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Friday, April 20, 2018

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza is the first in a series featuring DCI Erica Foster.  There are now six books in the series.

After the death of her husband, DCI Erica Foster is back in a new position.  In fact, she hasn't even found a place to live when her first case begins to take over her life.  

The prologue introduces the victim, her abduction and murder.  A few days later, a young man stumbles on the body of the young socialite in a frozen pond.  Erica has just arrived and hasn't even had time to take her suitcase to a hotel before she must visit the crime scene.

Erica is a strong woman and a capable detective, but she is still dealing with the trauma of her husband's death and her own sense of guilt and responsibility.  Nevertheless, she begins making friends and allies as she initiates  her investigation.  Unfortunately, there is also an officer who wants to see her fail and her superior officer doesn't provide consistent support.   

The victim Andrea Douglas-Brown is the daughter of a millionaire with political clout.  There are similar murders that Erica believes associated with the case, but they are of young immigrant prostitutes, and the powers-that-be don't want a connection that might sully the Douglas-Brown family.  

It is easy to cheer Erica through her challenges and to appreciate the cast of characters that support her in her battle to find the killer despite the opposition from the family and her own department.  

Read in March.  Blog review scheduled for April 20.  

NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing

Police Procedural.  Originally published in 2016; April 24, 2018.  Print length:  396 pages.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey

If you enjoyed The Girl with All the Gifts, you will enjoy M.R. Carey's The Boy on the Bridge set ten years earlier.  It is not as fast-paced, but the third person omniscient narrator gives fascinating insight into  the internal thoughts, opinions, and secrets of each of the major characters.

Although Samrina Khan and Stephen Greaves share the limelight as dominant characters, the novel is something of an ensemble cast.  Twelve people, a mixture of military and scientists and one adolescent boy, are sent out from Beacon in the armored vehicle/science lab named the Rosalind Franklin.  Their mission is to find something that will enable humans to survive the hungries, those infected by the Cordyceps plague.  Is there any place where the plague is inhibited by environment?  Any way to develop a cure or vaccine?  

In the close confinement of Rosie, the armored vehicle, tensions mount, personalities clash.  Month after month, the crew faces down hungries, takes samples, perform experiments in the lab, but fail to find any positive information to fight the Cordyceps pathogen, which unchecked, will mean the end of the human race.  

I don't want to say much more because I liked reading it without any spoilers or preconceived ideas.  The book works perfectly well as a standalone.  If you've read The Girl with All the Gifts, you already have insight into the world Carey has created, but it isn't necessary to understand or appreciate The Boy on the Bridge.  

The structure and archetypes are similar to the previous novel, the style is terse and analytical (well, you are privy to the thoughts of military personnel and scientists, not writers or artists),  yet even these these left-brain characters occasionally have their moments, and Carey includes some vivid descriptions of  setting.  I liked the present tense omniscient pov that gave insight into the reasoning of each of the characters, whether I liked the character or not.  

And then there is an epilogue.  Another excellent installment in this dystopian world, and I want more.

Read in January; blog review scheduled for April 17.

NetGalley/Orbit Books

Science Fiction/Dystopian.  May 2, 2018.  Print length:  392 pages.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd

Dead Girl Running is a strange amalgam of intriguing premise and plot holes.  Another book with a backstory inserted bit by bit into the main plot, Dead Girl Running had me alternating between suspenseful sections and confusion because not everything quite fit together.

I have three confessions to make:

1. I've got the scar of a gunshot on my forehead.
2. I don't remember an entire year of my life.
3. My name is Kellen Adams...and that's half a lie.

After a prologue that didn't appeal to me, I became involved with the characters and plot, only to pull up sharp several times with a "huh?"  Nevertheless, the suspense kept me intrigued until the last 20% of the book that just got too weird.

Read in Oct.; blog review scheduled for April 13, 2018


Mystery.  April 24, 2018.  Print length:  368 pages.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blue Moon Gardens

We took a trip to Blue Moon Gardens in Texas. They grow their own plants at Blue Moon Gardens so the plants are always in excellent condition.  An added benefit is that they often have plants that I can't find in local nurseries.  

