Saturday 5 March 2016

The Nora Tierney Mysteries Review

The Blue Virgin 
(A Nora Tierney Mystery, #1)
Despite a planned move, the mysterious death of photographer Bryn Wallace keeps American writer Nora Tierney glued to Oxford in order to clear her close friend, artist Val Rogan, who has been wrongfully accused of Bryn's murder. Or has she?

Nora quickly becomes embroiled in the murder investigation, much to the dismay of two men: Detective Inspector Declan Barnes, the senior on the case; and Simon Ramsey, the illustrator of Nora's children's book. Simon's efforts to save Nora from herself become increasingly frantic as Nora is forced to push her way into Declan's case, using her wits and her wiles to prove Val's innocence.

The first in a series of Nora Tierney mysteries based in the UK, The Blue Virgin is a compelling story of love and intrigue. Nothing, Nora learns, is what it seems, and even the most innocent of choices can lead to murder and revenge. Set in the ancient city of golden spires, the setting lends itself to mystery, as any Inspector Morse fan will agree. The novel is written in classic English style, complete with a cast of characters and chapter epigraphs that add to its literary feel.

5 out of 5 stars
This was a really enjoyable read. The twists and turns were intriguing, the many characters you meet helped create a large pool of suspects. I honestly didn’t figure out who was the murder until near the end. I was pleasantly surprised at how well this book was written, and how well Author Marni Graff was able to bring up many subjects and scenes in a natural way without going into too much gory detail or hitting you over the head with it.
Even though the murder and the search for the killer are the main plot line you find yourself entering into the world so in-depth that it almost becomes a story about Nora and her friends, the Murder becomes just a supporting aspect. This is not a bad thing. It makes it an easy read pulling you into their world and rounds out the thrill of the chase nicely with practical things such as packing to move and deciding if Nora should find out the gender of her baby.
The only problem I had was that there are so many characters I had a hard time keeping track of who was who. But I am notoriously bad with remembering people’s names so the average reader might not struggle with this like I did.
Overall I enjoyed listening to this book. I am pleased that they chose a narrator with an English accent, it made it so much easier to enter the world when the characters sound right. That said there were a few times when a word or sentence was repeated or a pause was in the wrong place. It was distracting for only a moment and then you get pulled right back into the story.
Well done Marni Graff, I look forward to reading the rest of the series. I would recommend this to anyone who loves a good British cosy. For those who are more conservative readers be aware that there are some unsavoury characters (one in particular that creeped me out), same gender relationships, unmarried relationships and some swearing. Basically what you see in real life, however the details are all very vague on these aspects of the story.

The Green Remains 
(A Nora Tierney Mystery, #2)

Nora Tierney is living at Ramsey Lodge in England's glorious Lake District, anticipating two life-changing events: the publication of her first children's book and the birth of her first child. Choosing a name for her son and checking proof pages with her illustrator, Simon Ramsey, fill her days--until a morning stroll along the shore of UK's largest lake, Windermere, leads her to discover the corpse of the heir to Clarendon Hall.
When Simon is implicated in the death, Nora dives headfirst into the murder investigation to discover the real killer. As the body count rises, Nora and her unborn child will face risks and perils she could never anticipate in this second in a series of Nora Tierney mysteries.

5 out of 5 Stars
Marni Graff does it again. This book takes place only a few months after the first book. But this time we are out at Ramsey Lodge in the Lake district.
Good news, the books are written in such a way that it can be read as a standalone. The past book is touched upon to give back ground but it never gives any details that would give away the outcome to the previous book, should you choose to read them out of order.
Once again the calming details of day to day life are interspersed with the discovery of dead bodies and the race to discover the killer. Picking a baby name is of paramount importance, but the focus is nicely evened out between the realities of life and the search to solve the crime.

Again there were the same small snags and repeats in the Audio narrative, but I felt like the characters all had their voice which helped me sort out who was who.
Lovers of murder mysteries and British cosy’s  shouldn’t hesitate to grab these books at their earliest opportunity!
For those who are more conservative readers be aware that there are same gender relationships, unmarried relationships and some swearing. Basically what you see in real life, however the details are all very vague on these aspects of the story.

The Scarlet Wench 
(Nora Tierney Mysteries, #3)
In the third Nora Tierney Mystery set in England, American writer Nora awaits the arrival of a traveling theatre troupe who will stage Noel Coward's play Blithe Spirit at Ramsey Lodge in the Lake District. With her son six months old, Nora must juggle parenting with helping her illustrator and friend Simon Ramsey run the lodge. She's also hoping to further her relationship with the only lodge guest not in the cast: Detective Inspector Declan Barnes, ostensibly there for a hiking trip. When a series of pranks and accidents escalate to murder during a flood that traps everyone, Nora realizes her child is in jeopardy and determines to help Declan unmask a killer.

5 out of 5 Stars

I think this book is my favourite out of the series so far. The traveling theatre troupe brings a slew of larger than life characters. Each new character bringing their own backstory and personality quirks. Unlike the previous two books this one goes on for some time before you get an actual murder. It was a nice change because you get to know everyone and you are thinking the whole time ‘one of these people is going to die… who will it be?’ So it is almost like two mysteries in one, who is going to die, and then who did it.
I found it easier to guess who the murder was simply because I was use to how the Author works. But it was still enjoyable listening to the story unfold even when I knew the outcome. Again this book was as much about the things that makes life go round, like whither or not to tell Nora’s child’s grandparents they had a grandson, as it was about the murder and solving it.
I found the narrator much better for this book. I don’t know if it was because I was use to listening to her or if she just hit her stride on this last book. A few small glitches but very enjoyable.
If you enjoy any type of mystery especially murder mystery this is a must read. I highly recommend reading the series in order but if for one reason or another that isn’t an option I would put this last one on the top on the list.
For those who are more conservative readers be aware that there are some unmarried relationships and some swearing. Basically what you see in real life, however the details are all very vague on these aspects of the story


"This song was playing on repeat for almost five hours after the murder." The detective kept his voice firm and emotionless. "I repeat the question, Miss Rogan. What is the significance of this song to you and the victim?"
    Hot tears traveled down her cheeks. "She had a name. Her name was Bryn Wallace. And a song that had significance of us is on this disc, but it's a different song. This disc is the soundtrack from Notting Hill about two unlikely people getting together." Val brushed the tears away impatiently with the back of her hand and struggled to compose herself. She would not let him get to her. She must remain in control. The weight of being under suspicion settled heavily around her shoulders.

~  ~  ~

"Don't touch anything, Nora," Simon instructed. "We shouldn't disturb things until the police get here."
   Nora surveyed the mess. "Poor Agnes--who would do this? She could have been killed!"
   Simon pushed his hair off his forehead. "Nora, it's your room that was ransacked. Somebody was looking for something. There's every reason to think it wasn't Agnes they were after--it was you."
~  ~  ~
    "Busted." Declan's quiet voice from the doorway startled Nora. She jerked her hand, spilling the pills all over the counter and floor.
     She bent down to retrieve them as her cheeks flamed. "I counted his pills to see if he could have given any to Gemma," she whispered. She stood and scooped the remaining pills off the counter back into the bottle, taking care to remove a thread from a cotton towel.
    Declan's whispered voice was shape. "And you would be doing what that would be helpful? Since you've successfully managed to put your fingerprints on that bottle, we'll have no way of knowing if someone else tampered with them." His low sound made his anger all the more menacing.

    Nora's mouth fell open. "Apparently nothing." She closed the bottle with a snap.

Marni Graff had a successful career as a registered nurse who wrote on the side before writing full time. She has a degree in English Lit and studied Gothic Mystery at Oxford University in England. She also wrote articles for Mystery Review magazine, where she interviewed many of the authors whose work she admired.
Marni is the award-winning author of The Nora Tierney Mysteries, set in England. The Blue Virgin introduces Nora, an American writer living in Oxford. The Green Remains and The Scarlet Wench trace Nora’s move to the Lake District where murder follows her.  In process is The Golden Hour, set in Bath, England. Premiering in the next few months will be Graff’s new Manhattan series, Death Unscripted, featuring nurse Trudy Genova, a medical consultant for a New York movie studio. This new series is based on Marni’s favorite nursing job in real life.

Marni is also co-author of Writing in a Changing World, a primer on writing groups and critique techniques. She writes crime book reviews at Auntie M Writes and is Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press, an author’s cooperative. A member of Sisters in Crime, Marni runs the NC Writers Read program in Belhaven which allows writers experience reading their work out loud and getting immediate feedback. 


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