December 28th, 2016


Book Critique 2016 – 08/28/2016: Murder, She Wrote #25: A Question Of Murder

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: If you want an easy and quick murder mystery pick it up and you will enjoy it.

A Question Of Murder is the 25th book in the Murder, She Wrote series by Donald Bain and fictional writer Jessica Fletcher based on the popular TV Show of the same name. The book was published in April of 2006.

Jessica Fletcher is at Mohawk House - a historic 200 year old house converted to a resort and one haunted - in the foothills of Berkshires attending a mystery writers conference and also to be part of a mystery performed by the Savoys. Lawrence "Larry" Savoy and Melinda Savoy have had run this theatrical company for a long time with performances of their murder-mystery shows everywhere. And now they are performing here and the guests are expected to participate in solving the murder on stage. As part of the performance the authors on the panel are supposed to come up with questions that are asked to the guests and if answered right adds to their score. Jessica had her share of questions with which she is ready. As the plot continues and sticking to the theme, when Savoy's actors perform one of them gets indeed killed for real - the obnoxious Paul. Who wanted Paul dead? What was the tension that lay under the actors demeanor felt by Jessica? What is the reason behind it?

Then Laura, in charge of costume and props vehemently opposes to the Savoys and others when it was suggested that the show must go on, especially that they are all stuck on the mountain in a blizzard. Why is she so hurtful about Paul's death? What is her relationship with Paul? As Jessica is thinking on these lines, she finds out that Claudette Chasseur had been an actor before marrying John Chasseur, who is an abusive husband. The plot thickens as a supposedly ghostly appearance of the dead Paul is seen by one of the authors. Jessica continues to dig into the mystery and aiding Detective Ladd, the real one from the police. In the end will she solve both the real crime as well as the staged one that the Savoys have set for the weekend?

The actors in the company are Cynthia (playing the daughter), Paul Brody (a B movie actor, playing the role of Cynthia's beau), Monroe Whittaker and Victoria Whittaker (playing the roles of father and mother respectively to Cynthia), Catarina (playing the role of a maid) and Miss Carlisle (Red-head among the guests). The authors visiting for the conference are Jessica Fletcher (which you all know already), John Chasseur and his wife Claudette and finally GSB Wick and her companion Harold Boynton. GSB Wick seems to be mysterious about her initials although she is called "Georgie" by her companion Harold. Other characters in the plot are Mark Egmon (Event Manager at the hotel), Jeremy (lead stage hand), Jody (one of the college-going waitresses), Laura Tehaar (in charge of props and costumes) and Sydney Pomerantz and his wife (guests at the hotel).

Every chapter began with a question about mystery novels and writers. Since the theme of the plot was a murder-mystery party the questions made the reader feel a part of the plot than just a reader. As always I could identify who the killer could potentially be when I was mid-way through the book. However there was a surprising twist in the end even though I was partially correct. Another light reading murder mystery that I enjoyed thoroughly.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Some interesting choice of words used: inglenook (meaning a space on either side of a large fireplace), vapid (to mean to offer nothing that is stimulating or challenging), erasure (meaning removal of recorded data or information).
2) Grammatical Errors seen: Pg. 79 Para 1 third line - I believe the word should be "consider" rather than "considerate".

Book Critique 2016 – 08/29/2016: Opposites Attract

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here

Stars: 4.5 / 5
Recommendation: You want tennis? You got it. You want romance? You got it. You want drama? You got it. You want vengeance, blood and winning? You got. All in one plot. Enjoy!!!

August 29th marked the start of US Open Tennis Tournament. It happens in Flushing, NY which is very close to where I live and yet hadn't had an opportunity to go. This year I was looking forward to go, but with all the top-seeded players in both Male and Female categories being knocked out sooner, demotivated me to go. Perhaps next year then.

To commemorate this day I am picking this romantic novel by Nora Roberts that mixes business with pleasure.  Opposites Attract was first published in November of 1984 as part of the Silhouette Special Edition Series (#199). The plot revolves around two Tennis Superstars - Asher Wolfe and Ty Starbuck - involving romance, determination, misunderstandings, reconciliation, forgiveness and ultimate winners at both love and game.

After a three year sabbatical Asher Wolfe is back in the circuit of the U. S. Indoor Tennis Championship. She had steadily avoided following anything about Tennis and specially about Ty Starbuck. But now she is again back on the circuit back at the same place giving her undivided admiration watching him play - something that she had towards him for more than ten years. Ty had the strength, agility and form when on court making him still the leading player in the sport. And what Asher noticed that nothing has changed the way Ty played the game, but there was something that still changed in him that she couldn't put a finger on it, and then she saw it - his control, his reigning in on his temper - which surprised her.  Although Asher had wanted to have their meeting in a planned and professional way, Ty smashed it all with one look across the court, challenging her, making her know that the game is still on and that he always won.