Last year my prize was the pygmy Japanese Maple like this one on their web site:

 Mine pygmy maple isn't as mature as the one above, but nearly a year later, it is coming along.  Unfortunately, the guy who trimmed the shrubs in the fall trimmed up the pygmy maple, too!  It is nice and bushy instead of airy and open :(

 This year we found another Japanese maple that I love, complete with open and airy appearance.  It came home, too. 
Where will it go?  It was already in a heavy pot.
Need to be sure before straining our backs again to put it in place.

We brought home some other plants as well--including two milkweed plants and a firecracker plant--both will attract more butterflies and humming birds.

Since losing the three huge birch trees, we are having to rethink some elements in the garden to deal with more open space and more sun.  Pros and cons to the situation.

When I tire of working in the garden, I'm decorating envelopes and postcards for National Letter Writing Month.  I try to include lines of poetry on each piece of mail to celebrate National Poetry Month.  Matching poems to envelopes or postcards and vice versa can be fun, but it can also be challenging.   

I wanted to use the lines from this Sylvia Plath poem because Mila likes Plath, but I had no idea how to decorate the envelope.  I looked online and at Pinterest for ideas, before I remembered that I had a stamp in my stash with a pagoda!  Perfect.  
from Bayou Quilts, my other blog
On occasion, I actually clean house  and do laundry.  Household chores are not this month's priority, however.  There are more important things to consider, both inside and out.  :)

Sunday, April 08, 2018

The Knowledge: A Richard Jury Novel by Martha Grimes

I've been reading Martha Grimes' Richard Jury series for years.  Her book titles are the names of real pubs in England, but the appeal is mostly in her quirky characters.  Her latest installment is titled The Knowledge, a pub known only to London cabbies.  Although her previous books are based on real places, this one may not be.  If there is no real pub called "The Knowledge," there should be.   

My interest in this one was piqued by "the Knowledge"--"The Knowledge is a series of tests which must be passed by all black cab drivers before they can get a licence to work in the capital.  Black cabbies must study some 320 routes and 25,000 streets and get to know them all by heart. 

They also memorise roughly 20,000 landmarks and places of public interest, from tourist destinations to museums, parks, churches, theatres and schools.

The process typically takes between two and four years to complete and has been described as like having an atlas of London implanted into your brain.
Black cabbie hopefuls must then pass a written test and a series of oral exams before they can get their licence."  (source The Sun)
Early studies have shown that the brains of London black cabdrivers had larger-than-average hippocampi.  New research shows that "that London taxi drivers not only have larger-than-average memory centers in their brains, but also that their intensive training is responsible for the growth."  (source The Scientific American)

OK--enough digression.  This latest Richard Jury novel involves cab drivers and a rag tag bunch of kids who help solve the murder of a young couple.  
from the description:  Robbie Parsons is one of London’s finest, a black cab driver who knows every street, every theater, every landmark in the city by heart. In his backseat is a man with a gun in his hand—a man who brazenly committed a crime in front of the Artemis Club, a rarefied art gallery-cum-casino, then jumped in and ordered Parsons to drive. 
With the murderer as a passenger, Parsons surreptitiously signals other black cab drivers and then the kids get involved in keeping track of the killer's escape.  Later, Jury enlists the aid of Melrose Plant (my favorite character, although he doesn't get as much play as I'd like) and Marshall Trueblood in an attempt to solve all of the twists and turns of the case.  

You must be prepared to accept a less than realistic characterization of the kids, but as usual, Grimes' latest Richard Jury novel is a whirlwind of crime-solving and fun.

Read in February; review scheduled for April 8.

NetGalley/Grove Atlantic

British Detectives.  April 13, 2018.  Print length:  662 pages.  !? I can't believe it was so many pages--I sped through it!

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay

Our Little Secret is a dark love story, a fairy tale, but less Disney and more Grimm.  Well-written, slippery, and engrossing.  I did not "like" it, yet pretty much read it in one sitting.  As I sat with Angela Pettijean whose nick name is LJ or Little John (from her last name) in the interview room, I was uneasy from the beginning.  

Angela is surprised to find herself being questioned by Detective Novak when Saskia, the wife of Angela's former boyfriend goes missing.  In order to respond to Novak's questions, Angela insists on telling her story her way, beginning ten years previously.  

The story is convoluted.  Love and loss.  Jealousy and betrayal. Poor decisions.  Anyone who reads the news knows that while they may not understand the labyrinthine twists of human behavior, people do strange, impractical, personally destructive things.  

