Friday, May 24, 2019

A Hurricane Hits New England

Murder, She Reported #2
Peg Cochran
Random House Alibi
May 28, 2019

Manhattan socialite Elizabeth Adams, now reporter and photographer on The Daily Trumpet, is making her way home from work when she is caught in a blackout and tremendous rain and wind storm. Little does she know that it is the edges of the 1938 Long Island Hurricane. The storm formed on the coast of Africa as a category 5 and stuck New York and New England as a category 3, killing nearly 700 and destroying millions of dollars worth of property. The next few days are taken up with storm coverage, but when a young woman is found in the wreckage of one mansion on Long Island, it's clear that she was not killed by the storm. This young woman was murdered, and it becomes the story that everyone is chasing. Elizabeth called "Biz" by her crusty partner, Kaminsky, dive headfirst into the story of the murdered girl, who immigrated from Ireland and worked for one of the wealthy summer families. Everyone describes Roeleen, the murdered girl, as a quiet and devout girl with no boyfriends and no enemies in the beginning. But as they look beneath, a different picture emerges. Several people may have wanted her dead, 

Murder, She Uncovered is an excellent follow-up to the first in the series, Murder She Reported, and one I have been looking forward to. The historical detail is exceptional, and I enjoy Biz's struggle to navigate her wealthy and well-connected family's disapproval and her own desire to not become just another rich man's wife. The secondary characters are just as impressive, from Kaminsky to her friend, Irene, who was crippled by polio in childhood. Biz herself had a brush with the disease, leaving her with a slight limp at times. Biz won't let that stop her though. There is a very promising romance with the dishy Detective Sal Marino, one that I hope continues to blossom.

Thanks to NetGalley and Alibi for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING-4 Stars

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Old Hatreds Resurface on the Outer Islands of the Hebrides

The Lewis Trilogy #1
Peter May
Quercus Books, Hachette Audio
February 1, 2011

Detective Inspector Finlay "Fin" Macleod has spent the last 18 years of his life trying to escape his traumatic childhood on the Outer Hebridean Island of Lewis. In the grip of grief over the death of his only child in a hit and run accident and the collapse of his marriage, he finds himself returning to Lewis. A grisly murder has occurred on Lewis: a crime that echoes one in Edinburgh that Fin was in charge of investigating. The victim on Lewis was a childhood enemy, Angus MacRitchie, a man who bullied both Fin and all the other boys on the island in their shared youth. Fin left behind his best friend, Artur, and the only girl he ever really loved, Marsali. The search for Angus' killer will lead to the resurfacing of old hates and crimes that Fin has never allowed himself to examine.

The Blackhouse has been on my to-be-read list for a long time. It is brilliantly characterized and utterly atmospheric. I have never been to the Hebrides, but watching Shetland on TV helped me visualize the desolate beauty of the islands. The novel won multiple international prizes when it was published and deserves every one. It is a crime novel, but so much more, exposing the darker regions of the human heart and mind. The audiobook is brilliantly narrated by Peter Forbes, who voices the accents, both Scots and Gaelic, perfectly. If I could give a book more than 5 Stars, this would be it, and definitely one of the best of my 2019 reading. Highly recommended!

RATING- 5 Enthusiastic Stars

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

"King Cholera" Strikes Victorian London

A Florence Nightingale Mystery #2
Crooked Lane Books
Christine Trent
May 7, 2019

It's a sweltering August in 1854 when "King Cholera" strikes London, not for the first time. The deadly disease is no respecter of persons, affecting rich and poor alike, strikes unannounced and can disappear as quickly as it came. This time it seems to afflict the notorious slums of SoHo. The common wisdom says that the disease is airborne, occurring in the form of "miasmas," a theory that Florence Nightingale subscribes to. Even though she is fully involved with her hospital for women, Florence would become involved in the current outbreak no matter how busy, but a call from her friends, Sidney and Elizabeth Herbert sends her to SoHo on a different mission. Elizabeth and her father, a retired General, are attacked in their carriage, resulting in the death of their coachman. When Sidney sends a second servant into SoHo, the man returns suffering from cholera and dies quickly. Based on  Florence's success with her first case, Sidney is frantic for her to investigate. The General, however, is less than forthcoming. The search for answers will bring Florence and her assistant, "Goose," into contact with many historical figures and the lowest residents of the London slums. It also shines a spotlight on British Army conduct in Afghanistan.

I admit to only the most superficial of knowledge of Florence Nightingale, other than her history as "The Lady of the Lamp" during the Crimean War. While I doubt that she ever had the time or energy for detecting, she was close to the center of current events and associated with the movers and shakers of the era. The mystery, in this case, has plots and
sub-plots that were sometimes difficult to follow and the solution eluded me. I did like Florence and her dogged persistence in leading the life she wanted for herself. A number of the characters are well documented historically, and Trent provides appendices of their lives and works. There was a fascinating short history of the last 200+ years of Afghan history; one that clearly indicates the utter futility of imperialist designs on that country. The next book will take her to her most significant triumphs in the Crimea, and I look forward to that.

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an advance copy. Thee opinions are my own.

RATING-3.5 Stars

Friday, May 3, 2019

Not Everybody "liked Ike"

Mainely Needlepoint #8
Lea Wait
Kensington Books
April 28, 2019

The eighth in the Mainely Murder series opens with Haven Harbor's yearly Blessing of the Fleet, an event honoring all those who perished at sea over the centuries pursuing a livelihood at fishing in the cold waters off Maine. This is the first blessing Angie Curtis has attended after years away, but all the town is there to see the fleet go by and be blessed for the upcoming season. One of the town's more eccentric and down-at-the-heel residents, Ike Hamilton, also is there. Ike has lived all his life in Haven Harbor and supports himself by collecting bottles all over town for the return fees. After his parent's death, he lived alone in their house until it collapsed and now lives in a garage on the property with minimal heat and no conveniences. Today however he is accompanied by a skinny teenager who has been "helping" him. Ike introduces the teenager to Angie's companion, Dave, high-school teacher and one of Angie's needlepointers, as someone who could help him if he needed it. That help is needed soon when Ike is murdered. The boy, of course, is the main suspect and a sketchy background. He also has trouble telling the truth. There are others in Haven Harbor who weren't too fond of Ike, who was very observant and may have seen things he shouldn't.

I always enjoy visiting Haven Harbor through Lee Wait's books and Thread on Arrival is no exception. I did have my suspicions on who might have killed Ike very early, so the mystery was not such a puzzle this time. The pleasure is the town, the quirky characters and Angie's developing relationship with the people and of course, her boyfriend, Patrick.

Thanks to Kensington and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 4 Stars

Helen Ellis
Doubleday Books
April 16, 2019

"If you don't have something nice to say, say something not-so-nice in a nice way." 

Helen Ellis' cover quote sums up what it means to be a Southern Lady in a nutshell. Or at least, how Helen Ellis and I were raised, even though I am a few years older and have been away from the South longer. My mother and especially, my grandmother, did their darndest to make one of me but somehow I was never much good at it. I binge-read this collection of essays some of which are hilarious and others amusing, but all on target. I especially enjoyed How to Stay Happily Married which ends with "As long as your wedding ring fits, you haven"t let yourself go." Some of the other essays were not as relatable. Burberry coats, for instance, are not a part of my everyday life.

Thanks to Doubleday and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 3 Stars