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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Cast Iron by Marilyn Todd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Pretty Folly and Strangers at the Gate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Books for Kids of Any Age

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

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

I Like You

Arriving yesterday:

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

 One of Steinlen's famous posters.  1905

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

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

Some Halloween  Books for Kids

from picture books to chapter books to middle grade and teen

I have this one from when Bryce Eleanor was small.

I reviewed The Black Witch in 2017.

Now I must resist ordering more.  

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss

I loved the first book in Theodora Goss's trilogy about the Athena Club.  The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter was original and fun as Goss introduced the reader to a unique view of literary characters like Mary Jekyll and Diana Hyde (evidently Dr. Jekyll had offspring), Beatrice Rappacini, Justine Frankenstein, and Catherine Moreau (the puma woman for Dr. Moreau's island) and connects them to Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and the Baker Street Boys.

The second book European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, however, was too long and often slow, but there were some great moments here, too.

I liked The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl better than the second book.  The same flaws have persisted throughout the series plus an influx of characters who appeared in European Travel, but I did enjoy this one.

from description:  Mary Jekyll and the Athena Club race to save Alice—and foil a plot to unseat the Queen, in the electrifying conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Nebula Award finalist and Locus Award winner The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter.

This trilogy doesn't work as well without all of the background in the first book.  If you like a good mash-up and literary characters who take on lives of their own, try the first book and get a fresh view of some literary classics.  :)

NetGalley/Saga Press
Suspense/Fantasy.  Oct. 1, 2019.  Print length:  448 pages.  

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Some September Reads

I've been enjoying Viveca Sten's Sandhamn mysteries for a few years now, and I'm happy to return to the island with In the Shadow of Power.  

It is difficult to maintain the essence of small places when they become popular, and the citizens of Sandhamn have made an effort to keep the Sandhamn traditions and coastlines from becoming lost to summer visitors.  When the wealthy and arrogant Carsten Jonsson manages to flout the rules and traditions with his new summer house, islanders are not happy.

Jonsson has received anonymous threats and warnings, but when Jonsson's guest house burns down and an unidentified corpse is found inside, the situation escalates.  

Thomas Andreasson isn't sure if it was an accident or a murder (the fire was arson, but was the death deliberate?), and Carsten Jonsson's arrogance isn't helping the investigation.  Nora gets drawn into a dangerous situation as suspicions mount.

I would love to visit Sandhamn in person, but must make do with Sten's mysteries set on the beautiful Swedish island.

Mystery/Police Procedural.  Oct. 22, 2019.  Print length:  398 pages.

Her Last Whisper by Jennifer Case is the second book in the Katie Scott series, but I haven't read the first one.

Katie suffers from PTSD and sometimes elements in her job as detective bring up memories and emotions she would like to avoid.  Her recent post involves cold cases, but one of those cases comes back to life with a new murder.

I found the interruptions involving memories of her time in Afghanistan a little annoying, but understand the connection to her PTSD symptoms.  The police procedural aspects also raised a few questions.

Interesting enough to keep reading, but didn't love it.

Police Procedural.  Oct. 21, 2019.   

Dread of Winter by Susan Bickham

Sydney Lucerno never intended to return to Oriska, New York, but her mother's imminent death requires her to come home.  Sydney left at seventeen after a stint in rehab--certain that if she didn't escape, she would be drawn back into old habits, former companions, and worse.

After attending college in California, Sydney turned her life around, but she is unable to avoid returning to Oriska when she gets the call that her mother is dying.

Things get more complicated.  Within two days, her mother's long-time partner is also dead after a shootout with two others.  Sydney discovers she has a sister that the wasn't aware of and for whom she feels responsible.  The Sheriff has a vendetta against her and another old enemy has an axe to grind.  Problems abound.

Sydney wants to protect Maude and get out of Dodge, but that is easier said than done.

NetGalley/Kensington Books
Mystery/Suspense.  Oct. 29, 2019.  Print length:  272 pages.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols by Nicholas Meyer and The Fixer: The Naked Man by Jill Amy Rosenblatt

Fake news is nothing new, and Nicholas Meyer uses a genuine 1905 case that illustrates the appalling consequences of a plagiarized document that is published as genuine.  

I read Meyer's The Seven Per Cent Solution years ago, and I still tend to choose books linked to Sherlock Holmes.  As in this case, many of these books have the premise of rediscovered writings by Dr. Watson.

Although based on true events, there are some unnecessary liberties taken pertaining to real people that bothered me.  The descriptions of Holmes differ as well.

I wish I'd liked it better.

Read in May.  Blog review scheduled for Oct. 1.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur
Sherlock Holmes/Historical Fiction.  Oct. 15, 2019.  Print length:  246 pages

A novella introducing Katerina Mills, college student, who has worked for a lawyer and is now doing temp jobs to help with her expenses.  Katerina gets a call from one of her ex-boss's clients and finds herself in a room with a naked man pacing erratically, an unconscious woman in his bed, and a termagant wife due to arrive shortly.

Katerina's successful extraction of the woman, sending her home to her husband before either spouse becomes aware of the affair, leads to an offer she finds hard to refuse:  fixing problems for the rich and powerful.  Kat needs the money and reluctantly accepts the offer.

I like the premise, but there were a number of things that I found less appealing.  The next book, which is full length, is on my list.  I'll make up my mind about the series after reading the next entry. :)

Suspense.  2015.  Print length:  349 pages.

I've been busy with Halloween projects.  I seem to have paint or glue on my hands all the time now because my favorite decorations are for fall and/or Halloween.  :)
The bottles have been fun.

I love playing with tiny skeletons--this one went in a cone.