Book Review│The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore

undertakerAs Effie explains when she’s asked how she can be an undertaker’s assistant, ““The dead can’t hurt you. Only the living can.” So sets the mood for this wonderfully dark, pervasive novel set amongst a strenuous time in our nation’s history. Effie Jones is a former slave living and working in New Orleans, a place as dark and mysterious as much of the mood of this novel is. Living now, as a freedwoman, Effie is navigating her new life and her return to life in the South as she works for a white undertaker who does not share her skills that she acquired from a Union soldier and is fighting the urge to rekindle her old life and the ties she lost to her own family.

New Orleans

While slavery is now a piece of the past, the racial tensions that are building in New Orleans are not. Effie is among many who are now living as freed people in the southern city and for many, this is not always acceptable. For Effie, there is also an overbearing sense of loss both in her identity and within her ties to her family that was lost in the upheaval of slavery. It is within her past that Effie will also find her new beginnings.

New Orleans serves as a wonderful backdrop for such a turbulent time because New Orleans is itself dark and turbulent. The city really lends itself to the morose overtones that dominate much of the novel. Together, the setting and the political battles that are igniting through the racial tensions created by the end of slavery lend to a well-charted plot and inevitable end.

Racial Tension

The tension between white and black citizens exists throughout the book. People such as Effie are struggling to find their place in the world outside of slavery.  Effie has two encounters with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline that slightly change her course. Up until then, Effie stayed distant from the other girls in her boarding house and had no interest in getting involved in the politics of the city. However, her chance encounters change Effie and bring her into the world of activism and politicism which leads her into her own search for the family that she had long buried in her memories.

The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore is as much a wonderfully written historical fiction piece as it is the story of one woman’s coming of age in a turbulent part of our nation’s story. The novel is a bit slow in the beginning, but once you get into the meat of the novel, you become invested in the political turmoil, the mystique of the city of New Orleans and in Effie and the characters that she meets and encounters along her own journey.

Book Information

The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore is scheduled to be released on July 30, 2019, from Kensington Books with ISBN 9781496713681. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was received from the publisher in exchange for this review. To be linked to special pre-order pricing, click the link above!

Book Review│Buried in the Stacks by Allison Brooks

stacksWith the third installment of The Haunted Library Mysteries, Buried in the Stacks opens with our favorite librarian, Carrie Singleton, juggling the growing problem of the homeless taking shelter in the library and a new murder.

The Murder of a Rival

Carrie has been thrown into the role of Sunshine Delegate for the library. Her first task is to visit her rival, Dorothy, a fellow research librarian who is recovering from a fall. During her visit, Carrie is shocked to find out that Dorothy believes that it is her husband that is responsible for her fall. She is claiming that he pushed her. Even stranger, she is also claiming that it was her husband that caused the death of her Aunt Evelyn several years before. Aunt Evelyn is the haunted library’s resident ghost. Dorothy eventually recovers from her injuries and returns to work, but upon her return home, she is killed in a car accident. Ghost Aunt Evelyn begs Carrie to uncover who killed her niece as well as who responsible for her death.

A Quest for Warmth

The Haunted Library is in Clover Ridge, CT which means, it is in a part of the United States that is frigid when winter comes. For Carrie, this also means that a large population of homeless people are using the library as a refuge from the February frost. Some of the homeless are loud and disruptive which is causing the patrons of the library to not want to come in or bring in their children for the programs that they are offering. Carrie is excited when a vacant house is purchased to turn into a retreat for the homeless but is quickly disheartened when she learns that the committee in charge of rehabbing the house is not on the up and up.

A Cozy Mystery

As with any cozy mystery, there is a bevy of storylines that transgress the pages. In Buried in the Stacks, we have the homeless plotline, the murder of Dorothy (and Evelyn), Angela’s wedding where Carrie is her maid of honor, the search for Smokey Joe and of course, the interference of the library’s resident cat. There is a lot going on in this book and a lot to keep straight as you read your way through it, however, that is what I always have loved about books like this. Cozy mysteries offer a plethora of loveable characters that are in crazy situations with several subplots and big life changes going their way. Buried in the Stacks delivers all of this and more. What I especially love about this series is the addition of the haunted library. I enjoyed how Ghost Evelyn and Carrie worked together to talk out the mystery, shares clues and uncover secrets. It was an element that was unique to this book and series.

Book Information

Buried in the Stacks: A Haunted Library Mystery by Allison Brook from Crooked Lane Books is scheduled to be released on September 10, 2019, with ISBN 9781643851389. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was received from the publisher in exchange for this review. To be linked to special pre-order pricing, click the link above!

Book Review│Death Comes to Dartmoor by Vivian Conroy

dartmoorWho doesn’t love a period book set against a vast English countryside complete with a sweeping country manor and a couple of amateur sleuths that are eager to get a break from Victorian London and the murder mystery that they just solved?

A Merriweather and Royston Mystery

Death Comes to Dartmoor is the second installment of the Merriweather and Royston Mysteries. The novel picks up on the heels of the first book. That said, this installment is hard to get into and fully understand the backstory if you have not read, The Butterfly Conspiracy. It is beneficial to read the first book of this series before you begin Death Comes to Dartmoor or you might be lost and not be able to get into the mystery that unfolds for our pair of zoologists whose vacation doesn’t go anywhere near as planned.

Murder in the Village

I don’t know what it is about Devon, maybe it’s the moors and the overall vibe of the village, but there are so many novels like And Then There Were None and even The Hounds of the Baskervilles that use the moors and Devon as their setting. Much like stories before, our main characters Merula Merriweather and Lord Rayven Royston arrive in Devon with Merriweather’s maid, Lamb, and Royston’s valet, Bowspirit only to find that their idyllic country getaway is going to be far from what they expected.

Oaks, their host, is acting incredibly strange. The specimens that he collects are thought to be coming back to life and then, his maid disappears. Oaks is bordering on delusional and the villagers are calling for his blood. Almost inevitably, the maid turns up dead and Oaks is the main suspect, leaving Merriweather and Royston to delve into the mystery that they have walked into and prove Oaks’ innocence.

Continuing Story Line

In The Butterfly Conspiracy, we learn that Merriweather does not know who her parents are. She has lived with an aunt and uncle who have loved and raised her, but she is still determined to find out where she comes from. Merriweather’s parental lineage comes into play again when she encounters a man from a traveling theater company at a local gathering who makes the comment that she looks so much like her mother. Merriweather is given a lead into her mother’s past that she is eager to flesh out and it will be interesting to see what the story of her parents are and how she reacts when she finally uncovers the truth behind her parents’ past and how it will play out in future books within this series.

Book Information

Death Comes to Dartmoor: A Merriweather and Royston Mystery by Vivian Conroy will be released on August 13, 2019, from Crooked Lane Books with ISBN 9781643850092. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review. To snag special pre-order pricing click the link above!

Book Review│Twisted at the Root by Ellen Hart

twisterThis was my first book to pick up from the Jane Lawless Series. It can be a stand-alone book and I only was slightly confused by relationships and characters going in. It would have been helpful to have read the other books in this series just to understand the returning characters more. However, other than that I enjoyed this cozy murder mystery.

The Murder

Four years ago, everyone assumed that Gideon Wise and Rashad May were happily married. That is until Rashad was arrested for Gideon’s murder. Rashad is inevitably sentenced to prison where he remains for four years until Jane Lawless agrees to help her father reopen the case.

A Cast of Characters

As restauranter and private eye, Jane Lawless delves deeper into Rashad’s case, we are met with a cast of colorful, fun characters that all could possibly be Gideon’s murderer. Ellen Hart does a solid job at keeping us guessing as to who the true killer of Gideon actually is. What is clear is that Rashad May really didn’t have anything that would make him want to kill his husband. Jane is ready to dive deeper into the case when her own brother who has been strangely absent makes a surprise visit home.

A Suprise Visitor

Jane’s brother Peter surprises everyone with not only his visit, but also with a break in the case for Peter is connected to the J.H. Chenoweth Gallery. As Jane has already figured out, the gallery was the only other access that there was to Gideon and Rashad’s home. However, Peter is still carrying a torch for Kit Lipton-Chenoweth, the wife of gallery owner John Henry Chenoweth. He becomes angry with Jane when she questions Kit and it clear that he has held his feelings for Kit for a long time, ever since she was with Eli, Peter’s former dealer, and John Henry’s own son.

Book Information

Twisted at the Root: A Jane Lawless Mystery is scheduled to be released from Minotaur Books an imprint of St. Martin’s Press with ISBN 9781250308429 on August 13, 2019. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

To snag special pre-order pricing follow this link —> https://amzn.to/2Mp1bL4

 

 

Book Review│And Then They Were Doomed by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

andthentheyweredoomedAs a middle school language arts teacher by day, one of my favorite authors to teach is Agatha Christie. The kids get so into it even though the language and time are dated because Christie is such a master at weaving together a mystery and making you think it is someone when the twist at the end is someone entirely different that you often either never thought of or even forgot about as the story went on. Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli borrows many Christie references that weave this cozy, dark mystery through its pages.

A Mysterious Letter

If you are a fan of And Then There Were None, you know that 10 strangers receive an invitation from the mysterious Owens’ to enjoy a long weekend on Solider Island, a luxurious residence that stands alone on an island. None of them have anything in common other than having been involved with murder and gotten away with it. Slowly, they are killed one by one until there is only one of them left. So, when author Zoe Zola receives a letter edged in black inviting her to an Agatha Christie symposium at an old Upper Peninsula hunting lodge, she is a little bit spooked especially when she realizes that she has been invited by a Ms. Emily Brent. In Christie’s novel, Emily Brent was an old pious spinster who drove her maid to suicide when she found out that the girl was pregnant. Zola goes anyway, eager to find out the mystery behind the letter and what is about to unfold at the old hunting lodge.

10 Little Christie Scholars…

Much like Christie’s And Then There Were None, 10 Christie Scholars appear on the Peninsula. Each one has an eerie resemblance or some similarity to one of the people from Christie’s novel. For instance, some of their names are the same or similar or even more strangely, just sound like one of the characters from Christie’s book. All the guests assemble for dinner and their first lecture. Here, Zoe notices that there are figurines of children around the floral centerpieces only they are not as innocent as they appear because each represents a line from the famous poem that the killer uses in And Then There Were None  to kill each of their victims:

soldier boys

And much like Buzzelli’s source material, Zoe soon finds that each night brings about a new disappearance of a guest and she must find a way to survive long enough to get herself off the Peninsula. She immediately calls her friend Jenny Weston for help, only, Jenny has to wait out the storm over Lake Superior before she can get to her friend. Zoe must use her wits to keep herself safe until help arrives. As she waits, Zoe’s story unfolds and the secrets of her own past and of her family’s are brought to light.

This dark cozy mystery is a fast read and if you love Agatha Christie, you will surely love, And Then They Were Doomed the fourth installment of the Little Library Mysteries.

Book Information

And Then They Were Doomed by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli is scheduled to be released on August 13, 2019 with ISBN 9781643850009 from Crooked Lane Books. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic copy from the publisher that was given in exchange for this review.

For special pre-ordering pricing, snag your copy here —–> https://amzn.to/30OjzQl

Book Review│The Woman in Our House by Andrew Hart

inourhouseAs a new mom, the topic of this book really struck a chord with me. The basic premise is that a mother wants to return to her publishing job after having her second child. So, her husband and she hire a nanny to care for her children so she could work from home. What I was not prepared for as a new mom was how protective you become of your baby. My thoughts of someone else watching my son or worse, my son being put into daycare quickly vanished the moment my husband put him into my arms. My son would be raised at home with one of us home to raise him and thankfully, we have been able to maintain opposite work and school schedules to make sure that we are the ones parenting and making sure our son has a secure and loving home to be in where we would know exactly what was going on and who are son was around. It really was the only way I was going back to work. However, for the plot of this novel, Anna Klein was not as lucky as I was and she needed to seek outside help in order to go back to work.

The Loving Nanny

Anna and her husband Josh turn to a nanny agency to help them find the perfect fit for their family. Through the agency, they hire Oaklynn Durst who has outstanding references and seems like the perfect fit for their family. She is overly maternal, kind, goes above and beyond for their family and the kids adore her. However, soon after Oaklynn moves in the kids start to endure odd illnesses and unexplained injuries. Anna immediately becomes suspicious of Oaklynn, but her husband, Josh and their friends are quick to remind her that it’s probably all in her head and she’s worrying too much. Everyone will learn too quickly how right a mother’s instinct can be and how she shouldn’t be so easily dismissed, even if you want to push off her concerns over being newly post-partum.

Post-Partum Paranoia

As Anna and Oaklynn’s relationship further deteriorates as one child has her arm broken and the other is rushed to the hospital with high fevers and bloody diapers, Anna is forced to face what she believes: that Oaklynn is hurting her kids. However, with her daughter Grace, still in infancy, there is the pervading theme of post-partum paranoia and anxiety that may also be making her take her suspicions of Oaklynn farther than she should. What makes this novel so good is how Anna’s suspicions become so clouded in her postpartum anxiety and paranoia which makes you question her mental integrity throughout the first half of the novel. All will be revealed, however, and will come to a shocking and twisty ending that will leave you recovering for at least a couple days after you finish, The Woman in Our House.

About the Author

Andrew Hart is a pen name for New York Times best-selling author, A.J. Hartley. Currently, he is the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte and has penned over twenty novels that span a variety of topics from romance to suspense and young adult.

Book Information

The Woman in Our House by Andrew Hart is scheduled to be released on June 18, 2019, from Lake Union Publishing with ISBN 9781542092777. This review corresponds to an advanced electric galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review. To be linked to special pre-order pricing, click the link above!

Book Review│The Mausoleum by David Mark

david markI was immediately drawn to this book and was really excited when the advanced galley was delivered to my kindle. The novel starts out with an elderly man on his death bed wracked with pain with two women standing over him in 2010. The women, Cordelia Hemlock and Felicity Goose have known each other for many years and have been investigating this unfolding historical mystery since the 1960’s when they first met.

A Chance Meeting in a Graveyard

In 1967, Cordelia is a disgraced academic who has recently arrived in a small town in Scotland called Gisland. She is deep in her grief over the loss of her 2-year-old son. She finds solace in the neighboring graveyard and spends her time among the tombstones, perhaps longing to some connection to her deceased son or to death itself. Felicity comes upon her one day, laying among the graves. The two women strike up a conversation just as a storm blows in bringing heavy rain and severe lightning with it. Felicity offers to let Cordelia come back to her cottage with her since it is closer than where Cordelia is staying. Just as the two are leaving, lightning strikes a nearby mausoleum causing it to break open and reveals a body that is only days old. The two women rush to Felicity’s home where they tell her neighbor Fairfax about it. He then rushes out to see the body and get the constable. Only, he is killed and it is found that the body is gone from the mausoleum. Thus begins a long friendship between Cordelia and Felicity that spans decades as they try to uncover the mystery of the body that they found all those years ago.

A Nazi Gestapo & the French Milice

The Mausoleum became an engrossing historical investigation that plunges the two women into the world of Nazi’s and their supporters. This story takes us back to the horrors of World War II and the pervading evilness that the Gestapo enacted on countless victims that for some, continued on even after the war was over. The French Milice are also part of the torture of this novel. While the Nazis dominated Germany, the Milice were a political group in France during the same time that aided in rounding up and deporting French Jews and their families to the concentration and death camps. Also similar to the Nazis who had Hitler Youths, the French Milice also encouraged youth to participate in their youth program known as the Avant-Garde.

The Mysterious Abel

Fairfax, prior to his untimely death, is a writer who records everything that he can get his hands on. One of the things he has recorded is the testimony of a man who describes his life and the torture he endured under the hands of the Nazi Gestapo and the French Milice. The account is horrendous and the abuse and torture seemed to be neverending. The testimony records the Gestapo’s name as being Abel. Could this Abel be the man that the two women found in the grave? The mystery only expands from here, sending the women deep into history to uncover the truth in the present. If you’re looking for a novel that unravels slowly and plunges you deep into a historical investigation then this is a mystery that you will have to pick up.

Book Information

The Mausoleum by David Mark will be released on June 1, 2019, from Severn House Publishers with ISBN 9780727888723. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review. To be linked to special pre-order pricing, click the link above!