Book Reviews: The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas and Twinepathy by C.B. Cook @sherrythomas @BerkleyMystery

The Art of Theft
The Lady Sherlock Series #4
Sherry Thomas
Berkley, October 2019
ISBN 978-0-451-49247-0
Trade Paperback

Once upon a time, Sherry Thomas created the first of a retelling of the Sherlock Holmes adventures and, my word, what a charming series this is so far. Charlotte Holmes and Mrs. Watson are a delightful pair and they channel the original Holmes and Watson with a feminine aplomb that makes Sherlock himself much more accessible.

Charlotte is a successful detective, having solved numerous cases, but she’s going to have to become something of an art thief this time. The target is a particular very valuable painting but it’s the documents secreted on the back of the painting that she needs to obtain; if she can’t do so, her client will be ruined. Charlotte recruits her usual partners in crime, so to speak, and the merry band sets off to attend a masked ball and art sale at a certain chateau in France. Charlotte is the true brains of the group but she couldn’t pull this off without the able assistance of Stephen Marbleton and Lord Ingram, not to mention her sister, Livia, and the pragmatic Mrs. Watson.

There’s a great deal of fun to be had in this latest tale but the reader who’s new to the series should probably start with the first book, A Study in Scarlet Women, to enjoy the books to the fullest. If you’re like me, you’ll fall head over heels for Charlotte and company.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

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Twinepathy
IDIA #1
C.B. Cook
CreateSpace, July 2016
ISBN 978-1535201551
Trade Paperback

Twin sisters Brooklyn and Albany have always hidden their telepathic abilities, believing they’re alone in the world in that sense, until a small child shows up on the doorstep, a child who seems to be suffering from total amnesia. Before they can even begin to come up with a plan—although they instinctively know they need to hide the child from their older brother and parents for the moment—two strangers appear literally out of thin air and the world as they know it changes in an instant.

It turns out that superheroes do really exist, with various powers as Data and Blaze explain; Data is a glorified mind reader and is the head of a secret agency of superheroes, the International Defense and Intelligence Agency, while Blaze specializes in teleportation and illusion. Before this first meeting is over, the sisters have code names, and they’ve learned that the little girl, dubbed Maddie, is not the first victim of memory loss. Now, Albany and Brooklyn set out to solve the first mystery—who is Maddie and what is her story?

Twinepathy is a fun tale for anyone who enjoys superheroes and adventure mixed in with a puzzle and I recommend it for a few hours of entertaining distraction from our all too real world.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

Book Review: Who Rescued Who by Victoria Schade—and a Giveaway! @VictoriaSchade @BerkleyPub

Who Rescued Who
Victoria Schade
Berkley, March 2020
ISBN 978-0-593-09883-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Where can you turn when the world turns against you? When Elizabeth Barnes’ life fell apart she never imagined that she’d be rescued by a new friend on four paws.

The plan was simple: Elizabeth would ignore the fact that she was unjustly fired from her dream job, fly across the pond to settle an unexpected inheritance in her father’s home country and quickly return to reclaim her position among the Silicon Valley elite.

But when Elizabeth stumbles upon an abandoned puppy, she’s shocked to realize that her brief trip to England might turn into an extended stay. Her strict itinerary is upended completely by the pup’s dogged devotion, and soon the loveable puppy helps her to connect with a tight-knit community of new friends on two legs and four, from the aunt and uncle she didn’t know existed, to a grumpy coffee shop owner to two very opinionated sheep. Along the way Elizabeth is confronted by long-kept family secrets, hard truths about her former life and a new romance that might lead her to question everything she knows about love. Because sometimes rescue magic happens on both ends of the leash.

Just a couple of months ago, a story about someone who rescues a pet would have been very heartwarming, of course, a feel-good tale to pass a few hours of comfortable reading. That’s all true with Who Rescued Who but life today gives it a whole new meaning and, while I’m sure there are other newly-released animal rescue books, this is the one that came to my attention and I’m SO glad it did.

Besides the obvious attraction of a cute puppy, Ms. Schade has created a really good tale full of what makes family and friends mean so much to us and we’re treated to a bit of mystery, romance and family secrets along the way. Bess is an especially appealing protagonist, one we can really sympathize with when she’s faced with more than her share of angst-causing adversity and the people and animals, especially Georgina, that soon surround her are just as engaging. I loved watching Bess come to terms with the past and learn to be the person she’s meant to be. Perhaps best of all, we get to escape our current health/economic/political crisis for just a little while and, these days, that’s a very good thing. Ms. Schade and her publisher had no way of knowing how timely this would be but we readers surely do benefit from serendipity.

