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Agatha Awards
2020 (Best Contemporary Novel)
Gift of the Magpie
Book Jacket   Donna Andrews
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9781250760128 Ornamental blacksmith/general do-gooder Meg Langslow’s Christmas activities entangle her with a fellow resident of Caerphilly, Virginia, whose domestic life is even more chaotic than hers. Unlike Meg, who’s surrounded by members of her own cheerfully argumentative family as well as the Shiffleys, Caerphilly’s somewhat more benign version of the Snopeses, Harvey Dunlop has chosen to surround himself with stuff—objects of dubious value he can’t bring himself to throw out. So Meg, her friend Caroline Willner, Meredith Flugleman of Adult Protective Services, and other concerned members of Helping Hands for the Holidays have banded together to strong-arm, er, help and encourage him to go through his house with a shovel and relocate his treasures to an empty building Randall Shiffley owns in the hope of deep-cleaning the house and then urging Harvey to move on without moving his prized junk back in. Except for the unwelcome appearance of Morris, Ernest, and Josephine Haverhill, the cousins who seem to be Harvey’s only living relatives, the preliminaries go well. But when Meg shows up at Harvey’s for the main event in the decluttering marathon, her host is unresponsive, brained with a spittoon in his garage. As Harvey hovers between life and death, Meg plunges into his family history to uncover a motive for the murderous attack. Readers patient enough to wait for any mystery, or for that matter any significant conflict, to develop will be rewarded when their own suspicions about whodunit are proved exactly right. Andrews lays on the good cheer with a trowel. Even the rabbi’s wife gets a cameo. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Ornamental blacksmith/general do-gooder Meg Langslows Christmas activities entangle her with a fellow resident of Caerphilly, Virginia, whose domestic life is even more chaotic than hers.Unlike Meg, whos surrounded by members of her own cheerfully argumentative family as well as the Shiffleys, Caerphillys somewhat more benign version of the Snopeses, Harvey Dunlop has chosen to surround himself with stuffobjects of dubious value he cant bring himself to throw out. So Meg, her friend Caroline Willner, Meredith Flugleman of Adult Protective Services, and other concerned members of Helping Hands for the Holidays have banded together to strong-arm, er, help and encourage him to go through his house with a shovel and relocate his treasures to an empty building Randall Shiffley owns in the hope of deep-cleaning the house and then urging Harvey to move on without moving his prized junk back in. Except for the unwelcome appearance of Morris, Ernest, and Josephine Haverhill, the cousins who seem to be Harveys only living relatives, the preliminaries go well. But when Meg shows up at Harveys for the main event in the decluttering marathon, her host is unresponsive, brained with a spittoon in his garage. As Harvey hovers between life and death, Meg plunges into his family history to uncover a motive for the murderous attack. Readers patient enough to wait for any mystery, or for that matter any significant conflict, to develop will be rewarded when their own suspicions about whodunit are proved exactly right.Andrews lays on the good cheer with a trowel. Even the rabbis wife gets a cameo. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781250760128 The Christmas spirit suffuses bestseller Andrews’s atmospheric 28th Meg Langslow mystery (after The Falcon Always Rings Twice). During the holiday season, Meg is the project manager for Helping Hands, “a sort of Make-A-Wish program for grownups,” in Caerphilly, Va. Her volunteers step in to assist citizens with anything that needs doing, including sourcing organic manure and rounding up experienced quilters. The main task at the moment is helping Harvey Dunlop (aka Harvey the Hoarder). Harvey’s conniving cousins and rapacious neighbors have filed complaints with the town council about the unkempt appearance of his home. It falls to Meg and her crew to declutter and repair the property. After only one day of packing up debris and possible treasure, Meg arrives to find Harvey lying in a pool of blood on his garage floor. He’s rushed to the hospital, where he’s declared dead. Never mind the slight murder investigation that ensues. Caerphilly, with its endearing residents, is the kind of place every cozy fan would like to escape to during stressful times. Andrews consistently entertains. Agent: Ellen Geiger, Frances Goldin Literary. (Oct.)
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781250760128 With Christmas fast approaching, Meg Langslow’s house is full of visiting relatives, and she is in charge of Caerphilly’s Helping Hands for the Holidays, where neighbors volunteer to help those who need assistance with projects, from building a handicapped ramp to finishing a quilt. Their biggest challenge to date is to declutter hoarder Harvey Dunlop’s home before the authorities move in in response to the complaints from his neighbors and the feigned concern of his cousins. The project is progressing well when Meg finds Harvey in his garage, badly injured. Meg and the other volunteers are saddened when Harvey dies, convinced he was in the process of turning his life around. Suspects include Harvey’s neighbors, his cousins, and a woman who claims to be Harvey’s girlfriend. Meg assists Chief Burke with his investigation, and, with the support of friends and family, she uncovers the killer. Framed by the warmth of the holiday season, this satisfying entry in the long-running cozy series delights with humor, familiar quirky characters, and a Christmas miracle.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781250760128 With Christmas fast approaching, Meg Langslow’s house is full of visiting relatives, and she is in charge of Caerphilly’s Helping Hands for the Holidays, where neighbors volunteer to help those who need assistance with projects, from building a handicapped ramp to finishing a quilt. Their biggest challenge to date is to declutter hoarder Harvey Dunlop’s home before the authorities move in in response to the complaints from his neighbors and the feigned concern of his cousins. The project is progressing well when Meg finds Harvey in his garage, badly injured. Meg and the other volunteers are saddened when Harvey dies, convinced he was in the process of turning his life around. Suspects include Harvey’s neighbors, his cousins, and a woman who claims to be Harvey’s girlfriend. Meg assists Chief Burke with his investigation, and, with the support of friends and family, she uncovers the killer. Framed by the warmth of the holiday season, this satisfying entry in the long-running cozy series delights with humor, familiar quirky characters, and a Christmas miracle.
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2020 (Best Contemporary Novel)
Murder in the Bayou Boneyard
Book Jacket   Ellen Byron
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781643854601 In Agatha winner Byron’s captivating sixth Cajun Country mystery (after 2019’s Fatal Cajun Festival), Magnolia “Maggie” Crozat, the proprietor of the Crozat Plantation Bed and Breakfast in Pelican, La., struggles to compete with the Rent My Digs app, which is siphoning off the B and B’s bookings. When Maggie hires her distant Canadian cousin, Susannah Crozat MacDowell, to help out over the hectic October tourist season, Susannah betrays their working agreement and claims part of Maggie’s land actually belongs to her side of the family. On top of all this, a rougarou, a “kind of werewolf-meets-vampire creature,” appears to be scaring off many of Maggie’s guests. When someone wearing a rougarou costume drops dead during a play performed in the local cemetery, it turns out to be a case of poisoning. With Maggie’s family’s livelihood at stake, she once again turns sleuth. Cajun history and delectable food descriptions supplement the crime solving. Cozy fans are in for a Halloween treat. Agent: Doug Grad, Doug Grad Literary (Sept.)
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781643854601 The B&Bs in Pelican, LA, are having difficulties competing with a company buying up property, so Maggie Crozat comes up with a scheme that each B&B will host special events to celebrate Pelican's spooky past. She has the bright idea that Crozat Plantation B&B will host a spa, and invites a Canadian cousin she's never met, Susannah MacDowell, to be the massage therapist. Susannah shows up with her obnoxious, demanding family. Guests report seeing a scary rougarou, a legendary werewolf combined with a vampire, and people cancel their reservations. When a costumed rougarou dies at the mystery play in a cemetery, Maggie becomes the primary suspect. Her event plans are a disaster. She and her grandmother had planned a double wedding on New Year's Eve, but grandma has turned into a bridezilla. Then the local police chief collapses in their family kitchen. With all of her family as murder suspects, Maggie has to solve the case, or she'll be wearing an orange jumpsuit for her wedding instead of a traditional gown. VERDICT Halloween, humor, and Louisiana legends are the key to the award-winning author's follow-up to Fatal Cajun Festival. Byron's readers and fans of Jenn McKinlay's humorous mysteries will appreciate this latest story that incorporates family and food.—Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9781643854601 Halloween festivities turn deadly for a rural Louisiana family. Like most owners of large properties in and around picturesque Pelican, the Crozats are feeling the pinch. Young entrepreneurs like Gavin Grody, CEO of Rent My Digs, are cutting into their short-term rental business by buying up older homes and leasing them online under the guise of “home-sharing.” To boost business at their B & B, Tug and Ninette Crozat team up with the owners of the Belle Vista Plantation Resort to offer a Pelican’s Spooky Past package. Belle Vista’s offerings include a mystery play directed by local attorney Quentin MacIlhoney; in addition, the Crozats open a spa, complete with massage, skin care, and a clairvoyant. To mix business with pleasure, the Crozats invite Susannah and Doug MacDowell, distant relatives from Canada, to join them for the length of the promotion. Susie, a trained masseuse, agrees to work in the spa to subsidize their stay. Tug and Ninette’s daughter, Maggie, gives up her art studio for the duration so that the cousins and Doug’s adult children can have plenty of room during their stay but quickly realizes that the Canadians have their eyes on more than one building on the Crozats’ property. Soon the bodies start to pile up, and Maggie, who’s engaged to Pelican Police Department detective Bo Durand, decides that she’d better start another round of sleuthing if she doesn’t want to celebrate her wedding day behind bars. Kooky characters, Southern charm, recipes. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Halloween festivities turn deadly for a rural Louisiana family.Like most owners of large properties in and around picturesque Pelican, the Crozats are feeling the pinch. Young entrepreneurs like Gavin Grody, CEO of Rent My Digs, are cutting into their short-term rental business by buying up older homes and leasing them online under the guise of home-sharing. To boost business at their BB, Tug and Ninette Crozat team up with the owners of the Belle Vista Plantation Resort to offer a Pelicans Spooky Past package. Belle Vistas offerings include a mystery play directed by local attorney Quentin MacIlhoney; in addition, the Crozats open a spa, complete with massage, skin care, and a clairvoyant. To mix business with pleasure, the Crozats invite Susannah and Doug MacDowell, distant relatives from Canada, to join them for the length of the promotion. Susie, a trained masseuse, agrees to work in the spa to subsidize their stay. Tug and Ninettes daughter, Maggie, gives up her art studio for the duration so that the cousins and Dougs adult children can have plenty of room during their stay but quickly realizes that the Canadians have their eyes on more than one building on the Crozats property. Soon the bodies start to pile up, and Maggie, whos engaged to Pelican Police Department detective Bo Durand, decides that shed better start another round of sleuthing if she doesnt want to celebrate her wedding day behind bars. Kooky characters, Southern charm, recipes. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2020 (Best Contemporary Novel)
From Beer to Eternity
 Sherry Harris
  Book Jacket
2020 (Best Contemporary Novel)
All the Devils are Here
 Louise Penny
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781250145239 In A Better Man, the sixth straight No. 1 New York Times best seller in the durable "Chief Inspector Armand Gamache" mysteries and the 15th title overall, Penny took Armand's story in refreshing new directions. No word yet on where this 16th series title is heading, but the 750,000-copy first printing speaks loud and clear.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781250145239 Bestseller Penny’s exceptional 16th series mystery (after 2019’s A Better Man) takes Chief Insp. Armand Gamache, the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, to Paris for the anticipated birth of a grandchild to his daughter, Annie, who moved to France with her husband, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache’s longtime number two, after they both got jobs there. The happy reunion includes Gamache’s son, Daniel, also lured to Paris by a job, and Gamache’s godfather, billionaire Stephen Horowitz, who supported Gamache after he was orphaned. Tragedy strikes when Stephen, who made a career of exposing corporate wrongdoing, is hit by a delivery van while crossing the street, leaving him at death’s door. Gamache, who witnessed the attack, tries to persuade the Prefect of Police, an old friend, that the hit-and-run should be treated as attempted murder, only succeeding after he finds the corpse of a stranger, who was shot twice, in Stephen’s ransacked apartment. The tension rises as Gamache tries to investigate both crimes in a jurisdiction where he has no authority, and vital secrets about his family come to light, changing relationships forever. Penny’s nuanced exploration of the human spirit continues to distinguish this brilliant series. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Company. (Sept.)
