Tuesday, September 23, 2014


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Deborah Crombie fans won't need me to tell them that a new Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James mystery novel is out today.  I've grown very fond of the regular cast of characters in this series and the plot is always a great one.  No question then.  Go out and buy it; you won't be disappointed.

As usual Duncan and Gemma's combined family has a large part in the story.  The children find a moma cat and four kittens locked in a shed.  They bring them home where the animals thrive and work their way into everyone's hearts, except of course for the cat whose home they've taken over.  

Meanwhile, Gemma is searching for definitive evidence against a young man who she is sure has sexually assaulted and killed a 12 year old girl.  Duncan has been transferred to Holborn Station and worries that Gemma's recent promotion and his transfer are very suspicious.  He has problems adjusting to a new team, but then someone burns to death at St. Pancras Station and he is in charge of the investigation.  There's no time to be worrying about personalities for the duration.

We meet a group of protesters who were on scene, expecting one of their members to set off a smoke bomb.  Melody's boyfriend Andy and his musical partner Poppy were performing there at the time as well.  Unfortunately their manager is seriously injured by what is not a smoke bomb but rather a white phosphorous grenade.  Melody is slightly injured.  The scene is chaotic.

As usual, Crombie has written a terrific page-turner that leaves you feeling a little breathless, and certainly expecting a sequel.  The next one promises to be extremely intriguing.  Can't wait.

Highly recommended
Source: William Morrow/HarperCollins

Thursday, September 18, 2014


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Talk about a weird day.  ADA Alexandra Cooper awakens one morning to a headline which announces her death.  There is an explanation for the mistake.  She had allowed a sort of friend, gorgeous movie star Isabella Lascar, to use her Martha's Vineyard home for a getaway. Under the impression Lascar wanted to be alone, Cooper is surprised to learn that a man had been there with her.  No one knows who he was.

This is an old volume in the series, a lucky find at a book sale.  I like Fairstein so it was a no-brainer to pick up one I hadn't read.

Fairstein knows exactly what Cooper's job is since she herself worked for years as the head of Manhattan's Sex Crimes Unit.  Of course this isn't a normal case for her as it involves her current boyfriend, her friend, and her home.  No one knows if perhaps Cooper was the intended target, although Lascar had many enemies, so Homicide Detective Mike Chapman is assigned to protect her.  They have worked together many times and have a great relationship, along with daily challenges on the final question of television program "Jeopardy."  They bet $10, $20 and they are pretty evenly matched in their knowledge of trivia.

The media hounds Cooper relentlessly.  She must go to Martha's Vineyard to aid in the investigation while trying to keep up with her work and yet be protected from possible killers. So, the restrictions force her to assign another lawyer to review new cases and assign them to others in the office.  She makes unusual requests of her secretary to avoid being inundated by phone calls she can't or won't take.  The media is foisted off on the public relations department. 

One person she does keep in touch with besides her close friends is a neighbor down the hall from her apartment, Dr. David Mitchell.  (That amuses me since it is my husband's name but he isn't a doctor.)  He is a psychiatrist with a Weimaraner and I was highly suspicious of him, along with several other possible suspects.  I did figure out some of the plot, but for the most part I read fast while I worried about Cooper.

This is a good read, but lock the doors and windows before you read it.

Highly recommended
Source:  Book Sale

Thursday, September 11, 2014


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I shall have to go back and read earlier books in this series.  Texan Pru Parke is the head gardener of Primrose House in England, just about an hour out of London.  She has been hired to restore the gardens there to their original glory as designed by the famous Humphry Repton. It is a job she has dreamed of all her life, but there are problems of course.  For one thing, Davina Templeton the owner keeps leaving little notes for Pru, conveniently when she's on her way out of town, making suggestions for the garden which are alternately absurd and absolutely impossible.  She has also set the date for an open garden day of July 30 and Pru is not at all certain the work can be finished by that time.

The red book is something Repton did for each garden he designed.  His text and watercolors become Pru's entertainment and guide both.

Meanwhile, Pru has fallen in love with Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse who lives and works in London and they are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with mere weekends together.  When one of her gardeners is murdered at Primrose House, Pearse is terribly worried about Pru, especially since he knows she won't be content with letting the police handle the investigation.  Sure enough, she has her nose in every aspect of it and makes herself a target for the murderer.

The characters in this cozy mystery novel are great fun.  I think that's my favorite thing about reading a cozy, something I don't do nearly often enough.  One side story has Pru looking for relatives of her British mother and introducing characters I'm sure will be regulars in the series. Want to learn something about those wonderful gardens at manor houses in England?  This is your book.

Source:  Alibi (Random House) from Netgalley

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


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This novel has received tons of publicity and praise, and rightly so.   It attracted my interest because it is set in 1687 in Amsterdam.  The history it tells was fascinating to me.  For instance, I knew trade guilds originated in The Netherlands but was surprised to find that there was a stock exchange in Amsterdam as early as 1687.

The main character is Nella Oortman Brandt, bride of Johannes Brandt.  He married her in her small town away from the city and promptly sailed away on business.  She therefore arrives at her new home alone and is not very warmly welcomed by his stern sister and two servants.  At merely 18 years old Nella feels lost and alone, and even when her husband finally comes home he pretty much ignores her.  He makes no attempt to consummate their marriage.  Meanwhile his sister rules the household with a strict Calvinist hand.

