Sunday, March 28, 2010

Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter

Well, curiosity almost killed the cat sitter! I had to order this book if for no other reason than the title intrigued me. As a budding author who can't come up with any decent titles myself, I am always drawn to books with titles that attract my attention, make promises that I sincerely hope the books will deliver on and play with words and phrases. As a language student and teacher with a weird sense of humor, I love playing with words and phrases. Always have from as far back as I can remember. So I appreciate titles that play with words and phrases and I especially appreciate books that live up to the title's promises.

When Dixie shows up at a client's house to care for her spoiled Abyssinian, she discovers a corpse in the kitchen, his face in the cat's water bowl and his head taped down to the floor. She discovers that her now missing client has a shocking past that gave many people good reason to want her dead and now that Dixie is onto their trail, she's in danger herself. When she herself becomes a suspect, she has to find the real killer before the killer finds her.

Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter delivered quite nicely on its promises for the most part. I had thought, judging by the title, that there would be a bit more humor in the book than there actually was. But still, I was not in the least disappointed and I will definitely be adding more books by Blaize Clement to my TBR pile.  I like her writing style and I really enjoyed getting to know the main character, former Sheriff's deputy Dixie Hemingway who's been through life's emotional wringer and has emerged, scathed but healing and hopeful. And, as in the case of so many other walking wounded, Dixie uses her pain to help others heal, too. I wish I were more like her than I am. Maybe after another book or two, a smidgen of Dixie's strength of spirit will rub off on me!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Death of a Saint Maker by Allana Martin

I have to love an author who is skilled enough to make me actually want to visit once again a part of the US I always thought of as desolate, empty and boring! Allana Martin made the Big Bend region come alive, complete with all the intricacies and cultural differences of life on the Texas/Mexico border.

Texana Jones runs a trading post and her husband has a veterinary business not too far from the Mexican border in the Big Bend area of southwest Texas. When Texana crosses the border to attend the dedication of a statue in a small village church, she and the villagers find that the church is locked. Villagers force the door open only to find the brutally murdered body of the itinerant saint maker, the man who had carved the church's new statue, and a neighbor's pit bull standing over the bloody corpse. The dog escapes before the villagers can grasp what has happened and capture the dog. While the villagers want to believe the dog is the culprit since it would lessen likelihood of police intervention, Texana has her doubts. When someone breaks into her trading post and steals her own statue carved by the saint maker, Texana's suspicion that the roaming artist was involved in something more than carving statues and figurines grows. When she joins her husband at the home of a wealthy Mexican landowner who is rumored to be a gun runner, she discovers that this shady character also happens to own a number of the saint maker's wood carvings. She is convinced there is a connection and is determined to find the truth. Death of a Saint Maker was a very satisfying well told story. I may not make Big Bend my next vacation spot, but I will definitely see it in a much different light.

Artifacts by Mary Anna Evans

This was a very well plotted, well written, enjoyable mystery with strong female characters and colorful settings. Though the plot was quite complicated, Mary Anna Evans handled it so well that I almost never got confused - which isn't always the case when novels change point of view or slip back and forth between the past and the present. Evans handled the historical story of how Faye's mixed race foremothers acquired and managed to keep and pass Joyeuse planation through the generations down to Faye by means of a journal Faye founds hidden away in the plantation's cupola. I had a little trouble believing Faye didn't just sit down and read the journal all at once; I know I would have. But despite that quibble, the bits of history revealed in the journal entries gave some excellent insight into not only Faye's family history, but also the social history of Florida. The stories helped Faye understand herself as she discovered answers to many of the questions she had been asking for as long as she could remember about her foremothers' history. Evans didn't finch in the face of the realities of slavery and racial prejudice from the ante-bellum South to modern times.

Faye Longchamp lives in a run-down mansion named Joyeuse, a plantation belonging to a former slave owner who actually owned Faye's great-great-grandmother Cally. Somehow Cally got ownership of the plantation around the time of the end of the Civil War and it remained in the family ever since. At least until the property taxes got so high Faye worries she will lose Joyeuse. To save her inheritance Faye, an avid former student of archaelogy who had to quit her studies due to a lack of funds, decides she has no choice but to excavate her own property and the nearby national preserve to find items she can sell on the black market. She abhors pothunters and hates having to be one. But she can't accept the loss of Joyeuse. Her whole identity is wrapped up in the dilapidated plantation. What she finds, however, on her latest excavation is not pottery or arrow heads, but the skeleton of a girl who died a mere 40 years before. Faced with the prospect of anyone finding out about her illegal deeds and the sure loss of Joyeuse, Faye investigates on her own. On the heels of the discovery of the skeleton, Faye and her fellow student archaeologists doing a legitimate dig on an island nearby discover the bodies of two of their own. Faye is convinced the students were killed by the same person who killed the woman she found only the day before, even though the murders were separated by several decades.

I did not guess who the villain was until nearly the end of the book. I was so engrossed in the story I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it.