The Missing Clue - April 2017 - Spring and Summer Reading Picks by Wendy

With the weather finally perking up a little, my thoughts gravitated towards summer and summer reading. This was in part due to the book that I was reading, Plum Sykes’ Party Girls Die in Pearls. This is Plum Sykes first mystery, launching the ‘Oxford Girl Mystery’ series although she has written a couple of other novels and writes regularly for Vogue magazine. The novel is set in Oxford in the late 1980s. The two main characters, Ursula Flowerbutton and American Nancy Feingold. Both are first year students from somewhat non-traditional backgrounds. It was a really fun read, and for those readers not familiar with 1980s clothing and popular culture the author provides footnotes explaining the reference, I am old enough not to need an explanation of references to various television shows like Dynasty. The book is due for release on May 9th in trade paperback just in time for a good Victoria Day weekend read.

Christina Kovac’s first novel is called The Cutaway. The novel is set in Washington D.C. a place that is probably higher in people’s consciousness these days. The plot revolves around the disappearance of a young female lawyer, she walks out of a fashionable D.C. restaurant and is never seen again. This disappearance catches the attention of a female news producer, Virginia Knightly, at a D.C. television station. Knightly becomes involved in the investigation when it seems that the authorities are not taking it seriously enough. Christine Kovacs was herself a TV journalist who worked on a number of political news shows including Meet the Press. A most enjoyable read with a very believable setting.

Sara Sheridan is a Scottish writer who has written many novels, including a series whose main character is Mirabelle Bevan. The first novel Brighton Belle was originally published in the UK in 2012 but was just released in North America in January of this year. Mirabelle Bevan had worked for British Intelligence during WWII now in 1951 she is living in Brighton, working as a secretary to debt collector, and mourning the death of her wartime boss and lover. When her boss is sick she becomes involved in a routine inquiry but as they say the plot soon thickens and nothing is what it seems. Book #2 in the series, London Calling, was just released in hardcover and is available to order.

Sally Andrew‘s first mystery Recipes for Love and Murder was published in 2015 and is now available in trade paperback. Set in Ladysmith, in the South-eastern part of South Africa, Andrew’s main character Tannie Maria writes the agony aunt column for the local newspaper. This advice column is slightly different as she always includes a recipe. The second novel in the series, The Satanic Mechanic, has just been released, also in trade paperback. It includes the same characters as the previous title. These books present a slightly harsher description of life in Southern Africa, than Alexander McCall Smith’s Botswana series. Andrew herself lives in South Africa and has been an environmental and social activist, themes which are very clear in her books. These are not titles to read when you are hungry.

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss is the first in a new series by Max Wirestone, available in store in trade paperback. Set in present day California Dahlia is an un/underemployed 20 something. Being chronically short of money she agrees to act as a private detective for a friend of a friend who is trying to recover a stolen icon in a video game. I enjoyed the character and the plot but I did find the intricacies of online gaming somewhat beyond me. But it is an enjoyable read. Book #2 in the series, The Astonishing Mistakes of Dahlia Moss, was just released in trade paperback and is available to order.

My book of the year for 2016, Susie Steiner’s Missing, Presumed, will be released in the mass market size on April 25th, ($12.50). Highly recommended. If I haven’t sold you a copy yet and you can’t wait for the mass market, we still have the trade paperback in stock. Also highly recommended Joanna Cannon’s The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, is now in a smaller size ($15.99). If you missed either of these the first-time round, great titles to slip into a beach bag or take on a plane.

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 - April 2017 - Nain's Book Club Reviews

Turns out having a Nain (Welsh for Grandmother) who owns a bookstore is pretty awesome, especially if she starts a book club for you and sends you books in the mail on a regular basis. Here are a few reviews for her recent picks.

The Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Reviewed by Henry R.

We have been reading a mystery called The Greenglass House. It is set in a big house that is an inn. It is winter vacation but the inn is filled with mysterious guests. Milo, the son of the innkeepers, decides to snoop with the daughter of the cook, Meddy. They want to solve the mystery of a map that Milo finds outside in the snow. We don’t want to spill the beans any more but we are loving the book and think you will too.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Reviewed by Joenna D., age 9

My book is called Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. It’s about a girl that lives in a village with her family. They are poor the only money in the house are two copper coins. The girls name is Minli. Minli wants to change her families fortune. So she goes on a adventure to try to change it. Minli meets creatures that tell her stories about where she is going as she tries to get up to the mountain. I liked the story of the village of the moon rain. In the story there was a village, everybody worked as hard as they could but nothing would grow. Then something happened. It started to rain!! But the rain wasn’t water it was little white balls. The villagers thought they were pearls and started to collect them in baskets. But the other white balls they didn’t collect started to grow into trees, then the villagers realized they weren’t pearls they were seeds! So they planted the seeds to make trees. I think other children my age might like this book.

