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Friday, August 26, 2016

Lament for Bonnie by Anne Emery

Lament for Bonnie by Anne Emery is set in Cape Breton, an island in Nova Scotia Province.  Early settlers were part of the Highland Clearances, and these forced Scottish immigrants brought their highland music and traditions with them.

The island is still famous for its Celtic music, and twelve-year-old Bonnie MacDonald is part of the famous Clan Donnie band.  When Bonnie disappears from a family party, the entire clan is determined to find her, but Monte Collins' daughter Normie has insights that the adults do not--partly because of her place among the younger generation and partly because Normie has a gift inherited from her grandmother.

I read one other Monte Collins novel in 2009 (Cecilian Vespers) and found it interesting for entirely different reasons.  Monte Collins was the main character, the setting was Halifax, and the complications were all involved with Vatican II.   Lament for Bonnie is set in beautiful Cape Breton, Normie is an intriguing young protagonist, and the emphasis is on the highland music.

Read in May; blog rev. scheduled for Aug. 26, 2016.

Mystery.  Sept. 13, 2016.  Print length:   300 pages.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters by Laura Thompson

The Mitford sisters are a strange phenomenon.  Diana married Sir Oswald Mosely, the infamous leader of the British Union of Fascists; Unity was friends with Hitler; Jessica became a dedicated communist; Nancy was a best-selling author; Pamela was more retiring, but married a millionaire scientist; and Deborah became the Duchess of Devonshire.

Laura Thompson's The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters  is well-researched with a lengthy list of sources and gives engrossing details of the collected lives of the "mad, mad Mitfords."  

Daughters of the second Baron Redesdale, the sisters had an unusual upbringing and controversial lives.  Not rich, but aristocratic, sophisticated, bright, and witty--the sisters have retained their fascination through the years.  

There are scandals aplenty, alliances and rivalries, connections with the richest and most aristocratic of England's elite.  Thompson seems both fascinated and repulsed by the behavior of some of the sisters...and perhaps that is what keeps them, after all this time, of such obsessive interest to the public.  With the exceptions of Pamela and Deborah, the sisters have flaws that override their good qualities.  Their behaviors can be dissected and explained, but not forgotten.

I found the prologue discouraging (it will only appeal to someone who already has a good background of the Mitfords), but once the prologue is out of the way, Thompson does a fine job with this collective biography--and it can't be an easy task to try to cover the lives of six individuals, especially with such complex and antithetical beliefs.

A compelling book about the lives of six young women and the turbulent times in which they lived.  It is rather like watching the proverbial train wreck, you simply can't look away.  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Biography.  Sept. 6, 2016.  Print length:  400 pages.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hostage by Kristina Ohlsson

  Hostage by Kristina Ohlsson catches me up on this series.  An intense thriller that is quite different from the other books in this series, Hostage takes advantage of the author's experience as a  "political scientist who has previously worked for the Swedish Security Service and as a Counter-Terrorism Officer at OSCE (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)."

After The Disappeared, the previous book in the series, Fredrika Bergman left the police and joined the Justice Department.  When a series of bomb threats disrupt Stockholm, Fredrika ends up as a liaison between the police, the Justice Dept., and Sapo   In the midst of this investigation comes another complication--a bomb threat to a Boeing 747 heading for New York.

Hostage also introduces Eden Lundell of the Security Service's counter-terrorism unit.  Eden plays a part in the next book as well.  (I read The Chosen, Ohlsson's latest book first, and then went back and picked up the earlier books in the series.)  

A riveting plot that addresses some of the fears of terrorism that exist  for countries world-wide, Hostage has a twist at the end that is a bit unsettling, but realistic.  Ohlsson avoids a definite sense of closure in most of her books.  Life rarely allows endings wrapped tight with a bow, and while Ohlsson prefers to close a specific case, she tends to include a twist implying that sometimes solving a case does not solve the problem.

