Barbara Clark

Feature by

Literary references and messages from the stars add wit and wisdom to three cozy mystery debuts, wherein leading ladies go toe-to-toe with the odd, the cultish and the rapacious.

TO THE COAST
Katherine Bolger Hyde puts a new spin on classic crime with Arsenic with Austen, the first in a new series that mixes old-fashioned romance and danger with a dose of very contemporary greed. Emily Cavanaugh’s aunt has left her a fortune, which includes much of the land in Stony Beach, Oregon. When Emily returns to the quiet coastal town where she spent many childhood summers, she finds the villagers divided by their ideas for the town’s future. The boorish mayor, a greedy real estate developer and Emily’s sort-of cousin try to convince her to develop the town with a luxury resort and fancy boutiques. Soon a murder hits close to Emily’s doorstep, and along with Luke, her former childhood love, she sets out to discover the killer’s identity, even calling into question whether Aunt Beatrice may have been “helped” into her grave. Puzzler fans and literary junkies alike will enjoy the fun as passages from Jane Austen’s novels bolster and embellish Emily’s investigations.

WHAT THE STARS SAY
In Connie di Marco’s The Madness of Mercury, astrologer Julia Bonatti knows that Mercury retrograde is a planetary aspect with plenty of dangers. As author of the local newspaper’s horoscope column, Julia has been targeted as a witch by cult leader Reverend Roy and his Prophet’s Tabernacle, who are not averse to threats or vandalism. To make it worse, someone has passed the word to law enforcement to lay off the so-called prophet’s case. Julia seeks safety by moving in with her friend Dorothy and helping to care for Dorothy’s elderly aunts, but trouble mounts when Aunt Eunice runs off to join up with the volatile Reverend. Danger figures in the stars for Julia, along with mixed astrological energies, some wolves in sheep’s clothing and an amiable stranger with a down-under accent.

LIBRARY CRIMES
In Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli’s series debut, A Most Curious Murder, characters and scenes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland take on a zany, modern-day aspect. In the small, peaceful town of Bear Falls, Michigan, the Little Library—its only library—is vandalized and destroyed. The demise of the small structure, lovingly set in place by Jenny Weston’s mother, causes dismay among the townsfolk, and Jenny turns sleuth to discover the perpetrator. She’s aided, like it or not, by her next-door neighbor Zoe, a little person with a big penchant for quoting children’s literature. Zoe becomes a person of interest when a murder takes place in her garden—of the very person suspected of vandalizing the library. Lewis Carroll is practically another character in this offbeat, talky tale. There’s even a touch of romance—for Jenny, he’s the “kind of friend a woman needed at times like these.”

 

This article was originally published in the July 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.


It’s Private Eye July at BookPage! All month long, we’re celebrating the sinister side of fiction with the year’s best mysteries and thrillers. Look for the Private Eye July magnifying glass for a daily dose of murder, espionage and all those creepy neighbors with even creepier secrets.

Literary references and messages from the stars add wit and wisdom to three cozy mystery debuts, wherein leading ladies go toe-to-toe with the odd, the cultish and the rapacious.
Feature by

In three mysteries set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—an era full of misconceptions about “the fairer sex”—women of action match wits with philandering villains, escaped cons and dodgy doctors.

CRIMES OF THE WELL-HEELED
There’s a good deal of “I know it in my bones” sleuthing in Kate Saunders’ The Secrets of Wishtide, first in a new historical mystery series set in the Dickensian England of the 1850s. Middle-aged widow Laetitia “Letty” Rodd fancies herself a private investigator of sorts, and she works with her brother, Frederick, a criminal barrister, to sort out the follies and indiscretions that originate with folks of the well-respected “gentler” classes. Wishtide is full of secrets, as the “nicer” ladies and gentlemen mix it up in all manner of seductions and clandestine affairs—clearly with no respect to class. Shadowy marriages and alliances run amok as the feisty sleuth sets out to investigate and perhaps prevent an undesirable love match, and ends up unmasking an evasive murderer known as Prince, who may have lived more than his share of lives.

