The second book in the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time for the whole box set: 17 hours 35 minutes
Narrator: Pearl Hewitt

This story was part of a collection of three books: the prequel and books 1 and 2.

Gemma Rose started tearoom recently. Her best friend Cassie is an artist and a waitress in Gemma’s tearoom. Cassie has finally caught the eye of an art gallery owner, Jon. In fact, she’s now dating him. Cassie’s art is part of an art show where the other artists are well-known and the paintings are very expensive. However, Gemma thinks that Cassie’s art is very different than the others and she also doesn’t like Cassie’s new boyfriend and a bit jealous about the time Cassie’s spending with him.

Cassie invited Gemma to the show’s opening party. Gemma goes outside for a short while and hears a whispered conversation which seems to be about getting rid of someone. However, she doesn’t know who were talking. Back inside, a drunk young woman berates Jon but then she falls over, dead. It seems that she’s been poisoned. The woman turns out to be pretty disagreeable person, so there’s no shortage of suspects. Gemma even suspects Cassie’s new boyfriend.

Meanwhile, Gemma’s mother has discovered on-line buying and is getting all sort of strange items for Gemma even though she tries to say that she doesn’t want them. The story has also a romantic triangle because Gemma is seeing a handsome doctor, strictly as a friend, but the local CID detective is the one that gets her heart pounding.

This was a fun and light mystery. The cast is entertaining, even though the four old women don’t meddle as much as in the first book. The victim was a student at Oxford university, so Gemma has another excuse to go and snoop there. Muesli is the small cat in the cover and Gemma has just adopted her. She lives with her parents and they all must get used to the rather mischievous cat.

This was a very good sequel and an entertaining read.

The first book in the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time for the whole box set: 17 hours 35 minutes
Narrator: Pearl Hewitt

This story was part of a collection of three books: the prequel and books 1 and 2.

Gemma Rose has started her tearoom just a couple of weeks ago. She has a brilliant if somewhat eccentric chef and her best friend works as a waitress. Best of all, she has a lot of customers. But then a very rude, almost obnoxious American tourist walks in, snapping his fingers for service. Gemma grits her teeth and plays nice. But then the chef’s mischievous cat Muesli slips to the tearoom and Gemma must try to get her before the customers spot her. The rude American makes a crude pass at Cassie, Gemma’s best friend, and threatens to return the next day. Gemma thinks there is something very strange about him, beside his lack of manners. That evening, in the pub, the American picks a fight with a local man known for his hotheadedness. They’re both thrown out.

But the next morning, Gemma finds the American dead. He’s sitting in front of her tearoom, murdered with a scone. Not only are she and her friends prime suspects but after the local newspaper writes about the murder, nobody comes to her tearoom anymore. Worse, the detective on the case is Gemma’s old boyfriend Devlin and he’s determined to treat her like any other suspect.

This was mostly a light and fun read. Gemma’s mom is very prim and proper and she’s trying to fix Gemma up with a doctor. She also doesn’t think that running a business is a proper job.

Gemma is the first person POV character. She’s rather an immature and impulsive lead. She used to be a canny businesswoman for eight years but she seems to have none of those qualities now. All her savings were used on the tearoom and she doesn’t know how to cook herself. When the local newspaper starts writing about the murder and Cassie’s possible involvement, Gemma is close to bankruptcy because people are afraid to come to the tearoom. There’s a possible love triangle between Devlin and the doctor, which I really don’t care for.

However, the cast of characters are fun. The four old women are nosy and very entertaining when they try to help Gemma. I also enjoy Cassie who is an artist but must work part-time jobs until/unless her paintings start to sell. The narrator was great and I enjoyed the writing style a lot.

The prequel to the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time for the whole box set: 17 hours 35 minutes
Narrator: Pearl Hewitt

This story was part of a collection of three books: the prequel and books 1 and 2.

Gemma Rose is a former Oxford graduate and she also grew up in Oxford. However, after graduation she decided to take a high-paying job in Australia. But now, eight years later, she decided to quit her job and move back to Oxford. She wants to start a tearoom and is buying a run-down cafe to do it. She’s already talked to a local bank and been assured that she’ll get the loan.

On the plane back to Britain, she becomes fast friends with the woman sitting next to her, Jen Murray who is visiting Oxford and staying at a local hotel. After Jen has left, Gemma realizes Jen forgot her scarf. Gemma takes it intending to return it to her. Gemma is staying with her parents while she’s trying to get the tea room up and running.

Her mother has invited four old women to tea. While Gemma doesn’t particularly want to meet them and reminiscent about her childhood, she put up with them. After meeting her oldest friend Cassie, Gemma goes to the hotel and returns to scarf to Jen. Jen invites her to stay for a while and drink with her. Gemma accepts and they talk at the hotel bar for awhile. Gemma doesn’t drink but Jen drinks a lot. In the end Gemma helps Jen up to her room.

