Front Window by Chautona Havig ~ a review

Front Window by Chautona Havig

Front Window, the newest book in the Hartfield Mysteries series by Chautona Havig,  is now available on Amazon!

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a new Chautona Havig book. It’s partly self-preservation – she modeled a character on me one time, and it was not one of the good guys.  In fact.. well, never mind. Figure it out for yourself. It’s someone in this series.

 

 

 

 

 

Book #1 – Manuscript for Murder

Manuscript for Murder by Chautona Havig

 

Because of that, or in spite of it, the Hartfield Mysteries are my favorite Chautona Havig series. It is such a creative concept – in the first book, Manuscript for Murder, Alexa Hartfield is an eccentric mystery writer living in an idyllic small town. She’s a free spirit, dressing in clothing from different eras to suit her mood and the book she is writing, living alone and enjoying it. Then someone starts turning her murder mysteries into a blueprint for their own killing spree, and Alexa Hartfield teams up with an unusual police officer to solve the case.  This book just delighted me. I loved Alexa. She’s so “comfortable in her own skin.” The pace of the (obviously incipient) relationship with the policeman, Joe  Freidan, was perfect. I appreciate slow romances.

Book #2 – Crime of Fashion

Crime of Fashion by Chautona Havig

 

 

At the beginning of Crime of Fashion, Alexa assumes that her life will resume its previous tranquility. It doesn’t, of course. Things are changing at home and in a new business venture.  I really didn’t want her to get involved in that business. You could see it was a train wreck right from the start.  She and Joe are getting serious in this book.  The ending, unfortunately, left something to be desired. It was a complete shock to me, though, and I can usually solve the mystery by the middle of the book. Not here. I only started getting suspicious in the last few pages.  I still wish it had ended differently.

 

Book #3 – Two o’Clock SlumpTwo o'Clock Slump by Chautona Havig

 

Two o’Clock Slump was a totally different book. Alexa leaves her beloved home and travels back to the place she left behind – a place where she is neither liked nor welcomed, where even her own family (not nice people) cause her grief.  There was considerable character development in this book.  I liked it, but Alexa was depressed there, and I just wanted her to leave. Go back to Fairbury where people like you and you can be yourself, Alexa. Except she can’t, because someone is framing her for murder. She’s on the lam.

Book #4 – Front Window

Front Window by Chautona Havig

 

I don’t want to give spoilers, but you’ve probably already guessed that Two o’Clock Slump has a happy ending. Things are going along pretty well at the start of Front Window. Alexa’s even-more-eccentric aunt Faye is moving to Fairbury, and all of them are looking forward to a happy season when strange things start happening at the retirement village. Aunt Faye is the real star of this book, and she’s a worthy addition to the series! Front Window is an entertaining book with all the best qualities of the series. You’ll love it.

 

 

Have you read any of these books? What do you think? Which was your favorite? Do you think Aunt Faye should have her own book?

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Miranda Warning – An Audiobook Review

Miranda Warning by Heather Day Gilbert FREE Kindle book and $2 Audible audiobook!I just finished reading Miranda Warning (A Murder in the Mountains – Book One) by Heather Day Gilbert. I thought it would be a straightforward mystery, but it turned out to be a multi-faceted introduction to what I expect will be a long series.

NOTE – This kindle book is FREE on Amazon right now, and when you buy it (for FREE), you can get the audible version for $1.99.  I highly recommend it, and I think you will want to follow up with the next in the series, “Trial by Twelve.”

The author has created a refreshingly original world. I wouldn’t classify the book as “Christian Fiction.” Instead, Ms. Gilbert writes from a Christian worldview, and her setting includes a realistic mix of Christians and nonbelievers in community. None of them are perfect, and they live naturally according to their convictions. The heroine is a unique character. She bears some scars from a dysfunctional childhood, but she went to college, married into a healthy family and doesn’t wallow in angst. As a mother-in-law, I was pleased to see the loving relationship between Tess and Nikki Jo. The politically conservative characters are portrayed as intelligent and sensible instead of rednecks or greedy industrialists. They have guns but aren’t violent. A young boy is allowed to be an ordinary young boy who enjoys his family. An older woman is sometimes lucid and sometimes vague. Tess’s husband, Thomas, is allowed to be grouchy and jealous sometimes without being a bully. He is macho and vulnerable. She is vulnerable, too, but also willful and sometimes intrepid. And she doesn’t hide (too many) things from her husband; she can be foolhardy and she has common sense. On these and several other points, Ms. Gilbert succeeds in breaking free of stereotypes. Refreshing!

There were some inconsistencies that struck me as jarring: Miranda initiated the whole mystery and then became disinterested. The doctor was too accommodating, too fast. Why didn’t Tess have a concealed carry permit? Axel provided insight to Thomas’s character and feelings for Tess, but he seemed extraneous otherwise. He felt like a subplot that never developed, and then he left the country to tie up the loose end. Rosemary’s actions were odd. The friendship with Charlotte happened too quickly and conveniently. The ending felt rushed. And yet, it was still an engrossing story. I wonder if the book was originally much longer and then cut back to meet modern publishing standards.

The author’s creativity and skill were displayed in the two parallel story lines that linked all of the characters. Rose’s story unfolded slowly, changing our perceptions of each character with every installment. THAT was superbly written.

Trial by Twelve - by Heather Day Gilbert

 

Trial by Twelve, the second book in this series, features the same characters two years later and is more of a murder mystery than this one. I look forward to reading it soon!

 

 

 

I had purchased Miranda Warning in kindle form and was already reading it when the author approached me with an offer of a free audiobook in exchange for an honest review.  It was nice to have both formats. The reader did a very good job, but of the two formats, I preferred the text book.  The first-person, present tense style sounds a little dreamy and “stream of consciousness” when it’s read aloud.

There are quite a few female characters in the book, and the reader was consistent and distinct in each voice. She had to create separate young and old voices for three of the characters, since there are separate timeline passages, and she did great with that. She also did the child’s voice quite well. The Appalachian dialect was just right – not overdone. 

This kindle book is FREE right now on Amazon, and the Miranda Warning audiobook is only $1.99.  That’s $2 for 8 1/2 hours of entertainment!!

Bite Size Book Reviews

I’m not feeling romantic this week. When I am stressed, instead of reaching for something lighthearted, I usually pick up a mystery or (slightly)romantic suspense novel. We moved two weeks ago, unexpectedly, and I listened to audiobooks while I worked on packing and cleaning.  When in Rome is an old favorite, and I always enjoy Kristen Heitzmann, but the others were new to me.

Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris is a FREE KINDLE BOOK! (Price may change without notice, but it’s free right now!)

We are starting to settle into our new home – did I mention that it is an apartment in a Tudor castle? – but I’m still not ready to snuggle up with a romance. Expect more murder and violence next week…

When in Rome by Ngaio Marsh - Classic Detective Fiction, reviewed by Cathe SwansonWhen in Rome, audiobook by Ngaio Marsh, read by Nadia May

Retro Read! This classic detective story from 1969 is an old favorite. Ms. Marsh writes so clearly that the reader experiences the story more like a movie than a book. She researched Rome, its history and its legal system for this tale of blackmail and drug smuggling. Her characters are varied, each drawn with realistic attitudes and behaviors, and each has his or her own motive for murder.

 

 

 

Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris - FREE kindle book as of 4/14/2016

 

~ FREE KINDLE BOOK ~

Dangerous Passage, kindle book by Lisa Harris

This book was different in that the romantic relationship is already in place at the start of the story, and the hero is a medical examiner, which places him in the criminal investigation field without having him be a police officer. The complexities of the heroine’s family life added depth to this story of human trafficking. The author has set the stage for a series, and I look forward to reading the others.

 

 

The Edge of Recall by Kristen Heitzmann

 

The Edge of Recall, audiobook by Kristen Heitzmann, read by Katherine Kellgrenn

Kristen Heitzmann writes complex stories, and this is no exception. The heroine is still living with unresolved trauma, which makes her a bit frustrating, but the hero and his sidekick are enjoyable. The plot is – as always in Ms. Heitzmann’s books – original and well-researched. I learned a lot about labyrinths! The ending seemed rushed and too “pat” for such a rich story.

 

 

The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn

 

The Patmos Deception, audiobook by Davis Bunn, read by Rich Orlow

Good writing, great setting, unique characters, cultural and political authenticity, intriguing history… that made up for the fact that the plot was a little confusing and the ending was not quite an ending. I wondered if Bunn might be setting us up for a sequel. More suspense than romance – just the way I like my books.  I do recommend it.

 

 

and now for something completely different…

Opening Moves by Steven JamesOpening Moves, audiobook by Steven James, read by Richard Ferrone

I picked this one up because my library had it listed as Christian fiction and it’s the prequel to a long suspense/thriller series. I am always looking for new authors and series.  It freaked me out. Cannibalism, torture, mutilation, violence – with descriptions of the emotions experienced by the villain and the victim as they happened.  I regret reading it. BUT – I understand the rest of the series isn’t as gruesome. The author has good writing skills, so if you enjoy this genre, give it a shot. It’s not Christian fiction, but there was very little to object to (aside from the brutality, sadism, etc.)