Friday, September 22, 2017

Season of Sacrifice by Bharti Kirchner

Asian-American private investigator Maya Mallick makes her first appearance in Bharti Kirchner's Season of Sacrifice. And, the opening scene of the book is unforgettable.

Maya has just opened the Seattle branch of a successful all-women boutique detective agency based in India when she comes across a terrible scene. Two young women set themselves on fire in front of the residence of a Chinese official. Maya recognizes Sylvie, the sister of her best friend, and tries to stop the deaths, but a man hits and impedes her. She witnesses their brutal deaths, and she's unwilling to accept the news stories that say the women were protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet. As far as Maya knows, Sylvie was a scientist researching malaria, with little interest in politics. And, she's determined to find the truth.

Maya's first case turns out to be a dangerous one that threatens her safety and the safety of her mother, who is visiting from India. It's also a complex case that involves Russians, a meditation center, a powerful Indian family, and more murders. Maya is forced to utilize the research skills of her assistant and her mother's knowledge and friends in India to find background material on the suspects. When she's followed, and she and her mother are threatened, Maya knows she's in a new dangerous world.

While there may be a few too many threads in this first mystery in a series, Maya shows promise as a private investigator. And, the elements of Indian cooking and life add atmospheric touches to the book. Maya's assistant and her mother are strong supporting cast members. But, it's that opening scene that will suck in readers.

Bharti Kirchner's website is

Season of Sacrifice by Bharti Kirchner. Severn House, 2017. 224p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.                        

Thursday, September 21, 2017

What Are You Reading?

I'll never catch up with my friend, Kaye Wilkinson Barley. She's been reading about Paris for months. But, I'm a third of a way through John Baxter's forthcoming book, Montparnasse: Paris's District of Memory and Desire. That's the neighborhood we're staying in when we go to Paris this weekend. I also read a beautiful book called Doorways of Paris.

So, I'll be gone next Thursday. It's going to be up to all of you to lead the discussion. This is still a place where you can all come to talk about your books. I hope you do. I'll miss all of you.

So, what are you reading this week? I'm eager to know.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Winners and Contest News

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The copies of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express will go to Steve G. from Ashland, OH and Karen R. from Katy, TX. I'm sending them out today. And, if you haven't read the book, you should read it before you see the movie.

Due to my upcoming travel schedule, there will be no contest again until Friday, September 29. Come back that day for the kickoff of the new giveaway.

A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas

Somewhere in a pile, I have A Study in Scarlet Women, the first Lady Sherlock book by Sherry Thomas. But, I started it, and didn't care for the predicament Charlotte Holmes was in. However, when I finished A Conspiracy in Belgravia, I could see why others liked the character and the set-up.

Charlotte Holmes is a disgraced gentlewoman who uses her intelligence and the assistance of a widow, Mrs. John Watson, to take on cases under the guise of "Sherlock Holmes". This time, the case could be a little awkward. Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte's close friend and benefactor, asks Holmes to find the man she loved when she was young and single. The two had agreed to pass each other at a specific location once a year just to show they still remembered, and this year, Myron Finch didn't show up. Myron Finch is also the name of Charlotte's illegitimate half brother.

Actually, I found that particular case to be the least interesting of the cases in the book. Lord Bancroft, Ingram's brother, proposes to Charlotte, and to show he respects her mind, he presents her with a set of challenges. One of them leads Charlotte and Ingram to a house where the police are about to investigate a murder. Bancroft's clues and the suspicion that Charlotte and Ingram are followed is a tantalizing aspect of the story.

Then, there's Charlotte's sister, Livia, who is trying so hard to write Sherlock Holmes adventures. Although Charlotte may have Sherlock Holmes' intelligence, Livia has a few of his traits. She has her own adventures in this book, ones suitable for the bookworm she is.

It's the characters and the setting that will bring me back to the next Lady Sherlock book. I enjoy Charlotte's personality, and her relationship with Mrs. Watson and Lord Ingram. She's courageous, independent as she can be during the Victorian age, and truly cares about her sisters. It will be interesting to see where Sherry Thomas takes her, and a few other characters, in future books.

Sherry Thomas' website is

A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas. Berkley. 2017. ISBN 9780425281413 (paperback), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Murderous Mistral by Cay Rademacher

Capitaine Roger Blanc blows into Provence, and fans flames in the same way the dangerous mistral winds do in the summer. Cay Rademacher's Murderous Mistral, translated from the German by Peter Millar, loses nothing in the translation. Blanc is a fascinating character in a atmospheric police procedural, sure to capture readers who love Jeffrey Siger's novels set in Greece.

Blanc was a little too successful as an investigator for an anti-corruption unit in Paris, and was banished to the south of France. His marriage couldn't stand the strain, and, as a result, he's alone in a two-hundred-year-old hovel he inherited. Even his assigned partner seems to fit the image of a reject. Lieutenant Marius Tonon made a serious mistake years earlier, and he knows he'll never rise any higher. As a result, he comes in late, drinks on the job, has a slovenly appearance. But, he knows the streets, and the local politics. And, he's not happy when the team is called to a murder scene at the local dump, where a man has been shot and set on fire. Tonon's recognition of the man as a local low-life means they have a murder case on their hands. Since no one will miss the victim, everyone would happily close the case. But, Capitaine Blanc is not known for his politically astute actions. And, a second death means Blanc will just dig in deeper in a case that could have political and career repercussions.

Local big shots, local politics. Blanc and his small team of cohorts are not eager to investigate in the wrong areas, but they are eager to find the killer, and not pin it on the most convenient suspect. As Blanc and Tonon traverse the streets of Provence, a co-worker skillfully searches the Internet, providing them with additional ammunition. Now, Blanc will have to prove to the local juge d'instruction, the local magistrate, that he suspects a connection between the two deaths.

Rademacher's police procedural is an intriguing story of teamwork by an untested group of gendarmes. The mystery itself is fascinating, as is Blanc. Add the atmosphere, the food, the scents of Provence, set during summer when the mistral winds blow. Murderous Mistral is an enjoyable, complicated story.

Murderous Mistral by Cay Rademacher. Minotaur Books. 2017. ISBN 9781250110701 (hardcover), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Call Down the Hawk by Sheila Simonson

After a four year absence, Sheila Simonson returns to the Columbia River Gorge area for her latest Latouche County mystery, Call Down the Hawk. It's a reflective story, told from multiple viewpoints, about the tragic deaths of two domineering men who happened to be neighbors.

Jane August was visiting her father, Frank August, and his fifth wife when the news came about the financial collapse of the bank he had turned over to his son, Gus. And, soon after, Frank disappears. Was he escaping the notoriety? Running away from his wife? Or was it something worse? Over on the Hough (pronounced Hawk) farm, someone may have seen something.

Bill Hough committed suicide, leaving a cowed wife, an estranged son, Russell, who hadn't been home since he left at eighteen, and a daughter, Judith, who was a military hero, but suffers from PTSD. The night Frank August disappeared, Judith may have seen something as she patrolled the farm. But, she tried to kill herself that night, saved only by Russell. She's in a coma, unaware that she may have witnessed a murder because Frank August's body is uncovered by a bulldozer on the Hough farm.

Yes, Call Down the Hawk is the story of a murder investigation, led by Undersheriff Rob Neill. But, even more, it's the story of two adult children, Russell Hough and Jane August, trying to pick up the pieces of shattered lives that were broken by their fathers. Jane escaped most of her father's turmoil, until she learns the terms of the will.

Thoughtful. Reflective. Call Down the Hawk is a leisurely paced story, seen through multiple eyes. But, Jane August, the artist, is the one who sees the land and the people with an artist's perspective. And, Frank August and Bill Hough left destruction in their wake, brutalizing the people they left behind.

Sheila Simonson's website is

Call Down the Hawk by Sheila Simonson. Perseverance Press. 2017. ISBN 9781564745972 (paperback), 248p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Countess of Prague by Stephen Weeks

Are you ready to settle in for a planned mystery series of ten books? Author Stephen Weeks, and his publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, plan to cover the years 1904-1914 in a series to feature The Countess of Prague, Beatrice von Falklenburg, known as Trixie. Her courage, quiet confidence, and keen observations about social and cultural differences between the classes may entice you to return for future books.

