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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Quickening by Rhiannon Ward and Played to Death by BV Lawson


From description:  England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married to a war-traumatised husband and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex where she is to photograph the contents of the house for auction.

Gothic ambiance, a séance and a re-creation of an 1896 séance, lots of family secrets, a ghost. 

The book was kind of a near-miss for me.  Some great Gothic elements and writing style, but not quite  as suspenseful as it wanted to be. Nevertheless, the Gothic elements were interesting, and The Quickening would make a good book on a night you want a mysterious and not too frightening Gothic adventure.

Historical Fiction.  2020.  Print length:  336 pages.

From description:  Still suffering nightmares from a case that ended tragically, brilliant freelance crime consultant Scott Drayco considers retiring from crime solving altogether. When a former client bequeaths Drayco a rundown Opera House in a Virginia seaside town, he figures he'll arrange for a quick sale of the place while nursing his battered soul in a peaceful setting near the shore.

A Shamus Award Finalist and Best Mystery, Next Generation Book Awards

Drayco plans to meet a prospective client at his Opera House, only to find his client dead.

What I liked:

*Interesting small town characters.

*No bodies of women tortured.

*Nice plot line focused mainly on solving the murder(s).

Played to Death is the first in a series, and I plan to continue reading.   I'm a little tired of "thrillers" in which the thrill involves tortured and murdered women.  I don't mind one every once in a while, but it seems more and more have less mystery and investigation and more horrific cases.  Anyway, I did enjoy this book and the characters.

Mystery/PI.  2014.  Print length:  314 pages.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Bravest Voices by Ida Cook


I was not familiar with the Cook sisters or their role in helping people escape Nazi Germany, but I found Ida Cook's memoir (of the years from their youthful discovery of opera, through the efforts to save those who tried to escape Hitler's Germany, through their personal experiences of the Blitz) a touchingly human experience of courage and resilience.

First published in 1950 as Safe Passage, republished in 1976 as We Followed Our Stars, and again in 2021 as The Bravest Voices.

In the 1920's the sisters discovered opera and were dedicated fans of both conductors and opera singers.  The first of the book deals with this era of saving meager salaries to attend performances.  I'm not an opera aficionado, but the love of these two young women for the music and for the performers was impressive.

The second section deals with how some of their operatic friends became involved with aiding escapes from Nazi Germany in the late 1930's.  Austrian conductor Clemens Krauss and his wife his wife Viorica Ursuleac first introduced the sisters to the dangers of those trying to escape before being killed or put in concentration camps.  The sisters used the excuse of attending operas to get in and out of Germany to arrange safe passage for refugees until war broke out. Krauss scheduled operas that aided their efforts. 

After war closed the borders, and it was no longer possible to aid refugees, Ida describes her own families experience with the Blitz.  At one point she mentions the bombs hitting the book centers and the books and burning pages spread over London.  It reminded me of this photograph of a boy reading books outside a bombed book shop.

Ida Cook also wrote Harlequin Romances under the name Mary Burchell, and I'm tempted to see if I can find a book still in print.  

There is a certain innocence in this book and a freshness of voice that kept me engaged.  I may never fully appreciate opera, but Ida Cook's descriptions of different voices intrigued and surprised me.  

I truly enjoyed this book which gives another view of WWII experiences.  
In 1965, Israel s Yad Vashem named Ida and Louise Cook Righteous Among the Nations. Ida died in 1986 at the age of 82, and Louise in 1991 at the age of 90. In 2010, they were posthumously honored as Heroes of the Holocaust by the British Government.

History/WWII.  Jan. 19, 2021.  Print length:  256 pages.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice, The Adventure of the Murdered Gypsy by Liese Sherwood-Fabre


Didn't want to abandon The Shadow Box, but didn't love it.  It would have been stronger if Claire had been less eager to believe in her husband in the first place; she never rang true to me.  On the other hand, another reviewer referred to the book as a "popcorn read," and I agree that the reader wants to discover how it ends. :)  I think I'll keep that phrase in mind for quite a few books!

from description: "After artist Claire Beaudry Chase is attacked and left for dead in her home on the Connecticut coast, she doesn’t know who she can trust. But her well-connected husband, Griffin—who is running for governor—is her prime suspect."

Thomas & Mercer
Suspense/Thriller.  Feb. 1, 2021.  Print length:  367 pages.

I'm fond of Sherlock Holmes pastiches and enjoyed this one!

I haven't read anything else by Liese Sherwood-Fabre, but I'll be looking for more in this series featuring the young Sherlock and his family.

At thirteen, Sherlock already has some of his abilities of observation and reason, but these skills are still being developed.  This is not the austere and coldly logical adult Sherlock, but a kid with curiosity and intelligence; sometimes annoyed, sometimes fearful, and often unsure of himself. 

I especially enjoyed the character of Mrs. Holmes; she never takes center stage, but her influence and intellect play a significant role in the plot. Hers is the perceptive, observant, and curious mind depicted as guiding her sons.  

