Publication year: 2008
Page count: 303
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2009
Format: print
Finnish translator: Inka Parpola
Finnish Publisher: Otava
Art: Dave McKean

The man named Jack kills people. He kills a family but the youngest boy, an infant, has gone wandering and manages to escape – to a graveyard. A mysterious man who calls himself the groundskeeper sends the man Jack away while the spirits of the dead decide what to do with the boy. In the end, the Owens adopt him and the mysterious man, Silas, agreed to be his guardian, as the spirits can’t leave the cemetery and can’t even touch the infant. Nobody Owens, Bod, is made an honorary dead and he grows up in the cemetery.

The dead are kind and willing to teach him what they know. Of course, sometimes what they know aren’t current anymore. Bod explores the graveyard, including the oldest grave and the witch’s grave. But he’s also curious about the outside world. After all, even when he was an infant he was always escaping from his parents and exploring the world around him.

Many of the things we take for granted are turned on their head in this book. For example, the dead are almost always kind while the living people Bod meets are often greedy, distrustful or otherwise disagreeable. The Graveyard book feels like a collection of short stories, except for the two last chapters when Bod grows up and meets challenges.

The stories are warmhearted if a bit scary at times and the ending is bittersweet.

McKean’s art helps to build a great atmosphere. Especially on the first page, the art really starts the story.

Sanctuary’s first season has just 13 episodes and I think that’s a good thing; there’s less need for filler. During the first season every episode furthers the long storyline. Every episode has the episode-specific plot and the longer story on the background. However, the longer plot line isn’t resolved during this season. Instead, the season ends with a cliffhanger.

Sanctuary is literally a sanctuary to everything abnormal – both to animals and humans. The place is run by Doctor Helen Magnus and her daughter Ashley. They have two people helping them: the big guy, whose name isn’t mentioned, who is a general assistant and their computer and security expert Henry Foss. The series starts when Magnus recruits a psychologist and a former police profiler Will Zimmerman as her protégé so we see things from Will’s point-of-view when he’s brought into a world he didn’t know before. However, Will quickly accepts the fact that some people are born with a genetic defects which makes them abnormal. The abnormals are born with physical deformities and/or with powers. Magnus wants to help them and study them. So, while the crew (Helen Magnus, Ashley, and Will) sometimes hunt down people or animals, they aren’t trying to kill the abnormals but to help them. The rest of the world doesn’t know about the abnormals and a couple of plot line develop around keeping them a secret.

In the third episode, we’re introduced to the main villain of the series: the Cabal. They are a group of powerful people with a lot of resources. They are interested in capturing abnormals for their own ends which are, of course, evil.

The highlight of the show for me was Helen Magnus’ background. She’s 150-years old and in a couple of episodes there are scenes set into her history. She’s part of “the Five”, a group of four men and Helen who were eager to experiment in the name of science. Some of the others are rather well known people and I enjoyed seeing them in the show. Another thing I enjoyed was Will as the newbie because usually women are the newbie characters. However, Will adjusted quickly to the situation and started being a dependable part of the team.

On the other hand, I didn’t really care for Druitt. He starts out as a antagonist and I probably would have preferred him to stay that way. While I enjoyed the fifth episode “Kush” the outcome was pretty predictable. Same with “Requiem”. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t have original plot lines but recycles stuff I’ve already seen before.

A quirky little show and I will get the next season, too.

My newest review: K. A. Stewart: Devil in the Details.

Now this is urban fantasy I like! The main character is a modern day samurai and he’s happily married.

The first in a mystery series starring amateur detective China Bayles.

Publication year: 1992
Page count: 306
Format: print
Publisher: Berkley

China Bayles owns the Thyme and Seasons Herb Shop in Pecan Springs. About two years ago, she was a highly successful attorney but she got fed up with the high pressure life, quit and bought the shop. She enjoys the peace and her friends. She’s just started to make some money out of the shop.

One of her friends, Jo, is dying of cancer but she’s still a prominent woman in town and vigorously opposing a plan to build an airport near the town. Then, she’s dies. At first it looks like Jo has killed herself but Jo’s daughter and China’s best friend Ruby are insisting that she could do that. China is drawn into investigating her friends life and the various people who gather for her funeral.

