Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Holmes, Marple & Poe by James Patterson and Brian Sitts

Holmes, Marple & Poe by James Patterson and Brian Sitts

First Paragraph(s):

Last year

The vacant industrial space that Realtor Gretchen Wik was trying to unload was located in a recently gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood called Bushwick.  The area was becoming trendier by the month, but this particular building was cold and dead--and apparently unsellable.  

Gretchen had been sitting at her sales table on the first floor since noon, tapping her nails while she stared out through a grime-coated window.  In five hours, she had not been visited by a single prospect.

The property consisted of nine thousand square feet on two levels.  But it was run-down and needed a lot of work.  At this point Gretchen felt like the worn wood floors and flaking brick walls were mocking her.  She checked her watch.  In exactly two minutes, her open house would officially be a bust.

Then she heard the front door open.  

My Thoughts:

I think I mentioned when I included this book in a recent 'waiting on' post that it had been a long time since I've read a Patterson book.  And I've not ever read anything by his co-writer, Brian Sitts.  Once upon a time, there were several Patterson series that I sort of kept up with, but time passed and other series took their places.  I did enjoy reading The Women's Murder Club and Alex Cross and Michael Bennett books.  I was curious about this one mostly because of the title, which mentions three of the protagonists - Holmes, Marple, and Poe.  So, how did I fare?

It was a quick read.  The story was fast paced.  The three, Brendan Holmes, Margaret Marple, and Auguste Poe are private detectives and work together.  The fourth main character is Helene Grey and she's a NYPD detective.  She comes across them during an investigation and then our story progresses.  Each of the detectives has a bit of their namesake sleuth about them, but we honestly don't find out too much about any of them.  There are several cases in the story, but not much character development or not yet maybe.  This is the first book in what I imagine might be a series.  Don't know.

I thought the whole book was OK-ish.  I wasn't overwhelmed with love though.  Short chapters.  Quickly moving from place to place.  I didn't completely approve of the update to our sleuths.  Honestly, I just think I wasn't a good match for the book.  I finished it and thought - well, what next?  Will I read another book if this is a series?  Probably not.  If you've tried this one, let me know what you thought.  Many others are writing glowing reviews, so this was just my experience.  Yours could be completely different.  


Crime! Murder! Who are you going to call?

In New York City, three intriguing, smart, and stylish private investigators open Holmes, Marple & Poe Investigations. Who are these detectives with famous names and mysterious, untraceable pasts?

Brendan Holmes—The Brain: Identifies suspects via deduction and logic.

Margaret Marple—The Eyes: Possesses powers of observation too often underestimated.

Auguste Poe—The Muscle: Chases down every lead no matter how dangerous or dark.

The agency’s daring methodology and headline-making solves attract the attention of NYPD Detective Helene Grey. Her solo investigation into her three unknowable competitors will delight mystery fans.

Monday, January 22, 2024

The Goddess of Shipwrecked Sailors by Skye Alexander

The Goddess of Shipwrecked Sailors by Skye Alexander

First Paragraphs:

After driving for seven hours, the four musicians arrived at Matthew Gardner's home on the most fashionable street in Salem, Massachusetts, a three-hundred-year-old town known for its seafaring history, Nathanial Hawthorne, and hanging women suspected of witchcraft.  Lizzie eyed the grand boulevard and the elegant eighteenth-and nineteenth-century mansions that lined both sides of it.

'How very pretty,' she said.

Candles burned in the windows of the Gardners' handsome three-story Georgian house.  An electrified Moravian star illuminated the front portico.  In the yard, an evergreen tree strung with chains of popcorn and cranberries offered food for the birds.  Despite temperatures in the low teens, a group of carolers, bundled up against the cold, strolled from house to house, celebrating the holiday with joyful voices.

My Thoughts:

I  loved  this 3rd entry into the Lizzie Crane mystery series, written by Skye Alexander.  The timeframe is again the mid-1920's and Lizzie and her friends, Melody, Sidney, and Bert (also known as The Troubadours) are hired to provide entertainment during the '12 Days of Christmas' for the Gardner family and their guests.  The setting is Salem, Massachusetts in this book and I really enjoyed all the information about this famous Massachusetts area.  All begins well, but soon there is a dead body and a cousin that Lizzie didn't know she had who might or might not be someone she'd like to know.  The body is found near her 'new' cousin's tavern and you can add theft, a missing goddess, and secret tunnels under the streets of Salem.  These were used long ago in Salem's shipping days to smuggle goods.  Could they still be in use?  Hmmm....it's possible.

