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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A Couple to Watch For and Three Others

Books that I have really liked, but that won't be published  until 2019.  I will mention them again closer to publication.

Watcher in the Woods (Rockton #4) by Kelley Armstrong.  I wasn't sure how I felt about the first book in this series, but after feeling more at home with the characters, I have thoroughly enjoyed each new addition.   

Description:  The secret town of Rockton has seen some rocky times lately; understandable considering its mix of criminals and victims fleeing society for refuge within its Yukon borders. 
When a US Marshal shows up demanding the release of one of the residents, but won't say who, Casey and her boyfriend, Sheriff Eric Dalton, are skeptical. And yet only hours later, the marshal is shot dead and the only possible suspects are the townspeople and Casey's estranged sister, smuggled into town to help with a medical emergency. It's up to Casey to figure out who murdered the marshal, and why someone would kill to keep him quiet—before the killer strikes again.

I enjoyed the introduction of April, Casey's sister and the way Isobel and Kenny make a difference in the way we see her.  The book takes up right after the events in the previous book, but still can be read as a stand-alone.  There are changes taking place in Rockton and in the Council.  No cliffhanger, but a direction that was indicated in earlier books is obviously about to come to a head.  

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Mystery/Police Procedural.  Feb. 5, 2019.  Print length:  368 pages.

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye.  I more than really liked this one.  The writing is wonderful and the characters are even better.  From description:

The year is 1921, and "Nobody" Alice James is on a cross-country train, carrying a bullet wound and fleeing for her life following an illicit drug and liquor deal gone horribly wrong. Desperate to get as far away as possible from New York City and those who want her dead, she has her sights set on Oregon: a distant frontier that seems the end of the line.

Full of well-drawn characters, I found The Paragon Hotel absolutely riveting.  So many books and characters are entertaining but quickly forgettable, Faye's plot, characters, and prose will remain with you.  One of my favorite books of the year.  I read it in August, and I loved the book and Alice, Max, all of the Paragon Hotel employees, and most especially, Blossom Fontaine!  

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Historical Mystery.  Jan. 8, 2019.  Print length:  432 pages.

I'll mention these again closer to publication date, but if you are a fan of the Armstrong series, I think you'll enjoy her latest.  As for Faye's The Paragon Hotel--highly recommended!

------------Other recent reads
Cold Winter Sun is the second in a series, but I haven't read the first one.  

A missing man. A determined hunter. A deadly case.

When Mike Lynch is contacted by his ex-wife about the missing nephew of her new husband, he offers to help find the young man with the help of his friend Terry Cochran.
Arriving in LA to try and track down the young man, the pair are immediately torn away when the missing man’s car shows up, abandoned on the side of a deserted road in New Mexico.
When two fake police officers cross their path, Terry and Mike know there is more to the case than meets the eye, and soon they find themselves asking exactly who it is they are really looking for…

This is one of those books that I didn't want to put down, but didn't love.  Reasonably likable, if stereotypical characters in Mike and Terry, but the plot didn't work all that well for me.  I notice most reviews are quite positive, so maybe I was expecting something a little different.  

NetGalley/Bloodhound Books

Thriller.  Nov. 1, 2018.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager 

From description:  Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she--or anyone--saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

I love that little excerpt from the description. I did have trouble swallowing some of the circumstances, but The Last Time I Lied certainly had a creepy vibe, plenty of twists, and a boatload of red herrings.  Maybe it was trying a bit too hard, but I was OK until the ending which was implausible.  

According to reviews on Goodreads, most people loved the book, so take my opinion with a couple of grains of salt.  Despite wanting to like it, I mostly felt the author was manipulating too many circumstances.

NetGalley/Penguin Group

Mystery/Suspense.  July, 2018.  Print Length:  384 pages.

While I haven't read all of the books in this series featuring Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewellyn, I've read quite a few and enjoy the historical elements as well as the characters.

Thomas Llewellyn was very young and fresh out of prison  when Cyrus Barker hired him originally.  He is now twenty-six and has gained much experience and confidence during his years working with Barker.  When the current plot begins, Thomas is looking forward to his marriage.

Cyrus Barker is a bit mysterious, but through the books we have learned a little more about his past.  In Blood Is Blood, we meet his brother Caleb, and the brothers may be cut from the same cloth, but the resulting garments are quite different in style.  

