Thursday, September 21, 2017

What Are You Reading?

I'll never catch up with my friend, Kaye Wilkinson Barley. She's been reading about Paris for months. But, I'm a third of a way through John Baxter's forthcoming book, Montparnasse: Paris's District of Memory and Desire. That's the neighborhood we're staying in when we go to Paris this weekend. I also read a beautiful book called Doorways of Paris.


So, I'll be gone next Thursday. It's going to be up to all of you to lead the discussion. This is still a place where you can all come to talk about your books. I hope you do. I'll miss all of you.

So, what are you reading this week? I'm eager to know.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Winners and Contest News

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The copies of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express will go to Steve G. from Ashland, OH and Karen R. from Katy, TX. I'm sending them out today. And, if you haven't read the book, you should read it before you see the movie.

Due to my upcoming travel schedule, there will be no contest again until Friday, September 29. Come back that day for the kickoff of the new giveaway.

A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas

Somewhere in a pile, I have A Study in Scarlet Women, the first Lady Sherlock book by Sherry Thomas. But, I started it, and didn't care for the predicament Charlotte Holmes was in. However, when I finished A Conspiracy in Belgravia, I could see why others liked the character and the set-up.

Charlotte Holmes is a disgraced gentlewoman who uses her intelligence and the assistance of a widow, Mrs. John Watson, to take on cases under the guise of "Sherlock Holmes". This time, the case could be a little awkward. Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte's close friend and benefactor, asks Holmes to find the man she loved when she was young and single. The two had agreed to pass each other at a specific location once a year just to show they still remembered, and this year, Myron Finch didn't show up. Myron Finch is also the name of Charlotte's illegitimate half brother.

Actually, I found that particular case to be the least interesting of the cases in the book. Lord Bancroft, Ingram's brother, proposes to Charlotte, and to show he respects her mind, he presents her with a set of challenges. One of them leads Charlotte and Ingram to a house where the police are about to investigate a murder. Bancroft's clues and the suspicion that Charlotte and Ingram are followed is a tantalizing aspect of the story.

Then, there's Charlotte's sister, Livia, who is trying so hard to write Sherlock Holmes adventures. Although Charlotte may have Sherlock Holmes' intelligence, Livia has a few of his traits. She has her own adventures in this book, ones suitable for the bookworm she is.

It's the characters and the setting that will bring me back to the next Lady Sherlock book. I enjoy Charlotte's personality, and her relationship with Mrs. Watson and Lord Ingram. She's courageous, independent as she can be during the Victorian age, and truly cares about her sisters. It will be interesting to see where Sherry Thomas takes her, and a few other characters, in future books.

Sherry Thomas' website is www.sherrythomas.com

A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas. Berkley. 2017. ISBN 9780425281413 (paperback), 336p.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Murderous Mistral by Cay Rademacher

Capitaine Roger Blanc blows into Provence, and fans flames in the same way the dangerous mistral winds do in the summer. Cay Rademacher's Murderous Mistral, translated from the German by Peter Millar, loses nothing in the translation. Blanc is a fascinating character in a atmospheric police procedural, sure to capture readers who love Jeffrey Siger's novels set in Greece.

Blanc was a little too successful as an investigator for an anti-corruption unit in Paris, and was banished to the south of France. His marriage couldn't stand the strain, and, as a result, he's alone in a two-hundred-year-old hovel he inherited. Even his assigned partner seems to fit the image of a reject. Lieutenant Marius Tonon made a serious mistake years earlier, and he knows he'll never rise any higher. As a result, he comes in late, drinks on the job, has a slovenly appearance. But, he knows the streets, and the local politics. And, he's not happy when the team is called to a murder scene at the local dump, where a man has been shot and set on fire. Tonon's recognition of the man as a local low-life means they have a murder case on their hands. Since no one will miss the victim, everyone would happily close the case. But, Capitaine Blanc is not known for his politically astute actions. And, a second death means Blanc will just dig in deeper in a case that could have political and career repercussions.

Local big shots, local politics. Blanc and his small team of cohorts are not eager to investigate in the wrong areas, but they are eager to find the killer, and not pin it on the most convenient suspect. As Blanc and Tonon traverse the streets of Provence, a co-worker skillfully searches the Internet, providing them with additional ammunition. Now, Blanc will have to prove to the local juge d'instruction, the local magistrate, that he suspects a connection between the two deaths.

Rademacher's police procedural is an intriguing story of teamwork by an untested group of gendarmes. The mystery itself is fascinating, as is Blanc. Add the atmosphere, the food, the scents of Provence, set during summer when the mistral winds blow. Murderous Mistral is an enjoyable, complicated story.

Murderous Mistral by Cay Rademacher. Minotaur Books. 2017. ISBN 9781250110701 (hardcover), 288p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Call Down the Hawk by Sheila Simonson

After a four year absence, Sheila Simonson returns to the Columbia River Gorge area for her latest Latouche County mystery, Call Down the Hawk. It's a reflective story, told from multiple viewpoints, about the tragic deaths of two domineering men who happened to be neighbors.

Jane August was visiting her father, Frank August, and his fifth wife when the news came about the financial collapse of the bank he had turned over to his son, Gus. And, soon after, Frank disappears. Was he escaping the notoriety? Running away from his wife? Or was it something worse? Over on the Hough (pronounced Hawk) farm, someone may have seen something.

Bill Hough committed suicide, leaving a cowed wife, an estranged son, Russell, who hadn't been home since he left at eighteen, and a daughter, Judith, who was a military hero, but suffers from PTSD. The night Frank August disappeared, Judith may have seen something as she patrolled the farm. But, she tried to kill herself that night, saved only by Russell. She's in a coma, unaware that she may have witnessed a murder because Frank August's body is uncovered by a bulldozer on the Hough farm.