Society in Amsterdam is controlled by the church, but funded by trade.  Johannes has a huge warehouse full of goods he brings from far away lands.  As successful selling goods as he is in buying them, he is quite wealthy and his house illustrates this fact.  As a wedding present he eventually brings Nella a sort of miniature house in a cabinet on a large base. It is a copy of their house.  When she begins to order items to furnish it, the miniaturist seems to know everything that goes on in the house and also see into the future.  It grows eerier and curiouser until Nella is freaked out.  She tries unsuccessfully to meet the person.  There is a woman who stares at her in public, but Nella can never catch up to her to find out why.

It turns out the Brandt house is full of secrets that Nella learns one by one and that require much of this young woman.  I loved and admired Nella Brandt.  You just can't help cheering for her as she stands up to adversity and as the people in her life grow to love her.

Highly recommended
Source:  Ecco Imprint, HarperCollins

Sunday, September 7, 2014


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I'm a latecomer to the Harlan Coben bandwagon but here I am happily jumping on board.  He's been on my radar for years but somehow I just never got around to trying one of his books until now.  I had time to read something from my TBR uh pile (no mere shelf for this collection) and I grabbed this paperback from the top.  So glad I did.

The story is about Acting Essex County (NJ) Prosecutor Paul Copeland and the tragedy of his life.  He is raising his four-year-old daughter with the help of his late wife's sister and brother-in-law.  He has political ambitions too, but overlying all of his life is the night 20 years earlier when his sister disappeared and although she was assumed dead, her body was never found.  Four teenagers, two couples, had gone out into the woods from a summer camp, probably following that teenage malady, raging hormones.  They didn't return.  Two bodies were found, two of the four simply disappeared.  Until now . . .

Copeland is taken by NY detectives to see if he can identify a body since the victim had information about Copeland in his pockets.  He is astonished to see a resemblance to the young man who disappeared when his sister did.  He remembers a scar, and sure enough there it is.  That boy survived.  Maybe Copeland's sister did too?

This leads him on a journey to the past.  His parents broke up after that night and his mother left, never to return.  His father mourned to his dying day.  Copeland was inspired to become a lawyer, and treasured his wife and daughter.  Going back those 20 years is heart-wrenching and someone else involved in the events of that night will return to his life.  Meanwhile he is prosecuting two college students from wealthy families for the rape and beating of a young black stripper.  As a result, someone is out to get him.

Fascinating characters, especially Copeland, and a fascinating story.  I loved this book and the tangled family stories.  Now to look in that pile for more Harlan Coben books.

Highly recommended
Source:  Book sale find

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


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It takes only a few minutes with this wonderful book to realize a poet had a major part in the writing, so it was no surprise when I read about the authors and found that Fennelly is an award-winning poet.  I started to mark passages that I would like to quote in my review but soon stopped.  I would have had to quote nearly the entire book.  I savored this one slowly because the writing was so beautiful even though I was anxious to find out how the story progressed.  

The story is set in 1927 Mississippi in and near a little town called Hobnob.  A young, naive woman, Dixie Clay, has come there to live with her new handsome husband in a lovely home. She looks forward to a happy life and many children, but such is not to be.  Her husband, Jesse, is a phony, a liar, a bootlegger, and a womanizer.  After Dixie Clay loses her first baby, she finds the still and takes over the moonshining despite the fact that she fears Jesse has murdered two revenuers and is practically living at whorehouses.  

Dixie Clay is made of strong stuff so when investigating revenuers discover an orphaned baby boy, one of them takes the child to her.  Ham and Ingersoll go on investigating and suspect Jesse but Ingersoll doesn't know that he has taken that precious baby to Jesse's wife nor that she is the actual moonshiner.  

Complications multiply as the area is threatened with the greatest flood in that part of the Mississippi River.  I've spent some time beside the Mississippi River so I recognized the feeling of the mud and the odor of that brown water that was so brilliantly described by these authors.  Although I've never been there during flooding, I felt like I was wet and caught up in it as I read.  The sensations are almost physical.

I missed Franklin's earlier hit book, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, but I'm determined to read it now.  I've discovered a treasure in fiction.

Highly recommended
Source:  Amazon Vine

Monday, September 1, 2014


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Bryan Stevenson is executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama and teaches at NYU Law School as well.  He was privileged to attend Harvard Law on scholarship as a young man but at first thought he hadn't chosen well.  The courses he took just didn't seem meaningful to him.  Then he did an internship in Georgia for a nonprofit working to free death row prisoners there who had been wrongfully convicted.  He had a long conversation with one of those men that changed his life.

Suddenly the law meant something to him and he was committed to taking the right courses, working the right jobs, and following the right career path to devote his life to right injustices.  It has been one of the most difficult careers he could have chosen but also immensely rewarding.

Stevenson tells this often heart-wrenching story through the stories of his clients, mainly that of Walter McMillian.  Walter was a victim in every sense of the word.  When a young woman was murdered in a dry cleaner's store, Walter was hosting a barbecue at his home with  many guests and was seen by others as well who just happened to pass by.  Yet he was arrested and put on death row prior to his trial.  His story goes downhill from there if you can believe it.  His family and his community supported him but they were black in the Deep South and the white establishment didn't intend to let the overwhelming evidence of his innocence prevail.  It's quite a story.

You won't be surprised to learn that Stevenson is black too and his work has brought him into danger more than once, but he has persevered.  He has many successes to his credit, returning not guilty death row prisoners to their loved ones and a free life.  This book will upset your faith in the justice system but build hope that perhaps the Bryan Stevensons of this country will manage to change it.  His clients don't always have the happiest of endings, Walter McMillian being an example, but they have a chance, which is a lot more than they ever had before.

An eminently readable book about a topic that should infuriate us all.

Highly recommended
Source:  LibraryThing win