Announcing Book Review of “Hitting the Books” by Jenn McKinlay

Love libraries, dogs, romance, suspense, a touch of fictional life threatening danger and mostly happy endings? Visit the latest post on Mystery Book Reviews by Penny Mason.

Book Review of The Perfect Candidate by Peter Stone

The perfect plot, I call this one. A young adult thriller The Perfect Candidate is satisfying to mature readers also.

A recent high school grad, son of a small time landscape designer named Cameron Carter, travels to Washington from California and spends the summer as an intern for a US Rep.

In addition to opening mail and preparing reports, he is selected by a mysterious FBI agent to investigate the rep for whom he works. His queries lead him to discover how Washington changes the character of those who become office holders, and their staff members as well.

He is joined in the investigation by his unlikely girlfriend, daughter of the Mexican Embassador, a fascinating young woman of many talents.

Surprises await Cameron and author Peter Stone’s readers when Cameron returns to California at the story’s conclusion. That’s all I’m saying . . . read for yourself.

Memorable Movie Review of A Hole in the Head

This 1959 flick, A Hole in the Head, starring Frank Sinatra and Edward G Robinson is a fun, sometimes comic, sometimes heart wrenching story of a father, played by Frankie and his son Ally.

Set in Miami, at The Garden of Eden Hotel, in the city’s heyday as a vacation paradise, the film is a great two hour escape.

Ally is the more mature of the father and son pair, though he’s only a young boy. Frankie has big plans to get ahead, but at the moment is broke, (not poor, there’s a difference, he declares).

Frankie’s character’s brother, played by Edward G. Robinson decides to loan him the money he needs, but only if he agrees to an arranged marriage.

When Frank’s character declines to wed, though he’s obviously grown fond of the lady, Edward’s character and his wife plan to take Ally home to New York to be raised in a more responsible manner.

Ally is having none of it. He loves his father too much. The surprise ending, after a bit of worry about the outcome from those who care about the characters, (which is likely the majority of the film’s viewers), is classic Frank Capra.


View the Latest from the Blog: Mystery Book Reviews by Penny Mason

Visit the review of A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette – a cozy mystery story set in an ice cream shop in the northeastern Ohio snow belt.

Book Review of Kitchen Privileges – a memoir by Mary Higgins Clark

Mary Higgins Clark passed away earlier this year, but lovers of Mary Higgins Clark’s mysteries will enjoy learning about her life through this memoir, one of the first books I checked out from a local library when it partially reopened following COVID-19 shutdown. It covers the talented author’s life up until the mid-1990s.

Mary worked as a stewardess, and in the business and entertainment worlds, before becoming an author; roles that gave her the necessary experience to write stories based on, as she and other advisors often tell aspiring writers: “what you know”.

It’s a comfort to hear such an iconic author confide the uncertainties she held for years, despite her determination to succeed in the mystery-suspense genre. A woman widowed, with children, she cared for them, held a demanding job, began her fiction career by squeezing in a session of typing at the kitchen table from five a.m. to six forty-five each morning.

Her creative and ambitious management of time inspires me as I strive to complete freelance projects, and works of fiction; various writing projects at once, between the hours of my “regular job”.

Whether you’re an aspiring writer, or a consumer of Mary Higgins Clark’s mysteries, you’ll enjoy learning more about this lady, with whom I would have loved to lunch, given the chance, in New York, a city I would love to learn to navigate.




Book Review of Thread on Arrival – A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery By Lea Wait

I liked this installment of the cozy mystery series better than the last. It seemed more realistic, and the budding romance between main character Angie, a manager of Haven Harbor Maine’s needlepoint creation and sales enterprise, and Patrick, the artist son of a hugely successful actress progresses nicely.

The new character, Leo, a teen without a family, taken in by Dave, Angie’s poison expert friend, is likeable, though he does become a suspect in a murder.

The scene is mid-spring. Bulbs have bloomed or are blooming, businesses are not yet facing the busyness of a Maine tourist season. Angie is determined to find out who killed two townspeople, if indeed, they were both murdered, in spite of the fact that her birthday is coming up, and her kitty, Trixie tries to distract her.

A page turner for any season.

Lea Wait keeps on earthing out new sayings from historic samplers for the beginning of each chapter. Love the historic insights and whimsy of the rhymes.

