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Sunday, December 08, 2019

A Cry in the Night by Kerry Wilkinson and When You See Me by Lisa Gardner

I've enjoyed this series for quite a while, but admit this one isn't my favorite.  A Cry in the Night lets you know pretty early that something is wrong on Jessica Daniel's team.  You know how when a character you like does something untoward, it can be either easily accepted or cause uneasiness?  Jessica offers 10 pounds to a snitch to let her know when her suspect turns up, and 10 more when he does.  Why did that make me so uneasy?  Because Wilkinson intends exactly that--to create a sense of disquietude.

From description:  "Samuel is fourteen years old. He lives with his mother in a Manchester flat, goes to school, plays on his computer, reads books and likes the same things that most other teenagers do.

He’s also blind.

And he’s the only witness when his mother is attacked in their own home late one night."

The plot was interesting.  A while back I read a couple of books by Andreas Pfluger in which his main character is blind and uses echolocation.  Fourteen-year-old Samuel also uses echolocation and is able to tell the police that there were two assailants, one taller than theother,  and that one moved with a limp.  He also is able to "recognize" people by the same method, which startles Jessica.  She is both impressed and disbelieving and investigates this phenomenon to see how much trust to put into Samuel's abilities.

A second plot thread is both connected and separate.  The underlying awkward tension, however, has to do with a threat to Jessica, not a physical one, but a threat nonetheless.

The conclusion leads to a continuing arc for the next book.  The cases are solved, but the apprehension about Jessica's situation will most likely be the main narrative structure for the next novel.  I really don't like worrying about my favorite characters.  :/

Police Procedural.  Jan. 15, 2020.  Print length:  347 pages.

Lisa Gardner's When You See Me brings together three capable women.  

from description:  FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective D. D. Warren have built a task force to follow the digital bread crumbs left behind by deceased serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. When a disturbing piece of evidence is discovered in the hills of Georgia, they bring Flora Dane and true-crime savant Keith Edgar to a small town where something seems to be deeply wrong. What at first looks like a Gothic eeriness soon hardens into something much more sinister...and they discover that for all the evil Jacob committed while alive, his worst secret is still to be revealed. Quincy and DD must summon their considerable skills and experience to crack the most disturbing case of their careers—and Flora must face her own past directly in the hope of saving others.

Although I enjoyed the D.D. Warren series before Flora Dane was added, Flora Dane has added an edge to the plots.  D.D. and Flora provide a study in contrast: D.D. a dedicated law enforcement officer provides a balance to Flora's vigilante approach.  The two women have gradually come to work well together despite their differences.  I'm also glad to see Keith Edgar, the true crime and computer expert introduced in the previous book, join this investigation.  By creating new intriguing characters and including them in new books, Gardner keeps fresh possibilities for plot lines.  

Read in Oct.; blog review scheduled for Dec. 8.

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Police Procedural.  Jan. 28, 2020.  Print length:  400 pages.  

I've been busy with stitching on my panels for 25 Million Stitches.  I finished the first one and mailed it, and I'm making progress on the second panel.   

first panel (15 x 17"), which I've finished and mailed

I've binge watched the Father Brown series (based on G.K. Chesterton's short stories) while stitching.  I've especially enjoyed the clothing and cars from the 1950's--the hats are a treasure.  If you enjoy cozy mysteries, try this series set in the picturesque village of Kembleford, where an unprecedented number of murders occur!   

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The Murder House by Michael Wood and Archangel Rising by Evan Currie

The Murder House is the 5th in a new series for me.  I'll be going back and picking up earlier books.  
from description:  The morning after a wedding reception at a beautiful suburban home in Sheffield, the bride’s entire family are stabbed to death – in a frenzied attack more violent than anything DCI Matilda Darke could have imagined.
Although this is the 5th in the series, it works well as a stand alone, and the characters are well-fleshed out, complex, and satisfyingly believable.  The plot is used to  develop the characters, reveal their personalities and temperaments and the complications in their lives.

DCI Matilda Darke quickly sums up problems with the crime scene.  She doesn't assume the evidence is genuine.
Even so, her team is somewhat reluctant to disregard the evidence.  

This is an ARC and I noticed a couple of errors that should be easily corrected by publication, but I thoroughly enjoyed Matilda, her team, and the investigation.  I've already ordered the first in the series.  I love finding a series with characters I want to know more about.

