Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus

Another exciting YA mystery from the author of One of Us is Lying, 2019’s Two Can Keep a Secret is the story of cold cases, twins, secret family histories, and haunted houses which I read in exactly one day. It’s got echoes of Pretty Little Liars and There’s Someone in Your House, though more grounded in realism than either, and is most like A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.

Ellery and Ezra are twins, just like their mother Sadie and her sister Sara were twins. When Sadie and Sara were high school seniors in Echo Ridge, Sara went missing and was never seen again. Sadie left town as fast as she could, settling in California. Now, Sadie’s in rehab, forcing high school seniors Ellery and Ezra to come to Echo Ridge for the first time to live with their Nana, Sadie’s mother. As soon as they arrive in town, they learn that Sara wasn’t the only one – five years ago homecoming queen Lacey disappeared, and her body was found in the local fright theme park. Her boyfriend Declan was suspected, but nothing was ever proven. As Ellery and Ezra settle in, making friends with Declan’s younger brother Malcolm, history chillingly starts to repeat itself as anonymous threats against Homecoming start to appear around town – and then one of the Homecoming Court goes missing. True crime buff Ellery and an implicated Malcolm scramble to uncover the culprit before it’s too late.

To be honest, this is very, very similar to A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder in premise: the smart quirky girl and the younger brother of the unjustly accused unite to solve a mysterious disappearance of the town golden girl. HOWEVER, McManus puts her own twists on it which makes this book stand apart. For one, Malcolm’s brother Declan is no saint, with a hot temper, secrets of his own, and a shaky history with Malcolm – this means that Declan’s innocence is nowhere near certain for most of the book. Secondly, Ellery and Ezra’s relationship with each other and their flawed mother adds dimension to the book; Sadie’s struggle with opioid addiction feels timely. Third, and maybe most importantly, the police play a much larger role in the investigation than Ellery and Malcolm. I really appreciated the realism of teens getting it wrong, repeatedly, while ‘the professionals’ (who amateur detectives love to dismiss) actually do their jobs and get it right.

Overall a solid, plausible, and compelling mystery with twists and revelations to keep you reading; LGBTQ representation in side characters and awareness of ethnic diversity (particularly the difficulty of being one of the only non-white families in town) are plusses. My only request would’ve been to flesh out the side characters more – Ezra and Malcolm’s friend Mia fade into the background where I would’ve liked them to stand alongside Ellery and Malcolm as equals. If you liked any of the YA mysteries listed above, or McManus’ other works, definitely try Two Can Keep a Secret.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

You might or might not remember, but I adore Karen McManus’ work, especially One of Us is Lying. I became interested in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson partly because it sounded similar in theme and character. If you like teen investigators or liked One of Us is Lying, you might like Jackson’s work too.

Here’s the story: Pippa has spent the last 5 years hearing about Andie Bell’s murder, and every time it’s the same story: her boyfriend Sal met her at night, killed her, hid her body, and within a few days was so overcome with guilt that he took his own life. But Pippa knew Sal, and she’s never quite believed it. When she gets a chance to do a senior capstone project on a topic of her choice, she jumps at the opportunity to investigate the case for herself, hoping to cast doubt on the official version. With help from Sal’s younger brother Ravi she digs into everything she can find, requesting records, interviewing Andie’s friends, and just generally turning over rocks that her suspects would rather she not look under. Slowly they put together a much darker picture of who Andie Bell was and why she died, and as anonymous threats arrive Pippa has to wonder if she’s taken on more risk than she can handle.

I liked this book a lot, for the skilled writing and the well-drawn characters; I rooted for Pippa, Ravi, and their friends and I mourned their losses along with them. I especially liked that Pippa had devoted friends, despite being the hardworking bookworm, and that she was compassionate as well as determined as she investigated such a sensitive topic. Jackson adds in realities of life, such racial prejudice, sexuality, blended families, and death. And, with no spoilers, the resolution was as unexpected as you’d want it to be after all that buildup. All in all, very effective, but at the same time it didn’t really compete with One of Us is Lying for my favorite YA mystery – mostly because Jackson stuck solely to one character’s perspective instead of alternating voices like McManus; as a writing style I prefer the breadth of viewpoints you get from an ensemble cast.

