I’ve been a huge fan of the Duncan Kincaid / Gemma James mysteries for a while now, and I can’t believe that number 16 is out already!
Gemma’s partner, Melody Talbot, is bout to watch her boyfriend’s band perform at St. Pancras Station when all of a sudden all hell breaks loose. A white phosphorous bomb has been ignited – was it set off by the protestors Melody solved earlier? Duncan and Gemma are back and dealing with a possible terror case in Duncan’s new division – can they keep their family together while solving one of the biggest cases of their lifetimes? Duncan begins to question his priorities and whether or not he is still in the right job.
I love Crombie’s books with a passion. She creates a wonderful atmosphere in modern London while still being able to create the feeling of a classic murder mystery. Even after 16 books, the characters continue to evolve and remain fresh – and the mysteries never get formulaic or boring! If you haven’t read her books before, I highly recommend starting at the beginning of the series and reading forward so you don’t miss any of the character development or any of the amazing mysteries!
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a host on this tour!
Here are the next questions from Book Club Girl’s read-a-long of Dead Man’s Folly!
Both Ariadne and Mrs. Folliat hint to Poirot of an evil lurking at Nasse House. Why do you think Poirot cared to listen to the warnings, instead of chalking it up to empty suspicions?
Poirot is always great about listening to people, no matter what the situation. As soon as he can read the clues in someone’s face and mannerisms, he knows whether or not the case is worth it and if the person is truly dedicated to finding the truth. Since he’s known Mrs. Oliver for a while, he already trusts her intuition.
Throughout Poirot’s investigation he was so close to uncovering the truth. What were some of the clues he couldn’t decipher along the way?
I think that he knew they were clues, but because he couldn’t figure out the motive, they just didn’t fit together in a rational pattern. Plus, if he were to figure everything out right as he found the clues, it wouldn’t have been such a great mystery
The Chief Constable, Inspector Bland and Ariadne all doubted if Poirot could solve this mystery towards the end. Do you think Poirot himself was starting to give up?
PSHAW! There are only a few cases where Poirot really doubts himself, but I don’t think this is one of them. Many times he is overconfident, but I think in this case he was just so annoyed that he couldn’t figure out a motive. I think his annoyance just made him more determined to figure out the case.
Do you think Mrs. Folliat should be held legally accountable for her son’s actions? Does her lack of action make her guilty?
I meaaaaaan. Yes and no. Her son committed murder. She didn’t do it herself. Whether or not she could be tried as an accomplice or just a hinderance to a police investigation is another matter. It bugs me that she wouldn’t ever say anything. Her involvement in the whole ordeal is more sad than malicious, but she should have done something.
In the book, Sir George (a.k.a. James Folliat) was not overly painted as an evil, murderous person; however, in the TV episode his sinister traits were apparent towards the end. Do you think Sir George was inherently capable of performing multiple murders? Or, do you think he was caught in a spiral of deceit that he would stop at nothing to protect?
I hate to say, but I haven’t watched the episode yet! I have it on my DVR, but I haven’t had the time to really sit down and watch it yet
Lady Stubbs was described as “subhuman” from the beginning. Did you suspect her of being anything but what she claimed to be?
Never trust the quiet ones. People said that she was feeble-minded and meek, but I mean come on! Always suspect the quiet ones because they are the ones thinking! There was always something a little suspect about her character, but it did take me a while to figure out exactly what that was. Once you see her true self, it’s kind of freaky.
Supporting character development played a big role in the novel and was only touched upon in the TV version. Do you think the relationship between architect Michael and Mr. and Mrs. Legge was pivotal to the plot or served as background filler?
I can’t really answer, since I haven’t seen the show, but I think that books always have better focus on supporting characters than movies/shows.
There were some major plot differences between the TV rendering and Christie’s book. What were they? How did you feel about them?
Sorry, I can’t answer!
