Book Review: The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

The Stranger Diaries
Elly Griffiths
First Mariner Books, March 2019
ISBN 978-0-358-11786-5
Library ebook

Clare Cassidy is an English Literature teacher at Talgarth High in the town of Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex. The school itself has some history connected to a writer R.M.Holland, well known for his short story “The Stranger” and for residing in the school back in the early 1900’s, long before it became a school. There is also a haunting tale about his wife who’d died in mysterious circumstances, and even now her ghostly presence wanders the rooms where she lived with her husband.

Ella Elphick, a teacher at Talgarth High well-liked by colleagues and students, has been murdered. The novel is told through three of the characters, Clare, her teenage daughter Georgia, and DS Harbinder Kaur, the detective assigned to the case. Clare is writing a book about R.M. Holland, and has been keeping a diary for years.

The reader comes to know these three woman through their everyday lives and their thoughts on the murder. DS Kaur, who once attended Talgarth High, is thirty-five and still lives with her parents. Georgia aspires to be a writer and is meantime dealing with her over- protective mother and her own self confidence. And Clare, unsettled by the murder of her friend, and worried about her teenage daughter’s budding romance.

Another body is discovered throwing light on the possibility that Clare may be in danger.

I wasn’t particularly fond of the way this mystery unfolded. Moving back and forth between the three main characters tended to duplicate some of the information and there was little urgency in unmasking the perpetrator, even after a second victim appeared. Scattered throughout the novel was the short story “The Stranger” which I also found distracting. The final outcome didn’t work, at least, for me…

However, as I write this, I’m aware that this novel has been awarded the 2020 Edgar award for Best Novel. Not my cup of tea I guess.

Respectfully submitted,

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2020.

Book Reviews: Colombiano by Rusty Young, Abby in Wonderland by Sarah Mlynowski and Otherwise Known As Possum by Maria D. Laso @SarahMlynowski @Scholastic

Colombiano
Rusty Young
Havelock & Baker, August 2017
ISBN–AU 9780143781547
Havelock & Baker, February 2020
ISBN–US 978-0648445319
Trade Paperback

You can’t truly know what someone else is going through without walking in his shoes. Unless Mr. Young writes about it. In Colombiano, those of us fortunate enough to be far removed from any war zone, see exactly what living amid battles entails; in day-to-day life, as well the overall impact it has on absolutely everything.

Certainly, most people know that the Guerilla evoke evil with their aggressive cocaine manufacturing and distribution. The gross misunderstanding is that the Guerilla are fighting the army and law enforcement; not citizens. Leading to the false conclusion that, if folks go about their business, there’s no real reason for this pesky fighting to bother them. The carefully controlled propaganda supports this theory. Even having the place of worship utterly obliterated by “errant” fire is only an unfortunate consequence.

Pedro has listened to placates until he thought his head may explode. Papi made sure he contained, or at least properly channeled, his rage. There was Camila to consider. Rounding out the small group of people close to Pedro is the somewhat goofy, undeniably adorable, Pallilo. Pedro can push his anger aside for them.

Right up until the Guerilla descended on his father’s farm. In front of his disbelieving eyes, Papi is surrounded as accusations are hurled. The feisty fifteen-year-old cannot watch the depraved tirade and hold his tongue. Boldly, stupidly, Pedro demands an explanation. His father’s crime was revealed with a hint of glee. The farmer had the audacity to allow soldiers from the army to drink water from his well.

The resulting punishment is a defining, dividing moment for Pedro. There are men like Papi. Those who believed, as people of God, it was never right to deny a thirsty man a drink. And there are monsters masquerading as men—the Guerilla.

The situation that Pedro is forced to face is tragic. His retaliatory actions, atrocious. And yet…the author manages to demonstrate how a furious and yes, frightened, adolescent can morph into a ruthless mankiller—all the while reminding the reader that Pedro remains, essentially, a boy.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2019.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Abby in Wonderland
Whatever After Special Edition #1
Sarah Mlynowski
Scholastic, Inc., October 2018
ISBN 978-0-545-74667-0
Trade Paperback

Sustaining a series is no simple task. Inserting a special edition story that is somehow as fresh and fun as the very first book seems insurmountable. Except to Ms. Mlynowski.

This fairy-tale-esque fantasy adds adventure and humor absolutely appropriate for younger readers, while maintaining a subtle, something-more; making it compelling and quirky enough for older audiences as well.

