A Modern Whodunit: Knives Out

Fans of classic mysteries in the tradition of the late Dame Agatha Christie, this is your movie!  Knives Out, currently showing in movie theaters, keeps audiences guessing whodunit to the very end.

The all-star cast, which includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, and Don Johnson, portray the family and staff of the late mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (played by Christopher Plummer) as they gather first for the birthday party of their patriarch; and again after his demise, which occurs later that same night.  The family members, instead of grieving, though, are more apt to quibble and point fingers at each other as to who had more motive and means to commit murder.

Daniel Craig plays Benoit Blanc, a modern Hercule Poirot-type detective with a southern accent, who was hired by means of a secret message to investigate the death.  Blanc follows clues and shadows Marta (Ana de Armas,) the late author’s private nurse, through wild goose chases that uncover more than one suspect and enough red herrings to hide the true criminal to the very end.

Marta, the only character other than the detective who was not after Thrombey’s fortune, spends most of the movie believing she is responsible for his death.   Marta tries to hide, and fails completely in attempts to lie, about her involvement in the crime.  Her surprising motivation-a promise made to the elderly author immediately before his demise.   Why did he prompt her to lie, and what other secrets will be uncovered before the end of the movie?  Who actually is responsible for Thrombey’s death?  And who will inherit his estate?

I was both pleased and surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie.  The mystery was intriguing, the plot had as many twists as any good novel, and the action was enjoyable.  There was just enough humor included to keep the story from becoming too dark without turning the whole movie into a spoof of the genre.  Not to mention, the majority of the action takes place on an estate that contains hidden compartments, a secret door, and a horde of “props” from Thrombey’s novels, (spoilers) some of which may prove important to the plot!

Check it out at a theater near you!

 

 

 

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Sea Scope: A Psychological Mystery

Sea Scope by Debbie De Louise
Sea Scope: A Psychological Mystery by

Debbie De Louise (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

A series of clues written in crayon, reminiscent of the games once played by a now-dead child, and the long unexplained circumstances surrounding the death of one of their number casts a shadow over the planned reunion of family and old friends in this mystery by author Debbie De Louise.

Twenty years ago, the bed and breakfast at Sea Scope, South Carolina was closed following the death of a guest who meant far more to some of the long-term residents there.  In the present, Sarah, who was a child at the time, receives an invitation from her Aunt Julie, to return to the inn for a visit.  Julie plans to reopen the inn and wants select family and friends to help her prepare for its grand reopening.  As Julie gathers family and former staff members of Sea Scope, both Julie and Sarah receive messages pertaining to the events that led to a tragic summer twenty years in the past.

While the events of the present reveal those things long hidden, the past plays its part in the tale, too, as the reader is drawn into a haunting story with clues doled out one at a time.  The author carefully weaves an enticing mystery by alternating chapters between past and present, so that events may unfold in the past through the child Sarah’s diary and recollections, assisted by revelations by other visitors and family members from the time.

In fact, the revelations continue right up until the last few pages, where the true nature of certain characters and the events leading to the death of Michael are finally unveiled.  The switches between time settings are not confusing or detract from the appeal of the story at all, as the author also skillfully changes point of view, from third person in the past to first person in the present, with Sarah’s point of view.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book I was able to obtain through a recent Amazon promotion by the author.  I love good mysteries, and this one has much to offer, from a good plot to appealing characters and a beautiful location.  I would recommend this story to any lover of mysteries, and award it five stars for its originality and the quality of the mystery.

A New Year and New Chances

Happy New Year!  While elsewhere people are preparing for parties, getting ready to watch the ball drop, I am taking a few moments to regroup and catch my breath.  2019 has been exceptionally busy for me; between work commitments, spending time with loved ones, and even squeezing in a vacation, the year has been very full and passed too quickly!

While today is a good day for reflection, the final day of the year is also a time to look forward.  Many of us make resolutions for the new year, to which unfortunately  we commit only half-heartedly , or that will soon loose our interest.  To me, the concept is still sound-we resolve to be better versions of ourselves, in whatever form we would like to improve.  Often, the motivation to change, to improve, is more important than the end result.  In other words it’s okay to try, and fail; it’s better than not trying at all, or loosing faith in our own potential.

There are a few things I would like to happen this year-I want to meet my Goodreads goals; I want to publish a new story that I’ve had on the back burner for a while; I want to take a vacation somewhere exotic this year, or at least somewhere I’ve never been before; and I want to achieve balance between my personal, day job, and writing lives.  Will I succeed?  I don’t know yet; but I’m going to give it my best shot.

Today is a good day to think about goals-about the people we would like to be this year.  I hope for the most of us, it is a chance to become, as Bill Murray’s character stated in the classic movie, Scrooged“the people we have always wanted to be.”

Happy New Year everyone! I hope yours is a great one!

Happy Holidays!

lighted reindeer decor
Photo by Ignored shots on Pexels.com

To all my friends out there, I wish you the very best for this Holiday Season.  May your fondest wishes come true, and may you experience joy, hope, love, and togetherness in abundance.

However and whatever you celebrate this time of year, please accept my heartfelt greetings for a Joyful Season and a Happy New Year!

Amy

Keeping the “Spirit” of the Holidays

laptop computer macbook apple
Don’t let stress ruin your holidays!  Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Are you enjoying this holiday season, or just going through the motions?  December especially can be so busy; there are always so many things to do and get done, before the holidays and before the end of the year.  Santa is not the only one who makes lists this time of year, and like his, ours sometimes seem unending.

Are you doing the things you need to do-shopping, baking, decorating, or whatever else because you want or choose to do so, or because you feel obligated?  The reason behind your actions can make all the difference in your attitude, and your stress levels, as you go about your day.

I know that though there is snow on the ground, and I’m anticipating my own grown kids gathering in the next week, I have to remember to keep the right mind set as I go about my daily tasks.

Those of us that work in the health industry sometimes especially feel the strain, as patients struggle to use insurance benefits and money in Health Savings Accounts before the end of the year, or while college-age kids are home for the holidays.  The volume of business, the crowds, and the inevitable waiting in line add to everyone’s stress levels and quell the goodwill feelings many struggle to keep.

Personally, I have learned the best way to manage everything is to learn to say “enough,” and sometimes “no.”  Ask yourself if some traditions are not important or meaningful to you at this point in your life.  Are there tasks or duties or events that you can say no to, or simply “let go?”

“Picking and choosing” which traditions you uphold, decorations you use, events you attend, or even the number of people you shop for does not make you a bad person, only a human with limited time, energy, and resources.  Eliminating some less important or more trivial tasks may even make more pleasant to be around, bring more significance to those things you choose to keep on your list, and give you more time to simply be with your loved ones.

When you are not overwhelmed by your chore list, the decrease in stress can really put you in the holiday mood.

I’m sitting and writing this before I get ready to go to work, another busy day in the season.  I am not done with my holiday preparations, but the end is in sight, so I can go about my day with a lightened heart, knowing that everything is okay.  I will get done all the important things.  I will not let the below-freezing temperatures, the traffic, the crowds, or the grumpy over-stressed customers get to me today.

I hope you all find your bliss, your holiday spirit, in the middle of the chaos today, and are able to enjoy the season for all it’s worth.

Happy Holidays,

Amy

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Dead Beat

Dead Beat by Jim Butcher
Dead Beat (The Dresden Files, #7) by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

What can I say about this latest volume of the Dresden Files?  Dead Beat pits our favorite urban wizard-for-hire, Harry Dresden, against a group of necromancers vying against each other for the ultimate power gain.  It also features a host of both friends and foes, new and old, and a chance to actually see the White Council of Wizards as the good guys, instead of just the overly suspicious and judgmental group out to prove Harry is up to no good.

Of course, the story starts with a seemingly low-key private investigation, followed quickly by Dresden being blackmailed by a vampire sorceress, and even includes a hint of a possible romance for the lovesick Harry (still heartbroken over Susan) that might just cost Harry his soul, his will, and everything he has ever stood for.

