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Treacherous is the Night–once a spy, always a spy?

Treacherous is the Night

by Anna Lee Huber

Treacherous is the NightAlthough the Great War is over, no one is over the Great War in Anna Lee Huber’s Treacherous is the Night. Every family has been affected by the huge number of fatalities and the return of badly wounded soldiers. Civilians carry the memories of deprivation and on the continent all live daily in the midst of destruction and rebuilding.  For Verity Kent, the end of the war means reunion with a husband long thought dead and the end of her dangerous stint as a spy. Verity is dragged back into the aftermath of the war when she is an unwilling participant in a séance that is an obvious hoax. 

Verity and her husband are trying to sort out their difficult relationship, but manage to put their struggle aside to solve the mystery, decipher codes, and discover who is lying. Huber does an excellent job of putting the reader in the timeframe right after the end of the war, and she reveals the horrors of war without being graphic. She portrays Verity as a woman restricted by the times she lives in, but capable and competent to achieve so much more than is expected from a woman in that period.

I enjoyed Treacherous is the Night and would like to read the first book in the series for more background and to experience Verity’s previous adventures.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Verity Kent Series, but acceptable as a standalone.

Publication:   September 25, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

We might be incapable as of late at discussing anything of importance, but as well-educated upperclass Brits, we could always rely upon our proficiency at inane small talk. After all, we’d been drilled in it since the cradle.

But in my estimation, he was naught but an officious pig, no offense to the swine.

“…the truth is war is hell on everyone who falls near its angry maw. The actions you take thinking to spare the innocent or inexperienced can just as easily cause their destruction, simply because the world is turned so bloody upside down.”

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Kindred Spirits–stolen art with deadly consequences

Kindred Spirits

by Jo Bannister

Kindred SpiritsGabriel Ash, formerly a security analyst with the British government, has recently been released from mental health care. He has opened a second hand book shop, Rambles with Books. He has also been reunited with his two sons after a four year separation as a result of his wife’s illegally taking the boys.  All should be relatively smooth sailing in the Ash household, but that is not the case. Ash’s good friend, Constable Hazel Best, drives to school to pick up the boys, and she sees them and their nanny being accosted in what appears to be a kidnapping attempt.

The plot of Kindred Spirits rapidly becomes complicated as the older boy, Gilbert, insists that only the nanny was being forced into the van. This fast-moving police procedural by Jo Bannister puts on display not only how the police investigate crimes, but also the behind-the-scenes politics. Neither Hazel nor Detective Inspector Dave Gorman are armchair detectives. The same can be said about Ash when those he cares about are personally threatened. All three are motivated by doing what is right. When an old case clashes with the events of a new case, they refuse to turn a blind eye. The results are dangerous, and you won’t want to stop reading until the mystery is resolved.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Police Procedural

Notes: #5 in the Hazel Best and Gabriel Ash Mystery Series. This was the first book in the series for me to read, and I had no problem catching up with the background.

Publication:   September 1, 2018—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Perhaps he was the last man in England—the last man in the civilized world—to enjoy the sensation, both sensual and intellectual, of paper pages curling away under his fingers. Of words, and the ideas they encoded, waiting for him to find them—and staying close at hand after he’d read them, in case he needed to flick back a page or two to check something.

She had less and less patience with hard feelings and petty jealousies. She did her job, and did it well; being liked was an optional extra. It wasn’t something that she’d ever struggled with before, but if it came to a choice between being popular and doing what she believed to be right, she had broad shoulders.

Gorman knew that Jerome Harbinger was sixty-eight. If he hadn’t known, he’d have thought he was ten years older than that. His craggy face was savaged by deep lines that had nothing to do with laughter and everything to do with bitter unhappiness.

Upstaged by Murder–mystery play with deadly consequences

Upstaged by Murder

by C.S. Challinor

Upstaged by MurderUpstaged by Murder turned out to be more interesting and complex than I had imagined. I was treated to a theatre setting embedded in an English setting. The main character is a Scottish barrister with quite a reputation as a private detective. Full of Britishisms such as “gone for a burton” and “you finally twigged,” the production’s actors have diverse backgrounds as the cozy mystery’s focus is on a community theatre play.  Thus they have their own natural personas in addition to the roles they play on stage where fictional detectives are assembled to solve a fictional crime.

