Review: Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James

Review: Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda JamesArsenic and Old Books by Miranda James
Format: ebook
Source: borrowed from library
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, mystery
Series: Cat in the Stacks #6
Pages: 304
Published by Berkley on February 15, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In Athena, Mississippi, librarian Charlie Harris is known for his good nature—and for his Maine coon cat, Diesel, that he walks on a leash. Charlie returned to his hometown to immerse himself in books, but taking the plunge into a recent acquisition will have him in over his head…   Lucinda Beckwith Long, the mayor of Athena, has donated a set of Civil War-era diaries to the archives of Athena College. The books were recently discovered among the personal effects of an ancestor of Mrs. Long’s husband. The mayor would like Charlie to preserve and to substantiate them as a part of the Long family legacy—something that could benefit her son, Andrew, as he prepares to campaign for the state senate.   Andrew’s rival for his party’s nomination is Jasper Singletary. His Southern roots are as deep as Andrew’s, and his family has been bitter enemies with the Longs since the Civil War. Jasper claims the Long clan has a history of underhanded behavior at the expense of the Singletarys. His allegations draw the interest of a local reporter who soon asks to see the diaries. But she mysteriously vanishes before Charlie has a chance to show them to her…   Now Charlie is left with a catalog of questions. Even if the diaries turn out to be fakes, they could still be worth killing for. One thing is certain: Charlie will need to be careful, because the more he reads, the closer he could be coming to his final chapter…

My Review:

I picked this to read this week because this is National Library Week. I was looking for something that related to libraries in some way, and I was in the mood for a little bit of comfort reading. Any entry in the Cat in the Stacks series always fills both of those requirements!

I think that my friend Attila the Archivist would have a field day with this one. Not only does she love cats (Diesel is always a sweetie) but the mystery revolves around some Civil War diaries that are donated to the local university archives, and there’s a lot in here about proper handling of fragile material, the necessity of preservation, and just how much time and effort goes into preparing material for the collection and ultimate use by scholars.

And all of that mostly factual (I think, I’m not an archivist) information serves as the raisins in what turns out to be this very tasty Oatmeal-Raisin Cookie of a case.

(Diesel the cat always tries to get the cookies, but raisins aren’t good for cats. His human, Charlie Harris, seems to love Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and gets tempted by them fairly often in the story.)

The archival parts of this story begin when one of the prominent local families in tiny Athena Mississippi donates four volumes of Civil War-era diaries to the university archives. The Long family has been prominent in Athena since its founding in the early 1800s, and there will be plenty of history students at the university who will look to those diaries for research papers once they are available for use.

But archivist/librarian Charlie Harris is besieged from the moment the diaries are placed in his care. A local reporter demands access before the diaries have even been properly evaluated. And one of the history professors demands exclusive access to those same diaries – even more loudly and rudely – the moment they arrive in Charlie’s hands.

Things get crazier from there, as they often do when Charlie gets involved. He seems to be a magnet for trouble – and murder. Or he has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. (Or the wrong place at the wrong time, depending upon one’s perspective. The local police detective seems to be of two minds about this. As one might imagine!)

The diaries are stolen. Then they’re mysteriously returned. And then, that loud and rude professor gets murdered. Charlie and those diaries find themselves in the thick of the case – and caught in the middle of a local political race that shouldn’t relate to 150-year-old diaries but somehow does just the same.

This is a case where words matter. Even words written over a century and a half ago. Or perhaps especially over those words.

Escape Rating B: I had a terrific time with this story – a terrific time that was certainly enhanced by the inclusion of a short story at the end that finally tells the tale of when Charlie met Diesel.

There are two things that I really love about this series. One is that the author is very clearly “one of us” librarians. Charlie Harris didn’t necessarily have to be a librarian, but since he is, it is important, at least to me, that he seem realistic. If he weren’t it would throw me (and probably most librarians) totally out of the story. The series is popular and ongoing, so it’s clear that the author managed to straddle the line between satisfying those of us “in the know” while still entertaining general readers.

Charlie Harris is a librarian that I’d love to have coffee with at any conference. And he’d fit right in.

The other thing is that while Diesel is most definitely large and in charge and utterly adorable, he’s just a cat. An extremely large cat – although not unrealistically so – but just a cat. He’s good at the things that cats are good at, bad at – and in the same manner – the things that cats are bad at. But he’s not more than felinely intelligent – if a bit high on the feline intelligence scale. But then, I’ve had cats of my own who were high on that scale – and also one who was extremely dim. There’s a range and Diesel fits within it.