Little Elm Press
Historical Mystery.  2020.  Print length:  342 pages.

I'm currently reading Letters from Tove and enjoying it very much.  

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Bluff by Jane Stanton Hitchcock, The Stolen Child by Alex Coombs, No Way Out by Fern Michaels, and a Reminder about Kelley Armstrong's A Stranger in Town

 Winner of the 2019 Dashiell Hammett Prize for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing

Publishers Weekly Top 10 Mysteries for Spring 2019

"Driven by the heart-pounding suspense of a high-stakes poker game, Bluff is a vivid, compelling novel about deceit, seduction, and delicious revenge that will keep you spellbound and cheering as you turn the last page." -Susan Cheever, New York Times bestselling author

Bluff is a mix of comedy of manners and revenge tale with an older society woman who plays badass poker!  It was fun and unpredictable as the reader is led along through a murder, escape, and many surprises.  Thanks to Cathy for this recommendation, I really enjoyed it!

Poisoned Pen Press                                                                                Mystery/Revenge.  2020.  Print length:  320 pages.

The Stolen Child.  DCI Hanlon #1  

Although I liked the characters and some elements of this one, the subject matter was depressing.  There weren't any graphic descriptions and yet....  

A good crime thriller, but you may want to consider that it is a dark look at evil and pedophiles.  

I will give the author another try and hope the subject matter doesn't distress me.

NetGalley/Boldwood Books      


Crime/Police Procedural.  2021.  Print length:  302 pages.

I've never read Fern Michaels before, but I'd classify No Way Out as a cozy.  It started out very interesting with a young woman who never left her house. I wanted to know why and what she was afraid of.

A second thread involves a case of domestic abuse in the neighborhood.

What could have been a really suspenseful read turned into a "everything works out in the end"  sort of book.  That's fine, but building so much suspense and curiosity and then having half the characters reform completely--makes the original suspense feel false.

I didn't hate it, but it isn't really a genre I enjoy; however, it should appeal to those who are already fans of Fern Michaels.

NetGalley/Kensington Books

Cozy.  March 30, 2021.  Print length:  322 pages.

Although, I actually reviewed this months ago, this is just a reminder that A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong will be published Feb. 2.  Reviewed in October.  

What else can I say--I like this series. :)

Monday, January 11, 2021

Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman and Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh

I'm so behind on reviews and have been absent from both my blogs.  It wasn't an intentional or planned break, but once I got out of the habit of more regular posting, it became harder and harder to post. Here are two recent books that have cold cases at the heart.    

I liked Serpentine better than the more recent installments of the Alex Delaware series.  The first books were favorites, but for the last several years, the books haven't appealed to me as much.  

My favorite character is not Alex, but Milo Sturgis, and Serpentine felt more like some of the earlier books.

from description:  Psychologist Alex Delaware and detective Milo Sturgis search for answers to a brutal, decades-old crime in this electrifying psychological thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense.

A young woman's request for an inquiry into her mother's death is dictated from Milo's superiors, and he isn't too happy about it.  The case is 25 years old and records are sparse.  Milo involves Alex and the two visit the young woman.  Something catches their attention, and even if Milo doesn't believe anything will come of it, he gradually becomes more intrigued.  And it turns out that not only was it murder, but someone is still determined to avoid exposure.

I have a weakness for Milo.  

NetGalley/Random House                                                                   Police Procedural/Cold Case.  Feb. 4, 2021.  Print length:  368 pages.

Aarev Rai's family lived in an exclusive cul de sac in New Zealand, but regardless of how much money the family had or how beautiful Aarev's mother was--family life was a battle ground.

When Aarev was sixteen, his beautiful mother disappeared and so did a quarter of a million dollars.  His father believes Nina Rai left him and stole the money.  Aarev can't believe his beloved mother would have left him behind.

Ten years later, Aarev is temporarily back home after an accident, and Nina Rai's remains are found.  

Nina was not a perfect mother and several people had reason to hate her, but Aarev has to know what happened and who was responsible even if....

An unreliable narrator, good writing, and a little outside the usual formulaic pattern all worked to keep me turning the pages.

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing
Crime.  Feb. 23, 2021.  Print length:  384 pages.

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz

Another action-packed adventure with Orphan X.  I was worried about whether he would resume his role as the Nowhere Man after excepting a pardon from the president.  As circumstances unfold in the latest book, the call for help to the Nowhere Man comes from a most unexpected source: a woman claiming to be his mother.

She wants him to help a man called Andrew Duran, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and now has a dedicated brother and sister team out to assassinate him. 

I'm not at all as sure about the mother/son business, but I'm very happy to see Evan Smoak take up his mantle as the Nowhere Man again! 

Read in August;  blog review:  Jan. 11.

Keep 'em coming, Mr. Hurwitz!

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Mystery/Thriller.  Jan. 26, 2021.  Print length:  432 pages.