Rex Graves is attending the play Peril at Pinegrove Hall written by his new wife’s friend when Cassie, the actress with the lead in the play, is killed. Rex is invited to assist the investigation in an informal capacity, and the reader gets to watch his efforts to discover not only who committed the crime and why, but also how it could possibly have been done.

I stayed engaged in the story as I followed Rex through his investigative efforts, interviewing the cast and crew and assembling a worthy timeline that eventually, along with other clues, leads him to discover the identity of the murderer. Join Rex as he pursues his passion and talent in detecting in C.S. Challinor’s latest mystery.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Midnight Ink for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: #10 in the Rex Graves Mystery Series, but I enjoyed it as a standalone.

Publication:   July 8, 2018—Midnight Ink

Memorable Lines:

A decorative wind chime on the door tinkled as he entered the shop, and he was immediately assailed by the heady scent of cut flowers, which abounded everywhere in an explosion of colour, tinted rows of almost every variety arranged in transparent plastic buckets.

Often a coincidence spelt a clue.

…that was the nature of investigations; they rarely took the course of a straight line.

Whisper the Dead–complex mystery

Whisper the Dead

by Stella Cameron

Whisper the DeadWhisper the Dead starts off with anything but a whisper. The reader and Alex Duggins, owner of the pub The Black Dog in Folly-on-Weir, are thrown immediately into a violent scene which segues into fire and explosions. This cozy mystery focuses more on the mystery than the cozy as Alex finds herself caught up in a chain of events with threads that go off in multiple directions and soon become a tangle involving a real estate developer and his family, seemingly unrelated  townspeople, and Alex’s own mother and her personal history. It’s hard to see initially how all of these can be related and understand how and why Alex can be at the center of it all.

Author Stella Cameron works magic with words, characters, and plot. If you have been following the series, you will be glad to reconnect with the locals of Folly-on-Weir. If not, you will find that you get to know them quickly, including the likable veterinarian Tony who is always Alex’s support and sounding board. Should you be searching for a complex mystery in the cozy mystery genre, look no further than Whisper the Dead.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #5 in the Alex Duggins Mystery Series, but good as a standalone

Publication:   April 1, 2018—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Too much emotion had rushed in since yesterday and it muddied her thoughts. This pile up of personality clashes made a hard time harder.

Smoke from cottage chimneys rose straight into the still, pink-tinged, early-morning sky. Snow sliding from the bare branches of an oak tree swished to softly pepper the drifts below.

The windows, cranked open a measly half-inch, had lost any battle with the coating of hot air and thick, grimy steam that painted the glass. More falling snow closed away the scene outside, but they all knew it was as cold as hell wasn’t, and sleet was starting to strafe the land.

Indian Summer–a book of relationships

Indian Summer

by Marcia Willett

Indian SummerIndian Summer is one of those books that is difficult to categorize. Some call it a Romance, but it focuses more on relationships than on romance. Others see it as Women’s Fiction, and I agree that it would appeal more to women than to men, but I prefer to just call it a novel. Marcia Willett’s Indian Summer is the story of Sir Mungo Kerslake and his brother Archie who reside on the family property near a small town. The other characters’ lives intersect with the brothers’ in various ways. Some live on the property as tenants or renters. Others are visitors from outside the community. All have secrets.

Sir Mungo is a very social retired actor and director of some renown, and all of the characters relate to him in some way. Very likable, he is the ultimate good friend—hospitable, understanding, loyal, and trustworthy. He has the amusing penchant of looking at life through a director’s lens, seeing life events as the bits and pieces of a play. He adds a fun, dramatic flair to every situation.

Indian Summer was first published as a paperback in 2015. Thomas Dunne Books is now publishing it as a hardback. This my first book by this author, but won’t be the last. I enjoyed the gentle, understanding approach of the author to her characters. The story is written in such a way that it jumps between sets of characters within a chapter. That was disconcerting at first, but as the relationships became more apparent, these switches morphed into a flow appropriate to the plot.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Dunne Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Publication:   June 27, 2017—Thomas Dunne Books

Memorable Lines:

Her own world has swung back into focus and she realizes how very precious it is to her. She mustn’t risk it for this chimera of excitement and fun; for some brief sexual gratification. Yet how to extricate herself?

