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Friday, May 24, 2019

A Face in the Crowd by Kerry Wilkinson and Two More from the Mercy Kilpatrick series

Another standalone by Kerry Wilkinson.  Lucy has a routine and the 24 bus is part of it.  She gets on each day to get to work, but rarely pays any attention to fellow passengers.  Today, things are not so routine, when she leaves the bus her purse feels a little different--because someone has stuffed an envelope with thousands of pounds into her purse.

Lucy has spent years paying off debts incurred in her name by her boyfriend.  She only discovered this when Ben dies in a train crash; now she is bitter, but determined to pay the debts.  How could she not have known the man she loved and planned to marry better?  

She will turn the money in the envelope over to the police.  She will.  But first she will wait and see if anything develops, if someone notifies the bus company of a loss or posts a flyer.

Then she spends a little.  Then a little more--on necessities and on helping others.  Disturbing phone hang ups.  A date with a man she met online.  The apartment across from her begins playing her favorite song, but no one has seen the occupant.

This is not my favorite by Wilkinson, but he has a fairly high-standard to live up to, and A Face in the Crowd is still an intriguing mystery with some twists and red herrings.  His Jessica Daniel series remains my favorite, but I haven't read anything by him that didn't keep me engrossed.

Review scheduled for May 24.

Mystery.  June 6, 2019.  Print length:  295 pages.

I didn't realize that I'd forgotten to review A Merciful Fate which I read in March or April as part of the Mercy Kilpatric series.  Mercy is both an FBI agent and a prepper.  I've reviewed the first four books, but somehow skipped this one.  

Poor Ollie finds a skeleton in the woods that is associated with a 30-year-old armored-car robbery.  Only one robber was arrested, the other four got away and the money was never found.  

With a definite connection to Eagle's Nest, Mercy suspects that maybe one or more of the folks she knows may be one of the robbers that escaped.

Truman is dealing with two cases of harassment and vandalism against two local women.  A tabloid reporter who has been stirring things up is murdered.

Someone Mercy and Truman knows has built a new life in the three decades since the robbery and is determined to remain secret. 

NetGalley/Montlake Romance
Mystery/Suspense.  January, 2019.  Print length:  359 pages.

The sixth book in the Mercy Kilpatrick series has Mercy going undercover, reluctantly, into a radical militant group.  She is a last minute replacement because the ATF agent assigned to the mission has shingles.  No time to prep thoroughly, Mercy gets dropped in with little information to help her navigate the dangers.

Truman is dealing with a puzzling body dumped on Britta's property.  The body is in Detective Evan Bolton's jurisdiction, and as the investigation continues, it turns out there have been similar execution-style body dumps.

The Mercy Kilpatrick series is concluded with A Merciful Promise, which is a little disappointing, but understandable.  I'd like to see more of Britta, her trauma and personality have been covered in earlier books, and I also like Detective Evan Bolton.  There are other characters, too, that I'd like to see more of even if Mercy and Truman are no longer main characters.

Hopefully, Elliot will not completely abandon the Eagle's Nest setting completely.

NetGalley/Montlake Romance
Suspense.  June 18, 2019.  Print length:  359 pages.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Traitor's Codex by Jeri Westerson

Another outing for Crispin Guest, The Tracker of London.  In this adventure, Crispin is given a dangerous codex which threatens the dogma of the Church.  

As usual, the depiction of the characters makes them believable, three-dimensional individuals.  As Crispin has grown more accepting of his fall from grace, his character has evolved and his life has developed in positive ways.  In Traitor's Codex, Crispin once again must confront Richard II with more understanding on the parts of both men.

Westerson's research is wide-ranging and thorough, weaving both real personages and fictional characters skillfully through a series of mysteries in which Crispin is engaged to solve various crimes.  

Dame Julian of Norwich, the famous medieval anchorite and one of my favorite historical figures--"all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well"--makes an appearance in the current mystery.  Other historical figures who often appear include John of Gaunt and Chaucer--two more favorite historical characters.

