Sunday, September 29, 2019

Book Review - Death in Focus

Death in Focus (Elena Standish #1)
Author:  Anne Perry
Publisher:  Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine
Publication Date:   September 17, 2019
4 Stars

World War I has drawn to a close, and Europe is still hopeful that this “Great War” will be the war to end all wars.  However, at this time, there are already rumblings that things are not ok, and peace is not safe.

After a terrible romantic involvement with a man who would become a traitor to his country, Elena Standish decides to focus on her photography.  Her photography takes her to Italy to photograph an economic conference. Although not looking for a male companion, she finds one in a man named Ian Newton.  They seem to hit it off immediately, and they become even closer after they both stumble upon a dead body.  Ian tells Elena he needs to go to Paris and invites Elena to go with him. Elena accepts his invitation, and the two take off immediately.  While on board the train, Ian goes to get tea, but he never returns.  Elena goes in search of him and finds him crumpled over in one of the other train compartments.  He had been stabbed in the chest and is bleeding to death.  As much as Elena wants to help him, there isn’t anything she can do to stop the bleeding.  In a different way though Elena is given a chance to help.  Before he dies, Ian tells Elena that he is a part of the British military intelligence.  He has information that he needs Elena to carry on for him.  He tells her she must get to the British Embassy in Germany and warn Roger Cordell that Friedrich Scharnhorst is slated to be assassinated. Ian believes that Scharnhorst is a vile man, but he does not want to see England implicated in his death.  Elena rushes to the embassy and warns Cordell of the impending assassination.  Then she attends the rally where Scharnhorst is to be speaking in order to capture pictures of the event.  Scharnhorst is indeed shot, and when Elena gets back to her room she finds a recently fired gun in her closet.  At that point she knows she is being framed, and she goes on the run.  Elena is not sure who to turn to or who to trust.

This was a great thriller/mystery novel.    Elena is a great main character.  She is thought of as one of the weaker members of her family, but shows great strength throughout the novel. A lot of times in a series it takes a few books before we see a major change in our main character.  However, Elena’s first hand view of Germany and Hitler’s growing influence really help transform her.  Elena’s whole family sounds intriguing and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them in future novels.  Perry’s attention to historical details moves the reader as well, reminding us of a terrible series of events that eventually lead to WWII.

If you enjoy Anne Perry’s Monk or Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, I think you will enjoy this book.  It has a great historical setting, a gripping plot, and adventurous characters.

Thanks to Net Galley and Random House Publishing - Ballantine for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #DeathInFocus

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Book Review - Malice at the Palace

Malice at the Palace
Author:  Rhys Bowen
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  August 4, 2015
4 Stars

Georgie finds herself once again trying to decide what to do about money and a place to stay.  Once again, the queen steps in at just the right time to give Georgie an assignment.  This time, Prince George is getting married, and the queen wants Georgie to look after and entertain his future bride, Princess Marina of Greece.    Georgie is unsure of the hot reputable spots in town to take Marina so she consults with her friend Belinda, who seems out of sorts.  Georgie and Belinda seem to come up with a suitable plan.  The first night after Marina’s arrival, the royal family hosts a dinner at Buckingham Palace to introduce Marina to the family.  After dinner, Marina and Georgie return to Kensington Palace where they are staying.  Later that night, however, Georgie sees a light in the courtyard and goes to investigate.  When she arrives there she finds a body in the courtyard.  The victim, Bobo Carrington, was a girl who got around town with the rich and famous, so there were many suspects.  Prince George was one of those former lovers so he too is considered a suspect.  Since the Prince is a suspect, the palace wants to keep the investigation as quiet as possible.  Because Georgie has access to the royal family, she has been asked to help with the investigation.  During the investigation, Darcy’s name is brought up, and that opened up a whole other can of worms.  Georgie finds herself wrestling with Darcy’s involvement in the case.  While Georgie struggles to makes heads or tails of this case, she does come up with pretty significant clues that the police miss.  Georgie methodically puts the clues together to solve the puzzle.

