End of the Year Micro-Reviews


woman in lakeWoman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick

Cornick is fast becoming my go-to author for suspenseful, fascinating time-slip stories, and she delivers another one with The Woman in the Lake. Moving between present time and the 18th century, Cornick tells the intertwined stories of Isabella, Constance, and Fenella, all bound together by a gorgeous and deadly golden gown. Each woman struggles with her place in the world, complicated by aggressive, violent, and manipulative men who, in turn, cause the women to take drastic measures to survive. The story is well-paced, with lovely description and dialog, and characters who attract and repel the reader equally. My favorite among them is Constance, the insignificant lady’s maid who turns out to have more brains and balls than any of her “betters.” Consider this a one-sitting story – you won’t be able to put it down.

Publication date: February 26, 2019
Publisher: Harlequin-Graydon House
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

loch nessThe Loch Ness Papers by Paige Shelton

I stumbled on Paige Shelton’s first book in the Scottish Bookshop series purely by accident. I was looking for authors like Kate Carlisle and Shelton’s name came up. I was hooked from the first page and have devoured each entry in the series. In book 4, we find main character Delaney working hard to manage her upcoming wedding to Tom, including introducing her Kansas family to her Edinburgh family. While tracking down a reverend to officiate at the wedding, Delaney meets yet another interesting person. This time, it’s Norval Fraser and he draws her deep into a mystery involving the Loch Ness Monster, a missing father, and a murdered nephew. As usual, Delaney and all her Edinburgh friends are charming, the story is fun and engaging, and there are interesting developments in the personal lives of the characters. I’m beginning to think, though, that it’s time to let go of the books talking to Delaney. In the first book, the convention worked well, but here it felt kind of forced. Delaney is interesting enough on her own.

Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

ghost manuscriptThe Ghost Manuscript by Kris Frieswick

Fans of stories about King Arthur will appreciate this interesting treatment of the Arthurian legend and the people obsessed with it, but The Ghost Manuscript will also appeal to readers who just enjoy a good mystery. The characters are appealing and the story is by turns riveting and engrossing, mostly due to the author’s skillful switching between the more cerebral puzzle-solving and the physical activity of dealing with bad guys while actively searching for treasure. The big shocker about Arthur’s origins was somewhat similarly treated in an early Elly Griffith’s “Ruth Galloway” book, but the tribal involvement here makes this wholly original. Plus the female protagonist is a librarian. Kind of.

Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Publisher: Post Hill Press
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

salt windsOrphan of Salt Winds by Elizabeth Brooks

Oddly enough, it looks like this was published earlier this year as Call of the Curlew, and reviews generally echo my reading experience. Brooks delivers a solid, shivering, atmospheric piece centering on an old tragedy. She uses the common alternating time convention, switching between 1939 and the present day as she tells the story of Virginia and how she came to Salt Winds. The characters are vividly drawn and the story clever and suspenseful. This stands with the best of Kate Morton and M.J. Rose. Well done.

Publication Date: January 15, 2019
Publisher: Tin House Books
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy