More cerebral than many of Ursula’s prior escapades but still an authentic Elizabethan cliffhanger.

A WEB OF SILK

The fallout from a previous exploit comes back to haunt Queen Elizabeth’s half sister.

Mistress Ursula Stannard, who’d like to lead a quiet life caring for her estates and raising her son, Harry, is disturbed by a visit from Sir Robert Dudley, who tells her that he’s just sold neighboring Knoll House to widower Giles Frost, a Catholic merchant. When Ursula receives a message from Walsingham, the queen’s spymaster, she knows something unpleasant is coming her way. Before she can answer his summons, her servant Roger Brockley, her partner in many a dangerous adventure, finds his son, Philip Sandley, shot dead by a crossbow. Although Philip had been involved in the kidnapping of Harry (The Reluctant Assassin, 2018), Brockley grieves his only child and vows to find his killers. When Ursula travels to Greenwich Palace, Walsingham asks what seems like a small favor: for her to go to Knoll House with her companion, expert needlewoman Sybil Jester, and teach her new neighbor Frost’s twin daughters, Joyce and Jayne, to embroider while dropping false information about the British fleet that Frost will pass on to the Spanish. But first she must take up the problem of a stained glass window in the local church that is so gruesome that it disturbs children and parishioners alike. She hires Master Julius Stagg, a designer and creator of stained glass, to replace the window, which someone’s just broken. On a visit to the studio he shows her a magnificent chest that holds a stunning silver salt cellar he’s giving his niece Eleanor as a part of her wedding dowry. Soon thereafter, Stagg and a tearful Eleanor beg her to search for the chest, which they claim has been stolen and hidden at Knoll House. Despite her misgivings and the advice of her friends, Ursula agrees—a mistake that will put her and Brockley in far worse peril than some of her most harrowing tasks for the queen.

More cerebral than many of Ursula’s prior escapades but still an authentic Elizabethan cliffhanger.

Pub Date: June 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78029-113-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

THE WINTER GUEST

An 18-year-old Polish girl falls in love, swoons over a first kiss, dreams of marriage—and, oh yes, we are in the middle of the Holocaust.

Jenoff (The Ambassador’s Daughter, 2013, etc.) weaves a tale of fevered teenage love in a time of horrors in the early 1940s, as the Nazis invade Poland and herd Jews into ghettos and concentration camps. A prologue set in 2013, narrated by a resident of the Westchester Senior Center, provides an intriguing setup. A woman and a policeman visit the resident and ask if she came from a small Polish village. Their purpose is unclear until they mention bones recently found there: “And we think you might know something about them.” The book proceeds in the third person, told from the points of view mostly of teenage Helena, who comes upon an injured young Jewish-American soldier, and sometimes of her twin, Ruth, who is not as adventurous as Helena but is very competitive with her. Their father is dead, their mother is dying in a hospital, and they are raising their three younger siblings amid danger and hardship. The romance between Helena and Sam, the soldier, is often conveyed in overheated language that doesn’t sit well with the era’s tragic events: “There had been an intensity to his embrace that said he was barely able to contain himself, that he also wanted more.” Jenoff, clearly on the side of tolerance, slips in a simplified historical framework for the uninformed. But she also feeds stereotypes, having Helena note that Sam has “a slight arch to his nose” and a dark complexion that “would make him suspect as a Jew immediately.” Clichés also pop up during the increasingly complex plot: “But even if they stood in place, the world around them would not.”

Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1596-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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