An intriguing and clever work that will appeal to fans of Regency-era fiction.



An English aristocrat must contend with ominous letters being sent her way in Monajem’s historical mystery series starter, set in the early 1800s.

Lady Rosamund Phipps is simply trying to get a cup of milk in the middle of the night when she finds one of her footmen dead on the stairs. She takes this news to the magistrate, Sir Edwin; while in his office, she meets Gilroy McBrae of Scotland, whose direct manner of questioning about the servant’s demise challenges her sense of propriety and thoroughly rankles her. Although Rosamund believes the death to be accidental, this doesn’t prevent rumors of criminality from circulating about her—as well as discussion about the agreement she has with her husband, Albert, who’s canoodling with her best friend; the loose talk is brought to life in broadsheet caricatures by a mysterious artist named Corvus. Soon afterward, she begins receiving threatening, anonymous letters that say such things as “I KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU,” which Rosamund believes were sent to make her go insane. She sets off to investigate the missives herself—and the identity of Corvus. Monajem deftly pens prose that feels distinctly of the Regency era in which the tale is set; Rosamund, in particular, seems very much like an upper-class woman of the period, with her rigid notions of status and gentility. Yet she also has engaging traits that set her apart and keep her from being a stock character, such as the aforementioned arrangement with her spouse and an apparent compulsiveness that requires her to check and recheck things multiple times. Similarly, the characterization of Gilroy is further proof that a companion that’s equal parts dashing and frustrating is often a winning one. The story takes its time getting started, but overall, Monajem succeeds in providing readers with a witty, enjoyable historical mystery.

An intriguing and clever work that will appeal to fans of Regency-era fiction.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-94-791527-5

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Dames of Detection

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.


In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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