I enjoyed being the proverbial parrot-on-the-shoulder as four friends share a day off from school. Per usual, Penny’s parents are not around, but her house is huge and her nanny is happy to host. Penny has planned the entire day and she is not going to let a little cold air or a brisk breeze ruin the card game on the patio.

But when the wind whipped a card across the yard and into the neighboring golf-course, Abby abruptly abandoned the game to give chase. The other three follow until Frankie falls into a hole. Penny’s agenda is pushed aside. The girls have a real problem to solve.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2019.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Otherwise Known As Possum
Maria D. Laso
Scholastic Press, August 2018
ISBN 978-0-545-93196-0
Trade Paperback

Possum, to me, is kind of a country Pippi Longstocking. Both young girls are wise to the ways of the world, if not properly educated. Tough, fiercely independent with lasting loyalty and a heart bigger than her small body should be able to hold, Possum is another exemplary young lady.

Certainly a smile-through-tears kind of story combining spunk, mischief and intuitive, undeniable kindness, I thoroughly enjoyed the bitter-sweet reflections from the late 20th century in this captivating Juvenile Fiction from Ms. Laso.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2018.

Book Review: Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper by Ana Brazil

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

Title: Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper
Series: A New Orleans Gilded Age Mystery #1
Author: Ana Brazil
Publisher: Sand Hill Review Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2017
Genre: Historical Mystery

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


Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound

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

Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper
A New Orleans Gilded Age Mystery #1
Ana Brazil
Sand Hill Review Press, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-937818-63-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Gilded Age New Orleans is overrun with prostitutes, pornographers, and a malicious Jack the Ripper copycat. As threatening letters to newspaper editors proclaim, no woman is safe from his blade.

Desperate to know who murdered her favorite student, ambitious typewriting teacher Fanny Newcomb launches into a hunt for the self-proclaimed Irish Channel Ripper.

Fanny quickly enlists her well-connected employers—Principal Sylvia Giddings and her sister Dr. Olive—to help, and the women forge through saloons, cemeteries, slums, and houses of prostitution in their pursuit.

Fanny’s good intentions quickly infuriate her longtime beau Lawrence Decatur, while her reckless persistence confounds the talented police detective Daniel Crenshaw. Reluctantly, Lawrence and Daniel also lend their investigative talents to Fanny’s investigation.

As the murderer sets a date for his next heinous crime, can Fanny Newcomb and her crew stop the Irish Channel Ripper before he kills again?

In yet another foray into the world of young women in historical times who flaunt the “rules” of the day and pursue lives of their own creation, Fanny Newcomb enters the scene. Fanny is a bright, appealing teacher of immigrant women, attempting to help them attain better lives in a city that has its own brand of shadiness.

Fanny doesn’t believe it when Karl, a German carpenter of her acquaintance is accused of murdering Nora, an Irish prostitute (maybe) and one of Fanny’s favorite students. Neither her beau or the local police detective want to really listen to what she has to say so Fanny enlists the aid of her employers, the Giddings sisters, to make their way through the seediest and most dangerous parts of New Orleans in search of the truth, eventually gaining a little help from the reluctant Lawrence Decatur and Detective Daniel Crenshaw.

Fanny and the sisters, Olive and Sylvia, are a smart and endearing trio and I thoroughly enjoyed their intrepid adventures in pursuit of justice. They’re especially appealing in their determination to live life by their own rules rather than being hemmed in by the ruthless requirements of the Victorian period and I also appreciated the author’s skillful evocation of New Orleans in its wild and wooly days. I really hope that more adventures are to come.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.

About the Author

A native of California, Ana Brazil lived in the south for many years. She earned her MA in American history from Florida State University and traveled her way through Mississippi as an architectural historian. Ana loves fried mullet, Greek Revival colonnades, and Miss Welty’s garden. She has a weakness for almost all things New Orleans. (Although she’s not sure just how it happened…but she favors bluegrass over jazz.)

The Fanny Newcomb stories celebrate the tenacity, intelligence, and wisdom of the dozens of courageous and outrageous southern women that Ana is proud to call friends.

Although Ana, her husband, and their dog Traveller live in the beautiful Oakland foothills, she is forever drawn to the lush mystique of New Orleans, where Fanny Newcomb and her friends are ever prepared to seek a certain justice.

For more information, please visit Ana Brazil’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Goodreads.

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

Follow the tour here.

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

Giveaway

A paperback copy of Fanny Newcomb
and the Irish Channel Ripper

Enter here.


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