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.
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.
I’m a huge fan of Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series, but in every series, there are always one or two books that have a bit more sparkle than the rest. For me, it’s this book, which combines all of Raybourn’s many gifts into one completely delicious package. In book seven of this series, lepidopterist Veronica has settled in with her beloved Stoker, in an extremely unconventional arrangement for the time (Victorian Britain): they live in sin, and Veronica is very much a working woman.
Nobody does a great set-up for a thriller like David Bell, which is not to say he’s shabby at the execution either. His latest, Kill All Your Darlings, is no exception, starting with an irresistible premise — English professor Connor Nye is on the wrong side of publish or perish when a great novel lands in his lap. It was written by one of his students who turned it in as her thesis and then promptly disappeared. He polishes it up and publishes it under his own name. Unfortunately, it contains details about an unsolved murder that only the murderer would know. And then the student shows up in disguise at one of his readings.
I’m delighted to reveal the cover of Jennifer Hawkins’ Murder Always Barks Twice, the second installment in her chatty corgi series, coming out August 3rd. Jennifer lives and writes in Michigan, and as Delia James, writes the Magical Cat mysteries. Find her on twitter @JenHawkinsAuth1. She has a newsletter for events, updates, releases and all kind of book recommendations from very cool people here.
Jennifer says: Thanks to Aunt Agatha’s for helping me share my new cover! I love this one so much – it’s got everything. The house in the background is exactly how I pictured Truscott Grange where the mystery takes place, and we’ve got an adorable rendition of Oliver the Chatty Corgi himself. Plus, all the cake!
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.
Simone St. James is one of the best of all modern gothic novelists, and importantly, the ghosts in her books are real, they’re not actually mysterious human strangers hanging around in vacant buildings for nefarious reasons. She combines her ghost stories with cracking good mysteries, an irresistible combination, and unlike practically any other mystery novelist, the characters are pretty much exclusively female. There are a few male characters for sure, but they are more on the window dressing side of things. It’s the ladies that carry the narrative.
Every time I finish a Lady Georgie book by Rhys Bowen I think to myself, well, there’s no way she can write another book that’s so insanely enjoyable. But every time…she does write one that’s just as positively crazily enjoyable as the one before. She has the gift of narrative in spades, but she also has a light hand with it. Each time, she puts her characters in a fresh situation, and this is book 13 in a series. In the last book (Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding) Georgie and Darcy were married at last. So what comes next? A honeymoon, naturally.