The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase (#2) by Greg Cox

Published: 25th April 2017 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Tor Books
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Genre: Mystery Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Stories have power.

In 1719, Elizabeth Goose published a collection of rhyming spells as a children’s book, creating a spellbook of terrifying power. The Librarian of that age managed to dispose of all copies of the book except one, which remained in the possession of Elizabeth Goose and her family, temporarily averting any potential disaster.

Now, strange things are happening around the world. A tree-trimmer in Florida is blown off his elevated perch by a freak gust of wind, a woman in rural Pennsylvania is attacked by mutant rodents without any eyes, and a college professor in England finds herself trapped inside a prize pumpkin at a local farmer’s market. Baird and her team of Librarians suspect that the magic of Mother Goose is again loose in the world, and with Flynn AWOL–again–it is up to Cassandra, Ezekiel, and Stone to track down the missing spellbook before the true power of the rhymes can be unleashed.

I adored the movies and television series The Librarians so finding out there were further adventures in book form was a pure delight and they did not disappoint. They were written while the show was airing with the understanding we know who these characters already are, but they are also whole new adventures for them to go on and mysteries to unravel.

Delving into the realm of nursery rhymes and other literature as if it were real or based on fact has always been a fun topic, I loved seeing it in Jasper Fforde and I loved it here. Of course the history of nursery rhymes is filled with half-truths and unknowns which makes it perfect for the Librarians universe.

All the characters are here – Jenkins, Baird, and the three new librarian recruits and Cox has depicted them as they appear in the show. Their mannerisms, voice, thoughts and style all correspond with the people we’ve been introduced to and even if this is your first introduction to them, there are enough scatterings of information and backstory that you can pieces together who these people are. This is book two officially but can easily be read out of order, as I did while I tracked down book one. There are references to past cases but whether they are in the previous book, in the show, or that happened off screen is unknown but it helps to add to their experience, backstory and their mission.

For a book with some good action scenes, all of which are well written and quite vivid, it is also a slow story of research and piecing together many clues with side quests that prove distracting in a good way. You definitely sense their frustrations of trying to fix one problem when other smaller problems keep popping up to hinder their progress. The Librarians was always about action and drama and chaos and Cox brings this to the page very well. The distribution of research and investigation, coming together into one bigger plot is great and it lets you play along and try and solve the mystery as well, working out what things mean and what piece of information is important.

What I love about these kinds of books is its connection to reality; they try to link it to real people, provide reasons and history about the various artefacts while also keeping the magical element of the Library. Every story, myth or riddle is based on a truth is a good way to look at the Librarians universe and logic so to have rooms filled with tridents and treasure chests, things manifested from rhymes, stories and legends is wonderfully clever and I love it.

The climax and resolution is incredibly clever because it plays on what you know, if you know the Librarians history, but it also allows the possibility of multiple other events and outcomes and trying to work out which one Cox will choose is a fun game on its own. I’m so glad this book lived up to my expectations and gave the perfect balance of mystery, adventure, as well as humour and being delightfully cheesy at times as well. A great addition to the Librarians collection.

You can purchase The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase via the following

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 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body (#21) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 2010 (print)/14 Oct 2010 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Constable & Robinson Ltd /Audible
Pages: 199/6 hrs and 15 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★ ★  – 3 Stars

Agatha Raisin has always been ambivalent about holiday cheer, but her cosy little village of Carsely has long prided itself on its Christmas festivities. But this year Mr. John Sunday, a self important officer with the Health and Safety Board, has ruled that the traditional tree on top of the church is a public menace; that lampposts are unsafe for hanging illuminations; that May Dimwoody’s homemade toys are dangerous for children.

Things have reached such a desperate pass that the Carsely Ladies’ Society joins forces with the ladies in the neighbouring village of Odley Cruesis to try to put a stop to Mr. Sunday’s meddling—only to find that someone has literally put a stop to him with a kitchen knife.

Agatha’s detective agency is on the case, but when a man has made as many enemies as John Sunday, it’s hard to know where to start.

We’ve had another Christmas (blink and you’ll miss it) and miraculously Agatha is still in her early fifties. I can’t remember which book it was but there was another one that had two Christmases in it and 21 books into this she is no longer in her early fifties no matter what weird time bubble they’re all living in.

I mentioned last time about things taking a long time, this takes place over the year and the fact people are still able to recall a murder so clearly and be as invested in it is a slight stretch, though I guess small town life people are quite nosey as has been shown through this series. Also over the course of the book quite a few more people end up murdered so that does keep the village interest high.

