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

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

From the publisher—

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

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


About the Author

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

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

Connect with Tea:

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram


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Book Review: Invitation to Die by Barbara Cleverly @soho_press

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: Forty Dead Men by Donis Casey

Forty Dead Men
An Alafair Tucker Mystery #10
Donis Casey
Poisoned Pen Press, February 2018
ISBN 978-1-4642-0937-6

This latest of the Alafair Tucker mysteries sees Alafair’s son, Gee Dub, home from WWI.  Unfortunately, although he reconnects with his large family and puts on a good face, Alafair knows something is wrong with her strong, quiet son. When he finds a young woman in a field behaving oddly and brings her home to his mother, the situation only grows worse. Alafair befriends the woman, but then a murder is committed and suspicion falls on Gee Dub. Even Alafair has her doubts when she finds an ammunition case that generally holds forty bullets, but now holds only one, which then goes missing.

Soldiers have always suffered from PTSD. In WWI it was called shell shock and Gee Dub has more reason to suffer from it than many. He often struggles with what is real and what is not, but even so, this story holds some surprising twists and turns.

This is a powerful story of family, love and kindness, and hardship, too. Not to be missed.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: No Shred of Evidence by Charles Todd

No Shred of Evidence
An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery #18
Charles Todd
William Morrow, February 2016
ISBN: 978-0-0623.8618-2

In this wonderful entry in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series, Inspector Rutledge inherits a mystery when the original investigator suddenly suffers a heart attack and dies in a small Cornwall town. Starting from scratch because the original statements and notes of his dead predecessor are missing, Rutledge finds four young women accused of murder by a local farmer while rowing on a river; their claim: they were attempting to save him when his boat sank.

The victim, while in a coma, could not provide any facts, and when he dies of a head injury the charge becomes one of murder.  It remains for Rutledge either to prove or disprove the charge. While seeking the truth of the matter, including motivation, Rutledge encounters additional murders and assaults and the question arises: do these relate to the original case?

The mother-son writing team of this long-standing series takes a deep look into the personalities and motivations of the characters as Rutledge delves into the process of clearing the young women as he becomes more aware of the situation. As is a constant in the series, Rutledge is haunted by his experiences on the Western Front during the Great War, and the descriptions of the Cornwall area on the northern coast and speech of its inhabitants are skillfully done.


Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2018.

Book Reviews: The Dark Clouds Shining by David Downing and The Cutting Edge by Jeffery Deaver

The Dark Clouds Shining
Jack McColl Series #4
David Downing
Soho Crime, April 2018
ISBN: 978-1-61695-606-6

With this, the fourth Jack McColl spy story, David Downing concludes the series.  It takes place just as the civil war in Soviet Russia is ending and developments are dire with respect to the original high hopes that accompanied the Revolution, and the nation suffers from all kinds of shortages, especially food for a starving populace.  Jack is not faring any better, languishing in jail for assaulting a Bobby, when his Secret Service boss visits him and presents Jack with a way to get out if he accepts an unofficial assignment.  Jack is disillusioned by the slaughter of so many in the Great War and can’t abide spying for his country any more, but accepts the assignment to get out of jail.  So he goes to Russia to learn what other British spies are planning at the behest of MI5.  And unknown to him, he will again meet with the love of his life, Caitlin, who is now married to one of the men involved in the MI5 scheme which Jack was sent to investigate and possibly foil.

The author’s ability to recreate the environment of the historical period, along with descriptions of the economic and political atmosphere, is outstanding, as is the recounting of the action resulting from the hunt by both Jack and the Cheka, the Russian secret service and forerunner of the GPU, for the plotters.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2018.


The Cutting Edge
A Lincoln Rhyme Novel #14
Jeffery Deaver
Grand Central Publishing, April 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4555-3641-2

What starts off as a murder mystery turns into a multi-faceted conspiracy in the latest Lincoln Rhyme novel.  It begins with the murder of a prominent diamond cutter in the heart of New York’s jewelry district on 47th Street, although the murderer apparently left behind a small fortune in gems, so the motive remains obscure.  A young apprentice walks in during the murder and is shot at but is saved when the bullet hits a bag filled with rocks instead.

Subsequent murders take place, ostensibly by a psycho who is out to save diamonds from being defaced as engagement rings and who trails young couples in the act of making purchases and killing them.  Meanwhile Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are analyzing the few clues available and seeking to locate the apprentice, who is hiding from view.  Then a series of explosions take place, believed to be earthquakes in the heart of Brooklyn.

And as a sidelight, Rhyme agrees for the first time to assist a defendant, a murderous Mexican drug lord on trial in Federal court for illegal entry and murder, by reviewing the evidence in the hope of establishing an error.  This gives the author another chance to fool the reader with another twist.

Of course, the whole plot is premised on Mr. Deaver’s ability to surprise readers by leading them down a path only to divert them finally by revealing something else in the end.  The series is long- standing and always diverting, especially when forensics are analyzed and explained.


Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2018.

Book Review: Murder on the Mullet Express by Gwen Mayo and Sarah E. Glenn

murder-on-the-mullet-expressMurder on the Mullet Express
Three Snowbirds #1
Gwen Mayo and Sarah E. Glenn
Mystery and Horror LLC, January 2017
ISBN 978-0-9964209-7-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

It’s 1926. The West Coast Development Company is staging its biggest land deal in Homosassa, Florida, selling pieces of a planned city to speculators who dream of a tropical paradise. Army nurse Cornelia Pettijohn takes leave to travel to Florida with her ancient uncle, who claims that he wants a warm winter home. When their car breaks down, they take the local train, The Mullet Express, into Homosassa. By the time they arrive, though, a passenger has been poisoned. A second murder victim boards the train later, iced down with the fish. Uncle Percival’s hidden agenda makes him the sheriff’s prime suspect. Cornelia and Teddy Lawless, a twenty-year-old flapper in a body pushing sixty, must chase mobsters and corner suspects to dig her uncle out of the hole he’s dug for himself.

“…two old crows and one old coot…”

Those few words on the first page of this book told me I was most likely going to enjoy Murder on the Mullet Express and, indeed, I did. Cornelia, Teddy and Uncle Percival are such charming characters and I truly enjoyed spending time with them.

Generally speaking, worldbuilding is not as critical to mystery fiction as it is to speculative fiction, largely because most mysteries are set in a world we can relate to. It becomes more important in historical settings, as I’m sure you’ll understand, and Ms. Mayo and Ms. Glenn really do a nice job with their worldbuilding. Without cramming anything down the reader’s throat, they introduce elements common in the 1920’s such as the falling numbers of whooping cranes, the 1918 Spanish Flu, the lingering effects of mustard gas, racism, the KKK, Prohibition, and chain gangs. Those little touches, some of which are part and parcel of the story, pulled me right in and gave me a better understanding of what life was like then.

As for characterization, I found myself seeing the humor and strong personality of the elderly Percival but also the courage and determination of the women who served as nurses in World War I. Those qualities have carried over into their post-war lives and getting involved with death and ensuing investigations really does work here. In fact, although this has been labeled as a cozy, I think it leans more towards the traditional mystery category. Yes, they are amateur sleuths, but the locale is not a hometown and the players are not well-known to each other, both elements common to cozies.

There’s a kind of dry humor here, which I found refreshing, and a lively plot with mobsters, flappers, socialites and all sorts of folks. To wrap things up, Murder on the Mullet Express is a most enjoyable and auspicious beginning to what I anticipate will be a long-running series and I’m hoping the next book will be out before too long.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

Book Reviews: Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd and Reaper’s Legacy by Tim Lebbon

Hunting ShadowsHunting Shadows
An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery #16
Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-06-223718-7

Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd is yet another thrilling historical mystery in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series.

Charles Todd is actually a mother-son writing team and I was fortunate enough to hear the mother part of the team talk about their writing process at a Malice Domestic a couple of years ago. Mother and son live in different states, so this is a fascinating collaboration of two gifted writers.

Hunting Shadows is well-written and equally well researched. The novel takes place in 1920s England, where Inspector Ian Rutledge, haunted by his experience in World War I, is called to Cambridgeshire to solve a double murder. The local police are puzzled by a phantom killer and it is up to Rutledge to find and bring the murderer to justice.

Todd brings the terrors of the trenches alive. The voice of Rutledge’s killed friend Hamish is buried deep in his subconscious, commenting on the case and pointing him in different directions. Other characters in this novel are equally tormented by their war experiences.

Apart from the novel’s well-rounded characters, I especially liked the setting. There is the continuous underlying danger of the Fen country’s fog and marshes. Throughout the novel, I felt as if I was walking around the small town of Ely along with Rutledge, questioning witnesses, driving in his motor car and trying to make sense of a world that had just been shaken to its core by a World War.

For anyone who enjoys historical mysteries, this is another gem that should not be missed.

Reviewed by Anika Abbate, April 2014.




Reaper's LegacyReaper’s Legacy
Toxic City Book Two
Tim Lebbon
Pyr, April 2013
ISBN 978-1-61614-767-9

There are so many things I love about this story. First are the characters, which should always be the heart of a good book. Here we have two basic main characters, Lucy-Anne and Jack. They are part of a small group of teens who have snuck into London, a city that has been closed off from the rest of the world for a few years due to a contagion that was released within it. This contagion has killed many but for some it has given them advanced psychic abilities.

Lucy-Anne has come to London in search of her brother while Jack has come to find his family, only to learn that his father has developed a psychic ability to kill. This is so extraordinary that he is hunted by the government and his sister and mother are being held prisoner by that same government. While Jack seeks to save his family, he finds that he is also affected by the contagion that was released, while his close friends were not. He struggles with the changes within him and to keep his humanity in tact while protecting those he cares about. His gifts are extraordinary and have been bestowed upon him directly by a woman known as Nomad.

On the other hand, Lucy-Anne was born with certain gifts and coming to London may have enhanced them or maybe has given her the freedom of trusting those gifts. Either way, she splits from Jack and his group, joins with a boy called Rook, and together they search for her brother.

The world that Tim Lebbon has created is both fascinating and original. I don’t want to give away too many details, but I like the fact that in this genre of “Armageddon fiction” he has created a scenario where the battle is being fought on a smaller scale which makes it more manageable and relatable to the reader than most. His details are fantastic, at times wondrous or horrifying, depending on the circumstances and both main characters struggle to achieve their goals, knowing that they might not like what they find either within others or themselves.

It is clear that both are tied to either saving or ending the city, both have links to the mysterious Nomad and while now separated, belong together to fight their battles.

The only complaint I have about Reaper’s Legacy is the ending. Like many books in this genre, the book ends mid-story, to be picked up in the next book. I guess I’m old-fashioned but I prefer my books to have a complete, more satisfying ending while hoping and expecting the story to continue. This quibble is small and probably dated, but it won’t stop me from reading the next book in this series and I suppose that’s the point.

Reaper’s Legacy is a good book that is well worth the read.

Reviewed by Erin Farwell, April 2014.
Author of Shadowlands.