Friday, December 19, 2014

'Mousetrap' Play (Agatha Christie)

"On a snowy night at Monkswell Manor, newlyweds Mollie and Giles welcome a group of strangers to their guest house, only to discover news of a murderer in their midst! A police investigation reveals the sordid details of each guest's mysterious past, but not soon enough to stop the killer from striking again. Agatha Christie's masterful whodunit weaves an intricate plot filled with nerve-rattling suspense, all leading up to the ultimate final twist!"
-From the website

Mom took me to see Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap at the Footlights Theater last Saturday. We handed over our tickets and walked into the  main theater. I followed Mom. She walked down the steps…past seats…past half the rows…past all of the rows. We sat in the first row! When I stretched my leg out, my foot was on the level stage. During the performance, sometimes the actors would walk toward us and I actually hunched back a couple of times because they were so close – it was great!

The actors did a splendid job.
Joey deBettencourt played Christopher Wren and he was superb. He reminded me of David Tennant in Randall and Hopkirk - completely crazy and awesome. He laughed at inappropriate times and made the other characters feel so uncomfortable that you felt uncomfortable. Then he would break out in song or say something so off-the-wall that the audience laughed, thus lifting the tension.
Greg Matthew Anderson was also wonderful as Sergeant Trotter. He was thoroughly enjoyable to watch. I found myself staring at Joey deBettencourt or Greg Matthew Anderson when they were on stage, even if they weren't talking or the focus was elsewhere.
Patrick Clear played Major Metcalf and he reminded me of every kind, old, retired military person ever played in any movie, TV or play - and that's meant as a compliment. He was perfect and played his part to perfection. (And he was on Early Edition!)
Laura T. Fisher was Mrs. Boyle. She, also, played her part to perfection. She got all the straight lines that others would play off.
Lindsey Pearlman as Miss Casewell was a perfect fit. She was Miss Casewell. When she wasn't delivering a line, she was listening, reacting. She was fantastic.
Joe Dempsey played Mr. Paravicini and I loved how he used the accent to make his character come alive. Mr. Paravicini was another one who was a little bit crazy and said the most inappropriate things at the worst times - delightful for the audience, not so much for the other characters. (And he was on Early Edition, too!)
Cora Vander Broek played Mollie Ralston and was a delight to watch. All she wanted to do was run her new bed-and-breakfast but everything conspired against her, from the weather to her strange guests and, of course, a killer.
Keith Neagle played Giles Ralston, Mollie's husband. He was excellent! Whenever his character was interrupted, he held back, looking like he either wanted to murder the person or wait for his turn to speak. You weren't sure which!
The clothes were old fashioned, the set dressed simply but elegantly and the accents were pretty good. I think my favorite detail was the snow outside the window. Facing our awesome seats - a little to the right - a big picture window (that opened and closed, allowing two characters to exit as needed) seemed to look outside. You knew it led backstage, you knew we were deep inside a building, in a windowless room, yet it really looked like a huge winter storm blew outside this fake window. “Snow” fell during the entire play. There was a sound, natural and familiar. It was low enough that you didn’t quite realize you were hearing a blowing wind. I think the scene was set so perfectly that we all fell for it. I know it was the middle of December and it’s quite possible the theater was kept cold, but I was freezing. At intermission, I looked around to see if it was just me, but everyone was huddled in their winter coats. I still don’t know if it was the temperature or our minds.

The performances were so enjoyable and the time flew by.  Naturally, afterward, Mom and I talked about all sorts of little details of the mystery and how it compared to the actual book – without spoilers because I haven’t read this one (or did so, so long ago that I don’t remember it). There was a whole character Mom didn’t remember being in the book. I also got an idea for a mystery plot, too. Nothing like what was in the play but something made me think of a cool line to travel down. (I'll have to remember to link to this post after I write it!)
We went home and I went to a Christmas party. We met up later in the evening at our writer’s group's game night. She told me while I was at the party, she went to the bookcase and reread Mousetrap.

All in all, a lovely, wonderful evening.

Thank you, Mom!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

'Antiques Slay Ride' Review

Antiques Slay Ride (A Trash 'n' Treasure Mystery #7.5) by Barbara Allan

About the book:

"Ho Ho Homicide. The Christmas rush is on as Brandy Borne and her quaintly quirky mother, Vivian, sniff out plum collectibles for resale, only to find the owner of a Santa's workshop worth of treasures has received some deadly tidings. It's beginning to look a lot like murder...but who wanted the deceased closed for the holidays-permanently? Maybe a rival antiques dealer, a Grinch who collects Christmas? Or the victim's suspiciously frosty stepchildren? Brandy and Vivian check their list of who's been naughty or nice, but it may take a Christmas miracle-and some help from Sushi, their elfin shih tzu-to tie a bow around the season's most wanted killer!"

