Archive for category Free Mystery

Review of Murder on the Cote d’Azur by Susan Kiernan-Lewis (2012) (Maggie Newberry Mysteries)

Bottom line: I didn’t enjoy it very much, but it would be a good book if you were looking for a free book to read on a plane to France.

Rating: Not Recommended

Blurb:

The first in the Maggie Newberry mystery series takes Atlanta Copywriter Maggie Newberry to the south of France and Paris in her search for her sister and her niece’s killer. Along the way, she meets Laurent–a sexy Frenchman who is not at all what he appears. Is he helping her in her quest? Or is he the reason for it?

Review:

I’ve had this on my Kindle for quite a while, as it consistently show up on the Amazon’s top 100 free bestsellers. I finally read it today and was disappointed. I wanted to like it, I just didn’t. I’m having a hard time putting my finger on what exactly it was that bothered me. It’s set in Atlanta and France, but other than the use of “y’all” and several French lines (which was kind of fun, dusting off my very poor high school French), this isn’t a book that really immerses you in the locations. The story doesn’t flow very well, you jump around in time and place a lot, with no warning that a switch has occurred. The main family was set up to have some really interesting, complex relationships, but the characters still seemed somehow flat to me. And there are a lot of secondary characters, none of whom seem particularly likeable or realistic. In addition, I didn’t feel like all the loose threads were tied up at the end.

I did think the murder and unraveling of it were handled well. Amateur detectives often are given unrealistic insight or access to information, but this protagonist used means that any ordinary person would be able to pursue. There were also some plot layers that were handled well – you aren’t quite sure which crimes are connected, or who is involved – without it feeling like elements were introduced solely to trick you.

All in all, it works better in theory than it did in execution for me. There just wasn’t anything I loved about it, and I found myself pushing myself to read quickly to get it over with.

Available: Free e-book at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Smashwords.

What did you think? Did you like the book?

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Three Free Kindle E-Book Mysteries

One of the reasons that I haven’t posted anything in a while is because I’ve been busy chugging though several free mysteries that I had dumped on my Kindle, hoping to find a gem. And of course, by the time I found one I liked, a couple of the ones I was going to mention were no longer free. Fear not, none of them were going to get a recommendation! So, instead of a quick review of five free e-books, here is a quick review of three free e-books.

Frame-Up (Michael Knight #2) (2010) by John Dobbyn

Rating: Recommended

This was the first free e-book mystery that I read in this batch that I couldn’t put down. There are some cheesy moments, but for the most part it is a really fun ride. A lawyer gets pulled into international intrigue involving the Mob, Russian criminals, and a priceless painting. After writing that last sentence, I realize just how ridiculous it sounds, but as you’re in the story, the author makes it all make sense, I promise. There are a couple of other books in this series, and I’m going to have to check them out. If they’re as fun as this, it’ll be worth the read.

 Blood on the Vine (Jay Leicester #1) (2000) by JC Simmons

Rating: Recommended if: you’re looking for a free mystery with an interesting setting, you’re a pilot, or you are a wine person.

I thought this book was ok. I found it a little slow, and felt that the murder solution kind of came out of nowhere. There are a lot of descriptions of food, wine, and the Napa Valley, which was kind of fun, but there are days where you follow the detective around and he does nothing but wake up, shower, talk to a couple of people, drive, eat, almost talk to the beautiful woman around whom much mystery centers, then go back to bed. I would recommend it for an airplane read (something kind of fun, kind of interesting, but won’t keep you reading it all the way through your vacation/meeting when you land) but it does center around a plane crash, so if that makes you squeamish, save it for a car trip.

 A Cold Day For Murder (Kate Shugak #1) (1992) by Dana Stabenow

Rating: Recommended if: you’re looking for a free mystery with an interesting setting.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. It takes place in a tiny town in Alaska, and has a pretty good, if slightly predictable, murder/plot. My main issue was with the main character – she just didn’t ring true to me. There were also a couple of instances where two characters lock eyes and then she knew that he knew and they both understood (or something like that) and the reader is left going “huh?”. I thought it had promise though, and was on the fence about trying the next book in the series, but the first chapter is included and I didn’t like it.  So, bottom line is that it just didn’t do much for me, but it wasn’t bad for a free read. Warning: there are some graphic elements, mostly having to do with a traumatic event in her last job.

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Five Free Kindle E-book Classic Mysteries Written in the 1800s

I think it’s interesting to read some of the earliest mysteries and science fiction and see what has changed in the genres over the centuries. Some are as enthralling as the day they were published and some….not so much. Here are five free Kindle e-book mysteries from some of the writers who popularized the genre and inspired those who came later.

The Cask of Amontillado (1846) – Edgar Allan Poe  (short story)

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started this, but I ended up liking it. It’s a REALLY short story. I think it could have benefitted from explaining what the offence was that had been committed against the narrator, but it’s a creepy (in a good way) short read from the perspective of the perpetrator. More of a thriller than a mystery.

The Woman in White (1859) – Wilkie Collins

Of the five books here, I found this one to be the most of a slog. It’s long, and there is a lot of  “women are to be pretty and helpless”, but if you can get past that it’s a well thought out plot, and the way the amateur detective goes about uncovering the evidence seemed pretty believable. The main perpetrator reminded me a lot of Agatha Christie’s perpetrator in The Man In the Brown Suit, but I don’t know if that was an homage or coincidental on her part.