The next morning, Gemma is surprised and saddened when she hears that someone has murdered Jen the previous night. She’s even more surprised and horrified to find out that she herself is the prime suspect. Of course, the bank refuses to give her the loan while she’s a suspect and another buyer wants to get the place.

This was a fun and light cozy mystery. It does a great job introducing us to Gemma and the people in her life. I especially liked Gemma’s relationship with her best friend Cassie. They support each other wonderfully. While Gemma didn’t care for the four old ladies, they helped her solve the mystery and were very funny. The mystery starts pretty late compared to the other books (I’m halfway through the second book) and it’s quite convoluted. But I liked the characters and the light writing style quite a lot.

The first book in the Stillhouse Lake mystery/thriller series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours 4 minutes
Narrator: Emily Sutton-Smith

Gina Royal was an ordinary housewife with a considerate, if cold, husband and two children. The day when a drunk driver hit their garage, changed everything. Melville Royal was a serial killer. He had tortured and murdered women in his garage. He had cut out their vocal cords, first, so Gina and the kids has no idea what he was doing. But the world at large doesn’t believe that. Gina was tried but acquitted. But many people still believe that she was Mel’s accomplish and they hound her and the kids.

To protect them, and herself, Gina has changed her name and moved many times during the four years after Mel was put to prison.

Now, she’s Gwen Proctor who will do anything to protect her kids. She’s learned how to shoot and has just passed her test for carrying a concealed weapon. She’s always on her guard, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. She also stays on top of what the lunatics are saying about her in the internet. The stalkers and trolls are still looking for her and want to kill both her and her kids. She has one ally, a mysterious man called Absalom who arranges for their new identities and helps them stay one step ahead of the men looking for revenge any way possible.

But Gwen’s children, who are this time called Atlanta and Connor, are tiered of moving around and living with restrictions. Atlanta is 14 and a rebellious goth girl, always getting in trouble in school. Connor has become closed off, introverted. Gwen has severely restricted their internet access which also makes them different from other kids.

They’ve stayed in the house on the shores of Stillhouse Lake long enough that they’ve finally getting comfortable. But then a body of a mutilated young woman is found in the lake. The MO is similar to what Mel did and Gwen is horrified. She tries to run but someone has told the authorities her real identity and suddenly she’s again a suspect. Even the few people she has started to trust view her now with suspicion.

I enjoyed this book a lot. Gwen is paranoid and always expecting trouble. She also has a lot of guilt because while she was innocent she also also so naive that she didn’t realize what Mel was up to right under her nose. She’s had to live with fear for four years and it has taken its toll: at first, even mistakes drive her into a defensive mode. But of course this is a thriller, so her precautions turn out to be more than necessary. Gwen and her kids felt like normal people who had been thrown into a terrible situation and are now trying to cope as best they can.

The first chapter is in third person but the rest of the book is in first person, which was an interesting choice and reflected on how much Gwen/Gina has changed. It’s written in present tense which heightens the tension.

However, Gwen’s internal monologue can feel repetitive. Sometimes I also wondered why USA doesn’t have a protection service for the families of a killer, because they can be victims, too. While the internet trolls’ writings are horrible, especially when they photo shop Gwen’s kids’ heads to pictures of murdered kids, I’m pretty sure few would actually do anything in real life. Of course, all it take is one deranged person to kill them all. Also, I sometimes wondered why nobody recognized Gwen. The kids had been growing up and their looks change, so I could buy that nobody recognized them but Gwen is an adult and she doesn’t think about disguising herself. I found the description of the murder victims gruesome. Luckily, in an audio book they went past quickly. Also, while the ending is mostly satisfying, there’s a twist which leads to a second book.

The story starts a bit slow, with Gwen and her kids doing everyday stuff. But there an ominous mood and tension which just builds and builds.

The reader was very good and I think she suited the book very well.

The first book in the Alex Cross thriller/mystery series.

Publication year: 1995
Format: Print
Page count: 355
Finnish publisher: WSOY
Finnish translator: Jorma-Veikko Sappinen

This story starts with the villain who is fixated on the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s infant son in 1932. He wants to be as famous as the man who did that, Bruno Hauptmann. We find out a lot about the villain during the story.

But the main character is a homicide detective Alex Cross from New York. He’s a psychologist and currently works for the NYPD. He and his partner Sampson are investigating a series of vicious murders of a prostitute, her teenaged daughter, and her infant son. But because the victims are poor and black, those cases aren’t news. He and Sampson are pulled off the case and pressured to investigate the kidnappings of two children of famous white people. Michael Goldberg’s dad is a minister and Maggie Rose Dunne’s mother is a famous actress. They go to the same school for the children of the wealthy and famous. They were kidnapped the from school and the investigation quickly points to their math teacher who has disappeared. Alex and Sampson are disgusted because they were feel that nobody cares about the killer who is murdering black people. However, Alex quickly develops a bond with Maggie and her mother, because of his own children.

