A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz

Book Blurb:

Publisher’s Blurb:  The New York Times bestselling author of the brilliantly inventive The Word Is Murder and The Sentence Is Death returns with his third literary whodunit featuring intrepid detectives Hawthorne and Horowitz.

When Ex-Detective Inspector Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, author Anthony Horowitz, are invited to an exclusive literary festival on Alderney, an idyllic island off the south coast of England, they don’t expect to find themselves in the middle of murder investigation—or to be trapped with a cold-blooded killer in a remote place with a murky, haunted past.

Arriving on Alderney, Hawthorne and Horowitz soon meet the festival’s other guests—an eccentric gathering that includes a bestselling children’s author, a French poet, a TV chef turned cookbook author, a blind psychic, and a war historian—along with a group of ornery locals embroiled in an escalating feud over a disruptive power line.

When a local grandee is found dead under mysterious circumstances, Hawthorne and Horowitz become embroiled in the case. The island is locked down, no one is allowed on or off, and it soon becomes horribly clear that a murderer lurks in their midst. But who?

Both a brilliant satire on the world of books and writers and an immensely enjoyable locked-room mystery, A Line to Kill is a triumph—a riddle of a story full of brilliant misdirection, beautifully set-out clues, and diabolically clever denouements.

Guest reviewer, Bob’s thoughts:

Mystery readers should rejoice whenever a new book by Anthony Horowitz appears. He has developed a formidable resume of mystery book and screenwriting credits. In A Line to Kill, Daniel Hawthorne returns with his Dr. Watson style bumbling sidekick, Anthony Horowitz playing himself, in their third outing. Although I am not sure that it clears the high bar set by the first two Hawthorne novels, The Word is Murder and the Sentence is Death, it is an outstanding entry in the series.

Hawthorne and Horowitz are on the island of Aldernay at a literary festival to promote The Word is Murder. Aside from allowing Horowitz to put in a tongue-in-cheek plug for his earlier work, he uses the context to take jabs at the literary establishment and its hangers-on. Horowitz is obviously having great fun and he carries the reader along.

As a mystery, Horowitz pays homage to Sherlock Holmes, as well as the “closed circle of suspects” characteristic of the Golden Age of mystery in the lineage of Agatha Christie to P.D. James. He also provides an element of the locked room mystery in the vein of John Dickson Carr. While Horowitz clearly owes a debt to these antecedents, this is not a pastiche; he  continues to provide fresh, entertaining contributions to the mystery field. Check it out.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a review copy of this work.

My Rating: 5 Stars

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harper (October 19, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 384 pages

Mermaid Confidential by Tim Dorsey

Publisher’s Blurb: 

Serge A. Storms gives condo living a try in this latest acid-splashed Florida crime caper from the “insanely funny” (New York Times Book Review) Tim Dorsey.

Serge A. Storms and his permanently baked sidekick, Coleman, have decided to pump the brakes and live on island time. After years of manic road tripping across their beloved Sunshine State, the irrepressible anti-heroes drop anchor in the Florida Keys. They settle down in Pelican Bay, a thriving condo complex with scenic views and friendly neighbors. But the community is at war with investors who are buying up units and leasing them to young vacationers who party at all hours. With their little slice of heaven on the line, Serge takes it upon himself to convince the tourists to move on and quickly becomes a local favorite.

Meanwhile, the island chain’s long and rich smuggling heritage is causing mayhem—a gang war erupts when a local drug lord passes the family business to his young, enterprising son, and the sun-loving residents are suddenly dodging bullets.

Luckily, Florida’s most lovable serial killer is there to help!

