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Friday, April 19, 2019

Tick Tock

Tick Tock by Mel Sherratt is the second in the Grace Allendale series, although I have not read   Hush Hush, the first one.

from description:

TICK…
In the city of Stoke, a teenage girl is murdered in the middle of the day, her lifeless body abandoned in a field behind her school.
TOCK…
Two days later, a young mother is abducted. She’s discovered strangled and dumped in a local park.
TIME’S UP…
DS Grace Allendale and her team are brought in to investigate, but with a bold killer, no leads and nothing to connect the victims, the case seems hopeless. It’s only when a third woman is targeted that a sinister pattern emerges. A dangerous mind is behind these attacks, and Grace realises that the clock is ticking…
Can they catch the killer before another young woman dies?

For Grace and her team there is little to go on--but for the reader, the anonymous voice that appears in occasional interspersed chapters offers some clues.

Are the murders the work of a copy cat (that killer is in prison), a new serial killer, or something else entirely?  There is a fresh concept in this one, and the reader is allowed to glean some information from the chapters with the anonymous female voice that appears in certain chapters.

Read in March; blog review scheduled for April 19.

NetGalley/Avon Books UK
Crime/Police Procedural.  May 2, 2019.  Print length:  385 pages.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Prisoner of Midnight by Barbara Hambly

Barbara Hambly's Prisoner of Midnight is the eighth book in the James Asher series.  While the series is billed as James Asher, Lydia Asher often plays an equal or larger part, as does the vampire Don Simon Ysidro.

The series begins with Those Who Hunt the Night, which I admit still remains one of my favorites in the series.

In this latest book, Don Ysidro has been drugged and taken captive and is being shipped to America.  Lydia joins the voyage to find him, and to either free him or kill him, whichever becomes necessary.

Not my favorite in the series, but an interesting twist at the end that makes me eager for the next book.

Read in January; review scheduled for April 17.

NetGalley/Severn House.

Fantasy/Vampires.  May 1, 2019.  Print length: 256 pages.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Bones of the Earth, Girl Most Likely, Shattered Dreams

Bones of the Earth by Eliot Pattison. I read the first book in this series when it first came out nearly 20 years ago, and although sadly I've missed some of the more recent installments, Pattison's Inspector Shan series is one of the best series out there.  Beginning with The Skull Mantra in 2000, the series ends with Bones of the Earth , the 10th and final book in the series.  

Inspector Shan, a disgraced Beijing investigator, was sent to a Chinese gulag in Tibet in the first book.  Shan is horrified by the treatment of the Tibetan monks and intrigued by the courage and calm acceptance the monks exhibit.  In each successive book, Shan's situation improves as he proves himself a skillful investigator and useful to Colonel Tan.

In Bones of the Earth, Shan witnesses the execution of a Tibetan, then finds himself investigating the deaths of an American woman and an archaeologist, and realizes that the executed Tibetan was not guilty of corruption, but a witness to the murders of the woman and the archaeologist who were trying to prevent the destruction of a Tibetan holy site.  As usual, Shan is in a precarious situation as he attempts to bring the guilty to justice.

While I'm sad to see this series end, I'm happy that the conclusion provides a sense of hope for Shan and the people he loves.  I was pleased to see a couple of characters from earlier books make reappearances.  And I loved Tara, the goat!

This is an excellent series with characters the have depth and dimension, complex mysteries and investigations, and exemplary research and knowledge of Tibet and its people.  

Highly recommended.  To understand why Eliot Pattison writes about Tibet.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Mystery/Crime.  March 26, 2019.  Print length:  352 pages.




Max Allan Collins' Girl Most Likely has received mixed reviews on Goodreads (from 2-5 stars).  It starts with a brutal murder told in the first person, and the murderer voices his concerns about his next victim(s) in several other chapters.  Who and why?

Set in Galena, Illinois, much is made of the Scandinavian roots of Krista Larson, the young woman police chief of Galena.  There is an awful lot of "virtue signaling," a phrase I've not heard of before, but was actually in need of for a recent novel.  Thanks to reviewer Glen for providing me with the perfect way to describe an author's tendency to keep pounding the characteristics of a good character as if I needed constant reminding.

There are WAY too many details of clothing, which irritated me as well.  Yes, clothing details can be revealing, but details for every item, for almost every character feels like filler.

OK, Krista must discover the guilty party among her former classmates when a murder during their ten-year reunion occurs. 

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer
Crime/ Police Procedural.  April 1, 2019.  Print length:  272 pages.  

I was hoping for something in the line of Craig Johnson's book, but Shattered Dreams and it's protagonist Sheriff Virgil Dalton didn't fulfill that hope.  On the other hand, the reviews in Goodreads at this point are all 5 stars, so I'd suggest that it just wasn't a good fit for me.

Shattered Dreams annoyed me with the constant references of how good a character was (because once wasn't enough for me to understand) and with dialogue that turned into philosophical musings rather than conversation (because everyone I know talks like that). Thankfully, Glen's term of "virtue signaling" is perfect.

Obviously, the series is loved by many readers, but not every book fits every reader, and I'll stick with Craig Johnson and Longmire for my western mysteries.

NetGalley/Beyond the Page Publishing
Crime/Western.  March 22, 2019.  Print length:  297 pages.

------------National Letter Writing Month--------------
a mix of letters and postcards





Wednesday, April 10, 2019

April Reading and Writing

I've been reading such a variety of books lately:  fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, mystery, history.

Zora and Langston is proving a much slower read than I would have thought.  There are so many interesting elements about the Harlem Renaissance, about Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes and their backgrounds and their writing that I find it strange that I keep putting it down and reading something else.  Maybe it is that creepy vibe concerning Charlotte Osgood Mason, their patron, that puts me off.  Maybe it is that I know Zora and Langston's friendship will end badly.  Maybe it has something to do with details that slow down the narrative, i.e. concerning the trip through the South.  



Vow of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson was great fun, after I finally settled in.  Dance of Thieves, the first in the series, was a fantasy full of action and suspense with well-drawn characters, and Vow of Thieves was as good or better.  I'm working on the review which will be scheduled for closer to the publication date in August, but I loved this YA fantasy.







If you are interested in WWII, The Liberation of Paris by Jean Edward Smith is one of those nonfiction histories that wouldn't let me read slowly.  Usually nonfiction is a slower process for me, but the way Eisenhower, De Gaulle, and Von Choltitz managed to keep Paris from being destroyed was fascinating reading.  Hitler wanted Paris "defended to the last man" and the city left in rubble, but thankfully the destruction of the city was avoided by some serious maneuvering on the parts of three men.  (Not without the help of others.)

I've written and scheduled this review, but for those interested in WWII, I highly recommend it.

Candace Robb's A Conspiracy of Wolves is as good as her previous books in the Owen Archer series set in the 14th century.  Her research is impeccable, and her characters, plots, and writing make her one of my favorite historical mystery writers.  






These are my favorites so far this month; there have been a couple of others that were good.
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This is National Letter Writing Month and National Poetry Month, and I've been writing letters and reading poetry.  Well, I do some of both every month, but this month I'm trying to do more.   I've also included some excerpts from song lyrics on some of my mail because I do think Paul Simon is a poet.  You can find April's first outgoing mail at Bayou Quilts.

And since I found some Will Rogers postage stamps, using quotes from Will Rogers illustrates how little people and politics have changed: 

“Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people that they don't like.” 

“I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”






Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer

Dreyer's English was everything I expected from the reviews and more.  It was educational, interesting, and funny--unlike the case with most grammar and style books.  

Not at all fond of "grammar jargon," Dreyer makes the case that reading is the best way to learn grammar, syntax, and usage.  Not that he is discarding all rules; he is steadfast in his belief in many of them, but he is also aware of the importance of an author's individual style and the way the language is changing.  Dreyer's wry, witty approach to clarity and style finds him sometimes reversing himself with no apology.  

He upholds my own thoughts about the Oxford--or series--comma ("Only godless savages eschew the use of the series comma"), the use of fragments, the occasional comma splice or split infinitive, and the awkwardness of attempting to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.  He includes the quote attributed to Winston Churchill:  Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put. 

And (yes, you can begin a sentence with "and") the footnotes are often even better than the text.  

I believe I may need a physical copy of this one.  As both a reference and a pleasure.  (fragment noted)

NetGalley/Random House
Grammar/Style.  2019.  Print length:  291 pages.  

