Friday, March 24, 2023

Bad Day Breaking - Bad Axe County #4


Bad Day Breaking is the 4th procedural mystery in Bad Axe County by John Galligan. Released 30th Aug 2022 by Simon & Schuster on their Atria imprint, it's 336 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. 

This is a very well written procedural novel with a returning cast of characters including local law enforcement, some of their family members, and a few eccentric small-town notables. Set in a rural area of Wisconsin, it's both isolated and remote enough to render it something of a closed circle/locked room setup. A cult has moved into the local environs and town inhabitants are very unhappy, bordering on panic. Local sheriff Heidi has a stressful and unmanageable PR crisis to deal with which is definitely not improved by the discovery of a murdered cult member with a slashed throat. A winter storm has inconveniently made her town even more isolated than normal.

The author is wonderfully adept with dramatic tension and plotting, and the prose sings in places. His writing is sublime, and unexpected in a police procedural thriller. It's a western-ish story and will likely appeal to current fans of Craig Johnson, Jeffery Deaver, and Dennis Lehane. 

Four stars. Very very well done. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Lights...Camera...Murder! - A Doc Holliday Mystery #3

 

Lights...Camera...Murder! is the third Doc Holiday mystery by Loretta C. Rogers. Released 17th Aug 2022, it's 212 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. 

Dr. Tullah Holliday is a veterinarian who winds up assisting yet another investigation when a death occurs on the site of a local film production company on location in her rural Kentucky town. It's an ensemble cast of well drawn characters including Dr. Holliday, her father (the local sheriff), her grandmother (the town mayor), and her veterinary assistant, Ella.

The author is adept at characterization and setting. It's a fast read and very engaging. There's also a significant paranormal element which ties into the Cherokee belief system and Dr. Holliday's own intuitions and insights as the investigation proceeds. It's not a large part of the plot, but it is there. There's also some -very- questionable medical plot tie-ins concerning sexually transmitted diseases. I can only assume the author confused HPV with chlamydia and it made it through the editing process without question. That yanked me out of the story. I suspect it might not be a problem for most readers who don't work in histopathology; but it is inaccurate as written. (80% of humans will acquire HPV in their lifetimes, it clears without any treatment or intervention in over 90% of cases. In fact, most people never know they've had it. Chlamydia on the other hand....).

With three books extant in the series at this point, it would be a good choice for a weekend binge or buddy read. 

Four stars. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

The Plot and the Pendulum - Library Lover's Mystery #13


The Plot and the Pendulum is the 13th Library Lovers cozy mystery by Jenn McKinlay. Released 11th Oct 2022 by Penguin Random House on their Berkley imprint, it's 304 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

 This is a bookish cozy with an ensemble cast of librarians and library allied folks. There's a spooky mansion with an incredible library being donated to the local community library, a disappearing cat, secret rooms, and a long ago disappearance cold case for Lindsey and co. to solve. There are lots of classic book tie ins and title-dropping typical for library cozies. The author has also included a selection of autumn themed vegetarian recipes (figs in a blanket, sweet potato casserole, and radish chips). The author has also included a chapter excerpt from the 7th Hat Shop mystery, Fatal Fascinator.

The unabridged audiobook version has a run time of 7 hours and 4 minutes and is narrated by Allyson Ryan. This book has a fairly large cast and for the most part, Ms. Ryan does a credible job of keeping the voices for each character distinct and recognizable. She has a standard American accent and her voice has a slightly nasal quality, but it isn't obtrusive, and she does a good (neutral) job with the narration. Sound and production quality are high throughout.

It's a cozy, so the violence is toned down and the language is quite clean. There's a creepy gothic vibe throughout much of the book, but it's not too scary. The denouement and resolution are well done and self contained in this volume so it works well enough as a standalone.

Four stars. With 13 books in the series, it would make a good choice for a long binge read. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A Christmas Candy Killing - Killer Chocolate #1


A Christmas Candy Killing is the first in a new shopfront cozy series by Christina Romeril. Released 11th Oct 2022 by Crooked Lane, it's 304 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook format. Paperback format due out in 4th quarter 2023 from the same publisher. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. 

This is a promising start to a comfortable easy-to-read small-town "shopfront" holiday cozy with a pair of appealingly intelligent twin female protagonists who own a shop featuring everyone's favorite combo: chocolate and books. An elderly neighbor who claims that a real-life killer has taken up residence in town turns up murdered and so the sisters are soon on the case to solve the mystery and clear their names.

