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Review: The Queen’s Accomplice: A Maggie Hope Mystery, by Susan Elia Macneal. Kindle Edition, Bantam Books.

As I have greatly enjoyed all the previous Maggie Hope stories, I was looking forward to this one–and it did not disappoint.

 

What a story! Or, what a bunch of stories–because there are several threads spun simultaneously by the author. There is the story of Maggie helping to solve the brutal case of a WWII-era Jack the Ripper type, identified here as “the Blackout Beast” as he targets young working women in London. But there is also the story of Maggie’s half-sister Elise, a prisoner in Nazi Germany, the story of her friend and her new adorable new baby, the preparation of a pair of Maggie’s colleagues for a dangerous mission in occupied France, and the varied appearances of Maggie’s mother, father, and stepfather.

 

This book held my attention from the start and I finished it in record time as I found it difficult to put down. There is much that in sobering in this story of brave people dealing with the terrible realities of World War II. It is not a story for the faint of heart, as suffering and brutality are as prominent as the heroism of some characters and the evildoing of others. We are made to feel some of the ambivalence faced by people trying to survive this awful period in our history.

 

I did give this book 5 stars, because it is so brilliantly plotted and excellently presented. But it certainly is not what I would call a “cozy” mystery, but rather one that is sobering and thought-provoking.

 

Review: The Trouble With Harriet, An Ellie Haskell Mystery by Dorothy Cannell. Random House Publishing Group – Alibi

I’m a staunch fan of Dorothy Cannell’s Ellie Haskell mysteries, so it was my pleasure to re-read and review this book.

 

But reviewing it presents problems–how to review without using any spoilers? That is a challenge.

 

Well, to start from the title, Harriet certainly causes trouble from the moment she appears in this story. Ellie and Ben are just about to leave for a romantic holiday when Ellie’s long-lost father Morley appears. Furthermore, he has Harriet with him. More or less. That is, Morley produces an urn carrying the ashes of his late beloved Harriet.

 

The vacation is off, and the plot thickens when the urn goes missing. In addition, Ellie is puzzled by a Gypsy fortuneteller’s appearance on the scene uttering dire warnings.

 

The story is full of twists and turns, things that are not as they seem, and more. Cannell weaves all this into an entertaining and witty story that leaves us following Ellie and company all the way through to the turbulent end. As always, great fun.

 

My thanks to NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: More Work for the Undertaker (A Campion Mystery) by Margery Allingham. Kindle Edition, Ipso Books

I am an unabashed admirer of Margery Allingham’s work, and this is one of her most splendid, in many respects.

 

For starters, it gives us some important clues into just who “Albert Campion” really is. The War (WWII) is over, and Campion is in line to become Governor of some unnamed island. We are told that finally, the man is offered something “even his grandfather” would consider suitable. And his man Lugg refers to Albert as “the young viscount” at one point. All this is by way of reminding us the exalted position that the unassuming Albert apparently holds in abeyance.

 

Then there are the characters we meet. Of course there is the splendid Lugg (of whom we learn a little more about in the course of the story). There are the Scotland Yard folks, notably the Chief Stanislaus Oates, Superintendent Yeo and the young, brilliant D. D. I. Charles Luke (again, we learn quite a bit more about Luke here). The Lady Amanda, Albert’s spouse, has an important cameo role and in a way is given the opportunity for the last word (always satisfying, don’t you think?”

 

The new and indelibly memorable characters belong to the eccentric Palinode family. Allingham outdoes herself in her depiction of characters at once extremely odd, unaccountably appealing, and uncommonly intelligent. Then there is the undertaker (Jas Bowles & Son), a creation any author would be proud to claim.

 

The story itself full of momentous happenings, poisonings, anonymous letters, a magnificent coffin that appears and disappears seemingly at will, a sizeable but apparently worthless inheritance, and a case that Scotland Yard wants very much to solve–quietly and quickly.

 

This is a fun, adventurous and challenging read from beginning to end.

Review: Overcoming Fear and Anxiety Through Spiritual Warfare, by Carol Peters-Tanksley MD DMin. Charisma House.

As a practicing psychotherapist, I know how patients with symptoms of anxiety and fear welcome help. So, I was very interested in reading what Dr. Peters-Tanksley (“Dr. Carol”) had to say.

 

In many ways this is a most excellent book. It is well organized, and the author clearly writes from a strong background in both medicine and spiritual matters. The book is in three parts. Part I, The Problem of Fear and Anxiety, has much sound information to impart to troubled readers. Part II turns to scriptural aspects with “What the Bible Says”. This quotes numerous Biblical passages on the subject of fear and anxiety, which would likely be most welcome to the committed Christian reader. It is part III that sets this book apart from most other self-help books. Titled “Strategies of Spiritual Warfare to Defeat Fear and Anxiety” this section calls the reader to a deep commitment of faith.

 

The subject of spiritual warfare is addressed, with a set of strategies for the believer to use in combating fear and anxiety. Now, in this section, I feel a need to be cautious. As Dr. Carol herself says, “there is significant danger in discussing techniques of spiritual warfare” and in another place she notes that the subject is not without its dangers.

 

This is a book for the committed Christian, and I would recommend that it be approached with close and careful reading. I would also suggest having a support system in place. Possibly a church might form a group led by a qualified person to assist those ready to embark on the deeply challenging road set forth here by Dr. Carol. I would also suggest the reader carefully note Dr. Carol’s admonishment that it might be necessary to call upon professional resources, spiritual, medical, and psychological. In my opinion, this is not a book for the weak or fragile to deal with on their own.

Review: The Antique House Murders (The Oakwood Mystery Series) by Leslie Nagel. Random House Publishers Group – Alibi.

This is the second book in this series I have reviewed, the first being The Book Club Murders, which I found to be “a delightful book: fun to read.” I could say the same for this second book. In our heroine, the spirited Charley Carpenter, we have another of those feisty redhead sleuths that we love.

 

I liked this book, as I was an antique dealer myself for some years and found myself remembering many stories of my own while reading about Charley’s latest experiences.

 

Charley gets an advance invitation to view a selection of vintage clothing offered in the estate sale and auction of Mulbridge House, a venerable but molding mansion due to be demolished and replaced by a number of upscale homes. Charley is delighted with the mint-condition collection she is offered by her friend Calvin Prescott, but her happiness is cut short when Calvin is found dead under suspicious circumstances. Now Charley knows very well she should leave the sleuthing to her police detective Significant Other, Marc. But she finds she just can’t stay away from the case, which earns the ire of Marc and puts herself and some of her friends in harm’s way.

 

Really, these redheads keep their guardian angels awfully busy. Sometimes you think Charley is just taking too much risk, probing too far, getting herself in more trouble than she needs. But if Charley and her redheaded sisters were more safety-conscious, we would have fewer adventures to enjoy. So the story is eventful and holds our interest while offering an intriguing puzzle to solve. This is a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience

Review: Traitor’s Purse by Margery Allingham (A Campion Mystery). Ipso Books.

Well! How to write review of this book without putting out spoilers for this truly magnificent piece of work by Allingham?

 

Let’s see–what can I see without giving it all away? This is indeed a Campion story, but a Campion we have not seen before–a Campion lacking most of his usual qualities and resources, on the wrong side of the law, running for his life and all the while knowing that there is some supremely important task impending, that the fate of the nation is involved, and that there is a definite but not well-defined deadline that only he can carry out–if he only knew what it was! We do have the presence of the staunchly loyal Lugg, as well as the unflinching support of Lady Amanda Fitton, neither of whom quite realize the exact nature of the Campion they are dealing with here. We are used to a Campion playing things close to his vest with an enigmatic plan for victory of which he is confident. But that is not the Campion we see here.

 

Allingham has presented us with a tour de force of writing at a blindingly brilliant level, even for her. I could barely stand to put it down. It does not seem possible, but with this book Allingham has surpassed herself.

Review: The Allingham Casebook, by Margery Allingham. Ipso Books.

I am a long-time admirer of Margery Allingham’s work, so when we were asked to view this book by Camilla of the Allingham Society, I was pleased to do so.

 

This is a collection of short stories, many, but not all, featuring Albert Campion. Of necessity, they must make their point quickly, presenting the case as economically as possible. One must be quick to catch the essentials of each story–to try to discover the clues to the solution. The Allingham qualities I like most, the vibrant descriptions, discovering the dimensions of some very intriguing characters, are best suited to full-length novels, I think.

 

I liked the first offering “Tall Story”, that gave us a chance to observe Charles Luke and Albert Campion working in tandem. “Three is a Lucky Number” was amusing, as was “Little Miss Know-All” with its luxurious sapphire mink. “The Lieabout” was narrated by a person who remained unnamed throughout, a device that I thought matched well with the enigmatic character of the story itself. In all, there are 18 stories to enjoy, ending with “The Snapdragon and the C.I.D.” which offers Albrt Campion and Stanislaus Oates in a Christmas Day story featuring discovery of a body partially covered in mistletoe.

 

Short stories need to be clever, and these certainly are–as ingeniously constructed as anything Christie wrote. The cleverness extends to the titles, for those paying attention. Allingham excels at these stories, as she does in everything she writes. But I did not enjoy reading them as much as I do her full-length works. Still, this is a fetching array of intriguing treats. As a parting gift the book concludes with the first chapter of Traitor’s Purse.

 

My thanks to the Allingham Society for providing an advance copy of these delightful stories.

 

Murder Between the Lines by Radha Vatsal | The White House Wedding: A Solve-the-Mystery Blog Tour Clue #5 by Radha Vatsal.

Murder Between the Lines by Radha Vatsal

ISBN: 9781492638926 | May 2017

Paperback | $15.99 U.S.

As the specter of the Great War hangs over the country, a promising young student turns up dead.

When Kitty Weeks’s latest assignment writing for the New York Sentinel Ladies’ Page takes her to Westfield Hall, a well-regarded girls’ school in New York City, she expects to find an orderly establishment teaching French and dancing–standard fare for schoolgirls in 1915. But there’s much more going on at the school than initially meets the eye. Kitty especially takes note of the studies of Elspeth Bright, the daughter of a scientist heavily involved in naval technology, who has inherited her father’s interest and talent for scientific inquiry.

Elspeth’s seemingly accidental death is a shock to the school community and to Kitty–and the more she finds out about Elspeth and her family, the more the intrepid reporter begins to believe that it may not have been an accident after all.

This book was reviewed April 30, 20117 on my blog.

Today, a special treat:

The White House Wedding: A Solve-the-Mystery Blog Tour by Radha Vatsal.

At 8:30 PM on Saturday, December 1915, President Woodrow Wilson married Mrs. Edith Bolling Galt. The new Mrs. Wilson would go on to become one of the 20th Century’s most powerful first ladies and shepherd the United States through turbulent times. In the course of this blog tour, I describe four different aspects of their wedding plan: The Location Jane Reads, Guest List and Attendants on Benjamin Clark. Ceremony and Officiants on J. Roslyn’s Books, Dress and Flowers (today’s post–see below). The wedding went off as arranged, except for one significant last-minute change. Your mission is to guess what changed and why. The answer will be revealed in the final blog post. For more on the president and Edith Bolling/Wilson’s relationship, see the Introduction on Katherine’s Chronicle.

BLOG POST #5: Dress and Flowers

President Wilson wore a cutaway coat with gray striped trousers. While the women guests wore colorful evening gowns, Edith Galt chose a somber black velvet dress that she had bought especially for the occasion in New York. She paired it with a velvet hat. The bulk of the decoration for wedding venue came in the form of flowers, American Beauty roses and orchids. The wedding canopy was lined with white heather. Elsewhere ferns, dwarf asparagus and American Beauty roses were intertwined and used in abundance.

 

Did Mrs. Galt opt for a more festive dress at the last minute? If not white, then something brighter to mirror the happy occasion.? Did the décor change from flowers to something more formal? A silk canopy perhaps, or statuary from the different states in the union? Was she persuaded to bow to a more patriotic theme and feature bows and red-white-and-blue bunting?

