Book: To Have, To Hold

© 2017 by Darlene Polachic

This is the first in the Ever Green series and is available through Kindle Unlimited for those who are subscribers.

When Janet O’Grady’s wheeler-dealer husband Marty dies in a car crash, she learns that he’s put everything they own under ownership of the company he and his brother own. Looking through his desk, hoping to find a bank account with funds she can access, she discovers evidence that he’s been shifting company funds into an offshore account. Marty’s brother soon learns that millions of dollars are missing from the company’s account, he’s sure she’s been party to this deception. He wants his money and she m us know where it is.

Janet packs up what she can and leaves in the wee hours with her six-year-old boys, running scared, headed for her parents’ home in Washington. She’s hoping they’ll forgive the past, take her in and give her shelter until she can get on her feet again. She doesn’t want — but needs — help from a kind stranger en route.

Though she’d ignored their warnings when she ran off with Marty, her parents refrain from, “I told you so.” But they think she’s a rich widow now — and she doesn’t tell them the truth, fearing her father’s health is too precarious. Her sister Christa soon shares the news of her upcoming wedding to banker Grant Brooks — who turns out to be the kind stranger who paid for Janet’s gas a few hours before.

Grant, a generous man with an inkling about Janet’s true financial state, offers to let her live in his grandfather’s house in exchange for cleaning it out — his grandparent saved EVERYTHING — so he can sell it. Janet appreciates working with Grant to clean up the place and Janet’s twins, starved for a father’s attention, just love him. She’d like to, too — but Grant’s taken. She’s not about to snitch her sister’s beau.

There are so many things I like about this book! It’s a clean story and well written. The main characters are mostly mature, considerate people; the ones who profess to be Christians do try to practice patience and kindness. It’s not your stereotype modern romance punctuated by screaming matches all the way through. (I’ve grumbled about these enough in earlier posts!)The plot is interesting, believable, dramatic in places but not a high suspense.

The only thing I couldn’t quite see was Grant as a banker — or a successful banker with Grant’s easy-going nature. He’s personable and conscientious but to my mind a banker would have more clearly defined goals in life and be prudent in his spending. Would a professional money manager, at age thirty-four, let himself drift into an engagement with a woman who loved to spend his money. (We have a former banker in the family. 😉  )

That aside, overall, this is an upbeat, enjoyable read.

Scammers!

The phone rang yesterday morning. Since I was the only one home, I answered. The fellow at the other end — our call display showed Unknown Number — explained in a thick foreign accent that he was a VISA representative.

“There have been charges to your VISA account and I’m calling to verify that you did indeed make these purchases. The one was made at 3am this morning and the other at 6am.”

I was alarmed. “Well, we certainly never made them.”

“Did you give anyone access to your VISA card or make any purchases online with this number?”

“No.”

He went on to say more. I had a hard time understanding his speech but was beginning to catch the drift. Before he got the chance to ask for my VISA card number, I said, “Thank you for letting us know about this” and hung up.

I called my husband, who checked it out online and found no charges made to our account that morning.

Yesterday evening I received an e-mail from the manager of some financial institution in Israel, asking me to contact her ASAP on a very important matter. I wonder how many millions are waiting for me to claim over there. By the way, that ambassador from Indonesia hasn’t showed up yet with my millions in US foreign aid dollars.

For me it’s annoying, even humorous at times. Still, there are vulnerable people who get these calls and wouldn’t pick up on the clues that it’s a scam. Take care, everyone. It’s a tough old world for naive, trusting souls.

Scam Artists

cushion for old age
taken by an expert fleecer
poor sheep shiver

Books: Honeymoon Cottage

Honeymoon Cottage
© 2012 by Barbara Cool Lee
First book in the Pajaro Bay Series

Camilla Stewart’s fiancé, Dennis Hutchins, bought a little cottage for them, left his eight-year-old son Oliver in her care, and disappeared. A short time later she was arrested — and discovered the truth. He was a con man.

From a great job in the accounting dept in a high-tech CA firm, she’s hit bottom. She’d trusted the sweet guy who waltzed into her life one day and won her heart, then used her computer to get access to her and the company’s bank accounts. She was finally cleared of the charge that she’d been the embezzler, but now she’s obligated to pay the company back. She needs to sell that cottage.

Out of money, out of gas, she’s come to Pajaro Bay to claim the house locals still refer to as, “Honeymoon Cottage.” But first her car needs to get them all the way to the door. She’s forced to sell her engagement ring — and the woman in the antique store is stalling.

Ryan Knight, in charge of the Pajaro Bay Sheriff’s Dept has been called by the owner of the town’s antique shop, who was suspicious as to why this stranger’s trying to sell such a valuable ring. Must be stolen. Running a check on Camilla’s ID, he discovers the real reason why she’s driving an old clunker and trying to sell a diamond ring bought new only the month before.

