Book Review: The Woman in the Green Dress by Tea Cooper @TeaCooper1 @ThomasNelson @TLCBookTours

The Woman in the Green Dress
Tea Cooper
Thomas Nelson, June 2020
ISBN 978-0-7852-3512-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A cursed opal, a gnarled family tree, and a sinister woman in a green dress emerge in the aftermath of World War I.

After a whirlwind romance, London teashop waitress Fleur Richards can’t wait for her new husband, Hugh, to return from the Great War. But when word of his death arrives on Armistice Day, Fleur learns he has left her a sizable family fortune. Refusing to accept the inheritance, she heads to his beloved home country of Australia in search of the relatives who deserve it more.

In spite of her reluctance, she soon finds herself the sole owner of a remote farm and a dilapidated curio shop full of long-forgotten artifacts, remarkable preserved creatures, and a mystery that began more than sixty-five years ago. With the help of Kip, a repatriated soldier dealing with the sobering aftereffects of war, Fleur finds herself unable to resist pulling on the threads of the past. What she finds is a shocking story surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress. . . a story that, nevertheless, offers hope and healing for the future.

It seems as though I’ve been reading quite a few books in the past year or so that feature mutiple timelines, as does The Woman in the Green Dress, but there’s a difference with this one. Rather than a contemporary setting that flashes back to an earlier time, here we have an historical setting that takes us back to a still earlier time, a nice change from the norm. Added to that, for me, having the stories take place in Australia is a bonus because there’s so much about that country that I don’t know.

Fleur Richards sets out on the long journey to her husband’s home country because she doesn’t really believe he’s dead and she wants to see to it that his estate goes to his remaining family. Well-intentioned as she might be, the inheritance is hers, an old shop and a farm, and it’s the shop that garners her attention with its collection of oddities, including a number of taxidermied creatures. Fleur learns that another young woman, Della, had continued her father’s work back in the early 1850’s, showing a fine touch in preserving such beautiful, exotic specimens.

Fleur begins to unearth more about the unusual Della, including a long-lasting mystery and, with each turn of the page their stories and the mystery regarding a beautiful opal, I became more and more engaged with this appealing tale. Tea Cooper is a new author to me but I’ll be looking for more of her work.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

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

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About the Author

Tea Cooper is an Australian author of historical and contemporary fiction. In a past life she was a teacher, a journalist and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling.

In August 2011 Tea joined Romance Writers of Australia and her debut novel Tree Change was published in 2012. In 2015 her book The Horse Thief won the Australian Romance Readers Award for Favourite Cover.

Connect with Tea:

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Deadly Curious by Cindy Anstey @CindyAnstey @SwoonReads @XpressoTours

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Title: Deadly Curious
Author: Cindy Anstey
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: June 3, 2020
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks
Amazon // Google Play // Indiebound

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Deadly Curious
Cindy Anstey
Swoon Reads, June 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-25227-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

A twisty tale reminiscent of Jane Austen—with a dash of murder—Cindy Anstey’s Deadly Curious is perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Agatha Christie.

Some secrets are better left buried…

1834. Sophia Thompson wants nothing more than to be one of the famed Bow Street Runners, London’s most elite corps of detectives. Never mind that a woman has never before joined their ranks—and certainly never mind that her reclusive family has forbidden her from pursuing such an unladylike goal.

She gets the chance to prove her capabilities when an urgent letter arrives from her frantic cousin Daphne, begging Sophia to come look into the suspicious death of Daphne’s brother.

As Sophia begins to unravel the tangled threads of the case—with the help of a charming young policeman—she soon realizes that the murderer may be even closer to her family than she ever suspected.

I’ve been fascinated by the Bow Street Runners since the first time I heard about them so, when I saw that this book involves them, I wanted to read it as soon as  I could. As it turns out, the Runner in this story, Jeremy, is not quite as energetic and compelling as I would like although he is appealing. I also thought Sophia was a little silly, especially in deciding, against society’s restraints and her upbringing, that she was cut out to be a detective just because she read a book. Once I recognized the flies in the ointment with these two characters, I decided to read this as a fun, fluffy bit of entertainment and I enjoyed it as such.