The girls of those days could do more than text and surf on smartphones.

Book Review of Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry by Mary Higgins Clark

I can’t believe it took me so many years to read a work by this supremely talented author. Friends had recommended Mary Higgins Clark to me for years, but I was always caught up in the latest editions of series’ by my favorite New England based mystery mavens and the cheerful works of M.C. Beaton, as well as other new discoveries and the varied non-fiction works on a wide variety of topics that I can never resist.

But I digress. Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry is, I believe, the last novel written by Mary Higgins Clark, before her recent passing. It is certainly pertinent to the current issue of the #MeToo movement.

The story follows freelance journalist Gina Kane as she investigates reports of women treated inappropriately, as it turns out, by the star anchorman of a prominent news organization.

The women were then intimidated by an executive associated with the organization, who, with the assistance of other company officials, engineers a cover-up plan which includes payoffs to the victims of sexual abuse, two of which seem to have become possible victims of murder also, though their deaths, at first glance, seem to have been simply from suicide and accident.

Will Gina be permitted to complete her investigation? Can she sell her story? Will she be able to continue a romantic relationship with the man she loves when he becomes indirectly involved in the situation she is investigating? Must she break off the relationship in order to avoid the chance of criminal charges for both of them?

I read half of this novel within the first several hours then picked it up every spare moment I could find until I reached the end. Can’t wait to get my hands on more of Ms. Clark’s forty plus books.


Book Review of Beating About the Bush – An Agatha Raisin Mystery- By M.C. Beaton

Wizz-Wazz, the donkey is the star of this story, and also a suspect in M. C. Beaton’s latest Agatha Raisin series installment, Beating About the Bush. Agatha forms a strange relationship with the animal who resides at the headquarters of a company with which Raisin Investigations has a contract.

Aging detective Agatha and her protégée, young, blonde Toni experience some relationship tension, but artfully work together with  Agatha’s long time friend and policeman Bill Wong, and the investigation company’s other team members to solve the case.

Agatha is in possibly the greatest danger ever, as the case comes together.

Roy Silver, Agatha’s former protégée from her years in public relations, now a talented promotions man himself, arrives in time to assist with Agatha’s PR needs, relative to the murder investigation.

Sir Charles Fraith, with whom Agatha has an off/on relationship, is planning to marry a girl from a family of means, in order to gain cash to keep his estate running. The prospect has Agatha in a tizzy, but she is distracted from the distress by the attentions of Chris, a talented mechanic she meets through the case upon which she is focused.

A topsy-turvy fun and enchanting mystery in classic M.C. Beaton, style.

Movie Review – The French Connection

“What the heck – it might just work,” said the filmmaker who took a chance on this screenplay that had been previously rejected by many.

Another great example of a hit that nearly didn’t make it – but the creator finally found someone who believed in it and the show’s success astounded everyone.

I’d long heard of this film made when I was a kid (in 1970, I believe) but I hadn’t, until recently, seen it.

The car chase of the century, had me on the edge of my seat. The ending did leave me hanging, but it’s sometimes a good thing to imagine the conclusion one thinks is most convincing.

A well-made film if I’ve ever seen one, I can’t imagine that they filmed much of it live amid the reality of New York City traffic.

I often skip the interviews with actors and producers contained on DVDs but the stories of the cast, the real cops the show was based upon, and the behind the scenes stories of the film’s making were fascinating.

Book Review of The Complete Language of Flowers By Sheila Pickles

I do love the British- At least their whimsical attitude toward gardening and home life.

This book is like a lovely museum devoted to flower lore and Renaissance and 19th Century paintings – of long ago scenes of children and adults, seemingly intoxicated by the pleasure of languishing in verdant settings filled with color and greenery.

Author Sheila Pickle should be commended for recording in such a wonderful way, the traditional symbolism and tradition of classic flower species.

I shall have to seek out her other works, including, The Essence of English Life, and Simply Christmas 

I plan to include posts referencing The Complete Language of Flowers over the next few months, with full credit to the book and its author.

If you love gardens and nature, if you long for the days when spare time on fair season days was spent, not with eyes glued to a screen, but lazing in the sunshine reflecting upon the symbolic essence of flowering plants, you must seek a copy of this book.

A first rate escape from stress.