Review: Out of Body by Jeffrey Ford

Review: Out of Body by Jeffrey FordOut of Body by Jeffrey Ford
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: horror
Pages: 176
Published by Tor.com on May 26, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A small-town librarian witnesses a murder at his local deli, and what had been routine sleep paralysis begins to transform into something far more disturbing. The trauma of holding a dying girl in his arms drives him out of his own body. The town he knows so well is suddenly revealed to him from a whole new perspective. Secrets are everywhere and demons fester behind closed doors.

Worst of all, he discovers a serial killer who has been preying on the area for over a century, one capable of traveling with him through his dreams.

My Review:

I think I picked this book for the title. I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to be out of my body, so the concept of having a fictional OBE (out of body experience) was especially appealing. Also, the protagonist is a librarian, in the sort of library that we all imagine but don’t generally see anymore – if they ever really existed – so it felt like kind of a win-win.

And I’ve been flirting with reading a bit more horror, so this looked like it would hit a kind of trifecta. As it did. Even though the blurb doesn’t actually do this one justice. Or describe it terribly well, now that I think about it.

Poor Owen witnesses the death of a young woman while picking up his routine morning coffee and a sweet roll at the mom-and-pop deli where she works. The mom and pop being the victim’s own mom and pop.

The killer pistol whips Owen and shoots her in cold blood for the not nearly enough money in the till to make the whole thing worthwhile as far as a robbery goes. She’s killed while Owen is unconscious after that pistol whipping. So she doesn’t exactly die in his arms.

But once Owen checks himself out of the local hospital he discovers that the incident has left him with more than the nightmares one might expect. He discovers an ability to travel out of his own body while he’s sleeping.

That’s where the real nightmare begins, as Owen discovers that he’s not the only person wandering around outside of his own body, passing through doors and walls and peeping on his neighbors. He finds a mentor who teaches him about, not just the wonders of dream walking, but about the dangers of the things that don’t even make a bump when they terrorize the night.

Escape Rating B: This one gets off to a slow start, not that the murder isn’t a bit of a kickstart. But our protagonist, poor Owen, is not just the local librarian but honestly a cliche of a librarian – except for his being male. He’s shy, introverted, a bit of a milquetoast, thinks of himself as a coward and leads an extremely boring life. In reality, we’re way more interesting and fun than that.

He’s also a bit of a sad sack, as his library and the neighboring libraries, all tiny libraries serving small communities, are being combined into a bigger – and hopefully better – institution serving a wider area. While one’s opinion on whether bigger really IS better, etc., etc., may vary, this is a done deal and Owen’s response is to wallow in his obsolescence. At the grand age of 35.

Once Owen starts night walking, he discovers a fascinating new world with the help of his mentor Melody. Who he has never met in person and has no plans to meet. But the world she introduces him to has wonders and terrors in equal measure, from the fun of bounding across the landscape in giant steps that seem to reach the moon, to the terror of discovering that there are beings who walk the night that can kill them. For reals.

But the true terror comes on them slowly. At first they believe that an old man is being targeted by the same gang that killed the girl in the deli. That’s bad enough. Then they learn that the old man is a monster out of legend, and that he’s been picking off the townspeople for miles around. For at least a century. And storing them in his basement.

And that they are next.

While the descriptions of the basement storage are horrific and gruesome and send chills up the spine, what really stands out is the terror of the cat and mouse game Owen and Melody play with the monster. They each plan to end the other. The winner survives. The loser will die quietly in their sleep. Or worse.

In spite of that slow beginning, this is what I was expecting horror to be. For someone who doesn’t read a lot of horror, the short length worked extremely well. I got just enough to be truly chilled without having it go on so long that I either gave up or turned away.

A chilling time was definitely had by all!

Review: Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey by Abigail Wilson

Review: Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey by Abigail WilsonMasquerade at Middlecrest Abbey by Abigail Wilson
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical romance, romantic suspense
Pages: 336
Published by Thomas Nelson on May 26, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

When the widowed Lord Torrington agreed to spy for the crown, he never planned to impersonate a highwayman, let alone rob the wrong carriage. Stranded on the road with an unconscious young woman, he is forced to propose marriage to protect his identity, as well as his dangerous mission.
Trapped by not only the duty to her country but her limited options, Miss Elizabeth Cantrell and her illegitimate son are whisked away to Middlecrest Abbey by none other than the elder brother of her son’s absent father. She is met by Torrington’s beautiful grown daughters, a vicious murderer, and an urgent hunt for the missing intelligence that could turn the war with France. Afraid of what Lord Torrington might do if he learns of her son’s true identity, Elizabeth must remain one step ahead of her fragile heart, her uncertain future, and the relentless mystery person bent on her new family’s ruin.

My Review:

Historical romantic suspense really needs to become its own thing, because that’s what this book really is. It’s straddling a line between historical romance, mystery and something that I want to call “heroine in jeopardy” because it’s all of those things at the same time.

Even though “heroine in jeopardy” isn’t actually a genre – although it probably ought to be.

As this story opens, our heroine is very definitely in jeopardy, just not the jeopardy she thought she was in when a masked man appeared in front of her coach telling the coachman to “Stand and deliver!” The traditional “battle cry” of the highwayman.

Not that Elizabeth has anything to deliver, at least not in the usual sense. She’s an unwed mother, abandoned by both her own family and the father of her little boy, on her way to take up a post as companion and governess to a friend and her children, in the hopes of, if not salvaging her reputation, at least being labeled as respectable enough to make a living to support them both.

In other words, she’s flat broke and relying on the kindness of, not exactly strangers, but certainly on the kindness of others. She doesn’t have anything that a highway robber could possibly want – or so she believes.

But that highwayman is not a real highwayman. And her coach and its contents are not exactly as innocent as she believed.

What began as a journey to what she hoped would be a new life for herself and her son, turns out, in the end, to be exactly that. But in absolutely NONE of the ways that she originally thought.

She never expected to marry. She never expected to be accepted back into the ton. And she certainly never expected to help her new husband bring down a nest of spies and saboteurs.

