Friday, March 30, 2018

A Study in Scarlet Women - Sherry Thomas

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

First Paragraph(s):

Had anyone told the Honorable Harrington Sackville that the investigation into his death would make the name Sherlock Holmes known throughout the land, Mr. Sackville would have scoffed.
     He had never heard of Sherlock Holmes.  But more importantly, he despised the idea of death.  Of his death, to be precise--others could die as they wished.
     He loathed old age almost as much: that long, vile decline into helplessness halted only by the final breath, falling like a guillotine blade.

My Thoughts:

This is the second book I've listened to about Sherlock Holmes - theme for April for our mystery group.  It's the first book in Sherry Thomas' series and it was very ably read by Kate Reading.  I had heard about this one a while back from other bloggers and thought it would be fun to try.  And, I really liked it.  Plus, I discovered that the author lives here in my area, Austin.  Might have to think about that for the future and the group.

A Study in Scarlet Women turns the Holmes story upside down a bit.  Yes, Sherlock is indeed a woman, Miss Charlotte Holmes, youngest daughter in a family of four daughters (which sounds a little Pride & Prejudice-like).  She is lovely to look at, but she doesn't care about that.  She really likes her treats (food-wise) and is not a 'skinny Minnie'.  Which is OK too.  And her mind - razor sharp, mostly, though she doesn't know everything and does make miscalculations at times.  It was fun watching for the various other 'regular' characters and trying to guess where they might turn up.

I also feel like there was a hat-tip or two to other favorite mystery authors of mine, all older and having been around a long time.  For example, there is a police inspector that is married to a woman that came from a family much higher in society that his (Anne Perry's Thomas Pitt) and there was a character named 'Monk' (again, Anne Perry).  There was mention of policemen riding bicycles as they investigate (Maureen Jennings' Detective Murdoch).  And there was a mention of a 'Curse' and 'Pharoahs' (Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody).  Those were fun.  As I said, this is indeed a series and the 2nd, A Conspiracy in Belgravia, was published last fall.  Can't wait to read it!  If you like Sherlock and a bit of 'girl power', this one is recommended.


With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her.

But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Seagull - Ann Cleeves

The Seagull by Ann Cleeves

First Paragraph(s):

June 1995

The woman could see the full sweep of the bay despite the dark and the absence of streetlights where she stood.  Sometimes it felt as if her whole life had been spent in the half-light; in her dreams, she was moonlit, neon-lit or she floated through the first gleam of dawn.  Night was still the time when she felt most awake.
     She was waiting for footsteps, for the approach of the person she'd arranged to meet.  In the far distance, she caught the noise of the town: cheap music and alcohol-fueled high-pitched laughter.  It might be Sunday night but people were still partying, spilling out of the bars and clubs, lingering on the pavements because this was June and the weather was beautiful, sultry and still.  The funfair at Spanish City was closed for the day, and quiet.  She could see the silhouettes of the rides, marked by strings of coloured bulbs, gaudy in full sunlight, entrancing now.  The full moon shone white on the Dome, on the tower of the lighthouse behind her, and on the seductive Art Deco curves of The Seagull.  If only you knew, she thought, you sophisticated customers in your dinner jackets and glittering dresses, sitting on the terrace drinking cocktails and champagne.  If only you knew what really goes on there.   

My Thoughts:

This book brings me up to date with the Vera Stanhope series - in print anyway.  I still need to go back and read The Glass Room (which is coming out in the US on April 24th).  It's always kind of confusing when books that are already available in the UK are released here later.  Anyway, I enjoyed The Seagull very much.  Again, Janine Birkett provided the narration.  Vera has been assigned (not at her instigation) to visit a local prison and give a talk.  While there, she meets up with a former policeman that she helped convict and who also was a friend of Hector, her father.  Vera really doesn't like 'bent' cops.  And she knows that Hector and his 'gang of four' were up to no good.  John Brace, the former cop, wants her help.  He has a daughter that he wants Vera to check on.  If she does this, he will give her information about another of the 'gang' who went missing years ago.  He says Robbie Marshall is dead and he knows where his body is.

Vera gets involved in the case and comes to know and feel compassion for Brace's daughter and her children.  She wonders if she would have been a good mother.  She remembers, not so fondly, meeting her father's friends.  Another body is discovered and then things really get rolling.  It all concerns a bar and restaurant called The Seagull, the people who owned it and the people who worked there.  What was actually going on at The Seagull?  And who is the shadowy fourth member of the group, The Prof.  Vera and her team dig in and try to find the answers.  And, of course, they do find them, though not perhaps exactly as they predicted.  Will be looking forward to the next book in this series.  And now, to watch the TV show!


A visit to her local prison brings DI Vera Stanhope face to face with an old enemy: former detective superintendent, and now inmate, John Brace. Brace was convicted of corruption and involvement in the death of a gamekeeper – and Vera played a key part in his downfall.

