The Light Keeper’s Legacy: A Chloe Ellefson Mystery by Kathleen Ernst
Midnight Ink, Coming October 2012


Historian Chloe Ellefson has a plum new assignment – spend a week on Rock Island in Lake Michigan to develop a furnishing plan for the restored Pottawatomie Lighthouse. Chloe is craving some alone time away from an annoying, meddling supervisor and from potential boyfriend Roelke McKenna. She finds the solitude she wants and much more.

Upon arrival at the isolated site, Chloe finds herself in the middle of a centuries old fishing territorial dispute, along with something older and more sinister. Things don’t get any better when she starts finding bodies washed up on shore wrapped in fishing nets.

While she works with the local authorities to solve the murders, Chloe also finds herself drawn to a woman who lived in the lighthouse more than 100 years ago and who seems to be trying to communicate something to Chloe. We learn that Chloe has flashes of unusual perception that appear to fascinate and freak her out at the same time. Curious, Chloe researches the woman, Emily Betts, and along the way discovers a tragedy that has marked residents of the Rock and the surrounding area for more than a century.

This was the first Chloe Ellefson mystery I’ve read, and I enjoyed it enough to go look up the earlier offerings. I found Chloe a likable heroine, despite her repeated use of the phrase “Geez, Louise,” which seemed a bit overdone. She’s smart, perceptive, independent, and kind but also stubborn and strong. The blend of historical and modern stories holds together nicely and develops into a solid story spanning decades. The story is set in 1982 and contains a nice nod to Sue Grafton, as it is her A is for Alibi that is given to Chloe at the beginning to keep her company on the island.

This is a light, very enjoyable read featuring a smart and sassy young woman who will appeal to a wide audience.


Secret Letters by Leah Scheier

Secret Letters by Leah Scheier
Hyperion. On sale 6/26/12

Sherlock Holmes has been re-imagined countless times in modern fiction, and Secret Letters is one more attempt to paint a slightly different picture of the great detective. In this case, we find young Dora Joyce convincing her cousin Adelaide to visit Holmes on the pretense of tracking down the man blackmailing Adelaide with old love letters. Secretly, though, Dora wants desperately to meet Holmes, the man who she recently discovered to be her biological father.

Their reunion is not to be, however, as Dora’s arrival in London coincides with Holmes’ apparent death in Germany. While swooning in the street over the shocking news, Dora meets Peter Cartwright, a former associate of Holmes, who manages to draw Dora into investigating the case of the stolen love letters herself.

We find in Dora many of the personality traits one might expect in a daughter of Sherlock Holmes. She is industrious and creative in her investigations, and is a likable character. Her burgeoning relationship with Cartwright lends sweetness to the story that will appeal to young romantics. My only quibble with the story is the fact that the blackmail scheme which gets Dora involved in the first place is never really fully explained.The other mystery, however, is interesting and wound up in a surprise ending.

This newest entry in the Holmes genre provides a light-hearted read that will appeal to fans of English country house murder mysteries and cozies. It reminded me slightly of The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer, which introduced Sherlock’s younger sister, Enola Holmes. I think she and Dora could be good friends.

The Columbus Affair

The Columbus Affair by Steve Berry – The publication of a new Steve Berry book is always cause for celebration in my little world, and this new offering did not disappoint.

Berry, known for his rough and tumble, action-packed Cotton Malone series, moves in a slightly different direction here and introduces a whole new cast of characters who take part in an adventure every bit as steeped in history and full of action as Berry’s other offerings.

We meet Thomas Sagan, disgraced reporter, just as he about to end his life. His suicide is prevented by Zacariah Simon, a man who appears at Sagan’s window holding a picture of Sagan’s estranged daughter. We soon learn that Simon has Ally captive and will kill her if Sagan doesn’t agree to exhume his father’s body to retrieve something that was buried with him years before. We soon discover that Sagan’s father, and now Sagan, is the Levite, a man entrusted with the greatest secret in Jewish history. Berry immediately lets the reader know that all is not as it appears as he begins to weave a tale of Christopher Columbus and an ancient treasure stolen from the Jews when the second temple was destroyed.

Moving the action from Florida, to Austria, to Jamaica, Berry grips your attention with intriguing bits of history interwoven with his own imaginative elements and, as usual, delivers a tightly plotted narrative peopled with interesting, well-drawn characters. I always want to research something that I read about in a Berry book, and this time it is the Temple treasure. That urge to learn more about what I’ve read in a novel doesn’t happen all the time, which is why I look forward to each new Steve Berry book.

This one is highly recommended.

Vision Box Ideas

Vision Box Ideas by Mark Montano – I don’t usually like to review graphic-intense books such as graphic novels or art/crafting books in digital format because my past experiences has included pages that take F-O-R-E-V-E-R to load, and miniscule text rendered as PDF that is nearly impossible to read.

I was pleasantly surprised, then, when I found Vision Box Ideas by Mark Montano very easy to read, with beautifully rendered images and clear text. I was not familiar with Montano when I started this book, but apparently he has some real arts & crafts cred, which shines through in this inspiring offering. Montano offers several examples of vision boxes centered around ideas such as travels and angels. He takes great care to let us know, though, that these are ideas that we should use as jumping off points for our own creative vision boxes.

What is a vision box? Pretty much anything you can imagine. Think about what is special to you, what has meaning in your life right now, or what you envision in your life in the future. Then think about how to represent those visions visually. Finally, arrange all those visual representations into a 2 or 3 dimensional collage created inside a frame or box. I’m making a box right now centered around letter-writing using old letters from friends, beautiful stationery, photos, stamps, and unusual writing utensils.

Montano is very clear and precise in his instructions, all the while reminding us that creating art isn’t done according to a blueprint – that each project has to have some of us injected somewhere. He shows us how to create his boxes exactly, if we want to, but he also pushes us to change a little bit here, or add a little bit there, to create something unique.

Highly recommended.