When Sophia’s cousin, Daphne, writes for Sophia’s help, the murder in question is a year in the past but Sophia’s Uncle Edward is in danger of being arrested at any moment. Our sleuth is more than willing to rush to West Ravenwood but this is 1834 and an 18-year-old girl can’t just rush off anywhere. Watching her machinations to get past all the family and societal roadblocks was as enjoyable as anything in this tale.

Eventually, of course, Sophia does get to West Ravenwood and falls in with Jeremy; together with Daphne, they set out to find a killer and absolve Uncle Edward and, along the way, Sophia and Jeremy find a romantic connection. All in all, this was a few hours of easy reading even though the actual mystery was lightweight.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

About the Author

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester.

Author links:
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

One print copy of Deadly Curious

Enter here.

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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: The Lost Are the Last to Die by Larry D. Sweazy @larrydsweazy @FiveStarCengage

The Lost Are the Last to Die
A Sonny Burton Novel #2
Larry D. Sweazy
Five Star Publishing, November2019
ISBN: 978-1-4328-5723-3
Hardcover

Multiple award-winning author Larry Sweazy couldn’t write a bad book if he tried. This one lives up to his reputation, with the continuing story of former Texas Ranger Sonny Burton.

Sonny, who lost his right arm in a shoot-out with Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrows is still dealing with his clumsy prosthesis when he receives a message that his help is needed. A convict has escaped from Huntsville prison and, having taken the warden’s wife hostage, is on the run.

It was Sonny who put this particular convict in prison, after run-ins with him from the time Billy Bunson was a boy. Sonny had tried to talk with the boy then, but in the years since, Billy has turned into a cold-blooded killer. It begins to look like the reason for Billy’s escape is not so much just getting out of prison and acquiring a large ransom for Dolly, the warden’s wife, but also to draw Sonny in so he can kill him.

Sonny’s son Jesse, following in his father’s footsteps, is also a Texas Ranger, called in to aid in the hunt and for the first time, they work together. Then Billy goes after the landlady of the boarding house where Sonny is staying, and it’s finally time to bring Billy’s death spiral to an end.

The reader gets to see beyond superficial motivation as to why Billy is a killer, and why Sonny wants to help him, in a story that ranges in time from May, 1911, to October, 1934. The historical details of the book are riveting; the action enthralling. While not exactly a mystery, it is an excellent story of criminals and crime fighters and why they do what they do.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 6 @nancyjcohen @JSpencerFleming @MinotaurBooks @CharlesFinch @BevLongBooks @HarlequinBooks @SusanSpann @SeventhStBooks

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

Easter Hair Hunt
A Bad Day Hair Mysteries #16
Nancy J. Cohen
Orange Grove Press, March 2020
ISBN 978-09997932-7-5
Trade Paperback

Marla Vail is visiting Tremayne Manor to do her hairstyling thing for Blinky Morris so she’ll be ready for the Easter egg hunt but, after the hunt when Marla is helping to look for unfound eggs, she finds something else, a dead body dressed as a bunny. When it’s discovered that Blinky is missing, the very pregnant Marla jumps right in to investigate,  as fans will expect. Her poor husband, homicide detective Dalton, is right by her side, knowing full well he can’t stop her.

Marla is a character that becomes more appealing with each adventure, largely because she’s an intelligent woman who takes things in stride and doesn’t continually do stupid things. Dalton is her equal and recognizes how good she is at sussing out the facts and following leads; he long ago gave up trying to keep her out of investigations and the pair make a good team. This time, they’re dealing with a plethora of clues and suspects and the twists and turns abound. I’ve followed this series from the beginning and I’m already anticipating the next book because Ms. Cohen never lets me down 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Hid from Our Eyes
A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery #9
Julia Spencer-Fleming
Minotaur Books, April 2020
ISBN 978-0-312-60685-5
Hardcover

It seems like years since the last Clare and Russ story because, well, it has been and when I first heard about this one, I was SO excited. I’m not the least bit surprised that Ms. Spencer-Fleming is still at the top of her game.

Three different but very similar cases over a period of many decades have involved three police chiefs but Russ, the current chief, was once accused of the second killing. As this third case ramps up, Russ is under enormous pressure to find the killer before suspicion focuses on him again. Are the three cases really connected in some way or could there be a copycat killer? Who were these young women and why were they targeted or is it possible one or more were, in fact, not murdered?

