Book Review : The White Lady

It’s 1947 and Rose and her husband Jim Mackie flee to the quiet country English village of Kent with their three-year-old daughter Susie, in search of a life away from London and Jim’s family of ne’er-do-wells. When they are offered work and a place to live by a local couple, Rose thinks they can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

A war-weary 41-year-old, former government operative, Elinor White is also looking to live out her days peacefully in Kent. Upon meeting newcomers, Elinor makes it her business to know their business. When she learns that the Mackie brothers have visited, threatening Rose and Susie if Jim doesn’t return to assist with their next big job, Elinor decides that violence against women and children just won’t do. Coming out of hiding, Elinor vows that she will protect the young family and uses her Home Office connections in to attempt to take on the dangerous and powerful London Mackies. Unfortunately, she may get more than she bargains for when events from her own past catch up to her along the way.

The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear is a departure from her beloved Maisie Dobbs’ series. This mystery introduces readers to a deeply affected and damaged, yet likeable and intelligent character in Elinor White, a woman who began a life in espionage while still a teen in Belgium and who is conflicted about her need to commit violence in order to protect others.

Told through alternating time lines, The White Lady is emotional and suspenseful, well-researched historical fiction with plenty of twists that will keep you turning its pages. While the author has said this book is not the start a new series, this reader is left wishing for a bit more time spent with the fascinating Miss White.

Don’t believe me; investigate on your own! Place your hold on The White Lady today and see what you think.


A Story You Can’t Refuse

Five-year-old Dante, son of a wealthy family, is kidnapped from the town square in 1810 Palermo, Sicily, but the corrupt local police refuse to investigate. Gaetano Catalano, a young lawyer and member of the Beati Paoli, a secret society of aristocrats who work in the name of Saint Paul, decides to look for the child – in a search that consumes him for decades.

Meanwhile, power-hungry Franco Fiorvanti, the lemon grower who orchestrated Dante’s kidnapping at his boss’s behest, is tired of working for others. Franco dreams of owning his own orchard and invites his twin Roberto to work alongside of him. The two, along with a host of men who swear blood oaths to them begin to offer protection to orchard owners, becoming what we know today as the “Mafia.”

Set against the backdrop of a mostly lawless Sicily over two decades and starring a wide cast of characters whose lives are upended by the Fiorvanti’s family’s ruthlessness, Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline is well-written historical fiction to savor. This novel about heartbreak, loss, revenge and justice is a departure from Scottoline’s legal thrillers but contains all the trademarks her fans love, including interesting characters, the overarching theme of good versus evil, and a satisfying ending. Place your hold today and prepare to be swept away to another time and place.


Book Review: Coronation Year

It’s January of 1953 and in six months, Queen Elizabeth II will be crowned monarch. All hope to be witnesses. The 400-year-old Blue Lion Hotel is lucky to be on the route Her Majesty will be taking that day – especially since the hotel, left to Edie Howard by her parents who died in WWII, has been struggling financially for years. Edie’s greatest wish is that the celebration will help the hotel regain solvency.

As the months pass, the hotel begins to fill. New guests include James Geddes, a Scottish artist with Indian heritage hired to create a painting of the procession, and Stella Donati, a Holocaust survivor and photographer from Rome. The two, who face mistreatment as foreigners, quickly bond with the kind and generous Edie. And, when it becomes clear that someone is out to sabotage the success of the Blue Lion, Edie will be happy she has such good friends by her side.

Coronation Year by Jennifer Robson is an absorbing read –uplifting, well-researched historical fiction that mixes suspenseful drama with a bit of a mystery and romance. Post-war London comes to life, as realistic and likeable characters who lost everything during the war, learn to live and love again. Coronation Year is the perfect novel for those who couldn’t stop watching this weekend’s coronation of Charles III, or for anyone looking for a lovely story.


Spring into a Page-Turner

Philip Solomon is an author suffering from writer’s block. He decides to write what he knows and begins to document the disappearance of his friend Jeff’s mother, some 40 years previously.

On November 12, 1975, 10-year-old Miranda Larkin arrives home from school to discover her mother Jane missing without a trace. There is only one suspect – Dan Larkin, Jane’s husband and father to Miranda and her brothers, Jeff and Alex. Dan is an unflappable criminal defense attorney and a narcissist, but as Jane’s body is never found, he is never charged with murder. As years pass, Dan begins to suffer from dementia, and as Phil Solomon begins research for his book, old feelings and suspicion begin to surface once again. Is it possible that the Larkin kids were raised by a man who killed their mother?

William Landay’s All That Is Mine I Carry With Me is the perfect blend of a literary whodunnit and legal thriller and is twisty emotional family drama that keeps you guessing. Place your hold for this (deservedly) popular read and then just try and put it down after the first page.


Spring into Historical Fiction

In 1907, Sylvie Pelletier’s French-Canadian family relocates from Vermont to Moonstone Colorado for her father’s job as a quarry man for The Padgett Fuel and Stone Company. When the impressionable Sylvie is asked to work that summer in the manor house for the Padgett family, she is awe-struck by her surroundings and is drawn to her employer, the charming “Countess” Inge, and to Inge’s stepson Jasper, the heir to the family fortune. By the end of the season, however, Sylvie sees through the Padgett’s lofty ideas for the town’s future, and understands the feelings of discontent among the workers and their families who make up the town of Moonstone.

Sylvie learns even more when she becomes an apprentice to Miss. Katrina Redmond, the bold local editor of the local newspaper who is not afraid to publish unbecoming stories involving the company. When tragedy strikes, Sylvie is no longer content to sit on the sidelines and involves herself in attempting to unionize the stone workers, alongside the likes of Mary Harris “Mother” Jones.

Based on true stories from Colorado history, Gilded Mountain by Kate Manning is epic historical fiction to savor, with a memorable leading character who must come of age before her time. For fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Four Winds, this tale of the American West is beautifully and at times heartbreakingly told and it expertly captures the difficulties of the era and the disparities between the working poor and the robber barons they toiled for.


Book Review: Someone Else’s Shoes

Londoner Samantha “Sam” Kemp is juggling a depressed and unemployed husband, aging parents, and a teenage daughter. She is also stressed about the day of important business meetings ahead of her. So, it is no surprise when she accidentally grabs the wrong gym bag after working out.

Inside the bag are a pair of extremely high-heeled red shoes – Christian Louboutins – that Sam is forced to wear instead of her own missing sensible shoes. As it turns out, the sexy shoes give Sam confidence enough to close three big deals that she hopes will protect her fragile position at a printing company. The next day, when Sam tries to exchange the bag and shoes for her own, the gym has gone out of business.

Meanwhile, American Nisha Cantor, the pampered wife of wealthy Carl and owner of the infamous shoes, finishes her own workout to find a knock-off designer bag in the spot she left her own. To make matters worse, Nisha’s husband decides to end their relationship that same morning. Nisha leaves the gym in flip flops only to learn that she has been locked out of their hotel’s penthouse suite without a penny to her name, and without her designer clothes, a place to stay, or a friend in London.

Determined to get her life (and shoes) back, Nisha becomes a cleaner in the hotel. Now that she must work for a living, will Nisha learn how to be a better person? And what kind of havoc will walking in someone else’s shoes wreck on Sam’s life and career?

Someone Else’s Shoes by Jojo Moyes is a compelling story and fast paced romp about two hugely different 40-something women who slowly find themselves becoming invisible in their lives. This novel about love, friendship and second chances also deals with serious issues, like mental health and discrimination but with plenty of humor and some madcap moments, it is a hopeful and cleverly plotted read. Place your hold today.


Book Review: Exiles by Jane Harper

It’s been a year since Kim Gillespie disappeared without a trace from a local festival in South Australia wine country’s Marralee Valley and the trail has run cold. The local police assume the woman walked away from her newborn baby daughter’s stroller before meeting with foul play.

Detective Aaron Falk was visiting friends Greg and Rita Raco at the time Kim disappeared, and a year later, he is in town again to celebrate the christening of their new son. Kim’s family – also relations of the Racos – are using the festival and gathering to reignite the search.

Aaron is drawn to life in Maralee Valley and its close-knit community, its beautiful landscape, and one local woman in particular. Kim’s friend Gemma Tozer has caught Aaron’s interest, but Gemma is still raw, having lost her own husband in a drunken hit and run accident whose driver was never found. As Aaron learns more about the intricacies of Kim Gillespie’s life, he uncovers fractured relationships with her one-time best friends — a group he suspects might be hiding something. Could the two unsolved crimes somehow be connected?

