July & August Book Clubs

In July, we’ll meet on Sunday, July 23 at 2 p.m. in person, and on Wednesday, July 27 at 7 p.m. on zoom to discuss The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths.  Here’s a plot summary from the publisher: The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should not be suspicious. Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing out of the ordinary when Peggy’s caretaker, Natalka, begins to recount Peggy Smith’s passing.

But Natalka had a reason to be at the police station: while clearing out Peggy’s flat, she noticed an unusual number of crime novels, all dedicated to Peggy. And each psychological thriller included a mysterious postscript: PS: for PS. When a gunman breaks into the flat to steal a book and its author is found dead shortly thereafter—Detective Kaur begins to think that perhaps there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all. read more

Elly Griffiths: The Locked Room

I have devoured every word of the Ruth Galloway series, and each time I pick one up, I am reminded again what wonderful, pure reads these books are.  From the second you crack open the first page to the moment you close the cover at the end, Griffiths as a storyteller holds her reader completely in her grasp.  Under her spell.  Bewitched. This book is no different, though it was, to me, a bit more intense and a bit more grim as she confronts covid front and center.

It is historically significant to have lived through a pandemic – and we seem to be emerging from it at last – but as you live through something historically significant, you have no actual perspective.  A start to gaining some perspective is to read a thoughtful examination of just what happened, which Griffiths provides her reader. As the book opens, Ruth is teaching an archeology class and she gets a call that there’s body on a construction site.  She takes the class along as a learning experience, event letting the students bag up the bones for transportation at the end.  The students are curious to discover if the body comes from a plague pit, a foreshadowing of what’s to come. read more

Dianne Freeman: A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder

I knew from Dianne Freeman’s first book that this was a special series, and the subsequent books have done absolutely nothing to change my initial opinion.  In this installment, she manages to carry off the wedding of the main character without destroying the interest and tension in the novel.  I can think of other series where a wedding can prove to be a disaster for the characters and only one other historical series, Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily books, where that was not the case.  So, bravo to Ms. Freeman right off the bat, before I even got to the heart of the book (the wedding happens at the very beginning). read more

Sarah Stewart Taylor: The Drowning Sea

The third novel in Sarah Stewart Taylor’s Maggie D’Arcy series finds Maggie at a crossroads.  Formerly a Long Island cop, she’s now unemployed, and in Ireland with her daughter, on holiday with her boyfriend, Connor and his son. The first novel was Maggie’s journey backwards: she looked for the killer of her cousin, who had disappeared in Ireland twenty years before.  The second novel finds her investigating a crime that begins on a Long Island beach but has roots in Ireland.  This third novel finds her firmly in Ireland, planning to move there, and deciding what she should do as far as a new career.  As the book makes obvious, she very much misses police work and hates being on the outside looking in (this is a clue to her eventual decision, but it’s hardly a spoiler). read more

Sulari Gentill: The Woman in the Library

This odd, endearing and weirdly tricky book is a meta meditation on the traditional detective story.  Playing off of Agatha Christie’s The Body in the Library, author Sulari Gentill yanks this classic into the present.  In Christie’s Body the corpse of an apparently unknown young woman appears in the library of a private home.  In Gentill’s update, four young people are sitting near each other in the Boston Public library.  The main character, Freddie (or Winifred), a mystery writer, is working on a new book and she’s observed the others sitting near her, giving them nicknames as she slots them into a possible book.  Freud girl, Heroic Chin and Handsome Man have all invaded her imagination, when their real iterations hear a blood-curdling scream. read more

Siena Sterling: Tell Us No Secrets

Set at a girl’s boarding school in 1970, Siena Sterling’s debut novel was immediately attractive to me, as a 1977 graduate of a girl’s boarding school myself.  There is no doubt Ms. Sterling attended boarding school as the details are pretty much spot on. Happily, I had a much better experience than the four girls in the novel, Abby, Zoey, Cassidy and Karen. Boarding school is a time of intense bonding – girls are there from the ages of 14 to 17 or 18 – and as that coincides with the surge of adolescence and self discovery, the friendships formed during that time of your life often prove to be the most indelible. read more

Catherine Lloyd: Miss Morton and The English House Party Murder

This charming first in a series has some kissing cousins – it bears a resemblance to Dianne Freeman’s Lady Harleigh series and to Darcie Wilde’s Rosalind Thorne books.  Set in the same time period, 1830’s Britain, this book has a vivid, fast paced story telling style that makes it difficult to put down.  Young Lady Caroline Morton has been disgraced by her father’s bankruptcy and suicide, so she’s left her aunt’s household and is – gasp – earning a wage as the companion of Mrs. Frogerton, a forthright, wealthy widow who is sending her daughter, Dorothy, out into the wilds of the London “season.” read more

Juliet Blackwell: The Paris Showroom

This is not a mystery, but an historical novel by the talented Juliet Blackwell, who has two cozy series to her credit as well as several novels.  This novel is set in a now very familiar time period: WWII.  Blackwell’s story takes place in occupied France, and she has a slightly different and original twist to her story.  The main characters are Capucine, a fan maker, and her estranged daughter, Mathilde.  The two live lives that haven’t intersected much, but this is not only the story of Mathilde’s growth from a callow, privileged young woman into something much more, but the story of Capucine, a true flapper in every way, who is now being held prisoner by the Nazis on the top floor of a Paris department store. read more

June Book Club: A Peculiar Combination

Our June book club will meet on Sunday, June 26, 2 p.m. at my home to discuss Ashley Weaver’s charming A Peculiar Combination.   The zoom group will meet on Wednesday, June 29, at 7 p.m.  Please message us at store (at) auntagathas.com for a zoom link or directions.

This first in a series for Ms. Weaver follow safecracker Electra McDonnell, who works with her Uncle Mick cracking safes during WWII.  Caught red handed, they are recruited by the government and the following story is a well written adventure story with a great twist on the WWII novel.  There are a lot of them out there, but this is a great one, and Electra is a wonderful character to build a series around. read more

A Story Told in Cover Art: Murder at the Vicarage

Agatha Christie’s first Miss Marple book, The Murder at the Vicarage, was published by Collins Crime Club in the UK in October of 1930. It’s one of my very favorite books – with its clever plot, humor, beautifully rendered characters and of course, the introduction in novel form of the subversive Miss Marple, it stands the test of time and has never been out of print.  For that reason, it’s fun to look at covers through the years.

The US first edition of Vicarage was published by Dodd, Mead and is what I would think of as a “prestige” cover, with its old English font and decorous arrangement of text.  There’s no art to speak of, no interpretation of the plot. read more