Salem's history has been well researched by the author and she includes lots of things you might have known, but there are likely more that will be new to you.  As I said, I loved it and am happy to report that #4 in the series is in the works.  The author shared a guest post with me last week here.  My conclusion - try this series, bet you'll like it!        


December 1925: Salem, Massachusetts

When Matthew Gardner, the heir to a shipping fortune, hires New York jazz singer Lizzie Crane and her band to perform during the Christmas holidays, she has high hopes that this prestigious event will foster their career and bring them riches and recognition. She’s also eager to reconnect with a handsome man from one of Boston’s most esteemed families, whom she met at an earlier visit to Massachusetts.

But the evening the musicians arrive in historic Salem to begin their engagement, police discover the body of a man near a tavern owned by Lizzie’s cousin––a cousin she even didn’t know she had until Christmas Eve. In the dead man’s pocket is a cryptic letter addressed to Gardner. To compound her dismay, she also learns that her host plans to marry his daughter to the man Lizzie wants for herself.

Soon Lizzie’s caught in the middle of a high-stakes feud between her cousin and her employer over a mysterious lady. When she digs deeper into their conflict, she discovers its roots are deep and bitter: her cousin’s father crewed on one of Gardner’s grandfather’s ships that sunk during a storm in 1868. As she struggles to piece together the puzzle and find the lady at its center, Lizzie becomes a pawn in each man’s deadly game for money and revenge.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Why I Write What I Don't Know - A guest post by Skye Alexander

Today I have a guest post by my friend, Skye Alexander.  This is the third guest post that Skye has shared here on my blog and I'm always happy to learn more about her writing process and research.  I'll have a review of her latest book, The Goddess of Shipwrecked Sailors, soon.  

Skye shared this article on another blog recently here.  That blog is Sleuths & Sidekicks and I encourage you to take a look at it as well.  Always nice to find a new mystery blog.


Writers, especially beginners, are often advised to “write what you know.” Everyone has a story to tell––maybe two or ten––and for many people, writing a book isn’t quite so daunting if you can draw on the huge body of knowledge and experience you already possess. Although that’s good advice, I find it much more interesting to write about what I don’t know. In the process of researching my books, I dig up a wealth of unexpected booty that fills my stories with riches I never imagined.

I write traditional, historical mysteries in the Agatha Christie vein, set in the mid-1920s. I confess, I never liked history when I studied it in school because most of it centered on rulers, wars, and politics rather than the lives of ordinary people. But once I started researching this colorful period for my Lizzie Crane mystery series I got hooked. I realized how much I didn’t know, and I was determined to rectify that deficit.

For example, while doing research for my second novel What the Walls Know, I discovered that the first automatic gate was invented by an Egyptian guy named Heron about 2,000 years ago. He also invented a coin-operated dispenser for holy water. How cool is that? I also learned that some of the world’s great pipe organs have more than 30,000 pipes and seven keyboards, and this incredibly intricate instrument dates back to ancient Greece. Because the book features a cast of mediums and other occultists, I also delved into the Spiritualist movement at the early part of the 20th century––séances, Ouija boards, tarot cards, etc.–which turned out to be fascinating.

For my third, recently released book The Goddess of Shipwrecked Sailors set in 1925 in Salem, Massachusetts, I had to bone up on the clipper ship trade between New England and the Orient. In the process, I found out that these beautiful sailing vessels not only brought precious tea, spices, teak, ivory, and silk to the U.S. in the mid-1800s, but also opium (which was legal at the time). The Chinese goddess Quan Yin, sometimes considered the Buddha’s feminine counterpart, is said to have protected seafarers and ferried shipwrecked sailors to shore––hence the title for my book. Many of the ship owners whose clippers made it home safely didn’t want to pay taxes on the valuable goods they’d risked bringing from halfway around the world, so they slipped them past the revenuers via a series of smuggling tunnels built beneath the city of Salem by the country’s first National Guard unit.

