Robert B. Parker’s Spenser celebrates 50 years in 2023, with the 50th birthday book being The Godwulf Manuscript. Our book club wanted to read a classic this month, and chose Parker over Tey, Sayers, P.D. James and Ross MacDonald (Josephine Tey’s The Franchise Affair was a close second). Is Spenser a “classic”? At 50 years on, it’s time to evaluate. The first review from Kirkus in 1973 said “The publishers make the comparison to Philip Marlowe (author-professor Parker did a dissertation on Chandler-Hammett) but it won’t serve him well — there’s some of the toughness and the terseness but the hat’s much too big for him and it hasn’t got the right slouch.” Agree? Disagree? Join us in person on Sunday, November 13 at 2 p.m. or on zoom on Wednesday, November 16 at 7 p.m. to join the fray. See how Parker laid out his series with this first novel, and how he set a pattern followed by many, many others, from Harlan Coben to Robert Crais to Dennis Lehane…
The annual return of Lady Emily – wherever she may journey – is always something to celebrate. In this outing, Tasha Alexander’s 16th, Lady Emily and the dashing Colin have chosen to accompany Colin’s mother on a trip down the Nile. The host, Lord Deeley, is an admirer of Lady Hargreaves, Colin’s mother, as well as an old friend, and joining the expedition is Colin’s daughter Kat. Emily has a slightly prickly relationship with both women, one she tries very hard to set right.
Murder at the Serpentine Bridge is the sixth installment in Andrea Penrose’s Wrexford and Sloane Regency mystery series. As the book opens, in 1814, the two protagonists, the Earl of Wrexford and Lady Charlotte Sloane, are a newly married couple, and Charlotte is trying to get used to life as a countess, while inwardly rebelling against the restrictions of Regency high society.
Wrexford is a man of science, a brilliant chemist, who relies on logic and deductive reasoning to solve crimes. Charlotte is a satirical cartoonist who uses the pseudonym A.J. Quill. She had eloped with her drawing teacher when she was very young, and scandalized her family. Now that her first husband is dead and she is married to Wrexford, she is finally accepted back into polite society. In contrast to Wrexford, she uses her intuition and artist’s eye to solve murders. The two complement each other very well. At first I wondered if the series would not be as compelling now that the two of them are married, but I am happy to say I was wrong. Wrexford and Charlotte make a great couple, and the witty dialogue which was a strength of the earlier novels is still there.
Join us for our October book club – in person on Sunday, October 23 at 2 p.m., and on zoom on Wednesday, October 26 at 7 p.m. when we’ll discuss Elle Cosimano’s Finlay Donovan is Killing It. Message us at store (at) auntagathas.com for a zoom link or information on the in person gathering, or contact us via facebook or twitter.
Publisher’s description: Finlay Donovan is killing it…except, she’s really not. A stressed-out single mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: The new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written; her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her; and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an incident with scissors.
In her Maggie Hope series, Susan MacNeal has seemed to be more and more interested in the US side of the outbreak of WWII (see The Hollywood Spy, 2021). In this novel, a standalone, she pursues that interest, creating a terrifying account of Nazism in America in 1940. Her central characters, mother and daughter Vi and Veronica, kick off the action with Veronica’s graduation from Hunter College in New York. Veronica is looking forward to an internship at Mademoiselle magazine, but thanks to an unfortunate turn of events the internship is rescinded. She and her mother, along with her Pasadena based Uncle Walter (in town for her graduation from Hunter) make plans to move to California. Uncle Walter is willing to let the women live in his beach house.
Amanda Flower’s charming historical mystery is set in the household of Emily Dickinson and her family around 1855. The main character is not Emily herself (though she is a strong second) but the new maid in the Dickinson household, Willa Noble. One of the more fascinating aspects of this novel is Flower’s simple ability to put the reader into a different mindset. Willa, who has always been poor, is grateful for the work and for a roof over her head. Her simple expectations are so different from the highly enlarged expectations of the early 21st century.
This book is an absolute blast. Hilarious, well plotted, exciting, packed with interesting characters, it is definitely the most fun I’ve had reading a book all year. As I have read a few books lately with detectives who are on the older side, I thought I knew what to expect, but I was so, so wrong. Raybourn’s “Killers” are 60 something female assassins who are on a retirement cruise. They are a little puzzled by the cruise but are determined to enjoy each other’s company, the food, and the booze. Their collective bad-assery is a far remove from Jane Marple’s.
I came late to the Vera Stanhope party, but I am a complete convert. Whenever she says “Not to worry, pet,” she reminds me so much of my beloved Columbo and his “Just one more thing.” In this outing, Ann Cleeves does something else she excels at: setting. This book is set on the remote British island of Lindisfarne, or “Holy Island,” a place not actually an island, but one that becomes an island thanks to rising and falling tides. That particular detail could not have a more beloved place in the mystery genre, and Ann Cleeves, the ace of setting, does it better than anyone else.
Despite the title of Karin Slaughter’s latest work, Girl, Forgotten, it’s pretty clear that Emily Vaughn’s idyllic little hometown has never truly forgotten her. Told half in the present, where the case has been reopened by newly minted US Marshal Andrea Oliver, and half in the past, where Emily lives out the days before her own murder, her voice isn’t silenced for long. That can make the horrific things she endured – rape by someone who knew she was drugged, ostracization by former friends, loss of her future, and unexpected pregnancy – difficult to bear. It is clear throughout that Emily was a sweet, good person who intended to make the most of her situation moving forward. Unfortunately, she never gets the chance to do so.
Sometimes all it takes is a small change in point of view to make a huge difference. Vanessa Riley’s lively historical mystery set in 1806 London sets itself apart from the several other Regency historicals out there at the moment, simply by creating a black main character. At the time the black population in London numbered up to 20,000, out of a population of about one million. They were referred to as Blackamoors and included Africans and East and West Indians. (Riley’s notes at the back of the book are invaluable.)