I had trouble deciding exactly what the title of this one meant-does it refer to Harry’s half-vampire brother who is living on the couch in Harry’s apartment, or to the fact that Harry does so much magic in the course of this adventure that he is wounded and exhausted for most of the story, or even to the fact that (spoilers) Harry is recruited as a Warden, a sort of cop for the Wizard’s Council, and assigned his home turf as his “beat” ?

This story contains a lot of different side plot points, and a lot of references and characters that newbies to the series may not get, but it’s still a fun ride, especially when Dresden calls for reinforcements by means of a reanimated Tyrannosaurus Rex named Sue.  I give this epic five stars for creativity, and am relieved that the series is still going strong.  After all, I have eight more volumes to read through before the release of the next story, Peace Talks, hopefully to be released in 2020.

Holiday Brunch Recipe-Goetta Casserole

 

family sitting near dining table and eating food
Family meals- such an important part of the holidays! Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Before I simply start sharing this recipe, there may be readers out there asking, what is goetta, and why should I care?

Goetta, pronounced “get-uh” is a dish that originated in southwestern Ohio, and was invented by German settlers in the 19th century.  It is a type of sausage made of ground meat (either pork, beef, or a mixture of the two), steel oats, and spices.  It can be fried in a skillet like sausage, or added to numerous dishes.  It is so popular in the Cincinnati area that it has its own annual festival.

 

Goetta- it’s a local  phenomenon!

My family is a transplant to the region, but goetta is one food that we’ve come to love, though we don’t eat it often because it’s definitely not the healthiest of fare.  However, for the holidays, we indulge and I often prepare this recipe for special breakfasts or brunches.  It does take time to make, because the casserole turns out best if it is prepared and then refrigerated overnight, before baking.  This also allows for a little less work in the morning if you have guests or excited children anxious to open presents.

Goetta Cassserole

Ingredients:

8 frozen hash brown patties, or one package frozen shredded hash browns

8 slices of goetta-one block (no pre-cooking required), or 1 lb bulk breakfast sausage, browned and drained

4 cups of any blend of shredded cheddar, Colby and Monterey jack cheeses

1 thinly chopped green onion, or equivalent in dried chives

7 eggs

1 cup milk

Season salt, plus ½ tsp table salt

¼ tsp pepper

Directions:

Place or press hash browns into a single layer in a greased 13 x 9 baking dish.  Liberally sprinkle with season salt.  Top with goetta, then cover with shredded cheese and green onion.

Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper until well combined.  Pour over other layers in dish, coating well.

Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight, or bake immediately.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and bake casserole, covered with foil, for 1 hour.  Uncover and bake for 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown and knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Feeds 8-12 people.  Great served with fresh fruit and pumpkin bread.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

 

*If goetta is not available in your area, there is always the Internet.  Or, if you’re not feeling adventurous, the recipe would work for ordinary breakfast sausage as well, though make sure to pre-cook the meat before adding it to the casserole.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does, and I hope you’re doing well with all your holiday preparations and plans.

Till next time,

Amy

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Tomorrow marks Thanksgiving in the United States, a tradition started by peoples of two very diverse cultures sitting and peacefully sharing a meal.

Today, the meaning and emphasis placed on the holiday varies as much as the diverse groups who acknowledge this day.  For some, it is simply an extra day off work or a day to begin, or finish, holiday shopping.  For others, it’s about family, overeating, and falling asleep in front of the TV, with either a parade or football on the screen.

Many though, choose to remember that this day was originally envisioned as a time to give thanks for the blessings of enough food, a safe home,  freedom from religious persecution, and good neighbors.

group of people making toast

Family, food, and time together.  Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Thanksgiving is also a time to remember there are those out there who do not share the blessings our ancestors celebrated- enough food to eat, and a safe and warm home.  Please consider sharing what you can with your local foodbank, the Salavation Army, or another local charity.

