Book Reviews: Every Last Promise by Kristin Halbrook and Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

Every Last PromiseEvery Last Promise
Kristin Halbrook
HarperTeen, April 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-212128-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Kayla saw something at the party that she wasn’t supposed to. But she hasn’t told anyone. No one knows the real story about what happened that night—about why Kayla was driving the car that ran into a ditch after the party, about what she saw in the hours leading up to the accident, and about the promise she made to her friend Bean before she left for the summer.

Now Kayla’s coming home for her senior year. If Kayla keeps quiet, she might be able to get her old life back. If she tells the truth, she risks losing everything—and everyone—she ever cared about.

On the surface, this is a story about the aftermath of rape—and so it is—but it’s also a story about how there can be more victims beyond the person who suffers the actual assault. Those peripheral victims need to cope in a different sort of way and the guilt they feel can be enormous, guilt that they could have done something more, guilt that they might do the wrong thing after the fact, guilt that they’ve kept secrets, maybe even guilt that someone else was the one attacked. These people are survivors in their own way, certainly not lessening the impact of the true victim’s pain and recovery, but survivors nonetheless.

Unfortunately, Kayla is not the heroic figure we would like her to be and it’s very easy to decide that she’s a coward, more interested in her own well-being than anyone else’s. That actually is true but I think it’s important to acknowledge that many of us, myself included, have looked the other way at least once in our lives. Can we honestly say that we’re “better” than Kayla is?

Ms. Halbrook‘s intent is laudable and I wish I could have connected with Kayla in a more positive way but her narcissism is just a bit too overwhelming. Yes, I understood her but I didn’t care much about her. Still, the author has an important message and I hope this book will end up encouraging others to stand forth when circumstances call for it. In the meantime, I believe this author is one worth watching and I’ll be reading more by her.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2015.


Conspiracy of Blood and SmokeConspiracy of Blood and Smoke
Anne Blankman
Balzer + Bray, April 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-227884-5

From the publisher—

The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives in England, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.

But then Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside down. When she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped—and return to her homeland.

Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time—or will Hitler discover them first?

My appetite for young adult World War II-era fiction was sharpened when I was introduced to a wonderful book by Elizabeth Wein and I’ve been on the lookout for more ever since that one. The first book by Anne Blankman, Prisoner of Night and Fog, captured my attention in a very good way and I was really excited when  I heard about this sequel, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. While I don’t think it has quite the intensity of Prisoner, it still kept me engrossed till the very end.

The years leading up to war are uncomfortable everywhere but Gretchen and Daniel really do think they have found a haven of peace in England and so, in a fashion, they have. Away from Uncle Dolf, Gretchen has a chance at a happy life and Daniel is a large part of that. Chance, though, has an ugly way of wreaking havoc and Daniel soon finds that he has no choice but to return to Germany, having no idea, of course, that he is about to be in even graver damage than he expected.

Gretchen and Daniel are an interesting pair. At times, they seem oblivious to the dangers facing them at nearly every turn but, at the same time, they have a certain gravity about them. Most teens in earlier generations must have been less frivolous than we see so frequently today for a lot of reasons including shorter life expectancy, poorer health, more manual labor and so on. In 1933, we have to add in a growing awareness that bad things might be happening in Germany, fueled by the devastating effects of the Great Depression. Hitler rose to power in part because of the need Germans had to rise above their massive discontent and only a few were able to see past his charisma to the nascent evil behind the facade. That Ms. Blankman has given her characters the opportunity to understand what was happening is powerful but I’m glad she also lets these teens make mistakes and fail to grasp the horror that was coming in just a few years. Very few did so I would not have believed it if Gretchen and Daniel had too much foresight.

The murder and the race to exonerate Daniel work as good reasons to get the kids back in Germany but it’s the rise of the Nazi Party and all that entails that provides the real story here. It’s one we should never forget and authors like Ms. Blankman who create such entertaining tales that focus on historic truth help us hold on to that knowledge. Along with such weighty issues, though, I relish keeping company with Gretchen and Daniel and am looking forward to the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2015.

A Marriage of Words—and a Giveaway!

Bruce DeSilvaBruce DeSilva’s crime fiction has won the Edgar and Macavity Awards; has been listed as a finalist for the Shamus, Anthony, and Barry Awards; and has been published in ten foreign languages. His short stories have appeared in Akashic Press’s award-winning noir anthologies. He has reviewed books for The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Publishers Weekly, and The Associated Press. Previously, he was a journalist for forty years, most recently as writing coach world-wide for the AP, editing stories that won every major journalism award including the Pulitzer. His latest novel, A Scourge of Vipers, has been published by Forge in hardcover and e-book editions.

