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

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

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

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

Perfect summer reading for fans of historical fiction. Lulu Randolph is in the Bahamas in 1941 as a correspondent for a New York magazine, secretly filing stories about the glamorous Duke and Duchess of Windsor. An unexpected romance with scientist Benedict Thorpe later leads Lulu to London and Switzerland. Alternate chapters tell the bittersweet story of Elfriede, suffering from post-partum depression in the Swiss alps, and her connection to Benedict’s family. History, royalty, war-time intrigue and romance make for an absorbing read; sure to be popular with book groups. This novel will be published on July 7.

Brenda

Wildwood

Wildwood by Elinor Florence

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about Molly and her young daughter Bridget, who move from Phoenix to rural Alberta, Canada when Molly inherits a farm from her great aunt. Molly has just been laid off from her accounting job during the recent recession, and worries about four-year-old Bridget, who is extremely shy. The inheritance is contingent on Molly living on the farm for a year, including the long cold winter. Molly’s aunt left a journal about her life on the farm in 1924, as well as old photos, a cookbook, and other keepsakes. Molly and Bridget learn to live off the grid in the old farm house with a wood stove and a pump on the kitchen sink, driving a truck into town monthly to shop and use the internet. In the past, Mary Margaret and her husband are homesteaders, living in a large foursquare house built from a catalogue kit. There is a wonderful sense of place and very likable characters, although a romantic subplot isn’t well-developed. The author’s website has numerous photos that inspired the book, which is suggested for readers who enjoy character-focused novels or fiction set in rural North America. Enjoy!

Brenda

Death of an Eye

Death of an Eye by Dana Stabenow

An intriguing mystery set in Alexandria, Egypt, in 47 B.C. A shipment of new coins is stolen from a cargo ship during a fire in the harbor and then the investigator, Cleopatra’s Eye, is killed. Merchant Tetisheri, Cleopatra’s childhood friend, is chosen to solve both mysteries. Class differences between the Romans, The Greek Alexandrians, and the native Egyptians make for interesting politics. After a slow start mainly due to unfamiliar place and character names, the pacing and suspense keep building, making for an engaging read. Cleopatra, pregnant with Julius Caesar’s child, is enigmatic and swift to take vengeance as needed. Cleopatra’s brother and co-ruler is one of Tetisheri’s obstacles in solving the crimes, as is her nasty ex-husband. First in a new series by the author of the bestselling Kate Shugak Alaskan mysteries, I look forward to the next case that Tetisheri is asked to solve. The setting of ancient Alexandria comes to life, and the gorgeous book jacket adds to the reading experience. And for fans of Kate, another Alaskan mystery is being written.

Brenda

Death Comes to Bath

Death Comes to Bath by Catherine Lloyd

I loved the beautiful setting of this Regency-era English mystery, and the ability to easily start this series at book six. After a war wound received at Waterloo becomes infected, Sir Robert Kurland and his wife Lucy rent a house in Bath so that Robert can enjoy the healing properties of the Roman baths. Bringing Lucy’s sister Ann, their doctor Fletcher and his pregnant wife Penelope, it’s a lively household. Lucy and Robert get to know the mismatched couple next door, Sir William Benson, an older man from Yorkshire who spends time at the baths with Robert, and his younger, beautiful wife. When William dies suddenly, suspicion falls on his sons and stepsons, especially when his will can’t be found. After a second suspicious death next door, amateur sleuths Lucy and Robert work together to uncover the truth. Colorful characters and a clever plot make me want to spend more time with Robert and Lucy, who first appear in Death Comes to the Village. This novel is a good readalike for the Stephanie Barron mystery series featuring Jane Austen as an amateur sleuth.

Brenda