The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd


Description

From the critically acclaimed author of The Book of M, a highly imaginative thriller about a young woman who discovers that a strange map in her deceased father’s belongings holds an incredible, deadly secret—one that will lead her on an extraordinary adventure and to the truth about her family’s dark history. 

What is the purpose of a map? 

Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field, and Nell’s personal hero. But she hasn’t seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map.

But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can’t resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable, and also exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence… because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one—along with anyone who gets in the way.

But why?

To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret, and discover the true power that lies in maps…

Perfect for fans of Joe Hill and V.E. Schwab, The Cartographers is an ode to art and science, history and magic—a spectacularly imaginative, modern story about an ancient craft and places still undiscovered.

My Thoughts

I devoured this book in one night! There’s adventure, mystery, danger, and daring imagination here all spun into one of the best stories I’ve read in ages.

The vibe reminded me a bit of Mr. Penumbras 24 Hour Bookstore, but the story is wholly original. As a librarian, the setting in NYPL added an extra appeal.

While this is a fantastic adventure, there is also an underlying cautionary tale about mapping and the increasingly intrusive role of AI in mapping our locations and movements. The megalomaniac mapmaker in this story is probably out there in real life and that is a bit scary. This would be a fascinating topic for book discussion group debate regarding the value of all the information gathering that occurs without our knowledge today through things like Alexa and Siri, our cell phone location services, our smart cars, our computers, our smart TVs, etc.

I’ll be recommending this a lot in the coming months.

Published By: William Morrow
Publication Date: 3/15/2022
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Savory Dinner Pies by Ken Haedrich


Description

Author and savory pie expert Ken Haedrich takes you on a global tour of dinner pies from food cultures across the world.

Dinner pies have become a favorite go-to for one-dish recipes. Perfect your own crust or, dare we say, buy a pre-made crust and the variations are endless. Learn how to make Classic Americana Chicken Pot Pie, British Steak and Ale Pies, Swedish Meat Pies, Italian Easter Pie, and many more crust and no-crust versions of one of the world’s most prolific go-to dinners. Recipes for a range of crusts and make-ahead ideas are included along with how to use the almighty leftover to create pie masterpieces that are all your own!

With 75 recipes and amazing four-color photography, this is both a cookbook and an around-the-world tour of culinary traditions that can be incorporated into your own home kitchen weekly menu. Great for parties, families, Sunday night dinners, neighborly welcomes, holidays, and any-old-night-of-the-week dinners, and breakfasts and lunches—Savory Pies from Around the Globe offer something for every kitchen.

My Thoughts

Pies seem to be the trendy form of baking these days, and Ken Haedrich offers dozens of recipes for a savory version of pie that will turn heads at dinner parties. His recipes for savory pies are mostly delicious (there are some odd ones, but I’m sure they are just odd for me). The traditional Steak and Ale pies, pot pies, Easter pies, and my personal favorite – hand pies – are nicely balanced and accompanied by generally clear instructions.

The basic recipes for pastry dough are fairly simple even for beginning cooks and the ones I tried were quite tasty. This will make a solid addition to library shelves everywhere.

Published By: Quarto Publishing/Harvard Common Press
Publication Date: 1/18/2022

Thanks to Edelweiss & Netgalley for the review copy

A Game of Fear by Charles Todd


Description

In this newest installment of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling series, Scotland Yard’s Ian Rutledge is faced with his most perplexing case yet: a murder with no body, and a killer who can only be a ghost.

Spring, 1921. Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Rutledge to the sea-battered village of Walmer on the coast of Essex, where amongst the salt flats and a military airfield lies Benton Abbey, a grand manor with a storied past. The lady of the house may prove his most bewildering witness yet. She claims she saw a violent murder—but there is no body, no blood. She also insists she recognized the killer: Captain Nelson. Only it could not have been Nelson because he died during the war.

Everyone in the village believes that Lady Benton’s losses have turned her mind—she is, after all, a grieving widow and mother—but the woman Rutledge interviews is rational and self-possessed. And then there is Captain Nelson: what really happened to him in the war? The more Rutledge delves into this baffling case, the more suspicious tragedies he uncovers. The Abbey and the airfield hold their secrets tightly. Until Rutledge arrives, and a new trail of death follows… 

My Thoughts

Another solid entry in the Ian Rutledge series positions the reader in Essex as Rutledge investigates a “murder” witnessed by Lady Benton and committed by the “ghost” of a man she knows to be dead.

Charles Todd has created a relatable, vulnerable, but very capable character in Ian Rutledge, who struggles with PTSD from WWI as he conducts his business as a Scotland Yard detective. There are nods to previous Rutledge adventures but a reader new to the series can follow along with ease.

The plot was a little slow to start, but picked up and kept me going well past my bedtime to a satisfying conclusion.

Recommended for historical mystery fans.

Published By: William Morrow
Publication Date: 2/1/2022
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose by T.A. Wilberg

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Description

The envelope was tied with three delicate silk ribbons: “One of the new recruits is not to be trusted…”

It’s 1959 and a new killer haunts the streets of London, having baffled Scotland Yard. The newspapers call him The Florist because of the rose he brands on his victims. The police have turned yet again to the Inquirers at Miss Brickett’s for assistance, and second-year Marion Lane is assigned the case.

But she’s already dealing with a mystery of her own, having received an unsigned letter warning her that one of the three new recruits should not be trusted. She dismisses the letter at first, focusing on The Florist case, but her informer seems to be one step ahead, predicting what will happen before it does. But when a fellow second-year Inquirer is murdered, Marion takes matters into her own hands and must come face-to-face with her informer—who predicted the murder—to find out everything they know. Until then, no one at Miss Brickett’s is safe and everyone is a suspect.

With brilliant twists and endless suspense, all set within the dazzling walls and hidden passageways of Miss Brickett’s, Marion Lane and the Deadly Rose is a deliciously fun new historical mystery you won’t be able to put down.  

My Thoughts

I enjoyed the first Marion Lane adventure so much that I was worried the sequel would be less. My fears were unfounded as the author has delivered another cracking good adventure featuring Marion, Kenny, Bill, and the rest of the crew from Miss Brickett’s.

This time, Marion must unravel the mystery surrounding the mysterious Florist while at the same time figure out what the heck is happening internally with the mysterious posters and clandestine meetings that are splintering Miss Bricketts from within.

One of my favorite things about this second novel is the introduction of Ambrosia Quinn, a minor character who I hope we see much more of in future books.

There’s plenty of action, witty dialog, and enough suspense to support the exploits of our plucky heroine.

Recommended.

Published By: Harlequin Trade/Park Row
Publication Date: 2/1/2022
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Deadliest Sin by Jeri Westerson


Description

Crispin Guest is summoned to a London priory to unmask a merciless killer. Can he discover who is committing the deadliest of sins? 

1399, London. A drink at the Boar’s Tusk takes an unexpected turn for Crispin Guest, Tracker of London, and his apprentice, Jack Tucker, when a messenger claims the prioress at St. Frideswide wants to hire him to investigate murders at the priory. Two of Prioress Drueta’s nuns have been killed in a way that signifies two of the Seven Deadly Sins, and she’s at her wits end.

Meanwhile, trouble is brewing outside of London when the exiled Henry Bolingbroke, the new Duke of Lancaster, returns to England’s shores with an army to take back his inheritance. Crispin is caught between solving the crimes at St. Frideswide’s Priory, and making a choice once more whether to stand with King Richard or commit treason again.

My Thoughts

The final Crispin Guest story?!? I was crushed when I read the author’s introduction to The Deadliest Sin because I have enjoyed this series very much. Here, we find Crispin’s past returning with a vengeance when his former Lord and Master John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, dies in the first chapter, foreshadowing radical historical events that will change Guest’s life.

At the same time, he is called in as The Tracker of London to unravel a series of brutal murders happening in a a Priory where nuns are being killed according to the Seven Deadly Sins. This part of the story is a tricky mystery which Guest handles with his usual aplomb, discovering the truth behind the murders about halfway through the books, leaving the remaining chapters to deal with the brewing battle between Henry and Richard for the English throne.

Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy this series. I would recommending starting the series from the beginning, although this one can be read on its own.

Publication Date: December 7, 2021
Published By: Canongate Books; Severn House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughes


Description

Set against the lush backdrop of early twentieth century Ecuador and inspired by the real-life history of the coastal town known as the birthplace of cacao, this captivating #OwnVoices novel from the award-winning author of The Sisters of Alameda Street tells the story of a resourceful young chocolatier who must impersonate a man in order to survive…

Puri inherited two things from her father: a passion for chocolate, and a cacao plantation located in Ecuador. After learning the art of chocolate-making from her grandmother, Puri opened a chocolate shop in her native Spain. But the Great War that devastated Europe has also ruined her business. Eager to learn more about the source of her beloved chocolate, Puri sets out across the ocean with her husband,
Cristóbal. But someone is angered by Puri’s claim to the plantation…

When a mercenary sent to murder her aboard the ship accidentally kills Cristóbal instead, Puri dons her husband’s clothes and assumes his identity, hoping to stay safe while she learns the truth. Though freed from the rules that women are expected to follow, Puri confronts other challenges at the plantation—newfound siblings, hidden affairs, and her father’s dark secrets. Then there are the dangers awakened by her attraction to an enigmatic man as she tries to learn the identity of an enemy who is still at large, threatening the future she is determined to claim…

My Thoughts

The story is just outright captivating. Puri’s disguise – will she or won’t she be discovered?? — had me turning pages as quickly as possible. Her budding relationships with her newly found siblings also add to the tension, and all of this human emotion and action set against the gorgeous backdrop of early 20th century Ecuador’s chocolate plantations make this a winner.

I am an impatient reader at times, so I appreciated that the story begins right away. There is no tedious backstory build-up; the author reveals details of the past throughout the book which complement the action taking place.

I have also come to appreciate beautifully descriptive writing that makes the setting pop off the page. This is the second book set in Ecuador I’ve read recently, and I am now captivated by this lush and beautiful country. It’s the landscape that is just as important to this story as the cast of characters., reminding me a bit of the descriptive landscape chapters in Grapes of Wrath.