If you’re a mystery reader, a reader of young adult books, or a McManus fan like me, don’t miss out on A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, or its sequels Good Girl, Bad Blood and As Good as Dead, expected this fall.

Online Reading Challenge – August

Hello Fellow Readers!

New month, new author for our Reading Challenge. This month’s author is : David Baldacci!

There will be no shortage of authors that are similar to Baldacci and, for that matter, no shortage of David Baldacci books to read. He has written 40 novels for adults (and that number keeps growing). He has several different series with recurring main characters, but they all have some of the same elements in common – a gritty thriller with lots of action, a main character that is usually a loner and often an ex-cop or ex-CIA or ex-military.  There’s a mystery that needs to be solved, requiring the main characters special skills/persistence/past history. These make great “beach reads” that don’t require much deep thinking but are fun and quick to read.

If you’ve already read everything by David Baldacci and/or you’d like to branch out, here’s a list of similar authors – all of which are pretty popular in their own right.

James Patterson

Lee Child

Brad Thor

Michael Connelly

Tess Gerritsen

Patricia Cornwell

Walter Mosley

Brad Meltzer

Daniel Silva

Harlen Coben

Iris Johansen

Kathy Reichs

There will be displays at all three Library locations with lots of titles to choose from.

I’ve actually never read anything written by David Baldacci, so I’m going to try one of his books. There are almost too many to choose from and opinions on each title swing from “the best book ever” to “Baldacci has lost his touch, this was terrible”! I finally settled on The Innocent, the first in his series about Will Robie, who is a “master assassin”. Hmmmm. Not so sure about this, but I’ll give it a try.

What about you – what will you be reading this month?

Online Reading Challenge – December Wrap-Up

Hello Readers!

We’ve made it through another year! Hurrah! I hope you’ve enjoyed our reading explorations!

This month’s inspiration film was The Maltese Falcon, a classic detective film starring Humphrey Bogart. It’s the quintessential private detective movie with a twisty plot, a mysterious woman and a jaded detective.

The book I read this month was The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (he also wrote The Maltese Falcon which the film is based on), which checks many of the same points including a twisty plot and a mysterious woman (or two). This one is set apart by the detectives though – in The Thin Man they are Nick and Nora Charles, a crazy-rich couple who solve crimes when their social calendar of cocktails and banter allows.

Nick and Nora are the kind of wealthy people that could quickly become super annoying but instead, this pair is funny and charming, madly in love with each other and kind and generous to those in need.  Quite frankly, the mystery – which I found a little hard to follow – was secondary for me (I’m  not a big mystery reader so that’s not a surprise) Instead I enjoyed the characters and the atmospheric setting – I could almost hear the clinking of martini glasses and see the sharp clothes. This book is an enduring classic for good reason!

How about you? How did your reading go this month? Let us know in the comments!

We may be done with the Online Reading Challenge for this year, but the 2021 Challenge begins on January 2! Be sure to check back for all the details!

Enola Holmes: Page and Screen

If watching Stranger Things made you a fan of  Millie Bobby Brown, if you love rebellious female heroines, or if you devour all things Sherlock Holmes, then Enola Holmes may be the character for you. A film adaptation centered on Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes’ younger sister is now available on Netflix, so there’s no better time to discover the mystery book series by Nancy Springer.

The series is six books in all, starting with The Case of the Missing Marquess, first published in 2006. As in the recent film, the book’s action starts when Enola discovers her mother is missing. It’s up to her to travel to London and find her, while solving a few other mysteries and avoiding her older brothers at the same time.

I am excited about this series and its film adaptation for a number of reasons. Nancy Springer wrote some of my most favorite books when I was younger, full of fascinating, sympathetic characters, plenty of action and humor, and covering a wide range of genres and situations. Secondly, I am a self-confessed Anglophile, and I love the Sherlock Holmes character and universe. Throw in a spunky, clever, determined heroine, and I am 100% on board. The fact that the Enola character is played in the film by Millie Bobby Brown, whom I love in Stranger Things, is just a bonus. If you like mysteries, historical fiction, and comparing books to their film adaptations, I definitely recommend you check out the Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer.