19,500 Words

My Review:

At first, I was thrown by the style of writing. There are many so-called rules of writing and the good authors break them successfully. This author (Barbara Allen is really two authors collaborating - Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins) does whatever she wants and I warmed up to it very quickly. The short story switches from first person Brandy (daughter) to first person Vivian (crazy mother) - which is becoming more popular - but in this series, they sometimes talk to us!

During a scene, the mother or daughter will break into the other's narration and they start arguing with one another. Then the editor steps in. It's oh so wrong and works oh so perfectly!

I love how the narrator will refer to a past event that took place in a previous book - and states which book to read for it. Right in the middle of the story!

The book was funny, easy to follow (once you get used to the broken fourth wall) and a Christmas delight. I love the characters, love the blind dog, and can't wait to read the rest of the series. This is a short story, hence the #7.5, but I can't wait to read a full-length tale told by these two characters.

I have to share my favorite quote from Antiques Slay Ride:

"Ekhardt's fame began in the 1950s when he got a woman off scot-free for shooting her abusive husband in self-defense. In the back. Five times. For a good while after that, husbands around here really went out of their way to be especially nice to their better halves."

I just love the humor!

Check out Barbara Allan here, Barbara Collins here, Max Allan Collins here.

Foodies Read 2015 Reading Challenge

Vicki from I'd Rather Be At the Beach is hosting this cool challenge.

Vicki defined a "food book" as one centered around food and/or drinks. This can be any genre, even non-fiction.

The challenge runs from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015.

You don't need a pre-selected list of books.
It's okay to cross over with other challenges.
Any book format is allowed (print, audio, ebook)

Short Order Cook: 1 to 3 books
Pastry Chef: 4 to 8 books
Sous-Chef: 9 to 13 books
Chef de Cuisine: 14 to 18 books
Cordon-Bleu Chef: More than 19 books

I'm going for Short Order Cook. As a cozy mystery reader, I'm sure I'll be surprised at reading my fair share of food-related books this coming year!

Monday, December 8, 2014

About the book:

"Darcy Sweet would like to think that she is just an ordinary woman, happy in her life running the Sweet Read bookstore. But she isn't ordinary. She has a connection to the other side that seems to draw her into mysterious situations more often than not. Add to the mix the antics of a rather naughty, slightly psychic cat and the eccentric ghost of her great-aunt Millie, and you have a recipe for anything but the ordinary.

When Darcy's neighbor is murdered she is drawn into the mystery against her will when she finds the body. She tries to leave the investigation to the police, one of which is her sister, but an overheard conversation and a small nudge from the other side has her investigating the murder. The stakes are raised when the murderer strikes again. Who was killing the people in her life?

Things are complicated even more by her building attraction to her sister's new cop partner, who makes it clear he does not appreciate Darcy's interference in the investigation. Sparks fly between the two of them as they get further into the mystery surrounding the deaths.

With a town full of suspects how will Darcy work out who the murderer is? None of the pieces to the puzzle fit. Things become more complicated and dangerous as Darcy's own life is threatened. Will she survive to see justice served?"

I read this book and below is my review:

The story was okay. It moved fast, but not in the way I like. Darcy (the main character) would get an idea about the mystery and then go follow it and change mid-course for seemingly no reason. We didn't get to follow along with her, we were more along for the ride without knowing where we were going or why. This left me feeling like an outsider as opposed to a participant.

There were questions I had that were never answered - not loose ends but things that didn't make sense. I can't really give an example without spoiling the book. At one point, a character is somewhere and will be there for a long time. Minutes later, that character is suddenly somewhere else, with no explanation or even a passing thought of our character wondering how it was possible. Also, Darcy would suspect somebody (for no reason) and then dismiss them as a suspect (for no reason). There was even one point where she suspected someone and questioned them, found out the person had no alibi and then thought to herself, she didn't' really think it was that person anyway. Huh?

The characters weren't fully fleshed out, either, but I liked them anyway. Even though we didn't get deep into anyone's life or deep into a mystery or follow accurate police procedures, it was still a fun read. I enjoyed the story. Darcy is a nice character and pretty upbeat, even in the midst of murder and deceit. Even though I didn't feel as connected to her as I would have liked, I still got to enjoy her story.

Oh, and I love the cat.

K.J. Emrick