This is my way of saying that series like The Cat Who and Sneaky Pie Brown and my personal favorite Joe Grey may be a lot of fun, but most cats should be cats and not detectives.

The case in this book turned out to be fascinating in a number of ways. One part of it was the application of the old saw about “academic politics being so vicious because the stakes are so small.” The corner of this mess that revolves around the tenure chase and the emotions engendered feels very realistic – even though that part of the case gets a bit far-fetched.

There’s also a lot about family history and family reputations and long-held grudges and resentments and how all of that plays out in the political arena. As well as more than a bit about the corruption of politics and just how the need to protect both a legacy and a reputation in that field can lead many people astray.

And at the heart of it all is the diary of a sometimes flighty young woman who matured at a time when the world was falling down around her. As well as the havoc she inadvertently wrecked and the strength she found to endure.

Review: A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian

Review: A Duke in Disguise by Cat SebastianA Duke in Disguise (Regency Imposters, #2) by Cat Sebastian
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: historical romance, regency romance
Series: Regency Impostors #2
Pages: 384
Published by Avon Impulse on April 9, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

One reluctant heir

If anyone else had asked for his help publishing a naughty novel, Ash would have had the sense to say no. But he’s never been able to deny Verity Plum. Now he has his hands full illustrating a book and trying his damnedest not to fall in love with his best friend. The last thing he needs is to discover he’s a duke’s lost heir. Without a family or a proper education, he’s had to fight for his place in the world, and the idea of it—and Verity—being taken away from him chills him to the bone.

One radical bookseller

All Verity wants is to keep her brother out of prison, her business afloat, and her hands off Ash. Lately it seems she’s not getting anything she wants. She knows from bitter experience that she isn’t cut out for romance, but the more time she spends with Ash, the more she wonders if maybe she’s been wrong about herself.

One disaster waiting to happen

Ash has a month before his identity is exposed, and he plans to spend it with Verity. As they explore their long-buried passion, it becomes harder for Ash to face the music. Can Verity accept who Ash must become or will he turn away the only woman he’s ever loved?

My Review:

I finished this a week or so ago, but unlike my usual habit, I did not immediately write up the review. It took me a few days to figure out why I didn’t want to revisit the book.

I think it’s that I was disappointed.

I expected to love this book. The first book in the series, Unmasked by the Marquess, was filled with light and verve and was just amazeballs. The author had managed to take a genre that has been done to death and took it into an entirely new direction with its genderqueer heroine (Robin thinks of herself as “she”, so she is the heroine, after all) and its unashamedly bisexual hero.

That they don’t just find each other, but fall in love and marry, and that the titular Marquess loves Robin exactly as she is, male clothing, behavior and ALL, was remarkably refreshing. And a whole lot of fun.

After that, and after her two highly regarded male/male Regency series, The Turners and Seducing the Sedgwicks, I was expecting something other than the rather traditional male/female romance I got in A Duke in Disguise.

This is an author whose Twitter bio proclaims her as “writer of Marxist tracts with boning…” In A Duke in Disguise, we got plenty of the Marxist tracts, as heroine Verity Plum heads a publishing house that publishes radical political tracts – and is branching out into publishing very dirty books with plenty of boning.

That Verity is politically active, and that she very definitely works for her living, makes her a bit different from the standard Regency heroine. Verity isn’t just part of the radical political movement, she’s also unashamedly bisexual and is completely unwilling to marry – because marriage will cost her the independence she both needs and prizes.

But the hero of this tale feels like he’s a bit too much cut from the standard Regency hero mold. In fact, he reminds me a teensy bit of the hero of A Most Unlikely Duke (although I liked that book considerably more), in that he has no clue that he is a duke until a series of fortunate (actually unfortunate from his perspective) coincidences returns him to the family who gave him away for adoption when he was a toddler.

Before he discovers he’s a duke, James Ashby makes his living as a highly skilled engraver. He’s the artist who is designing the plates for that dirty book that Verity plans to publish.

Ash, as he’s called, Verity and her brother Roger, have been friends for years, forming a family-of-choice for the seemingly orphaned Ash. However, Ash has been in love with Verity for years – merely too afraid to risk the friendship he needs for a romantic relationship that he’s sure has very little chance of working out.

His angsty pining over Verity gets to be a bit much after awhile – and feels very traditional at the same time – albeit with the proverbial shoe on the other foot. He pines after her, while she is aware of the sexual tension and the risk that it might be more – or might explode in their faces – but it doesn’t break her heart or interfere with her rational processes in quite the same way – at least not for a considerable while into the story.

