Spellbinding Historical Mystery

Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March

Happy 2023! I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

Out with the old….

Last year I had a hard time keeping up with the schedule of reviewing and recommending a mystery every Tuesday. There were two reasons for this. First, I didn’t feel I could recommend some of the mysteries I read. And when that happened, I felt pressure to read another one so I could recommend that one, and I didn’t have time for it. Second, I read lots of other things, too, and since this is a mystery blog, there were weeks I didn’t read a mystery and I would have nothing to recommend come Tuesday morning. I hope I’m making sense.

In with the new…

Thus, my goal this year is to review and recommend a mystery every other Tuesday. My blog posts will alternate with my newsletter, which also goes out every other Tuesday.

So without further ado, my first recommendation of 2023 is Nev March’s beautiful and engrossing mystery, Murder in Old Bombay. This is the first book in March’s Captain Jim and Lady Diana Mysteries (no, not that Lady Diana).

Full disclosure: I have spent time with Nev on several occasions. She is an absolute delight. We belong to a couple of the same writing groups, we have had dinner together, and we have attended at least one reading together. But she doesn’t know I’m writing this review, and everything I say here is the truth. If I didn’t love the book, I wouldn’t recommend it.

When the book opens, we meet main character Captain Jim Agnihotri, a young man recovering from serious wounds sustained in battle. The British maintain control over much of India, and many Indian people harbor deep resentment toward the British. Captain Jim is caught between two worlds: his mother, who died when Jim was very young, was Indian; his father, whom Jim never knew, was British. This was a time in history when one’s pedigree and the color of one’s skin mattered very much, so Jim doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere.

While still in the hospital, Jim has little to read except newspapers and Sherlock Holmes mysteries. When he reads a newspaper story about the deaths of two women from a high-society Bombay family, he is struck by the horrific manner in which they died and by the sorrowful dignity of the man who lost his wife and his sister in the tragedy.

When he is finally released from the hospital, he takes a job as a journalist and one of his assignments is to interview the man whose wife and sister died. When Jim meets the man, Adi Framji, he is immediately drawn to Adi’s calm demeanor, intelligence, and determination to prove to himself and society that his wife and sister did not commit suicide, as the public has been told. The Framjis are an upstanding Parsee family and Jim has an instinctive notion that someone who means the family harm is behind the deaths. It is important to note that Parsees are a subset of the Indian people, having fled persecution in Persia centuries before. They are a relatively small part of the population, so they keenly observe the custom of marrying within the group—this will come into play later in the book.

Adi hires Jim to help him find out what really happened the day Adi’s wife and sister fell from the top of the university clock tower in broad daylight. As Jim soon discovers, his investigations have threatened someone (or more than one!) and that person intends to stop Jim at all costs.

This story is filled with British Raj history, excitement, and well-paced twists and turns. The author describes Bombay and the Indian countryside in vivid color. There’s enough romance to satisfy even the most jaded reader. More importantly, the main character’s pedigree forms the basis of a fascinating and unsettling look at racism and the social structure at that time in Indian history.

And, of course, there’s the mystery. The whodunit weaves complex (in a good way!) and dastardly motives to bring forth a page-turner that will have readers rooting for the Jim as he makes his way forward at a time when personal and professional stagnation might have been the destiny for people with his parentage. Readers are treated to a graceful and powerful arc of Jim’s character as he moves from self-loathing to self-confidence. And the ending…well, it’s highly satisfying. No spoilers.

I loved this mystery and I would highly recommend it to other lovers of historical mystery. I am looking forward to the second book in the series, Peril at the Exposition.

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A Cryptic Mystery

Murder in the Crypt by Irina Shapiro

Jason Redmond, a physician and Captain in the Union Army during the American Civil War, has seen his fair share of horrors and atrocities—and experienced some of his own as a prisoner of war. When the war ends and Captain Redmond is freed, he discovers that during his absence, his love, Cecilia, has married his best friend. Crushed in spirit and not knowing what to do next, Jason receives word that his English grandfather has passed away, leaving Jason as the heir to his estate and the title that goes along with it.