Now that she is back on circuit will she pick up her racket as well as Ty as everyone are speculating? Asher had been Lady Wickerton for past three years and now she is back as Ms. Wolfe with her divorce from Lord Eric Wickerton finalized completely. Will her being available change anything for Ty? But Ty had want to know why she had left and married Wickerton after being with him for that entire year. Why did Asher take that step?  Rome was were everything started for Asher , her love for Tennis when she was seven years old and had watched her father Jim Wolfe win the tournament and fourteen years later her love for Ty when he won the cup that year. Now she is back in Rome. Will there be new beginnings for her? Mending old things with Ty? Winning the Italian Tournament had only fed her determination to move forward.

As the plot proceeds we get to see how Ty and Asher come up to be superstars at Tennis. Both from totally different backgrounds, but both ending on the same court with the same drive and determination to win. However there are still unresolved issues, unanswered questions for Ty and the feeling of sin and guilt that Asher carried. Will they walk to the net and resolve or smash each other in the court of love, neither winning nor losing? What sin had Asher committed that she felt that she needed to punish herself? Will Ty forgive her once he knows what she had done? As these questions are being pondered by both Ty and Asher, Jess - Ty's sister - knows of Asher's come back. She has reasons to be concerned of her comeback, of feeling guilty too. What history does Asher and Jess hold? How will Ty react when he comes to know?

Conquering Paris French Open, her next step was London, Wimbledon. But she was lady Wickerton here. How will she face the three years here? Will Eric cause her more pain? Will Ty be there her side now? Will Ty understand what she did? Will they finally get their closure here? Trust is foremost that these two have to build before they can get answers for these questions. How does it all go on, is something one have to read through to learn.

Other characters that sweep us through in the story and keep it tied well - Chuck Price (another professional tennis star and Ty's closest friend), Madge Haverbeck (former doubles partner and now coach to Asher and also a tennis pro) and her husband "The Dean", Michael (Australian tennis pro), Ada Starbuck (Ty's mother), Jessica Starbuck (Ty's Sister), Martin Derick (Ty's patron) and Mackenzie "Mac" Derick (Jess's husband).

The plot in the beginning concentrates solely on Asher Wolfe making the reader think it's about her. But in the sneaky way that Nora brings the other lead character up, she brought Ty Starbuck into focus as the plot proceeds. Before the reader realizes, she spins a web for you including both Asher and Ty. A master spinner as she was and is, this is the kind of web I miss from Nora's latest books.

The role of Jess Starbuck bothered me the first time around when I read it and even now, the second time I read for the sake of posting this review.  Even if someone who loves you has made a decision for you taking the situation in a wrong sense but that decision caused harm to you will you forgive that person? If it was me in place of Ty or Asher, I would have never forgiven Jess in my life and in fact, knowing my nature, I would keep them at as far a distance I can. But again with life being so short, in the end if I get what I want in however twisted way the fate might have done and the decision the loved one had taken caused the twisted way of fate, perhaps I should forgive. But it was hard for me to digest that part in the plot.

I watch Tennis with intense concentration and love the energy of the game a lot. Nora Roberts captured that intensity, emotions and the motions that go through the individual on the court. She also added the personal emotions and tensions into the mix making it more intense. Her writing in this plot not only drew me to Tennis but also to the characters making me want to be there on the court and experience all of it. Powerful weaving.

A turbulent romance mixed with the intensity of tennis that Nora put to a perfect spin and thoroughly enjoyable while reading and left me breathless at the end.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Following Tennis for so long, there are some championships that I haven't heard of before:
a. U.S. Indoor Tennis Championship - A professional tennis championship only  played on indoor hard courts. The event ended after 2014 championships. (More about it here)
b. Foro Italico - A sports complex in Rome, Italy that hosts other athletic events apart from Tennis center with clay courts. Italian Open took place in this arena. (More about it here)
2) Statistical Errors:
a. In the first match that Asher plays against Kingston in Rome, on Pg 45 author mentioned that Asher took the first set six - three (para 2 last line). While on Pg 46 author mentions that Asher took the match six-one, six-two (para 3 first line). If the women's tennis had only three sets, how is it that the stats changed in a span of one page. Perhaps the author mis-entered the numbers.
b. More than once author mentions that Ty had played seven sets to win the match. But Tennis has only Best of Five for Men and Best of Three for Women. Where did seven sets come from? I check old history but nowhere I could find it. Perhaps author made a mistake? Or typo in the scoring? Did she mean that Ty played the last set for a seven pointer win? Only the author can confirm.