It’s been nearly two years since Mikaila, our adventurous teenager, moved out of our house in Howell, NJ, to study at a little liberal arts college that lies between the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains and the cobalt-blue waters of Lake Tahoe. Howell is a pleasant Leave It to Beaver suburb, but the college is located in paradise. Although our girl has come home a few times to visit, she’s made it clear that she’s fallen in love with the California-Nevada border country and is never going to move back in with us.

I admire her independence and can’t argue with where she has chosen to live, but part of me has been hoping that she’d change her mind. I long to play catch with her in the yard again, watch her cavort with our two big dogs, and listen to her singing off-key to the music playing in her headphones. I miss her like crazy. But a few months ago, I finally faced reality, packed up the little-girl things she’d left behind, stored them away in the basement, and transformed her old room into a book-shelf-lined office for the other writer in our family – my brilliant wife Patricia Smith.

For years, our dining room had served as Patricia’s office, but often she’d wander upstairs and plant herself next to me at the huge desk in my upstairs office so we could write side by side. Mostly we worked in silence, but every now and then she’d read something to me, or I’d read something to her, and ask: “What do you think of that?” I worried that once she settled into her the comfort of her new digs, that would change. I’m grateful it hasn’t.

I’m a former investigative reporter, newspaper writing coach, and news service editor turned crime novelist. Patricia is one of those rare writers who is comfortable in any genre. She’s written articles for major magazines, essays for literary journals, the companion book to the PBS series, “Africans in America,” and even an award-winning children’s book. But she’s best known as a poet—one of the finest working in the English language.

Our rare writing partnership makes my work, and hers, better.

What makes our working relationship rare is how well it works for both of us. Friends who are also married to other writers tell us they can’t work together. When they try, it usually ends in a fight. Patricia and I understand exactly what they mean.

I used to be married to a writer for People Magazine, and whenever we shared our work with one another, it ended in disaster—every well-meaning suggestion taken as unwelcome criticism. Patricia was once married to another poet, and whenever they talked with each other about their work, it ended in a fight.

Ever since Patricia and I set up housekeeping together seventeen years ago, I’ve edited every line of her poetry, and she’s edited every line of my crime novels. And we never fight.

Part of what makes the partnership work is that we understand and respect each other’s passions. And, paradoxically, the other thing that makes it work is that our writing styles couldn’t be less alike.

Patricia’s writing is rich and sensual. She loves words and tends to use lots of them. My writing is tight and spare, sometimes to the point of sensory deprivation. I help her make her poems tighter and crisper. She helps me make my crime fiction more descriptive and lyrical.

When we first began to work together, Patricia tended to back into her poems—something I called “throat-clearing.” Back then, I often crossed out the first stanza or two to show her where the real poem began. She always understood, and my suggestions have changed the way she writes. It’s been years now since I’ve had to X out a stanza.

Today, my editing consists of little more than circling an occasional word or phrase. Each circle, she knows, means, “I don’t know what you should say here, but I think you can do better than this.” I never presume to rewrite her, and I rarely suggest a word, leaving it to her to find the right ones.

Patricia edits me very differently. When she sees a passage that she thinks is too spare, she sits at her computer and writes, often transforming a paragraph or two into three or four pages of lyrical, descriptive prose.

When she hands it to me, I always think it goes on way too long. And, of course, her narrative voice sounds nothing at all like mine. So I boil down what she’s written into two or three paragraphs that inevitably make my work much, much better.

But perhaps the most important thing she does is help me write credible love scenes (both on and off the page). Liam Mulligan, the investigative-reporter protagonist in my series of hard-boiled crime novels, didn’t have much luck with women in the first two books. But in the third, Providence Rag, he fell hard for a brilliant, beautiful attorney. When it came to writing the scenes between them, I was lost. What would she be wearing? How would he respond to it? What would he say to her? How would she answer? What would she feel when he reached out and touched her arm? What would she do?

“Bruce,” Patricia would say, “you HAVE made love before, right?” And then she would sit down and bat out a long love scene that I could fiddle with and make my own. Once, when Mulligan did something to offend his girlfriend and needed to apologize, I thought he should buy her something. But what? I didn’t have a clue. Patricia’s response? “Get her something she can wear against her skin.”

Patricia is highly competitive, however. Our marathon Scrabble games, which she wins more than two-thirds of the time, are always intense. So she sees our writing careers as a competition between us.

When her poetry collection, Blood Dazzler, was named a National Book Award finalist in 2008, I praised her to the skies. Her response: “Yeah, but you WON the Edgar Award.”

Since then, the “competition” has had a clear winner. I speak at Mystery Writers of America? She reads her work at Carnegie Hall and the Library of Congress. I’m named a finalist for the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony awards? She wins two Pushcart Prizes, the Lenore Marshall Prize, the Phillis Wheatley award, the National Poetry Series award, the Bobbitt Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She even intruded on my turf, penning a noir crime story—the first short story she ever wrote—and winning the Robert L. Fish Award for it.

Now, as my forth Mulligan novel, A Scourge of Vipers, arrives in the bookstores and I struggle to meet the deadline for the fifth, Patricia is completing two volumes of poetry, writing more poems to accompany a book of photographs about the Chicago blues scene, and working on a non-fiction book.

But when all that is done, we plan to take our writing partnership to the next level. We’re going to write a crime novel together. It will be set in her native Chicago in 1968, when the Westside neighborhood where she lived as a child was destroyed in the riots that followed the Martin Luther King assassination.

Once, a journalist interviewing me about my latest book asked: “What’s it like to be the second-best writer in your family?”

“It’s a daily humiliation,” I joked. But the truth is, I know how fortunate I am to be married to this amazing woman and have her as my writing partner.

Now if only Mikaila would come home for another visit . . .


A Scourge of Vipers

A Scourge of VipersTo solve Rhode Island’s budget crisis, the state’s colorful governor, Attila the Nun, wants to legalize sports gambling; but her plan has unexpected consequences. Organized crime, professional sports leagues, and others who have a lot to lose or gain if gambling is made legal, flood the state with money to buy the votes of state legislators. When a powerful state legislator turns up dead, an out-of-state bag man gets shot—and his cash-stuffed briefcase goes missing—Mulligan finds himself the target of shadowy forces who seek to derail his investigation by destroying his career, his reputation, and perhaps even his life.

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a hardcover copy of A Scourge of Vipers by Bruce DeSilva. The winning name will be drawn Monday evening, April 27th. Open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge by Terry Shames—and a Giveaway!

A Deadly Affair at Bobtail RidgeA Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge
A Samuel Craddock Mystery #4
Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, April 2015
ISBN 978-1-63388-046-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

In the course of their developing friendship, Samuel Craddock has learned to accept that his neighbor Jenny Sandstone’s personal life is strictly secret. But when her dying mother tells Craddock that Jenny is in danger, he is confronted with a dilemma. He wants to respect Jenny’s privacy, but he is haunted by the urgency in the dying woman’s voice.

When Jenny is the victim of a suspicious car accident, Craddock has no choice but to get involved. He demands that she tell him what he needs to know to protect her and to solve the mysteries surrounding the strange events that began taking place as soon as Jenny’s mother passed away.

Forced to confront the past, Jenny plunges into a downward spiral of rage and despair. She is drinking heavily and seems bent on self-destruction. Craddock must tread lightly as he tries to find out who is behind the threats to her. But only by getting to the bottom of the secrets buried in Jenny’s past can he hope to save her both from herself and from whoever is out to harm her.

Not quite two years ago, Terry Shames rather quietly appeared on the mystery scene with Samuel Craddock, former police chief of a small Texas town. Before long, word began to spread about this appealing guy and the rambunctious citizens of Jarrett Creek and, today, readers everywhere wait for the treat they know is coming with each new entry in the series. A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge is the latest and is every bit as entertaining as I had anticipated.

Make no mistake, murder is an ugly thing and this book, like its predecessors, is no lightweight romp through a horde of unlikely suspects. Samuel cares about his town and its people and is understandably worried when vandalism and threatened harm against a pair of horses seem to point to a bigger issue that initially eludes him. His friend Jenny is clearly at the core of whatever is going on and her reaction to his gentle probing is surprising as well as alarming. Later, missing persons add to the mix and dangerous secrets begin to come to light.

Jarrett Creek is full of people I’d like to know—Samuel, of course, a gentle soul named Truly, artist Ellen—and even some of the less engaging. The latter, after all, may not always be the most pleasant of people but they’re human and, thus, flawed but not irredeemable. Ms. Shames has a way with her characters that makes them very believable while she’s also quite adept at creating an interesting plot that holds the reader’s attention. I’m as pleased as I can be with this installment in Samuel Craddock’s life and am already wishing next January would get here so I can pick up The Necessary Death of Nonie Blake.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2015.


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Book Review: Watch the Shadows by Robin Winter

Watch the ShadowsWatch the Shadows
Robin Winter
White Whisker Books, April 2015
ISBN 978-0-9863265-0-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

In the college town of Isla Vista, California, small, odd things start happening. Science-geek Nicole notes the crows are leaving.  Meg Burdigal can’t find her tabby cat, Schrand. Brian the postman feels uneasy at the rustlings, the shadows he’s seen at the edge of his vision on his delivery route in town. Now Nicole sees fewer and fewer homeless in the park. Using her knowledge of biology and forensics, Nicole searches for answers—but will anyone take the horror she finds seriously?

Back in the late 1950’s, there was this wonderfully goofy movie called “The Blob”, starring a yummy Steve McQueen (the re-make isn’t worth talking about so let’s pretend it didn’t happen). The blob in question was a thing from outer space and it oozed its way around this small town, getting bigger and bigger while it sort of sucked up people and animals wherever it went. Naturally, the only folks who know what’s going on are some teenagers and, of course, nobody believes them. Do I need to tell you that these teens save the day? Anyway, this movie is equal parts scary and campy and hilarious and it’s a genuine classic, not to mention starring my heartthrob Steve McQueen :-)

From the moment I finished the first chapter of Watch the Shadows, I thought of “The Blob” and knew I was in for a real treat. I’m happy to say I was not mistaken. Full of ooey-gooey scary stuff and mystery and the occasional snicker, this book kept me on the alert all the way through even though there are some periods when the pace kind of grinds to a, well, ooze (sorry, couldn’t resist). Nicole is a cool nerd with parents who are just as nerdy and I loved spending time with her as she put her know-how to use, determined to figure out what was in the neighbor’s kitchen. Mailman Brian and Meg, a woman who collects dogs and the homeless, are also growing more and more suspicious of the odd things happening and Jack makes a great sidekick for Nic.

Storyline aside, I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Winter’s descriptive abilities and her creative ways with words, such as:

A semi thundered by, breaking wind like a fat man.


“No,” Brian said. “You’re right, Jack. Nicole. Both of you.”

“Did you believe Jack because he’s male? You didn’t believe me alone, before,” Nicole said.

“I didn’t believe either of you in the beginning because you’re kids,” he said. The truth surprised him.

“Age-ism,’ Nicole said. “I see.”

Bottomline, I got a real kick out of Watch the Shadows—and I believe I’ll lay in a large supply of Italian salad dressing ;-)

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2015.

About the Author

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARobin Winter first wrote and illustrated a manuscript on “Chickens and their Diseases” in second grade, continuing to both write and draw, ever since. Born in Nebraska, she’s lived in a variety of places: Nigeria, New Hampshire, upper New York state and now, California. She pursues a career in oil painting under the name of Robin Gowen, specializing in landscape. Her work can be viewed at Sullivan Goss Gallery in Santa Barbara or on-line at

Robin is married to a paleobotanist, who corrects the science in both her paintings and her stories. She’s published science fiction short stories, a dystopian science fiction novel, Future Past, and Night Must Wait, a historical novel about the Nigerian Civil War.

You may contact Robin or read her blog at, on Twitter at and on Facebook at


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Cover Reveal: Pixelated by L.S. Murphy



Title: Pixelated
Author: L.S. Murphy
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Publication Date: June 30, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Young Adult



Senior Year.
Middle of nowhere.
What’s the new girl to do?

For Piper Marks, the answer is simple. She’s determined
to have her photography rock the cover of National
Geographic someday, and moving to Clarkton, Iowa, for
her last year of high school is not going to stop her. Even if
her usual subjects have changed from bright lights
and skyscrapers to fields, cows…and more fields.

But when the photographer at the local paper quits in a huff,
she steps into his spot. Her new job keeps Piper busy capturing
tackles, and zooming in on first downs and end zone dances,
not to mention putting her directly in the path of varsity
football star Les Williams IV. Her new friends warn her off,
but she can’t resist the pull she feels toward this mysterious
country boy. But this small town is keeping a secret, and it’s
one that could destroy any chance they have to be together.

