Thursday, October 22, 2020

Winners and What Are You Reading?

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Maureen J. from Reno, NV won The Last Seance. A Spell for Trouble goes to Kristina A. from Dunedin, FL. The books are going out in the mail today.

Before we talk about our reading, how are you doing? Fires, snow, rain, jobs, family? Is everyone okay? Take care of yourselves! Let us know how you're doing.

I'm on vacation starting this afternoon. I'm driving home to Ohio to see my Mom one last time before winter. I usually don't go home when I can't count on the roads being good. And, this year, with COVID, I'm not planning to see family again until spring at the earliest. For you, that means my blog might be a little off-track again as it was when I went home the last time. 

Now, for that other question, what are you reading? I'm reading a Christmas romance. It's Christina Lauren's In a Holidaze, the story of a young woman whose family Christmas trip doesn't end happily. She sends a wish to the universe. "Can you show me what will make me happy?', and in a Groundhog Day storyline, she's back on the plane to Utah, six days before the end of her trip. One disaster after another sends her back to the plane, and she has to find out how to get out of this strange time loop. I read fifty pages on my lunch hour yesterday. This one is going to be quick.

What about you? I'm betting you're not yet reading Christmas books. I already have several at home, and a few more coming from the library. I'm ready to forget about 2020, and move on. I hope I'm not going to live in a Groundhog Day loop.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

And, the Winner Is...

 And, the winner is...The Readers. Virtual Bouchercon was held last weekend, and, along with that, virtual award ceremonies. The Barry Awards, the Anthony Awards, and the Macavity Awards were all presented. In case you missed any of the lists, here are the winners.

Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine presents the Barry Awards. These are voted on by the readers of the magazine. 

Best Mystery/Crime Novel - The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Best First Mystery/Crime Novel - The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

Best Paperback Original Mystery/Crime Novel - Missing Daughter by Rick Mofina

Best Thriller - The Chain by Adrian McKinty

Best Mystery/Crime Novel of the Decade - Suspect by Robert Crais

The Anthony Awards are given out at each Bouchercon World Convention, with the winners selected by attendees. The award is named for the late Anthony Boucher (William Anthony Parker White), critic and author, who helped found Mystery Writers of America.

Best Novel - The Murder List by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Best First Novel - One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski

Best Paperback Original - The Alchemist's Illusion by Gigi Pandian

Best Critical Nonfiction Work - The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and Her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women by Mo Moulton

Best Short Story - "The Red Zone" by Alex Segura in ¡Pa’que Tu Lo Sepas!: Stories to Benefit the People of Puerto Rico)

Best Anthology or Collection - Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible edited by Verena Rose, Rita Owen, and Shawn Reilly Simmons

Best Young Adult - Seven Ways to Get Rid of Harry by Jen Conley

The Macavity Awards are voted on by members of Mystery Readers International.

Best Mystery Novel - The Chain by Adrian McKinty

Best First Mystery - One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski

Best Mystery Short Story - "Better Days" by Art Taylor, EQMM, May/June 2019

Best Mystery Nonfiction/Critical - Hitchcock and the Censors by John Billheimer

Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Mystery - The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Solace of Bay Leaves by Leslie Budewitz

If you're looking for an introspective, mature amateur sleuth, you can't go wrong with Leslie Budewitz' Spice Shop Mysteries. Pepper Reece, Mistress of Spice at Pike Place Market's Spice Shop in Seattle, might disagree with me. In the fifth book in the series, The Solace of Bay Leaves, she still struggles with her own insecurities. Kudos to a woman in her forties who is still trying to improve in her relationships with others, and her knowledge of herself.

Pepper and the fisherman she's dating, Nate Stewart, are on a double date with Pepper's best friend, Kristen, and Kristen's husband when the two women receive an identical text. The police are at the houseboat of a friend, widow Laurel Halloran, and the FBI will be there soon. Three years earlier, Laurel's husband, Patrick, was shot and killed in their house. It's still an ongoing investigation. Patrick was a Assistant U.S. Attorney, and his murder might be linked to his work. But, the police were at a dead end. Now, there's been another shooting with the same gun in the same neighborhood.

Pepper and Kristen both know the latest victim. They went to school with Maddie Petrosian, who is in the hospital in a coma. She's a developer who was caught in the corner grocery that was on her list of projects. Why did a killer wait three years to shoot another victim?

Even homicide detective Michael Tracy knows Pepper well enough after a year of cases to know she'll be asking questions. In fact, Laurel takes her to the old neighborhood, introduces her to people, and expects her to find answers. Pepper's willing to pry into old secrets, but at the same time, she feels guilty. She's always thought Maddie had everything in life, a perfect husband, two children, a successful career, everything that divorced Pepper does not. Now Maddie's in the hospital fighting for her life.

There's so much that could be said about this well-developed book. First of all, the Pike Place Market setting is always fascinating, and the tidbits about spices are fun. But, it's the characters and relationships that will bring readers back. They're believable characters dealing with life's problems. And, despite her feelings, Pepper is aware that "First-world problems like failed marriages and lost jobs may feel like the darkest depths when you're plunging into them, but they won't kill you."

It's Pepper's thoughtful comments and attitude that attract me to her as a character. Even when she does something stupid, she's mindful that mystery readers call that TSTL, too stupid to live. When she's followed one night, she thinks, "I'd already been too stupid to live once this week. I was not going to be TSTL a second time."

While there are often comments about the victims in cozy mysteries, Budewitz takes this series to a little darker place, dives deeper into feelings. In notes at the end of the book, she tells of the case that inspired the book. She wanted to highlight "the impact of murder on the family and on the wider circle that surrounds each of us."

Kudos to Pepper Reece for her ongoing introspection. Kudos to Leslie Budewitz for an intriguing amateur sleuth and a fascinating mystery.

Leslie Budewitz' website is

The Solace of Bay Leaves by Leslie Budewitz. Seventh Street Books, 2020. ISBN 9781645060178 (paperback), 248p.

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

Monday, October 19, 2020

Lois Winston, Guest Author

Lois Winston, author of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries is guest author today. Her latest book in the series is A Sew Deadly Cruise. But, today, she's going to talk about language.

Thank you, Lois.


An Expletive by Any Other Name is a Euphemism

When I was seven years old, we moved to a new apartment. The building, which housed two apartments downstairs and two upstairs, was owned by the family who lived above us. They had two sons, both slightly older than me.

On the first day, I was outside in the small front yard with the younger son. His mother opened the window and shouted down to him. I don't remember what she wanted him to do, but he objected - strenuously. What followed was several minutes of back and forth shouting filled with words I had never heard.

Later, when I went inside, I asked my mother what those words meant. She refused to tell me, only saying they were "dirty" and I'd better not use them if I knew what was good for me. How was I to know there were "dirty" words I wasn't supposed to use? I'd never heard them before and had no idea what they meant.

Over the course of the next four years I heard those words on a daily basis. The walls were thin, and the people upstairs always seemed to be shouting at the top of their lungs.

As I grew older, I eventually learned the definition of those words. I also learned that they're not necessarily considered "dirty" in certain contexts or in some cultures. I've even been known to use one or two of them when warranted. I've always believed that a word is just a word. It's how it's used that matters.

