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on 16 October 2013
A really good read.
One can easily relate to the characters in the story. Simple plot think.......but like all good murder stories there is always a twist.
Not everyone enjoys blood & gore in a story ( well not ALL of the time )

Agatha Christie brought up to date....and that is a complement!!
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on 11 September 2013
A cosy mystery is not a genre I would normally choose but I jumped at the chance to read Murder at the Maples because I'd thoroughly enjoyed Joanne Phillips' debut novel, Can't Live Without, and I very much like her writing style.

Murder at the Maples certainly didn't disappoint. The novel focuses on Flora Lively, a likeable and interesting character battling to keep Shakers Removals, the business she's inherited from her father, afloat in a male-dominated world. The mystery comes in the form of dubious goings on at the Maples Retirement Home where Flora is friends with Joy, one of the Maples' residents. The voices of all the characters are authentic, the dialogue realistic and Joanne particularly captures Joy and the older generation well.

Joanne Phillips has an easy and appealing way of writing and she successfully drew me into the story. Murder at the Maples is well written with a cast of great characters and a good plot with just enough twists to keep a reader's interest yet also remain within the realms of believability. It's the perfect novel to curl up with on the sofa in winter (or a chilly summer's evening for that matter) and lose yourself in Flora Lively's escapades.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 December 2013
I downloaded this book at a time when I was desperate for something to read and there was nothing else appealing on the free downloads list. Being busy with the Christmas preparations I didn't want anything heavy or so absorbing as to engross me beyond the bounds of my sparse free time. This book was perfect, a murder mystery but light reading. The characters are well drawn and mostly likeable although there are one or two whom I did not take to but I think that was the aim. Sometimes the things which seem very obvious and to which our attention is drawn, are not all they seem to be and those which we might overlook are of greater importance. In this story however, both are equally important. Having visited some of the places described in the book, reading the descriptions of them enhanced my enjoyment of the story.
Whilst not taxing, this story is an enjoyable read.
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When Flora Lively is left to run her father's removals business after his sudden death, it's not what she'd planned to do with her life. Constantly at loggerheads with her father's manager, Marshall, who happens also to be her uncle's step-son, and with a big new competitor moving in on the territory, this is no time for Flora to be concentrating on other things. But her friend Joy, an old lady recently widowed and now living in the Maples Retirement Village, is getting increasingly upset about odd events that are happening there and wants Flora's help to investigate. At first Flora thinks Joy is imagining things but gradually she is forced to accept that all is not what it might seem on the surface...

This 'cosy' mystery is very well-written and is a promising start to a new series. Phillips gets the balance between plot and humour just about right and on the whole her characterisation is strong. I particularly enjoyed the character of Joy - although elderly and not particularly well, she's feisty and funny and is determined to get to the root of what's going on, and it's refreshing to see an older person get a big role as something other than helpless victim.

Flora's character is also very well-drawn - a kind-hearted and caring person with a lively interest in people, her interactions with Joy and the other elderly residents are believable and enjoyable. Unfortunately, though, in other ways I found her rather annoying. Aged 29, she behaves like someone a decade younger and I found myself getting progressively irritated with her 'sexual tension' wrangling with Marshall, especially since as two single adults there was absolutely no reason for them not to get together if they wanted. I felt we'd all have been a lot happier if they would just get on and get it over with (a point made repeatedly by their employees, though perhaps more tactfully). I was also a little disappointed that she was so rubbish at running the business and yet wouldn't stand aside and let Marshall do his job. However these are small niggles and first books in series often have these kinds of issues because so much character development has to be packed in all at once.

The plot is complex enough to keep the reader's attention throughout, with a nice twist or two towards the end. Overall, I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read which will certainly encourage me to stick with the series and see how it develops. Recommended.
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on 8 January 2014
This is a fun book, not a heavy murder mystery, but one written around a retirement home. I do enjoy books which include the older generation they are full of wit and wisdom which the younger generation have yet to experience. In this book young Flora owns a removal business which has the contract to move people into the retirement facility. Flora makes friends with the residents and finds herself embroiled in accusations against the staff and the mysterious Mr Felix. Flora's friend Joy believes all residents who get moved to the special care unit, don't last longer than three months after the move, and she thinks Mr Felix is capable of murder. Stretched between an ailing business, dog-sitting and trying to calm Joy's stress levels, Flora tries to unravel the real story behind Maples.
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on 15 September 2013
I came to this book having enjoyed Joanne Phillips' first two novels - intelligent, entertaining tales in the women's fiction category - so I was interested to see whether she could also pull off a shift into a different genre: the "cozy mystery" as people seem to call it these days (I SO want to spell "cosy" with an s!)

