Tag Archives: mystery series

Review: Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase

Review: Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase
Eve Mallow Mystery Series
Bookouture (December 4, 2020)

Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase is a cozy mystery pleasure read! I bought it for myself for over the holidays when I decided to take a few days break from publishing work and responsibilities and just immerse myself in something fun! This is book four, and I hadn’t read any of her other books, but when I saw the cover come through my twitter feed with the picture of the old mill on it, it piqued my interest! I love old mills, especially in overseas landscapes. And I love british mysteries. On a personal note as well, I found after buying, that though I live in America now, this takes place in “a sleepy Suffolk village” in England, and this is the area in which I was born and lived as a child. I rarely see books set here and it was so nice to be taken to this landscape of the healths and rivers and coasts.

The book starts at a holiday party, which I also found perfect for a holiday read, but yet not overly “christmas” or “holiday seasonal.” I was ready for a mystery and I thought it’d be the perfect palate cleanser from some of the other things I’d been reading. I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Though I didn’t have much time to read in the end to finish it as quickly as I’d have liked (this would have otherwise been a two day read), I enjoyed looking forward to it when I could and finally finished it in mid-January.

I’ve been talking about series fiction some lately in my work. So it dawns on me to address that this book is a series and I started mid-series. I didn’t really notice it was book four at all – the mystery is stand alone – though I realized while reading mid-way through that some of the characters’ back stories would be enhanced if I went back and read former books – which I definitely will now! It made me curious about the life of the protagonist prior, but it didn’t hinder the story plot any for me. Honestly, I’d probably move on to book five first though, which I think also comes out this year, to continue on from this one to see the progression.

I didn’t even guess who the murderer was at all, and often I do; I didn’t know until the reveal in the final pages! She had so many good twists and turns in thought. It was well-written, and it flowed like the smoothest pot of tea. It didn’t lull or get bogged down in details or character ramblings or rabbit holes. It used the art of deflection without really taking us out of the story. It kept a quick pace and moved along well.

And yet, with the swiftness of the plot, the characters were so fully developed I felt as if I knew all of them! I look forward to getting to know some of them more, too. I really like the protagonist Eve, and the author’s method into making her an accidental “investigator” is priceless! An obituary writer who interviews friends and family is quite unlike something I’ve read, but a great segway into a classic “sleuth.” Definitely for fans who like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple but want a more modern mystery read with a slightly younger (middle-aged) protagonist.

As well, her descriptions are lush and vivid, but not overdrawn. We can visualize easily, simply, but with depth. That takes the skill of a very talented and seasoned writer. I enjoyed the imagery immensely.

The verdict is: loved it! 

Editorial notes: As a working editor, I usually have a lot of developmental notes, mental or otherwise, on books I read. I really have nothing faulty to say about this book from an editing perspective, whether developmental or otherwise. It’s about as good as they come.

Where received: I purchased this book for myself as a pleasure read. I kinda want the whole set in paperback.

I am falling in love with Bookoutre books!

Mystery at the Old Mill, About –

When the calm of Saxford St Peter is disrupted by a deadly fire at the Old Mill, amateur sleuth Eve Mallow finds herself investigating a most surprising mystery!

Everyone in Saxford St Peter is desperate to know more about Harry Tennant, the newcomer who owns the Old Mill. He usually keeps himself to himself, but he’s finally invited the villagers round for drinks, and Eve Mallow isn’t the only one looking forward to having some questions answered.

But two days before the party, a terrible fire sweeps through the mill, and Harry is found dead. When Eve passes the burned remains of his beautiful house, she can’t resist the call to investigate. Especially when it turns out quiet, charming Harry was living a double life as the famous advice writer Pippa Longford. Eve has to wonder what revelations were contained in the letters he received… and whether one of them was worth killing for.

Accompanied by her reliable dachshund sidekick Gus, Eve starts digging. She soon realises Harry was at the centre of a web of lives – and lies. There’s an uncle desperate to inherit, two women who thought they were his one and only, not to mention everyone who shared their darkest secrets with him. Was one of those strangers much closer to home than Harry knew? And can Eve untangle the truth before she finds herself face to face with a killer?

A completely charming page-turner, perfect for fans of Faith Martin, Agatha Christie and Betty Rowlands.

Clare Chase, Biography –

Clare Chase writes classic mysteries. Her aim is to take readers away from it all via some armchair sleuthing in atmospheric locations.