Each book in this series, designated as Medieval Noir, presents an intriguing mystery with fascinating historical elements, and I have enjoyed them all.

Read in January; blog review scheduled for May 22.

NetGalley/Severn House
Historical Mystery/Medieval Noir.  June 1, 2019.  Print length:  224 pages.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Woman Who Spoke to Spirits by Alys Care

From the 1840's to the 1920's, mediums and spiritualism fascinated many; even the educated and famous flocked to seances in hopes of communicating with the dead.  

 The Woman Who Spoke to Spirits is set in the 1880's in London.  L.G. (Lily) Raynor, owner and only investigator of the World's End Investigation Bureau, needs a clerk to take care of filing and accounts so that Lily can meet with clients and carry on her investigations.

She hires Felix Wilbraham, who is in desperate need of a job and is more than capable of handling the paperwork.

While Lily is out of the office to meet with a client, Ernest Stibbins rushes in, mistakes Felix for L.G. Raynor, and in a frightened manner says someone is threatening his wife with harm--can the private inquiry agent help him?  He explains that his young wife Albertina is a medium and holds seances for a regular group of attendees several days a week.   Felix doesn't correct the mistaken identity and takes the case.

 Worried about how Lily will react to his assumption of her role as head of the agency, Felix dreads her return to the office.  Lily, however, is not at all disturbed by the acquisition of a new case.  Felix will take the role of investigator, and Lily will find a way to become part of the seance crowd.  

When Lily attends a seance, she is shocked to feel a terrible menace directed at Albertina.  A sense of dread and a fear for Albertina's safety makes Lily uneasy.  And how could Albertina have possibly known about an incident in Lily's own life?

I  enjoyed this first in the World's End Investigation Bureau Victorian mystery series and look forward to more.  The backgrounds of both Lily and Felix are hinted at and will most likely be developed in future books, but they are already interesting characters in a partnership with many possibilities.

Read in February; blog review scheduled for May 19.

NetGalley/Severn House

Victorian/Mystery.  June 1, 2019.  Print length:  226 pages.  

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Ghost of Hollow House, Thin Air, and The Night Before

I requested The Ghost of Hollow House from NetGalley, then realized it was the fourth in a series.  I read a little of the first chapter, and decided to go back and read the previous books before reading this most recent in the series.

This is the quote from The Ghost of Hollow House that was in the first few pages and convinced me to put it aside and read the earlier books:

"Mrs. Honeyacre, the second of that name, was the former Miss Kitty Betts, aged thirty but admitting to twenty-five.  She had once enjoyed a glittering careeron the popular stage as Princes Kirabampu the oriental contortionist, but had been looking for something a little more permanent.  Although Kitty lacked great beauty, she more than compensated for this with her cheerful and engaging personality, coquettish charm and a remarkably supple spine."

That quote amused me, perhaps more than reasonably, and I expected the earlier books to have much the same humor. In that I was a little disappointed, but I did fall in love with Mina Scarletti, who never lets her disability determine her life.   The influence of spiritualism provided another reason to continue the series.  

Known as a skeptic, Mina is invited to Hollow House to determine whether or not the house is haunted.  Accompanied by Nell and Dr. Hamid, Mina sets out to discover what is causing the disturbances in the Honeyacre home.  Complications:  her incorrigible brother Richard shows up, Nell's husband has a detective spying on her, a flood that cuts off the road into Hollow House, and the arrival of a character from a past investigation.

Having saved The Ghost of Hollow House until last, I am now caught up with the series.

NetGalley/Sapere Books
Historical Mystery/Spiritualism.  May 24, 2019.  Print length:  320 pages.

