Book Review of Hidden Treasure by Jane K. Cleland

No less than a cozy mystery masterpiece. That’s my opinion of this 2020 Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery by Jane K. Cleland. Hidden Treasure is the title and theme of the plot. It was such fun picking up this book every morning for the week it took to read it amid myriad responsibilities.

It was a tough week at the regular job I still hold as I await the day I can make a complete living from writing. I was at first uncertain whether this book was a great choice for my pressure filled week.

I’ve always enjoyed these mysteries featuring high-end antiques and the Seacoast Region of New Hampshire I love. But the print always seems to be so small, and the plots sometimes take a bit of concentration to follow.

The writing and plot of Hidden Treasure, however, flowed like the ink from a gel pen freshly broken free from its cardboard and plastic package. Yes, the print is still small, but it didn’t seem to matter, the writing was of such clarity.

The tale held every bit of the detail about historic objects as usual, but somehow it seemed much easier to digest. The story was fascinating, the characters too.

From the new people working at Josie’s new “Gingerbread House” to the veteran Prescott’s Antiques employees who skillfully curate items over a century old with a teamwork like a well-oiled machine, to the receptionist at the assisted living facility where Maudie, Josie’s new friend and the former owner of the Gingerbread House lives. From her long-time next door neighbors to Maudie’s family members. . . one of whom was a murder victim.

The only drawback to the plot was that I didn’t want anyone to be guilty. An understanding of each of their motives revealed a need which made the murder seem an accident.

Whoever committed the theft and even fatal crime, it seemed, was a pawn within a troubling, perhaps for some, a potentially desperate situation. I was sorry when the culprit was revealed. Actually there were two individuals involved in two separate crimes. . .

The item stolen, which inadvertently prompted the murder, was a lovely presentation box containing the figure of a cat. The mystery that permeated the story, besides the murder, was whether the cat and box were real ancient artifacts, the decorative stones they featured, precious gems, or whether the objects were reproductions containing imitation stones.

I’m not saying, but the process of the reveal was fascinating and quite educational.

Cat lovers will also enjoy the references to the cats that live at Prescott’s, as well as the absolutely lovely book cover, at least the one that’s featured on my edition.

The cat artifact and its case sit atop a window seat. The huge glass panel showcases a view of the indigo ocean, beyond a green sea of vegetation. The bright colors of the Egyptian design on the case provide a pop of color that contrasts well with the sleek black coat on the figure of the cat.

The tale and the cover of Hidden Treasure, are both real life treasures, in my book. If you love windswept beaches, historic and well crafted artifacts and buildings, the study of human nature, as it relates to solving mysteries, not to mention, enchanting covers, you’ll enjoy hidden treasure.

I finished Hidden Treasure on warm September afternoon, lying amid the long grass behind the house, listening to the hum of late summer birds and insects. One of this troubling year’s most perfect moments.

Book Review of The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck

I don’t normally choose books labeled “inspirational”, but couldn’t resist The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck.

My usual fiction genre is mystery – to my surprise, this story turned out to be one of the greatest mysteries I have ever encountered. In fact it was never quite solved to my satisfaction. Though I totally “get” the theme.

Why did this group of individuals each receive a cream colored envelope inviting them to a mysterious “story society” which ends up focusing on the private stories of each of the individuals.

The group ends up serving as therapy for the troubled, Uber driver, college professor, aging building maintenance man, wealthy cosmetic firm heiress, aspiring CEO who meet at a historic library on a regular basis.

By the end of the story, they have sorted out the issues which aversely affected their peace of mind and interpersonal relationships.

It’s a feel-good tale that takes place in New York City, but should resonate with readers who enjoy following the emotional complexities caused by intense life experiences – and happy endings, whether they reside in urban or rural locations.

Book Review of A Killer Ending by Karen MacInerney

This Snug Harbor Mystery, first in a relatively new series (the second book is now out, I believe) is another great work of cozy mystery writing artistry from Karen MacInerney.

She introduced the character, recent divorcee Max Sayers, as a Gray Whale Inn guest in Anchored Inn, a story from the the Gray Whale Inn mystery series published in 2020.

In this story. A Killer Ending, Max follows her dream to open a bookshop in a quaint coastal Maine town called Snug Harbor. She and her dog love the little apartment above it. And the shop came with an efficient assistant to run the business while Max bakes cookies for those who make purchases.

But difficulties arise, as they must, in any cozy mystery, (along with a dead body). Will the plot by a local official and the sister of the shop’s deceased owner force Max to close the doors of Seaside Cottage Books?

Will Max be accused of murder, since the flatiron she uses as a doorstop for the shop is identified as the murder weapon? To complicate matters, Snug Harbor is Max’s hometown, so schoolmate relationships enter the picture, including the grownup version of the boy Max had a crush on when they were young.

Read and find out what happens to Max and rescue dog Winston as they enjoy fried clams, great coffee and pastries, all the pleasures of a Maine seaside town. A vacation on paper for people like me who long to return to the rocky shores of America’s most northeastern state.

Book Review of Anchored Inn by Karen MacInerney

Karen MacInerney continues to compose naturally flowing, inviting prose accurately describing the feel of life on a Maine isle. The Gray Whale Inn mysteries are one of my top five favorite Maine mystery series’.

Anchored Inn may be the tenth book in the series, but the story is just as fresh and interesting as the first. I hope Karen keeps writing these books.

Natalie Barnes’ Inn plays host to two sets of guests, as Anchored Inn unfolds. A bookstore owner and her newly divorced second in command, and an eccentric rich man and his two personal assistants.

The eccentric man’s exploration team has just discovered a long submerged German U-Boat, which threatened the coast in World War II days. Another body from the past, though not quite as old as the U-Boat was found along with it. Almost as though the victim wanted to be found at just that moment in time.

On top of that, a new body was also discovered in the Inn’s backyard.

A connection between the victim, Natalie’s husband, the eccentric man, and other prominent townspeople makes for an interesting list of suspects. Natalie’s challenges, in addition to solving the crimes, are creating yummy foods for the eccentric man and his entourage whom are on special diets, and more traditional fare for the bookstore ladies. (Some great recipes can be found on the pages following the story.)

She and husband John are also concerned about Natalie’s niece Gwen’s ongoing nausea. Is she sick or could it be possible the newly married young artist/inn assistant, is pregnant? Read and find out.

Book Review of The Ride of Her Life by Elizabeth Letts

This story isn’t a mystery, but was just what I needed to read at this point in my life. I believe many of my readers will enjoy it.

A descriptively-enhanced but factually true tale of a not so young lady from Maine who rode her horse across the country in the mid-twentieth century, The Ride of Her Life, by talented author Elizabeth Letts is one of the most inspirational true tales I’ve ever encountered.

I am a about the same age as this lady was when she set out on her adventure, and it sometimes seems I am in as dire a predicament as was Annie Wilkins in 1954. That’s not quite true, but this last six months has certainly been one of the most challenging of my entire life. So I was in need of an inspirational tale like this.

Broke, alone, ill, and told by her doctor to seek a peaceful lifestyle, what did Annie do? She took off cross country on a horse, leading another, a pack horse carrying her possessions, with a dog by her side. A friend suggested she sell greeting cards along the way, to earn money for expenses. She ended up meeting some important people who offered additional assistance.

Just as with any aspect of life’s experiences, Annie endure the stresses of emotional highs and lows as she traversed the continent with her four-footed creatures. Some happenings made her consider abandoning the journey, but she persevered. Above all, her narrative is a tale of courage.

A recommended read for any middle aged woman seeking the courage to continue in spite of obstacles – or anyone in need of the inspiration.