Some readers were not happy with the switch from purely police investigation to a plot that involves terrorism, but by doing so  Ohlsson opens up the opportunity to introduce new characters and examine contemporary problems.  This is especially true because Sweden has long had a reputation for its humanitarian acceptance of refugees, but in the last few years has begun to face huge problems as cultures and ideologies clash.

Library copy.

Suspense/Thriller.  2012.  trans. 2015.  400 pages. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

From the English Fens to Stockholm...

Killer on the Fens by Joy Ellis.  I've been speeding through this series as fast as NetGalley has offered them.  

A WWII abandoned air field with plenty of superstition attached, a dying father's request, the hope of reconciliation between another father and daughter, and the discovery of a crypt that will keep the medical examiner busy.  

Another entertaining installment from Joy Ellis!

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Police Procedural.  Aug. 5, 2016.  print length:  264 pages.

The Disappeared by Kristina Ohlsson continues another series I've recently discovered.  

Two years before, Alex Recht failed to solve the case of a young woman who went missing, and the case has not let im go.  When a hiker and his dog stumble on a body, Alex is certain that it is that of Rebecca Trolle.  As the site is investigated,  the body of a man buried decades earlier is discovered.  What else might the area reveal?

And what does all of this have to do with a famous author who has refused to speak a single word for 30 years?

Intertwined with the murder plot are events in the lives of Alex, Fredrika, and Peder that have connections to the case.

Perhaps a few too many coincidences, the film club bit didn't quite make sense to me, and the conclusion has an ambiguous feel, but another entertaining police procedural from Kristina Ohlsson.

Library copy.

Crime/Police Procedural.  2014.  344 pages.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

The White Mirror by Elsa Hart

In April, I read Jade Mountain Dragon by Hart and was impressed with Hart's ability to place the reader in the world of Li Du, former royal librarian and current exile traveling the border of China and Tibet.   

When I started The White Mirror, the introductory prologue threw me a little, and I still don't feel that it served a genuine purpose.  However, when the story moved to Li Du and his adventure, I immediately fell right into the story.  

After Li Du's service to the Kangxi Emperor, he is no longer a forced exile, but he has chosen to remain a wandering scholar rather than return to the Imperial library.  And he has his reasons.

He is traveling with the trade caravan he met in the last book.  The caravan heads to Lhasa, but has taken a different route than usual with the intention of stopping at a certain manor.  As they approach the bridge that leads to the manor, it appears that a monk is sitting on the bridge meditating in the snow.  However, as the caravan moves to the bridge, it becomes evident that the monk is dead, prayer beads dangling from his fingers.  His open robes reveal a symbol painted on his stomach, and he clutches a knife that pierces his belly.

The group (including Hamza, my favorite character) is welcomed at the manor, where the snow forces them to delay their journey.  Did the monk commit suicide or was he murdered? Who are some of the other travelers forced to take sanctuary at the manor to wait out the storm?  What intrigues connect Tibet and China?  A lot of secrets remain to be uncovered, and Li Du begins a thoughtful investigation into the monk's death.

As in Jade Mountain Dragon, Elsa Hart creates a rich and beautiful landscape.  Her ability to create images made this mystery feel almost as if I were viewing the various figures in the mountainous region as each moved about his or her own purpose.

This is an excellent series with wonderful atmosphere, intelligent content, and beautiful writing.  Highly recommended.

Read in July.  Blog post scheduled for Aug.  8, 2016

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Historic Mystery.  Sept. 6, 2016.  Print length:  320 pages.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Human Rites by J.J. Marsh

I wasn't sure what to expect from Human Rites by J.J. Marsh when I first started the book.  For some reason, I was afraid it was going to be a cozy mystery.

 As I continued to read, I became more involved with the characters and the plot(s). The book is the fifth installment in a series featuring Scotland Yard D.I. Beatrice Stubbs.

There are two intertwining plot lines.  One is the harassment (that becomes more and more sinister) of Beatrice's gay friend Adrian Harvey.  The other is the case Beatrice is working on involving brutal art thefts of Expressionist paintings. 

 One of the stolen paintings is Salon II by Otto Dix.  I  was unable to find any images of Salon II which went missing during WWII, but the description sounds very similar to Salon I.