He escorts her to the house and she gets her first look at the place. She won’t be paying any bills with what she gets for this tiny, tossed-together mess!

“It looks like it was built by a drunken leprechaun,” she finally said.

I read this first book in the series and quite much enjoyed it. There’s the mystery of what happened to the lowlife who left her and his son with this place — and obviously some romance as Captain Knight tries to help her sort out her legal situation and the house repairs that must be done. The romance is light, the behavior of all characters decent and considerate.

Camilla’s efforts at drawing Oliver out of his shell and respecting his feelings for his father are impressive. There are some tense scenes as it becomes apparent Camilla and Oliver are being set up for some kind of “accidental” death.

A well executed plot by a skillful writer. I’d give it 5 stars and look forward to reading the next book in the series.

According to the book blurb:

“The Pajaro Bay mysteries are filled with light and breezy, heartwarming fun, and always leave you with a happy ending. Each is a stand-alone novel so can be read in any order.”

Book Review: Finding Sky

Book #1 in the Nicki Valentine Mystery Series
by Susan O’Brien
Published by Henery Press

I just finished reading this book and I’ll say it has a satisfying conclusion. This is the first book in a new series so the writer will gain confidence and in turn give her protagonist a little more confidence, in the next books.

I expect mysteries to be fairly fast-paced and suspenseful. This book isn’t. It’s more like chick-lit with a mystery element. Nicki Valentine tells us her story, explains her situation — a widow with two children — talks about her children’s personalities and behaviour, her fears and issues with safety, food, dirt, and germs. If you enjoy following friends’ day-to-day lives on Facebook, you’ll probably enjoy these open-hearted accounts of where they went, what they did, what they ate, games they played.

Nicki tells about her best friend and neighbor, Kenna, whose desire to have a baby adds the mystery angle to this tale. Andy and Kenna plan to adopt, but the eighteen-year-old mom-to-be has disappeared. Pregnant and alone, where did she go? Is she safe? Kidnapped by a teen gang? Kenna asks Nicki to help find this girl and we read of her efforts at interviews, stake-outs, and searches. Her search gets her involved with troubled teens and a gang member, understandably bringing yet more anxieties.

You see, Nicki is taking classes to become a private investigator. This is a huge stretch for her type. At the best of times she struggles with almost neurotic anxieties for herself and her children, has little self-confidence, and is rather a klutz. Her conscience prods her if she tells a lie in the course of investigating. Can she become a successful PI? She’s attracted to her hunky instructor but resists the attraction. Low self esteem kicks in. Why get her hopes up when he’d never be interested in her?

There’s a good story in here if you’re patient. I’m more a fan of classic mysteries where the sleuth is occupied with the whodunit puzzle rather than angst about herself and her abilities. But all this self-analysis is common in modern cozies. I found it easy to scroll through all the angst and day-to-day stuff and read the parts that actually deal with finding the missing girl. (Spoiler alert: Nicki does get her answers in the end.)

In my opinion the book could be cut by at least 30% — and I’d encourage the writer to get to know Miss Marple, who’s kind and clever, not always sure, but never floundering in self-reproach.

Nicki reminds me a lot of Salem Grimes, another new sleuth with a lot of down-to-earth issues and angst. She stars as The Trailer Park Princess, a series written by Kim Hunt Harris

Books by Cindy Bell

Something Old, Something New — Part B

Author Cindy Bell has written a number of cozy mysteries and has several series on the go. I’ve read and liked four of her Dune House Cozy Mystery Series. I’d rate them at about 3.5 stars. She’s up to #11 in The Dune House series and her Sage Gardens series now.

I’ve also read three of her Heavenly Highland Inn Cozy Mystery Series and was rather unimpressed. Drama, but not a lot of logical behavior by the main characters. I see she has put out #7 in this series now. Bekki the Beautician is up to Book #14; there are four books in the Wendy, the Wedding Planner series plus a couple newer series just starting. So whatever else one might say about her, she’s certainly been prolific.

I find her books quite light reading, very simple plots. In the few I’ve read she tends toward stereotype characters rather than developed emotional ones. Behavior isn’t always very logical to human nature. Writing is pretty simple, too. However, she has lots of 4- and 5-Star reviews on Amazon.com.

The book I’m reviewing here, a relatively new one for this writer, I downloaded as a freebie and have given my honest opinion. Someday I may read more in the series just to see if the characters start to behave more like normal people in later books.

Birthdays Can Be Deadly (Sage Gardens Cozy Mystery Book 1)
by Cindy Bell
(Feb 2015)

James, a resident of Sage Gardens retirement community, dies suddenly during his birthday party. The official word is that he died of a heart attack, but three other don’t accept this story and set out to discover the truth.