When Ash discovers he’s the heir to a dukedom, he finally decides to risk a relationship with Verity – because he believes it will be brief. He assumes that once she discovers that he is part of the aristocracy they both loathe, she will leave him behind without a second thought.

And he will have some beautiful but bittersweet memories to keep him warm in the cold company he must keep in order to rescue his aunt and all of his family’s dependents from the murderous impulses of the man who will otherwise inherit the title and the power that goes with it.

In the end, Ash gives up love for duty, and Verity, surprising to both of them, gives up independence for love. It does all tie up neatly with a bow.

I expected more fun and much less tradition.

Escape Rating B-: I was disappointed in comparison with the previous book in the series, but that doesn’t mean that A Duke in Disguise was not a fun read – because it mostly was. I’ll also confess that I thought that Verity was a much more interesting character than Ash – in spite of his sudden and unexpected elevation.

She was different from the usual run of Regency heroines, while still being plausible. Ash, in spite of the illness that caused his family to send him away, felt too much like he was cut from the standard cloth.

The story reminds me rather a lot of Dare to Love a Duke by Eva Leigh, in a couple of important ways. Ash, like the hero of that story, conceals his heritage in order to spend time with the woman he loves – a woman he believes that he will have to give up because of their relative positions in society – and a woman who he believes will not want to be part of that society with the restrictions that it places on the women in it.

Unfortunately, the two books also resemble each other in the way that both were good reads in themselves but slightly disappointing compared to their predecessors in their respective series. Your reading mileage may vary.

Review: Who Slays the Wicked by C.S. Harris

Review: Who Slays the Wicked by C.S. HarrisWho Slays the Wicked (Sebastian St. Cyr, #14) by C.S. Harris
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical mystery
Series: Sebastian St. Cyr #14
Pages: 352
Published by Berkley Books on April 2, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The death of a fiendish nobleman strikes close to home as Sebastian St. Cyr is tasked with finding the killer to save his young cousin from persecution in this riveting new historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Why Kill the Innocent....

When the handsome but dissolute young gentleman Lord Ashworth is found brutally murdered, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is called in by Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy to help catch the killer. Just seven months before, Sebastian had suspected Ashworth of aiding one of his longtime friends and companions in the kidnapping and murder of a string of vulnerable street children. But Sebastian was never able to prove Ashworth's complicity. Nor was he able to prevent his troubled, headstrong young niece Stephanie from entering into a disastrous marriage with the dangerous nobleman.

Stephanie has survived the difficult birth of twin sons. But Sebastian soon discovers that her marriage has quickly degenerated into a sham. Ashworth abandoned his pregnant bride at his father's Park Street mansion and has continued living an essentially bachelor existence. And mounting evidence--ranging from a small bloody handprint to a woman's silk stocking--suggests that Ashworth's killer was a woman. Sebastian is tasked with unraveling the shocking nest of secrets surrounding Ashworth's life to keep Stephanie from being punished for his death.

My Review:

In contemporary mystery, it is usually considered a requirement that the investigator be an impartial observer, that he or she not have any relationship to the victim or the possible suspects. Although it is often a plot point that an involved detective pursues the case anyway.

No such restriction hampers Sebastian St. Cyr. His investigations, though often at the behest of Bow Street, are always at least somewhat unofficial. And as a high-ranking member of the aristocracy during the Regency, it’s not as if a Bow Street Runner, no matter how high-ranking within the still-rudimentary force, could tell him what to do in any case.

This is ironically similar to the situation that surrounds the dead man, Lord Ashworth. Sebastian St. Cyr knew the man and loathed him, as did seemingly everyone who crossed the man’s path. A path that includes, unfortunately, St. Cyr’s beloved niece Stephanie.

She has the misfortune to be married to the man. A man who St. Cyr was certain was guilty of multiple brutal murders of young street children. (That story is in Where the Dead Lie.) But just as St. Cyr can’t be ordered about because of his rank, Ashworth was too highly ranked to ever be held accountable for his many, many crimes.

It seems all too fitting that Ashworth, a known sexual sadist, was found naked, tied to his own bed and hacked to death by so many stab wounds that it is impossible to ascertain the murder weapon. Only that the killing was extremely vicious and certainly personal.

The problem for St. Cyr is that he’s a bit sorry he didn’t do the job himself, but he fears that his niece may have done. She had plenty of motive – she’s just far from the only person who had plenty.

As much as St. Cyr feels relieved that this killer has been put out of his niece’s – and the entire city’s – misery, when the dead reprobate turns out to be merely the first in a host of corpses, he needs to figure out who slew this very wicked man – before that person kills another innocent – and before his niece is officially charged with the crime.

Although the murder of Ashworth and his procurer could be considered a public service, the murder of the innocents who might have chanced to know just a bit about the crime is not.

St. Cyr must seek the truth, no matter how dangerous the places to which it leads – or how many people try to stop him – permanently.

Escape Rating A: This series is dark and gritty and fascinating at every turn. This particular entry sucked me in from the very first page, and didn’t let go until the last – at 2 am.

But fair warning, if you love the glitz and glitter of the Regency era that was popularized by Georgette Heyer and is the way that the Regency is most often portrayed, this series may not be for you. Because this series explores the extremely seedy underbelly of the Regency. It drags what has been swept far under the carpet into the light of day and has a lot of trenchant things to say about the divide between rich and poor, the extreme privilege of the aristocracy and the trampling of pretty much everyone from the lowest rag-and-bone picker to the solidly middle class.

The glitter of the Regency rested on one hell of a lot of garbage, and this series pokes into it all. It’s not a pretty sight – nor is it meant to be..

What makes this particular case so compelling is that we, and St. Cyr, know that Ashworth was rotten to the core. And even if one has not (yet) read Where the Dead Lie, St. Cyr’s investigation provides more than enough information about Ashworth’s actual crimes and his pure contempt for pretty much everyone other than himself to make the reader every bit as glad the man is dead as St. Cyr.

That he got away with so much not just disgusting but outright criminal behavior is its own indictment of both the man and the society that allows him to prey on so many people.

We also see St. Cyr’s conflict over the whole affair. He wanted the man dead. He knows Ashworth was guilty of so much. And yet, he needs to find justice. Not just to keep the accusations away from his niece, but also to keep the new predator from continuing his spree.

Part of what makes St. Cyr such a fascinating hero is the way that he deals with his own privilege and his own demons. Because he has plenty of both. But it’s his demons that drive him to assist Bow Street, no matter how many powerful people – including his own father-in-law – warn him off, over and over again.

This case, like many that St. Cyr involves himself with, has political implications that loom over the investigation. In this particular case it’s the visit by one of the Tsar’s sisters, in anticipation of the defeat of Napoleon and what will be intense political machinations over the ensuing treaty.

That one of the Princess’s noble attendants was one of the dead man’s many playmates adds to the complications, while the impending defeat of Napoleon seems like a hazy dream. The war has gone on for so very long, and has left so many scarred. St. Cyr included.

This series is dark and gritty and fascinating and compelling. While I haven’t managed to read every book (I need more round tuits to catch up!), every single one that I have read has been gripping from the opening pages – no matter how long its been since my last foray into St. Cyr’s world.

And the reveal of who slew this wicked man was a surprise and a shock and a marvelous conclusion to this dark, decadent and delicious story. I’ll be back for St. Cyr’s next investigation!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 4-7-19

Sunday Post

This was the week where I gave things away. Lots of things. Lots of bookish things. April 4 was the EIGHTH anniversary of the founding of Reading Reality, and April 5 was my (ahem) 62nd birthday. I gave stuff away every day, and the rafflecopters are all still open for at least another week. So you haven’t missed your chance to enter – or to enter again.

Both books I reviewed, the books by the Annes, were both terrific, and I look forward to the next outing in both series, hopefully next year. Maybe in time for my next Blogo-Birthday?

Current Giveaways:

$25 Amazon Gift Card AND $25 Book (2 prizes) in my Blogo-Birthday Celebration Giveaway
$10 Amazon Gift Card OR $10 Book in the Worth Melting For Giveaway Hop
$10 Amazon Gift Card OR $10 Book in the Rain Rain Go Away Giveaway Hop
Any book in either the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series or the Daniel Pitt series (both) by Anne Perry
Any book in the Leaphorn, Chee (and Manuelito) series by Anne Hillerman and Tony Hillerman

Winner Announcements:

The winner of The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick is Danielle
The winner of The Cliff House by RaeAnne Thayne is L Lam

Blog Recap:

Worth Melting For Giveaway Hop
Rain Rain Go Away Giveaway Hop
A Review: Triple Jeopardy by Anne Perry + Giveaway
Blogo-Birthday Celebration + Giveaway
A+ Review: The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (334)

Coming This Week:

Who Slays the Wicked by C.S. Harris (review)
A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian (review)
Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James (review)
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (review)
Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (review)

Stacking the Shelves (334)

Stacking the Shelves

Yesterday was my birthday, and I seem to be having a bit of a sad about it. I’m not sure whether it’s the birthday, that the number of birthdays is so many at this point, that the people who knew me way back when are all either deceased or no longer part of my life, or all of the above.

