The Missing Clue - December 2016 - Bumsted Picks of the Year - Sian's Pick

A Terrible Beauty by Tasha Alexander
(HC, $36.99, order here)
A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde
(TP, $20.00, order here)

With five weeks to go in 2016 as of this writing, I’ve read 90 books (of my goal of 100). Of those 90, I rated 13 with 5 Stars, and four of those were mysteries (or books that we carry). It goes almost without saying that I adored Charles Finch’s The Inheritance, but in the end (with only a small bit of family pressure) I chose Tasha Alexander’s A Terrible Beauty as my favourite book of 2016. Her last four books were four star titles for me, which made this an easier decision. We’ve all seen series fall apart when they hit the double digits but this book, #11 in the ‘Lady Emily’ series, breathed new light into the series for me. It’s beautifully and atmospherically written and keeps you guessing right until the end, although I must confess I skipped ahead at one point to soothe my anxiety. We get to spend more time with Emily’s brilliant friend Margaret as well as see flashbacks to when Philip Ashton had first died (before we meet Emily in And Only to Deceive, the first book in the series). But as much as this book is a culmination of the previous 10, a new reader could easily get up to speed due to the nature of the plot. If you lost interest a few books back, I recommend jumping back in so that this title can be the climax of a delightful binge read.

Now, is the rule one book of the year per person? Yes, yes it is. But am I the one who edits the newsletter? Yes, and as such I can do whatever I want. I declared Darcie Wilde’s A Useful Woman to be an early favourite in the race for book of the year and lots of you have purchased it since. But I don’t want it to go unheralded in this forum. It’s such a fantastic read. Almost never what you expect with a character, Rosalind Thorne, who isn’t your typical historical heroine. She is neither beautiful nor monied, but she is, as the title portends, useful. I loved watching her unravel the murder of an aristocrat at Almack’s (where we see a slightly different side of the storied assembly room), and while her romantic interests are intriguing, they don’t dominate the narrative. A Purely Private Matter will be available in trade paperback in May (pre-order here).