Book Review: A Promise Given by Michelle Cox—and a Giveaway!

A Promise Given
A Henrietta and Inspector Howard Novel #3
Michelle Cox
She Writes Press, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-63152-373-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Anxious to be married, Henrietta and Clive push forward with their wedding plans despite their family differences, made worse now by Oldrich Exley’s attempts to control the Von Harmons. When the long-awaited wedding day arrives, there is more unfolding than just Clive and Henrietta’s vows of love. Stanley and Elsie’s relationship is sorely tested by the presence of the dashing Lieutenant Harrison Barnes-Smith and by Henrietta’s friend Rose―a situation that grows increasingly dark and confused as time goes on.

As Clive and Henrietta begin their honeymoon at Castle Linley, the Howards’ ancestral estate in England, they encounter a whole new host of characters, including the eccentric Lord and Lady Linley and Clive’s mysterious cousin, Wallace. When a man is murdered in the village on the night of a house party at the Castle, Wallace comes under suspicion―and Clive and Henrietta are reluctantly drawn into the case, despite Clive’s anxiety at involving his new bride and Henrietta’s distracting news from home.

Delicately attempting to work together for the first time, Clive and Henrietta set out to prove Wallace’s innocence, uncovering as they do so some rather shocking truths that will shake the Linley name and estate forever.

Following their Chicago wedding, Henrietta Von Harmon and Clive Howard leave tumultuous family issues behind, heading for a honeymoon in England at the ancestral Howard estate, Castle Linley, but their romantic interlude is affected by current events. It’s 1935 and the lingering effects of World War I can be seen and felt along with financial troubles stemming from the Great Depression but it’s a murder in the nearby village that shocks everyone.

Detective Chief Inspector John Hartle quickly suspects Wallace Howard, Clive’s cousin. Formerly a police detective, Clive is drawn in by his fondness for Wallace to investigate with Henrietta’s help; meanwhile, she’s trying to accustom herself to the trappings of British society and then receives unwelcome and distracting news from home regarding her family. The two are very surprised when they discover why Wallace has been so secretive but this knowledge may not lead to Wallace’s being cleared.

To me, this installment focused too much on the romance elements and even provided more, er, details than I cared to know while the mystery kind of took a back seat. Still, the setting is delightful, the nods of appreciation to Pride and Prejudice are fun and I particularly enjoyed seeing the beginnings of a brand new private investigation agency.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for a trade
paperback copy of A Promise Given,
leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on the evening of
Thursday, July 11th. This drawing is
open to residents of the US and Canada.

Advertisements

Spotlight on Three Twigs for the Campfire by Joseph Cognard—and a Giveaway!

For that youngster in your life, here’s
a delightful little book that will be a
great addition to the summer reading list.

************

Title: Three Twigs for the Campfire
Author: Joseph Cognard
Genre: Kids, Fantasy


************

See jv poore’s earlier review here.

Synopsis

Billy is more than a little nervous. Even with all the excitement of
his first “kids only” camp out, there is something truly bothering him.
Listen to the fire crackle as the Miller children, in their campfire
tradition, each tell a story. Will the fire last till Billy can fall asleep?
Worse yet, what will happen when it is his turn to tell a story? Lastly,
why won’t the fly and mosquito buzzing around the campfire
leave him alone? As in traditional Twilight Zone episodes, that the
author grew up with, Mr. Cognard creates three unique and
unpredictable stories, that both children and adults will all enjoy.
The book is packed with illustrations by Gabriella Cognard,
a tween with artistic flair well beyond her years.

************

Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a paperback copy of
Three Twigs for the Campfire by Joseph Cognard,
just leave a comment below. Two winning names will
drawn on the evening of Tuesday, July 9th. This drawing
is open to residents of the US and Canada.

Excerpt from No Right Way by Michael Niemann—and a Giveaway!

************

Title: No Right Way
Series: A Valentin Vermeulen Thriller Book 4
Author: Michael Niemann
Publisher: Coffeetown Press
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Genre: Mystery, International Thriller

************

Synopsis

The fall of 2015. It’s been four years since the civil war in Syria
started and over a year since ISIS took over major parts of the country.
The refugee stream into Turkey has swelled to unprecedented numbers.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is
scrambling to offer services and shelter to the multitudes. The Turkish
government is doing what it can. Money from the rest of the world and
European governments is flowing in to help alleviate the crisis. Numerous
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are using UN funds to do
the on-the-ground work to house and feed refugees.

