Grade A #AudioBookReview: What You Are Looking For Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama, translated by Alison Watts

Grade A #AudioBookReview: What You Are Looking For Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama, translated by Alison WattsWhat You Are Looking For Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama
Narrator: Alison Watts
Format: audiobook, eARC
Source: purchased from Audible, supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: books and reading, magical realism
Pages: 304
Length: 7 hours and 19 minutes
Published by Hanover Square Press, Harlequin Audio on September 5, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

For fans of The Midnight Library and Before the Coffee Gets Cold, this charming Japanese novel shows how the perfect book recommendation can change a reader's life.
What are you looking for?
This is the famous question routinely asked by Tokyo’s most enigmatic librarian, Sayuri Komachi. Like most librarians, Komachi has read every book lining her shelves—but she also has the unique ability to read the souls of her library guests. For anyone who walks through her door, Komachi can sense exactly what they’re looking for in life and provide just the book recommendation they never knew they needed to help them find it.
Each visitor comes to her library from a different juncture in their careers and dreams, from the restless sales attendant who feels stuck at her job to the struggling working mother who longs to be a magazine editor. The conversation that they have with Sayuri Komachi—and the surprise book she lends each of them—will have life-altering consequences.
With heartwarming charm and wisdom, What You Are Looking For Is in the Library is a paean to the magic of libraries, friendship and community, perfect for anyone who has ever found themselves at an impasse in their life and in need of a little inspiration.

My Review:

A 21-year old sales assistant, a 35-year old accounts manager, a 40-year old former magazine editor, a 65-year old recent retiree and a 30-year old who hasn’t found his way. Three men and two women. Different ages, different stages of life, different choices IN life. What do they have in common?

Each of these characters is at a crossroads in their lives, and each of them has taken the fork in the road that leads to the library. But not just any library, but the library in the Hatori Community Center, where Sayuri Komachi reigns over the reference desk as she relentlessly stabs her needle into her latest felting project.

Ms. Komachi has a gift, and not just for handicraft.

The characters in this collection of individual stories find their way to Mr. Komachi’s desk in the middle of their first-person narratives. So the reader – or in my case listener – already has an idea of what’s going on in their life at this particular moment and what decision – or lack thereof – has brought them into the busy, bustling Community Center to face its stabbing librarian.

(One of the narrators, that 30-year old who sees himself as a failed artist, both sees and hears Ms. Komachi with her furious needle as a fearsome character from a famous manga that both he and the librarian are familiar with.)

The librarian’s gift is to be the best this librarian has ever heard of at conducting what we call a “reference interview”. Ms. Komachi doesn’t just listen to what each person manages to say that they want, but also to intuit what each one actually wants and what information they need to make that happen – even if they had no idea themselves what was lurking in their heart of hearts.

She gives each person a ‘bonus gift’ from her box of complete handicrafts and sends them on their way, often with puzzled expressions on their faces as they try to figure out how what they blurted out resulted in something never expected but needed all the same.

Escape Rating A: Obviously I picked this up for the title, and I doubt that anyone is surprised by that. However, while I expected to like this book, I was surprised by just how charmed I was by each of the individual stories – whether or not I was feeling that particular character’s particular angst – or not – as they began their narrative.

Each story is individual – at least as it begins – with the initial link between the characters only in their encounter with the Community Center and Ms. Komachi. It’s only as we proceed from one to another we realize that they ARE interconnected, one directly to another, and that their collective connections form a community and ultimately a society.

Which also the theme of the retiree’s story that closes the book.

Because these stories are initially separate, and are told from each narrator’s first-person perspective, the choice the producers made to have a different voice actor for each section feels like the correct one. Each voice actor embodied their character while also making the voices of the people they encountered along their way distinctive.

That different characters therefore voiced Ms. Komachi rather differently, which also reflected their individual perspectives and worked particularly well. Even though by listening I missed the artist’s rendering of the individual characters that accompanied each story, I’m still happy that I listened to the audio instead.

As much as I enjoyed the narration, which I very much did, it’s the stories themselves that give the collection its charm, as was true in similar books such as The Kamogawa Food Detectives and Before the Coffee Gets Cold – the latter of which this book is frequently compared to, along with The Midnight Library of which this reader is considerably less certain but now rather curious about.

