Wednesday, August 05, 2020

The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves

In preparation for the September 8 release of Ann Cleeves' new Vera Stanhope mystery, The Darkest Evening, I went back to the beginning of the series. While Vera was formally introduced in part 2 of The Crow Trap, she makes a typical Vera Stanhope appearance earlier in the book. Cleeves sets the stage beautifully in the first part of the novel, introducing characters, deaths, and the setting.

Rachael Lambert is counting birds for an environmental impact assessment. She'll be joined by Anne Preece, a botanist and Grace Fulwell who will count mammals as they determine whether a quarry will impact the wildlife and environment in a park in England. But, before Rachael's team even shows up, she finds the body of the neighbor, Bella Furness, hanging in the barn.

Rachael can't accept that her friend committed suicide, although Bella even left a note for Rachael. Despite Rachael's feelings, she knows she has a job to do, and a team to organize, although she doesn't really get along with either of the other women. Anne seems too strong and determined to go her own way. Grace's mind seems to be elsewhere, but her records indicate she's doing her job, finding a large number of otters in the area.

When a woman goes missing, and the police find her body, Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope shows up to take over the case. She brushes aside Rachael's suggestion that Bella's suicide may be connected to the murder. But, as the police ask questions, and Vera listens to everyone's talk, it becomes clear that the quarry and the environmental impact assessment might be a link. And, the small group of people involved with the study, the quarry, and the local land sold for the project may hold the key to the answer.

If you haven't met Vera Stanhope, she's not what you would expect of a Detective Inspector. She's a force of nature, a shrewd, overblown woman who demands a lot of her team, especially her young sergeant Joe Ashworth. She drinks too much, sleeps too little, lives in her father's old crowded place near a railroad. But, she's quiet when she sneaks up to listen, and she does do that to overhear conversations. Vera gets so much information when people don't know she's listening.

There's so much to discuss in this meaty book, from the title to the people to Vera Stanhope and her own intriguing background. But, the details are all essential in this mystery. Ann Cleeves doesn't include unnecessary pieces in her puzzle. Every piece comes together perfectly, in a book with a surprising solution. But, the clues are there. A reader cleverer than I am might figure it out. But, I never saw the solution. I'm no match for Cleeves' writing or her detective.

Ann Cleeves' website is www.anncleeves.com

The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves. Minotaur Books, 2017. ISBN 9781250122742 (paperback), 535p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Ghost Ups Her Game by Carolyn Hart

The Bailey Ruth books may seem to be charming traditional mysteries featuring a ghost who loves fashion, but, as readers know, Carolyn Hart's books have a little romance and a great deal of clever twists in them. Ghost Ups Her Game is the ninth in the series featuring the quirky heavenly emissary.

Once again, when Bailey Ruth Raeburn wants to return to her hometown of Adelaide, Oklahoma, she steamrolls right over her boss. Paul Wiggins might be the stationmaster who sends emissaries to assist people in trouble on earth, via the Rescue Express, but even he has a hard time with Bailey Ruth. When a message comes in that two people are in trouble in Adelaide, she grabs the ticket and jumps on the train.

She's just in time to find Robert Blair and Professor Iris Gallagher standing over a body. Iris orders Robert to get rid of a black sock filled with sand, used as a sap to kill Goddard College's vice-president of outreach, Matt Lambert. Bailey Ruth is shocked when the professor talks to her because people usually can't see her until she materializes. Bailey Ruth doesn't know which of the two she is there to help, so she just assumes they are both innocent. And, when Bailey Ruth saves Iris' daughter, Gage, when an arsonist sets fire to the victim's office, she's sure neither Iris nor Robert are involved. Iris wouldn't kill her daughter, and Robert is in love with Gage. And, Bailey Ruth is a sucker for a romance.

When Bailey Ruth's old friend, Police Chief Sam Cobb, refuses to accept that Iris is innocent, she believes she's on her own in her murder investigation. She knows someone had a reason to kill Lambert. If Gage is right, and the man was blackmailing someone, a well-to-do resident of Adelaide might be a killer. When everything seems to go wrong, Wiggins reminds Bailey Ruth that she could ask for help.

With her quirky delight in fashion and her love of Adelaide, Bailey Ruth Raeburn is a charming ghost with a serious devotion to justice and romance. Once again, readers can ride the Rescue Express to Adelaide, where killers are revealed by a ghost and the police, and romance is rewarded.

Carolyn Hart's website is http://www.carolynhart.com/

Ghost Ups Her Game by Carolyn Hart. Severn House, 2020. ISBN 9780727890474 (hardcover), 224p.

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

Monday, August 03, 2020

Lucky Bones by Michael Wiley

I wasn't sure what to make of Michael Wiley's second book featuring ex-cop turned PI, Sam Kelson. While the first book was gritty, the second in the series has many more comic elements, although it is still violent. I finally decided  Lucky Bones is for readers who appreciated the quirky cast and fast pace of Donald Westlake's novels. How about a PI who gets arrested for a striptease in a pizza joint? That's the hero of the story.

PI Sam Kelson suffers from disinhibition. The former Chicago cop was shot in the head in the line of duty, and now, when asked, he can’t lie or keep quiet. Even when he tells his new client, Genevieve Bower, that he doesn’t want her case, she still hires him to find her one hundred pairs of Jimmy Choo shoes that her boyfriend stole. Sam knows there’s more to the story than a collection of fake shoes and a missing DJ. 

Sam needs a little help from unusual friends after he’s arrested, and turns to an accountant, Marty Le Couer and DeMarcus Rodman, a 6'8", 275 friend who dropped out of the police academy.  Sam finds his missing DJ, but he's now a murder victim. And, then, he's a missing body.

But, Marty’s interests are elsewhere. He gave a dirty job to his nephew Nate, who can hack anything. Nate is using a computer at a public library to transfer money illegally for G & G Private Equity, when there’s an explosion and seven people are critically injured or killed. Kelson’s small team doesn’t accept that Nate was behind the explosion, but, their investigation takes a different direction that the FBI's. And, the sister of a dead suspect disappears while Kelson is at her house to question her.

Even Sam's client disappears on him. When he finds evidence of the Jimmy Choos, he knows they were as fake as Genevieve's story. Every time he finds her, or she shows up in his locked office, she has a different story. When Kelson and Rodman learn Marty once dated Genevieve,  the threads to both cases link back to Marty. As Rodman says, “Hanging with him’s like climbing into a bag of spiders.”