Or that the father of her little boy would be found right in the middle of the entire mess.

Escape Rating B+: A part of me wants to say this was a surprising amount of fun, but calling it fun doesn’t convey the spirit of the story. Because while it’s going on Elizabeth really isn’t having a whole lot of fun a lot of the time. At the same time, calling it a lovely read isn’t quite right either, because there’s a whole lot going on and not all of it is good for the protagonists.

But I had a grand time reading it. Howsomever, calling it fun implies a level of fluff that isn’t here – nor should it be.

It does, however, remind me more than a bit of the Bastion Club series by Stephanie Laurens, in both its historical setting and in the clandestine occupation of the hero – and eventually the heroine.

The era of the Napoleonic Wars, 1803-1815 is ripe for all sorts of historical drama – and occasionally melodrama, as Britain was at war with France. There was plenty of opportunity for spying and general skullduggery, including smuggling illicit but expensive French goods. The period also overlapped with the Regency period (1811-1820) made literarily famous by Georgette Heyer. This particular story is right in the “sweet spot” where the Regency was still in full sway and Napoleon had not yet met his Waterloo.

Elizabeth and Torrington are caught very much on the horns of multiple dilemmas, not all of which either of them are aware of even at the beginning. Torrington is looking for a spy – and for secret correspondence from that spy that is supposed to be in a carriage that looks just like Elizabeth’s. When he waylays her carriage and discovers that it is hers and not the spy’s, circumstances conspire to bind them in a marriage of convenience, so that he can maintain his cover and she can maintain what’s left of her reputation.

It’s really just an excuse to drag them together, but it works for the purposes of opening the possibility of their romance of convenience turning real. It also works to provide an opportunity for the real spy to continue with their illegal activities and make Elizabeth’s life hell into the bargain. Which is where those “heroine in jeopardy” elements come very much into the picture.

And that’s where things get really interesting. On the one hand, her former lover, her son’s father, very much qualifies as the “EVILEX” who must appear before the story and the romance can be finally resolved. On the other hand, that evil ex-lover is also the hero’s brother. I’m still on the fence about whether the multiple parts said villain plays in this story are a fascinating twist or a bit too much of the long arm of coincidence.

On my third hand, the invisible one that isn’t normally seen, while one part of the mystery seemed obvious fairly early on, the other part took me completely by surprise – and that’s always a good thing in a story that relies on suspense and dramatic tension to sweep the reader into the story. Which this one certainly has – and does.

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Review: Mousse and Murder by Elizabeth Logan + Giveaway

Review: Mousse and Murder by Elizabeth Logan + GiveawayMousse and Murder (Alaskan Diner Mystery #1) by Elizabeth Logan
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, mystery
Series: Alaskan Diner #1
Pages: 304
Published by Berkley on May 5, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A young chef might bite off more than she can chew when she returns to her Alaskan hometown to take over her parents' diner in this charming first installment in a new cozy mystery series set in an Alaskan tourist town.

When Chef Charlie Cooke is offered the chance to leave San Francisco and return home to Elkview, Alaska, to take over her mother's diner, she doesn't even consider saying no. After all--her love life has recently become a Love Life Crumble, and a chance to reconnect with her roots may be just what she needs.

Determined to bring fresh life and flavors to the Bear Claw Diner, Charlie starts planning changes to the menu, which has grown stale over the years. But her plans are fried when her head cook Oliver turns up dead after a bitter and public fight over Charlie's ideas--leaving Charlie as the only suspect in the case.

With her career, freedom, and life all on thin ice, Charlie must find out who the real killer is, before it's too late.

My Review:

It is more likely that the Elkview Bugle would win a Pulitzer – after all, the Anchorage Daily News just did – than it is that Charlene Cooke attended her first – and only – year of law school in Anchorage. There are no law schools in Anchorage or anywhere in Alaska.

Not that Elkview actually exists, but there are places just like it along the Glenn Highway. And in spite of some small but mostly necessary changes (I’m still niggled about the law school thing), the Alaska of Mousse and Murder reads like the place I lived in – in all of its cold, wintry “glory”.

But it was great to be back in the “Great State”, even vicariously, for a few hours, to meet the residents of Elkview and solve a perplexing mystery.

The mystery is plenty perplexing, and the red herrings it offers up are as tasty as the offerings at the Bear Claw Diner. Or perhaps that should be the other way around.

Our primary amateur detective in this one is chef and diner owner/operator Charlene Cooke. The Bear Claw is the diner that her mother owned and operated while Charlie was growing up. Charlie herself was practically raised at the counter. Now that Charlie is an accredited chef, her mother can leave the diner in Charlie’s capable hands while traveling “Outside” (that’s Alaskan for anyplace away from the state) with Charlie’s dad.

Charlie’s hands don’t feel all that capable when she and her head chef have one of their epic arguments in the middle of the diner, resulting in Chef Oliver stomping out in a huff. A fact that Charlie doesn’t reveal to her mother in their daily phone call, as mom is half a world away on a Danube cruise and Charlie doesn’t want to spoil it for her.

When Oliver turns up dead, and Charlie is briefly considered a suspect, ruining mom’s vacation is the farthest thing from anyone’s mind. Considering the state of bush policing in Alaska (the statistics Charlie cites are all too real) clearing her name and figuring out exactly who did kill Oliver – and why – shoots right to the top of Charlie’s to do list.

Charlie is determined to leave no stone unturned, and with the help of local reporter and fellow informally sworn-in deputy Chris, she uncovers a web of secrets that shows that absolutely no one really knew Oliver in spite of his decades-long tenure at the Bear Claw.

And that Oliver’s secretive past – and present – provide plenty of motives for his murder.

Escape Rating B+: If you enjoy quirky small-town mysteries, and/or mysteries featuring felines as companion animals, sounding boards and occasional sleuthing assistants, Mousse and Murder is an absolute delight. Oops, I forgot to tell you about Benny.

