Book Review: Past and Present by Judy Penz Sheluk @JudyPenzSheluk @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Past & Present
Series: A Marketville Mystery #2
Author: Judy Penz Sheluk
Narrator: Kelli Lindsay
Publication Date: April 8, 2019

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Past & Present
A Marketville Mystery #2
Judy Penz Sheluk
Narrated by Kelli Lindsay
Judy Penz Sheluk, April 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present. It’s been 13 months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother 30 years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what’s next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?  

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations. 

It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone – least of all Callie – could have predicted.

Callie solved the mystery her deceased dad set before her, not necessarily in a golden glow but at least satisfactorily according to the terms of his will, but then found herself kind of betwixt and between, wondering what to do with herself next. It didn’t take long for her to realize that she and her best friend, Chantelle, should become private investigators since they had learned a lot about doing that sort of work, particularly with regards to genealogy. Soon enough, they have a case, but Callie is about to be gobsmacked when one of the leads they’re following takes them down a very unexpected path.

Setting that tidbit aside—no need to inform the client just yet—the search for Anneliese’s past begins and, being interested in family history myself, I was really interested in seeing how they looked into old medical records, photos, even ship records for immigrants. As is almost always true, a lot of surprises come to light before Callie and Chantelle get to the truth about Anneliese and her difficult life.

Curiously, Callie’s great-grandmother, Olivia, enters her life just when hers is about to end and Callie learns much more about her own past and perhaps a little about why her grandfather is so hostile towards her. Unfortunately for Callie, she’ll soon learn just how horrible he can be.

This second audiobook in the series has a different narrator and, while I appreciated both for different reasons, Kelli Lindsay appealed to me more. Her voices are quite distinctive but I especially enjoyed her lively interpretation and pacing.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

About the Author

Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mystery and Marketville Mystery series. Her short stories can be found in several collections, including Live Free or Tri and The Best Laid Plans, which she edited. Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Vice Chair on the Board of Directors. Find her at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com.

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About the Narrator

Kelli Lindsay’s versatile style and years of experience with commercial, corporate and e-learning projects have created a dream career for her. She has lent her talents to TV, radio, video games, and various other fantastic projects, but she proudly admits that her true passion is narrating audiobooks. Her professional training has taught her how to put herself into the script or audiobook and deliver an incredible performance. With her professionalism and love for what she does, Kelli ensures that her clients and listeners get to hear exactly what they’re looking for!

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Book Review: Skeletons in the Attic by Judy Penz Sheluk @JudyPenzSheluk @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Skeletons in the Attic
Series: A Marketville Mystery #1
Author: Judy Penz Sheluk
Narrator: Claira Jordyn
Publication Date: July 31, 2017

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Skeletons in the Attic
A Marketville Mystery #1
Judy Penz Sheluk
Narrated by Claira Jordyn
Judy Penz Sheluk, July 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there.

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville – a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a 30-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic? Find out.

Callie and her dad got on just fine without her mother, who disappeared when Callie was a young child, and she’s going to miss her dad now that he’s passed. It’s odd that he left her a house she didn’t know existed, odder still that the will requires that she live there for a year to get the rest of her inheritance. It’s not a tremendous amount of money but she’ll get half of it to live on for the year and then she can sell the house if she wants to. The most surprising provision is that she must investigate her mother’s murder…but Callie had never been told that her mother was murdered.

As Callie follows one thread after another, some taking her deep into the past, unexpected questions arise that could lead to answers she doesn’t want. Could her dad’s 30-story fall on a construction site have any connection? Why do her grandparents hold such animosity towards her when she obviously couldn’t have been the cause of all the trouble so many years ago? How does Misty Rivers, who calls herself a psychic, fit into this mess and, most of all, is Callie’s mother really dead? Callie’s lucky to have a new friend, Chantelle, and neighbor Royce for support and to help her get to the truth.

Claira Jordyn narrates with a very pleasing tone and she does most voices quite well. I did think there was not enough emotion or energy; it was more as though she was reading out loud without any kind of performance. Having said that, I’d be happy to listen to her again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2019.

About the Author

Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mystery and Marketville Mystery series. Her short stories can be found in several collections, including Live Free or Tri and The Best Laid Plans, which she edited. Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Vice Chair on the Board of Directors. Find her at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com.

