Book Review: The Huntress by Kate Quinn @KateQuinnAuthor @WmMorrowBooks

The Huntress
Kate Quinn
William Morrow, February 2019
ISBN 978-0-06-274037-3
Trade Paperback

In this terrific novel by Kate Quinn we meet three remarkable people. Jordon McBride, an American teenager, who dreams of one day becoming a renowned photographer. Nina Markova, a young resourceful Russian whose mission in life is to become a pilot, and Ian Graham, a British reporter covering the second world war and who at its end turns his attention to hunting down Nazi war criminals.

Each of their stories unfold in alternating chapters (a powerful way to heighten tension) and, as we move from the Second World War to the early 1950’s, we see Jordon struggle to fulfil her dream, frustrated in a time when young women are expected to find a suitable husband and start a family. We also follow Nina who, after joining an elite flying group targeting the Nazis, is shot down in enemy territory. She manages to avoid capture but, ultimately when the war ends, feels lost and alone, unsure what the future will bring. And Ian who soon becomes obsessed with finding one particular war criminal known as the Huntress, a German woman, responsible for the brutal murder of a number of innocent people including children and Ian’s younger brother.

These characters are all vividly drawn, with varying strengths and skills, and as their stories start to come together, tension quickly escalates and they find themselves in a race to apprehend the Huntress before she vanishes.

I had a hard time putting this book down. It’s a wonderful novel with drama and humour and thrills and a cast of characters you can’t help but like and root for.

In the Author’s Notes at the end of The Huntress you also find out how the Author conceived the idea and also learn that some of the characters are based on real people and real events. I highly recommend The Huntress. Check it out you won’t regret it…

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, July 2019.

Book Review: The Murder List by Hank Phillippi Ryan @HankPRyan @ForgeReads

The Murder List
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Forge Books, August 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-19721-4
Hardcover

Launching on August 20th is Hank Phillippi Ryan’s latest novel, The Murder List.  It is exciting, well-plotted, character driven, and eminently readable.  I would have said it is a terrific beach read if CNN didn’t beat me to it, choosing it as an “Ultimate Beach Read”!  That said – and with due respect to CNN – The Murder List is so much more than that.  The story revolves around Rachel North, a law student who has scored a summer internship in the office of a well-known and powerful Assistant District Attorney (“ADA”).  One problem, though, Rachel’s husband, Jack Kirkland, a brilliant criminal defense attorney is opposed to her taking the job because he and the ADA have history and do not like each other.  However, Rachel and Jack have a plan to be partners defending people charged with murder after Rachel finishes law school and gains the qualifications she needs to be put on the murder list (that is, attorneys qualified to handle murder cases).  So, Rachel is unwilling to pass up the opportunity to see how murder cases are handled from the prosecution side.  Arriving on her first day, she meets her fellow interns and her boss, ADA Martha Gardiner.

In the first hour, Gardiner takes her to the scene of a murder where Rachel is left outside to babysit the suspect’s nephew, leaving her with the feeling that her boss doesn’t really think much of her.  But after a court appearance the next day Gardiner invites Rachel to lunch.  From then on, their working relationship grows to the point where the ADA invites Rachel to work on a murder case she is personally handling.  For Rachel, this is a great opportunity because if she and Jack follow their plan, Rachel will need to be on the murder list, as Jack already is.  And, of course, Rachel who is not even out of law school, is nowhere near qualified to get on that list.  But the experience she will gain assisting the ADA will give her budding career a big boost.

While Rachel works on the murder case, her fellow interns are working on other matters which, according to them, are not at all as interesting as her case.  But, as Rachel’s work progresses, the evidence in her murder case is mounting against someone close to her which is making her anxious and frightened.  Forbidden to talk with anyone but Gardiner about the case, Rachel is unsure what to do but, as ordered, keeps all case-related information to herself.

As mentioned above, The Murder List is an exciting read with its unexpected twists and turns.  My only complaint is that I lost sleep over it – I didn’t finish it until 3:00 a.m. but I just couldn’t put it down.  Don’t miss this!

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, August 2019.

Book Review: Murder in the City of Liberty by Rachel McMillan

Murder in the City of Liberty
A Van Buren and DeLuca Mystery #2
Rachel McMillan
Thomas Nelson, May 2019
ISBN 978-0-7852-1696-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Hamish DeLuca and Regina “Reggie” Van Buren have a new case—and this one could demand a price they’re not willing to pay.

Determined to make a life for herself, Reggie Van Buren bid goodbye to fine china and the man her parents expected her to marry and escaped to Boston. What she never expected to discover was that an unknown talent for sleuthing would develop into a business partnership with the handsome, yet shy, Hamish DeLuca.

Their latest case arrives when Errol Parker, the leading base stealer in the Boston farm leagues, hires Hamish and Reggie to investigate what the Boston police shove off as a series of harmless pranks. Errol believes these are hate crimes linked to the outbreak of war in Europe, and he’s afraid for his life. Hamish and Reggie quickly find themselves in the midst of an escalating series of crimes.

When Hamish has his careful constructed life disrupted by a figure from his past, he is driven to a decision that may sever him from Reggie forever . . . even more than her engagement to wealthy architect Vaughan Vanderlaan.

Ahh, Reggie and Hamish are a charming couple although, strictly speaking, they aren’t really a couple because they’re studiously resisting any kind of romantic attraction. They do, however, have a strong partnership in their detective agency and, even in these early days, they’re getting noticed.

Their latest case involves a black man, a baseball player who wants to break the color barrier in the big leagues. Errol Parker retains Hamish and Reggie to look into what the police call pranks being played against him but they soon realize these are acts of racism and there is nothing prankish about these attacks. This is 1940 and Boston is a hotbed of racism, particularly against blacks and ethnic minorities, so they have a formidable task identifying the perpetrator(s) and stopping them.

Meanwhile, Hamish is dealing with a kind of anxiety disorder and a tricky relationship with the criminal world and Reggie is fighting to maintain a distance from her high society background. This story is, realistically. more of a character study of Reggie, Hamish and a variety of peripheral players than a mystery but, for all that, Murder in the City of Liberty is an entertaining tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes  & Noble // Kobo // Amazon
Books-A-Million // Indiebound

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About the Author

Rachel McMillan is the author of the Herringford and Watts mysteries, the Three Quarter Time series of contemporary romances set in opulent Vienna, and the Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries praised for bringing an authentic 1930’s Boston world to life while normalizing the fictional conversation surrounding mental illness. Her first work of non-fiction, described as a romantic’s guide to independent travel, releases in 2020. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada.

Connect with Rachel
Website // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic by Ace Atkins

Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic
A Spenser Novel #47
Ace Atkins
Putnam, May 2018
ISBN: 978-0-399-17701-9
Hardcover

From the publisher:  Iconic, tough-but-tender Boston PI Spenser delves into the black market art scene to investigate a decades-long unsolved crime of dangerous proportions.  The heist was legendary, still talked about twenty years after the priceless paintings disappeared from one of Boston’s premier art museums.  Most thought the art was lost forever, buried deep, sold off overseas, or, worse, destroyed as incriminating evidence.  But when the museum begins receiving detailed letters about the theft from someone claiming to have knowledge of the whereabouts of the paintings, the board enlists Spenser’s help to navigate the delicate situation. Their particular hope is to regain the most valuable piece stolen, The Gentleman in Black, a renowned painting by a Spanish master and the former jewel of the collection.  Soon the cold art case thrusts Spenser into the shady world of black market art dealers, aged Mafia bosses, and old vendettas.   A five-million-dollar-reward sets Spenser and pal Vinnie Morris onto a trail of hidden secrets, jailhouse confessions, murder, and double-crosses.

 

For some reason I had allowed myself to fall behind in reading the “new” books in this wonderful series, just as wonderful when authored by Ace Atkins, of which this is the newest.  The preceding entry in the series was Little White Lies, which I finally caught up to in the last few weeks.  With apologies for redundancies, as I said in my review of that book, “the author has captured many of the expected patterns of Robert B. Parker’s writing.  But Mr. Atkins, besides giving us a very absorbing tale, has retained some of the most typical Parker patterns, e.g., nearly every character’s choice of clothing and headgear is noted, particularly caps declaring the owner’s love for a particular local sports team, whether Braves or Red Sox.  (In fact, very near the end of the book we find Spenser escaping a close call and thinking “I’d hoped these guys didn’t plan ambushes like Branch Rickey planned ballgames.”)  One character appears dressed in a “light blue guayabera, his white hair loose and scattered as always, with some black reading glasses down on his nose.’  There is also a lot about food.  When he prepares a Cobb salad for himself and Susan, and she hands him a vodka martini, he thinks “You couldn’t eat a Cobb salad without [it].  It was a law in California.”  Then there are the nicknames, e.g., “Fat Freddy,” “Famous Ray.” The terrific plotting and action are always present, as Spenser goes about solving “the biggest theft in Boston history,” a painting worth sixty or seventy million.

Spenser’s love of jazz is always present, from Coltrane playing from speakers in a restaurant, to the final scene where Tony Bennett “reached for the tree of life and picked him a plum,” and Spenser saying “The Best Is Yet to Come,” to which Vinnie replies “You better believe it.”  I loved the author’s tip of the hat to another terrific mystery writer, Hank Philippi Ryan, reporting on Boston’s Channel 7 with a live shot from a crime scene.  Set against the high-society art scene and the low-life back alleys of Boston, this is classic Spenser doing what he does best.  As was Little White Lies, Old Black Magic is also highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, May 2018.

Book Review: Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies by Ace Atkins

Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies
A Spenser Novel #46
Ace Atkins
Putnam, May 2017
ISBN: 978-0-399-17700-2
Hardcover

For some reason I had not read this entry in the Spenser series created by Robert B. Parker, but have finally caught up to it, I’m delighted to say.

From the publisher:  Connie Kelly thought she’d found her perfect man on an online dating site.  He was silver-haired and handsome, with a mysterious background working for the CIA.  She fell so hard for M. Brooks Welles that she wrote him a check for almost three hundred thousand dollars, hoping for a big return on her investment.  But within weeks, both Wells and her money are gone.  Her therapist, Dr. Susan Silverman, hands her Spenser’s card.  A self-proclaimed military hotshot, Welles had been a frequent guest on national news shows, speaking with authority about politics and world events.  But when he disappears, he leaves not only a jilted lover but a growing list of angry investors, duped cops, and a team of paramilitary contractors looking for revenge.  Enter Spenser, who quickly discovers that everything about Welles is phony.  His name, his resume, and his roster of associates are nothing but an elaborate fraud.  But uncovering the truth won’t be easy, as he’ll have to keep his client from falling back into the mystery man’s tangled web, all while staying a step ahead of trained killers.  As the trail winds from Boston to the back roads of Georgia, Spenser will need help from trusted allies Hawk and Teddy Sapp to make sure Welles’s next con is his last.

 

The author has captured many of the expected patterns of Robert B. Parker’s writing. (Mr. Parker died in January 2010.)  But Mr. Atkins, besides giving us a very absorbing tale, has retained some of the most typical Parker patterns, e.g., nearly every character’s choice of clothing and headgear is noted, particularly caps declaring the owner’s love for a particular local sports team, whether Braves or Red Sox.  Connie Kelly’s early appearance notes that she “was dressed in a white sleeveless silk top with a black pencil skirt adorned with chrysanthemums and a pair of black open-toe heels that highlighted her shapely calves. Her toes had been painted a festive red.”  In her next appearance “she wore a very short red floral dress and black tights with black suede booties,” with a purple cardigan.  She explains what attracted her to Mr. Welles thusly:  “I wanted a tall, successful, and interesting man.  Someone who liked to travel and took time to enjoy sunsets.”  Well, she got all of that and a lot more that she could have done without.  Spenser is now living in the area of the Charlestown Navy Yard, where Pearl the Wonder Dog keeps him delightful company.

This is another exciting entry in the series, thoroughly entertaining, and highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, May 2018.

Next up for this reviewer is the next in the series by Mr. Atkins, another Spenser novel, Old Black Magic.

Book Review: The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

The Silent Girl
A Rizzoli and Isles Novel #9
Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-553-84115-2
Mass Market Paperback

An interesting departure from the usual circumstances in this powerful series. The novel begins in San Francisco when an unknown woman stalks a teenaged girl. We learn quickly that the stalker has benign designs on the girl. She is challenged to become a warrior child.

The novel switches to Boston, home of the main protagonists of this series. Maura Isles faces an unusual situation. As the Medical Examiner for the city of Boston, she must testify against the actions of one of Boston PDs most revered officers, a circumstance which causes her considerable anxiety and difficulty with the thin blue line, as well as distance with her friend, detective Jane Rizzoli.

A local boy, Billy Foo, who chooses to conduct paid walking tours of the central city of Boston, often takes groups to the site of a nineteen-year-old multiple murder, the Red Phoenix restaurant. And then, as night falls, one of the tour members discovers a freshly severed hand, lying in the alley beside the building housing the closed Red Phoenix. Murder, mystery, perplexing clues pile up and the atmosphere woven by this master storyteller grab readers forcefully.

This story examines in a thoughtful way some of the interesting and complicated and ancient mythology of the Asian world. But it is important to note that the author has not fashioned a fantasy. This novel is carefully rooted in the real and dangerous world.

The principal characters, as always, are exceedingly well and carefully drawn, the action persists in a steady drumbeat of action and reaction, interspersed with quiet intellectual or social scenes. The result is a fine strong novel that should satisfy any Gerritsen fan and bring her new devotees.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, April 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.

Book Reviews: Body Parts by Jessica Kapp and Yom Killer by Ilene Schneider

Body Parts
Jessica Kapp
Diversion Books, August 2017
ISBN 978-1-63576-166-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Raised in an elite foster center off the California coast, sixteen-year-old Tabitha has been protected from the outside world. Her trainers at the center have told her she’ll need to be in top physical condition to be matched with a loving family. So she swims laps and shaves seconds off her mile time, dreaming of the day when she’ll meet her adoptive parents.

But when Tabitha’s told she’s been paired, instead of being taken to her new home, she wakes up immobile on a hospital bed. Moments before she’s sliced open, a group of renegade teenagers rescues her, and she learns the real reason she’s been kept in shape: PharmPerfect, a local pharmaceutical giant, is using her foster program as a replacement factory for their pill-addicted clients’ failing organs.

Determined to save the rest of her friends at the center, Tabitha joins forces with her rescuers, led by moody and mysterious Gavin Stiles. As they race to uncover the rest of PharmPerfect’s secrets, though, Tabitha finds herself with more questions than answers. Will trusting the enigmatic group of rebels lead her back to the slaughterhouse?

I’d like to say the idea of raising children for organ harvesting is a shocking idea but it isn’t entirely when you think of those families that have a child to harvest the stem cells for an older child. The big difference is that those families mean no ill will towards that younger child, unlike the drug company in Body Parts. Just imagine the betrayal Tabitha feels when she learns the truth. For 10 years, she has believed that her foster home guardians have her best interest at heart and that all the hard work getting and keeping her mind and body in top shape will win her a place with a loving family.

The time is about 2030 (based on a reference to a tv show), not so far in the future. When Tabitha first learns the truth, she isn’t at all sure who she can trust but, clearly, it isn’t the adults who’ve been involved in her “care” all these years and she fears for the friends still at the Centre. The tension at this point is high but then it sort of slides into a muddle of romantic confusion that, to my way of thinking, is neither necessary nor logical, given the need to concentrate on saving the kids left behind. When Tabitha accepts the reality of what’s going on, she becomes driven to join in on missions to rescue others but she isn’t really qualified.

Overall, this story is a good one and, while I can’t say I formed any real attachment to Tabitha or any of the other characters, the premise did provoke a bit of thinking. The real discomfort, to me, comes from the knowledge that we in developed countries are becoming much too reliant on pills and potions to make everything better, to “preserve” ourselves, if you will. Perhaps we should pay attention to the possible dangers that might seem like pure fiction.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Yom Killer
A Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery Book 3
Ilene Schneider
Aakenbaaken & Kent, December 2016
ISBN 978-1-938436-19-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

No time is ever good for a family emergency, but for a rabbi the period just before Yom Kippur is especially difficult. Yet even though the Holy Day is approaching, Rabbi Aviva Cohen rushes off to Boston to be at the bedside of her mother, who was found unconscious in her apartment at an assisted living facility. The big question is: was it an accident or an attack? The search for the truth uncovers everything from old grudges to family secrets to fraud – and possibly murder.

When you, or someone close, reach a certain age, assisted living facilities loom large and, for the responsible family members, safety is a major topic of conversation and research. However, murder or even the perception of murder, is not usually in the list of things to look out for. Small wonder, then, that Rabbi Aviva’s suspicions are aroused and she heads right to Boston to see about her mother, accompanied by her ex-husband, Steve Goldfarb, who just happens to be acting chief of police in their New Jersey town. Of course, she doesn’t immediately suspect attempted murder. After all, senior citizens fall a lot so why should her sleuthing senses be alerted? When she does begin to look at things askance, her snooping—for that is what it is—seems at least moderately appropriate because this is her mother. Besides, rabbis (and other religious professionals) do have a way of encouraging people to talk, don’t they?

Aviva is an engaging character, one that brought a smile to my face quite often, and a lot of the others also appealed to me, especially Steve, who’s not as much of an ex as you might expect, and Aviva’s fabulous mom. Since the author is Rabbi Ilene Schneider, I think it’s safe to say Aviva’s background, beliefs, behavior, etc., are as accurate as it’s possible to be within the confines of fiction and I appreciate that because my knowledge of the Jewish faith is limited. I learned things about Judaic customs and certain religious periods to add to my small collection of facts and that added to my overall enjoyment of this lighthearted, intelligent mystery.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.