I guess I’ll just have to keep reading until the feeling passes!

For Review:
Cold Storage by David Koepp
The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind by Jackson Ford
Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger
Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty
Just One Bite by Jack Heath
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
Till Sudden Death Do Us Part (Ishmael Jones #7) by Simon R. Green
Unraveling by Karen Lord
What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
The Death of Chaos (Saga of Recluce #5) by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Review: The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman + Giveaway

Review: The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman + GiveawayThe Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery
Series: Leaphorn and Chee #23, Leaphorn Chee and Manuelito #5
Pages: 304
Published by Harper on April 9, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Legendary Navajo policeman Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn takes center stage in this riveting atmospheric mystery from New York Times bestselling author Anne Hillerman that combines crime, superstition, and tradition and brings the desert Southwest vividly alive.

Joe Leaphorn may have retired from the Tribal Police, but he finds himself knee-deep in a perplexing case involving a priceless artifact—a reminder of a dark time in Navajo history. Joe’s been hired to find a missing biil, a traditional dress that had been donated to the Navajo Nation. His investigation takes a sinister turn when the leading suspect dies under mysterious circumstances and Leaphorn himself receives anonymous warnings to beware—witchcraft is afoot.

While the veteran detective is busy working to untangle his strange case, his former colleague Jim Chee and Officer Bernie Manuelito are collecting evidence they hope will lead to a cunning criminal behind a rash of burglaries. Their case takes a complicated turn when Bernie finds a body near a popular running trail. The situation grows more complicated when the death is ruled a homicide, and the Tribal cops are thrust into a turf battle because the murder involves the FBI.

As Leaphorn, Chee, and Bernie draw closer to solving these crimes, their parallel investigations begin to merge . . . and offer an unexpected opportunity that opens a new chapter in Bernie’s life.

My Review:

I found the original Leaphorn and Chee series sometime in the 1990s, when I had a horrifically long commute in the Chicago suburbs and audiobooks saved my sanity if not my life. Audiobook publishing was nowhere near as robust as it is today, and there weren’t a lot of options for someone who spent 3 hours in their car, 5 days a week, for most of 9 years.

I listened to a lot of books, and The Blessing Way (the first book in the series) and all of the following books that were available, during those long drives. The stories, told in the inimitable voice of George Guidall, swept me away, kept me awake, and left me enthralled every time.

When the original author, Tony Hillerman, died in 2008, the series seemingly ended. At least until his daughter Anne picked it back up again in 2013 with the marvelous Spider Woman’s Daughter, adding Navajo Tribal Police Officer Bernie Manuelito’s name to the series as well as her perspective to the continuing series.

The Tale Teller is the fifth book in that continuation, and it swept me away from the very first page – as all of the books in this series have done.

One of the things that has made the return of the series so marvelous has been its addition of Bernie to the mix. Bernie is a Navajo Tribal Police Officer, as is her husband Jim Chee, and their mentor, the legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn.

They each bring a different perspective to their work, to their culture, and to life in the Four Corners. Leaphorn is older, semi-retired, and does not believe in many of the traditions while still revering the history. Chee, although younger, has much more belief in the traditions of their people, and once studied to be a healer. Bernie Manuelito is a woman caught between the demands of her career and the need to still fulfill as many of the traditional roles of oldest daughter to her aging mother as she can manage – including the role of attempting to keep her wayward younger sister on the straight and narrow.

While the “torch” directly passed from Leaphorn to Chee and Manuelito at the beginning of Spider Woman’s Daughter, Leaphorn has remained a presence in the series as he recovered from a near fatal gunshot wound but continued to provide information and support in whatever capacity he happened to be capable of at the time.

In The Tale Teller, while Leaphorn is not quite back to fighting form, he has healed to the point where he can manage to pick up his work as a private investigator, part-time consultant to the Tribal Police and frequent mentor and sounding board for Chee and Manuelito.

This is the first story in the continuing series where Leaphorn has been fully capable of performing his own investigations and providing a full third point of view on events.

And what fascinating events they are!

At first there seem to be three separate cases here, but as so often happens in mysteries, in the end that are only two. This is one of the rare mysteries where everything does not tie up neatly in a single bow. Instead, we have two bows, one reasonably neat and one a bloody mess.

