Perfect for fans of A.A. Fair’s brash contemporaneous Bertha Cool/Donald Lam franchise.

THE RAT BEGAN TO GNAW THE ROPE

The Library of Congress’ series of reprints of classic crime novels kicks off with a 1943 case by mystery writer Sue Grafton's father that sends a very junior lawyer nosing around among the dirty secrets of the well-heeled family that dominates Harpersville, Kentucky, in both good ways and bad.

Why would William Jasper Harper, approaching Ruth McClure only 10 days after her husband’s death in a car crash, offer her four times the listed value of John McClure’s hundred shares of Harper Products Company’s stock? His generosity to his old employee, which comes with significant strings attached, smells funny to Ruth and even funnier to Gilmore Henry, the attorney she retains to look into the offer. Even before Gil's arrival in Harpersville, someone shoots out a tire of the car he’s driving, leaving him wondering whether the intended target was him or James Mead, the senior partner whose car he borrowed, who turns out to be representing Harper Products. Ruth quickly sours on Gil; her adopted brother, Tim, punches him out; the local sheriff offers to arrest him if he doesn’t leave town on the next train; and that’s all before William Jasper Harper gets himself shot to death. The suspects include a neighbor whose policies about selling eggs make no sense, the accountants who handled Harper’s books, and, of course, the deceased’s invalid wife and daughter, who now stand much closer to millionaire status. There’ll be more murders, more attempts on Gil’s life, and many more wisecracks. Editor Leslie S. Klinger’s conscientious period footnotes contrast amusingly with Grafton’s headlong pace.

Perfect for fans of A.A. Fair’s brash contemporaneous Bertha Cool/Donald Lam franchise.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4642-1298-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

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 FOUR WINDS

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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