Thin Air by Lisa Gray has an intriguing premise: a message about investigating a missing child leads PI Jessica Shaw on an investigation that is intensely personal.

from description:  Private investigator Jessica Shaw is used to getting anonymous tips. But after receiving a photo of a three-year-old kidnapped from Los Angeles twenty-five years ago, Jessica is stunned to recognize the little girl as herself.

Shifting points of view keep the reader adding information a little at a time.

Thin Air was an Amazon Prime First Read book.  The author has a second book planned, and I'd be interested in seeing what happens next in Jessica's life.  I had a few problems with Jessica's character, but the mystery kept my interest.  I'm curious to see what I think of Jessica and of the writing in the next book.  

Mystery/Private Detective.  June 1, 2019.  Print length:  288 pages.

The Night Before by Wendy Walker is certainly a page turner, although at times I would put it down in pure frustration with Laura Lochner.

from description:  Riveting and compulsive, national bestselling author Wendy Walker’s The Night Before “takes you to deep, dark places few thrillers dare to go” as two sisters uncover long-buried secrets when an internet date spirals out of control. 

Definitely twisty and told from two points of view--Laura's and her sister Rosie's--also partly through excerpts from Laura's conversations with her therapist.  

Events in the past have influenced Laura's life in ways that prevent her from interacting in a healthy manner, especially where men are concerned.

A lot of folks are going to love this one, but Laura's behavior was frustrating and her running conversations with herself became tiresome, slowing down the action.

The Night Before has an intriguing premise, but felt a bit too contrived.  It isn't that the book didn't hold my interest; I definitely wanted to find out what actually happened, but Laura's self-destructive behavior annoyed me.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Psychological.  May 14, 2019.  Print length:  320 pages.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Turning Secrets (Stonechild & Rouleau) by Brenda Chapman

Another suspenseful Stonechild & Rouleau mystery. 

Is Nadia Armstrong's death suicide or murder?  Who's leaking information about the case?  Who is the older man high school student Vanessa is dating?

The suspicious death of young Nadia Armstrong is taking up much of Kala Stonechild's time, and she regrets not being home enough with her niece Dawn.  In addition to complications of the current case, Kala is frustrated by the knowledge that someone on the Major Crime team is leaking information,  and Kala suspects Woodhouse, who has been a thorn in her side in previous books.  

While Kala is often late getting home, Dawn has more time alone, and when her father approaches her, she is able to keep their budding relationship a secret from Kala.  Dawn knows that her mother has forbidden any contact with Dawn's father and that Kala agrees, so she feels guilty, but wants to help him.  

Dawn's classmate sixteen-year-old Vanessa has been behaving strangely since developing a relationship with a man in his twenties.  Vanessa tries to draw Dawn into a double date at the request of her boyfriend, but Dawn is decidedly wary as she is aware of Vanessa's unhappiness.

A lot of disturbing elements come to light as the case progresses.  Chapman draws from social problems that are frequently in the news, making them more personal, less abstract.  One of the pleasures in a good series is developing a relationship with characters, and Chapman's characters are interesting and well-developed.  Sometimes they are in the background, sometimes they take center stage.  Most surprising in Turning Secrets is that by the end of the book, one character behaves in an unanticipated way.  Just when you believe you have the characters in a definite groove, someone jumps the track.    

Read in November; blog review scheduled for May 14, 2019.


Detective/Crime.  June 4, 2019.  Print length:  408 pages.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

I'll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie

What is it about boarding school and summer camp plots that so fascinate us?  The sense of isolation from adult guidance?  Young people in a confined setting that creates an alternate social setting from the wider world?

The setting of I'll Never Tell is Camp Macaw, a summer camp near Montreal owned by the MacAllister family, has a long history of generational campers who return year after year and then send their children to enjoy the same experiences.

In the present, after the death of their parents, the MacAllister offspring are gathered to hear the reading of the will.   The siblings will have to decide what to do about the camp; selling would be a financial coup, but not every wants to sell.  More importantly, there is a twist to the will that no one expected.   

Twenty years ago, Amanda, a seventeen-year-old counselor was bludgeoned with a paddle, but no one was ever charged with crime.  A contingency in the will has a requirement that involves discovering who was responsible for what happened to Amanda.  Who was where when Amanda was bludgeoned?  Who would have wanted to hurt her?  Secrets that have been kept for twenty years slowly come to light and suspicions run high.

The timeline shifts back and forth between past and present as Ryan, Margo, Mary, Kate, Liddie, and groundskeeper Sean revisit their memories of events to determine what happened to Amanda.  

At first, I didn't like any of the characters much, but as I continued to read, each character became more accessible and gradually more likable.  Each secret that was kept, often from misunderstandings, shielded the guilty party.  The puzzle unravels in a slow, but surprising way.  A new clue or revelation, a new suspect.  

I'll Never Tell is a skillful narrative that kept me engrossed and switching from one motive and suspect to another.

Read in February; blog review scheduled for May 13.  

NetGalley/Lake Union Publishing
Mystery/Suspense.  June 1, 2019.  Print length:  380 pages.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Curse of the Gypsy and The Royal Ghost

Curse of the Gypsy is the third book in the Lady Anne series by Donna Lea Simpson and was first published in 2009.  The series has been re-released under Simpson's pseudonym Victoria Hamilton.  That seems a little confusing, but the previous books in the series that I've reviewed have had the Victoria Hamilton label.  

I like this original cover much better than the most recent one.  

After Lady Anne's adventures in Cornwall with The Revenge of the Barbary Ghost, she returns to her home in Kent.

So...a gypsy curse, some unexplained illnesses, a blast from the past (and we thought he was dead), a mistaken identity, the arrival of Lord Darkefell (of course), and a resolution to this series of three Lady Anne books.

Light reading and enjoyable, but maybe the first one in the series is the best.  

NetGalley/Beyond the Page Publishing
Historical Mystery.  1st ed. 2009; 2019.  Print length:  363 pages.

After reading Mr. Scarletti's Ghost, I decided to try the second in this series by Linda Stratmann.

Brighton is once again a hotbed of spiritual and psychic chicanery in The Royal Ghost.  Tiny Mina Scarletti, twisted by scoliosis, once again takes up the banner of rational thought and investigates a pamphlet in which two sisters claim to have seen the ghost of King George IV.  Actually, not the fat and unpopular king, but the man he was when he was the young and attractive Prince Regent.

The two pseudonymous sisters say they witnessed the prince and his mistress in flagrante--and the details are such that the women of Brighton are surreptitiously buying and reading the scandalous pamphlet!  Ahh, the titillation of the Victorian era. 

Mina finds herself in an awkward situation when a famous person tries to convince her to retract her earlier statements about the medium Miss Eustace and to accept that the pamphlet by the two sisters is genuine.  When she refuses, she is threatened with blackmail.

While I find it difficult to imagine intelligent people being so determined to believe in mediums and psychic phenomena, spiritualism was surprisingly accepted from the 1840's through the 1920's, and Linda Stratmann has certainly done her research--including documentation of events and real people in her historical notes.

Historical Mystery.  2017.  Print length:  350 pages.  

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Your Kids on Books

I saw this on Jackie Long's blog and couldn't resist.

Day 2471: Last full day in Santa Fe.

Just curious about what "Your Kids on Tablets" might look like. :)

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Some Choose Darkness by Charlie Donlea

I remember the first time I read about Asperger Syndrome, and I've been intrigued by the variation in individuals, in both the variety of symptoms and the severity, ever since.    The Autism spectrum is wide, but on the higher end of the scale, those with Asperger Syndrome may be extremely intelligent and capable of handling many of the debilitating symptoms by developing coping mechanisms to help them through daily challenges. 

Rory Moore, a forensic reconstructionalist, has difficulty in social situations, struggles to make eye contact, and has intensely focused interests, but Rory has also had a childhood that supported her--both her parents and her great-aunt Greta have given her a sense of stability.  Her long-term partner Lane Philips understands her, and his career dovetails with Rory's so that they have a shared interest.

So...on to the plot.  Rory works with the police and with her partner's Murder Accountability Project, both of which allow her to work on her own.  After her father's death, Rory finds herself in a difficult situation when a judge requires her to become involved with the prison release hearing of a murderer her father defended decades ago.  The murderer known as The Thief (because the bodies were never recovered) was convicted of only one murder, even without the evidence of a body, but is suspected of the disappearances of the other women as well.   

Rory has a law degree, but has never practiced, partly because of her difficulty dealing with people, but the judge gives her no choice.  As she prepares for the hearing, she is puzzled by some of her father's notes and continues digging.  

Told in two time-lines, the book shifts from Rory in the present to Angela Mitchell, a young married woman in 1979, when women in Chicago were going missing.  Rory becomes fascinated with her father's involvement with the case and with Angela Mitchell, who suffered from some of the same symptoms Rory has.  Rory recognizes that Angela was on the Autism spectrum, which was not widely recognized at the time.  Angela had developed a hyper-focused interest in the missing women and was doing research on her own when she  disappeared shortly before The Thief was arrested.

Some Choose Darkness is compelling and has a few twists that kept me engrossed throughout.  I'm hoping Donlea is considering a series with Rory Moore.

NetGalley/Kensington Books
Crime/Suspense.  May 28, 2019.  Print length:  304 pages.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark and Revenge of the Barbary Ghost by Victoria Hamilton

Lady Anne Addison is not the typical Georgian lady.  She is plain, sharply intelligent, brash, often rude, wealthy--and titled--enough to have more independence than most women of the time.  At eighteen, she allowed herself to be pressured into a an engagement, but when her fiance died before the wedding, Anne realized that she had almost made a terrible mistake and happily makes the best of her newly realized autonomy.  In the six years since her narrow escape of marriage, Anne is quite content to be a spinster.

On receiving a letter from her friend Lydia, she rushes to Yorkshire to see what she can do to help, finds a body, hears tales of a werewolf, meets the haughty Lord Darkefell, and determines to discover the murderer.

Mystery and romance (some passionate kisses) in a not very realistic, but often humorous and entertaining plot.

NetGalley/Beyond the Page
Mystery/Light Romance/Historical Fiction.  2009; April 23, 2019.  Print length:  388 pages.

After Lady Anne's abrupt departure from Yorkshire, she decides to visit her friend Pamela in Cornwall.  Confused over feelings for Darkefell (he is dark and a little broody, but certainly no Heathcliff), she quickly becomes involved in another mystery after seeing the "Barbary Ghost" and a band of smugglers on the beach below Cliff House.

Oh, dear.  The determined Darkefell discovers where she has gone and plans to again attempt to persuade Anne to marry him.  He immediately wants to protect her from danger and continues to spoil his pursuit of marriage by issuing commands that frustrate and anger Anne.

I rarely read romance, but the combination of mystery and suspense has made the Lady Anne Addison series a fun and enjoyable experience.  Anne continues to struggle with her attraction to Darkefell and her need to be able to maintain her independence.  Maybe too many kisses and explanatory sequences, but fun nevertheless.

NetGalley/Beyond the Page
Mystery/Romance/Historical Fiction.  2014; April, 2019.  Print length:  345 pages.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Undefeated by Una McCormack

Una McCormack's science fiction novella was a thought-provoking surprise.  Monica Greatorex, a famous journalist, is contemplating the six decades of her life, the condition of the world she grew up in, the changes that have taken place,  the politics of the known worlds...and their repercussions.

She's traveled widely, reporting on wars, migration, and suffering, and now she is returning to the almost abandoned world that sheltered and cosseted her until she was twelve.  