Bernie finds a dead body on a hiking trail, guarded by the victim’s faithful dog. An old friend of her mother’s finds a valuable piece of jewelry that he previously reported stolen being sold at a flea market – leading into Chee’s investigation of a sudden string of home robberies. And Leaphorn takes on a case from the Tribal Museum. An important donation may have been stolen, either before it arrived, or after. Or it may not have been in the box at all. That the donor wishes to remain anonymous adds to the mystery. That one of the important pieces of the puzzle dies almost the instant that Leaphorn gets involved shifts the problem from seemingly minor to possibly deadly.

While not all of the cases end happily, following the trail of clues and bodies is a page-turner from beginning to end – and a delight.

Escape Rating A+: I read this in a single day. This was one I picked up pretty much everywhere, like at meals, in the bathroom, in the car (as long as someone else was driving), and pretty much every time I had a couple of spare minutes.

I sunk right back into this place with these people on the very first page, and didn’t come out until the end.

What I love about this series is the way that it combines its police procedural mystery with a perspective into a part of the U.S. that outsiders don’t often get to experience with an, if not insider’s perspective, at least a well-informed and reverential outsider’s point of view.

This would be a very different series if the investigator were one of the FBI agents who often intrude – as they do in this case. Instead, it is the point of view of people who are insiders in a world that most of us are not, while they still are outsiders within their own culture so that they can both see the “why” of things while not being emotionally involved with all of the “who”.

The cases in this particular story are complex, especially Leaphorn’s investigation into the possibly missing artifact. As readers, we learn a lot about both the history of the Navajo people and the treatment of precious artifacts. At the same time, the case has echoes in the past while it is motivated by events in the present. The resolution is heartbreaking but fits.

Chee and Manuelito’s cases turn out to have more tentacles than an octopus, ranging from burglaries to internet scams to witness protection to murder – but at least that case, which gets a bit too close to Bernie’s family, ends with a mostly happy resolution.

That the perpetrators were hiding in plain sight but not obvious until very near the end made both cases fascinating to read.

I’m grateful to those long ago long commutes, now that they are in the past, for the terrific series such as this one that they introduced me to. And I’m looking forward to returning to the Four Corners with Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito at the next opportunity!

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

For the final day of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week I’m giving away a copy of any book in the combined Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito series, from it’s very beginning in The Blessing Way to the latest book, The Tale Teller. If you are new to the series, I would recommend starting with Spider Woman’s Daughter, as it brings the reader into the action at the present while providing enough background to immerse you in the story and familiarize you with the characters. But it is up to the winner to decide. Enter the rafflecopter, and it might be YOU!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blogo-Birthday Celebration + Giveaway

It’s that time again – time for my annual Hobbit Birthday!

Today is the OMG EIGHTH anniversary of the very first post on Reading Reality, back when it was called “Escape Reality, Read Fiction!” I found that saying on a t-shirt, and the other day I found the t-shirt again. I’m not sure whether the shirt still fits, but the sentiment certainly does.

Tomorrow is my own birthday. I call these Hobbit birthdays because hobbits give presents on their birthdays instead of receiving them. That’s what I’m doing this week, giving presents away.

Monday and Tuesday were both blog hops. As part of yesterday’s review I’m giving away a copy of any book in one of my favorite long-running series. I’m calling it one series, although it mostly isn’t, but sort of is. The Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series of historical mysteries literally (and literarily) gave birth to the Daniel Pitt series, as Daniel is their son. Both series are still ongoing, and both are marvelous if you love historical mysteries.

Tomorrow’s review and giveaway will be for another much-loved and long-running series, the Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito series begun by the late Tony Hillerman and continued marvelously by his daughter Anne Hillerman. Just like yesterday, the giveaway will be for any book in the entire run of the series.

I chose both of those series this year because they both have books coming out right around my birthday – it’s my party week and I’ll read what I want to! These are books I wanted to read because I love both series. AND, something I didn’t realize until after I set the calendar, both authors are named “Anne” with an “e”. My middle name is “Anne” with an “e”, so it seemed a bit like fate.

Or at least good reading karma!

But today is the celebration of the start of Reading Reality, eight years, four cities and eight residences ago. (We moved a LOT, but we think we’ve finally stopped for a while).

I always like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you, my readers and followers, for making this blog so much fun to do. If I wasn’t having a good time, I’d stop – and I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I hope that all of you are having a good time, and hopefully an informative one, reading the posts and reviews. Whenever someone comments that they picked up a book because I raved about it – or avoided one like the plague because I ranted – it absolutely makes my day.

