Magic for Liars

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Oakland private investigator Ivy Gamble is mugged on her way to work, and shortly afterwards a stranger appears in her locked office. Ivy is asked to investigate a suspicious, gruesome death at Osthorne Academy for Young Mages. Ivy doesn’t usually investigate possible murders, but the retainer offered is large, and she will have the chance to reconnect with her estranged twin sister Tabitha, a teacher at the school. Ivy has 14 years of experience as a PI, but feels ordinary compared to her brilliant, magical sister.

At Osthorne, Ivy wonders if it’s wrong to let staff and students think she also has magical powers. What if she dates one of the teachers? Does she want a relationship with her sister, and can she be trusted? Darkly humorous, this compelling read skillfully combines mystery, fantasy, and relationship fiction. Readalikes include Book of Night by Holly Black, Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, and A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik.

Brenda

The Maid: A Novel

The Maid: A Novel by Nita Prose

Molly Gray enjoys cleaning, especially returning hotel rooms to a state of perfection. Mostly she enjoys her work as a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel, in an unnamed city. While many of the guest treat Molly as though she’s invisible, other guests, such as wealthy businessman Charles Black, verge on rudeness. Molly is very naïve and socially awkward, but has a few people she trusts and counts as friends at the hotel, including a bartender and Giselle, Charles Black’s second wife.

Lately Molly has been struggling to pay her rent, since the death of her beloved grandmother, so her supervisor’s habit of swiping Molly’s tips is doubly frustrating. When Molly discovers a body in a hotel suite, she becomes a person of interest. With the help of some unexpected friends, as well as remembering her Gran’s wise advice, Molly gets ready to testify in court.

Readers will worry about and cheer for Molly in this heartwarming debut with several clever plot twists. This is not a gentle read, though it’s low in violence. Suggested for readers who like eccentric yet charming characters, with a theme of found family. Readalikes include Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little, How Lucky by Will Leitch, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

Brenda

All the Queen’s Men

All the Queen’s Men by SJ Bennett

In this sequel to the delightful mystery The Windsor Knot, Queen Elizabeth takes center stage at Buckingham Palace, where the atmosphere in the autumn of 2016 is a bit darker than in the first book. The Queen has been secretly sleuthing with the aid of her assistant private secretaries for years. A few female staff members have been receiving poison pen letters, including her new assistant private secretary, Rozie Oshodi. One of them is found dead by the pool at Buckingham Palace, apparently accidentally. Brexit has passed, and the palace needs expensive renovations. The Queen discovers a painting of her former royal yacht at a Navy exhibition, and tasks Rozie with investigating how it ever left the palace. Rozie explores tunnels beneath the palace, and in the end, others get the credit for solving the mystery. I will definitely read the next book, and hope the Queen and Rozie get to spend more time together, perhaps at Sandringham or Balmoral, and enjoy the scenery even more than at Windsor Castle.
Brenda

Disappearance of a Scribe

Disappearance of a Scribe by Dana Stabenow

Perfect armchair travel reading for mystery readers; this is the sequel to Death of an Eye, but can be read on its own. Set in Alexandria, Egypt in 47 BC, Cleopatra is a secondary character. Tetisheri, partner in a trading company with her uncle, is occasionally needed to investigate mysteries for the Queen. The city, including the famous Library, docks, and a gymnasium, are vividly described. The city is in a rebuilding phase and there is plenty of traffic, noise, and occasionally, cement. After the body of a missing scribe is found in the Middle Sea, Tetisheri gets involved, and looks for a connection to rare books going missing from the Library. When a messenger boy helps her escape a dangerous situation, Tetisheri invites the boys and his friends to work for her, while wondering how she’ll get reimbursed. This is a witty, humorous, colorful, and exciting mystery. I look forward to another visit with Tetisheri in Alexandria.

 

Brenda

 

 

Clark and Division

Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara

In 1942, the Ito family are forced to evacuate from southern California to the Manzanar Internment Camp. In 1943, older daughter Rose is relocated to Chicago. When Aki, 20, and her parents arrive in Chicago in 1944, they learn that Rose has just died. As they grieve for Rose, settle into a tiny apartment, then look for work, Aki is obsessed with learning about Rose’s life in the city. She meets with her former roommates and a friend from California, and reads Rose’s diary. Aki is welcomed by the Japanese American community in Chicago, fortunately finding work at the Newberry Library, and makes a few friends, including Art, who has a welcoming family. But her quest to find the truth behind Rose’s death is dangerous. Life for Japanese Americans in Chicago during World War II is well-researched and richly detailed. Aki is an appealing young sleuth, and I’d enjoy reading more about Aki and her family. Suggested for historical fiction and mystery readers. Readalikes include other mysteries by Hirahara including Grave on Grand Avenue, Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas, Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert, and When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka.

