I was enamored with Magpie Murders last year because of it’s mystery-in-a-mystery plot, so I was a bit skeptical that Horowitz’s newest book could possibly be as good. I was wrong. Because this time he very cleverly writes himself into the novel as a main character. Socialite Diana Cowper was found strangled in her home just six hours after she planned her own funeral, and the disgraced, odd-duck detective Daniel Hawthorne approached Horowitz to help with the mystery – not as a helper, but to follow him around and write the story of Hawthorne’s heroism in solving it. This book is smart, funny, and full of the twists that every good classic mystery should contain.
Amber Reynolds introduces herself to us with three statements: 1. She's in a coma, 2. Her husband doesn't love her anymore, and 3. Sometimes she lies. This psychological thriller alternates between Amber, who relays the story of the weeks before the accident that puts her into a coma, and a young girl's twenty-year-old diaries, and is quite brilliant - the unreliable narrator is very unreliable, and the plot is full of dark twists right down to the final sentence. This one will definitely get into your head...
Sisters Emma and Maria have been estranged since their mother's funeral two years before. Maria, with reckless spontaneity, invited Emma to visit her at her Spanish villa, but regretted it when Emma actually came two years later - Maria cherished her solitude, and felt unable to deal with Emma, her problems, and the tragedy from their past. But long walks through the quiet little town and long evenings on the terrace inspire each sister to finally open up. There is very little 'action' in this story, and the translation makes the voices sound a bit unnaturally formal, but there is much to enjoy about this story of redemption and family.
Margaret and Chip are the Golden Couple – a bit entitled, perhaps, but also young, ambitious, and so perfect for each other that they finish each other’s sentences. Margaret has had an obsessive fear of flying since childhood, but Chip – who is one final test away from his pilot’s license – convinced her to go up with him, where he proposed. A freak windstorm hit, however, and while he walked away without a scratch, Margaret faces long weeks in the hospital, covered in burns, unable to walk, and attempting to piece together a different life from the one she had planned. Katherine Center’s writing is lovely, her characters are fun and relatable, and I thoroughly enjoyed this novel of rediscovery.
Two things before I actually start this review: 1. This was not my favorite book of the Armand Gamache mystery series, and 2. I accidently read it out of order, which may have slightly skewed my thinking a little. But only a little. The monastery of Saint Gilbert Among the Wolves was known for two things – their disappearance during the Inquisition, and their beautiful voices raised in the ancient chants known as the ‘Beautiful Mystery.’ Discord over the production of a cd that will break their vows of silence but also provide money for much needed building repairs lead Chief Inspector Gamache and his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvior to investigate the murder of choir director Brother Mathieu. While I learned a lot about Gregorian chants, I did find this particular installment a bit long – that is until the very end. And I missed the usual cast of Three Pines characters. Read it anyway, because while it’s not the most interesting book in the series, it does provide some insight into Gamache’s and Beauvior’s personal lives.
Casey Pendergast is the ambitious creative director for a top Minneapolis advertising firm, and she’s thrilled to be working with Real Housewives star Ellen Hanks. Ellen is working hard on her ‘personal brand’ and Casey hopes to impress her impossible-to-please boss Celeste, and work on the new campaign to woo literary idols into lucrative contacts – until her conscience starts to erode under the pressure. This fun novel is a terrific mashup of Mad Men and The Devil Wears Prada, and a perfect ‘palate cleanser’ of a weekend read.
Jennifer McGaha had a long history of denial. In her first marriage, the denial was spousal abuse that would not improve. In her second, she ignored of the financial status of her family, and the fact that they owned hundreds of thousands of back taxes. And then she was oblivious as to just how hard it could be to live in an Appalachian cabin in the woods, with its wood boilers and unpredictable hot water, snakes, mice, and mold everywhere. But she also discovered that those things mean a time to slow down, live in the moment, and assess just what is really important. McGaha tells her story with candor and humor, and while I have no urge to embrace her lifestyle, she certainly makes it interesting.
I've always loved Wade Rouse's memoirs, but his fiction works focused on family treasures are almost as personal. Writing as Viola Shipman, the story of pastry chef Sam Mullins unfolds one cherished family recipe at a time. Sam couldn't wait to leave the northern Michigan apple orchard on which she was raised, but when her celebrity chef boss with an ego as big as his audience publicly humiliates her, she quits and returns home to lick her wounds. And in the embrace of tradition, family, and a beautiful Michigan summer, she learns where her heart really lies. Included are several of the author's own family recipes - the apple crisp is particularly delicious!
Marisa de los Santos returns with some of my all-time favorite characters in her latest book, but this time Clare Hobbes is a grown woman and ready to get married – or so she thinks, until she meets an elderly woman during her wedding weekend, and Edith’s words inspire Clare to call off her marriage to her charming but possessive fiancé. Several weeks later, Clare is shocked to learn that Edith has died and left Clare Blue Sky House and a set of mysterious ledgers to decipher. This lovely, fascinating story is set both in the 1950s and present, and alternates between Edith’s and Clare’s voices. I’ve loved Marisa’s last two books, but this one is definitely my new favorite.
Mrs. Sherlock Holmes tells the true story of Grace Humiston, who became a lawyer, U.S. district attorney, and detective before women even had the vote. A rash of missing girls entices her to take on the case of eighteen-year-old Ruth Cruger, and along with her private detective partner, she uncovers the truth against a backdrop of dirty cops, secret boyfriends, and rumors of a white slavery ring. Humiston's fascinating story was unknown to me, and while this book is a biography, it reads like the best mystery.