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: A Matter of Trust by Lis Wiehl with April Henry

A Matter of TrustA Matter of Trust
A Mia Quinn Mystery #1
Lis Wiehl with April Henry
Thomas Nelson, March 2013
ISBN 978-1-59554-903-7

Hardcover

Recent widow Mia Quinn is on the phone with her friend and fellow prosecuting attorney Colleen Miller when Colleen is shot. Horrified, Mia hands the phone to her teenaged son, Gabe, telling him to listen in case Colleen is able to identify her killer, even as her life’s blood bubbles away. Mia herself rushes to her friend’s aid, but she is too late.

The DA assigns the murder case to Mia, where she will be assisted by detective Charlie Carlson, a man she doesn’t completely trust. Soon the pair are working together on more than the investigation into Colleen’s death. A case of bullying has ended a boy’s life in suicide and Mia is determined to make the bullies accountable. A bond begins to form between the two, until Charlie makes a confession that undermines Mia’s trust.

Meanwhile, Mia’s husband’s death has left her and her two children in severe financial straits. Her son is fourteen, just the age to go off the rails without sufficient supervision and attention. He’s also resentful of having to watch his little sister, who has night terrors.

A lot of the story is given over to Mia just trying to keep her and her children’s life together. A teaching colleague seems thrown into the plot just to provide a romantic issue. Charlie is given a few too many flaws for his role in the story, and I fear I got a bit impatient with Mia’s ineptitude concerning anything other than her job. The writing is good, the plot intricate, the action moves right along, and I loved how Gabe came through at the end.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2015.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

 

Book Review: Killer, Come Hither by Louis Begley

Killer, Come HitherKiller, Come Hither
Louis Begley
Nan Talese/Doubleday, April 2015
ISBN:  978-0-385-53914-2
Hardcover

The protagonist of Louis Begley’s newest novel is Jack Dana, a former Marine Corps Infantry officer who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan before being badly wounded and returning home.  He is now, seven years later, a bestselling writer, with two books behind him and a third in its early stages.  He is a self-described warrior, as were his father and grandfather before him.  Having attended Oxford and Yale and invited to join the Society of Fellows at Harvard, there also following in his forebears’ footsteps.  The latter was a graduate of Harvard College and had been awarded the Navy Cross and Silver Star; his grandfather the Silver Star, Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre.

Now his only remaining relative is his father’s brother, Harry [now Jack’s surrogate father], a prominent New York attorney, who himself had graduated with honors from Harvard College and Harvard Law and was a leading partner at a prominent New York law firm.  Shockingly, en route home after a long over-due vacation in Brazil, Jack discovers that his beloved uncle is dead, having been found hanging in his Sag Harbor home in the exclusive east end of Long Island.

Jack becomes convinced that his uncle had not committed suicide, especially after he is told that Harry’s secretary was also dead, after an apparent accident that had put her in the path of an oncoming subway train, one day after Harry’s body was discovered.  He believes that both deaths had to be connected to the law firm and its largest client, a Texas oilman and right-wing multi-billionaire and activist whose political beliefs had him “somewhere to the right of the John Birch Society and Attila the Hun.”  Aided by Scott Prentice, his closest friend since their days at school, and Kerry Black, recently made partner at the firm and Jack’s lover, he pursues his own investigation.  Soon, faced with the near impossibility of finding the man who he believes caused his uncle’s death, the meaning of the title becomes clear:  Jack decides he must make the man come to him.

It was a bit disconcerting to me that, as the novel is written in the first person, nowhere in the book do quotation marks appear, and it was initially off-putting, to have to realize in the middle of a paragraph that what appears on the page is not exposition, but a conversation between two people.  But I hasten to add that when the plot, and the suspense, kicks up a notch or three, about mid-way through the novel, I didn’t even notice that, I was so busy turning pages.  A thoroughly enjoyable read, and recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, April 2015.

Book Reviews: Allure of Deceit by Susan Froetschel and Risking Elizabeth by Walter McCloskey

Allure of DeceitAllure of Deceit 
Susan Froetschel
Seventh Street Books, February 2015
ISBN: 978-1-61614-017-5
Trade Paperback

Murder, fraud and greed on a grand scale, clashes of culture and intriguing misunderstandings litter the well-trodden ground in this novel. The strong and vibrant writing helps draw the reader in to a world long hidden from western understanding. And even with the recent deluge of news focused on the wars in Iraq Afghanistan, and Pakistan, western knowledge is rooted as much in lack of understanding of Muslim and tribal mores. Dissecting the motives and the perpetrators of these crimes and the application of justices is extremely problematical.

All of that requires a carefully constructed, well-written narrative with characters that speak to us even through the veil of poorly understood history and culture. And here it is. Add the setting, that mysterious –to Western sensibilities—culture of the Middle East, and one has the makings of an enthralling novel. And here it is!

The writing is superb, the tension almost unrelenting and the incisive eye of this author is everywhere available. This is a fine novel and deserves every rave it will acquire.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2015.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Risking ElizabethRisking Elizabeth
Walter McCloskey
Berkley, August 1998
ISBN: 978-0-425-16413-6
Mass Market Paperback

This is the author’s debut novel. It takes the reader to enthralling places inside New Orleans society. One is dazzled by the convoluted slick politeness on the surface, even when one is aware of the chicanery and double-dealing that takes place at the same time on other levels. None of the activity chronicled by McCloskey is unknown to the wheelers and dealers in other cities around the world, but because New Orleans is the setting, there seems to be a special aura about this novel which enhances the plot and the characters.

Harry Preston is a successful widowed lawyer with an old-line prestigious firm. New Orleans is the city where he grew up and where legions of his relatives live and work. And play. So Preston brings his young son back to the bosom of his family. But Harry Preston discovers that he knows less about the convoluted undercurrents of the city and its power brokers than he imagined. How little he really knows he really begins to discover when he meets beautiful, willful, socially suspect, Elizabeth Bennett.

Set during Mardi Gras, Preston finds himself falling into a complicated swamp infested with some of the worst and some of the best of New Orleans residents. Big money, big oil, big power and murder are skillfully revealed. The pace is swift, the characters ambiguous and complex, and the atmosphere moody, damp and dark, even in the hot Southern sun. Well-written and very entertaining, rife with tension, Risking Elizabeth carries the reader carefully and completely to its inevitable conclusion.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 2014.
www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

A Pair of Teenies

The Three SistersThe Three Sisters
A Whispers Story
Lisa Unger
Pocket Star, January 2015
ISBN 978-1-4767-9780-9
Ebook

From the publisher—

When Eloise’s granddaughter, twenty-year-old Finley, comes to live with her, Eloise’s abilities start to change—things seem to be getting easier. Her load is lighter, and rather than chasing down people she needs, they are coming to her. She teams up with detective Jones Cooper to help a desperate father bring his daughter’s killer to justice. Meanwhile, Finley, who is developing gifts of her own, has bigger problems than she’s willing to admit. Will Eloise help Finley and others see the difference between justice and revenge, or will things spiral out of control first?

This third and final short story in the Whispers trilogy is a winding down and a passing on of sorts. It’s been thirty years since the accident that killed Eloise’s husband and older daughter and, for the most part, she has come to terms with the psychic abilities she gained afterwards. Her daughter, Amanda, never reconciled with it and has chosen to maintain a physical and emotional distance but her own daughter, Finley, has much in common with her grandmother.

Finley is on the cusp of understanding her own psychic abilities and this is the impetus for Eloise to learn more about the Three Sisters, ghosts from the 1600’s who have been hanging about. Looking into town records, Eloise is reminded that the sisters—Abigail, Sarah and Patience Good—were ancestors of hers on her mother’s side but who is the older woman in similar dress that she’s been seeing lately and what does she want?

In the midst of her personal search for answers, Eloise is helping a private investigator named Jones Cooper discover what happened to a modern girl named Michelle Asher, recently found dead and currently “visiting” Eloise. At the same time, she’s trying to help Finley find her way in this strange world. The Three Sisters have meddled in Finley’s life many times before and they may be about to do so again.

Each of the three short stories have been less dramatic in turn but The Three Sisters has been no less engaging because of that. While very different from Lisa Unger‘s usual work, this is still a good example of her authorial talents.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2015.

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Dead Man WalkerDead Man Walker
A Consignment Shop Novella
Duffy Brown
Berkley Prime Crime, February 2015
ISBN 978-0-698-17802-1
Ebook

From the publisher—

It’s springtime in Savannah, the azaleas and magnolias are in bloom, and Reagan Summerside’s consignment shop, the Prissy Fox, is bustling with customers out to enjoy the beautiful weather. On a day like today, what could go wrong?

As a mortician beautician and housekeeper, Mercedes is no stranger to corpses or messy bathrooms. But the last thing she expects to find in a client’s bathtub is a dead body! Now she’s a murder suspect and it seems like her life is going down the drain. She turns to local lawyer Walker Boone to get her out of hot water.