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About the Narrator

Claira Jordyn is an on-camera and voice over actress based in New York City. She can most recently be heard on a variety of television and radio commercials encouraging you to ski in Colorado, shop at Old Navy and also to try a particularly popular makeup brand this holiday season. She can also be heard reading countless books including Opaque, The Endless Horizons Sagas and an upcoming retelling of children’s fairytales. She lives just north of New York with her husband and super mutt Junebug, loves telling stories for a living and is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do that every day.

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Book Reviews: Killer in the Band by Lauren Carr and The Root of Murder by Lauren Carr @TheMysteryLadie @BooksbyAcorn @iReadBookTours

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Title: Killer in the Band
Series: A Lovers in Crime Mystery #3
Author: Lauren Carr
Narrator: Mike Alger
Publication Date: January 26, 2017

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Killer in the Band
A Lovers in Crime Mystery #3
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Services, January 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Summer of Love & Murder

Joshua’s eldest son, Joshua “J.J.” Thornton Jr., has graduated at the top of his class from law school and returns home to spend the summer studying for the bar exam. However, to Joshua’s and Cameron’s shock and dismay, J.J. moves into the main house at Russell Ridge Farm, the largest dairy farm in the Ohio Valley, to rekindle a romance with Suellen Russell, a onetime leader of a rock group who’s twice his age. Quickly, they learn that she has been keeping a deep dark secret.

The move brings long-buried tensions between the father and son to the surface. But when a brutal killer strikes, the Lovers in Crime must set all differences aside to solve the crime before J.J. ends up in the cross hairs of a murderer.

Much of Killer in the Band revolves around family issues, specifically Joshua’s disapproval of J.J.’s decision to move in with a woman who’s much older. It’s a very unusual pairing and Joshua can’t help believing it’s inappropriate even when his son repeatedly insists he and Suellen truly love each other.

Years ago, Suellen was part of a rock band that broke up rather unexpectedly when the lead singer announced he was leaving to start a solo career. Since then, no one in the band has had any contact with him. Suellen now owns the family dairy farm, a very successful operation and J.J. is helping her run it along with Clyde Brady, the farm manager whose wife was recently murdered. Cameron has been working that case, without much success, when she gets called in to a very cold case, one that is going to become dangerous to people in the present day even after all these years.

As so often happens in a Lauren Carr mystery, the threads here begin to multiply and weave together until it all seems impossible to see the truth but that’s also what had me so engrossed I had to keep going to discover, along with Cameron and Josh, where all this was going to end…and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Oh, and we’re introduced to a new character who just might become rather important; she fits right in with all the animals, especially various horses.

Mike Alger continues to make me feel as though I’m right in the thick of things and I love his interpretation of the many characters. He’s a gem of a narrator.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

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Title: The Root of Murder
Series: A Lovers in Crime Mystery #4
Author: Lauren Carr
Narrator: Mike Alger
Publication Date: May 31, 2019

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The Root of Murder
A Lovers in Crime Mystery #4
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Services, May 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Homicide Detective Cameron Gates learned long ago that there is no such thing as a typical murder case. Each mystery is special in its own right—especially for the family of the victim.The homicide of a successful executive, husband, and father seems open and shut when the murder weapon is found in his estranged son-in-law’s possession. The circumstantial evidence is so damning that when her step-son, J.J. Thornton, agrees to act as the defendant’s public defender, he assumes his first murder case will be a loss. Only the report of a missing husband proves that this case is not as open and shut as it seems. Strap on your seat belts for a wild ride in this mystery rooted in decades of deception that sprouts into murder.

When a burning body is found in a farming couple’s field, that turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg and there is no simple resolution to be found. The accused son-in-law is a mess of a human being, drowning in substance abuse to the point that he can’t possibly help with his own defense and Cameron has a niggling feeling that something isn’t right with this case. Considering the shortcomings of most vastly overworked public defenders, criminal attorney J.J. agrees to offer his services as public defender for Derek Ellison’s case.

Then a husband is reported as missing and there are hints that there could be a connection to the murder. Cameron and her new partner, Tony, are led hither and yon following improbable paths that are as convoluted as clues can get. Fortunately, author Lauren Carr has method in what looks like madness so I was never too far behind; still, I didn’t identify the killer till near the end.

