11.12.15

WATCHERS OF TIME, by Charles Todd

5/series. Sent to Norfolk by his antagonistic superior to pacify a powerful church prelate, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge finds solace in the marshes at the edge of the sea, in spite of the constant, nagging presence of his personal demon Hamish. A country priest has been murdered, beaten to death by his own altar cross. The prelate suspects something other than a burglar, panicked by surprise, but the local police are sure it's merely that. Click below for more...

LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE, by Diana Gabaldon

3/series starring Lord John Grey, one-time Helwater prison warden of Jamie Fraser. Georgian England did not suffer homosexuals gladly; they were regarded with horror and revulsion, considered beneath contempt as well as fair game. But the gay scene anywhere, particularly in the Army, was vibrant, and Lord John thrived. Nearly twenty years before, his father, the Duke of Pardloe, was found dead by his own hand, seemingly one step ahead of a treason charge. Click below for more...

2.12.15

THE BANGKOK ASSETT, by John Burdett

9/series set in Bangkok and starring homicide detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, former monk, intent on keeping his karma unsullied while working for Colonel Vikorn, the most corrupt cop in the kingdom. A homicide of a schoolgirl whose head has literally been torn off is highlighted by a smeared message in her blood on the room's mirror. It's addressed to Sonchai, hinting about thefather he's endlessly searching for. The next day, in a torrential monsoon, he sees two men throw their relative into the raging river. In charge of the bizarre acts seems to be a handsome blond giant. Click below for more . . .

27.11.15

SHARDS OF HOPE, by Nalini Singh

14/series in the Psy-changeling series. Fantastic shapeshifter culture doesn't get more carefully thought-out than this intricate earth-set series. This novel focuses on the life and changing culture of the Arrows, an elite force once used by the ruling power cabal as enforcers. Now, under the guidance of Aden Kai, their culture will change to one allowing emotion, long forbidden. For some, change will come. But for others, it's not only impossible but threatening, both in the force and in the world at large. When Aden wakes in a dark cellar, he find his badly-beaten Commander, Zaira, huddled in a corner. Click below for more...

THE STRANGER, by Harlan Coben

A stand-alone novel by the master of contemporary suburban angst, average Joe protagonists, and all-too-human villains, Coben has once again come up with an unexpected plot and a multitude of twists. At the American Legion bar, a stranger approaches Adam Price and tells him a secret. Adam quickly realizes the stranger, who won't reveal his name, knows a lot about his wife, Corinne. And the details ring true. Adam, an attorney, family man, father of two boys and loving husband of Corinne, must confront his wife with the revealed secret. But her reaction isn't what he'd expected. Click below for more no-spoiler review...

26.11.15

BORDER-LINE, by Liza Marklund

8/series starring Swedish reporter Annika Bengtzon. English language translation by Neil Smith. When a young woman is found murdered in the woods behind a day-care center, reporter Bengtzon wonders if it isn't the work of a serial killer. A colleague, ever watchful for sensational stories, runs with it, and discovers other murders with the same MO. As Bengtzon mulls over the possibility of it being the women's boyfriends, she gets news that her husband, Thomas, attending a conference in Kenya, has been kidnapped by an Islamist cadre. Click below for more...

7.11.15

REBEL QUEEN, by Michelle Moran

A good tale for the lover of little-known history. Illuminating a largely unpublicized episode in the British Empire's mid-eighteenth century conquest of India, this fascinating story of young Queen Lakshmi of Jhansi will pin you to your seat. Told by Lakshmi's guard and confidante, Sita, a member of the all-female troop assigned to keep the queen safe, it contrasts the naive goodness of the young warrior with the intrigue both at court and by the British. Nobody comes off very well, of course; this is empire-building at its bloodiest and most unforgiving. Click below for more...

3.11.15

KILL MY DARLING, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

4/series starring Detective Inspector Bill Slider and his team. Set in central London's Shepherd's Bush area, Slider investigates the disappearance of a young woman who walked out of her house one evening and vanished into thin air. Slider and his crew know young women often vanish for a day or two, then turn up with a perfectly reasonable explanation. But this time, beautiful Melanie Hunter is found, dead of a blow to the head, in a London area park. Click below for more...

BLOOD NEVER DIES, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

15/Bill Slider series, set in London's Shepherd's Bush area. The body of a handsome man is found in the bathtub of a a mean attic apartment. Suicide? Except for one little detail, Slider's team might have thought so. But the victim is left-handed, and the angle of the cut across the jugular is all wrong. Then Slider's team discovers the man's identification is bogus. Thus opens an intricate and fascinating plot of undercover investigation, drug dealing, grisly murder and revenge. Click below for more...

30.10.15

RADIANT ANGEL, by Nelson DeMille

7/series starring John Corey. I've been hooked on Corey since Plum Island, the first in the series. He only gets stronger, and the stories do, too. Corey, invited to leave the FBI for less restrictive pastures, has wound up in the Diplomatic Surveillance Group, a sad, quiet end for the adrenalin junkie. On a quiet weekend afternoon, Corey and his sidekick Tess Farraday are on watch for Russian diplomat Vasily Petrov, of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. Diplomats are restricted to twenty five mile radius from Manhattan, but Petrov and his two companions go to an oligarch's estate at the end of Long Island, where a vodka-soaked party is in progress. Click below for more...

21.10.15

DEADLEY ELECTION, by Lindsey Davis

3/Flavia Albia novels, set in ancient Rome, 89AD. Building on the fabulous success of the Marcus Didius Falco novels (all 20 of them), the once-orphaned street urchin rescued from the filth and danger of Londinium is a marvelous character. Following in the socially dubious footsteps of her adopted father, Flavia Albia is an informer, a private eye. The family business, however, is auctions, and the Callisti family needs funds. It's election season and they've put out too many bribes that didn't pay off. Part of their belongings is an old strongbox, large and heavy, iron banded. And in it is a corpse. Click below for more...

DEAD AND BURIED, by Barbara Hambly

9/Benjamin January series set in pre-Civil War New Orleans. As this series progresses, it only gets better. It also gets more graphic about slavery and the American attitudes toward it; "passing" for white is a central theme here. In this story, a pallbearer slips, a coffin crashes into a brick tomb, and the corpse is revealed as a white man, not as the free man of color it's supposed to be. Hannibal Sefton, January's close but usually-not-sober friend, recognizes the victim, and so begins a hair-raising race to save the life of a young man willing to be hung rather than tell the truth. Click below for more...

19.10.15

DEAD WATER, by Barbara Hambly

8/Benjamin January stories set in the pre-Civil War American south. Underscoring the disastrous situation a free man of color can get himself into on the Mississippi, Benjamin January (6'3", very black son of a field hand) is hired to find the man who may have absconded with a New Orleans bank's gold . . . including January's irreplaceable house payment. The villain is supposed to be taking his loot on board the small paddlewheel steamer Silver Moon, bound to Natchez and points north. January recruits his white friend Hannibal Sefton to act as his owner Click below for more... 

16.10.15

KATE'S PROGRESS, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Contemporary suspense with a fair amount of romance in it doesn't get a lot more beguiling than this one. Kate, tired of London and her high-pressure life and dearth of suitable men, gets an early inheritance and sinks it in a wrecked cottage deep in the English countryside. After fixing the place herself, she'll sell it for a profit. Her first visitor is a handsome, abrasive man on horseback who is sure she's squatting on the property. Kate's quickly swept into the local village life and particularly the family living in The Hall, where the Blackmore brothers and their spendthrift stepmother live a very uncongenial existence. Kate, inherently kind and optimistic, is instantly at odds with the handsome, broody, workaholic older brother Ed, and is romanced by the younger, flirty, work-averse Jack. But something's rotten at The Hall and when Ed's over-confident old flame sweeps in things get very nerve-wracking. A fun read for a weekend, it's a 4.
Find the author at www.cynthiaharrodeagles.com
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7.10.15

