The Ice Cage by Joshua Cejka
When the Twin Cities do winter festivals, they spare no expense – outside taverns with gas heating, photo Santa in a sleigh, room made of polished ice with a dead body inside… wait a minute. When such a very public affront to the festival spirit comes up, Homicide Detective Meg Brown must move as quickly as a reindeer to get the whole thing solved before the vaunted and famous Papa Brown Christmas dinner. Thankfully, a ‘usual suspect’ makes herself clear straight away, but of course nothing is quite so simple.
Can Meg clear the case before one of her suspects ends up dead at the hands of someone else? Can she gather the witnesses and evidence before the Christmas Ham gets cold? Can she ever get enough coffee? And just what does a mysterious nightclub owner have to do with all of it?
This is the fifth of the Meg Brown Mysteries and the first one of any length. If you haven’t read the others, please do. They’re fun. You’ll probably like them.
This was a first for me in my love of crime fiction and crime television shows, even considering I watch Castle, and they’ve investigated some fairly strange murders in the seven seasons the show has been going: death by candy cane to the eye. And at Christmas! With the case not so cut and dried as Meg hoped so she would be able to make it home for Christmas with her loved ones, Meg and Riggins are working against the clock to solve the case.
The pace of the writing and story was set out in a lovely fashion, and I found myself reading for over an hour one day, just to get to the end and find out what was going to happen and who had killed the victim with a candy cane. It is the mystery of the candy cane death and the looming spectre of Christmas, and family Christmas traditions. I enjoyed this just as much as the previous four, and am looking forward to reading book six, and any subsequent books in the series.
One thing I love about the Meg Brown books is their continuity with each other. In book four, we were introduced to Kenzie, Meg’s former enemy and now friend, and her daughter. The inclusion of them, and Spike, Meg’s best friend, connected the books in a seamless way. Also, the deliberate slow reveal of character’s lives and what they are like works well – I think it fits the way Cejka has chosen to tell these stories of Meg and her friends.
The climax of the story reveals an outcome that I never saw coming, and it worked. When everything seemed to wrap up tidily in a Christmas bow, so to speak, so easily, I did wonder if there was much more to the case than I had been presented with. And behold, there was! Wonderfully executed, and I hope to revisit these books one day.
obtained from Amazon
Minneapolis Homicide Detective Meg Brown is going home and she couldn’t be less pleased about it. It’s been 20 years since she graduated from her western Wisconsin High School and for some reason she grudgingly decides to attend the commemoration. How is she going to justify her life to those she’s left behind? Does she really have to tell war stories about her time as a Marine, SWAT Officer, Anthropology Major? And just which pistol goes well with her boots anyway?
But more importantly, does she have what it takes to repair relationships with a former best friend, a former enemy, and still solve a 20-year-old crime? Will her dog, Dutch, forgive her for her many absences?
A Meg Brown mystery with a difference, and it is quite a delightful one. Instead of the setup of a scumbag of evil and sadistic proportions, we encounter Meg preparing for her twenty-year high school reunion – quite reluctantly, under the watchful gaze of her neglected but forgiving dog, Dutch, and her friend, Spike. Soon, Meg finds herself in a room of people she doesn’t really want to spend time with apart from her friend, Steph. She hits the radar of Kenzie, her once enemy, but who is to become a friend through the discovery of a twenty-year-old rape. This departure from the classic way of introducing a crime is refreshing, and one that I didn’t see coming. It worked extremely well, and the character development and history were delivered extremely well as Meg, Steph and Kenzie used what they had at hand to identify a rapist.
I loved the way Meg used her police smarts and what she had on hand from Kenzie and Steph, and one or two other former classmates to catch the rapist, albeit twenty years too late. A revelation towards the end of the story knocked the wind out of me, as it was definitely something I didn’t see coming, and it has had me wondering if it would have affected the way Meg turned out as a character, and what she does or if she’d still be our favourite Meg, but with a few added strengths and secrets. Whichever way she had gone, I’m sure she’d still be as fascinating and as strong as she is, and this was a great addition to the series.
available on Amazon
The legal system has set one killer free but Minneapolis Homicide Detective Meg Brown has another in ‘the box’. She’s got the evidence, motive and opportunity but can she get a confession? And what will it all mean when she does?