Meanwhile, the Thornton family is wrapped up in J.J.’s and Poppy’s upcoming wedding, especially the search for the dress of Poppy’s dreams. The hardcore crime fiction reader might think that’s unnecessary fluff but, trust me, it isn’t and we learn a lot more about this appealing family and their love for one another, underpinning the deep professional trust between Joshua and Cameron. They’re all much more fortunate than the other families in this story and this is a compassionate look at what can go wrong…and, ultimately, how things can be made right. (I also thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Admiral, the Great Dane-Irish Wolfhound, Maine Coon Irving, and especially Charley, a rooster with attitude.)

I’m running out of ways to say how much I like Mike Alger as the narrator but the truth is he’s top-notch with various voices and interpretations of tone and emotion. He never seems to hit a weak spot 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

About the Author

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

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 two spoiled rotten German shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram

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About the Narrator

Channel 2 Meteorologist Mike Alger joined KTVN-TV in May, 1989. Prior to that Mike had worked at KNDU-TV in Washington. Mike has provided northern Nevada “Weather Coverage You Can Count On” during the 1990 President’s Day Blizzard, the drought in the mid- 1990s, the New Year’s Flood of 1997 and the historic Snowstorms of 2005.

Mike has been married for more than 30 years and has two grown children. His hobbies include golf, music, biking, tennis, scuba diving, writing. He has written and published one novel and is working on a second. He is also a narrator of several audio books, and his work can be found on Audible.com.

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Book Review: Everything I Knew to be True by Rayna York

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Title: Everything I Knew to be True
Author: Rayna York
Publisher: Toad Tree Press
Publication Date: May 12, 2019
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction

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Everything I Knew to be True
Rayna York
Toad Tree Press, May 2019
ISBN 978-1-9990951-0-9
Trade Paperback

From the author—

It was never easy for Cassie and her mother, struggling to make ends meet in their tiny apartment in The Bronx, but they had each other and that was enough. When her mother dies suddenly from an aggressive form of cancer, Cassie is forced to finish high school in California while living with the wealthy family of her mother’s closest friend—a women she never knew existed.

Living with the Stantons is the complete opposite of what she’s used to—the massive house, a father figure, and Cody, the spoiled, insanely good-looking son with the bedroom across the hall.

Broken with grief and struggling to fit in, Cassie meets Mila, a female powerhouse that helps her cope with a hidden past, the overwhelming present, and a shared experience no one should have to endure—a nightmare they both thought was over.

Warning: Although this book is classified as Young Adult, the author recommends it for mature readers due to explicit language.

Being a teenager is hard enough but how much worse must it be when you’ve lost your mom, the only parent you had, and then get shipped off to people you don’t know in a place that’s so different from your home? Cassie is—was—a normal teen but now she doesn’t even understand what “normal” is.

I had so much sympathy for this young girl who is faced with more upheaval than anyone can take gracefully and then even more is piled on when Cassie learns about secrets in her mom’s past that affect her directly. She’s lucky, though, that her mother’s friend and her family are so caring and that they welcome her into their home, offering it to her for her own.

While heartache and troubles certainly run through this story, I thought it was much more than that. It’s also a story of a girl’s psychological and emotional growth and how the people around her can make such a journey one that’s buffered by compassion. Nicely done, Ms. York!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

About the Author

Rayna York grew up with hippie parents that liked to adventure, so being the new kid was always a challenge. Where change was the norm, books were her constant–a way to escape. As an adult, many careers came and went, but writing has always been her passion. Everything I knew to be true is her first published novel.

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Book Review: Death at Dovecote Hatch by Dorothy Cannell

Death at Dovecote HatchDeath at Dovecote Hatch
A Florence Norris Mystery #2
Dorothy Cannell
Severn House, July 2015
ISBN 978-0-7278-8480-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

November, 1932. Still reeling from the recent murder at Mullings, country estate of the wealthy Stodmarsh family, the peaceful little village of Dovecote Hatch is about to be rocked by news of another violent death. When mild-mannered Kenneth Tenneson is found dead from a fall down the stairs at his home, the coroner’s inquest announces a verdict of accidental death. Florence Norris, however – the quietly observant housekeeper at Mullings – suspects there may be more to it than that.

Florence’s suspicions of foul play would appear to be confirmed when a second will turns up revealing details of a dark secret in the Tenneson family’s past. Determined to find out the truth about Kenneth’s death, Florence gradually pieces the clues together – but will she be in time to prevent a catastrophic turn of events?

There’s something special about English country house and village mysteries, isn’t there? I’m not even all that particular about the time period but I do have a fondness for historical, especially those set in the 1700’s to early 1900’s. In the case of Death at Dovecote Hatch, we’re visiting a time when people (primarily the “upstairs”) had lost that certain innocence prevalent prior to the first World War but not yet aware of the coming horror. They’re all, no matter what class, in the grip of the Great Depression to varying degrees.

All that is background noise to the events occurring in the village of Dovecote Hatch a few months after the affair at Mullings during which housekeeper Florence Norris was seen to be an intelligent, thoughtful woman who became invaluable in solving the crime. Now, though, life has settled down and Florence is on a visit with her cousin, Hattie Fly, in London when Inspector LeCrane seeks a private conversation with George Bird, pub owner and Florie’s intended. LeCrane is quietly and unofficially looking into the recent death at Bogmire of Kenneth Tenneson, ruled an accident at the inquest, but LeCrane is acting on a hunch that something isn’t right. Having experienced Florence’s innate abilities in the Mullings case, he requests that George let her know her assistance—as well as George’s—this time would be most welcome. And thus begins their investigation.

Much of the appeal in this book lies in the village goings-on outside of the case, the day to day lives of its people, and I truly enjoyed spending time with them, as much as with the mystery (mysteries?). These are characters who are so nicely fleshed out that it’s easy to feel that they’re old friends and acquaintances, all with their own concerns whether they be happily content or worried about their circumstances. The interesting thing to me is that there is quite a large cast and, yet, I had no trouble keeping them straight, testament to Ms. Cannell‘s fine characterizations.

The mystery itself is a true puzzle with lots of potential resolutions and, as it happens, one or two other mysteries add to the fun. All in all, the author has once again offered a very pleasing tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

Book Review: The Body in the Wardrobe by Katherine Hall Page

The Body in the WardrobeThe Body in the Wardrobe
A Faith Fairchild Mystery #23
Katherine Hall Page
William Morrow, April 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-243950-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Minster’s wife, caterer, and part-time sleuth Faith Fairchild pairs up with Sophie Maxwell, last seen in Body in the Birches and now a newlywed living in historic Savannah, Georgia, where Sophie crosses paths with murder.

Attorney Sophie Maxwell has come to Savannah to be with her new husband, Will. But nothing throws cold water on a hot relationship faster than a dead body. Worse for Sophie, no one believes the body she knows she saw is real, Will is spending an awful lot of time in Atlanta on a case he claims is urgent, and she’s been tasked with house hunting for them with his former sweetheart, who Sophie can’t help but suspect wishes Sophie would return to her Yankee roots!

Fortunately, Sophie has a good friend in Faith Fairchild. With teenage Amy being bullied by mean girls and husband Tom contemplating a major life change that will affect all the Fairchilds, Faith is eager for distraction in the form of some sleuthing. In between discussions of newlywed agita, surprising Savannah customs and, of course, fabulous low country food, Faith and Sophie will pair up to unmask a killer!

In a departure from other books in the series, Faith Fairchild was not the primary protagonist in the most recent book, The Body in the Birches nor is she in The Body in the Wardrobe; rather, the storyline follows Faith’s friend, Sophie Maxwell, as she marries and moves to her new husband’s home in Savannah. It’s Sophie who’s confronted with disappearing bodies, family secrets, a hostile stepsister-in-law and a new husband who seems to be a bit too close to an old girlfriend, all while learning to live in and love a city radically different from her native Long Island. While all that’s going on, Faith is dealing with family issues including her husband, Tom’s, interest in possibly leaving Aleford for a new parish and her teen daughter, Amy’s, unhappiness in a new school. Her connection to all that’s going on in Savannah is limited to phone calls with Sophie until the last pages.

Savannah, a city I’ve visited several times, is itself a character with all its history, architecture, ghosts and unique culture. Ms. Page brings this quintessential Southern town to vivid life and makes me want to go back as soon as I can.

Truthfully, there are multiple threads in the story, some of which turn out to be mysteries while others are focused on family and town issues in both Savannah and Aleford. Sophie’s husband, Will, is a private investigator working on a case in Atlanta so he’s in and out as Sophie navigates her adopted town and family but he still manages to make enormous mistakes with his new wife and is remarkably uncommunicative. It’s a good thing he’s usually quite likeable but I still had moments of thinking Sophie should make a run for it. She sticks it out, though, even when no one believes she saw a dead man tumble out of her wardrobe and she excuses a lot of Will’s shortcomings. . .until he vanishes and that’s when Faith comes to the rescue.

In a few short hours, the women solve the immediate problem which leads to a denouement that’s little short of implausible and pretty much totally unexpected. In short, this is not the greatest crime story but Ms. Page’s series is so charming overall that a lot can be forgiven and I’ll think of this as a pleasant entry featuring a young woman I’ve come to like very much. I’m looking forward to seeing whether future books will concentrate on Faith again or periodically focus on Sophie.

Note: one thing plucked my last nerve more than once. The word “y’all” is the subject of an ongoing argument as to whether it’s always intended to be second person plural or can sometimes be addressed to a single person, the latter usage being almost entirely in areas not part of the South. I’ve been a Southerner all my life and cannot imagine a native of Savannah addressing one person with this word as happens several times in this story.

Second Note: the foods described are so mouthwatering they can make you feel weak with hunger.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2016.

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About the Author

Katherine Hall PageKatherine Hall Page is the author of twenty-two previous Faith Fairchild mysteries, the first of which received the Agatha Award for best first mystery. The Body in the Snowdrift was honored with the Agatha Award for best novel of 2006. Page also won an Agatha for her short story “The Would-Be Widower.” The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic, she has been nominated for the Edgar Award, the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and the Macavity Award. She lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and Deer Isle, Maine, with her husband.

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Book Review: The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

The Dead in Their Vaulted ArchesThe Dead in Their Vaulted Arches
A Flavia de Luce Novel #6
Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-385-34405-0
Hardcover
Narrated by Jayne Entwistle
Random House Audio, January 2014
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the publisher—

On a spring morning in 1951, eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her long-lost mother, Harriet. Yet upon the train’s arrival in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is approached by a tall stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear. Moments later, he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd. Who was this man, what did his words mean, and why were they intended for Flavia? Back home at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ crumbling estate, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to the test. Following a trail of clues sparked by the discovery of a reel of film stashed away in the attic, she unravels the deepest secrets of the de Luce clan, involving none other than Winston Churchill himself. Surrounded by family, friends, and a famous pathologist from the Home Office—and making spectacular use of Harriet’s beloved Gypsy Moth plane, Blithe Spirit—Flavia will do anything, even take to the skies, to land a killer.

I don’t often feel the need to read a series in order but there are a few exceptions and the Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley are a prime example. From the beginning, we’ve watched Flavia grow from a very precocious child with a penchant for chemistry to a slightly older and still very precocious child who not only loves chemistry but also can’t abide an unsolved mystery. We’ve felt for her as she quietly lets us know her family with all its “issues” including the emotional distance between her father and all three of his daughters. We’ve come to understand how Flavia tries to cope with never having known her mother and the feeling that there’s a great gaping hole in her life.

And then we come to The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches in which her mother’s body, found after so many years, is coming home and a virtual plethora of mysteries begin. Why on earth has Winston Churchill accompanied Harriet on her final journey? How did Aunt Felicity come to be part of the sad homecoming and why does the great Mr. Churchill ask Flavia if she likes pheasant sandwiches? Who was the man who tries to tell Flavia something he says is urgent?

Of all the Flavia de Luce books, I think this one is the most emotionally wrought and there are so many twists and turns that you really have to pay attention. I ended up listening to the audio book and also reading the print version just so I could pick up on all the little nuances; by the time the end rolled around, I was a little stunned by some of the revelations and I, quite simply, had to get my hands on the next book, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. That review will be forthcoming soon.

As for the audio book, Jayne Entwistle remains one of my very favorite narrators and, in my mind, she is Flavia, bringing her to life and giving the perfect voice to one of the most delightful characters I’ve ever “met”.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2015.