Russ’s wife, an Episcopal priest and mother of a new baby, has her own issues going on but of course she’s going to help Russ and she brings a lot of intelligence and creative thinking to this case, as she always does. The personal lives of Clare and Russ are given as much weight as the investigation, enough so that I felt like I was seeing old friends again but that didn’t take anything away from the mystery of these three deaths. Leads take them in all directions and I was forced—forced, I tell you!—to stay up late into the night to keep reading. An intriguing plot and great characters make for a story I can heartily recommend but readers new to the series will enjoy it more by starting with the first one.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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The Vanishing Man
A Charles Lenox Mystery #12
Charles Finch
Minotaur Books, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-31137-5
Trade Paperback

In this second prequel, Charles Lenox has recently become known as the young man who bested Scotland Yard in a perplexing case and he’s called upon by the Duke of Dorset to help with an art theft. It seems a second painting was left behind and the Duke is concerned the thieves will return and, if they do, it’s possible a family scandal will be revealed as well as an enormous secret involving a priceless artifact. It isn’t long before there are other crimes and Lenox must delve into long-kept secrets that threaten the family as well as himself.

Fortunately, Lenox has the assistance of his friend, Lady Jane, who once again proves herself to be an intelligent ally, and a coterie of secondary players who bring real depth to the story. This particular adventure drags a little here and there but it’s still an engaging puzzle, especially the question of why the more valuable painting really means so much to the Duke. Mr. Finch brings Victorian London and its people to life again and I really do think this is one of the very best series with the setting and time period.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Ten Days Gone
An A.L. McKittridge Novel #1
Beverly Long
MIRA, February 2020
ISBN 978-0-7783-0958-1
Mass Market Paperback

Hunting a serial killer is no doubt one of the most difficult things a police department may ever have to do but, this time, detectives Rena Morgan and A.L. McKittridge are also faced with the nearly impossible task of preventing a fifth murder once the likely victim has been identified. Tess Lyons already suffers psychological damage from previous events and is anything but ready to understand her present danger. Meanwhile, leads in the case are sketchy at best and the detectives are caught up in a cat and mouse game with few obvious answers until they find a petition signed by all four of the murdered women. Figuring out why the petition and the ten day intervals are important may be their best chance to stop this killer.

A.L. and Rena are a well-matched partnership, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and they complement each other in their search for a wily killer. The pacing is a little slow but Ten Days Gone shows promise and is the first in what I hope will be a long-running series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Ghost of the Bamboo Road
A Hiro Hattori Novel #7
A Shinobi Mystery
Susan Spann
Seventh Street Books, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-6338-8550-9
Trade Paperback

Even in 16th-century Japan, a list of agents, in this case the shinobi agents of Hiro Hattori’s own clan, can cause deadly problems if it falls into the wrong hands. Hiri needs to warn his clan that a rival warlord is in possession of the list so he travels to a small village where he believes a fellow agent to be on a mission. Accompanied by Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit he protects, along with their housekeeper, Ana, and Hiro’s cat, Gato, he sees that the agent is missing. Hiro and Father Mateo are then drawn in to the investigation of multiple murders that are believed to have been caused by a ghost in the eerily half-deserted village but the situation becomes even more pressing when Ana is accused of stealing from the inn’s proprietor. And where is the missing agent?

Ms. Spann never fails to entertain me and educate me as well since her stories are full of medieval Japanese history. I love the primary characters and their interactions with each other; for instance, Gato always manages to get in the thick of things but Father Mateo can only suffer around him, being highly allergic. The two men have grown to be quite fond of each other (not that they would say so) and the priest accepts the shinobi’s protection as gracefully as he can manage while Ana is irascible and, yet, attentive. The author has a way with words and conveys the times and the setting vividly, so much so that I can practically smell the tea served in the teahouse. My only regret after reading this entry is for the too-long wait for the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

Book Review: Invitation to Die by Barbara Cleverly @soho_press

Invitation to Die
A Detective Inspector Redefyre Investigation Book 2
Barbara Cleverly
Soho Crime, August 2019
ISBN: 978-1-64129-027-2
Hardcover

Set in Cambridge in 1924 after the Great War has decimated the ranks of able-bodied English men, nearly every man is a former soldier. This includes Detective Inspector John Redefyre, a former rifleman who is young for his position. When veterans of the earlier Boer war begin showing up dead, their bodies left in conspicuous places with nothing to identify them, he is on the hunt. A keen investigator, even the smallest clues soon help him uncover who the victims are, and he means to bring justice to his fellows. Certain things stand out. The dead men were all members of the same squad. They all were cashiered and faced the death penalty for looting. And they all have received, though some were little more than beggars, an invitation to dine with members of an exclusive Cambridge University club. Finally, just one of the six man squad remains alive, while one other is dying. But which one is the killer? Keen eyes and sharp wits help Redefyre and his sergeant, Thoday, ferret out the truth behind the deaths.

