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: 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. 😦