As with most cozies, the emphasis is on the characters and the puzzle. The crimes are described off-scene and without being too graphic. The language is clean and there's no gruesome content. The subplot threads are skillfully entwined into a satisfying climax and resolution. Although I do confess I figured out "whodunnit" before the end, I still enjoyed it very much. I'm looking forward to the next installment in the series (due out in late 2023).

Four stars. Definitely one for shopfront cozy fans. It's full of book and series name drops and it's always fun to find new authors to follow. The author has also included an intriguing detailed recipe for pear ganache bonbons, including instructions for everything from tempering the chocolate to making the forms and the pear ganache to fill them.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Barnum's Angel - The Pale Chronicles #1


Barnum's Angel is a compelling and well written fantasy series opener by Len Boswell. Released 6th Oct 2022, it's 285 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. The second book in the series, The Barnacle's Son, will also be available on KU after release in 3rd quarter 2023. 

Well written alternate history speculative fiction is a joy, and this is quite a good one. The characters are three dimensional and believable, the background settings are immersive and complete, and the dialogue is witty and flows well. Darwin and P.T. Barnum figure heavily, and the secondary characters, settings and occurrences are so well intertwined around a framework of real history that it's not always clear where real history shades over into fiction.

This would make a nice series for fans of historical fantasy, alternate history worlds, political history, and fans of the Victorian fantasy/mutant subgenre (with dragons). I was blown away by the depth of verisimilitude and world building. 

Four and a half stars. Really quite good. There are aspects of gothic horror and some explicit violence and descriptions, so more sensitive readers should be aware. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Curds of Prey - Cheese Shop Mystery #3


 

Curds of Prey is the third Cheese Shop cozy mystery by Korina Moss. Due out 28th March 2023 from Macmillan on their St. Martin's Press imprint, it's 336 pages and is available in mass market paperback, audio, and ebook formats. 

This is an enjoyable small town shopfront cozy with an appealing protagonist, lots and lots of cheese trivia, and a well constructed puzzle to solve alongside shop owner Willa. She's catering a bridal shower (with lots of delicious cheeses) when the groom is found dead after a contretemps with Willa's erstwhile boyfriend (who also had some history with the bride).

As with most cozies, the emphasis is on the characters and the puzzle. The crimes are described off-scene and without being gruesome. The language is very clean. The series continues to improve, from a strong start, and the ensemble cast of Willa and her employees, continue to mesh and become more three dimensional and believable (for a cozy). I'm looking forward to the next installment in the series.

Although it's the third book in the series, the plot arc and resolution are self-contained, and it works well enough as a standalone. With three books currently in the series, and a fourth announced for third quarter 2023, it would make a good choice for a cozy series binge or buddy read.

Four stars. Definitely one for shopfront cozy fans. It's full of esoteric cheese minutiae and I found a number of specialty cheeses I'm looking forward to trying. The author has also included intriguing cheese themed recipes for a goat cheese quesadilla and dutch oven pancake (Dutch baby)

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Babel: An Arcane History


Babel: An Arcane History is a dark bookish fantasy history by R.F. Kuang. Released 23rd Aug 2022 by HarperCollins on their Voyager imprint, it's 560 pages and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This was *the* speculative fiction buzz book for 2022 and with good reason. It's brilliantly imagined, distinctive, and incredibly well written.  Thematically, there's a heaping helping of anti-colonization rhetoric, so folks who hum Rule Britannia whenever they think about the sun never setting on the British Empire are in for an eyeful. There's also a strong undercurrent of dangerous racism, and some passages were painful to read, although realistically depicted.

The author is clearly more than passingly familiar with Oxford as well as with the time period (Regency England, 1828). I was enchanted with the writing and equally impressed with the verisimilitude of the settings and characterizations. Spelling and vernacular are period British English, but won't pose any problems for readers in context.

Five stars. Beautifully written and superlative world building and magic systems. Absolutely one for language nerds. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.


Sunday, March 19, 2023

On Spine of Death - By the Book Mysteries #2

 

On Spine of Death is the second By the Book cozy mystery by Tamara Berry. Released 29th Nov 2022 by Poisoned Pen Press, it's 408 pages and is available in mass market paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is an appealing small town cozy with a full complement of eccentric characters, usually including the requisite handsome local officer of the law, and featuring an intelligent female amateur sleuth. The genre is wildly popular and due to the abundance, more than a few are, frankly, formulaic and predictable. In this case the writing is well above average, engaging, well done and entertaining. There's more than a little humor, and the dialogue is never overwrought or clunky.

For readers who love small-town mysteries, especially bookish mysteries, this one combines both. It's potentially a little too gritty to be called a proper cozy mystery, but it's not very graphic and readers will likely have no trouble with the descriptions. 

