Book Review: Zombie Abbey by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Zombie Abbey
Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Entangled Teen, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-63375-911-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

1920, England

And the three teenage Clarke sisters thought what they’d wear to dinner was their biggest problem…

Lady Kate, the entitled eldest.

Lady Grace, lost in the middle and wishing she were braver.

Lady Lizzy, so endlessly sunny, it’s easy to underestimate her.

Then there’s Will Harvey, the proud, to-die-for—and possibly die with!—stable boy; Daniel Murray, the resourceful second footman with a secret; Raymond Allen, the unfortunate-looking young duke; and Fanny Rogers, the unsinkable kitchen maid.

Upstairs! Downstairs! Toss in some farmers and villagers!

None of them ever expected to work together for any reason.

But none of them had ever seen anything like this.

There are zombies and then there are zombies, you know? To put it in TV perspective, you can watch The Walking Dead if you like the serious sort,  Z Nation for pure camp or iZombie if you’re looking for smile-worthy unadulterated fun. Or, hey, go for all three!

Zombie Abbey falls squarely into the fun category although it takes a while to get there. I thought the first half or so was more like an oldfashioned comedy of manners but with a plethora of characters I had to get to know as well as possible. As an historical novel set at an English manor on the cusp of the Roaring Twenties, it reminded me a lot of the Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs stories which are very appealing to me. In fact, I almost expected an Agatha Christie kind of mystery to evolve.

The introduction of the zombie factor had its amusing moments, especially in the stereotypical ability of the British high society to live in denial, unable to fully comprehend the possibility of such a thing upsetting the routine. Each of the many primary characters has a part to play and I most appreciated the three sisters (although Lady Kate is not exactly likeable) and Fanny, the maid with attitude.

Zombie Abbey won’t be for all readers but I enjoyed it, largely because I’m a zombie fan 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2018.

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Purchase Links:

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Indiebound // Entangled Publishing

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An Excerpt from Zombie Abbey

Dr. Webb was lurching toward the church out of the mist, something terribly off about his halting gait. More specifically, he was lurching toward Mr. Young.

“Are you all right, Dr. Webb?” Mr. Young called, the former joy in his voice replaced now with concern for the other man.

“Merry!” Lady Grace called out a warning. “Don’t go any farther!”

“But can’t you all see?” Mr. Young said, still walking forward. “Poor Dr. Webb is sick.”

Yes, Dr. Webb was sick. His clothing and general appearance were all disheveled. And he smelled bad, too, the duke realized, as a rotting stench made its way to his nostrils, which flared in response. Why, the smell was similar to that which had enveloped the dead valet, his dead valet, yesterday. Perhaps Dr. Webb had acquired the wretched smell while tending to some poor person in the village?

Dr. Webb still lurched, his arms spreading out now as Mr. Young approached.

“Merry, please!” Lady Grace cried. Then she moved to step forward herself, no doubt to try to stop Mr. Young, but Benedict Clarke held her back, catching her with one arm around the waist.

And now Mr. Young was opening his arms wide, too, as though to warmly greet the returning doctor, but when their bodies met and the doctor embraced him, he immediately began to chew on the closest part of Mr. Young’s body that was available to him, which, in this case, happened to be his upper arm.

The duke watched, frozen in horror as no doubt the others were, too, as the doctor chewed through Mr. Young’s jacket and shirt, straight down to the flesh beneath. It might have been almost comical, were it not so downright horrifying.

Among the things you never expect to see in life: one human being attempting to feed on another like an animal.

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About the Author

Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of over 30 books for adults (Vertigo), teens (The Twin’s Daughter) and children (The Sisters 8 series which she created with her husband and daughter). She’d love to dress up in period costume from the 1920s but she’d be a lot less excited about meeting zombies. Lauren lives in Danbury, CT, with her husband and daughter and cat, all of whom are writers (well, maybe not the cat).

Author Links:

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Giveaway
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Book Review: The Italian Party by Christina Lynch

The Italian Party
Christina Lynch
St. Martin’s Press, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-250-14783-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Newly married, Scottie and Michael are seduced by Tuscany’s famous beauty. But the secrets they are keeping from each other force them beneath the splendid surface to a more complex view of ltaly, America and each other.

