Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer

First Line: He shifted nervously in the front passenger seat of the four-wheel-drive vehicle as it approached the southern exit of the city.

In the 1980s young Abdel Kader Haidara journeyed across the Sahara and along the Niger River in order to collect ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts for a government library. Little did he know that this would turn into a lifetime's work and obsession.

Then in 2012, thousands of Al Qaeda militants seized control of Mali and Timbuktu, where Haidara had amassed tens of thousands of priceless manuscripts. Al Qaeda committed many atrocities, and they threatened more than once to destroy these manuscripts. Time was running out, and Haidara did the only thing he could: gather up all the manuscripts he'd so painstakingly collected and restored and smuggle them out of harm's way.

With its title, I just had to read this book, especially since I'd already read about Timbuktu's  ancient and storied history and its devotion to writing and knowledge. The sections about Timbuktu's history, of Abdel Kader Haidara's canny and careful forays into the desert, and of his smuggling them away from the very real threat of destruction are absolutely wonderful. I couldn't get enough of reading about a society that measured wealth in terms of books and knowledge, or about a man who was willing to spend his life gathering together and restoring such treasures.

Although completely necessary to the book, I did find that it bogged down in the politics. Who did what to whom. Who should've done this. Why this group moved here. It was eye-crossing after a while, but I soldiered through so I could thoroughly appreciate what Haidara and other people did. 

Not many people would risk their lives to save a library, no matter how precious it was. We should all be thankful that men and women like Abdel Kader Haidara exist, and I for one am thankful that Joshua Hammer told their story.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer
ISBN: 9781476777405 
Simon & Schuster © 2016
Hardcover, 288 pages

Non-Fiction, Standalone
Rating: B
Source: Purchased from Amazon.  


Monday, May 30, 2016

Alex Grecian & Dan Fesperman at The Poisoned Pen!

Thursday, May 19, saw me jumping into the Jeep once again to head to my favorite bookstore, The Poisoned Pen. This time I was going to see CWA Dagger Award winner Dan Fesperman and Alex Grecian, author of the Murder Squad books (one of my favorite series). Although owner Barbara Peters did stop by the bookstore, she didn't stay long. Dana Stabenow was with her, and I have a feeling that they had dinner plans. Tonight would be Patrick Millikin's turn to interview the authors.

L to R: Dan Fesperman, Alex Grecian, Patrick Millikin

Dan's latest book is The Letter Writer which takes place in New York City shortly after Pearl Harbor. Alex's books are about the beginnings of forensic science and the formation of the Murder Squad in London shortly after the Jack the Ripper murders. They also show how Jack the Ripper has influenced our current culture.

"Lost and Gone Forever is the third book in what I call my Ripper trilogy," Grecian said. "I've seen the back of Jack, and now I'm done with him!"

"And we get to see the beginnings of a Hammersmith detective agency," Millikin said. "We were talking a bit in the back about where the private detective entered history. Roughly at the same time as your book, we had the Pinkerton Detective Agency in the United States."

"Yes, in this latest book there are two bounty hunters who were originally going to be Pinkerton agents," Alex said.

L to R: Dan Fesperman, Alex Grecian

"I ask many people who write historicals... how do you get the cadences of everyday speech? How do you bring the reader into that era and bring it alive?" Patrick asked.

"I read a lot of diaries," Grecian replied. "They don't explain anything; they're just talking about their everyday lives. Of course that often leads me down other rabbit holes of research!"

"Alex doesn't have recourse to this, but I find watching movies of the period to be a tremendous help," Fesperman said. "Another thing that was a fantastic resource-- since I have police characters-- is the monthly magazine published by the New York City Police Department. It's called Spring 3100 after their old telephone number. It's full of precinct gossip, police slang, and you really get a feel for their social lives."

Dan Fesperman
When asked for a brief description of The Letter Writer, Fesperman told us of Little Deutschland in New York City, a place that showed Nazi propaganda films to packed houses. Where Brown Shirt rallies were very well attended. Even though all of this activity stopped when the United States entered World War II, the sentiments were still there, and those people were still there. There was panic on the waterfront. The Navy was extremely nervous. And in the midst of all this is Danziger, a man who speaks five languages and writes letters for illiterate immigrants on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Danziger is "a steadfast practitioner of concealing and forgetting" for his clients-- and he has a seemingly boundless knowledge of the city and its inhabitants.