The stories in THIS book are all slices of life, and slices of very familiar lives; a young woman in her first full-time job not sure if it’s what she really wants or what she wants to do with the life in front of her before it passes her by, a more established man who KNOWS he’s not doing what he wants to do with his life but is afraid to give up security to pursue his dream, a working mother whose work dreams have been sacrificed to the care of a loved and wanted child but is having difficulty reconciling her plans with her reality, a 30 year old still living at home who has no confidence in himself and a retired ‘company man’ who can’t figure out who he is or how he fits in a world where he has no job and no set place in that world.

They all read like real people, their crises all feel like part of the real world, and the solutions all seem very possible. But there’s still just a bit of magic in these seemingly mundane tales, and it’s not just the magic of Ms. Komachi and her knack for finding the right book for the right person at the right time.

It’s the magic of getting caught up in, not just one lovely story, but five lovely stories – all with just the right touch of honeyed sweetness in their endings.

Review: The Last of the Seven by Steven Hartov

Review: The Last of the Seven by Steven HartovThe Last of the Seven: A Novel of World War II by Steven Hartov
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, World War II
Pages: 368
Published by Hanover Square Press on August 9, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

A spellbinding novel of World War II based on the little-known history of the X Troopa team of European Jews who escaped the Continent only to join the British Army and return home to exact their revenge on Hitlers military.
A lone soldier wearing a German uniform stumbles into a British military camp in the North African desert with an incredible story to tell. He is the only survivor of an undercover operation meant to infiltrate a Nazi base, trading on the soldiers’ perfect fluency in German. However, this man is not British-born but instead a German Jew seeking revenge for the deaths of his family back home in Berlin.
As the Allies advance into Europe, the young lieutenant is brought to recover in Sicily. There he is recruited by a British major to join the newly formed X Troop, a commando unit composed of German and Austrian Jews training for a top secret mission at a nearby camp in the Sicilian hills. They are all “lost boys,” driven not by patriotism but by vengeance.
Drawing on meticulous research into this unique group of soldiers, The Last of the Seven is a lyrical, propulsive historical novel perfect for readers of Mark Sullivan, Robert Harris and Alan Furst.

My Review:

As this story opens, the scene is so dramatic that the reader could be excused for thinking that the book is already teasing the ending and is going to go back to the beginning of the story to explain how that lone soldier found himself at the literal end of his pretty damn much everything except determination, trudging miles across the Sahara alone, with two bullet wounds, no supplies and what seemed to be no hope of survival.

Only for that survival to appear and very nearly turn to disaster. And that’s the point where we meet young Lieutenant Bernard Froelich, the last survivor of the seven Jewish commandos sent by the British Army to infiltrate Nazi-held Tobruk ahead of a planned British invasion.

Which failed. Catastrophically.

Resulting, eventually, after an astonishing tea with Rommel and a daring nighttime escape from a POW camp, in Froelich staggering into a British Army camp in the tattered remains of a stolen Nazi uniform months later.

Froelich has already had more than enough wartime adventures to satisfy any book or, for that matter, any war. But this isn’t the end of either the soldier, the war, or the book. It’s only the beginning.

Froelich is “the last of the seven”, the last of the seven Jewish commandos who participated in that failed assault on Tobruk. But Froelich still has plenty of payback to deliver to the Nazis who killed his family, his friends, his fellow Jews and everyone who didn’t fit their “Aryan ideals”.

So the story follows Froelich’s war after his initial exploit. The one that was so final for the rest of his squad. Because he’s recruited – or perhaps that should be ordered – to take the skills he learned in that first infiltration to train a new group of Jewish commandos, orphans and lost boys just like himself, to tackle another infiltration with an even more important goal.

It’s up to Froelich and the “Filthy Jewish dozen” as his rabidly anti-Semitic superior officer calls them, to drop well behind enemy lines and slip into a little German base as part of a very big operation. Their “top secret” task is to infiltrate the Nazi research center at Peenemünde and steal a scientist. Admittedly one who wants to be stolen.

It’s the commandos’ job to prevent the Nazis from sticking nuclear warheads – however primitive – on the front of their V-2 rockets by getting the lead scientist for the project out of Peenemünde and safely into Allied hands. Even if they have to sacrifice themselves in the process.

Escape Rating A-: Part of what makes this story so compelling is just how many wild and crazy things happened along Froelich’s way. He has some of the worst good luck, or best bad luck, that ever graced a war story.