Brenda

The Man Who Died Twice

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

This is the clever and entertaining sequel to the Thursday Murder Club, a mystery series inspired by the upscale English retirement village where Brenda, the author’s mother, lives. A group of four retirees led by retired MI5 agent Elizabeth, gather weekly to discuss unsolved mystery cases, with occasional input from DCI Chris Hudson, Constable Donna De Freitas, and fixer Bogdan Jankowski. The first book is to be a Steven Spielberg film, and I am picturing Penelope Wilton to play Joyce, a retired nurse who narrates her adventures with Elizabeth, Ibrahim, and Ron to her diary. Elizabeth gets a plea for help from a dead man. It’s really from her ex-husband Douglas, who’s in a safe house with new MI5 agent Poppy after some diamonds connected to the Mafia go missing. Douglas may have stolen the diamonds, and he’s definitely in trouble. Ibrahim is injured when his phone is stolen, and the friends plot revenge on his young assailant. If you enjoy crime novels, very dark humor, and excellent writing, you’re in for a treat. Lesley Manville does excellent work narrating the audiobook. Here’s a longer list of readalikes, as I’d like to read more books like Osman’s myself: An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helen Tursten, Before She Was Helen by Caroline Cooney, The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz, Celine by Peter Heller, and The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths. 

Brenda

Murder at Mallowan Hall

Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge

Phyllida Bright, who was a nurse’s aide in the Great War, is the housekeeper for mystery writer Agatha Christie and her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan, at their country house in Devon in 1930. When an univited guest is found dead the next morning by Mrs. Bright and another death soon follows, the housekeeper, a fan of the fictional Hercule Poirot, investigates. Phyllida occasionally brings Agatha a cup of tea and an update on the investigation; readers will be happy to know the writer seems much happier than in The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict. While there are rather a lot of staff and guests to easily tell apart, the setting is well-drawn and appealing, and I look forward to the planned sequels. Readalikes include A Devious Death by Alyssa Maxwell and Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott.

Brenda

The Witness for the Dead

The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

This shorter fantasy novel reads like a cozy historical mystery, and is connected to the acclaimed The Goblin Emperor, which was published in 2014. Thara Celehar is a witness for the dead in Amalo, and is a minor religious cleric. His rank is unclear, and he lives modestly; with a daily routine that includes visiting teahouses and feeding stray cats. Thara can sometimes get information from a dead person, and is obligated to investigate any suspicious deaths. An opera singer who dies in the wrong part of town is one plotline, and a forged will that somehow leads to Thara being sent to a mining town with a ghoul problem is another. The aftermath of an explosion at an airship factory and searching local cemeteries for the grave of a missing young woman are the last strands in this intricately plotted yet character-driven story. Thara is an elf, but is unlike any of Tolkien’s elves, and many of his clients are part elf and part goblin. A thoroughly nice and hardworking man, Thara will win hearts of many readers and makes them long for more mysteries for him to solve. Readalikes include books by Natasha Pulley, Zen Cho and the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh.

Brenda

The Thursday Murder Club

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club meets in the jigsaw room at the luxurious Coopers Chase Retirement Village in Kent, on England’s southeast coast. Widowed Joyce is the newest member of The Thursday Murder Club, taking the place of Penny, a retired police officer who’s in a nearby nursing home. Elizabeth, Ibrahim, Ron, and Joyce discuss Penny’s cold case files, then find themselves with two murders nearby, probably connected to plans to develop a nearby hilltop and relocate a convent cemetery. Elizabeth has a secret background, with connections almost everywhere. Ron was an organizer whose son is slightly famous, while Ibrahim is a psychiatrist. Agreeable Joyce worked as a nurse, and together they work to get information from PC Donna De Freitas and DCI Chris Hudson. There are poignant scenes as well as lighter ones in this witty, dryly funny character-based mystery that is hard to put down. The Thursday Murder Club is the first novel by Osman, a quiz show host on British television; a sequel, The Man Who Died Twice, will be published soon. Film rights have been bought, and a third book is planned for this deservedly popular debut.

Brenda

Booked for Death

Booked for Death by Victoria Gilbert

I enjoyed this cozy mystery, first in the new Booklovers B & B series, set in historic Beaufort, North Carolina. Chapters Bed & Breakfast comes complete with a well-stocked library and features several book related events each year. Charlotte is fairly new to running the inn, having inherited Chapters from her mysterious Great Aunt Isabella after years of teaching high school. A Josephine Tey mystery week starts off with a Richard III themed costume party and dinner, which ends with one guest murdered. Everyone is a suspect, from Charlotte, cook/housekeeper Alicia, the evening’s hotheaded chef Damian, local bookstore owner Julie, and all of the guests staying at Chapters. Charlotte finds unexpected help from elderly neighbor Ellen when she decides to investigate. The Beaufort setting is especially appealing, and my favorite character is Ellen, along with her dog, Shandy. The second book, Reserved for Murder, has just been published. Readalikes include mysteries by Ellery Adams, Eva Gates, Jenn McKinlay, and Tea and Treachery by Vicki Delany.

Brenda