Because my series is set in the Roaring Twenties and my protagonist, Lizzie Crane, is a jazz singer from New York City, I had to familiarize myself with the jazz musicians of the period. Before I began writing this series, I wasn’t a big fan of jazz but that’s changed as a result of hearing the greats such as George and Ira Gershwin, Bix Beiderbecke, and Louis Armstrong play. YouTube is a valuable resource for this. If you’ve never listened to “Davenport Blues” or “Rhapsody in Blue” I urge you to do so. For my fifth book in the series, When the Blues Come Calling (not yet published), I learned about the rapidly developing music recording industry, how records were made in 1926, and even a portable record player called a Mikiphone that could spin a 10-inch disc yet folded up small enough to fit into a good-sized purse.

For me, every day is an exploration into worlds unknown. During my journey, I’ve learned about jigsaw puzzles, merry-go-rounds, rose windows, ladies’ undergarments, Jell-O, New York’s subways, voodoo veves, and so much more. I never know what tidbits of trivia or historic fact I’ll stumble upon and how they’ll influence the direction of my stories. It’s so much more fun than simply recapping what I already know.


Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Four books coming January-April that I'm excited about trying...

I have more upcoming books that I'm wanting to try in the next few months.  It's a cold, cold day outside at my house and so this seems like a good thing to do - check out books to be published during this month and the ones to come.

This first one has actually already come out.  It's been a long time since I read a book by James Patterson, but the title caught my eye and why not, right?  It includes the last names of three of my favorite mystery-related names. 

Holmes, Marple & Poe by James Patterson and Brian Sitts - published last week

Crime! Murder! Who are you going to call?

In New York City, three intriguing, smart, and stylish private investigators open Holmes, Marple & Poe Investigations. Who are these detectives with famous names and mysterious, untraceable pasts?

Brendan Holmes—The Brain: Identifies suspects via deduction and logic.

Margaret Marple—The Eyes: Possesses powers of observation too often underestimated.

Auguste Poe—The Muscle: Chases down every lead no matter how dangerous or dark.

The agency’s daring methodology and headline-making solves attract the attention of NYPD Detective Helene Grey. Her solo investigation into her three unknowable competitors will delight mystery fans.


I read Iris Yamashita's debut book, Breathless, last year and her new one comes out in February.  Yes, I am interested!

Village In The Dark by Iris Yamashita - publishes February 13th

Detective Cara Kennedy thought she’d lost her husband and son in an accident, but harrowing evidence has emerged that points to murder--and she will stop at nothing to find the truth in this riveting mystery from the author of City Under One Roof.

On a frigid February day, Anchorage Detective Cara Kennedy stands by the graves of her husband and son, watching as their caskets are raised from the earth. It feels sacrilegious, but she has no choice. Aaron and Dylan disappeared on a hike a year ago, their bones eventually found and buried. But shocking clues have emerged that foul play was involved, potentially connecting them to a string of other deaths and disappearances. 

Somehow tied to the mystery is Mia Upash, who grew up in an isolated village called Unity, a community of women and children in hiding from abusive men. Mia never imagined the trouble she would find herself in when she left home to live in Man’s World. Although she remains haunted by the tragedy of what happened to the man and the boy in the woods, she has her own reasons for keeping quiet. 

Aided by police officer Joe Barkowski and other residents of Point Mettier, Cara’s investigation will lead them on a dangerous path that puts their lives and the lives of everyone around them in mortal jeopardy.


I recently read and discussed a book by Simone St. James with my mystery book group.  And she has a new one coming in March!  Yes, I'm interested!!

Murder Road by Simone St. James - publishes March 5th

A young couple find themselves haunted by a string of gruesome murders committed along an old deserted road in this terrifying new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Cold Cases.

July 1995. April and Eddie have taken a wrong turn. They’re looking for the small resort town where they plan to spend their honeymoon. When they spot what appears to a lone hitchhiker along the deserted road, they stop to help. But not long after the hitchhiker gets into their car, they see the blood seeping from her jacket and a truck barreling down Atticus Line after them.

When the hitchhiker dies at the local hospital, April and Eddie find themselves in the crosshairs of the Coldlake Falls police. Unexplained murders have been happening along Atticus Line for years and the cops finally have two witnesses who easily become their only suspects. As April and Eddie start to dig into the history of the town and that horrible stretch of road to clear their names, they soon learn that there is something supernatural at work, something that could not only tear the town and its dark secrets apart, but take April and Eddie down with it all.


I've loved so many of Elly Griffiths' books.  This new one will include some of the characters from The Postscript Murders.  Sign me up!

The Last Word by Elly Griffiths - publishes April 23rd

Words turn deadly with an unlikely detective duo on the case of a murdered obituary writer in this literary mystery from the internationally bestselling author of the Ruth Galloway series. Perfect for fans of Richard Osman and Anthony Horowitz.