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello!

I hope this finds you safe and healthy – these are crazy times we’re living through, aren’t they? I also hope you’re finding the Library’s online services helpful – though we miss seeing you at one of our locations, using e-books or e-audiobooks is a great alternative!

Usually at our Mid-Month Check, I suggest movies or television series that you can check out from the library that fit with that month’s theme. This month, of course, we aren’t checking out physical items so instead, I’m going to point you toward another great online resource available through the Library – Acorn TV! Acorn is a collection of mostly British television series that you can stream for free! There’s an amazing collection of shows to watch, perfect for staying-home and, since so many of them are British, a lot of them will fit into this month’s theme of Downton Abbey! Here’s a selection to get you started.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries – set in the 1920s, this delightful series actually takes place in Australia (but it still counts!) with the fashionable Miss Fisher solving a variety of intriguing mysteries.

Victorian House of Arts and Crafts – this is a fun documentary that follows 21st century craftsmen as they work on renovate a Victorian-era house using 19th century tools and techniques.

Keeping the Castle is another documentary, this one about the expense and upkeep of one of those huge country estates in the modern age.

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes is a series featuring classic mysteries with a variety of investigators set in the same time period as Sherlock Holmes.

It’s easy to get started with Acorn TV; simply go to the Davenport Library homepage, click on Digital Content, then click on the Acorn TV. You’ll need your library card number and an RB Digital account (also free) Licenses check out for one week with unlimited renewals.

Of course, you can also watch something from your own collection of DVDs or your streaming services (there are no Library Police!) Mostly, I recommend finding something fun and distracting!

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check In

Hello Again!

How is your month of Edwardian reading going? Have you found something that has grabbed your interest? If you’re still looking, maybe a movie would be the ticket – there are some gorgeous films set during this time period. Here are a few to consider:

A Room With a View – From the famous production team of Merchant and Ivory, this gorgeous film of love and romance stars Helen Bonham-Carter and Daniel Day-Lewis and is set in the idyllic Italian countryside.

Howard’s End – Another beautiful Merchant and Ivory production, starring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, brings the rigid rules of Edwardian society into sharp focus.

Edwardian Farm – Find out how the other half lives when two archaeologists and a historian recreate farm life for a full year using practices from 1906 England. Fascinating!

The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady – So beautiful! Filmed on location in England and Scotland, this drama follows artist Edith Holden through the changing seasons.

Murdoch Mysteries – Follow Detective William Murdoch as he solves murder mysteries in Edwardian Toronto using the latest scientific methods.

Parade’s End – From the end of the Edwardian era through World War I, this epic story of romance and betrayal stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall.

Mary Poppins – For something much lighter and happier, you can’t go wrong with Mary Poppins. It’s magical and fun and surprisingly thoughtful. Don’t miss it.

Miss Potter – The charming story of Beatrix Potter’s efforts to publish her first books and gain some measure of independence as a single woman in Edwardian England. Lovely and heartbreaking. Starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor.

The Edgar® Award for Best Mystery Novel of 2014

130_eapoeThe Edgar® Awards, or Edgars® are named for Edgar Alan Poe, the American author credited with the invention of the modern detective story. They are awarded in the spring of each year by the Mystery Writers of America to honor distinguished works in the genre. The Davenport Public Library is pleased to present the winner and nominees in the Best Novel category:


 WINNER

bn3mrmercedes

 

In Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, unhappily retired cop Bill Hodges is spurred to action when the perpetrator of a devastating crime in his depressed Midwestern city threatens to strike again on a larger scale. The previous year, a crazed driver had run a stolen Mercedes into a line of unemployed people waiting for a job fair, killing eight and wounding several. Hodges, in a race against time and with the help of some unusual local characters, will not let the devious Mercedes Killer escape again!


 

 NOMINEES

thisdarkroadThis Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash follows Wade, an ex-minor league baseball player on the run with his two young daughters (taken from their foster home in Gastonia, NC). He is pursued simultaneously by a vengeful former criminal associate and ex-cop Brady Weller who uncovers more nefarious doings in Wade’s past.

 

wolf“HELP US,” a note attached to the collar of a dog found wandering in the woods sends Detective Inspector Jack Caffery back to work in Wolf, Mo Hayder’s fifth Somerset crime novel. Will Caffery find the family held hostage in their country home before it is too late? Will the mysterious Walking Man help him discover the truth about his missing brother?

 

finalsilenceIn Stuart Neville’s The Final Silence, Rea Carlisle enlists the help of former Belfast DI Jack Lennon in uncovering her uncle’s disturbing activities during the Troubles. Her efforts are blocked by her father, a successful politician determined to keep the family’s grisly secrets under wraps. Now the subject of a murder investigation himself, Lennon smells a conspiracy.

 

saintsofshadowDetective Inspector John Rebus returns to the Edinburgh police force in Saints of the Shadow BibleIan Rankin’s nineteenth series installment. Paired once again with internal affairs officer Malcolm Fox, Rebus links 30-year-old murder case with a current car accident investigation to reveal a complex web of public and private corruption.

 

coptownIn Karin Slaughter’s stand-alone crime novel, Cop Town, two women detectives from very different backgrounds team up to stop a serial shooter from terrorizing the police force in 1970s Atlanta.

 

Get Ready to Shake your Beaded Tassles!

When I grow up I want to be a Lady Detective just like Miss Fisher—elegant, scrappy and clever (words that also describe my other favorite Lady Detective, Jessica Fletcher!) Phryne Fisher has been dancing around the book world for a while (see my review of the first in that series here: Phryne, Rhymes with Briney), but now we can actually see her shake her beaded tassels in a new gorgeously filmed television series by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, shown in the United States on PBS.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries begins just as Kerry Greenwood’s book series does, with the Honorable Phryne Fisher, played by the seductive Essie Davis, returning to 1920’s Melbourne after being away for a decade or so. While she was away in Europe, Miss Fisher had modeled nude for artists, partied with dancers, worked as WWI nurse, and suddenly came into a title and money. Now that she is returned, Phryne decides that her charm and intellect are perfectly suited to solving murder mysteries around her old hometown. She enlists the help of her gentle butler, her communist chauffeurs/handymen, and her new maid, Dot, who finds herself constantly struggling between good Catholic values and the not-quite-legal-or-virtuous things that Miss Fisher persuades her to do. And of course, the local Detective Inspector Jack Robinson does not find Phryne’s frequent interference in his work amusing (even if he does find her annoyingly companionable.) I loved every episode of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, but what most puts a sparkle in my eye is Phryne’s marvelous wardrobe! The silk kimonos! The slinky wide-legged pants! And the hats oh THE HATS!

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is so charming, fun and sexy while still addressing many historically controversial issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and terrorism—all while giving us a cracking good whodunit. I highly recommend this series to fans of Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, and those who love history and mysteries 😉

Upcoming Books – June

Here are some of the new releases from popular authors that are coming out in June. Reserve your favorites today!

ides of april

sweet salt airthe heistbad monkeytell meone heart to win

 

 

 

Lindsey Davis – The Ides of April

Barbara Delinsky – Sweet Salt Air

Loren Estleman – The Confessions of Al Capone

Janet Evanovich – The Heist

Carl Hiaasen – Bad Monkey

Lisa Jackson – Tell Me

Johanna Lindsey – One Heart to Win

classified

second honeymoonchoke pointtrains and loversisland girlsrevenge wears prada

 

 

 

Fern Michaels – Classified

James Patterson – Second Honeymoon

Ridley Pearson – Choke Point

Alexander McCall Smith – Trains and Lovers

Nancy Thayer – Island Girls

Andrew Vachss – Afterschock

Lauren Weisberger – Revenge Wears Prada

For more new titles, be sure to check out Upcoming Releases on the Davenport Public Library webpage!