Guest Reviewer, Bob’s thoughts:

This is the 25th entry in the saga of Serge and Coleman; I have read them all, including this one, with enjoyment. At his best, Serge’s manic, caffeine fueled road trips around historic Florida leap off the page and satisfy any lover of history trivia. Serge is a lovable serial killer because he only kills the lowlifes of Florida who “ask for it” generally by exploiting the vulnerable. The lowlifes meet their just reward normally though the creative use of products from Home Depot [Dorsey should have earned a lifetime supply of Home Depot products from his frequent endorsements.]. In this episode, Serge “settles down” into Florida life by buying a condo in the Keys. Although this opens a new vista for satire, the plot loses much of its manic energy. Though Dorsey and Serge are not at their best in this outing, a weaker entry is still pretty good.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing a review copy of this book.

Rating: 4 Stars.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ William Morrow (January 25, 2022)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ January 25, 2022
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 336 pages

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Book Blurb:

Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others.

My Thoughts: This was a clever mystery with a Ground Hog Day element added to the mystery. I listened to the audiobook narrated by James Cameron Stuart who did a fine job reading this story. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to listen to this in long stretches and the book was on the lengthy side which made keeping up with the story, characters, and plot points difficult. I still found the book enjoyable to listen to and liked that there were some unexpected twists toward the latter part of the book. It is extremely well plotted and written. It’s hard to believe this is a debut. I would suggest you get a character list from bookcompanion.com to help keep up with the characters. If I could do it over again, I would like to keep notes of the information learned in each body to help me figure out the mystery, or maybe just listening in larger blocks of time I would have been able to keep up with everything better. I do think the book could have been reduced in size. It didn’t keep my attention as well because it just went on too long, too. I’d still recommend for mystery enthusiasts, especially if you are looking for a different kind of mystery. Even if you aren’t a big mystery reader, you still might want to consider. Everyone in my bookgroup enjoyed it.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Sourcebooks Landmark (September 18, 2018)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 448 pages

Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers

Book Blurb:

1957: Jean Swinney is a feature writer on a local paper in the southeast suburbs of London. Clever but with limited career opportunities and on the brink of forty, Jean lives a dreary existence that includes caring for her demanding widowed mother, who rarely leaves the house. It’s a small life with little joy and no likelihood of escape.

That all changes when a young woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth. Jean seizes onto the bizarre story and sets out to discover whether Gretchen is a miracle or a fraud. But the more Jean investigates, the more her life becomes strangely (and not unpleasantly) intertwined with that of the Tilburys, including Gretchen’s gentle and thoughtful husband Howard, who mostly believes his wife, and their quirky and charming daughter Margaret, who becomes a sort of surrogate child for Jean. Gretchen, too, becomes a much-needed friend in an otherwise empty social life.

Jean cannot bring herself to discard what seems like her one chance at happiness, even as the story that she is researching starts to send dark ripples across all their lives…with unimaginable consequences.

Both a mystery and a love story, Small Pleasures is a quintessentially British novel in the style of The Remains of the Day, about conflict between personal fulfillment and duty; a novel that celebrates the beauty and potential for joy in all things plain and unfashionable. 

My Thoughts: This book apparently has been getting a lot of attention overseas, so I was curious to see what it is all about. The premise of a virgin birth being reported was certainly interesting. I wasn’t blown away by the book as I was hoping, but I did find it an enjoyable read. What I did like was that the woman claiming to have had a virgin book wasn’t portrayed as a crazy person, and the journalist took a real look into her claims even though they appeared unbelievable. I found the scientific way they used to try to determine the truth interesting. The relationships that developed out of the investigation was also compelling. The question at the center was if it wasn’t a virgin birth, then why was this person claiming so? At the end I realized from the author notes that the story idea came out of two actual events that were reported on the same day in England. I was given an advance audiobook copy by the publisher and Netgalley to review, and I did think the narrator did a nice job with the book. I would recommend it.

My Rating: 4 Stars

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Custom House (October 5, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 352 pages

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

Book Blurb:

Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, for short), has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out to Palm Springs for weeklong visits, or when he heads home to Connecticut for the holidays. But in terms of caretaking and relating to two children, no matter how adorable, Patrick is honestly a bit out of his league.

So when tragedy strikes and Maisie and Grant lose their mother and Patrick’s brother has a health crisis of his own, Patrick finds himself suddenly taking on the role of primary guardian. Despite having a set of “Guncle Rules” ready to go, Patrick has no idea what to expect, having spent years barely holding on after the loss of his great love, a somewhat-stalled career, and a lifestyle not-so-suited to a six- and a nine-year-old. Quickly realizing that parenting—even if temporary—isn’t solved with treats and jokes, Patrick’s eyes are opened to a new sense of responsibility, and the realization that, sometimes, even being larger than life means you’re unfailingly human.

My Thoughts: When I first started listening to this one, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. The main character just didn’t click with me for some reason, but before too long I was hooked. This really is a charming book about grief, family, responsibility, and our human ability to learn to love after a great loss. Don’t despair, though, because this is not a depressing book. In fact, there is a lot of humor in the book. and you might find yourself laughing out loud.

My Rating: 4 Stars

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ G.P. Putnam’s Sons (May 25, 2021)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 25, 2021
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 336 pages

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

Book Blurb:

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • Time • Vogue • NPR • The Washington Post • Chicago Tribune • The Globe & Mail • Fortune • Bloomberg • New York Post • The New York Public Library • Kirkus Reviews • LibraryReads • PopMatters

On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally—and willing to fight to the end.

In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports—some released only recently—Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.

The Splendid and the Vile takes readers out of today’s political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when, in the face of unrelenting horror, Churchill’s eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.

My Thoughts: Two of my book groups ended up meeting back to back this month, and they both read books set during WWII. Even though it was not exactly the same time period during the war, I found it interesting reading them back to back because they both focused on the politicians involved with the war. It also gave me the opportunity to learn more information about some of the major players and what everyone was up against. In the previous book read, The Daughters of Yalta, though, Sarah was the daughter Churchill had with him. His youngest daughter, Mary, was featured in this book. I was hoping to hear more about Sarah, too, in this one to fill in additional details, but that wasn’t the case. As usual, Larson does an excellent job researching. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but Larson always does an excellent job in writing his so that it almost reads like a narrative. I always have a good sense of place through his details and his characters are well fleshed out. This is another highly recommended book about WWII.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Crown; First Edition (February 25, 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 608 pages

The Daughters of Yalta by Catherine Grace Katz

Book Blurb:

The untold story of the three intelligent and glamorous young women who accompanied their famous fathers to the Yalta Conference in February 1945, and of the conference’s fateful reverberations in the waning days of World War II.

Tensions during the Yalta Conference in February 1945 threatened to tear apart the wartime alliance among Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin just as victory was close at hand. Catherine Grace Katz uncovers the dramatic story of the three young women who were chosen by their fathers to travel with them to Yalta, each bound by fierce family loyalty, political savvy, and intertwined romances that powerfully colored these crucial days.

Kathleen Harriman was a champion skier, war correspondent, and daughter of U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Averell Harriman. Sarah Churchill, an actress-turned-RAF officer, was devoted to her brilliant father, who depended on her astute political mind. Roosevelt’s only daughter, Anna, chosen instead of her mother Eleanor to accompany the president to Yalta, arrived there as keeper of her father’s most damaging secrets. Situated in the political maelstrom that marked the transition to a post- war world, The Daughters of Yalta is a remarkable story of fathers and daughters whose relationships were tested and strengthened by the history they witnessed and the future they crafted together.

My Thoughts: I’ll admit my knowledge of history and WWII is lacking, but fortunately, I’ve learned a lot through the many historical fiction books set during this time period. This one featured the Yalta Conference that I was totally unfamiliar with, so I appreciated all that I learned about it in this book. The book was well-researched and read well. It was interesting to read about how each politician had a goal and how they maneuvered to achieve his goal. Learning about the involvement of the daughters and the relationship each had with her father was a different twist as well. I would recommend for history buffs and people who enjoy historical fiction, especially WWII.