As today is the actual anniversary, today’s giveaway is special. I’m giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card AND a book (or books!) up to $25 in value, shipped anywhere that the Book Depository ships. There are separate rafflecopters for each giveaway, so enter one or both!

It’s my way of saying thanks to all of you. I’m looking forward to spending many more years together, talking about even more books!

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Review: Triple Jeopardy by Anne Perry + Giveaway

Review: Triple Jeopardy by Anne Perry + GiveawayTriple Jeopardy (Daniel Pitt #2) by Anne Perry
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical mystery
Series: Daniel Pitt #2
Pages: 320
Published by Ballantine Books on April 9, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Young lawyer Daniel Pitt must defend a British diplomat accused of a theft that may cover up a deadly crime in this riveting novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Twenty-one Days.

Daniel Pitt, along with his parents, Charlotte and Thomas, is delighted that his sister, Jemima, and her family have returned to London from the States for a visit. But the Pitts soon learn of a harrowing incident: In Washington, D.C., one of Jemima's good friends has been assaulted and her treasured necklace stolen. The perpetrator appears to be a man named Philip Sidney, a British diplomat stationed in America's capital who, in a cowardly move, has fled to London, claiming diplomatic immunity. But that claim doesn't cover his other crimes. . . .

When Sidney winds up in court on a separate charge of embezzlement, it falls to Daniel to defend him. Daniel plans to provide only a competent enough defense to avoid a mistrial, allowing the prosecution to put his client away. But when word travels across the pond that an employee of the British embassy in Washington has been found dead, Daniel grows suspicious about Sidney's alleged crimes and puts on his detective hat to search for evidence in what has blown up into an international affair.

As the embezzlement scandal heats up, Daniel takes his questions to intrepid scientist Miriam fford Croft, who brilliantly uses the most up-to-date technologies to follow an entirely new path of investigation. Daniel and Miriam travel to the Channel Islands to chase a fresh lead, and what began with a stolen necklace turns out to have implications in three far greater crimes--a triple jeopardy, including possible murder.

Advance praise for Triple Jeopardy

"Readers may find themselves smitten with Daniel and with the dauntless Miriam fforde Croft, whose relationship with Daniel deepens in this episode. . . . Primarily identified for her authentic period sets and well-rendered characters, Perry writes in what she has called the 'Put Your Heart on the Page' method, with the focus placed squarely on what happens to people under the pressure of investigation. This book is an excellent example of her craft."--Booklist

"Veteran Perry dials back the period detail and the updates on the lives of the continuing characters to focus on one of her most teasing mysteries, this time with a courtroom finale that may be her strongest ever."--Kirkus Reviews

My Review:

In my review of the first Daniel Pitt story, Twenty-One Days, I said that Daniel, his cast of irregulars, and the methods they use to discover the truth reminded me more than a bit of the Canadian TV series Murdoch Mysteries.

That’s still very much true in Daniel’s second outing, along with more than a bit of Law and Order UK, perhaps as the early 20th century edition. Perhaps with a bit of the Bess Crawford mystery book series, or the early adventures of Maisie Dobbs.

While Daniel Pitt is a (very junior) practicing lawyer, the year is 1910, and the case he is involved in has ties to the police, both in America and in England. It is also ultimately connected to the war with Germany that can be seen on the darkening horizon by those who are willing to look.

Not that Daniel sees the larger picture at the beginning. The case starts out rather small – and rather close to home.

His older sister Jemima, along with her American husband Patrick and their two little girls, have come to London to visit the family. Along with a story to tell that is not exactly their own.

A friend of Jemima’s was assaulted in the middle of the night in her own bedroom in Washington D.C. A necklace of little financial value but great sentimental attachment was ripped from her neck. Her screams brought her parents down the hall, and they identified her attacker as a young man of their acquaintance. A man who served as a junior functionary at the British Embassy.

The man claimed diplomatic immunity and fled to his home shores, followed in short order by Jemima and her family, the victim and her family, and papers proving that the young man committed embezzlement during his posting at the Embassy.

It may not be possible to try him in America for his assault on the young women, but it is definitely possible for him to be tried for stealing money from the Crown – no matter how small the amounts.

Daniel Pitt finds himself in the case up to the neck – his own if not his client’s. At first he believes the man is guilty – if not of the embezzlement then certainly of the assault. But the more he digs into the case – and the better he gets to know his client – the more he realizes that nothing about the entire thing makes any sense at all.

