Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Horse by Geraldine Brooks

 
First Lines: No. Nup. That wouldn't do. It reeked of PhD. This was meant to be read by normal people.
 
Horse is based on the true story of the record-breaking Thoroughbred, Lexington.
 
Kentucky, 1850. An enslaved groom named Jarret and a bay Thoroughbred foal form a bond that will determine the course of both their lives. When the Civil War breaks out, the painter who made his name by his paintings of this racehorse joins the Union army only to reunite with the stallion and groom on a perilous night far from any racetrack.
 
New York City, 1954. Gallery owner Martha Jackson becomes obsessed with a nineteenth-century painting that has a murky provenance.
 
Washington, DC, 2019.  Jess, a Smithsonian scientist from Australia, and Theo, a Nigerian-American art historian find themselves connected through their shared interest in the horse-- one studying the stallion's bones for clues to his power and endurance, the other uncovering the unsung history of the Black horsemen who were critical to the horse's racing success.

~

Geraldine Brooks has done it again: written a transcendent book that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Brooks is a must-read author for me, but Horse was made even more special by my teenage racehorse madness years. I read every book I could get my hands on about Thoroughbred racing and its stars. My mother indulged my obsession: when she went to Kentucky on a genealogy trip, I got to overdose on racehorses, meeting greats like Citation and actually seeing the grave of Lexington, the horse that Brooks centered her book upon.

In Brooks' Afterword, she says, "As I began to research Lexington's life, it became clear to me that this novel could not merely be about a racehorse, it would also need to be about race," and she does this in masterful fashion. Whether it's watching the years pass and Lexington's groom being known as one owner's Jarret after another to-- finally-- having his own name untainted by slavery (Jarret Lewis) or watching the unfolding relationship between the interracial couple Jess and Theo in 2019 and the differences in their experiences and outlooks on the world, the reader becomes totally engaged in the characters' lives. 

Horse is so much more than a fascinating animal story. It is also a powerful story of art, science, and-- above all-- race. It is a story to take in deep. It is a story to remember.

eISBN: 9780399562983
Viking © 2022
eBook, 401 pages
 
Fiction, Standalone
Rating: A+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

October 2022 New Mystery Releases!

 

Another month, another crop of new mysteries. There's always something to look forward to!
 
As I write this in mid-September, the temperatures are still right around 100°, and I have to admit that, summer lover or not, I am looking forward to October when things finally begin cooling off.
 
My reading pace may have fallen off in the past couple of months, but that doesn't keep me from looking for new books to read. Just call me a literate magpie.
 
I've grouped my picks of October's best new crime fiction by their release dates, and the book covers and synopses are courtesy of my favorite showroom, Amazon.
 
Now it's time to see if I've chosen anything that tickles your fancy just as much as it tickles mine. October is a good blend of tried, true, and new. Let's check my list!
 
 
=== October 4 ===
 
 
Title: Funeral Train
Series: #2 in the Dust Bowl historical series set in 1930s Oklahoma.
320 pages
 
Synopsis: "Already suffering the privations of the 1930s Dust Bowl, an Oklahoma town is further devastated when a passenger train derails—flooding its hospital with the dead and maimed. Among the seriously wounded is Etha, wife of Sheriff Temple Jennings. Overwhelmed by worry for her, the sheriff must regain his footing to investigate the derailment, which rapidly develops into a case of sabotage.

The following night, a local recluse is murdered. Temple has a hunch that this death is connected to the train wreck. But as he dissects the victim’s life with help from the recuperating and resourceful Etha, he discovers a tangle of records that make a number of townsfolk suspects in the murder.

Temple’s investigations take place against the backdrop of the Great Depression—where bootlegging, petty extortion, courage, and bravado play out in equal measure."
 
 
=== October 11 ===
 
 
Title: Sinister Graves
Series: #3 in the Cash Blackbear series set in 1970s Minnesota and North Dakota.
240 pages
 
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.
 