At its heart, this is a story about family and how choices can build or break a family unit, no matter how tight or loosely connected the individuals. I can see this one making the rounds of 2022 book discussion groups. So well done.

Publication Date: December 28, 2021
Published by: Kensington Books
Thanks to the Publisher for the review copy

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.

The Murder Dance by Sarah Rayne


Description

Researching the history of a dilapidated Elizabeth manor house, Phineas Fox uncovers the shocking truth behind a mysterious – and deadly – dance.

Having unexpectedly inherited an Elizabethan manor house in rural Norfolk, new owner Quentin Rivers has asked Phineas Fox to investigate the house’s history. Phin soon becomes immersed in The Tabor’s dark and mysterious past, and in the course of his research uncovers tales of a curious dance, the Cwellan Daunsen: a dance that has not been performed for centuries but whose strange legend still lingers. The dance has a dark side; whenever it took place, children were told to stay indoors – and on no account to look through their windows . . .

As Phin delves further, the terrible secrets of The Tabor and the Rivers family ancestors begin to reveal themselves, secrets stretching back more than six hundred years. But as the past gradually creeps up on the present, is history destined to repeat itself . . . ?

A darkly chilling novel of Gothic suspense which will appeal to fans of DAPHNE DU MAURIER, LAURA PURCELL and PHIL RICKMAN.

My Thoughts

Sarah Rayne offers a new mystery for Phineas Fox and Arabella Tallis, which is just as good as the previous entries in the series. I enjoy Rayne’s template of creating an imaginative mystery tied to a mysterious performance piece buried in the past. Here it is a dance – the Murder Dance, which children were not allowed to witness and which has haunted a family and a village for generations.

Rayne is skilled at blending suspense in the present with the same in the past and weaving a tale that encompasses both. Her present day characters seek to unravel the past while also dealing with trauma, deception, and betrayal in the present. Rayne’s creation of the mystery from the past is always intriguing and seemingly well-researched. The Murder Dance is just as creepy and horrifying as the Executioner’s Song in her last book.

Here, too, we see Phin’s relationship with Arabella progress and we get to know Arabella a bit more intimately. They make a great team, and I particularly like how Rayne writes the couple as intellectual equals. The other present day characters, cousins Quentin and Zillah, are two of the creepiest I’ve read in a while.

I recommend Rayne’s books all the time and this one will be no different. Well done!

Publication Date: January 4, 2022
Published By: Severn House; Canongate Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Searcher by Tana French

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Description

Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a bucolic Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens. But when a local kid whose brother has gone missing arm-twists him into investigating, Cal uncovers layers of darkness beneath his picturesque retreat, and starts to realize that even small towns shelter dangerous secrets.

“One of the greatest crime novelists writing today” (Vox) weaves a masterful, atmospheric tale of suspense, asking what we sacrifice in our search for truth and justice, and what we risk if we don’t.

My Thoughts

I was late to the Tana French party, but I worked my way through most of her books during lockdown and am a fan. The Searcher is a bit of a departure, but a welcome one. As expected, the characters are well-developed and feel like friends by the end (at least, some of them do!). One of the things I love about French’s books is the weird twist somewhere in the story, and it’s here for sure.

French carefully develops a sensitive and somewhat endearing relationship here between Cal and Trey, juxtaposed against Cal’s relationship with his own child, now an adult. The tough, Chicago cop finds himself in a situation where all his cop training is put to use, but this time within the fragile world of Trey Reddy where he really cares about the outcome on Trey’s behalf.

French also nails the small-town-closes-ranks trope but writes the “bad guys” in a way that is matter-of-fact but also a bit…sentimental. Think Clint Eastwood saying “Get off my lawn!” then beating the crap out of a bunch of punks.

Tana French is, in my opinion, one of the best crime fiction novelists writing today. Fans will enjoy this one, but it will appeal to new readers as well.

Publication Date: November 2, 2021
Published By: Penguin Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Maid by Nita Prose


Description

A charmingly eccentric hotel maid discovers a guest murdered in his bed. Solving the mystery will turn her once orderly world upside down in this utterly original debut.

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.

“Smart, riveting, and deliciously refreshing . . . a murder mystery with tremendous heart.”—Lisa Jewell, #1 New York Timesbestselling author of The Family Upstairs

My Thoughts

If you love well-crafted mysteries with a surprising end, this is your book for January. The character of Molly the Maid is one of the most original and endearing characters I’ve come across, and the cast of characters here is remarkable.

This isn’t just a mystery. It is a sensitive and heartwarming treatment of what it means to be different and how those things that make a person “different” also make them exceptionally human. The peek into the inner life of someone who interacts with the world differently than other people, someone who is considered “weird,” is handled with such compassion and matter-of-factness that the reader feels what it’s like to be Molly and comes away knowing that “weird” isn’t “bad.”

The surprise ending is a bit jarring but I think it could generate some great discussion among book clubs regarding Molly’s aversion to liars and cheaters expressed early in the book and how the story ends.

Nita Prose is an author to watch. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: January 4, 2022
Published By: Random House – Ballantine
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy