Book Club: When No One is Watching

Join our book club on Sunday,  April 18 at 2 p.m. via zoom to discuss Alyssa Cole’s Edgar nominee, When No One is Watching.  All are welcome – message us on facebook or email us at store (at) auntagathas.com for a zoom invitation.  Here’s a precis of the novel:

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo. read more

SJ Bennett: The Windsor Knot

This book is adorable in the best possible way.  I usually hate it when real people are used as the detective, and in the case of this novel “the detective” is one of the most famous people on the planet, Queen Elizabeth II.  But SJ Bennett has real affection and reverence – in the nicest way – for her majesty and the actual detecting is mostly done by the Queen’s Assistant Private Secretary, Rozie Oshodi, a British Nigerian who shares the Queen’s affection for horses and would do anything for the “boss.” read more

Lauren Willig: Band of Sisters

This is a slightly different book for Lauren Willig, as it’s more straight up history than romance or mystery.  It’s about a group of women, Smith College alums, graduating right before WWI, who form a relief unit and head to France to help the victims of the war in the French countryside.  They set sail for Paris in the summer of 1917, with ideas of what Paris will be like wildly out of sync with wartime Paris.  One girl is planning to buy her trousseau.

The two central characters are Kate, a scholarship girl at Smith who has been working as a French tutor, and Emmie, a wealthy daughter of a politically active suffragette.  The two had been best friends at Smith – Emmie’s sweet goofiness balanced by Kate’s practicality.  Kate wears a pretty big chip on her shoulder, though, and it often gets in the way of the friendship.  When they arrive in Paris, everything is topsy turvy. read more

Faye Kellerman: The Lost Boys

I was a devout acolyte of Faye Kellerman’s early Decker and Lazarus books.  The Ritual Bath (1986) is, to me, one of the greatest first mysteries ever.  In it, Peter Decker, an LAPD detective, encounters the orthodox Jewish Rina Lazarus after a rape and murder at her neighborhood mikvah, or ritual bath.  Improbably, the two eventually get married and the series, now 26 books long, is a strong one.  The early books were marked by intensity of character discovery, intensity of violence, and Kellerman’s propulsive narrative skill. read more

Alice Henderson: A Solitude of Wolverines

This book will be published October 27, 2020.

If this book isn’t the birth of a long running series, I would be stunned.  A definite relative of Nevada Barr’s long running and beloved Anna Pidgeon series, Alice Henderson has created an adventure suspense mystery with a foundation in the natural world.  While Anna Pigeon is a parks ranger, Alex Carter is a biologist who studies endangered species in their dwindling habitats.  Like Anna, however, Alex is definitely a bad ass.

Proving her hand with action scenes, the book opens with Alex attending an event celebrating the saving of a natural habitat within a city.  Her discovery of over a hundred species of birds who called the area home has prompted the city of Boston to create a protected space, upsetting plans for a development project.  Alex is due to be interviewed by a TV reporter – during the interview the two women are shot at and while Alex escapes, she is traumatized by the incident. read more

Sophie Hannah: The Killings at Kingfisher Hill

Golden age detectives are the perfect characters to provide a continuation of a series.  Nero Wolfe, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot – all have such well established character traits, and yet do not especially develop or change  – that they can be taken by another writer and made fresh.  Sophie Hannah is obviously familiar with Poirot and obviously loves him, as every reader does, despite his quirks.

Hannah also manages the feat of showing, not telling, Poirot’s cleverness and intelligence as he unravels a tricky case.  Like the great queen of crime herself, Hannah’s unraveling is only tricky from a certain angle, from another (Poirot’s) it’s more straightforward.  The telling is all in the angles.  This is a feat of sheer storytelling power. read more

Susan Allott: The Silence

This is a very melancholy novel about people who live near each other, yet in isolation, thanks to a profound lack of communication.   It’s set in Australia in the late 60’s, with a portion in the late 90’s.  Two couples live side by side in a new neighborhood, right on the ocean.  Louise and Joe, immigrants from England, live in one house with their daughter, Isla.  Next door are Steve and Mandy, who are childless.  Mandy often looks after Isla.

As the book opens, the adult Isla gets a call from her father, who says the police have been by to discuss Mandy, who had disappeared from the neighborhood many years ago.  The central nugget of suspense in the novel concerns the relationships between the neighbors and between the couples themselves.  What happened in the past that caused Mandy to disappear?  Why would Isla’s father, who seems devoted to his family, have had anything to do with her disappearance? read more

Carol Goodman: The Sea of Lost Girls

Carol Goodman’s luscious prose doesn’t mask her storytelling drive, and it’s a haunting and unforgettable combination.  The Sea of Lost Girls is set at a girl’s boarding school in Maine, centering on the family of Tess, Harmon and Rudy.  Tess and Harmon both work at the school; Rudy is Tess’s son and Harmon’s stepson, as well as a student at the school. The book kicks off with him texting his mother in the middle of the night, and she rushes off to find out what’s wrong.

As a reader, I was instantly drawn into the dynamic between Tess and her son, who has had some troubles but whom she loves fiercely.  Her greatest goal is that of any mother’s: to protect him.  And, as it turns out, he needs it.  His girlfriend, Lila, whom he had been fighting with, turns up dead the next morning and suspicion falls on both Rudy and Harmon in turn. read more

Lori Rader-Day: The Lucky One

The Lucky One follows the stories of Alice Fine, who as a child emerged unscathed from a kidnapping, and Merrily Cruz, who wants badly to find her missing father – or the closest approximation to a father that she’s known.  Rader-Day, in her typical fashion, fleshes out these women’s stories with psychological background to each character, building and building them, until the two women practically become real.

Alice’s obsession with her kidnapping leads her to a website called The Doe Pages, where people are searching for the lost.  She’s drawn to it and she also thinks maybe she can find her kidnapper there.  Her life is a little shut off – she’s broken up with her fiancée and she lives alone.  She works in the office of the family construction company, with her father and uncle as benevolent bosses.  The women on the Doe Pages, strangers, become acquaintances, then friends. read more

Peter Robinson: Many Rivers to Cross

This melancholy, thoughtful novel finds Inspector Banks struggling with some of the knottier issues confronting the world at the moment – immigration, drug use and human trafficking.  Mystery novelists are often among the first to write about “issues,” wrapping them in stories that make the reader think. Robinson is embracing this macro view of the universe, while applying a writer’s micro view – the humans who populate the drama.

There are two main story threads in this book.  One involves a young Arab boy found dead, stuffed in a garbage bin.  The police are having a hard time locating any ties for him, and of course he turns out to be a refugee, with a particularly heartbreaking backstory. read more