The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig
Publisher: New American Library
Release Date: August 5, 2014
I can’t tell you how sad I am that this is the penultimate book in the Pink Carnation series!!! I’ve been reading this series for eight whole years, and it feels as if I am about to lose one of my best friends (even though the last book won’t come out for another year). I’ve fallen in love with Eloise and Colin, the Selwicks, the Dorringtons, the Fitzhughs, and of course we cannot forget Miss Gwen! The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla is another brilliant addition to this intriguing, humorous, and engaging series.
Sally Fitzhugh, sister of the ever-comical Turnip Fitzhugh, is muddling through the latest Season just as vampire hysteria has hit the ton. Lucien, the Duke of Belliston, has just returned after years of mysteriously being “away”, and he is soon rumoured to be a vampire himself! Sally, convinced the gossip is just that, is determined to find out who this man really is and why he is so set on keeping his past hidden in secret. Lucien reveals that his parents were murdered when he was young, but the murder was made to look like his mother committed a murder-suicide. As Sally vows to help Lucien uncover the real murderer, they find a body arranged to look as if it was drained by a vampire, and only Sally can help Lucien find out who is trying to frame him. The modern thread of the story follows Eloise back in the States as she teaches a history course and tried to finish her dissertation – all while trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with Colin.
After all these years (and 13 books!), Willig still manages to keep her mysteries and romances fresh and engrossing. I often find myself rereading books from this series, and this addition will be no different. Sally is meddling and opinionated, but she is almost always right. She knows who she is, and she is willing to help Lucien, the social outcast, because she can see the real human being under all of his pain and suffering. One of the reasons I love this series so very much is because it never gets too serious. Amidst all of the drama and action, Willig inserts her wonderful Anglophile humor with Monty Python jokes and fun British lingo. One of my favorite scenes in the book involves an appearance from Miss Gwen:
“‘… I will require a cold collation to be delivered to my room along with a pot of tea steeped for precisely five minutes. Not six minutes shall you steep, nor four, but five.’
‘I shall be sure to relay that,’ replied Lucien, with remarkable forbearance. ‘I should hate to think that your tea might be steeped for only three – or,’ he added, in a tone of great seriousness, ‘as much as seven.’” p. 253
And one can’t forget the appearance of a remarkably well-trained stoat. Lady Florence Oblong (the stoat) deserves as much praise as any of the other characters
As always, Willig creates another book to be added to my shelf of favorites. I highly recommend this book for a light and fun summer romp!
Did you know that there is a magazine devoted ENTIRELY to tea time? I was browsing the magazine rack in a local shop a few weeks ago and this is what I found:
I honestly just ran with the magazine to the checkout counter without even flipping through it. I mean, how could you not? This is the July/August issue – it comes out with six issues every year. Tea Time covers everything from places around the world that have great tea houses to ideas for setting a table for tea to suggesting the perfect blend for your favorite type of tea. I so loved this magazine that I signed up for a two-year subscription. They just sent me the issue I already have, so I have an extra to give away! Just comment below to win. U.S. only. Contest ends August 4th, 2014 at 11:59 pm.
A Triple Knot by Emma Campion
Publisher: Broadway Books
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Joan of Kent, the renowned beauty and niece of King Edward III, seems blessed with a life of royal privilege until her father is executed for treason and she becomes a ward of the king, living amongst those who deem her the daughter of a traitor. Joan begins to understand the brutal constraints and dangers inherent in being of royal blood. There is one at court who loves her, but his love proves the greatest threat of all.
As an impetuous teenager, she escapes into a clandestine marriage in a bid for freedom, then must hide it for nearly a decade, as her guardians marry her off to another man. After her first husband’s death, Joan—now a mother of four—enters into another scandalous relationship, this time with the heir to the British throne, Prince Edward, hero of Crécy and Poitiers, who has loved her all along. But his devotion comes at a terrible price. Haunted by nightmares of her father’s execution and the ruthlessness of her royal kin, Joan must reconcile her passion for the crown prince with her own conscience. - from the publisher
So many books have been written about the Tudor era, so it’s awesome to see more being written about their predecessors, the Plantagenets. I’ve also never read anything about Joan of Kent, so it was fascinating to read about a new-to-me historical figure. I really had a wonderful time reading this book. One of my favorite aspects is that Joan is followed from childhood into her illustrious adulthood without letting any part of her life fall by the wayside. I am so in love with Campion’s characterization of Joan. She is young, but she has been taught well to be suspicious of all those around her. Although she makes mistakes, she is always redeemed by her intelligence and spirit.
Being such a huge fan of historical fiction, I’ve read almost too many novelizations of the Middle Ages, but I was enchanted by this novel. I found the cover to be a bit misleading – this is more a story about Joan’s life than it is a bodice-ripper. Yes, there is romance, but it is always within context of Joan’s story as a human being. Most details of the real Joan are unknown, but Campion is able to create an entire world for Joan. The plot can move at a slow pace, but since I view the book more of a fictional biography than a plot-driven novel I really don’t have any problem with it. Summer can be the best time to read a great piece of historical fiction, and I definitely recommend picking this one up for the beach!
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a stop on this tour. For more information, click here.
The Stories We Tell by Patti Callahan Henry
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Eve and Cooper Morrison are Savannah’s power couple. They’re on every artistic board and deeply involved in the community. She owns and operates a letterpress studio specializing in the handmade; he runs a digital magazine featuring all things southern gentlemen. The perfect juxtaposition of the old and the new, Eve and Cooper are the beautiful people. The lucky ones. And they have the wealth and name that comes from being part of an old Georgia family. But things may not be as good as they seem. Eve’s sister, Willa, is staying with the family until she gets “back on her feet.” Their daughter, Gwen, is all adolescent rebellion. And Cooper thinks Eve works too much. Still, the Morrison marriage is strong. After twenty-one years together, Eve and Cooper know each other. They count on each other. They know what to expect. But when Cooper and Willa are involved in a car accident, the questions surrounding the event bring the family close to breaking point. Sifting between the stories—what Cooper says, what Willa remembers, what the evidence indicates—Eve has to find out what really happened. And what she’s going to do about it. - from the publisher
I will pretty much read any book that even remotely mentions Savannah, Georgia. I visited Savannah years ago on a class trip, and I have been utterly enchanted by it ever since. Henry takes the beautifully Southern atmosphere and turns it into a wonderful novel about life and love. Eve is one of those great female characters who tackles hardship straight on – she realizes who she really is in her obsession to find out what really happened between Cooper and Willa. Nothing is ever as it seems at face value.
You want to cheer Eve on, but at the same time, it’s like watching a train wreck as the family slowly unravels. While this book is being advertised as “women’s fiction”, I think it really goes beyond that and should be labeled as a mystery. The quest that Eve goes on in order to find out what happened the night of the wreck is more than just a woman on a mission – she goes into full-blown detective mode. Her obsession starts to consume her everyday life, even though she doesn’t want to believe in her suspicions. I do think that the ending was rushed, but overall, it didn’t take too much away from the story. I think the ending could have been expanded upon, especially with Cooper’s story.
I recommend this book to anyone who loves Southern fiction and a good, dramatic mystery. I was constantly reminded of Karen White with a dash of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil thrown in for good measure.
REVIEW: The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz
The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz
Publisher: Gotham Books
Release Date: April 3, 2014
In 1875, tuberculosis was the deadliest disease in the world, accountable for a third of all deaths. A diagnosis of TB—often called consumption—was a death sentence. Then, in a triumph of medical science, a German doctor named Robert Koch deployed an unprecedented scientific rigor to discover the bacteria that caused TB. Koch soon embarked on a remedy—a remedy that would be his undoing.
When Koch announced his cure for consumption, Arthur Conan Doyle, then a small-town doctor in England and sometime writer, went to Berlin to cover the event. Touring the ward of reportedly cured patients, he was horrified. Koch’s “remedy” was either sloppy science or outright fraud.
But to a world desperate for relief, Koch’s remedy wasn’t so easily dismissed. As Europe’s consumptives descended upon Berlin, Koch urgently tried to prove his case. Conan Doyle, meanwhile, returned to England determined to abandon medicine in favor of writing. In particular, he turned to a character inspired by the very scientific methods that Koch had formulated: Sherlock Holmes. - from the publisher
You all know I could never resist the chance to read anything even remotely related to Arthur Conan Doyle or Sherlock Holmes, right? You never know what kind of book you will get when you read about famous authors, but this book is absolutely brilliant. So many nonfiction books these days are either too watered down for the reader who has a basic knowledge of science OR the author gets too bogged down in his/her research that there is a complete lack of a cohesive narrative. Goetz manages to create a rip-roaring scientific adventure that will fascinate and thrill you.
Out of all of the books I’ve read on Conan Doyle, most breeze by his meeting with Robert Koch and how he was influenced to create a “scientific” detective. Many never even mention his career as a doctor at all. Yet, how could a man who had not studied scientific medicine create such a genius detective so well-versed in the knowledge of the human body and its surroundings? Koch is also portrayed very fairly considering he was one of the most controversial scientists in his day. His contributions to microbiology and research on tuberculosis cannot be denied, but his progress was ultimately hindered by his desire for recognition and glory. Conan Doyle was one of the first to recognize that there was really something more going on than just pure scientific research and findings.
I highly recommend this book – it reads like a novel, but informs like a paper published in a scholarly journal. I could not put this book down, even while I was being distracted by someone’s screaming children at Starbucks! Goetz is a skilled researcher and writer, and I look forward to reading more of his works.
How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: July 1, 2014
Like a jewel shimmering in a Midwest skyline, the Toledo Institute of Astronomy is the nation’s premier center of astronomical discovery and a beacon of scientific learning for astronomers far and wide. Here, dreamy cosmologist George Dermont mines the stars to prove the existence of God. Here, Irene Sparks, an unsentimental scientist, creates black holes in captivity.
George and Irene are on a collision course with love, destiny and fate. They have everything in common: both are ambitious, both passionate about science, both lonely and yearning for connection. The air seems to hum when they’re together. But George and Irene’s attraction was not written in the stars. In fact their mothers, friends since childhood, raised them separately to become each other’s soulmates.
When that long-secret plan triggers unintended consequences, the two astronomers must discover the truth about their destinies, and unravel the mystery of what Toledo holds for them—together or, perhaps, apart. - from the publisher
I’ve got to say that this is the most bizarre book I’ve read all year – but I mean that in the best way possible. If you read the synopsis above, you might think that this is a romantic comedy, or just your average love story. Oh, you would be so very wrong. This book is tragic, intelligent, and oh so brilliantly written. Netzer has mixed the deepest love with the vastness of the universe’s unknown capabilities. The concept of predetermination is explored in the most unique way possible – it took me half the book to even realize the underlying implications of the story since I was so wrapped up in these characters and their journey.
Irene is my favorite female character that I have read in a long time. She is fierce, dedicated to her work, and independent. She is a genius in her own right, and she definitely doesn’t need a man to fulfill her destiny. Yet, she realizes that she is lacking human connection and passion in the rest of her life. Work cannot be everything, no matter how much you let it consume you.
I can’t really describe my favorite part of the book since it is the very last scene, but it involves tulips and the coolest nerds of the literary world. I fell so in love with these characters that I was truly sad that the book had ended. I want to follow George and Irene into their futures, and watch what new mischief they can get themselves into
Book Club Girl’s Agatha Christie Read-A-Long: And Then There Were None
1- When we first meet the “ten soldiers,” while they may not have been the best group of people, you don’t necessarily wish them ill will. As their pasts are revealed and their true personalities unmasked, did you feel any sympathy for them as a victim of the situation? Do you think that we, the reader, were predisposed to dislike certain characters more and feel sympathy for others?
