What I'm Reading by Sian - The Missing Clue - June 2018

Since I was writing specifically about ‘Lady Sherlocks’ for the last two volumes of the newsletter, I haven’t had the opportunity to talk about what else I’ve been reading. And since I headed back to work a month ago, it’s been quite a lot, since I now have huge swaths of child-free time to read.

One day in the spring, I stuck my hand out for a book to read and at the top of the pile was Ann A. McDonald’s The Oxford Inheritance, which tempted me especially since I enjoyed Plum Syke’s Party Girls Die in Pearls (also set at Oxford) so much. This one has a more serious tone and a supernatural bent, but I couldn’t put it down and found myself wishing for a sequel (there isn’t one). Cassandra Blackwell made it her life’s work to get to Oxford to discover more about her mother’s secret past and, of course, learns more than she bargained for. Available in store in trade paperback.

            Speaking of the travel books Michael referenced in his “beach reads” piece, Tasha Alexander is quickly turning into such an author. She’s had books set in Turkey, France, Italy, Greece, and now Russia. Reading about St. Petersburg in the winter when it’s 30 degrees might not be quite as atmospheric, but it may cool you down this summer. Death in St. Petersburg is the 12th addition to the ‘Lady Emily’ series and just as good as its predecessors. Lady Emily finds herself investigating the death of a prima ballerina, as well as crossing paths with her husband’s own secret assignment. This will be available in trade paperback on July 24th, with book #13 Uneasy Lies the Crown in hardcover in October, as usual.

            I had been sitting on #9 in Will Thomas’ ‘Barker & Llewelyn’ series since the fall, but as soon as I picked it up I remember why I like this series so much. As the series moves along we are finding out more and more about Cyrus Barker’s enigmatic past and in Old Scores there are some big reveals. It’s still only available in hardcover, but the trade paperback is coming in October alongside Blood is Blood a few weeks later in November.

            Genevieve Cogman’s ‘Invisible Library’ is such a wonderful combination of mystery and fantasy with a premise that allows our heroine, Irene, to explore different cities in different eras. The Lost Plot is set in 1920s(ish) New York City with all the gangsters and prohibition shenanigans that period entails. I really can’t recommend this series enough, especially to people who enjoyed Jasper Fforde’s ‘Thursday Next’ series. The Lost Plot is available in trade paperback to order and book #5, The Mortal Word, is coming in trade paperback in November.

            I was sad when Deanna Raybourn wrapped up her ‘Lady Julia Grey’ series after 5 books, especially since I didn’t enjoy the standalone novels she wrote in the meantime, but her new ‘Veronica Speedwell’ series is a worthy replacement. My only complaints thus far are that the will they/won’t they nature of Veronica and Stoker’s relationship and the fact that there is no paperback nor book #4 scheduled yet. Still, A Treacherous Curse, is worth a read in hardcover and we’ve got it in stock.

            Anna Lee Huber has joined the “women detectives of the interwar period” that Michael referenced in his Beach Reads piece with her new series featuring Verity Kent, a war widow who herself was a spy during the war. I can’t say too much about Where the Dead Lie without spoiling it, but it’s an excellent beginning to a series and reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s seminal And Then There Were None. We’ve got book #1 in store in trade paperback and book #2, Treacherous is the Night is coming in September, also in trade paperback. A Brush With Shadows is book #6 in Huber’s ‘Lady Darby’ series, and here we’re learning more about the tragedies of Sebastian Gage’s past. This is a great series for lovers of Tasha Alexander and Deanna Raybourn. We’ve got it in stock in trade paperback.

            Book #12 in C.S. Harris’s excellent ‘Sebastian St. Cyr’ series, Where the Dead Lie, arrived a few days before my daughter was born, but the topic of murdered and abused children made it impossible for me to read in that haze of new motherhood. I’m glad I circled back around to

it this spring, although the subject was no easier to read. The same could be said for book #13, Why Kill the Innocent. Sebastian’s wife Hero is a social justice crusader, despite her elevated rank in society, and this series is a truly heartbreaking look into the plight of the poor in 19th century London, especially in direct opposition to the excesses of the Prince Regent. As the series goes on, the uneasy relationship between Hero and her father becomes more and more untenable and I am on the edge of my seat as to where it goes next. Where the Dead Lie is available in trade paperback with Why Kill the Innocent in hardcover.

            I’m looking forward to A Tiding of Magpies by Steve Burrows (book #5 in the ‘Birder Mystery’ series, TP) and Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King (book #11 in the ‘Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes’ series, HC) in June. July is an even bigger month with European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss (book #2 in ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club’, HC), Caught in Time (book #3 in the ‘Kendra Donovan Myseries’ series, HC), Competence by Gail Carriger (book #3 in the ‘Custard Protocol’ series) and Dreadful Company  by Vivian Shaw (book #2 in the ‘Dr. Greta Helsing’ series.

Ms. Sherlock, Part II: YA by Sian - The Missing Clue - April 2018

In April’s ‘The Missing Clue’, I talked about Sherlock Holmes pastiches featuring women. It turns out that as many as there are for adults, there are at least as many aimed at the young adult (YA) market that adults will find equally engaging. Sherlock Holmes apparently has a sister, a granddaughter, and several nieces, among others, who inherited his gift for solving crimes. Please note, some small spoilers about the identity of the protagonists is necessary to discuss the titles in question (and nothing more than you’d find in the description of each book online) but beware if you really want to be surprised.

            We were lucky enough to host Toronto author Angela Misri for an event at the store a few years back in honour of her ‘Portia Adams’ series. After the death of her mother, 19-year-old Portia is whisked to London in high-style by her mysterious new guardian to 221 Baker Street. At first, she believes herself to be the granddaughter of Dr. John Watson, but it soon becomes clear to the reader that she more closely resembles the great detective himself. The end of JEWEL OF THE THAMES, the first book in the series, reveals that her guardian is Irene Adler and that Adler and Holmes are her grandparents. This is a great series for young Sherlock fans, as there’s no objectionable content. I had fun imagining Irene Adler as an older lady. I thoroughly enjoyed JEWEL OF THE THAMES, and I look forward to reading THRICE BURNED and NO MATTER HOW IMPROBABLE. We’ve got all three in the store in trade paperback.

            It’s hard to imagine Sherlock Holmes having a mother, but if he had a brother, he could just as easily have had a sister. Nancy Springer’s ‘Enola Holmes’ series posits that Mrs. Holmes had a much younger daughter named Enola. On her 14th birthday, Enola’s mother disappears, and she is forced to summon her older brothers Sherlock and Mycroft. When it becomes clear that Sherlock is only focused on finding his estranged mother and Mycroft wants to send her away to school, Enola decides to take matters into her own hands. While lots of Sherlock pastiches feature characters who closely resemble Sherlock, the similarity is less obvious to Enola herself, at any rate. I really liked THE CASE OF THE MISSING MARQUESS, the first in the series. I enjoyed the inclusion of Mycroft into the mix, as he is a particular favorite of mine (I’m thinking especially of Laurie R. King’s Mycroft). There are six books in this series, all available to order and most for under $11. It’s a little more sophisticated than the Misri series, but will still appeal to young adult readers as well as grownups. If you enjoy a graphic novel, the first book has been adapted into the format and ENOLA HOLMES: THE CASE OF THE MISSING MARQUESS will be released in October 2018.

            A confession here: I never actually finished A STUDY IN SILKS by Emma Jane Holloway. Which is a surprise because it ticks ALL my boxes. It’s a Sherlock Pastiche, starring a woman (in this case Sherlock Holmes’ niece Evelina), and it has a steampunk slant. That said, I’m planning on diving back in because maybe it was an off day. I should also mention that I’m including it in this YA roundup rather than April’s Adult titles because I really felt like it read as YA. At any rate, all three books in the series are available for order in mass market and we’ve got a single copy of A STUDY IN SILKS in used for one lucky reader.

            Another niece and another series I haven’t read, but I’m including it because it’s on my ‘To Read’ pile and we have some in stock. Colleen Gleason’s ‘Stoker & Holmes’ series features Evaline Stoker, sister of Bram, and Mina Holmes, niece of Sherlock, so you can expect vampires and detection of crimes. This is another steampunk series and we’ve got two out of four titles in stock (THE CLOCKWORK SCARAB and THE CHESS QUEEN ENIGMA).

            I started reading THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER because Deanna Raybourn recommended it in her monthly newsletter, without any sense it related to my Sherlock Holmes project at all. And yet Sherlock himself turns up as a major character (if I had to take a guess, he’s meant to be a love interest as the series progresses). But don’t read this book for the Sherlock connection. Read it because it’s really excellent and a clever concept. It’s too complicated a premise to explain in a sentence, but it begins with Dr. Jekyll’s daughter finding Mr. Hyde’s daughter hidden away in a nunnery, paid for by Mrs. Jekyll. It’s got very much the same flavor as my favorite book of 2017, Vivian Shaw’s STRANGE PRACTICE, but with a historical setting. Also not technically YA, but appropriate for older readers on the YA spectrum. We’ve got more copies of THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER en route in trade paperback and we’ll be getting book #2, EUROPEAN TRAVEL FOR THE MONSTROUS GENTLEWOMAN, in July.

            For all the Sherlock Pastiches, very few have contemporary settings. There is Michael Robertson’s ‘Baker Street Letters’ series, of course, but when we think of modern Sherlock retellings, we think immediately of the excellent BBC reimagining starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Charlotte Holmes is a direct descendent of the great detective (her great-great-great-grandfather). Likewise, Jamie Watson is the great-great-great-grandson of Dr. John Watson. When they end up at the same Connecticut boarding school and a classmate is murdered, the inevitable pairing results.

            A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE was one of those books I wasn’t sure if I liked, but I couldn’t put it down and I immediately went out of my way to read the second book (THE LAST OF AUGUST). In fact, very much my reaction to the recent Sherlock TV series. Like the Leonard Goldberg book THE DAUGHTER OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, it somewhat beggars belief to imagine that generations of Holmes, Watsons, and Moriartys behave the same way generation after generation. Still, that’s what make all of these pastiches so fun: imagining what Sherlock Holmes would be like if he weren’t a middle-aged man. The subject matter of these books is dark and there is sex (both consensual and non-consensual) and drugs. If imagining Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock as a young teenage girl makes you uncomfortable, so too will this book. It’s also the kind of book I would have loved to read as a teenage girl, so there you go. The only reason I didn’t bring back a copy of THE CASE FOR JAMIE from my most recent trip to Winnipeg is the degree to which my To Read pile is backlogged. We’ve got A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE in stock in trade paperback, THE LAST OF AUGUST available to order in trade paperback, and THE CASE FOR JAMIE in stock in hardcover.

            I’ll mention here for want of a better place to say it that YA books are usually priced lower than adult books. So THE CASE FOR JAMIE, for example, is a hardcover priced at $21.99 and A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE in trade paperback at $12.50. If you’re looking for some budget reads, we have some excellent young adult titles that will appeal as much to the adult reader, especially as we grow our children’s section in the new store.

Sian's Pick - Bumsted Picks of 2017 - The Missing Clue - December 2017

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

(TP, $19.49, order here)

I rated 12 books with 5 Stars last year and 6 of those are books we sell at Whodunit. Mum already picked Party Girls Die in Pearls, one was published in 2016, two were the second in a series, and one isn’t technically available in Canada yet. So I was feeling a little unsure about what to pick as my book of the year. But when I was in the store in November, a book kept catching my eye. I looked at it a few times. I started to read the first chapter, but with Bookstore Baby on the loose it was hard to get very far. Then, one day, Penelope was napping in the store and I remembered the book and…I couldn’t put it down. I even reported to Mum after the first chapter that I was pretty sure it was going to be my book of the year. And here we are.

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw is everything I want in a book. A strong female protagonist. A fantastical spin. A little bit of smouldering romance in the background. The first in a series. And, most importantly, spectacularly well-written. Dr. Greta Helsing is a London doctor who’s Harley Street practice specializes in the monstrous undead. Vampires, demons, mummies, and ghouls to name a few. But a serial killing sect of murderous monks has trained their mania on the monsters and Dr. Helsing and her friends (living and undead), must get to the bottom of it and keep London’s monstrous population safe (and healthy).

This is truly a special book that is not only unputdownable, but also makes you insanely jealous that you didn’t come up with the idea first. I cannot wait to see where she takes the story in the follow-up due in July of 2018 called Dreadful Company.

What I'm Reading by Sian - The Missing Clue - August 2017

And I’m back! Thank you all for your patience with our abbreviated newsletter last month. My to-read list grows ever taller, but I’m happy to say I’ve made something of a dent in it.

First up was Plum Sykes Party Girls Die in Pearls (in store in trade paperback), the first book I read after my daughter Penelope was born. I needed something light but smart and witty and it fit the bill beautifully. I’ve said this before in this space, I really like books where there’s a romantic element but it isn’t something that drives the plot. Ursula Flowerbutton is like my beloved Flora Poste of Cold Comfort Farm and I can’t wait to read more about her adventures at Oxford. You’ll hear it here first when the next one is scheduled.

I had been looking forward to Darcie Wilde’s A Purely Private Matter (in store in trade paperback) and it didn’t disappoint. It was a worthy sequel to A Useful Woman (in store in trade paperback), although it did end with a continuing romantic loose end which I find a little tedious. No third book scheduled, so hopefully we won’t have to wait too long.

Julie McElwain’s A Murder in Time (in store) finally came out in trade paperback so I will continue to wholeheartedly recommend that title as well as the sequel, A Twist in Time (available to order), available so far in hardcover. Both books are lovely and long, which makes them perfect summer reads. Don’t let the time travel element put you off, while it’s a central plot point it’s not at all sci fi like.

David Morrell’s ‘Thomas De Quincey Mystery’ series gets better and better with book #3, Ruler of the Night (available to order), an excellent addition. This is not a light series, there is violence, but it’s so interesting. Thomas De Quincey has many flaws, but Morell paints him with such humanity and compassion, not to mention his brilliant and devoted daughter Emily. This is a series to have at the ready on a dark and gloomy weekend. The first two books, Murder as a Fine Art (in store) and Inspector of the Dead (available to order) are available in trade paperback while Ruler of the Night is still just in hardcover (the trade paperback is coming in November).

Every member of the Bumsted family has their strengths in the store and mine is tidying the used shelves (so you’ll have noticed if you’ve been in the last few weeks how tidy they are!). One of the reasons I love that task is that I always find a new series or two while I’m moving books around as it encourages me to look at titles I don’t normally notice. Last time I visited I picked up the first book in Sujata Massey’s ‘Rei Shimura’ series. Sometimes books from the 90s can feel dated because of the transition to technology (it seems odd not to have a smart phone, for example), but because The Salaryman’s Wife (available to order in mass market) is set in Japan, I was distracted enough by the setting not to notice. Rei is a stubborn and independent young woman trying to make her way in Japan, where her Japanase American parentage makes her not sufficiently Japanese for many people. I’m on book #4, The Floating Girl (available in store in used mass market), and I’m learning a ton about Japanese culture. There are 11 books in the series. Massey has a new series launching in January featuring Perveen Mistry, a young female lawyer in 1920s Bombay. The first book is called The Widows of Malabar Hill and I’ve already got my copy reserved!

Speaking of books I’ve reserved, I’m also looking forward to Anna Lee Huber’s (of the ‘Lady Darby Mystery’ series) new series featuring Verity Kent called This Side of Murder, set in post WWI England coming in trade paperback in September. Then in October in hardcover is Death in St. Petersburg, book #12 in Tasha Alexander’s ‘Lady Emily’ series. Also in October, although I sense this may be my Boxing Day read, is the new book in the ‘His Dark Materials’ universe, Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust.

The Missing Clue - April 2017 - What I'm Reading by Sian

I was lucky enough to spend several weeks in Winnipeg, and at Whodunit? in January and February and was delighted to be able to chat with many of you. I’m grounded now until the baby comes, but don’t worry, Mum is sending me care packages of books and we’ll be around a bunch in the summer and fall.

Genevieve Cogman’s ‘Invisible Library’ series had been on my radar since it was first released, but I never dipped into it, despite it residing on the shelves of Whodunit. I finally picked up a copy of The Invisible Library when I was home in February and I was hooked! I instantly bought The Masked City and The Burning Page and well…burned through them. Librarian/spy Irene’s job is to collect important books from alternate dimensions to house them in the Library. The first book has her sent to a new dimension, an alternate London, with a new assistant in tow but before she even makes it out the door another Librarian is trying to steal her mission. I would classify this series as less literary and whimsical than Jasper Fforde’s ‘Thursday Next’ series, so a little more serious but easier to read. Book #4, The Lost Plot, will be available in November. All available in trade paperback.

Speaking of libraries, I also tried Rachel Caine’s new ‘The Great Library’ series, which begins with Ink and Bone. This one is classified as YA, which is good news as it means the books are cheaper, although the content (and violence) are fairly adult. In this series, the Great Library of Alexandria still exists, personal ownership of books is forbidden, and only the most special young people have the opportunity to test to enter the Library’s services. The main character is a young man and this is a dystopian universe, both of which would often be huge turnoffs for me, but I found myself really enjoying the book. Book #2, Paper and Fire, will be available in trade paperback in May with book #3, Ash and Quill, coming in hardcover in July.

Darcie Wilde’s A Useful Woman was one of my books of the year for 2016 and I’m heartened that many of you took my recommendation (and hopefully enjoyed it). The second book in the series, A Purely Private Matter, is due May 2nd (just a few days before my daughter), so I’m looking forward to receiving it in a post-baby care package (hint hint, Mum).

I’ve eagerly read the first seven books in Benedict Jacka’s ‘Alex Verus’ series, but each book ends of such an increasingly massive cliffhanger than I’m not sure I have the nerve anymore. It feels like poor Alex just can’t catch a break and much like Jim Butcher’s ‘Dresden Files’ it can feel like one catastrophe after another without a pause to develop the characters or story. Still, if book #8 Bound arrived in a care package, I’m pretty sure I’ll read it. Can’t blame a girl for wanting a happy ending once in a while, can you? You can pick up your copy in mass market on April 4th.

I am really looking forward to another 8th book in a series though, May’s release of Caro Peacock’s 8th ‘Liberty Lane’ book Fool’s Gold. This can be a frustrating series to track because the book releases are erratic (often two years apart) and usually in a very expensive hardcover that sometimes take forever to get into trade paperback and sometimes are released in both formats nearly simultaneously. So I can’t suggest you buy the hardcover, although I will, and I’ll be sure to let you know when the trade paperback is available. This is such a smart series with a woman getting by on her own brains and ingenuity, rather than her looks and husband, the same reason I like the Darcie Wilde series.

I am, as ever, open for recommendations on what I should read when I’m on maternity leave. I’m going to have lots of time to read, right?

The Missing Clue - February 2017 - What I'm Reading by Sian

You’d know it if you saw me on my recent visit in January, but I’m expecting my first baby due in May. Needless to say, I’m trying to get in as much reading as possible before life is disrupted.

Our copies of The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch in mass market should be en route, but Mum surprised Michael and I with the UK hardcover edition, as she knows I like a good read on Boxing Day. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t in the least disappointed, although I did share some of Michael’s confusion about certain plot points mentioned. Turns out they were featured in the graphic novels, which have entirely original plotlines. We’ve got those in stock now though for anyone who needs to get caught up. I might recommend at least a reread of Foxglove Summer (book #6) as it was an awfully long time ago and took me awhile to get back up to speed.

It took us awhile, but we finally got our copies of Mary Russell’s War by Laurie R. King. This is a collection of short stories set in Mary Russell’s universe, some (2) of which have been published as e-originals and some (7) of which are new. They are by no means required reading if you read the series, but they do a nice job of filling in the blanks between books, in particularly Russell and Holmes actual wedding. There will be no new Mary Russell in 2017, so this is your shot at new content. You might read them as they belong in the series as part of a reread or all in one go. There should be a new Mary Russell in 2018 if King herself is to be believed. The Murder of Mary Russell is also coming in trade paperback in March. This wasn’t my favorite, but mostly because I don’t particularly care about Mrs. Hudson’s back story. If you do, you’ll certainly be pleased and intrigued.

I was on the hunt for new series to read as a distraction on Inauguration Day and found Design for Dying by Renee Patrick, a new series featuring the fictitious Lillian Frost and real-life costume designer Edith Head. This is a fun story set in 1930s Hollywood. We have it in stock in hardcover with the trade coming in May. Book #2, Dangerous to Know, is coming in hardcover in April. I was lucky enough to read an ARC but wasn’t quite as captivated due to the plotline surrounding Nazi sympathizers, which was suddenly a little too reminiscent of ongoing political issues for my liking.

We don’t generally like to recommend new series/authors in hardcover because we know it’s a big ask of you and your wallet, but I keep track of the ones that are worth it so I can call them out when they arrive in a more affordable trade paperback edition. A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain is one such title. Kendra Donovan is a hotshot FBI agent who somehow finds herself back in time in a 19th century English castle trying to solve a murder while pretending to be a lady’s maid. It took me a while to warm up to it, but by the end I was thoroughly enjoying myself. This book comes in trade paperback in April with a second book in hardcover A Twist in Time coming in April as well.

Kate Locke’s ‘The Immortal Empire’ is an odd little series that I read some years back in its original hardcover editions. We’ve got the first book God Save the Queen now in mass market with books 2 and 3 coming in February and March respectively. It’s a paranormal steampunk romance featuring humans, goblins, and British royalty. I would say it’s a bit grittier than Gail Carriger’s ‘Soulless’ series but well written and a fun read.

As to what I’m hoping to read before the baby’s born, I have book #5 in Gregory Harris’s ‘Colin Pendragon’ series The Endicott Evil in March. If you like Will Thomas or C.S. Harris, this series is very much in that vein. We’ve got books 2, 3, and 4 in stock in trade paperback. And speaking of C.S. Harris, book #12 in the ‘Sebastian St. Cyr’ series, Where the Dead Lie, is coming in hardcover in April. Sadly, book #11 When Falcons Fall is now coming in trade paperback rather than mass market. If you were holding out for a mass market, it doesn’t look like you’ll get one.

It’s a few years now since I judged the Arthur Ellis Award for best first novel, but I’m happy to say several books I enjoyed reading them have made it into series. Book #4 in Steve Burrows ‘Birder Murder Mystery’ series, A Shimmer of Hummingbirds, is coming in trade paperback in March and book #3 in Janet Brons ‘Forsyth and Hay’ series, Measured for Murder, is coming in trade paperback in April. The Burrows series features a Canadian DCI and is set in the UK while the Brons features an RCMP officer and a Scotland Yard DCI joining forces to solve crimes facing the Canadian community in London. That I can get beyond the birds in the Burrows is a miracle, although I am hoping that he applied the Bechdel test to this new book, as I found the really interesting female characters he has developed a little too focused on their menfolk.

Finally, I have to stop dragging it out and finish Elizabeth Peters ‘Amelia Peabody’ series. I’ve been savouring them and have four to go, but we just discovered that Joan Hess has completed the final book of the series, The Painted Queen, and it will be released in hardcover in July.

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).

The Missing Clue - October 2016 - What I'm Reading by Sian

The good news is that according to my counter, I have read 84/100 books I challenged myself to read this year. And this isn’t even counting books I’ve re-read in 2016 (most notably, the always excellent ‘Hilary Tamar’ series by Sarah Caudwell). Sixteen books in twelve weeks sounds quite doable, especially when I consider what I already have on the shelf waiting for me at the store.

I’m not sure how it ended up on my ‘to read’ pile, but I’ve worked my way through Gregory Harris’s ‘Colin Pendragon Mystery’ series this summer. The series is set in turn-of-the-century London and features a young aristocrat, Colin Pendragon, and his companion Ethan Pruitt. My tagline would be, “what if Sherlock were gay and had social skills and Watson were the former drug addict”. Like similar series, they are at constant odds with Scotland Yard. The books bleed into each other, so we were introduced to the next book in the final chapter of the first. We only have book #4, The Dalwich Desecration, in store at present (in new and used), but you will not be at a disadvantage if you start there. Books #1-3 are available to order with book #5 coming in March, all in trade paperback.

Long-time readers of the newsletter will know that I am the guardian angel that brought Gail Carriger to Whodunit. Soulless was a revelation and I loved the whole ‘Parasol Protectorate’ series. I quite enjoyed her foray into YA in the same world with the ‘Finishing School’ series. ‘The Custard Protocol’ series stars Alexia and Connall’s daughter, overtly raised by Lord Akeldama, Prudence. I liked the first book, Prudence (in store in trade paperback). But I sat on the second book, Imprudence. And even having gulped it down, I wasn’t sure if I enjoyed it. I think my challenge is that Carriger has done what very few authors are willing to do, which is to properly retire their main characters. Alexia and Conall are an important part of the plot, but they are still secondary and more importantly old. They are not the same people they were in the Soulless, they are a grown-up woman’s aging parents. But upon reflection, it was all quite wonderful and I shall look forward to any future adventures. It is worth noting that this one is very much NOT appropriate for younger audiences, if you know what I mean. Available in trade paperback in February.

I read As Death Draws Near, #5 in Anna Lee Huber’s ‘Lady Darby’ series not long before The Dalwich Desecration, so it was a lot of murders in religious orders that week. This is a smart series featuring a crime-solving aristocratic couple, so if you like Deanna Raybourn’s ‘Lady Julia’ series or Tasha Alexandra’s ‘Lady Emily’ series, this will be right up your alley. Kiera and Gage find themselves in Ireland where a young nun-in-training has been murdered and they find the locals not particularly sympathetic (nor to Catholics in general). I don’t think these books are quite as fun as Raybourn or Alexandra, but they are still an engrossing read and do a lot to make us consider what is appropriate “women’s work”. We’ve got this one in store in used as well as books #1 and #4.

I have mixed feelings about Rhys Bowen’s ‘Her Royal Spyness’ series. I started out loving it, then after about book #6 I refused to buy it in hardcover anymore, because I thought it was just silly. I was also frustrated that the plot didn’t seem to be moving anywhere, particularly in relation to Georgie’s relationship with Darcy. We seem to be moving forward on that front though and Malice at the Palace (book #9, in store in mass market) featured some interesting plotlines. I’m nervous of course as we plunge closer to WWII, as I’m not sure how the tone of these books will handle Nazi Germany. Book #10, Crowned and Dangerous, is available for order in hardcover, but I’m waiting for the mass market, as yet unscheduled.

As for the books I’m looking forward to for the rest of the fall, book #2 in David Morrell’s excellent ‘Thomas and Emily De Quincey’ series, Inspector of the Dead, is now available in store in trade paperback with book #3, Ruler of the Night, coming in November. Tasha Alexander’s ‘Lady Emily’ #10, A Terrible Beauty, is also in store in hardcover. Her first husband is back from the dead, it seems, but is he really? And speaking of Deanna Raybourn, she speaks highly of the new ‘Lady Sherlock’ series that launches this month (in trade paperback) with A Study in Scarlet Women. I love Sherlockian stories with a female twist, so I have high hopes for this one!

Lots of yours and my favourite authors often publish short stories available online only for Kindle, Kobo, or iBooks. Fortunately, Laurie R. King has taken pity on us and published all her ‘Mary Russell’ short stories in one collection, Mary Russell’s War. Nine short stories, one brand new, this will be an excellent Christmas gift for the Mary Russell fan. In stores in trade paperback this week.

The Missing Clue - August 2016 - What I'm Reading by Sian

I was on vacation at the beginning of July and, as promised, I made great progress on my To Read list. 20 books!

Carrie Bebris had taken four years off between the 6th and 7th books of her ‘Mr and Mrs Darcy’ series, so I admit that I had sort of forgotten about it. I was delighted when I heard about Suspicion at Sanditon. Sanditon is an unfinished novel by Jane Austen, but Bebris worked Elizabeth and Darcy into the unfinished novel and created an interesting tale of vanishing house guests. I’m not sure if there are more to come, but this was a welcome addition to the series.

You all know how much I love Charles Finch’s ‘Charles Lenox’ series and his latest, Home by Nightfall, was as good as ever. Charles is trying to balance troubles in London with his business with troubles with his brother in the country and Jane can’t help because she’s expecting royalty for luncheon. The crime here is a historical take on a modern issue that is centre-stage these days, and it’s an interesting perspective.

I know I wasn’t the only one who felt that Laurie R. King’s The Pirate King wasn’t her best and it took until Dreaming Spies for her to recover to her full strength. The Murder of Mary Russell was obviously ominously (and cheekily) titled, but all I will say of the title implication is that I don’t believe this to be the last book in the series. At any rate, this is really Mrs. Hudson’s story. If you’re interested in her background (and future), you’ll love this book. If, like me, you just want to hear about Sherlock and Mary, you might be a bit bored.

I get a sneak peak at the lists as I format them for this newsletter and I was excited to see a number of fall releases from my favourite authors. Stella Rimington has an inconsistent publishing schedule, her professional obligations may preclude her from writing fulltime after all, but book #9 in her ‘Liz Carlyle’ series, Breaking Cover, is coming next week in hardcover. The subject matter is very timely too: a new cold war is coming and a Russian spy is on the loose in London.

I was also lucky enough to get my hands on advanced copies of Tasha Alexander’s upcoming A Terrible Beauty (‘Lady Emily’ #11, coming in October, set in Greece) and Charles Finch’s The Inheritance (‘Charles Lenox’ #10, coming in November. I’m keeping an eye out for Will Thomas’s Hell Bay (‘Barker and Llewelyn’ #8).

The Missing Clue - June 2016 - What I'm Reading by Sian

Darcie Wilde’s A Useful Woman continues to be my main contender for book of the year (have you bought it yet?), and that has rekindled my love of historical titles. This is a problem, because my To Read pile teeters ever higher and I’m getting behind on my reading goals for the year.

One such title I sat on was Caro Peacock’s Friends in High Places, book #7 in her ‘Liberty Lane’ series. I have long loved this series, but since she moved to Severn House Publishers, publication has become somewhat erratic. Still, Friends in High Places just came into the store in trade paperback, which is perfect timing for me to tell you it’s excellent. Liberty has been hired to assist in delivering evidence to the trial of Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, but it doesn’t take long before it’s spy vs spy and a recently burgeoning romance is at stake. Liberty is such a smart heroine and although she is permitted a romantic interest (not to mention a flirtation with Benjamin Disraeli in his younger days), the romance is never the focal point. This is an excellent addition to the series or a perfectly good standalone (which I can confirm because it was two years between books and I forgot how the previous one ended). We’ve got the first two books in the series, A Foreign Affair and A Dangerous Affair if you want to start at the beginning.

I have been taking my time with Anna Lee Huber’s ‘Lady Darby’ series in part, I think, because I’m enjoying it so much I don’t want to run out of books yet. I just finished book #3, A Grave Matter, and again, it’s a title where the romance is slower burning and the real focus is the solving of crimes. In this case, we’ve got some very odd grave robbers at work, stealing old bones and holding them ransom. Book #4, A Study in Death, will be available in mass market on July 5th, the same day as book #5, As Death Draws Near, coming in original trade paperback. I shall be hard-pressed not to pre-order both and devour them as soon as I receive them.

Like many of you, I try to reserve my hardcover purchases for books I’m really excited about or can’t bear to wait another year. This last visit, that was When Falcons Fall, #11 in C.S. Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr series. As it happens, we’ve got more spies and relatives of Napoleon in the mix. This series is wonderful because the main plot is driven by Sebastian St. Cyr, but there is a secondary and related plot featuring his wife Hero, a woman clearly ahead of her time. I used to avoid books with male protagonists, since I couldn’t get in their heads, so this plot device works marvellously for me. I was only sorry we saw less of Hero’s dastardly but connected father. We’ve got book #1, 3, 8, 9, and 10 in store in mass market with the rest available to order.

Finally, I was introduced to Janet Brons and her first book A Quiet Kill when I was judging the Best First Novel category for the Arthur Ellis Awards last year. I dipped into my massive To Read pile to pull out her second book in the ‘Forsyth and Hay Mystery’ series Not a Clue, which had been published in the fall. This second book picks up immediately after the first book leaves off, with RCMP Inspector Liz Forsyth back in Ottawa right after the Ice Storm of 1998 and DCI Stephen Hay back to his regular beat in London. Hay is charged with solving the murder of a Chechen refugee and Forsyth is working on the case of the bizarre murder of a Canadian backpacker. This series stands out because it’s a well-written tightly plotted book that is short, only 192 pages. I think it’s the kind of book you could recommend to someone just trying out crime novels, particularly police procedurals. The fact that it’s set in Canada and the UK and features a brewing, but subtle, romance between Forsyth and Hay makes it all the more appealing. We’ve got both books in store at $14.95, which is a nice entry price too.

The Missing Clue - April 2016 - What I'm Reading by Sian

I have found, I think, my book of the year and I’m going to tell you about it now because if I have to wait until December I may burst. I was disappointed four years ago when Sarah Zettel stopped writing her ‘Vampire Chef’ series, but over time stopped reading as much paranormal and urban fantasy. Imagine my surprise and delight when Zettel returned to my notice under the pseudonym Darcie Wilde with a new series set in 19th century London. A Useful Woman stars Rosalind Thorne, a woman who has had to use her wits to keep her head high in polite society. When an aristocrat is murdered, she must help solve his murder to keep in the good graces of those who support her. Rosalind is a well-drawn character, not your average young heiress, and while there is a romantic subplot, it doesn’t drive the story. I’m anxious to read more in the series. The bad news is you’ll have to wait until May 3rd to read it, the good news though is that A Useful Woman is being released in trade paperback at $20, a price point at which I wish more new series were launched.

Speaking of great books I got to read first, I have only excellent things to say about Burned by Benedict Jacka, #7 in his ‘Alex Verus’ series. That said, I don’t want to say much for fear of giving anything away. This is the point in a series at which things can start to go off the rails or you lose interest. Not so with Burned. Jacka has you hanging on every word and cursing his name when you realize you have to wait until book #8 which doesn’t even have a publication date yet…

And speaking of cliff-hangers, I’m already anxious about the upcoming release of The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King, #14 in her ‘Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes’ series. Dreaming Spies was my book of 2015, which had been a relief because the series sagged a bit around The Pirate King and (less so) Garment of Shadows. Is this truly the end of Ms. Russell? We’ll find out (you and me both) on April 5th.