Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What I Read in July 2015 Part V

What I Read in July 2015 Part V ...

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate (Isabel Dalhousie, #2)Friends, Lovers, Chocolate  (An Isabel Dalhousie Mystery) by Alexander McCall Smith -- mystery

Isabel Dalhousie's niece Cat asks Isabel to mind Cat's deli while she goes off to a wedding in Italy. Isabel is worried Cat will fall in love with an Italian lothario or worse - mafioso. [Um can we say stereotypes?] Isabel would much rather Cat get back together with Jamie who has pledged his undying love for her. Nevermind Isabel's little crush on him- she's far too old. She agrees to run the deli for awhile, putting her own work with the Review of Applied Ethics aside. Then, while eating lunch one day, she meets Ian, a psychologist and recent heart transplant patient. They have a wonderful discussion on cellular memory and other [largely boring] philosophical discussions. Ian's questions aren't merely hypothetical. Since his heart transplant he has had a image in his mind of a man and is convinced it is a memory of the young heart donor. Isabel is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. She's certain there is a deeper mystery here, one that involves murder. Her housekeeper and friend Grace believes in spiritualism but Jamie is more practical minded. Both want to help Isabel get to the truth. She might be momentarily distracted by the Italian man who followed Cat home. Cat seems to be trying to set her aunt up!

After reading his version of Emma, I was curious about Alexander McCall Smith. I liked his writing style in Emma but here I found it very ponderous. There was way too much philosophical discussion and ruminating on whether an older woman can be with a younger man. OK we get it! Isabel doesn't want to be a so-called cougar. I took offense at her stereotypes of Italian men. I know of more supposed Italian-American mafioso (in my own state) than I do in Italy. My parents have friends who fit neither stereotype and I felt Isabel's worries were unfounded. The mystery doesn't happen until about midway through and then it gets interesting. The resolution left me confused and disappointed.

Isabel is a non-nonsense practical type. She's a spinster aunt of the old-fashioned style though she is only in her early 40s. I found it hard to relate to her though she is close to my own age. I thought perhaps the book was set in the past due not only to Isabel's behavior but also the references to Isabel using a corded phone and sending notes in the mail. (Or was Scotland that old-fashioned still in 2005?) Anyway, I found her long philosophical discussions boring and skimmed most of them. She seemed to come alive more when she met Ian, but sadly he's married so no romance there. Her potential romance never gets off the ground unfortunately and that part was kind of superfluous and bizarre.

I didn't care enough about the novel or the characters to want to read more of the series.

Death of a Mad Hatter (A Hat Shop Mystery, #2)Death of a Mad Hatter  (Hat shop Mystery #2) by Jenn McKinlay-- Cozy Mystery

Scarlett has settled into life in London at her family's hat shop. She handles customer relations while Viv and apprentice Fee create the hats. Scarlett needs to summon all her customer service skills to work with the eccentric Grisby family. Matriarch Dotty is as dotty as her name - she thinks Viv is her old friend Ginny, Scarlett and Viv's Mim. The Grisbys are throwing an Alice in Wonderland tea party to raise money for a new hospital wing in the name of Dotty's recently deceased husband Geoffrey (even though the lying, cheating bastard doesn't deserve it; the family pretend for Dotty's sake that he's away on business). Geoffrey, Jr. has inherited everything lock, stock and barrel due to the law of male primogeniture - at least until he turns up dead in the rose garden at the Grimsby estate. His sisters are seething with resentment but are they angry enough to kill? What about his wife Tina? She seems kind enough but Geoffrey was pretty awful to her. Scarlett is determined to help Tina no matter what but her investigation may cost her her life and her friendship with Harrison.

This mystery is cute like the last one. It's fluffy and fun. It does take too long to get to the murder though. I never guessed who the murderer was and never even suspected something like that. There are several plot twists that surprised me. I liked catching up with Scarlett and Viv and I especially liked how Scarlett's romance starts to heat up. (It's still sweet and clean with one passionate kiss).

Scarlett kind of annoyed me a bit in this one. She does some pretty stupid stuff in her investigation and is pretty stubborn. I would have reacted the same way to Harrison's interference though. She also leaps to conclusions about romance and denies what's obvious.
The Grimsby family are a pretty awful bunch. Dotty is the only one I liked and felt affection for. She's so sweet and confused. I find it hard to believe that Mim and Dotty were young together. (Mim can not possibly have been in her 20s in the late 1960s and early 20s. That would make her my mom's age and I don't think my mom is old enough to be Scarlett and Viv's grandmother! Scarlett and Viv do make me feel old but I'm only 10 years older).

If you're looking for a fun, fluffy mystery without any gore try this series.

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