Accompanied by a young boy (Micah) he met while in prison, Jason goes to England to settle the affairs of his grandfather. His arrival at the manor is the subject of great interest in the village of Birch Hill and its environs, and Jason and Micah haven’t been in residence for twenty-four hours before becoming the subjects of an investigation into a murder that occurred in the church crypt concurrent with their arrival.

The victim, a young man from a disreputable part of London, was discovered by the church pastor inside the tomb of a great ancestor of Birch Hill. A trail of blood led to the tomb, suggesting someone dragged the victim to that spot.

Who was the young man and why was he murdered?

The village constable, Daniel Haze, needs answers to these questions, and he needs them before the inquest, which is scheduled to take place not long after the discovery of the body. After a rather inauspicious beginning to their friendship, Daniel and Jason join forces to figure out who committed the murder and why.

The cover of this book is what attracted me first. It’s spooky and delightfully atmospheric. And the story is every bit as good as the cover. Both Jason and Daniel (and Micah, too) have experienced tragedy; as the story unfurls, the author reveals bits of backstory that continue to haunt the three characters.

The red herrings in this book are intriguing and subtle, and there were enough surprises to keep me turning pages well into the night to reach The End, where everything was explained and where there are tantalizing hints of the next mystery to embroil the team of Captain Redmond and Daniel Haze. I look forward to reading Book Two.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves historical mysteries (particularly those set in England during the Victorian Era), anyone who loves mysteries with complex yet relatable characters, and anyone who loves a good, old-fashioned mystery set in an English village.

A Riveting Read…Plane and Simple

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

I was intrigued by this book from the moment I read the blurb on the back cover: two women, each running from dire circumstances, switch tickets at the airport. Claire, the wife of a politician, gets on a plane headed to California and Eva is going to Puerto Rico.

When the plane bound for Puerto Rico crashes into the Atlantic Ocean, Claire knows the media is going to erupt with news of her supposed death. She has no choice but to adopt Eva’s identity … and along with it, the secrets Eva left behind.

I read this book at every opportunity I had: in line at the post office, waiting at the doctor’s office, and sitting in parking lots. It moves at a quick clip and had me turning the pages as fast as I could devour the words.

The characterization in this book is what makes it so good. The author does a great job of developing these two women and the reader feels sympathy for both of them (though Eva has made her fair share of bad choices, even when alternatives were available to her, and tends to blame others for her misfortunes). I was rooting for both of them. There are a few spots in the book where the reader has to suspend belief a little bit, but because the story is so good, that is easy to do.

I think, in the end, the book is really about strong women, the consequences of telling one’s story in the face of abuse, and having the courage to take the actions that can bring about personal empowerment. Claire and Eva are not without fear and doubt, but they do what they have to do to save themselves.

And the epilogue…you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

I would recommend this thriller to anyone who loves a story featuring strong and well-written female characters, a unique and twisty plot, and stories that explore serious social issues.

***

If you are one of my newsletter subscribers, you’ll know that I have tweaked the format of my newsletters. One of the changes I’ve made is to share deals and releases by other authors here on my blog instead of in the newsletters.

So with that in mind, I have two books to share with you this week. Both are by Laina C. Turner, each one is the first book in a series, and they’re both just 99 cents (and free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited). I have not had a chance to read either of these books yet, but I have both on my Kindle. I’m looking forward to reading them soon.

Friends and Foes: A Read Wine Bookstore Mystery

Stilettos and Scoudndrels: A Presley Thurman Cozy Mystery

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Until next time,

Amy

Collect them All!

A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes

A Fatal Collection is the first book in the Keepsake Cove Mystery series by Mary Ellen Hughes. Don’t you love the cover? It just radiates cozy mystery vibes.