Synopsis: "Set in 1970s Minnesota on the White Earth Reservation, Pinckley Prize–winner Marcie R. Rendon’s gripping new mystery follows Cash Blackbear, a young Ojibwe woman, as she attempts to discover the truth about the disappearances of Native girls and their newborns.

A snowmelt has sent floodwaters down to the fields of the Red River Valley, dragging the body of an unidentified Native woman into the town of Ada. The only evidence the medical examiner recovers is a torn piece of paper inside her bra: a hymnal written in English and Ojibwe.

Cash Blackbear, a 19-year-old Ojibwe woman, sometimes helps Sheriff Wheaton, her guardian, on his investigations. Now she knows her search for justice for this anonymous victim will take her to the White Earth Reservation, a place she once called home.

When Cash happens upon two small graves in the yard of a rural, “speak-in-tongues kinda church,” Cash is pulled into the lives of the malevolent pastor and his troubled wife while yet another Native woman dies in a mysterious manner.
"
 
 
Title: The Plot and the Pendulum
Series: #13 in the Library Lovers cozy series set in Connecticut.
304 pages
 
Synopsis: "Library director Lindsey Norris is happy to learn the Briar Creek Public Library is the beneficiary of the Dorchester family’s vast book collection. However, when Lindsey and the library staff arrive at the old Victorian estate to gather the books, things take a sinister turn. One of the bookcases reveals a secret passage, leading to a room where a skeleton is found, clutching an old copy of The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe.
 
Lindsey does a quick check of missing persons, using the distinctive 80s era clothing worn by the deceased to determine a time frame, and discovers that Briar Creek has an unsolved missing person’s case from 1989. A runaway bride went missing just weeks after her wedding. No suspects were ever arrested and the cold case remains unsolved. Lindsey and the crafternoon crew decide that justice is overdue and set about solving the old murder mystery, using some novel ideas to crack the case.
 
 
Title: Secret Lives
Series: #1 in the Ethel Fiona Crestwater series set in Washington, DC.
288 pages
 
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.
 
Synopsis: "For fans of unexpected-yet-badass female sleuths, meet former FBI agent-turned-boardinghouse landlady Ethel Fiona Crestwater. Her age affords her precious invisibility. She can outthink and outshoot most men―and women―half her age.

When someone murders one of her boarders, Ethel springs into action―much to the surprise of her double-first-cousin-twice-removed, Jesse, who has recently come to stay with her while he attends university. As he watches her photograph the crime scene, conceal evidence, and speed-dial the Secret Service Director, Jesse realizes that there's much more to Ethel than appearances suggest.

When Jesse is assaulted and the gym bag full of cash Ethel had hidden is stolen from the basement, the pair decides it's time to launch their own unofficial investigation. With no one to trust but each other, this unlikely duo learns that the only thing truly worth risking your life for is family.
 
 
Title: 1989
Author: Val McDermid
Series: #2 in the Allie Burns journalist series set in 1980s Scotland.
416 pages
 
Synopsis: "Hailed as Britain’s Queen of Crime, Val McDermid’s award-winning, internationally bestselling novels have captivated readers for more than thirty years. In her Allie Burns series, she returns to the past—both ours and in some ways her own—with the story of a female journalist whose stories lead her into world of corruption, terror, and murder.

It’s 1989 and Allie Burns is back. Older and maybe wiser, she’s running the northern news operation of the
Sunday Globe, chafing at losing her role in investigative journalism and at the descent into the gutter of the UK tabloid media. But there’s plenty to keep her occupied. The year begins with the memorial service for the victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, but Allie has barely filed her copy when she stumbles over a story about HIV/AIDS that will shock her into a major change of direction. The world of newspapers is undergoing a revolution, there’s skullduggery in the medical research labs and there are seismic rumblings behind the Iron Curtain. When murder is added to this potent mix, Allie is forced to question all her old certainties. 

Readers are having a great time time-traveling with Val, and
1989 is a seamless, riveting novel that brings us once again face to face with how very much past is prologue, and how history’s sins stay with us.


Title: Santa's Little Yelpers
Series: #26 in the Andy Carpenter series set in New Jersey.
304 pages
 
Synopsis: "'Tis the season in Paterson, New Jersey: Lawyer Andy Carpenter and his golden retriever, Tara, are surrounded by holiday cheer. It’s even spread to the Tara Foundation. The dog rescue organization, not used to having puppies, has their hands full with a recent litter. Eight puppies are a lot to handle, and Andy is relieved when his co-worker Chris Myers agrees to foster them.

Myers, a newer employee at the Tara Foundation, did time for a crime he swears he didn’t commit. When Myers discovers a key witness against him lied on the stand, he goes to Andy to ask for representation in getting the conviction overturned. Myers thinks they can have this wrapped up by Christmas, no problem.

But when the witness is murdered, and Myers is arrested for the crime, things go from bad to worse. Suddenly, it’s all elves on deck to make a list and check it twice, so they can prove Myers is innocent.
 
 
Title: Under a Veiled Moon
Author: Karen Odden
Series: #2 in the DI Michael Corravan historical series set in 1870s England.
336 pages
 
Synopsis: "September 1878. One night, as the pleasure boat the Princess Alice makes her daily trip up the Thames, she collides with the Bywell Castle, a huge iron-hulled collier. The Princess Alice shears apart, throwing all 600 passengers into the river; only 130 survive. It is the worst maritime disaster London has ever seen, and early clues point to sabotage by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who believe violence is the path to restoring Irish Home Rule. 
 
For Scotland Yard Inspector Michael Corravan, born in Ireland and adopted by the Irish Doyle family, the case presents a challenge. Accused by the Home Office of willfully disregarding the obvious conclusion, and berated by his Irish friends for bowing to prejudice, Corravan doggedly pursues the truth, knowing that if the Princess Alice disaster is pinned on the IRB, hopes for Home Rule could be dashed forever.

Corrovan’s dilemma is compounded by Colin, the youngest Doyle, who has joined James McCabe’s Irish gang. As violence in Whitechapel rises, Corravan strikes a deal with McCabe to get Colin out of harm’s way. But unbeknownst to Corravan, Colin bears longstanding resentments against his adopted brother and scorns his help.
 
As the newspapers link the IRB to further accidents, London threatens to devolve into terror and chaos. With the help of his young colleague, the loyal Mr. Stiles, and his friend Belinda Gale, Corravan uncovers the harrowing truth—one that will shake his faith in his countrymen, the law, and himself.


Title: Death at Paradise Palms
Series: #2 in the Retired Detectives Club series set in Florida.
316 pages
 
Synopsis: "When movie producer Cody Ziegler goes missing from The Homestead’s Millionaires’ Row, his wife, retired actress Olivia, immediately claims there’s foul play afoot. A million-dollar ransom demand soon follows, with clear instructions not to involve the cops. In desperation she enlists the help of Moira, Rick, Philip and Lizzie, aka the Retired Detectives Club.

Racing against the clock, the four retirees set to work. Sure, Cody had enemies―there’s a disgruntled employee, a jilted film-maker and a hundred other people who know how much he’s worth. But when it emerges that Cody’s apparently perfect marriage isn’t what it seems, even Olivia isn’t above suspicion.

When Cody’s car turns up in a nearby lake with a shocking surprise inside, the case becomes even more complicated. But with Philip and Lizzie’s marriage on the rocks, and threatening notes sending Moira into a spin, the Retired Detectives Club risks falling apart before getting any closer to the truth.

Can Moira and the gang find Cody before it’s too late? Or will this case see them lose in more ways than one?"
 
 
Title: Murder on the Spanish Seas
Author: Wendy Church
Debut thriller set on a cruise ship featuring down-on-her-luck Jesse O'Hara.
280 pages

Synopsis: "Jesse O'Hara is profane, introverted, and not frequently sober – and has just lost another job. “A million-dollar brain and a ten-cent personality,” her last employer said. With nothing better to do, Jesse reluctantly accepts the gift of a luxury cruise around the Iberian Peninsula. She’s not sure she can drink enough to keep her boredom at bay, but that's the least of her problems. From the very first moment of the cruise, it's clear to Jesse that something is very wrong.

Aided by her near-photographic memory, Jesse investigates a series of strange incidents on the ship and uncovers what looks like a terrorist plot in the works. But with each new layer uncovered, her perception shifts and broadens-- and someone doesn’t want her poking around. For Jesse, bruised and concussed is preferable to tan and relaxed, so she ignores the mounting danger even as she closes in on the villains, who have perfectly timed their grand finale...

Murder on the Spanish Seas is a riveting, whip-smart, and smart-aleck debut thriller that will keep you on your toes just as frequently as it keeps you in stitches. A perfect read for fans of Ruth Ware and Janet Evanovich."
 
 
=== October 18 ===
 
 
Title: The Boys from Biloxi
Author: John Grisham
Standalone legal thriller set in Mississippi
464 pages
 
Synopsis: "For most of the last hundred years, Biloxi was known for its beaches, resorts, and seafood industry. But it had a darker side. It was also notorious for corruption and vice, everything from gambling, prostitution, bootleg liquor, and drugs to contract killings. The vice was controlled by small cabal of mobsters, many of them rumored to be members of the Dixie Mafia.
 
Keith Rudy and Hugh Malco grew up in Biloxi in the sixties and were childhood friends, as well as Little League all-stars. But as teenagers, their lives took them in different directions. Keith’s father became a legendary prosecutor, determined to “clean up the Coast.” Hugh’s father became the “Boss” of Biloxi’s criminal underground. Keith went to law school and followed in his father’s footsteps. Hugh preferred the nightlife and worked in his father’s clubs. The two families were headed for a showdown, one that would happen in a courtroom.
 
Life itself hangs in the balance in
The Boys from Biloxi, a sweeping saga rich with history and with a large cast of unforgettable characters.


Title: Must Read Well
Author: Ellen Pall 
Standalone thriller set in New York City.
284 pages
 
Synopsis: "Ellen Pall's Must Read Well immerses the reader in an escalating game of cat-and-mouse between two women: a millennial scholar driven to deceit to reach her goals and a frail octogenarian no less capable of deception.


Narrated by Liz Miller, a penniless Ph.D. candidate desperate to finish her dissertation, the novel begins when Liz's boyfriend abruptly ditches her, rendering Liz homeless and reduced to couch-surfing at best friend Petra's tiny Manhattan studio apartment. Trying to find an affordable living space, she stumbles across a Craigslist posting that will change her life: a room with a view in a pre-war Greenwich Village apartment. The rent is a pittance, but in exchange, the tenant must be willing to read aloud daily to the apartment's sight-impaired landlady.

Liz quickly figures out that the sight-impaired landlady is none other than Anne Taussig Weil, author of the 1965 international blockbuster The Vengeance of Catherine Clark and the very woman whose refusal to cooperate for the past four years has held up Liz's dissertation on the feminist works of mid-century women novelists. Access to Weil is the key to completing her doctorate at Columbia and finally getting her academic career back on track.

Liz sets scruples aside and presents herself as a quiet young woman still finding her way in life. Once settled in, Liz learns from Weil that her need for a reader stems from a desire to revisit a key episode in her life. That episode, recorded in the scrawled journals Weil kept since she was a young girl, turns out to be the story of her passionate, disastrous, secret love affair with a celebrated pianist-the affair, in fact, which gave rise to the plot of Vengeance.

The novel, which builds from there to a double-twist climax, is fast-paced women's fiction, perfect for book club members everywhere.
 
 
=== October 25 ===
 
 
Title: A Trace of Poison
Author: Colleen Cambridge
Series: #2 in the Phyllida Bright historical series set in England.
272 pages
 
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.
 
Synopsis: "In England’s stately manor houses, murder is not generally a topic for polite conversation. Mallowan Hall, home to Agatha Christie and her husband, Max, is the exception. And housekeeper Phyllida Bright delights in discussing gory plot details with her friend and employer . . .
 
The neighboring village of Listleigh has also become a hub of grisly goings-on, thanks to a Murder FĂȘte organized to benefit a local orphanage. Members of The Detection Club—a group of celebrated authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha herself—will congregate for charitable events, including a writing contest for aspiring authors. The winner gets an international publishing contract, and entrants have gathered for a cocktail party—managed by the inimitable Phyllida—when murder strikes too close even for her comfort.
 
It seems the victim imbibed a poisoned cocktail intended for Alastair Whittlesby, president of the local writers’ club. The insufferable Whittlesby is thought to be a shoo-in for the prize, and ambition is certainly a worthy motive. But narrowing down these suspects could leave even Phyllida’s favorite fictional detective, M. Poirot, twirling his mustache in frustration.
 
It’s a mystery too intriguing for Phyllida to resist, but one fraught with duplicity and danger, for every guest is an expert in murder—and how to get away with it . . .


Title: Love Me or Grieve Me
Series: #10 in the Madison Night cozy series set in Texas. 
280 pages
 
Synopsis: "When a junior copy editor at the local newspaper mistakenly uses interior decorator Madison Night’s life story in the obituary of a recently deceased woman with a similar name, Madison’s live turns upside down. Addison Nigh, a once in-demand jazz vocalist, had fallen into obscurity, and her death notice surprises only those who thought she died decades ago.

Canceled lines of credit and a swarm of condolences to Madison’s loved ones are just the tip of the iceberg, but when the decorator discovers evidence that the real dead woman played a part in an unsolved murder, their identity mix-up gives Madison backstage access to a life of secrets. As parallels between the singer’s life and her own become impossible to ignore, Madison questions the true price of fame. But Madison isn’t the only one to discover the singer’s buried secrets, and if she’s not careful, the next obituary might be her own.

Can Madison protect a mysterious past with similar notes to her own, or will exposing the truth be her swan song?
 
 
Another rich reading offering in October, eh? I'm very excited about several of the books this month, but I have to admit that I'm most anticipating Laurie Loewenstein's Funeral Train. I loved her first Dust Bowl mystery, Death of a Rainmaker, and I've waited a long time for this one... but there are so many others to savor!
 
Which ones are you most looking forward to? Are there any new-to-you titles in my list that intrigue you? Which ones? You know inquiring minds want to know!

Monday, September 26, 2022

Treasure State by C. J. Box

 
First Line: Private investigator J.D. Spengler of Tampa Bay, Florida, was taking the highway exit from I-90 West onto Montana State Highway 1 when he was blinded by the setting sun and he ran over something big enough on the road that he nearly lost control of his rental car.
 
When private investigator Cassie Dewell gets a phone call from a woman in Florida, she's really not interested in taking the case... until she gets a few more details. The woman was conned out of millions of dollars, and the trail of the man who did it leads right to Anaconda, Montana-- an old mining town not far from Cassie's office. It's not going to hurt to take a preliminary look, is it?

In the meantime, Cassie has a very odd case. A poem left in the bar of a Montana town purports to be a treasure map leading to millions of dollars. The poet reassures Cassie that the treasure is real; all he wants her to do is to check his anonymity. He doesn't want anyone to be able to find him through any clues he might have left in his poem.
 
As Cassie works on both cases, she realizes that both clients have been selective with the facts they've chosen to give her. This may make her work more difficult, but she's beginning to find the information she needs to solve them both. She can't quit now, even though she's walking straight into danger.

~

Whether reading about game warden Joe Pickett or private investigator Cassie Dewell, C.J. Box knows how to spin a tale that makes readers keep turning the pages. Although I like Joe, I have to admit that I have a special fondness for Cassie, and watching her solve the two cases in Treasure State was a real treat.

Cassie shines in Treasure State, but so do the secondary characters: her new intern, April Pickett; her annoying mother Isabel; the young Kyle Westergaard who's determined to find the treasure no matter how hard Cassie tries to stop him; even the Lothario who roams the country stealing as much money from women as he can-- all these characters keep readers fully engaged in the story.

Both cases Cassie is investigating are gems, and I love watching her mind work as she pieces things together. She always works hard to be one step ahead of the bad guys in order to keep herself and all those she cares about safe. It's refreshing to have the main character go out of her way not to do anything stupid.

Having spent many happy hours out in the middle of nowhere (and closer afield) locating old mining towns in the mountains and deserts of Arizona and learning their fascinating histories, I soaked up everything Box had to say about Montana's mining past, in particular, the town of Anaconda, a town long considered to be the heart of the American labor movement. 

Characters, mysteries, history-- Treasure State was downright fun to read, and I can't wait to see what Cassie Dewell gets up to next.
 
Treasure State by C. J. Box
eISBN: 9781250768032
Minotaur Books © 2022
eBook, 320 pages
 
Private Investigator, #6 Cassie Dewell mystery
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley

Sunday, September 25, 2022

On My Radar: Betty Webb's Lost in Paris!

 


I'm a long-time fan of Betty Webb's writing. I love her humorous Gunn Zoo mystery series, and I was certainly sad to see her Lena Jones series end, but since I do follow her on social media, I knew she was up to something.

I finally found out more about her next book, so let me share! 

 

Available April 4, 2023!

 

Synopsis:

"NO ONE CAN HURT YOU LIKE FAMILY

PARIS, 1922: Zoe Barlow knows the pain of loss. By the age of eighteen, she'd already lost her father to suicide, and her reputation to an ill-fated love affair―not to mention other losses, too devastating for words. Exiled from her home and her beloved younger sister by their stepmother, she was unceremoniously dumped in Paris without a friend to help her find her way.

 Four years later, Zoe has forged a new life as a painter amidst fellow artists, expats, and revolutionary thinkers struggling to make sense of the world in the aftermath of war. She's adopted this Lost Generation as her new family, so when her dear friend Hadley Hemingway loses a valise containing all of her husband Ernest's writings, Zoe happily volunteers to track it down. But her search for the bag keeps leading to murder victims, and Zoe must again face hard losses―this time among her adopted tribe. If she persists in her reckless quest to find the killer, the next life lost may be her own.

 Pulsing with the glamour and excitement of the Jazz Age, Lost in Paris explores a young woman's journey to redeem herself from the heartaches of her past, while finding her way forward in tumultuous, unprecedented times.

 

I know Betty loves Paris, so I'm really looking forward to her first historical mystery, not just because of the setting but because I want to get to know Zoe. I know fellow Betty Webb fans will want to read this book, and I'm hoping that any of you who are new to her writing will decide now is the time to take the plunge. Webb can write lighthearted and funny (Gunn Zoo) and deadly serious (Lena Jones), and I know she'll be just as good when it comes to historical mysteries!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Herding Cats Weekly Link Round-Up

 

I used to herd cats quite well. I did it for a few decades for Target. Recently, I discovered that I'm no longer emotionally equipped for the job.

Due to a scheduling snafu, the woman who normally comes on Friday to give us a hand was here two days later. She has been instrumental in helping me transform this house into a haven that works well for the changing needs of both Denis and me. While the laundry was going, Mary Jo and I became immersed in a major project. Sometimes MJ gets the bit in her teeth and I have a difficult time reining her in. Yesterday was one of those times. 
 
 
Then into the mix came Denis on his motorized wheelchair, wanting a piece of the action. There I was, trying to find out what in the world MJ was doing, and trying to keep an eye on Denis to make sure he wasn't doing anything he shouldn't be. Argh!

As he continues to feel better and become more mobile, keeping an eye on him has become a problem. Last Friday, he waited until I was in the shower before he went out to do something he KNEW he shouldn't be doing solo. Then he was in pain for the rest of the day and night. His getting in the middle of what MJ and I were doing had the same results: pain and needing to rest. 

I've had a chat with him (a second time) about overdoing it and about not wearing his back brace. "Some bit of that hardware in your back is going to slip out of position. Do you want to go through all this all over again?"

Of course, he agrees with me about not overdoing it. Of course, he agrees with me about the back brace. But if twenty years have taught me anything, it's that he can see the truth, agree with me, and still do what he wants to do.

And he wonders why my emotions are rather loosely hinged lately. 
 
My apologies to Facebook friends and family who've already read this. What can I say? Casa Kittling isn't a hotbed of activity, so there aren't a lot of topics for me to talk about. However, I will say this to all of you: Due to this post and the subsequent comments from said friends and family, Denis has been minding his Ps and Qs ever since. Score one for my sanity!
 
Enjoy the links!


►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄
 
►Book Banning & Censorship◄
 
►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
 
►Channeling My Inner Elly May Clampett◄
 
►The Wanderer◄
 
►Fascinating Folk◄
 
►I ♥ Lists◄

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

Stay safe. Stay healthy. And don't forget to curl up with a good book!

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The Stolen Hours by Allen Eskens

 
First Line: Lila Nash counted her steps as she walked from the kitchen to the bathroom of her apartment.
 
It's been a long, difficult road, but Lila Nash is on the brink of landing her dream job as a prosecutor for Hennepin County, Minnesota. There are just two obstacles in her way: a vindictive boss who's made it his job to force her to quit, and a case with strong ties to Lila's past and the secret she's been hiding for eight lonely years.

Police are convinced that professional photographer Gavin Spencer is responsible for assaulting a Minneapolis woman and then dumping her body in the Mississippi River to drown. Miraculously, the woman survived, and police want to work fast to bring the man to justice. But there's just one problem: no evidence. It's almost as though Gavin Spencer saw what was coming and went to extraordinary lengths to erase every tiny detail that would tie him to the crime.

Lila Nash wants to see Spencer put behind bars for the rest of his life, especially when his name comes up in possible connections to crimes committed in the past, including the attack on Lila that tore her life apart. Lila and the police are going to have to give it everything they've got because the clock is ticking.
 
~
 
As I listened to The Stolen Hours unfold, I was blown away by Allen Eskens' meticulous precision in putting this story together. The excellent misdirection he employed to lead me straight down the garden path to the compost pile. The shifting points of view that gave me so much insight into each character. The way Gavin Spencer saying, "All you had to do was be nice!" made my blood run cold. The way Eskens made me wonder how Lila Nash was going to succeed despite her awful boss.

Allen Eskens has never ever disappointed me with any of his books that I've read. He has an incredible gift for the one-two punch: a fantastic story paired with characters with whom I become emotionally invested. The Stolen Hours is no exception. I wanted Gavin Spencer to learn that he wasn't as smart as he thought he was-- and I wanted Lila Nash to be the person to prove it to him. This book, about victims and the long road to healing and forgiveness that they must travel, is an intellectual and emotional banquet.
 
The Stolen Hours by Allen Eskens
Narrated by MacLeod Andrews, Christine Laken, and Tina Huang.
ASIN: B09DDCXT32
Mulholland Books © 2021
Audiobook. 10 hours 1 minute.
 
Standalone Legal Thriller
Rating: A+
Source: Purchased from Audible.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

I've been culling photographs on and off for a few weeks now, and I thought I'd share a few from time to time. This week, I've chosen a couple of hummingbird photos. 

We are so fortunate here in Phoenix because the hardy little Anna's hummingbird stays here all year round. As a result, we have quite a little colony of them that love to nest in the trees here and frequent the feeders. 

One summer, I left the patio door open as I was bringing in clean clothes from the laundry room. When I walked into the house, I discovered that a hummingbird had flown in to check the place out. He didn't care much for my interior decorating skills and decided to leave, but he became confused.

I stood well away from the patio door, hoping that he would fly out the way he came in, but he kept battering himself against the window that overlooks the pool. I had to find a way to make him fly in the direction that I wanted him to. Since he could see the outdoors through the window, I quietly walked over and closed the curtains. That way, the only "outside" he could see was through the open patio door. 

He was out like a shot.

So... if that ever happens to you, regardless of the bird species, close doors, close curtains, do whatever you have to do to give your visitor only one clear way to get out of the house. (And in case you're wondering, I was once known as the head bat wrangler at work because I used the same principle whenever a bat got in the store.)

Now I'll stop blathering and show you the photos!


Life imitates Art.


I think he's trying to tell me that the dryer stopped. Having an "outside" laundry room means all sorts of critters come to check it out (and consider it their own).


I've had hummingbirds come to drink water from the end of the garden hose as I was watering plants. I've had them perch on the brim of my hat and on the book I was reading. I am absolutely thrilled that they feel so comfortable around me because it means that I've gotten to see some very special behavior.

One of these days, I need to show you the photos I took of Sam, the roughest, toughest Anna's hummingbird I've ever had the pleasure to meet.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Mother Daughter Traitor Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

 
First Line from Prologue: "Imagine-- it's a year from now, 1941, or maybe even '42-- and Germany and the Axis have won the war," Hermann Schwinn was saying in a thick accent.
 
After a severe lapse in judgment cost her a prestigious job in New York City, Veronica Grace and her mother, Violet, find themselves in Los Angeles looking for work. Although she still wants to pursue a career in journalism, bills must be paid, so Veronica accepts a typing job from a local high school teacher.
 
It doesn't take her long to discover that this high school teacher is an ardent supporter of the Nazis and one of their chief propagandists in southern California. Veronica wants nothing more to do with the man or his agenda, but that's when she's approached with a proposition. The man was very favorably impressed with both her work, her Aryan appearance, and her German background-- she would make the perfect spy.
 
As Veronica begins her life as a spy, her mother joins her, the older woman moving easily among the wealthy wives of California's Nazi elite. When Pearl Harbor brings the United States into the war, both women find out that the plans these dangerous men are making have a lot more to do with death and destruction than they do with disseminating propaganda leaflets.
 
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Based on a true story, Susan Elia MacNeal's Mother Daughter Traitor Spy is a white-knuckle ride into a life of espionage by two women you'd never think would be spies. Veronica Grace is bright, talented, and longs for a career in journalism like her hero, Martha Gellhorn. She's so bright and so talented that I still find it hard to believe the stupid error in judgment that cost her a prestigious job in New York City.
 
Another thing that was a bit difficult to accept (but I don't know why) is what a hotbed of Nazism the Los Angeles area was in World War II. So much so that the West Coast was in much more danger than the East Coast. Learning that, back then, Anaheim was called "Klanaheim" made my blood run cold. (When reading this book, do yourself a favor: read the author's notes, sources, and inspirations.)

One of the best parts of Mother Daughter Traitor Spy was how MacNeal showed the concurrent tedium and terror of being a spy. Veronica and Violet's determination and strength of character shone through all the long months they put themselves in danger. It is a life that not many people are suited for, and a life in which one of the most important lessons to be learned is that "nice isn't the same as good."

This is a strong fictional account of two remarkable women that has disturbing ties to the present day. I'm glad I met Veronica and Violet.

Mother Daughter Traitor Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal
eISBN: 9780593156964
Bantam Books © 2022
eBook, 336 pages
 
Standalone Historical Thriller
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley