Thursday, January 24, 2019

Book Review: JUST PLAIN MURDER (An Amish Mystery #6)

Title: Just Plain Murder (An Amish Mystery #6)
Author: Laura Bradford
Publisher: Berkley Books
Pages: 304
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Set in Heavenly, Pennsylvania, the book takes us into the lives of an Amish community. Jakob Fisher, a detective, has been expelled from the Amish community for becoming a police officer. It is a subject that causes him grave distress, even years later. 

When his mentor, retired cop Russ Granger, is killed, Jakob and his fiancée Claire Weatherly can’t begin to understand who would have wanted him dead.

Jakob is so stricken with grief that he has to get his reminiscences about Russ out of his system before he can even begin to investigate.

That is the crux of this book, but there are other people and their lives that are just as important. After all, it is a small community and it is natural for people to be connected with each other.

Eli and Esther Miller have had a baby, Sarah. Eli’s brother, Benjamin, who was Jakob’s childhood best friend may have found the right match at last. Claire’s 62-year-old Aunt Diane, who is sweet and always seeing the good in people, has a love interest in Bill Brockman. Amos Bontrager, who is on a Rumspringa, a period when Amish youngsters decide if they want to live as Amish or assume the English way of life, is a delinquent who thinks nothing of vandalising property and stalking women. His actions are upsetting the community, as is his father’s unwillingness to hold him accountable.

There are far too many characters here, and I was irritated by that until I realized that this was Book 6 of a series, and I was pretty clueless about the five books that had preceded it.

Honestly, I found myself losing patience pretty quickly. I didn’t mind the other bits actually, but the investigation was oh-so-painfully slow. I’ve read books on the Amish way of life before, but those were romances. Here since the theme was murder, I expected a little more excitement and action.

Here, the murder investigation is just a part of everyday life in a small community. So we end up learning about the Amish people through the characters. We have Esther who enjoys baking bread, Aunt Diane who enjoys cooking, and Annie, Claire’s employee, who enjoys baking cookies just like Ruth Miller, Benjamin’s sister. Claire’s shop features heavily.

There’s an election for the position of the minister at the church, and Elmer Mast, newcomer to the community, pips John Bontrager and Benjamin to the post. We also get insights into the Amish way of practicing the Christian faith.

My knowledge of the Amish lifestyle needed an urgent update. I was surprised to read that Esther had a fridge. I had thought that the Amish had no use for modern technology, since they eschew the use of cars, and prefer horse-driven buggies.

The investigation goes on so slowly, it’s like watching paint dry. Leads emerge from the most long-winded conversations. There is endless information about the colour of people’s eyes and their hair, which is the romance factor at play.

At its heart, the book is a romance. Celebrating the love that several people have for each other, and also the love and faith that the community puts into its beliefs.

I couldn’t get drawn into the book.

Jakob was far too emotional to do his job properly. He was always sharing his story with anyone he met. As a cop, he should have been scouring footage at the pub almost immediately to trace Russ’ last few moments. But it is not until Claire says that she would like to have been a fly on the wall that he remembers that he could ask the pub owner for the camera footage. It was only towards the end of the book that I realized that the book was more about Claire than Jakob. Perhaps that is why she seemed to get more leads.

Some of the words used made me cringe. There was one line, “Eli inhaled himself to his full height.” It was an annoying sentence, but not the only one of its kind. There were several times when I encountered the use of inhale, exhale, swallow, sag and lean as nouns. It was annoying.

It wasn’t that this mystery wasn’t good. It is just that the resolution took too long.

(I received an ARC from First to Read).

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Book Review: Escaped: A Thriller of Partho, the Unconventional Investigator

Title: Escaped: A Thriller of Partho, the Unconventional Investigator
Author: Rajib Mukherjee
Publisher: Kindle edition
Pages: 150
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Partho, the intrepid inventor, his trusted sidekick and brother-in-law Dev, and wife Ria are back. This time for a scientific conference that takes Partho to Philadelphia, where the trio have decided to have an extended holiday. At Philadelphia, they meet Dr David Hall, Partho’s friend and mentor. While on a sightseeing trip with Charlie, David’s nephew, they encounter a disheveled man being chased by gangsters.

Later, Peter, a cop and David’s son-in-law, seeks Partho’s help to solve a mystery involving trouble. Flinn, a death row inmate accused of treason, double homicide and hate crimes, has escaped from prison.  

Hitting upon an important lead, Partho signs the three of them on a bus tour. Soon it becomes clear that not everyone on the tour is enjoying a leisure trip. Partho also becomes aware of a countdown to a huge explosion. Their efforts to prevent the explosion fail and Partho goes missing.

Who is responsible for playing with the lives of thousands of innocents? And what do they hope to gain from it? And will Partho return safely?

As in Book 1, this book too is written from the first person past tense point of view of Dev, the Watson to Partho’s Sherlock.

What I liked most about this book was the sense of familiarity it evoked, after I had thoroughly enjoyed the first one. It felt as if I was meeting a couple of eccentric but still lovable friends, who had plenty of foibles.

The element of danger is notched up in this book and the potential negative repercussions of failure are much higher. The plot itself is far more complicated than it was in the first book, and the pace far headier. The large number of characters added to the challenge of keeping track of who is who, but the effort was rewarded.

In the second book, the author gives us a little bit of the back story of Partho, making it a little easier for us to understand him.

The best part of the Partho series is undoubtedly Partho himself. He may seem a trifle mollycoddled with Ria fussing constantly over him, but he still comes across as a good guy, a chap you want on your side. You never know which of his inventions might serve as a lifesaver. The beauty of Partho’s inventions lies in their sheer ingenuity. I also appreciated his willingness to step up and risk his life for a total stranger.

The book is written with humour and enthusiasm. The author tells us of Partho, Viruses often announced their arrival in the neighborhood through him.

The only thing that gave me pause was the number of grammatical errors in this book. The use of different tenses in the same sentence, incorrect usage of words etc. it took away from the pleasure this book gave. I hope the author rectifies this soon.

Also, I missed the philosophical tidbits and the humour that Partho had to share in the previous book. Here he was a little too serious.

I look forward to meeting Partho in yet another book. 

(I read this book through NetGalley.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

RE-LEARNING THE ABC WITH MAMMA -- Now available on Amazon Kindle

As we stand at the beginning of a brand New Year 2019, I come bearing glad tidings.

This December gone by, I gave myself a Christmas gift that had been years in the making. Five years, to be precise.

My first book, a work of non-fiction, is finally available on the Kindle store. Re-learning the ABC with Mamma consists of the life lessons I learned from my parents, lessons that I now want to share with my kids. 

I'd be mighty thrilled if you'd click on the link in the paragraph above right now to check out my book.

I'd be even more overjoyed if you would click on the link that says, BUY NOW.

And my joy would absolutely hit the roof and sail upwards through the air if you would go on to read the book from cover to cover, and leave behind a review to tell me, and the world, that you loved it, or liked it, or even if you didn't.

Meanwhile, I want to draw your attention to the cover. The image has been drawn by my 10-year-old daughter, who's been my biggest cheerleader on this journey. Art professionals and publishing experts might scoff and sneer and tell me the book won't get noticed if the cover isn't a professionally managed job. That it will never sell. That it will gather a lot of figurative dust.

I'm choosing to listen to my heart.

This is my way of honouring her. Of thanking her for cherishing my dream and rooting for it through the many hurdles that have sprung up, when I came so close to giving up.  

Sometimes you make decisions that are more important than the ringing of the cash register. 

Not that the sales numbers aren't important.

The sales proceeds, I promised the One Upstairs long before the book was even fully written, would go to the Missionaries of Charity, and so every sale matters. Particularly to those who will benefit from the proceeds.

The sales figures, so far, have been in the lower end of the single digits, but the joy these rare species have brought us has been immeasurable. My little girl and I have held hands and danced around the room each time we saw that oh-so-tiny spike on the sales chart.

This book has been a labour of love for us both.

As I write this, still awash in the glow of a season that someone far wiser than me described as one  "which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love," I believe and hope that the love with which this book has been infused will go around and be shared and return to bless all those whose lives it touches.

Happy New Year to you and yours!


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