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Shelf Awareness starred review of The Feng Shui Detective Goes West

The Feng Shui Detective Goes West, by Nury Vittachi

A review of Nury Vittachi’s The Feng Shui Detective Goes West, by Shelf Awareness:

Let Nury Vittachi give you a head start on chasing the holiday blues away with a hilarious mystery starring a feng shui master and his party girl assistant (first introduced to American readers in The Feng Shui Detective).

Geomancer C.F. Wong of Singapore needs money, and he needs it now. Because of an office-supply deal gone wrong, he owes a large sum to the Chinese mafia. Fortune favors him when the British royal family asks for a feng shui makeover of their state-of-the-art Skyparc passenger plane, and Joyce McQuinnie, Wong’s assistant, is thrilled at the possibility of meeting a real royal–preferably an available prince. The plum job gets complicated, however, when Joyce’s friend Paul is accused of murdering a top oil executive on board the Skyparc. Joyce is determined to prove Paul’s innocence, but if he’s not guilty, why has he taken a vow of silence? Who is the real killer? And what is the Queen of England’s last name?

The East-meets-West plot component fuels much of the story’s humor, with wonderful results. Shrewd, curmudgeonly Wong considers Westerners ridiculous and confusing, and isn’t shy about telling them so, committing gaffes of his own in the process. Joyce acts as the sleuth for most of the book, her dedication to Paul conflicting with Wong’s need for a quick buck until a third party pays Wong to investigate the murder. Though the answer to the mystery is a bit over-the-top, it is in keeping with the quirky plot and Vittachi’s breezy writing, and the resolution will leave readers laughing and satisfied.

Reviewed by Jaclyn Fulwood for Shelf Awareness

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Praise for Lucretia Grindle’s The Faces of Angels

The Faces of Angels, by Lucretia Grindle

A Review of Lucretia Grindle’s The Faces of Angels by Christine Zibas of Reviewing the Evidence:

Set in Florence, this atmospheric novel (written in the tradition of authors like Daphne Du Maurier) tells the story of a woman haunted by the past. Upon her return to the city, everywhere that she looks, Mary sees echoes of the tragedy that befell her. Some years earlier she had visited Florence with her husband. On a day trip to the Boboli Gardens with her husband’s colleagues, Mary had wandered off, only to be savagely attacked in a deserted part of the estate. Leaving Mary for dead, her attacker had then murdered her husband.

That was several years ago, and Mary has now returned to Florence to pursue a course in art history, but everywhere she turns, she comes across stories of women attacked in just the same way. According to the Florentine police, her husband’s attacker is dead, but if so, why do these new cases keep popping up?

Along with her journalist boyfriend, Mary is soon on her own investigative hunt to learn the secret that connects all these murdered women. On the path to the discovery of that answer, author Lucretia Grindle provides her readers with a rich story and an insider’s guide to the beauty and history of Florence. The city can be by turns both enchanting and frightening, and Grindle uses the eeriness to create a very haunted tale of death and religion.

Best of all, Grindle keeps the suspense going until the very end of the book, and wraps all the pieces up neatly. While there may be red herrings to lead readers off the trail, unlike some lesser works, in this novel, every character is used well to enrich the story and enhance the ghostly atmosphere. Everyone in Mary’s life raises suspicion, and everyone could be innocent. That is the brilliance of this plotline and what makes the book so enjoyable.

Of course the Florentine history and the beauty of its Renaissance art add to the richness of the telling. The Faces of Angels takes all the elements of what makes Florence so special, combines them with a contemporary murder mystery, and comes away with a very enjoyable read for mystery fans.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas for Reviewing the Evidence

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Favorite Felony: The Drowning River, by Christobel Kent

The Drowning River, by Chrostobel Kent

Let me introduce you to Sandro Cellini, a not-quite-voluntarily retired policeman reluctantly trying a midlife stab at becoming a private investigator in his native Florence. His diffidence almost causes him to miss his first client: a refined older woman whose husband, Claudio Gentileschi—an artist who has experienced some of the rigors endured by the Italian Jewish community during World War II—has just walked into the Arno River and is thus declared a suicide by the police. His widow just wants to know why, setting Cellini on a path that will entwine his investigation with that conducted by Iris March, a young English student, whose friend from art school has just gone missing. When the two investigators finally chance to meet, their collaboration allows them to solve the puzzle of the death of the old man and the disappearance of the young woman. The author leads us quickly to the finely wrought conclusion of the book, a conclusion made all the more dramatic by steadily growing bad weather as rain swells the Arno and it threatens to flood its banks, echoing the historic nightmare of the destructive flood in 1966.

The story is gripping, but the real pleasure of The Drowning River is twofold—the character of Florence itself and the character of Sandro Cellini and his wife Luisa: We are treated not to the Florence that the tourists see, but rather to a far more nuanced view into the locales and lives of ordinary Florentines. The author is spot-on in terms of both the geography of Florence and, more intriguingly, its sociology. The working poor are described sympathetically, although the author is somewhat more critical of the artistic poseurs and dubiously titled owners of threadbare palazzos broken up and rented to long-term visitors. And among those visitors is a sad cadre of young persons, exiled to art school in Florence by narcissistic and beleaguered parents. The character of Sandro Cellini is finely limned: He is a ruminator: melancholy, uxorious, and highly attuned to mortality—an existential hero, if you will. His wife Luisa is practical and steady, and although the word love is never said, it is palpable in every human detail of their marriage.

The Drowning River is in the European realist tradition and, as such, has the slight timbre of a piece of music written in a minor key—pleasurable, but with a twist.

Justine, Proofreader

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PAPERBACK[ $14.95 ]

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Reviews of The Lover by Laura Wilson

The Lover, by Laura Wilson

Two reviews of Laura Wilson’s The Lover, by Bookloons, and the Seattle PI:

The Lover is an intriguing novel. First it uses a horrendous time during World War II to set the scene. And does it very well. As I read of the conditions and of the residents of London and their reaction to the war, I forgot this was supposed to be a mystery. It came as a shock that, indeed, it was a mystery. … The Lover is a truly captivating book that was so very hard to put down, if you will pardon the cliché. It’s well-written with a firm grip of the history of that time as well as a look into the mind and actions of a murderer. Don’t miss it.

Read full review: Bookloons

The Lover is wonderfully written psychological thriller set in London in 1940 during the Blitz. We may have seen movies and read historical accounts of this World War II time frame before, but never in such day-to-day detail. … Historical crime author Laura Wilson captures the air of uncertainty of this time period perfectly. Inspired by the true-life “Blackout Ripper,” a serial killer of prostitutes in the tradition of Jack the Ripper, The Lover evokes the twin threats of the nightly bombing raids and a crazed killer on the loose in London.

Read full review: Seattle PI

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Favorite Felony: King and Joker by Peter Dickinson

King and Joker, by Peter Dickinson

Peter Dickinson’s King and Joker opens up on a scene of the British royal family eating breakfast, their dialogue at the table a startling, almost surreal mix of the cozy patter of a suburban family at home and the regal. Times are tough, and costs must be cut, and the cost-cutting measure currently under consideration is the cessation of “automatic supply of sealing-wax in guest bedroom,” a measure that the Queen strongly opposes. The Prince of Wales is a vegan, and Princess Louise, who will be our guide in this world, is about to start the school year in a comprehensive school where she will arrive accompanied by bodyguards.

Princess Louise is 13, and this book, in addition to being a fine mystery whose plot I won’t give away (and alternative history, since this royal family is not the same one currently occupying the British throne), is her coming-of-age story. The opening scene contrast between a “regular” family and their highly ritualized existence weighted by tradition and observed by multitudes is not terribly different from how it feels to be 13 just about anywhere. Her slyly funny voice as she observes her changing relationships with her parents and her nanny, Miss Durdon (a very interesting character in her own right, and a woman who knows how to keep a secret) makes the story relatable and engaging.

Julia, Managing Editor

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PAPERBACK[ $14.95 ]

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