Benny is the feline who holds Charlie’s heart. He’s a big, fluffy orange cat whose full name is Eggs Benedict. He’s smart enough to answer to either name. He is also clearly the light of Charlie’s life, and he’s adorable. The cat he resembles most closely is Diesel in the Cat in the Stacks series, although he’s not nearly as large. Few domestic cats are.

But Diesel and Benny are both friends and companions for their humans who are the actual amateur sleuths. They are both intelligent, but on the cat scale of intelligence. (As much as I love Joe Grey, one clowder of speaking cats solving crimes is probably enough.) Part of the delight of this story is the way that Charlie loves and cares for Benny, and how much fun they have together. Benny serves as Charlie’s comforter-in-chief and best sounding board. One of the marvelous things about companion animals is that we can tell them anything and they never judge – while humans, of course, pretty much always do.

Mousse and Murder also has shades – or should that be flavors and aromas? – of Diane Mott Davidson and other wonderful culinary mysteries, including a couple of yummy looking recipes tucked into the back. In between investigations, Charlie spends plenty of time at the diner, providing readers with plenty of virtual goodies to salivate over. Remember, there are no calories in the desserts that you only read about – but you’ll be tempted to make some of these!

One of the things that is so fascinating about Alaska is that it is one of the few places where a person can still completely hide in plain sight. In our 24/7 connected world there are very few places where a person can still be part of a community AND be relatively isolated at the same time. That Oliver came to Elkview to live and work in a place where he can both be known and keep his secrets is still possible – and would have been even more so when Oliver started working at the Bear Claw when Charlie was a little girl.

What makes the story so much fun is the cast of characters who frequent the Bear Claw, both the residents of Elkview and the frequent regulars, like the truckers Manny, Moe and Joe, who stop by so often that they have their own booth. I have a feeling we’ll be meeting more of the regulars as the series continues. Based on the ones we’ve met so far, it’s going to be fun getting to know them.

But this first story is all wrapped around Charlie. Hers is the perspective we follow, and she’s an interesting and likeable protagonist, and not just because of Benny. She’s easy to relate to, her fears and insecurities make sense under the circumstances, her mistakes feel real and we want her to succeed.

We also want her to succeed in her potential romance with reporter Chris, but not too soon!

Mousse and Murder is a fun cozy mystery in an unusual setting with a great cast of characters. I did figure who probably “dunnit” fairly early on, but the why was not remotely apparent until very near the end, so that’s also a win.

I’m looking forward to more of Charlie’s adventures, and another visit to Elkview, when Charlie and Benny go Fishing for Trouble later this year.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

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Review: Jack by Connie Willis

Review: Jack by Connie WillisJack by Connie Willis
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genres: fantasy, historical fantasy, urban fantasy, World War II
Pages: 112
Published by Subterranean Press on April 30, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

During the height of the Blitz in London, the air raid rescue squad operating out of Mrs. Lucy’s house is close-knit and ever-watchful. When a new volunteer named Jack shows up, his odd behavior—not eating, disappearing during the day for a mysterious job—isn’t concerning at first. The sleepless stress of the job is hard on everyone. Soon, Jack is in high demand, due to an almost uncanny talent for finding buried people still alive under the rubble…

But how does he do it? As the narrator, another member of the squad also named Jack, begins to investigate, the truth turns out to have a dark, tragic twist.

New York Times bestselling, multiple-award-winning author Connie Willis’s surprising and deftly rendered classic 1991 novella “Jack,” a finalist for the Nebula and the Hugo awards, is a must-have for readers of her beloved works set in World War II, including “Fire Watch,” Blackout, and All Clear.

My Review:

I didn’t catch that this was a reprint when I downloaded it from NetGalley a few weeks ago. Upon further investigation, I discovered that I read this one, a long, long time ago. It’s part of Connie Willis’ marvelous short story collection, Impossible Things. This is one I even have a signed copy of.

And just for the record, my absolute favorite story in that collection is Even the Queen. Even after reading Jack. If you haven’t seen the collection or read that particular story, it’s certainly worth looking into.

But we’re here to talk about Jack. Both Jacks, really. Because the titular character is named Jack and the subject of the story is named Jack and they are NOT the same Jack.

The story here is about a group of Air Raid Wardens in London during the Blitz. A time of chaos and confusion, a time of monsters and heroes. This is a story about someone who is a bit of both.

War makes monsters of us all. Sometimes it makes the monsters into heroes, and the heroes into monsters. One’s perspective shifts depending on whether one is one of the bombers – or one of the bombed.

War is also a time when people reach deep inside themselves and find the hero, or the villain, within. London during the Blitz was a time of rising crime. It was also a time when people went out into the bombed streets to rescue their friends, their neighbors, and even relative strangers.

War is also a time when life is in upheaval, when social norms are overthrown, when some people manage to have the best of times, while others experience the worst.

Jack, our narrator Jack, is a young man waiting to be called up for military service. While he’s waiting, he’s part of a quirky bunch of air raid wardens. The portrait of the life of the air raid wardens, their gallows humor, their intense camaraderie, their harrowing experiences in the field and their endless war against paperwork, brings the read deeply into their little found family just as the other Jack, the subject of the story is introduced to their little gang.

New Jack, Jack Settle, is a bit of a mystery. He has an uncanny knack for finding survivors under the rubble of a bomb site. He is entirely too good at finding people who aren’t making a sound – and he knows when they’ve died while the rescue is still ongoing.

Our narrator can’t resist poking into the conundrum that is Jack Settle, and he finds something unexpected – and shocking. Some monsters are more literally monstrous than others. But even they have a part to play in this war. There are times when a curse can be a blessing, even though no amount of rescues can balance the scales weighing past crimes.

Escape Rating B: Jack is a quiet little story. Quietly heroic and quietly chilling as well. The narrator’s discovery about Jack Settle’s true nature creeps up on both the narrator and the reader, as does that narrator’s understanding that this war, as terrible as it is, has allowed some people to show their best selves – even a monster like Jack Settle – while others display the more monstrous side of their humanity.

I don’t think it’s any accident that there’s a “bodysniffer” every bit as successful as Jack Settle over in Whitechapel. He’s probably named Jack, too.

