Thursday, October 1, 2020

A Golden Grave by Erin Lindsey

ISBN-10 : 1250180678  - Paperback $17.99
Publisher : Minotaur Books (September 17, 2019), 400 pages.
Review copy courtesy of Minotaur Books and NetGalley.

The blurb: Rose Gallagher always dreamed of finding adventure, so her new life as a freshly-minted Pinkerton agent ought to be everything she ever wanted. Only a few months ago, she was just another poor Irish housemaid from Five Points; now, she’s learning to shoot a gun and dance the waltz and throw a grown man over her shoulder. Better still, she’s been recruited to the special branch, an elite unit dedicated to cases of a paranormal nature, and that means spending her days alongside the dashing Thomas Wiltshire.

But being a Pinkerton isn’t quite what Rose imagined, and not everyone welcomes her into the fold. Meanwhile, her old friends aren’t sure what to make of the new Rose, and even Thomas seems to be having second thoughts about his junior partner. So when a chilling new case arrives on Rose’s doorstep, she jumps at the chance to prove herself – only to realize that the stakes are higher than she could have imagined. Six delegates have been murdered at a local political convention, and the police have no idea who–or what–is responsible. One thing seems clear: The killer’s next target is a candidate for New York City mayor, one Theodore Roosevelt.

Convinced that something supernatural is afoot, Rose and Thomas must track down the murderer before Roosevelt is taken out of the race–permanently. But this killer is unlike any they’ve faced before, and hunting him down will take them from brownstones to ballrooms to Bowery saloons. Not quite comfortable anywhere, Rose must come to terms with her own changed place in society–and the fact that some would do anything to see her gone from it entirely.

My review:  New York City during the Gilded Age has always fascinated me, so I've enjoyed reading Erin Lindsey's Rose Gallagher mysteries with fantasy.  In the 2nd installment,  A Golden Grave, Rose Gallagher is no longer the housemaid but living in the regular quarters of Thomas Wiltshire's Fifth Avenue townhouse.  Rose is in training as a member of the Pinkerton Agency's Special Branch and works alongside her former employer Thomas Wiltshire.  The Special Branch deals with supernatural powers and Rose Gallagher's special skills are critical to their investigations.

When Erin Lindsey takes us to New York City's Gilded Age, she doesn't hold back. We visit private clubs, meet with Teddy Roosevelt as a young man and candidate for Mayor of New York City.  Though only about 1% of the population has "luck"/supernatural powers, this special gift is prevalent among the wealthiest citizens.  When multiple deaths of Roosevelt's supporters occur during a political convention, Rose, Thomas and their team must determine whether a new form of luck is involved and how to find those that wield power.  It takes ingenuity, courage and special sleuthing but A Golden Grave is an adventure worth following! 

About the Author: ERIN LINDSEY has lived and worked in dozens of countries around the world, but has only ever called two places home: her native city of Calgary and her adopted hometown of New York. In addition to the Rose Gallagher mysteries, she is the author of the Bloodbound series of fantasy novels from Ace. She divides her time between Calgary and Brooklyn with her husband and a pair of half-domesticated cats.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Death of A New American (A Jane Prescott mystery) by Mariah Fredericks

Death of a New American (A Jane Prescott mystery) by Mariah Fredericks
ISBN-10 : 1250252350 - Paperback $11.99
Publisher : Minotaur; Reprint Edition (March 17, 2020), 320 pages.
Review copy courtesy of Minotaur Books and NetGalley.

The blurb: In 1912, as New York reels from the news of the Titanic disaster, ladies’ maid Jane Prescott travels to Long Island with the Benchley family. Their daughter Louise is to marry William Tyler, at their uncle and aunt’s mansion; the Tylers are a glamorous, storied couple, their past filled with travel and adventure. Now, Charles Tyler is known for putting down New York’s notorious Italian mafia, the Black Hand, and his wife Alva has settled into domestic life.

As the city visitors adjust to the rhythms of the household, and plan Louise’s upcoming wedding, Jane quickly befriends the Tyler children’s nanny, Sofia―a young Italian-American woman. However, one unusually sultry spring night, Jane is woken by a scream from the nursery―and rushes in to find Sofia murdered, and the carefully locked window flung open.

The Tylers believe that this is an attempted kidnapping of their baby gone wrong; a warning from the criminal underworld to Charles Tyler. But Jane is asked to help with the investigation by her friend, journalist Michael Behan, who knows that she is uniquely placed to see what other tensions may simmer just below the surface in this wealthy, secretive household. Was Sofia’s murder fall-out from the social tensions rife in New York, or could it be a much more personal crime?

My review:  I'm always up for a mystery and I'm delighted with Mariah Fredericks' Jane Prescott series. In Jane Prescott we get a close look into the lives of Fifth Avenue society during the Gilded Age. Jane works as lady's maid to Charlotte Benchley, the daughter of a wealthy inventor. The Benchleys have nearly unlimited wealth but need the help of tastemakers to navigate society. Jane's previous employer had been related to everyone in society either by birth or marriage. Jane's education, intelligence and discretion have won her the friendship and appreciation of her employers and their friends. So, when a suspicious death occurs, Jane wants to clear suspicion from people that she cares about. Her investigations take her upstairs and downstairs in Fifth Avenue mansions. It is a delight to follow Jane Prescott into the homes and streets of New York during the Gilded Age in Death of a New American.

About the Author: MARIAH FREDERICKS was born and raised in New York City, where she still lives with her family. She is the author of several YA novels. Death of a New American is her second novel to feature ladies’ maid Jane Prescott.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Ellie Alexander's Without A Brew (4th out of 4 Sloan Krause mystery)

 Without a Brew (Sloan Krause #4)

Without A Brew (4th out of 4) by Ellie Alexander
ISBN-10 : 1250205778 - Hardcover $26.99
Publisher Minotaur Books (November 10, 2020), 304 pages.
Review copy courtesy of Minatour Books and NetGalley.

The blurb:
While one couple staying with them seems completely smitten, a flashy group arrives in the evening demanding rooms. Sloan and Garrett are less than impressed, but agree to rent to them anyway. The night takes a turn when brewery patron Liv Paxton finishes her frothy pint and, with no previous plan for an overnight stay in Leavenworth, eagerly takes Sloan up on the offer of sanctuary from the snow—until she has a strange run in with some locals and the other guests. Sloan could be imagining things, but when Liv's room is found trashed the next morning, a hateful message painted on her car, and Liv herself is nowhere to be found, Sloan is convinced another mystery is brewing. With many of the potential suspects hunkering down under Nitro's roof, she knows her co-workers and friends won't be safe until she serves up the killer a hoppy pint of justice.

My Review:

I've have fallen in love with Ellie Alexander's writing and her two mystery series set in fictional small towns in the Pacific Northwest.  The Bakeshop Mysteries and the Sloan Krause mysteries transport you to communities and towns that I would love to visit for their climate, the friendliness of the inhabitants, the absence of crime (except as relates to these mysterious murders) and the delicious food available.  In the way that I'd escape to St Mary's Mead, I am happy to spend hours in Leavenworth, Washington with Sloan Krause and her Krause family and Garrett and her Nitro workplace family.  

From the earlier mysteries, it is clear that while Sloan and her husband have separated, the Krause holds Sloan close and she remains an important part of the brewery and the town. In #3 of the series, Beyond A Reasonable Stout, Sloan learns about her mother and that the Krauses had known her  biological family.  Sloan is upset at Ursula and draws away from the Krauses as she learns more about her past.  But there is only so much that you can push away family and in Without A Brew we return to the mystery of Sloan's past and try to heal the breach with her mother-in-law and close friend Ursula.  

I'm drawn to the Sloan Krause mysteries because of the relationships in the Krause family.  But as Without A Brew is a murder mystery,  Ellie Alexander goes far beyond the family drama.  Nitro is led to open their B&B earlier than they'd hoped.  Their soft opening brings them a strange mix of guests.  When one of their guests is found dead, Sloan and Garrett are led to investigate the murder. They uncover more than one motive and several potential suspects.  With more bravery than sense, Sloan undertakes to test the alibis and narrow down the suspects.  Without A Brew delivers the sense of community, delight in food and drink and an engaging mystery. 

