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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly enjoyable and brilliantly written British Mystery Novella by a "real" author!
A brilliantly written book by a "real" author. I love Novellas, as they are wonderful when you don't want to read a full-length novel, but without sacrificing the quality of course, and this is no exception - although I agree that with such stories, sometimes you read them too quickly and are left wanting more! I love the style of writing, it is a style all of her own,...
Published on 15 Feb. 2013 by Anna Elizabeth

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars An easy, undemanding read
I received a complimentary copy of this book (on request) in exchange for my honest review.
Quirky would-be sleuth Emily Castles is back in another fast-paced short story mystery!
Emily is thrown into a bit of a whirlwind when she innocently delivers a letter (mistakenly delivered to her own address) to her neighbour: dramatic, attention-seeking Victoria, who...
Published 3 months ago by Janice Leibowitz


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly enjoyable and brilliantly written British Mystery Novella by a "real" author!, 15 Feb. 2013
By 
Anna Elizabeth (Chch, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
A brilliantly written book by a "real" author. I love Novellas, as they are wonderful when you don't want to read a full-length novel, but without sacrificing the quality of course, and this is no exception - although I agree that with such stories, sometimes you read them too quickly and are left wanting more! I love the style of writing, it is a style all of her own, quite quirky and very engaging! It is very skillfully woven together and action-packed from the beginning to the end.

I've always loved British Mysteries, and this epitomizes all the best qualities of them. I love the subtle humor, and the main character Emily is engaging and interesting, as are the supporting characters. I love surprise endings in whodunnit mysteries, and this one over-delivers on that!! I haven't actually read any of the others in the series but I can see I'm going to have to read them all! Helen Smith is going to be one of my favorite authors I think..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another enjoyable Emily Castles mystery, 19 Mar. 2015
Emily Castles is back, and as her temporary work contract has run out, her rather flamboyant neighbour Victoria offer her work at the stage school that she runs, Showstoppers. However, Emily seems to attract mystery wherever she goes, and with Victoria the recipient of some poison pen letters, it seems that someone is determined that the end of year show does not go to plan. Once again it is left to Emily and Dr Muriel to ensure that all’s well that ends well.

I loved the portrayal of Victoria, who came across as an ageing performer, still desperate to cling onto some of her talents and her rather stoical husband Piers, and like in Three Sisters, there are many other quirky characters who inhabit this world. Another really enjoyable short story, easy enough to digest in one sitting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cozy mystery with a colourful cast, 26 Feb. 2012
This book is the second in the Emily Castles series of cosy mysteries set in a London neighbourhood. Emily is an unlucky kind of girl whose patchy employment history gives her time to help out neighbour Victoria at her drama school. It's time for the Showstoppers Showcase but Victoria has been receiving poison pen letters and is concerned about what the author has planned for her. Emily again teams up with another neighbour to establish whether Victoria's ex, a dashing Hollywood actor, is really the culprit and to try and avoid disaster.

This short story (equivalent to around 75 printed pages) catches up with some of the characters from the first book, Three Sisters, but introduces more colourful individuals for the reader to enjoy. We are launched straight into the mystery of who is menacing Victoria and it soon becomes obvious that there is more than one candidate for the role of villain. The action moves at quite a pace and I romped through the book in no time.

I would like to have found out more about Emily's past, as the first book set up some mysteries about her background, but had to be happy with more of an update on the present regarding the appealing heroine. Although Helen Smith's style is quite literary this was an easy, enjoyable read and despite the malevolent hand at work there were moments of humour that made me chuckle.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An easy, undemanding read, 11 Jan. 2015
I received a complimentary copy of this book (on request) in exchange for my honest review.
Quirky would-be sleuth Emily Castles is back in another fast-paced short story mystery!
Emily is thrown into a bit of a whirlwind when she innocently delivers a letter (mistakenly delivered to her own address) to her neighbour: dramatic, attention-seeking Victoria, who immediately has a very strange response. It seems she has been receiving odd, threatening notes pertaining to a video that she made at drama school many years previously with her then boyfriend David Devereux, who is now a well-known actor. We never discover the true nature of this video, except to learn that it isn’t actually pornographic, just an embarrassing performance piece, but Victoria is convinced that it brings bad luck to whoever watches it.
Upon learning that Emily’s work contract has ended that day, Victoria immediately invites her to come and help out at her drama school, Showstoppers, which is due to hold its year-end concert the next day. And so Emily finds herself thrown in the deep-end when she arrives at the school the next day where there is most certainly a buzz in the air! Here she meets the calm and collected Seema, who is Victoria’s right-hand running the school. Then there’s the handyman, Dizzy, and the much maligned landlord Mr Barrymore and his dog, Precious. Victoria is unable to focus on much, with her mind being on her upcoming performance in the concert, and having to focus on all her students, and is happy to hand as much responsibility as possible over to a confused Emily, including interviewing prospective new parent David Devereaux. To be honest, Victoria doesn’t come across as the most likeable character.
Another poison-pen note has arrived, at the school this time, and Emily teams up with her neighbour, the down-to-earth, no-nonsense Dr Muriel (who happens to be one of the guests of honour at the concert), in an undertaking to discover exactly who is behind them. There’s also a cameo appearance from a policeman who we first met in ‘Three Sisters’, who seems to be quite fond of Emily. However, due to her lack of social know-how, she doesn’t have a clue!
I didn’t enjoy this story quite as much as I enjoyed ‘Three Sisters’. I found that there was a bit too much crammed into the minimal pages, not giving as much depth or detail as I would have liked, including no information given about how Victoria reacted when she discovered who the culprit actually was. That said though, it is a short story, so one shouldn’t expect the same detail as one would find in a full length novel.
Smith has done a good job in maintaining the continuity of the characters of Emily and Dr Muriel. Emily comes across as even more of a social misfit than in the first book. She is not comfortable in the company of confident individuals, and is not really au fait with social cues. However, this works to her advantage in her attempts at detective work, as she tends to see peoples’ character flaws a lot quicker than most, which might not obvious to other more easy-going, accepting people.
One thing which I feel I must mention is a major grammatical error that was glaringly obvious to me. The use of the phrases ‘They might of misunderstood …’ and ‘Must of been …’ instead of the correct ‘They might have misunderstood …’ and ‘Must have been …’.
Showstoppers is a quick, light, undemanding read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun whodunnit novella, 5 Jun. 2013
The book I read before Helen's turned out, regrettably, to be a very good cure for insomnia, so I was very ready to pick up a light-hearted, seventy-five page, mystery novella and the second in the Emily Castles series to boot!

