Tag Archives: historical mystery fiction

Book Review: Firing Line

21 Jun

Flames leap skyward from a blitzed factory in West Ham as an air raid destroys all in its path. When the blaze threatens neighbouring houses a volunteer fireman breaks in to rescue a trapped resident – but instead finds only the body of a young woman, strangled in her bedroom. For Detective Inspector John Jago the scene brings back memories of the Soho Strangler. He suspects this woman had a secret – that she is not what she seems – and that this may be the root of her untimely end. Investigation reveals a drunken sailor may hold the key to what happened in Joan Watson’s flat. But his information points Jago towards family jealousies, violence, robbery, and the underworld of political terrorism. Was Joan as innocent as her friends claim, or was she mixed up in crime? Jago must unpick multifarious motives if he hopes to reach the truth.

 

Mike Hollow was born in West Ham, on the eastern edge of London, and grew up in Romford, Essex. He studied Russian and French at the University of Cambridge and then worked for the BBC and later Tearfund. In 2002 he went freelance as a copywriter, journalist and editor. He’s a published poet, and nowadays when not writing about the Blitz Detective he makes his living as a translator.

 

My Impressions:

Firing Line is the fourth novel in the excellent Blitz Detective series by Mike Hollow. Set during the days of the London Blitz, this historical mystery/police procedural proves that crime does not stop for war. Smart and well-researched, this novel is perfect for those who love the classic mystery genre. Recommended.

DI John Jago is called in for another murder discovered in the aftermath of the nightly bombings ravaging London. Along with his wonderfully-written assistant, DC Craddock, he doggedly investigates the twisting-turning case that involves greed, jealousy, and political intrigue. I loved the historical touches that Hollow uses to achieve an authentic feel. Nightly trekkers, air raid wardens, Anderson Huts, and the bombing debris around every corner give the reader a glimpse into what it must have been like to be a Londoner at this terrifying time. And while the Germans threatened from the skies, criminals don’t take a holiday. Robbery, blackmail, and murder don’t seem to be affected by the turmoil of war. Jago is a consummate professional and uses all the resources of the time plus his intuition and insight to uncover just whodunit.

Jago’s character develops over the course of this series as he reflects on his service in the Great War and his experiences since. The newest world war causes him to explore questions of justice, fairness, hope, and the need to know and be known. The book is not Christian fiction, per se, but does bring up questions that only God can answer. For those who may find it offensive, there is a bit of adult language.

Firing Line proved to be a great read. The mystery was not easily solved by Jago or this reader 😉 , but its conclusion was both credible and satisfying. While it is part of a series, it can easily be read as a standalone. But I recommend you begin with book 1, The Blitz Detective, to follow the interesting cases and the intriguing main character John Jago.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Lion Hudson and NetGalley for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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Top 10 Tuesday — Summer TBR

19 Jun

It is definitely summer here in the sunny South. The humidity and temps are up and the bugs are out. But I can’t complain because I have some great summer reading — history, mystery, romance, and suspense all in varying combinations! What about you? What are you reading this summer?

Make sure to check out other bloggers’ summer reading lists at That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top 10 Books on My Summer Reading List

 

Cold, Cold Heart by Christine Poulson

Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey

The Death Beat by Fiona Veitch Smith

Falling for You by Becky Wade

The Linen God by Jim O’Shea

The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck

Murder at The Flamingo by Rachel McMillan

A Rebel Heart by Beth White

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright

Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof

 

What’s on your Summer TBR?

 

Top 10 Tuesday: Another Time, Another Place

27 Mar

This week’s prompt for Top 10 TuesdayBooks Set in Other Countries — could go a lot of different ways. I decided to feature historical fiction because even if time travel was a thing, I wouldn’t want to take the risks involved in traveling to foreign countries as they experience turmoil, war, disease, persecution, etc. You get the picture. 😉 Books, in this case, really are the only safe and realistic way to visit another time and another place! There’s a little something for everyone in these books — history, romance, suspense, and mystery. I hope you enjoy the trip!

