This week’s read – For Batter or Worse

Past the few weeks or rather months, I’ve been stuck in a total plot hole with my book 3, trying to figure out if the body count needs to be increased or something else needs to happen. So, I needed something somewhat lighter fare to read. Still a mystery but, a cozy type.

For Batter or Worse by Jenn McKinley

in a way it’s rather funny that I’d read about cupcakes as they’re not one of my favorite edibles. Frankly, not fan of them at all, too sweet for my taste.
However, I’ve read all the previous one’s this series. They’re cozy mysteries, but they’ve been pretty solid reads, so I decided to give this one a go. The books are about three friends who run a cupcake bakery in Arizona. And all the books come with recipes too. I’ve never tried them, as I mentioned, cupcakes are not my thing.
My review: ⭐️⭐️️ It was ok.
In this latest one, #13 in Cupcake Bakery Mystery series, the owner and main baker, Melanie, is finally getting married to Joe who is one of the brothers of her best friend. A nasty chef in a resort hotel where Mel and Joe’s wedding is going to take place is found dead, and one of the cupcake bakery’s former employees is now under suspicion for it. I’ve liked the series, but this one was not the author’s best effort. The characters in the hotel were rather one-dimensional. I also figured it out pretty quickly who did it. The murder method though, was very inventive to say the least.

This week’s read – Down Among the Dead Men

Down Among the Dead Men by Peter Lovesey

What’s it about?  – A teacher in a posh girls’ school goes missing but nobody seems to care. Peter Diamond gets dragged to Sussex by his boss, Dallymore, to investigate a fellow police officer for misconduct.
My review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ The premise of Diamond and Dalllymore tag teaming is interesting due to their personalities. And the story is pretty good too, although it starts rather slow but picks up speed and has enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. BUT the ending is a bit weak, as the real culprits are not followed up. It could have used another chapter to close all the loose ends.
This is the book # 15 in Peter Diamond series. I’ve read all the previous ones and I can recommend them. Mostly solid police procedurals, set in Bath, England. The stories and plots are usually pretty good, some better than others but usually good reads. DCI Diamond and most the males in his team come across as real. Although women play a role in the books, their characters, especially Dallymore, are not well drawn.

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This week’s read – A Will to Kill

As mentioned, I read a lot. Sometimes, I read a book instead of doing what I should, as in doing laundry or dishes or other housework 😁

Today I finished reading RV Raman “Will to Kill”

The New Your Times: “… a modern-day take on the classic locked-room murder mystery, transported to a remote mansion high in the hills of southern India.”
What’s it about:
An old widowed rich man, Bashkar Fernandez, lives in a remote valley in a big house. He has invited a large family to his house for a reunion of sorts. Most of them are looking to get some of his money before, or even more after he’s dead. An attempt had been made on his life, but the culprit escaped. Fernandez also invited an investigator and his lawyer to the party as he’s written two different wills. A road closure locks the access to the house, and a deep fog descends.
My take: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ recommended, if you like Agatha Christie style mysteries
This is a good story. The characters are not entirely three-dimensional but from a story point of view they have enough meat on their bones to be believable. It’s also interesting to read a story set in a different part of the world. The locked-room mystery was well done, I was able to figure out one culprit, but the motives were well hidden until the end.
Scroll down to see more of the books I’ve recently read and can recommend.

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Recently read books and book series

Writing books also means reading a lot, and I do read a lot. And I read just about everything too, from cozy mysteries to Agatha Christie’s classic mysteries to thrillers, suspense, and other kinds of fiction, from John Fowles to Kate Atkinson, to Mikhail Bulgakov and all sorts of other books in between. I’m not much for blood and gore though, or romance for that matter.

Most of the time I have at least two books going on at the same time, often more. Browsing in bookshops and libraries are my favourite past times. You never know what kind of books you can find. Thanks to the smartphones, it’s now wonderfully easy to search for books and also read a book wherever you are, especially when you are waiting for something else to happen, like at the dentist office. I have a Kindle app on my phone. In the USA and many other countries, Overdrive or Libby apps are used by libraries and both work on smartphones too, all you need is a library card. Below a list of a small selection of books and book series I’ve recently read and liked.

Agatha Christie If you haven’t read “And then there was none” you really should. It’s arguably the best mystery ever written!

Kate AtkinsonLife after Life” is very different, but it’s brilliant. Her Jackson Brodie mysteries are set in Edinburgh and those are good too.

Elly Griffiths writes about Dr. Ruth Galloway, archaeologist in Norfolk who digs up murders. “Crossing Places” is the first one in the series. She also has written a new series, with “Postscript Murders” being a second book in that series. It’s set in a small coastal town where a suspicious death of a little old lady gets her caretaker and her neighbour investigating her murder.