GIRL RETURNS WITH GUN
Amy Stewart (Girl Waits with Gun) continues the fictional adventures of Miss Constance Kopp in Lady Cop Makes Trouble. Constance is based on a real woman who, just prior to World War I, became a deputy sheriff in New Jersey, one of the first of her kind in the country. And yes, she does make trouble. Escaped convicts don’t stand a chance against this adventurous woman, as Stewart crafts a heady brew of mystery and action in a fast-moving, craftily written novel that’s fueled by actual news headlines of the day. While serving as a matron for women prisoners in the Bergen County jail, Constance has a bad day when the electricity fails during a thunderstorm and an inmate escapes. Constance tracks down the bad guy, all the while fielding complaints from the male citizenry that revolver-totin’ women in law enforcement will just “turn into little men.”

THE DOCTOR IS IN
Cuyler Overholt’s debut mystery, A Deadly Affection, is set in 1907 New York City and features an uncommon protagonist, Dr. Genevieve Summerford, an early practitioner—and a woman to boot—in the burgeoning field of psychiatry, a discipline not yet fully accepted as a legitimate medical field. One of her patients is arrested for murder, and though she claims she’s innocent, Genevieve fears that her own advice may have prompted the young woman to dangerous actions. She bends all her efforts toward discovering the real murderer, and in the process uncovers a complicated web of family stories involving questions of parentage, illegal adoption and genetically transmitted disease. Her investigations bring her face-to-face with Simon Shaw, an influential Tammany politician—and the man who stole her heart years ago. Overholt’s story is a winning combination of intrigue and romance.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

In three mysteries set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—an era full of misconceptions about “the fairer sex”—women of action match wits with philandering villains, escaped cons and dodgy doctors.
Feature by

Looking to take a journey through time with some compelling, out-of-the-ordinary sleuths this summer? Then look no further than these four new titles that are sure to keep you immersed in times gone by and flipping pages long into the night.

SEARCHING FOR SANCTUARY
In Defectors, Joseph Kanon’s smart new thriller, two American brothers meet for the first time in 12 years. It’s no ordinary reunion, though both have a backstory as bright young CIA operatives in the late 1940s. Frank, the elder, was exposed as a Communist spy and fled to Moscow in 1949 to avoid prosecution.

A decade later, Frank has written a memoir, and younger brother Simon, now a publisher, travels to Moscow in 1961 to read and edit the manuscript. But Frank appears to have another agenda. He signals to Simon that he wants to escape back to the states.

Defectors offers a story of divided loyalties and fast-moving Soviet action. Kanon's evocative language and masterful ability to ratchet up the suspense will immerse readers in the conflicted, claustrophobic world that awaits those whose political passions may waver or change. In Kanon’s chilling narrative, every line is a zinger. In this gray world of watchers and watched, where does ultimate loyalty lie?

A BELOVED CITY'S ANCIENT SECRETS
Outrageous face masks are the required costume during annual carnival celebrations just before Lent in 1358 Venice. The masks' grotesque features throw into stark relief the revelry, brutality and hidden secrets of this fabled city, where Brit Oswald Lacy and his mother have traveled as a stop in their pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

While billeted there with the family of John Bearpark, an English merchant, young Oswald embroils himself in gambling debts with John's Italian friends. When a secretly gay member of the Bearpark household is killed, the victim leaves a murky trail that pushes the Oswald into imminent danger. Oswald's mother volunteers him to solve the case, an arrangement he quickly accepts as a way to pay off some of his mounting debt. In an eerie twist, a fearful apparition from Oswald’s life in London follows him from the shadows, grasping at him until he is forced to look upon its face.

S.D. Sykes, author of two previous Lord Somershill mysteries, spares readers none of the 14th century’s malodorous streets and dark alleyways as Oswald tries to unmask the killer and save his own life.

RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
The State Counsellor
, by popular Russian author Boris Akunin, is the latest Erast Fandorin detective novel to be made available to his U.S. fans.

In 1891, an assassin in clever Fandorin disguise boards a train, killing a Russian official who’s being secretly transferred to Siberia. The famous detective (home at the time practicing gymnastics with his Japanese valet) quickly proves his innocence and sets off in pursuit of the revolutionary Combat Group responsible for the murderous deed.

Fandorin’s exploits involve the usual intriguing women, including a seductive, fiery-tempered revolutionary and an informer who notably receives visitors while heavily veiled, sitting in a darkened room.

The State Counseller is full of irony and subtle humor as well as glitz and excitement, from an attack in a bathhouse to a daring escape from a railway carriage to Fandorin’s impossible rooftop jump using a trick called “The Flight of the Hawk.”

SHADOWY SECRETS IN PRAGUE
Murder and betrayal are everyday functions of life at court in Wolf on a String, an amazing novel that showcases author Benjamin Black’s extraordinary ability to thrust readers into the world of late 16th-century Prague.

Bright young scholar and alchemist Christian Stern is thrust into the intrigue at court when he arrives in Prague and is immediately commissioned to find the murderer of the Emperor Rudolph’s new mistress, discovered with her throat cut. Sorting out who may be his enemies, who friends, assumes overriding importance as the young man is twisted into relationships at court with deceitful, dangerous men of high office out to gain favor and riches.

By the end of this sometimes overwrought but intensely atmospheric novel, readers may have little sympathy for young Stern, but a heightened appreciation for anyone who could survive even a day or two in the midst of the pervasive, dark circuitry of court rivalries in an era still struggling with the intricacies of civilization.


It’s Private Eye July at BookPage! All month long, we’re celebrating the sinister side of fiction with the year’s best mysteries and thrillers. Look for the Private Eye July magnifying glass for a daily dose of murder, espionage and all those creepy neighbors with even creepier secrets.

Looking to take a journey through time with some compelling, out-of-the-ordinary sleuths this summer? Then look no further than these four new titles that are sure to keep you immersed in times gone by and flipping pages long into the night.
Feature by

It’s Private Eye July at BookPage! This month, we’re celebrating the sinister side of fiction with the year’s best mysteries and thrillers. Look for the Private Eye July magnifying glass for a dose of murder, espionage and all those creepy neighbors with even creepier secrets.


Secrets make for good reading in three new cozy mysteries set against colorful backdrops, from 1913 prewar New York City and Boston’s lively North End in 1937 to an abandoned mansion in present-day Maryland.

In Murder in Greenwich Village, 20-year-old Louise Faulk has a painful secret, one that follows her to New York City in 1913 as she seeks work and a new life. She has a new roommate and friend, the lovely Broadway wannabe Callie, and the two run smack into a gruesome murder committed in their Greenwich Village apartment. As she gets involved in searching for clues, Louise discovers her own talent for problem-solving and detection, and she finds she has a taste for police work that’s both intimidating and inviting. First-time novelist Liz Freeland lures readers in with her tense, escalating plot, droll humor and the possibility of an unexpected romance. Readers are never bludgeoned with the obvious or overly dramatic. This new series is sure to be a hit on all fronts.

BOSTON GLAM
Cream-filled cannoli from the North End, the golden dome of the State House, bells ringing from the Old North Church—there’s atmosphere galore in Murder at the Flamingo, the opener of Rachel McMillan’s new Van Buren and DeLuca Mystery series, set in 1937 Boston. The murder happens nearly 200 pages in, but in the meantime, the story revolves around two characters, runaways of a kind, who eventually pair up to sleuth and maybe even fall in love. Well-to-do Regina “Reggie” Van Buren and young lawyer Hamish DeLuca are each about to turn a corner in their lives when they are swept up in the orbit of Hamish’s cousin Luca Valari, a young man of charm, ambition—and many secrets. Adventure and a quick coming of age are at hand when Luca’s new nightclub, the Flamingo, opens its doors to champagne, glamour and shady doings, as the youthful pair encounters the darker side of Boston’s glitzy nightclub scene.

HOMETOWN HOMICIDE
A formerly thriving industrial town falls victim to changing times, but a spirited young woman rides to the rescue—at least that’s where things seem to be headed in Murder at the Mansion, the first book in the Victorian Village Mystery series by Sheila Connolly, the beloved author of more than 30 mysteries. The story centers on a lovely old Victorian mansion that may hold the key to the struggling Maryland town’s rejuvenation. Kate Hamilton, who works in hospitality management at a tony Baltimore hotel, returns to her hometown of Asheford at the behest of an old friend to discuss ways to get the town back on its feet. Of course there’s a caretaker at the mansion, and of course he’s attractive. When the two tour the place, they stumble over a dead body—but since when did murder impede a budding romance? Readers who like inheritance drama will enjoy this diverting story.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Secrets make for good reading in three new cozy mysteries set against colorful backdrops, from 1913 prewar New York City and Boston’s lively North End in 1937 to an abandoned mansion in present-day Maryland.

Feature by

Two compelling new works of historical fiction explore the human dramas and decisions facing characters caught in the midst of two very real historical disasters, one in England’s Middle Ages and the other on the Atlantic Ocean during World War I.

LOVE AND ESPIONAGE ON THE LUSITANIA
Wartime espionage, a doomed ocean voyage and separate loves converge in The Glass Ocean, a mesmerizing historical mystery that links three fictional women, each at an important turning point in her life. Their stories, separated by nearly a century, are linked by a legendary historical event—the sinking of the vessel RMS Lusitania by a German U-Boat in 1915.

In the present day, an author seeking an idea for her next book opens an old box that belonged to her great-grandfather, a steward on the fabled luxury ship. She learns of his intriguing connection to a wealthy British passenger—one that possibly involves military intelligence. The box also contains tantalizing clues about two women aboard the vessel: a beautiful, wealthy Southern belle, whose industrialist husband is concealing a mysterious document; and a spunky Irish con artist, who’s attempting one last big heist while not fully aware of its true import and danger.

The Glass Ocean combines adventures surrounding the Great War with the drama of an epic historical event for a tale of obsession, romance and espionage. It blends the creative talents of three authors—Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White—who are looking to repeat the success of their first bestselling collaboration, The Forgotten Room (2016). Their commingled voices deliver a smoothly constructed narrative without a hitch, so readers never lose the flow or fall out of the story.

SURVIVING A PLAGUE IN THE MIDDLE AGES
After a decade’s hiatus, bestselling British crime writer Minette Walters returns to the literary scene with The Last Hours, a sprawling historical saga set in a dark era of superstition and violence.

It’s the year 1348, and the Black Death is decimating England’s population. The terrible disease has inundated a populace essentially without defenses or scientific knowledge about the pestilence, and most can do little but try to flee its ravages, with thousands dying in the attempt.

The story centers on the demesne belonging to Sir Richard of Develish, with its manor, lands and attendant serfs. After the boorish Richard succumbs to the plague, Lady Anne, his wife, who is rather progressive for the Middle Ages, implements a radical idea of walling off the rest of the manor’s occupants, serfs and all, from the outside world in an attempt to survive.

The physical isolation of the group, masters and servants alike, leads to escalating tensions and a violent death, and one group of the anxious hangers-on soon decides to leave the confines of their enclosure and head into the unknown landscape, looking for survivors and supplies. After living their entire lives in Richard’s demesne, they have zero knowledge of the lands beyond Develish, and no maps to guide them in a hostile world.

The author presents an unforgettable picture of this raw, barely civilized era and its brutal hierarchy of master, slave and serf, all of whom are in thrall to a capricious god.

Two compelling new works of historical fiction explore the human dramas and decisions facing characters caught in the midst of two very real historical disasters, one in England’s Middle Ages and the other on the Atlantic Ocean during World War I.

Feature by

In two new works of popular fiction, determined characters search for answers to evergreen questions of fate and choice.

Josie Silver’s One Day in December begins and ends during holiday seasons, spanning a decade as three young people come to terms with the choices they’ve made.

While waiting to depart for holiday travel, 22-year-old Laurie stares through the window from her seat on a London bus and glimpses the face of a stranger standing outside in the crowd. Their eyes meet, but the doors swing shut and the bus pulls away. Over the next year, perhaps lured into that age-old trap of wanting the impossible, Laurie, aided and abetted by best friend Sarah, searches everywhere to try and locate her elusive “bus boy,” but to no avail.

Fast-forward to the next holiday season, when in an ironic turn of fate, Sarah introduces Laurie to her new boyfriend. This is how Jack, the bus boy, reappears in Laurie’s life, though neither Laurie nor Jack thinks the other remembers the bus encounter, and both pretend this is their first meeting. Time passes, and there’s a marriage or two, along with deceptions and revelations that alter all of their lives.

What sounds like a garden-variety romance takes shape as an impeccably written novel. The charm’s in the telling as Laurie and Jack struggle with their private thoughts and yearnings . . . and there’s that accidental late-night kiss. Each will have to decide how—or if—they’ll be able to square their dreams with reality.

The holiday greeting advanced in a yearly letter provides the title of Gretchen Anthony’s Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners, a rambling, funny and often poignant look at how one family disintegrates, copes and flourishes, then carries on with life.

Violet needs structure, certainty and, above all, advance plans. But what’s a deeply loving and controlling mother to do when her daughter, Cerise—happily partnered up with a woman named Barb—becomes pregnant? The father’s name is known only to Cerise and Barb, and they’re not telling.