But Walker has his own surprising connections to the dead man in the tub, and now he needs Reagan’s help to clear his own name—and keep him alive…

The Consignment Shop Mysteries feature the shop owner, Reagan Summerside, as the main character and sleuth but Dead Man Walker is a departure, told from the point of view of Reagan’s kinda sorta occasional boyfriend, Walker Boone. When cleaning lady Mercedes is in danger of being accused of murdering a client, Walker steps in and, before long, he’s identified quite a few people who had varying reasons to want Conway Adkins dead. Unfortunately, he’s also made himself a target for a few attempts on his own life and found out a startling piece of news. Next thing he knows, Detective Aldeen Ross is on her way to arrest him for killing Conway.

This novella is a nice introduction to some of the characters in the series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Readers should be aware that this particular crime is not resolved as this is a lead-in to the next full-length novel, Demise in Denim, coming out in April. I’m looking forward to continuing the sleuthing then.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2015.

Book Review: Die I Will Not by S.K. Rizzolo

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Title: Die I Will Not
Series: John Chase Mystery Series #3
Author: S.K. Rizzolo
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Genre: Historical Mystery

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Die I Will NotDie I Will Not
John Chase Mystery Series #3
S.K. Rizzolo
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2014
ISBN 978-1464203220
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Unhappy wife and young mother Penelope Wolfe fears scandal for her family and worse. A Tory newspaper editor has been stabbed while writing a reply to the latest round of letters penned by a firebrand calling himself Collatinus. Twenty years before, her father, the radical Eustace Sandford, wrote as Collatinus before he fled London just ahead of accusations of treason and murder. A mysterious beauty closely connected to Sandford and known only as N.D. had been brutally slain, her killer never punished. The seditious new Collatinus letters that attack the Prince Regent in the press also seek to avenge N.D.’s death and unmask her murderer. What did the journalist know that provoked his death?

Her artist husband Jeremy is no reliable ally, so Penelope turns anew to lawyer Edward Buckler and Bow Street Runner John Chase. As she battles public notoriety, Buckler and Chase put their careers at risk to stand behind her while pursuing various lines of inquiry aimed at N.D.’s murderer, a missing memoir, Royal scandal, and the dead editor’s missing wife. As they navigate the dark underbelly of Regency London among a cast driven by dirty politics and dark passions, as well as by decency and a desire for justice, past secrets and present criminals are exposed, upending Penelope’s life and the lives of others.

A long time ago, or what seems like a long time in one’s reading life, I “discovered” S.K. Rizzolo’s first book, The Rose in the Wheel, and fell in love with the characters and the setting and the time period and the author’s writing style. In a word, I was smitten. Then came Blood for Blood the following year and this was no sophomore slump. I could hardly wait for the third book but wait I did…and wait and wait and wait.

Finally, I gave up, thinking the author had decided not to continue writing, and I mourned the death of the series. Imagine my surprise and delight when, 11 1/2 years after the second book, I found out the third was coming out. Die I Will Not has been high on my TBR list ever since I was invited to take part in this blog tour.

So, what’s the verdict? Well, I did enjoy it quite a lot but, somehow, a bit of the charm is gone. Perhaps that’s because it’s been too long and my recollections of the first two books had become a little “shinier” than reality but, on the other hand, it could be that my reading expectations have changed in all those years (I know they have) or that the author’s touch has faded just a little. I don’t really know why I’m not so enthralled by this third book but I DID think it’s quite good.

Not being especially well-versed in the details of Regency London, I can’t say if Ms. Rizzolo’s setting is 100% accurate but it certainly has the feel of being right and I easily immersed myself in Penelope’s London. I’m sorry her worthless husband is still around but, of course, divorce wasn’t really possible in those days except at great cost and with dire social consequences so I suppose we’ll have to continue putting up with him. (Maybe, some day, Penelope will figure out a way to “dispose” of him without getting caught.) Penelope is a strong-minded, intelligent woman and it’s not surprising she would want to follow this latest potential lead to the truth about her father and an old unsolved murder. She’s very lucky to have two such stalwart friends to help.

The other two main characters, John and Edward, were just as I remembered them and they remain my favorites of the three. I’m particularly interested in the exploits of the Bow Street Runners, precursors to our modern-day police, and John didn’t let me down in the least. There are many twists and turns in this mystery and the characters—and the reader—have to keep their wits about them.

Regardless of any hesitations I might have, I’m delighted that Penelope, John and Edward are back and I do hope that we’ll see them again next year.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

About the Author

S.K. RizzoloS.K. Rizzolo is a longtime Anglophile and history enthusiast. Set in Regency England, The Rose in the Wheel and Blood for Blood are the first two novels in her series about a Bow Street Runner, an unconventional lady, and a melancholic barrister. An English teacher, Rizzolo has earned an M.A. in literature and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

 

For more information please visit S.K. Rizzolo’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads.

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