I absolutely adore this series, and this one was just as fun as many of the others.  Georgie doesn’t find herself in as many sticky and funny situation in this book, but we have another player who provides plenty of comic relief.  Countess Irmtraut, Marian’s cousin, is a stuffy character  who provides plenty of comic relief.  She takes everything so literally, that you can’t help but giggle.  Queenie of course is still around, and she is still entertaining with her many gaffes. Belinda appears in this novel as well, but is certainly not acting like herself.  Her storyline definitely ends in a cliffhanger.  There is also still a will they or won’t they get married element between Georgie and Darcy.  Once again, we will have to wait for the next book to see what is in store for them.  Georgie’s mother only makes an appearance by conversation, and Georgie’s brother and his wife make a brief appearance at the beginning of the book.  Long enough for Fig to insult Georgie, and then to be jealous of the assignment the Queen gives her.  Most of the other characters are new players, or small players from previous novels.  Many of the new characters that play prominent roles in this novel are based on real life characters.  Some of these people’s lives are explained at the end of the novel.  My only complaint about this particular installment of the series is how the crime is wrapped up, and it is the only reason I’m not giving this book a 5 star rating.  I won’t say anything more about the ending because I don’t want to spoil it for others.

I listened to this book as an audio book read by Katherine Kellgren.  She does such an excellent job with all the voices.  You really feel like you are there with Georgie and friends.  Kellgren definitely gets at A+ for her performance.

#MaliceAtThePalace   #Berkley

Friday, September 13, 2019

Book Review - A Dream of Death

A Dream of Death
Author:  Connie Berry
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  April 9, 2019
5 Stars

Kate Hamilton had a strained relationship with her sister-in-law Elenor Spurgeon.  Among other things, Elenor blamed Kate for her brother’s (Kate’s husband’s) death.  Yet when Elenor called to say she was in trouble and had no one else to turn to, Kate decided to help her.  She left the antique shop she ran in Ohio in her mother’s hands and traveled to Glenroth, Scotland.  It was a tough trip for Kate because being in Glenroth again brought back harrowing memories as that is where her husband had died.  When Kate gets there, Elenor didn’t seem overly concerned and said she would explain everything after the Tartan Ball she was throwing.  Before Elenor had a chance to fill Kate in, however, Elenor winds up dead.  Kate finds herself immersed in this investigation as she feels a duty to find out what happened to Elenor, but also to clear the name of a dear friend who is the prime suspect.  As the investigation progresses, its seems more and more like Elenor’s death is tied to a two hundred year old murder mystery.  Can Kate find the link to the past and the present before it is too late?

When I read some of the first lines in this book, I knew I would enjoy the writing.  “Three years had passed since Bill’s death, and the veneer of coping I’d laid over my grief was as thin as eggshell porcelain and every bit as breakable.”  What beautiful and descriptive writing!  The rest of the book is filled with many other magnificently descriptive passages.  The writing was superb and made reading the book a real delight.

The author’s writing style is also accompanied by a first-rate mystery.  I was engrossed from beginning to end.  I loved how the author weaved together the two hundred year old story into the present day murder.  This connection opened the field of suspects and left me guessing all the way until the pivotal reveal.

The cast of characters was just as good as the plot itself.  I found myself enamored with Kate, cheering for some, concerned about others, and suspicious of many.

This was a great first in a series book, and I absolutely can’t wait to read the second book in the series.

Thanks to Net Galley and Crooked Lane Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #CrookedLaneBooks #ADreamOfDeath

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Book Review - By Book or by Crook

By Book or by Crook (Lighthouse Library Mystery #1)
Author:  Eva Gates
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  February 3, 2015
4 Stars

Lucy Richardson has started a new job at the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library.  The library was fortunate enough to be loaned a complete set of first edition Jane Austen novels for three months.  Jane Austen was one of Lucy’s idols so she is beyond ecstatic to actually see and touch these first editions.  The library is hosting a soirĂ©e to celebrate this temporary acquisition.  Lucy is excited to be there, but that excitement is somewhat tempered by the fact that Mr. Uppiton, the chair of the library board, has expressed his dislike for her and his desire to see her dismissed.  In the end, however, Mr. Uppiton’s night turned out much worse than Lucy’s.  He is found murdered on the private level of the library.  The head librarian, Bertie, becomes the main suspect, although, one of the detectives suspects Lucy as well.  The library suffers two more blows when two of the first edition Austen novels go missing.  There is talk of closing the library down.  Lucy knows they must solve Uppiton’s murder and find the missing books if they have any hope of saving the library.

By Book or by Crook is a great start to the Lighthouse Mystery series.  It’s a fun read in a really neat setting.  Some reviewers complained about the lack of reality in the setting, but I thought it was fun to just sit back and relax and dream about this beautiful lighthouse that is large enough to encase a full fledged library.

The mystery was intriguing, and we were reminded several times to think about who had the most to gain from the crimes.  There were plenty of potential suspects to keep the reader guessing.  The reader also had to decide if the crimes were related or if one was staged to cover the other up.  I liked that Lucy’s investigations seemed down to earth and not over the top.

I really liked the characters created for this book.  We have an eclectic collection of people who help to make a great story.  Some characters are easier to like than others, but that’s what keeps them so realistic.  Lucy has two possible love interests pop up in this book, and I’m not sure who I’m rooting for yet.  Book 2, here I come!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Book Review - Mulberry Mischief

Mulberry Mischief
Author: Sharon Farrow
Publisher:  Kensington Books
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
5 Stars

Piper Lyall-Pierce, the wife of the town’s mayor, has organized a Halloween themed Harvest Health Fair.  Piper has lined up an exciting week’s worth of events including speakers, demonstrations, and collections of health related products and books.  One of the main attractions to the fair is the Sable family and their collection of best selling diet books and skin care products.  Piper even ropes Marlee into giving a presentation on the health benefits of berries.

Before the fair begins, however, the town’s eccentric hermit, who the townsfolk refer to as the Lake Lady, approaches Marlee for the first time.  She asks Marlee to supply her with enough mulberries to cover her whole house.  Marlee asks why she needs so many mulberries, and the Lake Lady replies that someone is trying to kill her, and she is trying to protect herself from danger.  Marlee agrees to order the mulberries and to personally deliver them when they arrive.

When Marlee goes to deliver the berries, the Lake Lady is no where to be seen.  Marlee knows how anxious she is to get the berries, and she becomes concerned by her absence.    She later returns with her boyfriend Kit who happens to be an investigative officer with the sheriff’s department.  There is still no sign of the Lake Lady, but they do find a man who has been shot through the heart with an arrow.

Marlee soon learns that the Lake Lady, is not who she thinks she is.  She has a mysterious and complicated past.  Marlee becomes intent on helping to locate her, and to get to the bottom of this murder, and another murder that happened over 20 years before.

This is the fourth book in the Berry Basket series, and the best one yet.  The author does such a great job with the characters.  You can’t help but cheer on the good guys and boo the bad guys (and maybe even throw some berries at them ).  Then there are those characters that you have to figure out what side of the fence they belong on.

The plot and mystery were excellent.  The story drew me in right away, and I immediately felt at home with the return of familiar characters.  Marlee finds more questions than answers as she begins to look into the mystery.  I found myself pulled deeper and deeper into the mystery as I read.  There are quite a few possible suspects, and I found myself jumping from one to the next, sure that I had finally figured out who had committed the crime(s).  The story is filled with unexpected twists and turns, and it has an exciting ending.

This is a great fall read!  There are also yummy recipes included at the end of the story.

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #KensingtonBooks #MulberryMischief