Angela is certain that when Novak understands the way events have unfolded during the past ten years, he will understand and believe her.  But will he?  He allows Angela to tell her story, but obviously doesn't trust her.  Angela's version is the only one we hear, and even as she presents her story, the jealousy is evident.  Saskia interfered with her life, and Angela frankly acknowledges it. trust Angela or not?  And if Angela is not responsible for Saskia's disappearance, who is?

Roz Nay doesn't waste anything; she wraps up this gripping novel in fewer than 300 pages and still tells a complex tale in which none of the characters come off particularly well.  A promising debut from a talented writer.  

Read in February.  Review scheduled for April.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Psychological Suspense.  April 17, 2018. Print length:  272 pages.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Two Reviews and Other Stuff

Are you familiar with Web Sleuths?  I first read about these online amateur sleuths who are involved in solving missing persons and cold cases in a Kathy Reichs novel a couple of years ago.  These armchair detectives have solved a number of crimes or found the identity of "Jane or John Does" and have made the news frequently.  (Boston Globe, BBC, Washington Post)  There are evidently a few online groups with this mission.

When NetGalley offered My Little Eye in which a group of internet true crime enthusiasts take on a serial killer in London, I was eager to try another fictional look at online crime solving.  

From book description:  A young woman is found dead in her bedroom surrounded by rose petals - the latest victim of 'The Lover'. Struggling under the weight of an internal investigation, DI Dominic Bell is no closer to discovering the identity of the killer and time is running out.

As the murders escalate, Clementine Starke joins an online true crime group determined to take justice in their own hands - to catch the killer before the police. Hiding a dark secret, she takes greater risks to find new evidence and infiltrate the group.
As Starke and Bell get closer to cracking the case neither of them realise they're being watched. The killer is closer to them than they think, and he has his next victim - Clementine - firmly in his sights.
The first in a projected series by Stephanie Marland (who also writes as Steph Broadribb), My Little Eye introduces the reclusive Clementine Starke and DI Dominic Bell, who will presumably continue to collaborate in future books.  

I liked 
--the premise involving the online sleuths.  
--Clementine's thesis concerning cuts to police departments and the possibility that civilian online groups might help solve crimes more quickly.

Not so much...
--I found some of the online group interactions puzzling, too antagonistic, or so controlling that I wouldn't have been eager to join them.  It's fiction, but I would have preferred more online camaraderie that could be continued in the next book.
--Serial killers have become a little overdone.  In fiction, most serial killers are attractive or charming and intelligent.  In real life, the majority seem to be not so bright-- and brutal-- without the rose petal stuff.  I'd love to know how many mystery/crime novels feature serial killers.  I know it is a lot.

I wonder what the next installment will be like....  I will give it a try, hoping for more of the web sleuthing.

Read in February.  Blog review scheduled for April 3.

NetGalley/Orion Publishing

Mystery/Thriller.  April 5, 2018.  Print length:  352 pages.

Blood Secrets by Gretta Mulrooney is the second book in her Tyrone Swift series.  Ty is asked to investigate a cold case from fifteen years earlier in which a teenager was so severely beaten that he remains little more than a breathing body.

As in the previous book, there is a case that works as a standalone and a continuing story arc involving Ty's personal life.  

As Ty investigates the sad case of Teddy Bartlett, he uncovers a number of curious circumstances and secrets.  The interviews with individuals who knew Teddy fifteen years ago, both family and friends, gradually reveal some unexpected avenues.  More than one dysfunctional family and relationship in this book, including the problems that are developing in Ty's personal life.

Kindle Unlimited.

Mystery/Detective.  2016.  Print length: 247 pages.

Garden -- I'm suffering from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).  It's a real thing (!) and most people have experienced it, especially after unusual exercise.  Digging, trimming, planting, then a day or two later...I can hardly bend over to pick up the book I let slip to the floor.  Once I've bent over, coming back up involves a slow, creaking motion.  

Letters--April is National Card and Letter Writing Month and National Poetry Month.  I'm gearing up to send more letters and postcards this month.  

