Monday, October 15, 2018

The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas

I've read the second, and now the third Lady Sherlock mystery by Sherry Thomas. I'm afraid I'm just not the right audience for these books, although I'm a big fan of the original Sherlock Holmes stories and some of the pastiches. I found The Hollow of Fear difficult to follow at times, and I'm not as in love with Charlotte Holmes as many readers are. As I said, though, I think I'm not the right audience.

When Charlotte Holmes helps her half-brother escape from men who are after him, she senses there is a plot in motion. Her sister, Livia, is an unwitting pawn. Livia annually visits Mrs. Newell, a distant relative. When the cisterns fail at Mrs. Newell's house, all her guests move to Lord Ingram's estate, Stern Hollow. Livia is aware that all society speculates about Charlotte's friendship with Lord Ingram, guessing that it's more than friendship. Then Livia, along with two of the worst gossips in London, find Lady Ingram's body in the estate's icehouse.

The Chief Inspector sent from Scotland Yard does everything in his power to prove Lord Ingram killed his wife. At the same time, Charlotte goes undercover as Sherlock Holmes' brother to discover the truth about the murder.

This third in the series picks up exactly where A Conspiracy in Belgravia ended. That may be confusing to readers who have not read the books. It's leisurely paced, with careful development of the elaborate storyline. While it's an atmospheric story, it's also a thought-provoking view of the expectations and roles of women in Victorian England.

Fans of the series, and readers of Doyle's canon, especially The Valley of Fear, will appreciate the intricately plotted mystery. Others may find it difficult to follow. I'm not a fan of slow-moving novels that take a while to unfold. As I said before, that's my problem, not an issue with The Hollow of Fear.

Sherry Thomas' website is

The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas. Berkley, 2018. ISBN 9780425281420 (paperback), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received my book to review for a journal.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

If you read my blog on Thursday, you might have read Ron Charles' Washington Post review of this book. It was funny. But, I read Mitch Albom's The Next Person You Meet in Heaven. It's really directed at the same audience that made The Five People You Meet in Heaven a #1 bestseller.

In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Eddie, a maintenance man at Ruby Pier amusement park, died saving a little girl from a cable that snapped on a ride. Now, twenty-five years later, Annie, that little girl, is a nurse. She's also a newlywed, for one day. That's not a spoiler. The author makes it obvious with an hour-by-hour countdown that it's the last day of Annie's life. But, throughout the book, readers meet the five people (used loosely) who changed or affected Annie's life. Readers see Annie's view of every situation. Most times, Annie thinks she made a mistake that caused a tragic result, but she's blocked out the accident that permanently damaged her hand. Annie views her life, even in death, as one big mistake.

Yes, I'll admit the book is overly sentimental. I found myself tearing up over a story about a dog. Albom's words are excessively flowery at times. Even before I read Charles' review, I thought this book was unnecessary. The first book seemed to have set the pattern, and, in some ways, this seemed repetitive. It was a totally different story, with a twist in the end. But, it still felt as if I had been on this journey before.

As I said, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven has a built-in audience. I'll be curious to see if or where it lands on the bestseller lists, and how long it stays there. It just wasn't as original as the first book.

Mitch Albom's website is

The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. Harper, 2018. ISBN 9780062294449 (hardcover), 213p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Dig Your Grave by Steven Cooper

Darn. Once again, I discovered a series with the second book. You can start with Steven Cooper's Dig Your Grave, but if you like the Arizona setting and the characters, Gus Mills and Alex Parker, as much as I did, you'll wish you had started with Desert Remains.

Detective Alex Mills of the Phoenix Police Department needs help on his latest case. His team is called to a cemetery where the body of a well-dressed man has been found in an open grave. Mills, following a hunch, calls his friend Gus Parker. Gus is a psychic and Mills wants him to take a look at the scene. Gus often has a vision that will point them in the right direction, even if it's unclear at first.

Then, a second body is found, and the man appears to have dug his own grave. Both dead men were prominent in their field, and in Phoenix. While Mills' team digs to find a connection between the two victims, Gus goes missing. Parker's girlfriend is a famous rock star, and she can't locate him. It isn't like Gus to miss work at his day-to-day job. It isn't like him to not answer his phone. Detective Mills has to juggle family issues and look for Gus while trying to catch the killer who forces the victims to leave notes and dig their own graves.

Readers will appreciate the strong sense of place. While I recognized Phoenix locations, the descriptions are vividly drawn even for those who never lived in the area. Both lead characters are intriguing men with personal issues.

Dig Your Grave is a compelling, intense mystery. The intricately plotted story will appeal to fans of P.J. Tracy's Monkeewrench novels. (I still think you should start with Desert Remains, though.)

Steven Cooper's website is

Dig Your Grave by Steven Cooper. Seventh Street Books, 2018. ISBN 9781633884809 (paperback), 368p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Winners & A Dog & Cats Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Linda M. from Franklin, PA won Shelved Under Murder. Sara G. of Granite City, IL will receive Hitting the Books. The books went out in the mail yesterday.

I have one more week with an unusual schedule, so the time frame will be short again for the giveaway. And, I have multiple copies of both books. This contest will end Tuesday, October 16 at 5 PM CT. So, if you want to enter, do it soon.

First, a mystery featuring a dog. Burning Ridge is Margaret Mizushima's latest Timber Creek K-9 Mystery. And, I hadn't read the previous ones, so you can enter for this book even if you haven't read earlier ones in the series. Officer Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo are called in to spearhead the investigation when a charred body is discovered in a shallow grave on Colorado's Redstone Ridge. But, Mattie seems to have a personal connection to the dead man. When she goes missing, the local veterinarian teams up with Robo to find her as a fire races across the ridge.

Would you rather win a book about cats? The Cats Came Back is Sofie Kelly's latest Magical Cats Mystery. Librarian Kathleen Paulson and her quirky cats turn detective again when a music festival comes to town. Kathleen stumbles upon a dead body, a woman who was a close friend, and spitting image of a famous singer who is participating in the festival. Which woman was the real target of the killer?

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Let's make it easy since this is a fast contest. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win Dog" or "Win Cats." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

As I said, this giveaway ends Tuesday, October 16 at 5 PM CT. Enter soon!

 humall town librarian Kathleen teams up with

Thursday, October 11, 2018

What Are You Reading?

At the time I'm writing this, I'm halfway through Mitch Albom's latest novel, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven. It's the sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven, who are the five people who have lessons to teach you when you arrive. I'll have finished it by the end of the evening. Overly sentimental, but I still had a few tears. But, I roared with laughter over Ron Charles' review of it in The Washington Post. Even if you have no interest in the book, you should check out the review if you want a good laugh.

So, what are you reading this week? I have to admit, I have a couple meetings today, so I won't be checking as often as I'd like, but I'll catch up. Let us know what you've been listening to or reading.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper

When most of us see the subtitle to Bradley Harper's debut mystery, A Knife in the Fog, we'll have a
question. Who is Margaret Harkness? The subtitle is "A Mystery Featuring Margaret Harkness & Arthur Conan Doyle". Margaret Harkness was a journalist and author in the late 1800s who published under the name John Law. And, she, like the other main characters in this compelling story, was a real person.

Dr. Arthur Doyle is a young practicing physician in 1888. He's published one story featuring a detective called Sherlock Holmes, "A Study in Scarlet", but he is so disillusioned by the small payment he received that he vows never to write another crime story. Instead, he's working on a historical novel. He's stunned to receive a summons from former Prime Minister William Gladstone. Will Doyle come to London and meet with Gladstone's secretary to learn of an unusual proposal? Intrigued, the young doctor takes the train to discover why Gladstone would want him. Dr. Doyle thinks Gladstone is a patient. Instead, Gladstone is a concerned citizen worried about the Whitechapel killings of prostitutes by an unknown person called "Leather Apron".  According to Gladstone's secretary, Jonathan Wilkins, he wants Doyle to act as a consultant to the Metropolitan police to assist with the investigation.

