Book Review: The Cartographer’s Secret by Tea Cooper @tea_cooper @harpermusebooks @tlcbooktours

The Cartographer’s Secret
Tea Cooper
Harper Muse, November 2021
ISBN 978-0-7852-6731-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A map into the past. A long-lost young woman. And a thirty-year family mystery.

The Hunter Valley, 1880—Evie Ludgrove loves to chart the landscape around her home—hardly surprising since she grew up in the shadow of her father’s obsession with the great Australian explorer Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt. So when an advertisement appears in The Bulletin magazine offering a thousand-pound reward for proof of where Leichhardt met his fate, Evie is determined to use her father’s papers to unravel the secret. But when Evie sets out to prove her theory, she vanishes without a trace, leaving behind a mystery that haunts her family for thirty years.

1911—Letitia Rawlings arrives at the family estate in her Ford Model T to inform her great-aunt Olivia of a loss in their family. But Letitia is also escaping her own problems—her brother’s sudden death, her mother’s scheming, and her dissatisfaction with the life planned out for her. So when Letitia discovers a beautifully illustrated map that might hold a clue to the fate of her missing aunt, Evie Ludgrove, she sets out to discover the truth. But all is not as it seems, and Letitia begins to realize that solving the mystery of her family’s past could offer as much peril as redemption.

A gripping historical mystery for fans of Kate Morton and Natasha Lester’s The Paris Seamstress, The Cartographer’s Secret follows a young woman’s quest to heal a family rift as she becomes entangled in one of Australia’s greatest historical puzzles.

To many people around the world, including me, Australia is an exotic land of fascinating history and a cheeky attitude, always surprising in one way or another. I’ve learned quite a bit about this unique country from previous Tea Cooper books and that continued with The Cartographer’s Secret. Ms. Cooper could and does make a dry account of the land down under turn into a captivating tale.

This story is essentially a family saga taking place in two time periods, 1880 and 1911, and involves two mysteries, Evie’s search for a missing explorer, leading to her own disappearance, and her niece Letitia’s subsequent determination to find out what happened. Evie’s father had had almost an obsession with the explorer and she had a love of maps so she thought her mapping talents and her father’s research could point the way to learning Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt’s fate. Instead, Evie became a mystery herself but Letitia unearths secrets and learns a lot about herself along the way.

Historical mysteries are a breed unto themselves, so to speak, and this one has a basis in fact, always an intriguing element. Here we also have a little romance, a lot of adventure, and a look at two women who were ahead of their times. Ms. Cooper’s in-depth research is very evident and, once again, she has captured my imagination.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2021.

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

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

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

About the Author

Tea Cooper is an established Australian author of historical 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. She is the winner of two Daphne du Maurier Awards and the bestselling author of several novels, including The Horse ThiefThe Cedar CutterThe Currency Lass, and The Naturalist’s Daughter.

Connect with Tea:

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

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

Follow the tour:

Monday, November 8: @smashley.reads

Monday, November 8: Lit and Life

Tuesday, November 9: Books Cooks Looks

Wednesday, November 10: @thebookscript 

Thursday, November 11: @transportedlfl 

Friday, November 12: Pick a Good Book and @pickagoodbook

Friday, November 12: Always With a Book and @k2reader

Sunday, November 14: @stumblingintobooks 

Monday, November 15: @bookoholiccafe

Monday, November 15: Reading Reality

Tuesday, November 16: Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Wednesday November 17: @mommaleighellensbooknook

Wednesday, November 17: @readingwithmrsleaf 

Thursday, November 18: @welovebigbooksandwecannotlie IG
and @welovebigbooks on TikTok

Friday, November 19: The Bookish Dilettante

Friday, November 19: Christian Chick’s Thoughts and @cctblog 

Saturday, November 20: @itsbibliotherapy 

Sunday, November 21: Girl Who Reads

Monday, November 22: @heyitscarlyrae

Monday, November 22: Read Eat Repeat

Tuesday, November 23: What is That Book About 

Wednesday, November 24: Buried Under Books 

Wednesday, November 24: @no.bookend.in.sight 

Monday, November 29: Laura’s Reviews  and @laurasreviews_1

Tuesday November 30: Jathan and Heather

Wednesday, December 1: @lilagracereads on TikTok

Thursday, December 2: BookNAround

Friday, December 3: @mamasgottaread 

Sunday, December 5: @booktimistic

TBD: Monday, November 15: @whimsyreadswithshelby 

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

Daphne du Maurier Award Winner, 2021

The Cartographer’s Secret is a galvanizing, immersive adventure following
a family’s entanglement with a vanished Australian explorer through
the lush Hunter Valley at the turn of the twentieth century, forcing the
characters to reckon with the choice found at the crux of passion and
loyalty and the power of shared blood that can either destroy or heal.”
—Joy Callaway, international bestselling author of 
The Fifth Avenue Artists Society and The Greenbrier Resort

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

Book Review: Hell with the Lid Blown Off by Donis Casey @PPPress

Hell With The Lid Blown Off
An Alafair Tucker Mystery #7
Donis Casey
Poisoned Pen Press, June 2014
ISBN 978-1-4642-0298-8
Hardcover

I don’t know what number this novel is in the long and winding trail of Alafair Tucker mysteries. It doesn’t really matter, because this author has got the best elements of genre, character development, plot movement and setting so well ingrained in her that every book, every clever plot twist and every resolution is of the highest literary order.

This series of novels also provides a deep insightful look into one of our essentially rural states and the people who live, work love and die within its borders. This novel also provides a clear window into the early Twentieth Century decades of our nation and the many unique qualities of its citizens and troubles that beset.

The author deftly manages a cast of nearly fifty individuals who live through a huge twister in 1916 in Boynton, Oklahoma. One man is discovered dead after the storm leaves and the question then becomes a storm death or did someone take advantage of the storm to rid the town of an evil presence? The resolution may surprise readers as they are so often surprised by the clever mind and talent of this author.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Sins of Edom, Red Sky.

Book Review: Emma Brown by Clare Boylan

Emma Brown
A novel from the unfinished manuscript by Charlotte Bronte
Clare Boylan
Viking, April 2004
ISBN 978-0-670-03297-6
Hardcover

If you are a fan of Charlotte Brontë, a book inspired by and the first two chapters written by the lady herself, will be right up your alley.

Although the book’s main point-of-view character is a Mrs. Chalfont, the story is also told by several other people, including a young girl variously known as Matilda Fitzgibbon, then as Emma Brown—the last being her own selection, taken from a woman who sold her into what miraculously allows the girl to escape becoming a sexual slave. Her real surname remains a mystery until the last, and it takes this lengthy tale to discover it. For one thing, Emma does not remember her name, not even her first name until late in the novel, which, among other things, investigates the role of women and girls of that era.

Beautifully written, the story considers relationships whether familial or romantic. Whether those ties are forged by love or by honor and blood; within the upper class, the lower class and even the dregs of society. Action and danger come in the search for Emma when she disappears while attempting to discover these answers on her own. It seemed almost impossible our investigators would ever discover Emma or from whence she came, but dogged determination, time, and some money prevail in the end.

An intriguing and inspiring story, read it with care to gain all the nuances.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2021.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Mystery

Book Review: An Extravagant Death by Charles Finch @CharlesFinch @MinotaurBooks

An Extravagant Death
A Charles Lenox Mystery #14
Charles Finch
Minotaur Books, February 2021
ISBN: 978-1-250-76713-4
Hardcover

In Victorian London, Prime Minister Disraeli has asked Charles Lenox to cross the Atlantic to take on a diplomatic mission that concerns international crime. Upon completion, a knighthood is in store. Charles has been rethinking his course in life, which, as a detective, often puts him in danger and separates him from his wife, Lady Jane. Besides, he loves to travel and this may be his last chance to visit America.

Blithely, he sets sail, and soon is the toast of New York high society, partly because of his own reputation, and partly because of  Lady Jane’s societal position, renown on both sides of the Atlantic. He meets everyone of importance and is moving on to visit Philadelphia when he receives a telegram from his New York acquaintances calling him back. A young woman has died in a mysterious fashion. But how? And why? Can he help?

Taking on this case puts Charles in touch with highest New York society, but also makes him a target of a cold-blooded killer. Can he discover this murderer before he becomes the next victim?

