Reader’s Corner

A place to post reviews of books I've read. Maybe it will help you choose your next new book.

Horse by Geraldine Brooks

Horse, by Geraldine Brooks is based on historical fact: the most acclaimed sire of thoroughbred race horses was trained by a slave boy in Kentucky, who tended him his entire life. The historical is balanced with the contemporary, as a young woman discovers the skeleton of Lexington, the Horse, at the Smithsonian, unrecognized and covered in dust.

It’s a wonderful book, showing how the stain of slavery still dims our society today. 

The Main Line is Murder by Donna Huston Murray

Married to Rip, the head of the Bryn Derwyn school, Ginger Barnes inserts herself into the murder investigation of the school’s attorney. It is an enjoyable read. The fully-rounded main character whose nosiness and self-confidence lead her, eventually, to solving the murder is a believable sleuth.The setting of a small private school in Philadelphia is well-described. The adroit characterization of minor characters adds richness to the plot. And the “Alternate Ending” is an added bonus. Overall, a great way to spend a dreary Sunday during the pandemic isolation. Note: I preferred the original ending.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Although this is not the first book to use a twisty plot or unreliable characters, it is the first I've encountered that has a twisty character attempting to influence an unreliable plot.

Gentill uses the frame of the book's narrator/writer corresponding with a possible character who advocates more violence, explicit references to the characters' races, and acknowledgement of the pandemic. That frame allows her to do all the things her character advocates while pretending not to do so. It also allows her to play with fact/fiction, illusion/reality, and do so under the reasonable guise of ending each chapter with a letter from her off-stage writing adviser.

I found the book entertaining and captivating with good characterizations and enough plot “reveals” to keep me reading well after time to turn off the light. I hadn’t expected to enjoy it nearly as much as I did — highly recommend. 

Ashton Hall by Lauren Belfer

By choosing as the protagonist a scholar, Hannah Larson, whose neurodivergent son finds a centuries’ old locked-room puzzle in an English castle, Belfer has set us up for romance, intrigue, and an immersive dive into 16th-century domestic and religious England, intertwined with various domestic arrangements in present-day.

I particularly enjoyed the revelatory pace that sat us next to Hannah as she read through ledgers, lists of books borrowed from the library, contents of the locked room, and the portfolio of sketches, and brought us with her as she untangled the historical significance of her exploration.  An interesting, informative, and satisfying novel. Highly recommended.

Back to the Garden by Laurie R. King

I love Laurie R. King’s voice. No matter how she pitches it to tell of Mary Russell or Kate Martinelli or, in this case, Raquel Laing, she speaks with an easy authority and clarity. 

Back to the Garden introduces Raquel Laing, a damaged cop whose prior sins have moved her out of active investigations and dropped her into the punishment of a cold-case team where her uncanny ability to read microscopic bodily cues of those she interviews is valued and needed if the team is to be successful in getting identification from a dying serial killer about the women he has killed.

Add in the complications of an attractive woman, a large estate in the process of recovering from its time as a hippie commune, ever-present inter-familial jealousies, a sister who is a dark-web explorer, a famous artist whose large statue of Eve covers the grave of an unknown person buried decades earlier, and all the ingredients for a Laurie R. King mystery are in place. Follow the narrative thread to its final outcome. You will likely be surprised but not disappointed.

The Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves

Vera Stanhope is back, this time dealing with a murder among old friends who get together every five years to celebrate and remember their first retreat as teenagers with their too-involved teacher. That retreat ended in the death of one of their members. 

Vera’s team, Joe, Holly and Charlie, follow the twisted paths of the group of friends whose number was further reduced by another murder at the latest reunion. As the team closes in on possible murderers, Vera finds the memories of her own youth point her to the killer.

And at that point, just after Cleeves leads us to the murders’ solution, she drops a stunner of an ending., that will help you remember why you like Ann Cleeves’ writing so much. The Rising Tide won’t disappoint. 

A Truth to Lie For by Ann Perry

This latest installment (Number 4) in the Elena Standish series is my least favorite so far. It lacks the family-based warmth that pervaded the earlier volumes. Here, the Elena Standish family and friends character-set seem to be extras in the Night of the Long Knives Massacre tale.  Many of the previous characters have bit roles in this book, allowing the Hitler/Paulus/Rhom story to dominate the narrative center with the description of the brutal purge of Rhom and the Brownshirts. I read the book but didn’t warm to it as I had with the previous 3 in the series.

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves

Families are at issue in the 9th installment of Ann Cleeves’ Vera series. Vera’s own family raises questions of what makes family: blood, relationships, love, or some other alchemy that ties people together or tears them apart. Vera’s normal curmudgeonly behavior is dialed back when she must deal with grieving mothers and grandmothers, fathers and possible fathers. It all starts with bitter cold, a snowstorm, a dead woman in the snow and and a child left in a car with the door standing open and ends with Vera making a surprising resolution about her own sense of family.

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