What’s even more fascinating is that nearly all of the major events in this story actually happened. They just didn’t all happen to the same person. Which is something I had to look up halfway through because that did stretch my reader’s willing suspension of disbelief a tiny bit. War is hell, luck is unfair in all directions, but that the same individual managed to be both this unlucky and this lucky at the same time stretched things a tad. But it certainly does keep the story exciting!

I also kept having reading flashbacks that I’d read something very like this, at least when it comes to the events at Peenemunde, some time ago. Eventually I figured out that it must have been Moonglow by Michael Chabon, although Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson also has some similar bits. This is a hint that if you liked either of those you might like this and vice versa.

In spite of those quibbles, the story itself is riveting. It’s also the kind of war story that we don’t see quite as much of anymore. There is a LOT of the nitty gritty that makes war such hell, combined with the bleakness of World War II in general. The commando units are all made up of what Froelich calls “lost boys” like himself. They’ve all lost the families, their friends, the future they thought they’d have and the life they thought they knew. They all want revenge, payback against the Nazis – and it’s impossible to blame any of them for that.

(The casual anti-Semitism of the British can be hard to take for contemporary readers, but it is very much a part of the period. Whatever one thinks of Arab-Israeli relations in the 21st century, at that point it was all still to come. The Jews were a minority in Palestine and were desperate for a place to call home after fleeing Nazi Germany. That the British foresaw trouble in the future for their empire was realistic even if the rhetoric behind it was pretty awful – those fears were realistic and pragmatic. That the days of empire were ending and they didn’t want to recognize the fact, is not exactly surprising either.)

But the story in The Last of the Seven focuses on Froelich. It follows him through part of his war, and that war is hell. Not just the fighting, but what comes before and after it. His recovery in aid stations and hospitals is every bit as harrowing as his trek across the desert. His brief moments of happiness are snatched away by the war as well.

And then there’s the training and gearing up for the mission to Peenemünde, which is, at points, even more brutal than the fight yet to come. Because war is hell and this soldier’s journey just exposes one slice of that hell all the way down to the bone.

Review: The Binding Room by Nadine Matheson

Review: The Binding Room by Nadine MathesonThe Binding Room (Inspector Anjelica Henley, #2) by Nadine Matheson
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Inspector Anjelica Henley #2
Pages: 512
Published by Hanover Square Press on July 12, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

Detective Anjelica Henley confronts a series of ritualistic murders in this heart-pounding thriller about race, power and the corrupt institutions that threaten us
When Detective Anjelica Henley is called to investigate the murder of a popular preacher in his own church, she discovers a second victim, tortured and tied to a bed in an upstairs room. He is alive, but barely, and his body shows signs of a dark religious ritual.
With a revolving list of suspects and the media spotlight firmly on her, Henley is left with more questions than answers as she attempts to untangle both crimes. But when another body appears, the case takes on a new urgency. Unless she can apprehend the killer, the next victim may just be Henley herself.
Drawing on her experiences as a criminal attorney, Nadine Matheson deftly explores issues of race, class and justice through an action-packed story that will hold you captive until the last terrifying page.

My Review:

This case is gruesome, Henley and her team are flailing around in the pitch dark, and someone might seriously be eaten by an actual grue before it’s finally wrapped up. There are plenty of other disgusting, creepy, crawly things eating plenty of the bodies, so a grue isn’t all that far outside the realms of terrible possibility this time around.

And it’s utterly riveting. So as much as the reader is creeped out and chilled to the bone, it’s impossible to turn one’s eyes away. No matter how much the stomach turns.

We first met DI Anjelica Henley in The Jigsaw Man, another heart-stopping, gruesome thriller where Henley and her team were both the investigators in a serial killer case AND potential victims.

It’s not a surprise that the aftermath of that case left them all with PTSD flashbacks. Nor it is a surprise that nearly all of their personal lives – which weren’t all that stable to begin with – seem to be in even more of a shambles.

Henley’s marriage is hanging by a thread, as is her ability to do her job. There’s too much grief and anger in her not-so-distant past and she can’t seem to let it out or find any closure for it – no matter how many sessions she attends with a therapist who keeps calling her on her bullshit. Of which there is rather a lot.

But it’s the case that draws the reader in, and sticks in both the mind and the queasy belly long after you turn the final page. If it is final – something I’m still wondering about.

