Two summer mysteries worth the read

Two summer mysteries worth the read
Getting off on Frank Sinatra
White with Fish, Red with Murder

 Book reviews by Adrianne Morrison and Linda Kissam

 Hurrah for summertime!  Among the many great new releases this summer, we’ve rounded up two of the best mystery books of the season. Interesting that both have strong quirky lead characters, a sense of taste and place and the ability to grab you in the first chapter.  Each book stands on its own, yet both share commonality in their approach to fashionable suspense novels although one is set in current day, the other in 1948.

These novels are sure to enchant adults who love travel, suspense and eccentric characters.

Grab a wine spritzer, sit out on the patio and check out our reviews.

Getting off on Frank Sinatra

Author Megan Edwards

A Copper Black Mystery
by Megan Edwards

This book is an interesting mix of travel guide, life philosophy and taking chances. If you’re interested in any of the above, this would be the book to read. Strong quirky characters, thinking out of the box and a fast paced puzzle to unlock is what you’ll find in this book.

Linda

There’s a lot more to Las Vegas than its casinos.  For one, it’s a great place setting for a fast-paced mystery story. Author Megan Edwards’ novel Getting off on Frank Sinatra, shows a more intimate side of living in sin city through heroine Copper Black , an aspiring journalist who finds the corpse of a prominent Las Vegas philanthropist and gets caught up in in a crazy –ass investigation.

In brief, Copper Black is 24 years old, recently transplanted from the East Coast, working as a calendar editor at a local newspaper, and living in a one-bedroom apartment over her brother’s garage. Then life happens.

First, her boyfriend gets his soon-to-be-ex-wife pregnant. Next, Copper gets a house-sitting gig at a gaudy Las Vegas landmark built in the seventies by a mobster for his girlfriend. She starts working on an article about a swanky local private arts high school founded by a much loved wealthy socialite named Marilyn Weaver. Copper and Marilyn get along very well, right up until Marilyn is murdered.  Copper discovers the body, takes an important clue from the crime scene, hooks up with an old boyfriend, and kind of starts dating Marilyn’s long lost son.

The throng of plot lines keep Copper running around all over Vegas in her reliable but unsexy secondhand minivan.  Undaunted, she begins to solve a plethora of mysterious scenarios—like “how to feed a desert tortoise,” “why black outdoor pools were popular in the seventies” and “how long would it take to dispose of a body via carnivorous plants.”

I found Copper to be a believable and relateable lead. The book has a large and colorful cast of secondary characters — ex-boyfriends, the wealthy elite, aggressive co-workers, a crazy cowgirl, Copper’s dad’s new boyfriend, and a wild and careless filmmaker all revolving around her house sitting efforts  of a party house with its history of mobsters and murder and the rumor that a head is still hidden it somewhere.  It is all weirdly tacky, but soulfully wonderful.

Adrianne

Interestingly, this book made me think about the choices we make when we decide we need to make some life changes.  About the biggest one we can make is a move to a new city. In this case it’s Las Vegas.  What if you moved there? What kind of job could you get, where would you live, who might you meet… who or what will change life for the better?

Well, here’s a chance to find out how such a decision could affect your life. Moving from big city to small town USA is definitely a change. Trust me. I know. I did this myself a couple years ago. But, I have to admit my move proves, at least to this point, not near as eventful as Copper Black’s move from New York City to Las Vegas. This new novel by the author of Roads from the Ashes: An Odyssey in Real Life on the Virtual Frontier is a great read for a long flight. It’s light reading, yet engaging and keeps your attention. It works as a Calgon alternative at home, too.

So, allow Getting off on Frank Sinatra to ‘Take you away!’ You’ll not only solve a mystery or two (?) but you might learn something new about Vegas. For instance, did you know most neon signs in Vegas are leased? I didn’t. Book your hour-long guided-tour of the 6-acre Neon Boneyard in advance as they sell out fast! http://www.neonmuseum.org

Although restaurants and characters are mostly fictional, I’m betting the next time you visit Las Vegas you’ll be calculating which venues (and people?) best match Megan Edwards descriptions. In fact, figuring this out could be the focus for your next, or even first ‘grand adventure’ of Nevada’s Sin City. Be sure to give this book a read before you go—highlight the street names—remember them so you’ll better ‘blend in’ with the locals. And, if you don’t plan to visit, here’s a chance to experience Vegas as a young newswoman. Hum… what could go wrong?

White with Fish, Red with Murder
by Harley Mazuk

This novel takes us back to 1948.  It’s a mix of a bad guys, good girls, quick-talking hard-boiled detective, a man of his word,  keeping promises, and things meant and not meant to be.

Adrianne

Mr. Mustard did it with the candlestick in the. . . or did he? Escape to 1948 with all it’s post-war, post-prohibition, wise-guy drama through the eyes of a somewhat unsavory private investigator and would-be wine connoisseur. Frank Swiver, PI works to uncover the true motives of a group of unlikely companions who have at least two things in common—a murder and their love of wine. White with Fish, Red with Murder winds you around San Francisco, through Napa vineyards, and into the lives of a cast of characters headed to Las Vegas. The twists and curves are reminiscent of California’s Northern coastline highway where if you take your eyes off the road you face peril. It’s a great, easy read—but there’s more.

I’m a die-hard real paper book kind of person but, especially if you’re a novice wine aficionado, like me, “Get the e-book.” Why? Because with e-books you can pause, highlight and click to learn the definition of a word. Better yet, you can highlight and Google to learn more about anything mentioned in the text. Authors often spend an enormous amount of time in research to offer readers a credible tale around fictional characters. E-books allow the reader to immediately “fact-check” elements of a story’s content.

It’s clear author Harley Muzak has done his wine homework. What could have simply been a great fictional novelette, also serves as a mini wine tutorial. And, I’m willing to bet my seasoned wine-tasting friends with their educated palates will enjoy comparing their “nose” with that of Muzak’s characters as they taste and compare. So, uncork a bottle of your favorite wine and cozy-up with White with Fish, Red with Murder. Whether you love wine, or mystery, or both, you will quickly get caught in this mystery until you solve the crime—or is it crimes?

Linda

Author Harley Muzak had me at “wine.” This is a mystery novel with ingenious locations, idiosyncratic characters, 1940s dialogue and a unique twist worthy ending or endings. Note: The plot is not completed at the first knot.

Lead and unlikely hero, Frank Swiver is a private detective in San Francisco – circa 1948. The not-so-nice Retired General Lloyd F. Thursby plans an excursion on his private rail car with wine tasting as the entertainment and detective work for Frank as a chaser.  Frank’s job gets bigger and more complex than he ever imagines, requiring him to reach deep and go long for a successful conclusion.

Mazuk’s attention to era details is noteworthy. Sometimes the dialogue ruffled this feminist’s feathers, but it’s all in good fun.  Mystery readers will enjoy the train trip, the wine conversations and the unexpected consequences.  Thorough to its conclusion, I am pretty sure you won’t figure out the “end(s)” until the last few pages of the book.

I should say I found the book’s cover art to be a bit off-putting when I first saw it. It makes sense after reading the first chapter as the story is of the noir genre, but if I were a buyer of books by their cover, I might pass this one by.  Glad I didn’t.  It’s a fun light read.  Try pairing it with a cool glass of Chardonnay.

Find both of these novels at Amazon.com

Getting off on Frank Sinatra
by Megan Edwards

White with Fish, Red with Murder
by Harley Mazuk