There are all kinds of cozies involving small businesses, but this is the first series I’ve read where the small business in question sells vintage aprons and other types of vintage linens – sheets, dishtowels, etc. As described by Penney, the shop sounds not only mouthwatering but fairly realistic. Iris and her Grammie, who brought her up, run the apron store in Blueberry Cove, Maine (maybe it’s near the more famous Cabot Cove?) and she’s surrounded with a great mix of friends and a great setting.
Every year, for many years now, I’ve set aside a day. If I’m lucky, and there are no distractions, it’s a whole delicious day devoted to Rhys Bowen. This year that day came August 4, when I cracked open the new Lady Georgie mystery, The Last Mrs. Summers, Rhys Bowen’s take on the classic Rebecca.
Georgie is a newlywed with her own house to run – Queenie making scones in the kitchen and starting (hardly any) fires – and life with Darcy to enjoy. Unfortunately, in the first chapter Darcy is off on assignment and when the lonely Georgie goes up to town her friends and even her grandfather are all busy. Dejected, she heads back home, only to run into her buddy Belinda, who has just inherited a place in Cornwall. She and Georgie decide to head to Cornwall to check it out together in quick order.
While Alex Pavesi’s concept in The Eighth Detective isn’t entirely new, it’s still entirely welcome and ingenious. John Dickson Carr, in his novel The Three Coffins (1935), presented a locked room mystery while at the same time breaking away to analyze and discuss the mechanics of detective fiction to his readers. Carr’s hero, Dr. Gideon Fell, takes on the job of explaining the different plot variations. Pavesi has taken it a step further even than the ingenious Carr, however.
Pavesi’s central character in the novel, Grant McCallister, lives a hermit’s life on a remote island. Twenty years ago, he’d written a book called The White Murders, published in the early 1940’s. The book in our hands is a series of short murder mystery stories, interspersed with McCallister’s mathematical analysis of the murder mystery. There are a certain number of required elements and within this structure – and, as mystery readers everywhere already know – there are endless variations.
Until recently, if you lived in a first world country, you will have become used to living a low risk life. Not one that is totally danger free, but one where you didn’t have an imminent sense of peril when you left your house, particularly in terms of your health. In fact, in recent decades for those of us lucky to lead a relatively privileged life, it’s easy to completely ignore our own mortality without very much effort. What we forgot is that that sense of security is a relatively recent development, and as the emergence of COVID-19 has proven, its one that can still be quickly swept away. We don’t have to look very far back in time to see an age when people lived and died amongst a host of deadly diseases and had to learn to accept the risk. Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë are shining examples of what can be achieved when life is limited by circumstance. So, what inspiration can we take from them as we navigate our way through this global pandemic?
Join our August book club discussion via zoom on Sunday, August 23 at 2 p.m. We’ll e discussing Lauren Wilkinson‘s Edgar nominated American Spy. All are welcome. Email store (at) auntagathas.com to receive a zoom invitation. Here’s a description of the book, via goodreads:
What if your sense of duty required you to betray the man you love? One woman struggles to choose between her honor and her heart in this enthralling espionage drama that deftly hops between New York and West Africa.
This is an excellent suspense novel, so excellent that I devoured it in a single day. It gives a reader plenty to think about – but that’s after you’ve careened through it’s pages. I absolutely could not stop reading.
Set in Michigan’s beautiful upper peninsula, the book alternates narratives between that of Rachel’s, in the present, and that of Jenny’s and Peter’s in the past. It’s not immediately clear how the two connect but when they do, you really can’t look away. Rachel is living in a mental hospital for killing her mother at age 11 and watching as her father then killed himself. She has no memory of these events.
Hank Phillippi Ryan was on the cutting edge of the new wave of what I think of as “fem jep” with a psychological edge. Other writers like Gillian Flynn and Sophie Hannah were also early, excellent adopters of this formula. I read many of these books – they’re a blast – but I got to thinking recently, what sets one apart from another? Almost all of them have an insanely clever hook, and Ryan is no exception to this particular trope.
But what really, really draws me into Hank Ryan’s books is her pure empathy for her characters. Maybe it’s her years of working as a reporter, listening and taking in other people’s stories, but however she comes by this quality in her writing, it’s an extraordinary one, and one that’s often missing from similar fem jep thrillers. It makes you completely invested in her characters and to me, also amps up the suspense, because if you truly care about the people you are reading about, bad things happening to them are that much worse.
This delightful series continues to enchant. The first book introduced the widowed Frances, Lady Harleigh, rich and on the loose in 1890’s London for the first time. By this third installment, she’s engaged, is busy with her daughter, Rose, and is supervising the wedding plans for her sister Lily, who is inconveniently pregnant.
Frances is nothing if not practical, and she and her fiancée George quickly arrange for Lily to be married from George’s family seat while George’s brother is abroad. The wedding party is smallish, but for a house party – and a pool of murder suspects – plenty big enough. Combining the classic British house party whodunnit with a lighter, funnier version of an historical cozy, Freeman is a deft hand with both narrative and character, and she keeps things percolating.
I loved the first book in this series, The Right Sort of Man, and I loved this installment every bit as much. Iris Sparks and Gwen Bainbridge own The Right Sort marriage bureau, operating in post war London, and while they are still working to match couples, they do seem to get caught up in a great deal of subterfuge. Which, for the lucky reader, is all to the good.
As Iris and Gwen are working away one day, their afternoon appointment turns out to be an envoy from the royal household, with the hope that Iris and Gwen can vet a possible marriage candidate for the young Princess Elizabeth. This of course is none other than Prince Philip, and as any devoted royal watcher knows, Philip’s backstory is almost like a novel. The talented Montclair takes this fact and runs with it.
This novel will be released on July 14.
It’s rare for a writer to sustain interest and excitement through a long series. Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway series, now twelve books strong, has had a few entries not quite as great as some of the very best ones, but this one is one of the best ones. There might be a couple reasons – one, Griffiths has now refreshed herself with a very different series (the Magic Men books). For another, she’s taken this book and skooched Ruth two years ahead in time from the last book and much has happened. It’s only unsettling for a moment – you’ll catch on – especially as all the changes are pretty briskly introduced in the first chapter.