We’re a household of four rescues, including three cats and one dog, and the pup on the cover of this book reminds me of our Rosie even though they don’t look at all alike. What they do have in common is an intense stare, as though they don’t want to miss even a nanosecond of their humans’ attention. Rescues KNOW they’ve found a forever home and love their people just as much in return, certainly more than some humans do. If you can, please consider rescuing a critter—of any kind—and help out an overwhelmed shelter at the same time, won’t you? 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for an advance
reading copy
of Who Rescued Who,

leave a comment below. The
winning
name will be drawn on
Sunday evening, April
19th.
Open to residents
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Book Review: Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati @akaSaraDonati @penguinrandom

Where the Light Enters
The Waverly Place Series #2
Sara Donati
Berkley, September 2019
ISBN 978-0-425-27182-7
Hardcover

Where the Light Enters is a massive 672 page book that starts off in an epistolary fashion as Dr. Sophie Savard waits for her husband, Cap Verhoeven, who is afflicted with tuberculosis, to die. They are in Switzerland in an attempt to prolong his life, but when that proves to be in vain, Sophie, and Pip, her little dog, return home to New York. The year is 1884 and, although I believe Sophie’s history with Cap is detailed in a previous novel, that Cap was part of the wealthy New York society clique and married to a mulatto physician is an integral part of the plot.

Sophie tries to make her way both as a physician, a wealthy widow in high society, and a part of a large integrated family from all sorts of backgrounds. She also becomes, with her cousin Anna, another physician, involved in a horrific act of crime. Anna is married to a police detective who is charged with finding a murderer who’s method of killing is especially cruel. It seems the killer is an abortionist who uses expertise in surgery to murder the victims. Who better to help identify such a person than a couple of women doctors?

But don’t read this story as a mystery. It really isn’t. Very soon we can make a good guess at the killer. Even that seems almost incidental as the book could also be identified as a psychological morality story. Or simply a historical detailing not only the prevailing attitude toward women doctors, especially one of color, but of the fashions and mores of the time. And possibly, given the familial aspects, a feel good tale of love and acceptance.

Something for every reader, melded together in the best possible way. The details are wonderfully compelling and you may just find yourself immersed in the historical period.

If I had a problem with the story, it’s that a great many characters were introduced from the first and, although maybe it was just me, I did have a bit of trouble keeping them separate.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2019.
www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride
and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: The Girl in Red by Christina Henry @C_Henry_Author @BerkleyPub

The Girl in Red
Christina Henry
Berkley, June 2019
ISBN 978-0-451-49228-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods….

I read this book during the holidays and, weeks later, I’m still stewing about it. I guess that’s not necessarily a terrible thing because, after all, it means the book made a lasting impression on me but…

Red is a young woman who’s apparently alone in the world following the advent of a pandemic cough but we soon learn that’s not entirely true. The author switches the scene back and forth from just before to now and back again, a style that can be confusing but it works well here. Red is determined to get to her grandmother’s house deep in the forest but has a perilous journey to get there. Fortunately, she’s somewhat prepared for the dangers she faces because she prepared well, unlike her parents and brother (who is so clueless you have to wonder how he made it as long as he did even before the Crisis). To add to her difficulties, Red is an amputee and, not that it matters to the story but she’s biracial, a nice touch.

Red has a number of twisty turny encounters but she keeps going for weeks, fending off bad guys and monsters as well as the government that wants to put everybody in quarantine (but even the government offers a hero of sorts) and the nearly unbearable tension kept me reading far into the night. As post-apocalyptic stories go, this one is a doozy and I loved how Ms. Henry turned Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf into an even scarier tale. So, why am I so bent out of shape? Well, I can’t tell you specifically because it would be a major spoiler but let me just say that Chapter 15 has a whopper of a surprise and I was left wanting so much more. I’m really torn because until then I was completely immersed but that nonending left me cold. Fortunately, not every reader sees it that way; all I can say is Bah Humbug…but dagnabbit, this was good!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.

Book Reviews: A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray and The Gardener’s Secret by Jamie Cortland

A Strange Scottish Shore
Emmeline Truelove #2
Juliana Gray
Berkley, September 2017
ISBN 978-0-425-277089
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Scotland, 1906. A mysterious object discovered inside an ancient castle calls Maximilian Haywood, the new Duke of Olympia, and his fellow researcher Emmeline Truelove north to the remote Orkney Islands. No stranger to the study of anachronisms in archeological digs, Haywood is nevertheless puzzled by the artifact: a suit of clothing that, according to family legend, once belonged to a selkie who rose from the sea and married the castle’s first laird.
 
But Haywood and Truelove soon realize they’re not the only ones interested in the selkie’s strange hide. When their mutual friend Lord Silverton vanishes in the night from an Edinburgh street, their quest takes a dangerous turn through time, which puts Haywood’s extraordinary talents—and Truelove’s courage—to their most breathtaking test yet.

After Miss Emmeline Truelove sets off by train to Scotland to join her employer and colleague, Max Haywood, the late Queen Victoria appears, not an unusual occurrence, to warn her that she’s being followed, no surprise to Emmeline. Then, her friend and would-be suitor, Marquess Frederick Silverton, boards the same train and chases after the stranger who jumps off. Clearly, we’re off on an adventure.

An odd man named Hunter Spillane later disappears after attacking Emmeline and Max at a house party in Scotland. When James Magnusson, Earl of Thurso, shows them a box found in a castle’s ruins, the mystery deepens and yet holds a hint of their own recent past. Affairs of the heart and Emmeline’s visions of her deceased father and the late Queen add to the mystery they must solve without undue attention from others.

In a blend of mystery and fantasy, people literally come and go through centuries in a time-traveling kind of vortex as the puzzle begins to come clear and a beautiful woman named Helen tells an incredible tale. The story itself is highly entertaining but it’s the various characters who really engaged me and kept me turning pages. Now, I need to find the first book and do some catching up.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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The Gardener’s Secret
Jamie Cortland
World Castle Publishing, June 2017
ISBN 978-1629897318
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When Vince Giardini is believed to have perished in a plane crash over the Rockies, his beautiful wife, Dannie, becomes the target of handsome and charismatic, Eddie Haywood who is a psychopath with a borderline personality disorder. After discovering she needs a gardener and a handyman to care for her mansion on AIA, he applies for the position.

As his fascination with her intensifies, he vows to make her his one way or another and he begins to stalk her. Danni knows she is being stalked, especially after the break-in. Alone, without Vince, she has no one to save her from Eddie’s devious plans except her friends, Sal Catalano, her husband’s partner and Peter Langley.

A plane crash sets the tone for this tale that drips menace on the page, particularly when Eddie Haywood sets his sights on Danni Giardini. Eddie is the kind of man who makes women shudder, not only because we know what he is but also because of his public persona that keeps his nature hidden. It’s the kind of facade that we fear because it’s so easy to not really see the monster beneath.

Occasional inconsistencies pulled me out of the story such as the time when Danni rushes to meet her friend, Lainey, because she’s late for their lunch date but she stops at a coffee shop and reads part of the newspaper. Also, Danni can be annoying, with a sense of entitlement that comes from being rich and bored. Another example is when Sal, Vince’s partner, flies from Denver to Palm Beach hoping to give the bad news to Danni before the airline does. Why on earth would anyone do that, knowing a telephone call is almost certainly going to reach her first? As it turns out, there was no help for it since she was away from her home and her phone but he didn’t know that. There’s also a scene in which a pregnant woman drinks wine and there’s no indication from her or the man with her that this is just a once a week thing.

Despite content and editing flaws of this sort, the tale moves along, building suspense about the missing man, the one who wants to do harm and, eventually, a murdered woman. Tension rachets up a few chapters in and, for the rest of the book, the main thing that threw me off was something that I expect might be more common in romance books than in the genres I’m used to. I can’t say what it is without spoiling but it had to do with the interactions of certain characters and, since I rarely read romance per se, I’m not holding it against The Gardener’s Secret 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

Book Review: Shadow Girl by Gerry Schmitt—and a Giveaway!

Shadow Girl
An Afton Tangler Thriller #2
Gerry Schmitt
Berkley, August 2017
ISBN 978-0-425-28178-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The brutal murder of a business tycoon leaves Afton Tangler and the Twin Cities reeling, but that’s just the beginning of a gruesome crime spree…
 
Leland Odin made his fortune launching a home shopping network, but his millions can’t save his life. On the list for a transplant, the ailing businessman sees all hope lost when the helicopter carrying his donor heart is shot out of the sky.
 
Now with two pilots dead and dozens injured, Afton Tangler, family liaison officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, is drawn into the case. As she and her partner investigate family members and business associates, whoever wants Leland dead strikes again—and succeeds—in a brazen hospital room attack.
 
The supposedly squeaky clean millionaire has crossed the wrong person—and she’s not finished exacting her revenge. The case explodes into an international conspiracy of unbridled greed and violence. And as Afton gets closer to unearthing the mastermind behind it, she gets closer to becoming collateral damage…

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When I read the first Afton Tangler book, Little Girl Gone, last fall, I was impressed with the seeming ease —except I’m sure it wasn’t easy—with which Gerry Schmitt made the transition from her Laura Childs persona. I know authors try their hands at different genres and subgenres all the time but, in my opinion, they don’t always succeed. For the most part, I thought Ms. Schmitt did what she set out to do and I have been waiting ever since to see if her second book would be as good; I have to say I think it is.

The emotional hook of a kidnapped baby isn’t here this time but destroying a donated organ has its own brand of pathos, not to mention the apparent disregard for the lives of the innocent pilots. Someone clearly hates the intended recipient, Leland Odin, enough to go to dramatic lengths to kill him and they don’t care about collateral damage. Afton and her partner and mentor, Detective Max Montgomery, are first on the scene of what everyone thinks is a helicopter crash and are immediately involved in the investigation into the crash…and the human heart that landed in a dorm room.

The reader knows from the beginning who did this horrific thing but not why so we’re only a half-step ahead of Afton and Max but there were times I wanted to say, “Look at that!” or “Stop! Think about this!” I don’t often talk to characters and don’t know why I did this time but I suspect it was because I like these two a lot and Ms. Schmitt had me on the edge quite a bit. Anyway, by the time they suddenly figure out who, my nerves were pretty well shot. On the other hand, I took a tiny measure of satisfaction in egging Afton on as she went after her own brand of personal revenge, even if it wasn’t proper protocol.

Once again, Max and Afton prove to be a partnership meant to be and I’m very glad that Chief Thacker continues to recognize Afton’s potential as an aspiring detective. She inevitably makes mistakes because she hasn’t had all the training or experience and, naturally, she becomes a target but Afton is a smart woman and learns from her missteps. Shadow Girl is a tale full of stops and starts, much like most investigations, along with assaults, abductions, a cast of international players and a little dog with the heart of a lion; what more could I ask for?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Shadow Girl by Gerry Schmitt,
just leave a comment below. The winning
names will be drawn on Wednesday night,
  September 6th, for one Advance Reading Copy
and one finished hardcover copy. This
drawing is open
to the US and Canada.

Book Review: The Child by Fiona Barton

The Child
Fiona Barton
Berkley, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-101-99048-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

Just mention a dead baby and the pathos sets in, doesn’t it? Regardless of what might have happened to that infant, you know it was sad in one way or another and, in this case, it’s really bad because this poor little child had lain in its small grave for so many years.

Many people from the past and present are affected by this discovery, as you might imagine, but there are four women in particular who get our attention. At times, the baby was front and center but, at other times, the story focused much more on the individual women and Kate, the journalist, is the catalyst that brings out more than one truth. What begins as a story that shocks the senses in the beginning soon proves itself to be full of innuendoes and accusations, heartbreak and, eventually, healing.

Ms. Barton has crafted a tale that has been told before in some ways, both fictionally and in real life, but it’s the twists and coincidences that grabbed my attention, even though I was pretty sure of the direction this was taking. At the end, I felt a sense of sorrow at what one human can do to another but also hope for mending and new beginnings.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

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Purchase Links:

         

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About the Author

credit Jenny Lewis

It was the allure of a hidden story that propelled Fiona Barton to her long-time career in news. A journalist and British Press Awards “Reporter of the Year,” she has worked at the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, and brings that experience to bear in her novels.

In THE CHILD she details how Kate’s lengthy investigation into Building Site Baby’s death represents a perilous breach of the newsroom’s new culture of 24/7 online news. Says Barton: “The danger for Kate is that she risks becoming one of the dinosaurs—sidelined because she is unable and unwilling to be part of the revolution. And I feel for her.”

Though THE CHILD delivers an evocative look at the changing face of journalism, and a delicious plot twist, it is the characters’ haunting and rich emotional lives that set Barton apart and confirm her stature as a crime novelist of the first order.

              

 

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“Tense, tantalizing, and ultimately very satisfying …
definitely one of the year’s must-reads.”—
Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Fiona Barton has outdone herself with The Child. An engrossing,
irresistible story about the coming to light of a long-buried
secret and an absolutely fabulous read—I loved it!”—Shari Lapena,
New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door

“Startling twists—and a stunning, emotionally satisfying
conclusion.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)