It starts with a body. The dead body of a self-ordained preacher in the office of his more than a bit shady megachurch. But the thing that really kicks off this case is that the preacher’s body isn’t the only body in the church. As the cops sweep the building looking for clues, Henley discovers a locked room hidden inside a bland meeting room, and inside that room there’s another body. A body that’s clearly been starved for weeks and tortured before, during and after whatever else happened in that room.

And it’s somehow still alive – in spite of it’s ghastly appearance. But what’s it doing there? And how, by all that is or isn’t holy in that supposed house of worship, did it get into that room and why is it there in the first place?

Caleb Annan – known to his worshipful congregation as Annan the Prophet – is dead. When Henley starts digging into his life, she discovers plenty of reasons why someone might have wanted to kill the bastard, starting with his wife. But nothing explains what that battered young man was doing bound to a bed and locked into that torture cell.

But the closer that Henley gets to the answer, the more bodies that investigation uncovers. And the more pitch dark and gruesome the story gets. Until the scab is finally pulled all the way off and the maggots crawl out.

Escape Rating A: I can’t use words like “enjoy” when talking about the reading of The Binding Room, because this doesn’t feel like the kind of story one enjoys – or at least that I enjoy. It’s the kind of story that has me on the edge of my seat, biting my nails, holding down my gorge and making sure all the lights are on. It’s compelling in the way that does not let the reader turn their eyes away because what it at its heart is a display of the many brutal ways in which human beings seriously suck and are entirely too capable of committing terrible evil in the name of the so-called “greater good”.

There are two cases here. The first, and the one that the powers that be would much prefer be the more prominent case, is the murder of Caleb Annan. That’s partly because he appears to be a pillar of the community and more than a bit because no matter what it seems like he was hiding – and he most definitely was hiding a whole lot – it’s a relatively straightforward case.

And there are the optics of the case, that Caleb was a black man, while the barely alive John Doe who was found hidden in the church is white. It seems like the press would rather follow the case of a missing white man rather than a dead black man – and there are plenty of political hacks willing to ride that angle as far as it will get them.

There’s also the problem that the more Henley discovers about that preacher, the less that any of the cops are able to see him as the victim of a crime. If he weren’t already dead, they’d be prosecuting his ass for everything they could get.

The other thing that hides under that surface is that the case of John Doe is a murky monster concealed under a whole lot of oozing muck. He’s not been reported missing, he has no identification, he was clearly tortured, and no one seems to be looking for him. And while he may have been found alone in that room, the more Henley digs the more she realizes that he was not the only victim of something so vile that no one wants to examine it closely. Or at all.

But she has no choice but to keep turning over rocks to see just how much slime crawls out.

That in the middle of all this her life and her marriage are still falling apart just adds to the ratcheting sense of danger and threat all the way around.

The Binding Room is a story to be read with all the lights on – and possibly a comfort animal or two or ten cuddled around. Because it’s not really about that simple murder. It’s a case about the evil that men and women do and it gets under the reader’s skin and just oozes and you can’t stop wanting to scratch it away.

It’s clear from the way that The Binding Room concludes that this will not be the final case for DI Anjelica Henley and the Serial Crimes Unit. Whenever the next book in the series comes out, I know I’m going to feel compelled to read it – and very possibly in one sitting as I did this one. Because I expect it to be another riveting, edge-of-the-seat, stomach churning read.

Review: Cry Wolf by Hans Rosenfeldt

Review: Cry Wolf by Hans RosenfeldtCry Wolf: A Novel by Hans Rosenfeldt
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, Nordic noir, suspense, thriller
Series: Hannah Webster #1
Pages: 400
Published by Hanover Square Press on December 28, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &


The first book in a new series by Hans Rosenfeldt, creator of the TV series The Bridge as well as Netflix’s Emmy Award–winning Marcella.
Hannah Wester, a policewoman in the remote northern town of Haparanda, Sweden, finds herself on the precipice of chaos.
When human remains are found in the stomach of a dead wolf, Hannah knows that this summer won’t be like any other. The remains are linked to a bloody drug deal across the border in Finland. But how did the victim end up in the woods outside of Haparanda? And where have the drugs and money gone?
Hannah and her colleagues leave no stone unturned. But time is scarce and they aren’t the only ones looking. When the secretive and deadly Katja arrives, unexpected and brutal events start to pile up. In just a few days, life in Haparanda is turned upside down. Not least for Hannah, who is finally forced to confront her own past. 