This is hard to take for Violet, whose controlling arm is long. However, leave it to this determined lady to find a way to return order to her world. She’s used to micromanaging events at home and at the Faithful Redeemer Church holiday fair, as well as the ongoing issues in her friend Eldris’ life, so what could go wrong here? What’s a little fraud, some missing eyeglasses, an early labor, an unfinished family tree and a food fight with roast lamb, among friends?

Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners is a charming, often hilarious story about people whose sticky jealousies, insecurities and small joys are remarkably similar to the ones that mark our own lives. Anthony offers readers a chance to savor and appreciate the joys of the commonplace as well as that strange but remarkable pride we have in our own family bonds.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

In two new works of popular fiction, determined characters search for answers to evergreen questions of fate and choice.

Feature by

Windswept islands protect, isolate and irrevocably shape the course of events in two new novels about the lives of people in far-flung places.


Readers who gravitate toward glorious prose will find a feast in The Dragonfly Sea, a mesmerizing new novel by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Dust, 2014) that delves into the discoveries, joys, sorrows and epiphanies of a singular coming of age—that of Ayaana, a stubborn, imaginative girl from a small island off the coast of Kenya who discovers that she can trace her heritage to a 14th-century Chinese seafarer.

Early in her life, Ayaana’s compass is set when her mother tells another character, “You shall only point my daughter to eternal possibilities. She was not born for limits.” From her childhood on Pate Island to her adventures in the Far East as a charming young woman, Ayaana’s life is marked by both violence and great beauty. Assorted characters alter her destiny, from a sailor who fills the role of the father she’s always wanted to a powerful Turkish mogul who seeks to possess her soul.

The story is deftly interwoven with a sense of life’s fragility, as if it’s holding its breath in anticipation of some danger. This feeling of vulnerability assails Ayaana: “Life was passage, nothing lingered.” Jealousies and troubled kinships affect husbands, fathers and lovers who travel on the ocean tides and are often lost, swept away by storms or twists of fate, but the author brings the story full circle with passages that dazzle and enlighten.

The singular culture of the haenyeo (sea women) of the Korean island of Jeju is at the center of bestselling author Lisa See’s captivating new novel, The Island of Sea Women, a quietly amazing story of two close companions whose friendship is transformed by misunderstanding, cultural prejudice and the terror of war.

Young-sook and Mi-ja are part of Jeju’s female free-diving collective, which forms the economic backbone of the island community in the years leading up to World War II. The friends are bound by ancient female spirits that watch over the island, and by the age-old ties of cooperation that enable their community’s survival. See interweaves details of the island’s semi-matriarchal culture with the adventures and travails of the two women, whose differences grow throughout the decades. Poignant chapters reveal the perspective of an aging Young-sook as she encounters the family of her old friend, forcing her to confront past missteps and the horrors of a 60-year-old massacre, ultimately bringing the generations together to forgive and heal.

Within this enthralling story is a fascinating historical perspective on Korea, a country long victimized by war and foreign occupation, and the ways in which the strains of modernization have forever altered Jeju’s island culture.

Windswept islands protect, isolate and irrevocably shape the course of events in two new novels about the lives of people in far-flung places.

Feature by

Four compelling stories of mothers and daughters center on secrets revealed and secrets kept, with powerful consequences that reverberate through the years.


A wealth of history turns Wunderland into a novel that’s both beautiful and devastating. Author Jennifer Cody Epstein (The Painter From Shanghai) taps into the 1930s prewar era, laying out an unsparing narrative that details tragic events and horrifying legacies.

Renate and Ilse, Jew and Gentile, are best friends in pre-World War II Germany, but they’re driven apart in the terrible buildup to war when Ilse joins Bund Deutscher Mädel, the female division of the Hitler Youth movement. Many years later, in 1989 New York City, Ilse’s estranged daughter, Ava Fischer, receives her mother’s ashes and a trove of letters, addressed to Renate but never sent, that reveal her mother’s terrible secrets. In turn, Ava resists sharing Ilse’s history with her own daughter, Sophie, and Ava realizes that she “has kept Sophie from her own story.” 

The narrative unfolds from several characters’ perspectives, making plain “the things we lie about to make our crimes bearable,” while also opening a new door that may lead to redemption and joy for future generations.

