An American Agent

An American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear

Private investigator Maisie and her friend Priscilla spend a few evenings a week driving an ambulance in London during the blitz. Catherine Saxon, an American reporter, rides along one night, reports what she saw on the radio, and is found dead the next day. Maisie and her assistant Billy investigate, with occasional help from an attractive American agent, Mark Scott. Maisie visits Catherine’s boarding house, and meets with her friends, all while worried about her family in Kent, where she spends weekends. An intriguing puzzle, appealing characters, and a fast-paced story make this a memorable mystery. The first book in the long-running series is Maisie Dobbs.

Brenda

Storm Cursed

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson is a coyote shape-shifter married to Adam, an alpha werewolf. Adam, with Mercy’s reluctant help, is trying to arrange talks between the fae lords and a U.S. senator. Recently Mercy declared that their region of the Pacific Northwest was under the protection of Adam’s pack, so she gets to take care of supernatural problems that crop up. Mercy and werewolf Mary Jo need the help of Larry the goblin king to take care of a goblin issue, then they’re off to deal with twenty miniature zombie goats. Miniature zombie goats are a bit of comic relief before there’s serious trouble at the home of Elizaveta, the local grey witch. There’s gruesome evidence of black witchcraft there (feel free to skim that chapter), but unexpected help comes from amnesiac werewolf Sherwood and vampire Wulfe, who turns out to have a lighter side. Plenty of action, a fair amount of humor and great dialogue keep the pages turning quickly. I listened to the audiobook, skillfully narrated by Lorelei King. Moon Called is the first Mercy Thompson book; another, Smoke Bitten, is expected in 2020. Readalikes include books by Ilona Andrews and Kelley Armstrong.

Brenda

The Spies of Shilling Lane

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan

This is a rare World War II novel set on the home front in London that is both suspenseful and joyous. Mrs. Braithwaite isn’t the most appealing character as she’s booted out of her village women’s club (she’s both bossy and divorced), but when she reaches London she begins to transform. Her daughter Betty is missing, and though they’re not at all close, Mrs. Braithwaite goes in search. Betty’s anxious landlord Mr. Norris is surprised to find himself involved in Mrs. B’s quest and they get caught up in a bombing raid during the Blitz. Betty is a spy for MI5 trying to uncover Nazi sympathizers, and turns out to need assistance from her mother and Mr. Norris. I enjoyed the quirky characters, and found this novel by the author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir a delight to read.
Brenda

Death and Daisies

Death and Daisies by Amanda Flower

A charming Scottish cozy mystery in which Fiona Knox, a florist from Tennessee, opens a flower shop in Duncreigan, a fishing village. After a violent thunderstorm the local minister, who was anything but welcoming to Fiona, is found dead on the beach. He disapproved of the magical garden Fiona inherited from her godfather. Fiona feels compelled to help Chief Inspector Neil Craig by investigating on her own, especially after a threatening note is left in her shop. Plenty of local color and appealing characters make for a very pleasant read. This is the sequel to Flowers and Foul Play, the first book in the Magic Garden series. Readalikes include Paige Shelton and Molly MacRae’s Scottish mysteries.

Brenda

Cherokee America

Cherokee America by Margaret Verble

Cherokee America, known as Check, is a mother of five sons, running a farm in Indian Territory in 1875 while her husband Andrew is dying. She tries to spend time with all of her sons daily, from toddler to teenagers. Hired hand Puny goes missing, Check’s son Hugh is injured, and a man is killed. A young girl may have been kidnapped, and then a Cherokee man is killed, perhaps because of a rumor of hidden treasure. Check, her sons, their extended family and friends come together to mourn Andrew, search for the girl, and protect their neighbors when U.S. Marshalls come calling. This is an intricately plotted novel, with a strong sense of place, and a memorable female lead character. Not a fast read although there’s plenty of action compressed into a few weeks; this is a historical novel to savor.

Brenda

Early Riser

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

This is an unusual, quirky book by the author of the Thursday Next series, set in an alternate Wales. Charlie Worthing has just joined the Winter Consul Service and heads out on his first assignment, only to get trapped in Sector 12 when the trains stop running. Winters are so long and bitterly cold that most people hibernate, bulking up before their long sleep. Some unfortunates turn into Nightwalkers, sort of zombies who can work menial jobs. Charlie has many adventures as he tries to make it through his first winter awake and investigates a viral dream about a blue Buick. Darkly humorous and witty with an appealing protagonist.

Brenda

Maid

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

This is an excellent debut memoir about a single mother struggling to provide for her young daughter, while dreaming of college in Missoula, Montana, and of becoming a writer. I think Stephanie is an amazing writer with a story that needed to be told. Readers will root for Stephanie and her young daughter Mia and cheer when they find a better apartment and finally visit Montana. Stephanie shares the insights gained by cleaning a variety of houses; a loving home in a studio apartment trumps a gorgeous house with a view. There is suspense when a car accident comes close to disaster for Mia and Stephanie, even without an injury. Deservedly popular, this is a candid look at a mother’s love for her daughter and how hard she works for their future, especially when the possibility of a grant or a tax refund helps her look beyond the end of a month. Readalikes include A Broom of One’s Own by Nancy Peacock and Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. For more of Stephanie’s writings and story, visit her website.
Brenda