Jack, the story, is a quick read. If you’re a fan of the author, particularly her award-winning Blackout/All Clear duology, Jack is a return to that setting from a different perspective. And if you haven’t read her Impossible Things collection, the entire thing is available in more formats for less money and is a real treat!

Review: Close Up by Amanda Quick

Review: Close Up by Amanda QuickClose Up (Burning Cove #4) by Amanda Quick
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical romance, romantic suspense
Series: Burning Cove #4
Pages: 304
Published by Berkley on May 5, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Welcome to Burning Cove, California where 1930s Hollywood glamour conceals a ruthless killer…

Vivian Brazier never thought life as an art photographer would include nightly wake-up calls to snap photos of grisly crime scenes or headshots for aspiring male actors. Although she is set on a career of transforming photography into a new art form, she knows her current work is what’s paying the bills.

After shooting crime scene photos of a famous actress, the latest victim of the murderer the press has dubbed the “Dagger Killer,” Vivian notices eerie similarities to the crime scenes of previous victims—details that only another photographer would have noticed—details that put Vivian at the top of the killer’s target list.

Nick Sundridge has always been able to “see” things that others don’t, coping with disturbing dreams and visions. His talent, or as he puts it—his curse—along with his dark past makes him a recluse, but a brilliant investigator. As the only one with the ability to help, Nick is sent to protect Vivian. Together, they discover the Dagger Killer has ties to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood royalty and high society. It is a cutthroat world of allure and deception that Vivian and Nick must traverse—all in order to uncover the killer who will stop at nothing to add them to their gallery of murders.

My Review:

Close Up is the enchanting follow up to Tightrope, making it book 4 in the Burning Cove series. But don’t let that stop you from picking up this terrific historical romance, as there is very little that ties this book into the earlier books in the series, beginning with The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

Come to think of it, the entire series features women who know entirely too much, and who use that knowledge to solve murder sprees that they find themselves at the hearts of through absolutely no fault of their own.

Not that it’s remotely coincidental that bad things happen to them, just as it is far from coincidental that photographer Vivian Brazier becomes the target of not one but two murder attempts. The long arm of coincidence is seldom that long, and it certainly isn’t here – no matter how much it seems that the two plots are not related to each other – except in their choice of victim.

It’s up to Vivian, along with her temporary bodyguard, private investigator Nick Sundridge, to figure out who is after her and why – before it’s too late.

Escape Rating B+: The fun in this entry in the series is twofold. Of course there’s figuring out who is doing it. Not to mention, why are they doing it? Well not directly why. The murderer is planning to do Vivian in because he’s being paid to do it. The question is why would someone want to eliminate her?

Her family may be wealthy, but she’s been disowned. She’s a freelance crime photographer and hopeful art photographer, neither of which brought in “big bucks” during the Depression. She’s young and hopeful at the art photography, using the freelance crime photography to pay the rent. So no one is after the money she doesn’t have.

She’s still at the bottom rung of the ladder in her chosen profession, so she’s not in anyone’s way.

At least the first murder attempt was the direct result of her actions. She figured out, not who the “Dagger Killer” was, not exactly, but she narrowed the field enough for the police to hone in on their killer. Who tried to kill her first and failed.

The second plot seems to make no sense. But through investigating it we get to visit the point in history when the question of whether photography could possibly ever be considered “Art” was still the subject of considerable debate. (Man Ray, the famous artist and photographer, was working in Paris at this time, along with one of the characters of yesterday’s book, Salvador Dali)

Times when the world is in flux make fascinating backgrounds for stories and characters. Vivian is at the crux of this particular change, and it makes her compelling to follow. She’s a woman attempting to make a career in a man’s world, and that’s always a challenge. But she’s also a proponent of a new way of doing things at a time when the old way still holds sway. And she’s working at the juncture between commercialism and art, yet another turning point.

She’s right, she knows she’s right, but there’s a question of whether she will live to see her vision proven correct. Not just because she’s in the crosshairs of a murderer, but because pioneers in any field always wonder if they will make it during their own lifetimes.

And on top of it all, there’s a romance. I’ll admit that, like an earlier book in this series, The Other Lady Vanishes, I didn’t quite buy the romance. I expected it as part of the pattern for this series, but there wasn’t quite enough romantic tension between Vivian and Nick to really sell it, at least not for me.

But I still had a great time watching Vivian take on the establishment and help to save herself from being the murderer’s next victim. A murderer that, like both Vivian and Nick, I didn’t suss out until the very end.

Amanda Quick is an author that I love under all of her names, Quick for historical, Jayne Castle for futuristic and Jayne Ann Krentz for contemporary. I look forward to reading her next venture into romantic suspense, no matter when it is set or which name she publishes it under!

Review: Dali Summer by T.J. Brown

Review: Dali Summer by T.J. BrownDali Summer by T. J. Brown
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: historical fiction
Pages: 344
Published by TULE Publishing Group on May 5, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Her wild and vivid visions inspire an icon...

Nothing is more important to prim, colorblind Dolors Posa than family and living down the shame of her illegitimate birth, but when the sudden onset of fantastical visions threaten her sterling reputation, she must search for answers before the inhabitants of the tiny village of Cadaqués brand her as demente-- crazy like her mother. In a quest to stop her hallucinations, she befriends a beautiful, intoxicating fortune teller and her handsome anarchist brother, as well as becoming a reluctant muse for thirteen-year-old Salvador Dali. In a summer that changes everything, Dolors must choose between her family's reputation and a life filled with adventure, friendship, rapturous color and the possibility of love.

Set against the political upheaval of 1917 Spain, Dali Summer captures the fierce spirit of Catalonia, the generosity and stubbornness of its people and the blossoming promise of a woman who thought life was bland and empty and had long ago had passed her by.

My Review:

So many stories are about characters that earn their names, their titles, their reputations, or a bit of each. Dali Summer, on the other hand, is the story of a woman who initially owns her name but loses that ownership, and who finally sheds her investment in a reputation that was never her own.