Yes, Call Down the Hawk is the story of a murder investigation, led by Undersheriff Rob Neill. But, even more, it's the story of two adult children, Russell Hough and Jane August, trying to pick up the pieces of shattered lives that were broken by their fathers. Jane escaped most of her father's turmoil, until she learns the terms of the will.

Thoughtful. Reflective. Call Down the Hawk is a leisurely paced story, seen through multiple eyes. But, Jane August, the artist, is the one who sees the land and the people with an artist's perspective. And, Frank August and Bill Hough left destruction in their wake, brutalizing the people they left behind.

Sheila Simonson's website is http://sheila.simonson.googlepages.com

Call Down the Hawk by Sheila Simonson. Perseverance Press. 2017. ISBN 9781564745972 (paperback), 248p.

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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Countess of Prague by Stephen Weeks

Are you ready to settle in for a planned mystery series of ten books? Author Stephen Weeks, and his publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, plan to cover the years 1904-1914 in a series to feature The Countess of Prague, Beatrice von Falklenburg, known as Trixie. Her courage, quiet confidence, and keen observations about social and cultural differences between the classes may entice you to return for future books.

The Countess is bored. Her father-in-law lost the family estates, and she and her husband, Karel, struggle to maintain their image and place in society. They rent their palace in Prague while Karel frequently relies on hunting trips with friends to keep him away from home. When the body of an old soldier is recovered from the river Vltava, Trixie's great-uncle, a general, turns to her for help. His old batman was one of the last two survivors in a Tontine, an insurance risk that relies on the selection of survivors. While the general may guess the dead body is old Alois, the nursing home says Alois is still alive. Trixie jumps at the chance to investigate. But, curiosity about one old man leads to a strange case involving men all over Europe, from street urchins to Trixie's butler to suspects on a train to rulers of countries.

It seems that Trixie's Uncle Berty has more than one secret. And, in 1904, his interest in other men and the theater could cause quite a scandal. But, her discoveries of his secrets lead her to uncover relationships and interests held by other men. Trixie grows quite adept at ferreting out answers, a skill that leads her to England, and, eventually home again. But, she and the British government uncover threats aimed at a clandestine meeting between Edward VII of England, and his nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm. With her position in society, Beatrice von Falklenburg is the perfect sleuth to infiltrate parties and, hopefully, thwart unknown ne'er-do-wells.

The Countess of Prague isn't as funny as Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness books. However, there's a dry humor here. And, Trixie herself is an intriguing woman. She admits she hadn't ever seen her kitchen. She doesn't know the names of her servants. And, when she hires four urchins, she's surprised at their lack of proper clothing. But, Trixie is a quick study, and her ongoing observations about the differences in the classes is fascinating. It's part of the history of the times. And Weeks develops the atmosphere and story of 1904 Prague and Europe in a fascinating story. Fans of historical mysteries may want to try The Countess of Prague. Trixie and her story may catch you.

The Countess of Prague by Stephen Weeks. Poisoned Pen Press. 2017. ISBN 9781464208423 (hardcover), 304p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy to review for a journal.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Let the Dead Bury the Dead by David Carlson

Here I am, catching a series again after the first one. But, I'm satisfied that David Carlson's second
mystery, Let the Dead Bury the Dead, is an excellent introduction to the series and the two sleuths. Meet Christopher Worthy, a Detroit police lieutenant, and Father Nicholas Fortis, a Greek Orthodox monk.

What a pairing! Worthy is a loner, often in trouble in the police department despite his success rate with cold cases. He's divorce, a man who can't communicate with his oldest daughter,who disappeared for five months, and then reappeared. Father Fortis, "Nick", became acting pastor at a church when the aging pastor was strangled in the church. It wasn't Worthy's case, but his new boss turns it over to him. She knows he'll work with Father Fortis. She also wants him to try to work with Henderson, a police detective who often seems off in his own world. If this sounds like an unlikely introduction to a mystery, it is. But, this novel is such a character study, a book that hinges on character while Worthy examines himself, that it's important to understand their background. In fact, the new boss, Captain Lorraine Betts, takes the investigating  officer off the case, and turns it over to Worthy. "His gift or specialty was closing cold cases, and that meant that when he succeeded, his police colleagues resented him even as the media lauded him. And when he failed miserably, as he had not long ago, his colleagues rejoiced."

Worthy and Nick have an interesting case. While the previous detective wanted to look in the projects for answers, Worthy and Nick want to look at the people who were closest to Father Spiro. Worthy has a theory that the victim gives death an opening. Who were the parishioners that Father Spiro met? Who did he know that could get close enough to strangle him face-to-face? Both men want to know what led Father Spiro to the church when he died.

If you think I found the two main characters as fascinating as the mystery itself, you're right. In fact, the conclusion was satisfactory, but the relationship between the two men, and Worthy's self-examination, was much more interesting. Worthy is troubled by his own flaws, but he listens to Nick's analysis and advice, and he's willing to try. What more can we ask of our sleuths? They're not all-powerful or all-knowing. We want them to try. David Carlson's Let the Dead Bury the Dead introduces characters just trying to understand life and death.


David Carlson's website is www.davidccarlson.net

Let the Dead Bury the Dead by David Carlson. Coffeetown Press. 2017. ISBN 9781603813952 (paperback), 216p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I reviewed the book for a journal.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Winners and a Birthday Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Dianne C. from Elk Grove Village, IL won Souls of Men. Jim G. of Prescott, AZ will receive Thrill Kill. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, we're celebrating a birthday, a book, and a forthcoming movie. I'm giving away two paperback copies of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. Have you read the book? You might want to read it again before the movie comes out. Thanks to William Morrow for the following information.

Agatha Christie was born on September 15, 1890. Agatha Christie became, and remains, the best-selling novelist of all time. Christie loved adventure. She was also no stranger to travel having been around the world with her first husband Archie Christie in the 1920s. After her mother died and her marriage ended within months of each other, she looked for her next adventure. 

A year on and after a chance conversation she decided to take the Orient Express to Iraq. Five days later she was on the train and a new chapter of her life began. Christie travelled many times on the Orient Express with her second husband Max Mallowan. Max was an archaeologist in Iraq and Syria and Agatha went with him. Her typewriter travelled too, and she wrote her novels wherever she could.

“It was luck that she lived to write the book, for not long before penning it while standing on the railway station at Calais, she slipped on the icy platform and fell underneath the train. Luckily a porter was at hand to fish her up before the Orient Express started moving.” (Max Mallowan’s Memoirs)

In 1931 Agatha was travelling alone on the Orient Express when it got stuck due to heavy rain. She hears stories of snow storms stranding the train for days.

In a letter to her husband Max written in 1930, she describes the rain and the characters on the train which clearly influence her later novel.

She notes details such as cabin layouts, door handles and light switches, all observed on her trip and later used by Poirot to solve the case.

The real-life kidnap of a 20 month old baby, the son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, was also very prominently in the news at the time. The story is clearly reflected in Agatha’s plot.

Agatha spent every season for 30 years on archaeological digs with her husband Max. It is likely that she crafted Murder on the Orient Express while in Arpachiya in Iraq.
*****
I've seen all the versions of Murder on the Orient Express. I can't wait to see the new one with Kenneth Branagh and Johnny Depp. Have you seen the trailer?


The movie comes out in November. You'll have to wait to see the new film, but you can read the mystery right now. Honest? I've read the book several times. It never spoils my enjoyment of the movie.

If you would like to celebrate Agatha Christie's birthday by entering the giveaway, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read "Win Murder on the Orient Express." Please include your name and  mailing address. This giveaway will end early because of my schedule. It ends Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.




Thursday, September 14, 2017

What Are You Reading?

It's Thursday! I love Thursdays. I get to talk books on Twitter for an hour, and I get to find out what all of you are reading.

I'm reading Anne Fadiman's memoir, The Wine Lover's Daughter. She's the author of a couple other books I enjoyed, including Ex Libris. She also the daughter of Clifton Fadiman, a renowned intellectual who was a literary critic, editor, radio host. His greatest passion was wine, though. I met Clifton Fadiman about twenty years ago when I was the branch librarian on Captiva Island. He and his son, Kim, came into the library when he donated a number of books. Some of you might remember the Book-of-the-Month Club. He helped establish it, and served on its board for more than fifty years. I've just started the book. I like her writing, and I remember her father, so I thought it might be interesting.

What are you reading today? I can't wait to find out.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb

Sharyn McCrumb returns to familiar territory, Appalachia, in The Unquiet Grave, a novel based on an actual trial. Set in West Virginia, in the late 19th century, the story of the Greenbriar Ghost was enough to convict a man of murder.

In 1930, James Gardner is a patient at The Lakin State Hospital for the Colored Insane. "His own particular form of insanity was to see the world exactly as it was, and to despair in silence." Following the death of his second wife, Gardner had been despondent, and tried to commit suicide, an act that landed him in the hospital. When a bored and lonely new doctor on staff sees him as a subject for investigation, Gardener, a lawyer, tells him about his role in an unusual murder trial.

But, it's the voice of Mary Jane Heaster that tells the most powerful story. Miz Heaster's daughter, Zona, was a beautiful, wild young woman. She had already had one relationship that ended badly when she met Edward "Trout" Shue, a blacksmith. By the time Miz Heaster learned about her daughter's courtship, it was too late. Zona was bound and determined to marry the handsome man, although she knew he had been married twice before. The headstrong woman saw it as her way out from a hardscrabble farm life. It certainly was a way out. Within a year, Zona was dead.

Mary Jane Heaster is determined to bring Shue to justice, knowing he killed her daughter. Night after night, she sits up, waiting to hear from Zona. When she goes to the prosecuting attorney, she tells him Zona's ghost appeared to her, saying she had been killed, that she didn't just fall down the stairs. Once the body is exhumed, Shue is brought to trial. As second chair to the defense attorney, Gardner interviews witnesses, protects one, and watches as Miz Heaster uses a ghost's testimony against her daughter's husband.

The dual narrators are a powerful tool in the hands of a skilled writer. Readers observe educated lawyers manipulated by hard-working descendants of settlers who brought their superstitions and stories from England. McCrumb carefully lays the groundwork for the trial, with a great deal of background and history about both narrators.

McCrumb's latest may be a little slow-paced, but her stories based on history are always fascinating. And, there's a twist at the end that won't let you forget The Unquiet Grave.

Sharyn McCrumb's website is www.sharynmccrumb.com

The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb. Atria Books. 2017. ISBN 9781501172875 (hardcover), 368p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy to review it for a journal.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Bloody Black Flag by Steve Goble

"Spider John Rush resigned himself to the hard truth - he was returning to a world of cut and thrust, hide and pounce, blood and smoke, pitch and tar." No one who reads Steve Goble's debut mystery, The Bloody Black Flag, will want to sing "Yo Ho A Pirate's Life for Me." Goble's book is intense, action-packed, and gritty and bloody. It's also rich in historical detail about a pirate's life. And, it's a terrific mystery with nothing similar. Maybe Patrick O'Brian's seafaring novels. Maybe "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. But, I can't think of another pirate novel in mystery fiction.

After a fight and knifing in a Boston tavern, Spider John Rush and his friend Ezra escape by joining the crew of a pirate ship, Plymouth Dream. For Ezra, though, it's one bad turn after another. Someone on the ship recognizes him, and whispers start that Ezra's mother and grandmother were hanged as witches during the Salem madness. And, when Spider John wakes to find Ezra dead one night, everyone shrugs and says he was drunk and it was an accident. But, Spider John suspects murder, and he's determined to find justice for his dead friend.

