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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Review - King's Justice

I have followed and reviewed each of the books in the Maggie Hope series since the beginning:  

#1 Mr. Churchill's Secretary (click here)
#2 Princess Elizabeth's Spy (click here
#3 His Majesty's Hope (click here
#4 The Prime Minister's Secret Agent (click here
#5 Mrs Roosevelt's Confidante (click here)
#6 The Queen's Accomplice (click here)
#7 The Paris Spy (click here)
#8  The Prisoner in the Castle (click here)
Plus a wonderful interview with Ms. MacNeal (click here).  

Today I review the newest addition to the series.  Occasionally the Maggie Hope storyline is more of a regular mystery than spying and intrigue.  This is one of those times.  People expecting another great spy adventure be warned, this is a suspenseful search for a killer.


Author: Susan Elia MacNeal

Copyright: February 2020 (Berkley) 354 pgs

Series: 9th in Maggie Hope Mysteries

Sensuality: Moderate

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Mystery

Main Characters: Maggie Hope, American now British Secret Service

Setting: 1942, London

Obtained Through: Library

Cover Blurb:  "Maggie Hope started out as Winston Churchill’s secretary, but now she’s a secret agent—and the only one who can figure out how the missing violin ties into a series of horrifying murders.

London, December 1943. As the Russian army repels German forces from Stalingrad, Maggie Hope takes a much-needed break from spying to defuse bombs in London. But Maggie herself is an explosion waiting to happen. Traumatized by her past, she finds herself living dangerously—taking huge risks, smoking, drinking, and speeding through the city streets on a motorbike. The last thing she wants is to get entangled in another crime.

But when she’s called upon to look into the theft of a Stradivarius, one of the finest violins ever made, Maggie can’t resist. Meanwhile, there’s a serial killer on the loose in London, targeting conscientious objectors. Little does Maggie know that investigating this dangerous predator will pit her against a new evil—and old enemies. Only Maggie can uncover the connection between the robbery, the murders, and a link to her own past." 

Maggie, who originally started out as Churchill's Secretary and is now a Major and hasn't dealt with her emotional baggage from her many harrowing close calls with death.  She is now acting out and reckless, which I understood.  But  be forewarned, this could turn some off.  Detective Chief Inspector James Durgin is the potential romantic interest.  He is likable and thinks the world of Maggie but worries about her current state.  

1940s London is portrayed like I have never read before as we follow Maggie defusing unexploded bombs that dropped during German air raids but didn't detonate.  The bombed out shells of buildings all around captures England's suffering better than any other I have read.  

The plot of hunting a serial killer during such devastating times of hardship is intense to say the least.  The subplot of Maggie working in bomb disposal and her relationships are fraught with the tragedies of the war add to the overall serious tenor of the book.

The killer confrontation is heart-pounding, an adrenaline rush while reading.  The wrap up is tender and sets up the next book taking place in California.

This Maggie isn't the gal we fell in love with in the first book of the series. She feels betrayed by the government (see  The Prisoner in the Castle) and disillusioned after all she has sacrificed.  I think it was necessary to show how damaged the character is from everything in the last eight books. Which is a whole lot of physical and emotional damage.  I kept reading to see how she deals with her bruised psyche as well as solve the murders.  I appreciate the author giving us a realistic Maggie who struggles and falls down occasionally.  

This novel tackles a few tough issues with a deft touch, I felt.  Questions over the death penalty and conscientious objectors are pondered in the context of the story.  I appreciated bringing to light that British objectors worked in bomb disposal and other life saving areas in service to their nation.  While this is a darker story than the prior books with Maggie's emotional wounds and a serial killer to hunt, it is still a well crafted plot with excellent characterization that wraps the reader in that world.

I must give a caveat to readers who look for mistakes.  Each of these books has reviewers on Amazon who seem eager to find every teensy mistake in the minutest of details.  Yes, Maggie calls it oatmeal not porridge (she is American living in England), or the name of a hospital.  I find the nitpicking of the color of a uniform or such more to build up the reader's ego than a good appraisal of the writing and story.  Please don't read the story at all if such minute mistakes are going to outrage you.  Read a history book, not fiction.  I had to get that off my chest.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 

Here is a video of the author talking about this book at the Poisoned Pen bookstore.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDbKeAFCYDM








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Monday, October 19, 2020

Political Mystery Books

 


Yes, (for the USA) there is an election in just a few days - if you hadn't noticed.  So, to give you something to entertain yourself besides all the ads on television (and everywhere you turn), how about some political mysteries or thrillers to read!?  Here is a listing, only a few of which I have a review, but several I have read and recommend.