I thought this whole books was rather charming. The characters are quirky but not too weird. China herself knows what she wants and doesn’t bow to anyone. Even when her lover wants a more permanent relationship, China doesn’t give into to his pressure. By the way, the relationship between China and her boyfriend is a definite plus. McQuaid is former cop and current teaches at the local university, he’s divorced with a kid. No teenage romance here! Bubba Harris, the town’s chief of police, looks like a hick but he seems to know what he’s doing. Ruby, of course, is one of them most eccentric character. She’s also left a hectic life before quitting it, and her unsatisfying marriage, to run a New Age shop next to China’s herb shop. She’s convinced that Jo couldn’t have killed herself and is determined to find out who murdered her.

Jo’s daughter Meredith is in town on vacation from her hectic life. However, Jo and Meredith have estranged to the point that Meredith is bitter to her mother for pushing her away. Apparently, Jo’s marriage was an unhappy one and Meredith feels that Jo took care of her out of duty instead of love.

One of the themes of the book are the relationships between mothers and daughters. China has a difficult relationship with her alcoholic mother and Meredith was estranged from her mother. China thinks: “But is wasn’t just her alcoholism that made my mother unknowable. It was the nearly overwhelming idea of mother, a woman who was me and yet-not-me, from whom I had somehow, by some complicated and tricky maneuver, to separate myself. I wondered whether any of us ever really knew out mothers, yet whether we could ever be successful in knowing ourselves apart from them.”

Often it’s very hard to see our own parents as just people.

It’s interesting that in the middle of reading this book, I finished another short book which also dealt with mothers and daughters: Karen Wyle’s Wander Home. That book is set in an afterlife where people, family members included, are very supportive of each other. That’s not always the case in real life, though. In both books, women outnumber the male characters and that’s always refreshing.

I’ll probably continue with this series at some point. Some Amazon comments say that the writer’s other series are better and now I’m tempted to try one of them.

The first book in the Vicky Bliss mystery series

Publication year: 1973
Page count: 244
Format: print
Publisher: Robinson

Vicky Bliss is a history teacher in a small Mid-western collage. When she finds out that a famous sixteenth century German woodcarver might have left behind an unknown masterpiece, she travels to Germany to find it. However, her obnoxious colleague and lover Tony Lawrence has the same clues and he challenges Vicki to a battle between the sexes. Vicki takes up the challenge, of course, and a third competitor joins the race: George Nolan who is a rich art collector and almost as arrogant as Tony. They all travel to Germany, separately, to the small old town where they think the carved alter is. They get rooms in the Drachenstein castle which has been changed into a hotel. However, the altar isn’t easy to find and they get involved in local trouble – which seems to include a ghost.

Vicky Bliss was born with genes which made her tall, voluptuous, and blond. She’s also got a degree in history but nobody takes her seriously because of her looks. She would like nothing else than to look like a traditional heroine: short, dark, and delicate. So, she’s sworn off marriage. She’s also adventurous, determined, smart, and independent. However, her lover at the start of the book, Tony, instantly declared that he wants to marry her and don’t care what she thinks. He’s also very competitive and yet has a fragile ego which Vicky has to nurse. I was hoping that Tony would be the murder victim promised on the cover, but no such luck. In fact, while this book is a mystery, there’s no current day murder so solve.

Since I’m a fan of Peters’ other series, I couldn’t help myself but to compare this book with the Amelia Peabody books. In fact, Vicky and Amelia have a lot in common being independent and smart women who have to put up with arrogant and overbearing men. However, Tony is a far cry from Emerson: Tone just doesn’t have the same charisma at all.

Vicky, Tony, and George are looking for the altar in Rothenburg. I loved the descriptions of the small town and if I had money, I’d be tempted to visit it. The woodcarver Riemenschneider was a real person and his carvings can be seen today. As far as I can tell, all the historical details in the story are correct and I love that. The trio wanders through the old castle looking for clues and find secret passageways and underground rooms! The setting and the background to the story were really appealing to me. However, especially in the beginning there are long passages about historical events which might be boring people who are less interested in history. Unfortunately, the plot is quite simple and there aren’t many suspects.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really care for Tony or Vicky’s second romantic interest; they’re far too arrogant and yet they tend to hog the scenes. The rest of the cast were more interesting. The old countess who runs the castle/hotel is a tough woman who ruthlessly exploits her young niece who does pretty much all of the work. The niece is beautiful and Tony immediately wants to help her.

A fun, quick read but a bit too predictable.

A stand-alone paranormal mystery book.

Publication year: 2012
Page count: 413
Format: print
Publisher: Destine Press

Antonia Carlyle graduated as a writer of screenplays from Collage of Arts but had no plan for her life. But after a near death experience, she’s chasing her dreams. So, she invested all her money into making a documentary about the Australian music industry. The first part would dig deep into one of Australia’s most celebrated band: the Tough Romantics. Even though the band broke up years ago, they are still famous and have a lot of fans. One of the reasons they are still remembered is that their guitarist/singer Genevieve James was murdered 25 years ago just before the band became successful. Even though a local taxi driver was accused of her murder, he killed himself before the trial and nobody was convicted.