Now, Spider John just has to stay alive long enough to find a killer amongst a crew of seventy. And, every man onboard, including John himself, has killed before. As ship's carpenter, Spider John has the chance to move around the ship and listen to whispers. Those whispers only grow louder when the ship goes to battle against another ship. But, with each death on the ship, Rush fears the killer will not live to face Spider John.

Goble's debut novel introduces a fascinating character in a historically interesting setting. Spider John Rush's backstory leads from Nantucket and a whaling ship to a pirate ship in 1722. There are stories of other pirates and other ships in this brutal, atmospheric novel. If you like a compelling page turner, bloody, but filled with historical detail, try Goble's mystery, The Bloody Black Flag.

Steve Goble's website is https://stevegoblefiction.wordpress.com

The Bloody Black Flag by Steve Goble. Seventh Street Press. 2017. ISBN 9781633883598 (paperback), 240p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy to review for a journal.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Body on Baker Street by Vicki Delany

Vicki Delany follows up the first fun Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery, Elementary, She Read, with the equally delightful Body on Baker Street. Gemma Doyle is becoming one of my favorite amateur sleuths, although I don't think I'd want to live with her.

As owner/manager of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium on Baker Street in West London, Massachusetts, Gemma is a smart enough businesswoman to agree with author Renalta Van Markoff wants to appear at the bookshop. Renalta may be a little over-the-top and demanding, but her controversial Holmes and Watson books are bestsellers. When the day of the book signing arrives, over a hundred show up at the bookstore. The majority are excited to hear Renalta in person, but after she slaps down a confrontational customer, she keels over dead. With the police already in attendance for crowd control, it only takes minutes for Gemma to suggest that Renalta was murdered.

While one police officer is always suspicious of Gemma's methods, the detective she once dated knows she has an uncanny grasp of mysteries. While Gemma lacks social skills, she has a Sherlockian ability to analyze situations and find the truth. While she sidesteps around the police, she questions Renalta's entourage and several wacky characters who pursued the author. Even when she's in danger herself, Gemma is determined to find the truth.

Gemma Doyle. She's probably an exasperating person to deal with, but she's as perceptive as Holmes himself, and she lacks the same ability to understand people. It's her friends and dog who make her human, while her antagonistic relationship with Moriarty, the bookshop cat, adds humor.

Vicki Delany's modern interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, combined with a bookshop, is charming and fun. Body on Baker Street can easily stand on its own. Even if you haven't yet read Elementary, She Read, this book will introduce you to Gemma, her friends and her foil.

Vicki Delany's website is www.vickidelany.com

Body on Baker Street by Vicki Delany. Crooked Lane. 2017. ISBN 9781683312994 (hardcover), 304p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy to review for a journal.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Vicki Delany and Body on Baker Street

I loved Vicki Delany's second Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery, Body on Baker Street, so I asked Vicki to answer a few questions. Thank you, Vicki!


Vicki, as an introduction, tell readers what you’ve been doing since the last Constable Molly Smith mystery.
Quite a lot! I loved writing that series, but as things happened I’ve become mainly a cozy writer in the last couple of years.  Under the pen name of Eva Gates, I write the Lighthouse Library series. The first three books were published by Penguin, but they fell victim to the great cozy massacre at Penguin.  Crooked Lane Books stepped up to the plate and will continue the series.  The Year Round Christmas series continues for at least one more book with Penguin. My newest  endeavor is the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series for Crooked Lane.  I also write adult literacy novellas for the Rapid Reads imprint. Those books are more on the gritty side.
Would you introduce us to Gemma Doyle?

Gemma is the owner and manager of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium in West London, Massachusetts (on Cape Cod).  She’s English and came to West London to run her Great Uncle Arthur’s bookshop. On first glance she’s a normal cozy character, a nice young woman with a circle of friends and an interesting store. But look deeper, and she’s rather like the Great Detective himself. Gemma has an amazing memory (for things she wants to remember), incredible observational skills, and a lightning fast mind. She is also, shall we say, somewhat lacking on occasion in the finer points of social skills. The complex character of Gemma, makes the series slightly edgier than the normal cozy.  
Tell us about Body on Baker Street, with no spoilers.
When Renalta Van Markoff, author of the controversial Hudson and Holmes mystery series is murdered at a book signing in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, the game is afoot and it’s up to the unusually perceptive Gemma Doyle and her confused but ever-loyal friend Jayne Wilson to eliminate the impossible and deduce the truth before the police arrest an innocent man.
Where did the idea for the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium on Baker Street, and Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room come from?
When I was looking for inspiration for a new series, I thought a bookstore would be fun.  The idea popped into my head: A bookstore dedicated to all things Sherlock Holmes. There isn’t much more popular today in the world of popular culture than The Great Detective.
When I started to do some research on that, I quickly discovered it’s not such an unfeasible idea.  You could easily stock a store with nothing but Sherlock.  Not only the original books and the all the novels and short story collections of the pastiche, but the stuff that goes with it: DVDs of TV shows and movies,  calendars, playing card sets, tea towels, games, puzzles, action figures, cardboard cut-out figures. The list is just about endless. Throw in nonfiction works on Sir Arthur and his contemporaries, maybe a few books set in the “gaslight” era. And, presto, a fully operational bookstore. What would a bookstore be without a cat?  In this case, one Moriarty, who has a strange antipathy to Gemma.
I’ve enjoyed stocking my bookstore, and as befits a book about a bookshop, I drop a lot of names of real books.  Many I have read, some I haven’t, but I enjoy fitting the book to the imaginary character buying it.
Because cozy lovers (and me) love food to go with their reading, I put Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room next door, run by Gemma’s best friend Jayne Wilson.
What’s your favorite Sherlock Holmes tacky collectible in the bookshop?
The I Am Sherlocked Mugs. And yes, there’s a lot of tacky stuff to do with Sherlock.  The Great Detective would not be amused.  Like the books (except for the ones by Renalta Van Markoff, a character in Body on Baker Street,) everything sold in Gemma’s shop exists in the real world.  
I love Moriarty in your series. Tell us about him.
Moriarty is the shop cat. But he’s a lot more than that. He’s a great shop cat but he has a particular aversion to Gemma, even though she tries to be nice.  Something to do with his name, perhaps? Nevertheless, she rarely leaves an encounter with Moriarty unscathed.