The Countess is bored. Her father-in-law lost the family estates, and she and her husband, Karel, struggle to maintain their image and place in society. They rent their palace in Prague while Karel frequently relies on hunting trips with friends to keep him away from home. When the body of an old soldier is recovered from the river Vltava, Trixie's great-uncle, a general, turns to her for help. His old batman was one of the last two survivors in a Tontine, an insurance risk that relies on the selection of survivors. While the general may guess the dead body is old Alois, the nursing home says Alois is still alive. Trixie jumps at the chance to investigate. But, curiosity about one old man leads to a strange case involving men all over Europe, from street urchins to Trixie's butler to suspects on a train to rulers of countries.

It seems that Trixie's Uncle Berty has more than one secret. And, in 1904, his interest in other men and the theater could cause quite a scandal. But, her discoveries of his secrets lead her to uncover relationships and interests held by other men. Trixie grows quite adept at ferreting out answers, a skill that leads her to England, and, eventually home again. But, she and the British government uncover threats aimed at a clandestine meeting between Edward VII of England, and his nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm. With her position in society, Beatrice von Falklenburg is the perfect sleuth to infiltrate parties and, hopefully, thwart unknown ne'er-do-wells.

The Countess of Prague isn't as funny as Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness books. However, there's a dry humor here. And, Trixie herself is an intriguing woman. She admits she hadn't ever seen her kitchen. She doesn't know the names of her servants. And, when she hires four urchins, she's surprised at their lack of proper clothing. But, Trixie is a quick study, and her ongoing observations about the differences in the classes is fascinating. It's part of the history of the times. And Weeks develops the atmosphere and story of 1904 Prague and Europe in a fascinating story. Fans of historical mysteries may want to try The Countess of Prague. Trixie and her story may catch you.

The Countess of Prague by Stephen Weeks. Poisoned Pen Press. 2017. ISBN 9781464208423 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy to review for a journal.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Let the Dead Bury the Dead by David Carlson

Here I am, catching a series again after the first one. But, I'm satisfied that David Carlson's second
mystery, Let the Dead Bury the Dead, is an excellent introduction to the series and the two sleuths. Meet Christopher Worthy, a Detroit police lieutenant, and Father Nicholas Fortis, a Greek Orthodox monk.

What a pairing! Worthy is a loner, often in trouble in the police department despite his success rate with cold cases. He's divorce, a man who can't communicate with his oldest daughter,who disappeared for five months, and then reappeared. Father Fortis, "Nick", became acting pastor at a church when the aging pastor was strangled in the church. It wasn't Worthy's case, but his new boss turns it over to him. She knows he'll work with Father Fortis. She also wants him to try to work with Henderson, a police detective who often seems off in his own world. If this sounds like an unlikely introduction to a mystery, it is. But, this novel is such a character study, a book that hinges on character while Worthy examines himself, that it's important to understand their background. In fact, the new boss, Captain Lorraine Betts, takes the investigating  officer off the case, and turns it over to Worthy. "His gift or specialty was closing cold cases, and that meant that when he succeeded, his police colleagues resented him even as the media lauded him. And when he failed miserably, as he had not long ago, his colleagues rejoiced."

Worthy and Nick have an interesting case. While the previous detective wanted to look in the projects for answers, Worthy and Nick want to look at the people who were closest to Father Spiro. Worthy has a theory that the victim gives death an opening. Who were the parishioners that Father Spiro met? Who did he know that could get close enough to strangle him face-to-face? Both men want to know what led Father Spiro to the church when he died.

If you think I found the two main characters as fascinating as the mystery itself, you're right. In fact, the conclusion was satisfactory, but the relationship between the two men, and Worthy's self-examination, was much more interesting. Worthy is troubled by his own flaws, but he listens to Nick's analysis and advice, and he's willing to try. What more can we ask of our sleuths? They're not all-powerful or all-knowing. We want them to try. David Carlson's Let the Dead Bury the Dead introduces characters just trying to understand life and death.

David Carlson's website is

Let the Dead Bury the Dead by David Carlson. Coffeetown Press. 2017. ISBN 9781603813952 (paperback), 216p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I reviewed the book for a journal.