Doyle is astonished, and finds a clever way to turn down the job. He'll act as a consultant only if his former surgical professor, Dr. Joseph Bell, agrees to consult as well. He's astonished when Bell says yes. Wilkins provides Doyle with a note to the police, and suggests a guide to the East End. He recommends a journalist named Margaret Harkness who has moved there to write about the working poor.

While the somewhat stodgy Doyle has to learn how capable Harkness is, Dr. Bell accepts her immediately as a knowledgeable guide. The trio are soon caught up in the investigation of the killer to become known as Jack the Ripper. The killer has every person in London looking over their shoulder, including the group that jokingly refers to themselves as "The Three Musketeers". The threat is closer than any of them can imagine.

Harper's debut mystery is beautifully written, a complicated story that reads as if it came from the Holmes canon. It's skillfully developed so the reader can see foreshadowing of future stories by Doyle. The author brings the streets of Whitechapel to life, along with the working women of London. And, his knowledge as a pathologist is evident as Dr. Bell consults in the morgue with the autopsies of the Ripper's victims. Harper manages to handle the role of women in Victorian society, the lives of working women, and the new field of "consulting detectives" in this fascinating story.

I already did the research. Readers will recognize the names of Doyle, Bell, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Clemens, Gladstone. Margaret Harkness was a crusading journalist. Inspector Frederick Abberline really did investigate the Jack the Ripper case. And, of course, the names of the Ripper's victims are known.

A Knife in the Fog is an outstanding debut. Readers of Sherlock Holmes stories or Jack the Ripper fiction or nonfiction, as well as those who appreciate mysteries featuring actual people, might want to check out this book.

Bradley Harper's website is

A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper. Seventh Street Books, 2018. ISBN 9781633884861 (paperback), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Bird, Bath, and Beyond by E.J. Copperman

I've read some of the other books E.J. Copperman has written as Jeff Cohen and Copperman. I was a big fan of his Comedy Tonight series. I read many of the Haunted Guesthouse books, and both Mysterious Detective stories. But, I love Kay Powell, the "agent to the paws" in Dog Dish of Doom, and now, an even more entertaining mystery, Bird, Bath, and Beyond.

Kay Powell quit the family show business gig to go to college. She went to law school, and, in some ways, returned to the family business by becoming a talent agent who handled animal clients. She usually doesn't accompany her clients to their jobs, but Barney, the parrot, needed a handler one day. His owner, Patty Basilico, is laid up, and sounded so sick, Kay agreed to take him to the set of Dead City, a television show. Barney's replacing a parrot who died, and Patty already taught him his lines. When he's needed again after the break, the director lets Kay leave Barney in Dray Mattone's trailer. Kay's only gone for an hour, but, in that time, someone shoots Mattone. When she finally has the chance to claim Barney, the investigating detectives are already convinced Barney, the only witness, can tell them who killed the star. Despite Kay's insistence that Barney can't tell them anything because he can only repeat what he's been taught, everyone from the police officers to the media believes Barney will point them to the killer.

For Kay, every day is a juggling act. While the murder investigation is going on, she lets her capable office manager, Consuelo, handle some of the business. But, she still has to deal with her parents, performers who return to Kay's home after a rough gig on a cruise ship. Her loving parents, always a team, suddenly have opposing views as to what they want to do with their future. And, of course, Kay's caught up in assisting the police, and then a criminal attorney after an arrest is made. At times, Kay appears to be a mature adult caught in a world of star-struck entertainers.

I love these books and Kay Powell. Yes, I know she's a fictional character, but she loves her parents, animals, show business, and her friends. She's a character who speaks directly to the reader, and her her comments are either funny, or she keeps her witty comments between herself and the reader so as to not offend people. And, as much as possible for an amateur sleuth, she works with the police. She doesn't work against them.

Looking for humor, a likable amateur sleuth and a delightful mystery? Check out Bird, Bath, and Beyond.

E. J. Copperman's website is

Bird, Bath, and Beyond by E.J. Copperman. Minotaur Books, 2018. ISBN 9781250084293 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.