As millions of refugees are fleeing to the Commonwealth and the Core, Monica heads the other way, despite knowing that "they are coming."  She is accompanied by her jenjer Gale, a genetically modified human being, Monica has a one-way ticket to Sienna, and from there, she will go to Torello, her small hometown.

The jenjer are mentioned, but not truly explained.  They are indentured servants, taken for granted, reliant on medication.  Until the conclusion, they are kept quite vague.  The technique works well--I was immediately curious, wanting more information, and  subtly prepared for what would come.  

On Monica's arrival to her childhood planet and small hometown, her memories immediately surface, giving her more clarity, more detail of past circumstances, and more understanding of how the Commonwealth insured its own decline.  The reflection on her childhood understanding of events has had a subconscious effect on her life that she only confronts and clearly comprehends at sixty.  

McCormack's understated approach to Monica's life refuses to give an overly emotional account of what will be the end of the worlds as Monica has known them.  Monica the journalist is in action, not writing and recording, but prepared to bear witness.

The beginning is slow and cryptic, but as soon as Monica and Gale arrive in Torello, the story takes a curious and more intriguing turn as we view events through the eyes of twelve-year-old Monnie. 

I definitely want more of Una McCormack.  

Science Fiction/Contemporary relevance.  May 14, 2019.  Print length:  112 pages

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes and The Scholar by Dervla McTierney

Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a new author for me.  Have any of you read her books?  She is evidently a prolific YA author (The Fixer and The Naturals are most mentioned).

The Lovely and the Lost may be the start of a new series.

from description:  Kira Bennett’s earliest memories are of living alone and wild in the woods. She has no idea how long she was on her own or what she had to do to survive, but she remembers the moment that Cady Bennett and one of her search-and-rescue dogs found her perfectly. Adopted into the Bennett family, Kira still struggles with human interaction years later, but she excels at the family business: search-and-rescue. Along with Cady’s son, Jude, and their neighbor, Free, Kira works alongside Cady to train the world’s most elite search-and-rescue dogs. Someday, all three teenagers hope to put their skills to use, finding the lost and bringing them home.

Both the idea of a child who lived wild before being adopted and the search and rescue dogs intrigued me.  I liked all three quirky adolescents as well.   Kira's struggle to overcome her past and to blend in to society are aided by  Cady Bennett, the woman who found and adopted Kira; Jude, Cady's son and Kira's adoptive brother; and Free, her eccentric friend.  

I enjoyed the book, and I'm interested in The Naturals series.   

Read in March.  Blog review scheduled for April 28, 2019.

NetGalley/Disney Book Group
YA Mystery.   May 7, 2019.  Print length:  336 pages.

The Scholar (Cormac Reilly #2) by Dervla McTiernan.

I missed McTiernan's The Ruin, but hope to pick it up at some point.  

Detective Cormac Reilly's partner Dr. Emma Sweeney stumbles across the body of Carline Darcy, heir  to a powerful pharmaceutical company.  Emma calls Cormac, and he arrives first on the scene.  In spite of possible conflicts of interest, Cormac takes over the case.

Pressured to keep the investigation quiet, Cormac continues digging--eventually questioning his decision to take the lead in the case as evidence that Emma may know more than she has revealed emerges.  Emma may be more than a key witness.

Compelling and twisty, the novel reveals some problems with the research at the Darcy laboratories, the callousness and corruption of Carline's rich and powerful grandfather, and the grief of a fifteen-year-old boy who is searching for his missing sister.

Read in March.  Blog review scheduled for April 28, 2019.

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Crime/Police Procedural.  May 14, 2019.  Print length:  377 pages.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Greenway by Jane Adams, Secrets Never Die by Melinda Leigh, and Mr. Scarletti's Ghost by Linda Strattman

Cassie Maltham's husband Fergus has persuaded her to visit rural Norfolk where twenty years earlier Cassie's cousin disappeared.  The children didn't want to be late getting home and took a shortcut through the Greenway, associated in local myth and legend as a portal to a spiritual world.  