My Review:

The mystery in Cry Wolf and the solving of it read like they sit at the crossroads between “For want of a nail” and “This is the house that Jack built.” The former being the first line of a quote from Benjamin Franklin, and the latter being an English nursery rhyme. Both are cumulative stories, where one thing leads to another and another. Not necessarily in a straightforward or even competent fashion.

No one comes out of this story exactly smelling of roses. There’s plenty of blame, misunderstanding, misdirection and downright incompetence involved along the way.

At the same time, Cry Wolf also reads like a non-superhero based origin story for Black Widow, one in which she continues to put more red in her ledger until the day she dies, still doing the work of the “Red Room” – or in the case of Katja in Cry Wolf, “The Academy”.

But those perspectives are long views of Cry Wolf, the latter of which seems most plausible at the ending. At the beginning there are two dead wolves with human remains in their bellies on the Swedish side of the border between Sweden and Finland outside the remote, fading town of Haparanda.

The local cops, including Hannah Wester and her boss – and illicit lover – Gordon, start out worrying about how the discovery of the man-eating wolves is going to exacerbate local, regional and even national tensions over whether wolves should be protected or hunted to elimination in the region.

But of course the case isn’t that simple. And this is where we get into the whole “For want of a nail” scenario. The wolves, a mother and cub, did not bring down human prey. They found a murder victim. It’s not that wolves are incapable of killing humans with enough motivation or desperation – it’s that wolves aren’t capable of shooting a gun.

That lets the wolves off the hook, but the situation only expands from there. The murder victim was the sole survivor of a drug deal that went wrong on the other side of the border in Finland. He left the half dozen victims behind riddled with gunshots while he walked away with bags of drugs and money – and with a bullet in his ass.

Only to be struck down by a hit and run driver who seems to have made off with the drugs and the money. Drugs and money that belong to the Russian mafia – who want their property back and intend to make an example of whoever got in their way.

And that’s the point at which everyone’s competence goes more than a bit out of whack. The local police are out of their depth. Their liaison from the Finnish side is on the take from the Russians. The hit and run driver and his accomplice are locals who desperately need the money but only have vague dreams about how to handle things. And the agent the Russians send to Haparanda, a graduate of the legendary Academy that trains abused children to become assassins, isn’t able to overcome her initial overestimation of just how capable her opposition might be. She’s left floundering in professionalism as she’s overcome by sheer, dumb luck.

While policewomen Hannah Wester tries to put her best into the investigation as her entire life falls apart.

Escape Rating B+: Cry Wolf very much falls into the category of “Nordic noir”. In fact, the author of Cry Wolf is also the creative mind behind one of the more popular Nordic noir TV series, The Bridge. So readers who either like the series or like this branch of the mystery genre are going to feel right at home in Haparanda and Cry Wolf.

The setting of this story is bleak and the lives of the principal characters seem even bleaker. That’s not criticism, as the bleakness is a hallmark of the genre. But, and a huge but here, this probably isn’t a book to read if you’re already depressed unless you’re the kind of person who really gets off on schadenfreude.

There’s no one happy in this story. It’s not that kind of story. This also isn’t a story where anyone seems to display much in the way of competence, which is one of the things I often read mysteries for. In this particular case, it’s more like a series of accidents looking for places to happen – and then for someone to happen upon them.

But I have to say that it’s compelling to read. I was hooked from the very first page, even if I never did figure out where it was going until near the end. Which, come to think of it, isn’t a surprise as none of the perpetrators seemed to know where they were going, either. And the few who thought they did ended up being surprised by where they ended up – and usually dead shortly thereafter.

So the spooling and unspooling of this mystery reads more like a series of stumbles, rather than the usual breakneck race towards a finish.

The part that’s sticking with me is that mirror darkly reflection of Black Widow. At first, we’ve got a policewoman whose life is falling apart and a mafia assassin and no relationship between them. But as the story progresses, in its kaleidoscope of first person perspectives, we learn more about the mysterious Katja and her abusive childhood and miraculous rescue by her equally mysterious “Uncle”. The more of Katja’s history we see, the more it looks like her life was rigged. That it might – and still might not – intersect with Hannah’s own tragedy looks like it’s going to power the next book in the series, whenever that might be.

And I’m more than curious enough to want to see what happens next!

