Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Beeline To Trouble - Hannah Reed


Beeline To Trouble
A Queen Bee Mystery
Hannah Reed
Berkley Prime Crime
Story Fischer is having a really bad morning.  First her sister shows up, whining about houseguests she’s not prepared to feed.  Apparently, Holly’s husband Max, the wealthy businessman, brought home three members of his current work team for the weekend, and, despite having both a fulltime housekeeper and warning, Holly wants Story to take care of everything for her.  Starting with breakfast.  Right now.  Not long after, Story discovers that her overbearing widowed mother is going to be moving in with her new boyfriend.  In the house right next door to Story’s.  Where Hunter, Story’s guy, just moved in with her.

If you like your mystery with a large dose of ‘zany,’ then this is the mystery for you.  If you don’t, lower your expectations accordingly.  All of the above and more happens, in detail, long before any aspect of the main story gets going.  Since my tolerance for ‘zany’ is low, I had a hard time getting through the first thirty or forty pages.  Eventually, though, Story takes Max and his coworkers on a tour of her apiary.  One of the coworkers, Nova, who is noticeably playing up to Max, says she doesn’t feel well and opts out of a tour of the honey house.  When the group emerges minutes later, Nova is suddenly, inexplicably, dead. 
Naturally, Story wants to know what happened in her own back yard.  Even more so, since she and Holly look like they’re the prime suspects in the murder.  Off-kilter neighbor Patti now writes for the local paper (and handcrafted her own ‘press pass,’ believing it gives her access to everywhere and everyone) and is soon involved in the case in a big way.  Story saw her running away from Nova’s body, but neglects to mention that to anyone, unwilling to believe that Patti, odd as she is, would be violent.  Undeterred as ever, Patti inserts herself into the investigation, causing mayhem wherever she goes.

The mystery plot, divorced from all the goofy sideline action, is a good one.  There are several good suspects and some new developments that change the picture substantially.  It’s everything a good mystery should be.  And that’s really too bad, because all the antic subplots really detract from the main story.  Holly and Story are both suspects, and the local police chief would like nothing better than to arrest one or both of them.  That’s plenty to hang your hat on without resorting to screwball comedy scenes that only serve to undercut the action.  This is clearly not the strongest installment in an otherwise entertaining series (BUZZ OFF, MIND YOUROWN BEESWAX, PLAN BEE) but I’ll be visiting tiny Moraine, Wisconsin again to see how Story and her bees are faring.
Rating: 6
December 2012
ISBN#  978-0-425-25180-5 (paperback)  

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Thread On Arrival - Amanda Lee

Thread On Arrival
An Embroidery Mystery
Amanda Lee
Marcy Singer owns the Seven Year Stitch, an embroidery shop in the small town of Tallulah Falls, Oregon.  As a shop owner, Marcy is used to providing evening classes in various modes of stitching.  This time, there’s a difference.  Reggie Singh, the local librarian and sheriff’s wife, asks Marcy to hold a series of classes for a group of abused women.  It’s a form of therapy, allowing the women to relax, socialize a bit, create something beautiful, and feel a sense of achievement. 

One of the women in the class has an unusual request.  Her father-in-law, Chester, has a piece of tapestry that he believes is a treasure map to a ship that sank off the Oregon coast.  It’s his dream to locate the wreck and the treasure and use it to better the lives of his family.  Marcy can see at once that the tapestry is an antique, but she has no way to know if X really marks the spot.  Soon after Marcy’s visit, Chester is discovered murdered.  Naturally, suspicion falls on his son, who has a track record of abuse.  His wife – the victim of domestic abuse – remains adamant in her defense of her husband.  Marcy, over the strong cautions of many friends, feels the need to help the family and solve the mystery.
There’s a lot going on in this installment, and that’s not always a good thing.  Those who have read the previous books (THE QUICK AND THE THREAD, STITCH ME DEADLY, THREAD RECKONING, and THE LONG STITCH GOOD NIGHT) will be glad to know that the whole Ted-Marcy-Todd romantic triangle situation is finally resolved here.  Once that’s out of the way, Marcy is free to essentially meddle in the lives of people living with domestic abuse when she should realize that she hasn’t got the skills or training to do so.  The initial visit to view the tapestry is planned out like a Mission Impossible episode.  It just seems odd that Marcy would feel no reservations about stirring up an already volatile situation.  To her credit, Marcy truly cares for the people involved, and wants the best for all of them. 
Chester’s main stumbling block in searching for the shipwreck supposedly depicted on the tapestry was a lack of funds.  Marcy’s solution is absolutely daffy: Let’s make the whole thing a reality TV show so the production company will pay for the search.  Much of this is played for comic relief, the story moves along at a brisk clip, and everything works out in the end, as you know it must.  I’m not sure I like the almost romcom tone this series is starting to take, but I’m not at all ready to abandon Marcy yet. I know I’ll be headed back to Tallulah Falls for the next adventure.

Rating: 6
December 2012
ISBN# 978-0-451-23885-6 (paperback)