Four stars. Definitely worth a look for fans of bookish small-town cozies. There are currently two books out, with a third due out in second quarter, 2023, making it a good candidate for a weekend mini-binge read. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

 

Mr Campion's Mosaic -

 

Mr Campion's Mosaic is the newest book in an homage series to Margery Allingham's Albert Campion. Released 4th Oct 2022 by Severn House, it's 256 pages and available in hardcover and ebook formats. Paperback format due out late second quarter 2023 from the same publisher. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

Author Mike Ripley has written several books featuring Campion (this is the 10th) as well as other fiction and nonfiction. He's an experienced and capable author and this series has been an absolute joy to read. I've been a fan of golden age mystery (especially British) as long as I've been reading, more or less, and I'm always on the lookout for more golden age fiction since the original authors are sadly long gone. 

This installment sees Campion (the elder), reformed burglar & gent's gent Lugg, and an ensemble cast of characters trying to recreate a departed mystery writer's mystery in film whilst Campion gets to the bottom of attempted and actual murder (and tries to avoid falling prey himself). Lugg is, as always, superlatively entertaining, and Campion is self-deprecatingly and devastatingly brilliant. He appears hapless but his bumbling manner and innocent humor disguise a mind like a steel trap. He's clever and appealing, and the author does a smashing job rendering him faithfully from Allingham's original canon.

The book honestly surprised some laughs out of me. The clues are fair-play, and the climax and denouement are wonderfully twisty and satisfying. I really love this series. For readers who are not already fans of Mr. Ripley's Campion, but who are fans of Ms. Allingham will find much to love here. Ripley treats the canon with the respect (and humour) it deserves. Although it's the 10th book in this series (may there be many more), it works well enough as a standalone.

With so many books in the series, it would make a great choice for a binge/buddy read. They're all high quality, entertaining, fair play mysteries.

Four and a half stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes. 

A Murder at Balmoral


A Murder at Balmoral is a quirky locked room mystery with an alternate history timeline plot element by Chris McGeorge. Released 25th Oct 2022 by Penguin Random House on their Putnam imprint, it's 384 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. 

The blurb describes this as Clue meets The Crown, and that is not an inappropriate description. There's a fair bit of fast-and-loose with actual history (in this timeline, Edward VIII didn't abdicate to marry Wallis Simpson), and all that has followed that wrinkle has led to a locked room setting for Christmas murder at Balmoral.

The dramatis personae are muzzily defined, although the author has provided a list of the principal players. The setting itself is wonderful and the author has a readable and engaging writing style. The mystery is a trifle contrived (but par for the course of the genre), and the ending was odd, but overall, it's a worthwhile and interesting read. Probably mostly of interest to readers who are especially fascinated by the British royals; it will be lost on most who aren't already familiar with some of the Windsor back-history. 

Three stars. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

A Dreadful Splendor


 A Dreadful Splendor is a wonderfully evocative gothic mystery romance by B. R. Myers. Released 23rd Aug 2022 by HarperCollins on their William Morrow imprint, it's 416 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. 

This is a very well written and deliciously creepy fable featuring a young orphaned heroine making her way in the world as best she can. Much of her existence revolves around spiritualism, being a fake medium, and conducting seances for rich patrons. Her plans go awry and when she's caught and jailed, her prospects seem quite hopeless. In a plot twist worthy of a Brontë, she's sprung from jail to perform a (fake) seance to comfort a nobleman; but she finds him much different than expected, and he's quite sure his deceased wife was murdered and wishes her to help him prove it. 

The mystery itself is fairly well wrought, but it was the atmospheric writing that took the starring role. The author manages to conjure the period without being clunky or difficult to read and the scene setting and dialogue are precise and immersively written. The whole has a very YA feel, and there are parts of the plot arc which are moderately trope-y, but as previously stated, the writing is superlative. 

Four stars. Worth a read, especially for fans of YA(ish) gothic mysteries. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes

Death at the Manor - Lily Adler Mystery #3

 

Death at the Manor is the third Lily Adler historical cozy mystery by Katharine Schellman. Released 9th Aug 2022 by Crooked Lane, it's 336 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. Paperback format due out in third quarter 2023 from the same publisher. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a nice historical mystery set in the Regency era and featuring a well rounded cast of characters, including young widow Lily Adler, recently arrived in London from Hertfordshire and still in semi-mourning for her late husband. The mystery is written around a framework of real history which gives it some verisimilitude. The background research was inserted seamlessly and the whole is quite polished and engaging.

The writing is articulate, the narrative arc and tension are well engineered, and with a satisfying denouement. The dialogue isn't ever clunky or cringe-worthy (and for modern Regency fiction, that's saying something). There are some minor developments between the main characters which will be spoiled by having been read out of order, but nothing major. The mystery is adeptly crafted and the motives for the crimes are believable (for fiction).

Four stars. Highly recommended, especially to fans of the genre.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Dying To Tell - Aoife Walsh #5

 

Dying To Tell is the 5th Aoife Walsh thriller/procedural by Val Collins. Released 28th Feb 2023, it's 286 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, the first three books in the series are currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free.

This is a very fast paced, action driven thriller featuring a reporter protagonist, her detective fiance, and a heap of unreliable witnesses. Despite being the fifth book in the series, it well enough as a standalone, and readers coming into the series with this book won't have any troubles keeping up with the plot or characters. I liked that Aoife is tenacious and intelligent, and her interplay with the other characters is well written and nuanced. There is a fair bit of back story from the previous books which will give minor spoilers for the main characters and their history together if read out of order.

Four stars. The ending is definitely a page-turner, and I found the climax, denouement, and resolution satisfying and well done. This is one for fans of procedural/investigative thrillers. The author is superlatively talented and the writing, as always, is top notch.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Primer and Punishment - House-Flipper Mystery #5

 

Primer and Punishment is the fifth House-Flipper mystery by Diane Kelly. Released 21st Feb 2023 by Macmillan on their St. Martin's imprint, it's 304 pages and is available in mass market paperback, audio, and ebook formats.  It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is an engaging and well written cozy mystery with a full complement of quirky neighbors, old houses (this time a houseboat!), plucky female amateur sleuth, requisite grumpy (but handsome) law enforcement officer, unlamented murder victim, resultant amateur investigations, and a cat who gets some 3rd person narrative alternating with his owner, protagonist house-flipper Whitney. The chapters are labeled with the primary PoV character, so they're easy to keep track of.

The writing is appealing and entertaining, very light and engaging. The language is clean, the violence is off scene, there's nothing to horrify or scandalize. The denouement is well written and the book moves along at a good clip. It's a well written light read. Despite being the 5th book in the series, it works quite well as a standalone read. Fans of Amanda Flower, Kate Carlisle, and Sarah Graves will find a lot to like with this series..

Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Murder on the Vine - Tuscan Mystery #3


Murder on the Vine is the third Tuscan mystery by Camilla Trinchieri. Released 13th Sept 2022 by Soho Press on their Soho Crime imprint, it's 336 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats. E-format is especially useful here, for flipping back and forth to the dramatis personae list the author has included. 

This is a very well written destination mystery, absolutely redolent of the Italian countryside and full of the food and culture of the area. Ex NYPD detective Nico Doyle winds up helping a local restaurateur figure out how a local man wound up stabbed, wrapped in plastic, and stuffed into his trunk. The plotting is well controlled and the characterizations are beautifully rendered and believable. It works well enough as a standalone, but readers may struggle a bit to keep the characters straight. Use of the character list in the back of the book is recommended.

There will be inevitable comparisons with Leon's Brunetti, Walker's Bruno, and Bannalec's Dupin. Although not at all derivative, this series is more than competently written and can stand on its own merits in that company. 

Four and a half stars. Quite highly recommended, especially to fans of destination mysteries and procedurals. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

100 Morning Treats: With Muffins, Rolls, Biscuits, Sweet and Savory Breakfast Breads, and More


100 Morning Treats is a delightful collection of breakfast breads, rolls, and more curated by Sarah Kieffer. Due out 9th May 2023 from Chronicle Books, it's 304 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

This is a comprehensive and versatile collection of well written recipes for breakfast and brunch foods, both sweet and savory. Recipes are arranged thematically in chapters: muffins scones & quickbreads, coffee & bundt cakes, sweet yeasted & fried treats, laminated pastries, weekend treats, base doughs & breads, and extras (drinks, streusels, jams, and syrups). Recipes are written with a description, ingredients in a bullet list sidebar, and followed by step-by-step prep instructions. Recipe ingredients are listed in imperial (American) units with metric units in parentheses (yay!). Required ingredients will probably be easy to source at any well stocked grocery store in North America.

The entire collection is beautifully photographed throughout and the food is well styled, attractive, and appetizing. 

The author/editors have also included useful appendices such as a suggested playlist of tunes, a bibliography and resource lists, conversion chart, and cross referenced index.

Four and a half stars. This is a solidly useful, versatile, and appealing reference and will be at home in a wide variety of kitchens. It would be a good selection for public library acquisition, home use, and gifting purposes. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes. 

Death and Croissants - Follet Valley Mysteries #1


Death and Croissants is a promising series starter set in the Loire Valley written by Ian Moore. Released in 2021, this paperback edition was released 14th March 2023 by Sourcebooks on their Poisoned Pen Press imprint. It's 256 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. Hardcover format available from Farrago. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a light humorous cozy featuring a pair of unlikely amateur sleuths: Richard, a hapless middle aged Englishman running a B&B in France and Valérie, a force of nature femme fatale and current patron of Richard's establishment. 

The comparison between this and Osman's excellent Thursday Murder Club books is not entirely apt and unfortunately this series suffers by comparison. There is a frenetic bantering quality to the humor here and there's more self-aware aspect; almost breaking the fourth wall in places. (Metalepsis for the English majors in the room). Despite that, it's entertaining and easy to read and the denouement and resolution are satisfying and well written. 

Three and a half stars. There are three books in the series currently, along with a couple of shorter stories, and it would make a good choice for binge/buddy read.  

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes. 

A Treacherous Tale - The Cambridge Bookshop Series #2


A Treacherous Tale is the second Cambridge Bookshop cozy by Elizabeth Penney. Released 23rd Aug 2022 by Macmillan on their St. Martin's Press imprint, it's 283 pages and is available in mass market paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats.

This is a fun and engaging bookstore cozy set in Cambridge. This installment follows on from book one and protagonist Molly is appealingly intelligent and well rendered. Some of the plot developments in the early part of the book were a bit over-the-top, but not too outlandish given the genre setting and characters.

The book's admittedly formulaic, but it is quite well written and fun and full of the whimsical amateur cozy vibe which keeps readers of the genre ticking over the pages. I liked Molly's enthusiasm and honesty. It's less of a "whodunit" and more an untangling and exposé on the way to the denouement and satisfying resolution. There were a few twists on the way, and I liked the ending. There's a strong tie-in to the sentimental children's books of yesteryear and it was sweetly nostalgic to read them.

Four stars, entertaining and full of whimsy.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.  

Six Feet Deep Dish - Deep Dish Mysteries #1


Six Feet Deep Dish is a new series starter by cozy writer Mindy Quigley. Released 23rd Aug 2022 by Macmillan on their St. Martin's Press imprint, it's 320 pages and is available in mass market paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is an engaging light shopfront cozy with an appealing female protagonist pizza-shop owner who has just been dumped by her erstwhile fiancé, a chubby tabby cat, and an unwanted murder victim who could scupper her dreams of business ownership before they really get started. The de rigueur handsome detective makes an appearance, and it's full of the sort of small town quirky eccentric characters which populate cozies. 

The plot arc is admittedly a tiny bit trope-y but quite entertaining and it's a fun read overall. The denouement and resolution are satisfyingly self-contained in this book, but it's clearly a series opener. In fact, the second book, Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust, is due out in 2nd quarter 2023. 

There are more than the usual number of pizza themed recipes included in the back of the book. 

Four stars. Highly recommended for fans of humorous light shopfront cozies like those from Ellie Alexander, Laurie Cass, and Peggy Ehrhart. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

In Place of Fear


In Place of Fear is a well written historical mystery thriller by Catriona McPherson. Released 28th June 2022 by Hachette on their Mobius imprint, it's 352 pages and is available in hardcover and ebook formats. Paperback due out in late second quarter 2023 from the same publisher. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

The author is quite adept at both setting and characterization and the book is redolent of post-WW2 Edinburgh with dialogue and vernacular from the place and period. She's included a helpful glossary for some of the more impenetrable words and phrases, though its location at the back of the book was slightly less convenient for quick-lookups. One reason that some readers may prefer the electronic format; it makes lookups painless. The phrases likely won't be problematic in most cases for most readers because McPherson is talented at context setting, so most of the time the meanings are clear. 

The plot arc is tightly controlled and well measured; there's a distinctly thriller-ish vibe in many places. The characterizations are believable (in some cases all-too-sadly-realistic), and the protagonist is likable and idealistic. The author has clearly done a prodigious amount of research on the time period and place, because there's a vast amount of interesting minutiae on the nascence of the NHS in Scotland and general public perceptions of class and gender roles as well. 

Four stars. Engaging and satisfying thriller(ish) read. Recommended especially to fans of Anna Lee Huber and Nicola Upson. It should be noted that this book is -not- in any way the same as the author's excellent (and hysterically funny/campy) Last Ditch Mysteries, which also come very very highly recommended.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.