Friday, March 29, 2019

Boundary Magic Series by Melissa F. Olson

Boundary Magic series

Boundary Crossed by Melissa F. Olson is an urban fantasy full of action and suspense, witches, werewolves, and vampires.  Did I like it?  

Well enough to gobble the next three books in a matter of days.  Is it for everyone?  Probably not, but I enjoy urban fantasy and all of the concomitant creatures that are usually found in the genre.

Opening line:  "The third time I died was early on a Monday morning, a week after Labor Day."

Allison "Lex" Luther, an army veteran, feels compelled to protect her niece after Lex's twin sister is murdered.  The story opens with a bang when Lex realizes her niece has been kidnapped and in her attempts to stop the kidnappers, she is killed.  When she come to, she realizes she has miraculously survived (again), and she discovers that the reason she survived is because she is a boundary witch; learns there is an Old World of witches, vampires, and werewolves; makes a deal with the cardinal vampire; and takes lessons in witch magic.

This first book does a lot of world building and character introduction, but it engaged me immediately.  

Urban Fantasy.  May 2015.  Print length:  322 pages.

Boundary Lines, book 2 in the Boundary Magic series, has Lex trying to adjust to her new understanding of the Old World and her recently acknowledged witch powers.

Magic goes haywire, two vampires disappear, a magical snake-like creature is eating folks, and Lex and Quinn are assigned by Maven to investigate.  Lex interviews the ghost of a boundary witch (who owned a brothel in another century) to get more information about ley lines.

Although the local clan of witches are not very accepting of Lex (understatement), her friendship with Simon and Lily continues to grow.  There comes a point that means the three Old World creatures must unite to overcome the present danger.

Another fun adventure that has humor, suspense, and action-packed scenes.

Urban Fantasy.  Oct. 2015.  Print length:  304 pages.

Oops--Lex's father shows up, and he's...nope not going there, it would be a spoiler, but we do learn more about Lex's background.  

Vampires are being poisoned by a deadly Belladonna strain.  Who is the real target?

I like the way the characters work together; there are friendships that Lex can count on and even the different races often have to put aside grievances at times.

Urban Fantasy.  July 2016.  Print length: 290 pages.







"The times they are a-changin' " in two ways in Boundary Broken.  One--the book begins two years after the previous installment, and Two--changes are in the forecast for the way the Old World and the three races relate to each other.

A figure from a previous book reappears (this was not unexpected), and an insurgency is in the making.  

Actually, several characters from previous books make an appearance, and the hint of a new, unknown enemy left me happy to expect another book in the series. 

Urban Fantasy.  March 2019.  Print length:  347 pages.




If you enjoy Urban Fantasy, this may be a series you would enjoy.  I certainly have been glued to the "pages" of all four books.  I do recommend beginning with the first in the series with the caution that it could be addictive.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Lost History of Dreams and Perfect Crime

The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr has a Gothic ambiance.  

from description:  A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future, in this captivating debut novel in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale.


The book has elements from some of the best Gothic tales and a vibe of Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher.

Waldherr skillfully develops a wonderfully creepy atmosphere.   The author is certainly familiar with the plots and styles of the best known Gothic novels, but the characters don't feel as authentic.  

Read in January; blog review scheduled for 3/27/19.

NetGalley/Atria Books
Historical Fiction/Gothic.  April 9, 2019.  Print length:  320 pages.



Perfect Crime by Helen Fields is #5 in the DI Luc Callenach series.  I'd read the first two before reading this one, but not books 3 and 4, so there have been advances that I wasn't aware of concerning DCI Ava Turner and Luc's relationship.

When a young man is talked out of suicide, but a week later is body is found and the initial reaction is that he finally succeeded Ava has some questions.  As other strange (and grotesque) deaths occur, the connection between them appears to be that at some point they considered or attempted suicide.

There is also a storyline connected to Luc's past.  

What I like:  the characters--Ava is my favorite.  I also like the development of secondary characters throughout the series and the original premises and investigative process in the books I've read.

Dislike:  I'm not really fond of the bizarre and/or freakish murders, but I will still try to catch up with books 3 and 4.

Read in January; blog review scheduled 3/27/19.

NetGalley/Avon Books
Detective Fiction.  April 18, 2019.  Print length: 400 pages.