When Scottie’s Italian teacher―a teenager with secrets of his own―disappears, her search for him leads her to discover other, darker truths about herself, her husband and her country. Michael’s dedication to saving the world from communism crumbles as he begins to see that he is a pawn in a much different game. Driven apart by lies, Michael and Scottie must find their way through a maze of history, memory, hate and love to a new kind of complicated truth.

Scottie and Michael are children of their times, as they say, and those of us who remember the 1950’s will certainly recognize them. They scream “American” with their enormous, flashy Ford Fairlane, their marriage is something of a convenience and they barely know each other, and they’re much, much wealthier than the Italians they want to live among. Michael is undoubtedly the head of the household and Scottie is the demure wife who follows her husband’s lead; in fact, Michael appreciates that she knows how to be a good, supportive wife. After all, her education at Vassar led to her Mrs. degree and she upholds it beautifully.

Unlike the “Leave It to Beaver” scenario, these two are not exactly the salt of the earth but, perhaps more importantly, neither one has a clue who the other one is and major secrets begin to come out as soon as they get to their destination, Siena. On top of everything in their personal lives, Communism is nipping at their heels.

All of that sounds kind of dismal, doesn’t it? Yes, that’s true to an extent but the joy in this novel comes from watching this young couple come to terms with themselves and each other while they’re in the midst of a most unlikely spy story of their own and there are a lot of laughs to be had, the kind that make you think “caper” and “adventure”. All in all, this was totally fun and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes spies, international intrigue, comedy, romance, adventure, history, Italian food…you get the idea 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2018.

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About the Author

Photo credit Stacy Brand

Christina Lynch’s picaresque journey includes chapters in Chicago and at Harvard, where she was an editor on the Harvard Lampoon. She was the Milan correspondent for W magazine and Women’s Wear Daily, and disappeared for four years in Tuscany. In L.A. she was on the writing staff of Unhappily Ever After; Encore, Encore; The Dead Zone and Wildfire. She now lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. She is the co-author of two novels under the pen name Magnus Flyte. She teaches at College of the Sequoias. The Italian Party is her debut novel under her own name.

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Book Review: Alice and the Assassin by R.J. Koreto

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Title: Alice & the Assassin
Series: An Alice Roosevelt Mystery #1
Author: R.J. Koreto
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: April 11, 2017

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Purchase Links:
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Alice & the Assassin
An Alice Roosevelt Mystery #1
R.J. Koreto
Crooked Lane Books, April 2017
ISBN 978-1-68331-112-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

In 1902 New York, Alice Roosevelt, the bright, passionate, and wildly unconventional daughter of newly sworn-in President Theodore Roosevelt, is placed under the supervision of Secret Service Agent Joseph St. Clair, ex-cowboy and veteran of the Rough Riders. St. Clair quickly learns that half his job is helping Alice roll cigarettes and escorting her to bookies, but matters grow even more difficult when Alice takes it upon herself to investigate a recent political killing–the assassination of former president William McKinley.

Concerned for her father’s safety, Alice seeks explanations for the many unanswered questions about the avowed anarchist responsible for McKinley’s death. In her quest, Alice drags St. Clair from grim Bowery bars to the elegant parlors of New York’s ruling class, from the haunts of the Chinese secret societies to the magnificent new University Club. Meanwhile, St. Clair has to come to terms with his hard and violent past, as Alice struggles with her growing feelings for him.

Historians have long recognized Alice Roosevelt as an unconventional and self-confident woman at odds with her times and I was a little concerned that any author could go too far with such a personality and make a mockery of her, even unintentionally. Since R.J. Koreto was the author, my fears were allayed because I had enjoyed his other series and knew he would have a reverence for the times and the people. I was right.

Alice led a difficult life in many ways, especially in childhood, and her father’s self-imposed estrangement didn’t help so the independence and devil-may-care behavior (much like her famous father) is no real surprise. We meet her as a young woman on the cusp of life, so to speak, but with a father who is president of the United States, nothing could be exactly normal. Secret Service agent Joseph St. Clair had been a Rough Rider but guarding Alice was a very different kettle of fish and when she decides to look into the McKinley assassination, she and St. Clair go on a wild and dangerous ride. At the same time, Alice becomes a bit more mature if no less impulsive and exuberant while St. Clair learns that his background as a lawman and Rough Rider barely prepared him for this intriguing young lady.