There are some people who believe using four-letter words represents lazy writing, that there is always a better alternative. I disagree. Although I don't believe in using words just for the sake of shock value, I do believe that when writing dialogue, it's important to stay true to the character and the scene. After all, a Mafia hitman isn't going to say "Gosh darn it" or "Golly gee whiz." He's going to drop a four-letter word or two on occasion.

Using the occasional expletive never bothered my readers when I was writing romantic suspense, but when I made the switch to writing my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, I began to receive some blowback from a handful of readers. Although I consider my books humorous amateur sleuth mysteries, my publisher marketed them as cozies, and I quickly discovered that some cozy readers get really upset over even the mildest of expletives. It was quite a shock, given that my editor hadn't objected to the use of certain words in my books, and during the editing process, no one of the publishing house had ever requested I switch from expletives to euphemisms.

Not wanting to lose readers, over time I've stopped defending my use of the words and bowed to the pressure of a vocal minority. It's more important to me to get my books into the hands of as many readers as possible and have them like what they've read. So as the series has progressed, I've switched to euphemisms. Now that I have the rights back to my earlier books, I've gone back and done some revising, removing the more objectionable words. I learned a long time ago that it's best to choose your battles, and this ia one battle I've decided is no longer worth fighting.

How do you feel about colorful language in books? Do you blush or become upset when you read any of the seven words George Carlin listed in his infamous routine, or do four-letter words in fiction not bother you?


A Sew Deadly Cruise

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 9

Life is looking up for magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack. Newly engaged, she and photojournalist fiance Zack Barnes are on a winter cruise with her family, compliments of a Christmas gift from her half-brother-in-law. Son Alex's girlfriend and her father have also joined them. Shortly after boarding the ship, Anastasia is approached by a man with an unusual interest in her engagement ring. When she tells Zack of her encounter, he suspects the man might be a jewel thief scouting for his next mark. But before Anastasia can point the man out to Zack, the would-be thief approaches him, revealing his true motivation. Long-buried secrets now threaten the well-being of everyone Anastasia holds dear. And that's before the first dead body turns up.

Craft projects included.

Buy Links




Apple iBooks:

Bio: USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women's fiction, children's chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, "North Jersey's more mature answer to Stephanie Plum." In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source materials for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.


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Sunday, October 18, 2020

Dreaming Death by Heather Graham

So, what do you turn to when nothing really suits your reading taste? Of course, I turned to the FBI, serial killers, and the paranormal. Heather Graham's latest Krewe of Hunters book, Dreaming Death, fits the bill.

Stacey Hanson had strange dreams from the time she was young when her private investigator father was involved in a high-profile investigation. She had the same dream over and over, as more details were revealed in each dream. Eventually, she "saw" her parents attacked by a man as she witnessed it. Although her parents didn't believe that the event would happen, the psychiatrist she saw believed enough to call in Adam Harrison. He trusted Stacey's dreams, and the FBI was able to trap the man hired to kill her father.

When she was eighteen, Stacey had another dream about a high school friend, a cemetery, and a drug deal. Although the local police wouldn't believe a teenager, Adam Harrison did, and the FBI prevented another death.

When Stacey graduated from the FBI Academy at Quantico at twenty-four, she immediately joined Harrison's Krewe of Hunters. Special Agent Keenan Wallace isn't happy when his boss teams him up with a rookie for a high profile case. Prostitutes are being killed and mutilated in D.C. By the time a third murder occurs, the media is calling the killer the Yankee Ripper. They don't yet know enough details to connect it properly to Jack the Ripper. 

Stacey knows Keenan isn't happy to be working with her, but she was assigned to the case because she dreamt the location of the most recent victim before the body was found. For some reason, she seems to have a special connection to this case, and eventually, she's dreaming about a violent ending to the killer's spree.

In the meantime, Keenan begins to trust Stacey's dreams, and the two become close as they have each other's backs in a case that touches on the political as well as the scandalous deeds of the high-profile owner of an escort service.

It's always a treat to return to Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunters series, despite the serious nature of the murders. She always introduces historical elements along with ghosts who are willing assistants for the Special Agents with unusual gifts. The interesting settings and romance plays a large part in the attraction of these books. But, it's hard to ignore the combination, the pull of the paranormal and history, which seem to fit together so well. Dreaming Death is another intriguing book in this fascinating series.

Heather Graham's website is

Dreaming Death by Heather Graham. Mira, 2020. ISBN 9780778310105 (hardcover), 296p.


FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Saturday, October 17, 2020


I have nothing. I spent an hour yesterday trying to come up with something worthwhile to post for today. Nothing, not a thing. I'm on deadline, and haven't finished a book, other than the ones I'm reading for January.

So, enjoy your day, and we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Winners & A Supernatural Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Cindy D. from College Place, WA will receive Hanging Falls. Charlotte W. of Covington, GA won Death Blow. The books are going out in the mail today.

It's the perfect time of year to offer two books with a supernatural connection. However, before I discuss the books, I want to point out the deadline. Because of my schedule, this giveaway will end on Wednesday, October 21 at 5 PM CT so I can get the books in the mail on Thursday. Then, the following contest will kick-off on Friday, October 30.

Have you read Agatha Christie's The Last Seance? It's a collection of Tales of the Supernatural from the Queen of Mystery. The omnibus collects twenty stories, some of them featuring Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. There are "fantastic psychic visions, specters looming in the shadows, encounters with deities, and a man who switches bodies with a cat."

A Spell for Trouble is Esme Addison's first Enchanted Bay Mystery. Aleksandra Daniels hasn't been back to Bellamy Bay, North Carolina since her mother's tragic death twenty years earlier. But, now she has accepted an invitation from her estranged relatives, and she's willing to help them in their family business, an herbal apothecary known for its remarkably potent teas, salves, and folk remedies. Alex discovers her family is at the center of town gossip, and that they're rumored to be magical healers. She just thinks it's nonsense until a local is murdered, and her aunt Lidia is arrested for murder. It's a story of deadly family rivalries and the secrets of Alex's own ancestry.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win The Last Seance" or "Win A Spell for Trouble." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

And, don't forget that deadline, next Wednesday, October 21.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

What Are You Reading?

I've been grumpy this week. Fortunately, I vented to a friend, so I don't have to tell you all the reasons I'm out of sorts. But, I'm never out of sorts when we get to talk about books.

I hope you're in a better mood than I am, but if you're not, feel free to vent here. We all need someone to listen. Thinking of some of you like Mark. How are you this week? Are you all okay?

What are you reading this week? I'm reading Meg Cabot's romantic comedy, No Offense. Like her previous novel, No Judgments, it's set on Little Bridge Island in South Florida. This time, it features a children's librarian and the local sheriff. Molly Montgomery, the children's librarian, finds an abandoned baby in the restroom. The sheriff sees it as a crime, and he's going to look for the mother. Molly believes the woman must need help. Will their differences override their mutual attraction?

I'll admit I'm also on deadline, so I have no idea when I'll get a chance to finish the book.

What about you? What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Hiding the Past by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

I have a fellow librarian to thank for the discovery of Nathan Dylan Goodwin's mystery series featuring forensic genealogist Morton Farrier. Hiding the Past will interest fans of genealogical mysteries and those interested in cold cases. The combination of a current case running side by the side with the past is what I enjoy about several series.

The book opens in 1944 with a woman and baby fleeing into an orchard. The reader already knows that isn't going to turn out well. In 2013, Morton Farrier's client Peter Coldrick hires him to look into his family history. In twelve years, Morton has never come across a case in which he can find no records at all of a man's birth. Of course, it happens. James Coldrick was born in 1944, and raised in St. George's Children's Home. It was wartime, so it's conceivable there was no record. Morton is momentarily stymied. But, Peter calls him that night saying he found a box. Before he can see him the next day, he's told his client committed suicide.

Morton doesn't believe it. For one thing, Coldrick paid him a great deal of money for this search, and he had just made a discovery he wanted to share. And, Coldrick's girlfriend has a solid reason to believe he didn't commit suicide. Now, despite the ruling of suicide, Morton is determined to find the answers to what he's calling the Coldrick Case. It's a case that will send him to churches, libraries, and archives hunting for records. But, someone powerful wants to hide the truth of James Coldrick's birth. Even when he's discouraged and feels like everything has gone wrong, Morton's former professor and mentor encourages him to keep digging, telling him it's exactly his kind of work, and he should be congratulated for sticking to a difficult case. "Morton hadn't thought about it like that before. He supposed that, despite the obvious drawbacks to stalking, mugging, explosions, espionage and a throbbing lump on the side of his head, it certainly livened up what could otherwise be a rather dull job."

Oh, Morton's life isn't dull. He's the opposite of what anyone would think of as a successful amateur sleuth, a man who gets drunk and vomits all over at his brother's going away party. There are secrets in Morton's own family. His father shocked him, revealing one after his mother's death from cancer, and now that there's another threat of mortality, there's a second revelation that tears Morton apart. 

Goodwin introduces a flawed man who is determined to find answers, despite his own insecurities and issues. This is not a cozy mystery about a genealogist. It's a mystery of the explosive secrets with power to destroy careers and lives seventy years after the events that are hidden. Someone is still Hiding the Past.

Nathan Dylan Goodwin's website is

Hiding the Past by Nathan Dylan Goodwin. CreateSpace, 2013. ISBN: 9781492737421 (paperback), 226p.


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

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Have You Heard? - Victoria Laurie's Fated for Felony

Because I have a few things going on right now, Sandie Herron is stepping in with a Have You Heard? post about an audiobook. Victoria Laurie's Fated for Felony is the sixteenth in her Abby Cooper Psychic Eye series. Sandie has listened to or read all of them. Thank you, Sandie.

Fated for Felony
Abby Cooper Psychic Eye Mystery, Book 16
Written by Victoria Laurie
Narrated by Elizabeth Michaels
Unabridged Audiobook
Audible Studios (11/12/2019)
Listening Length: 10 hours 23 minutes

For years, Abby Cooper has worked alongside her husband Dutch and his boss who happens to be her best friend's husband at the FBI. They were skeptical when she joined the team, but their record since she did has been stupendous. The Austin unit is especially good at solving cold cases, thanks to Abby's intuitive abilities.

Three new career men join the unit and resent that the government is paying a "psychic" consultant. The three stooges contact popular podcaster and retired agent Mike Toscano to debunk her abilities. The challenge is that Abby will need to solve his oldest and coldest case file going back 15 years, on the air, live, in an hour! To add even more pressure, the fate of the Austin office is on the line along with the careers of the men and women working there.

Thankfully Abby gets the familiar tingle as she reads a summary of the file and an odd vision comes to her. She writes down her impressions which sound ludicrous to Toscano who accuses them of utter failure. The agents who work with Abby regularly trust her so much that they all agree to take vacation time to check out her vision. Toscano is too curious to turn down the offer to accompany them and follows them all to Texarkana and the lake where four women are supposedly located. There are four victims in Toscano's file, so he is surprised when Abby tells him there is a fifth victim.

I was delighted to again be drawn into Abby's world with her friends and co-workers. Her abilities held up to scrutiny, and I was glad the case wasn't so cold as to offer no clues to solving it. Along the way Abby speaks to her sister Cat who discovers her husband is having an affair, which sets up a spinoff series featuring Cat in the life coach mysteries also written by Laurie.

Elizabeth Michaels returns as narrator. Somehow she just "gets" Abby and portrays her so vividly. Conversations sound realistic, including the swearing. Her pace ebbs and flows with the action, catching the listener up in the plot. This was very much a police procedural yet it was also very much a paranormal story. There was no way the mystery could be solved without Abby's involvement, as proven by the agent's thick cold case file. Abby's intuition also provided the final clues needed to catch a killer.

The fate of the Austin bureau and the men working there was again caught up in Mike Toscano's podcast, but this time Abby was eager to share hosting duties as they explain how the case was solved. Yet there is quite a twist at the end when a listener calls in with a unique question.

Definitely enjoyable.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Mrs. Morris and the Witch by Traci Wilton


The second Salem B&B cozy mystery takes readers to Salem, Massachusetts at Halloween. Readers can easily pick up Traci Wilton's Mrs. Morris and the Witch, even if you haven't read the previous book. It's only a week after the adventures in Mrs. Morris and the Ghost. Widow Charlene Morris, whose B&B is haunted by the ghost of the previous owner, Dr. Jack Strathmore, is now ready to host her first guests.

Charlene sets up a haunted Salem tour for her guests. On one of their stops, she orders two witch balls from a shop owner, Morganna, who said she blows the glass herself. The group is supposed to meet back at the bus at 10 PM. But, when Charlene arrives back, she finds Morganna's shop dark. When the tour guide spies legs through the window, Charlene and a firefighter break in. They find the body of Morganna, a local Wiccan. And, Charlene smells almonds, so the firefighter rushes them out because he says it's cyanide.

When Detective Sam Holden takes one of Charlene's first guests, Dylan, to police headquarters, Charlene protests. She knows the twenty-one-year-old isn't a killer, although he did disappear that evening. She only saw him again after Morganna was killed, and then he ran off. If Sam won't listen to her, she will help Dylan clear his name, even if she has to get involved. This time, she's going to question people who knew Morganna, people in the local Wiccan community. Even if Sam and Jack are both unhappy that she's endangering herself, she excuses it, saying she's looking out for Dylan. Of course, she also wants to satisfy her own curiosity.

I loved the first book in this series, Mrs. Morris and the Ghost, in which Charlene looks for Jack's killer. As I said when I reviewed it, I'm a fan of paranormal mysteries in which an amateur sleuth falls for a good-looking ghost, mysteries such as Cleo Coyle's Haunted Bookshop mysteries or J.J. Cook's Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade books. But, Charlene Morris goes too far in this book, which is disappointing. She thinks Sam is being difficult because he won't tell her about his investigation. Sam is being difficult? Even she has to admit there's a point when "all common sense fled", and she was too-stupid-to-live.

Overall, I feel sorry for Detective Sam Holden. He's interested in Charlene, and he tries to protect her. But, he's competing with a handsome ghost. In some ways, he's competing with two ghosts, Jack, and the memory of Charlene's beloved husband. In other series,, there's no living romantic interest that has to compete with the attractive ghost.

I'm going to read the next book when it's released, Mrs. Morris and the Ghost of Xmas Past. I just hope Charlene Morris, the amateur sleuth, is a little wiser in the third book.

Traci Wilton's website is

Mrs. Morris and the Witch by Traci Wilton. Kensington Books, 2020. ISBN 9781496721532 (paperback), 323p.


FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sherlock Holmes and the Beast of the Stapletons by James Lovegrove

James Lovegrove is the author of new Sherlock Holmes adventures, the Lovecraft/Doyle inspired Cthulhu Casebooks, and tie-in fiction for the Firefly TV series and movie, along with other novels. His latest, Sherlock Holmes and the Beast of the Stapletons, is a clever, satisfying follow-up to The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Spoiler alert if you haven't read The Hound of the Baskervilles: In 1889, Sherlock Holmes shot and killed a monstrous hound with phosphorus eyes just as it attacked Sir Henry Baskerville. The dog's owner, naturalist Jack Stapleton, was a Baskerville descendent who hoped to inherit the Baskerville fortune and estate. Instead, he ended up dying, lost in Great Grimpen Mire.

End spoiler.

Almost five years after the events that still haunt Dr. John Watson, a friend of Sir Henry Baskerville's shows up at 221B Baker Street, asking for Holmes' help. Corporal Benjamin Grier was a Buffalo Soldier who knows Baskerville as a fellow Freemason. He reports that Sir Henry happily married, and now has a three-year-old son named Harry. But, Sir Henry's wife was attacked and killed on the moors one night by a beast that drained her blood. Now, Baskerville is once again half-mad about the family curse, determined to fend off all visitors with his rifle, in order to keep Harry safe. He ordered Grier away from the house, which is why Grier came to seek Holmes' assistance.

Terrified of dogs after the previous encounter in Dartmoor, Dr. Watson refuses to accompany Holmes. Sherlock Holmes returns to London to relate the entire story to his friend, in his methodical step-by-step manner. But, something about the solution to the case troubles Holmes. And, he's right. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson will have to return to the scene of the crime before they can successfully solve the case of Sherlock Holmes and the Beast of the Stapletons.

Lovegrove's solutions to this story are satisfying enough for causal fans of the Sherlock Holmes canon. Although I've read all of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, I never studied them to know if true students of the works will be happy with this pastiche. However, for the casual reader, the pacing, the atmosphere, and the characters work beautifully. The summary of The Hound of the Baskerville story, necessary to carry on to the next step, was well-done. I have one complaint, and it's a personal grievance. This is the third Holmes pastiche I've read in which there is a long sea voyage to South America. What is it about South America that draws writers of these books?

James Lovegrove's website is

Sherlock Holmes and the Beast of the Stapletons by James Lovegrove. Titan Books, 2020. ISBN 9781789094695 (trade paperback), 384p.

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

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Cat Me If You Can by Miranda James

I'm going to write an unusual review of Miranda James' latest Cat in the Stacks Mystery, Cat Me If You Can. First, there's the review of the mystery, a story that takes librarian Charlie Harris and Maine Coon cat Diesel out of their Athena, Mississippi home. Then, to highlight the setting of this book, Asheville, North Carolina, I'm going to share a couple pictures of Biltmore from our trip. 

Charlie, his fiancee Helen Louise Brady, and Diesel, head to Asheville, North Carolina for a mystery week, a getaway Charlie and Helen Louise are anticipating. The Athena Public Library's mystery group has taken over a small boutique hotel there, thanks to Miss An'gel and Miss Dickce Ducote, the beloved sponsors for the trip. The schedule includes talks about Golden Age mysteries, a trip to Biltmore, the Vanderbilt estate, and time to explore Asheville. It doesn't take long, though, for their vacation to take a wrong turn.

Start with the woman's body they find on the bed in their suite. It's one of the housekeepers, Cora, who isn't dead, but claims to have narcolepsy, and she falls asleep whenever she takes a break. Then, they just catch the end of an argument between two of the members of their group. When one of the members punches Denis Kilbride in the face that evening, it kicks off a week of trouble. Granted, Denis was about to attack another man, but it's a startling way to end a lively discussion of Golden Age mysteries. Then, when a housekeeper finds Kilbride dead in the morning, it's natural for the police to look at the mystery group.

There's a great deal of tension in the group until the police announce Kilbride was murdered. Of course, Charlie and Miss An'gel, who have solved murder cases in the past, want to help. As Charlie says, they're not interested in personal glory, but they want to bring the murderer to justice. Then there's a second death, and the group feels trapped in the hotel. "We're in a strange place, involved with a group in which we don't know half the people as well as we thought we did. Now we have two murders and a killer amongst us."

James does an admirable job forcing the solution to the mystery. As he intended, the book is an homage to the Golden Age mysteries, with a small group of people trapped together, the only suspects, and suspicious of each other. Naturally, there's an excellent confrontation scene. That's not a spoiler. Any astute reader of mysteries will expect that.

Fans of the series and of cozy mysteries will appreciate this enjoyable story. Readers don't always enjoy it when amateur sleuths are out of their comfort zone. Because the mystery group came from Athena, Charlie Harris' environment came with him; Helen Louise, Diesel, the Ducote sisters and their ward, as well as Charlie's friend, Melba. One familiar friend is a phone link from home, and another makes an unexpected appearance. It's a comfortable trip for the reader, with the added pleasure of the visit to Biltmore.

Miranda James knows just how to make the reader comfortable with the setting while taking the amateur sleuth out of his comfort zone. "Satisfactory."

Miranda James' website is

Cat Me If You Can by Miranda James. Berkley Prime Crime, 2020. ISBN 9780451491183 (hardcover), 292p.


FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

As promised, just a couple pictures from Charlie Harris' trip, two of Biltmore, and one of the atrium Charlie admires.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Winners and Give Me an M Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Bitter Paradise will go to Karen B. from Golden Valley, MN. Lisa W. of Akron, IN won Running From the Dead. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week's authors have names that begin with M. In Death Blow by Isabella Maldonado, Phoenix homicide detective Veranda Cruz takes on the most ruthless member of the Villalobos cartel, Daria Villalobos. After Hector Villablobos tried to destroy her family, Veranda vowed to take down his powerful crime family. Daria is on a mission of her own. Determined to be the first woman to take the reins of her father's notorious cartel, she hatches a plot to eliminate Veranda.

Hanging Falls is Margaret Mizushima's latest Timber Creek K-9 mystery. While on a scouting mission to pinpoint trail damage after heavy rains, police officer Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo stumble on a body floating at the edge of the lake. Mattie identifies the victim, and discovers an odd religious cult. The list of suspects grows, complicating Mattie's plan to meet with long-lost family members who might be able to help her discover the violent secrets of her own past, including the night she was abducted at age two. Mattie follows the thread of the investigation, while dealing with family dynamics.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win Death Blow" or "Win Hanging Falls." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, October 15 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

What Are you Reading?

How are you? I hope you had at least one good day in the last week. Yesterday was terrific here - weather in the low 80's. Just my temperatures. And, I voted. It wasn't bad at all standing outside in that weather. Took about an hour and a half for early voting. Honestly? I wish more of that time had been outside instead of inside where the line wound around. 

And, my other weekly question is, what are you reading? I've just started Miranda James' Cat Me If You Can, the latest mystery featuring librarian Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel. They're off to Asheville, North Carolina for a weekend with their mystery book club. Of course, there will be a murder.

What about you? How are you? What have you been reading?

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Winter Counts is David Heska Wanbli Weiden's powerful debut novel. Set on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, it introduces Virgil Wounded Horse who has lived through almost every Native stereotype believed by white people. He lives in a dirty house on a reservation. He was once an alcoholic who lost his girlfriend because he drank. His sister died in a car accident. He's now an enforcer on the reservation, a man others turn to when they want justice. He doesn't need anyone, especially all those people who look down on him. Even in school, the full-bloods picked on him because he was a half-blood, only half Lakota. But, Virgil is going to need help to raise his nephew and keep him out of trouble. He's going to need help from the community.

It's been three years since Virgil's sister was killed on her way to work when a driver swerved into her lane. Virgil stopped drinking because he's raising his nephew, Nathan, a fourteen-year-old who is now dealing with some of the same problems Virgil did in school. He's a teen picked on because he's a half-blood, not Indian enough. Other kids say Nathan's mother was drinking and that's why she was in a car accident. Nathan's learned how cruel other teens can be, and he makes one mistake. He overdoses on heroin, and lands in the hospital.

Now, Virgil's out for revenge, and it's personal. He teams up with his ex-girlfirend, Marie Short Bear. The two head to Denver looking for the men who are bringing drugs onto the reservation. Although Marie's father sent Virgil there, asking him to punish one man, Virgil is reluctant to go. What if Nathan needs him?

What if Nathan is arrested because pills are found in his locker at school? Suddenly, a fourteen-year-old is going to be tried as an adult for felonies, and, if guilty, he'll end up in federal prison. Virgil and Nathan have few choices except to cooperate with the police on a sting operation.

Actually, this is just a basic summary of the plot. There's so much meat to this book. It's an examination of the soul and spirit of a man. Who is Virgil Wounded Horse? Is he an enforcer, or is he something more to his nephew, to Marie, to the community? Can he become more than he's been in the past? Can he reclaim the positive aspects of his Native identity?

This is a powerful story of one man. But, it's also a revealing story of the life of the Lakota on the reservation, their struggles, their attempts to overcome the hands they were dealt. Weiden introduces Lakota stories and ceremonies. But, he's willing to incorporate the bad and the good. I had no idea there was a class system, with full-bloods looking down at those who are half-bloods. It's destructive in the book, and in society. Weiden uses Virgil and Nathan to show what can happen when boys are bullied in school, and in life.

David Heska Wanbli Weiden's Winter Counts is poetic and gritty, violent and beautiful at times. There is a violent confrontation, preceded by a Lakota ceremony and symbolism. It's a crime novel of contrast, all summarized in the warring spirit of one man, Virgil Wounded Horse. You really should read this one for yourself.

David Weiden's website is

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden. Ecco (HarperCollins), 2020. ISBN 9780062968944 (hardcover), 325p.


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


Tuesday, October 06, 2020

A Pretty Deceit by Anna Lee Huber

Anna Lee Huber's fourth Verity Kent mystery, A Pretty Deceit, takes place just weeks after Penny for Your Secrets. This historical series is definitely one that invites readers to read it in order. Those who haven't read previous books might be a little lost, as I discovered when I read the third book.

In 1918, Verity's father asks her and her husband, Sidney, to check on his sister. She's been complaining about the condition of the family estate, Littlemote House. She claims it's in shambles, and that valuable artworks have been appraised as forgeries. 

Verity and Sidney don't worry too much about her aunt's complaints. The house isn't as important to them as the fact that a maid is missing, and the other maids surmise she ran off with someone from the nearby airfield. Then, the man who tends the gardens is found dead, and his wife is accused of his murder. While the disappearance and death concern the couple, they're more worried about Lord Ardmore, whom they suspect is a traitor.

Verity and Sidney were both involved in espionage during the war. Now, they gather allies to work on clues the deceased Lord Ryde left about Ardmore's treachery. They're followed and threatened. They don't know whom to trust. Who is the enemy, and who is a friend?

A Pretty Deceit is a complex mystery with connections to Littlemote and to Verity's actions a year earlier. Verity and Sidney are playing a dangerous game with repercussions for friends and the country. The ongoing storyline involving Lord Ardmore will intrigue series readers while confusing people who haven't read the previous books. Readers who enjoy the historical post-World War I mysteries of Jacqueline Winspear and Charles Todd might want to try this series. Like the other books, it deals with the psychological and social issues affecting the British after the war.

Anna Lee Huber's website is

A Pretty Deceit by Anna Lee Huber. Kensington, 2020. ISBN 9781496728470 (paperback), 384p.

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

Monday, October 05, 2020

On with the Butter by Heidi Herman

No, On with the Butter is not a cookbook or a biography of Paula Deen. Heidi Herman's nonfiction title is a surprisingly entertaining self-help book about celebrating life no matter what your age. And, her best example, used throughout the book, is her mother, an Icelandic immigrant to the U.S. who lived into her nineties, raised ten children, and enjoyed living.

According to Herman, "On with the butter is an old Icelandic expression that means 'carry on,' 'keep doing what you're doing,' 'forge ahead,' or 'keep moving.'" She says she learned that phrase from her mother, who never stopped moving. The book, and the sentiment, seems particularly appropriate right now, when we're basically housebound, and have to find ways to incorporate joy and anticipation into our lives. I'll admit, it's not easy for me when so many activities I love have been taken away from me. And, many of the activities Herman suggests in her book are for the future because we can't incorporate them right now. But, there are lessons in the book, and suggestions that can be used right now.

Many of the ideas Herman suggests involve a willingness to be spontaneous. Say yes. I said yes when a friend asked if I wanted to go to Paris. I said yes when another friend asked if I wanted to go to Australia. These were opportunities that might not come around again. The Australian trip was canceled due to Covid, but I'll always treasure the trip to Paris with three other women. Those memories are priceless.

While some of Heidi Herman's ideas won't surprise you, she puts them together beautifully, and the stories she uses to illustrate them are fresh. This book, while useful for any reader, is aimed at those of us who are a little older. Looking for ideas for retirement? You might want to pick up this book. She suggests outdoor activities, volunteer ones, family stories and searches for heritage. Take a class. Continue to learn. Explore your hometown. And, don't look at this book negatively, saying I can't do any of those activities because of Covid. There are ones you can do right now. There are also plenty of activities you can plan for the future. Planning may be part of the fun.

Perhaps Herman's greatest message is to be open to the world and embrace life. As I said, her mother is her example. When she was ninety-three, she committed to trying and sharing ninety-three new experiences before her 94th birthday. Herman lists all of those activities at the end of the book. "Keep Moving. Keep Doing. Keep Living." There are excellent ideas and life lessons in this book. Readers just need an open heart and the willingness to embrace the idea. On with the Butter!