When the office of Barker & Llewellyn Private Inquiry Agents is bombed, Cyrus is seriously injured and the brunt of the investigation is shifted to Thomas with the newly arrived Caleb taking an often questionable hand.  As Thomas attempts to interview some of the enemies who may be responsible, it appears that someone is taking his suspects out.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Historical Detectives.  Nov. 13, 2018.  Print length:  320 pages.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Past Tense by Lee Child

How Jack Reacher always manages to find trouble is a mystery.  In Past Tense, Reacher starts out with a plan to travel from Maine to California, but only gets as far as New Hampshire before taking a detour.   

Finding himself near the town where his father grew up, he decides to check out a little family history and discovers that some of the history is apparently not there. 

Not far from the little town of Laconia, a young couple's car breaks down, and they follow a sign to a motel in the middle of nowhere to see about the damage and contact a mechanic.  From the minute they hit the reception desk, the sense of wrongness is apparent.  In spite of having an idea about where this is going, the tension I felt was enormous.  Spoiler: (Think Bates Motel and The Most Dangerous Game)

In the meantime, Reacher continues to check public records for information about his father's family.  Oh, yeah, he also stops a young man from forcing himself on a woman, inviting retribution from a mob family and protects an old man from other bullies.  

This isn't my favorite of the Reacher books (of course, there are 23 novels in the series), but I wouldn't have missed seeing what he was up to for anything.  My favorite part was finding out what was in the suitcase!

Read in July; blog review scheduled for Oct. 22.

NetGalley/Random House

Crime/Suspense/Mystery.  Nov. 5, 2018.  Print length: 400 pages.

An interesting article in The Guardian:  How thrillers offer an antidote to toxic masculinity.  Excerpt:

The hero myth is most powerfully embodied today in thrillers. These books tend to feature men with shoulders broad enough to carry responsibility, responsibility they often don’t want to bear. They’re not afraid to pick up a burden and hold on to it. They’re not afraid to help others. They live by a code: protect the helpless; follow your own moral compass; employ minimal necessary force (which is different to abstaining from violence). This code is the thread that connects Beowulf and Gilgamesh, Marlowe and Spade, Reacher and Bourne. My own hero, Evan Smoak, aka Orphan X, is derived from this same tradition.

The take-away is mostly that we need heroes who may be violent men but who will stand up for individuals and communities who are being victimized.  I've read all of these characters in both the epics and in novels,  and was surprised to see Orphan X here, because I only recently read and reviewed it.  I think John Connolly's Charlie Parker fits in here as well since Charlie Parker is always battling against supernatural evil.  I'm not sure about "minimal necessary force" with any of these characters, but otherwise, I agree that they do protect the helpless.  

Friday, October 19, 2018

Two Mysteries and Some Interesting Articles

The third in the Ravenwood Mystery series, A Record of Blood finally gives more of the background of Atticus Riot.  Each entry into this series has been stronger, not necessarily believable, but suspenseful and full of intriguing characters.

A missing corpse, a missing horse,  Bel goes missing, missing girls from Chinatown, and Atticus faces some of the memories missing since the murder of his friend and mentor.  Lots of missing going on.  

Another rollicking adventure.


Historical Mystery.  2017.  Print length:  523 pages.

If the title doesn't appeal to a Sherlock fan, then the authors might.  I read about this one on Verushka's Pop.Ed.Lit  when she reviewed the second book in the series.  As a dedicated fan of anything Sherlock, I needed to know more about Mycroft as a young man  and quickly downloaded Mycroft Holmes, the first book.  

Mycroft's role in the Sherlock novels is usually a cameo of a heavily built man with greater deductive powers than his younger brother.  The older Mycroft is physically inactive, but brilliant, and Sherlock says of his brother:  "Occasionally he is the British government [...] the most indispensable man in the country." 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has long been a fan of Conan Doyle's great detective, and he and Anna Waterhouse began creating a background for the elder Holmes brother as a young man.   

A brief quote from the description:  Fresh out of Cambridge University, the young Mycroft Holmes is already making a name​ ​for himself in government, working for the Secretary of State for War. Yet this most British of civil servants has strong ties to the faraway island of Trinidad, the birthplace of his best friend, Cyrus Douglas, a man of African descent, and where his fiancĂ©e Georgiana Sutton was raised.