THE CAIRO DIARY, by Maxim Chattam

 Translated from the French by Susan Dyson. In Cairo, in 1928, a series of atrocious murders of young children took place. The diary of the investigation follows the trail of the author and principal investigator, English Police Detective Jeremy Matheson. But the diary is lost, and is only unearthed when, on Mont-St-Michel in 2005, a woman being hidden by the French Secret Service finds it in a pile of discarded books. Marion, who worked in Paris' morgue, had seen something she shouldn't have seen, and her life is threatened. Until she can testify in a current murder case, she has been spirited away to live among a monastic community. Click below for more...

CITY OF SHADOWS, by Ariana Franklin

I adore books that have a big surprise on the next-to-last page. It takes such careful plotting to pull it off, and that's one of Franklin's strengths. This is a mesmerizing, chilling, stand-alone book set in Berlin in the 20s and 30s. Packed with refugees, Berlin was decadent, its nightlife turbulent and catering to every interest, no matter how socially unacceptable. Esther Solomonova, a Russian  Jew scarred from a pogrom, is multi-lingual secretary to cabaret-owner and wheeler-dealer "Prince" Nick, who hears of a woman in an insane asylum claiming to be one of the murdered Russian princesses. Click below for more...

4.10.15

THE BAT, by Jo Nesbo

A tasty prequel to the noir Harry Hole series find our self-destructive but sexy detective from the Oslo Crime Squad sent to Sydney, Australia to observe investigation into the murder of a young Norwegian woman, Inger Holter. Upon arrival, a local detective, aboriginal Andrew Kensington, takes him to his hotel, later to the police offices where he's told by the captain to lay low and enjoy his vacation. But Harry has never done that, he's by instinct a detective.  Click below for more...

HEROES ARE MY WEAKNESS, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Contemporary romance doesn't get a whole lot better than this bright, funny, and suspensful novel by award-winning author Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Annie Hewitt returns to her childhood vacation spot, Peregrine Island, in the dead of a Maine winter. The terms of her flamboyant late mother's will insist she stay for 60 days. Broke and dispirited, that's okay with Annie, as she has a legacy to find that could change her life. Almost at once, she bumps into an old nemesis, Theo Harp, who in their teens not only teased her but almost got her killed. Now an author famous for his grisly, graphic novel, at first sight the now-hostile Theo is dressed in 19thC clothes and carries a dueling pistol. Click below for more...

1.10.15

MURDER AS A FINE ART, by David Morrell

London, 1854, filled with swirling, noxious fog and populated by easily-upset crowds of hard-drinking, impoverished workers. A grisly multiple murder brings a renowned author, Thomas deQuincy and his forthright daughter Emily to the notice of Scotland Yard. The murders appear to be patterned after the sensational Ratcliff murders of decades before, and it is claimed "encouraged" by de Quincy's incendiary essay on Murder as a Fine Art. Click below for more...

26.9.15

THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT, by Simone St. James

London, 1925, where talented occult mistress Ellie Winter is left a note by her arch-rival Gloria Sutton, who has been murdered at one of Gloria's own seances. Reluctant to enter Sutton's high-visibility world, Ellie decides to honor her adversary's request to "find me", only to find herself dogged by handsome and relentless war veteran James Hawley, who despises charlatans and fakes, and lives to expose them. But Ellie is the real thing, and had given up contacting the dead after the brutal war which wiped out nearly a generation of English men, and now she will only find lost objects. Click below for more...

THEHAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE, by Simone St. James

Mesmerizing! This is what a careful, meticulous author can accomplish: a stunning read that will grab you and ruin your entire normal schedule. Hired as an assistant to handsome Alistair Gellis while his usual assistant is out of town, penniless Sarah Piper goes to a small English village to investigate a haunting. The spirit belongs to Maddy Clare, a nineteen year-old maid who killed herself in a barn, and her ghost is now supposed to inhabit the building. Click below for more, but no spoilers...