Read in November. 

NetGalley/One More Chapter
Police Procedural.  Jan. 31, 2020.   

Evan Currie's two connected military science fiction series continue to keep me reading.  I've read every book in the Odyssey series and the (sort of) spin-off Archangel now has two books.   (Some of my reviews that give background on the Odyssey series.)

In Archangel One "An elite squadron must go undercover behind enemy lines in this thrilling new space adventure from the author of the Odyssey One series."

Archangel Rising, #2 in the series, continues with Captain Steph Michaels and his Archangel team functioning as privateers in the undercover operation to gain information about the Empire.

Action packed, likable ensemble characters.  For militatry science fiction/space opera fans, I would recommend beginning with Odyssey One: Into the Black.

Read in November.

NetGalley/47 North
Space Opera/Military Science Fiction.  Jan. 14, 2020.

Friday, November 22, 2019

A Fatal Assignation, Dark Truths, and No Mercy (and snail mail)

I love getting mail, and I enjoy making my own stationery, postcards, and envelopes.  When I don't make my own envelopes (like the black ones), I have fun decorating them.  Lacking genuine artistic ability doesn't prevent me from creating cartoon characters and collages and using stamps to make fun mail.  

Some are letters, some are postcards.
Some to friends, many to grand kids.
(pics are from my other blog)

I receive some wonderful mail as well, but whether they are decorated or not, the most fun is finding handwritten letters in my mailbox! 

So...I am concerned about the frequent re-occurrence of plans to privatize the USPS.  I'm a frequent snail mailer because I love handwritten letters and postcards.  Privatization of various entities has been hit or miss for the American consumer.  (Prisons for profit are a good example of a bad privatization.)  
"Recommendations like shuttering post offices, reducing delivery days, and relinquishing the sanctity of the mail that mailers and household have come to trust and rely upon are unlikely to be the commercial panacea the task force suggests they may be." Source:  Common Dreams
On to books

Alice Chetwynd Ley (1913-2004) wrote Regency Romance and Mystery novels. A Fatal Assignation is a little old-fashioned but entertaining.

from description:
London, 1816

When Lord Jermyn goes missing, his wife asks scholar-turned-sleuth Justin Rutherford to find him without raising a scandal.

It seems that Justin’s niece, Anthea, was the last person to see the rakish lord — waiting in a secret room in a fashionable dress shop.

But days later, Jermyn is found shot and buried in a pauper’s grave.

While not a favorite in this genre, A Fatal Assignation entertained me for a few hours.

NetGalley/Sapere Books
Historical Mystery.  Nov. 3, 2019.  Print length:  221 pages.

When the body of a jogger is discovered minus her head, criminologist Will Traynor is brought in to aid the investigation.  DI Bernard Watts has enough on his plate having just been returned to an active crime case after working cold cases and still has to deal with new recruit Chloe Judd and with Will Traynor, who is obsessed with finding out what happened to his wife a decade previously.

Although Dark Truths is billed as the first in a series about criminologist Will Traynor; the plot actually has more to do with Watts and Chloe Judd with a sideline of Traynor's distractions on his own investigation into his wife's murder.

I would read the next in the series to see if the focus is on Will Traynor and his abilities as a criminologist.  At this point, I'm not invested, but often the second entry in a series is the one that truly engages my interest.

Read in Sept.; blog review scheduled for Nov. 22.

NetGalley/Severn House
Police Procedural.  Jan. 7, 2020.  Print length:  240 pages.

No Mercy by Joanna Schaffhausen follows The Vanishing Season in which she introduced Ellery Hathaway and Reed Markham.  

Suspended from her job for shooting a murderer, Ellery must attend therapy sessions for victims of violent crimes where she meets Wendy, victim of a rape in which her assailant has not been caught.  Wendy can't resume her normal life as she remains in fear that her assailant will return.  Ellery's suspension means she has limited resources, but she does have FBI agent Reed Markham.

She is also interested in an older woman whose young son died in an arson fire decades ago.  But was the right person convicted of setting the fire?  Ellery has questions.

No Mercy works fine as a stand-alone, so it isn't necessary to have read The Vanishing Season to understand or appreciate the plot.  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Suspense/Thriller.  2019.  Print length:  320 pages.  