Above all, have a safe, and happy Thanksgiving!

Amy

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Christmas, The Krewe and a Large White Rabbit

Christmas, The Krewe and a Large White Rabbit by Heather Graham
Christmas, The Krewe and a Large White Rabbit (Krewe of Hunters) by

Heather Graham (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Combine a group of people who are capable of interacting with the dead, recruit them to an elite FBI unit, and then send them out in couples to fall in love-the improbable premise for the paranormal romance series by author Heather Graham somehow just works, making The Krewe of Hunters a very entertaining series.

This e-novella is a direct sequel to Haunted be the Holidays, and picks up as the main protagonists of that story, Brodie and Kody, are about to be married, on Christmas Eve.  While they’ve chosen to wed at a historic Virginia tavern that friends have just restored, there wouldn’t be much to the plot without a little conflict.  In this case, the drama is introduced by a rabbit-costume-and-gas-mask wearing, machete wielding escapee from a nearby mental institution.

Kody is soon following the Rabbit through snow-covered woods, and learns he is trying to protect her and some “Golden Dragon” from the “dragon slayers.”  Despite the odd appearance of this character, his ramblings raise a number of questions, especially when a couple of very suspicious guards from the institution are looking for the Rabbit, and carrying high-powered rifles.

Brodie, with assistance from Krewe members coming to the wedding, learn the Rabbit is actually a distinguished military veteran, suffering from PTSD.  Still that doesn’t explain his behavior, until further clues point that while the Rabbit, a.k.a. Captain Avery, retired army veteran, has actually witnessed something illegal and deadly happening at Virginia Hansom Hospital.  Now the Krewe have to keep Avery safe, uncover the conspiracy at the hospital, and arrest the involved staff, and all before the Christmas wedding.

What struck me about this story is that despite numerous Lewis Carroll references, Captain Lynch did not go off on a tangential journey into Neverland, but rather became quite lucid as soon as the drugs were out of his system.  While the analogy being played out could have made an interesting story, it would have been a quite different one, and might have been detrimental to the general plot of this short novella.  As it was, the story was quickly but satisfying resolved of the main conflict, and proceeded to the wedding and the romantic end.  I will say that one scene very near the end brought me to tears, as Kody was allowed to see the spirit of her late father on her wedding day.

I was in the mood for a light-hearted Christmas story when I “picked up” this e-book, and I was happy with my purchase, as this book rates a solid four stars.  I would recommend it to any readers who want a quick read in paranormal, romance, adventure, or urban fantasy genres.

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot, #1) by

50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

From the mind of the great Agatha Christie sprang one of her most intriguing characters-Belgian detective Inspector Hercule Poirot.  His exploits have been chronicled, not only in the author’s books, but also in numerous movies and television specials.  In more than one episode, the popular show Doctor Who pays homage to the iconic writer, including a “behind the scenes” of Dame Agatha’s process for this particular novel.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles opens as Poirot’s Watson, Hastings, is staying with old friends while he recovers from injuries suffered fighting in World War I.  He has not seen Poirot in a number of years, but he is suddenly on the scene when Hasting’s host at the estate of Styles is murdered under strange circumstances.

A number of doors locked from the inside, a house full of potential suspects, several different possible methods for administering poison to the victim, and questionable identities of multiple personages make for a case that is beyond the local constabulary, so Poirot is soon on the scene.

While Hastings privately worries that age and time have cost Poirot his sharp faculties, the detective begins his investigation, leaving Hastings (and everyone else) wondering what clues he has discovered but is reluctant to share.  The story ends with a typical confrontation that unites all suspects, and those previously not suspected, in a scene where Poirot reveals all.

Agatha Christie’s body of work in general and in this novel in particular are considered classics because her stories are ageless.  While technology and society move forward, the mysteries she pens still appeal to readers because she weaves so many details, false blinds, and seemingly contradictory plot points into her work that are perfectly explained in the end.

I recommend this book to any lover of mysteries, and award it five stars for its originality, and depth of intrigue.