Hal Holbrook and Nicole
Nicole Porter (N ;P) is a fan of historical and medical mysteries as well as a touch of light fantasy to cleanse the pallet.
Michael Nethercott brings his characters, Mr. O’Nelligan and
Lee Plunkett, from the pages of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and gives
them a proper debut novel. It’s 1956 and professional (“professional” in the
sense that he has a license) detective Plunkett is asked to look into the death
of a psychic medium. He engages the assistance of his new/old friend Mr.
O’Nelligan. O’Nelligan holds no license and will accept no payment but he does
have a bit of the Irish twinkle and turn of phrase. With suspects o’plenty
(mostly under the same roof) the duo works in the grand tradition of Agatha
Christie and Ellery Queen, complete with the gathering of all the suspects in a
room to reveal the killer. O’Nelligan and Plunkett promise to be a comfortable
“go-to” duo when nothing else seems to hit the mark.
bit of Peter Pan, a dash of Oliver Twist, and just a hint of Daddy-Long-Legs
gives us Rooftoppers. Charles Maxim finds a baby floating in a cello
case in the English Channel after the shipwreck of the Queen Mary. He decides
she is 1 year old. He, with her help, decides her name is Sophie. And he
decides to keep her. The National
Childcare Agency is not happy with this arrangement but allow it to go on until
Sophie’s 12th birthday. Now, with the looming threat of being
separated and Sophie going to an orphanage, she and Charles quickly flee to
Paris in search of her mother. Aided by a small band of street urchins, Sophie
risks everything to follow the magical music to her true home.
Smith is meant to be a village fisherman like his father. But Gideon’s no
“he-man,” he’s a dreamer. Gideon dreams of living the adventures of Captain
Lucian Trigger as reported to World Marvels and Wonders by trusted “man
Friday,” Dr. John Reed. When his father is killed in a suspicious fishing
accident, Gideon decides to enlist the aid of this intrepid penny dreadful duo.
Stopping to rest on his way to London, he finds himself at the home of
Professor Einstein, where he meets up with a beautiful automaton named Maria. A
disheveled Fleet Street reporter, an erudite Bram Stoker, a sexy dirigible
pilot and a cowboy sky-pirate round out this daring cast of adventurers. Oh,
and let’s not forget, reclusive artist Walter Sickert, a horde of mummies, a
provocative vampire, and Queen Victoria’s ministry of ne’er-do-wells. I know
what you’re thinking, “this can’t possibly just end here!” You’re right!
for a Secret author Lyndsay Faye continues her series with star copper
Timothy Wilde, picking up shortly after the conclusion of Gods of Gotham.
This mystery covers a very important and often overlooked time in American
history when “free born” citizens of color and freed slaves were commonly
kidnapped from the streets of the Northern states and sold to the South. Not
only was this practice common, it was, for all intents and purposes, legal. So,
it takes the death of one of these women, found in the bed of Timothy’s
brother, Valentine, to allow an investigation of any sort to progress. Faye
once again fills the pages with not only an intriguing story and a masterful
puzzle but also unforgettable characters.
It’s the all-star edition of Paul Cleave’s killers. A serial killer, a spree
killer, a mass murderer, bad guys born bad, and good guys gone bad! And more
than one of them is out to kill Joe, a.k.a. Slow Joe, a.k.a. The Cleaner,
a.k.a. The Christchurch Carver, currently waiting among them for his murder
trial to begin, and the guards aren’t exactly enamored of him either. And
through all of this, Joe’s mom just can’t understand why he won’t ask the warden
to let him out of jail for an hour the day of his trial to attend her wedding!
Not to worry, Joe’s killer girlfriend has a plan. Joe has a plan too.
Unfortunately, these days they aren’t really communicating. Get ready for more
gore galore. This is no cozy.
If you like historical
fiction you will love A Natural History of Dragons. Lady Isabella Trent
is a woman ahead of her time. Whatever that time may be; no time period
or location is ever mentioned. However, in my mind I was reading about
the late 18th century in the British Isles. Scotland perhaps? Lady
Trent accompanies her husband on an excursion to find, capture and kill
a dragon for purposes of study. Her job is to act as secretary to the
men, recording through writing and drawings everything they learn about
the evasive beasts. I very much enjoy the voice of Isabella. She’s
witty without being overly proud of her wit, and she’s smart without
looking down at those less fortunate in either educational or financial
status. If you’ve ever doubted the existence of dragons, this book will
have you rethinking the question.
Originally published in New
Zealand in 2006, Paul Cleave’s books are being published in the U.S.
for the first time, and publisher Simon & Schuster has a sure bet
on their hands with The Cleaner. “Slow Joe” is working as a janitor in
the police department of Christchurch, New Zealand. The thing is … Joe
isn’t really slow at all. He is a serial killer. Working with the
police allows him to keep tabs on the investigation into the gruesome
deaths of seven women. The problem is, one of those murders was
committed by someone else, and Joe is not happy to see it included
among his own work. His plan is to find that killer and frame him for
the whole shebang. This book is dark, violent, visually disturbing and
And then, just when you think you’ve taken all the ugly you can handle… there’s his latest date…
Nancy Bilyeau’s The Crown
introduced Joanna Stafford, a novice Dominican nun during England’s
Reformation period. In The Chalice her strife continues. Henry VIII has
systematically destroyed the nunneries and monasteries of the country
leaving hundreds of nuns, monks and priests, quite literally, out in
the cold. Throughout her life, she’s been told by three different seers
that she has yet another calling: saving England from the King! This is
a little known series that needs and deserves an audience. Bilyeau’s
characters and settings have a very true-to-life feeling about them,
taking us from the more rugged locales to the opulence and decadence of
the king’s palace. This series does not disappoint.
Fans of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series will not be disappointed by this foray into young adult fantasy. And if you’ve not yet discovered this incredibly entertaining and imaginative author, The Last Dragonslayer is a great introduction. Written for the “ages 12 and up” audience, this bit of fairy tale doesn’t talk down to these readers, making for a satisfying read for all ages. Magic is no longer a hot commodity in the Ununited Kingdom, so finding enough work for the members of the Kazam Mystical Arts Management employment agency has become quite a chore for 15-year-old Jennifer Strange, who has been left in charge due to the mysterious disappearance of the agency’s proprietor, Mr. Zambini. Adding to Jennifer’s woes, there remains one last dragon in the kingdom that all seem to agree needs to be killed – perhaps because more than one faction has an interest in the dragon’s land holdings. In true Jasper Fforde tradition you will be enchanted by every character, from the Transient Moose to the Sisters Karamazov. And from the moment you meet the Quarkbeast you’re going to want one for your own.
Damiata, courtesan to the murdered Juan Borgia, favorite son of Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI) is being forced by the Pope, who is holding
her 5-year-old son hostage at the Vatican, to find who ended his son’s life or be held ultimately responsible. Enlisting the help of Niccolo Machiavelli
and Leonardo da Vinci, Damiata races against time to save her son from the clutches of the Borgias. Ennis weaves together an excellent puzzle,
worthy of the infamous characters brought to life in The Malice of Fortune. More than half the story is narrated by Machiavelli, giving the reader an
intricate look into the workings of his mind and that of Cesare Borgia (aka Valentino), the subject of the classic work The Prince. With the opulence
and the brutality of Renaissance Italy as a backdrop, you’re bound to find yourself completely entranced. – Nicole
This is not a “who-dun-it”, as the prologue lets us know from the start that Harriet Wallis has been found guilty and hanged for the murder of her husband. Instead, in her U.S. debut, author Maggie Joel intrigues us with a “why-she-dun-it” and it’s not for any of the clichéd reasons we’ve come to expect. In 1953 England is celebrating the coronation of a new queen, signifying a new beginning for a country that has just survived a war and a depression. So what would possibly compel a well-to-do mother of two with a successful husband to commit murder? The Second-Last Woman in England twists as it follows not only Harriet’s story but also those of both her husband and the children’s nanny. This is a well- executed look into the psyche of three characters on the ultimate collision course.
If you haven’t yet discovered Imogen Robertson and her amateur sleuths Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther, the perfect time is now.
Anatomy of Murder is the second installment of this series which takes place in 1780’s England. Harriet is the wife of a ship’s captain who, after
years of sailing beside her husband, is now a stay-at-home mom. Once again enlisting the help of the anti-social anatomist Crowther, Harriet has been
sought out by a government official to explain the death of a man found floating in the Thames. This investigation will take them into the world of
Opera in search of just what this death has to do with the Franco-American Treaty and how, exactly, Captain Westerman is involved. You can read
the first book, Instruments of Darkness, now. Then, adventures continue, exposing the secret past of Gabriel Crowther, in the October release of
Island of Bones. – Nicole
Out now in paperback is the story of Howard Thurston, a contemporary of Harry Houdini and arguably the most successful magician of his day. Unfortunately, he was not the best at budgeting his fortunes. Or, maybe, not "unfortunately." Thurston used every dime he earned, and quite a few borrowed dimes, to construct increasingly more elaborate illusions. The illusions created by Thurston and built by his engineers are still enjoyed today by audiences everywhere. Steinmeyer’s book is satisfyingly full of the rivalries between magicians of the early 20th century and the risks of not retaining their trusted staff, who could eventually become someone else’s right hand. If you are a fan of Christopher Priest’s Prestige, you will truly enjoy the reality that fills the pages of The Last Greatest Magician in the World.
There are no laughs in The Laughterhouse by Paul Cleave. This is a dark, deeply disturbing, New Zealand noir tale that will leave you hungering to read more. At Theodore Tate’s first murder scene, a young girl was found dead in an abandoned slaughterhouse. She has come back to haunt him and the town of Christchurch, New Zealand, 15 years later. Suddenly people are being murdered in the most horrendous ways and a doctor and his three daughters have been kidnapped. The killer is playing a bit of a game with the police force and Dr. Stanton, who is being physically tortured and is now plagued with the decision of which of his daughters (ages 11, 8 and 1) the madman should kill first. This is a fast-paced gruesome story that you may want to turn away from but just can’t.
Ethan Kaille is a thieftaker in mid-eighteenth century Boston. He’s also been convicted of mutiny and is a conjurer, and magic is frowned upon. However, Ethan isn’t the only thieftaker in town. Sephira Pryce doesn’t like competition and sends her goons as a reminder to Ethan. And, the thief he has been hired to hunt down is embroiled in some high stakes politics. Additionally, even his own sister finds his magical abilities blasphemous. D. B. Jackson has created a wonderful historical mystery with just the right amount of magic as to make it almost plausible. The Thieftaker is the first in a planned series. It also works perfectly as a stand-alone, but I bet you’ll want to meet up with Ethan again. This is a book that will appeal to fantasy and mystery fans alike.
It’s 1889, “Saucy Jack” has seemingly disappeared, and Scotland Yard is still reeling from its failure to apprehend him. But there is no time for pity parties. Another killer is on the loose in the streets of London. Or is it two killers? Or three? In his debut novel, Alex Grecian takes us through three days with Scotland Yard’s new “Murder Squad” as they track down the person or persons responsible for the mutilation murder of a fellow police officer, the throat cuttings of previously bearded men and the suffocation of a chimney sweep. I loved this book. The characters are all very distinguishable from one another simply by their dialogue. There is some very subtle humor among the police officers that fits perfectly making everything smoothly believable. The chapters written from the point of view of the tailor are dark and mesmerizing. The information on forensic pathology and the new art of fingerprinting is fascinating. Chat with me at MGRB for more reasons I love this book. – Nicole
Take the atmosphere of Lewis Carroll, the characters of Lemony Snicket and the stories of the Brothers Grimm and you’ve got a good idea of what you have to look forward to with Montefiore’s Goddaughter. In her travels between the Waking World and Traumund (the dream world) Abigail Crabtree is finding that life (awake or asleep) is full of mystery. Her Godfather pays her way into a learning institution only to find the classes available to her teach nothing but personal preening. Meanwhile, in Traumund, the entire world is under attack by the Vulture Men. Abigail leaves school to stay with her Godfather, but is this her best move? Ask Suicide Sylvia. Kidnapping, ghosts, an evil maid, an old monastery, a mysterious woman in the basement...and that’s just in the Waking World! Montefiore’s Goddaughter is a quick-paced, fun tale where the villain’s only purpose in life is “to kill all the children!” — Nicole
Historical mystery fans, put this book on your “must read” list. If you’ve felt the need to fill the hole left after the ending of Bruce Alexander’s Sir John Fielding Mysteries, Robin Blake has a perfect fit. The year is 1740 and our “hero” is Coroner Titus Cragg along with his good friend Dr. Fidelis, living in a small province of England. The magistrate’s wife has been found dead and it is the job of these men to surmise the circumstances of her passing. Though the magistrate himself is suspect number one, far too many other suspects keep popping up, and then turning up dead themselves. As the story unravels, the coroner is faced with weighing his personal ethics against the law. Whether or not you agree with Cragg’s final decisions, you can’t help but respect the sincerity of his reasoning. — Nicole
Ripper is a historical re-imagining of Jack the Ripper remixed with a bit of steampunk. Orphan Carver Young has hit the ripe old age of 14 and is sent out to find his own way in the world. Recruited by the New Pinkerton Agency, Carver decides to use this training to find his father, who clues suggest may be still alive. In the meantime, his official assignment is to find the culprit of the Ripper-styled murders that are taking place in New York City, while staying out of the way of Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt. Petrucha's Pinkerton is hidden in the temporarily-abandoned tunnels of the planned subway system, allowing for another, more secretive level of mystery, and giving a home to the steampunk elements. Ripper is written in short action packed chapters that keep the pulse of the story and that of the reader moving quickly to the stunning end.--Nicole
The wars of New York City are heating up in 1845. Nationality, religion, and sibling rivalry all play starring roles in this intriguing historyical mystery. Author Lyndsay Faye writes a gritty and compelling fictional story that clues the reader into the fledgling days of the New York City police department and social issues of a turbulent time in American history. The Gods of Gotham is a great addition to the personal library of anyone who enjoyed The Gangs of New York.--Nicole
Current nominee for the Edgar Award in the paperback original category, The Faces of Angels is written in a hauntingly atmospheric tone that brings to mind Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. American art history student Mary Warren returns to Florence, Italy, years after having survived a brutal attack that ended in the death of her new husband. Although assured by the Florence police that her husband's killer is dead, on her return she finds recurring reports of women being attacked in the same manner as she was. It could only be the same man, or someone in her circle of trusted friends with an unspoken personal vendetta against her. Author Grindle is expert in her ability to make everyone a viable suspect while at the same time revealing in each character the impossibility of their being Mary's nemesis. In reading this book it is often possible for the reader to forget the current period in which the story is set, often feeling as if we've stepped back in time. In most books this would be seen as a failing, but in The Faces of Angels it only adds to the mystery of the story and to the mystery of Florence itself.--Nicole