Wicked fun, sedate yet intricately plotted—a highlight in the series.

MR CAMPION'S SÉANCE

Albert Campion must work with a succession of three friends on the Metropolitan Police on a slow-motion case that takes more than 20 years to unfold and resolve.

Apart from her uncanny resemblance to Agatha Christie, Evadne Childe, the doyenne of British whodunits, is a generally unremarkable widow—her archaeologist husband, Edmund Walker-Pyne, was one of the first casualties of World War II—with a single remarkable talent: the ability to write novels that predict in uncanny detail some real-life crimes. Her perverse gift first reveals itself in 1946, when The Bottle Party Murders provides a blueprint for the robbery and murder of Tony Valetta, the shady owner of the Grafton Club, who was killed weeks after she submitted her manuscript to Veronica Hatherall, her longtime editor at J.P. Gilpin & Co. Alerted to this outrage by his old friend Superintendent Stanislaus Oates, Campion talks to Rags Donovan, the Grafton cigarette girl who saw Evadne with Pierre Le Frog, the mystery man who introduced her to the club, ostensibly for the purposes of research. Six years later, his conversation bears unexpected fruit when Rags is strangled on her way to a meeting with Campion shortly after she’s reported glimpsing Le Frog again—and shortly before Evadne’s latest novel, Camera Obscuring, predicts the particulars of another crime. Nettled, Campion sets a trap that involves a medium, a pearl necklace, and a long-dead imaginary cousin of his wife’s. As usual in Ripley’s pastiches, things don’t go exactly as he’d planned, and it’ll be another 10 years before the case is wrapped up.

Wicked fun, sedate yet intricately plotted—a highlight in the series.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7278-8961-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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