The Daughter’s Tale is a detailed, immersive chronicle of World War II’s tragedy, the power of love and the lengths to which a mother will go to save her children when there are no choices left. With his second novel, Armando Lucas Correa (The German Girl) depicts the meager options available to Jewish people caught in the vise of war, highlighting two real historical events: the ill-fated voyage of the liner St. Louis, in which Jews were not allowed to debark at their destination of Havana, Cuba; and the 1944 SS massacre of French villagers in the town of Oradour-sur-Glane, where only a few survived.

In the novel, a Jewish woman named Amanda Sternberg flees Germany in 1939 with her two daughters, Lina and Viera, but she makes a fateful decision that separates the children and forever alters their lives. Viera is sent to Cuba, but Correa’s novel follows the youngest daughter, Lina, as she escapes wartime imprisonment to begin a different life in France, where her relative freedom is short-lived. Correa starkly portrays the many horrors that were visited on an innocent citizenry.

In her new novel, Feast Your Eyes, Myla Goldberg, author of the 2001 bestseller Bee Season, has again turned her talent for detail into a powerful story about gifted yet flawed characters who can’t escape tragic missteps.

Lillian Preston is a singularly talented photographer whose early work runs afoul of obscenity laws in the 1950s. Photographs of her seminaked 6-year-old daughter, Samantha, lead to trial, tragedy and a rift between mother and daughter that never quite heals. The book is structured like an exhibition catalog that Samantha has organized for a retrospective of her mother’s work. Through the diaries and letters of Lillian’s loved ones, Samantha uncovers Lillian’s gifts, her struggles and intense ambition, tempered by sorrow and love for her daughter. 

Like a photograph that captures the inner light of its subject, Feast Your Eyes catches such moments on the page, illuminating the power of both beauty and heartbreak. Goldberg unsparingly reveals a driven artist whose propulsive talent is also her Achilles’ heel.

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, the fourth novel from Balli Kaur Jaswal (Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows), is an absolute delight. It interweaves multiple family stories within the colorful panorama of a journey to India, resulting in a novel that is sad, joyful and exciting all at the same time.

Jaswal’s narrative entwines the stories of three adult sisters whose disparate lives are catapulted on a new and completely different trajectory when their mother makes a request. With her death only hours away, India-born Sita Kaur Shergill, who raised her children in England, says she wants her daughters to undertake a pilgrimage to India—one she was unable to take—and provides detailed instructions for the trip that are daunting, life-changing and often hilarious.

The Shergill sisters—Rajni, Jezmeen and Shirina—live very separate lives, each with its own secrets. The author enfolds readers in deceptively simple stories that reveal the hidden depth, humor and pathos of each sister’s life, as little by little they learn and accept each other’s stories. The teeming, textured setting of India is captured through the author’s evocative scenes, as the sisters navigate on-the-ground travel as well as their own inner terrain. 

Four compelling stories of mothers and daughters center on secrets revealed and secrets kept, with powerful consequences that reverberate through the years.

Review by

Now and then—too seldom, really—one stumbles onto an addictive, engrossing novel. Every once in a while it’s also possible to find a fresh, engaging romance. And sometimes, as in The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths, you’re lucky enough to find both in one book.

Archaeologist Ruth Galloway is overweight and pushing 40, not your typical fictional heroine. Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson is brusque, with a dangerous side and nary a poetic bone in his body. Plus, he’s married. This unlikely twosome sets the sparks flying in a story that unfolds at the edge of the Saltmarsh, a line of sand and mudflats where land meets ocean and ocean meets sky. This is Ruth’s home, in North Norfolk on the English coast. The lonely yet strangely inviting landscape of rain, tides, silent drifting swans and calling birds forms a unique backdrop for an atmospheric story about the discovery of a body in the marsh that police think may be that of a young local girl who disappeared some 10 years earlier.

Inspector Nelson seeks Ruth’s advice on the remains, which instead turn out to be the body of a young girl preserved for nearly 2,000 years in the peaty bog, near a circle of ancient standing stones. Ruth, excited by the discovery of ancient remains, is nevertheless drawn into the mysteries of the present when more recent human remains are found. She begins to unravel the clues posed in a series of anonymous letters dating back over a decade—clues that point to the location of the missing local youngster.

In this dark and witty novel, Griffiths makes each paragraph seem effortless, with just the right amount of description, pathos or humor. In addition to the book’s intriguing duo, the supporting characters in this story are carefully drawn, each believable and entertaining.

The first in a new crime series, The Crossing Places reassures readers of the continuing power of fiction to envelop and entertain. This is a book to save for a rainy dark day when you need a reward. And instead of saying, as you hit the last paragraph, “Well, that’s done,” you’ll be moved to hope, “please, let there be a next one!”

Barbara Clark writes from Yarmouth, Massachusetts.

Now and then—too seldom, really—one stumbles onto an addictive, engrossing novel. Every once in a while it’s also possible to find a fresh, engaging romance. And sometimes, as in The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths, you’re lucky enough to find both in one book. Archaeologist Ruth Galloway is overweight and pushing 40, not your typical […]
Review by

Arf! Can you read your pet’s mind? That’s exactly what happens when professional dog walker Ellie Engleman is with her dog, Rudy, or in fact with any of her canine charges—whenever they allow her into their minds. Begging for Trouble is author Judi McCoy’s fourth “dog walker mystery,” and it will engage both canine aficionados and lovers of a good ongoing romance.

The romance portion involves the overly curious Ellie, who’s deeply involved with her handsome, workaholic and by-the-book cop boyfriend, Sam. He’s leery of Ellie’s involvement in recent crimes—she seems to have played a part in several of his past murder investigations, and it’s put her at personal risk. Sam’s instinct to protect his woman vies with his hard-earned knowledge that she’ll go her own way no matter what he suggests, and the two go on a merry chase during their separate investigations, while at the same time finding deep contentment in each other’s arms.

The dog-and-mystery show belongs to Ellie’s canine friends, as she becomes party to their thoughts while whirling them on their early spring walks through Manhattan’s streets and parks. Ellie’s just found out that one of her dog-owner clients, Rob, is a well-known drag queen, and she and Sam are in the audience one night to watch him perform when a deadly stabbing is committed offstage. Rob is found bending over the body of his understudy, Carmella, and becomes suspect numero uno. Rob’s tiny pup, Bitsy, is stashed in a carrier under the dressing table throughout the horrendous event, and witnesses her owner’s arrest amid the blood and mayhem. She could provide a clue to the real murderer’s identity if she could describe what happened, but she’s too traumatized to remember.

Ellie and Sam trip over each other’s feet as they wend their own ways toward solving the crime. Ellie’s unorthodox ability to interact mentally with her canine friends is a well-kept secret—who would believe her if she told someone?—so she treads on shaky ground as she searches for clues, and even takes Bitsy to visit pet psychic Madame Orzo. A swarm of New York apartment dwellers of every stripe and type, along with Ellie’s offbeat friends and family, add great color to the story—but the real kudos in this lively whodunit belong to the four-legged animals, who yap their way comfortably through the action.

Arf! Can you read your pet’s mind? That’s exactly what happens when professional dog walker Ellie Engleman is with her dog, Rudy, or in fact with any of her canine charges—whenever they allow her into their minds. Begging for Trouble is author Judi McCoy’s fourth “dog walker mystery,” and it will engage both canine aficionados […]
Review by

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, the fourth novel from Balli Kaur Jaswal (Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows), is an absolute delight. It interweaves multiple family stories within the colorful panorama of a journey to India, resulting in a novel that is sad, joyful and exciting all at the same time.

Jaswal’s narrative entwines the stories of three adult sisters whose disparate lives are catapulted on a new and completely different trajectory when their mother makes a request. With her death only hours away, India-
born Sita Kaur Shergill, who raised her children in England, says she wants her daughters to undertake a pilgrimage to India—one she was unable to take—and provides detailed instructions for the trip that are daunting, life–changing and often hilarious.

The Shergill sisters—Rajni, Jezmeen and Shirina—live very separate lives, each with its own secrets. The author enfolds readers in deceptively simple stories that reveal the hidden depth, humor and pathos of each sister’s life, as little by little they learn and accept each other’s stories. The teeming, textured setting of India is captured through the author’s evocative scenes, as the sisters navigate on-the-ground travel as well as their own inner terrain. 

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, the fourth novel from Balli Kaur Jaswal (Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows), is an absolute delight. It interweaves multiple family stories within the colorful panorama of a journey to India, resulting in a novel that is sad, joyful and exciting all at the same time.

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Trending Features

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!