Mushrooms--I'm still making fabric mushrooms.  I think I may need a new crafty project, but these are fun to make while I watch Netflix or Dramafever shows.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Two by Gretta Mulrooney

NetGalley offered Low Lake (the 5th book in a series featuring PI Ty Swift) by Gretta Mulrooney.  I read and enjoyed it, then checked out the first in the series which was available through Kindle Unlimited.  :)  

The Lady Vanished Tyrone Swift worked for the Met, then for Interpol before deciding to open his own PI agency.  When the unpleasant Florence Davenport hires Swift to find her missing stepmother Carmen Langborn, he realizes that Davenport's interest has more to do with a possible inheritance than with concern for the older woman.

The police have gotten nowhere on the case.  There is no body and the woman has previously taken trips without getting in touch with anyone, but this time Carmen made no arrangements for someone to care for her beloved cats.  

Neither Florence nor her brother have genuine concern for their stepmother, but after months with no word, they believe her to be dead.  And Florence doesn't want to have to wait years for her share of the estate.

The book focuses on the investigation as Swift does the slow work of questioning various people about Carmen and her activities.  This is not an action-packed plot, but one of slow accretion of details.  Secrets emerge that could blow the family apart.

Favorite character--aside from Ty Swift--is Cedric, Ty's elderly upstairs tenant inherited from his Aunt Lily.  Ty also develops a fondness for Carmen Langborn's housekeeper, who has taken it upon herself to continue her basic housekeeping duties and and to care for the cats.  

Having read the most recent release, I already had some knowledge of the characters introduced in this first in the series.

Kindle Unlimited/Joffe Books

Mystery/Detective.  2015.  

Low Lake is the most recent book in the series featuring PI Tyrone Swift.  

Ty is asked to investigate a drowning death from two years earlier.  Did the young woman--who had an overwhelming fear of water--have an epileptic seizure and drown accidentally?  Or was there more to the situation?

Kim was a complicated young woman with a traumatic past.  Few people seem to have truly liked her and  a few actively hated her.  Her recent interest in archaeology had given her long-range goals and an enthusiastic interest in all elements of archaeology--from the digs, to the historical aspects, to conservation and museum exhibits.  

Ty feels some empathy with the dead woman in spite of her many flaws.  As the case proceeds, a young man is murdered, and Ty feels his own responsibility for the young man's involvement in the case.  Other aspects of Ty's life are fraught with grief and complications.  The case takes a few unexpected turns as possible reasons for Kim's death emerge.

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Mystery/Detectiv.  March 22, 2018. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Guilty Ones and Imperfect Memories

The Guilty Ones is the 4th in the DI Rowan Jackman and DS Marie Evans by Joy Ellis.  Why do I enjoy Ellis' books so much?  It has much to do with the ensemble casts that Ellis creates for both this series and her DI Nikki Galena series.  I am at home now in the Fens and with either DI's team.  The characters are familiar, and I enjoy their sense of commitment to each other.  

That feeling of familiarity with characters in a book is similar to the reason I like certain television series.  I like the folks who inhabit the stories, and although the cases and problems are different each time, there is a sense of comfort when rejoining the characters in each new episode or new book.  

When Jackman's sister-in-law commits suicide, circumstances are too close to home.  Why would a happily married woman who adores her children do such a thing?

This one gets a bit elaborate, but kept me engrossed throughout.  The conclusion leaves an opening for a story-arc to be continued.

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Mystery/Crime.  March 14, 2018.  

Imperfect Memories (The Temporal Shift Series Bk 1) by Jody Wenner is an odd book, but one that kept me steadily reading...and wondering.

A bomb explodes in a local coffee shop.  Nina's husband and daughter are among the dead.  A senseless act of terror, but the perpetrator is caught and sent to prison.  

Nina is unable to come to terms with the incident and the loss of her husband and daughter.  She begins having nightmares, difficulty sleeping, gaps in her memory.  Which is odder that it seems because Nina is one of those rare individuals who remembers everything.  She has hyperthmesia, a neurological disorder that enables to her remember with remarkable detail the events in her life.  

As she feels her self unraveling, she approaches the man responsible to get answers.  Who can Nina trust if she can't trust herself?  

A strange book that left me wondering what is really going on.  The conclusion is sort of a "to be continued," as one thing is wrapped up, more questions arise.  A fast read.  I'm in for the next one.


Mystery/Suspense.  Feb. 16, 2018.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Murder at Half Moon Gate by Andrea Penrose:  A wealthy lord who happens to be a brilliant scientist . . . an enigmatic young widow who secretly pens satirical cartoons . . . a violent killing disguised as a robbery . . . Nothing is as it seems in Regency London, especially when the Earl of Wrexford and Charlotte Sloane join forces to solve a shocking murder.

I read the first in this series last year, but I think this latest novel shows definite improvement in developing plot and characters.  

NetGalley/Kensington Books

Historical Mystery.  March 27, 2018.  Print length:  304 pages

Dead Fish started off very well.  Dr. Geoffrey Quinn is arrested for the murder of his wife.  Authorities suspect his children are dead as well, but no bodies have been found.
Allison hope takes Quinn's case, but she isn't sure if she believes him and is certain that he is holding something back.

Unfortunately, as the book became a bit convoluted with red herrings and shocking crimes, the original promise did not hold up for me.

NetGalley/Thistle Publishing

Crime/Legal.  March 29, 2018.  (First published in 1999) Print length:  376 pages.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Lock 13 by Peter Helton and Mind of a Killer by Simon Beaufort

Lock 13 by Peter Helton:  Bath, England. When his life drawing model disappears without trace, painter-sleuth Chris Honeysett uncovers evidence of a dangerous conspiracy. 

Hmmm.  If you are interested in narrow boats and the canal system in England, you will enjoy this rather unusual mystery.  I did enjoy it and was interested in the narrow boats, which I've always found a romantic part of England's past and present. Sometimes amusing and often unexpected, especially Honeysett's narrow boat new found friend on the canals.

Read in Dec.; blog review scheduled for March 12.

NetGalley/Severn House

PI.  April 1, 2018.  Print length:  224 pages.

Mind of a Killer by Simon Beaufort.

Alec Lonsdale writes for the Pall Mall Gazette in London, 1882.  After once again having an interview canceled about the London Zoo, Alec happens on a tragic house fire.  He joins the crowd and asks a few questions.  Patrick Donovan's body is eventually recovered from the fire.  A young whore approaches Londsale and tells him that this isn't the first death and that they are not accidents.

Curious, but cautious, they arrange a meeting for the following night. Lonsdale attends the post-mortem and both he and the doctor are shocked that Donovan was not only murdered, but that his cerebrum has been excised.  Now, Lonsdale is definitely intrigued and plans to meet the woman that night.  He arrives too late;  the woman and her companion are dead and Lonsdale himself is attacked.

The police are reluctant for Londale and his colleague Hulda Friederichs to print anything about the story and discourage any further investigation.  

A tale of Victorian crime and mystery populated by many real characters of the era and with reference to many cases pulled from the headlines.  The plot of the narrative is fiction, but suspenseful and engrossing with intriguing characters, both real and fictional.

Of interest to me were the episodes with Sir Francis Galton, "Sir Francis Galton, FRS was an English Victorian statistician, progressive, polymath, sociologist, psychologist, anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, and psychometrician. "  (Wikipedia)

His presentation in the novel was a combination of hubris, unintended comedy, and general unpleasantness.  Although familiar with his name and with several of his accomplishments, I'd never read anything about the personal life of the man.  I've ordered a biography that promises to explain his remarkable accomplishments and hopefully, how the man himself (aside from his work) was viewed by his contemporaries.  

A compelling historical mystery, Mind of a Killer introduces an appealing protagonist in Alec Lonsdale set in a Victorian world of scientific advancements.

Who is Simon Beaufort?  Simon Beaufort is the pseudonym adopted by Susanna Gregory and  Beau Riffenburgh.

NetGalley/Severn House

Historical Mystery.  April 1, 2018.  Print length:  256 pages.  

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh was a bit of a disappointment.  I really liked her first novel and enjoyed the second one as well, but although I was engaged at the beginning of Let Me Lie subsequent events were too contrived and my interest waned.

There is definitely a twist that has been hidden throughout most of the first half of the book, but....perhaps attempting to be too clever the novel's conclusion left me flat.  

Read in November; blog review scheduled for 3/10/18.

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing Group

Mystery/Suspense.  March 13, 2018.  Print length:  400 pages.

Monday, March 05, 2018

The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty

I love Savannah, but Christi Daugherty's The Echo Killing is not the Savannah of the cobblestone streets, lovely architecture, and many parks.  Daughtery's Harper McClain is a crime reporter and her job takes her to places other than the tourist mecca of Old Savannah.

