Writing: 3.5/5 Characters: 4/5 Plot: 4.5/5 Enjoyment: 5/5
The start of a new mystery series (and her first stab at the mystery genre, no pun intended) by one of my favorite historical fiction writers — Julia Kelly. WWII – London – 1940. There is a body, there is a mole in Whitehall, and there is a smart, sharp heroine who insists on equal billing with the agent assigned to ferret out the answers. Best of all — the action takes place in the Churchill War Rooms with a detailed and accurate (as far as my two fascinating visits to the place informs) depiction of the environment and activities within. As always, she really brings it all to life! A nice complicated plot, characters with good backstories, and of course, a time period and place that is rife with opportunities for mystery.
Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on October 3rd, 2023
Writing: 4/5 Characters: 5/5 Plot: 5/5
A dual timeline story in the Adelaide Hills (Australian Outback). In 1959 an inexplicable tragedy occurs with a nasty, but generally accepted explanation which is never actually proved. In 2018 Jessica Turner-Bridges races back to Sydney when the grandmother who raised her suddenly takes ill. A free lance journalist, Jessica gets obsessed with the 1959 story which she has stumbled on and which — it turns out — is closely related to her family.
Vivid writing bringing to life the surroundings and individual, interconnected stories. Good pacing continually introduces new stories and sources that shift your understanding at the same pace as it does for Jessica. I kept thinking I knew what had happened but was continually surprised. There was a little more scenic description than I like (I’m not a visual person) but I was able to skim those sections if they got too long. Plenty of drama (but not melodrama — the events were dramatic but the characters got on with doing their best and didn’t descend into wailing and teeth gnashing). It was difficult at time knowing in advance what happened (and that is is awful) and watching the narrative slowly unfold to explain the details. On the other hand, in a weird way it is less stressful knowing the end as there is no way to avoid it.
Some beautiful commentary on books and reading and a nice array of literary and cinematic references. Some genuine and insightful reflection on loneliness, community, motherhood, purpose, identity, and the impact of events on a wider assemblage of persons than might be suggested by the event itself.
Thank you to Mariner Books and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on April 4th, 2023.
Writing: 3.5/5 Characters: 4/5 Plot: 4/5
Another fun, twisty mystery by Elly Griffiths of Ruth Galloway fame — number 3 in the Harbinder Kaur series. Harbinder — our 38-year old diminutive Sikh lesbian — has just made Detective Inspector and is now in charge of a London based Murder Investigation Team.
A great first line (in the prolog) appears to be a confession of guilt for a decades old murder. This is rapidly followed by the school reunion of a high achieving group of friends who were all affected by that long ago death. The long awaited “fun” evening ends in the death of one the group — his body found in the school bathroom with cocaine dust around his nostrils.
A nice, convoluted mystery with plenty of interesting characters. What I found particularly fun was Harbinder’s inner monologue regarding her new subordinates, witnesses, potential suspects, and surprising love interests. While always behaving professionally and never losing her cool, we are treated to her irritation regarding arrogant attitudes, bimbo responses, and one particular subordinate’s oft repeated macho stances. I thoroughly enjoyed this insight into an honest and human interior in contrast with a professional and impassive exterior.
Thank you to Mariner Books and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on November 15th, 2022.
Writing: 4/5 Plot: 5/5 Characters: 5/5
Loved this book — a complete page turner with engaging characters, a twisted plot, and a hippie commune backstory that I just loved. Raquel Laing is an unintentionally non-conforming behavioral investigator for the SFPD — working on an old serial killer case (The Highwayman) when a body is unearthed from beneath a giant statue on the Gardener Estate outside of Palo Alto, California. The statue was erected 50 years ago — could this be another of the Highwayman’s victims?
This is the perfect kind of mystery for me — character driven, never boring but also never stressful (except for a short bit at the end), and a plot and backstory that never allow my interest to flag. Plenty of interesting psychological details on all the characters — including the serial killer lying in a hospital bed. I read a few of Laurie King’s Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes books a long time ago, but I didn’t like the premise (I don’t like books that add their own characters to existing fiction), but I liked this book so much I’m now planning on checking out her non Mary Russell books which look pretty interesting. This is a stand alone novel, though I do see opportunity for additional volumes!
Thank you to Random House Publishing Group — Ballantine, Bantam and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on October 11th, 2022.
Writing: 3.5/5 Characters: 4/5 Plot: 5/5
A group of friends have been meeting for reunions on Holy Island for fifty years. One — a particularly obnoxious media star who just lost his job due to a #metoo style accusation — is surprisingly upbeat with a new plan he is hatching. At least until he is found hanging in his room the next morning. Suicide? He didn’t seem the type but … Vera has to untangle a pile of messy relationships and a forty year old tragedy before she gets to the bottom of it. I didn’t figure out whodunnit until very near the end.