 

Next Up: Solution on Bookish Jottings

 

The new First Lady and Woodrow Wilson make a dramatic appearance in Murder Between the Lines, the second novel in the Kitty Weeks Mystery series, which features the adventures of bold newswoman Capability “Kitty” Weeks in World War I era New York. For more historical surprises, sign up for the Kitty Weeks newsletter: radhavatsalauthor@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Review: Love & Death in Burgundy, by Susan C. Shea. St. Martin’s Press: Minotaur Books

The author prefaces her book with a touching summary of her thoughts and feelings about the setting and the people in it. I was predisposed to like the book because of that, before I started Chapter 1.

Susan Shea uses the voices of two characters to tell her story. The principal one is Katherine Goff, who with her husband Michael is doing her best to become an accepted resident of the little Burgundian town of Reigny-sur-Canne. Katherine is a talented artist, and she has been invited to take a leading role in the annual Feast of the Assumption festival. She is also concerned about her husband’s unhappy history as a musician and songwriter. Opportunities arise for him that create complexity in the story and the relationship of Katherine and Michael. It seems that his luck may be changing, but we–and Katherine–are not so sure about that

The second voice we hear from, more rarely, is that of the beautiful 15-year-old Jeannette. This lovely young girl with the halo of golden curls is attractive to more than one male resident, while she naively juggles her romantic fantasies with the effects of her adolescent hormones. In her confusion she is placing herself in more peril than she realizes; we fear for her recklessness in the face of unknown danger. For Jeannette sees a lot, and keeps much to herself. When she does share what she has observed, the adults around her to not take heed, despite our urgent mental messages to her listeners to Pay Attention to Her!

When Albert, noted owner of the village chateau, is found dead at the bottom of a steep staircase, Kathleen’s bid for social acceptance and a settled life for herself and Michael becomes enmeshed in the drama surrounding this death. Was it just a tragic accident, or are there darker forces at work? There are plenty of scenarios put forth by the villagers, further fueled by the efforts of Pippa, a would-be Agatha Christie, to turn the local happenings into fodder for her first book. There is a tasty offering of participants in the story–but who are the heroes and who are the bad guys? Katherine finds that question increasingly difficult to answer.

We care about these narrators, Katherine and Jeannette, and we become increasingly uneasy with what they are encountering. The story is infused with French wine, cheese, history, and plenty of atmosphere. The climactic scene is a gem. Ms. Shea has given us an intriguing and edgy tale to savor.

My thanks to Shailynn Tavella of Minotaur books for providing an advance copy for me to read and review.

Review: The Spring Cleaning Murders: An Ellie Haskell Mystery, by Dorothy Cannell , Random House Publishing Group – Alibi

This is vintage Cannell, apparently first published in the 1990s. It’s Spring Cleaning time, and Ellie is motivated to do her seasonal duty. The book is sprinkled with what appear to be Helpful Hints from an earlier book on household management. It hearkens back to the days when all good housewives did do a thorough spring cleaning. Reading the chapter heading hints, I don’t know how people did these things back in the day. Our foremothers were certainly a hardy lot.

Anyway, Ellie runs into problems fairly early on in her project. For one thing her faithful Mrs. Roxie Malloy gives notice, apparently so she can go be live-in help for her son and his wife, supermodel Vanessa, and their new baby. Rose. Before she goes, Mrs. Malloy tells Ellie about the Chitterton Falls Charwoman’s Association (CFCWA) and Ellie soon encounters ladies of this organization willing to take up where Mrs. Malloy left off. But it’s not a good season for charwomen; before too long, three of them are dead under suspicious circumstances.

It remains for Ellie to solve the mysterious deaths as well as the unsettling absence of Mrs. Malloy. Along the way, she is helped by her husband Ben, cousin Freddy, and her 3-year-old twins, as well as their aged gardener. Dorothy Cannell tells this story with her trademark mixture of wry humor and touching humanity

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.