It’s up to Piper to decide what to do with the distorted truth. Can
she risk exposing her heart? It might be worth it, ’cause Les is about
to change her world from black and white to fully saturated color.



Praise for Pixelated:

“In Pixelated, L.S. Murphy weaves a complex web of
secrets and lies with a ‘will they or won’t they’ romance
that kept me turning pages and holding my breath!”
~ Julie Reece, author of The Artisans and Crux

“Beautifully written, with a full spectrum of emotion
and complex characters, Pixelated will tug at all your
heartstrings. I easily lost myself in the world L.S. Murphy
created and couldn’t stop reading because I needed
to see how the story ended.”
~ Kelly Oram, author of Cinder & Ella

“L.S. Murphy brings something for every reader
with Pixelated: romance, secrets, mystery, and a main
character torn between two choices. Murphy’s writing is
sharp and steeped in emotions, deftly hooking her readers
from the first sentence to the last.”
~ Sarah Bromley, author of A Murder Of Magpies

About the Author

L.S. MurphyL.S. Murphy obsesses about St. Louis Cardinals baseball, fangirls over her favorite authors, and watches every episode of “Doctor Who like it’s the first time. When she’s not doing those time-consuming things, the former farm-girl turned city slicker turned suburbanite writes sweet romances for teens and adults.

Author Links:


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Murder on Tour—and a Giveaway!

Maggie King 2Maggie King is the author of Murder at the Book Group, published in 2014 by Simon and Schuster. She contributed the short story, “A Not So Genteel Murder,” to the Sisters in Crime anthology Virginia is for Mysteries. Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor.

Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive.

Visit Maggie at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter at

Murder on Tour is the name of the book group featured in my debut mystery, Murder at the Book Group. As reading and traveling are my two favorite activities, it’s no surprise that my fictitious characters share my passion. For me, much of the pleasure of traveling is reading crime stories set in my destination spot.

Siren of the Waters
by Michael Genelin did not prepare me for Bratislava. The author made Slovakia’s capital dark and shadowy with danger lurking around every corner. But I got off the tour bus and saw a bright and charming city on the banks of the Danube River. Granted I was just there for two hours … did Bratislava don an appealing façade for my visit?

Murder at the Book GroupI read Murder in Mykonos by Jeffrey Siger before embarking on my cruise through the Greek islands. I gave five stars to Petros Markaris’s Deadline in Athens; unfortunately, the author does not depict Athens in a good light. The few references he makes to the city are comments on the traffic-clogged streets and the smog. The story could be set in any city plagued by traffic and air quality problems. Did Mr. Markaris want to discourage tourism? He didn’t discourage me and by the time I got to Athens in 2012 the city had made great strides in a massive cleanup effort. I’d go there again in a heartbeat.

Before visiting Ireland I read several titles by the late Bartholomew Gill whose police procedural series, set in Dublin, features quirky characters and plots. Dicey Deere’s The Irish Village Murder is a cozy set in Ballynagh and Ken Bruen’s The Magdalen Martyrs features a private investigator in Galway. I didn’t make it to Ballynagh but I found Dublin and Galway charming cities in a charming land.

Moving on to Turkey, honorable mention goes to The Gigolo Murder: A Turkish Delight Mystery by Mehmet Murat Somer. The Turkish delight series takes place in Istanbul and stars Burçak Veral, an IT professional who moonlights as a transvestite nightclub hostess. While in Istanbul, I did not run into anyone who might have inspired the entertaining Gigolo Murder ;-).

Finding mysteries while traveling is always a treat. At the Alexandra Book Store in Budapest I asked for a mystery by a Hungarian author. Translated, naturally (otherwise I’d be in the market for a really good dictionary!). The helpful staff directed me to a section devoted to Hungarian-translated-into-English titles. I selected Quarantine in the Grand Hotel by JenŐ RejtŐ (authentic Hungarian letter “o”), a quirky and hilarious whodunit penned in 1939. It’s a traditional English manor house mystery, Hungarian style.

Alexandra Cafe

Alexandra Cafe

The Alexandra Book Store is celebrated for its magnificent ballroom turned café. I could have spent hours in this Renaissance style space, gazing at the fresco ceiling, gilded molding, and exquisite chandeliers. I enjoyed a tasty lunch that was quite reasonably priced. View this video of the café.

Juneau, Alaska boasts three independent bookstores, the old-timey type where I could have spent days. I only had time to visit two of them—the call of the ship, you know—Hearthside Books and Rainy Retreat Books. The friendly proprietors recommended works by Alaskan authors Sue Henry and John Straley.

My favorite resource for travel reading ideas is the Stop You’re Killing Me! Location index. SYKM is a mega database that lets you hunt down mystery authors by location, anywhere in the world.

The New York Public Library offers suggestions in “Travels as an Armchair Detective: Mysteries with a Sense of Place”.

Bon voyage and happy reading!


One lucky reader will win an audio
book of Murder at the Book Group by
Maggie King, narrated by Susie Berneis.

To enter the drawing, leave a comment
below naming your favorite destination
spot for crime stories. The winning name
will be drawn
Friday evening, April 24th.


Book Review: Medium Dead by Paula Paul

Medium DeadMedium Dead
An Alexandra Gladstone Mystery
Paula Paul
Alibi, April 2015
ISBN 978-1-101-88321-1

From the publisher—

Sure to delight readers of Jacqueline Winspear, Emma Jameson, and Laura Childs, Medium Dead features Queen Victoria herself—and she’s rumored to have slain a local psychic in Newton-upon-Sea. Now the task of clearing her name and catching the real killer falls to Dr. Alexandra Gladstone.

Under Victoria’s reign, women are barred from calling themselves physicians, but that hasn’t stopped Alexandra Gladstone. As the first female doctor in Newton-upon-Sea, she spends her days tending sick villagers in the practice she inherited from her father, with her loyal and sometimes overprotective dog, Zack, by her side. 

After the corpse of village spiritualist Alvina Elwold is discovered aboveground at a church boneyard, wild rumors circulate through the charming seaside village, including one implicating a certain regal guest lodging nearby. Tales of the dead Alvina hobnobbing with spirits and hexing her enemies are even more outlandish—but as a woman of science and reason, Alexandra has no doubt that a murderer made of flesh and blood is on the loose.
Finding out the truth means sorting through a deluge of ghostly visitors, royal sightings, and shifty suspects. At least her attentive and handsome friend Nicholas Forsyth, Lord Dunsford, has come to her aid. Alexandra will need all the help she can get, because she’s stumbled upon dangerous secrets—while provoking a deadly adversary who wants to keep them buried.

Paula Paul has a well-deserved reputation for writing in a variety of genres and doing it well . On the whole, I think the quality of her work continues with Medium Dead except with the element of mystery. This book makes good historical fiction but not so much a mystery. That’s mostly because the protagonist, Dr. Alexandra Gladstone, doesn’t really do much to solve anything; rather, she just sort of collects information that comes her way.

Lately, I seem to be attracted to stories about women doctors in historical times and, in that sense, this filled the bill quite nicely. I like Alexandra and I appreciate that she’s a smart woman in a man’s world without being aggressive about her desire to be in such a position. I also like the fact that her village accepts her, for the most part, and the usual Victorian sensibilities don’t get in the way too much.

Having a royal be a possible suspect in a murder investigation isn’t a new idea but Ms. Paul puts Queen Victoria in the crosshairs in a believable way. We all know that this particular queen was a big believer in the spiritual world and seances and the like and also that she was totally dedicated to her husband during their marriage and perhaps even more so after his death. That she would contact the victim, spiritualist Alvina Elwold, for help in contacting the Prince Consort is in keeping with her personality as we know it today; why she would be aware of Alvina and come to Newton-upon-Sea to meet with her is a bit less apparent.

When all comes to a head, the denouement is not especially surprising—figuring out who did the deed became fairly obvious early on—but this is still a quite enjoyable if slow-paced read and I think I’ll go back to the first book and get acquainted with Dr. Gladstone from the beginning. I think she’s going to grow on me ;-)

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2015.



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About the Author

Paula PaulAward-winning novelist Paula Paul was born on her grandparents’ cotton farm near Shallowater, Texas, and graduated from a country high school near Maple, Texas. She earned a BA in journalism and has worked as a reporter for newspapers in both Texas and New Mexico. She’s been the recipient of state and national awards for her work as a journalist as well as a novelist. Her previous novels featuring Dr. Alexandra Gladstone, including Symptoms of Death, have appeared on bookstore and online bestseller lists. She is also the author of the Mystery by Design series, which she wrote as Paula Carter. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

To learn more about Paula, visit her WEBSITE and GOODREADS.


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