Crime and Punishment (1866) – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Parts of this book drag a bit, but it was an interesting look at Russian life during that time. The names can get a bit confusing (not because they’re Russian, but because each person has several different names, all used interchangeably depending on the person speaking). It’s different from many mysteries in that we get the point of view of the killer, but there is definitely murder, and detectives, and uncovering of evidence, and then resolution. It was a little uncomfortable to witness the effect the crime has on the killer’s mind, but definitely fascinating. Plus, there’s the advantage of being able to say “oh, you know, just reading a little Dostoyevsky”  to anyone you want to impress. Fair warning: It’s REALLY long.

The Leavenworth Case (1878) – Anna Katharine Green

The first novel of of one of the earliest mystery writers in America (at least according to Wikipedia). It has many elements of what I usually think of as the typical English mystery – a murder of a wealthy person in a locked house, secrets of those who may stand to gain from his death, a side of romance, unexpected twists and turns in the plot, and ending with the detective eliciting a confession from the guilty party. Some of the language feels a bit dated, and there are a few typos, but definitely worth a read.

The Sign of the Four (Sherlock Holmes #2) (1890) – Arthur Conan Doyle

This is one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and it’s free! Fantastical elements in a story that stretches back in time and halfway across the world. Holmes and Watson are in fine form, despite the distraction of a fair lady…

Bonus:

Not free, you’ll have to shell out $0.99 for this book, but if you want to read about Holmes from the beginning, there is:

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes Vol.1) (1887) – Arthur Conan Doyle

Have you read any of these books? Still enjoyable despite the 100 – 150 years they’ve been around?

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Review of Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (1920) (Hercule Poirot Book 1) Free Kindle E-Book

Bottom line: A classic Golden Age mystery, by the Queen of mystery, although not her greatest work. The first time the world was introduced to the Hercule Poirot – the funny little man with the egg shaped head and impressive mustache.

Rating: Recommended IF – you are looking for a free mystery, you want to try an Agatha Christie, or you are a Christie fan and want to see where it all began.

Blurb:

Agatha Christie’s famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot makes his debut in “The Mysterious Affair at Styles.” The mystery of the novel is the one of who poisoned wealthy heiress Emily Inglethorp and how did the killer get in and out of her locked bedroom. The suspects are many and Poirot must use Holmesian deduction to discover the killer. Mystery fans will delight in the first installment of Agatha Christie’s famous series of Poirot mystery novels.

Review:

This is Agatha Christie’s first Hercule Poirot mystery, and also her first novel. It was fun to see Poirot introduced to the world for the first time, along with his trusty sidekick, Captain Hastings. However, it was the first time for me to reread this book in a long while, and what struck me was how much it felt like a pilot episode of a tv show. If I’m trying a new show, I always watch the pilot first, and if there are even a few things I like about it, I’ll try the next episode. Often it feels like characters have little depth to them, and the action and dialogue haven’t quite melded into the right style yet.

That’s how I felt about this book – the plot twists felt a little contrived, and the characters (Hastings especially) felt a little one-sided compared to Christie’s later books. It’s still an enjoyable read, and an interesting mystery, I just didn’t think it was as good as some of her other books. However, given the dearth of free e-book mysteries, this is a good way to try out one of (if not the) most popular writers of all time. But if you liked it, even a bit, you must try some of her later books.

Available:  Free Kindle E-Book at Amazon and iTunes, $0.99 – $2.99 for the Nook Book at Barnes & Noble. Also available as a paperback. 

What did you think? Did you like the book?

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Review of Invisible by Lorena McCourtney (Ivy Malone Series Book 1) (2004)

Bottom line: A fun mystery with a strong Christian presence. If you are looking for a new series to try that isn’t too intense, give this book a shot – especially since it’s free.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

She’s not your average crime fighter! Meet Ivy Malone, an inconspicuous older woman who has a mutant curiosity gene that often lands her in trouble. Unlike most women her age, she snoops and pries her gray-haired self into one hilarious escapade after another. So when vandals romp through the local cemetery, Ivy can’t help but put her snooping eyes to work as she launches her own unofficial investigation. Despite her unconventional sleuthing, Ivy soon becomes discouraged by her failure to turn up any solid clues. And after Ivy witnesses something ominous and unexplained, she can’t resist putting her investigative powers to work again. Even the authorities’ attempts to keep her out of danger and her nosy neighbor’s match-making schemes can’t slow Ivy down. But will the determination that fuels this persistent, spunky sleuth threaten her very safety?

Review:

I tried this book because it was free, and I’m glad I did. It’s simply a fun read. The writing style at times I found to be a little rambling, with excessive explanations and tangents, but it didn’t really bother me. Normally this kind of thing makes me very impatient to get on with the story, but the main character, Ivy, is someone you don’t mind spending extra time with.

One thing to be aware of is that Ivy is a born again Christian, and this features prominently in the book. At times it comes across as preachy (at one point Ivy worries about asking a friend to try to get some information for her, because it had encouraged the friend to create “fabrications”) but mostly I found it a natural extension of Ivy’s character and the world she lives in.

The mystery itself was well done, as is the way that Ivy and the readers discover the hows and whys of it all. I’ve read the next two books in the series, and found them to be very similar in terms of tone (light hearted) but with different enough settings and mysteries to continue to interest me. I’d bought the next two books at intervals of maybe a month apart when I wanted a new yet familiar mystery to read, and they both fit the bill perfectly.

Available: Free E-book at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and iTunes, and also available as a paperback.

More Info: Check out the author’s website here.

What did you think? Did you like the book?

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