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 - Mysteries in Alternative Histories by Michael

My intention for this issue of the newsletter was to write about a number of new alternative history novels. The one that had originally caught my attention had been The Book of Esther by Emily Barton. Set in a history in which the Khazar Empire of Central Asia maintained its hold on territory, and on its Jewish faith, into the twentieth century. Faced with the growing power of Hitler's Germany, and its eastern expansion, Esther bin Josephus, one of the few to recognize the real danger, journeys to have a mystical conversion to become the man her culture requires her to be to join military service.

Barton's novel, while well crafted, takes so long to get onto the track of its longer narrative. As a result, it was quickly interrupted by the arrival of the other book I wished to compare it to, Underground Airlines by Ben H Winters. Winters, notable for his ‘Last Policeman’ Trilogy, has created a world in which the American Civil War is stopped by an early assassination of Lincoln, and a compromise written into the constitution of to permit slavery to continue. Jumping into the present, escaped slaves, as well as those who are attempting to aid them, are the responsibility of the Marshall Service. His nameless ex-slave protagonist finds himself an agent of laws many, including himself, do not agree with, but are largely helpless to change.

Winters', who allows his alternative to history to feed into dribs and drabs, creates a narrative that makes it much harder to put his book down. To the point, in fact, where it sucked me in so deeply that I didn't manage to finish Barton's work by the time of printing. While The Book of Esther evoked a world in which I was interested in reading more, it failed to pull me in the same way that Underground Airlines has. That said, once I am finished, I would be happy to let anyone is interested know how the two compare.

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 - August 2016 - My Recent (Summer) Reading by Wendy

If you were a fan of Dorothy Cannell, I found a new series that reminded me of her characters and her settings. Murder at Honeychurch Hall, (tp $18.50), is the first in the series and the second title, Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall, will be available in October. The main character is a Kat Stanford is a presenter of a TV show but she is giving it up to open an antique shop with her widowed mother, however, unbeknownst to our heroine her mother has moved away from London and bought a somewhat ramshackle property in the West of England. Kat tracks her down and she and her mother are soon embroiled in various rural shenanigans involving the local nobility. The author is Hannah Dennison who previously wrote the Vicky Hill series.

I had not read any of Deanna Raybourn’s previous series but I really enjoyed the first in her new series, A Curious Beginning (tp$20). The series is set in Victorian England and the main character is a young woman called Veronica Speedwell, who is an entomologist specializing in butterflies. The story begins with the death of her aunts who have raised her since she was a baby. Returning from the funeral an attempt is made to kidnap her and she is rescued by a somewhat enigmatic German nobleman.  From there on the plot, as they say, thickens. Veronica is a very appealing heroine and I am looking forward to the second title due out next year. 

I know that Sian has written about Darcie Wilde’s, A Useful Woman, a couple of times. I finally got around to reading it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was reticent to read it because I have since my teens been a super fan of Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels all of which I have read. In fact all of which I own and had just finished a rereading.

Susie Steiner is a writer for the Guardian newspaper and Missing, Presumed is her first mystery novel. A graduate student has disappeared from the flat that she shares with her boyfriend. As the daughter of one of the Queen’s doctors, whose parents have many connections to the government of the day, the local police are from the get go under enormous pressure to find out what happened.  The plot has many twists and turns, and it is a very satisfying read.  The main police character is D.S Manon Bradshaw and I hope that this will be the beginning of a series.

Quintin Jardine’s Bob Skinner series has been a perennial favourite of mine. The newest title in the series has recently arrived in the store, Private Investigations (tp$22.99). Skinner has now officially left the Scottish police force and does have a private investigators licence. Two seemingly unconnected events, a request by the brother of one of his previous lovers to help settle an insurance claim and a rear-ender in a mall car park coalesce and lead Skinner and the Scottish police force to a series of much larger crimes. The involvement of the police of course brings in the usual cast of characters. An excellent way to while away a summer afternoon and evening.

Summer is always a good time to try new authors and a good way of doing that is to check out the used section. Despite what the sign on the door, might have led you to believe we have bought a fairly substantial amount of books for our used section.  As a result we do have many series where we have almost complete runs of titles in a series. So please come and check them out.