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Death in Chelsea and At Dark of the Moon

A Death in Chelsea by Lynn Brittney, the second in the Mayfair 100 Murder Mystery series, named for the telephone number 100 Mayfair for the crime-fighting group based in Mayfair in 1915. 

I read Murder in Belgravia, the first in the series last year and enjoyed it.  Chief Inspector Peter Beech has assembled an unusual team that (gasp!) includes women. 

A society gossip columnist has been found hanged in her room.  The death isn't a suicide, as first suspected, and the fact that Adeline Treborne's defamatory and scandalous column has maligned some wealthy and powerful people means that the suspects are plentiful.

This book has the same strengths and weaknesses as the first book:  an interesting plot and well-researched details...and characters who are a bit too good to be true.  

 Nevertheless, it was entertaining, and I would read the next in the series.

NetGalley/Mirror Books
Historical Mystery.  March 14, 2019.  Print length:  326 pages.



Written in 1977 and set in 1804, At Dark of the Moon has a little espionage and a little romance.  

from description:  It had changed her life overnight. From her drab, unpromising post as governess, lovely Emma Harcourt was catapulted into a daring scheme of espionage. Suddenly she was an actress posing as the wife of Rupert Wynford, a perfect stranger.

I'm a bit of a sucker for governess novels, and this was a light, quick read.  On the other hand, it does feel old-fashioned and formulaic, not nearly as interesting as the blurb made it sound.

NetGalley/Sapere Books
Historical Fiction.  March 10, 2019.  Print length:  352 pages.


Friday, March 22, 2019

Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel by James Markert and Murder Served Cold by Eric Brown

Beautiful cover, strange book.

description: For years, guests of the Tuscany Hotel could leave their pasts behind and live among fellow artists. Now guests of a different sort fill the rooms, searching for their memories—no matter the cost.

A lot of Greek mythology in this one, something I usually love.  However, although crucial to the story, I found the mythology a bit over the top.  The book fits the magical realism genre, mixing miracles and muses and myth.  Some books are really hard to review, I'm going for Lark's haiku review style:


Lost your memory?
Visit Tuscany Hotel
Remember the past.

Didn't love it, but...

Read in December; blog post scheduled for March 22, 2019.

NetGalley/Thomas Nelson
Fantasy/Magical Realism.  April 9, 2019.  Print length:  352 pages.


Murder Served Cold is part of a series by Eric Brown that takes advantage of the popularity of more traditional mysteries like those of the 1920's and 30's.  Brown sets the story in the post-war British countryside of the 1950's.  

The novel borrows much from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction style, but has the slightly more modern (if still historical) setting of post-war Britain.  

A country house converted to a sort of boarding house as a result of huge estate taxes, an odd-lot of permanent guests, a missing painting, and of course, a murder.  The series features Donald Langham and Ralph Ryland as private investigators, who are hired to find the stolen painting. They solve that conundrum fairly quickly by finding the painting, but not who took it.  Add a little blackmail and murder and a couple of cocktail hours.

I liked Langham and Ryland and thought they felt genuine for the time period.   Brown did a good job with the 50's setting and the "vintage" writing  style.

In addition to this series, Eric Brown also writes science fiction (for which he has won several awards) and children's books.

Read in December; blog post scheduled for March 22, 2019

NetGalley/Severn House
Mystery.  April 1, 2019.  Print length:  208 pages.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

This and That

In 2016, I read The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters by Laura Thompson.  Six sisters whose lives continue to fascinate the public.  An interesting recent article about Nancy and Diana:  Nobody Betrays You Like Your Sister provides more provocative details.

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  I've been reading Dreyer's English in between reading my fictional escapes, and I'm finding it both informative and entertaining. :)

from description:  "As Random House’s copy chief, Dreyer has upheld the standards of the legendary publisher for more than two decades. He is beloved by authors and editors alike—not to mention his followers on social media—for deconstructing the English language with playful erudition."

I love that he upholds the Oxford (or series) comma!
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April is National Letter Writing Month and the Write_On campaign, and I've been making a supply of envelopes and postcards to send.  Yes, the crafty part of me loves making envelopes and postcards and decorating them.  I also love writing letters, and of course, receiving them!  