The entirety of this Meg Brown short takes place “in the box”, or the interview room. Detective Meg Brown of Minneapolis, has a goal. Just one. Justice. With one killer set free in what Meg and her partner, Riggins feel is inconsiderate injustice for the victim, Meg now must interview another killer.
The tension drips off the page from the characters to the reader. With each passing minute reading and within the story, I felt Meg’s frustration mount: not only with the first killer evading jail and justice, but also with the second suspect for making every attempt to annoy Meg and push her over the edge. Her anger seeped into me – a mark of how well crafted these characters and stories are by Cejka. It is through the teasing out of the facts from the suspect, known as Mad Marji, that the reader is taken on a journey, a not quite so conventional mystery, but one that uses a very important aspect of a crime novel or show – and in fact, one that left me wanting to know more about what happened once I had completed the story, not just about Mad Marji, but about the killer set free my the legal system. Again, I was enthralled by the story. Another triumph from Cejka.
*available through Amazon*
Minneapolis Homicide Detective Megan “Meg” Brown has been a lot of places but still hates to fly. Now on her way to Phoenix to take down a bogus alibi that will lock up a not so innocent man she has to deal with nosy passengers, a not-so-funny partner, and a case file involving murder by vegetable. If only she could get an in-flight drink but someone with a secret is standing in her way.
The second of the Meg Brown Short Mysteries this is a lean, mean, and thoroughly fun 13 pager at 5800 words for all those horrible waiting at the bus stop, sitting on the train moments when you just need a good quick whodunit to pull you through.
Cejka has done it again. This time, the murder scene is on a plane, up in the clouds. The murder weapon: a vegetable. Unusual? Yes. But it is done in such a way that it makes sense with the story and characters Again, I loved the succinct and easy to read story, because it left me wanting more in exactly the same way a good novel can. Slowly, through each consecutive story, we are introduced to Meg’s vulnerabilities, and here, it is her hatred of flying the audience is exposed to. Though Meg is determined to avoid nosy passengers, and small talk, she is sucked into discovering who killed a passenger with a vegetable, while on her way to Phoenix for a take down.
I was on the edge of my seat with laughter as I read this tasty treat. Neatly tied up within thirteen pages, the second Meg Brown mystery furthers the reader’s understanding of Meg as a character. I felt her reluctance and hatred to fly as though it was my own hatred and fear of spiders trying to attack me in the shower, her frustration at nosy passengers and her confusion at why someone would use a vegetable to kill someone and how – I shared this confusion, but enjoyed it: it was something different to the usual stabby stabby or bullet through the head or various other body parts and vital organs that most murder novels employ (amongst other less savoury and more sadistic methods). It is this humour and Cejka’s deletion of unnecessary deaths to contribute a sometimes unnecessary shock value to his plot, that will keep me coming back.
This book is available through Amazon
Last year, I met a wonderful writer online through the NaNoWriMo Facebook page. Joshua L. Cejka. Together, we have thudded over elephants, and created a character for one of my novels that he inspired, and he introduced me to his series of short stories, The Meg Brown Mystery series. So far I have read the first four, with five waiting to be read, and I am anxiously awaiting book six. He has me hooked. I love an author that can do that, and he is on my list as authors that can hook me, along with Kate Forsyth, and her sister Belinda Murrell, Sulari Gentill (or S.D. Gentill for her YA Hero Trilogy), JK Rowling, Roald Dahl, and Duncan Lay. Most of those are Australian authors, and I recommend them highly, even Kate, Belinda and Sulari’s novels aimed at children or teens – because they are just so good, that you forget the age group they are aimed at. Back to my friend, Joshua, though, and his books, perhaps the only e-books I truly look forward too at this stage – though I do read and review e-books every so often. Beginning with The Short Man, The Meg Brown Mysteries are a little bit of serious and a little bit of fun, kind of like Castle. They follow Detective Meg Brown in Minneapolis through various crimes involving parking officers, murders with vegetables on board a plane, in the second book, gaining a confession and solving a twenty year old crime at her own high school reunion are just what you will discover in the first four books. Book five, according to cover, involves a candy cane as the murder weapon, and is set at Christmas. I am yet to read this, but hope to get it read before the next instalment comes out. Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.com.au for Australian fans, these quick reads are just the thing when you are after something short and quick to read when busy. I count Joshua as a good friend, and an inspiration, and am hoping to write individual reviews of each book soon. Watch this space for further Book Musings from the Book Muse.