Gemma has so many of Sherlock Holmes’ gifts, but she also wants to be loved. Tell us about creating her.
Thanks for this question, Lesa.  My original idea for the series was that she would be a normal cozy character owning an interesting bookstore. But by page 2, she became Sherlock-like. And that’s been a lot of fun put also presents challenges.  I see Gemma as a young, modern woman who just happens to think somewhat like Sherlock Holmes. And that can’t be easy.  She knows things other people don’t know (or don’t want you to know) and can’t understand why everyone else doesn’t see the things she does.  She says what she’s observed and what’s on her mind, and wonders why people don’t trust her. She’s fallen afoul of the police when they don’t believe that she simply deduced the things she knows, and now she has trouble trusting them.  She was once in a serious relationship that ended when she ruined his big surprise by observing and deducing what he was up to.  She’s decided that she’s finished with romance.  But he’s back in town and now he’s the lead detective on the West London police. I suspect their relationship is isn’t quite over.
She’s not arrogant at Sherlock could be, nor nearly as confident in her abilities. Highly intelligent people can be difficult to get along with, I suspect, but like Sherlock Holmes, all Gemma Doyle wants to do is the right thing.  Unlike Sherlock she just wants to run her business, have good friends, and a love life without complications. But that isn’t going to be allowed to happen, is it?
Of course, mystery readers should read Doyle and the canon. What other authors inspired you when you wrote these books?
I love the Mary Russell books by Laurie R. King. Ms. King’s character of Russell was my first exposure to creating a new type of Sherlock.  As these books are essentially cozies, with a very slight edge, I was also inspired by the work of my favorite cozy authors, particularly Kate Carlisle and Jenn McKinlay.
Can you give us any hints about the next book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery series?
Happy to!  The Cat of the Baskervilles will be out in February 2018.  A theatre troupe arrives in town to put on a stage production of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room is asking to prove the fund-raising refreshments.  The legendary, and long past his prime, actor Sir Nigel Bellingham is given the role of Holmes. When Sir Nigel is murdered the police focus on Jayne Wilson’s mother, who has a secret of her past to keep concealed.  As does Gemma Doyle who removed a piece of incriminating evidence from the scene.
*****
Thank you, again, Vicki. My review of Body on Baker Street will be up tomorrow.
Vicki Delany's website is www.vickidelany.com

Body on Baker Street by Vicki Delany. Crooked Lane. 2017. ISBN 9781683312994 (hardcover), 304p.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

The Western Star by Craig Johnson

Readers and fans of Craig Johnson's Longmire series - here's your warning. I started Johnson's The Western Star on my lunch hour one day. I read for half an hour, spent more than an hour talking to my mother that night, and, yet, I had to stay up and finish the book. Way too late. I had book hangover the next day. Darn you, Craig. In other words, The Western Star is a compelling story. It's a look back at a young Walt Longmire in a tribute to Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. But, don't worry. If you're familiar with the story, it doesn't have the expected ending. Instead, Johnson puts his own twist to the plot. Darn you, Craig Johnson.

There are two storylines. Longmire is in Cheyenne. Every four years he shows up for a parole hearing. He doesn't tell others why he's determined to keep the dangerous man behind bars. This time, there's powerful opposition. But, he also renews his weapons certification. Afterwards, a young sheriff asks about the picture on the wall. It's a picture from 1972, a group of lawmen in front of The Western Star, known as the sheriffs' train. There are twenty-five armed men in cowboy hats, twenty-four sheriffs and one deputy.

From 1948 to 1972, The Western Star made an annual trek, crossing the state with all Wyoming's sheriffs on board, the Wyoming Sheriffs' Association. The sheriffs can bring a guest, and Lucian Connolly, the sheriff of Absaroka County, brings his new deputy, a young Walt Longmire. Walt is back from Vietnam, married, and just before boarding he has a fight with his young wife, Martha. One of the sheriffs notices, and asks Walt to meet with him. He has suspicions that one or more of the sheriffs on the train have taken justice into their own hands. He can trust a stranger, a new deputy.

Intrigued? I can't reveal more about the book. I could tell you someone is killed. That death, the actions leading up to it, and the subsequent investigation haunt Longmire. He never tells his daughter, just as he never tells her why he wants the prisoner to remain in prison for his entire life. But, the storylines collide in an unexpected way, skillfully linked as only Craig Johnson can do.

The Western Star brings together so many of the traits that readers will recognize in Craig Johnson's writing. Just as in the early books, Martha haunts the story, even when she isn't present. Johnson introduces wonderful characters, but he brings back ones we're fond of. We get to see a much younger Walt, a younger Lucian Connolly. Henry Standing Bear was Longmire's best friend in 1972, as he is now. Vic is part of the current storyline, as is Walt's daughter and granddaughter.

Then there's Johnson's use of language and turn of phrase. Here's just one sentence from a scene in 1972 when Walt and Martha parted, and Henry drove off with her. "The Cheyenne Nation slipped the big bird down into gear, pulled through the open chain-link fence onto Front Street, and drove my heart away."

