Year-End Micro Reviews


Finally getting around to sharing the last bit of my reading for 2021 in these micro reviews!

The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood
Thornfield Press, October 2021 – Fans of traditional gothic romance novels will savor this spooky, dark, melodramatic story that features one of the coolest, bravest characters I’ve read in a while. All the elements are here: the crumbling and isolated mansion, the flawed characters with tragic pasts, the crying child in the night, the villagers who shun the property and the family, capped by the plucky girl and the curmudgeonly master of the house. The plot is predictable and familiar, exactly what I was looking for after a long day at work. This will give you a few hours of distraction and enjoyment.

The Steal by M.J. Rose and C.W. Gortner
Bluebox Press, August 2021 – A fun, clever romp through Cannes, Paris, and New York featuring a classy, smart jewelry artist and business executive paired with a rumpled, smart-alecky ex-soldier turned insurance investigator. This is the kind of book you pick up in an airport and devour in between and on flights then leave somewhere for another bored traveler. Overall appealing writing and a fanciful plot that whisks you through the fairyland of post-war Europe inhabited by film stars and very rich people. This would make a wonderful madcap rom-com-mystery movie. A very pleasant interlude….

A Secret Never Told by Shelley Noble
Macmillan-Tor/Forge, February 2022 – This is a well-written, nicely crafted mystery that will appeal to readers who enjoy historical suspense. Nothing tremendously unusual here, but still a nicely done mystery featuring a strong female lead.

The Hanged Man’s Tale by Gerald Jay
Doubleday Books, December 2021 – I dip in and out of French police procedurals and thought it was time to check out this author again. I’ve enjoyed his work, and was not disappointed in this one. Readers will find a cleverly plotted, well-written story that will keep their interest. The tarot element adds a mysterious creepiness to hunt for the serial killer.

The Witching Tree by Alice Blanchard
St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books, December 2021 – The writing here is very well done – lush descriptions, good pacing – and the characters what you’d expect in a suspense novel. The beginning sucks you in and the story unfolds in a way that keeps the reader interested. My only issue is that I found the ending a little odd, almost as if a chapter was missing. Maybe a sequel will appear.

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal
Atria Books, February 2022 – Circus stories seem to be on the rise again, and Macneal has given us a dark but joyful look into a 19th century traveling show. Knowing what was going to happen to Nell made the first couple chapters very difficult to read, but the stage was set for her life to really take off. Macneal has written a story full of love, deception, and ultimately independence, made real by the colorful characters juggling and leaping through the pages. I’ll be recommending this one for book groups for sure.

The Burning Pages by Paige Shelton
St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books, April 2022 – I have turned to cozy mysteries more and more this year, and Paige Shelton’s Scottish Bookshop series is one of my favorites. I enjoy the way Shelton has developed the characters by putting each of them at the center of the mystery. In this entry, we learn the backstory for Hamlet, Delaney’s co-worker at the bookshop. We also learn a bit more about Rosie, Edwin, and Delaney’s brother Wyatt. As usual, the mystery is interesting and well-researched, keeping my attention to the end. I recommend this series frequently and will continue to do so.

Thanks to Netgalley.com for the review copies of these books.