I’m a long time fan of the ITV Vera series, but this is the first book (number 10) that I’ve read and ,it was completely impossible to put down! There is a lot more (interesting) depth on the team dynamics and internal states of the main characters — definitely not apparent in the TV series. But Cleeves’ real strength lies in her stories — perfect pacing of new information twisting and shifting current assumptions. No filler (i.e. no gratuitous taking of tea, repeating what everyone knows twenty times to other characters, etc) — constantly kept my brain engaged in trying to figure things out. Some very interesting political commentary as asides to the story — not your standard PC or standard non-PC Stuff.
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on September 6th, 2022.
Writing: 3.5/5 Characters: 3/5 Plot: 4/5
I haven’t read any of Reichs’ previous Temperance Brennan books but I’ve seen a few seasons of the TV show so I’m familiar with the characters. In this installment, Tempe (forensic anthropologist extraordinaire) goes up against a vicious killer who appears to have struck again after a 15 year hiatus. In a timely subject, the mystery centers around vaccines and genetic engineering, including details about CRISPR gene editing (the work which netted the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry). Full of wry commentary, some romance, and plenty of forensic detail, the story is a gripper. My only complaint — and this is a spoiler alert — is that part of the story depends on using a vaccine to spread bad juju to unwitting recipients. With all the anti-vaxxers freaking out about vaccines, do we really need that in the story?
Thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on July 6th, 2021.
Keep writing, Elly! I always look forward to a new Ruth Galloway book and it never disappoints. I’m so glad Ms. Griffiths is making good use of her pandemic time to up her (already high) prolificity (I may have made that word up — not sure).
These books are a great mix of mystery and novel — full of Norfolk folk lore and history with plenty of archeology — with no repeats so far. In this novel we also get a group of Detectorists (defined as a person whose hobby is using a metal detector); an interesting (fictional but plausible) theory about the Beaker people who came to Britain about 4400 years ago and left only 10% of the native population after 200 years; and a timely plot line around dangerous and illegal vaccine trials. A high body count, some progression in the Nelson / Ruth saga, and a variety of eccentric and interconnected characters make this a real page-turner. Enjoy!
Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on June 29th, 2021.
Writing: 3.5/5 Plot: 4/5 Characters: 4.5/5
I’m loving this new (to me) mystery series. Thin Ice is book one which I’m reading out of order after enjoying the pre-release of book two (Cold Wind). Beth Rivers has run away to the small (fictional) town of Benedict, Alaska to hide from her still-on-the-loose kidnapper. Growing up with the local police chief (her grandfather), she has a talent for crime scene measurement and an education in deduction. She is also a well-known (by pseudonym) crime novelist. All make her useful in helping solve cases in her new (temporary?) home. The plots of both books blend the solving of a current murder with Beth’s slow memory recall of her harrowing kidnapping experience and the search for the perpetrator.
So what attracts me to this series? I love the descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness; I love the lack of filler and just-the-right-level and not over-the-top amount of tension; but mostly I love the characters who populate the town: Viola, the tough-as-nails manager of the halfway house; Orin, the peace-sign flashing librarian and computer genius; Gril, the relocated Chicagoan grizzled police chief; and others. This reminds me of what I originally loved about the Louise Penny novels — characters that I can both admire and like!
The writing is decent — clear, not full of fluff, moves along. I like the straightforward, first person tone — as she is telling the story Beth admits to her ignorance, reflects on how she is handling things and what she needs to do to improve, and what she is thinking when she moves forward with “stupid” decisions.
I haven’t tried her other series but I’ll probably give them a try!
Plot: 4/5 Characters: 3.5/5 Writing: 3/5
I enjoyed this book — the first Paige Shelton book for me (although it looks like she has written a ton of mysteries across multiple series). I’m a sucker for interesting settings, and I love reading stories that take place in the more remote parts of Alaska. The writing was decent, the characters interesting enough for me to care, and I found the plot intricate and not terribly predictable. I was particularly happy that the book didn’t have a lot of filler which is something I find in a lot of genre fiction — especially when the authors are on their umpteenth episode and appear to have run out of fresh ideas. This was fun, I read it quickly, and I was able to read it at night (not an edge-of-your-seat thriller which is absolutely fine with me!)
This was number two in her Alaska series — I haven’t read number one and was able to figure everything out just fine (but may go back and read the first!)
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on December 1st, 2020.
A small town on the Tasmanian coast. An intense storm 12 years ago that led to two deaths and a disappearance. And now — the inexplicable murder of a young, well-liked, visiting artist that is somehow connected to events of the past. With Harper’s expert pacing and character development, we witness small town life through two lenses: one where everyone seems an irreproachable member of a tight-knit community and the other where each feels like a reasonable suspect. Through a maelstrom of online community postings, we see how the anonymous amplification of suspicions and accusations can bring a community to its knees. As with all Harper’s books, it is just about impossible to put down.
Thank you to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on February 2nd, 2021.