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Sunday, October 31, 2021

More October Books by Emma Jameson, Sherry Thomas, Jeffrey Deaver, and Joy Ellis

 A Death at Seascape House by Emma Jameson.  Mystica mentioned this series, and I thought it sounded like fun.  It was.  

Librarian Jemima Jago is divided about her feelings concerning her return to St. Morwenna in the Scilly Isles of Cornwall.  She's excited about the opportunity to catalog St. Morwenna's largest collection of antique books, but she left twenty years ago under less than auspicious circumstances and dreads seeing some of the residents.  

Immediately on her return, Jemma discovers the body of the island busy-body, meets an old boyfriend, and becomes the chief suspect in the murder.  Not as cozy as many cozies, although there is an amateur detective, a closed community, and no graphic violence, there is more depth and character development.

Light and often amusing at times, some quirky characters; I enjoyed it and went on to read the next one which I'll review later.

Kindle Unlimited.  2021.  Print length:  278 pages.  


Miss Moriarty, I Presume (Lady Sherlock #6) by Sherry Thomas continues the adventures of Charlotte Homes, Lord Ash, Mrs. Watson, and Livia.  Another series I've followed from the beginning, enjoying the plots and the characters.  This plot is more complicated than the earlier ones and depends a great deal on having read the previous books.  

Moriarty, using the pseudonym of Mr. Baxter, arrives at Baker Street to hire Holmes (and he knows that Charlotte IS Holmes) to find out about his daughter who is secluded at religious estate in Cornwall.  The usual bravado Charlotte has shown previously is absent here; she is afraid of Moriarty--for herself and for her friends.  She can't refuse, but is aware that Moriarty wants to ensnare her in some way.

Lots of twists in this one, but this one felt very different from earlier installments.

NetGalley/Berkley Pub. Nov. 2, 2021.  Print length:  368 pages.


The Midnight Lock by Jeffrey Deaver.  I haven't read a Lincoln Rhyme, the quadriplegic forensic scientist and criminologist, book in years, but I enjoyed reuniting with the familiar and relatable characters and the suspenseful, complex plots.

One thread has a young woman awake to discover that while she slept, someone has been in her apartment, moving things around, eating cookies while sitting in a chair watching her sleep, then taking a pair of her underwear, and leaving a note signed "The Locksmith" behind.  Creepy--especially as part of the story is told from the Locksmith's pov.  The indication is that at this point, the Locksmith is content to just mess with her mind.  But he has other victims lined up as well, perhaps with intentions to more than frighten his victims.

The other plotline has Lincoln Rhyme forced to admit to a forensic error in the trial of a powerful and influential mobster.  It results in the Mayor ending Lincoln's job as consultant for the NYPD, which also means that he has to surrender all evidence in the Locksmith case as well. He is not to be involved in any police work.   But Amelia Sachs, Ron Pulaski, and Lon Sellito work at getting around the constraints placed on Lincoln by the Mayor.   

There is quite a lot going on in this book--devious and twisty misdirections keep the reader from fully seeing the entire picture and there are threads that tangle in unexpected ways.

I enjoyed a revisit to the Lincoln Rhyme novels and really should catch up on some the books I've missed over the years.

NetGalley/Penguin Group.  Nov. 30, 2021.  Print length:  400 pages.


The Night Thief (Jackman & Evans #8) by Joy Ellis has a similar creepy character as in The Midnight Lock--invading houses where women are sleeping and taking only photographs of their sons.  At first, it seems the culprit might be Ratty, who is known for midnight visits, but the photographs are certainly atypical as Ratty has never stolen anything.  So who is making the visits and stealing photographs of young boys...and why?

Rowan Jackman's partner, psychologist Laura Archer, has a patient who has been referred to her for his sleepwalking episodes.  Something about him bothers Laura and she reaches out to Sam Page for help with the man's somnambulism.  

One reason I like Joy Ellis' books is that both the Rowan Jackman & Marie Evans and the Nikki Galena & Joe Easter books have well-developed members of their teams.  Over the course of the series, the minor characters have become so familiar, and I always look forward to the way they work together.  It isn't necessary to have read the previous books in the series since the mysteries are completed in each book, but the pleasure of having watched the secondary characters come to life over the series is a large part of my enjoyment in the books.  

NetGalley/Joffe Books.  Nov. 18, 2021.  Print length:  370 pages.


Two books set in Cornwall (although only A Death at Seascape House makes the most of the setting)  and two with midnight visitors.  

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Five Reviews

Some short reviews. 

Can't Go Back by Debra Webb  

The third book in this series featuring Detectives Kerri Devlin and Luke Falco is evidently the final one in a trilogy.  I enjoyed the first two books and looked forward to this one.  A woman and her child are found dead when an arson fire destroys the home; the husband confesses.  Something is off and the evidence doesn't appear to point to him.  The story connects to Luke's dark past as he recognizes the husband as a fellow undercover cop.  Luke has tried to put his past behind him, but the current case leads back to his time in an elite group of undercover cops and some things that many would like to remain forgotten.  I like the characters, and I'm sorry that this is the final book.  read in July

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer; Mystery; Dec. 14, 2021.

Mickey7 by Edward Ashton 

Mickey7 is an Expendable--good for any suicidal mission or scientific study.  Mickey volunteered for the expedition to colonize Niflheim, but he was in a hurry to get away from Midgard, and he didn't quite understand the "immortal" part of his new position. He's disposable, he dies (but the deaths are not painless), and he comes back in another iteration with most of his memories.  BUT there is never supposed to be more than one at a time.  Mickey8 comes out of the tank after Mickey7 is written off as dead, but Mickey7 is still alive and kicking. Problems ensue.  Interesting premise with some ponderings about what makes us who we are.   read in October

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press; Science Fiction;  Feb. 15, 2022.  

The Deepest of Secrets by Kelley Armstrong  

Well, the previous book hinted at the end of the Rockton series, and The Deepest of Secrets is the 7th and final book about Rockton and its inhabitants.  A lackluster conclusion to a fun series.   read in September

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press; Mystery/Thriller; Feb. 15, 2022.

The Woman in the Library  by Sulari Gentil

An interesting embedded narrative.  Australian author Hannah corresponds by email with American author Leo.  She develops a story about four people in the Boston library who are at the same table when they hear a scream.  Hannah sends chapters by email to Leo, who comments and makes suggestions.  But what  about the four people (in Hannah's story) who hear the cry, the ones sitting at the library table, and later learn about the death of a young woman?  Is one of them a murderer?  A clever technique for a mystery--a frame story, a story within a story.  read in October

NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press; Mystery/Thriller.  May 10, 2022.  

A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari (June 7, 2022) read in October

The cover drew me in, but the pacing was a little slow.  Saffron Everleigh's mentor is accused of poisoning the wife of the man set to lead an expedition to the Amazon.  Historical mystery set in the 1920's, mystery, a little romance.  read in October

NetGalley/Crooked Lane Books; Mystery; June 7, 2022.


Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik


Dorothea Lange is perhaps best known for her photograph The Migrant Mother that came to represent the plight of the thousands who were forced from their farms and homes during the Dust Bowl.  

The Bohemians, however, concentrates on Lange's 1918 arrival in San Francisco at twenty-three.  San Francisco, still scarred by the 1906 earthquake, was  a mecca for many creative people, and the young Dorothea Lange, who wanted to be a successful portrait photographer, made her way--slowly building important relationships with people like Imogen Cunningham, Consuela Kanaga, Donaldina Cameron (couldn't find any evidence that Lange knew Donaldina Cameron, but she certainly would have known of her), Ansel Adams, and Maynard Dixon (whom she married).

What I loved:  reading about some of these people and finding out more about them via Google; the events like the end of WWI and the soldiers coming home; the Spanish flu; the racism of early San Francisco (the character James Ferrell, is based on Sen. James D. Phelan, Nativist and promoter of the "yellow peril).  

What I didn't like so much:  The novel is a first person account by Dorothea Lange, but so much of the story was about Lange's friendship with Caroline Lee, a fictional character.  At first, I searched the internet looking for Caroline Lee, Lange's best friend.  Nothing.  As a result, my belief in the story was reduced.  
I finally discovered that in the early years of her portrait studio, Lange did have a Chinese assistant, but the fact alone is all the factual information available.  Maybe having reversed protagonists and making the fictional Caroline tell the story would have worked better for me.  

Darznik includes additional information in her Notes, which helped, but as it was an audiobook, I didn't realize that until I'd finished the book.  In this case, I wish I'd been reading a print version which I could have read much more quickly, determined my own "intonations" in conversations, and checked the author's additional information easily.  

I love learning new things, and there was a lot of fascinating information about San Francisco in the 1920's.   Monkey Block, the prejudice against the Chinese, the devastating effects of the Spanish flu, the anarchist bombings...San Francisco is perhaps the dominant character in the novel.  It is clear that the author feels a deep connection to the city and its history.  

I now want to read a biography of Lange.  My previous knowledge of her was only through her work as a documentary photographer for the FSA during the Depression.   The book skips over a large part of her life, most of her marriage to Maynard Dixon, the birth of her sons, even her work for the FSA takes a back seat to her early days as a portrait photographer.

In the end, I didn't love The Bohemians as much as my friend Suzie did, but I admire the research that went into the book and the curious history of early San Francisco.  Suzie and I always share what we are reading and recommend books to each other, but don't always coincide in genres (she doesn't really enjoy mysteries!), and we often have slightly different opinions of books we read.   We've been doing this since we were college roommates,  sharing authors and favorite books.   It has proven an excellent balance, not always agreeing, but always eager to give a new book a try. 

How would I rate The Bohemians?   Using Cathy's alphabetical rating, maybe a B.  Much to admire, but not quite what I was hoping for.  Goodreads has plenty of 5 star reviews.  

Audiobook.  Narrator:  Dylan Moore
Historical/Biographical Fiction.  2021.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Operation Mincemeat, Oh William!, by Elizabeth Strout, and The Nameless Ones by John Connolly

In 2010, I read Operation Mincemeat:  How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory  by Ben MacIntyre, and it remains one of my favorite WWII nonfiction books.  The film with Colin Firth is coming out in 2022, and I can't wait.  Operation Mincemeat trailer.

Oh, William 
is such a complex mix of human emotions, memories, and revelations.  How well do we know the people we live with for years?  Parents, spouses, children?  Not always as well as we think, and the same is often true about how well we "know" ourselves.  A lovely, character-driven story of a family, Oh, William makes the reader look into themselves and their own relationships.  Now, I have to go back and read Lucy Barton and all of Elizabeth Strout's books that I've missed.

A beautiful cover and a beautifully written book, as many of you have mentioned.  I'm late to reading Elizbeth Strout, but it has been such a satisfying experience.  How ordinary, how extraordinary!

NetGalley/Random House
Family.   Oct. 19, 2021.  Print length:  256 pages.

John Connolly's Charlie Parker series is always full of violence and brutality.  The series isn't for everyone, but I've followed it for years, always rooting for Parker, Louis, and Angel as they fight against supernatural evil.

from description of  The Nameless Ones In Amsterdam, four people are butchered in a canal house, their remains arranged around the crucified form of their patriarch, De Jaager: fixer, go-between, and confidante of the assassin named Louis. The men responsible for the murders are Serbian war criminals. They believe they can escape retribution by retreating to their homeland.
They are wrong.

Anyone who has read about the Serbian Croatian war is aware of the war crimes, mass murders, and ethnic hatred of that period.  The brutality of the Serbian forces remains a particularly dark stain in history, and Connolly doesn't refrain from the atrocities.

Fans of the series can't help but love Louis and Angel, who add a great deal of dark humor to the books.  The Nameless Ones leaves Charlie Parker in the background as Louis and Angel hunt the Serbian war criminals.

