Historical Mystery Reads: Captain Jim Agnihotri series by Nev March

Nev March started writing in her teens, drawing inspiration from authors like Neville Shuts, Rudyard Kipling, Mary Stewart, and Arthur Conan-Doyle. Her love of Sherlock Holmes is apparent in her debut novel, Murder in Old Bombay.

In 2015, Nev left her job in business and returned to writing fiction. She now teaches creative writing at Rutgers-Osher Institute. Nev immigrated from India thirty years ago and currently lives in New Jersey with her family. She is Parsee Zoroastrian.

Murder in Old Bombay is the first book in the Captain Jim Agnihotri series. The plot of this book was inspired by the hundred-plus-year-old unsolved deaths of the Godrej sisters in 19th century Bombay. The author wrote a fascinating article detailing this for the website Criminal Element. Let’s talk about the book!

1892: Bombay is the center of British India. Cultures of all sort mix in the streets. Captain Jim Agnihotri is recovering in Poona military hospital from serious injuries sustained in a battle on the northern frontier. With not much to do, Captain Jim finds himself re-reading his favorite Sherlock Holmes stories and pouring over the news in the daily papers. One day, a case called the crime of the century captures his attention. Two women fell to their deaths of the busy clock tower at the university in broad daylight. One of the victim’s husbands, Adi Framji, is certain that his wife and sister did not commit suicide and writes to the paper demanding justice for them. This case fascinates Captain Jim and he soon finds himself approaching Adi and his family searching for answers. Adi hires him to investigate what really happened to the women.

Captain Jim begins his investigation and discovers that the case is full of more secrets than he originally thought. He must chase down witnesses, running across country looking for answers. Asking questions proves increasingly dangerous as Captain Jim shakes out secrets that haunt the Framji family’s past. Each member of the Framji family wants to help, including Lady Diana who insists on getting more hands-on in the investigation. The friendship between Lady Diana and Captain Jim starts to blossom and soon feelings develop. Captain Jim’s personal and professional relationships are in jeopardy the closer he gets to the truth of what happened the afternoon the Framji women died.

If that description wasn’t enough to make you want to read this book, maybe accolades will sway you! This debut novel won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. It was also 2021 nominees for the following: Edgar and Barry Awards, as well as Anthony, Macavity and Hammett Awards for Excellence in Crime Fiction.

Captain Jim Agnihotri series

  1. Murder in Old Bombay (2020)
  2. Peril at the Exposition (2022)

Historical Mystery Reads: The Lady Sherlock Series by Sherry Thomas

Sherry Thomas is a USA Today bestselling author who has a wide catalog of published works ranging from romance to fantasy to mystery to even a wuxia-inspired duology. Thomas also won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award twice. Sherry Thomas had previously been known to me through her romance novels, but this past year, I discovered her Lady Sherlock series, which leans towards historical mystery, but has some elements of romance. Let’s get into the first book!

(But first: author photo courtesy of Jennifer Sparks Harriman at Sparks Studio)

A Study in Scarlet Women is the first book in the Lady Sherlock Series by Sherry Thomas. It’s a delightful upside-down take on Sherlock Holmes that I found riveting from the start. As of right now, there are six published works in this series, but we’re going to focus on the first one below:

Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable in society, let alone in her own family. Ladies are expected to be demure, but she has an incredibly inquisitive mind and speaks the truth even when it’s uncomfortable for others. While she has curbed her habits to make herself more attractive to others, there are certain parts of her life that frankly Charlotte doesn’t understand why others would be interested in. As a result, Charlotte makes one particular decision that turns her into a social pariah and that also dampens her family’s social standing as well. She soon finds herself trying to ferret out a living in London, a task that is much more difficult than Charlotte ever dreamed.

When Charlotte learns of three unexpected deaths within the city, her interest is piqued. When both her sister and her father fall under suspicion of murder, Charlotte is desperate. It isn’t fair that her family’s name be even more destroyed. She knows neither of her family members could have committed murder. Charlotte decides to use her intellect to find the real murderer (or murderers). Since Charlotte is a woman however, certain avenues of inquiry are of limits. She begins her investigation under an assumed name – throwing doubt onto the police’s investigation and challenging society’s expectations even if it’s hidden at first. Solving the case falls to Charlotte, as even the police are looking to the ever-remarkable Holmes for help and clues.

This book is available in the following formats:

The Lady Sherlock Series

    1. A Study in Scarlet Women (2016)
    2. A Conspiracy in Belgravia (2017)
    3. The Hollow of Fear (2018)
    4. The Art of Theft (2019)
    5. Murder on Cold Street (2020)
    6. Miss Moriarty, I Presume? (2021)

Cozy Mystery Reads: Grilled Cheese Mystery series by Linda Reilly

With a degree in Criminal Justice, Linda Reilly fully expected to work in law enforcement. Life led her down a different path and Reilly instead switched to working in real estate. She writes a number of cozy mysteries where her background in law enforcement comes in handy. Reilly is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Cat Writers’ Association. The series she writes are as follows: Apple Mariani Mystery, Deep Fried Mysteries, Cat Lady Mysteries, and the Grilled Cheese Mysteries. Reilly currently lives in southern New Hampshire with her husband and cats, where she can be found hanging around the local library and bookstores.

The Grilled Cheese Mystery series came highly recommended to me by another librarian. (If you listen to Checked In: A Davenport Library Podcast, you have heard us talk about it before.) Let’s discuss the first book!

Up to No Gouda is the first title in the Grilled Cheese Mystery series. This is a delightful culinary cozy series that will also leave readers hungry for grilled cheese (don’t worry though – there is a list of recipes at the end of the book).

Carly Hale is finally making her culinary dreams come true. Back in her hometown of Balsam Dell after the tragic death of her husband, Carly has opened the restaurant of her dreams: Carly’s Grilled Cheese Eatery. After only five months of being open, locals and tourists alike have flocked to her restaurant and business has never been better. The only caveat: her lease. When Carly took over this building, she knew she had a limited time left in the building. Now she has learned that her old high school boyfriend has bought the building and he has decided to push her out. Carly has to relocate her restaurant and find a way to keep her business alive.

This is absolutely devastating news – until something even more life-altering ahppens. Lyle is discovered dead behind Carly’s shop and one of Carly’s employees is the prime suspect. Carly doesn’t believe her employee would ever hurt anyone, so in order to prove her innocence and to save the restaurant, Carly embarks on a mission to find the killer before it’s too late.

Grilled Cheese Mystery series

  1. Up to No Gouda (2022)
  2. No Parm No Foul (2022)
  3. Cheddar Late Than Dead (2023)

Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins

“Give it time. Nothing you feel is wrong. There will always be a before and an after, and you have to learn to live in the after.” – Rachel Hawkins, Reckless Girls 

Rachel Hawkins is proving she’s a contender among mystery writers with her latest book, Reckless Girls. With this being only her second foray into writing adult fiction (Hawkins had previously written young adult and juvenile fiction), she has crafted a suspenseful psychological mystery that takes place on an island in the middle of nowhere.

Lux McAllister has been drifting for a while. After her mother died, Lux found herself working a job she didn’t particularly like in California. Enter Nico. The minute he walked into the restaurant she was working in, Lux felt he would change her life. Soon enough, the two are living in Hawaii. Nico promised her trips around the world in his boat. Instead the two have been stuck in Hawaii while Nico waits for the money to fix his boat. Nico’s family is rich, so he could ask his dad for the money, but his pride is holding him back. Instead he works at the marina while Lux works as housekeeping at a local resort, hoping to save enough money to fix the boat and sail away.

One day Nico tells Lux that he has met two women who want to hire him to sail them to a remote island in the South Pacific. The best news: they want Lux to come. After they pay to have Nico’s boat, the Susannah, fixed, the four head off to Meroe Island. Their passengers are college best friends Brittany and Amma. They say they want to travel off the beaten path, but something about the two seems off to Lux. After all, why would the chose Meroe Island? The island has a mysterious and deadly history: shipwrecks, cannibalism, and murder have haunted the island for years. It is a gorgeous destination though.

The group descend upon Meroe Island only to discover that there is already another boat anchored just off sandy coast. Living aboard the Azure Sky are Jake and Eliza. They are the golden couple: rich, gorgeous, laidback, and most importantly, their large catamaran has a very well-stocked bar. All six of them immediately click and begin spending their days together exploring the island off grid. Lux finally feels at peace. That peace is shattered when secrets start bubbling to the surface. It appears that people aren’t being as honest as they presented themselves to be. Meroe Island’s exotic locale becomes less and less appealing the longer they stay. When someone turns up dead and another goes missing, emotions run high as they wonder how many will actually leave Meroe alive.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Devil’s Chew Toy by Rob Osler

If you like Stephanie Plum, Agatha Raisin, and cozy mysteries with unique casts of characters where shenanigans ensue, you won’t want to miss Devil’s Chew Toy by Rob Osler. Funny and warm, with a caring center, this whodunit is both a fascinating mystery and a love letter to Seattle and the LGBTQ community.

Hayden has had an interesting night. At his regular queer bar last night, he’d finally worked up the courage to tip the handsome go-go boy dancing on the table, only for the dancer to lose his balance and kick him in the face. Despite the black eye, it wasn’t a total loss, because the dancer turned out to be a sweetheart named Camilo, who took Hayden home. Unfortunately, when Hayden woke up the next day, there was no sign of Camilo anywhere, just his dog Commander. Oh, and the police at the door. Hayden can’t shake his concern, and starts asking around to see if anyone knows where Camilo has gone (not least because having Commander at his apartment is escalating his feud with a nasty neighbor). In consequence, he meets Camilo’s friends Burley and Hollister, and all three are swept up in a quest to get to the bottom of the mystery and bring Camilo home.

What works well in this mystery is a balance between serious caring and lighthearted fun; for instance Camilo’s immigration status and Hollister’s experiences as a 6 foot Black lesbian are treated sincerely as good reasons to feel unsafe around (and less than confident in) law enforcement, but this is balanced with Hayden charmingly out of his depth (but remaining compassionate) as a petite teacher/blogger thrust into a world of jealousy and danger.

Mystery readers, don’t miss out on a self-identified “pocket gay” going on a journey of dog-sitting, wise 90-year-olds, butch lesbians, sinister pet stores, a borrowed Prius covered in religious bumper stickers, and a missing go-go dancer with a heart of gold.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

“It’s not about where you came from. What kind of shit might have happened to you in the past. It’s about who you are. What you do with the opportunities life presents to you.”
― Lucy Foley, The Paris Apartment

The Paris Apartment is a locked room mystery that centers around the people living in a Paris apartment building. Jess needs a fresh start, especially since she doesn’t have a job anymore. After calling her half-brother Ben to ask if she can come crash with him, Jess is surprised that he isn’t there to greet her when she eventually shows up to his apartment building in Paris. He didn’t sound excited that she wanted to come last minute, but he’s family. Ben always keeps his word and would never leave her stranded.

When Jess eventually makes her way inside the building, she finds a very nice apartment that she is honestly surprised that Ben can afford. After all, he’s a journalist who mainly writes restaurant reviews and this is a fancy place. She searches his apartment, but there is no sign of Ben. Time passes and Ben still doesn’t show up. Jess starts digging into Ben’s life, starting with his neighbors. They are a slightly weird bunch, eclectic to put it nicely. Plus they’re not friendly. Jess’s innocent questions about Ben’s whereabouts put them on edge, which only prompts her to ask more questions. Why are they acting so cagey? And where is Ben?

This book is also available in the following formats:

Cozy Mystery Reads: Ice Cream Parlor Mystery series by Abby Collette

Abby ColletteAbby Collette is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Abby can be found writing, facilitating writing workshops at libraries, and spending time with her grandchildren.  Abby Collette is a pseudonym used by Abby L. Vandiver.  Under both names, the author writes cozy mysteries.

As Abby L Vandiver, she has written the following series: Mars Origin, Logan Dickerson Cozy Mystery, Normal Junction, Tiny House Cozy Mystery, and the Romaine Wilder Mystery series. The Logan Dickerson series features a second-generation archaeologist and a nonagenarian. The Romaine Wilder series tells the story of an East Texas medical examiner and her funeral-home-owning aunt.

As Abby Collette, the author writes two cozy mystery series: Ice Cream Parlor Mystery series and Books & Biscuit Mystery series. The Books & Biscuits mystery series is about a set of fraternal twins who reunite and open a bookstore and soul food cafe.

The cozy mystery series that first introduced me to this author was the Ice Cream Parlor Mystery series. I adore cozy mysteries set in restaurants and especially those that involve many generations of family.

The first book in this series is A Deadly Inside Scoop. This book tells the story of a millennial granddaughter who is now in charge of running the family-owned ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Bronwyn Crewse is an MBA grad recently moved back home to Chagrin Falls. Once her grandfather gives her the family’s ice cream shop to run, Win decides that it’s her time to restore the shop to its former glory. Win plans to do some major construction in the shop, as well as crafting homemade ice cream flavors based on her grandmother’s original recipes and on her own new recipes.

Win’s plans are waylaid by construction delays. She misses the summer season and instead opens it later in the year. The day she opens the shop, an early first snow hits the town and keeps customers away from purchasing ice cream. Desperate to improve the day, Win decides to make ice cream from snow, a treat her grandma used to make, and heads out into the storm searching for fresh snow. Her innocent exploration takes a turn when she finds a dead body in the snow. Win soon learns that the body belongs to a man who had a feud with the Crewse family, amongst others in Chagrin Falls. Win’s father is soon implicated in the murder. On top of running the ice-cream shop, Win also needs to find time to clear her father’s name. Win’s friends and family jump in to help her though, lightening her load as she works to find answers.

Ice Cream Parlor Mystery Series

  1. A Deadly Inside Scoop (2020)
  2. A Game of Cones (2021)
  3. A Killer Sundae (2022)

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk

As someone who grew up in libraries and now works in one, I am always interested when a new book about libraries is published. Eva Jurczyk’s debut novel was my latest read about libraries and the people who work there! While it wasn’t what I expected, I enjoyed the story that Jurczyk weaved about the integration of old and new and how that impacts the library world.

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk is an interesting look into academia and the librarians that work behind the scenes to support that world. Univeristy libraries are vastly different than public libraries. The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections as presented in this novel is more similar to our Richardson Sloane Special Collections Center at the Main Library, but deep down, university libraries are simply libraries and the librarians that work there feel the same about books as librarians everywhere else.

In The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Jurczyk discusses the mystery of closed stacks, ancient books, and the institutional knowledge that staff hold, as well as the secrets held by books and staff alike. Liesl Weiss has worked at the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections for years since its inception. Now Liesl is on the brink of retirement. She is actually on sabbatical working on writing a book(about books of course) when she receives devastating news: the director of the library has suffered a stroke and Liesl has been called back to run the library until he recovers. Liesl has been comfortable working behind the scenes managing details, but now working as the director, Liesl discovers that she can no longer stay in the background.

As she begins her new job, Liesl makes a shocking discovery: the library’s most prized and most recently purchased manuscript is missing. Liesl wants to alert the police and sound the alarm, but when she voices her wishes to the administration and other library staff, she is repeatedly told that reporting to the police is not an option. She needs to keep quiet in order to keep the donors happy. This decision requires Liesl to do some maneuvering to keep up appearances that everything is fine. That façade comes crashing down when a librarian goes missing as well.

Liesl must investigate both disappearances and what she discovers proves to her that someone in her department is responsible for the theft. She digs into her colleagues’ pasts to find out who could have done so. She eventually reaches out to the police and together they work to find answers. Liesl finds out truths about the people she works with that shakes her belief in the library, but that proves to her that changes must be put into place to preserve the library’s past, present, and future.

This book is also available in the following format:

Best Seller’s Club April Authors: Liane Moriarty and Sara Paretsky

Want the hottest new release from your favorite author? Want to stay current with a celebrity book club? Love nonfiction? You should join the Best Sellers Club. Choose any author, celebrity pick, and/or nonfiction pick and the Davenport Public Library will put the latest title on hold for you automatically. Select as many as you want! If you still have questions, please check out our list of FAQs.

New month means new highlighted authors from the Best Sellers Club! April’s authors are Liane Moriarty for fiction and Sara Paretsky for mystery.

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Our April fiction author is Liane Moriarty. Moriarty primarily writes fiction, mystery, romance, as well as a children’s fiction series published in the late 2000s. Fun fact: Liane’s sister Jaclyn writes award-winning books for children, teens, and adults, and her youngest sister Nicola Moriarty is also a writer (she writes domestic thrillers)! She has other sisters, but they are not interested in writing.

Liane Moriarty is known currently for her book, Nine Perfect Strangers, which was made into a limited Hulu series. She has nine adult novels that have been translated into forty languages and have sold more than 20 million copies all over the world. Her novel, Big Little Lies, debuted as number one on the New York Times bestseller list, which made her the first Australian author to debut in that spot in the US. Big Little Lies was also made into an HBO limited series starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgård, Adam Scott, Zoe Kravitz, James Tupper, Jeffrey Nordling, and Laura Dern. Moriarty has also written three books for children. She currently lives in Sydney with her husband, son, and daughter.

Moriarty’s newest book is Apples Never Fall, published in September 2021.

Curious what this book is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

From Liane Moriarty, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers, comes Apples Never Fall, a novel that looks at marriage, siblings, and how the people we love the most can hurt us the deepest.

The Delaney family love one another dearly—it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other . . .

If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father?

This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.

The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killers on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after fifty years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are Stan and Joy so miserable?

The four Delaney children—Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke—were tennis stars in their own right, yet as their father will tell you, none of them had what it took to go all the way. But that’s okay, now that they’re all successful grown-ups and there is the wonderful possibility of grandchildren on the horizon.

One night a stranger named Savannah knocks on Stan and Joy’s door, bleeding after a fight with her boyfriend. The Delaneys are more than happy to give her the small kindness she sorely needs. If only that was all she wanted.

Later, when Joy goes missing, and Savannah is nowhere to be found, the police question the one person who remains: Stan. But for someone who claims to be innocent, he, like many spouses, seems to have a lot to hide. Two of the Delaney children think their father is innocent, two are not so sure—but as the two sides square off against each other in perhaps their biggest match ever, all of the Delaneys will start to reexamine their shared family history in a very new light.

This book is also available in the following formats:

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Our April mystery author is Sara Paretsky. She is an international bestselling author with her works published in almost thirty languages in thirty countries. Paretsky writes novels, nonfiction, and short stories, but she is most known for her  female private eye series starring V.I. Warshawski. She began that series in 1982 with In Indemnity Only. That series now has over twenty titles. In 1986, Paretsky created Sisters In Crime, a worldwide organization that exists to support crime writers. In addition to her V.I. Warshawski series, Paretsky has published a memoir, two stand-alone novels, two collections of short stores, and edited four other anthologies. Paretsky currently lives on Chicago’s south side with her husband and their golden retriever.

Paretsky’s latest book is Overboard, book 22 in the V.I. Warshawski series. This book is set to be published in May 2022.

Curious what this book is about? Below is a description provided by the publisher.

Legendary detective V.I. Warshawski uncovers a nefarious conspiracy preying on Chicago’s weak and vulnerable, in this thrilling novel from New York Times bestseller Sara Paretsky.

On her way home from an all-night surveillance job, V.I. Warshawski is led by her dogs on a mad chase that ends when they discover a badly injured teen hiding in the rocks along Lake Michigan. The girl only regains consciousness long enough to utter one enigmatic word. V.I. helps bring her to a hospital, but not long after, she vanishes before anyone can discover her identity. As V.I. attempts to find her, the detective uncovers an ugly consortium of Chicago powerbrokers and mobsters who are prepared to kill the girl. And now V.I.’s own life is in jeopardy as well.

Told against the backdrop of a city emerging from its pandemic lockdown, Overboard lays bare the dark secrets and corruption buried in Chicago’s neighborhoods in masterly fashion.

This book is also available in the following format:

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

“Sisterly relationships are so strange in this way. The way I can be mad at Rose but still want to please her. Be terrified of her and also want to run to her. Hate her and love her, both at the same time. Maybe when it comes to sisters, boundaries are always a little bit blurry. Blurred boundaries, I think, are what sisters do best.”
― Sally Hepworth, The Good Sister

The Good Sister tells the story of fraternal twins, Rose and Fern Castle. The two have relied on each other for their entire lives ever since their dad left and their mom was left as their sole caregiver. Their childhood wasn’t ideal or perfect, but they made it through together. Rose always looked out for Fern, but there was one time when Rose wasn’t there for Fern which resulted in a deadly mistake that has haunted Fern her entire life.

Flash forward to the present. Fern now works at her local library. She has a sensory processing disorder which means that she works hard to avoid crowds, loud noises, and bright lights as much as she can. Fern loves routine and structure, so she carefully plans out her life. She has dinner with Rose three nights a week, visits her mom, and participates in some recreational sports. Life is going on a perfectly normal steady pace. Until it isn’t.

One night at Rose’s house for dinner, Fern learns that Rose cannot get pregnant. She has a medical condition that means she will most likely never get pregnant. After researching Rose’s condition, Fern decides that she has finally found a way to pay Rose back after her years of looking out for her. Fern has decided to have a baby for Rose, but now she needs to find a father. That should be fairly easy to do!

Since Fern has made a plan, she begins putting it into motion. This journey throws up some road blocks though as Fern learns some things about her family that lead her to question what she knows to be true.

This book is also available in the following formats: