Monday, August 31, 2020

A Well-Executed Departure in this Long-Running Series


Inspector Gamache #16
Louise Penny
Minotaur Books, MacMillan Audio
September 1, 2020

All the Devils are Here is a departure in this long-running series, taking place in Paris, rather than Quebec or the much-loved village of Three Pines. Armand Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, are in Paris for the birth of their granddaughter. The parents are their daughter, Annie, and son-in-law, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Jean-Guy was Gamache's second-in-command at the Surete de Quebec. They have recently moved to Paris because Jean-Guy had taken a job in private industry. The person responsible for the job change, billionaire and Gamache's godfather, Stephen Horowitz, is also awaiting the birth of the baby. Gamache's son, Daniel, a banker, and his family have lived in Paris for years. The family is leaving a favorite bistro and crossing a busy street when the 93-year-old Stephen is struck down by a van and left grievously injured. It was clearly no accident. Gamache calls in his old friend, Prefect of the Paris Police, Claude Dussault, to investigate. Still, Dussault seems strangely uneager and even reminds Gamache that he has no standing in Paris.

What follows is a breakneck thriller, centered around immense corporate malfeasance by the very firm where Jean-Guy works and a sinister security firm staffed by former commandos. Stephen Horowitz has plunged them all into a situation that will be deadly unless the family can cooperate using their various abilities. The clock is ticking, both for the baby's birth and their only chance to thwart the corporate plot, thereby saving countless lives. Family, as always, plays an integral part in All the Devils are Here. Daniel Gamache has only been mentioned previously, so it comes as a surprise that he and Armand have had a stressful relationship for years. Daniel's long-held resentments might keep him from playing a part and are fully exposed in the course of the story. Success comes with a high price tag but many benefits.

The City of Paris is vividly described and almost a character itself. I did miss Twin Pines, but the quirky, much-loved inhabitants are there in spirit. Everything comes full circle with a satisfactory ending for all. The audiobook form for this series has always been my preferred format, so I was delighted to get an advance copy via NetGalley. Robert Bathurst does his usual stellar narration. Thanks so much! The opinions are my own.

RATING- 5 Stars

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

From Mayfair To The Slums

Kat Holloway Mystery  #4
Jennifer Ashley
Berkley Books
August 4, 2020

Kat Holloway is a cook in a Victorian upper-class household, a cook so good at her job that she commands a good salary and a full day and a half off, rather than the half-day usually granted to domestic servants.The reason for this demand is a secret, though, as Kat has a young daughter living with friends. The usual assumption is that a servant in the era had no personal life and no right to one. Kat must tread lightly to maintain secrecy. She also has a man in her life, Daniel McAdam. Daniel is a mystery'" who comes and goes and has connections to the government and police.

Daniel has involved Kat in several of his investigations because she can ingratiate herself with servants in other households. The servants always know what is going on upstairs. She is also brave, trustworthy, and a bit reckless. This time, Daniel asks for her help to find out what has happened to several missing children from a foundling home. Kat is particularly upset by this since, at one point, she was close to leaving her own daughter at a foundling home. The investigation turns up some unsavory activities associated with the charity and takes them into danger in the infamous slums of the London East End. Kat also meets a mysterious "brother" to Daniel, one he has never mentioned.

Murder in the East End is a solid entry in the series, with strong plotting, a cast of interesting side characters, and lots of action. The relationship between Kat and Daniel is progressing nicely, with more of his past revealing itself. I'm rooting for Kat to open the tea shop she dreams of and Daniel to extricate himself from his government duties. 

RATING-4 Stars

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Nefarious Small Town Shenanigans

A Helping Hands Mystery #2
Annelise Ryan
Kensington Books
July 28, 2020

Social Worker Hildy Schneider has picked up a part-time job after her hours are cut at the hospital. She is riding with the small-town Sorenson WI police department. The department is trying out a new program using Hildy's skills to deal with possibly mentally disturbed people on calls. On her first night, she encounters a person she knows very well. Danny Hillebrand is a schizophrenic who has been doing well on a new course of meds, but tonight he is in bad shape. He says he has seen a murder and a pink and purple dinosaur saw it too. Danny says the ghost of the victim is haunting him. After getting Danny, his sister Allie and live-in boyfriend, Joel, to the hospital to be sorted out. Hildy and her police partner go out on a wellness check. The scene is very much what Danny described. There are nefarious forces in Sorensen, involving both Danny and another of Hildy's patients.

Hildy is sympathetic, a person who cares deeply for her patients and those who she meets on her night shift. She is aided and sometimes impeded by a cast of quirky characters and her trusted therapy dog, Roscoe. She may have bitten off more than she can chew with the two jobs, but there may be a welcome resolution coming, both in her work and personal life.
This series is a spin-off of Ryan's earlier Mattie Winston series, but it could work as a standalone. The first book in the Helping Hands series is Needled to Death if you like to read in order.

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

RATING- 4 Stars

Monday, August 17, 2020

Someone is Always Lying

Alice Feeney
Flatiron Books, MacMillan Audio
Narrated by Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine
July 28, 2020

There are two sides to every story: yours and mine, ours and theirs, His & Hers. Which means someone is always lying.

I borrowed the above description from the publisher because it is the perfect encapsulation of this fantastic read. Anna Andrews has worked her way up the BBC hierarchy and has occupied the noon newsreader desk for two years. The previous newsreader has been on maternity leave for two years, and Anna has put her possible return out of her mind. All that changes when she does return, and Anna is relegated to lowly correspondent again. Anna jumps at a news story, because she needs to get her career on track, and she doesn't want to face the humiliation. A woman has been killed in the small village of Blackdown, but no one at the BBC knows that it is Anna's home village, a place that she fled at 16-years-old. DCI Jack Harper left London a year earlier to work in Blackdown, a place where nothing ever happens. Both Jack and Anna have connections to the victim that run deep and are longstanding.

The whole notion of the unreliable narrator is one that I enjoy but has been somewhat overdone in recent years. Not so in His and Hers, as told in Anna's and Jack's voices, with the killer's voice as well. It is brilliantly plotted and kept me guessing at every turn. I was always wrong when I narrowed down who I thought the killer was. I don't usually care for multiple narrators on audiobooks, but I don't see how it could be done as well without three voices. I am a big fan of Richard Armitage's narrations, and Stephanie Racine equals him.

I mentally subtracted 1/2 star for an incident of animal cruelty that I thought was not necessary, but that is something I can't tolerate. So I added the 1/2 star back, but I believe a sensitive reader should be aware of it. Also, if it's bedtime and you are nearly at the end of the novel, you might as well keep on reading! I couldn't get it out of my head.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for a free audiobook copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING-5 Stars

Friday, August 14, 2020

Island Sisters #1
Hannah Dennison
St. Martins Press
August 18, 2020

Death at High Tide opens with Evie Mead speaking with her recently deceased, much-older husband's accountant. Evie had believed that she would be well provided for, as she and Robert lived well, and he always had lots of deals happening. On the contrary, the accountant informs her that Robert is nearly bankrupt. Evie's sister, Margot, has flown in from Hollywood to be with her, and the two discover a letter from Robert detailing a 100,000£ loan that Robert had made to a Jago Ferris. The loan collateral is a hotel on Tregarrick Rock, on one of the Scilly Islands off the coast of Cornwall. There is no sign of the loan ever having been repaid. The two sisters rush off with no notice to the owner that they are coming and why. Upon arrival, they find a very oddly decorated hotel, a mixture of beautiful Art Deco and 1970s kitsch, and a decided lack of welcome. Two murders ensue, and as outsiders, Evie and Margot are the prime suspects.

I wanted to like Death at High Tide much more than I did. The assorted characters at Tregarrick Rock are almost all unlikable, except the cat, and most of them are up to no good. The only surprise I felt about the victims was that they had managed not to be murdered before. Evie herself is the most naive 36-year-old-woman imaginable, oblivious to the fact that her sister Margot has problems of her own. The person at the bottom of it all was obvious to me at the outset. I did enjoy the setting, knowing nothing at all about the Scilly Islands. 

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

RATING- 2 Stars

Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Crime Novel that Transcends the Genre

Dave Robicheaux #23
James Lee Burke
Simon and Schuster 
August 11, 2020

Dave Robicheaux and his best friend and sidekick, Clete Purcel, find themselves in the middle of a war between two vicious crime families, the Balangies and Shondells. Teenager Isolde Balangie approaches Dave, telling him that she is being sold as a sex slave to Mark Shondell, and she needs rescuing. She is in love with Johnny Shondell, the youngest of the Shondell clan. Dave, knight-errant that he is, takes up the cause of this mobbed-up Romeo and Juliet. 
Dave's penchant for getting involved with the wrong woman, in this case, women, results in making deadly enemies of both crime bosses. Enter a time-traveling assassin with the ability to induce terrifying hallucinations and other enemies bringing more mundane threats. 

Only a writer of James Lee Burke's power and craftsmanship could make the plot of A Private Cathedral work. I have had a long off and on relationship with Dave Robicheaux and Clete; one that I had stepped away from because of the extreme violence of the series. As soon as I started reading I knew I was in for the long haul. Burke can bring the unknown territory of South Louisiana to steamy life. I know Dave and Clete's demons well. There is an entire gallery of secondary characters who are brought to vivid life, in all their frailty and in some cases, evil. The book is set not in the present day, but several years in the past, foreshadowing the times we live in today. Burke's prose is something to be savored and I highlighted many passages to revisit.

Many, many thanks to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 5 stars

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Wedding in the country turns Lethal

A Countess Harleigh Mystery #3
Dianne Freeman
Kensington Books
August 5, 2020

Frances, Lady Harleigh is planning a wedding, for her sister Lily and her affianced, Leo, when she finds out that the wedding must happen much quicker than expected. The two are discussing elopement, but Frances fears scandal. Not only that, but Frances and Lilys' social-climbing mother is also expected any day from America. George Hazelton comes to the rescue by offering his family estate, Risings, for the wedding. While there, George hopes that Frances will announce their own engagement, something she has been somewhat reluctant to do.

A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder has all the usual ingredients of the Engish Country House murder. There are all sorts of undercurrents among the multiplicity of guests and a series of accidents that escalate into death. But who is responsible and who is the target? I enjoyed this third book in the series but got a bit bogged down in the middle. The ending, also, while exciting is somewhat predictable. It's an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next in the series. Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 3 Stars