The story starts out with a lot of narration, the writer telling us about the characters and what they are thinking. IMO the story would be quite improved by showing us, through the use of dialog and sharp action, instead of a lot of flat statements. So much narrative, done in short sentences, makes the book’s opening chapters rather boring. For example:

“Walt always felt at ease around Samantha. She never forced him to do anything, but he always ended up doing anything that she asked. When he had first moved into Sage Gardens she brought him a basket of muffins to welcome him. He appreciated that each was individually wrapped, and there were exactly six. He liked things to be even. She had struck up a conversation and Walt had been surprised that he didn’t mind her company. Instead he found it to be quite enjoyable.”

As the story unfolds the action does speed up and dialogue replaces so much telling, but the characters, especially the retired cop, are unrealistic, overly scowling, self-righteous and yet breaking the law himself. Bullying people into confessing may be standard fare on police dramas, but it isn’t natural or likely in a casual setting where people don’t have to talk.

“Make them mad enough and they’ll spill it all,” is the theory. So the amateur sleuth gets in suspects’ and witnesses’ faces, demanding, insulting, infuriating, and the victim tells everything they know. I sure wouldn’t! Maybe writers do this to save the sleuth some tedious detective work? It definitely shortened this story.

The ending scene seems overly melodramatic and not very well thought out. A reader has to suspend a lot of common sense in order to swallow this scene as written, especially the part about an intelligent man thinking he can dispose of evidence by throwing it out the window.

I’m giving this book three stars. As light, easy reading and as a mystery, it’s average. It could be better written and the characters could be more believable, but if a reader likes touches of melodrama and isn’t too worried about realism or legalities, this story works

Books: Reed Ferguson, PI

This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies
The Reed Ferguson Mystery Series, Book 1

by Renee Pawlish
Click here to view on Amazon.com

Reed Ferguson has always wanted to be a Private Eye and it looks like he’s finally getting his chance. Thanks to an inheritance from his grandparents he’s opened an office and hung out his shingle. Being a devoted fan of Humphrey Bogart and noir detective movies he hangs up a poster of Bogie and Lauren Bacall, as they appeared in The Big Sleep, on his wall “as a sort of inspiration.”

Enter his first real customer: a woman with a missing husband. Peter Ghering disaappeared on a business trip and his wife, Amanda, claims she wants him found. But does she really? Reed has some serious doubts by the time he’s heard her story. An inner voice is telling him to fear this femme fatale, but it’s his first real case, his first serious crack at being a professional gumshoe.

At least he tried to be professional but he’s new to this game and his skills are pretty amateur. Long on bravado, short on forethought. To complicate matters, what starts out as a simple investigation opens up a writhing can of worms for the new Sam Slade wanna-be. The wife hasn’t been up-front with all the facts; she’s actually hired him to expose the women her husband’s been dallying with on his business trips. Little by little Reed uncovers a plot and subplot that would tax Philip Marlowe’s private eye skills.

What really happened to the successful businessman? What will happen to his wife, who wanted him to disappear so she could inherit? And what will happen to Reed if he continues to be involved in this case? Some late night visitors make it plain that they won’t tolerate his efforts to ferret out the truth.

A very well written, well edited book. The writer obviously knows her craft and has constructed a plot that will keep a reader up late at night trying to find out how this story ends. No erotic or immoral scenes in this book, but some off-color language.

I’ve read several books now by this same author and one thing I do like about them is the paucity of dead bodies. There are some, but in the books I’ve read Reed mostly engages in finding lost spouses, pets (The Maltese Felon), etc. In that sense these stories remind me of the Hardy Boys. So if you like a tamer “noir fiction,” tones of Bogie mixed with the wit of Peter Falk and the impulsive courage of Frank & Joe Hardy, you will probably like this series.

Personal Note:
Up late last night typing up this book review when, around midnight, I started to notice a skunk-ish aroma. It grew increasingly powerful, must have had a disagreement with some other critter very nearby so we spend a pretty restless night trying to escape the smell. And with the temp outside almost freezing, you don’t open windows to air things out. 🙂

We’re also besieged by box elder beetles, a.k.a. “maple bugs.” They summer outdoors and once cool weather comes, thousands of them crawl into houses and other warm places to spend the winter. We vacuum them up steadily but there are always a dozen more when we look again.

Burying my head under the covers last night, I was wishing the skunk odor would at least fumigate the bugs. 😦

Blabber-Bell!

There once was a bumbling detective
whose reading of clues was defective
but located his crook
secreted in a nook
with a cell phone call very directive

News item: Police were searching the house for a criminal who was well concealed behind a wall panel. They may never have found him if his cell phone hadn’t started ringing.