Fesperman's basis for the character of Danziger was a little vignette done by a woman who wrote Talk of the Town in the 1930s. As he read those few paragraphs, he realized what a repository of information and secrets a letter writer would be, that such a person would have access to better and more reliable information than the State Department about what was really going on in Europe as Hitler's armies advanced.  The only other real source material he found for this book was a memoir called My Mother and I about a Jewish girl who wrote letters for immigrants.

Alex Grecian
When asked about their backgrounds, Fesperman told us that he had been a journalist, while Grecian was in advertising.  Millikin asked Grecian about his approach to Jack the Ripper in his last three books.

"I made a very conscious decision that I wasn't going to bring in any female characters who were going to be victims. This led me to treat Jack the Ripper in a very different way."

Fesperman has written ten books and admitted that the time he spent in Dubai doing research for a book were "the dreariest three weeks of my life."

As a journalist, Dan traveled all over the world covering the news. "I made pizzas during that time," Grecian quipped, which made us all laugh. Another story that made us smile was one told by Dan about a TV repairman in Afghanistan who had to live like a spy because it was illegal under the Taliban to have a television set-- "the undercover TV repairman."

Right after that Patrick wanted to know more about Alex Grecian's earlier years as "the young pizza repairman"  and there we were, laughing again.

Available Now!
Alex is proof that "write what you know" doesn't always work. He knew his subject for his first book, and it took five months to write. It didn't sell. He knew the subject of his second book. It took nine months to write, and it didn't sell either. His third book-- The Yard, Murder Squad #1-- took a year and a half to write, and it was the one that sold. 

Alex wrote The Yard as a standalone, but when the book was in the process of being sold, he was asked, "Do you have book two?" He didn't, but replied, "Sure!" The reply to that was, "In thirty minutes can you give me three paragraphs [about the plot of non-existent book two]?"  Yikes!

What Grecian had to do was take the character of Walter Day, break him down, and build him back up again in order to make him rounder and more complex.

When Patrick mentioned the old "write what you know" again (ironically), Dan Fesperman quickly responded, "Write what you want to write, and if you don't know it, go find out!"  

Dan's work in progress takes place half in the present day and half in 1979 in Berlin, Germany, where a woman administers four safe houses. It's involved a lot of research into the CIA. He's also working on a television series with the BBC, HBO and two people responsible for The Wire. The drama series will begin with VE Day and concerns the early days of the CIA. Season one should cover VE Day to the Berlin Airlift. 

Available Now!
Grecian is working on a new series that begins in 1951 and works its way to the present. It involves the Ratlines (Nazi escape routes at the end of World War II) and a former camp administrator who made his way to South America. This  man then moves to Kansas, sets up a church with tax dodges, legal loopholes, etc. 

As the conversation delved into Germans who fled Europe for Central and South America, Fesperman mentioned a New York Times article he'd read recently about a town in the heart of Brazil with a strong (American) Confederate history. "And what many people don't know is that yes, Ellis Island was the gateway for immigrants to the United States, but during World War II, it was a detention center for deportation," Dan said.

Lots of interesting conversation about little known history... the hour flew by. If you'd like to watch the entire event, I urge you to go to Livestream!

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Mad Dogs and Moi Weekly Link Round-Up

Temperatures have been courting 100°. It's the time of year when many desert dwellers either head to cooler climes or shut themselves up in the air conditioning. What have I been doing? 

Like mad dogs and Englishmen, I've been out in the midday sun taking a machete to overgrown shrubs and vines. I know. This isn't the behavior of the sharpest knife in the drawer, but sometimes needs must. At least I'm wearing protective gear, take frequent breaks in the shade to drink plenty of water, and I never work longer than two hours (which is a lot less time than it sounds when you factor in those five-minute breaks). When I'm done with my segment of allotted chores, I put everything away, get changed, grab my books, camera, and lots of something cold to drink, and I get in the pool for the rest of the afternoon. 

I've almost got everything done outside-- which includes leveling ground and hauling rocks-- and then I'll switch to inside the house, but I'll still have most of the afternoons for the pool!

I'd better head out to the corral and round up those links I've been saving before they feel neglected. Head 'em up! Moooooooooove 'em out!