Valentin Vermeulen’s job is to make sure that all those funds are spent for
their intended purposes. As he digs into his task, he learns that some
refugees have not received any aid at all. Figuring out why that
is quickly lands him in trouble with organize crime.

************

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound

************

An Excerpt from No Right Way

Ahmadi was ready to crawl into her tent and sleep forever. Her back ached from bending over all day. The grapes hung too low to cut them standing up and kneeling on the stony dirt was out of the question.
 
Zada still wasn’t back from wherever she’d gone. The two women shared a tent. It had started as a cohabitation of convenience. Being a single woman in a refugee camp was difficult. The married women were suspicious and their husbands leered. In a matter of days, they became friends. Despite their age difference—Zada was forty, fifteen years older than Ahmadi—they found that their journey from middle class life to refugee was similar. Zada’s husband died fighting with a rebel militia against the Assad regime. Shortly after burying him, her house was destroyed by a missile that killed her two children. Ahmadi hadn’t lost a husband or children, but her parents’ and siblings’ fate had been the same. They didn’t talk much about their loss. What was there to say? It was the trials of being a refugee that forged their bond. They had each other’s back through the daily misery of picking grapes.
 
Ahmadi needed to eat to keep up her strength. Resting first meant she’d miss the evening meal. Rahel had invited her after learning that Zada had disappeared. Which was kind, especially since Rahel’s family was Christian and she was a Muslim. But Rahel understood the precarious position of single women and the importance of protecting one’s honor.
 
Back home, Ahmadi considered the idea of honor old-fashioned. Being passed from your father to your husband didn’t appeal to her. She went to the university, she could take care of herself. Or so she thought. In the refugee camp that self-sufficiency had evaporated like morning mist in the September sun. What little pay she received for picking disappeared so fast. The agent who got her the picking job got his cut, the tent rental took another bite, leaving her with just enough for food. Zada did the cooking. Another one of those things Ahmadi wasn’t good at. She’d never had to cook for herself. She took two apples and went to Rahel’s tent.
 
Salam,” she said when she entered. Rahel’s husband sat in a rickety chair in one corner, her three children, including the teenage son, sat on the ground. They were all bent over plastic bowls eating their supper. The children returned the greeting. Rahel’s husband grunted something.
 
“I brought some apples,” Ahmadi said.
 
Rahel took them and passed her a bowl of couscous and thin stew. “Shokran,” Ahmadi said.
 
Al’afw,” Rahel said. “Sit. Enjoy the food.”
 
Ahmadi squatted near the entrance and ate. The stew was spicy, but all the peppers in the world couldn’t make up for the fact that it was mostly broth with some onions and bits of gristly mutton. Rahel cut the two apples Ahmadi brought into pieces, gave the biggest to her husband, and the rest to the kids. She kept a couple of pieces for Ahmadi and herself.
 
The tent flap opened and a woman looked inside and said that the police had found Zada.
 
“Where is she?” Ahmadi said, jumping up and almost spilling her food.
 
“She’s dead,” the woman said. “They found her body in an olive grove near the border.”
 
Ahmadi fell to her knees, barely able to put the bowl down. She covered her face with her hands.
 
“Who found her?” Rahel said.
 
“Workers checking on the olive trees. They called the police.”
 
“How’d she get there? How did she die?”
 
“I don’t know. The men said they didn’t see any injuries.”
 
The flap closed again and the woman went to the next tent to break the news. Ahmadi stood, unable to move. Zada had been her guide in this crazy world. How could she go on now?
 
Rahel put her arm on Rima’s shoulder. “Such sad news. You liked Zada very much.”
 
Ahmadi held back her tears and sighed deeply. But she didn’t break out in a wail. Zada’s death was her private grief, nothing to be mourned in public.
 
“Stay here tonight,” Rahel said. “It’s not good to be alone when one is full of sorrow.”
 
Ahmadi shook her head. No, she wasn’t going to stay there. “Thank you for your offer, but I’ll be okay. I’m going to find out what happened to Zada.”
 
“What do you mean?”
 
“Yesterday, Zada told me she learned something important. Today she is dead. That can’t be a coincidence. I need to find out what she learned.”
 
“Oh Ahmadi, you are distraught. Stay here and calm yourself. This is for the police to sort out.”
 
“The Turkish police? Haven’t you seen how they disdain us? We are just Syrian refugees. One less to worry about.”
 
“So you’re going to investigate?” Rahel’s husband said. “How far d’you think you’ll get? You are right about the Turkish police, and they won’t like it if you stick your nose into their business.”
 
Ahmadi looked at him, frowning. Those were the most words she’d ever heard from that man.
 
“Thomen is right,” Rahel said. “This is not a matter for a single woman.”
 
“Listen, Zada knew that we weren’t treated right. She wanted to make our lives better. Now she is dead. I’m going to find out what happened. Her death wasn’t an accident.”
 
“How do you know?” Rahel said. “Maybe she lost her spirit and her heart gave out. She was all alone in a foreign land. Without family. She had no one.” 
 
“She had me,” Ahmadi said. “Thank you for the meal. You have been very kind.”
 
She went back to her tent. Inside, she zipped the flap shut and began to search Zada’s things. There was a suitcase and a large bag. She started with the suitcase. It was a wardrobe assembled not with logic but in panic. Several plain skirts, a dress wholly impractical for harvesting grapes, a few shirts, a silk blouse she’d never seen Zada wear. How do you pack when you have only a few moments and think you’ll be back soon?
 
Excerpted from NO RIGHT WAY. Copyright (c) 2019 by Michael Niemann. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

************

About the Author

Michael Niemann grew up in a small town in Germany, ten kilometers from the Dutch border. Crossing that border often at a young age sparked in him a curiosity about the larger world. He studied political science at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität in Bonn and international studies at the University of Denver. During his academic career he focused his work on southern Africa and frequently spent time in the region. After taking a fiction writing course from his friend, the late Fred Pfeil, he embarked on a different way to write about the world.

For more information, go to:
michael-niemann.com.

************

Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy
of No Right Way, just leave a
comment below. The winning name will
be drawn on Wednesday evening,
June 26th. Open to residents of the US.

************

“Niemann blends an unusual locale with an appealing, relatable hero
while drawing attention to the plight of refugees.”—Publishers Weekly

Spotlight on Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin—and a Giveaway!

This year marks the 75th anniversary for D-Day and
the Battle of Normandy, an event that brings a massive
plot twist to Melanie Benjamin’s latest addition to the
WWII historical fiction subgenre: MISTRESS OF THE RITZ,
a fascinating look at a little-known historical figure and
her courageous fight against Nazi occupation in Paris.
Blanche Auzello’s world is turned upside down when the
Germans invade Paris and take over the impeccable
Ritz hotel as one of their headquarters. Blanche and
her husband Claude, the hotel’s manager, have enjoyed
a regal, albeit privileged lifestyle, and this new stress
has brought the struggles of their marriage to the
surface.  Despite the dangers present in her home,
Blanche Auzello is inspired to find whatever ways
she can to assist the Resistance, and Claude busies
himself with his own risky ventures. Tensions rise, and
Blanche is torn between her attempts to repair her
marriage and her newfound alliance with a key
figure of the Resistance—Lily, a mysterious woman
who shows Blanche what she’s truly capable of.

************

************

Title: Mistress of the Ritz
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction

************

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

************

Synopsis

Nothing bad can happen at the Ritz; inside its gilded walls
every woman looks beautiful, every man appears witty. Favored
guests like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel,
and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk through its famous
doors to be welcomed and pampered by Blanche Auzello and her
husband, Claude, the hotel’s director. The Auzellos are the mistress
and master of the Ritz, allowing the glamour and glitz to take
their minds off their troubled marriage, and off the secrets
that they keep from their guests—and each other.

Until June 1940, when the German army sweeps into Paris, setting
up headquarters at the Ritz. Suddenly, with the likes of Hermann
Goëring moving into suites once occupied by royalty, Blanche and
Claude must navigate a terrifying new reality. One that entails even
more secrets and lies. One that may destroy the tempestuous
marriage between this beautiful, reckless American and her very
proper Frenchman. For in order to survive—and strike a blow against
their Nazi “guests”—Blanche and Claude must spin a web of deceit
that ensnares everything and everyone they cherish.

But one secret is shared between Blanche and Claude alone—
the secret that, in the end, threatens to imperil both of
their lives, and to bring down the legendary Ritz itself.