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Wrong Girl by Donis Casey

I read a review of this on Kittling Books and was pleased to find it still offered on NetGalley.  Since I've recently had a run of books that ended up in the DNF pile, it was nice to find a book that caught and held my interest.  I haven't read any of the Alafair Tucker mysteries by Casey, but The Wrong Girl was an enjoyable historical mystery.

What is it about? 

A young girl is fascinated by Hollywood and the film industry which is still in its infancy in 1926.  Blanche is fifteen when a predator pretending to be a producer finds her in a small Oklahoma town.  Charming and skilled at the seduction of young women, Graham Peyton persuades Blanche that he loves her and that he can get her into the movies.  Blanche doesn't take a great deal of convincing and agrees to run off with him, but it doesn't take long before Blanche must confront her mistake.

Luckily, Blanche is more than a silly, star-struck adolescent; she has skills from growing up on a farm with brothers and is able to escape a "fate worse than death" and find friends that support and encourage her.  

Withing six years, Blanche becomes Bianca LaBelle whose character Bianca Dangereuse is the adventurous heroine of several silent films.  Blanche has been inordinately lucky in her friendships.  In fact, Mrs. Gilbert and Alma Bolding are a rich part of the story.

Private investigator Ted Oliver has been hired to investigate the death of a man who disappeared five years ago and whose skeletal remains have recently been discovered.  What does this have to do with Bianca and her friends? 

An interesting beginning to a new series.

NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press
Historical Mystery.  Nov. 11, 2019.  Print length: 256 pages.


16 Women Scientists You Should Know

I'm interested in The Library of Ice.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

In the Dark and A Shadow Falls by Andreas Pfluger

Jenny Aaron, part of an elite government group, is shot in the head on an assignment and left blind.  After five years, she returns to the elite group.  OK--first, before losing her sight, Jenny Aaron was legendary for her skills and on returning, she is so good that most don't even recognize she is blind.  So...a little over the top.  

Although Pfluger has researched therapy and rehabilitation for the blind, for Jenny Aaron to be so physically skilled (better than sighted individuals) in the martial arts, etc.--requires suspension of disbelief.  (We really owe Coleridge for that term, which we apply so readily in reviewing.)

Nevertheless, I did accept Jenny's skills for the sake of the story.  The secondary characters are also a bit over-the-top but interesting and well-drawn, especially Jenny's friend Pavlik, a sniper of tremendous skill and patience.

Flashbacks, memories, and dream sequences are interspersed throughout the novel, and the writing is excellent.  


Thriller.  2016.  Print length:  464 pages.

I read this one first because it was an ARC from NetGalley, but strongly recommend beginning with In the Dark since the incidents in In the Dark make understanding the plot in A Shadow Falls much easier to comprehend.  

The man responsible for Jenny's blindness, Ludger Holme, has given her a dubious gift.  Jenny knows that it is a trap, but nevertheless plans to see it through because there is a puzzle she is compelled to unravel.

Accompanied by Pavlik, Jenny goes to Marrakesh to set the ball rolling, realizing the danger, but willing to find out more about her father's death.

Lots of action, more flashbacks, memories, and dream sequences.  Twisting, complex, and ultimately engrossing.

NetGalley/Dover Publications
Thriller.  Oct. 16, 2019.  Print version:  448 pages.

Monday, November 11, 2019

How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid

Val McDermid is one of the best in the business.  Her novels are not the skim-the-surface style of many more recent crime writers, but character driven plots with depth and multiple intertwining threads and themes.

How the Dead Speak is the 11th in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series and an uncomfortable one in some ways, because after their last outing Tony Hill, psychiatrist and forensic profiler, is in jail for manslaughter and Carol has resigned from active police duty.  

How is Tony managing life in prison?  He is writing a book and we get to see snippets as epigraphs to chapters.  Surviving in a prison population is crucial, and Tony does what he can to aid fellow prisoners and to protect himself at the same time.

Carol, who has been trying to keep busy, suddenly finds herself involved with a couple of situations that require her expertise.  Tony's vile mother has asked for Carol's help and a request to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice for the Innocence Project give Carol an outlet for her skills.

The former ReMIT team has a case in which hundreds of bones have turned up when a new development on the grounds of a former convent/girls school.  The bodies date from the time the nuns were running the school some 20-40 years ago,  and if that isn't enough, more recent bodies of young men turn up as well.  Paula McIntire and other familiar characters take the lead in this plot thread.  I'm wondering if they will be mostly on their own in future books.  

A lot going on in McDermid's latest Tony Hill/Carol Jordan installment!

Read in July; blog review scheduled for Nov. 11.

NetGalley/Grove Atlantic
Police Procedura/Crime.  Dec. 3, 2019.  Print length:  480 pages.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Trying to Catch Up on Reviews

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher was a provocative and slightly uncomfortable book for me.  Three women, one "husband."   How can I sympathize with a woman (Thursday) who chooses to marry a man who continues to live part of the time with his ex-wife and then adds a third woman (with her apparent approval)?  The women live in separate homes and don't know each other, but they know of each other. Each loves "her" husband and each would prefer to have him to herself, but have agreed to the polygamous relationship.

The implicit rules are that you never meet the other wives.  But what if circumstances arise that make your curiosity too powerful to resist?  Interesting premise.

A coincidence provides Thursday the name of one of the other wives.  Now she must seriously examine her commitment to the arrangement she agreed to.  

But not all is as it seems and how reliable a narrator is Thursday?

In the end, I didn't care much for The Wives.  The first half was intriguing, but for some reason, my interest dimmed in the latter half, especially since I could never quite believe in the situation and behaviors.  Note:  I am certainly outvoted on Goodreads.  Most folks loved it.  

Psychological Thriller?  Dec. 30, 2019.  Print length:  336 pages.  

In 2018, I read two books by Gretta Mulrooney and enjoyed them, so when NetGalley offered the first in a new series by Mulrooney, I was pleased.

DI Siv Drummond, still grieving over the loss of her husband, finally decides to get back to work.   Her new job thrusts her immediately into a double murder, and she hopes she is ready.

A photo of a child left on one of the bodies provides the only clue.  The killer left no other evidence for Siv and her team to work with.  The interviews with the husband of the murdered woman and and her coworkers leave questions and quite a few interviews are interspersed with lies or omissions.  

In much the same way as the previous books I've read in Mulrooney's other series, These Little Lies focuses on the investigation, the interviews, the lies and deceptions.  Mulrooney also begins developing the characters that will carry into the next Siv Drummond book--a nice beginning to a new series.  

NetGalley/Joffe Books
Police Procedural.  Nov. 5, 2019.  Print length:  284 pages.  

Dark Crimes (DI Sophie Allen #1).  I read Silent Crimes by Michael Hambling and liked it, so I went back and picked up the first book in the series.

A young woman is murdered on her way home from work, and the autopsy reveals evidence of past abuse.  Initially, the case seems straight-forward, but when the victim's mother is discovered murdered in her home, the investigation becomes more complicated.

Sophie Allen is an unusual main character because she is happily married, supportive of her team, clever and insightful, lacking in the flaws that often accompany the protagonist in this genre.  How good she is may be a tad overdone in this first book in the series, but otherwise, the plot and characters were well done.

Police Procedural.  2013.  Print length:  281 pages.

Silent Crimes is the eighth book in Michael Hambling's  series, but the first book I read--after reading it, I picked up Dark Crimes, the first book.  And yes, I'll be catching up on the other books when I can.

Silent Crimes works well as a stand-alone.   Jade Allen, DCI Sophie Allen's daughter, has been keeping an eye on a homeless man and his dog.  When the man doesn't show up for several days, she seeks him out in a wooded area where he sometimes camped--and finds his body.

Other than his first name, Jade knows little about the man.  There is no identification on him, and the police have a difficult time even finding his surname much less a motive for his murder.  However, someone had been around asking about a tramp fitting his description before he disappeared.  Who was he trying to avoid and why?

Piecing together the man's identity and background and why he left a profitable job to live off the grid is a slow process for Sophie Allen's team, but eventually a connection is made to a former commune and a missing woman.  

 My favorite kind of mystery is the gradual unraveling of information, and Michael Hambling does this well.  While waiting for the next book, I can catch up on previous entries in the series.

NetGalley/Joffe Books
Police Procedural.  Oct. 30, 2019.  Print length:  229 pages.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Boundary Haunted by Melissa F. Olson

The Boundary Magic series is so much fun.  The series is a spin-off from the Scarlett Bernard series, but I began reading this series first, and then went back and picked up the Scarlett Bernard series.

Allison "Lex" Luther is an army veteran who doesn't realize she is a witch until vampires attempt to abduct her niece in the first book Boundary Crossed.   She has a lot to learn.

I reviewed the first four books here.

In Boundary Haunted, Lex is still recovering from her last adventure in Wyoming when Maven, Lex's boss and cardinal vampire of Boulder, CO, asks her to head to Atlanta and help out that city's cardinal vampire.  

Beau Calhoun is a Civil War veteran and a vampire with some boundary witch blood.  Unlike other vampires, he can see ghosts, the Unsettled, and someone has been making them disappear.  Beau wants Lex to find out what is happening to the Unsettled and to protect his great-great-grandniece Odessa.  

Of course, things go wrong and get complicated because, you know, mixing up witches and vampires and werewolves can result in havoc.  

Start at the beginning of this series with Boundary Crossed, and if you are a fan of Urban Fantasy, I think you'll be hooked.   

Read in Oct.; blog review scheduled for November 4.

NetGalley/47 North
Urban Fantasy.  Dec. 3, 2019.  Print length:  317 pages.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

In Her Eyes by Sarah Alderson and The Old Success by Martha Grimes

A home invasion is a terrifying thought and many novels have made the most of the idea.  

Sarah Alsderson's In Her Eyes takes the event of armed men breaking into a home and the serious injury of Ava's daughter June and turns it into something else.  It moves from the invasion to the aftermath as Ava discovers information that stuns her. 

Devastated, Ava finds herself doubting almost everyone around her as she learns about things she never suspected.  Then someone targets June in the hospital.
Who to trust?

I suspected one person after another.  Each new circumstance introduced a possible reason for the violent invasion and raised new questions.

Alderson skillfully guides the reader through Ava's discoveries, keeping both the reader and Ava off-balance.  Well-plotted, red herrings and twists, and suspenseful.

Read in July.  Blog review scheduled for Oct. 29, 2019.

NetGalley/Mulholland Books
Suspense/Thriller.  Nov. 14, 2019.  Print length:  352 pages.

Martha Grimes' Richard Jury novels all have the title of a pub (one exception, Vertigo 42 is a wine bar) and a unique and eccentric group of returning characters.  The mysteries focus on puzzles rather than violence, almost always have a child and an animal, humorous episodes, and witty conversations.  

They are more fun if you have some familiarity with some of the secondary characters because looking forward to the brief appearances of the Long Piddleton crowd is always fun.  

The main characters are Richard Jury of Scotland Yard and Melrose Plant his friend and foil.  The books are usually considered cozy mysteries, but they are more literary, character-driven, and complex than most cozies.

The Old Success is not my favorite, but I wouldn't miss joining Jury and friends on any new adventure--it is always a pleasure.

In 2012, Martha Grimes was awarded the title of Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, joining such notables as Agatha Christie, John le Carre,  Elmore Leonard, Barbara Mertz, Tony Hillerman, and P.D. James (and many other great mystery writers).

Read in July.  Blog review scheduled for Oct. 29.

NetGalley/Grove Atlantic
Mystery/Police Procedural.  Nov. 5, 2019.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Lethal Pursuit by Will Thomas and a Little About the Tennessee Black Market Scheme

The Prime Minister enlists Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewellyn to return a satchel containing a controversial gospel to the Vatican's emissary.  The agent who brought the document to England from Germany has been murdered, but his satchel containing the document has been recovered by the government.

England doesn't want the document, fearing an exacerbation of its situation with Germany.  An obsessive collector of an Austrian count would wants it as part of his collection.   The Vatican wants it returned posthaste.  

Cyrus Barker, however, delays getting the document to the Vatican's representative who grows ever more threatening.  Barker's delay puzzles Thomas, and the situation is getting dicey.   

For his own reasons,  Cyrus continues to keep the document from the Vatican's emissary, angering the Prime Minister, the Police Commissioner, the Vatican representative and endangering himself and Thomas.

from description:  "With secret societies, government assassins, political groups, and shadowy figures of all sorts doing everything they can—attacks, murders, counter-attacks, and even massive street battles—to acquire the satchel and its contents, this small task might be beyond even the prodigious talents of Cyrus Barker."

Of course, questioning Barker and Llewellyn's dedication is ill-advised... and underestimating the pair is reckless.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Historical mystery.  Nov. 12, 2019.  Print length:  320 pages.