Marty may be one common element in both cases, but the mysterious G & G Private Equity firm is the other. And, as much as they would like to scare Kelson and Marty into compliance, intimidation doesn't work with Sam's small team. And, in the long run, nothing is scarier than Rodman's girlfriend when faced with a confrontation.

Looking for a darkly humorous PI novel with a quirky cast and non-stop, violent action? Check out Wiley's second Sam Kelson book, Lucky Bones.

Michael Wiley's website is http://www.michaelwileyonline.com/

Lucky Bones by Michael Wiley. Severn House, 2020. ISBN 9780727889829 (hardcover), 224p.

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

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Shadows in Time by Julie McElwain

Once again, I read the fifth in a series, and wish I had started from the beginning. So, instead of starting with Shadows in Time by Julie McElwain, I'm suggesting you start from the beginning of the series with A Murder in Time. An FBI agent, time travel, Regency England, and, now, an FBI agent with only the tools available in the 19th century. Fascinating concept.

Kendra Donovan was an FBI agent until she somehow ended up in the Duke of Aldridge's castle in 1815. The Duke claimed Kendra as his ward, and, together, the two of them, along with several others, have solved crimes, while frustrating Kendra that she lacks DNA and other tools that were available to her in the twenty-first century. But, Kendra has proven to have the intelligence and skills to survive.

She's also made a slight name for herself as she discovers when Mrs. Horatia Gavenston asks her to look for a missing person. Mrs. Gavenston owns and operates a brewery, passed down from mother to daughter, and her business manager, Jeremy Pascoe, is missing. Kendra knows Mrs. Gavenston is keeping something from her, so when Jeremy's body is discovered, the woman can't be eliminated as a suspect. Kendra sends for Sam Kelly, a Bow Street Runner, to assist her in finding a killer.

But, Kendra has another case that requires Kelly's help. As close as she has become to the Duke of Aldridge, she's suspicious when a woman shows up, claiming to be his missing daughter, Charlotte. Charlotte was lost at sea twenty years earlier, when she was just six, and her body was never found. This woman resembles the Duke's lost wife, and has a few traits that may be remembered, or learned. Kendra has sketches drawn to send with Sam Kelly's men as they search for the truth behind the claimant.

Anyone who enjoys novels set in Regency England will appreciate this atmospheric mystery. It is a character-rich story that shows the changes in Kendra since she's arrived back two hundred years before her birth. Kendra and her circle of friends will bring many of us back to this intriguing series of books. And, it's fascinating to watch a sleuth with all the knowledge of 21st century tools as she copes with only the tools available to her in 1816. It's her own intelligence, wit and physical skills, along with her friends, that will help her survive in Shadows in Time.

Julie McElwain's website is https://www.juliemcelwainauthor.com/

Shadows in Time by Julie McElwain. Pegasus Books, 2020. ISBN 9781643134741 (hardcover), 384p.

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

Saturday, August 01, 2020

September Treasures in My Closet

Each Treasures in My Closet post means we're one month closer to the end of 2020. It can't come soon enough. I hope you find some September books you want to read. How can you not with this list? Some of my favorite authors have books out in September.

For the last five months, most of us have been able to identify with the title of Fredrik Backman's forthcoming book, Anxious People. It's another one of his comedic novels, this one about "a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight cantankerous hostages, strangers, who discover they have more in common than they thought." (Release date is Sept. 8.)







For Whom the Book Tolls is the first Antique Bookshop Mystery by Laura Gail Black. The cozy series debut features Jenna Quinn who flees some unsavory doings in her hometown of Charlotte, and goes to stay with her uncle in Hokes Folly, NC. But, when she finds her uncle murdered in his antique bookstore, Jenna, his primary beneficiary, becomes the prime suspect. (Release date is Sept. 8.)






Allison Brook's latest Haunted Library Mystery is Checked Out for Murder. When Daphne Marriott strolls into Clover Ridge and informs librarian Carrie Singleton that she's a psychic, she must not have foretold her own death. Daphne's a welcome distraction when Carrie's overbearing mother hits town with her much younger husband who is filming a movie locally. Carrie's mother want to keep an eye on him. His sultry ex-fiancee is his costar. But, no one was watching when Daphne mingles with the moviemakers and ends up dead. Carrie and Evelyn, the library ghost, investigate, assisted by library cat Smoky Joe. (Release date is Sept. 8.)



Halloween is approaching in Ellen Byron's Murder in the Bayou Boneyard, Maggie Crozat's least favorite holiday. She's drawn up a plan so tourists will stay at local inns, instead of just renting rooms on an app. She even invited a cousin she doesn't know to come from Canada and give massages. But, that cousin claims to be psychic and wants family property. It isn't Maggie's biggest concern at the moment. Tourists have been terrified by appearances by a rougarou, a legendary cross between a werewolf and a vampire. When the rougarou stumbles on stage at a play, and collapses, Maggie's on the case. (Release date is Sept. 8.)



Susanna Clarke, the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell now brings us Piranesi. I'm going to admit right off the bat, I've read the description multiple times, and I have no idea what this book is about. It's a novel set in Piranesi's house, a place with infinite rooms, endless corridors, and thousands of statues. There's a man called The Other who lives there and asks Piranesi for help with research into A Great And Secret Knowledge. If you can figure out what all that's about, good for you. (Release date is Sept. 15.)





Rejoice! It's a new Vera Stanhope by Ann Cleeves, The Darkest Evening. Driving home on a snowy night, Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope sees and car that has skilled off the road and stops to see if she can help. The driver isn't there, but there is a toddler strapped into the backseat. Vera takes the child, but becomes disoriented in the blizzard, and ends up at Brockburn, the grand house where her father grew up. Inside, there's a party. But, outside, unbeknownst to the revelers, a woman lies dead in the snow. As the snow traps the group, Vera begins her murder investigation with the suspicion that someone in this close community is a killer. (Release date is Sept. 8.)



I'm a sucker for true stories and essays. When I hit the sentence, "Much as John Berendt did for Savannah in Midnight in the Garden of Good And Evil..., so Richard Grant does for Natchez in The Deepest South of All, I was hooked. A bestselling travel writer, Grant digs into Natchez, Mississippi, a city of unexpected contradictions. With the greatest concentration of antebellum mansions in the South and prominent white families who dress up for ritual celebrations of the Old South, it's progressive enough to elect a gay black man for mayor with 91 percent of the vote. (Release date is Sept. 1.)




Every time I discuss Craig Johnson's new Longmire mystery, Next to Last Stand, I say I don't know when I enjoyed a chase scene as much as one in this book. When a veteran dies at the Wyoming Home for Soldiers and Sailors, Walt is called to examine a piece of a painting and a shoebox stuffed with money. What's the connection to a painting called "Custer's Last Fight" and the story of the Little Big Horn? (Release date is Sept. 22.)






Audrey Keown's first Ivy Nichols mystery, Murder at Hotel 1911, introduces a hotel clerk prone to panic attacks who turns amateur detective. If you want to spend a night amid the luxury and charm of the early twentieth century, book a room at Hotel 1911. Ivy Nichols is behind the reception desk. The hotel is Ivy's only link to the family that abandoned her when she was a child. When wealthy, imperious Ms. Swain arrives at the hotel and belittles Ivy, she seeks consolation in the the kitchen of George, the hotel's chef. She does inform George that Ms. Swain has a deadly allergy to shellfish, but the police suspect the chef when Ms. Swain collapses at dinner and dies. Despite her panic attacks, Ivy is determined to save her friend's career. (Release date is Sept. 8.)



Taken Too Soon is the latest Quaker Midwife mystery by Edith Maxwell. Rose Carroll, a Quaker midwife, and her beloved fiance, David, are finally celebrating their marriage with family and friends. But, a disturbing telegram disrupts the festivities. The young ward of Rose's aunt has suffered a mysterious death, and Rose's help is needed urgently on Cape Cod. The newlyweds reluctantly agree to mix honeymoon plans with a murder investigation. The case exposes family secrets and a community's bigotry. (Release date is Sept. 8.)




It's finally time for the wedding in Jenn McKinlay's latest Library Lover's Mystery, One for the Books. Library director Lindsey Norris and boat captain Mike (Sully) Sullivan are shocked to realize their small wedding is growing as everyone in town wants to attend. But, when Lindsey and her friends head to Bell Island to make sure they can accommodate everyone, they find a body, the justice of the peace who was supposed to marry them. Both Lindsey and Sully hope to find the killer before their wedding day, so there isn't a shadow over the nuptials. (Release date is Sept. 1.)





Hanging Falls is the latest Timber Creek K-9 Mystery by Margaret Mizushima. Just before her planned vacation, officer Mattie Cole and her K-9 partner Robo find a body in a river. Although Robo tracks a man who becomes suspect number one, the attempt to identify the victim leads to a religious cult that is new to the community. Mattie's latest case takes priority over her own attempts to find the story of her missing family. (Release date is Sept. 8.)






Richard Osman's debut mystery, The Thursday Murder Club, is worth talking about. There's a great cast of seniors in their seventies and eighties. A small group gets together to study and try to solve cold cases. When a local developer ends up dead, they find a way to become part of the police investigation. I don't know when I've enjoyed a group of investigators so much. (Release date is Sept. 22.)






Laura Pederson leaves physics to those who can explain "A Theory of Everything", such as Stephen Hawking and Einstein. Instead, she tackles A Theory of Everything Else in her collection of essays. Here's one topic. "She ponders why thousands are perishing as a result of assault weapons, carbon emissions, forest fires, pesticides, and processed foods, yet lawn darts were banned in the 1980s after two people died." Who else examines the question of why there are no seeing-eye cats? (Release date is Sept. 1.)





I haven't read Louise Penny's All the Devils Are Here yet, but I'm sure I'll sneak it in before release date. On the first night in Paris, the Gamaches gather as a family for a bistro dinner with Armand's godfather, the billionaire Stephen Horowitz. W.alking home together after the meal, they watch in horror as Stephen is knocked down and critically injured in what Gamache knows is no accident. When a strange key is found in Stephen's possession it sends Armand, his wife, Reine-Marie, and his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, from the top of the Tour Eiffel to the bowels of the Paris Archives, deep into the secrets Armand's godfather has kept for decades. And, because I don't want to know any more, I'm not reading on to tell you more. (Release date is Sept. 1.)

Tod Goldberg called Brett Riley's Comanche, "the best western-horror-thriller-ghost story-PI novel ever written". Two hundred years ago in a tiny Texas town, a notorious desperado, the Piney Woods Kid, died in a hail of bullets, and the town rejoiced. In 2016, when there's a double murder at the train depot, the police are stymied. Witnesses swear the killer was dressed as an old-time gunfighter, and rumors fly that the Piney Woods Kid is back for revenge against the descendants of the men who slayed him. A team of investigators arrives from New Orleans. Shunned by the locals and haunted by their own pasts, they're determined to solve the mystery. They follow the evidence, and soon find themselves targeted by a killer. (Release date is Sept. 1.)

The first Bookish Baker Mystery is Murder Most Sweet by Laura Jensen Walker. Teddie St. John lives in Lake Potawatomi, Wisconsin, where she's a superb baker, a bohemian bon vivant, and a mystery writer, known by everyone in town. So when her dog finds Teddie's missing silk scarf, tied around the next of Kristi, the dead fiancee of a touring British author, Teddie become a murder suspect. And, when a second murder shocks the community, Teddie stands accused of two murders. (Release date is Sept. 8.)






Don't Look for Me is Wendy Walker's latest novel of psychological suspense. "The greatest risk isn't running away. It's running out of time. One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life. She doesn't want to be found. Or at least, that's the story. The car abandoned miles from home. The note found at a nearby hotel. The shattered family that couldn't be put back together. They called it a 'walk away.' It happens all the time. Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over. But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?" (Release date is Sept. 15.)




Amory and Milo Ames return in Ashley Weaver's A Deception at Thornecrest. Their marriage has had its up and downs in the past, but Amory's faith in her husband has been restored, and Milo has been nothing but thrilled about becoming a father. So when a woman appears on the doorstep of Amory's country house Thornecrest, claiming to be Milo's wife, Amory is convinced the woman is mistaken. Then, another unexpected visitor shows up, and secret identities and whirlwind romances seem to be par for the course. (Release date is Sept. 8.)




Andy Weinberger brings back somewhat-retired L.A. private eye Amos Parisman in Reason to Kill. Lonely booking agent Pinky Bleistiff hires Amos to find Risa Barsky, a singer who's gone missing. But what starts as a simple investigation turns into a complex puzzle when Pinky is murdered and Risa remains nowhere to be found. With suspects dropping dead at every turn, Parisman must act quickly to discover the truth before an innocent person gets sent to prison. (Release date is Sept. 22.)







