We meet amateur sleuth and former World War I nurse, Kate Shackleton a few years after the conclusion of the war in her small village of Bridgestead, England in the first book of the Kate Shackleton Mystery series, Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody. Kate is still reeling from her husband being declared missing in the war but, at the same time, continues to hold out hope that he is alive. As a nurse in the war, Kate has picked up the skills of a sleuth in helping a few fellow nurses find missing loved ones. She has gained quite the reputation as a novice detective and based on her reputation one fellow nurse, Tabitha Braithwaite, calls on Kate for a mystery of her own.
Tabitha is engaged to be married within weeks and her wish before she walks down the aisle is to find her father, Joshua Braithwaite, who mysteriously disappeared and no trace of him was ever found. Was Mr. Braithwaite, the owner and operator of a textile mill, a victim of someone with a grudge, did he stage his own disappearance or is the truth something more sinister? Kate has little time to dig to the bottom of the mystery before Tabitha’s wedding day. She meets a cast of characters in the village, including many mill workers who may have a grudge against the powerful mill owner and are potential suspects. Kate, along with Sykes, a former detective who she hires as an employee, get closer and closer to finding the truth with potential murderous results. Told in alternative chapters merging past and present, Dying in the Wool gives the reader a glimpse into British society and culture in the early 1920s within a cozy mystery.
One of the most unique aspects of this mystery is the detail that Brody adds to the novel regarding the British textile mill industry immediately following WWI. It is clear she has done her research, giving the reader a sense of the intricacies of how this industry was run. Readers of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series may want to consider starting this series (the eleventh book in the series came out in November). I’m already nearly done the second book, A Medal for Murder, and am looking forward to the third!
Nalini Singh is a well known paranormal romance author, as well as a contemporary romance author. I picked up her newest contemporary romance book, A Madness of Sunshine, recently and found the mystery crime novel with a dash of romance to be fascinating.
A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh takes place in New Zealand (If you have the chance to listen to the audiobook, I recommend it!). Anahera Rawiri grew up in Golden Cove. She fled this small West Coast New Zealand town at twenty-one in order to escape poverty and the childhood ghosts that haunted her. With no plans to return, Anahera sets up a brand new life as a famous pianist with a well-known husband. Eight years later, she finds herself back in Golden Cove desperately seeking comfort in the familiar after her new life implodes around her.
This small town is full of people who trust each other. Friendship runs deep throughout Golden Cove, until one summer shatters the residents of Golden Cove and their peaceful lives apart. Looking into the disappearance of a local beautiful young woman named Miri Hinewai, residents and the lone police officer, Detective Will Gallagher, are left to wonder just how safe they really are. Rumors begin to circulate possibly connecting the recent disappearance and the years-old disappearances of other women. Will begins relying on Anahera’s knowledge of both the area and the residents to help him solve the crimes. The past and present start to collide the deeper Will digs and he starts thinking that Golden Cove may hide something more sinister than the rumors and darkness lurking in the shadows.
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult tells the story of lost souls trying to find their place in the world. Alice Metcalf grew up knowing that she wanted to study elephants. They always fascinated her. Traveling to Africa to study them, Alice, upon watching the elephants’ behavior, decided to focus her scientific research on how elephants grieve. Alice’s life changed drastically when Thomas Metcalf walked into her life. She soon found herself becoming a mother and wife. Balancing those two new roles with her scientific research and helping Thomas run his elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire quickly became difficult to do. She struggled balancing all of her desires and found herself in a sticky situation she could not easily see a solution to. Alice was a beloved researcher, wife, and mother, but it’s been over a decade since anyone has seen her. Alice disappeared under mysterious circumstances more than ten years ago and left behind her husband, small daughter, and all the elephants that she had become especially attached to.
Alice’s daughter, Jenna, has grown up into a thirteen year old who lives with her grandmother since her father has gone mad with grief and is locked up in a facility. With her father never seeming to recognize her and her grandmother refusing to even discuss her mother, Jenna refuses to believe that her mother just up and abandoned her. Something horrible must have happened to Alice because the opposite, that she chose to abandon Jenna and start a new life, is unthinkable. Jenna decides that she must do more to find her mother.
Jenna finds herself on the doorstep of Serenity Jones, a psychic with a legitimate gift who fell from grace and has not had contact with any actual spirits or ghosts in years. After contacting Serenity, Jenna searches out Virgil Stanhope, the detective who first worked her mother’s disappearance and the unfortunate accidental death of one of her mother’s coworkers. The night her mother disappeared was a mess and nothing seemed to be handled correctly. Jenna figures that Virgil must know more about Alice’s disappearance. If not, Virgil surely botched her mother’s disappearance and he owes Jenna the opportunity to find her mother. He has to help. Both Serenity and Virgil soon find themselves wrapped up in the web of Jenna’s grief, anger, frustration, and hopefulness that her mother will soon be found. Jenna, Serenity, and Virgil all seem to be wandering around lost until they are in each other’s company when things finally start falling into place.
This book is full of twists and turns. The twist at the end totally caught me off guard and 12 hours after finishing it, I still find myself trying to figure out how I never figured out the ending. This book is a beautiful piece of fiction. Picoult once again has written a deeply moving book that examines how the love between mothers and daughters defines one’s entire life.
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I have a pretty long commute to work and as a result, I have been listening to audiobooks through OverDrive and One Click Digital in my car. (If you don’t know what either of those resources are, come in and ask a librarian or give us a call. They’re fabulous!) Anyway, I’ve been finishing an audiobook at least once a week and I have discovered I have a type. I LOVE gruesome mysteries, the more complicated a plot the better. Add in strong women who can defend themselves and I’m hooked. My latest audiobook listen fit into that plot perfectly and I couldn’t get enough.
Those Girls by Chevy Stevens is a piece of riveting suspense fiction that covers many years in the lives of the Campbell sisters: Jess, Courtney, and Dani. Their life has never been easy with their mother dying when the girls were young and their father away for weeks at a time working. The three girls live on a remote ranch and must provide for themselves when their father is gone. When he is home, they struggle to stay out of his way, as he is very abusive and has an explosive temper. One night, he comes home in a particularly foul mood and a fight gets out of hand. The sisters have to leave their home and go on the run.
On their way to a new city, their truck breaks down and the girls find themselves facing a new nightmare. What seems to be two good Samaritans offering help devolves quickly into a worst-case scenario with the girls struggling to survive. Jess, Courtney, and Dani don’t know if they will ever be able to escape this new problem or even if they will be able to come back from what has happened to them. Starting completely over in a new town with new names and new lives is their only chance at redemption, revenge, and escape from both the fight with their father and this new terror.
While this book can be a bit of a downer at times, the sisters have an extremely close bond that pulled me in and had me rooting for them to finally get what they wanted. I’ll admit that I had to start this book over twice because I found the beginning to be a little slow, but once the action picked up and I had listened to it for about 15 minutes without stopping, I was hooked. Jess, Courtney, and Dani live a horrifying, depressing, and nightmarish life, but through it all, they stick together and they know that the others will always have their back no matter what.
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Mean Streak by Sandra Brown is a stomach-clenching story of survival in the mountains of North Carolina. Dr. Emory Charbonneau is a pediatrician and a marathon runner competitively training for her latest marathon. She decides to go away for the weekend to run a mountain trail in North Carolina. Leaving her husband, Jeff, after a bad argument, she takes off and spends the night in a tiny town to begin her run early the next morning. Running the trail by herself, Emory goes missing, leaving no trace behind except for her car abandoned in the trailhead parking lot.
By the time Jeff reports her missing, a snowstorm has blown into the area, leaving fog and ice everywhere, halting any search for Emory, and destroying any clues about her whereabouts. Local police suspect Jeff of an ‘instant divorce’ and dive deep into his life, looking for anything that would lead him to want to get rid of his wife.
While suspicion is cast on Jeff, Emory regains consciousness from an unexplained head injury, finds herself in a mysterious cabin, and being held captive by a man who will not even tell Emory his name. She is willing to do anything to escape him, but the snowstorm raging outside force her to stay. Emory and this mystery man soon find themselves swept into a dangerous encounter with some people who have their own way of handling things. Emory soon finds herself forced to confront her own morals and sense of justice.
While local police and the FBI narrow in on her husband’s deception and the identity of her captor, Emory finds herself wondering about the true motives of her captor. Her initial fear falls away, leading her to think about his past and what could have been so violent that would have necessitated a complete move off the grid. This novel weaves together multiple storylines from many different perspectives, allowing readers to glimpse some motives without fully being able to put the whole story together. Mean Streak is ripe with tales of deceit, love, and survival that grabbed my attention and had me deeply invested in the lives of each character.
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Have you zipped through Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series? Are you looking for a heroine as tough and scarred as Lisbeth Salander? Well, look no further.
The titular Informationist, Munroe (aka Michael and Victoria) is a very high-priced gun-for-hire. Because of her facility with languages and insight into the politics and economics of other countries, she acts as a quasi-spy/private eye for governments and corporations. She grew up in Cameroon, the daughter of missionaries, and rebelled against their religion and neglectful parenting, by going to work for a local cartel of criminals. There she learns many survival skills, useful in her current line of work.
The most interesting aspect of the book are the settings of Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon. Munroe and her minder navigate the bureaucracy, politics and culture of these countries trying to find the daughter of a billionaire oilman.
Her job as an “informationist,” is to get the information her employer requests. In this case, whether the missing girl, Emily, is dead or alive. Such a remote part of the world is fascinatingly revealed – the climate, history, and customs are incorporated naturally into the story. The pages nearly drip with the heat and humidity.
The author herself grew up very non-traditionally, in a “communal apocalyptic cult,” as she says. It wasn’t till she was in her twenties that she escaped. The cult traveled all over the world, including West Central Africa, which accounts for her gifted depiction of this area.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a series of Victoria Munroe books in the near future.