Recently widowed Poppy Harmon discovers that her husband left her penniless. He was a gambler and even gambled away their daughter’s trust fund money. He had taken out a second mortgage without Poppy’s knowledge. Poppy is a retired actress who played a detective’s secretary in a 1970’s television series. She counts her time on tv as experience being a private investigator, applies for and gets her California private investigator license. Together with her best friends Iris and Violet, she opens a detective agency. They hire Violet’s 12-year-old computer whiz grandson to create their website. The three 60+ year old women don’t garner any business until they start using Matt’s face on their website. (Matt is the actor boyfriend of Poppy’s daughter.) With the arrival of Matt, the agency is hired to retrieve stolen jewels for singer Shirley Fox, a fellow resident at the Palm Leaf Retirement Village in Palm Springs, California.
The first entry in the Desert Flowers Mystery series is a cute quick cozy. I look forward to reading the other two in the series.
Here’s a sampling of books I’m looking forward to reading this summer. Often drawn to historical fiction, I have included a cozy mystery by Carolyn Hart. I hope you enjoy my suggestions.
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict
“The remarkable story of J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation, from New York Times author Marie Benedict, and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.”
Women’s March by Jennifer Chiaverini
“New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini returns with The Women’s March, an enthralling historical novel of the woman’s suffrage movement inspired by three courageous women who bravely risked their lives and liberty in the fight to win the vote.”
Ghost Blows a Kiss by Carolyn Hart
“In the tenth Bailey Ruth ghost novel from New York Times bestselling Grand Master of Mystery, Carolyn Hart, the “charmer of a detective” (Kirkus Reviews) takes on a puzzler of a mystery when she’s sent to Adelaide, Oklahoma to rescue a woman in trouble.”
The brief descriptions above are taken directly from fantasticficion.com.
Katharine was just 16 when she married nobleman Edward Burgh. After his untimely death, she married Catholic baron John Latimer, a widower twice her age. While John is on his deathbed, Katherine falls in love with Thomas Seymour, and they plan to marry. At 30 years old, Katharine attracts the attention of Henry VIII who pursues and finally persuades her to marry him. Katharine is now queen and stepmother to Henry’s three children – Mary, Elizabeth and Edward. Katharine is a highly educated secret Protestant who wants to sway Henry in religious reforms she supports. After Henry is dead, Katharine finally marries Thomas Seymour, who at this point is more interested in Katherine’s stepdaughter Elizabeth as a way to obtain more power. Sadly, when Katharine gives birth to her longed-for baby, she does not survive.
The final entry in the Six Tudor Queens series by Alison Weir is a treat for fans of historical fiction and this era. I have learned so much about these women, not just information about their downfalls and deaths. I have included a list of the series in order of publication.
During the early 1940’s, 19-year-old Sadie Gault, her father and pregnant mother, are living in the Jewish ghetto in Krakow, Poland. To avoid roundups of Jews being sent to concentration camps, the family eventually escapes into the sewer. Pawel, a Polish sewer worker, helps them find a semi-safe place underground with the Rosenberg family. He brings the group food when possible. Tragically Sadie’s father drowns during their escape.
19-year-old Ella Stepanek lives with her cruel Nazi collaborator stepmother also in Krakow. One day Ella sees Sadie peeking through a grate in the street. The young women have much in common despite Sadie’s horrific living circumstances. The two become friends/confidants despite their only contact being through a sewer grate. The whole situation between the young women is extremely dangerous for them and for the others living in the sewer.
After Sadie’s mother gives birth, the group soon realizes that the baby’s cries will put everyone in danger. Sadly, Sadie’s mother leaves the sewer hoping to return after leaving the little girl at a catholic charity hospital. Eventually the sewer is not a safe hiding place for anyone
The story is told in alternating chapters between Sadie and Ella. It is a story based on historical fact and is not easy to read. It is a story of bravery, friendship, and family with an unexpected twist at the end.
(The “Blue Star of David” on a white armband was worn by Jewish people from Poland, East Silesia and Upper Silesia.)
Clemmie Lakefield alias Helen Stephens has been living a lie for over 50 years. Helen is a semi-retired high school Latin teacher who lives in Sun City, South Carolina, a close-knit retirement community. Helen checks in on her recluse neighbor Dom Spesante daily. When Dom doesn’t answer his phone or reply to her text messages, she uses her emergency key to check his home. Helen notices another door in an unusual place that connects Dom’s home with his other neighbor. Of course, she checks it out and discovers an unusual glass sculpture. She sends a picture to her great-nephew who immediately posts it on the internet. The sculpture is stolen. Suddenly Helen becomes the target of a deadly drug dealer attempting to retrieve the sculpture and a large amount of cash. When a dead body is found in Dom’s garage, Helen fears her past life as Clemmie Lakefield may be uncovered as police investigate. Her past life dealt with the death of a favorite basketball coach at her high school.
A prolific author for young adults. This is her first adult novel which is full of twists and turns.
During WWI, women were hired to replace men who were serving in the military to work at Kew, the Royal Botanical Gardens in London. Not everyone was pleased with this decision including the Gardens’ foreman Mac. The women’s lesser wages for the same work as men reflected this attitude. Ivy Adams, an illiterate teenager from Hackney, and Louisa Taylor, escaping her abusive husband in Kent, were both hired. Bernie Yorke, a former school teacher and a Quaker was also hired. It is soon discovered that Bernie refuses to enlist and he becomes a target of the “white feather campaign”. Men out of uniform were given white feathers, often by Suffragettes hoping to shame them into enlisting. Because Bernie was a conscientious objector, he lost his job at Kew. Soon Lady Winifred (Win) Ramsay begins as a volunteer worker at Kew Gardens just to keep busy while her husband is in the Navy. The three women become fast friends as they fight for equal pay for women at Kew and as they support pregnant Ivy as she waits for Jim to return home from the war.
This debut novel is a mixture of friendship, romance, sadness and fight. It’s a treat for fans of historical fiction. For those interested in Kew Gardens, please enjoy a brief tour/history at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khOfA1JhLyg.
This Civil War narrative is told from three points of view. First, Georgeanna (Georgy) Woolsey is a member of the affluent abolitionist Woolsey family of New York City. She became a Union nurse who served at Gettysburg. At that time in history most nurses and doctors were men. Women weren’t welcome.
Second, Anne-Marie Wilson inherits the Peeler tobacco plantation in Maryland. She is a sadistic slave owner who becomes a confederate spy with a local merchant. Anne-Marie forces Jemma, one of her slaves who reads and writes better than she does, to write down and deliver information.
Third, Jemma is sold by Anne-Marie’s husband without her permission and becomes a photographer’s assistant. The photographer specializes in taking pictures of the dead. Jemma eventually escapes by dressing as a boy and is conscripted into the Union army as a drummer. When wounded at Gettysburg, she encounters Georgy. Soon the Woolsey family offer Jemma a home in New York City.
Anne-Marie comes to New York City to retrieve her property, namely Jemma. Before leaving the Peeler plantation, Jemma hid the book containing all of the secret information. Anne-Marie wants to destroy that book before she is arrested for treason but cannot find it without Jenna’s help.
The trilogy by Martha Hall Kelly is a treat for fans of historical fiction. I recommend reading all three novels.
Published in 2020, this debut novel takes place in 1926 at the Mena Hotel in Cairo. (The palatial hotel opened its doors in 1886 in the shadows of the Great Pyramids of Giza.) Young American widow Jane Wunderly is being treated to the trip by her matchmaking Aunt Millie. Jane’s first husband was killed in WWI. He was an abusive man making Jane fearful of any future relationships.
For some reason fellow hotel guest Anna Sainton, a self-proclaimed party girl, outwardly dislikes Jane. When Anna is found shot to death, Jane becomes the chief suspect. In pops a handsome mysterious stranger who calls himself Redvers. He represents himself as a banker, but there’s more. He latches on to Jane has she begins to investigate Anna’s death.
There is a lot packed into this cozy mystery including multiple deaths, romance, long-held secrets, a beautiful historical location, etc. I look forward to reading the second installment in the Jane Wunderly Mystery series which just came out in March 2021.
The principal characters are socialite Osla Kendall (who dated Prince Phillip), London east-ender Mad Churt, and shy Beth Finch. Osla and Mad room with the Finch family while working at Bletchley Park. (Bletchley Park is the home of England’s WWII military code-breaking activities.) Beth Finch is under the total control of her mother. In her 20’s but nicknamed “mother’s little helper”, she has an extraordinary gift for solving crosswords and various puzzles. Osla and Mad recognize Beth’s gift and convince her to seek a position at Bletchley Park. Eventually Beth discovers there is a spy in their midst at Bletchley.
Beth is committed to Clockwell Sanitarium when she suffers a mental breakdown and spends 3 ½ years in the institution. When there is talk about Beth undergoing a lobotomy, she reaches out to Osla and Mad to help her escape. There is one more item to encrypt in order to uncover the spy at Bletchley. Others who had worked at Bletchley come together to help.
There is so much to this novel including the backdrop of the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. This is the book for lovers of WWII fiction with strong female characters.
It’s interesting to note that Kate Middleton’s grandmother, Valerie Glassborow, and great aunt Mary worked at Bletchley. Both were Foreign Office Civilians in the Cover Management Y section, which managed the interception of enemy signals for decryption at Bletchley Park.
It’s 1941 when 12-year-old Freddie Hackett, a government message runner in London, witnesses a murder. Freddie and the killer soon meet when he delivers a message directly to the killer. Freddie reports the crime to the police but no body is found and the case is dismissed. Determined Freddie contacts Maisie Dobbs who takes his eyewitness account seriously. The killer has some unusual facial characteristics that Freddie can identify. In addition to her detective work, Maisie works for the “Special Operations Executive” helping to recruit and interview workers for the French resistance. Maisie’s American boyfriend, Mark Scott, also works for his government and is in and out of the story. He adores Maisie and Anna, the little girl she adopted.
These are fun books for those who enjoy light British mysteries. I heartily recommend reading all of them in order to get the background story of Maisie. her friends, and family.