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

Ellen Hart: Twisted at the Root

The 26th novel in the Jane Lawless series is as good, as crisp, as memorable, as the first in the series. Jane, the calm center of every storm in her life, agrees to investigate a closed case (the alleged perpetrator is in prison) when her father, lawyer Raymond Lawless, asks. The case involves the murder of one partner by another – the partner was an obvious choice as the killer and was duly convicted. But.

Everyone Jane talks to – including her old friend, the flamboyant Cordelia – affirms the man’s goodness, and their disbelief that he could harm anyone. Many threads swirl around the case, which at first looked like a suicide. Ellen Hart, in her masterly way, uses these many threads to paint her complex portrait of a crime. read more

Ann Cleeves: The Long Call

Ann Cleeves wrapped up her stellar Shetland series and has turned her hand and eye to Devon, a British resort area where of course she finds out what’s lurking under the surface. She introduces the reader to detective Matthew Venn, who has a complex backstory that would seem to lend itself to further discovery in more books down the road.

Matthew is a bit OCD, reminding me slightly of Margaret Maron’s great creation, Sigrid Harald. He was raised by parents who were members of a Christian cult and when he renounced their faith he was banned from their lives. He’s married to the lively, artistic and sometimes messy Jonathan, who runs the local center for art and disabled adults. The odd combination of artistic pursuit and mental health and disabled adult care seems to work well and the center is a lively place, important to many families in town. read more

Louise Penny: A Better Man

This is one of the more stripped down narratives Louise Penny has delivered.  Stripped down for Penny, that is.  The essential story is a simple one that drives her narrative, but being a complex writer and thinker, she’s made the simple complex.  There are two threads.  One concerns the disappearance of a woman who happens to be the goddaughter of a Surete officer.  Gamache, who has returned to work with a demotion (he’s head of homicide, not the entire Surete) accompanies the officer to the village where the woman lived. read more

Kylie Logan: The Scent of Murder

Kylie Logan, author of numerous cozies in paperback original form, has hit the big time via a Minotaur hardcover with her latest book, The Scent of Murder.  Jazz is a school administrator who also works with cadaver dogs.  As the book opens, she’s taking her dog through his paces in an abandoned building, hoping he’ll find the tooth she hid on another floor.

As she steps back to let the dog work, the dog alerts in the “wrong” place – or is it?  When Jazz investigates, she find, so her horror, the body of a young woman, and worse, she’s a former student at the high school where Jazz works.  While Jazz had known her as a studious and creative young woman, the corpse is full goth – white makeup, black eyeshadow, black clothes, tats, piercings.  She’s puzzled about how this has happened in the few short years since the girl graduated from high school. read more

Susanna Calkins: Murder Knocks Twice

Susanna Calkins had a wonderful series set in 17th century England, featuring maid turned bookseller Lucy Campion.  Those were slightly more serious in tone than this delightful new series launch from this talented writer.  Murder Knocks Twice is set in prohibition era Chicago, with all the attendant issues of the mob, the past war, and the depression coming into play.  Series heroine Gina Ricci is out of work and finds a job at a speakeasy through a friend.

She’s a little unsure about working there – she’s worried about what her father will think, for one thing – and for another, she’s replacing a girl who was killed and that makes her slightly wary. Calkins has a brisk story telling style, and she quickly establishes her setting and a wide array of characters.  She’s very good at delineating characters and making them memorable; I was never unsure or trying to remember who she was talking about, and to me, that’s the mark of a very good writer. read more

Mariah Fredericks: Death of a New American

I was knocked out by Mariah Frederick’s first novel, A Death of No Importance, and wasn’t sure how her book about a maid in a wealthy American household slightly after the turn of the century could be translated into a series, but it seems it surely can be. Jane Prescott, a woman of her time in some ways, is grieving over the recent loss of the Titanic like everyone else, but unlike everyone else, she’s shepherding her charge, Miss Louise Benchley, through the trials and tribulations of a giant society wedding. read more