Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Another disappointment -- I'm about ready to give up!Jan. 30 2005
Book loving mom
- Published on Amazon.com
I have read every one of Jill Churchill's books, both from the Jane Jeffry series and the "Grace and Favor" series. I've always thought of the Jane Jeffry books as special treats -- each a quick read loaded with good characters, humor, a dead body or two (usually offed in a creative way), and a great friendship between Jane and Shelly. Jane has always seemed like, well, me! She is a stay-at-home mom, who is happily involved in her kids' lives, in her romance with Mel, and in many local crimes. OK, so the crime part isn't at all like my own life, but the rest of the stuff is! The last book, "Bell, Book, and Scandal" was just awful. I reluctantly picked up this book, hoping that maybe whoever had been masquerading as Jill Churchill for "Bell, . . ." had been exorcised and that Jill herself was back! But alas, this book is only marginally better than the last.
Jane is helping Shelly evaluate caterers at a theatre Shelly's husband has donated to the local college. A lackluster play is being produced, and a member of the production is killed. No one seems to care much, and Mel actually asks Jane and Shelly for their opinions on the case -- a big departure from the character's usual behavior, where he constantly warns Jane to keep her nose out of his murder investigation. Why the change? I couldn't tell you, because it was never clear to me in the book. There is very little suspense, the case is solved, and Jane and Shelly work on needlepoint.
I am really disappointed, because I miss the old Jane and Shelly, and Mel. None of the characters seem to have the depth that they used to, and the writing has become so stilted I still believe that Jill Churchill is letting someone else write the book. I just can't get over the change in writing style -- it doesn't make sense.
I don't know if I'm going to read the next Jane Jeffry book, whenever that comes out. I'll still read the "Grace and Favor" books, because those have been consistently entertaining. Again, this is where I get confused because why is there such a difference between the two series?
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
not a very interesting or engaging readJan. 2 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
When Shelley Novak's husband donates a run-down theatre to the community college, a novel idea strikes her. The college is about to feature a play by one of its professors, Steven Imry, and Shelley has volunteered to provide the food for the rehearsals. What she has in mind is to get a few caterers to provide the food (a different caterer each night) and then pick the best one to cater for her husband's annual managers' dinner. Shelley wants Jane to help her sample the food and take note of how the caterers handle things. And as a bonus, Jane and Shelley will be able to watch the rehearsals. While not completely enthusiastic, Jane allows herself to be persuaded and soon the two friends are sitting in on what must be one of the worst plays of the century. The play is awful and half-baked, the playwright-director is an oaf, and the actors, save for the professional aging actress, the likable Ms Bunting, are mediocre at best. So that the last thing Jane or Shelley was expecting was for one of the actors to get murdered. And while neither Jane nor Shelley feel much of a bond to those involved in this murder investigation, they naturally feel a little curious as to why this particular actor was murdered. And then a few days later the janitor is attacked. This time Mel Van Dyne (the detective in charge of the homicides and Jane's longtime lover) in eager to hear Jane's insights. And so once again, Jane and Shelley find themselves delving into a murder investigation...
I remember the first Jane Jeffry mystery I read, "The Class Menagerie." I liked it so much that I went back to the bookstore the next day to get the other books in the series. Sadly, this will probably be the last Jane Jeffry mystery I read. It feels as if the heart has gone out of this series. The story plods along, the mystery in this particular installment was barely discernible, the other characters in this book (other than Ms Bunting) are not "fleshed out" and remain shadowy at best, and even Jane and Shelley seem lacking in enthusiasm and interest in discovering what's going on. All in all, "A Midsummer Night's Scream" was not a very interesting read.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Will the real Jane Jeffry please stand up?May 11 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Jill Churchill really seems to have lost her way with her Jane Jeffry series. In the book before this one, no one was murdered! In this one, we have a body, but Jane and her best friend Shelley are too busy doing needlepoint to do any real investigating.
Our tale begins when Jane and Shelley get involved with the local theatre company. Shelley makes the catering arrangements for the reharsals, and Jane agrees to be the official taster. It doesn't take long, however, for the pair to get a taste of how dramatic drama can be. A young actor who disagreed with the director gets himself murdered, and the janitor at the theatre gets bashed on the head and put into the hospital.
