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.