Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Marty Wingate #review @netgalley #comingsoon

About the book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place Between a Rock and a Hard Place

  • Publisher: Alibi (August 4, 2015)
  • Pages: 288

Perfect for fans of Laura Childs, Ellery Adams, and Jenn McKinlay, Marty Wingate’s enchanting Potting Shed Mystery series heads to Scotland as Pru Parke plans her wedding . . . all while a vengeful murderer is poised to strike again.

After her romantic idyll with the debonair Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse culminates in a marriage proposal, Pru Parke sets about arranging their nuptials while diving into a short-term gig at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. At hand is the authentication of a journal purportedly penned by eighteenth-century botanist and explorer Archibald Menzies. Compared to the chaos of wedding planning, studying the journal is an agreeable task . . . that is, until a search for a missing cat leads to the discovery of a dead body: One of Pru’s colleagues has been conked on the head with a rock and dumped from a bridge into the Water of Leith.

Pru can’t help wondering if the murder has something to do with the Menzies diary. Is the killer covering up a forgery? Among the police’s many suspects are a fallen aristocrat turned furniture maker, Pru’s overly solicitous assistant, even Pru herself. Now, in the midst of sheer torture by the likes of flamboyant wedding dress designers and eccentric church organists, Pru must also uncover the work of a sly murderer—unless this bride wants to walk down the aisle in handcuffs.

Buy, read, and discuss Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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About the author, Marty Wingate Marty Wingate

Marty Wingate is the author of The Garden Plot and a regular contributor to Country Gardens as well as other magazines. She also leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and North America. More Potting Shed mysteries are planned.

My Thoughts

This is the third in Marty Wingate’s Potting Shed Mystery series, and the first I didn’t get via TLC Book Stores, but direct from Alibi through NetGalley. I love the series – solid mysteries with just enough romance to keep things interesting, but this one didn’t wow me as much as the first two, and I think it was because Pru spent so much time doing research, and so little time doing actual gardening. In past novels, I was treated to descriptions of lush gardens, so vividly represented by the author’s text that at times I could feel the wet ground beneath my feet, and smell the fresh soil or sweet blossoms. In this novel, there isn’t as much of that, and I found that the gardening, indeed the gardens, had become additional characters.

Aside from that, this is a lovely novel, the perfect read for a cozy rainy weekend, or even a lazy evening in the tub. I enjoyed visiting with Pru and Christopher again, and seeing the evolution of their relationship, but I also enjoyed meeting some new friends – Madame Fiona, the dressmaker, and Marcus, Pru’s old friend from back home (and her ex) – stand out. We also got to see her friend Jo once more, and I’d forgotten how much I’d enjoyed the interaction of the two women.

The mystery itself was solid as ever. I’m sorry we didn’t get more scenes in the Botanic Gardens, but I was kept guessing whodunnit through most of the novel, and was happy with the resolution of the puzzle. Pru’s detection skills were absolutely on point, and I felt the jeopardy she was in growing throughout the story.

Three books in, spending time with a Potting Shed Mystery is as satisfying as spending the afternoon with a group of friends at a favorite pub. Comfortably familiar but with no shortage of new stories to share. I’m looking forward to book four.

Goes well with Split pea soup with ham, and cheddar bread fresh from the oven.

Review: Left Turn at Paradise, a Rare Book Mystery, by Thomas Shawver

About the book Left Turn at Paradise Left Turn at Paradise

Publisher: Alibi (August 26, 2014)
Pages: 208

The author of The Dirty Book Murder returns to the surprisingly lethal world of rare books with a second enthralling novel featuring a most unlikely hero—antiquarian bookseller Michael Bevan.

Michael Bevan is barely scraping by with his used bookstore and rare book collection when he discovers a timeworn journal that may change everything. Dating back to 1768, the tattered diary appears to be a chronicle kept during the first of legendary seafarer Captain James Cook’s three epic voyages through the Pacific islands. If it’s as valuable as Mike thinks it is, its sale may just bring enough to keep his faltering used bookstore afloat for another year.

Then he meets a pair of London dealers with startling news: Adrian Hart and Penelope Wilkes claim to possess the journal of Cook’s second voyage. Is it possible a third diary exists? One which might detail Cook’s explosive final voyage—and his death at the hands of native Hawaiians? Together, all three would be the holy grail of Pacific exploration. But before Mike can act, the two journals are stolen.

Chasing them down will sweep Michael, Adrian, and Penelope across the globe—past a dead body or two—and into a very sinister slice of paradise. High in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, in a remote and secretive Maori compound, a secret rests in the hands in of a man daring enough to rewrite history . . . and desperate enough to kill.

Buy, read, and discuss Left Turn at Paradise

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About the author, Thomas Shawver

Thomas Shawver is a former marine officer, lawyer, and journalist with American City Business Journals. An avid rugby player and international traveler, Shawver owned Bloomsday Books, an antiquarian bookstore in Kansas City. He’s at work on the third Rare Book mystery.

My Thoughts

When I read the first Rare Book Mystery, The Dirty Book Murder, earlier this year, I stayed up all night because I was so gripped by the story. The sequel, Left Turn at Paradise is similarly compelling, to the point where rather than read it IN the bath, I actually SKIPPED my bath in order to stay with the story. If you knew how seriously I take baths, you would understand that this is high praise, indeed.

In fact, bookshop owner Michael Bevan is fast becoming one of my favorite fictional detectives. I love that he’s able to hold his own in a brawl, sing in an Irish pub, and speak intelligently about all sorts of subjects, to the point where you just know that he’s the kind of guy who knows that “Iraq” is pronounced “ee-rakh” and not “eye-rack.”

This book takes us further afield than the first. We travel with Mike first to San Francisco for a rare book convention, and then to New Zealand, when the actual mystery part of the plot really becomes active. There are familiar characters – former FBI agent/current lover Josie is one of them – and there are new characters as well, such as Pillow (no, really) who is a really interesting woman.

As a fan of all things ship-y and pirate-y, I loved that the books at the center of this plot involved Captain Cook’s Pacific voyages, and the recurring images of the ocean and water in general just added to atmosphere.

Thomas Shawver spins an awfully good tale, full of believable characters in heightened situations, and manages to give us mysteries that are edgier than true cozies, and cozier than true hard-boileds, and feel slightly old-fashioned while still being completely contemporary.

Goes well with Steak au poivre and a glass of Two Paddocks wine.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of stops, click HERE.