My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Review: Death of a Cozy Writer

When the egotistical Sir Adrian gleefully announces his intentions to remarry, he sends his avaricious children into a tizzy—now who will be first in line to inherit? They should worry: Sir Adrian is promptly and violently sent to meet his maker by someone near and dear. It is up to DCI St. Just and Sergeant Fear to ferret out the killer.

Death of a Cozy Writer—G.M. Malliet, 2008. Rating 4/5

Sir Adrian gained his fabulous wealth by penning a series of wildly popular cozy mysteries, although apparently borrowing liberally from the likes of Agatha Christie. The snug, homey nature of Sir Adrian’s stories is especially ironic given own his own vile personality. Sir Adrian summons his grasping brood to his estate to introduce his fiancé. Outraged and nursing grudges from their dreadful childhoods they arrive: Sarah, an overweight author of biblical cookbooks, George, a handsome artist accompanied by his svelte girlfriend Natasha, Albert a bit part actor, and Ruthven, the eldest, a chip off Adrian’s ruthless block.

Because Sir Adrian was universally detested, suspects abound. Was it his new bride, Violet accused of murdering her first husband years ago? The Italian cook and her brooding son?  The irrepressibly energetic American secretary? The bitter ex-wife? One of Adrian’s business associates-slash-sexual flings? Stoical St. Just will have a tough job cutting through sarcasm and secrets.

Death of a Cozy Writer is delightful. A clever, sophisticated twist on the traditional British country house mystery. While the plot has enough red herrings to satisfy genre buffs, it is the characters that make the story a standout. Snarky and unlikeable, they’ll earn your eye-rolling, withering asides, but yet somehow manage to grow on you. Malliet weaves her web with wit and a devilish sense of humor. She caught me. This description alone cracks me up: “Her voice when she spoke, was deep, seductive, whiskey-soaked, like Lauren Bacall doing voiceovers for cat food” (151). Death of a Cozy Writer pays homage to mystery greats but is stylishly original. I can’t wait to read the next in the series.


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Review: Monster Hunter Siege

Owen Pitt is tired of waiting for the end of the world. Now, he and a crew of elite international monster hunters are taking the fight to the chief baddie himself, Asag, the god of chaos, in an effort to preempt humanity’s holocaust.

Monster Hunter Siege – Larry Correia, 2017. Rating: 4.5/5

Once an accountant, Owen Zastava Pitt, or “Z”, is now a top-notch monster hunter and the Chosen One, destined to save the world or die trying. Now, about to be a father, Owen knows he needs to go on the offensive and stop letting ultra-powerful and mysterious entities call the shots. Owen convinces his werewolf boss, Earl, to mount a massive attack on the City of Monsters, located on a remote Russian island where intel suggests there is a portal to the Nightmare Realm—and Asag. While MHI and their allies hold the island against all kinds of creative monstrosities, it is Owen alone who can travel to the Nightmare Realm and not only take the fight to Asag, but bring back seven hunters who have been trapped there for months.

Monster Hunter Siege is exactly what I’ve been needing: a warm-hearted, breakneck shoot-em up with lots of monsters, good and bad, and characters that shine. There is never a dull moment—or even a slightly less exciting moment—as Owen achieves détente between the orcs and elves at a local barbeque (open bar), establishes fraternal relations with a Russian mobster as they battle a child-eating vodyanoy, and goes on to fight sky squids, evil Fey, and legions of Asag’s minions. We’re talking sheer fun and lots of firepower, here.

Correia writes with a droll sense of humor and doesn’t compromise on characterization; two reasons I love the Monster Hunter International series. Owen’s relationships with his father, and with the lost hunter and ex-nemesis, Lococo, are authentically moving. The novel’s poignancy and the dark nature of its conflict are offset with brilliantly sweet and funny scenes like Owen’s meeting with Poly, the one-eyed, comic-book loving cyclops. The series is a treat.

If you’re new to Owen and MHI, you can certainly jump in with this installment, but I recommend starting with the first title, Monster Hunter International: pure enjoyment.


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Review: The Sun Down Motel

A search for her long-lost aunt leads Carly to a decrepit—and haunted—motel in this atmospheric supernatural mystery.

The Sun Down Motel—Simone St. James, 2020. Rating: 4/5

Viv Delaney left home in 1982 determined to make it in New York City. Instead, she landed in Fell, a small, nowhere town in upstate New York. Working as a night clerk at the Sun Down Motel, she learns two things: first, the hotel is definitely haunted, and second, there are a surprising number of women being murdered around Fell. Viv starts her own investigation—and then vanishes.

Fast forward to 2017. Viv’s niece Carly is obsessed with finding out what really happened to her aunt. After the death of her mother—Viv’s sister—Carly goes to Fell to investigate, taking the same job Viv had at the now even more decrepit Sun Down Motel. Helped by a new roommate equally obsessed with true crime, and a handsome, if testy young man with his own tragedy, Carly works her way doggedly toward the truth.

St. James effectively builds suspense by switching the first-person perspectives back and forth between Viv and Carly, neatly bringing the cold-case story to life. As each woman digs deeper into the local murders decades apart, they both become targets, leading to some nail-biting moments for the reader. Several additional strong female characters who seem helpful—but may just be hiding something—provide effective misdirection. The motel ghosts are satisfyingly creepy, and we’re not certain of their motivations, either, until near the end, which has a neat little twist. A dramatic denouement, involving both human and ghostly bad guys, leads to a satisfying conclusion (though personally, I felt the punishment of one the characters seemed a little severe). A perfect read for these darker, spookier evenings…