Make sure you travel over to That Artsy Reader Girl to discover other bloggers and their favorite books.

 

Top Historical Novels Set in Another Country

 

Canada, 1910s

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

In 1910 Toronto, while other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands, two friends perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer.

Inspired by their fascination with all things Sherlock Holmes, best friends and flatmates Merinda and Jem launch a consulting detective business. The deaths of young Irish women lead Merinda and Jem deeper into the mire of the city’s underbelly, where the high hopes of those dreaming to make a new life in Canada are met with prejudice and squalor.

While searching for answers, donning disguises, and sneaking around where no proper ladies would ever go, they pair with Jasper Forth, a police constable, and Ray DeLuca, a reporter in whom Jem takes a more than professional interest. Merinda could well be Toronto’s premiere consulting detective, and Jem may just find a way to put her bachelor girlhood behind her forever — if they can stay alive long enough to do so.

 

Czechoslovakia, WWII

Melody of The Soul by Liz Tolsma

It’s 1943 and Anna Zadok, a Jewish Christian living in Prague, has lost nearly everything. Most of her family has been deported, and the Nazi occupation ended her career as a concert violinist. Now Anna is left to care for her grandmother, and she’ll do anything to keep her safe—a job that gets much harder when Nazi officer Horst Engel is quartered in the flat below them.

Though musical instruments have been declared illegal, Anna defiantly continues to play the violin. But Horst, dissatisfied with German ideology, enjoys her soothing music. When Anna and her grandmother face deportation, Horst risks everything to protect them.

Anna finds herself falling in love with the handsome officer and his brave heart. But what he reveals might stop the music forever.

 

Ancient Egypt

The Pharaoh’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews

Anippe has grown up in the shadows of Egypt’s good god Pharaoh, aware that Anubis, god of the afterlife, may take her or her siblings at any moment. She watched him snatch her mother and infant brother during childbirth, a moment which awakens in her a terrible dread of ever bearing a child. Now she is to be become the bride of Sebak, a kind but quick-tempered Captain of Pharaoh Tut’s army. In order to provide Sebak the heir he deserves and yet protect herself from the underworld gods, Anippe must launch a series of deceptions, even involving the Hebrew midwives — women ordered by Tut to drown the sons of their own people in the Nile.

When she finds a baby floating in a basket on the great river, Anippe believes Egypt’s gods have answered her pleas, entrenching her more deeply in deception and placing her and her son Mehy, whom handmaiden Miriam calls Moses, in mortal danger.

As bloodshed and savage politics shift the balance of power in Egypt, the gods reveal their fickle natures and Anippe wonders if her son, a boy of Hebrew blood, could one day become king. Or does the god of her Hebrew servants, the one they call El Shaddai, have a different plan — for them all?

 

France, 1600s

My Brother’s Crown by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould

France, 1685. Catherine Gillet knows her brother, Jules, wants to protect her from the sinister threats of the French crown. But Jules is involved in a potentially deadly enterprise, one connected with an encoded document. When his actions put the whole family at risk, will Catherine find a way to save them?

Virginia, present day. Renee Talbot, a direct descendant of Catherine’s, is fascinated by the document that’s been part of her family legacy for more than three centuries. Certain its pages hold hidden secrets, she takes a closer look — and makes a shocking discovery. But when memories of a childhood trauma are rekindled, she’s forced to seek answers of a different kind. Inspired by the faith and bravery of Catherine, can Renee find the truth and face her deepest fears at last?

From the authors of the Christy Award-winning The Amish Midwife comes an epic story of two women, centuries apart, each discovering her own hidden bravery, standing for what she believes in, and finding love in unexpected places.

 

The Galilee, Palestine, 1st Century AD

Madman by Tracy Groot

If there is a way into madness, logic says there is a way out. Logic says. Tallis, a philosopher’s servant, is sent to a Greek academy in Palestine only to discover that it has silently, ominously, disappeared. No one will tell him what happened, but he learns what has become of four of its scholars. One was murdered. One committed suicide. One worships in the temple of Dionysus. And one . . . one is a madman.

From Christy Award–winning author Tracy Groot comes a tale of mystery, horror, and hope in the midst of unimaginable darkness: the story behind the Gerasene demoniac of the Gospels of Mark and Luke.

 

Greenland And Iceland, 900-1000s 

Forest Child by Heather Day Gilbert

Viking warrior. Dauntless leader. Protective mother. Determined to rise above her rank as the illegitimate “forest child” of Eirik the Red, Freydis launches a second voyage to Vinland to solidify her power and to demand the respect she deserves. She will return home with enough plunder to force her brother, Leif, to sell her the family farm in Greenland. But nothing can prepare her for the horrors she must confront in Vinland . . . and nothing can stand in her way when her family is threatened. In her race to outrun the truths that might destroy her, Freydis ultimately collides with the only enemy she cannot silence — her own heart. Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life.

 

 

Nevis, 1770s

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren

In 1772 England, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters find themselves the heiresses of their father’s estates and know they have one option: Go to the West Indies to save what is left of their heritage.

Although it flies against all the conventions, they’re determined to make their own way in the world. But once they arrive in the Caribbean, conventions are the least of their concerns. On the infamous island of Nevis, the sisters discover the legacy of the legendary sugar barons has vastly declined–and that’s just the start of what their eyes are opened to in this harsh and unfamiliar world.

Keturah never intends to put herself at the mercy of a man again, but every man on the island seems to be trying to win her hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. She could desperately use an ally, but even an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend leaves her questioning his motives.

To keep her family together and save the plantation that is her last chance at providing for them, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?

 

Scotland, 1800s

Within The Veil by Brandy Vallance

Feya Broon, a Scottish half Gypsy, knows what it is to go hungry. Trapped in the Edinburgh tenements with a father lost to his past and only the faded memory of her mother’s faith, Feya is desperate to provide for her siblings. When an ill-conceived plan leads to thievery, she finds herself in the last place she’d ever want to be–captured by a palace guard. But there’s something about this man that tears at every preconceived notion she’s ever had about the haughty English.

Alasdair Cairncross never dreamed he’d be forced to transport a Gypsy woman halfway across the wilds of Scotland. The timing is disastrous, considering his fiancée’s imminent arrival and his father’s political goals. Not only that, but the fiery young woman threatens to lay bare secrets Alasdair would rather keep hidden. And yet the farther they travel together, the less concerned he finds himself with duty–both to the crown and to the plans his family has for him.

As their walls begin to crumble, Feya and Alasdair must fight to survive a decades-old feud, a Highland kidnapping, and the awakening of their own hearts.

 

South Africa, post-WWII

The Girl from The Train by Irma Joubert

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

 

Ukraine, WWII

Like A River from Its Course by Kelli Stuart

The city of Kiev was bombed in Hitler’s blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union, but the constant siege was only the beginning for her citizens. In this sweeping historical saga, Kelli Stuart takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little—known history of Ukraine’s tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.

Maria Ivanovna is only fourteen when the bombing begins and not much older when she is forced into work at a German labor camp. She must fight to survive and to make her way back to her beloved Ukraine.

Ivan Kyrilovich is falsely mistaken for a Jew and lined up with 34,000 other men, women, and children who are to be shot at the edge of Babi Yar, the “killing ditch.” He survives, but not without devastating consequences.

Luda is sixteen when German soldiers rape her. Now pregnant with the child of the enemy, she is abandoned by her father, alone, and in pain. She must learn to trust family and friends again and find her own strength in order to discover the redemption that awaits.

Frederick Hermann is sure in his knowledge that the Führer’s plans for domination are right and just. He is driven to succeed by a desire to please a demanding father and by his own blind faith in the ideals of Nazism. Based on true stories gathered from fifteen years of research and interviews with Ukrainian World War II survivors, Like a River from Its Course is a story of love, war, heartache, forgiveness, and redemption.

