by Susan Elia MacNeal
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
Mystery & Thrillers
Pub Date 07 Aug 2018
Imagine Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None played out on an island where British spies who are an “inconvenience” are kept. The newest Maggie Hope mystery, The Prisoner in the Castle, reinterprets Christie’s classic plot in a manner that is fresh rather than derivative. Maggie Hope was sent to Killoch Castle without explanation - her assumption is that she knows too much. After a new resident arrives, the deaths begin. First the kindly soldier ostensibly in charge, then one spy after another. Anyone present is capable of killing, but what would be the reason? As each turns on the other in suspicion, Maggie tries to hold things together and keep everyone alive. Meanwhile her good friend DCI Durgin realizes Maggie has gone missing and pursues her with the help of her friends and allies in the service....
Speakeasy is far removed from the standard WWII era thriller. It is a novel that alternates between past and present and between voices. Lena, the central lead, is a code breaker with a shady past and an unfortunate history of choosing the wrong man. Byron, known as “By God” is a mild accountant seduced into the adventurous high speed life of being a gangster. Both Lena and Byron were drawn into the charismatic web of Bill Bagley, a brilliant but tragically flawed bank robber. Lena thought she escaped, but the threads of the past are long, and as she struggles with the impact of her tasks as codebreaker and the human cost of both success and failure, it begins to look like she has not run far enough or fast enough.
On the whole, Speakeasy is well done. The development of the characters and the changes that take place in them over time is utterly believable...
Firing Line is a superb historical mystery set against the backdrop of WWII. I can easily imagine the story being made into a BBC miniseries. The characters are well developed and believable and the surroundings are clearly portrayed, bringing the blitz to life for the reader.
When a young woman is discovered strangled in her flat by an air warden and a fireman, Detective Inspector Jago and his constable first believe it might be the work of the Soho Strangler. It is easy to assume that Joan was on the game, but Jago isn’t one to accept the easy solution. The only clues are a pair of nylons and a sailor’s hat. As Jago digs into Joan’s life and family, he finds things are much more complicated than he expected. Family conflicts, a domineering mother in law, greed, and long hidden secrets all play a role.
I liked Firing Line a great deal and look forwar...
The Corpse in the Snowman A Nigel Strangeways Mystery
by Nicholas Blake
General Fiction (Adult) , Mystery & Thrillers
Pub Date 21 Aug 2017
If you like historical mysteries or reprints of novels from the Golden Age of Mystery, you should definitely read at least one of Nicholas Blake’s novels. The Nigel Strangeways mysteries are challenging puzzles where human psychology plays a major role. The Corpse in the Snowman is an excellent manor house mystery that pits Nigel Strangeways and his wife Georgia against a cunning criminal, but is that criminal also a murderer?
Elizabeth Restorick is beautiful and troubled, a hedonist and an addict. Her family is stunned when her body is discovered. But is it a suicide, or a murder made to look like suicide. At the urging of Georgia's cousin and the Restorick family, Nigel explores the possibilities. Is it the enigmatic doctor from London who has been treating Elizabeth’s addiction, or her spurned suitor ? A jealous friend or a m...
A Study in Gold A contemporary British mystery set in Oxford by Annie Dalton
Mystery & Thrillers
Pub Date 01 Sep 2017
Annie Dalton is an amazing writer. I’ve enjoyed her entire Dog Walking Detectives series, and feel that A Study in Gold in particular is exceptional. The introduction puts the readers off guard. Initially I didn’t know that the murder was present day. The flavor was entirely 1940s. Into the first chapter, the reader discovers that Anna, Isadora and Tansy have agreed to take part in a 1940s mystery weekend -culminating in a celebration and an actual dead body.
Initially Anna, Isadora and Tansy have no plans to investigate the murder. It is only a series of coincidences beginning with a witnessed argument at the art auction house previously owned by Anna’s father that causes the trio to be drawn into two mysteries. An elderly Jewish man claims that an unknown masterpiece A Study in Gold was stolen from his family during...
Ruined Stones By the author of The Guardian Stones
by Eric Reed
Poisoned Pen Press
Historical Fiction , Mystery & Thrillers
Pub Date 04 Jul 2017
With the men away at war, women took on many jobs traditionally held by men, including police work. Grace Baxter is a newly minted WPC just assigned to Newcastle-on-Tyne. As a woman, her capabilities are suspect, but every hand is needed. When an unknown prostitute’s body is discovered carefully arranged in the ruins of a Roman temple, Grace suspects murder. Her superior feels it is an accident, but is happy for Grace to occupy herself. The villagers are reluctant to share their secrets - even more so when a second body is found, that of Grace’s roommate’s ne'er do well husband. Complicating the murder inquiries are the village’s inherent suspicion of incomers and the fear and prejudice against refugees.
Grace’s inquisitiveness, as well as her good sense and ability to approach people, serve her well as a consta...
Death at the Dog is a charming cozy originally published in 1940. When old Mathew Scaife is poisoned, suspects abound. Thoroughly disagreeable and with a penchant for causing trouble, Mathew is hated, particularly by the tenants he sought to evict in order to rent to affluent evacuees from the city. Inspector Guy Northeast is tasked with finding who killed Mathew Scaife and why. The chief suspect is Crescy Hardwick, a charismatic and outspoken writer who would have lost her home had Mathew not died. It doesn’t help that earlier that evening she had threatened to murder the old reprobate. Despite loads of circumstantial evidence, Inspector Northeast doesn’t believe he capable of murder.
Death at the Dog is as enjoyable today as when it was first published. The method of murder is ingenious and the culprit comes as a definite surprise. It is a novel th...
Sirius is an extremely moving novel. It takes a great historical tragedy, one of the low points in human history, and presents it from a dog’s point of view. But the novel also does far more than that. It shows a family’s perseverance through adversity, hope for the future, and ultimately the triumph of the human (and canine) spirit. Some may complain that many of Sirius’s actions are absurd like communicating secrets to the resistance by playing the piano. The reality is that these points are uplifting, enabling the reader to smile and laugh despite tears. It is part of the essential transformative nature of film. Sirius reads like a film from the Golden Age of Hollywood -a grand adventure with a perfect ending.
Sirius starts out as an ordinary dog, part of a loving Jewish family. With the coming of Hitl...
The Queen's Accomplice is no light historical mystery that is easily read and forgotten. It is a chilling thriller that is pertinent today, despite being set during WWII. We would like to think we live in a more enlightened age, but the reality is that violence against women is all too prevalent. Sadly the speeches of certain politicians railing against women read much like the excerpt from Mein Kampf placed at the beginning of the novel.
During WWII, women had to take the jobs left empty by men fighting in the armed forces. Their work was essential, but that doesn't mean it was always appreciated. Susan MacNeal has done extensive research, and it shows clearly in her writing. Maggie Hope, though working for the SOE is seconded by MI-5 to assist in the search for a serial killer targeting professional...
Lammas Night is an unusual piece of historical fiction. Set during WWII, it isn't big on physical action, rather it is more of a metaphysical human drama. Katherine Kurtz ingeniously blends historical fact with a fictional tale of the occult struggle to protect Britain against invasion by Hitler's forces. By taking history and bits of truth, such as Hitler's known fascination with astrology and the occult, Kurtz weaves a fascinating and seemingly possible tale - a hallmark of good fiction. She even incorporates time appropriate descriptions of occult practices.
The novel revolves around two men, Graham (Grey) head of the department of MI6 devoted to occult intelligence and Prince William. The two have been close friends for a long time, including in numerous past lives. More than that, each plays a special role in the ritual sacrifice of King (or king substitute)...