Dolor is Spanish for pain and ache, and for sorrow and grief. Initially, Dolors Posa is all of those things. She is lonely and filled with sorrow, grieving for her father, the mother she never knew, the life she might have had. The story opens with the pain of a sudden, intense, blinding headache that ironically lifts one of Dolors long standing aches while replacing it with a potentially greater one.

Dolors is completely colorblind. She sees the world only in shades of gray. But it was not always so. As a child, she saw colors like everyone else, but when her grandmother, in a fit of temper, struck her with a heavy crystal in the back of the head, Dolors’ color sight was taken away. Seemingly permanently.

But the vision she sees while in a fugue state brought on by that terrible, blinding headache is fantastical in the extreme – and in brilliant, living color. Even in technicolor, although that word hadn’t yet been invented in the summer of 1917.

The sudden re-emergence of color in Dolors’ life is just the beginning. The visions come to the attention of a very young Salvador Dali, just 13 and already on the road to becoming the eccentric artist that he will be remembered for. But in 1917, he is young, still learning, but fascinated with Dolors’ visions and willing to stretch his art to make them come to life.

Dolors’ need to discover the reason for her visions – or more precisely to determine whether or not she is going mad, bring her to the attention of Lidia and Xavi Sala, sister and brother, each revolutionary in their own ways.

Lidia’s revolution is a desire for sexual liberation, she wants to love everyone and doesn’t care who she hurts along the way. Her brother Xavi, however, wants to change the world. Xavi wants to free his country and turn it into a workers’ paradise.

Their flamboyant intersection with Dolors and her tiny little village of Cadaqués will change all of them – some for the better, some for the worse. But before Dolors can be shed of the griefs and sorrows that have weighed down her entire life, first she must drink the bitter cup to its dregs.

Escape Rating B+: There is a LOT going on in this story. At the same time, at its heart its a very simple story, the story of one woman moving out of the long shadow of her family’s expectations and finally making a life for herself.

The complications of the story feel like they are all in the background and setup. The introduction of the very young Salvador Dali is fascinating, but at the same time feels like it’s more of a “hook” to get readers to pick up the book than it is an integral part of the story. He’s kind of a symbol of Dolors unstated desire for more color in her life, both literal color and figurative color, than she is willing to own up to at the beginning.

The political upheaval of the period is represented by Xavi’s revolutionary agitation, but again, it feels more symbolic than it does a real part of Dolors’ personal story – and this is at its heart her personal story and not the story of the wider world.

The political ferment does have its effects. Even in backwater Cadaqués, the world is changing. A change that inveigles itself into Dolors’ life with the return of color and the introduction of the Salas.

But the story is of Dolors’ quiet revolution. The way that she slowly, and initially very cautiously, moves herself out of her grandmother’s long and hateful shadow, and at first carefully and then recklessly starts to live her own life, always looking over her shoulder at the demons of the past.

While Dolors’ is trying to move forward in her life, her grandmother is doing her level best – and worst – to keep the entire family moored in the past and under her heavy thumb. It’s a situation that brews throughout the story until it comes to its inevitable head at the climax.

But the one to watch in this story is Dolors’ every step of the way. This is the story of the brilliantly colored butterfly emerging from its drab cocoon. A story that is slow to unfold but surprisingly lovely in its portrait of a woman on the cusp of change.

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Review: The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick

Review: The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra PatrickThe Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, relationship fiction, women's fiction
Pages: 336
Published by Park Row on April 28, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A single father gets an unexpected second chance at love in the heartwarming new novel from the author of
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper


It’s summer in the city and passions are soaring along with the temperature—for everyone but Mitchell Fisher, who hates all things romance. He relishes his job cutting off the padlocks that couples fasten to the famous “love story” bridge. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his prickly veneer, Mitchell still grieves the loss of her mother.

Then one hot day, everything changes when Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls from the bridge into the river. He’s surprised to feel an unexpected connection to her, but she disappears before he can ask her name. Desperate to find out her identity, Mitchell is shocked to learn she’s been missing for almost a year. He teams up with her spirited sister, Liza, on a quest to find her again. However, she’s left only one clue behind—a message on the padlock she hung on the bridge.

Brimming with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and a sparkling cast of characters, The Secrets of Love Story Bridge follows one man’s journey to unlock his heart and discover new beginnings in the unlikeliest places.

My Review:

I picked up this book because the premise reminded me of our trip to Dublin last year, particularly the Ha’penny Bridge, officially known as the Liffey Bridge. And it shouldn’t have, because the Ha’penny Bridge is not a love lock bridge, at least not officially. Although I’m sure it happens.

On the other hand, the fanciful, ultra-modern, slightly fantastical bridge that lies at the heart of so much of the heartbreak in Mitchell’s past sounds exactly like the Samuel Beckett Bridge (pictured below), which we walked across every day while we were in Dublin.

Mitchell’s story is a story about bridges. Not so much about designing them, as he did when he was a practicing architect, or about denuding them of illicitly placed locks, as he is doing when the story opens.

(Not that the denuding doesn’t need to be done. As romantic as the love lock concept sounds, it’s actually dangerous to the bridges. Padlocks are heavy. Lots and lots and lots of locks all together are VERY heavy. If the bridge wasn’t designed to bear the extra weight – eventually it won’t – with disastrous results.)

But the bridges in this story are the kind of bridges that span the distance between yesterday and tomorrow. Between the past and the present, Between a father and his daughter, both grieving the loss of their partner/mother in their own – unfortunately completely antithetical – ways.

And most especially, the bridge between clinging to the hurts of the past and searching for a brighter future.

Escape Rating B: This is a story that rewards patience. There’s a point in this story, just about at the halfway point, where a switch flips and it shifts from being a bit of a downer to a story where it’s not just that things are finally happening, and Mitchell is shaken out of his rut, but where things actually look up and get brighter.

Which does happen because Mitchell gets shaken out of his rut when he leaps over that bridge in pursuit of the mysterious woman who fell off – a mystery that seems to deepen as Mitchell learns more about her. In the process he learns more about himself, or finds the road back from the slough of despond he’s been wallowing in for the past three years, or both.