Her debut novel was shortlisted for Novelicious’s Undiscovered Award, as well as an EPIC award post-publication, and was chosen as a Debut of the Month by LoveReading. Murder on the Marshes (Tara Thorpe 1) was shortlisted for an International Thriller Writers award.

Like her heroines, Clare is fascinated by people and what makes them tick. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked in settings as diverse as Littlehey Prison and the University of Cambridge, in her home city. She’s lived everywhere from the house of a lord to a slug-infested flat and finds the mid-terrace she currently occupies a good happy medium.

As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books.

You can find Clare’s website and blog at http://www.clarechase.com

Purchase –

Eve Mallow Series on Amazon

Or request at your favorite local indie store in the UK or US. At the time of this post, I could find any of this series on bookshop.org, a great place to order books with proceeds going to indie bookstores.

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Cognac Conspiracies is Another Great Edition to Winemaker Detective Series, Based on French Television Show

cognac-conspiracies-coverReview~
Read below for excerpt and giveaway!

Last month I read a really fun mystery that is outside of my element, but something about the words “France” and “Cognac” drew me in and made me curious! I always love a good foreign mystery. I hadn’t realized at first that it was a series, with the others featuring wine in their mysteries, or even that it’s a popular TV mystery series abroad! However, I can see how this would make a great French TV series, full of dramatic flair and a likable wine expert turned amateur detective named Benjamin Cooker and his side-kick, handsome and astute Virgile. Cognac Conspiracies is book five in what looks to be a twenty-part mystery series based on the television show.

It’s a pretty slim book, compared to novels that I generally read, so it doesn’t go too far in-depth with various outside plots, but rather, takes the reader on an interesting meandering ruse through the business world and history of cognac. During the reading, the mystery seeps slowly in, and though short on pages, it still had time for multiple twists and turns that kept me guessing. It did visualize as a television episode to me, which I loved. Some of the back story, as on TV, featured relations or issues in Cooker’s own life. As an American, I loved getting my fix for foreign TV through this book.

There is a good balance between character development, plot, and mystery, as well as dining with cognac, but from what I’ve heard of the other mysteries, I think there was a little less dining on delectable foods in this novel, but it did feature a few areas, so no worries!

The novel made up for this with its wonderful description of cognac, especially the various types of cognac and how they are made with herbs and flowers. I was pleasantly surprised by this practice, which reminded me of fragrance-making, and I could almost smell the various types of brandy and feel the liquor melt on my tongue; the details opened my senses. Cognac certainly held its own for me against the other wines featured in previous mysteries, as I am sure it does in its wine-making region as well, which was the area featured in this novel.

The authors really focused on grand descriptions of the river and village and countryside that were very lovely, as well as their character development of the supporting cast. They were smart, sly, conflicted, and quite often scandalous, which of course, make for good TV murder mysteries and follow through with the books as well. Anyone could have “who-done-it” and we feel suspicious of them all. There is an air of intrigue, deceit, and suspense that makes you anxious to the turn the pages.

This novel is an entertaining petite paperback, or a quick electronic read, and is just perfect for when you have a few hours during a train or airplane ride in which you wish to escape reality. Or maybe you need a free evening at home by the fireplace, glass in hand, in which to escape to the French countryside? I know I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of this series!

Read an excerpt!

“Pierre Lavoisier. Mr. Cooker, I presume?” Benjamin shook his hand and said, “This is my associate, Virgile Lanssien.”

The man, who appeared to be in his forties, adjusted his gold-rimmed glasses and gave the winemaker’s assistant a thorough look-over before moving his lips almost imperceptibly. It was difficult to tell whether he was smiling or brooding.“ Beauty is the promise of happiness, is it not?” “That’s exactly what Stendhal said,” replied Benjamin, always confident of his literary knowledge.

Pierre Lavoisier began to tremble ever so slightly, and sweat beads formed on his forehead. So, Benjamin thought, he didn’t know how to play this game. Arrogance was not his métier, much less pedantry.

“My sister will see you, if you will kindly wait here,” was all that he said before leaving. “Have a seat, please.”

“We’re not really tired,” Benjamin responded as he inspected a large lithograph of Jarnac in 1830.