It didn't disappoint. In this, Emily finds herself--just a little reluctantly--solving the mystery of who is sending her neighbour, Victoria, who runs a drama school (Showstoppers), some unpleasant letters regarding a video she made with a former boyfriend. (Nothing smutty, don't worry.) Victoria has been harbouring a guilty secret about the video and frets that the author of the poison-pen letters will use it in some way against her. It's not long before other members in Emily's neighbourhood become involved in solving not just the mystery of who is sending the letters, but...a murder too.

I felt the first Emily Castles mystery, Three Sisters, lacked some character detail, but as there are some recurring (besides Emily) characters (wonderfully eccentric and colourful ones!), we discover a little more about them and their personalities. I've come to like learning about the characters novella by novella! This 'drip-feed' process works rather well here.

I like a book that doesn't take itself too seriously. And this one doesn't. I have to say that it's not really a sophisticated Poirot or Miss Marple mystery. It's a little bit daft but tremendous fun: it's easy and effortless to read, the characters are diverse, entertaining, and most are very likeable. (I say 'most' because, of course, murderers aren't really supposed to be likeable, are they?)

Forty-five minutes in the company of Ms Helen Smith/Emily Castles very well spent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Showstoppers, 13 Dec. 2011
The cozy mystery is a sub-genre I couldn't have defined or even known had I seen it. Luckily Wikipedia purports to answer all my questions. Among other things, Wikipedia says cozy mysteries are built around the inhabitants of a small, insular community (a London neighborhood in this case), with characters that are often eccentric and provide comic relief. The emphasis is on puzzle solving, with the protagonist using their intelligence and knowledge of the community dynamics to solve the mystery. Examples of the genre given included Agatha Christie's Miss Marple books and the American television series, "Murder, She Wrote."

Having read several of Helen Smith's books, it struck me how well the cozy mystery sub-genre plays to her strengths as a writer. Her prose is comfortable (dare I say cozy?) while still feeling more literary than a typical genre book. Her books are full of humor, but it is subtle -- if you aren't paying attention, it will fly past and you'll miss it. More Woody Allen or Steven Wright than Mel Brooks or Benny Hill. More intellectual (or assuming intelligence on the part of the reader) than slapstick.

If I had any complaint with "Three Sisters," the first book in this series, it would be that I was well into the book before finding out what the "mystery" was. This isn't an issue with "Showstoppers," as we find out about the mystery (or at least the initial mystery) early on. As Emily works toward the solution, we meet plenty of those quirky characters and Smith gives us numerous puzzle pieces to decipher along with Emily.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Showstoppers, 12 Dec. 2011
A continuation of the Emily Castles' series, Showstoppers follows the life of protagonist Emily Castles. Once again facing unemployment, Emily is drawn into a curious incident involving her neighbor and her dance studio. What starts off a strange series of letters becomes a matter of life and death. A wonderful who dun it, Showstoppers is written in Helen Smith's very unique and appealing style. Great characters, quirky humor and plenty of suspects to keep you guessing to the very end. Quick read and very enjoyable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please don't stop the show!, 7 Dec. 2011
By 
Peter Piper (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
One of the delights of this book is that several of the expertly drawn characters from the first Emily Castles story reappear. I laughed out loud at the meeting between Dr Muriel and Emily - Dr Muriel being one of my favourites from the first Emily Castles story 'Three Sisters'. The author accomplishes the continuity with such dexterity that it is easy to imagine this is the story of another day amongst Emily's curious neighbours, and to be looking over her shoulder as events unfold.

The mystery itself is suspensefully created and plotted, with appropriate clues and misdirections skilfully placed. No Helen Smith book would be complete without her trademark social commentary and this story raises some interesting issues about the job market.

Another thing I liked was the rapid proliferation of possible suspects after Emily entered the dance school. There are some absolutely brilliant observations of Emily's neighbour Victoria and her theatrical gestures - a treat to look out for amongst many others. Another very successful mystery. I hope there'll be more!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Show Must Go On!, 2 Mar. 2015
Once again Emily Castles gets herself unintentionally involved in a mystery with wonderfully quirky characters (actually they are pretty realistic in the arts world).

This is lovely easy reading, however the reader is completely thrown backwards and forwards as to who the culprit is. If you are anything like me, you pointed the finger at everyone! Thoroughly enjoyable - are we ever going to find out more information about Emily, or are you going to tease us all the way through the series?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Cast of Characters Returns, 23 Feb. 2015
"Showstoppers" is a wonderful second entry in the Emily Castles mystery series by Helen Smith. This time around, Emily is helping a neighbor out while she's between jobs, but nothing ends up going the way it should. Ms. Smith creates absolutely delightful characters and they become more endearing with each installment of the series. These are thoroughly enjoyable, witty and intelligent mysteries that I would highly recommend.
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Showstoppers (Emily Castles Mysteries)
Showstoppers (Emily Castles Mysteries) by Helen Smith (Paperback - 14 May 2013)
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