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

Death at Greenway by Lori Rader-Day


Description

“Irresistible… a Golden Age homage, an elegantly constructed mystery that on every page reinforces the message that everyone counts.” –New York Times Book Review

From the award-winning author of The Day I Died and The Lucky One, a captivating suspense novel about nurses during World War II who come to Agatha Christie’s holiday estate to care for evacuated children, but when a body is discovered nearby, the idyllic setting becomes host to a deadly mystery.

Bridey Kelly has come to Greenway House—the beloved holiday home of Agatha Christie—in disgrace. A terrible mistake at St. Prisca’s Hospital in London has led to her dismissal as a nurse trainee, and her only chance for redemption is a position in the countryside caring for children evacuated to safety from the Blitz.

Greenway is a beautiful home full of riddles: wondrous curios not to be touched, restrictions on rooms not to be entered, and a generous library, filled with books about murder. The biggest mystery might be the other nurse, Gigi, who is like no one Bridey has ever met. Chasing ten young children through the winding paths of the estate grounds might have soothed Bridey’s anxieties and grief—if Greenway were not situated so near the English Channel and the rising aggressions of the war.

When a body washes ashore near the estate, Bridey is horrified to realize this is not a victim of war, but of a brutal killing. As the local villagers look among themselves, Bridey and Gigi discover they each harbor dangerous secrets about what has led them to Greenway. With a mystery writer’s home as their unsettling backdrop, the young women must unravel the truth before their safe haven becomes a place of death . . .

My Thoughts

There have been a slew of mysteries published in last few years that feature Agatha Christie as a character in a real-life mystery. I’m beginning to think the trope is played out.

Here we have the story of two “nurses” engaged to care for ‘vacs – children evacuated from London during World War II. In this case, the children and their minders are sent to Greenway, the home of Max and Agatha Mallowan (Christie).

We know from the start that one of the “Bridget Kelly’s” is pretending to be a nurse, but hey, why not make the other Bridget Kelly also a faker? And let’s not make either one of them sympathetic. So begins one of the oddest stories I’ve read in a long time. I found the whole thing kind of muddled. General reviews have been good, so I may have to go back and re-read this one in a few months to see what I missed.

Publication Date: October 12, 2021
Published By: William Morrow
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Chapter and Curse by Elizabeth Penney


Description

In Elizabeth Penney’s Chapter and Curse, Molly Kimball is used to cracking open books . . . but when a poetry reading ends in murder she must use her skills to crack the case.

“With its bucolic British setting, engaging heroine, and unsolved murder dating back decades, Elizabeth Penney has penned the perfect cozy.”–Ellen Byron, USA Today Bestselling Author

Librarian Molly Kimball and her mother, Nina, need a change. So when a letter arrives from Nina’s Aunt Violet in Cambridge, England requesting their help running the family bookshop, they jump at the chance.

Thomas Marlowe—Manuscripts and Folios, is one of the oldest bookshops in Cambridge, and—unfortunately—customers can tell. When Molly and Nina arrive, spring has come to Cambridge and the famed Cambridge Literary Festival is underway. Determined to bring much-needed revenue to the bookstore, Molly invites Aunt Violet’s college classmate and famed poet Persephone Brightwell to hold a poetry reading in the shop. But the event ends in disaster when a guest is found dead—with Molly’s great-aunt’s knitting needle used as the murder weapon. While trying to clear Violet and keep the struggling shop afloat, Molly sifts through secrets past and present, untangling a web of blackmail, deceit, and murder.

Review

One of my favorite cozy mystery series is the Scottish Bookshop series by Paige Shelton, and I was reminded a great deal of that as I read this new series debut. While somewhat similar in basic structure (American girl working in UK book shop), the setting here is Cambridge England and the shop the 400 year old Thomas Marlowe Books. Our heroines are a trio of family members – Aunt, Mother, and Daughter – who all are finely written cozy characters.

The writing here is the thing – Elizabeth Penney has delivered a decent plot, supported by interesting and appealing characters, and communicated through skillful description and dialog. It’s not often you find all three of these boxes ticked in cozy mysteries. There’s a great balance of serious mystery and typical cozy silliness, making this a pleasant afternoon read.

