First-rate historical fiction about the mistreated wife of a Detroit gangster during the Roaring ’20s.

GIACOMO'S DAUGHTER

From the The Sofia Spera Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A young woman of the 1920s must rely on her own savvy and wiles if she’s to escape her abusive mobster husband in this debut novel.

Eighteen-year-old newlywed Sofia Spera, now Mrs. Denaro, plans a picnic on the lake with her husband, Max. It’s a rare night off for him, as he’s the second-in-command of the Scalici Squad, a faction of the Detroit Italian Mafia. Sofia hopes the two can enjoy a quiet meal and a little intimacy. However, when their conversation turns to their courtship, Max’s recollection of meeting Sofia at the Book–Cadillac Hotel, where she was a temporary backup singer, doesn’t remotely resemble hers. Unlike Max’s romantic account, Sofia’s memory is that he took her back to his place and forced himself on her. In fact, Max has been incessantly abusive during their time together, including in his proposal. Sofia has looked for support, but it seems everyone is afraid of Max and his gangster connections, and even her overprotective Sicilian father, Giacomo, is helpless. As Max goes to terrifying lengths to ensure that Sofia is his and his only, Sofia realizes that she has no choice but to help herself, however dark that option may be. The Savone Sisters skillfully craft a timeline-hopping narrative told predominantly through flashbacks; though scenes don’t unfold chronologically, they’re coherent and cohesive. Sofia’s predicament is painful, but it’s invigorating to watch her garner strength, using noticeably different tactics than her repugnant spouse does. Although it’s clear where Sofia’s “mission” is headed, the story is often surprising, with both promising and tragic turns. In their first book in the planned Sofia Spera trilogy, the Savone Sisters aptly detail the time period and enrich the story with lavish prose: “The dark mahogany walls of the grand ballroom dripped with gorgeous overflowing arrays of white and red gladiolus flowers with soft blush pink Tiffany roses.”

First-rate historical fiction about the mistreated wife of a Detroit gangster during the Roaring ’20s. (epilogue, acknowledgements, author bio)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73446-881-6

Page Count: 334

Publisher: LIV Luhv Rahyt, Inc.

Review Posted Online: March 27, 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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