Keepsake Cove is a charming community in the town of Mapleton, located on Maryland’s eastern shore. Filled with adorable shops selling everything from toys to candles to glass, the area holds a special place in the hearts of the people who call it home and the hearts of the people who love to visit. Callie Reed has gone to Keepsake Cove to reconnect with her aunt, the vibrant, smart, and fascinating owner of a music box shop. The two haven’t seen each other in ten years, though they’ve corresponded and their ties are strong.

When Melanie dies shortly after Callie’s arrival, Callie is numb with shock. And when Callie learns that Melanie has left everything to her—her shop, her cottage behind the shop, her inventory, and even her cat—Callie is left reeling.

But once in Keepsake Cove, Callie has some time to think over some of the choices she’s made. She discovers that maybe the inheritance and the new responsibilities as owner of the music box shop are just what she needs to take her life in a new direction. And then there’s that one incredible music box that … well, you’ll just have to read the book to know what I’m talking about.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There were plenty of juicy red herrings, hidden secrets, and conflicts among friends and foes in this vibrant and engaging story. There was a complex and rich set of characters, many of whom I hope to see in future books in the series. The author did a great job setting out the clues, most of which went unnoticed by me. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the best kind of mystery.

I highly recommend this to cozy and traditional mystery readers, as well as people who enjoy a good story set along the Atlantic seaboard.

***

What I’m reading:

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

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Until next time,

Amy

Follow Me…for Murder

#FollowMe for Murder by Sarah E. Burr

#FollowMe for Murder is the first book in Sarah E. Burr’s Trending Topic Mystery series. It’s actually the only book in the series right now, but I’m hoping there are more on the way.

Coco (Cordelia) Cline is a young entrepreneur and the savvy owner of a social media consulting business in her hometown of Central Shores, Delaware. She got her start as part of a small team of people who sold their lifestyle-centric tech startup to Facebook, netting millions of dollars apiece. She kept the rights to her lifestyle blog, though, and continues to post to hundreds of thousands of social media followers who hang on her every word.

Sean and Olivia Chen are the owners of a high-end consignment shop in town and they’ve hired Coco to handle the social media campaign associated with the shop’s grand opening. Coco has lots of great ideas, if only Olivia would quit posting impulsively (and to no effect) on social media. Coco and the Chens agree to meet at the shop to discuss the online ramp-up before the big day, but the Chens are late. Coco has her own key to the shop, and when she lets herself in she finds the dead body of the Chens’ assistant, a young woman named Stacy.

Suspicion, naturally, focuses on Coco almost immediately. After all, she found the body. And the police are looking at the Chens, too, since Stacy’s body was found in their shop. Coco needs to clear her name for obvious reasons, but she has to clear the Chens’ name, too, or else their shop is going to fail before it even gets up and running. With the help of her boyfriend and two of her best friends, Coco sets out to find the killer. Along the way she finds that Stacy was hiding some secrets and behavior that could be potentially explosive in the little town of Central Shores.

I loved that this cozy mystery has a lot going on. Besides the mystery of who killed Stacy, there are also hints of political intrigue going on in the little town and Coco’s insecurity about the state of her relationship with her boyfriend of four years, Hudson, whose star is rising quickly as a local television news personality. There’s the high school enemy-turned-voracious follower of Coco’s blog, and a new relationship between one of Coco’s best friends, Charlotte, and a guy working for the county crime lab.

The pacing of the book was spot-on. It moves just as quickly as a cozy should. The characters were fun, too—Coco’s friend Jasper was one of my favorites. And the idea of an amateur sleuth using social media to dig for clues in the case is great. Why? Because it’s a double-edged sword, just like social media in real life: Coco is trying to keep people in town and her minions of followers from finding out she’s the person who discovered the body, so she has to watch everything she says and does. She has to be careful about appearing in photographs that will find their way onto social media. On the other hand, she is a social media expert, so being able to find clues buried in suspects’ profiles and elsewhere online is a great asset for someone with her skill set.

