love-struck brother, who has always had a crush on the bride-to-be.

Because it’s a cozy, there are dogs and cats and eccentric old ladies and nosy neighbors sprinkled among the small town setting.

The cop is an old boyfriend of India’s sister but the reader knows, even though India seems to be oblivious to the fact, that he’s interested in her. In any mystery, the love story is minor but can enhance the story. She can solve a mystery, but she doesn’t have a clue about love.

The main character discovers the dead body. In the first book, the suspect is her brother and their close bond makes it necessary for her to prove his innocence. In the second book, she befriends the son of the first victim and wants to find out the truth.

In this book there is a sidekick, like Dr. Watson to Sherlock Holmes, who offers some comic relief and helps with the investigation.

Suspects are eliminated one at a time and a motive is revealed, usually money.

She also adds a family crisis, which helps take the focus off the murder and expand what we know about the main character. Unlike traditional hard detective mysteries, the reader learns about the main character’s family, work, and dreams.

More suspects are added as the amateur sleuth interviews witnesses. Some pan out while others are dead ends.

A minor incident in the beginning often proves to be more important in the end.

By accident the heroine ends up finding herself alone with the killer who reveals his motive and threatens her. She fights back, rescues herself, and calls the cops who arrest the bad guy.

The story wraps up quickly at the end, but an epilogue gives us a glimpse into what happened to the main characters.

 

 

Presidents Day quotes

In my newest novel, “Impending Love and Madness” Zach Ravenswood and Cassandra Beecher attend a play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865, and witness the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. They memorize some of his speeches.

These words are from his Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

These words are from a debate between Lincoln and Sen. Stephen Douglas in 1858:

It is the eternal struggle between these two principles—right and wrong—throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity, and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, “You toil and wok and earn bread, and I will eat it.” No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live from the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.”

 

 

Review of “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

Dec. 29, 2017 Outlander by Diana GabaldonOutlander-TV-cover

I read the 550 ebook pages of Outlander this past week. If you do the same, allow plenty of time. I also have watched the television series based on the book. Sometimes a book is better. Sometimes the movie or television series is better. This was a close one to call. Because the television series is filmed in Scotland, it brings the descriptions in the book to life, and the characters are more alive by actors portraying them with the mud, rain, and pain part of the reality. The book filled in some of the missing information about the characters’ backgrounds and family scheming and betrayals that aren’t as evident in the series. Black Jack is definitely scarier in the series. Although the descriptions are graphic in the novel, the impact is stronger, if not horrific, when viewing them. The series also allows more than Claire’s point of view and the sound of Gaelic as the actors speak it. Which is better than me trying to pronounce it. I think the book and series are an excellent example of marrying the two and both being equally enjoyable.

What do you think?

 

Book review for “The Cavalry Wife”

The Cavalry Wife

Book review for “The Cavalry Wife” by Donna Dalton

Dalton has a gift for poetic phrasing that captures the historic setting and transports the reader to President Grant’s time period. When his timid cousin Cassie Grant accidentally shares her bed with cavalry Captain Chase Brooks, they are forced to marry to avoid a scandal. A common ploy in romance novels, Dalton deepens the challenge of keeping the perfect couple apart with the backstories of Cassie and Chase. They wrestle with their own demons and struggle to resist the growing need to unite as husband and wife physically and emotionally in a natural progression. Dalton provides plenty of action, and she passes the test of historic romance by creating a story that could only take place in this time period. I only wish she had written a longer story.

Book review for “The Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie”

“The Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie” by Penny Burwell Ewing is the second book in The Haunted Salon series and combines ghostly helpers with a cozy mystery to keep the reader turning the pages.utterly-deadly-southern-pecan-pie-1

Written in first person, Jolene Claiborne is the hair stylist who sees ghost and solves mysteries. She has two younger sisters who help her and parents with a history that makes Daddy the prime suspect. Detective Samuel Bradford is the love interest but at odds with her special powers and knack for finding trouble.

It has a strong Southern voice and the setting backs it up with a beauty pageant, baking contest, Southern mansion, and Civil War reenactment. The modern day mystery is solved with clues from the Civil War and unfolds in a well-paced series of events that reveal just enough to keep the reader waiting for the next hint to drop. Jolene is the type of character that keeps readers coming back to find out what she’ll do next.

Book reviews

I’m catching up on my reading now that the weather has turned cold. I hope to have something posted every week but bear with me if I miss a week. I post books I enjoyed and want to share. If I didn’t like a book, I won’t post a review. We all have different taste, and someone may love a book I didn’t like. If I see a major flaw or room for improvement, I will try to offer some helpful advice. I appreciate feedback from my books as well. Join me in reading a few good books this winter.

Laura Freeman

 

Review of Impending Love and Capture

This article was in the Nov. 19, 2017 Sunday Life Section of the Akron Beacon Journal

Events

BOOK TALK: area authors and events Falls author’s latestImpendingLoveandCapture_w11791_med - Copy

Jessica Beecher, last seen in Cuyahoga Falls author Laura Freeman’s historical romance Impending Love & Lies,

survived working as a nurse on the Antietam battlefield with Clara Barton.

Now, in Impending Love & Capture,

Jess is in Virginia delivering medical supplies but dreading her destination, because when she arrives she plans to refuse the proposal of her longtime beau.

Later, returning through Pennsylvania, she stops to help a wounded Union soldier and is shocked to learn that he is an uninjured Reb.

The man takes her prisoner to tend to his sister, who has been accidentally shot as she served in boys’ clothes as his aide. The soldier, Maj. Morgan Mackinnon, tells Jess she must pose as his wife for her safety in the Confederate camp.

Jess comes to like the girl Tootie, and becomes conflicted about her feelings for Morgan when she learns that he attended West Point with her brotherin- law Blake. Morgan wanted to be an engineer, not a soldier. Their sham marriage develops into a real romance.

As in the three previous books in the series, the Beechers’ hometown of Darrow Falls is reminiscent of nineteenth-century Stow and Peninsula. Impending Love & Capture

(354 pages, softcover) costs $16.99 from Wild Rose Press. Laura Freeman will sign Impending Love & Capture

from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Learned Owl Book Shop, 204 North Main Street, Hudson, as part of the annual Home for the Holidays event.