The plot is perhaps more complicated than necessary, but the friendship between the two main characters makes up for that.  There is also the promise of more to come in the adventures of Mycroft and Cyrus Douglas to keep me happy.   I'll be getting to the next book soon.  :)


Historical Mystery/Sherlock Homes Pastiche.  2015.  Print length:  336 pages.  

And Some Interesting Articles:

Best British Women Crime Writers  2018 edition  - Some of my favorites and some I haven't read.

100 Best Horror Stories  (I've read 24--which means I have a long way to go)

How Important Are Libraries?  Are they on the decline, no longer useful?  Of course, libraries have been so important to me over the years that they are one of the things I'm happy to pay taxes for.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Catriona McPherson, Alys Clare, and Joy Ellis

I've greatly enjoyed Catriona McPherson's previous books a great deal, but Go to My Grave didn't appeal to me as much.  

Description:  Donna Weaver has put everything into The Breakers, a Bed and Breakfast that she and her mother are opening on a remote stretch of beach. Now it waits - freshly painted, richly furnished, filled with flowers.

But as the guests arrive, they feel like they've been here before. Amid home-baked scones, gorgeous guest rooms, and lavish dinners fit for a king, the feeling of menace grows. 

Someone has broken their vow. Someone is playing games. And then the games turn deadly

This book felt more manipulative than McPherson's previous books.   The characters were stereotypical and not really engaging, not even Donna.   I suspected the big twist and did not find it especially believable.  

Read in September.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Mystery/Suspense.  Oct. 23, 2018.  Print length:  304 pages.

Alys Clare's The Angel in the Glass continues the adventures of  Dr. Gabriel Taverner in his small Devon village.  Characters from the first novel (Taverner's sister Celia, Theophilus Davey, local coroner, and Jonathan Carew, local vicar) begin to take on more personality in this dark mystery. 

Description:  June, 1604. When the emaciated body of a vagrant is found on the edge of the moor, it's the verdict of physician Gabriel Taverner that the man died of natural causes - but is all as it seems? Who was the dead man, and why had he come to the small West Country village of Tavy St Luke's to die cold, sick and alone? With no one claiming to have known him, his identity remains a mystery.

Then a discovery found buried in a nearby field throws a strange new light on the case ... and in attempting to find the answers, Gabriel Taverner and Coroner Theophilus Davey unearth a series of shocking secrets stretching back more than fourteen years.

Members of the Fairlight family are all creepy and twisted.  Fairlight would certainly not have been a Dickensian name choice.  He would have chosen a name more in keeping with the character's personality:  Malafide, Pedark, Blackmere, Blackquill.

read in july

NetGalley/Severen House

Historical Mystery.  Oct. 1, 2018.  Print length: 240 pages.

The Stolen Boys by Joy Ellis is another compelling mystery featuring DI Rowan Jackman and DS Marie Evans.  

Young men are being attacked and their expensive designer clothing items stolen and resold.  Hybird X street designs fetch thousands of pounds and stolen resale items fetch even more.  When one of these attacks results in the unintentional death of a young man wearing Hybird X street clothes,  Jackman's team is all in.  At the same time an influx of illegal steroids has become a problem in the area.

There are many strands woven into this latest Saltern-le-fen installment:  the above two investigations, the Fagin-like use of young people as both spotters and thieves, human trafficking, a resurgence of enthusiasm to locate Alistair Ashcroft, and the addition to the force of an old enemy of Marie Evans.  Somehow it all works.

As usual, Ellis makes the most of her characters.  Members of the Jackman team, no matter how minor, always feel genuine.  Minor characters like Tommy,  Mossy, and Daisy Cotterhill are fleshed-out and engaging, and make you worry about their fates.

Joy Ellis is one of my favorite mystery/detective fiction writers for both this series and her series featuring Nikki Galena.  Both are set in the fens which always becomes a minor character.

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Mystery/Thriller.  Oct.  12, 2018.  Print length:  305 pages.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

From the Ashes and A Bitter Draught

From the Ashes by Sabrina Flynn.  Ravenwood Mysteries #1.

From description:  Atticus Riot took a bullet to his head the day his partner was killed. Three years later, Riot returns to San Francisco to put his ghosts to rest, but the abduction of an heiress snags his attention. Two ransom demands are delivered, and the husband of the abducted Isobel Kingston is hiding the truth.

