Book Reviews: Proof of Life by Sheila Lowe and Simply Dead by Eleanor Kuhns @sheila_lowe @suspensemag @EleanorKuhns @severnhouse

Proof of Life
A Beyond the Veil Mystery #2
Sheila Lowe
Suspense Publishing, May 2019
ISBN 978-0-578-45315-6
Trade Paperback

After the accident in which her abusive husband and their infant son died, Jessica Mack had amnesia and began to experience strange noises and even voices. This enthralling thriller traces her development from confused and upset to more and deeper understanding of non-corporeal experiences. A practicing artist, Jessica Mack creates art that seems to illustrate crime scenes, but she cannot recall making the art, nor where the detailed information came from.

Gradually over the space of this excellent novel, Jessica begins to understand what may be happening to her. It is unsettling, disrupts her life at times, but instead of resisting or rejecting the forces, she instinctively sets out to learn more.

For many people whose religious or world views reject the idea of other worlds co-existing with that which we inhabit, this may become unsettling. I would urge such people to persist and read this book. Jessica Mack, an identical twin, has already experienced odd experiences with her twin sister. So she is open to learning more about the spirit world. As should we readers.

Unlike many novels that create a spirit world to fit the story, this author has created a character who is not a willing subject, but one who becomes interested in life for those beyond the veil and in a fascinating and consistent way, struggles to learn more and then to use her developing awareness to aid in a race to locate a small child who may have been kidnapped.

The author steadily raises the tension as time inexorably passes. Jessica must deal with her sister, her FBI acquaintance, other skeptics and a burgeoning love interest. The novel is very-well written, extremely carefully plotted, logical and peopled with very interesting, well-drawn characters It will capture the interest of a wide range of crime novel addicts. I strongly recommend this excellent novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2019.
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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Simply Dead
A Will Rees Mystery #7
Eleanor Kuhns
Severn House, August 2019
ISBN 978-0-7278-8884-6
Hardcover

Winter in northern climes is difficult in the best of times. In late eighteenth century rural Maine, winter can be deadly. In a small Shaker community located in a snow bound village, a deeply disturbed murderer threatens to tear apart an already uneasy relationship with the World, as it is known among Shakers.

Will Rees is a weaver and hard-scrabble farmer with several children and a bright loving wife in his care. The weaver and farmer is an interesting motivator for the novel, husband and father of a teen girl and some even younger children. His almost insatiable curiosity propels him into conflicts at several levels when a local midwife goes missing in the snowy woods. Naturally he seeks her, exposing himself to storms and cold. He finds the midwife almost dead of exposure in the snow and rescues her while realizing the young woman is distraught and hiding something, something truly horrible.

The novel is a deliberate and accurate portrayal of early life for settlers in Maine during the period and is liberally strewn with a wide range of characters one might expect to find in an isolated settlement like this in early America. His small village has a constable who owns and runs the town bar and restaurant and thus is not reliable to protect locals against the menace of hungry wolves.

Conflicts arise for Rees and his family on all sides, affording the author ample opportunity to make deep dives into a host of personalities and situations and she takes most opportunities to do that, including brief but telling examination of the Shaker community. Consequently, the well-written, finely organized story presents several varied and useful personalities in both ordinary and highly fraught situations in a novel of manners, murder and detection. Readers will finish the novel having a concentrated experience of a particular part of America and its people before there was a United States.

Simply Dead is simply a good story with a lot of excellent characters, very well told.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2019.
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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Book Reviews: See Also Deception by Larry D. Sweazy and Called to Justice by Edith Maxwell

See Also Deception
A Marjorie Trumaine Mystery #2
Larry D. Sweazy
Seventh Street Books, May 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63388-127-3
Trade Paperback

I’ve read recommendations to read the first book of this series, See Also Murder, before starting the second. While I’d be happy to get my hands on the introductory book, I had no problem catching up with Marjorie Trumaine and her husband, Hank.

Set in the North Dakota of 1964, Marjorie is a farm wife whose husband has been paralyzed and blinded in a hunting accident. But just to show a farm wife should never be underestimated, she is also an indexer for a prestigious publisher of scholastic books , a job requiring strenuous attention to detail. Most of all, she’s Hank’s loving caregiver. Let’s not end there. In the first book, Marjorie solved a series of murders, and now, her suspicions are aroused when she receives news her friend, the local librarian, has been found dead, an apparent suicide. Marjorie can’t believe it.

Things don’t add up, in Marjorie’s opinion, although the sheriff and his deputy refuse to listen to her doubts about Calla’s death. Then things begin happening to Marjorie, and her worries about Hank grow. He, he says, wants to die. She cannot bear to let him go.

At last there is another death, this one clearly murder, and the authorities finally begin to believe Marjorie’s claim that Calla was murdered. Predictably, she may well be the next slated to die.

This story is much more than a murder mystery, although it is, and it’s a good one. But it’s also a look back at the sixties, historical for some, nostalgic for other readers. It is a story of a woman’s love. Of her fortitude, and her strength. I found Marjorie Trumaine a truly worthy heroine and human being.