I do think the author played a little fast and loose with Alice’s behavior and a Secret Service agent’s willingness to let his charge be exposed to so much but it’s all in the name of adventure. The result was a lot of fun and I’m going to pick up the next book, The Body in the Ballroom, when it comes out in June.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2018.

An Excerpt from Alice & the Assassin

I had a nice little runabout parked around the corner, and Alice certainly enjoyed it. It belonged to the Roosevelt family, but I was the only one who drove it. Still, the thing about driving a car is that you can’t easily get to your gun, and I didn’t like the look of the downtown crowds, so I removed it from its holster and placed it on the seat between us.

“Don’t touch it,” I said.

“I wasn’t going to,” said Alice.

“Yes, you were.”

I had learned something the first time I had met her. I was sent to meet Mr. Wilkie, the Secret Service director, in the White House, and we met on the top floor. He was there, shaking his head and cleaning his glasses with his handkerchief. “Mr. St. Clair, welcome to Washington. Your charge is on the roof smoking a cigarette. The staircase is right behind me. Best of luck.” He put his glasses back on, shook my hand, and left.

It had taken me about five minutes to pluck the badly rolled cigarette out of Alice’s mouth, flick it over the edge of the building, and then talk her down.

“Any chance we could come to some sort of a working relationship?” I had asked. She had looked me up and down.

“A small one,” she had said. “You were one of the Rough Riders, with my father on San Juan Hill, weren’t you?” I nodded. “Let’s see if you can show me how to properly roll a cigarette. Cowboys know these things, I’ve heard.”

“Maybe I can help—if you can learn when and where to smoke them,” I had responded.

So things had rolled along like that for a while, and then one day in New York, some man who looked a little odd wanted—rather forcefully—to make Alice’s acquaintance on Fifth Avenue, and it took me all of three seconds to tie him into a knot on the sidewalk while we waited for the police.

“That was very impressive, Mr. St. Clair,” she had said, and I don’t think her eyes could’ve gotten any bigger. “I believe that was the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen.” She looked at me differently from then on, and things went a little more smoothly after that. Not perfect, but better.

Anyway, that afternoon I pulled into traffic. It was one of those damp winter days, not too cold. Working men were heading home, and women were still making a few last purchases from peddlers before everyone packed up for the day.

“Can we stop at a little barbershop off of Houston?” she asked. I ran my hand over my chin. “Is that a hint I need a shave?” I’m used to doing it myself.

“Don’t be an idiot,” she said, with a grin. “That’s where my bookie has set up shop. I’ve had a very good week.”

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Excerpt from Alice and the Assassin by R.J. Koreto. Copyright © 2018 by R.J. Koreto. Reproduced with permission from R.J. Koreto. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

R.J. Koreto has been fascinated by turn-of-the-century New York ever since listening to his grandfather’s stories as a boy.

In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. He’s a graduate of Vassar College, and like Alice Roosevelt, he was born and raised in New York.

He is the author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes and Alice Roosevelt mysteries. He has been published in both Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. He also published a book on practice management for financial professionals.

With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

Catch Up With R.J. Koreto On his Website, Goodreads Page, Twitter @RJKoreto, & on Facebook @ ladyfrancesffolkes!

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Book Review: A Thousand Cuts by Thomas Mogford

A Thousand Cuts
A Spike Sanguinetti Novel #5

Thomas Mogford
Bloomsbury Books, July 2017
ISBN: 978-1-6328-6845-9
Hardcover

Thomas Mogford has written a stunning, wrenching thriller. It is true that the passage of time can heal many wounds, but not all. Here is an emotionally fraught tale stretching from the turgid dark time of international intrigue and sabotage during World War II to the modern century of courts, lawyers, social interactions in a stratified and somewhat isolated society. The setting of the story, the rocky peninsula limited by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, called Gibraltar, is an unusual and interesting place.

The protagonist is lawyer Spike Sanguinetti, dealing on the home front with an aging unsettled father, an adoptive son and a pregnant fiancée, Jessica, who is a member of the Gibraltar constabulary. The cast of characters is long and varied and the story actually begins in the dockyard of the Royal Navy, during the early years of World War II. An explosion kills two Navy ship workers and severely injures a third man, Esteban Reyes. Reyes is arrested as a saboteur and eventually executed.