The clock is ticking. Can Riot find Mrs Kingston in time, or will she become one more regret among many?

The first chapter left me divided about continuing, but then the introduction of Isobel/Bel hooked me completely.  As I read, I found myself wondering if Flynn intended the book to be about Atticus Riot, but fell in love with the socially incorrigible Bel.  For me, the book began with the unpredictable Bel and her kick-ass personality.  

A rollicking Victorian mystery set in San Francisco.  Not perfect, I knit-picked about half a dozen things, but still enjoyed it immensely and went on to the next book.  

Free with Kindle Unlimited.

Historical mystery.  2014.  Print length:  270 pages.

A Bitter Draft continues the adventures of the Ravenwood Detective Agency, Atticus Riot, Bel, Tim, and others.

Bel reinvents herself as a reporter and a member of the Ravenwood Detective Agency and her twin brother Lotario emerges in a larger secondary role.  Oh, the gender-bending--Bel masquerades as a man at times, and Lotario as a woman.  

The plot involves Riot and Bel working together to solve a number of "suicides."

I can't say these books are believable; they are pretty far-fetched.  On the other hand, they both kept me interested in the plots and the characters.  A small cast of secondary characters like Tim, Miss Lily, Tobias, and Grim make a likable group of supporters for the two main characters.  And Lotario?  Well, he's certainly a law unto himself.  Or herself.

The books are like gobbling Halloween candy.  I know a thing or two about that.  :)

Kindle Unlimited.

Historical mystery.   2015.  Print length:  377 pages.

----------- Interesting Articles -----------

Sherry Thomas (author of the Lady Sherlock series) on Crafting the Perfect Sherlock Holmes Pastiche.

What Does Immersing Yourself in a Book Do to Your Brain?  

------------ Halloween ------------

A tipsy goblin drinking Viper Venom

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana De Rosnay

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana De Rosnay

From blurb:  The first new novel in four years from the beloved superstar author of Sarah's Key, a heartbreaking and uplifting story of family secrets and devastating disaster, in the tradition of THE NEST.

Beautifully written, I couldn't decide whether I was more interested in Linden Malegarde and his complex family dynamics or the Paris flood.  Perhaps because I read the book so soon after watching the videos of the 2018 flood, the descriptions of the flooding of an ancient city were especially vivid.

A thoughtful book that inches up as the Seine rises--slow and deliberate.   The Rain Watcher was as beautifully rendered as Linden Malegarde's photographs.  

Read in April.  Blog review scheduled for Oct. 9.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Literary fiction.  Oct. 23, 2018.  Print length:  240 pages.  

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Mystery and Horror

The Dogs in the Street is the third book in the Dark Yorkshire series by J M Dalgliesh.  

DI Nate Caslin's control over his life has improved, and when asked to do a favor for the journalist (with whom he has a connection from earlier books), Caslin looks into the disappearance of  a young woman.

Things get messy in a big way, and a friend from his past makes an appearance.  Fast-paced with an interesting twist, Caslin discovers a scary connection with the intelligence services.

Read in August.  Review scheduled for ?

 British Detectives/Noir.  2018.  Print length:  241 pages.  

In June, I read Belinda Bauer's Snap, which I liked so much I looked for another book and decided on The Shut Eye.

Missing children, a man who claims to have psychic powers, and a DCI who has been working on both cases.  I was surprised to see the character of DCI Marvel, a character I initially disliked in Snap, was also in The Shut Eye, and we get the backstory of why he ended up in Somerset.

Marvel's boorish and curmudgeonly behavior doesn't keep him from being sympathetic--he refuses to give up on the year-old case of the missing Edie Evans whose bike he keeps at the station.

More--I want more of Belinda Bauer.  Her touching ability to write about children and her skillful narrative make this one of those novels that made me hesitate to put it down.
 I knew when I read Snap that I would be reading another book by Bauer, now that I've read two, I have to decide what to read next.

Mystery/Detective Fiction.  2015.  Print length:  318 pages.

Another summer read, but an excellent choice for R.I.P. Challenge--only if you dare.   Mystery, paranormal, and horror in the chilling A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly.

From description:  It is deep winter. The darkness is unending.
The private detective named Jaycob Eklund has vanished, and Charlie Parker is dispatched to track him down. Parker's employer, Edgar Ross, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has his own reasons for wanting Eklund found.
Eklund is no ordinary investigator. He is obsessively tracking a series of homicides and disappearances, each linked to reports of hauntings. Now Parker will be drawn into Eklund's world, a realm in which the monstrous Mother rules a crumbling criminal empire, in which men strike bargains with angels, and in which the innocent and guilty alike are pawns in a game of ghosts . . .

As in all of the  Charlie Parker novels, the battle of good vs evil theme prevails.  Creepy and suspenseful as all of these novels are, A Game of Ghosts makes a spine-chilling read for Halloween.

Mystery/Paranormal/Horror.  2017.  Print length:  464 pages. 

Monday, October 01, 2018

Kerry Wilkinson, Viveca Sten, Sherry Thomas

Another standalone by Kerry Wilkinson:  The Wife's Secret.  

From Description: Charley Willis was thirteen years old when her parents were killed in their family home and she was found hiding in a cupboard upstairs. 

Fifteen years later, Charley is marrying Seth Chambers. It should be the happiest day of their lives, a chance for Charley to put her past behind her, but just hours after the ceremony, she is missing. 

No one saw her leave. No one knows where she is. 

One thing is for certain…Seth is about to discover he doesn’t really know the woman he just married. And his nightmare is only just beginning. 

Seth is stunned and disbelieving, and the story moves back and forth in time--Seth's story in the present and Charlie's story in the past.  To say that Charlie's family was dysfunctional is an understatement, but fortunately, Charlie's older sister Martha was a staunch support after the horrific event.

Although the truth did occur to me at times, I was never completely sure about what happened that night and there were other complications I didn't foresee.


Mystery/Suspense.  Oct. 10, 2018.  Print length:  338 pages.

The latest translation of Viveca Sten's Sandham novels, In Harm's Way takes place during the Christmas-New Year's season.  

The body of Jeannette Thiels is discovered on the Sandhamn beach, but did she freeze to death or was it murder?  

Jeannette, a journalist with a reputation for courage and relentless investigations of war crimes and corruption, certainly had plenty of enemies.

DI Thomas Andreasson interviews Jeannette's ex-husband, their daughter Alice, and others when the autopsy reveals poison.  I won't go into all of the suspects, but I had a difficult time deciding on the villain--suspecting one person after another. 

Nora Lindstrom, spending Christmas on Sandhamn with her two boys also finds herself in an ethical dilemma.  An attorney for a bank that has recently been taken over, Nora is happy that the new management has kept her on.  When she questions the direction of some practices, however, she finds herself in an ethical dilemma, and the person she counted on for support reveals a side she did not expect.  

Current events are in play for both Thomas and Nora:  an extreme right fringe movement, fear of immigration, and corporate corruption are tangled up in various ways.


NetGalley/Amazon Crossing

Mystery/Crime.  Oct. 16, 2018.  Print length:  416 pages.

I enjoyed the latest in the "Lady Sherlock" series, but would advise readers to begin with the first book.  

As a frequent reader of Sherlock Homes pastiche, I like the originality of the Charlotte Holmes character, who would probably be placed on the autistic/Asperger's spectrum:  brilliant, aloof, focused and persistent, able to recognize patterns, observant of details, etc.

The background of Charlotte Holmes described in the first two books includes her resistance to the expectations of women during the Victorian era.  Gender-flipping both Sherlock and Dr. Watson is part of the fun.  Charlotte's detecting must be done under a male cover and her associate, who takes on the Dr. Watson role, is also a strong woman with a background that doesn't meet society standards.

The Hollow of Fear takes place shortly after the conclusion of the previous novel.  Moriarity has been introduced and plays an off-camera role.  

Lord Ingram, Charlotte's close friend, has said that his wife is in Switzerland, but when Lady Ingram's body is  discovered in the ice house on his estate, the situation looks grim. Charlotte and Mrs. Watson must discover who wants Lord Ingram charged with murder...and why.

Inspector Treadles is placed in a difficult situation, Charlotte's appetite for sweets declines (a serious symptom of fear in Charlotte's case), the relationship between Lord Ingram and Charlotte changes, and the reason for framing Ingram is unexpected.  

Start with A Study in Scarlet Women  (my review of the first two novels) and have fun with this series!

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing

Historical Mystery.  Oct. 2, 2018.  Print version:  336 pages.