1921 The Salon
The Online Otto Dix Project

Expressionist art was considered degenerate by the Nazis, and  "A total of about 16,000 works (mostly confiscated from the best art museums and galleries in Germany, such as the National Gallery in Berlin and the Kunsthalle in Hamburg) were officially deemed degenerate, involving several hundred artists, mainly from Germany."  ( Degenerate Art)
Chagall, Dali, Dix, Ernst, Kandinsky, Miro, Picasso, Egon Schiel, and Kurt Schwitters were among the hundreds of artists considered degenerate at the time.  I ended up looking at the works of a number of German Expressionists whose names were unfamiliar, but who were also mentioned in the novel.
I get so side-tracked!

Anyway, J.J. Marsh's book turned out to be more than satisfactory in a number of ways, and I've already ordered the first in the series.

NetGalley/Cameron Publicity & Mkt.

Mystery/Police Procedural.  July 25, 2016.  Print length:  250 pages.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

July Library Books

Redemption Road by John Hart has lots of good reviews, a high body count, a whole bunch of story lines (that unite, of course), hard to fathom motivations for most of the behavior, torture, dysfunctional families, AND MORE!   

I read the whole thing, sad to say, and only liked one character, a very minor one, and mostly because of his name:  Crybaby Faircloth Jones.

Library copy.

Crime.  2016.  433 pages.

Unwanted is the first in the Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht series by Kristina Ohlsson.  I started this series with The Chosen, a NetGalley offering and the fifth in the series.  I liked it enough to want to read more.  

Unwanted, the first book, introduces the three main characters on the detective squad-- Fredrika, Alex, and Peder-- and provides a good sense of who they are and how each one contributes to the investigation.  If one of the three dominates, it is Fredrika, the lone female member of the team, but the roles of all three are important.  Unwanted is well-written and suspenseful, but just to warn you, the plot involves a character who abducts and murders children.  There are no graphic details and the author handles this well.

If you enjoy Scandinavian Crime, you might enjoy this series.

Library copy.

Crime/Police Procedural.  2009.  363 pages.

Silenced is the second in the Fedrika Bergman and Alex Recht series by Ohlsson.  The new case involves what appears to be a murder/suicide.  The investigation into the deaths of the couple lead to a much more involved situation than initially suspected.  I liked most of the book even better than Unwanted because the character development continued in interesting ways.  I was a little disappointed by the conclusion, however.

I will be getting the third in the series next time I go to the library.  :)

Library copy.

Crime/Police Procedural.  2010.  342 pages.

Monday, August 08, 2016

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Tense and twisty, The Couple Next Door will have you riveted and uncertain from beginning to end.  

  Marco and Anne's six-month-old infant is abducted and their lives begin to crumble.  The parents are distraught, but they are also wallowing in guilt--"shoulda, coulda done some things differently" kind of thing.

Suspicion and deception.  Since parents are always suspect in abductions like this, there are reasons the detective must consider whether the parents are responsible, but as secret after secret is revealed, more possibilities exist than are initially  apparent.

This is the kind of book you speed through, discovering a number of surprises along the way.  A compelling novel with excellent pacing, The Couple Next Door reveals information a little at a time to keep the reader off- balance and guessing--never quite sure of who may be guilty.  

I had trouble putting this one down.  Some things I suspected early, other things were a gradual accumulation of information.  It may hold up less well in retrospect, but as I was reading, I was completely engrossed.

Read in July.  Blog review scheduled for Aug. 8, 2016.


Mystery/Suspense.  Aug. 23, 2016.  Print length:  313 pages.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood is the best book I've read this year.  Loved it!  Bounced back and forth from delight to fearful nervous tension and a sinking feeling in my stomach throughout the entire thing.  With the exception of Titus Andronicus, I've read all of Shakespeare's plays, and although I've always appreciated the wonderful language and multiple quotable lines in The Tempest, the plot has never been my favorite.   Atwood's version has given me much to think about and a completely new appreciation of the play.   