Of course, there is also a supernatural element:  Zorya is an eerie, chilling associate with the Vuksan brothers.  

Trigger Warning:  the book is well-researched, but even though I'd read about some of the atrocities before, they still made difficult reading.  

 read in march; review scheduled for Oct

NetGalley/Atria Books   

Supernatural Thriller.  Oct. 26, 2021.  Print length:  388 pages.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Fear on the Fens by Joy Ellis and The Stolen Hours by Allen Eskens

From description:
In the beautiful gardens of Shelley House a shocking discovery is made. A blackened hand dangles over the side of a wheelbarrow. The horrific scent of burnt flesh lingers in the air.

Detective Nikki Galena and Joseph Easter are called in to investigate.

Twenty years ago.
A family destroyed by tragic secrets. The scientist father who killed their gardener, before being murdered himself. The brother who disappeared, never to be seen again.

The 13th entry in the Nikki Galena series has some gruesome murders and a connection to Stargate, the recruitment of psychics for studies by the CIA.  As usual,  seeing Nikki's team in action and the connection to the CIA's attempts at remote viewing kept me interested, but this was not my favorite in the series.

Stargate and Remote Viewing and Stargate: Controlled Remote Viewing  

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Mystery/Thriller.  Oct. 14, 2021.  Print length:  400 pages

The Stolen Hours by Allen Eskens is the third in the Joe Talbert series, but the first one I've read.  It worked well as a standalone, and I'll probably go back and pick up the two earlier books at some point.  

Photographer Gavin Spencer plans ahead; when he commits a murder, he has anticipated almost every difficulty.  And even when he can't predict certain events, he has back-up plans in place.

Lila Nash is on the verge of getting the job she most wants, but a vindictive prosecutor is making an attempt to ruin Lila's career. Fortunately, Andi Fitch is on her side, giving her opportunities she had not had previously.  Lila is assigned Sadie Vaulk's case against Gavin Spencer.  Working with Detective Niki Vang, who made the connections between Sadie's case and six previous cases in which the victims did not survive, Lila discovers a chilling connection to Spencer.  

Tense and suspenseful, The Stolen Hours proved a solid new-to-me series that will have me looking at the two earlier books as well!  Thanks to Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea for recommending this one. 

NetGalley/Mulholland Books

Legal Thriller.  Sept. 7, 2021.  Print length:  320 pages.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge and World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

It is the season for garden clean up, Halloween crafting, and fall house cleaning.  And a raft of new book possibilities.  All of these activities can require decisions that I'm reluctant to make.  Which will take precedence today?  Setting a schedule is difficult for me and as a result, I meander through the day doing a little of this and a little of that.   The garden, then a letter, then the garden again.  Back and forth, a little here and a little there.  I keep track of all that on the other blog.

I have made some progress on the garden, and I've been good about catching up on correspondence. A letter every day or so for the last couple of weeks.  The fall housekeeping chores have been neglected this week, but I'm working on some purging of drawers and cabinets.  A box for GoodWill sits on the washing machine, and I add a little at a time, pulling things from hangers and deciding whether or not I'll wear it again.  That extra pound of weight a year became "slightly" more during the pandemic, and I must face the fact that some items will never fit again.   

And Every Single Day There Are Books To Be Read.

Once in a while, I find a cozy that genuinely appeals to me.  Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge (Agatha Christie fans may recognize the name of the country estate of Christie's second husband, Max Mallowan) proved surprisingly fun.  

It must be a challenge to write a mystery set in one of Christie's homes and have the housekeeper be the protagonist--it could easily end up more of a parody than a mystery. 

Phyllida Bright, however, turned out to be efficient, self-assured, and often inadvertently amusing.  A former army nurse, Phyllida and Agatha are more than employer and employee, having known each other during the war. Agatha's appearances are minimal; it is Phyllida's show.

Unsurprisingly, Phyllida is fond of detective novels and fictional detectives, especially Hercule Poirot.  When Phyllida discovers a body in the library (!) during a country house party at Mallowan Hall, the fun begins.  Confident that she can do a better job than the police, she goes about her own sleuthing, assured that she knows the household and its doings better than they do and will notice what they may miss.  

Parody, or homage, or a little of both, Murder at Mallowan Hall proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable romp with a character who has no difficulty handling whatever comes her way.  We've been introduced to the household, including Bradford, and I'm eager to see what happens in the next book.

NetGalley/Kensington Books

Cozy/Historical.  Oct. 26, 2021.  Print length:  304 pages.

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments. I've a fondness for personal essays and Aimee Nezhukumatathil's love of the natural world, lyrical language, and her personal experiences combine in this series of essays.   

The essays have no chronological order, Nezhukumatathil takes a cue from nature (a catawpa/catalpa tree, a peacock, a ribbon eel, fireflies) and pulls together information about the object of her attention, combining it with her personal experiences and her poetic voice. 

While some combinations are a stretch, each element in each essay (the nature writing and the personal anecdotes) has much to offer.  Her mother is a microbiologist and her father a geneticist, so the author's close observation and comprehension of the natural world is understandable. 

There is no need to hurry through the book, an essay or two at a time, and a little time to ponder the words and the importance of say, fireflies, to our lives.  The human touch and Nezhukumatahil's appreciation of the world around us--and it's vulnerability--becomes more intriguing and remarkable as we face the loss of species of both flora and fauna.  

I can't remember where I saw this mentioned, but I'm glad I made the effort to find and read World of Wonders.  I'm susceptible to covers and this one is both curious and beautiful, as is  the author's prose.

Have you read this one?  Did I see a review on your blog?

Purchased.  Milkweed Editions

Nonfiction/Nature/Essays.  2020.  Print length:  165 pages.  

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Burntcoat by Sarah Hall

Sometimes a book will not let you go, even when you aren't sure if you like it or not.  Burntcoat by Sarah Hall is one of those books.

Beautifully written, a kind of fictional memoir, Burntcoat takes place in England and begins with the traumatic episode when young Edith Harkness's mother Naomi suffers a severe stroke.  The mother Edith had known is gone and in her place a damaged woman who struggles with regaining sensible speech.  Her father eventually leaves, and eight-year-old Edith becomes interpreter and caretaker for Naomi as she recovers.

As Edith, nearing sixty and terminally ill, looks back over her life she relates the close bond with her mother, her training and success as a sculptor of large creations of burnt wood using the Japanese shou sugi ban technique, and the arrival and aftermath of a Covid-like pandemic much worse than the Covid we know.  

The novel moves back and forth in time as Edith reviews the events in her life.   When the swift and deadly AG3 virus begins its catastrophic death toll on an unprepared England, Edith and her new lover Halit try to ride out the lockdown at Burntcoat, which is both home and studio for Edith.  

There is much to like in Burntcoat, with the exception of the gratuitous sex scenes.  Yes, sex would be a light in the darkness, the closeness people need when threatened by events beyond their control.  There is a purpose for including the intimacy of Edith and Halit's relationship and of sex as a means of escape from the horror., the inclusion of the graphic sexual episodes did not work for me.  Awkward, uncomfortable, and unnecessary.

The book is uncomfortable in several ways, but the discomfort is the kind that would be natural in the face of some of the events in Edith's life--her mother's stroke and long recovery, in the physical and emotional hardships of lockdown,  and in the fear and horror experienced as people, locally and nationally, die in huge numbers--one million in England alone.  

Not a book to easily forget, but one that is hard to evaluate.  Even as Edith recounts the important events in her life, she remains distant, removed from her own story.  The distance is understandable, and perhaps, inevitable.  

 read in August; blog review scheduled for Oct. 7, 2021

NetGalley/Custom House

Nov. 2, 2021.  Print length:  304 pages.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Jane Whitefield Series (books 2 and 3) by Thomas Perry: Fly with the Arrow by Sarah Wilson

Dance for the Dead is the second book in the Jane Whitefield series.  I dived into it shortly after reading the first book.  

