Sunday, December 28, 2008

Review: Deadly Rx & Rx Alibi by Renee Horowitz

I previously reviewed the first book in this little series, and gave it my highest recommendation. I am slightly less enthused about these later two in the RX Murder series by Renee Horowitz. The main character's happenstance involvement in the first book was clever and original. But with two more murders, it's straining credibility a little---like that famed television cozy, Murder She Wrote, where sleepy Cabot Cove was rife with murderers, one wonders how a middle-aged pharmacist manages to find herself in trouble so often. And Horowitz has other characters frequently bring this up and comment on Ruthie's unsuitability as an amateur detective.

And she's not very good at it either---there are no clues which would allow a reader following along to solve the crime before the characters do, and the finales both rely a little too strongly on coincidence and stupidity on the part of both the sleuth and the killer. By book 3, I was skimming to get to the end, and I only got that far because I wanted to see if Ruthie and Michael wound up together (although I should have guessed in this regard---it's a fairly formula story and we know how these things tend to go...)

So, my high praise for book 1 notwithstanding, I give my thumbs down to the latter books. Okay reads at the bargain-basement sale price I paid, but not ones I would necessarily recommend to others.

Update (6/15/2001) Both books are now available at Smashwords: Deadly RX and RX Alibi.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Review: Rx for Murder by Renee Horowitz

I got all three novels in this series during a recent sale at Fictionwise on multiformat (aka DRM-free) titles, most from smaller or internet-only publishers. I am trying to read more of this 'indie' stuff, and it's easier on the pocketbook too---I got nearly two dozen books for about thirty bucks, and if this first read is any indication, I am in for some fun reading. Rx for Murder is definitely a commercial-calibre book, and it's proof that there are some good bargains to be had in e-land if one is willing to do some exploring and stray from the best-seller list.

Ruthie Kantor Morris is a middle-aged pharmacist who turns detective when one of her customers dies under mysterious circumstances. A former flame comes back into her life when his daughter, the wife of the dead guy, falls under suspicion, and Ruthie gets recruited into some pharmacological sleuthing to help ferret out what happened to the old guy.

The author's note seems to indicate that Ms. Horowitz herself is a pharmacist, and she vividly (and accurately) paints that world for the reader. The pharmacist as a detective is a clever twist on a genre well-worn with policemen and lawyers and private eyes. It was also nice to see a well-rounded Jewish character in mainstream fiction; that's rare, and while Horowitz certainly does not belabour it by any stretch, Ruthie's faith is explored a little in the romance subplot, and adds some much-needed depth in what would otherwise be a fairly plot-driven book.

Update (6/15/2011) The book is now available at Smashwords too!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Review: Living with the Dead by Kelley Armstrong

This book is number 9 in a series about various women with supernatural powers. Some characters get at minimum brief mentions in books revolving around others, but each story is pretty much stand-alone and can be read independently. This book differs from others in the series in that its protagonist is a regular person with no super-powers---and I'm not sure that character choice was the wisest one to make.

Robyn Peltier is a recently widowed publicist who is drowning her grief by working for a Paris Hilton type starlet named Portia Kane. When Portia gets murdered while out on the town with Robyn, Robyn gets caught up in a power struggle between a supernatural commune and a bunch of other people. Fortunately, her best friend happens to be a half-demon with a werewolf boyfriend.

The problem for me was that much of the appeal in the other books was watching a woman with super-powers dealing with the super-powers directly: Elena in 'Bitten' learns to control her werewolf powers and deal with the special challenges of being the only female werewolf in her 'pack.' Savannah in Dime Store Magic is only a teenager and her powers are still emerging. And Robyn? She's human. She has a brief moment of shock when she learns that demons are real, then seems to decide she'd rather not know and leaves Hope to deal with the demon stuff in the few chapters not involving her. It doesn't quite work for me.

I also found that this story dealt much more with supernatural 'politics' than the other books did. The main villain, Adele, is trying to leave the cult-like 'kumpania' who employs her and helps her manage her powers. And then there is the 'cabal' with whom she negotiates, and the 'council' to which Hope and Karl belong to. It started to bog the story down, and frankly, I didn't care that much. Armstrong is better when she focuses on the characters, then on the story---not so much on the world-building.

I'll keep an eye out for others in the series, but I am not sure this particular installment did it for me, and I regret that I paid for it, especially at such an inflated hard-back price. Armstrong is going on my 'get it from the library' list. We'll see if subsequent installments get her off of it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Review: Devil May Ride by Wendy Roberts

I previously reviewed the prior title in Wendy Roberts' intriguing series about a woman who is a professional crime scene cleaner. I enjoyed the characters and the premise, but felt that its central mystery did not have high enough stakes.

Well, crime scene cleaner/ghost whisperer Sadie Novack is back, and this book is so much better than the first one. The central 'ghost mystery' involves a meth-head biker and his satanist girlfriend, and Roberts manages to weave in various threads including Sadie's impending aunt-hood and the death of her brother six years ago, introduced in the prior title. There is also a reporter causing trouble, and Sadie also much juggle a new employee, and a budding romance with her old one.

All in all, I found this mystery to be a well-written page-turner, and I would heartily recommend it.