23.9.15

SAVAGE GARDEN, by Denise Hamilton

4/series starring Eve Diamond, LA reporter and trouble magnet. In Sugar Skull, Eve Diamond met and fell for the handsome and irresistible Silvio Aguilar. In this fast-paced novel, Catarina Velosi, mercurial actress playing the lead in Alfonso Reventon's new play, vanishes on opening night. Eve and Silvio go to the actresses' apartment; something has happened there, a window screen is missing, but the actresses' purse is on a table. Why does Eve's lover Silvio have a key to Velosi's apartment? Click below for more...

THE SHOGUN'S DAUGHTER, by Laura Joh Rowland

There is a trend among some authors to create a novel and then leave enough loose ends to force the reader to buy the next tale. This is one of those, so if you deplore the pernicious (and hopefully not growing) habit of writing most of a novel but not all, you can skip this one.
17/series starring Sano Ichiro, the Emperor's investigator. After the 1705 earthquake and fire that destroys Edo (Tokyo), the Tokugawa shogun's daughter dies of smallpox. The upheaval that follows allows Ichiro's arch-enemy, the evil and ambitious Yanagisawa to propel his son forward as the shogun's son, and the easily-led shogun (who prefers men) agrees. The following purge removes not only Ichiro from his position, but scores of others including his own son. When the shogun's mother begs Ichiro to prove that the daughter wasn't murdered, he risks both family and honor to follow all clues to their end. As always, Rowland writes knowingly and simply of the torturous world of feudal Japan, and the mystery is well-paced. Too bad the side story was left openly dangling, a tarnished lure. It's a 3.
Find the author at www.laurajohrowland.com
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ALONG THE BROKEN ROAD, by Heather Burch

Sweet romance doesn't get much better than this delightful Ozark-based encounter between feisty, grieving Carlee and handsome ex-soldier Ian Carlisle, who is on a highly-tense mission: fulfilling the last wishes of his former Commanding Officer. Just back from Afghanistan, Carlisle brings with him Carlee's father's diary, written to express the late Major's love for his only daughter. Click below for more....

30.8.15

PERFECT SINS, by Jo Bannister

Gabriel Ash lost his family to Somali pirates. Four years later, after a complete emotional collapse, he's putting his life back together, but still searching for his wife and two young sons. He's been given renewed hope by a criminal who says they are alive. Hazel Best, a young police officer, takes Ash to her family home, where an unexpected happening at an archeological dig unearths a modern grave. Click below for more...

19.8.15

SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS by Boris Akunin

5/series of the adventures of Erast Fandorin, agent to the Russian Imperial Police. Translated from the Russian. Fandorin and his Japanese manservant go up against a master swindler who makes off with large sums of rubles from wealthy but credulous victims. The Jack of Spades is a master at disguise, and Fandorin's vast powers of ratiocination are severely stressed. He even takes on a spotty, timid, under-achieving messenger boy, Anisii, as his assistant. Click below for more...

12.8.15

THE DEVIL'S MAKING, by Sean Haldane

Nineteenth-century Victoria, in Canada's western British Columbia, rarely figures in a novel, but this award-winning tale will keep you pinned to your seat. Young Chad Hobbes, newly-arrived in the struggling town from England and forced to become a policeman rather than the barrister he had envisioned, investigates the grisly murder of an American alienist. Dr. McCrory was flamboyant in the American style, and practiced a rather peculiar method of calming his patients. Accused of the murder is an indian, prince of a little tribe, and he is clapped in jail without much regard for truth. Click below for more...

TO DARKNESS AND TO DEATH, by Julia Spencer-Fleming

4/series by a multi-award-winning author of mystery and  suspense. In the New York Adirondacks town of Millers Kill, a quarter-million-acre estate is to be sold to a Malaysian lumber consortium and then donated to an environmental group to protect it from logging. The three owners, heirs to the many-hundred years-old estate, will sign off on the deal at a gala banquet attended by all the local movers and shakers. Then one of the three heirs, young Millie van der Hoeven, vanishes into thin air. Click below for more...