Timothy Decker is eight-years-old and someone wants him dead.  The people who care about him are dying at a rapid rate when Jane Whitefield steps in to help him disappear.

At the same time, Jane is trying to help Mary Perkins escape a predator who knows about Mary's S&L fraud and wants her money, after which she will be disposable. 

I enjoyed this one, too, and I went directly into the next book.

Read in September.

Ivy Books.  Mystery/Thriller.  

Barry Award Nominee for Best Novel (1997)Dilys Award Nominee (1997).  Print length:  400 pages.                                                       

Shadow Woman has a different twist because Jane decides to marry her Carey McKinnon and give up her life as a guide who helps people disappear.  But Jane feels compelled to help Peter Hatcher again because she had to rush his relocation, and he is once again in danger.  She intends this to be her last case.

Another twisty action-filled book with a pair of married killers who have been hired to find and kill Peter.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, but this may not be the best series for binge reading as the plots are basically the same, although with new characters on the run and new villains pursuing them.  

If I didn't already know that the series continues, I might have wondered if Shadow Woman was supposed to conclude a trilogy.

The suspense and adventure are satisfying, and these books kept me involved, providing an escape from depressing national, state, and local news.  However, I think I'll give the series a pause for a month or so--not abandon it, just enough of a rest that I can appreciate the suspense again.  

Read in September.

Ivy Books.  Mystery/Thriller.  Print length:  432 pages.

Sarah Wilson's Fly with the Arrow (Bluebeard's Secret #1) was a great take-off on the Bluebeard tale.  It was fun, original, the cover is gorgeous.

My only complaint is that it ended in a cliff-hanger.  But I was willing to forgive that and pre-ordered the next book: Dance with the Sword.

Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the second book as much AND it ended with another cliff-hanger.  As much as I enjoyed the first book, Dance with the Sword failed to have the same effect.

Read in September.

Kindle Unlimited. 

Fairytale re-telling.  2021.  Print length:  311 pages.


Sunday, October 03, 2021

The Riverwoman's Dragon by Candace Robb


Candace Robb's historical mysteries are some of the best available.  She did her PhD (ABD) studies in Medieval and Anglo-Saxon literature and has continued her research anew with each of her books. 

The Owen Archer series is set in the late 1300's, a period that has long interested me.  When I read The Apothecary Rose, the first in this series in 2015, I was captivated by the fictional characters, plot, and the intertwining with the historical characters from the time:  Henry of Lancaster, John Thoresby-Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of England, and John of Gaunt.  Each book expanded on the genuine history of the time and the historical figures who influenced that history.

Robb's Author Notes are a wonderful addition to each book.  Using actual events, people, and customs, she doesn't load the plot with overly detailed explanations, but does include the information if you are more interested.   I always am.

The Riverwoman's Dragon is the 13th in the series and takes place in 1375 as an outbreak of the plague has the population of York in fear.  

from description:  "May, 1375. Owen Archer returns from London to find York in chaos. While the citizens are living in terror of the pestilence which is spreading throughout the land, a new physician has arrived, whipping up fear and suspicion against traditional healers and midwives." 

 Magda has been a blessing as a wise woman and healer--treating the ailments of York for years, delivering babies, using herbs to treat illnesses, and working with Lucie, Owen Archer's wife and local apothecary.  But Magda is a pagan, not a Christian.  With fear flamed by the plague and a man claiming to be a doctor, many of York can be persuaded to turn against her.  

When Magda is accused of murder, Own must find a way to protect her and find the villain.

There are several interesting threads in this installment, and we learn a little more about Magda's background.  

Another excellent addition to Candace Robb's Owen Archer series.  Start with the first book, and maybe, like me, you will keep wanting more.  

read in August; review scheduled for Oct. 3.

NetGalley/Canongate Books/Severn House

Historical Mystery.  Nov. 2, 2021.  Print length:  256 pages