Tag Archives: mystery

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
.

Links:

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: contemporary romance/mystery.

My rating:

Agnes and the Hitman is the third Jennifer Crusie novel I read (though it’s co-written with Bob Mayer), after I loved Bet Me and enjoyed Charlie All Night. Agnes and the Hitman was the best of three, even if it was completely different.

Agnes is a chef, hot-headed and fed up with being treated like a fool by the men she knows. She’s angry and violent (she’s handy with her cast iron skillet) and in no way your typical romantic heroine. I loved her, she was everything that I wanted in a romance heroine but didn’t know how to express. It’s rare for me to fall so completely for a female character, especially in romance, I always have some complaints about gender issues and whatnot. If I had to make a comparison, Agnes is like an angrier, Southern version of Stephanie Plum (who is one of my all-time favorite fictional people in case you didn’t know).

Shane (no surname), her love interest, is a hitman (the body count of AatH is unusually high for a romance, that’s true). He’s the guy who takes care of things for you, and he’s on a mission. So why he ends up living with Agnes, saving her life, and repairing her house, is a mystery. I was afraid he’d end up being one of those one-dimensional macho-types, and while he was certainly macho (look, it’s not really something I like, either, but stay with me), he was a complex love interest with separate motives and experience, so I really liked him, too.

I mentioned Stephanie Plum – and I think Janet Evanovich’s entire series is a great comparative title for Agnes and the Hitman. The supporting characters are over the top, hilarious, and ridiculous, there’s a flamingo wedding, a secret basement, and a mob war. So be prepared for some seriously high-level twists and turns. It was one of those reads that I couldn’t put down because the plot just pulled me in and refused to let go. I also snort-laughed a lot and debated making my husband read it (I didn’t, in the end, he’s not much of a romance reader).

I’ll be re-reading this one for sure, it’s a fabulous pick-me-up when a fluffy romance just doesn’t cut it and you need something with a bit of a bite.

Have you read Agnes and the Hitman? What did you think?

Do you have any other romance recs with unconventional heroines for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty

Lock & Mori (Lock & Mori #1) by Heather W. Petty
Published in 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: YA crime/mystery/romance.

My rating:

In modern-day London, two brilliant high school students—one Sherlock Holmes and a Miss James “Mori” Moriarty—meet. A murder will bring them together. The truth very well might drive them apart.

Before they were mortal enemies, they were much more…

FACT: Someone has been murdered in London’s Regent’s Park. The police have no leads.

FACT: Miss James “Mori” Moriarty and Sherlock “Lock” Holmes should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene.

FACT: Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted.

FACT: Despite agreeing to Lock’s one rule—they must share every clue with each other—Mori is keeping secrets.

OBSERVATION: Sometimes you can’t trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again

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Lock & Mori was a very pleasant surprise. I’d seen the book mentioned on several blogs back when it first came out last year, and I put it into Goodreads because I’m a sucker for Sherlock Holmes retellings. Then I saw it was a Kindle deal recently and snapped it up – and binge-read it in about two days. I’m counting this towards my Retelling Challenge, which I’m otherwise failing at (oh well).

I kept comparing it (perhaps unfairly) with Ellie Marney’s Every series (reviews here, here, and here) since they both feature a boy and a girl who investigate murders together. And I really enjoyed Marney’s series, so I was initially disappointed with Lock & Mori for not gripping me in exactly the same way – but then, as the story progressed, I realized the tone of the story was just completely different, much darker and complex.

I’d expected a sort of a contemporary YA romance with some crime, see, and though there is romance in Lock & Mori, it isn’t such a central theme as in the Every series. Yes, Lock and Mori are teenagers who kind of fall for each other, but their relationship is more complex, half-based on wanting to distract each other from their lives, and half on their mutual admiration of the other’s reasoning process. It might have been a bit fast for my taste but there’s no talking about love or anything, it’s just a case of teenage attraction. I always find smart heroes pretty hot, there’s just something about brainy guys that pulls me in, and Lock was a good example of such a boy.

But it was Mori (James Moriarty, but she hates her full name) who really stole the show – she’s a great narrator and such a troubled, amazing young lady. Her life situation could hardly be more f***ed up but she somehow copes – until she doesn’t.