Mark Dawson has written two mystery books about a former cop, Atticus Priest, turned private eye. “House in the Woods” is the first in the series. The book is set in a remote farmhouse in England, and it has plenty of plot twists to keep you reading! I liked it a lot. I’m waiting to read the second one in the series. His John Milton series about a guy the British government calls when they want to get someone off the books. I’ve only read the first one so far, “The Cleaner” and I just had to finish it! A bit like Lee Child whose first couple of books I liked too.

Anthony Horowitz also has a quirky series about a book editor trying to resolve an old murder case hidden in a manuscript she received from an author of murder mysteries. A plot in a plot! “Magpie Murders” is the first in the series. Very intriguing!

Jana Deleon Her cozy mysteries about Miss Fortune, an assassin hiding in a small town posing as a librarian are just so funny! “Louisiana Longshot is the first one in the series.

Jenn McKinlay writes cozy mysteries about a cupcake shop in Phoenix, Arizona as well as Library Lovers mystery series set in the coast of New England. “Books can be deceiving” is the first in the Library Lover series. Restoring books and baking cupcakes can be lethal.

Jennie Bentley is another cozy mystery writer. She writes what happens when you try to repair old houses on the coast of New England. Very murderous occupation! “Fatal Fixer-upper” upper is first in the series.


Louise Penny writes about a small village of Three Pines and Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. Her description of Quebec in the winter makes me want to move there, and in case you didn’t know, Quebec gets a lot of snow! Her first book in the series is “Still Life“.

Andrea Camilleri, who died in 2019, was one of my favourite Italian writers. His Montalbano series about a cop is wonderful mixture of solving murders and other crimes, and about people in a small town in Sicily. The first in the series is “The Shape of Water“. Montalbano books have also been made for TV.

Boris Akunin is a Russian author who writes about a self-proclaimed sleuth, Erast Fandorin set in 1876 Moscow. The first book is “Winter Queen“. It’s set in a different world, the names are a bit foreign but Fandorin like Sherlock Holmes is a great believer in method and logic.


Another book series set in a faraway place is Ovidia Yu’s series about Aunty Lee. It’s set in Singapore, where a little old lady who owns a restaurant is thrown into solving murders. “Aunty Lee’s Delights” is the first in the series.

Seishi Yokimizu mysteries set in late 1930ies Japan, are newly translated to English. A very different time, but a very interesting read. “The Honjin Murders is the first book in the series. A classic lock room mystery with a twist.

Set in France, Antoine Lauraine‘s book “The Readers’ Room”, is set in the world of publishing. A manuscript arrives but the author is nowhere to be found. A good whodunnit.

Jasper Fforde writes funny and quirky sci-fi time travelling literary mysteries in his Thursday Next series. Sounds odd, but they’re a delight to read. The first one in the series is “The Eyre Affair“.

Sarah Caudwell’s Hilary Tamar books are set in the world of barristers in London. They’re a bit different mysteries with the Scholar guiding the young barristers who somehow end up in trouble while reading the tax code! “Thus was Adonis Murdered” is the first in the series.

John Fowles – “The Magus” is one of my absolute favorite books. I re-read it every few years.

Oh, and about that Mikhail Bulgakov – He’s the author of “Master and Margarita”. That is the one book I’d probably take with me on the desert island. It’s a totally madcap satire about how the Devil arrived with his entourage in Moscow and caused havoc.  And every time I read it; I discover something new.


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Writing Mysteries

About writing

Writing books can be fun, challenging, hair pulling hard, and I’m-never-going-to-do-this again, and all that in a one day. When you’re just about prepared to bang the laptop to submission, you find a website which tells you just about what you had spent past two hours looking for, or you talk to someone who says, oh, check that site, and you’ll find out!

My biggest problem is research – as in I love doing it. Which means I tend to get lost among all those wonderful websites which have gruesome or funky stories about crime. Or I go to the library, browse shelves there and stumble on a book about poisons, or I check out Amazon for a book and then that one has that wonderful also-bought section which means that I end up checking out those too. I mean I have to, right? I have to be sure, what a particular building part is called and what it connects to and how much a sheet of metal which can fall on someone weighs, and obviously search all medical sites on what happens when X happens. But while the research is fun, often rewarding, my goal is always to ensure that whatever ultimately ends up in my books, the details are within reason.