Lisa Wingate's Before We Were Yours novel (fiction based on fact) has led to Wingate teaming up with Judy Christie and publishing Before and After:  The Incredible Real Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived The Tennessee Children's HomeIt is estimated that 5,000 children were part of the black market scheme.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders

I saw this cover over at Editing Everything, and I was lucky enough to get the ebook from NetGalley.  (Thanks, Verushka for the heads up.)  Update:  evidently I didn't see the cover on Verushka's blog.  If you have has a post on book covers recently including the Poppy Redfern cover, let me know.  

Tessa Arlen also writes the Lady Montfort series in which Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson, her inimitable housekeeper, solve murders in the early 1900's.  Since I've enjoyed that series, I was happy to give Poppy Redfern a try.

The book opens with the final stages of Poppy's training to become an Air Raid Warden, giving a view of how those subjected to the nightly bombings in London managed to get to safety during an air raid.

The wardens had a range of duties, such as advising local people on air raid precautions and enforcing the night time ‘blackout’ to ensure no artificial lights were visible from the air. During a raid, wardens were responsible for monitoring and reporting bomb damage, and for helping to coordinate the response of other civil defence services. Source 

Having completed her training, Poppy returns to her small village and begins her nightly rounds checking to see that the blackout rules were being followed.  Previously, a small country village wouldn't have attracted much attention, but the recent installment of an American air base increased the possibility of an attack.

The arrival of the Yanks created some hostility in the village because local girls began dating the young men.  When two young women who had been dating Americans are murdered, the anger and distrust increases.   An American airman is arrested and held on base, but Poppy isn't sure that the American is guilty and joins an American pilot in a little investigating.

When a third young woman narrowly escapes the same fate, Poppy's private investigation becomes more serious--and dangerous.

Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders provided interesting historical information, appealing characters, and an enjoyable mystery.  The guilty party isn't too difficult to figure out, but the wartime adventure was nevertheless a pleasure.

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing
Historical Mystery.  Nov. 5, 2019.  Print length:  320 pages.

On the subject of the Blitz, this site has some amazing photos.   

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Cast Iron by Marilyn Todd

Cast Iron, the second in this series featuring Victorian photographer Julia McAllister, takes up where the first book left off--with Julia preparing to leave and begin a new life.

When the house across the way burns down, Julia takes in the two annoying little old ladies who have been left homeless.  She's planning to leave on the next train anyway and has cleared all evidence of the naughty pictures she has taken to keep her independence.  

An accident on the train line and a request to photograph the details of a crime scene, prevent her escape.  

As Julia photographs the body of the murdered woman, she notices things that Inspector Collingwood wouldn't be aware of:  the condition and quality of the woman's clothing, the movement of the body, the importance of the missing hat.  Julia has a woman's perspective, an artist's perspective, and a past victim of abuse's perspective that the police lack.

Although her dream is to travel and take pictures of the wild places in the world, Julia also has an interest in the French use of crime scene photography, and Inspector Collingwood is smart enough to take advantage of a crime scene photographer and a woman's perspective.  Julia's sympathy for the unidentified woman leads her to do some investigating on her own.

And Julia has a secret of her own that she is desperate to hide.

Snap Shot, the first in the series, introduces the characters and background, but Cast Iron can be read as a stand alone.

NetGalley/Sapere Books
Historical Mystery.  Oct. 20, 2019.  Print length:  221 pages.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Pretty Folly and Strangers at the Gate

A Pretty Folly by Charlie Garratt is the second in a series set just prior to the outbreak of war in 1939.  Although there are a couple of mentions to the previous book's mystery, this one works as a stand-alone.  

Inspector James Givens is Jewish, but doesn't practice, although he is very close to his parents.  Assigned to stop the attack on Jewish businesses in Coventry Givens interviews the victims and searches for the perpetrators.  Then a case closer to his home in Kenilworth divides his attention.

The body of a young woman is discovered in the ancient crypt of a chapel on the grounds of a charity school.  The body has been laid out in a staged manner and the conditions of the crypt preserved the body, but who she is and when and how she died presents problems.

I liked the setting with all the tensions of the period before England enters the war and the traditional style of the writing and investigation.  Givens is an interesting character, and I look forward to more in this series.

NetGalley/Sapere Books
Historical Fiction.  Oct. 7, 2019.  Print length:  268 pages. 