My Rating: 4 Stars

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Mariner Books; Illustrated edition (September 29, 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 416 pages

The Breakup Book Club by Wendy Wax

Book Blurb:

On paper, Jazmine, Judith, Erin and Sara have little in common – they’re very different people leading very different lives. And yet at book club meetings in an historic carriage house turned bookstore, they bond over a shared love of reading (and more than a little wine) as well as the growing realization that their lives are not turning out like they expected.

Former tennis star Jazmine is a top sports agent balancing a career and single motherhood. Judith is an empty nester questioning her marriage and the supporting role she chose. Erin’s high school sweetheart and fiancé develops a bad case of cold feet, and Sara’s husband takes a job out of town saddling Sara with a difficult mother-in-law who believes her son could have done better – not exactly the roommate most women dream of.

With the help of books, laughter, and the joy of ever evolving friendships, Jazmine, Judith, Erin and Sara find the courage to navigate new and surprising chapters of their lives as they seek their own versions of happily-ever-after.

My Thoughts:

I love books about female relationships and friendships and what better setting to place one in than a book club! This one hit all the right notes for me. I love my two all women book groups I am in and the friendships developed there. The book is told from the POV of each of the characters who end up developing relationships through this bookstore book group. I found all of the stories interesting, and they kept my attention and me rooting for them to get what they want. Don’t be thrown off by the title of the Break Up Book Club. It’s not like every character was involved in a romantic break up. Each of the characters has some breaking up to do with something in their life so they can move forward to a better spot. Recommended for fans of women’s fiction.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Berkley (May 18, 2021)

Language ‏ : ‎ English

Paperback ‏ : ‎ 384 pages

The Lost Apothacary by Sarah Penner

Book Blurb:

Named Most Anticipated of 2021 by NewsweekGood HousekeepingHello! magazine, Oprah.com, Bustle, Popsugar, Betches, Sweet July, and GoodReads!

March 2021 Indie Next Pick and #1 LibraryReads Pick

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

My Thoughts:,

I’ll admit it. I was first drawn to this book solely by its gorgeous cover. It is probably one of my top favorite covers of all time. Then I read the summary of the book, and it sounded intriguing, which it was indeed. The book has dual stories, and I enjoyed both storylines. I probably enjoyed the past storyline with the murders a little more, though. I found the story of people coming to the apothecary to get poisons to give to someone fascinating. It’s another book about women taking control of their lives and finding empowerment when men try to suppress them. The author uniquely and compellingly develops this theme. I also appreciated the female bonding and aid given to each other in both storylines.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Park Row; Original edition (March 2, 2021)

Language ‏ : ‎ English

Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages

The Heart Principle by Helen Huong

Book Blurb:

A woman struggling with burnout learns to embrace the unexpected—and the man she enlists to help her—in this heartfelt new romance by USA Today bestselling author Helen Hoang.

When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.

That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she herself has just started to understand. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.

Thoughts:

The Heart Principle is the third interrelated romance novel from Helen Hoang which began with The Kiss Quotient and followed with The Bride Test. Hoang has carved out a cottage industry of romance novels examining relationships between a protagonist that is somewhere on the autistic/ocd spectrum with someone who is not. Naturally misunderstandings and difficulties ensue from this mix. The Heart Principle continues in this trend. The protagonist, Anna Sun, finds herself paralyzed by her success, endlessly repeating violin passages fruitlessly seeking perfection. Her family doesn’t understand her problems nor is it particularly sympathetic or helpful as a result. Enter Quan Diep, a failed one-night stand, who seeks to understand and help, and falls in love. Although Hoang provides a sensitive and compelling romance, those who have followed her earlier work are likely to be somewhat disappointed. The Heart Principle is a solid entry into the series, but it is neither as novel nor as sizzling hot as her previous work. She risks settling into a formula. My advice: Although she has a formula that has worked thus far, Hoang needs to venture out into new fields before she ends up boring herself as well as her fans.

Thanks to NetGalley that provided a review copy of this work.

Rating: 4 Stars

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Berkley (August 31, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 352 pages