Letters of Note by Sean Usher has wonderful letters from famous and ordinary people that cover the range of human emotions.
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These book covers are so gorgeous!  Follow the link for more examples.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

A Merciful Silence by Kendra Elliot


The series can work as a series of stand-alones because each book contains a completed plot--nevertheless, I recommend beginning with the first book (A Merciful Death) to get the background on Mercy Kirkpatrick and the prepper philosophy that she can't quite escape.

After a torrential rain, the skeletal remains of five people are revealed.  An echo of the murders of two families twenty years previously calls into question whether the right person was arrested at the time.  The similarities are too apparent to dismiss.  Was the wrong man convicted all those years ago or is this a copycat?

Mercy must connect with the only person who survived the earlier murders--a young woman who, as a child, was left for dead and who can't remember the night her family was murdered.

Kendra Elliot has landed on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list multiple times and is the award-winning author of the Bone Secrets and Callahan & McLane series, as well as the Mercy Kilpatrick novels: A Merciful DeathA Merciful Truth, and A Merciful Secret. Kendra is a three-time winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award, an International Thriller Writers finalist, and an RT Award finalist. She has always been a voracious reader, cutting her teeth on classic female heroines such as Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Laura Ingalls. She was born, raised, and still lives in the rainy Pacific Northwest with her husband and three daughters, but she looks forward to the day she can live in flip-flops. Visit her at www.kendraelliot.com.

I continue to find this series suspenseful and engrossing, and I look forward to more.


Defund Libraries?  NO!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Who Slays the Wicked (Sebastian St. Cyr) by C.S. Harris

C.S. Harris' Sebastian St. Cyr makes another appearance in Who Slays the Wicked.  I've been following this series forever, and in addition to the mysteries, I usually learn something about the time period as well.

When Lord Ashworth is found viciously murdered, there is little sympathy to be found.  The handsome, debauched young man had earned a reputation for debased behavior, and the only one who appears to mourn his death is his father.

Sebastian, however, understands that what is generally known about the young man's behavior is only the tip of the iceberg.  Although he was never able to connect him to the crimes in a previous case, he has no doubt that Ashworth was involved.  

Evidence from the bloody crime scene suggests that the killer was a woman, and Sebastian fears that perhaps his niece, who is married to Ashworth, may be the culprit.  

But Stephanie is only one possibility.  Sebastian and Bowstreet magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy have a number of suspects; after all, Ashworth had plenty of enemies.  Then Ashworth's valet is found stabbed to death in an alley, a street crossing boy disappears, a young prostitute is murdered, and Ashworth's long-time friend murdered.  As despicable as Ashworth was, Sebastian needs to find his killer, if only to prevent an innocent person from being held to account.

Hero, Sebastian's wife, plays only a small role, but it is Hero who reveals most of the historic details from the period.  Hero is a social activist and is writing an article about the pure finders, rag and bone men, and night soil collectors. 

Rag and Bone Men -- These bone-grubbers, as they were sometimes known, would typically spend nine or ten hours searching the streets of London for anything of value, before returning to their lodgings to sort whatever they had found.[5] (source: Wikipedia)

2. PURE FINDER
Despite the clean-sounding name, this job actually involved collecting dog feces from the streets of London to sell to tanners, who used it in the leather-making process. Dog poop was known as "pure" because it was used to purify the leather and make it more flexible [PDF].  (source: Ten worst jobs in Victorian Era)

18th-century London nightman's calling card
Night soil is a historically used euphemism for human excreta collected from cesspools, privies, pail closetspit latrinesprivy middensseptic tanks, etc. This material was removed from the immediate area, usually at night, by workers employed in this trade. Sometimes it could be transported out of towns and sold on as a fertilizer. (source:  Wikipedia)

Hero's interviews with those who survive by performing these jobs gives a much more human touch than simply reading the factual accounts of what the jobs entailed.

Once again, I've enjoyed the characters and the plot of a Sebastian St. Cyr novel and gained a more personal view of Regency England.   

Read in December; blog review scheduled for March 13, 2019.

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing

Historical Mystery.  April 2, 2019.  Print length:  352 pages.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Descendant of the Crane is as fascinating as the cover.  A fantasy set in a fictional Asian world with a complex plot and characters that captivate with their flaws and their strengths.  