Harper's mother was murdered when she was twelve, and when another murder takes place that echos the murder of her mother in surprising detail, Harper is compelled to investigate further.  Despite some discouragement from her mentor who doesn't believe the killer is the same one that murdered her mother, Harper continues digging.

And while the murder itself is eerily similar to that of her mother, the victim is an entirely different breed.  Is the killer the same one becoming active again after fifteen years...or is it a copy cat?  


Read in December; blog review scheduled for 3/5/18.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Mystery/Suspense.  March 13, 2018.  Print length:  368 pages.  

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Oscars for Books, Korean Writers, Translators

I'm not terribly interested in the Oscars as I haven't seen most of the films nominated, but what if they gave Oscars to books?

If They Gave Oscars to Books, Our 2017 Nominees

I still enjoy Scandi Noir, but looks like Scandinavian authors may have some competition soon:

The New Scandi Noir?  Korean Writers Reinventing the Thriller

And an interesting connection,  a well-deserved prize for the translators who make so many of the books we enjoy available in our language.  Although I frequently read books that have been translated, I haven't read any of the books on the list.  Have you?

Quick guide

The 2018 TA first translation prize shortlist

Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi
A novel, translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman, and edited by Cécile Menon and Angeline Rothermundt at Les Fugitives.
Notes on a Thesis by Tiphaine Rivière
A graphic novel, translated from the French by Francesca Barrie, and edited by Clare Bullock at Jonathan Cape.
Second-Hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich
An oral history, translated from the Russian by Bela Shayevich and edited by Jacques Testard at Fitzcarraldo Editions.
Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg
A novel, translated from the Polish by Eliza Marciniak, and edited by Max Porter and Ka Bradley at Portobello Books.
The Sad Part Was by Prabda Yoon
A short story collection, translated from the Thai by Mui Poopoksakul, and edited by Deborah Smith at Tilted Axis Press.
The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz
A novel, translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette, and edited by Sal Robinson, Taylor Sperry and Željka Marošević at Melville House.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Murder in Belgravia

Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittney is set in London during WWI, a time period of great interest for many reasons.  

The Great War was in progress and the social landscape was changing:  drugs like cocaine and heroin were available at the local pharmacy; the male population was depleted as men enlisted or were conscripted; the zeppelin raids in 1915; women were needed in areas other than domestic service and were working in factories, wearing trousers, cutting their hair, and learning to drive;  suffragettes were still hoping for the vote, but suspended many of their political activities and offered their services to the government; only a small number of women were able to receive higher education, but the war increased the need for more women in fields that required more disciplined learning.

The book is a murder mystery that touches on all of the above, as well as examining the difficulty for many in accepting these rapid changes.  Today, approximately 100 years later, traditional society struggles to accept the many changes that result from technology.

Briefly, Chief Inspector Peter Beech finds himself investigating the murder of Lord Murcheson.  Murcheson's grievously injured wife has confessed to killing her husband, but questions arise as to whether or not her life-threatening injuries would have made it possible. 

Beech is given permission to assemble an unusual and off-the-record team that includes two women to pursue the Murcheson case.  

In spite of the tawdry elements of the case, the novel has an almost Pollyana-ish group of characters who are more open-minded than would have been typical of the time.  Beech's assembled team includes a retired policeman summoned back because of the loss of man power during the war, a young policeman who was wounded during the war, a female doctor, and a woman who studied law.  All of the characters are dedicated to solving the murder and are interested in making positive changes.

In the midst of a sordid case that includes murder, prostitution (both male and female), and drugs, the assembled team represent the best of humanity.  So...the novel deals with some of the most degraded offenses, but lightens up because of the respectable and decent members of the team.  It is a contrast between the terrible reality of the social ills faced and the virtual goodness of the team.  This contrast between reality and wishful thinking keeps the novel a step below what it could have been.

The plot is intriguing and held my interest, and the characters are likable, if a bit perfect.  

Although the research is obvious, there is no bibliography or list of sources.  This may simply be that my copy is an ARC.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed Murder in Belgravia and look forward to the next in the series.
Cocaine and heroin were available in pharmacies for almost every possible problem from helping babies to sleep, hay fever treatments, pain relief, etc. 

drug use during WWI


some of the drugs advertised during the period

Read in December; review scheduled for March 2018.

NetGalley/Mirror Books

Historical Mystery/WWI.  March 15, 2018.  Print length:  211 pages.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James is one of those rare spooky ghost stories that caused me to take reading breaks because of the tension.   I know I've been mentioning this one since August, but I had to wait until closer to publication to post this review.  :)

A story told in two time frames; a boarding school story; a ghost story; a murder mystery--The Broken Girls truly gave me chills.  

In 1950 Vermont, a boarding school for recalcitrant girls (dumped there because they are unwanted or hard to manage) has been haunted since its inception.   The legends, true and/or exaggerated, have been passed down through the decades both orally and through messages in the school's textbooks.  Mary Hand knows--and the generations of girls who have attended Idlewild Hall are all affected by the truths she reveals. 

In 2014, a journalist haunted by the murder of her sister is shocked and disturbed that someone wants to restore Idlewild Hall.  She decides to write a story about the school, and that story leads to more mystery and danger.

Although I am often drawn to ghost stories, most books fail to satisfy or frighten me.  While reading The Broken Girls, I was able to  suspend disbelief and follow the story in past and present with bated breath.

Read in August; blog review scheduled for February, 2018.

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing Group

Mystery/Suspense/Supernatural.  March 20, 2018.  Print length:  336 pages.

I really wish this book had been scheduled for publication in October or November, months that seem particularly suitable for ghost stories.  

What are some of your favorite ghost stories?

Saturday, February 24, 2018

On Books and Reading

The Right Book Will Always Keep You Company

I love the quote, of course.

Interesting articles about books and reading:

Lionel Shriver says, "politically correct censorship is damaging fiction"

Why Books and Reading Are More Important than Ever by Will Schwalbe

I use all of the reasons to read that Schwalbe mentions. 
 To relieve stress, general avoidance, anxiety, etc.

Stop Reading Books that You Don't Actually Enjoy  by Nick Douglas

Sometimes I keep reading because I don't have a back up, but usually, 
I add books I'm not enjoying to the DNF  list.

Your Favorite Book Characters Are as Real as You Feel They Are by Claire Fallon
 "A new study performed by The Guardian and researchers from Durham University suggests that they are, in a way. The study found that, for 19 percent of readers surveyed, “the voices of fictional characters stayed with them even when they weren’t reading.” This included readers having thoughts in the voice of specific characters, experiencing narration of their life by a character, or simply having their own thoughts influenced by the tone or perspective of a character. " (from above link)

And, of course, because books are so influential, there is the idea of book banning or censorship.  Blume's quote follows on the ideas that Shriver puts forth in the first link.

It’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read.

–Judy Blume

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz and Mr. Flood's Last Resort by Jess Kidd

Mr. Flood's Last Resort by Jess Kidd.  Maud Drennan is a caretaker given the task of helping Cathal Flood, a cantankerous old hoarder, get his life in order so he can stay in his home.  But if you think Cathal's hoarding habits are strange, Maud has frequent conversations with various Saints and appears to be getting messages from...ghosts or the house itself?  

I liked:  Kidd's beautiful prose and her imagination; Maud Drennan, Renata, and Cathal Flood are all great characters; the dialogue; the Saints.  

Not so much:  I think Kidd tends to veer off course; the plot is a bit convoluted and slows down at points.

Kidd has such a gift for creating characters and settings, but the characters are much better done than the plot in this one.  The book showcases her facility with language and characterization, but the storyline needs tightening up. 

NetGalley/Atria Books

Literary Fiction?  Mystery?  May 1, 2018.  Print length: 352 pages.

The Crooked Staircase (Jane Hawk #3) is action-filled suspense from beginning to end.  Jane continues her battle against the conspiracy that plans to "adjust" individuals to eliminate free will and dispose of those who may cause the cabal trouble.

Jane Hawk is one of those kick-ass protagonists that fights the good fight against the evil Techno Arcadians.  You can't help but cheer her on.  

I like:  that Jane Hawk is such a clever and relentless protagonist; that Koontz makes secondary characters interesting and well-rounded.

Wasn't crazy about:  losing characters I like; the weirdness of the crooked staircase toward the end.

Fast-paced and difficult to put down.  You will be up late with this one.

Read in January; review scheduled for February 22.

NetGalley/Random House

Thriller/Suspense.  May 8, 2018.  Print length:  512 pages.