The crime-solving here is primarily done by Mel, Jane's police detective boyfriend. He's been in previous books in this series, mostly to shake his finger at Jane when she gets too nosey. But, this time, Mel is featured fairly prominently, and Jane is too busy with other things, i.e. needlepoint and getting her novel published, to do her own little investigation.
The murder actually seems kind of secondary here, as pages and pages are devoted to the finer points of needlepoint, how to get a book published and choose an agent, and what makes one caterer better than another. While Jane and Shelley languish in these safer pursuits (not once are their lives put in jeopardy!), Mel solves the murder. And, then, there's a very cheesey epilogue to let us know that basically everyone got what they deserved.
I guess my major problem is that, for two books now, Jane and Shelley just haven't acted like Jane and Shelley. Now that's a crime.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Don't BotherJan. 24 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
The Jane Jeffry series, while not towering classics, have generally been decent reads. Sadly, that is not the case in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SCREAM. This reads like someone's first attempt at writing a mystery novel. The dialogue is stilted, the characters are flat, and who wants to read about needlepoint lessons! I could hardly get through the book... A complete waste of time.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Better than the previous installmentJan. 2 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
I like Jane. I want to like this series. However, after reading the latest offering, I'm hard pressed to muster much, if any, enthusiasm for the one that will follow this book.
One thing, right off the bat was that I had no way to picture Mel at all. It was stressed that he is very good looking and a swell dresser. That didn't narrow it down much for me. Can't say as I recall details of Jane or Shelley's looks either; but, that wasn't as much of an issue - perhaps because their parts are so character-driven.
The mystery angle was OK (standard cozy). The premise that Paul bought the theater "on impulse" was a bit contrived and out-of-character; Shelley wouldn't be quite so fatalistic about the fact that the building was unusable (thus the donation as a loss-cutting mechanism). The catering issue was a bit weak, but buy-into-able (though transparently so), to get Jane involved with the murder mystery.
The book deal sub-plot was more than I could swallow though. Without re-reading the previous story, here's that chronology as I understand it ...
Jane had been working on her story for several years, off and on, before deciding to bring an outline and sample chapters to a mystery convention (a few months before this current story begins); registrants are provided the opportunity to present their ideas to a couple of editors for review. One of the editors likes what she saw of Jane's work, suggesting Jane send her a finished manuscript when the entire book is complete. Felicity, a noted mystery writer with whom Jane becomes friends is also favorably impressed with Jane's proposal. So far, so good. Credibility intact.
In this book, Jane mentions to Shelley that she sent the manuscript to Felicity for feedback, who sent back her suggestions for revision (chiefly, moving the "mystery" angle up by 100 pages). Jane tells Shelley that she spent "two days" on revision, and then sent a second draft out to the editor (note that Felicity's is the only feedback Jane gets on her work before sending it out) Two days? I would think that one would need a lot more revision (AND feedback!) than that.
I realize that this is fiction, but Jane's good fortune here was mind-boggling. The editor dropped what she was doing (in late July!) to devote her attention to convincing the marketing department to accept Jane's story for immediate acceptance. Within a couple of weeks of receiving a second draft from an unpublished fiction author (granted they met at the conference), the editor calls Jane offering a contract? Moreover, when a stunned Jane asks about changes, Melody tells her she doesn't need any? She then insists that Jane get an agent to negotiate the contract.
HEL-LO? If Melody's so concerned about not negitiating directly with a [new] author, shouldn't she have advised Jane to get an agent at their initial meeting back at the convention? Wouldn't Felicity have advised her to send a [final] draft to potential agents, with advice to stress to that Melody had liked what she saw?
I understand that the author is trying to set Jane up as a literary success, which is fine. However, unless Jane is incredibly talented, these events unfolded in a totally bizarre fashion. It would have been much more realistic for Melody to have returned the manuscript with a cover letter containing some very positive comments (and suggested changes), and informing Jane that she (Melody) was looking forward to receiving the next draft directly from an agent. That would have been entirely credible to me.
The epilogue format was odd, and really left me wondering about the author's intentions for the balance of the series.