White House Chef mysteries by Julie Hyzy

1  State of the Onion  

2  Hail to the Chef (review)

3  Eggsecutive Orders

4  Buffalo West Wing

5  Affairs of Steak (review)

6  Fonduing Fathers

7  Home of the Braised

8  All the President's Menus

9  Foreign Eclairs


White House Gardener Mysteries by Dorothy St.James

1  Flowerbed of State

2  The Scarlet Pepper (review)

3  Oak and Dagger




Margaret Truman  Capital Crimes (31 books)

**written by the only child of President Harry Truman!!

1  Murder in the White House

2  Murder on Capitol Hill

3  Murder in the Supreme Court

4  Murder in the Smithsonian

5  Murder on Embassy Row

6  Murder at the FBI

8  Murder in the CIA

11 Murder at the Pentagon...

24 Murder Inside the Beltway (review)


The Camel Club by David Baldacci

I've read all of these and they are great.

1  The Camel Club

2  The Collectors

3  Stone Cold

4  Divine Justice

5  Hell's Corner (review)



Absolute Power by David Baldacci  (read years ago and became a Baldacci fan.  BTW, book is better than the movie)


The First Family (King & Maxwell #4) by David Baldacci (Excellent political thriller I read years ago)


The President is Missing by James Patterson and Bill Clinton (on my TBR pile)


The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon 

(a classic novel well worth reading today)


Our Kind of Traitor by John LeCarre


The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth  (read many years ago, never forgot - going to reread now!)


The Society by CG Abbot (guest post)

I personally highly recommend!


Jack Ryan Thrillers by Tom Clancy

Back when they were huge hits.  Tom Clancy was the first author to get a $1 million book deal.

1  Hunt for Red October (Movie with Alec Baldwin rocks too!)

2  Patriot Games 

3  Clear and Present Danger 

4  The Sum of All Fears 

5  Cardinal and the Kremlin (follow-on to Red October)

6  The Bear and the Dragon 

7  Red Storm Rising 

8  Red Rabbit 

9  Debt of Honor 

10  Executive Orders 

11 Teeth of the Tiger 

12  Rainbow Six


Moscow Rules (Gabriel Allon #8) by Daniel Silva (read years ago, good book in the Allon series)


The English Girl (Gabriel Allon #13) by Daniel Silva (review)



I hope this list provides entertainment in this political season.  I know I have no doubt missed some, so please leave your suggestions in the comments (go ahead, share those political fiction mystery/thrillers).  These are good to read even after an election (wink).  Enjoy!




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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Review -A Stroke of Malice

I have been following this series since the very first.  Here are my reviews of the prior books in the series (click on the title):


I am very honored to have several author interviews and guest posts from Ms. Huber:
1)  2012 
2)  2014 
3)  2015 
4)  2016 
5)  2019 

Now for my review of the newest addition to the series.


Author: Anna Lee Huber

Copyright: April 2020 (Berkley) 380 pgs

Series: 8th in Lady Darby Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild and era innuendo

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Mystery

Main Character: Kierra, Lady Darby

Setting: 1832, Traquair, Scotland

Obtained Through: Publisher ( Netgalley) for honest opinion

Cover blurb: "January 1832. After enjoying a delightful few weeks with her family, expectant mother Kiera and Sebastian Gage have been invited to the Duchess of Bowmontʼs Twelfth Night party in Traquair, Scotland. Though she normally avoids such fashionable, rambunctious events, Kiera is ready to join in the festive merrymaking. But upon their arrival at the opulent estate, it becomes obvious that all is not merry in their hostess’s home. The family appears to be under a great strain, and someone seems determined to cause mayhem among the guests with a series of forged notes.

Matters swiftly turn from irksome to downright deadly when the party goers stumble upon a decomposing body in the castleʼs crypt. The corpse is thought to be the duchesses' son-in-law who had purportedly traveled to Paris more than a month earlier. It is evident the man met with foul play, and Kiera and Gage soon realize that a ruthless murderer walks among them—and may well be a member of the duchessʼs own family. And when the investigation takes a treacherous turn, Kiera discovers just how deep the killer is willing to dig to keep their secrets from ever seeing the light of day."  

Lady Darby is pregnant which makes her involvement more delicate and even puts her and the baby in danger.  
Her new husband Sebastian Gage has a lot of stress because of Kiera's situation and the murderer gets too close to her.  
Bree, Kiera's personal maid and Anderley, Gage's rough spoken valet are relied upon to help them get answers. Plus there may be some feelings between the two developing.  The Duchess's family secretive, contentious, and generally unhappy.  

What is more gothic than a Scottish castle?  This has atmosphere dripping from the walls and gives the overall impression of family secrets.  Absolutely a great setting used to its fullest potential. 

Steady plotting adds to the setting to create a Hitchcock-esque reading experience that builds in tension.  The pacing is spot on and I found it hard to put down at all.

The killer confrontation is in line with the series expectation of exciting and nail-biting.  Perfection on that score.  The wrap-up provides satisfaction and a void, as I want the next book immediately.

I have come to regard this series as one of my go-to reads historical mysteries.  As soon as a new book is available, I scoop it up.  It never fails to draw me in and Kiera as the lead is more than likeable.  She is relatable while maintaining the historical accuracy, transcending the era and connecting on universal themes.  This book is a great addition to the Lady Darby canon with plenty of chills and thrills.  

I do have one concern.  Too often the magic of the series is hindered once children are born.  I've know a series to end with the birth of a child.  I am hoping this series won't suffer and Kiera is just as active in the investigation as she has been all along.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

Here is a short video highlighting Traquair castle, likely the setting for the book, to get an idea of the great gothic atmosphere in the book.   https://youtu.be/paSS6lPIjTw




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Monday, October 12, 2020

46 Mystery Books to get in Halloween Spirit

Halloween is approaching and I thought I would do a collection of mystery books &/or series that will get us in the spooky mystery mood.  



I have broken them out by categories to better facilitate your narrowing down your reading list by preference of ghost, witch, vampire, nightmare before Christmas, or general paranormal which includes tarot, tea leaf readers, and vacationing gods etc.  

These are cozy and some a little darker than cozy, but nothing towards the horror or grizzly end.  I promise.  Most of these I have a review of at least one in the series that I have linked to for your convenience.  That review may have links to others in the series I have reviewed in the series as well.

Ghost

Wild, Wild Death (Pepper Martin Mysteries) by Casey Daniels

Sketcher in the Rye (Portrait of Crime series) by Sharon Pape

An Uninvited Ghost (Haunted Guesthouse Mysteries) by E.J. Copperman

The Last Curtain Call (Haunted Home Renovation series) by Juliet Blackwell

A Skeleton in the Family (Family Skeleton Mysteries) by Leigh Perry

Ghostly Paws (Mystic Notch series) by Leighann Dobbs

The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten Weis

Ghost Hunter Mystery Series by Victoria Laurie - no reviews



Witch

Witches Protection Program by Michael Okon (aka Michael Phillip Cash)

Bewitched & Betrothed (Witchcraft Mystery) by Juliet Blackwell

Mayday Murder (Wiccan Wheel Mysteries) by Jennifer David Hesse

Putting on the Witch (Retired Witches Mysteries) by Joyce and Jim Lavene

A Witch Before Dying (Wishcraft Mysteries) by Heather Blake

Home for a Spell (Bewitching Mysteries) by Madelyn Alt

Veiled Menace (Veiled Magic series) by Deborah Blake

Charms and Chocolote Chips (Magical Bakery Mysteries) by Bailey Cates

Opal Fire (Stacy Justice Mysteries) by Barbara Annino

The Divine Circle of Ladies Painting the Town (Divine Circle Mysteries) by Dolores Stewart Riccio

The Seventh Witch (Ophelia & Abby Mysteries) by Shirley Daamsgaard

The Last Grave (Witch Hunt series) by Debbie Viguie

Storm Front (Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher

Burning Water (Diana Tregarde Investigation) PG13+ by Mercedes Lackey

Daisies for Innocence (Enchanted Garden Mysteries) by Bailey Cattrell 

Prose and Cons (Magical Bookshop Mysteries)  by Amanda Flower


Vampire

Let Them Eat Stake (Vampire Chef Mystery) by Sarah Zettel

From Fear to Eternity (An Immortality Bites mystery) by Michelle Rowen

Blood Oath (PG13+ rating) by Christopher Farnsworth

Murder in Vein (Madison Rose Vampire series) by Sue Ann Jaffarian

The Vampire Knitting Club series by Nancy Warren (review of bk 1 coming soon)



Nightmare Before Christmas:


A Christmas Homecoming (Victorian Holiday Mysteries) by Anne Perry

Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings (no review)

Gingerdead Man by Maya Corrigan (no review)





General paranormal

Death and Relaxation (Ordinary Magic series) by Devon Monk

Whispers of Warnings (Change of Fortunes Mysteries) by Jessica Estevao

Who Do Voodoo? (Mind for Murder Mysteries) by Rochelle Staab

Tempest in the Tea Leaves (Fortune Teller Mysteries) by Kari Lee Townsend

An Unhappy Medium (Family Fortune Mysteries) by Dawn Eastman

Avenging Angels (Beaufort & Co. Mysteries) by Mary Stanton

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat (Magical Cats Mysteries) by Sofie Kelly

Wickedly Dangerous (Baby Yaga Mysteries) by Deborah Blake

Occult and Battery (Bay Island Psychic Mysteries) by Lena Gregory

Dogs Don't Lie (Pru Marlow Mysteries) by Clea Simon

Take the Monkey and Run (Call of the Wilde Mysteries) by Laura Morrigan

Bad Moon Rising (Murry/Kidman Suspense Thriller) by L.F. Crawford

Hard Spell - PG13+ (Occult Crimes Unit series) by Justin Gustainis

Abby Cooper: A Psychic Eye Mysteries by Victoria Laurie (no review)




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Thursday, October 8, 2020

Review - The Last Curtain Call

It has been since 2017 that the previous Haunted Home Renovation was published.  I’m so excited that Ms Blackwell is writing more to the series. I have reviewed each book in this series from the debut issue to the present. 

The Seventh, A Ghostly Light (click here), The sixth, Give Up The Ghost (click here), The fifth, Keeper of the Castle (click here), fourth, Home for the Haunting (click here), the third, Murder on the House (click here), the second book, Deadbolt (click here),  and the debut book, If Walls Could Talk (click here).  Plus we have several interviews and guest posts from Ms. Blackwell.  Today is a review of the newest addition to one of her series.

Author: Juliet Blackwell

Copyright: June 2020 (Berkley) 336 pgs


Series: 8th in Haunted Home Renovation Mysteries


Sensuality: mild


Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Paranormal Mystery, Amateur Sleuth


Main Character: Mel Turner, Owner of Turner Construction company


Setting: Contemporary, San Francisco


Obtained Through: Library


Book Blurb: “Mel Turner can’t resist the chance to bring the Crockett Theatre, a decrepit San Francisco Art Deco movie palace, back to life. But there’s a catch for Turner Construction: Several artists are currently squatting in the building, and they aren’t the only ones haunting the once-grand halls of the historic theater.…


 When one of the squatters is found dead, the police department has a long list of suspects to investigate. Meanwhile, Mel and her fiancé, Landon, are remodeling an old house for themselves, and Mel finds being on the other side of a home renovation project more challenging than she expected.


 When Mel discovers that the former owner of the Crockett Theatre died under mysterious circumstances, and that there just might be a connection to the ghost haunting her own attic, the case takes a new turn—one that could bring down the curtain for the last time.”


Mel Turner, construction renovator extraordinaire, is very down to earth and works nearly all the time.  Her life is complicated and seeing ghosts adds to that, and she has developed a fear of heights from the book before last that is definitely tested in this story.  Landon Demetrius is a visiting mathematician professor at a local university and Mel's boyfriend.  Homicide Detective Annette Crawford is back again and she is warming up to Mel, kinda sorta.  Mel’s dad, Bill, their friend Stan, and her ex-stepson Caleb get a little page-time for the story which is always enjoyable.  The squatter-artists are unique and add to the story surprisingly well.


San Francisco is always lovingly recreated in these stories.  The Crockett Theatre is a delightful backdrop with the history and gothic atmosphere it provides.  Delicious.


The plot is deceptively simple and gets more complicated as you go.  The pacing kept my interest and I breezed through the book staying up to read.  


The killer reveal is great with atmosphere and danger.  Mel shines in her match with the killer, kudos!  The wrap-up was perfect and light hearted, full of promise.  


I loved this long awaited eighth entry in the series.  It provides some fun chills and light-hearted moments, good mystery to solve, characters to grow fond of, and a great finish written in a manner that effortlessly brings it all to life.  What more could you ask for? 


Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list





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