I could have given you a little more about the story. But, why? It's a riveting story with surprise twists. It's Craig Johnson's writing and characters. If it made me stay up to read it, I'm going to do the same to you. Read The Western Star and savor Walt's story, Johnson's writing. And, when you get to those last paragraphs, I'm going to bet you'll say, "Darn you, Craig Johnson."

Craig Johnson's website is www.craigallenjohnson.com

The Western Star by Craig Johnson. Viking. 2017. ISBN 9780525426950 (hardcover), 295p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Friday, September 08, 2017

Winners & A Police Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Donna S. from Milford, CT won The Lying Game. Carol M. from Monroeville, PA will receive The Perfect Stranger. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away two novels involving the police. Brian Thiem, a veteran of the Oakland Police Department himself, takes us to Oakland in Thrill Kill. Homicide detective Matt Sinclair recognizes the dead woman having from a tree as a teenage runaway he arrested ten years earlier. Sinclair and his partner son learn that many of Dawn's clients, as well as the local and federal officials who protect them, will do anything to keep the police from digging too deep. Then, the killer goes public.





A. R. Ashworth's Souls of Men is set in London. Elaine Hope, veteran detective inspector, is promoted to lead her first investigation. While her boss suspects an ex-military surgeon in the case of the brutal murder of a teenage girl, Hope doesn't believe he's guilty. When she takes over the case, she's in charge of a bungled case, has released the only suspect, but she can pursue a new line of investigation.

Which novel would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Thrill Kill" or "Win Souls of Men." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Sept. 14 at 5 PM CT.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

What Are You Reading?

I'm excited about the book I picked up at the library yesterday. It's Craig Johnson's new Walt Longmire book, The Western Star. I'll admit, as much as I adore the author, sometimes the books are over my head. But, I love his story collections. And, The Western Star is a tribute to Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, so I think I'll understand this one. I've read the book several times, led a book discussion about it, watched several different versions of the movie, and I'm looking forward to Kenneth Branagh's version. I really don't care that I know how Christie's book ends. I'm sure Craig Johnson's book will have some unusual twists.


What are you reading this week? I hope it's something you're enjoying. Tell us about it.

And, if you're anywhere near the path of Hurricane Irma, stay safe.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

I don't know if I can summarize Ruth Hogan's debut novel, The Keeper of Lost Things, any better
than she does on the final page. "It was a sweeping story of love and loss, life and death, and, above all, redemption." For a little while, I feared it was going to be all love, loss, and death, but the author did take us all beyond that in her thoughtful, moving story.

Before we even meet any of the people, we discover a lost thing, a biscuit tin found on a train. Anthony Peardew finds it, and adds that item to his collection. For forty years, he's been recovering items that others lost, tagging them with the date and location. In some cases, Anthony writes a story about the items. But, he's not recovering items for their stories. Once, forty years earlier, on the day the love of his life died, he lost a precious item she gave him. He's always lived in hope that someday it will be restored to him.

Now, at seventy-four, Anthony is about to give up. But, he's determined to find just the right person to take over his collection and his beloved home, Padua. In some ways, Laura is one of Anthony's lost things. She lost her way at seventeen when she married the wrong man, lost her scholarship, lost her self-confidence. She finds a refuge and a purpose in helping Anthony. She's just the person he was hoping to find.

Forty years earlier, it was the best day of Eunice's life. She accepted a job with a publisher, a man everyone called Bomber. And, it was a friendship that changed her life forever.

This is another book that I can't successfully summarize without spoiling the book. Hogan has created a unique background, the "lost things". But, it's the people who shine in this story. Readers will love Anthony, Laura, Eunice, Bomber. Then there are the people who come into Laura's life, Freddy, the groundskeeper, and Sunshine, the young woman across the street who has an unusual gift for understanding the lost things. The story may start out with those feelings of loss, but there's laughter and joy, and so much heart.

Take you time and savor the people and emotion in The Keeper of Lost Things. It's a heartwarming debut.

Ruth Hogan's website is http://ruthhogan.co.uk/books

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. William Morrow. 2017. ISBN 9780062473530 (hardcover), 278p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Something Like Happy by Eva Woods

Do you remember the "Hundred Happy Days" project that was popular about three years ago? Now, take one miserable thirty-five-year-old and thrust her into daily contact with another woman determined to celebrate those hundred happy days. That kicks off Eva Woods' moving novel, Something Like Happy. But, that's only the beginning.

Annie Hebden doesn't think there's anyone more miserable than she is. Everything in her life changed, crashing around her suddenly. Now, she's in a dingy flat in London, forced to share it with a roommate because she can't afford it alone. At thirty-five, she had hoped to have a nice house, a husband, and several kids. Instead, she's in a dead-end job, spending her time at the hospital because her sixty-year-old mother is suffering from dementia. Then, charismatic Polly Leonard, who seems to know everyone in the hospital, barges into her life. She even has the gall to show up at Annie's flat, and Annie feels so overpowered, she lets her in.

How do you say no when someone plays the cancer card? Polly has a brain tumor and three months to live. So, she challenges Annie to participate in the "Hundred Happy Days" project with her. Together, they'll find one hundred things to be happy about. "You're just meant to do one thing every day that makes you happy. Could be little things. Could be big." Maybe it's make time for breakfast. Maybe it's do something different on your lunch break. As the two women get to know each other, Polly calls Annie on her attitude of "barely suppressed fury". And, Annie finds herself pushed and pulled into participating in Polly's sometimes outrageous schemes, along with her roommate, and Polly's brother, and sometimes the hospital staff. Polly can push herself through happy days, saying she knows she only has limited time. When the day comes that Polly can no longer deny her cancer is terminal, Annie is forced to step up to the challenge.

If that sounds depressing, don't believe it for a moment. Something Like Happy is actually as noisy and boisterous at times as Polly Leonard. Woods has created a cast of delightful characters who grow more enchanting and lovable as the story moves on. It's hard not to root for Annie and Polly, Polly's brother, George, Annie's flatmate, Costas, and Max, known to Polly as Dr. McGrumpy, her neurologist. Maybe it sounds formulaic to say "It's not about counting the days - it's about making the days count." However, the book is tragic and funny, emotional and uplifting. Woods has gathered strands of friendship and life and neediness, and turned it into the captivating Something Like Happy.

Eva Woods' website is www.ink-stains.co.uk

Something Like Happy by Eva Woods. Graydon House. 2017. ISBN 9781525811357 (hardcover), 400p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent a copy of the book for possible review.


Monday, September 04, 2017

Murder on Pea Pike by Jean Harrington

How about a Southern mystery with a dash of sass? Jean Harrington introduces Honey Ingersoll, a young woman with street smarts, in the first Listed and Lethal mystery, Murder on Pea Pike.

Honey has her dream job as office manager and sales agent for Eureka Falls' largest realtor, Ridley's Real Estate. The twenty-four-year-old has had a rough life, dealing, first with her Daddy's temper, then her ex-boyfriend's abuse, and then the drunken fits of a former employer. But, she has dreams about Sam Ridley, her boss. And, if she can make a few big sales, she'll impress him as much as she's impressed a few other men in town. Unfortunately, at one rural Arkansas site, she makes the sale, but also finds the body of a woman she just saw at the office. Then Sheriff Matt Rameros tells Honey she's "a person of interest".

Honey takes that badly. She knows she's in trouble when Matt tells her that because he has a thing for her. This was worse than anything else she'd been through. "This was being dumped on big time, and I'd be damned if I'd just sit and take it." Honey asks some questions, does some meddling. And, then she finds a second body. She may lose her job over it, but Honey is convinced the murders have something to do with real estate and politics.

Honey Ingersoll is a fresh voice in the mystery world. She's candid about her past, "a girl like me, with no family to speak of, no formal schooling and no money." But, her past has made her strong, and she doesn't want to see a friend bullied by an abusive ex-husband. She's a character who turns to the police for help, and also when she has a suggestion. And, she suddenly realizes she has "no training, no detecting skills, no right to meddle". Honey is an engaging, forthright amateur sleuth.

If you like your mysteries with a Southern flavor and a dash of sass, try Murder on Pea Pike.

Jean Harrington's website is www.jeanharrington.com

Murder on Pea Pike by Jean Harrington. Camel Press. 2017. ISBN 9781603816472 (paperback), 248p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Morningstar: Growing Up with Books by Ann Hood

Author Ann Hood is only a few months older than me. As a lifelong reader, her memoir, Morningstar: Growing Up with Books, made me nostalgic for my adolescence. No, not for the adolescence itself. For the discovery and freshness and awakening brought about by books. Only a few of the books we read were the same, and our childhoods were definitely different. But, she evokes a feeling and a time period that was magical.

I cannot tell Ann Hood's story without ruining this book for a reader searching for connections. But, she was a reader and a dreamer in a family that didn't have books, and didn't understand the "need" for books that hungry readers have. Her feeling, "I want to live inside a book" came true for her with Little Women. And, each book she holds dear was a marker in her life, summarizing her ambitions in the '60s and '70s as she grew up. Each chapter talks about a book in her life, and the dreams marked by that title. These are the books that shaped her life, and her writing.

Hood's father fed her dreams. He was an Indiana boy who joined the navy to see the world, and every story he told about exotic places encouraged her. Those stories, and the books she read, fed her yearning for "beyond", for something beyond her own house, and her neighborhood, and her town.

Morningstar will resonate most with women of a similar age, women who remember the Vietnam War and Walter Cronkite always on the television. We still remember those all-girl talks at school about our period. We cried over Love Story. The characters in Little Women were as real to me as my own sisters, just as they were to Hood. While she was devastated when Beth died, it was the ending of Gone with the Wind that destroyed me a few years later. And, for both of us, the public library was a magical place of unimaginable possibilities.

Ann Hood beautifully sums up the feeling of a reader who has a passion for the books that change a life. "I understood that I would always buy books, that I was a reader and a writer and that to be surrounded by books would always bring me comfort."

Ann Hood's website is https://www.annhood.us

Morningstar: Growing Up with Books by Ann Hood. W.W. Norton & Company, 2017. ISBN 9780393254815 (hardcover), 160p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

October Treasures in My Closet

I'm going to have to cram all the October Treasures in My Closet into one post. It's for a good reason. I have tons of September book releases to review for you. So, this post will include a lot of titles, one way or another.

I love to kick off Treasures in My Closet with a new series. Ellie Alexander's Death on Tap is set in a microbrewery in Leavenworth, Washington. Sloan Krause leaves the family business after catching her husband cheating. Is it worse to discover a body in the tank at the new microbrewery where she's now working? (Release date is Oct. 3.)







In Sarah Bailey's debut thriller, The Dark Lake, a detective with secrets of her own hunts the killer of a woman who was the glamorous star of their high school. (Release date is Oct. 3.)









Agatha Raisin is back in M.C. Beaton's The Witches' Tree. An Agatha Christie-inspired dinner party ends early, and it's the rector and his wife who discover a body hanging in "the witches' tree". As usual, Agatha Raisin bumbles her way to the solution. (Release date is Oct. 3.)








Michelle Birkby puts a new slant on the Sherlock Holmes plots in The House at Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson, Holmes' housekeeper, teams up with Mary Watson to help a needy woman when Holmes turns down the case. (October release.)








In Conor Brady's latest Joe Swallow mystery, A Hunt in Winter, the newly promoted detective inspector investigates the murder of women in Dublin, the same year that Jack the Ripper terrorizes London. He juggles that investigation with political machinations that threaten his personal life. (Release date is Oct. 10.)







Wiley Cash's The Last Ballad is set in North Carolina in 1929 and inspired by actual events. It chronicles an ordinary woman's struggle for dignity and her rights in a textile mill, a moving tale of courage in the face of oppression and injustice. (Release date is Oct. 3.)








Steven Cooper kicks off a new series set in the desert area around Phoenix in Desert Remains. Someone is filling desert caves with bodies, and leaving behind a record etched into the stone. With no leads and no suspects, Detective Alex Mills sees a case spinning out of control, and another detective wants to push him off the case. (Release date is Oct. 10.)







Are you ready for Christmas books? Melissa De la Cruz brings us Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, a retelling with a Christmas twist. Meet Darcy Fitzwilliam, a successful woman who returns home to Pemberley, Ohio when her mother falls ill. It's at the family's annual Christmas bash that she meets Luke Bennet, the slacker son of the neighbor. Do you see where this is going?  (Release date is Oct. 10.)







Jessica Ellicott introduces readers to two amateur sleuths in Murder in an English Village. After the Great War, American adventuress Beryl Helliwell reunites with her old school friend, Edwina Davenport, when Edwina advertises for a roomer. After Beryl spreads the rumor that the two are special agents, Edwina is attacked, and they realize their search for answers to a wartime disappearance is stirring up trouble. (Release date is Oct. 31.)





Did you know actor Tom Hanks collects typewriters? And, typewriters appear in all of the stories in Hanks' debut collection, Uncommon Type. (Release date is Oct. 17.)









Would you want to be quarantined with your family for seven days over the Christmas holidays? That's the scenario in Francesca Hornak's Seven Days of Us. It's Christmas, and the Birch family is gathering for the first time in years. Olivia has just returned from treating an epidemic abroad and must stay in quarantine for a week...and so too will her family. A week can seem like eternity, especially when everyone has a secret. (Release date is Oct. 17.)






Vegan chef Brie Hooker moves to her aunt's goat farm in Linda Lovely's Bones to Pick. When the pig digs up old bones, Brie's aunt is arrested for a murder that happened forty years earlier. Now, Brie rounds up some old and new friends to help investigate. (Release date is Oct. 24.)








Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked, turns to another legendary story with Hiddensee. "In this inventive novel rooted in the rich soil of early-nineteenth-century German Romanticism," Maguire tells an origin legend of the famous Nutcracker with the life of Drosselmeier, the toymaker who carves him. (Release date is Oct. 31.)







How about another unknown story from World War II? Liza Mundy's Code Girls is "The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II", women who, under strict vows of secrecy, moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of cryptanalysis. Their successes shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. (Release date is Oct. 10.)






Jaya Jones heads to Japan in Gigi Pandian's latest Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery, The Ninja's Illusion. Jaya's best friend, A stage magician, is about to make his debut appearance in Japan when the star of the show is reported dead. Jaya is there to research a historical mystery, but it isn't long before she loses track of what's real and what's illusion. (Release date is Oct. 3.)







In the latest Hogarth Shakespeare retelling of Shakespeare, Edward St. Aubyn takes on King Lear in Dunbar. In his dotage, Henry Dunbar, once the powerful head of a global media corporation, hands over the care of his company to his two oldest daughters, only to end up imprisoned in Meadowmeade, an upscale sanatorium. When he escapes, his family is following. Who will find him, his beloved youngest daughter, or the two women prepared to take over his estate? (Release date is Oct. 3.)





Wendall Thomas' debut romp is Lost Luggage. Cyd Redondo who works for her family's travel agency in Brooklyn wins a trip to Tanzania, taking a handsome, mysterious hunk with her.  When they arrive in Africa, she finds two of her elderly clients in jail, and ends up caught up in the illegal smuggling of endangered species. (Release date is Oct. 4.)







In Will Thomas' Old Scores, a Japanese diplomat is murdered in London in 1890. Cyrus Barker, private enquiry agent and occasional agent for the Foreign Service Office, is the prime suspect. He and his sidekick Llewelyn must work against the clock to find the real killer. (Release date is Oct. 3.)









I'm three quarters of the way through The Usual Santas: A Collection of Soho Crime Christmas Capers. It's a terrific collection featuring short stories by authors such as Tim Hallinan, Helene Tursten, Stuart Neville, Sujata Massey, Cara Black. It's definitely Christmas with a different slant. (Release date is Oct. 24.)




And, here are the other October releases that were not summarized.

The Summer that Made Us by Robyn Carr
Smile by Roddy Doyle
American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent by Tamer Elnoury
King of Spies by Blaine Harden
Sugar Pine Trail by RaeAnne Thayne

I know it's a long blog piece with a lot of titles. Is there anything that jumps out at you?




Friday, September 01, 2017

Winners and a Thriller Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Prentiss G. of Burlington, NC won Devil's Breath by G. M. Malliet. John S. from Iowa City, IA will receive Love & Death in Burgundy by Susan C. Shea. The books will go out in the mail today.

I'm giving away thrillers this week. Ruth Ware's The Lying Game is still on The New York Times Best Seller List. After a woman's dog discovers something sinister in the water, three friends from her boarding school years receives a message saying they're needed. Their notorious Lying Game in school had consequences, and their past isn't as safely buried as they thought.






Megan Miranda's novel of psychological suspense is The Perfect Stranger. Leah Stevens desperately needs a new start, and it might come when she reunites with her old roommate, Emmy Grey. Together they move to a small town. But within a week, a woman who looks just like Leah is left for dead close by and Emmy goes missing. When the local police are unable to find any trace of Emmy, they begin to question Leah's credibility. What happens when your best friend becomes your worst nightmare?

Which thriller would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win The Lying Game" or "Win The Perfect Stranger." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Sept. 7 at 5 PM CT.