The world-building has both a historical and modern perspective with complicated political contrivances.  The relationships among the characters are particularly interesting with secrets and agendas that are not always shared.  

When Princess Hesina's father dies, she is elevated from princess to queen of a large kingdom with plenty of problems.  Hesina also has questions about her father's death.  She is certain he was murdered, but by whom?  

In desperation, Hesina visits a soothsayer, a treasonous act, but one that may give her the means of having her father's death investigated.  

I thoroughly enjoyed Descendant of the Crane and found the characters complex and sometimes surprising and the writing vivid, weaving the threads of family, tradition, myth, and politics a little at a time so that the reader sees the intricate pattern gradually.  

Listed as YA, the book is certainly appropriate for that age group, but as with all good stories Descendant of the Crane appeals to anyone who wants a well-written tale about intriguing characters in perplexing situations.  Hesina's determination will reveal truths she doesn't like, and she is forced to take side-steps and to make concessions, but nothing will prevent her in her ultimate goal.

Read in December, blog review scheduled for March 12, 2019.

NetGalley/Albert Whitman & Co

Fantasy/YA.  April 2, 2019.  Print length:  400 pages.


Monday, March 04, 2019

Winterman by Alex Walters


Although I've never read anything by Alex Walters before, I enjoyed Winterman, the first in a proposed new series.

The opening sequence, set in 1940, establishes a bit of the backstory. The novel then moves to the period shortly after the war.

In 1947, having offended some of his superiors, DI Ivan Winterman is sent to the Fen District in East Anglia.  In postwar Britain, there is a shortage of everything:  manpower, food, fuel for transportation, coal for heating.

 Effectively exiled , Winterman finds himself in an understaffed police station in a small village.  The area has previously been known for mostly small time offenses, and Winterman expects little involvement with serious crime. 

Shortly before Winterman's arrival, however, the body of a child, dead for years and preserved by burial in the Fens, is discovered.  There is no record of a child having gone missing in any of the neighboring villages and the body is unidentified.  The situation is curious, but does not seem urgent...

Until the body of a second child in similar condition shows up.  As a blizzard sets in, bringing the coldest winter conditions on record, the body of a third child appears.  Someone has unearthed the bodies and displayed them.

If the bodies of the three children were not enough in this  remote area in the midst of a blizzard, two grown men are murdered and a constable disappears.  In short order, Winterman finds himself dealing with a truly freakish situation--three old murders, two recent murders, a shortage of backup, weather that is further isolating, characters who may or may not be trustworthy, and secrets that someone wants exposed.  Who were the children and why is there no record of them anywhere?  

The setting is visual and cold!  The isolation of the villages and the austerity of postwar Britain make the weather conditions a crucial part of the narrative.    

NetGalley/Bloodhound Books
Crime/Mystery/Historical.  Feb. 26, 2019.  Print length:  470 pages.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Last Woman in the Forest

The Last Woman in the Forest  by Diane Les Becquets.

Marian Engstrom works with a group that uses rescue dogs to detect scat that indicates species abundance and distribution.  The process allows for monitoring threatened or endangered species around the world.  

On an assignment to northern Alberta, Marian falls in love with Tate.  When they are on separate assignments, word arrives of Tate's death.  Marian is devastated, but as she becomes aware of inconsistencies in Tate's life, she finds herself with questions concerning the unsolved murders of several women.

Needing to have her questions answered and put to rest, she contacts a retired forensic profiler to clear her unwanted suspicions.  The pov shifts between Marian and Nick Sheppard, the profiler hired to resolve Marian's doubts.

The information about training and working with dogs used for conservation purposes is fascinating.  Marian's innate connection with dogs and Nick's deep relationship with his wife add to the depictions of the two main characters.  The suspense is a slow burn, and although you may suspect some of the twists, the novel is compelling.

This is the second novel I've read recently concerning dogs trained to detect scat for conservation purposes.  Christine Carbo's A Sharp Solitude also has a scat detection dog as an important plot element.

Crime Novels about Working Dogs  I haven't read any of these books, but will be keeping them in mind.  The list doesn't include The Last Woman in the Forest, A Sharp Solitude, or Margaret Mizushima's series featuring Robo, but does offer some interesting possibilities featuring working dogs.  

I also intend to look for Les Becsuets first novel Breaking Wild.

Read in September, 2018; review scheduled for February 25, 2019.  

NetGalley/Berkeley Pub.

Suspense.  March 5, 2019.  Print length:  352 pages.  

Friday, February 22, 2019

Her Father's Secret by Sara Blaedel

I read The Undertaker's Daughter by Sara Blaedel last year and liked it.  

Unlike her Louise Ricks series, Blaedel has set her Ilka Jensen series in Racine, Wisconsin instead of Denmark .  When Ilka was about seven, her father abandoned his family in Denmark and moved to the U.S. where he started a new family.  Ilka never came to terms with the desertion of her beloved father.

When he died, Paul Jensen left his funeral home to Ilka, and she flew to Racine to finalize the estate and maybe find out more about her father.  The first book details her meeting with her father's new family (who reject her) and the problems concerning the sale of the funeral home. Oh, and a disappearing corpse and a decade old murder.

In Her Father's Secret, Ilka  continues to face difficulties involving selling the funeral home.  Worse, there is so little money available that even getting through pre-paid funerals is a challenge.  Ilka has found blackmail letters to her father from a woman named Maggie; someone is following Ilka; a feud between two wealthy and influential men becomes more threatening; Ilka's half-sister is seriously injured and her horses stolen; a woman is killed in a home invasion; and a boatload of uncomfortable and dangerous family secrets make this book much more suspenseful than the first book.  

A couple of unexpected twists at the end make me eager to read the next book.

NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing
Mystery/Suspense.  Mar. 5, 2019.  Print version: 320 pages.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Boys Who Woke Up Early by A.D. Hopkins

In the little Virginia mountain town of Early in 1959, high school juniors Stony Shelor and Jack Newsome get involved in adventures sometimes humorous and some times very serious.  

from description:  Jack draws Stony into his fantasy of being a private detective, and the two boys start hanging around the county sheriff’s office. Accepted as sources of amusement and free labor, the aspiring gumshoes land their first case after the district attorney’s house is burglarized. Later, the boys hatch an ingenious scheme to help the deputies raid an illegal speakeasy and brothel. All the intrigue feels like fun and games to Jack and Stony until a gunfight with a hillbilly boy almost gets them killed. The stakes rise even higher when the boys find themselves facing off against the Ku Klux Klan.

 I really liked this one:  the writing, the characters, and the plot.  Stony and Jack are friends with completely different personalities, but who complement each other in this story of growing up in the late 1950's in the small town of Early.  There are many episodes that illustrate the different time frame yet evoke timeless situations and there is a current of suspense that works with the overall theme.  

Reading like a memoir, The Boys Who Woke Up Early is an engaging novel that captivated my interest early and held it throughout.

Read in January; review scheduled for Feb. 19.

NetGalley/Imbriflex Books
Coming of Age.  March 3, 2019.  Print length:  256 pages.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

What if you discovered that someone had been writing in your diary, adding comments connected to your own entries?  What if one of your friends had been recently murdered when you discovered the strange entries?

English teacher Claire Cassidy has been researching the life and works of R.M. Holland, the reclusive Victorian writer,  and teaches at the school located on Holland's estate.  When her friend and colleague Ella is murdered, a note with a line from Holland's most well-known work is discovered at the scene.  

If this were not disturbing enough, the notes that begin to appear in Claire's diary are in the same handwriting.

From the beginning, this eerie novel with Gothic overtones and allusions creates a feeling of unease and uncertainty.  

Without revealing anything, I will note that there was one situation that I found bothered me, but aside from that, the novel kept me glued to the pages, doubting one character after another, and it was not until the author wanted the reader to figure things out that the villain of the piece was clear.

The Stranger Diaries was surprising in several ways, and I loved the Gothic ambiance, the three narrative voices, the connection to the fictional R.M. Holland, and the fact that I didn't solve the puzzle until Griffith's was ready.

The sinister and spooky ambiance was both unsettling and fun--in keeping with a modern Gothic.

The book is a stand-alone, but I'd like to see Elly Griffiths continue this Gothic mystery style or at least give DS Harbinder Kaur another case.

Read in November; blog review scheduled for Feb. 18, 2019

NetGalley/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Mystery/Gothic.  March 5, 2018.  Print length:  416 pages.