This was a fun read and I’m eager for the second book in the series to come out. I would highly recommend #FollowMe for Murder to anyone who likes a good cozy, mysteries set in beach towns, anyone with a love-hate relationship with social media *raises hand*, and anyone who likes a great cast of characters.

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What I’m reading:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

The Crate by Deborah Vadas Levison

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Until next time,

Amy

Another Christie Classic

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

There’s a reason Agatha Christie is the best-selling mystery author of all time. She’s that good.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is the fourth Hercule Poirot novel, and features the inimitable Belgian detective at his best. He’s moved to the town of Kings Abbot to pursue the growing of vegetable marrows, but soon finds himself embroiled in the investigation of a most perplexing murder. There are suspects aplenty, so Monsieur Poirot’s famous little gray cells are put to the test in sussing out the culprit.

The characters in the book are expertly drawn, as one would expect from Dame Agatha, and each of them harbors a secret (some more shocking than others). M Poirot makes it his mission to uncover each character’s secret, and he does so (as he does in all his appearances in Christie’s stories) with an abundance of well-earned self confidence and faultless logic.

The solution to the mystery of who killed Roger Ackroyd lies in that faultless logic, and it makes the path to figuring out whodunit especially fun for readers. Many of you have no doubt read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (as I have, but I’m on a mission to reread all the Christie novels) but I urge you to read it again and pay special attention to the way in which Christie lays out the clues. It’s ingenious. Even more ingenious is the twist at the end, one of the most famous plot twists in modern literature.

The British Crime Writers’ Association has voted The Murder of Roger Ackroyd the best crime novel ever written. I wholeheartedly recommend it to every reader who appreciates a good mystery.

Do You Know what BSP Means?

A Traitor Among Us by A.M. Reade

BSP means Blatant Self-Promotion and I am not above doing it.

It’s not often I highlight my own books on my blog, but because A Traitor Among Us was released two weeks ago, I thought I’d share one of the reviews with you. I’d also like to remind everyone how important reviews are to authors—they figure prominently in the algorithms used by book retailers in advertising and in choosing the books which those retailers promote to their legions of readers. If you’ve read A Traitor Among Us and haven’t left a review, I encourage and ask you to do that. It’s easy! Just a few lines about why you liked the book is enough. Thank you in advance!

I hope you enjoy this review as much as I did:

“A beautifully written Revolutionary War era mystery, told from the point of view of a young woman, which really sets this novel apart from others. The story unfolds through thoughts and narration as if the characters were speaking to us from the 1770s. Etta Rutledge, the main character, is a strong and capable young woman with quite a lot of responsibilities helping her family run an inn. Her words and thoughts completely immerse us in the Colonial era, and give us a fresh voice and a new perspective on life in Cape May County, NJ. I truly loved this main character, Etta, and how she interacts with her sweet and vulnerable sister Prissy, who has a disability (I am happy to read more disabled characters in books), and it’s clear there’s a strong protective bond between the sisters. The brothers are also well portrayed, and we immediately care about Etta and her family and friends. The Rutledge family owns the tavern and inn, the central place in the story, and what a fascinating place it is. Ms. Reade [sic] describes it well from the ambiance to the drink, food, and talk. The dialogue is plain style, as befits the times, and the author clearly researched everything and makes us feel as if we are right there in the 1770’s. The Rutledge inn is where Loyalists and Revolutionaries gather, and as the war looms, the suspense builds when a body is found, and then another. Etta’s courage during a turbulent time is amazing as she tries to find the murderer as the war threatens to break apart her family. We care about Etta and are drawn into her life and the lives of those close to her. A wonderful story, and I look forward to continuing to read many more books in this wonderful new series!”

Thanks to “Mondi” for the review! I appreciate it so much!

As usual, I’ll close this post with a recommendation. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical mysteries, mysteries set in the American colonies, or tales set during the Revolutionary War.

Careful What You Wish For

The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski

I had the pleasure of reading The Mother Next Door when I moderated a panel of authors for the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival back in early March (to watch the panel, click here). Tara Laskowski was one of the authors on the panel and since she was the first person to send me a copy of her book so I could prepare for the panel, hers is the first one I read.

And what a book.

Tara is an award-winning author whose other books inclue One Night Gone, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons, Bystanders Stories, and a number of works in short story anthologies. The Mother Next Door is the first book of Tara’s I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last. I’m especially eager to read One Night Gone.

In The Mother Next Door, Theresa, her huband Adam, and their teenage daughter, Lily, have moved to town for Adam’s new job as the high school principal. They settle in the tony cul-de-sac called Ivy Woods and Theresa is soon drawn into the clique of moms, called the Ivy Five, who all live in the neighborhood.

Each year the Ivy Five host a showstopping Halloween block party, and this year the head of the clique, Kendra, is determined to make it the best party ever.

As Halloween approches, the women are busy with preparations, to-do lists, and a million details that will make the evening a smashing success. But their excitement turns to unease when they begin receiving anonymous emails hinting at something the Ivy Five have hidden beneath the manicured surface of the suburban idyll they call home.

I read this book in two sittings. It would have been one, but I had to force myself to get some sleep. It seems almost everyone in this book has secrets they want to remain buried—even Theresa has a past that is getting closer and closer to catching up with her. But there are people who know what lurks beneath the sophistication and outward perfection of the cul-de-sac…someone’s getting ready for the big reveal, and someone else hopes it never happens.

Relatability is one of Laskowski’s many strong suits. The Ivy Five could be any women, anywhere. The reader recognizes the setting because we’ve all seen places just like Ivy Woods and we all know people just like each of the women in the book. Everything is eerily familiar.

Told mostly from the points of view of Theresa and Kendra, this book is dark and twisty and terrific. It’s also a fascinating look at the underbelly of mom/women cliques and the social hierarchies they promote. I highly recommend it and I hope you enjoy it!

Hobbies with Sherry Perkins

First, tell us what your hobbies are.

 I like to think of myself as a Renaissance Lady, with interests in many things but my go-to hobbies are collecting sea glass and seashells, organic gardening, and following the Dave Matthews Band around the East Coast.

Cool hobbies! How did you get interested in them?

I come from a family where learning, especially life-long learning, is important. Reading, hand-on participation, asking questions, storytelling and skill sharing, no matter what your age, was a big deal. It was considered a waste of your time and life if you weren’t interested and learning.

How did you learn to do them?

The seashell and sea glass bit, that was a natural outgrowth of my love for the seaside. I began collecting all sorts of organic things (think fossils) and detritus. Then, I set about learning what those things were scientifically. The intricacies of shells, ocean ecosystems and how the broken pieces of tumbled glass came to rest on that particular beach were fascinating to me as a young girl. Dave Matthews Band? That’s a mystery. Except I love the words to the songs. The melody, harmony and palpable connection between the band and audience certainly was appealing to me—if not personally meaningful.

Do you prefer some hobbies to others, or does it depend on your mood?

Not really. If I’m on the beach, I’m in the mood for shell and sea glass collecting. Every day, I try to go out to do something in the garden, even if it’s only to walk around it. I generally listen to the Dave Matthews Band when I’m in the garden, the car or when I need some background noise or inspiration while writing.

What do you do with the things you make?

I’m not making things with my hobbies per se, except, I suppose, for gardening. I do cook with the fruits and veg—or sometimes preserve, dry or freeze it for later use. I save seeds to replant or share. But I also have a flower garden. I like to do cut flowers or dried arrangements or even paint watercolors or take photograph the flowers and garden as still life.