Or one could say that his act of spontaneous heroism breaks him out of the straitjacket of plans, goals and objectives that he has been trapped in since his partner’s death. A straitjacket that he has been using to keep himself from feeling the grief he needs to get through.

Once his daughter’s music teacher, Liza Bradfield, reveals that the woman he rescued is her sister, a sister who has been missing for the past year, his carefully planned and somewhat stale life moves, awkwardly at first, into Liza’s more colorful and much more spontaneous world.

At first the endless circling of his thoughts tries to drag him back into his safe but sterile existence, only for him to be taken by the hand by his daughter Poppy and pulled into the world that she wants to inhabit. A world with friends and fun and definitely with Liza.

But it takes Mitchell about half the book to start climbing out of that rut, and it’s a bit dark and gloomy down there. The story only begins to shine when Mitchell starts letting things happen instead of trying to plan them to death – and he’s all the better for it. So is Poppy. So is the story.

The second half of this book really sings, as Mitchell starts to shake himself loose, finally lets himself grieve and move forward (the catharsis is much needed) and gets himself involved not just with Liza but with her entire slightly crazy family.

His heart opens, his world expands and sunshine comes back into his life. A big part of that expansion consists of the wave of letter writing inspired by his plunge into the icy river. Those letters let him see just how many people he’s touched – and they touch him in return.

I enjoyed Mitchell’s story, but I really wish we could have seen more of those letters, because the ones we got were a delight – even when Mitchell wasn’t ready to see it.

Review: Her Seafaring Scoundrel by Sophie Barnes + Giveaway

Review: Her Seafaring Scoundrel by Sophie Barnes + GiveawayHer Seafaring Scoundrel by Sophie Barnes
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: historical romance, regency romance
Series: Crawfords #3
Pages: 300
Published by Sophie Barnes on April 28, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

The last thing she wants is a husband…

Least of all one determined to win her heart…

Lady Cassandra has no desire to marry. But when Captain Devlin Crawford brings scandal to her doorstep and offers salvation, she cannot say no. Not with her daughter’s future at stake. So she decides to accept Devlin’s offer, provided he agrees to never being intimate with her. For although Cassandra is drawn to Devlin, she refuses to dishonor the memory of her one true love.

Devlin knows he’s made a mess, but now that it’s done, marrying Cassandra doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world. Far from it, though it will take serious effort on his part to convince her of this. Especially since she’s never stopped mourning the man she was meant to marry over a decade ago. So once they set off on a grand ocean voyage, Devlin embarks on his greatest adventure yet – the wooing of his wife.

My Review:

Lady Cassandra Moor and Captain Devlin Crawford have the absolute worst timing in the world. They have managed to be in the wrong place at the exact right time to screw up each other’s lives entirely too often – even before they first met.

A propensity that is almost their undoing, and more than once.

They’ve been friends, or at least friendly acquaintances, for years by the time that this story opens. Dev is the younger brother of the heroes of the previous two books in this series, while Cass is the sister-in-all-but-blood of the women that Dev’s siblings have married. Of course they know each other.

(Although this is the third book in the series you certainly don’t have to have read either of the other two to enjoy this one. I haven’t but I had a lovely time with Dev and Cass – even when they were at odds with each other.)

As the story opens, neither Cass nor Dev have any intention of marrying – not each other, not anyone. Dev is the captain of his own ship and spends 10 months of the year – if not a bit more – sailing between Portsmouth and India. He loves sailing, he loves travel, and the more he travels the more absurd he finds the ton and all of its silly, petty rules.

He neither wants to be tied to England by marrying, nor does he want to leave a wife and most likely children to manage without him for months at a time. He’d be a visitor in his own life and he’s just not interested in doing that to either himself or the hypothetical wife.

Cassandra Moor, on the other hand, had her chance at happily wedded bliss and missed it by a few measly hours. Literally. Her groom was run over by a carriage on his way to the church for their wedding. That tragedy was compounded by their having anticipated their wedding vows, leaving Cassandra bereaved, pregnant and abandoned by her oh-so-proper family.

Her daughter is the light of her life. She has no regrets on that score. And no desire to replace her beloved Timothy in either her heart or her bed.

But the machinations of Dev’s matchmaking mother put Dev and Cass at a society ball that neither of them had any desire to attend. Dev promised his mother he’d dance one – and only one – dance before retreating to the card room. He chooses to dance with Cass, a friend who will not chase after him with a matchmaking mama of her own.

And that’s where it all goes pear-shaped. Only it turns out to be, not a pear, but an absolutely perfect peach of a mistake. That leads to a surprising happy ever after for Devlin, Cass and especially Cass’ 12-year-old daughter Penelope – who has been matchmaking along with the best of them!

Escape Rating B: If you are in the mood for light fluffy romance – with just a touch of angst happily resolved – in the current real life crisis, then Her Seafaring Scoundrel may be just the rogue you’re looking for!

Because this is a delicious little romance with not just a very unconventional heroine – those seem to be in these days – but with an equally unconventional hero. It’s not just that Cass is “ruined” or that she runs an orphanage, but that she’s completely unrepentant about the whole thing. She doesn’t enjoy being the censure of society, and therefore doesn’t expose herself to it often, but she likes her life as it is. And she likes herself as she is, too. The angst of this story doesn’t come from Cass lamenting that she’s not worthy because she has an illegitimate child, but rather that she is still dealing with her very real grief at the loss of the man she loved and expected to marry.

Maybe she clings to that grief a bit too hard, but that’s human.

Dev’s father wasn’t any happier with him than Cass’ parents were with her. Dev went to sea to escape, and to make a life for himself at something he’s good at. In spite of his father’s censure. Like Cass, he clings to that need to escape too tightly, long after it has ceased to serve him.

Or them. Because the story here is of Cass and Dev falling in love with each other after his impulsive and ill-advised announcement of their engagement. An engagement which, at the moment he made his precipitous announcement, did not exist.

But they are friends, and there are worse bases for marriage. A life spent traveling the high seas, seeing places that few English men or women ever get to see, is also one hell of an inducement.

That they fall in love is inevitable. With each other, and with the life they can have together. The reasons that they almost ruin it before it has truly begun lead back to their mutually terrible timing.

But they survive the storm. All the storms. They get past the dark clouds and don’t merely survive, but thrive. Together. With a happy ever after that has all the fluff that a reader could possibly desire.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Review: Mission: Her Shield by Anna Hackett

Review: Mission: Her Shield by Anna HackettMission: Her Shield (Team 52 #7) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance
Series: Team 52 #7
Pages: 202
Published by Anna Hackett on April 19th 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

She’s the one woman he’s always wanted and the one woman he’ll never let himself have, but former Delta Force soldier Axel will risk everything to save his covert team’s beautiful archaeologist.

Axel Diaz knows that fighting the bad guys requires getting down in the muck. He’s done too much and seen too much to ever inflict his nightmares on a woman. Especially a gorgeous, smart archaeologist who ignites his blood like no one else. Axel focuses on his work with the covert, black ops Team 52. He’ll work alongside Dr. Natalie Blackwell as they safeguard pieces of ancient technology, but he’ll never let himself touch her.

Then everything changes when Nat calls for help. Her archaeology conference in Greece has gone horribly wrong…

Dr. Natalie Blackwell loves her work with Team 52. A lonely childhood and an indifferent family have taught her to be independent. She’s been attracted to Axel for a long time, but refuses to be another notch on his very notched bedpost. But when she finds herself in terrible danger, being hunted by something terrifying, all she wants around her are Axel’s muscled arms. She is in the fight for her life, and she’s praying her team—and the man she can’t resist—can find her in time.

My Review:

I keep expecting Team 52 to discover a Stargate, or maybe just a DHD (Dial Home Device), but neither of those are dangerous in and of themselves – although a box of staff weapons or zats certainly would be. Or they could turn up the Tesseract from the MCU – that would certainly make a big mess – as we already know.

In spite of that reference to the MCU, I still say that the Team 52 series has a big Stargate vibe to me. It’s the whole idea that there is just MORE to the world than history teaches us, that civilizations have risen and fallen more time than we were ever aware of, and that those that fell left behind dangers and wonders that we are just not ready for.

And that it’s all science-based rather than magic based, even though Clarke’s Law applies. You know, the one about “any sufficiently advanced technology” being indistinguishable from magic. The humans who lived at the time of some of these great but fallen civilizations saw their advanced tech as magic, and enshrined it in myth and legend. But it was science – perhaps science gone very, very far amuck, but still science.

Take, for example, the virus that disrupts Team 52 archaeologist Nat Blackwell’s scientific conference in Athens. A pot is broken, a fellow archaeologist touches something that he really, really, really shouldn’t, and suddenly there’s a MINOTAUR in the room goring bystanders with his horns and scooping up women to make up his expected tribute.

Seven women, just like the myth says. One of whom is Nat. A Nat who fully expects her Team to come and get her. Whether she can survive long enough for rescue is a much bigger question. The team is in Las Vegas. Athens – or wherever the Minotaur has taken his captives – is very far away.

When rescue arrives, it brings a whole host of other problems with it. The initial Minotaur transformation may have been an accident, but now that the possibility is known, there are plenty of, let’s call them basty-assed-nastards, who want to see it weaponized – and sold to the highest bidder.

Nat and Team 52 find themselves exchanging weapons fire with mercenaries from The Hannibal Syndicate in order to prevent those mercs from capturing the Minotaur for study, experimentation and weaponization by whoever will pay them the most.

Nat wants to save the Minotaur, to see if there’s a chance of turning the monster back into the scientist she used to know.

After all, Nat has a thing for saving monsters. Or at least saving men who see themselves that way. Whether they want to be saved – or not.

Escape Rating B+: I had a lot of fun with this entry in the Team 52 series. The books in this series (start with Mission: Her Protection) have generally been a good reading time, something that we all need these days. They do a great job of providing the same kind of escape as something like Stargate, where the exploration of those “brave new worlds” has been brought home to Earth.

This one in particular lived up to my earlier references to both Stargate and the MCU, as the sideways dive into myth and legend has parallels in both worlds, AND Nat, the heroine of this particular entry in the series, shares a name with Natalya Romanov, the MCU’s Black Widow. While Nat Blackwell isn’t badass in the same way at Nat Romanov, I think they have plenty in common, and would have LOTS to talk about, including the stubbornness of their respective teams.

Like all of the books in this series, the adventure of battling the evil mercs and capturing, stealing or re-stealing the dangerous, mythological macguffin is interwoven with a romance between at least one member of Team 52 and someone who is either part of their world or is introduced to it – usually in either a hail of bullets, or by being taken prisoner or hostage by something slightly supernatural.

The romance between Nat and Axel Diaz manages to combine a whole bunch of those elements, as Axel is also a member of Team 52, and Nat is not only a member but manages to get taken hostage – or at least threatened with it – multiple times by both the Minotaur AND the mercenaries.

Nat and Axel have always had seriously explosive chemistry between them, a chemistry that both have denied – for different reasons. Actually, for a bit of the same reason, too. Admittedly Axel has been a bit of a manwhore, and nobody needs to get involved in that kind of drama where they work. But both of them have a bad case of the “I’m not worthy” syndrome. Axel because his former military service had him doing very bad things to people who may or may not have been bad themselves, and Nat because her parents treated her as an obligation or a showpiece instead of a child.

While this is not my favorite romantic trope, it was certainly done well in this particular instance – especially from Nat’s side. Her parents were definitely “pieces of work”. Most people would end up with the same kind of emotional baggage in that situation. In the end, Nat and Axel do an excellent job of making each other strong in their broken places – and of realizing that they make each other better.

So an exciting adventure, a romance that overcomes the odds, another monster down, another merc band out and a good time had by all. A fun action-adventure romance all the way around.

The series feels like it’s winding down. This author has a tendency to have the head honcho find their HEA as the closing of the series. Based on events at the end of this one, it looks like Team 52’s director, Jonah Grayson, is heading for a fall sometime later this year. I’m sure a good ass-kicking and romantic time will be had by all!