The kidnapper sedates the kids (who are just nine) and buries them. One of the FBI agents gets too much air time, taking the media’s attention away from the kidnapper, so he kills the agent. Then he demands ten million dollars in ransom.

Alex is a widow with two young children. He lives in a bad neighborhood with his grandmother and the two kids. Her wife was shot and the killer was never found. He and his partner also help at the local soup kitchen. He’s a likable character who is constantly in trouble with his superiors who want to do things differently because of political reasons.

The story features a lot of rivalry between different police agencies. Right from the start, Alex and Sampson don’t trust the FBI and they’re right. The Secret Service is also involved because they were supposed to be watching the kids. The head of SS’s child detail is Jezzie Flanagan. She’s worked hard to get to her position and is determined to get the kidnapper. She’s very beautiful with troubled past.

This is a fast-paced story with many POV characters, a couple of whom are seen only once. Alex’s POV is in first person and the others are in third person. The plot has a lot of twists and even a courtship romance. However, I guessed the twist with the love interest. I didn’t like it and was hoping I’d be wrong. But this being the first book in the series, only three things could have happened to her. That’s why I don’t really like reading romantic subplots; they feel pointless.

It did have couple of surprises. I was surprised that the whole book wasn’t about getting the kidnapper. Most of the last half of the book is a courtroom drama and about the whole media circus around Maggie and the kidnapper. The time skips also surprised me.

This was a quick, mostly satisfying read although it left a few things open at the end.

The second book in the SF series Lock in. This one centers on an imaginary sport. It can be read as a stand-alone but I recommend reading the first book, Lock In, first.

Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 7 hours 36 minutes
Narrator: Wil Wheaton

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, Lock In. It introduced us to a world where a significant minority of people suffers from Haden’s Syndrome where the affected are fully conscious but can’t move or respond to any stimulus. So, they’ve been fitted with neural implants and they operate robot bodies called threeps. They can also interact with each other in a virtual world.

Chris Shane in an FBI agent and a Haden. They (we never learn their biological sex) are also the daughter of a huge NBA star and his very business smart wife. When a sport star, who is a Haden, dies during a very high-profile game, Chris is just the right person to investigate.

The sports in question is hilketa where all the players use the robot bodies. They attack each other with swords and hammers and the aim is to rip off the head of one of the opposing players, called a goat, and take it to the goal posts. The robot bodies also means that the operators can be male or female in the same game. Hilketa is hugely popular not just in the States but all over the world.

Chris and their sarcastic partner Leslie Vann are plunged into the world of professional sports, trying to find out if the death of Duane Chapman is an accident or murder. And if it is murder who did it and why.

I really enjoyed this one, too. It’s got witty dialogue with Leslie chewing out pretty much everyone, and lots of humor. I sort of think that we all need a Leslie in our lives, to remind us that we don’t need to take crap from anyone.
I also enjoyed Chris’ roommates some of whom are hilketa fans and also fellow Haden sufferers. It also comments on disability and gender, although not as much as the first book.

It’s a fast-paced book with lot of twists which make it hard to put down (or in my case, stop listening). I also like Wheaton’s narrator style a lot.

The first book in the cozy mystery Target Practice Mysteries series.

Publication year: 2015
Format: ebook
Publisher: Ranch Dog Entertaiment
Page count at GoodReads: 166

This was a fun, short mystery.

Diana, she prefers Di, has gone through a bad divorce and needs a change. When her friend from high school, Jess, wants to hire her, Di is happy to pack up and move to Wyoming where Westmound Center for Competitive Shooting (archery and guns) is located. Once there, she finds the place almost empty, except for her bubbly new roommate Mary and a friendly Great Dane Moo. Di will be the new computer person for the firm.

Westmound is starting a new archery program and they’ve already recruited the coaches among the top archery competitors. Four of them competed in the Olympic Summer Games together but there’s quite a bit of bad blood between them. Di did also shoot for a while but gave it up years ago.

Then one of the new coaches is murdered. Mary decides to investigate her death and drags Di along with her. However, many people hated the murdered person and she did also boast that she’s writing her memoir where she’ll expose a lot of people. So, Mary and Di have their work cut out for them.

The writing style is very humorous and I liked it a lot. The mystery wasn’t too complicated although it did have a few twists. The characters were on the light side, no doubt because the book is short.

I liked most of the cast and most, of course, Moo, the Great Dane and his antics. Mary the enthusiastic sidekick was also great fun and a source of good gossip, er I mean, information on the characters.

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