Heidi Herman's website is

On with the Butter!: Spread More Living onto Everyday Life by Heidi Herman. Hekla Publishing, 2020. ISBN 9781947233034 (paperback), 235p.


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

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Deception by Gaslight by Kate Belli

Ah, Deception by Gaslight. It combines some of my favorite elements. It's the debut of a new series, which I love. It's set in New York City during the Gilded Age. The historical mystery covers political,  economic, and social reasons for crime. And, there's a journalist as one of the main characters. I also love the interactions between the two main characters in Kate Belli's first Gilded Gotham mystery. Let me introduce you to Genevieve Stewart and Daniel McCaffrey.

Under the guise of Polly Palmer, journalist Genevieve Stewart follows several men down an alley in the dangerous neighborhood of Five Points. She's determined to get the scoop on the hottest story in New York City in February 1888. Who is Robin Hood? There have been several thefts following exclusive parties, and the letters to the Globe, the paper where Genevieve works, say he's stolen from the rich to distribute money to the needy impoverished. When Genevieve is rescued by a big, handsome man, and she accuses him of being Robin Hood, he laughs at her.

She feels ridiculed when she runs into that same man at an exclusive party for Mrs. Astor's 400. Genevieve's family is old money, but she hadn't recognized Daniel McCaffrey, the man who inherited the Van Joost fortune when he was only seventeen. Now, she accuses him again of being Robin Hood. Because he feels a connection to her, Daniel insists he's after bigger game. He's interested in the committee formed for housing reform, a committee that includes members of the elite from society, the deputy mayor, and the police commissioner, as well as Genevieve's former fiance. Daniel has been quietly involved in housing reform for the poor for years, and he doesn't see the committee taking any action.

Despite their distrust of each other, Genevieve and Daniel team up to find answers. She's almost as interested in researching Daniel, the man who came from nowhere to inherit a fortune. But, she spends time doing research at the newspaper, although she's growing uneasy. She's followed at night, and attacked at the newspaper office. Neither of them expected the attacks. Are they connected to Robin Hood, whose recent crimes have led to death, or are the attacks related to their duo's recent probe into political gain? Daniel insists there are answers if they follow the money.

Deception by Gaslight is an intriguing story involving the well-connected of New York, as well as the ones who are connected only through their poverty and gangs. Belli does an excellent job incorporating the history of New York such as the orphan trains, the Draft Riots. However, it's just background for the lives people lived from 1865-1888. The details don't distract from the mystery itself, but sometimes they do slow it down.

Genevieve Stewart and Daniel McCaffrey are fascinating characters. I can't say too much without ruining a reader's enjoyment of the story. Genevieve suffers from society's view of her eccentric family, but that also enables her to work in a profession she loves. McCaffrey's past is a story for the reader to uncover. Their relationship, from their distrust to their sham courtship, is handled skillfully.

If you're a fan of historical mysteries, especially those with a New York City setting, I suggest you try Deception by Gaslight.

Kate Belli's website is

Deception by Gaslight by Kate Belli. Crooked Lane Books, 2020. ISBN 9781643854649 (hardcover), 327p.

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

Saturday, October 03, 2020

A Death Long Overdue by Eva Gates

I never thought I'd say a book had too many librarians in it. However, let's face it. By the time readers get to the seventh Lighthouse Library Mystery, Eva Gates' A Death Long Overdue, they're invested in Lucy Richardson, her relationship with the mayor, and her life in the small Nag's Head, North Carolina community. As in many beloved cozy series, the mystery itself is often an afterthought.

Lucy Richardson's boss at the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library is celebrating. Bertie James' class of fellow librarians is holding a fortieth class reunion, and the opening night reception will be held at the library. Lucy and her co-workers put together an exhibit of historical memories of librarianship, including photos, an old computer, a commemorative letter opener, a book that was once part of the collection, The Celestine Prophecy. The women seem to enjoy the displays and reception, until Helena Sanchez, the former director, arrives.

Bertie never really knew her predecessor, so when she heard she was in town, she invited her to the reception. But, those who knew and worked with her didn't really like her. Even Lucy's aunt said she almost quit the Friends of the Library because of Helena. She was critical, fired one of the women in attendance, and had sharp remarks for others. Lucy hears some of Helena's comments, and she's close enough to see Helena's reaction when she looks at the check-out slip for The Celestine Prophecy. Some name on it seems to upset her.

But, Helena sticks around until the end of the reception, and even goes on the walking tour afterwards as Louisa Jane, the local storyteller, leads them down the boardwalk to the marsh. But, when everyone gathers afterwards, Helena is missing, and Lucy remembers a splash. She and the children's librarian wade into the marsh to recover Helena's body. And, Lucy tells Detective Sam Watson she thinks Helena was murdered. When the letter opener and the check-out slip that Helena saw go missing, Lucy is determined to find out which librarian hated Helena Sanchez enough to kill her.

Although Helena Sanchez was retired for a number of years, the names on that check-out slip brings her murder home to Nags' Head, back years before Bertie arrived at the library, back to a time when all those women celebrating their fortieth reunion were young with life's possibilities ahead of them.

I always feel bad when I comment about issues with a book dealing with librarians. First, there were too many librarians, and it was hard to remember who was who. But, for me, as a librarian in the U.S., I struggled with a term used over and over in the book. Maybe it is used elsewhere, and I just didn't realize it, or maybe it was used when I first started out in librarianship. In this book, the check-out slip in the pocket of the book, the card on which patrons signed their names when they checked out, was called a withdrawal slip. I've never heard that term, and withdrawal, to me, means the book was taken out of circulation permanently, not checked out from the library. I actually misunderstood when I first read the term, and thought it just indicated the book was withdrawn from the library. I didn't know why anyone would get upset over a withdrawn book. My mistake, and maybe non-librarians won't make the same mistake I did. And, maybe it's just an unfamiliar term to me. Mark that one up to my failure to communicate.

The joy in returning to this series actually stems from the residents, the characters that live on the island. Lucy, her cousin and her aunt, and her co-workers, are all welcoming to the community. It's fun to catch up with Lucy and her ongoing relationship with the mayor. Even that was a problem in this book, though. Lucy may be astute as an amateur sleuth, but she was totally oblivious when it comes to Connor's intentions. Everyone in the community knows, except Lucy. Duh.

I'm probably not the only reader who returns for the people in this series, rather than the mystery itself. That's definitely true for A Death Long Overdue.

The website for this series is

A Death Long Overdue by Eva Gates. Crooked Lane Books, 2020. ISBN 9781643854588 (hardcover), 372p.

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

Friday, October 02, 2020

Winners and A Canadian Author Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Larissa T. from Kingwood, TX and Lisa G. from Pensacola Beach, FL won the copies of The Wrong Girl. An Old Man's Game will go to Harriet T. from San Jose, CA. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I have crime novels by Canadian authors. Running from the Dead by Mike Knowles features private detective Sam Jones. Jones' six-year search for an eight-year-old boy ends with gunshots and cold bodies that lead the police straight to him. He and the boy's mother both believed he would find the boy alive. An unsigned note gives Jones a second chance. Maybe he failed a boy, but he might be able to follow a trail and save a young girl.

