Karen Odden: A Trace of Deceit

A Trace of Deceit is the third Victorian mystery by Karen Odden, who has taught at the University of Michigan.  It is a suspenseful, compelling novel set in London’s art world in 1875.  The protagonist, a talented young painter named Annabel Rowe, is one of the few female students at the Slade School of Art, one of the only art schools to admit women at the time.  When she goes to visit her brother Edwin, she finds the police in his rooms, searching through his belongings.  Of course, Edwin has been murdered, and Annabel, while shocked, is not wholly surprised.  Edwin, a brilliant young artist, has led a dissolute life of gambling and drug use, and had recently been released from prison, where he spent time for forgery.  Annabel and Edwin were close as children, but had grown apart after Edwin left for boarding school, and he had hoped to rebuild his relationship with her.  Annabel wants to believe Edwin had reformed, but she is not always so sure, and she blames him for their parents’ deaths, because they died of a fever they supposedly caught from Edwin after one of his visits to an opium den. read more

Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig & Karen White: All the Ways We Said Goodbye

Williams, Willig and White, three bestselling authoresses who write historical adventures, romances and mysteries, have teamed up for the third time to write a wonderfully rich novel with a through line of the Paris Ritz.  Being a hotel brat myself, I enjoyed this method of tying the novel together.  It has three separate storylines, each focused on a different woman – one in 1914, one in 1942, and one in 1964.  In the two earlier storylines, there’s a woman who lives in a suite at the Ritz. She’s the first character’s mother and the second character’s grandmother.  The tie the third woman has to the first two is more tenuous and is one of the mysterious threads of the novel. read more

Jess Montgomery: The Hollows

The second novel in Jess Montgomery’s remarkable series set in a 1920’s Ohio mining town is every bit as memorable and vivid as the first, The Widows, which was far and away one of the best books of 2019.  Montgomery brings to life the story of the first female sheriff, Lily Ross, in tiny Kinship, Ohio.  While the first novel concerned itself with the politics of mining, this novel is more of a straight mystery, which veers into the unfortunate territory of racism and because of the time period, an ever present and ingrained sexism. This is naturally a hindrance at times to Lily’s carrying out her duties. read more

Tasha Alexander: In the Shadow of Vesuvius

This novel is available January 7, 2020.  You can pre-order it on this website.

There’s always a moment in a Tasha Alexander book where I give a little yip of joy.  Be it a ghost ballerina or a lovingly described Worth dress (there’s a beauty in this book), in this outing, it was the body hidden in plain sight amongst all the others in Pompeii.  When a fresher corpse is noticed by Lady Emily and her husband as having the wrong sideburns and the discovery was made, I could not have been happier. read more

Darcie Wilde: And Dangerous to Know

This review comes to us courtesy of long time Aunt Agatha’s book club member and friend, Vicki Kondelik.  This novel will be published on December 31, 2019 and is available for pre-order.

And Dangerous to Know is the third in a series by Darcie Wilde (a pseudonym for Sarah Zettel) set in Regency England and featuring Rosalind Thorne, a gentlewoman living in reduced circumstances after her father abandoned his family because he was heavily in debt.  I have not read the previous two, but this book made me want to go back and read them.  It stands on its own very well, and I was able to gather all the information I needed about Rosalind’s background. read more

Allison Montclair: The Right Sort of Man

This is one of the most intelligent and funny first novels I’ve read in a long while.  Set in immediate post WW II London – any fan of Call the Midwife will be familiar with the setting – it’s a period of time still governed by rationing and coupons, and people who have suffered some war trauma, be it loss, living through the Blitz, or actually fighting in the war.

Our two central characters are Iris Sparks and Gwen Bainbridge.  Iris has a secret history of resistance fighting and espionage, none of which she can talk about; Gwen, an almost titled member of the upper classes, has lost her husband and is raising her son at her mother-in-law’s after a stint in a mental asylum.  She refuses to talk about it. read more

Author Interview: L.A. Chandlar

L.A. Chandlar is the national best-selling author of the Art Deco Mystery Series: The Silver Gun (2017), The Gold Pawn (2018), and The Pearl Dagger (2019). She also wrote the nonfiction book, Brass: Fight to Keep Creativity Alive (2015). She grew up in Michigan.  Fans of the Phyrne Fisher books or Rhys Bowen’s Lady Georgie books would enjoy these reads.

Carin Michaels, a freelance journalist and playwright, interviewed L.A Chandlar during her book tour stop in Ann Arbor.

Michaels: I met you on May 18, 2019 at an interactive workshop that you held for writers called Keep Creativity Alive at a Michigan Sisters in Crime conference. This local chapter of writers is great because it promotes professional development of women crime writers. read more

D.M. Pulley: No One’s Home

Meet D.M. Pulley at the downtown library on Saturday, October 19 at 2 p.m.

This is an honest to god ghost story, inspired by Shirley Jackson’s classic The Haunting of Hill House.  It’s guaranteed to give you the shivers.  Threading together the stories of several – very tragic –families who have shared the same house from 1922 to the present, the connections move into sharper focus as the book unfolds.

The story opens with the Spielman family, who are making a move from Boston to the wealthy Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, where they are amazed by the amount of house they can get for their money.  While Rawlingswood seems impressive, it’s also a graffiti covered wreck, with stripped pipes and broken windows.  The graffiti is more than disturbing, calling the house a “murder house” and referencing dead girls. As Myron and Margot check the place out, Myron gets more and more excited, and Margot, more and more worried.  Despite her objections they buy the house and begin to renovate it immediately, where all kinds of things go wrong, spooking the contractors, who eventually refuse to go up into the attic at all. read more

Charles Fergus: A Stranger Here Below

Review by Nancy Shaw

Gideon Stoltz has come to Adamant, Pennsylvania, in the 1830s from his family’s farm in Pennsylvania Dutch country. A run-in with brigands has led him to the sheriff of fictional Colerain County, an area of deep hollows, heavily-forested hills, small farms, and a prosperous ironworks. He becomes the sheriff’s assistant, despite being out of his element. The local Scotch-Irish deride his Pennsylfawnisch Deitsch speech and habits. When he marries, he endures his in-laws’ teasing. He adores his wife and son, but feels he is a stranger. The historical mystery A Stranger Here Below is the first of a planned series about this sympathetic protagonist. read more

Book Club: City of Ink

Our September book club will meet Thursday, September 19, 6 p.m at the Classic Cup Cafe.  We’ll be reading Elsa Hart’s City of Ink.  It’s available on our store page at a discount. The publisher’s description:

Following the 18th century Chinese mysteries Jade Dragon Mountain and White Mirror, comes the next Li Du adventure in City of Ink.

Li Du was prepared to travel anywhere in the world except for one place: home. But to unravel the mystery that surrounds his mentor’s execution, that’s exactly where he must go. read more