Now, Brace promises Vera information about the disappearance of Robbie Marshall, a notorious wheeler-dealer who disappeared in the mid-nineties, if she will look out for his daughter and grandchildren. He tells her that Marshall is dead, and that his body is buried close to St Mary’s Island in Whitley Bay. However, when a search team investigates, officers find not one skeleton, but two.

This cold case case takes Vera back in time, and very close to home, as Brace and Marshall, along with a mysterious stranger known only as ‘the Prof’, were close friends of Hector, her father. Together, they were the 'Gang of Four’, regulars at a glamorous nightclub called The Seagull. Hector had been one of the last people to see Marshall alive. As the past begins to collide dangerously with the present, Vera confronts her prejudices and unwanted memories to dig out the truth . . .

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - Give Me Your Hand

I'm posting a 'soon to be released' book on Wednesdays.  These will always be books that I am particularly looking forward to.  I'll be linking up to 'Can't-Wait Wednesday' hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

The book I'm 'waiting' on this week is by an author that has been nominated for several mystery awards and won a Barry Award for 'Best Paperback Novel' a few years ago.  She writes teenage protagonists very well, in my opinion.  I read her previous book, You Will Know Me, last year.  Have you read any books by Megan Abbott?  This week I'm waiting on:

Publication Date:  July 17th

Kit Owens harbored only modest ambitions for herself when the mysterious Diane Fleming appeared in her high school chemistry class. But Diane's academic brilliance lit a fire in Kit, and the two developed an unlikely friendship. Until Diane shared a secret that changed everything between them.

More than a decade later, Kit thinks she's put Diane behind her forever and she's begun to fulfill the scientific dreams Diane awakened in her. But the past comes roaring back when she discovers that Diane is her competition for a position both women covet, taking part in groundbreaking new research led by their idol. Soon enough, the two former friends find themselves locked in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to destroy them both.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Dust and Shadow - Lyndsay Faye

Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye

First Paragraph(s):

At first it seemed the Ripper affair had scarred my friend Sherlock Holmes as badly as it had the city of London itself.  I would encounter him at the end of his nightlong vigils, lying upon the sofa with his violin at his feet and his hypodermic syringe fallen from long, listless fingers, neither anodyne having banished the specter of the man we had pursued for over two months.  I fought as best I could for his health, but as a fellow sufferer I could do but little to dispel his horror at what had occurred, his petrifying fear that somehow, in some inhuman feat of genius, he could have done more than he did.
     At length, though never for publication, I determined that in the interests of my own peace of mind, I should write the matter down.  I think only in my struggle to record the Reichenbach Falls business have I borne so heavy a weight as I laid pen against paper.  They were evil days for me, and Holmes more than once, up and about as the cases flooded in with more force than he could practically avoid, leaned against my desk and remarked, 'Come see about the Tarlington matter with me.  You needn't write this, my dear fellow.  The world has already forgotten him, you know.  One day we shall too.'
     However, as was very seldom the case, Sherlock Holmes was mistaken.  The world did not forget him.  It has not forgotten him to this very day, and it is a brave lad indeed who does not experience a chilling of the blood when an elder sibling invokes the frightful phantom of Jack the Ripper.

My Thoughts:

Our mystery group has a 'Sherlock Holmes' theme for April and so I decided to listen to Dust and Shadow for the second time as my initial selection.  It is narrated by Simon Vance and his voice is a welcome one for me.  It's also the debut book for the author, Lyndsay Faye.  She's written several books since that time (and been nominated for more than one Edgar award), but this first book is her tribute to Sherlock and Dr. Watson.  And she's included that scary serial killer, Jack the Ripper.

The premise is that Holmes and Watson were actually involved in the hunt for Jack, as were other familiar characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's tales.  I was pleased to see that the 'usual' suspects for the Ripper identity got at least a hat tip - was it a doctor or a butcher or even a prince?  Faye goes her own way in that regard and includes Sherlockian trivia and locations.  Though it isn't perfect, it's a worthy tribute, in my opinion.  I enjoyed it very much.  And I'm off to begin my next book using this theme. 


From the gritty streets of nineteenth century London, the loyal and courageous Dr. Watson offers a tale unearthed after generations of lore: the harrowing story of Sherlock Holmes’s attempt to hunt down Jack the Ripper.

As England’s greatest specialist in criminal detection, Sherlock Holmes is unwavering in his quest to capture the killer responsible for terrifying London’s East End. He hires an “unfortunate” known as Mary Ann Monk, the friend of a fellow streetwalker who was one of the Ripper’s earliest victims; and he relies heavily on the steadfast and devoted Dr. John H. Watson. When Holmes himself is wounded in Whitechapel during an attempt to catch the savage monster, the popular press launches an investigation of its own, questioning the great detective’s role in the very crimes he is so fervently struggling to prevent. Stripped of his credibility, Holmes is left with no choice but to break every rule in the desperate race to find the madman known as “the Knife” before it is too late.

Monday, March 26, 2018

To the Bright Edge of the World - Eowyn Ivey

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

First Paragraph(s):

Attention Mr. Joshua Sloan
Exhibits Curator
Alpine Historical Museum
Alpine, Alaska

Mr. Sloan,
     I warned you I am a stubborn old man.  These boxes have the papers I told you about, the letters and journals from my great-uncle's 1885 expedition across Alaska.  I know you said you weren't able to take them on, but I'm sending them anyways.  You'll change your mind once you read through all this.  Truth be told, I don't have much choice.  I never had children of my own, and all the relatives are dead.  When my turn comes, these papers will be thrown out with everything else.  For most of my life they have been crammed in trunks and boxes, and they show signs of wear.  It would be a shame for them to be lost altogether.

My Thoughts:

First of all, I love a good epistolary novel.  Books told through diaries, letters, pictures, note cards, newspaper articles - love them.  To the Bright Edge of the World is indeed such a book.  It is the second novel by Eowyn Ivey (and her name - Eowyn - is pronounced A-o-win - she's named after the character in Lord of the Rings).  I read this book recently for a book group and it was a really good and thoughtful discussion.  Almost everyone liked it very much, though there were some who had reservations about certain aspects - the hardship experienced by the characters in travelling through and exploring Alaska in the late 1880's and also the deprivation that existed for the Native peoples that already had lived there for generations.  Some also had trouble with the hazy, magical-realism sort of feel to many parts.  There were legends and tales - shape shifters or maybe not - a raven that might have been a shaman or just a bird. 

There was also a great and evocative love story between Colonel Forrester and his wife, Sophie.  She must stay behind at Ft. Vancouver, Washington while her husband and his men travel for months on end to learn new things about this beautiful and scary territory far to the north.  Though the soldiers certainly have trials, Sophie does as well.  She takes up a new pursuit, photography, and patiently learns how to operate the camera she acquires and also how to calm her own fears because of things in her past.  And she waits and waits for word about the explorers.

I enjoyed the references to the Columbia River Valley area, Portland, and Mt. Hood.  The occasional descriptions of the Pacific Northwest and flora and fauna were welcome.  This book was not a quick read and it's not a short one either.  When I appeared at the book group, several said 'I thought you didn't read books like this...' and I don't, usually.  Though I am so glad that I decided to try it.  The author, Ivey, is a native Alaskan and lives with her family there.  It was apparent to me that she knew much about the country and also that she had done much research.  The book also includes a current day aspect, shown above in the 'first paragraph' section, in which a descendent of Colonel Forrester donates the diaries and papers to an Alaskan museum.  The relationship that develops between the older gentleman that donates the material and the museum director was poignant as well.  So, what's my verdict - I loved this book.  It is highly recommended by me.


In the winter of 1885, decorated war hero Colonel Allen Forrester leads a small band of men on an expedition that has been deemed impossible: to venture up the Wolverine River and pierce the vast, untamed Alaska Territory. Leaving behind Sophie, his newly pregnant wife, Colonel Forrester records his extraordinary experiences in hopes that his journal will reach her if he doesn't return--once he passes beyond the edge of the known world, there's no telling what awaits him.

The Wolverine River Valley is not only breathtaking and forbidding but also terrifying in ways that the colonel and his men never could have imagined. As they map the territory and gather information on the native tribes, whose understanding of the natural world is unlike anything they have ever encountered, Forrester and his men discover the blurred lines between human and wild animal, the living and the dead. And while the men knew they would face starvation and danger, they cannot escape the sense that some greater, mysterious force threatens their lives.

Meanwhile, on her own at Vancouver Barracks, Sophie chafes under the social restrictions and yearns to travel alongside her husband. She does not know that the winter will require as much of her as it does her husband, that both her courage and faith will be tested to the breaking point. Can her exploration of nature through the new art of photography help her to rediscover her sense of beauty and wonder?

The truths that Allen and Sophie discover over the course of that fateful year change both of their lives--and the lives of those who hear their stories long after they're gone--forever.

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Moth Catcher - Ann Cleeves

The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves

First Paragraph(s):

Lizzie Redhead listened.  In the prison it was never quiet.  Not even now in the middle of the night.  The other women in her room stirred, snuffling like animals in their sleep.  No cells here.  Dormitories that reminded her of school.  No privacy.  No darkness, either.  A gleam from the corridor outside shone through the crack under the door, and though this was a low-security establishment there were spotlights at the walls and the gate, and the curtains were thin.  Footsteps in the corridor outside.  A screw checking that lass on suicide-watch.  Two in the morning.

My Thoughts:

The Moth Catcher is the 7th book in the DI Vera Stanhope series that's so ably written by Ann Cleeves.  I'm closing in on the final (up to now) book, The Seagull.  I again listened to this book on audio and Janine Birkett repeated her great narration.  This book was interesting and had lots of characters to get to know.  One thing I'll say is that Cleeves always includes information about birds in these books, describing the look of them or the way they sound.  She actually met her husband, Tim, an ornithologist, at the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle where she was working as a cook.  In addition to the birds, here we learn a bit about moths and how they are trapped, photographed and released again.  And we learn about social workers and prisons, among other things.

Vera and her team are a bit confused trying to put all the pieces together and find out how two victims were connected, other than that they are both dead at a country house.  And then another person is killed, a woman who works for a charity that helps offenders reintegrate into society.  There are three retired couples that live near and all of them have secrets.  What those secrets might be and whether they knew any of the victims - well, that's the problem.  I did not guess who the killer was and really didn't have an inkling.  I will say that doesn't often happen to me anymore.  This author does a good job of presenting the clues, but also making them seem insignificant.  The mark of a good crime writer.  I'm ready for the next book!


Life seems perfect in the quiet community of Valley Farm. Then a shocking discovery shatters the silence. The owners of a big country house have employed a house-sitter, a young ecologist, to look after the place while they’re away. But his dead body is found by the side of the lane—a lonely place to die.

When DI Vera Stanhope arrives on the scene, she finds the body of a second man. What the two victims seem to have in common is a fascination with studying moths—and with catching these beautiful, intriguing creatures.

The others who live in Valley Farm have secrets too: Lorraine’s calm demeanor belies a more complex personality; Annie and Sam’s daughter, Lizzie, is due to be released from prison; and Nigel watches, silently, every day, from his window. As Vera is drawn into the claustrophobic world of this increasingly strange community, she realizes that there may be many deadly secrets trapped there . . .

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Broken Girls - Simone St. James

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

First Paragraph(s):

The sun vanished below the horizon as the girl crested the rise of Old Barrons Road.  Night, and she still had three miles to go.
     The air here went blue at dusk, purplish and cold, a light that blurred details as if one were looking through smoke.  Squinting, the girl cast a glance back at the road where it climbed the rise behind her, the breeze tousling her hair and creeping through the thin fabric of her collar, but no one that she could see was following.
     Still:  Faster, she thought.

My Thoughts:

A year or so ago, I tried Simone St. James' first book and thought it wasn't for me.  Well, her latest one is definitely for me.  Ghosts, missing girls, a boarding school where 'bad' girls are left to almost fend for themselves, dual timelines, secrets, secrets, secrets.  Yep, that's for me.  Jenclair wrote about this book recently and brought it to my attention here.  After reading her reaction, I knew I needed to try it.  I was very caught up in the story, though I didn't read it fast.  Somehow, I took my time and tried to determine who and what and mostly why.  I liked Fiona in the present day and her relentless pursuit of information about Idlewild Hall and also her sister's murder.  I liked the four roommates, all damaged and neglected and shunted aside by their circumstances.  I wanted to know what happened to each of them and where they would end up.  And I liked the young policeman that Fiona is close to.  He's in a tough position and has to decide if he's on the side of good or the side of easy.  Oh, and let's not forget Mary Hand....creepy deluxe!

So, this book is a little spooky, a little historical, a little mysterious.  I'm planning on going back and trying Simone St. James' earlier books - have you read any of them?  And I'm recommending this one if you like to walk on the Gothic side.


Vermont, 1950. There's a place for the girls whom no one wants—the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It's called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it's located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming—until one of them mysteriously disappears...

Vermont, 2014. As much as she's tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister's death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister's boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can't shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past—and a voice that won't be silenced...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - Don't Believe It

I'm posting a 'soon to be released' book on Wednesdays.  These will always be books that I am particularly looking forward to.  I'll be linking up to 'Can't-Wait Wednesday' hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

I read Charlie Donlea's second book, The Girl Who Was Taken, last year and really liked it.  I still haven't read Summit Lake, his first, but hopefully one day soon.  Did you read either of these?  I seem to remember more than one of my blogging friends liking them.  So, this week I'm waiting for:

Publication Date:  May 29th

The Girl of Sugar Beach is the most watched documentary in television history—a riveting, true-life mystery that unfolds over twelve weeks and centers on a fascinating question: Did Grace Sebold murder her boyfriend, Julian, while on a Spring Break vacation, or is she a victim of circumstance and poor police work? Grace has spent the last ten years in a St. Lucian prison, and reaches out to filmmaker Sidney Ryan in a last, desperate attempt to prove her innocence.

As Sidney begins researching, she uncovers startling evidence, additional suspects, and timeline issues that were all overlooked during the original investigation. Before the series even finishes filming, public outcry leads officials to reopen the case. But as the show surges towards its final episodes, Sidney receives a letter saying that she got it badly, terribly wrong.