Antonia manages to find the members: Arthur, who used to write lyrics, is now a politician, Tucker has a successful career as a singer, and the lead singer Pia is a movie actress. Arthur seems willing to talk to Antonia and he has a surprise, too. It was said that there was a witness who could have exonerated the taxi driver. Through Arthur, Antonia gets in touch with the old witness, Joe, who is a writer. Joe has been working on a book about Genevieve’s last week alive and he’s willing to give it to Antonia but only one chapter at the time, as Joe is still revising it. Joe says that the book will reveal the real killer.

Antonia and her sexy and talented director Monty have moved into the house where the Tough Romantics lived during Genevieve’s murder. Antonia is starting to hear things from the past and dream about Genevieve. Things go downhill when Antonia’s abusive ex-husband smells money and shows up.

The investigation into Genevieve’s murder is rather different that usual because it happened 25 years ago and there are no direct witnesses to question. Arthur was out during the murder and the rest of the band are reluctant to talk about it. Antonia’s only direct information source is Joe’s book. About every other chapter is from Joe’s book. It describes the seedy side of Melbourne, St. Kilda, where the young band members lived. Pete O’Toole, the taxi driver, lived next door from the band members and strikes up a friendship with Genevieve. O’Toole tries to keep himself apart from the world of prostitutes, pimps, and drug dealers but he cares about the people and is reluctantly drawn into their world while trying to help them. O’Toole is a painter but he hasn’t had an inspiration for a long time. Now, he’s finally getting it back. O’Toole is also not from St. Kilda so he sees things as an outsider.

Antonia is a flawed character. When she was young, her mother die of an overdose. Her mother had also been hearing voices and Antonia is terrified that she will go crazy, like her mother. She divorced her ex several years ago but she still has the scars; while she’s very good at her job, she thinks that she’s otherwise worthless and is scared of letting anyone get emotionally close to her. When Monty starts to flirt with her, she doesn’t believe that he’s actually interested in her. She’s also determined to do the documentary her way and not let others to dictate to her, not matter how famous or rich they might be.

For most of her life, Antonia didn’t believe in the supernatural. However, after her near death experience, she has started to feel and experience strange things which she can’t deny.

Monty is a tall and very handsome black man. He was in the Collage of Arts at the same as Antonia and they had several courses together. Still, Monty is seven years younger than Antonia and she’s very reserved around him. Sometimes Monty baits Antonia verbally but most of the time he’s supportive.

Joe is dying of liver cancer and he’s determined to get his side of the story on paper first. His book is written in O’Toole’s point-of-view and in first person. Joe interviewed O’Toole about his experiences and wrote about some of them even before the band came into O’Toole’s life. In these chapters we get insight to the band. They were very young and just on the edge of success. However, the chapters focus more on the other people on O’Toole’s life. The atmosphere during these chapters is quite different, more somber and gritty, but it works very well.

The pacing of the book is very good. Even though the crime is decades old, there’s still a sense of urgency that kept me reading.

The author kindly gave me a review copy.

The first in the Adrien English amateur detective series.

Publication year: 2000
Format: ebook
Publisher: Puffin Books

Adrien English keeps a bookstore and writes mysteries, although he hasn’t been published yet. Then his one-time closest friend, Richard Hersey, is murdered brutally and the police think that Adrien is the prime suspect because both Richard and Adrien are gay and they had an argument the previous night. Adrien is attracted to the sexy detective Riordan but he turns out to be not only a rude alpha male but homophobic. When Adrien starts getting weird phone calls and horrible gifts, he’s convinced that he will be the next victim if he doesn’t find out who killed his friend.

The book is written in first person. Adrien is a very down-to-earth protagonist. He has a heart problem and so he tries to take it easy. He’s lonely but he’s convinced himself that that’s the best for him and he doesn’t complain about it. He’s not stupid but not too bright either. He has a circle of quirky friends who make the novel shine. He belongs to a writing circle with other mystery writers who are, of course, trying to also figure out who the killer it.

Adrien’s mother is a rich socialite who is constantly asking Adrien to move back home with her. She’s a bit scatterbrained and self indulgent but she’s also very determined when she wants something.

A nice, quick read but there weren’t many suspects. The writing style is light but not as humorous as Kerry Greenwood, for example.

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