REVIEW: Francis Duncan’s MURDER FOR CHRISTMAS

Murder_For_ChristmasMiss Bates launches her annual Christmas romance reviewing month with … a Christmas-set murder mystery, a “not-a-romance” review of Francis Duncan’s 1949 Murder For Christmas. (Duncan’s work was recently reissued, revived, and thank the Good Lord for that, because it’s glorious.) And yet, Murder For Christmas contains a vein of commentary about Miss Bates’s most beloved and oft-read genre in the voice of Duncan’s romance-reading, old-bachelor, amateur sleuth, Mordecai Tremaine, an engaging, loveable, and despite his appearance seventy years ago (with Duncan’s first Tremaine mystery, Murder Has A Motive) fresh-feeling main character. Duncan’s Murder For Christmas has that old-fashioned Agatha-Christie closed-room, country-estate premise with elegant prose, adept plotting and pacing, and a great voice in Mordecai Tremaine. Miss Bates would venture to say there is something cleaner, more sophisticated in Duncan that Christie lacks (*runs away in fear from Christie fans*). Continue reading

Exorcising DNFs: #3

Well, dear readers, here we are again: with Miss Bates’ accumulated DNFs. Her tolerance is low as she chases the sigh-worthy romance read. Sometimes, as evident in this latest DNF post, she ventures outre-genre; it’s much much harder to please her when her preferred narrative arc is missing. The rest, romances that didn’t work for her. She’s also tapped into a few “it-was-okay” reads lately: she’s a tad disheartened, but will persist. The next winner is around the corner … Continue reading

REVIEW: Amanda Flower’s A PLAIN DISAPPEARANCE, Or The Hammer and the Mouse

A Plain DisappearanceIf there’s one thing Miss Bates can say about the occasional cozy mystery series she follows, it’s that they remind her of a favourite autumnal sweater. Heather-green wool, hand-knit from Scotland, she’s waiting for that October chill to don it and walk the red- and gold-leaf-strewn streets of her native city. Thus is Amanda Flower’s Appleseed Creek series now that Miss Bates has read the latest and third volume: comfortable, familiar, endearing. It’s also lovingly written and in keeping with the sympathetic conventions of the cozy. On the other hand, it suffers from the bane of any series: familiarity breeding contempt … and the particular bane of the cozy, the reader’s increasing difficulty to sustain belief in the viability of that many people murdered in a small town and our heroine’s bad/good luck in consistently finding the bodies!  Continue reading to learn what Miss Bates thought of Flower’s latest

MINI-REVIEW: Amanda Flower’s A PLAIN SCANDAL, and Wherein A Little Malaise Sets In

A Plain ScandalLong before Miss Bates was ever a spinster, she read all the Pippi Longstocking books she could get her hands on. It was with a nostalgic smile that she read Chief Greta Rose’s assessment of our romance heroine and amateur sleuth, Chloe Humphrey, in Amanda Flower’s first Appleseed Creek cozy mystery, A Plain Death, “You’re like the Pippi Longstocking version of Nancy Drew.” Our red-haired geek girl and wanna-be detective continues to eavesdrop, interview, investigate, and fight for truth, justice, and the Amish way in Flower’s second cozy mystery, A Plain Scandal. In this case, she’s in pursuit of the culprit who is cutting off the beards of Amish men and Amish girls’ long hair … until these nasty shenanigans turn to murder, the murder of a successful young Amish man, Ezekiel Young. Continue reading for a rare look at a surprisingly succinct Miss Bates

REVIEW: “And Now For Something Completely Different,” Amanda Flower’s A PLAIN DEATH

A Plain DeathFor some time now, Miss Bates had a hankering to read outside of her contemporary and historical romance comfort zone. She wanted to read an Amish-set romance, but didn’t know enough about the sub-genre to select an author or title. She’d read about Amanda Flower’s Appleseed Creek series in USA Today and thought this might be her gentled way in, thought she’d pay a call and linger for a spot of tea. Miss Bates is leery of the cozy mystery’s cuteness and catness, having consumed tons of these before embracing romance wholeheartedly. Once assured that there was a strong romantic element woven into the who-done-it, she gave Flower’s first Appleseed Creek, Amish-set, inspirational, cozy mystery a try. With some misgivings aside, smack, smack, like trying a new food, she uttered, “me like”. Continue reading about Miss Bates’s foray into Amish country