Tag Archives: reaing and reviews

Review: Hell’s Half Acre, Coffin Cove #2 (Jackie Elliott)

Hell’s Half Acre is the second book in a series that takes place in the cheerily named Coffin Cove, I have not read the first book, but this gives enough background that it is unnecessary.

Coffin Cove is a tiny town in Canada, rife with the sort of issues that tiny towns have, and where almost everyone knows your business. The number of characters is large, but they are not all dumped on the reader at once.

Coffin Cove has elected a new mayor and ousted the guy who was mayor for what seems like forever – and like Kwame Alexander, seemed to think that in his position he could grift off almost any deal to enlarge his real estate empire.

Meanwhile, the new mayor has plans: revitalize the town to bring in more business and more tourists. Then the former mayor’s son goes missing, and Andi Silvers, disgraced big newspaper reporter turned small newspaper reporter in Coffin Cove is assigned to cover the investigation.

There are a number of twists and turns, and quite a deep dive into the town’s past – including why there is an area of land within the town called Hell’s Half Acre.

The RMCP is called in to assist, and it seems as if the lead investigator has a bit of history with Andi in the last book. Some of that background is provided to ensure the reader has a good picture of their relationship.

When a body turns up in the area of Hell’s Half Acre, it’s clear that the body belongs to the former mayor.

Meanwhile, a stranger appears in town, presumably a developer looking for projects within Coffin Cove. And, the body count starts rising.

Andi continues to investigate the disappearance just as the police do, and that investigation reveals some very nasty things about the small town – as anyone can tell you, sometimes the most sordid tales come from small towns.

The book reaches a crescendo as the good guys close in on the bad guys.

It’s a solid book, with a nice characterization of Andi and her reinvention as a small town reporter. Some of the other characters don’t get much more than broad strokes, to let us know of they’re nice or not, and (seemingly, to me) how sad or not we should be at their deaths. I also had issues with some of the writing. I think it could have been tightened up just a tad, and there were some redundant or “telling us again, in case we missed it”, identifying Summer as the mother of Jade, the new mayor in one chapter, and then in the very next, telling us again “Summer was Jade’s mother.” Yes, we know,because we’re already been told.

The culprit is pretty easy to see, and if the reader pegs the bad guy early, the rest of the book is still good, to watch the net close in.

I’m giving it four out of five stars.

Thanks to Joffe Books and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Watch Her – Hester Thursby #3 (Edwin Hill)

Watch Her is the third book in the Hester Thursby series, and I will say up front that this is an exceptional mystery. While it is not necessary to read the preceding books, it would likely add even more depth to a cast of characters so already fleshed out they could, in another, magical world, simply walk off the paper and into the real world without missing a beat or seeming out of place.

Hester is an information-digging, crime-solving dynamo. Paired with Detective Angela White in a nonofficial way, Hester blazes through the book, listening to what people tell her and what they do not. Her musings on what she has been told, and what she tells other people – including Morgan, with whom she lives – are some of the finest indirect action I’ve seen in a mystery. Nothing gets bogged down, the internal dialogue doesn’t veer into infodump territory, and those dialogues are organic, exactly how I would imagine would think them through.

Hester has been hired by a wealthy family to perform what is, to her, a simple task: sorting through information to complete a project and present her conclusions. The only speedbump winds up being a police report about a breakin at that wealthy family’s house that sounds off to both Hester and Angela, and which launches us into a decades-old mystery, with a current mystery as a chaser.

There is a rather large cast – this is just a note, not a particular warning, since paying attention will keep you squared away on who is who, how they’re related, and what animals they own.

It seems that everyone in this book has a secret: the circumstances surrounding a drowned child, a secret (or not so secret) affair, a cop who did something no cop should do, a woman who has not been out of her house in years.. I’m curious as to whether the author was playing a bit on the title – Watch Her to Watcher is not a big step to make when secrets start spilling out toward the end.

The ending wraps up nicely, the only loose end being the now strained relationship between our two leads due to the events of the book. I’ve no doubt they will patch things up in their next outing, something I am looking forward to, whenever it comes out.

The only ding I’d give it would be the “Chicken Day” painting, full of blood. It’s a reference to processing meat chickens, which I myself do each year. Certainly there is some blood, but it doesn’t look like your average slasher flick.

Five out of five stars.

Thanks to Kensington Press and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Little Bandaged Days (Kyra Wilder)

Little Bandaged Days follows Erika, mother of two, moving to Geneva, Switzerland with her husband.

The books takes a rather strange construct, with Erika identifying and interacting with other people by using their initials – including her children. I suppose this is some kind of experiment about Erika pushing people away, but it got fairly annoying the deeper into the book I made it. These sorts of literary experiments can be done well and give a good payoff at the end, but this book fell short for me.

Erika doesn’t know the language, and makes no effort at all to learn it. She allows herself to become more and more isolated from the world in which she finds herself, and while I get it’s supposed to be about a woman slowly losing her grasp on her own mental health, I just can’t feel terribly sorry for anyone who knows they need to change x in their lives in order to have a better life, but makes zero effort to change anything at all to get to that betterment, or at least make progress on it.

This popped up for me in the mystery/thriller category, but it’s clearly a general/women’s fiction novel. It reads as if someone stepped up for a dare of writing about a woman spiraling into mental illness with the extra challenge of not naming names.

I did not like the ending, which I will not spoil, and this really sums up my review of this book: didn’t like it. Clearly, it was not for me. Sorry.

Two stars out of five.

Thanks to Abrams and NetGalley for the review copy.