The case moves slowly a good part of the time, but I didn’t find the mystery as interesting or as entertaining as the in-depth look at Victorian mores in 1878. From both sides of the pond, the differences are astounding. Plus, the author has given the reader a look from the differing viewpoints of highest rank with the most money, to the servant class who sees to their every need. The depiction of Caroline Astor’s party is a revelation.

This is a big novel well worth your time. The writing is excellent, the characters fully fleshed and believable.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2021.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Mystery

Book Review: Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman @katharinewrites @crookedlanebks @partnersincr1me

Silence in the Library

by Katharine Schellman

July 12 – August 6, 2021 Tour

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

Silence in the Library
A Lily Adler Mystery #2
Katharine Schellman
Crooked Lane Books, July 2021
ISBN 978-1-64385-704-6
Hardcover


From the publisher—

Regency widow Lily Adler didn’t expect to find a corpse when visiting a family friend. Now it’s up to her to discover the killer in the charming second installment in the Lily Adler mysteries.

Regency widow Lily Adler has finally settled into her new London life when her semi-estranged father arrives unexpectedly, intending to stay with her while he recovers from an illness. Hounded by his disapproval, Lily is drawn into spending time with Lady Wyatt, the new wife of an old family friend. Lily barely knows Lady Wyatt. But she and her husband, Sir Charles, seem as happy as any newly married couple until the morning Lily arrives to find the house in an uproar and Sir Charles dead.

All signs indicate that he tripped and struck his head late at night. But when Bow Street constable Simon Page is called to the scene, he suspects foul play. And it isn’t long before Lily stumbles on evidence that Sir Charles was, indeed, murdered.

Mr. Page was there when Lily caught her first murderer, and he trusts her insight into the world of London’s upper class. With the help of Captain Jack Hartley, they piece together the reasons that Sir Charles’s family might have wanted him dead. But anyone who might have profited from the old man’s death seems to have an alibi… until Lily receives a mysterious summons to speak with one of the Wyatts’ maids, only to find the young woman dead when she arrives.

Mr. Page believes the surviving family members are hiding the key to the death of both Sir Charles and the maid. To uncover the truth, Lily must convince the father who doesn’t trust or respect her to help catch his friend’s killer before anyone else in the Wyatt household dies.

Regency England has long been a favorite setting for many readers, myself included, of historical fiction, mystery, romance, even the occasional fantasy or science fiction. Why the period is so appealing I’m not sure unless, for some peculiar reason, it’s because it evokes a lofty ideal of gentility but that doesn’t really work because we also see the darker side of the times, the poverty, the class oppression. Whatever the attraction, I just know that I truly enjoy it and I was very happy to be introduced to this series.

The widowed Lily Adler is a young woman of substantial means which is the only reason she can maintain her single female lifestyle in a society that allows very few freedoms for women. Along with her wealth, she also happens to be intelligent and observant, qualities that are appreciated by some of the men in her life such as Captain Jack Hartley, friend of her deceased husband, and Bow Street Runner Simon Page. The same cannot be said of her unpleasant, dismissive father who has, without invitation, installed himself in her home. He insists Lily call upon his old friend, Sir Charles Wyatt, who is later found murdered and the search begins to determine who killed him. Lily assisted Simon on a previous case and he welcomes the help from her and Captain Jack but, alas, their collaborative investigation is still under way when another death occurs.

Appealing and vividly drawn characters (even Lily’s obnoxious father) and a decent plot create just the right circumstances for an engaging mystery. I recommend it to all lovers of historical mysteries.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2021.

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

Praise for Silence in the Library:

“Schellman’s gracefully written whodunit is equally a tale of this is an immersion in a bygone era.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The fast-paced, engrossing story has a climactic confrontation worthy of Rex Stout or Agatha Christie.” —Library Journal, starred review

Purchase Links:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop

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

An Excerpt from Silence in the Library

Given the way she hadn’t hesitated to interfere in the Wyatt family’s affairs, Lily expected Lady Wyatt to politely rescind her invitation to ride the next morning. But she had insisted, saying her arm was sure to be better by morning. So after breakfast, Lily instructed Anna to lay out her riding habit. Though she had forgone her usual routine of breakfasting in her own room and instructed Mrs. Carstairs to lay breakfast in the parlor, Lily hadn’t seen any sign of her father. She didn’t mind. If she couldn’t be cozy while she dined, she was at least happy to be alone. And it gave her the opportunity to go over the week’s menus with her housekeeper and offer several suggestions for managing her father’s requests while he was with them. “And do you know how long might that be, Mrs. Adler?” Mrs. Carstairs asked carefully. “Mr. Branson was unable to say when I spoke to him last night.” Lily pursed her lips. “For as long as he needs, Mrs. Carstairs. Or as long as I can bear his company. My record on that score is fifteen years, however, so let us hope it will not come to that.” The housekeeper wisely didn’t say anything else. Lily’s pleasant solitude lasted until she was making her way back upstairs to change, when she found her path blocked by her father’s belligerent frame. Unwell he might be, but George Pierce was still a solid, imposing man, and Lily had to remind herself to square her shoulders and meet his scowl with a smile as he did his best to tower over her from the step above. “Good morning, Father.” He didn’t return the greeting. “I am going to breakfast,” he announced, eyebrows raised. Lily waited for a moment and then, when no more information was forthcoming, nodded. “I hope you enjoy it. Mrs. Carstairs is an excellent cook.” He sniffed. “And I assume your excessively early rising is an attempt to avoid my company?” “It is past nine o’clock, father,” Lily said. “Hardly excessive. And I have an appointment this morning, so if you will excuse me—” “What is your appointment?” He couldn’t curtail or dictate what she did with her time, Lily reminded herself. Even if having him in her home left her feeling as if her independence were being slowly stripped away once more, in practical terms he had no say in her life anymore. Answering his question was only polite. “An engagement with a friend—” “That sailor again, I assume?” Lily took a deep breath. “Captain Hartley was also invited, but no, the engagement is to ride with Lady Wyatt this morning. Which I assume you would approve of?” Seeing that she had momentarily surprised him into silence, she took the opportunity to push past her father. “You would like her, I think. She is charming and elegant.” “And her husband’s a fool for marrying again,” Mr. Pierce grumbled, but Lily was already heading down the hall and didn’t answer. Jack was coming just before ten to escort her to the Wyatts’ house, and Lily was in a hurry to dress and escape her father once again. Her room was empty when she walked in, but Anna had laid out her riding habit on the bed, pressed and ready, its military-style buttons glinting in the morning light amid folds of emerald-green fabric. Lily stared at it without moving. She had forgotten that her habit wasn’t suitable to wear when she was in mourning. She was still staring when Anna returned, the freshly brushed riding hat in her hands. When she saw Lily’s posture, Anna paused. “You don’t have another, I’m afraid,” she said gently. Lily nodded, unable to speak. One hand reached out to brush the heavy fabric of the habit; the other clenched a fold of the gray dress she wore. She had stopped wearing colors even before Freddy died—in those last months of his illness, she had traded all her pretty dresses for drab gowns more suited to nursing an invalid who would never recover. And even after full mourning was complete, she had lingered in the muted shades of half mourning long past when anyone would have required it of her, even Freddy’s own family. Laying aside the visual reminders of her grief felt too much like leaving behind her marriage. But that had meant more than two years of sorrow. And in the last few months, since she had come to London and taken control of her life once more, something had shifted inside her. “Yes, thank you, Anna,” Lily said quietly, her voice catching a little. She cleared her throat and said, more firmly, “I will wear this one.” *** She managed to leave the house without encountering her father again. When her butler, Carstairs, sent word that Captain Hartley was waiting in the front hall, Lily felt a pang of anxiety. Jack had loved Freddy like a brother. And he had never given any indication that he thought her mourning had gone on long enough. Jack was in the middle of removing his hat, and his hand stilled at the brim as he caught sight of her. Even Carstairs fell still as they watched her come down the stairs, the heavy folds of her green skirts buttoned up on one side to allow her to walk freely and a single dyed- green feather curling over the brim of her hat and flirting with her brown curls. Lily felt exposed as she descended the final few steps, though she was bolstered by the approval that softened Carstairs’s smile. She had never considered herself a shy person, but she could barely meet Jack’s eyes as she crossed the hall to give him her hand. For a moment neither of them spoke, and when she raised her gaze at last, Lily thought she saw the captain blinking something from the corner of his eye. “That was Freddy’s favorite color,” he said at last, his voice catching. Lily nodded. “I know.” Jack’s jaw tightened for a moment as he swallowed. But he smiled. “Well done, Lily,” he said quietly. “Good for you.” *** There was a lightness between them as they made the quick journey to Wimpole Street. As Jack waved down a hack carriage and handed her in, Lily found herself laughing at all of his quips or droll pieces of gossip, even the ones she normally would have chastised him for repeating. And Jack kept glancing at her out of the corner of his eye. “Do I look that dreadful?” Lily asked at last as he handed her down from the carriage in front of the Wyatts’ home. “Quite the opposite,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck as he released her hand. “Did you know, you are actually quite pretty?” “You mean you did not find me pretty before?” “I think I had forgotten to consider it one way or another,” Jack admitted, grinning. “What a shame everyone has left London already; you would cause quite a sensation.” Lily shook her head. “I know full well I am not handsome enough for that.” “Surprise can cause as much of a sensation as admiration,” Jack pointed out. “Captain!” Lily exclaimed in mock indignation. “You were supposed to argue with me!” They continued bantering as they mounted the steps to Sir Charles’s townhouse, only to fall silent and exchange a puzzled glance as they realized that the door was half-open, the sounds of raised voices echoing from within. Lily glanced at Jack, an uneasy sensation beginning to curl in the pit of her stomach. “Should we knock?” He shrugged and did so, rapping firmly on the wood of the door. There was no response, but it swung open a little more. After hesitating a moment, Lily bit her lip and said, “Well, we ought to at least make sure Lady Wyatt knows we’ve come. If it is no longer convenient to ride, she can certainly tell us to leave.” “And you were already happy to interfere yesterday,” Jack pointed out, though she could hear the unease lurking beneath his playful tone. “We might as well do it again.” “Very true.” Lily pushed the door the rest of the way open and strode in, Jack following close behind. The front hall was empty, but they could still hear voices not far away, now low and urgent, and the sound of quiet crying from somewhere just out of sight. The uneasy feeling began to spread through Lily’s chest and arms, and she reached out her hand in blind anxiety. She was relieved to feel Jack take it and press it reassuringly into the crook of his arm. She had just decided that they should leave after all when quick steps echoed down the stairs. A moment later Frank Wyatt came rushing down, checking himself at the bottom as he stared at them in surprise. His face was pale and his eyes red as he gaped at them, his easy manner vanished. “Lily? And Captain . . . I’ve quite forgot your name. You must excuse . . . what are you doing here?” “The door was open, and no one answered our knock,” Lily said, feeling a little ashamed of their hastiness in entering. “I apologize, Frank; we did not mean to intrude, but we had an appointment to ride with Lady Wyatt this morning. Is everyone well?” “Is everyone . . . No. No.” Frank gripped the banister with one hand, his knuckles white. “I am afraid that Lady Wyatt will not be able to ride today. My father . . .” He swallowed. “My father has died.” Lily stared at him, unable to make sense of his words. They had seen Sir Charles just the day before. If he had seemed a little older and weaker than she remembered, he had still been utterly vital and alive. “Died? But . . . how?” “In point of fact,” a new voice said quietly from behind them. “It seems Sir Charles Wyatt has been killed.” *** Excerpt from Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman. Copyright 2021 by Katharine Schellman. Reproduced with permission from Katharine Schellman. All rights reserved.