9.8.15

HERBIE'S GAME, by Timothy Hallinan

4/series starring Junior Bender, burglar and sleuth for criminals. For years, Herbie was Junior's mentor and father-figure. Now retired, the never-arrested master burglar still hold a special place in Junior's heart. When a major crime figure is burgled, all clues lead to either Herbie - who from time to time liked to leave a stylistic calling card - or his protoge. Wattles, the "executive crook", specializes in setting up hits. No longer trusting his memory for the long list of cutouts he uses, he had scribbled them on a piece of paper...and that's what's missing. Click below for more...

THE GOLDEN MILE TO MURDER, by Sally Spencer

7/series starring Chief Inspector Charlie Woodend. Finally trying the last of official Scotland Yard's patience, Woodend has been posted to his home town and the highly autocratic and supposedly modern rule of Chief Superintendent Ainsworth, whose approach to policing is at odds with Charlie's more intuitive methods. Saddles with a resentful but attractive female "bagman" (sidekick for us Yanks), Charlie's sent to investigate the murder of another cop. It's soon apparent to the sleuth that he's being fed a load of codswallop. Why do the local cops not want him to find the causes of their colleague's death? Enthusiasts of going-against-the-tide inspectors will find this entertaining, and Charlie's methods spot on. It's a 3.5. The book is so old no cover remains for me to include.
But the author as a website, found under his real name www.alanrustage.com
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MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH, by Ariana Franklin

1/series. 1174 England. Adelia Aguilar, a full-fledged anatomist and doctor from Sicily, is sent (by mistake; everyone had expected a male) to medieval England at the request of King Henry II to defuse the grim situation in Cambridge, where Jews are accused of murdering four Christian children. Having imposed the rule of law throughout his new kingdom, Henry not only wants the laws to hold but sorely misses the revenue his Jews provide. As long as they're holed up in Cambridge's castle, there is no revenue. Adelia walks a fine line in the superstitious country: females cannot practice medicine lest they are accused of being a witch and burned. Click below for more...

A FINE SUMMER'S DAY, by Charles Todd

17?/series starring Scotland Yard's Ian Rutledge. Part of the big appeal of this novel is how the days leading to the start of the Great War - World War One - are so skilfully woven into the narrative. Rutledge, newly engaged, is sent north of York to investigate a hanging. Suicide or murder? The victim's family insists it could not be suicide. Returned to London, after a tense meeting with his irascible supervisor, he's sent west, to Bristol.  Click below for more...

4.8.15

SALMAGUNDI, by Sally Butcher

Oddball cookbooks abound these days, many of them with limited audiences. Not so this thick, beautifully-illustrated guide to using mideast ingredients in everyday cooking. Concentrating on salads, author Sally Butcher (of Persepolis, a south London Persian food heaven), you'll add ingredients to your pantry that you might never have considered. This book isn't really for the newbie, although adventurous new cooks will get a lot out of it. The accomplished or at least confident cook will enjoy the twists on salads and their ingredients, used or combined in new ways, some of them super-healthy. For American cooks, sourcing some of the ingredients will be the problem (lupini beans? freekeh?), but most mideast groceries should suffice.The bulgar salad recipe on page 135 ought to reward you enough to consider the book a bargain purchase. It's a 5.
Butcher's Persia in Peckham tweets are fun, too. You may find her at www.veggiestan.com, also the title of another Butcher cookbook. But finding a cover to put in here was impossible.
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REDEPLOYMENT, by Phil Klay

Winner of multiple book awards, this collection of essays and remembrances from American soldiers deployed in the Iraq war will touch you deeply. Along with Love My Rifle More Than You, it gives a non-military reader a fuller sense of the day-to-day experiences of our troops. It is fatally easy to fall for the spoutings of politicians and senior military, who appear to inhabit a world that has no relevance for these writers. The first piece, Redeployment, only hints at what awaits you. Click below for more...

31.7.15

SLAVE TO SENSATION, by Nalini Singh

1/psy-changeling series, paranormal romance. Futuristic, set one hundred years ahead, in a divided world where the somewhat-human, ruling Psy have obliterated emotion from their race through early-childhood conditioning. Sascha Duncan, daughter of a ruthless Psy Council member, is sent by her calculating mother to oversee a tradition-breaking Psy-Changeling building project. Lucas Hunter, part leopard, outwardly human, finds the supposed Psy a challenge he must meet. But Sascha believes she is breaking down, the walls she'd been trained to erect as a child cracking under internal pressure she doesn't understand but knows enough to fear. As the project moves forward, Sascha and Hunter must make choices nobody in their world has ever had to make. It's a 4.
Find the author at www.nalinisingh.com
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WINGS OF FIRE, by Charles Todd

2/series. 1919, post-war England. Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard, as eager to be gone from the building as his supervisor is to send him, goes to Cornwall to investigate the death of three members of a well-known family. As always, he encounters the local police in a surly mood. The small town where the family dominates is also unwelcoming. But Rutledge, a veteran of the endless brutality of the Somme, carries an even greater burden: Hamish, a sergeant he unwillingly killed, and who now travels as with him as his personal demon. The circumstance of the double suicide puzzles Rutledge, particularly when he learns the female victim is one of the poets who helped him live through the war. The surviving family, one of whom had petitioned Scotland Yard for review, intrigues the inspector, and he begins digging into the complicated family history. As the clues mount up, Rutledge is faced with an improbable choice that, if true, will endanger even more people. It's a 5, the relationship between Rutledge and his demon both chilling and fascinating.
Find the author at www.charlestodd.com\
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18.7.15

THE QUEEN'S DWARF, by Ella March Chase

Handsome Jeffrey Hudson, born in 1612, never grew past 18" due to a pituitary disorder. Sold by his brutish father to the ambitious, conniving Duke of Buckingham, Jeffrey was placed in the household of England's Queen Henrietta Maria., wife of King James. Despised by the populace for being French and Catholic, the teen-aged queen was surrounded by enemies, especially her husband's dearest friend, handsome George Villiers, the amoral Duke of Buckingham, and Jeffrey's spymaster.  Click below for more...

17.7.15

THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD, by Ian Rankin

A Malcolm Fox novel. Introduced in a previous Inspector Rebus novel, Inspector Fox is a member of The Complaints, the hated and feared department based in Edinburgh that investigates bent coppers. Sent out of town to investigate a sexually abusive cop whose own uncle, a retired cop, blew the whistle on him, Fox find that the tale goes back decades, to 1985. As always, there is an earlier crime, and Fox must find survivors to find the truth. At the rate they keep dying – including the whistle-blowing retiree – he's got a serious problem to hand. As always, Ian Rankin has given us a tense, complex, multi-layered, atmospheric mystery starring a new, and eventually sympathetic, cop at the helm. It's a 4. Find the author at www.ianrankin.net
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14.7.15

HELL, by Robert Olen Butler

Thought-provoking, compelling, diabolical, surrealistic, nuanced, gritty, scary, hilarious. TV personality Hatcher McCord dies and wakes up in Hell, announcing the evening news, which is even more stupid and pointless than what he did in real life (announcing the evening news). He is married, or in love with, Anne Boleyn, who yearns only for – but can't find – Henry VIII. Their neighbors will spend all eternity in their tacky, slummy apartment, repeating the same stupid, pointless arguments they spent their live lives engaged in. Hatcher is compelled to greet them and listen to their idiocy. Day and night cycles unpredictably. People are torn apart and reconstituted on a regular basis. Hatcher's chauffeur is speed demon Dick Nixon, who mows down whole streets of pedestrians. Who of course suffer agonies until they are reconstituted. Nobody could have come up with a more...devilish...novel. It's a gripping, tortured 5.
Find the author at www.robertolenbutler.com
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LUCKY US, by Amy Bloom

1938. "My father's wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us." With typical Amy Bloom unsparing precision and unpredictability, Eva Logan tells us her life story, a melange of pleasure and pain, of surprise and inevitability, of love and disappointment, and always with stunning prose where every word is exactly what and where it ought to be. Eva has a half-sister Iris, beautiful and cynical and talented; she wants to go on the stage. Eva's father is the quintessential gentleman: he's so polite, so charming, nobody ever argues with him, even when he's being a complete shit, which is pretty much all the time. When all else fails, he can play a butler. All else does fail, and he does play a butler. This is a 5, a marvelous story sure to charm, horrify and outrage you. And, of course, it is very funny.
Find the author at www.amybloom.com
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6.7.15

WHEN MAIDENS MOURN, by C. S. Harris

7/series set in Regency England starring Sebastian St. Cyr. A promising archeological career - and Sebastian's honeymoon - is cut short when the body of a young Englishwoman, Gabrielle Tennyson, is found floating in the moat surrounding her work site. Gabrielle, good friend to Sebastian's new wife Hero, had been excavating a Roman ruin which might also have been Arthurian. Drawn into the investigation at Hero's insistence, Sebastian discovers clues leading him into direct conflict with his new father-in-law, a close and powerful advisor to the self-indulgent Prince Regent. Click below fore more...

5.7.15

DUSTY DEATH, by J. M. Gregson

9/series starring Chief Inspector Peach and his efficient sidekick, Detective Sergeant Lucy Blake. As always, humor abounds, making this a fun as well as absorbing read. Peach's conversations with his idiot boss are priceless. In this story, a wrecker's ball demolishing an area of abandoned houses reveals the dessicated corpse of a woman. As Peach and Blake investigate, they soon learn the victim;s identity and that she lived with five other people in the building after it was abandoned and turned into a squat. Tracking the five down offers Peach and Blake a myriad of possible murderers: click below for more, but no spoilers...

26.6.15

WHAT DARKNESS BRINGS, by C. S. Harris

8/series starring Sebastian St. Cyr. Regency murder mystery series can't possibly get any better than this. Newly-wed St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, copes with personal tragedy as an old Army friend dies. Then the husband of his former lover is put into Newgate Prison after he's found crouched over the body of a notoriously eccentric art dealer. The magistrate in charge, who thinks a brace of felons hanged is a good prelude to breakfast, has no interest in investigating the murder: the dashing Russell Yates was there and he will be tried and hung. Click below for more...

LIFE OR DEATH, by Michael Robotham

In a delicious departure from his England-based Joe O'Loughlin and Vincent Ruiz thrillers, this intricate tale follows Audie Palmer, who inexplicably breaks out of a Texas prison one day before he's due to be released. During his ten years inside, he'd been repeated attacked, and survived in part because of Moss, the lifer in the next cell. Reputed to be part of a crew who heisted seven million dollars in untraceable cash, during the following shootout Audie was shot in the head, spending months in a coma before his trial. Click below for more...

20.6.15

LOVE MY RIFLE MORE THAN YOU, by Kayla Williams

Subtitled Young and Female in the U. S. Army, this forthright book will alternately charm and horrify you. Women make up roughly 15% of the Army, long a bastion of the testosterone-bathed life, and female's adjustments to the highly-charged life are detailed here with honesty and clarity. Williams - who trained as an Arabic linguist - was in the Army for five years, one of them deployed in Iraq, and her experiences range from ridiculously funny to appallingly gruesome. (That period alone will make you wonder how any army manages to win anything.) Click below for more...

18.6.15

HERO, by Michael Korda

"Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it." That's no doubt a paraphrase but it is nonetheless true. One has only to look at the unholy mess the Near East has become to see the truth of it. This biography of Lawrence of Arabia, the brilliant but erratic Irish-born lover of all things Arabic, is as germane today as it was when Lawrence became legend, in the tumultuous era beginning during the Great War. One hundred years ago today, Arabia was an unformed, borderless  melange of petty fiefdoms, squabbling tribes, devious and bloodthirsty warlords, all of it nominally "owned" by the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Everything was up for grabs, and the primary powers - England, France, Russia - were maneuvering madly to keep the area out of the war. Click below for more...

16.6.15

THE TURKISH GAMBIT, by Boris Akunin

3/series, translated from the Russian, starring Erast Fandorin. In 1877, the Russian bear took on the Ottoman Empire in a war for control of as much Ottoman territory as the bear could gobble. But it may be that the bear has bitten off far more than it can chew; the despised Turks are far better soldiers than advertised. And, their espionage service is far better than Russia's. Fandorin, posted to the front lines in present-day Rumania, meets the beautiful Varvara Suvorova, who has disguised herself as a boy to follow her fiance to the front.  Click below for more...

SEASON OF STORMS, by Susanna Kearsley

An enormous villa perched among aristocratic gardens high above Lago del Garda, Italy. A creative, mysterious, long-dead owner, who was a womanizer, a poet and a playwright. The legacy of an actress who mysteriously vanished from the villa, her room now reputed to be haunted. Now, Celia Sands, 22, uses another name than her grandmother's for her own acting career. Agreeing to go to Italy, to re-enact on site the play specifically written for her grandmother, in the theater built for her by her lover, Celia finds not only her grandmother's pictures everywhere, but the handsome, mysterious grandson of the long-ago playwright/lover. Click below for more...

7.6.15

THE JEWELS OF PARADISE, by Donna Leon

This is not part of the Commisario Brunetti series, this is a stand-alone set in contemporary Venice. It is, however, something of a mystery, and follows the painstaking research of Caterina Pellegrini, who has left an unsatisfying job in England and returned to her birth city for a short-term commission. Two ancient trunks have been found, and may contain clues as to a legendary treasure. All Venetian families of any age apparently have family treasure legends, and the two distantly-related men who have laid claim to the trunks' contents don't trust each other enough to work in tandem. Caterina, a music historian, will document and analyze the contents, overseen by the handsome, polished lawyer Andrea Morelli. Click below for more...

PATSY'S ITALIAN FAMILY COOKBOOK, by Sal Scognamillo

That's Sal, grandson of founder Pasquale (Patsy), friend to Frank Sinatra and other celebs, to your left. I know, you have a lot of tried-and-true recipes for good Italian food. But these recipes, although many will be familiar, are written in such a way as to make you a confident cook that is almost guaranteed to produce a stellar meal. This would make a great present for a novice cook. Patsy's Italian Restaurant, home to many stars of stage and screen, has operated at their West Fifty-Sixth (near Broadway) since 1944, when the author's grandfather began producing Neapolitan specialties.
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4.6.15

LONG WAY DOWN, by Michael Sears

3/series with former stock broker and ex-con Jason Stafford, and his autistic son The Kid. Turning to numbers, which he knows best, Stafford now investigates fiduciary irregularities. But that's just for starters. His assignments usually involve skulduggery, and this one is rather garden variety: owner of a business has been accused by the SEC of insider trading. Stafford's take: maybe yes, maybe no. He goes to see the businessman, genetic scientist Philip Haley. The man's not likeable, but that doesn't mean he's a criminal. Or does it? Click here for more...

1.6.15

WEST OF SUNSET, By Stewart O'Nan

Once again, Stewart O'Nan has tapped into the times and emotions of an epic moment in America's  cultural history. In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald, anxious to re-establish himself as a screenwriter, has picked a venue designed to shred people's souls: Hollywood. They're all there in this hard-drinking, high-living tale: Bogie and Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and Sam Goldwyn, all the legends we watch on TNT and movie festivals. To add to Fitzgerals's distraction, his wife Zelda is still trying to get it together in an expensive North Carolina sanitarium, and his daughter Scottie is growing up too fast at an East Coast boarding school. Click below for more...