You might find some books you want to read on this list as well.

Akhtar, Ayad - Homeland Elegies (9/15)
Anderson, Scott - The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War - A Tragedy in 
     Three Acts (9/1)
Buelens, Stephanie - An Inconvenient Woman (9/1)
Bynum, Sarah Shun-Lien - Likes (9/1)
Colin, Beatrice - The Glass House (9/15)
Flanagan, Bill - Fifty in Reverse (9/1)
Gyasi, Yaa - Transcendent Kingdom (9/1)
Hannah, Sophie - The Killings at Kingfisher Hill (9/15)
Jenkins, Jedidiah - Like Streams to the Ocean (9/15)
Kaplan, Jo - It Will Just Be Us (9/8)
Lepore, Jill - If Then (9/15)
Loskutoff, Maxim - Ruthie Fear (9/1)
Novik, Naomi - A Deadly Education (9/29)
Robinson, Marilynne - Jack (9/29)
Warburton, Sarah - Once Two Sisters (9/8)

Friday, July 31, 2020

Winners & a Book Club Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Diane K. from Darien, IL won The Secrets of Bones. Of Mutts and Men goes to Jeannette G. from Benicia, CA. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away mysteries set in the book world. I have two copies of Victoria Gilbert's first Booklover's B&B mystery, Booked for Death. Widow Charlotte Reed inherits a B&B from her great-aunt Isabella. The newly renovated inn hosts a roster of special events celebrating books, genres, and authors. When a book dealer claims Isabella was a thief, Charlotte is shocked at his accusation that she founded Chapters, the B&B on her ill-gotten gains. When the man ends up dead, his daughter accuses Charlotte of killing him. Charlotte looks for the truth, assisted by her older neighbor, a visiting author, and members of a local book club.



Or, maybe you'd prefer a Victorian Book Club Mystery. A Study in Murder is the first in Callie Hutton's new series. In Bath, England in 1890, mystery author Lady Amy Lovell dumps her fiance, Mr. Ronald St. Vincent after receiving an anonymous letter about him. Two evenings later, when he ends up dead in her library, the investigating bobbies assume she's the killer. Lady Amy teams up with a member of her Bath Mystery Book club, Lord William Wethington, to clear her name and find the killer in this humorous mystery.





Which title would you like to win? You can enter to win both books, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Booked for Death" or "Win A Study in Murder." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, August 6 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

What Are You Reading?

First, how are you doing this week? I had a rough week, but, in the grand scheme of things, that's minor. I'm not sick, and no one in my family is right now. It just hit me hard that I might not get to go back to live theater, and might not get to Europe again. Let's face it, First World problems. But, theater and travel are two of my greatest joys. And, that hurts.

So, my book is taking me to Europe. I'm reading Pancakes in Paris by Craig Carlson, an American from tough beginnings who ended up opening first one restaurant, and now owns the Breakfast in America restaurant chain in Paris. I'm not far in the book, but I like his voice.

What about you? How are you doing? And, what are you reading this week?


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Jane Badrock, Guest Author

Jane Badrock has written a comedic thriller, Sinister Sisterhood. How often do you see the
words "comedic thriller" in the same sentence? Even her biography on her publisher's website is funny, so I'll share part of it as an introduction. She's here today, publication day for her book, to talk about libraries, specifically a public library in England. First, though, a short biography. Her piece will follow, and then a summary of Sinister Sisterhood. I hope you enjoy Badrock's appearance here today.

Jane was obsessed with horror, adventure, and humorous literature from an early age thanks mainly to her grandmother’s book collection. By the age of twelve, she was writing funny genre-busting stories about vampires and gangsters while still wanting to be both a vet and an artist.

With Sinister Sisterhood, Jane wanted to pull together her passion for writing, her love of animals and the belief that women can be just as capable and as horrible as men. So pleased is she to be an author with Bad Press ink, she hasn’t even thought about murdering any of them. Yet. In the meantime she would like to thank them all for putting this book together.
Jane was put off living up mountains when she nearly gave birth at the top of one. She also avoids rivers and canals after badly injuring herself and nearly drowning in the Norfolk Broads. Her offspring having left the nest, she lives with her husband in a nice flat field in East Anglia surrounded by rabbits, deer, squirrels, foxes, badgers, horses and two cats.
Thank you, Jane, for the following piece.
*****
Beginnings of a Bibliophile: How a Library Helped Transform my Life

When prompted to think about libraries, I have to admit my memories were shamefully scant until I visited the theatre in December 2019. Books in general, however, were another matter.

As a young child, I was hugely motivated to read. My grandfather in deepest Kent (Darling Buds of May territory) taught me to read, sitting on his knee, with The Little Red Hen. Actually, he bribed me into it, the going rate being a penny a page. It worked well and probably helped inspire my first career choice of accountant. He also had a wonderful study stacked wall to wall with books. As I grew older, I would seek out the funny ones. I'd read almost all his PG Wodehouse collection by the time I was ten. To this day I love the smell of books, especially old ones and when I come across old libraries or bookshops it reminds me of him and the Number Six cigarettes he used to smoke.

At home in Petts Wood where I was born, I began to collect books. My mother, despite having once been a librarian, didn't inspire me to read but did do her best to get me books. Many of them were old and had names written in them – I found out much later on that my parents were hard up and she bought them from jumble sales. I'm sure she took me to our local library and I have vague memories of reading (and loving) the Dr Seuss books there. Those and When We Were Very Young by A A Milne certainly started my love of silly poetry, considerably enhanced later on by Spike Milligan.

Most of my birthday presents were books or book tokens. Enid Blyton pretty much filled up my early years' collections until my sights were broadened by the Born Free books about Elsa the Lion. They certainly reinforced my love of wildlife. Auntie Joan introduced me to the Anne of Green Gables and Little Women series. Auntie Pat, in Australia, sent books of antipodean animals and illustrated aboriginal legends.

My earliest recalled memories of libraries didn't have much to do with books. My schoolfriend Sally, however, recalls Petts Wood Library as a gateway to a whole new world. Inspired by her mother, she was reading authors like Steinbeck and Cronin, while I was collecting the Pan Books of Horror Stories. She reminded me of the times we used to hide from the rain in our secondary school library. She, naturally, to read. Me to eat my lunch – until I was caught. To appreciate this scene, you have to imagine a typical old-fashioned teacher with a very squeaky voice reaching an ear-splitting soprano crescendo.