Sidney has just convinced the world that Grace is innocent. Now she wonders if she has helped to free a ruthless killer. Delving into Grace’s past, she peels away layer after layer of deception. But as Sidney edges closer to the real heart of the story, she must decide if finding the truth is worth risking her newfound fame, her career . . . even her life.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Top 10 Tuesday - Books on my Spring TBR with authors appearing at Malice Domestic 30

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly event that is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is 'Books On My Spring TBR', which I am tweaking to be 'Books on my Spring TBR with authors appearing at Malice Domestic 30'

Malice Domestic is an annual fan convention that celebrates traditional mysteries (like Agatha Christie wrote).  This year will be the 30th year that this convention has existed.  Awards are given each year in various categories and the awards are called 'Agathas'.  I was lucky enough to get to attend last year and I'm also planning on attending this year.  For my spring TBR, I have selected 10 (well, actually 11) books to attempt to read this spring.  I know I won't get to all of them before the end of April, but I'll give it a shot.   

The first five are the books nominated for 'Best First Novel' at the convention.  All of the authors will be on a panel talking with Margaret Maron (one of my favorite mystery writers) and I'm volunteering to help with that panel.  They are:

The second group of six are books that were penned by authors that I'll also be seeing when they appear on panels.  Some of the panels I will volunteer to help and some I'll just attend and listen.  Looking forward to trying all these books.

So, what do you think?  Have you read any books by these authors or do any of these look like books you'd enjoy?  Ever thought about going to a book convention?  They are fun, trust me!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Harbour Street - Ann Cleeves

Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves

First Paragraph(s):

Joe pushed through the crowd.  It was just before Christmas and the Metro trains were full of shoppers clutching carrier bags stuffed with useless presents.  Babies were left to scream in expensive buggies.  People who'd been drinking early spilled out from office parties, stumbling down the escalators and onto the trains.  Youths used language Joe wouldn't want his children to hear.  Today, though, he'd had no option about using the Metro.  Sal had been adamant that she needed the car.
     It was just him and his daughter.  She was in the school choir and there'd been a performance in Newcastle Cathedral.  Carols by candlelight, because even at four o'clock it was dark in the building.  Beautiful singing that made him feel like crying.  His boss, Vera Stanhope, always said that he was a romantic fool.  The out into the rush-hour evening, and it was just starting to snow, so Jessie was excited all over again.  She was a soloist and had hit all the right notes, so the choirmaster had given her a special mention at the end.  Christmas was only ten days away, though she was too old now to believe in Santa.  But there was snow.  Tiny little flakes twisting in the gusty wind like mini-tornadoes.

My Thoughts:

Harbour Street is actually the 6th book in the Vera Stanhope series.  You may ask, what happened to #4 and #5?  Well, I did listen to the 4th book, Silent Voices, but had already talked about my experience reading it in print here .  It was narrated by Charlie Harwick and she did a good job.  Book #5, The Glass Room, is only available in print.  Since these books are pretty much complete in themselves, I skipped that one and went on to #6.  I'm trying to finish the series before the end of April when I will be attending Malice Domestic 30, a mystery conference.  Ann Cleeves and Brenda Blethyn (who plays Vera in the TV adaptation) will both be in attendance.   

Harbour Street takes place at Christmas time.  As one might expect, Christmas and all the celebrating, not really Vera's 'cup of tea'.  She never experienced 'happy families', as she terms it.  Her father, Hector, was not a particularly nice man and he didn't seem to care that his daughter was missing out on normal life.  First thing in the book, we see Vera's colleague, Joe Ashworth, with his own daughter on a train.  Jessie, Joe's daughter, discovers an older woman who has been stabbed.  The woman lived on Harbour Street and the investigation centers on the people who reside there and the secrets they have hidden for a long time.  Solving this crime is more fun for Vera than shopping for a Secret Santa gift.  And solve it she does - in time for the holidays.  Janine Birkett narrated this one and she also did a good job.  Next on the list, The Moth Catcher.   


As the snow falls thickly on Newcastle, the shouts and laughter of Christmas revelers break the muffled silence. Detective Joe Ashworth and his daughter Jessie are swept along in the jostling crowd onto the Metro.

But when the train is stopped due to the bad weather, and the other passengers fade into the swirling snow, Jessie notices that one lady hasn't left the train: Margaret Krukowski has been fatally stabbed.

Arriving at the scene, DI Vera Stanhope is relieved to have an excuse to escape the holiday festivities. As she stands on the silent, snow-covered station platform, Vera feels a familiar buzz of anticipation, sensing that this will be a complex and unusual case.

Then, just days later, a second woman is murdered. Vera knows that to find the key to this new killing she needs to understand what had been troubling Margaret so deeply before she died - before another life is lost. She can feel in her bones that there's a link. Retracing Margaret's final steps, Vera finds herself searching deep into the hidden past of this seemingly innocent neighborhood, led by clues that keep revolving around one street...

Why are the residents of Harbour Street so reluctant to speak?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Bookish Nostalgia - March 2018

Welcome to Bookish Nostalgia for March 2018.  I've kept records of books I read for over 25 years and I enjoy looking back through my reading journals to see what I was reading 5, 10, 15, and 20 years ago.  Let's see what I remember about what I was reading in those years:

March 1998 - One, Two, What Did Daddy Do? by Susan Rogers Cooper - This is the first book in Susan Rogers Cooper's mystery series featuring E.J. Pugh and her family.  The author is from my part of the world, and I discovered her in 1998 and read the first 3 books.  E.J. is an aspiring romance writer who lives with her husband and kids in Central Texas.  She gets involved in mystery solving in her 'spare' time.  There are now 13 books in this series, which I've wanted to reread for a long time.  I should get started on that.

March 2003 - Killer Stuff by Sharon Fiffer -  First in a mystery series about Jane Wheel, a 'picker' at estate sales and auctions and garage sales and flea markets.  This was quite a few years before the TV show American Pickers became popular.  At the time, I was working with a charity that had a thrift shop and managing the administrative end of that shop.  It was fun to read, but I don't do thrift shops any more.  Ha!  There were 8 books in this series.

March 2008 - Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks - This book was a selection of a book group I moderated when I worked at the library.  It was one of our early selections and introduced me to this great author.  A tale of the plague and how a small community deals with a disease that they don't understand.  I've read other books by Brooks and loved them, especially People of the Book.

March 2013 - Faithful Place by Tana French - The 3rd in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad books - a loosely connected series.  Looking at my book journal for this month, I can see that I reread the first 3 books, In the Woods, The Likeness, and this one in preparation for reading the 4th, Broken Harbor.  I love these books, but Faithful Place is still my favorite of all of them (6 books).


And so we end this month's Bookish Nostalgia.  Have you read any of these books or authors?  Hope you'll join me again next month to see what April books I remember from my journals.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Here We Lie - Paula Treick DeBoard

Here We Lie by Paula Treick DeBoard

First Paragraph(s):

It was raining and I was going to be late.
     The press conference was scheduled for ten o'clock and by the time I found a parking space in the cavernous garage, I had twenty minutes.  I slipped once on the stairs, catching myself with a shocked hand on the sticky rail.  Seventeen minutes.
     I followed a cameraman toting a giant boom over his shoulder, navigating a path through the crowds of the capitol.  Thank goodness I was wearing tennis shoes.  I passed a group of schoolchildren on the steps, prim in their navy blazers and white button-down shirts.  Their teacher's question echoed off the concrete.  'Who can tell me what it means that we have a separation and balance of powers?'
     Only one hand shot into the air.
     Balance of power, I thought.  A good lesson for today.

My Thoughts:

Here We Lie is the second book I've read by Paula Treick DeBoard.  I read The Drowning Girls last year and liked it well enough.  This novel though was quite absorbing, and I had a hard time putting it down.  I hate over-using the term 'timely' for a storyline, but that is exactly what this book was - timely.  Two young women who were roommates at a small female college - Megan from the Midwest with not much money - Lauren from New England with a wealthy family, father a US senator, mother a 'fixer' of family problems.  Each girl doesn't exactly reveal the complete truth to the other about their previous lives, partially because they are ashamed, and partially because they want to appear cool.  The summer before their senior year comes around and something really tragic happens.  There are assumptions and lies and misunderstandings.  They go their separate ways for 15 years.  And then, Lauren's brother is accused of sexual assault and misconduct and the events of that long ago summer have to be revealed.  The story is told by both Lauren and Megan and rotates back and forth between the past and the present.  As I said, I was caught up in finding out who and what and why.  The ending is fairly abrupt and I might have liked a bit more there, but I was satisfied.  I'll be watching for this author's next book and as there are two books by her that I haven't read yet, I'll be looking for those as well.


Megan Mazeros and Lauren Mabrey are complete opposites on paper. Megan is a girl from a modest Midwest background, and Lauren is the daughter of a senator from an esteemed New England family. When they become roommates at a private women’s college, they forge a strong, albeit unlikely, friendship, sharing clothes, advice and their most intimate secrets.

The summer before senior year, Megan joins Lauren and her family on their private island off the coast of Maine. It should be a summer of relaxation, a last hurrah before graduation and the pressures of postcollege life. Then late one night, something unspeakable happens, searing through the framework of their friendship and tearing them apart. Many years later, Megan publicly comes forward about what happened that fateful night, revealing a horrible truth and threatening to expose long-buried secrets.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - A Gathering of Secrets

I'm posting a 'soon to be released' book on Wednesdays.  These will always be books that I am particularly looking forward to.  I'll be linking up to 'Can't-Wait Wednesday' hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

My can't wait book for this week is from one of my favorite series.  It features Kate Burkholder, Chief of Police in Painters Mill, Ohio.  I've loved this series from the very beginning with Sworn To Silence.  Kate was raised in an Amish family, but left that life in her late teens.  She's now the chief cop in her hometown and her background helps and, at times, hinders her investigations.  The upcoming book is the 10th in the series.  I'm waiting on:

Publication Date:  July 10th

When a historic barn burns to the ground in the middle of the night, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called in to investigate. At first, it looks like an accident, but when the body of eighteen-year-old Daniel Gingerich is found inside—burned alive—Kate suspects murder. Who would want a well-liked, hardworking young Amish man dead? Kate delves into the investigation only to find herself stonewalled by the community to which she once belonged. Is their silence a result of the Amish tenet of separation? Or is this peaceful and deeply religious community conspiring to hide a truth no one wants to talk about? Kate doubles down only to discover a plethora of secrets and a chilling series of crimes that shatters everything she thought she knew about her Amish roots—and herself.