Based on true events, Mistress of the Ritz is a taut tale of suspense
wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and
a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.

************

This impeccably researched, lyrically told historical about a brash
American woman and her French husband during WWII is a
remarkable achievement….Even readers who aren’t big fans of historical
fiction might be swayed by this outstanding tale.—Publishers Weekly

************

About the Author

Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical novels The Swans of Fifth Avenue, about Truman Capote and his society swans, and The Aviator’s Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her historical novel, The Girls in the Picture, is about the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female legends—screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford. Her latest novel, Mistress of the Ritz, is a love story set in Nazi-occupied France about two key figures of the French Resistance. Her previous novels include Alice I Have Been and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb. Her novels have been translated in over fifteen languages, featured in national magazines such as Good Housekeeping, People, and Entertainment Weekly, and optioned for film. She lives in Chicago with her husband, near her two adult sons.

Website // Twitter

************

Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a hardcover copy
of Mistress of the Ritz, just leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn on
Thursday, May 23rd. Open to residents of the US.

Book Review: Idyll Hands by Stephanie Gayle—and a Giveaway!

Idyll Hands
A Thomas Lynch Novel #3
Stephanie Gayle
Seventh Street Books,
ISBN 978-1-63388-482-3
Trade Paperback

Not to mince words, this is an excellent novel. The story travels between 1972 in Charleston, Massachusetts, and 1999 in Idyll, Connecticut. In its emotional beginning, Susan, the sixteen-year-old sister of a new policeman, Michael Finnegan, is running away from home, at least for a few days. Why, we don’t know for sure.

Twenty-six years later, in a town not far from Charleston, the new chief of police in Idyll, Connecticut, named Thomas Lynch, is confronted with allergies and the preserved bone of an unknown woman or girl, the cops in that town have named Colleen. The bone is from a body unknown and unnamed found years earlier.

And so the story begins. As it unfolds, Michael Finnegan, now an experienced detective and his boss, Chief Lynch, working together and separately, among the small force of law enforcement people, confront questions of other missing young women. And throughout the novel, the hard loss of Finnegan’s still missing sister is always present.

In carefully measured chapters, the search for the woman found in the grave in Idyll is laid out and the detectives draw ever closer to the murderer. At the same time, detective Finnegan continues to pick away at random small clues to the enduring mystery of his sister’s disappearance.

Scenes are carefully and sometimes elaborately described; the pace of the novel is intense, and readers will be treated to a small cadre of police individuals whose emotional investments in their careers are carefully laid out, along with the civilian sides of life. Readers will also be treated to an interesting look at the process of crime detection in this town where the authorities are anything but idle.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2018.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Idyll Hands by Stephanie Gayle, just leave
a
comment below. The winning name will

be drawn on Thursday night, May 9th.
This drawing is open to the US and Canada.

Step Away from the Cliff

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

E-Mail: writerlaurencarr@gmail.net
Website: http://mysterylady.net/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lauren.carr.984991
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
http://www.facebook.com/LoversInCrimeMysteries?ref=ts&fref=ts
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/AcornBookServices?ref=hl
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

Warning: This post is a vent. Writers who can’t seem to stop
cliffhanging and Readers who love hanging from them, be forewarned!

It happened again.

Over several days, I listened to an audiobook, a mystery-suspense selected by our book club. It was intriguing. Interesting characters who I cared about. Plenty of suspense. By the last quarter of the book, I was glued to my cell phone, listening for how the story ended.

Finally, we reached it. There was the solution. The bad guys were captured. The hero got the girl.

But wait! There was still the epilogue. The main characters got married for their happily ever after. Ah!

But wait again. There was still more as the main character sat down to go over the case only to discover that the case really was not solved! There was still a dirty rotten scoundrel who had gotten away undetected and escaped justice.

The mystery was STILL afoot!

THE END.

NO! I screamed so loud that Sterling ran from the room with his tail between his legs.

I had spent almost eight hours of my life listening to that book that didn’t have an ending. Rather, it had an end, as members of my book club argued. It just, after the ending, started the next book, which I have since learned hasn’t even been written! There isn’t going to be a sequel! The culprit will never get caught! There will never be justice!

I’d spent eight hours of my life on a book with a dangling plotline (the technical term is “open ending”) that I will never get back.

As a publisher, I have worked on books from two different authors who did the same thing. The first book I considered excellent—except for the cliffhanger. The young first-time writer insisted that it was a trilogy—the first book had to end in a cliffhanger.

Against my better judgement, I agreed to release the book, but told the writer that the second book had to be ready to go upon the release of the first one. He assured me that it would be. The first book was published in 2014. There’s no sign of the second book in his trilogy. Last time I checked his status on social media, he was hanging out with his buds watching Game of Thrones.

The second author was working on what he considered to be a series. The first book ended in a cliffhanger with the characters in a life and death struggle against evil. Last I heard, he gave up writing completely.

I can’t believe that I am the only reader in the world who hates to be left hanging at the end of a book. However, based on how many books our book club has recommended in recent months that have such endings, television shows that insist on having seasonal/series arches that don’t allow you to just watch one hour and then go to bed satisfied, and movies where you have to wait a year to get the solution (Star Wars: The Last Jedi/Avengers: Infinity War), I’m beginning to think that I may have to take up another hobby to feel complete and satisfied—like taste-tester at the Cheesecake Factory.

I confess. I am that one person in the whole world who has yet to see Avengers: Infinity War. My family was furious because I refused to see it until Avengers: End Game came out so that I could binge watch them both on the same day. I told them they could go without me, but they refused. It just wasn’t going to be as good without Dear Old Mom cursing the whole way home after being pushed over a cliff from which to hang.

Tell me that I am not the only reader who hurls a book across the room when the book ends with “Tune in next time to find out if the serial killer who crawled out of the woodwork on the last page is going to dismember the protagonist and his family.”

Look at it from my point of view: Life is short. You never know when the Angel of Death is going to jump out of nowhere to punch your ticket and take you to your final destination, which most likely will not have a library.

The last thing I want to do is spend over two hours of what I have left here on earth in a theater watching a movie that isn’t going to end until a year later, or spend eight hours listening to a book that ends in a life and death struggle that is never resolved because the writer decides to retire his laptop or I got hit by a train before its release.

As I have said, I have been assailed by these non-ending books through selections at my book club. After this last fiasco, I announced that from now on I will read the last chapter/epilogue first. As soon as I see a cliff on the horizon, I’m bailing.

I didn’t used to be that way. I used to think it was sacrilege to read the ending of a book before turning to page one. Equally, I thought it was a killjoy to go to the internet to checkout a synopsis of a movie or television series ahead of time to find out how it ended. But I’ve been burned so many times, that I’ll admit it’s now common practice.

Or is the author going to shove the reader hanging by a tree root off the edge of a cliff while waiting for the next installment, which may or may not come? Will there be justice in the end? Will all the good guys survive? Is this book the complete package—with every storyline tied up with a nice bow?

My declaration about reading the ending first caused quite a discussion between the cliffhanging enthusiasts and those who want their books to be the complete package.

“That’s life,” one fellow reader insisted. “Life is full of open endings. Doesn’t each day end with a cliffhanger? I mean, it isn’t like you go to bed at night with no dangling plotlines.”

I guess there in lies the crux of the situation.

I have been surprised to learn that different people read for different reasons. Some want an artistic representation of life. These are the people who prefer the paintings in the art gallery to look much like life—warts and all. Life does not offer us the complete package, so why should we expect authors to put it in their books? As I read in one blog post, when the boy gets the girl at the end, there are going to be fights, issues, adjustments. There is no such thing as a “happily ever after.”

These readers state that it is unrealistic for books to end without dangling plotlines or cliffhangers.

Yet, there is a whole reading audience, like me, who read to escape the reality of life. From the time I learned how to read, I read books to escape what I considered to be a boring life to go on an adventure into another world that was full of excitement, mystery, and suspense.

The author is my tour guide. I trust the writer to take me on a complete adventure that will bring me into the station called “The End” feeling completely satisfied that I haven’t missed anything – no dirty rotten scoundrels got away.

Nothing makes me cross a writer off my “To Be Read” list faster than for him or her to slow the train down as we approach “The End” station only to speed up again right before we come to the stop. Then to demand that we buy another ticket in order to complete the adventure.

If this ride is the first of many available, the author may suggest that I come along on the next—in the form of a synopsis after I leave the station. At that point, if the writer has earned my trust, odds of my buying their next book will be high.