Jam sandwiches in the library?
You'll drop crumbs and then there will be mice!
And then the mice will eat all the books!

Mrs Hardy was right, of course. She was also unintentionally and memorably funny. The closest I got to Petts Wood Library in those days was during exam revision time. 'Mum, I'm going to the library,' actually meant I was going for an illicit smoke from a packet of ten Number Six I'd hidden behind a nearby tree – not, by the way, in memory of my grandfather, but because they were the cheapest.

So what was the inciting event that brought back my precious memory? It was when I had the pleasure of seeing Sir Ian McKellen On Stage late in 2019. He read from That Book and made gentle fun of all the people who claim to read it every year. And once upon a time, that was indeed me.

It began in the last term of primary school when our stand-in teacher did something his predecessor never did. He read The Hobbit to us.

Wow! I was gripped. I couldn't wait for the daily episodes.

Then, on the last day of term, a friend announced that there was a sequel: The Lord of The Rings. Not only that, but she had it. No, not it, them. What? Three enormous volumes bearing a price tag that I could never imagine affording. So what could I do? I was desperate! There was only one solution.

Obviously, I went to the library. I felt as if I was going on a journey, not simply reading about one, and how right I was. Just handling the precious volumes gave me goose bumps. Each volume was many times bigger than anything I had ever tackled before. I borrowed them and took them with me when I stayed with my grandparents. They only ever saw me at mealtimes. One by one I devoured each volume. Laughing, crying and being thoroughly absorbed and overwhelmed. When I finally finished them, I became obsessed with the after-notes and cried again when I read what happened to the characters after the end of the book.

When I went home, I had to hand them back. I was bereft and had to wait weeks before I could take them out again. I cried knowing that even then, no one in my family could afford to buy me the series.
Finally, when the rather unwieldy and much less appealing paperback version came out, my grandmother bought it for me. It wasn't the same but at least it meant I could read it at will. I instantly covered it in silver foil and read it all over again.

Thanks to Sir Ian, I will never again forget the extreme pleasure I got from reading that seemingly elusive book and the path it took me on. And most importantly, thank you Petts Wood Library for making that happen.

*****
Interested in a comedic thriller? Check out the summary of Jane Badrock's new book, Sinister Sisterhood.

The Sinister Sisterhood - devious, deadly and dedicated   


50% of author royalties from this book go to animal welfare charities


Elle's dreams of domestic bliss are devastated by David's deceiving dalliances. Abandoned and alone, she needs a new life-plan and it's thrust upon her by her tiger-loving aunt in India. She must conserve the creatures and hunt the hunters.
Converted to the cause, Elle's committed to combating cruel animal exploitation whether it's trading in endangered animal parts or trophy hunting.
But she can't do it on her own. What she needs is money and a terrific team beneath her and it takes time to find the right people to bring in money and carry out the campaign.
What Elle gets is an assortment of wicked women with their own attributes and agendas. But the battle gets bigger. There's a mysterious mastermind building an execrable empire on the back of coveted creatures' carcasses.
The Sisterhood are devious, deadly and dedicated - but not necessarily to Elle's cause.
Can they succeed in getting what they want?
Can Elle eliminate her enemy before he fulfils his fiendish fur fetishes?

Be they in England, America, Russia or China- the team are going to have a damned good try!


*****
Sinister Sisterhood by Jane Badrock. Bad Press ink, 2020. ISBN 9781916084524 (paperback), 302p.


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Paris is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay

There's a recipe for a Jenn McKinlay romantic comedy. It's one part laughter; one smaller part madcap physical comedy. Add one part charming romance. Stir in a large handful of idyllic setting (Ireland, Paris, and Tuscany all in one book). Add a dash of regret and tears. Shake until it bubbles and fizzes. Now, you have Paris is Always a Good Idea.

Chelsea Martin is a workaholic. Ever since her mother died of pancreatic cancer seven years earlier, she's worked non-stop as a fundraiser, the senior director of major gifts, for the American Cancer Coalition in Boston. But, she's stopped in her tracks when her father announces he's remarrying. He's in love with a woman he met just two weeks earlier. While Chelsea's younger sister, Annabelle, is so happy for her father, Chelsea throws a fit. Her father is disappointed and tells her she stopped growing when her mother died.  She hasn't changed a thing, her appearance, her hairstyle, or her wardrobe in seven years. And, Annabelle tells her the last time she remembers her laughing is before their mother died, when she took a year off after college to travel in Europe.

So, Chelsea decides to quit her job, and go back to Europe. She's going to find the three men who made her laugh and feel love. She's going to Ireland and Paris and Tuscany to find the Chelsea she once was. But, work is still standing in her way. She's been working on a project to get a $10 million gift from Severin Robotics. Aidan, her boss, won't let her quit. He sends her off to Ireland on a leave of absence, with promises to check in with work. Unfortunately, it turns out she has to deal with her arch-rival at ACC, Jason Knightley, the bane of her existence. Everyone else loves him and his humor. She finds him "all flash and no substance". Now, he's going to interrupt her time and again on her trip to find her lost self.

This is a Jenn McKinlay novel. Nothing will go as Chelsea plans, and she trips over herself frequently. In fact, Chelsea reminds me a little of Amy Adams' character in one of my favorite romantic comedies, "Leap Year". She's just as hapless at times. Fortunately, for the book, and for Chelsea, she has the spirit and guts to overcome her own klutziness.

Jenn McKinlay excels at characters and humor. The reader roots for Chelsea to find her lost laughter, to shed seven years of pain. Her recipe for love, and the reader's for a treat? Paris is Always a Good Idea.

Jenn McKinlay's website is www.jennmckinlay.com

Paris is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay. Berkley, 2020. ISBN 9780593101353 (paperback), 340p.

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


Monday, July 27, 2020

The Detective in the Dooryard by Timothy Cotton

When asked, I say my all-time favorite book is a collection of essays by Patricia Leimbach, A Thread of Blue Denim. Leimbach knows how to appreciate moments in life,; a trip to sell eggs, running to the store for parts for a tractor, the backyard as the setting for every children's adventure novel. Timothy Cotton's collection, The Detective in the Dooryard: Reflections of a Maine Cop, is going on the shelf next to Leimbach's books.

Timothy Cotton is a detective lieutenant with the Bangor Maine Police Department. He has been a police officer for over thirty years. He loved being a detective in the Criminal Investigation Division, but, when he went for a promotion to sergeant the only position available was as public information officer. The job included writing the Facebook page for the department. By now, there are over 300,000 followers on the page. The posts are sarcastic at times, but the humor is always gentle. Cotton's overall tone is always kind.

And, that's the tone of the book. Cotton always writes with kindness as he relates stories of the people he interacts with, whether those people are homeless men on the street, a widow who found her husband after he committed suicide, the clerk at a convenience store, or the young man with a warrant he can't pay, but has enlisted and is leaving for boot camp.

When I started following the Bangor Maine Police Dept. on Facebook, three elements stood out. Once a week, Cotton had a piece got "Got Warrants". He includes forty pages of those stories here, poking fun of the ridiculous things criminals do, while leaving the criminals and the police anonymous. He also tells stories of the Duck of Justice, a stuffed duck he rescued from a trash can in the DA's office in 2009. Now, people travel from all over the country and some foreign countries to take pictures with the duck.

Here's what stands out for me. At a time when people don't trust police, Timothy Cotton tells stories of everyday life, of police officers who interact with the community. Yes, they investigate crime, and have to deal with that, but Cotton points out that he's spent so much time over the years listening to people, and trying to understand them. Not everyone reacts well to kindness and a conversation, but what does it hurt to start with that?

I cried through the entire last section of the book, the "anonymous" accounts of "The Cop" who stopped regularly to check on the ninety-one year old woman who, in return, made him banana bread. This is the cop who sent a marine off to camp after paying his fine and buying him a hamburger. This is the cop who sometimes needs to stop home in the middle of a shift after dealing with a death or a tragedy. He stops just to have a few minutes to tell his wife, to have an ear.

Yes, I have a couple stories about police officers who were kind. Maybe, in these troubled times, it would be called white privilege. Maybe so. But, human to human, I call it kindness. And, that's what Timothy Cotton's The Detective in the Dooryard is all about, taking the time to listen and be kind.

If you've read a few of the posts on Facebook from the Bangor Maine Police Department, you know how Timothy Cotton signs off. It's the perfect summary for this book of essays. "Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people's things alone, and be kind to one another. We will be here. TC BPD."

Timothy Cotton writes the posts on Facebook for the Bangor Maine Police Department, and he has his own Facebook page at Tim Cotton, @Tim CottonWrites.

The Detective in the Dooryard: Reflections of a Maine Cop by Timothy Cotton. Down East Books, 2020. ISBN 9781608937424 (hardcover), 288p.

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


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Have You Heard? Avoidable Contact by Tammy Kaehler

I'm reading two books right now, but I spent quite a bit of time on the phone on Saturday, so I'm turning the blog over to Sandie Herron for a Have You Heard? post. Today, she's talking about Tammy Kaehler's audiobook, Avoidable Contact. Thank you, Sandie.

*****
Avoidable Contact                                              

Series: A Kate Reilly Mystery, Book 3
Written by Tammy Kaehler, Narrated by Nicole Vilencia
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 10 hours and 46 minutes
Publisher: Blackstone Audio (November 20, 2015)
ASIN: B01865XJR6
*** ½ stars

Kate Reilly is ready to go racing as the clock clicks down over Daytona International Speedway where the legendary 24-hour auto race is about to begin.  Kate is pumped up and ready to support her co-drivers of the 28 Corvette C7.R formerly of a member of the AMLS.  Since the league merged with another to form the United Sports Car Championship series (USCC), Kate is pleased the Sandham Swift racing team continued in the new series.  Victims of the merger clash with survivors as the green flag flies.

Amid the fans, drivers, pit crews, team owners, and media mingling on pit row, two uniformed policemen approach Kate.  She must yank her mind away from the race as the men tell her that her boyfriend Stuart, USCC head of operations, was the victim of a hit-and-run accident an hour ago just outside the racetrack.  His condition is critical.  Kate reels with this news and begins to deliberate whether she will stay at the track or go to the hospital.

After deciding to stay, Kate starts to talk with drivers, pit crews, USCC officials, the media, car owners, team sponsors, her personal sponsor, and her personal manager.  Kate’s father, whom she is getting to know following an estrangement since birth, is at the track since his bank sponsors the series.  Not all drivers are professionals; some race as amateurs, privileged or rich enough to land a ride in the single race.  Members of Kate’s new family are among them.  Her maternal grandfather joins in via her cell phone with words of wisdom and advice.  Each tugs Kate in a different direction.

Kate must push them all away as she dons the last pieces of her racing gear and climbs into the car for her driver stints.  Again we are treated to pure racing inside Kate’s head as she goes through the steps of piloting the car.  We sit with her as she peeks at an accident she drives by, dismayed to see it involves the Sandham Swift 29 Corvette.

Kate deals with the myriad of feelings cascading inside her trying to discover a motive for Stuart’s accident which may be related to the track accident which may involve family and others too numerous to name.  Over the course of the 24 hour race, Kate’s trusted friends help her piece together the mysteries they face.

Suspenseful events on the track are interspersed with Kate’s fact-finding missions.  The race countdown throughout the narrative ratchets up excitement.  I felt Kate’s constant dialogues between her stints as driver somewhat tedious.  I tired of constant “what ifs,” speculation, and Kate’s paranoia over trust issues .  In the end, Kate’s searching does provide answers, but by book and race’s end, I wondered how much difference the answer would make.  It is up to Kate’s father to determine who comes first – Kate or the members of the family who crashed and raced the Daytona 24-hour endurance race.  Kate is left unsure of new family relationships but solid in her continuing racing career.
Reviewed by Sandie Herron

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Lineage Most Lethal by S. C. Perkins

Is this the kind of amateur sleuth, or, actually, the kind of character you would like to see in a book? "I don't apologize for loving learning and information. I'm smart, I'm good at my job, I work hard, and I'm proud of it." Those are my favorite sentences in S.C. Perkins' excellent second mystery, Lineage Most Lethal. Genealogist Lucy Lancaster is not ashamed of who she is. My kind of character. And, how often do you see a female in any novel express that kind of confidence?

Hotel heiress Pippa Sutton is Lucy's latest client. At twenty-four, Pippa is the last descendant to bear the surname of 19th century land baron Reginald Sutton and his English wife, Sarah Bess. She's the sole heir to a one hundred year old dynasty of small but high-end hotels in Texas and the South. As Lucy finishes up the project for Pippa, she's staying at the hotel in Austin, even though she lives and works there. The hotel gives Lucy access to a number of Pippa's cousins who can fill in personal stories about the family. That includes Pippa's paternal great-grandparents. Her great-grandfather, James, met Nell, his future wife, when he was in England, fighting WWII as a British citizen.

Lucy returns from another research trip to a local cemetery, and is out on the hotel porch when a man staggers from the parking lot, collapses at her feet, tries to put a Montblanc pen in her hand, and says, "Keep them safe." She has no idea what he means, but when she mentions the pen to her beloved grandfather, George, he knows. That's when he reveals he was an intelligence officer during the war, a spy, and he remained active as a handler for twenty more years. He recognized that pen as a special connection to a small group of eight spies who had a shared mission. But, before he can do a great deal of research, Grandpa is hit by a car in a hit-and-run accident. Some good Samaritan stayed with him, passed on a message, and made sure there was a security guard at the hospital door for the ninety-two-year-old man.

Without her grandfather's assistance, Lucy has to tap into her research abilities as a genealogist. She soon realizes the dead man at the hotel might be linked to a couple other recent deaths. Then, she worries about her grandfather. Can all these accidents and deaths be traced back to that small group of spies in the war? That Montblanc pen and a book are the biggest clues in Lucy's arsenal.

S.C. Perkins' characters are wonderful. Lucy, her grandfather, her co-workers, and even the restaurant owner at Big Flaco's Tacos are well-developed, great characters. I adore her grandfather! Perkins knows how to keep those characters active and involved with Lucy.

Here's my recommendation for this riveting book. Don't read the flap of the book if you pick it up. It gives away too much of the story. While some might call this a cozy mystery, I consider it a compelling pageturner. Don't spoil any bit of this suspenseful mystery for yourself.

A year ago, I reviewed S.C. Perkins' debut mystery, Murder Once Removed. It was debut of the month for Library Journal, and a starred review. Lineage Most Lethal is even better than the first book.

S.C. Perkins' website is https://scperkins.com/

Lineage Most Lethal by S.C. Perkins. Minotaur Books, 2020. ISBN 9781250750075 (hardcover), 340p.

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

Friday, July 24, 2020

Winners and a Going to the Dogs Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Bill T. from St. Clair Shores, MI won the copy of Long Range. Traces of Evil will go to Barbara W. from Auburn, WA. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, the giveaway features two mysteries involving dogs. Are you a fan of the Chet and Bernie books? Chet is the best dog narrator, and you really don't have to have read earlier books to enjoy Spencer Quinn's Of Mutts and Men. Chet will help you catch up. Bernie's the owner of the Little Detective Agency in Arizona, where the water supply is his big issue. When he and Chet find a scientist dead, a man just as concerned about water in the desert as Bernie, they investigate. Of course, there's always stories for Chet to tell along the way.





Maybe you would prefer The Secrets of Bones by Kylie Logan.  This mystery follows Jazz Ramsey as she trains a cadaver dog. Assembly Day at St. Catherine's brings professional women from all around Ohio to talk to the schoolgirls about their careers. Jazz Ramsey, whose puppy is still too young for certification, brings a friend's cadaver dog, and hides a few bones around the unused fourth floor for Gus to find. The girls are impressed when Gus finds the first bone, but then he heads off to an area where Jazz didn't hide any bones. But Gus is a professional, and he finds a human skeleton behind a door. The skeleton belongs to a teacher at the school who, one year, never returned from Christmas break. And, there are all kinds of suspects inside the school and out who might have wanted the woman to be dead.

Which book 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 heading should read either "Win The Secrets of Bones" or "Win Of Mutts and Men." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, July 30 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

What Are You Reading?

Check in, please. How are you doing this week? I hope everyone is okay, but let us know if you need a word of encouragement or a virtual hug. I can handle both of those, and I think others would step up, too.

I'm reading S.C. Perkins' second Ancestry Detective mystery, Lineage Most Lethal. Lucy Lancaster is a genealogist. Her latest client is a hotel heiress, and Lucy's staying at one of the hotels in Austin, Texas, as she finishes up the project. That's where a man dies at her feet, dropping a Montblanc pen as he gasps out a message. I won't say anything more about the plot, but I will say I love Lucy's grandfather, a major player in this book. He's in his nineties.

So, what are you reading this week? I'm hoping it's something that keeps your mind occupied. Take care of yourself!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Of Bears and Ballots by Heather Lende

Somehow, I missed one of Heather Lende's books. Including Of Bears and Ballots, she's written four nonfiction accounts of her life in Haines, Alaska. The first one,  If You Lived Here, I'd Know I'd Know Your Name, introduces readers to small town life in the town ninety miles north of Juneau. For me, it was an introduction to my type of nonfiction writer, someone whose essays have heart and bring nods and, occasionally, tears. In her latest book, she confronts the divisive politics that has hit the country. Lende saw it firsthand, as a newly elected member of the borough assembly who faced a recall petition almost as soon as she was elected, along with the two other newly elected liberals on the assembly board.

Heather Lende writes the obituaries for the weekly newspaper, Chilkat Valley News. She's invited into homes when surviving family members are at their lowest point so she can gather the stories and memories families want to share. She was once grand marshal in the local parade and named volunteer of the year by the Chamber of Commerce. She supports the public library, the senior services, the local pool. Her children grew up in Haines, and her grandchildren are now growing up there. Her husband, Chip, is a local businessman. She's the town's honored hometown author. So, it seemed like a personal insult, a slap in the face, when petitions started circulating to recall her and the other two newcomers. She didn't want to go to the grocery store. She recognized names on the petition as people she knew well.

Lende was elected in 2016, a tumultuous time in Haines, and in the country. She suspects social media and dirty, divisive politics encouraged the actions in the town. The biggest issue was about the change in the local harbor. Lende's opposition to the current plans was just one issue. The assembly hires a manager to run the city, and that becomes a divisive issue, with half the community wanting one candidate, and half the other. The night the assembly announced who they were hiring, one assembly member stood up, quit, and walked out.

Needless to say, it was a rough period. Lende, the only woman on the recall petition, took it much harder than the two men. She confronts that in her book. But, she also puts faces on the people in the town, and she explains the issues well enough that readers who don't live in Haines understand the stories. Although this book discusses small town politics quite a bit, the reader cares because Lende cares so much.