Review: The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

Review: The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline MartinThe Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II by Madeline Martin
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, World War II
Pages: 320
Published by Hanover Square Press on April 6, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Inspired by the true World War II history of the few bookshops to survive the Blitz, The Last Bookshop in London is a timeless story of wartime loss, love and the enduring power of literature.
August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler’s forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and blackout curtains that she finds on her arrival were not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London.
Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed—a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of the war.

My Review:

This was an utterly charming read, and I was definitely charmed by it. I’m saying that in spite of, just yesterday, claiming that I seemed to be suffering from a bit of WW2 historical fiction fatigue. It appears that that book just wasn’t the right book, where The Last Bookshop in London definitely was.

When we, along with Grace and her bestie Viv, arrive in London in 1939, Primrose Books is far from the last bookshop in London. It’s just that the rest of them seem to be congregated on Paternoster Row, while Primrose Books is a bit off the beaten path – albeit a bit closer to where Grace and Viv take up lodgings with Mrs. Weatherford.

The young women are from Drayton, a country town the dust of which neither of them could shake off their shoes fast enough. Mrs. Weatherford grew up in Drayton, like the girls, but of an earlier generation. In fact, the generation of Grace’s late mother. And they were besties back then, just as Grace and Viv are now.

And there was a war coming then too. History, damn it all, repeats the worst of its patterns.

Grace needs Mrs. Weatherford’s help, in the form of Mrs. W’s ability to boss around pretty much everyone in her orbit – including Mr. Evans, the curmudgeonly owner of Primrose Books. Which is very much within the scope of her bossing.

Grace needs a job but doesn’t have a reference – and isn’t brazen enough to fake it the way that Viv most definitely is. Mr. Evans needs someone to brighten up both the store and his life for reasons that are not apparent when we and Grace first meet him, although his need certainly is.

And Grace, dives in with a will, even though she has no idea how to sell books because she hasn’t been much of a reader – at least not so far. But she understands marketing, as she’s done it before back in Drayton, and she’s good at organization, and she needs to work with/for/at Mr. Evans for 6 months in order to get a good reference. That’s the deal he made with Mrs. Weatherford. Grace just has to earn that reference, which will just take hard work and a bit of managing – of Mr. Evans, that is.

But the dark clouds of war that have been looming on the horizon much longer than anyone wants to admit turn into a full blown storm of German bombs, just as Grace gets her feet under her in London. A London that is now on fire.

Bomb damage from St. Paul’s towards Paternoster Row

Escape Rating A-: Although this story covers very large events, the London Blitz being the obvious exploding elephant in the story’s “room”, it’s not actually a big story. It isn’t about important people directing earth-shaking events – even though the earth does frequently shake under the nightly assault by German bombers.

Rather, this is a story about ordinary people rising to the occasion, managing through adversity, keeping calm, carrying on and doing their bit to keep themselves, their friends and their neighbors together in the face of their world seeming to fall apart.

And in the midst of grief, loss and rationing, bombs falling and spirits all too often falling right along with them, it’s also a story about the power of a good book to take a person – or a whole group of people in a bomb shelter – away from the worst parts of their here and now into someone else’s there and then. Knowing that when they come back from their imaginary adventure the world will seem just a bit less grim for both the tiny escape and the shared camaraderie.

Grace’s Primrose Books may not have actually been the “Last Bookshop in London” even in the story. But Paternoster Row, the center of the British publishing industry, was destroyed during the Blitz as described herein, taking most of London’s bookstores along with it.

In spite of the Blitz, the retreat from Dunkirk, the deaths among Grace’s family of choice in London, The Last Bookshop in London is actually a hopeful story. Not just because as readers we know the result of war, but because of the way that the community that Grace has built around herself and the bookstore rallies ‘round and lifts her up – along with themselves – at even the lowest moments of the story.

So, as I said at the very beginning, The Last Bookshop in London was simply a charming and lovely read. If you like historical fiction centered on World War II, especially about the British Homefront, and/or stories about the power of reading and stories to lift people up and carry them away, this is a story that will bring as big a smile to your face as the stories that Grace reads aloud do to all of her listeners.