About the Author:  ELLIE ALEXANDER is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she's not coated in flour, you'll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. She is the author of the Bakeshop Mysteries, including Meet Your Baker and A Batter of Life and Death, as well as the Sloan Krause mysteries.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

ISBN-10 : 0593129466 - Hardcover $27
Publisher : Ballantine Books (April 21, 2020), 288 pages.
Review copy courtesy of Ballantine Books & NetGalley.
Kyuri’s roommate, Miho, is a talented artist who grew up in an orphanage but won a scholarship to study art in New York. Returning to Korea after college, she finds herself in a precarious relationship with the heir to one of the country’s biggest conglomerates.
Down the hall in their building lives Ara, a hairstylist whose two preoccupations sustain her: an obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that she hopes will change her life.
And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to have a baby that she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise in Korea’s brutal economy.
The blurb: Kyuri is an achingly beautiful woman with a hard-won job at a Seoul “room salon,” an exclusive underground bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Though she prides herself on her cold, clear-eyed approach to life, an impulsive mistake threatens her livelihood.

Together, their stories tell a gripping tale at once unfamiliar and unmistakably universal, in which their tentative friendships may turn out to be the thing that ultimately saves them.

My Review:  Sometimes reviews mention that a book doesn't read like a debut novel.  If I Had Your Face is complex, riveting and combines the stories of women's friendships with several dark mysteries.  It's different from many of the books I've read lately and isn't easy to characterize as a mystery or a thriller even though the story has many unexpected twists. 

Regardless of how it can be characterized, I loved it.  I was drawn to the book by the beautiful cover and an affinity for Asian American writers but this is turned on its head.  Though the writer is Asian American, the book is about South Korean women living in Seoul.  The stories of these women and their experiences are shaped by where they live.

If I Had Your Face ties together the lives of a group of young women living in a centrally located condo-office building in Seoul. 

Kyuri is a beautiful young woman who works at a top ten "room salon" that boasts of having the top 10% of beauties to entertain wealthy Korean businessmen.  As one of the top earners, Kyuri receives expensive gifts from her recurring clients.  

Her neighbor Sujin dreams of looking like Kyuri and earning the large sums that top room girls bring home every night.  Sujin believes that a face like Kyuri's will free her to a different life altogether.  The prevalence of plastic surgery comes across clearly as author Frances Cha describes the procedures Sujin has already undergone and those that she has been saving for, coveting, hoping will differentiate her from the other girls in her situation.  Sujin had grown up in the Loring Center  - a place for orphans and disabled individuals.

Sujin's hometown and girlhood friend is Ara.  Ara has a disability that occurred after her birth although we're not sure what happened or the extent of it.  We do know that her disability is known to strangers and that they treat her differently. Ara feels singled out and her disability affects how she works at the hair saloon.  Despite the disability, Ara is talented. Though Ara is not an orphan, she feels disconnected from her parents and avoids returning home for the holidays. She prefers to spend her time and emotions on friends like Sujin.

Miho is an orphan who had been with Sujin in the Loring Center.  But Miho has given special treatment and attention at the Loring Center because of her talent in art and her unusual beauty.  Through the Loring Center, Miho was able to win a scholarship to New York University and this opportunity led Miho to meet and befriend the rich and powerful children of chaebol owning families.  

Miho works for Ruby's gallery and spends her time with Ruby and her longtime boyfriend Hanbin.  When Miho returns to South Korea, she lives with Kyuri and in the same floor as Sujin. Miho has a special fellowship at a university and spends her time with Hanbin and on her art.

Miho, Sujin, Kyuri and Ara opt to live on the cheapest floor - the 4th floor of the building.  Four is considered an unlucky number since it resembles the character for death in Chinese.  Above these young girls lives Wonna, a married woman, who watches their comings and goings with some envy. 

Frances Cha shows us both the lives that these women present and the lives that they keep hidden.  The way that Cha reveals the secret desires and pain of each of the five women is so skillful and carefully done that I couldn't stop reading.  If I Had Your Face takes us to another side of life in South Korea and we learn to appreciate the friendships and trials that these young women face.   If I Had Your Face was so different from what I had expected from the cover and I am grateful to the publisher and NetGalley for making this available. I recommend it highly!