I don’t know that I felt any sympathy for these characters when we first meet them. They’ve all committed pretty horrible crimes for which they can’t be tried in court. Especially as their true personalities surface, most of the ten characters show no remorse for their crimes. I did love the character Vera because she seems to be the smarted and most put-together of them all, but I do think that has a lot to do with what Christie wants us to think.
2- Each soldier was initially defined by their stature or position in life, did that change for any of them as the story progressed, or did they rely more on their roles off the island for survival?
At first, each character is completely defined by his or her role in society, but as each character drops one by one, the roles definitely change. I think the roles are soon redefined by who can remain the most calm (and sane, if you think about it). They do all start to lose it eventually, which truly evens the social playing field.
3- One of the themes present throughout And Then There Were None is guilt and the effect it can have on a person. How did each character deal with the guilt of their past crimes? Who handled it the best? And who was the most torn up from it?
It’s hard for me to answer this question because I don’t want to give the ending away to anyone who hasn’t read it yet! I think the character who “did it” had the most guilt because they couldn’t make life fair for the victims of these people. Ack! That is horrible and vague… Most of the characters don’t handle the guilt at all. They shut themselves up and try to run away from the madness of knowing they are going to die.
4- What did you think of the use of “Ten Little Soldiers” throughout the book, both the poem posted in the bedrooms and the little disappearing figurines on the dining room table? How do they both figure into the story? Do you think the reminder of the “Ten Little Soldiers” poem was necessary throughout the story?
I loved the soldiers so much! They really add to the psychological suspense since each soldier directly corresponds to one of the criminals. The reminder of the poem sort of helps you keeps track of what is really happening and why it is happening to these people. It also gives so much drama to the last death scene, as you know what is going to happen, even though you really don’t want it to.
5- If you were trapped on Soldier Island, which character’s behavior would you most identify with and why? If not, what would you have done differently?
Honestly, I would be taking the house apart trying to build a raft. Especially after the first few deaths, you KNOW what is going to happen, just not who is next. Holing yourself up in a house that is so obviously set up by the person who is trying to kill you is not a very smart idea to me.
6- From the very beginning certain characters are drawn to each other to form alliances in their strange situation—at first Vera and Emily, later Blore, Armstrong, and Lombard, Armstrong and Wargrave, and then Vera and Lombard. What do you think brought them together? How do these alliances affect events?
It kind of reminds me of the show Survivor. You know that no one is to be trusted, but you have to form alliances if you want to stay alive. I think they help the characters keep the madness at bay for a time. They see that they might have a friend and jump on that possibility. Alliances don’t necessarily change events, but they almost make it easier for the puppet master to pull the strings.
7- Did you have your own theories about who Unknown was before getting to the “Manuscript Document” and if so, at what point?
The first time I read it, I had absolutely no idea. I thought of several possibilities, but none of them were even remotely correct. I’ve read it a few times since then, and I try to see the clues Christie leaves, but there almost aren’t any to be found. It is truly a remarkable feat of hers to write such an unsolvable mystery!
8- It’s widely commented that Christie “violated the standard rules of mystery writing” by making it nearly impossible for us to solve the mystery before she explains it to us. How did that make you feel as a reader?
I freakin’ love it! I don’t think there should be “rules” when writing any type of book. I hate when I’m reading a mystery book and I can figure out the ending. It can be comforting to read books that fall into a pattern, but if all mysteries were written as such, everyone would be writing the same book over and over again.
9- As Agatha wrote in her author’s note, the plot was so simple, yet so baffling, that she herself was most pleased with the outcome for having done it. Are there any mysteries from recent years that you think come close to what she accomplished here?
No. It seems impossible to me to meet Christie’s level of brilliance. I think there are many spectacular mystery writers out there right now, but no one is able to blow my mind like Agatha. Gillian Flynn came really close with Gone Girl, but it doesn’t have the same kind of simple poise Christie executes so well.