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Friday, November 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

from description:
London, 1816

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Wrong Girl by Donis Casey

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

What is it about? 

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

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

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

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

An interesting beginning to a new series.

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


16 Women Scientists You Should Know

I'm interested in The Library of Ice.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

In the Dark and A Shadow Falls by Andreas Pfluger

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

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

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

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


Thriller.  2016.  Print length:  464 pages.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 11, 2019

How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Trying to Catch Up on Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Police Procedural.  2013.  Print length:  281 pages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 04, 2019

Boundary Haunted by Melissa F. Olson

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

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

I reviewed the first four books here.

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

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

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

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

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

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