March 2018 Book Club Selection —

1 Mar

Can you believe it is March already?!! Here in middle Georgia the flowering trees and shrubs are blooming and the grass is green. It looks like our unusually cold winter is over. But whether we will be sitting out on the porch or cuddled up next to the fire — you never know what March will bring — we will be reading! By The Book‘s March selection is The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright. I have heard great things about this debut novel. Have you read it? Then we welcome your thoughts. If not, please join us.

 

Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious death fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather’s Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house’s dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.

A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy’s search leads her into dangerous waters and, even as she works together with a man from her past, can she unravel the mystery before any other lives — including her own — are lost?

To purchase, click HERE.

Professional coffee drinker & ECPA/Publisher’s Weekly best-selling author, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Coffee fuels her snarky personality. She lives in Neverland with her Cap’n Hook who stole her heart and will not give it back, their little fairy TinkerBell, and a very mischievous Peter Pan. The foursome embark on scores of adventure that only make her fall more wildly in love with romance and intrigue.

Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimejowright.com!

Top 10 Tuesday — Best Mystery/Suspense Novels of 2017

12 Dec

I was snowed-in over the weekend! Really? In Georgia!? Yes! What started as a weekend getaway to our mountain cabin turned into a struggle for survival. The light-dusting forecast became a 10-inch snow dump accompanied by a power outage. If not for the intrepid Domino’s driver who delivered to the end of our road and our uber-prepared neighbors who generously supplied our flushing needs, I don’t know what we would have done! Seriously, my husband is a prepper wannabe so we were sitting pretty (except for the above mentioned toilet issue). My contribution to preparation? A big pot of homemade soup and a fully-loaded and charged Kindle. Priorities, you know. I read two really great mystery/suspense novels, my genre of choice. Focusing on the life threatening adventures of the characters keeps the mind off the dwindling supply of oreos. 😉

The theme of this week’s Top 10 is Best of 2017. So here are the mystery/suspense books that I read this year that should always be in stock during a weather emergency. All are part of a series, so that takes care of the many hours of waiting for the power trucks to appear.

To find our what other books bloggers found exceptional this year, head over to The Broke And The Bookish.

Top Mystery/Suspense of 2017

Always Watching by Lynette Eason

Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble

The Cover Story by Deb Richardson-Moore

Dangerous Illusions by Irene Hannon

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan

Death in The Shadows by Paul McCusker

Dressed for Death by Julianna Deering

Guilt by Association by Heather Day Gilbert

If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock

Moving Target by Lynette Eason

Still Life by Dani Pettrey

Vanishing Point by Lisa Harris

 

What book makes your must-have list?

 

Book Review: Deeds of Darkness

9 Nov

Many medieval scholars discontinued their university studies before completing their degree. Some lacked funds; others became bored with a scholar’s life. Occasionally these young men formed lawless bands, robbing and raping and creating chaos. They were called goliards.

In Deeds of Darkness Master Hugh learns that the Bampton coroner, an old friend, has been slain while traveling to Oxford. As he seeks the killer (or killers) he discovers a band of goliards in the area between Oxford and Bampton. But how to apprehend these youths? They have protectors far above Hugh’s station. He must deal with the claims of justice on the one hand and the power of great men to protect their henchmen on the other.

 

 

Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He graduated from Spring Arbor High School in 1960, and Greenville College (Illinois) in 1964. He received an MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970. He taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in Portage, MI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School.

Mel married Susan Brock in 1965, and they have two daughters; Amy (Kevin) Kwilinski, of Naperville, IL, and Jennifer (Jeremy) Reivitt, of Portage, MI. Mel and Susan have seven grandchildren.

 

My Impressions:

I love, love, love Mel Starr’s medieval mystery series featuring surgeon and bailiff, Hugh de Singleton. Not only does Starr bring medieval England to life, he creates an intelligent mystery that keeps both the main character and the reader on his toes. Deeds of Darkness is the 10th book in the series and is as fresh as all the rest. If you love history and mystery this one is for you!

Hugh is once again charged with uncovering a mysterious event in his bailiwick. Besides determining what happened to businessman and coroner, Hubert Shillside, Hugh is faced with assaults, murders, hamsoken (breaking and entering), and threats to himself and family. All in all, just another episode for his chronicles.

Starr does his homework in the creation of Hugh’s world. Interesting details of everyday life and a sprinkling of old English words combine with the social order of the day. His characters are very much medieval in their attitudes and ethics, but there is plenty there for the modern reader to identify with. Men (and women) haven’t changed that much in the 600+ years since Hugh lived. The mystery is filled with twists, turns, and puzzling clues. Deeds of Darkness keeps the reader guessing. Justice in 14th century England is unlike our’s — the state and church had separate jurisdictions and sentencing requirements. But it is certain that, one way or the other, everyone got what they deserved. Hugh is a very devout man and keeps the tenets of the church and the teaching of Jesus to the forefront of his mind, even when they are difficult to follow. Starr portrays a world in which faith is the center of a man’s world, but in the latter days of the 1300s, a reforming wind is in the air.

Intelligent, intriguing, and just plain fun, Deeds of Darkness is a recommended read. And with other deeds of darkness sure to come in the future, I look forward to more adventures with Hugh.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Murder on The Moor

16 Oct

Mystery Awaits on the Mysterious Yorkshire Moors

At the urgent request of an old school friend, Drew and Madeline Farthering come to Bloodworth Park Lodge in the midst of the Yorkshire moors, a place as moody and mysterious as a Brontë hero. There have been several worrisome incidents out on the moor — property destroyed, fires started, sheep and cattle scattered–and worst of all, the vicar has been found dead on the steps of the church.

Drew’s friend is obviously smitten with his bride of eight months, though it’s hard to imagine what she sees in the awkward man. Drew can’t help wondering if her affections lie more with the man’s money and estate, while her romantic interests focus on their fiery Welsh gamekeeper. As the danger grows ever closer, it’s up to Drew to look past his own prejudices, determine what is really going on, and find the killer before it’s too late.

Julianna Deering (also writing as DeAnna Julie Dodson) has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness, and triumph over adversity. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats and, when not writing, spends her free time quilting, cross stitching and watching NHL hockey. Her series of Drew Farthering mysteries set in 1930s England debuted from Bethany House with Rules of Murder (2013) and is followed by Death by the Book and Murder at the Mikado (2014), Dressed for Death (2016), and Murder on the Moor and Death at Thorburn Hall (2017).

My Impressions:

Five books into the Drew Farthering mystery series, and I am still wowed! Drew and Madeline are back in Murder on The Moor, a book with a definite Gothic-vibe that will keep you guessing right up to the end. For fans of cozy, classic, or historical mysteries, this one is a must-read!

It’s a dark and stormy night when Drew and Madeline have a visitor who whisks them away to the moors of Yorkshire in search of a murderer. There are mysterious goings-on at the Lodge that Drew feels cannot be attributed to supernatural hounds and gypsies. Plus the bodies are piling up! Can Drew solve the case before more innocents are murdered?

Drew Farthering is such a fun character. A true gentleman, his interests in murder mysteries translate to real cases. This amateur is assisted by wife Madeline and friend and employee Nick. Nick especially has a fun role in this book. Supporting characters are well-drawn and illicit a good deal of suspicion.  The moors are a great backdrop for the mystery, adding an extra level of intrigue. Drew is persistent in his presumptions in this case and seeks to mold the clues to his theories — something he knows is bad sleuthing. But he just can’t seem to help himself. I actually liked that about Drew — he (and the reader) learn that assumptions are often due to past experiences and prejudices and can be vastly unfair. Drew relies heavily on his faith, and it (and the counsel of Madeline) serves him well in setting his path straight again. The villain is at last exposed, and you won’t see it coming!

I finished Murder on The Moor just in time for the release of the sixth adventure featuring Drew, Death at Thorburn Hall. Although a well-established series, each book, including Murder on The Moor, can be read as a standalone. But I would suggest digging into all the Drew Farthering mysteries — there’s great fun in these great books!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Bethany House for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)