Nothing breaks my trust in an author faster than ending the book by opening a can of worms and forcing me to buy the next book to get the solution. Odds are, I will scream, spend several days cursing, and not buy the next book.

I don’t consider dangling plotlines and cliffhangers to be intriguing literary tools. I consider them to be a cheap exercise in manipulation.

So there you have it. I warned you that this was a vent. I’d like to hear from you down below in the comments. As a reader, do you like cliffhangers or dangling plotlines which force you to buy the next book? As a writer, do you use cliffhangers or dangling plotlines? If so, feel free to voice your views in defense of them.

There’s nothing like a good debate.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for an ebook copy
of
The Root of Murder by Lauren Carr,
just leave a comment telling us what you
think about cliffhangers/dangling
plotlines. The winning name will be
drawn on
Monday evening, May 6th.

Book Review: Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann—and a Giveaway!

Trial on Mount Koya
A Hiro Hattori Novel #6
A Shinobi Mystery
Susan Spann
Seventh Street Books, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-6338-8415-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

November, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo travel to a Buddhist temple at the summit of Mount Koya, carrying a secret message for an Iga spy posing as a priest on the sacred mountain. When a snowstorm strikes the peak, a killer begins murdering the temple’s priests and posing them as Buddhist judges of the afterlife–the Kings of Hell. Hiro and Father Mateo must unravel the mystery before the remaining priests–including Father Mateo–become unwilling members of the killer’s grisly council of the dead.

Anyone who is a fan of Agatha Christie will recognize the tip of the hat this book is to her And Then There Were None with the isolated setting and the killer who picks off the victims one at a time and that really adds an element of fun to the story. This unusual pair of sleuths—a Portuguese Jesuit priest and his shinobi companion/bodyguard—have come to this remote temple because Hiro has been ordered to deliver a message to an Iga spy but they soon find themselves looking for a murderer among the monks and a couple of visitors. Although each investigation these two have conducted has its own peculiarities, this time Hiro is off-center, partly because of a personal sorrow but also because he comes to believe his friend may be in real jeopardy.

Along with the investigation, we also learn a little about the Buddhist religion in the 16th century and why the killer might be posing his victims, one by one, as the judges of the afterlife. The juxtaposition of the Buddhist tenets with those of a Catholic priest is striking and sheds more light on the relationship between Hiro and Father Mateo, two men who are vastly different and yet so respectful of each other. Each brings a unique perspective to the investigation and they are made even more interesting by their positions in feudal Japanese society.

Ms. Spann, as I’ve come to expect, creates vivid settings—her ability to evoke a visual understanding of the surroundings is full of the small details that bring them to life—and her characters are so fully fleshed out as to make our sleuths seem like people we actually know. It’s not just the two investigators that draw the attention, though; others are just as memorable, such as their housekeeper, Ana (a favorite of mine from earlier books).

Wonderful use of atmospheric language, very appealing players and an intriguing plot make Trial on Mount Koya another brilliant entry in this series I’ve come to love. Hiro and Father Mateo are among my very favorite historical investigators and I can barely wait for their next adventure, Ghost of the Bamboo Road, due out later this year.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re-issue/New Cover Reveal

Claws of the Cat
A Hiro Hattori Novel
A Shinobi Mystery, Book 1

A master ninja and a Portuguese priest investigate the murder of a samurai in medieval Kyoto. May 1564: When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, master ninja Hiro has no desire to get involved. But the beautiful entertainer accused of the crime enlists the help of Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit Hiro is sworn to protect, leaving the master shinobi with just three days to find the killer in order to save the girl and the priest from execution. The investigation plunges Hiro and Father Mateo into the dangerous waters of Kyoto’s floating world, where they learn that everyone from the elusive teahouse owner to the dead man’s dishonored brother has a motive to keep the samurai’s death a mystery. A rare murder weapon favored by ninja assassins, a female samurai warrior, and a hidden affair leave Hiro with too many suspects and far too little time. Worse, the ninja’s investigation uncovers a host of secrets that threaten not only Father Mateo and the teahouse, but the very future of Japan.

Re-issued by Seventh Street Books, April 23, 2019.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Giveaway

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment
below. There will be two winners. One
winner will receive a trade paperback copy
of Trial on Mount Koya and the second
winner will receive a trade paperback copy
of the re-issued Claws of the Cat. The drawing
will be held on the evening of Thursday,
April 25th and is open to the US and Canada.