Exiles is a slow-burning mystery with excellent character development, a gorgeous setting and an oh-so-satisfying ending. Exiles is the third (and sadly, final) entry in Jane Harper’s expertly plotted Aaron Falk series. While it can be read on its own, for maximum enjoyment, start with The Dry, which introduces Falk, and follow his emotional character journey from its beginning.


A Literary Suspense/Southern Noir Mashup

When her husband dies, Morgana Musgrove inherits a detective agency, among her husband’s many assets. The current matriarch of a wealthy Savannah family with roots going back to the 1800s, Morgana is a powerful force to be reckoned with – respected and feared by most – including her four disparate adult children.

When Guzman, a local real estate developer whose recent arson charge also includes manslaughter, asks Morgana to clear his name, her son Ransom, a lawyer who lives on the street, and her spirited granddaughter Jaq, assist for reasons of their own.

Jaq was friends with the victim and is also searching for Stony, an eccentric homeless woman and archeologist who has gone missing. Stony claimed to have discovered evidence of a 200-year-old settlement on a remote island known as “the Kingdom.” Guzman knew Stony and may know where she is.

As the Musgroves stumble their way to answers, ugly secrets that Savannah’s elite wish to remain hidden will be uncovered.

If you were a fan of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (or the movie adaptation), or if you like reading literary mysteries, set aside time for The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green. This slow burning, character-driven novel mixes historical elements into its mystery and simply oozes with atmosphere.


Book Review: The Rising Tide

In Ann Cleeves’ 10th Vera Stanhope mystery, The Rising Tide, the same group of friends have been meeting regularly for the last fifty years. They reunite at Holy Island off the coast in Northumberland —a place connected to the mainland by a causeway that is covered twice a day by the tide. They are there to celebrate the school trip where they all first met as teens and to remember the friend that they lost to those same deadly tidewaters at their first reunion.

In present day, on their first morning together, one from their group is found hanged. Rick Kelsall, a local celebrity and former journalist who was recently fired due to sexual assault complaints, is suspected to have committed suicide. When Northumberland Inspector Vera Stanhope is called in, she immediately suspects foul play and is more than a little delighted when she learns that the man has been murdered after all.

Vera’s team, family man Sergeant Joe Ashworth and Constable Holly Clarke join her as Vera leans there is more to the story than she thought. Soon, another member of the schoolmates has been killed and things get even more complex when Vera learns that the group has ties to her own Police Chief Commissioner Katherine Willmore. Vera, tenacious, intuitive and often underestimated, will get the killer, even if it’s one of her own.

Purists will want to start with book 1, The Crow Trap, but otherwise, don’t be afraid to jump right in with this latest entry in an award-winning police procedural series. With its atmospheric setting with its dangers of the rising tide, a complex plot filled with twists and turns and an absolute shocker of an ending that left me speechless, The Rising Tide is not to be missed.


Book Review: Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson

The narrator of Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson, Ernest “Ern” Cunningham self-publishes how-to guides for would-be crime novelists. Ern, a fan of Golden Age mysteries like those of Conan Doyle and Christie, stresses to budding writers the need to follow Ronald Knox’s ten commandments of crime fiction. Ern mostly follows his own advice as he sets out to write this novel about his family, whose members have all indeed killed someone.

Ern has been on the outs with his family for several years—ever since he gave evidence in a murder trial that led to the incarceration of his brother Michael. Now that Michael is to be released, Ern has been ordered to attend a family reunion at a ski resort in the Australian Snowy Mountains. The morning after the Cunninghams arrive at the resort, a body of a stranger is found in the snow. When the local incompetent policeman arrives and arrests Michael for the crime, Ern decides to investigate what really happened.

Along the way, Ern shares his murderous family’s every dirty secret and dysfunction and leaves red herrings at every turn. Not only does Ern constantly break the fourth wall and talk directly to his readers about his story’s structure and the murderer’s possible motives, he also gives a head’s up when a scene or clue is important to the mystery’s resolution. Conversely, he also takes great pleasure in holding information back until it suits his needs. The result is a less than reliable narrator delivering up a sometimes-hilarious and totally engrossing classic crime story with a modern twist.

If you enjoy family dramas, clever locked-room mysteries solved by the use of logic, and quirky reads with plenty of laugh out loud moments, add Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone to your “to be read” pile. This first in a planned series has already been picked up for adaptation by HBO too. Get in on the ground floor and read it first!