►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • 15 bookstore cats you'll want to cuddle with... unless you're allergic (like me).  

►The Happy Wanderer◄
  • Visit New York City's Guggenheim Museum without leaving your house.
  • Where do objects go when they die? (Certain ones come to Arizona....) 
  • Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge is so old, someone's writing its history book.
  • This Dutch village-- which has no roads-- is straight out of a fairy tale.
  • This is what it looks like when 4.5 million flowers bloom at the same time in Japan
  • And while we're still in Japan, take a look at the natural art created by a lake and fallen cherry blossoms.
  • A secret, wild pocket of Central Park has reopened.
  • The next time you're in Chicago, go to the Chicago Cultural Center and look up... at the largest Tiffany dome in existence. It's only worth $35 million.
  • The Ennis House in Los Angeles has been a favorite location for film and television production.  

►Fascinating Folk◄

►I ♥ Lists & Quizzes◄

That's all for now! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll have a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew

First Line: Isn't life funny? You know, how one thing leads to another in a way you just don't expect.

Tannie Maria loves to cook, and she loves to eat. She also loves sharing her experiences with food in her recipe column for the local newspaper in her rural South African town. But that all changes when the newspaper owners decide that their readership is hungrier for advice on love than it is for meal tips. Tannie Maria doesn't like the change, but she soon discovers that she has a knack for helping people with their problems... and adding a recipe or two to make them feel better. 

One of the people Tannie Maria reaches out to is a woman with an abusive husband. When that woman is found murdered, Tannie Maria becomes dangerously tangled up in the investigation-- even though one police detective in particular is doing everything he can to keep her safe.

I have a feeling that there are people who are going to read Recipes for Love and Murder and think it's nothing but an imitation of Alexander McCall Smith's Precious Ramotswe series set in Botswana. Now having read books from both series, I can safely say that-- in my opinion-- it's similar, but not an imitation, and that I prefer Sally Andrews' book. I could only read three or four books into Smith's series because Mma Ramotswe was too all-knowing and the books were just a bit too sweet and charming for my taste. 

Sally Andrews' book not only has recipes and an Afrikaans/South African glossary, it gave me a very real feel for rural South Africa, its landscape, its weather, and its wildlife. Tannie Maria is a woman who notices all these things, and when she's not outside, she's cooking, or at the newspaper office working on her column and being a good friend to her co-workers Hattie and Jessie. 

Tannie Maria is a wonderful character with some rough edges and a bit of history that she has to deal with through the course of the book. There are some tension-filled, downright scary scenes, and I found it tough to identify the killer. In short-- I loved this book and am most definitely looking forward to reading more in the series, but this is where I have to file a complaint-- and a word of advice.

The advice first. I do recommend that you read this book, but when you do, please make sure that you read a physical copy of the book, not a digital copy. Andrews uses many Afrikaans and South African words throughout the book, and although I could usually determine a word's meaning from its context, I'm one of these people who enjoy learning bits and pieces of other languages, so there were times that I wanted to make sure that I had deduced the correct meaning. It was absolutely painful to flip back and forth from story to glossary  on my Kindle. It would've been ideal if each of those words had been a hyperlink that would take me directly to its definition in the glossary, but I imagine that the price of the book would have doubled (at least). It's a shame, but I have learned my lesson. Rant over. (And for the curious, my tribulations with the glossary had no effect on my rating of the book. This isn't Sally Andrew's fault.)

Recipes for Love and Murder is a wonderful mystery that takes you right to the heart of rural South Africa and its people. I highly recommend it!

Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew
eISBN: 9780062397683
Ecco © 2015
eBook, 437 pages

Amateur Sleuth, #1 Tannie Maria mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hidden by Karen E. Olson

First Line: I went missing fifteen years ago.

The people of Block Island know her as Nicole Jones. She hasn't left there in fifteen years. She lives off the grid: no drivers license, no passport, no bank account, and she certainly doesn't have a computer. She's hidden away from the world, and that's exactly what Nicole likes.

Then those long ago days as one of the best computer hackers around rise from their grave. A man from Nicole's past-- the very last person she ever wanted to see-- gets in contact, and her carefully constructed life starts to fall apart. Now Block Island is a prison, and Nicole is going to have to dust off those hacker skills in order to escape.