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

About the Author

 

Katharine Schellman is a former actor, one-time political consultant, and currently the author of the Lily Adler Mysteries. A graduate of the College of William & Mary, Katharine currently lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her family and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering.

Find her online:

katharineschellman.com

Goodreads

BookBub – @KatharineSchellman

Instagram – @katharinewrites

Twitter – @katharinewrites

Facebook – @katharineschellman

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

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways! https://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=302270

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

Don’t Miss Your Chance to Enter the Giveaway!!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Heather Redmond. There will be 1 winner of one (1) BookShop.org Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs July 12 through August 8, 2021. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Get More Great Reads at
Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Book Review: The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange @theLucyStrange @chickenhsebooks

The Secret of Nightingale Wood
Lucy Strange
Chicken House, March 2019
ISBN ‎ 978-1-338-31285-0
Trade Paperback

While middle-grade The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange is a relatively recent release (2016 in the UK, 2017 in the US) the bittersweet story is set in 1919. The absolute resilience and fierce determination of 13-year-old Henrietta (Henry) exemplifies a young hero to applaud.

The Abbott family has suffered a tragedy at the same time that they receive a blessing. The shock and unimaginable pain combined with “hysteria” (a very common type of depression today) that Mrs. Abbott exhibits, call for complete rest. The forever-changed family, along with Nanny Jane, pack up and move to Hope House.

There, Dr. Hardy eagerly awaits his subject patient. He’s partnered up with a “cutting edge” doctor and cannot wait to try his brilliant new techniques such as giving folks tropical diseases so that the fever “cures” the brain or soaking someone in a scalding-hot bath.

Henry not only dislikes Dr. Hardy, she does not trust that his best interests are in making her mother better. She thinks Nanny Jane may agree, but her hands are tied and Mr. Abbott has been sent away for work. Henry is truly alone.

Until a tendril of smoke catches her eye. Henry walks into the dark woods, as if she’s being led. The last thing she expected to find was a wild-haired woman living in a rusted caravan. Henry cannot be sure if the ghostly figure is real or a figment of her imagination. But she is going to find out.

In her quest to save her mother from the asylum and the greedy hands of Dr. Hardy, Henry attempts to confirm her own sanity. As she seeks answers, she inadvertently solves a three-year-old mystery and motivates a few adults to support her in doing the right thing.

Absolutely appropriate for pre-teen and younger teenagers, the authenticity of such an altruistic adolescent captured the heart of this Old Adult reader. I may have even sniffled and shed a few tears.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2020.

Book Review: Devil by the Tail by Jeanne Matthews @JMmystery @DXVaros

Devil by the Tail
A Garnick & Paschal Mystery #1
Jeanne Matthews
D. X. Varos, July 2021
ISBN 978-1941072974
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

What’s a 20-something Union war widow to do in 1867? Start up her own detective agency with a former Reb POW, of course!

Quinn Sinclair, who uses the name Mrs. Paschal professionally, and her wryly observant partner Garnick get two cases on the same day – one to help a man prove he didn’t kill his wife, another to help a lawyer find reasonable doubt that his client killed her ex-lover’s new bride. As the detectives dig deeper, they unearth facts that tie the cases together in disturbing ways.

This tantalizing tale of 19th Century Chicago comes complete with corrupt politicians, yellow-press reporters, gambling parlors, and colorful bawdyhouse madams. At every turn in the investigation, Quinn discovers more suspects and more secret motives for murder.

Not least among her worries, someone seems intent on murdering her!

Historical mysteries appeal to me a lot, depending on the time period, but I have to say I haven’t encountered many books focused shortly after the Civil War. The setting alone of Devil by the Tail gives this series debut a special element that is fresh and intriguing.

Ms. Matthews takes things a step further, really a leap further, by pairing a northern lady with a former Confederate POW, surely not an every day occurrence, and the compatibility of the two was the best part of the story. (In today’s world of hostility and mean spiritedness, we could use a healthy dose of their willingness to get past their differences.)

Well, having said that, I have to backtrack a little to say that the plot here, the work that Quinn Sinclair (using the name Mrs. Paschal) and Garnick are doing as private  detectives, is just as compelling as their choice to partner up. Since this is Chicago of the 1860’s, Quinn naturally has a lot of societal barriers in her way and I love her ability to find ways around them as well as Garnick’s’s willingness to aid and abet her rebellion against the rules.

When Garnick and Paschal accept a job looking into the case of a man wrongfully accused (so he says) of killing his wife, they have no idea how murky things are going to get, especially when a second case, to prove reasonable doubt that a woman murdered her ex-lover’s bride, starts to look like there may be a connection between the two crimes. The seedy underbelly of 1867 Chicago with its brothels and yellow journalism is on full display and adds greatly to the reader’s fun. On top of the detectives’ professional work, there’s also the interesting question of what will happen in Quinn’s unpleasant dealings with her inlaws.

Ms. Matthews is well known for her vividly descriptive settings and her impeccable research, not to mention the authenticity of her language, and I enjoyed Devil by the Tail so much that it’s going on my list of best books read in 2021.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2021.