I discovered a slick transition, retaining many of the characteristics of her previous books - assured writing, strong sense of place, evocative description, clearly defined and likeable characters - while adding the eponymous cosy mystery to solve (ie death without grisly details - I don't read violence or gore! - and a happy ending.)

I particularly like the way she celebrates elderly people in this book (echoes of her book "The Family Trap"). She turns expectations/prejudices upside down from the first page, with an elderly lady proving far more adventurous than her younger (29) friend. There were far fewer laugh-out-loud moments than in her other novels, but still a great sense of fun and of the ridiculous. I guess this is the right balance for a book that features murder.

I'm a big fan of M C Beaton,Dorothy L Sayers, and Arthur Conan Doyle, and I have also read quite a bit of Agatha Christie, who together set the highest standards in this genre, so for me at least Joanne Phillips had a hard act to follow. But by the end of this story, I had the same sense of urgency to read the next one, just as I do with Beaton et al. The highest compliment a proposed series can hope to achieve!

What I particularly liked about it is that there is much more to the story than a mystery to solve. The mystery is underpinned by important and thoughtful considerations of the nature of love, loss, grief and old age - much more so than, say M C Beaton. This serious undercurrent adds depth to the book, likely to make the reader think about it for long after they've solved the mystery and read the final page.

One big difference from the other authors I've listed is that there's less of a precise Poirot-style "the reason I've called you all together here today is..." reveal than in Christie et al. There's a more gentler rise and fall of mystery and resolution than with Lord Peter Wimsey, where I find myself turning the pages faster and faster as I sense the solution coming up. This is because the heroine in the detective role solves the mystery almost in spite of herself, rather than by natural Sherlock-Holmesian sleuthing powers. You don't end the book thinking, "My goodness, what must it be like to have as sharp a brain as Flora Lively?" So it's a different kind of experience than to a classic solve-the-mystery type of book - but still a very satisfying read.

Having said that, I think it's a great idea to have a heroine who is not a ready-made detective in the Miss Marple mould, but still unsure of herself, finding her way after losing both her parents, and with a troubled past. She's a character who looks set to develop, and it will be interesting to see how she evolves.

Finally, I love the idea of a detective-style heroine who has a psychology degree but runs a removal company - though I must admit I did wonder about Shakers' financial viability, given the amount of time its staff spend drinking coffee and going on outings rather than doing serious removals! What a great set-up for future adventures - I can think of all kinds of interesting scenarios for her next jaunt, which I very much hope will be available soon!
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on 26 October 2014
A very light murder mystery with some annoying characters. A female boss of a removal company is OK as a concept, but Flora seemed very unsuitable to be the boss of anything. She refused to listen to anyone properly - quite how there could be any more stories with her in I have no idea. Yes, she worked out eventually what was happening when virtually hit over the head with evidence, but her elderly friend Joy was far more on the ball than she was, even without her proper medication.

I am amazed that there are so many high reviews - I must be more critical than I thought I was.
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on 15 November 2013
I really enjoyed this book. I don't read a lot of cosies as I often find them a bit lame and woffly but Murder at the Maples was a real treat. It was funny as well as intriguing - I often laughed out loud at the thoughts and actions of the 'sleuth' of the tale, Flora Lively.

Joanne Phillips writes a good story in a smooth and easy manner. I look forward to the next book in the series!
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on 14 March 2015
I forced myself to finish this book.

The writing needs a bit more spice. The location is mainly an old folks home and a failing removal company, but this is no reason for such lack of energy! It could have been much better.
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on 4 January 2014
I'd looked at this book before, and never quite been convinced enough to buy, so I was genuinely pleased to see it on promotion. Joanne knows how to press reader buttons, to be sure. There's a love/hate thing going on between an American hunk and the tattooed body-pierced heroine with a heart of gold, and a nice old lady who gets very itchy and scratchy which nobody seems to find worth investigating, and and a dog that risks death from chapter to chapter but finally, to my shame, I gave up. My nerves couldn't take the threefold attack any longer, I thought it was a cosy whodunit for animal lovers which would slip down like a nice cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon, so between wishing somebody would check the old lady's medication, worrying whether the dog would survive another chapter, and wanting to tell the youngster to get a room already, not entirely that cup of tea I expected.

So why three stars? Why did I even consider four? It is nicely written. If you like a little romantic misunderstanding in your whodunits, and most people seem to like a little romantic misunderstanding in everything, you'll LOVE it. And because it's a whodunit, everything will be okay at the end and I'm sure the dog will survive. Anyway, if you read this, get the book, love it and think I'm crackers, I'll point out that I really did consider the fourth star. I didn't add it because this is a personal review, and I can only go by my personal reaction.
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