The writing is strong, yet sensitive. The story fast-paced. See Also Deception is one of the best books I’ve read this year, not perhaps surprising as Mr. Sweazy has won many well-deserved national awards for his stories, including Western Writers of America’s Spur Award.

And the ending? Well, it’s sure to yank your heartstrings, and if you’re like me, you’ll be waiting impatiently for the next book in the series.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October, 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

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Called to Justice
A Quaker Midwife Mystery
Edith Maxwell
Midnight Ink Books, April 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5032-3
Trade Paperback

This historical mystery, set twenty years after the Civil War, realistically portrays how even Northerners and Union veterans were quick to point fingers and proclaim guilt due to the color of one’s skin.

Rose Carroll is a Quaker and a midwife. Her patients are from all walks of life, Quaker or not. A young woman named Hannah Breed has come to Rose because she’s pregnant. Hannah works in the local mill and is not only a fellow Quaker, but a friend of Rose’s sister. Hannah is unmarried and frightened. With good cause, as it turns out, because she is shot and killed during the local Fourth of July celebration. Was it an accident or was it murder? Whichever, a finger soon points at a freed slave, Akwasi Ayensu, who is also a Quaker and Rose’s friend. Even Rose’s good friend, Officer Guy Gilbert who is under pressure to quickly solve the case, accepts meager false proof of Akwasi’s guilt. Determined to prove Akwasi’s innocence, Rose will also be in danger as this mystery plays out.

I very much enjoyed learning about the Quaker beliefs, as well as midwifery as practiced in the late 1800s.  The mystery itself is well done, with plenty of false trails and twists. The novel is set in Amesbury, Massachusetts, the home of fellow Quaker and poet John Greenleaf Whittier who also plays a part in the story. Authenticity shows the research author Edith Maxwell has put to good use.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Review: The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman

The Reluctant MidwifeThe Reluctant Midwife
A Hope River Novel #2
Patricia Harman
William Morrow Paperbacks, March 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-235824-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Nurse Becky Myers is a reluctant midwife. She’s far more comfortable with tending the sick than helping women deliver their babies. For these mothers-to-be, she relies on an experienced midwife, her dear friend Patience Murphy. But the Great Depression has hit West Virginia hard. Men are out of work; women struggle to feed hungry children. And sometimes Becky is called upon to bring new life into the world.

Though she is happy to be back in Hope River, time and experience have tempered Becky’s cheerfulness— as tragedy has destroyed the vibrant spirit of her former employer, Dr. Isaac Blum, who has accompanied her. Patience too has changed. Married and expecting a baby herself, she is relying on Becky to keep the mothers of Hope River safe.

Becoming a midwife and ushering new life into the world is not Becky’s only challenge. Her skills and courage will be tested when a calamitous forest fire blazes through a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. And she must find a way to bring Isaac’s spirit back to life and rediscover the hope they both need to go on.

Much has been written and studied about the Great Depression and its devastating effects and West Virginia was certainly one of the states hit hardest. Already lagging behind other states economically, the Depression made things much worse and true poverty became commonplace. Such is the setting for the tale of some wonderful and resilient people told in The Reluctant Midwife.

Technically speaking, this is the second book in a series but it’s really more of a companion novel to the first. The main character from The Midwife of Hope River, Patience Murphy, is present in the second book but the focus is on a different character, Becky Myers. I enjoyed Patience in this story (not having read the first book yet) but Becky is the one who really caught my attention.

Becky is a nurse but is every bit as terrified as any layman would be at the thought of attending childbirth and it’s this facet of her personality that tells us who Becky is, the fortitude and compassion that imbue her personality. Oddly enough, I was reminded of the James Herriot books in the type of person Becky is, doing what needs to be done even when she really doesn’t want to, and also in the style of the story, with vignettes of medical scenarios forming the heart of the tale.

Becky is a woman I’d love to know in reality even while I’d be a little intimidated by her essential goodness. She takes on the burden of caring for her nearly catatonic employer, Dr. Isaac Blum, and does so just because that’s the right thing to do. Her compassion towards him in the face of impending starvation is remarkable and, yet, it fits the mold of those people who live in Appalachia and other economically stressed areas. They are people who recognize that community and caring for one’s neighbors is how they rise above their conditions.

Becky, like them, is full of heart and resilience and I love her story. I’ll be picking up the first book while wiondering where Ms. Harman will take us next.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2015.

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About the Author

Patricia HarmanPatricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculty of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She lives near Morgantown, West Virginia; has three sons; and is the author of two acclaimed memoirs.

Find out more about Patricia at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Follow the tour:

Tuesday, March 3rd: West Metro Mommy

Wednesday, March 4th: Bibliotica

Thursday, March 5th: Broken Teepee

Friday, March 6th: Kritter Ramblings

Monday, March 9th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, March 10th: A Novel Review

Thursday, March 12th: Life Between Reads

Monday, March 16th: Unshelfish

Tuesday, March 17th: A Patchwork of Books

Wednesday, March 18th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, March 19th: FictionZeal

Friday, March 20th: A Chick Who Reads

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