Agatha is still Agatha, I saw another review describe her has irascible which I absolutely love. It explains a lot about her and fits the myriad of moments where the second she gets inconvenienced or put out she turns to angry outbursts and starts insulting people or threatening to kill them. The stilted conversations reminds you again that Beaton can’t write a believable young adult conversation or stop herself from trying to mould them into the kinds of people she thinks they should be and their awkward dialogue reflects that.

The fact this takes place over a year is interesting because while the other stories weren’t exactly solved overnight, there were often only a few weeks of inaction, on occasion months; but this was a curious choice that made it less of a book about murder and more a snapshot of Carsely over a year that had a few murders in it which we move on from and reference ever now and again.

New characters are introduced and we see Toni trying to make something of her life with newcomer Simon but Agatha, who thinks she knows best, gets involved which was weird and incredible illogical but isn’t beyond what I expect of Agatha or Beaton at this point.

For all the faults in the writing and plot Keith does a superb job once again. Her narration is excellent and while listening to this kind of story tends to highlight the repetition and the jumping around of scenes it does make it more bearable.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body via the following

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 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

A Spoonful of Poison (#19) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 30th September 2008 (print)/01 Feb 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books /Audible
Pages: 288/6 hrs and 20 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Cranky but lovable sleuth Agatha Raisin’s detective agency has become so successful that she wants nothing more than to take quality time for rest and relaxation. But as soon as she begins closing the agency on weekends, she remembers that when she has plenty of quality time, she doesn’t know what to do with it. So it doesn’t take much for the vicar of a nearby village to persuade her to help publicize the church fete—especially when the fair’s organizer, George Selby, turns out to be a gorgeous widower.

Agatha brings out the crowds for the fete, all right, but there’s more going on than innocent village fun. Several of the offerings in the jam-tasting booth turn out to be poisoned, and the festive family event becomes the scene of two murders.

Along with her young and (much to her dismay) pretty sidekick, Toni, Agatha must uncover the truth behind the jam tampering, keep the church funds safe from theft, and expose the nasty secrets lurking in the village—all while falling for handsome George, who may have secrets of his own.

At book 19 it’s just passed the halfway mark in this series and this is indeed a middle book because it is quite forgettable. Even amongst the cookie cutter style of these stories and repetition this one hasn’t stuck in my head very well.

Away from Carsley we have a lot of new characters to play with, each getting the Agatha treatment but there was some variety in their characters. Agatha’s instant love and affection for the new man George goes over the same thing we’ve seen before, and even with new characters to get to know there isn’t anything different. There is extra story away from the main murder, padding details and random extra scenes but it was enjoyable enough. I understand that these are meant to work as standalones, you can pick them up wherever and not really need to know what was going on, but the amount of repetition those of us who do read the entire series has to put up with is frustrating.

The characters are unique and flawed which is entertaining but Beaton needs to learn to stop bringing out the same flaws each time, we do get another miniscule revelation of Agatha’s life but it’s not nearly enough given the amount of times we’ve been told about her bear like eyes, her ailments, and her body issues. What was interesting was that newcomer Toni gets additional focus as we see her pushed along by Agatha to branch out on her own, plus a new village of new faces to get to know and suspect, but what is a Raisin book without Agatha bringing up the rear with the usual complaints, brashness, and obsession of love and loneliness.

It also wouldn’t be an Agatha book without James making an appearance as we’re lured into the next book with his surprise engagement. Anytime James is mentioned it brings the tone down of these books and why Beaton keeps dragging him back into storylines where it doesn’t make sense is beyond me. Hopefully this time she can settle his storyline and move on.

You can purchase A Spoonful of Poison via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

A Bittersweet Murder by Kaz Delaney (#1)

Published: 22nd March 2022 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Tule Publishing
Pages: 294
Format: ebook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

In the small town of Airlie Falls, Texas, everyone knows everyone’s business, and newcomer carer and wannabe-baker Rosie Hart may be surprised to find herself the sole attendee at the funeral of her client, Miss Alice Auchinschloss, but she’s shocked when she discovers she’s also Miss Alice’s sole heir. When reports confirm Miss Alice was actually murdered, Rosie becomes the potential small town hero for killing off the unpleasant woman–and prime suspect in her murder.

In a chance meeting with a helpful and handsome cowboy, Rosie discovers her newly-inherited home is ransacked, and someone is going to great effort to conceal their search. Rosie has no idea who is involved, or why, or what they were looking for, but when she’s questioned by the town’s sheriff, it becomes obvious that if she doesn’t prove her innocence, nobody else will.

With the help of her new friend, Jonah, his family, and a nosy but canny group of snack-loving ladies in the local retirement home, Rosie conducts her own investigation to clear her name and reveal the true identity of the murderer. Discussions over mouth-watering treats bring the motley investigative team closer together – and closer to solving this intricate puzzle, but when another elderly person winds up dead, it becomes apparent that this small town is full of secrets that someone is prepared to kill for in order to keep buried. Rosie must sift through her list of clues in order to serve up the truth – before she becomes the next victim!

Note: A Bittersweet Murder was previously published under the title Chocolate and Lace. I was provided with a copy of the new edition for review.

I have adored Delaney’s young adult novels in the past and now I can confirm that I adore her mystery novels as well. This was a delightful cosy mystery and one I finished in a single sitting. There is a great narrative voice and you fall into the story quickly, pulled along page by page with endearing characters and numerous twists and unexpected nefariousness.

Delaney’s writing style is to be commended. There is humour and warmth, and her ability to shift a scene with a few words means you are always being surprised and intrigued by what’s to come. The mix of twists and surprises is balanced perfectly with great characters and well established settings. From the beginning we are drawn into Rosie’s life and her current circumstances and it’s not long before we are caught up in the unexpected situations and evolving drama alongside her, eagerly turning pages to see where it’s all headed.

There are wonderful moments where we understand the significance of something Rosie has yet to connect which is always a satisfying feeling in a mystery. The urge to rush ahead and see where your own theories lead is high but like any great mystery writer Delaney leaves it to the very end to make us realise we missed a myriad of other clues being left behind. The mystery itself is unique and detailed in a fantastic way, and seeing Delaney pull all the threads together at the end was marvellous as you realise how even with the answers in front of you, there are still surprises in store.

Delaney has balanced the mystery and small town charm perfectly that brings a lot of light heartedness to this mystery which is what you expect from your cosies. The characters feel well rounded and even the few minor characters felt like they had depth and their own lives outside the pages. Being the first in a series getting to come back to this town and these people is inviting and Delaney has established enough that we can see Rosie making a future in the town. Having thoroughly enjoyed Rosie’s first crime solving misadventures in Airlie Falls I am primed and ready to jump into the next one.

You can pre-order A Bittersweet Murder via the following

Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple Books

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Check Kaz Delaney’s website for further purchase sites once released

Agatha Raisin and Love, Lies, and Liquor (#17) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 1st September 2006 (print)/1 July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Paperbacks /Audible
Pages: 231/6 hrs and 14 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★ – 1 Stars

Cotswold detective Agatha Raisin lies to herself, hoping skimpy lingerie will suit her ex’s surprise holiday. He lies to himself, remembering childhood heyday of Snoth-on-Sea as sunny, now a wreck in a cold windy storm. Aggie threatens obnoxious guest Geraldine, later found strangled in Aggie’s lost scarf. Aggie can try drink, but needs all her friends when bodies pile up.

If I thought about it, every book with James Lacey is terrible, and Agatha is a better person when he isn’t around. Less than 1/5th of the way through I was already back to hating James and hating Agatha for who she becomes when she’s around him. I had such hopes for her after the last book, she was sensible, looking for companionship but not going after every neighbour that moved in with lust. She’d stopped going on about James and put herself in her work and her friends again. Now this is all undone.

Whilst Agatha is giving James another chance she gets caught up in another murder where she is a suspect. These can be hit or miss but because Agatha is stuck with the insufferable James it ruins any chance of enjoying anything else. You can see Agatha trying to break free from James but her desire to give him another chance is a complete disappointment.

All the regular characters make an appearance to try and help Agatha, you can see they are growing and evolving so that’s a benefit since Agatha isn’t allowed to.

Prejudices are ongoing with Agatha surprised that Harry, who dresses in punk clothing and has a shaven head, is considerate, while Patrick, who wears “conventional dress” could be considered attractive. It’s just criticisms and judgemental observations after the other. And the fact Beaton has Harry suddenly say they look foolish and wish they’d never gotten the piercings is so bizarre to me. Beaton is trying to bland down the world one book at time, just as she was adding some interesting characters.

These books were published in 1990s and 2000s, in that time society changes, language changes, and references change which I understand, you can pick that up from the way she writes her earlier books to these ones, but this one was published in 2006, there’s no excuse for this kind of writing.

There are endearing moments, but then there are also times you hate the main characters because Agatha and James will drive you up the wall. What is a quirk or personality trait for some characters, the fact these two change so much is ridiculous. Actually, James stays the same, but it changes from being a problem to not clearly on how Beaton feels on a particular book.

I truly don’t know what to expect with this series anymore. The vast differences in ratings so far is bizarre. In the beginning they were gradually getting better, characters were evolving as we got to know them and while the stories weren’t perfect they were decent enough. Now they have swung so wildly it’s hard to know what the next one will bring and characters flip suddenly between stories you don’t know what’s going to happen.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Audible

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