Briefly, Felix is a creative and innovative artistic director whose self-importance and experimentation in staging Shakespeare productions has not always been appreciated, and he has more wild ideas for his upcoming production of The Tempest.  Immersed in his creative work which helps him deal with the death of his young daughter, Felix has abandoned many of the more boring duties of his position  to his assistant Tony.  

Ah, but traitorous Tony has taken advantage of Felix's neglect and has plotted his ouster.  Not only is Felix abruptly and unceremoniously removed from his directorship, but his Tempest will never be produced.

Felix retires to a shabby, isolated farmhouse where he mourns the loss of his beloved daughter and the loss of a career.  And plots revenge.   

What I loved:  Everything.  From the opening prologue that intimates disaster, to the play within the play within the play, to Felix's character development throughout, to the way he approaches teaching Shakespeare to prison inmates, to way the inmates ways of assimilating the universals of the plays, to Miranda's role, to my new appreciation of the original play--just everything!

I have a strange relationship with Atwood's works, some of which have not appealed as much to me as they have to others, although I always find deep pleasure in the way she wields language.  My favorite work before reading Hag-Seed was The Penelopiad, which I adored.

Hag-Seed charmed and delighted me, and after finishing, I pulled out my Complete Works and will be settling in to reread The Tempest with a new perspective and pleasure.  

This is my favorite work of fiction in years.  You don't need to have read The Tempest to love this novel.  You don't have to like Shakespeare to enjoy the plot and the characters.  Yet you will still come away marveling at the genius of Shakespeare and at Atwood's masterful reinterpretation of the tale.

The Acknowledgements at the end include books and films that Atwood found useful which include Julie Taymor's film of The Tempest with Helen Mirren as Prospera and other films and books that I might be interested in checking out.  There is also a section about prison literature that has another list of books that sound fascinating.  And more.  I have a quite a list of possible further reading and viewing.

rev. sch. for Aug. 4, 2016  

NetGalley/Crown Publishing

Fiction/Shakespeare Retelling.  Oct. 11, 2016.  Print length:  320 pages.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Hunted on the Fens by Joy Ellis

Hunted on the Fens

This the third book in the Fens series; I have only read books 2 and 3, but Ellis is now among my favorites in the police procedural genre.  I read Shadow Over the Fens in June and reviewed it early last month.

When DI Nikki Galena returns to work after the death of her daughter, her team is involved in a locked room murder that is proving difficult.

Then a series of incidents begin targeting Galena and members of her team.  The attacks begin with arson, and are all aimed at dismantling the lives of Galena, Joseph, Cat, and Dave.  The attacks, vicious and personal, are complicated by just how much the anonymous enemy knows about each of their lives--what each team member values will be used to hurt them.

A number of comments are included about the way both crime and policing have changed as a result of technology, and we are all aware of how vulnerable governments, businesses, and individuals are to cyber crime.  As wonderful as the internet is in many ways, it also presents dangers no one anticipated.  Pandora's box is open and there is really no way to close it. 

Once again, Ellis turns out a suspenseful, twisty crime novel with intriguing characters that continue to develop.  

A little about Joy Ellis:  "And now I live in a village in the Lincolnshire Fens with my partner, Jacqueline, and our two second generation Springer spaniels. My partner is a highly decorated retired police officer, and my harshest critic when it comes to police and judicial procedure. I have set my crime thrillers here in the misty fens because I sincerely love the remoteness and airy beauty of the marshlands. This area is steeped in superstitions and lends itself so well to murder!" 

I admire authors who can make the setting almost another character, and Ellis' love of the Fens is evident.

Right now you can get the ebook for 99 cents or free with Kindle Unlimited.  If you love mystery/crime/police procedurals, you will enjoy this series.

Read in July; review scheduled for Aug. 3

 NetGalley/Joffe Books

Crime/Police Procedural.  July 22, 2016.  Print length:  302 pages.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott.  Although Kate Elliott has been one of my favorite fantasy authors for years, I had no idea she had begun a YA fantasy series.  

The book is sort of "epic lite" in the very best way and is perfect for its target audience...and obviously, for me as well.  It is not as long or as densely layered as some Elliott's other fantasy series, but characters, plot, tension, and action kept me riveted.

Poisoned Blade is the second in the series, but I didn't realize that when NetGalley offered  it.  I will have to go back and pick up Court of Fives

Elliott creates complex characters and places them is situations that require decisions that test their characters.  Jessamy, a skilled athlete whose initial goal is to become an Illustrious on the Court of Fives, finds that her role as the daughter of a Patron and a Commoner gives both advantages and disadvantages and that she is an outsider in both categories.  Her entire belief system is shattered when a powerful Patron tears her family apart.  

Jessamy must come to terms with both halves of herself and decide what is right in a number of challenging situations and do her best to save her family.  Even though I have not yet read the first book in the series, I can see that Jess' character develops from an immature and slightly annoying girl at the beginning of Poisoned Blade to a young woman who must face some hard facts about herself and her world by the end.

I'm often drawn to secondary characters, and I have a special fondness for Amaya, Jess' sister whose character is remarkably vibrant and compelling.  I want to know more about Amaya; her personality and courage make her especially intriguing.  

NetGalley/Little Brown Books for Young Readers

YA Fantasy.  Aug. 16, 2016.  Print length:  481 pages.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Regicide by David Boyle

Regicide by David Boyle has two unusual protagonists:  Hilary the Englishman and Peter Abelard.  Hilary is a clerk in Holy Orders, but not a priest (an ambivalent situation, neither fish nor fowl); he makes his living as a wandering scholar--feeling guilty about his tendencies toward lust, drink, and gambling.  Peter Abelard, of course, is the brilliant philosopher, scholar, theologian, and logician of the middle ages.   Although both men really existed and the story has a lot of historical references, the plot has to do with the suspicious death of William Rufus, third son of William the Conqueror.  

Hilary has been dismissed from his pleasant situation as tutor after the death of his student Alys.  Full of self-pity and short of money, he meets a stranger and--after having had too much to drink and losing a bet--agrees to carry certain documents to Count Fulk in Anjou. On awakening the next morning, he finds he has not only the documents but a pouch of coins to finance his journey.  

He also discovers that his new friend has been gruesomely murdered.  Afraid that 1) he will be accused and hanged, and 2) that the murderer will come for him, Hilary departs in a panic with the intention of seeking help from his old tutor Peter Abelard.  

The journey moves throughout France, to Jerusalem, and to England as the two attempt to solve the mystery.   When I was in elementary school, I loved the story of Abelard and Heloise, but as an adult, I had to face that story wasn't quite as romantic as it can sound if reduced to a few sentences. The author manages to reveal Abelard's flaws as well as his strengths.  

What I liked:  all the historical aspects.  I knew nothing about William Rufus, other than that his daughter Matilda succeeded him.  There is an interesting tidbit about the Bayeux Tapestry that I had not heard before; the beauty of the Alfred Jewel and a different version of its purpose adds interest; and I had never heard that William IX, Duke of Aquitaine was the first troubadour.   All of the history is woven smoothly into the plot, and I've always been interested in this period, so I enjoyed it.  I was quite busy researching what was accurate and what was plot device.

On the downside: The book felt a little too long and the pacing was uneven. Two or three places were confusing. The chapter headings would name a place and a time, then there were a few paragraphs relating to that place and time, then with no transition or warning there were paragraphs that were about an earlier part of the trip.  I'd be reading along, then suddenly feel boggled--had I missed something?  No, an unannounced time switch.  Further editing of content is needed to take care of this problem by either putting things in chronological order or by letting you know that a flashback is coming.

NetGalley/Endeavor Press

Historic Mystery.  July 22, 2016.  Print length:  356 pages.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

From Fantasy to Historical to Australian Crime

Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia was a fun little adventure and the first in a new series.

In this world magic users are considered dangerous and kept secluded in heavily guarded bastions, only allowed out when they are subdued with hematite cuffs.

There are sentinels who are dedicated soldiers who guard the mages and on occasion take them out to use their abilities for the benefit of the dominant society.

We are not given much information about this dominant society other than it is very hierarchical.  The only information we are given has to do with the sentinels, the mages, and the role of religion.

We know there are 5 tiers to the society, but there is no real information about any of the tiers or about how the society functions outside of the little subset we have with sentinels and mages.

Kali, a crippled mage, is being transferred to Whitewater City by a sentinel escort when they are attacked by bandits who seem transformed into some kind of demonic state.  Kali and the sentinel who guards her manage to escape.  

There is plenty of action and some budding romance.  Another reviewer referred to this first book as a kind of prologue, and I have to agree.  It was fun, but there are more questions than answers.   Hopefully, the next book will provide a more satisfying explanation of why things are the way they are, give a more developed look at the society, and explain what is going on with that second moon.  And I liked it plenty well enough to want to find out more.


Fantasy.  July 14, 2016.  Print length:  292 pages.

The Sculthorpe Murder is the latest in the Stephen Lavender mysteries, and I've liked the two previous books in this series.

Set in 1810, these Regency mysteries feature Detective Stephen Lavender of Bow Street in London and Constable Ned Woods.

Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones, became London's chief magistrate and helped found the Bow Street Runners (considered London's first professional police force) in 1749.  Stephen Lavender is a real historical character who was frequently mentioned in court cases in the early 1800's.  
The Sculthorpe Murder was inspired by two historical cases, and Charlton uses a combination of facts and fiction to allow Lavender and Woods to become charged with the investigation.

Charlton writes mysteries that concentrate on more than just dead bodies and has created two very likable characters in Lavender and Woods.  I look forward to more in this series.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Historical Mystery.  Aug. 30, 2016.  Print length:  318 pages.

Resurrection Bay, Emma Viskic's debut crime novel, is set in Australia.  

What I liked:  the setting -- in both Melbourne and the small coastal town of Resurrection Bay; a protagonist who is profoundly deaf and struggles to understand what others are saying; his ex-wife and her Koori family who give some insight into the struggle of native aboriginal peoples.

There are some humorous moments in this dark novel--but make no mistake, there is a lot of violence.  The story begins with the murder of Caleb Zelic's friend Gary, who was aiding Caleb in an investigation into warehouse robberies.  His partner Frankie is a 57-year-old former member of the police force and an alcoholic who has been clean for several years, but Caleb wonders how trustworthy she is after finding a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Caleb's information is often faulty because he must rely more on reading lips than on his hearing aids, and anyone who is not directly facing him causes gaps and misunderstandings in what is said. Caleb's problems are exacerbated by his unwillingness to admit to his disability; his attempts to appear "normal" cause additional problems when he refuses to ask people to repeat themselves or he appears to be ignoring people who talk to him.

An intriguing novel that sets a fast pace, Resurrection Bay has an original protagonist who is flawed more by his pride than by his deafness.  This is a case of who, as well as why.  The novel has plenty of tension with a mysterious villain, secrets and betrayals, and the uncertainty of who is to be trusted.

NetGalley/Echo Publishing

Crime.  Sept. 1, 2016.  Print length:  231 pages.

Friday, July 22, 2016

I Will Never Catch Up with Reviews...

The Homeplace by Kevin Wolf.  

Description:  Chase Ford was the first of four generations of Ford men to leave Comanche County, Colorado. For Chase, leaving saved the best and hid the worst. But now, he has come home. His friends are right there waiting for him. And so are his enemies.
Then the murder of a boy, a high school basketball star just like Chase, rocks the small town. When another death is discovered— one that also shares unsettling connections to him—law enforcement’s attention turns towards Chase, causing him to wonder just what he came home to.
A suspenseful, dramatic crime novel, The Homeplace captures the stark beauty of life on the Colorado plains.

 A couple of the minor characters and the setting were more interesting than either the main character or the plot.  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Mystery.  Sept. 6, 2016.  Print length:  272 pages.

The King's Traitor by Jeff Wheeler is the final entry in the Kingfountain trilogy.

Owen Kisskadon finally decides that perhaps his oath to King Severn Argentine must be reconsidered.  His new mission to incite war in another province proves the final blow, and Owen looks into his already disturbed conscience.

I've enjoyed this trilogy with its alternate English history and mythology, but this final one seems a bit too conveniently rushed.  This is a series to read in order, but I liked the first two books better than this final installment. 

NetGalley/47 North

Fantasy.  Sept. 6, 2016.  Print length:  386 pages.

The Cross-legged Knight by Candace Robb in the 8th in the Owen Archer series.  This is one of my favorite medieval mystery series because Candace Robb not only evokes the 14th c city of York in such detail, but has managed to create such interesting characters (both fictional and historic) who develop from one book to another. 

The title comes from the legend that knights who have been on a Crusade were often depicted with crossed legs.  As in her previous books, Robb manages to introduce history without being pedantic, as well as plot an intriguing mystery.

I've reviewed several of Robb's novels, and even if this is not my favorite, I continue to love this series. 


Historic Mystery.  Print length:  316 pages.

The Guilt of Innocents, book 9 in the Owen Archer series. Well, sometimes I can't resist "just one more" book in a series.   This fictional mystery was inspired by a real incident, and Robb's imagination involves Owen Archer.

The characters continue to be enriched, especially Alisoun and Jasper, whose roles have enlarged.  Magda could anchor a series on her own.

Robb's ability to draw the reader into the lives of her characters, those who are real and those who are fictional, but who have enough emotional depth to seem real, is one of the strengths of this series.

Because the characters and the events in their lives are so important, it is best to begin this series at the beginning--even if each one can serve as a stand-alone.  

I have only two more books Owen Archer books left to read, so I'm going to resist reading another right now.  I don't want the series to end and want to savor it for longer.


Historic Mystery.  2015.  Print length:  304 pages.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Two Mysteries and Some Snail Mail

The Chosen by Kristina Ohlsson is set in Stockholm, Sweden.  This is the first book I've read in the Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht series, and while I realized that there was a backstory with which I was not familiar, it was not detrimental to the plot.  

A pre-school teacher at a Jewish school is killed by a sniper, and later on the same day, to young boys go missing.  The seeds were sown in Israel decades before, and Bergman and Recht need to discover why two Israeli families emigrated to Sweden.  

A lot of tangled threads in this one and some deliberate misleading, though not exactly red herrings.  I wouldn't mind starting at the beginning of this series.

NetGalley/Atria Books

Nordic Mystery.  First published in 2013; trans. in 2015, 2016.  Print length:  592 pages.

Death Deserved by L.J. Sellers .  I read Deadly Bonds in 2014 and liked the main character, Detective Wade Jackson.  

Jackson's sergeant is hospitalized and in intensive care after being poisoned; two people are shot at a licensed marijuana nursery; Jackson worries about his own health; and plenty of personal complications among the members of the Violent Crimes Unit keep the plot rolling.

I did not like this one as much as Deadly Bonds, but I this is another series that I wouldn't mind catching up on.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Mystery.  July 19, 2016.  Print length: 286 pages.

-------  Mail Art continues, and I keep playing with used tea bags

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Time of Torment by by John Connolly

A Time of Torment is the latest in Connolly's Charlie Parker series.  I don't know why the series is consistently designated private investigator or thriller/suspense and never horror?  The series does feature a private investigator, the books are suspenseful thrillers, but they are also horror and supernatural.  

I like this series in a weird way, kind of like I enjoy the Preston/Child Agent Pendergast books. Outlandish. Bizarre. This series is more brutal than the Preston/Child books, though.  

Maybe I'm a little tired of the strange, evil groups spider-webbed throughout Maine.  The Collector was mentioned and played a superfluous role in the beginning of A Time of Torment, then disappears from the main portion of the novel.   I'm always curious about The Collector, and as scary as he is, I'm not sure I like the direction his role is taking.   

 The story line has to do with Jerome Burnel and how his life has been destroyed when the bad guys exact vengeance for Burnel's act of heroism.  One good deed results in a very long "time of torment" and not just for Burnel.  

 Louis and Angel's roles were minimal, and they are my favorite characters.  I need that comic relief, and A Time of Torment has next to none. Truthfully, Charlie's character is becoming something symbolic, and as it does, I need Louis and Angel even more.

Does this mean I won't be eager for the next in the series?  Nope, even though I liked the last one better than this latest, I'm committed.

Read in April.  Blog review scheduled for 7/13/16.

NetGalley/Atria Books

Suspense/Horror.  Aug. 2, 2016.  Print length:  480 pages.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine takes place in two time periods.  Hetty Devereaux inherits her ancestral home Muirlan in Scotland and decides to visit, hoping to renovate and turn it into a hotel.  She has grown disillusioned with her life and with her boyfriend Giles, and the old family home gives her an excuse to get away.

The house, however, is in dreadful shape, and the man hired to evaluate the situation and give an estimate of cost advises her to tear it down.

In addition to the sad state of the mansion, shortly before Hettie's arrival, a human skeleton has been unearthed.  As Sarah tries to cope with the condition of the house and possible collapse of her plans, she also is curious about whose remains were buried and why.

The last occupant of the house was her distant uncle, Theo Blake, a painter who achieved early acclaim, but whose final paintings were distressing.  Since Blake's death in the 1940's, the grand old home has been unoccupied.    

The story shifts back and forth between 2010 and Hettie's visit and 1910 when Theo Blake brings Beatrice, his young wife, to his childhood home.  Beatrice falls in love with the surrounding area and wildlife, but she is confused as her husband seems to cut himself off emotionally.  

There are quite a few convenient/contrived coincidences, but the book has finely toned atmospheric and Gothic elements.  "What's past is prologue...."

The House Between Tides is Maine's debut novel, but it was first published in 2014 with the title Bhalla Strand.

Read in April; blog post scheduled for July 22, 2016.

NetGalley/Atria Books

Mystery/Romance.  2014; Aug. 2, 2016.  Print length:  400 pages.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Two Mysteries

I still need to catch up on some reviews from June reading.

A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn.  I was not terribly impressed by the first in this series, but I liked this one better.  

Evidently, the publication has now been moved back to 2017, so I will save a review for later.  

Excerpt from the blurb: 

 "London, 1887.  Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an invitation to visit the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women. There she meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Accused of the brutal murder of his artist mistress Artemisia, Ramsforth will face the hangman's noose in a week's time if Veronica cannot find the real killer. "

I'm not sure why the publication date was changed, but perhaps some of my quibbles with content will be ironed out with further editing.  Some of what I found off-putting in the first Veronica Speedwell book has been improved upon in this second book.  Neat cover, huh?

NetGalley/Berkeley Publ. Group

Historic Mystery.  Jan. 10, 2017.  Print version:  352 pages.

Shadow Over the Fens is set in the Lincolnshire Fens, an area the author obviously cares for deeply.  

I haven't read the first book in the series, but evidently DI Nikki Galena's last case was a tough one--requiring her to live in another town in the fens.  Coming home, Nikki feels able to shed some of the hard-nosed image that she acquired in that case.  She is still a tough and competent officer, but she is back in a familiar community.

Even as she settles in, however, a neighbor she cares for commits suicide.  Nikki finds everything about the situation "wrong," but there is no doubt that her friend jumped to his death.

At the same time, her DS Joseph Easterly believes he sees a man from his past and isn't sure if he is imagining it.  

I liked the complexity of the characters and the setting very much.  Joy Ellis has created a situation where the people and the place feel real to me.   Nikki Galena and Joseph Easterly seem to be revealing themselves a bit at a time; at least, from what I read about the previous novel, it appears that Ellis is allowing her characters to grow and develop.

This is a series that I intend to keep an eye on.  :)

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Mystery/Police Procedural.  June 30, 2016.  Print version:  255 pages.