Not the original assault, not the embezzlement, and not the murder of the poor clerk who discovered the financial irregularities. Unless there’s something hidden underneath it all. And that the “original” assault was not the originating event at all – but instead the first in a series of increasingly desperate cover ups.

Daniel will have to dig deeply in order to find the answer. Very deeply indeed – both into the past and under the ocean – in order to come at the truth.

Escape Rating A: Reminiscent of the first book in this series, Daniel comes to this case through a family connection. And much of his internal tension throughout his investigation revolves around that family.

Initially, everyone is sure that the accused is guilty, if not of the financial misappropriations, then of the much more serious assault – a charge that cannot be brought forward in law. At the same time, once Daniel takes the case, he has to defend his client to the best of his ability, both to prevent a mistrial and in order to be able to live with himself.

But he’s caught on the horns of a dilemma – his introduction to this mess is through his brother-in-law the American cop. He fears that Patrick may have had something to do with the evidence of embezzlement arriving almost out of nowhere, and he fears alienating his sister if he makes that accusation plain.

At the same time Jemima is having her own doubts, both about her husband’s involvement in the case as well as whether her friend should push for the circumstances to be made public. Even though nothing happened beyond the theft of the necklace, the rumors that will follow the young woman for the rest of her life over this will be vicious and will never go completely away.

What makes the story work so well is the character of Daniel himself. We know what he came from, his parents were the protagonists in this author’s long-running and much-beloved historical mystery series named for them, Charlotte and Thomas Pitt.

Their series begins with The Cater Street Hangman and follows the romance and eventual marriage between Thomas, police detective and gamekeeper’s son and Charlotte, a daughter of the aristocracy. During that series, Thomas rises from detective to his position in 1910, head of Special Branch, the police department that deals with terrorism and treason.

But Daniel Pitt is very young, both as a man and as a lawyer. He often finds himself in over his head, and feels constrained about asking his father for advice – at least partially because he is all too aware that he was initially taken on by his firm because his father requested a favor from the senior partner. Daniel does not want to feel any more beholden to his father’s connections than he already does.

So Daniel comes at his cases from a different angle altogether – although in this particular case that angle results in him calling his own father to the witness stand!

In the end, Daniel solves this case with more than a little help from his rather irregular friends. And that’s what makes it such a page-turner from beginning to end.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

As part of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration, I’m giving away something every day this week. Today’s giveaway is for the winner’s choice of any book in either the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series or the Daniel Pitt series, both by Anne Perry. Both series are absolutely wonderful, and will be a treat for any lover of historical mystery. So the winner can either start Daniel’s adventures with Twenty-One Days, or go all the way back to when his parents first met in The Cater Street Hangman, or anywhere in between, including this most recent (and terrific!) mystery.

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Rain Rain Go Away Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the 4th Annual Rain Rain Go Away! Giveaway Hop, hosted by The Kids Did It and The Mommy Island

It’s not supposed to rain today in Atlanta. But “climate is what you expect, weather is what you get” so who knows? It is supposed to rain over the weekend. Of course it is!

“Rain Rain Go Away! Come back another day!” Preferably a day when we all have to be indoors working anyway. Oh well, it could be worse. Depending on where you live, it could still be snow!

As part of the Rain Rain Go Away! Giveaway Hop, as well as part of my eighth annual Blogo-Birthday Giveaway Celebration, I’m giving away the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository. Yes, I gave the same thing away yesterday, but this is a completely separate giveaway. As will be Wednesday’s, Thursday’s and Friday’s giveaways. Plenty of chances to share my celebration and WIN!

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For more amazing prizes be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!

Worth Melting For Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Worth Melting For Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

It should be Spring pretty much everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere by now – even Alaska! So there’s plenty of white stuff – more likely ugly gray stuff by now – melting everywhere that it hasn’t already.

In the words of the immortal Anonymous, there are two, well, at least two, verses about Spring with more than a bit of humor in them.

The spring is sprung, the grass is riz.
I wonder where the boidie is.
They say the boidie’s on the wing.
But that’s absoid. The wing is on the bird.

If that one doesn’t work for you, there’s always this one:

Spring is sprung,
Fall is fell,
Here comes Summer
and it’s hotter than
last year!

Not that both of the above verses don’t also have a sense of the absurd that also perfectly appropriate for today’s date, April 1 – better known as April Fools Day.

No fooling here today. Today is the start of the Eighth Annual Reading Reality Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week. I’m giving something away every day this week. Today it’s the winner’s choice of either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository. Answer the question in the rafflecopter for your chance to win today’s prize.

Tune in tomorrow for another giveaway!

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For more fabulous prizes be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.