Dr. Zol Szabo is a doctor out to solve medical mysteries before it's too late. Trauma surgeon Dr. Hosam Khousa, his wife and son, fled Syria after torture, a bombing and murder of Khousa's daughter. They're refugees in Canada, where Dr. Khousa aches to regain his surgical career. But a gangland vendetta in Hamilton, Ontario entangles him. At the same time, epidemic investigators Dr. Zol Szabo and Natasha Sharma are battling an outbreak of vaccine-resistant polio that has struck the city. When Hassan visits the hospital, he spots something that might help the investigation, but will ruin his chance of retaking his place in the operating theater. 

P.I. or medical mystery? Which would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject line should read either "Win Running from the Dead" or "Win Bitter Paradise." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway ends Thursday, Oct. 8 at 5 PM CT. Entires from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

What Are You Reading?

Happy October 1! Just a little closer to 2021. I don't know when a new year will be so welcome.

How are you doing? I hope this week has been a little kinder to you. The weather has been a little cooler here, and I broke out the sweaters for the low 50s. What about you? How is the weather and the world treating you this week? What are you reading?

I'm reading Winter Counts, a debut novel by David Heska Wanbli Weiden. It's about Virgil Wounded Horse, a vigilante, an enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He takes on punishment when the federal and tribal police won't handle crime. This time, it's personal when Virgil's nephew overdoses on heroin just after Virgil was asked to track and punish a local man suspected as being the source of the drug on the reservation.

What about you? What are you reading this week? Most of all, I hope you're doing okay.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

November Treasures in My Closet


 Because so many publishers moved books to October, there seems to be a dearth of November releases. Admittedly, publishers have only recently started sending print ARCs, but I'm seeing a lot more January and March releases than November. Here are the few November treasures in my closet. I'm sure readers will mention other titles as well, so check the comments. Please ignore the Vietnamese spammers, the vampire spammers, and the pathetic love-lost ones. I'll try to get rid of their posts as quickly as I catch them, especially the vampire ones with poor grammar.

Gail Honeyman has a lot to answer for. After her novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, everyone has a novel about a woman with issues. Reminds me of Gone Girl and all the "girl" novels with unreliable narrators. In Kristin Bair's Agatha Arch is Afraid of Everything, "A quirky, nervous wreck of a New England mom is forced to face her many fears." Agatha Arch's life shatters when she discovers her husband in their backyard shed giving the local dog walker some heavy petting. Suddenly, Agatha finds herself face-to-face with everything that frightens her... and that's a long list. (Release date is Nov. 10.)

In E.A. Barres' They're Gone, two men from vastly different backgrounds are murdered one after another on the same night, and in the same fashion: with two bullet wounds, one in the head, another in the heart. The two slayings send their wives on a desperate search for answers. A week after her husband's murder, Deb Thomas learns her husband was the subject of an FBI investigation. Baltimore bartender Cessy Castillo is less bereft when her abusive husband, ex-cop Hector Ramirez is killed. But it turns out he was deep in hock - and now Cessy's expected to pay up. The two women join forces to learn the truth in a novel that could entangle them in a dark web. (Release date is Nov. 10.)

Charles Baxter's The Sun Collective is his story of modern American society. Tim Brettigan, a promising actor, has gone missing. His father thinks he may have seen him among some homeless people. His mother knows he left on purpose, but she still searches for him, and stumbles upon a local community group with lofty goals and an enigmatic leader who will alter their lives. Christina, a young woman rapidly becoming addicted to a boutique drug, is drawn to the same collective by a man convinced he may start a revolution. The lives of these characters intertwine in a story of guilt, anxiety, and feverish hope. (Release date is Nov. 17.)

The case is a little too personal for a San Diego private investigator in Elizabeth Breck's Anonymous. When Madison Kelly arrives home, she finds a note stabbed to her front door: "Stop investigating me, or I will hunt you down and kill you." The problem? Madison took time off to figure out what to do with her life, and she's not investigating anyone. But, maybe it has something to do with the true-cirme podcast she's been tweeting about, and the missing girls? The girls went missing, two years apart, after a night at the clubs in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter, and Madison has been probing the internet for clues. As Madison's investigation into the cold cases closes in, so does Anonymous. (Release date is Nov. 10.)

In Pretending, Holly Bourne asks, "Why be yourself when you can be perfect?" April is kind, pretty and relatively normal - yet she can't seem to get past date five. Whenever she thinks she finds someone to trust, they leave her heartbroken and angry. Until she realizes men are really looking for a "Gretel". "Gretel" is perfect, beautiful but low-maintenance, sweet but never clingy, sexy but not too sexy. "She's your regular, everyday Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl-Next-Door with no problems." Dating is more fun when April pretends to be Gretel. But, once she meets someone, how long will she be able to pretend? (Release date is Nov. 17.)

We Keep the Dead Close is Becky Cooper's true crime book about an unsolved 1969 murder at Harvard and a half century of silence. Cooper searched for answers to the mystery, but also asked the question as to why we are so captivated by murder and its victims. In this case, the victim was an outspoken, brilliant woman struggling in a male-dominated filed, and the suspects were her colleagues. The though-provoking narrative mixes true crime, philosophy and character studies. It uses the true crime genre to look at the social foundations upon which our culture's violent misogyny is built. (Release date is Nov. 10.)

Watercolor artist, businesswoman, and amateur sleuth  Penny Brannigan is off to the island of Anglesey for a painting holiday in Elizabeth J. Duncan's On Deadly Tides. She's enjoying the retreat until she discovers the body of a New Zealand journalist on a secluded beach. Although the postmortem reveals the victim died from injuries "consistent with a fall from a great height", the death is ruled accidental. But, Penny thinks there's more to the story, and she uncovers a link to a mysterious disappearance several years earlier. Add in a holiday romance that might bring change to Penny's life. (Release date is Nov. 10.)

In Censorettes, Elizabeth Bales Frank introduces readers to the lives of women working as censorettes during World War II. Lucy Barrett finds it maddening to be sequestered from the dangers of WWII on the idyllic island of Bermuda. She's determined to get into the fight, but then the fight comes to her. Lucy's a censorette, part of a branch of British intelligence stationed on the island to inspect mail between North American and European nations at war. Lucy uses her Cambridge education and love of Shakespeare to detect a Nazi spy ring operating out of Brooklyn. Just as she's promoted to a dangerous job overseas, a good friend is murdered. Should she embrace her new assignment, or seek justice for her friend? (Release date is Nov. 5.)