This is a fun, quick read that is perfect for a lazy fall afternoon spent lounging somewhere with a nice cup of tea at your elbow. I look forward to more from this author.

Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Published By: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling


Description

Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town.

Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him. By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to.

Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Caitlin Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished.

My Thoughts

Whoa, I did NOT expect this book to be what it is. I was expecting a 21st century version of the gothic horror/romance. What I found was this weird and terrifying blend of Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, and even a little of Castle of Otranto thrown in for good measure. Still not quite sure how I feel about it.

The characters of Jane and Augustine are well-developed, a task that becomes increasingly difficult and hard to follow as they descend into madness or whatever state the author intended at the end. Jane especially goes from confident, determined, buttoned-up partner (not wife initially) as she negotiates her future, to her highly emotional state at the end. (Not really a spoiler because the ending is just HOLY HELL!)

The text is somewhat dense, but not weighed down by the flowery descriptive conventions of 18th and 19th century gothics which can truly dull the senses until – WHAM – the author hits you with a scene that makes your hair stand on end. Starling follows that path, but her writing is far more accessible.

Fans of gothic horror will enjoy this.

Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery

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The Memory Bell
by Kat Flannery
September 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Grace Penner’s safe haven crumbles when a body is found outside of town.

Gifted the memory bell, a family heirloom, from her grandfather’s will, Grace’s excitement is soon squashed when the bell gets broken right after she receives it. While gluing the pieces back in place, she discovers three are still missing.

Determined to find them, she is halted when the new detective, Bennet James, investigates her family. Grace is intent on showing the detective her family isn’t capable of murder, but as the investigation deepens, and pieces of the bell show up with ominous notes, Grace soon realizes the Penners are not what they seem. Amidst the tightly knit family; dark secrets, deception, and possibly even murder unfold.

Will Grace be able to save the family she loves more than anything without losing herself forever?

My Thoughts

About a chapter into this book I started getting strong Jodi Picoult vibes. Kat Flannery is skilled at creating flawed but strong characters living complicated lives. Here, a murder starts to slowly peel back years of lies, cruelty, and deception as terrible things are revealed.

I found Grace a bit inconsistent – sometimes a strong, capable women and other times not so much…but isn’t that all of us? Her budding relationship with detective Bennet James was predictable but sweet, adding a bit of romance to an otherwise messy murder story.

Overall, this is a well-plotted and well-written mystery that will appeal to fans of Picoult and Liane Moriarty.

Praise for The Memory Bell:

“A naïve small-town girl and a disillusioned big-city cop, drawn together by an unsolved crime that is itself only the tip of the iceberg, The Memory Bell serves up the perfect steamy summer read.”
–Jenny Jaeckel, author of House of Rougeaux

“The story moves beyond a small town whodunit to probe the underlying bonds of history that connect a family.”
-Midwest Book Review

“Wonderful, engaging, and fast-paced! Flannery knows what she’s doing!”
-Jonas Saul, author of the Sarah Roberts series

Author Bio:

Kat Flannery’s love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. A member of many writing Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. When she’s not busy writing, or marketing Kat volunteers her time to other aspiring authors. She has been a keynote speaker, lecturer and guest author inspiring readers and writers at every event she attends. Kat’s been published in numerous periodicals throughout her career, and continues to write for blogs and online magazines. A bestselling author, Kat’s books are available all over the world. The BRANDED TRILOGY is Kat’s award-winning series. With seven books published, Kat continues to plot what story will be next. Creativity is in all aspects of Kat’s career. She does Social Media and Marketing for her own career and businesses, writing ads, and other content.

Catch Up With Kat Flannery:
www.KatFlannery.com/Books-1
Goodreads
BookBub – @KatFlannery
Instagram – @katflannery_
Twitter – @KatFlannery1
Facebook – @kat.flannery.5

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

Click here to view The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery Tour Hosts

A Dead Man’s Eyes by Lori Duffy Foster

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Description

Lisa Jamison has done well for a single mom who got pregnant at fifteen. She’s a reporter at a well-respected newspaper and her teenage daughter is both an athlete and honors student. Though their relationship is rocky these days, Lisa has accomplished what she set out to do. She has given her daughter the kind of life she never had.

But all that changes when Lisa sees her daughter in the eyes of a dead man.

The cops call it a drug killing, but Lisa doesn’t believe it. She knows her ex-boyfriend was no drug dealer even though she hadn’t seen him in sixteen years. Lisa ignores warnings from her medical-examiner friend. She fails to heed barely veiled threats from the sheriff of a neighboring county. Instead, she risks her life and the lives of her daughter and their closest friend on a dangerous quest for answers.

The investigation leaves Lisa fighting for her family in a morbid, black market world she never knew existed. She learns that trust is complicated and that she, despite her cynical nature, has been blind. She trusted the wrong people and now she might have to pay with her life.

Review

Lori Duffy Foster’s real-life experience as a crime reporter shines through in this gripping debut. She paints a gritty, vivid picture of a family that has had its share of sorrow and is now drawn into an even more horrifying world of crime when one man tries to do the right thing. From the opening scene in an autopsy room to final fight-for-your-life, Foster keeps the reader turning page.

Since this is billed as “A Lisa Jamison Mystery” I am assuming it will be the first in a series, and I predict it will be one that many readers will welcome and enjoy. Lisa is the quintessential tough girl with a soft touch, committed fully to raising her daughter on her own, but also very willing to step in and stand up for what’s right.

Duffy Foster is a skilled writer, delivering witty and sharp dialog, decent character development (I really want to know more about Lisa and her family), and good descriptive prose. Fans of Kathy Reichs, Janet Evanovich, and Lisa Scottoline will enjoy this new mystery series.

Publication Date: April 13, 2021
Published by: Level Best Books
Thanks to the author for a review copy

Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge


Description

The first in an exciting new historical mystery series set in the home of Agatha Christie!

Colleen Cambridge’s charming and inventive new historical series introduces an unforgettable heroine in Phyllida Bright, fictional housekeeper for none other than famed mystery novelist Agatha Christie. When a dead body is found during a house party at the home of Agatha Christie and her husband Max Mallowan, it’s up to famous author’s head of household, Phyllida Bright, to investigate.

Tucked away among Devon’s rolling green hills, Mallowan Hall combines the best of English tradition with the modern conveniences of 1930. Housekeeper Phyllida Bright, as efficient as she is personable, manages the large household with an iron fist in her very elegant glove. In one respect, however, Mallowan Hall stands far apart from other picturesque country houses. It has a body in the library.

A former Army nurse, Phyllida reacts with practical common sense–and a great deal of curiosity. It soon becomes clear that the victim arrived at Mallowan Hall under false pretenses during a weekend party. Now, Phyllida not only has a houseful of demanding guests on her hands–along with a distracted, anxious staff–but hordes of reporters camping outside. When another dead body is discovered–this time, one of her housemaids–Phyllida decides to follow in M. Poirot’s footsteps to determine which of the Mallowans’ guests is the killer. With help from the village’s handsome physician, Dr. Bhatt, Mr. Dobble, the butler, along with other household staff, Phyllida assembles the clues. Yet, she is all too aware that the killer must still be close at hand and poised to strike again. And only Phyllida’s wits will prevent her own story from coming to an abrupt end.

Review

A body. In the library. At the home of Agatha Christie? What a way to start a new mystery series!

Colleen Cambridge joins the ranks of authors reimagining the roles of authors, family members, and sidekicks of famous detectives and introduces us to Phyllida Bright, housekeeper to Agatha and Max Mallowan. Mrs. Bright is every bit as smooth and clever as Marple & Poirot, although with a definite penchant for the Belgian detective. She and Mrs. Mallowan make a formidable team as they work to untangle the mystery surrounding the murder of the mysterious man in the library.

Cambridge includes other wonderful characters among the household staff who I hope will be fleshed out more in future books, especially the cook, butler, and chauffeur. She uses the English house party trope to great effect here, with the murder and investigation occurring over the course of the weekend, and the perpetrator revealed in a classic gather-them-all-together-and-reveal-the-murderer ending.

I anticipate great success for this series and predict that Phyllida Bright will soon be on the level with Mary Russell and Enola Holmes!

Recommended!

Publication Date: October 26, 2021
Published By: Kensington Books
Thanks to the Publisher and Netgalley for the review copies

In the Crypt with a Candlestick: a Mystery by Daisy Waugh


Description

A wonderfully comedic mystery full of sharp drama, sly wit—and a smidgeon of murder—in the vein P. G. Wodehouse, Julian Fellowes, and Agatha Christie.

Sir Ecgbert Tode of Tode Hall has survived to a grand old age—much to the despair of his younger wife, Emma. But at age ninety-three he has, at last, shuffled off the mortal coil.

Lady Emma Tode, thoroughly fed up with being a dutiful Lady of the Manor, wants to leave the country to spend her remaining years in Capri. Unfortunately her three tiresome children are either unwilling or unable (too mad, too lefty or too happy in Australia) to take on management of their large and important home, so the mantle passes to a distant relative and his glamorous wife.

Not long after the new owners take over, Lady Tode is found dead in the mausoleum. Accident? Or is there more going on behind the scenes of Tode Hall than an outsider would ever guess?

In the traditions of two great but very different British authors, Agatha Christie and P. G. Wodehouse, Waugh’s hilarious and entirely original twist on the country house murder mystery comes complete with stiff upper lips, even stiffer drinks, and any stiffs that might embarrass the family getting smartly brushed under the carpet.

Review

Loved, loved, LOVED this madcap romp through the “most beautiful home in England!”

Cozy mysteries often take themselves a little too seriously, and here the author pokes fun at the English County House version of the genre.

The characters, especially India, are just pure fun, and the way the bad guy is caught had me alternately gasping and cackling.

Nicely done!

Published By: Pegasus Books
Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Thanks to Edelweiss.Plus for the review copy

Be My Ghost by Carol J. Perry


Description

Maureen Doherty and her golden retriever Finn have taken possession of a charming old inn—only to discover that it’s already possessed by tenants whose lease on life already ran out. Maureen’s career as a sportswear buyer hits a snag just before Halloween, when the department store declares bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Finn’s lost his way as a guide dog after flunking his test for being too friendly and easily distracted. Sadly, only one of them can earn unemployment, so Maureen’s facing a winter of discontent in Boston–when she realizes she can’t afford her apartment.

Salvation comes when she receives a mysterious inheritance: an inn in Haven, Florida. A quaint, scenic town on the Gulf of Mexico hidden away from the theme parks, Maureen believes it’s a good place to make a fresh start with a new business venture. But she gets more than she bargained for when she finds a dead body on her property–and meets some of the inn’s everlasting tenants in the form of ghosts who offer their otherworldly talents in order to help her solve the mystery.

I discovered Carol Perry’s Witch City series last year and really enjoyed her style of writing. That style is carried over into this new series featuring a former department store buyer who suddenly finds herself the owner of a vintage inn located in Haven, Florida.

Witch City focuses on, you guessed it, witches. This new series is all about ghosts. The inn our heroine Maureen inherits is haunted you see, as is the entire town of Haven. Perry spins an engaging yarn involving ghost hunters, a pissed off inn manager, a mysterious bequest to our intrepid heroine, and at least one fun ghost haunting Maureen’s penthouse suite.

While this isn’t anything new in terms of cozy mysteries, Perry successfully begins building the foundation of what I hope will become a lengthy series featuring Maureen Doherty, her golden retriever Finn, and a host of quirky, colorful characters inhabiting the picturesque town of Haven, Florida. Some cozies are super ridiculous with just about every genre cliche thrown in for good measure; others take themselves too seriously, resulting in a boring story. Be My Ghost is just right – great characters, great writing, great setting. A winner all the way.

Publication Date: August 31, 2021
Published By: Kensington
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy