Maggi Andersen: Murder in Devon (2009)

I have never participated in a book tour before and thought it would be something new to try. When I was asked if I would like to read Australian writer Maggi Andersen’s Murder in Devon I accepted gladly. I like mysteries. I was aware that she is rather known for her Romance novels and that this crime novel belongs to the sub-category of Romantic Suspense. Although I’m really not a Romance reader, I have read Romantic Suspense in the past and liked it.

Casey wakes up, one morning in the cottage of her friends, in Devon. To her horror, someone has broken into the house, killed Don, her friend, and badly wounded his wife Tessa who is lying on the floor unconscious. Maybe due to a few glasses too many or exhaustion, Casey didn’t hear a thing. Don and Tessa are her oldest and closest friends. There are not many other people in her life as she isn’t good at relationships and has no family left. All this together makes the murder all the more painful.

Casey is the deputy editor of a woman’s magazine, while Don was a famous investigative reporter. Her friend Tessa is a psychologist working with abuse victims. Both Tessa and Don have had intense conflicts with people related to their work. Needless to say that there are many suspects.

While Chief Inspector Carlisle, who is responsible for the case  seems capable, Casey cannot let it be and has to actively investigate on her own. She isn’t even aware at first that she is a suspect. Carlisle isn’t amused that she is interfering with his investigation and when the two realize that they are drawn to each other and begin an affair, even less. Not only does he not want her to interfere but he knows she puts herself in great danger.

When Casey searches Don’s things and finds a list of paintings that are known to have been stolen by the Nazis – most of them are still missing – the discovery triggers a hunt that leads her from London to Germany and back.

I’m not an expert when it comes to romance novels but I can easily see that this part of the book did not work. The attraction came out of the blue and didn’t feel realistic. It somehow even felt like it was glued on the rest of the story which could have done very well without it. Despite the fact that the book is in serious need of editing (sentences were missing, many typos…) the crime part was gripping and I really wanted to finish and know who did it. I didn’t think it was too predictable at all.

If you like an entertaining crime novel which isn’t too gruesome but not exactly cozy crime with some history thrown in and if you prefer your crime to be action-driven and not psychological, then you’re in good hands here. It wasn’t really my thing but at least I was not bored.

One tiny thing I’d like to add is that Maggi Andersen supports the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals). There are always animals featuring in her books. In this one it’s a cat called Socrates. Here is her website.

I received a copy from the author and reviewed it as part of a Virtual Author Book Tour If you’d like to read the impressions of other participants, click on the link.

Margaret Carroll: A Dark Love (2009) A Novel of Romantic Suspense

I just recently discovered that I like Romantic Suspense. I thought I did not like any kind of romance too much, with the exception of some Paranormal Romance that is and… There are other exceptions. As a matter of fact, the genre is better than its reputation. I’m just not into the sugar-coating kind. And marriage at the end? I couldn’t care less.  And explicit sex scenes are not my thing either. When it comes to Romantic Suspense, there is quite a wide range. Keren Rose is known to write Romantic Suspense, but Tess Gerritsen, bettern known as a plain thriller writer (The Mephisto Club) has also written some books that are labelled Romantic Suspense (I read The Surgeon and found it very good). When I was still at the university I had a Victoria Holt/Jean Plaidy phase as I had no TV and needed something to unwind from the exam preparations. She is definitely the mother of Romantic Suspense or “Woman-in-Jeopardy” or Gothic Suspense as she has been labelled. When it comes to more contemporary writers, apart from Keren Rose and Gerritsen I haven’t read that many so when I recently read some enthusiastic reviews on amazon. de of Margaret Carroll who has just been translated into German I had to give it a go.

Sure this is not the height of literary perfection but is an extremely entertaining read. Even tough it is a bit predictable. Margaret Carroll’s style  has a lot in common with Mary Higgins Clark and Carlene Thompson + romance.  The romance part was quite nice actually.

Caroline Hughes is a young woman who has married the wrong man. At the beginning of the novel, we see her leave her husband. All she has taken are 4000 dollars and her Yorkshire terrier Pippin. She flees from Washington D.C. to Colorado where she wants to hide somewhere high up in the Rockies. Before she boards the Greyhound she dyes her brown hair blond. One more measure, she hopes, to not get found. Her husband, Dr. Porter Moross is a renowned psychiatrist but, as we soon understand, he is by far more deranged than any of his patients. Bit by bit, all through the novel, we see how sick he really is. A real pervert. There is a scene that made me cringe. It even haunted me at night in a dream.

How a young promising art student and aspiring painter did fall for a man like this is not a hundred percent clear. We get hints that something terrible happened in Caroline’s childhood that Porter exploited. Somehow he made her believe she was to blame.

Caroline and Pippin escape to Storm Pass Colorado. A little town in a spectacular setting. Luck is on her side and she gets an employment with an elderly woman who owns a Scotch terrier. There are quite a lot of animals in this book which gives it a very nice touch. They seem very real with individual traits like the people in the novel.

Soon after her arrival Caroline meets Ken a former football player who has been left by his wife after he’s been injured and had to abandon his career. Ken is a very appealing person. Good looking in a very masculine way but not too macho. He even seems to be a bit of an introvert and he certainly is a very sensitive man. Caroline who so far only knew contempt and ridicule feels understood for the first time in her life. She even tells Ken she hopes to be a painter once. They are both admirers of  Georgia O’Keeffe.

As the days go by, winter approaches which gives the author the opportunity of some nice descriptions. Snow flakes falling against a grey sky, a cozy fire inside the house.

Of course we know all along that Porter will track her down sooner or later. I am not giving away how he did it and what follows after he does. You need to find out for yourself.

All in all this was a satisfying and entertaining read. I found it psychologically believable even though maybe at bit stretched. It is quite suspenseful and the characters are well rendered. The descriptions of the landscape and  the weather are well done. This remote place of great beauty in the wilderness does come alive.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying I prefer Romantic Suspense to other kinds of thrillers or crime but I enjoy reading a good book of this genre for a change. Considering this was Margaret Carrolls first novel I think she did a good job and I would probably read her latest Riptide if I felt in the mood for the genre again.