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An intriguing and engaging mystery—readers will hope for more adventures starring the redoubtable hero.

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In this historical fiction sequela San Francisco journalist shows her resourcefulness and audacity after a tennis coach’s death.

Edward Zimmer, the publisher of cub reporter Jane Benjamin’s newspaper, and his companion, Sandy Abbott, are traveling to London to watch the 1939 Wimbledon games. San Francisco’s favorite daughter, Tommie O’Rourke, will be defending the city’s honor. Defend it she does, but at her moment of triumph, her coach, Edith Carlson, suddenly collapses and dies right there in the stands. Through luck and pluck, Jane has joined the traveling entourage and even wins the provisional confidence of Tommie and her brother, Frank. Meanwhile, Jane is wangling for a promotion to gossip columnist. While the group is sailing home on the Queen Mary, suspicions arise that Edith actually was murdered, and Jane is on the case. Enter the sad figure of Helen Carlson, the coach’s niece, a very troubled—if not mentally ill—woman who chooses suicide and is buried at sea with her aunt. Jane tries to solve all of these mysteries, reconciles (somewhat) with her mother, and gets ready for the next stage of her tumultuous life. Blanton-Stroud is a wonderful writer, and Jane is a compelling creation. Check out some of the lines in the enjoyable novel. After surprising a celebrity, “the photographers ran off like hyenas with bloody chunks of meat in their mouths.” Jane, desperate to hear crucial information, lent her “ears what remained of” her strength. The London weather is as “cold and drizzly as the eye of a sneeze.” There are many vivid flashbacks to Jane’s hardscrabble growing up in a 1930s Hooverville in California. Readers will understand that Jane’s childhood made her what she is now and is going to be in the future (see Nietzsche: “Whatever doesn’t kill me…”). And her troubled troubadour father had nonetheless a nobility to him (see Woody Guthrie).  

An intriguing and engaging mystery—readers will hope for more adventures starring the redoubtable hero.

Pub Date: June 28, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64742-407-7

Page Count: 312

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Intrigue, murder, and vengeance make for a darkly enjoyable read.

A woman’s life takes a stunning turn and a wall comes tumbling down in this tense Cold War spy drama.

In Berlin in 1989, the wall is about to crumble, and Anne Simpson’s husband, Stefan Koehler, goes missing. She is a translator working with refugees from the communist bloc, and he is a piano tuner who travels around Europe with orchestras. Or so he claims. German intelligence service the BND and America’s CIA bring her in for questioning, wrongly thinking she’s protecting him. Soon she begins to learn more about Stefan, whom she had met in the Netherlands a few years ago. She realizes he’s a “gregarious musician with easy charm who collected friends like a beachcomber collects shells, keeping a few, discarding most.” Police find his wallet in a canal and his prized zither in nearby bushes but not his body. Has he been murdered? What’s going on? And why does the BND care? If Stefan is alive, he’s in deep trouble, because he’s believed to be working for the Stasi. She’s told “the dead have a way of showing up. It is only the living who hide.” And she’s quite believable when she wonders, “Can you grieve for someone who betrayed you?” Smart and observant, she notes that the reaction by one of her interrogators is “as false as his toupee. Obvious, uncalled for, and easily put on.” Lurking behind the scenes is the Matchmaker, who specializes in finding women—“American. Divorced. Unhappy,” and possibly having access to Western secrets—who will fall for one of his Romeos. Anne is the perfect fit. “The matchmaker turned love into tradecraft,” a CIA agent tells her. But espionage is an amoral business where duty trumps decency, and “deploring the morality of spies is like deploring violence in boxers.” It’s a sentiment John le Carré would have endorsed, but Anne may have the final word.

Intrigue, murder, and vengeance make for a darkly enjoyable read.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64313-865-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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From the Lady Sherlock series , Vol. 8

Demands a careful reading and knowledge of the Victorian lady detective’s history.

A mystery that unwinds in reverse adds new twists to Thomas’ Sherlock Holmes–inspired series.

The new Charlotte Holmes novel continues the tense chess game that the gender-flipped Sherlock is playing with Moriarty and an incarcerated acquaintance turned villain. The events are narrated as a series of flashbacks interspersed with an interrogation in which Charlotte is under suspicion of murder. While her friend Inspector Treadles nervously observes, a senior policeman grills the unflappable detective about her recent movements. Even as she gives him a bland account of why she’s crisscrossed the English Channel in recent weeks, readers get drips of information about what she and her family and friends have been up to, all building to a reveal. Two other seemingly unrelated mystery subplots enter the picture, but it’s evident that new events and characters are connected to familiar ones from the past. With allusions to previous novels in the Lady Sherlock series and hat tips to Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem” and the Guy Ritchie movie Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the plot can be hard to follow, especially for new readers. The consistently well-drawn characters serve as an anchor, and the occasional glimpse of Charlotte’s love for her family and her lover, Lord Ingram Ashburton, adds a needed touch of warmth to the clever but clinical jigsaw structure of the mystery.

Demands a careful reading and knowledge of the Victorian lady detective’s history.

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9780593640432

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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