Faukon Abbey Chronicle – Page 3

The Saddleworth Moor Inquest Returns Open Verdict

The intriguing story we have previously reported concerning a body, without any identification, which was found on Saddleworth Moor, in December 2015, and identified after a worldwide hunt, continues. (See our previous story here)

It took police more than a year to find out who he was. The inquest in the case was held March 14. The pathologist said the most likely cause of death was strychnine poisoning. Police ruled out any suspicious circumstances, which would indicate that the man now identified as Mr. Lytton, had travelled all the way from Lahore, Pakistan, via London to Manchester, walked up the hill to the Moor to commit suicide.

The coroner said he could not be sure of Mr. Lytton’s “intention”. “Whilst accepting he died of his own hand, the only appropriate conclusion I can reach is an open conclusion,” the coroner said. He added that a series of “fundamental questions remain unanswered”. For example, why did Mr Lytton travel all the way to Saddleworth Moor to commit suicide. He had no known links to the area. He had paid cash for a five-night stay in a hotel in London, and yet he travelled north after one night, during which he went out for dinner with an old friend. The morning after meeting his friend, he takes a train to Manchester, vanishes for an hour when he gets there, takes a taxi to a pub and gets directions to Saddleworth Moor where he’s found dead morning after.

Find out more about this true life (murder???) mystery  – The BBC has reported it here and here. The Guardian reports more about it here and here.




The Good Riddance Project

It was a dark and stormy night – and I set out to write a chapter or two for the third Faukon Abbey mystery, except, it didn’t turn out that way. The result is “The Good Riddance Project” A Project Management Mystery. It’s a novella, and if you ever have done a project, then this one is for you. It’s a tongue-in-cheek mystery about a project manager who has issues with his wife…. 🙂 It’s now available on amazon for 99cents.

About good books and wine, or is it whine?

Getting philosophical here…

It is said that good books are like wine, more you enjoy them better you appreciate them, the classics be it wine or books are good. The thing I’m concerned about now has to do with both wine and books and I do enjoy both.
When I was growing up, I went to the library, couldn’t afford to buy books. The smaller libraries I went to, their main distinction was fiction – non-fiction. So I browsed through the fiction shelves, pulled out a book here and there. I wasn’t concerned what genre it was. I read it, liked it more often than not, and returned it.
When I got older, and it came to wine, I didn’t really have any particular idea about it. I liked red wine with food, white wine too, especially with fish, and rose well, that was good with just about anything in the summer. But that was it. I wasn’t very knowledgeable about the grapes involved, and frankly I didn’t care. If the Chateau X wine tasted good, that’s what I bought the next time. But if the wine I liked had more Cabernet than Merlot, or if the rose was made with Grenache or Syrah, it didn’t really matter to me. I cared about the taste, and if the wine went well with the purpose, food or just being a nice “chatty” wine to enjoy in a mellow summer evening.

Now, thanks to Amazon and books, we have this micromanagement of genres. I understand it’s impossible to browse among the shelves like I used to but I’m not sure if pigeonholing a book in a every kind of a genre is good for the reader or the author. Take mysteries, a genre I thought I knew something about. I’ve read thousands of mysteries over the years. I like the puzzle, the use of my “little gray cells” to try to solve the murder. But it’s a bit annoying to  find, that in the top 20 category Mystery/British Detectives, the number one book is “Murder Out of Turn” which is set entirely in New York. Louise Penny’s books (number 4 and 15) are set in Quebec in Canada and Lee Childs’ two books (16 and 20) set mostly in the USA. Mind you, I’m not saying anything about these books. Personally, I really like Louise Penny’s books, the way she writes about Quebec city in the middle of the winter makes me want to move there. And Lee Child’s books are good too. But, these books do NOT have British Detectives.

Same thing with wine. Nowadays, if I want to find a wine which would be a nice chatty wine to go with some shrimp, aioli, and bread, I have to first figure out which grape I want in order to find the right shelf in the store! I know I like cabernet, don’t like Syrah, I like Chardonnay, if it’s not oaked. BUT the same thing that has been going on with books is happening with wines too, pigeonholing. Why do I have to, in order to find a wine or a book I like, figure out IF I like a particular grape more than another one, why do I even need to know the grapes used? If I like Louise Penny, who is very much Canadian and her books are set there, why would I look for her books among British Detectives? And why do I want to figure out that in order to find Agatha Christie’s “And then there was none” I have to check out category called Historical British & Irish Literature only to find it next to Ken Follet’s “Fall of Giants”! Does this make sense to you? It doesn’t make sense to me. How am I supposed to find a good puzzling mystery if I don’t know the name of the author?

The trouble is, I don’t really have a good alternative to offer, but I’m sure there must be a few literature loving engineers around who can figure this one out. When it comes to wine, I just stick with a good Rioja with steak, Sancerre with fish, and a dry rose from just about anywhere to sit and drink while munching on shrimp and aioli in the summer. And I really do not care which grapes are involved in any one of those!