Parris’ fifth offers a credible depiction of period France, though sleuthing often takes a back seat to colorful subplots.

CONSPIRACY

In 16th-century Paris, a defrocked Dominican–turned-spy gets entangled in court intrigue in the process of exposing a complex and deadly plot.

Notorious real-life figure Giordano Bruno, last seen in Treachery (2014), returns to France in 1585, hoping to ingratiate himself with the church and return to the Brotherhood. He playfully surprises his old friend Père Paul LeFèvre in the confessional to plead his case. But shortly afterward, Bruno discovers Paul facedown in the Seine, clinging to life, the victim of an attack.  Paul’s dying word to his friend: “Circe.” Bruno’s arrival has clearly been noticed. King Henri, pilloried as an enemy of Catholicism and dubbed “King of Sodom” by his many enemies, brings Bruno to the palace. Blaming the Duke of Guise for the campaign against him, he asks Bruno to find the informants who are helping Guise. One of the likeliest is Frère Joseph de Chartres, who writes pamphlets for the Catholic League excoriating the king. Bruno finds a letter in Peter’s room describing explicit sexual acts. Could it have been planted by an enemy? Parris’ overstuffed plot vividly dramatizes the vibrantly vicious world of the court in rich historical detail: tangled allegiances, back-stabbing, secret romances, and bizarre customs. (Bruno attends a court party where the king is in drag.) Newcomers to the series may be frustrated by the numerous references to events from previous books. A second murder complicates Bruno’s task and raises the need for a solution. The discovery of a dance called The Masque of Circe signals a major break in the case.

Parris’ fifth offers a credible depiction of period France, though sleuthing often takes a back seat to colorful subplots.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64313-544-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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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: 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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