That's why I return to Heather Lende's books and her writing. When asked what my favorite book is, I say Patricia Leimbach's A Thread of Blue Denim. It's a collection of essays by an Ohio farm wife and writer who understood the human heart. Lende is the same. Maybe it's small town life. Maybe it's writing obituaries, and listening to people talk about loved ones. She, like Leimbach, tries to portray the heart, the human connection in a story. Maybe Of Bears and Ballots is a book about politics in Haines, Alaska. Maybe it's a book about learning to work with others, learning to listen.  Maybe it's a book about heart in a small town.

Heather Lende's website is https://www.heatherlende.com/

Of Bears and Ballots by Heather Lende. Algonquin Books, 2020. ISBN 9781616208516 (hardcover), 288p.

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Blue Marlin by Lee Smith

Dimestore: A Writer's Life was Lee Smith's first nonfiction title. Somewhere, I have a copy that I haven't read yet. But, when I heard Judy Blume recommend Smith's novella Blue Marlin, I immediately ordered the book. It may be a small book, but Smith's note at the end of the book, "The Geographical Cure" shows how much emotional truth there is in this coming-of-age story.

Jenny Dale is thirteen years old in 1958. She has ambitions to be a spy and a writer, and she's honing her craft as she rides her bike around town. Jenny's the youngest of three daughters, the late-in-life one who didn't know either of her older sisters well. But, she adores her parents. Her mother, Billie, is one of the most beautiful women in Virginia, and her father, John, "the best lawyer in town", runs Dale Industries, the local mill, and has since his father committed suicide. But, when Jenny's riding her bike around, spying on people, including a local artist, Carroll Byrd, she discovers her father is having an affair with the woman. Jenny's just bursting to tell someone, but she keeps it a secret.

The affair remains a secret until another death brings it into the open. Billie's brother is shot and killed in a bar, and when Billie falls apart, no one can find John. When he returns, Bille is sent away to recover, and then Jenny is sent to South Carolina to live with Cousin Glenda, a high school principal who should be able to make Jenny behave.

Enjoy Jenny's story of her time with Cousin Glenda's family, a story of the late fifties and bomb shelters and first kisses. Jenny is reluctant to leave when her parents pick her up, but the trio is heading to Key West, Florida, on a geographical cure to try to save the marriage. The resulting account of Jenny's adventures in a cemetery, a strip club, and with Hollywood celebrities is a celebration of Key West's eccentricities.

Jenny Dale sees her family through slightly different eyes because of the year she's thirteen. It's a charming, melancholy story with its wisps of sadness and hints of adulthood. And, it may not be an accurate account of Lee Smith's family and their trip to Key West, but her note indicates the story is emotionally true. How many of us can remember events from the year we were thirteen, and remember them accurately? The truth, though, can be found in the emotions that evoke the past. That's what you'll discover in Lee Smith's Blue Marlin.

Lee Smith's website is www.leesmith.com

Blue Marlin by Lee Smith. Blair, 2020. ISBN 9781949467314 (paperback), 123p.

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


Monday, July 20, 2020

Margaret Lucke, Guest Author

What a pleasure! I love it when an author writes a guest post about libraries. I think you'll enjoy Margaret Lucke's piece. Let me introduce you to the author of the Claire Scanlan Haunted House books.


Margaret Lucke flings words around in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes tales of love, ghosts, and murder, sometimes all three in one book. Her Claire Scanlan Haunted House series includes House of Whispers and the just released House of Desire. She also writes mysteries featuring artist and private investigator Jess Randolph, the latest of which is Snow Angel. Margaret is the editor of Fault Lines, a short story anthology published last year by the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime. She teaches fiction writing classes and workshops, and has written how-to books on the craft of writing fiction.
Thank you, Margaret, for sharing your story.
*****
About Books, Shelves, and the Libraries that Hold Them
by Margaret Lucke

A big thrill for an author comes the first time they see their new book on the shelves of their hometown library or, even better, in a library patron’s hands.
What is a bigger thrill is to help bring a library to the place where they live, where none existed before.
When I was a kid I loved to browse the shelves of my school library and the public library nearby. I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and I loved to run my fingers along the spines of the upright books, reading the titles and the authors’ names. On reaching the spot where my name would be, I’d push open a little space between the books by authors whose names fell before and after mine in the alphabet. Right in that spot—that’s where a book with my name on it would be someday.
Then I grew up, moved to the other side of the country, and achieved the dream of having a couple of books with my name on the cover. What I no longer had was a hometown library.
When I took up residence here, my town was the second largest city in California not to have a public library within its town limits. Many of us wanted to change that. When the state’s voters passed a library funding bond, we had our chance. Our city and county governments, the local schools, neighborhood businesses, and individuals who love libraries banded together to create an application for the state funds. We appointed a task force to select the right site and a good architect. We held fundraising drives to raise money for costs that the bond funds wouldn’t cover. We held town meetings where residents debated the merits of shelving styles and carpet patterns. We cheered when a crane lifted a large magnolia tree over the roof and set it in place in the atrium that brings sunlight into the center of the building.
On the day of the grand opening, the town had a large and festive celebration. I had my own small private celebration as I wandered the stacks. There amongst the thousands of books on the shelves were a few that were written by me. I ran my fingers along the row of spines, gratified that there was no longer an empty space where my name belonged.
The library quickly became the heart of our community, serving the town as a cultural center, an educational center, and a place of entertainment. It warmly welcomes local authors.
When my novel House of Whispers came out, the librarian invited me to do a reading and talk. I’m not sure whether I qualified as culture, education, or entertainment, but that evening was one of my most rewarding experiences as author. The room was filled with friends, neighbors, well wishers, and supporters, all of them eager to hear about my new book.
Now House of Desire, the next in my Claire Scanlan Haunted House series, has been published. I’m eager to share this story at the library, to help readers there discover Claire’s mysterious world. She is a real estate agent with a talent she’d rather not have—when she goes into certain houses, she can sense presences and energies that no one else detects. When her philandering brother-in-law is accused of murdering a rival in a grand San Francisco Victorian, she must risk a perilous journey into the past to find the only witness—a time-traveling “soiled dove” from the 1890s who is invisible to everyone but Claire.
Sadly, the library is currently closed, thanks to the pandemic that has disrupted all of our lives so profoundly. It has just begun allowing curbside pickup service, a small hopeful step. I’m eagerly looking forward to the day when it will fully reopen, when I can find House of Desire on its shelves and share the book with its patrons. In the meantime I’m at home, at the computer, plotting out the next Claire Scanlan mystery.



Twitter: @MargaretLucke

Amazon link: