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

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

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