I know a lot of people who collect sea glass have “secret” places where they find good sea glass. Do you have a spot like that?

I do. But it’s a secret. No, West Onslow Beach in North Carolina, and the East Strand in Portrush, Northern Ireland, are particularly good spots.

My husband has been to Portrush and loves it there.

Portrush was probably the best vacation I’ve ever had. The scenery was fantastic. Everyone I met was kind and had a story to tell.

Where have you visited following the Dave Matthews Band?

Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina; Bristow, Virginia Beach, and Norfolk, Virginia; Columbia, Maryland; New York; Augusta, Maine. 

Did someone introduce you to gardening, or did you discover it on your own?

My dad is a master organic gardener. So, I grew up learning how to garden, save heirloom seeds, companion plant and compost. When he began organic gardening, it was to supplement our family diet, and because he felt a stewardship with the land.

What special equipment do you need as a gardener?

I’m always looking for things that will make the experience easier on my hands and back. You don’t necessarily need any special equipment but if you have cheap tools, they’ll break or do a poor job. Invest in what you can afford. Take care of it with routine cleaning, sharpening, maintenance. Try to find tools that are multi-taskers. Make sure they fit your reach—garden tools do come with handles that fit your ability, height, and size. For instance, if you get a rake meant for someone tall, you’ll have a sore back and arms because of its disproportionate reach! It’s ok to take a stool or sturdy bucket into the garden to sit while you plant, weed or harvest. No need to stand or crawl. 

Is there any hobby you’ve tried to do but either didn’t like it or it just didn’t work out?

Once upon a time, I used to like to powerwalk…but I don’t think that counts, lol. I did try making poppet dolls as a hobby for a while. I had great fun with them but it was very time consuming, so I put those on the backshelf (I used to stuff them with herbs from the garden for good luck. I probably should have mentioned that in the section about “what do you make” because it was enjoyable and relaxing for me and the people who bought them)…

Now tell us about your latest writing news…

Several of my books were nominated for Best Book at the Paranormal Romance Guild 2020 Reviewers Choice Awards.

Congratulations! I want to know more about These are for Tears and A Girl and Her Dog.

These are for Tears was nominated for Romance/Fantasy/Paranormal/Suspense/Time Travel/Historical/Magical/Western/Native American/ Gothic BOOK OF THE YEAR and the series that it comes from (The Will-‘o-the-Wisp Stories) is nominated for the same category but SERIES OF THE YEAR.

A Girl and Her Dog placed second in the BEST NOVELLA OR SHORT STORY category.

Congratulations! That’s fantastic. 


Thanks very much for sharing your hobbies and your writing with us, Sherry. This has been a fun post, and the photos are wonderful!

Until next time,

Amy

A Hidden Gem

As many of you know, I have been working (forever, it feels like) on Book 2 in the Libraries of the World Mystery Series. In the first book, Trudy’s Diary, protagonist Daisy Carruthers uses collections from the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, to solve the mysteries. In Book 2, Dutch Treat, Daisy has taken a sabbatical from Global Human Rights Journal in Washington to work for one semester as an associate professor at a small college in New York City. As you might expect, the New York Public Library collections play a key role in this book.

I’ve done a great deal of research for Dutch Treat and a lot of that research has been about the main branch of the New York Public Library (the one on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street).

But the New York Public Library has more than just the main branch. In fact, it has 88 branches. And many of these are old—old enough to have been heated with coal in the early part of the twentieth century.

And how do you think the heating system worked when the library was closed?

Easy. Custodians were employed to keep the heating systems running overnight and on weekends. Those custodians and their families lived in apartments on the top floor of each library.

How cool would it be to live in a library??

This week, I’m sharing an article from Atlas Obscura that highlights one of the old custodian apartments: the one from Fort Washington. There are some interesting photos and some anecdotes from people who remember the custodians who took care of the libraries.

Enjoy!

Click here to be redirected to the article.

Until next time,

Amy