About the Author:  Frances Cha is a former travel and culture editor for CNN in Seoul. She grew up in the United States, Hong Kong, and South Korea. A graduate of Dartmouth College and the Columbia University MFA writing program, she has written for The Atlantic, The Believer, and the Yonhap News Agency, among others, and has lectured at Columbia University, Ewha Womans University, Seoul National University, and Yonsei University. She lives in Brooklyn. 


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Ellie Alexander's Beyond a Reasonable Stout


Beyond a Reasonable Stout (#3 of 4 A Sloan Krause mystery) by Ellie Alexander

ISBN-10 : 1250766109 - Mass Market Paperback $7.99
Publisher : Minotaur Books (September 29, 2020), 304 pages. 
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

The blurb:  In the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, Washington, the tourists are gone and the local villagers prepare for the upcoming winter light festival. Soon the German-inspired shops and restaurants will be aglow and visitors will return to the northern Cascades to drink warm mulled cider and peruse the holiday markets. Until then, Sloan Krause and her partner in crime Garrett Strong are experimenting with a new line of “hoppy holiday” craft beers at their brewery.
But the low-key vibes at Nitro are suddenly disrupted by a local political scandal: City Councilmember Kristopher Cooper is running for re-election on a platform of making Leavenworth dry―until, just before election night, Kristopher turns up dead. Now, with every beer-related businessperson in Leavenworth coming under suspicion, it’s up to Sloan to find out who the guilty party really is…before someone else gets tapped for murder.

My review: I am one of those readers that is reasonably comfortable starting a book in mid-series. if I like the characters and first book I find, I will go back and read all the books in order.  Honestly, if I find a book and an author that I like, I hunt down their backlist.  Ellie Alexander is one of the authors that I'd learned about through the publisher and NetGalley.  In the days of browsing bookstores and libraries, I likely would have found her books and loved them.  

Sloan Krause had grown up in the system as a foster child. She has mostly painful memories of her childhood but much of this is the distant past. She's built a family and strong friendships in the small town Leavenworth. It's Germanic town with German-inspired shops and architecture and families that immigrated from Germany. Sloan married into the Krause family and they've given her the stability and love that she wanted growing up. Even as Sloan and her husband separated, her ties to her in-laws are unharmed. 

While Sloan's life centers around her teenage son, her family and her love for brewing beer, she seems to be the glue/part of the center of the town. She knows how to keep a secret and is often the confidante of many other citizens. Her desire to help puts her in a strange position and she is more than willing to dive into a mystery.  

In Beyond  a Reasonable Stout, Leavenworth faces a strange challenge with the upcoming elections. A City Councilmember and candidate Kristopher Cooper is running on the platform of turning the town known for its beer and Octoberfest into a dry town.  When Kristopher Cooper is discovered dead so many are relieved and under suspicion.  Sloan finds herself drawn into the investigation and we follow her along as she balances the pressures of work, family and solving the latest murder.  Ellie Alexander combines an engaging character with a fairytale of a town and delicious food and beer to give us people that we care about and a place we'd love to move to and then mixes in a suspicious death. I'm hooked and certain that you will be too!

About the Author:  ELLIE ALEXANDER is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she's not coated in flour, you'll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. She is the author of the Bakeshop Mysteries, including Meet Your Baker and A Batter of Life and Death, as well as the Sloan Krause mysteries.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Angel's Share by Ellen Crosby

ISBN-13 : 978-1250164858 - Hardcover $26.99
Publisher : Minotaur Books (November 5, 2019), 369 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

The blurb: When Lucie Montgomery attends a Thanksgiving weekend party for friends and neighbors at Hawthorne Castle, an honest-to-goodness castle owned by the Avery family, the last great newspaper dynasty in America and owner of the Washington Tribune, she doesn’t expect the festive occasion to end in death.

During the party, Prescott Avery, the 95-year old family patriarch, invites Lucie to his fabulous wine cellar where he offers to pay any price for a cache of 200-year-old Madeira that her great-great-uncle, a Prohibition bootlegger, discovered hidden in the US Capitol in the 1920s. Lucie knows nothing about the valuable wine, believing her late father, a notorious gambler and spendthrift, probably sold or drank it. By the end of the party Lucie and her fiancĂ©, winemaker Quinn Santori, discover Prescott’s body lying in his wine cellar. Is one of the guests a murderer?
As Lucie searches for the lost Madeira, which she believes links Prescott’s death to a cryptic letter her father owned, she learns about Prescott’s affiliation with the Freemasons. More investigating hints at a mysterious vault supposedly containing documents hidden by the Founding Fathers and a possible tie to William Shakespeare. If Lucie finds the long-lost documents, the explosive revelations could change history. But will she uncover a three hundred-year-old secret before a determined killer finds her?

My Review:
This is the first Lucie Montgomery book that I've read and I plan to read the 9 that came before it!
The book is set in a small wealthy Virginia town full of the first vineyards of America and families that have held their farms/land since before the US was a nation. The Montgomery family and the Averys (billionaire relatives by affinity) and many of their longtime neighbors have had their homes and estates in this town for over 300 years.
Honestly, I'm just counting the years until we've paid off our mortgage, so this sort of longtime ownership of huge fertile tracts of land is exotic and fascinating to me.
The mystery in this case involves a murder but also the rumored existence of papers taken from the White House hundreds of years ago. There is a tie to the freemasons and to President Madison and a hidden treasure. The characters are easy to like and the mystery is fascinating. Overall, The Angel's Share is a delight of a read with the bonus that it makes you want to explore small towns in Virginia.

About the Author: Ellen Crosby is the author of the Virginia wine country mysteries, two mysteries featuring international photojournalist Sophie Medina and MOSCOW NIGHTS, a standalone. THE ANGELS' SHARE, her latest book, is #10 in the wine country series. Look for two more books in that series in early 2021 and 2022. Before writing fiction, Crosby--who has lived in England, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and the former Soviet Union--worked as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post, an economist at the US Senate, and Moscow reporter for ABC Radio News. Visit her website at and follow her occasionally on Facebook at EllenCrosbyBooks, sometimes on Twitter at @ellencrosby--but mostly on Instagram at ellencrosbyauthor. She also writes a very occasional (but interesting) newsletter.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

An Act of Villainy (#5 of 7 Amory Ames Mysteries) by Ashley Weaver

ISBN-10 : 074902383X - Paperback $7.29
Publisher : Allison and Busby (May 23, 2019), 352 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library. 

The blurb: Walking through London's West End after a night at the theatre, Amory Ames and her husband Milo run into old friends, the wealthy investor and former actor Gerard Holloway and his wife Georgina. When Holloway invites them to the dress rehearsal of a new play he is directing, Amory readily accepts. However, she is shocked to learn that Holloway has cast his mistress, actress Flora Bell, in the lead role. Furthermore, the casual invitation is not what it seems-he admits to Amory and Milo that Flora has been receiving threatening letters, and he needs their help in finding the mysterious sender. Despite Amory's conflicting feelings-not only does she feel loyalty to Georgina, but the disintegration of the Holloways' perfect marriage seems to bode ill for her own sometimes delicate relationship-her curiosity gets the better of her, and she begins to make inquiries.

My Review:
I've been catching up on the Amory Ames mysteries this week, but I hadn't read them in order. I've read the first and the last in the series and am slowly going backwards.

In An Act of Villiany, Amory and Milo have been getting along better. There haven't been as many sightings of Milo with glamorous women and Milo seems to be more protective of Amory. Unfortunately, Milo's friend Gerard Holloway has started an affair with ingenue actress Flora Bell and he's written and produced a play for her to star in. Amory finds this unsettling and doesn't much enjoy having to socialize with the new girlfriend Flora knowing that Georgina, the man's wife is home heartbroken.

Gerard and Flora call Amory and Milo in to investigate poison pen letters sent to Flora. Amory tries to convince Flora and Gerard to call in the police but Flora refuses to file any official complaints. Then, unexpectedly on opening night and during the celebrations, Amory discovers Flora Bell murdered. Amory and Milo are thrown into the crime scene and find themselves investigating at great personal danger.

I thoroughly enjoyed An Act of Villany and Ashley Weaver's writing style. The language is fluid, charming and reminiscent of the lightness and turns of phrase of Wodehouse. 

About the Author:  Ashley Weaver is the Technical Services Coordinator for the Allen Parish Libraries in Louisiana. Weaver has worked in libraries since she was 14; she was a page and then a clerk before obtaining her MLIS from Louisiana State University. She lives in Oakdale, Louisiana.