When the girls fail to arrive home, a search for them eventually finds Cassie unconscious, but Suzie isn't with her.

Ten-year-old Cassie has no memory of the incident and is unable to explain what happened.  Frantic searches by family, villagers, and the police find no trace of Cassie's cousin, and the case remained unsolved.

For twenty years, nightmares have troubled Cassie, and other emotional problems have circumscribed her life.  Fergus thinks vacationing with friends in the area will help Cassie put the trauma that has haunted her for twenty years to bed.

Soon after their arrival, however, another child disappears in theGreenway--and there are similarities to the disappearance of Suzie Ashmore.  DI Mike Croft  with his sergeant and retired DI Tynan (who worked the case of Suzie Ashmore twenty years previously) do their best to find Sara Jane, the missing child.

Is it a coincidence that Cassie Maltham is present at both disappearances?  

The Greenway, first published in 1995, is the first in Jane Adam's Mike Croft series.  Read in February.

NetGalley/Joffe Books
Police Procedural.  March 12, 2019.  Print length:  266 pages.

 Secrets Never Die is the fifth in Melinda Leigh's Morgan Dane series, and although I have not read any of the previous books, this worked well as a standalone.  

from description:   When a retired sheriff’s deputy is shot to death in his home, his troubled teenage stepson, Evan, becomes the prime suspect. Even more incriminating, the boy disappeared from the scene of the crime.

 The plot was interesting, and I quickly became invested in Evan and his situation.  Morgan Dane and PI Lance Kruger are called in by Evan's mother.  

Tension is high--the reader knows that Evan is innocent, but the killer wants Evan dead before he has a chance to tell what happened.   

What did not work as well for me is a sense of formula and the fact that the characters of Morgan and Lance seemed based on a romantic and family stereotype rather than in depth characterization.

Kindle Unlimited
Detective Fiction.  March, 2019.  Print length:  330 pages.

The unusual protagonist made Mr. Scarletti's Ghost particularly interesting.  Mina Scarletti has a severe form of scoliosis, probably an S curve, that has left her body twisted and often painful.  Her tiny, twisted body evokes pity and a little revulsion in others , but Mina is quite content with her life and exhibits no self-pity; she is bright, has a lively imagination and sense of humor, and is a published author (of horror stories she doesn't want her family to know about).

Victorian Brighton was a tourist mecca for recreational bathing, for spa treatments, and for various medical problems.  The Palace Pier, the West Pier, the Royal Pavilion remain as attractions today.  As spiritualism began its rise, Brighton was ready for the new entertainment provided by mediums.

When Mina's mother becomes interested in spiritual healing by Mr. Bradley and the seances of medium Miss Eustace, skeptical Mina initially attempts a non-judgmental approach.  As long as these performances provide entertainment, she isn't concerned.   The fact that they draw her mother from her mourning, giving her an interest and encouraging her social life seems a positive thing.  Although  the healing and seances require no payment, it is apparent that "small gifts" are accepted--at which point, Mina becomes concerned that her mother and her friends are being exploited, and she does some research.

Convinced that Miss Eustace is a fraud, Mina attempts to discover the trickery involved and expose Miss Eustace.  It turns out to be more difficult than she imagines--those who believe so want to believe, and even some respected scientists of the day have become converts.  

The research is thorough and references to the real scientists who became interested in spiritualism (as converts or debunkers) and the medium D.D. Homes, give verisimilitude to the story.

Definitely not a thriller, but an intriguing protagonist and an absorbing look at the spiritualist craze that swept across America and Europe.  I will be looking for the next in the series.

Sapere Books
Historical Fiction/Spiritualism.  2018.  Print length:  358 pages.

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:

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.
Two days later, a young mother is abducted. She’s discovered strangled and dumped in a local park.
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.
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.