Pre-Civil War New York is the setting for S. M. Goodwin's debut mystery, Absence of Mercy. Although Jasper Lightner is a decorated Crimean War hero and the most admired inspector in London's Metropolitican Police, his father, the Duke of Kersey, is enraged by a a series of front-page newspaper stories extolling Jasper's exploits. The furious man uses his political connections to keep his son off the police force. Jasper is sent packing to New York City on a year-long assignment to train detectives, and discovers a police department on the verge of armed conflict. Assigned to investigate the murder of reformer Stephen Finch, Jasper joins forces with a man who might be even more an outsider than he is. Hieronymus Law is a detective who investigated two almost identical killings - and who is rumored to have taken money to frame an innocent woman for murder. Law is bent on restoring his good name. The unlikely team has no choice but to work together as law enforcement falls into the hands of dangerous gangs. (Release date is Nov. 10.)

After All I've Done is a psychological suspense novel by Megan Hart, writing as Mina Hardy. Five months earlier, an accident left Diana Sparrow badly injured and missing a few months of her memory. Now, she's started having recurring nightmares about the night of the accident. She's left questioning her memories. Maybe she didn't just slide off the road into a ditch. Maybe, she hit something. Or someone. She can't turn to her former best friend who's been sleeping with Diana's husband for months. But, she might find comfort with a newcomer, Cole Pelham. Yet, as they become closer, Diana wonders what really happened that night, and how Cole might be connected. (Release date is Nov. 10.)

Isabella Maldonado introduces FBI Special Agent Nina Guerrera in The Cipher. A serial killer considers her the one who got away. She escaped a serial killer's trap when she was sixteen. Years later, when she's jumped in a Virginia park, a video of the attack goes viral. While legions of new fans are impressed with her fighting skills. But, the man who abducted her eleven yearrs ago is also watching. Determined to reclaim his lost prize, he commits a grisly murder designed to pull her into the investigation. His games are just beginning, and he's using the internet to invite the public to play along. (Release date is Nov. 1.)

Danielle Martin's debut novel, Glimmer As You Can, features a dress boutique turned underground women's social club where women from all walks of life come for support and sisterhood. Set in 1962 in Brooklyn Heights, Madeline Abbott started the underground women's club when her ex-husband ruined her reputation. It's become a haven for women needing a respite from troubled relationships and professional frustrations. Two very different women come into Madeline's life, Elaine, a British expat struggling to save her marriage, and Lisa, a young stewardess whose plans for the future are upended. When Madeline's ne'er-do-well ex-husband shows up, the sisterhood rallies around her. When an unspeakable tragedy befalls the group, one woman must decide whether to hide the truth from the group, or jeopardize her own hopes and dreams. (Release date is Nov. 10.)

In Emily Schultz' Little Threats, Kennedy Wynn served fifteen years in prison for murder. Now it's time to find out if she's guilty. In the summer of 1993, twin sisters Kennedy and Carter Wynn are embracing the grunge era and testing every limit. But Kennedy's teenage rebellion goes too far when, after a night of partying in the woods, her best friend, Haley, is murdered, and suspicion falls upon Kennedy. She can't remember anything about the night in question, and this, along with the damning testimony from a college boy who both Kennedy and Haley loved, is enough to force Kennedy to plead guilty. In 2008, she's released into a world that has moved on without her. Carter has grown distant. When a crime show host comes to town asking questions, murky memories of Haley's death come to light. As new suspects emerge, two families may be destroyed again. (Release date is Nov. 10.)

Teen Killers Club is Lily Sparks' debut novel. Seventeen-year-old Signal Deere has raised eyebrows for years as an unhappy Goth misfit from the trailer park. When she's convicted of her best friend Rose's brutal murder, she's designated a Class A - the most dangerous and manipulative criminal profile. To avoid prison, Signal signs on for a secret program for eighteen-and-under Class As and is whisked off to an abandoned sleep-away camp when she and seven bunkmates will train as assassins. Even here, Signal doesn't fit in. She's squeamish around blood. She's kind and empathetic. And, her optimistic attitude is threatening to turn a group of ragtag maniacs into a team of close-knit friends. Maybe that's because Signal's not really a killer. She was framed. (Release date is Nov. 10.)

Jacqueline Winspear's memoir, This Time Next Year We'll Be Laughing, is the one I'm anticipating the most. The author of the Maisie Dobbs series offers a deeply personal story of her Kentish childhood and her family's resilience in the face of war and privation. Her memoir tackles such difficult and poignant family memories as her paternal grandfather's shellshock, her mother's evacuation from London during the Blitz, her animal-loving father's torturous assignment to an explosives team during WWII, her parents' years living with Romani Gypsies, and Jacqueline's own childhood working on farms in rural Kent. Faithful readers of the Maisie Dobbs books will recognize scenarios that inspired the series. (Release date is Nov. 10.)

Which books entice you? Or is there something else in your reading plans for November?

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Case of Cat and Mouse by Sofie Kelly


I like Sofie Kelly's Magical Cats mysteries featuring Hercules, the tuxedo cat who can walk through walls and Owen, the tabby who can make himself invisible. The connection to the feral cats at Wisteria Hill is intriguing. I like the voice of Kathleen Paulson, the librarian and amateur sleuth, owned by Hercules and Owen. In A Case of Cat and Mouse, though, there are two sentences that stand out for me. I wish I could give you the background without spoiling the dramatic conclusion. When Kathleen's boyfriend, Detective Marcus Gordon, questions her ability, she answers, "I'm a librarian. I know all sorts of things."

Kathleen knows how to do research which is why she's hired to provide background tidbits for the revival of a TV show, "The Great Northern Baking Showdown." It's being filmed in Mayville Heights, Minnesota because Elias, the executive producer, is from Minnesota. Several of the local residents won competitions to appear on the baking show. Kathleen provides background about Mayville Heights, Minnesota, baking, and even the competitors. When she finds one of the judges dead, she's also the perfect one to research the judge's life. Because she's been part of the show, members of the cast come to her with their alibis and lies when they won't go to Marcus.

No one on the show seemed to like the victim, Kathleen admits she wasn't a nice person, but she didn't deserve to be murdered. Everyone in town, including Marcus, expects Kathleen to poke around. Unlike other amateur sleuths, Kathleen keeps the police in the loop. She tells suspects and witnesses they need to talk to Marcus, and she even calls him to tell him he'll be hearing from some of them. 

I enjoy this series because Kathleen does not sneak around behind Marcus' back. He's not stupid. He can't always tell her what's going on with the investigation, but he always seems to know what she uncovers. He's doing his investigating.

I  have a couple issues with this book, though. With so many people involved in the baking show, it was hard to remember what role some of them had. I felt it was a mistake to name one man Richard and another Russell. I still couldn't tell you which one was a judge on the show and which was a host. I also have a problem when a character has a tic. I can't tell you how many times Kathleen messes with the straps of her messenger bag. It seems to play a role in every scene.

There's quiet humor in this book, including an unsolved mystery that involves the library and a very clever prankster. I love the stories about the two squirrels at the library. There is a solution to the disappearance of small items owned by Marcus, gum, a key-chain knife, a lighter.

Despite my couple complaints, those who like cozy mysteries featuring cats and librarians, especially remarkable cats (and cat lovers think all cats are remarkable), will enjoy Sofie Kelly's A Case of Cat and Mouse.

Sofie Kelly's website is

A Case of Cat and Mouse by Sofie Kelly. Berkley Prime Crime, 2020. ISBN 9780440001164 (hardcover), 295p.


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