Review: The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson

Review: The Jigsaw Man by Nadine MathesonThe Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Inspector Anjelica Henley #1
Pages: 496
Published by Hanover Square Press on March 16, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...
When body parts are found on the banks of the River Thames in Deptford, DI Angelica Henley is tasked with finding the killer. Eerie echoes of previous crimes lead Henley to question Peter Olivier, aka The Jigsaw Killer, who is currently serving a life sentence for a series of horrific murders.
When a severed head is delivered to Henley's home, she realises that the copycat is taking a personal interest in her and that the victims have not been chosen at random.
To catch the killer, Henley must confront her own demons - - and when Olivier escapes from prison, she finds herself up against not one serial killer, but two.

My Review:

There’s a tension-filled junction where mystery, suspense and thriller meet – and fight it out with guns, knives and in this particular case, saws. Particularly jigsaws and ripsaws. But saws. Definitely saws.

This is a story that will have readers on the edge of their seats, wringing their hands in sympathy with Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley of the London Metropolitan Police Serial Crimes Unit as she comes to the chilling realization that she is the mouse in a cat and mouse game with not just one but two serial killers.

Killers who are determined to out-do each other in a bid for Anj’s attention. As if her life wasn’t already fraught enough – and not just because everyone, including some versions of the blurb for this book centered around her as she falls apart – misspells her damn name.

It begins when Anj, on her way to work at the SCU, is diverted to a crime scene for the first time in two plus years by her boss. Who also happens to be her on-again, off-again lover. As she’s on her way to work after yet another in a series of seemingly endless arguments with her husband about the consuming nature of her job, she’s already on edge when she arrives at the crime scene to discover that the body that’s been discovered is in pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle.

The calling card of the serial killer who tried to gut Anj like a fish when he resisted arrest two years ago.

Anj has been investigating cold cases ever since, at least until now. She’s still suffering from PTSD and panic attacks. And her assailant, Peter Olivier, is in a high security prison serving seven consecutive life sentences.

But there’s someone out there either doing Olivier’s bidding or desperately seeking his “master’s” attention. Someone who has discovered the best way to get that attention – by grabbing the place in DI Angelica Henley’s mind that remains hyper-focused on Peter Olivier.

Who simply won’t be having that. At all.

Escape Rating A+: The Jigsaw Man is sitting right on that extremely uncomfortable crossroads. Which makes it an absolutely compelling, can’t put it down kind of story, whether you see it as mystery or suspense or thriller or all of the above.

It’s that “all of the above” factor that kept me up until 4 in the morning because I just had to finish.

This one combines police procedural – although a procedure that gets shot to hell fairly quickly and riddled with holes to begin with – with one of those stories that combines the gruesomeness of serial killer stories with the suspense of stories where the investigator is an integral part of the crime spree.

In that regard, The Jigsaw Man reminded me a lot of The Silence of the White City by Eva Garcia Saenz, Who Watcheth by Helene Tursten and the Frieda Klein series by Nicci French. All of those mysteries include serial killers who are thought to be out of commission in one way or another and detectives who are forced into the conclusion that their deaths or prison terms were mistaken, reports of their deaths were greatly exaggerated, that the police had the wrong person in prison or very nearly all of the above.

The personal stakes for the detectives in all of these cases ratchet up the stakes and the tension as the investigators find themselves unravelling, looking over their shoulders at things and people they thought were safe – only to discover that nothing was as it seemed. As does Anjelica Henley in this book.

DI Henley’s plight in The Jigsaw Man is particularly fraught. Her marriage is falling apart, her father has dropped into a deep clinical depression and, her mind and body are betraying her. Her career feels like it’s all she has left – and it’s killing her even as not one but two serial killers see her as the cherry on top of their killing spree sundae.

The Jigsaw Man is one of those mystery thrillers that is impossible to put down. The way that this story morphs from a hunt for a serial killer to a hunt for his copycat to a desperate search for competing serial killers along with their hunt for each other grabs the reader and quite honestly puts the reader’s own fingers in their mouth so they can bite their nails to the quick in anticipation and rising dread.

At the same time, we see Anjelica spiraling out of control as the crime spree is rising up to engulf her. We want to help her, want her to get help, and need her to put an end to it before it puts an end to her. And yet…

Some of the descriptions of this book lead one to believe that it’s the first of a series. I very much hope that it is, because while this series of crimes is solved, it’s clear that there’s plenty of unfinished business swirling around DI Henley and the serial killer who brought her to this point.

I want more of Henley’s story and I’m dead certain that other readers will, too.