I’m usually okay with figuring out the culprit in crime stories, so I did figure this one out, too, but that didn’t lessen the horror or the enjoyment of reading all about Lock and Mori’s investigation. I also liked the fact that unlike in Marney’s series, Sherlock isn’t an absolute know-it-all, though he does have wicked observation skills. He just seemed more real because of it.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable read, though I don’t often read mystery or crime novels. It had just the right amount of scary and gory to keep me on my toes but not enough to turn me off. I’m definitely going to continue with the series when the sequel, Mind Games, is published in December.

srcek

Have you read Lock & Mori? What did you think?

Do you have any other Sherlock Holmes retellings to recommend? Or maybe mysteries of a similar kind (no horror or scary stuff, though, I’m a chicken)?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Every Move by Ellie Marney

Every Move (Every #3) by Ellie Marney
Published in 2015 by Allen & Unwin.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA detective novel/mystery/romance.

My rating:

Rachel Watts is suffering from recurring nightmares about her near-death experience in London. She just wants to forget the whole ordeal, but her boyfriend, James Mycroft, is obsessed with piecing the puzzle together and anticipating the next move of the mysterious Mr Wild – his own personal Moriarty.

So when Rachel’s brother, Mike, suggests a trip back to their old home in Five Mile, Rachel can’t wait to get away. Unfortunately, it’s not the quiet weekend she was hoping for with the unexpected company of Mike’s old school buddy, the wildly unreliable Harris Derwent.

Things get worse for Rachel when Harris returns to Melbourne with them – but could Harris be the only person who can help her move forward? Then a series of murders suggests that Mr Wild is still hot on their tails and that Mycroft has something Wild wants – something Wild is prepared to kill for.

Can Watts and Mycroft stay one step ahead of the smartest of all criminal masterminds? The stage is set for a showdown of legendary proportions…

srcek

Ellie Marney’s Sherlock-inspired trilogy got a very satisfying conclusion with Every Move. You can read my reviews of Every Breath and Every Wordbut be warned that this review will inevitably contain spoilers for the first two books. I have to say that my favourite of the series is the second one, which is really interesting, because I often complain about second book syndrome (where I get the feeling the second book is just a placeholder between the beginning and the end and that the series would in fact be much better if it was a standalone or a duology). But Every Move was great, I’m not disappointed in any way.

Rachel and James are back in Melbourne after a horrifying experience in London – and Rachel has a really hard time dealing with it. It’s not just that her wounds and fractures are slow to heal, her mind is preoccupied with nightmares, feelings of being trapped, and general stress of surviving such an ordeal. I think Marney did a great job portraying this emotional state of hers, it’s very gritty and unpleasant at times, but very real, too.

James (Mycroft) is still obsessed with finding the man who calls himself Moriarty, the man who had his parents killed and who was responsible for the shit that happened in London. And Rachel can’t really deal with discussing this ad nauseam, so she’s pulling away somewhat, thinking about their relationship. Then James goes off to Bali to search for a clue – and a young man who looks remarkably like him gets murdered in Melbourne, even though it looks like an accident. 

Things progress fairly quickly from then on and I can only say that the story kept me up way past my bedtime when I was bone-tired, so that’s definitely something (I cherish sleep these days like I never did before). There’s a little hint at a love triangle that I found largely unnecessary, but I liked the addition of a new character to the fairly small regular cast – though I prefer the limited number of characters, they’re better fleshed-out that way. 

I’ll definitely be looking out for Ellie Marney’s next book, whenever it arrives. If you’re still in doubt whether or not you should read this series, I can assure you that it’s really good throughout and even goes out with a bang, which is rare these days, I think.

srcek

Have you read this series? What did you think?

What’s your favourite Sherlock retelling (or a similar detective story)? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Every Word by Ellie Marney

Every Word (Every #2) by Ellie Marney
Published 2014 by Allen & Unwin.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA crime/mystery/romance.

My rating:

James Mycroft has just left for London to investigate a car accident similar to the one that killed his parents seven years ago…without saying goodbye to Rachel Watts, his ‘partner in crime’.

Rachel is furious and worried about his strange behaviour – not that Mycroft’s ever exactly normal, but London is the scene of so many of his nightmares. So Rachel jumps on a plane to follow him…and lands straight in a whole storm of trouble.

The theft of a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, the possible murder of a rare books conservator, and the deaths of Mycroft’s parents…Can Watts help Mycroft make sense of the three events – or will she lose him forever?

Sparks fly when Watts and Mycroft reunite in this second sophisticated thriller about the teen sleuthing duo.

srcek

This is the review for the second book in the Every series, so it will inevitably contain spoilers for the first part. You can read my review of Every Breath here.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a review, so bear with me. I might not be fully coherent yet (it’s also morning here and my brain has yet to wake up). Let’s see…

A Sherlock Holmes retelling! Great chemistry! London! Hot messy-haired boy! Roller derby! Where to start this review? I really enjoyed Every Breath, so I was eager to find out what Rachel and James have been up to. And Marney didn’t disappoint, the mystery is just as cool in the sequel, the relationship between the budding detectives is of the hook hot and while we start the journey in Melbourne, we soon follow Rachel on a twenty-three-hour trip to London, where James has flown to in search of his parents’ killers.

I think it goes without saying that Sherlock Holmes-inspired crime stories are my crack. I tried reading the originals, found Sherlock to be an arrogant asshole, and decided to stick with the 21st-century reinterpretations, where Watson actually has a spine.

Marney does well in this regard, Rachel Watts is one tough lady. As much as she loves James (and love him she does, even if she’s slow on realizing it sometimes), she refuses to take shit from him and is stubborn enough to match his craziness. James is a hard man to love, though, obsessed as he is with finding out what happened the night his parents were killed in a car crash.

I really liked the psychology of Marney’s leading couple (as the daughter of two psychologists, I can tell you this is a bit of a pet peeve for me). James’s struggling with his past, his volatile mood; Rachel’s inability to help and her desperate attempts to get her life into order. In YA romances, the couple dynamic is so often reduced to pointless drama and lack of communication, but I think Marney avoids that gracefully.

I’m sure it won’t take me long to break my self-imposed book buying ban and order Every Move, as I’m really excited about the finale of Rachel and James’s story.

srcek

Have you read Marney’s series? What did you think?

Can you recommend any other Sherlock-inspired stories or similar detective novels?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Every Breath by Ellie Marney

Every Breath (Every #1) by Ellie Marney
Published 2013 by Allen & Unwin.

Links: Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: purchased.

Genre: YA contemporary romance/mystery.

My rating:

Rachel Watts is an unwilling new arrival to Melbourne from the country. James Mycroft is her neighbour, an intriguingly troubled seventeen-year-old genius with a passion for forensics. Despite her misgivings, Rachel finds herself unable to resist Mycroft when he wants her help investigating a murder. And when Watts and Mycroft follow a trail to the cold-blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion’s den – literally.

srcek

Ahh, this was a great one. I’ve had some bad luck with contemporaries lately (I mostly blame the New Adult genre) and I’m so glad I decided to read Every Breath, because it’s really, really good.

I like Sherlock Holmes. Or I like the modern versions of him, anyway, as I tried to read the original Doyle stories and soon gave up because Sherlock was obnoxious. But I enjoy watching the BBC version and Elementary as well – and though I do love the classic vibe of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, I’m really committed to Jonny Lee Miller and especially Lucy Liu. So when I read a couple of (extremely enthusiastic) reviews of Every Breath and realized the main characters are Rachel Watts and James Mycroft – a girl and a boy – I knew I had to give it a try!

It’s been a while since I read a good crime novel – as much as I love watching cop/murder shows (that sounds pretty terrible, no?), I never seem to be drawn to the genre when it comes to books. I gave a half-hearted try to Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling and decided it wasn’t for me, for example. But I thoroughly enjoyed figuring out what happened to the poor murder victim here.

Rachel and James (or Watts and Mycroft, as they call themselves) are both very smart young people (they’re both nearly 18) but they have their issues and problems and baggage from the past and somehow manage to feel so very real. So often, I complain that YA (and especially NA) stories feature too much artificial angst, imaginary problems that would have been solved instantly if people just talked to each other. Here, however, there’s none of that. Sure, the slow-burn romance doesn’t evolve without hitting some obstacles, but then it never does, does it?