Having become acquainted with Karen E. Olson through her Tattoo Shop mysteries set in Las Vegas, I was looking forward to reading Hidden, which is certainly a departure for this author. I found it to be suspenseful and at times beautifully written-- particularly in those scenes when Nicole is painting on the beach. This person in Nicole's past wants revenge, and we find out why in a series of flashbacks as her life becomes increasingly complicated and fraught with danger. Olson's setting of a small island off the coast of Rhode Island adds to the feeling of claustrophobia and tension.

Although I tend to enjoy books with intelligent female main characters who can think on their feet, I found Hidden slow going. I was slow to warm up to the story, and I never did warm up to Nicole. Even though the book has an ending that should make readers want more, I have to admit that my lukewarm reception of Nicole means that I am the exception instead of the rule. This is definitely a case of a well-written book that's just not my cup of tea.

Hidden by Karen E. Olson
ISBN: 9780727885326
Severn House Publishers © 2015
Hardcover, 224 pages

Thriller, #1 Nicole Jones
Rating: C+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.  


Giveaway: A Dozen Books From My Recommended Shelf!

How are you feeling today? Feeling like winning some books? How about winning your choice from a dozen books on my Recommended Shelf? Take a look at the stack of mighty fine reading I've been saving for you, and then I'll tell you more about them later!

Quit drooling over the books and pay attention-- it's time for....

Some Information:

  1. Each person who enters will be eligible to win ONE book from my Recommended Shelf. 
  2. When you enter, you will be giving me the titles of the three books you'd like to win the most. No being greedy and asking for them all.
  3. I'll have synopses and/or links to my reviews for each book later so you can make informed choices. Yes, there are some popular authors here, but there are also some new ones. Don't be afraid to try something different-- after all, every one of them is free!

The Rules:

To enter, all you have to do is send an email to kittlingbooks(at)gmail(dot)com, and that email must have everything on this list:
  1. The subject line of the email must say "RS Giveaway."
  2. The body of the email must contain the following: (A) Your email address, (B) Your mailing address, and (C) The titles of the three books you're most interested in winning.
  3. All entries must be received by 11:59 PM, Tuesday, May 31. The twelve winners will be announced on Friday, June 3.
That's it. There are no other hoops to jump through. Just remember: you may be giving me the titles of three books, but you will only be winning one. Twelve books, twelve winners! Oh-- and if your email is missing any one of the four required elements, you will not be eligible for the drawing.

Make Your Selections from These Books:

A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison
My Rating: A
Read my review.

Synopsis: "When antique dealer Kat Stanford stumbles upon the partially mummified body of a young woman in an abandoned wing at Honeychurch Hall, suspicion falls on those who had been living there many years ago. And it appears that the deceased had been murdered. Given her mother Iris’s checkered past, Kat is not surprised to learn that Iris knew the victim.

Meanwhile, the unexpected appearance of former lothario Bryan Laney sets female hearts aflutter. Despite the passing years, time has not dampened his ardor for Iris, but the feeling is not reciprocated.

With stories of hidden treasure and secret chambers, past and present collide. As Kat becomes embroiled once more in her mother’s mysterious and tumultuous bygone days, she comes to realize that life is never black and white, and sometimes it is necessary to risk your own life to protect the lives of the ones you love.

Gold of Our Fathers by Kwei Quartey
My Rating: A-
Read my review.  

Synopsis: "Darko Dawson has just been promoted to Chief Inspector in the Ghana Police Service—the promotion even comes with a (rather modest) salary bump. But he doesn’t have long to celebrate because his new boss is transferring him from Accra, Ghana’s capital, out to remote Obuasi in the Ashanti region, an area now notorious for the illegal exploitation of its gold mines.

When Dawson arrives at the Obuasi headquarters, he finds it in complete disarray. The office is a mess of uncatalogued evidence and cold case files, morale is low, and discipline among officers is lax. On only his second day on the job, the body of a Chinese mine owner is unearthed in his own gold quarry. As Dawson investigates the case, he quickly learns how dangerous it is to pursue justice in this kingdom of illegal gold mines, where the worst offenders have so much money they have no fear of the law

King Maybe by Timothy Hallinan
My Rating: A
Read my review.  

Synopsis: "Los Angeles’s most talented burglar, Junior Bender, is in the middle of stealing one of the world’s rarest stamps from a professional killer when his luck suddenly turns sour. It takes an unexpected assist to get him out alive, but his escape sets off a chain reaction of blackmail, strong-arming, and escalating crime. By the time Junior is forced to commit his third burglary of the week—in the impregnable fortress that’s home to the ruthless studio mogul called King Maybe—he’s beginning to wish he’d just let the killer take a crack at him.

See Also Murder by Larry D. Sweazy
My Rating: A
Read my review.

Synopsis: "1964—Life on the North Dakota farm hasn’t always been easy for Marjorie Trumaine. She has begun working as a professional indexer to help with the bills—which have only gotten worse since the accident that left her husband, Hank, blind and paralyzed. When her nearest neighbors are murdered in their beds, though, Marjorie suddenly has to deal with new and terrifying problems.

Sheriff Hilo Jenkins brings her a strange amulet, found clutched in the hand of her murdered neighbor, and asks her to quietly find out what it is. Marjorie uses all the skills she has developed as an indexer to research the amulet and look into the murders, but as she closes in on the killer, and people around her continue to die, she realizes that the murderer is also closing in on her.

Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper
Recommended by blogger Lesa Holstine.

Synopsis: "Wedding planner Kelsey McKenna is just a few hours away from wrapping up her latest job: a destination wedding in the charming, colonial Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende. The reception is all set up, the tequila donkey is waiting outside, and the bride and groom are standing on the altar, pledging their eternal love. But just as the priest is about to pronounce them husband and wife, one of the bridesmaids upstages the couple by collapsing into a floral arrangement, a definite wedding "don't." Kelsey soon discovers that the girl hasn't just fainted--she's dead.

Losing a bridesmaid is bad enough, but when the bride's sister is arrested for murder, the demanding mother of the bride insists that Kelsey fix the matter at once. And although Kelsey is pretty sure investigating a murder isn't in her contract, crossing the well-connected Mrs. Abernathy could be a career-killer. Before she can leave Mexico and get back to planning weddings, Kelsey must deal with stubborn detectives, a rekindled romance, and late-night death threats in this smart, funny cozy mystery debut

The Butcher Bird by S. D. Sykes
UK edition signed by the author.
My Rating: A
Read my review

Synopsis: "Oswald de Lacy is growing up fast in his new position as Lord of Somershill Manor. The Black Death changed many things, and just as it took away his father and elder brothers, leaving Oswald to be recalled from the monastery where he expected to spend his life, so it has taken many of his villagers and servants. However, there is still the same amount of work to be done in the farms and fields, and the few people left to do it think they should be paid more - something the King himself has forbidden.

Just as anger begins to spread, the story of the Butcher Bird takes flight. People claim to have witnessed a huge creature in the skies. A new-born baby is found impaled on a thorn bush. And then more children disappear.

Convinced the bird is just a superstitious rumour, Oswald must discover what is really happening. He can expect no help from his snobbish mother and his scheming sister Clemence, who is determined to protect her own child, but happy to neglect her step-daughters.

From the plague-ruined villages of Kent to the thief-infested streets of London and the luxurious bedchamber of a bewitching lady, Oswald's journey is full of danger, dark intrigue and shocking revelations.  

The Cat Sitter's Whiskers by Blaize and John Clement
Recommended by a Poisoned Pen staff member.

Synopsis: "Pet sitter Dixie Hemingway is on the prowl again in the newest installment of Blaize Clement's classic and beloved series of cozy mysteries, now written by her son, John Clement, using Blaize's notes and ideas for future adventures. 

Set in the sleepy beach-side town of Siesta Key, Florida, THE CAT SITTER'S WHISKERS catches up with Dixie as she heads off for work one morning in the dimly lit hours before sunrise. 

Her very first client of the morning is Barney Feldman, a Maine coon cat with a reputation for mischief who's guarding his vacationing owner's valuable collection of decidedly creepy antique masks. But someone's hiding in the house when she arrives, and they sneak up and knock her out cold. When the cops arrive at the house, there's just one problem: no one has broken in and nothing is missing.

Searching for answers, Dixie soon finds herself hopelessly trapped in a murky world of black market antiques, dark-hearted secrets, and murderous revenge… a mystery only she can solve."  

The Highwayman by Craig Johnson
My Rating: A+
Read my review

Synopsis: "When Wyoming highway patrolman Rosey Wayman is transferred to the beautiful and imposing landscape of the Wind River Canyon, an area the troopers refer to as no-man's-land because of the lack of radio communication, she starts receiving “officer needs assistance” calls. The problem? They're coming from Bobby Womack, a legendary Arapaho patrolman who met a fiery death in the canyon almost a half-century ago. With an investigation that spans this world and the next, Sheriff Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear take on a case that pits them against a legend: The Highwayman.

The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas-Home
UK edition.
My Rating: A+
Read my review.

Synopsis: "Cal McGill is an Edinburgh-based oceanographer, environmentalist and one-of-a-kind investigator.

Using his knowledge of the waves - ocean currents, prevailing winds, shipping records - McGill can track where objects have come from, or where they've gone. It's a unique skill that can help solve all sorts of mysteries.

Such as when two severed feet wash up miles apart on two different islands off the coast of Scotland. Most strangely, forensic tests reveal that the feet belong to the same body.

As Cal McGill investigates, he unravels a web of corruption, exploitation and violence, which threatens many lives across the globe - very soon including his own..."  
The Singer from Memphis by Gary Corby
My Rating: A
Read my review
Synopsis: "Nicolaos, the only private investigator in ancient Athens, discovers that helping an author with his book research can be very dangerous. The would-be author Herodotus has hired Nico and his priestess wife, Diotima, to accompany him to Egypt to research that ancient country’s history. Unfortunately, Egypt happens to be in the throes of a rebellion against its overlords, the Persian Empire. Pirates infest the sea route. Three different armies roam the Egyptian countryside. The river is full of crocodiles. Everywhere Nico turns, there’s a secret agent ready to kill him, and he can’t find a decent cup of wine anywhere. A simple historical investigation turns into a dangerous adventure of international espionage." 
The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
My Rating: A+
Read my review
Synopsis: "Despite their many differences, Detective Rachel Getty trusts her boss, Esa Khattak, implicitly. But she's still uneasy at Khattak's tight-lipped secrecy when he asks her to look into Christopher Drayton's death. Drayton's apparently accidental fall from a cliff doesn't seem to warrant a police investigation, particularly not from Rachel and Khattak's team, which handles minority-sensitive cases. But when she learns that Drayton may have been living under an assumed name, Rachel begins to understand why Khattak is tip-toeing around this case. It soon comes to light that Drayton may have been a war criminal with ties to the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.
If that's true, any number of people might have had reason to help Drayton to his death, and a murder investigation could have far-reaching ripples throughout the community. But as Rachel and Khattak dig deeper into the life and death of Christopher Drayton, every question seems to lead only to more questions, with no easy answers. Had the specters of Srebrenica returned to haunt Drayton at the end, or had he been keeping secrets of an entirely different nature? Or, after all, did a man just fall to his death from the Bluffs?

In her spellbinding debut, Ausma Zehanat Khan has written a complex and provocative story of loss, redemption, and the cost of justice that will linger with readers long after turning the final page.

The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths
UK edition signed by the author.
My Rating: A
Read my review.  

Synopsis: "When Ruth's friend Cathbad sees a vision of the Virgin Mary, in a white gown and blue cloak, in the graveyard next to the cottage he is house-sitting, he takes it in his stride. Walsingham has strong connections to Mary, and Cathbad is a druid after all; visions come with the job. But when the body of a woman in a blue dressing-gown is found dead the next day in a nearby ditch, it is clear Cathbad's vision was all too human, and that a horrible crime has been committed. DCI Nelson and his team are called in for the murder investigation, and soon establish that the dead woman was a recovering addict being treated at a nearby private hospital.

Ruth, a devout atheist, has managed to avoid Walsingham during her seventeen years in Norfolk. But then an old university friend, Hilary Smithson, asks to meet her in the village, and Ruth is amazed to discover that her friend is now a priest. Hilary has been receiving vitriolic anonymous letters targeting women priests - letters containing references to local archaeology and a striking phrase about a woman 'clad in blue, weeping for the world'.

Then another woman is murdered - a priest.

As Walsingham prepares for its annual Easter re-enactment of the Crucifixion, the race is on to unmask the killer before they strike again...

There you go! There is some amazing reading on my Recommended Shelf, so make your choices and send in that email! Don't be afraid to try a new author. As I said before-- these books are free, so take a chance!