Time passes, and the modern story develops when Spike is called on to defend a violent man, known throughout the small Gibraltar community for attacking the dying husband of a prominent doctor. Why does this happen? What is the connection between these three individuals? That mystery, that puzzle is the heart of this moving tale. As more and more is revealed, obscure and unknown connections are bared to the cold light of day. Moral issues of war and law are raised and bent in many directions.

Questions of motive, love and professional development are raised and twisted about with the relationships of the characters. The novel is packed with emotion and second-guessing and issues and Spike Sanguinetti is confronted with several decisions that affect his personal as well as his professional life.

It is a lot to deal with and the author is careful to construct a structure that retains necessary logic and fully explains itself to the reader, yet leaves one with personal questions. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 2017.
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 Review: Holmes Entangled by Gordon McAlpine—and a Giveaway!

Holmes Entangled
Gordon McAlpine
Seventh Street Books, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-63388-207-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Sherlock Holmes, now in his seventies, retired from investigations and peaceably disguised as a professor at Cambridge, is shaken when a modestly successful author in his late-sixties named Arthur Conan Doyle calls upon him at the university. This Conan Doyle, notable for historical adventure stories, science fiction, and a three-volume history of the Boer War (but no detective tales), somehow knows of the false professor’s true identity and pleads for investigative assistance. Someone is trying to kill Conan Doyle. Who? Why? Good questions, but what intrigues Holmes most is how the “middling scribbler” ascertained Holmes’s identity in the first place, despite the detective’s perfect disguise. Holmes takes the case.

There is danger every step of the way. Great powers want the investigation quashed. But with the assistance of Dr. Watson’s widow, Holmes persists, exploring séances, the esoterica of Edgar Allan Poe, the revolutionary new science of quantum mechanics, and his own long-denied sense of loss and solitude.

Ultimately, even Sherlock Holmes is unprepared for what the evidence suggests.

There are certain authors and/or characters who draw the attention of other authors who come up with story ideas involving these real and fictional people. Jane Austen and her Bennett sisters, not to mention Darcy, come to mind, Agatha Christie is another and, of course, there are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. There have been many tales based on the great detective (and Dr. Watson) beyond those written by his creator, including whole series, and a few that I’m aware of that focus on Conan Doyle himself.

Here we have a tale that has Conan Doyle asking senior citizen Sherlock Holmes to look into a case after he has been cunningly disguised and in retirement for quite some time. At first, Holmes refuses to look into why Conan Doyle is the target of an assassin but he’s pulled in mainly because he can’t stand not knowing how Conan Doyle identified him. And thus begins a story of seances, encounters with such personages as Edgar Allan Poe and his C. Auguste Dupin, hints of nefarious activities by powerful organizations and even the possibility that alternate worlds exist.

Purists probably won’t care much for this latest Holmesian effort but the rest of us can enjoy the fun of a criminal investigation by the great detective mixed with a dip into the possibilities inherent in science fiction. Not being a purist myself, I was wholly entertained.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.

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To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Holmes Entangled by Gordon McAlpine,
just leave a comment below. The winning
names will be drawn on Friday night,
  March 30th, for one Advance Reading Copy
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Book Review: Condition Book Two by Alec Birri

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Title: Condition Book Two
Series: The Condition Trilogy
Author: Alec Birri
Narrator: Jonathan Keeble
Publication Date: January 17, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Condition Book Two
The Curing Begins…
The Condition Trilogy
Alec Birri
Narrated by Jonathan Keeble
Essential Music Limited, January 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Discovering an infamous Nazi doctor conducted abortions in Argentina after the Second World War may not come as a surprise, but why was the twisted eugenicist not only allowed to continue his evil experiments but encouraged to do so? And what has that got to do with a respected neurologist in 2027? Surely, the invention of a cure for nearly all the world’s ailments can’t possibly have its roots buried in the horrors of Auschwitz?

The unacceptable is about to become the disturbingly bizarre. What has the treatment’s “correction” of pedophiles got to do with the president of the United States, the pope, and even the UK’s Green Party?

As if the Condition trilogy wasn’t unsettling enough….

The medical experiments that took place during the Nazi regime are, to this day, horrifying and a look at just how evil humanity can be in the name of science. A young Argentinian police officer, Emiliano—who becomes unrealistically entangled in a romance with Maria—is not prepared, though, to find evidence of continuing work being done in an orphanage, leading to a hunt for the former Nazi who’s involved.

That hunt goes on for years until we find ourselves in the year 2026 and back among some of the characters from the first book including Professor Savage and Nurse Tracy. Tracy is still just as unlikeable as before and still just a foil for sexual fantasies but we learn much more about what the professor is really up to. I’m looking forward to getting the true story with Book Three, The Final Correction (an ominous subtitle if there ever was one).

Jonathan Keeble continues to be an excellent narrator in this second book of the trilogy; he has a wonderful tone to his voice and his interpretation of various characters is quite good albeit with some limitations with the Argentinians.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.

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About the Author

Alec Birri served thirty years with the UK Armed Forces. He commanded an operational unit that experimented in new military capabilities classified at the highest level (Top Secret Strap 3) and it is this that forms the basis of his novels. Although semi-autobiographical, for national security and personal liberty reasons, the events and individuals portrayed have to be fiction but are still nonetheless in keeping with his experiences.

Website
Twitter
Facebook

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About the Narrator

If you regularly enjoy listening to audiobooks then this Shakespearean actor will need no introduction. Winner of a 2016 SOVAS award, Jonathan’s voice is rightly recognized as being one of the best, and his narration of The Condition Trilogy is no exception.

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Play an excerpt here.

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Book Review: Death of an Unsung Hero by Tessa Arlen—and a Giveaway!

Death of an Unsung Hero
A Lady Montfort Mystery #4
Tessa Arlen
Minotaur Books, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-250-10144-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

In 1916, the world is at war and the energetic Lady Montfort has persuaded her husband to offer his family’s dower house to the War Office as an auxiliary hospital for officers recovering from shell-shock with their redoubtable housekeeper Mrs. Jackson contributing to the war effort as the hospital’s quartermaster.

Despite the hospital’s success, the farming community of Haversham, led by the Montfort’s neighbor Sir Winchell Meacham, does not approve of a country-house hospital for men they consider to be cowards. When Captain Sir Evelyn Bray, one of the patients, is found lying face down in the vegetable garden with his head bashed in, both Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson have every reason to fear that the War Office will close their hospital. Once again the two women unite their diverse talents to discover who would have reason to murder a war hero suffering from amnesia.

Time has moved on since our last encounter with Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson and England is growing weary of World War I, only halfway through the horror, although their patriotism is still high and everyone wants to do his—or her—part. When a military hospital is opened in Haversham Hall, a property owned by the Earl of Montfort, some neighbors are not welcoming. This is no ordinary hospital treating the visible wounds one expects to see but, rather, a shelter for soldiers suffering a badly misunderstood emotional affliction. Shellshock is a condition that’s newly-recognized by the medical community but many civilians see it as a mere excuse for cowardice in the face of the enemy. Still, murder seems to be an unnecessarily strong reaction.

Lady Montfort and her housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, are the perfect upstairs-downstairs team and their individual stations and personalities complement each other when they investigate. Unlike some similar situations, these women are equally intelligent and determined to seek truth and justice plus they truly like each other and work together like a well-oiled machine. Now, they turn their attention to the question of why someone would want to murder Captain Bray just when he was beginning to recover from his amnesia and who that someone might be.

Tessa Arlen has cemented her place among the best historical mystery authors and, in my opinion, each book is a wonderful evocation of period and setting. It was nice to learn more about Lady Montfort’s family and the earl has become another of my favorite members of the cast. This entry has the added drama of war and it’s clear that the author understands and has a passion for the times and her wonderful characters. I’ll be adding Death of an Unsung Hero to my list of best reads in 2018.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.

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Purchase Links:

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“The book is a delightful romp through a world of vividly
eccentric characters in a beautifully described setting. It was
pure pleasure to read, and it packed a punch.”
– Historical Novel Society

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About the Author

TESSA ARLEN is the author of Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman, Death Sits Down to Dinner and A Death by Any Other Name. She is the daughter of a British diplomat and had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi, and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the US in 1980 and worked as an HR recruiter for the LA Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of Death of an Unsung Hero,
leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Monday
evening, March 19th, and the book
will be sent after the tour ends.
Open to residents of the US.

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“The way Arlen integrates the traumas of WWI into a
golden age whodunit plot will please Charles Todd fans.”
– Publishers Weekly