Review: Murder at the Mena House by Erica Ruth Neubauer

Review: Murder at the Mena House by Erica Ruth NeubauerMurder at the Mena House by Erica Ruth Neubauer
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, historical mystery
Series: Jane Wunderly #1
Pages: 288
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation on March 31, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Well-heeled travelers from around the world flock to the Mena House Hotel--an exotic gem in the heart of Cairo where cocktails flow, adventure dispels the aftershocks of World War I, and deadly dangers wait in the shadows . . . Egypt, 1926. Fiercely independent American Jane Wunderly has made up her mind: she won't be swept off her feet on a trip abroad. Despite her Aunt Millie's best efforts at meddling with her love life, the young widow would rather gaze at the Great Pyramids of Giza than into the eyes of a dashing stranger. Yet Jane's plans to remain cool and indifferent become ancient history in the company of Mr. Redvers, a roguish banker she can't quite figure out . . .

While the Mena House has its share of charming guests, Anna Stainton isn't one of them. The beautiful socialite makes it clear that she won't share the spotlight with anyone--especially Jane. But Jane soon becomes the center of attention when she's the one standing over her unintentional rival's dead body.

Now, with her innocence at stake in a foreign country, Jane must determine who can be trusted, and who had motive to commit a brutal murder. Between Aunt Millie's unusual new acquaintances, a smarmy playboy with an off-putting smile, and the enigmatic Mr. Redvers, someone has too many secrets. Can Jane excavate the horrible truth before her future falls to ruin in Cairo . . . and the body count rises like the desert heat?

My Review:

The Emersons always stayed at Shepheard’s when they were in Cairo, but I still picked up this book because of my extremely fond memories of Amelia Peabody Emerson and her tribe of family, friends, associates and enemies from her series, which begins in 1884 with Crocodile on the Sandback, and ends with Tomb of the Golden Bird, set in 1922-23 when Amelia would have been 70 or thereabouts. Possibly. She was a bit cagey about her actual age as the numbers rose.

But still, Amelia and her redoubtable husband Radcliffe Emerson were practicing scientific archaeology as well as amateur detecting, through the years when archaeology in Egypt began to shift from treasure hunting to historical fact-finding. An evolution that is still continuing at the time period of Murder at the Mena House.

Jane and Amelia don’t miss each other by much in time – there’s only three years between Amelia’s final bow in 1923 and Jane’s trip to Cairo in 1926 – and they would have enjoyed each other’s company if they had met. Although if they had, Amelia would probably have rescued Jane from her sadistic husband a LOT sooner, instead of waiting for the war to take care of it for her.

While I may have gotten into this because of Amelia, Jane more than carries this story on her own – with able assistance from Mr. Redvers – or the other way around – whatever his name is. It’s fairly obvious to Jane that the handsome Redvers is hiding quite a lot, and not just the question of whether Redvers is his first or last name. Whatever he is, he’s definitely not like any banker that Jane ever met.

But it’s his not-so-well concealed talents that Jane needs when a young woman is murdered at the Mena House – and Jane is the prime suspect.

Jane may have originally come to the Mena House as a companion for her formidable Aunt Millie, but in the wake of that death and the accusation that follows Jane’s mission at the Mena House has multiplied three-fold, if not more.

She needs to clear her name. She wants to figure out who really did murder Anna Stainton, partly to clear herself and partly for the mystery of it. Jane is itching to solve not only that puzzle but all of the other puzzles that ripple out before her, like the identity of the young women that her normally rude and standoffish Aunt has suddenly become so fond of. And then there’s the identify of Mr. Redvers, and his true mission, whatever that might be.

When the murder Jane is accused of tangles itself up with the smugglers that Redvers is trying to catch, the game is definitely afoot. Occasionally camel-foot, but definitely afoot. Also sometimes a-car and a-truck.

Jane is after the murderer, Redvers is after the smuggler, and it begins to look like Jane and Redvers are after each other. If they can get past the many, many lies and half-truths they have told each other in the course of their somewhat impromptu investigation.

If they survive.

Escape Rating B+: Murder at the Mena House is a whole lot of historical cozy mystery fun. And it does a terrific job of opening up this new series. With its meticulous historical details, it also successfully evokes the Golden Age of mystery in which it is set. Poirot would be right at home in the Mena House.

At the same time, this story is written in the 21st century, and like Amelia Peabody written at the end of the 20th, the focus is on its female amateur detective, Jane Wunderly. As a character, Jane makes a good choice for a detective. She’s still relatively young, but as a widow she is less burdened by the restrictions that society placed on young women than she would have been if still unattached.

However, the mystery surrounding her marriage, while easy for the reader to figure out, adds to the depth of her character. She has secrets that, while we may have sussed them out, are not known to her friends and acquaintances, or even her family.

Not that any person in their right mind, as Jane certainly is, would give her Aunt Millie ANY information that could be used later in an attack. Aunt Millie is, frankly, the epitome of an old battle-axe, and the revelations of her own youthful tragedy do not significantly soften her character. Of all of the possible continuing characters for this series, she’s one I hope we don’t see a lot of.

I do hope we see a lot of Redvers, no matter what his name really is. He and Jane form a terrific partnership that contains just the right amount of will they/won’t they. Because Jane has an entire truckload of baggage that she needs to work through in order to be part of a relationship beyond friendship – but she’s getting there.

The mystery in this one, along with the oodles of historical detail, really do sweep the reader back in time and across the ocean to Cairo in the 1920s. In true cozy fashion, there are plenty of red herrings and a ton of misdirection, while at the same time important issues are at least touched on if not dealt with that would not even rate a mention in material actually written at the time this takes place.

And then there’s the antiquities smuggling subplot, which becomes a big part of the main plot. The illicit trade in antiquities – and murder – leads me right back to where I started, with Amelia. She would have been right at home in the Mena House helping Jane investigate this crime spree. I can see the passing of the torch, and I’m so there for it.