The winemaker, a connoisseur of antiques and an occasional historian, reached for his glasses. With great interest, he examined this panoramic view of a former chateau, which had been sacrificed for a suspension bridge spanning the Charente River. On the embankments, imposing homes reflected the good fortune of their owners. Along the river’s edge, only a few trees dared totip their boughs, lest they hinder the passage ofthe barges. Benjamin took a few steps back to better appreciate it and then turned his attention to a family photo. He recognized Pierre, standing proudly next to a beautiful woman with blonde hair. Seated in front of them was an elderly man—presumably the patriarch. Off to one sidewas another man, whom Benjamin presumed was the infamous Claude-Henri.

“Strange, very strange,” Benjamin mumbled.

Virgile wasn’t paying much attention. He was busy staring out the window at this Pierre, who had undressed him with his eyes, like a slave trader.“There’s something suspicious about him.”

“What’s that, my boy?”

“I’m saying that he’s strange, too.”

“Who?”

The door opened, and Marie-France entered the room. She was wearing a pink silk suit that complemented her astonishingly radiant complexion.

Her wrists and neck were unadorned, butshe had several extravagant diamond, sapphire, and ruby rings on her fingers. Her handshake was firm and formal. Ms. Lavoisier knew how to holdher own.

“So, gentlemen, what can I do for you?”

Benjamin shot a glance at his assistant before tactfully and a bit solemnly explaining the assignment he had been given. He confessed that he had not met his client, Shiyi Cheng, in person.

“We have only exchanged correspondence,” the winemaker said, hoping to gain a semblance of consideration from Lavoisier. Her pale eyes were making him uneasy. “I believe your shareholder simply wishes to know the status of the accounts.”“I don’t have to tell you that there are certified public accountants for that, Mr. Cooker.”

She lashed out his name, and Benjamin could almost hear a whip cracking. Then her eyes fell on Virgile. She stared not at his face, but at his body, from sternum to crotch. Benjamin could feel his assistant’s embarrassment. Virgile crossed his legs and pulled himself straighter in his chair as she continued her indecent and perverse inspection. Benjamin tried to correct himself. “PerhapsI did not make myself clear, Ms. Lavoisier. Our assignment has more to do with how we can help the company evolve. We’re here to study the business. Cognac is going through difficult times. I hope, in the framework of this mission, you will consider us allies, rather than enemies.”

cognac-conspiracies-coverCognac Conspiracies

Jean-Pierre ALAUX and Noël BALEN

(cozy wine mystery)

Release date: February 18, 2015
at Le French Book

140 pages

ISBN: 978-1939474322

Website | Goodreads

Synopsis~

The heirs to one of the oldest Cognac estates in France face a hostile takeover by foreign investors. Renowned wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to audit the books. In what he thought was a sleepy provincial town, he is stonewalled, crosses paths with his first love, and stands up to high-level state officials keen on controlling the buyout. Meanwhile, irresistible Virgile mingles with the local population until a drowning changes the stakes. [provided by the publisher]

An episode in a long successful French mysteries series that is a hit television series now in its fourth season and attracting an audience of over 4 million. The series is a huge success in France, Belgium and Switzerland.

Alaux-BalenJean-Pierre ALAUX and Noël BALEN, Biographies~

The authors of the Winemaker Detective series, are Epicures. Jean-Pierre Alaux is a magazine, radio and TV journalist, when he is not writing novels in southwestern France. He is the grandson of a winemakerand exhibits a real passion for wine and wine making. For him, there is no greater common denominator than wine.

He gets a sparkle in his eye when he talks about the Winemaker Detective, which he coauthors with Noël Balen.

Noël lives in Paris, where he shares his time between writing, making records, and lecturing on music. He plays bass, is a music critic and has authored a number of books about musicians in addition to his novel and short-story writing.

Translator Sally Pane, Biography~

Translator Sally Pane studied French at State University of New York Oswego and the Sorbonne before receiving her Masters Degree in French Literature from the University of Colorado where she wrote Camus and the Americas: A Thematic Analysis of Three Works Based on His Journaux de Voyage. Her career includes more than twenty years of translating and teaching French and Italian at Berlitz and at Colorado University Boulder. She has worked in scientific, legal and literary translation; her literary translations include Operatic Arias; Singers Edition, and Reality and the Untheorizable by Clément Rosset. She also served as the interpreter for the government cabinet of Rwanda and translated for Dian Fossey’s Digit Fund. In addition to her passion for French, she has studied Italian at Colorado University, in Rome and in Siena. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband.
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