Ahh, the slow-burn romance. I can’t even tell you how happy I am with Watts and Mycroft’s romance! The only relationship I liked better than theirs recently was the one from Uprooted and that one was pretty much perfect. I like that their attraction is based both on respect and lust, and that there’s nothing – nothing – sappy about it. This may seem pretty clinical and uninspired but it works, I promise.

As for the Sherlock Holmes element – I like that Marney directly references the opus that inspired her series, there’s nothing secretive about it and it’s clear she loves the legendary detective. I was afraid the murder mystery would be too closely based on one of Sherlock’s cases but as far as I can tell, it was pretty original (not that I know all the stories, mind you, but it didn’t ring any bells).

All in all, this is a great beginning of a series that I definitely intend to finish. I can’t wait for my next fix of Watts and Mycroft (oh, yeah, it’s told from Watts’s perspective if you’re curious about that)!

srcek

Have you read Every Breath? What did you think?

Can you recommend any other crime novels that I’d possibly like (think romance)? :)

I’d love to hear from you!

Eleven On Top by Janet Evanovich

eleven-on-top-janet-evanovichEleven On Top (Stephanie Plum #11) by Janet Evanovich, first published in 2005 by St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

Goodreads. Author.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: a really funny chick-lit mystery.

Stephanie Plum is thinking her career as a fugitive apprehension agent has run its course. She’s been shot at, spat at, cussed at, fire-bombed, mooned, and attacked by dogs. Stephanie thinks it’s time for a change. So she quits. She wants something safe and normal. But the kind of trouble she had at the bail bonds office can’t compare to the kind of trouble she finds herself facing now… 

Stephanie is stalked by a maniac returned from the grave for the sole purpose of putting her into a burial plot of her own. He’s killed before, and he’ll kill again if given the chance. Caught between staying far away from the bounty hunter business and staying alive, Stephanie reexamines her life and the possibility that being a bounty hunter is the solution rather than the problem. Tempers and temperatures rise as competition ratchets up between the two men in her life — her on-again, off-again boyfriend, tough Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and her boss, Ranger. Can Stephanie Plum take the heat? (Goodreads)

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My rating: 4/5.

I’m not reviewing this one because it’s really special or different from the ten previous instalments of this series, but because I read all those parts before I started blogging and haven’t reviewed any of the awesome Stephanie Plum novels on my blog. This is a mistake I intend to correct right now.

Eleven On Top is structurally very similar to the other parts – but that only makes for a more satisfying read. Stephanie has decided to quit her job at Vinnie’s office and try to find a normal job (much to the relief of her poor mother), but things don’t get any more normal than they used to be. Her cars are still getting busted, she still doesn’t know whether she should pick Morelli or Ranger, and the Burg is still the same gossip-ridden place it was before.

So why do I keep reading these novels like they’re magic? It’s because of the characters. First of all, Stephanie herself is such a great choice. As many crazy adventures she gets herself into, she’s actually a very real individual with everyday problems (in addition to the crazy ones). Then there are the old favourites: Ranger, who’s still as hot and mysterious as ever (I’m team Ranger, by the way), Lula and Grandma Mazur – these two ladies are so absurdly cool (one’s fascinated with fast food and the other with death). The more I read about them, the better they get.

Oh, and don’t forget about Bob the dog“I walked Bob about an hour ago, and he pooped twelve times, so he should be good for the night. I didn’t feed him, but he ate one of Morelli’s sneakers around three o’clock. You might want to go light on the dog crunchies until he horks the sneaker up.” Ew.

Stephanie has this fierce sense of independence but at the same time, she cares so much about the people around her. It’s all a part of this weird Burg mentality but it makes sense, oddly enough: “I’d eaten about a third of the tub of ice cream. I put the lid on the tub and walked it back to the freezer. I put all the food away and wiped down the countertop. I wasn’t much of a housekeeper, but I didn’t want to be killed and have my mother discover my kitchen was a mess.

I guess it all boils down to whether you love Evanovich’s sense of humor or not. I think she’s hilarious. I snort-chuckled a lot through this series and if that’s not a glowing recommendation, I don’t know what is. ;)

srcek

Have you read any of the Stephanie Plum novels? How about other Evanovich books? 

Do you have a favourite silly character?

I’d love to hear from you! :)