Playing with Fire (A Carrie and Keith Mystery: Book 3) by Flora McGowan


Date of publication: August 4th, 2020

Genre: Mystery, Romance, Cozy Mystery

Series: A Carrie and Keith Mystery

Material Witness—Book 1

Thirteen in the Medina—Book 2

Playing with Fire—Book 3

Purchase Links: Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:

In a prequel to ‘Material Witness’ and ‘Thirteen in the Medina,’ it’s the summer before she met Keith and Carrie’s holiday plans have been thrown into disarray by the political climate.
She ends up taking a trip to Sicily where she meets octogenarian Millie and a local Sicilian, Enzo.
Enzo appears to be following Carrie as she tours around the island; is he smitten, as Millie maintains, or does he have criminal intentions, as suggested by another of her fellow travellers?
And if so, is he responsible for a series of antiquities’ burglaries?
Or is he on the hunt for Excalibur, the legendary sword rumoured to be lost in Sicily, a sword forged by the ancient Roman blacksmith, Vulcan, god of fire?
Carrie and Millie decide to investigate, but their amusement palls when the adventure takes an unpleasant turn as someone, it seems, is playing with fire.

First Line:

The house was located in the midst of Lazio in central Italy, a region containing not only the country’s capital, Rome, with its ancient Forum, the Coliseum, and the more recent Baroque additions of the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps but also the Vatican, the spiritual and physical heart of the Roman Catholic Church; while of the coast sits Ostia with its ancient port.

Playing with Fire by Flora McGowan

Carrie had been planning on traveling to the Middle East when she was forced to look elsewhere to travel because of political unrest in the area. She decided to take a guided tour of Sicily. But her trip wasn’t the laid-back vacation she expected. Instead, she was pursued by a local named Enzo while ushering a King Author obsessed older woman around the island, all while trying to enjoy the island’s history. But, a string of burglaries throws a shadow over the tour. Who is robbing the museums and why?

When I read the blurb for Playing With Fire, I knew I needed to read this book. Not only does it take place in Italy, which is high on my list of places to visit, but it also offers an exciting view of where Excalibur and Camelot were compared to the legend. I am glad that I read this book because it was good. Plus, I loved reading the historical tidbits thrown throughout the book.

Playing With Fire started slowly and took a while to build up pace. But, once it got going, it flowed nicely. The book maintained a medium pace from the middle of the book to the end, which surprised me. I am used to mysteries having a more brisk pace. I liked it because it allowed me to process the information given.

Playing With Fire takes place entirely on the island of Sicily. I loved the author’s visuals of each town and the historical areas Carrie toured. I also liked the smattering of Italian given in the book.

The main storyline of Playing With Fire centers around Carrie, the tour, Enzo, and the burglaries. As I stated above, the book started slow. But, as Carrie traveled around Sicily and the mystery of Enzo/the art thefts deepened, the storyline gradually increased. This storyline was well-written and well-researched storyline. The author did not lose my attention for a moment.

I liked Carrie and admired her for traveling alone. I also liked that she gravitated toward people similar to her (her travel buddies). Millie and Joan were perfect for her. Vanessa, on the other hand, was not. She also had a good head on her shoulders and used it wisely during the book. Her instincts about Enzo and Vanessa were right on, well, for the most part.

The mystery angle of Playing With Fire was a slow burn. I wondered who the thief was. The author did use red herrings and misdirection to keep me from guessing. So, when the thief was revealed, I was shocked. Put it this way, that person was not on my radar.

There was a slight romance angle in Playing With Fire. The author kept it in the background and was brought up occasionally. But I wasn’t surprised at how it played out.

I want to mention King Arthur/Excalibur/Sicily’s history storyline. It was well-researched. I liked that the author threw some doubt as to where King Arthur was buried. I also liked that some of the mystery centered around Excalibur. And the history of Sicily was fascinating.

The end of Playing With Fire was standard. The author was able to wrap up the mystery in a way that satisfied me. I also liked how the author ended the romance storyline.

I recommend Playing With Fire to anyone over 16. There is no language, mild violence, and no sexual situations.

Many thanks to Flora McGowan for allowing me to read and review Playing With Fire. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of Playing With Fire, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Other books by Flora McGowan

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