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Gamache goes to Paris.Armand Gamache of the Sret du Qubec has had an eventful time in Penny's last few books, taking over as Chief Superintendent, uncovering corruption at the highest levels, facing public scorn, and finally ending up back where he started, as head of the homicide division. Penny has always been a master of pacing on a serieswide level, moving between the overarching corruption story and more local mysteries and also occasionally taking a break from Three Pines, the beloved, unmappable Quebec village that is the main setting. This time around, Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, a retired librarian, are spending time in Paris, where both of their children now live, waiting for their daughter, Annie, to give birth to her first child with husband Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's former second-in-command. Gamache takes the opportunity to visit the Rodin Museum with his godfather, billionaire Stephen Horowitz, who then joins the extended Gamache clan for dinneronly to be hit by a car and almost killed as they leave the restaurant. Gamache is convinced it was no accidentan impression reinforced the next morning when he and Reine-Marie go to Stephen's apartment and find the place has been ransacked and there's a dead body behind the sofa. Soon the whole family is involved in the investigation, and everyone has a part to play, from Reine-Marie, who visits the Archives nationales, to son Daniel, a venture capitalist who moved to Paris to escape his father's shadow. Gamache calls on an old friend, the head of the Paris police force, but can he be trusted? As always, Penny's mystery is meticulously constructed and reveals hard truths about the hidden workings of the worldas well as the workings of the Gamache family. But there's plenty of local color, too, with a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower to escape surveillance and a luxurious suite at the Hotel George V for good measure. If you're new to Penny's world, this would be a great place to jump in. Then go back and start the series from the beginning. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781250145239 The setting of Penny’s sixteenth Armand Gamache novel moves from Three Pines in Quebec to Paris, where Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, await the birth of daughter Annie’s second child. After a reunion dinner with the family and Gamache’s billionaire godfather, Stephen Horowitz, a speeding van hits Horowitz, leaving him near death. Gamache believes the hit-and-run was intentional and sets out to determine who wanted his godfather dead. So begins a deftly plotted mystery in which the entire Gamache family is at risk. Might Horowitz, Gamache wonders, knowing that his friend has devoted his life to exposing corporate wrongdoers, have been playing a long game aimed at revealing shocking malfeasance at GHS Electronics, the company where Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Annie’s husband and Armand’s former lieutenant at the Sûreté de Québec, now works? As the plot machinations multiply, Gamache must also confront his alienated son, Daniel, about the wedge that exists between them. Penny’s series has always been about the complexities and sustaining glories of family, and here she takes that theme even further, revealing fissures in the Gamache clan, but also showing the resilience and love at its root. Series devotees will revel in both Penny’s evocation of Paris—every bit as sumptuous as her rendering of Three Pines—and in the increased role she allots to librarian Reine-Marie, whose research skills are crucial to untying the Gordian knot at the mystery’s core. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This celebration of the First Family of crime fiction will be treasured by Penny's ever-growing legion of readers.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781250145239 The setting of Penny’s sixteenth Armand Gamache novel moves from Three Pines in Quebec to Paris, where Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, await the birth of daughter Annie’s second child. After a reunion dinner with the family and Gamache’s billionaire godfather, Stephen Horowitz, a speeding van hits Horowitz, leaving him near death. Gamache believes the hit-and-run was intentional and sets out to determine who wanted his godfather dead. So begins a deftly plotted mystery in which the entire Gamache family is at risk. Might Horowitz, Gamache wonders, knowing that his friend has devoted his life to exposing corporate wrongdoers, have been playing a long game aimed at revealing shocking malfeasance at GHS Electronics, the company where Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Annie’s husband and Armand’s former lieutenant at the Sûreté de Québec, now works? As the plot machinations multiply, Gamache must also confront his alienated son, Daniel, about the wedge that exists between them. Penny’s series has always been about the complexities and sustaining glories of family, and here she takes that theme even further, revealing fissures in the Gamache clan, but also showing the resilience and love at its root. Series devotees will revel in both Penny’s evocation of Paris—every bit as sumptuous as her rendering of Three Pines—and in the increased role she allots to librarian Reine-Marie, whose research skills are crucial to untying the Gordian knot at the mystery’s core. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This celebration of the First Family of crime fiction will be treasured by Penny's ever-growing legion of readers.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9781250145239 Gamache goes to Paris. Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec has had an eventful time in Penny's last few books, taking over as Chief Superintendent, uncovering corruption at the highest levels, facing public scorn, and finally ending up back where he started, as head of the homicide division. Penny has always been a master of pacing on a serieswide level, moving between the overarching corruption story and more local mysteries and also occasionally taking a break from Three Pines, the beloved, unmappable Quebec village that is the main setting. This time around, Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, a retired librarian, are spending time in Paris, where both of their children now live, waiting for their daughter, Annie, to give birth to her first child with husband Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's former second-in-command. Gamache takes the opportunity to visit the Rodin Museum with his godfather, billionaire Stephen Horowitz, who then joins the extended Gamache clan for dinner—only to be hit by a car and almost killed as they leave the restaurant. Gamache is convinced it was no accident—an impression reinforced the next morning when he and Reine-Marie go to Stephen's apartment and find the place has been ransacked and there's a dead body behind the sofa. Soon the whole family is involved in the investigation, and everyone has a part to play, from Reine-Marie, who visits the Archives nationales, to son Daniel, a venture capitalist who moved to Paris to escape his father's shadow. Gamache calls on an old friend, the head of the Paris police force, but can he be trusted? As always, Penny's mystery is meticulously constructed and reveals hard truths about the hidden workings of the world—as well as the workings of the Gamache family. But there's plenty of local color, too, with a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower to escape surveillance and a luxurious suite at the Hotel George V for good measure. If you're new to Penny's world, this would be a great place to jump in. Then go back and start the series from the beginning. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781250760623 Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache have come to Paris to await the birth of a new granddaughter. That first night, they have dinner with Armand's godfather, the billionaire Stephen Horowitz. But after leaving the bistro, Stephen is hit by a vehicle and critically injured in what Gamache knows was a deliberate attempt on the elderly man's life. A strange key found in Stephen's possession sends Armand, Reine-Marie, and his son-in-law and former colleague at the Sûreté, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, from the top of the Eiffel Tower to perfume counters around the city and into the bowels of the Paris Archives looking for answers. The more they learn about the secrets Stephen kept from them, the more confused and despairing they are. And when a corpse is found in Stephen's apartment, the Gamaches realize there's even more at stake than their personal histories. Robert Bathurst provides resonant, perfectly paced narration. VERDICT Fans who may have been skeptical about an installment being set outside Three Pines can relax. A temporary move to the City of Lights allows Penny to explore relationships among the Gamache family, as well as set in play one of her classic twisty mysteries. Essential for series fans.—Stephanie Klose, Library Journal
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  Book Jacket
 
2020 (Best Contemporary Novel)
The Lucky One
Book Jacket   Lori Rader-Day
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780062938077 Alice Fine, one of the protagonists of this complex, intimate novel from Mary Higgins Clark Award–winner Rader-Day (Under a Dark Sky), works for her ex-cop father’s Chicago construction firm while also volunteering for a website that matches missing people with unidentified remains. After seeing the face of the man who kidnapped her when she was a toddler among the listings, Alice calls on two other volunteers to help follow that lead. Meanwhile, Merrily Cruz, alerted by the police that her not-quite-stepfather, with whom she only corresponds sporadically by text, is missing, tries to seek him out. As the two women’s searches—and lives—collide, decades-old secrets come to light. Rader-Day creates deeply believable, empathetic characters and puts the power in the hands of women, including older women. Pacing is fast but not frantic, and the story’s constant surprises and reveals evolve naturally and come together satisfyingly free of loose ends. The tightly crafted storytelling brings heat back into the familiar cold case plot, digging deep into those aches that never really fade. Agent: Sharon Bowers, Miller Bowers Griffin Literary Management. (Feb.)
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780062938060 Kidnapped as a child from her backyard in Indiana but quickly rescued by her policeman father, Alice now volunteers for The Doe Pages, scrolling through image after image of unidentified individuals in an effort to reunite loved ones. There she spots her long-ago abductor, which sends her on a mission to find him before he strikes again. From the Edgar Award-nominated and Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author; with a 100,000-copy first printing.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. An online project to trace the fates of missing persons and unidentified murder victims bears poisonous fruit for two women it brings together.Everyone involved in the Doe Pages has their reasonscivic-mindedness, moral outrage, obsessive curiosityfor the interest they share in gathering information about the anonymous parties whose photos they pore over. Alice Fine's reason sets her apart. Taken from her home when she was only 3, she was lucky enough to be rescued by her father, a police officer in Victorville, Indiana, apparently before anything terrible happened. In the generation that's passed since then, Harrison Fine has quit the force, moved to Chicago, been widowed, and become the can-do junior partner in the contracting firm of King and Fine, where Alice is working in a meaningless hanger-on position the day she's scanning the contents of the Doe Pages and spots the photograph of the man she's convinced was her kidnapper. By the time Alice catches up with Richard Miller, she and a pair of her online buddies have uncovered evidence that he lived many lives before the last one came to an end when he was stabbed 12 times. One of these lives, Rader-Day (Under a Dark Sky, 2018, etc.) begins hinting early on, involved Merrily Cruz, who knew Miller as Richard Kisel, the man so close to her mother for so long that he was practically her stepfather, the man who on her 30th birthday leaves her a text message"Hey, kid, it's best if I don't bother you anymore. Have a good life"that so interests state trooper Graciano "Gonzo" Vasquez that it pretty much guarantees that "Rick Kisel was going to ruin their lives, all over again." The ensuing developments send both heroines spinning down converging rabbit holes to their dimly remembered pasts until Alice concludes, "She was in Wonderland." It's not a pretty place.Another harrowing nightmare by a master of the sleepless night. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2020 (Best Historical Novel)
The Last Mrs. Summers
Book Jacket   Rhys Bowen
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780451492876 In this fourteenth Royal Spyness mystery, which Bowen acknowledges is her tribute to du Maurier's Rebecca, Lady Georgiana Rannoch is just back from her honeymoon. With her husband, Darcy, away on one of his top-secret missions, Georgie heads off to Cornwall with her friend Belinda, who has inherited a cottage there. When it turns out to be barely habitable, they take refuge at Trewoma, a lovely old estate that, much like Manderley, has a foreboding air, an uncomfortable second wife, and an obsessed housekeeper. Belinda spent her summers in Cornwall as a child in the company of the owners and has accumulated some baggage with them over the years. She ends up in jail when a member of the household is murdered, and it falls to Georgie to sift through the lies and secrets of Trewoma’s troubled past. Bowen’s style has been described as Agatha Christie meets P. G. Wodehouse; that assessment remains apt, but by throwing in a generous helping of du Maurier this time, the author has delivered another sure winner for series fans.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780451492876 Having arrived back in 1930s England after her exciting African honeymoon, Lady Georgiana Rannoch, aka Georgie, goes to Cornwall to check out the creaky, creepy house friend Belinda has inherited and ends up dealing with Belinda's acquaintance Rose Summers, who's convinced that her new husband murdered his first wife. Next in a much-awarded (e.g., LibraryReads) series.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780451492876 In this fourteenth Royal Spyness mystery, which Bowen acknowledges is her tribute to du Maurier's Rebecca, Lady Georgiana Rannoch is just back from her honeymoon. With her husband, Darcy, away on one of his top-secret missions, Georgie heads off to Cornwall with her friend Belinda, who has inherited a cottage there. When it turns out to be barely habitable, they take refuge at Trewoma, a lovely old estate that, much like Manderley, has a foreboding air, an uncomfortable second wife, and an obsessed housekeeper. Belinda spent her summers in Cornwall as a child in the company of the owners and has accumulated some baggage with them over the years. She ends up in jail when a member of the household is murdered, and it falls to Georgie to sift through the lies and secrets of Trewoma’s troubled past. Bowen’s style has been described as Agatha Christie meets P. G. Wodehouse; that assessment remains apt, but by throwing in a generous helping of du Maurier this time, the author has delivered another sure winner for series fans.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780451492876 Agatha-winner Bowen’s 14th Royal Spyness mystery (after 2019’s Love and Death Among the Cheetahs) falls short of her usual high standard. In 1935, the once impoverished and recently married Georgiana O’Mara, née Rannoch, having inherited a fortune, is now adjusting to a new role as lady of a Sussex manor. With her husband off doing something secret for the British government, Georgiana leaps at an invitation from an old friend, Belinda Warburton-Stoke, to travel to Cornwall, where the pair end up the guests of Tony Summers, an old flame of Belinda’s, at his palatial, ghost-haunted home. Tony has recently remarried after his first wife died in an accidental fall from a cliff. The second Mrs. Summers suspects that Tony killed the first one and is plotting to kill her, too. This explicit homage to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca unfolds along predictable lines, and Bowen’s continued neglect of Georgie’s delightfully inept servant, Queenie, eliminates the comic relief that was a memorable aspect of earlier series entries. Fans can only hope for a return to form. Agent: Meg Ruley, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Aug.)
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2020 (Best Historical Novel)
The Fate of a Flapper
 Susanna Calkins
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781250190857 Gina Ricci isn't just a cigarette girl at the Chicago speakeasy the Third Door, she's a caretaker to her father, an amateur photographer, and a sometime sleuth, accompanying her police officer cousin Nancy on cases. It's 1929, and Prohibition is in full swing, but at the Third Door, the cocktails are flowing. Gina watches as two young women, Fruma and Adelaide, stumble into the street with two new gentlemen friends. The next time she sees Fruma is when Nancy asks her to photograph a dead body. Gina has more questions than answers. Is the Third Door a front for organized crime? Meanwhile, bombs are being set off randomly throughout Chicago, and when she and love interest Roark, a former cop, get caught in the middle of a bombing she's convinced the murder of Fruma is at the center of it all. VERDICT Written with wit and an understanding of the tensions during one of the most volatile times in history, Calkins's second "Speakeasy" story (after Murder Knocks Twice) will give readers insight into the world of Prohibition and what the human spirit is capable of in desperate times.—Jane Blue, Northumberland P.L., Heathsville, VA
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9781250190857 The Roaring ’20s approach a dark and dangerous end as criminal activity, bombings, and plunging stocks rock Chicago. Gina Ricci works as a cigarette girl and drink server at the Third Door, a speak-easy run by the iron-fisted Signora Castallazzo, who also has several legitimate businesses and a good relationship with the cops. Gina works to support her father, who has palsy. She’s recently resumed a tenuous relationship with her wealthy great-aunt and great-uncle after the murder of their son, her cousin Marty, a photographer who left her the little he owned. Gina becomes involved in yet another murder when Marty’s sister, Nancy, an ambitious cop who wants to become the first woman detective, asks her to take photos at a crime scene. The dead woman had been drinking heavily with a friend and two stockbrokers at the Third Door the night before, and there’s a chance Fruma may have been poisoned by bad hooch. Naturally curious and hoping to save the speak-easy from ruin, Gina takes advantage of her insider position to snoop even though she’s blindsided when the war veteran she’s attracted to suddenly has a wife turn up out of the blue. The death of one of the stockbrokers Fruma was partying with makes the case more complicated and places Gina in a perilous position. You have to love a gal who takes chances while staying true to herself. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781250190857 Calkins’s winning sequel to 2019’s Murder Knocks Twice, likewise set in 1929 Chicago, finds cigarette girl Gina Ricci serving a rowdy crowd one night at the Third Door speakeasy. She takes particular notice of two young women, Fruma Landry and Adelaide , who receive the attentions of various men, not all of them welcome. The next morning, Gina gets a call from her police officer cousin, Nancy Doyle, who needs Gina, an amateur photographer, to take pictures of a dead body. The victim turns out to be Fruma, found by a neighbor in the apartment Fruma shared with Adelaide. Fruma’s purple, distorted face points to poisoning. Did she die from drinking tainted hooch at the Third Door? Or is it a case of murder? Gina, who’s suspicious of the stories Adelaide tells about the men in her late roommate’s life, winds up investigating. Period slang lends authenticity. Calkins draws a memorable portrait of Prohibition-era Chicago. Agent: David Hale Smith, Inkwell Management. (July)
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781250190857 This historical mystery is kind of rerun of the musical Chicago, with lots of 1920s atmosphere, but with the main characters, two women, solving rather than committing murder. Gina Ricci, a cigarette girl in a Chicago speakeasy in 1929, observes two young women tossing back drinks with two wealthy bankers. The next day, Gina’s cousin, a female cop, calls Gina to a crime scene to photograph a dead body, who happens to be one of the women Gina saw the night before. Historical note: there were no women cops until after Title I in the 1970s, only police matrons to deal with women victims or perpetrators. Calkins, who has a doctorate in history, sacrifices credibility for plot, but—anachronisms aside—the story delivers a fun romp for readers more into mystery than history.
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  Book Jacket
2020 (Best Historical Novel)
A Ladys Guide to Mischief and Murder
 Dianne Freeman
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781496716934 In Agatha Award–winner Freeman’s uneven third mystery set in late Victorian England (after 2019’s A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder), George Hazelton, the secret fiancé of widowed Frances Wynn, the Countess of Harleigh, agrees to host a discreet wedding for Frances’s pregnant sister, Lily, at his family’s country estate, Risings, in an effort to avoid scandal. Trouble arises at Risings after a footman dies from what looks like accidental arsenic poisoning, a family friend is wounded by an arrow, and Lily’s fiancé, Leo Kendrick, takes a bullet in the shoulder. Guessing that Leo is the real target, Frances and George probe various suspects, including Leo’s brother-in-law, who resents not making partner in the Kendrick family business. Meanwhile, Frances copes with her combative social-climbing mother and a new fear: what if George too is also in danger? The introduction of a host of secondary characters slows the opening, and the footman’s is the only death. Once the investigation gets going, however, the action builds to a strong denouement. Hopefully, Freeman will return to form next time. Agent: Melissa Edwards, Stonesong Literary. (Aug.)
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  Book Jacket
 
2020 (Best Historical Novel)
Taken Too Soon
Book Jacket   Edith Maxwell
2020 (Best Historical Novel)
The Turning Tide
Book Jacket   Catriona McPherson
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781473682382 Agatha winner MacPherson’s vivid 14th Dandy Gilver mystery (after 2018’s A Step So Grave) opens in the summer of 1936, when Dandy Gilver and her inquiry agent colleague, Alec Osborne, receive a series of letters from a Scottish minister begging for their help. Vesper Kemp, the ferry operator for the town of Cramond, on the Firth of Forth, has abandoned her post and seems to be losing her mind. A young man accidentally fell into the river and drowned, but Vesper insists she murdered him. Dandy and Alec dismiss the case as more appropriate for a doctor than for detectives, until they discover the victim was Peter Haslett, whom Dandy has known since he was a child. Once in Cramond, Dandy and Alec find Vesper in a sad state, and their investigation takes several odd turns involving an old Roman fort, two unhelpful spinsters, four threatening millers, and a couple of students with a hidden agenda growing a particular strain of potato. MacPherson does a masterly job capturing the feel of rural Scotland and the mores of pre-WWII Britain. Readers will hope Dandy has a long career. Agent: Lisa Moylett, CMM Literary (U.K.). (Nov.)
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2020 (Best First Novel)
A Spell for Trouble
 Esme Addison
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781643853031 Alex Daniels, the 28-year-old heroine of Addison’s captivating debut and series launch, returns to her hometown of Bellamy Bay, N.C., more than 20 years after her mother’s death there. Her father, who died three months earlier in Connecticut, had always forbidden her to visit, but Alex is in need of some rest and relaxation after abruptly leaving her high-powered job in New York City. Impulsively, she takes a retail position at her family’s herbal apothecary, Botanika. When Alex’s reticent aunt, Lidia, is arrested for the murder of a Botanika customer, Alex sets out to clear Lidia’s name. Her investigating uncovers more about the circumstances of her mother’s death, and long-standing inter-family strife, leading her to realize her relatives have secrets beyond perfume and organic soap recipes, and to wonder whether she’ll ever feel a part of the family. A crafty plot, distinctive characters, and a quirky small-town setting bode well for future installments. Cozy fans will be more than satisfied. Agent: Nikki Terpilowski, Holloway Literary. (May)
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Addisons sparkling debut brings a woman back to her mother's hometown, where she learns a shocking truth about her familyand herself.Aleksandra Daniels was forbidden by her father to return to Bellamy Bay, North Carolina, after her mother drowned there more than 20 years ago. After his death, however, she leaves her New York City job as a risk manager and, with her dog, Athena, goes to visit her Aunt Lidia and cousins Minka and Kamila, who are thrilled to see her after such a long hiatus, and help them out at their herbal remedies store. There she meets Pepper Bellamy, an inquisitive reporter who mentions the hidden secrets of the towns oldest clans, the Wesleys and the Sobieskis, Alexs own family. Lidia has an odd, nasty confrontation with Randy Bennett, one of her customers, who badly needs an elixir but finally departs with some tea. By contrast, Alex and new police officer Jack Frazier hit it off, but their relationship is taxed when he arrests Lidia after Randy is found fatally poisoned by deadly nightshade berries. Furious, Alex decides to look into the case herself. After all, Randys widow, Stephanie, stands to inherit millions; his business partner, Edwin Kenley, was angry with him; and the wealthy and powerful Wesleys want to buy their business. Alex is astonished when Pepper tells her shes working on an article claiming the Sobieskis are water witches descended from mermaids. When Lidia is put under house arrest, Alex learns that her relatives really are witches and that shed be wise to develop some of the powers she inherited from her talented mother. As she begins to investigate the Wesley family, she meets Dylan, a stunningly attractive man who reminds her that they played together as children. The connections still there, but she cant trust him or his steely mother and sister. As she struggles with her powers, Alex cant talk to Jack about her theories because hes a nonmagical Mundane, and she puts herself in great danger when she turns up more dangerous secrets.For those who love cozies, romance with an edge, and magical adventures. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781643853031 After her father’s death and the loss of her job, Alex Daniels travels to Bellamy Bay, North Carolina, to visit her aunt and cousins, whom she hasn’t seen in more than 20 years. Alex agrees to help out in the family herbal apothecary, and at the shop her Aunt Lidia has a physical argument with local businessman Randy Bennett. When Bennett is found poisoned, Lidia is arrested for the murder. Determined to clear her aunt of the charges, Alex begins her own investigation. She is stunned to learn that she, like her aunt and cousins, is a "water witch," a magical being thought to be descended from mermaids. Combining her fledgling magical powers and standard investigative techniques, Alex uncovers long-buried secrets and identifies additional suspects, including members of the powerful Wesley family, also with magical powers. This cozy, with its well-developed characters and charming seaside setting, and framed by plant and mermaid lore, will appeal to those who enjoy stories with a touch of magic.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9781643853031 Addison’s sparkling debut brings a woman back to her mother's hometown, where she learns a shocking truth about her family—and herself. Aleksandra Daniels was forbidden by her father to return to Bellamy Bay, North Carolina, after her mother drowned there more than 20 years ago. After his death, however, she leaves her New York City job as a risk manager and, with her dog, Athena, goes to visit her Aunt Lidia and cousins Minka and Kamila, who are thrilled to see her after such a long hiatus, and help them out at their herbal remedies store. There she meets Pepper Bellamy, an inquisitive reporter who mentions the hidden secrets of the town’s oldest clans, the Wesleys and the Sobieskis, Alex’s own family. Lidia has an odd, nasty confrontation with Randy Bennett, one of her customers, who badly needs an elixir but finally departs with some tea. By contrast, Alex and new police officer Jack Frazier hit it off, but their relationship is taxed when he arrests Lidia after Randy is found fatally poisoned by deadly nightshade berries. Furious, Alex decides to look into the case herself. After all, Randy’s widow, Stephanie, stands to inherit millions; his business partner, Edwin Kenley, was angry with him; and the wealthy and powerful Wesleys want to buy their business. Alex is astonished when Pepper tells her she’s working on an article claiming the Sobieskis are water witches descended from mermaids. When Lidia is put under house arrest, Alex learns that her relatives really are witches and that she’d be wise to develop some of the powers she inherited from her talented mother. As she begins to investigate the Wesley family, she meets Dylan, a stunningly attractive man who reminds her that they played together as children. The connection’s still there, but she can’t trust him or his steely mother and sister. As she struggles with her powers, Alex can’t talk to Jack about her theories because he’s a nonmagical Mundane, and she puts herself in great danger when she turns up more dangerous secrets. For those who love cozies, romance with an edge, and magical adventures. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781643853031 After her father’s death and the loss of her job, Alex Daniels travels to Bellamy Bay, North Carolina, to visit her aunt and cousins, whom she hasn’t seen in more than 20 years. Alex agrees to help out in the family herbal apothecary, and at the shop her Aunt Lidia has a physical argument with local businessman Randy Bennett. When Bennett is found poisoned, Lidia is arrested for the murder. Determined to clear her aunt of the charges, Alex begins her own investigation. She is stunned to learn that she, like her aunt and cousins, is a "water witch," a magical being thought to be descended from mermaids. Combining her fledgling magical powers and standard investigative techniques, Alex uncovers long-buried secrets and identifies additional suspects, including members of the powerful Wesley family, also with magical powers. This cozy, with its well-developed characters and charming seaside setting, and framed by plant and mermaid lore, will appeal to those who enjoy stories with a touch of magic.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781643853031 Aleksandra Daniels's father would never let her visit her mother's hometown of Bellamy Bay, NC. But now that she's alone in the world and unemployed, she accepts an invitation from her Aunt Lidia and cousins. Alex has the time to help with the family business, an herbal apothecary. But when Alex's cousin makes a mistake in the shop, Alex sees her aunt slam a man against the wall in a rage. When he's murdered, Aunt Lidia is arrested, and the local gossip column talks about mysterious powers and witches. Alex had no idea she's descended from Polish water witches, nor did she know her mother was the most powerful of them all. Now, though, she jumps in to save Lidia and find the true killer. However, enemies with their own powerful magic oppose the search, and the endangered Alex is unprepared to use her newfound gifts. VERDICT As an amateur sleuth, Alex is awkward and too pushy for a newcomer in town. However, flaws in her character may be overlooked because of the unique background of Polish history and magic. Fans of Ellery Adams's mysteries will want to try this one.—Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN
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  Book Jacket
2020 (Best First Novel)
Winter Witness
 Tina deBellegarde
  Book Jacket
 
2020 (Best First Novel)
Derailed
Book Jacket   Mary Keliikoa
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781603817066 Portland, Ore., PI Kelly Pruett, the narrator of Keliikoa’s winning debut and series launch, has inherited R&K Investigation following her father’s death the year before. Most of the agency’s work involves “process serving, court document searches, and the occasional tedious stakeout.” When Georgette Hanson, who looks to be in her mid-60s, knocks on the office door one rainy afternoon, Kelly gets her first serious case. Georgette wants Kelly to look into the death of her grown daughter, Brooke. A few weeks earlier, a witness saw Brooke fall into the path of a light rail train. Brooke had been drinking, and the police quickly declared her death an accident. However, Georgette believes the witness lied and asks Kelly to find out the truth. What Kelly discovers is that everything that Brooke told her mother about her life was a lie. Keliikoa offers believable characters, valid motives, a shifting cast of suspects, and an appealing protagonist, who balances her life as a divorced mother of an eight-year-old daughter with her increasingly chaotic career. This is definitely a series to watch. Agent: Michelle Richter Fuse Literary. (May)
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2020 (Best First Novel)
Murder at the Mena House
Book Jacket   Erica Ruth Neubauer
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781496725851 In 1926, American widow Jane Wunderly, the narrator of Neubauer’s promising debut, decides to vacation in Egypt with her matchmaking aunt, who’s determined to find her a beau. Jane, who appears to be in her 20s, doesn’t welcome those efforts, as she’s still struggling with the emotional fallout of her marriage to a man who viewed her as a “trophy... to win” and then break. That trauma has led Jane to vow to stand up for herself going forward, and that resolve is soon tested at the Cairo hotel where she and her aunt are staying, Mena House. Fellow guest Anna Stainton, a British colonel’s daughter, takes a dislike to Jane. Their public spat makes Jane the focus of the police inquiry after someone shoots Anna to death in her room. To clear her name, Jane sets about investigating on her own, even as she wrestles with feelings of attraction toward a handsome and mysterious stranger, who calls himself Redvers, whom she believes looks “too dangerous” to be the banker he claims to be. Mystery readers who enjoy a heavy dose of romance will be eager for the next installment. Agent: Ann Collette, Rees Literary. (Apr.)
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781496725851 DEBUT In 1926, American widow Jane Wunderly travels to Egypt, courtesy of her Aunt Millie, where she hopes to enjoy a stay at Mena House, an upscale hotel. Jane plans to visit the pyramids of Giza and to avoid any romantic dalliances while abroad, but things don't turn out that way. For starters, she is confounded by Aunt Millie's odd behavior, suddenly realizing her aunt's personal life is an enigma. Also, she gets off on the wrong foot with the beautiful socialite, Anna Stainton. When Anna is found murdered, Jane is a prime suspect. Fearing arrest, Jane must eliminate a variety of suspects to locate the culprit. The mysterious banker, Mr. Redvers, however, is a man Jane senses is both puzzling and fascinating and is as interested as she is in solving the case. VERDICT Stunning revelations, romance, adventure, and intrigue abound in this multilayered, delightfully entertaining whodunit. Neubauer's debut dazzles, with a smart plot, remarkable scenery, and skilled execution.—Julie Whiteley, Stephenville, TX
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781496725851 A new sleuth is on the scene, and she starts her career in 1926 Egypt. American Jane Wunderly, a young widow hiding a few secrets, is accompanying her Aunt Millie on the trip of a lifetime. But though the goal is to see the sights, like the Pyramids of Giza, which sit tantalizingly close to her charming hotel, Jane is almost immediately restricted to the grounds when she becomes a chief suspect in the murder of a party girl with a few secrets of her own. Fortunately, a dashing banker, known as Mr. Redvers, steps up to help Jane as she tries to clear her name by finding out the identity of the murderer, even as other bodies fall in her path. There's lots to like here. Jane is a feisty heroine, the setting is enticingly depicted, and there are several intriguing subplots. Fans of Agatha Christie will enjoy this homage, and, as the flap copy indicates, Jane will be traveling the world, where she will no doubt encounter more murder and mayhem—along with romance.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781496725851 In 1926, American widow Jane Wunderly, the narrator of Neubauer’s promising debut, decides to vacation in Egypt with her matchmaking aunt, who’s determined to find her a beau. Jane, who appears to be in her 20s, doesn’t welcome those efforts, as she’s still struggling with the emotional fallout of her marriage to a man who viewed her as a “trophy... to win” and then break. That trauma has led Jane to vow to stand up for herself going forward, and that resolve is soon tested at the Cairo hotel where she and her aunt are staying, Mena House. Fellow guest Anna Stainton, a British colonel’s daughter, takes a dislike to Jane. Their public spat makes Jane the focus of the police inquiry after someone shoots Anna to death in her room. To clear her name, Jane sets about investigating on her own, even as she wrestles with feelings of attraction toward a handsome and mysterious stranger, who calls himself Redvers, whom she believes looks “too dangerous” to be the banker he claims to be. Mystery readers who enjoy a heavy dose of romance will be eager for the next installment. Agent: Ann Collette, Rees Literary. (Apr.)
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781496725851 DEBUT In 1926, American widow Jane Wunderly travels to Egypt, courtesy of her Aunt Millie, where she hopes to enjoy a stay at Mena House, an upscale hotel. Jane plans to visit the pyramids of Giza and to avoid any romantic dalliances while abroad, but things don't turn out that way. For starters, she is confounded by Aunt Millie's odd behavior, suddenly realizing her aunt's personal life is an enigma. Also, she gets off on the wrong foot with the beautiful socialite, Anna Stainton. When Anna is found murdered, Jane is a prime suspect. Fearing arrest, Jane must eliminate a variety of suspects to locate the culprit. The mysterious banker, Mr. Redvers, however, is a man Jane senses is both puzzling and fascinating and is as interested as she is in solving the case. VERDICT Stunning revelations, romance, adventure, and intrigue abound in this multilayered, delightfully entertaining whodunit. Neubauer's debut dazzles, with a smart plot, remarkable scenery, and skilled execution.—Julie Whiteley, Stephenville, TX
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781496725851 A new sleuth is on the scene, and she starts her career in 1926 Egypt. American Jane Wunderly, a young widow hiding a few secrets, is accompanying her Aunt Millie on the trip of a lifetime. But though the goal is to see the sights, like the Pyramids of Giza, which sit tantalizingly close to her charming hotel, Jane is almost immediately restricted to the grounds when she becomes a chief suspect in the murder of a party girl with a few secrets of her own. Fortunately, a dashing banker, known as Mr. Redvers, steps up to help Jane as she tries to clear her name by finding out the identity of the murderer, even as other bodies fall in her path. There's lots to like here. Jane is a feisty heroine, the setting is enticingly depicted, and there are several intriguing subplots. Fans of Agatha Christie will enjoy this homage, and, as the flap copy indicates, Jane will be traveling the world, where she will no doubt encounter more murder and mayhem—along with romance.
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2020 (Best First Novel)
Murder Most Sweet
 Laura Jensen Walker
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A Wisconsin mystery author is suspected of a real-life murder.Teddie St. John is a breast cancer survivor who chose to get a double mastectomy, much to her mothers dismay. Shes also a fantastic baker, a caring friend, a super mom to her American Eskimo rescue, Gracie, and a published mystery writer. When bestselling author Tavish Bentley comes to Lake Potawatomi for a book signing, Teddie joins the crowd and finds herself immediately attracted to the charming Englishman. Although her scarf is stolen and used to strangle Bentleys recently dumped fiancee, Teddies not a serious suspect for Sheriff Brady Wells, whos known Teddie forever but still has to question her. It turns out that Tavish has a stalker problem in Annabelle Cooke, a determined woman who creates a nasty scene while Tavish and Teddie are dining at a local restaurant. Shes removed from the suspect list when she too is found strangled with one of Teddies many scarves. The town rumor mill has Teddie pegged as a serial killer, and her neighbors post their ideas all over social media, but it worries her more that her publishers are nervous about the publicity. Using their varied skills, Teddie and her two best friends start sleuthing on their own as she pursues her relationship with Tavish, who seems a perfect fit for her. Tavishs own problems, including an ex-wife, give them plenty of suspects to investigate.A wryly amusing cozy debut lent credence by the authors own experience as a cancer survivor. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9781643855028 A Wisconsin mystery author is suspected of a real-life murder. Teddie St. John is a breast cancer survivor who chose to get a double mastectomy, much to her mother’s dismay. She’s also a fantastic baker, a caring friend, a super mom to her American Eskimo rescue, Gracie, and a published mystery writer. When bestselling author Tavish Bentley comes to Lake Potawatomi for a book signing, Teddie joins the crowd and finds herself immediately attracted to the charming Englishman. Although her scarf is stolen and used to strangle Bentley’s recently dumped fiancee, Teddie’s not a serious suspect for Sheriff Brady Wells, who’s known Teddie forever but still has to question her. It turns out that Tavish has a stalker problem in Annabelle Cooke, a determined woman who creates a nasty scene while Tavish and Teddie are dining at a local restaurant. She’s removed from the suspect list when she too is found strangled with one of Teddie’s many scarves. The town rumor mill has Teddie pegged as a serial killer, and her neighbors post their ideas all over social media, but it worries her more that her publishers are nervous about the publicity. Using their varied skills, Teddie and her two best friends start sleuthing on their own as she pursues her relationship with Tavish, who seems a perfect fit for her. Tavish’s own problems, including an ex-wife, give them plenty of suspects to investigate. A wryly amusing cozy debut lent credence by the author’s own experience as a cancer survivor. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781643855028 Set in Lake Potawatomi, Wis., this light and sassy series launch from Walker (Reconstructing Natalie) introduces 43-year-old Theodora “Teddie” St. John, breast cancer survivor, cozy mystery author, and master cake and cookie baker. The town is all agog at the prospect of meeting Tavish Bentley, “a rich-and-famous New York Times best-selling author,” who’s doing a signing at the local bookstore, where Teddie will be providing refreshments. At the event is Tavish’s ex-fiancée, Kristi Black, who’s seeking to win him back. During a visit to the bookstore ladies’ room, Teddie loses her scarf, which was apparently taken by one of the two women, one of whom may have been Kristi, she overheard arguing over Tavish while she was in a stall. Later that day, Teddie goes for a walk and discovers Kristi dead in a dumpster, with the missing scarf around her neck. Someone has obviously tried to frame Teddie, who sets out with aplomb to find the real killer. The plot lopes along at a decent clip, and appealing characters and snappy dialogue bode well for the sequel. This series is off to a solid start. Agent: Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary. (Aug.)
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  Book Jacket
2020 (Best Non-Fiction)
Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy
 Leslie Brody
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781580057691 Much like the titular heroine in her beloved children’s book Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh developed a knack for hiding the truth. Throughout her life, Fitzhugh was often forced to cover up details about herself from the public at large, including the fact that she was openly gay. In the years after her death, friends and partners began to slowly come forward with more details about the author. Sometimes You Have to Lie captures those details and is the most thorough print biography on Fitzhugh available. In this compelling telling, Brody follows Fitzhugh’s life from the brief and tumultuous relationship between her parents to her exploration of her own sexuality, her colorful life in New York City, and her personal struggles. Readers will see Harriet’s cantankerous charm mirrored in Fitzhugh and, as they learn more about her remarkable life in this thoroughly researched and meticulously organized biography, will likely want to revisit her classic works.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9781580057691 A scholarly biography of the creator of Harriet the Spy, the nosy scamp who brought “a new realism” to children’s fiction. Does Harriet the Spy have a “queer subtext”? Is its heroine a “quintessential baby butch” character? Or is Harriet simply “a nasty little girl who keeps a notebook on all her friends,” as Louise Fitzhugh (1928-1974) told the poet James Merrill, her former adviser at Bard College? While fairly representing these varied points of view, Brody, a creative writing instructor, mostly lets Fitzhugh’s life speak for itself. The author follows her subject from her birth in Memphis to her death from a brain aneurysm in New Milford, Connecticut. Raised by a rich father who won custody after a sensational divorce trial, Fitzhugh later moved in boho circles with Djuna Barnes, Lorraine Hansberry, and Anatole Broyard in Greenwich Village. She had her first lesbian romance as a teenager and, after decades of affairs with women, was “obviously out of the closet” in later life. Yet Fitzhugh had a long-term correspondence only with Merrill, and her estate, the book suggests, keeps a tight rein on other material. Perhaps partly for such reasons, Fitzhugh remains an elusive figure who emerges most clearly through the tensions in her relationships with three celebrated editors who kept their own records: Ursula Nordstrom, Charlotte Zolotow, and Michael di Capua. Di Capua once complained to Fitzhugh about the Black characters’ dialogue in her post-Harriet book Nobody’s Family Is Going To Change: “You don’t know how to write black people.” A longtime lover said that an upset Fitzhugh responded, “I know how I want my characters to sound, and what I want them to say.” Such anecdotes, which are too few, give valuable glimpses of the fierce tenacity Fitzhugh shared with her most famous character. A diligent but sometimes-hazy portrait of a beloved children’s author and illustrator. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781580057691 Much like the titular heroine in her beloved children’s book Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh developed a knack for hiding the truth. Throughout her life, Fitzhugh was often forced to cover up details about herself from the public at large, including the fact that she was openly gay. In the years after her death, friends and partners began to slowly come forward with more details about the author. Sometimes You Have to Lie captures those details and is the most thorough print biography on Fitzhugh available. In this compelling telling, Brody follows Fitzhugh’s life from the brief and tumultuous relationship between her parents to her exploration of her own sexuality, her colorful life in New York City, and her personal struggles. Readers will see Harriet’s cantankerous charm mirrored in Fitzhugh and, as they learn more about her remarkable life in this thoroughly researched and meticulously organized biography, will likely want to revisit her classic works.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781580057691 Biographer/playwright Brody, who adapted Harriet the Spy for the stage, portrays the determinedly lesbian/radical life led by Harriet's creator, Louise Fitzhugh, taking her from segregated 1920s Memphis to heady Greenwich Village to postwar Europe. With a 25,000-copy first printing.
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  Book Jacket
 
2020 (Best Non-Fiction)
American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI
Book Jacket   Kate Winkler Dawson
2020 (Best Non-Fiction)
Howdunit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of the Detection Club
Book Jacket   Martin Edwards
 
2020 (Best Non-Fiction)
Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock
 Christina Lane
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781613733844 Film professor Lane (Feminist Hollywood) gives proper due to the legacy of Joan Harrison, one of Hollywood’s first female producers, in this wide-ranging biography. Lane makes a persuasive case that, more than just a creative partner with Alfred Hitchcock in several films and the show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Harrison left her signature on film noir, beginning with the 1944 sleeper hit that provides the book’s title, and paved the way for other female filmmakers. Drawing on original interviews and archival research, Lane follows Harrison’s career trajectory, film by film, while tracing recurring themes in her work, including travel, fashion, and, especially, nuanced female characters. Nitty-gritty details—Harrison’s wrangling with temperamental stars and with overbearing censors, for instance—add heft to the book, while excursions into her romantic and social life add color; Harrison had a fling with Clark Gable and mentored many young female stars such as Ella Raines and Merle Oberon. Hitchcock’s dominating personality occasionally steals Harrison’s spotlight in these pages, though she only worked with him for part of her career. Lane’s lively and loving account of “one of the last great untold stories of the classical Hollywood era” will intrigue film scholars, Hitchcock fans, and general readers alike. (Feb.)
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A close-up look at the career of an influential woman screenwriter and producer in Hollywood.Lane (Film Studies/Univ. of Miami; Magnolia, 2011, etc.) depicts Joan Harrison (1907-1994) as an unconventional woman who was the most enduring assistant and colleague that Alfred Hitchcock ever had. "Harrison would contribute to all of Hitchcock's late British achievementsand his early Hollywood successes.Together, these films established Hitchcock as a master of the seriocomic thriller and gothic suspense." The author continues, "plainly put, Alfred Hitchcock would not have become Hitchcock' without her." The title refers not only to the "noir gem" that Harrison made for Universal Pictures in 1944, a film that featured a resourceful, independent woman, but also to Lane's desire to restore the reputation of Harrison, who has been largely overlooked in Hollywood histories despite her stature at the time as "the most powerful woman producer in Hollywood." The author closely follows her ambitious and clever subject's career from her initial interview with Hitchcock at age 26 to her death at 87. While Lane's attention to the details of Harrison's career may seem excessive, what she reveals about the making of some of Hitchcock's films is fascinating. As she chronicles Harrison's journey from secretary to screenwriter to producer, she takes readers behind the scenes of such films as The Lady Vanishes, Jamaica Inn, and Rebecca as well as many others that Harrison worked on with Hitchcock. We learn about casting decisions, script changes, the strengths and weaknesses of various actors, and the power of the studio moguls and censors. Lane also shows how Hollywood reacted to the redbaiting scare and the blacklisting that followed. The narrative is not all business, however. The author shows Harrison hobnobbing with celebrities in nightclubs, marrying the novelist Eric Ambler, and living well abroad.A solid addition to the growing literature about women filmmakers, with greatest appeal to Hitchcock fans and movie lovers. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781613733844 In a New Yorker article Margaret Talbot observed that one of the stranger things about the history of moviemaking is that women have been there all along, periodically exercising real power behind the camera, yet their names and contributions keep disappearing. Film historian Lane ensures that this will not happen to Joan Harrison, who parlayed a job as Alfred Hitchcock's secretary into a career as a screenwriter and film and television producer. She was twice nominated for an Academy Award (with Robert E. Sherwood for Best Adapted Screenplay for Rebecca and with Charles Bennett for Best Writing, Original Screenplay for Foreign Correspondent). Harrison's other screenwriting credits include Jamaica Inn, Suspicion, and Saboteur. Harrison moved to television to produce Alfred Hitchcock Presents from 1955 to 1962 and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour from 1962 to 1963. Lane's research is extensive and includes a number of original interviews. As lively and fascinating as its subject, this is an important addition to the history of filmmaking.--Carolyn Mulac Copyright 2020 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781613733844 British screenplay writer and producer Joan Harrison joins a growing number of women whose contributions to classic cinema are finally being brought to light. Hired in 1933 as Alfred Hitchcock's secretary, Harrison helped the legendary director develop the tightly plotted, suspenseful stories for which he was known. She wrote the screenplays for his films Rebecca and Suspicion, and by the 1940s was a significant Hollywood presence, as a producer of films such as Phantom Lady. Later, she produced Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the director's wildly popular foray into TV. With this carefully researched, candid portrait, Lane (Feminist Hollywood: From Born in Flames to Point Break and Magnolia) explores her subject's rise to prominence during Hollywood's glittering heyday. Harrison emerges as a woman ahead of her time—a female producer thriving in a male-dominated industry and earning respect from stars, directors, and executives. Comprehensive notes and a bibliography offer strong additional resources. VERDICT Harrison's story is a compelling one. This superbly written, absorbing biography of a woman succeeding on her own terms will resonate with fans of Hollywood stories, as well as those who appreciate celebrations of previously unsung women.—Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ
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  Book Jacket
2020 (Best Non-Fiction)
H. R. F. Keating: A Life of Crime
  Sheila Mitchell
  Book Jacket
 
2020 (Best Childerns/YA Mystery)
Midnight at the Barclay Hotel
Book Jacket   Fleur Bradley
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780593202906 When 12-year-old JJ Jacobson’s CEO mom wins a weekend at the haunted Barclay Hotel in Aspen Springs, Colo., paranormal investigation enthusiast JJ convinces her to bring him along. The Jacobsons seemingly have nothing in common with the other guests: cowboy Buck Jones; Fiona Fleming, an actress and occasional medium; retired Detective Frank Walker; and children’s librarian Chelsea Griffin. But, save for Detective Walker, each of the guests has a Barclay-related secret—and, as they learn upon their arrival, all are suspects in the murder of Mr. Barclay. Detective Walker’s 11-year-old book-loving granddaughter, Penny, and lonely 12-year-old hotel resident Emma, who is prone to mysterious disappearances, team up with JJ to discover “who had motive, means, and opportunity,” while JJ simultaneously attempts to prove the existence of ghosts to skeptic Penny. Bonet’s black-and-white illustrations are appropriately mellow; all characters are portrayed as light-skinned except for Penny and her grandfather. Though readers already exposed to the genre may consider this well-trod ground, Bradley (the Double Vision series) offers a fast-paced, lightly spooky entrée to mystery fare. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Laurel Symonds, the Bent Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Hannah Whitty, Plum Pudding Illustration. (Aug.)
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780593202906 Five strangers (with secrets!) are invited to a historic (haunted) hotel—to solve a murder. The secluded Barclay Hotel, one of Colorado’s most haunted places, sends five invitations to a carefully selected guest list: a cowboy, a librarian, a CEO, an actor, and a detective. The CEO’s preteen son (ghost-hunting aficionado JJ, who hates reading) and the detective’s granddaughter (aspiring detective Penny, a bookworm) tag along and immediately connect with the hotel’s lonely resident kid, Emma, daughter of the head chef. Once the guests are assembled (and the driver has left, natch), the butler reveals that they’ve been gathered to solve a mystery—who killed Mr. Barclay?—and, with the exception of the detective, they are the suspects. The kids jump into action, interviewing suspects to tease out motive, means, and opportunity—and all of the adults have secrets. The mystery features some fun reversals, allowing just enough convolution for mystery novices (who will learn the terms “whodunit” and “red herring”); Agatha Christie references abound, and the hotel setting shines. The ghostly supernatural storyline is mild and unthreatening and not prominent enough for kids looking for a paranormal scary story. The murder mystery is gentled through temporal distance (the murder happened a week prior; there are no bodies or graphic moments). While the ending relies on a villain’s monologue, the happily-ever-after is an earned one. Aside from dark-skinned Penny and her grandfather, the other characters default to (and are illustrated as) white. A quirky, kid-friendly introduction to the murder mystery. (Mystery. 8-12) Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Five strangers (with secrets!) are invited to a historic (haunted) hotelto solve a murder.The secluded Barclay Hotel, one of Colorados most haunted places, sends five invitations to a carefully selected guest list: a cowboy, a librarian, a CEO, an actor, and a detective. The CEOs preteen son (ghost-hunting aficionado JJ, who hates reading) and the detectives granddaughter (aspiring detective Penny, a bookworm) tag along and immediately connect with the hotels lonely resident kid, Emma, daughter of the head chef. Once the guests are assembled (and the driver has left, natch), the butler reveals that theyve been gathered to solve a mysterywho killed Mr. Barclay?and, with the exception of the detective, they are the suspects. The kids jump into action, interviewing suspects to tease out motive, means, and opportunityand all of the adults have secrets. The mystery features some fun reversals, allowing just enough convolution for mystery novices (who will learn the terms whodunit and red herring); Agatha Christie references abound, and the hotel setting shines. The ghostly supernatural storyline is mild and unthreatening and not prominent enough for kids looking for a paranormal scary story. The murder mystery is gentled through temporal distance (the murder happened a week prior; there are no bodies or graphic moments). While the ending relies on a villains monologue, the happily-ever-after is an earned one. Aside from dark-skinned Penny and her grandfather, the other characters default to (and are illustrated as) white.A quirky, kid-friendly introduction to the murder mystery. (Mystery. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780593288153 Gr 3–7—When unexpected invitations are received for an all-expenses-paid weekend at the newly renovated (yet rumored to be haunted) Barclay Hotel, no one thinks to question why. The five invited guests—a cowboy, a librarian, an actress, a CEO with 12-year-old son JJ, and a detective with 11-year-old granddaughter Penny—arrive and discover they are there to solve a murder. It turns out that most of them are suspects. JJ, a ghost-hunting enthusiast, and bookish Penny team up with Emma, a mysterious girl who lives at the hotel, to discover everyone's secrets and figure out the answer. Veteran narrator January LaVoy reads, and does a wonderful job adding life and sparkle to the audio. Characters are differentiated well, particularly JJ, who is convincingly read with a husky voice. As the kids follow the clues, there are various twists and turns to keep the listeners absorbed, and LaVoy's reading of the suspenseful parts leaves the listener breathless. The Barclay Hotel itself is described in such an atmospheric way that it is easy for listeners to picture the spooky setting. Penny and her grandfather are African American while the other characters appear to be white. VERDICT Puzzle buffs will enjoy this fast-paced supernatural mystery.—Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill H.S., NC
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2020 (Best Childerns/YA Mystery)
Premeditated Myrtle
Book Jacket   Elizabeth C. Bunce
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9781616209186 An aspiring sleuth in Victorian England is convinced her neighbor’s death was no accident. Twelve-year-old Myrtle, who might have just been spying—er, Observing!—the neighborhood with her telescope, is convinced that prickly Miss Wodehouse has been the victim of foul play. Though the police say the old lady had a heart attack, Myrtle disagrees. With her magnifying lens, her specimen jars, and her stubbornness, Myrtle will prove the old lady was killed—and find the murderer, to boot. Though unpopular Myrtle leans in to a self-image as “the precocious daughter who lurked about everywhere being impertinent and morbid,” she has allies. Her interest in detecting comes from her affection for her adoring prosecutor father and the memory of her medical-student mother. Myrtle, middle-class and white, is encouraged by her equally quirky and exceedingly clever governess, Miss Judson (the multilingual, biracial daughter of white British and black French Guianese parents), who is at best half-hearted in her attempts to keep Myrtle out of trouble. Meanwhile, Caroline, a British Indian girl who’s been mean before, disassociates herself from Myrtle’s bully and becomes a staunch and equally geeky friend. Witty prose doesn’t always hew to historical accuracy but keeps the characters accessible and quite charming while Myrtle (surrounded by beloved and supportive adults) avoids many of the more tired tropes of the eccentric-detective genre. A saucy, likable heroine shines in a mystery marked by clever, unexpected twists . (Historical mystery. 10-12) Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781616209186 Channeling classic Victorian whodunits, Bunce’s (the Thief Errant series) detective series opener features a quirky, winning narrator and a lively secondary cast. Thanks to governess Miss Judson, 12-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle, who is middle-class and white, is training to become a Young Lady of Quality. Inspired by the examples of her late mother, who was a medical student, and her widowed lawyer father, Myrtle tends to be anything but proper, for example erecting an observation point from which to chronicle neighborhood events. When elderly next-door neighbor, scornful Miss Wodehouse, doesn’t follow her routine one morning, Myrtle summons the constabulary. After the revelation of Miss Wodehouse’s death and the arrival of the elderly woman’s heretofore unknown relatives, Myrtle suspects she was murdered and enlists Miss Judson to solve the mystery. A generous, well-wrought relationship between governess and charge complements tightly plotted twists. As “the precocious daughter who lurked about everywhere being impertinent and morbid,” Myrtle is as clever as she is determined, and her expertise—seen in evidence collection and courtroom antics—is certain to delight genre stalwarts and mystery novices alike. Publishing simultaneously: How to Get Away with Myrtle (A Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery #2). Ages 10–up. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. (Oct.)
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781616209186 There is something afoot at Redgraves, the house neighboring Myrtle Hardcastle’s own, which is why the precocious 12-year-old took it upon herself to phone the police. Myrtle is quite sure that something dastardly has occurred, but she is thrilled when the crime appears to be murder—not that anyone else is calling it that, yet. After the body of cranky old Miss Wodehouse is removed from its last earthly bubble bath, the cause of death is pronounced to be heart failure; or, if you’re Myrtle, heart failure due to poisoning. Myrtle’s above-average intellect, passions for justice and science (an endearing blend of her parents’ professions), fondness for detective stories, and predilection for asking questions make her the perfect person to investigate what is obviously a crime most foul. Written very much in the style of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mysteries, Myrtle’s spirited investigation—aided by her governess, who champions the Socratic method of learning—is a joyful thing to behold. Well-crafted red herrings throw Myrtle and readers alike for a loop or two, and an old story about a rare and precious flower grows some very real roots as details about Miss Wodehouse emerge. Set in Victorian England, this mystery gleefully overturns sexist norms and celebrates independent women of intellect, with Myrtle Hardcastle leading the charge.
Horn Book (c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781616209186 This clever and lively Victorian English-village murder mystery starring precocious twelve-year-old fledgling detective Myrtle Hardcastle has all the trappings: households with cooks and governesses and groundskeepers; church luncheons and afternoon teas; mysterious newcomers; missing wills. Also, poisoned elderly ladies: Myrtle's discovery that her neighbor, Miss Wodehouse, did not die of natural causes but was murdered leads to a story filled with spying, deduction, false accusations, red herrings, and danger. Bunce does an excellent job of making Myrtle the lead actor but gives her a strong set of (mostly female) supporters, including her beloved governess, Miss Judson; the family cook; a surprise-twist-at-the-end ally; and one very vocal cat. Myrtle's single-mindedness in solving the murder might wear thin for readers, but she is made sympathetic due to her fraught relationship with her kind but sometimes disapproving prosecutor father, her grief over her mother's death from cancer, and her fervent wish that her father now fall in love with the estimable Miss Judson. Myrtle's narration is Arch with a capital A ("Dear Reader, kindly permit me a pause to properly introduce one of the Key Players in this narrative"), but it suits the novel's setting and subgenre to a T. The last page all but promises a sequel. (For another middle-grade period murder mystery starring an intrepid young female sleuth, check out Marthe Jocelyn's Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano, rev. 1/20.) (c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2020 (Best Childerns/YA Mystery)
Saltwater Secrets
 Cindy Callaghan
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781534417441 Stella and Josie are half sisters who only get to see each other during summer vacation at the Jersey Shore, where they hide their special scrapbook under the boardwalk. This summer, however, Stella is more interested in boys and bonfires, while Josie wants to protest the smoothie store that replaced their beloved flavored-ice shop. When the girls—using powers of deduction and Josie’s interest in marine biology—discover that the structural integrity of the pier is becoming unstable due to illegal dumping that appears connected to the smoothie shop’s “secret” ingredient, they concoct a plan to save the boardwalk. Callaghan (Lost in Paris, 2015) tells a story that is part mystery, part family drama, with chapter narration alternating between the two sisters as they chronicle their actions at the boardwalk through an interrogation by the local police. Readers will easily relate to both sisters and be excited by a possible sequel.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781534417441 Gr 4–6—Each summer, half sisters Josie and Stella spend several weeks with their father at the New Jersey shore. Since the girls live with their mothers on opposite sides of the world (Josie in Australia, Stella in New York City), it's the only time they get to see each other. It has always been a special time, and the girls put mementos from their adventures in a box that they hide in the sand under the boardwalk. This summer, however, something has changed. Stella wants to do different things, and Josie passionately boycotts the new Smoothie Factory, which replaced Water Ice World. Next, they discover someone has stolen their box of memories, and when Josie suggests starting a new one, Stella only half-heartedly agrees. Then, what's different suddenly becomes more nefarious as the girls (along with their friends) become entangled in a web of sinister actions that could endanger both humans and sea life at Whalehead Beach. The cast of characters features blended families, and the environmental story line is both relevant and timely. Callaghan creates great suspense by having each chapter alternate between the recent past (within a month) and the present, where Stella and Josie are being interviewed by a police detective. VERDICT This fast-moving story will appeal to young teen and tween readers who enjoy books with an oceanside theme, and its spirited heroines will resonate with those who dream of making a difference in the world.—Anne Jung-Mathews, Plymouth State University, NH
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Stella and her Australian half sister, Josie, have always happily spent their summers together on the Jersey shore with their twice-divorced, shared dad.This year things threaten to be different since Stella is fully embracing her almost-high school status but Josie lags behind, not quite so interested in boys, bonfires, and the hope for a kiss or two. Stella would willingly give up some of their childish rituals, but they still hold a strong attraction for Josie. Although this familiar dichotomy could have been the sole focus of the tale, Callaghan adds spice. Both girls are surprised to discover that their favorite water-ice shop has been replaced by a trendy new smoothie place that seems to be concealing a dark secret. After some determined sleuthing they discover an evolving environmental disaster that endangers the sea but also (a trifle implausibly) their beloved boardwalk. The tale is related in the girls' fairly similar alternating voices that recollect a busy week, interspersed with their lengthy interviews at the police station a few days later. These gradually reveal the excitement the two stir up. The bemused, deadpan response of the police detective adds a touch of slightly ironic humor. The bad guys are mildly nasty, and the hint of innocent romance experienced by the characters (all seemingly white) is sure to please preteen readers.Altogether, a fine choice to bring to the beach. (Mystery. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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  Book Jacket
2020 (Best Childerns/YA Mystery)
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
  Janae Marks
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. After receiving a letter from her incarcerated father, whom she's never met, 12-year-old Zoe sets out to prove his innocence.It's the summer before seventh grade, and aspiring pastry chef Zoe sets her sights on perfecting her baking skills to audition as a contestant on Food Network's Kids Bake Challenge. One day, she receives a letter from her father, Marcus, who was sent to prison for murder right before Zoe was born. She's never met Marcus, and her mother wants her to have nothing to do with him. So Zoe keeps the letter a secret and begins corresponding with Marcus on a regular basis. He shares his favorite songs and encourages Zoe's baking-competition dreams. When Marcus proclaims his innocence, Zoe is shocked: How could someone innocent end up in prison? With the help of her grandmother and her friend Trevor, Zoe begins to learn about systemic racism and how black people like her and Marcus are more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than white people. Zoe's relationship with Marcus is at the center of the novel, but her relationships with her mother, stepfather, grandmother, and Trevor are also richly conveyed. This powerful debut packs both depth and sweetness, tackling a tough topic in a sensitive, compelling way.An extraordinary, timely, must-read debut about love, family, friendship, and justice. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780062875853 On her 12th birthday, Zoe Washington receives a letter from Marcus, the biological father she’s never met, who has been serving time for murder since just before Zoe’s birth. Zoe’s mother and stepfather don’t want her in touch with Marcus, but Zoe, curious, strikes up a correspondence with the help of her maternal grandmother, who believes Marcus to be “a good person at heart.” Aspiring pastry chef Zoe grows busy as she makes up with her best friend Trevor, writes to Marcus, and interns at a family friend’s bakery, where she hopes to prove to her parents that she could compete on Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. When Marcus tells Zoe he is innocent, and her grandmother agrees, Zoe begins to learn about inequality in the criminal justice system, and she and Trevor set out to find the alibi witness who can prove his innocence. Debut author Marks seamlessly weaves timely discussions about institutionalized racism into this uplifting and engaging story that packs an emotional punch. Zoe is a relatable tween, with friendship and familial frustrations that will resonate with readers. Ages 8–12. Agent: Alexander Slater, Trident Media Group. (Jan.)
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780062875853 This exceptionally sweet debut from Marks illustrates profound cracks in the American criminal justice system while telling an affecting story grounded in the middle-grade experience. Zoe Washington, a soon-to-be seventh-grader growing up outside Boston, is celebrating a birthday bereft of friends due to distance and betrayal, when a surprise letter from her incarcerated father arrives and throws her life into emotional disarray. The clandestine correspondence they strike up, letters and a few phone calls facilitated by her maternal grandmother, has to be kept a secret from her mother, especially once Zoe decides to investigate whether her father is truly guilty of the dreadful crime that sent him to prison before she was born. Marks tells this story of forgiveness and redemption in a way that will make sense to tween readers without being patronizing or overly complicated. The troubling ways race affects the characters Zoe, who is Black, is subjected to microaggressions when out in public with her white stepfather and Black mother, and she questions whether her father would have been treated differently if he looked less like a typical suspect will facilitate important conversations about racial profiling and incarceration rates for people of color. Fortunately, Marks' capable storytelling and engaging characters also combine into a wondrous confection of a book, full of heart and hope and promise.--Shaunterria Owens Copyright 2019 Booklist
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  Book Jacket
 
2020 (Best Childerns/YA Mystery)
Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco
Book Jacket   Richard Narvaez
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9781558859029 A teen mystery set in an elite public school in 1970s New York City. When two faculty members of the prestigious Flatbush Technical High School are murdered, bright freshman Holly Hernández is immediately on the case, her amateur sleuthing skills honed by her love for crime novels and the example set by her homicide detective mother. Meanwhile, Xander Herrera is a socially awkward but equally astute student who finds himself regarded as the initial suspect; his determination to prove his innocence is nearly as great as his need to beat the insufferably perky Holly to the punch and solve the mystery first. What neither of them expects is to be embroiled in a lethal disco contest at the infamous Mission Venus nightclub in Manhattan. The novel alternates between Holly’s and Xander’s perspectives as the danger mounts and the two investigate the case in parallel. This fast-paced, skillfully developed murder mystery offers equal billing to both characters, their separate lives, and their individual problems while also examining gender inequality and social injustice and providing an interesting look at the history of disco as a safe place for queer people and people of color. Part of the novel’s charm is that Xander sees Holly as his nemesis while Holly is blissfully oblivious to the boy’s competitive feelings. Holly, Xander, and their families are Latinx. A fun murder mystery with a side of disco fever. (Mystery. 12-18) Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781558859029 This twist on the classic whodunit brings to life the end times of disco as two early ‘80s–New York City teenagers attempt to unravel a cryptic murder that has rocked their high school. Holly is a determined, brilliant junior detective following in her mother’s footsteps, while quietly intelligent Xander struggles with his complicated family situation. When the crime causes them to cross paths, they must end their rivalry and team up to keep their school safe. Narvaez’s characters are genuine and intriguing: Holly, with her meticulous, scientific approach; Xander, who marvels over his abuela’s cooking but avoids his estranged mother. As the clock winds down and the killer prepares to strike, Narvaez expertly juggles several parallel plots: Holly and Xander’s search for the perpetrator, Xander’s stint in juvie, Holly’s mother’s career life. From glittery discotheques to strange passages between classrooms, mystical mysteries are infused into a fun, historical murder case that takes a fresh approach to teenage angst, anxiety, and the need to belong.
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