The trouble is, he knows by experience that it’s this part of the creative process that he really loves: sitting in bars with his laptop open, jotting down ideas; walking around new places; watching people and inventing little scenarios for them. It’s rather depressing that, when the time comes to sit down and actually write the story, his enthusiasm wanes.

Perhaps, thinks Mungo, that’s why the friends of our youth are so dear to us. To each other we aren’t grey and old and dull. We remember times when we took chances, acted courageously, rescued each other and gave each other support. These things remain. In their company we are the people we’ve always been: viable and strong.

The Trouble with Harriet–what is in that urn?

The Trouble with Harriet

by Dorothy Cannell

The Trouble with HarrietThe Trouble with Harriet is different from many cozy mysteries that start with a crime to immediately draw the reader in. Instead the reader is enticed with more personal events—a chance meeting with a gypsy, a prospective getaway trip to France, and the appearance of a surprise visitor.

Replete with quirky characters displaying a flair for the dramatic, this book reads like a play from the era of Arsenic and Old Lace. I can picture cousin Freddy climbing with little ado through the living room window to make his entrance. Ellie’s father possesses a penchant for the dramatic. The Hoppers, who resemble stacking Russian dolls, are the things comedy is made of. The vicar in his dotage who rarely remembers what he should be doing provides all kinds of interesting possibilities. This book is quite enjoyable and would make an amusing theatrical production, featuring a play within a play.

The mystery develops gently during the course of the book, but with the reader unaware of it. It begins simply, but adds complexity as the book progresses. The Trouble with Harriet is an enjoyable book in an enjoyable series.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Alibi) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Historical

Notes: #8 in the Ellie Haskell Mystery Series (which currently has 13 books). In spite of having previously read only #7, I found this book delightful. I’m sure reading the whole series would be fun, but not necessary.

Publication: June 13, 2017—Random House Publishing Group (Alibi)

Memorable Lines:

She had a fatal flaw as a listener. She enjoyed the sound of her own voice.

And the world is filled with qualified interior designers, although possibly not in Chatterton Fells, where people tend to consider switching a picture from one side of the room to another a major renovation.

“You can’t go through life being an irresponsible charmer and not expect impressionable females to fall all over you.” “Sometimes I feel like a pound of bacon during wartime rationing.”

False Fire–no milquetoast in sight!

False Fire

by Veronica Heley

False FireThe author of False Fire, Veronica Heley, 83 years old and creator of over 70 books, just made my “go to” mystery writer list. The list is short; it starts and ends with Agatha Christie. At no point in reading False Fire did I want to put it down. There were no artificial hooks to keep me reading—it was the action of the plot. It just kept moving at such a rapid pace, starting with the first chapter, that I was compelled to devour the book.

The writing was well-done, and the characters were interesting. Heley has created a main character in Bea Abbot who is resourceful, observant, and intelligent. She runs the Abbot Agency—for domestics, not detectives. In False Fire, Bea is attending a dinner when a fire breaks out in the home, followed by an explosion and power outages. There is general mayhem and children to be rescued. Later Bea has to sort through the relationships of a very dysfunctional family to try to discover the arsonist. Was the crime, in fact, arson? There are many Britishisms but most are understandable within the context, and all add to the fun of reading a book by a British author.

I am so grateful to have found this prolific author. Although I enjoy the diversity of themes and ideas in cozy mysteries, I appreciate even more a mystery like this one that is hardcore in the sense that the focus is the developing plot. At the same time, there is not a detailed description of violence or sex. The language is always appropriate. While this is in no way a Christian book, the author’s faith is evident as she has her main character pray for help on several occasions. Both the main character and the mystery should be described as “strong”: no evidence of milquetoast in sight!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #11 in the Abbot Agency series, but easily read like a standalone for me

Publication:   April 1, 2017—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

The other girl was a sweetie, but not exactly the Brain of Britain.

Bernice gave alternate mouthfuls to Teddy, who was assuming a careworn appearance. Much loving can do that to you.

The man plunged down the corridor, disappearing into tendrils of smoke which curled about the figure and obscured him from Bea’s view. She stumbled after him, straining her eyes to see through the mist, which thickened and darkened as they advanced.

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