Catriona McPherson's books have consistently chilled and intrigued me.  Strangers at the Gate makes the fifth of her intense mystery/thrillers that I've read.  Each one is a stand-alone, which is unusual for such a prolific writer.  

Strangers at the Gate proves the old axiom "Too good to be true."

Paddy's new job results in a new job for Finn, and the rent free gate house on the boss's estate is an added bonus.  Paddy is enthusiastic, Finn less so, but when opportunity knocks, turning down so many advantages proves too difficult.

Simmerton is located in a valley and the mountains that surround it make sunlight brief; combined with the lack of sunlight, Finn is uncomfortable with the oppressive atmosphere of the surrounding woods.  

Shortly after moving in, Paddy and Finn are invited to have dinner with Paddy's boss and his wife.  The Dudgets, Lovett and Tuft, live in a grand dower house called Widdershins, a short walk through the woods from the gate house.  Finn is reluctant to go, but once there, she has a surprisingly good time.  Tuft is irrepressible and funny, and Finn enjoys the evening.  

As Paddy and Finn are walking home after the dinner, Finn realizes she has forgotten her bag.  The two return to find that in the short time they were gone, Lovett and Tuft are dead.  Finn tells Paddy to call the police, but he persuades her to wait until the return to the gate house where they discuss their shock and horror.  We also discover why Paddy would rather not call the police at all and why Finn finally agrees.

As they wait for the deaths to be discovered by someone else, the strain on Finn and Paddy increases.    

Was it a suicide or murder?  The suspense and twists increase when an email from Lovett to his office was after the time Paddy and Finn found the couple dead.  Finn makes some too rapid assumptions about what has happened and there are a few connections that don't feel coherent, but I was glued to the pages until the end ignoring a few details (or lack thereof) that bothered me.  McPherson is a master of suspense, and I was along for the ride.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Suspense.  Oct. 22, 2020.  Print length:  368 pages.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

I read Jewell's I Found You in 2017, and The Family Upstairs , and I liked this one, too.

from description:  You thought they were just staying for the weekend. They looked harmless enough – with only two suitcases and a cat in a wicker box.

But soon things turn very, very dark. It happens slowly, yet so extraordinarily quickly.

Now you and your sister must find a way to survive…

"The baby is back."  Twenty-five years ago, the deaths of three adults in a mansion worth millions looked like the suicides of cult members.  The only survivor-- a well-cared for baby in a crib.  But where are the other four children? 

Now, on her 25th birthday, Libby learns she has inherited the mansion in Chelsea and discovers that what she thought she knew about her birth parents is all wrong.  

But Libby isn't the only one who has been waiting for this day.

The short opening prologue introduces a mysterious narrator.  Chapter I introduces Libby.  Chapter 2 introduces Lucy and her children in France.   In Chapter III, the mysterious narrator reveals himself as Henry, one of the four missing children. Back and forth from character to character and from present to past and back again, the novel begins to unravel, slowly and skillfully, developing the characters and revealing the sinister events that led to the deaths and the disappearance.

The writing and characters set this book apart from the crowd of similar books.

Read in June.  Blog review scheduled for Oct. 14.  

NetGalley/Atria Books
Psychological Suspense/Mystery.  Oct. 29, 2019.  Print length:  464 pages.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Books for Kids of Any Age

I have a weakness for children's books, sometimes for the text, sometimes for the illustrations, and especially for those books with both.  Recently, I've ordered three (for gifts, but I get first read and enjoyment).  

Ordered in September, this delightful book
about love and friendship.  First published in 1965
and such perfect examples of what makes a friendship so wonderful.
I think I may order more of this one.  They are small
and affordable and perfect for an anytime gift for any age.

I Like You

Arriving yesterday:

Theophile Alexandre Steinlen loved cats and
sketched, painted, sculpted, and made posters of them.
The Artist Who Loved Cats

 One of Steinlen's famous posters.  1905

Written and illustrated by Lark's sister and brother-in-law,
If Monet Painted a Monster is almost as much fun as
the Newbold's If Picassa Painted a Snowman, which I bought
a couple of years ago as a gift, and kept for myself.
It is now part of my Christmas decorations.

One of my favorites is this take on Hopper's famous Nighthawks.

Some Halloween  Books for Kids

from picture books to chapter books to middle grade and teen

I have this one from when Bryce Eleanor was small.

I reviewed The Black Witch in 2017.

Now I must resist ordering more.