I liked the historical ambiance of the story. Though written in 2019, the method and writing could be pure 1920s, with the “smart” people and their witty conversations. Lots of conversations, as this isn’t a particularly action-packed story and relies on dialogue. At times it was difficult to keep track of who was speaking. As a reader, I didn’t really know who was driving the story for several chapters as the participants were often nameless. I must say, however, the parts detailing the Boer War held my complete interest.

Outside of the mystery, the actions, life style, and living conditions of the era are fascinating. Just don’t try to feed me jellied eels, although I’d love to learn to tango.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, January 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Reviews: Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb and The Man Who Was Poe by Avi @chickenhsebooks @avi3writer @avonbooks

Where the Rock Splits the Sky
Philip Webb
Chicken House, March 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-55701-6
Hardcover

Mr. Webb’s Where the Rock Splits the Sky is a stellar sci-fi, dystopian story beyond my wildest imagination. Perhaps because I could not fathom a unique paranormal situation which essentially creates chasms, both metaphorical and literal, all over the continental United States. Rather than banding together, people pretend to be in some sort of survival mode. In reality, society splintered and regressed to the ways of the “wild, wild west.”

Everyone can see that an invasion is underway, but only a select few know why. The Navaho people had prayed to the White Shell Woman believing her to be a goddess; Wife of the Moon, Mother of the Navajo people. They are honest and trusting people but the she is an unabashed liar, master manipulator and nothing resembling a goddess.

In the chaos, Megan’s father is missing. She knows, with an inexplicable certainty, that he is trapped in The Zone. She has yet to learn that she is the only person on the planet capable of freeing him and Megan may never be ready to understand why. Shoving doubt aside, she saddles her horse to head into The Zone.

In a rush, but feeling she owes her best bud an explanation, she makes a quick stop. Since Luis is easily as stubborn as she is, Megan isn’t really surprised when he insists on accompanying her. She’s just not sure how she feels about it. Their old, but seemingly uncertain, friendship may not be destined to survive the journey, even if they do find Megan’s father and miraculously make it out alive.

Once inside The Zone, they encounter Kelly. Determinedly cheerful, Kelly announces her intent to join the duo on their quest. Not a problem for Luis, he always believes there’s room for one more. Megan is not so quick to accept a new acquaintance.

Kelly is a large presence with plenty to say and not too much time for politeness. Her overwhelming attitude has Megan and Luis independently soul-searching and even reevaluating their relationship. The dynamic among the three solidified this sweetly-strange little story. I admit, I did not fully understand exactly what was happening or where the story was heading, but I was absolutely invested enough to be shocked, then tickled by a sneaky twist.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2019.

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The Man Who Was Poe
Avi
Avon, July 1997
ISBN 978-0-380-73022-3
Trade Paperback

I have just “discovered” the author, Avi. Meaning, of course, that one of “my” students brought him to my attention. I had asked the students to fill in a wish-list of books to be added to their classroom library and someone requested a book by Avi. The name stuck with me, and wouldn’t you know, after digging through my stacks o’ books, I actually had something from this very author!

Not just any book, either. This casts Edgar Allan Poe as a supporting character. Famous in his own rights, Mr. Poe is almost legendary here in Richmond, VA, where he occupies a predominant place in history. Clearly, I had to read The Man Who Was Poe right then. Fortunately, this Juvenile Historical Fiction was a fast read.

There’s something completely quirky about enjoying the interactions between two totally different types of people, neither of which I would expect to covet as a companion in real-life. In Avi’s world, however, it is the perfect plot presentation. This mystery moves quickly, even with the hair-pin twists and turns. I wanted to sympathize with young Edmund, or at least his pathetic predicament; but, he’s simply too tenacious and tough to pity. After all, this kid continues to go toe-to-toe with Edgar Allan Poe.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2019.