As Kate wades through a sea of suspects, she’s confronted by her own violent past and an unthinkable possibility.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Top 10 Tuesday - Books that I was surprised I liked...in a good way

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly event that is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is 'Books That Surprised Me (in a good or bad way)', which I am interpreting as 'Books that I was surprised I liked...in a good way'.  It's hard for me to think of books that I didn't like because I rarely finish books I'm not enjoying.  Life is too short and so is our reading life, right?  If you don't like it, D...N...F!!  Ha!

I'm dividing this into two sections - more recent surprises and books that surprised me long ago.

Recent Surprises

1.  Dog On It by Spencer Quinn - The first in the Chet and Bernie mystery series, it's told from the viewpoint of Chet - the dog.  Yes, we see all the action from Chet's point of view.  We read and discussed this one with our mystery group and it went over very well.  I'm not so much of a dog person, but I loved this book.  Chet would get distracted by smells and pretty much everything.

2.  The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson - This is non-fiction and I've said I'm not the biggest fan of NF.  However, again, we read this in our mystery group.  It was really, really interesting.  Not only about the Chicago World's Fair, but the man who was murdering young women close by the event. 

3.  Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast - One of the first graphic novels I tried.  It's a memoir of Roz Chast's experience with her aging parents, their decline, aging, and the end stages of their lives.  Chast was an only child and so she put her journey here.  It's sad and funny and emotional.  I've lived this book in many ways.

4.  Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel - This is the first book in The Themis Files and is classified as 'sci-fi', in my opinion.  Like Transformers and Optimus Prime meets Iron Man, with a bit of epistolary novel thrown in.  I recently talked about waiting for the 3rd book, Only Human.  Very interesting story.

5.  Bel Canto by Ann Patchett - I'm not sure who suggested I pick up this book, but I'm glad I did.  And reading about opera singers and South America and Japanese industrialists and hostage situations - amazingly intriguing.  The blurb said it is for literate music lovers.  Who knew?  I like music, but opera, not so much.  Still, a good book.

Surprises From Earlier Years

6.  The Mystery of the Haunted Pool by Phyllis A Whitney - I read this book when I was about 8 or 9.  I ran out of library books at my grandmother's house and found this one.  It belonged to my older cousin.  Might have been my first 'real' mystery book.  I loved it and it was one of the books that set me on my path to 'read all the mystery/crime/Gothic/horror books'. 

7.  'Salem's Lot by Stephen King - My first Stephen King book.  Bought it off the paperback rack at a grocery store while I was waiting for my car to be repaired.  I was a junior in college and didn't have time for much fiction.  However, I think I read all night long.  Scared me witless.  First experience with vampires.  Loved it. 

8.  Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton - I remember choosing this one at the library from the 'New Book' section.  I didn't know anything about Crichton at that time, though I had loved The Andromeda Strain movie.  After I realized that we were reading about dinosaurs, I told my husband - you have got to read this book.  A dinosaur theme park.  Quite the fun thing - or not.  I was fascinated and knew that many, many people would love this book.

9.  The Firm by John Grisham - When I picked this one up in 1991 or so, I told my husband the same thing that I did when I read Jurassic Park - this is going to be BIG.  And so it was.  Grisham had already written A Time To Kill, but it wasn't very well known.  The Firm was his first big hit.  And I had never read a legal thriller.  I read all of Grisham's books for a long time after that.

10.  A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr - As I said, I am not a big non-fiction reader, but I vividly remember reading this book in the mid-'90's.  The court case to try to win damages for families of people who had health problems because of chemicals in their water was terrible and gripping.  I had not ever read a book like this and couldn't put it down.  It was outside my normal reading, but I was glad I tried it.

So, do you have books that surprised you...in a good way?  Things I ought to read?  Of course you do!  Feel free to make suggestions.  I'll put them on my list that runs from here to the moon.  Probably literally.  Ha!

Monday, March 12, 2018

And the winning number of the Classics Club Spin is.....

I shared my Classic Club Spin #17 post last Monday with my 20 potential books.  And said, if I had my choice, I'd like to avoid perhaps #1, #2, #3, and #10.  Time constraints and other books preferred first.  Well, as luck would have it (and here you know why I never gamble - I have no luck!), the spin number is....wait for it....


Of course it is.  Ha!  I am excited about the book though.  My spin book is:

I am planning on doing a read/listen.  So tell me - have you read The Woman in White?  What did you think?  Inquiring minds want to know.  I'm supposed to have it finished by the end of April.  I think that's possible.  Wish me luck!!

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Confusion of Languages - Siobhan Fallon

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

First Paragraph(s):

We are close, so close to Margaret's apartment, and I feel myself sinking deeper into the passenger seat, relieved that I have succeeded in my small mission of getting Margaret out of her home, if only for a few hours.  The day is a success.  Sure, I had to let her drive, something I usually avoid.  Margaret is always too nervous, too chatty, looking around at the pedestrians, forgetting to put on her signal, stomping on the brakes too late.  But today I actually managed to snap her out of her sadness.  I have done everything a good friend should.

My Thoughts:

I was well pleased with this choice of book to 'change it up' a bit.  Siobhan Fallon's debut novel was very, very thought provoking.  She's also written a short story collection that I read a few years ago when it was one of the Mayor's Book Club selections for the Austin Public Library - You Know When The Men Are Gone.  This author is the wife of a career military man, and she can write with knowledge and authority for what it's like to be the family of these individuals.  She moved to Jordan in 2011 and that is where this novel is set.  I think it's hard for us to understand what it might be like to be living in a culture so very different from what we are used to, a country with different 'rules' and norms and then also have to cope with a spouse that is deployed or sent to yet another country for extended periods of time.  The loneliness, the desire to fit in, the lack of friends and just your children or maybe just yourself to have as company for much of the time.

In this story of two women, Cassie and Margaret, the reader sees quite the different ends of the spectrum in abilities to adapt or adjust to a culture with more rigid rules for many things, especially gender issues.  Cassie and her husband, Dan, have lived in Amman, Jordan for two years and they are the 'sponsors' or 'mentors' of Margaret and her spouse, Crick.  Margaret has a baby.  Cassie wishes she had a child.  Cassie follows the 'rules' set out by the American Embassy for 'life in Jordan'.  She has constructed a little box of a life in order to manage her time there.  Margaret has a harder time doing this.  She sees this move as an opportunity to learn about new things, new people, and she reaches out with abandon to see and do everything, while rarely regarding the cautions and warnings about societal norms.  The title of the book is apt - there is indeed a 'confusion of languages'.

Told by both women, Cassie, mostly over the course of single day, and also through Margaret's journal, which details her life after her arrival in Jordan, the tension increases more and more.  The women are in a car accident and Margaret goes to the police station to settle things - then doesn't return.  Time passes and Cassie finds the journal and starts reading it.  Many things were not as they seemed.  And that's all I'll say, other than to promise that when Siobhan Fallon's next book is published, I'll be racing to read it.  There is beauty here and sorrow and wisdom.  Recommended.


Both Cassie Hugo and Margaret Brickshaw dutifully followed their soldier husbands to the U.S. embassy in Jordan, but that’s about all the women have in common. After two years, Cassie’s become an expert on the rules, but newly arrived Margaret sees only her chance to explore. So when a fender-bender sends Margaret to the local police station, Cassie reluctantly agrees to watch Margaret’s toddler son. But as the hours pass, Cassie’s boredom and frustration turn to fear: Why isn’t Margaret answering her phone, and why is it taking so long to sort out a routine accident? Snooping around Margaret’s apartment, Cassie begins to question not only her friend’s whereabouts but also her own role in Margaret’s disappearance.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Hidden Depths - Ann Cleeves

Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves

First Paragraph(s):

Julie stumbled from the taxi and watched it drive away.  At the front gate she paused to compose herself.  Best not to go in looking pissed after all those lectures she'd given the kids.  The stars wheeled and dipped in the sky and she almost threw up.  But she didn't care.  It had been a good night, the first with the girls for ages.  Though it wasn't the girls that had made it so special, she thought, and realized there was a great soppy beam on her face.  Just as well it was dark and there was no one to see.

My Thoughts:

Hidden Depths is the third book in the Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope crime series.  I'm really enjoying listening to these books - this one narrated by Ann Dover.  In this book, a young man is killed and left in the tub with flowers, his sister asleep in another part of the house.  Their mother comes home from a night out with friends and finds him.  A few days after this, another young person is strangled and left near the sea, also with flowers surrounding her.  Vera, Joe and others on their team interview numerous people, including a group of men who have been friends for a long time.  They are birders - something Vera herself knows a bit about as her father was very interested in birds.  There are lies and obsession and infidelity.  There's danger to another young person.  Vera makes her canny way through all the clues and comes up with the truth in the end.  As I've noted before, these are not thrillers, but they are interesting police procedurals that I am liking very much.  I'm moving on to the audio of the next book, which I read in print last year.  It's Silent Voices.


On a hot summer on the Northumberland coast, Julie Armstrong arrives home from a night out to find her son murdered. Luke has been strangled, laid out in a bath of water and covered with wild flowers.

This stylized murder scene has Inspector Vera Stanhope and her team intrigued. But now, Vera must work quickly to find this killer who is making art out of death. As local residents are forced to share their private lives, sinister secrets are slowly unearthed.

And all the while the killer remains in their midst, waiting for an opportunity to prepare another beautiful, watery grave…