Natalka and Edwin are perfect if improbable partners in a detective agency. At eighty-four, Edwin regularly claims that he’s the oldest detective in England. He is a master at surveillance, deploying his age as a cloak of invisibility. Natalka, Ukrainian-born and more than fifty years his junior, is a math whizz, who takes any cases concerning fraud or deception. Despite a steady stream of minor cases, Natalka is frustrated. She loves a murder, as she’s fond of saying, and none have come the agency’s way. That is until local writer Melody Chambers dies.

Melody’s daughters are convinced that their mother was murdered. Edwin thinks that Melody’s death is linked to that of an obituary writer who predeceased many of his subjects. Edwin and Benedict go undercover to investigate and are on a creative writing weekend at isolated Battle House when another murder occurs. Are the cases linked and what is the role of a distinctly sinister book group attended by many of writers involved? By the time Edwin has infiltrated the group, he is in serious danger…


So, do any of these appeal to you?  Hope so! 

Friday, January 12, 2024

Memorable books that I read in 2023...and a small update

Hello book pals!  Hope you are all having a good week.  Mine has been good, but busy.

I did get to attend our mystery book group on Tuesday evening and we had a great time discussing and giving opinions about Simone St. James' 'Gothic-type' mystery, The Book of Cold Cases.  Most liked it pretty well, though some were not as fond of the 'ghostly' aspects.  Don't know if you have read any of Simone St. James' books.  The maybe supernatural or maybe not is a theme she uses for all the ones I've read, I think.  My favorite up to now is probably The Broken Girls, which I read a few years ago and wrote about here.  In any case, it was a fun discussion.  We'll be talking about Lucy Foley's book, The Paris Apartment, next month.

Before time gets away from me, I want to share a few books that I found memorable in 2023.  As I've mentioned, I didn't read so many books number-wise this last year.  Life took over.  Ha!  However, looking back at my reading journal, I picked out 5 books that I think I'll remember fondly.  Here they are (no reviews) and tell me if you read them and what you thought if you'd like.  I'll put a link if I did write about them in a post during this last year.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn - talked a bit about it in this post

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb - my thoughts on this book here.

Murder At Haven's Rock by Kelley Armstrong - blog post here.

Killers Of A Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn - have not shared about this book as yet - it's our mystery book group selection for March so more to come.

The Maid by Nita Prose - have not talked about this one - maybe when I get the next in the series read.


I'll be around early next week to share four more books that I'm anticipating in upcoming months.  Plus, at the end of next week, I'll have a guest post by my friend, Skye Alexander, from Kerrville.  She has a third book in her Lizzie Crane mystery series out and I'm reading it right now.  Hope to have some thoughts on The Goddess Of Shipwrecked Sailors soon.  Take care and enjoy your reading!


Monday, January 1, 2024

Happy New Year! It's 2024!!


Hello my book friends!  And a very Happy New Year - 2024 - to you.  My wish is that all will find joy (I love that word), peace, and contentment in this new year.  And books, right?  I don't think any of us will struggle with that - ha!  The books - they will insist on leaping into your hands or cart or onto your e-reader.  Do you agree that books are one of our most special 'happy' places?  They are certainly mine.  However, I have definitely struggled with my reading 'numbers' for the last few years.  Lots has happened, many changes, and who knows?  I might have not read as much even if changes had not happened.  Distraction can occur for lots of reasons.  

So, what will 2024 look like?  Hmmm...well, I'm not going to have 'official' goals with numbers, etc.  That being said, I would like to settle in a little more to reading 'normally' and make my way through a few more books and series.  I love series - mystery series especially.  And I am behind on several that I would like to play 'catch-up'.  

There were lots of changes in our lives this last year.  We didn't plan on all of them, but we are settled in our new home and I'm hoping that 2024 will see me reaching out to new opportunities for volunteering.  Likely at my new library.  I've already been talking to some of the staff there about that.  I know - you're surprised - ha!  I also want to do more on my ongoing health journey.  Movement, eating healthy, sleeping well, trying to keep from getting too 'creaky' (and that takes work!) and also doing a little better with my distracted, anxious mind.  Thinking of peaceful things (yes, like a 'nice' murder mystery) and not worrying so much about 'stuff'.  

Again, wishing you all 'joy', 'peace', and 'contentment' for 2024!  Off to find my first book of 2024!